Friday, October 31, 2008

October Wrap Up & November Goals

October was better than I thought it would be. The economy obviously had an effect on our assets and we discovered we are more strapped than we thought as far as take home pay. We can’t really afford a lot of extra money right now with Christmas and the Landmark Forum coming up.

We have decided to go to our credit union tomorrow to get a home equity line of credit and pay off the personal loan we have (with the same credit union) and all of our credit card debt. This will decrease our minimum payment expenditure by around $500. It will be nice to keep more of our money every month where we can decide to do what we want with it. More on this plan later.

September Employer Income (EI) – $4,017.31 (as normal)

October Employer Income (EI) - $4,043.53 (as normal - Chris is hourly so his fluctuates a bit)

September Other Income (OI) - $0

October Other Income (OI) - $110 (massage & craigslist) – increase of $110

September Assets - $13,583.31 (decrease of 1% from August)

October Assets - $12,244.35 (decrease of 9% - we finished out the month better than we thought we would at least)

October Goals - maintain EI (slight increase) and increase OI by 4% to $125 (increased to $110) and Assets by 3% to $13990.80 (we all know what happened here).

November Goals - Pay off personal loan and credit cards with line of credit. Maintain EI and increase OI to $125 and maintain assets. Save money for LF and buy most Christmas gifts.

Food budget may have to be revamped to $500 but I won’t make any major decisions about that until the New Year.

September Groceries – $496.00 - 124% of budget

October Groceries - $495.76 - 123% of budget (down 1%)

November Goal - $400

We did better with coffee than we thought we would but eating out went up. Entertainment and Crafts were at zero so that was nice.

September Fun Money - $323.33 – 8% of employer income (goal 7%)

Eating Out $51.86 (16% of fun money)

Coffee $104.25 (32% of fun money)

Entertainment $26.49 (8% of fun money)

Crafts $45.27 (14% of fun money)

October Fun Money – $292.87 - 7% of employer income (goal 7%) – goal met

Eating Out $93.11 (23% of fun money) – increase of 7%

Coffee $98.37 (24% of fun money) – decrease of 8%

Entertainment $0.00 (0% of fun money) – decrease of 8%

Crafts $31.39 (less than 0% of fun money) – decrease of 14%

November Goal – 7%

Planned meals out this month were one and we went way over that. It was the hubs Birthday and we did use a gift card for that but our tip came from the checking account. That was not the only meal out this month either. I would like to reduce eating out for November to twice.

We bought two DVD’s at full price however we had budgeted for it and this is one thing we cannot live without.

Coffee – what can I say – it’s addicting. We at least spent less than last month and I would really like to keep that coffee budget to twice per week for November.

We did buy some Halloween decorations on the credit card which was really a weakness we recognize. Christmas stuff that needs to be made should not cost a lot (I hope).

We were only able to pay minimum payments on our debt rounded up to the next dollar. With three birthdays this month a lot of the extra money that would have gone to debt went to gifts and food for celebrations. I still owe the hubs his gift. Ug!

September Loans – $723 - 100% of budget

October Loans - $705 – 100% of budget

September Credit Cards – 228.49$ - 100% of budget

October Credit Cards - $214 – 100% of budget

September Extra Debt – 0% (we were strapped)

October Extra Debt – 0$ (should be able to with home equity loan and debt minimum payment reduction)

September Total Debt Balance - $37,350.62 – ($9,157.52 cc’s & $28,193.10 loan’s)

October Total Debt Balance - $38,421.33 – ($10,624.16 cc’s & $27,797.17 loan’s) increase in credit card debt to 67% of total available credit and decrease in loans by $480.69. Don’t have totals for interest paid yet due to billing cycle.

November Goals – Loans $15,748.63, Credit Cards $10,624.16 - Total $26,372.79

November Total Debt Balance Goal $37,425.33 (not including interest and decreased minimum payment outlay)

Savings really didn't get much money. In fact this next month I will need to take some money out in order to cash out some stock I have.

