Tag Archives: clever uses

10 Kitchen Staples You Can Make Yourself

Why spend money on things you can make yourself?  From must-have condiments to DIY baking supplies, these Make-It-Yoself Kitchen Staples will allow you to create your own amazing sauces, spice packs, and more.

Besides being able to say, “Why yes, that ketchup IS homemade!”,  making your own seasoning packets and sauces also gives you the ability to control your sugar and sodium intake.  PLUS, homemade always tastes better!

So toss that 3-year-old bottle of ketchup.  Don’t waste money on those salty seasoning packets…get creative in the kitchen and have fun making your own kitchen must-haves with this list of DIY Kitchen Staples!

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Condiments:

DIY Homemade Ketchup
Don’t Waste the Crumbs

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Ridiculously Easy Homemade Mustard
Simple Good and Tasty

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BEST Homemade Mayo
Satisfying Eats

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Homemade BBQ Sauce
Gimme Some Oven

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DIY Spice Packs:

Taco Seasoning
The Pioneer Woman

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Ranch Seasoning
Damn Delicious

DIY-Homemade-Ranch-Seasoning-Mix

Chili Seasoning
Whole New Mom

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Baking Supplies:

Homemade Buttermilk
My Frugal Adventures

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Confectioners’ Sugar
The Burlap Bag

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Baking Powder
A Bright and Beautiful Life

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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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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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How to Make a Pocketwatch Necklace

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Last month I was helping my mom clean up her house and came across one of my dad’s old pocket watches. I recently lost my father to pancreatic cancer so finding this little trinket brought up a rush of emotions.

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The pocket watch no longer works, but I thought it might be fun to turn it into a cute charm necklace to remind me of him.

This was a surprisingly super easy project to do and one you can easily embellish and re-create if you want to transform a family trinket into something new. It would be great for pins, brooches, lockets, and even wrist watches.

I added a little rabbit charm to the clock since his favorite book was Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and that book always reminds me of him. Plus, it serves as a little reminder of how quickly time can get away from us. Cherish every moment!

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UPDATE: I first decided to just string the chain through the pocket watch but it kept sliding around and knocking into the charm…so I cut the chain and reattached each side to the actual pocket watch to prevent it from sliding back and forth.

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As an added dedication, I set the time to his birthday: 10:23:58.

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As we come upon Father’s Day, be sure to tell your parents how much they mean to you. Time passes too quickly and we just never know how much time we have together. I think about my dad every day and wish I could have just 5 more minutes with him to tell him again how much I love him.

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When you’re little, you think everyone—especially your parents—will be alive forever…and even in adulthood, it feels so strange that he’s not here. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it or it will ever seem “normal”, but I take every day as it comes and remain thankful for all the blessings in my life.

 

Alice: “How long is forever?”

White Rabbit: “Sometimes, just one second.”

Celebrate creativity every Wednesday with a “Creativi-bee” post, where I share easy craft tutorials, project ideas, and craft collections.

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10 Must-Know Baking Hacks

To celebrate World Baking Day (May 17th), I’ve collected a few of my favorite baking hacks that I find myself coming back to again and again.  Some of these I learned from friends and family…others I picked up along the way by trial and error.

Baking shouldn’t be intimidating!  It’s really fun and actually quite easy to experiment with different flavors and textures.  Cake won’t rise?  Canned frosting tastes terrible?  Don’t worry!  There’s a hack for that! 😉

800-pie-crustIf your flour or sugar needs to be sifted, pay attention to how it’s phrased in the directions. For example, “1 cup sifted all-purpose flour” (flour is measured AFTER sifting) is not the same as “1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted” (flour is measured BEFORE sifting).

For better results, use a liquid measuring cup to measure liquid ingredients and dry measuring cups to measure dry ingredients.

For lighter, fluffier baked goods, spoon flour into measuring cups and then level it off. Do not use your measuring cup as a scoop, as this will cause flour to pack down and actually give you more flour than you need.

If you’re measuring sticky items, like honey, syrup, or molasses, spray your measuring utensils with non-stick cooking spray to prevent sticking.

Baking temps matter! For a fluffier cake, bake at a lower temperature (325 degrees F – 350 degrees F). Cakes will bake denser at higher degrees (375 degrees F – 400 degrees F).

