Around the house 10/6/04

Wednesday, October 6, 2004

In the garden: Bulb-planting basics

Spring-flowering bulbs need a certain number of hours of cold temperatures in order to bloom. The soil temperature should be below 60 degrees before you plant them, which usually means planting in October and early November. If you miss the ideal planting time, you can plant as long as the ground isn't frozen. To produce picture-book flowers, bulbs must be grown in a loose, rich soil that drains well. Loosen heavy or compacted soil with a pitchfork and add plenty of compost or shredded leaves.


In the kitchen: Baked apple slices

You'll need 4 McIntosh apples; 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice; 1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar; 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into bits; 2 tablespoons light rum; 4 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks and mint leaves, for garnish. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Peel and core the apples, leaving them whole. Slice the apples horizontally into even quarter-inch-thick slices, reassemble the slices to form whole apple shapes, and brush them with lemon juice. Put the apples in a pie plate, fill the cavities with some of the brown sugar, butter and rum, and sprinkle the apples with what's leftover. Bake the apples in the middle of the oven, basting frequently, for 25 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees, insert the cinnamon sticks in the cavities of the apples, and bake for 20 minutes more, or until they are tender and browned well and the juices are thick and syrupy. Makes four servings.

Around the house: Moonlight renovations

Home remodeling is up 5 percent this year, with work orders totaling more than $224 billion. All is due to rapidly escalating home values, which gives homeowners a fat line of credit for home equity loans, which are being exercised for home improvements, that are now more worth it because their homes are worth more. It's a big circle that comes back to hiring contractors who are in great demand today (with not enough to go around).

The result? Many contractors start well before dawn, and work late into the night. Off-hours work could violate local laws for noise and the like, so if your contractor suggests "moonlighting" (or "sun-rising"), check with the "powers that be" first (and neighbors, too).

-- From wire reports

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