Monday, October 29, 2012

Halloween Costume Reveal: Demon Doll

I'm a demon that steals the souls of children and traps them in dolls.  But if you have less imagination than me than I'm just a freaky doll.

More pictures and narration...

Friday, October 26, 2012

Halloween Costume Sneak Peek III: Little Details

Sorry for the drop off in posts.  I've been busy trying to finish up a lot of last minute details on my costume that ended up being a lot more time consuming than I'd estimated.  This has cut into a few of my planned DIY projects and posts.  My sister is in town as well, and we have been having a blast... last night we went to Knotts Scary Farm Halloween Haunt and were up until 3 am. Tonight I plan on doing a test run of my makeup and tomorrow night we are going out in our costumes, so the final reveal is coming!  More photos of some little details here...

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Fall Filler Post

I have a lot more posts coming including some more Halloween DIYs and costume sneak peeks (as well as a final reveal), but while I work on these projects, here's some more celebratory fall photos...

I love this creative cardboard box display!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Whoooo goes there?

I found this motion detector activated garden owl at Goodwill for a few dollars and thought it would make an excellent Halloween decoration.  When it senses your presence, it gives several startling hoots and the eyes light up yellow.  When I brought it home, I set it up as a sentinel at my office door, but my dog Buckley seemed to think it was a toy for him, and promptly knocked it over breaking a hole in it, and eating several of the shattered pieces.

So before I could paint it, my first order of business was to repair the hole.  I glued the pieces he didn't manage to eat with Gorilla Glue, but of course a small hole still remained.  I covered the hole with a piece of black electrical tape, smoothing it over the feather contours, and then sealed the edges with a light handed application of hot glue.  I then used the hot glue over the electrical tape to mimic the feather texture.  Then I could tape over the eyes with Scotch Blue Painter's Tape, and I covered the motion detector eye with a bit of moldable eraser (chewing gum would work too.) and I was ready to paint.  I used the same steps as last years glitter owl bookends which you can find here.  I actually would have left the owl just black, without the glitter, but I found I needed the glitter to camouflage over the patch job I did.  For some reason the adhesive left a the owl with a dusty finish, resulting in a paler black then I would have preferred, perhaps because it was an old can.

If you want to DIY one of these yourself, you probably find one of these owls at any garden center or nursery, as they are intended to scare off rodents and pests.  Below is a video of it in action, please excuse the background noise and shaky camera work!

The end result is perfect for placing by your front door to surprise trick-or-treaters!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Think Fast: Solving a Unplanned Costume Chaos

So one of my newly annual Halloween activities is going trick or treating with my friend Ann at Mickey's Halloween Party at Disneyland.  This requires a 2nd Halloween costume for me as they have some guidelines:

Costume Guidelines
All event attendees — including adults — may dress in their favorite Halloween costume and must follow at least these guidelines:
Costumes Should
  • Be child-friendly.
Costumes Should Not
  • Be obstructive, offensive or violent.
  • Drag on the ground.
  • Contain sharp objects, pointed objects or materials that may accidentally strike another Guest.
  • Contain any weapons which resemble or could easily be mistaken for an actual weapon.
  • Masks may be worn, but they must not obstruct vision and eyes must be visible at all times.
The other reason certain costumes won't work, which aren't mentioned, is that the costume needs to be comfortable to walk around the park in, and to wear on rides.  Obviously shoes other than flats, or wigs, for example, would not be ideal.  Last year I wore a kangaroo costume, that was kind of like onesie pajamas.  It was comfortable mostly, although the weather was still a little warm, even at night.

This year I was planning ahead as early as this summer, and I decided I would be Beatrix Kiddo from Kill Bill, which would be a comfortable costume to wear around the park, as it consists of a track suit and sneakers.  I tracked down a pair of Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66 sneakers in gold and black from England on ebay... the closest I could do, as the actual fencing shoe in that color combination was impossible to find.

