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Monday, September 15, 2014

Review: The Crumbling Cookie

I recently had the opportunity to review The Crumbling Cookie a local gourmet cookie business run here on Fort Irwin, CA by an Army wife.  Allison Carlock currently isn’t shipping, so these are a local delicacy only. Due to our isolated location in the middle of the Mojave Desert, we don’t have many indulgences and Allison is quickly accumulating a loyal following of fans. 

As a very pregnant lady, I was excited to say the least! I know what you’re thinking - what pregnant lady doesn't love cookies?  But these are homemade and amazing, wheather you're pregnant or not!

The Crumbling Cookie currently offers 9 varieties on its menu. They include both classics with a twist and Allison’s own creations. 

In addition to regular cookies, Chocolate Chip can be ordered as a cookie cake with either vanilla or Nutella buttercream frosting! A single layer cake is $25 and a double layer is $35. Cookies are sold by the ½ dozen for $7.50 and a dozen for $15. A frequent buyers club offers loyal customers a free ½ dozen cookies after their 12th purchase of a ½ dozen. 

I was supplied with a scrumptious sampler to review. 

The packaging is simple and clean with The Crumbling Cookie Logo. 

Included in my box were the Smore’s Stuffed Chocolate Chip, Nutella White Chocolate Chip, Classic Chocolate Chip with Sea Salt Sprinkle, and The Texan. 

When I opened the box I was greeted with a dozen large cookies that smelled delicious and fresh. 

The Smore’s Stuffed Chocolate Chip 
This cookie was the first I tried. It was a monster of a cookie because it is an actual smore that is then wrapped in a chocolate chip cookie! It was amazing the graham cracker, marshmallow, and chocolate center came together to give this cookie an incredible finish.

The Nutella White Chocolate Chip
What can I say other than wow? This cookie is a combo of white and semi-sweet chocolate chips with Nutella. They are mind blowing and full of unique flavor.

The Classic Chocolate Chip with Sea Salt Sprinkle
A classic favorite with a twist! The classic chocolate chip with sea salt is just like that old familiar cookie from childhood, but with a dash of sea salt to give it an extra over the top boost. 

The Texan
This cookie was my personal favorite. When I took a bite out of it, so many notes came together for an explosion of flavor. It is an oatmeal cookie loaded with white chocolate chips, semi-sweet chocolate chips, and pecans. It has a note of cinnamon that gives it a wonderful finish.

Overall, every cookie I tried from The Crumbling Cookie was marvelous. I would highly suggest all of Fort Irwin to place an order soon to experience how yummy they are!

The Crumbling Cookie on Facebook

Saturday, September 13, 2014

How-to: Deep Clean a Top-Loading Washing Machine

If you are anything like me you are still learning how to be an adult. At 30 years old I still don’t know everything that I probably should. I certainly know a lot (I can fix cars, motorcycles, I have built a house from the ground up, I was a cable television and internet installer, and dozens of other things) but not everything. As the saying goes, I am a jack of all trades but master of none.

One thing that I never even considered was our washing machine. We were given a washer and dryer by my mother-in-law a few years ago. When we finally got the washer to our house in Maryland we found out that the drum had cracked in the move after I had hooked it up and it flooded our laundry room. 

We got another washer for free from a family that was moving away and couldn't take it with them. This one worked great. I never even thought about just how dirty it might be on the inside, especially down where you can't easily see.

When my wife and I found out that we were expecting our second child, about 2 years after we got the new-to-us washing machine, we started looking into more chemical-free, green ways of living. One of those changes included switching to a completely detergent free laundry system! If this sounds absolutely crazy to you, I encourage you to read her review on Smartklean Laundry Ball

One of the very first things on the laundry ball's instructions is to clean you washer! Along with dirt, and mold/mildew, even laundry detergent itself leaves behind a residue buildup like you wouldn't imagine. 

After doing a couple days of research I found some very basic cleaning methods for washing machines but I couldn't find anything for our specific machine, nor could I find anything other than “soak, rinse repeat” so I decided to dive in a little deeper. Here is what I found and the process I took to get there:

So it turns out that our washing machine was a disgusting mess. You would be surprised at the nasty stuff that lurks inside your machine as well. 

The first step I took was to do a good soak to help to strip the chemicals and gunk from the machine. 

Set the washer for hot wash on the largest capacity setting. Turn machine on and as it is filling add one cup of bleach. This will help to kill any bacteria hiding deep in the machine. 

I left the lid open so that once it was full it would not continue through the washing cycle.  While that was happened, I cleaned the visible surface area above the rim.  Later, we'll be getting into corners.

