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Beware of the dog days! The hottest, most humid time of summer is here, as you've probably noticed. It feels as if old Sirius, the dog star himself, is panting directly on steamed Floridians. But to cool off this morning and thwart Sirius' attentions, pour yourself a refreshing glass of iced coffee, unfold your newspaper, and catch up on your REX neighbors.

Hold it! An e-mail that just popped into the Exchange computer suggests yet another strategy for keeping cool: Think about Christmas. Donna Kistel, the reader who earlier this year got so many knitting needles clicking for our troops, has two additional projects you may wish to tackle well in advance of the holiday and the accompanying bitter winter weather in Iraq.

Donna sends a pattern for a knitted Christmas stocking that will be included in holiday packages to the deployed soldiers. A second pattern is for fingerless gloves (knitted and crocheted versions) that keep hands warm while leaving fingers free to maneuver.

If you'd like either or both of these patterns, please snail-mail us a letter at the address listed below, tell us which pattern(s) you want, and include a self-addressed, stamped, business-size envelope. In our reply, we'll send the patterns and include information about where to ship the finished items. (Feeling any cooler yet?)

Charles Howell of St. Petersburg has a Canadian friend with an autistic 6-year-old grandson. The lad's interests shift often, and right now he is very enthusiastic about Robin Hood and his Merry Men.

The trouble is that Charles, who likes to ferret out items the boy will enjoy, hasn't found a lot of material relating to Robin. Taking from the rich to give to the poor is apparently an idea in eclipse right now.

Should you have books and tapes on the Sherwood Forest hero that you no longer use, please call Charles at (727) 347-5392; he will pick them up and see that the youngster receives them.

Peggy Jiachetti of St. Petersburg bought holiday dishes called "White Christmas" years ago at the late, oft-lamented Maas Brothers. Peggy says the dinnerware has a piece of holly above the words White Christmas and Korea below that. Did some other fan of the department store buy this dinnerware? And does that fan care to part with it? Please call (727) 528-4730.

Debbie Peirick of Oldmar has two cuckoo clocks that hail directly from Germany. One is more than 50 years old, the other about 40; neither works. But they are very pretty. Should anyone wish to try to fix them, or to simply hang them on the wall to look charming, that person may have them.

Debbie also needs a new home for a Dutch Masters Perfecto cigar box in excellent shape. It is so old that when you raise its lid it says "2/27 cents." For either the silent cuckoos or the cigar box, please call (727) 781-4294 or e-mail

Dorothy Baerenrodt of Holiday wants to relocate her Singer Kenmore sewing machine. It is in very good condition and in a nice cabinet. Please call (727) 937-7637.

Antonia Miernik of New Port Richey has been trying, with no luck, to replace her black mourning hanky, which was buried with her brother. This item is a black handkerchief, edged with lace or crochet. Should you have an extra tucked away in your handkerchief box, Antonia wants to hear from you. Please call (727) 846-7358.

Debbie Lynn uses Bare Essentials products and would like to swap three medium foundations, which she can't use, for medium beiges, which she can. Please call (727) 531-4249 to be in on the big switch.

Ron in Palm Harbor is hunting for used or leftover bricks or pavers for a large project he is working on. Call (727) 785-4606, and he will come and get 'em.

Thank-you notes

Joyce Greenfield was amazed by the response to her offer of quilt fabric and notions. The day the item appeared, she received more than 24 phone calls. Four boxes of materials will be going to Grace House, children in Pasco County, troops in the Persian Gulf, and an artist displaced from New Orleans.

You may remember that Joyce's college-student son needed file cabinets to make a desk in his dorm room. Joyce was offered several sets, so she is now able to make a desk for her son's roomate too.

Patsy Rickett thanks Ron Mulvaney, who responded to her request for a printer disc for her elderly printer. It's working just fine now.

Send requests to Reader Exchange, Floridian, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg 33731 or e-mail Requests will be accepted only by mail or e-mail. This is an exchange column, so we will not run items that are for sale. Readers must agree to publication of phone numbers, including area code.