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.


Sun, Fun and Disaster Prepared?


June 1 marks the beginning of Hurricane Season in our neck of the woods and even though it’s been simply ages (knock on wood) since a storm of considerable size has come anywhere near Tallahassee, it’s not a bad idea to start assembling a basic disaster supply kit–aka Bug Out Bag–just in case this is the year we get one.

What needs to be in that kit?

According to ready.gov, your basic disaster supply kit should contain:

  • At least 1 gallon of water per person per day, for at least 3 days (72 hours) for hydration and hygiene; don’t forget pets if they’re part of your plan!
  • A 3-day supply of non-perishable foods, enough for all the humans and pets you’re responsible for.
  • Manual can opener for canned goods.
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio, with extra batteries–a NOAA Weather Radio is even better.
  • Flashlights and extra batteries.
  • A first aid kit (make sure to keep a back-up supply of all prescription medications, too!).
  • Whistle to signal for help.
  • Dust mask, plastic sheeting and lots of duck tape!
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and twist-ties or zip-ties to safely handle sanitation needs.
  • Some basic tools: wrench, pliers, hammer, screwdriver, etc.
  • Maps marked with your evacuation route should you need to beat feet to a safer location.
  • Cell phones, chargers, and car adapters.

A generator and fuel is a nice thing to have, along with a converter that plugs into your car’s lighter or accessory jack (we had one of those for car trips and it meant not needing to rely on my laptop’s battery alone–nice!). Some extra fuel for your car wouldn’t hurt.

Since this is a food blog, can you go beyond mushy canned goods for your food stores? That’s something I’ll be exploring more in-depth this summer, but I’ve heard good things about today’s MRE (Meals Ready-to-Eat) packs. Adding a camp stove and some fuel canisters can greatly increase your options for stuck-in-the-dark meals, just remember to add extra water and fuel to your stores if you’re depending on dry rice, beans or pasta as part of your food supply.

And who says you can’t go gourmet in a storm? Check out the The Storm Gourmet, which I first heard about in 2006 on NPR, where they shared a salad nicoise made entirely from canned and jarred items.

Do you have a hurricane plan or other disaster supply kit prepared?

Why Creativity Matters to Me

Everyday Adventures
A corner of my studio, The Abyss; 3 shelving units stuffed to the gills with supplies.

One corner of my current studio, aka The Abyss; back when this story happened I had only a fraction of this.

Did I ever tell you the story about my second husband?

Without going into too many reasons he’s an ex, there was one moment in particular I wanted to share:

It was early 2005, we’d been married for just over 2 years, and that morning he was in a bad mood. So bad that it sorta permeated the house. And it happened even before I woke up that Saturday.

I admit, I was a bit chicken-shit and went back to bed to read until the storm-clouds passed or he’d had enough coffee or something.

Apparently I didn’t stay out the way quite long enough.

There was a fight. I don’t even remember how it started or what it was about, all told, but of the things I do remember, I remember him telling me I was absolutely forbidden from taking on another hobby or bringing another thing into his house.*

How many things are wrong with that sentence? I’ll let you figure that out.

That fight ended with him storming out. And in a couple months I’d moved out.

Not because of the hobby embargo, but because he’d come very close to hitting me that day, and it was closer than I really wanted to get.

I wish… I wish I was stronger back then. I wish I hadn’t let his idea that to disagree with him (or, heaven forbid, correct him) was a sign of disrespect. I wish a lot of things about me back then, but I also know that I was just trying to keep the peace and not rock the boat.

They say the biggest regrets are the things you don’t do.

So it was with not a little irony that I realized, a couple years later, with an entire second bedroom to house all of my “craft crap,” that I’d increased my income by 25% writing as the Arts & Crafts Expert for eHow.com. And that he who– despite the higher salary and not having to start over from scratch since it was, by god, his house and all–would call up whining about his lack of money, really shot himself in the foot on that one.

That contract ended in 2009, but the lessons I learned from it and the confidence it gave me to work on my own projects that much harder have stuck around.

Creativity, for me, is about exploration. It’s about doing something with my own hands and mind, of seeing ideas come to life because of something *I* did, because of something I dreamed up. It’s part instant gratification, part humiliation (because things don’t always go according to plan) and part further inspiration.

And it’s a way of looking at life, an I-can-do-that! mentality when so often what we hear is “no you can’t,”  “why bother” or, my personal ‘favorite’, “you’re just wasting your time.”

I’m not saying that by being a little creative each day you’re going to land a job at it or find any sort of fame and fortune–but you might. What’s most likely, though, is a better sense of self, of what you can do with your own two hands, and a helluva lot of pride in your own accomplishments.

So try something new, or something old. Dig out that crochet hook or paint-by-numbers set that’s getting dusty in a box somewhere. Pick up a new hobby, or half a dozen if you’ve got the time. Don’t be afraid to try.

Because the things you regret are the things you didn’t do.

Be creative today.

(*And just so you know, when those things were said I worked full time (like I have since graduating high school), paid my share of our bills and used only my own money for craft supplies, etc. And most of it was kept in the garage because the office we shared was already full of his desk, his computer equipment, and his aquarium. And don’t even get me started about how much closet space he had in 2 rooms and I didn’t.)

the 9th Art: Mosaics

64 Arts

To decorate the floor with small chips of emerald or other stones.

