Our Boo Bash

I finally gave in…after the middle hooligan had such a fun birthday party at the end of September, the kids kept insisting we should have a Halloween party.  So we did, last weekend.

They each chose four kids from their class to invite.  Fortunately, several of their picks overlapped with siblings, so it was really only 10 families we invited. Of course, those families added up to over 20 kids!

Pumpkins-in-TreeHaunted-Decor

We decorated with pumpkins and bats in the trees, and some haunted houses…all hooligan-made and arranged.Costumes

Costumes were optional, but oh-so-cute!

Acorn-TossBobbing-for-applesBoogo

We played acorn toss, “bobbed” for apples, bowling with gourds, and Boogo (Halloween bingo).  Everyone had so much fun, we never even got around to playing the Pin the Hat on the Witch game or a couple of others I thought we would.

Owl-CookiesParty-Snacks

During the fun and games, we munched on my favorite Pumpkin Seed Tortilla Chips and Mango Salsa, Pretzel Thins with Raspberry Mustard Dip, and Halloween Party Mix.  I also made my grandma’s Owl Cookies…I used to help with these, and loved them!

For real food, I made big pots of Ridiculously Easy Veggie Chili and copycat Wendy’s Chili, along with Bread Bones to dunk in Hot Cheese Dip and Corndog Muffins.  To make Corndog Muffins (a Pinterest craze), just mix up your favorite cornbread batter. Cut weiners (yes, I said it!) into thirds and place one in each standard muffin cup, which you’ve lined with paper liners. Spoon the cornbread batter over each, and bake as you would corn muffins.

Of course, for the hooligans, the point of any party is to have a pinata. My mom, a former art teacher, assured me making pinatas is fun, rewarding, and very easy.  Which it was. But she forgot to mention time-consuming!  If you decide to make a pinata, allow at least a week before your party, because the layers need to dry for 24 hours. It’s not a lot of hands on time, just drying time. But that’s another blog post, for another day!  Pinata

Pinata-AlmostPinata-Loottreat-bags

The kids made these treat bags from some scrapbooking paper, stamps, and lunch bags.  They were perfect to put pinata loot into, as well as the Monster Slime and Pop Rocks that we gave as game prizes.

We wound up the evening with a campfire and s’mores, made with toasted marshmallows, graham crackers, and, my secret ingredient, Nutella in lieu of chocolate bars. It’s da bomb.

All in all, we had a blast, and I think our guests did, as well. Having a Boo Bash may just have to become an annual tradition, no matter where we’re stationed!

Hope you have a frightfully fun Halloween!

Bones and Cauldrons

Bread bones dunked into a cauldron of bubbling cheese fondue, that is…they’ve become out Halloween night dinner tradition.  We have either crisp fresh vegetables and dip or vegetable soup with them, depending on whether it’s warm or freezing out.

Bread-Bones

To make the bread bones, start with a package of frozen roll dough.  I used plain old white rolls here, but we prefer the multigrain ones.  They didn’t have those at my local grocery store, but if you can find them, use them instead.

Let the rolls thaw according to package directions (3 to 5 hours on the countertop), then roll them into long “snakes.”

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Using sharp kitchen scissors, snip each end, a little less than an inch into the roll.  Then place them on a baking sheet, turning the ends out, and bake them according to package directions.  I think these were at 375 degrees for 12 minutes or so.

I’m sure you’ve made this “Cheesy Cauldron Dip” before.  Chop up a two-pound block of American cheese (Kraft, Pace, Velveeta) and combine it in a small slow cooker with a cup and a half or so of salsa.  Sometimes, I also add soy ground beef crumbles, just to up the protein.

We trick-or-treat around 5:30 here, so we eat dinner really early on Halloween.  This isn’t too heavy, but it keeps them full and not whining for candy the whole time we’re out…for the most part.

