Buff your bone handles with lemon, chalk

At Your Service, with Gwen Bisseker

ON A recent holiday in Cape Town we were taken to a charming country restaurant for lunch. All the tableware, including the bone-handled knives, looked as if it had come from the original farmhouse. I loved the look. I also have a set of bone-handled knives that have been packed away. The handles have yellowed and look in need of some TLC. How should I go about this? – RG, Port Elizabeth.

Make a paste of lemon juice and French chalk (from a haberdashery shop). This is mildly abrasive and you can apply with a soft cloth, rubbing gently with the grain. Give it a second coat, but this time leave to dry. Then brush off and polish with a soft cloth.

Bone handles should be kept out of water as far as possible because water can loosen the blades and soap can contribute to yellowing. Darkness has the same effect, so put them out in the sun occasionally for a short time.

Inexperience and carelessness has resulted in a scorch mark on a white cotton blouse. Is there any hope of removing it? – PW, Port Elizabeth.

Possibly not, if it's a bad scorch that has damaged the fabric. Hopefully this isn't the case, and there are a number of things you can try. They all seem rather old-fashioned because it's a long time since this problem came up. Not much ironing seems to be done these days!

Dampen the area in one part glycerine to two parts water, rubbing in the solution with your fingers. Then soak in a solution of 50g borax to 500ml warm water. Leave for 15 minutes. Then rinse well.

Alternatively, dampen a cloth in 20-volume peroxide (from the pharmacy), place it over the stained area and press with a warm iron.

I earn Brownie points by doing the laundry in the washing machine, but have points deducted because I leave the liquid detergent bottle greasy. It also causes a blue mark on the shelf where it is kept. How can I stop this from happening? – Brian, Plettenberg Bay.

Wipe down the bottle with a kitchen paper towel, then a cloth wrung out in hot water.

With cooking oil bottles that drip, you could got to the extra trouble of cutting out a circle from a sponge and making a hole in the middle large enough to push over the top of the bottle.

You will now have a sponge collar to catch the drips.

We recently received a beautiful bunch of red roses as a gift and put them into a vase, and filled it up with water and a handful of ice. After a day, the roses went limp and bent where the buds are attached to the stems. The roses did not even open up. This is not the first time this has happened. Please give us your suggestions to prevent this from happening. – SD, Port Elizabeth.

Some of my happiest memories of Port Elizabeth concern flowers, and learning how to arrange them. Most importantly, we were taught how to condition all plant material to ensure that it lasted as long as possible. A constant tip from arrangers and growers was to carry a bucket of water when picking the blooms and to put them in straight away.

In your case, when your flowers are delivered, put them straight into a bucket of water, and re-cut the stems under water.

This goes for all flowers to be arranged. Drooping rosebuds can be refreshed if you lie them down in the bath, cut their stems under water and leave them submerged for an hour or so. It often works like a dream.