Q: I'm dying to find out how to make flavored oil for dipping bread. A restaurant near where I live infuses its house oil with orange — such a wonderful hint of flavor!
A: Start with a mild olive oil to let the flavors of your additions shine, or a stronger olive oil for a more complex play of flavors.
Use a vegetable peeler to strip the zest off two large oranges, avoiding the bitter pith. If necessary, scrape residual pith from the zest using a sharp knife. Cut into strips, and put zest in a saucepan with 1 cup oil. If you like, throw in a few whole black peppercorns and a sprig of fresh thyme or rosemary.
To infuse the oil, warm the mixture over low heat for 10 minutes; be careful not to let it boil. Let the oil stand at room temperature for two hours. Then strain the mixture through a fine sieve, and enjoy. Or refrigerate until you're ready to use it (it will keep for two weeks).
The oil will solidify partially, so leave it out for about 45 minutes before serving it. Then place it in a shallow bowl, and garnish with fresh citrus peel.
Organizing a yard sale
Q: I'm planning a yard sale. Do you have any suggestions for how to put things on display?
A: The key to attracting interest and sales is organization.
One option is sorting your wares by price. You can have a table of $1 goods or a blanket of things marked “2 for $5."
Or color-code the prices: Use brightly hued dot stickers, assign a price to each shade and stick accordingly. Then map out the price chart on a large poster board so people can tell immediately by looking.
If you have a lot to sell, consider grouping items by type. For example, put books and magazines in one place and electric appliances in another. This storelike layout will help people survey the selection and zero in on what they're looking for.
If you have a wide range of similar objects such as mugs or clothing, you can make the spread more visually appealing by arranging them by color and size or, for clothing, by gender.
On sale day, bring in foot traffic by posting bright signs leading the way to your house and arranging attractive items so they can be seen from the street. Also, remember to keep reorganizing the display and tidying up throughout the day as people rummage through goods.
Sending ladybugs on their way
Q: Why do ladybugs infest my home in the fall? Is there a way to remove them without harming them?
A: Ladybugs head indoors in fall to hibernate for winter. And while they're beneficial when it comes to controlling pests in the garden, finding them in your home can be a nuisance.
They sometimes emit a yellowish discharge that stains, and they leave a scent that can keep them coming back year after year, so it's worth taking care of an infestation. But you can do it without harming the bugs.
First, examine the outside of your home and use caulk to seal any cracks — under shingles and around windows and molding, especially near areas where you have seen ladybugs emerge on the inside. Then, over the next few days, when you see ladybugs in the house, simply use a wet-dry vacuum to remove them. Open the vacuum bag outdoors to release the bugs without harming them. (Sealing the house is essential; otherwise the freed bugs will get back inside.)