admin / October 30, 2008

What Can You Do With Canned Soup?

Last week I told you how great tasting and budget friendly homemade soups were during fall. Well, that got me thinking about canned soups too. Companies like Campbell’s have been heavily promoting the fact that soups make a tasty budget meal. I’ve been seeing varieties such as tomato, chicken noodle, lentil, all on sale. So I when Walgreen’s was selling Campell’s tomato soup for just 69 cents a can, I set myself a goal. I’d take the soup and excuse the pun, soup it up. I’d think about what specific ingredients could be added to either boost the flavor or turn the canned soup into a meal. And I’d used items that you can find in just about any pantry. Here are some ideas I came up with-

Tomato Soup
Mexican Style Soup
You can make the tomato soup with water and then add about half a cup of salsa. When I made mine, I also added a dollop of sour cream just before I served it.
Another idea is to make the soup with milk and then serve it with a blended mixture of avocado, sour cream and chili powder and placed in the center of the sop and serve tortilla chips on the side.

Spicy Corn
I found this one just by accident. As you know, I hated wasting any food, so some leftover corn gave me idea. I’d made a recipe for sweet and spicy corn the night before. All you need to do is add some butter to cooked corn and then add some garlic powder, brown sugar, crushed red pepper flakes and chili powder and stir until the corn is coated. I had about a cup of this left over and stirred it into the soup. The combination of the spices and tomatoes were really good.

Italian Tomato Soup
One great addition is pesto sauce stirred into the basic recipe. And I also thought about using the soup as a base for a minestrone. Just add some pasta, beans, veggies, like zucchini and it looks almost completely homemade.

Basic Tomato Soup
And here’s one I really liked. Plain old tomato soup made with milk and served with a generous serving of shredded cheese and spiced croutons. You can use brand name croutons or cubed bread you have sitting around. Just toss it in some oil and add a sprinkling of cumin, coriander and chili powder and bake on a cookie sheet for about ten minutes in a 350 degree oven.

Potato Soup
I think any potato soup fills you up quickly anyway, so you don’t need much to make it a complete meal. A couple of ideas I had were to add chopped vegetables, like carrots, maybe even sweet potatoes. Another idea is to stir in shredded cheese for cheesy potato soup. Serve it with a salad and some bread and it’s a complete and quick meal.

I have to say homemade lentil soup is one of my favorites, so I’m picky when it comes to the canned variety. Lentils, like potatoes, are filling, so you don’t need much to make it a satisfying meal. When I think of lentils, I often think of bacon. Most have some bacon already added to them, but you could add more chopped bacon. And another idea is to add sausages and maybe some more vegetables, like carrots and make a sausage and lentil stew.

Chicken Noodle
The most obvious thing to add to plain chicken noodle soup is veggies. Peas, carrots, celery. And what a great way to use up leftover vegetables that have been sitting in the refrigerator.

admin / October 30, 2008

The Budget Smart Girl’s Guide to Greening Your Home in a Weekend

Greening your home isn’t just something for the rich and famous. Even if you’re on a tight budget that doesn’t mean you can’t take a few simple steps or buy some inexpensive items to make your home a greener place. An added plus for Budget Smart Girls is going green often means saving money too. Here are some things you can do in just a weekend and all for $150 and less.

Green Your Cleaning
I no longer waste my money buying cleaning products. I use items like baking soda, vinegar, tea tree oil and a natural brand dishwashing liquid. Together they clean everything from the windows to the bath. And something else I wouldn’t be without is my Lotus Sanitizing System. I got to test drive it last year and I’ve saved a ton of money by not having to buy disinfecting sprays and veggie washes. The basic unit is $149.99 and you can buy it either from the manufacturer’s Web site at or at places like JCPenney, Sears and Bed, Bath and Beyond. I also use to polish chrome fixtures on my sink and stove and lots of people have asked if I’ve installed new appliances.

Water Consumption
I’ve been more conscious about the amount of water that gets wasted in my house. As well as doing simple things like turning off the water while you’re brushing your teeth, there are items you can install to cut down on water flow. One is made by Water Pik, $39.99 and $49.99, depending on what style you want. It saves up to one gallon of water per minute and pays for itself in six months. Another item is from Real Goods and it’s their low flow showerhead. It cuts water use by 50-70% which saves a family of four up to $250 per year. It’s item number 46104 and costs just $10.
And if you really want to get into the water saving mode, you can go one step further and use the water that would just be flushed away down the toilet (yes, it’s clean water) to wash your hands. It’s the Toilet Lid Sink and it’s also available from Real Goods, item 01-0334, cost is $89.

