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Dear Readers: Today's Sound Off is about leaving your purse in the cart at the grocery store. -- Heloise

"Dear Heloise: Once again, we had someone in our grocery store who left her purse unattended in the grocery cart. A thief walked by and apparently reached in and stole her wallet and cellphone. Please advise your readers to never leave their purses in a grocery cart, because it's just too easy for someone to reach inside and grab their wallet or to take the entire purse. So far this year, we've had five such incidents. We even placed a sign on our doors asking women not to leave their purses unattended. Most people are honest, but sometimes there is one person who is not. Why tempt fate?" -- Gerald D., Pascagoula, Mississippi

Fast facts

Dear Readers: If you have an ice-cream scoop, there are a number of ways to use it besides for scooping ice cream:

  • Use to shape meatballs.
  • Use to scoop out shortening.
  • Use to remove eggs from boiling water.
  • Use to dig holes for bulbs in the garden. -- Heloise

The must-haves

Dear Heloise: I just moved into my first apartment, and money is really tight right now after having paid all the deposits and rent and picking up a few essentials, such as sheets, towels and a shower curtain. So, if I were to go out and buy a few cleaning items, what would you suggest? -- Carol M., Muskegon, Michigan

Carol, congratulations on your new apartment! If you want some very inexpensive cleaning products, I highly recommend old-fashioned vinegar and baking soda. Vinegar has been around for thousands of years to clean and polish sinks, floors and more. I have a number of cleaning ideas and tricks for cleaning in my pamphlet Vinegar Hints and More. To order, you can go to my website at, or you can send a stamped (70 cents), self-addressed, business-size envelope, along with $5, to: Heloise/Vinegar, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio TX 78279-5001. There's nothing more welcoming than coming home to an apartment that looks, smells and feels clean. -- Heloise

Wedding with a twist

Dear Heloise: I want a very traditional wedding: long white dress, face-covering veil, bridesmaids and lots of flowers. This is not my first wedding (I eloped the first time), but I'm now divorced, with one daughter, age 7, and a terrific guy who wants to marry me in a big wedding. I don't want to look foolish at my second wedding, so what's allowed and what's not? -- Ava H., Marion, Indiana

Ava, best wishes on your coming marriage. Today, many brides wear white even if it's not their first wedding. However, a face-covering veil traditionally is only for first-time brides. There are many other options available: a veil down the back, flowers or a hat, to name a few. Go ahead and have bridesmaids, flowers and whatever you want. Use your favorite colors, dance and have fun. This is your wedding, and the bride gets to have her wedding, her way. -- Heloise

Vinegar power

Dear Readers: Did you know that one of my favorite household helpers comes in different strengths? It is vinegar!

Vinegar that is used for pickling and salad dressings, etc., is typically 5 percent. Extra-strength vinegar is 9 percent, and usually is found in the aisle in the supermarket with the cleaning supplies. Extra-strength vinegar may cost a little more than the 5 percent, but it cleans great, and it is safe, nontoxic, friendly to the environment and cost-effective.

I've compiled a collection of my best tried-and-true vinegar hints and recipes into a handy pamphlet. Would you like to receive one? It's easy! Send a stamped (70 cents), self-addressed, long envelope, along with $5, to: Heloise/Vinegar. P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio TX 78279-5001. You may find vinegars with higher acidity online. Heat your vinegar for a more intense clean! -- Heloise

Hint from him

Dear Heloise: Homeowners are constantly looking for a safe place to store their valuables when going on vacation. I place valuables inside a pillowcase, put them in the clothes dryer and place clothes on top.

I've never heard of thieves raiding a clothes dryer! -- N.M., Warren, Ohio

Hi, Neal! I think you are right! I loved my visit to Warren a few years back. Say "Hi" to folks for me. -- Hugs, Heloise

Foundation fix

Dear Heloise: When doing my makeup, I apply foundation first and then concealer to the under-eye area. This way, I find I use much less product around my eyes, which can age them. -- Janet R. in Texas 

Reduce stress

Dear Heloise: I've been a travel agent for nearly 20 years, and I can tell you firsthand that the benefits of travel in reducing stress and making life more exciting are huge. Many of the benefits are intangible, but still are well worth the effort to take a trip somewhere new. It's no secret that Americans take very little time off from work when compared with other countries, such as France, Finland and Spain. Life is short, and all of us need time to relax and rejuvenate. -- Helen M., Tulsa, Oklahoma

Helen, I agree. Time away from work gives us time to enjoy new sights and sounds, to try new foods and meet new people. It can be educational and even productive. Even if someone wants to do a few things around the home instead of traveling, it's still time away from the everyday routine. -- Heloise

Paint chips

Dear Heloise: My husband and I did some remodeling around our home, which included repainting. I had several paint chips from the hardware store and didn't know what to do with them, so I used them as bookmarks for all the books I love to read. -- Nancy E., Norfolk, Virginia

Index cards

Dear Heloise: In my job, I have to make calls on clients in their homes, so I carry 4-by-6-inch index cards with me to leave messages for people to let them know I was there, and when and how to contact me. The index cards are cheap and have much more room than the back of a business card (which I also leave) so I can leave little messages. -- Corrine T., Muncie, Indiana

The brushoff

Dear Heloise: Once a month or so, I use a dry brush and gently "brush" my skin before showering. This helps to remove dead skin. It can boost circulation, too. -- Leigh M. in Wisconsin

Talk to your doctor to make sure this is safe if you have any skin issues. -- Heloise

Ancient library?

