Friday, August 20, 2010

Decorate: Window Treatments

I think this swag will eventually be moved to the library, but for the party, the entry room was the perfect place for it. Both this and the curtain pictured below were gifts from my bestest bud, Heather, who has long understood my obsession with Halloween and has given gifts accordingly.

This curtain isn't as easy to make out, but I was trying very had to get a picture of it without revealing the room beyond!

I was pretty bummed to realize that I did not have one window in the house that this would work for, but I had wanted to obscure the door to the utility room (the door is off the hinges because of the cats -- this is where one of the litter boxes is), so when John suggested tacking it up, I immediately agreed. (This won't stay up year 'round.)

Top pic: in the window sill, an assortment of skulls guard the party favors (in the cauldron), gifts for other August-born guests that don't live close,  and a card from an off-season Halloween card swap.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Cake Was Not a Lie

You can all officially be jealous of me for this. I asked my sister-in-law, "C", to make my birthday cake this year. People, this cake was nicer than my wedding cake, which was a lovely flavor but had icky frosting and... well, that's an old story. Too bad SIL-C, as I call her online, was not decorating cakes when John & I tied the knot!

I searched online for cakes that appealed to me and provided pictures to SIL-C and set her loose. I wanted the topsy-turvy style, even though they're very trendy right now (I generally eschew trendy stuff), a general color scheme and Halloweeny accents. We settled on mainly chocolate cake, with the middle section being cherry chip (a family favorite). She seriously came through, with a beautiful piece of edible art that was yummy, too.

Another angle, so you can see the giant spider on top of the cake. There were candy eyes and pumpkins  around the trees (also edible) . Plastic spiders, bats, ghosts, cats and pumpkins completed the look. Oh, and the little skulls? They're beads.

I just love the details: the coordinating cake-board (sitting on one of my cake stands), with  the spiderweb "doily."

Mid-party status. That's a lot of layers!!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Entertaining: Movies & Games

Remaining on the subject of my recent Halloween-themed birthday party:
There's no sense in getting too attached to your agenda. Things happen and the evening might not go as planned. Guests show up late, have car trouble, and might need a ride to an auto parts store. People might just end up really getting into the conversation and you don't necessarily want to interrupt it to start a movie.

We had planned on a "double feature" as the central part of the evening, but it didn't go off quite as planned. We had video games set up in another room, and the targeted audience of the first movie were not in the "theater room" (or left early). We got started much later than usual, but again, not necessarily a bad thing: people really seemed to enjoy the food and there was a lot of animated conversation going on, so we just went with the flow.

The big surprise for the evening (for some of the guests anyway) was my birthday gift from John. He got me a very late-model HD projector and build a HUGE screen for it (102"). We've been using it for the better part of a month to watch DVDs (Dr. Who on a screen that big? Fantastic.) If you've been reading the blog, you might remember that we even made up tickets to go with the invitations.

When there was a lull in the conversation and a lot of the food was gone, we announced the start of the movie. After two families left and another arrived, we stopped the first movie and had a brief intermission, then started the feature film of the night.

In Sunday's post, I mentioned a contest. Here it is: Images from the two movies we showed at the party are below. If anyone can name them both, they're guaranteed a prize: some of the drink charms and a copy of the music mix party favor. Put your guess in the comments -- make sure there's a way for me to reach you (blog link, email address, something.) If you only know one, guess anyway. If no one gets them both right, I'll go to a single correct guess. (Guests who were at the party are exempt. Besides, they already have the CD and I'll give them drink charms if they want.)

Movie #1
Hint: This might not be what you think it is. This was a movie for the kids, so it would be classified as a comedy. (That's a really big hint.)
Movie #2
Hint: There might be a bit of a hint on the ticket.

If you know, or think you know, what either movie is, please comment! I'll give it to the weekend. If there ends up being only one correct guess, for either film, that person will win the CD and drink charms. If there is actually more than one correct guess, then I'll do a drawing on Saturday or Sunday.

