Tippity Doo-Dah! (Part One)

I keep seeing these ‘life hack’ posts on pinterest or passed around on facebook, and those are are really great, I’ve learned a few new tips that save me time and energy, for sure.  Kudos to all who have shared their ideas already.  But I’m also surprised by how many I already DO know– like cutting pastry with dental floss, I’ve watched my Dad do that since the late 70’s with his famous pineapple pinwheels.  And– I have a few that I’ve never seen mentioned.  (I know that it highly likely that some bloggers have posted these somewhere else, but I haven’t seen them.)  Some of mine that I’m about to share with you are legit tips, some of them are just more like, helpers, but I don’t know if I would call them *life hacks.*  They’re things I’ve been doing for a while and that work for me….  I just thought they were worth mentioning, maybe?

Another Re-Purposed Incense Burner

Re-Purposed Incense Burner

Saltshaker Incense Burner

Saltshaker Incense Burner

***  You can re-purpose a fun salt shaker that has lost its mate as an incense burner.  My mom has been burning incense since long before my birth, so that warm, wafting, spicy-earthy scent feels like home to me.  And truthfully, as the caretakers for five animals and a little boy, we need all the help we can get in the smellin’ good department around this joint.  For years I would light one and look for a place to stick it, and eventually my Mother came up with this.  If your singular shaker of choice isn’t wider at the base like my examples are, you can open up the bottom and fill them with sand or pebbles to give them a little heft and support.  Missing its little plug at the bottom?  Use a little square of duct or packing tape to hold it all in.  Don’t forget to burn safely and place a small dish underneath your lit sticks to catch the falling ash.

My examples are both vintage– the sweet little figural orange above was sent to me by my dear friend Angie and the square dish was made by my sister-in-law Carrie; and the blue shaker and yellow dish were both thrift scores.  I dig these because I don’t care for the typical ones that look like wooden sleds or holey exotic teak boxes, so I can burn my Nag Champa and it goes with my kitschy, colorful, retro-inspired decor.  Yay!  Win-win!

Mustard Remainders

Mustard Remainders

***  I like fancy mustards, and I use them quite a bit in my cooking and on my sammitches.  What can I say, I’m a sucker for a French, tangy, condiment!  Which means that I also love a good, zingy vinaigrette, so when one of my mustard jars gets to that completely-scooped-out- but-with-a-little-still-on-the-sides phase, I use that jar to build some dressing.   I put a couple of teaspoons of oil in there, a few tablespoons of a yummy vinegar like red wine, apple cider, or an infused variety, a big dollop of honey (this last time I used apricot jam since we were out of honey, and that was still delish!) and lots of good kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.  Have some fresh herbs like thyme and parsley?  Mince ’em up and throw ’em in!   Garlic or shallots finely chopped are great, too….  Re-cap that jar, shake until the honey is incorporated (which will take a couple few) and use it up within a couple of weeks.  Nothing wasted!  I always find that I cannot help but eat *more salad* when I have a jar of yum dressing waiting for me to drizzle on it….

So Easy!

So Easy!

The Kureg-intator!  Makin' Oat-Meal!  The Oatarama!  Pipin'-Hot-Brek-Feeest!

The Kureg-intator! Makin’ Oat-Meal! The Oatarama! Pipin’-Hot-Brek-Feeest!

***  Save your left over plastic scotch tape dispensers and reuse them for washi tapes!  I realize this is kinda a no-brainer, using a tape dispenser to dispense tape — I am so wacky like that– but maybe you didn’t know that many washi brands have inner rolls that fit neatly on these plastic pieces that would otherwise be trashed?  I currently have about 10 of these re-purposed this way, and I love how handy it is, no need for scissors, and no jagged tears!  Plus, they line up all straight and orderly, and look gorgeous!  They’re just plain ol’ regular plastic Scotch dispensers, and when you use up the transparent variety, you pop the center reel off by pinching the prongs on the open side, tear out the paper branding bit, and then pop on your new roll of yummy, crafty, washi tape goodness!  I like that I’m saving something from the trash,*and* it helps me be more organized!

***  I’m not a morning person, but I love people who must get up and have that weird stuff they call breakfast, and even though my brain can barely make cereal, I know that they get sick of that, and sometimes expect more.  One morning while stumbling through my reluctant routine, I failed to put a coffee pod in the keurig and accidentally brewed myself a cup of scalding-hot water.  The bowl of dry oats that I was trying to work the courage up to mic was right there and I thought, “I’m gonna go for it!”  It’s pretty perfect, really.  Now I put two baggies of the oats straight into the giant mug with a pat of butter and some cinnamon and brown sugar, stick it under the machine, and brew myself a small cup o’ hot water.  Stir and let it cool a little (and while cooling it will ‘set up’ ), and I’ve magically made breakfast with the literal push of a button.  (Two if my husband hasn’t already turned the Keurig on.  It’s *that* easy.)  First grade fall and winter– here we come!

