Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Cinnamon Swirl French Toast Bites

A while back  I did a blog post on How To Make Cinnamon Swirl Bread .

It's still a great recipe and I highly recommend it!

Yesterday I made 2 loaves of cinnamon swirl bread and turned it into french toast bites for the kids.

If cut the bread into thick cubes and soaked it in french toast batter.

French Toast Batter (1 serving)

2 eggs lightly beaten
1 Tablespoon milk (dairy or non-dairy)

Allow the bread to soak for about 5 minutes then pan fry as usual.

So Delish!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Refashion - Tutu Dress

The idea for this dress came to me when I saw a (kind of trampy) tutu dress at GoodWill.  I wanted to make dress up clothes for my little niece.  The problem with commercially available dress up clothes for kids are that the quality is so poor.  One wash and they're done for.  My idea was to make machine washable play dresses for little girls.  This dress is the first step on my path.

Here's the original dress.

Original Dress
It's kind of hard to tell from this picture, but the dress has a bustier top with strappy sides.  Not exactly appropriate for a 4 year old!

Original Top
The top is a cotton blend shirt from Talbots.

I'm lucky that the top was an adult size 2.  Because the dress is being made for a child, I can cut it down without too much trouble.  A larger adult size might have required me to remake the arm holes.

First I cut the bustier from the tutu.  I wanted to make sure to leave as much waist band as possible.

Tutu Without Bustier

Bustier without tutu

 Next I removed the zipper.  Carefully cut around the the zipper and save it (you can use the zipper in another project).

Tutu with no zipper
 Cut the shirt down to size.  I used a pajama shirt for the pattern.

I used a child's size 6 shirt for a pattern
 Keeping as much of the original stitching as possible in tact, I cut the shirt to the smaller size.

Shirt Cut Down
 The rest of this process is pretty easy!  Turn the shirt inside out and stitch the sides.

With the right sides together, stitch the tutu to the shirt.

This entire process took about 30 minutes.

I REALLY hope that my niece likes it!

Turkey Tips!

This is a guest post courtesy of the Bergen County Mocha Moms Blog.

There has been a lot of chatter this week about turkeys.  No, not your ex boyfriend - the bird.

Let me start by saying that you don't have to be any kind of chef to make a great turkey for your friends and family during this holiday season.  Just a few tips and you'll do great!

Turkey for a SMALL party (2-6 people)
A few weeks ago we talked about how to bone and roast a fresh turkey breast.  That post was called The 1-Hour Turkey.  This method is ideal for a small gathering where a whole bird is not really needed.  In that post we learn how to bone, season and roast a fresh turkey breast.  We also cover making turkey stock  Click the title of this section to jump to that post.

If you're feeding a crowd then you've come to the right place!  Mocha Heather has shared with us her wisdom on brining the whole bird.  She's also shared an informative video with other turkey tips.

Turkey Brine Recipe - Courtesy of Mocha Heather.
For a full turkey, combine 
1 cup of kosher salt
1 cup of brown sugar
1 bay leaf
Enough oranges to stuff the inside the bird and a couple of cut up oranges in the water

Put everything in big pot and cover with the water. Leave overnight for best results. 
In the morning discard brine and oranges.  DO NOT cook with anything used in the brine.  Season the turkey with all fresh ingredients.

For more food/cooking tips be sure to visit our Food Page!

Here are more tips shared from the Mochas

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

NO SEW Phone/Tablet Seat Back Mount

Smart Commuter

This post if for my bus commuter friends.  I know that some of you have seen people on the commuter bus with their phone or tablet attached to the seat back in front of them.  (Pictured above).  In my opinion this is an AWESOME way to travel!

The problem is that I don't want to attach Velcro directly to my phone (or tablet) because I only need it for like 2 hours a day.  

My solution is this clear vinyl sleeve.

Clear Sleeve
It's so simple that I feel like an idiot for not thinking of this sooner!

For this project you will need:

12-gauge clear vinyl
sticky back Velcro

12 gauge Vinyl

Stick back Velcro

Because I'm working with clear vinyl it's difficult to photograph the step by step.

Step #1 - wrap the vinyl around the phone 1 time so that it covers the phone completely with about an inch of overlap.  Cut the vinyl.
Wrap vinyl around the phone 1 time.  Cut to size

Step #2 - add Velcro for closure

Add Velcro closure

Step #3 - Add Velcro to the back of the phone so that it can stick to the bus seat.

