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Clever uses for every day items and food.

9 Clever Ways to Keep Your Food Cold in the Summer

HAPPY 4th OF JULY!

If you’re a citizen of ‘MURICA, chances are you’re donning your red, white, and blue attire and heading to your local firework display or BBQ cookout, picnic basket in hand. And if you’re traveling with fruit, deli salads, meats, cheeses, desserts, or the like, you’re probably wondering how to keep your food cold, despite boiling July temperatures. Well, you’ve come to the right place.

Whether you’re just trying to keep your edibles cold in transit or you need them cold for outdoor entertaining, these picnic and entertaining hacks will help you keep your cool and refreshing treats, well, cool and refreshing.

Summertime Hacks!
How to Keep Your Food Cold

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Place bottles of water in the freezer and use them to keep food cold when traveling. If frozen at least a week in advance, the bottles could stay frozen for up to a day, much more economical than that gas station ice that lasts about 2 seconds.

Keep drinks cold by placing them in a mixture of water and ice. Using just ice won’t distribute the cold as evenly as water will, so placing your drinks in an ice bath will keep them colder longer.

Full coolers tend to stay cold longer, so if your cooler has empty space, fill it with ice.

If traveling by car, keep your food/cooler in the passenger area. The temperature is usually cooler inside the car than it is in the trunk.

Create an ice bowl by putting a medium-sized bowl inside a larger bowl, then fill the larger bowl with water and freeze. Serve your salad or fruit in the insulated bowls.

If possible, freeze part of your dish. If you’re serving a fruit salad, mix in frozen blueberries before you head out the door. They should defrost in about 30 minutes.

Fill small water balloons with water and pop them in the freezer. Use them around your food to keep your table cold and decorative!
Side note, add some food coloring to the water before you freeze it. Peel the balloon off the frozen water for an amazing winter (or summer) decoration.

If you’re traveling a long distance, consider waiting to assemble your dish until you arrive at your destination. Mayonnaise, for example, can be kept at room temperature until the container is opened. It might also allow for easier travel if you don’t have to worry about your bowl tipping over. Just cut and package everything and assemble when ready.

Like your fridge, a cooler will stay colder if the lid stays closed. Avoid opening and closing the lid of your food cooler by keeping drinks and food in separate coolers, if possible.

Every Monday is a “Reci-bee” post, where I share my favorite recipes, recipe collections, and cooking and baking hints and tips. 

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10 Clever Uses for Bundt Cake Pans

They may be vintage in design, but Bundt pans can prove to be very beneficial both inside and outside of the kitchen.

If you’re not a fan of cakes with holes… My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 movie funny comedy family

You can use Bundt cakes for several other things!  Great for organizing and decorating, a Bundt cake pan can come in handy all over the house!

10 Clever Uses for Bundt Cake Pans

Bundt-Cake-Pans

Make an Organizer: Stack Bundt pans of different sizes to create a decorative organizer for food, craft supplies, or other nick-knacks. Personalize it further by spray painting the pans to match your décor.

Make a Wreath: Spray paint an old Bundt pan to look like an apple, pumpkin, or peppermint candy. This is a fun and unique decoration that will surely add character to your home.

Organize Makeup: Keep your counter clean of clutter with this cute makeup organization idea. Use the hole in the Bundt pan to hold your makeup brushes and place your must-have’s right in the bowl.

Roast a Chicken: This is a genius way to roast your chicken. With the chicken standing upright in the oven, the fat will drip off the chicken and into the bowl, making this a clean and healthy roasting alternative.

Peel Corn on the Cob: Not a fan of eating corn ON the cob? Remove it from the cob by placing the bottom of the cob in the small hole in the Bundt pan. Run your knife down the cob and all those sweet little kernels will collect in the bowl of the pan.

Create a Wind Chime: Old antique Bundt cake pans are great for this project. Attach ropes of beads, bells, buttons, or charms to the Bundt pan and hang it outside for a cute, eclectic decoration that will liven up any garden.

