Fall Decorating: A Feast for the Senses

Fall is a feast for the senses. It evokes all the sensations of warmth, welcome, comfort, and nostalgia that surrounds this time of year. Many of life’s most cherished rituals take place in September and October: school starting, football season beginning, celebrating homecoming. For those old enough to remember, there is the visceral smell of burning leaves, or chimney smoke, beckoning one home to a hot Sunday dinner, of chili, hearty stews, squash with brown sugar and butter, homemade desserts of apple pie and pumpkin bars.

As daylight savings time ends and night falls quickly, deliciously scented candles, with enticing apple pie, caramel, and mocha scents, brighten rooms and fill them with comfort.  Making our homes cozy, feathering the nest, is a tradition that many of us look forward to the moment the calendar page turns to September.

14291640_1543613735664792_2510213609915366794_n

I made the trip last week to the Junk Bonanza, an annual fall mecca of vintage and repurposed treasures. Everywhere I looked there were wonderfully imaginative displays, featuring vintage and repurposed decor, and fun flea market finds.  It was the ideal place to spot some of fall’s biggest decorating trends in vintage home style.

untitled-1

An Abundance of Arrangements Perhaps no other occasion but Christmas rivals fall for decorating with fantastic floral arrangements. The opportunities to create autumnal wreaths, centerpieces, garlands, elaborate pots and swags are endless, as are the vehicles for containing them.

14457299_1550332034992962_5220719806381539528_n

At the Junk Bonanza I found this fabulous antique canister, (originally used for twine in corn harvesting, I’m told) that was perfect for the tall dried flowers I harvested from my perennial garden. Before tossing the remnants of your garden or pots, harvest what you can for  arrangements. Dried cornstalks, cattails, ornamental grasses, withered stems of brown-eyed susans, and sepia-toned hydrangea heads are perfect for tall canisters. I have a pot of ornamental peppers, in maroon and gold sitting beside the canister, which complements it nicely.

Pillows & Throws Throw pillows made of old feed sacks, bedspreads, and old flannels are all the rage this season in earthy, muted tones of cheese cloth and burlap. The Pendleton blanket is having a huge moment this fall, which is wonderful to see. Pendleton is a family-owned company, started in the early 1900s, known for its heavy wool blankets inspired by Native American designs. They are prized for their vivid colors and intricate patterns. Like many vintage pieces, Pendleton blankets have come to symbolize American heritage, authenticity, and craftsmanship.

14449797_1543613728998126_290303085276725282_n

Found Items from Nature A huge trend that I’m seeing everywhere from blogs to magazines to store windows are naturally shed antlers and faux taxidermy. For instance, I have a pink plaster unicorn head mounted on the wall in my bedroom. I’ve seen amazing trophy deer crafted from sweaters.  You can even find a mounted stag head at Target, and antler decor, as well. Another popular item theme is integrating craft store tail feathers of pheasant and grouse to your decor, bringing that cozy hunting lodge feel to your home. Pine cones, acorns, vibrantly colored leaves, gourds, pumpkins, indian corn, dried sunflowers, artichokes, small heads of flowering kale, all can be used to make charming autumn vignettes. 14468682_1549844185041747_6543987827821308043_o

Mixed Materials  I saw so many fabulous pieces of barn wood made into everything from mantels to dining tables. Metals, woods, tin art, architectural objects, scrollwork, doorknobs, drawer pulls, hand tools, old troughs, all of it rusted, repainted, embellished, or as is. Jumping on the monogram trend, letters in every conceivable material were available to make reclaimed items even more meaningful. A lot of the more utilitarian objects were softened by adding repurposed decor, such as pumpkins made with wool sweaters, chenille, velveteen, and lace, which made a lovely juxtaposition.

14468502_1551318334894332_4784094868296603175_o

Nostalgia The season of Halloween brings out the kid in us. It’s hard to tell who actually enjoys dressing up more these days, children or adults.  I know that I’m am not immune to the joys of decorating with witches and black cats. But over the years, I’ve evolved from paper and plastic ghosts and goblins, to a more primitive, hand-crafted Halloween look that incorporates retro style with recycled and vintage materials. Again, each of these pieces is evocative of simple delights, whimsy, Americana, and the pleasure of hand-crafted items that many of us enjoy.

The great thing about decorating for the season, rather than the holiday, is that you won’t have to rush on November 1st to take everything down. That means more time to nestle up under a cozy Pendleton throw and bask in the glow of your charming fall home.

Smart Perks Blogger Melanie Bisson, is always a sucker for a kitschy vase. For more fall decorating ideas, check out the Smart Perks Pinterest page, Fall Decor Inside and Out.

14445071_1549844205041745_5186014337961224197_o

 The next Junk Bonanza will take place in Portland, October 14-15th.

Check out https://www.instagram.com/purplepincushion/ for some great hand-crafted and repurposed items.

 

 

How We Celebrate the USA…

Fourth of July Dachshund Dog

On July 2, 1776 the Continental Congress of the United Colonies decided to declare independence from Great Britain. The declaration was formally adopted on July 4th. The actual signing did not take place until August 2, but I digress.

In a letter to Abigail Adams dated July 3, 1776, John Adams wrote that “the declaration of independence should be celebrated with shews, games, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of the continent to the other, from this time forever more.”

I’m fairly certain that not ONCE did he mention hot dog eating contests.

And yet, Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Stand has been staging the world’s MOST famous hot dog eating competition in Coney Island, New York, every July 4th since 1916. Nothing says God Bless America like polishing off 62 hot dogs in ten minutes. That feat was accomplished last year when competitive-eating maverick Matt Stonie unseated former Nathan’s Famous champ, Joey Chestnut, who chowed down on a mere 60 dogs in the sunny Coney Island heat.

Nathan's Famous July 4 Hot Dog Eating Contest 2015

Legend has it that the contest’s roots date back to 1916, when four immigrants held a hot dog eating contest at Nathan’s Famous stand to settle an argument about who was most patriotic. My country tis of thee, indeed!

Waving-The-Flag-Fourth-Of-July-Celebrations

The fourth of July is steeped in a lot of tradition. It’s the holiday that’s synonymous with red, white, and blue festooned everything, burning your finger tips on the spent end of a sparkler, Lee Greenwood singing “Proud to be an American,” and lots of artistically-rendered desserts featuring strawberries, blueberries and Cool Whip.

