Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Wacky Cake

The legend is that this cake became popular during the depression when ingredients such as eggs were not always available.  So you'll hear it referred to as Depression Cake sometimes.  In my family we always called it Wacky Cake.  

Instead of eggs, vinegar, which reacts with the baking soda, gives this cake a nice airy texture.  It also is wonderfully fudgy and tastes great when you use a nice cocoa such as Hershey's Special Dark.

You can eat it as is, dust with powdered sugar or make a batch of buttercream (use 1/4 of this recipe) to frost this cake. It's generally a tasty, nice-textured cake.





This time I made the recipe into cupcakes.  To do that, follow the directions, but bake only for 20 minutes.  




On a side note, this cake can be made in the microwave!  My kids tried it once and it wasn't half bad.  Just mix and cook for 7-8 minutes.  Be sure to let it cool before you dive in.  Personally, though, I prefer the oven baked version.


Wacky Cake

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup cold water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9x9 or 8x8 pan.

Sift together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda.  Add remaining ingredients and mix well.  Pour into pan.  Bake for 35-40 minutes.

*Some people mix the ingredients right in the baking pan, but I'm not a fan of that!

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Tuesday, April 21, 2020

6 Ways Hydrogen Peroxide Kills Nasty Bugs...and, yes, that includes Coronavirus

Hydrogen peroxide is extremely useful.  I can't believe I didn't keep a bottle of this amazing disinfectant on hand at all times until a few years ago.  Now I use it every day!

With the coronavirus craziness going on I'm sure you are looking for good ways to disinfect.  But coronavirus isn't the only thing you should be thinking about. Below you can find a list of 6 nasty bugs you can safely kill with hydrogen peroxide.




Stomach Bug/aka Norovirus
I found out a few years ago after my daughter seemed to pick up every stomach bug that not everything will kill the norovirus, the virus that causes many vomiting illnesses.  I found out that two common things will kill it, though.  What a relief!  One of those two things is hydrogen peroxide.  The other is bleach, but we'll save that for another day.  And important to note here is that alcohol and alcohol based hand sanitizers will NOT disable the norovirus.  Neither will Lysol!  And nope, not those precious Clorox wipes (most Clorox wipes don't contain bleach).   

* Fun fact: Noro can live on surfaces for weeks!  Weeks! *

Hydrogen peroxide can be sprayed on surfaces after they have been cleaned from debris and left to dry for about 5 minutes.  If there is a bubbly residue after that simply wipe it away.

As for me, I spray down everything.  I even spray couches.  I'm not sure I'd recommend that for everyone, but my couches are old and used, so a little fading goes unnoticed.  

MRSA
There have been studies that show a vaporized mist of hydrogen peroxide over fabric and hard surfaces in hospitals all but eradicates medically resistant staph (MRSA).  Other studies like this one also show what a wonder peroxide can be!

MRSA is a very nasty bug and, as the name suggests, resistant to antibiotics.  Some high touch surfaces such as patient divider curtains and chairs are not able to be washed every single time they are used, so MRSA sits there, waiting for its next victim.  Hospitals who used a mist of peroxide found that almost no germs remained.  Major breakthrough I'd say.  

Mouthwash 
Hydrogen peroxide has been used as a mouthwash by many for years.  If you read the bottle, you'll see it's referred to as an oral debriding agent.  What the heck does that mean?  Well, basically, it helps to heal wounds such as canker sores by disinfecting your mouth.  Be sure to dilute it before you swish.  Mix one part 3% hydrogen peroxide to 1 part water, swish for 30 seconds and spit.  Easy.  

Fungus and Bacteria in the Shower
If you suffer with athlete's foot or just want to keep the mildew at bay, spritz your shower with a spray of household hydrogen peroxide.  It's such a simple way to keep your shower clean and hygienic.  I do it every day.  I also spray down the shower mats.  

Toothbrush bacteria
To keep your toothbrushes clean all you have to do is give them a little spray of hydrogen peroxide after you brush.  So easy.  And you barely use any at all.  

