Friday, January 31, 2014

Super Bowl Commercial Bingo

I had seen on Pinterest multiple versions of last year's Super Bowl Commercial Bingo sheets and wanted one for this year. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any for 2014 so I decided to make my own and wanted to share with you!

I did a bit of research and tried to find the most talked about Super Bowl commercials for 2014 (note that the E*Trade is not coming back this year...maybe that talking baby scared the wrong people...). With some of those included, I created a Word doc and decided to create two versions, so each player can have their own brands. Did you know companies paid $4 million for a 30-second spot? These scorecards are worth $96 million each!

Now some might not be able to read or understand what some of these companies are (like the Beats by Dre logo, for example). With that in mind, I created a second version that has the company names written out:

The footballs in the middle are free spots and the person who gets "Bingo" first could have the last pig-in-a-blanket or the money in the pot. Whatever the prize, I hope this makes watching the Super Bowl a little more fun for those of you who enjoy the commercials and have a competitive side!

Click on the link and on the left-hand side, click on the down arrow to Download:
Super Bowl Commercial Bingo - With Logos
Super Bowl Commercial Bingo - Without Logos

This would be a great activity for the kids or adults who care more about the commercials than the game!

TOTAL AMOUNT OF TIME: 45 minutes/scorecard
If you want to include the logos, plan on at least 45 minutes of downloading the logo, pasting it into Word, and resizing.

EASY-PEASY SCALE (1 super easy - 5 very difficult): 1 out of 5
It's certainly not difficult to make up a scorecard without logos! Just grab some paper, pick the companies you think are going to air their commercials first, and write 'em down!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Movie or Book Cover Matchboxes

One weekend I meandered into one of LA's independent bookstores in the oh-so-trendy/hipster heaven Silver Lake neighborhood. I passed the register and came across these unique matchboxes, some with old movie posters on them and others with old book covers. "These are so cool!", I thought. "I wonder how much they're charging." If you're like me, you'd assume somewhere in the ballpark of 50 cents. That's reasonable, right? Ha, silly me... this is the city of overpriced everything so make that $2/matchbox. Seriously. So why not make your own and pick your OWN covers to boot?

Here's what you'll need:
1. Matchboxes (I bought mine without matches in them)
2. Mod Podge
3. A paintbrush
4. A ruler
5. Scissors
6. A computer and printer

I decided I would do my sister's book, "Giant Dance Party", since I could scan the front, side, and back of the book (and hopefully not get sued). For the others, I decided to take old book covers and their corresponding movie posters and match them per matchbox (examples here include "The Great Gatsby" and "A Clockwork Orange"). Now while you don't have to paint the matchbox beforehand, you're certainly welcome to if white isn't your neutral.

The hardest part of all of this is measuring the darn matchbox. I used Word to measure and print the photos. To save you some time and frustration, here's what I figured out:

If you just want to cover the front and the back and not the sides, have your photos be 2.06" x 1.37" (or 1.38" - you can always trim it if it's not perfect). If you want to include the side like it's a book, have the spine be 2.12" x .6"

See this photo? Don't do this
After your photos are measured and cut out, take your paintbrush, dip it in your Mod Podge, and put a very thin layer on the matchbox. Put your photo on top and again with your paintbrush, put a thin layer on top of the photo to protect it. I emphasize doing a thin layer because if you lay on the Mod Podge thick, it's going to a.) take longer to dry and b.) you could have some uneven glue on the box itself. Not very professional or attractive. Trust me on this, I found out the hard way. 
It shouldn't take too long to dry and voila! Your boxes are ready to be filled!

Maybe the dancer in your house has bobby pins that need wrangling...

Or you have some coins that need to be put in a safe place...

Or heck, maybe you just need a place for your matches!

In any case, have fun make something creative that speaks to you and save those $2 for something worthwhile!

TOTAL COSTS: About $14
$4.99 for 30 matchboxes from Amazon
$8.99 for 16 oz. of Mod Podge from Michael's (I used maybe 1 Tablespoon's worth)
Scissors, ruler, paintbrush and printer/computer already on hand

TOTAL AMOUNT OF TIME: About 20 minutes
10 minutes to measure, print, cut out, and glue on
10 minutes to dry

EASY-PEASY SCALE (1 super easy-5 very difficult): 2 out of 5
As I said, the hardest part is just getting the measurements right and if you're a perfectionist, this might drive you up the wall. However, it's really not that hard, given the measurements I provided and the rest is just to cut and paste! Take that Hollywood hipsters!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Green Grape Salad - Can 450 People Be Wrong?

