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Dear Readers: Today's Sound Off is about advertising on the internet/webpages:

"Dear Heloise: I get annoyed at websites where pop-up ads say, 'Get a free, no-obligation quote.' Life insurance, for example: I understand asking smoking and health questions, but why do they have to ask my name? This is only one example of a large number of sites that want contact info. Why? Asking my name is an invasion of my privacy. If I'm interested, I'll call them." -- Vicki B., via email

Vicki, I understand completely! I'm tired of ads covering up news stories, and the big banner ads at the top of every screen. The worst, for me, is that they say they're free but want your credit card number. I'd like to know how other readers feel about this problem. -- Heloise

Fast facts

Dear Readers: Here are a few suggestions for water conservation to prevent waste:

  • Boiling pasta? Save the water and, after it cools, use to water plants.
  • Turn off the faucet when brushing your teeth.
  • Make sure your dishwasher and clothes washing machine are full before running.
  • Water your lawn late in the day or early in the morning to reduce evaporation.

Remember, water is a precious commodity. Let's not waste it. -- Heloise

Rules of etiquette

Dear Heloise: Is it proper to ask people to attend a wedding shower but not the wedding? -- Richard B., via email

Richard, there are some hard and fast rules for wedding etiquette that deserve repeating:

1. If you're invited to a shower, it is generally understood that you also should be invited to the wedding. An "office shower" might be the one exception to this rule.

2. The bride/groom sends out handwritten thank-you notes for each gift, making certain to mention how they plan to use it. These go out as soon as possible after the honeymoon.

3. The bride and groom personally thank everyone for attending their wedding, while at the reception.

4. No one but the bride should wear white to the wedding. Don't put the bride in an uncomfortable position by asking if you can wear white to her wedding. -- Heloise

Lampshade dust

Dear Heloise: I have dog hair and dust on my lampshades, and even though I vacuum them, the dust still clings to the shade. What to do? -- Lydia M., Hastings, Nebraska

Lydia, if the lampshade has a flat surface, you can use a lint roller to remove nearly anything. If your shade is fluted with ridges and valleys, take it outside and use a clean paintbrush to brush the dust off in downward strokes. -- Heloise 

Data deletion

Dear Heloise: Most people think that by deleting material on their computer, they have effectively erased all of their past personal data. Well, they haven't! If you are going to dispose of an old computer, it's always best to make sure that none of your personal information is on there. The steps are too long to go into in your column, but people probably should hire a professional, who can protect them by erasing all of their personal data. Don't risk letting someone get hold of your banking or investing information, as well as the addresses of family and friends. -- Glen D., Titusville, Florida

Problem solved

Dear Heloise: I have a solution to missing socks. I bought some 2-inch safety pins, paired up the socks and wove the pin through the toes of each pair. My wonderful husband unpins them in the a.m. and re-pins them in the p.m. when going to bed. Then they are tossed into the laundry basket together. If the sock material fades a little, it all stays the same. -- Carole M., Kettering, Ohio

Emergency phone

Dear Heloise: I really don't need a mobile phone at home, but I keep a simple, no-contact phone hidden in the center console of my car just in case I need it. Pay phones are nearly a thing of the past, so this would be helpful in an urgent situation, like a flat tire, or worse. -- Carol J., York, Pennsylvania

Carol, great idea, but be sure that phone is charged when you need it. Readers, check out the next letter for another cellphone hint. -- Heloise

A quick tip

Dear Heloise: I have a quick tip about cellphone contacts. When I add a doctor or other business as a contact, I always take a picture of the address and hours from the website or business card, and save it as the contact image. It is helpful to have that info handy whenever I need to call. -- Tamaron J., Reynoldsburg, Ohio

Reference checks

Dear Heloise: I've worked in human resources for over 20 years, and I have a piece of advice for job applicants: Please do not have a friend or family member call a place where you once worked and pretend to be a potential employer doing a background check. I know everyone is curious, but there are some serious problems that might knock you out of the running for a job you really want:

  • No matter how much someone wants to help you, it's entirely possible he or she will ask illegal questions (such as date of birth) or get too inquisitive about your work history. This sets off a red flag. We wonder what you're so afraid we'll find out.
  • Don't assume you can sue a former employer just because your friend heard negative information from the person he or she spoke to. Your friend's word will not hold up in court, especially if the information is true. -- A Reader, via email


Dear Heloise: Very often, I would run out of the house without my phone, because it was charging in another room. Now I put a sticky note on top of my purse that says "phone" to remind me to grab it.

