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Helpful Hints

By Heloise

This article was published July 31, 2014 at 1:50 a.m.

DEAR HELOISE: If you have a vacation home, here is a way to determine if your electricity has gone off for a time -- enough time for food to spoil, though the contents appear to be fine.

Fill a plastic cup about half-full with water and freeze it. Place a coin on top of the ice and replace the cup in the freezer. When you return, just check the cup. If the coin is still on top of the ice, all is well. If the coin is in the bottom and the cup has ice in it, that means there has been a complete thaw and refreeze. The contents of the freezer/refrigerator should be discarded.

If the coin is below the ice surface, but not on the bottom, this indicates a thaw that was not a total thaw. Again, to be safe, toss everything out.

-- Alan M. in New Jersey

DEAR READER: Alan, this is a very good hint indeed. Others put ice cubes in a plastic bag. If they are melted and all spread out, the power has been off -- not sure how long, though.

DEAR HELOISE: When I read the letter suggesting using an old T-shirt to make a bird-cage cover, I knew I had to write to recommend the best idea I had for my birds. I bought a small, outdoor bird feeder that fits in the bottom of the cage. It holds at least two to three weeks' worth of seeds, and the husks fall right onto the bottom of the cage. I have gone on vacation twice, and the birds have been fine, as they had enough food and water. I might not have done that had I not had two parakeets that are content with each other.

-- A Bird Lover,

via email

DEAR HELOISE: I had a door that was sticking. I decided to try to solve the problem by sanding down the areas that were sticking. However, I couldn't tell exactly where those places were. I had some leftover carbon paper I thought might be able to help. I placed the paper in the door and closed it. Wherever the black marks were was where I needed to sand. No more guessing.

-- Paul in Nebraska

DEAR HELOISE: Stock up on your favorite bath soaps, and distribute them among your linens in the cupboard. Your sheets and towels will smell fresh for you and your guests. I also do this in clothing drawers. Why buy separate sachets when you will actually use the soap?

-- M.D. in California

DEAR HELOISE: I keep a toothbrush in the kitchen and use it to clean difficult cooking utensils. It comes in very handy to clean the grater, the colander and any other utensil with small, hard-to-clean areas.

-- Hazel, via email

Send a money- or time-saving hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, Texas 78279-5000; fax to (210) 435-6473; or email

Weekend on 07/31/2014

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