So I came across this recipe on AllRecipes and though, "My gosh, that sounds disgusting." However, I checked out the reviews and 455 people gave it four or five stars. I was shocked. Comments like, "This recipe is a crowd pleaser!", "This was awesome!" and "This is the best grape salad" are just a handful of complimentary comments on the recipe's website. However, listen to the ingredients:

* Sour cream
* Cream cheese
* Grapes
* Sugar
* Vanilla
* Brown Sugar
* Pecans

Well, maybe it won't be so bad after all. So here's what you do (note: I adjusted the measurements to be for 2 servings):

1. Mix together 8 oz. of cream cheese and sour cream, 2 Tablespoons of sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla.

2. Next, add in 1 lb. of freshly-washed seedless green grapes until they're all covered.

3. Add in your ounce of chopped pecans and 1 1/2 teaspoons of brown sugar and you're done!

And there you have it, kids... green... grape... "salad"...

Ok, what am I missing here? I'm with the .0001% of commenters when they say, "I thought this salad was terrible and looked awful." I would also like to mention it smells terrible, but that's because of the sour cream.

So I need your help: make this recipe and tell me what you think. Did you like it? Did you hate it? What would you change? Me personally, I would cut the sour cream and cream cheese in half... you really don't need to douse those poor grapes. More pecans and more brown sugar couldn't hurt, either. Or, better yet, just drop the whole shebang and just eat grapes as they're intended to be eaten. Raw. Without crap on them.

TOTAL COSTS: About $20 (prices from Vons)
Grapes - $2.27
Cream cheese (8oz.) - $2.39
Sour cream (8oz.) - $1.99
Sugar - $2.69
Brown sugar - $2.49
Vanilla - $4.99
Pecans - $2.99


EASY-PEASY SCALE (1 super easy - 5 very difficult): 1 out of 5
It's super easy to make - you just combine the 8 ingredients - however eating it and enjoying it might be a 5 out of 5...

Sunday, January 26, 2014

How to Knit a Boot Cuff

I wanted to make something that would be easy to make, yet warm during this winter season, yet fashionable. When I came across LewisKnits post about how to make boot cuffs, I thought these would be the perfect addition to any woman's wardrobe! No woman wears thick wool socks over skinny jeans and under boots, so these are a great deception.

First, if you consider yourself a small or medium, cast on 48 stitches. Large or extra large should cast on 52 stitches. Not sure how to cast on stitches? I did a video in a previous post showing how to do just that!

And yes, that's a fuzzy blanket in the background. All knitting requires being under a warm, fuzzy blanket. It's the rules.

Next, knit 2 stitches and purl 2 stitches for 10 rows. So, knit 2, purl 2, knit 2, purl 2, knit 2, purl 2, etc. until the end of the row, turn the needle around, and start again for 10 rows.

After the 10 rows are completed, knit 14 rows. Knit until the end of the needle, turn it around, and do it all over again for 14 rows.

Once those 14 rows are completed, do the knit 2, purl 2 for 10 rows again. WARNING: if you stop paying attention to what's supposed to be a knit and what's supposed to be a purl, it'll be hard to fix. Trust me on this one.

Once you've completed the 10 rows, bind off the stitches. Again, if you're not sure how to bind off stitches, see my video here.

Finally, you can either weave the ends together with yarn or sew them together.

And there you have it kids! Your very own boot cuffs!

TOTAL COSTS: Varies on brand/material of yarn
Mine cost $6.99 from Lion Brand Yarn

TOTAL AMOUNT OF TIME: About 2 hours, 45 minutes per cuff (about 5 1/2 hours for both)
However, this includes the time it took for me to try and fix my massive mistake that is thankfully covered up by the boot!

EASY-PEASY SCALE (1 super easy - 5 very difficult): 3 out of 5
The knitting isn't hard, it's just concentrating enough to remember when to knit and when to purl. If you don't have distractions, though, you should be fine!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

An Angus Oblong (or Clown) Cake

Some of you might be familiar with my friend Angus Oblong's show, "The Oblongs" or with his book, "Creepy Susie: And 13 Other Tragic Tales for Troubled Children." He's one of the first people I met when I visited LA years ago and when he had a birthday, I knew I wanted to do something unique for him. So if you want to make a clown cake, why not put their face on it? Here's what I did:

First, I made two round 9" cakes and stacked them, using chocolate frosting in between the layers and around the sides. The dark sides draw more attention to the top of the cake, which is where you want people to be looking. Assuming the clown you choose has white face paint, then white frosting is what you'll want on top!

Next: the nose. In this case, a Hostess Sno Ball dyed red was the perfect size! Make more than one, just in case the color isn't to your liking. That way you can play around with how dark of a color you'd like for it to be.

Finally, grab a photo of your favorite clown and in a Word doc, measure out the size of their face to equal the size of the cake. Since this was a 9" round cake, I blew up the eyes to equal approximately 4" wide.

Print and cut out the eyes separately. Make sure the mouth is long enough to fit on the cake. If it's too long, you can trim it at the end.

