Top drawer Joyce Clark Hicks finds the best for your home and garden

Top Drawer

CorrespondentFebruary 1, 2013 

Best for cookies

We’re not going to lie. With New Year’s resolutions to work off those holiday pounds, we’ve been struggling against the pull of Girl Scout cookies and Oreos.

Then we came across a recipe for “Perfect Single Serving Chocolate Chip Cookies” on the No. 2 Pencil blog. It seems the perfect way to satisfy a cookie craving without going overboard. Blogger Melissa claims the recipe yields just two large chocolate chip cookies. One for you and one for, well, that’s up to you.

You’ll need:

• 2 tablespoons butter

• 2 firmly packed tablespoons of dark brown sugar

• 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar

• Pinch of kosher salt

• /4 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract

• 1 egg yolk

• 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

• 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

• 3 heaping tablespoons of semisweet chocolate chips

Directions:

HEAT oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

HEAT butter in a microwave-safe bowl until it starts to melt and is softened. Blend softened butter, sugars, salt, and vanilla together by hand. Add egg yolk and stir again. Add baking soda and flour and stir until combined. Then stir in chocolate chips.

FORM cookie dough into two balls and place on baking sheet. The cookies will spread during baking, so make sure they are several inches apart. Bake for about 8 minutes, or until edges are golden brown.

REMOVE baking sheet from oven and give the baking sheet a firm, but careful bang on the counter top. This will deflate the cookie and give it a perfect wrinkly appearance.

Check out number-2-pencil.com for tips on everything from creative homemaking and recipes to do-it-yourself projects and crafts.

Designer’s best for keeping your house clean

Melissa from the Inspired Room blog offers up what she considers four no-fail daily tips for keeping your home reasonably clean. We’ve excerpted them from http://nando.com/9c here:

1 Morning routines: Having a regular morning routine works best. This involves at the very least: some quiet time, making the bed and taking a shower (hanging up my towel when I am done, of course!). I always toss in a load of laundry as I dress. I find if I start out the day with those few things, I am ready for anything.

2 Clean sinks: I follow this principle in our bathrooms and kitchen. Something about striving for that shiny sink keeps me from letting dirty dishes pile up in the kitchen and icky stuff like hair and spit greet me every time I pass through the bathroom.

3 Cleaning frenzies: A cleaning frenzy might last 10 minutes or even up to an hour. Everyone participates, including the kids. We run around picking things up, putting things back, and generally tidying things up. Sometimes we focus on one room; sometimes it is an entire house frenzy. Sometimes it is a task frenzy, like dusting or cleaning all toilets! It works like a charm to make a big impact in a short period of time. Even one “10-minute cleaning frenzy” a day keeps the frustration away.

4 Nightly kitchen clean up: Every night, we put away dishes, do the final dishwasher load of the day, wipe counters, and polish the sink. There is nothing like waking up to a clean kitchen to make your day feel less overwhelming.

Best for pets

Pet lovers adore the idea of immortalizing their pets with professional portraits or a life-like painting. A post on Pinterest suggested treating yourself to a portrait of your pet for Valentine’s Day. These portraits can add oomph to an otherwise staid room. Fortunately, the Triangle is has no shortage of professionals who specialize in capturing your pet’s best side.A quick Google search of “pet portraits” in Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill found several pet artists in our area.

Our reader’s best

Cary reader Lee Graybeal says she’s found a sure-fire way to cut down on clutter.

“As one of those people who saved everything because ‘what if’ I needed it down the road, I ended up with drawers, cabinets and closets full of stuff that I would never use again. Then I moved and all of that ‘what if’ stuff went in the trash or to Goodwill.

“Now, when I am trying to decide what to keep and what to toss, I ask myself, ‘would I take this item with me if I was packing up to move?’ If the answer is ‘no,’ then the item is tossed in the trash or given away. This way I keep my drawers, cabinets, etc., much more organized and not full of so much unnecessary ‘stuff.’”

Best of the tube

On HGTV

Bargain basement: Kim and Marquis are ready to shed the confines of their tiny apartment and take advantage of Atlanta’s low prices to find a new home near the heart of town. Property expert Egypt Sherrod sets out to find them a house that matches their wish list, but warns they will have to adjust their expectations along the way. “Property Virgins” airs at 6 p.m. Monday.

On DIY

Nest thermostat: See a high tech, touch-screen “smart” thermostat, a paw wash for dogs, a wind up for electrical cords and a tool caddy that rolls with you, a tank for pet jellyfish, carpet tiles that flip with your mood and a clip-on monitoring device for lost keys.“I Want That” airs at 10 p.m. Wednesday.

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