Sunday, June 9, 2013

Housewife Hacks: 22 Uses for Dryer Sheets

So, on my big trip to China, which I promise to post about, I'd heard that if you stuff a few Downy Sheets into your luggage, it will help keep your clothes smelling fresh and would also help the clothes be a bit more bug resistant.

1) Keep clothes smelling fresh while traveling or back backing.  This worked very well for me.  I threw a few sheets in my main pack area and put a sheet in each of my shoes.  I also brought extra.  If you have any little campers getting ready to go on a multi-night trek, this could help.  Also works well in traditional luggage.

2) In shoes.  I did notice that when I put the sheets in my shoes on my trip, the odar was eliminated.  I'm going to start doing that with my exerzise shoes.

3) In storage.  Similar concept to above.  If you store your winter clothes during the summer, throwing a few dryer sheets in with them will help combat the storage smell.  Don't stop at clothes.  Luggage, sporting goods, picnic supplies, all sorts of things could benefit from a little dryer sheet TLC.

4) Repel bugs.  This is not a replacement for insect repellent, but as a secondary protection, stuff a dryer sheet in your pocket.  The bugs dislike the smell.  Paired with number two, it can help protect your clothes.

5) Repel rodents.  Apparently rodents don't like this smell either so you can put a few sheets in areas that you might have rodent problems like your basement, garage, etc.  If you find a hole that the mice have been using, stuff it with one of these.

6) Car smell.  Place a few under your car seat cushions.

7) De-stink litter box.  Tape a dryer sheet near the litter box to combat the smell.

8) Combat wet dog smell.  When your soggy pouch comes in from the rain, wipe him down with a dryer sheet.

9) Fresh smell throughout the home.  Tape a sheet to your HVAC vent to blast nice smelling air throughout your home.  Be careful and make sure to secure it very well.  You can also tape one to the top of your ceiling fan for it to circulate throughout your room.

10) Replacement for tack cloth.  At the end of a wood project, you use tack cloth to pick up all the saw dust. A dryer sheet is a much cheaper alternative.

11) Keep photo albums from garnering that musty book smell.  Put a dryer sheet between the pages.  It's secondary use can be a book mark.

While the manufactures recommend throwing away your dryer sheets after each use, these ideas can be done with either new or used sheets:

12) Reduce static cling.  While part of their main purpose is to help with static cling while stuff is in the dryer, it can also help outside the dryer.  Rub down clingy skirts, dresses or even hair!

13) Mixed media in art projects.  Add a little texture to your next project.

14) Cleaning paint brushes.  Throw a dryer sheet in a glass/container of hot water then plunk in your paint brushes.  Let them sit for about fifteen minutes then rinse them off.  Wiping them down with another dryer sheet before the final rinse will help keep the bristles soft.

15) Cleaning baked on grime in pots or casserole dishes.  After you've tried a little bit and all that's left is the tough part, fill the pot or dish with warm water, throw in a couple dryer sheets, put on the lid and let soak overnight.

16) Clean up pet hair.  If you can't find your lint brush, a dryer sheets makes a decent alternative.

17) Tidy up the laundry room.  Once you finish your load, take that dryer sheet and rub down the inside of the washer and dryer, the lint trap and even spilled detergent.  Viola! Nice and tidy...or bouncy...

18) Clean computer or TV monitors.  The dust and static electricity will both disappear.

19) Dust.  Use this to wipe off dust from hard to reach places.  The residue will also help keep dust from sticking in the future (newer sheets will be even better for that).

20) Non-stick coating on sewing thread.  Don't you hate when your thread gets all tangled?  After you thread your needle, run it through the sheet and as you sew, you'll be coating your thread with an invisible layer of magic.

21) Car/Motorcycle. Polish the chrome on your car or motorcycle.

22) Remove soap scum.  Works equally well on tile as on metal, in the kitchen or in the bathroom.

Do you have any household items that you've discovered holds a treasure trove of other uses?  Have you tried any of these ideas before?

Reference Links:

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Budget Makeover: Food

Pete and I have tried a few times over the years to go on a budget, but it's never really worked.  Part of the problem is that we do live within our means so it never felt imperative.  However, recently we have decided to build a house, and that requires more savings.

I think our problem is that every time we try to start a budget, we try to budget everything.  It would be like going on a harsh diet while starting an ambitious exercise program.  That never works either.  Usually weight loss experts have you focus on a major area first, usually diet.  So, I am going to take that concept and run with it for starting our budget and focus on our largest trouble area:  food.

We eat out too much and when we think about eating in, we buy too much and waste it.  We are going to restrict ourselves to $500 a month.  And once we have that down, we will pick something else to reign in.  Or bring the food budget down further as we will be around $125 per week which is pretty close to what the average American family spends on food ($151) according to the Huffington Post.  And our family is only 2 people, but we live in Chicago where groceries and dining out are pretty expensive, so I'm sure it all balances out.  As I said, given the food prices in Chicago, if my number seems high, what I get will cost MUCH less outside a city area.  I know even in the suburbs of Chicago, the food is much cheaper than what I have to pay.

