Sunday, October 31, 2010

Spooktacular Decorating Part II

Happy Halloween! 

I mentioned in "Spooktacular Decorating Part I" that one of my clients was kind enough to give me all of her Halloween decorations, which included several Halloween trees.

We placed one on our dining room table and decorated it with ornaments that we purchased from Pier One Imports.

Jason and I both love these little guys and girls! We're hoping to go in this week when everything is marked down and snatch up some more.

They are really adorable, like this little devil:

And this sparkly little vampire:

Another tree sits on top of our piano with an over sized plastic bat ready to swoop down from its branches.

And if you've followed my blog,  you know I have a couple of bird cages.  So for Halloween, we hung some creatures inside the bird cages to haunt up our house a little.

Jason cleverly placed these monster hands on the back of our living room chair, leaving guests to wonder what might pop out from behind.

I placed another quote on top of our living room chest.  This time, it's from one of Jason's favorite books, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

Luminaries that were hand-created by Jason are perched atop our bookshelves.  These are one of my favorite decorations when they are lit up at night.

And for Imani's party, my mother and I added plenty of spider webs all around the house.

We hung orange and black balloons, and covered the tables with Halloween tablecloths (also donations from my client).

We created ghoulish ghosts by putting glow sticks inside white balloons and draping sheer curtains over the balloons.  They glowed throughout the night.  Unfortunately, I cannot figure out how to take a picture in an dark room without using the flash and having it look bright!  Anybody with any photography knowledge, please enlighten me!

Jason and my father created a spooky room in our basement, where they dressed as monsters and scared all of the guests. 

Jason and I found this freaky skeleton on sale at Rite Aid for only $10.

Jason used a black light, purple lights, cut up drop cloths, old windows, cobwebs, and giant spiders to set the scene.

This was, by far, the biggest hit of the party. The kids went down into the basement over and over to frighten themselves. And once they wore out the adults, they went down into the basement and dressed up as monsters themselves, trying to scare each other.

The party turned out great. We served mummy hot dogs (hot dogs wrapped in croissants), punch with a floating ice cube hand, cupcakes, apples and carmel dip, roasted pumpkin seeds and hot apple cider.

The kids carved pumpkins, played several games, went outside for a flashlight candy hunt and repeatedly scared themselves in the basement.

And Imani turned out to be an amazing little astronaut.

Fully equipped with an oxygen tank.

And I got to use sparkly make up to make myself Cleopatra.

And Jason fulfilled his dream to be "Jason" from Friday the 13th.

Hope you had a fantastic Halloween!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Transforming Ourselves

When I was a child, my mother made all of my costumes for Halloween each year.  In fact, not only did she make our costumes, but she and my dad also dressed up.

I watched them year after year transform themselves into sometimes magical -- and  -- sometimes frightful beings.  They won numerous costume contests -- dressed as a bumblebee, a vampire, half devil/half angel . . . there are too many costumes to list.

My mom wasn't a seamstress.  She just used her imagination and came up with creative ways to help me become whatever it was I wanted to be each year.

And so I've tried my best to carry on this wonderful tradition with Imani.  I've made her costumes most years. I apologize for the grainy texture of some of the photos. They had to be scanned in and didn't turn out so well.

She has been a ladybug,

a bunny rabbit (I drew whiskers on with eyeliner when we went out, but this picture was taken at her pre-school parade),

a firefighter,

a butterfly,

a pirate

The Cat in the Hat,

Harry Potter (she's showing her most bizarre item from trick or treating . . . a bag of instant mashed potatoes!)

Spongbob Squarepants,

and a Wild Thing (from "Where the Wild Things Are).

Imani's not the only one who's gotten some creative costumes for Halloween.  Like my parents, Jason and I tend to get in on the fun too.

Unfortunately for Jason, up until this year, I've been the one to select our costumes.

We've been Danny and Sandy from "Grease." 

Thing One and Thing Two from "A Cat in the Hat" (to go along with Imani's costume).

Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf (which unfortunately I don't have pictures of).

Cave People (probably my favorite costume so far)

Max and a Wild Thing from "Where the Wild Things Are" to go along with Imani's costume (Jason's least favorite costume).

