Gentle Reminders for March

Martha Stewart Living, March 2006

IN SEASON

Artichokes: These deep-green vegetables are actually the flower buds of a thistle. Look for unblemished specimens that seem heavy for their size and have fleshy, firm, tightly closed leaves that squeak when rubbed. Sprinkle with water (this helps the artichokes stay moist) and refrigerate in a plastic bag for up to five days.

Pineapples: One cup of this fruit's sweet-tart flesh provides more than a quarter of your RDA of vitamin C. Pineapple-whose skin ranges from green to gold stop ripening once picked. They will become juicier if left at room temperature for a day or two before serving. Refrigerate cut pieces in an airtight container for up to five days.

GET IN THE HABIT

Organize manuals, warranties, insurance policies, and receipts for appliances, electronics, and other major purchases. Place the paperwork for each piece in a labeled folder, and arrange in an accordion file. If you've saved a product's packaging (in case you'll have to return or exchange it), tape a note to the box indicating the date the warranty or insurance expires. This way you can easily tell when to recycle or discard the packaging.

HAVE YOU DONE IT LATELY?

Clean your teakettle: To remove mineral deposits, boil equal parts white vinegar and water inside it. Remove from heat. Let sit several hours; rinse. Hand-wash the pot's exterior with a gentle pot-scrubber sponge. Let tap water run for a few moments before adding it to the pot. (Water that has been sitting in pipes contains more minerals, which can cause discoloration and odors.)

INDOORS

Guard against scratches on wooden floors. Make sure there are surface protectors on the undersides of furniture legs, and replace any that are dirty or worn. (A buildup of grit can mar the floor.) Use thick, padded self-adhesive discs; they come in different diameters and can be found at home stores.

You needn't cry over chopped onions. If you cut them near an open flame, the gases that prompt tears will burn off before they reach your eyes. A gas burner works best, but you may also try setting a lighted votive by your cutting board. Always slice the stem end first, as more of the potent gases are released from the root end.

Narrow-necked bottles make graceful decorations and convenient containers for oils and salad dressings, but cleaning them can be a challenge. A good solution: Fill the bottles with water, and drop a tablet or two (depending on bottle sizes) of denture cleaner in each. This loosens the residue that accumulates on the bottom and sides. Let the bottles stand overnight, then hand-wash them using a narrow nylon brush.

OUTDOORS

Prepare garden beds so that they'll be ready for planting when soil is workable (that is, damp but not wet).Cover soil with a three- to four-inch layer of well-aged compost, then mix with a garden fork.

If you've found a crack in a favorite or valuable terra-cotta pot, mend it with a simple suture. Bind the pot's circumference at the top and bottom with twine. Using a 1/8-inch masonry bit, drill a hole on each side of the fissure, each about 1/2-inch from the crack. Drill additional pairs of holes as necessary, a few inches apart, along the crack. Slip a four-inch piece of 20-gauge brass or copper wire through each pair of holes from the outside. Tightly twist the wire, and smooth it flat against the inside of the pot. Remove twine and plant.

To protect your garden from burrowing pests, dig a six- to twelve-inch trench around it, then line the trench with quarter-inch galvanized wire mesh. Keep rabbits and other small animals out by installing a three-foot-high mesh fence.

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