Yes, we love our iPads, our smartphones, our Kindles, Sonos music players and the incredible abundance of free Wi-Fi. But there’s only so far digital technology will take you.
When a lock is stuck, the family schedules refuse to align, or the power fails, we turn to a whole other class of gadgets. Men can have their duct tape and their caulk guns (They can especially keep the caulk guns!). Our favorite tools for keeping it together? Post-it notes, carabiners, cupcake carriers, power inverters, a wine aerator, and a steady supply of graphite flakes, for starters.
Graphite flakes? We kid you not. For the secrets behind these and other sanity-savers for the over-stressed and over-scheduled, read on.
Altoids tins (99 cents, including mints): Portable first aid kit, mini flashlight, pinhole camera, dart gun — it's amazing what you can do with an empty Altoids' tin. There are entire Web sites devoted to the topic. Check out the how-to's at the Art of Manliness and wikiHow.
Carabiners (49 cents and up): Outdoor people find a multitude of uses for carabiners when they're hiking, camping, climbing. But these little metal clips are surprisingly handy for all sorts of day-to-day things — hooking stuff off your purse or backpack, as a portable coat hanger or heavy duty keychain, or for clipping together multiple bags.
Cupcake carriers (about $30): This is for anyone who has lovingly baked cupcakes, decorated them, packed them carefully in a tray, and cringed every time the car hit a bump and the cupcakes got mushed. Next time, use a cupcake courier — a piece of molded plastic that lets you transport up to 36 cupcakes, mush free. Invented by a mom, of course.
Extendable fork (about $5): The extendable fork is meant to be a joke — a way to spear food off a nearby plate on the sly. But we've found them handy for cooking up chicken cutlets, breaded eggplant slices, breakfast sausages — anything that spatters up and burns you when you get in close. Why not use a spatula or barbeque fork? Well, spatulas don't always work well in a crowded pan and barbeque forks only have two twines.
Graphite flakes ($3-5): Front door key won't turn easily in the lock? Spending too much time wiggling the key around? Kiss sticky locks goodbye with a simple tube of graphite flakes. Yep, graphite flakes.
Kitchen shears ($10-$20): So useful, it’s crazy. We think you are supposed to use them to cut chicken joints and trim flowers. But whenever you need diced tomatoes but bought whole tomatoes instead, you can just stick the kitchen shears in the can and start cutting. They also cut through the weapons-grade plastic used as packaging for kids’ toys and batteries. You could use them as wire cutters in a pinch, too. Some shears have ridged handles that can be used to grab bottle tops or crack nuts.
Post-it notes, multi-colored ($1 and up): Can't keep track of everything you need to remember? Turn the back of your front door into a wall of Post-its. Assign a color to every member of the family and make sure they check their notes on the way out the door, too. Really. You'll never have to remember to remember again!
Power inverter for your car (about $35): Yes, there's the home office. But many days, it’s the car that’s command central. And it’s a pain to keep track of a separate adapter for cell phone, computer, and who knows what else. This little gadget, which fits into your cup holder, instantly converts the cigarette lighter into a plain old outlet. Don’t know who thought this up, but thank you.
Wine aerator (about $35): Ideally, you’d let wine ‘breathe’ before you drink it. That simply means the wine tastes better once it’s been exposed to the air, usually by decanting or sitting in your glass for a while before being consumed. But who has time? Enter the wine aerator, which fits into the top of a bottle and aerates the wine as you pour. There are dozens on the market; we like the aerator from Metrokane Rabbit. We’ve done blind taste tests with this, and it really works. Makes a $10 wine taste like you paid twice that! — CG and KW
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