October 29, 2012

If you’re throwing a party this Halloween, do something unique that will make your party one to remember. Instead of just buying candies and chocolates from the store like everybody else does, have your guests take home some memorable homemade party favors. Here are some ideas for fun and sassy party favors your Halloween party guests will absolutely adore.

Design Your Own Coffin

Since Halloween is all about ghouls, ghosts, and vampires, make your guests design their own edible coffins. Bake a few batches of cookies, gingerbread, or whatever pastry you can cut into the shape of a coffin. When the pastries have been shaped and cooled, set them aside.

Don’t forget to buy materials for decorating the coffins. Chocolate or strawberry syrup, mini marshmallows, chocolate or rainbow sprinkles, crushed nuts, fruits – it’s up to you. Make sure you set up a separate coffin station so your guests can sit down while working on their designs.

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October 25, 2012

Entertaining unexpected visitors can be somewhat troublesome. Many hosts aim to impress with complicated dishes, but this often leaves too little time to actually enjoy their guests’ company. At the same time, guests could be craving more than the usual popcorn and soda. Hopefully, with our Sensational Snacks from Around the World, you’ll be able to find some simple snack ideas that are guaranteed to please.

Moroccan Hard-boiled Eggs

This twist on the old-fashioned hard-boiled egg is easy – just slice the egg open and sprinkle with cumin. It’s a Middle Eastern favorite that is sure to please even the most jaded of appetites, and the cumin helps with your digestion too!

German Sandwiches

This European take on the traditional open-faced sandwich is made of a slice of bread, a dollop of cream cheese, and thinly sliced cucumbers. Run a rolling pin over the bread or use soda crackers for extra thinness. It’s a snack that can also double as a cocktail canape.


Photo by bandita via flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0

Hawaiian Musubi

Because Hawaii is a melting pot of food cultures, nothing shouts “Aloha!” louder than this Americanized version of sushi. All you need is a block of sticky rice, some pan-fried Spam, and Japanese dried seaweed to wrap it all in. Your guests will find themselves asking, “Why didn’t I think of this before?”

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October 24, 2012

Halloween used to be more about kids wearing spooky costumes and going door-to-door seeking candy. However, now that you’re all grown up, you need an exciting and appealing substitute for trick-or-treating that will make your holiday unforgettable. Here are some off-beat Halloween party ideas that will help ensure you won’t miss the fun on October 31.


Image by Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Hogwarts Halloween

The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling is not just young adult fiction; it is now also a cult classic that even grown-ups can appreciate. Have your guests come as Harry Potter characters, and serve snacks and cocktails like All Flavor Beans and Butter Beer. Place a sign above your door that says, “Platform 9 ¾,” and add an element of surprise by using a Sorting Hat to divide your guests into houses. Organize games such as Muggle Quidditch. The house with the most points at the end of the party gets a prize. You can even set up your house to look like the Leaky Cauldron!

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October 18, 2012

Who does not love candy corn? Hardly anyone can recall a Halloween spent trick-or-treating without receiving a handful of these sweet, delightful kernels – and rightly so. First produced in the 1880s, this classic candy has become an American favorite, and has even inspired a Christmas tree design!

But did you know that there’s more to candy corn than meets the eye? Here are some crazy candy corn facts that you probably haven’t heard:

