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DEAR READERS: Washing the car can be a fun family activity. Let's do it safely, and water-wise:

• The correct cleaner is critical. Use soap formulated for the car. Never use dish soap; its grease-cutting formula can strip the wax and dull the finish of the car.

• If somebody drops the sponge, it's out of the game. Tiny rocks and gravel picked up off the ground can scratch the car.

• Don't wash the car in direct sunlight. In the shade is best.

• Rinse using a light spray, not a strong, powerful stream of water.

• Dry the car with a soft microfiber towel.

DEAR HELOISE: I have a problem with birds pecking/damaging my tomatoes just as they begin to ripen and turn red. I now slip a white sock or part of an old white shirt sleeve on the tomato as it begins to turn.

I fasten a clothes pin at the top of the sock to keep it from sliding down. This works for me, obviously, by hiding the luscious, red tomato.

-- Jerry K.,

Martinsburg, W.Va.

DEAR HELOISE: I walk frequently and can't always take my pets with me. I got a keychain tag that reads: "My pet is home alone." This will let emergency responders know to alert my emergency contact. My pet will need care if I am unable to give it.

The tag comes with a wallet card that has my info on it: my name, address, etc., and info about my pets, just in case. It's added peace of mind.

-- Robert in New York

DEAR READER: Great hint. Readers, you could even make a tag of your own.

DEAR READERS: Now is a great time to stock up on school supplies to last all school year long. Whether you're home-schooling, your kids are learning online or if they are back in the classroom, school supplies are cheap right now. And let's face it, it's always fun for the little ones to get a new box of crayons or makers. Plan ahead.

DEAR HELOISE: Thank you for the article about walking dogs on hot sidewalks. I'd also like to remind your readers that pets should be in the shade and water should not be placed in metal pans.

-- Carol Rhodes,

Texas City, Texas

DEAR HELOISE: My baby girl loves bananas and likes to feed herself. She just can't seem to hang onto those slippery banana slices, so I rolled the banana slices in graham cracker crumbs to make them easier to hang onto.

-- Katharine in Michigan

Send a money- or time-saving hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, Texas 78279-5000; fax to (210) 435-6473; or email

Heloise@Heloise.com

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