Coronavirus
Ah, yes, the topic you've been looking for.  Here's the abstract of a study showing hydrogen peroxide's ability to inactivate coronaviruses.  Yes, boring old hydrogen peroxide will disarm that nasty coronavirus.  The CDC agrees.  I have even seen it in stores when all of the isopropyl alcohol has gone missing.  If you see it, pick up a bottle.

If you are going to use this as a disinfectant, first wipe down any dirt or debris off the surface you want to spray.  Then spritz it with your spray bottle and let dry.  It could take up to 8 minutes for everything to be disabled so be patient.  On your sinks, counters or toilets, let it sit 15 minutes.  All those germs should be disabled in no time!

Click here to see an article on disinfection that includes hydrogen peroxide tips.  Here's another one you might like!

Warning!
The only real drawback of peroxide is that it can burn your skin slightly.  At the 3% concentration, the injury is quite minor, but keep this in mind if you spray it on a surface that you plan to touch right away.  I've had some white irritated spots on my fingers from cleaning, but they go away soon and once I wash my hands I don't feel a thing.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2020

6 Handy Egg Substitutes

With the Coronavirus craziness lately, grocery store shelves are sometimes bare and the things we want aren't always available.  Some people in other parts of the world live like this all the time, but in America we are usually lucky to have our shelves full to bursting.  But we are experiencing unprecedented times and it tends to be the basics that people stock up on.  That can mean there aren't enough basics to go around.  Eggs are one of those basics.  With that said, today I'll give you some substitutes for times when you just can't get your hands on a dozen.  



Egg Substitutes

1.  Flax

You know that flax you had on hand because you were going to start a healthy diet?  That flax that has been in the fridge for two months that you haven't touched?  Did you know that you can use it as an egg substitute.  It works best in quickbreads, cakes or cookies.    To make it, you mix 1 tablespoon of flax with 3 tablespoons of very hot water. 

Just a note, it will not be great for things like quiche (flax quiche, yuck!) or things where you need to whip the egg whites.


2.  Egg Beaters
This might seem like too simple a fix, but I noticed egg substitute was more prevalent on store shelves than eggs themselves.  Hopefully with stores implementing limits this won't continue to be a problem, but in the meantime, if you can get your hands on some egg beaters, just use 1/4 cup of egg substitute for every egg.  This can be used in most any recipe, even if eggs are the main ingredient.

3.  Baking Soda and Vinegar
This substitute is popular in the ubiquitous Wacky Cake or Depression Cake (recipe soon to follow!).  We used to eat this quite a bit when I was a kid.  And it wasn't because egg supply was low, it was because it was just delicious.  It was also a helpful recipe because my brother had severe allergic reactions to eggs.  To use this add 1 teaspoon of vinegar and 1 teaspoon of baking soda in place of one egg.


The three above are substitutes that I have personally used.  Below you can see a list of other viable substitutes that I haven't personally tried.

4.  Banana
1/2 banana for each egg - best for cakes, pancakes, and quick breads

5.  Applesauce
1/4 cup applesauce for each egg - best for cakes, pancakes and quick breads

6.  Yogurt
4 tablespoons of yogurt for each egg - best for cakes, pancakes and quick breads

Let me know if you try any of these egg substitutes or have ideas for ones I haven't mentioned.  I really love eggs myself, so I hope there are no real shortages in the future!

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Saturday, April 11, 2020

Easter Egg Nests

Here is a simple recipe for a fun Easter treat.  We are still home trying to do our part to flatten the coronavirus curve.  So we need to fill our time with fun activities.  I mean you have to do something besides fight with your kids, right?  Just kidding.  Maybe.  Anyway....  

This is one we do almost every year, but this year we almost didn't make them.  Last time I was at Walmart I couldn't find the chow mein noodles.  Things just aren't in stock as they normally would be.  But as luck would have it, my daughter found some at the back of our cabinet and they weren't stale.  Good find!  



Easter Egg Nests

Ingredients:

One can or bag of chow mein noodles
One bag of butterscotch chips
Cadbury mini eggs (or jellybeans)

Melt butterscotch chips in the microwave for 30 second intervals, stirring in between.  Once chips are melted, pour in chow mein noodles.  Using two spoons, carefully scoop out mixture and place on wax paper or plastic wrap, creating a nest shape.  While the nests are still melty, place 1-3 eggs on top.  Let set for at least a half hour before eating.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Paper Mache Easter Eggs


We made our string eggs the other day and that was fun, but because we were all home due to the coronavirus pandemic quarantine we definitely had some time on our hands for more fun crafts!  Enter paper mache eggs.  

