Creative Christmas Countdowns

MF Advent 1

MF Advent 2

MF Advent 3

One of my favorite holiday traditions is a Christmas countdown. I tell myself it’s for the kids, but the truth is that I get just as excited about  I gathered some of my favorite ideas for inspiration and wanted to share them with you.

1. A variety of holiday envelopes arranged into the shape of a tree is too cute for words.

2. Paper cones create a forest of Christmas trees. Tiny surprises can hide underneath.

3. Tiny buckets, twine, and twigs create this darling display.

4. Trim Santa’s beard day by day until Christmas Eve.

5. Decorated clothespins hold brown paper packages tied up with string.

6. A simple paper chain contains holiday activities to share together.

The problem now is deciding my favorite. What about you? Do you have a favorite Christmas countdown idea?

How To: Create a Thankful Tree

This idea is equal parts simple craft project, entertainment for kids, Thanksgiving centerpiece, and feel-good activity. With a few simple items, you can create this Thanksgiving Thankful Tree and fill it with all the things you and your guests are grateful for this year. It’s a perfect gathering activity as your guests arrive, and simple enough that you can put the kids in charge of putting it together while you’re taking care of last-minute details for dinner. You’ll need the following items:

  • One sturdy branch from outside, about 3 or 4 feet tall
  • One vase, preferably tall and narrow
  • Whole nuts or smooth pebbles to secure the branch
  • Leaves cut out from colored paper (find a free template here)
  • Twine to secure leaves to tree
  • Pens, pencils, markers, or crayons for guests to use to write

If you’re feeling ambitious, you can spray paint the tree branch in advance to create more of a contrast. Otherwise, hold the branch in the center of the vase and fill the sides in with nuts or pebbles to secure it and keep it straight. Cut strips of twine just long enough to tie leaves to branches. Cut out multiple leaves, at least one per guest. Each guest can write his or her name on a leaf, along with what they are thankful for this year, before securing it to the tree. Once complete, place the tree in the center of the table for everyone to enjoy.

My favorite part of the Thankful Tree? It can be used again and again each year, and the leaves become a sweet way to remember Thanksgivings past!

One more thing—don’t forget to enter our 3rd Annual “Give Thanks with the Gift of Cookies” Giveaway! Entries accepted until midnight Sunday!

(Image via BHG.)

5 Easy Ways to Haunt Your Porch

Looking for some last-minute ideas to dress up your porch tonight? These ideas are so simple, yet pull off a big wow-factor. You probably have many of the supplies around the house.

DIY Glow Jars

DIY Glow Jars

1. These Glow Jars are sensational and so easy to make with mason jars and glow sticks. Line your walkway with them for an eerie display that will lead trick-or-treaters to your door.

Hanging Bats

Hanging Bats

2. A pair of scissors, thick place paper, painters tape, and some fishing wire are all you need to create these fantastic hanging bats. Find the templates and tutorial here.

Dry Ice

Dry Ice

3. Fog machines are pricey, but you can bring spooky, fog to your porch with some simple dry ice and water in a cauldron (or even a bucket). Use this dry ice directory to find retailers near you who sell dry ice.

Spooky Silhouettes

Spooky Silhouettes

4. A roll of black craft paper can transform your windows with these Spooky Silhoueetes. Find a variety of creepy downloads here and light up the night.

Wheelbarrow of Bones

Wheelbarrow of Bones

5. A Wheelbarrow of Bones is an easy, creepy way to greet Halloween guests at your door. Answer the door with a shovel and a ghoulish grin for added effect.

Do you have any other simple decorating ideas for Halloween? Share them in the comments section!

Top 10 Holiday Decorating Tips & Tricks

If pulling out your holiday decorations usually results in pulling out all your hair, don’t despair. Whether you’re decorating your table for Thanksgiving or your house for Christmas, here are my top 10 tried-and-true tricks to getting it right.

1. Less is more. If you’ve been collecting holiday decorations for more than a decade, you’ve probably got a parade of 18-gallon plastic bins that come down from the attic. Don’t feel like you have to display every decoration every year. Choose and use your favorites and leave the rest in storage. Next year you’ll likely have different favorites. Chances are, you’ll feel like you have fresh decorations every year and the process won’t feel so overwhelming.

2. Replace the space. Holiday decorations can sometimes look cluttered. A great tip is to replace your regular decorations with your holiday pieces. Instead of placing the nutcracker next to the globe on the end table, put the globe away for the season. Use the space in your empty bins to store your regular decorations. You’ll be pulling the bins out again after the season anyway.

3. Groupings are great. If you’ve got a hodge podge of small trinkets, try displaying them as a group instead of placing them randomly around the house. Clear a space on a bookshelf or tray and place them in an interesting grouping. Look for similarities in color, size, or category and put them together for a bigger impact.  For example, pair snowmen with snowmen or wooden trees with wooden reindeer or red decorations with other red decorations. They will look more cohesive and can be appreciated as a collection.

