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Top Drawer

Colorful dried lentils can be used to create an inexpensive autumn table centerpiece.
Colorful dried lentils can be used to create an inexpensive autumn table centerpiece. MCT

Seeking your best holiday ideas

Do you have a time-saving tip to get you through the holidays? Is there a special decorating tip, cleaning ritual or simple go-to recipe that is a must-have at the holiday table? If so, we want to hear about it. If we share your tip in Top Drawer, we’ll enter your name in a quarterly drawing for a gift card. Send your tips to topdrawer@newsobserver.com. Be sure to include your name, street address and city. Put “holiday best” in the subject line.

Best way to dispose of grease

With Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner, the city of Raleigh’s Solid Waste Services is resuming its annual free curbside cooking oil and grease collection.

Raleigh residents and places of worship can place unwanted vegetable and animal fat oils in sealable and preferably clear plastic containers marked as “cooking oil.” You must call ahead to arrange for collection. Glass containers will not be accepted.

The collected oils will be converted into biofuels that can be used to power vehicles, heat homes and cook foods. Collection is not available for commercial establishments.

If you would like to participate in the program, call the city’s Solid Waste Services Department at 919-996-6890. The program runs through Jan. 15.

Best way to clean makeup brushes

Clean your makeup brushes in five easy steps and ensure a flawless finish for this season’s holiday celebrations, designer Lauren Conrad’s blog suggests. You will need:

• A shallow bowl

• Gentle clarifying shampoo or baby shampoo

• A sink

• A lint-free cloth

1 Run brushes under lukewarm water, rinsing out residual makeup. Try to focus on the actual bristles while avoiding the part of the brush where handle meets the head, as this can loosen the glue over time.

2 Fill a bowl with lukewarm water and a squirt of shampoo, and gently swirl your brush tip in the water.

3 Rinse the brush tip under running water once again. Repeat steps two and three until the water runs clear from the brush.

4 Use a cloth to wipe your brush clean, reshaping bristles as you go.

5 Lay brushes flat on a cloth to dry.

Find these and other design, decorating and cleaning tips at http://nando.com/mg.

Best autumn centerpieces

Make a beautiful fall centerpiece with simple, dried staples you likely have in your pantry.

The At the Picket Fence blog suggests placing a scented or colored candle in a glass jar or hurricane and assembling thick layers of lentils, dried beans, corn kernels and more to create an elegant autumn display. Tie coordinating or complementary raffia or ribbon around the jar to finish. The result: A ready-made centerpiece with minimal cost and effort.

Check out the blog post at http://nando.com/mh.

For more ideas for fall centerpieces, visit http://nando.com/mi.

Best time to plant spring bulbs

Now’s a great time to plant spring bulbs for a bountiful and bloom-filled spring garden. Tulips, irises and crocuses, which need a winter freeze to start their growing process, are great choices. The best time to plant bulbs is “once temperatures are in 40s and 50s, but several weeks before the ground completely freezes,” according to FoxNews.com.

Find this and other fall gardening tips at http://nando.com/mj.

Best of the tube


High-end home, low-end budget: Rob, Jessica and their 5-year-old daughter, Coco, are looking for a high-end home, but their low-end budget threatens to derail their dream. It’s up to Property Brothers Drew and Jonathan Scott to turn a fixer-upper house into their dream home. See how they do it on “Property Brothers,” which airs at 7 p.m. Saturday.

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