Thanksgiving Décor Made Easy

Colors of the Season
Fall Leaves
Just about every family in the United States celebrates Thanksgiving. When you are the host of this annual feast, a lot of planning and preparation is required to ensure it will be a delicious and enjoyable occasion for all. The party starts upon arrival and ends when the last hugs are exchanged and tearful waving as the cars pull away with promises to come back again next year.

What kind of atmosphere do you want to create for this celebration? A few decorative items can really set the stage for your family feast. Let autumn’s colors, red, orange, green, and yellow, inspire your Thanksgiving décor.

Outdoor Decorations
Outdoor Fall Display
Seasonal gourds, corn and apples can be artfully arranged by the front door, or in a corner of your deck or patio. To ensure longevity, be sure to keep produce out of direct sun and away from fire pits.

Autumn’s Bountiful Harvest
Autumn’s Bountiful Harvest
Give those left over Halloween pumpkins new life in a Thanksgiving display. Mother Nature provides the fallen leaves, or substitute with handfuls of straw for a festive look.

A Colorful Welcoming Entrance
Outdoor Decor
Don’t miss an opportunity to create a festive entryway to your home. Decorate an existing bench or cozy front porch with attractive pots or baskets of chrysanthemums, pumpkins, and cabbage plants.

Seasonal Fall Wreath
Gourds Pumpkins Wreath
Greet your guests at the door with a lovely fall wreath. To make one, start with a grapevine wreath base. Tie or glue on gourds, pinecones and berries. As an added burst of color, glue red and green silk leaves on poster board and secure it to the back of the wreath.

Holiday décor differs based upon many factors: geographic location – beachside versus mountaintop; venue – urban loft apartment versus rural farmhouse; your personal style: traditional versus contemporary or something in between, etc. Below are several design ideas to spark your creativity.

Traditional Thanksgiving Cornucopia Centerpiece
Traditional Thanksgiving Cornucopia Centerpiece
A few candles and a set of mini lights add sparkle and ambiance to this festive centerpiece. If burning candles makes you nervous, you can opt for the flameless variety. New technological advances have produced a very realistic appearance of flickering flames. Many are made with scented wax, have been molded with lines of “dripping” wax down the sides, and operate via remote control.

Farmhouse Chic Centerpiece
Farmhouse Chic Centerpiece
This display creates a more casual atmosphere. The wicker basket and two hammered metal tankards set amongst a mixture of fruit and veggies are the focal point on a picnic table with plenty of room for the extended family and friends.

Fruitful Harvest
Fruitful Harvest
A sculptural glass bowl of fruit serves as an artful centerpiece and it’s edible.

Elegant Traditional Place Setting
Elegant Traditional Place Setting
Place settings can impress even the most discriminating family members. If you have a metallic gold sharpie marker, you could write each person’s name on the tiny white pumpkins, which become party favors for your guests to take home after enjoying a delicious meal.

Chargers, such as the gold one shown in the photo above, are decorative plates typically used as colorful accents for laying dishes. There are two types of chargers sold at craft stores. The first tends to be round plates in solid colors, metallic finishes, or vintage prints. The second type is very decorative, including embellishments such as rhinestones and hammered metal finishes. Food Safety Tip: Chargers are for decorative use only – they are Not Food Safe.

From Vineyard to Table Decor
From Vineyard to Table Decor
If being non traditional is more your style, choose a different color scheme to celebrate the bounty of the season. How about blues, purples, and greens from the vineyard? Wine is typically a part of every big celebration. Why not use it as the inspiration for your holiday décor? Knock tradition off its feet with this colorful twist.

Contemporary Urban Glam
Contemporary Urban Glam
Are you passionate about having a lot of bling in your holiday decor? How about this sequined tablecloth, deep orchid napkins, silver plates, and bejeweled napkin rings? The table cover could be an expensive item, but a trip to the fabric store will save you a bundle. Little details make such a difference. Embellish plain napkin rings with rhinestones, beads, berries or flowers. If time is short, Pier 1 has a large selection of ornate napkin rings.

Exotic Blue Peacock
Exotic Blue Peacock Place Setting
Using peacock feathers for inspiration, this table setting features a matching runner and chair sashes. If you are comfortable with sewing, both items can be easily made for use with an existing white tablecloth and dining chairs. The sashes are tied to the seat backs in simple bows, turning standard folding chairs into fashionable seating. Brown wicker chargers beautifully offset the bright blue napkins. Green glassware and a few well-placed peacock feathers complete the design.

Combining Old & New
Combining Old & New
Transitional is a blending of traditional elements, such as the floral arrangement and orange-rimmed dishes, with a contemporary flair – maroon napkins creatively folded to create an exotic flower and wrapped in gold leaf-shaped napkin rings; matching placemats; and coordinating gold and maroon glass beads scattered upon the table.

