Monday, December 19, 2016

Non-Halloween crafts

So I'm currently trying to separate (but still link) another blog that involves putting up my non-Halloween stuff.  It just gets a little jumbled when I try and re-find stuff.  And blogspot has changed their layout enough that switching between blogs is MUCH easier--hence the long wanted change. But I'm linking the two blogs to each other (see above link on nav bar)

But here's the new site: Crafter Saga

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

And it all comes tumbling down...

My sad sad lawn.
I had left the dino display up for an extra night in case anyone wanted to come back one last time.  But it's just going to get colder and I figured it was better to take everything before I got too deep into NaNoWriMo.  The vaguely depressing part is that it always takes far less time than one would expect.  Several weeks spent modifying, adding touches, getting everything just so.  And then maybe 2-3 hours to tear it all down.  Well.  Not quite everything.  I still have the JP gate up.  I'd prefer to have a second person with me, as I'd like to save the column base, and they're a little awkward.  I also need a spot of help putting away Suzie back up into the rafters.  I'm not quite ready to let her go give how cool she turned out.  That'll be a decision for next year maybe.  And I have a pile of fake rocks, but I need to slowly feed those into the recycle week by week so we have room for the usual recycle.  But I'm feeling good in general about how everything came down, and it wasn't as much of a pang to take it down, which is always helpful.  It was such a blast on Halloween that I didn't even mind.  Plus, a lot of stuff is weather worn and clearly starting to fall apart--that also makes it much easier to pull up and throw out.  The only bummer spot was when I pulled everything up from the lawn and saw how much my grass had suffered in the wake of having been covered up for a solid month.  There are pretty large brown patches kind of everywhere.  Not sure if they'll be time for it to heal a bit before the snows fall, but I think it'll bounce back okay.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Halloween Night 2016

Dino food ala papa murphy's
My view from the porch
The big night.  It was finally here.  So I had two people I had convinced (with not too much arm twisting--and mostly gleeful acceptance) to be dinosaurs for my inflatable dino costume Sam had gotten me.  And while my original vision had been to have the dino pose and be kind of alone out there, it worked out SO much better with both Natalie and Hannah out there as when one wasn't a dino, the other had a labcoat on and dressed/acted like a lab tech/jp staff.  It was really great.  They worked out a few skits together--they would spot a trick or treater(s) coming close to the house, then the lab tech would start running down the sidewalk/driveway screaming that the t-rex had gotten loose.  A few beats later, the dino would come up running behind her.  They'd end the chase on the lawn once the lab tech had been knocked to the ground and the t-rex made a kill blow.  All the while kids screamed/squealed.  For the little kids there were high fives and a dancing dino.  For the slightly more brave there was chasing to the end of the driveway.  Some kids even got a little scared away from the house because they were that terrified--which I think is a first. They were super amazing.  And they kept it up til our last trick-or-treater around 9:30 when we finally shut everything down.

So total count was about 160 trick-or-treaters.  It never quite feels like that in the moment--my actors had estimated more like 50.  But we were down to our last 30/40 kits.  And the trick or treaters usually come in waves of small groups that have like 8-10 kids all at once.  It's much more rare to get the lone trick or treater.

A few reactions from the kids that I overheard--though I think my actors heard a lot more.

  • (kid on the porch, gawking) "I want to stay in here daddy!"
  • (after I had explained that they were getting a dino digging kit) "So it's not candy?  Thanks...anyway" (he was the only real twit about the non-candy)
  • "Best. House. EVER!!!!"
  • (screamed) "Mommy!  Daddy! LOOOOOK!"
  • (overheard, not sure if at another house) "Give me 1000 pieces of candy.  I'll haunt you if you don't!"
  • (another skit where the dino laid down on the ground pretending to be asleep, then jumped up) "Called it!  Somebody is IN the suit!  Called it!"
  • (then slightly later from the same group)  "Can you get up for photos?"
  • (after gasps) "It's a DINOSAUR!"
  • "TOLD you it was worth it!" (they came from a distant neighborhood)
  • Had a couple of Harry Potter boys pull out their wands from 2 years ago when I handed them out--still had them, and were in full HP gear.  I may have teared up a bit. 
  • Mother laughing as she's chased down.  Apparently a lot of adults like to be chased and/or laughed as their children were chased.
  • "Amazing guys!"
  • I had a few adults that actually took the time to mention how much they appreciate the work and effort that went into creating a cool Halloween each year and how they look forward to it as everything starts to go up.  Which was *sniff* very sweet to hear.

