Sunday, February 18, 2007

random but helpful hints

i've never been a big fan of unsolicited e-mail. people love to send what they think of as humorous or otherwise interesting items that, in my experience, are generally a waste of time. but once in a great while, in between warnings about the fcc forbidding all christian programming and offers of untold millions from christian converts overseas who need my bank account information for a short time, there's actually something worthwhile. here are some ideas from an e-mail i received recently; i haven't tried most of them yet, so you can let me know how (or if) they work:
  • storing bed sheets: put both sheets and one pillowcase in the other pillow case. fold neatly in a square. when you're ready to change them, just take the one pillow case and all the sheets and pillow case are inside; no need to look for matches.
  • cleaning shower glass: apply lemon juice to the glass with a sponge. then, take newspaper and wipe the lemon juice off the glass. it will be clean and sparkle with no scrubbing!
  • heating leftover pizza: put the pizza in a non-stick skillet on top of the stove, set heat to med-low, and heat till warm. keeps the crust crispy.
  • easy deviled eggs: put cooked egg yolks in a ziploc bag. seal and mash until they are all broken up. add remainder of ingredients, reseal, and keep mashing to mix thoroughly. cut the tip of the bag, squeeze mixture into egg. throw bag away when done — easy clean up.
  • stretching the frosting: if you buy cake frosting from the store, whip it with your mixer for a few minutes. you can double its volume, allowing you to frost more cupcakes and to use less sugar and calories per serving.
  • warming refrigerated bread: place cold muffins, biscuits, or pancakes in a microwave with a cup of water. the increased moisture will keep the food moist and help it reheat faster.
  • keeping weeds away: start putting in your plants and work the nutrients in your soil. wet newspapers, then put layers around the plants overlapping as you go. cover with mulch. weeds will get through some gardening plastic, but they will not get through wet newspapers.
  • cleaning up broken glass: use a dry cotton ball to pick up the little broken pieces of glass — the fibers catch ones you can't see.
  • keeping mosquitoes away: put a dryer sheet in your pocket.
  • keeping squirrels from eating your plants: sprinkle the plants with cayenne pepper. cayenne pepper doesn't hurt the plant and the squirrels won't come near it (guess they don't like spicy food...).
  • vacuuming in a narrow space: add an empty paper towel roll or empty gift wrap roll to your vacuum hose. it can be bent or flattened to get into tight spots.
  • avoiding static cling: pin a small safety pin to the seam of your slip and you will not have a clingy skirt or dress. likewise, place pin in seam of slacks and — voila — static is gone.
  • pouring sticky substances into a measuring cup: first, fill the cup with hot water; then dump it out, but don't dry the cup. add your ingredient, such as peanut butter, and it will come out easily.
  • wiping fog from your windshield: keep a chalkboard eraser in the glove box of your car to wipe away the fog — works better than a cloth.
  • getting inside of a sealed envelope: place your sealed envelope in the freezer for an hour or two and it will unseal easily. (don't use this method to open other peoples' mail!)
  • shaving your legs: use hair conditioner to shave your legs. it's cheaper than shaving cream and leaves your legs really smooth. it's also a great way to use up the conditioner you bought but didn't like when you tried it in your hair…
  • getting rid of fruit flies: take a small glass, add 2cm apple cider vinegar and 2 drops of dishwashing liquid. mix well. the flies will be drawn to the cup, then gone forever.
  • killing ants: put small piles of cornmeal where you see ants. they eat it, take it "home," and can't digest it so it kills them. this may take a week or so, especially if it rains, but it works, and since it's non-toxic, it's safe for children and pets.
  • leaving the beach sand-free: when you're ready to leave the beach, sprinkle yourself and kids with baby powder and the sand will slide right off your skin.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

blogs i follow

blogging is a phenomenon. as of december 2006, internet search engine technorati was indexing 55 million blogs. who's got time to read all of that? i don't think i knew even one person who had a blog before m's sister started one to share family news while they were still living in germany, maybe a year and a half ago.

of course, it's different when your friends are blogging. it's fun to see what they're up to (sometimes literally, if they're uploading photos), what they're reading, how they're doing. and through the miracle of rss and atom, you can even be notified automatically when one of your less prolific friends updates their site.

here are some links to blogs that i follow:

blogs of international friends:
  • sally (australia)
  • miriam (germany, though currently in mali)
  • brenda (singapore; not updated often)
friends from home:
if you've got a blog we don't know about, please let us know where to find it — we'd love to keep up with your goings on! and if you'd like to try it, you can start your own blog, suitable for photo uploads and your deep thoughts, in less than five minutes by clicking here.

very superstitious

famous theologian stevie wonder tried to warn us years ago that "when you believe in things that you don't understand, then you suffer." and all i want to say is that i think this punxsutawney phil thing is bogus.

for those who don't know, punxsutawney phil is a famous ground hog who predicts every year whether spring will come early or not. this year, he's predicted an early spring.

but a quick look at today's weather report reveals… cold and snowy for the foreseeable future. to be more specific, that's snow today, snow tomorrow, snow saturday, and snow on sunday. and temperatures range from -8C (the high) to -19C; since it's going to be windy, the wind chills may reach into the -30s. even in montreal, that's not spring.

phil doesn't know jack about the weather. or maybe he ran back into his hole because he intuited that all of this inhospitable weather was en route. he's a tricky little guy!

Saturday, February 03, 2007


b and n have been quite busy in a variety of activities, but somehow still manage to excel. i do worry that they don't sleep enough or eat the balanced diet that i'd like them to, but then i guess i didn't take great care of myself in those ways in my teen years either.

b has qualified for the city championships in track, in the 60m and 200m. she was especially pleased to have won her 60m qualifying final. she continues in various extracurricular activities — tutoring, prefect duty, yearbook editor, track, and soccer — and still brought home a 91 average (tied for 3rd in her class). she recently made the semi-finals of a citywide scholarship competition in science; she just had an interview, having the chance to explain her project on the anthropic principle and sharing a bit about herself. next on the agenda: a university interview and preparations for a big trip to italy at the end of the month.

n continues to enjoy ballet and violin, and took off some time recently to join m and me for a trip to the pacific northwest. she also serves as a prefect. she enjoys cooking, and is expanding her repertoire (a fun treat for our whole family!). her average this term was 88 (a top 5 finish), under less than ideal conditions.

both girls are involved with the international student bible discussion on saturdays, and have a number of friends in the group. they have been a great help. they enjoy studying the bible with university students and rubbing shoulders with folks from all over the world.

in their spare time (yes, they actually do have some spare time, but it is… kind of spare), they have enjoyed an old school video game i got for christmas (thanks aunt l and uncle p) and the occasional episode of girlfriends (though we won't be seeing much of that now that the cable has been cancelled). i'm sure they can find something else to do — like sleep. :-)