Why don’t we leave the emeralds out of it for a while, okay?

Any picture created from bits of glass, beads, tiles or broken stuff held together by some sticky medium can be called, at least in my opinion, a mosaic. Granted, the original mosaics, at least those that first come to my mind, were made of very small tiles and incredibly intricate.

Being a Latin nerd for 4 years means I’m a little familiar with the tiled floors of Roman ruins and, the summer after my Freshman year I made a valiant (if somewhat pitiful) attempt at my own version of the traditional Cave Canem (beware of dog) entrance mosaic. At least I think it said Cave Canem but I distinctly remember putting the evil eye (as a ward against it) in the center. Probably because it was easier.

Come to think of it, this could be why I didn’t even place in mosaics that year (it was for Nation Latin Convention–yes, I was that much of a nerd). But I got 1st in my division for jewelry, so it’s all good.

It might also have been my workmanship. You know, today I’d consider it pretty diy of me to take basic 1″ bathroom tiles and paint them the colors I needed rather than spending a fortune on special tiles and tools. And since we’re not competing or being judged, I think I still will.

Because this is no-holds-barred anything goes mosaic we’re talking about now, in the real world, not trying to be like the old guys in sheets.

If you want to play along with me, here’s what you’ll need to make your own mosaics:

A Base

Could be wood, metal, glass or something you’ve molded yourself out of plaster. Cardboard might be a little too weak to support tiles, glass or heavy beads but for small pieces with tiny elements, you can always try. Go for something sturdy, though: no sense in wasting effort only to have your foundation let you down.

Pieces of Stuff

Very technical term, yes? But this could be anything, which is why it’s a little vague. Yes, tiles are traditional, as are glass beads like you find in the floral aisles for putting in vases or on tables. Also consider pieces of broken china and pottery, sea glass, buttons, beads, bits of metal or molding and just about anything else you can think to use. Seriously, branch out and try some new stuff.


I put this third because it depends heavily on what you chose for your base and your stuff. In the specified area of your local craft store you’ll probably find something called mosaic adhesive. Sure, this will work great sticking tiles onto plaster or glass, but it might not work if you’re using a more eclectic mix of bits in your piece. Your adhesive could be anything from standard Tacky Glue or something stronger like E6000. If you’re really not sure what to use, head over to thistothat.com, pick your materials and use their suggestions when you get to the adhesives aisle.


A little less subjective, grout can be found in the craft store in small packages or at the hardware store in bulk. You might find it powdered or pre-mixed and you can find it in different colors or buy tints specifically for it. White is nice and all-purpose, black a little edgy but great for decor and, of course, colors for creativity.

Miscellaneous Supplies

Newspaper or drop clothes to protect your work surface, a container and dowel or other stirrer for mixing grout, a trowel or spatula for spreading the grout, gloves to protect your hands from chemicals or sticky stuff, and a sponge to wipe away the extra grout at the end.

Of course, you can also find all of these things in a handy kit, too, depending on the sort of project you want to start with.

So, gather your supplies and let’s make something fun this week, okay?

Suit Your Surface

64 Arts

There are more things to draw on than just paper…

Let’s see how many things I can come up with that are suitable for drawing on that are not paper:

  • Sidewalks (make your own sidewalk chalk!I bet those water bottle ice-cube trays would be perfect molds for them!)
  • Chalkboards
  • Whiteboards
  • Walls (if you have permission of the wall-owner, of course)
  • Nails (as in finger nails–I’ve always been curious about those polish markers for this sort of thing)
  • Silk (veering into painting a bit, but I think it’s an understandable deviation)
  • Appliances*
  • Cakes

Yup, I was totally leading up to that last one 🙂 I used to do a LOT of cake decorating. I was mostly self-taught, then I took the Wilton classes so I could teach others. I could put anything on a cake, as long as I had a picture to go by. One cake in particular decided to test those skills:

1999 Camp Gordon Johnston Assn Fundraiser

This group used an old WWII cartoon by Bill Mauldin on their brochures and wanted it duplicated onto a cake.

This was a bit before the edible images were very widespread so there wasn’t much to do but draw it on.

I was able to transfer the primary lines using piping gel transfer and a piece of transparency film, then filled in the rest with a very tiny tip (a 1 and a 0, if I remember correctly) and black icing. It took hours, but the CGJA loved it!

What other surfaces do you want to draw on? And what types of preparation would you have to make to do it?

* * *

And, now, for the Daily Doodle! Again, I had a couple because it was my night to do my weekly life-comic. If you’d like to see the larger size of the left side of the image, click on over to Cocktail Hour and see how my studio got it’s name. The ones on the right are honest doodles, though.

The top right is a visual pun: Spur of the Moment. I was just thinking how this little exercise was just that–and into my head this image popped. Nice when the muse plays along, right? (My muse’s name is Tessa, by the way–but that’s a whole ‘nother story.) The bottom right, however, was inspired by the  Search for the Missing Cookies over at A Duck in Her Pond. The actual line she wrote was

And we all know a pig without Oreos is not a happy pig.

All I could think about was a sad little piggie (wearing pearls, of course!) shaking an empty box of cookies and looking terribly forlorn. I know we feel very sad when we run out of cookies, here!

Still plenty of time to share your doodles and be entered in the drawing for the handmade journal. Each link gets you an entry 🙂