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Showing posts from September, 2013

My Village Backgrounds

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With Halloween only a month away, haunted villages are popping up all over. If you are a Halloween village collector you should know about My Village 2-in-1 Holiday Village Backgrounds . Village makers don't often consider that the background is just as important as the foreground. A background not only adds a touch of realism, but it also adds a tremendous amount of depth, color, and bounces light back onto the dimly lit display (especially important when taking pictures). My Village offers an easy-to-set up accessory that consists of heavy-duty cardboard (similar to board game cardboard), printed on both sides with different motifs. The entire dimension is 45 inches wide by 15 inches tall but it comes sectioned in panels so you can configure them as needed (fold a panel back or turn a corner). You can also join 2 pieces for larger villages and the design will be seamlessly continuous. These are high quality, well-designed (with grooves to run cords underneath) and very

Halloween & Vine 2013: Acquisitions

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I had a blast at the 18th Annual Halloween & Vine art show in Petaluma, CA. A full report of the wonderful art and the brilliant artists I met is coming soon (along with links to their sites), but in the meantime, here is a sampling of what I took home!

Department 56 vs. Lemax Halloween Villages

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There are rivalries in every industry – even the collectible porcelain building industry! In the Halloween arena, there are two main distributors: Department 56 Halloween and Lemax Spooky Town. Below is an overview of their strengths and weaknesses. Village collectors, please submit your comments below. 1. Design.  Both produce similar themed buildings but Department 56 definitely has more sophisticated designs that are scarier and feature more realistic details. This is the biggest advantage over Lemax who has a more overdone and often silly aesthetic. There are so many accents, bats, webs, colors, signs,  figures, etc. that the excess is just overwhelming. 2. Production.  Department 56 has superior quality from construction to materials. Every small detail is carefully sculpted and painted (note the fingers on the reaper below). Lemax has less of an emphasis on quality with lackluster paint jobs, many plastic pieces, and often crooked decals. I've often reso

Halloween & Vine 2013: Preview

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Northern California readers, this weekend on September 28 is the annual Halloween & Vine  arts and crafts event. Artists are selected based on their originality and craftsmanship, ranging in mediums from ceramics, jewelry, and metal work to paper mache. Their  Facebook page  has a preview of the art available for purchase from this year's show as well as years past. I'm excited that one of my favorite artists, Shellhawk's Creations , will debut a new patch of ceramic pumpkins, straight from the kiln. I'm also looking forward to discovering and meeting many more Halloween artists! www.halloweenandvine.com Location:  The show is being held at the Hermann Sons Hall, 860 Western Avenue, Petaluma, CA 94952 from 9am-3pm with a $5 admission at the door. See the map below for directions. View Larger Map

Stephen King's Doctor Sleep

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In preparation for Stephen King's Doctor Sleep  I finally read the  The Shining . I'm a huge fan of Stanley Kubrick's near perfect film adaptation and never felt the need to read the book (which was a mistake). The original novel delves deeper into the the psychosis of the abusive Jack Torrance and the Overlook Hotel's history, but the real focus is little Danny Torrance and his "awakening." Kubrick's film is a true horror film, while the book is more of family drama. The long-awaited sequel,  Doctor Sleep, picks up a year after the original novel and follows Danny into middle-age where he's using the remnants of his gift at a nursing home to help comfort the dying. He meets a 12-year-old girl with the brightest shining he's ever seen and together they take on a tribe of paranormals that live off the life force of children with the shining. Thus ensues the battle good versus evil which happens to be King's strongest storytelling approach.

Under The Dome: Review

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The first season of Under The Dome wrapped up last week and while initially entertaining it became increasingly generic and disappointing. When it was first announced, a 13-hour adaptation of the massive book sounded like an intriguing idea for a miniseries.  But then someone decided to turn this one trick pony into an ongoing series with multiple seasons. Out went most of King's characters and plot and in came the bland, muddled stories intended to expand the scope  (in all the wrong directions). All to prove that this book never had the legs to be a series. It's difficult not to compare the series against the book since it features the same title, basic scenario, character names and a marketing effort to remind you of the source material. Yet it's a complete departure from the book. If you are going to adapt a Stephen King book, stick to the story. It really can't be improved upon (or call it something else like Haven did). The ending is different matter. It

Spirit Halloween 2013

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Happy Autumn! Celebrate the official start of the Halloween season by heading down to the neighborhood Halloween store. Love 'em or hate 'em, Spirit Halloween is a fun place. For the home haunter that needs a jug of fog juice, special lighting, or a ready-made prop to scare their neighbors, it's a good resource. Signing up for their email newsletter assures you coupons throughout the season. And on November 1st much of their remaining stock (other than the pricy animatronics and fog machines) are on sale for 50% off. Unlike the last few years, the stores are PACKED with products this year including a new category of Lawn Screams (gnomes, fountains and other decrepit decor for your garden), an expanded lighting section (including some fantastic LED spotlights) and a wide selection of creepy dolls (a ragdoll that sews her mouth shut and a teddy bear that sticks a knife into himself). Take a look at a few pictures from this year's batch of products. Walking

