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

CorrespondentJanuary 24, 2014 

LIFE HOME-FLOORPLAN 1 KC

Add a few hooks and baskets to an ordinary bookcase to create an organized mudroom.

CHRIS OBERHOLTZ — MCT

Best improvised mudroom

Short on space? Turn a bookcase into an improvised mudroom closet to store coats, backpacks, shoes and other on-the-run accessories. Here’s how to do it, from Lookie What I Did:

Add a few hooks and baskets to an ordinary bookcase to create an organized home for some of your most unwieldy possessions. Add some paint, a plant, lighting and labels to the case and you’ll have a space that is both attractive and functional. You can see how the “closet” came together at http://nando.com/et.

Seeking your best tips

What’s your favorite tip for saving time in the kitchen? For cleaning the bathroom or getting stains out of clothes? Tell us about it and we’ll share it with our readers. We’ll also enter you in a quarterly drawing for a $25 gift card. Send email to topdrawer@newsobserver.com. Be sure to include your name, street address and city. Put “best tip” in the subject line.

Best for baking

Help paper cupcake and muffin tin liners keep their shape with this advice from the Table for Two blog. Stack the paper molds in a Mason jar stored in your cupboard. Stop by http://tinyurl.com/kplod23 for tips like these from blogger Julie, including lots of recipes, tips and itineraries from her travel blog, DIY projects and reviews.

Designer’s best

Give your dining area a contemporary lift by installing sconces. The design gurus at Real Simple suggest mounting the fixtures at least 5 feet above the floor. If you’re installing them over a buffet, leave 3 to 6 inches of space between a sconce and the mirror or art next to it.

Best for spices

If you’re looking for a creative way to store culinary spices, scroll on over to the Pocket Change Gourmet blog at http://tinyurl.com/n5dtc7j. You’ll find lots of neat storage ideas such as crafting a magnetic door to hold spices, repurposing baby food jars and test tubes and more.

Best for oven cleaning

Now that holiday meals and baking have given your oven a thorough workout, it probably needs a good cleaning. While most ovens are equipped with a self-cleaning mode, the blogger at Simply Designing website says she’s found that cleaning the glass with a steam machine equipped with a wire-bristle brush can remove baked-on grime in minutes. In fact, blogger Ashley lists numerous things around the home that can be cleaned easily with a steamer. Check out her list of steam cleaning tips at http://tinyurl.com/ke9ydf4.

Best recipe for Super Bowl parties

To her circle of friends, Raleigh resident Monica Dood is known as the queen of appetizers. I’ve prepared her recipe for Buffalo Chicken Dip for many a Bunco party and garnered lots of raves. It’s the kind of hearty, warm-your-belly dip that’s sure to score a touchdown with your Super Bowl crowd, too. (I’ve read that Ranch dressing can be substituted for blue cheese, if you’d prefer.)

Monica’s Buffalo Chicken Dip

You will need:

1 8-ounce block of cream cheese (Dood usually uses about 3/4), softened

1/2 cup Texas Pete Buffalo Wing Sauce

2 cups canned white breast chicken, drained (mash large pieces with a fork)

Marie’s Blue Cheese Dressing

Cheddar cheese to your liking

Step by step:

Spread softened blue cheese on the bottom of a casserole dish.

In a bowl, mix the can of chicken with 1/2 cup of Buffalo sauce. Spread chicken and sauce mixture over cream cheese layer.

Make a thin layer of blue cheese dressing over chicken layer.

Top with shredded cheddar cheese.

Bake covered at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

Serve with blue tortilla chips.

Seeking your best recipes

We’re always looking for easy and time-saving recipes that help get delicious meals and appetizers on the table in a crunch. If you’ve got a tried and true recipe that’s a hit with family and friends alike, we’d love to share it. You’ll be entered in a quarterly drawing for a Target gift card. Send email to topdrawer@newsobserver.com. Be sure to include your name, street address and city. Put “best recipe” in the subject line.

Best of the tube

On HGTV:

So long, Florida. Aloha, Maui: Linda Lindsay has traveled all over the world, but the moment she landed in Maui, she felt at home. So she packed up her mom and her two boys and made the move from Florida to Hawaii. With two boys who prefer screen time to outdoor activities, it’s important to Linda that the house they find is close to the beach, so they have more reasons to get outside and be active. With the help of Hawaii Life agent Tobi Fisher, Linda and her mom, Jeannine, set out to search for their dream home. See where they land on “Hawaii Life,” at 9:30 p.m. Friday.

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email topdrawer@newsobserver.com.

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