Simply Sweet Home

Recipes, Decor, Crafts, Product Reviews, Giveaways and more.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Use Your Windows to Help You Save Money

Electricity bills are always their lowest in the fall and spring, and your windows can help make them even lower and and help you to lower your bills this winter.

  • This winter open your blinds and curtains on sunny days, allowing the sun to warm your home, and close them at night to keep the cool out.
  • On mild days open your windows. Where I live at this time of year the weather can be unpredictable. In the morning I'm wearing a jogging suit and in the afternoon I may be wearing shorts. Rather than using your heating/cooling system, opening your windows can help you to maintain a comfortable temperature in your home. The sun helps to heat your home, and opening the windows allows a breeze to blow in, cooling your home and also airing your house out.
  • Repair cracked windows. You can save energy and money by making sure that your home is properly sealed. Check your windows for cracks, and repair them with caulk and weather stripping.
  • Replace old windows. According to the Alliance to Save Energy ( you should replace old, rattling single-pane windows. Old single-pane windows do not properly insulate homes. Replacing them can not only help reduce your heating/cooling bills, but it will also help reduce your risk of condensation and reduce the risk of the sun fading out your furniture and other fabrics.
  • Buy "black out" curtains. Black out curtains help to keep light out of your home. They can also help to keep your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Simply Sweet Recipe - Pumpkin Brownies

1 2/3 c. sugar
1 c. oil
4 eggs
1 (16 oz.) can pumpkin
2 c. flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt

3 oz. cream cheese
2 c. powdered sugar
1/2 c. butter
1 tsp. vanilla

Cream together sugar and oil. Add remaining ingredients (except frosting) and mix. Pour into greased and floured cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.
Beat together ingredients for frosting. Frost brownies when completely cool.

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Importance of Cleaning Up Fall Leaves

Almost everyone loves the fall leaves: the way they color the trees, the crunching sound they make beneath your feet, but most people hate to have their yards covered with them. Often it becomes a toss up decision: What do I hate worse? All the leaves? Or having to rake the leaves? And this toss up usually determines whether or not we clean up our yards.

Sometimes, especially if you have a busy schedule, it is hard to find the time to rake the leaves, and it is especially annoying to spend an afternoon raking, only to find your yard covered in leaves again the very next day. This leads a lot of people to beg the question: Why bother?

Personally I do not have a problem with leaves to begin with, as we only have a few trees in our yard to deal with; however, if you have a yard with a lot of trees, the leaves tend to pile up pretty fast. But whether you have one tree or several trees, there are benefits to cleaning up the leaves.

The following link is to an article about why it is important to have a clean, "fall leaf free" yard, and it also tells you some things you can do with the leaves:
Why You Should Clean the Leaves & What to do with the Leaves

Also, check out this article about composting your leaves.
How To Compost Leaves

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Trick or Treat Safety Tips

  1. Stay in well lit areas.
  2. Only trick or treat in neighborhoods you are familiar with.
  3. If you live in an area where you don't have a lot of neighbors, take your kids to a safe neighborhood where a friend or family member lives, or go to a safe neighborhood near a school or church.
  4. If you have older kids who are going out without a chaperone, have them to go in groups, and remind them to stay together.
  5. Set a curfew time for kids who are going out without a parent.
  6. Have the kids wear comfortable walking shoes.
  7. Make sure their costumes are not dragging on the ground.
  8. Remind the kids to stay out of the road and to watch for cars.
  9. Make sure your child's costume doesn't cover their eyes or blur their vision.
  10. If your kid is carrying a sword, wand, pitchfork, or some other prop, make sure that the object is not sharp enough for him/her to injure himself/herself or others.
  11. Remind kids to walk and not run in order to avoid falling in the dark.
  12. Make sure your kids know not to eat any candy until you have inspected and okayed it.
  13. Don't let your kids go out after dark unless they are chaperoned or in a group.
  14. Have your kids carry a flashlight or glow stick so that they can see where they are going and avoid tripping/falling and so that they can be seen by cars.
  15. Don't allow small children to have hard candy or suckers.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Sweet Treats for Day of the Dead

Dia de los Muertos or "Day of the Dead" is a tradition in hispanic cultures dating back some 2500-3000 years. It is a celebration in remembrance of the dead. November first is known as All Saints Day, and it honors children who have died, while November second, All Souls Day, is celebrated in honor of deceased adults. It is believed that the spirits of the dead will visit their relatives on Dia de los Muertos, and in honor of the dead, the families prepare an alter and leave offerings.

