a breath of SPRING

Fling: Here are 50 ways to welcome the season into your home, garden and life.

March 19, 2000|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,Sun Staff

Things we love about spring: Everything seems fresh and new. Possibilities abound. Buds appear on bare branches, and early spring flowers blossom in soft yellows and pale lavenders. The light is different, almost shimmering with expectancy. Even chilly mornings are quickly warmed by a suddenly radiant sun.

What we don't love about spring: It's a time for cleaning out (the house) and cleaning up (the garden).

But even the most tedious chores can be made more palatable if you intersperse them with small springtime treats. Here are our suggestions for 50 ways to clean and renew your home and garden while you celebrate the rebirth of the earth.

1. Paint a room -- or several -- in a beautiful spring color like celadon or pale yellow.

2. Wash your windows till they sparkle, even if you don't have time to do the vacuuming. Use a squeegee and a tablespoon of dishwasher detergent per bucket of cool water.

3. Buy some fragrant potted plants like hyacinths or lilies to make you happy until your garden starts to bloom. Water often and keep them cool -- they'll last longer.

4. Change your "room jewelry," says Dylan Landis, author of the "Elegant and Easy Rooms" series of decorating books from Dell -- such as switch plates, lamp finials, dresser knobs. "Why not put your hand and eye on something beautiful?"

5. Clean off the deck. Wash with water and a little bleach to kill mildew; rinse thoroughly.

6. Splurge on a food that says spring to you, like out-of-season strawberries, artichokes, baby asparagus or a bunch of watercress.

7. Buy yourself a beautiful kite and, with or without a kid, go fly it.

8. "Get rid of all the losers in your garden," says local floral designer Andrea Stieff. "Life's too short to have ugly plants!"

9. Take down your heavy draperies and have them cleaned. Don't put them back up until fall.

10. Take the afternoon off and go watch a high school lacrosse game.

11. Sort through your spring and summer clothes before you go shopping this year. Give away any you didn't wear last year.

12. Buy a big bunch of daffodils and give them to your next-door neighbor.

13. Entertain with a lovely springtime brunch instead of the usual dinner party. "It's nice to have the daylight," says Barbara Fairchild, executive editor of Bon Appetit. "The food is easy to fix, and you can serve champagne."

14. Plant a small garden of early spring vegetables like spinach, peas or lettuce. It's not too late.

15. Open the windows, even if it is a little chilly.

16. Just for the fun of it, spend an hour or two dyeing eggs without the kids -- in pastel shades, perhaps, or deep jewel tones. Place these "adult" eggs in a beautiful bowl and use them as a spring centerpiece.

17. Paint wooden outdoor furniture a bright color such as chrome yellow or apple green; have pillows covered in a coordinating print.

18. Do as the Victorians did: Roll up your carpets and put down sisal for the spring and summer months. Or just enjoy the bare, cool floors.

19. Eat outside as soon as you can.

20. Clean out the fireplace and put something decorative in front of it, like a small screen. Or fill it with a flowering hydrangea plant if you're having a party.

21. Turn and rotate your mattresses.

22. "Make something you haven't fixed in a long time, like bread or a great dessert," suggests Barbara Fairchild. Or cook something you've never cooked before.

23. Buy one impractical item of clothing that says spring: something in chiffon, or a strappy sandal.

24. Redo a powder room if you want to make a decorating change but don't have the money or time to tackle a larger room.

25. Pick one drawer or one closet and eliminate the clutter. Who knows? Maybe it will inspire you to do them all. But if not, at least you'll have that one done.

26. Have white slipcovers made for your upholstered furniture.

27. "Put up something gauzy," says Marian McEvoy, editor-in-chief of Elle Decor. "You can find [sheer curtains] in catalogs. Spend a little money to make a big difference."

28. Call up someone you haven't spoken to in years.

29. Buy a decorative bird house.

30. Hang the wash outside to dry.

31. Consider investing in a glider for the back yard, suggests Joan Lowe of Lawrik Interiors in Annapolis, particularly if your family lives outdoors in the good weather.

32. Clean out the gutters.

33. Get a pedicure. You'll be wearing those strappy sandals soon.

34. Wash or clean and store blankets and quilts.

35. Add fresh mint to tea or foods like cooked baby carrots and salads.

36. Clear off your mantel completely and put something there that says spring: branches of forsythia or pussy willow in a clear vase, a collection of found objects from nature walks.

37. Plant some brightly colored pansies where passersby can enjoy them.

38. Start barbecuing again, even if the weather isn't warm enough to eat outdoors.

39. Start your pet's flea medicine again.

40. "Sink a gazing ball into the soft earth of your garden," suggests Stieff. "It's not as garish as up on a pedestal."

41. Take the family to see the cherry blossoms in Washington.

42. In the bedroom, get rid of throws and fur, says McEvoy. If you used colored or paisley sheets in the winter, switch to white, pearly colors, icy blue or gray.

43. Replace the shower curtain.

44. Take an early morning walk and watch the sun rise.

45. Have your air conditioning serviced -- before you have to. Prices will be better now when the service people aren't so busy.

46. Use glass or silver vases for spring arrangements.

47. Help an elderly neighbor clean away winter debris from his or her garden.

48. Plant a window box, suggests McEvoy. "It's fabulous to have a little garden growing outside your window. Ask the nursery for plants that don't need a lot of maintenance."

49. Take your winter clothes to the cleaner.

50. Buy a bottle of bubble-blowing soap, sit on your front steps on a nice spring evening and blow bubbles.

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