Sunday, February 22, 2009

Meringue Bones

Check out these fun Halloween decorations! So easy to make!

Meringue Bones


3 large egg whites
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1/8 tsp. salt
2/3 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla


Preheat oven to 200F. Line cookie sheet with brown paper bag or parchment.
In a medium sized bowl at high speed, beat egg whites, cream of tartar and salt till fluffy. Gradually beat in sugar. If the kids are helping, they don't really know what 'gradually beat in the sugar means'. Add vanilla. Place in pastry bag fitted with a medium plain piping tip. If you don't have one of those nifty bags, a plastic zipper bag will do. Just snip off a tiny part of a corner. Pipe 3″ bone shapes onto parchment or brown paper bag. Bake 1 hour until set. Turn off oven, dry in oven 1 hour. Be sure to store in airtight containers or they will become soggy. Yep, they do get soggy...and gross. Makes 4 to 5 dozen small finger-sized bones.

Making a Jack-O-Lantern

What are your favorite Halloween memories from your childhood? Did your family have any traditions? Trick or treating was a must, right? But did your dad let YOU carve the pumpkin, or did he do it? Was it a family event? If not, this is just for you and your kids!
Making a Jack-O-Lantern is a traditional yet low cost way to bond with your family while being creative. You can start your own family tradition of carving the perfect pumpkin. It doesn’t have to cost a lot, it is something that the whole family can do, and it’s a nice outdoor activity too! Be sure to allot enough time for this Family Project, as it can be a half or whole day job. You’ll start with the pumpkin shopping, move on to cleaning pumpkins, and end with decorating. Make sure you take a break in the middle to snack on some fun Halloween treats.
So, let’s get started on the perfect Jack-O-Lantern.
Select a fresh pumpkin in a shape that pleases you and your kids. Some folks prefer their pumpkins low and round, while others like them tall and oval-shaped. Think about the face you’ll make and where you’ll put the finished pumpkins when you are picking them. Also, if you have wee ones, they should pair up with an adult for their pumpkin(but let the little one pick the pumpkin.)
Draw a circle or hexagon on top of the pumpkin in preparation for making an opening large enough for your hand to reach through.
(This is an adult step.) Cut through the stem end of the pumpkin along your outline with a sharp knife or pumpkin-carving tool. Use a back-and-forth slicing motion to cut through the thick, tough skin. Be sure to make a "notch" mark, so you'll know which way the lid goes.
Remove the stem end, which will act as a cap, making sure you scrape off any seeds or pulp.
(This is a great kid step!) Use a large spoon to scoop out the seeds and pulp from inside the pumpkin. TIP: Hold the spoon by its bowl to get extra leverage while scooping. Littler kids use a littler spoon while bigger kids get a bigger spoon.
Draw a pattern for the face on the clean pumpkin with a Sharpie. Be sure to make the eyes, nose and mouth large enough; you’ll have a hard time cutting out tiny features when you’re using a big knife blade to saw through tough pumpkin skin. This is a great time to let the kids decide!
(Adult step) Follow your pattern as you cut all the way through the pumpkin.
(Kid step) Push the cut-out features gently from the inside of the pumpkin and discard the pieces.
Place a votive candle inside the pumpkin to create an eerie glow.
Make sure you shop around for the best pumpkin prices too! Some of the large discount stores have great deals, but local farmers often beat their prices. And also keep in mind that if you pair up, you can afford to do more pumpkins. Now, get to work!

Creepy Witch Fingers


1 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1 teaspoon almond extract)
Almond slices
Red decorating gel

Preheat oven to 325° F. Combine dry ingredients. Lightly grease a cookie sheet.
In a large bowl, beat together butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla, beat in dry ingredients. Cover and refrigerate dough for 30 minutes. Thirty minutes is a long time in kid-world, so you might want to work on some Halloween crafts right now.
Working with one-quarter of the dough at a time and keeping remaining dough refrigerated, roll heaping teaspoons full of dough into finger shape for each cookie. (Tip: Long and skinny fingers look way spookier than short and fat fingers!) Press an almond firmly into one end for nail. Squeeze in center to create a knuckle shape and use a paring knife to make slashes in several places to form knuckle.
Place cookies on the prepared cookie sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes or until pale golden. Let cool for three minutes. If desired, lift up almond and squeeze red decorator gel onto nail bed and press almond back in place so gel oozes out from underneath. This step is cool and gross but not necessary!
Remove from cookie sheet and let cool on a wire rack. Repeat with remaining dough.
Yields 3-4 dozen.
Creepy notes:You can paint the nails by using some red food coloring that’s been diluted with water and brushing it on. Or, you can color frosting red and dilute it with water, then dip the bottom of the finger in it. You can also use green frosting and make “Frankenstein Fingers”.