Though it is a Mexican holiday, it has spread and is now celebrated in areas all over the world. In fact, several Mexican communities in the United States now hold Day of the Dead celebrations. Some of these celebrations are said be very traditional, while others are a blend of Mexican and American culture.

Today chocolate skulls and coffins and other Halloween treats compete with the traditional Mexican Day of the Dead cuisine, but the traditional sweets of Dia de los Muertos are still known to be very delicious. In celebration of this holiday or as a special Halloween treat try making your own sugar skulls or Mexican sweet bread, called pan de muertos.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Simply Sweet Recipe

Scary Spiderweb Cupcakes

Prep Time:20 min
Start to Finish:1 hr 10 min
Makes:24 cupcakes

1 box Betty Crocker® SuperMoist® devil's food cake mix
Water, vegetable oil and eggs called for on cake mix box

1 container Betty Crocker® Rich & Creamy vanilla frosting

3 drops red food color

4 to 5 drops yellow food color

1 tube (0.68 ounce) Betty Crocker® black decorating gel

48 large black gumdrops

1. Heat oven to 350°F (325°F for dark or nonstick pans). Make and cool cupcakes as directed on box for 24 cupcakes.

2. Tint frosting with red and yellow food colors to make orange frosting. Spread frosting over tops of cupcakes.

3. Squeeze circles of decorating gel on each cupcake; pull knife through gel from center outward to make web. To make each spider, roll out 1 gumdrop and cut out 8 strips for legs; place another gumdrop on top. Place spider on cupcake. Store loosely covered at room temperature.

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Fun Halloween Party Games

Here are some fun and affordable activities for your child's Halloween party. Some of these would also be great for school parties:
  • Costume Contest - Have the kids vote on who has the best costume.
  • Scavenger hunt- Have the kids break up into teams. Make a list of items for the kids to find. (Include everyday items and Halloween items (a pumpkin, candy, toy spider, ect.)
  • Capture the flag - Divide the kids into two teams. Each team gets a flag to hide and defend. Just like in tag, the members of each team have the power to tag members of the other team, "freezing" them for a specific amount of time.
  • Pumpkin Bowling - Buy plastic bowling pins or spraypaint some 2 liter coke bottles. Use plastic pumpkins for bowling balls.
  • Guess the Pumpkin's Weight - Get a pumpkin (or perhaps more than one. maybe a small one and a large one) Have each kid to gues how much the pumpkin weighs. Whoever gets closer to the actual weight wins a prize. (For another game, you can ask the kids to guess how many seeds are in the pumpkin.)
  • How many beans are in the the jar? - Put jelly beans or candy corns into a glass jar. Have the kids guess how many candies are in the jar.
  • Make-A-Mummy - Have the kids partner up. Use toilet paper or white streamers. Have the kids turn their partner into a mummy. Whoever is done first, wins.
  • Needle in the Haystack - Make a small pile of hay. Hide money or other prizes in it, and have the kids search for it.
  • Apple Bobbing - Put water and apples into a barrel or extra large bowl. Have the kids pull out the apples with their mouths.
  • Apple Eating Contest - Put up a clothes line. Hang apples of the line with a string. Get a timer and see who can eat the most of their apple in a specified amount of time.
  • Pumpkin Toss - Like a bean bag toss, but instead get small pumpkins and have the kids toss them to the holes.
  • Charades/Outburst - Make up a list of Halloween items and costumes. Break the kids up into 2 teams. Have the kids play charades, acting out the part of the item on the card, or have them to give verbal clues to their team mates.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Fall Decor

In the stores it already looks like Christmas, and in the last couple of years I've seen a few houses that have Christmas lights up 2 days after Halloween. What ever happened to Thanksgiving?

If you haven't decorated your house for Halloween yet and you hate the idea of putting up decorations only to take them down a week later, consider this: Buy decorations for the entire fall season. Pumpkins, scarecrows, and leaves are great decorations for Halloween and Thanksgiving as well.

If you're a fan of ghosts and goblins consider putting them up for Halloween, along with your pumpkins and other decor. Then after Halloween take the ghosts and ghouls down and leave your "fall decor" up till Thanksgiving.

It is very easy to decorate for the fall season without spending a lot of money. I bought my decorations at Wal-Mart, Big Lots, and the Dollar Tree.
  • Strings of leaves are very cute to hang on the porch, and I've seen them priced from $1 to $4 each. (You'll probably need 3 to 6 of these, depending on the size of you porch.)

