Friday, August 29, 2014

Tetris Cookies

Ever since I was a kid, I've loved playing Tetris on my GameBoy. Just the word "Tetris" gets that electronic Russian music in my head all over again like an '80s earworm. It's hard not to like Tetris. It's problem solving, creative thinking, and stress management for adults and just plain fun for kids. My husband had a game night at his work and I wanted to contribute something, so when I saw these Tetris cookies by PSHeart, I thought they were perfect! I doubled my recipe, just like the original post did, but there's one little detail they left out that I want to warn you about...

Before I get to that, here's what you'll need to make 88 Tetris sugar cookies (more or less, depending on how large or small you cut them!):

1 cup of butter
1 1/2 cups of sugar
4 teaspoons of vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 Tablespoon of milk
4 cups of flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
Preheat your oven to 350 and cream the butter in your mixer. Add your sugar, vanilla extract, eggs, and milk and beat hard.

Add the flour and baking powder and beat again - if it's more liquidy than doughy, it's ok.
Cover your workspace with flour and roll out your dough. The thinner the dough, the crisper the cookies. If it's thick, the dough will puff up in the oven!

Now it's time to make the shapes. If you want to use a template, that'd be the smart solution. I decided to eyeball it instead. Meh.

Pop them in the oven until the bottoms and sides are golden brown (anywhere between 5-9 minutes, depending on the thickness of the cookies.
Let them cool before icing. Now if you have the time, you can make your own royal icing. However, by the time I finally got these puppies out of the oven, two hours had already gone by and I was exhausted. I colored white Pillsbury frosting out of a can instead. Don't kill me.

Now my version of Tetris on the Game Boy wasn't in color so I had no idea what color the pieces should be. Really, you can use any colors you want. If you have a black food writer pen, that'll probably work better than the black Wilton sparkle gel icing I used.

All in all, they were a big hit at game night, even if they didn't look perfect and took over 4 HOURS to make. This is one of those times where you can and should tell your kid, "Don't forget to play with your food!"

TOTAL COSTS: About $20 to make 88 cookies
$.99 for the butter
$2.69 for the sugar
$2.79 for the eggs
$2.29 for the milk
$3.29 for the flour
$1.99 for the baking powder
$1.99 for the frosting
$2.99 for the black Wilton Sparkle Gel
Used homemade vanilla extract and had food coloring on hand

TOTAL AMOUNT OF TIME: A little over 4 hours
10 minutes to make dough
2 hours to cut and bake 88 cookies
2 hours to decorate 63 of them

EASY-PEASY SCALE (1 super easy - 5 very difficult): 3 out of 5
Getting the right thickness, making sure they didn't burn, getting the black lines to be straight...yeah, there are a few places you could mess up. Heck, I dropped and broke quite a few, so try not to get too frustrated if they don't turn out perfect. Whoever is eating them will think they look and taste delicious, no matter what!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

DIY Turquoise Nails

I love tearing Pinterest ideas apart and bringing them back to reality. Like the gingerbread TARDIS, or the marshmallow Kahlua shots, or even the spider cookies, they were all massive failures. However, when I see others tear down Pinterest ideas, I see that as a challenge. Is it really as hard as they say? Will I fail as well? When I saw this post from MeAndMySoldierMan, she rips apart these turquoise nails, claiming they're "ridiculous" and you can just buy crackle top coat instead. But I'm going to go out on a limb here and say...

...they're not ridiculous. 

If you have a half hour to spare, they're really not that hard to do yourself. All you need is:

1. White, black, blue, and clear nail polish
2. Q-tips
3. Rubbing alcohol
4. A spray bottle
5. A small container with water
6. Nail polish remover

Start by painting your nails white. Now you'll have to forgive me, I'm not the best at painting nails so bare with me and my sloppy work!

Once the white has dried, apply the blue/turquoise nail polish. Really, it can be any color you want, but I wanted mine to be as close to the original post as possible.

Once the blue has dried, it's time to prepare the black. In your small container of water, add 1 drop of black nail polish.

Spray the drop of nail polish with rubbing alcohol.

Immediately stick your finger in until the nail is completely covered (it's a quick in and out). 

Remove your nail and using your Q-tip and nail polish remover, remove the excess from around the nail. If you leave your finger in for too long, your nail will mostly turn out black (see below).

And if you wait too long before sticking your finger in the water, the rubbing alcohol and nail polish will act like algae and stick to your finger. It's kinda gross. So spray, dip in and out, and wipe off excess without any delays!

Once all the fingers are covered, paint a final clear top coat to seal the deal!

