There’s no time like the present to dust off that waffle iron you received as a wedding gift two years ago. The same applies to the slow cooker only brought out for potlucks, and the popcorn machine you can’t reach at the back of the cupboard. When it comes to kitchen appliances, the possibilities are only limited by your imagination. Coffee makers and dishwashers are capable of doing much more than what it claims on their packaging. The following hacks take everyday kitchen appliances (and a few kitchen tools!) from one-dimensional to multi-faceted.
We all know how frustrating it can be trying to butter a fluffy piece of toast with a cold slab of butter. Not only can a cheese grater solve all your butter problems, but it can also double as a vegetable slicer, spice grinder, and chocolate shaver. Find more grater hacks here.
Laundry. It’s unavoidable. But what if we told you that you could save time, money, and prevent wear-and-tear with just a few tricks? That’s right, we’ve got the laundry hacks you’ve been waiting for.
Because everyone’s laundry room is this tidy, right?
Hanging clothing to dry is the most eco-friendly option.
According to BC Hydro, laundry uses up about 9% of your household energy load. As nearly one tenth of your energy use, it’s worth considering how much electricity you use to keep your family looking spiffy – plus, it could save you real money on your energy bills. Our favourite tricks to save power and money?
- Switch from hot water to cold whenever possible. Obviously your son’s workout gear isn’t the place to cut corners, but for things like towels, bedding, and general clothing, it’ll actually be better for your possessions to wash in cold, as cold water preserves colour and prevents shrinking.
- Hang dry your laundry. Hang your clothes to dry! Of course tumble dry your towels and sheets, but for most clothing (like knits and silks), it’s recommended to hang dry anyways. Not enough space on your drying rack? We’ve got some options, or you can grab some hangers and dry in your closet.
- Run full loads. This might seem obvious, but running a small load takes the same amount of electricity and dryer sheets (and if you use Tide Pods or Gain Flings, the same amount of detergent!) as a full load. So don’t run small loads. Sort your laundry by colour (maybe in some cute hampers!), and when the bin fills up, wash it. Last minute requests for a specific pair of jeans can be addressed in an ad hoc manner.
There are only so many hours in a day, so the less time you have to spend on household chores, the better. Who doesn’t want to save time? Here are a few time-saving laundry tricks.
Organized bins will make it simple for your family members to sort their laundry – even the little ones! Photo via Just Julie Ann
- Pre-sort your laundry. We mentioned pre-sorting above, but it’s worth repeating. If you have the square footage, set up labelled bins in your laundry room where the family can sort their own clothing. That way, it’ll be easy to pick up a bin, toss them in the machine, and move on with your day.
- Use a towel to decrease drying times. Did you know adding a dry towel to the dryer will help your clothing dry faster? We wouldn’t recommend using this technique for delicate items, but really, they should be hung anyways. This trick is especially handy for heavy fabrics like cotton and denim.
- Forget ironing. Use your dryer and a couple ice cubes to de-wrinkle your clothes quickly, leaving you to do more important things – like eating breakfast, taking a shower, or packing your bag.
Save your clothes
There’s more to taking care of your clothes than cold water and gentle cycles. Washing machines and dryers can wreak havoc on your clothing, so try these tips to help extend the life of that favourite dress and perfectly-fitting jeans.
A spray bottle is your new secret trick to clean clothes.
- Spray your jeans. If you like dark wash jeans, you know how damaging the washing machine can be to the colour. Even if you use vinegar and detergent that is specialized for dark colours, it’s still tough to keep the colours fresh – that’s why this trick is such a favourite. Mix a 70-30 mixture of vodka and water, and put it in a spray bottle. Flip the garment inside out, spray the garment, and hang it up to dry (preferable in the sunshine). Originally used in theatre costume departments to extend costumes between dry cleanings, the vodka will kill odours and bacteria, and dries odourless.
- Spin dry your delicates. With delicate clothing, hanging to dry is an obvious – but how to remove excess water from your garments? Wringing them out can be damaging – especially with knits. Try using your salad spinner! Then hang to dry as normal.
- Hand wash using a colander. Submerging garments in water can pull and twist at the fabric. Instead, grab a colander from the kitchen to use while you rinse detergent from your clothes. Alternatively, you can use the inside section of your salad spinner.
- Wash clothes inside out, zipped and buttoned. Prevent snags, pulls, and fading by flipping everything inside out and zipping it up before washing. This protects items from the buttons and zippers on other garments!
With summer ending, it’s now time to get your home ready for the autumn’s great return exodus. As days shorten, people move back indoors – and, pssst, it’s been been six months since spring cleaning. Ease the stress of back to school and work by keeping in mind four simple tricks to beautifully prepare your abode for fall. Remember: back to busy doesn’t need to mean back to messy.
Pack up the Patio
It’s always hard to accept the end of patio season, but there comes a time to embrace the chilly evenings. Wash and dry cushions or fabrics before you store them and put covers over furniture you can’t bring indoors. Drain kiddie pools and clean them thoroughly before storing them for the winter. Properly cleaning and storing your summer essentials will make room for raking the leaves when they inevitably arrive.