And voila! Your Angus Oblong (or clown cake) is complete!

One thing to note, though: when you remove the eyes and mouth to actually eat the cake, make sure no kids are around or they might get the creeps (if they weren't already scared in the first place).

$2.99 for the cake mix
$3.99 for chocolate and vanilla frosting
$.99 for a Sno Balls
Printer, paper, scissors and food coloring already on hand

TOTAL AMOUNT OF TIME: About 30 minutes (not including bake time)
This includes frosting the cake, printing out the eyes and mouth, cutting them out, and dying the nose

EASY PEASY SCALE (1 super easy - 5 very difficult): 2 out of 5
If you're not familiar with taking digital photos and resizing them, then you might have some difficulties getting the correct proportions. It just takes some trial and error but trust me, it doesn't get much easier to decorate a cake than using good 'ol paper!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Origami Plastic Bags

Lately, my cupboard has been taken over by a big, white, plastic bag monster who likes to eat other plastic bags. It grows and grows until the shelves are overflowing. Some people have those bags for holding plastic bags but I never saw one I liked. Then I saw a post on Pinterest that suggested putting them in an old Kleenex box. That's a good idea... unless you have over 50, in which case, you need a lot of boxes. Then I came across this post by MouseChirpy and thought it was brilliant - origami plastic bags! Gosh I love the internet!

First, flatten out your plastic bag (including the handles). Fold it in half length-wise, then fold it in half again.


Next, fold a corner up from the bottom and into a triangle.

Continue to fold, making the triangles, until you've reached the handles.

   fold fold fold fold fold until.... here:

Now fold down the handles from the top until they're only 1/2" to 1" long.

I found it was easiest to take the top corners of the handles and fold them in so the center made a point.

Take that point and tuck it inside the folded layers.

And there you have it kids! An easy way to store a bunch of plastic bags so you can finally use those Kleenex boxes for something else... like Kleenex!


TOTAL AMOUNT OF TIME: 1 minute/bag

EASY PEASY SCALE (1 super easy - 5 very difficult): 2 out of 5
It takes a second to get into the flow of it (coming from someone who never made paper footballs in school) but once you get into it, it's a piece 'o cake and they definitely cut down on valuable space!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Microwave Meals in a Mug -- Part 2

I had previously gone over how to make three different meals in mugs but because the internet is vast and people are curious, I thought I would do a continuation of my original post. So here, ladies and gentlemen, I give you four meals in mugs! I'm grading them this time, so you can see the diversity. Also, note how much time it says it should take in the title versus how much time it actually takes. Grab your coffee mugs and run to your microwave because these are going to be interesting!

MEAL #1 - "2-Minute Coffee Cake"
Thanks to my Aunt Judy for pointing this one out, I thought this was going to be a tasty treat. I followed HeatherLikesFood's post and here's what I can tell you:

+ =


PROS: Very easy to make. Strudel on top was delicious.

CONS: Coffee cake itself was too doughy - expected it to be same consistency as baked coffee cake and instead found it too heavy and slightly doughy. Extremely hot out of the microwave but would not be any good cold. Ended up throwing most of it out.

TIME: 10 minutes total


MEAL #2 - "Chocolate Chip Cookie in a Mug"
I followed Number2Pencil's post and here's what I can tell you:

Before the microwave
After the microwave

PROS: Takes like a cookie that has just been taken out of the oven, even though it looks... odd. I used light brown sugar and after 50 seconds, it came out just right. Really, is it hard to mess up chocolate? I don't think so.

CONS: Very hot so be careful! "Drops" of vanilla aren't easy to include - I had to pour vanilla into a measuring spoon, pour back into the container, and then used whatever was remaining in the spoon. A bit cumbersome, if you ask me, but worth it!

TIME: 10 minutes


MEAL #3 - "5-Minute Microwave Berry Cobbler"
I followed DomesticFits' post and here's what I can tell you:

   + =

PROS: Strawberries were delicious!

CONS: Too hard to get to the strawberries underneath in coffee meg. The "cobbler" had the consistency of homemade flour play-doh. Perhaps if this were made in a large mason jar, like the original post used, there'd be more room but the flavor of the cobbler was lacking anyway. Had to toss it.

TIME: 15 minutes


MEAL #4 - "2-Minute French Toast in a Mug"
I followed PrudentBaby's post and here's what I can tell you:

Before the microwave

After the microwave

PROS: 1 piece of nut grain bread, no vanilla, and in the microwave for 1min, 20 seconds and they came out great! The nuts in the bread gave it a slight crunch (since a stove-top wasn't going to harden the crusts) and the cinnamon mixed with the maple syrup makes a great combination.

CONS: Cooked egg whites were at the bottom of the mug and the bread was a little mushier than it would be if made on a stove top, but still quite delicious.