But I bet a good old-fashioned marathon up the side of an Alaskan mountain isn’t the first thing that springs to mind when you think of American independence, is it?

images.washingtonpost.com

Just two hours south of Anchorage, the party in Seward, Alaska begins at 12:01 a.m. on July 4th with fireworks. The biggest bang comes later that morning with the town’s famed race, Mount Marathon. The course is straightforward, but far from easy: start downtown, run to the top of the 3,022-foot mountain, then run back to the finish.

It’s rumored the race originated as a bet between locals that the mountain could not be tackled in less than an hour. Runners get schooled by steep slopes and gravity, inertia and loose shale, and are introduced to oxygen debt and lung capacity. The winners are usually locals who can practice on the mountain, or Alaska Olympians who can turn oxygen into speed. Happy birthday, Uncle Sam. Pass the oxygen canister.

July_4th_-_2016-06-24_14.33.03

In keeping with the hot dog theme, in recent years it seems like Independence Day has really gone to the dogs, the wiener dogs. Those sleek and stealthy stubby-leggers can fly. Race fans flock to Canterbury Park in Minnesota to see the Doxies compete. Get-a-long little doggie!

Maybe it’s got something to do with America the beautiful’s “amber waves of grain” but tractor parades are particularly popular on the 4th of July from sea to shining sea. Living in the midwest, we’re especially proud of John Deere tractors, made in the heart of the heartland.

John_Deere_Tractor_4th_July

And speaking of the sea, patriotic boat parades are an annual tradition from sunrise to sunset on July 4th.  It’s amazing to watch fireworks bursting over the water, their mirror images glittering on the surface, hearts swelling as kids sing The Star Spangled Banner – way off-key. We claim our spot in Excelsior Bay at dusk every year on the 4th of July.

boat-parade-first-place

America’s 4th of July celebrations are as wildly vibrant, spirited and diverse as its citizens. It’s a beautiful thing to see us all continue to keep John Adams’ dream alive, over two hundred years later, with as much pomp and circumstance as he’d imagined. I hope you do your part to make Adams proud. Eat a bomb pop. Light a sparkler. Don’t forget the sunscreen or the bug spray. And enjoy a spectacular 4th of July!

For more ideas on celebrating the 4th of July and other holidays, be sure to visit the Smart Perks Pinterest page.

51ctyoISRHL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Must read!!!

 

 

Smart Perks Blogger Melanie Bisson has her dog’s red, white and blue ensemble all picked out and ready to go for the big day.

 

This Father’s Day Give Him the Gift of Time

Child's drawing for Father's day

June 19th is just around the corner and if you’re still deciding what to get Dad this year let me make a suggestion – instead of the usual tools, ties, fishing lures, etc., do something fun and memorable with him.

For example, last year my husband, son, daughter and grandson went to a baseball game. Granted he paid for the tickets, but he just wanted them all to see our Twins play his beloved Cubs at Target Field (he’s never lived in Chicago, but for some reason he’s a big fan). The whole experience was worth more to him than anything you could buy in a store and it meant a lot to the kids too. He told me later it was “the best Father’s Day ever!”

Not sure how to celebrate Father’s Day? I’ve got ideas for meaningful and unforgettable experiences you can share with your dad, grandpa or any father figure.

Catch a ballgame. There’s something about watching your home team in action from the bleachers. It doesn’t have to be major league. Sometimes a minor-league game can be just as enjoyable, or in some cases, even more entertaining.  Here in Minnesota we have the St. Paul Saints and the home games are always a blast! From tire races and sumo wrestling to giant pillow fights, there’s always something crazy going on between innings.

Spend the day at the races. Take him to the track and bet on the horses. You don’t have to wager a lot. Half the fun is picking which contenders will place, show or win and cheering them on. Click here for a list of horse racing tracks by state. If he’d rather watch turbocharged cars than thoroughbreds, go to fastspeedways to find a speedway near you.

Go fishing. If pop’s an angler, bring him to his favorite fishing hole for the day. Just make sure you have all the equipment you need and a fishing license beforehand.

children and grandfather having a barbecue party.

Children camping, cooking and celebrating with their grandpa.

Camp out. If he’s the outdoorsy type, consider spending a night or two camping. This will require some planning in advance, so check with him (or Mom) first to make sure his calendar is clear. Visit reserveamerica to find campgrounds in your region and to reserve a campsite.

Go hiking or biking. Another way to enjoy the outdoors is to hike or bike in scenic surroundings. My home state, Minnesota, has excellent biking and walking trails. In fact, it was recently ranked the second most bike-friendly state in the U.S. by the League of American Bicyclists (Washington was #1). Search for nature trails by city & state at trails.com.

Sample some beer or wine. Find a microbrewery or brewpub nearby and treat him to a flight to taste the various selections (e.g., pale ales, pilsners, lagers, stouts, flavored porters). Then buy him a growler filled with the beer of his choice to take home. If he prefers grapes over hops, spend the afternoon wine tasting at local wineries.

Visit a museum or historic sites. If he’s a history buff, take him to see some ancient artifacts or notable places from the past like old forts, a colonial village or civil war battlegrounds.

Ron_1_0182_001

My kids & their dad loved cruising around in this 1950 Chevy in the mid 90s.

Take a drive. One of my kids’ fondest childhood memories is going on mini road trips in their dad’s 1950 Chevrolet DeLuxe Superliner. Sometimes we’d take it to classic car shows or a small town close by. You never know what you’ll encounter along the way.

Hit the links. If he’s an avid golfer and you are too, reserve a tee time at a local course. Most courses take requests for tee times in advance but do it ASAP as they’re sure to fill up fast. Mini golf is another option.

Cultivate common interests or skills. Maybe you both like to build things, collect memorabilia, play an instrument, or run marathons. It’s more rewarding when you do it with someone else.

Dine together. If he likes to chow down, prepare a home-cooked meal for him. Whether it’s a four-course dinner or a backyard barbecue, just make sure it includes some of his favorite foods. If you’re not much of a cook, take him out to dinner and let him pick the restaurant.

Be adventurous. Thrill seekers may like river rafting, kayaking, surfing, or parasailing. Or, how about rock climbing, zip lining, bungee jumping, or four-wheeling? Note: he may need a doctor’s okay before participating in some of these extreme adventures.

RonEvanDillon_Beach

Three generations (husband, son and grandson) combing the beach in Florida this spring.

Be playful. Go on rides at an amusement park, race go-karts, play laser tag, darts, horseshoes, Frisbee golf, or a few rounds of pool. Or, hang out at the beach.

