Renovation & Design

Renovation & Design

Go wild for ORCHIDS

Colleen Zacharias
October 22


Renovation & Design

Pumice stone will take stains out of grout

Question: Can you please suggest an effective way to clean bathroom grout? Best, Lu

Answer: Purchase a handy little piece of pumice stone. Pour some dish soap onto the pumice stone and wet it, then lightly scrub the grout; looks wonderful. Next spray isopropyl alcohol onto the grout to prevent mildew from growing and discolouring the grout (keep away from small children). Another option is to make a paste of borax and water, scrub grout with an old toothbrush.

Question: My driveway always looks messy because the gravel shifts and moves onto the grass. What can I do to make my driveway look properly manicured? Keith

Answer: Consider the look of a resin driveway where a base layer is placed on the driveway, and then a layer of resin is applied, with the gravel and stones simply laid over the resin, so that they stick to it. Once the resin has dried, any loose stones and gravel can be swept away and cleared, the driveway will be easy to maintain, and looks great.

Question: I read in your column about the person asking about separating eggs for meringue. I baked ameringue pie last week, and it was a flop. The crust was wet and tasted like crystalized sugar, it was not edible. Where did I go wrong? Linda

Answer: I’ve been in your shoes before, and so I can say with confidence that the pie was underbaked. Therefore, too much liquid remained in the meringue, which caused the foam to collapse and the excess liquid to seep out. Make sure that the meringue is completely baked, it should look smooth, shiny, partially brown, and crisp.

Honing Halloween

If you plan to carve your pumpkin two or three days before Halloween, lightly smear petroleum jelly on the cut edges.

To lengthen the life of your carved pumpkin, spray with water and wrap in plastic wrap, store in fridge when not in use.

Create the smell of Halloween spice. On the bottom of the pumpkin lid sprinkle a half-teaspoon of each of the following: cinnamon, nutmeg, and pumpkin spice. Once the pumpkin is lit, it will create a wonderful seasonal scent.

Get creative! Illuminate your jack-o-lantern with a multicolour, changing battery-powered LED bulb.

Spooky seeds

Pumpkin seeds are necessary at this time of year. Hollow out a pumpkin, remove and clean about two cups of seeds. Toss seeds in one quarter cup melted butter, half a teaspoon of garlic salt and one quarter teaspoon Worcestershire sauce. Spread onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 250 F for about 45 minutes or until lightly browned. Store in an airtight container. — Jaclyn

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

Have a great suggestion or tip? Please send an email to

Reena Nerbas
October 22

Renovation & Design

Air purifier likely required to remove cannabis odours

Question: I was scrolling the internet to get a solution to the marijuana smell problem in my semi-detached house. The neighbour tenant lady smokes weed and I can notice it coming in my kitchen area, which shares a common wall with her. It is coming from an electrical outlet that is very near the common wall, but is on a wall perpendicular to the common wall. I tried putting a foam barrier inside, but still has no effect on stopping it. Whenever my air conditioner runs, the smell comes from the gas fireplace, via the air coming next to the gas supply line space. The fireplace is not on the common wall side. I am not sure how it travels that far. I have a basement in my house and never noticed a smell in the basement.

Please advise what might be the possible cause of this at these two places. I would be really indebted to you.

A. Grewal, Southern Ontario

Answer: Stopping smoke odours from entering your semi-detached home may be tricky, unless you invest in an expensive air purifier system. A better approach may be to discuss the issue with the offending neighbour, who may be willing to change their habits and smoke outside or in a well vented room away from your dwelling.

For decades, lingering odours from cigarette, pipe, and cigar smoking entering attached dwellings has been a constant struggle for non-smokers. With the recent legalization of cannabis, that can now be compounded with strong smells from smoking marijuana, which can be equally or more offensive. There has been significant research into the harmful effects of second hand tobacco smoke, which can be used to justify a request for behavioural changes from neighbours. As far as I know, that is not the case with cannabis, at least not yet. To compound the issue, in several Provinces it is illegal to smoke cannabis products outside of one’s property, potentially making your problem worse.

I am not sure of the effectiveness of the small, stand-alone air purifiers available for retail purchase, but that may be a wise place to start. Placing it in an area where you are smelling the skunky smoke biproducts may help reduce the intensity of the odours. Buying a model with a good filter, possibly a replaceable charcoal type, should help negate the problem. If that does not work, investigation into a more commercial-grade model may be the next step, but that could get costly. Some units may be installed inside your heating ducts, or near the furnace, which would also require hiring an HVAC technician.