By the end of the night we were all a little frozen as we had been outside (or lingering in the doorway) pretty much the whole night, which was a bit of a new one.  But definitely worth it I think.  I unfortunately didn't get tooo many videos/pictures when it was still light enough to see everyone.  But I'm hoping maybe a few people will add the #kenwoodhalloween hashtag to their photos so maybe we can see some of the ones they caught.  Here's hoping anyway.

All in all, a super lovely Halloween and filled with lots of screams and squeals and good times.  Happy Halloween to all!

Sunday, October 30, 2016


I made my annual pilgrimage to my Halloween inspiration house, the one that I get excited and giggly over.  It's not so much the theme (there never really is one) but just the sheer volume of Halloween items.  It's much the same each year in terms of general layout, but it's the details that get added to that you notice if you keep going back.  SOOOOO many pumpkins carved.  Most are funkins (obviously) but a large number have started to be real ones.  I think maybe there's a party or something she hosts?  I'm just guessing.  But they look gorgeous, especially at night when all lit up.  Easily over 100 pumpkins all laid out behind a strong fence (what I'm actually very envious of).  And new decorations pop up each year--the various skeletons and more inflatables were some of this year's additions.  Sam came with me this year--her first actually, an oversight that is kind of terrible.  Much giddy ogling was had, and it put me a bit more into the Halloween spirit:)

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Dino dancing

Natalie came over tonight to be my dinosaur just in case I got some Saturday night trick-or-treaters. We didn't get any kids, but it was a good time to practice some dino moves and kind of do a dry run for what it was going to be like for Monday.  And we learned quite a few things.

  • Wear slip on shoes, as trying to get into dino costume in shoes is terrible and filled with anguish. And trying to put on non-slip on shoes once IN a dinosaur costume is also terrible...if hilarious. 
  • Have a light sweater as it can get cold once the dino suit is taken off--mostly warm inside it, but we want options. 
  • Exaggerated movements look really good. Big head bobs, waving of arms, throwing out the feet. Hunching over like a hunchback, or gollum, works as it lowers the head and makes you look predatory. 
  • For posing/pictures, make sure to show your profile, as otherwise all the camera sees is a large open mouth or a mesh piece. 
  • Running IS possible (if not recommended) if you use short steps, like a wee toddler.  
So it was definitely worth the dry run.  And I got some hilarious video of a dino dancing as well as some shots with everything set up.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Carving Night (part 4)

What's going to happen to the goat?!?
The final two carvings went down tonight.  One was from a leftover pumpkin that a friend had left on the last (group) carving night as it was way too stringy for the pattern she was attempting.  So Heifer International (my christmas charity) came out with some Halloween pumpkin stencils, one of which was a goat (that you can gift).  And it was a pretty simplistic pattern in that it had pretty small lines, not a whole lot of large pieces cut out.  Which was perfect for this super stringy pumpkin.  I was going to do the t-rex pattern anyways, but I figured I might as well have a bit of fun and recreate the goat scene from Jurassic Park.  And my teal funkin for the Teal pumpkin project I had carved a bit ago finished out the set.  I'm pleased with the result, and happy to be done carving.  Now I just need to watch them all for wilting and bathing.  I've got my large bucket of water.  Sunday will probably be giving them all 45 minute baths to rehydrate them so they're all looking their best for Monday night:)

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Carving night (part 3)

More like carving day, but it was a lone one.  Having the pumpkins already gutted makes everything so much easier, and then the sticker paper makes it possible to get straight to the carving.  So I was able to breeze through 2 carvings pretty easily.  I went with the late great Gene Wilder, and Bowie.  This year lost a lot of really good people, including my cousin Tom.  I've been thinking about him a lot lately--he was a huge Halloween freak and would really get into the season.

