Party Like a Toddler

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His Majesty had a Halloween Party at play school yesterday, which gave me the opportunity to try out two new recipes that I pinned to my Halloween Board.

The first was a twist on our Valentine’s Day success: I call it “Monkey Munch”, but my husband, and the recipe that I used, call it “Puppy Chow”.  The other play school parents just called it “Really Good”.  The source of the recipe is a blog called Your cup of Cake, and it’s written by a college student at BYU.  She has tons of recipes for sweet treats, like this one for hot chocolate truffles.  Betcha Santa would take those over the same old chocolate chip cookies we leave him every year!

The recipe is very easy to follow.  The only thing I did differently was to mix the coated cereal and the powdered sugar in a (clean, unused) kitchen trash bag.  It’s bigger, so it’s easier to spoon the cereal into it, and there is more room to shake the cereal around and coat it evenly in the powdered sugar.  I just used one trash bag for the white chocolate mixture and one for the chocolate chip mixture.  I used about 2/3 of a big bag of Reese’s Pieces, but you could add M&Ms, candy corn, pretzels, whatever you want, to dress it up to your satisfaction.

The second recipe I tried was this pumpkin shaped cheese ball from Family Fresh Meals.  I served it with pretzels, crackers, bell pepper slices, and nacho chips.  It looked so pretty that people will think it takes you a lot of work to create it, but it doesn’t.  Not including the time it spent in the fridge overnight, it took me about 20 minutes, including time to cut up the peppers and set up the crackers on the platter.   It was a hit with the kids, and His Majesty tried to eat some of the leftovers with a spoon.

These two snacks went over very well with both adults and kids.  I still can’t get over how much toddlers eat, those little ones sat down around the table and gorged themselves to their little costumed hearts’ content.  Even so, these recipes make a lot of servings, so if you are watching your waistline, I’d definitely suggest that you have a plan for how to pawn the leftovers off on your friends generously gift the leftovers so that you aren’t tempted to overindulge.  These treats are can be dangerous!

Happy Halloween!

We Got Boo-ed!

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Yesterday, I woke up to a container of candy sitting on our counter.

I didn’t recall seeing it when I went to bed, but my husband had already gone to work, and the boys were still sleeping, so there was no one to see me eating the candy ask about this mysterious can of treats.  I could see that there was a note inside of it, so I figured opening it was definitely the first step in scoring all of the good treats before the kids woke up finding out where it came from.

As it turns out, my husband had found the container on the front porch as he headed out to work, and brought it inside to share the surprise with us.  Beside the assorted candy, stickers, and spider rings (His Majesty’s favorite) this is what I found:

Isn’t that fun?  The printable sign and poem came from Organized Christmas, and Halloween cheer isn’t even the icing on the cake of this website. There are all sorts of holiday planners, crafts, recipes, and tips on how to make your holidays enjoyable, and not stressful, something that I think is definitely helpful.  As far as being “Boo-ed”, there are several different versions of the Boo sign and poem on the site, so you can pick a different one for every coworker, teacher, friend, or neighbor that you feel like surprising.

So now, we get to “Boo” a few of our neighbors, and pass along the Halloween cheer!  I’m letting the boys make up the goodie bags, so that both of them can be involved, but it will be Christopher and I who do the actual “drops”.

I tell you what, this simple act of kindness brought a smile to my face, and to the faces of my kids when they woke up.  Tensions are pretty high in my community right now because of the election, so it’s nice to have something silly and non political to take our minds off of the larger national and global community that we all belong to, and focus on spreading cheer in the smaller community that is our neighborhood.  If I can pass along an unexpected treat to a few neighbors, maybe it will brighten their morning like it did my own.

Who knows… If I’m feeling really neighborly when Christopher and I embark on our stealth-like journey to sneak treats to a few of our neighbors this evening, maybe I’ll choose to “Boo” someone with the opponent’s sign in their yard…

Maybe ;)

It’s Getting Hot in Here

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Hot coffee, that is.  And coupled with the gorgeous near eighty degree temperatures we’ve been enjoying here in the Piedmont, and I was actually hot, too.

