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Gentle Reminders: December

Martha Stewart Living, Volume 145 December 2005

In Season
Tangerines
A type of Mandarin orange, tangerines have loose skin that's easy to peel, so you needn't do much work to get to the tart, vitamin C-rich flesh. Look for soft, deep-orange fruits, and refrigerate -- they'll keep for just a few days.

Coconuts
These are at their peak from October to December. A good one will seem heavy for its size and sound full of liquid when shaken. Store at room temperature for up to a month.

Cherimoyas
To eat a cherimoya -- an exotic fruit that resembles a green pinecone -- chill it, then cut it in half and spoon out the custardlike flesh.

Get in the Habit
Will you be mailing gifts to friends and family members this year? Nestle fragile items among resealable plastic bags -- or ones cinched with a twist tie -- filled with shredded paper or other packaging materials. (Poke holes in the bags with a pin to release air.) Neat and easy to handle, the bundles can even be stored and used again.

Have You Done It Lately?
Protect shoes and keep them looking new with a well-stocked shoe-maintenance kit. Keep leather cleaner, wax-based polish, flannel buffing cloth, and leather conditioner in a resealable plastic container. For suede shoes, a suede stone and brass bristle brush come in handy.

Organize magazines and holiday catalogs: Stack a few current issues on the coffee table, or set them in a basket next to a reading chair. If you keep old issues for reference, arrange them in plastic or cardboard holders, and place them on bookshelves. Keep catalogs in a bin by your desk, and throw away old copies as new ones arrive.

Indoors
Prevent nice holiday tins -- especially vintage ones -- from rusting by applying a thin coat of carnauba wax to the inside and outside surfaces with a soft cloth. The wax, used for buffing cars and floors, will block moisture and discourage rust. (Reapply as necessary, following manufacturer's instructions.) If you use the tins to hold food, line them with parchment or foil.

To minimize and remove the residue that candles can leave behind, try these tricks. Clean wax remnants from glass or metal votive holders by grouping them on a rimmed baking sheet and freezing overnight. Gently tap the frozen votives until the wax loosens. Before inserting candles into a menorah or candelabra, wipe the holders with a cotton swab coated in nonstick cooking spray; this prevents the stubs from sticking. Get rid of wax drippings from tabletops by heating the area with a hair dryer for a few seconds, then scraping with a plastic card such as a credit card. If wax falls on a tablecloth, scrape off with a dull knife, then lay soiled spot over a few sheets of kraft paper; top with a single sheet of kraft paper. Iron on low until wax is drawn into the paper; blot spot with paper until wax is gone.

Outdoors
Before skating on a local lake or pond, call your parks and recreation department and ask whether the ice is safe. These departments monitor many bodies of water and can give you an assessment based on weather and the thickness of the ice.

When a frozen car lock leaves you out in the cold, use a lighter to heat your key for a few seconds. Thaw the lock by gently inserting the key. (You may need to reheat it a few times.)

Clean bird feeders about once a month to maintain a healthful environment for your feathered friends. Scrape out residue with a spatula or paint stirrer. Wash feeders in hot, soapy water with a small amount of bleach (about a capful per bucket of water) as a disinfectant. If they are dishwasher safe, you can clean them this way, too.