I also have one for "water" to remind me to take the water in the fridge. -- Jeri G., Washington, D.C.

Leftover hint

Dear Heloise: In response to Betsy M., who said her husband refuses to eat leftovers, I said the same thing to my wife about three weeks after we were married. She handed me an apron and pointed toward the kitchen. If I wanted original meals every night, she said I should get busy and start cooking. That was 46 years ago, and I've been a good boy ever since. By the way, I eat leftovers! -- Stanley H., Leesburg, Virginia

The following letter has another hint about leftovers. -- Heloise

No leftovers?

Dear Heloise: To help the new bride whose hubby won't eat leftovers, I suggest she call them "planned-overs." That's what I have called them for years, and it goes over much better with my family. -- Lisa R., Cayce, South Carolina

Coffee fund

Dear Heloise: My daughter was recently hospitalized. Several nurses and support staff did an excellent job of caring for her.

Instead of buying a bouquet of fresh flowers that will eventually die, I bought a container of live plants and suggested that the staff auction it off after seven days. The proceeds went to the staff's coffee fund. I was told that it worked out very well. -- Luetta S., via email

The payoff

Dear Heloise: My friends and I are trying something new. We are taking one day per week and making it a "No Spend Day." The goal is to spend absolutely no money during the course of that one day. Sounds great, right? It's not as easy as it sounds, and it requires planning.

The biggest plan necessary is for lunch and snacks at work and school. This can be an incredible expense. We didn't realize how much money we are actually spending!

We shop for meals one day per week and make a list to take to the store, and stick to that list.

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We are college students, and every penny is important to us. The "no spend" challenge is a hard one, but it's worth it! We can see the difference in our bank accounts. -- Carrie S., Austin, Texas

Kudos, Carrie! Planning ahead? I'm in. Saving dollars? I'm in! -- Heloise

Hey, watch it!

Dear Heloise: I enjoy your column. Can't we buy a windup watch anymore? Many big-box retailers won't change batteries for watches unless you've purchased the watch from them.

I hope I can put a "bug" in someone's ear to get manufacturers to make windup watches. -- A Senior Citizen in Pittsburgh

Handful of hints

Dear Heloise: Here are some of my hints:

  • With a felt pen, I label and date everything I put into my refrigerator.
  • I made a throw with a large pocket for the arm of my rocker. I keep a flashlight, a phone and the TV remote in it.
  • On the end table, I have a pen and paper. Each time I call a company for repairs or anything, I write down the name of the company, the date and time, and the phone number I called.
  • When I bake cookies, I freeze and wrap them separately. I can pack them for lunches. -- Elaine H., Port Charlotte, Florida

Right name

Dear Heloise: I taught my kids the correct words for their body parts, not cute "baby-talk" terms. It was difficult at first, I admit, but many experts say that we need to be real with our children at all times. Embarrassment passes quickly.

This could come in handy if the child has a medical issue. The child may have to talk to a teacher, doctor or other authority figure. We need to understand our kids! -- Sarah D. in North Carolina

Honesty is always best. Very young children may not understand big words, but do the best you can. -- Heloise 

Leave a message!

Dear Heloise: Why do people call and not leave a message? I may just be in the yard, with the dog outside or in the shower. Please leave me a message! -- A Reader, Youngstown, Ohio

Pins in tins

Dear Heloise: Every time I get a safety pin from the dry cleaners, I store it in a little tin that once held breath mints. You never know when you'll need a safety pin, and it recycles both the pin and the tin. -- Nell F., Ellsworth, Maine 

Recycling check

Dear Heloise: In response to the reader who tries to be green and wanted to know where he can recycle plastic foam: I recommend that the reader check with his city's or county's solid waste agency. Our agency's site lets us enter a product online and tells where that item can be recycled in the jurisdiction. -- Liz B., via email

Houseplant helper

Dear Heloise: Crushed eggshells are a great fertilizer for houseplants. I save them up until I have about two dozen. I don't rinse them, for fear of washing away wonderful nutrients, but I let them dry completely, and crush them into fine pieces in a zippered bag.

I dig a shallow ditch under the plant, sprinkle in the shells, then re-cover and water as usual. Oh my! The plants nearly double in size, and they are covered in blooms! -- B.J., via email

Hair conditioner

Dear Heloise: Rub an inexpensive hair conditioner into bare nails, cuticles, toes and heels at night, but be sure to wear socks to keep the sheets clean. Your nails will feel and appear stronger and healthier. -- Sharon L. in San Antonio

Send a great hint to: Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio TX 78279-5000; fax: 1-210-HELOISE; email: