Awesome Life Hacks: Tip-of-the-Day #332

I picked this list up from Bright Side and thought it worthy enough to pass along. My favorites are 4, 6 and 7. Check them out!
  1. Cooking meat: Add some crushed garlic to any ground beef, pork, turkey, etc. before cooking and let it sit for a bit in the fridge. The flavor of the meat is enhanced and will taste amazing.
  2. Sore throat: Drink hot milk with cardamom and any inflammation and soreness in your throat will disappear a whole lot faster.
  3. Light a fire: If you need to light a campfire fast, you can use potato chips. They burn better than lighter fluid, and will burn even when firewood is damp!
  4. Burned: If you rub the affected area with some toothpaste, a burn or sting on your skin will hurt a lot less and pass much quicker.
  5. Cooking potatoes: Potatoes will boil quicker if you add a little butter to the saucepan.
  6. How fresh are your eggs?: Drop an egg into some cold water so that it’s completely submerged, a fresh egg will sink to the bottom. The ones that have gone bad will float to the surface.
  7. Baking: You can replace eggs with bananas when making the dough for cookies or a pie. Half a banana is roughly equal to one egg.
  8. Clean up glue: Removing a glue stain from glass can be done using ordinary household vegetable oil. Just smear some oil on the affected area, leave for ten minutes, then wipe with a paper towel.
  9. Boiling beans: If you forget to soak your beans, just boil them in unsalted water, adding a tablespoon of cold water every 7-10 minutes. That way they’ll be ready with no trouble at all.
  10. Removing ink or paint from clothing: Acetone will help with this problem. It needs to be wiped on the affected area, then rubbed with a bit of baking soda.
  11. Broken egg?: You can still make use of a broken egg. Just boil it as normal, and then it can be used for salads or sandwiches.
  12. Wet shoes: The trick is to use salt. Heat it up in a frying pan (or microwave), sprinkle it inside a sock, and then place the sock inside the wet shoe. If the moisture doesn’t disappear in a certain amount of time, just put in a new sock. Your shoes will be dry in no time at all!
  13. Boil milk faster: Milk is guaranteed to boil faster if you add a pinch of sugar.
  14. Easily grate cheese: Before you start trying to grate some hard cheese, smear some vegetable oil on the grater. The cheese won’t get stuck together, and the grater itself becomes easier to wash!
  15. Odor control: It’s easy to get rid of bad smells in the kitchen. Pour one tablespoon of ordinary vinegar into a frying pan and heat until it evaporates.
  16. Breaking in new shoes: Put on some thick socks, and then really stretch the shoes onto your feet. While wearing them like this, heat the shoes with a hair dryer for about 10 minutes.
  17. Get rid of a headache: You can ease the pain of a throbbing headache if you rub a slice of lemon on your forehead. It sounds crazy, but the aroma of citrus fruit can really calm you down!
  18. Pick up tiny shards of broken glass: You can gather up even the smallest bits of broken glass by using a waxy candlestick.
  19. Calm down quickly: If you need to calm yourself down very quickly, press down on the patch of skin between your nose and your lips, using your thumb, for three seconds. This can help even if you think you’re having a nervous breakdown!

Full article here: 

Explore Summer Camp Tax Breaks: Tip-of-the-Day #331

When I was kid, and it was summer break, I looked for any excuse to stay home and play Atari. I didn’t want to go to camp. That felt like work! I wanted to hang with my friends, make cookie dough and eat it raw, and choreograph dance routines to “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” in my front yard. Ahhhh, summer. But these days, I’ve learned from my sister that her kid and all of her kid’s friends are in day camp ALL SUMMER LONG.

It's not camp like we (in our forties) remember it…it’s camp with themes like “Pirates and Princesses”, “Pop Star Party!” and “Idol Performance Camp”. Sounds fantastic, right?? Only hitch is that it don’t come cheap. These camps are upwards of $100 a day! For parents who are already scraping to cover the cost of school, school supplies, babysitters, birthday parties, etc. this added expense is almost impossible. That said, I came across this article and quickly forwarded it to my sis.

Summer camp may be tax deductible!!

Here’s the 4-1-1 (straight from the tax experts at TurboTax):

  1. If you send your kids away to the mountains for a week, you won’t get a tax deduction. BUT, send ‘em away for the day, and now you are talking tax savings in the form of the Child and Dependent Care Credit, as long as your child is under the age of 13.
  2. Child and Dependent Care Credit is designed to enable you (the parent) to work or go to school, so if you have a spouse at home to care for the kids, then no deduction for camp. But if you are single, or you and your spouse both work, cha-ching, you’ll qualify for the tax credit.
  3. Sending the kids into the backyard to camp out doesn’t qualify as camp. You have to make payment for camp to a real institution or person, and you must include their address and identifying number on your tax return.
  4. Taking the kids to the camp location won’t qualify for the credit. But if the cost of transportation to and from camp is included in the fees, and the camp picks up and delivers, sweet – that qualifies for the credit.