And a crazy couple from the 70s, although technically this wasn't a Halloween costume.  It was a costume for a themed birthday party we attended, but I've included it because I love dressing up.

And this year?  Well, you'll just have to wait and see.  I will say that this is the first year Jason and I do not have costumes that "go together."  He had his heart set on being something and I had mine set on being something totally unrelated . . . so we went our separate ways for a year. 

But next year we will be back together again (we already know what we want to be) . . . and Jason decided that next year we will be SCARY!

Stay tuned for this year's fun!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Spooktacular Decorating Part I

Halloween is probably my favorite holiday.   I love the idea of being able to transform yourself -- if only for one day -- to anything you can imagine and create.

I like the creativity the holiday inspires and of course I like the chocolate.  (Imani has been trained to occasionally choose a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup for mom and dad when she is offered to select a piece of candy from a big bowl).

One of my favorite days of the year is our trip to the pumpkin farm.  I love to pick out the perfect pumpkin each year and even more entertaining is Jason's obsession with gourds.  If I didn't stop him, our house would be filled with them.  He's got a requirement though (for both pumpkins and gourds) . . . they must have a great stem or he won't buy them.

It's a sin in my house to carry a pumpkin by its stem for fear of it breaking off, so Jason is usually stuck carrying the pumpkins like this (I think he also just likes to show off his guns).

Trust me, there are great stems on those pumpkins! You'll see when I post pictures of them carved!

I also love carving pumpkins, although my older sister always had the award-winning carvings while mine looked like a second grader had carved them long after I had passed the second grade.  As an adult, I've married a man with uncanny artistic ability, so I still can't win in the pumpkin carving department, but I still love to see the finished products.

I also love decorating for Halloween and, fortunately for me, Jason shares a similar enthusiasm for the holiday.  Since our house has been in such a transition over the last few years, we've decorated for Halloween but not nearly as much as either of us has wanted. Each year we add a little more and each year it gets better.

Our house has only a few Halloween decorations throughout the month, but the big night will be this Saturday, when we host Imani's Halloween Party.  We will transform one room into a spooky room and I'll be sure to post pictures.

At the beginning of October we bought this book for inspiration.

One of the ideas we took from the book was to cut out mice silhouettes for our stairs.  The book has the templates included in the back, so we just enlarged them onto poster board and cut them out.  

Hopefully, we'll be able to use them year after year (maybe I should laminate them?).  If you're not into taking the time to enlarge the templates and cut them all out, I know you can buy them already made.  I saw some at Michael's the other day. I think they were $4.99 for 12 silhouettes.

I bought this frame when we went junking a while back and I wasn't quite sure where I was going to use it. 

 I knew I was going to spray paint it black and I thought I might use it for Imani's Rock Star Room Renovation, but we didn't have enough wall space in her bedroom.  After I spray painted it, I loved the look, but had no where to hang it.  Back to the basement it went . . . until October when I found a temporary home for it above my mantel. 

Jason enlarged the witch from one of the Martha Stewart templates that appears in the Halloween Handbook and cut it out to hang inside the frame. 

Let's take a closer look at the mantel.   One of my client's was kind enough to give me all of her Halloween decorations recently.  Her kids are grown and since she saw my enthusiasm for the holiday was similar to hers, she decided to pass on her decorations to me.  I didn't use all of her decorations yet, but I plan to use most of them for Imani's party on Saturday.

Some of my favorite decorations she passed along were three spooky Halloween trees.  Here is one on my mantel.  We decorated the tree with rubber bats which were also part of her stash.  I placed a vase filled with skulls and Spanish moss next to the tree and created a little candle display on the other side.  Since I didn't have black candle holders, I turned over two jars of different sizes and placed a black silk scarf over the jars. We have little plastic spiders sporadically placed around the house as well. 

As a former English teacher, I love references to literature and words in general, so it seemed appropriate to put some text on the mantel. What better poem to quote for Halloween than Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven?"

And finally, on the far side of the mantel is our gigantic spider web complete with a variety of spiders.   I placed more gourds (because we have a ton) behind the spider web and a candle stick with Spanish moss and a candle in front of the spider web.  I decorated the candle with a plastic spider and a plastic cockroach.