Speaking of whining for candy, my sister-in-law gave me a great idea long before I even had kids.  On Halloween night, my kids can eat as many pieces of candy as they are old before bed.  At bedtime, they put their loot outside their bedroom door and the Great Pumpkin comes and takes it in the night.  He leaves a small toy (such as Hot Wheels or a small doll figure) behind as a trade, and usually drops three or four pieces of candy.  They’re happy to have the toy, since they know good and well they’d never be allowed to eat all that candy!

Christmas Card Monday-Merry On!

Back in June, when the new Stampin’ Up! catalog went live, I couldn’t wait to get the Carry On hostess set…and then I combined it with the “Merry” from Greetings of the Season, and just look what I created!

Keep-Calm-Merry-On

All Stampin’ Up supplies:  Carry On and Greetings of the Season stamp sets; Cherry Cobbler and Whisper White Cardstock; Festival of Prints DSP Stack; Merry Minis punch pack; White Craft Ink; White Embossing Powder; Rhinestone; Heat Gun(for embossing); Stamp-a-ma-jig

I used clear stamps and my Stamp-a-ma-jig so it was easy to line it up quickly.  I rarely use my Stamp-a-ma-jig to align things, preferring to chalk it up to “handmade” if it’s not exact, but I wanted this to be just right.  It only takes a minute or so to set up, and if you’re making these in mass, it’s a real timesaver in the end.

In order to ink just the “Merry”, I used a piece of Scotch tape to cover the “Christmas” while I stamped it on the ink pad, then peeled off the tape (and ink on it) before stamping on the card.   I cut “Carry” and “on” apart to make it easier.  I could have used the same tape technique there, if I didn’t want to cut my stamps apart.

So just keep calm and stamp on…Christmas is less than two months away!

Pumpkins of the Past

As Halloween creeps ever closer, I decided to look back at our hooligans through the years…since the eldest one is only 8, it was a pretty short look back.  Here’s a peek at their costumes…

Halloween Past

It’s kind of cool that they all three wore the pumpkin costume for their first Halloween.  On Halloween, 2004, we passed out treats with my friend Kimberly, anticipating my GI Joe’s return from a year-long deployment.  He arrived on the last flight of the brigade, of course, around midnight on November 9. Our hooligan took his first real steps on November 10, after his daddy had missed all the other milestones of his first year.  And that was pretty much the last accommodating thing the hooligan did.

2005 found us in a new home in Kansas, and he was Elmo, mostly because it was a warm costume and he didn’t really care what he was.  In 2006, our middle son was a newborn, and he didn’t get to trick-or-treat, but his big brother cleaned up in his Lightning McQueen racecare driver costume.

In 2007, the middle one had found his running legs, and wore the pumpkin costume with some urban camo pants to make a commando pumpkin, while his big bro saved the world as Captain America.

We moved again in 2008, back to Washington state,  and adopted Princess Thundercloud.  I sewed a purple glitter ruffle around the pumpkin costume and she debuted as a Ballerina Pumpkin, as the eldest was a fireman and the middle one wore the blue racecar driver suit.

My husband had just been home on R&R from another yearlong deployment, and missed Halloween 2009.  We had fun dressed as a dogcatcher, a red racecar driver (because he outgrew the blue one!), and an adorable flower (again, it was the warmest one I could find!).

For trick-or-treating 2010, we were again in a new home, albeit not in a new state.  The hooligans (unbelievably) were happy to wear the same costumes as the year before, but the boys needed to dress as their favorite saint for religious ed class.  They both chose St. George, the Dragonslayer.  Those were the most fun costumes I’ve made (and they won the Best Costume prize, which is really what church is all about).

Last year, we trick-or-treated at the Milwaukee Zoo (yep, we moved again), and finished just as the rain started.  The oldest was a construction worker, the middle one recycled the Captain America costume, and we had the cutest cupcake ever (and the warmest!).

We’re ready and waiting for this year…we’ll have Luigi (from Mario Bros), a new and improved Captain America, and either a snow princess or the cupcake once again.  What’re your little ones dressing as this year (or you, yourself, for that matter)?