So now that you qualify, what is the credit worth? To begin, tax credits are more valuable that tax deductions, since credits reduce your tax bill dollar for dollar, so the tax savings add up quickly. You can take a Child and Dependent Care Credit for up to 35% of $3,000 in child care and camp costs for one child or $6,000 for two or more children, depending on your income level. That can mean a tax credit of up to $1,050 for one child and $2,100 for two or more children.

I’m thinking my sis is going to be awfully glad she read this…

It Pays to Become an REI Member: Tip-of-the-Day #330

I recently purchased a bday gift at REI for a close friend and discovered that by "joining" their membership program, I could enjoy a number of ongoing benefits, including an instant $20 cash card (which paid for the membership right there).

Since joining, I'm more and more impressed with the perks of membership. First of all, you get a 15% off coupon that is good for any REI labeled gear. Then there's the REI annual member dividend. This is your share of the co-op's annual profit. The 2015 dividend is comprised of your member dividend and/or your REI Visa card rebates. Each March, active REI members receive their member dividend in the form of an annual dividend notice. The refund is typically 10% back on eligible REI purchases. How cool is that?

REI members get special savings on bike shop services and ski shop services and discounted ski lift tickets at selected ski resorts. But, what really hooked me this morning, is the email I got regarding REI's discount on trips and classes. Travel the world with REI Adventures and learn a new outdoor skill with REI Outdoor School. REI members get special pricing on both! Here is a look at some of the upcoming fun:
How to Ride a Bike Class - $65 for members; $85 for non members
Hiking the Bay Area's Best Places - $25 for members; $45 for non members
Learn to Kayak - $70 for members; $90 for non members
And so much more!

The savings are awesome, the schedules are flexible (there are full moon night hikes in the mix!) and I imagine it may even be an opportunity to meet some hunky, athletic types in a very organic setting. #oldschooldating

Check out REI for more info. There's still a whole lot of summer ahead of us!

FREE San Francisco Walking Tours: Tip-of-the-Day #329

Last night I had the pleasure of sharing a Scorpion Bowl with a nice fella at Trad'r Sam's in San Francisco. Over the course of our Bowl, I discovered that among other things, he is a San Francisco City Guide. I had no idea what this meant, so he enlightened me. And, I hope that this "share" will enlighten you and your traveling friends, family members, and anyone visiting San Francisco!

First off, City Guides, a non-profit founded in 1978, is staffed with more than 200 trained volunteers who lead FREE history and architectural walking tours in San Francisco, 52 weeks a year, rain or shine! Wait. What?? Tours head out along the streets, sidewalks, and byways of San Francisco's most famous (or, in some cases, infamous) districts, as well as in some of its more hidden neighborhoods. There are approximately 30 different walks offered each month, with an expanded schedule, offered in May and October. Walks lasts from 1 1/2 to 2 hours and walkers meet at the place and time designated in the current Tour Schedule. No reservations are required.

On Saturday, August 1, there is a tour called "1850's San Francisco: Paris of the Pacific." It's described as follows: Gold Rush San Francisco had a large population of French Parisians. Their influence, abilities, and taste for the finer things of life helped San Francisco to blossom almost overnight from the mud of Yerba Buena Cove into a sophisticated, cosmopolitan city.

The directions are simply to meet at the corner of Clay and Montgomery at Transamerica Pyramid. How cool is that?

A complete list of tours can be found here:

I find it fascinating that I've lived in the Bay Area all of my life and in San Francisco proper for 20 years and had no idea this FREE SERVICE exists!

You learn something new every day. And, even though I'm a native, I'm inclined to check this out. I'll let you know what I discover! 

Skip Your Next Trip to Starbucks: Tip-of-the-Day #328

A colleague recently introduced me to Medaglia D'Oro, instant espresso coffee that can be found on the shelf at your local supermarket. Skeptical at first, my co-worker made me a quick shot so that I could judge the quality for myself. Simply put, it was amazing. Incredibly rich, flavorful and downright impressive for "instant." If I didn't know better, I would have assumed it had been produced by an on-site espresso machine.

I quickly learned that a couple of rounded teaspoons, some raw sugar, and a dash of milk creates the most delicious cup of coffee I think I've ever had.

Over the Fourth of July I had headed north with family and we'd forgotten to bring our beans, filters, etc. Replacement is steep, so I suggested we pick up a container of Medaglia. I quickly squashed their skepticism once I poured the first cup.

A 2 oz. container is approximately $4 - about the cost of a latte at your favorite retailer. Considering the cost of drinks continues to increase (Starbucks just raised costs across the board by at least .15 cents) you may think about foregoing the latte, in favor of trying this instant espresso. It's hard to believe it's been around for years and I've only just learned of it. This week alone I've saved $25 by "drinking in."

The best part of waking up is Medaglia in my cup. Seriously.