  1. National Candy Corn Day is celebrated on October 30. This date being the day just before Halloween, we bet it was invented by adults as an excuse to get candy corn into their tummies before kids could take them away!
  2. Candy corn has 3.57 calories per kernel. In fact, one cup of candy corn has only 140 calories – lower than the calorie content of one cup of raisins. These little kernels contain mostly sugar and corn syrup, with small amounts of marshmallows and fondant for a soft texture. It’s also completely fat-free!
  3. If you put together all the candy corn made in a single year, you’d have 35 million pounds or 9 billion kernels — enough candy to go to the moon and back 21 times if laid end-to-end.
  4. Candy corn used to be available only between March to November because of the availability of the ingredients. Since then, corn syrup and sugar have become available year-round, letting you buy candy corn whenever you feel like it.
  5. Candy corn is not just for Halloween. Different variants include “Indian corn”, a brown, orange, and white kernel for Thanksgiving; blueberry coddler candy corn, a uniquely Canadian variety; “reindeer corn”, with a green end and red center made for Christmas; and the red-and-pink “cupid corn”, which is available during Valentine’s Day.
  6. History played a role in making candy corn what it is today: when it was first made in the 1880s, candy corn (which was called “buttercream” back then) was a hit with farmers because of its appearance and because it provided them with energy for long days in the field.
  7. Because of its popularity, candy makers experimented with other vegetable shapes, such as turnips. In the 1970s, many candy companies had to close shop due to a rise in sugar prices. Other companies stayed afloat, thanks to the seasonal demand for candy corn.
  8. Candy corn was first made by hand. The ingredients were combined and cooked in large kettles. The mixture was then poured into hand-made molds. It was a backbreaking process that required a lot of labor. Of course, everything is now made by special machines.

Next time you open a pack of candy corn, think of the history and the effort that made it the holiday favorite that it is now. As you chew on those cute little kernels of fun, remember that you are not just enjoying a candy; you’re also taking part in a tradition. Enjoy munching!

October 11, 2012

Every home should have a conversation piece that sparks the interest of guests. Such pieces express your sense of personal style, as well as ensure that you and your guests will have something to talk about. Whether you’re decorating a new place or just spicing up your current residence, our list of trendy ideas for conversation pieces will help you inject an extra dose of style into your home.

Vintage is in vogue!

Little vintage pieces such as old typewriters or even a chest have the potential to start a conversation, especially now that more people are starting to appreciate the good old days when almost everything was in analog. Even today’s electronic devices, such as telephones and cameras, have their vintage roots, so you can never go wrong with a collection of old but still usable items. Just remember to dust them off before putting them on display.

Scour the flea markets!

Conversation pieces don’t have to be expensive to be interesting. Most of the time, second-hand items can be just as if not more intriguing than items from high-end galleries or upscale boutiques.  Scour flea markets or online shops for unique items such as antique home décor, retro furniture or paintings by lesser-known artists – you can rest assured that the conversation piece you end up with won’t be found elsewhere.

Feature your family!

Pictures of family only get better with age, especially if they document the different stages of your life. But, you don’t have to stop at photos. For an extra nostalgic yet heartwarming touch, feature items that belong to your parents or grandparents, such as medals and old pictures, in a covered frame. Completely unique to you, family-focused conversation pieces never go out of style.

Entertain with the exotic!

You don’t have to be a traveler to appreciate different cultures. Because urban areas are already melting pots for people of diverse origins, it is easy to find items that reflect their respective countries. In fact, finding such items could be as simple as going on an exploration of Chinatown or Little Italy. A nice wall hanging featuring Chinese calligraphy or a piece of fine glass ware from Italy might get the conversation going if you have guests who are really passionate about their roots or simply curious about other cultures.

Fill it up with fun!

A fun way of getting your guests involved in a conversation is to engage them in making something decorative for your home, and then displaying the finished piece afterwards. For example, you could have small papier-mâché bowls that your visitors could paint, or a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle that you could frame and hang on your wall once it’s completed. Get your guests happy and active, and the conversations will naturally flow.

You don’t need to spend much to make your home interesting. All it needs is a bit of imagination and creativity to get the conversation started. Have at least one piece of each category in your home and watch as your guests go “Oooooh!” and ask you about them. Happy chatting!

October 9, 2012

Whatever the occasion, a game night is a great opportunity to gather friends, family, and new people together and have fun. Offering a night of entertainment for all ages, game night is often a popular choice over parties when it comes to catching up with family and making new friends. So if you want to get people together for a simple yet fun celebration, here are some tips on how to host a lively game night:

Choose an enticing theme

Setting a theme is a wonderful way to catch everyone’s interest in participating, and it’ll also limit what you need to prepare yourself. Besides, it allows participants to mentally prepare for the event, making the game more exciting when it’s finally time to play. Whether you’re playing classic board games, trivia games or modern games like Settlers of Catan, you’ll all get to know each other in a different way.