September Short Term Emergency Fund (STEF) – 0% (goal $3,000)

October Short Term Emergency Fund (STEF) – 0% (goal $3,000)

September Long Term Emergency Fund (LTEF) – 0% (goal $10,000)

October Long Term Emergency Fund (LTEF) – 0% (goal $10,000)

September Vacation Fund (VF) – $ 1006.06 34% (goal $3,000)

October Vacation Fund (VF) – $1008.31 34% (goal $3,000)

November goals: STEF $232 (Landmark Forum), LTEF - $0 and VF - $0

This month was a little harder for us but I am proud that we didn’t fall off the wagon as bad as I thought we did.

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Happy Hour

Yesterday was the hubs birthday and his grandparents gave him a $25 gift card for a local restaurant. Typically hubby and I can eat well splitting a large appetizer and having a drink each which was our plan tonight. I had gone to the website to look at their menu and discovered no prices listed online. No matter, Happy Hour appetizers and drinks are usually reasonable and we figured before tip we could eat for about $12.

When we entered the restaurant we told the gals at the desk we were going to sit in the bar. They asked if we wanted a booth and we said sure. We sat in the booth and ordered our appetizer platter and two Guinness from the Happy Hour menu. They serve complimentary bread so that was plenty of food for us. When our tab came we had been charged full price for everything. The waitress clarified that because we were sitting in a booth the Happy Hour prices did not apply.

There is no mention of that on their menu in the restaurant or online. In fact, I could see no mention of Happy Hour online. Just a reference for food and drink specials for football game nights. Maybe we are not savvy restaurant frequenters but we didn't realize that because we were offered a booth we were essentially "upsold".

When we explained this the the waitress she was very gracious and went and changed our bill. We still have enough left on the gift card to go back again and probably will but sit at the high tables - not in a booth.

What is so irritating about this is how cheap I felt and how little information patrons have to go on in making a decision on what they decide to dine on or drink. Prices not being posted for beer and mixed drinks. Not even basic prices posted with a caveat that if you order top shelf alcohol it would of course increase your drink expense.

Have any of you out there ever experienced this?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Law of Storage

"The amount of stuff to be stored automatically expands to fill the space available in which to store it. "Murphy was an optimist" corollary: ...automatically expands to excede the space available."

Over the course of the last couple weeks the hubs and I have not only put up our Halloween decorations but have gone through Halloween and Christmas decorations we no longer want. We have a pretty big tub of them and I will post on Craigslist this weekend in the hopes of making a little extra cash. If it doesn't go then I will donate.

We keep our holiday decorations in our storage unit under one of the buildings in our condo complex. Up until recently our storage unit was cram packed full. It was scary just to open the door. Even though we have shelves we have so much stuff that huge plastic storage tubs were stacked up on the floor making it really hard to get to anything at the back of the unit.

We are going to be putting our holiday decorations in smaller boxes and tubs so we can actually put them on the shelves (may need one more shelf unit) to free up the floor. It will be so nice to be able to walk in to our storage unit, choose the item(s) we are looking for and take them into the house.

Since we are in a condo and storage is priceless we need to be pretty choosy what we keep and what goes. We are avid campers so all of our camping equipment stays and get's stored out there along with our luggage, the aforementioned holiday decorations and some large tools. I think we might move our beer making stuff out there until we are ready to brew another batch.

Currently we have my old bed frame stored there too. It's an antique and has been in my family since my aunt was a teenager. It breaks my heart but that along with the matching dresser is going to be placed on Craigslist. I already got rid of the vanity that went with it. Some lucky little girl has it in her bedroom. When I look at the reality of the situation though, we have not used the bed for two years, I got it for free, it doesn't go with our decor and it served me well over the last ten years. It's a full size bed and the hubs and I want nothing smaller than a queen for ourselves and the kids room is to small.

We also have a dining table, a trunk and another farm table I suspect will end up on Craigslist this weekend.

What can be said for storage can also be said for your house. I have stopped getting magazine subscriptions because I never read them or they end up in a huge pile to look throuh some day. Most often I can find what I need online. Little piles throughout the house are dissapearing to never come back. Nonessential kitchen items we never use are going to go. Books we will never read again, movies we will never watch again and clothing we will never wear again are also on the donate list.

This gives me the opportunity to really see what is in my closet I am lacking so I can hopefully find it at a thrift store, on sale or make it.