Toffee Pumpkin Cheesecake

One of my friends blogged this recipe awhile ago, and I printed it and put it in my “To-Try” recipe file…then I forgot it! I was beyond giddy when she reminded me of it when we were swapping recipe ideas on Facebook last month.  Yay! If you read this blog regularly, you know I’m a pushover for pumpkin. But on to the recipe.

CHeesecake

I modified it a bit, making it lower in fat and not quite so sweet…although the original was delicious, don’t get me wrong.  I’m trying not to gain any more weight than I must as the “fluffing-up” season arrives!  I hope you’ll forgive me, Sarah, for adding more pumpkin and fat-free half-and-half instead of cream.  I also switched the topping from sour cream to honey Greek yogurt.

Last, but certainly not least, I am LOVING the Stonewall Kitchen’s Pumpkin Caramel Sauce that I found at Kohl’s this fall.  See, I don’t only shop at Target. Although Kohls is just across the parking lot from Target.

If you’ve never made a cheesecake, don’t be intimidated.  They’re really quite foolproof, as long as you don’t overcook them.  Be sure to remove them from the oven while the middle is still a tiny bit jiggly.  It’s also a good idea to wrap your springform pan in foil before baking it…the butter in the crust has a tendency to drip out onto your oven and set off the smoke alarms while your children are trying to sleep and you’re baking at midnight. Or so I’ve heard.

Also, let me throw a plug in here for actually purchasing a springform pan, if you don’t have one.  I have a 9” one and two 5” ones, and use all of them frequently. They’re great for sweet or savory cheesecakes, but also for fruit pizza, layered cheese tortes for appetizers, and many other things.  The sides unlock and slide off, so you’re left with your creation sitting on the bottom, and you can serve from that. Just buy one…you’ll make fancy-looking stuff and impress people!

Toffee Pumpkin Cheesecake

(adapted from Food.com)

Ingredients

Crust

    • 1 3/4 cups toffee shortbread cookies, crushed
    • 2 tablespoons butter, melted

Cheesecake

    • 3 (8 ounce) packages light cream cheese, softened
    • 1 1/4 cups brown sugar, packed
    • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
    • 2/3 cup fat-free half-and-half ( or 5 ounce can evaporated milk)
    • 2 large eggs
    • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
    • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
    • 1 cup crushed toffee pieces
    • 1 cup honey Greek yogurt, room temperature
    • Pumpkin Caramel Sauce (or your favorite caramel sauce)

Directions

  1. Crust: Preheat the oven to 350*F. In a small bowl, combine the cookie crumbs and butter. Press onto bottom and 1″ up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Bake for 6-8 minutes. Do not let brown. Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes, while you make the cheesecake.
  2. Cheesecake:.In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese and brown sugar until it’s creamy. Add the pumpkin, milk, eggs, cornstarch and pumpkin pie spice. Stir well and pour into the crust.
  3. Bake for 60 to 65 minutes, or until the edge is set and the center jiggles just a little. Remove it from the oven.
  4. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Refrigerate for several hours or up to overnight.
  5. Spread Greek yogurt on top. Remove the outside of springform pan. Sprinkle toffee pieces on top and drizzle with caramel sauce before you serve.

Click here for a printable version

15% Off {Almost} Every Stamp!

Yes, you read that right…on Monday, October 29, 2012, almost every stamp Stampin’ Up! sells will be 15% off!  And they’ve just released two more selections of stamps available individually!

Here are the details:

Starting at 12:00 AM (MT) and ending at 11:50 PM (MT), almost every stamp we sell will be 15 percent off.

This means all stamps in the current catalogs including

    • Background stamps
    • Personalized name stamps
    • Cookie press stamps
    • Single-image stamps

This DOES NOT include

    • Hostess sets
    • Bundled stamp sets
    • Digital stamp brush sets
  • There is no minimum purchase, and no limit to the number of stamps you can order.

