A Tale of Two Thanksgivings

Thankgiving
Everyone across the United States celebrates Thanksgiving, however this holiday experience varies depending upon geographic location, climate, local customs, and food specialties.

Hawaii & New England
Sometimes it’s nice to see how other people celebrate. It gives you a chance to see the holiday from a fresh perspective. Below is a side-by-side comparison of two Thanksgiving celebrations: Hawaii is on the left and New England is on the right.

Sandy Shores Rocky Coast
Landscapes: Sandy Beaches versus Rugged Rocky Coastline

Rain on Petals Frosty Leaf
Weather: Warm Tropical Showers versus Cool Crisp Air & Snow

Pineapples Gourds
Decorations: Pineapples versus Pumpkins & Gourds

Plumeria & Chrysanthemums
Flowers: Wild Plumeria versus Potted Chrysanthemums

Torchlight & Candle Light
Lighting: Outdoor Torchlight versus Indoor Candlelight

Bird of Paradise & Cornucopia
Centerpieces: Exotic Flowers versus Harvest Cornucopia

Tropical Cocktail & Hot Beverage
Drinks: Cool Tropical Cocktails versus Hot Beverages

Fresh Fruit & Hot Soup
Appetizers: Tropical Fruit versus Hot Hearty Soups

Roast Pork & Roast Turkey
Entrées: Roast Pork versus Roast Turkey

Vegetables
Vegetables: Pacific Rim Blend versus Roast Sweet Potatoes

Chocolate Coffee Cheesecake Pumpkin Pie
Desserts: Chocolate Kona Coffee Cheesecake versus Pumpkin Pie

Fire Dance & Fireplace
After Dinner: Fire Dancing versus Relaxing by the Fire

I hope these celebrations will inspire and enrich your next family gathering. You might want to consider a change of venue or a change of décor to shake things up a bit. Whatever you decide, there are two constants you can always count on: Love and Gratitude shared with Family and Friends

Happy Thanksgiving & Happy Crafting!

Dashing through the Snow

Santa's Sleigh

“Dashing through the Snow” calls to mind sleigh rides and Santa Claus on his gift giving journey.  With a wooden sleigh and a few accessories, you can create a wonderful holiday centerpiece.  Before we begin, let’s look at color schemes and designs of several sleighs to get your creative ideas flowing: 

Antique Sleigh

Antique Sleigh

Although this sleigh needs some love, wood in its natural state is attractive.  With a little polish, the brass runners will shine again.  The lights and evergreen garland are great seasonal details. 

Stained Wood Sleigh

Brown Wood Sleigh

The beauty of natural wood grain may not require color.  A clear sealant coat helps preserve wood for years to come.  Wood stain is optional. 

Green, Gold & White Sleigh

Green & Gold Sleigh

Green and gold are nice alternatives to the standard red and green Christmas colors. 

One Horse Open Sleigh

Natural Wood & Red Sleigh

A clear finish protects the natural wood color, while the open sides provide decorative opportunities for colorful pillows and blankets to keep riders warm on a cold winter day. 

Formula 1 Sleigh?

Red & White Sleigh

If Ferrari built sleighs, this would be the one.  This sleek aerodynamic design would allow Santa Claus to complete his rounds in half the time. 

Red & Gold Sleigh

Red & Gold Sleigh

The brilliant red and shiny gold trim are popular choices for Santa’s sleigh.

Red & Gold Sleigh with Lights

Red & Gold Sleigh with Lights

Dazzling string lights create a magical ambiance, day or night. 

How to Paint a Wooden Sleigh:

Unpainted Sleigh

Raw Wood Sleigh

There are many wooden sleighs available through craft stores or online. 

Supplies

Paints

Supplies:
Wooden Sleigh (10-1/2” high x 14” long x 6” wide)
Acrylic Paints – red, black, metallic gold, & white
1) Bottle fabric paint: white
Paintbrushes

Sleigh Painted Red

Sleigh Painted Red

Paint the sleigh with red acrylic paint.  It may take a couple coats to ensure smooth, even color. 

Black Painted Rails

Sleigh with Painted Rails

Paint the rails black on both sides and all edges. 

Painted Snow & Gold Trim

Sleigh with White Details

Draw snowflakes on all four sides and paint each with white acrylic paint.  To enhance the designs, go over each snowflake with white dimensional fabric paint.  Paint the edges of the sleigh with metallic gold paint.  This will most likely require two coats. 

This completes the sleigh.  Now it is time to think about making it the focal point of a new centerpiece.  Your next decision is: Who will pull the sleigh? 

Dog Sledding

Dog Sled

Dog sledding teams compete every year in an Alaskan race called the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. 

Horse Drawn Sleigh

Horse Drawn Sleigh

Riding in a horse drawn sleigh has been a tradition for centuries.  In warmer seasons the sleighs are swapped out with carriages for year-round enjoyment. 

Reindeer Drawn Sleigh

Reindeer Drawn Sleigh

Santa isn’t the only one using reindeer to guide his sleigh. 

A perfect 10 on the Cuteness Scale

Yorkie Sled

Holding the reins securely in his paws, this adorable yorkie steers a course straight into the hearts of viewers in this moose drawn sleigh. 

With your selections in mind, it is time to complete this project.  There are no wrong answers.  You may already have everything you need.

Christmas Sleigh Centerpiece

Finished Centerpiece

I chose a pig to pull the sleigh.  His hat is a floral pick, without the stick.  Fabric ribbon serves as reins, and I made a collar with a few jingle bells.  Tuck one end of the reins into the collar, and the other is held by a squirrel, wearing a red crocheted hat. 

Christmas Sleigh Centerpiece

Finished Centerpiece

A floral garland fills the sleigh with a harvest of red berries and green leaves.  It looks like this cute little squirrel is stocking up for the winter.  A male cardinal hitches a ride on the sleigh.  All the red accents unify this design, while the pig provides a bit of whimsy. 

