Halloween 2016!

Since Halloween is on a Monday this year, I hope you’re having a weekend full of fun so you can enjoy the mystery and magic of the holiday.

Here’s what we’ll be up to in the Andersen house…

OOTD

My girls and their friends will be decked out like emojis. They saw this idea pic on Pinterest, so we made our own.

We took a plain yellow tee from Hobby Lobby and used fabric glue to add the details of the emoji face. We used felt, since it was easy to cut and glue.

Tip: Use a piece of chalk to draw the details of your face on the felt before cutting. It’s easier (and less permanent) than pencil or pen!

This was our Pinspiration. We plan to add black leggings and tutus. We’ll also add big yellow bows to their hair. Cute and super easy!!

I don’t usually get super dressed up, unless we’re going to a themed party. But I do like to wear a little something festive when we take the kids out to trick-or-treat. So I found a cool spider at Walmart, and I plan to turn it into a headband with some hot glue and a bow made out of black tulle. Here’s some inspiration I found online.

spider-headband

I’ll pair this with a poncho, which is another easy DIY project. I found a black poncho at Walmart. (They have tons of them in stock right now!) And I’ll add strips of glittery tape to make “webs.” My goals is to have it look similar to one I saw on Grandin Road. Wish me luck!

Playful food

We plan to head over to a friend’s house for dinner tomorrow, and I’m bringing my favorite pumpkin-shaped cheese ball served with purple tortilla chips.

I’m also going to whip up some cinnamon bats (which take less than 15 min…promise they’re that easy) and I’ll serve it with this fruit salsa.

{recipe}

{Cinnamon bat recipe} > PS. I’ve also made these bats brushed with olive oil and sea salt (instead of the cinnamon sugar). Then I served it with something more savory – like hummus or salsa.

Check the list

Y’all know how much I love lists. Well, I made a Halloween checklist a year or so ago – and I still like to glance at it to make sure I have everything covered. Feel free to check it out.

I also have an easy Halloween menu if you’re having company over or want to serve a fun meal for the fam.

No matter what, I hope you have a goulishly good time, my friends.

XoXo,

Kate

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Five Holiday Road Trip Tips

Holiday Road TripHappy Friday!! Not that I have to tell you, but Christmas is just six days away. Eek! Many of you are planning a road trip over the river and through the woods to your favorite relative’s house or vacation spot. So before you load up the wagon and roll down the road, here are a few helpful tips to keep you organized, safe and happy.

Organized

{1} Pack the bags: Three important words: make a list. Write down all of the clothes you’ll need, gifts to take, and supplies (like baby bottles or puppy chew toys) that your family requires for happiness. Here are a few list ideas from Real Simple to get you started.

{2} Pack the car: As a mom of three kids, I’ve figured out what our family does (paper towels) and doesn’t (a dozen stuffed animals) need on road trips. I made a printable of a Car Packing List that includes the things we like to pack. Maybe it will help you, too!

Safe

{3} Be prepared: You know Murphy’s Law – anything that could go wrong, probably will. But if you’re ready for any kind of emergency, chances are good you won’t have any. Let’s pray that’s the case. It’s super smart – especially this time of year when road conditions can be tricky – to have a few essential items packed away. Things like a tire repair kit, flashlight and batteries could be lifesavers. Here’s a complete list from Farmer’s Almanac to review.

Happy

{4} Eat right: Just because you’re confined to the car doesn’t mean you have to squeeze out good eating habits. Convenience stores have been improving their selection to include cheeses, fruits and veggies. Go for these options or a carton of yogurt or package of nuts (granted you don’t have allergies). These are a good source of protein, and they fill little tummies longer to last you between stops.

We also bring our Tervis tumblers and fill them with ice water along the way. Most places let you fill your own cups with water for free.

Christmas Tervis

A Christmas-themed Tervis would be a fun gift to start your trip!