Beachside Centerpiece
Beach Centerpiece
If you live at the beach, the bountiful harvest focuses upon the ocean, and your celebration may look something like this. Fire and water is always a mesmerizing combo. Place floating candles in clear glass containers with attractive pebbles or sea glass in the bottom. Set in a tray with sand and a few seashells for a lovely seaside centerpiece.

Traditional Thanksgiving Table with Wine & Flowers
Traditional Thanksgiving Table with Wine & Flowers
Regardless of how you choose to celebrate Thanksgiving, may it bring you and yours a very happy, and love filled holiday to be remembered fondly for years to come.

Happy Thanksgiving & 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 a jewelry box with an anti-tarnish lining.

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.

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 Dish & 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.

Happy Crafting!

Pumpkin – Baking with Seasonal Flavor

Pumpkins
After Halloween has come and gone, you might be wondering what to do with all those leftover pumpkins. Whether you prefer fresh or canned pumpkin, there are plenty of delicious ways to enjoy this seasonal favorite. There’s nothing like the mouth-watering aromas of homemade cookies and pastries, straight from the oven. It may be a cold fall and winter, but you can warm hearts and bellies with a lot of love and a few easy recipes.

Iced Pumpkin Donuts
Iced Donuts
To save you time and ensure success, the baking section of your local craft store has a large selection of pans, including bundt cake, cupcakes, muffins, jelly roll, etc. One of the more unusual pans is for baking donuts. Since no deep fryer is required, anyone can bake donuts at home, and the same pan can be used to make bagels too.

Pumpkin Bundt Cake with Vanilla Frosting
Bundt Cake
A fluted pan is the secret to the bundt cake. This photo shows the standard version of a bundt cake with icing drizzled over the top. If you really want to impress your guests, prepare an unexpected surprise by adding filling. To do this, pour half the batter into the pan. Spread the filling around the pan, ensuring it does not touch the inner or outer edges of the pan. Pour the remaining batter on top and bake. When the cake is sliced, the unusual profile of the slice will be enhanced by a colorful creamy center.

Homemade Pumpkin Bread
Pumpkin Bread
Pumpkin bread needs to cool before slicing. By refrigerating the loaf, the bread becomes moist like a cake. Toasted pumpkin bread is delicious with melted peanut butter. Metal pans are fine, but for baking bread I prefer a ceramic loaf pan. I don’t know about you, but the sound of metal scraping makes my skin crawl. Ceramic cleans up easier too.

Spiced Pumpkin Roll with Orange Cream Cheese Icing
Pumpkin Roll
A spiral design is the hallmark of this impressive dessert, but it’s easy to make, and will melt in your mouth. Bake the cake in a jellyroll pan lined with parchment paper. After baking, lay the cake face down on a towel. If necessary, trim any ragged edges. Starting with a long side, roll the cake in the towel and cool completely on a wire rack. Unroll and remove the towel, and lay cake flat. Spread the filling over the top within 1/2” of the edges. Suggested fillings include whipped cream, pie filling, and pudding. Carefully roll the cake and place it with the seam side down on a platter. Garnish as desired.

Pumpkin Muffins
Pumpkin Muffins
Pumpkin muffins are delicious as is, or shake a little powdered sugar over the top. Sometimes the simplest version is the best.

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Whipped Cream & Graham Cracker Crust
Pumpkin Cheesecake
Cheesecake is a dessert menu staple. The only bad thing about pumpkin cheesecake is that it’s only available from October through January, or February if you’re lucky. Beyond that you’ll have to wait until the next pumpkin season.

Walnut Pumpkin Pie with Whipped Cream
Walnut Pumpkin Pie
A pastry bag and fresh whipped cream will dress up any baked goods, but it’s just as easy to use a can of whipped cream. For best results, practice a few floral shapes first before tackling the final product.

Traditional Pumpkin Pie with Homemade Crust
Pumpkin Pie
Pumpkin pie typically has a delicious flaky crust. This baker created a pretty undulating pattern with the crust and garnished the top with a leaf cut from the same pastry crust. There are some really cool baking tools, such as fluted piecrust cutters for edging, and spring-loaded piecrust cutters to create cutouts or appliqués, like the leaf shown in the photo above.

Chocolate Drizzled Pumpkin Pie with Chocolate Crust
Pumpkin Tart
This contemporary pumpkin pie has a chocolate graham cracker bottom crust, and a pumpkin cream cheese filling. For a no-bake version, buy a ready-to-use crust.

Savory Pumpkin Soup
Pumpkin Soup
Like butternut squash, pumpkin soup gets its savory flavor from rich heavy cream and just the right amount of seasoning from ginger, cinnamon, onion and celery.

