11 household tips, tricks and shortcuts

  • Wed Jan 11th, 2012 1:11pm
  • Life

By Martha Stewart Syndicated Columnist

Duvet that stays: Although a duvet cover does an admirable job of protecting a comforter from stains, it is notorious for being a shifty character. Keep it and your comforter neatly in place by turning the cover inside out and sewing two pieces of 5-inch-long fabric tape to all four corners. Then tie the fabric tape around each corner of the comforter, and sleep tight.

Pillows with plump: When you wash down, it tends to get matted, losing its loft. Throw a clean, unused tennis ball into the dryer with wet pillows to restore fluffiness.

The case for organization: Don’t let your matching sheets get lost in the linen closet. Use this simple trick: Tuck the sheet set inside one of its pillowcases, and then stack according to size (twin, full, queen, king) or by the room you use the sheets in (master bedroom, guest room.)

End separation anxiety: There’s no need to avoid making meringue for fear of separating eggs. Place a colander over a bowl, then crack the eggs. The whites will drip through, while the yolks stay in perfect shape.

Measuring up: Freeze leftover liquids in ice-cube trays or muffin tins, and pop the cubes into a freezer bag for premeasured portions ready for cooking.

Egg whites: After making something that calls for yolks only, freeze whites individually (to use, thaw and cook as soon as they reach room temperature).

Wine: Low-alcohol wine (12 percent or less) freezes best; pour the remains of a bottle into a muffin tin for half-cup servings, and use them in sauces or braises.

Chicken stock: Save stock in muffin tins for future potpies.

Juice: Got a surplus of citrus? Freeze juice in trays and save it for the next vinaigrette. Each cube yields about 2 tablespoons.

Nice threads: Where’s an extra button when you need one? Find sewing supplies fast when you keep them in a three-ring-binder repair kit.

Add zipper pouches and a felt needle holder (use spray starch to make the felt sturdier).

Try the mini three-ring binders from russellandhazel.com and zipper pouches from containerstore.com (punch new holes in them as needed to fit the binder).

Fire starter: Using newspaper to get a blaze going usually results in just another flash in the fireplace. An old-fashioned solution? Newspaper twists.

Tightly roll a sheet of newspaper, bend it in half, twist the ends together, and fasten it with twine. Keep a basketful by the hearth and you’ll always be ready to heat things up.

Flower power

Nothing cheers up a gray midwinter day like a vase of fresh flowers. Their sunny hues and bright fragrances remind us that spring is not far away.

To get the most from a bouquet, choose buds that will lift spirits for at least a week (make them last even longer by cleaning the vase with bleach before arranging).

Here are some favorites, which will still be going strong after several days in a vase.

Oncidium orchids: This leggy bloomer, covered with tiny yellow flowers, is surprisingly sturdy. In spite of its delicate looks, it can survive for a week or more after cutting. And it’s one of the easiest orchid varieties to find in flower shops.

Carnations: Don’t discount carnations. They’re common for a good reason: When fresh, they’ll reward you with up to two weeks of beauty. For a lush arrangement, combine several varieties; try mixing small spray carnations with standard ones.

Freesias: These cut flowers are pretty at every stage. As tight buds they’re verdant and lovely, and when they blossom they’re more charming still. Since the buds open gradually, remove any that are starting to turn brown and let the others shine.

Oriental lilies: Your fresh-flower budget will go far if you opt for these easy-to-find lilies. With lots of blooms on each stem, you can pinch off those that fade and rearrange the rest singly or in groups. To avoid stains, remove pollen-bearing anthers.

Dendrobium orchids: Another orchid that’s surprisingly resilient, this variety also bears a lot of beauty on a single stem. Try to buy them when buds are still tightly closed, so they’ll last longer and be more durable for transport home.

Address questions to Ask Martha, care of Letters Department, Martha Stewart Living, 601 W. 26th St., Ninth floor, New York, NY 10001. Send email to mslletters@marthastewart.com.

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