How to Open Difficult-to-Open Jars

When I’ve got a jar that just won’t open, I tap the outside rim of the lid with the handle-end of a butter knife. Most of the time, this will break the seal and I’ll be able to open the jar easily.

If it’s jelly or some other sticky kind of thing, I’ll also run the top of jar under hot water for a minute. Sometimes some of the sticky stuff got caught in the threads, and the heat melts it, enabling it to open!

Another thing to try, if you’re having trouble getting a grip on it, is to wear a rubber glove. It works like one of those rubberized jar openers, except it does double duty when you’re cleaning.

My New Hobby : Do-It-Yourself

Being a Single Mom, I don’t have a ‘guy around the house’ who could indulge himself in a bit of DIY to fix all those little maintenance annoyances. So I have had to strike out on my own into this male-dominated past-time. This is where the internet is invaluable. You can learn just about anything when it comes to…well, anything! So as any aspiring DIY-er knows, it’s all about the power tools…arr, arr! And I have learnt a great deal over the last few hours of researching how to use them to sort out some pretty common house maintenance problems, so very soon I will need to take a trip to my local Home Depot to get myself all geared up. However, one problem I have been struggling with is what sort of power system to power to tools should I invest in : electric or air-powered. Certainly, electric-power tools seem to be the easiest solution, but on the other hand, air-powered tools are less expensive particularly if you are going to need a bunch of them because they can all run off the same ‘power’  from the air compressor, which has ultimately sold me on the ‘air power’. But if you are like me, and are struggling with your decision on which air compressor to buy, then once again, the internet to the rescue, in my case I found this air compressor review site to be particularly well thought out. Happy DIY-ing!

Keeping Guacamole from Going Brown

Sometimes, you just need to make everything ahead – it’s a potluck, or a kids’  party and you’ll be busy with other things later, or you just want to be relaxed at dinner time.

Guacamole is easy to make ahead (and even yummier, I think, if there’s been a chance for the flavors to meld), but if you just stick it in a container and put it in the fridge, the surface will turn an icky black-brown color. Acid helps, which is why most recipes call for lemon or lime (I much prefer lime in guacamole), but if you use enough to keep the guac from turning color, your dip may taste more like citrus than avocado!

The thing to do is put a piece of plastic wrap on top of the guacamole, and push it down so it’s touching the top of the dip, and then put it in the fridge.

This keeps the air from getting to the guacamole, and keeps it fresh and green. Now, guacamole won’t keep days and days – you’ll want to serve this within a few hours, really. But it will stay pretty!

(This also works for homemade or cooked-from-a-mix puddings, to keep the skin from forming. I kind of like the skin, though!)

How to Comfort a Child with a Hurt Mouth

Since they were little, when any of my kids bump their mouths, or have a sore lip, instead of giving them an ice pack, I’ll hand them a popsicle. They get distracted from their pain by the sweetness, and they are more likely to keep ice on for longer when it’s flavored! (And bonus if it’s red – if they have any bleeding, they won’t notice the blood — and we all know that kids will start crying anew if they see blood!).

When we have them, we like to use our own frozen pops that we make with fruit and juice — then they are getting some vitamins and fiber with their treat.  But when we don’t, a pre-made popsicle will suffice.

I even still use this trick with my 15 year-old daughter, when she eats something particularly crunchy and cuts up her mouth.

Menu Plan for March 28 – April 3 and Roasted Potatoes Recipe

Menu Plan


Sunday: Roast chicken with oven roasted potatoes (see below)
Monday: Spaghetti with Italian sausage
Tuesday: Tuscan soup with breadsticks (recipe to come)
Wednesday: Chicken and dumplings
Thursday: FFY
Friday: Kids at their dad’s; I’ll have some fish and asparagus
Saturday: Kids at their dad’s; I’ll have something from the freezer

Lunches: Quesadillas, sandwiches, beans and weinies, Madras lentils and rice, smoothies

Breakfasts: Cinnamon streusel crumb-top muffins, oatmeal and fruit, smoothies, cold cereal

Oven-roasted Rosemary Potatoes

By mixing this in a plastic bag instead of a bowl, you can get every surface of the potatoes covered with oil and seasonings without having to use very much oil. This is more frugal (olive oil is pricey), and lighter.

2 potatoes
1  teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 tablespoon dried rosemary (or 1 tablespoon fresh)
2 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 400°.

2. Scrub potatoes and cut them into one inch chunks. (If your potatoes are a little green, you can go ahead and peel them, like I had to do with last night’s potatoes.)  Put them in a plastic bag and add the other ingredients. Mush it around until all of the ingredients are well dispersed, and all the potatoes are covered with the other ingredients.

3. Spread the potato chunks out in one layer on a cookie sheet. Put in oven and roast for 30 minutes or until a fork inserts easily and the edges are golden brown.