After almost everyone had gone home, a couple of the guests (Melanie & her 8-year-old daughter) hunkered down on the floor and played a round of Zombie Dice. It went really fast because the 8-y.o. got 12 brains on her first turn (you need 13 to win the game). I joined them for a round of Cthulhu dice (same link), and then Melanie's husband joined us for a second round. That game also went fairly quickly, as it was designed to, but I was right: it's way better with more people.

We decided that we would have to have a Cthulhu/zombie game night in a few weeks. (Melanie & Richard got me the Zombies!!! game, not realizing that I already had it. Now they own a copy, too!)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Make: Drink Charms

Well, the last couple of weeks have just been nuts! We had some pick-up scenes to shoot for the movie, then my actual birthday, which John & I spent quietly together. Then a madcap week of prepping for my first birthday party in absolutely ages. In the middle there, somewhere, I redid the Chartarum website (you should check it out; I'm very proud).

Finally, last night, it all came together. Of course, I didn't get everything finished, but those are now ideas to be used for future parties - no reason to be upset. The guests who came either loved the idea of a Halloween part in August, or understood my excitement and played along. There were even some Halloween-themed gifts!

I'm back to blogging, but with keeping two other sites going, I may not be able to post quite as often as I did previously. But I will still try to get a couple of posts in a week. There will be a flurry of party-related posts, and then I'll back of to a minimum of two posts a week. Now that Halloween stuff is starting to hit the stores - online and brick & mortar - I'm sure I'll have plenty to share once I run out of Show & Tells from around the house.

Now, on to today's topic; Drink Charms. I don't think I've ever been to a party - even a small family gathering - where a beverage glass or bottle was held aloft and the word's "is this mine?" were uttered. John & I did a bit of driving and spent a little more than usual laying in a nice variety of cane sugar sodas (no HFCs). I didn't want any of it to go to waste; so, at almost literally the last minute (about an hour before guests started to arrive), I gathered up some materials and made a big pile of these drink charms.
While I was at a store earlier in the day, I thought I'd look around for some wine glass charms or something. No luck. Then I spotted some pony-tail holders in the dollar bin. They wouldn't quite work, because there were two smallish loops, each with a giant bead. But it gave me an idea, which didn't click in place until the eleventh hour.

I have a TON of beads and buttons. I make stitch markers for knitting and have done other beading besides. I also recently purchased some elastic beading cord and DING! A light bulb went on. Sadly,  the majority of my beads were far too small for this concept to work, and I didn't have a large enough variety.

Then I remembered this large bag of plastic beads and charms I had tossed into a bin of things I set aside for swaps or small surprises for children I know. Aha!!! That was it.

I cut lengths of .8 - 1mm elastic beading cord (available at any craft store, I would think) and started stringing a bead or charm on each and knotting them securely.

The key is variety. I wanted each one to be easy to remember, but didn't figure people would remember nuances of shades, so I only used one of the 6 different shades of purple.

An assortment of plastic charms is even better. It's much easier to remember "sea horse" or "the bat-phone" than faceted-orange-bead. I had a few left from a purchase I made years ago (while I may lose craft supplies, I never throw them away), but mostly had to go with brightly colored round and shaped beads. I recommend a quick stop on Etsy and search (under supplies) for plastic charms or gumball charms (may be your best option).

The drinks table (right). In the cauldron were vintage flavored sodas (Frosties, Bubble Up, Dad's Rootbeer, etc.), available at World Market (their logo was on the box)

The green tub was filled with several varieties of Jones Soda. We had a hard time finding it locally so ended up buying a couple of mixed cases at World Market as well. The flavors were limited, but people did NOT seem to mind. The little black tub in the back held bottles of water.

You can see the dish of drink charms on the table with the totally unnecessary bottle opener (all the bottles had screw-off lids, although the vintage ones did not look it). I wasn't quite as prepared as I thought; I forgot all about diet pop! Some kind friends stopped an picked up some on the way. Which reminds me: Mel, if you're reading this, please tell me how much I owe you for the ice & the other pop! The only person that lost track of their drink was me, but it was just a bottle of water and I sorted it out eventually.

