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Chocolate Chip Brownie Gift in a Jar – Inexpensive and Delicious

I love my friends, and I’d love to have unlimited funds to shower them in gifts. But I work for a non-profit, my husband is disabled, and I have two kids. So, not much in the way of funds to throw around.

If you are a Pinterest fan, you’ll notice all types of inexpensive homemade gifts. My favorites are the food gifts, especially the ones where you give them the ingredients for a yummy baked good layered in a glass jar with cute little tags and ribbons.

My concern is that when my friends bake up whatever I’ve sent them, it won’t taste that great. So, as a public service to all my faithful readers, I’m going to try out a number of the homemade gifts featured on Pinterest and let you know how they taste, so you can send them to your friends and family, confident that they’ll enjoy it.

Here is the pin I try this week:

browniemixpin

The recipe comes from the Fake It Frugal blog.(This blog is a terrific source of knock-offs of name brand mixes.)

This recipe isn’t technically a homemade gift, but I thought it could be easily adapted to be one. And I like the price – 30 cents!

The instructions from the blog are:

Ingredients:
1 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Flour
1/3 Cup Cocoa
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Baking Powder

Mix all these ingredients together with a whisk and dump them into a zipper bag. On the bag, add the following instructions: Add: 2 Eggs, 1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil, 1 teaspoon Vanilla. Bake @ 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

The ingredients were ones I already had on hand and, as mentioned on the blog, they’re inexpensive.

browniemixingr

The mixed together ingredients had an interesting texture and stayed together in a blob when transferred to a pan. To add a little pizzazz, I added a third of a cup of chocolate chips sprinkled on top.

browniemixinpan

The final product was a thin but delicious brownie. The fam loved them, and so did the chocoholic in me. They were gooey brownies with a deep chocolate taste. I knew anyone who received these as a gift from me and made them would be thrilled!

browniemixdone

Now that I knew they were delicious it was time to package them. I found some adorable printable baked good labels to download from TomKat Studio and matched them with pre-cut labels.

browniemixlabels

Aren’t they cute? I wrote the following instructions on them:

Whisk together dry ingredients. Add 2 eggs, ½ cup vegetable oil, 1 tsp. vanilla. Spray cooking spray on 8” x 8” pan. Add mixture and sprinkle with chocolate chips. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.

Most of these gifts in a jar have more ingredients that are aesthetically pleasing for layering. So, to make up for that, you mix all the dry ingredients except for the cocoa. Then put half the dry ingredients in a pint-sized mason jar, next the cocoa, them the rest of the dry ingredients. Tap the jar on the counter between each addition to level it out. Put the chocolate chips in a snack sized bag and place them on top and put the lid on. Attach the label with a ribbon.

Here is the finished product.

browniemixjar

My daughter gave this one to a teacher of hers, and she loved it.

What do you think?

All told, this gift cost around $2.00. The value is in the time, effort and love that goes into the gift. That’s what I value in a gift.

Until next week, happy pinning!

Shelly

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Makeup Brush Cleaner – Easy and Works Great!

It’s that time of year when everyone is thinking of cleaning and organizing. So I caught the bug and started looking around my house for where dirt and germs were lurking.

It didn’t take long to find some on my makeup brushes. Embarrassingly, I can’t remember the last time I cleaned them. This pin came to my rescue:

makeupbrushespin

This comes from the Daily Quirk blog.

Here are the instructions:

  • Mix 1 cup of warm water, 1 tablespoon of liquid dish detergent and 1 tablespoon of white vinegar in a cup.
  • Dip the brushes in one by one and give them a good swirl around the cup.
  • Rinse them under lukewarm tap water, reshape and lay flat to dry on a rag overnight.

Here are the wonderfully inexpensive ingredients and my nasty brushes:

makeupsolutioningred

Here’s what the ingredients looked like mixed in a glass jar. I used warm water instead of lukewarm because I didn’t read the instructions carefully. (Don’t worry, it worked marvelously!)

makeupsolutionbefore

That’s the before. Here’s the after:

makeupsolutionafter

Yuck! You can see all the makeup that the cleaner removed. It was simple, too. I just swished each brush around for a minute or so and rinsed. Here are the brushes after cleaning and drying overnight.

makeupbrushes

Don’t they look great? No vinegar smell was left, either.