Make Wall Décor: Arrange Bundt pans of various sizes and shapes on the wall for a cool 3D decoration that is great for both living rooms and kitchens. Color the pans if you’d like, or leave them as is for a cool rustic touch.

Create a Party Sandwich: Don’t worry about ordering subs for your party, create a party sub right in your kitchen with a Bundt pan! This could easily feed 8 to 10 people, depending on the size of your pan, and it’s a fun activity to do for family dinner night!

Make a Decorative Ice Cube: Keep punch and other drinks cold with a Bundt pan ice cube. Use a small Bundt pan to create a decorative ice ring and place in punch bowl to keep your drink cold. For an extra decorative touch, drop cranberries, flowers, or herbs in the ice cube for added color and flavor.

Create a Garden: Create fun planters using old Bundt pans. Try herbs or succulents for a cute garden decoration. A Bundt pan with succulents would also make a great housewarming gift for friends and family.

Knowledge is power!  Learn fun facts, hints and tips, and creative ways to use every day items with “The Buzz” posts on Thursday.

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13 Clever Uses for Cotton Balls

Who would have thought that cotton balls could be such a help around the house? From simple sachets to helpful cleaning tools, these little balls of cotton can do much more than remove nail polish and makeup.

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13 Creative Uses for Cotton Balls

  • Here’s a great tip for spring cleaning…saturate a cotton ball in your favorite scent and drop it into your vacuum cleaner bag. As you vacuum your house, it will slowly release the scent into the room.
  • Spring time also means flood season…and when it comes to fighting mildew, it can be a never ending battle of frustration to get to those hard to reach places. If you’re having trouble cleaning little corners and crevices, soak some cotton balls in bleach adn place them in those hard to reach spots. Let them sit for a few hours and rinse with warm water.
  • Nasty stink coming from the fridge? Soak a cotton ball in vanilla extract to keep you fridge smelling nice and clean. Granted this won’t get rid of the smell, but after you wash your fridge and rid it of any unwanted food, the vanilla can help keep your fridge smelling clean.
  • Cotton balls also make great ear plugs. We all remember the days of ear infections and using cotton balls to keep the medicine contained in the ear, right? Well cotton balls are also great for blocking out loud sounds if you’re trying to sleep or concentrate.
  • Cotton makes a great fire starter. You can use them for lighting oil lamps and candles that are hard to reach with a match or a lighter.
  • I use cotton balls to stuff small toys and objects that I’m sewing. No need to buy all that filling if I’m making a small felt toy…I just pull apart some cotton balls and use them to bring my project to life.
  • Help your beautiful daffodils last longer by filling their hollow stems with water and plugging it with a cotton ball. This method works similarily to those plastic tubes that come with store bought or mail order flowers.
  • If Peter Cottontail is reaking havoc on your garden, soak some cotton balls in white distilled vinegar and place them in one of those old 35mm film containers (remember those?). Place these around your garden to keep bunnies from eating your crops.
  • Keep ants and other pesky critters away from your food by soaking cotton balls in peppermint extract adn placing them in the corners of your cabinets. This is great for those moving into a college dorm or an old apartment that’s in need of some work.
  • Don’t you hate when your pop goes flat? Help prolong the life of the fizz by placing a cotton ball in the bottle before you place the cap on (just don’t push it in too far…you don’t want it floating around in your drink!). The cotton will help plug any air leaks so your pop stays fresh. This also works for cans as well. Just place a cotton ball in the opening to help keep it fresher longer.
  • Cotton balls are also naturally great for removing nail polish and makeup, cleaning dust from a computer monitor and/or keyboard, cleaning jewelry, touching up shoe polish, and they can act as a temporary bandage if you accidently cut yourself and can’t get to a doctor in time.
  • Cotton balls are also great for crafty folks. Besides being used in thousands of craft projects, they can also work as paint brushes and a way to spread glue onto a surface.
  • Does your hair need a bit of a lift? Add a few cotton balls to beef up a chignon or French Twist hairstyle.

