Dear Heloise: WATER is such a precious commodity, and we all should conserve in any way we can. When I am cooking a dish that needs additional water, I warm the amount needed in the microwave instead of running the tap until it gets warm. It is a shame for unused water to run into my septic system. -- Norma Gayle, Concan, Tex.

How right you are! We in Texas are careful about saving our water! -- Heloise


Dear Heloise: This is how I clean tall, narrow-neck flower vases. I use nylon net as a dishrag, so when a piece gets old, I save it and use it for vases.

I sprinkle about a tablespoon of baking soda into the vase. I moisten the nylon net and use a wooden chopstick to push it through the neck and around the inside to scrub the bottom and insides.

I use the chopstick to pull out the net. Then I pour a couple of tablespoons of white vinegar into the vase and roll it around, holding it over the sink and letting the fizzing motion wash over all of the inside of the vase. I pour out the solution and rinse the vase thoroughly with hot water. All clean and sparkling! -- Margaret Ann, Stafford County, Va.

You mention two of my favorite cheap and “green” cleaners and deodorizers: vinegar and baking soda. They are great, and you usually have them in your pantry. For more ways to use these cleaners in your home and save money, since you won’t have to buy cleaning supplies, order my pamphlet combo (vinegar and baking soda) by sending $8 and a long, self-addressed, stamped (86 cents) envelope to: Heloise/Vinegar and Baking Soda, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001. Did you know that wiping your countertops (not granite, marble or other specialized stone) with full-strength vinegar will help keep them clean and germ-free? -- Heloise


Dear Readers: Marie Martin of Waterville, Maine, sent in a photo of Barqs, a multicolored cat, peeking out from a Christmas tree. Marie says: “It looks like Barqs is playing peekaboo. When the cat climbed into the tree, my daughter grabbed the camera and snapped this photo.”

To see Barqs, visit my Web site at and click on “Pets.” -- Heloise


Dear Heloise: When making stuffed bell peppers, I used to have a difficult time keeping the peppers from falling over in the baking dish. Now I evenly cut off the tops of the peppers. Then I clean out any seeds and membrane.

I take the tops of the peppers, cut out the stems and place the tops flat on the bottom of the baking dish, then sit the peppers on top. It keeps the peppers upright and there is less waste by using this part. -- J. Williams, via e-mail

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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