Martha answers reader-submitted questions, plus offers advice for picking out the right smart gadgets for your home.
My honey crystallized and turned solid in the jar. Can I still eat it? Eliza Sherman, Anaheim, California
Honey hardens when the natural glucose (sugar) in it separates from the water. Sometimes this happens due to pollen in high-quality raw varieties, or after a change in humidity or temperature. There is no way to permanently reverse the effect, but if you need to measure the honey for a recipe, you can temporarily melt it by reheating it in a bowl of warm water.
Otherwise, you can still safely eat it spread on toast, stirred into tea, dissolved into a marinade or however you would normally enjoy it. The best way to avoid crystallization is to store honey in an airtight container at room temperature (around 70 degrees Fahrenheit).
How can I keep my suede pieces looking like new? Rebecca Highsmith, Denver
Suede, while luxe and beautiful, is more pliable and has a plusher finish than leather — so it’s a little more difficult to take care of. The color can fade with wear, and the nap can flatten and turn shiny, especially in high-friction spots like elbows, the knuckles of gloves and the side of a purse that touches your body.
To clean suede, sponge it very lightly with a gentle shampoo formulated for the material, such as Pink Miracle The Original Shoe Cleaner ($16 for 8 ounces, amazon.com), and let it dry. Then brush it with a rubber or nylon brush to raise the nap. Conditioner can maintain the color and help keep the material clean and dry; try Scotchgard Suede & Nubuck Protector ($11 for 7 ounces, amazon.com).
“When you buy herbs individually, you pay a lot for each bunch and rarely use them all up before they spoil. Instead, get a prepackaged assortment labeled ‘poultry,’ which often includes rosemary, sage, thyme and savory. It’ll work in multiple recipes without the waste.” — Lauryn Tyrell, associate food editor at Martha Stewart Living.
How to choose smart gadgets wisely
Try a smart-home device or two, but proceed with caution, since they’re essentially minicomputers connected to the internet, and many of them still don’t communicate with each other. “Start with one, like a plug-in light switch or wireless thermostat, and add others later,” says Grant Clauser, a technology journalist at the product-testing site The Wirecutter. Before buying, ask yourself these five questions:
1. Will this really be convenient? “Think about how you usually operate your heating and cooling system or appliances,” says Clauser. “Will it simplify your life, or be neat at first, then grow tired after a while?”
2. Is everyone in my household on board? “If you have smart lightbulbs, and someone doesn’t have the app and switches a lamp off physically, the app won’t work for other people,” explains Clauser.
3. Is the brand reputable? “Cheaper versions are cheaper for a reason,” says Brian Barrett, technology editor at Wired. “To work, these things need to be consistently connected to the internet; you don’t want a product that can’t get that consistency.”
4. Do i have a strong Wi-Fi connection? Barrett recommends a mesh network router, which is a pack of two to three routers sprinkled throughout your house.
5. Am i willing to take the security risk? Every time you add a device, you’re more exposed, says Barrett. “Hackers can use devices for another purpose that you won’t notice, but will result in slower Wi-Fi.” Always change the default user name and password, too.
Let us help you! Email your questions to email@example.com, or send them to Ask Martha, c/o Letters Department, Martha Stewart Living, 805 Third Avenue, 25th floor, New York, NY 10022. Please include your full name, address and daytime phone number.