Star-Spangled Ideas for Celebrating America’s Birthday

  • June 26, 2015
  • Jenna Maxwell

Fourth of July Celebration Ideas It’s time for the quintessential summertime celebration that trumps all the rest.  Because it falls so early in the month, the Fourth of July can tend to sneak up on you.  If you haven’t made your plans yet ... you'd better! This coming Saturday is JULY 4TH. If you need some help, here are some All-American red, white and blue ideas to help get you started! 

Fourth of July Picnic or BBQ:  We put this first on the list because there is a good chance that you are having one. Whether it’s a casual family affair or an entire block party, the Fourth of July is a great time to enjoy food outdoors!  Here are some simple ways to get into the spirit of this patriotic holiday without much effort. 

•    Table Décor.  Decorate your table with the colors of red, white and blue and stars and stripes.  Begin with a festive tablecloth and then top this with a table runner, red white a blue pinwheels, mini flags, and balloons. 
•    American-Style Fare.  Now is your chance to enjoy everyone’s favorite All-American dishes.  An easy and inexpensive Fourth of July barbecue idea is a hot dog bar.  BBQ hot dogs on the grill and have a wide variety of condiments available to adorn your dogs.  YUM! 
•    Food on a stick.  There is nothing more fun for a picnic or barbecue than the simplicity of enjoying your favorite grilled items on a skewer.  Not only does this eliminate some of the need for cutlery, but it’s just plain fun!  Hot dogs and corn on the cob are two of our favorite easy-to-skewer and eat barbecue favorites.
•    Beverages in Mason Jars.  If you are having a smaller gathering, there is nothing that gives a down-home vibe to gathering than serving up your beverages in good ole’ fashioned Mason Jars. 
•    Red, White and Blue Foods.  Don’t underestimate how inviting, fun and attractive the food itself can be as it adds to your Fourth of July holiday décor.  There are tons of recipe ideas online for delicious as well as festive patriotic-themed foods.  Cakes made to look like flags are one very popular idea.  For a simpler way to serve cake try making plain vanilla cupcakes and decorating them with miniature American flags or pinwheels.  Watermelon and blueberries can be combined to make an extremely simple, but flag-inspired fruit salad.

Fourth of July Games:  No Fourth of July Picnic or barbecue is complete without a few county fair-style games.  The old tried, and true favorites are the best!  Try balloon darts, ring toss, relay races, and Cornhole and, of course, don’t forget everyone’s favorite--gunny sack races!

Old Fashioned Ice Cream Social:  Perhaps you want to have a few of your friends over before or after the fireworks for a simpler gathering.  What could be better than an old fashioned Ice Cream Social?  All you need are some tubs of your favorite ice creams and lots of red, white and blue toppings.  Another ice cream idea with true Americana appeal is to serve old-fashioned root beer floats.  Feeling extra ambitious?  Try making delicious homemade ice cream yourself for a super decadent treat!

Dessert Round-Up:  Gather up your friends, neighbors and family members and have an All American Dessert round up.  There are no rules, but sticking with a patriotic theme while satisfying your sweet tooth makes the celebrating that much more fun.  Check online for all sorts of Fourth of July themed desserts such as Flag Cake or even Flag Fruit Pizza!

Drinks and Fireworks:  If going out to watch the fireworks is part of your Fourth of July game plan, you may want to mix up a few beverages to enjoy while sitting outdoors underneath the stars.  A very simple red, white and blue striped cocktail can be made for the grown ups by layering:

•    1/3 oz. Blue Curacao
•    1/3 oz. Grenadine
•    1/3 oz. Peach Schnapps

Float each of these on top of one another in chilled clear shot glasses to create a festive striped effect.  Serve and enjoy immediately!

Try putting a small mixture of frozen sliced strawberries and blueberries into a glass and then pouring Sprite or 7up over the berries can achieve a festive, non-alcoholic beverage that is both simple and beautiful.  This same drink may also be made with Kool-Aid,

Food Eating Contests:  A food-eating contest is almost mandatory at a Fourth of July party!   Divide your contest participants up into age groups and have small prizes available for the winners.   What you use for your eating contest is up to you, but traditional favorites have been watermelon, pie or even hot dogs.

Photo Booth:  Larger Fourth of July celebrations may enjoy a photo booth. Even if yours is just a family gathering, you will want to have some silly, fun and festive accessories on hand for all your Fourth of July photo opportunities.  Hats, head boppers, boas, and silly glasses are just a few ideas of things you might want to have on hand.

Bike Decorating and Parade:  One of the most fun ways to get your kids into the Fourth of July action and keep them busy is to hold a bike parade.  Supply streamers, crepe paper, flags, construction paper, balloons and all sorts of red, white and blue decorations.  Let the kids go to town and decorate their bikes however they want.  After they are finished, have a bike parade with a lot of pageantries involved.  Be sure to play some patriotic music in the background! 

