Wednesday, October 31, 2007

First Meta Post!

So! This blog made it through it's very first holiday (it's been shaky at times, especially since I started a new job the same time I started this blog). I'm going to take a few days off, to regroup for Thanksgiving and Christmas (yikes) and get all my bloggy ducks in a row. Now would be an excellent time for some feedback from you, readers!

How are you feeling about this little holiday blog experiment? What do you like or dislike? What would you like to see more of, or less of? Are you enjoying it or finding it helpful? Have you tried anything I've posted here? Any ideas, tips, complaints? Hate mail? Want to tell me I'm pretty? I'm trying to decide what'll be the easiest/most fun/most helpful/most informative/most awesome way to go through the upcoming season here, while keeping up with my job and other blog and various pets and relationships and responsibilities, blah blah blah. And, you know, those holidays. So if you have anything to share or whine about or suggest, do it now. Feel free to comment or drop me a line at karamarie at gmail dot com. I think things are going okay, but I want this to be as helpful and fun as possible.

Here's what I see: recipes (I'd love to see some for varying dietary needs, such as lactose intolerance, allergies to wheat, diabetes, etc), stress relief ideas, gift ideas, fun decorations, easy/efficient ways to do things, and tons more reader sharing. Especially of traditions and stories. I'm also thinking of a sidebar thing where I can post questions/ideas for posts. As in, "What do you do to make your house smell nice in about two seconds?" and then people can let me know and we can have a fun post about it. And people can submit their OWN questions and concerns, that way. What do you think?

And if you have fun Thanksgiving/Christmas stuff to send me, do it!

I'll see you soon, after my blogging regrouping break!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Reader Photos--Fall '07

These beautiful photos are from Marie's blog. The hilariously cute sixth one made me feel particularly nostalgic.

This is Swistle's pumpkin pi, which is well-executed and quite awesome:

This was sent in by reader Martha, of her very adorable son checking out a pumpkin patch:

El-e-e sent in this pretty door decoration photo. Check out the cute scarecrows!

Last night was our town's trick or treating, and we took some photos of our decorations:

This is not technically a reader photo, but I felt it was necessary to share it with you:

Thanks so much to everyone who participated, and if you still want to send something in I'll try to get it up by the end of the day. Or you can link us up in the comments section. It's great seeing your pictures! I hope your day is filled with spooooooky trick or treaters, way too much candy, and lots of fun...Happy Halloween!

Halloween Cartoon Madness

Have you guys been going here? You can watch tons of Halloween goodies there, including the Great Pumpkin classic. Go, enjoy, and then send me photos of your Halloween stuff! If you have posted Halloween/fall photos on your own blog, and want to use any of those photos in my post for tomorrow, I can make that happen. Have fun!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Carving Pumpkins

This weekend I made a ridiculous attempt to carve a pumpkin to look like Godzilla:

I also enjoyed the general pumpkin silliness here.

What about you? Did you carve a jack o'lantern this weekend?

Also, if you haven't sent me fall photos yet (and you probably haven't) you've only got today and tomorrow left to do so. I'm not above posting just mine and the one photo a lovely heroic reader sent in, but wouldn't you like to participate, too? Email them to karamarie at gmail dot com.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Butternut Squash Soup

Martha sent in this recipe for a butternut squash soup. And it sounds very, very good. She says, "I thought I would send in a recipe that has gotten great reviews from everyone I have served it to… even my 2 year old eats it up!" She got the recipe from a friend in Australia.

Butternut Squash (or Pumpkin, if you're Australian) Soup

3.5 lbs butternut squash; peeled, deseeded and cubed
2 tomatoes, halved (a can of tomatoes will also work)
1 large onion, quartered
5 cups water
4 chicken bouillon cubes
Pinch of salt
Cayenne pepper to taste
2/3 cup cream or half and half

In a large pot, place squash, tomatoes, onion, water, bouillon and salt. Bring to boil, and reduce to simmer for 20 minutes or until squash is soft. Puree the mixture (a little at a time in the blender if you don’t have a stick blender). Add cayenne to taste (it doesn’t take much). Right before serving, add the cream. Heat gently if needed.

I think this makes an excellent addition to the cozy recipe post. Thanks, Martha!

Also, again: be sure to send in photos of your jack o'lanterns, your pumpkins, your seasonal porch displays or table decorations. Or changing trees, or anything. Anything that makes you feel fallish/Halloweeny for a Halloween Reader Photo Post.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Decoration Links

Okay! Fun link alert! I enjoy Design Mom's blog very much, and lately she's been posting some very fun Halloween stuff.

