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TIPS, TRICKS AND TIME SAVERS

 11/1/09:  new crocheting tip added.
 
If you have any tips, tricks or timesavers to share please go to the contact me page and I'll be sure to post them here!  New tips are always posted at the top of each category.
 
                                   HOLIDAY TIPS AND TRICKS
 
Serve a crowd on the holidays?  Planning to make homemade dressing?  Instead of baking your dressing in a large pan, like I've always done, mix your dressing and bake it in muffin tins instead!  Instant individual servings!  Thanks to my future daughter-in-law, Sarah, for this great  tip! 
 
If you're shipping Christmas sweets or baked goods this year, consider purchasing new pans to bake them in.  After baking the treats, wash the pans, wrap the goodies in plastic wrap and place them back into the original pan.  This helps protect during shipping plus gives an extra gift as well!
 
Looking for gift ideas for those hard to buy for people on your list?  Check out this site - they're pricey, but the great thing is you don't have to buy from them, use their ideas to create gift baskets of your own for much less money!  http://www.elegantpresents.com/
 
 
After carving your Jack 'O Lantern sprinkles the inside with a
generous amount of cinnamon and nutmeg for a
wonderful smell.
 
If you're like me and try VERY  HARD to avoid credit card debt during the holidays, nows the time to check with your favorite stores to see if they have layaway plans.  I know the local Walmarts here have Christmas layaways, usually starting September 1.  You can leave the layaways in until sometime in December.  This gives you some time to pay for your gifts without the additional charges associated with a credit card.  This is especially good if you have kids as their toy selection is usually quite good, and also their household type gift items, candles and teacher type gifts, etc.  Many other stores I'm sure also have layaway plans, just check with your favorites.  This gets your shopping done early as well!
 
                    HOUSEHOLD/PERSONAL TIPS AND TRICKS
 
Store birdseed in a  large bottle, for quick and easy filling of your bird feeders.  Less mess, and less time out in the cold!  
 
Also cover the feeders with spruce boughs to give the birds some security and shelter from the wind.
I didn't really know which category to put this tip in, so I just stuck it here!  Physically and mentally challenging yourself for 45 minutes prior to receiving your flu vaccine can produce antibodies that make it work better, according to a new British study.
 
People with the most vitamin C in their bloodstream have the lowest body fat, according to researchers at Arizona State University.  Snack on 2 vitamin C packed foods a day, like oranges, orange juice or broccoli.
 
Need to send large files over the internet?  Visit www.yousendit.com and uload your large file there.  Your friends will receive a link to the file, where they can dlownload it free!
 
 Use an ice cream scoop to scoop seeds out of squash or melons.
 
To keep recipes splatter free, keep a trouser hanger handy,  clip your recipe or book to the hanger and hang from your cabinet knobs.
 
Use a wire cheese cutter to cut through the ready-made refrigerator cookie dough. Perfect slices every time!
 
To make egg and tuna salad for sandwiches, use  store bought sandwich spread that has pickles, onion, pimientos and other seasonings already in it instead of plain mayo.  You can have a tasty sandwich in minutes by adding just one ingredient.
 
To keep purse organized, purchase small, clear cosmetic bags in different sizes with different colored trims.  Put "like" items together in each bag - such as ink pen, note pad, calculater, check book in one, aspirin, bandaids, lotions in one, etc.  This makes finding things in your purse much easier, and also makes it easier when it's time to change to a new purse
 
If you have mold problems in your bathroom - or anywhere for that matter! - like I do, you're going to LOVE this one!  Make a paste of baking soda and lemon juice - add the lemon juice SLOWLY though because it will boil up on you if you're not careful!  Put this on your moldy areas, scrub, then rinse.  I've used practically every mold remover product on the market and this works better than anything I've ever tried - plus no harmful chemicals or fumes!
 
For smelly drains, sprinkle baking soda down into the drain, then pour in a little vinegar.  You'll hear it bubbling away!  After a few minutes,  flush with warm water - smells are gone!
 
Do you buy the trash bags that come in a roll?  If so, keep part - if not all - of the roll all in the trash can together.  When you pull out the full bag to take outside, there's another bag already right there handy, just rip off the full one from the roll!
 
A great way to recycle plastic grocery bags is to use them as trash bags in small wastebaskets.  Believe it or not, you can also find crochet patterns on the web using the plastic grocery bags!
 
Are your cookie sheets as old as the hills like mine?  Or do you have new ones you want to keep new as long as possible?  Every single time you use them, line them with aluminum foil first - this keeps them cleaner, so they're easier to wash, and they won't turn dark as soon.
 
