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Halloween Fireplace Mantel Display

The air is cooler. The leaves are beginning to turn. And football has started to dominate many a household’s flat screen. Autumn is here, and with that comes one of my favorite times of the year – Halloween! While I dread most horror flicks, for some reason I love spooky decor. Even those animated ghostly figures, or zombies seemingly crawling out of the ground delight me. Something about those things tickle a spot inside me from childhood.

When I was a kid growing up in Allentown, Pennsylvania, we had this one neighbor who’s house was surrounded by really tall hedges. Literally the hedges formed a perfectly square-shaped fence. You couldn’t see in – and you couldn’t see out over those hedges. And honestly, no one gave much thought to those hedges any time of the year, except on Trick-or-Treat night. Suddenly those hedges became home to the BEST place to get your scare on! The wonderful folks who lived there turned their front yard into a fright fest – filled with live people dressed in mummy wraps, Dracula capes and other monsters. Each year, a man complete with white face and fangs would lay in a coffin perfectly still with his eyes closed. We would creep over (knowing full well from the previous year what was to come) and approach him. The moment we were close enough to see his chest rise up and down, he would jump up and reach out to grab us! Dear God, that gave us all a huge scare, but we loved it. Well, I did anyway – certainly there were some kids who cried. Rookies.

So all these years later, a part of me really wants to deck out the yard with all kinds of scream-inducing Halloween decor. But, the kiddos in my hood are still too young. Even my 5-year old, who wants to be a big boy and does his best to seem brave at the Halloween store, is afraid of the crawling hands and bloody appendages. I’m sure what I have in mind would put him and the other youngsters in nightmare territory. So, my dreams for the spookiest yard in the neighborhood are on hold.

However, I did decorate my fireplace mantel this weekend. I simply had to because I found this creepy black and white framed picture recently at an auction. The auctioneer referred to her at Aunt Ethel. Who knows what this lady’s name was – I’ll be calling her Scary Mary. Come on – she’s scary, right?

I wanted a mostly black and white mantel, and decided to keep the majority of orange pumpkins on the floor.

I kind of like how the black-lighting of the sun makes those crows look like silhouettes!

That gourd looks like science project under the glass dome jar! (I found another use for my yard sale Reader’s Digest books, too.)

I picked up this fabric cat at a local consignment shop this past year – knowing it would be brought out for Halloween. Something about those button eyes give me the willies! Like the dolls from the movie Coraline! I think its a Tim Burton movie – enough said.

I really wanted to use owls this year, instead of crows. However, I couldn’t find old ceramic owls to paint, and didn’t want to go out and buy owls just for this occasion. So, I recycled the crows from last year’s Halloween party. (I’ll be blogging about soon)

This is one of those solar powered patio lanterns. I would have loved an old-fashioned gas lantern – but again, the budget for new was out. Between Scary Mary and the pumpkins, I was tapped out.

The tree branches were snipped off a dead tree in our  neighborhood. The mason jar is filled with salt, the other is filled with burgundy popcorn. The labels came from Target. The skull was another purchase from last year. I painted the little vintage shutter I found at a thrift store.

Mini pumpkins and gourds – just love them!

Faux pumpkins – I learned my lesson last year – do not put these outside. Unless you want to visit the neighbors a few blocks over to retrieve them after a thunder storm.

And of course – Charlotte can’t resist an opportunity to get in on a photo shoot! She wouldn’t smile for the camera though. Too busy thinking about pumpkin pie!

Overall I like how it turned out. But, for some reason, it doesn’t feel complete to me. I need a white taper candle for the antique holder on the left. And it feels bare in the middle. Although I refuse to hang a banner, or fake cob webs.

I have a wood pallet in the garage that I want to take apart and make into signs. Perhaps I’ll paint one and hang it across the middle section. Maybe it should say, “Come back in 5 years for the fright of your life!” Because I am just getting warmed up.  (insert witchy cackle)

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Vintage Cigar Stand Turned Planter

My dear neighbor, Karen, recently moved and gave me a few pieces of furniture to paint. One such treasure included a vintage cigar stand. If you don’t know what a cigar stand is, its a piece that men would literally use to ash their cigars into. It once held an ashtray insert that could be cleaned out and reused. Her stand no longer had the ashtray insert. But, it was interesting nonetheless. However, the question became – what to do with this piece – as smoking cigars indoors has kind of gone out of fashion for many.

