Tag Archives: planning

Amazing Transformations – Halloween and More

Catherine has transformed her home into a Halloween-freak-show-haunted-broken-down Inn. The change has been dramatic, virtually impossible, and has taken nearly all her energy. I say “nearly” because she has managed to save just enough energy to embark on another kind of transformation. She and her husband have decided on a joint project – transforming their bodies. After years of laughing with each other at watching gravity (and a few extra beers) get the better of them, Catherine and my brother-in-law are getting back what has slowly slipped away – muscle tone… (and the ability to stand under a florescent light in the closet in front of the mirror without wanting to cry.)

Those of you who have followed this blog from the beginning know that my sister has spent the last ten months planning, prepping, and creating the most unbelievable spectacular for Halloween 2013. And the transformation of her home into the Macabre Inn¬†is now taking shape. As a writer, I am sometimes offended by the “a picture is worth a thousand words” expression. (After all, I can’t imagine a picture could illustrate a point better than my words… ūüôā ¬†). You’ll notice that I said “sometimes offended.” These pictures tell the story of the creation far better than my words ever could.

Catherine’s garage has become the Macabre Inn. And the transformation is amazing. She took down every single measurement possible, then mapped out the structure, using blue painter’s tape to outline where she would build the walls:Garage Bare Floor

Then she framed in the structural elements:Garage just walls

If you’ll recall, the doors were a major source of inspiration for Catherine. Here they are:Garage Hall with closed doors

She had to wire it for sound, lighting, and control cameras:Garage electrical

More electrical – we only hope the fire department doesn’t come for an inspection:More Electrical

The lighting and the “walls” finally take shape:Garage Hall Lighting

There are so many rooms in the Macabre Inn that I couldn’t possibly post them all. Here are some of my favorites. The finished hallway (the flash kills the effect a bit, but you get the idea):Hallway

The crazy lady in Room 1:Crazy Lady

The old couple who couldn’t resolve their differences in Room 4 (well, I guess they’re resolved now…):Hangman:

Surprising the guest while he’s relieving himself in the bathroom:Bathroom

The on-sight daycare room:Daycare Room

The hard work, endless hours of commitment, sweat, and determination have more than paid off. This place is beyond amazing! I can’t believe the creativity, ingenuity, skill, and talent that have led to the transformation of my sister’s garage to the Macabre Inn.

Likewise, hard work, endless hours, sweat, and determination have gone into Catherine and her husband’s “other” transformation. They look great! Feel great! (except immediately after their workout), and have started to see the amazing transformation of their bodies. Don’t worry… I’ll spare you the pictures. But trust me on this one – I’m not sure which of the transformations has been more difficult, or been more impressive. All I can say is they are both truly inspirational.

See Ya’ Later, Alligator…

Nearly every day is like Christmas at my sister’s house. It’s the same routine day in and day out. Late at night, Catherine spends hours on her computer researching various ways to make the incredible creations for the Macabre Inn. She places orders for anything from specialized tools, fabric swatches, and even 10 foot wooden circles. She gets the order confirmation the following morning (often she has no recollection of what¬† she even ordered the night before, but that’s a completely different issue…)¬†And the following day the good-looking UPS guy rings her doorbell and delivers boxes. And boxes… and more boxes.

Whoever’s first to get home gets to rip open the box to see what surprise is wrapped inside. I’ve seen everything from clown tent poles, to gelatin-like bloodshot eyeballs, to Dracula’s Blood (okay… that’s actually a kind of wine, and I’m pretty sure she ordered that for me!), to two foot spiders that jump out of the box. Recently, though, I’ve been seeing dozens and dozens of textured fabric swatches, 10 different colors of camo paint, more chicken wire, some type of clay, and plywood from Home Depot.

I knew it wouldn’t be long before something creative began to take shape. And the next time I went to Catherine’s house, here’s what I almost tripped on:Alligator

Alligator 2

Alligator 3As is often the case, it is nearly impossible to see the scale of this project or the incredible attention to detail required to create a larger than life 12 foot alligator. She looked at dozens of pictures to get a feel for the shape and movement of the alligator (yes, that prompted a whole family discussion on the difference between alligators and crocodiles, resulting in Catherine strongly declaring that hers is definitely an alligator).

