Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Gladrags robe with Candied Bacon Wands, Deviled Occamy Eggs, Niffler Bait and strudel!22 of us including 3 kids enjoyed a lovely evening at Cinema Brittahytta the same day I also got Owl Post from Hogsmeade, which was perfect since we watched Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them! The youngest witches enjoyed some Frozen Potions, we all enjoyed Frozen Butterbeer, Thunderbird and Swooping Evil custom cocktails, Candied Bacon Wands, teal and silver Deviled Occamy Eggs, and British “Banger” sausages on the grill, Nathania dressed in Queenie’s coat brought tasty homemade strudel, I wore a fancy new brocade robe worthy of Gladrags, and Glen must be part Niffler since he scarfed a whole pile of chocolate coins during the movie! πŸ˜‰
Fantastic Beasts Food Table with dragons galore
I had fun with the simple menu, and I had made menu cards to set by each dish, but I didn’t get the chalkboard updated this time. I did get out my copper dragon sculpture and used my two matching dragon plate stands on the table, since dragons definitely count as fantastic beasts!

Deviled Occamy EggsAs soon as I saw the movie last November, I wanted an Occamy winged serpent since they are such gorgeous colors of blues and greens! Since their eggs are pure silver, I thought why not try making deviled eggs using silver food spray, since tinting the yellow egg yolks to a bright teal should be an easy food coloring task. I found a dramatic image online of an Occamy and created a menu description, pointing out we were only eating unfertilized eggs.

Deviled Occamy Eggs

The Occamy is a plumed, two-legged serpentine-bodied creature with wings that may reach up to fifteen feet in height. It is extremely protective of its eggs, which are made of the most pure and soft silver. The unfertilized eggs are especially tasty when cooked.

Spraying edible silver on the backs of cooked egg whitesTo make Deviled Occamy Eggs, split hard boiled eggs in half lengthwise, and pop out the yolks into a mixing bowl. Clean and dry the egg whites and use food decorating spray to coat with silver. Don’t spray too much or it will run off Spraying edible silver on the fronts of cooked egg whitesthe egg and leave spots. I sprayed the backs of the eggs first, let them dry while I made the yolk mixture, then turned the egg whites over and sprayed the tops. The silver does come off on your fingers when moving them, so be careful when placing on your serving plate. The edible silver spray doesn’t come all the way off the eggs, but it wipes easily off skin.

Tinting the egg yolk mixture tealFor the yolk mixture you can use your favorite deviled egg recipe plus enough blue food coloring to make the yellow yolks teal. I used greek yogurt, mayo and some truffle salt to taste, which were delicious! I used my stand mixer to get the yolk mixture as Truffle salt, mayo & greek yogurt added to cooked egg yolkssmooth and creamy as possible, then I used a piping bag with a large star tip to pipe the team yolk mixture into the silver egg whites. I used a clear plastic deviled egg tray to show off the silver, and they looked great in place on a gold platter on one of my dragon stands!

Candied Bacon WandsAll the Candied Bacon Wands were scarfed by all my guests since they were so tasty! They would probably work better with thinner breadsticks, but no one complained. πŸ˜‰ I used the Candied Bacon Wands were tasty!matching gold platter to the Occamy eggs on the other dragon stand, since the Candied Bacon Wands would sag bend too much if placed standing display more like magic wands.

Wrapping breadstick wands in baconDepending how thick your bacon slices are compared to the length of your breadsticks, you might need to wrap two slices on one breadstick. My second package of bacon were slightly wider slices, and since the bacon will stretch a little while wrapping, I was able to use a single slice down the length of the breadstick. I did notice during baking that the bacon grease soaked into the breadsticks, making them soggy before the oven time finally made Candying Bacon Wands by sprinkling brown sugar before bakingeverything crisp, and depending how crisp the bacon was, they tended to bend a little even after cooling. Pretzel rods are thicker and shorter than the long thin breadsticks so they might not get as soggy, but pretzels are already so salty that they might be too much with the salty bacon.

Gently turn the wands over and sprinkle the other side with brown sugar to continue baking until the bacon is crispAfter wrapping each breadstick with bacon, place the loose ends down on a baking rack over a baking sheet so the grease can drain away while baking. Sprinkle brown sugar along each wand, bake for about 15 minutes, gently turn them over and sprinkle more sugar on the other side. This is when they are soggy, so be careful you don’t break any breadsticks while you are turning them. Bake until the bacon is crisp on both sides, turning over again as necessary. Cool completely then serve and enjoy!

I never knew Glen was a Niffler!The easiest food to “make” were the Niffler Bait Chocolate Coins…just buy some foil-wrapped chocolate coins and set them in a big pile, preferably on a matching gold platter! The Niffler pretty much stole the movie with his adorable antics, but Glen stole all the Niffler Bait to eat while watching! haha…

Niffler Bait Chocolate CoinsNiffler Bait Chocolate Coins

A Niffler is a creature with a long snout and a coat of black, fluffy fur. They are attracted to shiny things, which make them wonderful for locating treasure, but this also means that they could wreak havoc indoors. Nifflers have a pouch on their bellies which holds far more than at first seems possible. Nifflers are gentle by nature and could even be affectionate towards their owners. However, they could destroy belongings looking for sparkly objects, and for that reason it is inadvisable to keep them as a house pet.

Queenie made a strudel!Nathania came as Queenie, complete with reproduction costume coat, and of course “you like strudel, dontcha honey?” It was extremely tasty with unsurprisingly no leftovers!

Fantastic Fried Beasts from JerryJerry hadn’t seen the movie yet, so he even found the fancy movie font for his sign and brought Fantastic Fried Beasts! The tasty fried chicken was scarfed down, but after watching the movie he felt a little guilty that the movie creatures were friends, not food. πŸ˜‰

Custom CocktailsI couldn’t resist creating custom cocktails inspired by a couple of the Fantastic Beasts from the movie. I took inspiration from a Dark & Stormy plus the iridescent feathers and shimmery liqueur for the Thunderbird, and layered green and blue for the Swooping Evil, and both were quite tasty if I do say so myself! The shimmery liqueur is almost sickly sweet but the chai tea syrup and dark rum balance it well.