Let the machine soak for an hour. Then I closed the lid and allowed the full wash cycle to run.

Once that is complete, you may want to run the machine once with plain hot water to completely rinse out any residual bleach.  At this point, you will be switching to white vinegar, and it isn't a good idea to mix bleach and vinegar.

Once the plain water cycle completes we are going to do another soak to begin stripping the set-in chemical residue from the machine. 

Just as before, set the machine to hot wash on the largest capacity. 

This time, as the machine begins to fill, add 2 cups of distilled white vinegar. 

I noticed almost immediately that the water had a strange color to it. It was a greenish-blue and extremely cloudy. 

The water here on Fort Irwin does have a high chlorine content but not this high.

The vinegar started working almost as soon as it was introduced into the machine. What you are seeing here is the buildup of years’ worth of laundry detergent and whatever other chemicals you may use to keep your whites white and your colors bright. 

You will want to allow this water to sit and soak for at least 2 hours. I actually let mine sit until the water was room temperature. Then, close the lid and allow the washing cycle to complete. 

I was thoroughly amazed at the crap that came out of our washer. It was horrible-- embarrassing even!

Once the wash cycle completes you will want to run another plain water cycle, again on hot and the largest capacity, but don’t add anything to the water. This will ensure a clean rinse. No soak is needed at this point. Once the rinse is complete its time to get down to the really nasty stuff.

Our machine is a Maytag Performa. The following steps may be a little bit different with your machine but should still be mostly the same unless you have a front loader. 

The first thing you will want to do is to clean around the splash catch on the drum. 

On most top loaders the drum will be able to rock from side to side. This helps the machine to balance itself during the spin cycle. Rock the drum to one side and look in the channel around the top of the drum. 

This was especially gross on our machine. 

The picture I took was actually done after it was cleaned because I had forgotten to take it as I was cleaning. 

But it will still give you an idea of what the splash catch will look like.

I used a mixture of vinegar, baking soda, and hot water along with a sponge, dish brush, and q-tips to clean the groove. 

Once this is complete you will want to begin disassembling the agitator. For some readers it may seem like a rather daunting task but it was actually very easy to do. 

The agitator on our machine has a cup in the center for fabric softener. The cup will need to be removed in order to pull the agitator. On our machine, all you need to do is to turn the cup about a ¼ turn and it lifts right out. 

Once the cup is removed you will need to remove the bolt that holds the agitator in place. 

I didn’t have the proper tools on hand but with a little ingenuity was able to come up with something that worked. I used an angle-head socket wrench with a 4” extension to reach the bolt. Again, some of these pictures were taken as I was reassembling the machine because I had forgotten to take them as I was working. It was not even close to this clean as it was coming apart.

My socket wrench was still not quite long enough so I stuck another wrench on the end of the socket wrench to be able to loosen the bolt. 

Once the bolt has been removed the agitator will lift out. It might be a little tough at first if it has never been cleaned as the gunk built up on the drive shaft will work like glue. Just wiggle it back and forth as you pull up and eventually it will come off. The picture below shows just how gross it was underneath the agitator.

Seriously, this is what's going INTO your clothes!
That, folks, is years of built up mold, mildew, chemical detergents and other nasty stuff. Now that the agitator has been pulled out you will want to clean it and the fabric softener cup thoroughly using the same mixture of hot water, vinegar, and baking soda mentioned earlier.

Once you’ve finished cleaning the parts of the agitator its time to move on to the drum. 

Again, use the same cleaning solution as before and just scrub the entire drum from top to bottom with the dish brush.

All of that nasty stuff will begin to melt away as you clean. 

Once you have loosened up all the grime use a few paper towels to get that gunk out of there. 

After it has been wiped up close the lid and set the machine to rinse. Let both the rinse and spin cycles run. 

This will get out any grime that you weren’t able to wipe out and then drain the water from the drum. 

You may want to use a damp paper towel after the drum is empty to wipe up any remaining loose dirt. 

Now it’s time to get to the tedious detail work. Use the same cleaning solution and some q-tips to get the tight spaces around the hinges on the lid and such. 

Once you are finished we can put it all back together. 

Begin by replacing the agitator on top of the drive shaft. You may need to twist it back a forth a few times to get the splines on the shaft to line up with the grooves on the agitator. 

Once it has been lined up and seated replace the bolt that we removed earlier. Then replace the fabric softener cup. 

Fill the machine one last time with just hot water and let it run a full wash cycle. Now your washer should be nice and shiny again. Just like the day you got it (or better in our case)!

Good luck, happy cleaning, and welcome to much more healthy laundry care!

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