What a Tangled Web We Weave…

Everyday Adventures

This post is part of an ongoing promotion with Oriental Trading Company. All opinions and photos, below, are my own.

Simple Halloween Dining Room

View from the back hall doorway into the dining room

How much am I loving our decorated dining room? A lot!

Though I think I may add something to the drapes… maybe a large black bow over each? I’ll have to give it some thought.


Can you spot some lurking Halloween monkeys?

The hanging spider decoration from Oriental Trading Company didn’t look like much in the package, but is pretty impressive when opened up! Thanks to our 10′ ceilings not even our tallest guests will have to worry about plastic spiders skittering through their hair, but I love the way it peeks through the view from the door and throws shadows onto the wall behind it.


Some of the wall decals made their way into the dining room, as well.

I’ve given up any effort to make the dining room symmetrical. The room is about 14′ square, with the chandelier in the center of the ceiling. Yet, if we were to center the table under it, said table would block the path between the library and the kitchen. (Granted, the kitchen wasn’t added on until later, so it wasn’t a big consideration at the beginning.) On the other hand, we could line the table up with the fireplace, but then there wouldn’t be room for anyone to actually access the far side of the table.


The tall “picture” there is actually a dish towel from Kohl’s draped over a canvas board. It added some nice height to our alchemist’s mantel.

Since nothing else lines up in the room, it seemed less prudent to go through the trouble of moving the 8′ table to be able to center the spiders over it, so we opted for placing it over the walkway and I think I actually like it more!

I keep the table decorations simple, both because we do use the dining room for 99% of our evening meals and because in another week or so it’ll be covered completely by serving dishes for our Halloween party. There’s so much food at our parties that tablescaping is wasted effort!


Meanwhile, the living room presented me with 3 blank walls and a hesitancy to actually hang things on them since I’m not certain that it wouldn’t make the plaster fail faster! So I needed a way to add some sort of interest in a quick and simple way.


Cue more creepy cloth (aka freaky fabric, aka spooky cloth… depends on the store you find it at)! I drapes sheets of it over the drapes in the bay window and then had Todd help me by attaching small brads to the picture rail that rings the room and swagging the cloth between them.

Our mantle is partially hidden by the television (one day it will be mounted on the wall, once it’s been shored up enough to securely hold it!) so it’s a simple assemblage of skull candlesticks, pumpkin candles that I refuse to burn because I may never find the cuties again, and a glittery house silhouette.


Finally, over one of our sofas, we arranged a mix of wall decals to create a small scene over the chair rail. The witch, cauldron, and a good but of the bats came from the Oriental Trading Company wall decal pack, mixed in with the Tree and bat decals we purchased from Lowe’s last year.

And, of course, the monkeys decided to hand out on the sofa-back as well.

I’d like to give one more thank you to Oriental Trading Company for the opportunity to incorporate some of their new Halloween products in our home, this year! We’ve certainly had a lot of fun putting them into play and  hope our guests appreciate them at the party next weekend. There’s still a couple more days left in their sweepstakes, so don’t forget to head over and enter!

Of course, I’ve got plenty more Halloween fun to share over the next couple weeks, so I hope you’ll come back next week to see what’s next!

He Just Wants to be in the Picture with You!

Everyday Adventures

This post is part of our ongoing promotion with Oriental Trading Company. All photographs and opinions are my own.

I’ve always wanted to put up a photo backdrop for our annual Halloween party, but I just never got around to it. Until this year, of course, when I had the help of the Ghastly Decorations pack from Oriental Trading Company; as soon as I saw it I knew it’d be perfect and I’m happy to say I was right! I mean, who wouldn’t want this charmer in their selfie?!

Peek-a-boo, I'll scare you!

Peek-a-boo, I’ll scare you!

We have a door that separates the front and back halls (what used to be the main house and back porch, respectively) but we leave it open all the time. It creates a wide angle between the hallway opening and my office door, and I thought it would be just the spot to set up our photo backdrop.


I had this black linen in my fabric stash, but you could use a large table cloth or buy a couple yards of fabric from the remnant table in a pinch. I draped it over the open door and secured it to the edge of the opposite door frame with some push pins. In the absence of a convenient door, a PVC frame could be easily constructed, or even a tension rod if you have some angles to wedge it between.


