Share the Joy: Fun Family Photos

Another holiday season brings mailboxes full of cards, packed with updates and photos from family and friends. As you’re planning your year-end update, take a few pointers from our crazy family to yours.

Do your research. Before picture day, peruse photo-driven blogs or photography Websites. You’re likely to find a concept or post that you really like and can execute yourself. A little planning can go a long way.

Pick a prop. You don’t have to be at a party or in a photo booth to work this trend. Find something that screams fun—and captures your family—and incorporate it into the photo. Matching winter hats, wrapped boxes or strands of lights are a few good options.

Get moving. Try an action shot and play with poses and positioning. Shoot the family making snow angels, riding a sled, or doing a jingle bell jog in matching sweaters. 

Make a scene. Literally. You don’t have to live in a snowy climate to create a winter wonderland—think paper snowflakes, hats and gloves. And don’t forget the beloved tacky sweater.

Ham it up. Let individual personalities shine through in the photos. Don’t discard the outtakes—you might find they’re the most fun to share.

Create a collage. Getting the extended family together for a photo can be tough, but don’t despair. Rather than one shot, splice together pictures from the whole year to fashion a family tree. Others can catch up on what you’ve been up to for the past 12 months.

Pumpkin Decorating Made Easy

Make a “mummykin.” Disguise your pumpkin as a mummy by wrapping the gourd in cheesecloth, leaving the stem exposed. Add sticker eyes (or carefully draw them on with a permanent marker). Then cut a small slit in the fabric to create a mouth. Voilà!

Go gold! Using metallic gold spray paint, cover eight to 12 miniature pumpkins (stems included) with a few coats of paint and let dry completely. Display the pumpkins along  your mantel, or arrange them in a row across your dining room table. You can also corral the baby gourds in a large glass vase or a bowl to create a seasonal centerpiece.

Think polka dots. With a hot glue gun, affix black buttons in a range of sizes and styles to a pumpkin to create your very own Halloween masterpiece. A mix of colored buttons will work, too!

Skip the expected. Once you and the kids have scooped out the pumpkin, forgo the usual eyes, nose, and mouth. Instead use a cylindrical apple corer to create small circular cutouts all over the gourd. Insert a votive for a twinkly, celestial display. Have you got pumpkin everywhere? No worries. Toss messy clothes and dish towels in the washer with a hardworking liquid laundry detergent.

Try stencils. Pick up a Halloween stencil—perhaps a witch on a broom or a black cat—at your local crafts store or favorite online vendor, then tape it to your pumpkin and use black spray paint to create a spooky silhouette.

Create a web. Let the kids wrap their pumpkins in string or yarn, then affix a family of plastic spiders (available wherever Halloween supplies are sold) to the gourds. Display as a group for maximum effect.

 

 

 

 

6 Ways to Keep Clothes Looking Great — Wherever You Go

 

Tip 2: Double-bag your liquids

 

 

No matter how tightly you think the top of that shampoo bottle is screwed on, it’s better to be safe than sorry. While packing, separate your liquids from your clothes by putting them in two plastic bags.

 

 

Tip 1: Roll your clothes

 

 

Rolling instead of folding your clothes not only prevent wrinkles, it also saves space. And you know what that means—more room to bring home souvenirs!

 

 

Tip 3: Pack a to-go stain remover.

 

 

Traveling with kids? (Or do you have a knack for spilling yourself?) Don’t forget to bring along a to-go stain remover. Ice cream meltdowns and ballpark mustard stains don’t stand a chance against a quick application of stain remover, meaning you won’t suddenly find yourself down a pre-planned outfit.

 

 

Tip 4: When you don’t have an iron, take a hot shower

 

 

You don’t need an iron to stay wrinkle-free. Simply hang your clothes up in your bathroom while you take a hot shower and let the steam get rid of unwanted wrinkles.

 

 

Tip 5: Don’t forget detergent pods

 

 

Detergent pods are compact and easy to travel with, so bring them along to ensure that you have the detergent you love while traveling.

 

 

Tip 6: Use dry-cleaning bags

 

 

Dry-cleaning bags can be a useful tool when traveling. Pack small stacks of clothes inside a single bag—this will help prevent friction and therefore wrinkles. As you near the end of your trip, tie a knot at one end of a bag to use it as a dirty clothes hamper.

