Thursday, October 28, 2010

Halloween Decor - Part 2 - found treasures

   When it comes to holiday decorations, found items are always best.  Not only can they be unique, they are free (and you are re-purposing old "junk" that otherwise would sit in your cupboards!)  Here are a few items I found around the house and re-purposed for a Halloween candy display.
   First of all, I covered the table with a piece of black calico I had left over from quilting.  I then lay an antique sheer curtain over the top.  If it is a little stained, so much the better!  To dispense the candy corn, I used an antique chick feeder.  These you can find at antique stores, and can be quite handy to dispense M&Ms as well.  For Easter, I purchase pastel M&Ms and display them this way.  You can dress them up with string or ribbon. 

   Old canning jars work well to hold lollipops, licorice, chocolate dipped pretzel sticks, you name it.  Look for the ones made with blue glass.  They look beautiful in windows.  

   The other day I found a vintage wooden-handled scoop.  I knew I wanted to use it somehow.  Voila!  A mini-candy bar scoop.  For additional containers, I pulled out some of my old wooden bowls (look for them at garage sales), and a cut glass dishes handed down from my grandmother.  Mini cupcake liners hold candy corn neatly.  

      An easy way to dress up a plain glass cake stand (purchased at Target), is to attach ruffled ribbon to the edge.  I used wired ribbon - just pull the wire taut on one side until it ruffles and knot the wire at either end to prevent it from unraveling.  Then stick the ribbon to the edge of the stand with glue dots.  When you are finished using the cake stand, you can easily take off the glue dots.  

   Treat bags were made with plain brown paper lunch bags trimmed at the top.  I lightly went over bag with a tea stain ink pad and sprayed the surface with a sparkle liquid you can purchase in scrapbook stores.  At the top,  I attached these wonderfully vintage-looking tags (purchased on Etsy) with some raffia to the top.  So much better the the typical gaudy-colored cellophane, and about the same price.  

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Halloween Decor - Lighting

Country Living Magazine

  The right type of lighting can make even the most simple decoration spring to life.  Here's a few ideas to light your home for a subtle, yet spooky effect:

House of Antique Hardware

* Use flicker bulbs in place of regular candelabra bulbs in your chandelier or small accent lamps.  The House of Antique Hardware  has several options available.  They even have colonial style sconces in which you could place flicker bulbs for the ultimate "Salem Witch Trial" ambiance.  You can even replace regular bulbs in faux jack-o-lanterns to look like they are illuminated with candle light.  

* Use electric or candle powered candelabras on your side and buffet tables to light the way.  Stretch fake cobwebs and add a couple of plastic insects for effect.  

* Scented candles help infuse the air with the scent of a crisp autumn day.  Try Macintosh Apple or Pumpkin Pie from Yankee Candle.

Sunset Magazine
* Strings of small white or orange battery powered lights can be used to add diminsion and softness to faux flower arrangements, stacks of pumpkins, bundles of cornstalks, or bare branches.  The battery pack can be easily hidden, and you can buy them in varied lengths to suit your purpose.  (These are handy to keep out year-round to illunimate every holidy decoration, not just Halloween and Christmas.)

* Use mirrors and glass to reflect candle light.  Place dripping candlelabras on top of antique mirrors used as trays.  Arrange strings of twinkle lights around groupings of clear glass apothocary jars filled with fake insects, candy corn, or faux cobwebs.  The reflected light will double the effect, and is especially useful if lighting is at a premium.

* Try antique kerosene lamps indoors and out.  I like the fact that you can adjust the strength of the flame, and they are dripless.  The black hanging lantern above would look great attached to tree limbs outdoors or propped in front of a faux gravestone.  They would also come in handy if you were to have a country or ranch themed party.  Antique lanterns with glass chimneys can be used to illuminate a dining room or buffet table for any occasion, as well.

Jack of the Lantern

Thought I would post a link for a wonderful idea from Beekman Farms.  Carving parsnips!  They look wonderfully rustic and spooky.  I think I'll try the same idea with turnips.  Check out the Beekman Farms website.

Jack of the Lantern from Beekman Farms

"According to Irish lore, Stingy Jack was a trickster so talented that he even fooled the devil.
When the devil came to claim Jack’s soul, Jack asked the devil to climb a tree and pick him an apple to serve as his last meal on earth.  While the devil was up the tree, Jack encircled the trunk with crosses and would not allow the devil to exit without first promising to not carry him to hell.
When Jack died, St. Peter, of course, turned him away from heaven’s gates.  The devil kept his word and instead of taking him to the underworld sent Jack off to roam the earth for eternity with only a glowing coal ember placed inside a carved-out turnip to light his way.  He became known as Jack of the Lantern.
Throughout Europe, people carved their own lanterns out of turnips, potatoes and beets to keep Jack away on All Hallow’s Eve when the dead walk among us. It wasn’t until 19th century immigrants encountered pumpkins in America that the familiar orange orbs became a Halloween tradition.
But at Beekman 1802, we can find more things in the heirloom vegetable garden to an inspire us than a pumpkin.
This year, we chose to work with the parsnip to make an entire collection of ghostly ghouls."

