Handmade Gifts, Part 2 (still patting myself on the back)

Ok, so I’m  s l o w l y  returning to the blogging thing, post-holiday, and due to the fact that I kind of checked out last week, that means I have a load of holiday-related things to share with you (still)!

I know, Christmas is over.  Move on.

But I can’t let go — yet.  I even thought I could justify it and say that I was still within the realm of the “Twelve Days of Christmas,” even though I don’t really acknowledge or celebrate that. (What am I talking about?  Ask Wikipedia.)

However, Twelfth Night was January 5th, so now it’s just getting tacky.  Whatever.   I decided to embrace the tacky, and go ahead and do a little show-and-tell of the other handmade gifts in my life, this time the ones that Josh and I received (you may remember the previous post where we talked about the gifts we gave).

First, let’s start with the handmade gifts Josh and I gave each other:

dog silhouettes

Yeah, you’re probably thinking “That’s a lot of dogs.”  Let me explain:  I gave Josh the framed black and white photo, and Josh gave me the two silhouettes, you know, of our dogs.  Yeah, we basically gave each other the same thing.  Creepy, right?  And this was all done unbeknownst to the other (and by the way, we didn’t tell any friends or family who may have spilled it to either of us).  Creepier still, my first plan was to make silhouettes, too.  I planned on using this photo, but we didn’t have any black paper and I didn’t have a lot of time — Christmas Eve gift making, how shameful — so I didn’t follow through with my original plan (little did I know it would look just as good in white!).  So, I spray painted this frame that Josh found at the street on trash day, made a matte out of lime green paper, and framed the photo.

Josh was feeling far more ambitious.  He took two frames (he found these at the street on trash day, also), printed out the same photo on regular printer paper, cut it out, traced it (it ended up being the mirror image side) and then cut that out as well.  He backed it with lime green paper (needless to say, we have an abundance of lime green paper).

When we opened them — which happened to be at the same time — we had a weird case of the Twilight-Zones, and then accused each other of somehow stealing each other’s ideas, perhaps using a magic wand and a Pensieve when the other was sleeping.

Then we realized that was silly and decidedly attributed the coincidence to our compatibility.  Aww….. :)

And our crazy obsession with our dogs.

And maybe the fact that we walk by the Courtney silhouette everyday (this was done when I was like 6).

See it there on the table next to the Eiffel Tower ornament?

Who knows?  But we love them both and look forward to hanging them on our soon-to-be art wall (details in blog post form to follow).

Moving on to some of the handmade gifts we received from family…

My mother-in-law, knowing well of my loves for orange and green, recycling, and handmade gifty-ness, crocheted this reusable tote for me:

hand crocheted grocery bag

I love it!!!  Things like this amaze me to no end, because I have ZERO crocheting/knitting/sewing/anything-domestic-other-than-cooking skills.

My sister-in-law (a loyal GPP subscriber) took part of this blog’s paisley background image and made it into the lid of a magnetic box:

personalized box

Recognize the pattern?  Yeah, I literally squealed when I opened it.  And even better, when I opened the (magnetic) lid, I found a pair of earring that she had made for me!

I asked her where she had the box made, and she said she wouldn’t tell me (it’s a secret she feels she must keep as she has so many gifts made through this company).  However, she did say it was a website that I had mentioned on here before.  Considering that I’ve linked up to hundreds of websites in the 63 posts I’ve written since starting this on September 12, 2011… yeah, I’m sort of scratching my head on this one.

Sigh.  Maybe one day she’ll reveal her mystical secrets…

Amanda, the aforementioned secretive sister-in-law, gave Josh a framed shadow box of the Triforce (from the Zelda games):

triforce art

(Sorry for the overly-reflective picture. this was the best of a dozen attempts, believe me).

Now, I couldn’t be less interested in video games possibly, but even this made me go “OOOHHH!”  The picture doesn’t do it any justice, but in person, it looks gooood (Scouts’ honor).  And little did Amanda know we were slowly accumulating things for our art wall!  Perfectly timed.

