Counting the days ’til Halloween

Oh oh oh…. it’s THAT time of year! Super duper excited that it’s now *completely* acceptable for me to be planning for Halloween. Never mind that we actually started a month ago.

So what do we have planned this year so far? Well, let’s see….


Pretty sure I’m classified as a Pinterest addict. It’s even worse around this time of year. I even added a brand new board – Halloween Makeup Ideas. Our costumes have yet to be set in stone, but thinking we are probably going with a Tim Burton style family costume set. That means we’ll be relying heavily on spooky makeup. WOO! My favorite.

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4th of July Decorations from Recycled Water Bottles

Over the last few years, we’ve made it a point to reuse and repurpose recycled materials.  Containers, bottles, and cans all make for fantastic craft projects. Making fun projects for the 4th of July only seemed natural. This is a GREAT idea for parties, especially because you make containers for functional party uses PLUS decoration at the same time……

Set of recycled water bottles in red, white, and blue.

Set of recycled water bottles in red, white, and blue.

—-> See Tutorial for Water Bottle Flowers to learn how to make these! <—-

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Father’s Day Craft Ideas -Sharpie Mugs

My dad is THE hardest person to buy for in the family. We managed to do alright on his 60th birthday, but here comes Father’s Day and we have to plan a perfect gift all over again.

I started with Pinterest, and poked around for “Father’s Day projects”. While most of it is cute gifts from kids (and if you read the last post we did about “Grandpa Pete”, you’ll know we have to avoid non-useful at all costs), there were a few Pinterest projects that gave me inspiration.

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Paper Crafts for Kids – Christmas Themed

NaNoWriMo is over finally, and I’m sad to say I didn’t make it to 50,000. However, I did make it stupidly close (was short a whopping 2,200 words) and do plan to publish the book regardless. Hoping it will be available on Kindle somewhere near the beginning of the year, along with the cookbook we have been planning for a few years.

But right now it’s December, so it’s time to start playing with Christmas crafts. The kids and I have been busy testing out some different crafts we found on Pinterest, because The Hot Spot will be a part of the Prairie City Winterfest celebration on Saturday. SUPER excited to be one of the places kids can do free Christmas crafts.

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How To: Painting Pumpkin Jars for Halloween

Acrylic paint, paint brushes of various sizes, Sharpie, Mod Podge.

You will need:

– Acrylic paint
– Paint Brushes (large and small)
Stained by Sharpie, black
Mod Podge (I used “sparkle” or “gloss”)

Step 1. Draw

Another way to do this is covering the area you don’t want painted with tape or paper. I just prefer drawing.

Step 2. Paint

Paint used may vary.

I used paint I had from other projects, one with the name “Pumpkin orange”. I ended up using 2 coats of each type of paint. One type of paint covered the jar better but had a matte finish I didn’t care for, and the other was nice and shiny but would have taken 10 coats to cover it.

First coat – matte finish paint.

After the shiny paint coat.

Step 3. Outline

Using “Stained” by Sharpie for this step.

All touched up and ready for the next step!

Step 4. Mod Podge

Used sparkle Mod Podge for this step. Can also use the spray glitter shown with the supplies with gloss finish Mod Podge.

Step 5. Embelish

Embellished with ribbon. Can also use pipe cleaners, hemp cord, or other kinds of ribbon or cords.

We had a BLAST making these adorable pumpkin jars. After we were finished, they were handed over to my mom, the “Candle Lady”. She filled them half way with pumpkin pie scented soy wax. They look like jack-o-lanterns when they are burning! SO CUTE!

Interested in blogging this craft? You can find pictures for purchase here, here, and here.

Our Halloween Costumes 2012

Oh yes. It’s my favorite time of year and we are busy digging up plans for Halloween. The first on the list, as always, is the Halloween costumes. I’m so sad my oldest (now age 12) wants no part in Trick-or-Treating, but we still have a good month and half to convince him to at least dress up.

My fantastically creative daughter has picked her costume for the year and we are already beginning to piece it together.

This year’s pick: ZOMBIE CLOWN!