The Thunderbird

The Thunderbird is a large, avian creature native to North America, and most commonly found in Arizona in the southwestern United States. They possess multiple and powerful wings which are known to change Shimmery Thunderbird cocktailcolors as they summons storms, with iridescent feathers shifting from various shades of gold, to electrifying blue, to grey and silver, to white, and even to deep navy. A close relative of the Phoenix, the Thunderbird can create storms as it flies and is highly sensitive to danger.

ginger ale
chai tea syrup
blackstrap rum
Viniq shimmery liqueur

Pour equal parts ginger ale, chai tea syrup, and blackstrap rum over ice, then top with Viniq shimmery liqueur. Watch the swirling storm clouds brewing in your glass, sparkling with the magical powers of the Thunderbird.

Layered green & blue Swooping Evil cocktailThe Swooping Evil

The Swooping Evil is a blue-and-green winged magical creature that ooks like a cross between a reptile and an extremely large butterfly. It can be quite dangerous, as it can feed on people’s brains, but also able to deflect at least some spells by flying into their path. It secretes venom that, when properly diluted, can be used to erase bad memories.

ginger ale
blue curacao
green apple syrup

Fill a martini glass half-full of ginger ale. Add blue curacao until the ginger ale all turns blue. Gently pour the green apple syrup along the edge of the glass so it layers under the blue. Sip carefully since too much Swooping Evil venom can erase memories!

We enjoyed chatting, eating & drinking until it was dark enough for trailers, and a couple people had never seen the movie before but really liked it…hooray!

Fun Food for Fantastic Beasts Silver lips and fingers from Occamy eggs! Frozen Potions Classic Cinema Brittahytta Shot

Hope you are enjoying your summer too! Two more movies this summer still to come so stay tuned…

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Young Frankenstein for 10 Years of Cinema Brittahytta!

Igor & Inga with Fancy FrankWe opened our 10th summer backyard movie season with the first movie ever shown at Cinema Brittahytta…Young Frankenstein! Most of us had seen it before, but little Ellie had a ball viewing it for her first time, at the same age I first saw it! 14 adults & 3 kids made for a great celebration, enjoying the special themed menu, our Fancy Frank standing tall ready for Puttin’ on the Ritz, cloaked Glen with hunchback as Igor, yours truly in my lab coat as Inga, my new theatre trailer, and my new lighted movie marquee!

I first started showing backyard movies 10 summers ago, and I kept improving the experience over time with an 8-foot screen, better projector, and nice speakers. I didn’t edit my theatre policy trailer until a few years in, a very basic Star-Wars-style rolling credits into the distance over a basic starfield with my logo, but I thought it would be a nice 10th anniversary celebration to edit a new theatre policy trailer. I used the same soundtrack of audio clips from some of my favorite movies and my same hand-drawn logo, and the same text for the credits thanking everyone who contributed to Cinema Brittahytta, but I added teal theatre curtains opening to an aqua nebula moving starfield, and I added a little basic 3D to the logo spinning in from a distance at the end. Maybe for the 20th anniversary I’ll have finally learned real motion graphics? πŸ˜‰

New Movie Marquee in the backyard!The other new feature for my home theatre is a digital lighted movie marquee! I had purchased several 32″ flatscreen TVs for previous Halloween use, and I didn’t have a use for them the rest of the year, so I thought why not build a frame and load a slideshow/video on a USB stick and use one of the TVs as a digital poster frame movie marquee! Since the TV isn’t balanced to hang vertically without a wall behind it, I had to mount it on the back fence, where I happen to have a bare spot for a few years until a new tree grows. Full construction instructions will be coming soon in a separate post, including lessons learned how to improve my next attempt, but I think it works really well!

Mixing a Walk This Way cocktailWhen guests arrived for Young Frankenstein, we started with two custom cocktails as is now my summer tradition. Here some brave souls are using my Young Frankenstein the Musical shot glass to mix a Walk This Way cocktail, which was quite tasty and popular, so it might return in another disguise for a different movie someday! This “Walk This Way” cocktail is as dark as Igor’s cloak. Once you Walk This Way enough, you too will say, “What hump?” Pour equal parts blackstrap rum, chai tea syrup, lemon-lime soda over ice into a rocks glass. Stir to combine, and enjoy!

Partying people on the patioFor flavor variety I also created The Frau BlΓΌcher: This straitlaced black & “white” cocktail is why the horses rear in fear every time they hear the name of Frau BlΓΌcher! *whinny!* Pour two parts lemon-lime soda into a martini glass. Gently layer one part black vodka over the top. Enjoy the black and “white” layers, but stir before enjoying a sip. Some of the partying people on the patio were partaking in that one. πŸ˜‰

Young Frankenstein 2017 MenuHere is the full menu for Young Frankenstein, listing the two custom cocktails Walk This Way and The Frau BlΓΌcher, then Abby Normal Brain Pate and Assorted Cheeses for Puttin’ on the Ritz, Franken-Fruit Salad, Rollz in Zee Hay, and Franks-In-Steins! Can you spot the small foam Abby Normal brain that was a souvenir from the touring musical? πŸ˜‰ The Abby Normal Brain Pate is the same Halloween recipe I’ve been making for years, still as delicious as ever with cream of mushroom soup, cream cheese, shrimp & creole seasoning, Authentic Ritz crackers for Puttin' on the Ritzthen my traditional cheese slices were there too, both ready for Puttin’ on the Ritz on a plate with the logo added front and center so everyone would realize they were the authentic brand crackers!

Franken-Fruit SaladFranken-Fruit Salad was just my normal summer fresh fruit salad renamed for the occasion, but our Rollz in Zee Hay really cracked me up, since they are Rollz in Zee Haydeep-fried eggrolls that are supposedly so addicting they are locally called “crack”…haha! I bought some canned fried onion strings for the bed of “hay” under the egg rolls, and voila! Rollz in Zee Hay! They are very tasty so there weren’t many leftovers. πŸ˜‰

Franks In SteinsSometimes a clever name creates a recipe you can’t resist. These are basically pigs in blankets, a vintage classic appetizer, but by forming the dough differently and adding a pretzel handle, you have little Franks-In-Steins! These will appear again for our Haunted Hollywood Halloween this coming October, as well as in my new Eerie Elegance Eats cookbook!

Partying PeopleIt was a lovely evening, not too hot and not too chilly, so we didn’t use the firepits, and we have a new projector arrangement that allows for even more seating space! The original Cinema Brittahytta projector had developed some sparkles at the Young Frankenstein 2017 audienceedges by the end of last summer, not bad for a 9 year run, but since now I have so many other projectors for Halloween illusions, one of the newer short throw projectors was perfect nice and close to the screen, so less trip hazard of power & HDMI cables through the grass, plus more people can sit in the center for an even better view!