Who will pull your sleigh and who will ride?  Please let me know in the comments. 

Thanks for Reading & Happy Crafting!

How to Protect and Clean Precious Metal Jewelry and Flatware

With the holidays quickly approaching, it’s time to polish your silverware and your jewelry. With a few easy steps, you can make those precious metals shine, and keep it that way so you won’t have to clean it again next year.
Tarnished Silver Jewelry & Spoons
Tarnish is the enemy of your gold and silver jewelry, flatware and serving pieces. There are many products on the market for removing tarnish, but they typically consist of very toxic ingredients and the fumes can be overwhelming. Fortunately there are safer alternatives. As with most things, prevention is the best initial method.

Tarnish Prevention for Silver, Gold and Plated Jewelry:
Silver & Gold
Most people know silver becomes tarnished, but did you know gold becomes dull and brassy? The best way to keep your jewelry looking its best is by protecting it from the start. When you buy a new piece of jewelry, store it in an anti-tarnish lined jewelry box.

3M Anti-Tarnish Sheets and Strips
3M Anti-Tarnish Strips
As an alternative, you can use re-sealable plastic bags and place a piece of anti-tarnish paper inside the bag. Be sure to press the excess air out before closing the zipper. Several companies, such as 3M, make anti-tarnish paper, which comes in 1” squares, strips and sheets. FireMountainGems.com sells jewelry storage bags with anti-tarnish coating inside. Before putting away your jewelry, be sure to wipe gemstone jewelry gently with a soft cloth, and wipe precious metal jewelry with a polishing cloth. (Note: Pearls should not be placed in plastic bags. Wrap them in tissue paper.)

Tarnish Prevention for Silver Flatware and Serving Pieces:
Silverware
When not in use, keep your silver flatware in a silver chest and place serving pieces in drawers or a china cabinet with anti-tarnish paper to prevent tarnishing.

Jewelry Cleaning:
Beaded Jewelry
Beaded Jewelry: can be wiped gently with a soft cloth only. Do not use any other cleaning methods. Many beaded items include metal accent beads. You may be able to shine them up with a polishing cloth. I find it’s easier to restring the necklace or bracelet with new metal beads, and be sure to keep it in an anti-tarnish jewelry box or bag to keep it shining like new.

Gemstone Jewelry
Gemstone Jewelry: can be wiped gently with a soft cloth only. For a bracelet similar to the one pictured above, you could carefully use a polishing cloth on the edges of the silver, but avoid touching the gemstones. If additional cleaning is required, take it to a jeweler. Caution: Water and/or chemical solutions can dissolve or damage many gemstones, including but not limited to opals, Marcasites, and pearls, as well as enamel finishes.

Gold Silver Jewelry
Precious Metal Jewelry: Sterling silver, silver-plated, gold and gold-plated can be cleaned with a polishing cloth.

Silver Polishing Cloth
This polishing cloth has two layers. The white shines and polishes as it removes tarnish. The green layer completes the shining process as it removes polish or tarnish residue.

Tarnish Removal for Silver Flatware and Serving Pieces:
Tarnished Tray & Pitcher
We have all seen heavily tarnished silver items like the ones shown above. Tarnish removal can present a great challenge, but all of that was resolved with the invention of the Speedy Pate shown below.

Tarnish Removing Speedy Plate
Washing Soda, Glass Pan & Plate
When it comes to removing tarnish on silver pieces, the Speedy Plate is a lifesaver. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. The process is very simple. You will need the 6”x8” Speedy Plate, a large 9’x13” glass or plastic container, hot water, and Household Washing Soda. Most people use this product with great success. Occasionally reviews say it doesn’t work, but this is most likely a failure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Make sure you buy Washing Soda, which can be purchased at most grocery stores.

Please Note: Washing Soda IS NOT the same as baking soda.

Additional Jewelry Tips:
Shower
Should I wear Jewelry in the Shower?
No. To protect your jewelry, it should be removed before showering. Precious metals, gemstones, and jewelry components can be damaged by exposure to water, hair care products, soaps and body washes. When getting dressed, put your jewelry on last to avoid exposure to cosmetics, perfume, hairspray, and body lotion. The same precautions should be taken before swimming or using sunscreen.

Beach & Jewelry
Jewelry and the Beach Don’t mix.
That’s why you see so many people with metal detectors roaming the beaches at the end of the day. Rings can easily slip off of wet fingers. The combination of water, salt, sun, sunscreen, and sand can damage and weather chains and clasps, causing breakage. In most cases you won’t even realize it has fallen off. Your favorite piece of jewelry will inadvertently become someone else’s treasure.

There is so much beauty and artistry to be appreciated in objects made from silver and gold. With the proper care, they will last a lifetime, and can be passed down from one generation to the next.

Thanks for Reading & Happy Crafting!

Candy Making 101

Lindt Chocolates

Did you know that many of your favorite candies can be made at home?  Recipes for those shown below can be easily found online, and I have included tips for making these delicious treats.  Let’s get started! 

The Basics of Candy Making:

Milk Chocolate Candy Melts

Candy Melts

Homemade candy usually begins with candy melts, which come in many flavors, including milk, white and dark chocolate, strawberry, mint, and caramel.  Melting can be done on the stove or in a microwave. 

Hand Dipping Chocolate

Hand Dipped Chocolate

Question – What can you dip in chocolate? Answer – Everything from marshmallows and strawberries to Oreos, potato chips and Twinkies.  Many candy confections require dipping as the final step. 

Candy Molds

Chocolate Mold

Simply pour melted candy into the mold and refrigerate.  Candy molds are available in an extraordinary variety, including those for making solid chocolates, truffles, candy bars, hard candies, and lollipops. 

Solid Chocolates:

Halloween Candy

Halloween Candy

Solid chocolate candy is the best place to start for beginners.  Seasonal candy molds are available for every holiday.  You can change the color and flavor by choosing different candy melts. 

