Keeping cheese fresher longer

Martha Stewart /


Q: Is there a simple trick to preventing cheese from quickly becoming moldy?

A: Always wrap a soft cheese in parchment or waxed paper; rewrap it with a new piece after each use to prolong freshness. These breathable materials prevent mold-causing moisture from collecting on the surface without drying it out. Only after it's wrapped should you put the cheese in a plastic bag or plastic wrap. Hard cheeses, such as Parmesan, can be stored directly in plastic wrap. Because of their low moisture content, hard cheeses aren't at risk of drying out. Soft cheeses, such as Munster, require more humidity: Put the parchment-and-plastic-bag-wrapped cheese in an airtight container inside the refrigerator, which will create a moist microenvironment and protect your fridge from pungent odors.

Store cheese in the vegetable crisper, which is warmer than the rest of your fridge but still cool and dry enough. The flavor of cheese constantly evolves as it ages, even after you bring it home. Very cold temperatures will stall its flavor development, while too much heat or humidity will encourage bacterial growth, leading to mold.

A hard aged cheese, such as Parmesan, will remain edible for three months if stored properly, as opposed to softer cheeses, which are usually younger and have a higher moisture content, and should be eaten within a week. If you keep hard cheese any longer than three months, it may become dry and flavorless.

If you find mold on hard cheese, it isn't necessary to toss it out. You only need to cut off the moldy piece — the rest of the cheese is still perfectly good to eat. However, when soft cheese gets moldy, you should throw it away.

Removing wallpaper

Q: What is the best way to remove a wallpaper border from drywall?

A: First, cover the floor with a drop cloth. Add hot water to wallpaper remover (which you can find at Home Depot or similar stores) as directed. Pierce the wallpaper with a perforation tool to create holes that will allow the remover solution to get behind the paper and soften the adhesive. Then apply the solution to the wall with a paint roller or sponge. Let it soak in (timing will depend on the manufacturer's instructions). Once the paper has loosened, peel it using a wide wallboard knife. After the paper is removed, rinse the wall with clean water and let it dry thoroughly.

Cleaning costume jewelry

Q: Where can I take costume jewelry for a cleaning? Should I clean it myself?

A: Before attempting to clean the jewelry yourself, determine what each piece is made from. Costume pieces are crafted from a wide range of materials, including plated brass and steel, sterling silver, crystals and plastic, all of which respond differently to cleansers.

If you know you're dealing with a plated metal, which will have a delicate surface, gently wipe away dirt with a soft cloth and buff until the piece is clean.

For raw materials like brass, copper, bronze, nickel, silver and sterling silver, use polishing pads, such as those from Ecology ($13 per pack of four, ecology polishingpads.com), to bring back the luster. With sterling silver, you can also rub a mild tarnish remover on dull areas.

Apply a gentle, nonabrasive solution of dishwashing detergent and warm water to the surface of nonporous crystals, such as Swarovski, and imitation stones. Scrub gently with a soft-bristle toothbrush or soft cloth until clean.

Once the jewelry is clean, store it in a sealed plastic bag with a strip of anti-tarnish paper or a desiccant packet; either will prevent metals from tarnishing.

If you are unsure how to proceed, rely on a jeweler you trust to assess the problem, says David Feldman of New York City jewelry-supply store Metalliferous. Of course, if the piece is a vintage collectible — think 1950s Chanel — bring it to a professional to restore its sparkle.