The 3 printed decorations came on one large sheet of plastic that, I suppose, you could use as is for a quick scene setter, but wasn’t quite right for this space; I cut them apart to better arrange them. I placed the window decorations fairly high–just a few inches below the top of the backdrop, so that our taller guests wouldn’t be fully blocking it. Plus, we have pretty tall ceilings, so no need to stay low.


Since this is meant to be a temporary decoration, I opted to use straight pins to secure the plastic decorations to my backdrop. You could also use safety pins or even some temporary adhesive. Just keep whatever you use tucked discretely inside the printed design so it blends in best. I did the same thing with pile of bones near the bottom of the backdrop, then added some more creepy cloth to the top and a grungy prop chain along the side of the frame. Just something to dress things up.


Of course, what photo booth or backdrop is complete without some props! I raided my old costume stash and commandeered some of the more amusing hats from Todd’s collection and put them all in a tote to keep nearby. This way even our un-costumed guests can get in on the fun!

jvanderbeek_halloween_2015_decorations-0334 And while I’m sure 99% of our guests will have their cell phones at the read, across from the photo backdrop I’ve hung a bit of garland and my small point-and-shoot camera for anyone who wants to take a picture for me!


I couldn’t resist giving it a try!

But what happened to the skeleton that was part of the wall decor set? Oh, he’s just hanging around the library…


Cobwebs are an easy way to spook-ify a space, especially bookcases with their plethora of sharp edges.


Oh, and for anyone curious about how the hallway mural came about, I put together a short video on the subject. Check it out here: Halloween Mural Process Video

Extreme Halloween Makeover: Hallway Edition

Everyday Adventures

This post is part of any ongoing promotion with Oriental Trading Company. All photos, projects, and opinions are my own.

There are folks out there who turn their home, garages, or yards into haunted houses. Or who sync up running lights to music and put on a real show for the neighborhood (something Todd totally wants to do for Christmas, one day, by the way). This year, I think we’ve stumbled into that territory.

Aside from the outside decor, which anyone passing by can see, the entry way of the home is probably the place you get the most bang for your decorating buck. Trick-or-treaters see it, anyone else who comes to your door sees it, and it’s the first thing guests see when they enter your home for a visit or party. If you have a foyer, vestibule, or entry hall, it’s probably not a massive space, so it’s easier to do some high-impact decorating in this space.

Greetings of the season for sure!

Greetings of the season for sure!

That’s not a scene-setter, folks, that’s a mural I painted onto our entryway wall over the last few weeks.

A few weeks ago I was somewhat bored and restless, and sometimes that translates to a cleaning spree. There was a piece of torn wallpaper in our entryway so I decided I was just going to removed the lifted, damaged bit, just so it wasn’t hanging around being obvious, and we could go back to ignoring the 20+ year old wallpaper that we will eventually be replacing. To my surprise, though, the entire sheet came up with just a little tug.

And a little later I ended up with an expanse of white wall up the first half of our staircase.


The white wall irritated me–it was so plain! It highlighted that we haven’t hung things on the wall. It mocked me.

So I gave it a temporary makeover for the holidays!


A better view of our mural

While there are some more details I want to add (blades of grass, more detailing on the tree), I’m happy with where it is for now and can move onto decorating the rest of our entryway in our customary fashion.

The first focus is the staircase–I cannot tell you how much I love having a banister to decorate for the holidays! I have fond memories of my grandmother’s house at Christmas with stockings for the extended family lining the banister and it’s always been the epitome of holidays to me. Porch railings just aren’t the same, I’ve learned over the years!

A festooned banister makes my heart happy!

A festooned banister makes my heart happy!

Long-time readers might recognize the candy corn garland from several years (and 2 houses) ago as well as last year’s hand-stamped skull ribbon tucked in along with the tatty creepy cloth and black drapey fabric. The paper mache pumpkin is from Marshalls (several years back) and sits in the hollow created by a missing spindle.

Chandeliers need spooking too!

Chandeliers need spooking too!

More of the creepy cloth drapes the arms of our entryway light fixture. The flame-shaped bulbs and drippy-looking candle cover sleeves (the official name, apparently, for the plastic tubes that slip over the lamp bits) work especially well for Halloween, I think!

Of course, also on our stairs are two of our Oriental Trading Company scores.


You can also see some of the rough nature of the mural painting–I tried not to get too precious with it, knowing that it’s temporary.


