Thursday, November 20, 2008

One Week To Go

There is one week until Thanksgiving. Here are a few ideas of what you can do now to make things run smoothly during your dinner and family parties.
*Clean out your refrigerator and make sure you have enough storage space

*Check your menu again. Get your shopping list together now and make sure you get everything by this weekend. Trust me on this, you do not want to run out to the grocery store next Wednesday night. I am the voice of experience with this.

*Make things like pie crusts, rolls, and casseroles now and freeze them until next week.

*If you are having younger guests, make sure you have some age appropriate entertainment to keep them occupied.

Check back later for some vegetarian menu ideas.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Morbid or Just Me?

I am a strict vegetarian so turkey eating is not something I would take part in to begin with, but I do not force my views on others around me. This is something that I have always found a bit odd though. Turkeys are hunted and eaten on Thanksgiving. Then why in the world do Thanksgiving decorations feature cute, living turkeys?

I was just searching for childrens' online Thanksgiving activities and found so many coloring pages of happy, alive turkeys when happy and alive really do not describe a turkey on Thanksgiving Day. Again, I don't mean this as a judgement against anyone who eats meat, just it seems a bit strange.

It reminds me of a story night we held at the elementary school I used to tutor at. After listening to a story about a cute little turkey, the kids made turkey drawings. As the night was ending, they announced the winners of the door prize and drawing and gave the winning families their prizes: frozen store bought whole turkeys. A few of the younger kids just then made the connection between the cute animals and the meal they eat on Thanksgiving.

The cries put a bit of a damper on the rest of the evening.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Two Weeks To Go

Thanksgiving is 2 weeks from tomorrow. Here are some ideas from of things to get done with 2-3 weeks left to help your Thanksgiving get-togethers run more smoothly.
1. Confirm your guest list.

2. Finalize your menu and shopping lists. Break your lists into items you can buy ahead and those that can't be bought more than a few days before.

3. Do test runs on new recipes. If a new dish is not going to turn out, Thanksgiving day is not the time to discover this.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Thanksgiving: The Forgotten Holiday

It's been a week since Halloween and we have (in the US at least) have another holiday coming up in a few weeks, Thanksgiving. Of course, you wouldn't know it by visiting any store.
I don't do much decorating for Thanksgiving, but I do like to do some. Good luck finding anything Thanksgiving themed though. As usual, all the store aisles are filled with red and green.

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Christmas decorations. But they have their time and place. I am still in a sort of fall festive type of mood. Show me some orange and brown, a few plain pumpkins. To me, it lessens the beauty of Christmas decorations seeing them up months before December.

Imagine the magic of walking into the mall the day after Thanksgiving and seeing newly lit trees and freshly hung sparkly decorations.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Best Laid Plans

Like practice, planning also makes perfect. Here are some ways to start planning now for your Thanksgiving festivities later.

Things to do 3-4 weeks ahead:
1. Plan your menu, especially if there are any special diets or needs to consider.
2. Order your main dish(es) ahead of time.
3. Make a timeline for dishes you can make ahead of time.
4. Clean our your freezer. Make sure you can put all your items in one place to make them easier to find later.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Not Your Average Candy

I saw some cute candy today during my last minute candy journey. One I bought was Ghost Dots. They are shaped like normal dots, but they are an ecto-green color. They are also mystery flavors.

We tried them and even though they are basically ordinary dots, I thought they were so cute. I couldn't tell though what the flavors were supposed to be. Still cute though for Halloween.

The other candy I found (which I didn't get) was costume award Hershey bars. The wrappers are awards for different costumes (cutest, scariest, etc.). I didn't get those, but they would be adorable for a Halloween party.

Well, I'll let you all get back to your loot.


Halloween is here! In my area, it looks like it's going to be sunny and rather warm, the first time in years it hasn't rained. Have fun, get scared, eat lots of candy. ;)

Even though Halloween will be over, The Pumpkin Patch will still be here. I love pumpkins for the entire fall season (if you are like me, you just turn those Jack O's around to hide their scary faces and use them as undecorated pumpkins). So check back in November for Thanksgiving and general fall ideas.