Hate that canned frosting taste? Take the frosting out of the can and whip it with an electric mixer for a few minutes to beat in air and add volume. Add a few drops of vanilla or almond extract to add more flavor.

Keep berries and chocolate suspended in your desserts and baked goods by first coating them with flour. A very light coating will work. Great trick for cookies, cakes, and muffins!

If you’re having trouble with your cakes and cookies not rising properly, try replacing your baking powder.

When baking cookies, make sure you bake like-sized cookies for even baking. Use a scoop for plop and drop cookies and bake similar-sized cut out cookies together to make sure everything bakes evenly.

If you have empty cavities in your muffin tin or doughnut pan, add water in the empty cavities to help your baked items cook evenly.

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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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

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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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How to Use Your Favorite Herbs

If you’re a beginner gardener like me or you’re looking for easy window plants to liven up your home this spring, herbs are a great solution.  They can grow in medium to full sunlight and plants like basil, parsley, sage, and cilantro are great to have on hand for your cooking needs.

Use this helpful printable chart to keep track of how to use your favorite spices!

common-uses-for-common-herbs

While they may all look similar, herbs vary in taste, texture, and usability.  Some, like the bay leaf, offer wonderful flavor to soups and stews but should not be eaten.  Others, like cilantro or basil, can be chopped up and added to just about anything…even desserts!

To Grow In or Out?

Herbs are not only food for humans, but hungry bunnies, chipmunks, bugs, deer, and other wildlife that might come visit your garden…so grower beware–if you grow your herbs outside, make sure you fence them in or protect them so you can enjoy them, too!  Herbs are also great for indoor gardening and grow easily on a windowsill in medium to full sunlight.  Last year we planted basil, sage, lavender, and cilantro in our little Chicago windowsill and had delicious fresh herbs all season long.

Dry Spell

Dried herbs are more concentrated versions of their fresh counterparts; however, not all herbs are good when dried.  Do some research before drying your herbs and store dried herbs in a cool, dry environment.

These herbs are great when dried:  bay leaves, oregano, sage, and thyme.  They will keep 1-2 months when dried and dried herbs make great gift ideas for hostesses or friends who love to cook.

 

What’s your favorite herb to cook with? 

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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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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Handmade CD Coasters

A few weeks ago I decided it was time to start spring cleaning. I’ve been wanting to go through my disks of photos for a long time, and finally one weekend I just sat down and got everything organized onto one DVD disk…

However this left me with several unusable CD’s. I felt bad just throwing them away, so I began brainstorming ways to use them.

When I landed on this idea to do toast coasters, I couldn’t wait to get started! This is such a fun and easy project and a great way to use up all kinds of scraps in your stash. Not only will this help you get rid of unwanted CD’s, but you can plow through your paper and fabric stash in no time!

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I went back and forth about what to put on the coasters. I thought maybe I’d try out my new coffee-themed stamp set, but I eventually landed on this idea to write funny toasts on each coaster. I gathered limericks, toasts, and popular sayings from a variety of Scottish and Irish Web sites and printed out my favorites. Now each one of these 35 coasters has a funny (and sometimes crass) toast on it.

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This is a great idea for bachelor parties or summer BBQ’s with the guys. They make great gifts and are fun to just have on display by your bar or in the den.

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Recycled CD Coasters

Materials:

  • CD’s
  • Assorted papers
  • Felt
  • Mod Podge/brush
  • Scissors
  • Pencil/Pen
  • Group of toasts, limericks, or favorite quotes
  • Ink pad
  • Hot glue gun/glue sticks

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Instructions:

