Sunday, October 25, 2009

"I Could Make That" - Scrapbook Art

My sister had a great idea in purchasing 2 scrapbook paper sized frames (12"x12") for some ever-changing art in my niece's nursery. By making scrapbook pages two at a time and placing the old pages in a growing scrapbook, Ella's first year or two would be well documented. We worked on the first few pages over the past couple weekends and Ella herself is pretty pleased with the results.

For the first page theme, we focused on her birthday and played on the hot air balloon theme and color scheme  already in the nursery. 2 hot air balloons carry pictures of the proud parents with their new bundle of joy while lifting a banner high into the sky (albeit a green and white polka dot sky).  We wrote the date, weight and length on floating clouds and the banner carried her name. Getting creative (and inky-fingered) to make her name stand out on the pink background, we took white plastic letters I had and pressed them into a black ink pad. Now, the real question is: why did I have white plastic letters? I sure have no idea, but they have been in my craft binder for years. And didn't they come in handy??

I was able to find a few decorative brads in the arsenal that matched the polka dot theme. Carefully punching through yellow ribbon and the paper, gave the page more of a 3D effect.

The second page was based around an adorable outfit Ella has already grown out of! Her little strawberry outfit is displayed in construction paper cut outs on a strawberry background. Extra details are added with flowery brads throughout the page.

With two pages made, we had the wall art for the nursery covered for at least a few months. Once you start crafting though, it is hard to stop. Page 3, awaiting future installation or perhaps going straight into the memory book, would be a Bath Time theme. Using templates of all sizes, we cut out circles in blue, cream and yellow. These were glued all over a page to make sudsy bubbles for rubber ducky stickers and pictures of Baby's First Bath.

And so, my baby-filled weekend comes to a close. Although, I should add that it was also a family-room-painting-filled weekend at my sister's house. More fun and photos to come on that soon enough!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fall In - Halloween Cards

I make my own Christmas cards every year. Now, I don't believe this practice is saving me any money because a smart girl could buy a 50-pack of cards half off at Target post December 25. But I likes my 3D stickers and those can add up. I had not tried making cards for other holidays until a couple years ago when I sent out a set for Halloween.

Using  a set of holiday themed phrase stickers as a starting point, I ran with google image searching, construction paper and a pair of scissors. I like using thick double sided tape to create my own 3D effects with bats, flames, a ghost's arms and witches' hats. Just print out the image twice and cut one up to use the parts you would like to make stand out.

For the insides, I used phrase stamps like "Trick and Treat" I bought on sale at a scrapbook store. In the image below, I actually messed up by having to apply the stamp twice, but in the end I kind of like how it turned out!

As one of the cards above says, "Happy Haunting!"

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Fall In - Carving Pumpkins

What is Halloween without a few carved pumpkins lying around? Although, I do have to ignore the voice in my head that knows in two weeks I'll be looking at my shriveling and quickly decaying friends and thinking, "now what do I do with them?

After not finding any pumpkins for sale at our local Jewel, I feared the canned pumpkin shortage was also hitting the real deal. Driving around for a bit, we found a parking lot pumpkin patch outside of a Dominicks. We picked out three perfect ones and headed home

My role in pumpkin carving is purely supervisory. Bob proved his worth the past couple years with several designs he created free hand and off of some google searches for images. Last year he made a Linus and the Great Pumpkin design for a work contest and also experimented with only shaving off the top layer of orange skin.

There are plenty of photos and templates out there for you to use either to eyeball the design (like Bob does) or to print it off and copy it straight onto your pumpkin (like I would have to).

In 2009, our pumpkins included a Skull and Cross Bones Pirate, a Ghost in a Graveyard scene, and our attempt to create a serving bowl for an upcoming dinner party. More on that to come!

The serving bowl involved cutting off a generous portion of the top and scooping out every bit of insides to make sure no gunk was left to make its way into the soup. Bob then carved a fence-like border around the top and added a pumpkin patch outline using an x-acto knife.