Pumpkin Pancakes
Pumpkin Pancakes
Do you love pancakes but are bored with the same old taste? Boost the flavor and your taste buds by adding 1/2 cup of canned pumpkin for every 2 cups of batter.

Homemade Pumpkin Pudding
Pumpkin Pudding
Deep-dish pumpkin pudding tastes delicious while still warm from the oven, or chilled and served with fresh whipped cream. If you’ve never had it, the top and edges have a cake-like texture, but the rest is creamy pudding with that awesome pumpkin flavor. If your favorite part of a pumpkin pie is the filling, this pudding will be your new go-to dessert.

Baking is a fun and rewarding activity to be shared with the whole family. Enjoy the process and remember you can always eat your mistakes.

Happy Crafting!

Glowing Eyes in the Darkness: Jack-O-Lanterns

Spooky Pumpkin
It just wouldn’t be Halloween without a few carved pumpkins, also known as Jack-O-Lanterns. Patterns are readily available online, or you can flex your creative muscles by coming up with your own designs. What does your pumpkin say about you? Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Carved Pumpkins
From the goofy to the spooky, there’s something for everyone.

Pumpkin Trio
There are numerous options for lighting your pumpkins: Lit candles flicker in the breeze. LEDs produce high intensity and sometimes color-changing light. Glow sticks give off softer, otherworldly light. Spotlights and flashlights light up the face while also creating some eerie dark shadows inside the pumpkin.

Awestruck Pumpkin
Even pumpkins have moments of surprise and awe. I wonder what he sees?

Monster Pumpkin
Little details make all the difference. This carved pumpkin owes its devilishly 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.

Jaws Pumpkin
This one brings a whole new meaning to the name “Jaws.” After carving the teeth, the orange skin around the perimeter of the mouth was removed to reveal the white flesh beneath. If that seems like too much work, you could use a white Sharpie marker to define the mouth.

Jack Skelleton Pumpkin
Nightmare Before Christmas is a very popular Halloween movie and decorating theme, and this pumpkin doesn’t disappoint. A little dry ice, or a fog machine takes the spooky vibe to a whole new level.

Cat & Spider Pumpkin
Cat lovers will appreciate this creative design. Black cats and spiders are staples in Halloween décor.

Scary Pumpkin
This frightening character has menacing eyes surrounded by flames above and below.

Scary Ghost Pumpkin
This ghoulish ghost is another Tim Burton inspired design from his nightmare movie.

Pumpkin Happy Hour
It’s Happy Hour for Jack-O-Lanterns only! Honestly, if I saw a gathering like this in my backyard, I would probably run away! It looks like a scene from a Steven King movie.

Pumpkin carving isn’t for everyone. There’s also nothing wrong with displaying your pumpkins “as is” with the added bonus of being able to keep them on display for Thanksgiving too.

Painted Pumpkins
If you like to paint, you could paint designs on real or artificial pumpkins. These decorated pumpkins can be accomplished with a few Sharpie markers, and they will last longer than the carved variety.

Lamppost Pumpkins
Another great option is painting a wooden plaque like the one shown above. It can be used for years and is very inexpensive to make. Over time, the sun, wind and weather can take their toll. Whether you are painting a brand new pumpkin, or giving a makeover to an existing one, the steps are the same.

How to Paint and /or Repaint a Wooden Outdoor Halloween Decoration:

Supplies:
Wooden Pumpkin Decoration (30” high x 22” wide x 1/2” thick)
Orange Outdoor Spray Paint – OR – Orange Outdoor Acrylic Paint (See Step 2)
Outdoor Acrylic Paint – black, green & brown
Paintbrush
Sandpaper
Black Sharpie Marker

Faded Original Pumpkins
Step 1 – First you will need to clean off the dirt and debris, and lightly sand the surface and edges in preparation for paint.

Orange Spray Paint
Step 2 – You have two painting options here: Spray Painting versus Brush on Painting.
For Spray Painting: Apply multiple coats of orange outdoor spray paint. To be honest, I’m not a fan of spray paint due to the toxic fumes.  I also was not satisfied with the paint coverage. I’m not sure why, but the consistency was very thin like water.

Three Coats Acrylic
For Brush on Painting: – Apply 3 coats of orange outdoor acrylic paint with a brush. Be sure to coat all the edges and the back of the plaque as well to protect and seal the wood from water damage.

Green & Brown Details
Step 3 – Add details such as stems, leaves, and the surrounding ground at the edges. You may want to outline the details first with a Sharpie marker.

Black Lines
Step 4 – Draw the faces and add curved lines to give the pumpkins a three-dimensional effect. Outline the leaves and stems in black to make them stand out better.

Black Paint
Step 5 – Fill in the faces with black paint.