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

The Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod Crane. oil, 26 7/8 x 33 7/8 in., John Quidor (1801-1881) 
  One of my favorite stories, and especially at this time of year, is The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving. First published in The Sketch Book in 1820, it is based upon a German folktale that takes place in Post-Revolutionary Dutch New York.  Although I have never visited Hudson Valley, I long to go.  For the time being, I must re-create this atmosphere in decoration.
Halloween Block Party by Eddie Ross
   Eddie Ross, decorator extraordinaire, was featured on HGTV last year for their Halloween Block Party.  On that show, he took over the party decor of one house, and changed it into an ode to Sleepy Hollow.  I love what he did, and aspire to duplicate it in my own home!  He even had the homeowners dress in colonial attire!  (Now if I could just get my husband to wear knee socks!)

   Some things you could do to imitate a Colonial Halloween atmosphere - lots of candles (or flame-less candles if you are worried about little hands), a true to character graveyard (not gory, look up pictures of gravestones dating back to the 1700's), use natural additions for decoration as much as possible (think twigs, fruit, vegetable, leaves), use pewter or pewter-like serving dishes, simple non-dyed linen works well for table coverings., light a fire in the fireplace; the smell of wood smoke evokes a home-spun atmosphere, , hay bales make great seating options, and last of all, don't forget to use antique copies of the The Legend of Sleepy Hollow to adorn your mantel and table.

Here is an authentic Colonial Dutch recipe from Food, Drink, and Celebrations of the Hudson Valley Dutch. by  Peter G. Rose  The History Press, 2009 :

Ginger beer
1 cup minced fresh ginger (about 1/2 pound)
1 quart boiling water  
Juice of 2 lemons
3-1/2 pineapple juice
Generous dash of freshly grated nutmeg
Sugar to taste
In a quart jar combine ginger and water and steep for 3 hours. Strain liquid into a large pitcher; add the lemon and pineapple juice. Stir in the nutmeg. Taste and add sugar as necessary. Serve over ice cubes.
The ginger beer is also very good as a cocktail: for every 8 ounces of ginger beer add 1-1/2 ounces of light rum. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Movie to Get You Ready for Halloween!

  Time for an old-fashioned ghostly tale.  One of my favorite scary movies is The Others.  It is a classic "haunted house" movie, without any of the gore that typically permeates modern horror films.  The movie keeps you guessing until the very end, when there is a surprising twist.  See if you can guess what it is before the finale of the film!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Time to Start the Halloween Countdown!

    There are now officially 16 more days until Halloween.  And here in the Little House, we are amping up for our favorite holiday.  Every day, I will be posting a new recipe, decorating idea, craft idea or book to share for all you  little ghosts and goblins out there.  Enjoy!

   Today's post features some cute ideas for Halloween party favors.

Owl cookies by Social Couture the Blog

     Edible favors are always an easy gift to pull-off. Not only can you be cost-efficient (one large cookie wrapped beautifully per person = low-cost), you can hand out a favor that will be appreciated by all ages.
    Here's a recipe for some cute owl cookies from Social Couture the Blog. I love the simplicity of the design and the fact that they are not overwhelmed with frosting and candy.