It’s only fair that since I test drove a pumpkin frappuccino recipe last week, I should extend the same courtesy to another coffee house fan favorite, the pumpkin spice latte.  It took some planning though because it involves using hot- i.e. freshly made– coffee and… I’m about to make a confession here…

I don’t know how to make coffee.

In all fairness, my husband took the liberty of writing out instructions for me to actually use the coffee maker,  but he didn’t include an exact measurement for how to actually MAKE the coffee.  He just wrote out what button to push, and where to put the water, that sort of thing. He also showed me how to use the French Press, just in case the one button operation of the electric coffee maker proved to be too complex for me, but when you use a French Press, how much coffee you measure out is even more taste specific, plus you then have to factor in how long to let the coffee brew before straining/pouring it.  He says that he doesn’t know how I will want my coffee on a given day, so he can’t tell me how much coffee to use, which is silly because I want it just like he makes it.

Well, that’s not exactly true.   In reality… I just want him to make it for me.

So on weekends and his days off, he makes me coffee.  In the French press, which is the best way to make it, according to him, and he’s a “real” coffee person.  He doesn’t add sugar or sweetener, just a drop or two of half and half, and that’s it.  He likes the taste of regular old coffee.  Imagine that.  Anyway, yesterday, I took full advantage of his coffee making perfection and tried a twist on this recipe for pumpkin spice latte  from Recipe Girl.  I wanted to incorporate almond milk and splenda brown sugar and sugar substitute, but I did keep a little half and half to add a little fatty goodness. I’m not a dairy free girl, I just try to cut carbs wherever possible, and there are less carbs in a cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk than a cup of cow’s milk, but hardly any carbs in a small amount of half and half.  Fat is my friend.  Carbs, not so much.  I wish my taste buds would remember that little rivalry as much as my hips try to remind them.

Here’s what I used (in addition to coffee, not shown):

1/2 cup  unsweetened vanilla almond milk

1.5 tablespoons pureed pumpkin

1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon Splenda brown sugar blend

1 cup coffee, HOT

2 tablespoons half and half

1 tablespoon splenda sugar substitute

whipped cream to top

nutmeg to garnish

While your coffee is brewing,  mix together the first five ingredients in a microwave safe cup.  Mix them up well so that you don’t have any large clumps of pumpkin or spices.

Microwave for 1-2 minutes, but keep close by and especially don’t take your eyes off of  it during the last 45 seconds or so.  When it starts to bubble and foam up, it’s done.  If you wait too long, it will foam up all the way to the top of the cup and bubble over– I know this to be a fact because my microwave is so high up that I can hardly see it, not to mention that it has some sort of frosted glass design, so I can’t see inside clearly even when I’m standing on a stool, and it DID foam over for me.  It was a quick clean up, but still, it’s avoidable if you are able to see inside your microwave.

Combine the milk mixture and the freshly brewed coffee in a big mug (mine will hold 16 ounces).  Add your half and half and splenda and stir.

Top it with whipped cream and nutmeg.

Enjoy your yummy “frou-frou” coffee, as my husband calls it, without even having to get out of your pajamas.  You can probably make this at home in less time than it will take you to get through the coffee house drive through!

Save the rest of the pureed pumpkin to use in one of the hundreds of pumpkin recipes you can find online or on pinterest.  Here’s a board I found that lists nothing but pumpkin recipes!  I’m sure you can find at least one that makes you want to get back in the kitchen!  According to Still Tasty, canned pumpkin puree that is stored in an airtight glass or plastic container will keep in the fridge for 5-7 days.

