Dear Readers: As spring break and summer are coming up, staying at a HOTEL OR MOTEL probably is on the agenda. Here are some very important fire-safety hints specifically for travelers, thanks to the Insurance Information Institute (III). Please read them — it could save your life.

Once settled, check where the closest exits are. The III suggests counting the number of doors from your room to the exit and memorizing that number. Always put your keys and glasses on the nightstand so you know where they are. Don’t worry about trying to get luggage or other items if you have to leave quickly.

Smoke always rises, so if a fire breaks out, crawl on the floor. Always check the door (put your hand on it to feel for heat) before opening it to be sure there isn’t fire on the other side.

Once in the hall, go to the exit right away, and don’t use an elevator!

Walk — DON’T run — and hold on to the rail if you are using stairs. Get outside as soon as possible.

Memorizing these hints may just save your life. Thanks again to the III for the helpful information. -- Heloise


Dear Heloise: In South Louisiana, where beans and rice are beloved staples, a potato masher is known as a bean smasher. My husband loves navy beans partly smashed into a creamy gravy, served with sausage over rice. He also loves red beans the same way. The bean smasher is invaluable in every Cajun kitchen. -- Jo in Louisiana

Any way you serve them, I love beans, and they are a good source of protein. I have a recipe for a delicious Tortellini and (kidney) Bean Soup that is included in my Heloise’s Spectacular Soups. To receive a copy of this pamphlet, just send $5 and a long, self-addressed, stamped (66 cents) envelope to: Heloise/Soup, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001. Did you know that there are more than 14,000 different types of beans? They don’t contain cholesterol and are low in fat. Give me a bowl of Texas pinto beans and a slice of cornbread, and I’m a happy Texan! -- Heloise


Dear Heloise: When my microwave died, it had a large glass plate in perfect condition. I created a coffee coaster. On it, I put coffee grounds in a presentable container, sugar bowl, sugar substitutes, non-dairy creamer, mocha mix, etc. -- A Reader, via e-mail


Dear Heloise: I work at a restaurant, and patrons as well as co-workers “borrow” my pen, and I never see it again. I write my name on a sliver of paper. I take a clear-barrel pen apart, roll the paper up and slip it into the barrel of the pen. I slide the ink cartridge in, screw on the top, and there is no question whose pen it is. -- Adrian Day, New Braunfels, Tex.

Send a hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, Tex. 78279-5000, fax it to 210-HELOISE or e-mail it to Please include your city and state.

, King Features Syndicate