Top Drawer

CorrespondentOctober 25, 2013 

Staying neat should be easy for kids, too. Purchase storage ottomans that can also serve as room decor.

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Best way to clean house

Real Simple has put together a list of steps to getting a clean house. We’ve excerpted some of our favorite tips here. You can view the entire list at: http://nando.com/cz.

1 Spend a few minutes every day tidying up the “hot spots” where messes happen often. Wipe up around the kitchen sink. Pick up clothes off the bedroom floor. Put away mail, backpacks and shoes that collect in the front hallway. Separate stacks of papers into smaller “to-do” and “to file” piles.

2 Make a schedule for bigger tasks. They’re easier to tackle if you do them regularly. Vacuum rugs and under sofa cushions and the kitchen table. Rinse off items that get covered in sticky fingerprints, like booster seats and toys. And throw out old foods before they turn your fridge into a giant science project.

3 Staying neat should be easy for kids, too. Put storage bins for their books or toys on low shelves or on the floor. Install hooks for jackets and backpacks. And let kids make some decisions themselves, such as choosing the next day’s clothes the night before.

4 Every six months, plan a day to declutter. Get rid of outgrown clothes and shoes, as well as books, toys and household items you haven’t used in more than a year. Give your kids a reason to pitch in by organizing a yard sale and letting them keep the profits, or by taking them with you to donate items to charity.

5 Old items can get a second life as cleaning supplies. Worn socks make handy mitts to wipe away dirt in tight corners. A pencil eraser can erase scuff marks off floors. Wrap an old T-shirt around a ruler, spray with cleaner and use it to clean the inside of blinds. Wipe a used dryer sheet over your TV screen to remove dust.

Best cake for a church supper

Renae Harper of Apex wrote in to share a recipe for Gooey Butter Cake. “I make it each year for the spring and fall barbecue fundraisers at Salem Baptist Church in Apex. I love this recipe – it is easy to make and so delicious!”

You will need:

1 box yellow cake mix

1 stick margarine, melted

3 eggs

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened

1 16-ounce box powdered sugar

Mix one box yellow cake mix and one stick of margarine, melted. Add 1 egg and stir well. This mixture will be very thick. Pat out with hands in a greased and floured 9-by-13-inch baking pan.

Mix together cream cheese, powdered sugar and 2 eggs. Pour over above mixture in pan.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes at 350 degrees until lightly browned. (Toothpick test does not work because of the top layer. Gently shake to see if the middle jiggles too much.)

Best Halloween-themed kid snacks

There’s still time to put a ghoulish twist on your Halloween party buffet. The Spaceships and Laser Beams blog offers a pictorial of six healthy treats, with how-to-make instructions. You’ll find Mummy toasts, Spiders on a log (using celery and peanut butter), clementine pumpkins and ghostly bananas. Feast your eyes on the healthy and ghastly treats at http://nando.com/c-.

Best pumpkin craft

Check out the pumpkin craft highlighted on the Living Locurto blog. Visit http://nando.com/d0 to see an adorable witch pumpkin with green leafy hair, green pepper nose and flowery eyes. If you make one, send a high resolution jpg as soon as possible to topdrawer@newsobserver.com. You might see it featured in a future column.

Seeking Mom’s best tips

From cooking and cleaning to gardening and organizing, Mom knows best. What treasured advice did your mother share for keeping your home in tip-top shape? Share her tip and you’ll be entered into a drawing for a quarterly gift card. Send your tips to topdrawer@newsobserver.com. Be sure to include your name, street address and city. Put “best tips” in the subject line.

Best of the tube

On HGTV

A deserving surprise: While the Harts are out of town for three days, the Cousins recruit family, friends and neighbors to renovate the entire first floor of their home. Earl Hart has no idea of the changes taking place, including a brand-new deck. It seems a fitting surprise for a man who dedicates every moment of his free time to students from low income areas, many of whom don’t have strong role models. “Cousins Undercover” airs at 8 p.m. Thursday.

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

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