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Dear Readers: Today's Sound Off is about stealing people's lunches from the employee refrigerator:

"Dear Heloise: I work in a large office where we bring our own lunch. We either write a name on the lunch or we tag it so it's identifiable. Someone has been taking food that doesn't belong to them. Two employees found that someone had taken their lunches the other day. We can't seem to catch the person responsible. Any suggestions?" -- Lois L., Bonne Terre, Missouri

Oh my, the old "Who took my lunch?" dilemma. This is not new at all. Try to keep a close eye on the lunchroom, and mention it in an employee meeting. Posting a sign on the refrigerator might help.

I was at a radio station in Washington, D.C., once and commented to the program director that the "break room" was the cleanest I had ever seen in a radio/TV station. His reply was that since they had put in a camera to prevent items from "going missing," employees were cleaning up after themselves! Maybe ask management to do the same. It can't hurt! -- Heloise

Fast facts

Dear Readers: Here are some uses for old blankets:

  • Local pet shelters need them.
  • Keep in the trunk of your car for an emergency.
  • Use to keep dirt off when storing furniture.
  • Use to cover a bed in the guest room. No pet hair! -- Heloise

Clean lint filter

Dear Heloise: I may be the last male on earth to know this, but I use a used dyer sheet to clean the dryer lint filter. Much better than a wet finger! -- L.H., Bedford, Texas

It's amazing that what is new to you is old hat to others. Readers, please be sure to clean the lint filter every time the dryer is used. Also, check the exhaust hose. You would be shocked about how many home fires are started by a lint buildup. -- Heloise

P.S. Don't put the clothes in the dryer and then run a quick errand! Oh, by the way, when I visited the USS Santa Fe, a nuclear submarine docked at Pearl Harbor, I learned this hint from them: When they do laundry, someone always stays in that room while the dryer is on. Fire on a submarine is very dangerous. Lean from them.

American dream

Dear Heloise: I've read that the American dream is dead for most young people. By "American dream," I mean owning a home, having children, sending the kids to college, building a retirement fund, things like that. -- F.W. in California

Floyd, the "American dream," as it's called, isn't slipping away, but it is changing. Instead of big homes, many are opting for smaller homes that require less work and less expense. There also is a trend of multigenerational homes. It's a different time. -- Heloise

Moving trash can

Dear Heloise: My trash can would slide when we stepped on the lid release, so I purchased a small pet food mat. I use it under the trash can, and no more sliding! -- Lynn D., Colorado Springs, Colorado

Shop and save

Dear Heloise: We all know that using coupons can save a lot of money, but here are some other hints I use, too:

Get to know the store's management and salespeople. Many times they can clue you in on upcoming sales on certain items. They also can tell you when certain items (such as meats and fresh veggies) get marked down.

It's old wisdom, but don't shop when you're hungry. Try not to bring children, if possible -- they do tend to want a lot of things that are not on your list.

When staples such as canned goods, paper products and personal items are on sale, and you know you will use them, stock up. They don't go bad. -- Ann C. in New York City

May I add? Go with a list, and try to stick to it to avoid impulse buying, which can make the final bill a lot more than you planned on spending. Try the store-brand products, which cost less and can be equivalent to brand names. Do a Heloise test and buy one name brand, then one store brand. Test them to see if the store brand is up to your liking. -- Heloise

New neighbor

Dear Heloise: When a new family moves into the neighborhood, I host a "get acquainted" coffee or after-work tea and soft drinks. We make a map of our neighborhood with names, addresses, emails and phone numbers of residents on our block. Getting to know your neighbors can help in many ways. One in particular is watching each other's property during vacations or when someone is out of town. -- A Reader, via email

Handshake impression

Dear Heloise: I'm a salesperson who meets a lot of new people daily. One of the first impressions is a simple handshake. You would not believe how some people shake hands.

Here are some hints I've learned: Make sure your handshake is firm and not limp and squishy. Please, try to have clean hands and not damp or wet ones. Look the other person in the eye and smile, especially when it's a first meeting. -- John T. in New York City

Shopping bag hint

Dear Heloise: Since we have to supply our own bags at the market, here's my hint: Put all the bags into one bag, and attach it to the seat belt in the child seat. Let them hang off the side. -- Jo Costanzo, Camarillo

Password safety

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Dear Heloise: Those security questions on websites? A good safety measure, but I always answer incorrectly as an added safety measure. Some of the common questions I've seen: high school you went to, favorite dog's name, etc. I use an alternative answer or spell the answer backward. -- Hollie B., Corpus Christi, Texas

Safety for kids

Dear Heloise: Please tell parents that when they are out for a walk or bicycle ride to make sure the youngest is riding and/or walking in front of them. Many times I have seen the youngest child struggling to keep up. -- J.D., Rockville, Maryland

All bottled up

Dear Heloise: When traveling by air, there's one thing you really need in your carry-on bag: an empty water bottle. After going through security, you can fill it up at a water fountain. Many times I've been on a rough flight where refreshments were not served, and it came in handy. -- Kathy P., Port Charlotte, Florida

Keeping in touch

Dear Heloise: Most of us have friends who, for many reasons, have drifted away. A couple of years ago, some of my friends and I started to reconnect, and we decided to get together once a month. We choose a restaurant using the alphabet: first month the letter A, the second month the letter B and so on. Sometimes we travel out of our community, and sometimes we meet close by, but we always have fun and stay in touch with each other. -- S.D.J.B., via email

Paraffin wax

Dear Heloise: Is household paraffin wax edible? Nowhere on the box does it say "edible." -- Janice P., via email

Janice, paraffin is used as an ingredient in making chocolate, especially chocolates that are given shapes, such as Easter bunnies or Santas. A little wax is mixed in to make the chocolate hold its shape and to add shine. Paraffin wax is actually nondigestible, which means it passes through the body without being absorbed. However, eating a large amount of paraffin is dangerous and can lead to intestinal blockage, which can be very serious! -- Heloise

Spaghetti squash

Dear Readers: The humble spaghetti squash can be used in place of pasta, but unlike pasta, spaghetti squash has only 42 calories per serving (1 cup); pasta can have nearly 200 calories per serving (1 cup). Pasta also is lacking in vitamins C and A, while spaghetti squash has both vitamins. Spaghetti squash is high in beta carotene, which helps prevent heart disease. The level of potassium in spaghetti squash helps lower high blood pressure over time. The omega-6 fatty acid is excellent for the brain, and the folate contained in spaghetti squash is essential for pregnant women to help prevent birth defects. Also, spaghetti squash contains 0 grams of cholesterol.

When a recipe calls for pasta, you might want to replace it with spaghetti squash for a more interesting and nutritious dish. -- Heloise

Stronger, healthier

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: heloise@heloise.com.

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