Dear Readers: With the holidays coming up, when you go shopping, stores may (or may not) be offering a variety of sales. Before you head out to shop, go online to check on prices at various stores to get a handle on the prices of products and to see if sales are being offered. And with the current supply chain issues, shop as early as you can. There might not be the wide variety of products that are normally offered because of all the shortages related to the pandemic. — Heloise

Ugly water ring in flower vase

Dear Readers: When you see a crusty, calcium-type ring inside the vase, it most likely has been caused by using tap water that contains minerals. But you can remove this unattractive ring. Here’s how to do it:

Warm enough full-strength household vinegar to cover the deposits and then pour into the vase. Cover the top of the vase with your hand and shake the vase. Allow the vinegar to soak in the vase overnight.

The next day, pour out the mixture and rub the inside with a nonabrasive scrubbing pad to be certain that everything is dissolved. Then wash and rinse for the final clean.

Vinegar is a utilitarian product good for countless household jobs, including cleaning, deodorizing and cooking. Check out my six-page pamphlet full of vinegar uses to learn more. Get the pamphlet by visiting or by sending $5 and a long, self-addressed, stamped (75 cents) envelope to: Heloise/Vinegar, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, Texas 78279-5001.

FYI: At bath time, add 1 cup of apple cider vinegar to a tub filled with water. Your skin will feel good, and cleaning the tub will be easier. — Heloise

Hiring a caterer for holiday parties?

Dear Readers: First, get recommendations from friends and family members who have used a local caterer. Call two or three to get a comparison of prices and services. Once you decide on one, book the caterer as far in advance of your party date as you can, because caterers get booked early for the holidays.

When you meet with the caterer, be prepared with a list of everything that you want, and be precise about the number of guests. Then ask specific questions, such as the price per person and exactly what the caterer will provide and what you will need to provide. For example, who gets the leftovers, and what if more people show up? Finally, ask for a written contract that spells out all the details you have agreed on. — Heloise

Mouth on fire?

Dear Readers: If you have accidentally bitten into a food that’s super hot, such as curry or a jalapeno, and your tongue feels as if it’s burning, do not go for a glass of water. The water will spread the heat around. Instead, try to soothe that burning tongue and mouth with a bite of ice cream, yogurt or a cucumber. If these are not available, try a piece of chocolate, bread or a sip of alcohol. — Heloise

Baking a holiday ham?

Dear Readers: After you put away the leftover ham, don’t toss out the broth. Instead, do this: Pour the broth into an ice-cube tray, cover with plastic wrap and then freeze. Store the frozen broth cubes in a freezer-safe zip-top bag. Then you can use them to add flavor to vegetables, casseroles, eggs and other dishes. — Heloise

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