What’s Draining the Energy?
And speaking of the Real Good catalog, it has some great finds for us Budget Smart Girls. Check out the Kill O Watt, item 17-0320, cost is $30. You simply plug any of your appliances into it and it will tell you how much energy they actually use. There’s also the Smart Power Strip, item 13-0062 for $39. Even when some items are switched off, they still use energy (see the tip below) but this item prevents them from doing just that.

It’s Cold Outside
And with snow and frigid temperatures just around the corner, we need to keep our homes toasty warm. Some simple projects include adding more insulation to the attic. Insulating the water pipes. And simple installing a programmable thermostat.

Green Your Technology
And as most of us have at least one computer in our homes, I thought I’d share with you some money saving tips I received from the techs at

As everyone wants to lead greener lives, a good place to start is in the home office. Ninety percent of consumers fail to realize that a major source of pollution sitting right in front of them is the PC. In fact, more than 10 million end up in landfills every year. By taking a few easy steps, computer owners can keep their PCs running smoothly, avoid costly crashes and minimize skyrocketing energy bills., a leader in remote tech support, lends expert insight on simple steps that will help green your technology. Here are a few to consider:

Turn off your monitor OFF- A popular misconception is that turning a screen saver on is helpful for your computer. Unfortunately, it’s quite the opposite. If you’re not planning to use your PC for more than several hours, such as overnight, make sure to turn it off and keep your energy bill to a minimum.

Your peripherals need sleep, too- By attaching your MP3 player, digital camera, printer and all your favorite peripherals to a central power source that can be turned off at night, you can easily limit unnecessary power consumption.

Turn off stand-by devices- TVs, DVD recorders and phone/camera chargers, believe it or not, today consume 5% of energy in the U.S. That number could go up to 20% by 2010 because of our increased dependence on technology. Make sure to unplug whenever possible.

Change Your Power Settings- Under Start Menu > Settings > Control Panel, select Display and set “Turn Off Monitor” to 10 minutes, “Turn Off Hard Drive” to 15 minutes and “System Standby” to 30 minutes. Or, for Vista Machines, select Control Panel > Power Settings, and set them to the “Balanced” mode. (Note: Our experts have found that setting to the “Power Saver” mode is a bit aggressive and has prohibitive effects for many users.)

Remote PC repair is quick, easy and green- When things go wrong with your computer, avoid a frustrating trip to the technician or having to call someone with a repair fleet to drive out to your home to fix it. Companies like offer quality repair services quickly over the phone through remote technology, without the environmental impact of a corporate fleet.

Stick with wired mice- Wired mice and keyboards use relatively little energy and they avoid unnecessary wasting of batteries.

Upgrade to an LCD flat panel monitor– Not only does the flat panel monitor boast a sleek and sophisticated addition to any office, your monitor accounts for half the energy use of a desktop computer…so choose wisely.

admin / October 27, 2008

The Blog-Good Buys of the Week

Last week I got some great buys. My local DIY store was selling wooden clothes racks for $7.98. I’ve been hanging the washing outside on a clothesline, and now that the weather’s turned colder, they’re taking forever to dry. I thought about hanging a clothesline in the basement, but then I saw these wooden racks. I bought two of them, one using the $3 in store rebate I received from buying paint this summer. The clothes might take a bit longer to dry, but it’s not a big deal. You save money on energy and you get more wear out of your clothing. And here’s a tip I found last week. Don’t use the permanent press feature on your washing machine because it uses twice as much water than the other settings.

My next good buy was at IKEA. We went shopping there on Saturday. I love strolling around in that place, looking at all the new stuff. However, my favorite spot to head to is the kitchenware section. It just so happened I was looking for two new cookie sheets. My old ones were eight years old and ready for the garbage can. I bought two new ones at IKEA, $3.98 each. They’re sturdy; Teflon coated, and hopefully will last eight years! I also headed to their Foodmarket. I love the Swedish sparkling fruit juices and they were on sale for 3 bottles for $7.98. (Today I saw the very same thing in the local supermarket 2 bottles for $7). It always makes this Budget Smart Girl smile when she knows she’s got a good deal someplace else. And being that I’m a chocoholic, I couldn’t say no to the 3 large bars of dark chocolate for just $2.98. Hey, a Budget Smart Girl has to treat herself now and then.

