Posts Tagged ‘Halloween decor’

Drink Me! A make-ahead cocktail, haute-Halloween tablescape, and pumpkin-shaped bread!

You might need these in your life!

Pomegranate Cosmopolitan in martini glass, buddha head planter and wood bowl with pomegranates in background.

It’s pomegranate season, we’re on our umpteenth heatwave here in Southern California, and the election is upon us. All of the above culminated to inspire the making of this cocktail!

Wooden bowl with pomegranates.

I’ve listed the recipe below, but should tell you now if you’re going to squeeze fresh pomegranate juice (and you really should, it’s so good!) I strongly suggest you wear clothes you don’t care about as the juice, even using a citrus press, creates a bit of a “crime scene”. But it’s so tartly sweet and refreshing I think you’ll find it’s worth the extra bit of effort to press your own. Update: a friend/client/smart person just shared her tip to remove the seeds while they’re submerged in a bowl of water thus eliminating the “bloody” mess. Brilliant!

Squeezing pomegranate seeds with citrus press.

Pomegranate Cosmopolitan (makes 8 small martinis or 4 large ones–depending on the size of your martini glasses, 4 oz. or 8 oz., but do note any excess can be stored in a lidded jar, refrigerated, and used for up to one week.)

2 c vodka

1 c Cointreau

1 c pomegranate juice (Pom Wonderful, found in most grocery stores, or freshly pressed from 2 large pomegranates)

1/2 c fresh lime juice (from 2 large limes)

Combine and chill mix until ready to use. Serve in a frozen martini glass with a twist of lime (wind the lime peeling tightly on a straw–I like to use a metal, reusable one–to form the spiral). Pour what you don’t consume into a lidded jar and chill until the urge to blot out reality strikes again.

Since there are just two of us old enough to drink in this house, I soon discovered the brilliance of the make-ahead cocktail. Since we’d be two sheets to the wind if we consumed 4 to 8 martinis, we each imbibed one and I poured the remaining mix into a lidded jar (note: the lid is crucial to keep the scent of your refrigerator out of your cocktail).

The following evening, when the urge for a magical mixture to dull the sharp edges of surviving a pandemic strikes again, get out the ice (we don’t have an ice maker so I like to use these lidded ice cube trays for the same reason a lidded jar is a must). Fill your cocktail shaker with ice, stir the Cosmo mix, pour atop the ice, shake vigorously, then pour like a pro into your chilled martini glass–feel free to skip the lime spiral on a Monday. You might be feeling more ambitious by Tuesday. If you are, here’s a great zester to try.

Squeezing pomegranate seeds with citrus squeezer.

This liquid is both friend (the flavor tastes like you just ingested something really good for you–and you did, it’s packed with Vitamin C and more! Read this and you might want some pomegranate juice pronto) and foe (be forewarned: it splatters and can stain any porous surfaces).

Wooden bowl with pomegranates with a Halloween tablescape in background including white pumpkins and black ravens.

Just in case you need something to soak up all that “sauce”, you might want to make Pumpkin-Shaped-Pumpkin bread. (Recipe found here.) Now if you’re thinking, “Homemade bread? Yeah, right! It’s not like I’m stuck at home with all this time on my hands. Oh, wait…” this might be a great time to try your hand at bread-making, right?

Large faux Halloween spider hanging over dining table decorated for Halloween. Pumpkin-shaped pumpkin bread on table.

Don’t be afraid of this recipe. It truly was a fairly easy one. I’m a totally novice bread maker and it still turned out perfectly pumpkin-esque. Of course, if you aren’t quite ready to take on the task of baking bread, the good new is you have all of fall to warm up to it. This shapely bread would be a stunner any time between now and Thanksgiving!

Pumpkin-shaped pumpkin bread.

The big picture!

Large faux spider hanging over dining table set for Halloween. Pumpkin-shaped read, faux spiders, fern leaves in glass vases, faux crows and black plates decorating the table.

The trick to creating the pumpkin shape is to tie the dough with baker’s twine. You cut three pieces 24″ long, place them on your parchment paper or Silpat mat crossing over one another in a star (like this *) pattern; plop down the proofed ball of dough in the center of the star; bring the twine ends up the sides of the ball and loosely tie them at the top leaving an inch or so of slack; insert a cinnamon stick “stem”.