And Speaking of Parades…Don’t even think about being caught unprepared for your local July 4th festivities!  There are many ways you can dress up for the occasion that will capture the essence and spirit of Independence Day.  From Uncle Sam get-ups to looks inspired by the Founding Fathers or other legendary folks such as Betsy Ross--don’t miss this fantastic opportunity to get dressed up in an exciting patriotic costume!

Get Educated: Take advantage of this great holiday and use it as a tool for educating your children about an important era in American history.  You can obtain and print a copy of the Declaration of Independence here. Teach your kids about what this legal document means, who drafted and signed it and didn't forget to talk about how it impacts our lives today.  If you want an easier to understand version of the Declaration of Independence, check out the kid-friendly version.

Learn More About the Flag:  Obviously there is not a more appropriate day to fly the American Flag than on the Fourth of July!  Independence day is a great time to learn more about the American Flag, how it’s changed over the years, what each part of it symbolizes and, of course, how to care for it appropriately.  Here are a few pointers on Flag etiquette

Happy Independence Day from your friends at Halloween Express
Star-Spangled Ideas for Celebrating America’s Birthday

5 Patriotic Characters We LOVE! (and it’s not Uncle Sam…)

  • June 22, 2015
  • Jenna Maxwell

5 Patriotic Characters We LOVE!  Are you getting all geared up for the Fourth of July?  It’s the perfect time of year to embrace your inner patriot--and you just never know who that might be!  There are many legitimate patriotic characters out there in costume land, but we do have a few of our favorites.  Besides Uncle Sam, here is our list of the top five most heroic and patriotic characters out there.  Who would you add to our list?

Captain America:  Choosing this guy to start off this list is a no-brainer. Captain America obviously starts with a great moniker and it just goes on from there.  Captain America has no problem living up to everything his name would have you believe about himself.  He truly demonstrates the values that the good ole’ USA has come to stand for.  Above all else, Captain America lives to serve his country.  He also fights vigilantly for the freedom he values and holds most dear.  Captain America is a true patriot.

Wonder Woman:  At her origin, Wonder Woman was conceived as a comic book character designed for the purpose of boosting morale during the difficult times surrounding World War II.  Wonder Woman was herself an Amazonian princess, but she came back to the world of humans to assist in the fight against the Nazi’s.  Although Wonder Woman’s costume has changed and taken on various revisions over the years, her original look was designed specifically to resemble the American Flag. 

Captain James T. Kirk:  What does the Captain of a spaceship have to do with patriotism?  Well, what could be more All-American than a space cowboy that takes on the exploration of parts unknown to preserve order and justice in the universe?  Yep, we thought you’d see it our way.  Before he found himself at the helm of the Starship Enterprise, Captain James T. Kirk had his humble beginning in Riverside, Iowa, smack in the heartland of America.  Still wondering why Captain Kirk made our most- patriotic list?  Check out this Star Trek video clip.  Now are you getting it?

Superman:  Superman does not have a suit infused with radiant stars ‘n’ stripes or a name that pronounces his patriotic agenda.  Instead, Superman expresses his truest patriotism just in the way he lives his extraordinary life.  A true believer in truth, justice and the AMERICAN way--Superman is, and always will be, a true American hero.

GI Joe:  Drum roll, please because we’ve saved the best for last! GI Joe a fantastic fictional character that illustrates the heroic fortitude of America and what is great about each and every American soldier. He emulates all that is patriotic and brave about real-life servicemen and women who likely will never achieve much in the name of public notoriety. Created in 1960, GI Joe was designed as a character that embodies the loyal, dutiful and courageous qualities found amongst the stalwart individuals who serve in the various branches of the US Armed Forces.

5 Patriotic Characters We LOVE!  (and it’s not Uncle Sam…)

In Honor of Horror Film Icon, Christopher Lee

  • June 16, 2015
  • Jenna Maxwell

Christopher LeeIt’s always incredibly sad to hear of the passing of a truly beloved and iconic Hollywood personality.  The world will not quite be the same without Christopher Lee, who has forever left his mark on the sphere of not only horror, but many other genres of film.  Christopher Lee has left us with decades of legendary roles that were part of many treasured films such as Dracula, The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. We will always cherish the memories created by his very eclectic and wide range of memorable characters that we all came to love.  Far and above all the rest, however, is Christopher’s portrayal of Dracula, which will forever set the bar for all vampire characters to come. Lee’s depiction of Dracula brought a sensuality and sensitivity to the Count that generations of audiences have since embraced.  Because of Christopher Lee, the face of the vampire character has forever changed.  Lee’s portrayal of Dracula was sexy, suave and downright charming,

Even though he did it better than anyone, Lee did, however, worry about being eternally typecast as a vampire.  Thus, he went on to create many other extraordinary characterizations in a wide variety of other popular movie roles.  Some of these films include, “The Devil Rides Out,”  “The Mummy,” and two of the “Star Wars” prequels. Additionally, Lee played the truly unforgettable role of Gandalf in “Lord of the Rings." 