I might try to do one more tonight...or it might turn into tomorrow's task.  The rest of the day has been spent productively putting together my treats for my trick-or-treaters.  200 of them (just in case).  My highest ever count was 180, but that was also Harry Potter.  I have no idea what kind of draw the Jurassic Park theme is going to bring in, but I usually plan for 200 just in case there's a weird flukey surge.  So today was mostly spent filling brown paper sacks with a dino kit, a toothbrush, a magnifying glass, a wee card with instructions, then taping it up with a dino sticker.  Surprisingly time consuming.  Like, around seven hours, give or take. But they're all done!  Woot!  I was hoping to have them all set juuuust in case I get a few random ones on Saturday.

I did an Alan Rickman because it's kind of turned into memorial pumpkin row.  *sniff*

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Last minute details

A few things to wrap up.  Went to Home Depot (probably...likely...possibly...the last trip) and picked up some pvc to shore up the photo op from the back, make it less likely to tip over.  And also found a treasure (yes, in gollum voice is appropriate).  An LED floodlight with filters--so you can pick one of 5 colors.  It's only a 40 watt power, but it was just what I needed to light up the gate and the photo op.  I considered doing twinkle lights or something, but ultimately the spotlight is going to be just a lot more effective.  And as a bonus, it slightly lights up Suzie/t-rex a bit.  Downside is when the kids go back down, it does hit them a bit in the eyes.  But, pfft, whatever.  Next up--getting the kits/treats ready.  I dug out one of them to show as a demo so they can see kind of what to do (rather than just breaking it open on the ground).

Oh, and probably the final walk through.  Maybe:)

Carving Night (part 2)

I usually don't actually carve ON carving night party--usually because I'm helping others with their pumpkins.  This year was because wine and sharp objects should not be mixed.  So this second night was with a few people that couldn't make it to the party--and that I've been carving with for a few years now.  Very fun night--food, carving, and fire.  And s'mores.  Which was lovely.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Carving Night 2016

Had a blast with good friends and lots of wine this year.  And a tiny bit of carving...

Friday, October 21, 2016

Walking with dinosaurs

I put out the vinyl feet this afternoon--they had been spray painted with glow in the dark paint but either there wasn't enough sunlight absorbed, or the paint didn't work very well, cause they didn't really glow once it was dark.  BUT....they were still white and eye catching.  And they looked good under the blacklight, so that was good.  The door/lab thing went up today.  It was an attempt to do something with the nothing that was the screen door that I wanted to have propped open.  It also helps explain the dino kits that I'll be handing out.  It looks way dorky, but it's better than the nothing that was there before.  Oh, and finally put together the photo op. (or at least, the decoy photo op)

Also hit a bday party that had costumes encouraged and so went with Sarah in Shark and Wookie onesies, which was lovely.  Carving party is tomorrow night, and juuuust about ready with all the prep there.  Made the soup this afternoon and taste tested it--super yummy.  Lots of work tomorrow, but should be fun:)

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Hammond goes down!

So in the novel Jurassic Park, Hammond meets a rather gruesome end by falling down a hill, breaking an ankle and then proceeds to have compys attack and eat him.  And so my body that I put out front is particularly on point and if anyone asks why I went a little gory this year--I can use the "Because CANNON!" argument.  The body finally went up today, as well as the two extra compys I was holding in reserve (partly for the body and partly in case one of them got stolen).  I used great stuff over bottles and a $ store laundry basket, trying to go for the guts/intestines look.  Then lots of red paint with just a bit of black gloss in parts.  I put it all together this afternoon out on the grass, along with a hat that looked like his and some plastic feet/shoes and hands.  A few reactions from when school let out:

"It's Jurassic PARK, not Jurassic WORLD! (shouted at friend)"
"They're tiny t-rexes!!" (not really, but loved the glee in the voice)
"You can look at inside (porch)'s the weirdest thing..."
"Isn't that the fat guy from Jurassic park?!?" (yes, tis)
"Oh my god!!!" (lots of screaming/squealing)
"Is that a body?  Ewww, that's disgusting!"
"Why are you eating his legs apart man?!?" (talking to dino)
"Why would they put THIS up?" (dude, it's Halloween)
"What's that red stuff?" (oh boy, it's going to be a looong Halloween night for you)

And possibly my favorite:
"Ummm...just keep walking!" (parent clearly trying to guide them away from the gore)

