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Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

DIY: Holiday gift tracker

Holiday Gift Tracker

Breaking news from the Obvious Department: If you’re going to participate in gift-giving this season, you only have a few weeks to get your act together. To wit: Hanukkah begins in 22 days; Yule is 26 days away; Christmas is exactly one month from today; and Kwanzaa begins in 31 days. 

Annually speaking, this is about the time when I start to freak out. I believe I’ve mentioned (about 100 times) that I have 7 kids. A golden rule in parenting 2 or more children (especially if these children have been taught to read and count and recognize the world around them) is that equality in all things rules the day. This is particularly true for my family at Christmas.

When our kids were younger, my husband and I focused on equality in numbers. And like items. If one kid got a book, everyone would get a book. If one kid got a sweater, everyone would get a sweater. Everyone would get underpants, socks and the exact same gifts in their stockings (because at this point, all creativity had died). From an organizer’s perspective, it was just easier to keep track of who got what and who was getting shorted. 

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DIY: Get ‘Thankful’

The arrival of November caught me by surprise. I’m not certain how an entire month, which arrives promptly every year at exactly the same time, was able to sneak up on me with the stealth of a ninja – but it happened, nonetheless.

I’d been perusing Pinterest for fall decor ideas, and found a few I wanted to try that involved miniature white pumpkins. I’d seen them at several grocery stores this season and thought they were pretty and elegant and appeared fairly inexpensive and nevermind any of that because foolish me! It was already Nov. 2. Grocery stores were well aware of the month’s arrival and in preparation of that other holiday, all the pumpkin displays I’d admired the previous month had disappeared. And while vigorous searching these last 2 weeks has not revealed a single white, miniature pumpkin, my sleuthing did uncover plenty of red and green decor items: cinnamon-scented pine cones; stuffed, fat Santas; leaping paper mache reindeer; and any number of items with poinsettias and holly emblazoned on them. Nary a gourd in sight. In fact, not a single item relating to Thanksgiving remained anywhere.

Wait —that’s not exactly true. Each grocery store had erected a fairly robust display of boxed stuffing, canned pumpkin pack, marshmallows, foil roasting pans, fried onions and canned yams (preserved in syrup) available for use.

I began to chastise myself. Honestly, how silly of me to want to celebrate in a timely and expected fashion, Thanksgiving, the holiday that —and I checked on this— comes BEFORE Christmas. As we’re hosting the feast at our home this year, I’d wanted to have a few autumnal items about. I’m sure I could have made a nice display above my hearth with the boxed stuffing and the canned yams, but that really wasn’t the look I was hoping for.

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VIDEO: 10 Hours of Princess Leia Walking in NYC

Last week’s viral video, “10 Hours of Walking in New York as a Woman,” captured undercover, depicted the street harassment a young woman endured while walking the streets of New York City while moderately dressed in black jeans and a crew neck T-shirt.

Today’s comedic answer is “10 Hours of Princess Leia Walking in NYC,” whereupon a young woman dressed in “a simple white dress with her hair in space buns” is summarily harassed by… well, watch the vid.

WARNING: For Star Wars fans (mostly).

DIY: Place card holder

Creating a beautiful holiday tablescape has never been in my wheelhouse. In fact, at the first extended-family Thanksgiving my husband and I ever hosted, I didn’t even know that decorating the tables was a “thing.” I thought I was done when the tables were set…until my husband asked if we had any flowers to “add color the tables.” I looked at the white plates upon the white table cloths with white napkins perched atop, and I saw his point. But with only minutes before the guests were to arrive, I wasn’t sure what we could do. It being fall, we sent our enterprising 12-year-old boys to the park to gather as many nice, colorful fallen leaves and acorns they could find. Those, along with some dark brown, polished river rock and pillar candles I already had, did the job.

That said, I am from a family of clever, decor-minded women, and each holiday brings on ever more table-setting ideas. My sister Denise has been known to take burlap, plastic fruit and a bed sheet and create a table fit for royalty. And my sister-in-law Karen’s table decor leaves you feeling as though you’re feasting in a space created by a professional set designer. Even peanut butter & jelly amid such fanciness tastes Michelin-star quality.

Over time I’ve learned to step up my game. One very simple way of glamming up table decor is to add place cards for your guests, each in its own special place card holder. 

If you are, however, like me and dread putting a lot of time and energy into something that will get used just once (place cards necessarily change with the guest list), have no fear: I have a solution.

Check out these simple place cards that can be used — and reused — every holiday. The trick? Chalkboard tape and a chalk pen. Tutorial after the jump.