Prep and Cook Time: 1 1/2 hours, plus at least 45 minutes to chill. Notes: Trace an owl-shaped pattern (for a template, see on heavy paper or lightweight cardboard, or use cookie cutters in any shape. You can make the cookies up to 2 days ahead; store airtight.
Yield: Makes about 33 cookies (serving size: 1 cookie)
1 1/3  cups  butter, at room temperature
3/4  cup  granulated sugar
3/4  cup  firmly packed brown sugar
2  large egg
2  teaspoons  vanilla
3 1/2  cups  all-purpose flour
2  teaspoons  baking powder
1  teaspoon  ground cinnamon
1  teaspoon  ground nutmeg
1/2  teaspoon  salt
Icing (recipe follows)
Candy corn
Miniature chocolate chips
1. Preheat oven to 350° (325° if using convection heat).
2. In a bowl, with a mixer on medium speed, beat butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until blended, then beat on high speed until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until well blended. Add flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt; beat on low speed until combined, then on medium speed until well blended. Divide dough into three portions.
3. Place each portion between two sheets of floured plastic wrap. Roll dough evenly into flat rounds about 1/4 inch thick. Stack rounds on a baking sheet and chill until firm, at least 45 minutes, or up to 2 days.
4. Working with one portion of dough at a time (keep remaining chilled), peel off top sheet of plastic wrap. Set floured pattern (see notes) on dough and cut around edges. Or with floured round cookie cutters (3-in. diameter), cut out cookies, placing cutters as close together as possible. Transfer to cooking parchment-lined or ungreased baking sheets, placing cookies about 1 inch apart. Repeat with remaining dough rounds. Gather up scraps and press together into a ball. If dough is still cold, roll and cut out remaining cookies. If it's soft and sticky, repeat step 3.
5. Bake cookies until firm to touch and slightly darker brown around edges, 8 or 9 minutes; if baking more than one sheet at a time in one oven, switch positions halfway through baking. Slide parchment with cookies off sheets onto racks or counter to cool, then remove from parchment. Or cool on pans about 1 minute and then transfer to racks to cool completely. If not using cooking parchment, wipe off baking sheets after each batch. Cool sheets before filling with more cookies.
6. Spread icing over cookies and decorate with candies, using candy corn for a beak and chocolate chips for eyes. Let stand until icing is firm, about 5 minutes.
Icing: In a small bowl, stir together 2 cups powdered sugar and just enough milk (about 3 tablespoons) to make a spreadable icing. If desired, tint with food coloring. If icing thickens as it stands, stir in a few more drops of milk.

  Although cookies are a hit for young and old, if you are hosting a more adult party, you might want to offer a more adult favor. One idea would be to decorate some inexpensive wine glasses with paint pens and stick-on rhinestones. You can add a little black silk ribbon tied around the stem with a tag that has your guest's name. (You could also personalize each glass with the person's name in paint as part of the decoration.) Not only could you serve your guests a drink in their favor glasses, you could also place them on a table with a wrapped pumpkin scented votive in each. I love the candles from Yankee Candle, and they even have scented black candles this time of year.

Here are some classy personalized wine charms you can purchase on Etsy from  YaYa DIY Club

  For my Halloween parties, I always feature a pumpkin carving activity. Not only will the wheelbarrow full of pumpkins you purchase for the event make a great party decoration, they can later, after carved, be taken home as a party favor that can then decorate your guests' homes.

   I've found that adults love carving pumpkins just as much as children do. And it is an easy activity that can bring all party-goers together, even if they don't know one another. Just make sure to provide a large table covered with a plastic tablecloth, lots of newspapers, plastic bags for trash, and several sets of carving implements. (The plastic "kid-safe" ones are best if children are present.) I also make sure to set out a basket of small tea lights or votives and matches. And don't forget the pictures afterward!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Tricking and Treating With Martha on Hallmark Channel - The Martha Stewart Blog

Tricking and Treating With Martha on Hallmark Channel - The Martha Stewart Blog
You have to love Martha. And she's back for another Halloween with Brendan Fraser, one of my favorites.

Apple Season

  Apple season is here. Here are a couple of recipes to get you started on filling your home with the aroma of that lovely Fall fruit.  
   The first I found in a book titled The Kentucky Bourbon Cookbook by Albert Schmid.  Although I won't re-post the recipe here, all you need to do is follow your basic apple pie recipe, but with the following tricks:  soak the apple slices in about 1/2 cup bourbon for about an hour, then saute the apple slices in butter (about a stick) till somewhat soft, add maple syrup, sugar, and spices to the pan and cook long enough to melt the sugar.  Pour the mixture into your pie crust and cover with a crust in a lattice design.  I used the excess apple syrup from the pan to brush on the top and sprinkle with a little fine baking sugar.  Although my pastry skills are not perfected to picture worthy status, the pie tasted delicious. Wonderful with a little scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.
Add caption
  The second recipe is so simple, yet the end result is fantastic.  And it is guaranteed to spice up your home with the aroma of Fall.  Homemade applesauce takes about 40 minutes or so to make.  You can use any kind of apple, depending upon how tart or sweet you like your applesauce.  I was making some for my 2 year old, so I choose Fujis for their sweetness.  
   Cut up your apples in somewhat chunks.  Place in a saucepan with apple cider (about halfway up the pile of apples.)  Simmer until soft, then add maple syrup, brown sugar, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, and a little cloves.  Simmer for about 10 more minutes.  At this point you should be able to mash the apples with a potato masher.  I like the sauce fairly smooth, so I used a handheld blender.  
   Applesauce I think is best warm.  It is also a great condiment on pork chops or roasted chicken.  

