September 25, 2007

Ten housekeeping tips for Honduras

In a quick switch from corruption buster to ama de casa (housewife), here are few tips I've learned since moving to the tropics:

10. Stove extractor - Use it and use it often. Not only does it suction the hot air out of your kitchen, it limits the coating of manteca grease to about one square meter of your kitchen.

9. Dust - a) get used to it, b) budget a zillion dollars for air conditioning and seal up your house, or c) hire an empleada (housekeeper) − oh, never mind, just get used to it.

8. Laundry - Don't underestimate the value of a pila (concrete wash tub), the bigger the better. In addition to hand washing, they are good for baby and dog baths, washing large household items, storing water during a water outage, thawing turkeys, and a myriad of other things.

7. Stocking a pantry - This is a tough one. You have to find a balance between stocking up for potential disasters like hurricanes, bridges going out, or a city-wide shortage of tea bags, and maintaining only what you can use over a few weeks because of the climate. Pasta molds. Unopened cookies and crackers get soggy. Even canned food doesn't last as long.

6. Framed pictures - Clean behind them frequently. You'll find spiders, spider webs, ticks, gecko poop, and all sorts of embarrassing nasties.

5. Clothes washer problems - The majority of your problems with your clothes washer will be clogged inlets or outlets from the unfiltered water. Check those first before calling a repairman. Other appliance problems - Electrical overages and brownouts will be the major cause of problems. Good luck finding repairmen or parts.

4. Spices - never buy spices with salt included. They will turn into a nasty looking brown clump of moisture. Many spices will mold, so keep your stash of spices in the freezer or use them within a few weeks.

3. Salt - A pinch of corn starch in the normal salt shaker will keep the salt free-running for a month or two. Rice in the salt shaker is effective for only a couple of weeks. Kosher salt doesn't get so wet and clumpy, but they don't sell it here in La Ceiba. Import it and keep some in an old fashioned sugar shaker.

2. Flour, sugar, cornmeal, etc: A bay leaf or two in the canister will keep the bugs away. It's guaranteed, unless you brought the bugs or bug eggs home with you in the package from the store.

And La Gringa's best tip of all:

1. Window screens - It is important to keep window screens clean because dirty screens block the breeze. Difficult to remove window screens can be semi-cleaned by rubbing an old damp bath towel over the surface, but I've found the best thing yet.

A swivel-headed floor duster with a damp, removable, washable terrycloth cover does an excellent job and helps you to reach the top of the screens without carrying a ladder around with you. Easy to use inside and outside when the handle is an adjustable length. Rinse the terrycloth cover frequently during use.

You'll thank me for this one.

Related article:

And now a word from our sponsers (Pumice stone for sinks and toilets)

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