As promised, for the remaining days of August, I’m taking a very light approach as I consider topics for the blog. I had a few interesting ideas that I thought would be fun to explore, but on Tuesday afternoon, I had it — a scathingly brilliant idea! Why not use today’s post to introduce you to one of my favorite “new” concepts — the life hack!
First off, did you know the term "life hack" was coined in 2004 during the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference in San Diego by technology journalist Danny O'Brien? Well, I certainly didn’t. Despite starting out as a “techie” word, the concept of life hacks has spread like a wildfire through popular culture. I’m not sure when I became a life hack fanatic but I’ve always been interested in doing things in a different way — usually with limited success. In any event, life hacks have been around for years. Just hark back (good old-fashioned phrase, right?) to newspaper columns like Hints from Heloise and Miss Myrna that were so popular in the 1900s because they offered up solutions to common problems, along with clever ways to do ordinary tasks.
Life hacks can be anything from the technical to the way you prepare a dish or store an item. As a self-proclaimed non-tech guy, I’m sticking with the latter. So without further ado, I offer up 12 life hacks that I hope you can use.
Two Hangers in One
Take a soda tab and slide the hole over the hanger hook and down to rest on the top of the hanger body. Then take another hanger, and slide the hook into the bottom soda tab opening. Now, you have two hangers at an offset hanging from one hook — instant double hanging capacity.
Now, Where Did That Go?
When someone borrows something from you, take a picture of them with the item, and store it in a “borrowed” folder on your phone or other devices. You’ll always be able to keep track of what you lent to someone (and who hasn’t returned it).
A Vertical View
I’ve confessed to doing this in Post 19 — Tick Tock, Are You on the Clock?. If you’re using drawers to store your clothes fold them and store them vertically in rows, front to back. Depending on how wide your drawer is, you can get anywhere from 3 to 4 rows across. Not only can you see everything in the drawer (no more neglected t-shirts at the bottom of the pile), you have more storage space.
Get the Ick Out
To get built-up mineral deposits and other residue out of your shower head, fill a baggie with vinegar, and submerge the head. Tie the baggie in place and leave it there overnight. In the morning, run the water through and all of that icky residue will be gone.
Where is That Damn Edge?
Finding the edge of a roll of tape can be quite frustrating. Here's a solution: when you are done using a roll of tape, stick a paper clip or bread tab clip (you know the little plastic clips on bread bags with the pinchers) underneath the adhesive about a half-inch from the edge. This way, when you return to use the tape again, you will be able to easily identify where to begin.
You can also fold the edge of the tape back on itself — this is my method. Fold the sticky end of the tape back into the roll — not far, just a ½ inch in or so — to make a "pull tab." You can fold the tape directly in, or you can fold at a 45-degree angle for a triangular fold.
How Did All Those Crumbs Get in There?
Here’s a simple way to clean out the spaces between the keys of your laptop or computer. Take a used (or new) post-it, sticky-side down and swipe between the keys on both sides. The post-it will pick up lots of crumbs and other debris.
Oh No, the Remote is Dead!
This life hack was a shock and a happy surprise, though honestly, I’ve yet to try it. No AA batteries for your precious remote or another gadget? You can use AAA batteries in items that call for AA batteries by filling the gaps with scrunched up tin foil. It won’t last as long as AAs but it’ll help you out when you’re in a pinch. Isn’t that amazing??
Did You Use a Chainsaw to Cut That Cake?
Cutting a cake into equal size pieces can often be a challenge. An easy way to do it — dental floss! Yes, dental floss! Cut off a long line of (unflavored) dental floss — at least double the size of the cake. With your two hands wrap the floss around your fingers as if you were flossing. Pull the floss as tight as possible and make sure the floss is at least 4” from each side of the cake. Find the center of the cake and slowly bring the floss down into the cake. If there’s a little give, use a gentle sawing motion. At the bottom, slide out the floss and continue to cut around the cake. Perfection!
A Cupcake Sandwich?
Like many life hacks, this is a “why didn’t I think of this myself.” Eating cupcakes can be a messy situation. An alternate (and cleaner) way to eat the cupcake is to cut it in half, flip the frosting side down on the other half, and there you have it — a cupcake sandwich.
Two at Once?
I hate it when I want to reheat two mid-sized individual bowls of leftovers in the microwave, but the circular tray is just a wee bit too small to accommodate both bowls. Instead of heating one and then the other, place one bowl on one side of the tray and on the other side, put an upturned thin coffee cup. Place the second bowl on the coffee cup, and heat them at the same time.
Say What? How Many Cherries Do I Need to De-Pit??
The easiest way to de-pit a cherry or hull a strawberry is with the handy dandy straw. Using the straw, stick one end into the center of the fruit and push it through to the other side — strawberries will be perfectly hulled and cherries de-pitted.
Why Are Your Cheeks So Sticky?
Most people cut their watermelon in little pie wedges which, when eaten, makes for a sticky, messy affair, especially for your cheeks. Here’s a better way to do it.
Cut the melon in half horizontally (if it’s perfectly round, just choose a side) and place one half flesh side down on a cutting board.
Cut slices downward 1-2" wide — depending on how large you want the sticks.
Rotate the cutting board and cut slices downward and perpendicular to the other slices.
Repeat with the other half of the watermelon (or save it for another time).
Now, you can serve your watermelon in individual sticks with a handy rind holder — no more mess!
Time to Dine: Cooking for Joan
Of course, the Life Hack edition of Persephone Rising deserves a life hack recipe. Hollandaise is one of the 5 French Mother Sauces and is considered to be one of the most challenging to make. It’s not that it’s difficult, but it’s sooo easy to ruin in seconds. I gave up on making hollandaise years ago, but last year, in a life hack frenzy, I found this recipe on the Serious Eats site and thought I’d give it a go.
Voilà! It was the best hollandaise I’d ever made — truly amazing and simple! (which really isn’t saying much since I already wrote how terrible my previous sauces were.) In any event, it’s back in my brunch rotation. Give it a try, and follow the directions exactly — you’ll be flabbergasted by the result!
Hollandaise Sauce (Foolproof in 2 Minutes)
Prep Time: 1 min | Cook Time: 2 min | Makes: 10 | Difficulty: Medium
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon water
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice from 1 lemon
- Kosher salt
- 1 stick butter (8 tablespoons)
- Pinch cayenne pepper or hot sauce (if desired)
Combine egg yolk, water, lemon juice, and a pinch of salt in the bottom of a cup that barely fits the head of an immersion blender.
Melt butter in a small saucepan over high heat, swirling constantly, until foaming subsides. It should register around 220 degrees. (buy a kitchen thermometer if you don’t have one)
Transfer butter to a 1 cup liquid measuring cup.
Place head of immersion blender into the bottom of the cup and turn it on.
Run the blender constantly, slowly pouring hot butter into the cup. It will emulsify with the egg yolk and lemon juice.
Pour until all butter is added and the sauce is thick and creamy.
Season to taste with salt and a pinch of cayenne pepper or hot sauce (if desired).
Serve immediately, or transfer to a small lidded pot and keep in a warm place for up to 2 hour before serving. Hollandaise cannot be cooled and reheated.
(This recipe is a direct lift from Serious Eats. I thought it best not to add my usual “touches” since it’s a simple but precise recipe.)
*Image Courtesy of NewEvolution