10 Smart New Uses for Balloons

Mrs. Fields Secrets Balloons 1 Mrs. Fields Secrets Balloons 2 Balloons were once relegated to birthday parties and prom backdrops, but these inexpensive and colorful items can be transformed into so much more. Check out these 10 genius ideas!

1. Create delicate, tissue paper lanterns from balloon forms.
2. Make a colorful modern vase for flowers.
3. Add dirt, water, seeds and even a tiny toy or two and create a fun, disposable terrarium.
4. Make homemade drums and rice shakers for an inexpensive band.
5. Instead of a piñata, hang a collection of filled water balloons for a fun party finale.
6. Make your own squish-able  stress balls.
7. Make your own bouncy balls from balloons.
8. Substitute a baseball for a water balloon to cool off on a hot summer day.
9. Turn a balloon into creative gift wrap for cash gifts.
10. Add bright colors to clear jars and glasses with balloons.

Recipe: Giant Cinnamon Roll Cake

Mrs. Fields Secrets Giant Cinnamon Roll Cake
We’re no strangers to the draw of Pinterest. (By the way, are you following us? Please do.) We see those incredible food photos, too, and feel the immediate urge to reproduce them ourselves. Today’s recipe is from a Pinterest crush that developed as soon as we read the caption “Giant Cinnamon Roll Cake.” It was time to turn this delectable idea into reality. The key to this recipe is patience. Let the dough rise long enough to become soft and elastic. Don’t rush. The result is a gorgeous cake that you can easily serve for dessert, breakfast, brunch, or a 3:00 snack.

Giant Cinnamon Roll Cake
adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction

for the dough
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons butter
1 egg

for the filling
4 tablespoons butter, softened to room temperature
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar

for the glaze
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon half-and-half or heavy cream
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions
Prepare dough by measuring 2 1/4 cups flour into a mixing bowl (reserving 1/2 cup for later), along with sugar, salt, and yeast, then stir until thoroughly mixed. Combine water, milk and butter in a microwave-safe bowl and heat until butter is just melted and liquid is hot to the touch, but not scalding (about 115 degrees). Pour milk mixture into the flour mixture and begin mixing with a dough hook. Add the egg to the dough and then sprinkle the reserved flour into the mixture while it’s mixing until dough is pulling away from the side of the bowl. Spray a separate bowl with nonstick spray and transfer dough into it to rise, covered, for about 30 minutes.

Next, prepare a flat surface with a sprinkling of flour and roll out dough to a large rectangle, about 12 x 15 inches. Using clean hands, spread the softened butter evenly over the surface of the dough, then sprinkle evenly with the cinnamon and sugar. Use a pizza cutter to trim any uneven edges, then cut dough into six two-inch strips. Prepare a 9-inch cake pan with nonstick spray. Loosely roll one strip and place in the center of the pan. Next, add each additional strip to the spiral to create a giant roll. (HINT: Loosely roll each strip to transfer to the pan, then unroll it around the center for easier transport.) When all the strips have been added. Loosely cover the cake and allow to rise in a warm spot for 60-90 minutes, or until double in size.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove covering and place cake in the oven for 30-35 minutes. After 15 minutes, check cake and cover with aluminum foil if the top is getting brown. Once cake completes baking, remove from oven and prepare glaze. Drizzle glaze over warm cake and allow to cool an additional 20 minutes before serving.

How To Get Sand Out of Everything

Sand. It’s heavenly between your toes, but what about when you find it everywhere, from your clothes to your car to your hair? Here’s a simple primer to keep the sand where you want it and nowhere you don’t!

Skin: Sand stuck on dry skin will slide right off with a little sprinkle of baby powder and gentle rub. Keep a travel size bottle of baby powder in your beach bag.

Hair: Baby powder will also dislodge sticky sand from dry hair and scalps. Sprinkle a little at the roots, then tilt your head upside down and tussle hair at the root to release sand. For straight hair, use a fine-toothed comb. Then later, opt for a sudsy bath instead of a shower. Soak hair in the water and work hair at the roots with your fingertips. Sand is heavier than hair, so it will release and fall to the bottom of the tub.

Clothing: Tossing sandy clothes into the washing machine will only lodge them further into the fibers. Lay clothes flat in the sun to dry. When fully dried, give them a gentle tug to loosen the fibers, then shake out the sand. Once the sand has been released, you can put them through a wash cycle.

