Wednesday, July 16, 2014

My Favorite Life Hacks

The expression “life hacks” is one I discovered while browsing the internet. For those unfamiliar with the term, a life hack is some kind of shortcut or technique that simplifies life. There are all kinds of lists all over the internet of good life hacks, but I thought I’d put together a compilation of a few that I find to be the most useful, the most interesting, or the most cool.

Proper use of a bobby pin
Most women who put bobby pins in their hair put them in at the orientation in the photo above: straight side down, wavy side up. WRONG!!! Putting a bobby pin in your hair with the flat side up will not only hold your hair more firmly, but it will be easier to slide into place, it will lie smoothly (and less noticeably) against your head, and that little sticky-uppy part at the end won’t poke out of your ‘do (and since your head is curved, it won't poke YOU either).

Banish static cling from clothes
Got a skirt, dress, or blouse made of a lightweight material that is always full of static cling? Don’t reach for that bottle of Static Guard, reach for a safety pin instead. Pin a small safety pin into the seam allowance and it will disperse that nasty static. You may need one on each side of the garment.

And from hair
Got static in your hair, not your clothes? Smooth it down with a used dryer sheet. Not only will it be less flyaway, it’ll smell fresh and clean!

Know which water glass and bread plate are yours
Don’t you just hate it when you’re at a wedding reception or a large business dinner and the place settings are all mashed together so it’s not clear which water glass and which bread plate are yours? Here’s all you have to do: put your hands in your lap and make the “OK” sign with each of them. Look at your left hand: It’s also in the shape of a lower-case letter “b,” right? That’s because your bread plate is on your left. Now look at your right hand: It’s a lower-case “d,” because your drink is the one on your right. Now you just have to be sure to claim them before the guests on either side of you who don’t know this trick do.

Iced coffee in the Keurig
I love iced coffee, but when you have a Keurig, it just doesn’t make sense to brew a single cup and wait for it to chill. But if you brew it over ice, it gets watered down. Here’s the simple solution: make a cup or two of your favorite blend, pour it into an ice cube tray, and freeze. The next time you want an iced coffee, brew it over the coffee cubes instead of plain ice. Don’t forget to put the sugar in first so it dissolves while the coffee is still hot!

Sugar in your iced coffee
Speaking of dissolving sugar in your coffee, don’t you hate it when you get takeout iced coffee and there’s all that sugary sludge at the bottom that just won’t dissolve no matter how hard you stir? Just ask them to pour a splash of hot coffee in your cup after adding the sugar but before adding the iced coffee. I learned this trick from the scariest-looking, most tattooed and pierced, and absolutely most wonderful Dunkin Donuts employee I ever met. Wherever you are today, my friend, THANK YOU AND GOD BLESS YOU!

Sneeze manipulation
Got an annoyingly ticklish nose but that sneeze just won’t come? Look at a bright light. It’s called the photic reflex and it’s present in about one-third of us. So it might not work, but it couldn’t hurt.

On the flip side, feel a sneeze coming that you really need to stifle? Press hard on the bridge of your nose with your finger, or push your tongue up against the front part of your hard palate right behind your front teeth. Both techniques seem to calm an impending sneeze.

Clearing your throat without clearing your throat
What if that tickle isn’t in your nose, but in your throat? I had some vocal issues a number of years ago and learned that clearing your throat is TERRIBLE for your vocal cords. So how to get rid of that tickle without an annoying – and unhealthy – “hem hem”? Drop your chin down to your chest, turn your head slightly to the side, and swallow. The motion will soothe the irritated nerves and even help clear that annoying phlegm.

Dry mouth
About to make a speech and suddenly realize your mouth is full of sawdust? Vocal audition and you ran out of water five minutes ago? Ready to play your fancy brass fanfare and you haven’t got enough spit to drown a flea? Bite your tongue! No, really. Bite your tongue gently and it will stimulate the flow of saliva. And keep in mind that if you bite the sides instead of the tip you’re less likely to hurt yourself.

Elegant cocktail garnishes
To make an elegant cocktail garnish of lemon or lime, cut off both ends, slice across the peel from end to end, and carefully cut off the entire peel so you have a roughly rectangular shape. Scrape off as much of the white pith as you can, then re-roll the peel tightly and put a rubber band around it to keep it rolled. Put in a Ziploc baggie and freeze. When thoroughly frozen, remove the rubber band and slice into ¼-inch wide discs, then keep frozen until ready to use. Drop a frozen disc into a drink and it will add flavor, keep the drink cool, and slowly uncoil as it thaws. Plus you still have the rest of the lemon or lime for juice!

Pizza cutters are for more than just pizza
Whenever I go out to breakfast with my kids, by the time I finish cutting up their pancakes or waffles for them, my own breakfast is cold. But that never happens at home, because at home I use a pizza cutter to zip through even a tall stack of pancakes in seconds. A pizza cutter is also handy for trimming crusts off bread or sandwiches, cutting toast into points or fingers, slicing up peppers or mushrooms, and even slicing brownies or bar cookies – just pop the whole thing out of the pan onto a cutting board and slice away!

I hope you find some of these hacks to be useful, interesting, or at least cool. And please share your own favorite life hacks in the comments!

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