Like this.

And this.

And also, this.

And, let's not forget these pretty gourds!

Don't forget to take photos of all your fall/Halloween decorations, and email them to me for our Reader Halloween Photo Fest!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Jack o'Lantern History

Flibberty sent me this email, and I'm glad she did--I love learning about where holiday traditions began. She did a little research on Jack o'lanterns for us.

She says, "The story of the Jack o'lantern comes from Irish folklore. Jack was a crafty farmer who tricked the Devil into climbing a tall tree. When the Devil reached the highest branch, Jack carved a large cross in the trunk, making it impossible for the Devil to climb down. In exchange for help getting out of the tree, the Devil promised never to tempt Jack with evil again. When Jack died, he was turned away from Heaven for his sins and turned away from Hell because of his trickery. Condemned to wander the Earth without rest, Jack carved out one of his turnips, took an ember from the devil, and used it for a lantern to light his way. He became known as 'Jack of the Lantern.'"

I also found some more stories here.

Speaking of Jack o'lanterns, if anyone has any tips for a) not cutting yourself or b) not making one that looks as if a hoofed mammal carved it, please send them to me, or share in the comments section. My history of awful pumpkin carving leads me to believe I have some room for improvement.

Want more Halloween history? Find it here!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Boo! Cake! Decorations!

Okay! Catching up on a few different things this morning. Including a call for reader participation! Ready?

First, look at this cute way to spread the Halloween love around! Heather shared this, originally posted here.

She says, "I think this would also be a fun idea to do in an office or other group setting if you don't have a neighborhood that would welcome this little 'game'."

You've Been Boo'd

Now it's your turn to "Boo" two other people in the neighborhood:

Fill two bags with candy and treats.
Copy this letter and ghost twice. Include a copy of this letter and the Boo ghost in your bag of treats and goodies for the neighbors that you choose.

After dark, and only with an adult, "Boo" two of your neighbors. Do not let the person that you are "Boo'ing" see you, for it adds to the fun of it all! Place the treat bag on the doorstep, ring the doorbell and run! You should "Boo" these people within 2 days of receiving your own treat.

Hang your own Boo ghost in your front window so that everyone can see that you have been "Boo'd" and will not Boo you again. It will be fun to see how many ghosts will appear in our neighborhood by Halloween! Please keep it safe and enjoy!

She wrote this about it:

"We had so much fun getting together our goodies to give! We went crazy with the dollar items at Michael's... I did fun Halloween rub-ons on the cheap-o paper gift bags and filled them with stickers and other stuff geared toward the neighbor kids. I got these adorable Halloween Chinese take-out boxes we filled with Halloween brownies and candy corn, and even found some magic orange Halloween hot chocolate. It all turned out super cute. Wrapped up the little note and the Boo ghost in a snip of orange and black ribbon, and we were off to be a part of (hopefully) a fun neighborhood tradition!

Savannah and Ryan were the ones to "make the drop", and after Savannah rang the doorbell Ryan would scoop her up and run. She was giggling like crazy the whole time! So fun.

We found our own "Boo" package on our doorstep this morning. The kids were super excited. Dumping out the pumpkin bucket we found was like opening their Christmas stockings, complete with oooh's and ahhh's and gasps of excitement. Who knew Goldfish, Pez, candy corn, candles and stickers would get such a fun reaction?!"

Has anyone else done this? It sounds awesome! Next up...cake!

Kelli sent us a link to an awesomely DISGUSTING cake, which would be super fun for a Halloween party. I have to tell you, my mother made this cake for my and my twin brother's 18th birthday. It looked absolutely real. And gross. It was delicious, but it looked so much like the real thing that we sort of faced a mental block.

At any rate, it's hilarious and here's the link.

Now! I was thinking, how fun would it be to see reader Halloween decorations? I'll probably want to do something similar for other holidays, and Halloween will be a fun way to start. So, up until Halloween, if you feel like participating (and you totally do), I want you to email me photos of your jack o'lanterns, decorations, trees with changing leaves, pumpkins on your front porch, bowls of gourds, etc. Anything in your surroundings that put you in the fall and/or Halloween mindset, you know? Take pictures, email them to karamarie at gmail dot com, and then right around Halloween we'll get to enjoy all the fun photos in our first reader-shared-photo-post.