The pumpkins are chilling on the balcony now. After viewing some Martha Stewart videos and a few slideshows of some crazy pumpkins, Bob is working on improving his game. We have a year to plan. . .

Fall In - Harvest Party

Want to throw a party in the fall but not deal with Halloween costume craziness? Host a dinner party or pot luck with a harvest theme! Pumpkins, squash, pears and apples provided some great options for our get together held this past weekend and our friends were extremely helpful with bringing over sides, salad and drinks to stock the fridge.

We set out just a couple appetizers of pretzels and pumpkin butter and prosciutto wrapped asparagus - there was a heavy meal on the way and we wouldn't want folks to fill up!

We did not do harvest themed drinks but there was an impromptu Tatanka served up (experimenting with apple cider instead of apple juice and sprinkled cinnamon in place of a cinnamon stick). I learned about Tatankas last year in Poland and it is one of those dangerous "this doesn't even taste like alcohol" drinks.

Pour Zubrowka "the one with the grass" Bison Brand Vodka over ice in an old-fashioned glass. Add apple juice and a cinnamon stick (some recipes replace the cinnamon with a lemon wedge).

Things started off with an awesome Salad of baby greens mixed with chopped pears, goat cheese, craisins, roasted pumpkin seeds and a vinaigrette from the Barefoot Contessa.

The kick from the curry powder in this Cooking Light Squash Soup gives it a little something extra.

Velvety Squash Soup (10 servings)
published with photo in Cooking Light
1 (3-pound) butternut squash
1 (2-pound) acorn squash
Cooking spray
2 cups coarsely chopped onion
2 tsp canola oil
5 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2/3 cup apple cider
2 Tbs molasses
1 tsp curry powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground red pepper
2/3 cup half-and-half
Chopped fresh thyme (optional)

Preheat oven to 425.
Cut each squash in half lengthwise; discard seeds and membranes. Place squash, cut sides down, on a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Combine onion and oil, tossing to coat. Spread onion mixture onto pan around squash. Bake at 425 for 45 minutes or until squash and onion are tender. Cool slightly. Scoop out squash pulp from skins; discard skins.

Place onion and squash pulp in a Dutch oven. Stir in broth and the next 5 ingredients (through pepper); bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes.

Place half of squash mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Pour into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining squash mixture. Return pureed mixture to pan; stir in half-and-half. Cook over medium heat 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Garnish with thyme, if desired.

The grand experiment was in the presentation: we served it out of a hollowed out pumpkin that Bob had cut up and carved the night before. More on our pumpkin carving adventures here.
The main course was a pork tenderloin simply rubbed with olive oil, salt, and pepper. I have been bragging about this for a week straight, but we got a $56 piece of pork for only $16 because of a great sale at Dominicks ($1.79 a pound). We are usually Jewel shoppers, but I randomly clicked on my weekly Dominicks ad I get via email and saw the deal front and center on the first page. Definitely worth the extra drive to find the closest store! The tenderloin was huge, so we cut it in half and froze the rest for another day's dinner. I am not really a coupon clipper, but will be looking at the weekly ads from both chains from now on.

After cooking the tenderloin in a skillet for about 5 minutes on each side, it was surrounded on a baking sheet by sliced pears and red onion tossed with some olive oil and sprinkled with thyme, a side idea we got from Real Simple. Bake at 400 degrees for about 40-50 minutes or until your meat thermometer tells you it's ready.
Dessert was warm apple-y goodness topped with vanilla ice cream. And there was just enough left over for breakfast for two the next morning!

Cranberry-Apple Crumble (8 servings)
published in Cooking Light
1/4 cup sweetened dried cranberries
1 Tbs fresh lemon juice
4 Braeburn apples, peeled, cored and chopped (about 4 cups)
Cooking Spray

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
6 Tbs brown sugar
6 Tbs regular oats
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp nutmeg
3 Tbs chilled butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat oven to 350.
To prepare filling, combine the first 3 ingredients, tossing well. Place apple mixture in an 11x7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. To prepare topping: combine flour and the next 5 ingredients through nutmeg, stirring with a whisk. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle b utter mixture evenly over apple mixture. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until filling is bubbly and golden. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

I did not know what was meant by "cutting in the butter" and found out it is a phrase used for keeping some chunks of butter in your mixture rather than melting or absorbing the butter into the other ingredients. I might need to look into getting a pastry blender. . .

