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Looking for a Book

DEAR HELOISE: I wanted to send this photo to you when it was taken, but I didn't know how to do it back then. Today, I came across it again. This is a photo of my granddaughter, Emma, taken in 2003, when she was 10 months old. That book she is going for on the bookshelf is her great-grandmother's copy of "Hints From Heloise", well-used and much-loved. I hope it gives you a smile.

-- Deborah H., via email

DEAR HELOISE: My mother sent me your article on how to grow an avocado tree years ago. I started an avocado seed in a plastic sandwich bag with a small amount of water and placed it in a sunny window. The seed started out slowly in its growing. The treasured sprout went from a small pot to larger pot as it continued to grow. Five years ago my family moved to the San Antonio area. It was at that time we decided since we were planting our family roots in San Antonio we would plants the avocado tree in our new backyard, a tree which had resided only in temporary accommodations from one pot to another. Last year we had our first avocado from the now 25-foot tree. Every one asks me what kind of avocado seed I used. I honestly don’t know. Thank you for sharing your information about growing avocados. We have enjoyed watching the tree grow and were delighted when we saw the first avocado appear on the tree. I hope you will enjoy the photo of my husband, Val holding the fruits of our labor.

-- Sayne Cox, Converse, TX

Sayne, thanks so much for the photos. I also grew an avocado tree (about 15 feet tall) from a seed, but mine was inside in a sunny spot in our foyer. Sadly it died after about 15 years. - Heloise


We have the oldest iron winners!
It has taken quite some time to sort through the massive number of letters that you wonderful readers sent. So, if nothing is too "pressing," don't get "steamed," just "glide" through the list.


Mrs. Avalon Ingram, Grapeland, Texas
100 years old


Edna McCommon, Livingston, Montana
100 years old


Helen A Powers, Bloomfield, New Jersey
Dates back to 1900s


Linn Casey of Meadowview, Virginia
Patented in 1908, 1914 and 1916


Imogene Powers, Bangs, Texas
Made in the 1920s


Jerry Poston, Anaheim, California
Bought in 1923


Wilma Thedford, Tyler, Texas
Bought in the late 1920s


Bill and Shelby Berta, Rochester, Illinois
From the late 1930s


Donna Henningsen, Eden Prairie, Minnesota
Both from the 1930s


Gwendene Easton, Bakersfield, California
Very early 1930s


Caregiving Hints
Dear Heloise:

With more people becoming caregivers, along with the extra intrusions on their time, I thought a few timesaving hints would be welcome:

As far as caregiving, get several shallow boxes—one for medicines, another for bathing supplies and a third for catheter or other supplies. This will save invaluable steps.

Also, when visitors come, as they do, the house will be less cluttered because the boxes may be placed in a corner or under the bed.

My mother taught me to never carry one item to its place without looking for others that need to be put away in the same spot. I have learned to check, on my return, for items needing to go to my next destination.

Being on the church bereavement committee, I am often called upon for baked goods. I place all my baking supplies near the stove, refrigerator, mixer and outlets. Before I begin baking, I read the recipe quickly, gather the needed items on the counter and put them away after their use. This procedure cleans the kitchen and reminds me where to pick up if the telephone or a visitor interrupts the procedure. A messy kitchen is the last thing a cook needs if she is completing a chore after an exhausting day or at 4 in the morning!

Jean Pruett, Camden, SC

Jean, these are all good "nuggets," and we thank you for passing them along! -- Heloise

Bridal Shower Gift
Make a Kitchen Maid or Mate

My mother, the original Heloise, printed a reader’s letter in the 1960s about creating a Kitchen Maid to give as a fun bridal-shower gift. I continue to get letters requesting how to put together one. And over the years, the items you can choose to include have changed—as kitchen and cleaning technology has evolved. Click here for the how-to instructions.

If the bride is a good friend, you will know what household items to use in creating your custom-made Kitchen Maid. And today, some couples have joint wedding showers, so you can also build a Kitchen Mate for the husband-to-be. Here’s how:

  • Begin with an ironing board to be the body of the Maid or Mate.
  • Tie an apron with pockets around the middle to make a waist. Fill them with smaller kitchen items, utensils or tools.
  • Attach a plunger on one side of the back of the ironing board as an arm and a toilet bowl brush or feather duster as the other arm.
  • Add a dustpan at the wide end of the ironing board for feet or set the ironing board on top of a vacuum and bind with several elastic cords under the apron (as we did in the photo).
  • Secure a string mop as the head of hair to the back of the ironing board with the mop portion flopped over the top narrow end of the ironing board.
  • Create a face with nylon net scrubbies for the eyes, a small sponge for the nose and a nailbrush for the mouth.

Use your imagination to make this an amusing, but useful, addition to the wedding shower party. Just remember to make the Kitchen Maid or Mate with anything you think the bride or groom will need for their new life together.

Holiday Fire Safety Hints
The holidays are filled with parties, decorations, candles and greenery. During this festive time, pay close attention to fire safety. Take these steps to protect your family:

  • Establish a fire emergency plan, so family members know what to do.
  • Never leave candles burning—unattended—in any room in the house.
  • Do not put candles in greenery arrangements or on the tree; they can easily catch fire.
  • Arrange candles in areas away from traffic flow or where they might be tipped over.
  • Do not burn wrapping paper or evergreens in the fireplace. They can ignite rapidly and burn furiously.
  • Inspect the fire in the fireplace to make sure it’s completely out—before you go to bed.
  • Test Christmas lights and wiring. If cords are frayed, discard. Plug in strings to see if they are all working. Replace lights that are not. Don’t overload sockets or extension cords.
  • Never leave food cooking or baking in the kitchen without checking or watching it.

Caring for china, crystal and silver
During the holidays we use our favorite crystal and special china for all the parties and family gatherings. Here are some hints to protect them when cleaning:

  • If the china is really old or trimmed with silver or gold, you should hand wash it (never put in the dishwasher). Lay a terry towel in the sink before you put the china or crystal in. It’s best to place only one plate or glass in at a time, so they don’t get chipped or cracked by bumping into each other. When washing crystal, hold the glass by the stem.
  • If the crystal glass looks cloudy after washing, you can dip it into a warm vinegar rinse. If the cloudiness isn’t gone, the glasses may be permanently etched with little scratches.
  • To prevent water spots, dry right after washing with a lint-free cloth.
  • When you return plates to storage, put a paper plate or coffee filter between each one to prevent scratches or nicks. Then cover the stack with plastic wrap to stop them from gathering dust.

When you bring out your sterling silver for holiday parties, use these hints when washing to keep it in beautiful condition:

  • Clean silverware in hot, soapy water. Rinse well and dry with a soft cloth. If your sterling silver is old or valuable, don’t put it into the dishwasher because the detergent could discolor it after long-term use. The heat from the drying cycle may loosen knife handles. Don’t place hollow-handled pieces into the dishwasher. If you have silver-plated or less valuable silver, you can put it into the dishwasher, but remove it before the drying cycle. Dry with a soft towel to prevent spotting.
  • Did you know that if you place sterling silverware pieces next to stainless-steel flatware in the same basket in the dishwasher, this can cause electrolysis, which over time, will remove the silver?
  • If the silverware needs polishing, use a polish created for silver. There also are silver-polishing cloths or mitts.

Hurricane cleanup information
After a Hurricane has hit, you may find minimal damage or total destruction in your area. I would like to pass on a few important hints that I hope will help ease the difficulty of weather-related damage or to better plan for the future possibility of storms. Print this and keep in your family emergency file.

• If your property has been damaged, contact your insurance agency as soon as possible to begin the claims process. Many agencies will have emergency disaster teams on the way to help handle these claims. Be sure to make a list of destroyed household contents and supplies you have to buy. If possible, take photos of all the damage to your house and property.

• Don't go near any loose or dangling power lines. If you see downed wires, report the damage to the police or utility company.

• Flashlights should be used to examine your home damages--do not use matches, candles or lanterns—because of the possibility of gas leaks or spilled flammables.

• New batteries for flashlights and radios will last longest. But, if you only have older ones that are still working but growing weak, try switching their positions. This often will give added energy and the batteries may last a little longer. Another trick with old batteries is to rub the contact points with an emery board or fine sandpaper; this just may buy you a little more time.

• If you smell gas, leave your house immediately and notify the utility company or fire department.

• Light candles only if the authorities have approved their use in your area. Make sure authorities say there’s no danger of gas leaks!. A small sturdy glass will make a good emergency candle holder. Leave at least a one-half inch space between the candle and the glass. Cut the candlewick short to prevent dripping.

• Even though power may be off, be cautious around electrical appliances, they can still hold enough of an electrical charge to set off an explosion—if there's a gas leak. To be safe, disconnect all electrical appliances.

• Do not open refrigerators or freezers. The foods inside will not spoil as fast if the cold air is not allowed to escape. After 24 hours of no power, if you can obtain dry ice, place a block in the refrigerator and one in the freezer section (ten pounds of dry ice will last for 24 to 30 hours).

• If all you can get is regular bagged ice, take the food out of the refrigerator. Put ice and food into an ice chest. Some homes may have gas stoves instead of electric. If your gas lines are unaffected, you can cook those foods that would otherwise spoil in a non-operating refrigerator.

• Picnic supplies and paper plates will come in handy, so there won't be any dishes/utensils stacking up. Camping equipment can also be used (propane stoves or lanterns—if there is no gas leak in your home).

• Water most likely will be a precious resource at this time, so conserve what you have. Use any fresh water you have for drinking and cooking only.

• Keep a bucket or other container handy for any leftover water from rinsing or cooking food to use for the toilet.

• Do not eat fresh food that has come in contact with flood waters and do not drink any tap water unless it has been tested and okayed by health authorities.

• If you cannot flush the toilets, reduce odors by sprinkling baking soda in the bowl after each use and by keeping the lid closed.

• Instead of using water for bathing, try rubbing alcohol to stay clean. Soak a washcloth or sponge with rubbing alcohol and sponge off with this.

• If you must, you can brush your teeth and rinse with canned or bottled soda.

• For quick cleanups, cut a roll of sturdy paper towels in half with a serrated knife and place half of the roll in a resealable plastic bag. Squirt with a mixture of water and liquid soap until paper towels or damp.

• For cracked panes of glass, a temporary way to weatherproof is to use quick drying glue or clear shellac. Apply one or two coats with the end of a toothpick along the crack lines—inside and out.

• After removing adhesive tape from windows, you may find it leaves glue residue on the glass and wood frame. Remove this by spraying the residue liberally with a petroleum based pre-wash spray, let set and then scrub with nylon net.

• If any windows have been broken, be careful when picking up broken pieces of glass. Wear protective gloves and pick up smaller pieces of glass by using a wad of masking tape, wet paper towels or wet newspaper. Do not vacuum up broken glass, it can shred vacuum hoses and become lodged in the vacuum.

• For water damage, pull up wet carpeting, padding and rugs. Place furniture on cinder blocks or bricks to help aid in the drying process.

• When weather is clear, open windows for good air circulation. When electricity is restored, use fans to speed the drying process.

After a Hurricane has run itsnsurance adjusters have come and gone and it’s time to start the cleanup process, here are a few helpful hints.

If you lost electricity and the food in your freezer probably spoiled, here’s what to do.

• Wash the freezer with a strong solution of baking soda and water (5 to 6 tablespoons per quart of warm water) or use baking soda directly on a damp sponge. Allow to air out with the door open for a while.

• For lingering odor, try placing cat box filler or activated charcoal (the kind used in aquariums) in a small open box (a shoe box is perfect) in the freezer. Close the freezer and let it sit for a couple of days before removing.

• If any odor is still hanging around, as a last-ditch effort, you might want to consider using a dry-chemical fire extinguisher. Simply spray it into the freezer, close the door and wait a few days. Clean the freezer and let it air out for a while before refilling.

Need some help getting those dirty windows clean? Make a special window cleaning formula, mix 1 cup of vinegar in 1/2 gallon of hot water.

Now to get started, wipe the windows to remove any dust. Remember that wet dust will become mud.
Spray the window with the cleaning formula you prepared. Now wipe the windows down with a squeegee or crumpled newspaper.

When doing exterior windows, a garden hose and mop can be invaluable. First rinse, then use a mop to wash using the window-cleaning formula. For a final rinse, simply hose the windows off.
For best results, don’t wash a window when the sun is shining on it or during the hottest part of the day, because this can cause streaking.

Good luck with all your cleanup efforts, and be sure to send me any questions you have that I didn’t answer to Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, Texas 78279. Due to the large quantities of mail my office receives, I can’t answer all your letters personally, but will try to answer as many as possible in my newspaper column.


Dear Heloise:
As a plastic surgeon, I think that if people only realized how difficult it is to remove a tattoo, understood how costly and how painful tattoo removal is, and recognized that society as a whole still views tattoos as a stigma, maybe they would think seriously before getting one. Many tattoos have become associated with gang or prison lifestyles. Employers may not hire people with tattoos.

Laser removal can cost more than $7,000 per tattoo, and take at least 10 to 15 treatments, spread out over two or more years. Even with this treatment, the tattoo is still visible.

A project I undertook in 1995 for the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery—a program for teens and adults, who must get rid of a tattoo to get into the military, to keep their scholarships, romances gone sour or bad memories and associations—has developed into the T0BIL
(Tattoo Obliteration by Infrared Light) program that is available in many states, either by volunteer doctors or in "free for under 18" programs that we have in Texas or in private facilities. The cost is minimal compared to the equally effective laser removal of tattoos and the time is much less, making it a desirable alternative for hundreds of people.

Go to www.faceandbodydesign.com or fax your request for a referral in your area to Tattoo Removal (210) 495-7145. Please be sure to include your name, city, state and a return fax or phone number.

Any resident of Texas under the age of 21 can have his or her tattoo (under certain criteria) removed under one of the programs the Attorney General offers in 14 cities in Texas. Typically, we remove the tattoo with three sessions a month apart. We trained priests in Honduras, who then treated over 5,000 kids in the first 6 months of their program. They all signed up for the program for the same reason—they couldn't get jobs with visible tattoos!

We also are looking for volunteer physicians, who will be taking our training course to oversee programs in other states. This service could be sponsored by a religious organization, youth counseling group or a social service club.

Tolbert S. Wilkinson, M.D., San Antonio, Texas



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