Chocolate Lollipops

Chocolate Lollipops

Colorful accents can be added to chocolate in two ways: Prior to pouring the melted chocolate, place small candies in the bottom of the mold, or hand-paint mold details with candy melts in alternate colors. 

Filled Chocolates:

Rolos

Rolos

To make Rolos, melt chocolate, and pour it into the mold, coating all sides and the bottom.  Pour out the excess chocolate, add the caramel center, and top with more chocolate.  Refrigerate, and enjoy. 

Andes Mints

Andes Mints

Andes Mints are made in shallow molds by alternating layers of dark chocolate and creamy mint filling. 

Malted Balls

Malted Balls

Malted milk powder is the key ingredient in these poppable candies, which can be shaped by hand or with piping bag and then dip in melted chocolate

Peppermint Patty

Peppermint Patty

Dark chocolate and peppermint extract are perfectly balanced.  Shape the mint filling into balls, flatten them like coins, and then dip in chocolate. 

Peanut Butter Cups

Peanut Butter Cups

Peanut butter cups are made by coating the bottom and sides of the mold with chocolate.  Add the peanut butter filling and seal the top with more chocolate.  Refrigerate and enjoy this delicious combo. 

Chocolate Pralines

Chocolate Hazelnut Pralines

Chocolate pralines are a mixture of chocolate and cream with hazelnuts, almonds or pecans.  Depending upon the recipe, you can drop spoonfuls onto parchment paper, or use candy molds. 

Popular Candy Bars:

Hershey’s Chocolate Bar

Hershey's Chocolate Bar

Hershey bars have been favorites for ages.  They are also the number one choice for making S’mores.  Simply melt chocolate, pour into the mold and refrigerate. 

Nestle Crunch

Nestle Crunch

Mix melted chocolate with Rice Krispies, pour into mold and refrigerate.  Yum! 

Milk Way Bars

Milky Way

These candy bars can be made using molds, or a parchment lined pan.  In a mold, layer chocolate, caramel, and chocolate marshmallow.  Top it off with more chocolate and refrigerate.  If using a lined pan, layer caramel and chocolate marshmallow.  Refrigerate, cut into bars, and dip in melted chocolate. 

Three Musketeers Bars

Three Musketeers Bar

Pour melted chocolate into a mold to coat bottom and sides.  Mix chocolate marshmallow filling, press it into a mold and then top it off with a layer of chocolate.  Refrigerate, release from mold and dip in melted chocolate.  These can also be made in an 8×8 pan lined with parchment paper. 

Butterfinger

Butterfinger

Believe it or not, most recipes for homemade Butterfingers are made by melting candy corn and mixing it with peanut butter, which is pressed into a mold, and refrigerated.  Dip in melted chocolate. 

Twix Bars

Twix

For Twix bars, follow a shortbread cookie recipe and bake in a square pan.  Allow it to cool and then cut into individual bars.  Spread caramel over the top of each cookie and dip in melted chocolate. 

Kit Kat Bars

KitKat Bar

Are Kit Kat bars your favorite?  Dip crème filled vanilla sugar wafer cookies in melted chocolate.  It’s easy and delicious! 

Hard Candy & Lollipops:

Hard Candies

Hard Candies & Lollipops

For homemade hard candies, most people use a cookie sheet instead of a mold.  Change the flavor or color as desired.  Flavors include various fruits, mints, and caramel. 

Rock Candy

Rock Candy

Rock Candy requires sugar, a jar, sticks, and lots of patience – it takes 1 to 2 weeks for crystals to form. 

Swirled Lollipops

Lollipops

To make swirled lollipops, the warm candy mixture is worked by pulling and folding, creating ropes, which are twined together, and wrapped into spirals.  Add sticks & enjoy.

Gummies:

Gummy Bears

Gummy Bears

Gummy bears appeal to kids and adults.  They can be easily made at home with a gummy candy mold, and you can use fruit juice instead of sugar. 

Presentation is Everything:

Chocolate Tulips

Chocolate Tulips

Just like bunches of fresh cut tulips, these multicolor chocolate blooms are haphazardly stacked in an eye-catching display to tempt your willpower. 

Chocolate Tools

Chocolate Tools

Creative chocolate molds, such as the ones used to make these tools, have strikingly realistic details, and the rectangular display resembles a toolbox.  The chocolatiers have done an incredible job making these life-size “metal” tools, but I think the realism has been taken a bit too far.  Although I know they have been dusted with cocoa powder for a well-worn appearance, rusty items do not appeal to my sweet tooth. 

Chocolate Cell Phone

Chocolate Cell Phone

Want to know a stress reduction secret?  Less technology and More chocolate!  Remember, “stressed” spelled backwards is desserts!  Enjoy!

Thanks for Reading & Happy Crafting!

The Art of Pumpkin Carving

Jack O Lanterns

Illuminated by candles, jack-o-lantern carving is believed to date back to 19th century Ireland.  Much like gargoyles, the frightening carved faces were meant to keep evil spirits away, while also celebrating Halloween and the end of the harvest, also known as Samhain.

Mr. & Mrs. Squash

Mr & Mrs Pumpkin

If carving is not in your skill set, painted or hand drawn designs can be applied to real or artificial pumpkins with very little effort.  Because they are not carved, they will last throughout the fall, including Halloween and Thanksgiving. 

Basic Carving

Grinning Pumpkin & Fog

Most carved pumpkins have eyes, a nose, and a mouth.  The shapes and angles determine the expression.  The nubby teeth, in the left photo, create a friendly face for young children.  On the right, glowing light and mysterious fog take a simple carving to the next level. 

Accessorizing

Accessorized Pumpkin

This fashionable character is camera-ready for the next Tim Burton film.  The black-outlined carvings are an unusual touch, and the hat gives this pumpkin lots of personality. 