Halloween Bag-Stravaganza

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After my kids got me into the Halloween spirit, I decided to score some free fabric (a fellow homeschool mom was giving a bunch away), and make them each Halloween bags.  This project turned out to be easy, because not only are there very few cuts to make (my least favorite part of sewing is cutting the fabric), but the seams are all straight, and bags are easily modifiable to the size and level of complexity that you are trying to achieve.  The most difficult part of making these bags was choosing which tutorial to use.

I ultimately found my inspiration for His Majesty’s bag through this amazing tutorial at Just Another Hang Up.  If you email the woman behind the blog, Suzanne, she’ll even send you the pattern, which is as good as it gets.  I wanted a bag with a wide opening, appropriately sized for His Majesty to carry without trouble, but also large enough that he didn’t have trouble putting his goodies into the opening, and I wanted it to be simple.  I’m not talented enough to do justice to Suzanne’s bag just yet, but with enough practice, maybe I’ll get there.   However, while I didn’t use her exact specs (I used scrap fabric, and I didn’t want to take the time to line it), I definitely  used her tutorial, which was extremely helpful because it has wonderful pictures to help guide you step by step.  It was a big help as I wrapped my brain around what I was doing, pinned everything together, and then actually learned to do box corners (way easier than I thought it would be).   Here’s what I ended up with:

He’s already had a chance to use it this year!

The total cost for this bag was free, since I mentioned I’d scored the fabric from a woman who was giving it away, but if you buy some, you’ll need less than 3/4 yard of fabric, which will still be pretty inexpensive.  One big thing that I wanted to point out was that some bag tutorials that you may come across will have you use one big rectangle of fabric folded up to form the body of the bag.  This would not work with the fabric I had, because one side of the finished bag would have had the images upright, and one would have had them upside down.  Luckily, I realized this before I had even pinned. Check your fabric before you start sewing to be sure that this isn’t a problem, if you use a pattern that calls for a method like that.

Christopher wanted his bag to have a drawstring opening.  He also wanted it to coordinate with his costume.  This year, he is going as Peeta from the Hunger Games.  What is more appropriate for a Hunger Games costume than a Mocking Jay themed Halloweeen Bag?

The motivation for this bag came from the perfect drawstring bag tutorial at The Mother Huddle.  It says “easy 15 minute” bag, and indeed, it was easy, and honestly took me about 15 minutes.  My husband had his doubts, but I proved him wrong this time!  The longest part of making this bag was cutting out the freezer paper stencil (using this pumpkin carving template), and then waiting for the paint to dry so that I could get the full effects of the project.  Total cost for this bag:  under $5 (3/4 yard remnant fabric for $3 and gold fabric paint on sale for $1).

Both boys are pleased, and I’m pretty proud of myself.  His Majesty will have several more opportunities to use his bag over the next week, and Christopher has declared that he plans to use his bag “all the time, not just on Halloween”.

As for me, I’m pleased to say that perhaps you can teach an “old” dog new tricks.

Halloween Wreath

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I haven’t done much Halloween decorating this year, and it’s not for lack of pinspiration.  I have a whole Halloween Board.  There is no shortage of ideas to make your yard spooky, scary, or just plain fun.

Yet, I’ve done nothing.  Am I lazy?  Am I busy?  Yes, to both, but that’s not the real reason why I haven’t been busy decorating.

The answer is that I’m hostile.  And I’m hostile, quite honestly, because it’s an election year, and I feel like the core principals of our nation are under attack.  Because of that, I’m very fearful of the future, and as a result, I have felt a serious lack of festivity when it comes to things like decorating for Halloween

But my kids’ haven’t lost their enthusiasm.  So, I stopped reading political articles, got out the Halloween bins and got busy.

Their excitement was contagious.  Before I knew it, I was digging out stuff to make a wreath.  You know how much I love wreaths. Especially when I can make them myself.

Here’s some ideas for getting your front door in the Halloween spirit.

Image of Halloween Boo Wreath from Lil Maddy Designs on Etsy.