See a live performance. If he’s into music, look for concerts, musical festivals and venues in your area – JamBase.com is a good place to start. If he’s a theatergoer, take him to a play, or for a good laugh, check out a comedy club.

Visit eventsnearhere.com to find local events, including concerts, theater, exhibits, outdoor activities, lives shows & expos, and more.

As you can see there are all kinds of ways to spend quality time with your dad, granddad, or anyone who’s like a father to you. No matter what you do, the main thing is you’ll be making memories together.

Smart Perks Blogger Catherine B. no longer has her dad in her life, but she’ll always remember being daddy’s little girl.

 

Simple Heartastic Valentine’s Crafts

ValentinesFromTheHeart

Have you ever heard the saying, “Valentine’s day is a Hallmark holiday?”

Humbug!

With winter raging outside, what could be sweeter than a day spent in the craft room, making pretty things, and reveling in all things heartastical? That’s a word, right? Well, it should be.

Some people dream of warm, sun-drenched escapes. I dream of a dining room table covered with pretty papers, colorful ribbons, rubber stamps, felted wool, and lots and lots of glitter.

There’s something incredibly decadent and rejuvenating about taking some time for yourself to go off-the-grid. Turn off the tech, and tune-out the noise. Make stuff. Make meaningful stuff, that you put a little bit of yourself into, to share with your Valentines.

Here are a few ideas to get you started.

ValentineGiftWraps

Gift wrap from Cavallini Papers. Available at http://www.papersource.com.

Gift Wrap Valentines and Garlands

I found some really fun vintage and Victorian gift wrap at a local boutique and fell in love immediately. The texture and thick stock were fabulous. Too pretty to just wrap a package and have it torn up and thrown away. These Italian wraps can be found in 20 x 28″ sheets online at Paper Source.

ValentineGiftWrapGlueSissors

The first thing I did was use glue stick, thoroughly covering the back of  the wrapping paper and applying it to large sheets of tag board or thick card stock, to make it extra durable. Smooth, smooth, smooth with your hand and then set a couple books on top to make sure the paper is firmly adhered and your card stock doesn’t curl.

After just a few minutes of dry-time, it’s time to put your preschool construction paper cutting skills to work. I find this part remarkably relaxing.

ValentineGiftWrapCards

At this point, you can finish off individual Valentines with some additional flourishes such as red or pink glitter glue, fabric or Washi tape around the edges, or use a hole punch and adorn with tulle or grosgrain ribbon.

ValentineGiftWrapGarland

I decided to make a garland, and it couldn’t have been easier. I just used a hole punch and about 4 feet of red and white baker’s twine, and voila! Now I have a darling vintage garland greeting my guests, along the length of a shelf, when they come in my front door.

12615759_1311726582186843_8783036154740210494_o

Printables from Brit & Company. Find them on the Smart Perks’ Pinterest Board.

 

Valentine’s Printables

Given my affinity for cutting and pasting, my own personal Zen, I go crazy for free printables. You can find a zillion of them on the Smart Perks Pinterest boards. Here are two projects I completed this weekend.

The first are some sweet treats, Hershey’s Miniatures candy bars, wrapped in fun 90’s pop wrappers (see above). Too cute. Love to surprise my coworkers with a little something unexpected to make them smile.

12604927_1312249648801203_4559299805882500567_o

My second Free Printable Project was inspired by fellow blogger, Super Mom. This is an awesome and hilarious idea for a non-candy related Valentine that kids with allergies can enjoy. And it won’t be forgotten any time soon.  I simply glued the printed designs onto cardstock, cut them out, and I’ll use red and white baker’s twine to affix the darling Valentine’s Whoopee Cushions that I found online at Oriental Trading to the cards. I think you might want to save these for an in-home party though. Can you imagine a classroom full of third-graders with Whoopee Cushions? OH. HECK. NO.

 

12469643_1300696226623212_7531472853430588282_o

Fun With Felt

I love felt. Needle-felting is one of my favorite hobbies. It’s extremely satisfying to take a mound of raw, dyed wool and shape it into something completely new. There are many YouTube tutorials on needle-felting. All you need is clean wool, a felting needle and a piece of felting foam. Careful, those needles are sharp. I recommend Dream Felt on Etsy for all needle-felting supplies. Their wool colors are fabulous. I used their wool roving to make the felted wool hearts and ball garland shown in the main photo.

10314682_1312175645475270_5110279218104932383_n

But if you want to do something a little simpler, you can buy sheets of regular felt at Michaels or your local craft store, along with various Valentine shades of DMC embroidery floss, and create some one-of-a-kind Valentine’s coasters with a personal touch. I used some of my favorite song titles and lyrics, such as Tainted Love, You Sexy Thing, and Love is a Battlefield, to create unique Valentines that won’t be thrown away on February 15th.

You only need to know two basic stitches to complete these simple hearts – a running stitch for the word or design, and a blanket stitch to sew the two hearts together. Just cut two heart shapes from your felt, approximately 4 inches in diameter. Stitch designs on front (and back if you want), add buttons or other embellishments. Then blanket stitch the two hearts together, design-side facing out. Easy Peasy!

Obviously I had a busy weekend, working non-stop on my crafty fun times. But with 3 weekends left until Valentine’s Day, you still have plenty of time to try one of these projects, or one of the many, many others you’ll find on our Smart Perks Pinterest board. I love shopping! But handmade Valentine’s are good for the heart, and the soul! Enjoy.

Blogger Mel B., a Smart Perks employee, has pinholes in her pointer finger and a scissor blister on her knuckle.

 

 

 

 

TisTheSeason

The presents are opened, Santa has come and gone. The feasting is over, but the fun’s just begun! This is it…the movie lovers’ most wonderful time of year when the build-up to the Golden Globes® and Oscars® meets holiday blockbusters head on.

I’m personally excited for the first onscreen re-teaming of Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg since The Other Guys, in the highly anticipated Daddy’s Home. I kid, I kid. I think I’ll wait for that one to show up at The Red Box. It’s rated PG. But I have a feeling the teenagers in your household would much rather see something about “a galaxy far, far away.”

I asked a few of my colleagues around the office to share the movies they’re most looking forward to. I think there’s something for just about everyone here.

Damien Q.  Web Designer, Guest Blogger

Three movies I’m excited to see this holiday season are Krampus, The Hateful Eight and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Krampus

krampus21

Krampus – Universal Studios

Krampus is a comedy-horror based on old German folklore that goes back to pre-Christian alpine traditions. Krampus is a horned anthropomorphic figure who punishes misbehaving children, the shadow of Santa Claus. Adam Scott, known for Parks & Rec, and David Koechner, known from SNL and Anchor Man star in this creepy comedy, a throwback to ‘80s horror.

