elf-on-shelf

When we think of Christmas more than likely we think about the many different traditions that come with the holiday. Traditions reach several parts of our holiday life. We watch the same programs every year. We decorate inside and out. We cook our favorite foods. It is all just part of embracing the season. So when something can break through the old traditions and make its way into our holiday routine it’s a big deal. The Elf on the Shelf may seem like an age-old tradition, but it’s far newer than you might think. Continue reading “Traditional Tales: Elf on the Shelf”

Fall is pumpkin spice season—no doubt about it. With pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin spice cookies, pumpkin spice cereal, pumpkin bread, pumpkin yogurt, and pumpkin candy, you may be sick and tired of pumpkin by the time Thanksgiving rolls around! Why not surprise the family with something other than pumpkin pie this year? Here are some unique, alternative pie recipes to try out.

Cinnamon Pie

If you want a dessert that looks similar to pumpkin pie, and even has many of the same ingredients (minus the pumpkin), consider trying cinnamon pie this Thanksgiving. With its creamy spiced filling and golden crust, this is sure to be a favorite go-to in the years to come.

Unsurprisingly, the flavor is reminiscent of cinnamon rolls and cinnamon bread, so if you enjoy these classic desserts, you’re sure to love cinnamon pie. It’s also a great make-ahead option to help free up your oven on Thanksgiving Day.

A Spicy Perspective has a straightforward recipe that’s worth trying.

Pecan Pie

Aside from pumpkin, pecan pie is about the second-most popular Thanksgiving dessert there is. Having said that, you may have never baked your own before. This simple recipe is great for first-time pie makers, especially if you use a store-bought crust. All you need is corn syrup, eggs, sugar, butter, vanilla, pecans, and a deep-dish pie crust. Mix all the ingredients together, pour them into the crust, and bake! It’s as simple as that.

Get the full instructions from Cookies & Cups.

Cherry Pie

A sweet-yet-tart cherry pie could be the perfect finish to a traditional (or perhaps not-so-traditional) Thanksgiving meal. Sure, you could reach for a store-bought crust and can of pie filling for an easy dessert, but if you have the gumption to bake a pie from scratch, this is an excellent recipe to try.

Ingredients for the filling include fresh rainier and dark sweet cherries, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, vanilla and almond extracts, butter, and eggs. You’ll definitely want a cherry pitter to make the process go smoothly. You can even be bold and make your own homemade pie crust. This mouth-watering dessert takes a few hours to prepare and bake, so be sure to make it ahead of time.

You can find the full instructions for this ambitious cherry pie from Sally’s Baking Addiction. Then, don’t forget Sally’s recipe for homemade pie crust.

Coconut Cream Pie

For a creamy, dreamy pie, try coconut cream! This classic dessert isn’t so common on Thanksgiving, but you can always start a new tradition. You have the flexibility to make the entire pie from scratch or buy a pre-made pie crust to skip this first step. Either way, the creamy filling of coconut milk, half-and-half, egg yolks, and other ingredients will have everyone going back for seconds!

Add a Pinch has the full recipe for you to try out.

Key Lime Pie

Whether you live in Florida or just want to bring a taste of the Keys to your Thanksgiving dinner, this pie will do the trick! Most key lime pies use a graham cracker crust, but this one is made with toasted almonds for a unique flavor. It also features a light and fluffy marshmallow topping that sets it apart from many other key lime pie recipes.

For all the instructions, visit Taste of Home.

If you’re excited about baking a Thanksgiving pie that breaks the mold, you might also be on the lookout for unique holiday side dishes. These ideas will change the way you think of green bean casserole, stuffing, and cranberry sauce!

Happy Thanksgiving

Americans love their holidays, and more than that, they love their food. So it would be no surprise that one of the most popular holidays is Thanksgiving. Ingrained in our traditions is the belief that certain foods coincide with a specific holiday, and that every Thanksgiving we should have those foods on the table or we aren’t celebrating correctly. But why turkey and stuffing? Why cranberry sauce? Why pumpkin pie? And for the love of everything good, why green bean casserole?

Turkey

Turkey is so synonymous with Thanksgiving that we jokingly call it Turkey day. The real truth is we aren’t even sure that turkey was present on that first Thanksgiving. Most historians don’t seem to be able to agree on whether there was turkey, even though there’s considerable evidence for turkeys being a popular dinnertime menu item for centuries. There are only two eyewitness accounts of what happened during that three-day feast: a letter written by Edward Winslow and sent back to England, and a written record from Plymouth’s governor, William Bradford. Winslow didn’t mention turkeys at all, but Bradford writes, “And besides waterfowl (duck or geese), there was a great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc.” Americans started eating turkey for Thanksgiving in the mid-1800s after a popular magazine editor named Sarah Josepha Hale published her recipes for turkey and stuffing.

