Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Exciting Household Tips from the Product Maven

or A Refreshing Break from Truth

My blog last week about telling the truth of my publishing experience—a truth I share with many other authors—brought a flood of responses, from the sad “oh dear, is this what I’m getting myself into” of the new author to the single word “amen” from those who have been through it. I even got a note from one of my publishers, apologizing for being part of the problem. I was touched and moved by all the responses and grateful that we can talk openly about these things.

But plumbing my own truth, and discussing it with others, is draining. This week, in a refreshing change from all the glory, gloom and passion of publishing, I’m going to revert another mantle so many of us wear: The Domestic Engineer.

As those who know me well can vouch, I do not embrace the shopping culture. With the thirty or forty cents I get from a paperback or the whole dollar and change I maybe get from hardcover sales, I have not rushed out to stock my closet with Jimmy Choos or Manolos or bought an Eric Javits bag. I do relish the treasuring hunting challenge of finding great things at Goodwill (In fact, in Maine, I carry Goodwill’s now discontinued lifetime Gold discount card) and other thrift stores, so I do have a Marni bag that cost $5.49. I go to the Mall only under duress when I can’t do the errand on-line or by mail.

I also watch very little television, so I am generally safe from the blandishments of commercial messages. (I’m so out of it that when the guy in a recent commercial talked about ED, I had to ask someone what he meant.) From what I have seen, they’re not advertising to me anyway. Why would I want to sweep away a sexy young woman in my hot car? Why would I even want a hot car? I don’t think of my car as an extension of myself; my car is a tool to get me where I’m going. Sadly, if my car IS an extension of myself, I need to be vacuumed and taken to the car wash and buffed and shined. And I’m very high mileage.

My primary consumer excursions are to the grocery store and my usual circuit is around the outside edges of the store, rarely venturing into those dangerous inner aisles. But sometimes a coupon appears with the Sunday paper and I do decide to try something new. And even more rarely, I find a new product that is actually an improvement on the one I’ve used for decades, or one that truly does make life easier. So this week, I am going to share three of my recent product discoveries with the world. Maybe, staring tomorrow, your life will be better, too. And perhaps the excitement of these new products will lift the gloom I cast on your lives last week.

1. Dawn Power Dissolver Tired of the back-breaking, knuckle-bruising, nail-bashing chore of scrubbing out the thrice-reheated lasagna dish, the crusted on macaroni and cheese, the stubborn remnants of pot roast gravy? Tired of soaking pots and pans overnight and still wearing your Brillo to a nubbin scrubbing out the pan? Look no further. This product really works. Just spray this stuff on the dried on, dried out, intractable crusts around the sides and edges of your pan, wait twenty minutes and voila! It is magic.

2. Reynolds Release This amazing foil, coated to create a nonstick surface, is wonderful for baking salmon or oven-fried chicken, for making low-fat sweet potato fries (cut into French fry-sized slices, toss with a bit of olive oil, grind on some coarse salt and bake at 4:25), or roasting vegetables. Just cover your baking sheet with this foil. No need to use cooking spray or grease or oil your pan. When you’re done, strip it off, throw it in the trash, and your pan is as good as new.

3. Tide Stick I learned about this one from my law school friend, Judy Dickson. For those of us who seem to have become messier over the years, but still have some public presence to maintain (or a vestige of pride), this is the perfect accessory. Spill wine or food, Coke or coffee on your nice new blouse? Sitting on a plane when the flight attendant manages to spill someone else’s drink all over you? Have you absent-mindedly written on your shirt with your pen? Well, Tide Stick is here to rescue you. With a little persistence and effort, it usually will take out the spot; even when it’s not a complete success, a tiny spot is far less humiliating that a large glob (especially since those globs like to fall somewhere in the chest area, where they’re difficult to hide unless you carry several large, matching brooches in your bag.)

Now it’s your turn to share your secrets. What great product discoveries have you made that the rest of us need to know about? What household helpers are so valuable that they’d almost make your desert island short list? Tell us. We want to know.

Gearing up for the upcoming launch of my new Thea Kozak mystery, Stalking Death, due in May, I’ve devised another one of Thea’s Quick and Dirty Recipes. These are tasty dishes which can be made effortlessly and in a hurry.

Thea’s Quick and Dirty Teriyaki Chicken

In a gallon-sized zipper bag, marinate as many pieces of chicken as

you plan to cook for several hours or overnight in a teriyaki marinade. (I

use KC Masterpiece Honey Teriyaki)

Arrange chicken in a baking dish and pour marinade over. Cut a green pepper

and some fresh pineapple into chunks and distribute over the chicken. Bake at

350 for 45 minutes or until chicken begins to brown. Serve over rice.

(You might add cashews or also use red peppers for color)

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