Travel smart

Ok, so I know these are hip helpful HOME tips, but in the likely event you leave your home for summer vacationing, here’s a way to keep rocking the thoughtful living.

Just think if we all started to save a cup during air travel, think of how much plastic we’re keeping out of the waste cycle.

Summer sipping

This hip trick comes to us from herb maven and non-toxic bodycare goddess Liz, of Raganella. We stayed with Liz during our recent trip back to NYC and she reminded me about how wonderful it is to sip infused water all summer long.

Her go-to, refreshing beat-the-heat flavors are cucumber, mint and lemon, either one or a combination of all three! Liz recommends a more medicinal version of oat tops or oat straw and rose petals for a cooling and relaxing effect. Simply slice any fruit/veggies thinly and place in the bottom of a pitcher, fill and refill with water and refrigerate (or don’t) and enjoy throughout the day. The herbs and aromatics will continue to flavor the water on the upwards of 24 hours. Pour over a strainer if you have loose herbs or debris that spread out in the water.

A delicious way to use citrus peels

This hip trick comes to us courtesy of my Hudson Valley pals, Julia and Kaela. Kaela put me up during my travels in the area and we ate our way through the weekend, as to be expected!

Prior to my arrival, she stuffed spent citrus peels and rinds inside a chicken and roasted it over potatoes and vegetables, which also had a few large citrus halves (any smaller and you’ll bite into them accidentally after roasting) tossed in for good measure. What a delicious way to use trash!

Freezing homemade bread


People buy bread from the store primarily because it’s easy to store. (I say that because once you get on a roll with making a loaf weekly, the work of making homemade bread sort of goes away.) Well, now you can keep your loaf around for the week without biting into a piece of driftwood by the end of the week.

Slice your loaf once it’s completely cool (yes, I mean really cool, not warm). Cut squares out of a larger piece of parchment paper and layer them in between each slice of bread in a brand new, gallon-sized freezer bag. Remove air with handy vacuum seal trick (optional), and stash in the freezer. Pull out a slice or two and just defrost them with a short toasting as needed. You can re-use your parchment squares and your freezer bag (until you don’t get a good seal on the bag any longer), just keep the empty bag with parchment in the freezer between uses.

Make limeade

This hip trick comes to us courtesy of my friend and fabulous yoga teacher, Amy, who often works with kids and has a handful of snacks and treats up her sleeve for any instance.

Here’s one of her latest kid-friendly bev ideas. Have a lime on hand? Cut it in half and squeeze each half into two 8-10 oz cups respectively, fill the rest of the way with water and a drop of stevia extract (or pinch of xylitol or just plain sugar) and you have instant summer refreshment. For added fizz and pizzaz replace regular water with club soda.

Remove rust

This hip trick comes to us courtesy of my partner, who cleaned rust off her bike wheel rims and frame with this fun little science experiment.  
Try it sometime by pouring a couple cups of water into a bowl. Take a square of aluminum foil, dip one side into the water bowl and then rub the rust-affected area with the dampened foil. The foil will likely disintegrate after a while of rubbing, but if necessary, grab another square and keep at it until all rust is gone.

Shine chrome by sprinkling Kosher salt over a half of a lemon. Rub the rusted area with the salted lemon and then follow up by cleaning normally. Enjoy the shine!

Use permaculture in the kitchen

Let one part of your dinner cook another! I steamed our greens over broth and brats by using this wire mesh strainer and placing a lid over the whole shebang for about 5 minutes.

Obviously this’ll largely depend on what you’re cooking on a given evening and won’t apply to all dinners, but it’s a fun thing to try and identify when you can skip extra pots and steps. You can read up on Permaculture and home/interior applications of the principles of it in my book!

Don't get mad, get mad scientist on your kitchen disasters

This hip trick comes to us courtesy of Trish in Austin, TX.

If you happen to burn something in a pan, empty out all the burnt food, and while the pan is still hot, sprinkle the burned area with salt. You will need to make sure the salt covers the whole burned area then pour distilled white vinegar on the salt. It causes a chemical reaction that lifts the burned stuff right off, slick as a whistle.

Sweet endings, make jelly milk

This hip trick comes to us from Mary Elizabeth Rienzo Noll from Bayside Queens via her fab daughter Bernadette, co-founder of Future Craft Collective.

Whenever you find yourself at the bottom of a jam jar, use this depression-era trick for a treat. Pour the milk of your choice over the last scrapings of jam, add an ice cube and put the cap on it. Shake it like crazy, or better yet, have your kids shake it. Pop it open and enjoy your yummy shake treat! (You probably recall a past Hip Trick, showing how jam jar ends can also become to-go, fruit-on-the-bottom yogurts.)

Homegrown jamming: preserving tiny amounts of produce

If your strawberry plants are anything like mine, you’re lucky to get one or possibly (spectacularly) two berries every few days. Hardly a jam-worthy lot. Hardly even an ice cream toppings for two lot.

Well, if you have a bit of perseverance and a freezer, you can make a small jar of your homegrown berry jam. Freeze your berries little by little by following the how-to in this post on freezing berries for future jamming. Wait for your next “harvest” and repeat! When you have a half pound’s worth stashed in your freezer bag, make half of this recipe and enjoy a half-pint of your homegrown jam.

Making sweet from tart

I rode around on a borrowed bicycle during my recent trip to Tucson stalking orange blossoms. The trees were heavy with both blooms and perfect oranges. I pocketed a few, to remember how sour the uncultivated Arizona citrus can be. I borrowed a small sauce pot and went to work on a simple syrup.

Simple Syrup for any amount of juice is easy. I had two oranges and no measuring cups. I ended up with about a half cup of juice, so I measured about 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water directly into the saucepot. Bring it to a simmer and simmer for about 5-7 minutes; it will thicken slightly and become shiny. Add the juice to the pot, bring it to a simmer again and remove syrup from the heat. Refrigerate, where it will last for a couple weeks. Add bubbly water and enjoy!

p.s. Using tart juice, like lemon or lime (if you’re not in AZ with sour oranges at your disposal) will replicate a deelish homemade Aranciata!

Making the most of your pantry shelves

This hip trick is related to our old fave on page 53 in the book, cinderblock and boards bookshelving. Use this inexpensive trick to add depth to your shelving and make the most of your space.

Over the weekend I bought at the hardware store a ‘1x12x8 #2 Common Board’ (as printed on my receipt) and had them cut it down into four shelves for my pantry, which I was sure to measure carefully beforehand. I bought 18 concrete bricks and voila! After 10 minutes of assembly (aka stacking), I added four sturdy shelves converting formerly wasted space in my pantry into useful shelving for just under $20.

p.s. Paint your bricks and/or shelves if you’d like to add a kick of color to the set-up.

Waste not, packaging turned scrubber

This hip trick comes to us from Susan, host of KOOP radio show, Food Love Austin. Susan hosted our Austin food swap a few months back and I noticed this ingenious trick for making use of wine sleeves that might otherwise end up in the trash.

Use these plastic grates as scrubbers for doughs and batters that wreak havoc on your regular sponge/dish scrubby and simply rinse it out when you’re finished!