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Dear Readers: Today's SOUND OFF is about ocean and beach trash. -- Heloise

"Dear Heloise: My three children and I went to the beach today and were disgusted by the amount of trash on the sand and in the water. What makes people think they can dispose of cans, plastic bottles, paper and assorted plastic toys on the beach or toss them into the ocean? Even an apple core takes two months to break down, so how long do you think it takes plastic to break down?

"I went online and did some investigating, and I discovered that billions of pounds of trash enter our oceans annually. Over 100,000 marine animals die every year due to eating plastic or becoming entangled in a plastic net.

"If you see trash on the beach, pick it up and dispose of it properly. Never throw anything into the ocean. Write to your representatives in Congress and demand that they do more to clean up the oceans and make it a priority." -- Norma E., La Jolla, Calif.

FAST FACTS

Dear Readers: Never buy the following at a garage sale:

* Mattresses, upholstered furniture, sheets or pillowcases: Even if they look clean, you might be taking home insect eggs, bedbugs and body oils from other people.

* Bike helmets and baby bottles: You don't know how safe they are.

* Tires: They're likely to be unstable.

* Pets: You could end up with an unhealthy pet and vet bills.

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* Hats, swimsuits and underwear: These are personal items that probably carry body oils and possibly bacteria.

-- Heloise

FEEDING THE BABY

Dear Heloise: I've found that feeding a baby in an upright position (or as much as possible) enables the bubbles at the bottom of the stomach to rise with greater ease when you burp the baby. Then massage the infant's back rather than patting to bring on a burp. -- Paige in Missouri

LAMINATED COUNTERTOPS

Dear Readers: When cleaning a laminated countertop, don't use abrasive cleaners, as they scratch and eventually remove the finish. Mild soap and water usually is enough to clean it, and if a stain occurs, put a little lemon juice on the spot, then some baking soda to form a paste. Gently rub in a circular motion, then rinse. -- Heloise

LESS IRONING

Dear Heloise: I've discovered that if you take your sheets out of the dryer as soon as they're done and make the bed with the warm sheets, they iron themselves. You won't have to fold them either, which will save you time and effort.

This applies to knit tops, too. Take them out of the dryer and hang the garments up immediately, and the wrinkles usually fall right out. No need for ironing. -- Gracie W., Meridian, Miss.

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