And there’s more! Next week is a celebration of digital scrapbooking, as well…

Three free downloads and 50% off all digital kits all week!  You can use these with any digital scrapbooking program, not only My Digital Studio (which totally rocks, but isn’t a requirement!). So check the Stampin’ Up! webpage each day for those free downloads!

Here’s a peek at the new single stamps, as well:

Single_Flyers_assorted_US

Single_Flyers_assorted2_US

Sausage and Tortellini Soup

Have you been searching for a hearty soup that tastes as though it simmered all day but took less than 30 minutes to make?  Well, your search is over, my friend!

Sausage and Tortellini Soup has come to the rescue many a time when I just couldn’t make a plan for dinner ahead of time and hordes of hooligans were about to descend from the school bus.

0712-Tortellini-Soup

Sausage and Tortellini Soup

  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 1 lb bulk (not link) Italian sausage
  • 8 cups beef broth
  • 1 Tbsp basil
  • 2 Tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1-9 oz package cheese tortellini
  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach leaves
  • Grated Parmesan for garnish

1. In Dutch oven or stockpot, brown sausage and remove from pan with slotted spoon. Add onions to pan and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add cooked sausage, beef broth, basil, parsley, garlic, and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer ten minutes.

2. Add tortellini and spinach to pot and simmer until tortellini is cooked though (it will float when it’s done), about 5 minutes.

3. Serve with Parmesan sprinkled on top.

Click here for a printable version

Mangia bene! (as my husband’s Italian grandma says)

Halloween Party Mix

Guess what Target has at the Dollar Spot?  Cute little treat cups in fall colors (ten for $1!). I know, I should seek help for this compulsion to stalk the aisles there. But first, let me show you what I used some orange treat cups to make!

Halloween-Trail-Mix

I also found these great kraft paper tags at the Dollar Spot.  I just used a couple of stickers and my trusty white gel pen to spiff it up a bit and some Halloween-ish ribbon and bakers’ twine.  I wrapped the treat cup in some printed packing tape (from Michael’s Dollar Spot last year), and threw together (literally) some Halloween Party Mix, using ingredients I already had on hand.

Trail-Mix

The party mix includes candy corn, peanuts, multi-grain Cheerios, and popcorn, if I have some.  It’s a tasty combo, reminiscent of Payday candy bars. If you’re not having a party, feel free to call it Trail Mix and feel virtuous about taking it along on a hike…sugar provides quick energy, and nuts and whole grains are super good for you!

We made these little treat cups (they hold a little more than a cup of mix) for the bus driver and neighbors…they come together quickly, and are a perfect after school snack.

Now I think I need to go see if there’s anything new at Target…..

Thanks Is for Giving Tree

My kids, wild hooligans though they may be, love writing down what they are thankful for each day in November.  For the past few years, we’ve had thirty small envelopes with strips for each day that we write our thankful thoughts on…see it here, in a post from last November.

This year, I decided I wanted something more graphic, so here’s what Princess Thundercloud and I spent our afternoon making.

Thanks-Tree-1

We found a large wall decal with a tree, birds, and lots of leaves at Hobby Lobby (on sale for 50 percent off…yay!).  We used some, but far from all, of the leaves and the trunk and limbs to decorate a blank wall next to our kitchen table.

Thanks-Tree-4

Then we used my Big Shot and a Leaves die to cut out 30 leaves in each of five colors, so each family member has their own color. It took 2 sheets of cardstock in each color.

Thanks-Tree-2

Then we’ll write one thing each at dinner every night and use poster putty to stick them on the tree.  I’ve saved our strips from past years, and it’s so cool to look back and see how their “blessings” have evolved.

Thanks-Tree-3

As is apparent, she’s quite happy with our creative project results!

Does your family have a special way to record their blessings?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Guest Posting at The Taylor House

If you’re in need of a fun and just-a-little-spooky treat, I’m sharing my tutorial on making peanut butter eyeballs over at my friend Chrissy’s blog, The Taylor House.  Drop by and give her a little blog love…she’s been under the weather and needs some cheer!

Eyeballs-with-veinsYou know you need eyeballs in your life! Now go!