Let me start this month’s column by saying, “Thank you!” to all those who continue to write in about their concerns and difficulties with finding recycling centers. I do appreciate your comments, and I do my best to forward them on to other interested parties. That said; let’s move on to a new topic: how to hack real life!

Now, some of you may be wondering what exactly that means. How in the world can you “hack” real life? In a nutshell, hacking in this sense is just a way to customize and/or alter a situation, item or difficulty to make circumstances a little easier. So, here are some examples of ways in which you can hack your environment.

The flash freeze hack

Spring is here and your garden is well underway, but now you have more fruits and vegetables than you can ever eat! After you’ve cooked what you want, and given away all that you can, what can you do with the remainder? Here’s a tip for preserving the fruits of your labor: flash freeze your produce yourself right at home! The process does take a bit of upfront time, but you’ll love how easy it makes cooking later. You’ll need a few things:

  1. A cookie sheet that will fit into your freezer
  2. Some zip lock bags
  3. A Sharpie, or other marker

Ok, to start the process you will need to stop the ripening process. There are enzymes in vegetables that cause them to ripen. An easy way to stop that process is to blanch the vegetables. (For a detailed list of blanching techniques and times, visit http://extension.missouri.edu/publications/DisplayPub.aspx?P=GH1503). After you’re done blanching your vegetables, cut them up and lay them out on your cookie sheet in a single layer. Then take a paper towel and pat them dry.

Once they’re mostly dry, place the cookie sheet in the freezer for a few minutes. The leftover water will speed the freezing process and cause your veggies to flash freeze! You can then sort them into your individual bags, mark them with the date and keep them in your freezer as ready-made packages for cooking later.

The cell phone vibration hack

If you’re like me, you charge your cell phone on your night stand while you sleep. Even with the phone on vibrate, the noise of an incoming e-mail/text/call can be quite startling in a really quiet room. So, aside from turning the phone off (which is probably the best idea, I admit), what can you do to quiet down the vibration?

Here’s a tip – try putting a rubber band (or two) around the phone. The rubber will absorb the vibration causing less to transfer to the wood surface. You can also try setting your phone on an old mouse pad, or any other material that will act as a buffer. If you experience a similar problem on your desk at work, these tips work great there as well!

The elevator hack

Have you ever been in a hurry to get to your floor, but the 3 year-old you’re sharing the elevator with has pushed all the buttons? Rather than visiting every single one of your hotel’s 49 floors before reaching your room on the 50th floor, you can employ this simple little hack.

To skip to your floor, once the doors open simply press and hold the close door button while simultaneously pressing your floor. Most elevators will then skip the other floors and move straight to your desired location.