Devilishly Handsome

Pumpkin Monster

This carved pumpkin owes its devilish good looks to the absence of a nose.  That one little detail, plus the intensity of the light within, gives him a more ghoulish appeal.  The orange skin has been removed from the teeth to create a fiery translucency. 

Fierce and Fabulous

Pumpkin Monster

Jagged teeth, angled eyes and an eerie glow make this pumpkin a formidable character. 

Glowing Eyes in the Darkness

Scary Glowing Pumpkins

Visitors won’t stay long in the presence of these disembodied faces.  LEDs produce high intensity light, which flicker like candles and may also change color. 

Sinister Intentions

Sinister Pumpkins

Choosing a short squat pumpkin sets the stage for these menacing characters.  The one on the left appears to be glaring and possibly snickering at viewers.  The other has fleshy, bloodshot eyeballs highlighted in a creepy orange light.  Glow sticks produce softer, otherworldly light in a variety of colors. 

Anger Management

Angry Pumpkin

Maybe the tooth fairy forgot to leave him money, or perhaps his dentist is on vacation.  We may never know why he is so angry, but the message is loud and clear! 

Good Mother or Cannibal?

Good Mother

Wild animals often carry their young by the scruff of the neck.  Since the teeth are rounded, and the little one does not look frightened, I think she is a mother protecting her baby.  What do you think? 

Sweet Kitten

Kitten Pumpkin

The soft rounded features on this gentle kitten create an adorable expression.

Feral Cat

Feral Cat

This adult feral cat hisses in warning, driving everyone away. 

Monsters Under the Bed

Monster Hand

Most children believe there is a monster under the bed or hiding in the closet.  This monster reaches out to grab passersby if they get too close. 

Playful Bat

Bat Pumpkin

This cute bat reminds me of the movie, “The Little Vampire.”  The orange skin had been peeled off the bat to create bold contrast and to achieve a translucent effect when lit. 

Things that Go Bump in the Night

Pumpkin Trio

Vampire bats, black cats and scary faces are all traditional Halloween decorations. 

Nightmare before Christmas

Jack Skellington

Tim Burton fans will recognize Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King.  The stitched mouth and curved brow lend an ominous quality to his expression. 

Tinkerbell & Frankenweenie

Tinkerbell & Frankenweenie

Disney’s Tinkerbell and Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie are sure to charm your guests. 

Ghostface

Scream Ghostface

From the Scream movie franchise, this disturbing face may haunt your dreams. 

Mixed Message

Welcome Pumpkin

It says welcome, but the jagged cuts look more threatening to me, as if to say, “Get out!” 

Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead Pumpkin

The intricate details of this skull are remarkable.  The orange is the perfect background to contrast with this floral skull, a perfect specter for the Day of the Dead. 

Monsters Inc.

Grinning Monster

I am not sure what kind of monster this is, but my what big teeth he has! 

Gourd Creatures

Pumpkin Creatures

These creepy critters have human faces, with thick vines for arms and legs.  The wide-eyed stare and twisted fingers look menacing, as if they might spring forward upon unsuspecting viewers. 

Fire Breathing Dragon

Carved Dragon

This dragon was carved from pumpkin, and the artfully arranged flowers and leaves resemble flames.  This multi-layer composition offers textures and fine details, harmonized by the many shades of orange. 

Let’s Go Wildcats

Wild Cat Pumpkin

To create the delicacy of this fierce wildcat, a piece of pumpkin was carved lying flat.  The finished cat was reattached to the round opening, and any cut lines were carefully concealed. 

Halloween Wishes

Ghost Happy Halloween

I hope you have found a few inspirational ideas for your Halloween pumpkins.  Which design is your favorite?  Do you like to carve or paint your pumpkins?  Please let me know in the comments.  Thanks for reading!

Happy Halloween & Happy Crafting!

No Bones About It

Skeleton Human

When it comes to Halloween decorating, skeletons are featured favorites. 

T-Rex Skeleton

T-Rex Skull

Terrifying dragons and dinosaurs are a few of the latest décor entries. 

Saber Tooth Tiger Skeleton

Saber Tooth Tiger Skull

Wild dogs and Sabre Tooth tigers are sure to follow. 

Close-Up Rooster Skeleton

Close Up Original Rooster Skeleton

What about ferocious chickens?  Ferocious may be a bit of a stretch, but “cocky” is a well-earned title. 

Confident & Cocky

Rooster Crowing

At a farm near my home, I saw a defiant rooster face off against a slow-moving minivan.  That bird crowed at the top of his lungs.  I wonder if roosters use curse words.  The bird won the battle of wills!  Apparently, roosters always have the right of way. lol. 

Unpainted Rooster Skeleton

Original Rooster Skeleton

There are many Halloween bird skeletons, including vultures, crows, ravens, and ducks.  When I saw this rooster, I knew I had to do something to make him stand out in a crowd. 

How to Paint a Rooster Skeleton:

Inspiration

Brown & Teal Rooster

A rooster’s crown and wattle tend to be red, but anything goes for the feathers. 

Inspiration

Multicolor Rooster

Because my favorite color is blue, I chose inspirational photos accordingly, but you can choose whatever colors you prefer. 

Supplies

Paints

Supplies:
Rooster Skeleton (12-1/2” high x 11-1/2” long x 7-1/2” wide) sold at JoAnn Crafts
Acrylic Paints – red, black, metallic sapphire blue, & metallic periwinkle blue
Paintbrushes

Painted Head Details

Close Up Red Details

Brush red paint onto both sides of the two most recognizable traits of roosters, the comb and wattle.  Darken the eye sockets with black paint. 

Unpainted Rooster Tail

Close Up Original Rooster Tail

As you might imagine, roosters are very proud of their plumage.  Those tail feathers should be bold and colorful to make their presence known and to impress the ladies! 

Painted Tail – Option 1

Black Rooster Tail

Paint the tail black, which tends to be the most common tail feather color. 

Painted Tail – Option 2

Blue & Green Rooster Tail

Paint the tail a combination of metallic green and metallic blue. 