Bread dough tied with baker's twine to make a pumpkin shape. A cinnamon stick in top of bread dough to create the "stem".

During the second round of rising, the bread will expand to fill out any slack in the string. Once it has risen per the recipe, you glaze it with an egg wash to give it that lovely autumnal shade of ocher and pop it into the oven. Just wait, your house will soon be filled with the yummy, yeasty smell of freshly baked bread–a cozier smell than any scented candle I can think of!

Remove the baker’s twine before plating the bread and get ready to set your tablescape. I purposely didn’t say your “Halloween tablescape” as this could be your table decor all month long. Like it is ours. πŸ™‚

Pumpkin-shaped bread with cinnamon stick in center for stem, faux spiders, and black faux raven sitting on white pumpkin for Halloween tablescape.

Side note: We’ve removed the skeleton since the photo below was taken as Kai decided the skeleton was scary after all. We considered telling Kai he’s not scary, he’s scientific, we all have bones inside of us, or even naming the skeleton to cut down on the fear factor, but when Kai started demanding requesting one of us escort him to the bathroom during dinner because our extra dinner guest was apparently frightening the bejusus out of him, we packed the skeleton up and sent him back to the attic until next season when Kai will be nearly six and, perhaps, ready to embrace Mr. Bones.

Pumpkin-shaped bread with cinnamon stick in center for stem, faux spiders, and black faux raven sitting on white pumpkin for Halloween tablescape. Faux skeleton wearing cowboy hat sitting at dining table.

Because I was very punctual about setting up this tablescape (September 30th, to be exact), I’ve started to tweak it here and there so I don’t lose interest–although, admittedly, I’m nearly ready to swipe it back into the Rubbermaid storage bin from which it came and get ready for a more neutral, certainly less macabre, fall/Autum/Thanksgiving-is-almost-here version.

But it you’d like to borrow any elements of ours assuming you don’t already have something like it and are, thus, not terribly tired of it, here’s what you’ll need and where you’ll find it:

A Halloween table setting: black plate, horn napkin ring, brass flatware, white  pumpkins, fern leaves in glass vases, faux spiders.

Placemats: We use these through all the seasons and even though we purchased them many years ago, they’ve held up through Kai’s toddler years and the current state of daily splatters of soft-boiled egg and the like. I highly recommend them. And the bit of black thread ties in nicely if you’re using black plates.

Glass vases: I mentioned these in a previous post, but they’re so good, they’re worth mentioning again. These simple vases work in all sorts of settings: decorating a nightstand, placed on the windowsill above your kitchen sink, next to the bottle of soap on your bathroom counter; and the list goes on.

Black plates: I have a new-found affinity for black tableware. Black plates have this wonderful ability to make any food you place on them pop in contrast–similar to the black velvet backdrop a jeweler uses to make his bling look its best . For years I was beholden to the classic look of white plates. Now I want the food I make to be displayed like jewels! Source here.

Black napkins: Did you notice these are actually black bandanas? Clever you! After months of using cloth napkins during the paper towel shortage of the first few months of the pandemic, I felt really happy we were being Eco-concious using cloth napkins, and really sad that all my linens I’d saved for special occasions (times when we might have company, other than ourselves, over to eat) were becoming sullied beyond anything stain-remover could fix. The solution: buying bandanas in bulk. They’re so inexpensive I don’t mind if they get a mark or two, or three; the bright ones are a great way to inject cheery color into summer table settings, but the black ones are classic, understated, and just moody enough for fall. Source here.

Horn napkin rings: I love, and stockpile, horn decor. A small horn bowl elevates a bowl of otherwise commonplace snacks and can corral the flotsam and jetsam on your nightstand (the rings/watch/lip balm/random rubber bands, etc.) making it appear neat, tidy and placed with intention, and a larger bowl makes your salad look enticing before anyone even tastes it. And the napkin rings are, well, just pretty. They can be found here.