I then found a cosplay site that made an authentic looking replica of the suit custom to your measurements, so I put in an order, expecting it to be made within 2 weeks as specified and then shipped in around the same amount of time.  However as 4 weeks approached, the status on my account remained unchanged since the day of purchase, and I was continually unsuccessful at contacting the seller.  I pleaded them to please respond if they were legitimate, as I would have no choice but to contact Paypal, but still to no avail.  I ended up having to start the complaint process, in which Paypal contacted the seller with my complaint.  I then got a response from the seller telling me my payment was safe, and I could be refunded if I didn't want the costume, and then they refunded me before I even requested it, without further explanation.  Did they even make my costume?  I would have rather received it, but I assume they didn't make it, as it was custom, and I doubt they would go with a refund if they had already constructed a custom costume.  I still am unsure though, if they were trying to rip me off, or if there was just something lost in translation, as the company was located in China.  Still, do not ever order anything from this company.

At this point it was already mid September, and I was unable to get another suit made as all the other cosplay costume companies are also in various eastern foreign countries, and offered custom over ready-to-wear.  I considered making my own, which I am confident I could do given more time, but with my other costume on my plate, it just wasn't viable.

Because all of this, I struggled with the idea of a new costume.  Frustrated, I didn't really want to spend tons of money, and I still had my heart set on my original idea.  Then the date we had planned on going sold out, so we thought our plans might be canceled.  I kept considering things I already had, but it was difficult as it had to meet the guidelines, and I hate doing anything halfway.  I was just feeling defeated.

Then at the last minute we decided to get tickets for this weekend, and I came up with an idea, using some of what I had, and a little bit of creativity and renewed enthusiasm. 

Using this dress...

and these leggings....

and creating this mask...

I bring you Dias de las Muertos Minnie!  Trick or treat!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Horror Warhol Style

I wanted to share a bit about two of my favorite horror genre films, "Flesh for Frankenstein" (1973) and "Blood for Dracula" (1974).  The films were originally released as "Andy Warhol's Frankenstein" and "Andy Warhol's Dracula" but the titles were changed for the US dvd released.  Both films were directed by Paul Morrissey and produced by Andy Warhol, and the screenwriter is Tonino Guerra whom is well known for "Blowup".  The two films were shot in Italy within a few weeks of each other with a mostly Italian cast, which also included Udo Kier and Warhol's  muse Joe Dallesandro, as well as a cameo by Roman Polanski.  I stumbled across these films several years ago OnDemand, and subsequently became completely smitten and obsessed.

I will offer you a brief one sentence synopsis without spoilers of the two films.  Flesh for Frankenstein involves the mad Baron von Frankenstein's quest to create a perfect Serbian race by creating an "Adam" and "Eve" with various involuntary human donors, which he then intends for them to breed.  Blood for Dracula is about a dying Dracula leaving his castle in Transylvania on a quest for virgin blood to save his life, under the guise that he is seeking a virgin bride.   These films have it all: humor, gore, and unconventional eroticism only Warhol could make you appreciate that involves promiscuity, adultery, incest, and necrophilia.  Some of the comedic elements that may or may not be intentional is Joe Dallesandro's unmistakably Brooklyn accent in a 19th century Serbia setting.  The other being Udo Kier's Dracula's pronunciation of virgin as wirgin.  The gore scenes are also "so bad they're good" with the Frankenstien scenes shot for 3D, including a hilarious scene of a live victim's head being harvested for the Baron's creation with an oversized pair of scissors. The two films also contain what I believe to be the two greatest horror film lines of all time, respectively,   

"To know life Otto, you must fuck death in the gall bladder" 

My other favorite thing about the films is the beautiful soundtracks composed by Claudio Gizzi.  I happened upon a rare import release of the Flesh for Frankenstein soundtrack on vinyl for a mere thirty dollars or so, and am still desperately searching for the rarer Blood for Dracula vinyl import.  (There is currently one listed on ebay for $200- ouch.)  One of my favorite pieces is the intro on Blood for Dracula, titled "Old Age of Dracula", which I actually walked down the aisle to in my wedding!  Because I was unable to obtain the soundtrack, I had my husband lift it off an upload of the opening sequence from Youtube, and perform his studio magic to clean up the track.  I love the cinematography of the opening sequence as well (below).  There is something very Bowie-esque to me of Udo Kier as Dracula applying his makeup before his nonexistent mirror reflection.

Also as someone who hates the Twilight series, as I believe abstinence and glitter have no place in vampirism, I can't help but appreciate this video short (below) made with clips from "Blood for Dracula" titled "Dracula hates Twilight."