The next gift is also one of those funny coincidences because it was something I had planned on blogging about, but hadn’t gotten around to yet.  As a fun way to give us some cash, my mother-in-law made origami with some dollar bills:

snail origami dollar bill

dollar bill rocket ship origami

dollar bill origami swan

dollar bill mens shirt origami

I think they turned out great!  I especially love the men’s shirt origami.  She also made an origami star, but no matter how many different angles I tried, I could not take a picture of it where it actually looked like a star (but it does in person, I promise).

You can find the how-to’s all over the internet; just do a Google search for dollar bill origami (and I recommend ironing your dollar bills on a low setting before starting — they’re made of cotton, they can handle it).

Hope you enjoyed the highlights of some of our handmade gifts!  From here on out, I will try my best to not mention the holidays… at least until… September?!  (I’ve got to do another Twelve Weeks of Christmas series next year, too!)

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This picture of my dog:

See the little nose poking out from under the cushion?  Yeah she’s pretty weird awesome.

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Dork for New York: Free Things To Do in NYC, Christmas Edition

Hope everyone had a lovely weekend!  Mine was particularly great as Josh and I had a day off together (whaaa???) and my dad came to visit!  Yeah, I know… I’m still sort of pinching myself.

Am I about to give you a summary of what we did over the weekend?  Yes.

Did I take pictures to document these events?  Uh huh.  

More importantly, were all of these things free (or almost free)?  You betcha!

In fact, with the exception of a couple of cheap meals and the subway fare, it was completely FREE.  So, for those of you scratching your heads wondering how anything enjoyable could be free in Manhattan, here’s the play by play of what we did:

On Friday — the day Josh and I had off together — we decided to be tourists in our own city, so we hopped on the subway to Manhattan to check out the Rockefeller tree and the FABULOUS windows on Fifth Avenue.  First of all, everyone talks about the “windows of Fifth Avenue,” however after doing some research, I realized that only some of the iconic window displays are on Fifth Avenue.  The most notable displays are found at Bloomingdale’s, Barney’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s, Lord and Taylor, and Bergdorf Goodman.  So, I did the ol’ Google maps things to try to find a good walking path and still catch the tree along the way, and here’s what I came up with:

(If you click on the image, it’ll open to a window with a bigger image.)

A.  Bloomingdale’s

B.  Barney’s

C.  Bergdorf Goodman

D.  Rockefeller Center Tree

E.  Saks Fifth Avenue

F.  Lord and Taylor

G.  Macy’s

All in all, this walking tour is 2.1 miles, but no big deal; we’ve grown accustomed to doing a lot of walking. And since these windows are one of the (free) highlights of Christmas time in NYC, we were all about it.  So, with comfortable shoes on our feet (and multiple layers to minimize the whining I often do when I’m cold), we set out.

First stop:  Bloomingdale’s.  Now, Josh and I have never actually done the whole looking-at-all-the-pretty-windows thing in NYC before, so we didn’t really  know what to expect.  Bloomingdale’s entrance (below) was super pretty (though it looks like this –or a version of this — throughout the year):

Bloomingdale's NYC store front

Bloomingdale's NYC store front

Sparkly.  Oooh….

The theme for their windows was shopping bags from previous years.  Some of the windows were just the images, but three-dimensional.  Others opened like a pop up book, showing an expanded take on the shopping bag images.  Some of the windows even had touch screen cameras so you could tap a star with your hand, and it would take your picture and show it on the screen inside the window.

I didn’t get a picture of those (this was before I got trigger happy with the camera, but trust me they were pretty cool).
Here are two of the “bags” I got pictures of:

Bloomingdale's 2011 window displays

Bloomingdale's 2011 window displays

Bloomingdale's 2011 window displays

Bloomingdale's 2011 window displays

I’m not sure why I felt compelled to take pictures of just these two over some of the others that were perhaps even better.

Also, one of the windows featured ornaments that had been designed by celebrities, with 100% of the profits going to charity.  Here’s the window from a distance:

Bloomingdale's 2011 window displays

Bloomingdale's 2011 window displays

And here they are up close, so you can actually read the names of the participating celebrities:

Bloomingdale's 2011 window displays

Bloomingdale's 2011 window displays

I’m not sure which one is my favorite, though I have to admit, I don’t really appreciate that each one has the name or initials of the celebrity.  That doesn’t exactly motivate me to buy them.  Hm…

Framing the bag with the ornaments were two jack-in-the-boxes dressed in tuxes and top hats, adorned with festive paraphernalia:

Bloomingdale's 2011 window displays

Bloomingdale's 2011 window displays

I’m not really sure why these were part of this particular display, but I guess such things are left to be pondered by the artsiest of the fartsiest, and perhaps not me.

