Life Hacks from Amandy

Part of me knows that I have no business giving life hacks or advice of any kind to other people because I’m a touch absurd. But that part of me is also amused by the things that I find make life more livable, more cosy, and sometimes more fun. I also really enjoy giving unwarranted advice. And, the past few weeks’ blogs have been heavy lifts so it feels like it’s time for something to lighten up.

1. My most recently invented life hack is for kind of a niche market: how to reattach your rearview mirror for less than $6. You see, at the end of December I decided to retrieve an electronic keyboard I’d lent to Gabby a year and a half ago. It just felt like the day to get it back so I could give it to its owner, my mom. And by give it back, I mean promptly put it in my own basement and wait for my mom to ask for it. Well on this day my typically spacious Corolla was already filled with items from Chris and Gabby’s house so the keyboard and its awkwardly shaped stand were the last additions. I chose the front passenger seat for the stand and used the closing of the door to snuggle it in place.I actually felt a sense of accomplishment that I’d fit everything into my car. And that’s when I heard a loud pop.

I decided to investigate the pop. I opened the door again and found my rearview mirror on the floor of the car and a large chunk of the glass of my windshield absent from its place. For a few days I drove Chas’s car to work and then decided to invent a life hack.

Materials: E6000 cancer-causing glue, scotch tape, ribbon, and hope. I’ve now been driving around with this for just shy of three months. I do have to explain to passengers why my rearview mirror swings back and forth and violently hits the roof of the car on wide turns but I’m used to it now. Sometimes I have to adjust the ribbon to get it back in the right spot (it’s never actually straight). But for the most part, it’s perfectly functional.



I took this when the glue was drying. I don’t use the broom anymore. 


2. Attach a headlamp to a jug of water when camping to create a makeshift lantern.

3. If it ever does become summer and you want to make iced coffee, make coffee ice cubes with leftover coffee and a spare ice cube tray. Use these for your iced coffee and notice the flavorful difference!

4. Podcasts are the perfect accompaniment to any easy and repetitive task. I listen to podcasts significantly more often than Chas would prefer. I will start with the most essential in case you’re a complete newb. Here are some recommendations:

  • Serial: Murder case from Baltimore/Baltimore County from 1999. Includes interviews with all parties potentially involved, including Adnan Syed who sits in prison to this day serving time for the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee. He maintains his innocence. You be the judge.
  • S Town: Story of an extreme eccentric residing in Woodstock, Alabama. “S Town” means “Shit Town.” You learn about John B. MacLemore, his town, and his take on the town, and everything else in the world. Not for those with sensitivities to cursing.
  • This American Life: Need I say more? ❤
  • Up and Vanished: Unsolved murder of a beauty queen/teacher in Georgia in the early 2000s. The host Payne Lindsey sets out to solve the murder of Tara Grinstead. You learn a lot about Georgia and a lot about its folk.
  • Atlanta Monster: Payne Lindsey again. This time he takes up a massive case known as the “Atlanta Child Murders.” Nearly 30 black children were murdered in Atlanta in the early 1980s and although there’s an arrest that’s masked as the end of the case, the person who sits behind bars, Wayne Williams, has actually not been convicted for these murders, but for the murders of two adults–a conviction that remains tenuous at best.
  • Embedded: NPR host Kelly McEvers dives deeply into a news story and covers it for one to five episodes. I recommend the piece about suicide in Greenland and all of her coverage of Trump.
  • Give Me the Deets: This is my friend Erin Drew and her grad school classmate Mary. They take on women’s issues, world issues, Erin’s mom, you name it. Start with “The Vagina Dialogues.” Also, they laugh a lot.
  • Dirty John: Story of a con-artist who “falls in love with” a woman. You learn how he attempted to tear apart her family and how adept he was at his con.
  • Ear Hustle: Tales of life in San Quentin State Prison. The hosts are a radio producer from the outside and a prisoner from the inside. They interview inmates, staff, and generally give a deep look into life at San Quentin.
  •  Two Dope Queens: Hilarious.
  • Soul Force PoliticsNeed something uplifting? This show is hosted by former Maryland gubernatorial candidate, Heather Mizeur. She takes an optimistic view of the world and presents it to you with laughter and a theme song from Melissa Etheridge. I highly recommend the episode with Erricka Bridgeford and the one with Cory Booker.

