Monday, October 31, 2011

Seven Things To Do With Your Halloween Candy...

Got Candy?  I bet you do. 

Besides the obvious indulging, here are seven fun activities to sacrifice some of your haul for:

  • Sell Them To Your Dentist-  some local dentists offer programs where they buy candy from little trick-or-treaters by the pound.  Check your local paper or call the dentist to find participating offices.  I personally don't know how I feel about these programs (I paid hard earned money for that candy I gave out!).  Check this out if you think you might enjoy it.

  • Prepare An Advent Wreath-  set aside 25 pieces of candy to whip up these fun wreaths or chains after Thanksgiving.  Unwrap a piece everyday to count down the days before Christmas.  I have used a similar method that From One Mom to Another featured to make jewelry.  Here's a look at the technique she used:

  • Create A Car Show-  pull up a stool and get out your tire guns, I mean hot glue guns or glue dots.  Here is a fun way to spend a dreary Autumn day.  I found some great examples posted at Show Kids The Fun.  Here is a picture of what they created: 

  • Pick A Pocket Full Of Posies-  I found these cute little flowers on Kiboomu :

  • Decorate A Sweet Tooth's Room-  Martha Stewart offers up this recycled idea:

  • Dine On Sushi-  your little foodies will enjoy this activity I found at Glue Gun Crafts :

  • Gather Supplies For A Gingerbread House Raising-  save those little candies for a future endeavor using gingerbread and frosting. 

Most of all -  Have Fun!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Halloween Buffet Treats

I am a procrastinator. 

I am just finishing my part of the dinner menu for a new family tradition.  Our family and a few close friends' families are gathering to feast and carve pumpkins.  My assignment for our Halloween buffet was salads and a few cookies.  I waited until the last minute and managed to scrounge up a few fun additions to our smorgasbord. 

I thought I would share a few treats!

Here is a preview of what our little carvers will be feasting on tonight:


I was searching the Internet and stumbled upon a wonderful blog, Tip Junkie and her spider web treats inspired these simplified webbed treats.  I filled a simple sandwich bag full of melted white chocolate and using scissors I snipped a small opening in the corner.  Carefully, I piped "webs" over pretzel sticks.  To create the illusion of webs, I attached small gummy spiders we found in the grocery store.


We fell in love with these little witch hats at our local grocery store.  They are simply overturned fudge striped cookies with a dark chocolate kiss secured with a bit of frosting or white chocolate.  Cute!


I decided on a frozen fruit salad and placed individual servings into orange cups. Black permanent mark was used to draw the Jack-o-lantern faces on.  It was simple, frugal, and festive enough for a night out with friends.

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Terrifying Dinner: Eye Balls and Blood Soup

Every Halloween I whip up a scary menu to serve my boys and the daycare children before they head home for a night of trick-or-treating.  Over the years I have found a few wonderful ideas here and there.  Some of the past favorites are mummy finger hot dogs, giant toenails (chips), and green ogre puss (pistachio pudding).  The one menu that stands out above all the rest is eye balls and blood soup.

This is a simple idea that literally makes eyes bulge with surprise.  I have served dilated pupils floating in homemade tomato soup and snuggled in steaming chili.  The boys absolutely LOVE this and request it every year.

To make your eyeballs, here is what you need:

  • White Cheese-  I used blanco Velveeta today, but I have used string cheese, shredded mozzarella, block mozzarella, etc.
  • Olives-  the pimentos in green olives add a scary touch, but you can use black
  • Melon baller or spoon
  • Microwave safe bowl-  if you are using hard cheeses

Follow these steps to concoct a fear inducing entree:

  • Soften your cheese in the microwave safe bowl.  I bypassed this step by using a white Velveeta cheese today.  If you opt to use a different cheese, all you need to do is microwave it until it can be rolled into balls.  Be careful that you don't overdo it and burn the cheese. 

  • Next, take your melon baller or spoon and dip out a rounded piece of cheese.
  • With your finger, make a small indention and place an olive inside.  Gently press the cheese around the olive.

  • Finally, roll the cheese ball in the palm of your hands to smooth out the edges and give the eyes a round appearance.

  • Refrigerate until serving time.
  • I enjoy serving these in hot soup, in goblets of tomato juice, or as a fun finger appetizer.

Do you have any fun or spooky treat ideas?

This post was featured on Planet Weidknecht!  Stop by and help her develop a spooktacular Halloween Recipe resource!

How To Get Checks In The Mail...

Recently, I have revisited positive thinking and gratitude.  Yes, the vision boards and the laws of attraction and all that mumbo jumbo.  It's been talked about on Oprah and even a best selling book called The Secret promoted these ideas.  It's basically a theory that promotes using positive or negative thoughts to attract positive outcomes in your life and relationships.  Positive thoughts yield positive outcomes. 

I know.  It's a little strange, but don't laugh yet! 

I figured it was worth a shot.  What could it hurt?  So there I sat, projecting positive messages about getting "checks in the mail" instead of bills.   I wasn't out a lot of time or money- just a few thoughts.

Over and over I repeated, "Checks in the mail.  Checks in the mail.  Checks in the mail."


Yesterday, I got my checks in the mail!

Here's where you can cue your laughter.  I promise it gets funny and as a friend kindly pointed out, "God has a sense of humor". 

A package of blank checks sent by our local bank arrived in our mail box.  A nice package full of check blanks, deposit slips, and a little bill.  I received 100 freshly printed checks in the mail.

I hadn't ordered any checks.  The husband hadn't ordered any either.  We had just restocked this summer.  We were perplexed and wondering where these checks had come from.

I know they didn't just materialize out of thin air, so I called the bank.

It turns out that I included a cancelled check last week when I made our deposit, because I was out of deposit slips.  I wanted to include all of our account information to make sure our money was properly credited.

The teller assumed I included the blank check to order new ones.

I got my checks in the mail and a nice $30 price tag. 

I needed to remind myself of positive thoughts.  So I guess, even if it did include a bill, I got "checks in the mail"...

Monday, October 24, 2011

Seed Jewelry

Harvest is in full swing in these parts of Nebraska.  To celebrate Fall and nature's blessings, we created one of my favorite activities for older children.  We gathered seeds from pumpkins, gourds, corn, Indian corn, and beans to create our Fall jewelry. 

I don't remember where I located this craft, but I thought you might enjoy using some of your pumpkin seeds in a new manner.  The pumpkin seeds work nice for little hands, because of their size and the fact that they aren't as thick as field corn.  I was grateful for something to keep my boys occupied this past weekend and the little girls I babysit adore these bracelets.

Here's what you will need:
  • Seeds!  Use Indian corn, field corn, soybeans, pumpkin seeds, or assorted dried beans 
  • Water
  • Sturdy needles
  • String or floss
  • Food coloring-  this is optional.  To create different colors of seeds, just add a few drops to the water you soak the seeds in. 
Here's how you create these seasonal accessories:

  • Soak your seeds in water until they are soft.  It might take just a few hours or overnight.  Add your colors now if you want the seeds to absorb the coloring.
  • Thread your needle, tie off the ends, and begin stringing. 

  • When you reach the desired length for a bracelet or necklace, tie the ends of the string together to close the circle.
  • Let the seeds dry before wearing, especially if they have been colored.
  • Wear your handiwork!

Here is another post for a  pumpkin seed craft and an easy way to roast leftover pumpkin seeds. 

Do you have any pumpkin or seed crafts?  I would love to find new ideas and resources.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Spider Pal Craft

October is the month when we embrace the spooky and kooky.  I look forward to the fun craft and snack opportunities this time of year provides.  I have a few standby projects stuffed in my back pocket and they have become mini traditions for my family and daycare. 

Yesterday we made bouncy spider pals. 

Spiders that hang and dance add a fun element to our lovely fall decor.  These simple little arachnids were introduced to me over 20 years ago in the third grade.  This is a very tried and true activity.

The children love the crinkly legs and scary smiles so my family has made some variation of this craft over the years.  Today we rolled basic cylinders, but I have seen flat cones used also.  Get creative! 

Here's what you will need:
  • black, brown, or gray construction paper
  • scissors
  • yarn or string
  • googly eyes-  optional
  • white crayon
  • tape or stapler

Here's how you construct these eight legged friends:
  • Cut eight equal strips of paper for the legs.
  • Cut a large rectangle for the body.  You can use whole sheets of paper or cut smaller rectangles for a parcel of different sized foes.
  • Roll or fold the legs to make them "bouncy".  We used pencils to curl the paper or accordion folded the legs.

  • Tape or staple the legs to the inside of your large rectangle.

  • Flip over the rectangle and use a white crayon to draw your spider's mug.  The boys usually opt for fangs!  This is a great time to add the googly eyes or draw them on.

  • Roll the rectangle to make a cylinder and secure it with tape or staples.
  • Attach your string and hang!

What are some fall crafts your family enjoy year after year?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Oven Lovin'

I knew this day was coming. 

I could feel it.

My oven has been difficult lately.  She has been refusing to light and preheat on occasion and last Thanksgiving she threw a tantrum that delayed dinner for an hour. 

I have been coaxing her along and hitting her with a hammer when she misbehaved.  Now, I am convinced she gave up the fight and refuses to do anything.  I am hoping a call to the local repair man might breathe a little life into her, but that didn't bake the pans of bread I had waiting to throw in the oven.

I needed a quick solution and fast. 

I dug out the large roaster we use on holidays or for big gatherings.  It is technically an oven roaster and allows you to choose the temperature settings.  She can roast a turkey, bake a ham, and keep sloppy joes warm.  It should work, right?

I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised.

I turned the lifting rack upside down to prevent placing the pans directly on the bottom of the roaster.  I was afraid the bottom would scorch or break the glass and stoneware pans.  Ovens use racks for better circulation and I thought I should attempt to keep the baking process as normal as possible.

I baked my bread and it turned out.  You would never have guessed that I resorted to using my roaster!

I have attempted baking a few more things using the roaster.  Tater tot casserole and bread sticks were the next to go in.  Angel food cakes raised and baked to perfection.  Biscuits and cookies crisped inside the small oven.  To my amazement you can bake anything in these things!

The only complaint I have is the speed which things cook and sometimes the edges burn if I am not watching carefully.  I need to turn down the heat and stand close by.  A little tin foil folded over the edges helps prevent burned edges and a little Neosporin helps with the small burns I have on my fingertips.  (The things I do to feed my family...)

Woohoo!  I won't have to solely rely on the crock pot for the next week while I wait for the part to come. 

Do you have any tips for when your stove or oven decide to take a vacation?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pumpkin Lovin'- A Collection of Favorite Recipes

Over the past few months I have posted several of my all time favorite pumpkin recipes.  I hope to add to the collection, but today I decided to revisit posts featuring the orange gourd.  Feel free to look around and add links to your favorite posts.  I always LOVE new ideas and recipes.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

Easy Pumpkin Muffins

Pumpkin Pancakes

Easy Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Here are a few posts that I have encountered in the blogosphere:

Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice  from My Baking Addiction

My Crock Pot and Oven Pumpkin Cooking Experiment  from Money Saving Mom

Do you have any to add? 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Easy Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Every fall our family has a tradition of carving pumpkins and making a snack out of the seeds.  It took me a couple of years and a few episodes of Martha Stewart before I "mastered" the art of toasting pumpkin seeds.  I have washed and soaked seeds, but now I have a super easy method that we think gives the best results.

You can get creative with the salts.  I have used sea salt, table salt, garlic salt, and the occasional Lawry's (meat) seasoning.  The boys want to try a combination of chili powder and garlic salt.  I am a traditionalist and prefer plain salt. 

We will see how many variations I let them concoct this month... 

All you need is:
  • Fresh pumpkin seeds.  You can leave a few of the fibrous strands on them-  they add a bit of pumpkin flavor.  We just plop them directly onto the pan as we carve!
  • Salt
  • Olive oil or canola oil
  • Cookie sheet or oven proof pan

Here is the easiest and best tasting recipe I have found:
  • Take the seeds, no washing needed, and spread them out onto the pan. 
  • Pour about 1 tablespoon of oil onto the seeds and turn them to coat evenly.  You may want to adjust the amount, depending on the amount of seeds you toast. 
  • Sprinkle with salt.
  • In a moderate oven, about 300 degrees, stir the seeds occasionally and roast until you can smell them.  It might take about 30-45 minutes. 
  • Store in an airtight container.  We like to munch on the seeds and use them for crafts.

Do you have a lot of pumpkin seeds leftover?  Here is an easy craft to use those seeds on  Pumpkin Pictures.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Columbus Day Painting

This little watercolor painting is a favorite craft of mine to mark the momentous occasion of "finding the New World".

Columbus Day is now celebrated on the second Monday of October, but in reality it is scheduled on October 12th.  1492 was a big year for the Americas and the World.  I know there is debate over who was the first to find this patch of land, but Columbus Day is what we recognize.  I won't go into detail about the voyage or it's impact, but I love to include an art lesson on perspective, primary colors, and painting with watercolors.

We created little ocean "sunsets" backdrops for our shadowed Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria to sail against. 

