Question: I've heard that you can paint lampshades. We recently moved into a new home, and I think that this would solve my problem, but I do not know what kind of paint to use. Can you help?
- Jan Laughlin, Moscow, IowaMartha Stewart: Painting a lampshade is a simple way to get just the color you want. You need to start with a plain, white opaque-paper shade. Look for them at lamp shops or call a New York City store called Just Shades (212-966-2757) to order them. High-gloss, oil-based enamel paint gives the best results. Steady the shade by clipping the frame to a tall, narrow-necked bottle or balancing the frame on a wide-mouth jar. Paint the outside with long, even strokes, let the shade dry, then give it a second coat.
You can dress the shade up a little more with some ribbon trim: Cut ribbon to the circumference of the top and bottom of the shade, paint the edges carefully with a very thin layer of craft glue, and lay the ribbon over the glue so the ends meet at the shade's seam. Thin ribbon works on any shade, but wider ribbon should be reserved for drum-shaped shades, which have straight sides, so the ribbon won't buckle.
Question: The vernal equinox is coming up. Is it true that you can balance an egg on end on this day?
- Donna Gregor,
Harding Township, N.J.
Martha Stewart: You may be able to, but if so, you could probably balance that egg on end on any other day of the year. This old myth is rather charming, but not based on fact. The vernal equinox, which always falls on or around March 21 (this year it's March 20), marks the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Day and night are precisely 12 hours each as the sun crosses the celestial equator moving northward. This day corresponds to the Southern Hemisphere's autumnal equinox, or the beginning of fall.
Though the origin of the egg-balancing myth is unknown, the explanations usually involve gravity (it has been suggested that gravity is stronger, weaker or "balanced" at this time), but they do not make scientific sense. Instead, it seems that some eggs balance, while others do not. It has to do with the smoothness and shape of the shell, the egg inside, the surface it's balancing on - and the amount of time you're willing to spend trying.
QUESTION: I recently purchased a baking stone and found that there were no instructions with it. How do I use it? Do I need to change the oven temperature when baking on a stone? How should I care for it?
- Cheryll Patterson,
Columbia City, Ind.
Martha Stewart: A baking stone, also called a pizza stone, is an indispensable tool for anyone who bakes bread or pizza at home. This unglazed ceramic slab simulates the effect of a brick oven: It holds heat well, transfers it evenly and absorbs moisture in the dough, resulting in a wonderful crisp crust that is difficult to achieve in a home oven.
A baking stone is easy to use: You simply bake bread or pizza directly on top of it. If the bread needs to be baked in a pan to keep its shape, it will still benefit from being placed on a stone.
The stone must be hot, so while preparing your dough or pizza, place it in the lower third of the oven to preheat at the temperature your recipe calls for - there's no need to make temperature adjustments - for 30 to 45 minutes. If you do a lot of baking, you may want to leave the baking stone in the oven all the time.
The best way to transfer your pizza or dough to the hot stone is on a baker's peel, which is like a big wooden paddle, dusted with cornmeal: Give it a few gentle shakes back and forth, and the dough will release and slide onto the stone. A baking sheet without edges can be used in place of a peel. Don't worry when your baking stone darkens and discolors with use - this is a sign that it is well-loved, and many bakers swear that the more mottled it becomes, the better it works. To clean it, just brush the surface with a dry brush or scrape it carefully to remove any baked-on food without scratching the surface. The ceramic surface is porous, so don't immerse the baking stone in water. And never use soap on it; it would absorb the soap and transfer the taste to whatever was baked on the stone next.
You'll find baking stones (and peels) at specialty kitchenware shops. They vary in size and may be round, square or rectangular. Some come with a metal frame with handles, making it easier to move in and out of the oven. Baking tiles serve the same purpose.
Copyright Martha Stewart