I know there are so many more that are worth your time and mine. Here’s a start.

Also I like to listen to Podcasts while I bathe. I stick my phone in the toothbrush holder and it creates a speaker-like effect. I find that females’ voices in particular are tough to hear when the water is running.

5. Paint your key tops with nail polish to keep them separate (or just go to Falkenhan’s and get your own cute design).

6. If you live with a significant other and you can’t find something, it’s probably in his/her car.

7. If you need things in bulk that are extremely random, Oriental Trading. Poker chips with your face on them? Look no further. Personalized guitar picks? What color would you like? Googly eyes, Jonas Brothers beverage napkins, mylar balloons shaped like carrots, Easter eggs with ninjas painted on them? Yes, yes, yes, yes! Aubrey and I grew up pouring over the pages of Oriental Trading catalogs. And, I think we’re better for it!


Oriental Trading purchase. Unfortunately, this did not stop my girls from stealing my pencils but it did help me call them out when they did it. (Sidenote: Does my patella look weird? Should I be concerned?)

8. If you’ve always been curious about therapy and how it could help you, you should probably just go to therapy. Everyone could benefit from talking things out. I’ve found that a lot of people are hesitant to take that leap. Is it effort? Stigma? Nervousness? Fear of doing something that’s just for yourself? Whatever it is, face it. Use your first session to discuss why you didn’t go earlier. This is for Baltimore in general: You can just call a few, leave messages, and see who gets back to you. I feel like fate will take it from there.

9. Are you actually still reading this?

10. Chas uses this website to find cheap flights. I believe I should credit Scott’s Cheap Flights to Greg Sclama who is a masterful flight finder. That said, you can sign up yourself or get your own Chas to do it, if you can’t imagine the stress of combing through the emails (me).

11. Wunderlist is a phone app that Chas and I use for all of our lists. We share the account so we can both add to the lists. We have a grocery list, Target list, Home Depot, movies we want to watch, etc. Then when you check something off, it makes a very satisfying PING noise anddd you can view the things you’ve already gotten or accomplished.

12. Okay, here’s a good one. Back pain? Stress? Anger? Exhaustion? Too “busy”? Feeling frumpy? Can’t tune out the “noise”? Yoga, yoga, yoga, yoga, yoga, yoga, yoga. Come see me at Core Power Yoga or at Joe’s Bike Shop. The first week at CPY is unlimited and free for everyone. Yoga at Joe’s is only $5.

13. “I have __________________ and I need to get rid of it (and I live in Baltimore).” Here. Also, VHS tapes. This benefits vets and recycles VHS tapes as well.

14. Goats Yelling Like Humans.

15. Take a picture of paperwork you know you will lose: business cards, invitations, whatever.

16. Apparently dryer sheets are full of horrid chemicals. I found articles on both sides of this debate but here’s one that seems reliable. I use dryer balls instead which are reusable and chemical-free (so they say). They are made of sheep wool and are a cost-effective, environmentally friendly, and perhaps healthier alternative to dryer sheets. You can add essential oils to the dryer balls to freshen the smell of your clothes.

17. Lauren says when you’re waiting for a single bathroom and you know it is occupied, knock anyway so that the occupant knows that someone is waiting. (Also, take note of the response you receive. Sometimes they’re funny.)

Side story that is almost completely irrelevant: One time Chas was in a onesie bathroom next to another onesie. While he was doing his business, someone was knocking on the other door saying, “Ma’am. Ma’am. I need to poop. Ma’am. Ma’am. I need to poop. Ma’am. Ma’am. I need to poop.” Just over and over again. Isn’t that amazing? 

