What I learned last week

What I learned last week

I've been visiting family back in the Midwest this week. I knit several dishcloths (excellent plane knitting) and finished the first sleeve of my long-neglected Portland Cardigan. Oh, and family friends showed off their two adorable kiddos in the Elf Owl Hats I knit them two winters ago. Still fit!

I also learned three valuable, loosely DIY things that deserve to be shared. 

1. How to polish silver like a pro


This is nothing short of revolutionary to someone whose childhood chore list included polishing silver.

First, bring to boil a pot of water large enough to hold your items. For each liter of water add 1T of baking soda and strip of aluminum foil. Using tongs (it's boiling water after all) carefully drop in your jewelry, silverware, knickknacks and whatnot. Wait 15 seconds or more then pull them back out and place on a towel. When they are cool enough, either simply rinse off your items or, as we did, go ahead and give them a quick pass with silver cleaner paste to really seal the deal.

The whole process takes no time at all and the results will knock your socks off. Great Grandma's jet black teapot glows like new. Bracelets with impenetrable nooks and crannies sparkle.

As I understand it, this works via a chemical reaction that pulls the tarnish off your silver and onto the aluminum foil. And, indeed, after you boil a few really gnarly pieces the foil turns black. Of course, use with caution on your beloved silver. YMMV.

2. How to poach an egg

Poached egg and toast

I previously believed this to be accomplished by alchemy. Not so. Alton Brown's simple 5-step instructions work like a charm. Healthy protein-filled breakfast here I come.

Also, this is clearly the cutest way to cook an egg. Look at it. Adorable.

3. How to reason with bats

My childhood home is nestled in a lush deciduous forest amidst soaring tulip poplars, meandering streams brimming with geodes, and all manner of feisty varmints who, to be fair, were there first. The last few years, my mom has remarked that mice leave droppings on their front porch overnight in the summer. This visit I happened to look up one afternoon and, well, it is rodents, but of the winged sort.

Bats are valuable pollinators and a vital part of the ecosystem but, hot damn, they're creepy. We don't wish them harm, but we also would prefer they not sleep and poop right there. For our protection and the bats', we did not touch or directly disturb them, and my folks are going to contact a professional to check their attic for nests.

Short term, though, some internet research suggested the following easy and peaceful steps might encourage the little guys to find a better daytime roost. It seemed effective, though only time will tell. Again, YMMV. 

  • leave the porch light on overnight
  • play sounds on a speaker or iPad overnight (we even found a youtube video of weird screechy white noise just for this purpose)
  • hang pantyhose filled with mothballs (apparently they dislike the smell - of mothballs, not pantyhose)
  • hang strips of aluminum foil (purportedly messes with their sonar, plus causes unpleasant light reflections and wing contact)

All in all an educational and aluminum-foil-filled trip back to the heartland.