Also stars: Toni Collette, Conchatta Ferrell

The Hateful Eight

The Hateful Eight is Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film, and, as usual, is expected to be a masterpiece – currently holding a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The Hateful Eight takes place in post-Civil War Wyoming, as bounty hunters (Tarantino assembles many of his favorite actors once again) try to find shelter during a blizzard, but get involved in a plot of betrayal and deception. Mayhem ensues. Because Tarantino.

Who’s in it: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

This is the next film in a series of endless Star Wars films from Disney, but the first directed by J.J. Abrams. After the whole Jar Jar Binks debacle and other prequels, Abrams is hoping to redeem the franchise after those horrible films (IMHO) released by George Lucas from 1999 to 2005. What else can I say? Star Wars! Plot points are to be kept a secret, don’t ruin it for yourself.

Who’s in it: Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver

Catherine B. Copy Writer, Blogger

Joy

Why I want to see it: First of all, I loved Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook, so if they’re teaming up again for this one, I’m there! I believe this is the fourth film featuring these two talented actors together – I’m sure it’s because they have great chemistry and are fun to watch. Secondly, I enjoy movies about real people who overcome hardships and obstacles to fulfill their dreams. I’m also drawn to emotionally-driven comedies with interesting characters. This seems to cover all the bases.

Plot: Joy is the story of a family across four generations centered on the girl who becomes the woman who founds a business dynasty and becomes a matriarch in her own right. Betrayal, treachery, the loss of innocence and the scars of love, pave the road in this intense emotional and human comedy about becoming a true boss of family and enterprise facing a world of unforgiving commerce.

Who else is in it: Robert DeNiro, Dianne Ladd, Virginia Madsen, and Isabella Rossellini.

the-revenant-fn01

The Revenant – Mammoth Studios

The Revenant

Why I want to see it:
After watching the trailer and learning that this film is inspired by true events about survival against unspeakable odds, I’m really anxious to see this movie on the big screen. Other reasons it’s on my must-see list – it’s being touted as one of the most anticipated films of 2016 and it stars one of my favorite actors, Leonardo DiCaprio. I’ve been a big fan of his since I first saw him in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and I heard he’s spectacular in this movie. Maybe this will be the year he finally wins that elusive Oscar!

Plot:
The Revenant is an immersive and visceral cinematic experience capturing one man’s epic adventure of survival and the extraordinary power of the human spirit. In an expedition of the uncharted American wilderness in the 1800s, legendary explorer Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is brutally attacked by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team. In a quest to survive, Glass endures unimaginable grief as well as the betrayal of his confidant John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). Guided by sheer will and the love of his family, Glass must navigate a vicious winter in a relentless pursuit to live and find redemption.

Who else is in it: Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter, Kristoffer Jones

Batman V Superman: The Dawn of Justice

Why I want to see it: Also listed as one of the most anticipated films of 2016, but you’ll have to wait until March to see it! When my kids were young I’d take them to see every kind of superhero movie there was and I admit I enjoyed them as much as they did – the cool getups, the stunts, the special effects… it was pure entertainment and a great escape from our everyday lives. I’m still drawn to this genre and this particular movie piques my interest because it has two of the most popular DC comic heroes battling each other. I mean, who do you root for Superman or Batman? It’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out.

Plot: Fearing the actions of Superman (Henry Cavill) left unchecked, Gotham City’s own formidable, forceful vigilante Batman (Ben Affleck) takes on Metropolis’ most revered, modern-day savior, while the world wrestles with what sort of hero it really needs. And with Batman and Superman at war with one another, a new threat Doomsday quickly arises, putting mankind in greater danger than it’s ever known before.

Who else is in it: Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Jeremy Irons, Michael Shannon

Katie U. Copy Editor, Blogger

CWx_iOqUsAEvW4i

Sisters – Universal Studios

Sisters

Plot: Two sisters, one very loose and childish (Tina Fey), and the other uptight and divorced (Amy Poehler), throw one last party at their childhood home, which their parents are about to sell.

Why I want to see it: I’ve been waiting months to see this movie, and although it came out this past weekend, I was too busy to go see it! Tina Fey and Amy Poehler’s are nothing less than national treasures, both for their comedic abilities as well as their social activism, so I’d watch paint dry if they were the painters. This duo is truly dynamic, and getting to see them on screen again after their amazing job hosting The Golden Globes, I’m all about it.

Other stars: Maya Rudolph, John Cena, Ike Barinholtz, James Brolin

Hail Caesar

Plot: Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) is a Hollywood “fixer” helping the production of the upcoming film entitled Hail Caesar starring famous actor Baird Whitlock (George Clooney). When a hungover Whitlock is kidnapped by a group named The Future, Mannix is the one in charge of collecting $100,000 and rescuing him.

Why I want to see it: I mean, hello! A film directed and written by the Coen brothers with a crazy talented cast (I will see any movie ScarJo is in), but the plot itself sounds fascinating. It’s categorized as a comedy, drama and a musical, and that fact alone makes it seem like it will be nonstop entertaining. I’m also somewhat of a Coen brother fanatic, so altogether, it’s pretty much a can’t-miss for me.

Other stars: Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum, Emily Beecham, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand

Trumbo

Plot: Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) was a Hollywood screenwriter who, in 1947, was blacklisted along with other artists for refusing to testify to the United States Congress regarding alleged Communist propaganda in Hollywood films. He spent eleven months in federal prison in 1950.

Why I want to see it: Doesn’t this movie just seem to scream Give Me All of The Oscars? Personally, I’m excited to see Trumbo more for the historical aspect. I love biographical dramas, and although I had never heard of Dalton Trumbo specifically, I did know the history of the Hollywood Ten and found it fascinating. Though this movie seems like it might be dryer and less purely entertaining than the other two, I have the highest hopes for it.

Other stars: Diane Lane, Helen Mirren, Louis C.K., Elle Fanning, John Goodman

Santa Cinema 3D

Have fun at the Movies, Your Friends at Smart Perks!

So there you have it…nine great flicks. At my house, we’ll probably see something funny, like Sisters. Although if The Revenant were out on Christmas (not released until January 6th nationwide) I would see that for sure. I love a good man against nature survival story.

My other dark horse, if I can convince my husband to go, would be The Danish Girl. Eddie Redmayne is one of my favorite actors. He was AMAZING in The Theory of Everything, Les Miz, and My Week With Marilyn. If you’re staying home, Netflix these.