Cut Thin Slices Of Cheese

Cut Thin Slices Of Cheese

***  Do you ever need to really daintily cut some cheese?  Don’t be rude, I’m not making fart jokes!  I’m talking about those inexpensive eight ounce hunks of cheese that I often wish to cut into smaller servings– without cutting off a quarter-inch hunk of cojack.  I often find that if I’m using a regular knife, I get waaay too much cheese.  Or I’m like, trying *way* too hard and getting these uneven little shards.  When I need to deal with these bigger bulkier blocks, (that are often cheaper than the grated or sliced) I take them completely out of their package, and I use a veggie peeler along the end of the block to make thin, cracker-sized slices of cheese.  Need a sandwich slice?  Slice along the long edge, usually about four of these will cover a standard sammitch.  If you’re cutting many pieces, do four or five slices and then turn the block around and do some the other way, to keep them cutting more uniformly.  I really like this method because the cheese slices soooo thinly (look at that cojack over there, you could practically read through it!), and the veggie peeler is pretty easy to clean.  Especially if you have a dishwasher like I do, just stick it in the cutlery basket, blade up!  Which reminds me….

Duplos Tucked Into the Top Rack

Duplos Tucked Into the Top Rack

Nightlight On a Switch Wall

Nightlight On a Switch Wall

***  If you are lucky enough to purchase LEGOs or Duplos in a thrift shop grab-bag, boxed from a consignment store, or even cheaply in a lot from ebay, sometimes you get them home to find that maybe they’re a little too… icky… to just throw in with your kid’s LEGOs.  Or maybe you have a cat that isn’t sooo discerning about where they go ahead and pump up that lovely lump of fur.  I’m guessing.  I, ahem, wouldn’t know….  Anyway, all those little primary-colored nooks can get germy and sometimes you wanna wash your LEGOs, but how do you possibly wash legos?   Well, you stick them in a small lingerie bag and you run them though the top rack of the dishwasher, of course!  I’ve done this more than a couple of times, it works great for me.  (I have a smaller, finer mesh bag that I’ve used for those teeeeeensy one dot LEGOs.)  They tend to catch a little bit of water in all of their nookage, so afterward I usually lay them out on a clean towel and let them air dry for an hour or two.

Snack Baggie "Wallet"

Snack Baggie “Wallet”

***  Do you have an outlet (or two) that is operated by a switch?  If you have space in your outlets, put in a night light— those blue LED glowy ones are great for this– it’ll help you know if the switch is on or off, and you don’t have to play that click–clickclick–click–click–is the switch on?–click–is this bulb dead?–clickclick game.  You’ll know just by looking in the direction of the wall, by whether or not that nightlight is on.

***  Small children need to be entrusted with cash to be taught about money, but sometimes it’s hard to send them off with a pocket full of bills and coins.  If you need to send a kiddo to carry some cash– or even a check, really– slip the money into a zip-top snack baggie.  They are *perfectly* sized to hold money, they hold coins muuuuch better than an envelope, and you can even fold them in half to have a bi-fold like wallet.  And if the child drops the ball and loses it all, (gambling is bad, kids!) you won’t be out the cost of a kid’s wallet on top of the cash.

Betty Crocker Box for XBox Games

Betty Crocker Box for XBox Games

***  Store a stack of DVDs and XBox games in old Betty Crocker plastic recipe card boxes.  I have picked a few of these boxes up for cheap at thrift shops (usually empty, which is odd) and they are just the right size to contain your most regularly-used games and be closed up and keep them out of sight.  I love the bright, fresh colors that I’ve found– like this fun lime green– and of course the plastic wipes clean easily.  Yeeessss, it is true that the disc cases will sit a little wonky because of a ridge meant to separate the two stacks of recipes, but it doesn’t bother me.  I kinda like that the controller can straddle it and fit in there too.  If the ridge bothers you, build up to the highest point with squares of salvaged cardboard or foamcore.  We like to put the case for the game that is currently in the machine in the lid, to keep it handy.

