Secrets of the B&B
by Hester Swanson
Chez Prentice's talented housekeeper/cook shares a few secrets.
#1. No shredder? No Problem! Recently, a guest had a few business papers he needed to shred. We didn't have one of those electric chopper things, but we came up with another solution: I had him tear the papers into little bits, making the tears through the words or numbers he didn't want people to know. Then we put 1/4 of the pieces each in a different trash can, so none of the bits had any complete information. (PS. Our General Manager, Marie, wants you to know she has just bought a shredder.)
#2 If you keep finding ants walking in a line on floors and counters, try putting lemon juice or vinegar in a squirt bottle and squirting along their little road. They hate that sourness and it's harmless to kids and pets.
#3 If you decide to make that Michigan sauce (in DEATH DANGLES A PARTICIPLE), a good way to cook the hamburger meat in really tiny pieces is to do what I do: usea pastry cutter as you fry it. Of course, make sure you're frying it in a metal frying pan, or you'll tear up your non-stick stuff!
#4 We don't serve alcohol at Chez Prentice, but people can BYOB and we end up with a lot of corks. I say, "waste not, want not," and save the wine corks. When we had some kids staying here who were bored one time, I gave them a handful of corks and a marker and told them to put faces on them and make people. You wouldn't believe the fun they had, acting out stories with these little guys. Now, I save them in a little bowl in the kitchen. The little boys like to play soldier with them and the little girls like to play families.
#5 If you like to make your own bread, you know that you have to knead the dough. But how do you know when it's kneaded enough? Check your earlobe. Yes, the dough should feel just like your earlobe. Of course, you've got to take out any earrings before you do it, and don't be surprised if you end up with flour on your neck!
#6 At Chez Prentice, we like to use odd pieces of glassware or china in unusual ways. Here's on old sugar bowl, holding Q-tips. Small antique saucers and little bowls make great soap dishes. These things give our house a nice, old-fashioned feeling.
#7 The linens--towels, napkins, sheets, and all that--at Chez Prentice smell wonderful because of my little secret: I save those perfume samples that fall out of magazines and slide them between the layers in the linen closet. Many of my friends at church save them for me, so I always have plenty.
#8 If you need hard-boiled eggs in a recipe, such as egg salad or potato salad, try using an egg poacher with the little segments in it instead of waiting longer for eggs to boil. You just cook the eggs till they're very hard, then put 'em on a plate in the fridge to cool, if necessary. There's no need to peel hot eggs and the process seems to me to be much quicker than boiling eggs. It's the way I do hard-boiled eggs now.
#9 Our local supermarket has a special rack where they offer slightly out-of-date and bruised fruits or vegetables. I recently bought a bag of lemons from that rack, six for fifty cents. I cut the lemons in half and put them in the freezer in a plastic bag. Whenever the disposal needs freshening, I just pop one of the frozen lemon halves and it does the trick and helps sharpen the blades, too.
#10 At Chez Prentice B&B, the guests don't always realize that makeup can make a mess of our nice, light-colored towels and washcloths. Somebody suggested that we provide BLACK washcloths, especially for makeup. It has worked like a charm!
#11 I'm famous for my lemon-apricot pound cake, but the apricot nectar I need costs a fortune at the supermarket. I found the same thing in the Hispanic section of the same market, much cheaper. They have other things, too, like bay leaves and vanilla beans that don't cost as much, either.
#12 There's another thing I really like in the Hispanic section: ham flavor packets. There's supposed to be all the flavor of a half-pound of ham in each packet. I can't promise you that, but it does make green beans, butter beans, any beans taste good and soup, too.
#13 When my nephews were small, I used to get them involved in helping with the laundry by pretending that the clothes dryer was a "cave" filled with "treasure," that we needed to discover and pull out and put in the "treasure basket." They were really into being pirates and loved it when I gave them saltines as "hardtack." It was fun for both of us. I can't wait until Amelia's little girl gets big enough to pretend with!
#14 We've had a baby hanging around here lately, and I learned that when that sweet little angel knocks over a glass of juice or milk or coffee or something, causing a messy emergency, you can just reach in her diaper bag and grab one of those disposable ones. It's terrific for soaking up liquid--obviously.
#15 My husband loves hamburger pickles, but he always puts the lid back on too tight. These days, I keep a wide rubber band around the tops of the jars my Bert opens and closes. Gives my poor hands something to grip. To tell you the truth, I've started putting them around almost all the jars in the kitchen. They even work with the new jars that haven't been opened yet.
#16 The guests at the B&B say I fix the fluffiest pancakes they've ever tasted. My secret? Club soda instead of the usual liquid. I also like to use a 1 lb coffee can like a cookie cutter to trim off the ragged edges and get 'em looking all the same.
#17 Even in town, the deer like to eat our flowers and things. Over at our house, we plant marigolds. The deer don't like them as much as our neighbor's daffodils! By the way, don't bother putting out hair from your hairbrush to scare 'em away. It doesn't work. At least, they're not scared of my hair. Maybe it's the hairspray.
#18 Bert makes sure he mows the lawn often in the spring and summer. We have mosquitoes as big as your head around here and they like to rest on the tops of weeds and high grasses.