2011 Legendary Costume Contest Begins!

  • September 01, 2011
  • Jenna Maxwell

Attention all photo contest lovers! Here's a contest you absolutely won't want to pass up.

2011 LEGENDARY COSTUME PHOTO CONTEST



Concha Y Toro, The Official Wine of Halloween, and Halloween Express have teamed up to sponsor the LEGENDARY COSTUME PHOTO CONTEST. The contest runs from September 1 to November 6, 2011. To enter the contest, simply upload a picture of yourself wearing a “legendary” costume along with a caption of 150 words or less briefly describing why your costume is “legendary”. One grand prize winner will receive a Canon Rebel Digital SLR camera. Ten second place winners will each receive a $200 HalloweenExpress.com credit voucher. Complete contest details including entry information can be found at http://www.casillerodeldiablo.com/otros/halloween/.


10 Mom-Tested Back to School Tips

  • August 27, 2011
  • Jenna Maxwell

10 Back to School TipsIt’s the most wonderful time of the year, or so they say. With fall and Halloween just around the corner the kids are going back to school. Although your summer has undoubtedly been wonderful, all good things must come to an end. As summer begins to wind down and you start to make plans to send your kids back to school, here are 10 mom-tested tips to help ease the transition from the lazy days of summer back into the structure and routine of the school year. 

Ease back into the routine.  At least a week or so before school starts, get back into the basic time structure that you will follow once school begins.  This means getting to bed at an appropriate time and arising early again as well.  By easing into the early morning routine you will take away a lot of the extra stress that trying to rouse a sleepy child on the first day of school would bring.  After getting up in the morning, get your child in the habit of eating a healthy breakfast too, as this will be an important part of his/her routine once school starts. 

Turn off the TV.  During the last few days before school starts, try making your mornings TV-free.  TV is very distracting for children and once school starts they won’t have time to watch television in the early morning hours.  Try having them read quietly or do puzzles instead, so they are used to not flipping on the TV once school begins. 

Ease first day anxieties.  If your child is experiencing some anxiety about school starting, assure them that this is completely normal.  It will reassure your child to know that most of the other kids are a bit nervous too.  Remind your child that teacher’s are fully expecting many of the kids to be a bit apprehensive and will make an extra effort to ease everyone’s fears. 

Get the lay of the land.  A lot of first day “unknowns” can be eased quite a bit by taking a tour of the school sometime prior to the first day.  Meeting the teacher before the first day can also be very reassuring to a child so if you can arrange this, by all means, do it.  Find your child’s classroom and make sure you also know the routes to the nearest restroom, the cafeteria as well as to the locker room.  

Find a friend.  Having a friend or a buddy to ride the bus or walk to school with on the first day is a huge relief for most kids.  Arrange this in advance with another parent so your child will know whom he is walking/riding with.  If you know when your child’s lunchtime is, having a friend that he can sit with at lunch will also be reassuring to him.  If you feel it is appropriate, some parents find it very comforting to their children to take them to school themselves on the first day to alleviate some of the nerves.

Buy supplies.  If your school publishes a list of school supplies that are required for your class, take it with you to the nearest store that sells back to school merchandise.  Shop early for the best selection.  Make sure your child has all the necessities for the first day, along with a good backpack with padded straps.  Save your receipts as some teachers inevitably will make special requests for their classroom and you may need to make some exchanges or buy additional items later.

Get a first day outfit.  If you go to the stores at this time of the year, you will notice they are filled with fall and winter clothing selections.  Don’t be overly tempted to buy too many cooler weather clothes as it’s likely to still be warm for the next month or so and your child won’t need them yet.  Make sure your child has an outfit appropriate for the first day of school that he/she feels comfortable in and is appropriate for the weather conditions in your area during this time of the year.  It is also important to have a good pair of sturdy as well as comfortable shoes.

Plan some extracurricular stuff.  If your child knows that going back to school isn’t all about school and there is also some fun involved, the transition is going to be a lot easier.  If your child is into a sport, you can sign them up for an after-school team. There are also art and music classes in most communities that your child can participate in.  Even a play date with a new friend can be a wonderful after school activity for most kids.

Make mornings less crazy.  Plan your menu ahead of time and pack your kids lunches the night before so the morning routine will be less chaotic.  Don’t forget a note of encouragement in your child’s lunch to help ease their first day jitters, it will bring a smile to their face.  If you have more than one child you may want to schedule out bathroom time accordingly so there won’t be last minute bathroom wars on the first day of school which can be stressful for everyone.