You can see a few more photos of our 10th anniversary summer season premiere in the gallery below. Stay tuned for a couple more movies this summer, starting with a trip back to the Wizarding World for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them…

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Cuddling Dragons

Cuddling Dragons Wedding CakeI’ve known Keith since the last century from singing with him in the Choral Project, and he and Doug are an adorable pair. When they asked me if I could make cuddling dragon cake toppers for their wedding, of course I said yes! The happy couple wanted to save the dragons so they are not really edible art, but they were made as cake decor. Even though I didn’t make the full wedding cake, I was honored that I could lend my artistic talents to make their sapphire and amethyst dragon cake toppers!

Sculpting the Cuddling DragonsThey had found images online of a precious pair of cuddling dragons in exactly their wedding colors, but they contacted the artist and she wasn’t selling them anymore, so this was a design duplication instead of my own interpretation. We knew the top tier of the cake was a 6-inch square, so I cut a template and sized my sculpting to be sure both dragons could still cuddle in the allotted space with room to spare. Since they were not very large, I used solid Cuddling Dragons ready to bakeSculpey polymer clay. Too much larger and I would have used something inside to make a hollow core. The first night I made excellent progress, added the wings and spikes the next session, then they were ready to bake.

Cuddling Dragons after baking in the ovenSculpey polymer clay softens in the warmth of your hands, which is great for blending and smoothing, but not for holding vertical shapes like wings and horns. If it is still warm enough to sag while baking, you will fix it in the wrong shape! Usually letting the Sculpey cool several hours and air-dry a little will help it keep the proper shape in the oven. During baking I was checking every 5 minutes to be sure I didn’t scorch these little cuties, but that they were solid enough that none of the detail would break or bend.

Painting the Cuddling DragonsI’m pretty sure the originals were sculpted in Fimo or other colored polymer clays then coated with an iridescent varnish, but since I had found perfect iridescent sapphire and amethyst paints, I thought painting after baking would be less Final Painting Details on the Cuddling Dragonssteps overall. I took my dragons and my paints to a crafting afternoon with friends, so they got a peek at the super-secret wedding decor. πŸ˜‰ After I got home, I mixed the shimmery paints with white acrylic for the bellies and spikes, then black acrylic for the eyes and some spikes, with some black nail polish very last for shiny eyes to give them more life.

Signing the Cuddling DragonsIf you have painted anything, especially in small crevices and tiny detail, you will know that paint shrinks as it dries, so you might end up with bare spots requiring multiple coats of color. I needed three coats to cover all the bare spots, plus multiple coats really added to the shimmer effect, so it was worth the time and effort. Since this was such a special project, after everything else was fully dry, I signed the bottom of Cuddling Dragons on the Wedding Cakeeach dragon with my monogram. I forgot to take a photo, but I found a nicer box that could be used as a keepsake, and carefully wrapped them in bubble wrap. Keith & Doug were overjoyed when they picked them up, and then I had to keep them secret from our mutual friends for almost two months!

Cutting the CakeThe wedding was this past weekend, a lovely evening for a wedding cruising around the San Francisco Bay, with excellent food, fun dancing, and the final cake! The vivid purples and blues in the flowers and jewels strewn around the tables went perfectly with the dragons, the tiers were covered in the couple’s shared love of music, and even though the cake decorators didn’t understand how the dragons were designed to nuzzle each other, they were still as adorable as the newly-married couple! Congratulations to Keith & Doug!

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Beauty & the Beast Bookookies

Britta and her Beauty & the Beast BookookiesFrom November 2010 to September 2011 I was buying new hardware and setting up the new site, so there is a large gap for all my Cinema Brittahytta summer movies that year! Since the new Beauty & the Beast live action remake is almost here, it seemed a good time to catch up with details about when I showed the original Best-Picture nominated animated masterpiece in June 2011, especially my Beauty & the Beast Bookookies!

Closeup of the Beauty & the Beast BookookiesMy Beauty & the Beast movie night was when I originally had the concept of Bookookies that later appeared as my Caroling Cookies for Christmas. My inspiration was the opening story told along with gorgeous stained glass panels, so I transcribed the relevant phrases from the movie and sketched my own smaller versions of the matching stained glass images that could stand the limits of piping and food-coloring pen resolution. That determined the size of each large cookie.

Custom cookie cutters in processI could have cut the sugar cookie dough with a knife around a cardboard template, but I decided to make it easier on myself and make a custom cookie cutter out of copper pipe strap tape bent into shape then joined at the overlap using self-adhesive metal flashing tape. The holes in the copper strap make it a little tricky to Custom Bookookie cutter worked great!clean if your dough is too tall, but that usually isn’t a problem for me. These need to be handwashed of course, but I’ve made lots of custom cookie cutters this way over the years, including life-size Mardi Gras Mask Cookies!

Flood coat of royal icing as smooth as possibleAfter the cookies were baked and cooled completely, I spread a flood coat of white royal icing that dried overnight so the books would be as smooth as possible for drawing and lettering such details. I didn’t get my first edible printer until October 2011, so these original Bookookies were all hand-drawn and hand-lettered, sadly messier than I hoped since I was trying to make the book page curve without any guidelines to spoil my nice smooth white royal icing surface. I drew all the black stained Piping black royal icing between the color blocks of the stained glass designsglass lead lines and lettering with a food coloring pen first, then I went over the color block outlines with a thin bead of black royal icing, which also needed to dry overnight before I could continue.

Once the black royal icing was dry, I used the small tubes of gel frosting plus custom-tinted Adding the stained glass gel frostings and final edge details to the Beauty & the Beast Bookookiesclear piping gel to have a full assortment of colors for the stained glass effect. I waited until after all the gel was finished before using food coloring pens to draw the page edges and the purple book cover edge. Even though the gel tubes were small, I still needed to use toothpicks to get into the corners and the fine detail areas! You also cannot spread the gel around too much across any black lines or it will re-moisten the black food pen and smear black into the gel. The other drawback is the gel frostings never dry, so you cannot stack these cookies for storage or they will stick together and ruin the Patio table display for Beauty & the Beast, including my brass candlestick, a small clock, teacup and teapot as you-know-whodesigns. However they did give a beautiful effect, enough that my friends lectured me on making edible art that is too much work so they felt too guilty eating them! πŸ˜‰

I also decorated my patio table using my brass candleabra, a small clock, teacup and teapot Glass cloche over a real red rose from my garden that happened to drop petals during the partyas you-know-who, a glass cloche over real red rose from my garden, that happened to drop a perfect amount of petals during the party, plus I displayed some Disney collectibles and my Disneyland photo with the Beast by the Cinema Brittahytta movie clapboard sign.