Knowledge is power!  Learn fun facts, hints and tips, and creative ways to use every day items with “The Buzz” posts on Thursday.

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12 Clever Uses for Cornstarch

Cornstarch is a common ingredient in the kitchen. Perfect for thickening up everything from soup to pudding, cornstarch is a wonderful go-to product that can do wonders for your favorite recipes. But don’t limit yourself to gravies and sauces…

Cornstarch can also be used to make face paint, untangle knots, clean oily hair, fight tough stains, and so much more. One box can last you for months, and you’ll love how easy your cleaning (and cooking) routine becomes with the help of this wonderful ingredient.

corn-starch

  • Use cornstarch to make face paint for Halloween, birthday parties, and more. Simply mix two parts cornstarch with one part white vegetable shortening to make a non-toxic grease paint. Add food coloring to change the color.
  • Make your old silverware sparkle like new with a simple combination of cornstarch and water. Use a soft cloth to apply it to your silver, let it dry, then buff each piece for a beautiful shine.
  • Late night poker game leave your cards gross to the touch? Dump those cards in a paper bag, along with a couple tablespoons of cornstarch. Shake the bag to coat the cards, then wipe them down to clean.
  • If your carpets are smelling a little musty, you can sprinkle cornstarch over the surface and let it sit for about 30 minutes. Vacuum as normal.
  • You can use cornstarch as a dry shampoo. Between regular shampoos, a sprinkling of cornstarch can help absorb excess oils. Brush thoroughly to remove excess cornstarch. This is also a great temporary method to help clean dogs as well.
  • Use cornstarch instead of flour to help thicken gravies, sauces, casseroles, soups, and stews. When your recipe calls for flour, use ½ as much cornstarch and your result will be much creamier (so for 2 TBS flour, use 1 TB cornstarch instead).
  • Untangle knots in strings and shoelaces by sprinkling the trouble spot with a little cornstarch.
  • Create your own streak free window cleaning solution by mixing 2 TBS cornstarch with ½ cup ammonia and ½ cup white vinegar. Combine everything in a large bucket containing 3-4 quarts of warm water. The solution should look milky when ready. Put the mixture in a spray bottle and spray on car and home windows to clean. Rinse with warm water and wipe with a paper towel.
  • If you have a roach problem and want to take matters into your own hands, combine equal parts of cornstarch and Plaster of Paris and sprinkle into any crack and crevice in your home. The roaches will eat the fatal mixture and you should be roach free!
  • Need some spray starch for collars and shirts? Mix one tablespoon cornstarch and one pint of cold water. Stir to dissolve. Fill a spray bottle with the mixture and use normally as you would any starch.
  • Sprinkle cornstarch on furniture, clothing, briefcases, and shoes to help eliminate stains. This method works especially well for oil stains. Let the cornstarch work its magic overnight and rub the stain out the next day.
  • You can use cornstarch to prevent and kill mildew in your old books that may have had water damage in the past. Just sprinkle the cornstarch all throughout the book to absorb the moisture and let it sit several hours before wiping the book clean.

Knowledge is power!  Learn fun facts, hints and tips, and creative ways to use every day items with “The Buzz” posts on Thursday.

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9 Clever Uses for the Dishwasher

Baseball hats, sponges, toys, flip flops, and potatoes all have one thing in common…they can all be cleaned with a dishwasher!

This standard kitchen appliance isn’t just for dishes anymore. With a little creativity, you can use your dishwasher to clean everything from hats to food.

As someone who has tried several of these ideas, I don’t recommend mixing any of these things in with a load of dishes, since food particles can get on the fabric of a baseball hat. If you’re going to wash shoes, toys, or other kitchen equipment in the dishwasher, gather up as much as you can to give yourself a good sized load. Do the dishes separately to ensure that nothing gets damaged in the process.

Also I recommend letting anything you wash in the dishwasher (that isn’t dishes) air dry. The heat setting on the machine can melt plastic and warp certain materials, so simply wash your products and let them air dry in the racks with the door open to allow for air flow.

