5 Can’t-Go-Wrong Hostess Gifts

If you’re staying with friends or family for the holidays, or simply headed to a holiday party, we’ve got a list of home-run hostess gift ideas to express your gratitude and keep those invitations coming for years to come. A hostess gift doesn’t have to be lavish or complicated, but it should be thoughtful. Here are five gifts that every host will appreciate.

1. Take out containers for doggy bags. Stock up on a range of to-go containers from a restaurant supply store and gift them to your host. When the party is over, she can send guests home with easy, attractive doggy bags without raiding her own supply of dishes.

 

2. A fresh, new apron. Immediately useful and appreciated, an apron is an ideal hostess gift. And if you offer to put it on and help in the kitchen, even better!

3. Fresh flowers. You can never go wrong with a beautiful, neutral bouquet. (Be sure to provide a vase so that your host doesn’t have to figure out or arrange the display.)

 

4. Coasters. Easy and thoughtful, coasters are a great hostess gift because they can be put to use right away to protect the host’s furniture. Cork coasters are safe and absorbent and affordable. Add a personalized touch with some simple paint.

5. Relaxation. Nobody needs moments of relaxation like a host after the party. Whether it’s a spa certificate (if you’re staying a week in somebody’s house), a jar of bath salts, or a lavender-scented candle, your host will appreciate a few moments zen when the party is over.

Ultimate Gift Guide for Brownie Lovers

Mrs. Fields Secrets Brownie Lover 1 Mrs. Fields Brownie Lovers 2

The Brownie Lover. Who can blame their devotion to rich, fudge-y chocolate? Nobody. So, for the holidays, indulge it. Embrace it. Give those brownie lovers what they really, really want: all things brownies. And just in case you need a head start, we’ve put together the ultimate guide:

1. Two Dozen Classic Brownies
2. Edge Brownie Pan
3. Extreme Brownie Recipe Book
4. Brownie Batter Candle
5. Brookie Pan

Inspiring Turkey Trays

Part centerpiece, part meal, these “turkey” trays are a fun way to add some special oomph to your Thanksgiving table. Check them out and get inspired.

The Fruit Trays…

The Veggie Trays…

And our favorite, the Dessert Trays…

The countdown is on! Are you ready for Turkey Day?

Give Your Oven a Holiday Tune-Up

The last thing you need during the holidays is an oven failure, so we’re getting you ready for holiday kitchen overdrive with a simple oven tune-up to keep you running smoothly from Thanksgiving appetizers to New Years desserts.

1. Clean the oven. No need to dread this task. Most modern ovens have a self-cleaning function, but if not, there is no need to buy dangerous chemical cleansers. A spray bottle of water and a box of baking soda will do wonders.

2. Check the thermostat. The thermostat is the mechanism that helps measure and regulate the temperature in the oven. They can go bad or become unreliable, but are replaced easily. The most common indicator of a bad thermostat is an oven that overheats. You should be able to identify the thermostat in your oven by looking inside for a long tube near one of the side walls. To replace it, be sure to disconnect the electricity to the oven before starting and consult the owner’s manual for any specific instructions. It is most often a process of disconnecting the wires on the old thermostat, removing it, and installing the new one in the reverse order.

3. Check the heating elements. If you’ve noticed things baking unevenly in the oven, or taking much longer to cook, the heating element could be going bad. Replacement is quite simple. Be sure to disconnect electricity before beginning, then follow the instructions in this simple video.

4. Inspect the flames. For gas ovens, ports for the flames can easily be blocked by debris. Turn the oven on and check to see if flame levels are even in both size and disbursement. Clean away any debris or blockage. If the flame seems too low, consult your owner’s manual to find where adjustments can be made. The manual should also indicate the recommended size of the flame for your particular unit.

5. Clean or replace the bulb. The oven light is one of the most underutilized tools, since it allows you to check on foods without opening the door and letting hot air escape. If the bulb is dirty or failing, replace it before the busy season.

Simple as that, your oven is ready for whatever your holiday schedule brings!

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Amazing Halloween Makeup You Can Do Yourself

The countdown to Halloween is on, and just in case you need a little inspiration, we’ve gathered some incredible makeup tutorials for you. Everything from vampires to sugar skulls to gory zombies, and you don’t even need to be a Hollywood makeup artist to pull them off. (Although we threw in a couple of crazy cool advanced-level tutorials for the truly adventurous.) Check them out for inspiration and give them a try!