What are you all doing to declutter your spaces instead of filling them up?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Ask And You Shall Receive

After signing up for and then freaking out about the Landmark forum fee that needs to be paid by December 8 I wrote a post asking that the money for this fee come in to our lives so we didn't have to put the fee on a credit card that is already close to the limit (definitely goes against our pay the credit cards off plan) or cash out a CD we have.

Some significantly cool things have happened since this post.

First off was finding out I can cash out some stock that is no longer publicly traded. Still waiting for the paperwork to come in the mail.

Secondly, I found out today that a home owners assessment originally due this month is now going to be due in the spring since the people who did the work repaving the parking lot did a terrible job and because of the weather can't fix it until the spring. This also means we will be getting a discount on the repaving and this means our assessment will be even less than expected. So instead of forking out $175 this month that money can now go towards the Landmark Forum fee.

When we signed up almost two weeks ago we paid the deposit ($100 each) with our credit cards and had no idea how we were going to come up with the additional $790. After the hubs get's paid Friday we will have $400 towards the $790 - just a little more than half in two weeks!

The hubs and I were talking tonight and we thought if we could generate this much cash just by thinking positively and being creative, we wonder how quickly we could come up with money for a laptop or something else we want that we would have in the past put on a credit card. We are willing to use our fun money (7% of take home) to get that ball started.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Blog Round Up

I have been online all morning caching up on blog reading. It's my new hobby since it's affordable (read free).

Even though I have links on my sidebar to all of the wonderful blogs I read every day I thought this post could be a round up of sorts to the people who I read that continually inspire or entertain me. If I were ever to give advice on any of the topics I'm currently interested in I would probably just point people straight to these blogs as all of these people have great insight, tips and tricks.

I have a few personal finance gals I have been reading for just a little bit but always look forward to their posts.

Sallie's Niece is a gal who has successfully gotten a handle on her debt and is on her way to fulfilling her goals. There is no stopping her and I for one am cheering her on from the left coast.

I get to live vicariously through Savings Not Shoes blog. She's an American living in London also trying to pay down her debt and live a more financially fiscal life. Plus, she loves to travel and since I can't do that for a while I look forward to hearing about more of her trips.

Fru Gal I just found. She's an Australian living in London (totally not jealous) who is a personal finance writer by trade and has recently jumped in to the pf blog world. I absolutely love her writing style and good luck to her in her nupitals come February!

Escape Brooklyn is a women living in New York and desperately tring to get out. Looks like her dream is coming true!

Crazy Aunt Purl - She is a knitter originally from the south who now lives in LA and wrote a book about her divorce. I actually found her blog through her book. Wouldn't you know she was on her book tour and had been in Seattle the day before I found her blog! Her book sounds like it could be a downer but her writing style is so great and her blog covers more than just knitting including personal finance and hilarious stories of New Jersey Guy. She's humble and quirky and I think it's great her blogging about a terrible part of her life actually turned in to a book that inspires many. Plus, a little (or a lot) of red wine always helps!

Spilling Buckets - A couple living in upstate New York who are determined to get out of from under their significant student loan debt and buy a house. Their blog posts are always really informative and well researched. I've tried some of the recipies they post and they are yummy. Kudos for a couple growing veggies and herbs on the deck of their apartment!

Chez Larsson - an amazingly organized woman living in Sweden with her hubby, son and two cats. Her home is tiny but so well organized you will be amazed. She has tons of tips and tricks up her sleeve with such a thrifty and beautiful way of presenting them in her home. Very inspirational.

Small Town City Girl - is a stay at home mom determined to give her family the best through her inventive and frugal ways. She's a coupon user who has saved tons of money on her grocery budget. She's also my Sunday morning walking buddy and a good friend.

A Kilted Travel Agent
otherwise known as the hubs. He has such a quick wit and a wonderful writing style. He may not post often but when he does I always throughly enjoy it. I live with the man and he continuously surprises me. Plus, he looks great in a kilt!

My neigbor at Kerry's Holiday Fun and Celtic Sprite has an engaging way of bringing interesting information to her blog posts. She's a total kick in the pants and I personally feel there was a reason I met her.

A friend of mine I grew up with writes on A Beagle in Hong Kong. She's been living there with her hubs and dog for almost three years now. It's always interesting to see another perspective on things a world away.

