6 Curious Facts About Halloween

trick-or-treaters2Halloween is one reason to look forward to fall — we get dressed up in spooky costumes, go to parties and eat a lot of candy. But the holiday has a rich history… here are six curious facts about Halloween.

Roots What we know as Halloween — the costumes and candy — is very different from how Halloween began. Scholars believe it is rooted in the Gaelic festival to honor the end of summer called “Samhain” (pronounced SAH-win). It was recognized as a time when the boundary between the spiritual world and the mortal world was more fluid. Samhain also coincided with the Christian holiday of All Saints Day which is also referred to as All Hallows Day — Halloween (All Hallows Eve) is a fusion of the Gaelic and Christian holidays.

ghost-cupcakesTreats There are a few possibilities from which we derive trick-or-treating. Originally, according to Gaelic tradition, people would put food and offerings outside their doors to appease the spirits wandering in the mortal world so they would protect villagers’ livestock.  This tradition morphed into a ritual for Scottish kids called “guising.” They dressed up in ragged clothes to blend in with the wandering spirits as they went  door-to-door asking for treats in exchange for a trick they could perform. Similarly, in Britain and Ireland children and poor people went door-to-door to trade singing and saying prayers for the dead for “soul cakes.” It was believed eating the cakes freed souls from Purgatory. The tradition was called “souling.”

Witches Samhain, where Halloween is rooted, is the highest holy day for witches. Witches are known to be ugly, covered in warts — but this wasn’t always what came to mind when witches were mentioned. According to Raven Grimassi, an author and expert on witches, witches were young and beautiful, but Roman poet Horace wanted to change how the public viewed witches so he depicted them in his writing as ugly old hags.

trick-or-treatersBlack Cats Originally, these dark felines were either friends of witches or they were witches, depending on who you ask. Popular belief is witches could would turn into black cats to disguise themselves. However, according to Greek mythology, goddess of the underworld, Hecate, had a black cat who was once human. There are two stories on who that cat was.  It was either formerly a witch with an incontinence problem or a nurse who angered the Greek goddess Eileithyia — in both scenarios, being turned into a cat was a form of punishment, not a form of disguise.

halloween-dog-treatsJack-O-Lantern The origin of the jack-o-lantern also has several explanations. In Somerset, England, kids march through neighborhoods carrying jack-o-lanterns or “punkies” for Punkie Night (the last Thursday in October). Punkies were lanterns carved from turnips with ugly faces chiseled into them — much like American jack-o-lanterns, only smaller. According to English folklore, women would go looking for their husbands in the pubs using the punkies to light their way. When the husbands saw the lanterns, they thought they were the faces of spirits. When the idea spread to the United States, pumpkins were a plentiful fall fruit and much easier to carve than a turnip so the punkie was replaced by the pumpkin.

But where we get the name “jack-o-lantern” is from Irish folklore. According to history.com, a man named Stingy Jack was a trickster and he hoodwinked the devil into promising to not claim his soul when he died. As the legend goes, when Stingy Jack died, God didn’t want such a prankster in heaven, and the devil kept his promise to not take his soul… so he roams Purgatory with a lump of burning coal in a punkie to light his way. From then on, he was known as Jack of the Lantern — and the Irish shortened it to Jack O’Lantern.

batsBats According to Popular Science, the history on the connection between bats and Halloween is murky, but the Samhain festival is at the root of one of the theories. During the festival, there were bonfires which attracted insects that bats eat, so bats were indirectly attracted to the bonfires. Bats are nocturnal, flying mammals — for people to see them out and about was unusual, which feeds the mystery surrounding these creatures and Halloween.

How celebrating Halloween started and how we celebrate it today are very different. Though the reasons and traditions have evolved over the centuries, it remains a favorite fall festivity.

6 Things to Do to Winterize Your Home

483590383We’re starting to feel the chill of fall and it’s only going to get colder. It’s just a matter of time before it’s time to turn on the heat and pull out the wool sweaters and layer discount bedding to keep warm at night. But our homes need to transition, too. Here are 6 things you need to do to winterize your home to save energy and money.

