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Asking Martha Should You Boil Noodles Before Adding To Soup? You Can Find The Answer Right Here

Martha Stewart New York Times S

Q. Should I boil noodles or other pasta for soup separately, or add them to the boiling soup and cook until they are done? - Mary Bradley, Van Nuys, Calif.

A. Cooking noodles in the soup pot isn’t the effective shortcut it appears to be. As pasta cooks, it absorbs the cooking liquid. If that liquid is your soup, the yield will be affected. You will end up with less soup than you anticipated, and it would be a waste of the flavorful broth. Pasta also releases starch, which is better left in the boiling water.

While you prepare the soup, cook noodles or other pasta in a large pot of salted, boiling water (never skimp on the amount of water). Make sure you don’t overcook the noodles; they will continue to cook in the hot soup.

Q. Can you please advise on selecting and investing in a down comforter? I would like to take advantage of the end-of-season sales, but I’m confused about the many comforters available. - Mary Kay Garrett, Richmond, Va.

A. A down comforter is an excellent investment. Amazingly light and breathable, down is also one of the world’s most effective insulators. The quality of the products available varies, so it is a good idea to go shopping armed with information.

Down is the fluff that grows on the bellies of geese and ducks, keeping them warm even in icy waters. Geese produce bigger, better clusters of down than ducks. If a comforter or pillow isn’t labeled “goose down,” assume it is duck.

When feathers and down reach a factory, they are washed, sanitized and sorted. Sorting takes place in a large machine that lofts the feathers on a breeze - heavier feathers settle into bins first, while lighter down floats along into other bins.

This is not an exact science, and there will always be feathers mixed in with down. In fact, by law, a product labeled “down” can contain up to 20 percent feathers and other fillers.

Down is measured according to its fill power, or loft. This refers to the amount of space down will fill. For example, down with a fill power of 650 will fill 650 cubic inches of space.

The best down has a fill power of 600 to 750, but anything over 550 is good. This number is more important than weight; a heavier comforter doesn’t necessarily have more fill power.

There are several different kinds of construction. A comforter with baffles is a good choice. This means that fabric walls in the middle of the comforter create a maze through which the down is distributed.

Other stitches include a box stitch, which is a grid of seams. The down stays in place in the boxes, ensuring uniform warmth. Karo stitch is an octagonal pattern; ring stitch is a small circle pattern. Channel stitch forms a tubular pattern; the down may shift to the end of the channels, requiring refluffing.

The fabric encasing the comforter is important, too. Look for cotton with a thread count of 230 or more.

Always keep your comforter in a duvet cover, which is like a big pillowcase with buttons or ties at the bottom. Wash the cover as necessary, but do not wash the comforter.

To keep a stain from setting, spot clean sparingly with a mild soap (push as much down out of the way as possible first) and let dry thoroughly.

Every few years, send the comforter to a reputable cleaner who is experienced with down.

Other than that, care couldn’t be easier. Just fluff up the comforter each morning when you get out of bed.

Q. Our home, which is situated on a wooded lot, has cedar siding. It is being vandalized by woodpeckers. Whenever we plug the holes, new ones appear. Is there a way to prevent the birds from pecking at our house? - Gretchen Rapp, Hummelstown, Pa.

A. Woodpeckers choose their locations for several reasons. They drum against hard surfaces to establish their territory and carry out courtship rituals, and they make bigger holes for nesting.

In any of these cases, there are several deterrents to try. However, if you suspect there is a nest with baby birds or eggs, wait until the birds have all left the nest before you take any action.

If the damage is concentrated in one spot, try tacking a soft substance, such as cloth or foam rubber, over the area. Strips of aluminum foil or disposable pie tins hung in front of the damaged areas may also deter the woodpeckers. A model of an owl or snake meant for scaring off birds is worth trying, too.

If the problem persists, you can try tacking nylon webbing, plastic or thick cloth (available at hardware stores) over your walls. It will be a little unsightly, but it can be removed once the woodpeckers get discouraged and move on to another site.

Woodpeckers also drill into wood to look for insects. If your siding is providing the birds with food, they will keep coming back for more.

If there are small holes in many different areas, and if the birds peck throughout the year, this could be the case. Contact a pest-control company.

MEMO: Questions should be addressed to Martha Stewart, care of The New York Times Syndication Sales Corp., 122 E. 42nd St., New York, NY 10168. Questions may also be sent to Stewart by electronic mail. Her address is: mstewart@msl.timeinc.com.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Martha Stewart New York Times Syndicate

Questions should be addressed to Martha Stewart, care of The New York Times Syndication Sales Corp., 122 E. 42nd St., New York, NY 10168. Questions may also be sent to Stewart by electronic mail. Her address is: mstewart@msl.timeinc.com.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Martha Stewart New York Times Syndicate

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