Heres a timesaver tip - Whenever you brush your teeth and/or wash your face, be it morning or night (or both!) take a few seconds to give your sink a quick wipe out every day - you'll be surprised how much this cuts down on your scrubbing!
 
If you're like me and have an upstairs and a downstairs, try to keep cleaning supplies in both places to keep from having to carry them back and forth.  I only have one large family room upstairs, so I don't have a lot of extra space.  I've got a broom, dust pan, swiffer mop, swiffer cloths, and a bottle of Pledge multi purpose cleaner - it cleans wood, glass, electronics - everything and only one bottle of cleaner.  If it's not feasible for you to keep cleaning supplies both upstairs and down, store all your cleaning supplies in a large bucket, and carry the bucket with you when you clean.  This keeps you from having to spend time searching for your various supplies.
 
Another little time saver I've found - If my stove timer has gone off, but I check and whatever I'm cooking isn't quite done, I certainly don't want to go all the way back upstairs for just 1-2 minutes time, so I stay downstairs and do a couple little quick clean up jobs.  I can clean the kitchen sink, or dust the tops of the cabinets and refrigerator, or clean the counter tops and stove top, spot clean the kitchen floor (seems there's always a spill on it somewhere), start a load of laundry, load up the dishwasher, whatever needs doing that won't take up much time.  That way I'm not just standing around waiting for the food to be done, and I've gotten another chore out of the way!
 
To clean laminate flooring, white vinegar and water (more water than vinegar)  will not strip it. There is no  harmful fumes and is safe. The floors are shiny I never have streaks and Recommended by "most" hardwood floor dealers that are not out to get you with there products. Because vinegar has a natural acididty it works great. Cleaning windows and linoleum floors, too. 

FOR MORE TIPS ON USING VINEGAR AROUND THE HOME:
http://www.kitchencraftsnmore.net/vinegar.html
Wash all black clothes together by themselves - slows the fading process.
 
For a burnt pan, put white vinegar mixed with baking soda into the pot to cover the burned portion. Boil 15-30 minutes, let it cool a while, then try to remove the burnt stuff.
THROW MY PAN AWAY."

To remove white rings from wood furniture, pour a little rubbing alcohol on the stain area, let set for a
few seconds, then blow dry with a hair dryer.  The rings should disappear.

To get lipstick stains out of fabric, use 1 cup dish washer detergent (the powder) and 1 cup color-safe bleach.  Put it in with the stained clothes and run the regular wash cycle, but let it soak for a while after the washer has filled.  I don't know
why, but it works!  It even takes out the grease residue
from the lipstick.

When cutting/chopping onions, light a candle first in the area where you'll be doing your work.  The candle flame "burns up" the fumes from the onion and your eyes won't water - try it, it really works!
 
Speaking of onions - if you're like me and you like to use fresh onions, celery and green peppers in your cooking, instead of the "minced" versions, but don't always have the time or energy to chop EVERY TIME you cook, do what I do.  When I go to the store and buy onions, celery or green pepper I wash and chop them when I get home and store them in the freezer in plastic bags.  This way they are always handy when you want them, are pre-chopped, and of course they keep for months in the freezer, instead of days like they do in the fridge.
 
To make cleaning the fridge easier, use old dish towels folded in half to line vegetable and meat drawers.  I also use scraps of old shelf liner - the kind that's rubber backed, not the adhesive kind, in the doors of the fridge.  You can also use old dish towels inside your pots and pans in your cabinets so they don't get scratched when you "nest" them.
 
If you need to soften cream cheese in a hurry, unwrap it and zap in the microwave for a few seconds.  This works for thawing Cool Whip as well.
 
Before cooking, place a sheet of waxed paper on the counter top.  This makes a convenient disposable spoon rest and makes clean up a snap.
 
If using a recipe that calls for pressing refrigerated dough into muffin cups to form a dough (I think I have a recipe like this on the archive site), you can use a shot glass to press the dough into each cup.  It's a good fit and makes the dough nice and even, and speeds up this process GREATLY. Just remember to coat the glass in flour first.
 
Planning a trip in the spring or summer?  Check out some of the freebie sites on the internet and get free samples of shampoo, creme rinse, toothpaste, moisturizers, shower gel - you name it and you can find it.  That way you won't have to pack the large sizes of these items, just pack your samples.  Less room in your suitcase, less chance of spilling, plus you won't have to use them the morning you leave and then pack them up before you go!  NOTE:  Sometimes you get your freebies quickly, sometimes it takes several weeks so do this WAY ahead of time.
 
Here's another travel tip.  Buy a box of the small snack sized plastic zip lock bags.  If you're a jewelry nut like I am (I like to change my jewelry with my outfits) you can put jewelry for one outfit in one bag, another outfit in another bag, etc.  Also if you're taking more than one neck chain or bracelet, you can store them individually in the bags to keep them from tangling together.
 