All together, Bloomingdale’s was a pretty cool display, but our socks weren’t completely knocked off.

(Don’t worry, we’re not always such a tough crowd; our socks are later knocked off when we see the Bergdorf Goodman windows.  Read on…)

Next stop: Barney’s.

Woof.  And not in a good way.

I can’t even pretend that I liked one iota of the Barney’s display.  I’m all for minimalism and artistic expression, even if it’s vague sometimes.  As a performing artist and the daughter of a (visual) artist, I’m no stranger to such things… but the Barney’s windows looked a lot more like an unfinished… I don’t know what.  Blah.  First of all, here’s the entrance:

Barney's 2011 windows

Barney's 2011 windows

So… certainly interesting.  I read it had something to do with Lady Gaga (so that explains a lot), but this entrance doesn’t exactly inspire Christmas spirit.

(For those of you who have just stumbled here, I am not exactly the traditional red and green Christmas type o’ gal.  However, I need a little more than what Barney’s had to offer.  You’ll see.)

Here are the actual window displays… and P.S.  These are the finished products.  This is not a work in progress:

Barney's 2011 NYC windows

Barney's 2011 NYC windows

Well, the lighting is nice…

Barney's 2011 NYC windows

Barney's 2011 NYC windows

Can you hear me yawning across cyber space?

Barney's 2011 NYC windows

Barney's 2011 NYC windows

It’s like a very unexciting holiday museum.

And in case you’re thinking that I’m holding out on you, that maybe the bigger picture has a bit more excitement… the answer is no.  And just to prove it to you:

Barney's 2011 NYC windows

Barney's 2011 NYC windows

See?  I told you.

So, Barney’s in summary:  Yes, the lighting is stunning.  And any other month of the year I’d be like” That’s nice and simple, I guess”… “Those are pretty vases.”  But these are the holiday windows in NYC!  They’re kind of a big deal, and Barney’s has a history of having great (and usually tongue-in-cheek funny) windows.  We felt a bit let down.  But we soldiered on…

We then walked to Bergdorf Goodman.  Just so happens that right across the street is FAO Schwarz (and no, there is not a “t” in that word, despite my strong convictions otherwise… how did I never notice that before?).  It also just so happens that Josh and I have never been to FAO Schwarz.  Despite the fact that we’re both 26 years old, we decided we needed to remedy this.

Oh boy! Oh boy!  Home Alone 2 and Big don’t even begin to cover it!  Sooo amazing… and we took a lot of pictures.  Perhaps more than anywhere else.  Here’s the view of the main level, looking back at the door:

FAO Schwarz

FAO Schwarz

Here’s their candy store, FAO Schweetz:

FAO Schwarz

FAO Schwarz

I can’t even fathom the profit they make, considering that A) to exit FAO Schwarz, you must go through the candy store and B) the candy here is $13.49/lb.  What!?!

While in the candy store, Josh found a candy snake.  He had some very strong feelings about it.

FAO Schwarz

FAO Schwarz

My cool-ideas-for-home-decor radar never rests, so I had to snap a pic of part of the ceiling in FAO Schweetz:

FAO Schwarz

FAO Schwarz

Pretty, right?  Go go gadget Pinterest.

Inside the candy shop, there’s a Make-Your-Own Muppet station (for a mere $99).  I couldn’t not get a picture of their clever lighting:

FAO Schwarz

FAO Schwarz

Here’s the actual station where you can get the muppets made:

FAO Schwarz

FAO Schwarz

Josh found one of the general muppets for sale and somehow it ended up on his hand.  For the rest of the evening, he repeatedly said “I’m really into this whole ‘make-your-own-muppet’ thing!”  (Not gonna happen, sweetie.)

FAO Schwarz

FAO Schwarz

The view from the second level, looking down on the main level:

FAO Schwarz

FAO Schwarz

FAO Schwarz

FAO Schwarz

Quidditch supplies?  For real???  Yeah, I nerded out for a minute.

And then… I found a Sorting Hat.

sorting hat

"Pleeeease, Ravenclaw, pleeeaaseeee......"

