Uncle H's Hideaway...

You've arrived at my  Heloise's Hints and Tips page. I hope you'll find something useful here to help you in your daily work.   
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Hints From Heloise

I've been cutting out the "Hints from Heloise" articles from the newspaper for over a year, intending to take what I think are the best hints and presenting them on this webpage. Copyright of the articles has been granted in 1999 and 2000 to the King Features Syndicate, Inc. The articles have been printed in The Washington Post. Any hints provided by Heloise's readers and presented here will be identified in the same manner as in the newspaper followed by the date of the newspaper.

  1. Dear Heloise:  How do I clean slate floors? Soap didn't seem to work. Tracy Homer, Boston.

    Slate floors look beautiful and can easily be cared for.

     There are non-soap commercial cleaners available in most hardware and home-improvement stores.

     It's a good idea to apply a stone sealer to a slate floor, but be sure to buy one with a 10- to 15-year warranty.

     Reminder: Never use vinegar, ammonia, or soap on slate floors because these will leave a dull, milky film (as you have unfortunately found out) that can become sticky and attract dirt. (08/01/00)

  2. Dear Heloise:  I use - or -inch self-stick foam insulation (for windows or doors) between my stove and cabinet to prevent spills from going down between them.

      When it gets dirty, I just pull it off and put on a clean one.  Pat Lavato, Lower Marlboro, MD  (08/01/00)

  3. Dear Heloise:  I don't like cleaning paintbrushes. If I don't have time to finish painting something in one session, I squeeze some of the excess paint from the brush and wrap the bristles (up to the narrow part of the handle) snugly with aluminum foil.

     Then I keep the brush in the freezer (not the refrigerator) until the next time.  This works well with oil-base paint, varnish, or latex, and the brushes will keep for a week or more.

      Just start to paint.  They'll thaw rapidly with use.  (No, the frozen paint doesn't smell in the freezer.) T.D.H., Lincoln, NE


      This hint has been around a long time, and I must point out one work of caution:  Please put the foil-wrapped paintbrush in a freezer-safe sealable bag.  Also, this is only for short-term use.  (08/03/00)

  4. Dear Heloise:  Do you have two glasses that are stuck together?  It happens all the time in restaurants.

    Lift them by the inner glass and tap the outer one with a piece of silverware.  Be sure it drops on something soft because it usually drops instantly on the first tap.  It rarely takes more than one.

    Don't wiggle them apart!  You'll scratch one, and it's likely to break in the future.

    Don't put your unprotected hand inside a glass.  If it breaks, that hand could be out of commission for weeks.

    Treat glass with respect.  From a jelly jar to the finest crystal, glass breaks to a razor-sharp edge.  Dishwasher, Lancaster, Pa.  (08/01/00)

  5. Dear Heloise:  Do you know of any environmentally friendly way to keep cats out of my flower bed?  They like the soft soil and use it as a litter box regardless of what I do to deter them.Maureen in Southern California  (08/10/00)

    Heloise writes:  Depending on the size of your flower bed, there are several things you can do to safely repel cats.  Sprinkle black pepper or cayenne pepper around the plants.  Remembering to do this about once a week, because watering, wind and sun weaken the effects.

     Cover your garden with small, ornamental rocks and a few garden ornaments that make noise, like wind chimes.

     There are also commercial mulches on the market that contain dried cocoa-bean shells.  They are supposed to repel cats while giving your garden a lovely chocolate fragrance.

     Note:  These will also work for potted plants inside and outside your home.

  6. Dear Heloise:  Here is a very important hint for everyone who has a computer:  Print out a copy of your file of e-mail addresses and keep it in a safe place.  I made a mistake and erased all of mine.  I have now replaced about half of what I had and have made of copy of them.  Thanks for your column in The Indianapolis Star.  Sandra Grant, Frankfort, Ind.  (01/02/01)
  7. Dear Heloise:  If you have ever had the frustration of trying to describe a noise that doesn't belong in your car, or if the car stops making the noise right at the door to the service garage, do this:  Put fresh batteries and a tape in a small cassette recorder, and when the car makes the noise, record it.  Go to the service garage and play the noise for the mechanic.  This also works for major appliances.  Matt Madden, via e-mail  (01/02/01)
  8. Dear Readers:  Many years ago, I printed information about ordering flowers over the phone to be sent out of state.  My secretary's husband ordered flowers to be sent to his mother's funeral in another state.  When they arrived at the funeral home, what a surprise!  A small, half-dead arrangement with their names on it, different from the flowers they ordered.  The arrangement cost over $100 and looked like it was worth $10.  They brought the arrangement back to the florist.  It didn't take long to get a refund.  they also filed a complaint with the florist who took the order.

    After sharing this information, an enormous amount of mail flooded in with stories of the same problem.  It seems that this was not an isolated case.  There are many more honest florists, but the few "bad apples" can ruin it for so many people.

