Something out of Nothing

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I love to make something out of something that I was just going to throw away. My brain just ticks in this way.

On February 14, 1010 Peter gave me a huge mylar Valentine balloon. I put it in the corner of my living room and there it sat until today, when it finally ‘died’. Imagine a balloon lasting over a year and a half.

It was so pretty, I couldn’t bear to throw it away. So I pressed out the remaining air and I plan to cut it apart and cover two old placemats. That way I will have a great pair of Valentine placemats.

To do this, just wrap and scotch tape on back. Then cut a piece of pretty paper, fabric, felt, or card stock slightly smaller than the placemat and glue on the back to ‘hide’ the tape.

So next time you get a balloon that says Happy Birthday, Congratulations, or Happy New Year give it a second life. Cover a placemat. If you don’t have an old placemat, just use a piece of cardboard you cut from a box. You should be able to get a ‘matched’ pair out of one box.

The other day I noticed that the Halloween candies are out in full force. Longs had my favorite Sugar Daddy’s on sale. Two bags of 27 lollipops for $4. I bought four bags. After Halloween they will be 39 cents each, but I can’t wait that long for one of these lollipops.

When I opened the bags, I realized that the bags were really nice. Heavy weight and probably would lend themselves to all sorts of possibilities as a second life. Another bag that would be perfect for this project is the Nestles Chocolate Chip bag. Two is all you need.

If you want a big case, get the 72 oz bag that is sold at Costco. It is a much better ‘deal’ and  you never run out of chocolate chips. You will have to transfer the chips to another container, so you can use the bag.

I decided to try making a ‘pencil case’. Or it could be a cosmetic case for your purse. Or it could be a Sugar Daddy lollipop container for your purse when you go to the movies.

First step: Carefully cut open the bag. Fold. . Do this twice and  use one for the lining. Put the two bags wrong side together, so the ‘lining’ is just like the front.Turn inside out and scotch tape around the inside edges. Voila. You could add velcro, or stich on some ties.

Now here is the scary part. Take a large piece of parchment paper (or wax paper) and fold it. Put your case between the paper and lightly steam with a steam iron. The case will get nice and flat and smooth.

You don’t have to use Sugar Daddy bags. You can use any Halloween candy bags. If you aren’t in a rush and don’t particularly care about the brand, you can wait till November first an buy a whole bunch at 75% off.

These are cute ‘stocking stuffers’ and take about five minutes to make.

There are actually lots of things you can do with these colorful plastic bags. If you like to knit or crochet, you can cut thin strips and make ‘yarn’. Just attach the strips to each other with a little glue.

Or you could cover a wide bangle bracelet either in one piece, or wrap with strips. Then tape on the inside with scotch magic tape.

Or, you could just glue on the front of a notebook or manila folders. Steam and press to ‘bond’. Use your child’s favorite candy and they will be blown away.

Correction…

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Yesterday I posted a blog about pretzel cookies. They didn’t taste very sweet so today I tried them again. Very odd.

ppss. I just figured out why these cookies taste so strange. I accidentally bought honey mustard pretzels. I didn’t even realize pretzels came in flavors. So be careful out there.

I decided to make a ‘graham cracker crust’ out of the cookies. This was before I realized they were honey mustard variety. I put them all in the food processor, added a little sugar and a glob of margarine and blended it all together.

I pressed it into a spring form pan that had been sprayed with non stick. Baked at 350 for about 15 minutes. Cool.

Then I filled it with my famous fluffy key lime pie mixture.

Here is how. Sprinkle one package of unflavored gelatin on 1/4 cup water. Soften. Add this to 1/2 cup sugar and four egg yolks. Add 1/2 cup fresh lime juice or half /half with lemon juice. Cook stirring constantly to a boil. Add some lime zest and two drops of green food coloring.

Put in bowl and in fridge for an hour till thick. Meanwhile whip the four egg whites, add 1/2 cup sugar and then when lime mixture is semi gelled, fold together and pour into pie crust. Refrigerate till cold. You can squirt whip cream on top.