Brass flatware: More on the pretty, plus it glints so nicely and makes a nice, bright, contrast against all the black. Something similar found here or here.

Tag saying "Drink Me" tied to small brown bottle and set next to plate on table.

I decided our table decor needed something more and that something was these brown bottles labeled “Drink Me…”. These particular bottles are vanilla bottles I’ve been saving from Trader Joe’s waiting for inspiration to strike. Well, it did!

Granted we’re not having a dinner party any time soon, but, when we do, I plan to use these as place card holders (write your guest’s name on one side; the “Drink Me…” will be revealed when they flip it over) filled with a small amount of liqueur to add as a floater to the signature cocktail of the evening (for instance, if you served Pomegranate Cosmos, the floater could be Grand Marnier or Cointreau). Refer to them as “mini flasks” and they’ll double as party favors for your guests to take home as a parting gift. Of course for the wee ones and under-aged, the bottles could be filled with something non-alcoholic…like freshly squeezed pomegranate juice! πŸ™‚

If, perchance, you aren’t saving your old vanilla bottles like I am (just a hunch), small brown bottles can be found here. I dabbed my finger into some espresso and dabbed it onto the office tag to give it a mottled, aged affect. Strongly-brewed coffee would work, as well.

There you have it! I hope these ideas inspire you to add some hints of Halloween to your home!

Thanks for stopping by!

Our not-so-spooky Halloween decor

Place a faux raven here, there, and everywhere. Sprinkle in some spiders and you have a natural take on Halloween decor.

I’m back. Or at least I think so. I’ve taken an almost three-year hiatus from blogging, but a sweet client-turned-friend suggested I return to spread some joy–or at least some decorating ideas. If joy follows, all the better. Given this is the month of Halloween, let’s start with some ideas to get your house looking spooktacular, shall we?

Ten points if you spot the eyeballs in the fireplace.

First up: DIY ping pong ball eyeballs. They’re quick, easy and just the right amount of eye-catching fun.

Simply paint a a medium-sized colored circle (blue, green, or brown) on a ping pong ball for the iris. Once it’s dry, paint a smaller black circle in the center to create the pupil; add a dab of white for the highlight. Let dry and, in the blink of an eye, the peepers are ready to be placed.

Once I realized how easy these were to make, I made more and more. And positioned them in every fun setting I could think of.

The same dear client mentioned earlier gave us this potted Chrysanthemum. I used bubble wrap to prop it up in this old urn, filled the voids around the sides with more bubble wrap, covered the visible bubble wrap with dried moss, and added ping pong eyeballs to make it come “alive”.

Ping pong ball eyeballs will turn a potted Chrysanthemum into a “creature” before your very eyes.

Use white beach balls to create oversized googly eyes perfect for decorating your yard. Paint a medium-sized colored circle for the iris. Once dry, paint a smaller-sized black pupil. We bought these balls from the Oriental Trading Company nearly four years ago for Kai’s first birthday party. We’ve inflated and deflated them over the years to play and decorate with and they’ve held up well. You can find a dozen 11″ ones for $9.99 here.

Insert the balls into a tree or bush for some eye-popping effects!

No matter how hard I try to keep up with the cobwebs that develop in the corners of our house, they appear faster than I can brush them away. Luckily, this is the one time of year, the more cobwebs the better!

Faux cobwebs add an instant hint of haunted-house!

You might be surprised at the natural decor you can find in your own backyard. To the left of the brutalist sculpture is some “sculpture” from nature: what remained of the fruit bunch of our date palm. It had such interesting lines, I picked it off the ground and popped it on top of our SABA stereo/console months ago and it has lived there ever since. It joins the composition of one of my favorite pieces of art in our house which is a painting of a paper grocery bag from Safeway. Quirky meets quirky.

This might be the only time of year when silk flowers are acceptable. πŸ™‚ You can find black silk roses here.

Here’s the big picture including our mural wall depicting Waikiki circa the 1940s. The photographic mural from EazyWallz makes the living room feel like it has two views: one out the window and one on the wall.

I use these wooden HANDSKALAD hands from IKEA in some form, year-round and they fit right into our Halloween ensemble. They’re well-crafted with moveable digits, just weird enough to be interesting, and, at $12.99 each, they’re a frighteningly great price!