If you made it this far, congratulations! The next post is going to contain a bit of a contest, and a handful of the leftover charms (I made too many) will be part of the prize.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me!

Hi, everyone! It's my birthday and I wanted to pop in and, um, wish myself a Happy Birthday. Also, to say that I'm going to take a brief break from posting. The next week is going to be very busy!! I'm having a small party on Saturday and there is much to do.

In the meantime, I invite you to check out the Chartarum Facebook page. (Chartarum is the name of the movie project I'm involved in.)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Make: Insanely Easy Cloak

Another tutorial re-boot from

This easy cloak has only 3 seams (unless you're doubling the width). It's a great last-minute project if you need something with a high neck. Depending on the material, it could also be a warm layer for trick-or-treaters in cool climates.

  • A couple yards of fabric. (I like to use "double backed flannel" - really thick flannel - or lightweight wool. If the fabric is too thin, it won't flow right.) See Fabric, below.
  • Yard or so of decorative cord or drapery cord. (Ribbon is too light!)
  • Scissors
  • Sewing machine 
  • Needle & thread (to make channel narrow, and if you want to do it by hand).
  • You're going to turn the fabric so the that the selvage (machine-finished edges) are the sides. This way, you won't have to sew the sides, too.
  • Once you figure out how long you want the cloak to be, add several inches for the collar and hem. (See the directions to figure out how much). 
  • For a floor-length cape, measure from your neck to the floor, going over the shoulders, and add 2-3 inches for hem and flow (more if you have big hips, etc.). Then decide how high you want your collar to be and double that amount. For a 3" high collar, add 6". I'm about 5' 3" with generous hips and a yard and a half is plenty long enough. 
  • If you want it wider, you can get 2 pieces and sew them down the center. The regular width works well for kids and average-size adults. If you're bigger or just want it voluminous, buy twice this amount. Cut it in half, sew the 2 pieces together down the center (two selvages together) and then treat it as one piece.
  • All measurements for this are guesstimates - just add a few inches to be on the safe side, and hem the bottom last.
  1. Fold the desired height of the collar down and either pin or iron into place (my preference).
  2. About 1/2" from the bottom of the fold, sew 2 seams, about 1" apart.
  3. Run cord through the channel you created and gather until the top fits comfortably around your neck.
  4. Tie knot in cord at one end near the gather, and then, using needle & thread, sew just a few stitches at the edge to make channel too narrow for knot to pass through. Repeat for other end.
  5. Try on cape and note where the hem should be. (A second pair of hands will come in handy if you're  making this for yourself.)
  6. Hem to desired length. I leave this for the very last in case I miscalculated the length in either direction (if I made it too short, I make the hem as small as possible; if too long, hem to desired length and cut off excess).

    For kids, make sure it doesn't drag the floor or they can trip while trick-or-treating. An inch or two above the floor is good for kid-length. Also, use caution with cords for young children, as they can be a choking hazard.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

No Trick-or-Treaters?

Me either! I really do love living out in the country. I don't miss my incredibly nosy neighbors from the city at all and hope that the people that moved in after us have a least one car up on blocks and maybe hold some kind of summer camp in the backyard or some naked solstice dancing. Wait, where was I? Oh, yeah. But the one thing my old neighborhood had going for it was the trick-or-treaters (TOTers), something we did not see any sign of on our first Halloween in the new place.

The place I grew up in did Halloween very differently from where my husband grew up. Apparently, in some towns TOTing goes on for hours. In my hometown, and in the town we lived in when we were first married, TOT was for one hour, period. The fire station whistle would blow, I think at 7 PM, and then again at 8. Where my husband grew up (really just several cities over), TOT started sometime in the early afternoon and went until dark or until you ran out of candy.

The house I grew up in was on the other side of a busy street from most of my friends and was the side without a sidewalk. When I was a kid, my peers would be escorted across to the few houses there to get candy, but after we grew out of TOTing, our friends did too, and we were lucky to get ten kids. In later years, after I rented the house from my parents, I might get one or two.