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DIY: Craft your Halloween party

Halloween tutorials

Halloween is not just a kids’ holiday anymore — it has become one of the most celebrated days of the year for people of all ages. If you’re planning on getting spirited with a shindig of your own,  check out these four simple ideas, each covering one of the essential cornerstones of any good Halloween festivity: decor, costumery, food and drink. Each of these projects need only a few items for completion and use things you likely already have.

Decor: flying paper bats. Enlist the assistance of smaller helpers and infest your home with flying paper bats. Using only black construction paper and our downloadable template, you’ll have a cloud of bats flapping across your walls in no time.

Costumery: sugar skull makeup: Get your costume in order with a step-by-step tutorial to create one of the hottest costume trends of the season: Day of the Dead sugar skull makeup. This classic, festive look may come together using makeup you already own. 

Food: spiced pumpkin cupcakes. These cupcakes require two ingredients and when topped with cream cheese frosting, provide a quick solution to sate a monstrous hunger. 

Drink: Brain Hemorrhage: Finally, need a creepy concoction for an adult-oriented festivity? Try making the ever popular Brain Hemorrhage. More challenging to look at than to consume, this sweet, visually-chilling treat will warm the cockles of your guests’ hearts.

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DIY: Brain Hemorrhage shots

Brain Hemorrhage shot

The Brain Hemorrhage shot is super creepy looking, but really, is the only kind of enjoyable brain hemorrhage that exists. These shots do kick the party up a notch.

What you’ll need:

- 1 oz peach schnapps
- 1/2 oz Bailey’s Irish Cream 
- 1/2 tsp grenadine

In a shot glass, add the peach schnapps, slowly add/float with the Bailey’s Irish Cream and top with the grenadine. Stand back and enjoy the looks on your guests faces. Drink.

Enjoy (responsibly)!

 

 

DIY: Day of the Dead sugar skull makeup tutorial

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Ornamental, intricate and bold, one of this season’s most popular costume ideas is the Day of the Dead sugar skull. Costume stores have intricate facial tattoos that can be purchased to take the place of hand drawn filials, but the avid crafter — usually out of an obsessive need to prove it can be done without resorting to purchasing some machine-created item – draws her/his own.

And it’s not difficult; it’s really just about balance, or symmetry — but it doesn’t have to be. I enlisted my 11-year-old daughter for the project, and I wanted each side to match as well as I could get it. But I’ve seen many an online photo of sugar skull makeup where the artist chose to be asymmetrical. Up to you.

As mentioned previously, I’m personally not a fan of Halloween makeup. Apart from not providing an even finish, it’s too greasy and wipes off the second it’s touched. As an alternative, I sought out the (old, no longer used) makeup in my own collection. Here’s how I did it:

What you’ll need:

- eye shadows in various shades (I used white, black and a compact that had turquoise, pink, orange and yellow)
- black eye liner (I had a great old water-proof pencil that worked well)

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DIY: Candy ‘poisoned’ apples

Autumn is synonymous with apple season. Halloween is synonymous with spookiness. Ergo, what better items to grace your Halloween party table than some spooky apples?  And the spookiest, of course, is the infamous poisoned apple — a slick, irresistibly shiny red “treat.”

Many a kitchen witch has recreated a confectionery version in candy apples, traditionally red and cinnamon flavored. But with the plethora of gel food colors available, why not kick your apple color up a notch and go for full-on creepy? Made with small, crisp Granny Smith apples, these treats will have your little princesses (and princes) clamoring for a bite.

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Win tickets to see Tony Bennett

Tony Bennett

THIS CONTEST HAS ENDED. The winners have been notified via e-mail. Thank you to all who entered and be sure to check out some of our other Big Fresno Fair giveaways.

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Jazz lovers, no need to fly to the moon – we’ve got something a little closer to home that you’re sure to enjoy.  The Beehive is giving away tickets for two (2) lucky winners to see crooner Tony Bennett live at the Big Fresno Fair. 

TO ENTER: In the comments below, tell us the name of your favorite Tony Bennett song. The randomly selected winner will receive two (2) general admission passes to the Big Fresno Fair as well as two (2) tickets to see Tony Bennett in concert on Oct. 13 at 7 p.m. 

Contest ends on Oct. 8 at NOON.

Stay tuned: we’ve got plenty of concert ticket giveaways coming this fair season. 

 

Dumb and ugly: Fresno makes Forbes’ latest top 10 list

Fresno, feeling ugly after being dumped by the San Francisco Giants for our more attractive sister, Sacramento? Here’s a little salt for our wounded ego: Fresno made Forbes top 10 list of least educated cities in America.