By the way the crust was absolutely delicious. Best ever. I think I will always put pretzels in my ‘graham cracker’ crust, even if there are no graham crackers in it.

Pretzel Cookies

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I subscribe to Martha Stewart Living magazine. Most of the recipes are so complicated I don’t even bother, but these snack bars caught my eye.

They are called pretzel-shortbread bars and they are for those of us torn between our sweet and salty sides. The recipe calls for a 4 1/2″ x 12 1/2″ fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. I have never even heard of such a thing..

I used a round springform pan. I’m sure that will be just fine. First step is to spray pan with non stick spray and line bottom with parchment paper. (She almost lost me on that part).

Then put 1 3/4 cup of mini twist pretzels in a food processor and pulse till powdery. Mix 1/2 cup of this pretzel powder with 1/2 cup all purpose flour and 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder. Set aside. Then put 1 1/2 cups of pretzels in food processor and pulse till coarsely chopped.

In electric mixer cream one stick of unsalted butter at room temperature and 1/4 cup sugar till fluffy. With mixer on low, add one large egg yolk (or two medium). Then add flour/pretzel powder mixture and finally mix in 1/2 cup of the chopped pretzels.

Press dough evenly onto pan and top with 1/4 cup of chopped pretzels, pressing down into the dough. Discard or eat the leftover pretzels.

Bake 25-30 minutes. Cool on wire rack for an hour. Remove from pan and cut into rectangles using a serrated knife. Duh…

These can be stored at room temperature for a week. (I doubt if they would last that long).

I was going to pick up some pretzels from Costco today, but they only had the six pound bag, which was about six times more than I needed. Plus it seemed to weigh a ton, not just six pounds. At $6.99 it was a very good deal, as the one pound bag at Safeway is $3.

Costco also had a huge jar of large sourdough pretzels that looked very tempting. It was slightly more than the ones in the bag, but I wasn’t sure how easily they would grind up for this recipe.

Plus I couldn’t think of where in my condo kitchen I would put it.

p.s. I just tried these ‘cookies’. I don’t think they are very sweet. A half cup of chocolate chips added might be a good idea. (Probably good with tea.) Or a big glass of cold milk.

ppss. I just figured out why these cookies taste so strange. I accidentlly bought honey mustard pretzels. I didn’t even realize pretzels came in flavors. So be careful out there.

Moneyball-a movie review

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This is going to be a very short post. But the movie Moneyball is nice and long and so that sort of makes up for it. It is the kind of movie that you never look at your watch to see what time it is.

Moneyball is a really good movie. Brad Pitt deserves an Oscar for his role as General Manager of the Oakland Athletics.

Brad Pitt is in every single scene. He is so perfect for the part. For once this is not a chick flick. But the women will love it because he is such fun to look at.

No, I think the men will love this movie. I am a big baseball fan and so I found it very interesting and educational. I never did understand the trading of players and this was so real.

The story starts with the fact that the NY Yankees have a budget of $114 million and the Oakland A’s have a budget of $39 million. It is very difficult to compete for players when the odds are so stacked against you in the money department.

This is a true story of a real person and how he turned the Oakland team around. I don’t want to spoil it for you by telling you how he did it and what actually transpired.

You will have to go see this movie to find out. And I recommend having a hot dog and a coke while you are watching to get the real baseball feeling.

Popcorn

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I am on a popcorn kick. I bought a very nice popcorn popper and it is so easy to do, I am tempted to make a batch every night. This is perfect TV watching food.

The popper I have has little holes in the top. You can put a pat of butter there and it will drip onto the popcorn as it pops. Yum.

I have tried all the brands of popcorn. Jolly Time, Best, and various brands from the market. But Orville Redenbacker is far and away the best. They also make a popcorn oil and the two together is perfect.

I have popcorn salt and now there is a powdered cheddar cheese addition that really is good. There are three flavors you can sprinkle on, but the white cheddar beats them all.

