Friday, October 31, 2014

Toxic Spider Attack 2014

My theme for my Halloween porch haunt this year is Toxic Spider Attack, inspired by Stephen King's IT (there's a big spider thing behind Pennywise the clown), the 1950's monster movies like THEM!, and because I've been a fan of The Cure's Lullaby since 1989. I've been wanting to improve upon my previous spider display from 2007, and thanks to Britta Webmistress of the Dark and Ghoulish Glen I have a new interest in prop building with years of experience and ideas on call. I built the big spider with chicken wire, paper mache, and pool noodles (that was Britta's brilliant idea), with webs made from beef netting (thanks to the tips and resources from the amazing Lynne and Shawn Mitchell of How To Haunt Your House)! Thankfully spiders are one of the few insects that don't completely terrify me, although I didn't like looking in my spider's eyes (I literally had it face the corner of the garage). Here's a few pics with a full gallery coming to soon.

Have a SCARY Halloween!!!

Terrifying Old-Timey Halloween Photos

Happy Halloween!!! Celebrate the darkest day of the year with something really scary. The IFC FIX blog posted these old-timey Halloween photos a while ago that have terrified me ever since my eyeballs befell on them. Years of horror movies have trained to be suspicious of anything that looks antiquated. Sure, it's supposed to be a gentler, more innocent time, but these depictions are clearly sinister. Take a look and try not to pee your pants. Head over to the FIX to see the entire collection (and sources).

Thursday, October 30, 2014

How America Trick-Or-Treats

In the October issue of Food Network Magazine, readers were asked to share their opinions on Halloween candy. The results were somewhat surprising as I always let trick-r-treaters pick their own candy from the bowl, candy corn is 100% amazing, and 26% of Americans are liars because we ALL steal candy from our kids.

Trick-Or-Treat Time Line

Here's a history of Trick-or-Treating as featured in the October issue of the always perky and fun Rachel Ray Magazine. This magazine always reminds me of being at your cool aunt's house – you know the one that cooks fantastic un-gourmet food you want to eat, has a great sense of humor, and always talks about something interesting? Pick up the issue to see a great pin-up photo of Rachel Ray as a witch flying her broomstick!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Spooky Prop Crafting

Scary prop building (also called crafting by some people) is a sure sign of Halloween addiction. Once you leave the seasonal and discount stores behind, you can really use your imagination and repurpose other's people's trash into cherished decor. And it typically looks way better, costs less, and you can customize it to your blood heart's delight. As a newbie prop crafter (?) the finesse is something that I hope to develop over time, so I'm starting with smaller projects. Make sure you have a good tool kit, well-stocked supply closet, a crate of spray paints, and time to give attention to all those details. And follow directions! Talented prop crafters have forums and blogs to display their fiendish work and share their techniques – and many will be happy to answer questions. Here are some of the projects I'm attempting:

Spooky Crystal Ball Candlesticks
I love how creepy and classy this particular decoration looks and who doesn't love a crystal ball? Flaming Toes provides the tutorials and templates for these Spooky Crystal Ball Candlesticks. Rummage through Goodwill or yard sales for candlesticks.

Soda Bottle Bell Jars
With apothecary displays being all the rage, why not turn all those bottles of soda into a wicked display. The Soda Bottle Bell Jar tutorial from Planet Hollywood is pretty clever.

Gravestone Chair Covers
Leave no gravestone unturned! If you have a dining room that screams for decoration, why not make these Gravestone Chair Covers. Simple fabric, a little sewing and some stenciling is all that's needed. Not a sewer? No problem. Find a bottle of Fabri-Tac adhesive which bonds fabric, leather and even wood quickly – think of it as a glue gun in a bottle without the heat.

Bat Decals
Bats are must for Halloween and the NeatoShop has these great fabric bats that magically adhere to almost any interior wall, remove easily, and can be reused again and again. I love these!

Pumpkin Lantern
Lowes – yes, Lowes – has a great idea for little pumpkin lanterns. They use real pumpkins but you modify the project using artificial pumpkins and an LED light set. 

Bloody Hand Towels
This is so simple and easy theres no reason NOT to make this great project from The Queen of Halloween. Find her directions on her blog, and for those of you who have crafting aversion, you can always buy it here

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Toxic Cupcakes

Three years in a row I've won a Creepy Cuisine award at the amazing Eerie Elegance Halloween Party. It was held this past Saturday and you must take a look at the eerie trailer created for the party. Very fun!

Below is my winning entry: Toxic Cupcakes! It's one of my favorite recipes for a Lemon Blueberry cake. I separated the batter adding fewer smashed blueberries and green gel dye to one batch and left the other plain. The green batter went into the cup first then I topped it with regular batter. I pulled up some of the green batter from the bottom with a fork. After baking some of the green batter stained the tops and looked like mold. I then cored and filled each cupcake with lemon curd, and topped it with a dollop of lemony cream cheese frosting. (Citrus is so unexpected in the Autumn, right?) When you peeled the wrapper, you see all the spoiled green cake – gross! (Recipe will be on site soon.)

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Great Halloween Fright Fight

ABC loves to set neighborhoods ablaze with ridiculous holiday light displays and now they are also taking on Halloween with The Great Halloween Fright Fight. The one-hour special airs Tuesday, October 28 at 8/7C and features families fighting to the bloody death for a $50,000 prize for the best Halloween display. The first person to put up one of those blow-up inflatables should be immediately disqualified. For more info, head over to the ABC site and watch the preview below.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

All About Ouija

This weekend's Ouija movie has been getting terrible reviews: uninspired, dull, bland, bloodless kiddie show, lazy, routine – and that's just from my mom. Just look at the bland, unfinished official U.S. teaser poster (on the left). It's like they aren't even trying. At least the U.K. got a much more interesting poster (on the right). So sad that this and the re-release of Saw are the best Hollywood could muster for a scary Halloween.

Imagine if someone made a real movie about the ouija, the rise of spiritualism in America, and made it scary?! Every experience I've had with a ouija board has been terrifying. When I was in high school, a bunch of us played with a board that we found on the street. The board started moving quickly and, yes, on its own. Lights flashed, the wind suddenly blew crazily on a still summer night, and board kept saying it was tired of hearing all the pigs screaming. We ran home after WE heard a pig squeal directly behind us. 

Read more true stories about ouija board experiences on the About Paranormal site, and read A Brief History of the Ouija on Mental Floss:

As a method of supposed communication with the spirit world, the Ouija board has terrified countless slumber partying children and served as a plot vehicle in a number of Hollywood films. Here’s where it came from. 
Ouija boards have their roots in Spiritualism, which began in the United States in the late 1840s. (Claims that ancient Ouija boards existed are unfounded.) The new movement was led by mediums, who claimed to be intermediaries between the living and the dead. 
There were a number of ways mediums made followers believe that they were communicating messages from those who had passed. One, table turning, involved the table moving or knocking on the floor in response to letters called out from the alphabet. Another method used planchettes, heart-shaped devices with two wheels at one end and a pencil at the point; users would place their fingers on the device, which would then be guided by spirits who would “write” messages. 
Both methods were problematic. Table turning took too long, and planchette writing was hard to decipher. According to the Museum of Talking Boards, some mediums got rid of these methods altogether, preferring to channel while in a trance, while others built complicated tables, dials, and tables painted with letters that required people to use a planchette as a pointer. This method became the most popular—and paved the way for the Ouija board.  
Read the full article at Mental Floss

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Pumpkin Rugelach

If you've never tried Rugelach it's kind of a mini crescent roll with a tart and creamy pie crust pastry. The filling is typically super sweet apricot jam, or cinnamon sugar and nuts. It's a very satisfying three-bite dessert. Imagine my wicked delight when Food 52 came up with savory pumpkin rugelach with sage, walnuts, and parmesan cheese. (You could easily take this recipe back to the sweet side by making the dough and substituting pumpkin butter for the filling, but this sophisticated savory version is delicious.) I will warn you that the cream cheese-based dough is notoriously difficult to work with so do not event think of skipping the required chilling time. Work quickly, and if possible, work on a cold marble surface. If it starts getting sticky, put it in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Make sure to visit the Food 52 site, sign up for recipes, tips and how-tos, and access to their online store Provisions which sells one-of-a-kind gourmet kitchen supplies. While you're there don't miss The 9 Greatest Pumpkin Recipes including Salted Pumpkin Caramels, Pasta al Forno with Pumpkin and Pancetta, and Honey Pumpkin Biscuits.

Photo by James Ransom for FOOD52

Pumpkin Rugelach with Sage and Walnuts
by Arielle Clementine

2 sticks unsalted butter
8 ounces cream cheese
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh sage leaves, chopped finely
2 large shallots, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1/4 teaspoon aleppo or chile flakes
1 cup pure pumpkin puree (or squash or sweet potato puree)
2 healthy pinches kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1 egg
1 teaspoon water
flaky sea salt or finely shredded parmesan, for sprinkling

1. Prepare the dough. Cut the butter and cream cheese into tablespoon-sized pats and let soften for 10-15 minutes. Pulse the flour and salt in the food processor, and then add the semi-softened butter and cream cheese and pulse several times, until the mixture has formed large crumbly chunks (this can also be done very easily with a pastry knife, if you've got a sleeping baby and don't want to use the food processor). Gather the dough together into two large balls, flatten into disks and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for two hours or up to overnight.