Swimsuits: The fine fibers of swimsuits are a perfect trap for sand. Turn suit inside out and allow to dry completely. Tug gently at suit and shake out trapped sand. Next, soak swimsuit in a sink full of warm water for about 10 minutes. Add a tablespoon or two of delicate laundry soap (such as Woolite) and hand wash. Rinse with warm water and wring out extra water with your hands before laying suit out to dry on a large towel.

Cars: If simple vacuuming doesn’t seem to do the trick for your car upholstery and carpeting, try brushing it first with a pet hair brush. This will release the sand from deep in the fibers and make it easier to vacuum. Repeat the cycle several times if necessary.

Your Child’s Eyes: The most important thing is to keep your child from rubbing or scratching her eyes, since the sand could scratch the cornea and cause infection. Take a fresh bottle of water (preferably at room temperature and not ice cold) and have the child tip her head back while you pour a gentle stream into the corner of the eye to flush the sand out.

There’s only one thing left to do: get out there and get sandy in order to try these techniques!

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Tips and Tools for Capturing Summer

In the blink of an eye, summer is more than halfway over and the only way to make it last forever is to preserve your memories to savor later. A smartphone in your hand is the only tool you need to get started. We’ve gathered tips and tools for you to capture all the special moments of summer and pair them with incredibly easy technology to make them last.

First, the tips:

  • We’re good at snapping photos at family reunions and on vacation, but what about all the special days in between? Take snapshots of your garden, your house in the summer, your favorite park, your regular spot at the pool. Think about all the things you love about summer and take a quick snapshot to document them.
  • Give your kids the camera for the day. You’ll be amazed at what they choose to include, and you’ll get a surprising new perspective on your life from their point of view.
  • Use the video function on your phone to capture small moments. Movement, voices and sound enhance the memories you preserve.
  • Get in front of the camera. Parents (moms especially) tend to take all the photos but are rarely seen in them. Think about it, you don’t want to be a phantom figure in your family’s history, so regularly hand the camera to someone else and smile for the birdie!

Now, the tools:

  • Magisto is a fantastic, free app that accesses your photos and produces short video collages using your own photos, video and music. You can tweak them in a variety of ways, but the app itself does an incredible job of drafting creative videos based on different dates and events in your photo stream. Videos can be easily shared with friends and family on social media.
  • Stellar is another fun, new app that allows you to create micro stories using your own photos and text. The editing tools are simple to use and you can add video as well. It’s a great way to document moments big and small.
  • Chatbooks is an easy, affordable way to transfer your documented Instagram photos into beautiful printed books for–get this–only $6. For the price of a combo meal, you can have a high-quality memento of your favorite summer events.

Now get out there and capture some summer!

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Recipe: Summer Tomato Salad

Mrs. Fields Secrets Summer Tomato Salad
It’s about that time of year when the tomatoes in your garden start going bananas. (Wait, can tomatoes go bananas?) It seems that every day there is a fresh new crop for picking, but what to do with all of them? This salad is your answer. You can add any variety of tomato you like, in any quantity, and serve it with virtually anything as a delicious summer side dish. Or, feel free to mix in some cooked orzo pasta and shredded chicken to turn it into a proper main course. No matter what, you’re about to find your favorite new use for all those beautiful ripe tomatoes.

Summer Tomato Salad

2 cups fresh tomatoes, diced
3 cups fresh corn, cut from the cob (about 4-5 ears)
1 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese
1 bunch fresh chives, chopped
freshly ground pepper

Directions
Wash and dice tomatoes then add to a serving bowl. Add corn, cheese and chives, then toss until well mixed. Sprinkle with fresh ground pepper and give one more gentle toss. Chill until serving.

HINT: Add 2 cups cooked orzo pasta and 2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken to create a protein-rich main course.

HINT: Any sharp cheese will do: blue, feta, etc. Add your favorite to make it your own!

25 Genius Travel Tips

 

Summer is full of long vacations and quick weekend trips, so we’ve gathered 25 genius trips to make your journeys sweet!