Before & After Pumpkins
After spending a day at the spa, these pumpkins have been renewed, rejuvenated, and are ready to greet your guests at the door. The choice of pumpkins is up to you. Whether you decide to use real, artificial, or any other material, the enjoyment and celebration of the holiday will always come through in festive style.

Happy Halloween & Happy Crafting!

Halloween Decorating Tips – Part 2

Jack-O-Lanterns
Spooky story telling around the campfire, frightful decorations haunting the yard, and fanciful costumes excite and delight, as bags are filled with candy and laughter drifts upon the air. Halloween will soon be here. Celebrate this popular holiday and dance like nobody’s watching! First you’ll need a few decorative ideas to set the stage for your celebration. Let’s get started…

Lantern
Many people enjoy the warm summer nights by candlelight. With Halloween approaching, transform your lanterns into Halloween décor by adding a few decals to the glass.

Moody Lighting
Lighting is so important to setting the mood. Carved pumpkins can be lit with standard candles or opt for the battery operated flameless variety. Luminaries can be made from glass jars and decals or simply draw a design with Sharpie markers.

Skeleton
Tombstones and skeletons are a Halloween classic. This one has a more menacing appearance with its glowing red eyes and the bright light from below, giving the impression he’s climbing out of his grave.

Alien Pumpkins
If elaborate carving seems a bit too daunting, these mini pumpkins will make you smile.   Cut out a rectangle in the front, large enough to fit plastic teeth as shown above. Draw eyeballs or use olives as an alternative. Attach the eyes with toothpicks and you have silly extraterrestrial pumpkins to delight your guests. Green pumpkins would be even better!

Caged Pumpkin
Do you have an old cage in your garage? People can’t resist looking, wondering what’s hidden inside. A glowing pumpkin in a dark cage will certainly keep them guessing. To kick the fear factor up, you could carve a big bite mark in the side or add some jagged claw marks.

String Lights
Strings of orange lights are perfect accents on decks and patios for railings, pergolas, and arbors. There is a wide variety of bulb shapes and sizes, and the LED strands will last a long time.

Bat Silhouette
Silhouettes of bats, crows, spiders and more are readily available online. Print out several, cut them out and tape them inside your front windows. The lights in your home will provide the eerie glow they need to be seen every evening.

Castle
Having a party? Create a castle using a roll of pre-printed blocks. This one was “built” along walls and around a china closet. Crenulations were cut in the top for the true castle experience. Owls and other figures were perched on top.

Castle Gate
It wouldn’t be a castle without a menacing gate. To make one, cardboard toilet paper tubes and a long box lid were shaped, assembled, and painted black.

Mirrored Snakes
Seeing double? A rubber snake dangles from atop this mirror. At times it’s a little difficult to tell which one is the reflection.

Spider & Gourds
Strange gourds make their debut in the fall. Combine a few with rubber spiders, snakes, rats or any other creepy crawlers you care to include. Be sure to include a few critters on your food table as well. It will keep your guests on their toes.

Pumpkin Cookies
There are plenty of opportunities for Halloween themed food at your party.

Pumpkin Glasses
Beverages can be served in cups and glasses decorated with festive faces, created with Sharpie markers or Halloween decals.

Spider Web Cupcakes
Spiders appear to have spun webs across this tabletop and over the cupcakes on this dessert table.

Witch Pumpkin
A simple pumpkin becomes a bewitching character with the perfect hat. A glow in the dark tablecloth can be used as a wall hanging.

Funny Skeletons
Not all skeletons are scary. This clever homeowner has a wonderful sense of humor with this updated version of “Hear no evil – Speak no evil – See no evil.”

From kid-friendly Casper the Ghost to a nightmare on Elm Street, there’s Halloween décor for every party, home, or office. Over time you will collect an interesting collection of favorites. Decorating for Halloween is fun for the whole family, and you will enjoy your handiwork all month long.

Be sure to check out part 1 of this article for more Halloween Decorating tips.

Happy Halloween & Happy Crafting!

Halloween Decorating Tips

Pumpkins by CandlelightOne of my favorite holidays is Halloween. It brings back such happy memories of dressing up as a child, and the excitement has continued as an adult. Apparently many people agree, because Halloween has become the second biggest holiday of the year. Decorating your home is a fun activity for the whole family. Here are a few ideas for inspiration:

Halloween Wreath
Halloween WreathGreet your guests at the front door with a boldly decorated Halloween wreath. The humorous witch’s legs were the inspiration for the purple and black color scheme with accents of orange and white. The wire wreath frame was wrapped first with tissue paper to add bulk, and then fabric for color and texture. The witch’s legs came mounted on a dowel, which was secured to the frame. A metallic garland conceals the dowel and an owl was tied in the center using matching ribbon. The witch’s hat, ghosts, pumpkins, and spiders complete the design.