Here is what you will need to make these little vistas:
  • blue, red, and yellow paint-  I prefer watercolors because they blend nicely
  • 3 black silhouettes of boats-  small, medium, and large or big, bigger, and biggest
  • white paper-  we used printer paper, but they look beautiful on larger sheets of watercolor paper
  • water
  • brushes
  • glue
This is what we did to create ocean sunsets using watercolor techniques:

  • First, I cut 3 different sizes of ships from black paper.  I simply drew a basic shape of a sailing ship.  The details aren't to scale or technically correct, but the children get the idea.

  • Then, I gave each child a white piece of paper and had them moisten it with clean water.  Yes, they painted with water.  It will help the watercolors blend and run into each other.

  • Next, we began painting our ocean's blue.  We talked about primary colors and how they are combined to make new colors.  We layered red and yellow swaths of color and blended them to make oranges and purples.  This was our sunset sky. 

  • Finally, we attached our ships and discussed basic perspective.  Items look larger if they are close to you and smaller the farther away they get. 
Our pictures are dry and ready to take home.  What do you like to do to commemorate Columbus Day?

    Monday, October 10, 2011

    Easy "No Sew" Boy Halloween Costume Ideas

    Our family loves to create homemade Halloween costumes.   Here are a few ideas that are easy to make with items from around your house or a trip to a thrift store.  We love to use uniforms and simple props.  I have several more costumes, but they aren't digital and I am too lazy to scan them. 

    Here are a few blasts from the past:

    Indiana Jones
    A brown hat, an old dress shirt, a jump rope, and brown "purse" set Ethan up for a candy finding expedition.  Yes, we did find a few snakes...

    Hobo Slim
    For this look, my oldest son found an old suit jacket, hat, worn gloves, and crafted a stick into a suitcase using a bandanna.  Simple and not kooky.  It was cool enough for him...

    Robot and Luke Skywalker
    (~the cute little witch is our God Daughter~)

    The robot is crafted from the recycling bin and extra pieces from the dryer vent.  We purchased a new funnel for his helmet and one can of spray paint.  He was happy.

    My little Jedi used Ace bandage wraps over a pair of white slacks.  We then cut an old t-shirt and fashioned a karate style shirt that I hot glued into place and cinched it with an old belt.  He raided the toy box for his light-saber toy and reused his Valentine's Day box from school.  We made R2-D2 from the recycling bin, here's more on Recycling With The Force.

    High Roller Zombie
    We dressed up a top hat and tux coat with spider webs, bugs, dried boutonniere, and some scary face paint to create this look.  To make a tuxedo, we found a woman's suit coat at the local Thrift Store and I cut tails out of discounted fabric and hot glued them to the bottom of the coat.

    My friend also enjoys making costumes for her boys.  Here is a link to her blog where she highlights a few of their past costumes:  Halloween Costume Dilemmas.

    We still haven't decided on what the boys are going as this Halloween.  What are you planning on dressing as this year? 

    Friday, October 7, 2011

    Pumpkin Pictures

    Pumpkins are everywhere this time of year and children notice!  I love to use seasonal themes in my lessons.  One of my favorite harvest activities is a simple pumpkin picture where you manipulate pumpkin seeds and string to create the innards of the gourd.

    You can easily adapt this activity to include several core academic areas.  We used the letter "Pp" and practiced writing our letters.  We also counted the seeds by grouping them into tens and ones.  We labeled the parts of the pumpkin and learned a little about the history of jack-o-lanterns.  Finally, we described what senses we were using and experiencing as we carved into our little pumpkin.

    There are so many other lessons and activity ideas I could rattle off.  The possibilities are endless when you incorporate pumpkins into your lessons. 

    Here is what you will need to create these simple pumpkin pictures:
    • pumpkin seeds
    • orange or yellow string or yarn pieces
    • glue
    • orange, green, and brown crayons
    • picture of a pumpkin drawn on a piece of paper
    This is how we created our pumpkin crafts:
    • I drew a large pumpkin on a piece of paper.  I included a stem, leaf, tendril, and "ribs".  I created a large cavity on the inside of the pumpkin by drawing a large semi-circle that followed the pumpkin's shape.

    • Next, we colored our pumpkins.  I like to label the parts of the pumpkin as we color the picture. 
    • Then we added seeds and fibrous strands, aka "brains", with glue.

    • Finally, we let them dry!

    Do you have any easy pumpkin activities?