Painted Tail – Option 3

Metallic Blue Rooster Tail

Paint the tail metallic blue.  I love the iridescent blue feathers shown in the two inspirational photos.  What bothered me about the skeleton was the five bones in the tail, which resemble a metallic hand. 

Defining the Tail Feathers

Black Tail Feather Details

Carefully apply a line of black paint down the length of each tail bone and angled short strokes to create a feathered appearance. 

Side by Side

Two Versions - Rooster Skeletons

Minimally painted head details versus fully defined tail feathers.  If you are satisfied with your results, you could stop at this point.  Additional steps below will give the rooster a more frightening appearance.  

Painted Eye Detail

Red Eye Detail

Outline both eyes with red paint.  This changes the entire expression with a few easy strokes.

Eerie Glow from Within

Metallic Periwinkle Ribs

Paint the inside of the ribs with metallic periwinkle paint.  Many Halloween skeletons come with LED lights hidden inside to illuminate the rib cage.  This one did not come with lights, but the metallic paint produces a similar visual effect. 

Joint Details

Red Joints

Add red on each of the ball joints for the wings and the knees. 

Unpainted Rooster versus Completed Rooster

Before & After Rooster

As you can see, this rooster has come a long way from its humble beginnings.  At a distance, you can easily recognize it, and the extra painted details catch the light, drawing your attention to this demanding and amusing creature. 

For more ideas, please click here to read last year’s post on skeleton painting. 

Happy Halloween & Happy Crafting!

Halloween Masquerade

Blue Venetian Mask

Have you wondered what it would be like to be a superhero, a celebrity, or a movie monster? Halloween opens the door to adventure. The stage is set, the orchestra is warming up, and an audience of admirers eagerly awaits your arrival. Who or what will you be? Let us find out together…

Basic Costume Building Blocks:

Mask

Frankenstein & Wolfman

Sometimes all you need is a great mask! Frankenstein’s Monster & the Wolfman are classics. Monster gloves would be nice additions to complete the look. The only downside is that masks can be hot to wear. Be sure to apply character-appropriate makeup to stay in character without it.

Makeup

Skull Face Paint & Eye Contacts

Makeup tutorials make it easy to create any character. Be sure to read the makeup labels before you buy to avoid skin irritation. To elevate the creepiness factor, the man in the photo above is wearing white monster contacts in his eyes.

Costume

Zena Warrior Princess

Whether you prefer DIY or readymade, the key to your success is a great costume. Like the idea of “one and done?”  All you need is a one-piece dress to become Zena Warrior Princess. Confidence is an absolute necessity! The boots, wristbands, and a weapon are optional.

Accessories

Accessories

When creating a character, never underestimate the importance of accessories. Can you imagine Indiana Jones without his hat and whip? Without fangs, Count Dracula is just a guy in a tuxedo. (lol)  

Attitude

Attitude

Musketeers cloak themselves in courage, honor, and dedication to their king. Think about how your character thinks, speaks, and acts and then exhibit those traits. Have fun with it!

Cast of Characters:

Mermaid

Mermaid

If you own a bikini top, you are halfway to a mermaid costume. All you need is the tail. Make sure you can comfortably walk and adjust the tail as needed.

Butterfly

Butterfly Costume

This sexy ensemble requires a one-piece black swimsuit and butterfly wings. Antennae are optional. For a less revealing version, wear a black jumpsuit or top with leggings.

Scarecrow

Scarecrow

The Scarecrow from the “Wizard of Oz” is a classic favorite. All this costume requires is a great hat and handfuls of straw. Any plaid shirt will work, and do not forget to smile and move as the actor did in the original movie.

The Joker

The Joker

This is a perfect recreation of the 1960’s television version of the Joker, played by Cesar Romero. Although he is a criminal, this early version of the character is amusing and lighthearted compared to his diabolical present-day counterpart.

Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones

True to the “Game of Thrones” characters, this couple successfully combined, costumes, makeup, attitude, and accessories, including the little dragon looking over her shoulder.

Medieval Sorceress & Gothic Witch

Medieval Sorceress & Gothic Witch

In the Wizard of Oz, whose side are you on – Glenda the Good Witch or the Wicked Witch of the West? Actors enjoy playing the villain to break out of their comfort zones in favor of a walk on the wild side.

Fantasy Owl Woman

Owl Woman

You might want to create a completely original character, such as this owl woman. Like a living sculpture, she is beautiful and intriguing.

Red Fox

Red Fox

Those mesmerizing green eyes draw you in for a closer look. The details are incredible. The mask blends seamlessly with the costume, and the eye openings are cleverly hidden in the corners of the fox’s eyes. It is utterly amazing workmanship.

Court Jester & Evil Clown

Court Jester & Clown

If you want to be a clown, you have a decision to make…Will you be an amusing entertainer like a court jester? Or terrifying like Pennywise in Stephen King’s “IT”?

Skeletons

Skeletons

There is an extraordinary level of anatomical detail in the skeleton makeup. Look at those teeth! And the half-masks are an illusion achieved through expertly applied makeup! The white contacts, worn by the skeleton on the right, produces a piercing cold stare that feels uncomfortable, even from the photo.

Steampunk & Plague Doctor

Steampunk & Plague Doctor

The secret to a steampunk costume is incorporating metallic details, such as studs, chains, gears, and anything else inspired by 19th century mechanization. The Plague Doctor on the right is terrifying! How could he be a medical professional? He does not appear to be human!

Anime

Anime

Every detail of this costume, from the bows in her pink hair to the tips of her knee-high boots, is a shining example of anime.

Fantasy Princess

Fantasy Princess

This costume is so beautifully coordinated. The color of the faux fox stole matches the colors in her dress. Intricate gold patterns are repeated on her dress, her jewelry, and the beads in her hair.