Talk about it.  After the first day of school and during the ensuing days be sure to find a time to talk to your child about how everything went.  This is a great time to get any papers that have been sent home and also for your child to express any anxieties or worries that they may have.  Stay calm and positive so your child will feel free to open up about whatever is going on during those initial days.  Get in the habit of asking your child about their day and take the time to really listen to what they have to say.

The first day of school doesn’t have to be stressful for you or your child.  With a bit of careful planning, transitioning into the new school year can be fun and exciting for everyone! 


10 Reasons to get Excited About Fall

  • August 16, 2011
  • Jenna Maxwell

Towards the end of August many people start feeling a little sad because summer is slowly disappearing.  Warm weather merchandise is long gone from the stores, and the kids are getting ready to go back to school.  The end of summer does bring with it a distinct sense that something wonderful is coming to a close, but the good new is that the fall brings with it a whole new set of magical things!  There’s no point in being sad about the summer wind down with so much to look forward to.  Here’s our list of 10 reasons why you should be absolutely looking forward to the autumn months!

Perfect Weather:  There is nothing better than the weather during the fall season.  The extreme heat of the summer is gone.  Most of the time, autumn days are still fairly warm, yet the nights are just crisp enough to grab that favorite sweater or jacket to take off the chill.  Springtime weather can be unpredictable, while winter is just far too long and cold.   Yes, gone are the hot and lazy days spent baking by the pool, but the temperate fall days can be almost magical.

Back To School: There is something about going to Back-to-School that signals a fresh start. Arguably, most people think of New Year’s as the big starting over point, but for kids, a new school year may be the perfect time to begin anew.   Kids actually love shopping for new school supplies.  There is something fresh and wonderful about new books, pencils, markers, notebooks, and perhaps even a new pair of sneakers to wear on that first day of school.  Once school is back in session, you also won’t be looking to entertain bored kids anymore.  This is a definite fall bonus for most parents.

Football Season:  Football season is nearly upon us, and if you don’t have a favorite local team to watch live in a stadium, America’s best pastime is probably coming to a television and living room near you!  Football brings with it many excuses to get together with your group to party even if you aren’t a huge fan of the sport.  Tailgating parties before games are always great fun.  Watching the game on TV with your family and friends is made even livelier with appropriate game fare and lots to drink.

Fall Foliage:  There is nothing like the vibrant color changes that happen to leaves as they begin to change in the fall.  Even your average tree can suddenly become a rainbow of yellow, green and gold.  Autumn is a good time to take the long way home.  Find the tree-lined side streets nearby to really take in the leaves and their color changes.  If you have a mountain nearby, the canyons can be glorious during the fall.  The sound of the crisp leaves underfoot after they have fallen to the ground is another reminder of fall.  Kids love to gather the leaves, throw them up or just jump right into large piles of them.  Leaves are such a simple autumn pleasure.

Halloween:  Halloween is nearly as exciting as Christmas for many children (and some adults too!)  Dressing up in costume is really, really fun and exciting for kids of all ages.  The candy is great, too, and Halloween brings with it the perfect excuse to indulge, along with a wide variety of mini-versions of all your favorite sweets.  Halloween parties, and all the fun surrounding them are always memorable. 

Autumn Festivals:  Many communities have a variety of Harvest festivals, fairs, and community activities during the fall.  Oktoberfest is a popular theme to celebrate in the autumn months.  Enjoying a fall festival is the perfect way to get outdoors and enjoy the crisp fall weather and celebrate with your friends and neighbors.  Enjoy the fun, food and family time at your local celebration.

Television’s New Season:  Every fall each network comes out with it’s new season of television programs.  No more summer re-runs as the latest editions of your favorite shows will soon be off and running, along with new programs that the networks have been cooking up for your viewing pleasure!

Fashion:  Fall is the best time of the year if you are a fashionista.  Stores are fully loaded with the latest and greatest fashions for you to indulge yourself in.  There is something about the rich color palette of autumn clothing that really livens up a wardrobe, along with the vibrant colors and mixed textures of fall fabrics. 

Autumn Treats:  Ah, there is something delectable about the taste treasures you are going to find to tantalize your taste buds in the fall.  From that first pumpkin latte at your coffee shop, to pumpkin and apple pies--there is much to enjoy in the fall.  Hot chocolate, mulled cider and other warm drinks are comforting and relaxing and especially fun to drink while out in the cool night air.  Embrace the fall season with your favorite autumnal food and drink splurges.

