Hints from Heloise: Single socks are used to clean

Dear Heloise: I have a collection of mismatched socks. I never throw them away because they are perfect for dusting figurines. I just spray the cleaning solution onto the sock, and I can get into small places by putting my hand inside of the sock and gently moving it around. This is a great way to keep collectables dirt-free. — Harriette N., Lima, Ohio


Dear Heloise: About a month ago, I was trying a new recipe that called for plantains. I figured since bananas are the same as plantains, I’d just use one of the bananas I had on hand. The recipe turned out to be a disaster. What went wrong? Aren’t plantains the same as bananas? — Carmella W., Bozeman, Montana

Carmella, there is a difference between bananas and plantains. First, plantains are larger than most bananas, and their skin is thicker. They also have a higher starch content than a banana. A plantain is ripe when the skin turns yellow or brown. If the skin is green, it’s not ripe yet. One of the best things about a plantain is that it can be eaten with sweet or savory dishes. It’s not unusual to cook a plantain with vegetables, and they are delicious when fried.

Bananas are best eaten with other fruit or when peeled and eaten as a snack. They are very rarely eaten in savory dishes. — Heloise


Dear Heloise: This past winter, I seemed to catch a cold every other week! The worst part was having a sore throat and the disgusting throat spray I had to use to deaden the pain. In my mind, I told myself that this must be what swamp algae must taste like. Finally, I took a large tablespoon and turned it bowl-side up to cover my tongue before I sprayed my throat. This way, I covered my taste buds and still managed to deaden my throat. — Sandra J., Newberry, South Carolina


Dear Heloise: We have two blue-eyed white cats that were born deaf. It’s not unusual for their breed. Since they cannot hear us, we developed hand signals to keep them interested and communicate with them. They caught on quickly, and although we do talk to them, it’s our facial expressions and hand signals that really speak for us. They know the sign for “pretty kitty” and usually purr when they’re paid a compliment. — Bob and Karen, Murray, Utah


Dear Heloise: A friend of mine said she had an idea for roasting a chicken that she had gotten from your column. I tried it, and it worked out well. Maybe some of your newer readers would like to try this out:

I placed a chicken in the center of a bundt pan and sprayed the sides of the pan with nonstick oil. Most of the chicken juices drain into the pan, but I place the chicken and pan on my cookie sheet that has sides, just in case some of the juices drain down the open center where the chicken sits. The center of the pan is high enough to roast a chicken and keep it in place throughout the entire baking time. — April H., Blue Springs, Missouri


Dear Heloise: I have always enjoyed snacking on tortilla chips and salsa. A much healthier alternative that I recently concocted is salt-free mixed nuts and salsa — put them in a bowl and eat them with a spoon. Try it. — J.R., Houston


Dear Heloise: I’ve read that most people use too much soap when they do laundry. Is this true, and how much should I use? I use a lot of soap in an effort to get my towels bright white again, but they have a gray look to them. What causes this? — Jessica T., Wausau, Wisconsin

Jessica, you only need about 1/2 a cap full if you are using one of the newer machines, whether it’s a front loader or a top loader. If you use a top loader, you might find that you get better results with an agitator in the middle. The gray tint to your towels is a buildup of soap, skin oils and dirt that got trapped in the fibers of the towel.

Try using white vinegar in the laundry and rinse cycles to help loosen the trapped debris and to whiten your towels again. — Heloise


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