Q. What color grout should I use on white tile?
A. There are three combinations to consider. Matching grout (white) proves a clean slate — but will show dirt. Contrasting (such as charcoal gray) makes a graphic statement, but it shows dust. The safe — i.e. cleanest-looking — middle ground is a neutral grout.
Cutting butternut squash
Q. Cutting butternut squash can be so difficult. What is the easiest method?
A. The key is halving the squash into two manageable sections.
1. Start by cutting off the stem with a large, sharp knife.
2. Turn the squash so the cut end is facing away from you, and insert the tip of your knife straight down into the center of the vegetable, keeping it stable with your free hand. Press the handle of the knife down until you cut through the bottom half.
3. Rotate the squash 180 degrees and insert the knife into the center again, repeating the technique in step 2 to halve the squash.
4. Now the seeds can be removed and the squash can be prepared as your recipe specifies.
Keeping cats from scratching
Q. How do I stop my cat from scratching the furniture?
A. Cats scratch to mark territory, to file their claws, or to handle stress. Instead of prohibiting or punishing a natural behavior, provide a different outlet. First, prevent future damage by covering the usual scratching spot with double-sided tape or a product like Sticky Paws ($11, amazon.com). Then divert the cat to a scratching post. Marilyn Krieger, a cat behaviorist in San Francisco, recommends placing it in a conspicuous part of the room, near the furniture, so your cat can still mark the territory. If your cat isn’t interested, drag a pull toy across the surface to encourage scratching, and use positive reinforcement when it scratches the post. Once your cat is consistently using the post, you can remove the tape from the furniture.
Cooking the perfect burger
Q. How can I tell when my hamburger is cooked medium?
A. The time it takes to achieve desired doneness varies based on the size and thickness of the patty. The best way to eliminate guesswork (and clock-watching) is to use an instant-read thermometer: Poke it about halfway through the patty and take the temperature until it reaches the level of doneness you’re after: 130 degrees: medium-rare, red inside; 140 degrees: medium, reddish-pink inside; 150 degrees: medium-well, brown with a hint of pink inside.