Overall, I'm happy with the mantel, although next year I might add some cheesecloth or Spanish moss as a base for the mantel display.

Another great way to spook up your house without spending a fortune is to add plastic spiders or plastic cockroaches to artwork or pictures you have in your home, like this:

That's all for Part I! I've got costumes to make, a house to clean, a room to decorate for the party and food to make, not to mention a full-time job to do! 

Let's hope I can get it all done in less than two days.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I Couldn't Take the Heat

Let's face it, we had a beautiful summer in Upstate New York this year, and we deserved it, given all of the rain we got last year.

But there was a huge heat spell that we Northerners just aren't used to!  I was miserable for several days.  I hated the stickiness. I hated showering and getting ready for work in a hot bathroom.  Blow drying my hair was torture.  Sleeping was nearly impossible in our sauna of an upstairs Cape.

I broke down and called Sears.  Within two days they were at my house and within a week, I had one of these.

I had friends tell me I was crazy to spend money on air conditioning, since we only have a couple of hot months a year, but I don't regret one penny spent on central air.  It brought comfort to me and my family and there were no more days showering and blow drying my hair only to feel sweaty after getting dressed.

But that's not all. 

When I tell you I couldn't take the heat . . . I mean I REALLY couldn't take the heat.  About a week after we got air conditioning, we made a little trip to make a BIG purchase. 

This big purchase sucked up most of our summer, not to mention all of our savings.

And it's still not finished.

When we bought our house, we started out with a backyard that was overgrown with shrubs and several towering pine trees.  Stop reading here if you consider yourself an environmentalist who cannot handle the removal of trees.

I always try to make eco-conscious decisions, but when we bought our house, we didn't have much of a backyard and the pines were wrecking our roof.  They had to go. 

We own an acre and we did leave some trees for privacy and we have intentions of planting more visually appealing trees in the future.

Once we cleared some of our backyard, we planted grass seed and enjoyed our new backyard for one year.  Yes, I said ONE year.

And then this summer I couldn't take the heat.  So one day when I was on a business trip the digging began.

And when I came home, our purchase was in our backyard.

The rest of the summer would be spent hiring electricians, backfilling around the pool, and hiring a person to do stamped concrete.

We still don't have the landscaping finished and we haven't gotten the fence but I have to tell you . . . this is another purchase I don't regret, even for one second.

We bought  a salt water system, which I hadn't heard of before, but which I've totally come to love. It doesn't have a salty taste like the ocean, but more like the consitency of tears.  It's soft and makes your skin and hair feel great once you get out of the pool.  The best part, is there is no adding chemicals to the pool because the salt water system creates its own chlorine with a nifty little computer that makes everything super easy.

We also got a heater.  This was a considerable expense, but again it's something I don't regret.  Imani and Jason have been swimming right up until a couple of weeks ago when we finally shut the heater off.  We figured that since our summer is so short, we might as well extend it by a couple of months so that we could use the pool.

We're quite happy with the way the stamped concrete turned out, along with the coped edge. 

I know that adding a pool to your backyard does not increase the value of your home but Jason and I saw it as a purchase that would welcome family and friends. 

We saw it as something that would allow us to feel like we're on vacation even though we're in our backyard. 

And we saw it as something that would keep our daughter and her friends playing at our house (at least for a few more years). 

I even enjoy just looking at it.

Here's what I see when I look out of my upstairs bathroom in the morning when I get ready for work.  It is a nice reminder of why I choose to keep working at my job.

I have big plans to get small waterfall next summer, but I'm not convinced Jason is sold on the idea yet.  See that white pipe sticking straight up out of the side of the pool?  That's where a waterfall is all set to go . . . if I can convince Jason that it's worth the money.

We'll see.  We still have to get a fence and complete the landscaping.  Oh, and we hope to extend our deck too but we'll need to start rebuilding our savings. 

Like I said, it was a huge expense and a huge amount of work (mostly for my wonderful husband) . . . but hey . . . we managed to stay cool for the rest of the summer. 

And I'm already planning our first pool party.

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