Archive | Tips and Tricks RSS feed for this section

Do Household Appliances Die in Threes Like Celebrities?

2 Nov

My handheld blender and my heating pad both died this week – on the same day! I hope I’m not on track for a third dead appliance this week.

Hey! What’s new? Other than the whole hurricane hitting the East Coast thing and all. Because, yeah, I still can’t believe that happened. We made it through relatively unscathed, though the crazy winds were pretty scary and the power flickered a lot. I know plenty of others who were not so lucky, though, so trust me, we are very thankful for the way our house held up.

Also, ha, my father in law is currently visiting. You know, during the hurricane. Fun times for him! I bet he wishes he were at work instead of holed up inside our house for two days watching nothing but the weather channel. Guess you can’t prepare for everything your guests might need – like fresh air and hot water and cooked food!

Although it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Since I am a food hoarder of sorts, we were never in any danger of starving. But my fear was that we’d have to eat cold sandwiches for every meal for a week! So, yeah, I did some prep work and research (research – I hate research! but I did it anyway.). And since I love it when others do research for me, I’ll share my findings with you. Hopefully you won’t ever have to use it, but maybe you will.

FYI: I’m no doomsday prepper, but all the news stations were saying we could be without food or water for a week (which some places are), hence the heavy preparations.

How to prepare for a hurricane (and probably blizzard as well):

– Gather all camping materials – you’ll probably need most of them if you get caught without power. I mean, minus the tent.
– Flashlights – charge if rechargeable batteries
– Candles – strategically place one in every room (including bathrooms) and on landings. Also make sure you have one at arm’s length so you don’t have to stumble for it should the lights go out!
– Matches! I take matches from everywhere we go, so I put a match book next to each candle in the house.
– Ice and ice packs – I turned on our “ice plus” function on our refrigerator and also filled several ice cube trays. I also bought a bag of ice and put all the ice packs (from our coolers) in the freezer. That way if the power went out we’d be able to keep food from perishing for at least a few days (and if you know about my FULL basement freezer, you know this is a major concern of mine!).
– Coolers – we brought 3 coolers in from the garage so we wouldn’t have to run out and try to find them if the power went out and we needed to fill them with food.
– Water, water, everywhere! There were pictures on my facebook of local grocery stores being completely sold out of bottled water. I mean, I guess it’s a good idea, but I refused to do that. I just filled every available reusable water bottle and pitcher we had.
– More water – fill your bathtub (and make sure you take one last shower before you do). You can use the water in it for flushing toilets or cleaning things (including spot cleaning yourself I suppose). Can’t hurt and everywhere recommends this!
– Close all blinds and curtains. Ok so my husband was probably cursing me when I told him about this because I’ve been on a slow mission to rid our house of blinds because the previous owners literally had them in every.single.window. I’d much rather have curtains than blinds. Also, by blinds I mean the white plastic ones, not roman shades or whatever. Anyway, the logic behind this I guess is that if something flies through the window there will at least be some kind of extra barrier between it and you (and probably contains broken glass better).
– Clean up the yard! I wasn’t there when my husband and FIL did this, but I know it was a lot of work. Put away anything that could be picked up by high winds and cause damage or injury. Basically, everything.
– Hang out in a room with no, or minimal, windows. We didn’t exactly do this… but if the power had gone out I totally would have insisted on it (because that’s when it gets real! in my mind…). I didn’t really want the three of us (plus Stevie) hanging out in the dining room all day. It wouldn’t have been very comfortable!
– Put the e-brake on in your car. They were calling for 60+mph winds in our area – which may have been enough to push my car down the driveway! PS – My car is old, which to me means there’s more of a chance of this happening.
– Cook up a storm! (ha, get it, storm) Ok so you don’t have to do this, but I did. I woke up early and decided I was going to cook breakfast (this NEVER happens), since it could be our last hot meal for a while, and then I proceeded to cook cheddar broccoli soup for lunch. As in, enough for an army. I kind of forgot how much the recipe made, so I doubled it to make sure we’d have enough for a few days. However, this used up a few ingredients I had in the freezer, which would have been a score if the power went out! I also busted out my breadmaker and whipped together a loaf of bread. AND THEN I cooked dinner. As in, all before 11am on Monday. Basically, I was so worried the power would go out and I wouldn’t have anything to cook on that I tried to get it all done ahead of time and worry abut reheating and refrigerating later.
– Consider your alternate cooking options – if the power were to go out, I would have reheated all of this in my fondue pot. Yes, fondue pot! No one really thinks of it, but it is another heat source. Also, a grill (but make sure you have propane or charcoal ahead of the storm).
– We are always stocked food and otherwise for about a month ahead of time. My husband complains about this, but hey, we weren’t running out to the store for ANY last minute provisions. The only thing we went out for was propane for the grill. However, if you’re not always stocked, think of the things other than food and water that you’d need if you were stuck in your house for a week: toilet paper, paper towels, medicines, first-aid items, pet food, etc.
– Charge all of your chargeable electronics! They may be your life line. There are people in NYC fighting for power outlets to charge their phones right now in order to get in touch with the outside world.
– Get an old school phone. Remember when I was talking about my old school phone? And how in an emergency it would be key? Yeah, foreshadowing much? If our power went out, our land line would also not have worked because we don’t have a cool see-through neon flashing phone. Or just because our phones are totally electronic and wouldn’t function without electric. Either way.
– Oh yeah, and booze! Booze helps pass the time. And if I hadn’t been with my husband, the worst game player ever (terrible loser AND winner), and FIL whom I believe may have the same traits, board/card games would have been involved.