I hope I have managed to have peaked your interest, so that you may add these two films to you Halloween que this season!

Decked Out

I finally got my decorations up...

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Subtle Touches of Fall

For a die hard Halloween fanatic, I am late with putting out my Halloween decorations, being that I haven't done so and it's ALREADY October 2nd.  The work on my costume, which is still not complete, has put some of my other Halloween related plans on the back burner.  I'm okay with that because as much as I love Halloween, I have found that getting out my decorations at the beginning of the month, or even as over zealous as the end of September, I sometimes tire of the extra "clutter" around the house before the 31st has even arrived.  Also, as I like to decorate with candy filled apothecary jars, it can be hard on my willpower, and expensive as I continually have to purchase refills. In addition, last year I had my calendar so full with events, I felt burned out come November and in need of a serious candy/alcohol detox.  Basically, what I'm asserting, is that this year I've made a conscious decision to take it a bit slower, and savor the month not worrying about doing everything all at once.  I'm leaving the big events as a finale, and staying in to do my Halloween DIY projects (and get those posts and the decorations up), enjoy the premieres of my favorite horror genre shows and what not.

Here are a few of the things I'm currently surrounding myself with to get in the Fall/Halloween spirit:

A pre-workout worthy carby breakfast of limited edition Pumpkin Spice Thomas's Bagel Thins, with The Laughing Cow cream cheese spread and sprinkled cinnamon, to ward off cravings for 300 calorie Starbucks Pumpkin Spice lattes.

A cute new owl Bath & Body Works Wallflowers oil plug-in with Carmel Pumpkin Latte scented oil to reinitiate the 300 calorie Starbucks Pumpkin Latte cravings.

Trading in our summer white bedding for this cute fall-ish, whimsical, oversized damask-like print, with woodpeckers, owls, bunnies, and foxes by Patch NYC for Target's The Shops.

Utilizing a punch bowl and some of my other thrifted orange opalescent carnival glass pieces with fall leave motifs, as fruit bowls.

A divinely scented carmel apple candle.

Monday, October 1, 2012

My Love for Halloween Costumes and Cosplay

As far back as I can remember, Halloween has always been my favorite holiday, for the obvious kid reasons: candy, staying up late, but most of all dressing up in costume.  I believe I owe this infatuation to my mother, who always made us the most fabulous Halloween costumes for my sisters and I.  I remember as a child accompanying her to the fabric store to pick out what we wanted to be, from a selection of patterns and fabrics.  Sometimes our creativity went beyond the bounds of what the pattern selections had to offer, and we would sketch our own costume ideas, which my mom would lovingly and painstakingly create for us with her skills and Elna sewing machine.

One of my fondest costume memories is the year my mom made me a teddy bear costume I wanted, complete with gloves that had felt paw prints on the inside and a tie on hood like hat that gave the appearance that my head was in the bears mouth, as if he'd swallowed me whole.  I have no idea how my mom sewed that heavy faux fur fabric without breaking her sewing machine needle.  I remember that same year, I think it was in the third grade so it must have been 1987, Alf was really hot.  I saw this rubber Alf mask that matched the fur body of my teddy bear costume perfectly and I begged my mom to buy it for me and let me be Alf for Halloween.  She told me no, and who could blame her with all the work she put into the costume!

Even though I wasn't Alf, I'm pretty sure I felt like the star of the elementary school costume parade that year!  I remember always feeling sorry for the kids that had to don those plastic smock and mask costumes they offered at the drugstore, or even worse, a Charlie Brown style white sheet ghost.  This was not so much because of snobbery (I knew even then that not every kid was as lucky to have a mother or the means to make an incredible Halloween costume) but my artistic vision.  Having an artists eye and being a stickler for details, the thing about the licensed costumes that bothered me was when they had the character mask (My Little Pony for example) and then the smock just had the My Little Pony logo on it.  I always felt like it was half assed.  The ones that had a trompe l'oeil image of the characters body were at least excusable.  How would you like to be the kid who's parent waited last minute and ended up with the below costume?