And there you have it folks - your very own turquoise nails! Sure, you could spend money on nail art to have them look like this but you'd only be able to wear it once and then you'd have to buy 'em again. This way, you can make 'em however many times you like!

TOTAL COSTS: Less than $10
$.99 for rubbing alcohol from Vons
$.99 for clear polish and white polish from Rite Aid (2 for 1)
$1.99 for black polish
$2.99 for blue polish
$1.99 for nail polish remover
Q-tips already on hand (though I suppose you could use paper towels)

TOTAL AMOUNT OF TIME: 30 minutes (almost to the second!)

EASY-PEASY SCALE (1 super easy - 5 very difficult): 2 out of 5
They're really not hard to do at all, and this is coming from someone who can't paint inside the lines very well! I like how every nail can have a different design and is completely unique to anything anyone else might have!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Interlocking Felt Coasters

Coasters are not something every household has. Most people either use whatever is already on the table (like a book or a cable bill), have plastic/granite/linoleum tables, or they choose to accept the water rings that will ultimately be on their wood table. Coasters can also be ridiculously expensive... I mean, these coasters from Crate and Barrel will set you back $20! So when I found this post on HowAboutOrange on how you can make your own felt coasters AND have them look cool, I tested them out to see just how easy they were to make. Anything that looks like that must take hours, right? Wrong. They're quick, they're easy, and would make great housewarming gifts, stocking stuffers, even a graduation gift for your college-bound kid (can you imagine the kid placing their cheap PBR on a coaster? Ok, maybe not...)

Start by downloading this template (which will make two coasters) and gathering your felt, scissors, and an x-acto knife.

Next, cut out the perimeter of the template, place the template on top of the felt, and pin it down. Every place you see a diagonal line, cut it out with your x-acto knife.

Once you're all done, cut out the 8 individual rectangles, remove the pins, and remove the paper. The left column is one coaster, the right column is another.

Next, take four pieces and interlace them like what you see below. You'll want the four pieces overlapping each other with four little triangles "chasing" each other, kind of like a pinwheel. At this point, make sure all the slits that are in the center of the square are cut all the way through to the edge. This will help you down the road, I promise!

Now here's where it can get a little tricky. You see those four little triangles? Well, you're going to want to pull them ALL the way through the opening. If your original slit isn't big enough for you to pull the triangle through, you can always cut the opening a little bigger but be careful!

Here's what it should look like once all four triangles are pulled all the way through.

And here's what the back will look like (the side that will lay against the table).

Take your scissors and cut two triangles on the front side in the middle of each side. Trim the sides so that your square is even.

And there you have it folks! Your very own unique, simple, yet functional (and inexpensive!) felt coasters!

$.33/color of felt at Michael's (the stiffer the felt, the better!)
Scissors & x-acto knife already on hand

TOTAL AMOUNT OF TIME: 25 minutes/2 coasters

EASY-PEASY SCALE (1 super easy - 5 very difficult): 2 out of 5
It look me a while to figure out that the tiny triangles have to be pulled all the way through the slits but once I figured it out, it was a piece of cake!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

How to Make 4 Different Kinds of Zucchini Chips

I know what you're thinking... zucchini. Blech. Not everyone's favorite vegetable and I can relate. The only time I can remember liking zucchini was in the 7th grade when we made zucchini brownies in Home Ec. (does that class still exist in schools nowadays?). So when I saw this post by TheCopperCollective on how to make tasty zucchini chips, I'll admit... I was curious. Will the different flavors mask or enhance the flavor of the zucchini? And the comments on the original post are all over the board when it comes to how long it takes to actually make them, so I figured I'd give them a shot and give you some pointers on what NOT to do!

There are four different kinds of chips I attempted: salt & vinegar, chili powder, curry powder, and parmesan cheese. In order to make these I used:

*Chili Powder
*Curry Powder
*Parmesan Cheese
*Olive Oil
*Bread Crumbs
*1 medium zucchini (which makes a little over 100 chips!)

Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees. I know, I know, the original post says 450 but it's nonsense and I'll show you why later. 350 degrees and grease your cookie sheets (PAM works fine).

Slice your zucchini really thin. Thickness is totally up to you. The super thin chips tasted most like actual chips but they burn very quickly if you're not paying attention. Most of mine were about 1/8" thick. If you have one of these handheld slicers, it's freaking amazing (I bought the Zyliss 2-in-1 at Bed, Bath, and Beyond for $20 when I just wanted a toilet paper holder...). I sliced the zucchini over 100 times in less than a minute!

Next, take however many you like and add them to a bowl with about a Tablespoon of olive oil. Coat all the slices in the oil.

