“Bloody Brain” Popcorn Balls

Ew. I know. But Bloody Brains score extremely high on the effort/impact scale: they take just a few minutes to make, and everybody will have something to say about them. (That something will probably be "ew.")

Note: Popcorn balls are always best when they're super-fresh, but you can make these up to a day in advance provided you wrap them individually in plastic wrap and put them in an airtight container; the jelly will retain its shine really well.


Lollipop Ghosts

The hardest part of making these was keeping my children from eating all of the lollipops quicker than I could wrap them up. The second-hardest part of making these was the fact that my three-year-old REALLY wanted to help, and obviously you need to let children participate with Halloween decoration-making, but girlfriend seriously needs to work on her ghost face-drawing skills, just saying.

These ghosts make cute party favors for kids, but you can use them to decorate in lots of fun ways: use string to hang them from light fixtures and such; fill a bowl with them for a centerpiece; line a mirror or mantle with them. (One caveat: if you're hanging them with string, make sure the string is clear, or the effect can be a little too macabre for a kids' party.)


10 Home Renovation Projects You Have To Try

Remember back in 2009, when I decided that I was the kind of person who should write a website about cooking, DIY, and home decor, and that it should be called "Domestic Bliss"? Yeah, I have no idea what I was thinking either - other than, perhaps, "fake it 'til you make it" - because for the first few years, "faking it" is exactly what I did. At the time, my idea of a homemade meal was store-bought pasta with jarred tomato sauce (to which I'd added onions and mushrooms - you know, to make it fancy), and was SO IMPRESSED with myself for completing "DIYs" such as...swapping out drawer pulls. Putting up a sticker decal was a feat worthy of a full video tutorial, and I thought that my idea of using teacups to serve soup during parties was the height of inspired entertaining.

I still think that serving soup in teacups is pretty neat, but a lot has changed since the halcyon days of wallpaper-wrapped lampshades and green chalkboard refrigerators. I'm still no Ty Pennington, but after renovating two homes and working on a home construction and design show, I now know about 20,000 times more than I ever thought I'd know about how to update a household on a budget. Below are ten of my all-time favorite house upgrades, all of which I promise you are more than capable of taking on yourself.


Layered Up

Gorgeous layered rugs in my friend Elise's mountain home (full tour here)

You know the layered-rug trend that's been all over Pinterest these past two years or so? I always liked the way it looked, but never really thought of doing it myself, because rugs (or at least the ones I usually like) tend to be expensive, and if I'm buying a fancy rug I'd like to see...well, all of it. But lately, my fancy rug is having a rough go of it. Since our schedule switch-up I've been spending every afternoon chasing after both kids, and by the time dinner rolls around I am ZONKED, and - confession time - usually just plonk them down in front of the TV to eat.

I know, I know, TV during dinner = bad, but it also gives all of us a much-needed break. I grew up with two parents who worked full-time in office jobs, so dinnertime was usually our first chance to actually see each other; had we all zoned out in front of the TV while we ate we would have cut down the time available to actually interact with each other by half. But I interact with my children a lot these days. And I also really, really love watching TV while I eat dinner, and I am the boss, and so TV during dinner it is.


Side Yard Makeover: From No Man’s Land To Most Useful Space Ever

...What is this "side yard" of which you speak?

Side yards are not a thing I have any experience with, and definitely are not something I have given much (if any) thought to. Like, ever.

I didn't even have a side yard at our house in NYC (or, I guess I kind of did because there was a space between our house and the house next to us, but it consisted largely of a spricket-and-poison-ivy-infested wasteland. Then I moved out to the California suburbs, and everyone here seems to have a pair of functional side yards. We have neighbors who use the long, narrow spaces that run along the edges of their houses for storage, as dog runs, to hold chicken coops, as play spaces for their kids - all kinds of things.