Lil Maddy Designs on Etsy has amazing wreaths.  Isn’t this one fun? But alas, this wreath is seriously professional grade, I am no where near talented enough to pull this beauty off, especially at the last minute.  Plus, I didn’t have tons of tulle.

Then there is this one from Craftaholics Anonymous.

I love this one, but I didn’t have burlap, letters, or scrapbook paper to decorate the letters.

Which lead to option 3, this wreath from Lion Brand.

Image of spider wreath from Lion Brand.

I could potentially pull this off, but I didn’t have grey yarn, although I did have black… and I had plastic spiders.

So, that’s where I started off.  Wrapping a 16″ wreath form in black yarn– while I watched this weeks Presidential Debate.

Then I got out my fake spiders.

And my spooky sheet, which I figured could work in lieu of a spider web (which the kids had already spread all over the front bushes, plus I thought maybe it would hold up better than the cheaper stretchy spider web material).

I wrapped the “spooky sheet” over the wreath, and tucked the ends in at the back.

Then I hot glued the spiders on the “web”, and added a few plastic spider rings for good measure.

At this point, it met approval from both Christopher and His Majesty, so I hung it on the front door.

Well, it’s not my favorite wreath, but I am horrified of spiders, so I think the fact that they now greet me when I come in the front door is part my reservation about this entry way decor.  But my kids–especially His Majesty–love it.  His Majesty is all about spiders and bugs these days.  And, I definitely think it’s pretty creepy, so it fits the Halloween bill.

Do you or your family really get into Halloween decorating?  Do you prefer fun decorations, spooky decorations, or a combination of the two?  Any decorating ideas you want to pass along?

Pumpkin Frappuccino

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I’m one of “those people” whose idea of coffee is a little bit of coffee and a lot of cream and (sugar free) flavor syrup.  I try not to consume a lot of carbs that 1) I can’t chew and 2) that aren’t dessert, so every year at this time, I get serious pumpkin frappaccino envy every time I pull up to order a coffee.  They don’t offer a sugar free variety.  And that really sucked for me, and no doubt for diabetics.

Until I saw this pin for how to make your own low calorie, high flavor pumpkin frappaccino over at Peanut Butter and Peppers.   This is a great site to peruse if you are looking for low calorie spins on your favorite meals and treats.

This recipe couldn’t be easier.  Honestly, the hardest part was figuring out how to freeze the coffee my husband made the night before I made these.  I ultimately used tupperware containers, but that was a mistake, I had to wait way too long for it to thaw enough in order for it to reach down to the blender blades.  Next time I won’t be lazy, and I’ll dig out the ice cube trays.

I slightly modified the original recipe to accommodate what was in my pantry and here’s what I used, in addition to the partially thawed coffee.

Here’s the very complicated process for creating this delicious frozen coffee.

1 1/2 cups coffee, frozen, partially thawed

2 Tbsp. pumpkin, canned

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice, ground

2 tsp. splenda

1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

whipped cream to garnish

Toss all of your ingredients, except the whipped cream, in the blender.  Blend until it is all nice and smooth.

I guess the color of the paint really lives up to it’s name: Pumpkin Butter!

Pour it into your serving cups (This recipe makes 2 servings).  Top with whipped cream.

Enjoy.

It’s that easy.

When you’ve had your fill of pumpkin (anything is possible), try the Peanut Butter and Peppers take on the Gingerbread Frappaccino.

Ahhh, autumn, my favorite season. Beautiful, cooler temperatures, and tons of seasonal goodies to tempt to you get a little too comfortable in those yoga pants.

Bring on the gluttony.