The History of Hard Cider

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The Autumnal Equinox is this weekend and with it arrives bushels of apples. Sure you can bake those into a pie, but let them rot in barrel for a year and you get pure apple cider pleasure. Cider is one of the best ways enjoy fruit while building Halloween props in your hot garage, but how much do you know about cider? Is it better than beer? Are there any health benefits? The infographic below from HackCollege.com will answer all questions about this sometimes sweet elixir. Created by: HackCollege.com

Bath and Body Works Halloween 2013

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While every other national retailer is getting into the spooky business, Bath and Body Works has officially given up on Halloween. They usually offer a variety of Halloween soaps, candles, and accessories but this year they put out one soap pump (in their signature Sweet Cinnamon Pumpkin scent): Keep Calm, Carve On . At least it's creepy instead of cutesy, but I wish they'd brought back their Vampire Blood soap pump from last year. (There's also some hand sanitizers available online because that's what every kid wants in their candy bag.) However, if pumpkin scents are your thing, they are offering a wide collection of bizarre pumpkin scented candles including some very specific food scents (Pumpkin Caramel Latte, Pumpkin Cupcake, Pumpkin Pecan Waffles), two Halloweenie scents (Pumpkin Carving, Pumpkin Hayride), and some fruity blends (the odoriferous Blueberry Pumpkin and the really smooth Pumpkin Apple). Plus they have a cool porcelain owl to shove your candle in

Sleepy Hollow: TV Pilot Review

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Fox premiered their new version of Sleepy Hollow last night and I had sincere reservations about the modern twist on the Headless Horseman. But it is smartly written, well-produced, funny, scary,  and has two incredibly likable lead actors. The story is a mashup of Washington Irving's tale, an Illuminati-like conspiracy with symbols and people sworn to protect secrets, witches, demons, and a Biblical apocalypse meant to come in seven years (seven seasons?). Created by the same guy who created Fringe , Sleepy Hollow will get a lot of geek love but it's much more accessible and fun. It feels like a blend of T he X-Files and Supernatural with an undercurrent of Buffy the Vampire Slayer thrown in for good measure. English theatre actor and writer Tom Mison as Ichabod Crane brings such a definitive, well-rounded life to Ichabod Crane. Unlike the buffoonish fop that Johnny Depp made of Ichabod in Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow , Mison plays his Ichabod as dedicated soldier,

Spirit Halloween 25% Off Coupon

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If you haven't signed up for Spirit Halloween 's newsletter, you should do so immediately. Their early season coupons are fantastic. This weekend only (September 13 & 14) they are offering 25% off your ENTIRE purchase . That's a crazy good promotion.

Insidious Chapter 2: Review

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It's rare for a sequel match the quality of its predecessor and Insidious: Chapter 2 has lofty ambitions that don't quite reach maximum potential. The structure and plot outweigh the other elements of the film (including the scares) but it's still entertaining, thrilling and an admirable experiment in what sequels should be. The first Insidious  worked on several levels: it was a family drama, a haunted house creepfest, and a swan dive into the obscure with "The Further"(courtesy of some bumbling paranormal experts). The sequel picks up moments after the first film and quickly free falls into complete absurdity. It's ambitious storytelling wastes no time with character development, and jumps around time periods which is both interesting and convoluted. There's also no breathing room for the audience to catch up, or quiet moments to reflect on the previous scene. It's just barrels through non-stop. It's obvious this movie was made for the fa

Catching up with... The Queen of Halloween

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Throughout the holiday season, we'll be featuring interviews with our favorite Halloween haunters and bloggers. The Queen of Halloween is a former radio host turned Halloween homemaker. Starting in 2009, she began The Queen of Halloween blog and sharing her many fun projects like Blood Jars, Mummy Candles, and Halloween Candy Wreaths. Why do you like Halloween? I do get asked that one a lot. (And if I practice witchcraft or Wicca! The answer is no... I don't!) But it really goes back to mom and dad. Not only was it on our first trip to Walt Disney World that I fell in love with the Haunted Mansion, but I actually wanted to live there....in the Haunted Mansion! Also, my parents always hosted the big Halloween party in our neighborhood. My dad would make big, scary props for inside and outside the house, and my mom would decorate, and make all the party food. Why did you start The Queen of Halloween blog?  It actually started a few years ago, my husband (The Count)

Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Buzzkill

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It's that time of year: the return of Starbuck's Pumpkin Spice Latte! If you're over 35 or need to watch your health, prepare yourself for some serious buzzkill. Each grande serving as prepared has 380 calories, 13 grams of fat, and 49 grams of sugar (equivalent to 12 1/2 teaspoons of sugar!!!) according to LiveStrong . That's a really sweet trick that might be best limited to an occasional treat. As an alternative, try the Starbucks Via Pumpkin Spice instant coffee and make it home with almond milk. Without the milk you are looking at 60 calories, 0 grams of fat, and the sugar is reduced to 13 grams (or about 3 1/2 teaspoons). Not great, but better if you want that Starbucks flavor. Or you can make it at home – from scratch! – and cut down on the calories and sugar. AverieCooks.com posted a great method using natural ingredients (pumpkin puree, spices, vanilla, milk) instead of artificially flavored syrups. A few people who posted comments said that the texture (

The Lords of Salem: Review

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Rob Zombie has done it again. He's taken great concept and turned it into a pointless music video with stunning visuals that are desperately seeking a plot. The perplexingly named The Lords of Salem (because its about female witches) starts well enough with a grainy film look that reminds one of the classic if schlocky 70s horror film. It's clearly an ode to the devil/witch movies like  The Omen, Susperia, The Wicker Man and especially Rosemary's Baby , but here, all bets are placed on Sheri Moon, Zombie's muse and wife. Unfortunately both are overconfident in her abilities as an actress and an anchor for a film. The long, slow camera pans, washed out light, and haunting music establish the creepy atmosphere, but the storytelling stalls and eventually is abandoned in favor of wild, artistic visions. Which is fine but this is still a movie and not an art exhibit. I appreciated the mature direction Zombie was going in, the many great concepts he introduced, and the un

Custom Carved Pumpkins

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Unfortunately, the last project on Halloween day is carving the pumpkin (no one wants moldy pumpkins for the big event), so there's always a mad rush and at least one bleeding finger. Artificial pumpkins are a good way to go for the home haunter, but they are unforgiving ("Harpy Haloween!"), somewhat expensive, and you need storage space for the bulky fauxgourds. For those who might not be good with a knife or are pressed for time,  Michaels now offers custom carved pumpkins . The base price starts at $20 (small), $30 (medium) or $40 (large) for their artificial pumpkin plus an additional 30% for design and other embellishments. Sure, it's a little odd that a business that promotes craftiness is offering to do it for you. Also, the design options are limited so don't expect to walk in with your own template. However, for a fully customizable option head over to the good folks at Stoneykins . In addition to selling some nifty downloadable pumpkin patterns

Toxic Toons Halloween 2013 Merchandise

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Artist Eric Pigors has launched his 2013 Halloween merchandise at ToxicToons.com . Former illustrator at Walt Disney Studios (working on films like The Lion King , Aladdin , and Beauty & the Beast ), Pigors has a self-described cartoonish style that is "edgy and not so goody-goody" with a strong influence of " rat fink ". For the last 6 years he's offered a limited-edition Trick or Treat bag stuffed with all kinds of his goodies (cd, signed print, pins, books). Beyond the prints, he also sells the coolest shirts (glow-in-the-dark of course), books, and even a ouija board. If that were not enough he also has a line of masks available on his site and through Trick or Treat Studios , one of my favorite mask studios.

Martha Stewart's Halloween Issue 2013

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On newsstands today is the 2013 Martha Stewart Halloween Special Issue (also available as a digital download for the iPad  through the Zinio app* and the official MSL app). It features more than 125 ideas – a mix of brand new ideas and classic ideas culled from the pages of Martha Stewart Living  – all in terrific layouts that embody the holiday's wicked essence. Fans will love Martha's magical transformation into "Fairy GrandMartha" (see some behind the scenes photos at  People.com ). But don't let the pink cover fool you. The "Infested" chapter, featuring swarms of spiders, wasps and other creepy crawlies, is especially gruesome, and the "Intense" chapter has some great tips on using eerie black light with fluorescent paint and makeup. This is a great issue! Martha Stewart Living celebrates Halloween like no other publication, and I'm dreadfully grateful they continue to put such a great effort into our favorite holiday. For more Hall

Strange Noises from the Sky

Be prepared to freak out. A strange phenomenon is occurring around the world. Unexplained, loud sounds of trumpet-like moaning is being heard and no one knows what's causing them.  The Huffington Post  said that similar occurrences have also been reported in Texas, Michigan, New York, Spain, and Norway.  A physics professor at the University of Saskatchewan believes the noises are from the electromagnetic waves emitted by the auroras. Others believe that its a sign of the apocalypse according to the Bible. And yet others assume it's a hoax since there have already been copycat videos posted online. The latest incident happened on Thursday in Canada and there's a terrifying video: