Dear Heloise: My hint is for CLEANING MUSHROOMS. I’ve always found that they need a little washing, but too much can make them mushy. I put my mushrooms in reusable mesh produce bags, secure the ties, then use the bag itself to lightly scrub the mushrooms under running water. It cleans them efficiently without damaging them. -- Audrey Mauro, via e-mail
You’re right, you don’t want to soak mushrooms in water, but you can clean them under a little running water and pat dry before cooking or adding to a salad. -- Heloise
Dear Heloise: I have a new above-the-counter microwave that I used for popcorn. I apparently left the popcorn bag in too long. The bag got smoky, caused the interior to be covered in a smoke film, and it smells on the interior. I was able to get most of the smell out, but a “yellowing” color remains on the interior. Any suggestions? Thank you. -- Rick Schweer, via e-mail
Rick, this happens a lot! Heloise hint here: Don’t walk away from the microwave while cooking popcorn! Sprinkle some baking soda on a wet, clean sponge or dishcloth, and wipe all the inside surfaces of the microwave, especially where you notice the yellowing. You may need to do this a couple of times to completely remove the discoloring. Baking soda is such a good cleaner and deodorizer. Since it is so cheap, it’s a favorite of mine. Want to know ways to save money on cleaning around your home? All you need to do to get my baking-soda pamphlet is send $5 and a long, self-addressed, stamped (66 cents) envelope to: Heloise/Baking Soda, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001. Baking soda also can be used to clean the rubber gasket on your microwave as well as your refrigerator. Make a paste of half water and half baking soda, and use a sponge to rub it around the gasket. Rinse well, using a damp microfiber cloth, and dry. -- Heloise
Dear Heloise: I read the article about the lady who buys flowers at the dollar store for the cemetery. I am a volunteer and take care of a community cemetery. I find good, colorful flowers at garage and estate sales. The stems must be long enough to lodge in PVC pipe, which I’ve discovered is the best, longest-lasting receptacle to use (glass breaks; metal rusts). Also, I buy flags for the veterans’ graves. -- Doris C., San Angelo, Tex.
How thoughtful of you. For my readers, please be sure, if you use this hint, that the cemetery allows artificial flowers. -- Heloise
DINING OR OFFICE CHAIRS
Dear Heloise: I was looking for practical and comfortable dining-room chairs. I found the perfect solution in an office-supply store. I bought four brown-leather, low-back office chairs. They can be raised or lowered, depending on the guest. They have arms, can swivel and, best of all, are on casters and roll out for vacuuming. -- J.M. in New Hampshire