Archive of ‘Seasonal’ category

Inexpensive Halloween Costumes

My kids and I love Halloween. There’s just something fun about dressing up, but costumes from the store are not cheap (they’re typically not good quality either). While a store bought costume can give you a lot of options and is certainly the fastest way to get a costume, with a little preplanning you can create something cool and fun.

Some of the best costumes can be make from clothes you already have or inexpensively from thrift stores. Because I sew, over the years I’ve had some extravagant costumes (that weren’t very cheap but made a huge impact), to fun costumes that cost under $10.

Thrift stores typically have a rack of costumes near the front of the store right now, although I find most are for younger children where I’ve shopped.

Red Riding Hood (just need a red cape and just about any “little girl” clothes and a wicker basket. I made my cape, but you can check thrift stores or halloween shops for an inexpensive one. Everything else I already owned.

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Ease the stress of grocery shopping during the holidays

(ARA) – Hectic schedules often make meal-related decisions a chore. And planning for a bigger family meal over the holidays just adds to the stress. Affordable and simpler shopping routines could help you start savoring family meal time again.

Regardless of whether you’re planning a holiday feast, a birthday celebration, or just day-to-day meals throughout the year, it’s easier and more cost effective if you go into grocery shopping prepared.

Consider these tips from national grocery retailer Save-A-Lot before your next shopping trip:

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Time-saving Tips To Help You Enjoy The Holidays

(NAPSI)—As the holidays get closer, it can be easy to feel like there is too much to do and too little time. Fortunately, there is no need to panic.

The good news is that there are plenty of ways to make the holidays simple and stress free, cutting down on chaos and making more time for what matters most: family and friends. Now is the best time to utilize your Amana brand appliances to make the mixing, cooking, prepping and baking easy. Here are some tips:

Start with smart planning. Two weeks before guests arrive, look over your recipes and write out your menu to make shopping quick, organized and easy. Stock up the week prior to the main event and store produce in your refrigerator crisper to keep it fresh.

Make as much as you can ahead of time. A week before the main event, take a closer look at the menu. What can you make ahead of time? Prep deli meats and cheeses and make what you can of your appetizers and even side dishes. Set them on a serving platter and store in the refrigerator. All you have to do is unwrap and serve when your guests arrive.

Make good use of your microwave. With your side dishes already prepped, pop them in the microwave so they’re ready to serve in seconds. Reheat as needed during your dinner and—of course—use your microwave when feasting on leftovers.

Let the freezer be your friend. Whether you’re hosting a big holiday dinner or bringing a dish to pass, if your schedule is hectic—fear not. Freeze cookies, dessert bars and breads. Thaw them out and you’re good to go. Keep a few extra batches on hand in the freezer during the busy holiday season and never be left empty handed.

Clean as you go. Just like whistling, try cleaning up while you work. Keep dishes moving from the counter to the dishwasher so they’re ready when you need them. It’ll keep you from facing a mountain of cleanup at the end of the night.

With a head start on holiday planning, entertaining friends and family couldn’t be any easier or more enjoyable. And that’s really the whole point of the holidays.

For more useful tips, visit www.amana.com.

Holiday Meal Planning

It’s almost time for American thanksgiving and for those cooking the big meal, it’s time to start planning. Locally the frozen turkey’s are going on sale and if you’re buying locally fresh, don’t waste any time, they may already be sold out.

Make your list of main course(s), side dishes and desserts, check your pantry and make your shopping list of all the ingredients you’re going to need. This time of year, more than over makes it easy to overspend, and impulse buy, just adding unnecessary cost to your holidays (I couldn’t help buying leftover discounted halloween candy.. I’m a sucker for Laffy Taffy).

Many home made pies can be prepared in advance and frozen to help make the actual holiday less hectic (I cook the Christmas meal and personally, I like to put the turkey in the oven and crawl back in bed for an hour)

If you’re thinking of trying something new this year, now is the time to try it out in advance and if it’s not as good as you thought it would be, you still have time to adjust your menu and try again.

Are you making your centerpieces (or having the kids help), this is definitely a “do ahead” project and not a night before stress to think about.

Here’s a funny article on the

Ten Steps to a Less Than Perfect Thanksgiving

Remember, this is the NOT to do list 🙂

#5 Begin to defrost your turkey on Thanksgiving morning. You know how magazines tend to exaggerate how long it takes to defrost and roast those little gobblers. And who cares if dinner’s not ready until 9:00 p.m.?