Select a suitable game

The kind of game depends on many things: the number of guests, the age group, and how long you want the activity to take. For larger audiences, opt for games that are more flexible and have simpler rules. Try classics like Trivial Pursuit, Taboo, and Pictionary. Board games like Monopoly and Scrabble are ideal for smaller, more casual or family-oriented gatherings, although kids may not be too keen on serious games. Wii games and other popular board games like Snakes and Ladders are great options if a lot of kids are on the list. You can also divide the night into different games based on age (example, grandparents’ round).

Have a game master

Just like quiz nights, game nights need a master of ceremonies to keep the event organized and rolling. This should be someone energetic who can establish a laid-back, fun ambiance. Of course, it doesn’t hurt if this person knows all of the participants and can put them at ease. The game master also clearly lays down all the rules of the games to avoid confusion.

Prepare your home 

Find the largest space in your home where you can set up tables and chairs or position rugs and pillows for people to sit on. Set a festive ambiance by providing upbeat music.

Serve sumptuous food

Food and drinks definitely spell more fun. Get an estimate of the number of people you expect to arrive so you’ll have enough (but not too much) food. Choose snacks that are simple to eat, like finger foods, and something popular with most people. Chicken tenders, salads, bread sticks with cheese dips, chips, and sweets like brownies are great energy boosters. Wine and cocktails are perfect for an adult audience, but if you’re serving alcoholic drinks, it may be wise to limit the amount available.

Get everyone over

With game nights, invitations need not be formal, though you still need to invite people early. Just make sure to have an RSVP so you know how many guests are most likely to make it.  

Careful preparation is the number one rule for a host. So get a team together, brainstorm, and plan all the details for a game night to remember.

October 4, 2012

Fall is such a lovely season – leaves change colors from deep greens to intense reds and yellows, the weather gets a bit nippier, and the sun starts to set earlier in the day. With all this natural beauty at your fingertips, it’s the perfect time to be inspired by the fall landscape and redecorate your home.

Since fall is the time for festive meals and harvest celebrations, we’ve put together a list of refreshing centerpiece ideas you can be sure no one else has. Sweet, simple and always stylish, these pieces will have your friends asking you where they can get one, too!

Pumpkin power!

Pumpkins are great not just for Halloween; they also make refreshing centerpieces. Hollow out a pumpkin and insert a florist’s foam block where you can stick stems of flowers. You can paint the pumpkin in autumn colors for a more subdued look, or , use glittery paint for a bit of glamorous shimmer. Perfect flowers for this kind of centerpiece include sunflowers, carnations, or Asiatic lilies. This centerpiece adds a welcome splash of color to otherwise lackluster tables.

Acorn autumn! 

For a fresh take on a candle holder, take a tall, clear glass jar and fill it with acorns two-thirds of the way up. The acorns provide a sturdy base in which you can insert brightly colored taper candles for a simple, chic effect. Wrap some tweed or jute rope midway around the jar for the finishing touch. You can also use pine cones in different colors if you can’t find acorns. It’s a rustic centerpiece that can stand on its own, and the candles make it great for cozy nights at home. It can also be used year-round; just replace the acorns with whatever is in season.

Fruit fiesta!

Take a small box and fill it with seasonal fruits. The more beat-up the box, the better – you can also take a newer one and stain it to give it some character. Dark-toned fruits make this centerpiece more interesting, so if you can, use blackcurrants, prunes, plums, and figs for a deep purple theme. You can also fill small wooden buckets with chrysanthemums and purple dahlias to go with the fruit crate.

Live it up with lanterns!