4. Look in your own backyard. If you’re sparse on decorations, you don’t have to look much further than your own backyard for inspiration. Clip some branches from a low-hanging tree and arrange them in a tall vase for a centerpiece. (Spray paint them a festive color for added impact.) A shallow bowl or basket full of pine cones looks beautiful next to the fireplace. (Add some cinnamon sticks for a great aroma.) Build a garland from pine branches and floral wire.

5. Find new uses for old things. Raid your kitchen cupboards for interesting containers and textures of every shape and size. Fill a glass canister full of red and green candies for a simple, cheery decoration that also serves as an emergency snack. A beautiful salad bowl full of brightly colored ornaments looks great on a coffee table. Your crystal goblets make great vases or candle holders. The possibilities are endless if you simply look at your old stuff with new eyes.

6. Tea lights are tops. Everything looks more festive when you add candlelight. Simple tea lights are one of my favorite decorations and the easiest way to dress up any occasion. Arrange them in a set of glassware, a grouping of empty jars, in a line down a skinny tray, or in paper luminaries (glorified lunch bags). They give a warm glow to everything and are incredibly inexpensive to buy in bulk.

7. Food as decoration. Nothing is more beautiful than a bowl of bright green apples, zesty oranges, or interesting gourds. Plus, you can change it up all season long as you eat your way through each display. For a more lasting decoration, press whole cloves into the rind of oranges in interesting patterns. The smell is amazingly festive and the natural preservatives in the cloves will keep the oranges fresh for weeks.

8. Don’t forget the mistletoe. Fresh (or silk) mistletoe is easy to find this time of year and adds a fun spark to your doorway. It’s becoming an out-dated tradition that needs a revival! Don’t you agree?

9. Make room for the tree. If you display a Christmas tree, put it in a place where it can be the focal point with easy access, especially if it will need watering. Rearrange the furniture if needed. My favorite spot for a tree is near a window. You get the fun of appreciating it from inside and outside too. Plus, the lights look beautiful reflected on the glass.

10. Keep the music playing. Call me crazy, but I think of holiday music as part of the decoration. Put it on as you decorate and keep it on all season long. Music is shown to calm nerves and soothe the spirit. We all need that during the holidays, right? Plus, music is strongly associated with memories. It’s almost impossible to listen to holiday music without remembering special holidays of years gone by.

Those are my tricks, but what are yours? Share them in the comments section!

P.S. Be sure to check out MrsFields.com on Friday the 26th and Monday the 29th for spectacular holiday savings!

Silk-Tie Eggs & Silky Egg Salad

It’s 2-for-1 today! I’ve got a  fabulous decorating idea for your Easter eggs, plus a smooth and silky egg salad recipe to use once your egg hunting is done. I was going to say that they’re both eggs-ellent ideas, but I don’t like to yolk around when I’m talking about Easter eggs. (Not funny? No?)

First, you must try this incredibly cool egg decorating idea found via Martha Stewart. (You can watch a short, instructional video here.) You’ll be amazed at the level of detail that transfers onto each egg–they look like works of art! Plus, it’s a fun alternative to the boxed decorating sets.

Silk-Tie Easter Eggs
via MarthaStewart.com

Small- to medium-size raw eggs
Glass or enamel pot
Silk ties, blouses, or boxers, cut into pieces large enough to cover an egg
White sheets (or pillowcases or old tablecloths), cut into pieces to cover silk-wrapped eggs
Twist ties
3 tablespoons of white vinegar
Warm water
Vegetable oil
Paper towels
Tongs or spoon

Directions
1. Cut silk into a square (or a piece) large enough to wrap around a raw egg.

2. Wrap a raw egg with a piece of silk, making sure the printed side of the material is facing the egg. Silk can still be used if it doesn’t fit perfectly around egg.

3. Place the silk-wrapped egg in a piece of white sheet, pillowcase, or old tablecloth and secure tightly with a twist-tie.

4. Place the egg(s) in an enamel or glass pot. Fill pot with water to cover eggs completely. Then, add three tablespoons of white vinegar.

5. Bring water to a boil, turn heat down, and simmer for 20 minutes (longer if you plan on eating the eggs).

6. Remove eggs from water with tongs or spoon and let cool.

7. Remove silk from cooled egg.

8. For shiny eggs, wipe with vegetable oil after completing step 7.

TIP: Find old silk ties, blouses, and boxers at thrift stores or rummage sales for pennies apiece!

And now for what to do with all of those beautiful eggs the day after Easter. Here is a silky egg salad recipe that will leave your lips smacking! The dill adds a delightfully fresh flavor, perfect for a casual springtime lunch.

Egg Salad with Fresh Dill

12 eggs, hard boiled, peeled and diced
1/2 cup celery, finely chopped
2/3 cup mayonnaise
2/3 cup sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons yellow mustard
1-2 scallions, finely chopped
2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Directions
Combine mayonnaise, sour cream (or yogurt), mustard, dill, scallions, salt, and pepper in a large mixing bowl. Fold in diced eggs and celery and mix until combined. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and chill before serving on sandwiches, pitas, or crackers.