We decided to make it a dinner party/game night and - although it wasn't on purpose - we actually stuck with harvest theme by playing Apples to Apples! Our large group of 11 made this game really fun - each round offered 10 very absurd answers for the judge to choose a winner from and for us to laugh at. We followed that game up with a few rowdy rounds of Catchphrase - original and musical. Things progressed into Boys Vs. Girls and I think you can guess which team won!

Cut to the next morning: a lot of bottles to take to the recycling center, a remote with missing batteries (sacrificed for the Catchphrase timer!), a fridge full of leftovers and this girl laying useless on the couch watching Gilmore Girls Season 3. Gotta Love Fall!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Fall In - Home Decor II

Not content with having just decorated my own place, I got in on my sister's Halloween decorating weekend this past Sunday! After inventorying all of her goodies (and getting over some mucho jealousy of her collection), we started brainstorming themes for her bookshelves and fireplace mantle.

You might recognize her mummy and other paper mache figurines from my decorations as they hail from the same gift store. We decided to create an eerie pumpkin patch scene of the monsters hanging out in the moonlight with one frightened little trick-or-treater. The patch is made up of real gourds, mini pumpkin tea light holders and extra autumnal tea lights stacked upon one another for height. Things were looking a little sparse until we spread out fake spider webbing to resemble a mist over the whole scene. Thicker in the back to cover the ghouls' feet, the fog thins out near the front.

Tackling the bookshelf, we gathered up all of her black cats and arranged them together in one emptied shelf. Add a few hardcover books with ominous titles like "The Devil's Snare" and it is a nice understated scene - this is a trick cribbed from younghouselove, complete with one of the same books they used! I mentioned some jealousy earlier and it stems from my sister's cardboard band of kitties. Love them.

I definitely did not say no to a trip to Michael's to find some further inspiration and take advantage of the massive sale prices. We grabbed some white sand, a bag of fake leaves (marked down to 49 cents!) and a pumpkin pie candle to update one of her hurricanes for the holidays. And I bought my first Christmas card making goodies of the season. . .but more on that in a month or two.

It was fun to get another taste of decorating at my sister's house - and they still have to finish their outdoor display. . .hmm. . .can I come over next weekend??

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Iron Chef: Apples

We hit up the Long Grove Apple Festival the other weekend for mini pies, cider donuts, halloween decorations and - of course - all the apples you can shove into a half-peck bag. Don't worry about the pie and donuts, those were eaten up fairly quickly. But when it comes to more than a dozen apples hanging out on the counter, I think it is time to get crackin' in the kitchen!

In honor of cooking and baking with one main ingredient, I bring you. . .Iron Chef: Apples! Here's a rundown of apple recipes for every stage of a meal (complete with voiceover narration).

"Ahh, she's starting things off with a beverage. Bold move."
"True - the judges usually don't get served drinks until the wrap party!"

Hot Apple Cider
(6 servings)
Originally posted with photo on
6 cups apple cider
1/4 cup real maple syrup
2 cinnamon sticks
6 whole cloves
6 whole allspice berries
1 orange peel, cut into strips
1 lemon peel, cut into strips

Pour the apple cider and maple syrup into a large stainless steel saucepan. Place the cinnamon sticks, cloves, allspice berries, orange peel and lemon peel in the center of a washed square of cheesecloth; fold up the sides of the cheesecloth to enclose the bundle, then tie it up with a length of kitchen string. Drop the spice bundle into the cider mixture. Place the saucepan over moderate heat for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the cider is very hot but not boiling. Remove the cider from the heat. Discard the spice bundle. Ladle the cider into big cups or mugs, adding a fresh cinnamon stick to each serving if desired.

"She's using Canadian Bacon in this dish."
"A nod to our neighbors to the north, eh?"

