Monday, December 15, 2014

Moist Chocolate Mug Cake (Vegan)

This post needs to start with a complete disclosure.  This is not my recipe.  I found this chocolately delight late one night when searching the inter webs for an easy late night snack.


Much love and credit to Julie at Table for Two.  She originally developed this recipe!

Moist Chocolate Mug Cake
makes 1
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ¼ tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tbsp. granulated sugar (you can add 1 tbsp. more if you like it a bit sweeter)
  • ⅛ tsp. salt
  • ¼ cup + 1 tbsp. milk (soy milk or almond milk is fine)
  • 2 tbsp. neutral flavored oil (I like canola but you could also use canola)
  • Optional - 1 tbsp. hazelnut chocolate spread OR chocolate chips (not both - use one or the other)
Instructions:
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients.
  2. Whisk in the milk and oil until all ingredients are combined and batter has no clumps.
  3. Spray 1 mug with cooking spray. (I use Pam Baking spray but some people skip this step entirely)
  4. Pour batter into a microwave-safe mug. Mine was a 14-ounce mug. You want enough head space for the cake to rise without pouring over.
  5. Microwave mug cake for 70 seconds on high (PLEASE READ NOTES CAREFULLY BELOW)
  6. Leave the microwave door closed and allow the cake to rest for 60 seconds.
  7. Carefully remove from microwave and enjoy!

Top with ice cream, whipped cream or just eat it plain!
Notes:
Please note that ALL microwaves are different therefore can yield different results and can overcook this mug cake if you aren't careful. My microwave is 950 watts and I cooked mine on 100% power for 70 seconds. Knowing this information, it may help you better judge how long to cook yours for and at what power.
**This recipe is specifically made for the microwave.


More Mug Cakes

Monday, December 8, 2014

Menstrual Cups 101

MeLuna Cups
I was having a conversation this weekend with some girlfriends about using menstrual cups.  There were too many questions to answer in a public setting so it occurred to me that this might be a good topic for my blog.



I'll give you the scoop on my experience - you can decide for yourself.

WHY use a cup?
The bottom line for me is that it is convenient, easy and green.  I know that you're not supposed to flush tampons, so at my house they end up wrapped in toilet paper and tossed into the trash - YUCK!  (I confess that I used to flush them when out in public. I don't like the messiness/wetness of pads.  Plus I hated shuffling off to the ladies room with a bag in tow when mother nature calls.  Finally, i'm a tree-huggy kind of person.  We use as much reusable everything as we can at home.  Using a cups is in line with my efforts to reduce waste.

Is is MESSY?
No, not for me.  NOW - if you're a beginner you could make some mistakes that might make it messy.  For example I turned on the water full blast to rinse my cup.  That sent dirty water spraying all over the sink.  Not my smartest moment!  Other than that, it's not messy.  On your heaviest days you may get blood on your hands, but that's pretty similar to tampon use.

Is it HARD to use?
There is a learning curve but it's not hard to use.  Once you've found an insertion fold that works for you it's easy peasy!

How do you LEARN?
I talked to my cup wearing friends and I watched YouTube video's by a girl names Bree Farmer.  Bree is the cup guru!  She's only about 16 years old but she knows EVERYTHING about cups.  Bree was truly a godsend when I was trying to figure this all out.  Find Bree on her Precious Stars Pads channel.  I'll post a few of her video's below in this blog.

Will a cup WORK FOR ME?
Probably, yes.  But there a few factors to consider so I don't know.  I have friends who can't get the cup to fit correctly.  They're fine for most women and i've never had any problems, but I can't promise that a cup will work for everyone.

HOW does the cup work?
The cup goes into the vagina just like a tampon.  Instead of absorbing the flow it catches it.  A couple of times a day you remove the cup, dump it into the toilet and reinsert.  Because a cup holds more than a tampon you typically spend MUCH LESS time in the ladies room than with pads or tampons.

Will it LEAK?
When properly inserted no.  The cup will leak if it's not put in right or when it is full. 

How Do I know when the cup is full?
For this you'll have to learn your body and your cycle.  For my first cycle I checked the cup a lot.  These days I know what to expect.  To check and see if the cup if full, simply wipe.  If there is staining on the toilet paper it's time to empty the cup.  Cups typically hold 2x the amount of a super plus tampon, so even on your heaviest day you'll only need to check/empty 1-2 times during work/school the day.



Where can you BUY a cup?
In the US, Diva cups are available at Target and other major drug stores.  A greater variety is available online.  Amazon.com sells several varieties at good prices.

How EXPENSIVE is a cup?
There are SUPER cheap cups available on Amazon.com and other sites.  These cups likely work well but may not last very long.  Expect to pay between $25-$50 for a good quality cup.  Expect it to last approx 8 years (maybe longer).

