Five Very Useful Websites to Simplify Your Life

As vast and overwhelming as the Internet can be at times, it does offer so many ways to improve our lives.

Today I want to tell you about five websites that have the potential to simplify your life, whether you need to figure out how to use that huge crop of basil growing in your herb garden or find the perfect dress for your daughter’s wedding.

SEASONAL PRODUCE GUIDE. One of the best tips I know for cutting the cost of healthy, fresh food is to buy only during a fruit or vegetable’s “peak season.” Items at their peak are far more plentiful, which typically causes the prices to drop because of supply and demand. But how can you know for certain if say, cherries, are at their peak?

SustainableTable.org offers a simple way to find out. Go to the site and scroll down and click on the Seasonable Food Guide graphic. Now select your state and month. Or you can select an exact produce item, to discover its peak season where you live. This handy online tool will also offer more information on every type of produce you can imagine such as what to look for, how to store and recipes, too. SustainableTable.org.

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Clever Ways to Make Sure Nothing Goes to Waste

Sometimes I wonder how Everyday Cheapskate readers discover their handy ideas. I mean, who would have thought something that cleans brake parts would also remove stains from clothes? Go figure!

Buttons

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NOTHING GOES TO WASTE. Our town has two thrift shops that accept worn-out clothes. They remove the buttons and sell those. Then they bag up the clothes and sell them to a “rag man,” who gives them 7 cents a pound. So really, nothing has to go to waste. Mary

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Quick and Easy Ways to Get Rid of Pesky Ants

If the heat of summer is bringing ants into your home and yard, don’t panic. You may not require toxic pest control products or a professional service to take care of the problem. In fact, chances are good you already have everything you need to do it yourself.

Here are 10 ways to get rid of ants using ordinay things from around the house or in the garage.

SOAP AND WATER. If you have ants or other bugs around the house, pour a 50/50 mixture of Blue Dawn dish soap and water into empty spray bottle and keep it handy. When you see the insects, spray them with the mixture. Provided you really saturate those little critters, the soap actually breaks down their exoskeletons, and they die almost immediately. Cheap and easy cleanup, too.

MOP AND VACUUM. To get rid of sugar ants, start by mopping the floor at least once a day. Mopping and vacuuming help to remove the ants’ pheromone trails. Cleaning and mopping will also rid your home of the food and crumbs that attract the ants. Make sure you don’t leave any dirty dishes in the sink and empty the trash bin regularly.

BLACK PEPPER. To deter sugar ants, sprinkle black pepper around the home’s entry points to keep the ants from coming inside.

VINEGAR AND WATER. A 50/50 ratio of water and white vinegar can also deter ants. Spray this mixture on countertops, window sills, and high traffic areas.

WD-40. Spray any areas where ants are feeding or accessing your house with WD-40. The spray will kill ants and also serve as a deterrent from further access as long as residue from the spray remains. Not sure where they’re coming in? Spray WD-40 along the outside perimeter of the house. They will not cross it because ants hate the smell of WD-40. (So do rabbits!) Repeat as necessary.

CHALK. Keep ants at bay by drawing a line around your homes entry points using ordinary blackboard or sidewalk chalk. The ants will be repelled by the calcium carbonate in the chalk.

BOILING WATER. If fire ants plague your yard or patio and you’re tired of getting stung by those tiny attackers, a flowerpot can help you quench the problem. Place the pot upside down over the anthill. Pour boiling water through the drain hole and you’ll be burning them and their house for good.

CITRUS. You don’t need insecticides or ant traps to ant-proof your kitchen. Just give it the lemon treatment. First squirt some lemon juice on door thresholds and windowsills. Then squeeze lemon juice into any holes or cracks where the ants are getting in. Finally, scatter small slices of lemon peel around the outdoor entrance.

COFFEE. Sprinkle your used coffee grounds in the garden and around the outside of your house. Ants are repelled by the scent given off by the grounds and as a bonus coffee grounds are good for your soil and plants.

DIATOMACEOUS EARTH. Make sure you’re using food-grade diatomaceous earth, NOT swimming pool DE, which has been chemically altered. Sprinkle the food-grade DE outside around the perimeter of your home. You can also safely sprinkle it inside where you see the ants. Do not wet the DE or it will not work. Once the ants walk in the fine powder they’ll die because the DE quietly destroys  their exoskeletons.