Smells: Fall just smells really good.  From the first time you smell a waft of smoke coming from a neighbor’s chimney, to the aroma of something wonderful baking in your own oven, there is a smorgasbord of smells to enjoy in the fall.  Cool, clean crisp air smells invigorating.  Coffee shops and stores are filled with the wonderful fragrances of cinnamon, vanilla, cloves and apples.  Even fresh cut grass mixed with the smell of burning leaves can be reminiscent to some.

As your summer winds down, you can look back with fondness to all the fun memories you’ve made and look ahead with great anticipation to all that lies ahead this fall.  Autumn is filled with so many wonderful, yet simple pleasures.  There are many beautiful things to be enjoyed during the fall months and so much to look forward to!

Top 10 Animated Movies Even Grown Ups Will Enjoy

  • August 05, 2011
  • Jenna Maxwell

Top 10 Animated Movies Even Grown Ups Will Enjoy!

Last week, the animated movie “The Smurfs” hit the theatres (and soon, Smurf Halloween costumes will be hitting the store shelves.) Kids everywhere went absolutely crazy for the shenanigans of the crazy blue Smurfs as they fell out of their mythical world right into the middle of New York City and had a hilarious as well as Smurfy adventure.   Your excitement over “The Smurfs” may not have been quite as high as your kid’s was, however.  Perhaps you’ve spent your summer seeing movies that you were less than thrilled with in an effort to keep your kids entertained.   If you are looking for an animated film or two that your kids are going to love, that isn’t going to be torture for you at the same time, we’ve compiled a list just for you.  Here’s our list of Top 10 animated movies--that grown ups will absolutely love, too.

Toy Story 3

Toy Story 3 brings back the beloved cast members of Toy Story, produced by Pixar and released by Walt Disney Pictures.  In the latest sequel, Andy has grown up and doesn’t have much time to play with the toys as he used to.  The toys are feeling sad about this, of course and even more so when Andy is packing up and going off to college.  Through a series of mishaps, the toys end up getting packed and sent off to the Sunnyside Daycare Center.  At first, the toys are excited about being played with again, but soon it becomes apparent that they are being held prisoner by the head toy, Lotsa Bear and are also being mistreated.  Woody hatches a plan to help the toys escape and the toys set out on an adventure of their own as they try to make it back home.

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Jack Skellington is the Pumpkin King of Halloweentown.  His job, along with all the residents of Halloweentown, has been to scare humans on Halloween.  Jack is very good at his job, but it’s gotten a bit passé and is starting to feel boring to him.  One day while wandering about in the forest, he accidentally falls into a holiday doorway that lands him smack in the middle of Christmas.  Jack is appalled and horrified by the happiness and joy that he sees all around him.  Feeling as if he must put an immediate stop to this joyfulness, Jack goes back to Halloweentown to convince some of his co-horts to kidnap Santa and then do Christmas in true Halloweentown style. 

Shrek

Shrek was a peace-loving ogre, living a contented existence in the swamp.  One day his quiet life was suddenly disrupted by the arrival of a barrage of various fairy tale characters.  Pinocchio, The Donkey, The Three Little Pigs and many others have suddenly invaded his swamp!  Lord Farquaad dislikes all fairy tale creatures, and has banished all of them into the depths of the swampland.  Shrek, desperate to regain his previous existence, seeks help from Lord Farquaad himself.   Shrek finds himself sent to rescue Princess Fiona and has a life changing adventure of his very own. 

The Incredibles

Two former super heroes are now married living a contented suburban life, hidden away from all the excitement of their former superhero lives by the witness protection program.  Bob Parr (once known as Mr. Incredible) and his wife, Helen, (once known as Elasti-girl) have settled into a peaceful life of retirement from all acts of supreme heroism.  Their 3 kids, Violet, Dash and Jack Jack all have secret inherited superpowers of their own. One day, Bob is offered a clandestine assignment, which would allow him to use his super power status again.  The mission becomes irresistible to him even when his wife is reluctant to get back into the superhero business.  Sadly, the secret assignment turns out to be nothing but a trap concocted by an old enemy.    The only way out (and to save the world, of course) is for this family of superheroes to unite their unique powers as a family, and pull together to save the world from catastrophic destruction.   

