Dear Heloise: When working with ONIONS, I have two things I do to reduce the tears: (1) Core the onion. Then after the onion is cut, you can continue to cut up the core. I use my apple corer. (2) Run fingers and hands under cold water, and rub fingers on a stainless-steel spoon. In less than 30 seconds, the smell is gone. This works with garlic, too. -- Susan D., Highland, Ind.

TAPIOCA STARCH VERSUS CORNSTARCH

Dear Heloise: What is the difference between cornstarch and tapioca starch? Are they interchangeable? -- Ruth M., Omaha, Neb.

Ruth, tapioca starch comes from the root of the cassava plant. Cornstarch comes from the grain of maize (corn). Both are thickening agents. If you are preparing a sauce made with cornstarch, it will be opaque, while a sauce made with tapioca starch will appear translucent. If your recipe requires a long cooking time, use cornstarch. As for interchangeable, it all depends on the dish you are making, but go with the instructions. -- Heloise

A FAVORITE RECIPE

Dear Readers: So many of you keep asking for the Heloise Olive-Nut Dip/ Spread recipe, it's time to dig into the vault and print it again:

Heloise's Olive-Nut Dip/

Sandwich Spread

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup real mayonnaise

1/2 cup pecans, chopped

1 cup sliced salad olives (the jar will say "salad olives" and is filled with bits and pieces of olives and pimientos)

2 tablespoons juice from the olive jar

Dash of pepper (no salt)

Mix all of the ingredients well and refrigerate for an hour or more.

Simple, easy-to-make recipes can be found in my pamphlet All-Time Favorite Recipes, which will offer new ideas and recipes to serve to your family and guests. Send $5, along with a self-addressed, stamped (70 cents), long envelope, to: Heloise/Recipes, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001. This is one of my mother's (the original Heloise, 1919-1977) favorite recipes from way back. I love it as a dip for crackers and chips. -- Heloise

SLICING TOMATOES

Dear Heloise: Our tomatoes were rather small this year. So, instead of slicing them clear through to put on a sandwich, I butterflied them and laid the connected halves on the bread. They didn't slide around on the bread. Love my fresh tomatoes! -- Diane U., Springfield, Ill.

STORING LEFTOVERS

Dear Readers: Leftover stews, chili and soups often taste better a day or two after they're made. If you have leftovers, store them in plastic, sealable bags, and lay them flat in your refrigerator or freezer. These can be stacked to save room. Plus, you can see what the item is. Do let the food cool before putting it into the bag, and you can jot down the date on the bag, too! -- Heloise

CLEAN THESE, TOO!

Dear Heloise: There are several places most of us forget to clean or disinfect in our kitchens. Some of these are phones, refrigerator handles, kitchen-cabinet knobs and drawer handles, and the top of the refrigerator or microwave oven. -- Claire M., Greenville, N.C.

Here's the breakdown

Dear Readers: We've become better at recycling, reusing and repurposing items, and keeping them out of the LANDFILL, but we can always do more.

Here are some eye-opening stats on the time it takes trash to decompose in the environment, according to the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services website (www.des.nh.gov):

* Paper towel -- two to four weeks

* Plastic bag -- 10-20 years

* Aluminum can -- 80-200 years

* Disposable diaper -- 450 years

* Plastic bottle -- 450 years

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* Glass bottle -- 1 million years

Plastic never fully breaks down; it just gets smaller and smaller, and it can always pose a threat to wildlife. This is especially true with the plastic six-ring holders for soft drinks and other items. Please, cut the rings before putting them in the recycle bin or trash. -- Heloise

WATER SAVER

Dear Heloise: During the winter months, I turn on my hot water first thing to brush my teeth. By the time I finish brushing, the water is warm enough to wash my face. This way, I don't waste water or have to use ice-cold water to wash my face. -- Vicky C., Fargo, N.D.

SWALLOWING PILLS

Dear Heloise: I have a hard time swallowing pills. I've found that the use of a straw helps greatly. I put the pill in my mouth, suck up enough liquid to swallow, then do it! This makes it easier for me. -- E.L.Y., Villa Park, Calif.

Also, take a sip of water before taking the pill, then a big gulp after. An old hint, but still true, is to use a spoonful of applesauce. Put the pill in the applesauce and then swallow it. This really makes the pill go down easier. Sit or stand up straight, too. If the pills are large, ask your doctor or pharmacist if they can be crushed or cut in half to make taking them easier. -- Heloise

SAVE ROOM

Dear Heloise: In a one-bedroom apartment, space is at a premium. I use a twin-sized bed, and this makes more room in the bedroom. I push the bed up against one wall, and it opens up the room. -- Helga G. in New York

GREEN HINT

Dear Heloise: I buy pints of milk in glass bottles. Here are my hints for reusing them:

I fill one with sand and use it as a doorstop. I put a bit of sand in several, put the cap back on and use them as bowling pins for youngsters. Let kids decorate them for banks to encourage them to save money. I fill one with coins for a gift. -- Frances H., Kane, Pa.

TRASH BAGS

Dear Heloise: Instead of storing spare trash-can liners in a drawer or cupboard, I keep them at the point of use -- in the wastebasket or can. I place the spare bags on the bottom of the basket, then add the collecting bag. I take out the full bag, and there are spares right there. -- Ed in California

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