And some shots at night:

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Twinkle twinkle

I put up some more lights in the backyard as well as some foliage to dress it up a bit more.  It's looking pretty good.  Still a lot to do, but it'll at least be full of pretty lights :)

Something gory this way comes

The body has had some movement *snicker* in getting done.  Got the intestines/guts painted and worked over the pants.  I duct taped the empty 2 liter bottles together for legs and laid out the bottom half for the first time to see the whole picture.  Definitely need to get in there with some scissors and shred stuff, as well as some red spray paint and extend the blood a bit.  I've got the hat ready and I'm working on the top half--it needed a bit of intestines/guts as well, so that's currently setting up and will be painted tomorrow.  So the body should be ready to go out by tomorrow night--the next morning at the latest.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

ALL the signs!

Last two signs (I think) to be made.  The usual Halloween/year sign to place for photo ops.  And something new I'm trying--not sure it'll work, but that Sam suggested.  Created a hashtag and Instagram account for #kenwoodhalloween and posted some of the past years (and nicer current) pictures.  The idea being that I might actually get to see some of the photos that people take each year.  Again, not sure it'll work, but thought it might be fun to try anyways.  So to that end--another sign with the hashtag--and one that I can reuse each year.

Anatomy lesson

Feet and guts were what got done today.  The feet consisted of spray painting with glow in the dark paint those vinyl dinosaur feet I had cut out a while back.  Halloween is definitely coming up soon and I realized that needed time to dry as well as absorb enough sunlight to be mildly effective (which they might still not be).  The guts were for the body which I have FINALLY started working on.  I had been gathering 2 liter bottles and realized once I put them next to the pants that it still wouldn't be quite enough.  Enter the rummaging through the garage.  I came up with a $ store laundry basket that I cut the super rigid rim off so that it was a bit more flexible.  I propped it up on its side with a "rock" paper mache form for a bit of support, then went to town with a can of great stuff.  I tried to make sure that I got coverage as well as holding it out so that it purposely achieved that tube, intestines look.  We'll see how it sets up.  I thiiink I have enough stuff to fill the body/clothes--but I also have a bucky skeleton that I could use if I get desperate.  I do need to still get a hat--I think Zurcher's is going to help me out with a cowboy hat that I can modify a bit.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Video walk through--Halloween 2016

A quick walk through with the music playing in the background (only partially picked up by the video).  Need to adjust the audio, maybe move the transmitter and do another run later in the month.


Love that Bert looks like he's going to pounce.
One of the small but significant props I had planned on was to add a huge InGen logo to the front door--which makes my costume of an InGen lab person more believable.  I used to blow up a high quality sized InGen logo to about 25x25 inches so it could cover much of the door.  Aaand I now need a new black ink cartridge, but whatever.  I also tried out some of my costume--a lab coat borrowed from mom, complete with an InGen patch I got online for a couple bucks.  I'll also have a Jurassic Park tank underneath, but I need to modify the sides a bit--it was the only size I could get at short notice and it's just a weeee bit too tight, so I'll add a few strips to the side like I did my zombie pumpkins shirt.  But for the moment, the lab coat is good enough to take a few fun selfies with:)

East dock sign

This was a project that I figured I might not get to, just due to other stuff happening.  But it worked out as it was a good sit down project that just required a little hardware in the end.  I took a piece of styrofoam (pink) and sketched out the basic (not super accurate) map outline, then took a razor blade/knife to it.  I sketched out a basic outline for the white border, then for the boat symbol.  I painted the corresponding colors, then printed out the boat symbol and turned it into a stencil to use in the middle of the circle.  The East Dock lettering was printed out and mod podged on a piece of styrofoam painted black.  And the arrow was actually cut out and then laminated. Grabbed a 1 inch pvc pipe and drilled some holes in it for the 1/4 inch screws, and with a little effort, got everything all lined up.  I had gotten a piece of rebar to use as an anchor, got that securely in the ground then slipped the sign post over it.  I put it towards the back so the lights would hit it when it got dark, and so that some of the shoddy detail works disappears a bit, but also it fills in one of the gaps between the fence and the house.  I have rope there, but as I've seen, this isn't really a deterrent to kids.  But the sign is kind of smack dab in the middle of the gap...and the rope.  And when you get the right angle, you can get everything in a camera shot.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Bugging out