And here’s a follow up to my post last week about the difference in price from one vet clinic to another for cleaning my cat’s teeth. Last Wednesday he had his teeth cleaned and needed three extractions, total cost was $233. That’s $100 less than the base price at the other vet. I feel really good knowing that my cat’s teeth could be checked out immediately, and that he didn’t have to wait a couple of months until I’d saved the $900 that the other vet wanted for the very same work.

admin / October 23, 2008

Fall Soups

One thing that recharges my energy after an afternoon of raking and bagging leaves is a bowl of soup. Fall’s the perfect time to make soup, not only for eating now, but enjoying in the dead of winter. And best of all, soup’s an economical meal. And if you pair it with a side salad and bread, you’ve got yourself a complete lunch or supper.

Here are my tips for making the most out of fall soups.

Buy In Season
One way to make your food dollar stretch even further is to use ingredients that are in abundance now. Things like squash, parsnips, potatoes, and yes, even apples. They make a satisfying soup, one that’s packed with fiber and fills you up fast.

Vegetables in Order
One of the tricks of making a great soup is to let the vegetables ‘sweat’ and cook them in the right order. For example, if I’m using onions, I’ll add them to the pan first and let them sweat in oil for at least five minutes before I add vegetables like celery and carrots. The secret of a great tasting soup is layering flavors. Start with your strongest smelling vegetables first, yes, the onions and garlic, then add your spices and herbs, followed by the root vegetables, and finally the vegetables that just need five minutes or more to cook, for example, zucchini.

Don’t Be in a Rush
I know it’s tempting to eat soup as soon as it’s made, but if you wait until the next day, or even the day after that, it gets even better.

Creamy Doesn’t Have to Mean High in Fat
And one simple way to get a rib sticking creamy bowl of soup is to remove half of the soup, puree it and then add it back to the pan and reheat. Another trick I’ve found is to add half and half instead of cream. Or say for example the recipe calls for one cup of cream. I’ll use two tablespoons of cream and top the rest with low fat milk. No one ever knows the difference.

Here’s one of my favorite fall soups.
Curried Cream of Vegetable Soup

I made this soup in a cooking class I taught and everyone loved it.

Serves 4-6

1 ½ tablespoon of butter or margarine
1 small clove of garlic, minced
1 onion, sliced
1 ½ teaspoon of curry powder, you decide on how hot you want the soup to be!
1 large white potato, scrubbed (don’t peel it) and chopped into bite size pieces
1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped into bite size pieces
2 carrots chopped into bite size pieces
2 stalks of celery, chopped into bite size pieces
½ an apple, chopped into small cubes
3 ½ cups of water
2 tablespoon of mango chutney
½ teaspoon of salt
½ cup of milk mixed with 1 tablespoon of cornstarch until it’s a smooth paste
2 cups of milk

In a large saucepan and over medium heat, melt the butter/margarine.

Add the onions and garlic and let them sweat for about five minutes.

Stir in the curry powder and make sure all the onion and garlic mixture is coated and cook for about a minute.

Add the potatoes, carrots, celery, water, chutney and salt. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Add the milk/ cornstarch mixture and stir until thickened.

Slowly add the rest of the milk, don’t let the mixture boil, but just heat it through and then serve.

admin / October 23, 2008

The Budget Smart Girl’s Guide to Making the Most of Your Clothing Budget

I hope you enjoyed Kathryn Finney’s tips on how to recession proof your wardrobe. And here are some tips that have always worked for me-

Kathryn mentioned buying basic items like white blouses and black pants. I’ve found some of the best deals at the following places-

Chadwick’s I love perusing their catalog. It gives me plenty of ideas about what’s in style and best of all, none of their items are expensive. If you’re looking for blouses, check out this link

Another place to check out is Target, visit your local store or shop online One thing I like about Target is they have designer names at prices any Budget Smart Girl can afford.