My Messy thrilling Life is a gal living in Texas who bought an antiquated house to fix up. She has been living there for a couple years and it's slowly coming back to life. She's led an amazing life and she is only in her 20's. For a girl to have to shower in her back yard for a year - now that is dedication to a project!

If you have ever been interested in the behind the scenes action of an independent horror flick check out Preston Dave. It's TBOZ on my blog roll. This is the film I was involved in the summer of 2007. He has written a behind the scenes account of the making of our film.

Militant Ginger is a guy from England living in the right coast. He writes a lot about politics but that is not all. He's funny and engaging and makes whatever his topic of the day about very interesting.

Weirdy Pants is a knitter living in Pennsylvania. She's also a geocasher and dog owner. Love her!

Blue Garter lives in Oregon, also a dog owner and knitter. Her hubs started a website for families of people who have diabetes.

Yarn Abuse is a gal on the left coast who is also a knitter (see a theme here?) and loves photography who just bought her first home, a condo.

I hope you find some enjoyable read by linking to these blogs. I know they entertain and inform me a lot. Have a great weekend!

Friday, October 17, 2008

It Takes Money To Make Money

I had a really strange phone call last night. My husband's grandmother called me to tell me she had just received a phone call from a company asking if I wanted to sell my shares. I have no idea how they got her phone number and associated it with me. We don't even share the same last name.

To give you some background. About four years ago I worked at a wireless phone company. I quit working there in the fall of 2005. Two years later that phone company was sold. I have four shares in that company. I did receive a notice in the mail that since the company was no longer publicly traded I could cash out my shares. However, it was going to cost me some money in the form of a processing fee. I promptly forgot about it cause I didn't have the money for the processing fee.

After receiving the phone call last night I called their number and was connected with a customer service representative. To make a long story short he told me up front I would have to pay a 3% missing certificate fee to cash out my shares. 3% didn't sound so bad so I asked how much my account was worth. After all 3% of $286 is only $8.58. Yeehaw!

Then the bad news. There was a processing fee of $50 and the minimum fee for the 3% was $20.

So, after I pay $70 I will get back $286. If the wireless company was still being traded I wouldn't even bother. This was not a panic decision made regarding the current state of the stock market either. As it stands I asked for money to come in to my life and I got what I asked for. I will be $216 (after $70) closer to paying for the Landmark Forum!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Totally Cool Travel Idea!

I read this article on the unclutterer blog that I thought was great. I too have had the nasty habit of brining back too much from a vacation. Later it goes in to a scrapbook which I might look at or sits in an envelope to one day go in to a scrap book.

I had heard of a similar idea from a friend years ago where they take a small garden gnome on their trips and take photos of him. It started as a joke. they took a friends small garden gnome and held it for ransom. Delivering photos of it to the friends taken in places all over the city.

I am so going to do this on my next vacation!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

It's Debateable

I don't know about you but I have no idea who to vote for come November 4. I am currently watching the Presidential debate and I am tired of hearing McCain cut Obama off. I went to both of their websites and got pretty overwhelmed with all of the information regarding the issues - there is so much to digest and get through. Typically I vote Republican. However, I am leaning more towards Obama.

Truthfully the most important issues to me are the Economy, Energy, Defense (the War in Iraq), Foreign Policy & Healthcare. Everything is important to me but those are on the top of my list.

Barack Obama's website is here.

John McCain's website is here.

I have always tried to be educated when it comes to elections. For some reason this year it just seems to hang in the balance more. Maybe it's because I am more interested I just don't know. Voting is important and I am not taking this lightly.

Have you ever heard of Chuck Baldwin

or Cynthia McKinney?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

More Halloween Decorating

I am almost finished decorating for Halloween. There is so much more I want to do but it's just going to cost too much. We still plan to make our own Halloween tree and hang some ornaments we have on it. It's just a matter of collecting the right branch and nailing it to a piece of wood. The other things I want to do I can keep my eye out for throughout the year as I will need some glass cloches (want these anyway), beakers and specimen jars.

The orange lights you see flicker and look like flames. They are nestled in a brown feather garland with skeletons. The cool thing about this garland is I can take the skeletons and orange lights down after Halloween and exchange for blue lights and ornaments for Christmas as my theme is brown, peacock blue and green.