This is obviously in the first stages of construction, but it is already a remarkable feat. As she cut it out with a handsaw (after drawing no fewer than ten drafts and outlines), she realized she could only get the effect she’s after if the head moves. And that was a problem not easily solved.

Enter Catherine’s problem-solving husband…. he evaluated the situation and came up with the perfect solution! “Just cut off the head and attach a horizontal child-sized bicycle tire to the bottom of the head, then attach it to the neck.” Duh…. why didn’t I think of that?? To be honest, I couldn’t even exactly follow what he was suggesting, but there’s clearly some sort of unspoken mental connection and understanding that Catherine and her husband share, because she looked at him adoringly (almost with tears in her eyes) and exclaimed, “that’s perfect!” And he solved the problem. The alligator’s head moves effortlessly from side to side (gliding on the bicycle tire that you can’t even see) so as the Macabre Inn guests unsuspectingly saunter past his swampy spot next to the grotto, his head will swivel around with a start, mouth agape, exposing rows of angry teeth, and elicit screams out of even the bravest of the guests. Perfect….

Next up? The shape-making chicken wire, the mossy-green, warty looking fabric that Catherine chose out of the dozens of samples. And finally, the spikes, scales, and teeth that Catherine is making by hand and painstakingly painting. See ya later alligator…

It’s 5:00 Somewhere… soon.

Werewolves, witches, and even writers need a vacation. It seems as though the only way my sister, her husband, my husband and I ever get a true break from our hectic and crazy lives is to get away. Really get away. So the four of us are packing our bags and getting out of dodge. We’re leaving for a much-needed, week-long cruise where we’ll all be treated to fabulous food, endless views of the Caribbean from our balconies, fantastic on-board entertainment, warm weather, and – most importantly – rest and relaxation.

While there will be lots of reading, snorkeling on excursions, river tubing, and exercise, I imagine there will also be a fair amount of Halloween planning, writing, and even a small amount of work. No matter how far away or how isolated we get, those aspects of our life follow us everywhere. It’s what makes life interesting, fun, and challenging for all of us. We wouldn’t change it for anything in the world. Life is good!!

But when I think of our trip that commences less than 48 hours, as we’re planning our wardrobe, swimsuits (Catherine swears she won’t let hers see the light of day… we’ll see about that!), and leisure reading material, the predominant thing running through my mind is that Alan Jackson/Jimmy Buffett song… So here’s to some margaritas, pina coladas, rum and Cokes, and who knows what else! 5:00… here we come!

You Are Cordially Invited: The Halloween Creation

There are two schools of thought when you’re on to something good. One is that you should protect the knowledge; keep it to yourself. Don’t share the secrets out of fear that someone else will copy you, or worse yet, improve on your idea! While this is a useful strategy in some areas (like for the guy who accidentally discovered the magic formula for the quasi-tacky-glue-like stuff on the backs of sticky notes – not a chance he would share that formula until it was well-protected by multiple patents and he became a multi millionaire! Completely understandable.), it’s not always the best course of action, though.

Then there’s the other way of thinking – if you find something, discover something, create something that is truly awe-inspiring, share it with everyone who might be even remotely interested. Then it will spread like wildfire (while I will withhold my own personal views of Julian Assange, I believe he is the master of this way of thinking).

In the case of the creation of my sister’s Halloween, I subscribe to the latter thought process. So consider this an official invitation to you to witness the unfolding of something great. No secrets. No hiding the golden egg. No masking the flaws or mistakes. And no glossing over the frustrations along the way. This is a process – one of trial and error; success and failure (hopefully with a heavy emphasis on the success part!). I welcome all of your input and suggestions (and, yes, even improvements). Let’s all create something great this Halloween and share it with anyone and everyone who will enjoy the process, the creation, and the final product. Three cheers for Catherine and all of her work, effort, creativity, endless devotion, patience (well… we’re keeping our fingers crossed for that one!), and most of all her enthusiasm and positive attitude! It’s going to be a fun and exciting (albeit trying at times) 10 months. I can’t wait to see how it all unfolds!

Storage Wars…. Revenge of the Props

This is a true story. Warning…. Don’t try this at home!

