2000 Pulitzer nominee Body, House, Yard, Street

Helpful Household Hints neither Hamper nor Hinder

Loose Leaves, 1st run Tuesday 17 August 1999 in The Morning News of Northwest Arkansas

By Ben S. Pollock
Copyright 1999 Donrey Media Group

This fact is not common knowledge, perhaps because I just made it up, but all columnists not only know one another but work in the same room. Eli the household hints writer in fact sits in the next cubicle. She had to run out to get her car fixed and asked me to fill in.

Dear Eli,

I was just replacing the baking soda in the refrigerator, where you say it removes odor, and it occurred to me I could use it to bake with. It is called “baking” soda after all.

I looked in some cookbooks and there was baking soda in almost every quick-bread recipe. The muffins were delish. Next I’m going to bake a cake.


Hi, Tish-a-bish,

That’s a great idea, baking with baking soda. I’ll have to add it to my next edition of “100 Ways to Use Baking Soda.” Now it’ll be what, 101?


Dear Eli,

I was carrying a jug of vinegar to clean windows but accidentally spilled some onto kale simmering on the stove.

Eli, it was a big mess of greens and I hated to throw out the whole pot. So I thought I better give them a little taste to see if I could salvage them. That tablespoon or so of vinegar perked the taste of those leaves right up. No one in the family got sick.

Eli, did you know just about all bottled salad dressings have vinegar? Pickles, too. Vinegar must be some kind of preservative, too. What a condiment!


Hi, Fred-he-said,

You readers are just filling my thick calendar-organizer. Here I am having to rewrite my baking-soda booklet, and you write in. Now I have to throw out my “98 Ways to Use Vinegar” and make it what, 99, 100, 101 for flavor enhancer, homemade dressings and pickling brine.

Dear Eli,

I was just about to wad up newspaper to polish the mirror with when I saw in it an article about refugees in Kosovo. I had no idea of their troubles!

Then there was an article about the president, and I just had to read it. Then there were some comics, and they tickled me so much they made my morning.

There’s a whole world out there. I didn’t clean the mirror until after lunch.

Just wanted to share my new use for newspaper. We’ve been subscribing for years, not just to clean glass with but also for the pets to poop on. My Henry takes the rest of the paper to use in the yard.


Hi, Kim-Simmer,

You know, if it wasn’t for newspapers, I wouldn’t have a job.

Dear Eli,

Henry here. Was going to send a note come fall but, since the missus is addressing you an envelope, thought we could save a stamp.

Back in the spring I spread newspaper real thick in the garden beds and put transplants in holes I cut out with a pocket knife. Sure enough, no weeding.

Another hint. I discovered that pantyhose were good for more than “squash hammocks.” That’s where you tie the nylons to trellises or stakes so squash and melons are hoisted off the ground: Good for circulation.

To make a long story short, I was messing around in the shed, and I tried on a pair. Pantyhose are much better than support socks in keeping the blood circulating. Now I wear them under my suit at the bank.

Hi, Henry-oh-henry,

I see the men are catching up to the women with smarts. Gals, have you tried wearing panty hose? Bet they’d work great under dresses.

Dear Eli,

I bought a paper shredder. Now I have confetti for parties and to stuff pillows with. As I was throwing away the box, I saw the label showing how you can destroy documents so the garbagemen won’t get your account numbers. What a snoop could do with the top of my electric bill I don’t want to know.

While sprucing up, I came across five crates of old love letters. I once was pretty popular. Through the shredder they went. Then I thought of our electric bill. Now there’s chopped love letters on top of the blown-fiber insulation in the attic.

If my beloved Weimar only knew what was in the ceiling above the bed!


Hi, Lovey-dovey,

Weimar may never know, but thanks for sharing with the rest of America.

I was getting worried about you readers. No one was coming up with unusual, or at least trivial, alternate ways to use household items. There you came along, and put your dirty laundry, so to speak, between you and the hot sun.

Have one last letter here that renews my faith in you practical folks.

Dear Eli,

I figured out a way to make razor blades last three times as long. Now that triple-bladed cartridges have come out, I buy a five-pack, take them apart, and have 15 blades. I fix a single blade in my locking pliers, lather up and away go the whiskers.


Hi, Nick,

How’d you get your name?

Got to run. I’ve got two publications to revise. Hugs.


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