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Dear Readers: Christmas has passed, but for next year, here's a clever and fun way to not only freshen your floors, but also to prove to the kids that Santa's been to your home and delivered the gifts: He's left his "SNOWY" FOOTPRINTS behind!

Make a trail of baking soda using an old pair of flip-flops for the outline, from the fireplace to the Christmas tree and back again. After the excitement of opening gifts, make the effort to quickly and thoroughly vacuum up the baking soda — it will freshen your carpets and keep odors at bay.

Baking soda is front and center in my collection of homespun household helpers. It's cheap, readily available and nontoxic; I always have it on hand. I've compiled my best baking soda hints and recipes into a handy pamphlet; would you like to receive one? It's easy! Visit www.Heloise.com to order, or send a stamped (71 cents), self-addressed, long envelope, along with $5, to: Heloise/Baking Soda, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001. To polish up a stainless steel sink, use a bit of baking soda on a damp sponge, then rinse. Clean, shiny and fresh! — Heloise

TIMESAVER

Dear Heloise: When a pan is going to have to soak overnight (stuck meatloaf or casserole), I drop a tablespoon of dishwasher detergent into the pan and fill with hot water. The next morning, it's super easy to clean! — Tippi D., San Pedro, Calif.

EASY MONEY

Dear Heloise: One year, I was trying to save money for a graduation gift for my granddaughter. Every time I got a $5 bill, I threw it in my desk drawer. At graduation time, I gave my granddaughter a check for over $1,600! — June R., via email

It adds up quickly! Keep it in a safe place. — Heloise

PICKLE MAKER

Dear Heloise: Upon using up a jar of bread-and-butter pickles, I save the liquid and fill the jar with freshly sliced cucumbers. I screw the cap back on tightly and stand the jar upside down in the fridge. Two days later, I have crispy new pickles. — Carl H., Glendale, Calif.

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CLEAN CRYSTAL

Dear Heloise: If I have a crystal or glass vase that is difficult to clean, I've discovered an easy way to make it look like new: I drop in a denture cleaner tablet and add 1 cup of hot water. After an hour or so, I rinse the vase. — Peg N., Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio

DON'T DO IT

Dear Readers: As tempting and thoughtful as it is, don't leave a handwritten note and a plate of cookies inside your neighbor's mailbox. The mailbox is for postage-bearing mail only. — Heloise

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