Time to turn the clocks back

It’s that time again for many of us to “turn the clocks back” ending Daylight Saving Time. Your local fire department also reminds you that now is the time to change the batteries in your smoke detectors. I know that batteries can be expensive. Look for coupons or special sales, but don’t skip this. With the holidays right around the corner and winter heating in full swing for many of us, fire risks are serious. If your battery operated smoke detectors are more than 10 years old, it may be time to replace the entire smoke detector. Just like any piece of electronics, they wear out and don’t work as well (or at all). Simple smoke detectors can cost under $20 each and smoke and carbon monoxide detectors can cost under $40 each. Replacing just one a year even on a tight budget is very do-able.

Smoke detectors are often your first chance at saving your property and maybe your life.

More information on fire safety:

Now is a great time to look at one more common household fire starter: your clothes dryer. Do you clean your lint trap after every load of laundry? That’s not the only place that link collects. Here’s an excellent video on how to clean your dryer.

Even if you don’t want to take your dryer completely apart, taking off the vent (the silver tube) and pulling out any visible lint is extremely easy in most cases and allows you to reach into the machine as well. You can a purchase dryer cleaning kit that allow you to vacuum out the inside of your dryer without removing screws and cover plates. I personally use one from Flylady.net that works very well for me.

Simple tips for clothes dryer safety

Gift Card Buyer’s Beware!

For the upcoming holiday season, many of us will buy gift cards for friends and family who are difficult to buy for. Many stores are going out of business and some will not honor gift cards after a certain date. Check retailer sites carefully before buying gift cards from stores who have already announced financial difficults. Here is a list that a friend has put together.

Stores that are planning to close after Christmas are still selling the cards through the holidays even though the cards will be worthless January 1. There is no law preventing them from doing this. On the contrary, it is referred to as ‘Bankruptcy Planning).
Below is a partial list of stores that you need to be cautious about.

Circuit City (filed Chapter 11)
Ann Taylor 117 stores nationwide closing
Lane Bryant, Fashion Bug ,and Catherine’s to close 150 stores nationwide
Eddie Bauer to close stores 27 stores and more after January
Cache will close all stores
Talbots closing down specialty stores
J. Jill closing all stores (owned by Talbots) Pacific Sunwear (also owned by Talbots)
GAP closing 85 stores
Footlocker closing 140 stores more to close after January
Wickes Furniture closing down
Levitz closing down remaining stores
Bombay closing remaining stores
Zales closing down 82 stores and 105 after January
Whitehall closing all stores
Piercing Pagoda closing all stores
Disney closing 98 stores and will close more after January.
Home Depot closing 15 stores
Macys to close 9 stores after January
Linens and Things closing all stores
Movie Galley Closing all stores
Pep Boys Closing 33 stores
JC Penney closing a number of stores after January
Ethan Allen closing down 12 stores.
Wilson Leather closing down all stores
Sharper Image closing down all stores
K B Toys closing 356 stores
Loews to close down some stores
Dillard’s to close some stores
Value City closing before Christmas

While checking out this information, I came across a blog that looks very informative, both for cards to avoid and deals on gift cards that may be helpful

http://www.giftcardblogger.com/

No one likes to pay to much, but it’s even more frustrating when you purchase something that become worthless for the recipient.

Not to late for Halloween crafts/snacks

This year I’ve seen a lot of fantastic ideas for Halloween. There’s still a full weekend to create some fun, so here are some links to help you start/finish your party planning.

Crafts (Children)

  • CandleEYEbra – When illuminated, these votive holders cast an eyeful of moody shadows on the walls.
  • Glue Ghosts – some school glue, wax paper and a few “accessories” and you can make your own glue ghosts.
  • Paper Strip Pumpkins (located about halfway down the page)
  • Shrunken Heads – Made from applies left to dry, don’t wait too long to start these!

Cooking

Thanksgiving crafts and recipes

MomsBreak.com offers some cute printables, great to occupy kids while other work is going on.
Pilgrim Coloring Pages and Turkey Banner Making are a few of the items available.
http://www.momsbreak.com/

Send a friend a (Paper) Turkey
http://papertoys.com/turkey.htm – a fun project for older kids (or even grownups)

For moms with some last minute time and older children, here are some nice projects including wreaths and table decor
http://www.dotcomwomen.com/crafts/thanksgiving.shtml

Family Crafts is always a wealth of ideas and instructions for kids and parents
http://familycrafts.about.com/od/thanksgiving/

Making Friends is always a favorite for children
http://www.makingfriends.com/Thanksgiving.htm

Family Fun offers some kid friendly foods for the holiday’s as well as crafts
http://familyfun.go.com/recipes/kids/specialfeature/thanksgiving_kids_ms/

Of course, you’re welcome to visit our recipes section for new recipes to try.
Chocolate Eclair Cake is still one of our favorite desserts, but it needs a day in the refridgerator, so don’t wait til the last minute for this one.

