I painted up these tiny paper mache Jack O’Lanterns to make a spooky fall focus for our mantel! I finished these little cuties the other day and got them displayed this evening. Aren’t they adorable??

LED Tealight Jack O'Lanterns

They sit just right on top of some battery-powered LED tealights (which you can find just about anywhere nowadays), giving them a flickering, realistic glow.

Ready for the how-to? Here we go!!

 

You will need:

Hollow Paper Mache Jack O'Lanterns Paint Brushes: 10/0 Round, 5/8 Angled Flat, 1/8 Angled Flat Foam Makeup Wedge

  • Hollow paper mache Jack O’Lanterns (I bought these at JoAnn a year or two ago, but if you’re ambitious enough, you can make your own!)
  • DecoArt Americana Gloss Enamels
    •  

      Bright Orange (base color)

    •  

      Bright Yellow (face cutouts)

    •  
       
       

      Primary Yellow OR Saffron Yellow OR Antique Gold (highlights)

    •  

      Dark Chocolate (shadows and stem)

    •  

      Milk Chocolate (stem)

  • Paint brushes (whatever you have that’s closest to the sizes below is fine; mine were from a big set of general craft brushes)
    • Very small, fine-tipped 10/0 round brush
    • Small 1/8″ flat brush
    • Broad 5/8″ flat brush
  • Foam makeup wedge
  • Waxed paper
  • X-Acto knife
  • Battery-powered LED tealights

 

Step 1:

First things first, I used my X-Acto knife to clean up the eyes, noses, and mouths of all of my little punkins. I wanted to make sure there would be as few malformations as possible getting in the way of the (fake) candlelight that would be shining through them.

I then cut a ~1/2″ hole in the bottom of each gourd, veeery carefully (paper mache isn’t known for its fortitude). It needs to be wide enough to insert your fake candle flame. Don’t forget to test it!

Make sure it fits! Let there be light! Oooooh!

 

Step 2:

Time to start painting! Begin with the eyes, nose, and mouth. Throw on a couple of thick coats of Bright Yellow using your 10/0 brush. This will help you get paint right into the tiny corners and along the inner surfaces. (You’ll probably notice that the enamel paints dry really quickly, which you’ll need to keep in mind for later on.)

Painting the Face

 

Step 3:

Next, give your pumpkins two or three coats of the Bright Orange enamel with your 5/8 brush. It will give them a nice waxy shine as well as a hard “shell” to protect them. At least two coats will be needed to make sure the coverage is uniform and opaque. Because this paint dries so quickly, you’ll breeze through those few coats before you know it.

Bright Orange

 

Step 4:

This is where we really have some fun. :)

Squeeze a little bit of your highlight color onto your waxed paper. Using the foam makeup wedge, dip a corner from the wide end of the wedge into your enamel. Pounce the wedge onto your waxed paper to daub off any excess paint — what we want here are multiple thin layers, not one or two thick ones. If you accidentally get a thicker blob of paint, use a clean corner of the wide end of the wedge to pat the blob and spread it out.

Using quick pats, gently apply the highlight color to the raised portions of the pumpkins. Because we’re using so little paint here, you can easily build up color on the highest parts of the ridges to give it a very natural look. I like to make my painted areas narrower with each coat.

 Adding Highlights (left) and Shadows (right)

 

Step 5:

Using the thin end of the wedge (har har), use the same technique with the Dark Chocolate enamel, except this time, apply the paint only in the low valleys between the ridges you just highlighted. Again, build up thin layers to get the look you want. Sometimes the wedge will cause bubbles in the paint as you pat it on, but that’s OK — it just adds to the mottled, natural appearance we’re going for.

 

Step 6:

Here you can easily see the highlights and shadows, as well as the stem dry-brushing.Let’s get that stem taken care of. Give it a good coat of Dark Chocolate with your 1/8 brush, making sure you get into all the crevices created by the twisted paper.

Once that’s dry (shouldn’t be long!), pick up a tiny bit of Milk Chocolate enamel with your 1/8 brush. Dab any excess off on your waxed paper or a paper towel, then lightly dry-brush the stem. You should see the lighter brown only being picked up by the high points of the stem, leaving the dark brown in the crevices.

 

Step 7:

Touch-up time! Check back over your pumpkins and retouch any bits of overpainting that might have occurred, particularly at the base of the stem and around the eyes, nose, and mouth.

 

You’re done! I did an extra step and made little wrappers for my tealights with my Silhouette Portrait so the white plastic wouldn’t be so stark on my candle stand or next to my pumpkins.

What do you think?

Halloween Mantel Glowing Jack O'Lanterns!

Lights off...spooky!!

It’s no secret — I LOVE Halloween. It’s my favorite holiday, and not just because of the candy. It’s a holiday that reminds us of the cycle of life and death. It reminds us that we’re more than biology and that life is more than the everyday things we can quantify and qualify.

For instance, there’s CANDY.

*ahem*

As always, I like to decorate our place to suit the season. This year, I’m really proud of  the wreath I made for the front door! It came together really well, and here’s how I did it.