The little rat silhouettes with their red crystal eyes work just perfectly on the stair treads and along the mural. I used about half the package here, so I have the other half to sprinkle elsewhere in the house, and the double-sided foam adhesive that came with them is super sticky (unlike a major lifestyle brand’s raven silhouettes I purchased several years ago that would never stick with the provided foam dots) and I have every confidence that they won’t scurry off elsewhere before the party in a few weeks.


The glow-in-the-dark footstep clings were a little more of a challenge, but I figured it out. It could be (most likely is) the worn finish of our stair treads (all the wood flooring in the house needs to be refinished some day), but they weren’t automatically receptive to the clings. BUT! Knowing the trick about wetting suction cups to get them to adhere, I decided to swipe the step with a damp paper towel and that totally did the trick. We’ll see if I have to redo any of the spots, but so far, so good. And I kept them to the railing-side of the steps just in case any came loose–I didn’t want to create a hazard on our already treacherous staircase (it has a history… but that’s a story for another post!).

Of course, you want to know if they really glow, right?

Something phosphorescent this way creeps!

Something phosphorescent this way creeps!

They do! Granted, because we’d just set them out they hadn’t gathered enough light to glow very brightly, so to one you see here that’s really standing out is because Todd shined his flashlight on it for a few moments to “charge” the footprint. Pretty cool, right?

Across from the staircase (and between the doorways to the living and my office) we have our console table with our little Halloween village set-up and the motion-activated ghoul mirror.


We’ve amassed quite a bit of the creepy cloth of various hues and use it liberally! It’s so inexpensive and can be used for a lot of things, but I will warn you–the darker versions tend not to be color-fast. My fingertips are usually grey by the time I finish messing with it, so be careful what it’s brushing up against.

jvanderbeek_halloween_2015_decorations-0287Our village is made up of a couple of tin houses (candles will flicker inside them for the party) and an animated Lemax pieces that features a costume contest in progress. Then smaller figures–a mix of craft store and dollar store finds–fill up the rest of the space.


We still need to set up the photo-booth backdrop in the back corner of the entry (a post for next week), but these two areas in our entry hall pretty much set the stage for when guests come by.

Setting the Halloween Scene: Outdoor Decor and More

Just for Fun

This post is part of our ongoing promotion with Oriental Trading Company. All projects, thoughts, and images are my own.

I remember the first Halloween in our last neighborhood when it became apparent we were “that house.” Part of it was the giant pixie sticks we were handing out (leftover from our Toddlers & Tiaras-themed pumpkin carving party) and part of it was our outdoor decorations. That was the first year the witches made an appearance, and we’ve only improved from there. After all, we moved into a 100+ year old Victorian home, we’re practically made for Halloween.


By the time I got everything set up we’d totally lost the daylight, so please forgive my makeshift spotlight! I’m sure passers by wondered what I was doing out in the front yard with a camera and a flashlight at 8pm!

These ladies were the first decorations we put up outside this year, on the grassy, open side of our front yard. They’re made out of plywood in a shape that I designed and Todd cut with a jigsaw back for our Fairy Fest Midsummer party years ago. When Halloween came around I thought it’d be fun to re-purpose them with some black, rip-stop nylon and some witches hats with built-in wigs. Their brooms are made from small branches and parts of a grass skirt table decoration.

For trick-or-treating we’ll set up our electric cauldron in front of them with more of that grass skirt spread around like rushes in a fire bed.

On the other side of the front walk, though, that’s where things get spooky!

Hanging heads, tombstones, and ravens--oh, my!

Hanging heads, tombstones, and ravens–oh, my!

Can you spot the goodies from Oriental Trading Company?

First, we set up our hanging heads using the Day of the Day Bags.

step-by-step shrunken heads

step-by-step shrunken heads

Once I got the gift bags open I realized that the backs of the bags were clear plastic. Since I didn’t want my stuffing showing all willy-nilly, I doubled the bags up, one inside the other, with the printed front of the interior bag visible through the clear back of the outer bag, then stuffed them with plastic bags, bubble wrap, or anything else that wouldn’t compact or get too soggy should it rain over the next few weeks.

My next thought was how to hang them so they’d stay perfectly straight instead of lolling to one side or another. My solution was to thread twine through 1″ buttons and nestle them on top of the packing materials before sealing up the “neck” of the bags with packing tape. I tied the twine into a small loop that I could then thread my hanging string through when I put them in the trees.

How do you say "Peek -a-boo, we see you!" in Spanish???

How do you say “Peek -a-boo, we see you!” in Spanish???

