Saturday, August 23, 2008

It's Halloween galore at Michael's!!!

So, I went to Michael's again today, and could not BELIEVE all the Halloween stuff they had out! I was so excited to see that they had a bunch of new stuff this year. Unfortunately, I am on a bit of a budget, so I was only able to buy a few small things (which made my day, nonetheless!). I've decided that I want to carve more fake pumpkins this year, in addition to a few real ones, and I'd like to start carving them now. I want a fairly good assortment by the time Halloween gets here. I figure that with all the time and effort that I put into my jack-o-lantern designs, it would be nice to have some that will last for many Halloweens to come. I'll have to go back and get a few in different sizes. I purchased some new carving tools that are designed specifically for fake pumpkins. They're stronger than the regular tools, and should work great on real pumpkins, too. I also bought a medium-sized, ceramic pumpkin candle holder, and one of those pumpkin lights that's designed to flicker like a real candle. Besides the strings of lights that I always line the deck with, I think I also want to put out some of these jack-o-lantern candle holders using flicker lights instead of real candles. As much as I love real candlelight, I love the idea of coming home late on Halloween night to my house glowing with spooky little jack-o-lanterns. It's the only safe way to go without worrying about burning the place down. LOL I saw that Michael's now has tall candle pillars that are made out of real wax, but they use the LED flicker lights. They had several different decorated ones, like a witch, a skeleton, spider webs, and a haunted house. They glow and flicker like a real candle, but these also make spooky sounds! I was thinking about getting some and putting them along the railing of our deck. One other thing that I thought was cool was a large light-up sign that counts down the days until Halloween. I would love to put that sucker at the end of our driveway for all to see. Michael's had some big, new props, too-- like a life-size bride and groom that has a motion sensor. The bride carries her head in one of her hands, and the groom says funny things like, "You look like you've seen a ghost. You must have met my bride!" and then finishes with an evil laugh. The other customers in the store really got a kick out of these guys whenever they walked by them, and I think they'd be a great touch to any haunt. There were quite a few other animated props that I would love to add to my haunt this year. I love nothing more than finding new things to add to my collection every year. I can't wait to go back and get some more stuff later on this week. Hooray! Halloween is coming soon!! Pics coming soon!! ;)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Fall days

Aside from the wonderful, cool weather, and Halloween, there are other things that always make me look forward to the fall season. One thing that my family and I have always made a point of doing towards the end of September is taking a nice drive up to Apple Hill. This is a beautiful area, about an hour from Lake Tahoe, filled with vineyards, orchards, pumpkin patches, and Christmas tree lots. Each year, starting around the end of September, all of the largest, most popular ranches open up to the public and begin getting ready for the holidays. My favorite ranch is called High Hill Ranch. Aside from their delicious homemade pies and apple cider, there are tons of arts and crafts, food vendors, jewelry, and wine sellers. I love to go to Apple Hill the first time right before Halloween to look at all of the Halloween stuff, and then again right before Christmas. As usual, I am looking forward to visiting High Hill Ranch when it opens up next month.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

It's beckoning....

Halloween, that is. I don't care that it's still a little ways away. So it isn't next if that would stop me! I am already feeling like I want to start putting up decorations, as if to give it a warm welcome. I blame, in part, the weather, which is quite unlike weather we normally have this time of year. This week, it has suddenly gone from 100-degrees, to a much cooler, almost fall-like temperature. Naturally, I am loving it. My favorite time of the year is quickly approaching. Even though we are still in the summer season, right now it feels as if we are in the early stages of Fall. There has been a nice, cool breeze, and I swear that once or twice I have caught that heavenly scent that smells how Fall should smell. It's the smell of damp leaves, and fires burning in wood stoves somewhere in the distance. I have always said that Halloween has its own smell. It's one of my favorites; like the smell of a freshly carved pumpkin. Or, better yet, the wonderful smell of a jack-o-lantern when its lid begins to burn. But it's mostly when I begin to see signs of Fall and Halloween in all the stores around town that my desire to decorate really kicks into gear. We are almost in September now, and Halloween will be here before we know it. This is the part that I think I love most of all. That is, the anticipation of it, and all the preparation that goes into it. I am anxiously looking forward to it as I do every year. Mostly, though, I can't wait to visit my favorite stores again, and to seeing what new stuff I'll find to add to my collection. Yep, Halloween is on its way, and I'm going to be good 'n ready for it!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Halloween in New Orleans

About five years ago, I had the privilege of spending my favorite holiday, Halloween, in my favorite city- New Orleans. I fell in love with this amazing place through the vampire novels of Anne Rice, and when I finally saw New Orleans in person for the first time, I felt as if I already knew it. I didn't feel like I was in a strange, new place; rather, I felt like I almost belonged there; like I had come home. I knew it would be my kind of place when I read about it in the books, and I was right. I left there not wanting to leave, and I couldn't wait to return. I would get my wish a few years later.