And if you’re shopping for pants, try, right now they have a buy one, get one half off sale going on.

Another online store to check out is Once again lots of stuff is on sale.

Okay, it might be a bit boring, but if you stick with black, brown and navy, it always looks like you paid more for your clothes than you actually did. Next time you’re in a store and there’s more than one color, take the test. Hold up the item in black, and hold up that same item in say red and you’ll see what I mean.

Look After Your Investment
Now more than ever, whatever we buy, whether it’s a washing machine or a new dress, it’s got to last. And just like a big ticket item, the more you take care of it, the more you’ll get for your investment. Does the item really need washing after every time you wear it? Did you even bother to read the washing instructions? How about the loose button or the snag on the sweater? Check out problems before they get to the point where you have to just toss the item away.

Consignment Shops
Yes, you can get some great buys here. I’m hearing that sales are increasing in these types of stores, so I wouldn’t be too surprised to see prices also increasing. Maybe you’ve got some clothes you no longer want and the consignment shop with give you in store credit instead of cash. It’s a way to get a whole new wardrobe, basically for free.

Swap Parties
How about getting together with family, friends, co-workers and having a swap clothing party. Maybe there wasn’t so much enthusiasm before, but now with the economy sliding, you’ll probably get more interest. Everyone’s always got something they no longer want.

admin / October 23, 2008

Recession Proof Your Closet: The Budget Fashionista Announces Economic Survival Guide

If you’re worried you can’t afford new outfit, Kathryn Finney shares her tips on making the most of your clothing dollar-

NEW YORK — October 6, 2008 — According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the disposable income of the average American fell by $93.3 billion this past August. At the same time, expenses are rising — personal consumption expenditures increased $3.9 billion the same month.
In the wake of a financial crisis that has us all feeling a little less than glam, Kathryn Finney and the team at The Budget Fashionista, the top fashion blog, have put together the The Economic Survival Guide, a series of articles full of budget tips and tried-and-true economic advice for those dealing with the consequences of the shaky economy.

“We are all feeling the sting of our suffering economy,” Kathryn said. “The Economic Survival Guide helps fellow budget shoppers maintain the same level of fabulousness they had before the financial crash.”
As part of her Economic Survival Guide, Kathryn has developed numerous foolproof tips for recession-proofing your closet, born from her own struggles with credit card debit and her years as America’s #1 authority on Budget Style. Here’s a just few of Kathryn’s tips for recession proofing your closet:

1. Develop a Signature Piece. This is the piece you’re going to be known for—sort of like your calling card. It could be fabulous shoes, earrings, blazer, dresses, etc. Focus your shopping dollars on these pieces. My signature piece is crazy necklaces, which I find at thrift stores and stores like Forever 21.

2. Use the Cost per Wear When Shopping. Frequent TBF readers know this is something I’ve been preaching for years. Value is the key when building a great closet and The Budget Fashionista’s cost per wear formula can help you get the most bang for your buck. The cost per wear is the price of an item/divided by the number of times you think you’ll wear it. So if an item costs $100, and you wear it ten times, the cost per wear is $10. The more you wear an item, the cheaper it becomes. This tip is especially important as it forces you to focus on the utility of an item, ie the usefulness of an item to you, rather than just the price. Paying $5 for something you never wear is $5 wasted.

3. Limit Trips to the Dry Cleaners. This is a real money zapper, even for yours truly, until I learned, and this may come as a shock, that you’re only suppose to dry clean your suits two to three times per year and even less for items like coats. So how do you keep it fresh in the meantime? Spritz it with a bit of fabric freshener.

4. Follow the 70/30 Rule. 70 percent of your closet should be classic pieces that never go out of style, a great white shirt from Old Navy or even a nice black suit that you can wear over and over again. The other 30 percent should be fun trendy items like a plaid skirt, funky bomber jacket, or a cool fedora.

admin / October 20, 2008

The Blog-Hey, That’s Outrageous!

If the following incident wouldn’t have happened to me, I wouldn’t have believed it. A couple of weeks ago I took my cat to the vet for his annual check-up and rabies shot. I’ve been taking him to this particular vet for about three years now. The vet checked his teeth and said he had some mild tartar that wasn’t anything too serious, but then she noticed some cavities. They’re not like the cavities we get and apparently most cats over eight years of age are prone to them. She said there was a strong possibility that he might have to get them extracted. They gave me an estimate for cleaning, x—rays, and the top end of the estimate was close to $450.

