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Renovation & Design

SOLUTIONS: Forget about foil for crispy baked spuds

QUESTION: I enjoy eating baked potatoes but they always end up with a soggy peel instead of crispy. I wrap them in foil but the peel is always soft. What can I do to ensure a crisp outside and a baked inside? Bax (Plum Coulee, Man.)

ANSWER: If you choose to end up with a crisp peel, then forget about wrapping potatoes in foil. Instead, wash the peels and smear them with oil and a sprinkling of salt. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pierce the potatoes deeply several times with a fork. Place the potatoes on a pan and bake on the top rack for at least one hour or until the potatoes are soft on the inside. Wrapping potatoes in foil will cause the peel to finish soft instead of crisp.

QUESTION: My problem is with a cat digging in my patio area and leaving me presents. It makes it very uncomfortable and smelly to sit outside and I would like to get on top of the situation before it starts happening again this spring. I have a one-foot border of soil around the fence before my patio stones start. Last year I used mothballs but that didn't seem to work. Any suggestions please. Thank you. Elaine, Winnipeg

ANSWER: Just like children, what works for one will not necessarily work for all. Keep trying a variety of deterrents until you find the most-effective solution for your visitors. Make your yard unattractive to cats, plant a patch of catnip away from your yard, add mulch or large, flat river rock to garden areas.

Position rose-bush branches along the ground where cats like to step. If you do not have rose bushes, ask your local garden centre if they'd be willing to donate thorny branches. Alternatively, lay down mats that have upward-facing points (cats don't like prickles). Or plant "rue" -- cats detest the smell. Keep cats out of the garden by sprinkling coffee grounds or onions on the soil.

Pet and garden stores sell a variety of products like predator urine and cat repellents, or you can make your own cat repellent: combine and sprinkle two parts cayenne pepper, three parts dry mustard and five parts flour. The drawback is that, as noted, you will need to reapply the mixture after rain. You can also purchase a motion-sensor sprinkler system because most cats detest water.

QUESTION: Earlier this week, I was doing a project where I had to melt some wax. I accidently spilt some of the wax from the candle onto my pair of Lulu Lemon Wunder Under Pants. I dabbed at the spot, being careful not to rub so it wouldn't get more pressed into the fabric. I asked my mom what to do and she didn't know. Neither did my dad.

I have been too afraid to try anything to remove it, in case I ruin the pants all together. The wax has been on my pants for two weeks and was accidently washed. So now the wax is pretty much imprinted on the fabric! Pretty please help me! They are brand-new pants! Thanks. Teagan, Winnipeg

ANSWER: Don't worry, Teagan. After a few washes the wax should disappear. Rub the area with Head and Shoulders Dandruff Shampoo and place the pants into the freezer for an hour. Scrape any excess wax with a plastic putty knife. Leave the shampoo on the pants and wash them as usual, but don't put the pants into the dryer until the stain has disappeared. Repeat washing until the wax is gone.

QUESTION: We moved into a 25-year-old home and noticed very small moths that have appeared in our basement several times over the last year. I have no idea where in the basement they are coming from and don't know how to get rid of them. We have cats so have to be careful about poison. If you have a solution I would love to hear it. They are driving us crazy. Thanks. Teresa, Winnipeg

ANSWER: The first step is to locate the source because if you find out where they are coming from you can stop them from laying eggs instead of simply deterring them by scent. Moths like to lay eggs in plants, fabric (this includes rugs), insulation and food (cookies, flour, cereal, etc.) Make sure everything in the basement is tightly sealed in plastic containers. To repel moths, put out scents they detest such as bay leaves, cloves, thyme, cinnamon, dill and lavender. If all else fails, you may want to call a professional exterminator.

Orange you glad spring is coming?

If you, like many Manitobans, are growing tired of winter, get yourself in the mood for spring by growing your very own orange tree.

Save seeds from the next orange you eat. Peel the skin off of the seeds. Soak the seeds overnight in water. Plant the seeds inside a pot with drainage holes and fresh soil. Water and cover the pot loosely with a clear plastic bag. Continue to check that the soil remains moist. When the plant sprouts, remove the bag and continue to water regularly.

Extra hint: Use the same technique to grow tangerines and lemons from seed.

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 videos/blog/website: reena.ca!

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