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Granite countertop for Christmas, anyone?

Granite tile isn't new, but granite tile that comes with 90-degree corner pieces and built-in 1 1/2-inch bullnose edges and that can be installed by a contractor or a reasonably competent do-it-yourselfer is something different. As seen on the HGTV show I Want That! the Benissimo granite-tile system calls itself "an affordable alternative to slab granite." The tiles come in 12 colors and two edges, 12 by 12 by 3/8 inches, and are installed with minimal seams (1/8-inch) to mimic the look of a solid piece of granite. Tiles can be used on islands, counters, hearths, decks, stairs, showers and tubs.

Slab granite typically costs $48 to $51 per square foot installed. At Gulf Creations in Tampa, sales manager Scott Bloom says he can install Benissimo for $29 a square foot, a price that's competitive with high-end laminate and entry-level solid surface (such as Corian). The tiles eliminate the long lag time to create a template and cut a slab of granite, Bloom said. Details and videos are at www.benissimosystems.com. The local distributor is Parksite Surfaces in Tampa: (813) 623-6177.

What can't bamboo do?

Perhaps you prefer a wooden countertop. Consider bamboo, which is 16 percent harder than maple. Totally Bamboo (www.totallybamboo.com) offers laminated countertop sheets for $35 a square foot.

From the dryer to the sink

For the kitchen scientists - literally! - among us: To clean baked-on foods from a cooking pan, put a Bounce dryer sheet in the pan, fill with water, let it sit overnight, then sponge clean. How it works: The antistatic agent in the dryer sheet weakens the bond between the food and the pan, the wizards at Procter & Gamble say.

Built-in marital therapy

It's what you'd dream about if you could sleep long enough to dream: a snoring room. Offered in new construction, these are second bedrooms adjacent to the master, retreats when one partner snores like a truck all night. "A godsend for millions of relationships," says Chicago realty agent and author Mark Nash, who put them on his 2007 list of what's in and out.

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