How to Embellish a Valance for Halloween

If you haven’t guessed it, I love decorating for holidays. I mean, re-doing entire rooms for a holiday. Bathrooms are particularly easy to makeover seasonally; they’re generally smaller, with fewer accessories and furnishings. So I endeavor to re-do the powder room and the hall guest bath for the holidays.

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A few years ago I purchased two simple black valances at Target to use in the guest bath at Halloween with a black and white shower curtain. I knew I wanted to embellish the valances, but kept putting it off, thinking it “had” to have a contrasting fabric trim or something. Then I decided to simplify the project, while still achieving a very Halloween look using simple grosgrain ribbon ($3 a spool) and orange rick rack that I found on sale for 10 cents a yard (so I bought a lot!).

For this project you will need a black window valance* (Target has discontinued this product, but Wal-Mart has several options under $12 online); ribbon and/or trim of your choice; fabric glue; fusible tape (available at fabric and craft stores); and an iron.

Decide on a design for your ribbon/trim. I kept this look simple with two bands of rick rack with a band of ribbon in between. Measure the width of the valance and add two inches; cut the ribbon/trim to that size.

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Following the instructions on the fusible tape, adhere the ribbon to the valance in the desired position/pattern. Leave one inch of ribbon overhanging the edge of the valance. Take care to make sure the ribbon is straight as you work your way across the width of the valance. (Use a ruler to periodically check, measuring the distance from the edge of the valance to the ribbon.) You should have one inch left over at the opposite edge. Turn the piece over and adhere the two end bits to the back of the valance.

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Repeat with remaining ribbon or trim. For this project, I used fabric glue to adhere the rick rack to the valance, following the instructions on the glue bottle and using the same one inch turn under on each end. I rather like the way it turned out! Here I’ve styled it with jack o’lantern jingle bells simply tied to the shower curtain rings with thin satin ribbon. Halloween accessories complete the look.

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*For fullness over a standard bathtub, use two valances. Carefully transfer the measurements for the design on the first completed valance to the second, to ensure continuity once they are hung.

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 So the question for you is: what simple accessories do YOU have around the house that, with some simple trimmings, can become Halloween accents for your home this year?

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10 Fall-Inspired Vase Fillers

River rock vase

Smooth river rocks anchor three simple stems for an easy autumn look, shown here at Parcel 104 at the Santa Clara Marriott Hotel.

Vase fillers have become very popular with nearly every home décor retail establishment and craft store offering a multitude of options beyond glass pebbles. Far from merely taking up space in a vase, vase fillers have multiple uses and can accent candlescapes, be scattered on a holiday table, mounded in low bowls for a coffee table centerpiece, gathered in clear containers … the list goes on. (This Halloween I’m using small, sparkly, lime green balls that are marketed as vase fillers for the bubbly brew in a witch’s cauldron.)

Of course, with nearly everything that rises in popularity, the price also rises. One of my favorite stores has an average price of $20 for fillers! I love to decorate with vase fillers seasonally, so it can be a substantial added expense to the holiday decorating budget, unless I can find low cost, yet appealing, alternatives.

And over the years I’ve done just that. So here are my top 10 stylish and affordable fall-inspired vase fillers. Most of them are either found in your yard for free, or may be picked up on your next trip to the supermarket. Any one may be used on its own, or combine them for interesting layers. Find a couple of branches from the trees in your yard and voila! An instant fall accessory.

Candles

1. Bird Seed ($5 to $10 for 10 pounds) I love using bird seed in my fall arrangements. It displaces easily, so pushing a candle into the filler or arranging large stems is a breeze. Look for a seed blend with all the colors of fall.

2. Pinecones (Free to $5/bag) Your yard can be the source of wonderful home accessories for the fall. I’ve collected basketfuls of pinecones from having just one tree in my front yard. Pinecones are relatively easy to paint, especially if they’re still closed, so they can take on a black hue for Halloween or red, gold, or silver for the holidays.

Layer Spanish moss, faux leaves and twigs for a rustic fall look.

Layer Spanish moss, faux leaves and twigs for a rustic fall look.

3. Fall leaves (real or faux) (Free to about $10 for 120 leaves) Real leaves can be brittle and break easily, while a good quality faux leaf will last for years. Sprinkle them in as the top layer of your vase arrangement, tuck them into a basket of pinecones, or scatter them on the Thanksgiving table.

