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All Hallows Eve

Posted by Corrie on 11:05 PM in ,
Happy Halloween everyone! I think what might be scariest about today is that it has been nearly a MONTH since I've posted anything! Admittedly, life has gotten in the way a bit this October - a trip to Chicago to run the Chicago Marathon with my good friend, Jeff, and a trip to Toledo to see my Grandma and visit my brother at BGSU, among other things -  so I haven't been doing as many projects and posts as I would like. However, there must be some sort of voice inside my head telling me to make up for lost time, because I’ve decided to cram in a number of projects between last week and this week. I must be crazy...Is there a full moon tonight?...Sometimes I hate that little voice...Anyway, you know what ‘lots of projects’ means. Lots of things to post about! So, I will be back in a couple days to dish on some typography art I made, and then soon after that with an outdoor house upgrade and some DIY baby shower gifts. But for now, in honor of Halloween, I thought I would share our pumpkin carving activities from this weekend, along with a few tips and tricks my family likes to use.

This weekend was another busy one. We hit up The Brew Kettle on Friday to buy some ingredients so that we could homebrew the second of two beers we plan to have ready for our holiday party in December. (Check out this post for a glimpse into how we brew beer in our kitchen.) On Saturday, my dad came over to help Darren with an outdoor project that we needed to finish before the ground freezes (which is quickly approaching!). Meanwhile, I did a little cleaning and worked on a typographic art gift for Darren’s niece/my goddaughter Olivia’s first birthday. I can’t believe how much that sweet little one has grown over the past year. This is a picture of her from last Halloween, wearing a pumpkin hat I made, just a week after she was born.


We brewed the beer on Sunday morning and I had Olivia’s “art” printed just in time to go to her party. Here’s a little preview (I’ll tell you more about how I made it on Wednesday):


Her parents did a great job with the party – yummy food, an activity for the kids, and lots of people. Afterward, we went to my mom’s house to carve pumpkins. In true Corrie-and-Darren-procrastination-spirit –  because planning ahead is for smart people lame – we waited until the day before Halloween to buy our pumpkins. Bad choice. I/We stopped at 5 different places trying to find pumpkins, and were overjoyed to finally come across some pathetic looking, on-the-verge-of-rotting ones at Giant Eagle. Didn’t matter. It was something to carve. All was made better when we arrived at my mom’s house, where she had everything ready, including drinks and a cozy fire, which our dog, Remy, loves. (To clarify, Remy loves the fire, not the drinks...though she HAS been known to try stick her face in my wine glass when I’m not looking, so maybe the latter is true as well).


My mom tried to get in some pics when she wasn’t doing her own carving. Since most people probably already know how to carve a pumpkin, I don’t feel the need to give you a complete rundown, but here’s the pics with a few tips...pics and tips...that sounds fun.

Look for a pattern online. Better Homes and Gardens has some great free ones for all experience levels, including dog breed patterns, though Remy was offended that they didn’t have a Great Dane. Print out your pattern and hold it up to your pumpkin. Cut inward slits in the places where the pattern is not laying very flat to help form it around your pumpkin. Secure it with tape or pins. Use a pen, pushing really hard, or use something with a point to poke holes in order to trace the pattern onto the pumpkin. Putting transfer paper under your pattern is the easiest, if you have it, and you don’t have to press as hard when you use it.


When you cut out your pumpkin lid, be sure to angle the knife outward from the center of the hole so that there is a slanted ridge for the lid to rest on when you put it back in place. Otherwise, if you cut straight up and down, you risk your lid falling through your pumpkin. Take it from Darren. He had to rig his up with some toothpicks. Rookie mistake.


For a sweet smelling surprise when you light your pumpkin, sprinkle cinnamon on the underside of your lid after you cut off the goopies. Goopies is the technical name, you know.


It's worth picking through the goopies to pull out all the pumpkin seeds - think of it as a bonus snack. Lay them on a baking sheet to dry a bit, then mix in a bowl with 2 teaspoons of melted butter (or olive oil) and spices. Try chili powder with cumin or cayenne for spicy, cinnamon and brown sugar for sweet, or just plain ol' seasoned salt. Spread them back out on the baking sheet in a thin layer and roast them in the oven at 300 degrees for 40 minutes, or until the seeds are light brown.