Steps to determining your Budget Makeover First Goal:

  1. Track your spending habits for 1-3 months
  2. Does anything seem surprisingly high to you?
  3. Make a plan to bring in that one piece.

It's quite possible that you too will see food as an easy thing to reign in, but maybe for your family its your car or clothes or something else.  Whatever it is, pick it out then define something tangible that you are working towards and put a physical representation in an easy to see place.  That way you keep in mind why you are working hard on your budget goal.

Are you:

  • Trying to reduce Debt?  Put that number on your fridge or on the mirror in your master bath.
  • Wanting a new house?  Put a picture of your dream house somewhere. 
  • Saving for vacation?  Put a picture of where you want to go on your fridge.
You get the idea.  Money is means to an ends.  Why do you want to change your spending habits?  What do you think you can save money on?

I will definitely blog about what we are doing to try to hit our goal.  How have you saved on your food bills?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Chicago Summer Bucket List

Summer is slow to come to Chicago!  I just got back from a two week China trip (I'll post about that later) and summer was definitely in Shanghai and Beijing.  But, Chicago's weather is struggling to keep up.  We keep talking about moving to the suburbs so this could be one of my last summers living in the city!

I saw a Summer Bucket List on Hello Happiness and, since I love lists, thought that it was a great idea!

Summer Bucket List 2013

  • Host a few beach parties at the Lake Michigan beach near my condo.
  • Listen to classical music at Ravinia
  • Go on a picnic
  • Make S'mores
  • Go berry picking
  • Go sailing in Lake Arlington
  • Volunteer at the Lincoln Park Farmer's Market
  • Take a road trip with my best friend and our significant others 
  • Take a salsa class with Pete
  • Join the Accountability Club at Story Studio
  • Plan awesome socials for the Transfers in the Junior League. 
  • Run a 5k
  • Finish a Sprint Triathlon
  • Eat popcicles
  • Watch the Navy Pier Fireworks
  • Eat outside on our stoop
  • Check out Millennium Park and Buckingham fountain at night
  • Drinks at a swanky hotel rooftop deck
  • Cubs rooftop
  • Organize my pictures from the China trip
  • Go to at least 5 street fests
  • Have more flowers in the house
What is on your Summer Bucket List?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Hostess Gifts

When you go to someone's house, do not go empty-handed.  Bring something with you.  The typical choice is a bottle of wine, but depending on the host/hostess they may already have selected a good bottle of wine or if it's a larger party, everyone will bring wine.  Another common option is flowers , but that requires your host/hostess to rush around and find a vase.

If you've got your heart set on flowers, bring them already in a vase or planted.  If you've got your heart set on wine, bring a bottle stopper or a cute reusable bag.  Or, break the mold and try something a little more unique.

The items towards the front of the list are good if you are invited for a party, towards the middle if it's for dinner and towards the end if you are a weekend guest.

Collectible Books - various price points

Chocolates - $5.99

Funny Ice Cube Tray - $9.49
It's kinda awful, but it's kinda funny.

Colorful Playing Cards - $10
You can never have too many decks of cards.  This site also has some great poker chip sets as well if you want to go for a bit higher price point but like the concept.

Wine Cork Trivet - $14.49
Let's them use up those wine corks.

Aioli Collection - $17.50

Whiskey Stones - $19.99
These will keep your drink cool while not watering it down as the ice melts.

Fun Salt and Pepper Shakers - $23 (and less)
Of course, there are more options that sea horses.  Birds, Owls,

An apron - $23

Infused Olive Oil - $25.99
There are a ton of gift sets online, or just go pick up one from your local grocery or specialty store.  Also, an infused vinegar would be great as well.

Chalk Board Cheese Plate - $29
I love serving cheese, but it's hard to know what cheese is what and easily communicate that to your guests.  With a chalk board cheese plate, that's taken care of.

Decanter - $49

Artisan Salt Box - $49.99

Paella Kit - $60.95

Margarita Gift Basket - $64.99

Drink Dispenser - $59 Plus Stand - $23

Picnic Tote - $94.95

Do you have any favorite go-to hostess gifts?  What's the best hostess gift you've recieved?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

DIY Nail Trends

I'm much more likely to chew than I am to do my nails, but with all these easy DIY nail ideas, maybe I'll try to mix it up a bit.

Ombre Nails

Ombre is a huge trend this season and not just for nails.  The word Ombre means one color shading into another one.

Water color nails
These look very springy and are pretty easy to do.  You just need a few pastels and a sponge.

Galaxy Nails
These are a little darker than the water color nails, but look sophisticated enough that I wouldn't hesitate to wear them to work.

Half Moon Nails
I never realized how easy these were.  This tutorial breaks it down.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Pork Tenderloin with Apples and Cauliflower Puree

As a kid, Pork Tenderloin was one of my favorite meals.  I suggest serving with cauliflower puree, which is a great lower-calorie substitute for mashed potatoes.  This meal is a little more complex than a standard weeknight dinner, but if you get home a little early, it's totally do-able.