18. The Giant app. I am no Don Whitby and I can’t even keep track of coupons let alone stack them, remember what I am buying, and hand them to the cashier. You can download the Giant app and preload your card with coups! The discounts come off automatically when you swipe your Bonus Card. Sometimes there’s a coupon that just says “$5 or $7 off your entire order.” Don, I know you have more to add to this and to this list. Feel free to hit us up in the comments.

19. The Dollar Store. I am talking the real dollar store, The Dollar Tree. Family Dollar has great bargains but it is not a dollar store. Here are some items you should only buy at The Dollar Tree (or similar alternative): brooms, dustpans, packs (yes, packs) of thank you notes, greeting cards, aluminum foil, Ziploc baggies, small clip-on bird figurines, Comet powdered bleach, wrapping paper (if you don’t care about its integrity), composition notebooks (unless Staples is having its back to school sale, in which case, you can get them there for a quarter), unattractive fake flowers, and fudge graham cookies–shout out to you, Grammom.

20. I drink apple cider vinegar every morning. It’s good for hair, skin, and digestion. I do two ounces of ACV in about double as much warm water. It really has helped my slow stomach.

21. Clean glass surfaces with coffee filters. Learned that one working at Panera!

22. If you feel sad, help someone else feel happy. Here are some ideas for ways to do this in Baltimore (again, me giving my own advice).

23. Go into each day with a smile. If you know that your default is pessimism, start by addressing that with yourself. Question it. Are you pessimistic because bad things have happened to you or do some bad things happen because you expect them to and in turn, welcome them? If you start off your day thinking it will suck, it will. Happiness can be a choice that you make actively every single day. Find tiny joys and the big ones will follow.

Does it feel like I’m your life coach now? If so, well I suppose you could do worse but you could also probably do better, like a person with an actual rearview mirror or a normal patella.

AmandyLaur El Salvador

Not sure why this photo. I just like it. And Lauren (on the right) gave us number 17. #elsalvie2009


5 thoughts on “Life Hacks from Amandy

  1. GET YOUR DAMNED MIRROR FIXED! No more advice to others until you get that done. Call the insurance company, tell them you’re windshield is broken, they’ll send the glass company to your car, it’ll be fixed in a couple of hours, and you pay your deductible amount. This is a safety violation and you could be given a ticket and barred from driving until it is fixed. Cut more coupons if you have to but get it done. If I’d have known this earlier I’d have been all over your ass about this – like the side view mirror that “barely hung there” for months. And now I’m going to hound you. No more tennis ball cuttings, borrowing the van, using my folding table. You’re even endangering Sunday dinner because how many times will you come over to listen to me harp on this? And I can harp baby, even without an actual harp. Don is there a coupon for this? Chas, time to put your foot down – right on that weird patella and hard enough to threaten her ability to do those strange yoga bendings. Remember what Willie Don Shaffer always said, “DO IT NOW”!
    Have a great day! LOL, D


  2. I agree with Dad – you REALLY should get that fixed! Doesn’t seem like it would be that hard to fix.
    And the flowers at the dollar store are not unattractive! I’ve made wreaths with them!


  3. Or maybe the life hack for the mirror is…Know when you should fix it yourself (clearly not the case for the mirror) or know when you should throw money at the problem to make it go away.