Golly, thank goodness they came up with a metric for that. According to an article posted on Forbes.com Tuesday,

[F]inancial site WalletHub took a look at the 150 largest metros in the U.S. and ranked them according to nine weighted metrics, including percentage of adult residents with a high school diploma, associate’s degree, graduate or professional degree, or above; number of doctors per capita; percentage of workers with jobs in “computer, engineering, and sciences fields;” quality of public schools and universities; and the number of students enrolled in the top 200 universities in the U.S., per capita.

Fresno landed at number 10. The upside? Misery loves company. Three of our Central Valley sister cities — Modesto, Visalia and Bakersfield — were all ahead of us on the list (ranked 5, 6 and 7, respectively).

DIY: Create your own mercury glass decor

Mercury glass votices

I love to toodle.

You might call it browsing: visiting a store and blatantly, unapologetically ogling the merchandise. I’ve called it toodling ever since the Internet took over “browsing.”  For me, toodling is a whole process. First,  I linger over a display, visually absorbing how items works with other items. Next I manhandle said items, appreciating the craftsmanship (or lack thereof); and ultimately, I replace said items back on the shelf after determining “I could make them for less.”

Best of all, I find that toodling brings balance to my world: my creative DIY side ignites with hopeful possibility, and my cheap side relaxes in the expense of someone else’s air conditioning.

The discount home stores are by far my favorite places to toodle. And right now, my best-loved decor store is aglow with mercury-glass items — vases, pumpkins, candle holders  and hanging bottles with jute wrapped necks — all sparkling with that signature reflective, slightly-mottled finish.

Mercury glass is stylish and enhances just about any decor, which makes it perfect for the coming autumn and holiday seasons. And while mercury glass can be pricey, DIYers should rejoice. With a little bit of thrifting and a can of mirror-style spray paint, these mercury-glass treasures can be created at a fraction of the cost.

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DIY: Cheap recovery

When my husband and I bought our home, we came upon a (happy) surprise: our old (unattractive) kitchen table was too big for our new home’s kitchen. As goddess of the hearth, the task landed upon me to pick out a replacement. I took the job seriously and after much searching, I naturally fell in love with a gorgeous, pedestal-style kitchen table that could be procured from an upper-end store for a mere $900 (chairs not included).

I adored that table and its high-quality craftsmanship, and imagined all the meals, the card games and the deep philosophical, wine-laden discussions that would take place at it. My life improved just looking the thing. And its chairs were exquisite; sure, they were $250 each, but with care and Scotchguard, I’d never have to recover them.

Fast forward five years to last Saturday afternoon, as I stood staring at the modest knock-off table I actually ended up buying on clearance for $150, and the four chairs it came with. Exquisite is not a word that has ever been applied to these chairs. Current words included stained, worn, unattractive… and several others best left unsaid.

But what did I expect with seven kids, a dog and light fabric? There was no way I was going to plunk down half a semester’s college tuition for that other gorgeous table (and the better life it promised), when those stunning, perfect chairs would clearly have met the same grisly end as my knock-offs had.

And yet I knew, regardless of the ugly I was staring at, my simpler chairs were not at an end. In fact, with the help of an inexpensive trendy table cloth, a pair of scissors and a staple gun, my well-used chairs quickly and easily got a stylish makeover.

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The curse of the creative person

Empty rolls

There’s a quote that I see frequently on Pinterest that appeals to my sense of humor and snark, while leaving the feeling my dirty undies are on display.

“If you marry a creative person, know that some days you’ll come home to a spotless house… and some days dinner will be forgotten, the kids will be in PJs and it will look like you were robbed. Find a way to appreciate both because the second will happen much more often than the first.”

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DIY: Clean it with baking soda

Not long ago I made an amazing thrift store haul, which included one genuine diamond in the rough: a badly-tarnished silver platter that I picked up for $3.95. She’s so dingy and sad looking, I’m fairly certain that if my blue tag special could speak, she would just be silently weeping in her tainted, forgotten way.

As an incredibly thrifty individual (READ: cheap), it stands to reason that spending twice as much on a silver polish as I did on my silver platter would be a no-go. Harkening back to earlier days and conversations with my grandmother, I remembered her advice about an inexpensive (READ: dirt cheap) silver-polishing solution: baking soda.

There are a million reasons to trust baking soda with most tough cleaning jobs but the best one yet: just about every cleaning-solution manufacturer touts its greatness on their labels. 

And this got me thinking: Why are we buying products with all these chemicals when, in the end, they all use the same magic ingredient available for 97 cents a box in the baking section? What else can this magic little cleaning muscle do?

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DIY: The art of lunch

Four lunch ideas

Anyone in the midst of back-to-school preparations has likely noticed that the face of lunchtime has changed. A quick walk through the school supply section reveals a whole new landscape in the lunch aisle. Gone are the mini-metal, thermos-filled suitcases of yore, replaced now with square, compartmentalized containers in funky, insulated carriers. Gone, too, is the expectation that p, b and j slapped between a couple slices of white bread is healthy.