Dishwasher

Clean Baseball Hats: Perhaps the most well-known odd use for a dishwasher is to use it to clean dirty baseball hats. Rather than putting them through the vigorous washing machine, place dirty hats on the top rack of the dishwasher and they’ll come out stink free. This trick also works well for shin guards and knee pads.

Properly Clean Kitchen Sponges: Sponges are notorious for absorbing odors, so if you find yourself with a smelly sponge, simply throw them into your dishwasher to extend their use.

Clean Kids and Dog Toys: From LEGOS to tug of war toys, the dishwasher can handle all the germs that kids and pets seem to attract. Doing this around flu season can help limit your chances of having to deal with runny noses and upset tummies.

Get New Life from Flip Flops, Jellies, and Crocs: Rubber shoes aren’t made to last forever, but you can get good use out of them if you wash them occasionally. Rubber also absorbs foot odor, so these summer staples tend to smell…so remember to wash them once in a while to keep your toes (and your home) smelling fresh. You could also run the dishwasher with a little baking soda to help clean the shoes and your dishwasher at the same time.

Give Your Car a New Set of Wheels: Stubborn road grime can be hard to remove from metal hubcaps and wheel covers, but a run through the dishwasher on the pots and pans cycle ought to give your hub caps a sparkly shine.

Garden and Construction Tools: Rusty outdoor tools can do with a good cleaning every so often. Freshen up garden tools, hammers, screwdrivers, and wrenches by tossing them into the dishwasher.

Get a Fresh Look with Clean Hair Accessories and Makeup Brushes: Hairspray, products, and oily tresses can gunk up your favorite hair pieces…so run your combs, brushes, ties, barrettes, and hairpins through the dishwasher to help extend their use. You can also use the dishwasher to clean the oils and residue from your makeup brushes. This will not only extend the life of your brushes, but will help prevent acne from forming, since plenty of bacteria reside on your brushes (Hairbrushes and combs made of plastic can take a spin, but not wood or natural boar-bristle brushes. Be sure to remove all the hair first to protect the drain).

Stubborn Kitchen Shelves, Grates, and Stovetops: Spills and burns can make refrigerator shelves, oven shelves, and stovetop grates near impossible to clean by hand, but the mighty dishwasher can help clean those tough spots in no time.

Soapy Suds: Okay, don’t add soap, but the dishwasher can help you clean off a whole bunch of potatoes if you’re cooking for a crowd.

Knowledge is power!  Learn fun facts, hints and tips, and creative ways to use every day items with “The Buzz” posts on Thursday.

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8 Clever Uses for Vanilla Extract

Vanilla extract has been used by chefs and bakers alike for hundreds of years. Whether you’re more prone to the imitation vanilla or the real deal, this well-loved extract is a powerful “flavor potentiator”, meaning it enhances our ability to taste other foods, including chocolate, coffee, fruit, and nuts. It also boosts our perception of sweetness.

But vanilla extract has several other uses, both for personal use and use around your home. As in baking, a little goes a long way, so better to use less than too much (remember, you can always add more if needed).

Here are a few cool and clever ways to use vanilla extract!

For most of these, imitation vanilla will work just fine…so save the good stuff for baking and use up the imitation vanilla extract on these ideas.

vanilla

  • Add a fresh scent to your fridge by soaking a cotton ball or a piece of sponge with vanilla extract and leaving it in the refrigerator. You can also wipe down the fridge with vanilla, but I think that might be a little overpowering, not to mention a waste of good extract!
  • You can also use vanilla to get that nasty smell out of your microwave. Pour a little vanilla extract into a bowl and microwave on high for one minute to help get rid of the smell.
  • Trying to sell your home? Dab a little vanilla extract on a light bulb, turn on the light, and your house will be filled with the smell of baked goods!
  • Spending some time outdoors? Ward off pesky mosquitoes by applying a mixture of 1 tablespoon vanilla extract and 1 cup of water on your skin.
  • Vanilla extract is great to have on hand for those horrible kitchen burns. The evaporation of the alcohol in the extract will help cool the burn, giving you quick relief.
  • Rub some vanilla extract on your wrists for an instant perfume!
  • Add vanilla to a basket of pine cones for an instant potpourri display. The scent of vanilla can help calm your nerves and keep you relaxed.
  • Most bakers use vanilla extract on a pretty constant basis, but you can use it in several other recipes as well. Try it on ice cream, fruit, cereal, oatmeal, and even seafood.