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Ask Me Anything: Kitchen Towels, Home Chef, Stubborn Stickers, Chromebook, Floor Cleaner

It doesn’t happen often, but now and then I’ll get a message from someone who must be having a particularly bad day, like the fellow who wrote this past week accusing me of making up letters, messages and questions on the days I invite you to ask me anything. Oh, my. I only wish I could show him my inbox!

Why doesn’t anyone make a dish towel that actually dries dishes? I’ve purchased all kinds over the years—100% cotton, flour sack, waffle weave, whatever. What’s your recommendation? Jeri

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Quick and Easy Stir-Fry

CORRECTION: An important ingredient was mistakenly omitted from the recipe for Perfect Chinese Stir-Fry Sauce in a recent post, It’s All About the Sauce! This has been corrected to include 1/4 cup corn starch. Huge apologies and regrets if yours didn’t turn out exactly, well … perfect. Please try again!

I can’t think of a more perfect food than stir-fry. It makes good use of leftovers; it’s healthy and when prepared well, it’s fantastic!

Pam Anderson, author of CookSmart (Houghton Mifflin, $28 $6) says the reason most home stir-fry comes out a soggy mess: our home stovetops don’t get as hot as restaurant woks. Cooking everything in small batches and then removing the batches from the skillet or wok until the end is Anderson’s secret for making great stir-fry at home.

You can make stir-fry, start to finish in less than 30 minutes. The secret is to get all of your ingredients ready and within easy reach before you start, and your skillet as hot as possible.

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Take My Mobile Phone, Please!

Recently, I inherited a new-to-me iPhone 6. It’s lovely, I’m grateful but I didn’t really need a new phone. My venerable iPhone 5c suited me just fine. And now I need to figure out what to do with it.

My unlocked, 32gb, bright green iPhone 5c is in excellent condition with no damage, scratches, or problems. With its specs handy, I set out to discover my options for what to do with it.

TRADE IT IN

Both Apple and Amazon have trade-in programs, where instead of paying out in cash, payment is made via gift cards.

Apple. I input all of my data at apple.com and discovered I can trade-in this phone in exchange for $55 instant credit in store, or a $55 Apple Gift Card if I decide to mail it in for free, and then wait for the gift card to arrive.

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Why You Need to Start Planning for Christmas Now

It’s hot, you’re sweaty and longing for some relief from the heat of summer. Kinda’ makes you think about cooler days ahead, right? And while thinking, you may also be dreaming of brisk mornings, fall colors, back-to-school and … Christmas!

Summer is the perfect time to think ahead about the holiday season. Start planning now and you’ll benefit in so many ways come December.

Before I find myself dealing with angry responses from readers who find the phenomena of “Christmas creep” to be offensive (a merchandising phenomenon in which merchants and retailers exploit the commercialized status of Christmas by introducing Christmas-themed merchandise or decorations earlier and earlier each year), that’s not what I’m talking about. In fact, I find that quite objectionable myself. I don’t want the Christmas season to start until we’ve cleaned up the last of the Thanksgiving turkey.

What I’m talking about is planning and getting organized now without the overwhelming pressure and panic that I know will come once I’ve waited too long and believe my only option is to rack up a pile of debt to just get through the season. I just hate that feeling of being under the gun, driven by guilt and remorse to mark names off a list; compelled to buy something—anything!—to get through the holiday.

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Ask Me Anything: Disposal Splash Guard, Oyster Sauce, Computer Toner, New Refrigerator

On this beautiful day as we celebrate America’s independence and offer gratitude for freedoms we enjoy in this land of amazing opportunity and abundance, I want to take a moment to say how grateful I am for you. Your trust and loyalty mean the world to me as we are on this journey together. Have a wonderful day of celebration. God Bless America!

I wish you could see the giant stack of mail I have from readers who have taken me up on my offer to ask me anything! It’s mammoth and I couldn’t be any happier about that. Enjoy this batch of answered questions and then keep ‘em coming!

How do you remove the splash guard on your garbage disposal, where odors hide, for regular cleaning? Sheila

The easiest way to clean in that odor hideaway is to not remove that rubber splash guard at all. Once a week or so, dip a sturdy brush, like a toothbrush or similar kitchen cleaning brush in antibacterial grease-cutting kitchen cleaner (Spray Nine Degreaser is a good choice; other antibacterial products will work too). Then lift up one flap of the splash guard. Scrub off the crud and rinse with cold water. Repeat with each flap until that area underneath is totally clean and rinsed. It takes only a couple of minutes and will make all the difference in the world to keep the sink smelling fresh and clean.

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