Dear Heloise: I came across this idea, which has helped out with gifts for the grandchildren each year. Save the DOLLAR BILLS that have the child’s initial in the circle on the front, left-hand side of the bill. The initials go only from “A’’ to “L,” though. -- Gwen S. in Louisiana

This is a clever hint for those looking for unique gifts to give children. Unfortunately, as you stated, this hint works only for children whose names begin with the first 12 letters of the alphabet.

The circle and letter you mention is actually the Federal Reserve seal. This seal identifies which of the 12 United States Federal Reserve banks printed that piece of paper money. Each of those banks is given a letter code (which is the A-L in the circle), which also becomes the prefix of the serial number on that particular dollar bill. Just as an example, an “A’’ in the seal tells you that the dollar was printed in Boston, and the letter “A’’ also will precede the numbers of the serial number on that same dollar bill. Every image on our currency is there for a reason -- pretty cool! -- Heloise


Dear Readers: Have you noticed the little black-and-white squares on the front of store ads and in-store ads? They are actually bar codes called Quick Response codes, or QR codes for short. Similar to the UPC bar codes that we are all familiar with, this code contains information, links to Web sites, coupons and even videos.

All you need is a phone that has a camera on it and the reader app. A lot of phones come with the reader app already, but you can download the app, if necessary (some apps are free, and some cost a small fee). The app allows your phone’s camera to act like a scanner as it “reads” the QR code. All the information from that business is now available on your phone, along with coupons and other deals. What will they think of next? -- Heloise


Dear Heloise: As children, my mother always insisted that my sister and I write the year on the inner corner of any greeting cards we sent out. I didn’t realize the significance of this gesture until I was much older and I found that cards I had saved from my family with the year written on them helped me recall many fond memories. -- Carolina H. in Rhode Island

I do the same thing. However, I put the year on the back of the cards I send to friends and loved ones. -- Heloise


Dear Heloise: As a parent of small children, spaghetti is a common meal in our home. Although the kids love to eat spaghetti, it can be a challenge, and quite messy. A friend of mine taught me her hint: Take clean kitchen shears and cut the spaghetti into small pieces after placing in it in a bowl. No mess, and easier for everyone! -- K.L. in Colorado

Heloise’s column appears six days a week at Send a hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, Tex. 78279-5000, or e-mail it to

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