So one of the things I was looking at tonight as I was moving around the plants was how there really wasn't a whole lot on the porch that took advantage of the black light.  I had some uv reactive paint that was super bright.  So I thought for awhile about a quick easy project that could involve adding some uv paint.  I came up with making some bug silhouettes.  Some bugs grew to be pretty large back in the jurassic period, so I figured having some large bugs would be pretty cool.  So I printed out on cardstock some bug silhouettes.  I painted some of the pattern in white (without it, the paint just absorbs into the black and doesn't pop at all--I've also been bingeing "Skin Wars" all about body painting).  Some of them look really awesome, and bonus, some of them can be seen from the outside as silhouettes that are creeping about, which is pretty cool.

Friday, October 7, 2016

It was the best of times...

...and then there was the wind.  Every year.  Every. Single. !@#$ing. Year.  Without fail I go head to head battle with the wind.  This year was the closest I got to being zen about it, mostly because I had prepared so many of my props to combat the wind.  The main thing that went down had to do with the JP gate.  The sign (held up by serious industrial velcro) got knocked down in the first serious wind storm.  It was fine except for some ripped paint on the back and some dings.  So I've now put it back, lashed with cord and actually tied to the porch, which feels much more secure, if a little less elegant looking.  Mom brought me a bunch of her plants that were on their way out, but that look cool and rainforesty and well...provide coverage.  It looks very jungley.  I do have to arrange them a little more, mostly for tripping issues, but I think that'll be fine.  One of the fake trees on the porch has also succumbed to the wind quite a bit--it loses leaves each time it falls, so a bungee cord to the porch has been in order.  As for the front yard, no wind problems, just human problems.  I try VERY hard not to be that guy:

But it is SO hard once all of my stuff goes up and I'm proud of it.  I kinda just want to scream "Do you not SEE the fence?!?!?!?!?"  Because the truth is...they don't. They're kids, the fence is really just a hindrance to seeing all my cool props.'s a compliment?  I guess?  So I've gone back out there and added some rope between the fences and through any gaps between the fence and the porch.  Still won't stop a determined kid, but I watched a few of them justify just slipping in between the tiny gaps and thinking it didn't actually count because technically there wasn't a fence there.  Here's hoping anyways.  Still details to do--but for the most part, I've been just chipping away at the inside, cleaning, putting up a few more Halloween (not Jurassic Park themed) decorations.  It'll get there. :)

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

First reactions

So I have a bit of ritual.  Every time I put a scene up, around the time school lets out the next day I hang out in the living room (usually cleaning up from the whirlwind that is inevitable with putting everything up the day before) with the door cracked a bit to get the first reactions from the kids.  Creepy?  Perhaps.  But effective in terms of seeing if it's a hit or not.  I get their honest reactions, and they're one of the main reasons I do this (other than it's fun).  So a few of this year's reactions (emphasis mine):

  • "I LOVE this house on Halloween!!"
  • "23 million...uh, thousand volts! Don't touch it!" 
  • Reading out the signs
  • "How much time did they spend on this?!?"
  • "OMG, there's more stuff in here!" (after venturing on the porch)
  • (on the porch) "I'M GOING TO TOUCH IT!"  (silence, then) "It's made out of cardboard!  I'M DISAPPOINTED!"
  • "So. AWESOME."
So I think we're good for this year :)

Monday, October 3, 2016

IT'S UP!!!!

My tired, but "omg it's up!" face
Points to Sam for her idea to light the sign
Ohmigod.  Kind of exhausted.  But adrenaline...but mostly tired.  Got a HUGE amount of help from Sam with putting all the big stuff up, especially the stuff that involved awkward sized props and just easier with a second person.  The columns and JP gate went up first thing.  The fit on the columns was veeeery tight, so no real fear that they'll come off--I didn't even use glue.  I hog tied the columns to the porch beams so that the whole thing wouldn't fall.  And the industrial strength velcro holding the sign in place I'm fairly confident about.  Suzie was the next big installation--lots of adjusting on her to get the right placement.  What we finally decided was that the bottom needed to be slanted so that the top could slant enough to see the eyes.  So we needed a wedge of some kind kind of.........stole the cat's scratching wedge.

