7 Ways to Enjoy Halloween Treats (Without the Dreaded Sugar Binge)

This post was originally published on November 19, 2014. It was updated on April 2, 2020.

To say that Naomi is “sensitive to sugar” is an understatement.  That’s like saying vampires are sensitive to stakes through the heart.  It doesn’t take much of a bit of cookie or candy to turn my sweet, joyful girl into a whining, bouncing, screeching little monster.

Halloween, however, is without a doubt the favorite holiday around here.  We all dress up (and I do mean all of us!) and take turns passing out the treats.  This year, she asked to go as a witch, so I went as her kitty.  Michael went as a Jedi Warrior, and we bought the most adorable onesie and hat set for Jude to go as R2D2.  Yes, we are huge and unabashed nerds in this house.  Naomi could recognize Yoda long before she could recognize Ronald McDonald.

Last year was a nightmare.  Naomi, Michael and myself opted to binge on the candy for a week straight to get rid of it.  The result was a little girl who was overloaded, overhyped and overwhelmed.  It was heartbreaking, and the withdrawl that followed was just as bad.  It took almost a whole month to get her back to her normal, healthy self.  Sugar after that became a bad word in our house, and even now, I almost always half the sugar in any recipe I make. I vowed that next year, we would find a way that we could use to control the sugar monster.  But how do I balance the memory making and joy from Halloween for Naomi with the results of a sugar binge?  There are actually a lot of options!  I was pretty surprised when I looked into it this summer and discovered so many great options!

7 Ways to Enjoy Halloween Treats (Without the Dreaded Sugar Binge)

Buy Candy From Your Child.  

Some parents offer their children a set amount of money ($0.10 to $0.25 per piece) to their children.  You could let them save their favorites (like the chocolate bars) and at the same time, buy the junky candy corn and lollipops, and let them buy a new toy or game instead.  I did offer this option to Naomi, but she wasn’t at all interested.  Maybe next year.

Look Into Trade In Offers at Dentist Offices.  

This is a great idea.  Several dentist offices in my city were willing to trade money to a child per pound of candy.  My local dentist was offering $1 per pound.  But again, Naomi wasn’t interested in this.  She much preferred the candy.

Send Extra Candy to Military Personnel Overseas.  

I had heard of people doing these things for Christmas, but it never would have occurred to me to do this for Halloween.  What a great idea!  This takes place in Canada and in the United States (not sure about in other countries).

Unfortunately, none of these ideas appealed to Naomi, and so we had to come up with rules that allowed her the opportunity to enjoy her treats, without overdoing it.

Rule 1: Each child could have three individual pieces of candy a day.  One of those had to be chips.  

Chips don’t seem to have much of an effect on her.  She was allowed to pick the treat herself, either a piece of candy, a lollipop, a bag of chips, etc. and that was the only thing she was allowed to have until the next time.  This gave her a choice of what she wanted to have at that time.  It was rather surprising to see her go through the “healthy” (yeah right!) gummy candies first, and focus less on the chocolates.

Rule 2: Each child could only have a treat after she had eaten her whole meal beforehand.  

Didn’t matter what I was serving, or what meal it was — if the meal wasn’t finished, no candy.  Period.  This also guaranteed that she had a full stomach, and her body was busy breaking down the carbs, proteins, and fats, instead of just candy.

Rule 3: Candy was a privilege that could easily be taken away.  

Candy was not something that she got just because.  It could be used as a punishment in the event that punishment was deemed necessary (not something that happens often).  If Michael or I thought that she had consumed too much sugar already in the day (on the odd occasions that we ate out or she had juice, etc), it was okay for us to say that she’d had enough candy for the day.  She is really good at recognizing this herself and accepted it for the most part without much argument.

Rule 4:  Dessert and candy cannot go together.  

If I had made cookies or cake, she was welcome to have some of that instead of the candy.  But she couldn’t have both.  I was actually surprised how many times she would choose a small piece of hard candy over a lovely slice of chocolate cake.  I am guessing it’s the novelty.

The results have been wonderful.  Tomorrow, she will enjoy the last three pieces of candy and will have been able to enjoy the treats that she enjoyed gathering almost a month ago, and with almost no issues whatsoever.  We will try the other options again next year, but if she isn’t interested in parting with her treats, I will again set down the candy rules and we can enjoy letting her have her treats without having to go through the chaos it creates.

