Renovation & Design


Renovation & Design

Vinegar, tea tree oil should rescue outdoor cushions

Question: We have a set of four nice, thick outdoor chair cushions that we have treated well for 15 years. They are never left outside at night and are often stored in our shed during summer days when not needed. I went to get them from the shed, and discovered that they had become soiled from mice that had gotten into our shed (they were stinky and damp). We left them outside to dry off, then put them away to deal with later.  Now I’m wondering if they can be washed in a large commercial washer at a laundromat (larger capacity), and if so, what should I use on them? (Borax?) I want to make sure they are well disinfected. Any advice would be very appreciated. Thanks. — Jill

Answer: Washing the cushions in a large-capacity washing machine is absolutely genius! Use heavy-duty detergent and air dry the cushions. The only change I would make is to use 1 cup of white vinegar in place of borax. After the cushions are dry, wipe them with tea tree oil to help deter rodents.

Question: I recently made cornbread and it was very crumbly. What did I do wrong? I used one egg. Should I use two next time? — Wendy

Answer: Here are a few hints for making delicious cornbread: Use buttermilk instead of milk and/or water. While you do not want to add excess moisture, the following are a few ideas to try. Add a half cup of sour cream to your recipe. The extra egg is a good idea. Some people like to add a can of creamed corn to the recipe to add moisture. Yum!

Question: What is the easiest way to remove corn from the cob? And what is an easy way to butter corn cobs? — Lenore

Answer: Stand the corn on the cob in the hole of a Bundt pan. Hold the cob steady and make long downward strokes on the cob with a sharp knife, separating the kernels from the cob. If you are worried about scratching your Bundt pan, drape a paper towel inside the pan to protect it.

To butter the cob with ease, spread butter on a piece of bread and wipe the cob with the bread. Or melt butter in a bowl and use a pastry brush to "paint" the cob. Or melt butter in a pot and lay the cobs in the butter to coat them (this is the option I use).

Question: I have a box of cereal that tastes stale. Is it garbage, or is there a way to make it taste good again? — Arden

Answer: To revive old cereal (or crackers), spread it onto a cookie sheet and bake on low heat for a few minutes. Take it out of the oven when crisp. Eat.

Produce the best produce

— I have a tip for preparing spaghetti squash for the microwave. Pierce holes by using a meat thermometer. Easy and safer than fooling around with a knife. Gloria

— Save pumpkin seeds; they are high in protein and low in fat. Clean off flesh (or leave on) and season with seasoning salt. Spread onto greased baking sheet and bake at 300 F (150 C) for about one hour or until golden brown. Add to trail mixes or eat separately.

— Revive old apples by peeling and cutting into them into chunks. Soak them in cold apple cider or juice for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

— Keep apples longer by storing them without letting them touch one other.

Note: Every user assumes all risks of injury or damage resulting from the implementation of any suggestions in this column. Test all products/methods on an inconspicuous area first.

Reena Nerbas is a popular motivational presenter for large and small groups; check out her website: Email your tips and questions.


Reena Nerbas
October 23

Renovation & Design

Get your hard-boiled eggs cracking

Question: I make my own hard-boiled eggs. Lately, when I try to peel them, it just turns into a mess. Large chunks of the egg white stick to the shell, the membrane sticks to the egg white, and it just doesn’t peel cleanly. What am I doing wrong? How can I get perfect (or nearly perfect) hard-boiled eggs? If you can help, I would be very grateful. Thanks. — John

Answer: Here are a few tips for making hard-boiled eggs easier to peel. Note: The fresher the egg, the more difficult it is to peel because the egg whites hold more firmly to the inner membrane.

Add a small amount of vegetable oil to the pot while boiling eggs. The shells absorb just enough of the oil so the shells slide off easier.

After boiling eggs, empty all of the hot water and fill the pan with cold water. Add two bowls of ice and let the eggs sit in the ice water for 10 minutes before peeling.

Take an egg in your hand and smash it on the table, then roll it back and forth like a rolling pin. This makes the shell peel off more easily.

Alternatively, try using a spoon and hit the egg all over so it cracks everywhere. Then, turn the spoon around and slip the tip under a piece of the shell, slide it around the entire egg. Rinse off any remaining shell.

Question: I want to clean my ceiling fan, but I keep putting it off because it is my least favourite job. Any tips to make it easier? Thanks. — Kelly

Answer: For regular ceiling fan cleaning, you can use a good quality long-handled microfibre dust cloth. If you clean your ceiling fan once every one to two weeks, then when you turn the fan on, less dust flies around the room and settles on other parts of the room or on your furniture. However, when grease and dust have built up to the point of becoming gummy and sticky, more drastic measures need to taken. You will need a step ladder, a gallon bucket of water, abrasive non-scratching cloth, and 1 tbsp. each of dish soap and vinegar. With the fan off (obviously), scrub each blade of the fan using the solution. Rinse with warm water and dry. To prevent ceiling fan blades from collecting dust, you can wipe them with furniture polish and a soft cloth — or a fabric softener sheet.