For some feathered Halloween decor, add a faux raven or two (did you know a group of ravens is called “an unkindness?” Strange, but true! Apparently it may have something to do with their association with witches and death–perfect for All Hallows’ Eve, eh?). I realize they’re made of foam and plastic and glued-on feathers, but they have so much personality. When we’re eating in the dining room, I like to gaze at the one perched on the pumpkin. It almost feels like it’s staring back at me. You can find source an unkindness here.

This cluster of Lumina pumpkins came about from a single pumpkin I plopped onto the dirt last year because I couldn’t bear to toss it after the holiday season had passed. It took months for it to rot, but when it finally we did, we tilled the soil, it happened to rain and pumpkin leaves started sprouting. And then…baby white pumpkins grew just in time for Halloween. The magic of Mother Nature! The lesson here is you can purchase one pumpkin you love, plant it after the holiday and next year you may have a dozen or more!

Other view! I like to fill a few vases with a single fern frond as they make me think of a (green) feather quill pen resting in a pot of (clear) ink. The vases can be found here.

This large spider was a recent addition from Target and adds a lot of drama to the dining area for only $10!

This poseable skeleton gets moved throughout the house depending on our moods. Sometimes he eats dinner with us, sometimes he takes a “rest” in the swinging chair outside, or he’ll make a surprise appearance in the living room sitting on the console, legs crossed and all. We purchased ours from Costco, but they’re also available here.

I gussied him up with a sequined masquerade mask, (similar one found here) a cowboy hat and a black bandana to make him feel a little less skeletal. As long as our son isn’t scared by him (he requested we pull him out of the attic mid September), we aren’t either. πŸ˜‰

This is the view from our kitchen into the dining room. I love seeing the tablescape filtered through the leaves of the olive branches. A simple branch adds such interesting organic appeal and instant decor. This is one of my favorite glass vases and can be found here.

The furry fake tarantulas these days are frighteningly realistic and add just the right amount of creepy-crawly to a coffee table.

Here’s the living room view.

Did I mention I liked fake spiders? They seem to be multiplying at our house.

For years I’ve hung wreaths on our glass door using Command hooks made for hanging on glass, but this year I ran out of the sticker tabs that make them adhere. So I pulled a small suction cup off the back of a magnifying mirror and stuck it to the glass, bent a paperclip into a U-shape and jammed it into the back of the feathered wreath to create a hook and hung it on the suction cup hanging on the door. We’ve had two crazy wind storms and I’m happy to report, so far it’s sticking! I know a lot of people like to hang a holiday wreath on a living room or kitchen window and this trick would work for that, as well.

Do you recognize this Sandworm from the 1980s movie Beetlejuice? I’m not usually a fan of exterior inflatable decor, but when I saw this one at Home Depot last year, it struck me as modern art . It was more than I wanted to spend so I waited until a few days before Halloween to make my purchase when the price was cut in half. My sister taught me that trick. You have to be a little patient to accrue your arsenal of holiday decor this way, but if you can wait until just before, or after, the holiday you’ll find most items are reduced to half price or less!

Upon seeing our 9.5′ tall inflatable Sandworm, my mom declared, through a gale of giggles, “There goes the neighborhood!”

The last time I posted, Kai was a toddler. Here he is now, nearly five.

I hope you have a frightfully fun Halloween and that some of these ideas will inspire you to add some Halloween holiday spirit to your home. Thanks for stopping by! πŸ™‚

Blooming pumpkins: DIY succulent pumpkin centerpiece


First, I should tell you, there are two ways to make a succulent pumpkin centerpiece.




Succulent pumpkin and crowPlease note my favorite painting of a paper bag (well, my only painting of a paper bag) in the background.




There’s the easy way.




And the hard way.




Guess which one we’ll be doing?




If you said “the totally easy, lazy person’s way” you guessed right. But, just in case you want to know the hard way…



Because you like options….



Because you want to kill time in the spirit of Halloween….




Because you don’t own a hot glue gun….






