Monday, September 29, 2014

Seven Ideas for Awsome No-Carve Halloween Jack O'Lanterns

Every year I go on the hunt (and by "hunt" I mean "surf Pinterest") to find cool ideas I can use to make the most awesome Halloween Jack O'Lanterns EVER. 

But there's always just one catch - I don't want to have to actually carve the pumpkin because kids and knives are not my thing, and honestly, pumpkin guts are not my thing so much either.

So if you are also looking for ways to make a Pinterest-worthy pumpkin within a blade, here are seven ideas for awesome no-carve Jack O'Lanterns:
1. Create a Book Page Pumpkin - Creations by Kara's tutorial explains how to turn an old book into a fantastical pumpkin. Sooo amazing.
2. Make Glow-in-the-Dark Funkins - Martha Stewart tells how to make these cool creations using a funkin (foam pumpkin) and glow-in-the-dark powder. I also had success using Glow in the Dark Duck Tape. 
3. Decorate a Cute as a Button Pumpkin (pictured above) Real Simple has instructions for making this easy polka dot pumpkin from re-purposed buttons. You can buy over 100 black buttons from Amazon for under six dollars, making this an easy and inexpensive way to decorate a pumpkin.

4. Paint a Chalkboard Pumpkin - Zakka Life's directions for this clever DIY project explains just how to do it, and I love that you can change it as often you like with the swipe of an eraser.

5. Add a hat and mask for a quick Pumpkin Disguise - I found this idea from Better Homes and GardensIt's also turned out cute with tiny outgrown baby Halloween costumes, if you want to dress up the pumpkin entirely.
6.  Apply tickers for an Instant Goofy Pumpkin - it's as easy, peasy as it sounds. Just add stickers, you can even purchase special Halloween Jack O'Lantern Face Stickers (12 sheets for $6.99) on Amazon.

7. Use push-in sets to create Pumpkin Characters - these recently have become really popular, so you can find just about all the kid-favorite characters. Pictured here, Darth Pumpkin. You, too can have a Star Wars Darth Vadar Pumpkin for the low price of $21. It seems a little pricey, but I still sorta want to get one for my Star Wars loving son.

Also available: Mr. Potato Head ($12.00) and Mrs. Potato Head ($19.99) and a whole bunch more.

Happy Halloween pumpkin decorating!

Need any more ideas? Here are the no-carve pumpkins I shared last year.

Whatever you create, have fun and Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

How to make a perfect brisket

Tonight is Rosh Hashanah, so of course I'm cooking. I keep seeing a bunch of brisket baking questions in my Facebook feed, so for anyone searching for how to make a perfect brisket, here's how.

Of course, there's no one way to make a perfect brisket so I should qualify this as my personal favorite way to make a perfect brisket. The recipe I use I think is the one often called Southern Brisket or Jewish Brisket, but to be honest this recipe didn't come from my family, so I really don't know how traditional, or non-traditional, Jewish, or southern, it is. The recipe actually comes from my brother's friend's grandma, who I think was Jewish, and also southern, but I'm not entirely positive.

Anyway, southern, Jewish, or not, this is a recipe for how to cook a perfect brisket every time.

Beef Brisket

1 beef brisket, 6-8 pounds - get the best quality one you possibly can. I get mine from a specialty butcher.
1 jar Heinz chili sauce, 12 oz
1 packet Lipton onion soup mix
1 can of Coca Cola, 12 oz

Serves 8 to 10 people

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
2. Put the brisket in a strong cooking dish, approx. 13 x 9 inches. A disposable aluminum one will not work. Don't risk it and learn the hard way like I did, just trust me you need a real baking dish. I use a stoneware Le Creuset Baking Dish and love it, but any sturdy pan will work.
3. The brisket should be placed in the pan fat side up. Score the fat all over with a sharp knife.
4. In a bowl, whisk together the chili sauce, onion soup mix and can of coke. Pour over the brisket.

5. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil, and put it the 325 degree oven.
6. Leave the brisket alone. THIS IS IMPORTANT. Do not turn, poke, prod or even open the aluminum foil. Again, I repeat, leave the brisket alone. I know this can be difficult, but trust me, you can't open it even once or you risk having all the heat escape and letting your lovely brisket dry out. I repeat one more time, leave the brisket alone. Cook for 3 to 4 hours; general rule is 30 minutes per pound.
7. Take the brisket out of the oven, cut off and discard the top layer of fat.
8.Slice the meat diagonally against the grain. Then, put the entire sliced brisket back in the pan with all the sauce, an make sure there is plenty of sauce covering the brisket slices. Let it rest at room temperature for 15-20 minutes, then serve. If it isn't quite done, you can re-cover the pan, and put it back in the oven to cook a little while longer, then remove and let rest at room temperature before serving.

That's it! Serve the brisket sliced with plenty of sauce covering each piece, and if you choose, you can serve additional sauce on the side as well.

Brisket is just as good - many argue better - the next day, so be happy if you have leftovers, of if you like to cook ahead, make the brisket the night before and just reheat in a 200 degree oven before serving.

For all those celebrating, L'Shana Tovah!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Of course it's the first day of fall....

Ziggy, pictured here in happier, warmer times.
... because I had this conversation with my five-year-old son this morning:

Ziggy: Mom, I'm cold.

Me: Sure you are! It is cold in the kitchen this morning! That's why I'm wearing long pants, socks and a sweatshirt! You're wearing shorts and a tee shirt! Let me go get you some warm clothes.