There has been a conscious movement among many parents to move away from sodium- or sugar-laden processed foods, hoping  to control what goes down junior’s gullet with home-packed options. But this movement has highlighted another potential problem: You can lead a kid to a carrot stick, but you can’t make him eat it. Which is to say, you can pack a healthy lunch, but what good is it if it ends up in the trash or traded away?

That’s where these Bento-style containers and a little creativity come into play. With a few cookie cutters and a bit of forethought, providing a delicious, healthy lunch can be all that and a bag of chips. Except without the bag of chips.

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DIY: Weekly meal planner

The start of school always forces me to assess the chaos brought on by two months of life without strict timetables. My leisurely after-work evenings spent sipping wine, watching baseball and preparing late-evening meals will soon revert to taxiing kids to and fro, helping with homework and juggling their various activities. I can’t rely on having time for those belated, after-work trips to the grocery.

But everyone still needs to eat. And as I’m the cook, the menu planning falls on my plate, so to speak.

My solution to this dilemma: I’ve found that if I carve out 30 minutes on the weekend to plan out meals, I can save several hours of panic and last-minute grocery store scuttling.

Click here for our downloadable meal planner.

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Open letter to dog experts

Dear Expert Dog People,

I appreciate that you know everything there is to know about dogs. Not just dogs in general, not just specific dog breeds, but every single individual dog on the planet.
Lucy
I appreciate that you ask me if you can pet my dog before you pet it.

I appreciate that, after I tell you “No, please do not pet my dog as she is intensely protective and does not like to be touched by strangers,” you smile and nod patronizingly.

I appreciate how you insist upon your deep and detailed understanding of dogs and reiterate your pet-whispering brilliance: How you love dogs. How you were practically raised in a pack since birth. Or how you work with them in some capacity.

I appreciate that you stand up for your expertise.

I appreciate it when you tell me — despite my reasoned answer — that it’s OK for you to touch my dog anyway.

But if we’re being completely honest? Mostly, I appreciate your wide eyes and startled gasp after moving your hand quickly from my dog’s snapping growl.

Deep down, in my heart of hearts, I appreciate that my dog has just added a specific note to your dog brilliance: always listen to the dog’s owner.

DIY: Cake push pops

push pop

The summers of my childhood are defined by scorched feet, icy swimming pools, gulps of sweet water from the garden hose, salty potato chips and the barest, whimsical tinkling of what could be — wait, might be — is that music? YES. RUN FOR IT: the ice cream truck. And my favorite treat? The push pop: tangy frozen yogurt served in a plastic container that I continued to slurp on long after the icy confection had disappeared. 

Fast forward to now, and the pleasant discovery that empty push pop containers are available in the baking aisles of most craft stores. And these days, home bakers fill the adorable (and reusable) contraptions will all kinds of clever desserts: layered fruit and yogurt; pudding and whipped cream; and, as I recently tried, small slices of cake and icing. The push pop concept has evolved into something a bit more elegant — but just as fun.

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DIY: Butterfly garden

Office workers know how easy it is for time to fly by as we spend our summer days indoors. Sure, sitting in a windowless cubicle before the phosphorescent glow of a computer screen for eight hours is glamorous, but do you ever find yourself wishing you were in a meadow somewhere chasing butterflies?

Who says the office can’t be your own special meadow?

Next time you’re stuck with a late-night deadline, instead of cursing friends and coworkers enjoying themselves at the beer garden — you can format those TPS reports in the midst of your own cubicle butterfly garden. This project is not only cathartic, it’s simple! Even young kids can help.

 

 

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Star Wars Fans: THIS.

So you think you’re the biggest Star Wars fan ever? You’re not alone. Apparently, Stephen Colbert and John Stewart think they are, too.  (But they’re misguided as CLEARLY they haven’t come up against uber fan, Rick Bentley.)

Disney is offering mega fans the opportunity to be in Star Wars: Episode VII via a donation contest in support of UNICEF.

THE BASICS: Go here, donate money, and be entered to win a spot in the film. The more you donate, the more entries you get, the larger your chances of winning. 

Regardless, check out the viral vid below.  

Update on two bearded chicks

For those that are curious… an update on my hatchlings…

Animals grow quickly. I’m sad to say that the very short period of the ‘Chick pic of the day’ has ended, as the little balls of fluff have grown into large, feathered, somewhat gawky things. They’re still small and technically still chicks, but at almost 7 weeks old, they are more like awkward preteens than sweet downy babies.

Sadly, one of the chicks had a very rough hatch (as in, from the egg), and passed at barely 2 weeks of age. The other two are quirky and growing beards and are, by all appearances, girls.