Add Velcro to the back of the sleeve
That's it!

All Done!
This is seriously the EASIEST project in the world!

Now when you're ready for your commute, wrap the phone/tablet in the sleeve and stick it on your seat back!

There are a couple of important tips to remember.  
#1 - TEST YOUR BUS SEAT!  Depending on the fabric used on commuter buses in your area, Velcro may not work.  New Jersey Transit buses are made of a rough(ish) fabric that allows Velcro to stick perfectly!  If your seat back is soft, Velcro may not work.  TEST FIRST!
test your seat back!
#2 - This will NOT work on most car seats!  I'm working on a solution for cars!
#3 - If you've using a larger phone or tablet get extra sticky Velcro!  I'm using an iPhone 5 and regular Velcro holds the weight of the phone just fine.

If you sew, you can add a layer of oil cloth or other fabrics to make this sleeve in various colors.

Oil Cloth Sleeve w/ Velcro

Black Vinyl Sleeve with snaps 
Add a layer of colored vinyl or oil cloth over the clear vinyl to make a more colorful case.  Be sure to measure and cut a window carefully.  Stitch the colored cloth to the clear vinyl.  You'll need to stitch around the window and all the way around the edges to hold the colored cloth in place.

I LOVE oil cloth because it comes in so many colors!

Oil Cloth

FINAL NOTE:  You WILL be able to use your touch screen through the clear vinyl!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Homemade Tater Tots

Home Made Tater Tots
 So I made homemade tater tots yesterday. They were SO delicious and such a bad idea. I ended up eating too many and spent the rest of the day feeling like I was going to die. I can't eat deep fried food, but good lord where they delicious!

I saw the recipe of Diners, Drive In and Dives. The recipe was SUPER easy and I made them from memory after watching the show.

Here are the basics:


3 medium size potatoes (shredded)
1/2 large onion shredded
1 Tablespoon corn starch
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Paprika
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Oil for frying

Soak the shredded potatoes in water then drain. Squeeze excess water out by hand then add seasonings.

Toss the potatoes in the corn starch and seasonings until well mixed. Put to potatoes in a 350 degree oven on an oiled cookie sheet for 10-15 minutes to dry them out a bit. Remove from the oven and let them cool.

Heat frying oil to 350 degrees in a pan. (you will be deep frying so the oil will be 1/2" deep).

Once the potatoes have cooled squeeze them into balls. The cornstarch makes them stick together nicely.

Deep fry until golden brown (about 1-2 minutes).  Remove from oil and place on a plate that has been covered in paper towels to absorb the extra oil.

Salt the hot tots and enjoy!

Basket of Home made Tots

After Halloween Savings

November 1st Sale Costumes 

My favorite part of Halloween is the after holiday sales.  I don't do after Christmas sales because I'm usually WAY too tired from the holiday to bother.  After Halloween is another matter entirely!

Here's why after Halloween Sales are so great:

- Most people don't think to bother with after Halloween Sales, so the crowds are usually light
- Deed discounts on costumes
- It's the fastest cheapest way to restock the dress up drawer
- Lots of Christmas crossover.  Yes friends, there are lot of Halloween decorations that can be used for Christmas.  More on that in a minute
- Lots of everyday items at deep discounts (I'll elaborate below)

Here's what you need to know:


-  NAME YOUR PRICE!  If you shop at or before Halloween prices are usually clearly marked.  After Halloween many or most costumes are out of their original packaging and/or missing pieces, tags and labels.  Commonly the cashier will ask me "how much is this?"  As there is OFTEN no way to tell, I tell him what I want to pay.  If a manager is present there is sometimes haggling involved.  If no manager is present they give me the price I name.  Now let's be realistic, I'm not saying "I'll pay .10 cents each, but I've NEVER had a reasonable price refused.    

-  USE THE IN STORE SCANNER.  Some costumes will have a bar code on the size label or somewhere inside the item.  Use the in store scanning station to scan these costumes.  If there is no size tag bar code expect to name your price.  This is especially true at Walmart.


So much of bargain shopping is thinking outside the box.  The BEST way to save money is to purchase an item designed for one purpose and use it for something else entirely.

