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Helpful Hints

DEAR READERS: Everyone loves to get a beautifully wrapped gift. Why not make your own special homemade wrapping paper for gifts? It will also be cheaper. Here are some creative ideas that everyone in the family can do.

• Jazz up plain gift bags. Have your children decorate the bags by adding beads, stickers and stamp impressions.

• Add a floral touch. If you have a garden with flowers, tape a lovely rose to a package or a small bunch of fresh wildflowers.

• Wrapping a large present for a child? Use a pillowcase. Choose one with your daughter’s or son’s favorite cartoon character or design. Put the gift inside and tie with yarn.

• Have a large box to wrap? Buy paper tablecloths, which can be found at party stores.

DEAR HELOISE: Whenever frying anything, have a lid as big as the vessel you are using right beside the stove. If a fire erupts, cover the pan and turn off the burner. Always stay at the stove when frying.

— Joni, Fort Wayne, Ind.

DEAR READER: This is important fire safety information, particularly now, during the holidays when we will be having many festive events and gatherings in our homes. During parties, make sure someone is in the kitchen at all times to monitor all the cooking and baking.

DEAR HELOISE: Christmas cannot be ruined by a silly supply chain. This would be the perfect year to drop the big stores and go back to homemade, heart-felt gifts. Think “Little House on the Prairie.” Or shop your local flea markets. Recycle and reuse.

— The Junk Store Junkie

DEAR READER: This is great advice. We have to be clever and creative this year to make sure the holidays are special.

DEAR HELOISE: I have been making my own antibacterial foaming hand soap. I was having a hard time finding it in the stores. I took an empty bottle and put about ½ inch of antibacterial dish soap in the bottom. I then slowly filled it about three-quarters of the way with warm water. Put the cover back on and shake. It works great and saves money.

— Linda, Rochester, N.H.

DEAR READERS: Instead of throwing out leftovers, establish one night of the week (like Friday or Saturday) as buffet night. Put out all the leftovers and let family members make their own food concoctions.

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