I joined a gym

My friends all consider me to be “thin” and laugh at the idea of me going to a gym, I’ve always been one of the lucky ones that could eat anything I wanted and not gain an ounce… but here’s how it happened. Last year, our receptionist got pregnant with her first baby. It’s a small office and we’re all pretty close and she was constantly bringing in goodies.. of course, she’s eating for two, but as she put it “If I’m going to get fat, I’m taking you all with me.” We thought it was funny. That was around May.

My son graduated High School and the real rush to secure his apartment for college 1,000 miles away, find a roomate, obtain financing to pay for college and apartment and all the stress involved in the move and sending my son off into the unknown…. This was June to September…. In June, I turned 37. (My mother warned me that after I hit 35, that eat anything you want and don’t worry about it won’t last much longer).

Around September, my pants started getting tight and I was unbuttoning them during the day to be “more confortable”. My son left for college and we had a whirlwind drive over 2 days, moving into an apartment, getting furniture (some was purchased in advance to be delivered the day after we arrived, the rest from our staple Wal-Mart to be assembled under less than optimal conditions (pop-pop was wonderful enough to donate a toolbox with all the bare essentials for on-your-own living), and the hunt for an affordable used vehicle for my son to get around town in (and the sticker shock of car insurance in a major metropolitan area prone to strong storms and hurricanes vs rural PA where an occassional blizzard or large hail is the extent of our weather catastrophes. Our receptionist is still force feeding us sugary sweets and my pants are getting even tighter.

In December, our world fell apart with my step-father (aka pop-pop) was diagnosed with a very aggressive brain cancer and needed almost immediate surgery, followed by a complication of blood clots in his lungs that hospitalized him a second time just a week before Christmas (the nurses and doctors were fabulous in working together to be able to discharge him on Christmas morning so we could be together as a family).

Late April… I get up and get ready for work, only to discover that the pants I’ve been unbuttoning to be more comfortable in… don’t fit AT ALL!! It was quite a mad panic as I went through my entire drawer to find a pair of pants that I could force myself into. I step on the scale showed I’d gained a good 20 pounds. Considering that my normal weight was 112-115 pounds, this was a substantial jump for me. I’d never gone up more than 5 pounds while not pregnant ever.

In May, I got sucked into watching an infomercial. I was watching TLC which I love for the Flip This House and Property Ladder series (and now The Real Deal as well). Anyway, they were showing this cool little contraption called a Jump Snap. It’s the coolest little computerized jump rope… without the rope. Of course I bought one LOL. I mean, all us girls jumped rope as kids, it was great fun, we could do it for hours, what fun, I’ll jump rope and lose weight. WOW, things sure change when you get older. The Jump Snap worked exactly like they said it did, it came with a great little workout video with a couple of perky girls doing the beginning 8 minute workout. Phfft. Eight minutes I thought, I could do 8 minutes standing on my head surely….. Well, I gotta tell you, jumping rope at my age wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. The workout is broken down into 2 minutes sessions with water breaks. I won’t need water for just 8 minutes, how ridiculous…. ok, after two minutes, I’m gasping and heaving… pausing the video.. filling a water bottle to chug and I’m ready for the next 2 minutes….. they want us to do jumping jacks!! I think I’m going to die… pause video…. more water…. I made it almost 5 minutes on my first workout. Almost 6 on the second workout… 7 1/2 on the 3rd workout and on the 4th.. yeah for me, I made it through a whole 8 minutes. The Jump Snap itself will tell you exactly how long you’ve jumped and how many times you’ve jumped. So, I know when I’m tired and not jumping as many times as the workout before (I keep a spreadsheet of my progress… date, length of workout, and jumps… to keep myself committed and accountable for keeping up with a routine. I tried to keep up 4-5 times a week with the 8 minute program and was almost instantly gratified with losing an inch off my waist, and half an inch of my hips. I got back in to several of my pants that I couldn’t button just a few weeks earlier. Unfortunately, I’ve plateaued at point 🙁

In Late May, I had the opportunity to join a gym and a reduced rate for doing some freelance work for them. Now, while many people may not appreciate something that isn’t really costing them much, I’m taking as much advantage of it as I can, going to the gym 3-4 times a week for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. My routine is up to at least 5 miles on the stationary bike, “circuit” a series of 20 machines (I don’t do 2 of them because of previous back problems) that are designed for strengthening different groups of muscles, I’ve recently added at least 15 minutes (nearly 1 1/2 miles) on the cross trainer.. similar to a step machine or eliptical, and other 1 to 1 1/4 miles on the treadmill… I still haven’t dropped a pound, so it’s very discouraging, but the tell me it typically takes at least 3 months. I’m clinging to the fact that in just a month, I’ve more than doubled my workout stamina and my clothes are feeling better (I rarely unbutton my pants during the day now LOL). So, I’m entering a new phase of the.. watching everything I eat. I’m having a terrible time cutting out the snacking after years of.. don’t worry, you can eat it.. mentality, but, I’m getting there. Hopefully my friends will stop laughing at me soon (sigh).