Ziggy: Uh, I'd rather you didn't.

Me: But if you put the warm clothes on then you won't be cold!

Ziggy: Uh, instead of me putting on more clothes, I was uh thinking you could just make the air warmer?

I tried to explain the concept to him that adults try to delay putting on the heat for the first time of the season, but couldn't really come up with a good reason why.  But it does seem like you should wait at least until October 1 to turn the heat on, and I know some other (in my opinion, crazy) people like to wait until at least November 1.

So tell me, do you put on a sweater when the temperatures get cooler, or do you take Ziggy's approach and just make the air warmer? 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Back to School with Staples

It's Back to School time!
The first day of school last year
This year, back to school at our house was filled with change. I have three kids, and only my middle daughter, Kay, who is going into fourth grade would be back to her same school as last year.

My youngest, Ziggy, was starting kindergarten, and also his first year at our local elementary school. My oldest, Magpie, was headed to middle school.

It was a lot of change in a short amount of time, but we are now a little over a week into the school year, and I'm happy to say everyone is almost settled into the new places and new routines.

The first day of school this year

Every year our family shops at Staples for the usual back to school items like pencils and notebooks, so I was thrilled when I had the opportunity to work with Staples to also take a look at their other products for back to school, as I didn't realize Staples is a great source not only for typical school supplies but for backpacks, lunchboxes and much more, too.

For Ziggy who would be going to school for a full day for the first time and having lunch at school, I wanted to get him a lunchbox that would be easy for him to handle carrying and opening and closing by himself. I found the perfect one at, the Kids Cooper Lunch Bag ($17.99). 

It's not too big for him to carry, it keeps food cool for up to six hours, and best of all, he really loves the shark pattern.

I also got reusable storage bags for his lunch items. Partially, because I am a big fan of making a "zero-waste" lunch, but also because I knew it would be easy for Ziggy to open and close these (Re)Zip bags ($12.99 for two that are sandwich size, or $14.99 for three that are a smaller, snack size).

I also got this turquoise backpack for my middle schooler ($35.72), and given it's hard to figure out what a tween is going to like, I was really glad to see her genuine excitement to use this backpack. In addition to having a lot of room for books, folders, her lunch bag, and other random stuff, it also has a small pocket perfect for emergency money, a water bottle holder, and a place for her cell phone.

I can't wait to see what awaits all of three kids in the school year ahead. Whatever happens, I know for sure we'll have a lot of stories to tell by the time it's June and the last day of school, and that with the exception of a few long days, that it will all go by so very quickly.
Magpie and Kay on their first,
last day of school, June 2008

Thank you Staples for helping us getting ready for the new school year!

I received the items mentioned here, as well as some other ones as well. There was no additional compensation and all opinions are my own.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Enter to Win a myCharge Energy Shot Portable Charger and an iPad Mini! {Giveaway from September 15 - October 15, 2014}

myCharge Giveaway

My kids just went back to school, and while I thought it would mean some free time for me, the truth is things might actually be more hectic now that I've traded our summer days for the fall ones filled with homework, carpool and, of course, the endless lunch making.

When I heard about myCharge, I knew this was a product that would be perfect for these busy fall days when a few extra minutes in the car pool line means suddenly realizing my phone is out of charge, and I won't be home and reunited with my power cord for hours.

Luckily, myCharge knows how important it is for you to stay charged and connected all day - and all school year - long, so they're giving the gift of portable power so you're never left in the red!

To keep you charged and connected myCharge is giving 3 lucky winners each an iPad mini with a myCharge HUB 6000 portable charger! The amazingly compact Hub 6000 features built-in cables and connectors for smartphones, tablets, e-readers and more. Get up to 27 hours of additional talk time for your devices, as well as integrated, quick-charge wall prongs. The Hub series is commonly known as the “Swiss Army Knife of portable power devices.

myCharge HUB6000

Additionally, 40 winners will each receive an Energy Shot compact portable charger for their smartphones that delivers an additional boost when you need it most. They come in a variety of styles and can give you up to 10 hours of talk time! (Please note, smart phone not included in giveaway).

myCharge Energy Shot

So this year, stay out of the red! myCharge is here to keep you charged and connected! For more information on products visit the myCharge website or follow them on Facebook. You can find myCharge products available at retailers like Target and Kohl's.

Fill out the entry form below from September 15, 2014 to October 15, 2014 for your chance to be one of 40 winners to receive an Energy Shot Charger (10 winners randomly selected each week) and one of 3 grand prize winners randomly selected on October 15, 2014 to receive one iPad Mini with a myCharge HUB 6000 portable charger. Entrants must be at least 18 years of age or older, must live in the United States and have a valid shipping address. See giveaway form for complete list of rules and details.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This is a sponsored post from myCharge.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Who knew a description of a gallon of milk could be so hilarious?

I can't remember who told me to check out the Amazon commentary on Tuscan Whole Milk, but I'm sure glad I did. There are too many funny reviews to mention them all, but let's just say I am in awe of the humor people find can find in the humble, unassuming milk gallon.

My personal favorite is this one from J. Fitzsimmons:

Has anyone else tried pouring this stuff over dry cereal? A-W-E-S-O-M-E!

Read all the reviews here.

I guess I shouldn't be so surprised by these funny milk reviews, since I already found the Amazon wit in full force in the reviews of Haribo Gummy Bears, Wooden Toilet Seats, and the AutoExec Wheelmate.

Do you have a favorite funny Amazon find?

{Keep Reading}

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