Apple Cheese Bagel Melts (4 servings)
Cooking Spray
1 medium Granny Smith Apple, cut into 16 thin wedges
1 tsp brown sugar
1/4 cup (2oz) light cream cheese, softened
2 bagels, split and toasted
1/4 cup sharp cheddar, shredded
2 slices Canadian Bacon, coarsely chopped
2 Tbs chopped green onions

Preheat oven to 425.
Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add apple and sugar; saute 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Spread 1 Tb cream cheese over each bagel half; top each with 4 apple wedges. Sprinkle cheese and bacon evenly over apple. Bake at 425 for 8 minutes. Remove from oven; sprinkle with green onions.

"What's going on in the prep area?"
"Her sous chef misread "slivered" as "silvered" and has to throw away all of the spray painted almonds and start from scratch."
"That's a shame. Really going to set her back as the clock runs down."

Apple Almond Crunch Salad (6 servings)
Originally posted with photo on
1 (10 ounce) package mixed salad greens
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 cup tart apple, cored and chopped
1/4 cup sliced red onion
1/4 cup golden raisins
1 cup raspberry vinaigrette salad dressing

In a large salad bowl, combine the salad greens, almonds, feta cheese, apple, red onion and raisins. Toss to blend. Apply salad dressing to individual servings.

"It's risky - serving ravioli without a sauce. But the apples, walnuts and parsley really make it a success."
"Right you are. Just be sure not to burn your nuts - ouch!"

Ravioli with Apples and Walnuts
(4 servings)

Originally printed with photo in Real Simple
1 pound cheese ravioli (fresh or frozen)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped

1 crisp apple (such as Braeburn or Gala), cut into matchsticks
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
kosher salt and black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan (1 ounce)

Cook the ravioli according to the package directions. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the walnuts and cook, stirring often, until lightly toasted and fragrant, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the apple, parsley, 1⁄2 teaspoon salt, and 1⁄4 teaspoon pepper and toss to combine. Spoon over the ravioli and sprinkle with the Parmesan.

"Making dessert before time runs out! She doesn't own an oven-proof skillet, so instead transfers the apples to a 9" flexible pie plate when it is time for baking."
"Such creativity! But will the judges agree?"

German Apple Pancake
(6 servings)

Originally printed in Cooking Light
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (about 2 1/4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon grated whole nutmeg
1 cup egg substitute
1 cup fat-free milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Apple mixture:
Cooking spray
1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon grated whole nutmeg
1 cup thinly sliced Granny Smith apple

Remaining ingredient:
1 tablespoon powdered sugar

To prepare batter, lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, salt, and 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Combine egg substitute, milk, butter, and vanilla in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add egg substitute mixture to flour mixture, stirring with a whisk. Let stand 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 425°.

To prepare apple mixture, coat bottom and sides of a 10-inch ovenproof skillet with cooking spray. Combine 1/4 cup granulated sugar, cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg; sprinkle evenly over bottom and sides of pan. Arrange apple in an even spokelike layer in pan. Sprinkle apple with remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar. Cook over medium heat 8 minutes or until mixture bubbles. Slowly pour batter over apple mixture. Bake at 425° for 15 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 375° (do not remove pancake from oven); bake an additional 13 minutes or until center is set. Carefully loosen pancake with a spatula. Gently slide pancake onto a serving platter. Sift powdered sugar over top. Cut into 6 wedges; serve immediately.

So what is the final outcome? Do we have a winner? Judges?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

"I Could Make That" - Vintage Nightstand

The end table we bought off of Craiglist to use as a nightstand in the guest bedroom was perfect. Except, I did not read the measurements and the 27" depth made it stick out about half the
length of the beds! The plan was to turn it sideways and create a "faux drawer." We also wanted to freshen up the piece with a new color that would complement the room. We bought two bottles of Rust-Oleum: one primer and one in strawflower yellow. After sanding the table, it was time to get painting.