If you’re unsure of your carving abilities, pick something with simple shapes, like Darren’s owl. It wasn’t too challenging, but turned out super awesome. He was seriously doubting his carving abilities, but I think he did a great job. And now he has renewed confidence for next year.


Or, if your eyes are bigger than your carving skills, you want to spend a couple hours getting to know your pumpkin, or don’t mind ending up with a claw hand by the time you’re done, pick a more complicated pattern with small openings, like I did. Overachiever mistake.


Ironically, the very last piece I carved out caused some other thinner sections to detach. If this happens, don't despair - you can use pieces of toothpicks to re-stabilize them.


Maybe carving out pumpkin chunks isn’t your idea of a good time. You can always ‘shade’ your pumpkin by just cutting away the outer skin and a little bit of the flesh. The light will still shine through, but with a softer glow that creates a different effect. Most of the pattern I carved two years ago was done using this method.


Enjoy it as much as you can before it rots, or in our case, before the squirrels eat it! These were what my mom and sister carved.


Feel free to share links/pictures of YOUR pumpkins – it’s so fun to see what everyone made! Happy haunting tonight!


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2

Halloween Decorations & Printables

Posted by Corrie on 6:58 PM in , ,
It's fall ya'll! And boy has October come in with a bang. Here in Cleveland it was a rainy, windy, miserably cold weekend. Who am I kidding...that pretty much sums up the past two weeks. Regardless, I used this gross-weather-weekend as a good opportunity to put in some overtime at work, cook up some potato leek soup, and then bust out the Halloween decorations! The start of October officially means Halloween in my book, and as one of my favorite holidays - a close second only to Christmas - I wanted to get the decorations up asap. (Darren has been asking "When are you going to put up the fall decorations?" for about 2 weeks now, so I guess 'asap' might not be the right description...) Plus, I saw that one of my favorite blogs, The Lettered Cottage, was hosting a fall link party, so I thought it would be fun to participate. You know how I need extra motivation sometimes. (If you want to see what a REAL blog looks like, check out Layla and Kevin over on The Lettered Cottage. Not only do awesome house projects, but they have some mad photography skills. Their talent puts me to shame.)

The Lettered Cottage

Anyway, I got D to bring down my one and lonely only box of halloween decorations from the attic. Some people like cute little pumpkins and scarecrows as decorations around Halloween time, which can be fun and kid-friendly. But Darren and I? No sir. Our objective is to scare the crap out of kids. We hope to one day win the Lifetime Achievement Award for Halloween Scariness (if one ever existed) by gradually turning our place into the creepiest haunted house on this side of the Cuyahoga. I emphasize gradually because, honestly, do you know how easy it is to blow all of your money on Halloween decorations? That ish is expensive. Which is why we try to buy decorations AFTER Halloween when it all goes on clearance. But what fun is buying decorations after Halloween when you're soooo excited to decorate now? It's not. Which is why I try to find DIY projects and other things around the house that I can use to make me feel like I have something new to put up. Such is the life of cheap frugal new homeowners.

After I pulled everything out of the box, I realized I only had enough decorations to really do the mantel and the dining room table. Kind of lame, but I'll take it for now. I started with 5 kraft paper skulls, which I coffee stained last fall to make them look old and textured; a creepy, furry rat; a bust statue of a vampire we picked up on clearance a few years ago; some candles; and a spider I also made last fall by painting styrofoam balls and attaching black wire for legs.



When we were up in the attic looking for the Halloween box, I spotted some grey corbels my mom gave me awhile ago for a future unknown project and thought they might work as candle 'holders.' I threw them up on either side of the mirror and scattered some plain candles I already had.


Since everything was kind of small-scale and spaced out across the mantel, it looked pretty empty. On an experimental whim, I grabbed a yard of burlap and a roll of fall colored ribbon I've had sitting among my craft stuff for close to a year. The burlap acted as a nice base to anchor all the small items, and the ribbon created a nice colorful 'flow' between all of the objects.