How MANY cups do I need?
You could totally get away with having just 1 cup.  I have 3.  Most people I know have 2.  One stays in my purse at all times (never know when you'll need it).  The second is usually in my bathroom.  It's my regular use cup. (The 3rd cup was a cheapo cup that I never liked or used).   

How is it REMOVED?
Just like a tampon has a string, menstrual cups have a stem or ball.  You'll need to trim the stem to fit your needs and your body.  Some people remove the stem entirely.  To remove the cup pull the stem just like you would a tampon string.

Does it HURT to put in?
No.  If it hurts you're probably doing something wrong.  If you're a virgin or a first time cup user you might want to put a drop of lube on the edge of the cup to get it inserted the first time.  Also, DO NOT try a dry run.  Wait until you have you period to try it out.  The natural lube of the flow with make insertion MUCH easier!

WHICH CUP is right for me?
There are SO MANY cups available that it can seem overwhelming to figure out which one will work best for you.  I say buy whatever is easily available and affordable to you.  Some cups have sizing.  Follow the manufacturer's directions re: sizing.  There are sometimes different sized depending on age, if you've had a baby and other factors. 




MY FIRST TIME using a menstrual cup
The biggest question I had when I first started using a cup was "what is it like?"  Like with anything it's different for different people.  I'll explain (in detail) what it was like for me.

5am  I woke up in the morning with my period.  I went to the bathroom washed my hands and my cup with soap and water.  I used the punch down fold to insert my Moon Cup.  (More on folds later) My first day is typically a medium/heavy flow day.  Also, when my period starts there is usually significant clotting the first few hours.  Because a clot can fill the cup quickly I knew that I would need to empty the cup in about 2-3 hours.

Approx 7:30am.  I entered a public restroom and washed my hands with soap and water.  In the stall I  peed, removed the cup, dumped out the clots and blood and reinserted the cup.  I washed my hands and left the bathroom.

Approx 10:30am.  I had to pee so I washed my hands and used the bathroom.  I used my finger to gently press the side of the cup to see if it was full.  There was no staining when I wiped so I left the cup in place.  Washed my hands and left the ladies room.

Approx 1pm (lunch time).  Washed my hands and Peed.  I removed/emptied/reinserted the cup.  Washed my hands and left the ladies room.

Approx 5pm.  (time to leave work).  I entered the ladies room and washed my hands.  Removed/emptied/reinserted the cup.  Washed my hands again and left the restroom.

9:00pm (relax/bed time).  I wash my hands and removed/emptied the cup.  Washed the cup with soap and water and reinsert it for the night.  Because i'll be wearing it over night i'll use a panty liner in case of leaks.

5am:  First thing in the morning I washed my hands remove/empty and wash the cup.  I reinserted it for the day.

TYPICAL DAY using the cup
On a regular day I only remove the cup when I get up and when I go to bed.  I don't have to bother it during the day.  Also, I only wash the cup when i'm at home.  It's not something that I want to deal with in a public restroom.


At the end of the cycle, wash the cup with soap and water and put it away until next time.  Some women boil the cup or rinse with peroxide to prevent staining.

Things I wish I'd known
In every new situation there are things that I wish i'd known.  I can't say what those things will be for you, but here are the things I wished I'd known.

- Trust the cup.  As a beginner I kept thinking "I don't feel anything, maybe it's not filling, maybe something is wrong."  I kept taking the cup out to check it.  Like 5-6 times a day.  Taking the cup in and out so much left me sore.  I wish i'd known to trust that everything was working fine.  You'll know if something is off.

- There is a learning curve.  I assumed that the learning curve was for everyone else, but not for me.  It took me a few trys to get the cup out without causing myself pain.  I had to figure out techniques that worked for me.  For example, I can only git it in using the punch down fold.  I like the stem trimmed to about 1/4" and I have to press down the front of the cup to remove it.  It took me 2-3 cycles to learn all of that.

- Don't obsess.  I'm not much but i'm all I think about. :)  I kind of obsess about everything.  My cup was no different.  In the beginning I wanted a cup in every color, every softness and I had to know absolutely everything about every cup ever made.  In the end i'm a middle of the road girl.  A standard cup works best for me.  (not too hard, not too soft).  I really only need 1-2 (but I own 3).  Having glitter on a cup doesn't make it any better or worse.  In the end, all of this is lovely, personal and really not such a big deal.

- Reactions of others may vary.  When I find something new I'm excited to talk about it to anyone who will listen.  There are people in my life who are TOTALLY grossed about by cup use.  There are those too who are fascinated.  Because I'm comfortable with my body and cup use I assumed that other women would feel the same.  There are plenty of women for whom the idea of blood, cup use and even tampon use are 100% taboo and totally disgusting.

