Renovation & Design

Renovation & Design

Tips for baking a perfect loaf of bread

Question: I have recently started making bread, by hand. Everything is good, except my bread is always dry. I follow all directions exactly and the loaf looks and smells great. Any ideas? Thanks. Peggy

Answer: Altitude and humidity in your home can alter the dryness of the dough, so you may need to experiment with the recipe a bit. Also, make sure that you knead the bread long enough to activate the yeast.

Consider reducing the flour by one-quarter cup so that the dough is less dry. Some people say that using bread flour makes a significant difference, I have not found that makes much difference.

While baking, it is important to insert an oven thermometer into the dough, you want a temperature of around 190 to 210 F (88 to 99 C), depending on the type of dough. I bake bread at 350 F, if your oven temperature is too low and the bread bakes for too long, the dough will dry out.

Assess your yeast to make sure it is active. Into a cup, add one teaspoon yeast and one cup, warm to hot water. If the yeast does not spread, it will not activate when you bake, you need fresh yeast.

Lastly, if you use flour such as whole wheat, the bread will be heavier and may taste dry. It is better to mix dough that is sticky rather than dough that is tough.

Question: I have used the shower door cleaning solution that I read in your column. I need to make more, but have lost the recipe. Please help. Inez

Answer: Here is my favourite shower door cleaning recipe. Into a spray bottle combine: One tablespoon Jet Dry dishwasher rinse, one quarter cup rubbing alcohol, half tsp. dish soap, two cups water and half cup three per cent hydrogen peroxide. Spray shower and leave; no need to wipe or rinse. Apply once a week or more. Also, gently wipe shower doors with a small amount of mineral oil to repel the water from sitting on the glass.

Question: My oak coffee table has become sticky. I tried Pledge, but it made it worse. Diluted dish soap did nothing. Any suggestions other than refinishing it? Thank you, Tracy

Answer: Into a spray bottle, combine 50/50 white vinegar and water. Spray the table and wipe. The vinegar strips away grime and dust that builds-up over time. If that does not help, consider cleaning the wood with Murphy’s Oil Soap. Wipe with water.

Fruit fly frenzy

• I read some of the remedies for killing fruit flies and want to share the one that I swear by. Just put about a half-inch of cider vinegar in a container like a custard cup, put in a squirt of dish washing soap, stir. I have seen it work within minutes of seeing one of those bothersome flies make an appearance. I caught seven the other day within a very short time! Enjoy your tips. Sylvia

S.O.S Household hints

1. After purchasing S.O.S pads cut them in half, doing so will sharpen the scissor blade and save you money.

2. Store S.O.S pads in a plastic container lined with aluminum foil to prevent them from forming rust.

3. Store any kind of steel wool away from flames or heat sources, they are very flammable.

4. Recipe for a wonderful multi-purpose cleaner: Combine 1-tsp. borax, half-tsp. washing soda, 2 tbsp. vinegar, half-tsp. liquid castile soap. Add 2-cups hot water. Shake and pour into a spray bottle. Spray on appliances, floors and house exterior, scrub with S.O.S pads.

5. Use S.O.S pads and water to remove nail polish from carpet (some elbow grease required).

Have a great suggestion or tip? Please send an email. Reena Nerbas is a popular motivational presenter for large and small groups; check out her website:

Reena Nerbas
October 1


Renovation & Design

Soap and water likely enough to remove gasoline stains from concrete

Question: Gas spilled onto the concrete floor in the garage. Is there any way to get rid of it? Laura

Answer: Remove gasoline stains on your driveway with the following technique: Using a garden hose, spray the area with water, scrub with a wire brush, such as a barbeque brush and dish soap or dishwasher detergent. The stains should quickly disappear. As a last resort, combat tough spills with muriatic acid and a pressure washer. Apply the acid following the manufacturer’s directions, and let it soak for several seconds. Keep in mind that muriatic acid is an extremely dangerous product; if you use it, wear rubber or latex gloves, safety goggles and protective clothing, and never wash it down storm drains. Test all solutions on an inconspicuous area first.

Question: Visitor’s used ball point ink and wrote all over my daughter’s ‘American Girl’ doll’s face. It happened today, what can I use to erase the marks? KT

Answer: The most successful product for this situation is 10% benzoyl peroxide (acne medication), the sooner you cleaner, the better the chances of removal. Using a cotton ball, dab peroxide onto the doll’s face, and gently wipe away the ink. Some ink is permanent and cannot be removed. Note: American Girl offers a doll hospital service, you can send the doll to the specified address, to be repaired, for a fee.

