QUESTION: My children are grown and I have kept some of the items they used when they were babies. One of my favourite pieces of baby furniture is a bassinet on wheels. Do you have any idea of something that I can use this for other than babies? I just can't bring myself to part with it but also can't justify keeping it because our home is quite small. Glenda (Winnipeg)
ANSWER: You are right to hold on to that treasure. A bassinet on wheels makes the perfect laundry basket because it can easily be rolled from one room to the next. If you need a place to store it, position it as a hamper in your bedroom.
QUESTION: A two-inch by six-inch piece of fabric has melted onto the glass front on my gas fireplace and I'm not sure how to get it off. I turned the fireplace on, heated up the glass and tried to scrape the fabric off with a spatula. Some of the melted fabric came off but I am left with a black smeared area that looks like paint. I will be very appreciative of your expert advice. Thanks for your time. Wendy (La Salle, Man.)
ANSWER: You're on the right track. I called three gas fireplace experts to ask for advice on this conundrum and they all said the same thing (that never happens). All three retailers recommend you use gas fireplace glass cleaner first. If the sticky residue or the black smear remains, use the same blade owners of glass stove tops use to clean their cook top in conjunction with more of the gas fireplace glass cleaner. Do not use Windex, WD-40 or any other solvent.
QUESTION: What's the difference between condensed milk and evaporated milk? Glenn (Winnipeg)
ANSWER: The difference between the two lies in the sugar content: one is sweetened, one is not. Both begin as whole milk. When making evaporated milk, the milk is heated until approximately 60 per cent of the water is evaporated. Condensed milk is made by blending whole milk with sugar. It is then heated until about 60 per cent of the water is evaporated. There is a difference in the flavours of both, which may make a difference when substituting one for another in recipes.
QUESTION: I am having an argument with my sister-in-law that I am hoping you can settle. She says there is no difference between lard and shortening, but I am arguing they are two different products. Also, can you tell me if shortening can be substituted for lard? L.S. (Winnipeg)
ANSWER: Lard and shortening are both common fats used in baking and cooking. Lard is a solid form of fat usually made from pork fat or other animal fat. Shortening, on the other hand, is made from partly hydrogenated vegetable oils, which have been solidified. Shortening is usually charged with nitrogen or whipped to incorporate air and then tempered into a soft product.
Lard and shortening may be used interchangeably most of the time. However, note that each adds its own flavour to the finished product and also produces different textures. For example, pie crusts made from lard are typically flakier than those made with shortening.
QUESTION: I have recently moved away from home and have not perfected the art of cooking (to say the least). Can you tell me how to boil a perfect egg? Bryson (Grunthal)
ANSWER: This is quite possibly easier than you think. Carefully place the eggs in a pot of water. Bring to a boil for 12 minutes. Voila!
QUESTION: Do you have any solutions for stronger fingernails? Lynda (Brandon, Man.)
ANSWER: Other than making sure you have enough calcium in your diet and using nail-strengthening products on the market, you might want to consider a trick that some women in the Dominican Republic use; chop fresh garlic and add it to clear nail polish. Let the concoction brew for 7-10 days before applying. Apparently this is very effective in strengthening nails.
QUESTION: What is the best way to organize mitts, scarves and toques? Les the Messy Man (Winnipeg)
ANSWER: You are not alone. As a mom of four, I needed to tackle this issue before it got out of hand. In our case, we built six wooden full-size lockers, one for each member of the family. This keeps the house organized because even young kids always know where to find their missing mittens.
If you do not have room for lockers or plastic or wooden cubbies, use the following hints. Begin by removing out-of-season apparel and putting them into large plastic bins. All additional winter clothing can be placed into plastic containers and stored in an area such as a large wooden bench that opens. Mittens are safety pinned together and any clothing that has not been used within a two-year time period is donated. Mittens, toques and scarves can also be stored in jacket sleeves or hoods. Tip: If you eat chips from a can, save the cans and store rolled up scarves, mittens or toques inside. You'll be organized before you know it.
Fabulous tips of the week
- Shiny hair: is possible with a bit of coconut oil. Rub oil onto your scalp once a week. Wash hair in the morning.
- Smooth skin: use a version of the secret recipe that Cleopatra used. Into your bath water drop two cups of powdered milk.
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 videos/blog/website: reena.ca.