Dear Readers: Spring is here, and bird-watching is a great pastime. Let’s help the birds BUILD A NEST. What materials should we gather and leave out for the birds? Here are some hints:

Natural articles are best: dried moss and leaves, twigs, straw, grass clippings and even a shed snakeskin, if you come across one. Pet fur is OK, but NOT if your pet is treated with medicine that is applied to the skin or fur.
Other no-nos? Dryer lint (too many chemicals, and it dries hard, like cement), along with yarn, string and human hair (these can get wrapped around the legs and feet).
Enjoy watching the birds build their nests, but let’s keep them safe at the same time! - Heloise


Dear Readers: Do you only buy clothes brand new? Mixing secondhand pieces into your workday, dressy and casual wardrobes is a new, environmentally friendly trend.
Swap clothing items you no longer wear for things you can find at the thrift shop: vintage blouses, T-shirts and top designer brands.
And with prom season here, the secondhand store is a great place to find a glamorous gown! Don’t discount the thrift store; there are deals to be had! - Heloise 


Dear Heloise: We love cream cheese at my house, for bagels, spinach dips and of course cheesecake! What’s the best way to soften cream cheese if it’s straight from the fridge? - Maren R. in Kentucky

Hi, Maren! Warming cream cheese at room temperature is best for its consistency and flavor, but in a pinch, you can remove the cream cheese from the package (the wrapper may be foil, which can’t go in the microwave) and place in a microwaveable bowl. Microwave on HIGH in 10-second increments until you achieve the desired softness. - Heloise


Dear Heloise: I read your column each day in The (Martinsburg, W.Va.) Journal. My little Maltipeke particularly enjoys your pet stories! 
I have a hint to provide vegan foods at a party: Using a slow cooker, make large quantities of vegan main dishes IN ADVANCE and freeze. Then it’s simple to warm up and serve along with your regular meals. 
Add a salad and fruit for dessert, and you are there. Tofu is good to have on hand, as well as various beans, nuts, vegetable broth, mushrooms and fresh, frozen or canned veggies. You might ask your vegan guests for a list of foods they like. - Anne T., Shepherdstown, W.Va. 

Just drive!

Dear Readers: Today’s SOUND OFF is about people and their driving habits. -- Heloise

“Dear Heloise: Driving a vehicle can become so familiar that some people naturally get a little careless about using their turn signals, coming to a complete stop at stop signs and tailgating other drivers. But those pale when compared with cellphones: texting and answering calls. A couple of years ago, on graduation night from high school, five young girls were killed when the driver was texting behind the wheel. Five young lives gone in only a few seconds; five families who had to bury otherwise healthy, young daughters. If you are driving, DON’T answer your phone and don’t text! Whatever the phone call or text is about, it can wait until you’ve stopped driving.” - Joanie in California.


Dear Readers: Here are some new uses for transparent tape:

• Repair hems when the thread has been pulled out.

• Cover a label on a package to keep it from being ripped off.

• When on a trip, attach a note on a mirror to tell your travel mate where you are.

• Tape prices on items at a garage sale.

- Heloise


Dear Heloise: My sister often sends me beautifully scented soaps for gift-giving occasions. I always save the wrapper and put it inside my shoes or in a drawer. I take it out when I wear the shoes. These wrappers work as a free air freshener! -
Joan, via email


Dear Heloise: I wanted to store some of my dad’s books for him, but I didn’t want that “musty, old” smell that books can get. So, I used a large plastic bin and placed the books inside. Then I took an old sock, put some activated charcoal inside it and tied up the open end. I put the sock with charcoal inside the plastic bin with the books. A year later, the books were still as fresh as the day they were bought. - Lucy L., Oakdale, Minn.


Dear Heloise: I have tried vinegar, and it works wonderfully, besides being inexpensive and versatile. For window cleaning, I prefer to use a squeegee versus paper towels or cloths. 
A clean towel is necessary to wipe the bottom edge. To avoid the frustration of seeing streaks, I use up-and-down strokes (vertical) on one side and side-to-side strokes (horizontal) on the opposite side. This method eliminates the guesswork of going inside or outside if you see streaks. - Rich H., via email


Dear Heloise: I scrub out my sink with a used dryer sheet. It has a nubbly texture, which cleans things perfectly. I buff and dry with a paper towel. -
- David R. in Oregon

(c)2019 by King Features Syndicate Inc.