Ugly Scraps

We started by picking out the fabrics we planned to use, which included the ugliest jumper we’d ever seen (shown above). As luck would have it, this almost fits my daughter. It’s a bit tight, so we plan to leave it unzipped and unbuttoned, using additional ugly scraps to fill in the gaps. You can see from the picture we also found an ugly tie to go along with the hideous costume. We plan to dye her hair red (she has the most perfect short curly clown hair) and paint her face in zombie-style.

Costumes of Halloween Past

Halloween 2011

Last year my daughter won 3rd place in the Prairie City costume contest. I suspect it’s because the costume was homemade (far left is my daughter, far right is my son, and in the middle is my teenage cousin who visits on the weekends). She was a “She-Devil” that year and we used mostly clothes she already had that fit the role. The pitchfork was from my son’s costume last year (shown below) and the horns we purchased.

Halloween 2010

Zombie Cheerleader and Demon Boy. Loved this year, the makeup, and the ideas. Again, my daughter wore mostly clothes she already had with a few extra accessories and dead-looking make-up. She even had a scar that year pained on her forehead.

Other years we have made good use of scraps, cheap fabrics on sale, and clothing they already own. We are proof that costumes can be cheap, easy, and way awesome with just a bit of creativity.

What costumes are you planning for this year?

How to Shop for the Holidays Without Going Broke

Guest Post by Matt Hoff

Anyone with a family knows how expensive it is to deck the halls these days. Maybe it’s because of the sagging economy or maybe it’s because our kids have more “refined” tastes than we did growing up, but the price tag for providing your little bundles of joy with presents seems to get larger every year. Luckily, there are a few tricks crafty parents can use to keep their wallets stuffed as full as their stockings. Some of them are obvious. Others you might not have considered before. But they’re all sure to save you some green this holiday season.

  • Stay away from layaway. Retailers like Wal-Mart are trying to capitalize on the slow economy by reviving their layaway plans. Don’t fall for it. Fifty years ago, when only a few people had credit cards, these plans were a great way to get a big-ticket item that you couldn’t really afford by paying for it in installments. Today, they’re nothing more than an overpriced way to buy something on credit. If you don’t have the money to pay for a present up front – don’t buy it.
  • Use online coupons. Online coupons are, hands down, the best way to outfit your family with gifts on the cheap. By shopping for discounts on daily deal websites, you can get up to 90% off of show tickets, fancy dinners and all the toys your kids can handle. To sweeten the deal, a lot of online coupon sites are running holiday specials right now that will save you even more on your purchases.
  • Homemade is where the heart is. Nothing says “I care” like a homemade present. These crafty gifts are a great way to get your family into the holiday spirit, and they’re much cheaper than anything you’ll find in a store. Don’t be afraid to get creative with your crafts when deciding what to make for your spouse and kids. You can find a huge list of homemade present ideas on Family Crafts.
  • Skip the paper Christmas cards. Pretty much everyone has an e-pad, smart phone or Internet-connected computer these days, so it doesn’t make much sense to blow a load of money on expensive Christmas cards to send to your friends and family. You can find a variety of free e-cards online that you can customize send to everyone on your contacts list. Nobody will think any less of you for making your season’s greetings digital.

It isn’t hard to see more green than red this season. By following these tips and using things like online coupons and homemade presents to cut costs, you can guarantee that your whole family will have some very happy holidays. And with the money you save, you will too!

Homemade Halloween Costumes

Hello Idea Queen readers! It’s that time of year again and I am SUPER excited…Halloween is coming! I absolutely ADORE this time of year!

We may not do a whole lot of decorating, but lots of stuff is going on around our house. Pumpkins are being carved, pies are being cooked, and most importantly, the costumes are being planned. Every year my daughter comes up with the BEST ideas for costumes. Together we usually put together something really fantastic that is deserving of loads of pictures.


Homemade Costumes of Halloweens Past

Around here we feel making costumes is much more fun than buying them. Here’s a rundown of our best costume ideas over the years, most of which are handmade comepletely or made without spending loads of moolah on a complete costume.

Devil and Zombie Cheerleader

You ain’t taking this dead cheerleader back to hell so easy! Mask and pitchfork for the devil was purchased at the store, but the rest of the clothes are just regular old clothes. He still wears them even a year later. Pompoms for the zombie cheerleader were purchased off ebay for a whole $3, and the rest is normal clothing. It’s the makeup we had fun with on that costume.

