August 27, 2010
Dear Martha: After decorating a cake, how do I transfer it to the plate I plan to present it on? A: One approach is to assemble your cake directly on the plate or cake stand you intend to serve it on. That way you won't have to move it at all. To protect the stand from drips and smudges, slip strips of parchment under the cake around the perimeter before frosting. Once the cake has been decorated, slide out the parchment. If, however, you use a cake turntable or buy an iced cake, you'll need to transfer the tiers.
August 20, 2010
HERE ARE some good ideas, for summer and beyond. Watering-can shower To avoid tracking in sand or soil after a day at the beach or working in the garden, set up a rinsing station just outside your door or at another convenient location. The steady stream from an ordinary watering can cleans every unwanted speck from your feet. Around the world Don't stash away or discard maps from your favorite vacation spots. Use them to make these handy coasters and you'll be reminded of that special destination every time you reach for one. Create a set for yourself and another for your travel companions.
August 13, 2010
I AMASSED quite an assortment of early 20th-century concrete faux-bois (literally, false wood) furniture more than a decade ago. I thought that using this heavy, unusual, rustic, artisanal furniture would add a touch of whimsy to the rather formal arrangements of the mostly English antiques found throughout the house. The house itself was constructed from blocks of granite, and the faux bois reiterated the handcrafted look of the architecture. When I started collecting, I found most of the pieces at antiques shows, such as the New York Botanical Garden show and the Lexington Avenue Armory Garden Antiques Show (which now takes place in Chicago)
August 6, 2010
A: The simplest way to save leftover herbs is to dry them. Spread the sprigs on a dish towel, and leave them out of direct sunlight for two to four days. Use them on their own, or mix the herbs, finely chopped, with an equal amount of coarse salt. Add the blend to dishes as you cook or at the table - try marjoram with vegetables, and tarragon with fish and poultry. Fragrant herbs such as lavender can scent sugar: Place a few dried flowers in a jar of sugar for one week, shaking it occasionally.
July 30, 2010
Q: When I line-dry my laundry, the towels end up stiff. Are there any tricks to keeping them soft? A: You're smart to line-dry your clothes. Among home appliances, only refrigerators and washing machines use more electricity than dryers, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Although the airy scent is a plus, line-dried towels can feel stiff. Try using less detergent, especially if you soften your water. Or add 1/4-cup of white vinegar or baking soda to the wash (the vinegar smell dissipates during the rinse cycle)
July 23, 2010
FIFTEEN YEARS ago I would have laughed at the idea that I would one day have a tropical garden. Tropicals were just not on my radar. I was focused on my beloved scented geraniums, ivies and topiaries. Then something happened. I built a greenhouse and created the environment that these exotic plants needed, and a whole new world of plants suddenly became much more interesting to me. I started visiting the tropical rooms in botanical gardens and began reading about the propagation of these unusual plants.
July 16, 2010
Dear Martha: What is in an egg cream, and what is the origin of the drink? A: "Egg cream" is a misnomer for this New York City soda-fountain drink, which calls for neither eggs nor cream - only chocolate-flavored syrup, milk and seltzer. The frothy concoction is a refreshing, seemingly rich treat: silky brown below, airy white on top. As is often the case with iconic foods, the egg cream's origins are more legend than fact. One theory is that an early version contained the title ingredients; a recipe from 1906 includes both (but no chocolate)
July 9, 2010
IT'S PICNIC season - time to pack delicious dishes for outdoor concerts and fireworks in the park. Here are some pointers for putting together a great meal, plus a special sandwich recipe suited for an occasion that is also a bit special - it seems fitting that the food match. Picnic planner Menu: Choose dishes that travel well, can be made mostly in advance, are served at room temperature, and don't involve lots of sauces or other ingredients that will make the fare soggy.
July 2, 2010
Dear Martha: Can you suggest some natural methods for controlling mosquitoes? A: The best way to reduce the number of these bugs is to prevent them from breeding. Female mosquitoes lay eggs - up to 200 at a time - in stagnant water. Within a couple of weeks, the eggs will transform into full-grown adults. To keep them at bay, check frequently for standing water, especially after a storm, and eliminate mosquito breeding grounds: overturned buckets, watering cans and anything else that holds water.
June 25, 2010
We took our first big camping trip as a family of three to Yosemite National Park when our daughter, Alexis, was 5. We had looked longingly at Ansel Adams' photographic essays and had read about the natural wonders of giant trees, ancient rock formations and enticing hikes and rock climbs. The natural beauty, the fresh air, the pristine streams and the wonder we felt made us realize how important it was to experience as much of the grandeur of the United States as we could. The national parks in the West are rich in natural wonders and history.