It’s my birthday on Saturday (yes, April Fool’s, I know, lol). If you use coupon code April2023 you’ll get 20% off your entire order at SubEarthan Cottage. Valid on regular and sale-priced items through April 3, 2023.
And, since birthday’s are weird without cake, here’s my favorite allergen-friendly chocolate cake recipe.
This is a simple chocolate cake recipe that is super easy. It is dairy-free, egg-free, and if you swap the wheat flour for a gluten-free flour blend, it's gluten-free, too! To make it gluten free, I like Bob's Red Mill 1 to 1 gluten free blend because it already contains xanthan gum. If you use a different gluten-free flour without xanthan gum, I would add about 1-1.5 teaspoons of xanthan gum.To top, make a simple buttercream (with shortening and non-dairy milk to keep it non-dairy) or use your favorite store bought frosting. You could also sprinkle the warm cake with dairy-free chocolate chips, let them melt a little, then spread across the top for a rich, chocolaty treat.
Prep Time10 minutesmins
Cook Time35 minutesmins
Keyword: 9 x 13, cake, chocolate, dairy free, easy, egg free, gluten free, one bowl, simple
Servings: 292×2 inch servings
9 x 13 rectangle pan
3CupsFlour see recipe summary for gluten-free adjustment
2tablespoonsvinegarwhite or apple cider vinegar
1cup vegetable oilany light flavored liquid vegetable oil is fine
2cups cold water
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit
Grease the 9 x 13 inch pan, either with shortening, butter, or cooking spray
Combine the first five (dry) ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix until evenly blended. Alternatively, sift them together into the bowl.
Add the remaining (wet) ingredients and mix until thoroughly blended. You can use a spoon or an electric mixer.
Pour the batter into the greased 9 x 13 inch pan.
Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the middle comes out clean.
I frosted this cake with buttercream tinted blue, then used gel food coloring to paint the faces. I then piped buttercream for the eyes, facial features, outlines, writing and trim. I clearly am not a trained cake decorator, so I can’t really say which tips I used or any other details.
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I generally try to avoid anything that seems gimmicky. The whole Black Friday, Shop Small Saturday, Cyber Monday all seem crafted to make people feel like they must buy all the things NOW. Being a small business owner, though, I wanted to address the “Shop Small” thing.
All those cute memes you see about small business owners doing a happy dance with every purchase, the care that goes into creating and packaging a product just for you, and the direct impact your purchase has on an individual or family? They’re all true, for me at least, and for the other small business owners I know. I celebrate each and every sale. I make sure to package every order with care and a handwritten thank-you. Every sale goes towards helping my family directly.
That’s not to say that big business are bad or don’t help their employees or don’t appreciate our business. Not at all. I’d be lying if I said the big blue Amazon truck never stopped at my house or I never shop at Walmart. They absolutely have their place, too. But, if today or any other day throughout the year you are able to make a purchase from a small business, know that we thank you for your support and are celebrating. Probably with a happy dance, although I refuse to post video evidence.
If you’re not in a position to make a purchase from a small business or what they offer just doesn’t fit your needs, there are other ways to offer support. Sharing their information with others that might like what they have to offer is one way. Letting them know what you like about their products is another.
Spread the Love
If you are a small business owner or know of an awesome one, please leave a comment with the shop’s info so that I and my readers can check them out, whether it’s Shop Small Saturday or some random Tuesday. Artists and authors are welcome, too. I would love to have a list of small business to refer to and to share with my friends and family.
Hot rice packs are wonderful tools for easing muscle aches, cramps, and just comforting to use in cold weather. I prefer using a rice pack to an electric heating pad because you’re not tied to an electrical outlet.
A few years ago, though, I got rid of our microwave. I have some concerns about whether they are healthy, and we rarely used it anyway. Even if the potential health risks are exaggerated or non-existent, I don’t like having things that don’t get used taking up space. At the time, it was summer in Texas, I didn’t really miss my rice packs. Now that it’s cold, I wanted to find a way to heat them without caving and getting another microwave.
Please be cautious. I’ve seen some things that say anything other than a microwave is a fire-risk, so if you try to heat a rice pack in an oven, please never leave it unattended and use extreme caution. All appliances are different, so what works with mine may not work with yours.
Basic oven method
When researching, I found many people say to use an oven set to about 200 degrees Fahrenheit for thirty minutes. They also said to put the rice pack on a metal tray or roasting pan, and to have a pan or oven-safe dish of water alongside it to keep it from getting too dry.
I was a little concerned that I may forget about it, and my oven doesn’t have a window so keeping an eye on it would be difficult. I do have a counter-top convection oven, so that is what use. Because the door is glass, I can see in and keep an eye on things. It also has a timer that turns the unit off once time is up, so even if I get distracted I don’t have to worry about it over-heating.
I always place the rice pack on a tray and put a dish of water in with it as others have suggested. Any rice packs I heat in the oven are made with 100% cotton fabric and thread. Synthetics melt easier and burn faster, whereas cotton can withstand a pretty high heat and burns slower, so cotton seems like a safer choice.
I started with 200 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-30 minutes. It worked, but I needed it hotter. I upped it to 300-325 degrees for 15-20 minutes. At that temperature, sometimes I have to let it cool for a minute or wrap it in a towel, but it works better for me than the lower temperature. I tend to push the limit with heat, though, so 200 degrees for thirty minutes is probably plenty for most.
Probably safer method
One other method I’ve seen is to preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, TURN IT OFF, and place the rice pack (on a tray with heatproof dish of water next to it) in the preheated oven. I haven’t tried this yet, but having the oven hot but turned off seems like it would minimize any risk of the rice pack overheating and burning. If I didn’t have the convection oven, I would probably use this method.
The standard microwave method
Using a microwave is still the recommended method. To heat rice packs in the microwave, warm it in the microwave in 15 second intervals until you reach the desired temperature. Some people recommend placing a cup of water in the microwave as well.
Whether you use a microwave or an oven, be mindful that they can vary in power. ALWAYS test the temperature of the rice pack before using and never leave the microwave or oven unattended while heating. You should never use heat packs on individuals who are unable to let you know if it feels too warm on their skin.
While I love my Brother SE400, it didn’t take long for me to get bored with the built in embroidery designs. I found many cute designs online to buy. That helped, but even that was somewhat limiting as my machine only has a 4×4 hoop capability. Besides, I’m a diy, hands-on person. Of course, that all led to learning how to digitize designs myself.
The digitizing process is fun but time consuming. When I spend that much time on something, I want to share it with others. So, I am offering my embroidery designs in my shop under Embroidery Files and Freebies. Each design is scaled to fit in a 4×4 hoop and come with the .CSD, .DST, .EXP, .HUS .JEF, .PCS, .PES .SHV, .VIP, or .XXX file types to work on most embroidery machines. New designs are listed for free for a limited time.
You can find all of the above designs in my shop under Embroidery Files and Freebies. I would love to see what you create with the embroidery designs. If you’d like, share them here in the comments or on our social media channels. I also appreciate any feedback, especially if you have a different machine.
Tomorrow I should have a tutorial posted for using my Peppermint Candy design to create cute, in the hoop coasters. They’re an easy beginner project and make great gifts. You could also use a similar technique to create Christmas ornaments, or swap out the design in the middle to make them less seasonal.
Sneak Peak of a Peppermint Candy Coaster in progress
If you’re not familiar with the term “in the hoop” it refers to an item that is completely or almost completely made by the embroidery machine in the hoop. I like in the hoop designs for things I’m making in sets because it’s easy to get nearly identical results.
Embroidery Files and Freebies
Embroidery design files and freebies from SubEarthan Cottage. All designs are scaled to fit 4×4 hoops common on home embroidery machines.
Frankincense and myrrh was one of my first customer requests years ago when I began soap making. Over time, there’s been a few variations in the recipe.
For the first time ever, this year’s Frankincense and Myrrh soap is 100% synthetic fragrance free. Instead, I used pure frankincense and myrrh essential oils. Then, I added a touch of orange Valencia essential oil to sweeten it. The end result is a warm, piney scent. It is a bit more subtle than what you get with synthetic fragrance oils, so the scent isn’t overwhelming. Plus, you get the benefits of true essential oils.
I also formulated this batch to lather up like my other shampoo bars. For travelling, shampoo bars are the way to go. With a bar, there’s no worries about leaking in your luggage or TSA liquid restrictions. No plastic bottles also means no BPA concerns and less environmental impact.
Everyone needs soap. Frankincense and Myrrh handmade soap makes a great stocking stuffer or small gift for teachers or coworkers. Right now, use coupon code “ShopSmall18” for 30% off your entire order at the SubEarthan Cottage shop.
This weekend we held a rather slow garage sale. It was still fun, though, and we met some nice people, including a gentleman who shares our fondness of TBI Suburbans.
Chris took full advantage of the time to create a few billboard art pieces he’s been picturing for months.
Queen of Hearts
I think this is my favorite. I love the weathered door.
This is the one everyone slowed down to see. He may decide to shorten it from the bottom to make it more manageable. As it is, though, in the right space it is impressive.
This one just screams Americana. We held it up to see what it looks like on the outside of our house. I loved the pop of red against our brown. I can totally see this alongside other signs in rustic decor.
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