Disney collectibles and my Beast photo by the clapboard sign

It was a fun night with a simple backyard barbeque menu, 10 adults, one kid and one dog. We had at least one viewer who had never seen the movie before, and he enjoyed it enough that we have reserved seats for opening night of the new movie version this week!


Click below to view all the photos of the party, including closeups of all six designs of the Beauty & the Beast Bookookies!

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Vintage Outdoorsman Birthday Cake

Vintage Outdoorsman Cake for Dad's 70th Birthday!My mom had her milestone birthday last year with the number included but not advertised on the Delicious Daisies Cake, and this year was my dad’s turn! Since I sculpted him six realistic silver salmon for his 60th birthday cake, my mom & I brainstormed how to include some of his other hobbies as this Vintage Outdoorsman Cake, with an antique wicker fishing creel and vintage wood duck decoys surrounded by cut wafer paper duck blind grass saying “Happy 70th Birthday, Gary!” in “platinum” to celebrate 70 years!

My first step was measuring the cake size so I knew my canvas size to sculpt the wicker fishing creel and duck decoys, plus how large to make the digital artwork to use my edible printer with wafer paper for the duck blind grass and birthday message. My dad requested Actual duck blind grassGerman chocolate cake, which has delicious nutty caramel coconut frosting, but tricky texture to decorate! My plan was to wrap the frosted cake in plastic wrap and use the springform rings around the plastic wrap to hold the gooey frosting in place for transit, then add the duck blind grass very last. I measured the ring circumference which was about 23″, then designed the birthday message to be about 17″ long Edible wafer paper duck blind grass with platinum birthday messageby 2″ high on 3.5″-4″ grass, with extra pages of plain grass printed to piece everything together around the full circumference. I know from experience the wafer paper curls fairly quickly in ambient moisture, but the duck blind grass should stand upright, so I planned to cut the grass texture but keep the wafer sheets flat until just before presenting the cake.

Mixing white chocolate and semi-sweet to make wood-colored modeling chocolateBefore I could start sculpting, I mixed up some modeling chocolate to be a base wood color, using a mix of white chocolate and semi-sweet baking chips, so I had to guess at how much corn Mixing white chocolate and semi-sweet to make wood-colored modeling chocolatesyrup to use since all the recipes are for specific chocolate ratios, not mixes between them. I also tried mixing a wicker color of modeling chocolate by adding a small amount of semi-sweet Wood-color and wicker-color modeling chocolatechips and a touch of yellow gel food coloring to the white chocolate chips. Modeling chocolate always needs to set in the fridge overnight as slabs covered in plastic wrap first, then it’s shelf-safe as long as kept in plastic.

I think the mix of different chocolates made my modeling chocolate more brittle than usual, since I couldn’t soften it enough just by kneading at room temperature. 30 seconds in the microwave was enough that I could knead the hot, almost gooey sections with the solid First round of sculpting with modeling chocolatesections into one consistent soft ball, then continue to sculpt for an hour or so before it got too solid again. I formed the basic duck decoy shapes while the modeling chocolate was very soft, then let them set with some folded wax paper and paper towel support so the tails and necks wouldn’t slump. It was extra tricky shaping the fishing creel base until the modeling chocolate firmed up a bit, Carving details into hardened modeling chocolateand setting overnight required folded wax paper support inside so it didn’t collapse on itself. After the creel was formed, the duck decoys were solid enough to hold their shape, then I was able to continue sculpting details, including woodgrain texture using a sewing pin and eyes stamped using a large piping tip.

Antique wooden duck decoyMy mom had sent me photos of the antique duck decoy hen and drake at their house, so I used them as models to paint my chocolate duck decoys. I wanted them to look aged, not freshly painted, so letting some of the base chocolate color show was intentional like the paint was wearing away. I’ve been Painting the chocolate duck decoysusing ChocoWhite plain on dark chocolate and fudge for a couple years now, but this was my first attempt at mixing colors with the ChocoWhite to make opaque chocolate paint…very nice to discover that my gel food colors worked great! I used black, black/brown, medium brown, yellow/brown, and teal, some mixed with ChocoWhite when needed, like the yellow beaks and teal heads of the drakes. I was very pleased how they turned out so much like the originals! Since I made three duck decoys, I painted the third as another drake since they are prettier. πŸ˜‰

Adding the royal icing wicker patter on the fishing creelThe fishing creel still needed its wicker texture, but the white modeling chocolate was too chalky to roll thin enough for the wicker, so I mixed up some Not bad for piped wicker!royal icing, using yellow & brown gel color to tint the wicker color, then piped the woven pattern instead. That needed to dry overnight before I could add straps to the creel…and even though the darker modeling chocolate was fine for sculpting, I couldn’t roll it thin enough to be leather straps without it cracking, so thankfully I saved the leftover royal icing from the wicker, and it was light enough I could add enough brown and red gel food coloring for the correct leather color. My Vintage style wicker fishing creelribbon piping tip wasn’t quite as large as it should have been, Adding royal icing leather straps to the wicker fishing creelbut it ended up still looking quite similar to the original wicker creel hanging on my parents’ wall!

I used a devils food cake mix in my springform pans, but I made the nutty caramel coconut frosting from scratch using an online recipe since I couldn’t access my mom’s family recipe. Since the frosting is cooked on the stove, you need to wait until the frosting is completely cooled before frosting the cake, otherwise you have a melted mess falling off the cake. As soon as everything was cool enough, I frosted the cake on a cardboard round, then immediately covered with plastic wrap and used the open springform ring to hold the frosting in place for Frosted German Chocolate Cake locked in place for transittransit, and locked down the airtight plastic cake carrier in hopes it wouldn’t dry out between Thursday night to Saturday evening. The online frosting recipe (below) that was more opaque had 75% more evaporated milk and 2 extra eggs than the family recipe that was always more translucent. The birthday boy still liked it but my mom & I think we prefer the family recipe…that I now have in my files! πŸ˜‰

Vintage Outdoorsman CakeCutting the wafer paper sheets was easy enough, since it was just chopping the edge randomly to look like the cut grass used to make duck blinds. Since the wafer paper curls in ambient moisture, I kept it flat between two magazines until I assembled the entire cake just before serving. I did need to use some royal icing to glue the overlapping seams, and it’s easier to use a table knife to hold the wafer paper flat while the royal icing dries instead of accidentally getting wet or sticky fingers stuck to the wafer paper. Adding the sculpted decorations on top was easy since everything fit just as expected…sure glad I measured well!

