Category Archives: tips

How to Clean your BBQ: A (Very Simple) Step-by-Step Guide

This is what I look like when I BBQ

 

Ahhh, smell that fresh air? See those flowers? Hear those birds outside?

It can only mean one thing… BBQ SEASON!

There is nothing more divine than a delicious meal cooked over the grill. It signifies the start of warmer weather and better food!

But after the long, harsh winter sometimes your grill needs a little TLC before you can start flipping those burgers and smoking those haunches of tasty meats.

Does your grill look less like a paragon of fiery grilling prowess and more like a pit of despair?

 

Example: Pit of Despair

Don’t worry. Here are a few simple steps you can take to give your grill a good once-over before you jump into the season. These instructions are for a run-of-the-mill propane BBQ but can easily be adjusted to a charcoal one as well. You can easily use cleaners and solvents and fancy tools, but then it’s just a lot of work just to see the grill mucked up again the next time you use it. Why fight it’s nature?

Step One

Find your BBQ. Sometimes they like to hide in strange places over the winter.

Step Two

Assemble a kit of rubber gloves, old clothes or apron, BBQ grill brush and small dust brush & pan. Optional: a bucket to catch the four years of charred crap that you will unearth.

Step Three

Use the stiff BBQ brush to rub the burnt on burger leavings and rust off the grill. Lift it out and do the backside, too. Be amazed at the amount of mystery crap adhered to the underside. Set grills aside. Complain about grease marks on your gloves.

Step Four

Using the same brush, spend an ungodly amount of time brushing the fire-hardened crap off of the briquettes below. Set them aside, pray that this step ends soon. Marvel at the amount of dust you are producing.

Step Five

Clean the grill underneath the briquettes the same way you did the top grills. Wonder why it’s so damn rusty and if it will disintegrate on contact. Sigh in relief when it doesn’t. Set aside.

Step Six

Using the BBQ brush of power, scrape the sides of the BBQ and lid so that a rain of charred animal flesh and singed veggies occurs. Notice that the inside of the BBQ was originally NOT BLACK. Woah. All the junk will accumulate in piles of ash and mystery chunks at the bottom.

Step Seven

Using your small dust brush and dustpan, clean out all the remains at the bottom. Depending on how long it was since your BBQ was last cleaned, this may take some time. Take a moment to imagine what some of those charred things are at the bottom. Is that really a bottle cap?

Work around the burners and scrape them if needed. Pray to the Gods of fire that the burners will work after this! Sigh copiously and spit churned up dust out of your mouth as you proceed. Wonder why you decided to do this on a windy day.

Step Eight

Replace all grills & briquettes and admire your almost-ready grill.

Step Nine

Carefully light up the barbie, with burners on high, lid closed and CREMATE THAT F*CKER! For about 10 minutes.

 

Enjoy!

Meat is murder. Tasty, tasty murder.

Guest Post: Should you outsource your household chores?

This post is brought to you by the Silicon Valley Blogger of The Digerati Life, a blog on personal finance: budgets, credit cards, online coupons, among other money management tips, tricks, and strategies.

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Chores are one of the “necessary evils” of life. Everyone absolutely has to do chores, else life would surely be uncomfortable, maybe even downright miserable. If you won’t do laundry for a whole month, you’ll surely run out of clothes to wear. Unless you’re one of the Hiltons, the man on the street definitely doesn’t have the unlimited resources to just discard clothes as they get soiled and buy new ones. Or if you don’t want to wash the dishes, you definitely can’t afford to have a sink rendered unusable by a mountain-sized pile of dirty dishes. And don’t forget a house filled with dust bunnies. Unless you were born dust-resistant, surely, by the 6th month of zero vacuuming, dusting or cleaning the house, you’ll be sneezing yourself to the hospital. Thus, you would have to either push yourself to get to doing your chores, else, pay someone else to do it for you.

There are some people who welcome doing chores. For them, the act of doing chores allows them to distance themselves from the mental strain of work, allowing them to gain new perspectives on tough tasks, get ideas on projects they were stuck on, or, for some, believe it or not, doing chores lets them relax and unwind.

There are other people who cannot, for the life of them, do these activities. They would rather work on mentally challenging tasks. Chores bore, even disgust them. They would rather pay someone to do the work for them while they maximize their time to earn more.

If you’re the type of person who welcomes doing chores, here is how you will be able to benefit from doing chores:

  1. You will be able to maximize your budget and add more to your savings accounts, as you do everything yourself.
  2. There were studies in brain functioning and problem-solving that have postulated that people tend to consolidate mental processes as they distance themselves from problems they are attempting to solve. Some inventors have been able to get leads on the portions of their invention processes that they were stuck on when they did something else. While most people view chores as work, for others, chores serve the same function as recreation. If you’re the type who could potentially get their kicks from working this way, then you may be able to benefit from the paradigm shift that doing chores could offer.

If you’re the other type who just cannot do chores to save your life, however, then here is how you’ll be able to benefit from paying someone to do things for you: the main benefit? You’ll save time and effort.

  1. Outsourcing your chores allows you to save time, which you could put to better use: closing more deals, getting more clients, working on more projects.
  2. You’ll save energy as well, allowing you to destress through other means.

Either way, you win. To maximize either situation, here are our tips:

For the chores-loving people:

  1. When you choose to do the chores yourself, make sure that you budget your time accordingly. Time is our true resource. While I could personally clean a room for seven hours straight, this practice isn’t healthy. Seven hours is nearly an entire work shift! Thus, schedule your cleaning or laundry days on days when you’re not working, or, if you don’t have a whole day to have a long stretch of chores-time, try to budget your time. For good measure, try not to go beyond 2 hours. If you need more time, don’t go beyond 4 hours of chores. This way, you’ll ensure that your work, or the rest of your life, isn’t affected.
  2. Get the best deals on the material you use for cleaning or laundry. Grocery coupons or online coupons could work for you. You can slash almost half of your expenses if you used grocery coupons or if you shopped at discount stores. Be a wise shopper!

For the chores-averse people:

  1. When you try to look for janitorial or maid services, make sure that you’ve shopped around thoroughly and checked your area for the best cleaning companies that charge a fee that’s within your budget. Strike a balance between a good, affordable rate and a thorough, excellent service. Don’t pay cheap for something that you will only have to redo. Don’t spend too much for quality work, either. Take a look at online resources such as Angie’s List or Craigslist for this purpose.
  2. When you make a decision to use the services of househelp, make sure that the time freed up would be put to the best use possible. While ideally, you should work more because your time did get freed up, you may want to unwind instead. However, it does not change the fact that you still have to make sure that how you unwind would still be “profitable,” or a worthy “investment” of your time. No, watching TV for hours on end isn’t a worthy use of your time. Find an activity that will truly refresh you. Talking with loved ones: spending time with your wife and kids would be a better use of this time. Reading a good, enlightening book is a better investment too.

Either arrangement, if it truly suits your personality and lifestyle, would allow you to maximize your resources (time and money). Find the better fit for you, and stop trying to beat your brain trying to do something you were not wired to do. The bottom line is, you do need to budget even your time; and since chores take up your most precious resource, time, we hope our suggestions could help you figure out how to best leverage that for the best life you can live!

DIY: Magnetic “spice rack” for the fridge

My "spice rack"!

Lately I’ve been trying to learn how to cook more at home. What I’ve come to discover is that proper application of herbs and spices can make all the difference in a good meal!

As my cooking skill grows, my spice drawer has also grown exponentially. It’s so full that when I went to buy some oregano, I didn’t have anywhere to put it!

A crafty and creative storage solution was needed!

I have been lusting after those adorable spice containers with magnets on the bottoms that stick to your fridge. This weekend I grabbed a few on clearance and went nuts stocking up on essential spices from the bulk food store.

But what about the spices I already had?

I had several of those little orange tins of spice from Club House. Seeing the magnetic tins from the store got me thinking…why couldn’t I get the orange tins to stick to the fridge, as well?

How to make your existing spices magnetic:

If you’ve got a bunch of the little spice tins like I do, or something similar you can give this a shot!

You will need the following items:

  • spice tin
  • scissors
  • magnetic tape with sticky backing

Cut two strips of magnetic tape to the width of your spice tin.

Adhere to the tin, like so:

Plonk it on the fridge and PRESTO CHANGE-O you have a cute new way to display your spices!

This method worked out great for me because the side of my fridge is part of my kitchen workspace. The spices are now easily within reach when I’m prepping and I can quickly see how much is left of my commonly-used spices.

Plus, making my existing tins magnetic cost loads less than buying those little tins from the store! This cost me about $6 for the magnetic tape, and 10 minutes of time to assemble. I’m rather proud of myself! LOL

Do you have any other crafty kitchen hacks to share?

Tea Party Prep

This coming weekend I am hosting my very first tea party for my closest friends.

I’ve been mulling over the idea for quite some time now, and with the popularity of Alice in Wonderland bringing the focus back on this tradition, I thought the time was ripe for my own!

While I myself am not the biggest tea drinker (although my collection would beg to differ!) I have always loved the classic idea, rituals and etiquette of a traditional tea party.

The usual elements of a tea party include:

  • formal table settings
  • petit fours (little sweet cakes and pastries)
  • tea sandwiches
  • scones with jam and cream
  • TEA!

When most people think of tea parties, they think of stuffy old ladies with hats and gloves sitting around with pinkies up and “hemm-hemming” over the latest faux pas someone in the community has committed. But this isn’t always the case!