4. Candy corn (about $2 for 1 pound bag) – The classic Halloween candy looks great with candles or spooky branches.

5. River rocks ($3 for 28 oz., Cost Plus World Market) – Rather than scooping rocks from your landscaping, opt for clean, smooth river rock as an alternative to glass pebble. They compliment any fall arrangement and make a good, study base for botanical stems. Great when layered with other materials.

6. Tree bark (Free) Take to your yard and collect any naturally exfoliated bark. Allow it to dry completely in the garage or mud room and dust off any critters or dirt before adding it to your arrangements. Lightweight and textured, it fills space and adds rustic charm.

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Display seed pods, pine cones and leaves in clear vessels for an instant fall display.

7. Seed pods (Free) If you’re lucky enough to have a tree that drops interesting looking seed pods, use them! Be careful, though – some pods can burst open and deliver their contents unexpectedly if crushed.

8. Twigs (Free) See how much your yard can yield? After every storm or windy day, it seems like there are a ton of little twigs blown from their branches. I experimented with twigs a couple of years ago and was more than satisfied with the look. They can be spooky for Halloween or rustic for Thanksgiving.

9. Spanish moss (About $3 a bag at craft and home improvement stores) This gives great texture and a different look than the other filler ideas. Great for layering!

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Dry beans are a colorful and inexpensive way to add texture to vase displays and candlescapes.

10. Dry beans ($1 to $3 per pound) The range of colors available in the dry bean section of the supermarket is astonishing, from green to burgundy. I find the best selection at Fresh and Easy markets. Layer them in a tall cylinder and pop in a few branches of bittersweet for an arrangement to take you from September all the way through to Thanksgiving.

So much color, so much texture … I hope you’ll try using vase fillers in your décor this year!

Note: As many of these options are flammable, if you’re using a vase filler in a candlescape, be sure to keep the flammable material away from the flame. A clear candle sleeve works very well. ($12 to $16, www.williams-sonoma.com)

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Witchy Woman Treat Box

Witch treat box collage

So adorable and so easy to make, this Witchy Woman Treat Box has been rambling around my brain for a couple of years, so I’m glad it finally was realized for this year’s “Macbeth Witches” Halloween theme.

Have you seen the stacked boxes for Christmas treats, printed to look like a snowman or Santa? Well, a few years ago I found this paper mache tall round box at a craft store (Joann, $4.99), and thought it would be perfect for the face on a stacked witch treat box set. I even had the round hat boxes on hand to make her body. But then I got stuck trying to figure out what kind of clothes she would be wearing, and how would I even make them? I couldn’t paint them all on (I’m so not an artist!), so would I use fabric, paper, what? I couldn’t find pre-printed witches costumes, and how could I make that on the computer? And the hat?! I thought of covering a foam cone with black fabric.

Ugh!

Enough!

If a craft isn’t dead simple, I’m not likely to do it–end of story. I put away all the pieces and with them, the idea.

Until this year … I found a paper mache witch hat (Michaels, $2.99) and thought, hmmm, could this be the perfect proportion for that tall round hat box? Yes it was! And then I SIMPLIFIED the project and decided the face and hat would be a super cute, easy project with little or no drawing required.

Supplies:

  • Tall round paper mache hat box (6” by 6”)
  • Paper mache witch hat (10” diameter)
  • Lime green acrylic craft paint
  • Black acrylic craft paint
  • Black permanent marker
  • Black self-adhesive felt
  • 2 wiggle eyes
  • Red rick rack trim
  • Hot glue gun
  • Double-sided tape

Optional:

  • Black feather trim
  • Rhinestone button
  • Black and white scrapbook paper or gift wrap

1. Paint the hat all over with the black acrylic paint. Allow to dry and apply another coat of black paint. Because I knew I would cover the bottom of the hat with decorative paper, I only painted a 1 inch band around the underside of the brim. If you’re not using decorative paper, be sure to paint the bottom of the hat completely.

2. If desired, trim the hat with black feathers using hot glue and add a rhinestone button. You may substitute whatever trims you like, using whatever you have on hand or whatever catches your eye at the craft store. Try grosgrain ribbon and a buckle, or a ruffle and a moon-shaped pin.

