A Simple Gallery Wall

Gallery Wall Full ShotHey, friends. Here’s a project that’s been on my wish list for quite some time, and I finally got to it this past week. (happiness!) I thought it would be fun to show and tell you about a few tips I learned along the way.

Now, I think the reason it took me so long to get to this is because it seemed like such a huge deal – requiring holes in walls. I promise, organizing and arranging all of your favorite pictures on a wall is much easier than it looks.

Here’s how it went down…

{1st} Frames

flea market picture framesI decided to start with the frames and hit up several stores looking for good deals. Flea markets are perfect for this kind of shopping. The color of frame really doesn’t matter. There’s spray paint to fix that situation to make them any color you’d like.

{2nd} Butcher Paper

Butcher PaperOnce I had frames of various sizes, I cut butcher paper to fit the size of each frame. Then I taped the pieces to the wall so I could play and move them around to make different arrangements – without making millions of holes. Here’s a fantastic resource for different ways to arrange your pictures (sample below). This was also a good way to tell if I needed to buy more frames or find fun objects to fill some spaces.

Sample Gallery Wall Arrangements

{3rd} Mixed Media

Gallery Wall Initial

Here’s a closeup of a few odds & ends I included in my gallery. Also notice the interesting shapes on some of the frames. That can help add interest to your collection, as well.

Gallery Wall Small Touches

I love how this distressed wooden flower coordinates with the framed fabric.

I decided to make room in my arrangement for a few odds and ends to add interest. Sentimental objects, like an initial letter “A” that was sitting on a bookshelf, made perfect additions to the wall. I also shopped for pretty pieces of fabric in coordinating patterns to add pops of color here and there. (The pictures are a little misleading because I actually hung these items while there was still just butcher paper on the wall. I forgot to snap pics at that stage.)

{4th} Photos

Walgreens Photo OrderNow for the pictures! Based on my arrangement, I was able to make a list of how many (and what size) pictures were needed. I combed through my phone and computer, decided on the top pics, and ordered prints online. Walgreen’s photo lab was easiest for me because there’s a store close to my house. I was able to order and pick up pictures within hours. Pretty slick. Once I got the pictures home, I put them directly into their assigned frames.

{5th} Lipstick, Hammer & Nails

Hanging Picture Tip with Lipstick

Left: Paper is still on the wall; Right: I’m making a lipstick mark on the picture frame hardware.

Yes, I just said lipstick. With the butcher paper still on the wall, my mixed media items now in tact, and all of my pictures in their frames, I took an old tube of lipstick (the one that was way too bright and scared my children) and marked the back of my frame where the nail needed to go.

Hanging Picture Tip with Lipstick MarkI pushed the frame against the butcher paper so I left a mark directly on the paper. That told me exactly where to place the nail.

Hanging Picture Tip

Left: I nailed through the paper – just enough to make a small hole; Right: I removed the paper and nail to reveal the perfect spot.

As you can see, I tapped the nail right through the paper, removed it all from the wall and then nailed for real so I could hang the picture already.

That’s it! I repeated the process until all of my pictures were hung in the hallway with care.

How simple is that? Hopefully you’re saying, “Yes, super simple, Kate. Thanks for being so awesome and sharing that with me!” Okay, maybe not, but hopefully it eased your mind a teensy bit about tackling your next gallery project. Have fun and be sure to share pictures of your pictures.

Wishing you the best.

-Kate

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Beautiful Bulletin Boards

We all love pinning things on Pinterest, right? Well, pinning things in real life can be fun, too. And it’s the perfect way to keep an organized, inspiring and beautiful home.

With the help of fabrics, ribbon, paint and ingenuity, bulletin boards can be works of art. I gathered a few of my favorite samples to inspire you.

Go Industrial

sheet metal magnet board

I love the use of sheet metal for this office-nook bulletin board. And options for cool magnets are unlimited. {via}

Multi-Task

mail organizer board

You can organize your entire life with a board like this. It not only has a cork backdrop for pinning papers and schedules, but also a sweet little curtain rod for organizing your mail. Oh, and look at the hooks for your keys! I am practically speechless. {via}

Dress Pretty

pretty fabrics

There are so many pretty (and affordable) fabrics available these days, and a bulletin board is a terrific place to show them off. I also love the beaded edging on this sample. So fancy pants. {via}

Think BIG!