Have a great Halloween!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Got Balloons?

If you are looking for a last minute, quick to put together costume, try balloons. There are many different costumes that can be made by starting out with a plain sweat suit, or long shirt and tights or leggings and balloons.

Bunch of grapes: use either green or purple round balloons and pin (stick the pin through the little tail left from trying it closed) them to your clothing

Bag of Jelly Beans: Get a large clear plastic bag, cut out arm and leg holes, fill with colorful oval shaped balloons and tied the neck closed.

Gumball Machine: Same as the jelly bean bag, except use round balloons

Bubble Bath: Pin various sized white balloons to your clothes and carry a rubber duckie and back brush or other shower item. Wear a shower cap and pin balloons to that too

If you have the time and want to get really creative, make your own ball gown out of balloons. A simple dress can be made by pinning colums of balloons together and using ribbon to hold them in rows, to form a skirt section or go even more intricate like those shown here

And for your Halloweeny entertainment....

Looking for some kid-friendly spook? Here's a list of the Top 10 Halloween movies for kids (or adults, like me, who scare easily).

1. It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
2. Pooh's Heffalump Halloween Movie
3. Wallace & Gromit: The Curst of the Were-Rabbit
4. Casper
5. Double, Double, Toil and Trouble
6. Halloweentown
7. Halloweentwon II: Kalabar's Revenge
8. The Haunted Mansion
9. Hocus Pocus
10. The Adventures of Icabod and Mr. Toad

If you are looking for Halloween movies suitable for the slightly younger group, check out this list of Halloween shows for preschoolers

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Halloween Has Gone To The Dogs

Here are some tips from The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals -- ASPCA, to keep your pets safe during Halloween:
*Don't leave your pet out in the yard on Halloween. Every year there are reports of pets, especially black cats, being stolen, or worse.

*Candy is not for pets. Chocolate is poisonous to a lot of animals, and foil and cellophane candy wrappers can be hazardous if swallowed.

*Be careful of pets around a lit pumpkin. Pets may knock it over and cause a fire. Kittens especially run the risk of getting burned.

*Don't dress the dog or cat in costume unless you know he loves it. It can put a lot of stress on the animal. If you do dress up your pet, make sure the costume is safe -- it should not constrict her movement, hearing or ability to breathe or bark. Be careful not to obstruct his vision.

*Even the friendliest pets can get snappy during the commontion of trick or treating. Too many strangers in costumes can be scary for a dog.

*Be careful your cat or dog doesn't run outside when you open the door for trick-or-treaters.
Follow these suggestions and there is no reason your pets can't enjoy the holiday too.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Trick Or Treat

I already posted what you should avoid (for your own safety). Now these treats are considered to be the cream of the crop among serious trick-or-treaters.

1. Reeses Peanut Butter Cups: These were mentioned most often by the diehard candy lovers. There is just something about that chocolate and peanut butter goodness.

2. Hershey's Chocolate: In any form they can get it

3. Blow Pops: Candy and gum in one, what could be better?

4. Gummy Candy: Worms, bears, random Halloweeny shapes, it's all good

5. Bubble Gum: The softer the better, no hard gum here.

Now you know what to arm yourself with for next weeks festivities.

Can I Trade This In For Something Else?

Here is a list compiled by Serious Eats of the most disappointing Halloween treats (comments added by me). Just a disclaimer: these aren't my choices as the worst, so if you pass these out, don't shoot the messenger. :)

1. Toothbrushes: Oral hygiene and Halloween do not mix

2. Raisins: Wrinkled grapes do not a good treat make

3. Candy Corn: (as a candy corn fan, I disagree on this one)

4. Smarties and Necco Wafers: taste like dust, not a good thing

5. Dum Dum Lollipops: I agree on this one as I find them dangerous for young kids

6. Apples: Bad for a lot of reasons

7. Tootsie Rolls: (chocolate wannabe)

8. Hard candies: again, I agree as I find them dangerous for young kids

9. Laffy Taffy: it's usually hard and sticks to the package and does not make you laughy.

10. Anything fun sized: one bite is not fun.

I'll be back later with a list of treats kids will run to your house so fast to get that they will trample over smaller children for.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Give Me A Hand?