  • Large Scarecrows (4' to 5' tall) are great for a porch, yard, or garden, and they sell for $7 to $10.

  • Smaller scarecrows (6 inches to 2') are good for the yard and the inside of your house. I hung one onto a window outside and placed another with a couple of pumpkins in my dining room. You can buy these for $.50 to $3.

  • Pumpkins - If you're not in to carving pumpkins, you can buy plastic pumpkins that look like the real thing. Buy jack-o-laterns that light up, or plain pumpkins for a festive harvest look. The pumpkins range in size and sell for $2 to $9.

  • Artificial flowers/leaves/berries. - These make a great addition and add a lot of color to your decor. Create an arrangement for your dining room table, or place them outside on your porch. At around $1 a sprig they are also a lot cheaper than buying potted fall plants.

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Great Snacks for Halloween

Bugs in a Blanket (from

Prep Time: 30 min ; Start to Finish: 45 min Makes: 24 snacks
1 can (11 oz) Pillsbury® refrigerated breadsticks
24 cocktail-size smoked link sausages (from 14-oz package)
3/4 cup shoestring potatoes (from 1 3/4-oz can)
Ketchup, barbecue sauce or mustard
1 . Heat oven to 375°F. Unroll dough; separate at perforations into 12 breadsticks. With knife or kitchen scissors, cut each breadstick in half crosswise, making 24 pieces.
2 . Wrap each piece of dough around center of each sausage, pinching to seal and leaving each end of sausage showing. Place seam side down and 1/2 inch apart on ungreased large cookie sheet.
3 . Bake 11 to 14 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately remove from cookie sheet; place on serving plate or tray. Cool 2 minutes.
4 . Insert shoestring potatoes into baked dough to resemble legs and antennae. Decorate "bugs" with dots or stripes of ketchup.

Sweet Moster Cupcakes (from

2 dozen cupcakes from your favorite recipe
3.4-ounce box of vanilla-flavored instant pudding
green food coloring
1 cup of green melting candy (we used Wilton Candy Melts)
24 large marshmallows
waxed-paper-lined baking sheet
M&M's Minis
small serrated knife
chocolate frosting
black gel
2 green Tic Tac mints

1. Bake and cool 2 dozen cupcakes from your favorite recipe. Prepare a 3.4-ounce box of vanilla-flavored instant pudding. Stir in drops of green food coloring until you have a shade you like, then place it in the refrigerator to chill.

2. Next, microwave 1 cup of green melting candy (we used Wilton Candy Melts, available at party supply stores) for 1 minute at 50 percent power, then stir. If necessary, heat in 15-second intervals until completely melted. One at a time, spear 24 large marshmallows with a skewer and roll them in the melted candy, coating the sides. Set them on a waxed-paper-lined baking sheet, add M&M's Minis for eyes, and place them in the refrigerator to chill.

3. With a small serrated knife, remove a 1-inch-wide chunk from the center of each cupcake. Fill each hole with a tablespoon or so of the pudding, then spread chocolate frosting around each pudding hole.

4. Cover each pool of pudding with a chilled marshmallow. Add black gel facial features and 2 green Tic Tac mints for bolts.

5. Finally, top each monster head with a bit of frosting and muss with your finger or a fork. Keep the cupcakes chilled until serving time.

Halloween Cat Cookies (from Taste of Home)

1 tube (18 ounces) refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough
54 pieces candy corn
1 can (16 ounces) chocolate frosting
Red shoestring licorice, cut into 1-3/8-inch pieces
9 thin chocolate wafer (2-1/4 inch diameter), quartered

Bake cookies according to package directions. Cool on a wire racks. Cut off yellow tips from 18 pieces of candy corn (discard orange and white portion or save for another use). Frost cookies with chocolate frosting. Immediately decorate with two whole candy corns for eyes, a yellow candy corn tip for nose, six licorice pieces for whiskers and two wafer quarters for ears. Yield: 1-1/2 dozen.

