Friday, October 30, 2009

Last minute dollar store Halloween costumes

My son is home sick today, so I spent the morning catching up on some household chores. While dusting I caught the Rachel Ray TV show. Kathy Jacobs, the "Discount Store Diva" was on it, giving a fashion show of costumes she made from mundane items found at dollar discount stores. Black garbage bags were transformed into witch and bumblebee costumes; coffee filters were re-purposed to become the crinoline on her Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz costume.

Intrigued, I checked out the Discount Store Diva website and her Flicker Photo Album.

Wow, that's creative with a capital "C!" She is obviously one of those people who can look at an ordinary item and imagine a myriad of unexpected ways to use it. For example, she created a "Deviled Eggs" costume with a red mesh laundry bag, a white flannel backed tablecloth, and an inflatable devil's pitchfork. A food umbrella, opaque shower curtain and blue flannel backed tablecloth were used to create a Jellyfish costume. Inflatable plastic cats became part of a clever "Cat Lady" disguise.

Most of the costumes take less than one hour to make and cost less than $10. So if you are looking for creative last minute costumes, check out her Flicker "How To" slideshow.

Although I was not as imaginative as Kathy, I put together my son's costume with some ordinary items. He is an FBI agent. I purchased a black ballcap and t-shirt and added F.B.I. patches to the front of the ball cap and t-shirt. (I purchased the patches at a local military store.) I used white tape on the back of the t-shirt to write F.B.I. in large letters. I created a F.B.I. type ID on my computer with Microsoft Publisher and attached it to a lanyard. To complete the costume, he wears black pants and black sunglasses.

My daughter's costume was easy, too. She is a monarch butterfly. I purchased the butterfly wings and headpiece (a headband with chenille stem antennas) from the costume store after Halloween last year. We added her black leotard, black tights and black knit ballet skirt. If I had more time, I would have used Kathy's method to make the wings and made my own headpiece. Perhaps next year!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Creative (and goulish!) food for your Halloween supper

Today's blog isn't necessarily about gifts. But it is creative!

Actually, I think the best gifts are thoughtful little gestures that you do for family and friends, like tucking a specially decorated Halloween cookie in their lunch or serving a special dessert for Halloween supper.

Yes, I know you can go out and buy cakes, cookies and cupcakes decorated with orange frosting and little plastic pumpkins. But I still think they know the difference and truly appreciate the extra time and effort you took to make it yourself.

If your busy schedule prevents you from making special foods from scratch, consider using mixes to decrease the preparation time. Bisquick-mix pancakes become a special fall treat when you add a bit of canned pumpkin and some pumpkin spice. A brownie mix eliminates the need to assemble and measure ingredients, giving you more time to focus on creative decorating.

To save even more time, use pre-made, packaged items and embellish them. For example, graham crackers can be dipped in white chocolate and then piped with "R.I.P" using black frosting. Nutter Butter cookies can also be dipped in melted white chocolate to look like ghosts; use mini chocolate chips for their eyes.

You don't have to reserve those special touches for dessert, either. Your refrigerator's vegetable bin is filled with potential treats for Halloween. That orange sweet pepper could be transformed into a jack-o-lantern by cutting eyes and a mouth in it. Or that small celery stalk can be turned into a green spider by cutting the stalk in strips (leaving the end intact) and then soaking the celery in ice water so it curls.

The possibilities are endless!

Here are some of my favorite websites for easy Halloween food.

The Nabisco website has 28 recipes of Halloween themed food including Monster cookie pops made with Fig Newton(r) cookies, Boo Cups made with chocolate pudding and a spider web pizza spread made with spaghetti sauce. Most of the recipes take just 10-15 minutes to prepare.

The Hershey's website has a variety of recipes using Hershey's kisses, chocolate syrup, Reese's(r) pieces and more. Click here to check it out.

Check out their eyeball cookies made with Whoppers Malt Balls:

The Mars website has a very creative cookie called "Vampire Bites" using Milky Way(r) mini candy bars. Here is the link to that recipe:

Or you can search all their recipes by clicking here.

If you have favorite websites for quick Halloween treats, please drop me a note and share them. I would love to hear about them!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Non-candy treats for Halloween trick-or-treaters

It's time to get back to writing this blog! With Halloween around the corner, thought I would re-visit one of the favorite topics from the Creative Gift Giver website:

Non-candy treats for Halloween trick-or-treaters

Sometimes you just don't want to give those little ghosts and goblins another candy bar or lollipop. Don't despair--there are many inexpensive alternatives! Here are a few ideas:

1) Halloween themed pencils and erasers

2) Stickers. It's easy to find stickers with a Halloween motif at many dollar stores and grocery stores, especially this time of year.

3) Silly novelties, like wind-up chomping teeth, glow-in-the-dark slime, or or bouncing eye balls. It's Halloween--the weirder, the better! As long-time readers to my website already know, my favorite resource for inexpensive novelties and small toys is Oriental Trading. Click on this graphic if you want to check out their online catalog:

Oriental Trading Company, Inc.

4)Ghostly jewelry. Spider rings, pumpkin necklaces, even glow-in-the-dark rubber wristbands are favorites among kids. Oriental Trading or your local five-and-dime store would be a good resource for these items.

5) Coloring sheets. Print out some Halloween themed coloring sheets from the internet. Package them in a zippered plastic bag along with a couple of crayons.

6) Play clay. Sometimes you can find it in Halloween colors, like orange, brown and even black! Or look for glow-in-the-dark play clay. I have seen packs of small canisters of PlayDoh in Halloween colors at Target; a bag of 20 small canisters is just $4.99.

Another option: you could make your own play clay and then dye it orange using food coloring. If you do this, put a 1/2 or 1/3 cup portion into Halloween themed treat bags. Include a tag stating that it is homemade play clay. (You might include the recipe, too.) Here is a great homemade play clay recipe.

7) Barrettes, hair ribbons in Halloween colors. Mostly for the little girls, but they will be delighted!

8) Pumpkin pencil toppers made out of felt. A simple craft; find the directions here.

Those ideas should get your creative juices flowing!