Spider Web Placemat
Spider Web Placemat

Pumpkin Placemat
Pumpkin PlacematSetting a Spooky Table – Whether you are having a Halloween party, or want to spice up your breakfast table, an inexpensive solution is layering placemats. Laser cutting technology has produced beautifully detailed, lace-like products with both style and durability. A Spider Web placemat (from Wegmans) was layered with a Metallic Finish Pumpkin placemat (from AC Moore) to create this lively place setting. The blue tablecloth peeks out from underneath like a midnight sky and creates great contrast to the orange and black. As alternatives, you could use a yellow tablecloth (think full moon) or green tablecloth (think forest).

Arachnophobia? No Problem with this tablecloth.
Spider Table CoverHalloween themed tablecloths can be difficult to find and pricey, especially for large dining room tables. There’s an easy alternative. Measure your table, and go to a fabric store, such as Jo Ann Crafts. It’s amazing to see some of the scary patterns that have been developed over the last several years. The semi-sheer fabric in the photo above is layered over a gold tablecloth I already had. If you prefer an opaque table cover, there are ghosts, skeletons and witches. Oh My! Some fabrics have entire haunted scenes emblazoned across the surface suitable for covering tables, or as wall hangings. There’s no need to hem the edges. It’s Halloween – a few ragged edges only adds to the haunted house vibe.

Inside Out Pumpkin
JackolanternGlowing Illusion Pumpkin – We are all accustomed to seeing the typical orange pumpkin with an interior that is either candlelit or dark & shadowy. That color scheme has been turned inside out by painting the outside black and the inside fluorescent orange. When placed near any light source (lamp, ceiling light, or sunlight), the result is a scary glowing pumpkin without the need for electricity or batteries. I can’t tell you how many times well-meaning co-workers have warned me about the company’s strict no candle burning policy, until they see for themselves that it’s completely empty. It’s easy to fool the eye with this illusion.

Pumpkins for All Seasons
Craft PumpkinCraft Pumpkins – If you have ever decorated your yard with live pumpkins, you probably lost a few, if not all, to squirrels, slugs or other hungry critters. Craft pumpkins look like the real thing, but are made of foam or resin, which is not on the menu for wildlife. These pumpkins are ready to display as is, or they can be carved or painted with exterior paint. Craft pumpkins are for indoor and outdoor use, inexpensive, will last years, and are nice for Thanksgiving too.

To the Bat Cave! (which in this case is a Chandelier)
Bats & OwlBats – A cluster of bats hanging over your table will surprise and delight party guests. The faux fur bodies are a simple tube shape with a slightly larger, rounded end and ears for the head. The owl in the center is from Pier 1, and the pumpkin garland is from AC Moore.

Bat Making Instructions:
Supplies:
Brown or black faux fur (from Jo Ann Crafts)
Shiny black fabric (for wings)
Fishing tackle
Sewing needle and black thread
Foam filler or batting
Cardboard (for pattern making)

Bat Wing & Body Patterns
Bat PatternsMake patterns for the body and wings as follows:
Draw a thick capital letter “T” on cardboard – vertically 6” x 2”; top of “T” is 4”x 1” thick.
Carefully cut it out. This will be the pattern for the bat’s body.
Draw a bat wing on cardboard, approximately 9”x4. Cut out wing. Now flip it over, trace onto cardboard, and cut it out for the other wing.

Finished Bat
Finished BatUsing the body pattern, cut out two pieces of faux fur for the front and back of each bat.
Sew the fur by hand, leaving the bottom open for filling later.
Trace each bat wing pattern onto shiny black fabric and cut out both wings.
Hand-sew the wings on either side of the body; fill it with foam or batting and stitch closed.
Remember bats hang upside down, so add fishing tackle on the bottom of each bat for hanging from a chandelier or wall sconce.

Please click here to see part 2 of this Halloween decorating article.

Happy Halloween & Happy Crafting!

A Change of Seasons – Autumn Wreaths

Colorful Leaves
It’s hard to believe the summer is almost over. Where did the time go? We pack away our beach toys and the kids go back to school. Autumn’s arrival signals the coming changes in nature. It’s time to change your décor and update your home with a few of your own handmade creations. Below are a few photos to inspire your next fall wreath project:

Fall Leaves Wreath
Silk leaves can be easily arranged from lightest to darkest. This decoration can be hung upon a door or used as a centerpiece on your dining table. Additional leaves can be sprinkled upon the table to enhance the autumn ambiance.

Berries & Peppers Wreath
Orange peppers and berries bring bursts of color to this lush green leaf wreath. In cooler climates, genuine fruits and veggies will last from several days to several weeks depending upon the type. Warm locations will require the use of faux produce, which will last for years to come.

Wreath with Heart
A straw or grapevine ring serves as a base for this festive wreath made from dried grasses and berries. Raffia ribbon and a simple wooden heart and nautilus seashell complete the look.

