Dear Readers: Looking for some easy ways to make cute, inexpensive CENTERPIECES for a lunch, brunch, party or other event? Here are a few hints:

* Fill a vase with thick layers of different-colored marbles. It can be changed to match the season or holiday, like black and orange for Halloween.

* Take an old coffee can, hot-glue twigs on the outside, then tie a ribbon around it and place a small plant inside.

* Fill a clear vase or bowl with seashells or colorful ornaments.

* Place many candles of varying sizes in the center of a table on a mirror or round plate. Incorporate things you wouldn’t normally use -- lollipops, hats, rocks or anything you can find.

Decorating is what you make of it, so have fun and try new things! -- Heloise



P.O. Box 795000

San Antonio, TX 78279-5000

Fax: 1-210-HELOISE



Dear Heloise: What does thread count mean? And what should I look for when buying sheets? -- A Reader, via e-mail

The number of threads per square inch of fabric is what determines thread count. Generally, the higher the thread count, the softer the sheet, but that is not always the case. Also, consider the fiber (cotton, silk, etc.). Be aware that a sheet with a smaller thread count made with better-quality fibers might feel softer than a higher thread count with lower-quality fibers.

Consider finishing also. Most sheets go through a finishing process to help them not shrink, pill or wrinkle. A lesser-quality set might not have been finished thoroughly. -- Heloise


Dear Heloise: I booked a hotel online and received a confirmation e-mail, with a confirmation number, dates and charges, which were prepaid. When we arrived, the hotel did not have our reservation and had no rooms available. I gave the hotel staff the confirmation e-mail to show that I had prepaid. They apologized profusely. They secured us another room at a hotel across the street and gave us our money back, but it still was an inconvenience. I am glad I brought the confirmation e-mail, but next time I am going to call the hotel beforehand and make sure it has our reservation. -- A Reader in Florida

A quick phone call can save the day . . . or the room! -- Heloise


Dear Heloise: We have a lot of family members in other states. When birthdays or holidays roll around, I receive numerous e-mails asking what to get my children. While presents are not necessary, I found it easier to make an online wish list. Some of the major online-shopping Web sites allow you to make a wish list, which others can view online. They even can purchase and ship the item with just a few clicks. -- A Reader in Washington


Dear Heloise: I often buy large containers of snacks (chips, pretzels, etc.). When home, I divide the contents into smaller “snack size” bags. Whenever I need a snack, I just grab a bag and go. No more eating straight out of the bag or overeating. -- Linda in Texas

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.

2012, King Features Syndicate