Book of spellsBut speaking of easy projects, I made the “Boo!” banner above by cutting burlap triangles, painting letters onto each one and hot gluing the triangles to a piece of black satin ribbon. Easy does it.





Here is the hard way…



The hard way: Use a serrated knife to remove the top portion of your pumpkin. Consider how many succulents you want to fit into your pumpkin planter when making the opening. Use a spoon to scoop out the stringy, seedy innards of the pumpkin. Fill its cavity with potting soil. Plant succulents and admire.



When the pumpkin begins to show signs of age, (shriveling, wrinkling, just like on a human–or a hotdog microwaved on high for over 50 seconds), you can bury the pumpkin planter directly in your yard. Make sure the entirety of the pumpkin is hidden and only the succulents are visible above the soil line. The succulents will continue to grow and as the pumpkin decomposes, it will provide natural fertilizer. Not so hard, really.




But, for the rest of us who have the attention span of a gnat. Hello? Hello, did you make it this far?




Β The easy way:




1. Begin with a pumpkin. I chose a white one (this variety is so aptly named “Casper”) with beguiling green splotches since I imagined the green would blend nicely with the green of the succulents. But plain white, or regular ol’ orange, would look nice, too.





Casper Pumpkin




2. This next step almost feels like cheating it’s so easy and no knives are necessary–only finger-singeing hot glue, so it’s still a project that requires adult supervision and/or an adult who knows her own level of coordination and is, therefore, never more than a few feet from an ice-stocked freezer in-case-of-a-glue-gun-emergency.





Glue reindeer moss (available at Michael’s Craft Store and most nurseries; did you know this stuff also comes in a chartreuse shade?) directly to the top of your pumpkin to form a moss base.





Gluing moss to pumpkin




3. Continue gluing until you have created a nice foundation for the succulents. See that bald spot in the picture below? Don’t leave a bald spot. I happened to take this photo before I filled it in. Repeat: no bald spots!




Moss on pumpkin




4. Use a knife, your fingernail, or scissors to snip most of the stem off you succulents because you want to give the illusion that your succulents are planted in the moss,Β not on the moss.Β  Don’t worry, succulents are tenacious things and can eventually re-root through the glue and moss.




Cut succulent




5. Now apply a bit of hot glue to the underside of your succulent and press it into the moss.




Gluing succulents to pumpkin




6. Keep gluing the undersides of your pinched succulents (as in pinched-bottomed, not stolen) and adding them to the arrangement until it looks right and/or you have run out of room.




And you will end up with something like this…





Β Succulent pumpkinSo pretty if I do say so, myself! (Ooh, I just did.)





Just in case you’re in need of a spooky surface on which to perch your pumpkin centerpiece, here’s an idea. You can make a “Book of spells” book prop using an old text book or other hardcover book that you never care to see the cover of again. The beauty of this project is you get to reuse a book that might have otherwise be destined for the recycling bin and make a cool book prop: win win!





Text book beforeThis was JB’s textbook. If I had studied Marcroeconomics, I don’t think I would have become an interior designer or be penning this blog–you know what I mean?





Paint your hardcover book with black paint and use a white, gold or silver pen (or paint) to write “Brews and Enchantments” or “Spells and Potions”, or whatever else piques your interest, on the spine. I used a template for a printed cover from the Crafty Cupboard (you can, too, by clicking here), aged the paper by painting it with a mixture of 1 T instant coffee mixed into 1/4 cup of hot water. When the paper dried, I ironed it smooth and glued it to the cover.






Brews and Enchantments




I also have the Crafty Cupboard to thank for the “poison” apple inspiration. To make your own, hunt down a very red, shiny apple from your local produce aisle. Take a single bite then use a paint or basting brush to coat the exposed flesh with lemon juice to thwart oxidation. Quick aside: I set mine out for a party and, two days later, it still hasn’t turned brown (yay!), but the skin around the exposed flesh is starting to pucker (boo!).





Red fleshed appleNote: When I bit into this apple, I was shocked at how sweet it was–and that is was partially red inside! It turns out this particular red-fleshed variety is called “Hidden Rose”.







Halloween book props





And, with that, I wish you happy it’s-almost-Halloween decorating!