Or maybe just some fingers.
Here are a few quick ideas and recipes to offer up at your Halloween bash. They are edible, but look like body parts. They would work well with the Mad Scientist's Lab.

First up are the eyeballs, there are a few ways to do this. The easiest is to set out a bowl of peeled grapes. Stick your hand in that and you get the feel of eyeballs. Another eyeball recipe is using deviled eggs. Prepare them as you normally would, then top them with a slice of olive and squirt squiggly ketchup lines around them. My last eye-dea is the floating eyeball. Cut big marshmallows in half around the middle, so you have 2 flatter round pieces and stick a raisin or chocolate chip in the middle. You can either let them float in punch or drinks, or stick them on lollipop sticks.

Now comes the brains. The easy way: mix some cooked spaghetti with spaghetti sauce (blood) and serve in a large bowl. If your guests aren't too queasy, they can stick their hands in the bowl of brains. Or if you want to get fancy, you can mold a brain using green, purple, or red Jell-O and a special mold.

For fast toes, cut hot dogs in half across the middle so you have 2 short stubby sections. Toss them randomly on a plate with ketchup. Cut up chicken strips make for great fingers.

Go as gross as you want with a splash of ketchup here and there!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Enter The Laboratory If You Dare

One way you can add a little extra spook to your Halloween party is to transform your kitchen into a mad scientist's lab. It is easier than it may seem.

First you need the scientist. Use dad, grampa, crazy uncle.... Give his hair a little tease to make it stand up, sprinkle it with a little talc powder, and spray it with a combination of white and gray hair sprays. Dress him in an old white jacket or lab coat. Finish off his 'mad' look by darkening around his eyes with black and gray eyeshadow.

Now, for the decorations. What would a mad scientist have lying around? Cover the table with a tablecloth ( a store bought plastic cover would work, or use wild Halloween printed fabric to make your own), I like either shocking purple, or Frankenstein skin green. Place old beakers, test tubes, vials, eyedroppers, and the occasional rubber rat or bug around the table. Drape some fake spiderwebs over the windows, walls, and light fixtures. Fill flasks with water in different colors. A rubber monster face mask and some body parts are always good to have around.

Now for the food, it is the kitchen after all. Serve tomato soup in test tubes to look like blood. Have a spare brain sitting around (molded Jell-O or spaghetti will do). Use rubber gloves (thoroughly soak and wash first) to mold ice hands (use can use green food coloring to tint the water) and float them in the punch bowl.

Check back for more body part food ideas!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Make your house the most haunted haunt!

Having a Halloween party? Need to quickly transform your home into a haunted house? Try some of these suggestions that use easy to find supplies and many things you already have around the house.

*Create a ghostly mist! Fill buckets halfway with water, and add dry ice. There should be enough water to cover the dry ice, with 2 parts water to 1 part dry ice. Warmer water will make thicker smoke, but it will disappear quickly. Cooler water makes thinner smoke, but it will last longer. Make sure to keep them out of reach of children. Dry ice is dangerous when touched.

*Blow up different sized white balloons with helium. Cover each balloon with a small white sheet or pieces of white fabric and draw on a face with permanent marker. Float them around the house. For glowing ghosts, stick a glow stick in the balloon before inflating.

*Buy neon black lights, and place them around the house or in the party area. They will cause an eerie glow and make all the white items in the room, including the mist and ghosts, really stand out.

*Cover shoeboxes with brown or black construction paper, and line the inside of each with red felt. Fill with small plastic skeletons and place them around the house.

*Cover the tables with a black or orange tablecloth, toss with confetti, and decorate with plastic spiders and skulls.

*Hang orange and black streamers from the ceilings.