So, get cracking with the cameras! (I'm so bossy!) And maybe put some candy on a porch (being sure to sample some first, of course, for quality control reasons) and if you're reeeeally brave, make a kitty litter cake. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Cozy Recipes

How about some recipes? I have some here that have been sent in that are fitting for fall/winter, and they all sound like tasty things to feed house guests. And I love feeding house guests tasty things (I think that we can count ordering them pizza as feeding them tasty things, but let's say we need to cook).

First, Marie sent in a recipe for beer bread, which sounds pretty awesome (you can use something else if you don't want to use beer). She says,

"Marie Green's Super Easy Beer Bread

This recipe is really easy and quick (NO kneading), and the bread will be great with soups this fall.

2 Cups Self-Rising Flour (be sure to use Self-Rising)
1/2 C sugar
12 oz beer* (any kind, room temperature if possible)
2 Tblsp melted butter/margarine

(Preheat oven to 375). Grease a standard bread pan. Combine flour, sugar, and beer. Stir until well blended. Pour into bread pan. Let stand for about 20 minutes. Drizzle melted butter on top. Bake at 375 for 50 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes before slicing and eating.

If anyone has ever had the Tastefully Simple brand of beer bread , this recipe is VERY similar.

*Any carbonated beverage will work great. If you use Coke or Sprite, your bread will be slightly sweeter- very tasty."

Erin sent in this, which sounds yummy and cozy and easy:

"Shortcut Chicken & Dumplings

These are shortcut because (1) you use the crockpot, and (2) the dumplings are just Bisquick thrown in on top. I use a few thawed and trimmed chicken breasts (usually three, but two or four works fine too). Put one can (14 oz) of chicken gravy in the crockpot, with one can of hot water. Mix in 1/2 tsp each of oregano, marjoram, and basil (just stir it up with a fork). Put the chicken into the mix, then add about a half cup each of carrots, frozen corn, frozen green beans, and frozen peas (or whatever veggies you like to eat. I use frozen because they’re so easy). Let it cook all day (8 hrs or so). An hour before you want to eat, take a fork and break up the chicken. Mix up some Bisquick according to directions (it’s something like 2 cups Bisquick, 1 cup water). Spoon this on top; do not mix it in. Let it cook another 45 minutes, until the Bisquick is a little spongy on top. Let cool 15 minutes. EAT."

Here's a nice fall soup recipe from Melissa:

"Hungarian Mushroom Soup (from the Coffee House Cookbook)

3 cups nonfat milk (I use lowfat, it's what we have)
2 small onions, diced
1 tbsp plus 1/4 cup butter
1 tsp salt
2 pounds mushrooms, sliced (cremini are good, button are fine)
4 1/2 tsp dill
2 tbsp plus 1 tsp paprika (yes, that's a boatload of paprika)
2 3/4 cups water or vegetable stock (I use stock when I can)
1/2 cup flour
2 1/4 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 1/2 cups lowfat sour cream

1. Begin warming milk in a saucepan on low heat (I totally skip this step, too lazy to wash all those pots!). In a soup pot, saute onions in 1 tbsp of butter and the salt. When soft, add mushrooms, dill, paprika and 1 cup water/stock. Cover and simmer 15 minutes.
2 In a separate saucepan, melt remaining 1/4 cup butter. Whisk in flour forming a roux. Slowly add milk (warm or not) whisking out any lumps. Add roux and milk mixture to the soup pot. Add remaining stock/water and simmer for 10 minutes.
3. Just before serving, add soy sauce, lemon juice and sour cream, whisking thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Yield: 10 cups

This is one of our favorite soups and perfect for fall."

Any additions?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Green Grog

Here's a recipe for a delicious, delicious Halloween punch called Green Grog. I made it last year for our Halloween party, and it was sweet, foamy, green, and surprisingly potent. (Don't worry: I cropped myself out of this so you don't have to see my disturbing Bride of Frankenstein costume combined with my evil grin at the thought of drinking this.)

I think you could easily substitute some sort of lime soft drink or some juice for the rum to make this kid-friendly. I loved having a green, frothy beverage to serve for Halloween.

  • 2 (12 fluid ounce) cans frozen limeade concentrate
  • 2 (12 fluid ounce) cans frozen lemonade concentrate
  • 2 (2 liter) bottles lemon-lime flavored carbonated beverage
  • 1 (750 milliliter) bottle rum
  • 2 quarts lime sherbet
In a large kettle or punch bowl, mix the limeade, lemonade and soda. Stir in rum (feel free to play with amount of rum you use). Mix in the sherbet and serve.

I got the recipe from here. It makes a lot, but the recipe is easily halved, and I made it in smaller batches to keep it cool over the course of the party. It also helps to refrigerate the rum and soda before you make it, so it's extra cool. I imagine this would also work for St. Patrick's Day, if you want something green other than green beer or green jello shots.