 

Boo! Halloween Pranks from Dawn to Dusk

Halloween night is full of mischief, but the fun can start before the sun goes down. These playful pranks will kick off the excitement and keep it going all day long, right up until trick-or-treat time.

Rise and scare: Insert some fake fangs and get the kids up for school FAST!

Breakfast is brewing: A few drops of food coloring can turn eggs or milk ghoulish green, or try slipping a few gummy worms between pancakes for a slimy surprise.

Make lunch a scream: Stash fake spiders in your child’s lunch box for a little cafeteria excitement.

Serve up spooks: Incorporate Halloween colors into dinner. Toss sautéed vegetables like orange bell pepper, carrots, and butternut squash with black pasta. Add toasted pumpkin seeds for some crunch. Or serve up quick pumpkin soup with pumpernickel croutons. Don’t get spooked by squash mess—keep a scented spray cleaner close by for quick, nose-pleasing cleanup.

Prepare to scare: When the kids get ready to trick-or-treat, put some spooky sounds like chains, slamming doors or howling werewolves on your sound system. Keep a few scented candles burning for a spooky glow and refreshing aroma.

Create a ghostly setting: Get into the fun by dressing up to give out candy, and dress up the front porch, too. Create a foggy atmosphere by putting dry ice into a large bowl and adding water.

Need a Halloween Costume Fast?

Halloween party in an hour? No worries. All of the costumes below can be made in less than 20 minutes. Best trick and treat: Start with a super-soft, great-smelling sheet that’s been washed with a liquid fabric softener to make sure you’re as comfy as possible all night long.

Mummy. With scissors, cut a flat sheet along its longest side into two-inch-wide strips; use safety pins to fasten strips into one long piece. Wear a white T-shirt and leggings and wrap the fabric around your body, working down from your head. For added effect, use brown makeup to darken around your eyes and mouth, then add spooky smudges to the costume.

Statue of Liberty. Center a white sheet (bonus points if you have a green one) over your head and cut a hole just big enough to get your head through. Slip the sheet on, and using a few safety pins lined end to end, fasten the material together to create sleeves. For a torch, fill a cardboard paper towel roll with orange tissue paper. Cut out a spiked crown from green cardboard, or create a sparkly version out of aluminum foil. And don’t forget to carry a tablet (use a book) that says July 4, 1776!

Angel. Center a white sheet over your head and cut a hole big enough to slip your noggin through. Secure the sheet at the waist with a white or silver cord or a belt. Mold a halo out of aluminum foil. Attach to a headband with a straw (secured with masking tape), then cover the entire headpiece in several layers of foil.

Corpse bride. Don a long-sleeve white T-shirt (for optimal effect, use a permanent marker to draw rib bones on the right side). Fold a sheet in half and using a scissors create uneven rips and frays along bottom edge. Wrap the sheet around your waist; fasten with a white belt or safety pins. Fashion a veil from white tulle or cheesecloth wrapped around a headband. Tint your face pale blue, then add dark circles under your eyes and apply a vibrant lipstick. Carry a bouquet of wilted flowers.

Ghost. Center a white sheet over your head; mark where eye and mouth holes should be placed. Remove sheet and cut openings with scissors. Use a black permanent marker to darken area around the eyes and mouth. For a scarier look, draw stitch marks across the sheet and use a red marker to bloody the mouth. Carry a bike chain or a ghoulishly carved pumpkin.

Greek toga. Fold the sheet, adjusting it so that it hangs to about your ankles. Wrap the sheet under your arms, around your body, and carry remaining fabric over your shoulder; secure with a safety pin. Use a gold cord or tie to create a sash, and wear strappy sandals. Brownie points if you can find shiny goblet or—even better—a leafy vine in your garden to stand in for a laurel wreath!

Superhero. To make a cape, measure the width of your back and the distance from your shoulders to thighs. Place a sheet on a flat surface and sketch out cape using your general measurements; make sure to flare the cape out at the bottom and include long ties at the top for tying around your neck. Cut with scissors, then add your favorite hero’s emblem with permanent markers.