Pretty pots can do more than hold flowers on an outdoor table. They can be used to protect dips and other dishes from party-crashing insects. Lift the pot by sticking one finger through the drain hole, or create a handle by cutting an 18-inch length of 1/4-inch cord and knotting the ends together. Thread the looped end through the drain hole in the flowerpot.
Warm, luscious, and smoky, this hors d'oeuvre gives a whole new meaning to the term "grilled cheese." Choose a wheel of cheese with a thick rind and an inside that's soft but not runny, such as Camembert. Brush rind with olive oil, and grill cheese directly on oiled grates over indirect heat until warmed, about 2 minutes per side. Serve immediately with grilled baguette slices.
A spirited holiday celebration calls for a fun take-home treat, like this goody bag of candies arranged to resemble the American flag.
Start by partially filling a 2-by-10-inch cellophane bag with blue candies to stand in for stars. Then add red and white candy sticks to mimic stripes. Tie the bag with red waxed twine, and don't be surprised if you catch yourself humming "Stars and Stripes Forever."
Fashion a set of napkin rings in no time.
Cut 9-inch lengths of grosgrain ribbon or twill tape. Notch 1 end, or cut it at an angle. Loop the other end through 2 D rings, wrapping ribbon around the rings' straight edges, and glue it to itself (with fabric glue). Center a rolled napkin on the ribbon; thread the ribbon's free end through the rings as you would a belt, and pull it snug.
Grilled vegetable slices add color and flavor to cookouts, but the small pieces are prone to dropping through grill grates. To give them a safety net, put slices of summer squash and other produce on a stainless steel cooling rack placed directly on the grill. The tight metal grid will keep vegetables from falling through the cracks.
Turn away picnic-table pests with inexpensive sewing supplies: embroidery hoops and muslin. Buy hoops that are slightly larger than the rims of your pitchers and serving bowls. With pinking shears, cut cloth squares two to three inches wider than each hoop. Position a piece of fabric in each hoop to create handy covers.
Like a swimmer at the beach, seashells need a good shower before they're ready for the house. Getting all the grit out of the shells by hand is a challenge; instead, slip them into the utensil basket of the dishwasher, and run them through a cycle. They'll be clean and ready for display when they come out.
Decorating jars of homemade preserves is a cinch with cupcake wrappers, available in many patterns and colors at the grocery store. Invert two (for opacity), and place them on top of your jar. Use a rubber band to hold them in place; tie with waxed twine or ribbon, and remove rubber band.
Flexible and strong, willow edging is a traditional English garden border whose form is naturally in line with its function. The willow branches have even been known to take root and sprout, creating a living, organic boundary. Here's an easy way to make this classic edging for your yard.
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