I've done paper mache with the kids in the past, but my daughter was too young to appreciate it at the time.  This time, now that she's older, my she had a lot more fun.  She's actually quite the talented artist!  Look at her alien and Stitch.  So cute!



Before we started I did a little research and watched this video to decide what recipe we should use.  I was waffling between glue and flour recipes.  I've done the no-cook flour recipe multiple times in the past and it's definitely a good standby, but I was concerned about wasting resources when I wasn't sure the next time I would get to the grocery store.

We are still free to move around and go to the grocery store, but face masks are recommended and there is a limit of how many people can enter the store at one time.  I believe the limit at Walmart is 200 people.  That sounds like a lot, but if you've ever seen my local Walmart parking lot, you know that number is low.  All that to say, I wanted to use the gallon of glue I had on hand for slime making (now since banned in my household!) and not the precious flour in the cabinet.  



Above you can see all the newspaper we cut into strips and our containers filled with diluted glue.  We just dipped each strip in glue, used our fingers to remove the excess, and applied to the balloon.  We did a total of about 3 layers and it took about 2 days to dry fully.


I will say that the glue paper mache did seem to create a lumpier finished product.  It just didn't lay the same on the balloon as the flour version.  You can see in the picture below all of the lines from the paper.  I don't remember it being that stark with the flour recipe.  It's been a few years, though, so I could be mistaken.  I think maybe the thickness of the flour recipe creates a more uniform paste around the whole thing.  That's my theory, at least!



Below is one last photo of the eggs I painted.  They turned out alright, but I like my daughter's eggs best!  She really did a great job!




If you missed it, here is a link to the video I watched and it compares flour and glue paper mache. You decide what you like best!

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Tuesday, April 7, 2020

String Eggs


During this pandemic quarantine we have to find things to do.  One of those things can be making masks.  It's a worthy and useful thing to do.  If I'm honest, though, I like to add in some other things just for the pure fun of it!

I have a back-stock of craft activities and supplies, so I'm well prepared!  I made these eggs with my son one year with his homeschool group but we used yarn that time.  To put it bluntly, yarn was not the best option.  



I can't remember if we used decoupage medium the last time, but this time we used diluted Elmer's glue.  There is no specific ratio, just enough water to thin the glue to a slightly thinner consistency that will not stick in clumps to the string and a bit of salt to prevent molding.

So I mixed up some diluted glue and salt, and the kids and I blew up some water balloons and we got started.  All we did was dip the string into the glue, pinched our fingers and ran them down the string to take off the excess glue, and wrapped the string randomly.


I strung up a clothesline between rooms to dry the eggs. While it was certainly a slight hazard (LOL!), it made a great spot to dry our creations.  We dried them overnight and the kids were anxious to pop the balloons right when they got up in the morning.  


I was a little disappointed at how they came out.  You can see from the pictures that there is a lot of glue left behind.  I tried picking it out with tweezers but, yeah, after a couple minutes I was all set with that!  

They look cute piled in this Easter basket.  You could use them as a nice centerpiece for your table.  In the end, though, I decided to string them back up and hang them from the doorway.  They look adorable and they aren't close enough to pick at their imperfections.


With everything going on right now with COVID 19, it's nice to see a little festivity.  Easter is coming this weekend and it's sad to me that we can't spend it with others.  I will miss our choir cantata and family celebrations complete with ham and Easter egg hunts.  


We will do our own thing this year and it will still be fun.  We will have a turkey and candy and do an Easter egg hunt.  We will do some more crafts and still have a good time.

It's just funny.  For years I have thought of myself as an introvert, and I still think that's true.  But I realize getting out and being around people is vital to the human spirit.  I'm glad I have my family around even if the kids drive me nuts!

Here is a link if you'd like more detailed instructions.  Happy crafting!