(Edit: Fine.)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Costume Mania Reader Ideas!

Okay! After our little Christmas break (or maybe Bosses Day? October 16th!) I feel ready to move on to the reader costume ideas. I didn't feel absolutely swamped with ideas, but that's okay. I know coming up with costume ideas is hard, hard, hard. Thank goodness for those awesome websites, right? The good news is, the ideas I was sent were all pretty fun/hilarious. Enjoy!

(I copied and pasted from my email, but did a little editing for clarity. Just so you know.)

This one is from Misty. She says:

"When my oldest son was two I made him a pumpkin costume that was very cost-efficient that I thought I would like to share.

Orange sweat suit
Orange baseball cap
Black and green felt
Hot glue gun!

Since it was hunting season in our neck of the woods, finding the bright orange sweat suit and baseball cap was not a problem. In fact, since the color is really so hideous for normal wear, I got the sweatsuit and the cap for less than $10.00. Also, I used one 8.5X11esque sheet of black felt. These go for about 20 cents in my neck of the woods. This is for the pumpkin/jack-o-lantern face. I did a really toothy grin with triangle eyes and nose, to keep it simple. For the grin, I sketched it out on a piece of paper first so that I could erase as needed, then cut it out to use for a pattern. After I cut out the face bits, I hot glued them to the front of the shirt.

Using three 8.5x11esque sheets of (dark) green felt for the the foliage, I made strips of attached triangles (they were all one piece and one edge looked like this: /\/\/\/\/\/\). The length you would need would depend on what size costume you are making. Then, once again with the glue gun, I glued these all the way around the wrists of the shirt and the ankles of the pants. I also did a ring around the collar. Also, note that the stretchability of the cuffs will cease to exist once you hot glue on these accents, so make sure you leave enough room for little hands and feet to slip through.

Then, for the pumpkin top cap, I did a circle with the jagged triangle edges and hot glued that to the top of the hat, not overly big, probably around six inches across. Then I took a strip of the green felt and cigar-rolled it up to make a little cylinder. I glued that on top of the jagged circle for the stem.

Voila! You have a comfortable and cute pumpkin costume that is HOMEMADE no less. He was adorable."

I like that this involved no sewing and that "hideous" bright orange color found in hunting gear.

Next we have some ideas sent in by the lovely Pixel. Again, edited slightly for clarity.

"Here are some costumes I've seen people actually wearing that were very cute.

A) The Blues Brothers Couple's costumes.

This husband/wife team I knew just shopped at Goodwill for the shoes, suits, white shirts, ties, and hats. He provided the white cotton socks. She put her hair up under her hat, and they both wore their sunglasses. It was priceless. And cheap. I think they used ballpoint pen for the tattoos on the fingers. They were the hit of the party!

B) Crayolas Group Costume. Also known as Crayons by some people. But we know they're Crayolas.

Buy solid-colored cheap pillowcases at Goodwill, Salvation, or WalMart, etc. If they're not in the color of your choice, dye them. Rit dye is still really cheap. Use black fabric marking pens (Michael's sells these) to draw the lines around the top and bottom of pillow case and label with appropriate icky Halloween color. For adults, things like Pea Green Puke or Puppy Poop Brown are good. Kids could have less "crude" color choices--perhaps I Hate Broccoli Green or Slug Gray. Cut out head and arm holes from pillowcase (no need to get fancy and hem anything. This is disposable). Wear matching tights. Make your "crayon point" from a construction paper cone glued or taped. Elastic can be used under the chin to hold them on for kids. Adults can usually get away with bobbie pins. Use face paint if you want to get fancy, but I've seen this one done (by a group of art therapists) without the face paint and they were adorable! Great idea for a family costumes, too.

C) Pregnant Costume - Eggplant or Pumpkin with Vine.

Mother: Use coat-hangers (or other light, bendable wire) to construct a vaguely rounded shaped of the appropriate veggie, in a size the mother can wear. Make sure pregnant mom fits through the bottom hole you leave for her to put it on! Cover the metal frame with fabric (orange or purple) using a hot glue gun. Cut out arm holes and neck holes. Mom wears matching tights and long-sleeved turtleneck (in green or veggie color). Use green felt to make a flat "cap" and collar of leaves for mom (perhaps like the pumpkin idea above!), and glue a fake stem and leaves to the cap. Use elastic on cap under chin to keep it on.