Saving Money at Disney World

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Earlier this week, I showed you the t-shirts I made for His Majesty for our trip to Disney World.  They served as souvenirs, for a fraction of the cost, and he loves wearing them.  I was pretty excited to do something so fun for so cheap, so I went on the hunt for a few other ways to save money on our trip.  I found this pin for  It’s All Good in Mommyhood, which linked to a post  with several helpful suggestions.  The bloggess, Jodie, is a Disney pro, having traveled there dozens of times, and some of the tips were really practical for my family. For instance:

1.  She doesn’t recommend getting Park Hopper privileges added on to your ticket, which saves you a few dollars.  Park Hopper privileges allow you to visit more than one park in a single day without using two of your park days.  For instance, if you went to Magic Kingdom in the morning, and wanted to do Epcot in the evening, if you had Park Hopper added to your tickets, you’d only use 1 day of admission.  If you didn’t have Park Hopper added on, you’d use 2 days.  However, if you want to leave and return to the same park later in that same day, you can still do so even without the Park Hopper option.

Now, I questioned this, but I took her advice. And you know what? I was so glad that I did.  We were thoroughly EXHAUSTED from the parks every day.  The last thing I wanted to do was go to another park when we’d already been exploring one all day.  That saved us about $150.  Even if I had only been traveling with my husband, I can’t see wanting to do more than one park in a single day, let alone with the family in tow. We planned our park visits around where we’d booked our character meals.  If we had a meal booked in Animal Kindgom on Thursday, we went to Animal Kingdom on Thursday, and that was it.

2.  Pack a cooler for the parks to save money on snacks.  We took this a step further and packed lunches on the days where we didn’t have lunch booked in the parks.  Disney allows this, so long as you don’t bring in a large cooler.  We brought a small soft sided cooler for the cold stuff, and also a backpack with the snacks, first aid stuff, hand wipes, sunblock, etc. We packed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, apples, shelf stable puddings, granola bars, crackers, cheese sticks, pretzels, cherry tomatoes, yogurts, all sorts of typical lunch stuff.  We also brought in water bottles, and filled them up at drinking fountains throughout the park.  To change it up from time to time, we brought individual Crystal Light packets, which are easy to pack, and certainly cheaper than buying lemonade at the parks.

We also ate most of our breakfasts in our condo, with the exception of the one breakfast we ate at O’Hana.  We had cold cereal, hardboiled eggs, and oatmeal, quick meals that we could eat before heading out to the parks nice and early.  I don’t know how much this saved us, but I’m guessing it saved us about $300 over the course of our 8 day trip. Not bad.

3.  Bring souvenirs with you.  I already mentioned the shirts, but you won’t believe how much Disney stuff you can find online at places like Ebay.  I bought Mickey Mouse ears (the hat type), 20 trading pins, a Disney autograph book, and a Hidden Mickey book to make the waits a little more fun for us on Ebay for about $50, including shipping.  I was pretty pleased with myself.

But that’s not all I did.

My kids didn’t trade the pins (His Majesty wouldn’t even let me look at his, he was that obsessed with them, so no way was he trading them), but they were fun to wear in the parks, and to have to take home as a memento of the trip.  In order to wear them, they needed a lanyard.  So did I buy one online, or snag one at one of the 3,000 gift shops in Disney World?

No, I did not.  I made them, using ribbon purchased at Walmart for $3/roll, a spare ring from an old keychain, and about 2 minutes of sewing.

Start by looping off the length of ribbon you want your lanyard to be, overlapping the ends, inserting the key ring, and pinning the ribbon with a few straight pins at the bottom. 

Here’s a better picture of the pin placement.

And here’s what the back will look like:

Then sew the bottom up. I used a straight stitch… because it’s the only one I know how to use… I also went over the rows a few times to make sure that the stitches were nice and sturdy.

 

That’s it.  Then put your pins on. I put all of them on this one to show how many it can hold, but each kid only got 10 pins when we went to the parks.  They were actually kind of heavy, so I don’t know that any more than that would be comfortable to wear all day.

 

Then present them to your kids for approval.

 

Or not… Apparently I should wait until Christopher “does his hair” and changes out of his pajamas before I photograph him… Or so he suggests…

So, now you have a few ways to save money at Disney with a little bit of planning ahead and some minimal sewing skills, if you feel so inclined.

What are some ways that you save money on vacation?