Homemade Halloween Costumes

Holy Ghosts and Goblins!

Halloween is just around the corner, and you and your kids have nothing to wear for that party you’ve been invited to. And what about trick or treating? What will you do? We are all on tighter budgets, and we sure could use some great and simple homemade costume ideas this year. So, grab a pen, and write down what you have and what you need for these easy to make costumes.
Housewife Ghost
Use the same old white sheet, cut out holes for the eyes and a small slit for the mouth. Then dress it up a little. Put eye shadow and lashes around the eyes. Lipstick for the mouth. Put a little color on the cheeks. How about earrings and a necklace? And don’t forget to carry a frying pan!!!!
Wear an over-sized flannel shirt, faded blue jeans with patches, use rope for a belt and to tie at the cuffs of the jeans and sleeves. Stuff the shirt and jeans with plastic grocery bags, or newspaper to make you look like a real scarecrow, and add a little bit of straw to hang out of jeans and shirt. Add some make-up like long black eyelashes, and you are ready.
Bill Gates (Who knew that being a “computer whiz-nerdy” type would make a great career and costume?
Slick back the hair, grab some pants that are too short(or roll up regular pants), white button down shirt, white socks, penny loafers, or lace up oxfords, pocket protector, with lots of pens, dark rim glasses (don’t forget to tape the corner, or at least paper clip it) briefcase, or backpack for treat bag.
Japanese Doll
Paint your face white or use lots of white powder, add red rosy cheeeks shaped in a circle and red lips shaped in a heart, put your hair in a bun, wear socks and thong sandals, and a kimono. If you don’t have anything like a kimono, try a silky or polyester robe.
Static Cling
Wear anything in a solid color, all black works the best. With safetypins pin anything to yourself that clings: socks, underwear, fabric softener sheets, etc. You can also spray your hair straight up in the air.
Dust Bunny
Black sweats with white batting pinned to it, adding ears and a cotton tail and make up whiskers
Devil in a Blue Dress
Wear a blue dress, and add devil’s horns, a tail, and a pitchfork
Wear dark jeans with a striped top(preferably red and white or blue and white). Tie a bandana around your head, wear an eye patch, carry an empty bottle marked XXX (for the “rum”) To make the “wooden leg”, wrap brown felt around the bottom half of one leg!!!!

Sweatsuit ideas:

Each costume will use some form of face make-up. Simple make-up kits can be bought for under 4.00. Hat/headbands ideas follow.
Cow-white with brown or black spots made of felt or paper(floppy ears)
Dalmation-white with circle spots of felt or paper(floppy ears)
Pig-pink, with a lighter pink oval as the belly, and a curly tail made from pipe-cleaner(felt nose can be tied on with ribbon)(Pointy ears)
Spider-black with black pantyhose stuffed and attached to the back with pins(big eyes)
Flower-green with an overly decorated floral hat as the bloom
Tree-brown with a green hat/headpiece for the leaves
Bunny-brown, with a pink oval as the tummy and cotton as the tail(make the ears stand up using pipe-cleaners)
Ladybug-black sweats with a “painted” posterboard for the wings(antennae and/or bug eyes)
Bee-Black with yellowish striped tape for the stripes(antennae or bugeyes)
Ghoul-Black or white sweats, matching gloves, and a matching knit hat. The make-up makes this cool.
Eyeball-white pants with XXL sweatshirt. Paint the shirt like a bloodshot eye, then stuff the shirt with crumpled paper to make it look round
Pumpkin-orange XXL sweatshirt using black felt cutouts for the face, then stuff with paper to shape it. Add a green headband for the “stem”.
Skeleton-black sweatsuit with white felt bones pinned on(or buy a paper skeleton, cut out the bones, then glue them onto the sweatsuit)
Deviled Egg”-white sweats, yellow circle pinned to your shirt, devil’s horns, tail, and a pitchfork