2. While the dough is chilling, prepare the filling. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat until shimmery. Toss in the chopped shallots, sage, and aleppo and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the pumpkin puree and cook for 5 minutes more, to help evaporate some of the water in the pumpkin. Season with two healthy pinches of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Remove from the heat to cool down (the filling should not be hot when you spread it on the dough).

3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. When the dough has chilled, roll each disk into a 12" circle on a well-floured board. Make sure you flour the underside of the dough often, so that it doesn't stick. Spread half of the cooled pumpkin filling onto each disk, and then distribute half of the finely chopped walnuts over each disk. Using a bench scraper (or knife, or pizza cutter), cut the dough into 16 triangles. Roll up each triangle, starting from the base, to form a crescent, and place on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.

4. Beat the egg with a teaspoon of water and brush lightly onto the rugelach. Top each rugelach with flaky sea salt or finely grated parmesan (I prefer the sea salt, my husband prefers parmesan, so I make half of each kind). Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve warm, if possible.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror MARATHON

FXX will host a 12-hour marathon of The Simpson's Treehouse of Horror starting Sunday, Oct 26th at noon. Time to fill up those DVRs with unerasable content (say sayonara unwatched The Good Wife).

In case you miss it, they will also be airing themed mini-marathons all week. Here's the schedule:

MONDAY, OCTOBER 27 (8pm – 11pm) Theme: “Twilight Zone”

“Treehouse of Horror I” (Season 2)
“Treehouse of Horror II” (Season 3)
“Treehouse of Horror III” (Season 4)
“Treehouse of Horror VI” (Season 7)
“Treehouse of Horror VII” (Season 8)
“Treehouse of Horror XV” (Season 16)

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 28 (8pm – 11pm)
Theme: “Movie Spoofs”

“Treehouse of Horror V” (Season 6)
“Treehouse of Horror X” (Season 11)
“Treehouse of Horror XII” (Season 13)
“Treehouse of Horror XIX” (Season 20)
“Treehouse of Horror XX” (Season 21)
“Treehouse of Horror XXII” (Season 23)

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 29 (8pm – 10pm)
Theme: “Classic Monsters”

“Treehouse of Horror IV” (Season 5)
“Treehouse of Horror VIII” (Season 9)
“Treehouse of Horror XIV” (Season 15)
“Treehouse of Horror XVI” (Season 17)

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 30 (8pm – 11:30pm)
 Theme: “Springfield Attacked!”

“Treehouse of Horror IX” (Season 10)
“Treehouse of Horror XI” (Season 12)
“Treehouse of Horror XIII” (Season 14)
“Treehouse of Horror XVII” (Season 18)
“Treehouse of Horror XVIII” (Season 19)
“Treehouse of Horror XXI” (Season 22)
“Treehouse of Horror XXIII” (Season 24)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Halloween Music 2014

Many of us will be hosting (or attending) Halloween parties this weekend so it's time to consider the music for the spooky party. While you can rely on the old standards (Monster Mash, Time Warp, etc.) I recommend setting the atmosphere for different areas of the party. The entry way is a good place for sinister instrumentals as well as rooms like the kitchen and bathroom where guests spend quite a bit of time. Below are some of favorites for the 2014 season, plus our recommendation for a reliable, streaming radio station.

Espectrostatic: "The Daemonum EP"
This Austin-based group released a fantastic self-titled debut last year and will be coming out with their sophomore album in a few weeks. In the meantime, they have given fans a free five-song EP to tide them over this Halloween. Download the album on their Bandcamp page.

Sam Haynes: "Ghost Stories" and "Spine Chillers"
This UK artist has had a prolific year with two new albums this year. The spring saw the debut of their creepy "Ghost Stories" and "Spine Chillers" was released this fall. Both offer very creepy music and every so often a little bit of 80s horror movie-style music (think John Carpenter's Halloween theme) comes through. Visit for more information.

Halloween at High Noon: Corpus Vile
The label dedicated to independent Halloween music has put out their 2014 compilation called "Corpus Vile". It's a mixed bag from 21 artists of mostly dub tracks with a touch of dance, a little but of a hipster vibe, and often incorporating samples. Visit High Noon Records.

