Q.How do I temper chocolate? — Betty Ann Katein, Philadelphia
A. When making molded or dipped chocolates, you need to temper the chocolate to achieve a glossy sheen and hard snap. Here’s how to do it.
1. Chop bittersweet chocolate. Reserve one-fifth; place the rest in a heatproof bowl. Bring an inch of water to a simmer in a saucepan; turn off heat.
2. Rest the bowl on the pan’s rim, stirring the chocolate gently with a rubber spatula as it melts. When it reaches 118 F on a candy thermometer, remove the bowl.
3. Add the reserved chocolate; stir until the mixture cools to 84 F. Place the bowl back over the simmering water; stir until it reaches 88 F to 90 F. Use immediately.
Q. How can I keep my cat and dog from fighting? — Kelly Bazely, Nashville, Tennessee
A. Tension between cats and dogs is instinctual. But with a slow and patient approach, a lasting truce is possible, says ASPCA animal behaviorist Sharon Wirant. The key: reintroducing your pets to each other in a calm, controlled setting.
1. Establish Mealtime as a Positive Activity That They Share. Start by feeding your cat on one side of a baby gate and your dog on the other side. They should be far apart but within view of each other. Gradually move their food bowls closer until both pets seem relaxed. Then remove the gate.
2. Reintroduce Pets to Each Other, Room by Room. With your dog on a leash, practice the “come” command in your cat’s presence. Make sure your cat can hide or escape at any time. Once both animals are comfortable in this scenario, remove the leash and practice the command. When they’ve mastered being with each other without fighting in the room, move on to another room and repeat the process.
3. Praise Your Pets for Ignoring or Appropriately Interacting With Each Other. This works better than punishing them for negative behavior. Never leave your cat and dog alone together until they’re fully acclimated to each other’s presence.
Q. I’m considering having a custom closet built. How do I determine the right size and configuration? — Ryann Solomon, Minneapolis
A. Start by taking stock of your wardrobe. The guidelines in this chart should help you get a sense of how much space you’ll need, but be sure to leave extra room for your wardrobe to grow. Keep in mind, too, that a winter wardrobe will likely take up more space.
Vertical space per clothing category
Women’s Blouses: 30–36 inches
Women’s Suit Jackets: 32–42 inches
Dresses: 48–66 inches
Skirts: 34–44 inches
Men’s Shirts: 38–39 inches
Men’s Suit Jackets: 39–42 inches
Pants: 46–42 inches (by cuff); 28–32 (folded)
Coats: 46–66 inches
Jackets: 40–44 inches
Rod space (horizontal) per Item
Shirts and Blouses: 1 inch
Pants and Skirts: 1 1⁄4 inches
Dresses, Suits and Jackets: 2–2 1⁄2 inches
Q. My house feels drafty. Where might cold air be sneaking in? — Sonya Marie Harper, Chicago
A. We’ve listed some common trouble spots. “Once you cover the gaps, your heating bill should be significantly lower,” says Jennifer Colaizzi, a spokesperson for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
1. Windows and Doors May Not Be Sealed Properly. Shine a flashlight along the trims of closed windows and doors with a partner on the other side (when possible). If light is visible, there’s a leak; apply caulk to these spots. For gaps larger than a quarter-inch high underneath doors, install a door sweep.
2. Duct Chases in Attics and Basements can be Thoroughfares for Cold Air to Enter Your Home. Patch any duct cracks with Mastic, a water-based adhesive available at home-improvement stores.
3. Attic Hatches are Easy Places for Warm Air to Escape From the House. Seal the perimeter of the hatch with a weather-stripping kit from a home-improvement store. If you have pull-down stairs, apply attic-stair covers for added insulation.
Q. I’d like to make my own mustard. Any suggestions? — Charles Gottenkieny, Greenville, North Carolina
A. Mustard made with dried fruit is always a crowd-pleaser. For something more interesting than the standard varieties, we used figs and apricots.
Active/Total Time: 5 minutes, plus chilling
Yield: 1 1/2 cups
1/2 cup dried apricots or figs (3 1/2 ounces)
4 1/2 teaspoons dried yellow mustard seeds
4 1/2 teaspoons dried brown mustard seeds
2 tablespoons ground mustard
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
1. Mix together dried fruit, mustard seeds, ground mustard, vinegar and 3/4 cup water in a bowl. Refrigerate, covered, overnight.
2. Place mustard mixture and salt to taste in a food processor; purée until smooth. Serve, or store in refrigerator, covered, up to 1 week.
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