Father: Use green felt strips tied together and twisted (about 6-10 feet long) to connect to Dad, who gets the joy of wearing green tights and long green t-shirt. Pin or glue the vine to the cap or collar of Mother Eggplant so they stay "connected". If felt is too expensive, plain cotton from a fabric store should be fairly cheap.

To win first prize at a party, the expectant mother has to go into labor and they have to go to the hospital in their costumes. Their child will never forgive them for the weird birth pictures."

All very awesome. Especially tips about how to win first prize. Take notes!

Swistle sent us this:

"Since I am not creative (I have never made a robot costume out of boxes and tin foil, for example), and I am not crafty (sew? no), I am a fan of HANDMEDOWN COSTUMES. When Rob and William were 5 and 3, I bought two pumpkin costumes on a nice sale at The Children's Place. I bought them a little too big. The costumes fit that Halloween and also the next Halloween. The Halloween after that, Rob's costume fit William.

The costumes are close enough in size (and flexible enough in the fit) that the twins will be able to wear them next year--Edward will probably need a larger size than Elizabeth anyway. Eventually Henry can wear them.

In this way I pay for two costumes, and get many, many uses out of them. However: you have to have kids young enough that they don't care, or you have to use my Halloween Costume philosophy, which is that kids get to choose from what's available in the house, not from what's available in the universe. I bring out the bin of costumes and costume pieces, and they can choose what they want from there.

I do have ONE inexpensive, easy costume idea. I use it for younger kids who can be persuaded to dress as a bunny.

At Easter, I buy those headbands with bunny ears attached. So first go back in time to Easter and buy some.

Then I dress the child all in grey and/or white clothing the child already owns: grey sweatpants, white shirt, that kind of thing. White gloves are a nice touch if you happen to have them.

I make a bunny tail out of cotton balls and glue. Take a cotton ball, pull it so it's bigger and fluffier; then take another cotton ball and do the same until you have a big wad of cotton. Squirt glue into the inner workings of the fluff, and mess it around a little (more pulling and squishing). Then let dry. I do this the day before. You can pin the tail to the back of sweatpants with a big safety pin.

For the face, I use liquid eyeliner for whiskers, pink lipstick for the nose. If I don't have liquid eyeliner, I use undereye pencil. If my undereye pencil isn't dark enough, I use Crayola Washable Markers. Emphasis on WASHABLE, or you will be sorry."

Again, I love the philosophy. And also the instructions on going back in time.

Erin sent in this:

"Halloween Costumes in a Box

We used to do this a lot when we were kids. It probably works best with school-age kids. You just get a box from the local grocery store, something that the body can fit into. Then you cut out a hole for the head and the shoulders, so you wear the box like a dress. Then you can be anything box-shaped. Like a box of crayons (my most brilliant homemade costume when I was 8) or a box of candy or something like that. We used construction paper to cover the box with whatever pattern we chose."

This wasn't from a reader, but I saw it on ivillage and wanted to share it:

"What's a quick and easy costume for the toddler? How about a 'baby greaser'? Use hair gel to slick his hair back, a white T-shirt, jeans rolled up, a comb in his back pocket and a jacket. We used a black spray-painted raincoat from a thrift store but you can also use a jean jacket or similar.--cl-mon 7"

Okay! Comments section would looooove to have some more awesome ideas.

And then I promise I'll stop hounding you and move on to something else.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Money Tree

Let's take a little one day hiatus from Halloween Costume Mania, shall we? I have something I'm itching to share:

Because it's never too early to start, here is a nifty gift idea from Leah. She received one of these as a housewarming gift, and loves it. I think it falls neatly under the category of Something to Give Someone Who Has Everything, right? Or under the category of I Have No Idea What to Give to My Boss This Year, or whatever tricky gift-giving category you have. If you're not into Money Trees, this site also has some fun bamboo, tea, and bonsai stuff.

Isn't that fun?

The more I thought about it, the more I loved this idea. Giving plants seems fresh and fun, especially since they are so cheerful and green, and winter is not. It makes me think about branching out from "normal" Christmas gifts. Summery things, which can be found online or on clearance now, would be happy gifts to remind the receiver of the return of spring, yes? (See? I wanted to post this while it still might be possible to find stuff on clearance in garden departments/stores near you. ) I thought about flower pots, wind chimes, gardening tools/gloves, bird feeders, planters.

What do you think? Thoughts about summery Christmas gifts? Ideas? Love it? Hate it? Share!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Costume Mania Day Two--Brainstorming

Today's installment of Costume-Mania is about where and how to find costume ideas. Perhaps none of the premade costumes seem right, but the person you are costuming still has no idea what they want to be. All the possibilities! It's too overwhelming!

