Dear Martha: I'd like to buy a food processor to make piecrust. Which size should I buy?
A: A medium-size food processor with a 7-cup capacity should be sufficient for most home-cooking needs. The trick to making great piecrust is to work in small batches, using no more than 2 1/2 cups of flour per recipe, so a larger processor won't really help you. Also, be sure to use icy-cold ingredients; I even chill the flour.
Remember: Make it cold; bake it hot.
Dear Martha: How can I rejuvenate the wooden blinds on my windows?
A: The best way to clean and freshen your wooden blinds is to remove them from the windows and clean the slats individually. Lay them on a large table or other work space. Then, using a soft cloth, wipe them down with a mild mixture of a suitable cleaner (such as Murphy Oil Soap) and water, being careful not to stain the cords.
Once the slats are dry, you can treat them with a wood sealer or a spray wax, again using a soft cloth or rag, not a brush, to apply the finishing product.
Dear Martha: How can I protect doors and other wood from pet scratches?
A: For starters, it's a good idea to have your pets' nails trimmed regularly. Beyond this, techniques differ, depending on whether the culprit is a dog or a cat.
Dogs often scratch doors to let you know they want to go outside or into another room. If the behavior gets results, they'll continue to repeat it. But they can be trained not to scratch.
First, cover the area your dog is accustomed to scratching with a Plexiglas sheet cut as wide as the door and as tall as the space from the floor to just below the doorknob. Drill a small hole in each corner, and screw the plastic to the door. Then provide an alternate, nondestructive way for your dog to signal you - a jingle bell strung on a ribbon and hung from the doorknob, for example.
Show him how to nudge the bell, and then open the door quickly when he rings it; do not respond when he scratches. After the new behavior has set in, remove the Plexiglas sheet and fill in the holes from the screws.
It tends to be more difficult to deter cats from scratching. They could be marking their territory, trying to shed the outer coating of their nails, or simply stretching. You can't prevent the scratching, but you can provide a better outlet than your couch or the legs of your dining table by buying a scratching post.
To help redirect your cat, make the spot that he's been scratching distasteful to him: Spray it with a pet repellent (sold at pet shops), or cover it with a texture he'll find unappealing, such as double-sided tape or aluminum foil. Place the new post nearby. As the cat begins to use it, gradually move it farther away from its original location. Eventually you will be able to remove the tape or foil entirely and stop spraying.
Dear Martha: Is there anything I can do to minimize wrinkles when I launder bedsheets? I'd prefer not to iron them.
A: If you take some simple preventive measures when you wash sheets, you can avoid the problem almost entirely. Launder them alone or with fabrics of similar weight to prevent bunching, and don't overload the washer or dryer. Dry sheets on low heat, and remove them while they're still slightly damp; overdrying or leaving them in the dryer after the cycle has finished lets wrinkles set in. If sheets sit in the dryer too long, toss in a slightly damp washcloth, and let them tumble for 10 minutes.
Fold sheets as soon as you remove them from the dryer, smoothing the fabric as you go. For step-by-step folding instructions that help minimize wrinkles, go to www.marthastewart.com/ article/how-to-fold-a-fitted-sheet.
If you feel that ironing is still necessary, try this timesaving trick: Iron only the pillowcases and the top third of the flat sheet, which is the part that is visible when the blanket is folded back. *