Halloween Banner How-To

My recently lifting Halloween ennui had me wanting to decorate our porch.

So, what’s a lady to do?
Whip up a banner with some scrap fabric of course!
(from that bathing beauty costume I made a few years ago.)

The banner only took two days (or about 5 hours).

banner close up

Day 1 breakdown
Estimated active time 2 hours.

1. Make pattern shape out of scrap paper.
paper pattern

2. Iron about 3 yards of black fabric.

3. Cut up old Stevie Nicksian dress (I cut up one that my sister gave me when she got skinny and I got pregnant) into same width, varying length strips. The dress had a bit of stretch so it frayed and curled to my desires.

4. Trace the triangle onto the folded fabric with a giant piece of chalk. (I just used the kids’ chalk). Since we’re turning it inside out, it matters less what you’re writing it with.

5. Cut out all the triangles with the Sacred Fabric Scissors* Do all of this from the ironing board set up behind the children while they watch princess movies.
Feel torn between anger about the unrealistic image portrayed and “princesses are just having fun.”

6. Iron all the triangles. Continue to feel torn.

7. Tie the fabric (like mine from the Stevie Nicksian dress) into a length long enough to wrap around the porch. I’ll call this the banner top.
top banner

8. Put both the fabric triangles and the long dress pieces aside where the kids can’t touch them. Put away the iron and the ironing board.

Day 2 breakdown
Estimated active time: About 3 hours.

1. Take out the sewing machine and ironing board. Set up the sewing machine with red or black thread.

2. Sew down each long side of the triangle, leaving the top open.

3. Turn the triangle inside out.
sewed folded

4. Continue steps two and three until you have a pile of triangles long enough to make it around your porch or house or room.

5. Iron all the triangles all over again, make sure the point is pointy and the sides are flat.

6. Lay the banner top (Stevie Nicksian) in a long line across your floor

7. Fold each rough top side of the triangle inside, to create a smooth folded top seam.

8. Set the triangle on top of the long fabric, fold the top of the banner top over the folded part. Pin each pressed triangle to the fabric, exactly the distance between each flag that you want.


9. Sew across the top of each triangle with the zig zag stitch, the wackier and more askew the better. Decide that princesses are okay to enjoy via media as long as there is some communication about what that means about real women.

What I’m most excited about is that I get to use it year after year.
Free, reusable and styley. Welcome Halloween!

*Do not touch my Sacred Fabric Scissors, unless you are named Helen Jane and you are cutting fabric. Quirk downloaded genetically from mom.

On Loving Halloween Again

I used to be Ms. Halloween.

Annoying my friends by asking what they were going to be for Halloween, I’d start in April. Decorating for Halloween October 1, our Halloween parties were quadruple capacity. Imaginary Halloween costumes already selected for my future children, were custom-made and started in May.

It was MY holiday.
And then I had kids.

Post-partum exhaustion with the first, an emotional pregnancy and post-partum anxiety with the second had me weeping in the middle of a dark living room while the babies screamed and the dog paced. Trauma might be too strong a word to describe the past three Halloweens, but intense unhappiness gets me a little closer.

I started resenting Halloween.

All that WORK, just to what? Pretend you’re someone else? To give away this slave made chocolate to kids from outside our neighborhood anyway? Stupid, stupid holiday.

And then I started resenting mySELF.
That grumpy gus attitude wasn’t helping anyone have a better time, and that’s no good either.

My girls are thrilled to dress up, we have a huge front porch just made for decorating and just because I’m not 100% thrilled with the state of my midsection doesn’t mean I can’t get in the celebratory spirit.

My change of heart was also inspired by radical immersion. For work and fun, I curated several collections of ingenious Halloween treats. You try keeping a frown after reviewing no less than 194 recipes for Yummy Mummies.

Due to an ill-fitting internet costume purchase, I broke out the sewing machine to tailor my daughter’s costume to fit. While it was out, I whipped up a crafty porch banner with some scrap fabric (pictures and how-to tomorrow). I’ll get back into it. I can tell. Slow and steady, yo.

For more inspiration, some Halloweens from my past

hj_james A Halloween Family
Halloween 1995 Gunnar, Brenda, Kelly, Matt
The group of us Halloween was cold
Carla, HJ and Eileen Punkin


Weekend Entertaining

It’s Friday. So how are you going to get together with friends to celebrate something?

No really.

What are you doing, this perfect autumn weekend, with more than one person that you love?

Will it have food and drink?
Shared laughter?
Shared vulnerabilities?
Really good stories?

The one thing, the very one thing that increases our happiness is strengthening our social ties. That’s it. We humans are made to be social.
Let’s just roll with it.

Over here? We’re headed to the annual St. Helena Harvest Festival, one of my very favorite days of the year. It has a 5k run, a pet parade (costumes on turtles!), the world’s most delicious tri-tip sandwiches (made by Boy Scouts!) and I know I already said it, but A PET PARADE.

So really, what are you doing?

More school-themed inspiration

The nostalgia keeps on coming as I continue to be inspired by school-themed ideas.
Especially apples.
Especially at this time of year.

Right now, in the USA, apples are mighty inexpensive.
This means if decorate with lots of them, you can cook them right down into a tasty apple butter when you’re done.
(I like my decorations to be useful.)

Serene, stylish and totally doable. I like these apples.

Naturally, these, uh, tablescapes are from a fancy wedding, but I can see a use for these at all kinds of parties.

Reusable! Cheap! High-impact! These pencils are a triumvirate of awesome.
(Consider ordering your own personalized pencils for friends or yourself.)

Wait, now where was I?
Oh right, in the middle of 30 extra apples.

Got those? Then make apple butter. A welcomed hostess gift, it could also be repurposed as a favor for your next party.
(And if you need a reason for a party, I’ll be happy to help you out.)

Let’s use them up! With our slow cooker! This recipe makes about 8 pints of apple butter when you’re all done. This recipe will work for a host gift or a party favor. Cheap, gluten-free, low-calorie, chock-full of flavor and vegan. Win x 5.

Slow Cooker Apple Butter Recipe

30 apples
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 cups water
3 tsp cinnamon (divided)
1/2 tsp allspice (divided)
1 tsp ground cloves (divided)
3 cups sugar (divided)
1 tsp salt
1 lemon’s worth of grated rind and the juice from said lemon.

Get the apples ready. Remove the stems, wash the apples, cut out the cores and cut the apples into quarters. Keep the skins on. We want all that luxurious pectin.

Place your apples into a large soup pot over high heat with the apple cider vinegar and water. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cook for 15-20 minutes or until apples are soft. Put half of these apples in your slow cooker. Half the apples should fill your slow cooker right up — we’ll be adding the rest as these cook down.

Add 1 1/2 cinnamon, 1/4 tsp allspice, 1/2 tsp cloves and 1 1/2 cups of sugar. Mix well and put the crock pot on low for 10 hours.
Stir as it occurs to you.

After 10 hours, add the other half of the apples. Keep your slow cooker going for yet another 10 hours on low. If you still have apples left, keep adding more apples, mix it up and let ‘er cook for another 10 hours. Done? Done.

Let cool a bit and blend with a blender or an immersion blender. Add the remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 tsp cloves, 1/4 tsp allspice, all of the lemon rind and lemon juice.

Add to prepared (boiled and sterilized) canning jars, or plan to eat within the week.