By Andy Simmons
My parents dropped by to help with a project I'd put off -- cleaning the house. Now, Mom and Dad are -- hmm, how do I put this delicately? -- cheap! So when I offered to pick up cleaning supplies, they said, "Never mind. We have everything we need right here in the house. Where's the vinegar?"
"Here," I said, bringing out the 12-year-old balsamic. Mom pushed past me and found the distilled white vinegar. She instructed me to make a sandwich and get out of her way.
As I ate my ham on white, I watched her tackle a carpet stain with the vinegar. I thought it a bit odd, but less so than her sniffing my bookshelf. When one book caused her nose to wrinkle, she walked it over to the kitchen and deposited it into the freezer.
"That'll get rid of that stale odor for a while," she said. I nodded in agreement, although I wasn't sure what I was agreeing to. "Hey, there's broken glass here. Did you do it?"
I shrugged. Grabbing the sandwich out of my hand, Mom threw the ham to the dog, wiped the mayo across my scalp, and carefully mopped up the glass shards with the fresh bread.
"Hey!" I protested.
"Mayonnaise is a hair conditioner," she said. "And picking up tiny slivers of glass is easy with white bread."
Mom had lost her marbles, and I thought it only fitting that her husband should know. I found Dad in the yard mixing an ounce of vodka, some liquid dish soap, and two cups of water in a spray bottle.
"I'm hunting weeds," he said, seeing my puzzled expression.
"Apply this mixture on a sunny day." Spritz. "It won't kill the weeds." Spritz. "But the alcohol does dry 'em up." Spritz, spritz.
"You do realize that's the Grey Goose?" He didn't care.
Is everyone crazy? I thought as I walked back into the house, where Mom was buffing my shoes with banana peels.
"Mom, what are you ..." BAM! I slipped on a banana peel. "Ooh, my back ..."
"Don't move," she yelled. "I'll get the meat tenderizer!"
But first she pulled off my shoe, grabbed a sock and disappeared into the kitchen. I tried to run for my life, but Mom was quick. She returned with a paste made from meat tenderizer and water, and rubbed it on the small of my back. She then placed my sock -- which she'd filled with dried kidney beans and microwaved for thirty seconds -- over the paste.
Before I had a chance to call 911, a curious thing happened -- my back began to feel better! The enzymes in the meat tenderizer were soothing my aching muscles. And the beanbag sock worked like a heating pad.
Suddenly, I saw things anew. My shoes were clean. And though the carpet smelled like salad dressing, the stain was gone. Out in the yard stood Dad, sipping his weed killer and admiring his handiwork: shriveled weeds.
As crazy as it sounds, my parents were right. We don't always have to buy specialized cleaners or expensive chemical-filled concoctions. We already own many of the things we need to clean a house, mend a household item, or soothe a bruised back.
To celebrate my clean house, I invited them to stay for dinner. They declined. They had company coming over and had to make a big salad.
"First," said Mom, "I have to throw the lettuce into the washing machine."
Spin salad: Place a pillowcase inside another; fill with rinsed lettuce leaves; tie both pillowcases with string and throw into the washing machine with a towel for balance. Run the spin cycle, and you've turned your washer into a giant salad spinner.
Remove makeup: Bear with us on this one, but if you're all out of makeup remover, a dab of shortening will do the trick.
Get chewing gum out of your hair: Somehow, Junior's bubblegum ended up stuck in your hair. No problem. Apply peanut butter, and rub the gum until it comes out.
Facial: Don't waste mustard on a hot dog -- spread it on your face instead! Use a mild yellow brand to soothe and stimulate your skin. But keep away from your eyes and test on a small area first to make sure it doesn't irritate you.
Smelly armpits: Not only will splashing a little vinegar under your arms reduce B.O., this method also does away with deodorant stains on your blouse or shirt.
Emergency shaving cream: Out of shaving cream? Take the butter from your toast and slather it onto your wet skin for a smooth shave.
Dry up pimples: The only thing worse than being a teen with a zit is being an adult with one. Crush an aspirin and add a bit of water. Apply the paste to the pimple, wait a few minutes, and then wash off. It will reduce the redness and relieve the sting.
Soften dry, scaly elbows: Suffer from dinosaur elbows? Treat them with a lemon juice/baking soda paste.
Remove a splinter: If digging around your finger with a needle to get a splinter out doesn't appeal to you, then cover the wound with tape. After three days, pull off the tape and the splinter may come with it.
Eliminate odors from hands: You've made shrimp with garlic and Limburger cheese, and now your hands stink. Rubbing a few coffee beans together releases oil from the beans, which absorbs the smell.
Sneaker deodorizer: If the cat passes out every time you take off your sneakers, it's time to act. Fill a couple of old socks with scented cat litter, tie them shut, and stuff them in your sneakers overnight.