Another travel tip:  Get a box of the large sized zip lock plastic bags and store your soaps, shampoos, conditioners, lotions, shaving creams, make up, etc. in them - if they leak they won't get on anything else.  Take the remainder of the box with you on your trip - when you shower, shave, brush your teeth, etc. on the morning that you're heading home you can store the "wet" items you used that morning in the bags to keep everything else dry.  The large sized bags are also good for taking home your dirty undies and socks.
Here's a link for great tips on uses for baking soda:  http://www.kitchencraftsnmore.net/bakingsoda.html
 
To make panty hose or knee highs last longer, soak them in a salt water solution overnight then rinse out before wearing.
 
For grease stains in clothes, treat with Dawn dishwashing liquid before washing in the washer - this works for most stains, including stains that have been dried into the clothes!
 
For smells in the microwave, place a cup of white vinegar in the microwave and shut the door overnight.  In the morning remove the vinegar, odors should be gone.  You can also boil 1/2 cup of lemon juice in microwave for two minutes then turn off microwave and leave overnight.
 
"To get hard water stains off the bottom of your tub, use a paste of vinegar and baking soda.  Don't use this on fibreglass as the baking soda could scratch.  This works really well on porcelain and cast iron tubs.

When cleaning showerheads, remove from the downspout.  If the holes are encrusted with hard-water scale, soak the showerhead in white vinegar overnight.  Dry and reassemble the next morning.  Be sure to wrap plumber's tape over the threads before screwing the showerhead back on to ensure a tighter seal.

Liquid dishwashing soap and water will remove small marks from chrome.

To remove scale from a chrome faucet or showerhead, fill a plastic bag with vinegar and tie the bag onto the faucet so it is submerged in the vinegar. When the scale is gone, rinse and buff.

Mix equal amounts of grapefruit juice and salt to make a cleanser to remove rust stains from faucets or showerheads, and use a washcloth to wipe off rust.  The mixture provides a light acid and abrasive.

A lemon dipped in salt works well as a cleaner for brass faucets or showerheads.  Just cut the lemon in half, pour a little bit of salt onto a plate, dip the lemon into it and rub it over the faucet.  Buff the faucet with mineral oil when finished.

Another cleaner for brass is a paste made from equal parts vinegar, flour and salt.  Rub on the fixture then buff with mineral oil.

Rub stained enamel fixtures with a cut lemon.  For stubborn stains, use a paste of lemon juice and borax."
 
                                        CROCHET TIPS AND TRICKS
 
This tip involves a product, which I normally don't do, but it really has helped me.  In many different catalogs I've seen a "yarn caddy".  It's a round, plastic container with a lid.  It'sectioned off  inside - a middle section which can hold hooks and scissors, and several sections - I think six - around that hold different skeins of yarn.  The lid has small holes in the top over each skein section, so you can close the lid and still work on your project.  A friend of mine got me one for my birthday and it has been a lifesaver for me.  My dogs LOVE to get into my yarn, and after trying several different places behind my couch to stash it THINKING they couldn't get into it, and being proved wrong, I ended up piling it on top of my game table whenever I left the room.  Now I can use my yarn caddy and leave everything next to my chair - they can't get into it to make a mess, and my table is no longer piled up!  You can even store your project itself in the caddy if it isn't too large.  And for the cost of about $20, it's WELL worth it!  I know the sell them in the Collections Etc. catalog.   Just type it into your search engine. 
 
 
 
If you have problems twisting your beginning chains when joining to work in rounds, try working your first row of stitches as if you're working a flat piece, and THEN join with a slip stitch and weave in the yarn end at the beginning of the chain into the first stitch and join with a slip stitch - no more twisted chains!
 
Here's a link to a great site with some great crochet tips:  http://serendipity.gpvm.com/cttips.html
 
Here's another great tip sent in by Dave from Serendipity Crochet.  Thanks Dave for being a friend to this site from the very beginning!  If  you're working on a project and you have skeins of yarn that are the same shade name but different lot numbers, alternate between each skein - one row from one skein, the next row from the other skein.  This will make any differences in the shades of the yarn blend and not be so noticeable.
 
Do you have arthritis, carpal tunnel, or any other problem that affects your grip and gets in the way of crocheting?  You can buy a cushion grip to fit your crochet hooks into at most craft stores.  They can accommodate up to a size G hook.  These are great for those really small hooks, especially the steel ones!  HINT:  Put a drop of hand lotion or liquid soap on the end of the hook BEFORE sticking it into the cushion grip - makes it go in much easier!
 