  1. Trace a CD on your 12×12 scrapbook paper. You should be able to trace 4 CD’s per paper sheet. Cut them out and set aside.
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  2. Do the same with the felt. You may have to use a pen for this since pencil won’t show up on the felt. With the paper and the felt, I made a little X in the middle of the circle on the side where I traced, so I knew what side to hide.
  3. Once your felt circles are cut out, set those aside and cut out your toasts. I inked the edges of mine to give them a vintage-well worn look, but you don’t have to do that if you don’t want to. If you do ink your edges, make sure you allow the ink to dry before using the Mod Podge or else the ink will spread and bleed. You could even do this step first so the ink has time to try when you cut out your paper and felt circles.
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  4. Once everything is ready to go, you can begin making your coasters! Using a brush or foam brush, add some Mod Podge to the front of the CD, and then add some to the back of a paper circle. Place the circle on the CD and press to secure. Then add a bit of Mod Podge to the front of the circle and add your sentiment. Mod Podge over the whole thing and set aside to dry. Repeat until all your coasters are done. Let dry completely before moving to the next step.
  5. Once the front of your coasters are dry, you’re ready to add your felt circles. Simply glue your circles, X side facing the CD, to the back of the CD with your hot glue gun.
  6. Once all your coasters are done, trim any edges that need to be trimmed. You can even add a ribbon around the CD to hide the edges of the paper and felt. 
  7. And there you have it! An easy and fun way to use up those CD’s and have fun entertaining all at the same time! These also make great wedding gifts and gifts for boyfriends, husbands, dads, and all those other guys in your life that are just too hard to shop for!
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Celebrate creativity every Wednesday with a “Creativi-bee” post, where I share easy craft tutorials, project ideas, and craft collections.

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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.

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  • 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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14 DIY Household Deodorizers

Nasty smells can linger in any room in the home. Bathrooms, kitchens, living rooms, bedrooms, and basements can retain smells for months…sometimes years.

Everyday products like plastic storage containers, rugs, bedding, and garbage cans can also absorb odors that make them near unusable.

Luckily there are tons of household products that you can use to help you eliminate these pesky odors. Even items like onions and mustard can be used to remove the smell from plastic jars and musty basements.

Oftentimes, these products work better than their chemically treated counterparts and, best of all, they won’t leave your entire home smelling like bleach!

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Vodka: You can spritz your vintage garments with a small amount of vodka to rid them of that terrible musty smell (make sure you spot test first). Vodka will kill the bacteria on your clothes without leaving a scent. Hang in a well-ventilated area to dry.

Orange Peels: Stubborn odors plaguing your garbage disposal? Drop orange peels, lemon peels, lime or grapefruit peels down the drain and run your disposal with the hot water on.

Vanilla Extract: Refrigerators and freezers can absorb odors quickly and easily. Zap that pesky fridge odor by rubbing your freezer with a cotton pad dampened with pure vanilla extract.

Vinegar: Create a 50/50 mix of white vinegar and water and wipe down the shelves of your refrigerator to eliminate any lingering smells.

Vinegar: To absorb cooking odors, place a small bowl of white vinegar on the stove while you cook.

Vinegar: To deodorize the toilet bowl, pour one cup of household vinegar into the toilet bowl, let it stand for at least five minutes, and then scrub and flush.

Wax Tart: If your car is holding on to smells from every road trip and run to the pizza place, you can hide those powerful odors by dropping a wax tart in your coffee cup holder or under the seats of your car. These small wax tarts are sold by candle makers and will release scents slowly.

Mustard: Saving leftovers is easy with plastic containers, but foods like fish, sauces, and meats can easily leave a nasty smell behind. Add a dollop of mustard to glass or plastic jars and fill with hot water. Let sit and wash with soap and water to leave your Tupperware smelling fresh and clean.

Baking Soda: Eliminate scents from living room and bathroom rugs by sprinkling problem areas with baking soda and vacuuming it up a few hours later.

Baking Soda: Fill ashtrays with 1/2 cup baking soda for a continual deodorizer in your car.

Onions: Who would have thought that onions would help you remove odors from your home? If you find yourself with a basement that smells dank and musty, cut an onion in half, place it on a plate, and leave it in the basement overnight. Once the initial salad-bar aroma dissipates, you’ll have fresh (non-oniony) air. Like magic!

Salt: Sprinkling salt on drips that have bubbled over and out of cookware will absorb any burned smell while a dish is still cooking.

Fabric Softener Sheets: Used fabric softener sheets left in the bottom of your kitchen trash will absorb odors from disposed food.

Essential Oils: Soak your favorite scents on cotton balls and store in small bowls around your home to keep every room smelling clean and fresh.

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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