Happy 70th... ...70th Birthday... ...Birthday, Gary!
Since the birthday message wrapped around the whole cake, it required three photos to read it all, so I also made a 360-degree video:

…and here is the birthday boy blowing out his candles!

Cake #1 coming out with candles... Just after the lotus candle was blown out by my brother

Double Birthday CelebrationI found the Happy Birthday letter candles so put them around the front edge. It was also my brother’s birthday in two weeks so we celebrated double birthdays when I was in town. We used another silly spinning singing lotus candle like my mom’s birthday last year for my brother’s cake, but this one didn’t do the same closing trick…darn! I told my brother he’ll get a fancier cake when he turns 70! πŸ˜‰

Hope you’ve enjoyed the Vintage Outdoorsman Cake as much as the birthday boy! You can keep reading to see the German chocolate frosting recipe including the differences from our family recipe…

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New Year’s Eve is Time for Cheese!

Cheese HourglassThis year we were invited to a New Year’s Eve housewarming potluck, so we decided to bring two forms of cheese edible art as Time for Cheese! One was a pastry brie decorated as a pocket watch Pastry Brie Pocket Watchapproaching midnight, and the other was Glen’s family cheese ball recipe formed into an hourglass with the chopped walnuts as the sand. Easy and tasty!

Making the Pastry Brie Pocket WatchI’ve been making my Baked Brie En Croute in different designs for over a decade, so since I knew the pastry would puff too much while baking, I used hash marks instead of small numbers, with slightly longer lines for 3, 6, 9 & 12. This time I used milk instead of egg wash, so it wasn’t as shiny, but it did brown nicely due to the protein. I had to add a couple toothpicks while baking so the winding stem wouldn’t fall off the side, but it worked out pretty well even after all the detail puffed!

Forming the cheese ball recipe into an hourglassGlen’s family cheese ball recipe made its first appearance at Halloween 2009 as the Jack O’ Lantern Cheese Ball Creepy Cuisine winner, and it even became the Gargantula this past Halloween. After mixing and chilling the cheese ball recipe in the fridge, Forming the cheese ball recipe into an hourglassit is easy enough to form into whatever shape you like, as long as you use plastic wrap to keep it from sticking to your hands. Once the shape is set, smooth the surface with a table knife, or a clean wet finger for these types of curves, then add the chopped walnuts in the pattern you like, Cheese Hourglass with Walnut Sandhere simulating an hourglass with the sand almost running out for the end of 2016. This design fit perfectly on a rectangular platter I had, and we tucked crackers along the sides for serving at the party.

We had a great time chomping & chatting all evening, playing Rock Band 4 with friends, toasting at East Coast midnight as well as West Coast midnight, and wearing our silly giant dollar-store hats & beads! Thanks to Cyd & Mike for hosting at their new house!

Happy New Year! Rock Band Panorama Rock Band selfie! Happy New Year West Coast!
Hope everyone has a Happy New Year with Time for Cheese!

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Christmas at the Castle

Hope everyone is having a happy holiday season! Since we finally had Castle Brittahytta weather-stable by Halloween, we left it up and decorated it for Christmas, including projected snowfall and dripping icicles!

For 2016, Castle Brittahytta was covered in snow and dripping icicles with lighted trees in every tower window, lighted wreath and garlands, the wishing well was frozen, and even all the dragons had festive hats! As you listen to a cappella carols by Cibo Cantabimus, follow the decorations inside to see how this castle decks the halls…

Castle Brittahytta was originally constructed for Halloween 2016, details here:

For more Christmas decor and recipes, see

Cibo Cantabimus is Britta Peterson, Stephanie Manansala, Tracia & Doug Barbieri, Jeff Ouye, and Louie Lee, singing together each Christmas since 1990!

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Halloween 2016 – The Party!

The Webmistress with her portraitWhew…another great Halloween party this year! The rain that had been threatening all week drizzled a little in the morning and the afternoon gusts of wind made it difficult for tablecloths, but the weather stayed clear for the party as the Webmistress hosted a Victorian Halloween, with most of the special spider-themed menu as planned, many clever and gorgeous costumes, and even small children loved my Waltz of the Spiders front show and enjoyed posing with and hugging Winnifred the Giant Tree spider, even if the jumping and shaking spiders along the front walkway were a bit scary for them. πŸ˜‰ I think The Webmistress with one of her "babies"we were 58 adults and 11 kids even though I think I might be missing some of the friends of friends…but from the amount of glassware I washed immediately afterwards and rushed to pick up outside the next morning as I heard the wind and rain starting again, that seems about right! This is definitely an example of the perfect quote for me: “I am thankful for the mess to clean up after a party because it means I have been surrounded by friends.” πŸ™‚ Thursday night party prep!Thanks to everyone who helped me celebrate my favorite holiday!

Thursday night was opening night for our front show the Waltz of the Spiders at Castle Brittahytta even though we stayed inside working on party food. It was drizzling constantly all evening but thankfully no wind, and everything still worked fine through the Backyard lightingadvertised showtimes as some friends & neighbors watched, but despite all our waterproofing efforts Canopy table lightingincluding investments in specialty outdoor boxes and taping the heck out of every exposed connection, by 11pm the front show circuit was down, and by 2:30am even the pathway electrical for all the jack o lanterns and the front webcam was down. This also meant that Glen couldn’t work on the backyard party lighting that night because it wasn’t safe to work with open power Small tables in the backyardcircuits in the rain. Thankfully Friday afternoon & evening was clear to get everything out Glen's backyard lighting worked so well!front working again by showtime, then Glen did a FANTASTIC job with the backyard lighting! He set up the purple beanbag spider with fun colors, enough lighting for playing the bean bag toss “cornhole” game to the side, and using my new paper lanterns with clamp lights and 100W CFL bulbs, under the canopies it was almost as bright as inside! We are definitely keeping that arrangement for future parties!