We did a lot of preparation, but were lucky enough to not have any problems. But I’d still do all of it over again. What’s the harm? We lost like one bathtub full of water. I’m using all the extra ice and pitchers of water, the food got eaten, and nobody got impaled by one of our garden ornaments —> win.

Also, I’m not saying we were spared entirely. If the power went out, there was really not a whole lot we could do to prevent our basement from flooding aside from pray. My firm closed down all of our northeast offices for 2 whole days. I’ve been with the firm for 5 years and we’ve never even had a snow day. Not even during snowmaggeddon. The train lines in and around Philadelphia were shut down entirely for two days. I’m used to a delay or cancellation on individual lines, but in 7 years of living in this area have never seen the whole transit system shut down. There were trees ripped out of the ground, 60+mph winds whipping all around, and for god’s sake the dog had to pee in the middle of it all. The Jersey Shore is no more. At least, not the way it used to be. I have no idea what the future holds for it. Does Long Island still exist? I don’t even know.

Prepper for life (even when there’s not a hurricane)

-C

Advertisements

And the opposite of awesome is…

27 Aug

Your refrigerator dying. Yeah… so that happened to us yesterday.

My husband actually noticed on Friday evening that the fridge didn’t seem very cold. He went to a bachelor party that night and wasn’t home again until Sunday and he brought it up again. Clearly I didn’t notice it getting progressively warmer while he was away…

The milk had gone sour, and it was a similar sight in the freezer – ice cubes (aka wine cubes, broth cubes, lime juice cubes… all the things I freeze in ice cube form) were melting! So off to Home Depot we went (we don’t mess around!). When we bought the house in March we had plans to slowly upgrade all of our appliances (none of them match, are of varying ages, and this fridge is straight up old school white), so I mean it’s not REALLY that big of a deal that we had to buy a new one so soon. The only thing I’m worried about is losing the food! Have I mentioned I freeze everything? Have I also mentioned that I asked for and got a basement freezer for my birthday 2 months ago?? Um, yeah, THANK GOD FOR THAT! Our freezer is now only as cold as a refrigerator, and our refrigerator is as cold as… well, nothing really. All that’s left in there are beverages and produce. I moved all the refrigetator items to the freezer half of the non-functioning refrigerator, and all the freezer items are in the basement. And when I say “moved” I mean “frantically threw everything” into the basement freezer.

this WAS only half full before yesterday…

Not to fear – I saved the wine cubes!

refusing to let the wine cubes die

Oh, right, and I put all dairy products into a cooler. We bought it this summer and just noticed yesterday the label says “guaranteed to keep contents cool for up to 5 days!”. Let’s hope so!

