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Fireplace safety

Dear Readers: The winter’s chill calls for a bright, warm and crackling fire, but is your FIREPLACE up to snuff? Let’s take a look at some hints from the American Academy of Pediatrics (www.aap.org):

— Your chimney should have a professional cleaning and inspection each year.

— Ensure the flue is open — this draws smoke out of the home. Use a mirror to check.

— Wet wood is no good. It smokes too much and causes soot to accumulate.

— Smaller pieces of wood are better — they burn faster and smoke less.

— Start each fire with a clean slate. Remove all ash from previous fires.

— It’s a good idea to crack a window in your home, if possible, when the fireplace is going.

— Safety is always No. 1. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are a must, as is a fire extinguisher. Never leave a fire unattended.

— Heloise

STAIN GAME

Dear Readers: Splash some wine on your blouse? No worries. Daub with cool water, then sponge the area with white vinegar and rinse. If the stain remains, gently rub in a tiny amount of liquid laundry detergent and launder as usual.

Vinegar is a workhorse in the home. Safe, cheap and readily available, I’ve reached for it time and time again. I have compiled my favorite vinegar hints, helps and recipes into a handy pamphlet. Would you like to receive one? It’s easy! Visit www.Heloise.com to order, or send a long, stamped (70 cents), self-addressed envelope, together with $5, to: Heloise/Vinegar, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001. FYI: To remove most fresh stains left by deodorants and antiperspirants, rub with undiluted white vinegar, then launder as usual, using the hottest water safe for the fabric. — Heloise

SOUP’S ON

Dear Heloise: Cream soups straight out of the can (heated or not) can make delicious dips for breads, chips and veggies. Their easy prep saves time! — Annie in California

A splash of water or broth may make them less viscous and easier to pour. — Heloise

CUT IT OUT!

Dear Heloise: I make cooking as efficient as possible. I purchased a specific pair of scissors to use solely in the kitchen. This has turned out to be one of my favorite purchases!

My scissors are great when I need to cut pieces of basil into thin strips to add to caprese salad or any other recipes. This is far easier and faster than cutting basil with a knife. — Taylor R., Huntington Beach, Calif.

HINT FROM HIM

Dear Heloise: I had new faucets installed, and I was dismayed to see all the gunk in the trap from toothbrushing. I took a hint from my dentist and started rinsing into a cup after brushing my teeth, then emptying it into the toilet. This keeps the trap clean. — Bill C., Terre Haute, Ind.