Inside food tableI wish I had been able to take more days off work, since by party week the only completed food were the Spiders of the Sea black rice crab cakes ready in the freezer and all the faces drawn on the Mandarin Jack O’Lanterns, but in the 3 days I did have, I finally caught up on food prep: 6 dozen hand-formed Sourdough Spiders, baked & piped 8 dozen Ginger Web Cookies, made 6 dozen Patio food tablePumpkin Pasties using the filling & pie dough I had prepped earlier, baked 7 dozen Ghoulish Gravestone cookies and Edible Medals for prizes, prepped 4 Slimy Spiders sculpted from cream cheese for green jalapeno jelly, prepped the Spiderweb Brie en Croute, and Glen and I finished his new recipe brainstorm Fal-Awful Arachnids!

I did pipe several dozen royal icing spiders and made cotton candy TWICE for Spooky Spiders in Wispy Webs after discovering my oldest cotton candy machine had finally given up the ghost after 15 years, but the seals on the spice jars were not as airtight as advertised, since Creepy Cuisine table in the backyardless than 24 hours all 48 bite-size butterscotch Wispy webs inside the jars had already melted from ambient air moisture. *sigh* I made more cotton candy the next day to keep in reserve in plastic bins, plus spun more webs on the bamboo picks, also saved in plastic in hopes of adding to the jars just before party time, but that recipe ended up cut for time, hoping no one noticed it was still listed on the menu board! Thank goodness I only spent free credit card points to buy the 48 spice jars. I thought I had finally solved how to serve cotton candy at a party but I was still foiled again…we’ll see what I can find by 2018 when the Webmistress hosts again…

The Gargantula Cheese Ball!Thankfully most of the special spider menu went reasonably well, including the hilarious and tasty Gargantula Cheese Ball, and those will be exclusive to the new Creepy Cuisine recipe collection book from Eerie Elegance, hopefully on sale by summer! However, as I finished the menu chalkboard on Friday night and it almost didn’t all fit, I agreed with Glen when he said “I think that’s too much food!” I usually have too many ideas than I can execute and expect some to be cut for time, which is one reason I wait until the end to write the Menu chalkboard with glass cauldron of Bobbing Apple Punchmenu chalkboard, but I was as prepared as possible for the make-ahead food, and I was hopeful for the last-minute fresh food. However, as it came down to crunch time with only Glen and me this year and no house-elves arriving early, the fresh fruit & veggies never happened, and the cheese plates, cookie plates, and apple slices with caramel dip barely happened only with gracious help from Keith & Doug when they arrived first.

I did have full my costume on before 7:30pm, but as I directed the last food being set out and let Cyd set up the lab experiment bottles, I insisted on using my new lighted test tube racks Glowing Ectoplasm Experiments!so I quickly poured green Powerade vs. green Gatorade into the test tubes, turned on the lights under the racks, and took some Ectoplasm Experiments photos! Then I finally socialized at my own party! πŸ™‚

We were trying for Ogle the Owls and Ectoplasm Experiments as the party activities, but I knew the mix your own experiment hasn’t gotten much participation since it debuted in 2005, and even though I had quiz sheets ready on the coffeetable for Ogle the Owls, I ran out of time to verify what owls were out! People partied through the entire house, enjoyed the Watching the front show the Waltz of the Spiders at Castle Brittahyttabackyard couch seating areas and small food tables, played my new bean bag toss “cornhole” set, especially the kids, and roamed outside to watch the front show, then as people started trying to leave, I gathered them to the backyard to award the prizes…

We don’t always have Scariest Costumes, but this year the votes went to ghostly Jacob Marley complete with heavy chains and chin bandage (Nicholas), fancy Jack the Ripper with his stylish victim (Sean/Laura), and since I didn’t have a prize for Epic Hair, I gave Juanita a medal for Scariest Hair πŸ˜‰
Scariest Costumes Jacob Marley and Jack the Ripper with his victimI didn't have an Epic Hair award so I gave Juanita Scariest Hair instead!

Most Creative Costume went to Melissa as a black & white photo even with gray makeup, Robin’s amazing spider braids with classy corset, and adorable seasonal fairies Winter Fairy Nola & Autumn Fairy Violet. I joked with Robin that I’ve lost count how many times she has won Most Creative Costume! πŸ˜‰
Most Creative Costume Winners Melissa, Robin, Violet and NolaRobin's amazing spider braids! Definitely Most Creative Costume!

The Ultimate Costume category never disappoints! This year three groups went all out!

Star Wars Clan with Kaelyn as Padme, Karin as Leia, Ellie as Rey, Kevin as Kylo Ren, Alex as Obi Wan, and Nathania as Hana Solo
Ultimate Costume Star Wars Clan

The Barbieris arrived as the Edwardian-era Downtown Abbey Clan
Ultimate Costume: Barbieri Downton Abbey Clan

Last but not least was the Ghostbusters Family including Abby & Erin with inflatable proton packs (Annalise & Kira), clueless Kevin (Mike) and a glowing blue ghost (Angie)! I also insisted on taking a photo in the lab with the glowing Ectoplasm Experiments. πŸ˜‰
Ultimate Costume Ghostbusters Family! Ultimate Costume Ghostbusters Family with glowing Ectoplasm Experiments
People were already leaving and I was requested to show Nola where all the owls really were, so no other prizes were awarded as a group, but I had seen some very clever Creepy Cuisine arrive, so I awarded prizes to those who hadn’t left yet, and have a couple saved Edible Medals for others who won in absentia:

Creepy Cuisine awarded individually: Mari’s Mum’s the Word mummy pizza pockets, Sheila’s Spider Deviled Eggs
Creepy Cuisine winner: Sheila's Spider Deviled Eggs

Creepy Cuisine in absentia: Robin’s Vampire Donuts, Ashlyn’s Beheaded Cauliflower buffalo style, Kian’s Zombie Balls pizza monkey bread
Creepy Cuisine winners in absentia: Robin's Vampire DonutsCreepy Cuisine winners in absentia: Ashlyn's Beheaded Cauliflower and Kian's Zombie Balls

After the prizes were awarded many of the early-night crowd left as they usually do, while the late-night people stayed to chat, including lighting the gas firepit on the patio for a little After-party around the gas firepit on the patiowhile, but I wasn’t able to join them. Even my traditional overnight guests had to get home for morning commitments this year, so Enjoying the outdoor furnitureall the guests had already left by midnight, very early for my Halloween parties, and no after-party for me to sit down and relax this year! I did get a couple of Sheila’s delicious deviled eggs and a couple cocktails so that was better than many past parties. πŸ˜‰ I put away the food and did the worst dishes, then pooped out around 3am. It did feel much better to get 6 hours of sleep rather than get up early to make brunch for guests, and we were able to relax on our free day with morning rain. As the sun came out again, Glen took a long nap while I retaped all the power connections in advance of the next sprinkles so we could run our front show again, then we headed out to look at other local Halloween home haunts for a change, which was fun!