Medusa

Medusa

Medusa have never looked so fierce and fabulous. Wriggling snakes form the headpiece, topped by a golden crown. The python print dress has snakelike scroll design accents. Special effects snakeskin patterned makeup creates the illusion of snakes emerging from her cheeks and forehead. Yikes!

Reptilian Tree

Carnival Reptilian Tree

What do you get when you combine a human, a reptile, and a tree? You get a fascinating creature covered in gnarly roots and raised scales, with a disturbing face and mysterious, unknown intentions.

Samurai Warrior

Samurai Warrior

Psychological battles begin long before any physical confrontations. With this fear-inducing costume, potential opponents will choose to flee rather than trying their luck.

Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead

When it comes to Day of the Dead costumes, this man must be royalty. The elaborate feathered headdress, staff with life-size human skulls, and tricolor palette ensure he will stand out in a crowd.

Maleficent

Maleficent

This vengeful fairy has great magical powers and a commanding physical presence. The raven sitting atop her staff is a reminder of her connection to nature as protector of the moors. Is she thinking of something witty to say or deciding what to conjure up next? We are probably better off not knowing.

Lord of the Rings: Orc

Lord of the Rings Orc

Tolkien would be proud of this battle-ready orc. The distressed piecemeal garments, weapon in hand, hidden dagger in his boot, and defiant stance are hallmarks of this malevolent Lord of the Rings character.

Amazon Warrior

Amazon Warrior

At first, the soft feminine garments and feathered headdress might lead you to believe she is a vulnerable native princess. But you would be wrong! The multi-pronged weapon, metal-studded glove, and cold calculating stare hint at the powerful fighting capabilities of this formidable Amazon Warrior.

Captain Jack Sparrow

Captain Jack Sparrow

Captain Jack Sparrow is one of the most recognizable characters in the world, which means you need to get the details correct. Check out the tattooed fingers, the braided beard, and the weather-worn hat! All of Jack’s quirky mannerisms and facial expressions have been incorporated into this authentic performance. I wonder how often people request his autograph. Outstanding work!

Venetian Sun

Venetian Sun

In the “Masquerade” scene in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera, the cast sings, “Look around there’s another mask behind you.”  During the Venetian Carnival, just when you think you have seen the most exquisite costume ever made, a better one pops up behind it, leaving you awestruck.

Cosplay

Sun Moon Stars & Angel Warrior

Do you enjoy making your own costumes? Most of the extraordinary costumes shown in this post are from the world of Cosplay. There are competitions for best handmade costumes, and these people are incredibly talented. They take costumes to the ultimate level, often equally the wardrobes created for multimillion dollar films. It is fascinating to see, even if you are not into DIY. Enjoy!

Thanks for Reading!

Happy Halloween & Happy Crafting!

Designing Outdoor Halloween Displays

For many, Halloween is the most wonderful time of the year.  People go all out decorating their homes, and there is always something new to thrill and delight.  Let’s look at some decorating ideas for designing the Halloween display of your dreams…or should I say nightmares? 

Creatures of the Night:

Bats

Vampire Bat

Bats certainly have a way of making humans squirm.  Keep your visitors on their toes by hanging bats upside down from tree branches, lightly swaying in the breeze on invisible fishing tackle. 

Crows

Crows

A crow’s habit of feeding upon dead animals and loud calls are bound to cause a shiver or two.  Mount a couple crows on tombstones or in a prominent spot, such as atop a wall or the edge of your roof. 

Owls

Owls

This predator silently soars across the night sky, seeing all with his glowing eyes.  There are some motion-activated owls that turn their heads and hoot. 

Spiders

Spiders

Most people instinctively shy away from spiders.  The tarantula-sized spiders shown above are painted with glow-in-the-dark paints.  Place them along porch railings or on the outer edge of steps.  You also might want to have several crawling up a wall near the front door. 

Dragons & Black Cats

Dragons & Black Cats

Many people are superstitious about black cats.  When lit from behind, cat silhouette yard stakes have an eerily realistic appearance.  Inflatable dragons glisten and change colors, while animated dragons have glowing eyes, frightening sound effects and “breath fire” courtesy of a fog machine. 

Rats

Rats

Sewer rats are bound to cause a few goosebumps.  Just like the photo above, place a few rats on or around pumpkins to create a creepy atmosphere. 

Witches

Witch

If you want to charm your guests, witches are sure to please.  Life-size, motion-activated witches greet visitors with glowing eyes, casting spells, and stirring cauldrons.  For a more humorous effect, a wall or tree-mounted crashing witch on a broom is sure to make everyone smile. 

Headless Horseman

Headless Horseman

“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is a classic.  Although you probably won’t have a horse on the lawn, you could create a dummy with a glowing pumpkin head.  New this year is an animated life-size headless horseman holding an axe in one hand and a talking pumpkin in the other. 

Legendary Movie Monsters

Werewolf

Wolfman, Frankenstein’s Monster, Count Dracula – so many possibilities.  You could make a dummy by stuffing an old shirt and pair of slacks and buy a rubber mask to create your monster.  If you or a family member are budding actors, dress up in costumes to unnerve visitors on Halloween night. 

Zombies

Zombies

“The Walking Dead” has been a popular television series for years, spawning a zombie craze in movies, merchandise, and Halloween décor.  If horror is your goal, zombies are the go-to characters. 

Ghosts

Ghost with Lantern

Ghosts can serve as props or as live action creatures.  Halloween night, if you really want to keep trick or treaters on edge, place a life-size ghost among your yard decorations.  Go outside several times wearing an identical costume to stir up chills and thrills as you move across the lawn.  Kids love theatrics like this and will return every year to find out what you will do next.

Scary Props:

Carved Pumpkins

Carved Pumpkin

Pumpkins are a Halloween staple.  Depending upon your preferences and skills, you can carve or paint designs to frighten or amuse your guests.  If you have had trouble in the past with squirrels eating fresh pumpkins, buy craft pumpkins, which can be carved and displayed for years to come. 

