A Step in Solving the Pet Hair Problem

Tuesday Revews-Day

Disclaimer: This post contains product supplied for review.

Bringing a dog home has been one of the most fun and frustrating adventures in recent memory. He’s awfully cute, and he’s pretty snuggly at times, too (the other night I went to sleep with his head on the crook of my arm, how sweet is that?!), but he destroys things and barks for reasons real and imaginary (more so the latter). He also sheds. A lot.

Now, this is where having a single-color pup would be vastly superior: if you have a black dog, wear black clothes and upholster your furniture in dark tones. Blonde or white, likewise. Grey? You have plenty of options to choose from. But Duncan is a tri-color and he sheds his black and white with impunity, and I just can’t see myself living in houndstooth check 24/7/365.

Fanatics might resort to daily sweeping and a lint brush in every room. We are far from fanatics. We accept the presence of dog fur in our lives as out lot. It’s life, we deal.

But there are times when we just need it gone, whether it’s expected company or a random Tuesday when I’ve had enough, and it was one of those random days when I received an email introducing the Bump It Off, billed as sometime to solve a plethora of household woes, including pet hair! That alone was enough for me to send my address for a sample.


Here’s how we’ve fared with the Bump It Off over the last couple of months for the top three uses:

  • Pet hair: the silicone picks up the hair and rinse off fairly easily. While there could be, I suppose, a concern about pet hair clogging drains, for occasional touch-ups of clothes or upholstery, it probably wouldn’t be a problem. You can also use the soft bristle side to groom you pooch. Duncan seemed to like the feel of it but, like most things, he was more interested in chewing on it.
  • Dishes: The Bump It Off features one side of blunt nubs and one side of soft bristles, both of which work nicely for getting food off dishes without damaging any finishes. Because the bristles and bumps are soft, though, you may need to exert a bit of elbow grease, but it’s still better than scratching or chipping enamel or other non-stick surfaces.
  • Laundry: Those bristles come in handy for working spot treatments into stains or brushing away surface debris.

The design of the Bump It Off is pretty clever, with the four fingers holes on one end and an open space opposite that allows the user to hold it whichever way they find it most comfortable and useful depending on the application at hand.

While it won’t completely eradicate sponges and scrubbies from our home, I can definitely see keeping one on hand in the kitchen, laundry, and living rooms plus one in the car for wardrobe touch-ups for nights out or meetings. They are top-rack dishwasher safe and come in bright colors, in singles or two or four in a pack.

And I apologize, especially for those non-fans, if you also now have “Shake it Off” stuck in your head–it certainly makes for a memorable product name!

Convenience Comes at a Small Price


While we were finding amazing deals on dining room furniture, we also came across a couple of bread makers for $8 each.

Now, making bread from scratch isn’t hard. It isn’t even all that time-consuming. Which is why I could never justify the $70 or more for one in the past, even though my gadget-loving self has wanted one for quite some time. Finding one for a handful of singles was just too much temptation without very much in the way of risk.

I don’t make an inordinate amount of bread at home–not for lack of love, I just generally buy it when the occasion arises. After going Low-FODMAP, those occasions had become fewer and farther between. Unfortunately, finding a commercially-available bread that is Low-FODMAP tends to leave a lot to be desired. Making good gluten-free bread has not been the most successful kitchen experiments, though my rigged proof box did help quite a bit in that arena. Still, maybe an all-in-one machine would do the trick.

First try--good, but small

First try–good, but small

For the first run I used a recipe from Celiac in the City and my usual flour blend. Because I’d read so many dire warnings in the bread machine’s manual about over-filling the pan, I did make some adjustments to the basic recipe to keep it at the ingredient quantities the manual gave as their preferred basic ratios. I needn’t have worried, though, as the finished “loaf” didn’t even fill up half the pan!

Lack of loft aside, the bread was very tasty. It was dense, of course, but definitely lacked the sawdust tendencies of some gf baking. I stored the finished, sliced loaf in the fridge (baked goods, esp. those without preservatives, don’t do well in this house once the temperature starts to climb) overnight but the next day at lunch the slices were still good and moist.

While some bread maker’s have gluten-free settings, this one does not but the tips I’d read suggested using the “rapid rise” option if the machine gave one, as it’s cuts down on a bit of the handling. Since gf doughs tend to be super-fragile anyway, I figured that was the safest course, and also chose the light crust setting just to be on the safe side.

A bit bigger this time, but still dense. Still tasty, though!

A bit bigger this time, but still dense. Still tasty, though!

For the second trial I decided to use the same recipe but this time not alter the quantities. I stuck with the rapid rise cycle, but used a slightly different flour blend since I was out of some of the components of my house mix. Not quite a controlled experiment, but this isn’t a laboratory, is it?

The thing to be aware of with bread machines is how the ingredients need to be loaded-in. In my case, all liquids go in first, then the flour op top in such a way that it creates a lid on the liquids. The yeast gets poured into a depression in the center of the flour-layer, and then any butter or shortening gets placed in the corners. Since my test recipe uses olive oil, the first batch I poured the oil into the 4 corners of the pan, but for the second go-round I decided to just mix it in with the water and eggs.

Obviously we weren’t in danger of overflowing the pan, but the danger with the slightly larger loaf is whether or not the full loaf will bake in the given time. This one was a bit on the edge of done after the programmed time but at least was a little larger. Still dense, still tasty, and thumps hollow on the bottom, but if you wanted a darker crust or needed to get it a little more baked through, popping it into the oven for a bit is supposed to do the trick. I didn’t find it necessary for this one, though.