(Our new fridge is being delivered tomorrow.)

-C

Meals From the Salvage Yard (aka my fridge) – July

10 Aug

I have been pretty impressed with my “salvaging” abilities recently. What I mean by this is my ability to use up all the half eaten or about-to-go-bad things that are in my refrigerator/freezer/pantry. I think we should all shoot for zero waste! So in addition to composting and giving my guinea pigs the tops to the strawberries, green parts of cauliflower, and carrots that don’t look appetizing anymore, I love opening my refrigerator door and just staring until I find “the one”… or ones to plan my meal around.

Here’s a roundup of things I’ve salvaged this month (and then I’ll tell you what I did with them):

– Frozen stuffed shells (just the shells, not stuffed, I froze the extra from a meal I didn’t need them for)

– Frozen leftover cooked ground beef and onions (I cooked up a bunch of ground beef and froze the extra for a future quick weeknight meal)

– Frozen chopped green peppers (I buy a ton of green peppers at a time and chop them up and freeze them – they’re so easy to just toss into meals!)

– Cream cheese – one that had been opened and you know how air gets to it and it starts to not look so appetizing? Yeah. And another that was nearing its expiration date.

– Half eaten bag of raw spinach (I always seem to have a half eaten bag of spinach in the fridge.)

– Red onion that needed eating

– Strawberries leftover from making this awesomeness for 4th of July

– Feta cheese that needed eating

– Goat cheese that needed eating

– 1/2 an avocado

– Leftover barbecue chicken

– Leftover barbecue sauce

– Smokey gouda cheese that needed eating

As you can probably tell, I’m huge into freezing things. If you look in my refrigerator you would probably assume that we order out a lot, but no! Just look in my freezer…s. That’s right, I have two! I asked for one for my birthday because the one we had was just not cutting it, and I loooove it! It’s funny the different reactions I get when I tell people I got a freezer for my birthday – younger than me tell me that I’m old for asking for a freezer. Same age and older go “that’s so awesome!” or “I’m jealous!” Yeah, you should be. Because it’s AWESOME 🙂

Anyway… here are a couple of meals I created out of my salvage yard:

Strawberry Feta Wraps
– chopped strawberries
– handful of feta cheese
– chopped red onion
– about a cup of spinach
– whole wheat tortillas (pantry staple)

Dressing: Balsamic Honey Vinaigrette (yes, I googled Strawberry Feta Salad to find a suitable dressing!) 1/3 cup balsamic, 1/4 cup honey, 1/8 tsp garlic powder, 1/8 tsp salt, 3 tbs oil

Strawberry Avocado Salads
– chopped strawberries
– handful of goat cheese
– 1/2 avocado, chopped
– chopped red onion
– spinach for salad base
– chopped cashews (from the pantry)

Dressing: Garlic Dijon Red Wine Vinaigrette (again, I googled strawberry avocado salad for a suitable dressing!) 1/3 cup olive oil, 3 tbs red wine vinegar, 1 tbs dijon (I used brown because that’s what I had) mustard, 1 1/2 tbs sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 clove minced garlic

Salvage Yard Meaty Pasta

YUM

– 1 tbs olive oil
– 1/2 cup chopped green peppers
– defrosted precooked ground beef/onion mixture
– jar of pasta sauce
– garlic powder
– Italian seasoning
– defrosted frozen non stuffed, stuffed shells
– cream cheese, softened (I used about 6 oz.)
– shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheeses
– basil

Preheat the oven to 375. Cook the peppers in a bit of olive oil in a skillet, add in the beef and onion mixture to heat it up. Pour pasta sauce in a sauce pan, add the beef mixture. My secret weapon is garlic powder. It gives sauce a zestiness that I love (I also figured out that’s the main ingredient in the “spaghetti sauce” packets at the store)! So I add a couple tablespoons of that, and some italian seasoning as well. Cook for about 10 minutes or until hot enough. Meanwhile, mix the cream cheese with a handful of mozzarella (and maybe a bit of parm) and about a teaspoon of basil. Stuff the shells with this mixture, lay each shell in a baking dish. When the sauce is done, pour over the shells. Sprinkle mozz and parm on top to your liking (the more the better for me!). Cook on the middle rack for about 25 minutes, or until cheese is golden (move it up a rack at the end if you like it crispy like I do!). Let stand for 10-15 minutes.

