Handy Items: My Steamy Companions

It was a steamy weekend here on Elizabeth.  Not because of romance or anything like that (well, there was some of that but I won’t bother you with that), but because of two purchases I made while out with Fussellette on Saturday.

They are the Shark Steam Blaster steam cleaning system, and the Shark Garment Steamer (which was 50% off!) and I got them both from Canadian Tire.

I’m not going to give you specific brand-related product reviews for these things, but I do want to show you a few things that make these appliances very handy items to have around the home.

Let’s look at the garment steamer first, shall we?

My Steamy Companions

I hate ironing.  With the passion of a thousand suns.  With this gadget the only time I need to bust out my ancient ironing board is when I’m doing something crafty and need the flattening power an iron can offer.

I’m assuming all these rigs are easy to assemble and use. There’s only one button, for turning it on and off. Obviously you need to be careful when you are operating this sort of machine, because it is shooting hot steam out of one end.

My Steamy Companions

One of the best things about the steamer is its portability. I can pick it off the stand and carry it about to the extent of its power cord, or an extension cord if necessary. So I can use it on my curtains, which I usually hang while they are wet, so they don’t get seriously wrinkled. But of course there are still a few bumps and dents that require steaming out. The bristle attachment on the steamer head makes it easier to work with thicker fabrics and denser materials.

My Steamy Companions

A few quick swipes of the curtains and not only are they wrinkle-free, they are also completely scent-free as well. This is a handy item indeed if you have a smoker in your house and you find all your porous materials collect the smell of smoke. Or garlic, or other cooking smells.

My Steamy Companions

For us, we just have the dog, so pet odours are our main issue, but fortunately they are limited to the items he can touch, and he is too short to reach the curtains. But I can just run this over our bedspread and now there is no scent of dog on it. There’s no scent at all, in fact.

My Steamy Companions

Very handy for removing odors of smoke, sweat, stale perfume or deodorant, pet smells, you name it. It works well for clothing that you can only dry clean or you don’t want to wash too often. And left behind is the scent of nothing, which in this day and age is the best scent of all.

You can also use it to refresh some of your other cloth treasures. My grandfather gave me this polar bear when I was around two and I don’t care that I’m thirty — I’m never getting rid of it.

My Steamy Companions

And of course this machine is designed to get rid of the wrinkles in fabric. If you take off the bristle attachment it is remarkably good for smoothing out my more delicate dresses, like this one of chiffon silk (which would be ruined with an iron).

My Steamy Companions

Just see what it can do to this faux-pashmina scarf, which you can see got all wrinkled in the washing machine.

My Steamy Companions

A few passes later and you can’t even tell that it (or half of it) was ever wrinkly.

My Steamy Companions

Definitely something worth having on hand. And so much easier to use than an iron, where you have to worry about getting the pleats sorted or the seams lined up …

Now I think in the interests of space I’ll leave off showing you what the Steam Blaster can do until Friday. Stay tuned!

Newfie Screen Door

This post comes from a conversation I had with a lighthouse keeper on my second trip to Bell Island.  Yes, a real lighthouse keeper.  How cool is that?

A “Newfie Screen Door” (his words, not mine) is a natural insect repellent that keeps pesky pests out of your house when it’s a nice day in St. John’s and you want to leave your door open.  It mimics a wasps’ nest, so other wasps, bees, and flies will steer clear.  The lighthouse keeper said it worked about 80% of the time, which is pretty good, I think.  Of course, there aren’t that many bugs around in St. John’s, it being a rather windy city on a geographically isolated island in the North Atlantic Ocean, but this is how they do it here and it seems to work.

I already have a screen door.

But it’s an experiment worth trying, especially considering the wasps’s nest in the eaves outside my bathroom window.

Take yourself a brown paper bag, like the ones you buy to put lunch in (unless you’re smart and you use re-usable lunch bags).  I keep them on hand so I can roast red peppers in them.  Mmm-mmm …

Squinch the top.  For today, I have decreed that “squinch” is a word.And blow it up like a balloon.

If you have no sense of fun, you can fill it with crumpled paper.  Obviously, I have a sense of fun.

For the record, I’m not in the habit of standing in front of mirrors, watching myself do things.  There just happens to be a mirror in my kitchen (there are three, actually, all built into the walls), and I was standing at the window doing this and looked over.  So there I am.  Pretend for me that my hair looks good.

Tie the top with string.  Maybe work in a pretty bow.

Hang it over your threshold.  TADA.  No more bugs inside.  Or at least, 80% less bugs.I even put one up at my parents’ house too.

Vinegar is Awesome

I will say it again: vinegar is awesome.

Aside from making good pickles, pure white vinegar is cheap and cleans pretty much everything.

