Dear Heloise: When traveling overseas, your readers might be interested in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. Once you enroll your trip by providing contact and travel details, the closest embassy to your destination is notified, and you'll receive automatic alerts and weather warnings. The embassy can assist you in case of an emergency or if you lose your passport. For more details, go to https://step.state.gov/step/. -- Gloria in New Jersey
Send a great hint to:
P.O. Box 795000
San Antonio, TX 78279-5000
Dear Heloise: How do I renew my passport? How long does it take to get another one? -- Mae W., Tulsa, Okla.
Mae, to renew your passport, you'll need a DS-82 form, which you can get at any post office. You'll need your old, eligible passport. It must be undamaged and issued less than 15 years ago. If you have had a name change since you last applied for a passport, you'll need a marriage license or court order and a colored, passport-size photo. Don't forget the fee, which is payable by check or money order. It should take anywhere from four to six weeks to get your new passport. For more information, go to: https://travel.state.gov/renew.
Dear Heloise: My grandmother sprinkled used coffee grounds around anthills, and within 20-30 minutes, the ants were gone. Fresh grounds work, too, but not as quickly or efficiently. It's a safe, nontoxic way to get rid of ants by using a product we'd normally throw away. -- Sharon in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Sharon, this is perfect for people who have small children and pets, because it's nontoxic.
Dear Heloise: My husband wants us to convert to solar energy, but I hate those ugly panels on the roofs of homes that have solar power. We live where there is plenty of sunshine, and it makes sense to have solar energy in our home, but those panels are unattractive. -- Hannah D., Odessa, Texas
Hannah, currently there are solar panels and solar shingles. The panels can be upgraded from the standard panels to all-black panels, making them appear a bit more modern and streamlined. However, the reasons behind using solar energy are to reduce pollution and to save money. Both panels and shingles do this. For more information, please refer to the online sites energy.gov or www.eia.gov.
Whole-wheat pastry flour
Dear Heloise: Is whole-wheat pastry flour still made? I can't find it anywhere. -- Kay F., Corinth, Miss.
Kay, yes it's still available. Check out health-food stores, or go online to order it.
A corny subject
Dear Heloise: My mother and I have a debate going on about the nutritional value of corn. She says it's just empty calories, and I say not so. -- Patty W., Ashburn, Va.
Patty, corn is a starchy vegetable, but it contains vitamins C and B, magnesium, phosphorus and lutein, and is a good source of fiber.