6 Frugal Homemade Stocking Stuffers for Toddlers

This post was originally published on December 1, 2011.  It was updated on April 2, 2020.

Christmas this year will be celebrated with family in the traditional way of celebrating on Dec.25th.  Michael and I hope to begin a new tradition of celebrating presents and stockings on St. Nicholas Day next year, when we can celebrate in our own home.  However this year, I am on the hunt for frugal, handmade Christmas stockings for Naomi.  Last year for Christmas, I knitted her a lovely stocking.  I’m excited to fill it with some delicious treats and trinkets for little hands.

6 Frugal Homemade Stocking Stuffers for Toddlers

A Homemade Apron in A Cute Print

I likely won’t be getting to my sewing machine before Christmas, but I would like for Naomi to have a pretty little girl’s apron to use in our kitchen.  So if I find the right t-shirt, I might try out this tutorial for making one out of an old t-shirt.  I save all my old stained t-shirts for just such occasions!

Homemade Cookies

Cookies are a sweet, homemade treat that can be specialized to meet a child’s dietary needs.  I can avoid any trigger foods by simply baking her some delicious treats for her stockings.  A simple shortbread or chocolate chip cookie recipe would do the trick nicely.  I just have to be sure they don’t become breakfast!

Felted Wool Balls

Another interesting little toy would be several pretty felted wool balls in different colors and sizes.  Next time I am at my favorite secondhand store I will pick up some wool and make some.  These are great for little hands, for tossing around (without damaging anything), could be strung on a string for necklaces, etc.  Oh!  And I found this great idea from Meg at Mega•Crafty on how to make them without getting your hands dirty!

Knitted Slippers

Little feet get cold quickly.  So a comfy pair of knitted slippers are great, especially ones that are easy to put on and off.  These pocketbook slippers are a favorite I’ve knitted several times.  Just be careful to put some puff paint on the very bottoms to prevent slipping and sliding!  Tumbles are no fun at Christmas.

Homemade Soap Crayons

To make bathtime more fun, homemade soap crayons are a great idea too. I like the idea that I can use a natural soap on Naomi, as well as use natural food colorings, rather than anything with ingredients I cannot pronounce. I like this technique because it’s pretty simple.

Homemade Finger Paints

If my apron is a success, I might venture into the realm of homemade finger paints.  Poor Michael might have a stroke, but I know Naomi would absolutely love to try finger painting (though this might be restricted to the walls of the tub before bath time).  This recipe from Tiffany at Easie Peasie seems to be really popular!

Do you have any suggestions for frugal, homemade stocking stuffers?  If so, please share!  I’d love to hear about them!

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10 Ways to Begin to Knit For Free (Or Almost Free!)

This post was originally published on November 15, 2011.  It was updated on April 2, 2020.

I have a bad habit of picking up something, and then never finishing it.  So when I decided I wanted to start knitting, I wanted to be sure that I didn’t invest too much money into it.  In doing so, I have amassed quite a bundle of yarn that I have practiced and created some great items.  I have discovered quite a few neat ways to find yarn, needles, resources, guidance, and especially patterns.

10 Ways To Begin To Knit For Free (Or Almost Free!)

Search The Library For Books and Patterns.

Obviously if you’re just beginning to learn to knit, heading to the library for books that teach you how to knit are great, especially if you’re a literal (not so much a visual) learner, who finds it easier to read the instructions than look at the pictures.  In fact, I learned how to knit in the beginning mostly from Stitch ‘n Bitch: The Knitter’s Handbook. Also, your library often has great (mostly free!) beginner classes.  I have seen free Knitting for Beginners classes at my local library.

Ask At Your Church or Community Center.

Knitting, for years, was seen as the “little old lady” hobby, and there is some merit to that.  But for many seniors, it’s a great way to keep their hands active and their fingers strong.  If you look at your church or community bulletin, you might find an opportunity for women to get together to knit prayer shawls or hats, mittens, scarves, socks or any other project, for donating to various organizations.  This is a great chance for your to not only learn to knit, but also an opportunity to give back to your community by knitting something warm and wonderful for a sick person, a new baby, or a poor cold homeless person.  Sometimes, these get togethers also have people who have a spare pair of needles or a few extra balls of yarn that they’d be happy to give to you for you to practice with.  And who knows?  You might even make some new friends!

