Today's Sound Off is about the delays in air travel.

DEAR HELOISE: Over the holidays, so many flights were canceled. This really put pressure on ticket/counter agents like myself, who have no control over the weather, lack of personnel or delays due to mechanical difficulties. Yet many passengers rant at us over these problems, often demanding to see the "person in charge." I'd like to pass on a few suggestions to help travelers who have booked a flight:

First, book a flight as early in the day as you can. The problems and backups seem to usually occur later in the day.

Next, get to the airport at least an hour before your flight is scheduled to take off. Bring something to read or do. If you get there late, don't expect the airlines to hold the flight for you. We won't as a rule.

Don't crack jokes about bombs or safety issues, because airport security might pull you aside, causing you to miss your flight. We will not reimburse the price of your ticket or make any special arrangements for you in this case.

Please remember there are rules and regulations all employees at the airport must follow. Shouting at us or making threats of legal action or bodily harm or destruction of airport property will not help you. In fact, it can get you arrested. We try to help passengers and make their flying experience as pleasant as possible, but there are situations over which we have no control.

-- Sarah J., San Francisco

Fast facts

What to do with leftover Christmas wrapping paper:

•Store it for next year.

• Use the paper to cover an old, much used picnic table. Anchor it down with tacks.

• If it's plain paper with no design, use it for other gift-giving occasions.

•Cut into triangles and tape it to string as a party decoration.


Water chestnuts

DEAR HELOISE: I love to stir-fry our dinners, using almost all fresh vegetables and lean meats. However, I also use water chestnuts, which my husband believes are empty calories. He thinks I should leave them out of my stir-fry, but I love the crunch and believe they have some nutritional value.

-- Roberta S., Hagerstown, Maryland

Roberta, water chestnuts have antioxidants, potassium, fiber and manganese, and since they are about 74% water, they are also low in calories. I love the crunch, too!

-- Heloise


Drying roses

DEAR HELOISE: My fiance gave me a dozen red roses the other night when he proposed to me. Right now they look beautiful, but I would like to dry them and keep the roses in a box to remember the special occasion. The problem is that I don't know how to dry out roses without ruining the buds. Got any hints for me?

-- Lauren C., Rockingham, N.C.

Lauren, leave the roses in the vase in an upright position but pour off the water. Leave them like that until they dry out and turn dark. Then cut the heads off and store in a cool, dry place.

-- Heloise

Hints from Heloise sig

Send hints to Heloise, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001 or email Heloise@Heloise.com.