Today my problem with store bought costumes as an adult (besides the fact that they are overpriced for the cheapest constructed polyester firetrap you can wear) is that as a woman, the only offerings are the cliche sexy costumes.  Why is there only "sexy witch", "slutty police woman" and "naughty Alice"?  Why can't you be just a witch, police woman, or Alice in Wonderland?  The most memorable costumes to me are the super clever, super scary, and downright authentic to the smallest details.  Below is a look at some of my costumes from the recent past.

Among my other Halloween posts this year, which include many DIY projects, I will be posting some sneak peeks of this year's costume until I reveal it in full, closer to Halloween.  I was already sketching out this years costume before Halloween 2011 had even come.  It was a true moment of inspiration that led me to a year of sourcing materials to piece my vision together, and in the more recent months, painting, sewing, and dying to create my most impressive and ambitious costume to date!

Happy Halloween!  30 days and counting!!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Grocery Organization with a Little Help from Martha

Our pantry is one of those places that I continually have to organize, but nothing really seemed to stick. I think I finally made some of the right changes to keep it in some semblance of order as the contents constantly change.

One of the problems was that we weren't utilizing the door storage very well, as we had tea boxes and other random items in there, while having a lot of bottled condiments on a carousel which wasn't easily visible or accessible for those kind of items.  I removed the tea boxes (finding that many were empty... an annoying habit that SOMEONE in my household is guilty of doing) and used the door space to house the bottled items.  I divided them into categories such as sweeteners, cooking oils, and so on.  I then labeled the shelves with Martha Stewart Home Office with Avery Adhesive metal book plate labels that you can purchase at Staples.  The nice think about this type of labeling is that the labels slide in and out, so that you can change them when you rearrange.  Although it's pretty obvious to they eye what one is looking at, the labels can be a helpful prompt to make sure things get put back where they belong to keep the order.

An item I highly recommend for pantry organization and food storage is OXO Pop containers.  They are clear (so you can easily see the contents), come in many sizes stackable, and airtight.  We received a starter set of various sizes as a wedding gift, and I've acquired more because they are so practical.  They are a little on the pricey side, but they are a good deal if you can find them at Home Goods or TJ Maxx.

One of the things I recently found they are great for is cereal storage.  It is helpful because you can see how much cereal is left (no more empty cereal boxes left in the pantry) and know when you need to purchase more.  Also because they are airtight the cereal stays fresh (the same person who is guilty of leaving empty boxes is also guilty of not rolling the internal bag of cereal, making it quickly become stale).  I also like the larger containers for flour and sugar, (and protein powder).  The smaller containers are great for the variety of nuts and dried fruits we always have on hand for salads, cooking, and snacks.

I recently came upon an ingenious pairing for the OXO Pop containers with Martha Stewart Home Office with Avery chalkboard labels also available at Staples.  These labels are not only attractive with their flourish die-cut design, but practical, as they are nonpermanent in that you can erase and change the label to match the contents as needed.  And you can include the expiration date as well!  I also used these labels on clear bins, which are good for wrangling things like beef jerky pouches, seasoning packets, and sprinkles.


Now that the pantry was organized, I was ready to go shopping which inspired me to organize my coupons.  Yes, I use coupons, but I am not a crazy coupon lady by any means.  The reasons why:
  • I don't use many of the products the manufactures provide coupons for
  • I have a certain degree of brand loyalty for certain products
  • I don't have a stockpile and have no desire for my home to resemble a grocery store
  • I don't dumpster dive for coupons
  • I don't subscribe to the paper
  • I don't need 500 candy bars
I do however use coupons somewhat regularly on the things I buy, and need, and I am able to save an average of 25% on my grocery bill, which really adds up.  Some people are snobby about couponing, as if it's below them.  Just because you have money doesn't mean you shouldn't save.  Who doesn't like free stuff?  Every time I save a few hundred dollars, it's like getting a pair of shoes for free!

Because I am not a crazy coupon lady, I don't need a jumbo binder that weighs 50 lbs.  However my old system of envelopes divided by category wasn't working so well and if you can't find what you need you won't use it (before it expires).  So again with items from Martha Stewarts Home Office with Avery line at Staples, I created a little coupon binder I could take shopping.  One of the things I love about her line is that a lot of the accessories are robins egg blue, so it matches my office!  I purchased a small robin's egg blue binder that can fit in my purse and some dividers, and clear pocket pages.  I also added some filler paper in the front that is perfect for composing shopping lists.  For me, I kept it simple (no subcategories) and divided them into grocery/food, household/cleaning, personal, pets, and other.  Each category has a few pages of various size clear pocket pages, so I can flip through it and easily find the coupon that I need.