September Back-to-School Decorating

   Although this is a little late (hello October), I just had to include my post on decorating your house for back-to-school.  September is long awaited in my house.  School starts again,  Temperatures drop from the blazing 90's to the comfortable 70's.  The crisp fall air turns the leaves a gold color, and the aroma of cinnamon baked apples fills the kitchen.

   When thinking of decorating your house for September, scour your pantry and your children's bedrooms for old school memorabilia, such as, old metal lunch pails, vintage school texts, pencils, chalkboards, blocks, rulers...  You can also include, as I have done here, some fake apples, fake pumpkins, silk leaf garlands, and small illuminated houses (which you do not have to spend a fortune on - check out Michael's and Target.)  Vintage readers can be found easily and affordably on E-Bay or in antique stores (also, keep an eye out for vintage rulers and lunch pails.)  If you are lucky enough to live where there are plenty of golden leafy branches, cut a few and use them in your decor.
   With a little imagination, by the first week of September, you can have a welcoming and colorful Autumn home.  Add a little cinnamon baked apples to the oven, and the kids won't be able to wait till they get home.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010


  It's here, tailgating season.  And to make your tailgating experience more enjoyable than a hassle, here are some useful links.
  For a good rundown of tailgating 101, see . Their list includes the basics you will need and things not to forget (ex. extra ice and plastic garbage bags.)    I would add to the list a battery powered stereo and fold-out tables and chairs.  Of course, if you want to go all out, you might want to invest in a "Cruzin Cooler", a la Ellen.  They come in all colors, and you could even personalize it with your home team's mascot.

  A good resource for tailgating supplies featuring your home school's colors and mascot, see  They have everything from wine glasses to banners, from can coolers to decals.

  Although it might be a little more expensive initially, if you are a long-time tailgater, you might want to invest in a set of unbreakable cups and plates featuring your teams colors.  There is less waste, and they look a little better than plastic or paper. (If you are looking for tailgating accessories featuring your favorite NFL team, take a look at h

Courtesy of B. Nute Productions Party Place
  Now we come to my favorite part of tailgating - the decorations and the food!  To make your decor just a little different, focus on vintage football items.  Plaid wool throws in your team's colors, old footballs and helmets found in the garage, picnic baskets to hold bags of chips and wrapped cookies, or vintage pennants hung along the edge of your canopy.  If you want to really make your tailgate a classy event, forgo all plastic and bring in the china and glassware. (And don't forget the cloth napkins!) 

  As for food, The Deen Brothers, have some great recipe ideas for tailgating (they ARE from the South, y'all.)  Some of my favorites are Lime Marinated Chicken Wings with Avocado Dip , Kickoff Chili Cheese Dip, and Midwestern Style Beer Brats.  Don't forget to check out Guy Fieri's Tailgate Menu on the Food Network web site.  His Jambalaya Sandwich recipe looks delish!  For dessert, you can't beat Paula Deen's Mama's Sweet Potato Custard Pie.  It is sure to be a hit, and will help to soak up all that alcohol that might be consumed!

  Although you might want to come up with your own signature tailgate cocktail (think mascot - ex. Tempting Tiger Bite, The Howling Wolf), here are some ideas for drinks that go beyond the standard keg of beer.  

  Sandra Lee's Cranberry Margarita has a touch of Fall flavor, and the Deen Brothers' Texas Margaritas would be a perfect compliment to fajitas and salsa.  Of course you can't forget the old standby jello shots (see Michael Symon's Mojito Jello Shots with White Rum and Fresh Mint on Food & Wine's website).  If the weather is a bit chilly, keep a themos or two of spiced cider, having a small bottle of whiskey on the side for those who prefer their cider a little "warmer".

  Last of all, party favors.  Yes, even though a tailgate isn't your traditional party, everyone enjoys a parting gift (outside of a hangover!)  For a tailgate party, I think the ideal party favor would be something that would be useful for the upcoming game and is easily portable.  One suggestion is pom-poms in the team's colors.  Another might be plastic megaphones or can cozies.  Party favors make sure that your tailgate is memorable, and is a nice way to say "thank you" for coming.

  Oh, and don't forget to take pictures at your tailgate.  GO TEAM!!

Monday, October 04, 2010

13 Words by Lemony Snicket

Just stumbled upon a new book by Lemony Snicket. If you don't know Lemony Snicket, you should. He is the wonderfully inventive author of the A Series of Unfortunate Events.
The book 13 Words introduces a new word every page and uses these introductions to build a story. A great idea for a creative writing exercise that could tie in spelling and vocabulary words.