For the parmesan, curry, and chili chips, I followed this same process: add 1/4 cup of grated parmesan, 1/4 cup of bread crumbs, 1/4 teaspoon of salt (the original post says 1/2 teaspoon but I found they were too salty with that much!), and a dash of pepper to a small bowl. Dip the zucchini slice in the bowl and cover both sides.

Once covered, place the slices on the prepared baking sheet. If you want to add curry or chili powder, now would be the time to do it.

Now here's where it gets a bit tricky... see, the original post said 450 degrees for 25-30 minutes. So, I placed them in the oven and walked away. After 10 minutes, they were burnt to a crisp.

So here's my advice: keep a very watchful eye on these. I came up with a plan that might not work for you (because you have better things to do than hover over an oven), but here's what worked for me.

1. Place the chips in the 350 degree oven for 7-8 minutes or until they start turning golden brown
2. Once the time is up, take out the pan, flip over the slices, and bake another 3 minutes

This seemed to do the trick... for me. Now your oven may heat differently than mine, your slices may be thicker/thinner than mine, so this is definitely a trial and error process. Don't be upset if your first batch has chips that look like this...

...rather than this. They can, and do, become crispy with enough time.

As for the salt & vinegar chips, I placed my zucchini slices in a bag with vinegar for about 45 minutes (the original post recommends an hour). I found after 45 minutes, they were definitely flavorful! Just lay them on the prepared cookie sheet, sprinkle with salt, and follow the same baking times as before!

If you put them on the fridge, the cat can't get to them!
And there you have it kids - delicious, flavorful, and healthy zucchini chips! How long do they keep? Well, I put mine in a plastic bag and the next day, they were all chewy, not crispy, so I recommend eating them the same day!

What flavors would you like to try or recommend?

TOTAL COSTS: Depends on chips -
$.99 for salt
$4.79 for vinegar
$3.99 for chili powder
$5.99 for curry powder
$3.50 for parmesan cheese
$1.99 for olive oil
$1.99 for bread crumbs
$.99 for 1 zucchini
Pepper already on hand but really, it's just a sprinkle

TOTAL AMOUNT OF TIME: About an hour and a half (to make over 100 slices with four flavors!)
15 minutes to prep zucchini
1 hour, 10 minutes to make all 100+ slices

EASY-PEASY SCALE (1 super easy - 5 very difficult): 4 out of 5
They're not impossible to make, trust me, but it is trial and error in the beginning. You don't want them to burn but you don't want them to flop around. You want them to be flavorful but not overpower your taste buds and leave you gasping for water. Once you figure out what works best for you, they're very easy to make, just don't give up on your first batch!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

How to Make Faux Febreze

Got a smelly teenager going to college?
Does your car smell like the inside of a hockey bag?
Is your shirt full of wrinkles and you don't have an iron?

Then it's time to invest in making your own Febreze! The average bottle of Febeeze (27 fl. oz.) costs between $5-$7, depending on the store. The faux version? Well, I used 3 Tablespoons (you could use 4 if you want a stronger smell) of a $2.99 bottle of fabric softener (64 fl. oz.), and water is free, so you do the math!

It's really that simple. 3 Tablespoons of fabric softener + enough water to fill your pre-existing Febreze bottle (don't use an old cleaning bottle) = enough faux Febreze to last a really freakin' long time!

What are some other purposes for it, other than making your clothes, house, or car interior smell good?

* If you spray it on carpets before you vacuum, you'll pick up more dirt and pet hair, which is great for homes that have dogs or cats that shed like crazy!

* If you've finished washing the dishes and want to get rid of the suds (for you OCD clean freaks, like me!), spray a little and enjoy a stink-free and suds-free sink!

* If your clothes are wrinkled and you don't have time to iron, gently mist the solution onto your clothes (but NOT silks!) and wipe the wrinkles away!

* If you're in college (or your kid is) and you want to make your dorm room stink a little less like cigarettes and cheap beer, spray this cheap solution!

* If you want to reduce static cling or remove the "shock" you get when you get up from your car seat, give your seats a spray!

Have I convinced you this is a brilliant, time-saving (you don't have to go to the store to make it!), and cost-effective solution to have in your home??

TOTAL COSTS: $2.99 for fabric softener
$2.99 for fabric softener from Vons
Water and empty Febreze bottle were free!

TOTAL AMOUNT OF TIME: Less than 5 minutes

EASY-PEASY SCALE (1 super easy - 5 very difficult): 1 out of 5
It's two ingredients, people, it's not rocket science. However, it would make the inside of a rocket smell quite lovely...

