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Dear Readers: This month is a great time to SHOP FOR BARGAINS. What's on sale right now? Let's take a look:

January is famous for white sales: linens, sheets, curtains, towels and even luggage and housewares. Christmas merchandise, such as decorations and gift wrap, are marked way down. Also, stores are beginning to clear out winter clothes and boots.

Look for specials online, too — maybe free shipping! — Heloise

P.S. For anyone with romance on the mind, January kicks off wedding shopping season; your best values may be right now!

A PAIR OF HINTS

Dear Heloise: To take care of icy concrete steps in the winter without using damaging, salty ice melt, I cut to size rubber door mats that have a brushlike texture and place them on the steps. A large one at the top and bottom of the steps; narrower ones on the steps themselves.

The snow and ice will cause them to stick hard on the steps, and the brushy texture gives traction to prevent slips. I pick them up after the spring thaw and reuse next year.

Also, I developed a text group of close friends to whom I can send pictures and updates throughout my vacation. I offer opt-outs to anyone who doesn't want the frequent texts. I safely share my experiences with others who are interested. — Jan, via email

WRITE IT DOWN

Dear Heloise: When I receive cards in the mail (birthday, Christmas, etc.), I write the name and address on the back of the card.

That way, when I store them, I'll have the address for next year. — Randall E., Cortez, Colo.

You also can cut out the return label and tape it to the back. No chance for typos! — Heloise

RADISHES?

Dear Heloise: My dog likes radishes! Are they OK for him to eat? — Luke B., via email

Luke, radishes are OK for your dog as a treat; some dogs may not like the spicy zip of a radish. Other veggies that are fine for the dog as a special snack: cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, carrots, cucumbers, asparagus, green beans and potatoes, all either raw or cooked. They are a good source of vitamins. But no onions. And don't be confused: Wild radish is a wildflower that is poisonous. — Heloise

BAG LADY

Dear Heloise: I had such a problem with handbags and tote bags in my closet. When they are empty, they won't stand up straight, and the handles get tangled with the other bags.

I have discovered that if I fold the handles inside each individual bag, they stand up better and make it easier to store them on the shelf. They are easier to see and to remove the bag that I want to use. — Judy H., Sherwood, Ark.

TOO MUCH YARD ART

Dear Readers: Today's SOUND OFF is about people who have too much "yard art":

"Dear Heloise: Two neighbors across the street from me have far too much art in their yards. They seem to think it's cute to have every concrete figurine they can find sitting in the front yard. Another neighbor has a gnome village in her front yard, complete with fake shrubs and bridges. They hang all sorts of spinning things from the trees and have pathways leading to nowhere. Too much yard art ruins the look of any house and yard." — Pam in San Antonio

Well, readers, do any of you have neighbors who love decorating their yard so much that they don't know when to stop? — Heloise

FAST FACTS

Dear Readers: Here are some new uses for old calendars:

• Save to keep a record of birthdays and anniversaries.

• Save the pictures, laminate them and use as place mats.

• Cut into squares and use the back as a notepad.

— Heloise

KEEP PRODUCT MANUALS

Dear Heloise: Please advise your readers to keep their product warranties and instruction booklets in a file cabinet, a binder or someplace that holds all of the instruction booklets that come with an item they've bought. When you need it — and eventually you will need it — the information will be at your fingertips. — Annalise D., Lime Ridge, Wis.

CARPENTER ANTS

Dear Heloise: We suspect we have carpenter ants in our house. I'd call an exterminator, but we live on Social Security, and our budget is tight, so can you recommend anything we can use to kill carpenter ants? — Nell P., Meridian, Miss.

Nell, first make certain there are no tree branches touching your house. That's one way they get inside. If you see small piles of sawdust, you might have carpenter ants. If you find a site, then mix up 4 tablespoons of peanut butter, 5 tablespoons of honey and 1 tablespoon of borax (found in most hardware stores). Add a little water, about 1 or 2 tablespoons, to keep it from drying out. Mix well and apply 1 teaspoon to affected sites. I use water bottle caps filled with this mixture. Be very careful to NOT INHALE borax. Keep it away from pets and children. — Heloise

PET EVACUATION

Dear Heloise: We love our sweet little dog, and he sleeps next to me every night. To make sure he never gets lost, we keep a leash on the back of our bedroom door and on both outside doors of our home. In case of an emergency where we might have to evacuate our home quickly, we have a leash to put on him so he doesn't get lost. — Linda M., Hobart, Wash.

TURKEY BASTER

Dear Heloise: We have some beautiful plants sitting on tall cabinets at the office. They look great, but they are very hard to water. So we use a turkey baster. Works great! — Verna T., Rosemount, Minn.

TIME TO 'TREECYCLE'

Dear Readers: This time of year can be melancholy; the excitement of the holidays is over. One thing you can do to keep the good vibes flowing: "TREECYCLE" your live Christmas tree into beneficial mulch.

Check with your city's official website, or call 311 for information on pickups and drop-offs for trees. Some general guidelines:

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• Naturally, you'll remove all decorations, tinsel, streamers and lights.

• Remove the tree from its stand and any nails or spikes securing it.

• If transporting the tree to a recycler, tie down the tree with easy-to-cut twine, and don't bag it.

Other uses for a live Christmas tree: Deposit it into a lake or pond for fish to call home, or donate to the zoo for the animals. Call the zoo before heading over with a tree. — Heloise

SUBSTITUTE FOODS

Dear Heloise: In our household, we find that yogurt serves as a healthy substitute for sour cream without compromising richness in flavor, and we use cauliflower instead of rice or pasta. — Miss Maui Mary, via email

THE HEAT IS ON

Dear Readers: Does chilly weather increase pain such as arthritis? A heating pad can help, but there are safety measures to take. Here are some hints:

Use the heating pad for only short periods of time (around 20 minutes is ideal — don't sleep with it on), and wrap the heating pad in a towel to avoid direct contact with your skin — you could get burned.

If you use creams or ointments, apply those AFTER using the heating pad. Heat can help with chronic (ongoing) pain. For acute (sudden) injuries, did you know that ice usually is better?

Check with your medical professional for other recommendations, and always use a heating pad — and an ice pack — safely. — Heloise

GIVING LINT THE BRUSHOFF

Dear Heloise: In order not to damage the screen of a dryer vent, I use a spongy, disposable painter's brush.

I just rub it over the screen, and it gathers the lint. I tap the brush on the edge of a trash can to remove the lint. The brush can be used over and over again. — Sue H., Falls Church, Va.

DON'T DO IT

Dear Heloise: I am constantly receiving requests for contributions from nonprofit organizations. Some send return envelopes with stamps.

Since I don't contribute to every organization, what can be done with the unused stamps? Can I cut them off and use them for personal mail? — B.M. in Virginia

Once a postage stamp has been used, the U.S. Postal Service says removing the stamp from an envelope, regardless of whether it's canceled or not, is illegal. Don't use it to send other mail. — Heloise

EQUAL MEASURE

Dear Heloise: If you ever need a measurement point of reference, a standard "sticky note" is 3 inches long, and a dollar bill is 6 inches long! — Sarah T. in Dallas

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