My last Halloween there, I resolved to just give out money (50¢?). If we got our usual amount, I'd still come out ahead. If we got fewer kids, I wouldn't have a bag of candy taunting me. That year, I got the most TOTers: a whopping four, but only because three showed up after the whistle (they'd heard about the money) and I was in a good mood.

Then I moved to a slightly larger, more suburban area, with actual sidewalks. We had the same one-hour period, whistle-to-whistle, but oh, what a difference those sidewalks made! I never counted, and I'm sure I never hit any major record, but it was common for me to get 30 or 40 TOTers in that hour. Most were polite. Many were adorable. Every year, there would be a couple that made me consider just keeping the light off (surly teens without costumes, adults demanding candy for babies "asleep in the car"), but by the time October rolled around, I couldn't wait to pass out candy again. (I'll confess to having two bowls of candy: one with the good stuff for the ones that were into it, with attempts at costumes, and a small bowl with less-good candy for those who shoved other kids to get to the door, didn't wear costumes, didn't say a word...)

Now, we live in the country with, you guessed it, no sidewalks. And zero trick-or-treaters. So, what does one do when there are no TOTers? Carve a pumpkin anyway and watch scary movies! (Our jack-o-lantern last year (right) was based on those in the Orc areas in World of Warcraft (my idea, my husband's work).) Somewhere near the big day, have a small party to watch old, bad sci-fi or horror movies.

Something I used to do was put together goody bags for kids in my life (niece & nephew, friends' kids). Some people do the "boo" thing, where they leave surprise packages for friends and neighbors.

I'm content to stay home, but if you're really jonesing for a fix, you can see if any friends would let you take over candy duty while they take their kids TOTing, or just let you hang out during the evening and help.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Show and Tell: Spooky Tree

This is one of those things that was never meant to be a Halloween decoration, but it just cries out to be. My understanding is that this tree was fashioned from wire taken from the coal mine my maternal grandfather worked in. I just love it, and not only because it's spooky. It has history.

For the moment, it's residing in a window with a small coffin someone from a Halloween forum sent me as a surprise gift.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Make: Mini Vintage Postcard Magnets

Another tutorial re-boot from

Use reduced versions of postcards from the Golden Age of Halloween to make magnets for yourself or to share with friends. These magnets would make great party favors and they're a snap to make!

  • Color prints of vintage Halloween postcards. Either select a variety or one great image. Depending on the magnet style you go with, the images (or magnets) may have to be cropped to fit.
    • Sources - find online (highest resolution possible), right-click and save to your hard-drive (e.g. Antique Halloween e-Cards). You can also buy books of reproduction postcards (e.g. Old-Fashioned Halloween Cards: 24 Cards) -- since this is for personal use, you should be able to copy a couple and reduce the image size.
    • Resize in whatever way works best for you, depending on which magnet style you decide to go with. If you don't have access to any photo-editing software, I can recommend It's free and you don't even have to register. (I did register for the most basic access and have never received any spam.)
  • Magnets
    • Business-card-sized magnets are, to the best of my knowledge, the thickest and would actually hold a piece of paper on your fridge. Buy a package at the office supply store or collect actual business magnets and cover up image w/ your own! If you go this route, the existing vintage images will have to be trimmed a bit because the proportion is slightly off (or you could trim a bit off the magnet to keep the image as-is).
    • Skip the glue and buy printable sheets of perforated cards (Avery Ink Jet Magnetic Business Cards) or magnet sheets (Avery® Magnet Sheets). If you go with the full-size magnetic sheets, you can keep the cards' original proportions; however, they are very thin and would only serve as a decoration. (I haven't used the perforated magnetic cards so I don't know how thick they are.)
  • Glue stick or rubber cement
  • Scissors or Paper cutter
  1. Cut out images
  2. Glue to magnets
  3. Package (think cellophane sucker wrappers from the cake decorating section)
  4. Give (make sure you keep one for yourself!)
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