I think tea parties offer a great way to get your friends together to appreciate the civilized side of life that we so often neglect in society these days.

Tea parties can be in any theme that you like, from classic traditional to wacky, zaney or even morbid! The key to setting the mood is the decor, menu and etiquette that you choose to observe during the event.

For my party, I’m going with a “funky & elegant” theme, and have asked my guests to dress up with their interpretation of the term “tea party”. I have some diverse friends each with their own unique style so I am really looking forward to seeing their outfits! With their permission I will be posting them on the blog afterwards :) Of course I’ll be dressing up, too!

I don’t have a ton of money to spend on this event, so the decor will be a bit on the eclectic side as I pull together all the cool serving dishes, decorations and linens that I have to make one cohesive theme. Good thing I’m an old hand at the eclectic look!

So far hot pink seems to be the dominant accent colour, but we’ll see what shows up in the end!

This week I will be pulling everything together, including the decor, table set-up, menu and trial runs of some of the tricker treats that I am preparing and posting about it on the blog.

I would love to hear of your own tea party experiences, and if you have any tips or tricks to share with me as I prepare for my own.

Thanks, and cheerio, darling!

Clothing Swap FAQ

Are you wondering what the deal is with these new-fangled clothing swap things?

Are you thinking of hosting or participating in one? Look no further! I have complied the answers to a few frequently asked questions about clothing swaps.

Behold,

Ginger’s Clothing Swap FAQ:

What IS a clothing swap?

Organized by a fashion community or group of friends. Everyone brings their gently used clothing, shoes and accessories they no longer want to the swap. Then the madness begins! You are free to choose and try on as many of the donated clothes as you like, and bring them home for free! The best swaps are when there are loads of clothes and ladies to try things on.

Is it really free?

Yes! A swap is an excellent way to get rid of your old things, and get some new-to-you duds at no cost. Perfect for anyone on a budget!

How much do I have to bring to a swap?

You should try and bring as much as possible to a swap, keeping in mind that your donations should be nice enough that someone else would actually want them.

It’s OK if you only have a few items though, someone may really like what you have brought! Ideally other women will bring large quantities to swap, so things usually even out in the end.

Check with the organizers first to determine whether you can attend a swap without bringing any items to donate.

What is the swapping process like?

Every swap and group will be different, but in general everyone pulls out their items to donate and quickly displays them to the group, then places them on a table or pile for someone to scoop up. If you see something you like you can grab it off the table or call dibs on it.

Part competitive free-for-all, part fashion show a swap is a really fun experience with the right group of ladies. If everyone remembers to be fair and gracious it will go swimmingly with a feeling of sisterhood and friendship all around.

What happens if two people want the same thing?

This part is a little tricky and can bring out the mean in people. Try and be on your best behaviour! Generally the person who indicates interest first (by touching the garment or calling dibs) will get to try it on. If they like it, they keep it. If not, the next person (second dibs) gets their chance with it. And so on.

If someone grabs something you like first, be sure to call second dibs, just in case they change their mind!

Is it really competitive?

Sometimes. Everyone is looking out for themselves, so there is a bit of competition and testing of wills in any clothing swap, particularly if you have two or more women with the same sense of style and size!

I would recommend calling dibs as fast as you can on pieces that are most likely to be a “win” for you. That is, garments that you have been searching for specifically (such as a Little Black Dress) or something that you know instantly will look gorgeous on you. You should know your shape, colours you look best in, and also clothing cuts you look best in before going into a swap. This will help you focus on winning the pieces best suited for you.

You may also consider tag-teaming with a friend. You can keep an eye out for things that your friend would look good in, and she will do the same for you. This can also help you bargain with other ladies when there is a hot item up for grabs.

What if there is still a bunch of clothes left over?

This is an easy fix. If you held your swap in a consignment or thrift store (both popular locations) the store will look through the remainders and take whatever they think will sell at their location. Anything that is left over after that step should be donated to a charity or women’s shelter.

It’s a win-win-win all around!

Is there any other swap etiquette that I should be aware of?

Most likely, yes. If you are ever unsure of a process or have any questions, you should contact the organizers of the swap and ask away! It is much better to ask and receive clarity than risk raising someone’s ire at the swap itself. Some ladies can be very aggressive!

Depending on the swap and group involved, there may be ground rules that you should be aware of and observe. If nothing specific is said, remember to employ common decency and fairness, but also remember that the whole point of a swap is for YOU to benefit, and to spiff up YOUR wardrobe! Don’t be afraid to dive in!

It’s Pedicure Season!

The sun is out, the weather is warm and our feet are exposed to the masses. This time of year it is high season for the pedicure.

Whether you prefer hot pink, French or natural, most of us are getting our hobbit feet cleaned up, if they haven’t been already!

But did you bargain for that foot fungus with your new feet?

