Savor summer by sipping frosty drinks with friends, making one-of-a-kind souvenirs as you travel and keeping ice-cream cones drip-free.
From seaside to bedside: A wide-mouthed, spiral nautilus shell can double as a pearlescent vase for bedroom bouquets. To create your own, place a piece of floral adhesive on a plate (use just enough to hold the shell upright). Stick the shell to the adhesive, and then place a weight — a fishing sinker, for example — inside to help hold it in place. Fill the shell halfway with water, and add flowers. Lastly, arrange pebbles around the shell; they'll add a finishing touch and further stabilize the display.
A different after-dinner mint: For a refreshing post-meal bite, try frozen chocolate-dipped mint leaves, either on their own or as a garnish for ice cream or chocolate cake. Melt 1/2 cup dark chocolate (bars work fine). Dip fresh mint leaves in chocolate, holding on to the stem with your fingers or kitchen tweezers. Place on a parchment-covered baking sheet, and freeze, uncovered, until hardened, about 20 minutes (or up to 5 hours). Gently remove from parchment, and serve immediately.
Make packing a breeze: Before your next trip, make a reusable packing list. Print the list on card stock, and then laminate it. Using a dry-erase marker, check the items you've packed. Wipe off check marks when you're done. After your trip, store the list and marker in your luggage so it will be at hand when you plan your next jaunt.
Drip-free ice-cream cones: To keep ice cream from dripping out of the bottom of a cone, drop in a mini marshmallow or two before you add your scoops.
Leafy coasters: Use freshly cut large leaves to protect surfaces from the condensation that forms on cold drinks. Lush foliage, such as hosta leaves, also add color to table settings. Cut leaves early in the day, and set them in water immediately, keeping them hydrated in a container until it's time to serve drinks. Dry before using.
Chopping chives: For faster, crisper cuts of chives (or scallions), use a rubber band to hold the herbs together. As you chop along the stems, simply move the rubber band back. The elastic will keep the chives taut and steady, making them easier to slice through and less likely to get squashed in the process.
Take a spin: If you don't have a salad spinner at your beach-house rental, use a clean dish towel and your pitching arm as a substitute. Roll rinsed greens in a clean towel, hold both ends in one hand and rapidly spin it outdoors.
Keeping paper plates and napkins in place: Use river rocks to anchor paper goods at your next outdoor party. The stones, available by the bag at garden centers, help keep plates and napkins where they belong. Place a bucketful on the buffet table for guests to grab, so they won't have to chase flyaways.
Keepsake to go: Next time you go on vacation, create a keepsake as you go. Pack a hole punch and a loose-leaf ring to string together maps, postcards and other souvenirs to create a miniature scrapbook. When you get home, make a decorative cover with a name and date printed on the front.
Keep grilling vegetables out of the fire: Grilled vegetable slices add color and flavor to cookouts, but are prone to dropping through grill grates. To give them a safety net, put slices of produce on a stainless-steel cooling rack — the kind designed for cooling baked goods — placed directly on the grill. The tight metal grid will keep vegetables from falling through the cracks.
Quick pickled tomatoes: Turn unripe green tomatoes from your garden into snacks with the help of brine left over from store-bought dill pickles. Cut the tomatoes into quarters, and refrigerate them in a covered jar of brine for at least one week before serving. The pickled tomatoes can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one month.
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