Things get a little tricky when you live in an apartment building and do not have a yard or garage to DIY in. Not wanting to spray paint on the balcony for fear of getting specks of paint all over our deck and not wanting to spray paint in the house for fear of, well, dying from the fumes, we headed out to our back alley parking area to a patch of grass between the building and the fence. Luckily, our parking area has an electronic gate so I was not overly worried about our table walking off when we left it to dry. Two coats of primer and two coats of strawflower yellow later (each coat dried in under an hour), we brought it upstairs to finish drying on the balcony.

We bought a small drawer pull from Home Depot for under $3 and glued it on with Gorilla Glue. Our first thought was to screw it in, but using glue means we can easily remove the drawer pull and not leave a large mark if we decide to use the piece as it was intended. For a little extra flair, Bob painted a design on the faux drawer to give it more of a vintage/handpainted look. Just please don't pull on the drawer handle. It will prove to be quite the let down.

So that is the transformation from a $35 Craigslist purchase to a $44 "vintage" nightstand. And a transformation from this girl thinking spray paint is only for graffiti to thinking it is the best thing since sliced bread.
Thinking back to the kinda creepy place Bob picked this table up from, I thought I would offer some Craigslist Tips!

You Can Never Be Too Careful
- Do not give your address over email, instead provide a phone number the potential buyer (or seller) can reach you at to discuss further details. I usually wait until I have an email exchange going with the person before even offering my phone number.
- Ask the person picking up the item to call when they are getting close so, depending on the size of the item, you can meet them downstairs, outside or in the lobby of your building rather than providing exact address.
- Have a friend tag along if you are picking something up or ask someone to hang out if you have a buyer coming over. Safety in numbers!

- Be specific in the subject line and include words that would cover several search options in the summary. When I was selling a couch I called it a couch/sofa/loveseat to cover all the bases.

- Be detailed in the summary on measurements and price points. You might weed out some questioning potential buyers.
- Include photos - you can usually upload up to 4 but sometimes the file sizes are too large. Post a couple quality shots and then link to a free Flickr page for the rest.
- If you are not getting immediate interest, re-post often so your item is on the first page. It is easy to get lost in the crowd with some of the more popular items. A posting will be up for at least 5 days but can quickly get relegated to the second or third results page.
- Post your price a tad higher than you might have otherwise put it. The buyer will probably want to barter a bit so you could end up with your original price. Don't go too much higher than comparable items, though, or you might just get passed over!

- Look near the end of the month for great furniture deals. Your nomadic neighbor would LOVE to practically give you his old dining room table if it means he won't have to move it on the 1st!
- Don't overlook the Services section. Okay, I know there is a joke in there somewhere, but you might just find some cheap movers, landscapers or other odd job saviors.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Next Step Index

I am a big fan of organization, so the longer my blog post list gets the more I realized I needed to add an area where you could easily find what you were looking for. The handy dandy category & label list is still on your right hand navigator bar, as is the chronological blog archive. Newly added is an Index link in case you are looking for one recipe, one project or one link and can't remember where I babbled about it.

Browse Away!

Planning a. . .

Start to Finish, your next get-together will be a breeze.

Baby Shower              Housewarming Party                  Book Club

Moving on Up

Thinking of moving? Moving next month? Moving tomorrow and haven't even started packing yet? Here's what we went through Spring 2009.

Finding an Apartment                          Tips for Packing

Tips for Hiring Movers                         Budgeting
Merging Two Households                   Joint Account options

Picking the Right Receiver

Room by Room

Take a virtual tour of our new apartment - count the vast number of items that come from IKEA and win a prize*

Living Room                 Media Center                 Dining Area

Library                           Hallway                           Guest Bedroom
Bathrooms                   Balcony                             Kitchen

*there is no prize.

Up on the Walls

Cheap and Easy Art? Yes, please!

DIY art                            Decorating with Puzzles          Art Fair Finds

“I Could Make That"

DIY to your heart's content. Just remember to measure twice and cut once.

