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Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween Costume and Party Ideas - The Smilin' J Ranch

Howdy Partners!
For a truly last minute costume and party idea, this one turned out better than expected.  Thinking back to the Candy ‘Rapper costume,  I began running a list of candy names through my mind while driving home from work one afternoon.    When I landed on Jolly Ranchers, I knew I had a winner.   Since it was just going to be the adult Turners, we conferred over dinner one night and had our game plan.  We were going to be the Jolly Ranchers of the Smilin’ J Ranch!
Jeans, boots, and bandannas were already in everyone’s wardrobe, so a trip to the thrift store found some western shirts and I even scored a cowgirl vest.  I was able to get a white cowboy hat from Party City for less than $5.  I also picked up a couple of cotton shirts to tear up into strips for a few decorations.

While I was at the thrift store, I ran across this adorable stuffed cow, and just knew she had to be part of the porch decor.  We even “branded” her.

We also had an official welcome sign, but I would have preferred to give it a more rustic look with old barn wood or burlap.

The niece and nephew still had their stick ponies that they made at a church activity when they were younger, so BIL and SIL had their rides.   Now I just had to figure out how to make ours.  I viewed several websites for DIY stick ponies, and decided to follow this one:
My materials and where I found them:
Socks – men’s department Walmart (DH needed new dress socks anyway)
Styrofoam balls – Walmart
Yarn –Walmart
Buttons for eyes- Walmart and personal stash
Bridle-belt at a yard sale for 25 cents
Rings- old key rings in personal stash
Leather cord for reins, felt for ears, stuffing, brads for bridle, and black electrical tape- personal stash
Dowel rod- Lowe’s or Home Depot

I hand-stitched the bridle on the ends that went around the ring, but on the other end, I used a hole punch and a decorative metal brad.  For the mane, I used a large-eye needle and pull lengths of yarn through the sock.  That was probably the most time consuming part, but I still managed to finish both of them while watching a football game.  I was pleased with the final products.

I also made the garland from the material strips in the background of this picture. 
  I found various fat quarters with black or orange to go along with the old denim shirts I bought.  I tore them into ~2” wide strips, about 18” long.  I looped them over a piece of jute twine until I ran out of strips.  I even used a few on the lanterns outside.

We added a few items with a“ranch” or “cowboy” or Texas feel to it, such as:
Lil’ Doggies (lil’ smokies)
Cow Patties (aka Goat Drop Cookies aka No Bake Cookies)
Texas Trash Dip
Cowboy Caviar (Black Bean salsa)

The day before the party I was hitting the thrift stores, and ran across this table.  It is an old metal school table with the laminate type top.  I bought two cans of chalkboard paint and put two coats of paint on it when I got home.  Best deal yet!  It was quite popular with the little ones.   There is just something about writing with chalk that appeals to everyone.

We also added a Craft Room for this party, since our guests were getting a bit older.   They had to be accompanied by an adult in order to enter.  I had a variety of coloring sheets, sticker sheets, foam crafts, and even a way to make a spider out of a Charms Blow Pop and some black pipe cleaners/chenille stems.

So, thanks for stopping by and staying a spell with us at the Smilin’ J.   Y’all come back now, ya hear?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Halloween Costume and Party Ideas - Mystery Inc.

We had a GREAT time planning this party.   Our inspiration came from one of our little buddies, who at the time was a HUGE Scooby-Doo fan.   

We were most fortunate with only one trip to the thrift store to find the purple dress for Daphne and the sweater and skirt for Velma.    When I couldn't find the right shade of orange knee socks for Velma, a friend suggested soccer socks from a sporting goods store.   Great idea, and I still use them when I run in cool temps.    A couple of wigs and glasses from Walmart finished the girls' costumes.  The guys were a bit easier, with only having to fashion an ascot from a piece of red material.  Then there was Scooby, you know, the one that is hard to find a costume for?
We opted to just dress him in all brown and stick some black spots cut from felt on his back and make a mask.   His collar was made from ribbon and printout of Scooby's tag.  I found a clipart of Scooby's face on the internet and printed it off full size on a sheet of paper.   I cut that out, and traced it onto brown felt and onto foam board.   I attached the felt to the board and outlined the face with a black Sharpie and added the nose and eyebrows which were made from black felt.     Lastly, I borrowed some stretch cord from my crafty niece and stapled it onto each side.  Voila!  We had a Scooby Mask for a big ol' head.  
And not to be left out, we did have a beanie-sized Scooby in DH's pocket as Scrappy-Doo!

We had the usual party foods, and added a few "scary named" items:
Mummy Dogs
Witches Brooms
Monster Eyes
Monster Mix
and of course, we had to have some Scooby Snacks with the Pumpkin Fluff Dip.

This was the first year that I actually put together a menu for the table.  And I made sure to get a photo of it so that I can remember what we had. 

 I just used a piece of Halloween-y scrapbook paper inside of a stand-alone plastic 8x10 frame from Walmart, and then write everything on the frame with a dry erase marker.   It makes last minute changes a breeze!
We ran a Scooby-Doo DVD with several episodes on the TV for those who would actually sit still and watch.   Mostly, they just entertained themselves.
I really, really, REALLY wanted to deck out my in-laws' minivan as the Mystery Machine, but there was not enough time or resources.  Maybe next time.   We just kept it simple with our reusable pumpkins and a couple of door hangers.  I did add these jar lanterns outside with LED candles since our solar lights were not working well.

But wait - the Scooby cast only had 5 folks.  What happened to our 6th host?
Sticking with a book theme, she chose to channel her inner Katniss. 