Halloween Nuggets: Monster Sixties A Go-Go
This massive 99 track collection of 1960s Halloween & horror-themed music is exhaustive and covers every imaginable genre (with a heavy dose of underground, surf RnR and garage) for those of you know what a CD is, the packaging on this box set is supposed to be incredible. It's available at Amazon and iTunes.
If you can decide what to buy, skip the stores and head over to for free streaming Halloween music. With five channels, you'll find something for everyone, and you can either listen online (right through your browser) or stream them to iTunes, Window Media Player, Winamp, and TuneIn. Listen at

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Halloween Cakes

Looking for an eerie dessert for your Halloween party? Below are two quick ideas for decorating a simple store bought cake. If you are a baker, of course you can make the cake yourself! These techniques are fairly straightforward and if your skills are like mine, sloppy cakes are perfectly acceptable on a trick or treat party table! 

Say It With Cake posted a great tutorial on making their Bloody Halloween Cake using candy melts and food coloring. There's red velvet inside their cake. You can stick any number of accessories into these cakes includes a handy knife which you can later use to cut the cake! Since my theme this year involves toxic waste,  I'm adapting this design using white chocolate ganache tinted with green food coloring and green cake inside for a Slime Cake!


The Cake Blog posted this fantastic Cobweb Cake, which was incidentally featured on the cover of the October issue of Country Living. The secret to making the cobwebs? Melted marshmallows that are cooled and stretched out by hand. And you can easily make a spider out of black fondant!

BONUS IDEA: Here's a great idea from Country Living Magazine. Their site features an article called 19 Bewitching Halloween Cakes which includes this Ouija board cake (imagine cutting that with a triangle planchette). They provide the artwork which you upload to Cake Art and order the design printed onto a thin frosting sheet for $5. Once you get that, you plop it on a standard 9 x 11 sheet cake and you are good to go. This cake requires a little extra planning but couldn't be easier. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Book of Life: Review

I can't believe it's taken this long, but I'm happy that there is finally a movie about Dia de los Muertos, the Mexican cultural holiday celebrating loved ones who have passed on. The Book of Life is not a perfect film and perhaps a little oversteeped in pop culture, but it's highly entertaining, stunningly beautiful, and a good primer on "Day of the Dead". The plot is a fairly straightforward love story of two boys in love with one modern girl and her pet pig. Throw in two guardians of the afterlife, including La Muerte modeled after the famous La Catrina icon, who can't resist a good bet and deadly highjinks ensue.

Of course, the animation is the real star. The Book of Life is visually striking and features some of the best animation I've seen in a long time, and it embraces the love for Dia de los Muertos that Nightmare Before Christmas has for Halloween. I loved that all the characters look like wooden folk art toys straight from a Pixar film, with interlocking sockets, chiseled/gouged features, and actual woodgrain skin.

The movie's frenetic pace and thin plot will sit well with younger viewers, and there's enough goodwill humor, and surprisingly touching scenes for adults. I did wish the overall tone would have had a stronger ethnic flair. For example, Mexico's music is lovely and while some of the original music for the film did have an ethnic feel, the pop tunes (like Radiohead's Creep) felt out of place. I often wonder if films will stand the test of time, and the more pop references included, the less likely it will be a long-standing classic. As whole the movie produced by Guillermo del Toro feels authentic, really captures the whimsical nature of a mostly misunderstood holiday, and is really a joy to watch.

Above are the two official posters: the U.S. version and the Mexican version. Please note that on the Spanish one, the colors are lighter, Dia de los Muertos is clearly referenced (instead of movie stars), the male lead is front-center and larger in a more suave look, and included right at the top are the spookier characters – who incidentally went entirely missing from the last round of U.S. trailers! I'm guessing the U.S. marketing department wanted to hide that scarier element from audiences even though the movie is opening in October!

The Art of The Book of Life

The new film The Book of Life is visually stunning, and all that vibrant and colorful Dia de los Muertos imagery certainly screams for a behind-the-scenes look. The Art of the Book of Life released last week is a beautiful, hardcover book featuring concept drawings, character studies, a foreword from Guillermo del Toro, and running commentary from director, Jorge R. Gutierrez. Like many Art of books, it concentrates on the inception and development of each of the main characters from early drawings to the final computer rendering with few stills from the actual movie. There's also a very interesting synopsis of the three lands in the movie and the break down of the colors and the shapes used for each: Land of the Living (sepia, squares), Land of the Remembered (green, circles), and Land of the Forgotten (grays, triangles). Graphic artists, illustrators, movie lovers, and day of the dead aficionados will love this book.  With such a vibrant holiday, one has to wonder why this is the first major motion picture to tackle the subject?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

Living in the San Francisco Bay Area I have all-too frequent access to Schulzies Bread Pudding. It's like an ice cream parlor for bread pudding with an extensive selection of flavors served in scoops and finished with various toppings and sauces. Interestingly, some of the flavors are served hot and most are served cold. Cold!?! Yes I know that sounds odd, but it's incredibly creamy and almost like ice cream. Every year in October Schulzies makes several batches of The Great Pumpkin, and if you've never tried pumpkin bread pudding you are missing out. If you have a Trader Joes nearby, they carry a Pumpkin Bread pudding in their frozen section that's incredibly good.