Ask for Supplies on Freecycle, Kijiji, WeShare, or Other Social Media Site.

I have received dozens of sets of knitting needles from my local Freecycle and Kijiji.  I’ve also been able to give away extra yarn to those who are looking to learn as well.  Post a message and see what comes up!

Purchase Them From Yard Sales.

I received a huge box of yarn from someone who just couldn’t get the hang of it for $2!  You cannot argue with that!  Even amongst that box, I found a gorgeous set of wooden knitting needles.  They are just so pretty!

Find Great Treasures at Secondhand Stores.

Yesterday when I stopped by my favorite secondhand store, I discovered they had changed their arrangement with yarn.  Rather than having a bunch of bags of mixed yarn, they now have a huge bin of random balls of yarn and a sign that says “Bag Your Own Yarn for $3, or $0.99 A Ball”.  Happy dance!!!

And of Course, The Internet.

Nevermind the patterns!  How about the resources available to you?  If you don’t know how to do a specific stitch or method of knitting, just hop onto the various beautiful craft and knitting blogs and you will find plenty of wonderful people who are happy to show you how!  Or have a creative way of finding (cheaper) alternatives.  And there are various forums of people who can help you troubleshoot your latest snarl.  Trust me, there is no mistake made in knitting that someone else online has not experienced.

Why Not Ask Skilled Family and Friends?

My mom loaned me her favorite knitting beginners book, which is how I was able to teach myself to knit.  A coworker taught me how to quickly cast on.  My aunt taught me how to bind off.  It’s so easy to find someone who can teach you something.  Hey, even that lady who knits on the bus might be willing to help you!  Knitting has a way of spreading warm, gentle feelings between people.

Peruse Local Craft Stores.

Our city has plenty of gorgeous knitting stores.  And I have seen plenty of courses and classes of people who want to show you how to knit for free or for a very reasonable fee.  If you look into it, I will bet you will find something similar in your neighborhood.

Use Gift Certificates and Coupons.  

It’s getting close to the holidays, so start making your desires known!  If you do secret Santa at the office, start mentioning to your coworkers your desire to learn to knit.  If your mother asks for a list of stocking stuffers, note your favorite craft store.  If you get a gift certificate for a big box store, go grab a pair of needles and a big ball of fluff.  Might as well give it a try!  Also, keep an eye on your flyers and newspapers.  I have two coupons on my fridge for 50% off at my local craft store so I can go get my hands on some delicious wool.

Don’t Forget To Give Back as Well via Volunteering.

Giving back to your community can open so many doors.  Why not head over to your nearest seniors home and have tea with a lovely elderly lady?  Ask her to teach you.  No wool sweater in the world could compare to the warmth in the smile of a senior who wants to share time and conversation with someone who is interested in what she has to say.  Or stop by a local women’s shelter.  Knitting is a destressor and is a great way to strike up a conversation while you’re serving others.  Or look at some of the wonderful knitting organizations out there who take your funny practice pieces and make them into something wonderful.

Do you have other tricks to find free or frugal knitting supplies and lessons?  I’d love to hear from you!  Leave a comment and tell us about it!

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Guest Post: A Hungry Child Can’t Wait: Let’s Change History

Guest Blogger: Sarah Lenssen from #Ask5for5

Family photos by Mike Fiechtner Photography


Thank you Nada and nearly 150 other bloggers from around the world for allowing me to share a story with you today, during Social Media Week.


A hungry child in East Africa can’t wait. Her hunger consumes her while we decide if we’ll respond and save her life. In Somalia, children are stumbling along for days, even weeks, on dangerous roads and with empty stomachs in search of food and water. Their crops failed for the third year in a row. All their animals died. They lost everything. Thousands are dying along the road before they find help in refugee camps.


