Fresh ideas to elevate the everyday: Make a Halloween wreath, colorful lampshades and more.
EASY ACCENT: BLACK MAGIC
This October, add some eerie elegance to your usual cobweb-and-spider porch display with a bewitching ebony wreath. Simply hot-glue faux flowers onto a dried grapevine wreath and then spray the whole thing with black paint. Goth has never looked so good.
PERSONALIZE IT: AN ILLUMINATING IDEA
Create unique lighting fixtures by wrapping all-natural thread, twine or yarn in your favorite hues around inexpensive shades or shade frames. Tie the first loop, and keep going until you’re ready to knot on the next colored thread. The process is time-consuming but straightforward (even meditative). When you’re done, put the shade on a lamp or hang it as a pendant, and pop in a 60-or-less-watt bulb.
Scorching summer sun can do a number on your lawn, even if you’ve been watering regularly. Now is an ideal time to rejuvenate a tired yard. Top-dress any bare patches with compost, then sprinkle grass seed over them (use the same variety you have growing). Then water, water, water!
INSTANT UPGRADE: NICE LEGS!
Want to add some industrial cool to your home? Floyd Detroit sells solid-steel, made-in-the- USA furniture legs (in four colors: red, yellow, black, and white) that can be clamped onto a surface to make a table or bench. Use a pane of glass, a piece of wood or your imagination — our side table started out as a marble pastry board. You’ll feel handy without ever opening a tool kit.
MAKE & TAKE: CANDY CRUSH
These mischievous jack-o'-lanterns will light up a party. For the stained-glass effect, cut faces out of rolled-out chocolate cookie dough, bake until just set, remove from the oven, and fill the holes with ground-up butterscotch candies. Bake until the candies are melted, about 3 minutes more.
Active Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 2 hours 10 minutes
Yield: Makes about 18 cookies
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 1/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
18 hard butterscotch candies, very finely crushed
1. Whisk together flour, cocoa powder and salt. Beat butter with sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, then vanilla. Reduce speed to low; gradually add flour mixture. Divide dough in half; form each half into a disk and wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate until firm but still pliable, about 1 hour.
2. Heat oven to 350 F. Working with one disk at a time on lightly floured parchment, roll out dough 1/4 inch thick. Brush off excess flour; transfer dough on parchment to a baking sheet and freeze until firm, about 15 minutes. Cut into 4 1/2-inch pumpkin shapes with cookie cutters, rerolling scraps as needed. Transfer cookies to parchment-lined baking sheets; cut faces with the tip of a sharp paring knife. (If dough starts getting too soft, freeze 10 minutes.) Freeze until firm, about 15 minutes. Bake, rotating once, until just set, 12 minutes. Remove from oven; fill cutouts with crushed candy. Bake again until cookies begin to brown at edges and candy is melted, 3 minutes. Let cool completely on sheets on wire racks.
CELEBRATE: BAD MOON RISING
Set the scene for a thriller night with a ginger-grape punch topped with a giant floating orange moon (candy bats optional). What comes out when there’s a full moon? Incredibly frightening (read: delicious and chocolaty) “werewolf paws.”
For the ice moon, freeze a mixture of 4 cups orange juice and 4 cups water in a bowl that’s 8 inches in diameter. In a large punch bowl, gently stir together 8 cups Concord-grape juice, 4 1⁄2 cups (3 cans) ginger soda, 3 cups (2 cans) seltzer and 1⁄4 cup fresh lime juice. To release the moon, dip the bottom of the frozen bowl in hot water until the ice starts to melt at the edges. Remove the bowl from the water and turn it onto a plate. Place the moon in the punch, flat-side up, and arrange candy bats on top ($16 for 4 pounds, candywarehouse.com).
Use a butter knife to spread 2 tablespoons of chocolate frosting over a madeleine cookie (store-bought, or find a recipe at marthastewart.com/vanilla-madeleines), leaving it a bit thicker at the back. Drag the knife forward and pull up at the end to create a “furry” texture, then press 5 toasted almond slivers (“claws”) into the tip.
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