Underneath the tree the heads are hanging from is our first graveyard scene, currently made up of your standard foam decorations. Todd’s working on a beefed up wooden version that we hope to have completed before Halloween.

Spectral orb or ill-placed flash... I'll never tell!

Spectral orb or ill-placed flash… I’ll never tell!

Then, nearer the porch railing we have our other tombstones (again, currently foam, wooden replacements are also in the work for these).

Oops, looks like someone wasn't quite ready to leave!

Oops, looks like someone wasn’t quite ready to leave!

Todd built that ground-buster coffin corner a few years back and it’s always such a nice touch. To really sell it, though, it helps to have some fresh earth to put around it.


Because this side of the yard has more tree cover and less grass, it takes a mixture of sand and potting soil all stirred together to really make the coffin look like it’s part of the landscape.

If you look just above the tombstones, though, you’ll see eyes looking back at you…

Ravens, bats, and cats--the Halloween trifecta, no?

Ravens, bats, and cats–the Halloween trifecta, no?

Perched on our porch railing are some foam and feathered black birds, and from the eaves hang our bat lanterns. I alternated the small and large lanterns, and then hung the purple lanterns we bought from the dollar store, last year, onto the smaller bats, like the bats are carrying them.

Subtle is the name of the game with these silhouettes.

Subtle is the name of the game with these silhouettes. I prepped the rats at the same time, but they’re strictly indoors and will be on the next post!

Finally, you can see the cat silhouettes resting in our windows. I added the red crystals for eyes, flipping half of each silhouette set over to get more “poses” out of each. On the back of the foam cats there’s some printing,  but it’s nothing that a few swipes of a permanent marker couldn’t cure.

Heeeere kitty kitty...

Heeeere kitty kitty…

Could the cat silhouettes stand to be a bit bigger, sure? Especially since our windows are 70″ tall! But I really didn’t want huge. I wanted something there that you’d notice out of the corner of your eye, a break in the pattern, that makes you do a double take, and I think the little kitties did that just fine.

Come to the door, if you dare!

Come to the door, if you dare!

Finally, to come up the steps and onto the porch (which I did make the kids do last year to get their candy, even though I was sitting outside–the screen door is very slammy), you’ll see a Halloween welcome mat we’ve had for years, a wreath that I made even longer ago hanging from the porch eaves, and our skeletal greeters. You can also see another of the toothily-grinning bat lanterns just hanging around.


“Leonard” is a glow-in-the-dark skeleton that we dressed in some old clothes (and stuff with a pillow and extra bubble wrap for support)  The makeshift screen is a curtain panel we purchased last year that I affix to the screened door frame with a staple gun. (Incidentally, that’s also how I fixed the birds onto the porch railing.)

Aside from the props that Todd’s building and a couple of pumpkins for the porch steps, I think we’re pretty much done with the outdoor decorations. Now to get busy on the inside!

Do you decorate your yard for Halloween?

Halloween Haul with Oriental Trading Company (video)

Just for Fun

It’s my favorite time of year: Halloween!!!

We go all out for Halloween, so when Oriental Trading Company’s blogger outreach program invited me to have a mini shopping spree and blog about how I used their Halloween products to decorate for this year, of course I said yes! So this week and next I’ll be posting room by room decorating pictures, along with some simple crafts, starting with this haul/unboxing video!

(Direct Link for the feed readers: Halloween Haul with Oriental Trading Company)

So big thanks to the folks over at Oriental Trading (and, yes, I see now that I misspelled Trading in the title card–doh!) for the opportunity to have fun with some of their products, again. If you want to check out their Halloween shop, head over here: http://www.orientaltrading.com/holidays/halloween-a1-550760.fltr

Make sure you come back on Wednesday to see our outdoor decor, Friday for the big staircase reveal (trust me, you want to see this!), Next week we’ll show you our photo booth set-up for our upcoming Halloween party on Tuesday, and how we’re sprucing up the living and dining rooms on Thursday. We’ll also be doing a new Halloween House Tour once we’ve got everything set-up. If you want to check out last year’s, click here: Gingerbread Diaries 1.6: Halloween House Tour.

Also, they have a contest going on now through October 17, 2015!


Visit www.spooktaculargiveaway.com today and enter to win our weekly prize — $250 in Halloween products of your choice from Oriental Trading. Plus, we’re giving away a $25 Oriental Trading gift card every day! Contest ends October 17, 2015.