I’ve mentioned this before, but you can use dryer sheets to get smoky smells out of your hair after spending time by a fire without needing to wash your hair. I’ve experimented with a lot of dry shampoos, baby powder, and more without success. I have trouble sleeping with smoky scented hair, but also hate washing it before bed because I have thick hair that takes a while to dry. But a dryer sheet works really well and is easy to pack for trips as well!
Ward off bees and other bugs.
The strong scent of dryer sheets deters a lot of bees. Bees frequently come by our deck and are especially attracted to some of my plants. In order to keep them away from myself and the dogs, I bring a dryer sheet outside to ward them off. I will either clip it to the railing or weight it down. Note in the heat they tend to leave a little oily residue, so be mindful of where you put the sheet or lay it on a napkin.
Use for cleaning.
Dryer sheets are useful to wipe down areas in your house that need a little cleaning and a lint/fur scrub as well. Think your baseboards, cabinets, or window blinds. Just swipe them over to pick up all the dirt and grime quickly! Test a small area first to ensure this does not discolor or leave white marks on flat paint or older materials.
I would recommend a good non-stick pan or a cast iron pan. These are very versatile and can be used to get a good sear on a lot of foods. A 12″ pan will get you the most use, but a smaller one (6-8″) is great for just eggs. For non-stick, it doesn’t need to be expensive but make sure not to get a really old one to ensure it doesn’t have chemical issues.
2. A chef’s knife and knife sharpener
A standard chef’s knife is the most versatile and best value. Nowadays you can also get very affordable knife sets if you are looking for additional sizes and types! Look out for sales or check out places like TJ Maxx for big discounts on the bigger name brands. No matter how many knives you have, make sure to get a knife sharpener and try to sharpen it every time you use it. Knives work so much better and are actually safer when sharp because they slip when dull. The sharpeners that have grooves to drag the knives through are easier to use versus the traditional steels (long sticks).
3. A meat thermometer
A meat thermometer is an overlooked secret to ensuring your meat is done to your liking and/or proper safe temperature. You can check for doneness without cutting into the meat or trying to check juice colors or other more difficult factors.
4. Caffeinated beverage maker of your choice
If you are a regular coffee or tea drinker, learn to make your basics or even your fancy favorites at home! This is so much cheaper and faster than buying this everyday, and you can customize whatever you want! My favorite feature is that I can program mine to run at a certain time so I can set it up the night before and wake up to fresh coffee. This should be something you get everyday use from, whether this is a coffee maker, espresso pod machine, french press, tea kettle, tea organizer, or more.
5. Towels. Plenty of them.
I’m glad to say everyone I know now generally has a few towels in their kitchen for drying hands, dishes, etc. Additional towels are helpful for cleaning (I use a completely different microfiber style), rotating them out for laundry, or quickly wiping up spills. Don’t live like a college student with a single dish towel in your entire home.
Have you ever put on a great pair of shoes, then hobbled around barefoot later because they gave you blisters? Here are my best tips to help make your shoes more comfy and avoid blisters!
Blisters are caused by friction, or when your shoes rub too much against your skin. This can be cause by shoes that are either too loose or too tight, so I’ll be sharing tips for getting them to fit just right.
Breaking Shoes In
For me, all shoes except sneakers need to be broken in a bit before wearing for a full day with lots of walking or moving around. I test them out indoors at home – if there are any serious fit issues, you can return them without damaging the shoes or dirtying the soles. Try your shoes out on hard floors, carpet, and stairs.
I like to put them all on with a thin pair of socks to help them mold to your feet. This also lets you discover any potential friction or pain points without getting a blister right away.
If the shoes are really tight, you can try a shoe stretcher or get them professionally stretched.
Learn Your Feet
I have narrow heels, long toes, and my left foot is a half size smaller than my right foot. That said, my foot tends to slip out of shoes and will usually only fit one foot really comfortably. The first thing to combat this is to generally learn what kinds of shoes do or do not work for you, such as wide/narrow width, specific brands, wide calf, etc. For myself, I don’t wear shoes with a wide heel (e.g., Vans) and get a better fit with ankle straps or lace-up shoes versus completely slip on shoes.
I’ve also used shoe inserts or similar accessories since childhood. A common one is a stick-on heel grip to make the back of your shoe a bit narrower and provide a better grip. I prefer the soft heel grips with a padded end versus the flatter ones. For high heels, a ball of foot cushion can improve both the fit and comfort of your shoes, while I like a 3/4 length insole for flat shoes. I prefer the fabric or suedelike items over silicone ones because they are less slippery while wearing.