Insulation It’s easy to forget how much money we can save in heating costs with insulation. You may already have insulation in your walls and attic, but you may be able to add more to reduce energy consumption.  Energy.gov has a guide on where your house should be insulated to minimize energy use. If you want to take an extra step toward lower heating bills, you can also use a thermal insulation blanket for your water heater to trap heat and prevent it from escaping too quickly during winter months.

Roof Do a spot check of the rooftop. Check for wear and damage and if there are any missing shingles. Around the chimney, make sure the flashing is intact and that it’s not a source for drafts or leaks.

Clean out gutters and downspouts so they’re free of leaves and debris; with clean gutters, rain and melting snow won’t get trapped on your roof and cause water damage. The downspouts should drain at least five feet from your home’s foundation to prevent water from leaking into your house.

winter-curtainsDoors and Windows Caulking and weather stripping your windows can cut down on energy costs significantly. Alternatively, indoor window insulating kits work very well for the winter to keep cold air out of your home. They require a lot less work than caulking and weather stripping, but plastic may not suit your home décor. Consider heavy drapes or curtains to mask the plastic for the winter months. Plastic insulation doesn’t work for exterior doors; weather stripping at the sides and bottoms of doors is your best bet.

Heating System Before it gets cold, turn on your heat to make sure it’s working properly. If it doesn’t kick on, you can try to figure out what the problem is on your own with a little bit of troubleshooting, but if you’re not confident with your home improvement skills, call a service technician to check it out before it gets cold and he gets busy. If it is working properly, make sure to change your air filter once a month and clean the heating vents.

Plumbing In cold weather climates, frozen pipes are a serious problem. When pipes freeze, they sometimes burst, causing costly damage. It’s not as much of a problem in the middle of the house where it’s generally warm in the winter, but in colder parts of your home like the basement and crawlspaces, insulate your pipes with foam insulation. For exterior pipes and faucets, drain the pipes and shut off the water supply. Automatic sprinkler systems require a professional to drain the underground pipes.

When you travel for the holidays and you turn off your heat, remember to also turn off your water. This might save you from coming home to expensive repairs.

fireplaceChimney and Fireplace Chimneys attract critters during the summer months; make sure squirrels and pigeons haven’t made a home there and it’s clear of any other obstructions. Make sure the flue opens and closes properly. When both of those things are done, make sure your chimney draws out smoke. You can do this by burning a few newspapers to create smoke. If your living room fills with smoke, there’s likely creosote buildup and you’ll need to bring in a professional chimney sweep to clean it out.

Winterizing is a big project. You can save time by having an energy audit done on your home. Though it costs a little bit extra, having a certified professional come in and figure all the leaks and areas you missed may save you a lot of money on energy costs in the long run.

LTD Commodities has everything you need to make your home cute and cozy this winter. From baby toys to quilts to keep you warm, shop LTD Commodities for the best products at the lowest prices.

Halloween Party Food for Adults

Halloween parties aren’t just for kids! Here are some ideas to make adult food into spooky snacks for a haunting Halloween party!

As adults we don’t crave sweets as much as kids, so dips are a go-to party favorite. From our Gooseberry patch 101 Slow Cooker Recipes book, we have a couple of dips you might want to try.

One of our favorites is the Hot Buffalo Dip (Yum!). It takes all the mess out of Buffalo wings but keeps the tastiness intact.

buffalo-dipWhat you need:

  • 3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and chopped
  • 1 cup hot wing sauce
  • 2 packages cream cheese (8oz each), cubed and softened
  • ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • ¼ cup blue cheese salad dressing

For serving:

  • 1 bag Corn chips
  • 1 package celery, cleaned and cut into sticks

In a slow cooker, mix the first five ingredients together. Cover and cook on low for three to four hours.

pumpkin-bowlsFor adult Halloween parties, it’s not so much about what you serve at a Halloween party, it’s how you serve it. To dress this up for Halloween, serve this in a pumpkin bowl or make one out of a gourd.

