Dear Heloise:

I have a hint that I encourage everyone I know to start doing. It is to create a medical diary for each family member. (I use a red spiral-bound notebook.)

Write down any and all medical information, including the dates of symptoms, treatment, medications and reactions. Any questions you think of to ask the doctor during your next visit can be jotted down also. I take the notebook with me to the doctor's office and usually find that the time I am waiting to see the doctor is a good time to write more in and/or go over the information I have already written. None of my doctors objects when I ask a question and then jot down the answer.

When your children go on their own, you can pass the notebook on to them, and they will have a complete medical history. I have even made a "quick list" on my computer for quick reference. This also helps when you have to go back and answer a question from the insurance company about an injury or illness from two years ago.

A Mississippi Reader

Good advice! I've done something similar for many years (and gave pretty, blank notebooks to my girlfriends to do the same), and it does help! Who can remember details 10 years back about one's health? The older you get, the more information there is to remember!

Dear Heloise:

Here's a hint in time for Christmas: With the video games, DVDs and CDs that kids ask for today, it's easy for them to tell what they are getting just by looking at the size of the package.

To throw them off the scent and recycle at the same time, use cereal and cracker boxes to wrap these types of gifts. Just stuff them with newspaper to prevent rattling when they sneak in to shake them. This type of packaging is readily available and doesn't cost extra.

An added bonus is that it makes it look like there is more under the tree than there actually is. With these types of gifts being so small, you can spend a small fortune, and it looks like nothing is under the tree.

Cindy Miller

Fayetteville, N.C.

Send a money- or time-saving hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, Tex. 78279-5000, fax it to 210-HELOISE or e-mail it to Heloise@Heloise.com. Please include your city and state when faxing or using e-mail. I can't answer your letter personally but will use the best hints received in my column.(c)2002, King Features Syndicate