Barbecue Chicken Pizzas

before going in the oven

– whole wheat tortillas
– olive oil
– dried chopped garlic
– leftover barbecue chicken
– 1/4 cup chopped green peppers
– 1/4 cup chopped red onion
– leftover barbecue sauce
– ranch dressing (I always have homemade ranch dressing in my fridge!)
– small hunks of smokey gouda or white american cheese (I had both on hand)
– shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat the oven to 375. I make tortilla pizzas a lot. It doesn’t hurt that they’re my husband’s favorite. No, I’m not kidding. I always start by shaking on some garlic and a tablespoon or so of olive oil onto my tortillas. I spread it around with a spoon until it covers the surface. I think it just gives the “crust” a bit more flavor. Add the chicken, peppers, and onion. Mix barbecue sauce and ranch dressing in a small bowl or cup. I do a 1-3 ratio (1 part barbecue sauce to 3 parts ranch), but that’s because I don’t like spicy things and I love ranch dressing! Take a spoon and drizzle it lightly over the toppings on the pizzas. A little bit goes a long way, taste-wise. Throw the cheese on top to your liking and cook until pizzas are golden and crispy (which usually takes tops 10 minutes).

White Bean Pasta Bake
– 1 box your choice pasta (I used tri color rotini)
– olive oil
– 1/4 cup red onion
– 1/2 to whole chopped green pepper
– 2-3 garlic cloves, minced (I always have a jar in my fridge… and get it from… the dollar store!)
– 2 cups raw spinach
– 1 can cannelini or white beans of your choice, rinsed
– shredded parmesan cheese (I always have a bag of parm, mozz, and cheddar in the freezer – you don’t even need to defrost them to use them on something hot!)
– cream cheese
– panko bread crumbs (pantry staple)

Cook the pasta 1-2 minutes less than recommended (because it’s going in the oven). Preheat oven to 375. Heat oil in a skillet – add onions and peppers and cook for a minute or two (a minute longer if the peppers were frozen like mine). Add garlic and spinach, toss until spinach is wilted. Remove from heat, toss in beans and pasta; add a handful of parmesan cheese and the cream cheese (I had a tub with some left in it, I probably used about 4-6 oz.). Toss until everything is mixed, pour into a baking dish. Sprinkle panko bread crumbs and more parmesan cheese on top. Cook for 15 minutes and then 2-3 minutes under the broiler.

===================================

Obviously salads and wraps are pretty easy to make with leftovers. I do pizzas a lot, too! And clearly my new favorite thing to do is add cream cheese to pasta. I stared it down in my refrigerator one night until I decided it wouldn’t taste weird in a pasta dish and it was delish!

Also – I made 8 lbs of pulled pork for the party and in addition to eating it on sandwiches, I put it on pizza and actually made it into a shepherd’s pie! Oh, and froze some. We probably still have 4 lbs of pulled pork in our freezer for when we someday can stomach the thought of eating it again.

Got any ideas for other salvage yard meals? I’d love to hear ’em!

– C

Door Update

9 May

Oops – just realized I never updated you on the locked guest bedroom door situation! Thanks for the emails and comments, you all had very helpful tips! But in the end, my husband was right when he said… my mom can fix anything.

Before I get to how, let me tell you what I tried:

– Credit card sliding the bolt back in (it was too deep into the door, couldn’t get to the end of it to push it back)

– Also tried the same with a flat head screwdriver

– Every key the previous owners left us (seriously, if you were to see the amount of keys they left us, you’d think one of them would be it!)

