Summer is here — in stores!

Dear Heloise: Summer is a few months away, but trust me when I tell you and your readers to start shopping for swimsuits, sandals, shorts and sundresses now.

The stores are currently receiving this merchandise in February and March; retail is always one step ahead of the game. I work for a major retailer, and have spoken to many disappointed people who can’t find summer goods in the summer. They want water shoes (handy when hitting the river or the ocean) in July, when we may be sold out.

The same thing goes for the season just past, too. Many folks were disappointed that we were sold out of Christmas sweaters in the few weeks before Christmas.

So my message is: Plan ahead, and shop early. — Rita W., Portland, Maine

Rita, good information. Thanks for writing in. — Heloise

Dear Heloise: I use a bit of baking soda and warm water to create a freshening facial scrub. This formula is mild and gentle, and doesn’t irritate my skin. It’s a once-a-week treat. — Mary T., Omaha, Neb.

Mary, even this time of year, mild exfoliation can be good for the skin (avoiding the eye area), and baking soda is mild, readily available and inexpensive.

I’ve compiled my favorite baking soda hints and recipes in a handy pamphlet. Would you like to receive one? It’s easy. Visit www.Heloise.com to order, or send a long, self-addressed, stamped (70 cents) envelope, along with $5, to: Heloise/Baking Soda, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, Texas 78279-5001.