For something a little more spicy, try Creamy Hot Corn Dip served with bread sticks shaped like bones!

What you need:

  • 2 packages cream cheese (8oz each), softened
  • 2 cans corn (15 1/4oz), drained
  • ½ cup butter (1 stick)
  • 2 jalapenos, diced

corn-dipCombine all the ingredients in a slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for 30 minutes; stir until smooth. Reduce the heat to low to keep warm.

For bone shaped bread:

  • 1 can refrigerated breadsticks

Preheat oven as indicated on the packaging. Unroll the dough. Pull the dough apart at the perforations and stretch each piece to make 12 inch ropes. Tie a loose knot at each end of the dough ropes. Bake as directed.

Mummy-dogs

Image Source: Robot B via flickr

(The dough can also be used to wrap around hot dogs or sausage to look like mummies.)

Of course, it’s not a Halloween party if you don’t have at least a few sweets. But, as adults, we don’t need fun size candy bars – we prefer our chocolate in the shape of spiders! These Peanutty Clusters transform into spiders with just a little garnish.

What you need:

  • 2lbs White melting chocolate, chopped
  • 4oz bittersweet baking chocolate, chopped
  • 12oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 24oz dry roasted peanuts
  • 1 package black licorice lace, trimmed to 2” pieces or pretzel sticks (for the spider legs)

Peanutty-ClustersCombine all the ingredients in a slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for one hour. Reduce the heat to low and let cook for another hour or until the chocolate is melted, stirring every 15 minutes. When it’s ready, drop chocolate one teaspoon at a time on wax paper. While it’s still warm, stick the licorice pieces or pretzels into the chocolate to look like spider legs. Let stand until set.

Halloween isn’t just about the food — the Halloween decorations have a lot to do with how spooky your snacks are perceived. We have many more ideas for holiday decorating and gifts at LTDCommodities.com where everything is #PricedForFun!

National Cookie Month: 5 Indulgent Cookie Recipes

October is National Cookie Month and we could not be celebrating something more fun and delicious. We’re all familiar with chocolate chip, oatmeal and peanut butter cookies — but there are so many cookies that go above and beyond the standard. Here are 5 of our favorite, deliciously indulgent cookie recipes.

smores-cookiesS’Mores Stuffed Cookies S’Mores + Cookies = True Love. It’s the campfire treat without the campfire! But with gooey, chocolate yumminess, draped in marshmallow, wrapped in graham cracker goodness you can make at home, why would you ever go camping? This recipe comes from cookienameddesire.com and it couldn’t be more indulgent.

rolo-cookiesRolo Cookies Lollyjane.com brings us delight and deliciousness in the form of a Rolo wrapped in a cookie. This Rolo Cookies recipe is so easy, it might make you a little resentful you were introduced to it because you’ll make it again and again for any and every occasion – and still show up empty-handed.

cookies-n-creamCookies & Cream Cookies Cookie made from a cookie? Sounds impossible, but butterwithasideofbread.com takes the idea of indulgent and runs with it (just as the blog title suggests) with the Cookies & Cream Cookies. We put Oreos in everything else, why not return it to its original purpose and make a glorious cookie from an already spectacular cookie? We say “Why not?”

turtle-cookiesInsanely Delicious Turtle Cookies These cookies are appropriately titled Insanely Delicious Turtle Cookies by thekitchenismyplayground.com. She gives you the play-by-play on how to make cookies that will bring you to your knees. With chocolate, caramel and pecans, you will never want to get back up again after you make these!

tagalongsTagalongs The list just wouldn’t be complete without a Girl Scout copycat recipe! Girl Scout cookies only come around once a year, so we have to make them ourselves in the off months! Betsy from betsylife.com makes almost all of them, but our favorite is the copycat Tagalong – cookie topped with peanut butter and dipped in chocolate? Yes, please! And more, please!

Now that you have your recipes, it’s time to get baking and perfect your cookies before the holidays roll around! Enjoy National Cookie Month!

