I could be dead right now, I tell you. Murdered in my office. Probably bludgeoned but possibly impaled. How? Why? Because I had a visit from Heloise.

Yes, that Heloise, as in "Hints From. . . ." The silver-haired, Texas-bred homemaking maven happened to be in town a few weeks ago and she ended up in this very building, visiting Jura Koncius, a writer in the Home section.

Heloise wanted to see me.

You'll recall that, spurred on by my younger daughter (whose snorting, eye-rolling reaction to Heloise's more banal hints is common at our breakfast table), I invited readers to compose their own tongue-in-cheek Heloisiana.

Little did I know that Heloise would see my column and show up at my door, a bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne in one hand and three bamboo pole-mounted citronella candles in the other.

I thought of running, but she blocked the only exit. I looked for a weapon, but lacking Heloise's creativity (she'd be able to fashion a shiv from a box of staples and a Post-It note, but not me) I simply smiled nervously while edging toward the phone.

That she did not brain me with the champagne and then perforate me with the candles can mean only one thing: Heloise is a good sport. (Of course, she can afford to be: a staff of five, syndicated in 500 newspapers, a household name. I'm not even a household name in my household.)

We chatted for a while, Heloise and I. I thanked her for her gifts. And then I got down to the business of picking my favorite entries. Here they are:

When preparing your correspondence for mailing, put a small "X" on the upper right hand corner of each envelope. This will remind you to attach the stamp on the envelope's exterior.

Carrick and Linda Herbert, Alexandria

Want a great way to keep baked-on food from building up on those hard-to-clean stove burners? Try using pots and pans!

Katy Couch, Baltimore

High gas prices affect us all. In order to "stretch" your money, add one gallon of water to each 10 gallons of gasoline and save 10 percent on your gas expenditure each month!

Marcia Holmes, Bowie

I used to have a problem with getting blood out of my clothes. Now I look both ways before stepping into K Street.

Helge Holcomb, Falls Church

Your clothes will come out much cleaner if you remove them from the laundry bag before putting them in the washer.

Marian Carlsson, Lexington, Va.

Being an avid reader, I have accumulated quite a few books over the years. Last spring, I started storing my books with their spines facing outward. This makes it easier for me to find which book I want to read without going through my entire collection every time.

Sean Smith, Bethesda

I use the plastic bags you get from the grocery store to pick up dog waste. The bags are free, and it is much neater than using your pocket.

Kathleen Kotcher, Glen Echo

No more cleaning windows, curtains, draperies, shades or blinds for me! I've boarded up all my windows and painted the plywood sheeting to match the walls.

Paul Moran, Falls Church

I keep a dead fish in my post office box. That way, if I forget the box number, I can easily locate the P.O. box by the smell.

Steve Wiley, Germantown

Whenever my car breaks down I walk to the nearest pizza place and have them deliver a pizza to where I'm going. Then I ask if I can ride along with them.

Kevin Mullaney, Rockville

In these days of identity theft, you can never be too careful. I shred everything that has my name and address on it. So now, when I am in a public establishment, I ask to see the phone book. I have learned that my entry is on page 346. I just rip it out and feel so much safer.

Clayton Richardson, Germantown

Sometimes when I am in a hurry and don't have time to leave my friends a long voicemail, I leave them a short one asking them to call me back. Saves us both time!

Rob Phillips, Reston

Instead of taking a chance of damaging my eyeglasses by rolling over on them in bed during the night, I remove them before going to bed.

Jim Blue, Darnestown

I've found that the easiest way to clean the house is to pay someone to come and do it!

Peter D. Marshall, Martinsville, Va.

Hey kids, always keep a fat black magic marker with your crayons. That way if you accidentally color outside the lines you can thicken up the lines and no one will know that you made a mistake.

Lynn Bechthold, Washington

I always sign all of my new checks when they come in the mail. That way I save a few seconds when I'm paying a bill!

Hayden Hurst, Springfield

When my family travels to a foreign country, we sew large American flags to our children's shirts. That way, if we get separated, the locals know to speak English to them. Works like a charm!

The Stams, Montgomery Village

And the grand-prize winner is Vienna's Bethany Milton. We'll be lunching soon at a restaurant of her choice. Her hint:

If you're at a party and accidentally spill your glass of red wine on the host's rug, it's best to run and grab a bottle of white, down that, throw up on the coat pile, and pass out next to the bed. The effort of cleaning up a wine stain will certainly pale in comparison to cleaning vomit off 20 coats.

Take a hint: Participate in my online chat, today at 1 p.m. Simply go to www.washingtonpost.com/liveonline.