Dear Heloise: Today, everything is at our fingertips. Got a question? Look up the answer on the internet on your phone.

The thrill of the pursuit of information seemingly is over. I loved going to the library, flipping through the paper catalog and going on a treasure hunt for the book I wanted up in "the stacks" (the book storage area).

Just curious -- what do your readers think of this? Is the library becoming a dinosaur? -- Rick D. in Pennsylvania

Shoes in the house?

Dear Readers: Wearing shoes in the house? Maybe you shouldn't. Here are some reasons:

  • Shoes you wear out of the house can get really dirty! They may pick up germs and dirt from streets, office buildings, elevators or public restrooms.
  • Hardwood floors can be damaged from high heels!
  • Feet need to "rest" and relax -- you know, when you take off work shoes, heels or boots and say, "ahhhhhhhhh!"

Consider your lifestyle: Your feet should be happy and healthy, and if so, you will feel better. Barefoot gal in Texas! -- Heloise

Fresh fruit in tea

Dear Heloise: I've discovered a delicious way to infuse fruit flavors into my iced tea. I skewer blueberries, strawberries or raspberries (sometimes all of them) and set them in the teapot when I brew tea for my iced tea. This adds a little bit of flavor. -- M.M. in Texas

Well, as a Southern gal who drinks of lot of "home-brewed" iced and hot tea, I love this! I take a peek in the refrigerator to see what fresh fruit is there. I'll rinse and cut up strawberries, blackberries, peaches and even apples to drop into the teapot. This makes delicious tea for a cup of hot tea or a glass of iced tea! I brew it strong, so when poured into a glass filled with ice, the tea still has that wonderful quenching effect.

If you would like to learn a little more about tea and coffee, I put together a pamphlet filled with my favorite tea and coffee hints. Visit to order it, or send a long, stamped (70 cents), self-addressed envelope, along with $3, to: Heloise/Coffee and Teas, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio TX 78279-5001. A quick way to "spice up" a pot of hot tea? Hard candies like peppermint, butterscotch or peach. -- Heloise

Shower power

Dear Readers: If you or a family member uses a shower seat, the plastic seat can be slippery when wet.

Cover the seat with shelf liner. Some, you will find, have a "nubbly" texture that is nonslip. This will give a more comfortable and safer place to sit. -- Heloise 

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Kitchen clutter

Dear Readers: Does your silverware tray slide around in the drawer? Take paper towel cores and slip them behind the tray. This should keep the tray snug in the drawer. -- Heloise

Removing fingerprints

Dear Heloise: I use the last slice of white bread on my walls. I mash it into a ball, then sort of mush it into a smudge or fingerprint to remove it. -- Dannie T., Dayton, Ohio

Head to the mall?

Dear Heloise: I'm wondering how your readers feel about shopping malls? When I was a kid, I loved spending time at the mall with my friends; some malls had carousels, ice-skating rinks and movie theaters, and they all had wonderful food courts with delicious choices of eats. But now so many malls are going out of business.

In San Antonio, we still have malls that are doing well, but off-price stores and shopping online are gaining in popularity.

Will your readers always go to the mall? Do you like the energy there? The service? The people? It was convenient to have all the big stores under one roof, and years ago, I used to walk in the mall for exercise. That was fun.

The salespeople in the kiosks outside of the stores can be pretty pushy, but I've learned to just say, "No, thank you."

Is the shopping mall becoming a thing of the past? Hopefully not! -- Jana B., Helotes, Texas

Readers, what do you say about the shopping mall? I've done many book signings in many malls over the years -- a great place to come together! -- Heloise

Save it for later

Dear Heloise: I read your column (regularly). I want to keep some of your hints to reference later.

To hold your column until I'm ready to "laminate" (with tape) the front side, I lay the back side of the newspaper column against the sticky side of leakproof sealing wrap. Then I cover the front side of the article with the clear packaging tape.

Now I can cut it out and tape it to the fridge, microwave, a mirror, a notebook or wherever I want, and it is protected from splashes. -- Jackie in Santa Ana

Hint from him

Dear Heloise: There's no need to slice yourself instead of your bagel. Lay the bagel flat, cut first downward so that you have two semicircles. Then stand each half-bagel on its flat cut and slice downward again.

Four perfect quarter-bagels that still fit in the toaster just fine. If you then insist on having circles again, just spackle the pieces together with a little extra cream cheese! -- Neil S., Falls Church, Virginia

Trunk cleanup

Dear Readers: Take an hour to clean out the trunk of your car. Sort and donate things you don't use, and find a place in the house for things you do use. Carrying less cargo may improve your gas mileage!

Next, sprinkle some baking soda in the trunk to deodorize. Let it sit for an hour or overnight, and then vacuum thoroughly.

The baking soda will absorb any bad odors, and is a multiuse workhorse around the house, outside and in your auto. It is cheap and safe. If you would like a collection of my favorite money-saving baking soda hints, visit to order, or send a large, stamped (70 cents), self-addressed envelope, along with $5, to: Heloise/Baking Soda, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio TX 78279-5001. To freshen a drain, pour 1/2 cup of baking soda mixed with 1/4 cup of salt into the drain, and then add 1/2 cup of vinegar. The mixture will bubble! Let it sit for 30 minutes, and flush with lots of water. -- Heloise

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