Top Drawer

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CorrespondentDecember 13, 2013 

Sheri Britt’s foyer includes a slender, 16-foot tree painted white and wrapped in white lights.


Best way to bring the outdoors in

Raleigh residents Sheri and Harlan Britt are known for going all out to decorate for the holidays. This year, they decided to bring a bit of the outside in. The Britts cut down a slender, 16-foot tree in their backyard. Sheri stripped it of all of its leaves, painted the bark white, wrapped it with several strings of white lights and put it in the foyer. With the addition of snowflakes and a red cardinal perched on a limb, the result is stunning.

Best recipe

Marilyn Ulick of Durham wrote in to share an appetizer recipe for “Holiday Lights.”

You’ll need:

• Mini sweet peppers in bright colors (red, green, orange, yellow)

• Herbed cheese spread like Alouette

Step by step:

Slit the peppers lengthwise and remove seeds. Fill peppers with cheese spread. “You can zap the peppers in the microwave for a minute or two before filling or leave them uncooked.”

“This is a very tasty and pretty treat, and the peppers look like Christmas tree light bulbs,” Ulick writes.

Best frustration saver

Here’s a Real Simple way to keep holiday packing tape from getting jumbled up. Mark the end of a roll of clear tape by sticking a toothpick under the flap. Voilà! No more waste.

Best for gift wrap

Keep wrapping paper neat by putting an empty cardboard tube from a roll of tissue to use. Cut a vertical line the length of the cardboard tube and slip the open end over the gift wrap like a cuff.

Best use for old cards

Sandy Galloway of Raleigh suggests holding on to holiday cards when the season is over. “They are great for using as gift tags next year. Just cut in half and throw away the greeting. Punch a hole in the picture to tie on to the gift. Store with holiday wrapping to remind yourself next year not to buy tags.”

Best way to test

your oven’s temperature

If your oven seems to be running too hot or is taking too long to bake those holiday cookies, it may be time to take its temperature. Our oven runs 25 degrees cooler than the posted temperature. To test yours, place an oven-safe thermometer on the middle rack and heat the oven to 300 degrees. When the oven indicates it has reached the target temperature, check the thermometer and see if the temperature readings agree. If not, you’ll know whether you need to adjust the temperature setting higher or lower when baking – or if you need to call a repairman.

Best holiday scent

The Prudent Pantry blog offers up a simple way to fill your home with the scent of the holidays. In a small crockpot, place the following:

3 cups water

2 cinnamon sticks

4 whole cloves

1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

“If your crock pot has temperature settings,” the blog advise, “put it on high for one hour, then turn it down to its lowest setting to simmer. Simmer uncovered for several hours, checking often to see if you need to add water.”

View the original post at

Best holiday breakfasts

Looking for something easy and yummy to serve on Christmas morning? Head over to It’s Written on the Wall blog for nearly 20 decadent holiday recipes, from breakfast casseroles and French toast to cinnamon buns and hot cocoa. Find the recipes at

Best stocking holder

Looking for a way to hang multiple stockings? Consider this idea highlighted on Cowie’s Craft and Cooking Corner blog. Use mantel hooks on each side of the mantel’s top and place one in the middle. Place a curtain rod through each stocking’s loop and suspend the rod from the hooks. Make sure the mantel hooks are stable before adding the rod. See an example at

Best of the tube


Newlyweds on the move in Oahu: Jarrett and Becky Walters work with Realtor Caron Ling to find a new apartment in downtown Honolulu. Jarrett is looking for a high-rise condo near his office that offers the kind of tropical amenities they would expect from living in Hawaii. Ling must find them a first home that fits all of their criteria while not exceeding their modest price range. “Hawaii Life” airs at 3:30 p.m Saturday.

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