When I got home and looked over all the items, I noticed they didn’t include the tooth extractions. I phoned them and asked if they could e-mail me another invoice and to include any tooth extractions. They finally called and said they couldn’t tell me the exact price until the teeth were actually extracted, but the total would probably be close to $1,000. Something told me this was on the high side so I just happened to ask someone if they knew a good animal clinic. They did and I took the cat there for a dental check-up.

Bottom line is to clean his teeth and two possible extractions is going to be around $240. What a difference in price, and not just $60 or even $100, but around $600. If $1,000 would have been the going price for this sort of procedure then I would have gladly somehow fitted it into the budget. However, for one vet’s office to charge that much more, I think is pretty outrageous. And you can guess that I won’t be using their services any more.

Morale of this tale, check prices for everything, products and services. And ask family, friends, co-workers for recommendations.

admin / October 17, 2008

The Budget Smart Girl’s Guide to Halloween

The shaky economy might be the scariest thing out there right now, but that doesn’t mean the Budget Smart Girl can’t have some fun on Halloween. In fact, this year I’m seeing more prices being cut before Halloween. Everything from candy to decorations. So you might not have to wait until the last minute to pick up a bargain…but of course, it never hurts to do that anyway.

What’s in Your Closet?
If you’re in a bind about what to wear this year and don’t the budget for something fancy, check your closet. Is there anything in there you can use? And yes, if you have some clothes from say the 70s or 80s, you can just about pick any character from that era. I remember back to my days at school when I was picked to play a shepherd in the school play. They sent me home with a pattern for my mom to make my outfit. She couldn’t sew so we ended up finding one of her old dresses Yes, it just happened to have colorful stripes on it. We cut it down to fit me, put a cord around the waist and everyone thought it was the best outfit.

Consignment Stores
Okay, so you couldn’t find anything in your closet, so stop by your nearest consignment store and see what they have to offer. I know consignment stores are seeing increased traffic these days so I’m thinking bargains might be harder to find now.

Thrift Stores
I know lots of people who won’t think of going to a thrift store at any other time of the year but Halloween. You’re bound to find some retro outfits or even some old Halloween costumes. Another note here, I read these stores are also seeing an increase in shopping traffic and not just for costumes, so make sure you go there early.

Buy Now, Wear Twice
And if you are buying new this year, think about an outfit that you can maybe adapt for next year. That way you’ll save yourself some money next Halloween should your budget still be feeling the pinch.

Okay, you know what most people say, don’t buy candy that you like because you’ll end up eating it. I say that’s exactly what you want to do. And no, I don’t mean before the trick and treaters arrive at your door. Buy the candy you like and then hide it away until Halloween. If you don’t get as many ghouls and goblins at the door as you expect, you’re not left with bags of candy you hate, and therefore you haven’t wasted money.

Leftover Candy
And on the subject of candy, how about buying some that you can use at Thanksgiving or even Christmas. It’s going to be on sale so you might as well stock up. You can buy candy you can give as stocking stuffers. Or buy candy that you’ll use in the Christmas cookies.

Stores to Check Out
One of the best types of stores to check out for decorations for any holiday is your local dollar store. It’s my top pick for bags at Christmas. And they usually have items like Halloween decorations and paper cups and plates.
Another store to visit is Michaels craft store. They usually have some great deals in the weeks leading up to Halloween and sometimes have Halloween related craft classes for the kids too. In fact, this might be a cheaper alternative than a Halloween party. Visit Click on their hot item of the week.

Sites to Check Out
Here are some sites where you might be able to pick up the odd bargain or two., some good stuff, but you’ll need to spend at least $50.

admin / October 17, 2008

Italian Cooking for the Budget Smart Cook

Monday was Columbus Day and that meant many food companies and restaurants were promoting Italian food and cooking. And it just so happens to be one of my favorite cuisines. I not only love it because of the great tasting dishes, but also because most Italian recipes are budget friendly too. Pasta is one of the least expensive foods at the supermarket. Grocery stores always seem to have sales on pasta sauces. And then there’s pizza, easy to make, easy on the budget and you can add just about anything you want. And an added plus, is pasta and pizza are some of the easiest and least time consuming dishes to put together.