Wreath Pinecones
If you happen to have pine trees on your property, collect the pinecones to make this lovely wreath, with the addition of seedpods, and faux cherries and berries for pops of color.

Wreath Ribbon
This is a great beginner’s wreath and it’s easy to change for every season. Simply wrap a straw wreath with overlapping ribbon. The large bow also serves as a hanger.

Wreath Twigs
Whether you live near the beach or near a forest, driftwood or twigs are available in abundance. A little Spanish moss finishes this decoration in a style suitable for Mother Nature herself.

Wreath Wheat Flowers
This wreath is all about the abundant harvest, made with dried grasses, wheat, and a few silk flowers. If you have a wheat allergy, substitute corncobs or dried flowers.

Gourds Pumpkins Wreath
Greet your guests at the door with a lovely fall wreath. To make one, start with a grapevine wreath base. Tie or glue on pumpkins, gourds, pinecones and berries. As an added burst of color, glue red and orange silk leaves on poster board and secure it to the back.

Floral Veggie Wreath
Hydrangeas, berries, and dried fruit adorn an English ivy wreath. As Thanksgiving approaches, replace purple and blue flowers with more seasonal reds and oranges.

Wreath Whimsical
While you are gathering your wreath making supplies, consider including something unexpected, such as this mushroom.

Hedgehog Wreath
How about this adorable little hedgehog? You could also use a squirrel, a baby fox or fawn, or any little woodland creature you can find at craft stores or online. In a place of honor, centered upon your front door, it’s sure to make your guests smile.

So many fall decorations can be made with found objects, such as pinecones, acorns, leaves, etc. It’s a nice time of year to take a walk and admire Nature’s changing colors. While you are enjoying the fresh air, why not get the whole family together to collect a few twigs or ornamental leaves along the way? Time spent with family is a precious gift, and the crafts you make will remind you of these shared adventures.

Happy Crafting!

Mother of Pearl – A Gift from the Sea

Mollusk
Mother of Pearl comes from mollusks, and is naturally a blend of tan, cream and white, with an iridescent finish. It can be bleached white, or dyed and color of the rainbow. Mother of Pearl beads come in an amazing range of shapes and sizes, while the thicker pieces are carved into cameos and pins, or cut into squares as mosaic tiles. Let’s turn a few round beads into a lovely pair of earrings.

How to Make Natural Mother of Pearl Cluster Earrings
Mother of Pearl Earrings

These 1-1/2” long Natural Mother of Pearl earrings swing and shift with your movements, and they’re a neutral color, which coordinates with whatever you’re wearing. In this design, five beads orbit around a dangling two bead central core. These earrings are a little challenging in Step 6. At times you may feel like you have fumble fingers. If you are looking for an easy pair of earring for beginners, please click here.

Required Beads & Findings:
MoP Earring Supplies

Supplies:
To make this pair of earrings you will need:
12) Silver plated Head Pins – 1” length,
14) 7-7.5mm round Natural Mother of Pearl beads,
2) Silver plated Surgical Steel Fishhook Earwires with ball & coil

(Please note: Head pins are the foundation of these earrings. They are inexpensive and come in big packages. Be sure to have several on hand just in case. Craft stores carry jewelry making supplies, including beads, accents, and tools. If you get hooked on jewelry making and yearn for the ultimate selections, look no further than FireMountainGems.com)

Required Jewelry Making Tools:
Round Nose Pliers
Round Nose Pliers – the smooth, round tips on these pliers make it easy and safe to manipulate wire, pins, and small jewelry metal pieces known as findings. Please don’t use standard pliers, which have teeth that will damage delicate precious metals.

Jewelry Wire Cutters
Jewelry Wire Cutters – a sharp pair of wire cutters makes jewelry making so much easier. Do not use them for other crafts, such as floral arranging, which can damage the blades.

Earring Making Instructions:
Beads on Head Pins
Step 1: Slide the beads onto head pins as shown.

Grasp Head Pin with Pliers
Step 2: With the round nose pliers in your right hand, grip the wire just above the Mother of Pearl bead. Hold the pliers in this position for the next step.

Bend Head Pin
Step 3: Grasp the end of the head pin with your left thumb and index finger, and bend the wire toward you. Continue bending the pin over the tip of the pliers until it touches the Mother of Pearl bead.

Beads with Partial Loops
The reshaped pins will look like the photo above.

Cut Excess Pin Length
Step 4: Cut off the excess wire. Leave enough wire to form a small loop above the bead. This may take a few tries. Don’t worry if you cut it too short. Simply use a new head pin and repeat the steps.

Beads with Trimmed Pins
This photo shows the beads with trimmed pins.

Attach Earwire
Step 5: Hook the double bead pin onto the loop on the bottom of the fishhook earwire, and close the loop using the round nose pliers.

