Top Drawer: The best of everything for your home and garden

October 26, 2012 

  • Don’t forget xxFactboxxx
  • More information Reader’s best Share the tips you’ve found most useful in cleaning, organizing and gardening around your home. If we use your tip, you’ll be entered in our quarterly drawing for a Target gift card. Send your tips to . Be sure to include your name, street address and city. Subject line: “best tips.”

Mummy’s best

Running out of time for a creative spin on this year’s jack-o-lantern? Mummify your pumpkin by wrapping an artificial gourd in cheesecloth. We’ve excerpted directions from Better Homes and Garden here: http://nando.com/6j.

You’ll need

Cheesecloth

Scissors

Stiffy Fabric stiffener

Artifical pumpkin (or real)

Glue gun and hot melt adhesive

1-inch googly eyes

Craft knife

Black acrylic pain

Paintbrush

Glow-in-the-dark gel paint (suggested Plaid Glo Away)

Step by step

• Cut cheesecloth into 4-by-12-inch strips. Fold strips in half lengthwise. Apply fabric stiffener, following manufacturer’s instructions. Apply strips to pumpkin, leaving the top and bottom of the pumpkin uncovered. Let dry.

• Hot-glue eyes to pumpkin.

• Cut four 4-by-6-inch strips of cheesecloth. Fold strips in half lengthwise. Apply fabric stiffener, following manufacturer’s instructions.

• Cover each eye diagonally so a little of each eye peeks out. Let dry.

• Carve out a small mouth from the layers of cheesecloth using a craft knife.

• Paint the inside of the mouth black.

• Brush glow-in-the-dark gel paint onto cheesecloth. Let dry.

• Alternative directions: Wrap the pumpkin in gauze, securing one end of the roll (and elsewhere as needed) with a hot glue gun and either tucking in the end point or gluing it. Hot glue on the eyes and use cut up, sticky foam for the mouth.

Best for charity

A winter or so ago, my children’s Sunday school stocked paper lunch paper with supplies to give out to the homeless. Recently, my kids asked to make more. They chipped in their own money and picked out things to pack in the bags: gloves, socks, hats, cereal bars, lip balm, mini water bottles, trail mix and the toiletries (shampoos, lotion, soaps) we’ve collected on vacation at various hotels.

Sometimes they draw a picture or write something on the bags, too. We keep the bags in a tote in the car to have on hand anytime we encounter someone we think needs them. The recipients have always seemed genuinely appreciative.

This time of year, you can often find gloves and socks in Target’s dollar displays. We got multiple sets of two pairs of gloves for $1.50 each at Walmart. Big box stores are great places to score deals on bottled water, and individually wrapped snacks.

My kids love the feeling of helping someone in need. And several of their friends have been inspired to do the same.

Feel free to pass it on!

Best for carving

You don’t need fancy stencils or messy cutouts to carve a pumpkin. The Fresh Ideas Home blog suggests using cookie cutters you have on hand as a carving guide. Empty the pulp from the pumpkin, place a cookie cutter in the desired space and pound it into the pumpkin using a rubber mallet. Remove the cutter using needle nose pliers, if necessary. Then cut out the shapes using a serrated or other knife. You can get ideas for decorating pumpkins with cookie cutters at http://nando.com/6k.

Reader’s best

Sanford reader Nancy Piacenza wrote in to share a tip she uses to store produce. “I’ve found that a leftover bag from a cereal box prolongs the life of fresh produce in the fridge better than anything I’ve ever used. A clothespin does well as the bag’s closure. The bags can be stored flat, also using a clothespin to clip them together. So much better than any poly bag!”

Best for brushes

The Thrifty Mama blog says you can clean your makeup brushes without resorting to expensive cleaning solutions. Here’s how:

“Mix two parts warm water and one part vinegar. If you like suds, you can stir in a drop of dish detergent or baby shampoo in your cleaning solution. Rinse well with warm water. Make sure to reform the brushes to their original shape before lying flat on a towel to dry overnight.” http://nando.com/6l

On the tube

On HGTV

Room to grow: Dan and Michelle invested in a great piece of property, but they were never keen on the home that sat upon it. Now, with a mobile 14-month old on the prowl, they’re really feeling boxed in. Designer Hilary and Realtor David work on separate plans to renovate the home and find an alternative space the family can grow into. “Love It or List It” airs at 7 p.m. Monday.

On DIY

Trick out your bathroom: Check out the latest in bath design as licensed contractor Jeff Devlin takes viewers behind the scenes at the nation’s largest kitchen and bath show. You’ll see everything from audio-therapy toilets and micro-bubble bathtubs to glass art countertops and waterproof TVs in the shower – in other words, everything you need to trick out your next bathroom renovation. Tune in to “Hot List: Baths Special” at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Send news and photos to The News & Observer, P.O. Box 191, Raleigh, N.C. 27602; email topdrawer@newsobserver.com

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