Holiday Gifts You Can’t Forget About

It is not too early to start your holiday shopping. Family is at the top of your list, but there are people on your list you can’t forget and if you wait too long, you probably will forget. Here’s a list of people to buy holiday gifts for that you can’t forget about.

PonchoChildcare Provider This includes nannies, au pairs and babysitters. You leave your little ones in their care, so it’s important to take care of them! (This does not include teachers because they are not personal service providers – gifts to teachers are up to you.) How much and what you give them depends on how often you use the services. If you use your babysitter regularly (more than twice a month), a small gift and/or the equivalent to an evening’s pay is sufficient. Au pairs and nannies should get a small gift and the equivalent of a week’s pay. Gift Idea:  Health and beauty accessories are always a welcome gift for young ladies but if you are confident you know their personal style, new clothes or outerwear might be appropriate.

Home Healthcare Worker Don’t forget about the people who take care of your aging loved ones! Healthcare/elder care workers make sure your parents and grandparents are comfortable when you can’t be there to give them your loving attention.  If your healthcare worker is employed by an agency, check to see if there is a policy for holiday gifts and tips, but  the standard holiday gift is one-week’s pay or an equivalent present. Gift Idea:  Those workers do a lot of physical labor, think about giving them the gift of relaxation; massagers, heating pads or beauty products make their nights off something to look forward to!

NFLHandyman/Custodian/Maintenance Man He is on call all the time. If your dishwasher doesn’t work, he’s there. If your water heater isn’t heating up, he’ll fix it. When your roof is leaking, he seals it up. Your handyman solves your home problems and does the things you don’t know how to do. A gift equivalent to $15-40 is acceptable.  Gift Idea: If you prefer to give him something more personal, think about NFL memorabilia for the sports fan or tools for the guy who likes to take work home with him.

Personal Care This includes the lady who blows out your hair, your nail technician and the lady who gives you a facial. These are the people who make you look good and feel good – it’s important to make them feel good, too! The standard holiday gift is the equivalent of what you would pay for one visit. Gift Idea:  You don’t have to give her cash – perhaps a sentimental gift is in order like frames to show off her kids at work or inspirational artwork.

gift-packsPet Care Our pets are part of our family – taking care of the people who take of our pets is important. Groomers are easy — they should get the equivalent of one grooming session. For the vet, it’s a little bit trickier because it’s an entire office that takes care of your furry family. Gift Idea:  Try getting them gift packs or edibles everyone can appreciate.

Remember that gifts for employees and service providers are a token of appreciation. Don’t forget all the people you don’t see regularly throughout the year who helped make your life a little easier or your day a little brighter.

Pinteresting Picks for September

Autumn is finally here in full force, and our Pinterest followers already are in the Halloween spirit. They are sharing pins of some of LTD Commodities most popular harvest decor, as well as some fun ideas to make the indoors cozy and fun. Here are the Pinteresting Picks for September.

Bring your seasonal decor to the bathroom with this Halloween Witch Bath Ensemble.

Bring your seasonal decor to the bathroom with this Halloween Witch Bath Ensemble.

 

Admit your weakness for your four-legged friend with a Quilted Pet Throw or Shaped Pillow.

Admit your weakness for your four-legged friend with a Quilted Pet Throw or Shaped Pillow.

Make your bedroom or living space look crisp and delicious with a Bacon & Eggs Novelty Throw and Pillow.

Make your bedroom or living space look crisp and delicious with a Bacon & Eggs Novelty Throw and Pillow.

 

Make food preparation fun with these kitchen gadgets.

Make food preparation entertaining with these Fun Kitchen Gadgets.