A better approach may be to employ a social rather than mechanical solution. Politely talk to the neighbour, explain the dilemma, and see if a more equitable solution may be found that will not overly inconvenience either party. It is likely that the neighbour has no idea that this is an issue for you, and may be willing to help minimize the impact on your home. An easy solution may be for the woman to smoke outside the building, where the odours will quickly be dissipated before entering your house. If your homes have patios or balconies, that could be a simple, yet effective, solution. If that is not possible, asking her to smoke in a room as far away as possible from your dwelling, preferably with the window open, may yield some relief. Also, if she turns on her kitchen range hood and/or bathroom exhaust fans before she sparks up, that should lower the air pressure in her home and help redirect a considerable amount of the smoke particles and odours outside of the building.

Try to avoid a confrontational or accusatory tone when starting this task. Perhaps an invitation to your home for coffee would be an ideal premise to start the conversation. Or an occasion to offer assistance or a favour when you meet outside the building. Help her carry in groceries, shovel her sidewalk, sweep snow of her car windshield, or any of a host of other common courtesies may help you broach the difficult subject of her annoying habit. You may be surprised by her willingness to help, but caution should be taken to avoid the opposite reaction. Insisting that she acquiesce to your demands to immediately change her behaviour can be met with a stubborn rejection, which may be difficult to reverse once initiated.

If the neighbour does take a completely contrary approach to your situation, despite your most benign request attempts, there may be little you can do. There are many people who believe that their home is their castle and that they live there in isolation, despite being directly attached to your home. Hopefully, that will not be the situation in your case, but no guarantees of success are given.

Trying to seal up your home from offensive cannabis smoke odours from your next-door neighbour may be somewhat fruitless, unless you invest in a costly air purification system. Otherwise, a polite conversational approach may be your best bet for relief from the problem, which will require a willing behavioural change from her to smoke in a location that will not draw the odours into your home.

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 15

Renovation & Design

Terra-cotta will keep that brown suag moist

Question: Does leaving a ceramic disk in the brown sugar container, actually make a difference? Robert

Answer: I always store a piece of terra-cotta in my brown sugar container. Soak the disk in water for about five minutes. Because the clay is porous, it absorbs moisture, and keeps sugar loose for about three months.

Question: Why is it so difficult to separate an egg? Whenever, I prepare to make a meringue pie, I take all my ingredients out, one hour ahead of time, and organize it on the counter to prepare to make the pie. When I separate the egg, yolk always seeps into the white and the meringue won’t whip. Allison

Answer: While it is true that you want the eggs at room temperature before whipping, it is also true that separating eggs at room temperature is more challenging than when they are cold. Remove eggs from the fridge and separate them immediately into two bowls before allowing them to warm up, you will find this much easier. Dollar stores often sell egg separators that will also increase your success rate.

Question: My son was sweeping up the berries on our sidewalk from the mayday and Schubert chokecherry trees and somehow got ground in stains from these all over his grey sweatpants. I tried boiling water, vinegar, lemon juice but the stains are still there. Any other suggestions? Teresa

Answer: What makes fruit stains difficult to remove is that berries dye textiles. Pouring water through a berry stain is the best first step in increasing your chances of removing the stain, but vinegar and lemon juice may have set the stain. You are better off scrubbing the area with dish soap and water and then spraying with Shout. Use the dish soap and Shout technique several times before the stain disappears.

Stuffing 101

Make your own simple and delicious stuffing. Slice one loaf of dry bread into cubes. In a pot sauté one chopped onion and four sticks chopped celery. Add one teaspoon poultry seasoning. Add bread and season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour in one cup chicken broth. Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or heat in slow cooker on low for one hour.

Lint me your ears

My dryer vent leads right onto my back patio and spews the fluff from the dryer all over the patio and into the garden. Rather than a stocking or pantyhose, which could end up being a fire hazard, perhaps consider what we did, which was build a small rectangular-shape box with chicken wire. This sits up against the outside area around the vent outlet. We did this primarily to keep local mice from climbing into the vent, as it is fairly close to the ground, but it also ended up being a good lint catcher. Easy to clean out, and lots of air circulation, so no heat builds-up. — Judy

I had a problem with dryer lint messing up my outdoor patio space. To solve it, I placed a one-gallon black plastic plant pot (with drainage holes) under the dryer vent and put a two-inch layer of coarse gravel in the bottom of the pot. The lint gets trapped by the gravel and can be picked off, or just disposed of and replaced with fresh gravel. — Linda

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 15

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