Happy Houseful Cookie Jar Giveaway

Happy Houseful Cookie Jar

Happy Houseful Cookie Jar

Welcome, March, it’s so nice to see you! Let’s start the month off on a great note, shall we? That’s right, with a fabulous cookie jar giveaway.

I love everything about our Happy Houseful Cookie Jar, featured in our Easter catalog–the colors, the incredible form, the characters, and the overall emotion. I love that it represents a humble home filled with love.

Once again, our Creative Director Ronnie Kell has designed a one-of-a-kind keepsake for us filled with intricate detail, emotion, and character. Similar to our other collectible cookie jars, this jar underwent an extensive creation process–multiple ceramic molds and firings and color tests before it was hand-painted and glazed and ready for production.

Of course, my favorite thing about Ronnie’s cookie jar designs are all those little details. It seems that every time I look at one of these jars, I find a new little component to appreciate. As you can see, this jar is truly a work of art. My favorite detail? I’m drawn to that smile on the Mama Bunny’s face–so subtle and sweet.

How would you like this keepsake (filled with my gourmet cookies, of course) for your countertop? I’m giving one away to a lucky reader. Enter to win by leaving a comment that answers this question: What’s your favorite detail on the Happy Houseful Cookie Jar?

Bonus! Earn extra entries by spreading the word about this giveaway. How?
1. Mention this post on your facebook page. (Use the handy link below.)
2. Tweet a link to this post on your Twitter page. (Again, the handy link below.)
3. Link and mention this post on your own blog.

Please leave a new comment for every entry!

(Entries will be accepted until midnight, Sunday, March 7th.)

Bring Your Home to Life for Halloween

Here’s a great idea brought to me by one of our staffers. It’s a clever way to decorate your home for Halloween and it couldn’t be easier.

That’s right; add googly eyes to chairs, lamps, clocks, mantels, walls, etc., and watch your enchanted house come to life! Be sure to have a gaggle of these googly eyeballs on hand because the kids will really get into this activity. (Remember to use masking tape to avoid damaging any surfaces.)

Pretty witty, don’t you think?

Show Off Your Halloween Style and Save!

I love, love, loooove to see all the wonderful ways people decorate their homes for Halloween. There seems to be no end to the creativity conjured up for this spellbinding holiday.

So, obviously I was excited then when I received an email this week from one of our customers and readers, Danielle. She sent me some photos of her Halloween decor, which happens to include several of our decorative pieces. I asked if I could feature them here, to give you an idea of how easily our gifts can be incorporated into your own decorations.

Five of the decorative pieces here are from Mrs. Fields Gifts. FIVE! I think they look amazing, don’t you? Our cookie jars, decorative tins, and ceramic bowls are part of Danielle’s annual decorations and have become keepsakes. I’ve got to be honest here, I feel like a proud parent. Like, Oh look at those precious jars and tins and bowls of mine out there in the real world looking so fabulous!

Does that make me weird? Actually, don’t answer that.

Anyway, Danielle’s email gave me a great idea. I’d love to see pictures of your Halloween decorations (especially if you’ve got pieces from Mrs. Fields)! Send your photos to mrsfields[at]mrsfieldssecrets[dot]com and I’ll feature them here on the Mrs. Fields Secrets blog! Plus, I’ll send you a 20% off discount to shop for more keepsakes at Mrs. Fields Gifts as a token of my appreciation. So, come on and show off your Halloween style!

Thank you for sharing these photos, Danielle! Your home is beautiful.

One more thing–are you howling over Danielle’s decorations? Some of them are still available.

Check them out (clockwise) here, here, here, and here!

One Gift, So Many Uses

While “reduce, reuse, recycle” is the name of the game these days, it’s not a new way of thinking at Mrs. Fields. I’m excited to regularly showcase here how so many of our catalog gifts can be incorporated into a recipient’s home, long after the decadent goodies are shared.

For example, our Ultimate Cookie & Brownie Basket arrives at the door, brimming with enough oven-fresh cookies and brownies to feed a small army! It’s absolutely ideal for parties, a ready-to-serve dessert that arrives fresh on your doorstep! (Honestly, is there anything more exciting than a giant tray of Mrs. Fields cookies and brownies? Answer: no.)

But, long after the last cookie is devoured, the sturdy wicker tray can be used and reused in a myriad of different ways.

In a guest room, it’s ideal for setting out necessities: towels, washcloths, water, snacks, and magazines.

Or, sitting near a doorway, it keeps shoes tidy.

The possibilities are endless: use it as a kitchen serving tray, on a coffee table as an organized catch-all for remote controls and magazines, or even as a pet bed for little Fido!

Those are some of my ideas. How would you use the Ultimate Cookie & Brownie Basket?

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