Christopher Lee passed away on June 11, 2015 at the age of 93. 

In Honor of Horror Film Icon, Christopher Lee

Best (and slightly crazy) Stuff Your Dad Probably Says

  • June 15, 2015
  • Jenna Maxwell

Father's Day 2015We love dads--they are so logical, grounded and forthright.  When we want real frankness, who can we always count on to give us that straightforward, nothing held back, ouch-that-was-honest--truth? Dad.  Now we’ve all heard some good daddy-ism’s that are unique to our own padres, but when it comes to the things that dads say, there does seem to be a common thread that runs universally through the vast majority of all fathers.  It’s as if earning the title of “dad” came with a secret arsenal of “we’ve heard that before’s”…and once our old man starts spewing them, well, he never really stops.  (We secretly hope not.) With this coming Sunday, June 21st being FATHER'S DAY, how many of these favorite dad sayings have you heard your dad say before? 

1.    Don’t look at me in that tone of voice.

2.    This is not Burger King.  You don’t get to have it your way.

3.    We are NOT lost.

4.    Ask your mother.

5.    Do you want to end up like ___________? 

6.    Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part!

7.    Who died and left you the boss?

8.    Everyone is NOT doing it because you’re not going to be doing it.

9.    When I was your age….(fill in the rest with a very dramatic hard luck tale filled with a few rather startling details.)

10.    Money doesn’t grow on trees.

11.    You don’t even know what hard work is.

12.    Listen to your mother.

13.    Your mother is right even when she is wrong. 

14.    Don’t wrestle with pigs.  You both end up dirty and plus; the pig likes it.

15.    Kid, you have champagne tastes, but you’re on a beer budget.

16.    Don’t make me stop this car!

17.    What do you think I am --a millionaire?

18.    I’m not yelling at you; I am helping you hear!

Happy Father’s Day to all the superhero dad’s out there.  It may not always seem like it, but trust us.  We really are listening.

Best (and slightly crazy) Stuff Your Dad Probably Says

Just in Time for Flag Day: Flag Etiquette 101

  • June 09, 2015
  • Jenna Maxwell

Flag Day 2015Many of the rituals of summer contain a common thread of patriotism.  Patriotic holidays abound during the warm weather months, providing the perfect backdrop to enjoying many All American summer pastimes.  During the summer, many families enjoy the tradition of decorating their home in the colors of red, white and blue while proudly displaying an American Flag. Flag flying is a great way to demonstrate the love you have for your country.  Hanging a flag properly requires a little bit of forethought, however. Here are some of the essential do’s and don’ts that you will need to know before Old Glory ever goes up.

Show a Little Respect!  Why do we show such reverence to the American flag?  Think about what our flag represents.  The American flag reminds us of many great leaders, soldiers, and citizens, past and present that have dedicated their lives to the service of our country.  Our flag also symbolizes the ideals our country holds most dear: liberty, freedom, justice, opportunity and possibilities.  Appropriately flying an American flag is a simple thing to do, but it’s a great way to demonstrate your appreciation as well as your patriotism.

We love decorating for holidays, and we know you do, too.  Using a flag as part of your patriotic décor is going to require some basic care.  Thus, it helps to know some essential flag etiquette.

Do’s and Don’ts for Displaying a Flag:

  • The American Flag should never be used as part of a drapery or a table cover. Always position your flag in an appropriate, prominent place of honor.  Use decorative buntings or other specifically designed red, white and blue décor items for all your more general decorative purposes.  
  • Hang your American Flag so that it does not touch the ground, and make sure the flag is never hung upside down.
  • When hanging a flag from a pole, window or balcony, make sure that the union (the blue field with the stars) is at the highest point of the staff. This rule holds true unless the flag is purposefully being displayed at half-mast. (Flying a flag at half-mast is sometimes done during times of national mourning.)
  • If you are displaying another flag along with the American flag, (such as a state or community flag) be sure that the American flag is hung in the top position. 
  • When displayed indoors, the American flag should be hung on the right-hand side.  If the flag is on a pole, position it to the right of the speaker or the stage.
  • When the flag is displayed on a wall, the flag must be hung with the blue union to the observer’s left, or to the flag’s own right.
  • When an American flag is carried in a parade or procession, it must be carried on the right side of the marchers. 
  • When acknowledging the National Anthem or reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, you should always face toward the American flag.  It is also considered appropriate to salute the flag by placing your right hand over your heart. 

If you want to read more about the federal regulations regarding proper flag etiquette, you can check out the U.S. Flag code and laws regarding flag display.

This Sunday, June 14 is Flag Day.  There could not be a more perfect or appropriate way to demonstrate your patriotism than to proudly and appropriately display an American flag!  Long may she wave! 

Just in Time for Flag Day:  Flag Etiquette 101