Monster Burgers (taken from

Prep Time: 35 min ; Start to Finish: 35 min

8 ground beef patties (4 oz each)
8 burger buns, split
8 slices (3/4 oz each) American cheese
8 thin slices cooked ham
16 slices dill pickle

1 . Set oven control to broil. Place ground beef patties on broiler pan. Broil with tops 3 to 4 inches from heat 10 to 12 minutes or until thoroughly cooked, turning once.
2 . Place bottom halves of buns on serving platter. For each monster burger, place 1 cooked patty on bottom half of bun. Cut cheese slice in half in zigzag pattern to look like teeth. Place half of cheese slice on burger, with "teeth" hanging off 1 side of patty.
3 . Loosely fold ham into tongue shape; place on top of "teeth." Place remaining cheese "teeth" on top of "tongue." Top with top half of bun. Place 2 pickle slices on top for eyes. Dot "eyes" with ketchup for pupils.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

30 Easy Halloween Costume Ideas

    Need an idea for a Halloween costume? I've compiled a list of some costume ideas that are both easy and inexpensive. Many of the costumes can be made by using clothes and other materials you already have at home. Other items can be purchased for a reasonable price at Wal-Mart, Target, or the dollar store. Also, try looking at thrift stores and consignment shops for used clothing that can be used for your costume. Have fun!
  1. Cat - Dress in all black. Buy a tail and ears or make you own. (or wear animal print and go as a tiger, leopard, or zebra.)

  2. Prisoner - Wear black and white stripes, and make your own ball and chain.

  3. Witch - dress in all black. Try to find something to wear as a cloak. Buy or make a hat and broom.

  4. Vampire - Just like the witch costume except wear a set of vampire teeth.

  5. Cowboy - Wear jeans, a flannel shirt, boots, and of course a hat. You may also want to add a vest and a gun holster and gun.

  6. Devil - Dress in red. Buy or make a tail, horns, and a pitchfork.

  7. Doctor - Wear a lab coat & glasses. Also, carry a stethoscope if you have one at home or buy one out of the toy department.

  8. Police Men - Wear a blue button up shirt and black or navy pants. Look in the toy department for a badge, gun, and hat.

  9. Teacher/Professor - Wear a suit or a blouse and skirt. Wear a pair of glasses. Wear your hair in a bun. Consider carrying a book or a ruler.

  10. Angel - Wear all white. Wings and a halo can be bought at any costume store, or make your own. When I was little my dad made my wings out of metal coat hangers and an old sheer curtain. The halo can be made with a coat hanger and glitter or shiny Christmas garland.

  11. Farmer - Wear overalls or jeans and a shirt, a cowboy hat or straw hat. Carry a toy rake or shovel.

  12. Fireman - Wear a yellow raincoat over your clothes and a pair of boots. Find a hat at a costume store or out of the toy department, if your head is small enough.

  13. Ghost - Make an instant ghost costume out of an old sheet or large curtain. If you don't have any old sheets or curtains that are white, wear white clothing and consider covering yourself (except your head) in large white trash bags.

  14. Mail carrier - Wear a blue button up shirt and dark shorts and wear a mail bag over your shoulder.

  15. UPS guy - Wear a brown button up shirt and shorts. Carry a brown box as a prop.

  16. Athlete - Wear your favorite team jersey with jeans or buy a full uniform at a sporting goods store. Put black face paint under your eyes.

  17. Princess -If you have a fancy dress at home that you never wear, consider using it as a costume. (perhaps you have a bridesmaid's dress from a friends wedding that your were in or a dress from some formal event) Otherwise look for a dress online or at a consignment store. They often sale used prom dresses and wedding gowns. Then buy crown/tiara from a costume store or a craft store like Hobby Lobby.

  18. Bride - same concept as the princess costume. Wear an old white dress you already own or buy one from a consignment shop. Consignment shop and thrift stores usually sell veils too, or you can make your own. Hobby Lobby sells veil kits or you can just buy some sheer fabric and attach it to a hair clip.

  19. Little Red Riding Hood - Wear a red dress. Make your own or buy a head cape. Carry a picnic basket.

  20. Hippie - Very easy costume. Just buy some vintage looking clothes and jewelry.

  21. 50s Costume - Females can wear a blouse, sweater, and long skirt. Consider making your own poodle skirt or a 50s style cheerleading outfit. Guys can wear jeans, a white or black t-shirt, and a leather jacket for that greaser/Fonz/Danny Zucko look, or wear jeans, a white t-shirts and a letterman's jacket for the "soc" look.

  22. Flapper - Wear a long dress, preferably something vintage with fringe if you can find it. Make a headband with a big feather, and wear a long string of beads and a feather boa.

  23. Waitress - Wear a long skirt and blouse, and an apron around your waist. Carry a tray, a menu, or an order pad.

  24. Bum/Hobo/Scarecrow - Wear old jeans or overalls, and a old checkered shirt. Use old clothes or material to make patches to put over your clothes. For the scarecrow costume, consider stuffing hay or corn husks in your overalls.