  1. When packing, roll your clothes to save space and avoid wrinkles. For clothes that have to be folded, use a sheet of tissue paper to avoid wrinkles.
  2. Pack a variety of snacks for the kids in a tackle box.
  3. Carry wet wipes on the plane and wipe down tray tables, arm rests, and anything your hands will touch during a flight.
  4. Use a sunglasses case to store chargers and cables.
  5. A dryer sheet at the bottom of your suitcase or duffle bag keeps clothes smelling fresh for weeks.
  6. Use your cell phone to take a clear snapshot of all your tickets, passports and other important documents.
  7. Wrap shoes in a hotel shower cap to keep dirty soles off your clothes.
  8. Stuff shoes with socks, belts, or scarves to utilize more space.
  9. For road trips, hang a shoe organizer on the back of the seat to have kids’ activities and items organized and within hands’ reach.
  10. Tuesday afternoons are statistically the best time to buy airfare for less.
  11. Marking your luggage with a “Fragile” tag usually gets it preferential treatment, like first in line at baggage claim.
  12. When traveling to a foreign country, use an ATM to withdraw cash. You will get the best exchange rate and avoid markup fees by banks.
  13. On your last day in a foreign country, gather all your cash and loose change and give it to a homeless person or someone in need.
  14. Use contact lens cases to store small amounts of cosmetics and lotions to save space.
  15. A rigorous workout the day before international travel will help you fight jet lag.
  16. On road trips, pull over for scenic photos and outlooks. It’s a great way to break up the drive and you’ll see amazing sights you’d otherwise miss, all for five minutes of your time.
  17. Tie a colored ribbon around the handle of your luggage for easy identification at baggage claim.
  18. Always keep a bottle of water and a protein-based snack in your purse or bag.
  19. Keep a stash of essentials (underwear, toiletries, documents) in your carryon, just in case your luggage gets lost.
  20. If you miss a flight or connection, don’t stand in line at the counter, use your cell phone and call the airline directly.
  21. For car rentals, hotels and any other type of reservation, always ask the booking agent, “Is this is the best rate you can give me?” They are obligated to answer honestly.
  22. Always sign up for frequent flyer and customer loyalty programs. The perks are plenty and add up quickly.
  23. The water on airplanes is not regulated. Order drinks without ice and always use hand sanitizer after washing your hands in the lavatory.
  24. Purchase park, museum, and tour tickets online and in advance. You may pay a dollar or two extra, but it will save you precious time standing in lines.
  25. Ask local people where to eat.

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10 New Things to Roast on a Stick

Move over marshmallows and hot dogs, there’s much more to campfire cuisine! We’ve got 10 delicious ideas for your next cookout, so grab a stick and take note.

  1. Starburst Candy. Unwrap a piece, skewer it with a stick, and let it get warm and gooey before popping it in your mouth or squishing between two Vanilla wafers.
  2. Bacon. Weave a strip of bacon on your stick and let it roast to crispy perfection over open flames.
  3. Peeps. Okay, technically a marshmallow, but the sugary crust gets caramelized in the fire and makes the treat entirely new.
  4. Sea Scallops. Marinate first in lemon and sprinkle with kosher salt before roasting over the fire until edges are seared and crisp.
  5. Apples. Skewer a whole apple with a sturdy stick and roast over the fire until it starts to “sing” or whistle. Serve with cinnamon and brown sugar.
  6. Corn on the Cob. Use a sturdy stick to skewer an ear of corn and roast until you get a nice char. Delicious!
  7. Breadsticks. Wrap breadstick dough around a stick and roast until bread is puffy and golden brown.
  8. Asparagus. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, then roast asparagus over the fire until it glistens.
  9. Kielbasa. Spicy sausage is a perfect match for open flames. Roast until the juices start to burst and bubble out.
  10. String Cheese. Roast until bubbly on the outside and eat straight off the stick or between bread or crackers with a spoonful of marinara sauce.

Do you have a favorite food to roast on a stick? Share your ideas in the comments!

Recipe: Frozen Yogurt Covered Berries

Mrs. Fields Secrets Yogurt Berries Today we’ve got a perfect recipe for a sweet, tart summer treat and a great way to preserve those bushels of berries from an afternoon of berry picking or a stop at a roadside farm stand. These little gems are perfect for popping one or two at a time as you pass by the freezer, or serving as a refreshing snack on a hot afternoon. (And don’t worry, we won’t tell the kids that they’re healthy!)

Frozen Yogurt-Covered Berries

2 cups fresh berries (any combination of blueberries, raspberries or blackberries)
1 1/2 cups plain greek yogurt
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bamboo skewers or toothpicks

Directions
Wash berries, remove stems, and allow to dry completely on paper towels. Prepare a baking sheet or large plastic tray with parchment paper or a silicon baking sheet. Drizzle honey and vanilla into yogurt and stir until well combined. Skewer one berry at a time and dip in the yogurt. Thoroughly coat each berry, then transfer to the lined baking sheet and remove skewer. Repeat the process with the remaining berries, placing them a couple of centimeters apart. Once all the berries are coated, transfer the baking sheet or tray to the freezer and allow to freeze completely, about 1-3 hours. Once berries are completely frozen, remove them from the baking sheet and place them in a freezer-safe plastic bag or airtight container until ready to serve.

HINT: Substitute the greek yogurt, honey and vanilla with your favorite flavored yogurt. It will make a thinner, but sweeter coating.

Beat the Heat with 7 No-Cook Dinners

No Cook Dinners

 

If you can’t stand the heat, you don’t have to get out of the kitchen. We’ve gathered seven delicious no-cook dinners you can prepare without breaking a sweat. That’s one whole week of staying cool!

1. Lobster Rolls are the quintessential summer meal. In your kitchen or your picnic basket, you’ll want this in your meal rotation.
2. Sesame Lime Chicken Salad combines zesty flavors and textures tossed together for a light, but substantial meal.
3. Chicken and Dill Souvlaki has refreshing cool yogurt and cucumber paired with store-bought rotisserie chicken for a savory, fresh flavor.
4. Turkey Club Sandwiches are tall and tasty crowd pleasers for any age.
5. Chicken Salad Lettuce Cups are cold and crispy and absolutely addictive. We recommend doubling the recipe because everyone will want seconds.
6. Roast Beef Salad is so easy to pull together even on the busiest evenings. High quality deli meat is the key to success with this one.
7. Gazpacho is the official soup of summer. Raid the garden, include all your favorite summer veggies, and pair with a loaf of crusty bread. Delicious!

Do you have a favorite no-cook summer meal?

10 Tips for a Perfectly Packed Cooler

Packing a cooler for a day on the water is both an art and a science. A lunch of  warm drinks and waterlogged sandwiches can put a damper on the whole experience, so use these tips to establish yourself as Master of the Cooler and bask in your glory (and the sunshine) all day!

  1. Use separate coolers for drinks and food. This is the number one tip because your drink cooler will get opened several times all day long, allowing cool air to escape, which can be dangerous for food. The temperature in the food cooler will be easier to keep consistent and safe if it is separate.
  2. Mark your coolers. A strip of masking tape with “FOOD” and “DRINKS” written on it is all you need to keep your friends from opening the food cooler a hundred times looking for drinks.
  3. Pre-chill drinks. Your ice will last 2-3 times longer if drinks are already chilled.
  4. Use crushed ice in the drink cooler. Lay cans and bottles on their sides along the bottom of the cooler and cover with a layer of crushed ice and repeat the process. This allows the ice to touch a greater surface of each drink, and as the cooler gets opened and closed, the ice will melt a bit, which will keep drinks nice and ice cold all day long.
  5. If you have a variety of drinks, have them represented in each layer, so that no one has to dig to the bottom of the cooler for their favorite drink.
  6. Always pack water. Hot sun, water activities and alcohol all dehydrate the body, so make sure to have plenty of water on hand. You can also freeze water bottles ahead of time and use as ice packs in the food cooler for backup water if needed.
  7. Avoid ice in the food cooler. Ice melts into water and water seems to find its way into everything. Use frozen gel packs and pliable freezer sheets to keep foods cool. There will be minimal condensation and no slushy water to mess with. Cool air travels down, so put your cooling mechanism on top of the food and allow it to cool from the top down. If it’s an especially large cooler, add gel packs in the middle and the top.
  8. Pack your food cooler in chronological order. Think about what you’ll need first and most often, and have that available at the top. This will help you contain the cold air and keep you organized.
  9. Keep perishable items in sealed containers and close to a cold source. Meats and dairy products should be stored in an airtight bag or container and placed directly next to a gel pack to prevent spoil and contamination.
  10. Keep coolers out of direct sunlight. All your smart packing and cooling techniques will not do much good if the cooler is baking in the sun all day. A shady spot will make all the difference.

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