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Around The House

Clean shoes, no noise!

No Bang! quiets the noisy business of drying tennis shoes in a clothes dryer. The product uses straps and heat-resistant suction cups to adhere the shoes to the dryer's inner rim or the back side of the dryer door, so they're held in place during the cycle. It also can be used to protect delicate items such as plush toys from damage caused by tumbling.

No Bang! sells for $5.99 plus shipping and handling and can be ordered at (in the houseware section) or 800-851-6030.

Simple pleasures

As autumn's chill creeps into the air, "The Hammock" will take your mind back to the sultry summertime. "The Hammock" was written by Daniel Mack, an artist who specializes in natural furniture. It's an appreciation of one of life's simple pleasures, an argument for the benefits of indulging in idleness. The book tells us the hammock's history and celebrates its allure with photos, essays and poems. There are even instructions for hanging and caring for a hammock.

"The Hammock" is published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang and sells for $17.95 in hardcover.

Grout cleaning

Have trouble keeping your white grout white? Try oxygenated bleach (a product such as OxyClean), which is nontoxic and thus can be left sitting on the grout for a long period to do its job, probably after scrubbing it in with a toothbrush or something small enough to get between the tiles. The bleach comes in both powder and liquid form.

Some people swear by white vinegar, others by baking soda, still others by household cleaners. Whatever works best for you is fine. There are commercial tile cleaners on the market too, but they might contain chemicals you might not want to have around the house.

As with everything in the house that's used regularly, the grout in your bathroom won't stay clean, especially old grout that hasn't been maintained. You might try a commercial grout sealer after you clean, but eventually you'll have to do it again.

Gardening tips

Follow these planting and design tips for your best-ever display of daffodils, tulips, crocus, and other bulbs come spring, from the upcoming October 2008 Better Homes and Gardens magazine:

Design know-how: Bulbs play a variety of parts in your garden's spring show, from supporting cast to starring roles.

Though dazzling to look at, the elaborate formal designs commonly used in botanic gardens don't translate well to home gardens. Instead, use masses of simpler combinations of two or three colors, laid out in informal shapes and forms that follow the lines of your beds.

Basics: "Naturalizing" bulbs bloom every year, so you can plant them once and enjoy them every spring. Packages will tell you if the bulbs will naturalize.

Spots of color: Small groups of bulbs tucked among perennials, shrubs, or rocks create bright accents. Use types with large flowers such as daffodils, tulips, and alliums, and group several together so they make a strong visual statement.

Wildflower meadows: Squill, crocus, and grape hyacinth are spectacular when blooming by the hundreds in early spring, and they readily naturalize.

This makes them suitable for mass plantings in lawns and under trees to create flowery "meadows." For a natural look, toss them by the handful, then plant where they land.

Plan before planting: Before you put any bulbs in the ground, lay the entire design out on top of the soil, then plant.