Posted in Halloween, Life

How I Do Halloween

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If you’ve met me or read this blog before, you probably know that my birthday is on Halloween because I like to tell people that. I love having a Halloween birthday. I love decorating my yard and dressing up in costume and carving pumpkins and watching scary movies and going to haunted houses and accidentally scaring myself with the tricks and traps I set for my husband.

This year, my homemade cemetery had a theme…

 

While I love having a birthday on Halloween and celebrating it all month, my actual birthday can be a bit chaotic. When the day approaches, friends often ask me, “What are you going to do for your birthday?” and I just laugh. If they’re thinking of parties and date nights and nice dinners or even just some relaxing me-time, they’re way off.

I dressed as Lucy Carlyle from the amazing Lockwood & Co series at school and a wild-haired demon thing wearing yoga pants at home…

See, I can’t actually go out on my birthday because I have to want to be home to hand out candy to all the trick-or-treaters I’ve been luring to my house for the past month. Nope. No fancy birthday dinners or relaxing me-time on my birthday. Instead, my night goes something like this:

  • Dump candy in bowl, light 8-10 jack-o-lanterns, turn on Halloween-themed music. Change out of work costume into yoga pants, comfy sweater, and creepy mask. Pour “pumpkin juice” into a Halloween-themed cup, and sit down to put my feet up and wait for—DING DONG! Never mind, trick-or-treaters are already here.
  • Open door, offer candy, say Happy Halloween in creepy voice, close door.
  • Sit down, take a sip of “pumpkin juice,” realize I cannot drink pumpkin juice through my mask, lift mask, raise “pumpkin juice” to lips—DING DONG—spill “pumpkin juice” on self.
  • Pull mask down, open door, offer candy, am informed of peanut allergy, offer Halloween pencil instead, say Happy Halloween in creepy voice, close door.
  • Sit down, pick up “pumpkin juice,” am handed birthday gift by hubby. Squeal with delight from behind my mask, begin opening birthday gift—DING DONG!
  • Put down “pumpkin juice,” leave gift half-unwrapped, open door, see some of my students on the doorstep, offer candy, say Take two. Take THREE if you’re a good student. Watch them squirm a bit, say Happy Halloween in creepy voice, listen to students laugh at me because I’m a very dorky teacher, close door, return to birthday gift.
  • Rip paper quickly and unceremoniously off of birthday gift, say Ooo! Thank you so much! in non-creepy voice. Lift mask to kiss hubby—DING DONG.
  • Pull mask down, open door, offer candy, am informed that neighbors have bigger candies, say Good for them in creepy, surly voice, close door.
  • Lift mask, realize I have lost my “pumpkin juice,” begin searching for it—DING DONG!
  • Pull mask down, open door, realize it is the pizza we ordered, take the pizza, tip the delivery person, offer candy, say Thank you and Happy Halloween in creepy voice, close door.
  • Find “pumpkin juice,” lift mask, guzzle “pumpkin juice,” stuff slice of pizza in mouth—DING DONG!
  • Swallow pizza, pull mask down, open door, see small child staring at mask in horror about to cry, lift mask, say It’s ok! in not-creepy voice, offer candy, say Happy Halloween in least-creepy voice, close door.
  • Sit down on couch and—DING DONG!—Tell hubby to please please please hand out candy for five minutes while I eat a slice of pizza.
  • Eat pizza, pour more “pumpkin juice,” contemplate going to Bermuda for my next birthday.

But, really, that would never happen. I love my Halloween birthday and all of the “work” that comes with it. This Halloween, like every other Halloween, I was right where I wanted to be.

***

If you’re wondering why I’m posting about Halloween halfway through November, it’s because this October brought with it the wrong kind of scare. On October 20th, an enormous tree fell on my parents’ house during the terrible storms in Dallas. My parents were inside at the time. They were (thankfully, miraculously) unharmed, but the house suffered serious damage.

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I spent the week before Halloween helping my family clean up debris, deal with insurance, pack my parents’ belongings, and relocate them and their cats. It was exhausting, both physically and emotionally. This is the house I grew up in and also the house my dad grew up in. It’s never not been in our family, and its sentimental value is incalculable. After going through all that, I just wasn’t in the mood to write for a while.

