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A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

You Can Save It! How to Fix 8 Things You Care About

From yellowing photos to accidentally deleted computer files, find surprising and easy fixes for life’s biggest annoyances.

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Accidentally Deleted Computer File

First, stop everything you’re doing—including checking e-mail. “When you delete a file, the information isn’t immediately erased, even if you’ve emptied your trash,” says J. Alex Halderman, an assistant professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Michigan. “Your computer simply marks that file’s spot on the hard drive as available to store other data.” That means the more you use your computer, the more likely your hard drive will overwrite your deleted file with newer information. Next, turn to recovery software like iSkysoft Data Recovery for Mac ($89.95) or Windows ($39.95), which thoroughly scans your hard drive to retrieve deleted files.

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Misdated Plane Ticket

You may be able to get out of the change fee, but only if you act fast. Since 2012, all major airlines (even international ones) serving the United States have been required to allow consumers to cancel a purchased ticket within 24 hours of booking, as long as it was bought at least seven days before the departure date. Ask your airline for a refund or to rebook you without a fee.

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Yellowing Photos

If your shots are turning sepia, blame the sun. “Many photos are made of chemicals that can oxidize when exposed to light, causing them to turn yellow over time,” says Silvia Marinas-Feliner, museum conservation program director at New Mexico State University. For a fast fix, upload pictures onto your computer and use a free online image editor like PicMonkey to apply corrective filters. To safely display your shots, place them in UV-coated glass frames, which block damaging rays. Another handy storage option: Pop your favorite pictures into an album with uncoated polyester sleeves, which are free of harmful chemicals and acid.

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A Sore Neck

Here’s your quick pain prevention plan: Brew a cup of chamomile tea as soon as you start to feel achy—the plant can soothe muscle spasms. Then sit in a reclined position to reduce muscle tension, and apply a heating pad (or a towel soaked in hot water) to your neck for 20 minutes. “Heat increases blood circulation, which brings nutrients and natural pain-relieving chemicals to the area,” says Charles Swanik, PhD, a professor of physiology at the University of Delaware. Next, give yourself a gentle massage, which can trick your muscles into relaxing, adds Swanik.

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Bitter Coffee

An unexpected fix: In this case, you want to add a few pinches of table salt to the pot. “Salt seems to reduce the ‘bitter’ signal sent from your taste buds to your brain,” says Russell Keast, PhD, a professor of exercise and nutrition science at Deakin University in Australia, who studies taste. Also, sip your java from a stainless steel thermos. In a Food Quality and Preference study, the metal reduced the taste of bitterness.

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Gregory Reid for Reader's Digest

Dying Plants

Whether you’ve underwatered or overwatered your favorite houseplant, always repot. Since both maintenance mishaps result in brown, shriveled leaves, touch the soil to see if it’s damp or dry. Overwatering—the number one cause of problems¬—creates root rot, depriving the plant of air in the soil. Transferring it to a new pot ensures that there will be little lingering bacteria, says Barbara Pleasant, author of The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual. Underwatered plants, on the other hand, require a slightly larger pot, to let the roots stretch out and absorb more H2O. Sit the pot in a pan of water for five minutes to hydrate dry pockets deep within the soil. After repotting, spray the underwatered plant with coconut water—which contains cytokinins, substances that promote plant growth—three times a week until it perks up.

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Gregory Reid for Reader's Digest

Oversalted Food

Your plan of action depends on the dish. Salty soup is simple: “The salt is floating in the liquid, so you can add a sodium-absorbing starch, like potatoes, to sop it up,” advises James Briscione, director of culinary development at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City. Before serving, remove the potatoes and, in turn, the excess salt. For over-salted noodles, top with a milky sauce made with a mild cheese like Gouda, which will mask the salt. As for meat, “acid and fat counteract sodium, so serve it with a vinaigrette, like chimichurri, which has oil (fat) and vinegar (acid),” says Briscione. Finally, consider opening a bottle of bubbly. “A dry sparkling wine like prosecco washes away lingering saltiness with each sip,” he adds.

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Overroasted Vegetables

It’s all about the add-ons. To restore lost moisture, top your veggies with gravy and serve as a side dish, or mix them into a sauce to pour over pasta. To add texture, try battering or breading them, says Aliya LeeKong, author and judge on the Food Network’s Kitchen Casino. “Frying adds some of the crunchiness back to the dish.” Another idea: Use them for all kinds of delicious dips. “Combine with cream cheese and herbs like chives, cilantro, and parsley for a vegetable dip,” LeeKong says.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest