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Scared silly It's frightening how much fun you can have the two weeks leading up to Halloween

Maybe you're not into transforming your lawn into an eerie graveyard. Or lighting up the neighborhood with an inflatable pumpkin as high as your house.

Still, there's a lot to love about Halloween -- now the second-biggest decorating holiday after Christmas.

This year, Halloween falls on a Friday, which adds to the fun factor. So, go ahead, gather the neighbors for an early potluck supper. Give your child the thumbs-up on a sleep-over complete with crafts, costumes and ghost stories.

Yes, at your house.

With two weeks to go, we've gathered some ideas and tips that will get you into the spirit of things. The best part: None is expensive or extravagant.

They're just fun -- especially for families to do together.

>Set up some 'web sites'

Bags of fake spider webs are so cheap (couple bucks a bag), it's a shame not to get wrapped up in them -- decorating-wise that is.

A lot of people like to spread them over shrubs. It's an inexpensive way to create a great effect.

But working with webs takes patience, warns Antone Falbo, of the Display Company, 4400 Bailey Ave.

"I hate to see the clumps. It drives me crazy. I equate it to strands of lights at Christmas time," said Falbo, who admits he is sometimes tempted to approach strangers' yards and fix uneven strands.

Tip: With webs, think pull and stretch, pull and stretch.

"You have to take the time to stretch it out until the clumps disappear. Spider webs don't have clumps," Falbo said.

Once you have stretched it over the shrubs, stand back and take a good look at it.

"If you take the time to do it right, you get a nice even look," said Falbo.

But spider webs aren't just for shrubs.

Try stretching them over the arms of crystal chandeliers, mirror or picture frames and -- especially when decorating for parties -- across chairs, bar stools, counter surfaces.

Lily Munster was here.

Or take a bouquet of fresh flowers and drape a web over it.

"The beauty and fragility of the flowers and the contrast of the spider web creates impact," he said.

>Make a mouse motel

There are many ideas for decorating pumpkins these days, but you have to love this idea from Martha Stewart Living, October issue:

What it is: a mouse motel.

What you need: pumpkin, fake mice (from Halloween stores, toy stores, etc.); small keyhole saw for carving; marker.

What you do: Use the marker to draw holes -- each just large enough to accommodate one of the mice. Cut out holes; smooth with scraper if you wish. You don't even have to totally clean out the pumpkin's
innards (this is not a jack-o'-lantern).

Place mice in holes, having some appear to be climbing out of the pumpkin, others climbing inside of it (making sure the tails are clearly visible -- yikes!).

>Think multiples

When it comes to Halloween decor, it's easy to creep people out with displays of multiple spiders, mice, bats, etc.

It can be as simple as hanging a dozen or so plastic spiders in front of a window (arachnids get a bad rap this time of year). Or have kids cut them out of black construction paper.

>White pumpkins

You can buy white pumpkins, of course, but if you are feeling crafty, you can paint your own for a rather sophisticated approach to Halloween decor.

Eddie Ross, senior style editor at Martha Stewart Living magazine and a reality show contestant on Bravo Network's "Top Design," recently told the Washington Post: "I painted some pumpkins white and left the stems green. They look really beautiful in a huge punch bowl."

(You can check out his new blog at

>Get creepy

What kids ever grow tired of putting their hands in a bowl of something creepy-feeling -- blindfolded, of course. It doesn't take much to pull together some ingredients to spook your favorite bunch of kids.

Have older kids stick their hands into bowls of gelatin, cooked spaghetti, hard-boiled eggs or cold beans and try to guess what they are touching, suggests Jennifer Trainer Thompson, author of "The Joy of Family Traditions" (Ten Speed Press, $16.95).

You can easily organize a potluck dinner around this theme for friends with kids, she adds.

Another idea: Hold a pumpkin-carving contest at your home for families with kids. Begin with a trip to the local pumpkin patch. Come up with prizes for the winners.

>Fly a floater is filled with Halloween craft ideas. One of them: Ghost wind socks.

What it is: a floaty decoration you can hang on a porch or inside.

What you need: White construction paper, black permanent marker, stapler, white crepe paper, tape and string.

What you do: For each wind sock, use the black marker to decorate a 6-by-18-inch piece of white construction paper with ghostlike eyes and mouth. Roll the paper to form a tube shape; staple ends together. Cut eight 8-foot-long strips of crepe paper and drape them over the top edge with both ends hanging down to create the "tails." Secure with tape.

For a handle, cut a 30-inch piece of string and staple the ends to opposite sides of the top of the decoration.

>Black and eeeeeww

Whether you're hosting a potluck or looking for a spooky idea for the mantel, here's an inexpensive idea: switch to black candles (doubly spooky in black candle holders).

But that's not all: Pottery Barn shows a black and white table-setting decorated with black and white candies in large glass canisters. There's black licorice in a tall canister; black and white bite-size candles in a wide, lower canister, etc.

>Gooey Gunk

Finally, back by popular demand: the recipe for Gooey Gunk -- a slimy glob that kids can stretch and pull and play with. The recipe is from the book "The Ultimate Book of Kid Concoctions" by John E. Thomas and Danita Pagel Thomas (Kid Concoction Co., $14.95).

What you need: water, white glue, food coloring (green for slimy gunk, black for tar gunk, etc.), Borax -- and adult supervision and assistance.

How you do it:

In one medium bowl, mix up Solution A: 1 cup of water; 1 cup of white glue (Elmer's); 7 to 10 drops of food coloring (or 2 tablespoons liquid tempera paint).

In a second bowl, create Solution B: 1 1/3 cup warm water; 4 teaspoons Borax laundry booster. Mix until the Borax is completely dissolved.

Next, slowly pour Solution A into Solution B but DO NOT MIX. Instead, roll Solution A around in Solution B four or five times.

Finally, lift Solution A out of Solution B and knead it for two to three minutes (you can use an old plastic cutting board). You will have leftover solution left in the bowl, but that's OK.

Store in a plastic zip bag. If you can ever pry the stuff out of your kids' hands, that is.


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