Now though, things are starting to look up. Everyone is doing ok, and I’m finding my way back to the keyboard. There is still a long road ahead though. There’s a lot of work to be done, and my parents will be displaced for quite a while. If you would like to make a donation to help them pay for repairs, visit their GoFundMe page. A few dollars toward their goal would make a wonderful belated birthday present to me. =)

 

 

 

Posted in Halloween, Life, Lists

5 *MORE* Tips For a Proper Haunting

TrinketCollageNot enough bats in your belfry? Too much eye of newt in your witch’s brew? Ghosts hanging a little limp? Clowns refusing to cooperate? Have no fear! Er… wait. Scratch that. Have MORE fear! Master your Halloween decor with these tips.

[Did you miss Tips #1-5? Check them out here and then come on back.
These new tips promise not to slither away while you’re gone.]

6. Heads Will Roll! (That’s Why You Have to Weigh Them Down.)

It’s always a little embarrassing when your neighbor comes over after a windy day, hands you a skull, and says, “Um, I think this might be yours.” Then you’re all like, “Alas! I mean, thanks. I was looking for that.” These days, people are doing amazing things with Styrofoam, which means we no longer have to rob cemeteries or steal from medical schools to have realistic-looking Halloween decorations. But while plastic and Styrofoam look like the real thing, they do not carry the heft of a real human head, making them easy playthings for the wind. Therefore, you have to find a way to make them stay put. Following this simple advice will help keep you from losing your head this Halloween.

This guy's got rocks in his head.
This guy’s got rocks in his head.

Options: Hollow plastic skulls are easy to weigh down with gravel or a few golf ball sized rocks. If there’s no hole in the skull, just make one, either on the bottom, if you want to be discrete, or on the top if you want to secure it to the ground and give it a gruesome cause of death. Styrofoam skulls can be stuck to the ground with a stake or a piece of a wire clothes hanger. Then again, they don’t actually have to sit on the ground at all. This year, I have a levitating skull that bobbles at the end of a wire hanger two feet above my graveyard.

[Note: It’s not just skulls that get away from us. The wind can wreak havoc with all kinds of decorations. Don’t be afraid to get tough on those tangled spider webs and flapping phantoms. Unruly poltergeist? Fix that ghost to a post! Fool climbing onto your roof? Tie that clown down! Show those ghouls who’s boss.]

7. The Materials Are Coming from Inside the House!

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Trying to get a decoration to work? Before you run to the store for supplies, look around your house. You may find everything you need to make that ghost or goblin come alive. Here are some normal household items that come in handy when spookifying your yard:

ShepherdHook1Wire Clothes Hangers: I’ve already mentioned the benefits of pieces of wire for securing skulls, but they can also be useful whole. Those bats in the photo above are all attached to one wire hanger which was then easily draped over a small tree branch. Can’t see it in the photo, can you? You also can’t see it in real life. It blends right in with the tree much better than even twine does and now there are no knots to untie or strings to cut. I did the same thing with four small ghosts, hung at varying heights on one hanger, and they came out pretty good too.

Shepherd Hooks: These garden tools are perfect for hanging lanterns or creepy signs or ghosts. Like the hangers, they pretty much disappear at night. This year, I used one of mine to hang a skeleton, who sways flirtatiously just above the grass, and display a lightweight haunt who appears to be swooping forward. For other months, these hooks are also easy to turn into candy canes by wrapping them with red and white lights.

GhostBed Sheets: This may sound unoriginal, but old bedsheets really do make good ghosts. For my ghost this year, I used a sheet draped over a $1 green plastic pumpkin, with holes cut out of it so that the eyes show through. I also weighed down the plastic pumpkin with a few rocks to keep it from flapping around too much.

Other Useful Items to Keep in Your Decorating Box:

  • Twisty ties
  • Large safety pins
  • Clear tape
  • Fishing line
  • Rope
  • Black spray paint
  • Bandaids

 8. See the Terror, Hear the Terror, FEEL the Terror!

[Note: Readers who live in my neighborhood, why don’t you just go ahead and skip this tip. That’s it. Move right along to number 9. Nothing to see here. Or hear here, or feel here…]

All too often, our Halloween decorations are focused only on sight, but, as with any creative endeavor, we should really be trying to appeal to as many senses as possible. If a trick-or-treater can simply close her eyes to avoid the horrors of your house, then it isn’t as horrible as it could be.

Looks like a pretty harmless porch, doesn't it?
Looks like a pretty harmless porch, doesn’t it?