The Halloween/Thanksgiving/Christmas trifecta is in full swing. Thanksgiving is a distant memory (with the corpse bed linens safely tucked away), the 150 guest Christmas party at my sister’s house is tonight (the house completely decorated – Halloween bed finials up on the tree, and all), and the crown jewel – Halloween 2013 – is a constant presence in my sister’s brain and household (evidenced by the mildly disturbing “manger scene” starring… you guessed it…. the Buddha/Nicholson/Churchill baby as the Baby Jesus! And, no, I’m not going to delve into why the whole scene makes me worry just a wee bit about Catherine. The picture speaks for itself; you make up your own mind… ūüôā )


Moving on… Over the years, throughout this whole Thanksgiving/Christmas/Halloween “house transformation” process, Catherine has been asked one question more than any other…. “Where in the world do you store all this stuff?” Quite honestly, I am always amazed that people can walk through the spectacularly decorated Christmastime house that showcases everything from cherubic-faced life sized dolls that are adorably clustered around, decorating a miniature tree…

Christmas kids by tree

to the delicately decorated wall niches and open shelving that glow with strategically¬†placed soft lights, candles, Santa villages, and the thousands of feet of perfectly placed and adorned garland and ribbon…

and through the Thanksgiving house a few weeks ago, filled with glorious food, spectacular serving dishes, and autumn leaves strewn about…,

and most importantly, the Halloween house – which honestly can’t be described with words (although, I’m giving it my best effort over the next year) – full of larger than life sized witches, skeletons, animated props that Catherine made from the ground up, fog, blood, guts, “operating rooms,” swamps, and so much more…. and in the end, what she hears most of all is, “Where do you keep it all?” Not “how in the world do you create such beauty… warmth… or horrific gore?” Not “you’re the most talented person I’ve ever seen.” (well, she does hear that one pretty regularly). Not even, “This is the most amazing place I’ve seen!” Nope… the most often heard comment is about storage! Really?? Storage?

I suppose it is a legitimate question – in a utilitarian sort of way… ¬†Now that I think about it, there’s a lot behind the actual answer. To start, here’s just a very small sampling of what I saw when I stopped by my sister’s house the day she pulled her back patio Christmas garland out of her attic.Christmas bagsYes, that’s just for the back patio! And, yes, they’re all individually labeled (the garland in this bag goes from column 12 through column 14; that bag goes from 9-11, etc. Yes, she’s THAT neurotic! And that’s just for Christmas!

She takes it to a completely different level for her precious Halloween treasures – How exactly does one store hundreds of masks, corpses, swamp creatures, pirate ships (yes, she actually built a 1/2 sized replica of a pirate ship last Halloween!), and skeletons (trust me… Catherine brings a whole new meaning to “having skeletons in the closet!”)…? Well, she buys storage lockers (empty ones). And fills them, and fills them. And fills them. And when one is full, she buys another. I honestly don’t know how many she actually has (and I’m fairly certain her husband probably doesn’t either!).

So you can just imagine when, while decorating for Thanksgiving this year, my mom made what sounded like a simple request, “Catherine, can you swing by storage and grab those decorative, orange fall leaves we used last year?” Simple enough…? Right? Well, let’s just say that the request didn’t go over very well. Catherine was exhausted, behind at work, and undoubtedly worried about even finding the right storage locker, let alone finding the pretty fall leaves within the abyss. A conflict between Catherine and my mom ensued. Feelings were hurt. Assumptions were made. They ate their lunch in silence.

I’m not sure if I’ve done an adequate job explaining that Catherine is the ultimate “people pleaser.” (Which is probably why she’s such an awesome sister – she does double duty people pleasing; so I only have to do half as much! It’s perfect for me! ). Anyway, you can see where this is going… Catherine went to storage to get the f-*!#ing orange fall leaves!

She found them. Relieved and even more exhausted, she made the ultimate mistake every people pleaser makes – she called my mom to ask if there was anything else she needed. Big mistake! Well, knowing it would be just the right final touch for the Thanksgiving decor, my mom asked if Catherine could locate the decorative pumpkin from a couple of year ago. (Keep in mind, this storage locker is 10x30x12 feet tall, and every square inch is packed!).