Vampire makeup for kids. Skill level: Easy
Zombie Ghost for kids. Skill level: Easy
Cheek Scar tutorial. Skill level: Easy
Spiderman tutorial. Skill level: Easy
Simple Skull tutorial. Skill level: Easy
Comic Book Face tutorial. Skill level: Moderate
Easy Sugar Skull tutorial. Skill level: Moderate
3D Stretch Lips tutorial. Skill level: Advanced
Missing Eye tutorial. Skill level: Advanced

 

Easy DIY Fall Decorations

Mrs. Fields Secrets DIY Fall Decor

Ready to deck your halls with all things fall? We’ve rounded up some fabulous fall decor that is so simple, you can put them together in a jiffy. How long is a jiffy, you ask? Not long at all! From top left to bottom right:

  • Raking leaves and pruning trees? Save a substantial branch and use a drill to make room for tea lights. Brilliant!
  • Keep that drill out, because this hole-y pumpkin lets of a beautiful glow.
  • Wrap candles with burlap, ribbon, or even colorful leaves to give your everyday decorations a seasonal look.
  • Fill your antique pots and pitchers with tiny bunches of branches and berries. Rustic and ravishing.
  • Use glow in the dark foam to create eyes for your tree trunks. Fun, but not too spooky!
  • Fill a vase with candy corns in a vase and nestle a small candle inside for a darling decoration.
  • Tiny gourds on top of your regular candlesticks give height and presence to a little decoration.
  • Stark branches and small orange pumpkins fill a large vase and a large space.

No-Sew Closet Sachets

Mrs. Fields Secrets Closet Sachet
It’s that time of year to box up the tank tops and shorts and transition your closet into cool weather wear, and we’ve got a great little trick to keep your clothes fresh and smelling great all season through. This no-sew sachet will cost pennies compared to store-bought alternatives and is easy to refresh every time you transition your closet. Make a handful of these sachets and tuck them into drawers and closet shelves. Your clothes will smell amazing, and you’ll keep pesky moths away too.

No-Sew Closet Sachet

9 x 9 inch piece of fabric
10 inch strip of ribbon
1/3 cup dried lavender flowers

Directions
Place the lavender flowers in the center of the wrong side of your fabric. Pull the corners in and tie the ribbon around tightly to secure. Place in dresser drawers or closet shelves for up to 6 months of freshness. After 6 months, untie the ribbon and replace the lavender flowers.

HINT: Use cloth napkins, scraps of fabric, or old clothing to up-cycle for this project.
HINT: Cedar chips, rosemary and pine needles are other great sachet-fillers that will give a lasting scent and deter moths.

25 Genius Uses for Your Kitchen Appliances

Use your slow cooker to bake fresh bread.

You may think you know your kitchen appliances, but you might not know all the amazing things they can do if you just think outside the box. Or the toaster, as the case may be. Check out these ideas and try them yourself!

  1. Your dishwasher is an ideal place to clean and sanitize baby’s toys and teething rings with no harsh chemical residue. A great idea, especially during cold and flu season.
  2. Your steamy dishwasher is also a great place to cook seafood! Wrap fresh fish tightly in aluminum foil with a bit of oil, spices and fresh lemon, then run through a short cycle (no soap!) and you’ll have fresh steamed fish.
  3. Use a pizza cutter to quickly chop fresh herbs. Simply bunch the herbs together and roll the cutter back and forth over them to get a fine chop.
  4. Your coffee grinder is perfect for grinding fresh spices like peppercorns, anise or cumin for big flavor.
  5. Grind rice in a coffee grinder to make fresh, quick rice flour for tempura recipes.
  6. Make a quick garlic paste by using a micro planer.
  7. Need to quickly shred meat? Place your meat into the bowl of your stand mixer with the regular paddle and turn it on. You’ll have evenly shredded meat in about 30 seconds!
  8. An immersion blender or a french press makes great whipped cream without a splattered mess or a tired arm.
  9. Use the hot plate on your coffee machine to toast a bagel or heat a muffin.
  10. Flip your toaster on its side and make quick grilled cheese sandwiches by placing a slice of bread with cheese on top into the slats and allow the toaster to broil the cheese. (HINT: Set it on the highest setting, then attend closely and pull the bread out when cheese is at desired consistency. You don’t want the bread launched out!)
  11. Your food processor can make homemade ice cream in minutes flat. Freeze your ice cream mix in ice cube trays, then pop into the food processor to get a quick, creamy blend.
  12. Your food processor is also an ideal place to make pizza dough, even better than your stand mixer or your hands. You’ll have better, more elastic dough in a shorter amount of time using the food processor.
  13. Preserve fresh herbs by chopping them and putting them in ice cube trays. Fill the trays with olive oil and freeze. Transfer the cubes to a freezer bag and use fresh herbs for your soups and sautés whenever you need!
  14. Use your pepper grinder to make fun, fresh flavors for different dishes. For example, fill it with your favorite cookies to create a fun topping for ice cream or cakes.
  15. Your turkey baster can be used all year long for your pancake batter. It’s less messy than your cup measurer and (bonus!) you can create fun shapes, almost like its a pen.
  16. Use your waffle iron to create crispy hash browns.
  17. Pour brownie or cake batter into your waffle iron for a quick dessert.
  18. Your bundt pan is a perfect roasting dish for your chicken and vegetables. Place the chicken’s cavity over the center ring, then fill the pan with your carrots and potatoes and onions. The bird will cook quickly and evenly and those savory juices will drip into the veggies!
  19. Your microwave is the perfect place to produce a poached egg for your eggs benedict. Crack the egg into a microwave save bowl, then add about 1/2 cup water and a 1/2 teaspoon of vinegar. Place a saucer over the bowl and microwave on high for one minute.
  20. Microwave lemons and limes for 10-15 seconds (depending on size) before juicing. The heat will help release juices.
  21. Use your slow cooker as a towel warmer for your Girl’s Spa Night.
  22. A slow cooker can also bake a fresh loaf of bread while you’re at work.
  23. Use your freezer to help restore stretched out clothing. Place stretched out sweaters or jeans in a plastic bag and freeze overnight. The cold air can help to tighten the fibers and restore shape.
  24. Use your hard-boiled egg slicer to cut strawberries, butter, and mozzarella cheese.
  25. The hot water from your Keurig machine is perfect for cooking a cup of noodles.

