13 Cold Weather Tips and Tricks
Take vanilla out of the kitchen
When it’s too cold to open the windows, freshen your whole house fast by placing a few drops of vanilla extract on your furnace’s filter. Your house’s heating system will do the rest of the work for you. To scent one particular area, take a small jar and place several cotton balls inside. Dab a few drops of vanilla extract onto the cotton balls. Before putting the cover on the jar, use a nail to puncture a few holes into it for your very own vanilla air freshener.
Make it spicy
To easily deodorize your kitchen, put a cinnamon stick and other favorite spices (such as cloves or ginger) in a mug of water, and microwave it for 2 minutes. Remove the mug and set it on the counter so that the aroma can fill the kitchen. This trick is great for winter, when the scent of the spices will create a warm, cozy atmosphere.
Seal the door
Have a sliding glass door that’s rarely used during the winter? Seal it with duct tape to keep cold air from coming in.
SEE ALSO: Domestic CEO's How to Make Your Home (and Everything in it) Smell Good
Winterize deck furniture
To keep your metal deck furniture free from rust and wear all winter long, reach for the petroleum jelly Just apply a thin layer (especially in areas where the furniture tends to rust) after cleaning the surface with simple soap and water.
Ease painful pads on pets
Many dogs love to play outside in the snow, but their paws can cause them pain if ice starts to build up between their pads. Before heading out for a winter walk, rub some petroleum jelly between each pad. The ice will stay away and your dog can enjoy the outdoors! If your poor pet’s pads are already cracked or dry, gently rub a little petroleum jelly into her pads while she’s sleeping.
Petroleum jelly is completely safe if your pet decides she wants to lick it off later.
Spray on a little D-fense.
Spray WD-40 in the lining of car doors. Doing this once in the beginning of the winter should keep your doors opening easily.
Baby powder to the rescue
Use baby powder or baking soda to absorb the moisture that collects on the rubber seal lining of your car door. Just wipe the weather strip with a dry cloth before sprinkling on the powder. Repeat every few days in the dead of winter to make sure you can always get into your car.
RELATED: Who Knew's 7 Car Hacks for Winter Weather
Easy undercarriage cleaning
Don’t forget to clean under your car, especially if you live in an area where salt and ice assault in winter.
A trick for these hard-to-reach areas: Run a lawn sprinkler underneath the car and drive back and forth.
Block the lock
To keep your car’s door locks safe from ice during the cold winter months, place a refrigerator magnet over the lock. You can even take an old magnet (last year’s calendar from a local realtor, perhaps) and cut it into pieces that fit perfectly.
Brush to better lips
For lips that need a little extra TLC, especially in the winter, try this effective scrub. Mix together 2 teaspoons baking soda with enough lemon juice to make a paste. Gently scrub the mixture over your lips with a dry toothbrush for a minute or two, then rinse, and apply some petroleum jelly or your favorite lip balm.
Go crazy for cranberry
For a seasonal solution to chapped winter lips—and a great DIY gift idea for the holidays—try this cranberry lip balm! In a microwave-safe bowl, mix together 1 tablespoon avocado or almond oil, 10 fresh cranberries, 1 teaspoon honey, and 1 drop vitamin E oil (from a capsule). Microwave on high until the mixture begins to boil. Remove carefully as the bowl may be hot. Mash the berries with a fork and stir well to combine. After the mixture has cooled for 10 minutes, strain it into a small portable tin, making sure to remove all of the fruit pieces. Cool completely. You’ve made your own great-smelling lip balm!
If your favorite cashmere or angora sweater is looking a little worn, put it in a plastic bag and place it in the freezer for half an hour. The cold causes the fibers to expand, making your sweater look new again! Who knew there was such a thing as sweater cryogenics?
JUST FOR FUN: Savvy Psychologist's How to Harness Light to Defeat Winter Blues
Your warmest boots
Make your winter boots a little warmer—and make sure they’re completely waterproof—by lining the bottom of the insides with duct tape. The tape will create a waterproof seal, and the shiny silver will reflect your body heat back onto your feet.