You can find these at Safeway, but now the movie theaters sell the little bottles at the snack bar, so you can sprinkle the cheese flavor on your movie popcorn. The full size ones are around $3, but the minis in the theater are only $1.50.

By the time you get a bag of popcorn and add the sprinkles, we are talking over $10 for two. You can make popcorn at home and all your TV watching will be more fun. And popcorn for two can’t cost over $3, with the popcorn, oil, butter and cheese sprinkles.

Last time I went to a movie theater I noticed that the two large popcorn, two large drinks and two candy combo was $22.50. I usually get the kiddie combo which is a small popcorn, a drink and a candy from column one. That is $6. (I like the candy in column one-especially the Junior Mints.)

I made too much last night, so I had a big bowl left over. Rather than throw it out, I turned it into caramel popcorn. This is sort of like Cracker Jack. But without the prize at the bottom.

By the way what happened to those nifty prizes we used to get. I remember plastic rings and little games with rubber bands. Now it is just a little paper decal which must cost the folks at Cracker Jack about 1/100th of a cent.

Here is how you do it. Melt a stick of butter or margarine in a saucepan. Add one cup of packed brown sugar and one fourth of a cup of karo syrup and a dash of salt. Bring to a boil stirring constantly.Boil for five minutes without stirring. Remove from heat and add 1/4 teas. baking soda and half a teaspoon of vanilla. Stir and pour over a big bowl of popped popcorn. Mix well. You can add peanuts or nuts of your choice at this point. (One bag of microwave popcorn is about the right amount.)

Spray a big baking pan with non stick spray. Pour popcorn into pan and place in 250 degree oven. Every 15 minutes stir the popcorn and after an hour it is done. Nice and crispy. Store in an airtight container.

If this sounds like too much trouble, you can buy Cracker Jack or Fiddle Faddle. For a really fabulous version of this go to Neiman Marcus at holiday time and get their pecan/popcorn in a tin. The flavor can’t be beat and it is very buttery. Bet you can’t eat just one cup.

Python Is In…You Don’t Have to Break the Bank-Part Two

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Yesterday I started a post about the python craze in fashion. I had so much material that it was just too long for one day’s read. So here is the second half on the same subject.

The point of the article was to show that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to be fashionable. The part about the snake bag I bought in Vegas sort of contradicts this, but I figure if I ‘save’ a few hundred here and there, then sometimes it’s OK to splurge.

I must confess, I did buy a fabulous genuine snake tote bag last time I was in Las Vegas. I was at the new Pallazo hotel, which is the newest part of the Venetian and there was a great shop ajoining the casino. How handy.

And there in the window was an incredible metallic aqua/silver tote with silver snake handles. Did I say that the lining was floral silk and the matching little bag inside was embroidered with the designer’s name Falchi? (my favorite purse designer in the world.)

I went into the store and found out that it was sort of a double bag/held together by invisible magnets and the price was $250. I figured I could give the other half as a present and so I justified the cost. The salesgirl sweetly wrapped in in a beautiful carry bag.

When I got the package home, I saw where each bag was separately ticketed at $250. So even though it was a lot, it was two for one. I love it and it is truly a ‘one of a kind’. It is much better looking than the photo and not only is it 24 inches by 20 inches, it weighs almost nothing and packs totally flat.

$250 in Las Vegas at the Palazzo Hotel and casino

Inside Falchi tote bag

And then my piece de resistance that I found at Aldo’s yesterday. A great ‘python’ combination clutch/chain strap purse in shocking pink and pumpkin, trimmed in black.

$23.98 at Aldos

I had seen this last week for $40 and ‘almost’ bought it. Then yesterday as I was walking by the store they were putting the last one out on the sale table at $23.98. That did it.

Same purse with chain. Two for the price of one. (less 40%)  This purse also came in shades of blue/tourquoise. And by the way they have the matching sandals @$80. I passed on those.

The only thing ‘wrong’ with this purse is the plain black lining. It is hard to find things in your purse if the lining is black.

