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

Top Drawer

CorrespondentJune 20, 2014 

Best for cleaning crevices

Sandy Reul of Pittsboro shares this tip for cleaning crevices in hard-to-reach places.

“Use compressed air to remove dust from intricate but sturdy items like metal sculptures with small crevices. I use it twice a month to remove the dust from a metal statue made of open mesh and a small bronze statue of some deer. A few short blasts will do the trick. For more delicate items use a clean pastry brush to avoid damaging the object.”

(You can find compressed air at office supply stores.)

Best for tomatoes

If you’re having problems with tomatoes cracking and splitting on the vine, water could be to blame. According to a post on the Organic Gardening section of, tomatoes split because of fluctuations in the amount of water they receive. To help prevent cracking, you should:

Water regularly and deeply: Water your tomato plants every two to three days during the summer. When you irrigate, water at ground level (spraying the leaves can spread diseases like blight and septoria). Regular, deep watering will reduce the effect of a sudden rainstorm, because your plants won’t be going from dry conditions to sudden sogginess, which causes splitting.

Mulch: Protect your plants with two to three inches of organic mulch such as straw, pine needles or shredded bark. This will maintain more regular soil moisture levels, and you’ll deal with less splitting.

Look for resistant varieties: In general, the thicker the skin, the less prone a tomato is to splitting. Most modern hybrids seem to resist splitting.

Check out these and other gardening tips at

Best for removing

pet stains

It happens. Just when you think Fido or Kitty has mastered house-training, an accident happens right on your cream-colored carpet. Never fear. Chances are that you’ve got a great, all-natural cleaning solution right in your kitchen pantry. says a general rule for cleaning pet messes is to “remove all solids and blot up as much liquid as possible. Use plain water to dilute the stain and blot again with a clean cloth to remove remaining liquid. Use a mixture of 50/50 water and vinegar in a spray bottle to saturate the area, then blot again with a clean cloth. Vinegar is a natural deodorizer and antibacterial. Remember to avoid scrubbing, which can fray carpet fibers. Work from the outside in rather than rubbing back and forth, which will spread your problem over a larger area.”

Urine stains: To remove, mix one cup vinegar with one cup warm water. Blot the stain with the solution and repeat until the stain has completely transferred to the towel. When finished, use clean, warm water to rinse and blot until almost dry.

Fecal stains: Mix one-cup vinegar and two cups of warm water. Soak the stain, allowing it to stand for about five minutes. Using a clean, white rag or paper towels, blot up the moisture. Repeat until the stain is gone. To remove any lingering odor, sprinkle baking soda on the spot, allow it to dry overnight, and then vacuum. If the stain persists, consider using Nature’s Miracle or Bio-Aid, two enzyme-based products available at many retail stores.

Learn more at

Reader’s best recipe

Laura Ford of Raleigh shares a recipe for okra that she calls “the best ever.”

“Select the smallest, thinnest okra and add them to a pot of rapidly boiling water. Boil very briefly and drain before the okra gets soft. Immediately plunge okra into a bowl of ice water to stop cooking. Drain as soon as okra is cool and lay out on a kitchen towel to dry. Sprinkle generously with salt and serve immediately. Or top with dried fish flakes (katsuo bushi) from a Japanese grocery and drizzle with a little soy sauce.”

Designer’s best summer secret

The Fresh Home blog suggests you bring the outdoors in this summer to infuse your decore with a fresh feel.

“Flowers, plants and fresh fruit centerpieces make your home smell aromatic and look beautiful. For a more rustic feel, try bringing in eco-friendly materials like bamboo, hemp and jute area rugs. These materials bring an exotic and natural feeling of the outdoors in. Remember, entertaining outdoors will also give a welcome break to being inside. Summer is about being flexible and spontaneous!”

Check out the blog at

Wanted: your best recipe or tip

Do you have a simple summer recipe that is a sure-fire hit at family or friend celebrations? A tried-and-true tip for cleaning or organizing? If so, we want to hear about it. If we use your tip in Top Drawer, we’ll enter you in a quarterly drawing for a gift card. Send email to Be sure to include your name and street address. Please use precise measurements with recipes. And put “best recipe” or “best tip” in the subject line.

Best of the tube


Unfinished flip: Tarek and Christina are contacted by a cash-strapped flipper who needs to unload a project house. With no bathrooms, no kitchen and nothing but plywood floors, exposed framing and piles of rubble, Tarek starts adding up the dollars required just to rehab the house. See whether the finished project will be a “Flip or Flop” at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

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


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