Renovation & Design


A whole new way of life

Brandi Johnson:


Renovation & Design

Peel a pineapple in record time this summer

Question: Please share with me a fast way to peel a pineapple. -Morgen

Answer: Pineapples can be stored at room temperature for about three days, after that store the fruit in the fridge to maintain freshness.

I used to work as a cook at a college, and here is the method we used. Using a serrated knife, cut both the top and bottom off.

Stand the pineapple on a cutting board, from the top, slice about one quarter into the pineapple, all the way towards the cutting board to cut off the peel.

Turn the pineapple and continue to slice. Cut the pineapple around the core and discard the core, which is tough and not enjoyable to eat.

Next, cut the pineapple into square, bite sized chunks. Pineapples do not retain freshness very long after being cut.


Question: Once I read that it is good to use leftover potato water for making bread, I now do that, and I like it a lot.

My friend told me to use potato water for killing weeds. Somehow something is wrong with this picture. She uses it to kill weeds and I use it to feed my family.

Answer: Leftover potato water, will kill off (cook) any grass or weeds growing in the driveway, between your pavers etc. If poured accurately, you may be able to take out weeds near the plants you wish to keep, and the same is true for pasta water.

Whenever I use this tip, I make sure that the water has just boiled and therefore in my mind, it is not the potato that is killing weeds but rather the water itself.

On the plus side, cooled down potato water can be poured onto soil so that a good amount of nutrients seep into the ground maintaining healthier soil.

I agree with you, potato water is outstanding for baking homemade breads and adding to soups and gravies. Potato water can even be saved and frozen for future use.

I just thought of another use for potato water! Dip sponges into potato water to get rid of carpet and fabric stains, works great on washable satin too.


Question: Now that we are allowed to gather in bigger group outside, I am having a large group of about 50 guests at my yard next month, for a wedding.

I would like to make grilled cheese sandwiches ahead of time and heat them up before the guests arrive. I am also planning to prepare tomato soup.

Can you give me some hints so that the food tastes fresh when it’s time to eat? -Ernie

Answer: What I like to do is butter both sides of the outside of the sandwich not the inside where the cheese is, that way you don’t need to add any additional grease to the pan when you are frying them.

Hours before guests arrive, fry sandwiches on each side so that they are brown. Put sandwiches on large baking sheets and cover with plastic wrap so that they don’t dry out. Store in fridge.

Shortly before lunch, remove plastic and pop baking sheets into the oven for a few minutes to heat sandwiches.

Make tomato soup ahead of time and pour into a slow cooker to keep warm. Cover with lid and stir occasionally, so that no skin forms on the top of the soup.


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 at: Reena Nerbas is a popular motivational presenter for large and small groups; check out her website:


Reena Nerbas  
July 4

Renovation & Design

Surface spalling on concrete surfaces can be repaired

Question: We built a house and took possession of it in December 2018. Is it normal to get bad spalling on the concrete driveway this early? We have only lived here for 18 months. We talked to the builder and they said there is no warranty, but our driveway looks so awful and they’re telling me that I park there all winter and the salt from the vehicles is the cause, but we never park in our driveway and never put salt on it either.

What should we do? Can we go to small claims court for this?

Thank you, Milyo

Answer: Surface spalling on concrete surfaces outdoors can happen at any point in the life of the slab, but within the first few years it is likely due to a defect at time of installation. It can be hard to prove and only minor repairs can often be made, which may not last. Home warranties typically only cover this in the first year, so a trip to small claims court may be your only recourse, but may still not yield a satisfactory outcome.

Spalling is the term used to describe the phenomenon where the surface of poured concrete peels or flakes off. Often the structural integrity is not compromised, but the cosmetic appearance may be ruined and it will allow more moisture to penetrate, which will cause more serious deterioration. There are several possible causes, which range from too much or too little moisture in the mix, poor installation techniques or weather-related issues.

If the concrete was poured on a very hot day the concrete may begin setting too quickly and excessive moisture may rise to the surface. If this is not trowelled properly it can leave the surface susceptible to early spalling. If the concrete is poured when the weather drops below freezing during the curing process the same thing can occur. Also, too much water in the mix, poor workmanship or bad timing on the finishing can also allow the surface to become fragile and easily to flake off.