Catherine politely told my mom there was no way she could find that, and started walking out to leave, but as she slid the storage door closed, she happened to catch a glimpse of the requested orange pumpkin, buried behind the witches, mummies, even more skeletons, and way up on top of the sides of the pirate ship – 20 feet back and 12 feet high. And not a ladder in sight.

While most normal people would simply go home, never mention the glimpse of the pumpkin, and enjoy a nice glass of wine (or a good stiff margarita!), the people pleaser in Catherine won out. Determined to get the pumpkin my mom requested, she balanced on various skulls, headstones, cauldrons, witches brooms, and countless props that have struck fear in many a Halloween visitor over the years, climbed up the mass of Halloween props the entire 12 feet and stood on her tiptoes. But the damn pumpkin was an inch out of reach.

So she leaned and stretched for that final inch. Catastrophe! Everything collapsed. As she plummeted to the ground, she grabbed anything she could reach – skulls dripping with blood, warty witch faces, the dummy who was hanging from a noose in her “asylum” years ago. The loch ness monster from the swamp. 8 foot spiders and spiderwebs… every prop she had used over the last 6 years came crashing down on her. Taunting her. Haunting her. Catherine’s Halloween props got their revenge in the end…

She crawled out from underneath her props (certain she got a mild concussion), shoved them all back in the storage locker, and as she was cramming the final oversized monster back in, the pumpkin that started it all came rolling out to her feet. She picked it up, brushed it off, rolled the 12 foot locker door closed, and took it home to Mom with a smile of success on her face. The pumpkin looked great in her Thanksgiving house!

So, to all those people who ask, “where do you keep it all?” All I can say is, “you can’t even being to imagine…” ¬†Catherine and her Halloween props – the ultimate in “storage wars!”

It begins…

My sister is awesome! She’s smart, kind, hilarious, driven, kind (did I say that already…?), energetic (beyond belief!), enthusiastic, and passionate. Passionate about what, you might ask…. Is it her five ¬†wonderful kids? Her fantastic husband? Having her medical degree? Her adorable dog, Cooper…? Well, while all of those things are important to her, her true passion is Halloween! (Ok, well that’s almost true… Her husband and family are the most important, but Halloween is a very¬†close second!)

A little background – Catherine and I are five years apart in age. We have always been close; some say we are as close as twins. As kids, our parents had lots of parties. Mostly Christmas parties. Our mom is incredibly talented when it comes to decorating (among many other things). She pretty much went over the top with Christmas decorating and parties. Catherine followed in her footsteps and year after year outdid herself with Christmas decorating. Always fun. Always interesting, and always classy.

So you can imagine my surprise when she called me about five years ago to tell me she was forgoing Christmas for Halloween decorating. (I don’t even like¬†¬†Halloween!) What?? I was dismayed, disappointed, and even a little concerned about her… what an odd switch!

You are all smart enough to figure out that if I’m sitting here blogging about it five years later, it must have been spectacular. Yes, it was truly spectacular! And has been ever since. She created a full-sized swamp full of creatures emerging through thick fog, 20 foot monsters that were extracting an elderly couple out of their car , animated props that pop out and grab passersby, a witches teaching a school full of young witch students, and the list goes on and on. So here I am – passionate enough about her Halloween passion to be capturing it all in this blog to share with the world.

I will take you on her Halloween journey for 2013 – yes, I know it’s only November 2012, but she has already started the creativity and planning process. I will share with you past Halloween feats and struggles. And you will see the whole process unfold before your eyes. It is an amazing process to see and I hope you enjoy the ride.

So here we are, the beginning of November (Halloween 2012 only 10 days behind us), and Catherine’s 2013 Halloween has already begun to take shape. (A bit more background for you… Catherine’s husband started his own business in late 2009, so he requested Catherine take a break from Halloween for awhile so she could help him with the business. She agreed, and didn’t do Halloween for 2 years. It nearly killed her!) So, now that 2013 is a go, she’s well into the planning stages. She has sketched out her entire house, yard, guest house, and garage to figure out the best places for oversized monsters, live actors to pop out and scare people, graveyards, alligators, hanging dummies, etc., etc.,

So how do I know it’s truly begun…? Last night after my husband and I were quietly tucked in bed, fast asleep, Catherine and my older daughters snuck into our garage. Here’s what my husband found as he climbed into his car this morning….

It begins….

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