Coffee Table                            Wine Cabinet                            Recipe Book

Cake Stand/Tub Décor     Pillow Slipcovers                    Vintage Nightstand
Scrapbook art                        Distressed Picture Frames

Cards and Gifts

Personalized means oh-so-much to the one on the receiving end.

Celebrity Story Cards                           Halloween Cards
Christmas Cards                                      Chocolate Gift Basket

Fall In
Autumn = Sweaters, Changing Leaves, Football. My Favorite Season.

Home Décor I and II                     Pop Culture Halloween Costumes and 2009 Recap
Carving Pumpkins                          Harvest Party

Last Christmas/This Christmas
Follow the Ghosts of Christmas Past and Present to get ideas for the Future.

Making Cards                                                        Wrapping Paper Themes
Gingerbread House 2008

Impress friends and family with your cooking skillz.

Avocado, Tomato and Mango Salsa                  Fruit Salsa
Salsa Verde                                                                    Black Bean Mango Salad
Creamy Goat Cheese with Honey                        TBM Bites
Blue Cheese Spread                                                  Chicken Salad
Easy Egg Salad                                                             Apple Almond Crunch Salad
Apple Cheese Bagel Melts

Baked Macaroni and Cheese                                Honey Pork Tenderloin Kebabs
BBQ Chicken Pizza                                                    Pepperoni and Mushroom Pizza
Mexican Pizza                                                            Crustless Ham and Spinach Quiche
Ravioli with Apples and Walnuts
Velvety Squash Soup                                               Creamy Brussels Sprouts

Pumpkin Choc Chip Cookies                                Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies
Best Choc Chip Cookies                                            Gulab Jamun
German Apple Pancake                                          Cranberry Apple Crumble
Chocolate Crinkles                                                 Pumpkin Roulade

Basil Lemonade                                                         Strawberry Shrub
Strawberry Champagne                                        Mimosa
Hot Apple Cider                                                        Tatanka

Hit the Links
Because I can't let you think I'm making all of this up on my own.
- comprehensive deliciousness - fill your walls with their prints, but please frame them first! - the best decor blog out there - the bible - the bible gets bedazzled (HEY! Next Step has been featured!) - Chicago rugs at great prices - Chicago movers at great prices - creative shower favors - old world style at thrift store prices - contemporary and affordable, not just an oxymoron - fills the hole that Domino's demise left - come for the furniture deals, stay for the missed connections - DIY ultimate resource (HEY! Next Step has been featured here and here!)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Fall In - Home Decor

I surprised myself and was actually able to hold out until after October 1st to bust out the Halloween decorations. I do, however, need to admit that I listened to Christmas music on my way into work last week. Is there an iPod feature that blocks a song from being played until after Thanksgiving? If so, I may need to implement it.

I have slowly been amassing Halloween decor to the point that it takes up 1 plastic tote in the closet - as opposed to the 2 1/2 that are taken up with Christmas decorations. For now, I just have a few focal points in the living room/dining area rather than try to space things out throughout the whole apartment. In the top picture, I am using our already set candlesticks, replacing one of them with a golden pear candle from an after-Halloween Pottery Barn sale a few years ago. Plastic spiders crawl their way up to the top. Smaller cranberry scented and pumpkin shaped candles from the same PB sale are nestled in a 99 cent string of garland I bought at Walgreens about 6 or 7 years ago. Definitely getting some mileage out of that one. The paper mache figurines are from Mill Pond, a great little gift store and gallery in Long Grove - one of our stops during Apple Fest this past weekend.

The paper mache dolls tie in well with the type of vintage holiday decorations I love. These small buckets were found at World Market. Could be perfect on a table filled with candy - I just have tissue paper in them for now. The rest of the DVD shelf mantle holds more pumpkin candles and a collection of cards. The little boy figurine was a gift from Bob to add to the display this year - my aversion to lifelike statues aside, I think the little guy fits in great. Seriously, they could come to life and attack at any moment - check out the statue that is outside my work building. I fear for my life every day.