Oversized bulletin board

This oversized number is perfect for pinning your favorite postcards, posters, pics and anything else starting with the letter “p”. {via}

Chalk it Up

chalkboard organizer

Upcycle an old door or window to create something this smart. With a little chalk paint, you can turn anything into an organized spot! {via}

Fun-Sized Frames

bulletin picture frames

These are mini bulletin boards! Inside each frame is a metal sheet (covered in burlap) so they’re magnetic. You could easily frame cork tiles if you’d rather use push pins. The thing I love most is the ability to easily swap out your favorite photos or art! {via}

Dress Up Your Drawers

drawer bulletin board

This highly creative bulletin board is made out of an old dresser drawer. I love how the edges of the drawer create a built-in shelf for odds and ends. You’ll want to adhere a layer of cork in the bottom of the drawer before covering with decorative paper so your cute pushpins will hold. {via}

Bejewel Your Walls

jewlery organizer

Isn’t this such a stylish and practical way to organize your jewelry? You could go as large or small as needed with your beautifully framed cork board. {via}

Smile for the Canvas

instagram photo bulletin board

A bulletin board is a great place to pin up all your favorite Instagram pics. It looks like a work of art, and it can easily be updated. {via}

If you’re feeling up to a DIY challenge, here’s the simple formula for creating a bulletin board that’s worthy of your living room wall.

The three key ingredients (with links to helpful resources):

  1. Base: Think about how you want to use your board. This will determine the proper base. Corkboard works best for pushpins. A piece of plywood with a layer of quilt batting also works. Go with a metal base, such as a cookie sheet or piece of sheet metal, if you’d rather use magnets. A chalkboard is good for organizing schedules in chalk. You get the picture.
  1. Covering: Next you’ll want to determine how to cover your base. Fabric is an obvious choice, but you can also consider a pretty roll of contact paper, fun wallpaper scraps, scrapbook papers or even a fresh coat of paint. If you want to DIY a chalkboard, paint a piece of wood with chalkboard paint!
  1. Edging: A sure way to make your board look like it’s straight from a designer’s studio is to finish off the edges. Ribbon, thumbtacks or a picture frame all make great choices for this final step.

I gathered more great photos on Pinterest on a board called “Bulletin Boards“. Be sure to stop by for some inspiration. I hope to see you there sometime.

-Kate

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Friday Wrap: Magazine Gems

Happy Friday, my friends! I hope you’ve had an incredible week. If not, there’s still time.  It was a fairly productive week on my end. I tackled tons of projects at work, made birthday party purchases for next week’s festivities, and finally knocked out the giant pile of magazines on my coffee table. That was a feat.

Real Simple, February

Just a few of the many…

Quick confession: What started out (several weeks ago) as three or four perfectly fanned magazines turned into a heaping mound of business. There were not only magazines, but also catalogs, postcards, a few pieces of junk mail and even some of Avery and Clara’s artwork tucked in there!

Once I sorted through everything, I found a few hidden gems I wanted to share – besides the art from my baby girls.

{ONE} Family Fun: February 2015Family FunCupid Kabobs: Page 18Cupid KabobsValentine’s Day is two weeks away. Eek! Good thing I found a few darling ideas in this issue of Family Fun – including these grape tomato and cheese kabobs. They look easy, too. Super bonus.

{TWO} Real Simple: February 2015Real SimpleArt Caddy: Page 32Art CaddyOne of my favorite things about this magazine is the “new uses for old things” section. This issue didn’t disappoint. I love the idea of using a DVD case as an art caddy for the kiddos. I’m thinking this would be perfect for car rides.

{THREE} Pottery Barn Teen: Spring 2015Pottery Barn Teen, FebruaryBeautiful Bins: Page 27Pottery Barn BinsI don’t officially have teens in my house, but some days it feels that way. (#eightgoingoneighteen) Pottery Barn must know about these days, which is probably why they send me PB Teen catalogs. I will say, there are some seriously beautiful prints and patterns in this edition. You won’t find them in the regular PB magazine, either. These bins are one example. They’re just the right amount of color to jazz up any bookshelf.

{FOUR} Victoria: January/February 2015Victoria January/FebruaryDragonfly Floral: Page 42Dragonfly FloralThis issue was given to me by my mom, who is queen of all things magazine. She might be single-handedly keeping the U.S. Postal Service in business. When this beautiful issue of Victoria made its way over to my house, I practically drooled over this picture of Dragonfly Floral. If I ever own a flower shop, I want it to look just like this gorgeous place in Sonoma Valley, California. Please.

{FIVE} Athleta: February 2015AthletaComfy Clothes: Page 32AthletaLeave it to me to pick the most non-athletic piece of clothing in Athleta’s catalog to want to buy. There are certainly some amazing workout clothes from this store, but when I saw this outfit, I imagined how perfect it would be for pretty much every day of my life.

That’s it for my coffee table discoveries. I have some exciting things in store for next week. If you weren’t aware, National Doodle Day AND National Bubblegum Day are happening. I’m also going to visit my sister in Atlanta. It should be full of adventure, and I’ll be sure to share!