Friday, August 22, 2014

Mentos in Ice Cubes + Diet Coke = Surprise Disaster?

We've all seen the YouTube videos of someone dropping Mentos into a 2-liter of Diet Coke and producing a giant soda fountain explosion. Or perhaps you're a fan of "Wreck-It Ralph" and remember the importance of Diet Cola Mountain.

What would happen, though, if you put a Mentos in an ice cube and then offered your very thirsty friend a glass of Diet Coke? Will there be a giant soda fountian explosion in their face?? I had to try it out... on myself, of course.

Since Mentos sink to the bottom of water, there was no need to do a multiple-freeze process (add a little water to the ice cube tray, freeze, add a little more water, freeze, etc.). Instead, I just poured water into my ice tray, added 1 or 2 Mentos per cube, and let it freeze overnight.

The best part? You couldn't even tell there were Mentos in the ice cubes! Tee hee hee...

So I grabbed my diet soda, ice, and a glass, ran outside (since I definitely wasn't looking forward to the clean-up in the kitchen!) and started pouring.

Immediately bubbles started to form and I stepped back. Oh man, here it comes! I started my stopwatch, just to see how long it would take for it to explode, but I figured it couldn't be more than a minute or two.

...5 minutes later, the ice was melting and bubbles were forming, but no soda fountain. However, I realized it was in the shade, so I decided to move it over to a sunny area where the ice could melt faster. And I jostled the ice cubes a bit, thinking that might help speed up the process.

10 minutes later...

20 minutes later...

...finally after 30 minutes, the ice completely melted and there was no pop explosion. A sizzle, but that's it.

So why didn't this work? Well, the surface of a Mentos is like the moon, with tiny craters and pits. When the surface of a Mentos reacts with cola, little CO2 bubbles form and escape as gas. When millions of bubbles are created at once inside the bottom of soda bottle (because Mentos sink), that's when you see the rapid release and explosion of soda. However, because my Mentos were in water first, the surface already started to dissolve. Without those thousands of little pits for the carbon dioxide, there were no bubbles, leaving me with disgusting minty soda.

$3.99 for a bag of Mentos
$1.29 for Diet Coke


EASY-PEASY SCALE (1 super easy - 5 very difficult): 1 out of 5
If you like watching ice melt, then boy oh boy is this the project for you! Personally, I'd rather enjoy my pop without the minty aftertaste.

Monday, August 11, 2014

3 Banana Snack Ideas

Bananas. Mother Earth's solution for your daily intake of potassium and fiber, all zipped up into a funny lookin' yellow suit. But what if you're tired of eating bananas the same way every day? You probably don't drink 100% banana juice or eat bananasauce, so what options are there to get creative with this funny fruit? Here are three ideas on how to make bananas a little more interesting:

#1 - Sticky Slices

Start by preheating your oven to 350 and peeling your banana. If you're doing it from the long stem (where it's attached to other bananas), take some advice from the monkeys: if you squeeze it from the opposite end, it's much easier to remove!

Slice your banana and place the slices on a cookie sheet.

Sprinkle cinnamon over the slices and drizzle with honey.

Pop it in the oven for 10 minutes. When they come out, the honey will probably have gotten everywhere, just to warn you...

Don't expect these to be crunchy. They're mushy but very flavorful. Once cooled a bit, they'd be a great treat for a baby or toddler because they're great finger food!

#2 - Banana Bites

Speaking of finger food, if you prefer yours cold rather than hot, here's an option. Slice up your banana so the pieces are 1/2" thick.

Take some peanut butter and slather between two slices of banana. I found 1 banana = 16 slices or 8 banana bites.

And, if you really want to be devilish, dip it in some melted chocolate.

Place them in the freezer for 2 hours and stick 'em in a plastic bag for tasty treats later on!

#3 - Almond-Banana Smoothie

Lastly, if you don't like the texture of bananas, a smoothie might be your best bet. To make a delicious almond-banana smoothie, you'll need: 

2 sliced bananas
2 Cups of almond milk
2 Cups of ice
2 Tablespoons of packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
Nutmeg (optional)

Start by blending the first five ingredients until smooth. This is enough for four 8oz. glasses, which you can then sprinkle some nutmeg on top, if you like. It's savory, it's sweet, and it's ridiculously good.

TOTAL COSTS: Varies per snack idea

Anywhere from less than 5 minutes to 2 hours

EASY-PEASY SCALE (1 super easy - 5 very difficult): All of these were 1 out of 5
I tried to find three creative but also easy banana ideas that any parent, college kid, babysitter, health nut, etc. could execute. My favorite? The smoothie!