The finger crossing because I was desperately hoping to be sorted into Ravenclaw (I mean, that’s what the Facebook test told me).

FAO Schwarz

FAO Schwarz

I was pleasantly relieved/surprised to see a book section.  And it was pretty…

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly we visited the Big Piano (you know, from the scene in the movie, Big).

The Big Piano

FAO Schwarz

I even returned with my dad the next day and got a video of the “professional piano dancers.”  They were pretty fabulous, and something tells me that they are working/starving actor-singer-dancers like myself :)

Here’s a video of them playing/dancing “Fur Elise” and “Jingle Bells”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nD0ZMjk_yO8

On the way out, we got two more pictures with these incredible Lego creations:

FAO Schwarz

FAO Schwarz

Really, ALL legos:

FAO Schwarz

FAO Schwarz

(Josh’s expression is intense on purpose… you know, he’s posing with Lego Indiana Jones.  What do you expect?)

OK, so after that surprise but welcome detour, we returned to our previously scheduled walking tour.  We walked across the street to Bergdorf Goodman.

Without hesitation, Josh and I firmly agreed that their windows were the best by far.  According to Trendland, an online “trend forecasting” magazine, “It may take 2 full weeks to install the elaborate and highly anticipated Holiday Windows of Bergdorf Goodman but it takes David Hoey and the visual team of BG 60% of the years work hours to make this fantasy come to life.”  When you see the pictures (and the incredible detail) you will understand why.

The theme for BG’s windows was “Carnival of the Animals.”  In some cases, it seems they employed a few taxidermists, as there are actual stuffed bear, wolf, and deer heads, to name a few.  Out of context this sounds a bit weird, I’ll admit, but the combination of materials and the actual scenes displayed in each window are fabulous and it’s very effective.  Ok, so here are a few of the men’s windows:

Bergdorf Goodman 2011 Holiday Windows

Bergdorf Goodman 2011 Holiday Windows

Yeah, a real wolf’s head.

Bergdorf Goodman 2011 Holiday Windows

Bergdorf Goodman 2011 Holiday Windows

The word on the window for this one was “Shipshape.”  As you will, some of the pictures are not the entire window.  With the amount of pedestrian traffic on this sidewalk, it was virtually impossible to get all of the windows.  And I had more than a dozen New Yorkers scathingly call me a “Tourist!” (To which I sort of rudely responded, “Nope.  Brooklynite.”)

Bergdorf Goodman 2011 Holiday Windows

Bergdorf Goodman 2011 Holiday Windows

The word on this window is “Trustworthy” and it features a human-sized cat walking six dogs.  The sheer impossibility of this makes me giggle, especially when I picture a cat attempting to walk my dogs (if a cat got that close, it’d be eaten).

Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows 2011

Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows 2011

Stuffed bear head in a leather jacket and scarf = Adventurous.  Ok, I’ll buy it.

Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows 2011

Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows 2011

I loved this one!  The word on the window is “Mighty.”

True story:  The woman standing behind me (also trying to get a picture), said VERY loudly “What the hell is that word?  Mig-it-ee?” To which her friend kindly responded “No, that’s mighty.”  Haha.

The word for this window was “Dapper.”  The details in this window got me particularly excited because they hearkened me back to two previous posts.  First of all, the clever use of vintage yardsticks and rulers reminded me of this post.

bergdorf goodman windows holiday 2011

Not to mention the Singer sewing machine which reminded me of my dining room table :)

A bit blurry, but this one was set in a barber shop and the attention to detail was incredible!  There was even a black and white TV that was playing a football game (it was a looped video, I assume).

That’s a singing cardinal, y’all.

And that was all I got of the men’s.  Super clever, slightly weird, and all around amusing.

Across the street were the women’s windows, and they took on a very different tone.

Bergdorf Holiday Windows 2011

Bergdorf Holiday Windows 2011

A giraffe and an equally long-necked lady mannequin.

Bergdorf Holiday Windows 2011

Bergdorf Holiday Windows 2011

The detail on the giraffe was amazing:

Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows 2011

Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows 2011

There was so much going on in this window (below), I found it very difficult getting a good picture.  Needless to say, it was fabulous and looked like a King Midas/Cave of Wonders love fest.

Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows 2011

Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows 2011

Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows 2011

Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows 2011

Girl, you is purdy!

I was especially smitten with the lighting in this one:

Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows 2011

Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows 2011

Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows 2011

Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows 2011

Niiice.

This little diorama window was only about 8″X10″:

Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows 2011

Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows 2011

Ok, I saved my favorite for last:

Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows 2011

Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows 2011

And guess what?  The sparkliness on all of the sea life is actually mosaic tile!  What!?

(Unfortunately, I did not get a close-up as everyone else loved this window too.)

Of course, there was even more at Bergdorf Goodman, but then my camera…

… died.

Rather, its batteries died.

So, while I did visit the windows of Lord and Taylor and Macy’s, which were lovely, I don’t have any pictures.  Sigh…   However, I can assure you the shining star (in the pretty windows department, that is) was definitely Bergdorf Goodman.

Oh, and of course we couldn’t get back to Brooklyn without checking out the tree, and I do mean the tree.  I got a picture of it, albeit a little blurry and crooked, on my BlackBerry:

See the ridiculous amount of people?  Well, when I went with my dad the next night, it was ten times crazier.  I think if someone had sneezed or tripped and fallen down, there would have a been a very unfortunate domino effect.

So… after 2.1 miles and 87 pictures, we had a splendid time… and then the next night, I took my dad on a similar, but slightly abbreviated walking tour.  Sort of “The Best of…” where we hit FAO Schwarz, the Rockefeller tree, and of course those glorious BG windows.

And how many dollars did all of this festive frivolity cost?  Zero.

(Well, almost.  My dad was somehow suckered into buying a pound of candy at FAO Schweetz, but I did not encourage said endeavor.  But I didn’t exactly discourage it either :)  Yum.)

Here’s to hoping you all have similarly frugal holiday adventures!  Feel free to share them with me, regardless of what city you live in!

:)

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Things that (P)inspire Me

Twelve Weeks of Christmas

Things that (P)inspire Me: (More) Christmas Decor

As we close the week, I also put an end to the madness that has been this Pinterest love fest (but not forever!  Just like… for a few days).  In case you haven’t been following me this week, here’s brief re-cap:

First of all, I love Pinterest.

Secondly, I decorated my apartment the day after Thanksgiving.  I say “I,” but I really mean “we.”  And not the royal “we.” I mean my super cute and SUPER enthusiastic husband helped me:

He's. So. Excited.

To check out the whole thing, go here.

On Tuesday, I waxed poetic (or pathetic… hm…..) about my Pinterest finds in the DIY Christmas Ornaments and Tree Toppers category.

On Wednesday, I talked about DIY Christmas Garlands.

On Thursday, I showed you my DIY Christmas Wreath pins… but mostly, the paper cone kind.  Yeah, I got kind of distracted…

And today’s Friday!  That means everything-else-day!  It will all make sense soon….

Most importantly, these pins are DIY, cost-effective, and SUPER festive!

But… not too festive.  For example:

Yes, that’s an example of too festive (and in case you were wondering, that atrocity is for sale!  Ay yi yi . . .)

So, here are my most recent pins:  DIY, cost-effective, and festive-but-not-too-festive-like-a-Christmas-tree-costume-that-offends-my-eyes.  K?

(Here’s my attempt at good blogger karma:  For the source of the images and ideas, click on the image)

Pinned Image

A little more ambitious than most of these ideas, but lovely nonetheless. And if you get your Christmas ornaments at the dollar store instead of more expensive, glass ones, this could also be super cheap!

Pinned Image

A fun take on a Christmas tree.

Pinned Image

This individual used photos in the shape of a heart, but I think this would be a a great way of displaying your Christmas cards (in the shape of a Christmas tree!)

Pinned Image

Lovely! Pearl beads in water with floating candles above (these are sold on Amazon, usually about $6 for 30-ish pearl beads)

Pinned Image

A tree made out of an old book with a cookie cutter as the tree topper. I feel fairly certain this will be an upcoming crafty excursion for myself. Might be great with an old magazine(s).

Pinned Image

Unique way to display Christmas cards. Looks like 4 sticks (dowels?) of varying lengths attached to a ribbon, with clips on either side.

Pinned Image

I sometimes think shadow boxes can make everything better.

Spray paint some sticks, put them in a bowl or vase, ta da!

Pinned Image

Perhaps I saved the best for last. This is an advent calendar with different surprises for each day leading up to the 25th. It's made out of matchboxes wrapped in paper and placed on a tree. Love!

How do you not love the sight of Christmas ornaments in a bowl? Yeah, that's my picture. I pinned myself. What?!

Here I go again...

I'm always a fan of the seemingly-arbitrary-but-NO-I-really-meant-to-do-that thing. Here's one example.

Hope you enjoyed those!  Have a lovely weekend, and if you start decorating this weekend (it’s December now, so you don’t have to be as embarrassed about it anymore) PLEASE snap some pictures and share with me!  E-mail: thegingerpennypincher@gmail.com

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Cheap Halloween Candy Alternatives

Me in the pirate costume. Sigh...

If you’re like me, Halloween usually sneaks up on you – and if you’re like me, you have been sick the last three years on Halloween (I have a fabulous pirate-but-not-a-pirate-wench costume that has never seen the light of day, see picture: left).  However, this year there will be no “sneaking up on” of the aforementioned holiday (and hopefully no sickness four years in a row, knock on wood), because I am planning now – specifically for the trick-or-treaters.

It’s easy to go to the store and buy bags of candy the day of, and this is what I usually resort to because: “Oops!  Is it October 31st already?!”  Unfortunately, this tactic results in spending silly amounts of money on bags of candy, some of which never see the light of day – like my pirate costume – because I usually overestimate and have fewer trick-or-treaters than expected – unlike my pirate costume (hmmm…).  Even with the alleged “sales” at drug stores and big box retailers, candy can still be quite pricy.

According to the National Retail Federation, Americans spent $1.8 billion on Halloween candy last year, and this year, they expect households to spend about $21.05 each!  Of course, this number is the average, and I know there are still plenty of households that spend upwards of $50-60 on candy, especially if you live in one of the “cool” neighborhoods (and by “cool,” I mean kids from other neighborhoods come to yours because maybe some of your neighbors hand out full sized candy bars).  I can think of some better uses for that money other than candy, as I’m sure all of you could, not to mention that darned childhood obesity epidemic they’re all talking about.  However, no one wants to be that house on the street – or apartment in the building, in my case – that gives out boxes of raisins or other lameness.  Really. No one likes those.  Sorry.  And even the bulk boxes of raisins can be just as costly as the big bags o’ candy.

Grape mummies: The only acceptable way to present raisins to your trick-or-treaters. I know, I know, my Paintbrush skills are really too much.

Now, I’m sure a lot of people would frown upon the idea of not handing out candy; after all, it is Halloween.  I’m not saying to necessarily cut out all candy, but leave that to the other houses on the street.  You, my special GPP readers, you do not have to write on ruled paper!  There are other options out there – options that will leave you feeling less guilty and leave your wallet feeling less empty, that is, if your wallet has “feelings.”  (I’m pretty sure mine does.  Sometimes I think I can hear it crying “Feed me.”  “Sorry, baby, mamma’s gotta pay the power bill.”)

So…. In usual form, I have created a list of some Halloween candy alternatives that won’t break the bank and will help you retain the ever important status as one of the “cool” houses on the street.  Bear in mind, when creating this list, I relied heavily on my many years of teaching children ages 2-12.  It’s key to never underestimate the inventiveness of children and their capacity to appreciate the simple things.  (I have seen countless children fall victim to “that shiny thing on the floor,” only to discover it’s a rogue sequin from a past art project or a scrap of aluminum foil from someone’s lunch.  Even still, this shiny thing engrosses the attention of the child far beyond what most cartoons are capable of doing.)

