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Dear Heloise: If one of our family members calls and asks to come over and bring the kids, we usually say "yes," because we're not busy. Then after a while they'll say, "Where are we going for lunch?" We're always put off, because "lunch" wasn't part of the plan, but we graciously go to a restaurant and eat with them. When the bill arrives, they always hesitate and never offer to pay, so my husband pays the bill. How do we stop this SELFISH BEHAVIOR from moochers? -- A Reader, Lebanon, Ohio

Here are some suggestions from my staff:

* Schedule all arrivals after 2 p.m. If they ask where you're going for lunch or dinner, tell them, "Anyplace you can afford to take us." (Say it while smiling.)

* When they ask where you're going for lunch, say you're not hungry, but you don't want to stop them from going out to lunch.

* When they ask if they can come over, say: "Not today. We're busy (or just about to walk out the door.)"

* Go out to lunch and request separate bills. PAY ONLY for your lunch. Or, when the bill arrives, just say, "Your half is (whatever the amount happens to be)."

-- Heloise


Dear Heloise: Here's my method for cleaning my garbage disposal:

1. Rinse with cold water.

2. Sprinkle a generous amount of powdered cleanser in the disposal.

3. Pack the disposal with ice cubes, and run the water.

4. Turn on the garbage disposal.

Voilà -- clean, fresh disposal! -- Buck J., Kernville, Calif.

Cover your eyes, nose and mouth to ensure you don't ingest any powdered cleanser, or better yet, use my tried-and-true household helper, baking soda! It's cheap, nontoxic and available everywhere.

I've collected my favorite baking soda hints and recipes in a handy pamphlet. Would you like to receive one? It's easy! Visit to order, or send a stamped (70 cents), long, self-addressed envelope, along with $5, to: Heloise/Baking Soda, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001. FYI: Baking soda cleans without scratching, and deodorizes, too! -- Heloise


Dear Heloise: How much nutritional value is there in iceberg lettuce? -- Merriann S., Montezuma, Kan.

Merriann, according to the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, iceberg lettuce has very little nutritional value. One and a half cups of iceberg lettuce has 10 calories, 0 grams of total fat, 2 grams of carbs and 0 grams of protein. It has about 6 percent of the daily value of vitamin A, 2 percent of vitamin C, 2 percent of iron, 0 percent of vitamin D and 0 percent of calcium. -- Heloise


Dear Heloise: A hint I use to organize myself while shopping for Christmas presents is to use a red or green envelope to hold my shopping list and all my gift receipts in my purse. This keeps them all together and easy to access while out shopping and exchanging. -- Dawn W., via email

I love the holiday colors! -- Heloise


Dear Heloise: Recently, I had a problem with gray water in my washing machine. I used a generous amount of soap for my laundry and found out I was using too much soap! The result was a buildup of dingy residue on my clothes and towels. I'm very careful now to make certain this doesn't happen again, but do you have any suggestions on how to get the residue out of my towels without bleach? -- Jeannette B., McKinney, Texas

Jeannette, yes! I use an old standby, vinegar! Just 1 cup of white vinegar added to the rinse water not only makes laundry soft and odor-free, it also helps to eliminate soapy buildup. It might take a couple of washings with white vinegar, but it's worth the time and effort.

If you like this simple household hint, I have many more in my pamphlet Fantabulous Vinegar Hints and More. To receive a copy, just send $5 and a long, stamped (70 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Heloise/Vinegar, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001. Or order it at www. There are so many uses for an inexpensive bottle of vinegar. You'll save money and get your house clean without harsh chemicals. -- Heloise

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Dear Heloise: Do you have a problem with the roof of your house and have to rely on a contractor? Have the contractor take pictures using a cellphone and show them to you. A contractor should have a smartphone and the ability to do that. The photo can even be emailed to you so you can enlarge it. -- Marcie M., via email


Dear Heloise: Several years ago, my cousins and I came up with the idea to send each other pictures of Christmas gifts, rather than actual gifts. It's fun! We don't need more stuff, and shopping has become more difficult as we have gotten older.

We don't have to worry about the right size or color, we don't have to be practical, and we don't have to stand in line at the post office. No one feels bad if the gift is not quite right, and money is no object! -- Barbara D., via email

I love it! You can put together your own luxury lookbook! -- Heloise


Dear Heloise: You can fix an overextended or snapped-off lipstick. Here are the steps:

* Warm the rough edge with a lighter or match.

* Reposition the lipstick in the tube, and wait a brief moment.

* Roll the tube back, and put the lipstick in the freezer for 10 minutes.

-- Debbie in Wisconsin

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