{5} Play Games: Nothing makes the miles feel shorter than a few good games. With so many electronics these days, kids are usually plugged into their own worlds. It’s good to mix it up a little with some “unplugged” family fun. Here are a few holiday games to consider:

  • Christmas Scavenger Hunt: Try to find these tried and true decorations while you’re cruising the streets of town. This version is from Daily Messes.scavenger hunt christmas
  • Christmas Spelling Bee: Who can be the first to spell “Christmas” using signs and billboards along the road? Once you’ve spelled that, you can move on to other words, such as: holiday, reindeer and Santa.
  • What’s the Next Line: Play a holiday song from iTunes or a CD. Pause at any point in the song and pick someone in the car to sing the next line. If they guess it wrong, it goes to the next person. You can tally points or hand out small treats for each correct answer, like M&Ms.
  • Guess the Christmas Jingle: Someone hums a song and the first person to guess it correctly gets a prize – like an M&M or Hershey’s kiss.

My friends, wherever you’re headed I hope you have a safe and happy trip!

Lots of love,

-Kate

P.S. I’m linking up with Five on Friday, again. Be sure to check out some of the great blogs on the list! Fiveonfriday

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Holiday Shopping Checklists {printables}

Well, it’s officially December. Time to get serious about Christmas shopping. We have T-minus 24 days and counting, peeps!

Mindy and I have so much in common. Shopping is my cardio, too!

Mindy and I have so much in common. Shopping is MY cardio, too!

I know it’s easy to get overwhelmed and over budget when you’re cruising through the mall or your favorite local shops. One helpful tip is to plan ahead. Sounds ridiculously simple, but it’s also easier said than done. It’s hard to walk past anything that’s more than 25% off. But if you want to respect your sanity, ask yourself, “Does anyone on my gift list really need that waffle iron?” If it’s a “no,” put down the box and step away from the deal.

The very best way to plan ahead is to make lists. I looooove making lists. So I created a couple of list templates to help make shopping easier. Consider it my little Christmas gift to you.

Gift PlannerThe first template is your planner. Think of it as your little personal shopper. You can write down all of the people you need to shop for, along with their clothing sizes, hobbies, favorite colors, etc. Once you map out your list, you can use this for your shopping. I put together a Sample Gift Planner so you can see how it looks filled out.

This template is available to download as a Word document* or PDF.

*Note: I created this on a Mac. If you’re on a PC, the formatting might need to be adjusted a bit. This version is great if you want to type directly into the document. You can email it to yourself and have it on your phone when you shop.

Shopping ListThe second template is more of a tracker. It’s a place to list your purchases and check off details, such as the cost, and if it’s been wrapped and delivered.

This is also available to download as a Word document or PDF.

I hope these are super helpful. Happy shopping and let me know how it goes out there. Remember to stay hydrated doing all that cardio.

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Creative Tip: Enjoy the Season!

Christmas kindness

Designed by The Neat Nook

There’s no question the holidays are a special time of year. I love catching up with friends, eating good food, and exchanging thoughtful gifts.

If we’re being honest, it can also be a bit stressful. The weeks leading up to Christmas are hurried and hectic. There’s the decorating, baking, shopping, wrapping, shipping, entertaining, and sometimes traveling to be done. When you’re a momma, you also have school plays, church pageants, class parties and teacher gifts to manage. Whew!

How does anyone stay calm and joyful with so much business going on? It’s not easy. That’s for sure, but if you have the right mindset, you can stay fairly calm through it all.

Try these five quick tips and see if you feel a difference. They won’t guarantee rock star parking at the mall, but they might help you ease up on the horn when someone snags your spot.