The full photo gallery is included below for your viewing pleasure! I was extremely lucky the past few years with fantastic professional photographer Cat as a party guest, but she moved to Texas, so I am extremely thankful this year that Tracia, Sean, Robin, and Keith took photos to add to mine! Hope everyone had a Happy Halloween!

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Halloween 2016 – Waltz of the Spiders at Castle Brittahytta

Happy Halloween everyone! Tonight is the last chance to see our 2016 show live while The Webmistress Hosts a Victorian Halloween at Castle Brittahytta. Over 10,000 spiders emerge from the castle doors and crawl over the towers, ramparts and gravestones of Castle Brittahytta to an original musical soundtrack while the Ghostly Guardian watches over the castle as she has done for a thousand years. Here is the video in 4K for your viewing pleasure!

I hope everyone has a fantastic Halloween! My party photos from the weekend will be coming soon, so stay tuned!

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spider bling and other projects

Sewing custom kitty collars from silver web sheer black mesh fabricEven though getting the outside front show ready has been consuming the majority of my time until now, I’ve been able to crank through several small projects to add to my Victorian Halloween atmosphere, including elegant silver and black cat collars, custom pumpkin vines Onyx in his new spiderweb collarfor the graveyard, candle “costumes” and spider jewelry for servingware, candlesticks, and even for the Webmistress to wear herself!

My kitties don’t let me put costumes on them, but they will wear soft collars that stay out of their way. For my first black cat Kylie I found collars on sale at pet stores that were fun, but now since I have three black cats, I’d rather have them match, so I make them myself. The past few years Obsidian snoozing in his web collar on the plush web blanket...cozy!they’ve had a fun orange pumpkin and black cat pattern, but this year I found some very cool black mesh fabric with silver printed web pattern. Not only did I make myself a scarf just by cutting it (no hem Ebony in her new collar keeping one of the electronics boxes warmrequired!), but I made kitty collars AND a hair scrunchie for myself. The fabric is very soft and it looks fantastic on my kitties!

Later in September as we were cutting other projects for time, I thought I could add in some homemade pumpkin vines so I could use my papier-mache pumpkins around the graveyard. Painting veins and texture onto felt pumpkin leaves after the glue was dry for all the floral wireJust sitting in the graveyard didn’t make sense, but vines emerging from the grave of The Pumpkin Queen would be perfect! I’ve grown my own pumpkins several times, but fake vines I could put anywhere I wanted for future years to come. Before I drew my own leaf patterns, I did a quick online search and found several, so I Adding the wired & painted leaves to the sisal rope while painting the rope to match...messy!printed those as large as my paper would allow plus smaller sizes, cut out the templates, then traced around them onto scrap green felt I had in my fabric stash. I was cutting leaves forEVER, then I needed to glue green fabric-covered floral wire to them! All but the smallest leaves needed a curved crosspiece plus the long Curling the wire tail into the baby vine shape for the pumpkin leavesstem, and I left the stems plenty long, since I poked the wire through the sisal rope I was using as the vines, then I could curl the other end of the wire around a brush handle to make the curled baby vines. I also painted the leaf veins the same lighter green as the rope, which pumpkin vines in the graveyardwas very close to the wire color, but since the green felt was so vivid, I also dry brushed the lighter green over the entire leaf. They’re still too bright in the graveyard during daylight, but at night with the orange & color-changing lights, they look ok. I was only able to make three vines from the pumpkin leaves I cut, so I think every year we use these pumpkins, I’ll make another couple vines. Handstitching around the wire would make them rain-safe, and some fabric stiffener might make them even more realistic since they’re pretty floppy right now.

Ghoulish Glen Electrical Engineer hard at work hacking baby jack o' lanterns, replacing bulbs and power supplies...That’s not the only late brainstorm about pumpkins! We only have the single ghost in the tallest tower this year for story reasons, so that leaves the roof a bit boring and the other castle windows empty. I have 15 small battery jack o’lanterns, so I thought why not put them along the top of the castle walls and in the windows as forced perspective making the castle look taller? Six of Ghoulish Glen and the Ghostly Guardian watches over the jack o' lanterns in the windows and along the castle rampart wallsthe baby jackos were super-cheap dollar store purchases so long ago that they were blinking incandescent, not even LEDs, one was another incandescent found at Goodwill this year, then the other eight were I LOVE these jack o' lanterns peeking out the tower windows!from Target’s collection the past few years (but sadly Target had no jackos this year of any size!). We could have set them as-is, but that would require turning all the batteries on & off every night on the roof…so since we still had extra flicker LED pigtails already wired from our Halloween 2015 soldering partyEven a face in the far window behind the key lime tree!, I asked my resident electrical engineer to wire all the baby jackos to the roof power circuit. It took him a few days but they are now all wired together AND they all flicker brightly enough to see the faces through the gray sheet windows! I absolutely LOVE these!!!

The Webmistress is hosting a Victorian Halloween at Castle Brittahytta this year, so she deserves some new accessories. I’ve been drooling over the Victorian Trading Company catalog for years, so I finally splurged on this gorgeous spider jewelry and more using a free shipping offer! A pair of spider hair pins that are much larger than I expected, which is great since they should be noticed! The brooch has a couple colors I didn’t expect, and the bracelet is very large and more gold tones than expected, especially since the Webmistress’ color theme is black and silver.

