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

Top Drawer

CorrespondentMarch 28, 2014 


Straighten the stacks of stuff on your coffee table to create a less messy environment.


Best for hands

Catherine Smith of Cary offered a pampering tip to try the next time you do dishes. “Before washing dishes, put on some hand lotion and dishwashing gloves for an instant hand treatment while you work.”

Best recipe

Priscilla Webb of Raleigh shared her favorite fix-it-and-forget-it slow cooker recipe.

You will need:

4-5 boneless chicken breasts

1 (14-15 ounce) can black beans, drained

1(14-15 ounce) can corn, drained

1 to 1 1/2 cups of your favorite salsa

3-4 ounces cream cheese.

Place first four ingredients in slow cooker. Cook on high 4 for 5 hours or add extra time if cooked on low. Add cream cheese and cook to melt.

Note: You can also use frozen breasts and cook on low all day.

Best tips for messy people

I hate to admit it, but I read this piece ( about tips for messy people and it spoke to me. Actually, it may have been speaking about me, but that’s beside the point. Nonetheless, I think we can all benefit from its suggestions, as assembled by author Jolie Kerr. We’ve excerpted some here:

1 Make your bed. Right after you get out of the bed. It makes the room look neater, it keeps your comforter from your probably-not-vacuumed-recently floor and it is one less thing you’ll have to do at night. If you’re truly lazy, dress your bed with a comforter, a bottom sheet and a few pillows, Kerr suggests. You won’t have to do anything more than reposition your pillows and comforter.

2 Straighten your coffee table. Embrace the inevitability that spare books and magazines … will all find their way to your coffee table. A pile is OK, says Kerr, as long as it’s neat. Same goes for spare pillows and blankets (simply fluff and fold, respectively).

3 Dust. Kerr recommends using a dryer sheet, which “picks up the dust, but also leaves behind a coating that will help repel dust for just a little bit longer.”

4 Quickly vacuum. Get a lightweight model and it won’t be such a chore.

5 Wipe down the sink after doing the dishes and give counters a once-over with a Magic Eraser. These scrubbers work miracles with stuck-on food stains and other kitchen mysteries.

6 Vacuum up fallen hair. Kerr is adamant about keeping a small, handheld-type vac in the bathroom, expressly to pick up any hair that might have decided to depart one’s head during the grooming process.

7 Spritz the tub with a daily spray cleaner after showering. Step out of the shower, then spray away. Then go about the rest of your day.

Save the date

Spring returns at JC Raulston Arboretum with Blooms and Birds: A Garden Festival for All Ages 9 a.m.-5 p.m. April 5. Kids will enjoy a maze, face painting, story time and hands-on learning. For mom and dad, demonstrations on a variety of gardening topics are planned. The festivities also include Raulston’s annual Spring Plant Sale and Birdhouse Competition and Show. Admission is $10 per family; $5 for individuals; free to Arboretum members.

The Arboretum is at 4415 Beryl Road, Raleigh.

Info: 919-515-3132 or

Designer’s best

Interior decorator Betsy Burnham tells House Beautiful, “Never push furniture up against the walls. By pulling your seating arrangement in (even just a few inches), you instantly warm up a place and create flow.”

Seeking your best tips

We’re interested in sharing your favorite simple recipes and shortcuts for cleaning, gardening, cooking and organizing. Send your tips to You’ll be entered in a quarterly drawing for a gift card. Be sure to include your name, street address and city. Put “best tips” or “best recipe” in the subject line.

• Congratulations to Jeanie DeGroff of Raleigh, winner for the first quarter of 2014. Your gift card is on its way.

Best of the tube


The upside to downsizing: Betty-Lou and Eric love their upscale home of 23 years, but Eric is ready to downsize. Although these two passionate gardeners transformed their backyard carport into a relaxing oasis, and they love the central location of their home, they can’t agree on what to do next. Betty-Lou thinks renovating will do the trick, but Eric wants to move. Designer Jillian and her team will try to bring this dated home into the new millennium while real estate agent Todd looks for a smaller space to fit the couple’s needs. Will they stay or will they go? Find out when “Love it or List it” airs at 11 a.m. Saturday.

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