Ask Heloise

Be cautious with a pet gift

Dear Readers: Today’s sound off is about gifting an animal for Christmas.

— Heloise

“Dear Heloise: Please advise your readers to think twice about giving an animal, such as a dog or cat, as a Christmas gift. A pet should be given only if the recipient has requested a particular pet and is above 12 years of age. It’s better to allow the recipient to select the pet rather than to pick one out for him or her. However, if the pet is for a child, it must be understood that the child needs to feed it, water it and play with it. All too many children lose interest in the pet after the newness wears off, so think carefully. It’s a living, breathing, feeling creature, not a toy.”

— Angela in Detroit

Send a great hint to:


P.O. Box 795000

San Antonio, TX 78279-5000

Fax: 1-210-HELOISE

Email: Heloise(at)Heloise.com

Fast facts

Dear Readers: Here are some other uses for a potato peeler:

∫ Cut thin slices of cheese with it.

∫ Sharpen pencils.

∫ Shave chocolate to make chocolate curls.

∫ Carefully remove fuzzy sweater balls from sweaters.

— Heloise

Cleaning gravestones

Dear Heloise: Do you have a hint for cleaning gravestone markers? I would like to remove enough grime to make them legible.

— Jack in San Antonio

Jack, you didn’t mention what materials the markers were made of; however, never use a stiff-bristled brush on a grave marker. Avoid pressure washing and bleach, and do not use a regular household cleaner on any marker.

Granite headstone: Use a nonionic detergent, by mixing 1 ounce of detergent with 1 gallon of water. Using a soft-bristled brush, gently scrub the marker.

Marble or limestone markers: Clean with a cup of ammonium hydroxide in a gallon of water to kill such things as moss, algae and lichen. Again, use only a soft-bristled brush.

Bronze marker: The cleaning tip for granite markers also applies to bronze markers. Do not try to remove the green patina that comes with time from bronze. It adds an aged beauty to the marker.

— Heloise

Teaching kids about money

Dear Heloise: I found a great way to teach my kids about money: I gave my son $20 and told him he had to figure out a dinner that would feed a family of four, then I had him come with me to the grocery store. The things he learned were:

(1) $20 doesn’t go very far;

(2) you can’t do impulse buying when shopping for dinner on $20; and

(3) you need to look for bargains!

He made spaghetti with a meat sauce, tossed salad and heat-and-serve rolls. Dessert was a sherbet that was on sale. There was 11 cents left over from the $20. He’s had a greater appreciation of money ever since.

— A Reader, via email

Contact list

Dear Heloise: When I add a contact to my cellphone, I always list the person’s relationship to me — I have probably five or six “Jennifers” in my phone, and I need to be sure I am speed-dialing the correct one!

— Maria F., Tallahassee, Fla.