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Dear Heloise: My mother got a fabulous cake recipe from your mother many years ago. I remember that it had TOMATO SOUP in the cake batter and tasted so good. Could you reprint that recipe? -- Amy R., Nashua, N.H.

Amy, this is a fun recipe! My mother, the original Heloise (1919-1977), also called it Conversation Cake, because you don't tell anyone it contains tomato soup. After they taste it, it starts a conversation! Here we go:

Mother's Tomato Soup Cake

1/2 cup solid shortening

1 cup sugar

1 can tomato soup (10 1/2 ounces) -- a little more won't hurt

1 cup chopped nuts

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup raisins

1 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

The following are optional, but they add spice. Do experiment with one or two first -- but not all of them, unless you REALLY like spice!

1 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg

2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Cream shortening and sugar in a large bowl. Stir in one can of tomato soup (undiluted) and the rest of the ingredients, one at a time. Cream well after each addition. Grease a 10-inch square cake pan. Pour in the batter, and when the oven reaches 375 F, bake for 45 minutes.

When cake is done, remove from the oven. Loosen the edges with a knife. Turn onto a cake rack and let cool. Cream cheese icing works well with this cake. But don't tell anyone that there is tomato soup in the cake until he or she has eaten it!

If you like this recipe, I have many more in my Heloise's Cake Recipes pamphlet. To receive a copy, send $3, along with a stamped, self-addressed long envelope, to: Heloise/Cake, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001. There's nothing like a homemade cake to make the perfect ending to a meal. -- Heloise


Dear Heloise: I buy a head of lettuce, and two days later it turns black. -- Sue in Canton, Ohio

Sue, are you talking about iceberg lettuce in the bag from the store? If so, take it back!

In general, you should not wash lettuce, then store it for long periods of time. It's best to "rinse" and dry lettuce just before using it. You can "wash" and dry well, then store in an airtight container or zipper-top bag to use in a day or so, and the lettuce will be fine. -- Heloise


Dear Heloise: Here's a hint I haven't seen before in your column: When I load silverware into the dishwasher, I separate it. I put forks with forks, spoons with other spoons, and so on. This makes it so much easier and faster when putting them away. -- Heidi G., via email

Well, sorry to say, it's best NOT to do this. If the utensils "nestle" together, they may not get really clean. The other term is "spooning," as in two spoons nestled together. Just jumble them up! They get clean, and it's only a few more seconds of your time. -- Heloise

Tackling the to-do list

Dear Readers: We are only four days into a new year, and there are MANY THINGS to think about: your financial situation, work projects, home updates and more. Then there are tasks to do, such as fixing things around the house, working on the auto and cleaning out a closet or garage.

Many things seem to stay on the to-do list! Here is what I do: triage! This means managing and prioritizing what NEEDS to be done and what can wait. Focus on the top three, and the others can wait a while.

Use my HELOISE 120-SECOND CLEANING PLAN. Take only two minutes to toss items, put them back where they go, and clean a light fixture or the pets' door. You will be surprised how much you can get done. -- Heloise


Dear Heloise: Pay attention to the endcaps - the ends of the aisles - in supermarkets the next time you are there. Store managers, retailers and vendors use that space to push products on sale or that need to be moved.

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Items that are typically purchased together will be displayed together -- green beans, mushroom soup and french-fried onions; bean dip and tortilla chips; the ingredients for s'mores -- the list goes on.

Usually these may be at a sale price, but go down that aisle, and you may find similar items at LOWER prices. -- A Supermarket Shopper, via email


Dear Heloise: In our busy household, it can be hard to communicate with one another. My family knows what is going on by leaving notes on the bathroom mirror. We keep a dry-erase marker on the counter, and anyone who needs to leave a note just writes the message directly on the mirror. -- Kathy W., Munster, Ind.


Dear Readers: We are just going into 2018, and it's wise to clear some clutter! Think about these things:

* Old medicine that you no longer use and is out of date should be eliminated! DON'T flush meds. Do take them back to the pharmacy, or mix with wet coffee grounds, cat litter or "yuck," seal in a can or jar and throw out.

* You may not need the paper manual that comes with your TV or home office equipment. All of that information usually is on the internet. However, I keep them, as some older equipment may not have a manual online.

* Makeup that is over a year old is now unhygienic and a space-stealer.

* Books on travel and tours from long ago are hopelessly out of date. Pitch them.

* You don't need your old VCR, unless you are still playing VCR tapes.

* Toys the dog won't even play with? Out they go.

-- Heloise


Dear Heloise: Here come the January white sales! Freshening up my bedrooms and bathrooms with new towels, pillows, sheets and blankets is fun and gives me energy going into spring! -- Janet G., Fort Lee, N.J.