That's why we all love the Internet, so so much.

We can go here, for example, and see lots of ideas. Admittedly, some of them are really lame. Some of them might make you groan at the sheer corniness. But it might get the ball rolling, jump start some costume brain storming. If anything, I think the categories are really helpful--do you want to have an occupational (doctor, lumberjack, beekeeper, chef, lifeguard) costume? What about a movie character? What about a character from a book? Maybe someone from a fairy tale or a comic strip? There are the traditional Halloween costumes (witches, ghosts, monsters, mummies, Frankenstein, vampires, black cats, zombies, werewolves), animal costumes, and endless possibilities for inanimate object costumes. I think it would also be good to browse the various costumes and see what you have on hand, and pick a costume that way. I love that some of you keep costume bins, too.

This site has a large list of links to all sorts of costume goodness (including wheelchair-friendly costumes, frugal costumes, costume patterns), safety tips, and articles. This page has quite the list of ideas, complete with instructions. Seriously. Tons of ideas and instructions. Tons.


Go browse. It'll be fun, I promise.

Later this week I'll post our very own readers' costume ideas. So, if you're STILL holding out, send your costume idea to me at k a r a m a r i e at gmail dot com. Feel free to talk about what costumes worked in the past, and what didn't.

How do you come up with costume ideas?

Costume Mania Part One--Retail Options

I asked for Halloween costume ideas, and I was given Halloween costume ideas. I've been trying to think of a way to categorize all the costume madness, and I think will start with some links to costume stores, and then will move on to more home-cooked costumes. I'm gearing this toward kid costume ideas, but I have no kids to put in Halloween garb yet (I know last year's put-the-dog-in-a-chicken-costume idea does not count, at all, and never will). So if I am horribly mistaken about anything, please berate me thoroughly and then correct me. I deserve berating, anyway! I did, after all, put my dog in a chicken costume last year.

My husband and I had an interesting conversation about Halloween costumes this weekend. His parents were very supportive of his costume ideas, and he felt that that was an important part of enjoying Halloween--that he got to be what he wanted to be. One year he wanted to be a beatnik, and his parents helped him work that out. (Besides, there's not much else you can do, I suppose, when your child says, "Mom, I'd really like to be a beatnik this year.") One year he wanted to be the grim reaper, and they figured that out, too. He worked with them to make a wonky eye out of a ping pong ball the year he wanted to be Igor Manic. He thought it was awesome that he was so involved in the costume process. Of course, there is that whole needing to be reasonable factor. Swistle has what seems to be a solid Halloween Costume Philosophy: " get to choose from what's available in the house, not from what's available in the universe."

Costume compromise!

And now, because it seems important, some safety stuff! I feel that we can't escape some sort of safety disclaimer. So here we go!

I pulled this costume safety list off of rhe Walgreens website. (What? Don't you go to the Walgreens website for your holiday safety tips?)

Look for costumes made of fire-retardant materials.
Add reflective tape to costumes, or have children carry glow sticks so they can be seen by motorists.
Keep costumes short enough to avoid trips and falls.
Make sure that children wearing masks can see clearly and breathe easily.
Read labels on novelty makeup to avoid allergic reactions. Test a small amount on skin a few days in advance.
Never use fluorescent makeup near eyes.
Remove all makeup before bed. Use the manufacturer-recommended removal method.
Do not use decorative contact lenses that have not been prescribed by a licensed eye-care professional.
Avoid masks, props and accessories with sharp points or edges. Make them out of soft, flexible material, instead.

Thank you, Walgreens!

Now that my lame random thoughts on costumes and the requisite saftey list are all out of the way, we can move on. To the costumes! Today, I'm just going to list some online places to pick up a costume. Of course, you'll spend more buying a premade costume than on one made with things lying about the house, but it's pretty darn easy to pick out a costume, hand over your e-dollars, and wait for it to arrive. If you're not feeling "creative" or, like me, "really can't live without that dog chicken costume listed on Amazon," this option may be an excellent one for you.

A Few Obvious Places to Buy Costumes (That I Am Not Endorsing, Just Sharing)
is, as it says, a costume retailer. They have a huge selection of costumes, props, accessories, make-up, party supplies, and even (ahem) pet costumes. I bought a wig from them last year and was pleased with it. There is a clearance section, and it looks as if, depending on what you want to do, you can spend anywhere from eight dollars to over eighty.