Have a “super” weekend hanging with all of your favorite people. I’ll be watching the big game with my family – and cheering for my favorite commercials. Of course, it will be after I read a few of my favorite blogs:

Fiveonfriday

Visit Darci, April, Natasha and Christina!

HeaderTrans_zpscb139c50

And don’t forget Friday Confessions from Leslie!

Cheers and kisses!

-Kate

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Fridge Makeover Update

Organized fridge

This is my fridge today! My “before” pic would have frightened you.

Okay, a quick update on my fridge makeover. It’s only been a week since I posted about my endeavor, but I am LOVING this. The picture above is how things look – even after days of pilfering children and constant replenishment. It has been surprisingly easy to maintain.

My favorite thing is that our family has been digging into bags of grapes and apples instead of whatever snack foods are left the pantry at this point. The kids haven’t complained about the new situation, either. In fact, they said they feel healthy eating this way. No one has paid them to say this – that I’m aware of.

We’ve been drinking lots of water, too!

On our infused water chart, the strawberry, kiwi and cucumber concoction is our favorite so far.

Infused water

This infused water has strawberries, kiwi and cucumber. It’s said to help with blood sugar support and digestion.

We drink this and say, “Oh, my blood sugar feels very supported.” LOL. We’re so weird.

The only downside I’ve discovered so far with the fridge is figuring out a spot for leftovers. We don’t usually have tons of food left over, but I didn’t plan very well for these items. I might need to empty one of the snack bins. I’m sure I’ll have a few willing participants to help.

Overall, what I do know is that when our healthy snacks are prepped and within reach, it’s way easier for guilt-free noshing. Goal accomplished in that regard.

My next feat is to tackle menu planning. I offered a link in my post last week, and then I saw another great option on my friend’s blog. A Blonde Ambition featured free printables – including an awesome menu planner via The Creative Blog.

meal planner

Here’s to easy, peasy meal planning with these free printables!

Can I just say how excited I am? Well, I am! I’m hoping this will be the non-artificial cherry on top of my better eating habits.

I hope you enjoy these printables and have a seriously healthy day!

-Kate

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Organize Your Way to Better Eating

IMG_5256Every January as I pack up the holiday stuff, I think about what else I’ve packed away this season. I’m talking cookies, cakes and cupcakes – all of the dangerously delicious “c” words. It leaves me feeling like I need a food overhaul, or at least a sugar detox.

To top it off, I recently read that weight loss is generally 75 percent diet and 25 percent exercise. If that isn’t motivation to eat better, I don’t know what is. So where to begin? There are too many diets and fads to count, and I’ve honestly been feeling overwhelmed and frustrated.

Here’s how I’m going to approach this whole thing: be more organized.

More specifically, I’m going to:

  1. Plan better grocery lists (as in, don’t buy gross food)
  2. Makeover my fridge (to keep fresh food handy)

Let’s break it down.

{ONE}

The first step to plan better lists sounds easy. It relies on better meal planning with fresh foods (I’m thinking rainbow colors) vs. processed goods (usually shades of brown).

It also means sticking to my grocery list when shopping. There’s the rub. I usually have one (or all) of the kids with me when I shop. I’ve never enjoyed going to the store alone, and my kids are at an age where they can help pull items from the shelf while we chat and act silly.

Girls Shopping

Who wouldn’t want these goofballs along when shopping? This is us shopping at Walmart. We get distracted by everything – including bike helmets. #shoppingtakesforever

The downside is tossing items in the cart that are “off menu,” such as Pringles or chocolate-covered anything. The problem is those become the snacks we eat while the strawberries rot in the fridge. There’s definitely room for improvement here. I think I’ll add some treats (like yogurt-covered anything), but then I’m sticking to my list!

{TWO}

Next is having good, fresh food easy to access. For my family, this means having more refrigerated snacks vs. pantry snacks. Our pantry items tend to be packaged sugary or salty stuff. So eating from the fridge should already give us a head start. Here are some tricks I’m going to try:

  • Wash, process and snack-bag our fruits and veggies as soon as I get home from the store.
  • Create bins with healthy, go-to snacks for the kids that include string cheese, grapes, strawberries, blueberries, Greek yogurt, carrots, celery with peanut butter or hummus, and hard-boiled eggs.
    snack bins

    You can get these clear bins from BB&B so good food is in clear view. Image source: Four Generations One Roof

  • Organize the shelves so the good snacks are eye-level. Put the butter, jellies and other sweets in a drawer so they’re out of sight, and out of mind.
  • Have fresh water available. I actually keep a pitcher of water in the fridge at all times. It reminds me to stay hydrated. I have this infuse pitcher and like to add fresh oranges, lemons, cucumber or mint to flavor the water.
    Infuse Pitcher

    I like how this pitcher also comes with a tea infuser. Source: BB&B

    If you want interesting ideas on infused water combinations, here’s a helpful chart!