New Articles

As summer approaches quickly, we’re gearing up toward more home makeover projects. Our top priority will be our bathroom which we started last year but were waylayed when my husband suffered several bouts with large kidney stones which required medical assistance in breaking up, followed soon after by long overdue hernia surgery. Hopefully we’re back on track this year. Hopefully we still like the color we picked LOL.

To assist with your color selections, we’ve featured an article on color selection. You can find this in our Helpful Articles section under Decorating/Remodeling/Home Repairs

This year, my second child is now driving age. Even through we’ve gone through this teaching experience once, it’s still a process which requires a lot of planning and patience. The accident statistics for young drivers can be quite frightening as we send our new drivers out on the road, so it’s very important that we prepare them for the unexpected. A new article has been added to our safety section. Safety Tips For Teen Drivers.

Our state, Pennsylvania pass legislation several years ago requiring young drivers to use their permit for at least 6 months and drive a minimum of 50 hours under adult supervision. With our older son, I spent many hours driving around in circles at our local elementary school parking lot which was very well laid our for stop signs, left and right turns and smooth turns as well as parking. Living in a very rural area, it was also quite easy to drive for some time without encountering another vehicle (although little furry pedestrians abound). As we both felt more confident with the skills that were being learned, we graduated onto real roads and even Pennsylvania Turnpike driving to visit family on a weekly basis. We also had the luxury of allowing him to help drive on a family trip to Florida where he simply had to drive straight and watch for people merging and passing. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had more than 100 hours in by the time he felt ready to take his driver’s license test, (just 2 days before the permit expired).

We were fortunate enough to run into many unexpected learning experiences (some were actually frightening). We encountered an ambulance with lights and sirens behind us on a very narrow side street as we were at the intersection waiting to turn into traffic. That we a tough situation even for me as we tried to determine quickly if the ambulance could actually pass us where we sat or if we needed to make our the turn to clear the path for the ambulance (it ended up being the latter, we made our turn and immediately pulled to the shoulder).

In another instance, waiting to cross a very busy highway, we sat, waiting for traffic to clear when a car pulled up on the other side of the intersection and was waiting to turn across our path. The polite young woman at the wheel of the vehicle waved my son ahead and he immediately started to pull into the intersection, directly into the path of a speeding sports car (it was obvious he was going well over the 45 mph speed limit). I admit that I was not very calm and immediately started screaming for my son to stop (I actually called him by my husband’s name and flung my arm across the seat in that mom seat belt move even though we were both tightly belted). My son did stop in time, we did make it through the intersection safely a few moments later and we had a great opportunity to discuss what someone waving you out REALLY means (it means they’re letting you go ahead of them, but not necessary that they’re assuring it’s safe to proceed right then). I’m certainly glad this lesson wasn’t learned the hard way.

My friends laughed when I told them that Friday and Saturday driving lessons included watching for Yard Sale signs. Around here, that typically means that someone will slam on their brakes in front of you to
a) see where the sale is and if it’s on a street they’re just about to pass
b) the yard sale is directly beside them and they’d rather stop in the middle of the street before committing to actually pulling over to see if there is anything good
or c) people who’ve already stopped pull suddenly into traffic to quickly move to the next sale.

These rules also apply for the many farmer’s markets in our area where there have been several fatalities as drivers pull across into oncoming traffic at the sign of ripe watermelon and fresh corn.

Driving in our area is also a challenge of watching for deer crossing, duck crossing (across a main highway through the center of town square where a quaint park with spring and fountain are located and ducks find it quite restful to sleep in the middle of the street in front of the fire hall). Skunks present an interesting night time obstacle course (anyone who has ever hit one will know how desparately you NEVER want to do that again under any circumstance short of physical damage to yourself or your vehicle).

So, we’re looking forward to another interesting summer with son number 2 as he ventures into the realm of driving teenagers under parental supervision. He’s still studying for his permit, but the lessons have already begun as we talk about what we look for as a good defensive driver.

I hope you all have a safe and healthy summer season.