- Wear a pad for backup.  On heavy days or when I sleep, I wear a pad for backup.  On normal flow days or light nights it's 100% unnecessary.  You can make cloth pads if you like.  A complete tutorial is here.

- You can put the cup in early.  If you're expecting your period you can put the cup in.  Because it does not absorb it won't dry out your vagina like a tampon would.

More information:

Live Journal has a GREAT page

FOLDing techniques.



Thursday, December 4, 2014

DIY - Wireless TV / Tablet Stand

From the time I was a child I was 100% addicted to TV.  I even studied television in college.  For a variety of reasons I don't work in television today, but that has not kept me from being innovative where television is concerned.

Wall Mounted Wireless TV
This weekend I made my first ever wireless floating TV stand.


I have a small galley style kitchen without a ton of counter space.  Because I spend so much time there, I want the kitchen to be a comfortable place - including a place for me to watch Law and Order while loading the dishwasher.

For years I had a tiny, corded, wall mounted TV that had a cable cord plugged into the back.  The cable company changed things around so that every TV had to have a cable box.  Well I don't have space for a cable box in the kitchen.  Mama needed a plan!

Step 1 for me was to buy a tablet computer.  (I got the Kindle Fire) but any tablet computer will do.  Next I got Netflix and the app from the cable company that allows me to watch TV on my tablet.  I also have ABC Go and a few other TV watching apps.

Step 2 was a good tablet stand.  I love the origami stand.

Origami Stand for Kindle
Back view of origami stand for Kindle 
Front View of Origami Stand for Kindle
With the TV watching app, non glare screen and a good stand things were just about perfect.  Just about.

The only remaining problem is that the tablet and stand were usually in the way.  I had to prop it up on a bowl or pan to make it high enough to be easily seen.  While I'm cooking, flour, water or other food would get splashed on it.  When the battery runs low the charging cable was usually in the way.

Last week I came up with a way to watch TV on the bus during my commute (I told you I was television obsessed).


You can read all about the bus mount here.  

I used the same idea, to mount my tablet/TV to my kitchen wall.  This is SO EASY that I feel silly for not thinking of it sooner!

In my case, It was important for me to have a wall mount that allowed me to leave the origami case on the tablet.  Sometimes I need to take the tablet into other rooms.

So - here's what I did.

Using 12-gauge vinyl from the fabric store, I made a pattern.


I cut the vinyl large enough to wrap around the tablet in its case.

12 gauge vinyl cut to size
I made a few cuts in the vinyl so that it would fit my tablet and its case.




Fit the vinyl wrap over the tablet
Slip the tab through the hanging slot

Ready to hang
Charge as necessary
So that's it!

Wireless Kitchen TV at last!

Be sure to check out all of my craft projects on the CRAFTS page at the top of this blog!

Monday, December 1, 2014

DIY - Poo Pourri - Preventing Bathroom Stink!

We need to have a frank talk about an embarrassing problem.  The problem, my friends, is Bathroom Stink!

We are a family of 5 and trust me when I tell you that bathroom stink is a very real issue!  The good news is that we've solved the problem quickly and cheaply and I'll show you how!

The key here is to PREVENT bathroom stink rather than to try and cover it after the fact.

There are lots of commercial products on the market for this purpose.  Most notably a toilet spray called Poo Pourri.  I have nothing bad to say about Poo Pourri - it works.   The problem is that it is (in my opinion) needlessly expensive!

Poo Pourri Toilet Spray

No. 2 Toilet Spray

DIY Toilet Spray


First, let’s review the basic concept:

If you add scented oil to the toilet water before you add anything stinky to the toilet, the smell gets trapped under the layer of oil.

How it works


Based on that concept, you could ANY scented oil.   This, my friends, is a DIY opportunity!


Leaving the bathroom smelling clean and fresh!

Making a DIY Version - 
Because you're just adding scented oil to the toilet water, any scented oil will work.  Apply 2-4 drops of essential oil in toilet water before you make a deposit leaves the ladies room smelling clean and fresh.

My family likes Lemon oil best.    

Lemon Oil

If you'd rather have a spray - No Problem!

If you decide that you’d rather have a bottle for spray, no problem, add 40-50 drops of scented oil to a 2 oz bottle of water (or alcohol) and make a spray.  Add 2-3 squirts of spray to the toilet before you go and voila!  You’re all set!

Blogger and Super Woman Jillee has a Poo Pourii knock off too.  Here's her recipe!