 

You will need:

  • Plain white cheesecloth
  • A grapevine wreath
  • A pre-made bow OR ribbon(s) of choice, wire-edged
  • Prop of choice (I used a big posable spider from JoAnn)
  • Fake spider webbing
  • Twine or string or yarn or whatever
  • A few inches of craft wire

 

Step 1:

Halloween 2013 Window Spider WebGrab your plain white cheesecloth. You can get this anywhere that sells food or culinary paraphernalia. (It’s way, way cheaper than buying the “Spooky Cloth” they haul out with the other Halloween decor.)

Next, you want to mess up that pretty cloth! Just pull and rub the cloth between your hands, making the spaces between the threads uneven.

(I reused a cloth I hung in our living room window last year, when it was covered with plastic spiders. I had hung it in the window lengthwise after cutting it into strips and roughing them up a bit.)

 

Step 2:

Wrap your grapevine wreath with the freshly spooky cheesecloth.

If you cut strips into your cheesecloth, like I did, place the uncut portion along the outer curve of the wreath, then wrap the strip around the wreath to secure it.

Cheesecloth A Cheesecloth B Cheesecloth C

 

Step 3:

Take a small wad of the fake spider webbing and start pulling it and hooking it onto the bits of grapevine sticking through the sides and back of the cheesecloth. Keep pulling and snagging in all different directions until you’re happy with the way it looks.

Spider Web Fiber -- Eek!

 

 Step 4:

If you’re making your own bow, get to it! (Super-awesome bow-making tutorial coming soon!!) When it’s ready, or if you’re using a pre-made bow, attach your bow to the wreath with a bit of twine. Just tie that sucker on there; nobody will see the back. I like to try to place my bows to cover a not-so-perfect spot on the wreath. In this case, it’s hiding an area that wasn’t as well-wrapped with cheesecloth as the rest.

Bow Tied On

 

Step 5:

Using your wire, carefully attach the topmost prop bit to the top of the wreath. The closer your craft wire is in color to your prop, the better. (Black wire on a black spider — you can hardly make it out in the photo below, right?) This will secure the prop to the wreath to keep weather (or curious hands) from dislodging it.

Craft Wire

Step 6:

Admire your spookiness!

Spooky!!

OK, this is a long and rambling story, but it does have a happy ending, so please read it through until the end!

Lately I’ve had a case of puppy fever. Seeing new babies at the dog park and imagining what an awesome big sister Lola would be had me itching to get a second dog. Peter told me one of two things would have to happen for us to bring another dog into our household:

I would have to take up half of Lola’s feeding schedule and take her on long walks in addition to our 6-days-a-week dog park visits.

OR

The universe would plop a dog into our lives with a series of events that would be impossible to ignore.

Well, on Wednesday, it happened.

I was walking Lola MUCH later in the morning than usual — 11:00 instead of 9:30 or so — and I was approached by a woman (henceforth known as “D”) pulling a little dog on a leash behind her. We’d seen D around the complex a few times, and we knew she had a Boxer. She asked me if I knew of anyone who could take this puppy off her hands, and I said, “You’ll never believe this, but…” I asked her to walk back with me to our apartment, and I called Peter down to meet D and the puppy, and we agreed to take her based on D’s story and situation.

Let me just lay things out in the manner in which they were presented to me.

  1. This puppy (Cricket, fka Joliene [sic]) was left with D by a friend of a friend (who I’ll call “B”).
  2. B was apparently in a hostile domestic situation and needed to leave Cricket with someone for a couple of days while she got out.
  3. D asked B to bring her Cricket’s records, which B did not do.
  4. B “disappeared” and could no longer be reached by D or their mutual friend, and was a couple of days overdue in returning for Cricket.
  5. Their mutual friend told D that B “was never coming back for that dog.”
  6. D assumed Cricket was now hers and took her in for her 6-month series of shots, dropping $270 on vet bills, plus a leash and collar, bed, etc.
  7. D then decided that she couldn’t keep Cricket because her Boxer played too rough, and she was worried Cricket would get hurt.
  8. If D couldn’t find a home for Cricket that day, she’d have to take her to a shelter.
  9. D said that if B came back looking for her dog, she’d lie to her and say Cricket got out and ran off.
  10. Cricket was “mostly housetrained.”

D brought us Cricket’s bed and the vet paperwork for her shots, then basically said, “Enjoy your new dog, I’m out.”

Peter quickly realized that Lola wasn’t as OK with Cricket as I was hoping/pretending she was. The truth was, Cricket had no clue how to be a dog. She didn’t purposefully take over all of Lola’s favorite places and things, but it happened, and Lola is too nice of a hostess to argue about it. She just kept giving us sad puppy eyes and silently asking us what the hell was going on. They played together wonderfully; they just didn’t “live” together very well. (Lola is a one-dog-dog, I think. She gets along great with others, but then they need to go away so she can have her house and people and stuff back.)