Up

Carl Fredrickson, a kind of shy guy, falls in love with a feisty, adventurous girl named Ellie.  They are madly in love and share their passion of adventure.  Carl and Ellie eventually marry, and although they never have children, they both share a dream together of going to the Lost Land in South America.  Sadly, before the couple can realize this dream, Ellie dies of old age.  Carl is so sad, and becomes very despondent as well as grumpy as he tries to forge ahead in life, alone.  One day, as they are trying to force Carl to move to a retirement facility, Carl remembers the promise he made to Ellie and using balloons, elevates his house out of the neighborhood in search of the Lost Land.  Carl discovers that Russell, a scout that has been hanging around trying to earn his “assisting the elderly” merit badge is stowed away as the house departs on it’s journey.  A heartwarming and unforgettable adventure ensues as Carl tries to fulfill his promise to Ellie and keep Russell alive and well in the process.

The Little Mermaid

Ariel, the youngest daughter of King Triton, is a red-haired mermaid living under the sea.  Ariel is bored with being a mermaid, however, and longs for a life as a human being, living on the land with legs.  This becomes quite a sore subject for Ariel and her father, and they find themselves arguing over this quite a bit.  Eventually, Ariel becomes desperate enough in her desire to become human that she visits Ursula, the evil Sea Witch who has been banished by King Triton.  Ariel strikes a deal with Ursula but what she doesn’t realize is that Ursula has an evil plan of her own to harm Ariel in order to seek revenge upon King Triton for her banishment. 

Beauty and The Beast

Belle is a pretty girl who loves books and reading.  She has become very bored with her stale existence in a small French provincial town and the constant attention given to her by the town buffoon, Gaston.  One day, Belle’s father, Maurice takes a wrong turn in the woods and finds himself being held captive by the Beast in his castle.  Unbeknown to Maurice, the Beast is actually Prince Adam who long ago had been turned into a beast as a severe punishment by an Enchantress.  This curse was put on him because he was unable to love another.  In order for the spell on the Beast to be broken, the Beast would have to fall in love with someone and have that love returned to him before his 21st birthday.  The Beast was so angry and bitter—who could ever fall in love with him as he was?  And now, Maurice was being held prisoner by this beastly monster.  Eventually, Belle goes looking for her father and when she finds him, is extremely worried about how her dad will survive such circumstances as the Beast’s unwilling captive.  She strikes a deal with the Beast to trade places with her father, and become the Beasts captor herself.  At first their mutual bitterness is apparent and Belle’s distaste for the Beast’s malevolent behavior is obvious.  Over time, however, Belle begins to see a softer side of the Beast that perhaps went unnoticed at first and eventually something truly magical begins to happen between them.

The Lion King

When a young Lion prince (Simba) is born, the evil uncle Scar becomes the second in line to the throne.  Seeking to get rid of King Mufasa and the young Simba, Scar comes up with an evil plot to kill King Mufasa, leaving poor Simba to blame himself for his father’s death.  Simba leaves his village and is filled with agonizing shame.  Eventually Simba learns the truth and is convinced to return to his village, to overcome the villainous Scar and reclaim his reign as The Lion King. 

A Bug’s Life

Every year the Ants are forced to make an offering to the Grasshoppers.  The Grasshoppers come to the Anthill to eat the offering and the Ants make sure it’s ready for them, as they know this is the plight of their existence to do so.  One year as the Grasshopper’s make their way to the Anthill to partake of the goods, it is discovered that by mistake, Flik has dropped the seeds that were for the Grasshoppers feasting, right into the river!  The Grasshoppers order the Ants to gather a new offering and Flik, feeling responsible takes charge of the situation.  Instead of collecting a new offering, however, Flik decides to try and find some bugs that will help him to fight off the oppressive Grasshoppers.  Just when he thinks he has found the ultimate bug warriors, Flik then discovers that his fearless bug warriors are actually Circus Bugs!

Monsters, Inc.

Sully, a big blue furry monster and his sidekick Mike are best friends and workers for a utility company in Monstropolis.  The utility company manufactures power that is generated by of all things, the sound of children’s screams.  In order to make the children scream, the monsters are hired to scare the children in their sleep at which time the screams are processed and turned into power. 

One night by accident, Sully mistakenly allows a two-year old kid into Monstropolis.  Instant mayhem ensues because the monsters have become programmed to believe that children are toxic to them and have deadly diseases.  The monsters name the child “Boo” and eventually discover that in reality, she is quite harmless.  Sully decides that Boo must be returned to her home. 

Through a series of battles and a twist of events, the monsters eventually must fight to protect the kids that they used to want to try and scare.

 

There’s still plenty of time left this summer to see some really good movies.  Spend some quality time with your kids seeing films that everyone is going to cherish as well as enjoy.