3. If desired, cut a piece of decorative paper to fit the bottom of the hat and adhere with double-sided tape .

4. Paint the entire lid of the box, and the outside and bottom of the box with the green craft paint. I mixed Apple Green and Light Foliage Green, both by Delta Ceramcoat, for my box/face. Apply two coats, allowing the paint to dry in between coats.

5. If desired, cut decorative paper to line the underside of the box lid and the bottom inside of the box. Adhere with double-sided tape.

6. Decide where the center-front and center-back of your face will be and mark reference points lightly in pencil, making the mark across both the lid and the base so you can match them up later.

7. Using the center-front reference as a guide, create a face for your witch. (If you like, you can draw all the features on with black and red markers.) I used self-adhesive black felt for eyebrows. Simply draw a basic curve shape and cut it out; use the cut out, flipped over, to trace out the other eyebrow. Apply the eyebrows.

8. Apply wiggle eyes under the eyebrows using hot glue.

9. I debated how to create the nose, and noticed that some off cuts of the black felt were gently curved, so those became the nose. One long and one short piece did the trick.

10. Make a mouth with red rick rack.

11. Draw on hair in pencil first. Starting at the center back, draw a spiral for a bun. Then, turn the piece around and determine where the hairline will start on the front of the face, marking the starting point roughly equally spaced from the facial features. With the lid in place, begin drawing (in pencil) rows of sweeping lines from the top of the lid to the bottom of the box, curving until the lines meet the bun in the back. Repeat on the other side of the box. When you’re happy with your witch’s hairstyle, draw over the pencil lines with black marker. Erase any obvious pencil lines and the reference markings.

12. Draw in bangs on the forehead with black marker. I repeated the number “6” to make curls.

13. Hot glue the hat onto the head.

Your Witch Treat Box is now ready to be filled with treats!! I suggest crispy rice bats and ghosts, peanut butter eyeballs and ogre fingers. This makes a great gift for a teacher, neighbor, or grandparent.

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Scary Solutions for a Wickedly Fun Halloween!

Scary Solutions Collage

Scary Solutions for Busy People are here! This year’s theme for Halloween home décor ideas and projects is Shakespeare’s Macbeth, specifically the scene in the cave of the three witches. (Read the full scene here.)

From artwork inspired by a classic, familiar verse to macabre ideas for a candy buffet, this year’s projects all have one thing in common—they’re just plain wicked! You might be amazed at how one idea can spawn dozens! And I’ll share my process with you along the way, so you’ll be inspired to take any theme idea and make it your own.

Here are just a few of the treats to look forward to in the coming weeks:

  • Witchy Woman Halloween Treat Box
  • 10 Fall Inspired Vase Fillers
  • In the Witch’s Kitchen
  • Printable Witch’s Brew Ingredient Labels
  • Printable Recipe Book Labels
  • How to Cast a Spellbinding Garland
  • Two Easy Halloween Paintings
  • Freakishly Fun Wreath Update
  • How to Turn Dinner into Décor
  • Creating Artwork in Minutes
  • DIY Lawn Ghosts
  • Wicked and Wonderful Movies

… and so much more!! Be sure to “Like” Smart Solutions for Busy People on Facebook to get the daily details, or subscribe to the blog to get updates in your inbox.


 

Eeek! So excited!!

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Valentine’s Day Countdown

Who can believe that January is nearly over, and our next holiday is just two weeks away? Never fear … with just one task or two a day beginning February 1, you’ll sail through Valentine’s Day on Cupid’s wings.

Here’s your day-by-day countdown to keep on track over the next two weeks. Be sure to add the tasks to your planner.

1 – Add a few touches of Valentine’s Day around the house: a wreath on front door, a collection of red and pink and white candles on a sideboard, or a heart-shaped dish full of fragrant potpourri on your night stand are just a few ideas. The “LOVE” votives shown above are surprisingly easy and oh-so-affordable.

2 – Make a list of the Valentines you wish to send. Purchase greeting cards and children’s Valentines to hand out at school, or use an online service like hallmark.com or Plaxo to send your cards for you.

3 – Not sending greeting cards this year? Schedule e-cards today for delivery on the 14th.

