Thursday, February 28, 2008

It's cold but it's not freezing!

We come to Hilton Head Island every winter to escape the bitter cold of Western New York. I keep weather reports for both locations on my Google desktop so I can monitor the temperatures in both places. Like all snowbirds, I gleefully celebrate the snow and frigid temperatures that I am avoiding by being here.

Today, for example. At 7:30 am it was only 5 degrees (without calculating for wind chill) in New York but a tolerable 30 degrees here - and that's very cold for this neck of the woods! I layered on a couple of fleece shirts and my down vest and took my usual 40 minute walk.

At 12:30 Al was ready for a walk; it was now 13 degrees back in New York and a balmy 47 here! We bundled up and set out, quite comfortable when we were on the sunny side of the path. Unfortunately, probably only half of the distance is in the sunshine, the rest in shade, and Al felt the cold.

We were cheered, however, at the sight of the azalea blossoms. The shrubs in the sunshine are bursting with the first color of spring and those in the shade are ripe with buds promising to bloom in the coming weeks.

Yes, it may be cold here, but it's not freezing. Spring is in the air!

Monday, February 25, 2008

10 Kitchen Tips I Hadn't Heard Before

I've heard lots of kitchen tips through the years but here are a few I hadn't heard before (Credit goes to my friend Lynne who forwarded an email..not sure where the info originated!)
  • Separate a bunch of bananas when you bring them home. They ripen faster when left connected at the stem (or leave them connected if you need to ripen your bananas faster!)

  • Peel a banana from the bottom for easiest removal of the fibrous strings.

  • Store chunks of cheese in aluminum foil. The cheese will stay fresher longer and won't get moldy.

  • Peppers with 3 bumps on the bottom are sweeter and better for eating raw. Peppers with 4 bumps on the bottom are firmer and better for cooking.

  • Add a tablespoon of water when frying ground beef to pull the grease away from the meat.

  • Add garlic to your recipe early on for a suble flavor. Add it at the end for a stronger flavor. (Actually I did know this one. Also a larger piece of garlic, say a whole clove uncut, will give a more subtle flavor to your food. Minced garlic will impart a stronger flavor.)

  • To reheat pizza put slices in a nonstick skillet and set heat to medium low to warm. This keeps the crust crispy unlike rewarming in the microwave.

  • For easy deviled eggs put the cooked yolks into a zip lock bag, seal and mash. Add your usual ingredients - mayo, mustard, pickle relish, dill, parsley, capers, salt and pepper, whatever you like. Reseal and mash thoroughly until mixture is smooth. Then snip one lower corner of the bag and pipe the yolk mixture into the egg white halves. Easy clean-up - just toss the bag!

  • To increase the amount of cake frosting take 1 container of frosting and empty it into a mediium bowl. Whip with your mixer on high and the volume will almost double. You will have more frosting for your cake or will be able to frost more cupcakes. Plus you are reducing the the amount of sugar and calories per serving.

  • When measuring sticky substances (e.g., peanut butter, honey) fill your measuring cup first with hot water. Pour out the water but don't dry the cup. Then measure your ingredient and it will come right out of the cup without sticking. I had known about spraying the measuring cup with non-stick spray or , my favorite, measuring your oil first, but this sounds like a great option. I'll try it the next chance I get!

I'm always amazed at the little pearls of kitchen wisdom that are floating around out there. Hope at least one of these tips is helpful to you.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Dryer Alert and 9 Other Nifty Little Hints

My friend Lynne passed these tips along to me this week. So simple yet so useful. I haven't tried them all but they sound, why didn't I think of that? The first one could prevent a tragedy so read at least that far!
  • Clothes Dryer Alert! Even if you clean your dryer's lint filter after every load, a film builds up from dryer sheets that prevents air flow. Eventually you can 1) decrease the efficiency of your dryer 2) burn out the heating unit or 3) cause the heating unit to catch fire and burn out the dryer and possibly even your house. Solution: Wash the lint filter at least every 6 months with hot, soapy water and a toothbrush. You will reduce energy costs, prolong the life of your dryer and possibly even prevent a fire!
  • Static Cling Solution: Place a small safety pin in the seam of your slip and you will not have a clingy skirt or dress. Place a safety pin in the seam of pant legs and they won't cling to your pantyhose!
  • Foggy Windshields: Use a clean (new) chalkboard eraser to wipe down the window. Works better than a cloth and it's small enough to keep in your console or glove compartment.
  • Oops! Forgot the check!: If you have ever sealed an envelope and then realized you forgot to include something, here's your solution. Simply place the envelope in the freezer for a couple of hours and it will then open easily.
  • Little Critters v. Your Garden: If squirrels, rabbits or deer are nibbling away at your plants, sprinkle the leaves with cayenne pepper. (I have also made a "tea" by steeping red pepper flakes in hot water. When cool I spray it on the plants.) It won't hurt the plants and the critters don't like it. You must persevere, however, and apply frequently.
  • Mosquito Repellent: Keep a dryer sheet in your pocket to keep the mosquitoes away. Haven't tried this one but if it works, wouldn't it be a wonderful solution for our babies and toddlers instead of those sprays!
  • Trapped Under The Fridge: To retrieve a small object from under the fridge (or any other tight place) simply attach an empty paper towel roll to the end of your vacuum hose. The new end can be flattened or bent to get into the narrow space and draw out the object.
  • Pesky Fruit Flies: Fill a small glass with 1/2 inch of apple cider vinegar and add 2 drops of liquid dishwashing soap. Mix well. The flies wil be drawn to the liquid (rather than your fruit) and you simply empty the glass to dispose of the flies.
  • Ant Invasion: Put small piles of corn meal wherever you see ants. They will carry it "home" and eat it. Since they cannot digest it, however, it will be the end of them! It may take longer than commercial chemical products but oh so much safer around children and pets.
  • Broken Glass: To pick up the last miniscule fragments of broken glass just use a wet cotton ball to do a final wipe down. It will pick up the tiny shards that your eye might miss but a little foot could step on.

Post a comment and let me know how these work for you. Or share some tips of your own!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

10 Things I Can Do This Winter (that I can't do back home!)

We are half way through winter in South Carolina. It's 65 here today - 24 back home (smile). We've just returned from a 3 mile walk that took us by golf courses and onto the beach. We never cease to be amazed and thankful for our winters in this little piece of paradise which prompted me to list 10 things that we can do here that we cannot do back home.
  1. I can take a 2 mile walk every morning at 7:30
  2. We can walk for miles on the beach
  3. We can get to church in 10 minutes (it takes 30-60 minutes and a border crossing back home!)
  4. We can drive and see 4 of our grandchildren in 5 1/2 hours
  5. We can go alligator sighting on warm, sunny days
  6. We can choose from among a dozen coffee spots for a morning coffee and muffin
  7. We can say, "How y'all doing today?" to people we pass on our walks
  8. We can walk over to a wine and cheese party every Monday evening and catch up with the neighbors
  9. We could eat out every night and never eat at the same restaurant twice. I think we've tried almost 100 restaurants over the years...most of them within a 10 minute drive. Over the years some have closed, some have relocated and some we return to again and again, but not every night!
  10. We can admire camelias, magnolias, azaleas and spanish moss hanging from live oak trees all around us.

It's not that we don't love our home up north...we just don't like the winter weather! I'm making a note to remind myself to write a list of what we can do back home...but not until June.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008