Banishing Life’s Little Annoyances
A Charley Horse
When a cramp hits, usually resulting from dehydration, don’t fight your instincts. Stretch the affected area and massage in a circular motion, using mild to moderate pressure. Squeezing the area will also work if massaging is too painful.
“Massage a new scar for five minutes, twice a day,” says Julius Few, associate professor of plastic surgery at Northwestern University, in Evanston, Illinois. “Applying pressure forces the body to make scar tissue that is flatter and lighter in color.” Start the treatment two to three weeks after the injury has healed and scabbing is gone. Stop rubbing after a year; no more improvement can be made to a scar after that.
Lingering Scent of Perfume
One too many sample spritzes and now you’re emanating a heady mixture of vanilla, patchouli, and rose. “Perfume molecules that are bound to skin oil and protein can take several days to evaporate,” says Luca Turin, a biophysicist and the author of The Secret of Scent ($14, amazon.com). To speed the process, scrub skin with soap, hot water, and a loofah, he says. Wiping with a cotton pad and alcohol also works, says Nilson Fernandes, an eight-year veteran of the fragrance counter at Saks Fifth Avenue in San Francisco.
If you have only a few hours (or less!), use a sponge to apply liquid bronzer (the same shade you use on your face) to the light areas, then dust with powder. If you have a few days, exfoliate the darker areas and apply self-tanner to the light spots. Blend with your hands to achieve an even tone.
Bad Scrabble Letters
“If you can play only one tile and are left with three others with high point values, it’s best to exchange the rest,” says Joe Edley, a three-time national Scrabble champion. You’ll lose a turn, but chances are the letters you draw will be easier to work with. Also, Edley advises, “never hang on to a Q, but save an X or a Z, because you can often use them for 30-point words.” If you are stuck with a rack of all vowels or all consonants, look for a play that will use three or four of them. (Two examples: audio and crumb.) Not fitting? Then change your tiles.
A Hand Stamp
Images from a fun night out should be stamped into your memory, not onto the back of your hand. Nail-polish remover with acetone, or baby wipes for those with sensitive skin, will remove a dark stamp.
Wasps at a Picnic
Yellow jackets and some other types of wasps are attracted to sweet scents, so your perfume or the watermelon drippings on your blanket are liable to prompt an invasion. Resist the urge to swat them away. Instead, use lids, plastic wrap, and napkins to cover all the food and drinks, even those you’re using, recommends Lynn Braband, a yellow-jacket trapping expert with New York’s Integrated Pest Management Program. Robbed of their food source, the insects should buzz off. At your next picnic, stick with a dark blanket and dishware. “Wasps are attracted to reds, yellows, and whites,” says Braband. So leave that checkered tablecloth at home.
A Third Wheel
Be blunt, says Pepper Schwartz, a sociology professor at the University of Washington, in Seattle. Say, “We’d love to spend more time with you, but our plans aren’t going to work with three tonight.” If the person doesn’t catch on? Say, “We promised each other one-on-one time.” That should guarantee a twosome.
The good news? Unlike onion and garlic odors, which enter your lungs and bloodstream, coffee breath can usually be curtailed by simply brushing your teeth and tongue, which are where odor-causing bacteria grow. A breath mint will mask the smell but only briefly. Can’t do either of the above? Fill your mug with water and give your mouth a swish.
If you suspect you should eat, you’re correct. “Your stomach is constantly churning, and it churns more when you’re hungry, producing a rumbling sound,” explains Joel Levine, M.D., former chair of the American College of Physicians Board of Regents. “But don’t chew gum. Swallowing air only exacerbates the sound.”
Water in Your Ear
Swimmer Natalie Coughlin, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, mixes equal parts rubbing alcohol (to dry) and white vinegar (to disinfect) in an eyedropper. Then she puts a few drops in the ear canal, waits 30 seconds, and drains it.
You yanked them all out just last week, and new ones have already popped up. “Be sure to pull existing weeds out at the roots, instead of breaking them off at the soil’s surface,” says Eric Darden, horticulture manager for the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, in Orlando, Florida. “And always remove them before they flower. Otherwise the flowers will release seeds and you’ll end up with even more weeds.” Once the bed is cleared, put down a two- to three-inch layer of any type of mulch. “Mulch blocks sunlight, so any remaining weed seeds can’t germinate,” says Darden. It also keeps soil moist, so your flowers will thrive.
Spinach in Teeth
Get creative, say Gregg Kavet and Andy Robin, former writer-producers of Seinfeld. Fake a cough and turn away, or pretend to drop something under the table so you can scrape your teeth. No toothpick? Try an earring post, or use a piece of thread as dental floss.
A Tree on Your Property
George Washington clearly did not consult an arborist before he chopped down that cherry tree. “The general rule is that if a tree requires use of a ladder or a chain saw to remove it, you need to hire a professional,” says Sharon Lilly, director of educational goods and services for the International Society of Arboriculture, in Champaign, Illinois. And don’t just hire your lawn guy. “Oftentimes trees must be dismantled limb by limb, which is highly skilled work,” says Lilly. “You don’t want a branch hitting your neighbor’s new convertible.” Find a certified arborist in your area at isa-arbor.org.
Pinched Skin From Kneesocks
Need crease-free legs for a night out? Massage them with lotion to restore circulation, says Heather O’Reilly, a member of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team. A cold compress or a mild hydrocortisone cream can help reduce redness.
Apply absorbent litter to the wet spot. Vacuum up the litter and scrub the area with a mixture of ¾ cup bleach in 1 gallon water. (Spot-test rugs first in an inconspicuous place.) The bleach oxidizes smelly sulfur compounds. Follow with a paste of baking soda and water; let it dry, then vacuum.
To treat the infection, whose symptoms include itching and peeling, keep your feet dry (moisture allows fungus to proliferate) and apply an over-the-counter antifungal cream. Sprinkling on foot powder will help reduce perspiration.