Heloise

Dear Readers: This time of year can be melancholy; the excitement of the holidays is over. One thing you can do to keep the good vibes flowing: “treecycle” your live Christmas tree into beneficial mulch.

Check with your city’s official website, or call 311 for information on pickups and drop-offs for trees. Some general guidelines:

n Naturally, you’ll remove all decorations, tinsel, streamers and lights.

n Remove the tree from its stand and any nails or spikes securing it.

n If transporting the tree to a recycler, tie down the tree with easy-to-cut twine, and don’t bag it.

Other uses for a live Christmas tree: Deposit it into a lake or pond for fish to call home, or donate to the zoo for the animals. Call the zoo before heading over with a tree.

— Heloise

Substitute foods

Dear Heloise: In our household, we find that yogurt serves as a healthy substitute for sour cream without compromising richness in flavor.

—Miss Maui Mary, via email

The heat is on

Dear Readers: Does chilly weather increase pain such as arthritis? A heating pad can help, but there are safety measures to take. Here are some hints:

Use the heating pad for only short periods of time (around 20 minutes is ideal — don’t sleep with it on), and wrap the heating pad in a towel to avoid direct contact with your skin — you could get burned.

If you use creams or ointments, apply those after using the heating pad. Heat can help with chronic (ongoing) pain. For acute (sudden) injuries, did you know that ice usually is better?

Check with your medical professional for other recommendations, and always use a heating pad — and an ice pack — safely.

— Heloise

Giving lint the brushoff

Dear Heloise: In order not to damage the screen of a dryer vent, I use a spongy, disposable painter’s brush.  

I just rub it over the screen, and it gathers the lint. I tap the brush on the edge of a trash can to remove the lint. The brush can be used over and over again.

 — Sue H., Falls Church, Va.

Don’t do it

Dear Heloise: I am constantly receiving requests for contributions from nonprofit organizations. Some send return envelopes with stamps.

Since I don’t contribute to every organization, what can be done with the unused stamps? Can I cut them off and use them for personal mail?

 — B.M. in Virginia

Once a postage stamp has been used, the U.S. Postal Service says removing the stamp from an envelope, regardless of whether it’s canceled or not, is illegal. Don’t use it to send other mail.

— Heloise

Equal measure

Dear Heloise: If you ever need a measurement point of reference, a standard “sticky note” is 3 inches long, and a dollar bill is 6 inches long!

 — Sarah T. in Dallas

Send a money-saving or timesaving hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001, or you can fax it to 210-HELOISE or email it to Heloise@Heloise.com.

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