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hom BRIEFS Get your act together

Home management expert Deniece Schofield will speak Wednesday and Thursday at the Holiday Inn South in Rochester on getting your life together.

A mother of five from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Schofield is the author of several books on organization, including "Confessions of an Organized Homemaker" and "Kitchen Organization Tips and Secrets."

She will speak from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday at the Holiday Inn South, 1630 S. Broadway, and from 10 a.m. to noon Thursday.

Schofield will share tips on how to maintain a neat house, how to schedule your time while also leaving time to nurture your family.

The seminar is $20. No reservation is required.

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Cutting board safety tip

You can help prevent injuries while slicing and dicing by following a few simple tips. Always place a damp towel under the cutting board to limit movement. Be sure to get a "flat side down" before preparing round items like onions or lemons. This can be done by cutting them down the middle and placing the flat side on the board before chopping.

Always wash, bleach and rinse the board after each use, especially when cutting meat, poultry or seafood.

Shallot substitute

Shallots may be an ingredient that many cooks don't always keep on hand. An acceptable substitute can be made by using onions and garlic. For every tablespoon of shallots needed mix together 2/3 tablespoon of minced onion to 1/3 tablespoon of minced garlic.

Lower your mower

Now that it is officially fall, it's time to lower your mower. Turf experts recommend you start cutting the grass shorter than you did during the heat of summer. Lower the mower deck one notch for each of the next couple of mowings this fall. Short grass is less susceptible to winter season diseases, such as snow mold.

Refrigerator energy savings

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If your teen hangs on the refrigerator door checking out the contents looking for something to snack on, don't just stand there. Say something. The quicker that door can be shut, the better it is for saving energy. Try to keep the refrigerator organized well enough to minimize time you need to find what you are looking for. Put potential snacks, fruit, soft drinks, juice, cold pizza in the same spot to shorten the staring time.

A clean hearth is a healthy one

Home is where the hearth is, and if you have a wood-burning fireplace, you know how dirty that hearth can get.

The trick to a healthy hearth is regular maintenance to prevent buildup of soot and creosote. An annual inspection by a certified chimney sweep from the National Chimney Sweep Guild should include a search for cracks in the mortar and the deterioration of the chimney and its liner, as well as signs of animals.

You should do monthly checkups.

According to the people at Vanguard Heating Products, wood-burning fireplaces should be cleaned after every cord of wood.

Creosote -- the flammable, tar-like substance that accumulates in the chimney and flue from burning wood -- can ignite and cause a fire.

Hardwoods such as oak, ash and hickory logs burn slowly and produce less smoke and creosote than softer or greener woods.

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Wood should be dried or seasoned a minimum of six to 12 months.

To spot-clean brick surfaces, mix an ounce of soap and an ounce of table salt with water to make a paste with a creamy consistency.

Use a lint-free cloth to rub the mixture into the brick's surface, let it dry for at least 10 minutes, and use a stiff brush to remove the residue.

A chimney cap on top of the flue protects against moisture and helps keep animals out.

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