Sound: There are lots of store-bought Halloween decorations that make sounds, usually either ear-piercing screams or creepy sayings delivered from a mouth whose movements don’t quite match the words. But if you want something a little different, that costs next to nothing and doesn’t require batteries, I’ll let you in on a pretty genius little idea I had. [Neighbors! I told you to skip this tip! Shoo! Shoo!] Ok, here it is. Get the biggest bubble wrap you can find. If you’re like us, you won’t even need to buy any. You can just go into your garage and pull it out of all the Amazon boxes that you’ve been meaning to recycle all year. Then lay a big piece of it on your sidewalk or front porch and put a thin rug on top of it. Not a doormat– that’s too heavy. Just a little throw rug. When the little monsters get close to your door, POW! POW! It’s great to watch them jump. The only problem is that some of them figure it out and start jumping up and down to pop them all. But that’s ok. Just have more sheets on standby and switch them out between groups of trick-or-treaters.

Touch: This one’s great because it gets the parents. [Neighbors, for the last time, GO AWAY! Stick around any longer and I’ll put a toad in your kids’ trick-or-treat bags on Halloween night. Or a cup of coffee.] I can’t take credit for this one. It was my husband’s doing. All you need is: a screen door or glass door that opens out, some fishing line, a small hook, and a giant spider. Above our front porch, we have several giant hairy spiders clinging to the gutters and drain pipes. They are not especially “realistic” looking, but they are awesome and make really fun decorations. However, one of those spiders is connected to a fishing line that goes through a hook on the top of our porch and connects to our glass door. So… when the glass door opens, the giant spider drops down. The kids are usually out of range either because they’re too short or because they’re too close to the door, but the smiling moms and dads standing a few feet back? They make perfect vicitms. 🙂

To add the sense of smell to your Halloween display, read on. As far as TASTING the terror? I guess you could buy really bad candy, but that just seems mean.

9. Carve Real Jack-o-Lanterns.

Friends from previous years
Friends from previous years

I’ll probably get some push-back on this one due to concerns about sharp objects and fire hazards and vegetable abuse, but there is nothing like the feel of pumpkin guts squishing beneath your fingers, nothing like the smell of candle-singed pumpkin flesh, nothing like the flicker of flame casting shadows behind triangle-shaped eyes and sharp, pointy teeth. I hate to say it, but those little LED things don’t even come close. But even if you do opt for a light that doesn’t actually burn, at least carve a pumpkin. Or two. Or twenty. Let them light the way for all the little monsters that will soon show up at your door.

One of the joys of carving real pumpkins is the wait. I don’t have any pictures of this year’s crop yet, because it’s much too early to carve them. Jack-o-lanterns don’t last long in a Texas autumn. Within days, their pointy teeth will curl in, revealing wrinkly gums, and their eye sockets will turn black and fuzzy. Lift the lid and you’re sure to get one last eerie surprise, as spider-webby mold stretches from the rotting bowl within. I taped skeletons to my windows and hung ghosts over my graveyard at the end of September with no worries except that the neighbors might give me funny looks. But jack-o-lanterns… they have to wait.

If you think you’ve outgrown the ritual of pumpkin-carving, read “The Things a Picture Holds” by Annie Neugebauer, and see if it doesn’t make you want to run to the store for a pumpkin and a sharp knife, and maybe some s’mores fixings too.

Skip this one if you must. Or buy plastic gourds and glow sticks if you really want to. But at my house, there will always be at least one real pumpkin with a lit candle and that unmistakable aroma of a Halloween tradition.

10. Be weird.

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Call us crazy, but my husband and I both think this little pumpkin man is the scariest decoration we own. He sincerely creeps us both out. I got him at a thrift store for very cheap and I’m just waiting for the demon who’s possessing him to show itself. This year, as an added precaution, we decided to cage him.

Austin, Texas, is known for keeping things weird. I appreciate that and help out whenever I can. No matter where you live, when you decorate for Halloween this year, be creative, be scary, be thorough, but also be a little bit weird. Include a random skull-on-a-stick in your cemetery or cage something that doesn’t look like it needs to be caged or put your yard art in costumes. It scares people in whole different way.

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You’d never guess it behind their disguises, but these are my friends Armadillo and Roadrunner.

Whatever you do this Halloween, have fun, be safe, and don’t forget to check behind you once in a while. After all, the best decorated yards are the ones that make it easiest for the real creatures to hide.

Sweet dreams. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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