My Mosaic Wall – Haunted House

Inspired by the autumn tree, I decided to create a haunted house all around it, replete with a spooky cemetery, ghosts, a black cat, and some bats. A storm cloud with lightning completed the scene.

1 HH

I used penny tiles (small round mosaic tiles sold by the sheet) for the black cat, ghosts, gravestone, and bats. Since they are small, it was tough to use my glass cutting tool. Instead I smashed them with a small hammer and they mostly broke in half on their own. These are my favorite type of tiles to work with because they break easily and don’t cut my fingers. The blue was leftover flat tile I bought online. The orange leaves and green grass below are broken 99 Cent Only Store broken dishes.

Spooky things under the tree

I used black grout paint on the gravestone. The bats were black penny tiles split in half. Tiny pieces of broken yellow penny tiles make the cat’s eyes.

I tried but failed to get the effect of shadow people in the windows. In retrospect their bodies should have started at the windowsill. You’ll have to use your imagination and pretend they’re floating ghosts. I used gray tile for the storm cloud with black grout paint, and flecks of gray with yellow for the lightning.

The full house is shown below, taken recently with some new items around it, others covered in previous blogs. Shown further below is the current picture of the whole wall, though I add to it all the time.

the house with the surrounding fun things

The wall as of the end of July 2020

Thanks for tagging along as I beautify the concrete wall and have fun with creativity.


Shrunken Apple Head Dolls

get-attachment.aspx_2The main characters in my newest mystery novel, My Name is Marnie, make shrunken apple head dolls and sell them at craft fairs and online. That’s not the plot, just a creepy backdrop. As I was writing the book it occurred to me that I had no idea how to make these dolls. I couldn’t describe the process, didn’t know the texture of the apples after they’d dried, or how to affix the heads to the bodies. So I decided to research the craft and make some. I learned  a lot, mainly that they’re fun and easy. Through trial and error I picked up some tips on what to do and what not to attempt.

I can’t sew so their bodies look like something a kindergartener would make, but I think they’re cute just the same

Step one, pick up Granny Smith apples. They’re the big green ones. For my first failed batch I  used a different type. They were get-attachment.aspxsmaller and I broke four of them when I tried to core them (with a knife). This time I bought Granny Smith. They’re very large and round, perfect for heads. I also picked up a good apple corer at William Sonoma. It was $10 and really well made.

I cored and peeled four apples. Squeeze lemon juice (I used one of those plastic lemons from the produce section) and a little salt into a bowl. Next I carved deep eyes into them, mouths, and cut around noses. I made ears too but their hair ended up covering them up. Once you finish an apple, soak it in the juice for about 30 seconds. Make sure all surfaces get a good wash from the lemon. get-attachment.aspxThis keeps them from getting overly brown or rotted. Here’s a picture of the four of them next to two leftover from the failed batch two weeks prior. This shows how much they will shrink and gives some carving examples. Cut deep and wide as they shrivel quite a bit and shallow cuts will get lost.

VERY IMPORTANT-Once the apple dry, it’s very difficult to change the features so put whole cloves in the eyes when the apples are first carved. I saw a few websites that suggested popping rice into the mouths for teeth. I thought that was a great idea but it was hard. Two of my apples had closed mouths. On the two that were open I managed to get a few pieces of rice into one but the grains were hard to work with. If you do this, use tweezers and  poke a hole in the apple with a toothpick first. Speaking of toothpicks, for the other apple, I shoved broken toothpicks in to see how that looked. It didn’t look good a week later. I’d suggest no teeth or make the effort to use rice.

I set them on a cooling rack on the counter. A few times I set them in the oven on 170 for an hour or so and that sped get-attachment.aspxthem along. If they lean forward, cut the apple until the face is upturned. Otherwise when they dry, they’ll fall forward. With the oven to help, they took a week to dry. They make shrink a little still but I think they’re mostly done now.

get-attachment.aspxNone of the sites I found explained in detail how to make the bodies. I used some thick foam from the craft store and a gingerbread man cookie cutter. I cut the head (in the foam) to wedge into the dried apple head hole, where the core was. It’s a nice snug fit. If the apple shrinks more, it will form around the foam.get-attachment.aspx

From here, I sewed some felt around the forms and stuffed cotton balls underneath to give them depth. I adorned them with buttons and belts, added some felt hands and boots.

Note, on one of the heads not shown, I brushed a little blush/tanning powder to see how it looked with color. I didn’t like it. I also used a light pink marker on the lips. This also looked bad. I recommend keeping them with their natural color. Finally, I glued some cotton balls to their heads.

I think they look just adorable. My characters will do a better job and sew more skillfully, and use matching thread, or maybe made soft rag doll bodies. But this experience was enough to expose me to the craft.

Now that I know what I’m doing here, I’ve got some editing to do. Happy writing and happy crafting!

Good luck with your dolls!


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Random Poetry

I went through an old book of random poetry I wrote years ago and decided to post one of them here. It’s not really based on anything and it’s sad but I still think it’s a nice little vignette. I hope you like it. It’s called:

Visiting Day

Sundays we see Pammy,

We take the commuter train,

The boys and I bring her flowers,

Daisies, always the same.

In their innocence they don’t realize

That her mind has slowly left,

To them she’s still their Mommy,

The visits leave me bereft.

This week she’s made them sun catchers,

Colored strong and bright,

They hold them in their little hands,

Up to the institutional light.


Last week it was bird house,

Before that origami,

Every week they proudly leave

With presents from their Mommy.


And every week I’m sadder,

As her mind slips further on,

I wonder if the boys can tell

How close she is to gone?


We go home on Sunday nights,

We take the commuter train,

The three of us missing Pammy,

Always just the same.

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