  1. Check in with yourself.
    • Stop in your tracks when you’re feeling stressed, and take note of what you’re doing. And I mean all the way down to the verb. Does baking pies from scratch and making the crust look like a string of holly berries (like the picture you saw on Pinterest) send you spiraling into tears? If so, change the plan and simplify. Get the premade crust or better yet, order from your favorite restaurant and call it good. No one will judge you.
    • Also notice what activities make you feel energized and creative. Allow yourself plenty of time to enjoy these things! Personally, I could wrap presents all day long. I adore playing with papers, tissues, boxes and bows. I would swap wrapping presents for making homemade pies any day.
  2. Do only what you can (and want) to do. Delegate the rest.
    • Write down your entire to-do list so it’s out of your head – where it only stresses you out.
    • Cross off anything that doesn’t fill you with joy and is also unnecessary. Synchronizing your outdoor lights to music – when you’re not technically savvy – would fall into this category.
    • Put a star next to anything you love and that only you can do – such as attending your child’s Christmas play.
    • Find a way to delegate or simplify the rest. Enlist a crafty cousin to make a few small gifts, or pay a neighbor with treats to help hang your lights. Get creative!
  3. Stay within budget.
    • One of the biggest stressors this time of year can be money. Plan a realistic budget that includes all of the details (like stamps for those adorable cards you ordered).
    • Keep track of your receipts as you go, so you know where you stand. If gifts are getting out of control, switch gears to something handmade or repurposed. If you’re thoughtful about the present, it will be appreciated – regardless of the price tag.
  4. Make a new friend.
    • Empathy can go a long way when you’re standing in line waiting to pay at the register. Strike up a conversation with the person in front of you and you might realize just how lucky you really are this holiday.
  5. Be kind to yourself.
    • Whatever you choose to do this holiday, make sure it makes you happy.
    • Don’t try to do too much, and certainly don’t try to make everything perfect. Perfection is unrealistic. If your 2-year-old won’t stop pouting in the family picture, let it be. If you burned all of the cookies for the school party, feed them  to the ducks and pickup some store-bought goodies. Serve them on one of your prettiest plates and you’re back in business.
    • The bottom line is, give yourself a break. And have a glass of wine while you’re at it. You deserve a happy holiday just as much as anyone on your gift list.

Cheers, my friends! Here’s to the most joyful and relaxed Christmas season, yet.

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It’s Not Too Late: Planting Fall Bulbs

Hyacinth bulbs with pots to plant

Hyacinth Bulbs Ready to Plant

I was watching Weatherman Dan (my favorite local meteorologist) the other day, and he was talking about a looming polar vortex that will hit most of the U.S. with a wintry vengeance this week. My initial thought after “wait, what?!” was “coat shopping!” The kids grow so fast, there’s no way they’ll zip into last year’s coats without having a Chris Farley moment. I also realized I haven’t planted my fall bulbs, yet. Good gracious, girl!

Needless to say, I need to take a knee and get to planting ASAP. If you’re like me and let the middle of November sneak up on you, let’s do this thing together. You’ll thank me come spring when your garden is exploding with color.

It always feels like a surprise party when the flowers burst out of the cold ground. Even though I carefully and lovingly buried each bulb, I somehow develop gardening amnesia come March. I’m like, “Oh, yay! Look at those little crocus in the corner! I love crocus!”

If you’re not sold on planting bulbs, let me elaborate. Bulbs are awesome. They’re low-maintenance, not too expensive, and make your heart absolutely happy when they bloom at the tail end of a dreary, gray winter. What more could you ask for?

You can find bulbs anywhere this time of year. Be sure to buy them from a reputable nursery, though. Cheap bulbs equal cheap blooms – if at all. Boo. I really like shopping at Westwood Gardens in my area or ordering online from Burpee.