A few of my tips about couponing:
  • Online shopping: did you know there is almost always a coupon code for most retail websites?  You can just Google the name of the retailer and coupon code and see what comes up.  Retail Me Not seems to have the most valid codes.  Depending on the retailer you can sometime use up to 2 different codes on an order.  You can usually save 15-30% and get free shipping, just by typing in the coupon code in the field at checkout.
  • Bed Bath and Beyond: you know how they send out mailers constantly with 5 dollars off one item or 20% off one item coupons?  You can use multiple coupons on one purchase, one coupon per item, AND although the coupons have expiration dates, they except expired coupons (and competitior coupons).  So if you shop there, don't ever throw your BB&B coupons away!  You can use them on the OXO Pop containers!
  • Pavillions/Vons/Safeway:  There Just for You program is great.  They give you special offers on the things you frequently buy.  I love berries, which are usually pretty expensive compared to other fruit, but because I buy them all the time they give them to me at prices like 77 cents a pound.  Because I get good deals on them I continue to buy them, and they continue to give me the deals!
  • Pets: If you sign up for Petco Pals rewards, you get coupons every month.  Also many of the dog treats you buy have coupons inside the bag for those products, don't throw them out!
  • Extreme Couponing tactic: I don't take it to that level, but I have figured out how people get the extreme savings, or even cash back on items.  Basically you try to combine your coupons with sales and other promotions.  For example:  I had a sunday paper coupon for 1.00 off these mashed potatoes my husband likes.  When I looked at the ads I saw they were on sale for 2.99 (regularly 3.99) with my club card.  And when I went on the Just for You site I was able to load to my club card, a store coupon that was also for 1.00 off.  So with my two coupons and the club card sale price I purchased the mashed potatoes for 1.00.  A good deal, but I don't need 500 tubs of mashed potatoes... I was happy with the one.
  • Keep your coupons (like your reusable grocery bags) in the trunk of your car.  That way you can never go to the store and forget them.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

DIY Throw Pillows with Envelope Opening

I fell in love with this steampunkish/nautical sailing ship print fabric from Ikea and so I bought a yard and a half so I could make some pillows for our bedroom.  This is a great project for beginners, and really simple.  I purchased the pillow fills from Ikea as well, and the total cost of the project was about $26.00 for the pair.  Pretty good considering fashionable throw pillows from Z Gallery and other home stores are often upwards of $80.00 a pillow...  

The great thing about envelope pillows is that the covers can be removed and washed.  You can even just cover over old pillows instead of purchasing the fills, if you you are on a budget, or want to make a change with what you already have.  There are several different kinds pillow fills at different price points, but I prefer feather or down for throw pillows, because poly/cotton fills can be lumpy, and they aren't as plush, fluffy, or of substantial weight.  That's why I went with the Fjadrar fills, because they were nicer and the finished product looks more expensive.  I tend not to sleep with down, for allergy reasons, but these are the type of pillows you toss onto the floor before getting into bed anyhow.

Below are illustrated instructions I put together so you can make your own.  You don't have to use the same size pillow, as the instructions illustrate the formula for figuring out panel sizes for any size pillow, with 20" x 20" as an example.  Keep in mind that if you go larger, you may need more than 1.5 yards of fabric.  Also as a beginner it will be easier to work with a random repeat, rather than one that only goes one direction as I did, because it takes some thinking and consideration to make sure that things match up, and that you don't accidently sew one panel in upside down.

The photo above shows the back side of the pillow, you can see the overlap envelope opening  for getting the cover on and off of the pillow.  If you follow the instructions, the repeat should match up, not perfectly, but close enough for the opening to be very subtle.  Of course when you put the pillows on your bed or sofa, this side won't be the side to show anyhow... but if done right they will look like they were purchased from a high end home store!

Once you complete your first pillow, you will want to make more.  The pleasure of DIY is highly addicting.  I'm already on the lookout for the right fabric to update our living room seating with some new throw pillows!