Cooking Sites
I always like finding great cooking related Web sites and here are some of the best. If you’re looking for tips on anything even remotely connected to Italian cooking, check out these three sites- This site has tips, recipes and even a section on wine. You can easily spend an hour or more on this site. Check out the various regions of Italy and their corresponding recipes. This is the site of Barilla pasta products. And I have to say that when Barilla pasta and sauces are on sale, I buy a good supply.

And here are a couple of my favorite Italian recipes-
The first one is a soup that I adapted from a recipe for Minestrone Soup. It serves 4-6 and makes a meal in itself if you add Italian bread and a generous serving of Parmesan cheese.

Old World Italian Soup
3 tablespoons oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves of crushed garlic
1 cup minced celery
1 cup cubed carrots
1 cup cubed zucchini
1 cup chopped green pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon basil
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 ½ cups of peas or chickpeas, your choice
1 cup chopped tomatoes
2 cups tomato sauce
3 ½ cups water

1. In a stock pot, saute the onions and garlic in the oil until the onions are soft and translucent.

2. Add the salt, carrots, celery and zucchini and mix well.

3. Add the basil and pepper and cover and cook the mixture over a low heat for about 8-10 minutes.

4. Add the green pepper, water, tomato sauce, beans/peas and cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

5. Add the tomatoes and season to taste, adding more salt and pepper if necessary.

6. Simmer for about ten minutes and then serve.

Italian Fall Vegetable Stew
(Serves 4 as a Main Dish or 6 as a Side Dish)

This one’s for the slow cooker and it’s ideal for a chilly fall day and really welcoming after an afternoon of raking leaves. You can serve it as a vegetarian dish or alongside a grilled chicken breast or pork chop. Either way, serve some bread on the side to soak up all the sauce.

1 ½ cup dried lentils
3 cups of water
2 cups chopped butternut squash
1 cup chopped sweet potato
1 26 oz. jar of Classico Fire Roasted Tomato and Garlic pasta sauce
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup chopped zucchini
1 15 oz. can garbanzo beans
½ teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon dried thyme

1. Rinse the lentils and place them in a 3-quart (or larger) slow cooker. Add the water. Add the squash, sweet potato, onion, pasta sauce, basil and thyme and stir together.

2. Cover and cook either 8-10 hours on high, or 4-6 hours on low. About an hour before serving stir in the chopped zucchini and just before serving stir in the garbanzo beans. Fresh chopped basil is a nice addition sprinkled on top when the dish has finished cooking.

admin / October 16, 2008

Halloween Extra

I always like to pass along tips and money saving articles to you and here’s something that was sent from Balloon Time Helium Balloon Kits. It’s full of great ideas that won’t break the bank.

Spooktacular Halloween Parties for Every Age by Penny Warner with Balloon Time Helium Balloon Kits

Halloween is a favorite holiday for children across the country and it’s no wonder why. They get to dress up as their favorite hero, collect a bunch of candy and go to Halloween parties. Help your kids experience Halloween safely by hosting a Spooktacular Halloween party. Here are a few party ideas to make your séance extra spooky for every kid this October!

Pumpkin Party (Preschool Age)
Instead of inviting spooky spirits and ghastly ghosts to your preschool party, introduce Halloween gently to the small set with a pumpkin-themed party!

Set up a Pumpkin Patch
Buy or rent hay bales from the feed store and arrange them into a maze in the backyard. Hide small pumpkins under loose hay at the end of the maze. Cut out crows from black construction paper and tape them to the fence and trees. Draw funny Jack O’Lantern faces on orange helium balloons and tie them to the hay.

Play in the Pumpkin Patch
Try some of these games for some more fun with preschoolers:

Walk the Maze
Let the kids try to find their way through the hay maze to the pumpkins hidden at the other end.

Paint a Pumpkin
When they find their pumpkins, let the kids paint them with poster paint or decorate them with stickers.

Pumpkin Bowling
Set out plastic 2-liter bottles in a row. Use your Balloon Time Helium Balloon Kit to inflate and tie orange helium balloons to the tops of each bottle. Give the kids a small round pumpkin without the stem and let them “bowl” down the pins.