Back in August I was browsing Etsy for a masculine swan pin for the Victorian family father to wear (separate post later, sorry!), and I came across a fabulous silver pocket watch with a giant spider on top! It would be even better on the other web case design, so I messaged the Love my new silver spiderweb pocket watch from Cogs And Gearsshop to ask. He was fine making it for me, but when I was ready to order a couple days later, his Etsy shop was down…ack! I was able to contact him, and he was just setting up a new shopify store, so I was his first shopify customer via PayPal. My items arrived last week and I absolutely LOVE them!

Super easy spider bling for curtainsSince I knew chances to use fancy spiders were coming, the past few years I’ve been buying interesting items, even if I didn’t have a concrete plan how to use them…like these “crystal” spiders I’ve Super easy spider bling for curtainsseen at several stores, even including Dollar Tree this year. I ended up with 4 that didn’t match, but I have four tassels for my Halloween curtains in the living room, so I thought the Super easy spider bling for curtainscrystal spiders could easily dress up those! I just bent the front legs to hook around the top of the tassel and they’ve stayed all month! This is probably a detail others might Super easy spider bling for curtainsnot notice, but I know it’s there. πŸ™‚

Last Halloween I found a black square tier tray at a discount store that was missing a couple beaded drops, but obviously had potential to add my own spider bling! I also found a black beaded silver candlestick at a thriftstore half-off sale that was also screaming for spiders! Silver candlestick and black tier tray before spider bling...Before Halloween Shopping Weekend I was able to quickly add some spider bling to some thriftstore items to make them more the Webmistress’ Victorian style. It’s a much faster project by already having silver Black tier tray after adding spider bling!spider charms, beading wire, and a bevy of beads in my crafting stash! Now I need more silver spider charms so some are coming from China via Amazon free points, but Silver candlestick spider bling!arriving probably too late for me this year, so stay tuned for more spider bling when the Webmistress’ party returns in 2018… πŸ˜‰

Covering pillar candles in sheer web fabric "costumes"Speaking of candles, I had converted four pillar LED flicker pillar candles to sit over the spiked sconces years ago, but they are just plain black. I took the same silver web mesh fabric I used for my new kitty collars and taped it around the black pillar candles to make them extra fancy. This makes Pillar candle "costumes" of silver webs on sheer black mesh fabricthem stand out even more, since the black candles against the dark iron finish of the metal sconces blended in a bit. I used the same removable poster tape that I use to attach my flagstone gossamer to my painted inside walls, so I can remove the web fabric and have plain black candles again for future Halloweens if I have a theme where the web design won’t fit.

More candle "costumes" from cheap translucent web tablecloths!I was gifted a couple gorgeous carved black gothic candelabras, but putting my black candles in them all blended too much together. I found long white taper LED flicker candles at Dollar Tree, but that same black mesh fabric didn’t work on white candles. However, a cheap More candle "costumes" from cheap translucent web tablecloths!translucent web pattern tablecloth was absolutely perfect! Now not only are these candles “costumed” much more in the Webmistress’ style, but I can remove the tape and have white candles again for other occasions!

Dressing up a lantern with more cheap web tableclothI have several candle lanterns of various sizes, and I had a different plan for them but am running out of time (maybe for 2018?), so I used the same cheap web tablecloth (seriously, I’m still cutting up ONE tablecloth for all these projects so far!) to line the windows of this lantern using clear removable poster tape. It’s just the right opacity for the flicker LED tealight to glow without showing the fake candle inside…perfect!

making my Eerily Elegant Victorian spider wreathI really wanted a fancy spider front door wreath with as much Victorian style as possible, so I bought a bunch of ribbon on clearance from Michaels last year. I also splurged on the albino spider battery light string from Pottery Barn since I expected so much of the wreath would be black so you would have trouble seeing black spiders. I wanted to make this early in the summer, but everything got too busy, so I didn’t start it until 4 days before my party…ack! The large sheer silver net ribbon was wrapped with a black layer to show the pattern, so I had to spray the pressed white foam wreath form before I covered with the silver web ribbon. I used a whole roll of the white spider wired ribbon to make a Closeup of my Victorian spider wreathlarge triple bow wrapped around, plus some thin stripy black & silver looped several times to hang in the middle. Some black and dark purple roses from Dollar Tree added some Spider Front PorchVictorian flavor, then I arranged the albino spider lights before hotgluing almost an entire sandwich bag of bulk plastic spiders! It looks perfect on my front porch between the giant shaking spider in its huge web, web doormat, spiderweb wind chimes, and my black urn floral arrangement. I think this spider wreath might be the definition of Eerie Elegance! πŸ™‚

New brass dragon door handles for the archway door!My patio archway door that has been in service about a decade now finally got an update! When I splurged on the dragons for the columns, I also found these brass dragon door handles cast from some original in Europe, but they don’t have latches so I coudln’t use them anywhere else in my house…but they fit perfectly on the archway door! I expect this may be another detail others may not notice, but I really like expanding the dragon theme. πŸ™‚

Fabulous fringe added to the tiny web lampshade above the patio fridgeBack when the sheer purple with web-flocked fabric was available, I bought enough for matching living room curtain panels, pillow covers, a drape for the piano, front door moon window panel, a tiny lampshade cover for the little lamp above my patio fridge, and a big lampshade cover for my floor lamp in the living room. I had another lampshade I covered with Eerie Elegance Beware Adding fabulous fringe to my web lampshade coversthe Brocade but thought I should have all matching webs this year. However, I only have tiny scraps left and haven’t seen that sheer purple web fabric for sale in several years now…but I scrounged through my fabric stash, and I had just barely enough of my original sheer black web lace from the original Webmistress costume from 1999 to piece together a new lampshade cover for the Library Laboratory floor lamp! When Double fringe = extra Victorian opulence...I like it!the light is shining through, you can’t really tell the difference between the purple and the black anyway, so they fit together just fine. All this work was inspired because during Halloween Shopping Weekend this year I found a Just enough original black web lace from 1999 to make another lampshade cover WITH fabulous fringe!FABULOUS black fringe trim that I could not resist, so there was $50 AFTER coupon, but now I have extra opulent Victorian web lampshades now, worthy of this Webmistress! One even has double layers of purple and black fringe, which I didn’t expect to like, but I think it fits as over-the-top Victorian.

No time left for any more updates since my party is Saturday and I’m taking the next three days as vacation from work! My costume is ready, and the front show is all set with over 10,000 spiders crawling all over the castle and graveyard, but there is still a lot of food to make! Hope everyone enjoys their Halloween weekend and I’ll be back with more updates after it’s all over!

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