Core Beads Attached
The earring will look like the above photo.

Close the Loop
Step 6: Attach the first “satellite” bead to the earwire in the same way.

First Bead Attached
The earring now has a center core and one satellite bead. Repeat this step for the remaining four beads. If you have trouble getting the beads to lay correctly, remove the dangling two bead central core. Shift the five satellite beads with your fingers until they form a circle around the earwire, and then reattach the two bead central core.

Finished Earrings
Congratulations! You have successfully made a pair of Mother of Pearl cluster earrings.

Black Onyx Version
Here’s the same pair of earring made with Black Onyx beads. Note how the color dramatically changes the look. You could also experiment with different gemstones, glass or wood beads.

Jewelry making is a great way to explore your creativity. There are so many options available that it’s hard to choose. After making several items for yourself, keep in mind that people love receiving jewelry as gifts.

Good Luck & Happy Crafting!

Walk on the Wild Side

Triceratops
Whose turn is it to walk the dog – I mean dinosaur? Something tells me that 25-foot leash will not be long enough! Dinosaurs are real fan favorites. You can’t get much wilder than that. And what’s not to love?

Dinosaur Eggs
A Dinosaur Nursery – They’re kind of cute at this stage.

Dinosaur
Somewhere between adolescence and adulthood they seem to lose their charm! (lol)

Dinosaur Skeleton
Even when they’re dead, they instill an odd mixture of fear and fascination. Movie Director Steven Spielberg brought dinosaurs back to life on the big screen in the epic movie, Jurassic Park – an emotional roller coaster, that started with awe and wonder, but quickly escalated to bone chilling terror.

 Stegosaurus
We love dinosaurs anyway. Want proof? Look at all the books, movies, television shows, and merchandise. At some point, every kid draws and colors his or her favorite dinosaur. Here’s your chance to feel like a kid again. Grab some paints and brushes and let’s go!

How to Paint a Wooden Stegosaurus
With a little paint you can design your own dinosaur. It can be as simple as a single coat of paint, or as detailed as you like. First we need a little inspiration.
Iguana
Iguana Closeup
Since dinosaurs lived sixty-five million years ago, there’s no one around to tell us exactly what they looked like. For this project, photos of creatures living today, such as iguanas and lizards, can be inspirational. Check out those spines!

Raw Wood Dinosaur
This carved wood stegosaurus, available at AC Moore, has sturdy legs, making it a freestanding, three-dimensional piece. Both sides and all the edges will need to be painted. Due to the raw nature of wood, it may require sanding, especially along the edges. (There are several types of animals in this carved wood collection. To see a painted flamingo project, please click here.)

Paints
Supplies:
Wooden Stegosaurus (4-1/4” high x 7-1/4” wide x 1-1/4” thick)
Acrylic Paints – black, brown & metallic green
1) Bottle fabric paint – brown
Paintbrushes
Sandpaper

Dinosaur Painted Green
Step 1 – Paint the dinosaur with green acrylic paint, including both sides and all edges. The great thing about paint is that it’s cheap. Feel free to experiment. If you don’t like the results, it can be easily changed.

Dinosaur Tail Detail
Seeing it in color revealed a major anatomical mistake in the tail design. If you loved dinosaurs as a kid, you’ll remember that the stegosaurus has spikes on the top of its tail. The artist chose to curl the tail underneath, and as a result, mistakenly placed the spikes on the underside of the tail. This poor animal would have trouble walking because the spikes would continually get caught on the ground as it moved through the forest, making it easy prey.

Dinosaur with Cut Tail
Step 2 – To make it right, cut off the tip of the tail as shown.

Dinosaur Painted Black
Step 3 – Turn the cut tail piece around, and glue it in place. Paint the entire figure black as a base coat, which will help delineate the scales added in a later step. Looks much better doesn’t it?

Dinosaur with Fabric Paint
Step 4 – Paint the top of the head, the back plates, and the tail with brown fabric paint. Paint the sides of each plate with green fabric paint and add spikes along the sides of the tail.  Brown acrylic paint was applied with a brush in between the back plates, because it was too narrow to fit the tube of fabric paint.

Dinosaur Scale Pattern
Step 5 – Add brown fabric paint on top of each leg and more spikes along the entire length of body. Create a scale pattern on the body using metallic green paint, and use the same color in the sides of the plates on his back.

Finished Dinosaur
Step 6 – Add a small dotted pattern to each leg. Paint the head brown, and add a few green scales along with the eyes. Congratulations! You now have your very own pet dinosaur. Fortunately for you, he’s a “Veggiesaurus,” unlike the one in the next photo.

Dinosaur Jaws
What a view, right? Thank goodness this is only an observation tower! Because if it was real… It would be the last thing you ever saw.

Happy Crafting!