At my house, when my three children are hungry, they wait minutes for food, maybe an hour if dinner is approaching. Children affected by the food crisis in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia aren’t so lucky. Did you know that the worst drought in 60 years is ravaging whole countries right now, as you read this? Famine, a term not used lightly, has been declared in Somalia. This is the world’s first famine in 20 years.12.4 million people are in need of emergency assistance and over 29,000 children have died in the last three months alone. A child is dying every 5 minutes. It it estimated that 750,000 people could die before this famine is over. Take a moment and let that settle in.


The media plays a major role in disasters. They have the power to draw the attention of society to respond–or not. Unfortunately, this horrific disaster has become merely a footnote in most national media outlets. News of the U.S. national debt squabble and the latest celebrity’s baby bump dominate headlines. That is why I am thrilled that nearly 150 bloggers from all over the world are joining together today to use the power of social media to make their own headlines; to share the urgent need of the almost forgotten with their blog readers. Humans have the capacity to care deeply for those who are suffering, but in a situation like this when the numbers are too huge to grasp and the people so far away, we often feel like the little we can do will be a drop in the ocean, and don’t do anything at all.



When news of the famine first hit the news in late July, I selfishly avoided it. I didn’t want to read about it or hear about it because I knew I would feel overwhelmed and uncomfortable. I wanted to protect myself. I knew I would need to do something if I knew what was really happening. You see, this food crisis is personal. I have a 4-year-old son and a 1 yr-old daughter who were adopted from Ethiopia and born in regions now affected by the drought. If my children still lived in their home villages, they would be two of the 12.4 million. My children: extremely hungry and malnourished? Gulp. I think any one of us would do anything we could for our hungry child. But would you do something for another mother’s hungry child?



My friend and World Vision staffer, Jon Warren, was recently in Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya–the largest refugee camp in the world with over 400,000 people. He told me the story of Isnino Siyat, 22, a mother who walked for 10 days and nights with her husband, 1 yr-old-baby, Suleiman, and 4 yr.-old son Adan Hussein, fleeing the drought in Somalia. When she arrived at Dadaab, she built the family a shelter with borrowed materials while carrying her baby on her back. Even her dress is borrowed. As she sat in the shelter on her second night in camp she told Jon, “I left because of hunger. It is a very horrible drought which finished both our livestock and our farm.” The family lost their 5 cows and 10 goats one by one over 3 months, as grazing lands dried up. “We don’t have enough food now…our food is finished. I am really worried about the future of my children and myself if the situation continues.”



Will you help a child like Baby Suleiman? Ask5for5 is a dream built upon the belief that you will.


That something I knew I would need to do became a campaign called #Ask5for5 to raise awareness and funds for famine and drought victims. The concept is simple, give $5 and ask five of your friends to give $5, and then they each ask five of their friends to give $5 and so on–in nine generations of 5x5x5…we could raise $2.4 Million! In one month, over 750 people have donated over $25,000! I set up a fundraiser at See Your Impact and 100% of the funds will go to World Vision, an organization that has been fighting hunger in the Horn of Africa for decades and will continue long after this famine has ended. Donations can multiply up to 5 times in impact by government grants to help provide emergency food, clean water, agricultural support, healthcare, and other vital assistance to children and families suffering in the Horn.


I need you to help me save lives. It’s so so simple; here’s what you need to do:


  1. Donate $5 or more on this page (http://seeyourimpact.org/members/ask5for5)
  2. Send an email to your friends and ask them to join us.
  3. Share #Ask5for5 on Facebook and Twitter!


I’m looking for another 100 bloggers to share this post on their blogs throughout Social Media Week. Email me at ask5for5@gmail.com if you’re interested in participating this week.


A hungry child doesn’t wait. She doesn’t wait for us to finish the other things on our to-do list, or get to it next month when we might have a little more money to give. She doesn’t wait for us to decide if she’s important enough to deserve a response. She will only wait as long as her weakened little body will hold on…please respond now and help save her life. Ask 5 for 5.


Thank you on behalf of all of those who will be helped–you are saving lives and changing history.


p.s. Please don’t move on to the next website before you donate and email your friends right now. It only takes 5 minutes and just $5, and if you’re life is busy like mine, you probably won’t get back to it later. Let’s not be a generation that ignores hundreds of thousands of starving people, instead let’s leave a legacy of compassion. You have the opportunity to save a life today!



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