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Handy Hints and useful tips for around the home
Aloe Vera plant in pot

Doc in a Pot
  A succulent which stores water and nutrients in its thick, spiky leaves, Aloe Vera is a plant with many diverse uses. Claimed to be gentle on the skin, its extract can be found in a variety of cosmetic and beauty treatments, soaps and shampoos, creams and lotions, as well as facial tissues.
  But perhaps its most amazing feature is in the treatment of minor burns, scalds and scratches. A section of leaf can be cut straight from the plant, ideally one of those 20 cm or longer, then sliced open carefully with a sharp knife. By peeling back the outer skin, the clear juice that exudes can be dabbed directly onto the affected area. This not only cools and reduces stinging, but the residue dries quickly to form an antiseptic film over the wound which guards against airborn bacteria likely to cause infection. Further frequent applications can continue to be made until the discomfort subsides.
  Propogated from pups, the new baby plants shooting from the main root base, Aloe Vera grows readily in temperate climates, but it doesn't like either blazing sun or frost. Fortunately, it survives very well in a pot and as long as it gets some exposure to fresh air on a reasonably regular basis when it isn't too cold outside, Aloe Vera will do quite nicely indoors.

It should be remembered that the above treatment applies only to MINOR injuries. Those of a more serious nature should be referred immediately to a medical practitioner or the closest hospital emergency department.

Masking Tape for the Freezer
  Labelling food consigned to the freezer is essential, particularly with regard to the date, and using a felt marker makes it easy to see at a glance, except when it rubs off. This can even happen with indelible ink, especially on plastic freezer bags; and if it is used on plastic containers, sometimes it can't be removed at all.
  As soon as the food is bagged or packed, stick on a small strip of masking tape and write on this. As long as the surface is dry to start with, it will stay on for the duration and the written details won't smudge or disappear over time. Just remember to strip off the label from containers before the contents defrost to avoid any gum residue.

Keeping Crackers Crunchy
  Cookie jars and tins, plus some plastic storage containers aren't always airtight. Dry foods such as crackers, crisps, cookies and cereals can go soft and stale quickly if not adequately sealed after opening. To keep them fresh and crunchy, close the bag or packet to exclude most of the air, fold over the spare and secure with a spring-type clothes peg. For those products which sit in a plastic tray, remove this and replace the remaining cookies, etc in the bag before sealing with a peg or an elastic band.

Cleaning crevices and corners
  When doing the cleaning, it isn't easy getting into those hard-to-reach spots like the corners of window and door tracks. Even a damp cloth or sponge may not suffice. Pop into your bargain store and buy yourself a pack of cheap artist brushes, the flat kind with stiff bristles. Then use the appropriate size to brush out the dry dirt before wiping or vacuuming up.

Slow Cooking

Heat diffusers for stove-top

  Some meals taste better when cooked slowly. A casserole in the oven will achieve this the same as an electric slow-cooker, but when it needs to be done on the stove top, it isn't always possible to reduce the heat sufficiently to prevent sticking and burning. Placing a heat diffuser similar to those in our photo will not only cut down the temperature from the burner, but will also distribute it more evenly around the base of the pan. You will still need to stir occasionally, but there will be less chance of ruining your tasty stews and other pan-cooked dishes. If you can't access one in the major supermarkets, try the camping stores.

The Scrunch Test
  Next time you shop for clothes, try the scrunch test. Take a handful of the material, squeeze tightly, then release. If this produces a mass of creases when it's dry, imagine what it will be like when it comes out of the wash. If you don't like ironing, look for another label in a different fabric that will pass the scrunch test.

Making Non-stick Pans Last Longer

  Pans with a non-stick coating are a breeze to use and clean, but they do need special care to keep them in good condition. The temperature of the hot-plate or burner should not be too high - this eventually breaks down the coating which will start to flake and contaminate the food. So, reduce temperatures with this in mind.
  When cleaning after use, allow the pan to cool slightly - never pour water into a hot pan! Wipe off any oil or fat deposits with paper towel, then add some warm water and leave to stand a few minutes. Non-stick pans can be washed in soapy water, but avoid using scourers of any kind if possible; and rinse under the tap before draining.
  Instructions for a new pan suggest seasoning before use. This is usually just a matter of a drop of oil rubbed lightly over the cooking surface. Just bear in mind that a wash with soap will remove this coating and it will need re-seasoning again prior to using next.

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