DIY Pumpkin Spice Latte Recipe

latte2October starts next week and with October comes an influx of pumpkin flavored everything. It’s something people are obsessed with – particularly the pumpkin spice latte that coffee shops re-introduce to the public every fall for a limited run. One man went so far with his obsession, he made it his mission to put pumpkin spice syrup on everything: pizza, bacon, yogurt, curry. Pumpkin spice is good, but we’ll stick with the coffee idea! Here is a recipe for DIY pumpkin spice latte:

When people refer to pumpkin spice, what they really mean is pumpkin PIE spice. Pumpkin pie spice is exactly what it sounds like: a bunch of spices mixed together (you can buy it premixed) to add to pumpkin and other ingredients to make our Thanksgiving pumpkin pies:pumpkindishes

  • 4 parts ground cinnamon
  • 4 parts ground nutmeg
  • 4 parts ground ginger
  • 3 parts ground allspice

A homemade pumpkin spice latte is straightforward:

  • 2 cups milk (whole milk works best)
  • 2 TB pumpkin puree
  • 2 TB granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup espresso
  • Whipped cream for topping
  • Pumpkin pie spice for sprinkling

latte1Directions: In a sauce pan over medium-low heat, bring the milk, pumpkin puree, sugar, and 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice to a simmer, whisking slowly to combine the ingredients evenly and so the milk doesn’t burn. For frothy milk, transfer the milk to a blender, add the espresso and vanilla and carefully blend on medium-high speed (do not close the lid all the way, the heat from the milk will cause the lid to pop off when you blend). If whipped cream is enough froth for you, stir the espresso and vanilla into the sauce pan and whisk well. Divide between two mugs, top with whipped cream and sprinkle with pumpkin pie spice.

The homemade pumpkin spice latte goes well with homemade apple muffins. If you can’t get enough pumpkin, the latte also goes well with pumpkin rolls, pumpkin muffins or even pumpkin pie. Enjoy your lattes!pumpkins

 

9 Things to Enjoy Now that it’s Fall

fall-leavesAt 7:29pm on September 22nd, we officially enter autumn. As we say goodbye to our sundresses, beach towels and fun in the sun, remember there are so many things we can do in the fall that we couldn’t do during the summer. Here are 9 things to enjoy now that it’s fall.

Go Apple Picking The selection of types of apples at the grocery store starts to ramp up in September, but moving your cart through the produce section isn’t as grand of a fall experience as going to an actual orchard to select your own apples. It’s a grocery shopping trip in which you’ll want to take pictures and there’s no checkout line.

pie-pansBake Pie & Make Soup It’s finally time to let the oven heat up your house! And what better way to do it than by making soup to warm you up before making an apple pie with apples from your trip to the apple orchard?

Drink Spiced Apple Cider It has a short shelf life and it’s only made when the apples are harvested in the fall. Aside from seasonality of cider, it’s also delicious and it warms you up while the temperature outside starts to dip.

flannelSleep in Fleece P.J.s and Flannel Sheets   Fleece and Flannel are soft enough to want to touch all year, but it’s just too warm and insulating to sleep in during the summer; swapping out the crisp cotton sheets that kept you cool in the summer for fuzzy flannel is a welcome chore.

fall leaves

Jump in a Pile of Leaves We have pools to jump in during the summer, but it’s not quite the same as having a cushion of autumn’s finest leaves to break your fall. The scent of leaves is much better than chlorine, too.

Scarves, Sweaters and Jeans There’s something about covering up to cancel out the cold with a cozy sweater, scarves and jeans that’s so comforting. Making the switch from bright colors of summer to snug clothes in subdued oranges and earth-tones always comes at just the right time.

Go for a Drive and Instagram the Fall Colors Yellow, orange and red move through the countryside almost as fast as you drive. It never lasts as long as we want and documenting it with photos never gets old.

Tailgating Being outside, grilling brats and enjoying the spirit of football fans only happens for a brief period between September and October. Even if you don’t like football, snacking and socializing in the cool air and the sun is still shining is as — if not more — lively than a summer barbecue.

fall leaves

Carving Pumpkins 80% of pumpkins in the United States are available in October. That means you only have about a month to go to a pumpkin patch to select the best pumpkin and go for a hayride before putting your creative efforts into carving the perfect scary face. And don’t forget to save the seeds to roast for a uniquely fall snack.