Serves: 4
Time: 45 minutes

Pork Tenderloin (packaged, marinated)
3 Granny Smith Apples
4 T butter, divided (plus more if needed)
2 T olive oil
1 head cauliflower, stem and stalks trimmed, florets roughly chopped (or a bag of frozen cauliflower)
1 onion
4 T Nuefchatel Cheese (or Cream Cheese)
2 T minced garlic
1 t pumpkin pie spice (can substitute a combination of nutmeg and cinnamon)
1 T lime juice (can substitute lemon juice)

Medium-large pot
Medium-large skillet
Cookie Sheet
Casserole Dish or Roasting Pan
Blender (hand submersible or standard)
Cutting board
Veggie peeler
Dicing knife

1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2) Cut the onion into long strips and saute in 2T of the butter in a medium-large pot (the cauliflower will be going in here).  Add in the garlic.  You'll want this to saute at least 10 minutes, but the longer, the better.  You might need to add a little more butter if it gets too dry.

3) Toss cauliflower in olive oil, place on the cookie sheet and put in the oven for 20 minutes.

4) Using a skillet, Sear the Pork Tenderlion on all sides (about 10 minutes total).  Set in a casserole dish.

5) Peel the apples and cut into wedges.  Toss in the lime juice to prevent oxidation.

6) When the cauliflower is ready to come out of the oven, put the tenderloin in.

6) Cook the tenderloin in the oven until a meat thermometer reads 145 (medium) to 150 (medium well).  This will take about 10 minutes.  Reserve the skillet and the dripping for the apples.   When the meat is done,  wrap in aluminum foil and place on the cookie sheet.  Reserve these drippings too.

6) While the meat is cooking, puree the cauliflower with a blender (I use my submersible hand blender, but the standard variety works well too).  Add the pureed cauliflower and the 4T Nuefchatel cheese to the onions.

7) Saute the apples with the remaining 2T of butter in the skillet that the tenderloin had been seared.

8) Remove the apples.  Pour in the dripping from the tenderloin into the skillet and simmer until it has condensed into a gravy.

9) Thinly slice the tenderloin.  Pour the gravy over top and place a few apples on top of the pork.

I recommend microwaving frozen broccoli or mixed veggies and serving it along-side.

Recommend Paring:
I'd go with something "jammy" like a Beaujolais or Zinfandel. Beaujolais is fun because it's easy to drink but not too many people have heard of it unless they are really into wine.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Eat More Veggies...Even if they are Frozen or Canned

I'm going to say something a little controversial.  Frozen vegetables are not the enemy.  Actually, due to their price, convenience and healthfulness, they can be down right friendly.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of the farm-to-table craze.  You are more likely to be supporting small, independent farms.  Farmers Markets are awesome and your own garden is even better.  All else being equal, if given the choice between fresh and frozen, it's not a tough thought process.  I'm definitely not dissing fresh food.  But the produce aisle can be a ton more expensive than the canned or frozen aisle.   And the benefits don't add up to the added cost.

Let's go with three simple facts:
  • We all need to be eating more fruits and vegetables.
  • The less processing is healthier than more processing.  
  • The fresher food, the more nutrients it contains.

But this isn't necessarily a win for fresh foods.  It can take days or even weeks for the produce in the produce aisle to reach your local supermarket.  But, foods are canned or frozen almost immediately after harvest.  Spinach can lose all of its vitamin C within four days.  Green peas can lose more than half of its Vitamin C within a couple days according to Joy Rickman in the 2007 "Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture."

Some things to keep in mind when considering swapping in frozen veggies to your next recipe:

1) Some freeze better than others.  
Most of the fruits and veggies below have MORE nutrients frozen than "fresh" due to being frozen at their freshness peak.  But, still eat them as quickly as possible.  Freezing slows the process of nutrient loss.  It does not stop the process.
Veggies that freeze well:
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Peas
  • Peppers
  • Green Beans
  • Cauliflower
  • Kale
  • Collard greens
  • Corn
  • Onions
Fruits that freeze well:
  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Mango
  • Peaches
2) Watch the salt
If you go canned, try to pick low-sodium versions.  If you don't have a low sodium canned option available  rinse the produce before preparing it.

3) Added sugar is not our friend
Make sure that your fruits and veggies are canned in their own juice.  Reject fruits canned in sugary syrup.

3) If you are going to cook it anyways... 
Cooking is processing.  Nutrients will be harmed and lost during this process.  That's life.  Fresh food eaten raw makes a ton of sense.  Fresh food intended to be cooked anyways, less so.  Regardless of if your food is fresh or frozen, do not boil, instead steam, bake, stir fry or microwave your produce to minimize the loss of vitamins.   

Bottom line
We all need to be eating more fruits and vegetables.  Fresh is great, but don't overlook the other ways to get in your family's needed nutrients.  Canned and frozen foods just might surprise you, your taste buds and your wallet.


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