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Gentle Reminders: July

Martha Stewart Living, July 2005

Summer Preserves
Keep the season's bounty on the table a little longer in the form of homemade jellies and jams. Making spreads from your favorite ingredients -- and even edible flowers -- isn't complicated and, apart from a canning funnel and a jar lifter (a special type of tongs), doesn't require fancy tools. Try our rose petal jelly recipe.

In Season
Gooseberries: Enjoy this tart currant relative now. American gooseberries are small and green on the vine, but you'll see them ripe and red in stores. Use them in jams, jellies, pies, and gooseberry fool, a traditional English dessert in which the fruit is stewed, then folded into whipped cream.

Peaches: Look for fragrant, unblemished examples that give slightly to the touch. Here's an easy method to remove the skin: Cut a small X in the bottom of each peach. Bring a pot of water to a boil; reduce to a simmer. Add peaches. Wait 30 seconds to one minute, then use a slotted spoon to transfer the fruit to an ice-water bath; let soak five minutes. Remove skin.

Get in the Habit
Watch out for poison ivy. The noxious trifoliate plant can cause an itchy rash on contact. Look for it where wild and cultivated areas meet, such as along fences and the edges of woods, roads, and backyards. The adaptable species can cover the ground, climb trees, or grow into shrubs. You might carry a picture of the plant on walks as a reminder. If you do get a rash, try adding a cup of uncooked oats to a warm bath to relieve the itching. Don't scratch; it can cause infection and slow healing.

Have You Done it Lately?
Brush up on food-safety guidelines now that picnic season is in full swing. Don't leave food out for more than two hours (one hour if the temperature is more than 90 degrees). This applies to all food, not just dishes with mayonnaise and eggs. Always keep hot food hot (more than 140 degrees) and cold food cold (40 degrees or less).

Indoors
Dust blinds weekly to avoid a more difficult cleaning job later. Flatten the slats and go over each side with a soft cloth or feather duster. Once or twice a year, wipe wooden blinds with a few drops of gentle wood cleaner on a nearly dry sponge. Aluminum blinds can be washed outdoors: Place them on an old sheet on a slanted surface, and scrub with water and a non-corrosive cleaner. Use a hose to rinse well, then dry the blinds thoroughly with a towel to prevent rust.

Pack a picnic kit for impromptu outings. Fill a lidded box or container with sturdy enamel or plastic dishware and glasses, flatware, a pocketknife, serving spoons, and a corkscrew. Salt, pepper, napkins, and moist towelettes may also come in handy. Store the kit in your car.

Remove grass stains from sports uniforms and gardening clothes by pretreating them: Mix equal parts liquid detergent and white vinegar in a spray bottle. Apply the mixture to the stained area (don't wait more than two days before doing so), and let sit for twenty to thirty minutes. Use an old toothbrush to work the solution into the fabric and to loosen the stain, then wash item.

Outdoors
Clean your garbage can: Rinse the inside with a garden hose, then use an old broom to scrub it with a solution of water and biodegradable dish soap; rinse again. Let dry in the sun. (If your can doesn't have drainage holes in the bottom, drill them with a 1/2-inch bit before washing. This will allow wash water -- and rainwater -- to drain out.)

Raise the lawn-mower blade height 1/2 inch in hot, dry weather. This encourages turf grass to root deeper and shades the soil, protecting the crown (where the stem and root meet) from heat stress.

Give potted plants with sun-sensitive foliage, such as bromeliads and some agaves, late-day shade by positioning them near trees or shrubs.

Continue deadheading annuals and perennials regularly to groom and promote blooming.

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