Pro Tips: 
  • Make a label with instructions for the drops or the spray.  It’s counter intuitive to spray the toilet BEFORE you go.  A few simple instructions solve this problem quickly.  **Instructions listed below.
  • Also, in the spirit of being delicate and ladylike, we call these “Doo Drops” or “No 2 Spray”
  • Make sure the drops hit the water.  If they hit the side of the bowl and have to slide down into the bowl, they take a little longer to work. 
  • You can add the drops after you’re already begun to go, but for best results put the drops in as soon as you discover that you need them.
  • Husbands or (teenage boys) might require a few extra drops.
  • If you buy scented oil online, it might not come in dropper bottles.  You can buy glass dropper bottles online. They are called Euro Droppers and they're available at Amazon.com or Etsy.com.
Euro Dropper Glass Bottles


Other Helpful Tips:

*  Keep a little bottle of essential oil in your purse to mask "nature's call" when you're out and about or visiting friends.
*  If you've visiting friends and family and you don't have your drops on hand, check for bath oil, perfume or tea tree oil.  All three work well in masking unpleasant toilet smells.  Just make sure to add them to the bowl BEFORE you go.  
*  If you're having a party or gathering at your home, every hour or so add a few drops (or squirts) to the toilet for who ever visits the bathroom next.


Leave drops (with instructions) in the bathroom


** Words for Instruction Label:

"DOO Drops"  To reduce or eliminate bathroom odor: Add 2-4 drops of Doo Drops (to toilet water) before you drop a "doo".



Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Cinnamon Swirl French Toast Bites





A while back  I did a blog post on How To Make Cinnamon Swirl Bread .



It's still a great recipe and I highly recommend it!

Yesterday I made 2 loaves of cinnamon swirl bread and turned it into french toast bites for the kids.

If cut the bread into thick cubes and soaked it in french toast batter.

French Toast Batter (1 serving)

2 eggs lightly beaten
1 Tablespoon milk (dairy or non-dairy)


Allow the bread to soak for about 5 minutes then pan fry as usual.





So Delish!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Refashion - Tutu Dress


The idea for this dress came to me when I saw a (kind of trampy) tutu dress at GoodWill.  I wanted to make dress up clothes for my little niece.  The problem with commercially available dress up clothes for kids are that the quality is so poor.  One wash and they're done for.  My idea was to make machine washable play dresses for little girls.  This dress is the first step on my path.

Here's the original dress.

Original Dress
It's kind of hard to tell from this picture, but the dress has a bustier top with strappy sides.  Not exactly appropriate for a 4 year old!

Original Top
The top is a cotton blend shirt from Talbots.


I'm lucky that the top was an adult size 2.  Because the dress is being made for a child, I can cut it down without too much trouble.  A larger adult size might have required me to remake the arm holes.

First I cut the bustier from the tutu.  I wanted to make sure to leave as much waist band as possible.

 
Tutu Without Bustier

Bustier without tutu

 Next I removed the zipper.  Carefully cut around the the zipper and save it (you can use the zipper in another project).

Tutu with no zipper
 Cut the shirt down to size.  I used a pajama shirt for the pattern.

I used a child's size 6 shirt for a pattern
 Keeping as much of the original stitching as possible in tact, I cut the shirt to the smaller size.

Shirt Cut Down
 The rest of this process is pretty easy!  Turn the shirt inside out and stitch the sides.

With the right sides together, stitch the tutu to the shirt.


This entire process took about 30 minutes.

I REALLY hope that my niece likes it!

Turkey Tips!

This is a guest post courtesy of the Bergen County Mocha Moms Blog.
=======================

There has been a lot of chatter this week about turkeys.  No, not your ex boyfriend - the bird.



Let me start by saying that you don't have to be any kind of chef to make a great turkey for your friends and family during this holiday season.  Just a few tips and you'll do great!

Turkey for a SMALL party (2-6 people)
A few weeks ago we talked about how to bone and roast a fresh turkey breast.  That post was called The 1-Hour Turkey.  This method is ideal for a small gathering where a whole bird is not really needed.  In that post we learn how to bone, season and roast a fresh turkey breast.  We also cover making turkey stock  Click the title of this section to jump to that post.

The WHOLE BIRD
If you're feeding a crowd then you've come to the right place!  Mocha Heather has shared with us her wisdom on brining the whole bird.  She's also shared an informative video with other turkey tips.


Turkey Brine Recipe - Courtesy of Mocha Heather.
For a full turkey, combine 
1 cup of kosher salt
1 cup of brown sugar
Peppercorns
1 bay leaf
Enough oranges to stuff the inside the bird and a couple of cut up oranges in the water

Put everything in big pot and cover with the water. Leave overnight for best results. 
In the morning discard brine and oranges.  DO NOT cook with anything used in the brine.  Season the turkey with all fresh ingredients.

For more food/cooking tips be sure to visit our Food Page!

Here are more tips shared from the Mochas