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Filler a short-term solution to wood flooring gaps

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Hi Reena,
I love your column, lots of helpful information there. Our house was built around 1937 or so and there are some lovely wooden floors in a few rooms and a hallway. The roomy oak parquet floor in the hallway has five doorways leading from it. Over the years slim spaces have appeared between the boards and I try my best to keep it clean but inevitably things drop in there. Is there a way that I could seal these spaces so that things don’t fall in there?
Also, there is a lovely old iron grate in the middle of the hallway and I would like to scrub it down. Do you have an easy way to do this?  I’ve tried the toothbrush and soap method, but that is very time consuming. Many thanks, Anne-Marie

Dear Anne-Marie,
Your easiest solution short-term solution is to fill the gaps with wood filler. Use a putty knife to force the filler into each gap. Let dry and sand the area so that it is level with the floor. The reason why this is called a short-term solution is because as the boards continue to shift, the filler may crack over time. A longer, more permanent solution is to glue narrow strips of wood inside gaps. Pound the strips with a mallet to hold them in place. If the spaces are very narrow, another option is to use colour match silicone to fill in the gaps, which prevents dust and debris from falling into spaces. Smooth the silicone with your finger so that it is flush with the floor.
If the iron grate is removable you will save yourself a lot of time by laying it on your driveway. Pour dish soap onto the grate and spray with a pressure washer or garden hose. After the grate is dry, wipe it with a very thin coat of olive oil to prevent rust. If the grate is not removable, vacuum with the dust attachment on your vacuum. Next, scrub with an abrasive sponge (or an old sock on your hand) and dish soap and water. Rinse and coat with olive oil.

Dear Reena,
I read on your blog about a Royal Icing recipe for cookies. Why should I use Royal Icing instead of Buttercream Icing for decorating my homemade sugar cookies? Betty

Dear Betty,
Both icings serve a purpose. Buttercream tastes delicious because it is made with the ever popular ingredient, butter. Royal Icing is long lasting and easy to store. You can add flavoring such as peppermint, lemon, vanilla or almond to both Royal and Buttercream Icing. Royal Icing quickly hardens, making cookies easy to stack and carry to Christmas parties. As well, cookies iced with Royal Icing can be frozen without separating and keep for at least two weeks so you can make them ahead of time. Buttercream cookies are also freezable but a little trickier to stack because of the icing being softer. One of my favorite attributes of Royal Icing is that it can be thinned out with a little water; the icing will flow onto your cookies, giving them a smooth, professionally decorated appearance. Note: Create a boarder on cookies with regular consistency Royal Icing before adding water for the filling icing.
Hi Reena,
I look forward to your column in our paper each week. I am seeking a solution to my question: I live in a condo and at Christmas time I bake tons of tourtière pies. They are in big demand with my colleagues. However, the onion and garlic smell remains in my home for days. The smells linger in my clothing, coats, hair! It’s disgusting as it clashes terribly with my perfume! I do have windows but it is winter time. As well, my Lamp Berger works wonderfully to eliminate the odours however; I am looking for a cheaper option. Please help and thanks so much, Mary

Dear Mary,
It is normal for cooking odours to attach to clothing, hair and the immediate atmosphere. Your first step is to run the hood fan while cooking with garlic and onions and open a window whenever possible. To prevent hair from smelling, you can either wear a shower cap or cotton hairnet while cooking and wash your hair before going out for the day. As with hair, clothes often carry a distinct smell after working with powerful ingredients and the easiest solution for this (short of wearing coveralls) is to change your clothing before heading out to visit with friends.
Whenever I cook a food with a strong odour such as curry, I like to overtake that odour with another that freshens the kitchen. My favorite solution is to make your own air freshener using vinegar or water and 15 drops of your favorite essential oils such as the delightful combination of; cinnamon, orange or grapefruit and peppermint. Simmer the water/oils on the stove for 15 minutes following cooking. Other than that you can light fragrant candles such as soy blueberry or cinnamon. Always put soy candles in a container as they will spread out when they melt. Or light a few of my absolute favorite; a collection of beeswax candles. However since you already own a Lamp Berger, you can delight in the wonderful appliance for killing odours such as cigarette, cooking, pet odours and paint fumes.

I enjoy your questions and tips, keep them coming! Missed a column? Can’t remember a solution? Need a speaker for an upcoming event? Interested in grocery coupons? Check out my brand new blog and website at You can contact me by email at

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