50 Summertime New Uses for Old Things
Really hot grill bars equal dramatic grill marks on your meat. To concentrate the heat and keep it from escaping, lay a sheet of foil over the grill for 10 minutes. Peel the foil off just before cooking, scrunch it into a ball (it cools fast), and use it later to scrape any residue or ash from the bars.
Aluminum Foil as a Funnel
Fashion a funnel of foil to neatly transfer salad dressings or condiments from tacky plastic bottles to pretty carafes or back again. Place it in the bottle and pour away.
To soothe a bug bite, dissolve two tablets in a glass of water, then dab the solution on the itchy spot.
Baby Oil as Tar Remover
Bare feet left with a bit of tar after a long day on the beach? Lift it off with a dose of baby oil.
Prevent sweat stains on white shirts: Sprinkle powder on the underarms and the collar, then iron. The powder acts as a barrier.
Need a deodorant in a pinch? Dust baking soda under your arms to absorb body odor.
Grow healthier roses by planting a banana peel at the base of a rosebush, an inch down into the soil. The potassium feeds the plant and helps fend off diseases.
Make a summery shower curtain: Hang a boldly patterned pair using clip-on drapery rings. Use a plastic liner.
Beat the heat by creating an instant summer shade tent: Just tie the corners of a sheet to closely set trees in your yard. You can also use a sheet to shield your car’s seats from dirty cleats post–Little League games, pet hair on a road trip, or drive-through detritus.
Tie empty bottles together to use as buoys or to mark the deep part of your swimming pool.
Avoid looking like a tourist when traveling. Tuck your guidebook—which screams “I’m lost!”—inside a different title’s cover (try one in the native language, if you’re overseas) to double-check directions more discreetly.
Let guest go hands-free at an outdoor party. Flip a bucket upside down and top it with a tray for an impromptu cocktail-holding side table at the perfect height for lawn chairs.
Bundt Pan as Corn Holder
Cut corn from the cob without the mess. Place an ear in the center of a Bundt pan. As you slide the knife down, the corn will fall right into the pan.
Use the pan to make a clever ice ring for a punch bowl. Freeze water in the pan, then pop out the ring to chill the beverage instead of cubes.
Citrus Peel as Firestarter
Kick-start a fire with citrus peels. Leave orange or lemon peels on the counter for several days to dry out. Then use the pretty pieces as kindling in your fire pit or bonfire for a fragrant flame starter.
Use citrus peels to serve sorbet in a memorable way: Slice a citrus fruit in half, scoop out the inside, and freeze the shell to use as a bowl. Cut a thin slice from the bottom (without creating a hole) to give the shell a level base.
Upgrade your iced coffee. Pour in milk, sugar, and flavoring (if you want), add ice, and shake for a frothy, evenly blended caffeine fix.
Protect hands from a drippy Popsicle or ice cream bar by pushing the stick through the middle of a filter.
Colander as Ice Bucket
Make ice cubes last longer at your next cocktail party: Put them in a colander set into a bowl. As they melt, the water will drain through the holes instead of sitting and turning the ice to slush.
The multiuse colander will also fend off flies at a picnic or cookout if you upend one over a tray of food.
Make serving ice cream at your children’s parties easier: Begin scooping before the party starts, using a cupcake tin lined with paper baking cups to hold individual servings. Stash in the freezer for up to several hours.
Don’t leave wine country without a souvenir. You can bring home a bottle with no fear of breakage if you slip a child’s arm floatie over it, then partially inflate to cushion the cargo.
Keep pits out of your fresh lemonade by squeezing the fruit over a grater.
Ice Cube Trays
Set up a self-serve sundae bar at your cookout and let guests spoon out cherries, sprinkles, crumbled cookies, candies, and other dessert toppings to their liking.
Basket as Summer Carryall
When you’re ready to hit the beach, just throw everything in a large handled basket and take off. Or, for backyard barbecues, line it with a plastic garbage bag, then fill it with ice and beverages.
A laundry basket also makes a great tote for picnic items; at the shore, flip it over and use it as a table. (Hose the basket off when you get home, and it’s ready to go back to wash-day duty.) Lined with a trash bag and filled with ice, it makes an impromptu cooler too.
When the sun begins to set but your barbecue’s still hopping, scatter Mason jars filled with white votive candles—a more casual take on hurricane lamps—around the yard.
Stash side dishes (like corn on the cob) in the insulated case to keep them hot if the steaks are still on the grill.
Slide shades in a spare mitten so they won’t get scratched inside your handbag.
Arrange guests at an outdoor dinner party with the help of old paint color chips. Cut off two colors from a strip, then fold to make a standing place card. If you have an entire spectrum of chips, match each person to his or her favorite shade.
Work magic on more than your favorite pie: To chop a salad easily, fill a bowl with lettuce and toppings, then run the slicer through it.
Plastic Straw as Strawberry Corer
To make coring a strawberry easy, pluck the leaves and the stem, then tunnel from the top of the berry through the bottom with a straw.
Play-Doh as Sparkler Holder
Prevent burned fingers by planting a sparkler’s stem in a tub of Play-Doh before lighting it.
Ears clogged with pool or sea water? With an eyedropper, insert a few drops of rubbing alcohol into each ear canal to evaporate it. Rubbing alcohol comes to the rescue, too, when you’ve gone overboard with self-tanner: Fix too-dark splotches by blotting them with the stuff.
Distribute salad dressing evenly with a gentle twist. Or undo a vinaigrette overdose with the same technique: Toss the soggy mixture back in for a quick spin and much of the excess liquid will fly right off.
Prevent melting wax from sticking to a glass hurricane lamp. Pour in sand to cover the base, then nestle in a pillar (or votive) candle. When the light goes out, toss and repeat.
Make a unique planter for succulents from your best beach finds (full disclosure: The largest shell shown here is actually a resin replica). Use an appropriate kind of potting soil, then water sparingly (and only when the soil is dry).
The next time you throw an alfresco dinner party, serve your seasonings on the half shell. Pretty shells transform into elegant vessels for coarse sea salt and ground pepper.
Shower Curtain Liner
Do dew diligence and layer a liner underneath a picnic blanket to avoid soggy bottoms and grass or mud stains.
Cart condiments to a backyard barbecue with this cardboard helper. Slot flatware, ketchup, and mustard in the compartments for easy transport.
Headed outside for dinner? Don’t juggle fistfuls of flatware. Tote them gracefully with a repurposed basket.
Set out utensils and napkins for an alfresco party in rinsed and clean soup cans. You’ll keep everything orderly while adding a soupçon (sorry!) of color to your spread. Just be sure the rims don’t have any jagged edges.
Save your energy. In the summertime, keep hot air out by plugging the gaps between the air conditioner and the window with sponges.
Don’t trash leftover sunscreen at summer‘s end. Use it as a shaving lotion to ensure smoother skin.
Make fishing for sewing supplies easier. Stash thread, scissors, needles, pins, and other notions in the box’s compartments.
Tea Bag as Bug Bite Soother
A smart way to soothe itchy mosquito bites: Place a cold, used tea bag on the sting and let it sit for five minutes. Tea will help ease sunburn, too: Brew a pot and pour it into a bath of lukewarm water. Soak until you feel relief.
To prevent goggles from fogging, smear some paste onto the lenses, then wipe off before hitting the pool.
Hold down a picnic tablecloth by applying a strip to the underside and to the table.
Play cocktail waitress at a backyard bash. Fill the cart with ice and beverages and make the rounds once an hour—or whenever people appear to be parched.
Office air-conditioning blowing arctic gusts? Manipulate out-of reach vents with an untwisted hanger. For a fun use, bend a hanger into a giant wand, and use a solution of one part dish soap and one part water to create bubbles.