Defrosting on the fly

The last hip trick was all about freezing stuff, so this week’s post will be about unfreezing. Ah, defrosting. Leisurely defrosting is the kind of thing people who plan ahead do. To be one of those kinds of kitchen people, I strive. 

The plan-ahead people will usually safely defrost by just putting something in the fridge and cooking it the next day when it’s fully defrosted. Well, for the non-plan-ahead types, running something under a tiny stream of cold water (for a maximum of 2 hours) is also an acceptable way to defrost, and quickly at that. However, I don’t feel so great about letting all that water trickle down the drain.

I used a gallon jar (another great way to use them around the house) to capture batches of water as we defrosted some fish filets last night. Yes, you have to periodically monitor the progress of the jar, but your houseplants (or trees or garden) will be so happy you did.

Peeling garlic cloves

This hip trick comes to us courtesy of my brother-in-law, Nick, and a recent reminder from Hank Shaw. I’m constantly fermenting garlicky dill pickles, my favorite flavor combo, and when the garlic stares me down I now use a trick that works sort of like magic. 

You can do the original method, finding two metal bowls of roughly the same size and then sticking the broken apart, but unpeeled garlic coves inside one of the bowls. Make a dome over that bowl with the other, hold really tight and shake wildly. Remove the peeled cloves and shake it out until all of them are relieved of their dry skin. 

I tried this in my metal cocktail shaker and was surprised by how well it worked, and within something I’m used to shaking with ease (the bowls can be unwieldy). Make sure you clean it out really well with hot soapy water before you make your next round of margaritas, though!

Make the most of our water supply

We’re in the midst of a 5-year drought where I am in Central Texas, so water conservation is at the top of our home lists. No matter where you live, it’s important to keep tabs on water usage. Here’s a hip trick provided courtesy of our county extension horticulture agent, Daphne Richards:

Many people capture the cold water from the sink or the shower while they’re waiting for it to heat up, which is great, but you can also capture water while you shower. 

You just need a few buckets and you can capture several gallons of water every time you shower. This may not sound like much, but in our continued drought, a few gallons go a long way. In my shower, I use two round buckets, but the real key is the flat-sided bucket that I put between them. I can press the flat bucket up against the back of the shower and catch all of the water that misses me and bounces off the wall. I catch about four gallons per shower, which I normally use on my oak trees in the front yard. 

A friend recently asked about soap in the water and whether that would hurt my plants. Well, most of the water that gets into my buckets has totally missed me, and so doesn’t have any soap in it. But even if the water WAS soapy, it wouldn’t hurt anything. The concentration of soap would not be that high, and soaps these days no longer contain phosphates, which used to be a problem. 

Add ventilation to your bathroom, sans remodel

Living in older houses has its perks, charming features, beautiful floors, big windows; however, the bathroom often leaves much to be desired. Old house bathrooms are usually without any ventilation. We rent, so a bathroom remodel isn’t in the cards for us.

Adding a small fan to the mix makes that small, intimate space a bit more suitable to modern living and our desires modern comforts. In those old light fixtures, there’s usually a plug that’s directly linked to the light operation. We set our little fan atop the fixture itself; it switches on when we flip the light switch.

Put a pull on it

You may recall a hip trick from a few months back telling you to be on the look-out for roadside find pulls. Here’s an idea for using a drawer pull as a creative hook alternative. 

You’ll want to be sure to find a beam and drill directly into it in order for the pull to remain sturdy and useful. Use a drill bit slightly smaller than the base of your pull and drill about 1” deep. Screw the pull into the drilled hole. If a beam doesn’t line up with where you want to place hooks, then use a cute piece of wood as a base to drill then screw in your pull(s). (You can use long drywall screws or a hollow wall anchor to affix the wood piece to the wall.)

Voila, instant cute and creative pegs!

Cleaning with vinegar, without the smell

I share this hip trick with my Green Your Cleaning Supplies workshop attendees. Do you like the idea of cleaning with something non-toxic, but hate the smell of vinegar?

Peppermint essential oil to the rescue! Add about 10 drops of a pure essential oil (no synthetic fragrances or you’re defeating the purpose of non-toxic cleaning) to your half vinegar-half water spray bottle. Of all the essential oils I’ve tried, peppermint is one of the few that actually masks the odor of the acetic acid in vinegar. Not a mint fan, try clove or eucalyptus which are also strong oils. 

Give a few sprays to your counter top, bathroom mirror, sticky floor and voila; you’re cleaning with a Thin Mint.

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.

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!

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.

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.

Upright members of your closet

This hip trick comes to us from Kris in Portland OR.

To help calf and knee boots both keep their shape and remain standing in the closet, weed out some of those old t-shirts or shorts you’ve been meaning to give away (or stash summer clothes just for the season, things you might not have much room to keep elsewhere).

Roll up one or more items together to match the height of the boot, and, if necessary, secure with masking tape. Insert the rolled up material into your boots and salute yourself for successfully implementing a creative improvisation/stashing tactic.

Operation stovetop recovery

You survived the holiday gathering, but how did your stovetop fare? Not so well? Shake some baking soda directly onto the burner area and give it a scrub with an old sponge or rag. Dab rag with white vinegar to remove the soda residues and polish your work.

If necessary, degunk your metal burners by removing them and soaking in hot water and a splash of Citrasolv, and then wash normally with dish soap.

DIY hand soap

This hip trick is along the same lines of the dish soap diluting trick on page 7 in the book. Stop spending money on hand soaps! Buy a refillable pump (there are even cute ones to be found out there, too) and fill it halfway or even a quarter of the way full with the Castile soap of your choice. Top it off with water, give it a shake and feel good about not putting extra chemicals down the drain, for cutting out unnecessary packaging and keeping toxic perfumes out of your home.