– Attempted to open it using the little hole on the side of the doorknob, but I think the handle was lined up wrong since there was nothing to “press” once inside that hole

– Popped the pins out of the door hinge (no screws on this side of the door), but the door itself wouldn’t pop out. I’m thinking it was an odd angle, and we would have had to pull it straight out, which we couldn’t do because the door handle was locked therefore making it go on an angle instead of straight. (Confused yet? Just trust me on this one, it didn’t work.)

– Watched numerous videos on how to pick a lock (my favorite is one video that starts “Always pick your OWN lock or you could get in serious trouble.” lol). It’s a good thing I didn’t pick a life of crime because I’m pretty terrible at it.

– Went to Home Depot and talked to a guy making keys in the lock aisle (sounds like a good guy to ask, no?). I asked him how one would open a bedroom door that was accidentally locked. He said, “Take the door off.” I told him I tried, and he flinched and looked impressed! Then I told him what else I tried and he basically told me I was screwed and his only recommendation would be to take a sledge hammer to the doorknob. So apparently there was no key for my type of lock and also there was no gel you could pour in to make a key.

– Tried flathead screwdrivers of all sizes, straightened out paper clips, hammers, crowbars… but the one thing that ended up working?

Destroying the doorknob. But not with a sledge hammer (probably just because we didn’t have one).

We’re going camping this weekend, and it’s a trip that was planned ages ago and SOMEBODY didn’t look at a calendar when the date was picked, and oops, it’s Mother’s Day (I somehow always manage to be out of town on Mother’s Day, oops!). So we were going to meet up with my mom for a pre-Mother’s Day lunch this past weekend to make up for it. We have a spot we usually meet that’s about halfway between our houses. But my mom is crazy and when she hears there’s something I can’t fix she gets fixated on it and can’t get it out of her head until she’s exhausted all options. Which, I guess, makes her pretty successful at fixing things. So when she heard about our door being locked she was like “Well, I guess I’m coming down there this weekend.” and she did. My husband and I were feeling kind of bad about it, because it’s her Mother’s Day meal and she’s driving all the way to our house for it instead of us to hers, but now when I think about it I think she probably didn’t even see it that way because she was so fixated on fixing that damn door (also, she’s been trying for weeks to figure out how to fix our ice maker and it’s driving her nuts)!

After trying all the things I’d tried, it was time to just accept destruction and she started taking a flathead screwdriver and these crazy sharp scissor-type things to the doorknob. The “gold” plating around the knob peeled off and we were able to see where another hole that the little hole on the doorknob was supposed to line up to (I was right!). The problem with telling you what we did is that… we don’t really know. It all happened so fast and we were kind of doing eight things at once (did I mention my husband was downstairs watching TV while we were upstairs destroying a doorknob? lol), so we’re not entirely sure what actually “did it”. It may have been that I stuck a screwdriver in that hole we found. It may have been that taking the gold plating off somehow had something to do with the mechanism and doing that “killed” the mechanism. We don’t know. All I know is I turned the handle and it was open. Then we had to put the pins back in so the door didn’t fall on us. 🙂

Anyway. Moral of the story = my mom can fix anything, locksmith be damned! Also, sometimes destroying something is the way to fix it (I guess we’ll have to get a new knob, eventually).

Thanks again for all your help! Even if nothing else worked because my door is special, I want you to know that I explored/tried all the options you gave me.

xxx

When One Door Closes… It Stays Closed (Apparently)

1 May

So… I went to show my husband how the door to the guest bedroom doesn’t stay shut last night. I figured this out when I was up doing stuff around the house til 3am the other night and he was in bed at 11, so I couldn’t show him then. Well, guess what – the door closed!

And is still closed… because apparently it was locked.

oops

So now our guest bedroom door is locked from the inside, and it’s like the only door in the house the previous owners didn’t leave us a key to.

I couldn’t stop laughing at the irony of me showing him the door wouldn’t stay closed and then it, well, staying closed! My husband did not find any humor whatsoever in this… so I have to fix it and prove that we don’t need to call a locksmith to open the damn door. I’m kind of wishing I’d left one of the windows open so I could climb in and open it, but I didn’t. I tried picking it with paperclips like I watched in a Youtube video, but apparently I wouldn’t be a very good burglar because I can’t, for the life of me, figure it out. There are no screws to unscrew on the door handle or hinges on this side of the door. When I put a little screwdriver into the little hole on the side of the handle, nothing happens. Any other ideas??? My husband’s out of town til tomorrow so I’d LOVE to have it fixed when he walks in the door. Who doesn’t love an “I told you so” moment??

