We’re sure you have better things to do than try to find the end of a roll of packing tape that you need to use. Who doesn’t? There’s one really simple thing you can do before setting it down after using it to prevent all this drama. Just fold about a 1/4 inch of the end of the tape over onto itself. This gives you a super handle on the end of the tape that is easy to find and will start the roll off right every time. Try it with all of your tapes that aren’t in a dispenser. It’s so simple to do, and works great!


Q: Our dining room table has seen a lot of use through the years. I would like to clean it up really well and cover the scratches so we can use it for Thanksgiving. Can you please give me some tips? – B.P.

A: Mineral spirits paint thinner will get the surface clean of grease and dust. Gel toothpaste can take care of water rings, and furniture oil will fill most scratches. Just wipe off any excess before using it. Try the touch-up furniture pens available at the hardware store to fill small marks.

Tips from readers

Dear Carrells: I finally put lights in our yard last spring. I hadn’t really noticed them until lately because it’s getting dark so much earlier. I found that several of them already are burned out. I bought replacements, but couldn’t remember which ones were burned out. The timer only comes on after dark, so I got a piece of black tape and put it over the sensor to make the lights come on - at least, the ones that were working. I replaced the bad bulbs, and now they are all working. This was a great thing we did, and it was inexpensive. It also was sort of fun to do. – T.J.


Dear Al: We made a giant checkerboard in our yard. We had seen one while on vacation, and wanted to try making one ourselves. We smoothed it out, used stepping stones for every other space and filled the rest in with black lava rock. We made the board pieces out of rocks, painted red and black. We plan to buy some giant chess pieces, but have had difficulty finding them. It’s quite a conversation piece. – E.R.


Dear Kelly: We are turning our boring basement family room into a home theater. I sew, and got a great deal on a whole roll of dark, heavy drapery fabric and “papered” the walls with it. I put some plain batting behind it for extra padding. It really helps dampen the sound from the new speaker system. We’re going to have movie night every Sunday from now on! – H.S.


Dear Carrells: I live in a small apartment in a very old building. The neighborhood is a lot of fun, with restaurants and shops right on the street. I still have the old-style radiators, but they work, so I don’t complain. I did, however, add a piece of scrap tin behind the radiator over the wall. It seems to reflect more of the heat back into the room, which I am thankful for. The windows are old, too, so they let in a lot of cold air. The metal works so well that I’m also going to add it to the rest of the radiators. It’s worth it! – D.J.B.


A good, small level is a must-have for every homeowner. We like the new GLL 1P Line and Point Laser Level from Bosch. It makes leveling and aligning so much easier, and the laser is a super bonus that takes the guesswork out and saves you even more time. You can mount it to the wall or use a compact tripod, and it turns off and on with just one button. This small bubble level has an amazing 16-foot range, too.

Check it out at home centers and hardware stores, and get more details at