 Here are a few examples:

Halloween Lights become Christmas Lights
Green Halloween lights can also be used for Christmas.  These lights were in the 50% off Halloween aisle.  So for $1.74 you've got 70 mini Christmas lights.

Skeleton Cookies become Ginger Bread Men
This spooky Wilton cookie kit could easily become Gingerbread Men.  Add your own (brightly colored) frosting to create a festive Christmas treat!  Store the cookies in the freezer until Christmas to keep them fresh!

Cupcake liners can be used at any time of year
 Skip the pumpkin and spider cupcake liners and go for the solid colors or stripes.  These liners can be used for just about any holiday!  And at .97 cents for 100 you can't go wrong!

Dual Duty Skull Cookie Cutter
This skull cookie cutter can do dual duty.  Turned right side up it's a skull.
Christmas Ball Cookie Cutter
Turned upside down it's the shape of a Christmas tree ball!

Seasoned parents already know that leftover Halloween costumes are the BEST source of dress up clothes for the kids.

Princess Dress for the play closet!
If you can find them on the cheap, buy as many costumes as you can afford for hours of imaginative play.  Don't forget the accessories!

Mario/Luigi mustaches .49 cents each
Butterfly/Fairy Wings $2.25/each

Petticoat at half price!

There are always everyday items hiding in the Halloween aisle.  There's no reason in the world not to pinch a penny by snapping up these items.

Shopping Lists
Who cares if your grocery list is on Halloween themed paper.  At .49/pad this is a great bargain!

Glow Sticks
Glow sticks are great for trick or treating, but they also make a great party favor for birthday's or other kid-centric events.  Or if you happen to be stopping by a rave!  Again, at .49/each you can't go wrong!  These keep well over long periods of time as long as you keep them in the package and don't bend or squash them.

It should go without saying that the MAIN reason to shop after the holiday sale is costumes for next year.  As the kids get older this can be a tricky proposition.  As friends begin to have more influence shopping ahead can be dangerous and potentially wasteful. (Sizes might change a lot, so might what's in style)

When I shop ahead I keep the costumes generic.

Skeletons, Zombies ghosts and other generic costumes are the best way to go.  One year Duck Dynasty is all the rage.  The next year nobody cares about those guys.  Skeletons are the favorite at my house.

Skeleton from several years ago!
This skeleton costume was first worn by my teenager when he was just 6.  Now, 9 years later,  it was worn by my 7 year old to a Halloween Party.  He calls it "that boney guy".

Buy big!  My children are now 7, 10 and 16.  In the past I've bought costumes a size or 2 larger than their current size.  These days I ONLY buy adult costumes.

We live in North Jersey and it's (usually) COLD at Halloween time.  In the last few years the costumes have been covered with coats and hats.

By buying adult size costume tops by kids can wear the costume on top of winter coats and hats.  The entire coat is covered but the costume is not so long that he trips over it.

Adult size Biker Dude Costume Shirt OVER a winter coat.
The Biker Dude costume even has tattooed arms.

Costume Arm Tats

Adult side Skeleton Costume over a winter coat
If you live with them you already know - teenagers can be a pain in the neck!  There really is not much a mom like me can do to please a "know everything" teen.  The kids can't wear costumes to school and this kid doesn't want to come home and change before going trick or treating with friends.  SO - I buy him spooky graphic tees.  He LOVES a graphic tee, plus it doubles as a Halloween costume.

Teenager Halloween Wear
Here is another one of his favorites!

Costume Alternative
This Robin picture is actually from the first day of school.  He wears graphic tees year round!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

DIY iPhone Stand

I am a long time fan of office supply art.  It was during a slow period in the office that I made this little iPhone stand.

iPhone Stand

Even the most inexperienced inventor can whip up this little gem in about 5 minutes. It's the most portable, durable and cost effective stand I own!

For the this project you will need:

1- Large Binder Clip
1 - Medium Binder Clip

Stand Supplies

First, remove one of the metal prongs from the medium clip.

Next, bend the remaining prong on the medium clip.  (I used the edge of my desk)

Put the clip in a slit on the desk.  Bend.
Now assemble your stand.

Clip the big clip over the small clip.

Try it out!

It probably took you longer to read this post than it will take you to make this stand.


Fold this stand and pop it in you pocket or your purse.

Folded Stand
I use this stand to watch Netflix on my lunch hour