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SOLUTIONS: Hardwood installation need not floor you

QUESTION: I purchased hardwood floor and am now at the point where I am deciding which way to lay the flooring. Are there any rules about which way to run the flooring? Benette (Onanole, MB)

ANSWER: Install hardwood parallel to incoming light in narrow rooms, install so the flooring runs parallel to the longest wall. Technically the wood flooring should run across the joists for added stability.

QUESTION: I have your book Solutions & Substitutions and love it! My husband and I recently built a new home in La Salle and installed beautiful quartz countertops. We were led to believe that quartz was impermeable to all types of staining. However, last week my husband left a rusted cookie sheet on the counter and we now have a rust stain that I can't get off. I was wondering if you had any tips for removing rust from a quartz surface. Much appreciated. Janelle (La Salle, MB)

ANSWER: Squeeze the juice of one lemon into a bowl and add enough baking soda to make a paste. Apply the mixture with a cloth and wipe the counter until the rust is gone. Be sure to test solution on an inconspicuous area first.

QUESTION: I live by myself and am in the process of cleaning many kitchen household utensils in order to give them away. One of the most disgusting items that I need advice on is my grandmother's cast-iron frying pan. The pan is rusty; is it safe or do you think I should throw it away? Thanks, Kenneth (Plum Cooley, MB)

ANSWER: Nothing beats the taste of food cooked in a cast-iron frying pan! The solution for cleaning rust off of the pan is so easy that you won't believe your eyes! Pour a liberal amount of cooking oil over rust, sprinkle with regular salt and scrub. The rust will disappear and the pan will look as good as new!

QUESTION: I enjoyed your cooking secrets workshop but I am confused with one of my own recipes. Whenever I bake cupcakes, they end up with an annoying tall peak on the top of them instead of a nice round surface. What am I doing wrong? Jaclyn, Winnipeg

ANSWER: When adding batter to cupcake liners, spoon in until cups are two thirds to three quarter full. Bake cupcakes in the centre of the oven at 350 degrees; higher temperatures result in 'peaked tops'. Do not over mix the batter, baking fluffy, moist cupcakes is all about creating air bubbles in your batter that expand in the oven. When batter is overmixed the bubbles collapse and the cake becomes heavy. Mix at low speed just until the ingredients are incorporated. One more thing: place all of your ingredients on the counter 15 minutes before use. Using ingredients at room temperature makes a big difference in baking the perfect cake or cupcake.

Reena Nerbas is the author of the national bestselling Household Solutions series. Her website is www.householdsolutions.org. You can contact her at Box 429, Blumenort, Man., ROA 0C0.