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SOLUTIONS: Baking soda affects how cookie crumbles

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QUESTION: My cookies never turn out. I follow the recipe as written but they either brown too fast or they look green and grey. What am I doing wrong? Marne (Sanford)

ANSWER: Experiment by cutting down on the amount of baking soda in your cookie recipes. Baking soda will brown cookies significantly. As well, baking soda can cause eggs in recipes to turn greeny/grey. Bake at a lower temperature and make sure you're baking on the middle rack of your oven.

QUESTION: We have an 8-foot by 10-foot synthetic rug made in Turkey, which sits on top of a 14-foot by 10-foot fixed wall-to-wall rug in our three-season sunroom. The area rug has developed a series of raised humps on one corner, which we are unable to straighten out. My question is, if we remove the wall-to-wall rug and install laminate flooring, then use a piece of underlay under the area rug, would we be able to get the rug to flatten out? Any other ideas would be welcome. Thanks. Ruth, Winnipeg

ANSWER: Before ripping out your carpet, consider purchasing a product called Curl Stop, available online through websites such as Amazon. It's designed to hold onto rugs and stop corners of area rugs from curling up.

There are several other rug-grip products designed to lay under area rugs to hold them flat on both carpet and smooth floors such as laminate. You may want to experiment with steaming the area rug to flatten it but this is typically a temporary fix. Carpet tape is also a temporary option.

QUESTION: Read your column in the Free Press faithfully. Don't know if I have ever seen this problem. We collect rain water in big barrels for our garden. We have a problem with green algae growing in the barrel and coating the sides.

Could we put chlorine bleach in these barrels to prevent the growth? Would this harm my vegetables? Trying to grow veggies as organically as possible. Any suggestions? Thank you. Gail, Winnipeg

ANSWER: The controversy that goes along with how to prevent algae from forming in barrels is as heated as margarine vs. butter or homework vs. no homework. While some prefer to add one-quarter cup of bleach to barrels, others opt to empty the barrel and scrub it with bleach, or vinegar and water, whenever algae is present.

Another popular solution is to add goldfish, minnows or sucker fish into the barrel, as constant movement in the barrel helps prevent algae from forming. However, people argue that, unless you feed the fish, they're not getting enough food to sustain themselves.

If possible, keep your barrel out of direct sunlight and as clean as possible. Grass clippings and animal waste entering the water pollutes it and triggers bacteria, which in turn promotes algae matter. If you add one tablespoon of bleach to the water every few weeks, this will not hurt your plants because it's very diluted in the same way that chlorine added to city water doesn't kill houseplants.

QUESTION: How can I easily mark clear tape so that I am not wasting time searching for the beginning of the roll and trying to peel it up with my chewed up fingernails? Sadie (Virden)

ANSWER: Secure a toothpick at the end of the tape.

Wet tips for the yard

-- Water your yard early in the morning, on calm days before nine o'clock. This reduces evaporation and scorched leaves.

-- Direct the downspout of your eavestrough into a rain barrel. Collect the water to use for watering the yard. Keep the barrel covered with either an insect screen or pour a drop of oil into the barrel. Doing this changes the surface tension of the water, making it difficult for mosquitoes to lay eggs.

-- Aerate the lawn every two to three years by poking little holes into dirt to loosen the soil and improve moisture penetration.

I enjoy your questions and tips, keep them coming. Missed a column? Can't remember a solution? Need a speaker for an upcoming event? Check out my new videos/blog/website:!

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 1, 2013 F4

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