Tombstones

Tombstones

With tombstones, draped in spider webs, and scattered bones, this haunted cemetery is ready for visits from the living. 

Coffin & Skeletons

Coffin & Skulls

If you like working with wood, you could build a coffin and reuse it with different monsters each year.  If the weather cooperates, or if you have a covered porch, a cardboard coffin can be easily made.  Skeletons and skulls can be frightening or funny.  It’s all up to you. 

Kid Friendly Scarecrow

Scarecrow Kid Friendly

Scarecrows are easy to make and inexpensive to buy.  Secure them to tree trunks, or place a few on a bale of hay with pumpkins and a few crows for a bit of humor. 

Frightening Scarecrow

Scarecrow Scary

This horrifying scarecrow will keep crows, as well as people, at a distance.  The vicious teeth are an unexpected and unsettling detail. 

Spider Webs

Spider Webs

Our brains tell us that where there are webs, there are spiders.  Drape webs over bushes and railings.  A bag of plastic spiders has great impact or buy one large spider to instill fear. 

Lighting:

Halloween String Lights

Pumpkin String Lights

Pumpkins, Bats, Skulls, Witch Hats, and Ghosts are just a few of your string light options.  Some are the plug-in variety, but for more flexibility there are also battery-operated versions. 

Pumpkin Lamppost Cover

Lamppost Pumpkin

This lamppost cover is an easy way to show your Halloween spirit, and it acts like a beacon attracting Trick or Treaters like moths to a flame. 

Luminaries

Luminaries

Luminaries are easy to make by simply drawing Halloween designs, such as cats and bats, with Sharpie markers on glass jars.  For lighting, burn tealights or use battery-operated candles. 

Special Effects:

Spooky Sounds & Fog

Sound Effects & Fog

Sound is an often-overlooked element in Halloween displays.  Howling wolves, dragging chains, maniacal laughter, growling monsters, and high-pitched shrieks are among the many scary soundtracks.  Fog provides additional layers of Halloween ambiance. 

Lightning & Thunder

Lightning

Conjure up the perfect storm by using theatrical spotlights, which project lightning bolts upon your house, accompanied by claps of thunder. 

Setting the Scene: Finished Halloween Displays

Witch’s Brew

Witch's Brew

Wondering what it would be like to have a close encounter with a witch?  A cauldron, bubbling over with glowing fog, rests upon a flickering faux fire.  With an ancient broom, a book of magic spells and a bottle of her latest potion in hand, this witch chills and thrills guests of all ages.  Live action will astound visitors.  All you need is a costume and have a few clever “incantations.” 

Haunted Graveyard

Haunted Graveyard

How do you create a haunted graveyard?  Start with tombstones, and then add a red-eyed skeleton climbing out of an open grave, bathed from below by an eerie yellow light, as ghostly apparitions take shape in wisps of fog.  An orange moon in the nearby tree completes this otherworldly scene.  Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” would be the perfect theme song for this frightening display. 

Comical Family Fun

Kid Friendly Pumpkin Patch

Is it possible to celebrate Halloween in a kid-friendly way?  A pumpkin family reunion is a good place to start.  Trick or Treaters can pose for selfies with this cheerful, welcoming display.  At night, the bright orange glow will intrigue everyone, drawing them nearer for a closer look. 

If You Build It, They Will Come

Group Photo

Want to attract attention?  Consider your desired theme and select a fascinating focal point, such as the gigantic cat in the above photo.  With colors, shapes, textures, and proportions in mind, continue adding props and characters, creating a multi-layered composition to delight viewers.  Viewers will discover something new each time they see it.  Having a few characters spring to life would be the cherry on top of this theatrical masterpiece. 

Trunk or Treat

Trunk or Treat Decor

Are you participating in a community trunk or treat event?  Don’t forget to decorate your car.  There are Halloween decorations made specifically for trunk or treating.  If your furry best friend rides along, a pet costume would be adorable, and the kids will love it! 

Halloween brings out the kid in all of us.  Do you have a favorite decoration?  Have any suggestions to share with readers?  Please note your thoughts in the comments section.  Thanks for reading and sharing. 

Happy Halloween & Happy Crafting!

Painting with Light

Even on a gloomy midwinter’s day, sunlight filters through stained glass, dazzling the eyes and enlightening the mind with all its glorious colors.  Stained glass windows can be found everywhere, from churches and hotels to cruise ships and homes.  First and foremost, it is a beautiful art form, but there is more to this than meets the eye.  Let’s dig a little deeper into the world of stained glass. 

Traditional Stained Glass

There are two types of stained glass:

1. Traditional Stained Glass – Individual pieces of glass soldered together, as shown above.  This labor-intensive process is well-worth the effort, but it also adds to the expense of the finished piece.  Additional details may be painted by hand on the interior face of the glass. 

Painted Glass (aka Enamelled Glass)

2. Painted Glass – Designs are painted on glass with special pigments containing ground glass, which must be fired in a kiln to permanently fuse the colors to complete the process. 

With or Without

Minute details, such as this fish’s fins, scales, and lively expression, have been hand painted to create a one-of-a-kind aquatic treasure.  With bold colors and thoughtful design, the lovely rose, shown above, can stand on its own without the need for hand-painted embellishments. 

Close Encounters

This colorful contemporary glass reminds me of the musical light board in the movie, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”  The soft glowing colors and textured glass make you wonder what awaits inside. 

Forever Yours

Delicately painted white blossoms, set against a bold red and green background, will flower for eternity. 

A Rose by Any Other Name

Rose windows adorn many churches around the world.  If you ever wondered what it would be like to stand inside a kaleidoscope, this is your chance to find out. 

Stairway to Heaven

Stained glass panels entice the viewer to follow the spiral path upward toward the heavenly white light. 

Tell Me a Story

Truly a picture is worth a thousand words.  Today we take reading for granted, but in the past illiteracy was common.  Story telling with pictures enabled everyone to learn.  Some windows depicted detailed biblical scenes, while others were more abstract with easily understood symbolism. 

