Dear Readers: There's nothing worse than your car breaking down on a frigid day. Here are a few winterizing hints to help get you home safe and sound:

• Keep some rock salt for melting ice, sand for improving traction, a small shovel, a flashlight, a warm blanket and a pair of good walking shoes in the trunk of your car for emergencies.

• Make sure the car battery is free of corrosion on the terminals, and have loose or frayed cables replaced. Be sure that all belts and hoses are free of frays, cracks or bulges. These are warning signs of trouble down the road.

• Change out the windshield-wiper blades when needed. If they don't work well in the rain, they certainly won't work well in the snow!

• Check the tires for uneven wear, and be sure to inflate tires to the recommended "cold weather" tire pressure. Don't forget the spare!

• If you have to go out on a stormy night, fill the tank with gas and wear appropriate winter clothing. Do everything you can to prevent problems. — Heloise

Dear Heloise: For a few cups of leftover specialty (craft) paint, I bought clear, soft-plastic condiment bottles at a dollar store. I was able to squeeze out the excess air before capping the container. When I needed the paint for a little touch-up, I just squirted it out like ketchup. — Emily, via e-mail

Dear Readers: Packing all of the essentials for traveling can be easy if you have a checklist. I have mine saved on my computer to print out when I'm ready to start packing. Your list might be different from mine, but here's a good starting place:

1. Toothbrush, toothpaste (buy the smallest-size tube).

2. Sample sizes of powder, hair spray, shampoo, deodorant and cologne. (When you travel on a plane, remember to be conservative with your cologne. Many people have allergies).

3. Individual packets of tissues and wipes, and a few cotton balls and swabs.

4. Shaving gear, a pair of tweezers and a small sewing kit.

5. A few adhesive bandages in case a shoe rubs you the wrong way.

6. And my favorite: a plug-in night light. Hotel rooms can be very dark and unfamiliar. You'll avoid stubbing your toes. — Heloise

Dear Heloise: There is a young widower in our church with two small children. When I fix a meal for my husband and myself, I take the first two portions out before baking and put them in a disposable baking pan. I freeze it, add written instructions with my name and phone number and put it in the freezer (with his name on it) at church on Sunday. I then put a note in his church mailbox that he needs to check the freezer before he goes home. It's also nice to have extras in the freezer when someone needs a meal. —Sondra Popp, Hutchinson, Kan.

Send a great hint to: Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, TX 78279-5000; fax: 210-435-6473; e-mail

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