Knowledge is power!  Learn fun facts, hints and tips, and creative ways to use every day items with “The Buzz” posts on Thursday.

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23 Clever Uses for Tennis Balls

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  1. Cut an X in the top of each ball and put them on the bottoms of chair legs to cut down on noise and floor scuffs. You can even paint them the color of your chair so they don’t stand out as much.
  2. Donate them to a local nursing home for use on residents’ walkers.
  3. Hang one on string from the garage roof to help you park without running into things. When it touches the windshield or rear window (depending on which way the car is pointing), you know it’s time to stop.
  4. Keep certain types of gnats or flies away from you when you are outdoors.
  5. Just cover a tennis ball in Vaseline and hang it from a tree or bush.
  6. When packing something for shipping in a box that’s too large, use tennis balls as shock-absorbing cushions that will hold the item steady in the box.
  7. Use them to remove scuffs on floors. Many janitors use this trick by placing a tennis ball on the end of a broom so it’s always handy.
  8. Throw a few tennis balls into the dryer when you are drying comforters, fluffy coats, pillows, or anything else that could use a good fluffing.
  9. Tennis balls can also help any laundry load dry faster – just throw two or three in the dryer and your clothes will be done quicker.
  10. Hide stuff in them. Make a slit in a tennis ball, then squeeze either side of the slit to open it up. Place money or other objects inside, and release to close the opening.
  11. Cut a portion of the ball off so that it will fit over the sharp corner of your coffee table. Repeat for the other corners to baby-proof a room.
  12. Use this for all furniture with sharp or protruding bits to protect little foreheads.
  13. When you are seated, put a tennis ball (or two or three) under each foot and roll your feet around on them. They make wonderful massagers.
  14. Use tennis balls to anchor clusters of helium balloons at parties. Knot together a group of ribbons attached to balloons. Cut a small X in the top of a ball and insert the knot. Fill the ball with sand if you want extra security.
  15. Prevent your bike’s kick stand from sinking into soft dirt by cutting a small slit in a tennis ball and sliding it over the kick stand.
  16. Keep the yuckiness out of your pool by floating some tennis balls in the water. Supposedly, the balls will absorb body oils from people who swim in the water – but you need to replace them every few weeks to keep them fresh.
  17. Cut a tennis ball in half and use it to get a better grip when opening jars. Just place the ball half over the lid, and the rubber on the inside grips the lid to help you rotate it easier.
  18. To keep a door knob from smashing into and damaging an interior wall, cut a large slit in a tennis ball and slide it over the knob. This trick also works great to keep curious toddlers out of off-limits rooms…until they figure out how to squeeze as they turn.
  19. Protect a padlock. Cut a slit in a tennis ball with a utility knife and slip it over an outdoor padlock to prevent water from getting into it and freezing.
  20. Remove a broken lightbulb. The bulb broke off in the socket? No problem.
  21. Carefully clear away any shards of broken glass, then gently push a tennis ball against the light socket and twist it to remove the bulb’s embedded stem.
  22. Cushion the blow. Cut an X in a tennis ball and slip it over the head of a hammer so you don’t ding up walls, wood, or other fragile materials while you’re pounding away.
  23. Collect change for tolls. Cut a slit in a tennis ball and stash spare change inside. Keep the ball in your car so you don’t have to grope for your wallet when you’re at the tollbooth.

Knowledge is power!  Learn fun facts, hints and tips, and creative ways to use every day items with “The Buzz” posts on Thursday.

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