On the Grid

A strong rectilinear grid, repetitious patterns, and a soft blue background unify this harmonious ceiling design.  The free form, brilliant colors, and contrasting, copper architectural details provide an interesting focal point in this cruise ship lounge. 

Heads Up

Glass dome decorative motifs are complimented by the plaster architectural ornamentation.  The glass dome on the right is framed by metallic gold trim and adorned with metallic blue spheres, drawing the eye upward toward this playful stained glass focal point. 

In the Eye of the Beholder

Context & symbolism go hand in hand.  In a church, a white dove usually symbolizes the Holy Spirit, but in secular architecture it is a sign of peace or a celebration of nature.  Stained glass in churches is often donated as memorials.  Did you know the artist often painted the face of an angel or saint to resemble a deceased member of the donor’s family?  You and I see an angel, but the family sees Grandma Agnes. 

A Little Piece of History

Instead of painting on canvas or sculpture, historical figures and events have been honored in stained glass.

Eternal Spring

This beautiful Art Nouveau masterpiece includes a portrait as well as a very lush floral landscape in celebration of springtime. 

“Building” an Addition

This window visually expands the architectural space, making the building and property feel stately and grand.  It can also obscure an unsightly view, while providing scenic eye candy for the viewer. 

It’s a Jungle Out There

Several artistic tricks are used to create this lively wild jungle, including perspective, overlapping images, and the shape of the individual glass pieces. 

A Grand Illusion

Vibrant colors and clever design are the keys to this amazing stained-glass window.  The play of light and shadow, three-dimensional rendering, and concealing most of the lead strips, creates the illusion of Christ standing in front of the window. 

Let There Be Light

Stained Glass Wall Art

This may look like a painting in a frame, but it is all stained glass, including the “frame.”  You may not be able to tell from the photo, but this “window” is on an interior wall!  At this point, you probably have one question: How could the glass glow without sunlight?  I’m glad you asked!  A light fixture, either fluorescent or LED, is recessed into the wall.  A sheet of white glass conceals the light bulbs or tubes.  The stained-glass is the final layer.  Turn on the light and you will have the full colorful effects without the sun! 

I hope you enjoyed our little exploration and picked up a few ideas to incorporate stained glass into your life.  Until next time…

Thanks for Reading & Happy Crafting!

“C” is for Cookie

Cookie Monster

If you are a cookie monster, every day is “Cookie Day!”  Yum! 

Assorted Cookies

There are so many varieties – chocolate, butter, sugar, almond, and chocolate chip, just to name a few.  Maybe we could munch our way through the list of the most popular cookies and discover our favorites as we go.  You will probably be hungry before you reach the end of this post, so grab a few cookies and I’ll wait right here.  Okay, let’s begin…

Black & White Cookies

Black & White Cookie

Black & White cookies, also known as half-moons, may have frosting or fondant in those two signature colors. 

Butter Cookies

Butter Cookies

Sweet creamy butter makes these cookies irresistible, with or without decoration. 

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate chip is probably the most popular cookie. Chocolate aficionados satisfy their craving by adding chocolate chunks or by mixing cocoa in the batter.  Instead of cake, many people celebrate their birthdays with 15” chocolate chip cookies decorated with icing and candles. 

Chocolate Crinkles

Chocolate Crinkles

To create the unique crackle patterns, chocolate dough is formed into a ball and rolled in powdered sugar.  The patterns appear during baking and no two are exactly alike. 

French Meringue

French Meringue

Egg whites are the main ingredient in this recipe.  The star shape is created with a piping bag. 

Gingerbread Cookies

Gingerbread Cookies

Gingerbread smells so great while it is baking.  The cookies can be cut into any shape and are often decorated with icing. 

Gingersnaps

Gingersnaps

Gingersnaps can be crunchy or soft depending on how long they are baked.  The crispy version is good for dipping in hot chocolate. 

Jelly Filled Cookies

Jelly Filled Cookies

To make these jelly filled cookies, you will need two cookie cutters – one small and one large.  Layer two cookies on top of each other, with apricot, strawberry, cherry, or raspberry filling.  The bottom cookie is solid, while the top cookie has a small cut out in the center.  To finish, shake powdered sugar on top. 

M&M Cookies

M&M Cookies

Follow the chocolate chip cookie recipe, substituting M & M’s candy instead of chocolate chips.  If you do not like chocolate, add cinnamon or peanut butter chips as a tasty alternative. 

Macarons

Macarons

Almond flour and confectioner’s sugar are the main ingredients in these sweet cookies.  The fillings come in a wide assortment, including fruit, chocolate, and vanilla. 

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Soft and chewy oatmeal raisin cookies are a staple in kid’s lunches. 

Orange Cookies

Orange Cookies

These cookies have orange zest in the dough as well as the icing.  Substituting lemon or lime zest will provide sweet and tart alternatives. 

Peanut Butter Cookies

Peanutbutter Cookies

As kids, we eat peanut butter all the time, so it follows that this would be one of the most popular cookies for adults too.  Use either creamy or crunchy peanut butter, and you might want to try adding chocolate chips for that awesome peanut butter cup flavor. 

Snickerdoodles

Snickerdoodles

Snickerdoodles taste like cinnamon and sugar with a bit of a tang from cream of tartar.  The dough balls are usually rolled in cinnamon and sugar prior to baking. 

Sugar Cookies

Sugar Cookies

Sugar cookies are another classic.  With sugar in the batter and on top, this sweet treat is sure to satisfy. 

Thumbprint Cookies

Thumbprint Cookies

As you probably guessed from the name, use your thumb to make a divot in the top of each cookie, and fill it with fruit filling or a Hershey’s Kiss, as shown in the photo. 

So many cookies!  You simply cannot eat just one!  What is your favorite cookie? Let me know in the comments section. 

Thanks for Reading & Happy Crafting!