 May the odds of a happy Halloween be ever in your favor.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Halloween Costume and Party Ideas - Dr. Seuss

We thought that since this was going to be a children's party, it only made sense to choose something that they would (hopefully) be familiar with.  For this particular year, we wanted to do a group costume with the entire Turner clan.   After much discussion, we decided that we would be a variety of Dr. Seuss characters.

My nephew was the Cat, while my SIL and I were Thing 1 and Thing2 from "Cat in the Hat".   

My niece was Mayzie from "Daisy-Head Mayzie".   

My BIL was Sam, from "Green Eggs and Ham". 

 And DH, who is so hard to find a costume for, was the boy from "Wocket in my Pocket".

We spent a little more on these costumes than the year before.  We invested in the striped hat (Amazon) and the long johns (Sportsmans Guide) and the wigs (Century Novelty) for the Cat in the Hat.  Some pipe cleaners and an artificial daisy was all that was needed for Mayzie.   With a couple pieces of red felt stitched up and a yellow tshirt, Sam was dressed.   I purchased Play-Doh in the right shade of green and white to form the ham and eggs on one of my silver platters and stuck a fork in it.   For the wocket, I perused some thrift stores and toy stores until I found a beanie baby sized creature that sort of resembled the wocket. 
We opted for "regular" Halloween goodies for our menu and did not add any special Seuss-ish items.    Decorations were also "regular" Halloween.  We had a pretty good sized group this particular year, so simple was our motto.    For our activities, we had several rounds of Just Dance Kids and several Dr. Seuss books for the kiddos to choose from for reading/looking.  These are two of my FAVORITE pics from the whole night.

 Big brother reading Fox in Socks to little bro.  It doesn't get any better than that.

DH and one of his many buddies reading Cat in the Hat. Not really sure who is doing the storytelling here, though.    Everybody say "Awww..."

So, at this point we have not totally committed to putting theme to costume, decorations, food, and activities yet.  But we are getting there.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Halloween Costume and Party Ideas- Candy 'Rappers

Halloween has always been my favorite holiday.  I am not sure why.   Maybe because it is in October (my birth month).  Maybe because it involves dressing up and pretending to be someone else.  Maybe because of the great potential for candy gathering.  I don't care for the gruesome side of the holiday that some like to revel in.  I am all about the fun and silly side.  And the candy.

For a few years now, my family has hosted a Halloween party for some of our friends and their children.   We keep it pretty relaxed and generally just let the kids play while the adults visit, but as the kids have gotten older, we are starting to add some games and semi-organized activities.   This blog is one of five that I will do this week, progressing through our past parties.

In 2010, my SIL and I chose to dress as Candy 'Rappers.   I have a no mask rule for my costume.  I want small children to still know who I am. This year my DH and I chose to bring it out of the closet and dust it off for an "adult" party that we were invited to. 
The original Candy 'Rappers had  tshirts that said "Chillin' with my Peeps" and had a graphic of the Peeps  chicks.  Perfectly appropriate!   We added empty M&M packages to the front of caps and wore sunglasses.  Bling was created by stapling Werther's candies together to make gold necklaces.  We also wore Ring Pops, candy bracelets,  and candy watches with our baggy shorts.   Costumes were topped off with temporary tattoos and the angry look.  Okay, so she was better at angry than I was.

 This year, DH wore a simple black tshirt and black track pants.  His cap had a Fun Dip package attached, and I found some cheap aviators for him to wear.   I added to the gold necklaces this time by attaching a plastic Jelly Belly container as a "medallion".  I also switched to a track suit and added large hoop earrings to my costume.  I put my hair in pigtails and use some throw back ponytail holders that look like gumballs.  My cap had an empty Skittles package attached.  Lastly, we wore Ring Pops to really bling things up.   I did find an intro song that was a clean rap about candy by Chris August, but we ended up not using it.   A friend at the party said we needed rapper names, so he came up with "Fun Dippa" and "T-wizzle".   Word.

The costume is comfortable and easy to assemble and disassemble.  The best part is that in the event of an emergency, it is edible.  

To carry this into a party theme, just add candy.  Literally.
Candy Shots:  We bought a set of Halloween colored shot glasses from Oriental Trading and filled them with different flavored jelly beans, candy corn,  or M&Ms.   This prevents the kids from grabbing a handful  from a bowl and helps any adults who want to indulge but not binge.

Candy goblets:  Instead of having several large bowls of candy, we used goblets to hold some of the larger candy choices, like orange slices or individually wrapped candies.  These also came from Oriental Trading.  I originally bought them for a Bible class activity but only needed a few,  so the extras were perfect in this service.

 Dessert recipes are plentiful that use candy as ingredients or embellisments.  Our choices were candy sushi ( 2010) and salted caramel bars (2014).   Pinterest has hundreds, probably thousands, of recipes of this genre.


Candy Sushi

Be sure to balance out all of the sugary goodness with some protein items and check with the parents for any food allergies and sensitivities.  

I am not a fan of over-doing the party theme.  I prefer to have one or two items in decorations, food items, and activities that are related, and then just whatever else sounds good at the time.  Like I said, we try to keep it relaxed.      
If you wanted to use this theme for a group of elementary aged children, just add a round or two of Candy Land and some crafts using candy corn as your media.   Below are some pictures of decorations from a Christmas candy-themed dinner that could easily be used for a Halloween party as well.

 This was only our second year, so we were still learning and developing our game plan.
Next up: An Assortment of Seuss