Each loaf has featured a really shaggy top–something that can happen with the non-machine gluten-free breads and something I’ll need to work on. Could use just a bit more liquid or some other tweaking to work well, but I’m encouraged. I’ll be making croutons with the remains of the first loaf and using the second loaf for sandwiches later this week.

* * *

I also picked up a Glutino bread mix that, while not being completely Low-FODMAP (pea protein and whey are the potentially troublesome ingredients, but once you’re past the Elimination and Challenge phases, it might be worth trying) does have the benefit of being all-in-one. And, of course, since gluten isn’t a FODMAP, one could always add some vital wheat gluten into the mix to add texture and whatnot, but I haven’t gotten that far, yet.

I think the next loaf on the list will be an old favorite: chocolate orange bread. I haven’t made it in ages, especially not since ditching the wheat, but I’ve been craving it lately. Even if it turns out dense like these, it’ll be great for chocolate bread pudding!

So I’m Making My Own Yogurt Now?



In fact, as I write this post  my latest batch of lactose-free yogurt is perking along on the kitchen counter.

My EuroCuisine Yogurt Maker at work.

My EuroCuisine Yogurt Maker at work.

Now, why would I go to this much trouble when there are ready-made options available, even for the lactose-intolerant and Low-FODMAP among us? Because not all options are created equally.

I enjoy my afternoon yogurt snack both for taste as well as health benefits. I discovered ages ago that it helped keep me healthy long before Acitivia and the like started marketing as such. And, yet, the Low-FODMAP challenges showed me just how sensitive I am to lactose, even the reduced amount in most Greek-style yogurts, so I knew I needed to be a bit more careful with what I was consuming.

That left me with pretty much one option at our local grocery store: Yoplait’s Lactose Free French Vanilla

Lactose Free

image via Yoplait.com | While it comes in peach, strawberry, vanilla, and cherry, my store only carried the latter 2

And while I wasn’t a huge fan of the flavor or texture, it was acceptable and got me my live cultures at a reasonable .60 a serving. At least it did when they kept it in stock.

About the time supply was getting a bit spotty, I saw an electronic yogurt maker on one of the many flash-sale sites and, while intrigued, managed to talk myself out of buying it by the end of the day. Until, of course, I was at the not-geographically-convenient Earth Fare in town and found the other lactose-free/Low-FODMAP yogurt option by Green Valley Organics.

image via Green Valley Organics

I was thrilled to find this yogurt! I’d tried and loved their sour cream but this was the first time I’d found their yogurt on the shelf. As I reached for the cups on the top shelf, my eyes fell on the price sticker: 1.99 a piece! That’s 3 times the price of the Yoplait, and even if the taste and texture are much more to my liking, I couldn’t justify the additional cost and the weekly trips out of my way.

Suddenly the price of the yogurt maker wasn’t looking so spendy! Too bad for me that that particular flash sale had ended. Still, I was on the hunt and within a month had found a decent deal at a store I’d been given a birthday giftcard to.

Since then I’ve been making my own yogurt from lactose-free milk and either an existing bottle of yogurt or the starter culture easily found in almost all health-food stores. It takes maybe an hour, all-told, to prep the milk mix (a little time to warm it to 180 degrees F, then a little longer to let it cool to 110 before adding the starter/cultures, then to ladel it into the glasses to “cook”) and if I’m smart I’ll set it up before bed so it’ll be finished the next morning and ready to go after a few hours chill time.

I haven’t experimented much with flavoring them before putting them into the yogurt maker, but I have been adding powdered coconut milk to the mix to get a thicker yogurt without having to go through the pain of straining it myself. Most days I top it with a spoonful of Welch’s Natural Strawberry jam (the only one I’ve found, so far, that meets all the Low-FODMAP requirements) and maybe a bit of granola and this really hits the spot.

I haven’t worked out the per-price comparison of making vs buying, but I know that I like the end result a lot better.

The Oil Can


Pausing in my back-log of restaurant experiences and pseudo-reviews, I want to talk about a neat little thing I picked up for the kitchen not too long ago: an oil can.

No, not the poppa-poppa-sounding one they used to keep the Tin Man from freezing up, a cute little can to store and pour my olive oil when cooking. Vessels like this are not uncommon and I’ve seen a lot of ceramic or porcelain models painted prettily, but this one (found at my local Marshall’s for all of $2.99, this oil can from StainlessLUX is very similar) is stainless steel with a cute little handle, easy flip-up lid for refilling and long spout to pouring easy and mess-free (for the most part).

Like most households these days, we use olive oil (extra virgin, of course) almost every day when making dinner. Sure, pouring it straight from the bottle into the saute pan or stock pot is fine, but what about when you drizzle oil over steamed vegetables? Do you just let it glop on out of the bottle or do you put your fingers over the opening, trying to stem the flow a bit? Or do you try to hold the cap half-on, half -off to keep your fingers from getting oily (which never really works the way you want)? That’s when an oil can or cruet has a definite appeal.

From a practical side, it’s often cheaper to buy olive oil in larger bottles. But those bottles, even if they are molded to afford a slightly better grip, are still unwieldy when full and awkward when nearing empty. And I don’t know about you but I’m usually grabbing or stirring something while I drizzle, so having to maneuver the bottle with both hands isn’t ideal.

Aside from all that, it’s just plain fun to use! The night I brought it home was like Christmas morning playing with the new toy, swirling and swooping the oil can around. It’s almost balletic and you feel a little dainty, a little more elegant, a little more special for using a simple oil can instead of a bottle. Find one and try it and tell me if you don’t agree.