Aside from swimming pools and locker rooms, nail bars and spas are a common place to pick up foot infections. This includes bacterial and viral infections, fungi and warts (common and plantar).

How do you avoid bringing something nasty home with you on your feet? It’s pretty easy.

I’m a spa junkie, and over the years I have picked up some tips from spa professionals as well as doctors and nurses on how to protect yourself from infections at these types of places. I’ve compiled a list for you to use as a guide. Ain’t I great?

Do a visual check

Does the shop look clean and tidy? Are the bathrooms well-kept? They’re a great indicator of how well a spa maintains it’s footbaths and tools.

Inspect the foot baths/whirlpools

This is a major area of concern– footbaths are the pefect breeding ground for all sorts of nasty things. They’re warm, moist and have dark hidden places (like the drain or filter) that allow bacteria and fungi to thrive.

Check to make sure that they are well-sanitized in between uses; the technician should be using an antibacterial solution to wipe them down in between uses, and the tubs should also be rinsed thoroughly. Each night they should also be deep cleaned and disinfected.

Inspect the tools

Any tools used on your feet should be sanitized beforehand in a special sanitizing solution or in an autoclave. Autoclaves are the little boxes that look like microwaves or toaster ovens in the spa. Check to ensure that they’re actually being used. If the tools are soaked in a solution, check to make sure that the solution itself looks ok–it should not be cloudy or have bits floating about inside.

If in doubt you can always ask the spa about their process for sanitizing tools and footbaths.

Some spas will have single-use emery boards, orange sticks, etc. for each client. This is a great way to cut down on infection transmission. You can also bring in your own pedicure tools and request that the technician use those instead.


Communicate with your technician

They’re human too! A little smile goes a long way. Talk to them and don’t be afraid to speak up if something they’re doing is uncomfortable. Some techs use a small blade to scrape off excess callous from your heels. Ensure that they open a fresh blade for you and insert it in a freshly sterilized tool; or better yet, forgo getting the blade as it can cause small cuts in your skin which will increase your chances of getting an infection.

Techs should also be washing their hands inbetween clients, and/or wearing disposable gloves during your pedicure. This protects you AND them!

Additional Tips
  • Don’t shave, wax, or otherwise epilate your legs for 48 hours before getting a pedicure. These procedures can cause small cuts and tears in the skin, and when you’re soaking in the footbath and getting that leg massage, microorganisms can be introduced to those openings.
  • Same idea: if you’ve got an existing cut, bug bite or scratch on your legs or feet you shouldn’t be getting a pedicure
  • A lot of technicians will try and trim your cuticles, but this is also risky business. Littls slips of the snippers happen quite often, which can again leave you with small (and sometimes large, ugh!) cuts in your toes. Nobody wants that!
  • Your toenails should also always be cut and filed straight across–this will prevent ingrown toenails (it happens on the sides a lot!)
  • If you have diabetes, you need to be extra careful of the massages and any type of cutting tool used around your feet. Speak with the technician beforehand about your condition
  • Don’t get a pedicure if you’ve already got some sort of infection! Warts count too, ladies! You don’t want to catch anything, so why would you subject some other innocent woman to your virus? lol
  • Never allow your nails to be cleaned out with a sharp instrument that may puncture your skin. Duh.
  • Make sure your toes are completely dry before you leave, extra moisture can cause fungal growth
  • It’s always ok for you to bring your own tools, and even your own polish! Better safe than sorry!

Now, looking back it seems like there might be a lot to be worried about when you go to get your feet done. But really, it’s not that bad! Much like any situation, use your common sense. Most nail bars and spas are happy to answer any questions you have about their maintenance or procedures; and want to make your experience as enjoyable as possible!

I personally love getting my feet done and with a little common sense and the tips above I have avoided getting any kind of infection from the spas I frequent.

With that said… Get out there and beautify yourselves, ladies!!!!

Update your Credit Card Number

In a very timely post, J. Money of Budgets Are Sexy just wrote about all the things you need to consider when you change your credit card number or receive a new main card.

Like J. Money, I use my credit card for everything, and have several automatic payments set up with it.

I recently wrote about how I got a new PC Financial Mastercard which I am now going to use as my main card so I can accumulate free groceries :) This means I need to make a list of all the places those automatic payments go to and start switching them over!

I started doing that last night when I was checking the balance on my “old” MC. A small charge for a charity I support monthly was on there which reminded me that I need to switch everything over. I think the best thing to do is keep all your automatic transactions on one main card so that you don’t lose track.

I would hate to have a small, regular transaction cause me to pay a ridiculous amount of interest if I happened to forget about it one month!

Here’s my list of transactions to switch so far:

  • Phone/internet bill
  • Gym membership
  • Cat Rescue Charity
  • Animal Shelter Charity

I guess I had better get started!