Feedback from Friendly Manitobans

— Avoiding food wastage: My wife, Linda, and I have found three-litre boxes of wine have almost a full glass left after the spigot has stopped pouring. That’s eight or nine per cent — about three bucks worth! Rob

— After purchasing berries, I remove them from the plastic carton. Then I wash them and place a paper towel onto the bottom of the carton. Place the berries back into the carton. The towel absorbs excess moisture which keeps the berries fresher longer. Margret

— I hear so many people talk about scrubbing their kitchen cupboards with all kinds of products. All you really need is dish soap and water. Scrub and rinse; the grease will disappear. Rhinold

— To make homemade pizza crispy, make sure to heat the empty pan in the oven at 450 F for about 10 minutes. Prepare your pizza on parchment paper, and then transfer it onto the hot pan. Skipping this step will result in a soggy pizza. Tony

Note: Every user assumes all risks of injury or damage resulting from the implementation of any suggestions in this column. Test all products/methods on an inconspicuous area first.

Reena Nerbas is a popular motivational presenter for large and small groups; check out her website: Email your tips and questions.


Reena Nerbas
October 16

Renovation & Design

Proper vents, soffits key to winter attic airflow

Question: I have a second home north of Montreal, on the slope of a moderately sized mountain. About 19 years ago, we had the roof shingles redone, and the contractor at the time replaced our ridge vents with three regular roof vents. We call them "Maximums," here in Quebec, which is actually the brand name. Since then, we’ve been having real ventilation issues, creating lots of ice dams, and have leaks into several walls. The biggest problem occurs above a cathedral ceiling for the living room. We never had these issues prior to the change, even after we replaced the insulation in the attic. We have clear soffits all along the roof edges.

We’ve consulted several "experts" and get conflicting advice. After reading one of your pieces online, I can only conclude that we should have left the ridge vents in place. Would that seem to make sense to you? I actually noticed today that all the houses in a new residential development nearby have only ridge vents, which I’ve actually never seen before in houses without cathedral roofs. Are ridge vents also a new trend?

I would be delighted to get your take on this issue, if you don’t mind. Many thanks for any counsel and guidance you might be able to provide.

David Allnutt, Montreal

Answer: Installing proper ventilation for the appropriate roof system may be critical in prevention of condensation and moisture issues. Ridge vents are ideally suited for a vaulted ceiling, and in combination with continuous soffit vents, may help prevent the problems you are facing.

Ridge vents are long, thin, continuous vents typically made of aluminum or plastic. These are so named because they are designed to be installed at the very peak of a sloped roof. While the metal ones have all but been replaced by newer plastic models, they are still used on many newer homes. To function correctly, these long vents must be installed properly, at the very top of the roof, with the cap shingles partially covering the top of the vent. If they are not properly installed, they may allow blown rain and snow to enter the attic, or easily freeze up in cold weather.

For a conventional gable or hip style roof, with a pitch steeper than 3/12, ridge vents are not necessary, except in unusual circumstances. The newer builders may be installing them because they are less visible that standard vents, which may be an esthetic decision. Typical rectangular vents, spaced accordingly, may provide better ventilation with much lower cost. These standard vents stick up above the shingles more, so may provide better protection from snow and ice blockage. A continuous ridge vent is more likely to become frozen and ineffective in that style of common roof. For a vaulted roof system, the continuous vent at the peak is the correct choice.

For a proper roof system or attic ventilation, cold air should enter the attic or vented space from the bottom. That is normally accomplished with enough soffit vents, which have many small perforations for this purpose. The idea is that in very cold weather, outside air will be drawn in to the attic or roof cavity from this area, which will warm slightly. If warm air is leaking into this space from the heated living area below, it will mix with the soffit air, which will help force that air out the top of the attic or ceiling cavity by convection. The influx of colder air at the bottom of roof system will help create a "stack effect," which passively forces the house air out of the upper attic vents, as it rises. If there is limited or no air coming in at the soffits, the warm air leaking into this space from the house may cool too much before it can be forced out the higher vents. It can then condense on the cold underside of the roof sheathing and framing members, freeze and allow frost to build up. In warmer weather, this will melt and wet the insulation and/or drip into the ceiling below.

For a typical attic, a few properly spaced soffit vents on each side of the house, or continuous, perforated metal soffits, will serve this purpose well. Installing a few standard roof vents near the highest point of the attic will complete the system, as long as there is enough room above the insulation for proper circulation. For a vaulted ceiling, like your cathedral section, the attic space may be limited to only a few centimetres above the insulation. In that situation, it is critical to ensure that both the soffit and roof vents are continuous. Since there is only a small air space in that type of roof system, every one of the cavities must be provided with ventilation at the top and bottom. If not, these small cavities may be filled with warm house air, which cannot circulate out, due to the missing vents. It may easily condense in the small airspaces, and also melt the snow above, while it cools. The melted snow will drain down the shingles during the warm part of the day, and freeze when it hits the colder roof above the unheated soffits. This may reoccur day after day, causing the ice dams you have experienced.

Reinstalling ridge vents at the time of a roofing upgrade is the right move and should allow proper ventilation of the vaulted portion of your roof system. This will prevent condensation, ice dams and leakage. They may not be necessary on other areas of your roof if you have conventional attics in those spaces, even though they may be on all the trendy new homes nearby.

Ari Marantz is the owner of Trained Eye Home Inspection Ltd. and a Registered Home Inspector (RHI)( Questions can be emailed to the address below. Ari can be reached at 204-291-5358 or check out his website at

Ari Marantz
October 16

Renovation & Design

Net gain for gardens

Colleen Zacharias
October 16

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