My absolute favorite add-on for shoe comfort is lambs wool padding. This is kind of hard to find in stores but is easy to find online. These are literally small packs of lambs wool, and they provide a great, customizable cushion for your shoes. Ballerinas stuff this in the ends of their toe shoes. I typically cut off a 2-4 inch section for each foot (depends how much space is in your shoes), ball it up, and then stick it in the toes of any shoes that need a tighter fit. This is particularly great for high heels or pointed-toe shoes where your foot tends to slide forward.
The lambs wool will eventually mold to the shoes and your toes, providing a really soft, custom fit cushion for your feet. For me, this also ensures my heels fit tight enough against the back of my shoes. I can add a bit more padding for my left foot versus the right. It is also moisture wicking to keep sweat off your feet without smelling. I only put this in the toes of my shoes, but have heard other people stick a bit under their insoles for arch support.
But what about the other parts of my feet?
I’ve got two last recommendations. The first is moleskin padding, which is a flannel-like super band-aid that can be used on your skin or shoes to provide a protective layer against friction. Cut a small piece as needed to protect the area of your foot the shoe rubs against. I typically put it on my skin, but others opt to put it directly on the shoe for longer use. If you already have a blister, do NOT apply the adhesive to your blister. You can cut a hole out of the middle if needed to avoid putting the fabric on any blisters.
The next one is an aerosol anti-blister spray like preheels. I spray this on my feet for special occasions like weddings, where I need to be in high heels for long periods of time. There is absolutely no chafing, blistering, or even as much pain from my shoes! You spray it on your foot on any areas of concern, let it dry for a couple minutes, then you’re done! This stuff works wonders but I do want to be transparent with a few caveats: it’s a little pricey (you get a travel-sized hair spray can), it smells terrible when wet, and you need to scrub it off well afterward or it will start to peel off and your feet look flaky.
There you have it! Try these out and hopefully your feet will thank you!
1. No Costco membership? If you have a Costco gift card, you don’t need to show membership to shop the warehouse or fill up on gas. Note: a member does need to purchase the gift card. Read more details and other non-member hacks at The Krazy Coupon Lady.
2. I’m a fan of this odd little thing called a Scrigit Scraper. It’s about the size of a pen and I used the edges to scrape off labels, pop up can tabs, and more without destroying my fingernails.
3. Start looking into pillow inserts and removable covers instead of throw pillows for every occassion! They are so much easier to store and machine wash. I’ve got these velvety covers in a few colors and they’ve held up really well against the dogs and washing. Tip: get your pillow covers 1 inch smaller than the insert size so they look full.
4. Learn your measurements for buying clothing and shoes online! If the retailer has a detailed size chart this can be super helpful to determine how something will fit, and it’s even better if those measurements are item-specific rather than their general brand sizes. Sizecharter has helpful diagrams about where to measure on your body.
You can also use the pictures to gauge fit. Some retailers (ASOS, Old Navy, Dagne Dover) have started letting you select pictures of different heights or sizes, and makeup brands are providing more photos of the product and swatches on different skin tones. For myself at 5’1″, if the sleeves look really long on the model, it’s probably a sweater I shouldn’t order for myself unless I am willing to alter it.
5. Send important documents as PDFs instead of Word or Google docs unless you specifically need them to edit it. For example, your resume. Saving it as a PDF generally gets rid of extraneous document information, like tracked changes or comments. It also preserves the formatting of your document across computers. If the recipient doesn’t have the font you used installed on their computer, the Word doc may have funky formatting and weird characters when they open it. Most editing programs and web browsers have built in functionality to print to or save as PDF.
Sharing a few tips today specifically for cooking proteins on your stovetop. Enjoy!
Sit at Room Temperature. Take your protein out of the fridge to sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes as the first step of your prep while you gather any other items you need. This will help it cook more evenly.
Heat Your Pan. Turn the heat on your pan and let it come to temperature for a few minutes so it is hot (but not smoking) when you add your meat. Add the oil just before cooking and let it heat up about a minute.
Dry Your Meat. Pat dry any excess moisture from your meat. This ensures it sears and crisps properly instead of steaming in the pan from the excess moisture.
Don’t Flip Too Eagerly. Be patient when turning proteins over – this is how you get a nice crisp or sear. In addition, if you turn it over too soon (especially chicken or fish), the protein will actually stick to the pan more than if you had waited. As it cooks, the meat will usually release from the pan a bit on its own.