4 – Read Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights, each a perfectly crafted romance. No time to read? Download an audiobook on sites like iTunes and audible.com and listen during your commute or on the treadmill.

5 – Make heart-smart snack mix. Combine 1/3 c. each of three kinds of dried fruits (dried cranberries, diced dried apricots, raisins, or dried cherries, etc.) and 2/3 c. each of roasted nuts and seeds (try a mix of almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds). Package 1/3 c. portions in snack-sized zipper bags and stash in your desk, your tote and the kids’ backpacks.

6 – Plan your Valentine’s Day menu and make your shopping list. Purchase non-perishable items today, and the perishables on the 13th. Dining out on the big day? Finalize plans and make reservations.

7 – Plan the table decorations for your Valentine’s Day dinner. Layer red table runners or placemats with silver charger plates, your favorite china, red roses grouped in a small silver bowl and plenty of candles. (Tip: Tie clear votive cups with pink or red organza ribbons and use unscented candles so the scent of your delicious dinner won’t be overpowered.)

8 – Mail Valentine cards. (Remember that first class postage went up a penny on January 28, 2013.)

9 – Purchase chocolates to surprise your co-workers or friends. Indulge in a piece or two of dark chocolate yourself!

10 – Enjoy a bubble bath surrounded by candlelight, perhaps with a glass of wine or Champagne (pink of course!). Or, add an ounce of Chambord® raspberry liqueur to a flute before topping off with bubbly.

11 – Have kids sign their Valentines for distribution at school.

12 – Make heart-shaped mini cakes or Valentine’s Day cookies. Or, try these crisped rice heart treats!

13 – Shop for perishable food items for tomorrow’s meal.

14 – Spend time with your Valentine or host a chocolate tasting party with your girlfriends. A viewing of Pride and Prejudice is likewise in order!

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Light Up Your Love

This year I looked at the craft supplies I have on hand and came up with 3 unique ways to add some Valentine flair to everyday items. With ribbon, lace, paper and some felt stickers, I’m very happy with the results.

Love Letters

The LOVE letter votives are inspired by a high end look — $39 for a set of four! — that I saw at one of my favorite stores, but knew I could create a similar look for less. All you need is computer and printer, parchment paper and straight-sided votive cups.

Use a word processing program and a font of your choice (100-point size) to spell out L-O-V-E, one letter per line. Add a piece of clipart behind the letters, like this swirly, romantic graphic. Print on parchment paper using the color setting. Measure the height of the votive holders and cut the letters into horizontal strips to fit, using a paper cutter for a straight edge. Wrap one letter band around each cup, trimming the ends if necessary and secure with double-sided tape. Download the template to get the look shown by clicking here: LOVE candles (Tip: Use this technique to create custom candlelight for any occasion or holiday!)

Lace Lights

Lace is one of the iconic symbols of Valentine’s Day, dating back to Victorian times when ladies’ handkerchiefs trimmed in handmade lace inspired candy boxes and greeting cards.

For this look, I looked through my sewing supplies and found some pretty bits of lace that happened to be the same width as my clear votive cups. Wrapped in lace, secured with a bit of double-sided tape and tied with thin satin ribbon, these candles evoke a romantic spirit — perfect for a Valentine’s table. (And talk about a fast craft project!) If you don’t have (or can’t find) lace in the perfect width, simply stack the lace in bands around the votive glass. This technique would also dress up a simple glass vase, making it rose-ready!

Embellished Jar

Jar candles are a great way to bring a lot of fragrance to your home, with the added bonus of a long burn time. But, they’re plain and the labels aren’t so decorative.

Peel off the label (remove any residue with a cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol) and wrap the jar with a variety of ribbons in Valentine’s Day hues. Trim to about a ¼ inch overlap and secure with double-sided tape. In the look shown, the ribbon choices were inspired by the felt heart stickers (Michael’s craft store, $4). Because jar candles tend to be relatively small in circumference, you don’t need a lot of ribbon. In fact, the black ribbon used in this project was saved from a gift box and the others are leftovers from other projects, making this a very inexpensive project!

Why not take a rummage through your craft supplies, paper box, sewing basket, ribbon stash — even buttons and stickers? Look at what you already have with a fresh eye towards embellishing something plain into something sweet for your home.

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