It’s eco-friendly, has no long-lasting odour, and cuts through grease like you wouldn’t believe.

Spray some on baking soda in your oven and cut through baked-on grease like you’re a superhero without having to fumigate your kitchen.

Dilute it with water to clean  your counters and floors.  No more fancy sprays containing bleach or wax or other harmful chemicals.

Mix it with baking soda to bring back the bling in your jewelry.

Boil it for super disinfecting power or to deodorize a room.

Add it to your laundry for extra freshness.

Wash windows in an ammonia-free environment.  It works better than Windex.

I have a 4L jug of it that I keep under my sink, and which replaces most other harsh chemical cleaning products.  I think the huge jug cost me about two dollars.

I keep smaller vinegar containers around for ease of use.  I just funnel in some more vinegar when they run empty.

VINEGAR.  IS.  AWESOME.

You should get some.

Really.

Newspaper Plant Pots

I have a baby spider plant here for S that I am trying very hard not to kill.

I am also trying to root a cutting of my parlor palm for Kª.  I’m dubious about this, because apparently it’s impossible the way that I am doing it.

Anyway, today I decided that the day had come to introduce them to the earth for the first time.

I don’t have any spare small pots lying around so I surfed the internet for a while on making pots out of paper. These are biodegradable, of course, and can be planted right into the soil outside if that’s what you’re into.  Just make sure if that’s what you’re planning you use a newspaper with soy-based ink.  Because the newspaper is porous, you can put lots of seedlings close together and they will absorb each other’s water.

I found two versions that I liked.  One is the origami version and the other is the jar method.  Both need one half of a full broadsheet of newspaper (as in, not the whole square piece but the half-piece that is the individual page you turn).  Fortunately newspapers tear easily along this fold so you don’t even need scissors for this project.

Origami Method

Fold your paper in half vertically so that the two short edges match up and crease.

Fold it in half again, this time horizontally.

Aaand again, this time vertically.

Take one of the (now square) flaps of paper and turn it out into an upside-down isosceles triangle.  Flatten and crease the edges.

Flip it over.

Do it to the other side.

Now ‘turn the page’ of your new upside-down triangle to the left.

Flip it over and do the same to the other side.

Take the edge of the top flap of your triangle and fold it to meet the centre crease.  Grab the opposite edge and do the same.

Fold those edges in towards the centre one more time.

Make sure to crease your folds good and sharp.

Flip your paper and do that whole rigmarole to the other side as well.

Take the little bit of paper hanging over the top of your folds (the length of it will depend on the size of the newspaper sheet you used) and fold it down over your folds to hold them in. 

Mine were super short, so I actually used a single staple to hold things in place. 

I figured, what’s one staple to the thousands of nails and screws buried in my garden?

Now open out your box and flatten out the bottom.

Fill it up with soil or just admire your handiwork.

Jar Method

This is less complicated but less sturdy.

Fold your newspaper sheet in half, bisecting the short end.

Take yourself a jar, a can, or a glass and place it at the edge of the paper.  There should be enough paper sticking out from the bottom of the jar to fold up and cover the bottom of the jar.

Roll up the paper around the jar.

This works best on jars or cans or glasses that have a depression in the bottom.

Fold the bottom of the paper to the bottom of the jar and use the jar to squish it down.

Pull out the jar.  This version is not freestanding so you need to fill it immediately with soil to keep it steady.

Two pots.  Two minutes.

Blinging Back the Bring – I mean, Cleaning Rings

As a newlywed, I am still enchanted with the two white gold rings on my left hand.  As the clumsy, messy, and generally absent-minded person that I am, those two rings get scummy and filthy pretty quickly.

While a professional jeweler can clean your rings the best, there is a quick and easy way to do a pretty good job at home, without using any harsh chemicals, solvents, or otherwise expensive products.  This method is mild enough to work on plated items such as my engagement ring, which has a rhodium coating.

Plop a tablespoon or two of baking soda in a bowl or a jar.

Plop in your rings or other jewelry that needs cleaning.

Carefully pour in about 1/4 cup of white vinegar (I use white vinegar to clean pretty much everything, so I have an 8L jug of it under my sink).

Watch the foam!  It’s like a science experiment from elementary school.

Stir the foamy mixture around a bit to make sure all the baking soda has its day in the sun and leave the stuff to sit for a few minutes.  Add more vinegar if you’re feeling science-y.

With a soft toothbrush or even a pipe cleaner, give your ring a little scrub, making sure to get into all the little nooks and crannies that hold the grossest of crud, which in my case is the big empty space right under the diamond.

Rinse ’em off and blamo kablam you’ve got your shiny back. (I don’t have a picture for you because it hasn’t been sunny enough here to truly blind you with my diamond shine.  Oh Newfoundland.)