Renovation & Design

Renovation & Design

Gardening in the Heart

Colleen Zacharias
February 19

Renovation & Design

Keep that honey out of the microwave

Question: I usually store my honey (not my wife), in a plastic bottle, and now the remaining honey is sticking to the bottle. What shall I do so that I can still use the leftover honey? Thank you, Ian

Answer: If you wish to liquify your honey (not your wife), put the container in a pot of warm water until it softens enough to pour. Never microwave hardened honey, doing so kills the natural benefits of honey.

Question: What is the best way to store popcorn so that it lasts for several months? Janet

Answer: Popcorn kernels may be stored in the freezer. The secret to long lasting popcorn storage, is to pour kernels into a sealable bag or container before freezing. Freezing popcorn often results in less percentage of popcorn kernels popping.

Question: I have limited space in my home. I store pillows and blankets under my bed, in case company ever drops by, but the blankets take up a lot of room. Can you recommend a way to store them so that they don’t take up so much room in my house? Amber

Answer: In order to reduce the amount of space that pillows and blankets take up, put them inside a garbage bag. Put the nozzle of your vacuum inside the bag. Wrap the opening of the bag around the nozzle to trap air inside, hold onto the bag around the nozzle. Turn on the vacuum. The vacuum will suck out all air and compress the pillows and blankets, greatly. Close the opening of the bag with an elastic so that no air escapes. Whenever you need to use the pillows or blankets, open the bag and they will immediately fluff up once again.

Question: Why do people deep fry turkeys instead of baking them? I was given a deep fryer specifically for this purpose, but I haven’t used it. Is it worth the effort? Nana

Answer: I have a friend that heads down to the U.S. every November for American Thanksgiving just because her dad deep fry’s turkey, instead of baking it. She says it is the best way to prepare turkey and nothing beats the flavour. Deep frying turkey is a Cajun tradition that produces juicy meat and crispy skin; many people agree it is out of this world.

Hints for around the house

You can freeze egg yolk. Put the egg yolk in an ice tray and cover with water. That way the egg yolk won’t dry up. — Marie

I worked in a jewelry store for many years and people would often bring tangled necklaces to me to untangle. I discovered that sprinkling the necklaces with cornstarch made them easy to untangle. — Jeremy

For fluffier and great-tasting rice, add a teaspoon of white distilled vinegar to the boiling water before adding rice. Rice will be easier to spoon and less sticky. — Jeremy

Salt and lemon juice made into a paste and rubbed on fabrics is a simple way to zap many stains. — Larina

Prevent bread from molding: Place a clean dry paper towel under the bread in its original bag when storing it. — Larina

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

Reena Nerbas
February 19


Renovation & Design

Cracks in walls and ceilings may be structural movement

Question: We have had recurring cracks in our plaster ceiling. Is there a way to prevent this from repeating after patching repairs have been done? Will control joints help?

Lawrence Marmel

Answer: Repairs to cracks in old plaster ceilings may last for several years, but only if they are not caused by ongoing structural movement or loose plaster components. If movement is the root cause, then adjusting the supports under the floor structure will be required to ensure a more permanent repair

This question may be very timely, as I have recently received a record number of inquiries about cracked ceilings and walls for this time of year. Normally, those type of e-mails and calls occur near the end of summer and into the fall, after hot weather has dried out the soil. Last summer may have been one of the driest on record, but a couple of large rainfalls before the cool weather arrived managed to somewhat stabilize a very volatile situation. Based on the ongoing requests, it was only a temporary reprieve.

Cracks in older plaster walls and ceilings are extremely common and often are due to the age of the material and normal deterioration of its components. This material was applied in several layers, of differing composition, with varying techniques. Homes built before 1950 normally have the initial layer of supporting material composed of thin, narrow slats of rough-sawn wood, know as lathe. These small planks were nailed to the wall studs and ceiling joists with narrow gaps in between, with small, smooth nails. Over time, the nails may loosen or rust, the lathe begin to rot, or the mortar layer in between loose its integrity. Once any or all of these occur, the finish layer of plaster will certainly crack or become loose. Once this has progressed to a certain degree, no amount of patching will last very long.