Get Set for Sweater Weather
Cleaning out closets and drawers to make room for the heavier togs of autumn. Clearly labeled boxes are a boon: Help the kids decide what to store for winter, what to keep in the closet year-round, and what to donate to charity. Give the summer clothes one last wash before packing it away! Need even more space? Shallow Rubbermaid boxes stay out of out of the way keep cargo protected from dust and sunlight.
Minimize Bathroom Clutter
If you’ve got teenagers, then there’s no greater struggle than accurately judging primping time. A well-organized bathroom can keep the lineup running smoothly by making everything from eyelash curlers to pimple cream easy to find. Purge seasonal makeup and toss cosmetics that have passed their expiration date. Most makeup is only good for three months to a year, and eye makeup in particular should be replaced regularly to avoid infection.
Freshen up the Fridge
The end of popsicle season is a great time to de-gunk your refrigerator. Remove all food and turf anything past its expiry date. Then, remove the shelves, soak, scrub, and air dry. Wiping them down with baking soda and water will eliminate any remnant odours. Put everything back in a logical, organized way and assess what’s needed for on-the-go breakfasts, brown-bag lunches, and quick weeknight dinners.
Before planning any backyard, block, pool, or patio parties this summer, consult our list of must-haves for 2016. You can probably do without some of them. But do you really want to?
But do you really want to?
Looking for an excuse to get outdoors, go green and celebrate the weekend? Round up some friends and get your hands dirty with a planting party!
Gardening is all about growing locally and building a better community – it gets even better when you throw in some sparkly summer beverages and good company. Whether you’re working with a balcony, backyard, or community plot – planting parties cultivate great conversation, eco-friendly edibles, and lush gardens through the summer and beyond. Here’s how to get the party started:
We all love a good home hack. But these ones are special – they all find another use for standard household items. They’re so simple, we felt a little dumbstruck: “Why didn’t I think of that?”
Photo via The Chic Site
Power cables. Necessary? Definitely. Annoying? Absolutely. How to keep them all straight? Untangled? Organized? How many of us have crawled under a desk to unplug a laptop, only to wonder which cord is which?
Here’s an easy and clever solution: Washi tape. We carry an array of sizes and patterns from Scotch, so you can colour-code and label to your heart’s content.
[More at The Chic Site]
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Photo via CNET
Who, while preparing food and glancing at an Epicurious recipe, hasn’t leaned an iPad awkwardly against the knife block or cutting board? Right in the spill zone, in other words. Cooking a new recipe can be stressful enough—there’s no need to worry about ruining an expensive device. Protect it with a handy kitchen essential: Slip your iPad into a large Ziploc bag. Sealed, it’ll protect the tablet from any unanticipated messes—and the touch screen works, as normal. (Use the same technique to protect beloved family recipe cards.)
[More at CNET]
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Photo via Good Housekeeping.
These ubiquitous binder clips have a million uses, but we’re especially fond of this one. Use them to clip wrapping paper right to the roll, one at each end. They were designed for clipping stacks of paper, so it’s a natural extension. You can even devise a hanging system, gaining real space savings from what is usually an unwieldy item.
[More at Good Housekeeping]
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Photo via Jen Thousand Words
If you’re an appliance junkie, you know how uncooperative these pesky cords can be. Rather than attempting to wrap the toaster cord around the base—it never stays put—before stowing it away, try this: attach the plug to the side of the machine, using a Command Picture Hanging Strip.
No muss, no fuss.
[More at Jen Thousand Words]
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Nobody has time to read the whole Internet, so our editors have summarized the best of it for you. Read on for smart advice on personal emails, the perils of ‘parachuting,’ pancake science, and more—our favourite articles of the week.
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Smartphone neck: To your massage therapist, it means you should cut down time spent online.
- You love big purses. Your body will be tighter on one side, since you’re likely to weight-bear on a primary leg. A therapist will detect tight glutes, hamstrings, and quads, as well as an unnatural pelvic tilt.
[Perhaps you’ve been packing an earthquake prep kit in that ginormous satchel?]
- You’re dehydrated. Haven’t drunk your recommended eight glasses of water a day? You’ll feel pain on certain trigger points in your upper back.
[But wait—could 8 glasses a day be a myth?]
- You’re cold all the time. People reflexively hunch their shoulders when they’re cold. It’s common for massage therapists to see additional neck and shoulder stress in the winter months.
[Perhaps you don’t spend long enough warming up your car. Nope, that’s impossible.]
- You have a desk job. It’s not for nothing they call sitting the next public health crisis. Working at a computer weakens the lower back, puts your hips out of alignment, and leads to tight glutes and legs.
[Forget good posture—this is way more important at work.]
- You sleep on your stomach. The parachuting position puts stress on the neck, leading to abnormal tightness.
[These 6 surprising foods help you sleep all night long—in any position.]
- You’re constipated. Much easier to detect than you might think. The dead giveaway is an abdomen that’s firm to the touch.
[Not sure what to suggest… Bran Buds?]
- You have a long commute. Hours spent behind the wheel promotes a posture of leaning forward. You can tell a frequent driver by his hunched shoulders.