Traditional stuffing side dish for Thanksgiving in a baking pan

Stuffing

Within my family, stuffing might be the most controversial of the sides. Everyone thinks they have the best recipe, and some just refuse to eat it. While stuffing has long accompanied the “bird”, the style and recipes have evolved. The birds present at the first meal, whether they were turkey or waterfowl, were probably stuffed with onions and herbs, not bread. As with the turkey, Sarah Josepha Hale’s recipes for stuffing likely made it a companion to the turkey.

Gourmet whole berry cranberry sauce with fresh cranberrie

Cranberry Sauce

I’ll be honest, I am not a fan of cranberries, but I’ll do my best to be fair to the sweet and sour scourge of the holiday feast table. One thing we can be certain of is that cranberry sauce was not at the table that first Thanksgiving. Sugar wasn’t readily available, and those terrible tart berries wouldn’t have been appealing. Cranberries are, however, truly American. They are one of only a handful of fruits native to North America. As the sugar supply increased, so did our cranberry consumption. By the Civil War, they were such a holiday staple that General Ulysses S. Grant famously demanded his soldiers be provided cranberries for their Thanksgiving Day meal.

Green beans casserole, traditional side dish for Thanksgiving

Green Bean Casserole

The most unlikely tradition from that first feast was the green bean casserole. Introduced by the natives, the green bean casserole… I’m just being silly. This famous dish was created by Dorcas Reilly for Campbell’s Soup in 1955. Her original recipe can still be found on Campbell’s website, and it was such a hit that it has found its way into our 300-year-old tradition. Campbell’s commissioned Reilly to develop a recipe that was easily replicated using only their products. According to the soup company, 30% of all cream of mushroom soup sales is bought for green bean casserole.

Whole pumpkin pie with a slice cut out

Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkins and squash were almost assuredly at the first Thanksgiving, but not in the form of pie. Like I mentioned earlier, sugar wasn’t easy to come by, and neither was butter or flour. Baking wasn’t an option at that time either. According to some accounts, early English settlers in North America improvised by hollowing out pumpkins, filling the shells with milk, honey, and spices to make a custard, then roasting the gourds whole in hot ashes. It wasn’t until the early nineteenth century that recipe appeared in American cookbooks or pumpkin pie became a common addition to the Thanksgiving dinner. Some attribute this addition to Hale’s article as well, but John Greenleaf Whittier’s popular poem in 1850 might have sealed the deal.

 

                “The Pumpkin”

  By John Greenleaf Whittier 

“Ah! on Thanksday, when from East and from West,

From North and from South comes the pilgrim and guest;

When the gray-haired New Englander sees round his board

The old broken links of affection restored;

When the care-wearied man seeks his mother once more,

And the worn matron smiles where the girl smiled before;

What moistens the lip and what brightens the eye,

What calls back the past, like the rich Pumpkin pie?”

 

LED vs. incandescent… which is best? Which is safest? Most efficient? What do they cost? To find out which is best for you and your home this holiday season, read on to weigh the pros and cons of each type of light.

Rapid-fire benefits of LED lighting:

  • Long-lasting – up to 100,000 hours of light, enough to last you many holiday seasons.
  • Energy-efficient – save money this season. Incandescent bulbs run at 20% efficiency, whereas LEDs work at 80-90% efficiency, meaning more lighting power and less utility expenses.
  • Ecologically-friendly – LEDs aren’t made with toxic chemicals like the mercury found in fluorescents. Additionally, the long lifespan of these bulbs means one LED light can save the production of roughly 25 incandescent bulbs!

Sounds pretty good, right? Here are 3 questions to ask yourself before you decide to make the jump from incandescent to LED:

What condition are my incandescent lights in?

LED lights are not the kind of purchase you make on a whim. The lights are expensive! If you need to replace your lighting anyways, then LED lights may be a good option, but you’ll need to assess the condition of your current set before you can make this call.

The first thing to do is make sure they’re all in working order. Check the strand for any cracks, punctures, or other signs of damage. If everything seems to be in order, plug them in. If they don’t all turn on right away, then look for broken or missing bulbs. Replace these and see if the problem is solved – if not, it may be time to opt for a new set.

You can also assess the condition of your lights based on ownership time alone. Most sets typically last between 4-6 years. If you have been using the same lights since you were a kid, it’s time to upgrade.