When working on something light, keep it and the yarn in a pillow case.  When taking it out to work, lay the pillow case in your lap. As the piece gets larger switch to a sheet laid across your lap and where your work touches on the floor, then when you're finished working on it gather it up in the sheet until next time.  This keeps it clean and neat, and all together too.
 
When using several skeins of yarn at once for a project, such as with graph afghans, cut a slot into empty, cleaned 2 liter soda bottles and put each skein into a bottle.  Keeps them from rolling all over and getting so tangled.  Each time you turn your work, try to remember which way you turned it and turn it the opposite direction next time to keep yarn tangle free.
 
Store left over yarn in large plastic freezer type bags.  Place the paper "band" that comes around the skein in the bag so you'll know the exact name of the color and/or the lot # if needed so you can match it if you need more for a project in the future.
 
Do you make frequent trips to a doctors office, lawyers office, dentist office, picking up kids at school, etc. - anywhere you have to spend some time sitting and waiting?  Keep a bag packed with a super quick and easy crochet project including your pattern, needle and supplies needed.  That way it's always ready and you can just grab it and go when you're on the run.  For example, I have a bag with 1 pair of socks and 1 pair of gloves for each of Gerald's female cousins to give them for Christmas next year.  I keep a crochet hook, a pair of scissors, and 3 different colors of the boa yarn in there as well.  When I'm going to be running out I can just grab it, everything is ready to go, and I'm crocheting trim around the gloves and the sock tops.  By Christmas I'll be ready!
 
If you're making an afghan in the summer time, it can be hot work.  Get a cheap t.v. tray, set a small fan underneath it pointed at you, and drape the afghan over the tray instead of over your lap while you're working on it.  This keeps it off of you and won't overheat you in the process!

 

                                        CRAFT TIPS AND TRICKS

When doing beading crafts, such as stringing beads on a cord or wire, clip the bottom end of the cord or wire with a clothespin.  Now, if you drop your cord - like I usually do with only 3-4 beads to go to finish! - you won't have to start all over again, your beads will stay on!

 

Acrylic paints can be used on lots of surfaces - including glass and metal.  Just use a spray sealer after the paint has dried to keep the paint from running or flaking off later.  There's also a glass medium that can be mixed with acrylics for use on nonporous surfaces.  (I don't care for the one that I've used, but I know there are several out there). 

Do you like candlelight?  Do you hate mosquitos?  I like to use citronella candles and tiki torches whenever I'm out on the patio.  A great way to recycle soup/vegetable cans and baby food jars is to paint them with acrylic paints, then put citronella tealight candles inside.  If using the cans, you can also drill holes around the outline of your painted pattern so that when the candle is lit the pattern shines through like a luminary. 

 
When working on a crochet pattern that's a little intricate and hard to keep up with, keep a pencil with an eraser top with your pattern and mark the point where you stop each time you put down your work.  When you pick it back up, you'll know exactly where you left off without having to count and re-read the pattern and figure out where you are, you can erase the mark when you begin working again, and mark it again when you stop again.  This can save loads of time and frustration!
 
This tip comes from a friend of the site, and she allowed me to share it with all of you.  Thanks Holly!  "I was having problems with my thread when I was crochetting doilies, and I didn't have the big bucks to pay for one of those expensive thread holders. I went to the Goodwill store, and I found an old wooden toliet paper holder that you screw into the wall. It had the big, flat base on it, and the plastic springy toliet paper holder on it. It is perfect for the rolls of crochet thread. It will sit on the base (which is actually the part that screws onto the wall), and the tp holder part will roll as you pull the thread! And the one I bought had sticky on the back of it where someone had stuck it to the wall instead of screwing it, so now it will sit on my desk in front of me and not move around! For $2.99 I got the same thing that most people sell for $26.00".

 
When doing painting crafts, use an empty egg carton to place puddles of paint colors in - when you're finished you can just throw it away, no mess to clean!

Like to do bead crafts?  Don't spend a lot of money on the bead storage containers in the craft stores.  Go to a Home Depot type store and buy a divided plastic container made for screws and things.  It's virtually the same container but it's MUCH cheaper!

Another painting tip - you can make any shade of paint lighter by adding white paint to it - no need to rush out and buy lighter shades.  Mix white a few drops at a time on a paper plate and "stir" it in with your paint brush or toothpick until desired color is achieved. 

Store your paintbrushes brush side up, not down - this helps prolong the life of the paintbrush.  Empty soda cans work great for this - just wash them out well and store the brushes in the small opening at the top of the can.

Are you a fan of cross stitch?  When working on a large project that's going to take some time to finish, cover the entire edge of your fabric with masking tape to prevent raveling. 

 


In honor of
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Jeffery and Josh Mixon and Jeff Snell

Precious Moments graphics by: Suzy's Home of Graphics