[Apparently, the more you burp, the worse you drive, says Dr. Art Hister.]
- You’re hurt. Acute injuries radiate heat and inflammation. An experienced massage therapist can distinguish between chronic injuries (muscles feel tight, dehydrated) and repetitive motion injuries (tendons and muscles feel wiry, like guitar strings).
[Pain sucks. We’ve got a host of services—from pharmacy to health library—to help you through it.]
- You’re on your smartphone too much. Chronic texters will find it unusually painful when a massage therapist rubs their shoulders. The cause? The downward position of your head as you look at the screen.
[That said, we, ahem, have some excellent deals on smartphones.]
- You’re a runner. Hips and lower back are tight to the touch, foot arches are tense.
[Two words: Icy Hot. Dr. Scholls. Okay, four.]
- Your allergies are flaring up. Hay fever got you on the ropes? Tissue around your eyes, forehead, cheeks, and jaw will feel tender and inflamed. Lymph nodes, too, in the chest, neck, and underarms.
[We’ve got more allergy remedies than you can blast a sneeze at.]
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You’ll never look at an innocent shower the same way again. (Janet Leigh, in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, 1960.)
Believe it or not, your safety is on the line every time you hop in and steam up the bathroom. To avoid embarrassment, injury, or worse, the experts at Prevention say you should stay away from…
- Showering during an electrical storm: Think about it—water conducts electricity. If lightning hit a power line or the ground it can come up your pipes. (Even at a distance from your home, the jolt can be significant.) Activities to avoid in a thunderstorm: showers, baths, dishwashing by hand, playing hard-wired video games or computers, and talking on hard-wired phones.
- Using an old showerhead: Over time, potentially dangerous bacteria accrete in the nooks and crannies, providing microbes. Even worse, modern showerheads can aerosolize water particles, allowing bad bacteria deep into your airways. Use a rain-type showerhead or remove it altogether and go with a single stream of water.
- Showering without a mat: In North America in 2011, more than 250,000 accidental injuries occurred in the bathroom or shower—20 percent due to slipping. Put non-slip strips or a mat in your tub and consider adding grab bars inside and outside the shower to reduce falls.
- Overusing your loofah: They’re great for removing off dead skin, but loofahs can become loaded with germs. Wash yours once a week. Either soak it in diluted vinegar, or run it through the dishwasher.
- Showering before bed: An evening shower is a delightful thing, but don’t hop in within two hours of bedtime. The temperature change messes with your body’s natural triggers for restful sleep.
[More at Prevention]
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Impress your family with a nugget of trivia: That delicious pancake aroma comes from a reaction named for the French chemist Louis-Camille Maillard.
Everyone loves pancakes. But it takes more than luck to work out how much batter you need or how to ensure the perfect flip. Here’s a great recipe, along with secret scientific underpinnings that contribute to perfect pancakes. Good luck!
- 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1 pinch of salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 2 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
- 1-1/3 cups milk
- butter for frying
- Cooking is chemistry: Flour supplies protein and starch, both of which make simple sugar molecules join in chains. Much of flour’s protein comes from gluten. When you mix flour with milk and eggs, its gluten molecules get more flexible and can bind. The mixing causes carbon dioxide gas from the air to be trapped within these networks, which causes the pancake to rise.
- If you want thick pancakes, use a raising agent: This produces the carbon dioxide. Use baking soda or baking powder, or a mixture of sodium bicarbonate with a weak acid, like cream of tartar.
- Let batter stand for at least 30 minutes: Three hours is better. Why? You want to beat the mixture hard, to form the gluten—but allow the starches time to swell. With insufficient time, the pancake structure will be weak and full of air bubbles.
- Go easy with the batter: Rookie cooks always use too much.
- Use moderate heat: The pan should be hot enough for the pancake to brown in less than a minute, but not so hot that the batter sets when you put it on the pan. The pan matters, too. The best are heavy and flat, and hold heat well.
- The colour and flavour come from “browning off”: This process—a chemical reaction known as the Maillard reaction—is caused by hot sugars reacting with amino-acids, generating a wide range of small molecules that escape from the mixture and carry their wonderful smells to your nose.
[More at Time Science]
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The sweet spot of email writing. (Image courtesy of Boomerang.)
Having trouble getting people to reply to your emails? The solution, say the experts behind a popular Gmail plugin, is to write as if you’re 9 years old. Short, declarative sentences carry the day. But beware: Excessive simplicity and complexity both diminish your chances of a reply. Messages written at a kindergarten reading level get replies 46 percent of the time; those written at a university level, 39 percent.
Here’s a full list of Boomerang’s email tips:
- Use short sentences with simpler words. A 3rd grade reading level works best.
- Include one to three questions in your email.
- Make sure you include a subject line! Aim for 3-4 words.
- Use a slightly positive or slightly negative tone. Both outperform a completely neutral tone.
- Take a stand! Opinionated messages see higher response rates than objective ones.
- Write enough, but not too much. Try to keep messages between 50-125 words.
[More at The Washington Post]
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