A final farewell to summer doesn’t have to be a sad occasion; there are so many things to enjoy about fall we should embrace it while we wait for Old Man Winter to arrive.

4 Fun Ways To Decorate A Locker

lockerA locker is a student’s room away from home. It is a small bit of personal space you visit throughout the day, and it is a prime place for you to show off your own style. Personal expression aside, a decorated locker is easier to keep organized to keep you on track so you make it to class on time. Here are 4 fun ways to decorate a locker:

Clean It The first step is to start with a clean locker. Then, check on the school’s locker policy before purchasing accessories. Some allow students to do everything up to painting lockers, while others permit little to no personalization. If your school has a policy, it should be in the student handbook or just ask an administrator.

Light It Up While the school’s hallways are well-lit, the lockers in those hallways can be dark caves. Put some light in there and it will be easier to find the right books and supplies in a hurry. Battery operated LED candles can go almost anywhere and they’re designed for energy efficiency. For extra bling, use string lights to dazzle your locker. You can even coordinate the light with a curtain that hangs over the locker opening.

locker2Magnetic Personality The metal walls and doors of lockers practically beg to be covered with refrigerator magnets. Funny ones or inspirational ones, they can hold up personal pictures, to-do lists or reminders to help you get you through the day.

Artwork and Photos The quickest way to personalize a locker is to fill it with pictures. Print and hang up single Instagram photos of friends, or create a big collage. Tuck in some magazine clippings, artwork, postcards, and mini posters. Don’t forget to save space for your own creations, too. Sports and trading cards are a cool touch, as well.

 

locker

Organizers, Mirrors and Magnets A mirror on the inside of the locker door will give you a place to primp in between classes and list pads and small wall bins help with organization.  Bins provide catch-all storage for pens, pads, art supplies, and more.Nothing is too heavy to put on a locker door; keep everything secured with inspirational magnets or double-sided foam tape. Add shelves to multiply the space for books, but they can also be a good place to hold your gym bag. 

However you decide to decorate your space, remember the decor is a reflection of you. Make it personal and it will be a welcome picture during your breaks between classes.

National Punch Day: 4 Punch Recipes

 

Punch

Image source: Mel McC via flickr

September 20th is National Punch Day! Of course, we’re celebrating the fruity beverage and not what you do in the boxing ring.

Punch actually has an interesting history. According to Wikipedia, punch was brought to England from India in the 17th century. It was a drink made up of five ingredients – originally, they were alcohol, sugar, lemon, water and spices, but recipes have evolved since then and now it’s a generic term for a party drink served in a big bowl. Today, we have 4 recipes we call “punch.”

Non-Alcoholic Punch

Holiday Punch

  • 1 liter ginger ale
  • 1 liter seltzer water
  • 2 liters cranberry-apple juice
Punch

Image source: Stuart Webster via flickr

Combine ingredients over ice in a punch bowl, gently stir and serve. If you are concerned about ice watering down the punch, you can freeze half of the juice in ice cube trays and use those to supplement the ice.

Serves 8-10.

Orange Sherbet Punch

  • 1 liter cold orange juice
  • 1 liter ginger ale
  • ½ gallon orange sherbet

Combine juice and ginger ale and gently stir. Fill glasses with ice. Top each glass with a scoop of sherbet. Pour juice mixture over sherbet.

Adult Punch

Rum Punch

  • 3 cup dark rum
  • 2¼ cups lemon juice
  • 1½ cups grenadine
  • 1½ cups sparkling wine

Combine the first three ingredients and mix well. Gently stir in sparkling wine. Ladle over glasses filled with ice.

Serves 10-12.

Warm Holiday Spiced Punch

  • 2 liters cranberry apple juice
  • 1 can (6 oz) frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
  • 2 whole cinnamon sticks
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 2 cups bourbon

In a sauce pan over medium-high heat, combine first four ingredients and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in bourbon.  Serves 12.

Punch

Image source: Tymesynk via flickr