For the headbands, use a storebought headband(they cost a dollar) or you can use wide ribbon. Then use felt to make your ears, bug eyes, etc
The next list is costumes made from boxes. To avoid irritation, I suggest cutting the top of the box off and making some sort of suspenders across the opening to hold the costume up! You can use, elastic, ribbon, etc.
Box Costumes:
Dice-Paint white with black dots
Cereal Killer-paint like a box of any cereal, then carry a weapon(knife, sword, gun, etc) from the toy box
Rubik’s Cube-self-explanatory, right?
TV set- paint a “movie” inside of a tv screen on the front, and add rabbit ears to the top section
Already in your house costumes:
Let your kids dress in any of their uniforms:
Football(with a black eye)
Soccer(black out a tooth or with a black eye)
Halloween costumes do not need to break the budget, as long as we all use some creativity. Now, get to work.

Pumpkin Seed Art

This week’s craft is super cheap, super fun, and limited only by your children’s imaginations. It is super for ALL ages, and you may want in on the action too.
Pumpkins seeds(that are already dried out)
White glue
Aluminum foil
Paint Paper
First, you’ll have to draw your design on a sheet of paper. Be sure that the chosen image will “fit” the seeds; you don’t want any teensy details.
Next, paint your seeds(front and back) the colors you’ll need for your art work. If you do a pumpkin, you’ll need orange, green, black, etc. As you paint your seeds, place them on the foil to dry. They won’t stick to the foil.
While you are waiting for your seeds to dry, go have a fun Halloween snack!
Next, glue your seeds to your paper and let dry! It’s as easy as that.
And remember that you can be as artistic as you like.

Boogers on a Stick (Ewwwwwwwww)

This week’s “fun food” might be the easiest one yet. And the best thing is that your kids can do almost all of it!
Pretzels sticks(can be with thin or thick pretzels)
White melting chocolate
Green food coloring(or blue and yellow mixed)
Place chocolate disks in a microwave safe bowl. In thirty second intervals, stir the chocolate until it is completely melted.
Stir in enough green food coloring to make the chocolate green.
Dip 1/8 to 1/4 of the pretzel into the chocolate.
Place pretzels on wax paper to cool.
Serve your Boogers on a Stick!

Having a safe Halloween

Hmmm. Let’s see…We’ve got the homemade costumes. We’ve carved and painted the pumpkins. We’ve decorated the outside of our houses. We’ve bought the candy treats to hand out.
Now, many of us will be trick-or-treating this week, so let us go over some very important safety tips.
First, and most important, be sure your child is dressed safely. If his mask covers his face, ditch it to be sure he can see. Face make-up is safer. If the mask must stay, make certain it is secure and that the little ghoul can adequately see out of it. Check the length of all costumes. If your princess has a long skirt, be sure it does not touch the ground. Tripping leads to many Halloween injuries. Also be aware of Jack O’ Lanterns as long costumes can catch fire.
Be sure to feed your kids an early big dinner before they even get into their costumes. This will lessen the candy requests along the trick-or-treat route. And in case you haven’t heard, there is a major problem with a certain candy this year. Sherwood brand Pirate’s Gold Milk Chocolate coins are being recalled due to the fact that they contain Melamine, the ingredient in milk products that has caused many infant deaths in China. These candies are sold at Costco, as well as many bulk and dollar stores. Please make sure to check your children’s Halloween candy and throw out any Pirate Candy Coins (you know the ones wrapped in the shiny gold foil) and please let other parents know about this! Another good tip is to tuck a piece or two of candy in your pocket, and let them have that instead of what they get in their pumpkins.
Go with your kids up to every door they knock on. Yes, I know it is tedious. But this is the only way to be certain they are safe. Possible dangers include candles in decorations, angry dogs, and psycho-crazies who think it’s funny to scare your little kids. So, go to every door!
The Candy Check:
When you get home from your fun night out, let your kids spread out their candy on the table (or floor) and check it for safety WITH you. Tell them the things to look for: opened candy, unwrapped treats, or fruit.
And my last tip is a great little secret. The Tooth Fairy’s cousin, The Candy Fairy, will leave your kids a five dollar bill (or whatever your Candy Fairy can afford) overnight if they are willing to part with all but 5 pieces.