My mantle is not complete. I want to find some black or dark brown candles to go between the books and the bust and the books and the raven as well as on the five tier candle holder sitting on the hearth (notice we still need to finish re-tiling the hearth). My bonus daughter named the raven Gilligan. We have not come up with a name for The Count yet. We still need to add cobwebs. Next year I am going to replace my scarecrow (on the bottom left of the hearth) with a skeleton pirate.

Here is a close up of Gilligan and The Count. You can see better detail of my garland. I bought the lights last year and didn't even use them and the feather garland I wanted from a Christmas display and finally bought on sale over the summer.

I also did a similar garland on the shelf over my garden window. I had posted photos of what I did up there last week. You can see that here.

I finally got my dining table cleaned off and took the leaf out. I love the smaller size. It's perfect for our family of four. I found the table cloth at a Christmas store in Leavenworth, WA. A little Bavarian themed town in the mountains. It's brown satin with back velvet, brown satin trim and tassles. It's square and fit's perfectly on my table when it's round. In the center of the table I put a black spider web bowl filled with brown ornaments. I want to make brown velvet slipcovers for the chairs at my table as well. This is something that I can use all fall and winter.

We added a bit to our front entry as well. Our neighbors we share the landing with stopped by to tell us how much they like it. There is a new resident and a bone yard. If we could just get a ground fogger to go with our regular fogger.

Hubby is working on a creepy pumpkin based on one from the movie Sleepy Hollow.

We bought a carvable pumpkin at Joanne and he is going to make a frame for it so the pumpkin will sit on top, the frame will be covered with a cloak and he will place a light inside the pumpkin. If you are curious about the real Sleepy Hollow click here.

Happy Hauntings!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Letting It All Hang Out

Tonight I went to a neighbor's house and was introduced to a concept called The Landmark Forum. It's a really exciting possibility for my husband and I. Over the course of the last year we have both been moving towards a different way of thinking about how to live our lives. To stop handling things from a place of fear but from a place of peace where we can see all the possibilities we didn't even know where there.

We signed up to attend the seminar in January. It costs $495 per person. My husband put a $100 deposit on one of his credit cards and I will be putting my deposit on a credit card on Monday. Then we have to come up with an additional $790 ($395 each) by December 8th.

The Landmark Forum is "designed to bring about positive and permanent shifts in the quality of your life. These shifts are the direct cause for a new and unique kind of freedom and power."

This is pretty scary for us because we don't know how we are going to come up with the money without using our credit cards which would pretty much max us out. One of the things that we are to expect is that this process is now already starting for us and it will open up so many things in our lives we don't even know.

I know it's time for a change and a new way of thinking about our lives. It's time for us to get real specific about what we want and what we will no longer stand for.

So, I'm taking a queue from Sallie's Niece in regards to her David Sedaris tickets and putting this out there. I am inviting $790 dollars to come in to my husband and my life in time to pay the balance by December 9, 2008. I don't know how it will happen but that is what I am supposed to trust. That it will happen even though we don't know how.

Friday, October 10, 2008

How Cool Is This?

This is one ofthe greatest ideas I have ever seen for creating not only a cluter free desk but one that encorporates a specific feature for a specific task - graphic design.

My hubby and I have been trying to create a small clutter free zone for our computer. Once we complete the case to hold our tower and printer/copier I plan on sending my workspace to Unclutterer.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Quick Easy Inexpensive Meal

I picked up a couple cookbooks at the library recently. Both by Sandra Lee of Semi Homemade fame. For those of you who have not heard of her. Her whole philosophy around cooking and food is 70/30. Mix 70% quality prepackaged foods with 30% fresh ingredients. I watched her show on the Food Network a lot when I was unemployed three years ago. I can't believe it's taken me this long to pick up one of her cookbooks!

Tonight I made cashew chicken from the Money Saving Meals cookbook. It took hardly any time at all and it was good. I bought a roasted chicken which is more than enough meat for two recipes (tomorrow night it's chicken mole), a bag of frozen stir fry veggies (also will cover both dishes), canned sauces, cashews, canned chopped tomatoes and Top Ramen. Total cost for these groceries $23.48 (already had rice for chicken mole at home). Recipe says four servings each but it makes more like six for the cashew chicken. That comes out to $2.35 per serving unless the chicken mole makes six servings then it's $1.96 per serving!