11 Coffee Hacks for Flavor, Stains, and More
Obviously, coffee is the best part of every morning. But if your coffee needs a pick-me-up, we've got you covered.
Make coffee more drinkable
If you’re sensitive to acidity in coffee but love the pick-me-up in the morning, here’s a way to reduce the acid level: Just add a pinch of baking soda to the drink! You can also use this tip to decrease the acidity in other high-acid drinks and foods.
Save your cream
If your cream or half-and-half has begun to develop an “off” odor, but you desperately need it for your coffee, try mixing in 1/8 teaspoon baking soda, which will neutralize the lactic acid that is causing the cream to sour.
Before you use the cream, however, taste it to make sure the flavor is still acceptable.
SEE ALSO: Grammar Girl's Why Do We Call Coffee a 'Cup of Joe'?
Perk up your coffee
Make stale coffee taste like it’s just been brewed by adding a pinch of salt and a dollop of fresh water to your cup. Heat it up in the microwave, and you’re ready to power through the rest of your workday. Works for me every time!
Remove coffee stains
These stubborn stains aren't going to get themselves out!
Chase coffee stains
Coffee stains can be frustrating, but you can get them out of your carpet by pouring beer on them. That’s right—one great beverage deserves another! Just dribble a couple of sips onto the stain, and it should vanish. Dab up the extra beer with a paper towel, and if the coffee stain doesn’t go away completely, repeat the task a few more times. This trick works on tea stains, too.
Get creative with stains
If you can’t get a coffee or tea stain out of a white tablecloth, try one last solution. Soak the tablecloth in a bucket of strong coffee or tea (depending on the type of stain) for 2 hours. You won’t get the stain out, but you will dye your linen a lovely earth tone!
RELATED: Who Knew's How to Remove Almost Every Stain
Other ways to use coffee
Who knew that you could use coffee for reasons other than getting out of bed in the morning?
Share some coffee
Here’s an ingenious idea for an elegant-looking decoration that also smells wonderful! Place coffee beans in votive holders or small bowls, then add tea light candles. They’ll cast a pretty glow and make your home smell like coffee.
Try vanilla-scented tea lights if you love the smell of French vanilla coffee.
Surprising use for a coffee bean
To freshen your breath, try sucking on a coffee bean. It’s much cheaper than a breath mint, and tastes great to us coffee addicts!
Reach for a coffee filter
We always prefer to clean our windows with something reusable, like an old rag. But if you like to go the disposable route, try coffee filters instead of paper towels. They won’t leave behind any lint or paper pieces. Coffee filters work great for electronic screens as well—they grab dust without scratching or leaving streaks.
SEE ALSO: Domestic CEO's No Mess Camping Coffee
Perfect wood patch
If you need to repair a hole in a piece of wood, add a small amount of instant coffee to the spackle, or to a thick paste made from laundry starch and warm water. The coffee tints the paste to camouflage the patched-up spot.
Freeze out funk
Add a shallow bowl of freshly ground coffee, uncovered, to your freezer. Leave for a few days and any funky freezer odors will disappear.
Cover up with coffee.
Would you ever imagine coffee stains could be a good thing? For your damaged wood furniture or floors, they are. Just brew a very strong pot, and then use a cotton ball or rag to apply the coffee over the scratch. It works as a stain, and will blend in the scratch in no time!
Go Green: 5 Tips for Saving Electricity
After a few weeks of talking about ways to go green, I thought an episode on how to save electricity would be a great way to finish out this green series. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed learning ways to save water, to cut down on the amount of trash you create in your kitchen as well as some environmentally-friendly laundry tips.
If you’ve ever Googled “How to save electricity,” you’ve found out the hard way that there are hundreds of tips out there. Some of these tips are easy to implement, but some of the ways to save electricity that are suggested online are tips like, “Use candles instead of turning on lights.” While this will certainly save electricity, it’s not incredibly practical. That’s why I decided to put together a list of some of my favorite, easy-to-do tips to help you save electricity.