*facepalm*

Help??

xxx

It’s Electric: How to De-static Everything

13 Jan

It’s winter. That means sweaters and wind and cold and dry air and

DUN DUN DUN

staticky everything.

I went on a search for a few de-staticking (?) remedies the other day after my hair shocked me about 1,000 times because all of a sudden it’s starting to actually (finally) feel like winter here and I thought I’d share some of the awesome tips I found.

For clothes (before they come out of the dryer):
– Obviously, a dryer sheet helps. But I have found that the dryer balls are actually really awesome and I don’t even use dryer sheets anymore! They keep fabrics from rubbing against each other too much. I do have to use 4 dryer balls at a time (I used to only have two, but had to use a dryer sheet with them because it didn’t remove all the static), but it’s much better than A – buying dryer sheets and B – throwing away all those dryer sheets when you’re done.
– Work a bit of hair conditioner into a damp washcloth and toss it into the dryer with your clothes.
– Dry like fabrics together to prevent static-prone items from rubbing off on others.
– Apparently if you ball up some aluminum foil and put it in the dryer with your clothes, that also does the trick. I don’t know about this, but maybe it’s because I have a lot of clothing I feel like would get snagged on this somehow??

For clothes (after they come out of the dryer):
– Tried and true, a dryer sheet will get the job done. I keep one in my drawer at work to de-static my skirts from my tights. Rub it underneath the skirt/on top of the tights. If you rub on top of the skirt it can leave traces of the dryer sheet. The good thing about this is that since you’re not sending it through a dryer, that dryer sheet is pretty much never going to die, and you can use it over and over again without ever having to throw it away. Or at the very least, you won’t be throwing them away that often.
– Static removal spray (static guard). Ok, so there is such a product if you feel like going out and buying it. Sometimes it’s necessary.
– Run a metal clothes hanger over pants, skirts and tights before you wear them to help remove static electricity.
– You can put a bit of lotion or small amount of water on your hands and run them over your tights if you’re having static issues.
– Some people say ditch tights all together – but, hello, cold legs much??

For hair:
– Apparently some people also use a dryer sheet on their hair. Personally, I don’t want my hair smelling like laundry, but to each her own.
– Deep conditioning treatments and leave-in conditioners.
– Moroccan oil. Which is usually expensive. I’ve started using a bit of BioSilk when the need arises.
– Winter weather shampoos. There used to be a shampoo/conditioner line whose commercials touted that they would get rid of the static the winter weather causes. I’m sure this is just another shampoo in their line that they just slap a different sticker on, but I did use it once upon a time and it worked. Now I can’t find it so I just use moisturizing shampoo. Hair gets staticky because of the dry air, right? So combatting dryness with moisture makes sense to me.
– A little bit of water. Some people even use spit (gross). But if you’re in a pinch and your hair’s flying every which way, head to the loo and wipe a little water down those tresses. A little. We’re not washing our hair here, people.

For everything:
– Well, I’m not going to just wear leather-soled shoes all winter, but if you’re really looking to de-static your life, they say you should try to “ground” yourself by not wearing rubber-soled shoes.
– Look into getting a humidifier. It will help the dry air in your home that comes from the heat, which will help your clothes, skin, and hair from drying out.
– OR get a bunch of house plants and keep them watered. This will also help humidify the air in your home.
– Moisturize your body! Skin gets dry, too, and if there’s static cling going on in your pants or on your skirts, dry legs are not going to help the situation!

Other random tips for preventing static buildup:
– Don’t rub a balloon on your head.
– Don’t teach a child to rub a balloon on their head, or they will do it to you, the dog, and everything else in the world.

– Don’t shuffle your feet across the carpet.
– Don’t hug or touch anyone until April.

xxx