  25. Hunter/Soldier - If you already have hunting clothes, wear them or borrow some from a friend. Otherwise check an army surplus store. Camouflage has been pretty popular in the last few years, so you may be able to find some camou pants on sale at a department store as well.

  26. Caesar - Use an old white sheet or other material to make a toga, and make a wreath for your head. Use this same idea for a Greek god or goddess, or a Cleopatra costume.

  27. The Crazed/Obsessed Fan - Wear a jersey or t-shirt of your favorite sports team or music group. Paint your face and make a fan poster.

  28. French Maid - Short black dress or skirt and blouse. Wear black hose and high heels, and a white apron. Carry a feather duster.

  29. Baby/Kid - Wear pajamas and big animal house shoes. Carry a stuffed animal and a bottle or pacifier. Wear your hair in pig tails or wear a bonnet.

  30. Television Icon - Buy vintage clothes to look like your favorite television character. Some favorites that come to mind are Happy Days, the Brady Bunch, Partridge Family, Andy Griffith, and I Love Lucy. Or consider more "recent" old shows. Find some 80s or early 90s clothes and go for the Miami Vice look or your dress like favorite character from Saved by the Bell or Beverly Hills 90210.

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Product Review - The Swiffer Carpet Flick

A couple of weeks ago I finally broke down and purchased the Swiffer Carpet Flick to go along with my other Swiffer products. (the duster and the wetjet) So far I have been very pleased with my purchase. The unit costs around $10, and the replacement refils are only a few dollars. (much cheaper than some of the other Swiffer product refills) The product works just as well as it does on television. I was actually quite horrified when I saw how much stuff it picked up off of my living room rug! It is light weight, which makes it very easy to carry around the house and up and down stairs, and the cleaning pads are very easy to replace. We actually have hard wood and vinyl throughout much of our house, and it got to be a pain in the neck getting out the vacuum cleaner and carrying it all through the house to clean our rugs every week or so. This makes the Carpet Flick a perfect fit for me. I can't say that I'd recommend it as a vacuum replacement. The cleaning pads were dirty and ready to be thrown away just after I cleaned the rugs in my living room, office, and kitchen. I didn't even make it to the bedrooms! For large jobs, that is for houses with lot of carpeting throughout you'll still need your vacuum, but for a quick clean up of rugs and small areas it is a great product!

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

World Hunger Relief Week

This week, Oct 14th to the 20th, is World Hunger Relief Week. This movement is dedicated to raising the awareness of world hunger and taking donations to feed the poor all over the world. Here's a link to the website sponsoring this event:

If you are interested in this problem, I also suggest that you search the web for similar sites and donate to the one of your choice. I, for one, am interested in the increasing problem of hunger in the United States. I found a report published by the Carsey Institute of the University of New Hampshire. It offers a summary on the poverty rate in the U.S. and how it has changed since 2000, and then it includes a table of statistics for each state. You can read the report here.

I'm from Alabama, and I've seen some of the dammage from the hurricanes of the past few years. I personally would encourage people to donate to these areas. The Bay Area Food Bank is doing work for people Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi. Here's a link to their site:


Saturday, October 13, 2007

Simply Delicious - Creamy Salsa Dip

With football season in full swing and holiday parties right around the corner, everyone needs quick and simple snack and appetizer ideas. This dip is the perfect choice if you're looking for something inexpensive and easy. It's a unique and tasty alternative to salsa that your family and friends will love.

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cup chunky salsa

Beat cream cheese until smooth. Stir in sour cream and salsa. Cover. Refrigerate 4 hours before serving. Serve with tortilla chips and/or crackers.

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Friday, October 12, 2007


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Thursday, October 11, 2007


Welcome friends to Simply Sweet Home! This website will cover a variety of topics related to family and home life: everything from recipes to housekeeping tips, product reviews, arts and crafts, budgeting & planning, money saving tips, marriage and family, and anything else I can think of.

I suppose to begin I should introduce myself. My name is Jerri. Last year I graduated from college with Bachelor of Arts degrees in History and English. A few months later I got married and began embarking on the incredible journey of being a wife and homemaker. I've been researching possible home business and other opportunities for a while now, yet the whole time I knew in the back of my mind that more than anything I have always wanted to be a writer. One of the hardest things about writing is actually getting started, so I've decided to "test the waters" by taking on a few blogging projects and some freelancing assignments.

For this blog, I've decided to combine my love of writing with my love of homemaking. I'm confident it will be a good combination. I hope you enjoy this site & will be happy to visit again, and feel free to leave your comments. Thank you!