Tip #1: Save electricity by turning off lights
If your parents were like mine, you probably still have a voice rattling around your head saying, “Turn off the lights!” whenever you exit a room. Our parents had it right, because there’s absolutely no reason to keep a light on in a room you are not in. If you can commit to simply turning off the lights in every room when you leave it, you can save electricity immediately.
Whether you are going to return to the room in 10 minutes or 10 seconds, there’s no reason to have the light on while you’re not in the room.
Tip #2: Save electricity by turning off (and disconnecting!) electronics
Just like there’s no use in keeping lights on while you’re not in a room, there’s no use in keeping electronics on while you’re not using them. When you leave for the day, make sure all your electronics are off. This includes your TV, sound system, computer, and any other electronic gadgets you may have around your home.
Did you know that electronics that are plugged in, and not even turned on, can account for 5-10% of electricity used in a home?
Taking it one step further, did you know that electronics that are plugged in, and not even turned on, can account for 5-10% of electricity used in a home? Computers, printers, coffee makers, and even phone cords that are plugged in can be energy vampires, sucking electricity (and your hard-earned money) when they aren’t in use. So you may want to invest in a power cord that you can plug most electronic devices into. That way, you can simply unplug off just one switch when you leave for the day (instead of walking around unplugging things throughout your home). Yes, it might take 2 more seconds of your time to turn the power cord on than simply turn the electronic device on, but it can make a big impact in your electricity bill.
Tip #3: Save electricity by taking care of your air conditioner
If you live in an area of the world where you use your air conditioner a lot, this can play a major part in your energy consumption. If you want to save electricity, there are a few things that you can do to make sure your air conditioner is running as efficiently as possible.
First, have your air conditioning unit serviced annually. Most companies charge a nominal fee to have this service completed. It involves cleaning out the coils and checking for any small repairs that are making your unit work overtime. Next, make sure you change your air filters monthly. These filters catch a lot of dust and dirt, which starts to clog them. The more clogged the filters, the harder your air conditioning unit has to work to get the air to pass through the filter. If your filters are any color other than white, making a slight whistling sound, or worse yet, are bent because they are being sucked into the vent, change them immediately. This change alone will save a ton of wasted electricity from being used to cool your home.
Tip #4: Save electricity by making easy swaps
A couple of quick swaps in your house can help you save electricity. The first you may want to consider is using ceiling or box fans instead of running your air conditioner as much. Oftentimes, just circulating the air in a room will help the room feel cooler. Instead of running the massive cooling unit outside your home, a fan uses about the same amount of electricity as a light bulb. For every degree you can raise your air conditioner, you save about 5% of the energy being used. I live in the desert of Arizona and my fellow dessert-dwellers are very familiar with this technique. It costs an arm and a leg to cool a house in Arizona to 70 degrees, so most people set their thermostats between 77 and 81 degrees and run the fans to do the rest. It keeps us comfortable, both with the feeling inside our house as well as when we see our electric bills!
Another easy change is to switch incandescent light bulbs to fluorescent, otherwise known as CFL, light bulbs. CFL bulbs use just 25% of the energy of regular light bulbs, so when you combine that with always shutting them off, you can dramatically save on your electricity consumption. Just remember that CFL bulbs contain a small amount of mercury, so they need to be disposed of properly. Check with your local government agency to see how they require these bulbs to be disposed of.
Tip #5: Save electricity by keeping nature outside
The final tip on how to save electricity is to make sure you don’t have any drafts coming into your home. If you hold a feather around the edges of your windows and doors, the feather should be perfectly still. If it wavers, that means outside air is getting into your home. The more outside air that gets into your house, the more your air conditioner or heater has to run. Seal up your windows and doors with weather stripping, which is available at your local hardware store and is relatively easy to apply.
Also, during the summertime, keep the sunshine out of your house using room darkening blinds and curtains. By keeping the sun out, especially from south and west facing windows, you will keep your house from heating up, which will do a big part in helping to save electricity.
These are just a few tips to save electricity to get you started.