On behalf of all of us at Smart Perks, we hope your holidays are just like the movies, full of laughs and entertainment, with more love, joy and music than drama.

– Ho! Ho! Ho! from The Holly Jolly Blogger, Melanie B., a Smart Perks employee.

Santa Baby, Slip A Lipstick Under The Tree

 

12369083_1277660838926751_382592147514996650_n

Sephora’s “Oh What Fun” sample bag, free with purchase on Black Friday!

 

Santa’s coming!!!! And his cheeks won’t be the only ones that are plump and rosy this holiday season. From my girlfriends to grandmas, all the ladies on my holiday list are going to be getting their “glow” on with fabulous beauty products!

Le_Petit_Tresor_-_Too_Faced_-_2015-12-09_09.37.06

Too Faced Le Petit Tresor Lipstick Trio $29

 

After watching dozens of Carli Bybel make-up tutorials and taking advantage of each and every Black Friday, Cyber Monday and email promotion that have come across my computer, I’ve stock-piled some sensational beauty gift sets and stocking stuffers (like flash tattoos – so hot), without spending a fortune. Plus, I’ve picked up a few tips along the way to help you save and collect some rewards for yourself, too.

12342676_1277660792260089_4950766842423321164_n

Tarte Contour Palette & the Original Beauty Blender from Sephora.com

 

One of the year’s biggest trends is Contouring, providing definition with different shades of creams and blushes to play up your cheekbones or make your nose appear thinner. I watched a tutorial, and while the final result looked amazing (hello, supermodel bone structure) there were just too many products for me. Too intimidating. Enter Tarteist (from Tarte costmetics) and their color palette. All the products you’ll need in one ultra glam gold compact with an over-sized mirror. This makes a great gift for all ages. And you can add one of my favorite products, a beauty blender sponge, to help. Beauty blenders come in mini, medium and large. The one shown in the photo features a cleansing bar for your blender, too. Minis are the perfect shape to get under lashes, and all around your face and provide flawless coverage.

12313765_1277660808926754_1754609832022658314_n

Stuff Stockings with Bath Products from Lush.com, Whale Nail Brush from CB2, That Gal from Benefit Cosmetics, and the Semi Sweet Chocolate Bar Palette from  Too Faced

 

Palettes are another hot trend this year, although they’re a little on the spendy side. So the perfect eye-color palette may be the one big gift you want to get for your bestie. Urban Decay’s Naked palette is hugely popular. Bobbi Brown has several special holiday palettes for eyes, lips and cheeks as well. But my personal gift-giving favorite is from Too Faced. The tin case is shaped like a giant chocolate bar, and the 16 shadows not only come with delectable names and colors ranging from warm colors like hot chocolate and rich mocha. But the best part is, they actually smell like chocolate! (drool) It’s an expensive gift at $49. But if you purchase from a store with a rewards program, like Sephora with their VIB program or Ulta, you will earn points that you can redeem for freebies and purchases throughout the year yourself.

12314476_1277660832260085_6157869239568684779_o

Bold and sparkly…that’s the trend for holiday parties. A dramatic nail is the perfect accessory. And talk about accessorizing…check out the stylish make-up bag that comes along with this cool polish set. These are a must-have for the teens and sisters.

tarte_Holidaze_of_Giving_15pc._Gifting_Collection_-_A267775_—_QVC.com_-_2015-12-09_09.46.19

QVC’s Tarte Holidaze of Giving 15-piece Collection

 

QVC, QVC, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…in Easy Pays! If you’re running over your holiday budget for December, you can afford to really wow Mom with 4 easy pays of just $16.48 ($65.94) on this spectacular gift set from Tarte. Opening the box is like Christmas morning itself. Unwrap layer after layer of surprise. I LOVE the brushes and chubby lip pencils. The eye cream is fabulously rich. You will not be disappointed in this amazing value. QVC is also offering Easy Holiday Returns. You can send any gift back until January 31, 2016. No questions.

12357140_1277660825593419_1770694180126596448_o

Love this! Quick dry with ionic heat hair dryer from TJ Maxx, $24.99

 

TJ Maxx has really expanded it’s selection of beauty products and they even sell make-up now. It’s a great place to get bath and hair care products and beautiful luxury soaps for under $10. I fell in love with this floral-designed hair dryer, yours for only $25!

12322542_1277660822260086_3172653782237865978_o

Origins Gift Set

 

Origins Ginger Souffle Whipped Body Cream is my absolutely favorite luxury cream for after shower, in the drying winter. It’s just $33 at beauty.com, and well worth the splurge for its zesty,  invigorating scent. It’s the only Origins product I’ve tried. But the holidays are a great time to get a variety of products from a brand you love at an affordable price. Like this fantastic Origins gift set from Sephora, with a variety of products. It’s over $74 in value, for only $34. Plus, Sephora always sends samples along. These are great stocking stuffers, because everybody loves a free sample- they’re low commitment and you can’t beat the price!

I love to pamper my friends and family during the holidays with gifts that they might feel a little guilty buying for themselves. But it’s the holidays…a time to indulge. It’s the best time of year, and also typically the only time of year, when cosmetics go on sale. Case in point: Have you ever read the back of a department store coupon?

So be bold! Be bright! Be merry!

And most importantly, enjoy the gorgeous glow of this most wonderful time of year.

Happy Holidays, Melanie B, a Smart Perks employee and blogger.

 

 

 

Holiday Gift Ideas for The Hard-To-Buy-For

Picture it: the twinkling lights blinking off fresh snow, a heady evergreen-and-sugar-cookie scent in the air, a table laden with delicious treats…and no gifts under the Christmas tree due to poor planning.  Uh-oh!

sadkid

Disappointed kids on Christmas do not a merry day make.

 

Though the winter holidays are typically a time of great joy, this busy time of year is not without its trials and tribulations. Whether it is perfectly planning a five course meal with family or friends or remembering to buy gifts for said cherished ones, there are certain holiday stressors everyone is affected by. Luckily for you, we’re here to guide you with suggestions of gift ideas for the trickiest of cases, so no one in your circle gets forgotten.

Got a gadget-obsessed great uncle but you’re kind of a Luddite? A friend’s daughter who is obsessed with some trendy toy you’ve never heard of? Help is on the way! Spanning price ranges and generations, we’ve got you covered.