  4. Amanda – In response to the rear-view mirror, go on Groupon and use one of the many companies that offer windshield replacement. Many of the deals are something like $30 for $100 worth of service and Groupon always has a 20% off local deals code you can use to drive the price down to $24 for $100 worth of service. So yes Dick, there are coupons for that and an easy way to subsidize the cost without going through your insurance 🙂

    Other life Hacks by Don –
    1. Use to find great deals on local restaurants. Renee and I never spend more than $20 for the both of us to eat when we go out. We have found several gems in the Perry Hall Area to eat (Taste of Taj has excellent Indian and has $15 for $40 deals, Bulls Eye has great Pit Beef and Md crab soup and has $7.50 for $20 deals, and our Sushi go-to is Lemon and Ginger in Abingdon where we get $30 worth of Sushi for $11.25). There are also deals for places in the city and other surrounding areas. The trick is to wait for a code to get and extra 25% off the deal that is listed and stock up with multiple certificates at the discounted rates. The codes always appear right around holidays.

    2. Use and to score great deals on things from Amazon and Walmart. People on these sites monitor Amazon and Walmart and post the deals for you. It is really the lazy man’s way of extreme shopping. Deals for common items like diapers, oatmeal, mac n cheese, cleaning products, clothing, shoes , toys, etc. My most recent deal was 50lbs of chlorine tablets for the pool for $72 and free shipping…for comparison, the price as Leslie’s pool for the same container of chlorine is $129. So for any of you who come to the pool this summer, you can find comfort in the fact that your water is being purified at a discounted rate compared to other pools 🙂

    3. Do not be loyal to just one credit card. Many banks that issue credit cards reward you handsomely for trying out their cards. Last year, Renee and I stayed at the Embassy Suites in Myrtle Beach for free with our Hilton Points. This year we are staying 7 days at the all-inclusive Wyndham Fortuna Beach in the Bahamas for free and our airfare on American Airlines for all three of us was also paid for with airline points. An example of how this works…the Amex Hilton Ascend card offers 100,000 points for spending $3000. Once you get the card you can pay your monthly bills like your phone, cable, groceries, gas, ect. If you spend $1000 a month (which is very easy to do) you will meet the spending requirement and get 100,000 hilton points which is good for 2-3 free nights depending on which hotel you stay at. When you get close to your spending requirement, have your spouse open the same card and switch all of your spending to the new card so they can get 100,000 points. If you do this four time in a year you can easily have enough points to have a free 7-10 day vacation just by spending money you were going to spend anyway. Once you finish with the hilton cards, you can move onto the Marriott cards, then the Wyndham Cards, Choice Hotels, Best Western, etc. We never pay for hotel stays….ever. To make this work the trick is to pay your balance in full every month so you do not pay interest. And dont worry about your credit score. It is a myth that applying for multiple cards lowers your score. In the past two years have opened and closed over 40 credit cards and my credit score is still over 800.

    4. I have Virgin Mobile for my phone service. My monthly bill is $35 per month for unlimited talk, text, web. The other major carriers (Verizon, ATT, TMobile, Sprint, etc) were all more than double that for a single line plan. I save hundreds of dollars a year and i do not notice any reduction in service. The only downside is that service in the Outer Banks was none existent but I am not there that often for it to matter.

    5. If you are someone who enjoys going to the movies then get yourself a moviepass at You can go to an unlimited amount of movies for $6.95 per month. The pass is good at a lot of movie theaters in the Baltimore area including AMC Whitemarsh, the Senator, the Charles, Cinemark Theaters, etc. This is especially good if you are single because you could take your Tinder dates out to the movies at a discounted rate. You can even go to the same movie over and over and just pretend like you have not seen it…your new date will never even know. Remember though…you still need to sneak in your own snacks and candy like my mom taught me early on.

    6. If you are going to get divorced try to do it before you have kids. That way you are not paying child support for 18 years and you dont have to interact with your ex and whatever other randoms they would be exposing your child to.

    7. Drive your cars until they dont run anymore. A typical family has two car payments that average about $600 per month. Imagine what you could do with that money if you were not making car payments every month. You could increase your contribution rate to your 401k/403B, start a college fund for your child, save that money so that when you do need a new car you have a big down payment or can pay cash for it, store up a 6 month emergency fund so you are prepared for an unexpected medical issue or job loss, etc.


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