*Make your own haunted window coverings by cutting cats, bats, pumpkins and spiders out of black construction paper or felt. Tape them to your window, and then cover the entire window with white paper or a sheet, making sure to completely cover the window. Place a light behind the window to make the scary silhouettes you can see from outside.

I'll be back later with ways to turn your kitchen into a mad scientist's laboratory!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Not your average Halloween candy

For your Halloween treating fun, Hershey's has new flavors of Hershey kisses. We have very easily located the Candy Corn (which are adorable just to look at) and the Pumpkin Spice. Supposedly they have also released Caramel Apple kisses, but no one I know of has been able to find them.

We taste tested the 2 we found. We really liked the Candy Corn, they were a little sweeter, but not too sweet and with a slight candy corn flavor. The pumpkin spice on the other hand, well, they are a bit much for the taste buds. I love all things pumpkin, but the flavor can be a bit overpowering. The color is pretty though, so I might save them for decorating Thanksgiving cakes and treats.

I will keep you posted on my hunt for a Caramel Apple bag!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Looking for some spooky fun in the Midwest....

Try the Niles Haunted House Scream Park in Niles, Michigan. They have what is known as one of the best haunted themeparks in the midwest. It was named one of the Top 5 Haunted Houses in the country on Yahoo.

The park has 5 attractions plus the midway. There is something for everyone, those who scare easily (*raises hand* I can only handle the Dark Terror-Tory Hayride) to those who love extreme fear. And don't forget about the Gore Store.

So if you are in the area (and it is worth a couple hours' drive) be sure to check it out.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

5 Tips for Great Kids Parties

Want to throw a great party for younger kids. Follow these 5 tips.

1. Send out invitations at least 2 weeks in advance. Give time for your guests to find the perfect costume.

2. Don't be too scary. Keep the age of your guests in mind. Go for friendly-spooky, not bloody-scary.

3. Keep it short and simple. Anything over a couple hours and you risk losing the attention of the younger ones.

4. Make sure to plan plenty of activities. If you run out of time, you don't have to do them all, but it's better to have some games left over, then to have party time left with nothing to do.

5. Give them something to remember your party by. Send them home with something Halloweeny and unique. Have a craft table and let them make their own party favors.
Check back for more perfect party tips.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

I can smell it baking from here

I love baking around this time of year when the temperature is dropping. It's a perfect time to try out a recipe using pumpkin. This one combines it with chocolate.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread
*3 cups white sugar *1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree *1 cup vegetable oil *2/3 cup water *4 eggs *3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour *1 tablespoon ground cinnamon *1 tablespoon ground nutmeg *2 tablespoons baking soda *1 1/2 teaspoons salt *1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips *1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
In large bowl, combine sugar, pumpkin, oil, water, and eggs. Beat until smooth. Blend in flour, spices, soda, and salt. Fold in chocolate chips and nuts. Grease and flour three 1 pound size coffee cans or three 9 x 5 inch loaf pans. Fill cans 1/2 to 3/4 full. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 1 hour, or until an inserted knife comes out clean. Cool on wire racks before removing from cans or pans. Wrap in cellophane once completely cooled. Makes 3 loaf pans.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Is that Cinderella I see?

Do your kids want to dress as their favorite characters this year? Here's a list of the top kids' character costumes for 2008.
Hannah Montana
Sharpay (High School Musical)
Elizabeth Swann (Pirates of the Caribbean)
Gabriella (High School Musical)
Disney Princesses

Indiana Jones
The Joker
Star Wars Clone Trooper
Iron Man

Monday, September 29, 2008

Want to start early?

Every year do you plan on turning your home into the perfect haunt? Well if you haven't started yet, what are you waiting for? Here are some sites to help you get started.,2496,HGTV_22056_36458,00.html

Step Inside the Pumpkin Patch

Welcome to The Pumpkin Patch. I love fall, Halloween, pumpkins, the harvest moon, spooky (but not too scary) Halloween activities, etc. You get the idea. I hope to share some of that excitement here. I will be adding a little of everything pumpkin, fall, Halloween related as well as other random things of interest.