Here, fresh ideas to elevate the everyday.
MAKE AND GIVE: SWEET CONCRETE
This sidewalk staple turned decorators’ darling is strong and chic, just like someone you’ll be celebrating in May. To create a bud vase, ring holder or pretty paperweight for Mom, mix smooth countertop cement with pigment (muted rose looks especially great), and then create the molds from household items to set your love in stone.
Think of this user-friendly material as Play-Doh for grown-ups — except you’re supposed to leave it out overnight to dry.
STEP 1: STIR IT UP
Following the package directions, combine pigment powder, cement mix and water in a large plastic container. Add more water, a spoonful at a time, stirring until cement mix dissolves and mixture has the consistency of Greek yogurt.
STEP 2: GIVE IT SHAPE
Pour cement into mold. For a paperweight, use a round ice mold. For a ring holder, roll heavy paper or contact paper into a cone and tape it shut (set it inside a cup for balance). For a bud vase, cut the top off a large water bottle and fill it partway, then insert an object to create a hollow (a cardboard tube sealed with tape works perfectly), and add more mix. Let dry overnight.
STEP 3: SET IT FREE
Remove mold. Cardboard or paper will peel off; cut plastic with a utility knife, then pull it away.
CLUTTER CONTROL: SPORTS CENTER
Here’s a winning pregame strategy for corralling athletic gear. Get a bare-bones shelving unit that holds sturdy bins and baskets. Drill holes in two shelves to anchor bungee-cord hooks, stretch the cords between them and stash balls inside. This system slows their roll and keeps them visible, so your home team can grab, go and clean up (score!) with ease.
EXPERT ADVICE: NATURAL RESOURCE
Ever wish you had a pro on call to tell you what to plant and how to get rid of pests, and answer all your other pressing cultivation questions? Shazam! You do. It’s the voice on the other end of the master sardeners help line at your state university and its local extension offices. Visit the American Horticultural Society website (ahsgardening.org) to get the telephone number — each of the 50 nifty has one.
UPCYCLE IT: LOVING CARE FOR YOUR TREES
Climbing plants and vines look beautiful, but the wires or twine they need for support can damage the limbs they cling to. To protect her trees, Martha places twine inside segments of retired garden hoses — the dark color lets them blend right into the bark.
INSTANT UPGRADE: FINER FINISHES
Elegantly edged cloth napkins aren’t just for the main characters on “The Crown.” Your royal family deserves them, too, and you can whip up a table’s worth with a yard of any fabric and a sewing machine, no fancy serger required. First, fold the fabric into quarters and cut it along the creases into four pieces. Then, to mimic a neatly bound, serged hem, set your machine to a zigzag stitch on the smallest possible width. Sew along the perimeter, 1/2 inch from the edge, and carefully trim the overhang or pull loose threads to create fringe. Dinner is served, ma’am.
DO-IT-YOURSELF DÉCOR: HANG TIGHT
You were an ace at tacking up posters back in college. But figuring out how to frame oversize finds so they’re worthy of a whole wall in your home seems to require a doctorate in museum studies. Well Made Gallery Stiicks solve that problem (from $20 for a 9-inch set, wearewellmade.com). The magnetic wood strips are gentle enough to clasp that vintage Berber wedding blanket you snagged in Morocco, come in lengths up to 72 inches and look so neutral, they won’t detract from showpieces like this handmade quilt. Consider them shortcuts to an A+ in decorating.
QUICK FIX: TOWEL TACTIC
Children’s gym rings are a nimble solution for petite powder rooms. Loop a leather strap through and stagger them on the wall, so even the littlest hands can reach. Punch holes through the strip, 1/2 inch above the ring, with a leather punch; fasten with a screw foot. To hang, punch a hole in back strip and mount using a wall anchor and screw.
SIP AND REPEAT: WINNER’S CUP
Most mint juleps nowadays are made with bourbon, but gin was just as popular a base in the 19th century. Our throwback recipe calls for Copper & Kings L’Inspecteur ($30 for 375 milliliters - about 13 ounces, copperandkings.com), a barrel-aged Kentucky gin that will make a big splash in your stable of Kentucky Derby drinks.
GIN JULEP: In the bottom of a julep cup, muddle 12 mint leaves with 1 1/2 teaspoons superfine sugar until mint starts to break down. Add 2 ounces gin; stir until sugar dissolves. Add crushed ice to fill cup three-quarters of the way; top with seltzer. Stir, top with more crushed ice and garnish with a mint sprig. Serve immediately.
RECIPE REMIX: MAGIC DUST
Tajín, a chili-and-lime zest seasoning salt, earned its cult following by giving mangoes and margarita rims a kick. Sprinkle it on popcorn for a twist on elote, Mexican street corn.
ELOTE-STYLE POPCORN: Heat 3 tablespoons safflower oil and a few popcorn kernels in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over high. When kernels pop, add 1/2 cup kernels, cover and remove from heat; let stand 30 seconds. Return to high heat; cook until popping stops, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Toss with 4 tablespoons melted unsalted butter, 1/2 cup finely grated pecorino Romano, 2 teaspoons Tajín Clásico seasoning and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Add more Tajín to taste, and a pinch of cayenne pepper for extra heat, if desired.
Let us help you! Email your questions to ask martha@marthastewart. com, or send them to Ask Martha, c/o Letters Department, Martha Stewart Living, 805 Third Ave., 25th floor, New York, NY 10022. Please include your full name, address and daytime phone number.