Fortunately, many home improvement stores will offer a discount on a new strand of LED lights so long as you turn in your old incandescent.

How long will I use my lights?

If you’re planning to use your lights for a long time, LED lights are the way to go. If you are planning to move to a smaller or larger property anytime soon, you might be better off delaying the upgrade – buying a whole new set of LEDs to accommodate the size of your new place won’t be a very pleasant experience if you just upgraded the previous year. It’s not so bad if you bought a new $5 strand of incandescent lights, but a $100 strand of LEDs might not be so easily accepted. Go the cheaper route until you know you’re settling in for awhile!

House at night with lights along roofline

Will I save money investing in LEDs?

LEDs are exponentially more expensive up front, but they can save you money in the long run. If you put up a Clark Griswold-esque holiday display, the savings you’ll experience from buying LED will be massive.

Additionally, LEDs can save you money on blown fuses and electrical repairs. They may also be safer in the same regard. Incandescent bulbs can only string 2-5 strands together before you risk blowing a fuse. Many homes have very few outdoor outlets so you’ll need to strategize decoration about this scarcity. LEDs use 10x less energy, meaning you can string 20-50 to a single outlet in the right circumstances. This could save money and disaster by keeping your outlets in good working order, without compromising on the wow-factor you want from your holiday lighting.

We hope this information helps you make the best choice for your home holiday season. For more holiday decorating insight, browse our site or call 888-311-8882 with questions!

Continue reading “LED vs. Incandescent: Which is Best for Holiday Lighting?”

Christmas lights have gone through an evolution of sorts since their inception in the early 1900’s. Light bulbs, in general, have become more reliable and efficient since Edison’s bright idea came to fruition. In the 21st century, we have lights that look better, cost less, and are easier to maintain. So why do we only decorate our homes with light during the holiday season? Continue reading “Holiday Lights: Making Spirits Bright All Year Long”

Halloween is thrilling for people of all ages. If you have small children, make the holiday fun without being too spooky by filling your home with kid-friendly DIY Halloween decorations. Here are five easy, great-looking ideas you can make as a family.

Trash Bag Spider Webs

All you need for this thrifty Halloween decoration is a few black trash bags, scissors, painter’s tape, and silver or gold permanent marker. Hang them in the windows for a creepy silhouette after dark.

Get the full instructions from Fast Forward Fun.

Movable Mummies

Here’s a fun, original idea that isn’t just decoration—it can even be a seasonal toy for your kids! Moveable Mummies are made from rubber-coated flexible garden wire covered in strips of muslin cloth. Simply shape the wire into a stick figure and wrap one-half-inch strips of muslin around the frame.

For pictures and instructions, visit Family Chic by Camilla Fabbri.

Pumpkin Porch Light Covers

For inexpensive outdoor Halloween decor, pick up a few plastic pumpkin pails, get creative with the scissors, and there you have it—temporary porch light covers for about $1 each!

Get more tips from Instructables.

Eyeball String Lights

Add a spooky flair to your Halloween decor using nothing but a string of white holiday lights, ping pong balls, and permanent markers. Let the kids each decorate a few ping pong balls to resemble bloodshot eyes. Then, cut an X into each ping pong ball with an X-Acto knife and slip them over the holiday lights. Plug in the strand, and those creepy eyeballs will light up!

Learn more about this craft from Landee See Landee Do.

Frankenstein Door

If your front door is green, convert it into a Frankenstein door for Halloween! Simply cut out spiky hair, eyes, mouth, a grizzly scar, and neck bolts out of black and white felt. Command strips work great for securely attaching the decor to your door without damaging the paint.

Get all the instructions and more Halloween decor ideas from East Coast Creative.

Hanging Foam Bats

This simple DIY Halloween decoration is so easy, your kids can probably do it by themselves. Whether you want to hang these critters in your home or outside, making them from durable craft foam ensures they’ll stand up to the elements. Simply trace a bat template on black foam, cut it out, glue on googly eyes, and attach a fishing wire.

Read the full instructions on HGTV.com.

Halloween Glass Jar Luminaries

Do you have a kitchen cabinet full of glass jars you’ll never use? With a little paint, permanent markers, and tissue paper, you can turn them into DIY Halloween decorations! Get creative with your designs. For instance, you might paint the jar orange with a jack-o-lantern face. Or you can make decoupage with equal parts white glue and water, and adhere tissue paper to the sides of the jar.

For the full instructions, visit Kids Kubby.