So, ladies, pull out those dirty brushes and get cleaning! Or, you gentlemen, clean your wife’s brushes as a wonderful surprise.

Until next time, happy pinning!

Shelly

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Product Review: 12-volt A23 Battery = $40 of Button Cell Batteries

batterypin

The $40 Hidden Inside a 12V Battery

It seems almost every toy we have for our children or gadget for ourselves requires batteries. And we need them in all shapes and sizes. Small electronic devices such as keyless vehicle entry systems, home security systems, garage door openers, and Bluetooth headsets commonly use the 12-volt A23 dry cell-type battery (also known as 8LR932, 8LR23, GP23A, MN21, 23AE or ANSI-1181A). Then there are those small gadgets like laser pointers, keychain flashlights, and little toys that make sounds, move and/or light up when you squeeze them, which typically use the 1.5-volt LR932 alkaline button cells.

laserPoint_batteries

The cost of batteries varies as much as the size, shape and voltage of the batteries themselves. When the battery in your garage door opener needs replaced, you can purchase a 2-pack of Energizer’s A23 batteries for an average cost of $1.88. Unfortunately, the typical laser pointer uses 3 LR932 batteries, which cost an average of $5 each. If you’re like most people, you usually opt to replace the gadget itself rather than its batteries, because it’s actually cheaper. I realize this doesn’t make sense, but that’s the way it is.

Now for the amazing part… Did you know that each A23 is constructed of eight individual LR932 alkaline button cells? Furthermore, using a small screwdriver you can peel away the outer housing of the A23 (there’s a split in the label/housing) revealing a piece of paper. Inside that paper you’ll find a stack of eight 1.5-volt LR932 button cells which may be separated and used individually. That’s a $40 value inside each A23 battery.

So, the next time you find yourself needing 1.5-volt LR923 button cells, remember that an investment of less than $2.00 for a 2-pack of A23 Energizer batteries will provide you with $80 worth of replacement cells.

Note: This is an easy hack that takes less than a minute to do. While most online descriptions caution that you must use the Energizer brand A23 12-volt battery. However, some people have claimed that Duracell’s MN 21/23 12-volt battery also contains 8 individual 1.5-volt LR932 alkaline button cells.

(Today’s blog entry is authored by my husband Kenn. Thanks, honey!)

Until next time, happy pinning!

Shelly

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Snowman Hot Chocolate Spoons

I can’t say the weather has been great for hot chocolate here in Ohio. It’s been unseasonably warm. But I still love hot chocolate, and it is December. So that’s excuse enough for me and my family!

When I came across this pin, I had to try it.

Snowmanspoonpin

It’s from the Getting Crafty’er blog. Adorable, huh?

Here are the ingredients we gathered.

snowspooningred

We melted the chocolate. It didn’t make much chocolate. So, to cover the spoons, you had to scoop the chocolate in the spoon then spin it around. Next you had to tap off the excess. Here is a picture of me coating a spoon. (Photo credit to my daughter Kaelin!)

snowmanspooncoat

And we didn’t even sneak any. Do you believe it? Hard!!

Next we added three small mini marshmallows, two mini chocolate chips as eyes, and a peanut butter chip hat. I will tell you that this is practically impossible without getting the melted chocolate on the marshmallows. In fact, my daughter and I began laughing and laughing because we kept getting little bits of chocolate on our finger and then we would get it on the marshmallows. So we would come up with a plausible explanation for what that brown chocolate smudge was. “The hat has a brown band around it,” or “That’s his pocket.”

snowmanspoondipped

Then the most difficult part–the coconut. At first I tried to find big enough shreds to go all the way across between the marshmallows, but then realized that there weren’t enough of those. I started using two pieces, one for each arm. Next, it was hard to get them not to fall down into the chocolate. You have to gently place them between the marshmallows and kind of squish the marshmallows together. I don’t know that I ever got the technique quite right.

Here are the final products.

snowmanspoons

They are definitely not perfect, but, boy, they were so much fun to make!

We also make the peanut butter and chocolate chip version. You melt the peanut butter chips the same way and then carefully place mini chocolate chips on the spoons. (Sprinkling them did not look nearly as good.)

pbspoons

Again, not perfectly beautiful, but delicious and fun to make. My daughter had a great time.