I realized we do not own any horror movies that we could stack up for a display, so I settled for all of the Harry Potters alongside a soapstone cat, one of my favorite little craft show finds. A hurricane filled with eyeball shaped chocolates, Pier 1 candles, tiny pumpkin buckets, colorful cards and my fall stamps round out the DVD shelf display.

We have
one area of our bookshelves housing all of our picture frames, so we replaced one section with Halloween photos from years past. Fun times were had, looking forward to adding to the collection later this month!

The new dining table centerpiece started with a couple two-toned gourds my Mom found growing wild by our house. I stuck one in a hurricane on top of straw and surrounded them with a few more Apple Fest finds and pumpkin candles. 

Okay, so now it's official - Fall is here and Halloween is just around the corner. . . .who else is excited?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Fall In - Playing Dress Up

On several occasions after telling someone that I went to UW-Madison, their reaction was, “You guys have a big Halloween party don’t you?”

It’s true, Madison on Halloween weekend was definitely a sight to behold, though I preferred to enjoy the party comfortably from the second floor of Brats, overlooking the mass of revelers taking over Sate Street. You also might argue that "party" could easily be substituted with "riot." No tear gas for me, thank you very much.

There are always the ubiquitous ladies who throw on knee high socks, a tiny top, antennae headband and wings, and I would be happy to join them if Halloween fell on, say, July 31. The brisk fall weather, however, tends to make me want to layer up. I embraced this sophomore year of college with my Marty McFly costume. If you look closely, Michael J. is actually wearing FOUR layers: red t-shirt, button down, jean jacket and the puffy vest ("I guessed you're a sailor. That's why you wear that life preserver"). Toasty. Threw on some old school headphones, 80s rolled my jeans, jammed into some old high top sneakers and I was all set. . almost. Although I am typically anti-prop (it’s too hard to keep track of costume parts that aren’t attached to your body during a long night out!), I printed out the "disappearing siblings" photo in case there was any doubt about who I was.

I always wanted to get a group together and be Madonna through all of her phases. Failing that, I struck out on my own senior year with "Like a Prayer" Madonna. Curled and teased my already dark hair, drew on some extra thick eyebrows and a mole and wore a nice big cross necklace over a dress. Okay, so I broke my own rule of not under-dressing, but when "Like a Prayer" came on at the bar? Totally worth it!

And because I wasn’t quite done with Madison, I headed back the fall after graduation to celebrate as everyone’s favorite waitress from Office Space. I ordered a bag of pins from eBay (I seriously think that was how it was listed – “bag of pins for sale." Check out the Wayne's World one.) and stuck the minimum 15 pieces of flair all over a pair of suspenders. Bought a close-enough green striped shirt from the thrift store and used a friend’s old money belt and check holder from her time as a Friday’s waitress. I bought felt iron letters to attach the restaurant name to the money belt. I think I did Miss Aniston and Chotchkie’s proud that night. 

Last year I strayed from my pop culture roots and came up with a costume after trying random stuff on in my closet. A white button down shirt, scarf, high waisted khaki capris and tall brown boots. . .hmm. . .add a beret and a megaphone and I could be an old timey director or add goggles and a helmet and I could be an old timey pilot. My anti-prop stance prevailed as I did not feel like dragging around a megaphone - so Amelia Earhart I became! Realization after a night at the bar: goggles get HOT and steam up so you can’t see anything. Had to spend most of the night with them on top of my head.

Plans for this October 31 are still TBD. . .time to get busy thinking of who I’ll be this time around!

Favorite recent costumes spotted:

- A group of girls dressed as all the female superheros with POW and KAZAAM signs around their fists.
- "Who Wore it Best" between a girl and her boyfriend. Takes a manly man to wear a dress and a classy lady to lose to him.
- The Rockford Peaches from A League of Their Own fame

The costumes we are sure to see in 2009:

- Jon and Kate (and Kate's hair)
- The sexy, brooding vampires of True Blood and Twilight
- Lady Gaga, Kanye West and more crazy crooners
- Plays on the down economy
- Michael Jackson . . .too soon?

Any others I'm missing?

*Fun Fact: I lived above the Taco Bell in the top photo for one glorious summer.