Ahh. Better. It sort of came together in a forced and collected-from-all-over-the-house kind of way. You could call it something from nothing I guess.


Despite my best efforts to arrange things at different heights, the mirror still looked really plain. It is pretty huge, after all. (That's what she said.) I decided to make some sort of banner to drape over it to break up the space a bit. Since I was in my pajamas didn't feel like running to the store, I looked around the internet and my house for some more supplies to throw something together. I figured twine would be a nice rustic replacement for string and found this guy from Women's Day via a Google image search:


I liked that they used newspaper as the background and decided to do something similar, but with newspaper as the foreground and triangle letters instead, a la the bunting on this wreath over at Pretty Ditty:


She had a printable PDF, but since our printer is out of ink, that wasn't going to work. Newspaper is pretty thin, so I figured I would pull up a cool font on my computer and trace over it on the newspaper. Kind of like a shoddy light box of sorts. First, I wanted to figure out how wide to make the triangles so I could adjust the font size on my computer to match. To come up with the triangle size, I determined the length of twine I wanted by draping it over the mirror and cutting it - 40 inches. Since I wanted my banner to spell "beware," which is 6 letters, I decided that 5 inches wide would be enough for each letter to take up space. This allowed for extra width to account for black paper backing behind the newspaper, but not wide enough to look crowded hanging from the twine. This is all very technical, can you tell? I pretty much eyeballed it. I wanted my triangles longer than wide, so I randomly chose 7 inches as the length of each side. Then, I made a template on some white paper (click here for a PDF version) and traced six triangles on non-color, print only sections of the newspaper.


After cutting out the triangles, I found a font I liked on my computer - QuentinCaps - and enlarged it. Holding a triangle up to the screen, I enlarged the font to a size I liked. My 'light box' idea worked really well and I could see the letter perfectly through the newspaper. Using a pencil, I traced over one letter per triangle, shading in the dark areas. I just carefully held the newspaper against the screen instead of taping it, because I was worried about the tape ruining my screen (and not tearing the newspaper upon removal).


Then I colored the letters in with a black sharpie.


When all was said and done, I had these:


All that was left to do was glue them to some black scrapbook paper, cut them out leaving about 1/4" border (eyeballing it of course), poke two holes in the top of each triangle and string the twine through. Clearly it would've been much quicker to just print the letters onto the newspaper, but I made do with what I had.

Ahh, much better. It makes good use use of the empty space, and it adds a nice spooky touch to the decorations....And it was free. I love free. And here's the whole shebang:


Pardon the glare in the first pic and the terrible quality of the second. I took the pictures at night and we have terrible lighting in our living room.

One other quick project I did was to make these mice silhouettes from Martha Stewart to put on our stairs and baseboard (picture courtesy of Martha...my mice aren't up yet).


She made hers out of paper, but if I was going to spend all sorts of time cutting out mice, you can bet your cajones I didn't want something flimsy that would be destroyed in a few weeks, only for me to make them all over again next year. So, I made mine from black craft foam that I had bought last fall. The stuff is super cheap and way more durable than paper.


 I printed out the mice templates (which you can get here) and traced them with pen onto the foam.


Cue some crazy cutting skills while watching TV and I ended up with these guys.


Plus a whole bunch more, some of which I still need to cut out.

So, that sums up some of our Halloween stuff this year for a total cost of maybe $2 worth of black craft foam (which I already had, so technically it was free.) Plus, reusing the newspaper also made my project kind of 'green,' which always gives us the warm-and-fuzzies. Hopefully this has inspired you to look through your house for some things you could repurpose as decorations (extra fabric perhaps?), and if anything, at least you can use the free printables if you're feeling a little artsy fartsy. Here are the links to them again:

A PDF version of my 'Beware' banner 
Martha Stewart's silhouette mice
Pretty Ditty's Halloween bunting

Are there any fun Halloween projects you're making this year? Maybe a costume or some creepy decorations? Or maybe you're more into the fall harvest stuff, which is nice because it lasts through Thanksgiving. Let's hear all about it! 

Happy Haunting!

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