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

Top Drawer

CorrespondentMarch 15, 2013 


Now is the time to start your seeds. With the help of a simple empty egg carton, growers can get an early jump start on their spring planting.


Our readers’ best

Ruth Hauser of Holly Springs shares this tip for spring gardening: “I have been starting seeds in empty bottoms of egg cartons, and I found the plastic sleeve my News & Observer comes in is the perfect size to slip the carton into to create humidity helpful for germinating the seeds.”

• Ruth’s tip enters her in the quarterly drawing for a Target gift card. For a chance to win, send us your best household tips for cleaning, organizing and gardening. If we use your tip, you’ll be entered automatically. Send your tips to Be sure to include your name, street address and city. Put “best tips” in the subject line.

Best homemade artwork

We recently came across a fun art idea on Tackk, a free online publisher of personalized content. The project involves turning a map of your favorite country or state into fun wall or door artwork. We’ve excerpted the steps below.

You’ll need:

• Papier-mache alphabet letter

• Mod Podge

• Foam brush applicator

• Map (Google the area you want to use and print out a colored copy or use an old map you don’t mind cutting)

• Pencil

• Scissors

What to do:

1 Using a pencil, trace the papier mache letter onto the map.

2 Cut out the shape of your letter.

3 Using the foam brush, apply a thin layer of Mod Podge on the front of the papier mache letter and on the back of the cut-out map.

4 Slowly, starting at the top of the letter, place the map onto the front of the papier mache letter. Line the edges up carefully and gently press down the paper map as you go.

5 Let dry at least 30 minutes.

6 Apply a thin top coat of Mod Podge. Apply additional coats if desired.

7 Let the top coat dry and you’re ready to display your custom letter map.

You can see the result at

Best for hardwoods

DIY Network’s home experts say you can return some sheen to lackluster hardwood floors by mopping them with tea. They say the tannic acid in tea creates a beautiful shine. Let two teabags steep in boiling water for a few minutes. Pour the tea into a bucket. Take a soft cloth and wring it out in the tea. The cloth should be damp, not soaked. Wash the floor and see the difference.

They also say you can lessen noticeable scratches by taking a crayon the color of the floor and rubbing it on the scratch to fill the gap. Turn a blow dryer on high, heat the area where the crayon was applied and buff with a soft cloth.

Best for bathrooms

Get rid of lingering “boy odors” in your bathroom by following this tip from the Ask Anna blog.

You’ll need:

• Baking soda

• Lemon juice (fresh is better)

• White vinegar

• Damp rag

What to do:

•  Mix a paste of baking soda and lemon juice to the consistency of pancake mix. (If you don’t have lemon juice, water will work, but lemon juice is great for removing odors.)

• Spread the paste along the bottom of the toilet (where it meets the floor), the toilet seat, and any other area that normally gets wet.

• Let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes.

• When the time is up, spray the dried paste with white vinegar and let it fizzle. When it stops fizzing, wipe up with a damp cloth.

Don’t forget: Cleaning the toilet and floors once a week will help keep smells at bay.

Visit for this and other tips.

Best design blog

Drop by the Itsy Bits and Pieces blog for decorating and design inspiration. You’ll find creative tips and photo illustrations for reusing old, distressed and vintage fireplace screens, garden orbs and lots more. Check it out at

Best dust deflector

The This Old House website offers a creative way to keep dust at bay on hard-to-reach places. Place a layer of wax paper on top of upper kitchen cabinets where dust and grease particles gather. Every few months, switch out the paper for a fresh sheet.

Best of the tube


Love at first site: Newlyweds Brian and Danielle are looking for a suburban New Jersey home, and they’re hoping to find a picture-perfect property in record time. Property expert Egypt Sherrod comes up with hundreds of homes that match the couple’s wish list but warns the process may take longer than they expect. “Property Virgins” airs at 8 p.m. Tuesday.


Kitchen showdown: Bryan and Sarah plan their ideal kitchen, but things get sidetracked when Bryan discovers how much Sarah spent on the appliances. “House of Bryan” airs at 9 p.m. Thursday.

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

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service