I lucked out too cause the cashew chicken recipe called for a can of waterchestnuts and the bag of frozen veggies I bought already had them in there (along with mushroom, carrot, broccoli & yellow carrot). I think next time I make this dish I will make a few substitutions.
  • The stir fry sauce was a little to salty for my taste so I will substitute peanut sauce.
  • Two packages of Ramen noodles were a lot (my veggies actually had a small amount of noodles included too) so I will try just one package if it's just hubby and I.
  • Not as many veggies as I like so I will double the veggies next time.
Just the other night hubby and I went to a local restaurant that has a really good happy hour special and spent $26 (including tip). Granted our beers were $6 each (Guinness) but our appetizers were $3.50 and $4.50 each. The appetizers were really more like regular servings. Hubby got a huge burger and fries and I got a regular serving size of Rigatoni Bolognese. We were totally stuffed.

Even though the happy hour meal was a good deal for the price for eating out it just goes to show how much you can save by cooking at home. Not only that but this recipe was pretty Weight Watchers friendly. The Ramen noodles were probably the worse in the dish point wise! Also, it's a recipe I can make from memory. I don't need a cookbook to tell me how to make it again.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

It's Never To Early To Think Abut Christmas

OK - for those of you who read my blog earlier today this is a huge edit. I didn't like the way I came across in my original post and decided to focus on what I am looking forward to.

This year I truly feel blessed that I have everything I need. I just finished a bowl of soup and a BLTA (BLT with Avocado) and I am stuffed. I am grateful I have a job and can buy food for my family and don't feel I have to go out to eat all the time.

I am grateful that (most of the time) I feel I can do holidays on my immediate families terms and not cave to all of everyone's unrealistic expectations that surround the holidays. This year hubby and I are buying thoughtful couple gifts for the adults in our lives. Our niece and nephew will get their own gifts and our kids will get there own small pile. Hubby and I will find creative ways to give to each other without going over board.

Thanksgiving is coming and with it the baptism of my niece.

Truly my focus right now is health and weight loss. I have my finances in order and as long as I follow that plan we will be fine. Getting the debt paid down, saving some money and going on a vacation this time next year.

I am looking forward to sledding in the winter, fall leaves that are already here, Turkey dinner and experimenting in the kitchen. Finishing some home improvement projects. Reading all the wonderful books I am finding at the library.

What are you all looking forward to and grateful for?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Halloween Decorating

Did some decorating last night. Hubby got a nifty new toy. It's a glue gun that hooks up to an air compressor and makes spider webs. He tried it out last night on the front door. Looks like we have an infestation...

I have a shelf over my garden window that usually houses travel type items. I saw a great idea on the Grandin Road website. I didn't really have the budget so I took existing black hardback books I own and took off the dust jackets. I think with the skull, old fashioned camera and rats it's a little creepy.

The scrabble tiles were found at one of my favorite local stores, Salvage Studio. I have a photo of my Grandmother circa 1921 (not shown to right of the camera) on the shelf as well. I should probably dust though...

Our bar is in the dining room. It's an old dresser we converted. The lamp, owl and silver and crystal tray sit on it all year round. I found the black roses on clearance after Halloween last year. If you have never had vampire wine definitely give it a try.

The photo hanging over the bar is one of those that from a different angle take on a different more creepy look. He looks rather benign and stuffy from the front - I think I'll call him Mortimer. As you can see this next photo doesn't necessarily capture his best side.

What are you all doing to decorate for Halloween?

Monday, October 6, 2008

More Halloween Fun

I woke up this morning with the beginnings of a migraine. I thought it wise to not go in to work cause my head would get worse and I would probably have to leave early and be out of commission the next day as well. I slept until about an hour ago then had a grilled cheese sandwich and left over chicken noodle soup. I don't have a cold but when I am feeling under the weather I like comfort food like that. Hubby was feeling yucky too as the change in the weather has affected his sinuses and his allergies are acting up big time. All of the curtains in the house are still closed. I have to gradually go out in to the light.

