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

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

CorrespondentNovember 29, 2013 

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The JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh is holding its annual free Poinsettia Open House from 1-5 p.m. Dec. 8. Nearly 100 varieties will be on display for visitors to view and vote for as their favorites.

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Best holiday appetizer

Great minds think alike. Tim Kurnik of Apex and Jan and Sarah Johnston of Raleigh have graciously shared their recipe for a yummy sausage dip.

You’ll need:

1-pound log of breakfast sausage, such as Jimmy Dean

1 10-ounce can of Rotel

1 8-ounce block of cream cheese

1 bag of tortilla chips

Directions:

Heat the sausage in a pan until fully cooked. Drain off excess grease. Stir in Rotel and cream cheese until melted and creamy. Heat until warmed through.

Serve with tortilla chips.

Seeking your holiday best

If you have a favorite holiday tip, appetizer or cookie recipe to share, we’d love to hear it. Send them to topdrawer@newsobserver.com. You’ll be entered in a quarterly drawing for a Target gift card. Be sure to include your name, street address and city. Put “best tip” or “best recipe” in the subject line.

Designer’s best

If you’re looking for inspiration as you pull out holiday decorations, hop on over to the South Shore Decorating Blog. You’ll find elegant and whimsical Christmas trees, garland, wreaths, table settings and lighting displays at http://nando.com/do.

Best way to clean a microwave

Susan Bowling of Chapel Hill shared a tip for cleaning and sanitizing your microwave oven. “Fill microwave-safe bowl with one cup vinegar and one cup water. Microwave this mixture for two minutes. Wearing rubber gloves to protect hands, dip sponge or cloth into the vinegar-water solution, using it to wipe food off the walls of the microwave. This works because heating the vinegar and water steams all the food off, while the acetic acid in the vinegar sanitizes and deodorizes your microwave.”

Best for photos

Spend some time this holiday season organizing and preserving family memories. The folks at Minding Your Matters Organizing in Cary offer these tips:

1 Photos and videos should live where people live – in temperature-controlled environments. The variable temperatures and humidity levels found in basements and attics can damage photographs, discs and tapes.

2 If you dislike having old photos around, scan them in for future review or send them to a service such as FotoBridge; they’ll do the work for you.

3 Still have VHS tapes or even slideshow images? Many services will turn those into a DVD for you. For this, try FotoBridge, PhotoBin or digmypics.

4 Consider recording some stories in audio format so that you can hear loved one’s voices in the future.

5 When moving photos from a digital photo card or smartphone to your computer, make life easier by immediately deleting the bad ones and naming the rest.

6 Name photo files with the names of the people in them. Sort them in folders by date.

7 Get help organizing your family history with a service such as FamPhotory.

Best for holiday shopping

Get a jump on holiday shopping at the St. Thomas More School in Chapel Hill during its annual Christmas Holiday Shoppe benefit on Dec. 7. From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., shoppers can browse the wares of dozens of talented artisans and crafters. You’ll find holiday ornaments and decorations, candles, art, hand-sewn children’s items, hand bags and more. Stop by the Reindeer Cafe for a hot lunch or the Candy Cane Coffee Bar for a refreshing beverage. Santa will be on hand from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Admission is free. St. Thomas More Church is at 920 Carmichael St.

Seeking your blog for

holiday inspirations

Do you have a favorite blog that you turn to for holiday decorating or entertaining inspiration? Tell us about it, and we’ll share it with our readers. Send it to topdrawer@newsobserver.com. Be sure to include your name, street address and city. Put “best blog” in the subject line.

Best poinsettia display

The JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh is holding its annual free Poinsettia Open House from 1-5 p.m. Dec. 8. Nearly 100 varieties will be on display for visitors to view and vote for as their favorites. Don’t miss the 9-foot tall poinsettia tree while the listening to live Christmas carols in the background. The Arboretum is at 4415 Beryl Road in Raleigh. Call 919-513-7005 for more information.

Best way to hang decorations

If you’re looking for an invisible way to display holiday wreaths this season, consider using 3M Command hooks. These “damage-free” hooks stick to doors, walls and glass to hold everything from purses and calendars to stockings and decorations. You’ll find various sizes in multiple finishes to match your decor. As an added bonus, they’re easy to install and remove. You can find the hooks at stores such as Target and Wal-Mart.

Best of the tube

On DIY

Eco-friendly makeover: An uninspiring family room gets an enviable makeover with bamboo flooring, a slat wall staircase, LED lighting, repurposed leather media wall, vintage lumber, and a recycled marble sofa table. “House Crashers” airs at 10:30 a.m. Saturday.

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P.O. Box 191, Raleigh, N.C. 27602;

email topdrawer@newsobserver.com.

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