The Baking Bites site debuted a very simple and delicious 5 Minute Pumpkin Bread Pudding in a Mug last week. This is very similar to the Chocolate Cake in Mug with that Autumn flair. Visit the site for other recipes like Pumpkin Bread Pudding, Pumpkin Spice Peanut Butter Cookies, and Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Cinnamon Frosting plus so much more, reviews, and essential tips. The bread you use is important so read through some of their tips on the site and try the recipe below.

Baking Bites 5-Minute Pumpkin Bread Pudding

1 large egg
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups cubed bread (pref. white bread)

In a large bowl, whisk together egg, milk, pumpkin puree, sugar, spices, vanilla extract and salt. Add in bread cubes and stir, allowing them to soak in the pumpkin mixture. Divide evenly into two 11-14-oz mugs.

Microwave at 50% power for 60 seconds and stir gently with a fork. Stir in pecans, too, if using.

Microwave at 50% power for an additional 90 seconds, then rotate and microwave at 50% power for another 90 seconds, or until bread pudding is set and the top is not wet.

Allow to cool for 2 minutes before serving. Serve with whipped cream.

Serves 2.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Strain, Season 1: Review

The Strain's first season concluded with more of whimper than a bang, but it consistently delivered geeky thrills, wormy gross outs, and the potential of an ensemble that harkens back to the early days of Buffy the Vampire Slayer – BUT it hasn't quite found its voice. The tone is all over the place from scary, to comic booky, to family drama, to thrill ride with big dumb guy. It's not as serious like The Walking Dead which makes it more lite entertainment, but often comes across as slightly silly when it should be scary. It doesn't help that the main villain is called "The Master", and looks like the goofy Bat Child from the National Inquirer mixed with Jabba the Hutt (see below).

The story revolves around an ancient vampire-like race that has been plotting a take over the world (cue: evil cackle) by disabling the internet! Without dependable communications, information about the abnormal humanoids attacking New York spreads much slower, and the masses (and those in authority) don't believe the hysteria furthering the spread of the "virus". It was hard to believe that the events of the entire first season took place over a week. I'm not sure if I expected more chaos, more contagion, or more action but it pushed the plausibility until the last few episodes when the full plan of evil sort of becomes more apparent. The series did fall into repetitive patterns (leave safety, fight against incredible odds, someone dies, retreat, repeat). Not that you really care who dies. Character development was not as strong as it could be considering that we have to invest in this ragtag ensemble but there's potential in the cast. And there is potential in this series, which kept me tuning in week after week.

For those seeking a non-stop, original, fully thought out series, you might be disappointed. For those who can take a series that's above SyFy standards but not on par with current genre offerings, it may be an interesting and entertaining diversion. Let's hope Season 2 moves beyond all the exposition and into a more meaty story with fully realized characters and an actual plan of action. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Wreath Inspiration

A wicked wreath on the front door is like a warning to visitors of the horrors that lie inside a Halloween fanatic's house at this time of the year. There's also something wonderfully macabre about reinventing a holiday classic into something much more frightful.

At first, designing a wreath seems simple but I've found it to be somewhat challenging to make them look just right. Keeping it simple is the way to go. Start with an inexpensive grapevine wreath from the craft store, spray paint it black, and, if desired, stick a scary object in the middle (a raven, spider, severed hand). Done! Last year, The Queen of Halloween gave me the courage to attempt my own wreath (the one with the crow below) and let's just say my results were graded as "E" for effort. I tried again this year with my toxic spider motif, and had slightly better results. Maybe the sophisticated crafting required for "wreathery" is not my forte.

For some real inspiration on more thoughtfully designed wreaths, take a look at some of these wicked wreaths that I've found online.

Howling Moon Wreath from Chic-Adee Shop

Toothpick Wreath by The Magic of Ordinary Things

Skeleton Wreath by Ready, Set, Craft!

Snake Wreath by My Momma Told Me

Black Twig Wreath as seen on Snappy Pixels