In homes built in the following two decades, the wooden lath layer was usually replaced with a form of drywall. These were typically 12-inch-wide sheets, nailed side by side, perpendicular to the studs and ceiling joists. Once in place, the entire surface was covered with the next two layers, similar to the wooden predecessor. Because of this updated method, homes of that age will rarely have spiderweb surface cracks, or uneven damage due to deteriorated lath. But, they are prone to long, straight cracks, which follow the joints in between the individual drywall underlay sheets. Especially with ceiling cracks, if these long drywall sheets become loose, often from excessive attic moisture or the weight of damp insulation, cracks will form. The good news is that these types of cracks are more easily repaired, but may require re-securing the entire underlying drywall layer with screws. Alternatively, just like with older plaster, a well secured new layer of drywall over top will provide a superior, more permanent, end product.

No matter what the age of your home, or the method used to install the plaster on the walls and ceilings, if the cracks are occurring due to structural movement, then that must be addressed before any repairs are undertaken. Because of the recent drought-like conditions in our area, the expansive clay soil has significantly shrunk in many locations. While a lack of precipitation will usually affect only the top metre or so of earth below grade, the prolonged dry weather has caused shrinkage to soil below some house footings. This can cause home foundations to settle, or sink, often unevenly from one side to the other. Once this happens, it will usually cause bumps in floors, rubbing interior doors on jambs, and of course, cracks in walls and ceilings.

While it may not be possible to replenish the soil moisture to fully stop this settlement, without Mother Nature’s cooperation, other remediation may help. The most successful first step is usually to adjust the teleposts beneath the main beams, which may not have settled along with the foundation. If you still have wooden posts, these should be replaced with adjustable metal ones, to allow for remediation. Also, many older homes had basement partition walls built with little or no space between them and the main floor joists. These can also cause wall and ceiling movement, due to uneven pressure on the floor components, if the foundation settles. Cutting these walls down, and installation of gaps or slip-joints at the top or bottom, may be necessary before tele-posts can be touched.

Adjustable steel columns below beams, or tele-posts, should be lowered very slowly to allow the structural components they support to ease back toward their original positions. If this is done too quickly, it will only cause cracks and loose plaster in additional areas to the ones already present. The goal of adjustments is only to straighten the warped beams they are supporting, reduce the stress on the wooden structural members, and return these to a point where further movement is minimized. It is not possible to get these back to original positions, or to level the floors, but it should be feasible to lessen the problems in the worst locations. This should reduce the stress and strain on the wall and ceiling components, allowing longer lasting repairs to cracked plaster surfaces, without installation of any control joints.

Patching and sanding wall and ceiling cracks may provide a temporary fix, but will not last if structural movement is behind the formation of these cosmetic defects. Professional, careful adjustment of tele-posts, and trimming any improperly built basement walls, will be required to prevent a quick return of the cracks after repairs.

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
February 19

Renovation & Design

These shrubs are Bloomin' Easy

By Colleen Zacharias
February 12

Renovation & Design


Marc LaBossiere
February 12

Renovation & Design

Homemade TV dinners heartfelt and wholesome

Question: My daughter recently moved into an apartment, while she goes to school. Is it possible to prepare homemade TV dinners for her to keep in her freezer and microwave when she has time? If so, what kinds of foods should I use? Alex

Answer: There are so many options to satisfy your kind gesture. By making your own frozen dinners you have the opportunity to reduce salt, control ingredients such as choice of oils and save money. Begin by purchasing plastic freezer and microwave-safe dishes with compartments. Foods that freeze well are leftover meat with or without gravy, mashed potatoes, cooked rice and pastas, casseroles, sauces, vegetables and baking for dessert. Make sure to clearly label each dish by title and date. After food has been packaged into plastic containers, wrap with foil to prevent freezer burn. Extra tips: Veggies should be slightly undercooked before adding them to meals. Experiment with foods by freezing small portions to see how well they taste once thawed and heated. Foods to avoid lettuce, watermelon, pineapple, cucumber, raw tomatoes, pudding, custards, cream cheese, gelatin, and egg yolks.

Question: I recently moved into an old apartment, and the place is filthy. What is the best way to clean a grimy shower head? Dayna

Answer: Step 1: Scrub the holes with a wet kitchen scrubber. Step 2: Pour a solution of 1/2 cup (125 mL) white vinegar and 1/2 cup (125 mL) water into a plastic bag. Step 3: Place the plastic bag around the shower head, so that the holes are immersed in the solution. Step 4: Secure the plastic bag with an elastic band and leave for about one hour. Step 5: Remove the bag and wipe the excess debris. Step 6: Run the shower as normal.