My second visit to the Crescent City was during my favorite time of the year- October! We planned it specifically so that I could be there during Halloween. It was my dream to be there during this time. I knew that Halloween in New Orleans was HUGE. The people at our hotel had told me the first time I was there that Halloween was like a mini-Mardi Gras. People come from literally all over the place to be there for this holiday, and you have to book your hotel reservations far in advance or you'll have trouble finding a place to stay. My brother and his wife went along this time, and the three of us got dressed up and spent Halloween night in the French Quarter. What a crazy sight to see! I have wanted to go back there for Halloween ever since. They have all sorts of great things to do. It is definitely one of the best places to be on All Hallow's Eve! Another fun thing to do is to take a haunted history ghost tour, or a vampire tour, through the French Quarter.

Endless Night Ball

The Vampire Lestat Fan Club ball

Haunted History Tours

New Orleans- America's most haunted city??

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Halloween music

Being a Halloween lover, I have also always loved Halloween music, or music that is otherwise spooky or somewhat gothic. Years ago, I discovered two very cool sources for this type of music, technically called Gothic Horror Soundtracks. The first was Midnight Syndicate ( 'Midnight's" music is used at many professional haunted attractions, and their cds can be found at some Halloween stores such as 'Spirit Halloween.' I believe they can also be ordered through amazon. I currently only own 'Gates of Delirium' and 'Born of the Night,' but they've come out with many more since then. Their music is perfect for any Halloween yard haunt, or if you're simply in the mood for something dark and ethereal.

The other one I came across is Nox Arcana. ( Like 'Midnight,' Nox Arcana's music is also used at many haunted attractions. I think I might like their music slightly more than 'Midnight's,' although it would be hard to choose. I only own one cd by these guys, 'Winter's Knight.' My fave track is Ebonshire. It is so beautiful, and is such a haunting melody. To hear samples of this album and more, check out the site!

The last one I'll mention right now is a group called 'The Changelings'. I first heard of them when I was reading about Anne Rice's vampire ball back in the '90s. This group played live at the ball, and was a big hit. ( They have a very unusual sound, and the female singer's voice is beautiful. They would be great to play at a Halloween party.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Halloween is popping up everywhere!

Ok, I found another store with tons of Halloween goodies already! I was at a TJ Max this afternoon, and couldn't believe it when I saw all of the stuff they had. I really love scarecrows, and they had some little scarecrow statues that I thought were just adorable. I grabbed several of them. When I go back, I'm going to buy some black spider candleholders that are super cool. They're made out of metal, and they hold a little tealight on their back. They also come in about three different sizes. The store also had some really long banners that had various Halloween images on them. There were tons of witch dolls, some of which were about 3 feet tall. I'm just thrilled that more and more places are getting their Halloween stuff in this early; nothing like getting an early start on my Halloween shopping! By the time Halloween gets here, I should have collected tons of new stuff for this year. The hard part for me is waiting until Halloween gets closer to put it all out. (I confess that my two new scarecrow figurines already reside on the dresser next to my bed!) ;)

Halloween themes, cont'd...

I thought of another idea for a Halloween display. This one would not be as scary as most home haunts, but cute, nonetheless. I've always been a fan of the 'Peanuts' comic strip. Ever since I was a kid, I have looked forward to the holiday 'Peanuts' shows that come on every year. My brother and I would always watch every episode. One of my favorites, of course, is 'It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.' Halloween just wouldn't be complete without little 'ol Linus sitting in the pumpkin patch on Halloween night, awaiting the arrival of the Great Pumpkin! So, as I was trying to think of other ideas for a good yard haunt, I thought of using the Great Pumpkin as my theme. I've seen some great 'Peanuts' yard displays during Christmas, but never for Halloween. How cute would it be to have a yard decorated with the entire 'Peanuts' gang in their Halloween costumes in a pumpkin patch, along with a giant Great Pumpkin prop?? I realize that the G.P. never actually appears in the cartoon, but why not create one of my own? Rather than Snoopy sneaking up on Linus and Sally, I thought an actual pumpkin creature of some sort popping out would be pretty cool--and very unusual. Once again, my only drawback is trying to figure out how I would create the 'Peanuts' characters. I suppose I could use those life-size plastic dolls that I've seen in toy departments, and simply dress them accordingly. Time to do some browsing and see what I can come up with.....

