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Gentle Reminders: August

Martha Stewart Living, August 2005

Line Dry
Take advantage of warm weather by drying the wash outside. This gives clothes and linens a fresh, clean scent; sunlight also acts as a natural whitener. If you dislike the stiff feeling of line-dried items, try a homemade fabric softener: Add 1/4 cup of white vinegar or baking soda to the wash cycle. (Do not use vinegar with chlorine bleach.)

In Season
Nectarines
These golden or rosy-hued drupes, or stone fruits, peak in August. Like their peach relatives, nectarines are juicy and fragrant. The most noticeable differences? Nectarines have a firmer flesh and smooth skin, not fuzzy.

Corn
It used to be that this summer favorite was sweetest when cooked immediately after picking. Newer hybrids, however, have been bred to maintain their flavor for as long as 10 days after harvest. At the market, look for corn with tight, bright-green husks and moist golden-brown silk. Peel the husks back a little to check that the kernels are firm, plump, and packed into tight rows. Puncture a kernel with your fingernail; a milky liquid should come out.

Get in the Habit
To prevent uneven fading, rotate lampshades near windows a half turn every month. This is especially important for matching pairs; if one shade receives more direct sunlight than the other, move them between bases every other month, as well. You can coordinate these rotations with dusting the shades, which also should be done routinely.

Have You Done It Lately?
Familiarize yourself with basic water-safety tips: First, make sure you and your family members know how to swim. Never swim alone or in unsupervised areas. Adults should always be present when children are near water. If you have a pool, enclose it completely with a fence that has openings no more than four inches wide and self-closing, self-locking gates. Keep a list with emergency phone numbers handy. For more tips, visit the American Red Cross website (www.redcross.org), and select "Health and Safety Services."

Indoors
Vacuum the front of a room air-conditioning unit regularly to cut down on the dust that can clog its interior. Also, clean or change filters monthly, following manufacturer's instructions.

Clean sports equipment to keep it in good condition. You might find that you have items you haven't used all summer (or for several summers). Consider donating unwanted goods to charity. For instance, Boys & Girls Clubs across the country accept gently used sports equipment. To find a Boys &Girls Club near you, visit www.bgca.org.

Make a list of essentials to pack for summer travel (such as prescription medications, contact lens solution and case, and must-have toiletries). Keep it inside your suitcase as a reminder. If you will check your baggage, tie a distinctive ribbon to your suitcase to make it easier to identify.

Keep vacation memories fresh by creating wall displays of memorabilia. Fill a shadow box, which can be purchased from crafts stores or adapted from a cardboard box or picture frame, with souvenirs such as train tickets, coins, and maps, or collect natural items such as shells, rocks, and sea glass to make your three-dimensional collage.

Outdoors
Prune overgrown hedges to get them in shape, but do so lightly; you don't want to encourage new growth that won't harden off before winter. Note that spring-flowering hedges, such as witch hazel, rhododendron, and lilac should not be pruned.

Continue picking vegetables from your kitchen garden to keep yields high -- some varieties will stop producing if not harvested regularly.

If the weather has been dry, give your spring-planted trees and shrubs a good long watering -- about an hour once a week with an overhead sprinkler or a hose. Unlike a series of short waterings, this will ensure that moisture reaches far down into the soil to encourage deep roots.

In warmer climates, such as California and Texas, order roses for late fall and winter planting.

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