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

Top Drawer

CorrespondentMarch 21, 2014 


Bring new life to old teacups by turning them into elegant candles for garden parties.


Best for candles

With warmer weather set to arrive for good any day now (a girl can dream, right?), we’re dreaming of garden parties and cookouts. So a post on Martha Stewart’s website caught our eye. It involves turning teacups into elegant candles.

You will need:

Teacups (great thrift store finds, saucer optional)

Nested pans

Partially burned candles (substitute: store-bought wax)

Candy or candle thermometer


New wicking

Wick sustainers

Wooden skewers


1 In a small pan set over a larger pan of simmering water, melt old candles by carefully placing the candle jar in water. Ensure that water cannot seep into the jar. Clip the thermometer to upper pot, and keep temperature about 185 degrees. Remove old wicks with tongs.

2 Cut a piece of wicking to height of the teacup you are using, plus 2 inches. Clamp one end to a wick sustainer; tie other end around a skewer. Dip wicking and sustainer into melted wax to coat. Remove and stick sustainer to cup’s bottom.

3 Pour melted wax into the teacup, stopping a half-inch below the rim. Allow wax to set, about one hour. The candle will harden with a well in the center. To even it out, use another skewer to prick a circle of holes about 1/16 inch deep around the wick. Pour in melted wax until surface is 1/4 inch below rim. Cut wick.

You can see an example of the process at

Best for dishware

Pam Hoover of Chapel Hill shares a tip for cleaning dishes. “Remove unsightly silverware marks from dishes using Mother’s Mag & Aluminum Polish. Put a small amount on a paper towel and just wipe off stains. Then place dishes in the dishwasher. When they come out, they will look like new.”

Best for the

slow cooker

Kerri Barnhart of Raleigh shared a favorite slow cooker recipe for Chicken and Mushrooms.

“I stumbled across this recipe a few years ago and ... it quickly became a favorite,” she writes. “Everyone who has tried the recipe has added it to their favorites, too.”

You will need:

4 chicken breasts

1 (10 3/4 ounce) can cream of mushroom soup

1 (10 3/4 ounce) can cream of chicken soup

8 ounce jar sliced mushrooms

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon garlic powder

Salt and pepper to taste

1 teaspoon Greek seasoning


Combine soups, sugar and mushrooms and place them in a slow cooker. Wash the chicken breasts and sprinkle them with garlic powder, Greek seasoning, salt and pepper. Add chicken to the slow cooker. Cook on high four to five hours or on low for eight to 10 hours.

Cook noodles according to the package directions and add margarine as desired. Serve with prepared chicken breasts.

Barnhart notes that the recipe freezes well and is something she can throw together easily with provisions that are already in her freezer or pantry. Serve over cooked rice, egg noodles or mashed potatoes. See the original recipe at

Best for cleaning naturally

The Luv a Bargain blog has compiled a list of 20 do-it-yourself cleaning solutions to help tackle jobs around the home. Some of the ones that caught our eye include:

Carpet and furniture deodorizer Combine baking soda and 5 drops of an essential oil (if desired, for fragrance). Sprinkle on carpet or furniture. Let sit for 15 minutes, then vacuum. This is also great to use on your mattress, especially with lavender essential oils.

All purpose disinfecting spray 2 cups water, 5 tablespoons white vinegar, 20 drops of tea tree oil. Mix together in a spray bottle.

Oven cleaner Baking soda and water. Spray inside of oven with water. Sprinkle baking soda. Let sit 30 minutes. Scrub until clean.

Fruit and vegetable wash Combine 1 cup water, 1 tablespoon baking soda and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Spray onto fruit or vegetable for 5 minutes, then rinse.

Rust remover Sprinkle with salt, then lemon juice. Let sit one to two hours. Scrub.

You can see the complete list, plus other tips, at

Seeking your best tips

What’s your secret for shaving time or effort off cleaning and organizing routines at home? What’s your best simple, go-to recipe for entertaining? Share your tips and we’ll enter you in a quarterly drawing. Send email to Be sure to include your name and street address, and precise measurements for consideration in print. Put “best tips” or “best recipe” in the subject line.

Best of the tube

On DIY Channel

Loft conversion: Contractor Stephen Fanuka sets out to transform an open loft space into a modern apartment. Converting a commercial space into a luxury residence presents challenge upon challenge, but the team comes together with fabulous results. Tune in to “Million Dollar Contractor” at 11:30 a.m. Thursday to see the reveal.

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