Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is from Ida and her co-workers:

“Dear Heloise: I work in an office, and we have several phone lines. We answer ‘XYZ office.’ Then they ask: ‘Where is this? Who is this?’ and other questions. We respond, ‘XYZ office,’ and they again state: ‘Are you sure?’ Yes, we are sure. Please ask your readers to listen when a person on the other end answers.

Ida, via email

Oh, Ida! Heloise Central (my office and staff) feels your pain! We answer only “Hello,” and oh, my! “Is this the Dr. ABC office? When do you open? When do you close?” One day I’m going to say, “Yes, 3 a.m. and never!”

Dear Readers: Other uses for sponges:

● Moisten and wipe to remove lint from clothing.

● Freeze and use as a compress.

● Carefully remove a jagged, broken lightbulb from a base.

● Put under a pot when scouring to prevent the sink from scratching.

● Cut new sponges into fun shapes for kids’ blocks.

Dear Heloise: For my daughter’s wedding, we used one of your hints for favors.

I bought very nice, sturdy clear plastic spoons, and placed two chocolate-kiss candies inside each spoon. We then wrapped them with nylon net in the bridal colors, tied with a pretty white ribbon, and attached some name cards for the couple.

These really saved us a lot of money, as we were doing this on a budget.

May L., Arlington, Va.

Dear Heloise: I considered getting some large gift bags for gifts. I then changed my mind, considering the cost, and decided to give the gifts in a reusable grocery bag. Just before departing for the store, I glanced at your column in the Orange County (Calif.) Register and was surprised to see that was your hint for the day!

Plastic-bag reuse: It doesn’t rain very often in Southern California, so we natives are less experienced in surviving the wet stuff. On a previous occasion, I had stuffed a few plastic newspaper sleeves into the pocket of my raincoat. Today when I was out, I found them to be immensely helpful in carrying my fast food from the restaurant.

Julie in Mission Viejo, Calif.

Dear Readers: Houseplants can add a lot to a small or large space. A cheap way to get “new” plants is from cuttings from the ones you already have. Many will start in water (a little plant food) and don’t take much care. Some such ivy will grow in water, not soil.

Sometimes I add a couple of drops of green or blue food coloring, or mix them to make … turquoise! The effect is quite nice and hides the water lines if I use a clear jar or an old vase.

Dear Heloise: If you are out of packing peanuts, ball up pages from a magazine, and stuff the box well!

Sally M., via email

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

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