Five great flowers to try:

  1. Tulips: Tulips are probably one of the first choices you think of when it comes to spring flowers – and for good reason. Tulips are classic. There are so many varieties you can have a garden packed with these beauties, while still keeping things extremely interesting. For a unique flair, try ‘Parrot’ tulips!
    ParrotTulip

    ‘Parrot’ Tulip

  2. Daffodils: Another classic spring flower is the beloved daffodil. They’re one of the easiest to grow, too. I love the layers of a double-flowered daffodil. If you want a unique color combo try the ‘Romance.’ It has rose-pink cups with gorgeous white petals. It won’t disappoint.
    RomanceDaff

    ‘Romance’ Daffodil

    DoubleDaff

    Mix of Double-flowered Daffodils

  3. Hyacinths: There are two basic types. The common hyacinth has short stalks of amazingly fragrant flowers that look like little starfish. Grape hyacinths are even smaller and have tight blooms that look like clusters of mini grapes. So cute!
    BlueGrapeHyacinth

    Blue Grape Hyacinth

    hyacinth

    Common Hyacinth

  4. Iris: These are a great addition to a garden because they’re hardy and look amazing. They’re tall and regal and remind me of an exotic orchid – minus the temperament.
    Iris

    ‘Katherine Hodgkin’ Iris

  5. Crocus: I like planting a mix of colors with these adorable flowers. Since they grow low to the ground, they make a pretty accent at the base of any other flower. And you know it’s all about that base.
    Crocus

    Crocus {Hey, there!}

Once you feel ready, here’s a quick primer for planting:

  • When: Plant anytime before the ground freezes (pretty much now)
  • Where: Pick a spot that gets full sun and has well-drained soil.
  • How many: Plant lots of bulbs just in case some don’t sprout. If you want a more natural look, plant them in random order and spacing. If you want to create groves of daffodils or tulips, you’ll need to buy and plant lots of bulbs.
  • How deep: Plant at a depth of three times the width of the bulb. If your soil’s sandy, plant bulbs slightly deeper; in clay soils, slightly shallower.
  • What now: After planting, apply fertilizer low in nitrogen and water well. Apply mulch to keep the weeds down and hold in moisture.

 You’re good to go! Have fun digging in the dirt – and try to stay warm out there!

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A Fall Chore Checklist

Fall ChecklistAt the turn of each season, I like to pull out my handy checklist of chores that helps me tame the domain. The good news is that there are certain things around the house that only require twice-a-year (and sometimes just annual) attention. For instance, I know how much you love and look forward to cleaning out the clothes dryer exhaust tube, but it’s not necessary to do more than once a year. Today we’ll talk about the fall list and save a few honey-dos for spring.

Speaking of that, having your honey do some of these things is a great idea. Not that you’re shirking any responsibilities. It’s good to share the work. It gives everyone (kids included) a feeling of ownership, and everyone will feel accomplished by that last check mark on the list.

Another tip: Add some fun by playing your favorite music as you work. I also like to light pretty fall-scented candles or put some fragrance on the stove so the house smells awesome from the inside out.

Without further ado, here’s a complete checklist for a safe, clean and organized home this fall. I’ve included some DIY links to some of these items to help, too.

Inside

  • Clean or replace furnace filters.
  • Schedule a fall furnace inspection.
  • Inspect and clean chimneys and flues. Schedule professional, if needed.
  • Change batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Inspect or replace fire extinguishers in the kitchen. It’s also good time to review your fire escape plan.
  • Run a vacuum over couches and chairs.
  • Clean carpets. Schedule professional, if needed.
  • Flip all of the mattresses.
  • Wash windows. (Kids love helping with this.)
  • De-clutter closets and donate items not worn in the past year. Get a receipt and determine the value of your items if itemizing taxes.
  • Clean refrigerator condenser coil.
  • Prep kitchen for holiday cooking: organize cabinets – especially baking supplies. Make a list of replacements or additions needed.
  • Clean dryer exhaust tube and vent to prevent a house fire.
  • Drain sediment from hot water heater.

