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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 and organically, it’s becoming a quarterly posting — seasonal life hacks if you will. The first two life hack posts of 2018 were the winter and spring editions posted in mid-February and early May.
Today, I bring you the next edition — summer! I’m also focusing this edition on hacks to make summer more enjoyable outdoors.
So without further ado, I offer you 16 summer hacks that I found really interesting and I hope you utilize and enjoy them:
How to Keep Sand Off of Your Sunning Area
One of the annoying things about going to the beach is the sand that drifts and blows all over your towel and possessions. Now, sand is unavoidable…you are at the beach, after all. But it would be nice to be able to block as much blowing sand as possible.
Here’s one solution. Use a fitted sheet to create a beach room! At each corner, put some solid item to hold up the sheet and keep it outstretched…a cooler, a backpack, etc. The bonus is that fitted sheets are larger than most beach towels, so you’ll have plenty of space for picnicking and chilling out. Take a couple of them along so you’ll have room for all of your things on one and you can lay on the other.
An Easy Trick to Get the Sand Off
Oddly enough, baby powder is one of the best items to bring to the beach. If you sprinkle your sand-covered feet with baby powder when you’re ready to leave, the sand will literally fall off. Instead of tracking sand everywhere you go, you can just remove it easily with the baby powder. It really does work!
Need a Firestarter? Grab a Snack!
If you find yourself in need of a fire-starter for your grill or fire pit, reach for the Doritos. Doritos are flammable and create a lovely light, making them a perfect substitute!
The Perfect Carry Case for Your Picnic Items
On your next outdoor picnic, use this easy hack. To create a portable caddy, simply save a cardboard six-pack holder. You can then put napkins, cutlery, salt and pepper shakers, and sauce bottles in the compartments. Depending on how much you’re bringing with you, use as many six-packs as you need. That’s one good reason to drink beer during the week!
Instantly Cool a Hot Drink
This is a cool hack that I found recently. “Taking a gulp of a hot soda isn’t fun no matter what season you’re in. Well, if you’re tired of sipping a warm soda, we’ve got the perfect solution and it will turn your soft drink ice cold in just about two minutes. This is a great summer chemistry lesson and you won’t believe how easy it is to instantly cool that drink. You just submerge your drink in a bowl of ice water, with a little salt and it will drop several degrees in just a couple of minutes.”
To Straw or Not to Straw?
Some people love using straws when they’re drinking soda and other beverages from a can. If you are a straw-person, here’s a great tip to keep it from popping up. Twist the tab over the hole and slide your straw right in. It will hold it in place while you’re enjoying your drink.
Mosquito Itching Getting You Down?
If mosquitos love to dine on you while you’re outside, one way to help that terrible itch is to apply toothpaste to each bite. For some reason, toothpaste really helps to ease the itch of a mosquito bite. You just dab a little on the bite and it will instantly stop the itching. Keep a tube in your summer bag, car or cooler. It’s much cheaper than anti-itch medication and it really does the job well. Besides, who doesn’t want to smell minty fresh!
Another Mosquito Trick Using an Oral Hygiene Product
Don't spend your summer swatting at mosquitos! Pour your mint mouthwash into a spray bottle to spritz over your body to keep them from bothering you.
How to Stop Bugs Going In Your Drink
I don’t care how much protein is in a bug, I would prefer that they don’t swim in my cold drink. Simply place a cupcake holder over your glass or cup and pierce it with a straw.
No Morning Coffee for Ants
If you have an ant problem, here’s a good way to stop their march into your home or around your outside area. Sprinkle some coffee grounds near doorways or around the perimeter of your area. Coffee’s high nitrogen content burns bugs, so they won’t walk across it and into your space.
Is It a Bathroom Accessory or a Candle Holder? Well, It’s Both!
Looking for a place to put one of those bug-deterring citronella candles? Plant a plunger handle (use a clean plunger, please!) in the ground and put the candle in the rubber cup.
Another Cupcake Wrapper Hack
Everyone loves a cold, refreshing Popsicle. But, like me, I’m sure you hate that sticky melting drip that seems to get everywhere. A remedy: Poke a small hole in a cupcake wrapper and slide the wooden stick into it. Voila…an instant sticky drip catcher!