Catch the Runaway Pumpkins
Use your Balloon Time Helium Balloon Kit to blow up a bunch of orange helium balloons and tie ribbons to them so they’re barely within reach of the kids’ hands when they float on the ceiling. Then let the kids try to jump up and catch as many balloons as they can.

Dress the Scarecrow
Lay out some old clothes, such as overalls, a flannel shirt and a straw hat and work together to build a funny scarecrow. Draw a face on an orange helium balloon to use for the head.

Pumpkin Patch Refreshments
Serve Pumpkin Punch (orange juice punch) and mini pumpkin pies. Let the kids decorate their own pumpkin-shaped cookies with tubes of frosting and sprinkles.

Medieval Magic (Elementary Age)
Kids in elementary school love to dress up as their mythical heroes, slay dragons and do a little magic, so host a Medieval Party complete with wizards, witches and warlocks.

Build a Haunted Castle
Gather several large appliance boxes and paint them gray. Tape them together to form a castle and add detail with black poster paint. Attach black or silver helium balloons to the castle towers and hang a flag at the top of the highest point. Cut out doors and windows so the kids can enter the castle.

Medieval Mischief
Spend a magical night of wild wizardry with these games and activities:

Knight the Guests
Ask the kids to come dressed for the theme, then add appropriate accessories to their costumes, such as flower garlands and cone-shaped hats for the girls, plastic helmets and cloaks for the boys.

Make and Take
Have the girls make their own candy necklaces out of candies strung onto string and add them to their costumes. Let the boys make their own swords from cardboard and paint.

Magic Tricks
Teach the kids some simple magic tricks, and then let them perform for one another. Include a few science experiments, such as The Exploding Volcano or Slime for added wizardry.

Sword Play
Use your Balloon Time Helium Balloon Kit to inflate a bunch of helium balloons and see how many the kids can pop using only their cardboard swords.

Castle Refreshments
Have the bakery make a Castle Cake or let the kids make their own mini-castles using graham crackers, with frosting to hold it together and tiny candies for decoration. When they’re finished, let the kids eat their castles. Wash it down with “Grog” (any kind of punch).

Fortune Telling and Tarot (Teenagers)
Teens like a touch of danger and mystery with their Halloween celebrations, so welcome them to a spooky scene where ghosts seem to come alive.

Spooktacular Setting
Choose a room for the party and welcome the spirits inside. Cover the windows in black cloth or paper to darken the room, then light candles and turn on a black light for atmosphere. Add cobwebs, plastic spiders and the occasional fake body part here and there. Write fortunes on small pieces of paper and insert them into black balloons. Inflate them with helium for a decoration and use them later for a party game.

Summon the Ghouls for Spirited Fun
Here are some awe-full activities for the teenage crowd:

Let the Séance Begin
Set up a round table and cover it with a black cloth. Hide a microphone speaker under the table, with the mic in another room. Inflate a white balloon with helium to use as a crystal ball, and cover it with a lightweight handkerchief. Carry it to the table and hold it until the séance begins. Set it in the middle of the table and have everyone join hands. Watch as the crystal ball begins to rise up mysteriously and have someone in the other room talk to the guests from “beyond.”

The Cards Don’t Lie
Buy a tarot deck and study the meanings of the cards. Then tell the fortunes of the other guests – just for fun. Or, make up funny fortunes for added laughs.

The Spirits Are Not Happy
One by one, pop the black balloons over the heads of the guests, and warn them their fortunes are about to fall upon them. Have them open and read the fortunes that land nearby.

There’s a Body in the Library
Set up a crime scene and have the guests solve a mystery, using clues that have been hidden around the room.

Ghoulish Goodies
Serve drinks from a tub filled with dry ice. Make “finger” sandwiches – sandwiches cut into strips with an almond pressed into one end to form a finger with a fingernail. Let the teens make their own Pizza Mini-Monsters, with pizza dough, sauce and a variety of toppings formed to make a freaky face.

Penny Warner has more than 25 years of experience as an author and party planner. She has published more than 50 books, including 16 specific to parties. Additionally, Warner wrote a weekly newspaper column on family life for 11 years, penned a column for Sesame Street Parents magazine and has appeared on several regional and national TV morning programs. Visit

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