Outside

  • Check weather stripping and caulking around doors and window.
  • Wash exterior windows.
  • Clear out the gutters.
  • Rake leaves, if needed. Dogs love the piles!
  • Stock up on fresh firewood if you have a wood-burning stove.
  • Clean and store patio furniture, umbrellas and summer toys.
  • Fertilize lawn and treat for perennial weeds, such as dandelions and clover.
  • Schedule pest control treatment, or spray perimeter yourself before bugs migrate inside for warmth. That is so eww!
  • Plant flower bulbs for a beautiful spring garden.
  • Touch up paint on trim, shutters, railings or deck.
  • Stock up on sand or salt to deice sidewalks. Also be sure shovels are clean and handy.
  • If you live in an area with cold winters, drain and store garden hoses, as well as sprinkler systems.

I also have this list available as a downloadable PDF. That way you can print this out for your fridge and check off as you go. No need to stress yourself out by trying to do all of this at once.

Happy cleaning and organizing, everyone! Let me know what other items you like to include.

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A Happy Halloween Meal

Halloween MenuThe formula for concocting a perfect Halloween dinner is “simple + delicious.” For this reason, using your crockpot is a must. Just fill it with tasty treasures before you head out to work, and you’ll come home to a magically finished meal.

This is especially helpful when you have a house full of eager trick-or-treaters who want to eat, dress and run. Everyone can have a good meal before they head out. When they return, second helpings are warm and ready!

I also like recipes I can prepare ahead of time, so this post is full of ideas for the simplest, happiest Halloween meal.

The Line Up

  • Spooky Taco Soup
  • Ghoulicious Guac with Bat Chips
  • Pumpkin Veggie Dippers
  • Sopapilla Pumpkin Cheesecake
  • Fanta-lanterns

Quick tip: To add seasonal flair, take everyday recipes and get creative with their names – like Spooky Taco Soup. It’s taco soup with a cute name and served in bowls that look like little ghosts for instant Halloween cred.

Speaking of bowls, I’m a huge fan of paper plates and other disposables on nights like Halloween. Who wants to spend this special night hovering over the kitchen sink? I’ll give you some easy and creative serving ideas with each recipe below.

Spooky Taco Soup (click for recipe)

This version from Allrecipes.com is a good one. I also like how their site allows you to adjust the servings so you can easily scale the recipe.

Spooky Bowl

Ready for my soup now.

To make the soup “spooky”, hot-glue googly eyes to the sides of paper or plastic soup bowls.

Ghoulicious Guac (click for recipe)

Homemade guacamole is the perfect partner for a cup of taco soup. I don’t know many variations of guac, so you might already have your own go-to recipe. If not, here’s a great one from SimplyRecipes. You’ll want to prepare this right before serving so it’s fresh and delicious.

Now, to make the dip Ghoulicious (see what I did there?), serve it with Bat Chips!

Bat Chips

A fresh batch of bats ready for the oven!

All you need is a bat-shaped cookie cutter, a package of flour tortillas, olive oil, Kosher salt and black pepper.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Cut each tortilla with your cookie cutter. Place your bats in a single layer on a sheet pan and sprinkle lightly with olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake for about 10 minutes, until crisp, turning once. You can make these a day or two ahead of Halloween and store them in an airtight container.

Pumpkin Veggie Dippers (click for recipe)

pumpkin platter

Such a happy pumpkin.

This is a basic veggie platter featuring carrots, sliced cucumbers, broccoli and Ranch dip. Simply arrange the vegetables in the form of a pumpkin on a large platter. Serve the Ranch dressing in small bowls or ramekins to create the eyes and nose. It’s super easy and kid friendly.

Sopapilla Pumpkin Cheesecake (click for recipe)

Why not top off the night with a slice of this decadent dessert? When I saw this recipe, I was like, “You had me at sopapilla. And pumpkin. And cheesecake.” I love this recipe from Six Sisters’ Stuff. They have tons of great recipes. Be sure to check them out!

You can cut these into squares and serve on a pretty orange or black platter. Or eat straight from the pan. That’s how I roll with these beauties.

Fanta-lanterns

Fanta-lantern

Cheers!