Punk Rock Star

Her original idea for this year was “Hannah Montana”, but I talked her out of it. Instead, we decided on a punk rock star because the makeup would be a lot more fun. It was! She looked fantastic and most importantly, UNIQUE! I spent a little more on the shirt that I usually do, but she wore it for a good 2 years after using it as part of her costume. She also had striped tights that were purchased for less than $5.


This is the year my son had an obession with Garfield. Do you think we could even FIND a costume? Heck no! So we made one out of a pillow, oversized orange shirt, black spray paint, and wooden/foam mask. The tail was made from basic orange fabric and stuffed. He loved it!

Dead Bride

One of my all time favorites was the dead bride. Dress was made from an uber cheap fabric I found at Walmart (About a $1 per yard is all it was I think), with dollar store cobwebs over her head. We got a little crazy with the makeup this year but I think we made her look good and dead.😉

Batman and Princess

Poof! You are now a super hero! While both of these weren’t the most unique or cheapest costumes, the kids enjoyed playing their parts. Plus the picture was absolutely ADORABLE so I couldn’t pass up the chance to post it. You can tell we’ve always loved playing with the make up.

Other Costume Ideas

This year we have plans for a she-devil, and boy is still undecided. I suggested “Dead Kenny” from South Park, but got rejected. I hear my 13-yr old cousin has plans for that particular idea this year, which I can’t waite to see how it turns out. For the first time ever, the adults are planning on dressing up too, but our costume ideas aren’t set in stone yet. I’m thinking a basic witch, but we’ll see what I can find for accessories between now and Halloween. Cat in the Hat is also being considered, as are characters from the boy’s Xbox games.

My daughter’s running theme of “dead” or “evil” has made these costumes extra spectacular. It’s so easy to take a basic costume idea and turn it into a “dead” or “zombie” version, as my daughter demonstrated with the dead bride and zombie cheerleader. With all the things you can do with a homemade halloween costume, I don’t know why anyone would want to buy them!

Easter Bread Recipes

Our family has always done “pot luck” style dinners. We aren’t a huge family, but big enough that one person just can’t do it all alone. Thus why we all plan to bring certain items – usually side dishes and desserts. For this gathering, I claimed bread and dips.

I realize this post is a little late since Easter is tomorrow, but I thought I would share a few suggestions for Easter bread recipes and side dishes, along with the goodies I’ve been making most the day.

Butter Braids
While I didn’t tackle this one today, I have made it in the past. It’s a YUMMY dessert bread for any family gathering, and just seems perfect for Easter. For instructions and variations, be sure to see our butter braids recipe post.

Homemade Bread

If you’ve been a long time reader, you know I’m in love with my bread machine. I use it on a VERY regular basis. Everything from breads to rolls to pizza crust gets made in our bread machine. Today it’s been used for three items – Herb Bread, French Bread, and Tabi’s Awesome Rolls (recipe below).

Tabi’s Awesome Rolls
1 cup warm milk
1/2 cup butter – softened
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
4 cups flour
2 1/4 tsp yeast

Add all ingredients in order to the bread machine, and set on dough. Shape into rolls and set on pan. Allow to rise an additional 30-45 mins. Bake at 350* until golden brown.

Homemade Dips
I have yet to share with my family the dip I make on occassion, so decided this would be a perfect compliment to my bread. I don’t make it often, because I WILL eat it all if I do. This particular recipe is extremely fattening, with real mayo and real sour cream. I made two of them today – Spinach dip from a mix I got from Tastefully Simple awhile back, and Chipolet from a mix I got at the store. Dip is so insainely simple to make, and you can pretty much add any spices or herbs you want. In fact, I’m thinking about making another dip with dill or garlic. I tend to eye-ball the mix since I’ve made it quite a bit. But to start, mix up 1/2 cup sour cream, 1/2 cup mayo, and 2 Tablespoons of herbs/spices you’ll have a delicious homemade dip.

Any other suggestions for Easter bread recipes are welcome!