Puttering about

McGyvered the shit out of this.
Best invention ever: the triple socket cord
Today started with a home depot run to pick up a few essentials--rope to tie back the columns so they don't fall on an unsuspecting child, a splitter so I can rig up my electrical system, some nuts and bolts for the east dock sign...oh, and the find for the day--an LED blacklight!  And it actually works!  Even in the day, Bert lit up quite a bit.  If only I had had this tech available for the under the sea/entirely black lights Halloween a few years ago.  Oh well.  I'm trying to convert most of the lights to LED so as not to make our power bill angry.  Well, angrier.  (we likes our a.c.)

You really have to imagine the music when you look at this
Got the lights up in the triple socket that runs across the porch providing light.  I try not to have too many things to trip over so I don't actually need that much light, but I also like having a pretty well lit porch--the better to see decorations and costumes and such.  I pulled out the large buckets I'll need--one turned over to support Suzie's head, and the other to fill with water for the pumpkin replenishing.  Put up the last two paddock slats on the north end of the porch--so now the whole thing looks like a proper dino cage.  Took a break from going up and down the ladder to (finally!) adhere the Jurassic Park lettering to the sign.  Once that's had a chance to dry I'll turn it over and put the velcro on the back.  Or maybe put the columns up first with velcro on them...then the sign to see where the velcro actually needs to go.  I'm not too worried--I have four feet, which will allow for a 4 inch strip on either side.  I think it'll be pretty secure.  *crossed fingers*

So at the moment I'm breaking (not mental breaking--that comes later, just a regular break in which my feet are up).  Maybe should get some food.  Plus it's super cold and kind of drizzly/rainy.  Not ideal for putting up props.  The essential thing I DO need to get done is to fix that fence.  Without it, I won't put up my front yard props.  They need at least some protection.  So now that the sign is done, that's the next must-do item.

If the weather holds, I think tomorrow will be putting up a bunch of the actual props--the behind the scenes/lighting/infrastructure is pretty well finished.

Yay!  Fences are DONE!  I swear, it's been like the 'give a mouse a cookie' scenario where one thing leads to the other...except backwards, because I keep finding things that need to get done before the thing I actually want to put up.  Oye.  Still wet and nasty outside.  But this is good news for what it means to put in the rebar--the ground will be soggy and hopefully less work to put into the ground.

Sunday, October 2, 2016


Sarah came over today and helped me get started on the major infrastructure of this little project of mine.  We put up the paddock railing (aka, white slats), then went about turning several plastic tablecloths into mini tarps by fitting the ends with duct tape on either side and punching holes through them.  The other thing (that ended up taking quite a while) was to attach the vines to either side of the bar so they could be draped from the ceiling.  I'm going to add more hanging ones, but that was the big central one that will first be seen.  All of these seem like pretty small projects...but are not and that are so much easier if you have two people.  So.  As it stands none of the big stuff is out yet.  But the prep work to put it out there is a huge leap forward.  And the green scene setter (aka tablecloths) act as a bit of a teaser for the kids; there's nothing official out yet, but it will allow me to put up stuff without being seen.  So that's awesome.  It's supposed to rain tomorrow, so I'm not super keen to put stuff up in the rain, but I'll use the time to get the loose ends tied up and ready to be put up.  Ooh and creepily, the green tarps are thin enough that light gets through, so it casts a spooky green glow into the living room.  Creepsy!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Anxiety Squirrel

Okay, the projects are done for the moment.  Or rather, I fed my anxiety squirrel and it's currently too full of yummy chicken to make more than vaguely concerned noises.  I painted the other side of the JP sign.  Definitely going to have to do touch ups on the other side where the clamp ripped off some of the paint--but that's pretty minor and if I do it first, should be plenty dry in a few hours.  I also took some of the gripper paint and fixed the blocks o Styrofoam to the tops of the large columns.  It's important that those are pretty secure.  I think I'll go ahead and use glue on the edges of the columns--maybe just Elmer's glue so it'll dry clear.  I also came up with a list of things to do tomorrow with Sarah's help.  I'm also wondering if some of the stuff can just go up tomorrow.  No reason not to really.  Hmmm...will see.