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Halloween themes

I like the idea of going with a different theme every year like a lot of people do, so I'm trying to decide what kind of theme to go with this year. I actually don't normally have a real theme, technically, and I think I'd kind of like to. I usually just put up all the various decorations that I have, which is just the typical stuff you see at most home haunts. Mostly these are cobwebs, spiders, bats hanging from tree limbs, ghosts, and orange lights that I drape around the deck railing. I also got some really cute skeleton and ghost lights a few years ago, and I like to line the doorway with them. I also hang a long Halloween greeting down the outside of the door, and then the Halloween mat with the ghoul that looks like it's crawling out of the ground. I got a couple of new ghoulish props last year that I hung from some trees that line the walkway. They're bride and groom ghouls, and they looked pretty cool when they would blow gently in the wind. But I'd really like to do something totally new this year. I always wanted to do a 'The Nightmare Before Christmas' theme, and turn our deck into my own little version of Halloweentown. It's one of my favorite movies, and I just adore the Pumpkin King, Jack Skellington. (Ever wonder why I call myself The Pumpkin Queen??) Not to mention I could totally make myself right at home in Halloweentown. I just dig that place. I have a 3' tall Jack doll that I found at a comic store downtown many years ago. (I still don't have Sally, but I have every intention of finding her eventually.) He was made in Japan, and was a limited edition, so I was quite proud to have found him. I'm thinking that it probably wouldn't be too difficult to turn one of my 'Sleepy Hollow' scarecrows into a huge Jack Skellington prop, which I think would be very cool. I love the scene at the beginning of TNBC when the scarecrow is being pulled on a wooden horse into town, and it turns out to be Jack. The only thing I'm uncertain of is finding the black and white striped fabric for Jack's pants and tailcoat. I'm not sure that would be too easy. How cool would that be, though, to have the characters from TNBC on my front deck?! I would love it. I really must start learning how to be more creative with life-size prop making.

If all else fails, I figure, you can never go wrong with a good graveyard scene. I used to make a pretty good one every year. I would even paint some old square pieces of wood and write things like, "Beware! Haunted cemetery!" and "Turn back now!" LOL There are still some remnants of one of those signs nailed into the tree out back. I always loved getting into Halloween. I know now that I always will. I am thrilled that it's almost that time of year again when I can get out all of my decorations, and go shopping for new, even better ones. I just love walking into the Halloween stores for the first time each fall season. There's just almost nothin' else like it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Halloween readings for late at night

I am always on the look out for good Halloween stories. Well, ok, I'm always on the look out for *anything* Halloween-related, period. But, sometimes when it's late at night-- especially if it's a cold, windy or rainy night--I love nothing more than curling up in my warm bed, with a dimly lit lamp next to my bedside, and reading a really spooky Halloween story. I'm always searching amazon for any new Halloween books that come out, or for any good ghost stories. I love 'em. Several years ago on, I had the good luck to find what I consider to be the best book of Halloween stories I have come across thus far. I'm talking about 'October Dreams: A Celebration of Halloween'. This sucker is a thick 656 pages long, and is a series of creepy stories by some of the best authors in the horror genre. Many I hadn't ever heard of, but they didn't disappoint. One of my favorite stories is the first one, 'The Black Pumpkin,' by Dean Koontz. To read a sample of it on amazon, go here:

I just really dig that story. I can just imagine what this creepy-as-hell pumpkin looks like, and the smell of it when the candle is burning inside it. (One of my favorite smells, btw!) But I think my favorite thing about this whole book are the parts that follow the stories called 'My Favorite Halloween Memory.' Here, the authors have shared the Halloweens that they consider their most faves, many of which are hard to believe are real! They are almost as spooky as the stories themselves. My favorite is by the guy who tells of growing up in Hawaii, and how, as a little toddler, he recalls going outside on a Halloween night, looking up at the sky, and swears that he saw a real witch flying across the moon. Your first thought is that he was young and had an active imagination, but the way he tells the story makes you seriously think that just maybe it's a possibility! To this day, as an adult, he swears he saw what he says he saw. Wow. I just love that. I love being made to stop for a minute, and actually believe, even for a moment, that flying witches could exist. But that's why Halloween is so magical to me. It brings back those feelings of excitement that I had as a kid, where the things we are told that aren't real, might actually be....even if it's only on this one special night of the year. This book gives me that feeling back again. I can read about the kids TOT'ing through their neighborhoods, and remember the blast I always had TOT'ing with my brother and our friends. God, what a thrill it was! I don't think I will ever stop missing it. I try and re-live those moments of excitement every Halloween no matter what I do, but I'm not sure it's quite the same as when I was a kid. Like the authors in this book, though, I will always cherish those memories, and be grateful to Halloween for giving them to me.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Pumpkin cravings

