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Cruising for the best trip

Dear Readers: Are you thinking about going on a cruise? Here are some Heloise hints for smooth sailing:

• Book early, about three to six months ahead.

Not only will you get the best choice of cabins, but many cruise lines offer discounts to those who book early, so don't be shy about asking for discounts.

• Research the type of cruises available. Some have a party-all-the-time schedule, while others are designed for those who'd rather relax on deck with a good book.

• Book the best cabin you can afford. Believe it or not, you'll be there more than you had expected.

• The last night of the cruise is the time to tip those who were helpful to you.

While it's entirely up to you whether you tip and how much, it's always nice to say "thank you" with a monetary gift.

-- Heloise

Friday fun facts

Dear Readers:

• A jellyfish is 95 percent water.

• It is the male sea horses who give birth to live young.

• Many years ago, sailors wore gold earrings to be sure they were given a decent burial. The earrings were used as payment for the coffin and service.

-- Heloise

Removing old wallpaper

Dear Heloise: I had a terrible time trying to remove old wallpaper, until I came across this method: I put really hot water in a spray bottle with about half a cup of fabric softener, then shake well to mix the two ingredients.

Spray the wallpaper generously, wait about 20 minutes, then peel off the wallpaper. It comes off very easily with this method. -- A. and L., Great Falls, Mont.

Wicker furniture care

Dear Heloise: My dad always washed our white wicker furniture on the patio using a bucket of warm water and about half a cup of table salt. This helped keep it from turning yellow.

He would occasionally wipe down the wicker with furniture polish that contained natural oil. Our wicker lasted for several years with this type of care. -- Julia B., Conover, N.C.

Towel tips

Dear Heloise: Here are a couple of hints to keep towels from fading too quickly in the wash:

The first time you wash new towels, add 1/2 cup of salt and 1/2 cup of baking soda to the water. It's best to dry the towels on medium heat; high heat can damage fabrics. -- Alice B., Stone Mountain, Ga.

Alice, that's a good suggestion.

My readers know by now that baking soda has so many uses, and if you'd like to learn more about how beneficial it is, just go to my website, www.Heloise.com, to order a baking-soda pamphlet, or send a long, stamped (70 cents), self-addressed envelope, along with $5, to: Heloise/Baking Soda, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001.

Did you know that baking soda was used by the ancient Egyptians? Over 3,000 years ago, Egyptians used natron, which is primarily sodium carbonate, as a soap substance to clean and in mummification.

-- Heloise