The Children's Place has a costume selection. Old Navy has baby costumes. Good old Target has a large online collection. Prices are varied, and can go over fifty bucks. Obviously other 'regular' stores have similar collections.

And, obviously, there are tons more at Amazon.

(You know. All the obvious stuff.)

If you want something more "unique and crafty", but still in the "easy in that I don't have to make it myself" category, there are also handmade retailers online. For instance, I did a search on Etsy, and came up with some pretty darn cute things. These are all handmade, and I'm a big fan of Etsy's huge base of artisans and amazing products. It might be worth poking around, for some awesome one-of-a-kind stuff. Like this. Or pretty much any of these. Or even this. It seems Etsy is having a costume contest, and the search for the costume contest tag pulled up these results.

We all know there are many more places to buy costumes online. I only wanted to list sites I was familiar with--Google pulls up tons of costume search results, but I don't want to recommend a site without knowing if it is trustworthy, etc. So, your turn! Feel free to share with everybody any good (or bad) experiences you've had with online costume shopping. Or costume shopping in general. Or tell us about your worst costume ever. Or about how that dog-chicken costume just didn' out.

Tomorrow, more costume love!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Pumpkin Muffins

More pumpkin goodness, this time in muffin form, from Swistle! She sent two pumpkin muffin recipes. I like how these bring holiday/seasonal cheer to breakfast. We should all have some muffin goodness this weekend, yes? Sunday morning pumpkin, anyone? Sunday afternoon cheese eyeballs, anyone?

Chocolate-Chip Pumpkin Muffins

1 c. canned pumpkin
2 eggs
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. butter, melted
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. salt
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. cinnamon
2-1/4 c. flour
3/4 c. chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar, butter, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix together salt, baking powder, cinnamon, flour, and chocolate chips. Combine contents of two bowls and mix. Spoon into 12 papered muffin tins. Bake 25-30 minutes.

Pumpkin Spice Muffins
1 and 2/3 c. flour
1 c. sugar
1 t. baking soda
1/4 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
2-3 t. pumpkin pie spice (or, see below)
2 eggs
1 c. canned pumpkin
1 T. grated lemon peel (or, see below)
1/2 c. butter, melted
1/2 c. chopped walnuts (optional)
you can also put in 1/4-1/2 c. golden raisins, but I never have

Preheat oven to 350F. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spice. In a medium bowl, combine eggs, pumpkin, lemon, butter, and walnuts. Add contents of medium bowl to large bowl and stir just until mixed. Spoon batter evenly into 12 greased or papered muffin cups, and bake 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

Pumpkin pie spice alternative: 1 and 1/2 t. cinnamon, and about 3/4 t. (I just do a well-rounded 1/2 t. so I don't have to screw around with a bunch of measuring spoons) each of ground ginger and ground cloves. The exact quantities don't seem to matter much.

Grated lemon peel alternative: I hate grating my own zest, so I put in a t. of lemon extract and maybe half a t. of dried lemon peel--but I think just the extract would be sufficient.

I always double the recipe because I love these muffins and they freeze so well."

Next week, we'll be exploring lots of costume ideas. (And other random goodness. But, also, tons of costumes.) So! If you're holding out on me, there's still time. I'm just saying.

Still time.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Cheese Eyeballs!

Tessie sent me the following recipe. I told her I LOVE recipes with body parts in the title, but only for Halloween. I don't have a photo of this (there's no way I could convince anyone at my house to eat something with olives, not even the cats), but it promises to be eyeball-licious, and a super awesome treat for Halloween parties. Cheese and butter and olives = eyes. Brilliant!

(If anybody cares to whip these up, send me a photo and I'll add it to the post.)


6 oz. jar stuffed green olives
1/4 cup butter
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. chili powder

In a mixer, beat 1/4 cup butter one minute. Beat in 2 cups cheese, flour, and chili powder. Wrap 1 tsp. dough around each olive, leaving one end with pimento exposed to make eyeball. Refrigerate until serving time. Sprinkle with chili powder. Bake 20 minutes in a preheated 400 degree oven. Serve warm.

I'm loving the costume ideas you guys are sending in. Keep them coming! I want to get them organized and post them earlier rather than later.

And for now, go forth and make eyeball snacks!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Pumpkin Potpourri Burner

Pumpkins, pumpkins, everywhere. I'm pretty excited by the recent grocery store pumpkin explosion.

Heather sent this idea in. It's a really cute way to make your house smell yummy.

She says,

"I just made these this morning and thought I'd share...I just love little tiny mini things!