Servings: 4

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving): 130 calories, 46 calories from fat, 5.2g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 476.9mg sodium, 457.7mg potassium, 19.3g carbohydrates, 2.4g fiber, <1g sugar, 2.3g protein.

Freezing Banana Slices

I use bananas in a lot of recipes — banana muffins, smoothies, banana bread, empanadas, more muffins, fruit salsa, and more. It can be a problem having bananas of the right ripeness around, though. It seems like there are a whole bunch of almost-ripe bananas, and then, as if by magic, there are one or two overripe bananas. The minute they get ripe, the boys want to eat them, but the second they start to turn brown (which is when they start gettingreally good, in my opinion), none of the kids want them anymore. And one or two bananas isn’t enough for a lot of recipes.

For years, I’ve thrown them in the freezer when they get too brown for the kids to eat them.  I’ve found, though, that it can be very difficult to peel a frozen banana. I’ve tried thawing them and then peeling them, but the banana is so mushy after freezing that it’s also really hard to peel (although the mushy texture is perfect for banana bread).

So for awhile, I’ve peeled the bananas before freezing them, and that works pretty well, but sometimes I just needed half a banana for a smoothie or one of the other snacks I like to make with bananas.

Finally, I figured out to cut the bananas into coins and lay them out on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, and freeze them for a couple hours. Then I throw them into a zip-top bag, and I can get as much or as little banana as I want.

I can even just grab one little banana “coin” for a snack when I’m hankering for something sweet and cool.

One Run Purple Racehorse

When I’m running out of the house for a gallon of milk and eggs and one of my kids says, “Oh, Mom, we also need peanut butter,” they are used to me responding with “One run purple racehorse…”

My ex-father-in-law taught me this memory trick over 20 years ago, and I still use it almost daily. He told me he learned it at a Dale Carnegie workshop, and I believe him, but any search I come up with on the web doesn’t mention purple racehorses, so I’m going to tell you the way I do it.

I think the easiest way to tell it would be by example. Let’s say you have to run for the store for five items, and you don’t want to make a written list for just five items. Those items are eggs, milk, toilet paper, ground beef, and laundry detergent.  The first thing you have to do is link each item with its number on the list.  First, we have one, which rhymes with run, so we picture a purple racehorse. You want to picture something kind of outrageous, so it’ll stick in your memory (you also want to keep the base memory, or “peg”, in this case the purple racehorse, the same every time you use the method). Make it vivid and with movement and sound, if you can. Now picture that purple race with eggs. Maybe it’s running on eggs, making a mess as its hooves hit the eggs and yolk and white splatter everywhere. Hear the pounding of the hooves almost, but not quite, drowning out the crack of the egg shells. Got a good visual? Good.

Now we’ll move on to number two. Two rhymes with zoo, so we’ll picture a bunch of monkeys. The second item on our list is milk, so we’ll picture the monkeys playing with gallons of milk. They are throwing them around their monkey cage, and some are breaking open, spilling milk everywhere! Take a second to implant this in your memory, and move on.

Three rhymes with tree. Now, I picture a big, picturesque apple tree sort of tree, but you could use a Christmas tree if you prefer. I would picture the tree as if someone had TP’d it, even wrapping the trunk with it. It’s almost completely covered with toilet paper, with just a few bits of green peeking out here and there. And now that is set in my memory.

Four rhymes with door, and I picture a big, rough-hewn dungeon door, although any door that is distinct enough for you would work. Now I visualize the ground beef getting stuck in the door, and oozing out underneath. It’s really yucky, but I’m not going to forget it!

Five rhymes with hive, so I visualize a bunch of bees flying, each carrying the item in question (unless the item itself suggests some other action than carrying).  In this case, I picture them carrying big ol’ jugs of laundry detergent, and I hear them buzzing with the strain, their little cartoon-like bee faces turning red.

Now, the cool part of this is it takes just a few minutes to permanently memorize the rhyming “peg” for the number. After that, you can use this any time, anywhere, and it only takes as long as it takes to list the items to memorize them. And it works in both directions – if you asked me, “What number was toilet paper?” I’d immediately picture the tp wrapped around the tree and know it was number three. If you said, “What was number 2?” those monkeys come immediately to mind and I know that #2 is milk.

Here are the rest of the numbers, up to 9. I know it can be done up to 21, but I never learned past 9, and honestly, if I need to remember 10 things, it’s time to get out an index card and write them down.

One: run: purple racehorse

Two: zoo: a bunch of monkeys

Three: tree

Four: door

Five: hive: a bunch of bees

Six: Stick: a big, sticky stick

Seven: Heaven: golden stairs and pearly gates

Eight: Gate: a rusty, squeaky gate

Nine: wine: a romantic table setting

I hope this trick helps someone else. It’s been an absolute wonder in my life, and it really works for me.

This post is linked to:  Works for Me Wednesday