***  Do you cook with Kosher salt more often than the granulated table salt, like I do?  Often I see them use this ingredient on cooking shows, and they pinch some out of a cute little dish by the side of their stove.  Yes, I too, pinch out my big salt flakes to measure them and sprinkle them out, but I do this from my palm… my hands are just too active… to feel good about grabbing it out of an open dish like that, especially over and over, day after day.  I would feel the need to stop and wash my hands before every time I added salt!  I can’t deal with that.  I mean, yeah, I have clean hands while I’m cooking, but what if I’m mixing up meatloaf, and remember I forgot the salt?  Do you stop, wash your hands really really well so you don’t get meat in your little dish, pinch out your dose, and then re-muck your hands to mix it all in?  It just doesn’t make sense to me.  I use one of these large shakers that I’m sure are meant for sugar (very seventies, no), but for whatever reason, I associate them with that powdery creamer.  I dunno.  We didn’t have a sugar thing like this *or* use creamer in our home growing up, so I have no idea where this connotation comes from, but alas, there it is.  Anyway, back to what I was saying– my sugar shaker has a large opening with a gravity-stopper, so Kosher salt can be easily and cleanly dispensed right into the palm of my hand.  I’ll take the pinch portioning from here, m’dear….

Kosher Salt Shaker Next To Regular  S & P

Kosher Salt Shaker Next To Regular S & P

***  Also in the spirit of re-purposing cool old kitchen gear is this vintage turquoise swirl cutlery tray.  When I saw it at the estate sale, I just *knew* I had to get it, the color and price were too great, but I don’t use a tray like this for my silverware.  I have WAY too much for that, even if I wanted to….  It hung out for a little while in a mostly-empty drawer, and then one day I got fed up with digging through my little spice cabinet.  It seemed like whatever herb or spice I was looking for was the thing that had gotten shoved all the way to the back.  I pulled this gorgeous plastic thang out, and– “whaaaat?!”  I couldn’t believe how perfectly sized this silverware tray is to hold those spice jars!  I love, love, love it!  It is also perfectly sized to sit on top of my microwave, in that little space between it and the cabinet that holds the lesser-used and/or bulkier spices and mixes.  I haven’t fished for herbs since!

My Super-Cool Old Cutlery Tray

My Super-Cool Old Cutlery Tray

*** Also in the photo is a cupcake ‘placecard holder’ which I use to support whatever recipe card I’m referring to for the moment.  I really like this because it keeps it up on my eye level.  And I don’t have to touch my card halfway through mixing meatloaf, so there are no situations where I get the right amount of breadcrumbs in the mix, but the wrong amount of raw meat gaummed onto my handwritten recipe.  Not that its happened or anything.  Deny, deny, deny!

***  Actually, this reminds me of one more– I’m a big fan of *clear* con-tact paper for laminating collaged notebooks and goodies like that, so I always have some in my crafty stash.  (In fact, this tip is perfect for the little remnants that you may have left over from larger projects.)  The *moment* that I figure out that the recipe card is going to get more than two plays in its life, I try and get it laminated (at least on the front) to protect it.  Right now my taco mix, the English Muffin bread, buttermilk ranch dressing, and lemon icebox pie recipes have reeeeally benefited from this treatment over the months.  I really don’t want to have to re-copy any cards, that’s so tedious.  And I love it when I get a recipe from a friend or family member in their writing, especially if  its on a cute card, so this little 2 minute step helps me enjoy the food love hopefully long into the future.  (If you have trouble finding clear contact paper, or don’t want to commit to a whole roll, you can also find laminating pages at office supply stores that would work equally as well.)

Laminated Recipe Card

Laminated Recipe Card– One Good Thing By Jillee’s English Muffin Bread– It is SOOOO Good!

***  Okay, last one involving old kitchen gear, and then I’ll leave the rest for another post.  A couple of years back, I went through and eradicated all of the teflon and non-stick cooking stuff from my house.  I maybe have one straggler thing left, but I’ve worked to really replace it all.  (I don’t want to argue about whether or not it’s unhealthy, I was just to the point where I was sick from mysterious maladies *everyday* and I was working to clean us up and streamline our bodies’ intake a little.  Heck, I’m still doing that, it’s an ongoing thing.)  Anyway.  I ended up with a fairly new, cheap muffin tin that had badly scratched teflon in a couple of the cups.  I could have given it to the thrift store, but that’s another one of those deals where I feel like I’m sending the poison off to harm someone else (I *did* donate the non-scratched items), and I couldn’t do it.  I took it out back, spray painted it aqua, and I now use the muffin divots to hold buttons and pins– in the slot beneath my sewing machine.  Crafty goodies at the ready.  It’s perfect!

Buttons Bobbins and Bits Below

Buttons Bobbins and Bits Below

I know that’s not a new idea, but it’s so handy, I thought I’d show it anyway!  I hope that maybe you got one good idea from something here, do you do any of these?  What’s your favorite hack you’ve learned elsewhere?  Do YOU have any you haven’t seen mentioned that you want to share?

 

 

 

 


Sep 05, 2013 | Category: Just A Thought | Comments: 2 | Tags: , , , ,

 

2 Responses to “Tippity Doo-Dah! (Part One)”

  1. I always have trouble with cheese! That’s a great idea to use a veg peeler. I’m going to have to try it soon! :)


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