How to Clean Your Outdoor Garbage Cans

After a long hot summer, outdoor garbage cans have spent a lot of time roasting and the smell can knock you out (but not in a good way). We’ve got a great project to clean and refresh those bins while the weather is still pleasant. Try it out and thank yourself every time you breathe freely around your cans.

  • Reserve time on or immediately after garbage collection day, so that you start with an empty can.
  • Technically, one person can perform the job, but it’s much easier with a partner.
  • You’ll need rubber gloves, a non-toxic disinfectant (we recommend Simple Green), a long handled broom, a flashlight, a garden hose with a jet attachment, and a sunny, safe spot like a patch of grass or a driveway to perform the task.
  • A power washer is not necessary, but extremely effective. If you use one, remember to wear safety goggles and be careful to avoid spraying any skin or paint.
  • Turn the can on its side with the lid open.
  • Use the flashlight to inspect the inside of the can and identify any areas that have stuck-on debris. Depending on the size, depth and color of your can, it can be hard to miss problem areas.
  • While wearing your rubber gloves, use the broom to shake loose any debris.
  • Use the jet hose attachment or power washer to spray into the can for an initial rinse. Hold the water on any problem areas for 20 seconds to give them a soak and loosen debris.
  • After rinsing, tip the can upside down to drain.
  • Turn the can upright and pour a thin drizzle of disinfectant all along the edge of the can, allowing it to dribble down and coat all the sides. Use your flashlight to determine if you need more. Once the sides are coated, pour a thin layer over the bottom of the can. Allow the disinfectant to sit for 15 minutes.
  • Tip the can on its side and use the broom to scrub the inside and bottom of the can. This should get sudsy and break down any debris.
  • Use the hose again to give everything a thorough rinse. Tip the can upside down to drain as much moisture as possible.
  • Tip the can upright and shine the flashlight to be sure you haven’t missed anything.
  • Spray and scrub any debris off the outside of the can and lid.
  • If clean, allow to air out (preferably in the sunshine) for an hour or two. The sunshine will help disinfect.
  • Finally, use the hose to thoroughly rinse your broom. Use disinfectant if necessary.
  • Enjoy a fresh, clean garbage can for months to come!

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Personalized Back-to-School Gear

BTS pic

It’s not only fun to personalize your school supplies, it’s practical! If your supplies are easy to recognize, they are harder to lose. Use some simple craft supplies you might already have and a little inspiration to make your school supplies look great all year through.

1. Washi tape wrapped in a pattern around your pencils, pens, and glue bottles is a fun, easy way to make supplies easy to identify and hard to misplace.
2. A personalized tote for teacher or student makes a great gift, keepsake, and useful tool.
3. Vinyl lettering for binders and folders helps students stay organized and looking great.
4. Use Modge Podge on backpacks, binders, even pencils to coordinate a fabulous look including monogrammed backpacks and super stylish notebooks and pencils.

Happy back to school!

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