Hurricane lanterns have a particularly strong seasonal feel, especially since the wind tends to get stronger at this time of year. To make one into an intriguing centerpiece, take an O-shaped piece of floral foam, decorate it with autumn leaves, and place the hurricane lantern in the middle. Try surrounding the lantern with dried reeds, sticks, acorns, or pine cones for even more splashes of color! This is an easy centerpiece that looks great on the dinner table.

Autumn-themed centerpieces are easy to make and are even easier on the eye. Try these suggestions and bring the autumn outdoors into your home!

October 3, 2012

Oktoberfest Trivia 2012

Beer and more beer – the two things that often come to mind when you hear the word “Oktoberfest.” But if you think beer covers everything the fest has to offer, think again. There’s more to the biggest beer festival in October than lager and lederhosen. Here are some not-so-well-known facts surrounding this well-known event:

The first Oktoberfest celebrated a wedding

In 1810, the first Oktoberfest was held in Munich to celebrate the wedding of Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese. More than 40,000 citizens of Munich attended the festivities held in front of the city gates, which lasted 5 days.

Beer was not available at the first Oktoberfest

Only alcohol was available and it had to be bought outside the venue. Beer was only made available at Oktoberfest when organizers opened the activity to vendors and beer halls became popular.

Oktoberfest starts in September

Oktoberfest takes place over 16-19 days. While the first Oktoberfest was held in October, it now begins in September, with the last weekend of the fest held in October. This is to take advantage of better weather (it is less chilly).

Non-alcoholic drinks are aplenty

From coffee and tea to water and lemonade, other beverages are also available for those who choose to drink something other than beer during the festival. Sparkling wine, some of the best of which is produced in Germany, is also widely available. Average statistics for Oktoberfest show 222,725 liters of coffee and tea, and 808,765 ½ liters of water and lemonade are consumed at each festival, albeit this is a far cry from the approximate 6,940,600 liters of beer!

Oktoberfest is family-friendly

With carousels, carnival rides, parades, musical performances and the like, Oktoberfest is a fun festival for the entire family. There is even a Family Day every Tuesday when special discounts are given until 6PM.

The fest is also a haven for food lovers

Aside from the millions of gallons of beer downed at Oktoberfest, sumptuous food is also aplenty. From hendl (grilled chicken) to brezel (giant German soft pretzels), you’ll enjoy not only a variety of the best beer around, but also an array of specialty foods that are unique and simply delish! Relish Shweinshaxe (Bavarian pork knuckles), or try an oxen dish, Knockwurst (German sausage), or Kasespatzle (cheese noodles) while enjoying your beer or sparkling wine.

Oktoberfest hosts an annual crossbow shooting contest

Another anticipated event, this contest is held in the Armbrustschutzenzelt tent every year.

Festivities have been cancelled 24 times

Tragic events led to the cancellation of Oktoberfest, such as cholera epidemics in 1854 and 1873, the Franco-Prussian War, World War I, and World War II.

“O’zapft is” is Oktoberfest’s magic phrase

Meaning, “It is tapped,” this is the phrase that officially opens Oktoberfest. The mayor of Munich taps the first beer barrel and shouts this phrase to the crowd. What happens next is history.

Go ahead and join this famous food and beerfest. Just make sure to watch out for bierleichen (beer corpses)!

September 25, 2012

If you’re looking for a cool alternative to the traditional green tree, a pink Christmas tree is the way to go. It helps heighten the fun and usher in the innocent spirit of Christmas. Start the holiday celebrations early by putting up a pink tree and decorating it with these ideas:

Monochromatic

Pink trees are vibrant as they are and for some, adding more color can be overwhelming. Make it simple by using a monochromatic theme, like a variety of ornaments and garlands in varying shades of pink. The key is to add texture to the design by using ornaments of different shapes, sizes, and materials.

Whimsical

Create a whimsical look by using silver and clear ornaments. Combine large clear balls with smaller lilac ones. You can stick to Christmas balls only, but use as many as possible so the tree doesn’t look patchy and bare in some places. Decorate with crystal drops and garlands, then string clear lights to create more drama.