TIME: 8 minutes


Monday, January 20, 2014

Healthy Alternative to Wendy's Frosty?

I've seen this post from make the rounds on Pinterest and Facebook claiming to be a healthy alternative to a Wendy's Frosty and when I repinned the post, the only ingredients listed were:

1. 3/4C of almond milk
2. 1/3 of a banana
3. 15 ice cubes
4. 1-2 Tbs. of unsweetened cocoa powder
5. 1/2 tsp. of vanilla (though the original post says 1 scoop of vanilla protein powder, which I wouldn't have had anyway).

One important thing to note is that I didn't include two ingredients that the post recommends and to be honest, I wouldn't know what other recipes to use them in anyway (I think they're available at Whole Foods or Trader Joe's). They recommend:

1. 1/4 tsp of xanthan gum and
2. 1/4 tsp of guar gum (or more xanathan if you don't have guar. All I can think about is the band... ahem... anyway...)

So with that in mind, I gave this a try. I added all the ingredients to my blender.

And gave it a whirl for a couple minutes.

My husband and I tried it and we both came to the conclusion that this tastes like... well... ice mixed with cocoa powder. It's not sweet at all. If you're expecting it to taste like a Frosty, like we did, you will be sorely mistaken. This definitely needs something sweet - maybe chocolate syrup, sugar, honey, SOMETHING to give it flavor! If you do give it a shot, maybe the xanthan gum is the key to making this taste great but without it... well... just grab a couple bucks and head to Wendy's. You'll be better off.

$.69/pound for bananas
$2.59 for almond milk
Vanilla, cocoa powder, and ice cubes on hand

4 minutes to add all the ingredients
2 minutes to blend together in a Vitamix

EASY-PEASY SCALE (1 super easy - 5 very difficult): 1 out of 5
It's not hard to add everything in a blender - the hardest task might be finding all the ingredients!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Homemade Marshmallow Fondant

If you're as obsessed with cake shows as I am (big fan of "Ace of Cakes"!), you know that fondant is a big part of cake decorating. Fondant is a thick paste made of sugar and water, which makes cakes look clean and professional. Wilton makes blue pre-packaged fondant for $10 but I find it to be too... what's the word... stale. Especially if you roll it out too thick, it's not an enjoyable addition to a dessert. So when I saw this post by Seddy5 on how to make your own out of marshmallows, I thought this would be a great addition to my husband's birthday cake!

I. Was. Absolutely. Wrong.

Here's what I started with:

1. A bag of mini marshmallows
2. Confectioner's sugar/icing sugar/powdered sugar (why does this stuff have so many names?!)
3. Food coloring
4. Optional - Flavored extract (if you want it to taste like something other than sugar - lemon, almond, etc.)

First, start with a few handfuls of marshmallows, put them in a microwave safe bowl, add a few teaspoons of water, until they're all relatively damp. Put it in the microwave in 15 second spurts. It took mine 55 seconds to completely melt into a big bowl of white goo.

I recommend spraying your spoon with PAM or grease with butter so the marshmallow goo doesn't stick to your spoon while you stir it.

Next, add your food coloring. Now the original post made it sound like the color would drastically fade as you add the powdered sugar but I didn't find that was the case at all (maybe because I only used half a bag of marshmallows instead of a full bag). The color below was the color of fondant I made by the end!

Finally, add your powdered sugar. I can't tell you how much I added to both the mixture in the bowl and on the table but I can tell you it's a lot. So if you decide to make this, buy a big bag and plan on using at least half of it. The reason being, it takes quite a lot for it to eventually become solid enough to knead on the table and roll out. Plan on getting your hands covered in food coloring and powdered sugar.

Now here's why I think think this fondant would be better for the tops of cupcakes, something on a smaller scale, rather than a cake:

Pre-packaged fondant - the kind you would buy from Michael's, Wilton, etc. is quite thick but for a reason. I found when rolling this out, I couldn't get it on the cake without it ripping, tearing, and worst of all, falling off the cake (even with buttercream frosting underneath!). I did try putting it in the fridge after it was on the cake, to see how well it stayed and by golly, it stays on there well enough, but it didn't look as clean and professional as the store-bought kind.

So it's completely your call and maybe you'll have better luck than I did!

$2.49 for marshmallows
$1.99 for powdered sugar
Food coloring on hand (I used Wilton's coloring gel)

TOTAL AMOUNT OF TIME: About 20 minutes

EASY-PEASY SCALE (1 super easy - 5 very difficult): 3 out of 5
As I said, maybe if you use the entire bag of marshmallows and maybe if you put it in the fridge before using it, it might be thicker and therefore easier to cover a cake without ripping but I think I'll buy my fondant from Duff's Cakemix (for $3!) moving forward.