Use a Meat Thermometer. Stop cutting into your meat or wondering when it’s finished and get a meat thermometer! Check the thickest part of the protein for your desired doneness or to check if it is cooked through. Meat thermometers are also handy for braises, oven roasts, or grilled meat – you can get some with a very long cord to a monitor to leave the thermometer in the oven or grill the entire time.
Let it Rest. Let your meat rest after cooking (a few minutes for small pieces, 15-30 minutes for larger roasts). Your meat should not sit so long it becomes cold, but to redistribute the juices so it doesn’t all immediately leak out when sliced or cut.
I used to hate cooking bacon. I needed a really large pan or griddle, it made a huge mess of splattered and leftover grease to clean up, and there were only so many pieces you could cook at a time if you had a group to feed.
Enter oven-baked sheet pan bacon. You need to be doing this unless you have some kind of industrial flat-top in your home kitchen or don’t have an oven at all. Cooking bacon in the oven is much more efficient and requires less cleanup.
Set your oven to 400 degrees (F). It’s fine if it doesn’t preheat all the way before you put the bacon in, similar to letting bacon or sausage start in a cool pan.
Take your sheet pan and line it with aluminum foil, then a layer of parchment paper. If you don’t have the latter, it’s okay to go without but I think the parchment makes the bacon a little crispier. Note that a sheet pan has sides in order to catch the grease (do not use an open cookie sheet). The foil doesn’t have to completely cover the pan but should also form a little tray inside to catch the grease. You can skip the foil entirely but will have more cleanup.
Lay your desired number of bacon strips out flat on your pan until full. You can fill multiple trays as needed depending how much bacon you need and the number of pans you own. You can use any metal pan with sides you have (jelly roll, sheet pan, a rectangular cake pan even).
Put the bacon in the oven and set a timer for 15 minutes. Depending on the brand and thickness of bacon, this typically takes 15-25 minutes to cook. Remove the bacon from the oven when done to your liking, then move the bacon to another plate to drain the excess grease.
Let the pan cool (the grease may solidify), then dispose of the foil and parchment by removing the edges and rolling it up. Your cleanup is done, and you’ve made plenty of bacon!
Our favorite bacon brand is Nueske’s, which you can find in a couple grocery stores or butcher shops locally (for those of you in ATL, I’ve found it at Buford Highway Farmer’s Market and New York Butcher Shoppe). The taste is really excellent and the bacon is much leaner with less shrinkage versus other brands. You can otherwise order it online from their website. I typically order a lot of items and freeze some if ordering since the shipping is on the pricey side to cover the 2-day shipping with refrigeration packs. If I need to grab bacon at my local Publix, I typically pick up the Wright brand bacon.
Nowadays I’m more willing to check my bag, but if you can swing it, try to pack light! You’ll save time and can also save money. I really learned to pack light in order to literally have a lighter bag, as I’ve gone on a few trips where you have to haul your own bag around several flights of stairs or bumpy cobblestone roads.
Lay out all the clothing you want to bring, then eliminate a bunch of it
Be honest with yourself – what do you really need to bring versus what you want to bring? For most trips you only need 1-2 pairs of shoes and 1 jacket. Bring items you can rewear (especially pants/bottoms) and items that you can easily mix and match, so you aren’t wasting space on “single-use” clothing. There are situations where this may not be avoidable, such as traveling for a wedding or business trip.
Wear your largest items
When possible, wear your heaviest, bulkiest clothing to save space in your luggage. Typically this is your largest pair of shoes, and your jacket (you don’t have to keep it on, I sit on mine on the plane). Wear a hat or scarf, or tie it onto your personal item for the plane.
Put odd-shaped items in your personal bag
I don’t personally do this, but my husband typically puts his toiletry bag in his backpack to free up space in his suitcase. This tactic works well for anything lightweight that is difficult to pack around in your suitcase.
Maximize every space
I pack my socks inside of shoes so there is no dead space in them and to keep them from getting crushed. My suitcase also has some uneven hollow spaces where the handle rods are attached, and I make sure to tuck my pajamas into those spaces so I don’t leave empty space there either.
I have these packing cubes and have gifted them twice. I roll nearly all of my clothing inside them for travel. I will fold pants and things like PJs into the hollows of my suitcase. Delicate or wrinkle prone items can be rolled or folded around other clothing. I think I could actually fit slightly more into a bag without using packing cubes, but they are really helpful for organization. If you’ve ever had to open your bag at the airport or somewhere public to find one thing it’s so much less embarrassing to move a few cubes around than to empty everything. Other people use color coded packing cubes for different kids or different days of the trip.