For Preteens Who “Just Hate Everything”:

Groovy Coloring Books

We were all in that stage once: you’re 11 and everything is the worst and no one understands me. Well, they might not know it yet but they need to chill out. And what better way to relax with a coloring book! You may have heard that coloring books are making a big comeback – and are totally not just for little kids anymore. Now, there are numerous options for the hip preteens in your life, including our favorite: Oodles of Doodles: Over 200 Pictures to Complete and Create. This coloring book inspires creativity with a few drawings here and there, encouraging the artist to finish the page themselves. Another great one is the Creative Haven Fanciful Faces Coloring Book, a crowd favorite which has detailed outlines of psychedelic portraits.

Coloring BookFanciful Faces

For older kids (and preteens with great taste in music) there’s also the Indie Rock Coloring Book which has illustrations dedicated to some of the most popular indie musicians, such as Iron and Wine or Hot Chip. Bonus? A portion of the proceeds goes to music-related charities, so you’re (in a good way!) double-gifting.

Alternate Ideas: Emily + Meritt Animal Headphones, Gameband Minecraft, Classic Chuck Taylors

For Your Best Friend’s Young Kid:

A Gaming Toothbrush

We’ve all noticed how into gaming and technology kids are these days, but this gift combines those things…with hygiene. Confused? So were we! But the Grush Gaming Toothbrush is a genius way to get kids to enjoy brushing their teeth, helping them visualize their brushing in a fun, healthy way. Instead of getting your BFF’s baby a game that will rot their brain or something noisy like drums that will rot your friend’s brain, this interactive toothbrush is giving them the best of both worlds.

 

grush gaming toothbrush.png

Grush works by displaying a personalized game on a handheld device and guiding the child with the moves to perfectly brush each quadrant of the mouth for 30 seconds. The results can even be sent to the parent, helping them track their child’s progress.

Don’t be worried about seeming like a weirdo getting a kid a toothbrush; kids really do like the darndest things. For instance, at the age of 8 one of my favorite gifts was a suction-cup magnifying mirror. (Note: the staff of SmartPerks doesn’t recommend buying this for your niece or nephew, no matter how weird they are.)

Monster hoodie

Monster Hoodie, $39 at BustedTees

Alternate Ideas: Monster Hoodie, FurReal Friends, Imaginext Ultra T-Rex

 

For Gadget Heads:

Futuristic Wireless Device

The Amazon Echo is a wireless speaker and voice command device brought to you by Amazon. Voiced by “Alexa,” consider the Echo a pseudo-assistant. As it’s designed around your voice, think of Echo like a tabletop version of the iPhone’s Siri – but more advanced. It can make to do lists, set your alarms, give real-time info like traffic and weather, and of course also play music from a variety of sources. Amazon Echo

At $179.99, it is definitely a splurge, and maybe more of a gift for a family or a super special friend, but any tech-y person would be ecstatic to get this gadget they might not have bought themselves. Functional but fun, tiny but mighty, the Amazon Echo would be welcome in any savvy smart home.

Alternate Ideas:  UP4 by Jawbone, Perfect Drink App-Controlled Smart Bartending, Tile Dongle

For Your Uncle (or adult brother, boyfriend, husband or dad):

A Gift-of-the-Month Club

Sure, you’ve thought of a gift-of-the-month club before for a special man in your life, but then decided it wasn’t personal enough. That’s all changed. No matter how specific the interests of your male loved one are, there’s a gift-of-the-month club for them.

Do you have a forgetful, quirky male relative always wearing socks so holey they seem biblical? Check out Sock Club, which delivers American made socks directly to your door.

Know an adorkable dude who refuses to grow up? Look into LootCrate, which has an assortment of gamer-related gifts.

Sophisticated cigar connoisseur, always looking for the next trend? SmartPerks has an awesome discount with Cigars International! Just use promo code SA4360 to send your loved one four new cigars a month!

Are there some big foodies in your family? There are gift-of-the-month clubs for hot sauce, a variety of meats and cheeses, and even alcohol! Our favorite is the long standby Club W, which personalizes your wine delivery based on your tastes.

There are plenty more exotic ones, so look around! Get creative. Everyone likes a fun, free surprise each month. Gift-of-the-month clubs fulfill that without you even having to run to the store.

barware

The Great Deal Company’s Stainless Steel Bar Set, only $39.99

Alternate Ideas: Smart Control Remote, Whiskey StonesStainless Steel Bar Set

 

 

For the Picky Mother-in-Law:

You’ve screwed up one too many times with your persnickety MIL. The baking supplies you happily gifted her last year were met with a snarky comment about how she already owns five whisks; what does she need with another? And so it’s gone for years.

But not this year. This year, you’ll get her something the whole family will appreciate; a one-two punch of a gift. Organize a time all of your extended family can get together, and hire a professional photographer to take family photographs. That’s not it. Also, have them each write a letter or note (kids can draw pictures) of what this matriarch means to them. Then, gather all of the photos in a personalized scrapbook/photo album with the notes and drawings. Sit back, relax, and smugly watch as your MIL is blown away by the thoughtfulness of this gift. It’s personal, sweet and endearing. She’ll never look at you the same way again! Warning: you’ll be setting a high standard for all future gifts, but worry about that next year.

Bluetooth activity tracker

Bluetooth Activity Tracker, $49.99 from the Great Deal Company

Alternate Ideas: Bluetooth Activity Tracker, Crafting Classes, Restaurant Gift Cards

The holidays are the happiest time of the year. Hopefully, with our gift suggestions, even your hardest-to-please loved ones will share in your joy. Have more ideas? Shout them out in the comments!

Blogger Katie U, a Smart Perks employee, would like all of these gifts herself, especially the cheese-of-the-month box.

 

How To Survive Hosting a Big Family Thanksgiving

2293fa420475ce6866721b51de139e84

Practically everyone I know looks forward to Thanksgiving.

It’s one of the few times you can get together with family or friends to catch up on each others’ lives and reminisce, and of course watch a little football.

But, let’s be honest the main attraction is the feast… turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes & gravy, pumpkin pie topped with real whipped cream… oh, yeah!

Slice of pumpkin pie served on antique china. Bacground of assorted pumpkins and what is left of the baked pie.

Sure, you may have to loosen up your belt a bit (or change into your lounge pants) after indulging in all the glorious food, but you can always diet for days afterward to cancel out all the calories you’ve consumed. That’s what I tell myself anyway.

My family has been hosting this holiday for years. At first it seemed a little daunting and stressful, but now that we’ve got it down to a science, we actually enjoy it. Besides, everyone contributes something towards the meal. We’re just responsible for the turkey, stuffing, potatoes and gravy.

Of course, we need to take care of all the preparations, too ― shopping for groceries and other essentials, thawing the turkey (I buy frozen because it’s cheaper), cleaning the house, setting the tables and getting up at the crack of dawn to stuff the bird and throw it in the oven. Fortunately, my husband and kids pitch in and somehow it all comes together in the end.
If this is your first time hosting and you have no clue what to do, don’t sweat it. I’ve got some tricks to help make your turkey day a success.

  • Plan ahead. This is a must! I decide on the menu weeks in advance and ask each guest to bring something, like a side dish, salad, rolls or dessert, oh and a bottle of wine (you can never have too much wine).
  • From there, I make a list of the things I need to buy and shop around for the best deals. Stores generally offer discounts on turkeys, breadcrumbs for stuffing, and other popular Thanksgiving fare days or even weeks before the holiday.
  • Thaw the turkey. If you do get a frozen turkey, you’ll want to purchase it a week or more in advance. The reason being it takes about 5 days to thaw a 20-24 lb. turkey in your fridge. The folks at Jennie-O have some tips on how to properly thaw a frozen turkey.
  • Make sure there’s enough tableware. We tend to have a big crowd every year (25-28 people), so I usually end up borrowing extra plates, glasses, silverware, serving bowls, and platters from a relative or friend. I don’t worry about them matching. Everyone will be so busy eating they’re not going to notice (or care)! Besides, mixing different patterns and colors make your presentation a little more interesting and avant-garde.
  • Tidy up the house. I de-clutter and clean the house, at least the rooms my guests will see, in stages. Otherwise, it can be too overwhelming. I do the dusting and vacuuming a day or two before the event so everything stays clean. A word of advice ― recruit family members to lend a hand, even if you have to bribe them!
  • Set the table the day before. It gives you one less thing to do on Thanksgiving Day. I cover them with nice tablecloths (if I need extra, I’ll borrow one or two from my mom or sister-in-law), and place napkins and silverware at each place setting. I also make sure I have salt & pepper shakers at each table.
    GHK image

    Photo by Good Housekeeping.

    As for the centerpieces, I create my own with candles, miniature gourds & pumpkins, and different colored leaves. Need some inspiration? Check out these do-it-yourself centerpieces on Pinterest.

  • Timing is key. This is where it gets tricky. You have to figure out how long it’s going to take to prepare everything (turkey, potatoes, gravy, sides, etc.) so the whole meal is done at the same time. It helps to do what you can ahead of time and have your guests bring pre-cooked or pre-made items so all you need to do is heat them up in the oven or microwave, or keep them chilled until you’re ready to eat.
  • Start with the turkey as it takes the longest. Usually the packaging includes cooking instructions. If not, you can look them up online at www.allrecipes.com. It also depends on whether or not your turkey is stuffed. Some people prefer to have the stuffing outside of the bird, but our family has always cooked the stuffing inside the turkey. Either way be sure to remove those little bags of giblets (heart, liver, neck, etc.) from the turkey before you pop it in the oven. In fact, you may want to cook up some of those little gizzards and add them to your stuffing to make it more flavorful. Here’s a recipe for classic giblet stuffing from Better Homes & Gardens.centerpieces country living
  • Make it casual. We have our guests arrive early in the afternoon for “social hour” with wine and cider, and some light appetizers (crackers & cheese, veggies & dip, etc.) before dinner. The main meal is served buffet style ― it’s less formal and more manageable. My husband carves the turkey and everybody dishes up their own plates then finds a place at the table.
  • Take time to enjoy the meal and each others’ company. In fact, we don’t start clearing the table until everyone is finished. Most of the time we’re all so stuffed after the meal we wait an hour or two to have dessert, giving us time to relax, catch up on the game, or take a stroll around the neighborhood.
  • Ask for help. I find that people (in my case it’s the women) are always willing to help out, whether it’s setting out the food, clearing the table, or doing the dishes. We talk and laugh a lot in the process so we don’t mind being stuck in the kitchen while the others are sacked out on the sofa.

Finally, don’t panic! I decided a long time ago not to fret over things like lumpy gravy or mismatched silverware. After all, it’s dinner with your relatives or friends, not the royal family!

Here’s to a happy and stress-free Thanksgiving!

Pinterest_Discover_and_save_creative_ideas_-_2015-11-12_11.43.19

Click here for Free Thanksgiving Chalkboard Printables.

Blogger Catherine B, a Smart Perks employee, enjoys a good Riesling with her turkey.

Holiday Cards: Adding More Joy to Your World, Less Humbug to Your Holidays

12182903_1255643567795145_8325482543627263833_o

Ebeneezer Scrooge has finally gotten hold of me in the last couple years.

At least when it comes to Christmas cards. Or Valentine’s, Easter, Halloween and Thanksgiving. I have been single-handedly doing my part to keep the greeting card industry and United States Postal Service afloat for over two decades now. Chew on this. According to the Greeting Card Association, 1.6 billion cards were sent out last holiday season. The cost of a first class stamp is .49¢. So assuming no over-sized cards, which require additional postage, that’s $735,000,000 in postage alone.

12188098_1255643537795148_1703876166815343819_o

This year I was seriously considering humbugging it and making the switch to email cards. Or a text message. (shudder, chortle, snort). I kid. I will NEVER send Season’s Greetings via a text message.

However, I’m a “reach-out and touch someone” kinda gal. I don’t want anyone to stare into a cavernous, empty mailbox and hear the echo of “Hellllllooooooo in there”, a la Charlie Brown. Call me Mary Sunshine, but I want to make people smile. I want my friends, neighbors, coworkers, the people I’ve fallen out of touch with over the years, to know that I still think of them warmly and wish them the best.

Besides, despite all the time and money associated with sending holiday cards, sending them makes ME feel good. I enjoy the tradition. I also love going to the mailbox and seeing some brightly colored envelopes, with a return address from someone I miss. 12185008_1255686671124168_2853116667187239140_oAlthough I have to admit, through the joys of social networking, my three dogs have more friends, and receive way more cards than I do. True story!

Don’t get me wrong, if I don’t get a card from you, I won’t feel snubbed. I understand the pressures of life and the need to put first things first. No one can get every single thing done that they want to do. But making cards is something I enjoy.

290860_327522450607266_1125760667_o

So right about now, this time of year, you’ll probably find me spending at least a Saturday afternoon or two, sitting in my craft room, listening to Christmas tunes and making cards.

