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Renovation & Design

How to keep the lumps out of brown sugar

QUESTION: I enjoy a bowl of oat cereal for breakfast and like to sprinkle it with brown sugar. My problem is the sugar is always lumpy and no amount of shaking makes the sugar finer for sprinkling. Thanks. Gord, Winnipeg

ANSWER: Brown sugar hardens when its moisture inside evaporates; all you need to do is replenish the moisture with one of these easy solutions. Put a cut-up apple or slice of bread into an airtight container with the sugar. Softening will take about a day. Or drape a damp towel over the un-lidded bowl and leave overnight. Or put the sugar into the microwave with a separate bowl of water. Turn the microwave on and check every 30 seconds to observe if the sugar is soft. A long-term fix is to purchase a piece of clay; these are available at most grocery stores. Soak the clay in water for a few hours and then store it inside the brown sugar container to keep it moist.

QUESTION: I'm sure I read something in a past column of yours regarding painting basement floors. Ours is cement, and the finish used was recommended by our local building supply dealer and applied according to directions. It does not seem to be working, and the paint is coming off in patches. I believe the problem is dampness coming in from underneath. Any help you could give me would be appreciated. Holly (Birtle, MB)

ANSWER: This is a common problem in basements that have not been sealed before painting. Consider sanding off the peeling paint and then applying a sealing product such as Aqua Seal before applying the proper paint. Following that, talk to your local hardware store about the best epoxy paint to use on the floor.

QUESTION: I sprayed my copper tea set and my silver-plated set with hairspray a few years ago to avoid cleaning frequently. I used silver cleaner, but it did not work on the copper or on the silver-plated articles, and now they are looking worse. Do you have suggestions on how to restore these items? Thank you for your wonderful column, I enjoy it very much and I am using many of your hints for my daily life. Eugenia, Winnipeg

ANSWER: Before cleaning the copper and silver, wipe the metal with rubbing alcohol to remove the hairspray (test on an inconspicuous area first). The best way to clean copper is to either spray and polish the copper with WD-40 or combine one-half cup vinegar with 1 tbsp. salt and 1 tbsp. flour. Apply to metal; leave for 15 mins. Rinse with warm water and polish (always test first). Taken from Household Solutions 2 with Kitchen Secrets.

In terms of the silver cleaner, place crumpled aluminum foil in a plastic bucket. Dissolve one-quarter cup washing soda in 4 quarts of hot water. Place silver on foil and let stand for a few seconds until the tarnish is gone. Remove silver, rinse and dry. Also, corrosion caused by food can be repaired my mixing 1 tbsp. hot vinegar, 2 cups water and 2 tsp. salt. Soak for 5 mins. and polish.

QUESTION: I read your column every week, however, I don't recall seeing a solution for removing quite a buildup of moss in our driveway, and as I am elderly, I am afraid of slipping on it. I once read about either vinegar or bleach and boiling water but would like to hear a more accurate solution from you if that is possible. Sincerely, Flo

ANSWER: You don't need bleach or boiling water all you need is "Household Superstar Vinegar." Put pickling vinegar into a spray bottle and spray the moss. The acid in vinegar is strong enough to kill weeds. Be aware that vinegar will kill anything green, so keep it away from your green grassy lawn.

Manitoba Readers Comment on Swimsuit Care

Dear Reena:

I have been making my own bathing suits for over 30 years. I swim almost every day and this is what I do with swimsuits after each use. I run cold water in the bathroom sink and add about three quarter-cups of white vinegar to the water and then plunk baking soda into the sink, which I leave for a while. Then I hang the dry bathing suit to dry and they last a long time! I also line my swimsuits and I think that keeps them looking better as well. Sincerely, Diana

Dear Reena:

A swimsuit made from Lycra will deteriorate when exposed to chlorine. Swimsuits made from polyester are much longer-lasting.

I swim three times a week with my triathlon club. When I used to use Lycra suits, they would deteriorate within a couple of months, even with careful rinsing and hanging to dry. My polyester swimsuits have lasted years, with only some slight fading. I highly recommend them.

Fabulous Tip of the Week

Dear Reena:

I have a yummy tip for your readers! You can make the best ribs in a slow cooker if you remove them from the slow cooker 30 mins. before serving and place them onto a baking sheet. Broil until browned. This way, they are crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. Let me know what you think! Hilda

I enjoy your questions and tips, keep them coming. Missed a column? Can't remember a solution? Need a speaker for an upcoming event? Check out my brand-new blog/website: reena.ca

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