    Infused water chart

    Image source: Kasia Organic Salon

  • The last thing I’m doing is posting a healthy baking substitution chart on the outside of the fridge for a handy reference. I would have never thought of these. So smart.
    baking substitutions

    Image source: Picklee

If you’d like to join me in the food/fridge makeover, let me know! I’d love to see pictures of your before and afters – whether it’s the fridge or yourself! #noshame #weareinthistogether

Here’s to better eating and feeling better!

-Kate

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Five Tips for Holiday Storage

Christmas StorageIf you haven’t put away your holiday decorations, yet, you’re not alone. If it gets to be July and we’re having this conversation, we’ll want to get the decorative balls rolling into some sort of container. For now, it’s perfectly and socially acceptable to still have some lingering lights. When you’re good and ready to start packing, here are a few tips and tricks for closing out the season.

{ONE} Organize your business

Before jumping right in to stuffing a bunch of bins, stop for a moment to sort. Decide if you really want to keep everything. Toss old lights or donate items you know you won’t ever use.keep calm buttonOnce you’ve simplified, decide how you’re going to store your stuff. Some people organize by type of item. For example, all of the lights go in one big bin.

I prefer to pack by location. That means all of the outdoor lights go with the outdoor décor. As long as you liked where everything was situated this year, storing your things this way makes unpacking a cinch next year. Be sure to label the bins with the name of the room to amp up the ease. Speaking of bins…

{TWO} Color-code some bins

Plastic bins are ideal for storing your precious decorations. They’re waterproof in case you have an unfortunate leak in your roof or basement. They’re also pest-proof when they have tight-fitting lids. Nothing freaks me out more than opening a box and finding a spider. #notcool

plastic bin

Rubbermaid bins are durable and have tight-fitting lids.

I like using clear bins so I can see what’s inside. Some people like colored bins, such as red or green for Christmas items. While this makes it easier to distinguish between the holidays up in a dark attic, once you get the bins down, it’s kind of a pain not knowing what’s inside.

Tip: Stick with clear bins, but pick colored lids for each season.

Plastic lids

These are available at Walmart. You could pick red lids for all of your Christmas bins.

If you can’t find assorted lids, use various colors of Duct tape to label your bins. You could use green for Christmas, orange for Halloween, pink for Easter, etc.

{THREE} Divide those ornaments

I’ve had one too many sad moments opening a bin and finding a broken ornament. That’s why I pack them in individual compartments now.

Ornament Storage

This bin is from The Container Store.

You can either purchase special bins like this from The Container Store or take a “plain” bin and make your own dividers with a few cups glued to a piece of cardboard.

DIY Ornament Storage

Get the full DIY instructions at One Good Thing

Don’t forget to pack the ornament hooks. For small items like these and replacement bulbs, use a plastic jewelry organizer.

Organizer

This organizer is from Joann Fabrics.

{FOUR} Wrangle your wreaths and lights

You probably spent a lot on your wreaths – time and money or both! So when it comes to storage, give them some extra TLC. I splurge on plastic wreath holders because they snap shut (no bugs allowed), and they help wreaths hold their shape.

wreath case

This crush-free case is from Spacesavers.

I’ve used heavy-duty trash bags before, and some of my friends use dry cleaner bags. Those work too. You’ll just want to be sure not to stack items on top of them if you’re going this route.

Light storage

Image source: Curbly

When it comes to lights, I like to wrap the strands around pieces of cardboard. You can even jot a note directly on the cardboard about where the lights go.

hose-reel-for-holiday-lights

Image source: Real Simple

If you have a large volume of lights, keep them strung together on a hose reel from the hardware store. Smart, right?

{FIVE} Care for your cards

The last thing I like to do is take a minute to re-read all of the thoughtful cards we received and update my contacts with any new addresses.

Christmas Cards

Image source: BBC

Once that’s done, I always have a hard time throwing the cards away. Brené Brown shared a fantastic idea of snapping pictures of each card with your phone and adding them to your contacts. That way you can see the darling Christmas photo your friend sent every time she calls. Don’t you love that idea? I’m totally doing it this year.

So what have I missed? What’s your favorite way to pack or organize your holiday goods? Give me a shout either in the comments or tag me on Instagram or Twitter @Katejandersen. I’ll be sure to check my accounts between packing all of these bins. Gracious!

Have a great weekend and be sure to check out all of the amazing blogs through Five on Friday.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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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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