The Octopus & the Mermaids

Tropical House Closeup
A little piece of paradise – Isn’t that what we all want? That means different things to different people. For many, the idea of a cozy grass shack on a tropical island is a common fantasy. Of course it goes without saying that we’ll expect all the comforts of home in that “shack,” but that’s not important. Visualizing the dream is the focus here. This time of year so many people visit the seashore. An ocean-themed centerpiece, created one piece at a time, brings memories of vacations past to mind, and inspires dreams of vacations yet to come.

Beach House Before & After1
Before & After Photos: Tropical Home – Front Facade. What was once a home for tiny gnomes transforms into a tropical retreat with orange silk flowers, and a bamboo pattern drawn by hand on the exterior walls using a brown Sharpie marker.

Beach House Before & After2
Before & After Photos: Tropical home – Back Facade. The bamboo pattern continues across the back, giving it that island vibe.

Light House Before & After
Before & After Photos: Lighthouse. Whoever heard of a lighthouse without a roof? To make the roof shown, fold the paper into a cone and staple it as needed to hold its shape. Glue a soup can lid to the bottom of the cone and paint it gray to match the lower portion of the building. Add twine along the edge and down the sides to resemble a standing seam metal roof. Tie several knots in a piece of twine and glue it to the peak of the roof. Tint the glass votive holder yellow using a highlighter, and line the inside with orange paper to suggest a brilliant light glowing from within the tower.

Sailboat Before & After2
Before & After Photos: Sailboat. This sailboat only needed a few minor adjustments. The faded horizontal stripes needed a fresh coat of paint, and the middle stripe was changed to orange. The opposite side of the sail was unfinished, so the stripes and shells were duplicated on the back. A cute little blue bird was glued to the top of the mast.

The Star of the Show: A Blue Ringed Octopus
Octopus Before and After 2
Before & After Photos: Octopus Closeup. It’s hard to believe the monochromatic octopus on the left is the same one on the right, but it is. It’s amazing what a difference a little paint can do.

Octopus with Candles
Original Octopus Candleholder: This whole project started with this silver metal octopus candleholder. As you can see, it looks top heavy with the large pillar candles, and the octopus is rather hidden underneath. Round candles were another option, but he looked like a juggler! (lol)

Blue Ringed Octopus
As with all creative projects, it’s helpful to gather a few photos for inspiration. The blue ringed octopus is a fascinating creature. Fans of James Bond 007 will remember the movie, Octopussy, in which Maude Adams had an aquarium with this beautifully patterned octopus, and she also wore a white silk robe emblazoned with its colorful, exotic image. Each octopus has a unique pattern, and the blue iridescent rings are impressive creations courtesy of Mother Nature.

Paints
Supplies:
Octopus (7-1/2” high x 4-1/2” wide x 1-3/8” thick)
Acrylic Paints – tan, brown, black, yellow, white, & metallic blue
1) Bottle fabric paint – white
1) Bottle fabric paint – brown
2) Paintbrushes – one for base coat, and a fine brush for details
Paint Palette
Clear Spray Paint

Octopus without Candles
This is how it looks without the candles. The large metal plates are too big, overpowering the beauty of this piece.

Octopus without Plates
The plates were removed using a Dremel cutting tool, and the tips of the tentacles were filed smooth. Now you start to notice the amazing sculptural details created by the artist.

Painted Tan
The color was the next issue to be addressed with two coats of tan paint. The artist painstakingly created a realistic looking octopus, but that thick coat of silver paint had obscured all those intricate details.

Painted Brown Spots
A brown pattern was applied to the entire body and the eyes were painted black.

Painted Black Spots
Black spots were added, overlapping the brown.

Painted Blue Rings&Yellow
Blue iridescent rings were applied over the black spots. Random yellow stripes wrap around the legs and head. A white dot was added to the pupil of each eye.

Painted Brown Irises White Outlines
The eyes were made more realistic with the addition of brown irises and white outlines.

Clear Coat & Suction Cups
Two coats of clear spray paint were applied to protect the acrylic paints. White suction cups were added to the underside of the tentacles, and allowed to dry. Next brown fabric paint was applied over each of the suction cups to provide shape and depth. This beautiful sculpture now has the rich, colorful appearance it deserves, and makes an interesting conversation piece.

Finished Centerpiece
Photo: Completed Centerpiece. Black pebbles form little volcanic islands amid a vast ocean. In front of a cozy tropical home, a mermaid sits quietly reading as a sailboat glides along the water. Another mermaid leaps out of the sea with a treasured seashell in her hand. The lighthouse makes a welcome rest stop for wildlife and a sunbathing mermaid. A feisty octopus playfully thrashes about the water’s surface. Palm trees swaying in the breeze display a pair of small signs that says it all: “Beach Please!”

Happy Crafting!