    Here are a couple of hints.  When ordering flowers that are to be sent anywhere, tell the florist you will be there when they arrive or that the recipient always sends a photo with the thank-you.  Also, if you cannot be there, ask someone to take a photo of the flower arrangement and send it to you.  At least you'll know what was sent and can depend on that florist for future orders.  Granted, the size of the arrangement or type of flowers might vary depending on the locale, but there is no excuse for a poor-quality arrangement.  05/29/01  

  9. Dear Heloise:  I redid my bathroom walls with a plastic tub surround; I also had the bathtub reglazed.  What should I use to clean the soap scum off the wall--and the stains off the tub--that will not damage the surface?  I'm not supposed to use abrasives.  Thanks for all your help.  I enjoy your column.  Milton Glodek Jr., Baltimore  (05/10/01)

    You are not going to believe how easy this is!  Just grab your hair shampoo. (Shampoo breaks down the oils in your hair, and it does the same with soap scum.)  The best is to buy a big bottle of cheap, cheap shampoo, put some on a sponge, wipe it on the tub, let it sit for a few minutes, and wipe it away.  You can also use vinegar to help remove hardwater buildup on the showerhead.  Also, did you know white vinegar is greatto clean your coffee maker?  When it gets clogged with lime deposits, simply run a cup of vinegar through the brew cycle, then rinse a couple of times with clear water.

  10. Dear Readers:  Vinegar, vinegar. vinegar--it is one of my favorite products!  A recent inquiry from Adel in Fair Oaks, Calif. asked about finding 9 percent vinegar, which I have mentioned often.  A major manufacturer told us that it no longer produces it, and several home-improvement, hardware and garden-supply businesses do not carry it either. Boohoo!  Your local grocery stores might have 9 percent vinegar under their own brand or a local one. My guess is that some grocery stores in the Southeast and Southwest might have it available because of canning and pickling needs. Here in San Antonio, the local store brand of 5 percent vinegar costs $1.59 a gallon,, while it brand of 9 percent costs $2.49 a gallon. A national brand (5 percent) costs $2.19 a gallon.  Here's a hint:  If your grocery store doesn't carry the 9 percent variety, get several friends together and ask the store manager if it would be possible to order a case or two and then split the order.  Most vinegars (particularly this kind) will last almost indefinitely on a pantry shelf. Time might change clarity and color, but that won't make any difference in this instance. Stay tuned until further notice!  (08/31/00)
  11. Dear Heloise:  Having lost several favorite earrings (those with hoops for pierced ears), I have finally invented a way to keep them from being dislodged.  I take a rubber band, the size that is 1/4-inch wide, and cut out a small rectangle, then force the point of the hoop through the rubber after the earring is in place, pushing the rubber up the wire against my ear.  In effect, there is a rubber stopper that prevents the metal hoop from being dislodged. As long as I remember to put on this rubber stopper, I have never lost a pair of earrings.  Kathleen A., Middleboro, Mass.  (09/05/00)
  12. Dear Heloise:  To tie tomatoes and pole beans, use the tape from old videotapes. The flat surface of the tape will not injure the vines, and there is about 800 feet of tape. It's flexible enough to tie in knots, and it is very strong.  Anthony Vaccari, Toms River, NJ  (09/07/00)
  13. Dear Heloise:  Here is a very important hint for everyone who has a computer. Print out a copy of your file of e-mail addresses and keep it in a safe place. I made a mistake and erased all of mine. I have now replaced about half of what I had and have made a copy of them.  Thanks for your column in The Indianapolis Star.  Sandra Gant, Frankfort, Ind.   (01/02/01)
  14. Dear Heloise:  A few years ago, I made a very handy discovery:  dry spaghetti is flammable.  The next time I was lighting a votive candle with a deep well (and burning my fingers in the process), I remembered the spaghetti.  I got a single long stick of dry spaghetti and lit it, then lit the wick of the candle.  It is also great for lighting birthday candles on a cake since they are usually close together and hard to light with a single match.  Alecia Pacheco, Katy, Tex.  (09/07/00)
  15. A reader asked for a recipe for Salt Substitute; the following was provided by Heloise  (09/05/00):

    Salt Substitute:

      5 tsps onion powder
      1 tbsp garlic powder
      1 tbsp paprika
      1 tbsp dry mustard
      1 tsp thyme
      1/2 tsp white pepper
      1/2 tsp celery seeds
  Mix all ingredients and store in tightly covered container in a cool, dark   place. Double or triple the amounts so you don't have to keep making it.   NOTE:  Always put the lid on tightly and don't store spices around the   stove or dishwasher. the heat and moisture can shorten their "spice span".
  1. Dear Heloise:  We have a dog that sheds hair. Although the vacuum picks up most of it, the hair that gets on our polar-fleece throws will not come off, even with machine washing. Are there any hints? Peggy Cleer, Vienna.

There are a few things you can try that work well. (1) Try a rubber glove. Rub it along the material. It does a good job of picking pet hair up, as does a damp sponge. (2) For any stubborn hairs stuck into the material, usually pressing wide packing tape over it does the trick. You might have to keep applying clean tape until the job is done. (08/24/00)

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