I think I saw this on Martha Stewart once upon a time. I carved a few of the little tiny baking pumpkins, put cute polka dots "vents" in them with an apple corer, and then rubbed cinnamon and other spices onto the lid. I made one for my kitchen window with cloves stuck under the lid instead of rubbing the spices. Light a tea light candle, and you've got a little homemade incense burner. It really does smell good!"

She also included these cute photos. I particularly like the idea of using an apple corer to make tidy circles. If I tried it by hand, the results would be more "frightening" and less "adorable." If you are handy with the pumpkin carving, though, I'm sure you could also make some fancy, intricate vents.

Cute! And easy! And nice-smelling!

Now, I need some help. I'm trying to put together a Halloween costume link/idea fest for an upcoming post. I'm feeling my ideas are pretty lame, so, it's your turn to dish. Email me at karamarie at gmail dot com to give me any ideas/links/instructions. I want to know anything and everything, got it? Think costumes.


Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Spider Cookies! Spoooooky!

Kid-friendly Halloween cookies! (Or maybe, adult child friendly. Because I was super excited by these. Spiders!)

El-e-e says, "These are really cute cookies. The idea came from Highlights HighFive magazine (their publication for 2-5 year olds) but I can't find an online reference to save my life. So, oh well, it'll have to seem like I came up with them all by myself. ;) Not really -- seriously, the October issue, High Five.


You'll need:

Nabisco chocolate wafer cookies (2 for each spider)
Peanut butter or cream cheese (or marshmallow creme!)
Pretzel sticks
Raisins, Red Hots, or mini marshmallows

Spread one side of each cookie with a thin layer of peanut butter or cream cheese. Place four pretzel sticks on each side of one cookie (stick them onto the peanut butter) for the legs, then top with the other cookie to make a sandwich. 'Glue' on 2 raisins (or red hots or marshmallows) for eyes, using another tiny bit of peanut butter. VOILA! My 3-yr-old LOVED these."

I love that they have the correct amount of legs. Anatomically correct AND fun! Thanks, El-e-e!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Hosting Ideas

I received this from Donna, and found the entire email to be so helpful and thoughtful that I'm going to post the whole thing. Holiday entertaining is new to me, and so basic hosting guidance is always appreciated.

Donna says, "This is just what I have learned about hosting parties around the holidays.

1. Commit early. You need to decide well before Thanksgiving if you want
to throw a Holiday/New Year's party. People's holiday calendars book up
early, so if you can have your invitations out right after Thanksgiving,
you have a better shot at being first on your friends' calendar.

2. If you know that the majority of your friends have kids, really
consider making your event inclusive of kids. Like close parking at the
mall on Christmas Eve, babysitting during the holidays can be hard to
come by, so if you want your friends to be able to make it, try to
accommodate the kids. You don't have to have a Santa Claus and face
painting, but maybe a bedroom with pillows or bean bags and a TV with
kid friendly DVDs or even video games for the older kids. Maybe if you
have a good, reliable babysitter, consider hiring him or her for the
party so the parents can relax and enjoy some grown-up time while the
kids are being looked after and entertained. And serve some food that
kids will eat like cheese and crackers, fruit, and fresh veggies
alongside your fancy, rich and filling nibbles. There's no reason why
the adults and kids can't have fun at the same party.

3. Send a paper invitation of some sort. In these days of text message
invitations, (don't laugh, I actually got invited to a party that way
recently) it will really stand out in people's minds that they got an
actual invitation. Plus they can stick it on the fridge and it will be a
reminder to them that yes, they have plans that night, so they won't
double book.

4. Consider an open house. A come-and-go event does not require an RSVP
so you'll have to sort of plan around the idea that everyone will show
up at some point. But you'll also not have to worry about feeding
everyone a full meal - no one will expect it. This type of event allows
your guests to attend even if they have another obligation the same
night. Specify hours on the invitation and try to start early to
accommodate those who have a dinner party - maybe as early 6 p.m. But
make sure you have enough food and drinks to last the entire duration.
You don't want the folks who arrive toward the end of your window to
miss out on your homemade goodies that everyone else has been raving about.

5. Start a new tradition with a Day After event. Maybe you couldn't get
it together for a New Year's Eve party. Why not a New Year's Day brunch?
Casual attire and lots of comfort food (and maybe a bit of the hair of
the dog) will be welcome after formal and fancy events. You can make an
event out of watching the Rose Parade. What about a Boxing Day (December
26th) cocktail hour? There is nothing wrong at all with drawing out the
celebrations as long as possible."

Solid advice and awesome ideas. Thanks, Donna!