Most people only get in the mood for the taste of pumpkin around Thanksgiving time, but not me. Nope. I've already bought two pumpkin pies in the last month. Surprisingly, pumpkin pie can be hard to find when it isn't around the holiday season. The only place I was able to find one was at Safeway. However, my mom and I stopped by a little coffee place just a little while ago, and they had pieces of pumpkin cobbler. I had to try one, of course, and it was wonderful. Even my mom, who isn't the pumpkin lover that I am, said it was very, very good. I always love it when I find pumpkin goodies when it isn't even technically pumpkin season. We have a mix for a pumpkin bundt cake, and I decided to make it tonight. Probably our most favorite pumpkin treat, though, is a delicious pumpkin cheesecake that we get every year for our Christmas party. I have never been a huge cheesecake person (with the exception of chocolate!), and I think I can honestly say that I love the cheesecake even better than regular pumpkin pie! I also love to sometimes make a pumpkin pudding dessert using vanilla pudding mix, topped with whipped cream. It's a quick and easy dessert to make, and isn't all that bad for you. Oh, and lest I forget the wonderful pumpkin soup! I first tried this while having Thanksgiving dinner one year with my ex and his family, and I have to admit that when he first mentioned pumpkin as a soup, I thought that was one of the strangest things I had ever heard. Well, one sip of that stuff and I was hooked! I brought the recipe home with me, because my folks had never tried it, and I made it for Christmas that year. They loved it, and it's been a tradition ever since. There are many variations of pumpkin soup, but I think I love the basic kind. Although, a girl at my old job made it with coconut flavoring one time, and that may have even bested the recipe I normally use. I'm also a coconut lover, and the combination of the two was actually incredible! So, for a list of pumpkin soup recipes, look no further:

.....and remember, you can never have too much pumpkin. Enjoy! :)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

My favorite Halloween!!!

Ok, I'm pretty stoked right now. I just discovered that the best Halloween store in the area is already open. It's called Evangeline's Costume Mansion, and it is a super cool place. The upstairs part is devoted strictly to all things Halloween, and it is only open during this time of year. Costumes, make-up, wigs, music, wicked props and name it, they have it. When you're there, you feel like you're inside a haunted old Victorian house. It's way cool. I will have to pay them a visit veeeery soon. hehe

Saturday, August 9, 2008

DC Cemetery- A must-see!!!

I was thrilled to find the web site for an awesome home haunt located in Mountain View, CA. I had the privilege of seeing this place in person a few years ago, and I have never forgotten it. 'DC Cemetery' is one of the best home haunts you will ever see. These people pour their hearts and souls into creating a truly fantastic Halloween display, and I can really appreciate that. I will never forget the hordes of people standing in front of the house and along the street trying to get a glimpse of it. I think my favorite part was the huge organ in the front of the house that had a skeleton playing a rather macabre sounding tune. Talk about setting the mood! Anyway, I might just have to try and see this place again, since they add new stuff each year. Below are some pics I found on their site. To really get an idea of just how awesome this haunt is, check out these videos:

Halloween links

I realize that Halloween is still a ways off yet, and that most people aren't even thinking about it, but for me, it's never too early to start thinking about what decorations I'm going to use this year, what costume I'm going to wear, what I'll be doing, etc. Anyhoo, I lived in the Bay Area for awhile, and while there, I discovered some really great Halloween home haunts and haunted attractions. I thought I would put up some links to some that I knew of. For starters, I always looked to the 'Haunted Bay' web site for ideas and information about things to do and see, spooky movies to watch, and so on. Even if you don't live in the Bay Area-- or in California for that matter-- it's still a good site to read about cool stuff, and maybe get an idea or two. I'll start with that one. And let it be known that there are only 83 days left until Halloween....*fang-toothed grin*

'Haunted Bay'

'Devious Concoctions'

'Pirates of Emerson'

I went to this one a few years ago, and it was pretty darn awesome. If you're into pirates, you should definitely get a kick out of it. The actors who play the pirates are so real looking, and they really get into their roles as evil, dead pirates. The costumes and make-up are extraordinary!

'DC Cemetery'

I think this was one of the yard haunts I visited a few years back, and it rocked! I wish I'd had a camera on me to take photos, but I didn't. Bummer.

Exotic Erotic Ball

We're hoping to attend this one this year. Never been, but it's supposed to be totally wild and crazy!

Le Bal Des Vampyres

I used to be very into the ballroom/Victorian costuming scene, and this was one of our favorite yearly, post-Halloween events. If you're a fan of the vampire genre like myself, then you should find it pretty cool. You see some amazing costumes. It is a ball, and there is Victorian ballroom dancing, complete with a live band. Very fun, indeed!

The Scream Extreme

I've never been to this one, but it sounds pretty cool.

More to come....!!! :)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Halloween already

So, seeing as how I am always in the mood for Halloween (just can't get enough, I tell ya!), I decided that I wanted to make a Halloween bedspread for my bedroom. It just isn't enough to decorate the outside of the house and deck. I like my room to have the look and feel of it as well. I was overjoyed recently when I walked into a Michael's and a Walmart and discovered that they already have Fall and Halloween stuff on the shelves. Hooray! Walmart had some really cute Halloween fabric, so I grabbed some and began work on my bedspread yesterday. I can't wait 'til it's finished! :)