New home warranties often will help you force the builder into repairing defects or omissions in your home, but are limited to the first year after possession for all but major structural defects. However, there may be limitations with items like driveways, sidewalks, garage slabs, patios or other poured concrete in relation to minor cracks, heaving, and even spalling. Regardless, the time to make a complaint or claim against the builder for this issue likely has passed. Unless you pointed this out and made a formal request for repairs, prior to the one-year date, you may be out of luck.

The focus should now be diverted to what can be done to fix the problem, or at least prevent it from becoming worse. If the spalling is isolated to a few areas, which is quite common, minor repairs may be within your skill level to address. If that is the case, any loose material should be removed by sweeping, vacuuming, or blowing with compressed air. Once the area is clean, coating it with a glue solution may help with adhesion of patching materials. This can be bought pre-mixed, or done by watering down white carpenter’s glue, which may be just as effective. This solution should be painted on to the damaged concrete and allowed to dry. More than one coat may be required if the initial application disappears immediately. Once dry, the surface may be slightly sticky or tacky, which should be the time to apply the patching compound. Various concrete patching compounds can be purchased, which range from dry powders that you mix with clean water, to ready to spread products that you simply apply directly with a trowel.

While your job may not be the most aesthetically pleasing solution, the new patching compound should withstand a few years of harsh weather. This will be very important because the compromised surface of the concrete will easily allow moisture to penetrate, which can cause much more serious deterioration.

Do you try to get compensation from the builder or sub-trade that did this crappy job in the first place? That is totally up to you, and will depend on how much effort you want to put into it and how much tolerance you have for aggravation. There is absolutely no guarantee you will be compensated, even if you can prove that the concrete is defective and that it is due to the workmanship of the contractor. It will be up to the judge or magistrate at the small claims court to decide this. It is within your rights to go this route, but may not be worth the legal fees to hire a lawyer.

Ari Marantz is the owner of Trained Eye Home Inspection Ltd. and the past president of the Canadian Association of Home & Property Inspectors — Manitoba ( Questions can be emailed to the address below. Ari can be reached at 204-291-5358 or check out his website at

Ari Marantz
July 4

Renovation & Design

Preserve leaves with wax paper and an iron

Question: What is an easy way to preserve leaves so that they last for many years? Jainy

Answer: Place foliage between two pieces of waxed paper (waxy side against the leaves and cover the ironing board cover with a towel). Press the wax paper with a medium-hot iron, coating the leaves with the wax. Peel off the wax paper. Replace the wax paper for each pressing.


Question: I received a pot of flowers from someone a few weeks ago — what is the purpose of deadheading flowers? Is it done as a way to help the plant live longer? Linda

Answer: Deadheading is done to enhance the appearance of the potted flowers by grooming the plant to keep it looking fresh. Removing dead buds also directs the plant's energy towards healthy blooms. The simplest way to deadhead is to pinch the flower head between your fingers, and gently pull.


Question: I was wondering if you have any ideas for removing white powder from concrete foundations, I believe it is called efflorescence. Desmond

Answer: You may want to have an expert take a look at the area. However, it does sound like the white that is forming on the floor is alkaline or efflorescence. To remove simply wash with a muriatic acid mixture of 60 per cent water and 40 per cent muriatic acid. Always wear protective clothing and eye protection when you are working with acid and use it according to the directions on the bottle because it is dangerous when not used properly. After washing rinse well and allow to dry. Seal concrete. You should NOT be experiencing efflorescence on newly poured concrete. Sometimes salt additives to concrete mixes for cold weather pouring can produce what looks like efflorescence, but it is actually a breaking down of the concrete mix itself.


Question: What is the difference between red, yellow and white onions? How should I choose the proper onion for cooking? Saticha

Answer: Yellow onions are inexpensive and the most versatile of the onions. Store them in a cool, dark place. They are slightly sweet and not overpowering. I store mine in the fridge, but they can also be stored in a cool, dark, dry place such as the basement. White onions are stronger and tend to fall apart when cooked. They are a great choice if you love onions and are hoping for a stronger flavor. Red onions are the most popular choice for chopping and adding to burgers, potato or Greek salad, really any dish where you don’t want cooked onions. A little goes a long way.


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 at: Reena Nerbas is a popular motivational presenter for large and small groups; check out her website:



Reena Nerbas 
June 27

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