This is a cute way to dress up your drinks. I made silly jack-o-lantern patterns out of black construction paper, cut them out and used double-sided tape to adhere to the sides of clear plastic cups. Serve fizzy, orange Fanta in these adorable cups for instant Halloween cheers.

Planning Checklist: Day(s) Before

  • Grocery store run. Here’s A Happy Halloween Meal Grocery List you can download.
  • Create the soup bowls and cups
  • Bake the bat chips
  • Make the cheesecake
  • Prep the vegetable platter
  • Brown the meat for the soup

Planning Checklist: The Day of

  • Fill your crockpot in the morning
  • Make the guac just before serving
  • Set out your food and serving pieces
  • Enjoy the night

Happy Halloweeating!

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Trick Out Your House for Treats: A Halloween Checklist

Halloween's pumpkinsWhen we first moved to Arkansas, we made the rookie mistake of not asking our neighbors about Halloween. We figured we’d see about the same number of kids from our previous neighborhood, so I bought a single bag of 100-count Snickers. Thinking half of them would be for me while I waited patiently between doorbell rings. Boy, were we wrong!

Our street was swarming, SWARMING I tell you, with costumed kids. The little ones started as soon as we pulled in the driveway from work. So we obviously didn’t have our A-game on. At one point, kids were lined up down the sidewalk waiting at each door like they were in line for a Disney ride. Needless to say, our bag of candy disappeared faster than you can blow out a candle. We made an emergency trip to the grocery store for more candy, which only lasted another 30 minutes. We finally had to shut down our candy factory and watch the insanity from a one-inch opening through our blinds. It was incredible. It was also pretty cool to see so many of our neighbors getting into the spirit and creating a safe place for kids to enjoy the holiday. I’ll always remember that night, which is why I developed a plan for all of the Halloweens to come.

If you want a fun and organized Halloween night, here’s my go-to-checklist. Now is the perfect time to start planning and checking away:

  • Costumes and accessories. Here’s a huge photo library of homemade costume ideas from Costume Works. Remember to wear long underwear if it’s chilly so you don’t have to cover up your cool, new outfit.
  • Treat bags. If you don’t want to go the standard pillowcase or plastic bag route, Pottery Barn has the most adorable plush treat bags on sale and they can be personalized – so there’s no question whose candy is whose. Unless it’s a Snickers. Then it’s mine.
  • Flashlights or glow-in-the-dark necklaces. These are important safety items for everyone – big and little tikes alike!
  • Jack-o-lantern candles. We like to use flameless LED candles so we don’t have open flames near the bushes – or the kids with flowing princess dresses.
  • Special goodies for your friends and neighbor kids. I like to wrap non-candy treats, such as pencils, stickers and small glow sticks in clear cellophane bags tied with festive orange and black curly ribbon. All of the parents will thank you.
  • Candy bowl prepped and ready for the onslaught of everyone else! Shop at your local wholesaler (like Sam’s Club) for good deals on big bags of candy.
  • Cute door sign for if/when you run out of candy. I made this one out of a chalkboard sign from Hob Lob. I used white paint for the message and tied a new ribbon through the holes.IMG_4250
  • Crockpot prepped and ready. Halloween is the perfect night for a crockpot meal. A special, spooky menu with recipes will be posted this week!
  • Treat jar to store the goods. Each of our kids gets his/her own jar. As soon as they get home, they sort through their candy, toss anything unwrapped or homemade from people we don’t know (I’m not taking chances), trade anything that’s not a personal favorite, and store the “keepers” in their jars.
  • Festive movie for candy-sorting entertainment. Our family favorite is the classic “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.”

Even if you don’t have a wild and busy neighborhood like ours, you can conjure up your own Halloween fun. Invite a few friends over, have an awesome meal, eat your own trick-or-treat candy and watch for that Great Pumpkin to appear. Just wait and see.

I hope this helps you have a happy and relaxed Halloween!

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