Illuminated Ghosts

Light up your porch just in time for trick-or-treaters to arrive with a pair of glowing ghosts! They look great, and the project is easy to pull off. Simply wrap white holiday string lights around a tomato cage, and set something round on top, such as a Styrofoam ball. Cover it with a white sheet, glue on black felt eyes, and there you have it!

See pictures and more instructions on Listotic.

Decorating your house is one way to get into the Halloween spirit, but make sure your kids also have costumes they love! Short on time? Check out these last-minute Halloween costume ideas for families, couples, and kids.

Haunted House Sign on Old Wooden Building

 

Halloween season is upon us! If you love a good scare, you might be on the lookout for the top haunted attractions in America. Lucky for you, there are plenty to choose from. Here are 13 of our favorites.

Asylum 49—Tooele, UT

Many haunted houses are built purely to be a Halloween attraction, but not Asylum 49. This historic building was once a hospital, and then a nursing home, before being converted into a haunted attraction. Former nurses claim to have seen dark shadows and survived encounters with aggressive spirits, so be on your guard!

Netherworld Haunted House—Norcross, GA

With realistic scenery and high-tech special effects provided by film and TV professionals, Netherworld is the closest thing most people get to being in a horror film. In fact, movies like Zombieland and Halloween 2 have used Netherworld’s props and sets because they’re so life-like.

Terror Behind the Walls at Eastern State Penitentiary—Philadelphia, PA

Terror Behind the Walls often makes the list of top haunted houses. This attraction is built inside a retired state prison. Try not to scream at the terrors that await in the crumbling cellblocks and empty guard towers!

Thrillvania—Terrell, TX

Around 20,000 guests visit Thrillvania each year. The centerpiece of the site’s eight attractions spread out over 50 acres is Verdun Manor, a two-story haunted house designed by Disney Imagineers.

Nashville Nightmare—Nashville, TN

Nashville Nightmare hires professional actors, has incredibly convincing sets, and will give you chills around every turn. It’s Tennesee’s largest haunted house and was ranked 1# in America by USA Today in 2016. This is one haunt you won’t want to visit alone!

The Haunted Hotel—San Diego, CA

Book your tour of the Haunted Hotel to take a journey down the Hellavator, into zombie-infested alleyways, and through the creepy Clown Subway. Be warned—this haunted house is not for the faint of heart.

Dent Schoolhouse—Cincinnati, OH

According to legend, Charlie, the janitor at Dent Schoolhouse in the 50s, murdered any student who taunted him. It’s said that he still haunts the schoolhouse, which has been converted into one of the Midwest’s scariest Halloween attractions.

Woods of Terror—Greensboro, NC

It may not be the best hike in the US, but it’s certainly the scariest! The Woods of Terror offers 20 acres for you and your friends to wander in search of a fear-induced adrenaline rush.

Bennett’s Curse Haunted House—Baltimore, MD

Bennett’s Curse is the only haunted house of its kind, with a medieval vampire knight theme that will give you a new appreciation for Dracula.

Erebus—Pontiac, MI

As one of the largest walk-through haunted attractions in the world, Erebus serves up terrifying thrills and blood-curdling screams. The four-story house is packed with Hollywood-style special effects that will bite you, grab you, and even bury you alive. How long can you hold your breath?

Nightmare New England—Litchfield, NH

This 80-acre mega park offers something to fire up even the bravest Halloween fans. Enjoy hours of frightfully good fun at Nightmare New England by going on a Haunted Hayride, playing zombie paintball, and getting a tarot card reading.

The Beast—Kansas City, MO

An immersive nightmare comes to life inside The Beast. Ever-present threats of voodoo, werewolves, phantoms, and a real live alligator will have you running for your life! But the only way out is down a steep, four-story slide.

Hellscream—Colorado Springs, CO

Ranked the number-one must-see haunted attraction in Colorado, Hellscream thrills visitors with two attractions: the Hellscream Haunted House and The Haunted Mines. Don’t miss out on the largest, darkest, and most terrifying haunted mines in the country!

Looking to do a little scaring of your own on October 31? Check out these last-minute Halloween costume ideas!

While the holiday season is the most wonderful time of the year… it can get a bit hectic as you grow older. As a child, your biggest worry around Christmas was whether or not Santa remembered to get you that ONE gift you wanted SO BADLY. Now you’re juggling the rush of shopping, scheduling, cooking, wrapping and bouncing between holiday parties at work, the neighbor’s house and your in-laws… sometimes you’re too busy to soak in all the wonderful holiday cheer surrounding you! Continue reading “5 Gift Wrapping Hacks for a Less Hectic Christmas”