In lieu of a post I wanted to direct you to my friends holiday blog. I think you will like it.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


It's finally autumn here in the Pacific Northwest. More specific it feels like Indian Summer. The leaves are changing color, it's getting darker earlier and we've had some pretty warm days.

I started decorating my house last night for Halloween. In the past I have just gone with a fall theme that would get me through Thanksgiving and thrown in some spooky stuff during the month of October. This year I am getting in to the spookiness of the season. Maybe it's due to that film I worked on two summers ago (you can see the trailer here) although that was gorier than I want my house to look. I've seen enough Karo syrup to last a lifetime!

I have been inspired by images from Grandin Road, this Martha Stewart party idea and this book. It's kind of a dusty not taken care of look I am going for. Not too gory but creepy and since I don't often dust - it's perfect! I don't have a lot of money this year but I think if I shop thrift stores I can get a lot of the stuff I want and build the rest over time.

If I lived in a house I would make the front yard a big graveyard and position a couple foggers for the perfect ambiance. We have a backyard and it's tempting to do something like that back there. But, since no one will see it it's pretty pointless. One day.....

The front porch would be leaf blown and covered in cobwebs. A creeky rocking chair, some lit pumpkins and thunder and lightning effects complete the picture.

All the entry needs is a place to park your broom and hang your cloak and witches hat. Carefull you don't peek, you may find a few skeletons in the closet.

A bunch of sheet covered furniture is all the living room needs for an inviting sit down. Gauze or cheesecloth for ratty window coverings and flickering candles to set the mood.

More ratted gauze or cheese cloth hung in the archway between my kitchen and dining room leaving a little to the imagination for the buffet table and bar. I love the warped candelabra in the photo below and hope to find one like it. It really doesn't take much in this room to add to the ambiance. The lilies are a nice touch but I might replace with black roses.

A centerpiece for the buffet table or even the bar. Red wine is one of the perfect beverages to serve!

No bar would be complete without mixers like rat poison, zombie virus and snake oil.

I have a bookshelf in my hallway that I would love to turn in to a specimen collection full of glass cloches (love them) of creepy items like a brain (cauliflower), eyeballs (pearl onions), intestines (colored pasta or rice) and maybe a little eye of newt (peas).

I like this skull and bones idea but don't think I will make mine glittery. I have a smaller cheese cloche with a marble base (bought at a yard sale for $4) and thought it might be good filled with lady fingers or shrunken heads.

I think putting things you love in to everyday or holiday settings are a great idea. I really want to find an old wooden bird cage. How funny would it be to put a skeleton of a bird in it? I have some old suitcases stacked in a corner of my dining room. I plan to put the leg of a pair of pants hanging out of it with a shoe and stuffed sock.

I have a shelf over my garden window that holds travel related tchochkies year round. I was inspired by this photo to decorate the shelf. Masses of books, some rats and a skull thrown in for good measure. I read about a cool way to transfer photos to make images look like ghosts. As soon as I try that out I will report back.

I love my pets but everyone needs a black cat - or two.

This skeleton is about one of the only things I can't reproduce easily. I will save my pennies so I can order him. I wonder what he's reading?

A little something to keep me company in the library.

Even the bathroom can get in to the act with a pill container full of bugs, rusty shaving implements or rotten dentures in a soaking glass.

I have seen these great holographic framed photos at party stores. My favorite is a couple on their wedding day circa late 1800's. When you shift your view ever so slightly they turn in to skeletons. Perfect for over the mantle. I want a large collection of black candles all shapes and sizes for the top of the mantle.

Some Halloween trivia

Jack o’ lanterns originated in Ireland where people placed candles in hollowed-out turnips to keep away spirits and ghosts on the Samhain (pronounced Sawen) holiday.

The ancient Celts thought that spirits and ghosts roamed the countryside on Halloween night. They began wearing masks and costumes to avoid being recognized as human.

Bobbing for apples is thought to have originated from the Roman harvest festival that honors Pamona, the goddess of fruit trees others believe the Celts are responsible.

The movie Halloween was made in only 21 days in 1978 on a very limited budget.

My favorite Halloween movie is Hocus Pocus followed closely by Practical Magic, The Craft and I've Been Waiting For You

What's your favorite holiday movie?