June 3, 2011
Q: Why won't my peonies bloom? The buds look bruised and don't open all the way. A: There are three explanations for buds that won't bloom. The first is botrytis blight, a fungal disease. It can hit plants as they emerge or once buds have formed. It's worse in rainy seasons and on plants growing in cool, wet, shady sites. The buds turn brown and then become covered with a fuzzy gray mold, which will spread down the stem. When you see symptoms, remove infected portions, throw them out (do not compost)
May 27, 2011
Q: What is the difference between regular corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup? A: Both types of corn syrup start the same way: Cornstarch is treated with an acid or an enzyme, turning it into glucose syrup. To make regular corn syrup - the kind found in supermarkets and used by home bakers for candies and frostings - manufacturers clarify and reduce glucose syrup until it's the right consistency. High-fructose corn syrup is also made from corn-derived glucose syrup, but it requires additional chemical reactions that convert some of the glucose into fructose, creating a sweetener that contains both.
May 20, 2011
PLANNING SUMMER weekends with houseguests is perhaps one of the biggest challenges a host can face. There are many factors that go into making a weekend fun, interesting and stimulating. One of the most important things is the food, which requires planning menus, shopping for ingredients and cooking dishes so that meals are served on time and guests and family are sated. I personally find such a challenge really kind of enjoyable, and over the past few years, I have compiled a file of recipes that can be prepared easily, that are certainly appealing and that make use of locally available foodstuffs and produce.
May 13, 2011
Q: Where is it OK for me to take my dog? I'd like to bring her to restaurants, shops and friends' homes, but I know she won't always be welcome. A: You can cross restaurants, supermarkets and beauty salons off the list of places you may visit with your pooch. Health codes in the U.S. ban dogs from such establishments (unless you have a service dog, which can accompany you anywhere, according to the Americans With Disabilities Act). When it comes to other destinations, always check ahead, even if you're planning to visit a close friend.
May 6, 2011
SUMMER IS on the way and that's a reason to celebrate. Here are some "Good Things" to help you do it. Custom cushions Summertime calls for a playful approach to decorating. So mix - don't match - fabrics to create reversible pillows that you won't find on anyone else's sofa. A quick flip is all it takes to change your look, and you can do it as often as you change your mind. Just a yard each of three fabrics can make three 16-inch and three 18-inch pillows. Use fabrics in similar weights; pair them in different combinations.
April 29, 2011
Q: Is sea salt a healthier option than regular table salt? A: Both sea salt and table salt are composed of sodium and chloride. Sodium is crucial to good health. It helps your body maintain a balance of fluids, keeps the nervous system running smoothly and influences muscle movement. But too much can cause high blood pressure. Aim to consume no more than the 2,300-milligram daily limit recommended by the American Heart Association. All salts add sodium to your diet. A teaspoon of a coarse variety, however, contributes slightly less than the same amount of the finer table salt.
April 22, 2011
I AM NO Vita Sackville-West, nor am I the owner of an exquisite English country manor, such as her fantastic Sissinghurst. But I am an avid gardener, and I am an enthusiastic collector of many kinds of plants. Years ago, on my very first trip to England, I visited Sissinghurst and saw my very first white garden. Conceived by Sackville-West, the English novelist and poet, and now maintained by the National Trust, the White Garden has inspired many of us to think carefully about monotone themes and how to incorporate them into our own back yards and personal landscape designs.
April 15, 2011
Q: I have an old album with photos and newspaper clippings glued to the pages. Is it possible to remove, preserve and store these items without destroying them? A: It's probably best to leave the photos and clippings where they are. Only a conservator can tell what type of adhesive was used to attach the items and what kind of solvent will safely remove it. If you try to detach the pieces yourself, you'll likely cause them to tear. But even if freeing the pictures were a risk-free prospect, conservators would probably still advise against it. "An album is more than the sum of its parts," says Adrienne Lundgren, senior photograph conservator at the Library of Congress.
April 8, 2011
EASTER EGGS have always been a vibrant bunch, thanks to good old food coloring and a little imagination. This year's batch takes palette and pattern a step further. Inspired by mid-20th-century graphic design, these projects bring the era's bright hues, geometric forms and sense of whimsy to the eggshell. The technique used gives impressive results but is fun and easy enough to do with kids, who are sure to love the eye-popping patterns. The trick? Stickers and stencils that you make from adhesive vinyl and electrical tape.
April 1, 2011
Q. Can you tell me about mushroom hunting? I'm interested in trying it but don't know where to begin. A. Although mushrooms pop up year-round, spring is the unofficial start of mushroom season for many hunters. Warmer temperatures and rain create ideal growing conditions for a wide variety of fungi. And while there are few things as satisfying as discovering a patch of gorgeous and delicious mushrooms to harvest and enjoy, a search must be undertaken judiciously. An array of wild mushrooms are edible, but many others are mildly poisonous, causing violent stomach upset; some are deadly.