In addition to that, we found out that Cricket was the opposite of housetrained. She sniffed and sniffed outside on walks, but had NO CLUE that she was supposed to go potty outdoors. She waited until we got back inside, then peed and pooped in our bedroom. TWICE. Yeah. That was fun.

That night, around 10:00, after Peter and I had talked/argued extensively about our new situation, we decided we couldn’t keep Cricket and would try to give her back to D before anyone got any more miserable. We loaded her up in the car and drove over to D’s apartment. I knocked once, waited…and a light went off inside. I knocked again, waited… D finally came to the door. I explained that we couldn’t keep Cricket, and she said there was no way she could take Cricket back that night. She gave me a phone number and said she would come by after work the next day to get her if we weren’t able to figure something out in the meantime. I told her I’d put out an emergency post on our dog park’s Facebook page to see if anyone could help. Then D said that instead of her taking Cricket to a shelter, if that’s where she had to go, she wondered if we could do it instead. She said she couldn’t take any more time off of work to deal with Cricket. Then she asked me, “Uh…how did you find out where I lived?” I told her that her address was on the vet bill (which, of course, it was), but she seemed suspicious and nervous that I had no problem tracking her down. I guess she underestimated me. :p

Frustrated, but at least now heading in a unified direction, Peter and I came home and got ready for bed. I slept downstairs on the couch with Cricket and a baby gate at the bottom of the stairs, while Peter slept upstairs with Lola. Cricket got me up once at about 3:30 and I caught her starting to squat by my craft table to pee. I interrupted her, got her leash on, and took her outside. No lie, I was out there for 45 minutes before she peed, and even then it was only because she just couldn’t hold it any more. When I took her to the same spot the next morning, there was absolutely no recognition or inclination to pee there again.

Thankfully a dog park acquaintance and his wife volunteered to foster Cricket. His wife works closely with a rescue group in the area, so even if they couldn’t keep Cricket themselves, she was definitely going to a good home rather than back to a shelter. (More on this later.)

I took Lola on her usual morning walk after I decided Cricket was definitely not going to potty outdoors again, and we stopped into the leasing office to let them know what was going on. Here are some things I learned, which shed quite a bit of light on the situation:

  1. D volunteers at a shelter nearby.
  2. D tried to adopt another dog a few weeks ago, but it “didn’t work out” and she had to take the dog back to the shelter.

And from that, I inferred:

  1. Cricket had NEVER been in a home before; she was a textbook shelter or puppy mill puppy. Her behavior was indicative of a dog who has never been in a home with other dogs or taken on walks outdoors.
  2. D was a “serial adopter” and was worried that if she took Cricket back to the shelter after at least one other recent failed adoption, she’d get dinged for it somehow.
  3. You don’t drop $300+ on someone else’s dog after just a day or two of non-communication.
  4. There most likely WAS paperwork on Cricket, but D couldn’t turn them over to us because they would shoot holes in her sob-story. The paperwork was undoubtedly from the shelter, and it would have all been in D’s name, not B’s.
  5. If D was ready and willing to lie to the fictional B, she probably wouldn’t lose sleep about lying to us, either; therefore…
  6. D’s entire story was total bullshit.

So, yeah. Needless to say, we haven’t heard a peep from D. She washed her hands of this poor puppy, and I bought her story, hook, line, and sinker.

We got a couple of updates already from Cricket’s new family. She has integrated beautifully with their existing two dogs and is happily pottying on training pads. We learned during her day with us that she is an incredibly sweet, affectionate, intelligent girl who will make an AMAZING companion for someone — just not for us, and not right now.

Oh yeah, and her new family has renamed her Mona. :’)

Our three Guinea Goddess are together again. First we lost Isis, then Mona earlier this year, and Mimi last month. I miss all three of them terribly.

Peter or I have fetched their fresh veggies every night since I first got Isis in January 2005. It still feels so weird to finish cleaning the kitchen after dinner and NOT reach for the fridge to grab lettuce, carrots, or red bell peppers. I have to keep reminding myself that our routine has just…ended.

Here are their three completed urns.

I used Egyptian imagery for Isis (of course):

Isis' Urn Isis

Mona, born in November, got a Greek cornucopia, since she is named after Pomona, goddess of the harvest:

Mona's Urn Mona

Mimi was named for Artemis, Roman goddess of the hunt, because the orange on her head looks like an arrowhead when viewed from above (I threatened to name her “Insert Food Here,” but Peter argued against it):

Mimi's Urn Mimi

They’re probably together somewhere giving each other hell. Isis is running laps and bouncing around, Mimi has climbed head-first into a pile of hay, and Mona is popcorning so hard she flips herself over…repeatedly.

Our Angel Pigs

Our poor Mimi left us today. She was the last of our three Guinea Goddesses.

We knew it was coming, but it was still a surprise…it’s so weird how that happens. We had someone from Carolina Pet Services pick her up earlier. They did such a wonderful job with Mona in January that we’ll never consider using anyone else.

We’ll miss you, Meemers! :'( I’m sure Isis and Mona will be so happy to see you again.

Mimi (Artemis)