Victorian

If you want to retain the traditional look, go for a Victorian theme. To achieve this, choose artificial Christmas trees in a soft shades of pink. Hang ornaments in hues of burgundy, old rose, cream, and gold. For an authentic Victorian feel, create your own garlands using cream-colored paper chains or popcorn and cranberry garlands.

Bring out old Christmas cards, border with lace, and hang as onrnaments. Hunt for vintage-style toys like metal trucks and mini-dolls. Make burgundy mini-cornucopias and place some candy. Light up this pretty tree with battery-operated tea lights, clear mini-Christmas lights, or LED candle lights.

Flower Garden

Another way to create a contemporary look is by decorating your tree with clusters of flowers in purple, deep pink, and red hues. Choose different kinds of flowers from small flowers in clusters to big, single flowers. Complete the garden feel with light green leaves.

Pink Wonderland

A pink tree is a beautiful backdrop for a winter wonderland design. To achieve this, use white and silver ornaments and garlands. Snowflake ornaments and silver tinsel garlands are perfect for this theme. Intersperse cotton on the branches to look like faux snow.

Sweet and Funky

Give kids a Christmas tree to remember with a candy theme. Pink trees often evoke thoughts of cotton candy and sweet treats anyway! Do your kids a favor by decorating the tree with ornaments in candy colors or pastel colors that remind you of cupcakes or ice cream. Hanging a few real candies won’t hurt, either!

As with any Christmas tree, decorating a pink tree is more fun when spent with loved ones. Ask family members for ideas and try to incoporate a little bit of everyone’s suggestions. This way, you’ll have a stylish tree that represents all your individual personalities.

September 18, 2012

Thoughts of the holiday season often include images of a winter wonderland. Many people anticipate Christmas not only for the festivities and gifts, but for the magical landscape that comes with the season.

Setting up a white Christmas tree is perhaps the best way to exude the whimsical flair of winter in your home. Here are some tips on how to decorate a white tree:

Decide on a Theme

The most important aspect of creating a stylish white tree is the theme. Colors vividly stand out on a white background and a few hues results in a captivating tree. A favorite design is the red-and-white theme. Hang red ornaments and garlands to create a fun look brings out the child in anyone. Santa ornaments also fit well in this color theme. Add some real peppermints for the kids, too!

Another delightful theme is the winter wonderland look with snowflake and crystalline drop ornaments as main decorations. You can achieve this by adding cotton flocking to the tree and placing reindeer or ornaments depicting winter festivities. For a more sophisticated look, go for a gold-and-silver theme with tinsel and glittery or metal ornaments. Those with a bold streak can completely go out-of-the-box and use vibrant hues like purples and pinks.

Choose Lights Wisely

Although white Christmas trees look brilliant enough even without lights, you can heighten the charm of these trees with clear or multi-colored lights. Make sure to choose lights with white or clear strands so they don’t stand out. For a well-lit tree, prepare at least 100 lights per foot height of the tree. Try out options like LED lights to save energy and globe lights for a more radiant look. As with other trees, string the lights before adding any ornaments.

Don’t Go Overboard with Ornaments

Depending on the size, decorate the tree with just enough garlands and ornaments so it doesn’t look weighed down. A well-decorated tree doesn’t necessarily have a lot of ornaments. As long as you choose lovely ornaments, garlands, and family favorites, your tree will be a hit.

Create a Balanced Look

Balance starts with blending small and large ornaments. This helps create a natural symmetry that isn’t too organized. Decorate from top to bottom, placing large ornaments first in a diagonal and evenly spaced manner. Counter these with smaller ornaments. A helpful tip is to place ornaments at varying depths, some near the trunk and some on the tips of branches so your tree looks fabulous at all angles.

White Christmas trees are elegant and serve as the perfect backdrop for any kind of ornaments. Think of it as a blank canvas and let your creativity flow to achieve the perfect White Christmas.