Manitobans’ response to fruit flies

• I battle fruit flies every year just like everyone, but I also compost so they can really get out of hand very quickly. This year I started keeping my compost pail in the freezer at night, it helped so much! Along with all the other steps you had in the column too, but compost is kind of a special case. Audra

• Tried and true to remove fruit flies. Take a small glass, such as a shot glass. Place a small piece of banana in it. Cover it tightly with a piece of cellophane. Poke a few holes with a toothpick. Don’t make the holes too big or the flies will escape. Place a few of these glasses around where you see the flies. They will congregate to these traps, and it works. Once captured, flip the glass upside down and wrap the cellophane around the mixture and discard. Voila! Kimberly

• I have tried the remedies mentioned in your column (except the commercial ones) with little success. I finally used my hand vacuum, immediately emptying it into a plastic bag which I sealed. It worked great. FB

Souper Tips

• Use a cookie cutter to cut shapes out of half-inch thick, sourdough bread slices. Place the slices on a baking sheet and sprinkle with your favorite cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, or until golden and crisp. Lay in the centre of your bowl of soup.

• Brown veggies, before adding them to soup to bring out the flavor of the vegetables. It you sauté them in butter and garlic, the flavor is even more enhanced.

• Don’t wait until the end of the cooking process to season your soup. Season as you cook, and adjust as needed, so that the ingredients absorb the flavors.

• Add a splash of acid to soup, rather than more salt. Acid such as lemon or lime juice adds delicious and unique flavor to soup.

• Invest in a slow cooker as your kitchen helper. Add the contents to the slow cooker in the morning and by supper, the flavors will be intense and ready to devour.

• Keep noodles separate. When making soup, leave cooked noodles in a separate bowl, instead of adding them into the soup. Freeze the soup or eat leftovers the next day, without having to contend with soggy noodles.

Have a great suggestion or tip? Please send an email. Reena Nerbas is a popular motivational presenter for large and small groups; check out her website:

Reena Nerbas
September 24

Renovation & Design

Turtle Wax will make those kitchen vents sparkle

Question: The vents in my kitchen are caked with grease. I used your advice and washed them in the dishwasher. When I took them out, they looked brand new. Is there any way to prevent dust and grease from quickly building up, so that I don’t need to clean them as often? JB

Answer: Reduce the amount of frying in your home and your vents will stay cleaner longer. Coat both sides of the vents with a soft cloth and Turtle Wax. The job takes a little time, but the results are worth the effort.

Question: I always enjoy your column and terrific advice on life’s many problems. I have a tall Contigo mug, which I mostly use for ice water, soft drinks, etc. I am NOT a coffee drinker. My husband accidentally switched his top for mine and now my top has a strong smell/taste of coffee.

I have tried soaking the screw-on top in a mixture of vinegar and baking soda for 24 hours. It helped somewhat, but the taste of coffee still lingers. Most unpleasant. Would you have any other suggestions for trying to get rid of the taste and smell, or will I need to purchase a new Contigo? Lesley

Answer: There are several solutions for getting rid of the smell, and it will continue to lessen over time. First step, wrap the lid tightly with newspaper and leave for 24 hours. If the odour lingers, wipe the lid with yellow mustard. Leave for one or two hours and wash with water.

Question: Can you tell me how to remove a heat stain from an oak table?

Thank you, Lynn

Answer: The first and easiest solution is to apply mayonnaise or non-gel, non-bleach toothpaste to the wood. Leave for 30 minutes and wipe. If the stain remains, cover the mark with a white cloth. Using the steam setting on your clothing iron, wave the iron over the top of the cloth, making sure you do not leave the iron on one area. Be cautious not to damage the finish of the wood.

Question: Every year we have an ongoing battle with fruit flies. Any ideas of how to rid ourselves of them? Kris

Answer: The first step is to get rid of the source. Store all fruit in the fridge until at least the first frost; this will greatly cut down on the fruit fly population. Eliminate exposed food sources such as bread, fruit, potatoes and crumbs. Wash dishes regularly and empty garbages, take out compost buckets and clean drains and garburators. Hang dishcloths instead of allowing them to sit in a damp pile; this is a perfect breeding area for flies.

Plant soil is another breeding area for fruit flies, therefore it is important to wait until necessary to carry plants inside for the winter.

Purchase a restaurant-style, funnel-cap vinegar dispenser. Fill with wine or vinegar. Cap and set near the kitchen sink. Fruit flies are attracted to the smell of fermenting fruit. Some people like to take this one step further and place the dispenser onto a cardboard glue board.

Extra Tip: Storing bananas during fruit fly season is easier than you may think. Store fruit in the fridge, inside an opaque plastic bag. The bananas won’t turn brown for several days, and they stay fresh longer than if left on the counter.

Another option is to purchase a fruit fly trap manufactured by Terro, Raid, or other such companies; these are available at hardware or department stores.

Reena Nerbas is a popular motivational presenter for large and small groups; check out her website: Have a great suggestion or tip? Please send an email.

Reena Nerbas
September 17

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