I am planning to fix this problem by lining the inside with a silk scarf. Even when I use half the scarf for the lining, I will still have half left over to use as a small scarf.

It’s not very hard to line a purse. Simply choose a silk scarf that goes with the outside, or contrasts it, measure and cut a piece twice as long as purse. Fold over and stitch down one side and across bottom.  Make sure right side of fabric is on the inside. Use a border if possible.

Simply slip stitch all the way around top of inside of purse. If you have a purse with black lining and you use a scarf with some black in it and some black thread, you won’t see a single stitch.

Python is In…No need to Break the Bank-Part One

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I try to keep up with fashion by reading Vogue, W, Lucky and Cosmopolitan. I am amazed at the prices for some of the ‘deals’. It is not uncommon for a simple little clutch purse to be $198, or a tote bag $225. (not to mention the matching shoes for $895 or more)

I like the look of snake accessories, but no way am I going to spend a fortune to add a little zing to my wardrobe. I check out Nordstroms for styles and colors and after finding that most of their purses are in the four figure range, I head to Aldos.

Aldos is my new favorite ‘go to’ place for fashion handbags. The most expensive one I ever bought there was $50, my every day ‘python’ bag. This is also great for travel and goes with everything, day to night.

$50 at Aldos

People stop me on the street to admire my ‘python’ purse. This is a ‘knockoff’ of a $10,000 Birkin bag by Hermes. And I didn’t have to wait a year on the waiting list to get it.

I just looked up Birkin bags on the internet and found this blue sapphire one in crocodile. I copied the ad below but I left out the part that said, “Add to cart”. (I wonder if they charge for shipping?) Since it says ‘usually ships the next business day’, they must have a few of these in stock.Hermes Birkin Handbag 35cm Blue Sahphire Diamond Porosous Crocodile

Item#: HMbluediamoncroc

Availability: Usually ships the next business day

$280,000.00

**********

If this seems a little much, here is another Birkin bag. This one is sort of a high priced knockoff and while I show it in yellow, it is also available in purple, green or gray.

$1,219.00

This Birkin is made from original python skin. To produce such a bag under the name of luxury, we have bought many of its leather suppliers to ensure the supply of top notch leather.  This Birkin 30  is one of the emblematic bags from the family, a very feminine, roomy handheld bag which reinvents the famous elements from the first trunks. This Birkin 30 in authentic Pythonskin is only available for custom order, which takes at least 15 days before shipment.

Birkin 30 Features:

  • Real Original Python leather imported from Africa
  • Silver hardware
  • Four protective feet
  • Internal zipper pocket
  • Patch pocket inside
  • Lamb leather lining
  • Extra small dust cover for lock and 2 keys
  • Year code on lock with two keys

Each Original Python Birkin 30 comes with dust cover, certificate card & care booklet, and receipt. All markings and accessories are exact.

Size: 11.8″ x 6.3″ x 8.7″  30 x 16 x 22 cm

Add to Cart: 1

This one isn’t python, but it looks so much like the Birkin bag above I had to show you. This one was also from Aldos and also $50. Maybe I should hook on a little gold charm bracelet.

Great Travel Bag. Lots of zippers and sections. $50 at Aldos

My ‘find’ last year was at Target in Las Vegas. This was a ‘python’ tote bag in a very pretty shade of dusty rose  beige. I think it was on sale for $16.

$16 at Target/Las Vegas

Then over to Macy’s Ala Moana for a clutch to wear out to dinner. I am a good shopper in that I always look for the 75% off table and then use my 15% discount coupon. Or sometimes it is a better deal to use the $10 discount on $25 purchase, if you shop before 1 pm on one of their ‘one day’ sales, which they have quite often.

Sometimes you have to buy two items to reach the $25 amount, but it is still cheaper than just buying one thing for $16. I wound up spending $11 for this ‘python’ clutch. Colors are lavander/grey.

$11 at Macy’s

…to be continued

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