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If you’ve been following my blog over the past year, you’d know by now that I love my life hacks! I also promised a life hack column a few times a year. If you like the concept, well then, this is your lucky week, because I’m bringing you some more clever hacks — 13 of them to be exact.
Life hacks have been around for years. Just hark back 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 to how to soothe an ache or pain (some are just plain crazy, but effective)!
So without further ado, I offer you 13 life hacks that I found really interesting and I hope you utilize and enjoy them.
Do You Know the “Neck Trick?”
Here’s a quick way to see if jeans fit without (or before) trying them on. Place the buttoned waistline of the jeans around your neck. If the waistline comfortably meets at the back of your neck, then the jeans will fit. There is a small thing to keep in mind. Although this neck-waist ratio is generally true, it’s not infallible. But, at least it’ll give you a better idea of whether the pants will fit before heading to the dressing room. One major exception is low-rider jeans since the waistband hits closer to your hips.
Ouch — An Easy Way to Remove A Splinter
Fill a wide-mouthed bottle with hot water nearly to the brim, and press affected area tightly against the mouth of the bottle. The suction will pull down the flesh, and steam will soon draw out the splinter. If the splinter is in a finger, find a smaller mouthed bottle. You need a vacuum seal.
Ouch, That’s Hot!
If you grab a hot pan or get a minor burn in the kitchen or wherever you have hot items, grab some toothpaste and goop it on. It will soothe the pain and stop the burning instantly.
A Hammer, a Nail, and a Smashed Finger?
In order to stop banging up your hands and fingers when you’re hammering in a nail, here’s a great hack for you. Find a clothespin, secure the nail in the grip and hold the clothespin flush to the wall. Your fingers will be over an inch away and you can pound that nail in without injury!
The Key Ring and Your Poor Fingers
When you’re adding a fob, key, or whatever to your key ring, stop using your fingers. Find a staple remover, and with the sharp teeth, open up the metal ring, which makes sliding on whatever it is much easier and will save your precious digits.
Is Adjusting Your Eyesight From Dark To Light And Vice Versa A Problem?
By closing one eye when turning the lights on or off helps your eyes adjust to the change in lighting much more quickly.
Does The Sex Of A Bell Pepper Matter? Yes, It Does!
Before buying a bell pepper, think about what you’re using the pepper for — raw food or cooked in a dish. Why may you ask? Although female peppers have more seeds, they are also sweeter and taste better for raw eating. Male peppers are better for cooking. How can you tell the difference? Flip the pepper over. If it has four bumps, it’s a girl, 3 bumps, it’s a boy.
Oh No, the Recipe Calls For Room Temperature Butter!
If you're in the process of making a dish and you realize you forgot to take the butter out of the fridge, here's an easy hack to soften butter quickly. Simply place the portion of butter required for the recipe on a small plate. Then, take a glass, fill it with hot water, and let it stand for about a minute. Drain the glass and dry it quickly and invert it over the butter. Let stand for another minute before removing the glass. Voilà! You have perfectly softened, room-temperature butter in two minutes flat.
How to Clean a Baking Sheet Caked with Crud
Does your baking sheet look like it’s been torched? If so, here’s a hack for you. Combine some baking soda and hydrogen peroxide and you've got an amazing cleaner that can turn old pots and pans, cookie sheets, and cooking utensils from grimy to shiny.
All you have to do is put a layer of baking soda on the cookie sheet with baked-on crud, followed by hydrogen peroxide and then some more baking soda and let it soak for at least an hour — but the longer the soak, the better. Wipe off the mixture and the sheet will be crud-free or at the least, so much cleaner. Depending on how much baked on crud there is, you may need a second coat. But the scrubbing time is a bare minimum!
Permanent Marker Removal Hacks
Permanent marker stains are a pain to clean but here are some great hacks to help you.
To Remove Permanent Marker from:
- Clothes: Use hand sanitizer
- Walls: Use toothpaste or hairspray
- Wood: Use rubbing alcohol
- Carpet: Use white vinegar
- Furniture: use milk
- White Board: Use a dry erase marker or a pencil rubber eraser
- Ceramic or Glass: Use 1 part toothpaste with 1 part baking soda
Running out of Space in Your Freezer?
When freezing ground meat, flatten it out as much as you can and store it in a plastic freezer bag —it’ll definitely reduce thawing time. This works on anything that you can flatten out a bit.
Why Aluminum Foil Is Your Friend: #1
Are rust spots on chrome getting you down? Try using a sheet of aluminum foil splashed with a bit of water to buff out minor rust stains on everything from kitchen appliances to bikes. Aluminum foil can also be used to clean cast iron pans without running the risk of them rusting.
Why Aluminum Foil Is Your Friend: #2
Don’t you hate it when you reach for your scissors and they are so dull that you can’t cut through anything? Here’s a hack: take a sheet of foil and fold it a few times – or layer a few layers on top of each other. Cut at least 10+ slices into the foil. After you’ve cut through the foil, the blades will be incredibly sharp and ready for action.
I hope some of these life hacks will be useful to you, or at the least, amusing to read! I’m on my way home now to buy some male bell peppers to make the recipe featured in Cooking for Joan this week — Hunter Style Chicken Cacciatore — and then finish de-gunking a few more baking sheets. What’s on your weekend schedule? Whatever it is, have a fantastic time!
Cooking for Joan
This is a perfect fall/winter dish for a casual dinner party — or for one or two if you want a lot of leftovers. This rustic, savory stew with delicious Italian seasoning combined with rich tomato sauce and the sharp, piquant, salty taste of capers is like a warm hug. I’ve decided that this weekend is time for another batch — male bell peppers and all (isn’t that a great hack? I had no idea!). Give it a try!
Chicken Cacciatore (Hunter Style)
Prep Time: 10 min | Cook Time: 1 hr | Makes: 4-6 | Difficulty: Medium
- 6 chicken thighs, bone in, skin on
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced root to tip, about 1 ½ cups
- 1 red or green bell pepper, seeded, sliced into 1/4-inch wide slices (use 1 ½ or 2 if you really like peppers)
- 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, thickly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1/3 cup red wine
- 2 ½ to 3 cups peeled and chopped, firm ripe tomatoes, with their juices, or 1 28-ounce can of plum tomatoes in their juice
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons caper
- 1 teaspoon dry thyme (or 2 teaspoons fresh, chopped)
- 1 teaspoon dry oregano (or 2 teaspoons fresh, chopped)
Rinse chicken and pat dry.
Season the chicken pieces on all sides with salt.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat.
Working in batches so that you don't crowd the pan, place the chicken pieces skin side down in the pan. Cook until nicely browned, about 5 minutes, then turn over and lightly brown the other side.
Remove chicken to a bowl, set aside.
Drain off all but 2 tablespoons of the rendered fat. If you have less than 2 Tbsp of fat in the pan, add more olive oil until you have about that much oil coating the pan.
Add the sliced onions, bell peppers, and mushrooms to the pan. Increase the heat to medium high.
Cook until the onions are translucent, and the mushrooms have given up most of their moisture, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes.
Add the garlic to the pan and cook a minute more.
Add the wine and scrape up any browned bits at the bottom of the pan. Simmer until the wine is reduced by half.
Add the tomatoes.
Stir in the pepper, thyme, oregano, and about a teaspoon of salt.
Test and taste to adjust. Simmer uncovered for another 5 minutes.
Place the chicken pieces on top of the tomatoes and onions, skin side up. Lower the heat and cover the skillet with the lid slightly ajar.
Cook the chicken on a low simmer, turning and basting from time to time.
Cook until the thighs are tender, about 30 to 40 minutes.