How to Remove Fake Tan Stains
This hack is a lifesaver. Although I do love my sunbathing, I like to supplement and even out my tan with some help. The results are usually wonderful but sometimes, I end up with a fake tan disaster. Whether it’s blotches or streaks or just color on your palms, here's an amazingly quick fix. Make a paste out of baking soda and lemon juice, then apply to stains. Scrub in a circular motion to remove all signs of your tanning accident.
Love the Berries, Hate the Stains
Sure, it’s a fun trip to pick your own berries or just eat them by the handful, but now your fingers are stained with berry juice that won’t come off with soap and water. Try washing your hands with undiluted lemon juice. Wait a few minutes and wash with warm, soapy water. Repeat if necessary until the stain is completely gone.
Salt Deodorizes Sneakers
Sneakers and other canvas shoes can get pretty stinky, especially if you wear them without socks in the summertime. Knock down the odor and soak up moisture by occasionally sprinkling a little salt in your canvas shoes.
To Broke to Go To the Spa?
Here’s a hack that will give you a spa-like experience in your own bathroom. "Help yourself to a few branches of eucalyptus and hang them from the showerhead. As you shower, the warmth and moisture will disperse the fragrance from the leaves, giving you a natural, sweet-smelling boost to your showering." Wonderful!
I hope you enjoyed the hacks and have a great summer!
Cooking for Joan
When I lived in San Francisco, I worked at Theatre Bay Area, a local nonprofit. At the time, the office was located in the up-and-coming SOMA area. Presently, SOMA is bustling night and day but back then, it was only hopping at night, which meant there were few lunch options to be had. At some point, a staffer found this hole in the wall Thai place that had a Pad Thai lunch special. From the first bite, I was hooked.
Although it was very cheap and made in a dingy little restaurant, it became a company favorite — we were a very collegial bunch! We used to sit around the large conference table eating our Pad Thai, gossiping, catching up, and laughing out loud. Every time I eat Pad Thai, I’m reminded of that fun time in my life and those wonderful friends and co-workers.
Yes, there are a lot of ingredients and a number of steps, but it’s all worth the effort for this tasty dish. Just take your time, pour a glass of wine, follow the instructions, and wait for all that goodness!
Shrimp Pad Thai
Prep Time: 20 min | Cook Time: 35 min | Makes: 4 | Difficulty: Medium
- 8 ounces flat rice noodles (linguini or fettuccini width)
- 2 large eggs
- Vegetable oil
- 5 tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, from 1 lime
- 1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped
- 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 2/3 pound (10 oz.) 1-inch broccoli florets
- 4 green onions, light and dark green parts, chopped into 1-inch pieces
- 1 cup fresh bean sprouts, plus more for garnish if desired
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped dry roasted peanuts
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- Lime wedges, for serving (optional)
Bring 6 cups of salted water to a boil in a large pot.
Add the noodles stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until softened but still al dente, 9 to 11 minutes. [Cook according to instruction]0
Drain and rinse well with cold water. Set aside.
Beat the eggs with a pinch of salt in a small bowl,. Set aside.
Whisk together the fish sauce, soy sauce, lime juice, peanut butter, sugar and dried chili flakes in a medium bowl,. Set aside.
Heat 3 tablespoons vegetable oil in a large nonstick pan or wok over medium-high heat.
Add the garlic, ginger and shrimp; season with ¼ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring constantly, until the shrimp are pink and cooked through, a few minutes.
Transfer the shrimp, garlic and ginger to a large bowl, using a rubber spatula to scrape the pan clean.
Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the hot pan.
Add the broccoli, ¼ cup of water and ¼ teaspoon salt; cook, stirring constantly, until the broccoli is cooked through, 3-4 minutes. Transfer the cooked broccoli to the bowl with the shrimp.
Add 1 teaspoon of oil to the hot pan.
Add the beaten eggs and scramble until cooked through, 1-2 minutes. Add to the bowl with the shrimp and broccoli.
Add 4 tablespoons oil to the hot pan.
Add the drained noodles to the pan, along with the fish sauce mixture. Cook, tossing the noodles gently so as not to break them, until perfectly cooked, a few minutes.
Add the shrimp, broccoli and eggs to the pan, along with the green onions; toss gently to combine, cooking until everything is warmed through.
Right before serving, sprinkle the bean sprouts, peanuts and cilantro over top and toss to combine. \
Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
Transfer to a serving platter and serve with lime wedges and bean sprouts, if desired.