Freshen up with these spring ideas

Posted March 14, 2011, at 6:51 p.m.
Leave those tired teabags in the cupboard and create custom sippers with just a few simple ingredients.
Photo courtesy of Johnny Miller
Leave those tired teabags in the cupboard and create custom sippers with just a few simple ingredients.
To entertain in style this spring, give a plain serving tray a creative boost with decorative cork cutouts.
Photo courtesy of Johnny Miller
To entertain in style this spring, give a plain serving tray a creative boost with decorative cork cutouts.

Celebrate spring with these smart, seasonally inspired ideas.

EASY INFUSIONS

With a French press, creating custom herbal teas is as simple as “un, deux, trois.” You can experiment with fresh herbs, fruits and aromatics, or try one of the combinations below. Place the ingredients (no need to measure) in the French press, add boiling water, and let steep for five to 10 minutes. Push down the strainer, and enjoy.

• Thyme, Apple and Ginger

Herbaceous, fruity, and spicy flavors balance beautifully in this mellow blend.

• Lemon Verbena and Lemongrass

Double the zing: These two herbs have a citrus flair.

• Peppermint

One ingredient is all it takes. Refreshing and soothing, peppermint tea is a classic.

• Tarragon and Orange Peel

The sweetness of orange brightens the aniselike taste of tarragon.

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ROCK-SOLID DOORSTOP

A stone can be surprisingly stylish, and it becomes a useful accent when you add felt to keep it from scratching the floor. Choose one with a smooth, flat bottom, and make sure it’s heavy enough to hold the door (at least five pounds).

Cut a piece of gray or brown felt to fit the bottom of the stone. Glue the felt to the stone using craft glue, and let it dry.

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TOWER OF HERBS

Don’t miss out on fresh herbs (or pay a lot at the market) just because you don’t have a big yard. Fashion a compact herb garden out of five terra cotta pots and situate it in a sunny spot near the kitchen door for easy snipping.

Any herbs can be used. Rosemary, sage, parsley, thyme, oregano, basil and chives are all readily available in nurseries and versatile in the kitchen. If you want to grow mint, plant it on its own in the top pot, since it can overwhelm other herbs.

Place the largest planter in the location selected for the herb garden. Center one smaller pot within, upside down (with at least six inches of space around the inverted pot); fill the ring between the two with soilless potting mix. Repeat to create a second layer with two smaller pots, with 4 inches between them. Place the final pot right-side up on the second inverted pot. Fill with potting mix. Plant herbs in all three layers.

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EDIBLE ROASTING RACK

Roasting a whole chicken on a rack keeps it out of the pan juices and lets hot air circulate; the bird cooks evenly and the skin gets deliciously crisp. But if you don’t have a rack, pieces of stale bread can do the job — and become crunchy and flavorful in the process. Enjoy them as nibbles before the meal, toss them in a salad as you would croutons, or serve them on the plate alongside the chicken.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Arrange half of a day-old baguette, torn into pieces, in a roasting pan. Place a whole chicken (about 5 pounds) on bread. Cross and tie legs with kitchen twine. Brush chicken with 2 tablespoons softened unsalted butter. Stuff three or four thyme sprigs under skin of each breast half, and season chicken with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper. Scatter 5 lightly smashed garlic cloves and four to six thyme sprigs in pan. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of the thigh reaches 165 degrees, about one hour. Let stand for 10 minutes before carving.

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HOSE CONTROL

The garden hose can be unwieldy. To keep it in line, push pairs of stakes into the soil, parallel to a bed, and run the hose between them.

Wooden stakes work well, taking on a weathered look as they age. If you prefer a more formal and longer-lasting garden accent, use copper stakes, which develop a nice green patina. Use 12-inch long, 2-inch square wooden stakes or precut 12-inch-long, half-inch-diameter copper tubing plus caps (all available at hardware stores).

Wearing gloves, use a hammer to drive a pair of wooden stakes (or use a wooden mallet to drive copper tubing) into soil, 2 to 2 1/2 inches apart. Space pairs 18 to 24 inches apart. (If using copper, finish by topping tubes with caps.)

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PUNCH IT UP

Use self-adhesive cork shelf liner to upgrade a plain tray. Cork cutouts in decorative shapes are protective, practical and pretty. The material absorbs condensation from wet glasses, preventing glassware from sliding.

Select a craft punch and a hole punch with slots wide enough to fit the cork liner. Punch out enough decorative shapes and holes from the cork liner to cover the tray in a pleasing pattern. Peel backing from the cork liner, and adhere the shapes to the tray.

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HOOKED ON ORGANIZING

For storing everyday tools in a shed or garage, wood lattice is even handier than a basic trellis. Choose a heavy-duty variety, sold in sheets at hardware stores and lumberyards, and screw it onto a door using spacers. Then hang implements from S hooks, which fit snugly in the diamond framework. For items that can’t be hung, attach broom clamps or suspend binder clips from hooks.

Questions should be addressed to Living, care of The New York Times Syndication Sales Corp., 122 E. 42nd St., New York, N.Y. 10168. Include name and daytime telephone number. Questions also may be sent by e-mail to: living@nytimes.com.

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