Here’s the list – shiny things included – of the GPP’S…

Cheap Halloween Candy Alternatives:

Silly Bandz

“Silly bandz” (or better yet, a cheaper off brand) – It never ceases to amaze me what children find “cool,” but Silly Bandz are it!  Kids love to collect them, wear them, trade them – I think that’s Silly Bandz’s slogan? – And most kids feel they can never have too many.  Fortunately for you, soon-to-be-coolest-house-on-the-block, Silly Bandz are Silly cheap (I just couldn’t help myself).  The best deal I found was at Oriental Trading Company.  Right now, you can get 150 glow-in-the-dark Halloween themed “Fun bands” (an off brand) for $4.99, plus the cost of shipping.  If you anticipate having fewer than 150 trick-or-treaters, by all means, give them 2 or 3 each!  But whatever you do, don’t let the children pick out which one(s) they want!  First they’ll have to see what shape the bands (or Bandz) make when they’re not on their wrist, and then they’ll have to argue with their friends over what the shape is actually supposed to be: “That’s an astronaut!”  “No!  You’re wrong – it’s a milk cow!”  “Oh yeah?!  Well, your costume is dumb!!!”   It can turn ugly pretty fast (I’ve seen it).  Just hand them over, say “it’s a surprise!” and send them off on their silly way, er… Silly way.

Temporary Tattoos – Again, children and their love for the simpler things.  Just this past Sunday, I was doing a princess party where they had craft making, face painting, and a tattoo station, and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you twice which was the most popular stop.  I found two great deals:50 tattoos for $2.99, plus tax at Party City and 72 *Glitter* tattoos for $3.99, plus shipping at the cheese-tastic and politically-incorrectly named Oriental Trading Company.  Of course, plenty of other places carry these in bulk, but I thought these two stores had some of the best deals.  Usually, they come in sheet form, so just cut them out with scissors or tear along the perforated edges and give one per trick-or-treater.  And again, DON’T let children choose.  It never ends well.

Varies by state and franchise

Wendy’s Jr. Frosty CouponsFor $1, you can get a booklet of 5-10 Jr. Frosty coupons (I believe it varies state to state and franchise to franchise). By coupon, the bearer is entitled to one free Jr. Frosty.  Yeah, I know… I mentioned the whole childhood obesity epidemic, but listen, with the delayed gratification element (a parent would actually need to take them to Wendy’s to redeem it), along with the fact that the Jr. Frosty only has about 160 calories (yeah, I looked it up), I figure it’s not too bad.  Oh, and I didn’t mention my favorite thing about the Wendy’s coupon booklets:  “90% of all treat book sales go to the (Dave Thomas) Foundation (for Adoption). And in Wendy’s Wonderful Kids markets, all of the proceeds are used specifically to fund grants to support Wendy’s Wonderful Kids adoption recruiters. Since the fundraiser began in 1992, it has generated millions of dollars for the Foundation, and all donations go to help out the communities in which the money was originally raised” – and that’s a direct quote from the Foundation website … but I’m sure you already guessed that.  (Three sentences without parentheses or hyphens?  That couldn’t be Courtney’s writing.)

Dollar Tree 9-pk. of bubbles

Bubbles! – What child doesn’t love bubbles?  At the same party mentioned above in “Temporary Tattoos,” the kids were all playing on what appeared to be very exciting gym equipment, screaming, giggling, faux swashbuckling, the works, until someone brought out the bubbles.  A hush fell over the crowd.  Amazing. I found the best way to do this for trick-or-treaters is to get the bubbles meant for wedding favors, and by far the best deal – and I know this from when I planned my own wedding – is at Dollar Tree: a pack of 9 costs… a dollar.  You can jazz them up with your own labels or Halloween stickers and still keep the price low.  In fact, when I first had this idea, I thought “Oh the cleverness of me!  I’ll put a label on each one that says ‘Cauldron Bubbles’!”  (Get it?  Theatre nerd time: “Double, double, toil, and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble!”  You know, the three witches from Macbeth?)

So, I set forth to find a picture of one of those small bottles to show you fine folks what the heck I was talking about, but I found this:

To get the label template, along with other crafty goodness, go to http://www.thepaperseed.com (or just click on the image).

Ha.  Well, just goes to show what Picasso said about nothing being original… or something.  Uh oh, I’m starting to quote and misquote people.  It’s time to wrap this up!

I’m sure there are a plethora of other great ideas out there that are equally cool, cost-effective, and (nearly) candy free.  Please feel free to leave any comments or suggestions below – I’d love to hear them!

Are you giving out candy this year?  If so, what kind?

Or are you going the GPP route?

Or will you not even be home for Halloween?

Or . . . do you think Halloween is the birthday of Satan himself??!

Er… I hope not…

Thoughts!  Feelings!  Go!

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