DEAR HELOISE: A couple wrote in about having relatives who sat with their kids once a week, and each had two undisciplined dogs who were muddy and jumped on the furniture. A solution for this might be on-and-off covers -- sort of a combination of a throw and slipcover.
There's a part that goes over the seat and back, with "wings" that go over the arms, no fitting or adjusting necessary. After the dogs leave, whip the covers off and put it into the washer and dryer; then line-dry for about half an hour. (Don't choose knit or stretchy covers because of the dogs' claws.) They come in many colors and fabrics -- quilted, reversible (which I have), different prints and textures, etc. These are found in catalogs or online.
I had to alter the family room sofa cover. (The sizes were for a loveseat, so our sofa was too big.) The chair cover fit perfectly. I hope in autumn I can get peach or orange colors for my living room sofa and chairs. I'm happy with my furniture.
-- Ken Pearson,
DEAR HELOISE: Instead of cloth or paper bags to replace the dreaded plastic bags, ask your grocery for a cardboard box they can discard that will fit perfectly into the bottom of their largest grocery cart.
It also should have holes for your two hands to carry it on each end. A bit of maneuvering is required to get it into the cart, but it's free, works great and avoids any bags: plastic, cloth or paper.
-- John K. Landry,
New Braunfels, Texas
DEAR HELOISE: It's important to teach your children to read before they start kindergarten. Sit down with them and get them comfortable. Start with books that interest them and stories that are appropriate for their age group. Help them sound out words they don't know.
Above all, take your time. There is no rush. In fact, pause once in a while and discuss the story or one of the characters. Ask the child what they think of the character or what they would do in that situation. In other words, engage the child by asking them questions. This is one way to help a youngster improve their reading and comprehension skills and become a better student.
in New Jersey
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