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

Top Drawer

December 20, 2013 

Hot glue sprigs of all-weather greenery to a large magnet. Add a bow and place the arrangement on top of your mailbox.

COURTESY OF CARRIE JO WINTERMUTE

Best holiday fudge

Ames Brantley of Raleigh wrote in to share an Alton Brown recipe for “really easy and delicious fudge” that she found on the Food Network website.

You will need:

1 cup butter

1 cup peanut butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 pound powdered sugar

Directions:

Microwave butter and peanut butter, uncovered, for 2 minutes on high. Stir and microwave on high for 2 more minutes.

Add vanilla and powdered sugar to the peanut butter mixture and stir with a wooden spoon.

Pour into a greased 8-inch-square pan. Place a piece of parchment paper on the surface of the fudge and refrigerate until cool. (Alton’s recipe calls for wax paper, but I prefer parchment.)

Cut into squares and store in an airtight container.

Best holiday decoration

Reader Carrie Jo Wintermute of Raleigh offers a last-minute way to spruce up your home for holiday company. Wintermute hot glues sprigs of all-weather greenery to a large magnet, adds a bow and places the arrangement on top of her mailbox. “The arrangement stays in place, can be used year after year, and makes decorating your mailbox so easy!” It would also make a nice, welcoming impression for visiting guests.

Best stocking stuffer ideas

The That’s So Cuegly blog has a great list of stocking stuffer ideas for infants and kids through age 10. Check them out at http://tinyurl.com/lvb3lfe.

Seeking our readers’ best

We’re on the prowl for a fresh batch of readers’ favorite time-saving tips for cleaning, organizing, decorating, gardening and cooking in the New Year. If we publish your tip, we’ll enter you in a quarterly drawing. Keep them brief, please. Send your best tips, along with your name and city, to topdrawer@newsobserver.com. Put “Best tips” in the subject line.

Best holiday keepsake

Turn your little one’s Christmas list into a keepsake ornament. A post on Pinterest suggests cutting the list down to size and rolling it into a scroll thin enough to fit into a pre-made clear ornament (found at craft shops). Face the printed side outward so it can be seen. Use a paint pen to decorate the outside of the ornament with the child’s name and year. Pass the ornament on to your children when they are grown as a housewarming, marriage or holiday gift.

Best personalized gift wrap

We love this idea highlighted on the Our Suburban Farm blog. When wrapping holiday presents, consider using plain brown paper and personalizing the package with a photo of you and the recipient or a special snapshot of the recipient with a person or place they treasure. Use a glue stick or tape to secure the photo to the top of the wrapped package and tie the present with thin ribbon. You can sneak a peek at the finished project at http://tinyurl.com/bo2bq2t .

Best mantel decor

Jazz up your holiday mantel by tying pretty ribbon around the hook of candy canes and suspending the ribbon and canes from greenery draped along the ledge.

Visit http://tinyurl.com/ke9m9hp and scroll to “Candy Pane” to see an example.

Best way to care for poinsettias

Keep those poinsettia plants looking their holiday best well into the New Year by following these tips exerpted from HGTV:

Find the ideal spot: Give poinsettias a sunny, south-facing windowsill or bright filtered light. Don’t press them close to a cold windowpane, however, because this can damage the leaves. Keep them at about 68 degrees F during the day, and cooler at night, to prolong the display.

Water and feed: Water regularly and keep your plant evenly moist. Never let plants sit in water; always empty their saucers or planters shortly after watering.

Coax it to bloom again: Water your poinsettia until mid-spring, then let it dry out and allow the stems to shrivel. At the end of spring, cut all growth to a couple of inches above the soil and repot it in new soil. Water well and keep it warm, feeding with houseplant fertilizer when new growth appears. A month later, move the plant outside to a shady location, pinching out the growing tips in midsummer, before returning it indoors. Give it a sunny spot, watering and feeding regularly; then from mid-autumn, keep the plant in total darkness between 5 p.m. and 8 a.m. It will then re-flower and produce colorful bracts.

(See the original post at http://tinyurl.com/klg2kod.)

Best tutorial for making bows

If you’ve ever wondered how people wrap and tie those gorgeous, satiny bows around packages, the secret is out. Check out a video from designer Eddie Ross for a tutorial on how you can get the same look that professional gift wrappers do. (See the video at http://tinyurl.com/ayavln.)

Best of the tube

On DIY

Holiday yard: Licensed contractor and host Matt Blashaw transforms the neglected yard of two music lovers it into a perfect space for entertaining. The yard includes a dining area with a new patio, custom-built table, an overhead pergola with lights, a remote-controlled back-lit stage with cut out musical notes, and evergreen trees that provide privacy and double as holiday decorations. The front yard also gets decked out in spectacular seasonal decor that puts everyone in the holiday spirit. “Yard Crashers” airs at 7 p.m. Monday.

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

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