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The Magnetism of Spring



Distributed by New York Times Special Feature

Spring has finally arrived, and here are some ideas to help you make the most of the season, including a project that will give your home a fresh spring look, tips for getting organized and things that will help you in the garden.

Magnetic Spring. You can enjoy the look and feel of spring when you decorate with a batch of magnet-fitted flowers. Fabric roses, ranunculus and mums can blossom just about anywhere: Embellish curtains, tablecloths and even living-room lampshades with an arrangement.

Look in craft stores for a variety of complementary-hued blooms, and adhere mini magnets (also from craft stores) to the backs of the flowers with a hot glue gun, just above their raised centers. Then secure them to any soft surface by placing a second magnet on the reverse side.

Fancy Sugar. Spring flowers formed from sugar are a sweet touch for serving with coffee and tea. To make some, add 2 teaspoons of water to 1 cup of sugar and knead with your hands until it's the consistency of wet sand.

Pack the moistened sugar into flower-shaped plastic-mold trays (available at kitchen supply and craft stores; shapes should be 1 to 1 1/2 inches across), and scrape off excess with a small spatula. Immediately turn out molded shapes onto a parchment-lined tray, and let harden overnight. Store sugar in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to a month.

Multi-tasking Machine. Home-office paper shredders provide a safe way to dispose of personal documents, but they also have a more whimsical function: transforming scraps of paper into attractive packing grass for gift boxes.

Hook a strip-cut shredder over a plastic storage bin, shred used wrapping paper and other papers in pretty colors, and use the results to spruce up packages for family and friends. You can also just shred old newspapers to pad fragile items before shipping.

Recipe File. Put photo protectors to work in the kitchen: Use them to keep recipe cards organized and splatter-free. You can find protectors in a variety of sizes at office-supply stores. Purchase those that will fit recipe cards you've collected from magazines or written out by hand. Keep the filled pages in a three-ring binder in a handy spot in your kitchen.

Umbrella Hooks. There are times when you'll need to have an umbrella handy whenever you head out the door. Mounting broom hooks inside a closet door is less cumbersome than using an over-crowded umbrella stand, and it won't clutter up your entryway. Hang the hooks high enough so the umbrellas won't drag on the floor, and far enough apart so handles don't knock together.

Hose Stand. Make sure each plant in your budding garden gets its fair share of water by elevating a sprinkler to a higher level using a simple bamboo pole. You'll need an oscillating spigot designed for in-ground use, a bamboo pole and two plastic fastener strips.

Cut the pole to the size you need: 2 to 3 feet for low vegetables or 4 to 6 feet for tall flowers. Push the bamboo about 8 inches into the soil to secure it. Then place the metal spigot plate on top of the pole so the spike hangs down its side. Fasten the spike to the pole with the plastic strips. Trim the ends of plastic the strips before attaching your hose.

Gauging Holes. This trick will save you some trouble when you're planting a sapling in your yard: Stand a rake beside the root ball, and grasp the handle 1 to 2 inches below the root flare (where the trunk meets the root ball). Then check if the hole is deep enough by laying a spade across the opening and lowering the rake to the bottom. If your hand meets the spade, you're ready to plant.

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