Making my own cards gives me a chance to play, get glitter on my face, exhale and most importantly put some of myself into my cards. 337661_327967827229395_574144619_oI don’t make all my cards, but maybe a couple dozen for close friends and family. Like this one, that I made for my cousins to remind them of the Christmases we spent together growing up.

I know that not everyone hoards craft supplies year-round. Not everyone has separate boxes stacked on separate shelves in their craft cupboard, one for craft papers and stickers, another for rubber stamps and ink pads, or 4 wooden dowels that hold about a dozen or more spools of festive ribbon each. My husband will be the first to tell you how expensive craft supplies are. Well, you should never pay full price for craft supplies.

324192_323137511045760_1385003980_o

If you have a Gmail account, Google has gone through the trouble to sort your emails for you. That means you have one whole tab just for Promotions. Virtually EVERY single company you sign up for emails with offers a first time subscriber discount or coupon to use either online or in the store.

After that, whenever you need a coupon or coupon code, you simply click on your Promotions tab, and I promise you will find an email with a discount, usually percent off coupons, for one item or your entire purchase and/or free shipping. You’ll also get advance notice of sales. And, you don’t have to see them until you need them with the Promotions tab. This works for Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, Crafts Direct, JoAnn Fabrics. If you still get a newspaper, Michael’s has a flier every week containing coupons for 20-50% off one item, and a percent off your entire purchase. During Black Friday, they’ll even give you a percentage off sale prices.

One of my favorite Smart Perks partners, Expressionery, has an email sign-up incentive of $10 off your first $30 purchase with free shipping. You’ll also find additional discounts at http://www.smartperks.com. Expressionery is a great source for self-inking address stamps. So much easier than labeling! You can really power through your stacks of envelopes in minutes. Colorful Images is my go-to source for personalized shipping and gift labels. They always have a great discount available online.

12208607_1255741621118673_1101115369277925511_n

Tiny Prints and Snapfish are my go to online sources for holiday photo cards. Being as my husband and I don’t have children, but have three dogs, our dogs are usually the highlight of our cards. In fact, I actually got a complaint last year for sending a photo card with a photo of just my husband and I. Some years I’ll have such a hard time choosing from my favorite photos, I’ll have to order more than one card. I go for natural poses for the holiday cards, just catching the pups doing what they do, being their goofy selves.

While I’ve received discounts from both Tiny Prints and Snapfish, both online and in my mailbox already this year, I typically wait to do my ordering of photo cards until Black Friday. peanutsstamps-1441218230778-23546992-ver1-0-900-675-153806You’ll not only get the best prices of the season, but you’ll receive your cards back in plenty of time to get them in the mail.  If you want to ensure your cards arrive on time, try to get them to the post office no later than the end of the second week of December, or earlier if you’re mailing cards outside the U.S.

Well, I’d better get busy…those cards aren’t going to make themselves.When it stops being enjoyable for me and turns into a chore, that’s when I know it’s time to scale back. But in the meantime, whether you send cards or not, whether you celebrate the holidays or not, whichever holiday you celebrate, I hope you take time to pause and enjoy the season and create your own traditions.

379129_328081437218034_528940642_n

Blogger Melanie B, a Smart Perks employee, can’t wait to watch Elf a half dozen times. Smiling is her favorite, too. 

How to have a spooktacular, spine-tingling Halloween!

WitchesQuote

Did you know Halloween is second only to Christmas in terms of holiday sales?

Think about it. Retail stores start peddling giant bags of bite size candy bars, countless costumes & props, and spooky decorations right after Labor Day.

Suffice to say we’re really into this holiday. I guess some folks just enjoy being scared out of their wits, while others like to dress up as gory and ghoulish characters to fulfill some macabre fantasy. If you look at the barrage of horror flicks dominating the box office year after year, and our growing and somewhat mind-boggling fascination with zombies (The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead … need I say more?), it comes as no surprise that Halloween seems to be rising in popularity.

Dressing up is my favorite part of Halloween and nowadays you can find an amazing array of costumes for infants through adults and even some awesome outfits for your pooch. Then there are the hundreds of online stores that focus solely on Halloween! If you plan on buying your costumes this year, Smart Perks’ featured partner this month is Costume Discounters. Use promo code SUPER25 and receive 25% off any purchase.

Costumes

However, if you want to try your hand at making homemade costumes, Pinterest is chock-full of ideas for creating some really clever costumes. There are some of the most adorable and imaginative costumes for kids I’ve ever seen! The old man from the Pixar’s movie “UP” is a personal favorite.

il_570xN.778343910_k16x comic book character

If you want to be super-scary, makeup is the key. Buzzfeed.com has lots of fabulous makeup tricks to try from creepy to cool. I love this one, featuring a comic book heroine that looks just like Roy Lichtenstein’s “Crying Girl”. The resemblance is AMAZING.

skeleton door

I also look forward to seeing our neighborhood decked out for Halloween every year. I can’t believe the work some people put into it. Yards filled with makeshift gravestones, frightful motion-activated lawn ornaments that moan, howl or growl, ghosts, bats and skeletons hanging from trees, glowing jack-o-lanterns, and the Grim Reaper guarding front doorways. It’s amazing! I admit some of this stuff scares the bejeezus out of me, but that’s the idea, right?

All I can say is people really put a lot of thought and creativity (and money) in their Halloween décor. But, if you want them to be unique and save some dough, hand-crafted decorations are the way to go.

Again Pinterest is an excellent source for do-it-yourself decorations. My daughter’s family made these clever Halloween lanterns out of old milk jugs. First they drew faces on each jug with black marker then placed glow sticks inside so they light up at night.

HalloweenMilkJugs
As for celebrating Hallows Eve, a lot of establishments host costume contests and some cities even have zombie pub crawls. Yes, people actually dress up like zombies and go bar hopping, often leaving a fake limb or earlobe behind. Zombie-Pub-CrawlTheme parks and malls (like the Mall of America here in Minneapolis) often offer special Halloween events for kids and adults, and you can usually find a number of haunted venues in major cities and suburbs throughout the U.S.

If you prefer to celebrate at home, you’ll find all kinds of recipes and party ideas for Halloween at Foodnetwork.com!

Creative_Ways_to_Use_Halloween_Candy_from_Food_Network_and_HGTV_Food_Network_-_2015-10-19_11.10.30

Still looking for more spooktacular fun? Pop Sugar is a great source for fun and cheap ways to celebrate Halloween.

Happy Haunting!
Catherine “Cat” B, a Smart Perks employee and Good Witch-In-Chief