A friend of mine was sick with a bad cold, and I was running over some chicken broth to her. I knew these hot chocolate spoons would lift her spirits. I didn’t have cellophane, so I used a sandwich bag. (I’m a master at substituting what I have on hand.) I cut off the top where it seals. I only had purple curling ribbon, so I found some ribbon from a present that my parents gave me.

Here is the finished product.

snowmanspoonwrapped

She loved them. What a great inexpensive present and a fun family activity.

Stay warm, have some hot chocolate, and until next time, happy pinning!

Shelly

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Fun Shaped Bird Feeders

Winter break is almost upon us and that means precious time with our children. But that also means that soon we will hear the annoying chorus of “We’re bored! We’re bored! There’s nothing to do!” This pin is perfect for those days:

BirdFeederPin

This winter break activity is from the eighteen25 blog. Here are the instructions:

what you’ll need:

  • 3/4 cup birdseed (we got the seed for small birds at wal-mart)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 small envelope of knox gelatine
  • twine or string
  • cookie cutters, molds or mason jar lids
  • wax paper

what you’ll do:

  • Mix together the envelope of gelatin with 1/4 cup of water and bring to a simmer while stirring. Continue stirring until the gelatin is dissolved.
  • Remove from heat and let cool for a minute.
  • Stir in the 3/4 cup birdseed, adding a little more if there is liquid still in the bottom of the pan.
  • Lay your cookie cutters out on wax paper and fill half way with the birdseed mixture.
  • Cut your twine, knot the end and push the knot down into your birdseed.
  • Continue filling with birdseed, covering the end of your twine and knot.
  • Push the birdseed evenly into the cookie cutter until it’s full.
  • Allow them to dry overnight, turning them over every now and then.
  • Remove from the cookie cutters and hang them in your trees.
  • Then wait by the window to watch for your first guest.

I love to feed the birds during the winter, and my cats love it also. They especially adore when I hang the feeders outside the big picture window in the living room. They can watch them flit back and forth for hours.

These shaped feeders are perfect for hanging outside the window and in our trees, and the shapes are adorable. I knew they would be great for family time.

I gathered the supplies. I decided since we were going to go through the trouble and mess, I would double the recipe and make even more. I got the bird seed from the large bin where you can scoop as much or as little as you need so that I didn’t have to buy an entire bag.

BirdFeederIngredients

This picture shows the gelatin cooking and dissolving. When I first began the project, my kids said they didn’t want to help, but once I started, my daughter couldn’t resist and came in to help cook the ingredients.

GelatinCooking

Next we added the birdseed. The doubling of the recipe worked perfectly. We didn’t need to add any extra birdseed as the recipe suggests you might need.

BirdseedCooking

We selected four cookie cutters—the state of Ohio, a wavy square, a heart and an apple.  We placed them on a waxed paper covered cookie sheet. At this point my son decided he wanted to join the fun. We pushed the birdseed into the cookie cutters. We even had enough left over to add a small moon shaped cookie cutter.

It was a messy business, but very fun.  One note: you have to work quickly at this point because relatively quickly the gelatin solidifies.

Once you fill a cookie cutter halfway, you insert the twine. The original instructions don’t tell you how long to make the twine, but I found that 20 inches made a nicely sized loop for hanging in the tree.

BirdfeederHalfWay

Finally you fill the cookie cutter the rest of the way, press the mixture down and flatten it across the top. Here is my son finishing filling one of the cookie cutters.

PressInBirdfeeder

Now the cookie cutters are all filled and ready to set.

BirdFeederFinished

After about three hours, we started flipping them over as the instructions said, and it worked perfectly. About eighteen hours later, we pressed them out of the cookie cutters. They came out easily, and looked great!

Here are the final products ready to be hung.

finishedbirdfeeders

The kids were thrilled to hang the birdfeeders up and they looked great in the trees and hanging from the porch. (No, it’s not evening. It’s 4 p.m., in Ohio, and of course, it’s grey outside. Sigh.)

kaelinhanging

HeartBirdFeeder

I would recommend this project for anyone with kids. My teen and preteen enjoyed the project, but it was easy enough that any child from toddler to teen could find it fun. Toddlers wouldn’t be able to do the cooking, but they would have fun pressing the bird seed into the cookie cutters and inserting the twine. What child wouldn’t be thrilled to hang their finished bird feeders in the trees and see the birds enjoying their hard work?

If you give this project a try, send me a photo. I would love to see how yours turn out.

Until next time, happy pinning!

Shelly

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