From Martha Stewart Living

Q: How do I prepare my wood floors for painting? — Sam Chadwick, Tucson, Arizona

A: First, give the entire floor a light sanding with 100-to-120-grit abrasive paper (always wear a mask), both to remove any old finish and to rough up the surface so the primer will adhere. Sand off stubborn stains or raised areas with 180-to-320-grit paper. Vacuum the floor when you’re done, then go over it with a tack cloth — available at paint and hardware stores — to remove any remaining dust. (Or use a damp cloth, but let the whole floor dry thoroughly before priming.) Last, add a coat of primer to seal the area; once it’s dry, you’re ready to paint.

Q: What are the best gifts for recent graduates who are moving into small apartments? — Zoe Nussbaum, Cincinnati

A: Grads need (but often can’t yet afford) help with their next stage. So buy them high-quality items that serve everyday needs, from a chic organic-cotton tote to noise-canceling headphones for working in a cubicle.

— Want Les Essentiels Orly Shopper tote, in Beige/Cognac, $185,

— Panasonic Retro Over-Ear Monitor headphones, in Cream, $90,

— Frieling 5-to-6-cup French press, in Mirrored Finish, $85,

— Breville the Fast Slow Pro 6-quart pressure cooker, in Silver, $380,

— Areaware concrete desk set, in Sand, $50,

— Whim by Martha Stewart Collection Connect the Dots duvet set, from $180 for twin, and 360-thread-count cotton-percale sheet set, in Grey, from $50 for twin,

Q: How can I keep oil from spattering all over my kitchen when I’m cooking? — LaTonya Simpson, Sacramento, California

A: In a pinch, you can invert a metal colander over your pan. But a stainless-steel mesh splatter screen works best at keeping oil off of you — and your walls. Look for one with feet (so it can rest on a counter without making a mess) and a silicone handle (which stays cool). Try Cucinare’s 13-inch splatter screen guard with double-thick mesh ($16,

Q: Do I need pet insurance? — Akeelah Hamilton, Minneapolis

A: It’s ultimately a personal decision, but since it’s often expensive, many owners focus on the costliest times of life: the first two years (for vaccinations and spaying/neutering), and the later stages (for cancer, heart disease and organ problems). There are two main types of insurance: Complete coverage usually has minimal exclusions, a low deductible and copay, and a high policy maximum.

Catastrophic coverage generally also has a high policy maximum, at a lower premium, but a high deductible and often a high copay. Tennessee veterinarian Doug Kenney suggests picking “the highest policy maximum, the lowest copay and the lowest deductible — in that order — for which you can afford the premium.”

Email your questions to, or send them to Ask Martha, c/o Letters Department, Martha Stewart Living, 805 Third Avenue, 25th floor, New York, NY 10022. Please include your full name, address and daytime phone number.