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Sunday, April 5, 2020

Handmade Cloth Masks

The debate could go on for hours, but many reputable organizations are now recommending making your own face masks.  A couple weeks ago I could not decide if I wanted to jump on the bandwagon and help with the mask making, so I decided to do a little research and see if there was any evidence backing up use of cloth masks in our universal fight against the novel coronavirus.

After some quick googling, I came across this study and it finally convinced me that making masks was worth the effort.  Although homemade masks are significantly less useful than, say, n95 masks, they are better than no masks at all.  And if everyone wore one in public it would mean there would be less droplets from our mouths and noses in the air.  That means less virus in the air.  Logically that has to be a good thing!

I tried a couple different designs but landed on this one from Deaconess hospital in Indiana.  I take no credit for this video, it's just a helpful link!



                       


The design is so simple!  I've given a bunch away and have made some for myself and my family.  I've even started wearing them out to the store and starting next week I'll be wearing one at work.

If you watch the video, you'll see exactly how to do it.  Then you can click here to see the written instructions  I will give you the quick rundown so you know what to expect.  

Pick a tight weave cotton fabric.  Pillowcase or cotton T-shirts work.  Then cut out two 9" X 6" pieces of fabric.  Next cut two 7" pieces of 1/4" elastic.  Pin the "right" sides of the fabric together and begin sewing around the edges, starting in the middle of one 9" side.  

Once you get to a corner at the beginning of the short side, place the end of one piece of elastic at an angle and sew over it.  Sew most of the way down the 6" side.  Then, being careful not to twist, bring the elastic to the corner and sew over it.  Sew down the next 9" side and repeat what you just did.

Once you come back to the starting side, leave a hole large enough to flip your work inside out.  Then flip it.  Now sew around the edge twice to secure it.  This ensures a rugged mask that can be washed multiple times.

Like I said, for the best instructions, click the links I provided and watch the video.  It really is not too hard!



There are so many other designs out there, some of which include ties or filter pockets or multiple other fancy things.  For me, this is the design that I thought would be best for both my skill and production levels.

I've since run out of elastic so production has halted, but I found that those circular headbands that look like giant hair elastics can be easily substituted in for the 1/4" elastic.  So I made a few of those.  

You can make these for yourself and your family.  You can also make a bunch and donate them to a local hospital or nursing home.  Just check our the local town pages on Facebook and you'll see pleas for masks.  Trust me, someone will take them.  Just make sure to keep a couple for your family so you can help keep those droplets out of the air!

P.S. If you have found a pattern you like, tell me below. I'd love to hear what you all have been doing.  I just found a pattern using ties that I think I'll try sometime soon.  Here's the link.  I haven't tried it yet, so I can't say if it's a great one, but it looks promising!

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Saturday, April 4, 2020

Cooking and Crafting During COVID 19

I didn't plan on writing here again.  I haven't written in over a year and I thought it was time to shut down.  But unprecedented times are upon us and we all have a little more free time.  I found myself not wanting to start from scratch on a brand new platform, and yet I wanted an outlet and way to keep track of what I was doing during this very strange time. I wanted to add to what I've already done because it's fun.  

Honestly, I thought about switching all of my content over to Wordpress and even began the process.  I thought of doing this years ago because it would more easily allow me to turn a profit while blogging.  But I re-evaluated and remembered the purpose of this blog is not to make money (though that would be awesome!) but to keep a log of the things I make and do and share them with you.  I can do that perfectly well on the blogger platform.  

I love looking back at what I've made and some of the projects I've done with my kids.  I am a record-keeper by nature and being able to see the things I've created in the past really makes my heart happy.  It's almost like a way of leaving my mark in the world, however small.



So I'm starting back up again as I've done before.  The next post will be on the string eggs we've made for Easter.  This Easter will be void of large group celebrations and church gatherings.  The cantata our choir has practiced will go unsung and Maundy Thursday and Good Friday communion will go uncelebrated.  Schools will be empty again this week and we will stay at home.  Stores will be filled with masked and gloved people and shelves of toilet paper will be unfilled.  It is a weird time.

I've been trying add cooking and crafts to the (very loose) daily schedule.  I've also been giving the kids freedom to do things on their own.  But don't get me wrong, these times are trying and our patience grows thin more than I'd like.  So happy faces and pretty crafts may not reflect full reality!!  LOL!