Feedback from Friendly Manitobans

Re: Painting appliances

I once heard that you could renew appliance appearance by having them repainted at an auto body shop. — Tamara

Re: Crazy glue on fingers

I just read your response to the person who asked how to get crazy glue off fingers. Those techniques may work but there is a faster, better way if you have it on hand. The easiest and best trick is to promptly immerse your fingers in a glass utensil (such as a custard cup placed in a sink) that contains nail polish remover. Works quickly and painlessly. — Arlene

Re: Cleaning leather footwear

Before I go out, I always check to make sure that my leather shoes or boots are clean. If they are not clean, I buff them with WD-40 and a soft cloth. Doing this makes them shiny, and best of all, waterproof. — Frankie

Easy strawberry dessert pizza

In a bowl combine 1-cup white flour and half cup icing sugar. Stir in half cup melted butter. Press into 12 inch pizza pan. Bake at 350 for 15 mins. Cool. Beat together 1-8 ounce pkg. softened cream cheese, and half cup white sugar (oh my mouth is watering already). Spread over cooled cookie crust. Arrange 3 cups sliced strawberries on top of cream cheese layer. Glaze: In a pot stir together half cup sugar, 1 tbsp. cornstarch and half cup water. Stir and heat on medium until thick. Cool slightly and spoon over pizza. Chill for two hours, cut into wedges and serve.

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.

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
February 12

Renovation & Design

Roof snow removal typically dependent on its condition

Question: I own a small apartment building with six suites. We have had a lot of snow this year. Should I get the flat roof on my building shoveled? A roofing company advised that I should.

Please let me know what you think.

Thanks, Bill Keith

Answer: Shovelling a thick, heavy layer of snow from a roof is never a bad idea, but may only be necessary if it poses a danger of leakage or damage. Determining that will help you decide whether it is worth spending the money and effort.

We have indeed had above average frequency and amounts of snow this year, which is more than welcome after the recent extremely dry weather. While this abundance will help replenish the moisture in the soil, rivers, and lakes when it melts, it can be a hazard on some rooftops. Because your multi-family building has a flat slope roof, it may be much more prone to leakage than a typical pitched roof. This will largely depend on the type and condition of roofing materials, and the type of drainage.

Many older apartment buildings were constructed with what appear to be flat roofs, but they are not really flat. They should be slightly raised in some areas, with minimal slopes downward to others. The idea is that the high points in the roof will more easily drain to the lower ones, where there should be some form of drainage. In older buildings the roofing is typically constructed of multiple layers, with a granular cover, commonly known as tar and gravel. The individual layers are made up of bitumen impregnated paper which are held together, and to the roof sheathing, with melted tar or bitumen. The hot tar is mopped on to the individual layers, before the next layer of "felt" is applied. The final coat of heated liquid bitumen is then covered with a thin layer of small stones, to protect the surface from mechanical damage and UV light from the sun. While this older method is very labour-intensive, and costly, it is also very durable.

One of the main problems with an older tar and gravel roof, as described above, is that it may not wear evenly over its lifetime. One that is properly sloped from the middle to the perimeter to allow water to flow to outside drains, or scuppers, may not stay that way. Over time, the roofing can wear or shift, leaving lower areas near the middle of the roof. This can lead to excess water remaining in these low spots, for several days after heavy rains or melted snow. That type of lengthy ponding is much more likely to lead to a roof leak. If this water can’t easily make its way to the scuppers, or internal drains if present, there is much more chance it will sneak into a small hole or gap in the multiple layer roofing. So, if your roof is older and deteriorated, with frequent ponding, getting rid of excessive snow before it melts is warranted.

Also, any penetrations of the roof from plumbing or heating vents, wires, or other mechanical items, should have proper flashing and be well sealed. In a typical year, many of these flashings may be high enough to prevent leakage from several centimeters of accumulated snow. But in a winter like this, where layer upon layer of snow has built up, they may not be high enough to prevent leakage near the top of the fixtures. Especially with skylights, attic vents, roof access hatches, or other rooftop mountings, this may be a strong possibility. A visual inspection of the roof, by a properly trained and insured roofer, should help you determine whether this may occur.

If your roofing is newer and is single-ply modified bitumen, or equivalent modern materials designed for flat roofs, then leakage is less likely. Unfortunately, the condition of the roofing may only be determined in warmer seasons, when it is not covered with snow and ice. Removal of the bulk of the snow may help determine this, but only in warmer weather closer to spring. It may be prudent to have the snow shovelled just as it is beginning to melt, to address this concern.

The other reason to manually remove this season’s above-average amount of snow from the building’s roof is to minimize potential damage from the weight. As the weather warms, the moisture content of the snow will increase and so will the density. Light, fluffy, wind-blown accumulations at -20 C may turn into extremely heavy drifts with above freezing temps. This should mainly be a concern for older structures, or ones that have previously had structural issues or modifications in the past. Most buildings of this type were designed to support even the heaviest snow loads, but things do deteriorate or change over time. Especially if you have had upgrades to structural components or roof sheathing in the past, due to moisture damage, then eliminating a potential problem by removing the snow may be well worth it.

The requirement for excess snow removal from a flat-slope roof will largely depend on the condition of the roof coverings, drainage, and structural integrity. Just like maintenance on other portions of the building, if these have been kept in good condition, there may be no need for this task. On the other hand, if any of these are older or have been neglected, hiring a safety-conscious roofer to remove the heavy snow may be a wise investment.

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
February 12

Renovation & Design

Wash throws in cold water and dry on low heat

Question: I received a beautiful, fluffy throw blanket for Christmas last year. How should I wash it so that it doesn’t lose its softness? Cheri

Answer: Wash your throws by themselves so that the fuzz from the blanket does not jump onto your clothing. Use cold water and dry on the lowest heat setting, or air fluff to dry. Use a small amount of detergent. Some people like to add fabric softener to the load, but I prefer to wash without softener.

Question: Does baking powder or baking soda make food crispy? Corbett

Answer: Baking powder is a leavening agent which is made by combining baking soda, cream of tartar and cornstarch. Baking powder creates little bubbles when combined with oil and dries the skin, leaving it crispy and crunchy. Baking soda can also be used to make foods crispy. For best results, activate baking soda by combining it with a food acid such as vinegar or lemon juice.

Question: What is your trick to get crazy glue off fingers? Henry

Answer: When this happens soak (and I mean soak your fingers for at least 15 minutes) in either cola or the hottest water you can stand or acetone. Gently pry the glue off your fingers and wash.

Question: Is it appropriate to tip a handyman and if so, how much is acceptable? Mary

Answer: Whether accessing the services of a handy person, hair stylist, restaurant, spa, delivery driver, coat checker, hotel or health and lifestyle service, begin by asking yourself how you would rate the service. In other words, decide if you were happy with the service. Also, remind yourself that many service providers rely on tip money to support themselves. The standard tip rate in Manitoba is between 15 and 20 per cent. Be aware, some establishments automatically add the tip to the bill.

Question: We own a white refrigerator. It has the “rough” coating on the front with some black marks that have been embedded into the material. Cleaning doesn’t seem to do the trick, so I think I must paint it. The hardware store wasn’t very helpful and told me that nothing can be done. Do you know of any paint or finish that I could apply to it to make it look like new? David

Answer: I painted appliances once and they looked great for the first few months but after a while they looked worse than before. However, that was a long time ago and so if you are intending to paint, check with a reputable paint specialist for the best paint option. I am also wondering if you have tried erasing the black marks with a rubber eraser or Mr. Clean Magic Eraser or a paste of baking soda and water or Bar Keepers Friend, or WD-40 or Goo Gone (worth a try). Whatever you choose, please test on an inconspicuous area first.

Light-bulb moments

A while ago you had an article about how to remove tea stains off your teacups (works for coffee too) use the Mr. Magic Eraser. Works great and easy too. — Sheila

My hands were so dry this winter and I couldn’t figure out why. I then switched from washing my hands with dish soap to actual liquid hand soap. Now my hands are back to normal. — Jordan

I clip plastic bread tags to electrical cords to identify which cord is plugged into each outlet. I use a marker to write on the bread tag i.e., printer, computer, mouse etc. — Sangeet

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
February 5

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