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October 2012

Easy Last Minute Halloween Ghosts



Whether Hurricane Sandy decided your Halloween decorations would look better in someone else's yard, or the holiday snuck up on you, it's not too late to get in the spirit.  

I've made these ghosts three years in a row now, each time trying new tweaks (no, arm like protuberances are not an improvement) and learning from them.  No, these ghosts will not make the neighborhood kids shriek in fear, but I love how each one ends up with an individual personality and the way they sway when the wind blows.  The more you make, the better the effect.


  • roughly a yard of fabric per ghost.  Muslin is really cheap (a little over a dollar per yard) and works well.  Old sheets would be classic, but I never seem to own white sheets.  Blue ghost anyone?
  • Yarn or string
  • Big needle - yarn or darning needles are ideal
  • Waterproof markers such as Sharpies
  • Styrofoam ball for each ghost - 6" diameter or larger works best.  These can be found at craft stores.  You could also use a plastic, rounded container like a large yogurt container, gallon milk jug or soda bottle.  It needs to be something that will give the ghost shape and is easy to pierce with a needle.

What to do:

  • Thread the needle with about an arm's length of yarn. 
  • Poke the needle through the styrofoam ball.  The trick here is to get it as deep into the ball as possible (so the ball doesn't just rip when weight is placed on the yarn), but still be able to push the needle through the ball without it getting stuck.  I have occasionally gotten a needle stuck and been able to shove it out the other side with a chop stick or other thin device. Ghost attaching the head
  • Tie the end of the yarn that went through the ball, to the big long tail.  Head tied

  • Now for the fun part.  Fold the yard of fabric in half so it is roughly a triangle.  Nothing needs to be precise here, these are ghosts afterall. 
  • Find the center of the fold.  This is going to be the top of the ghost's head.  Move down a couple inches.  This is where you want to place the eyes.  If you do use Sharpies, let me warn you that the purple and maroon will run when they come in contact with rain, no matter what the package may say. Ghost draw face

  • Make the face big and have some fun with it.  I've gone with the classic black holes for eyes and mouth look.  I've also made faces that look like candy (candy corn teeth and lollipop eyes).  The kids I've done this with have colored big orange pumpkin heads on their ghosts, have written spooky messages and have made some of the funniest faces you can imagine.  This can even be done with toddlers, as long as you keep on eye on what they decide to color with their Sharpie.  It's the making that matters.
  • When the masterpiece is complete, one again attatch the needle to the thread hanging from the styrofoam head.  Put the head inside the fabric and poke the needle through.  Remove the needle and tie the ghost to a tree.   Ghost final product



When Halloween is just a fun memory, the fabric can be ripped up for rags or added to your compost.  The styrofoam balls can be reused year after year. 

Sandy says Hello

I got out of work early today due to the arrival of Hurricane Sandy, and the first thing I thought on arriving home was "I can take a walk before it gets dark!"  Then I looked at my flooded back yard, the giant limb across the porch and the tree (yes tree) that used to be in my yard and is now in my neighbor's.  I think a walk can wait until Sandy's finished having her say. 

Stay safe everyone.

Reclaimed land 040112
My backyard this spring


Thankful Emerson

Moon by Jerry  Crockett
As the days grow short and my dinner is lit by light bulbs rather than the golden glow of the late day sun, it's easy to become annoyed and irritable.  I find this is especially true when I am caught in the middle between my desire to use the evening hours for enjoyment, and a primal need to sleep brought on by the darkness.  Add days of cold rain and the descent into winter can feel pretty bleak.   

Then last night, while sorting the mail into Recycling and Read piles, I opened an unmarked envelope (which turned out to be a plea for money) and found this quote:

"We are thankful for each new morning with its light,

For rest and shelter of the night,

For health and food, for love and friends,

For everything Thy goodness sends. "

The quote was from Ralph Waldo Emerson, who lived just one town over from where I do.  I'm sure the shift of seasons was felt all the more strongly in his day when there was no full-spectrum light therapy other what you could find out of doors.  Emerson was no Pollyanna.  His life was visited again and again by the death of those close to him, and yet he kept looking for the good.  Looking to live a life full of thanks.

And so I add my own prayer of thanks, for the beauty found in unlikely of places - even junk mail.


I mean to visit Emerson's house soon, and learn more about him that way, but if anyone can suggest a book about him that's enjoyable (rather than academic), please leave a comment or e-mail me.  Thank you



The Saftey Question

I was out with some friends this evening and the conversation drifted to the decrease in light and what that has done to our exercise routine (or efforts at establishing one).  One woman who likes to go out walking first thing, had shifted her walk a bit later in the morning.  Another who goes for a morning run, was considering moving that run indoors for the sake of safety until the clocks shift. 


That word, "safety" sparked a lively discussion, including talk of reported attacks at several popular local trails.  A couple people said they never went on those trails any more.  All of this was a surprise to me.  I frequent those trails and hadn't heard a thing.  

"How many attacks have there been?" I asked.  

"What time of day have they happened?" asked another friend. 

But the details, if they ever were known, had been forgotten.  I got the impression that the incidents had happened some time ago, and were unrelated. I admit I felt smug.  I believe in taking reasonable precautions, but refusing to use a beautiful resource because someone was endangered there once, a year or more ago, just isn't reasonable.  I knew I wouldn't be changing my habits.

"Of course I never wear headphones when I'm walking."  My eyes widened as everyone at the table nodded their heads knowingly.   

"I'd be terrified if I couldn't hear everything around me."

"The police are always talking about it." 

"It'd be like putting a target on my back." 

Pop!  Whatever smugness I'd felt was gone.  I always wear headphones when walking.  I keep the volume low to make sure I can hear approaching traffic, but there have certainly been times when I've lost track of my surroundings while listening to an interesting interview or story.  From my friends' tone, there was no doubt they counted headphones while exercising outside, right up there with texting while driving, utterly stupid.

Everything they went on to say was quite convincing, and yet I kept looking for a loop hole, some way to prove that the way I use my headphones doesn't count.  One of the things that gets me out the door on a walk is the anticipation of the shows I'll listen to while I'm on it (see the sidebar for my favorites).  My ipod is such a part of my walking, that when my partner surprised me with a new one to replace the cracked and malfunctioning one I'd been using, he had "Ever Onward" engraved on the back. 

I have gone for walks solo, without something in my ears, but the urge to stop early is very strong.  The To Do lists and shoulds in my head are much harder to drown out when I have the sound of cars and lawn mowers for company.  Part of me says that I should seek out places with more nature sounds, so I can get used to walking solo.  While another part says, if listening to NPR on my headphones counts as dangerous behavior, maybe I need more danger in my life. 


Where do you stand on the headphone debate?  Feel free to leave a comment.