Before I had an answer to the question, I painted this piece with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in a buttery yellow called, Arles. I love this color when it gets a healthy dose of dark wax. It has such a pretty aged appearance that says, “I’ve been around for a while.” Perfect for vintage furniture!

So, it hung out in the garage for a while whiles I was considering it’s new purpose, until my mother in law gave me this pretty little pot of violets – which fits perfectly into the ashtray opening! Of course – a plant stand!

I love the bright blue-purple flowers against this yellow color – what a gorgeous contrast!

My first auction!

Today I went to my first auction. The first thing I discovered that I wasn’t prepared for – it lasted 4 hours! Why did I think I could get in and out of there with some great furniture quickly?
Perhaps if all they auctioned off was furniture, it could have been an hour or less. But, no. They took bids on little things, like silverware. One. Piece. At. A. Time. Christ – who needs one sugar spoon???

And it wasn’t just silverware that slowed it all down, it was the single saucers and cups, or the single crystal vase. Or the single glass pitcher. And the single Longenberger basket. I’m telling you, I was dying. I just really wanted to get to the good stuff.

Finally they did, and I had another rude awakening – bids went much higher than I was expecting. I thought I’d get better than thrift store prices on furniture. Not so. Most were much higher than I’ve seen in some thrift stores. There were several pieces I would have loved to purchase and paint – but I wasn’t there with big cash. And I wouldn’t have spent that kind of money anyway.

So after four hours and many unsuccessful bids, I came home with a few items that made it feel worthwhile.

This would be my favorite purchase – creepy Aunt Ethel. Well, at least that’s what the auctioneer was calling her. I’m sure she was someone’s aunt. Who knows what her name was. But, I loved this for the big old frame, and for some reason I am drawn to old photos like this. She will go on my Halloween mantel and be the star of what I hope will be a spooky centerpiece!

This cabinet/shelf is tall and will be gorgeous when I get it made over. Right now the finish is in terrible shape – but nothing some paint can’t fix!

Okay, I am looking at this and thinking, “what was I thinking?” But for $5.00 I may keep it in my garage as a place to store my paint and supplies.

I always love mirrors with a bit of bright paint! What color shall I do this up in? Hmmm…

So after all was said and done, I walked away satisfied and educated. And I look forward to the next auction!

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Paint Demo Inspires Craft Club

This weekend I had a nice group of neighbor ladies over for a paint demo. A few were really interested in learning how to transform their old furniture with the shabby chic style that is so popular. We worked on this tray, which can be purchased already decoupaged with this pretty floral paper from Jo-Ann’s Fabric. The wood was unfinished, and the handles come black.

We painted it with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Antoinette – a pretty soft pink color. I showed the gals how to distress with a sanding block and seal with clear wax. Then we even added a little gold gilding wax to the handles for some added glamour!

It was so much fun, sitting there talking about painting, drinking wine and generally gabbing with the girls.  And so, we decided this would become a monthly craft club. Like a book club, a different member will host a meeting at their home, where they will lead a craft. I’m starting in October with a Halloween craft – stay tuned – I’m sure to write a blog post about it!

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The Secretary is In!

This afternoon I delivered another custom piece for a client – a lovely secretary desk.

Below are the BEFORE photos: (Even completely spray-painted black, it was very pretty.)

 Here’s the AFTER: painted with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in French Linen and Old White.

I distressed the edges lightly and added dark wax in the crevices on the crown molding and around the window panels, after sanding back the stencils.

She decided to leave the inside black. Thank goodness, can you imagine how much time it would have taken to hand-paint inside all of those compartments!!

Here’s the piece in her home, adjacent to its matching table and chairs. She loved it and I am so happy with how it turned out!