Gather your friends and use these patriotic decorating, entertaining, and recipe ideas for this year's 4th of July celebration. From festive star banners and refreshing watermelon coolers to raveworthy party favors and more, your 4th of July party is bound to be summer's biggest shindig.View Slideshow
Use some basic Halloween decorations, a few household items, and a good imagination to host a Halloween party with a fun, creepy atmosphere.
Welcome party guests to your gothic gala with detailed decorations. Make an ornate menu board, for instance, to hang by the beverage center. Start with a ready-made chalkboard in a frame (the center one) and mount it to a sheet of poster board that's set in a painted-to-match frame. Serve up gruesome-colored drinks.
Ask guests to dress the part, decked out in gothic styles and dark colors. Play up the setting by tucking grim ravens among your sinister collections. Replace some of your everyday decorative accessories with grim ravens and eerie spiders nestled among your sinister collections. Try some of the specific ideas in the next slides.
Fill bookshelves with curious containers worthy of Dr. Frankenstein, such as old medicine bottles and a vase stacked with plastic skulls. Add silhouette-dark accents by using black damask and scrollwork stickers on pillar candles and a vase, then spray-paint an old ceramic pitcher with matte-finish black paint. See the next slide for more information about our Halloween candles.
Editor's note: Do not spray-paint any surfaces that will come in direct contact with food.
Make an artful arrangement for each candle design by using a large motif and filling it with smaller and partial motifs. When you are pleased with the arrangement, peel and press the stickers to the candles. Tape ribbon around the candle if desired.
Note: For adhesive-backed black stickers, we used Heidi Grace and Archiver's.
Display poison-green hedge balls in a white pedestal bowl and let plastic spiders invade while a fake raven looks on. For an added eerie touch, fill a glass jar with small white-painted skulls.
The more malformed gourd the better for this specimen of a decoration. Find a particularly gruesome-looking gourd to rest under a glass lid like a mad-scientist's experiment. Don't forget to place a creepy spider for effect.
For a festive addition to the party seating, baste sequin letters to a ready-made black pillow for a whimsical touch that can be easily removed later.
Create an unsettling scene outside the window by enlarging a spooky cemetery photo. Take a picture with your digital camera and convert it to black-and-white, then take the image to a blueprint service to have it enlarged. Use double-sided tape to attach the image to the window from the outside if it's protected from the elements. If the window is unprotected, tape the photo to the inside -- cutting it into individual panes if you have to deal with muntins (as seen here).
Give guests the heebie-jeebies with prints of buggy creatures crawling along the wall. Find images of insect diagrams to download from the Internet, or copy images from copyright-free science books and print or photocopy them in reverse color. Then slip them into frames as desired and hang them in a group.
Serve simple finger foods for guests to gather as they please. Make some of them ghoulish in appearance (but great in taste), such as cheese balls rolled in moss-looking herbs, and serve others in cleverly creepy ways. See the next several slides for specific decorating and food ideas.
Think like a conniving creature when serving up snacks on the buffet table. Pick unique containers to cast a creepy spell on the treats, such as this party mix brewing in a witch's cauldron. We used a mix of 4 cups of pretzels, 6 cups of various dry cereals, and 1 cup of peanuts coated in 2 cups of melted white chocolate baking pieces (mixed with 1 tablespoon shortening) for this Bones-and-Body-Parts snack.
Serve up cheese balls that look like they've been sitting out for months by rolling them in green herbs such as a dill, thyme, parsley, or chives.
For a clever way to serve up chunks of cheese, make some snack-size skewers you can contain vertically in cups. To decorate the skewers in keeping with the party scheme, find bug images from clip-art or photocopied from copyright-free books and punch out the images using a jumbo circle punch. Glue two circles together with a skewer in between to make the decoration double-sided.
Dare partygoers to retrieve their snacks from a raven-guarded cage. Spray-paint an ornate wire cage with matte-finish black paint, then line the bottom with parchment paper to rest chunks of cheese among parsley greens. Don't forget a couple of creepy feathered enemies.
Fill empty, clean wine bottles with your own mixed concoctions and make new labels for the bottles from clip-art images of antique picture frames. See the next slide for a closeup of our example.
Use a white gel pen to add spooky names to your Halloween potions. We added a plastic spider for fear factor.
Let ghostly spirits join the party by creating their illusions on mirror-topped tables. Find an old mirror the size of your tabletop. Use razor blades and steel wool to remove the backing of the mirror in a couple of spots large enough to fit your photos. Tape the right side of black-and-white photos (old pictures give the spookiest effect) to the wrong side of the mirror where the backing has been rubbed off, and place the mirror on the table. See the next slide for information about the coasters.
For quick drink coasters that fit the party theme, cut out circles from yellow poster board and decorate them with adhesive-backed black felt die-cut garlands cut into scrolled designs. We used Voila! Ribbons, Swirly Bubbles, Swirly Bird, and Voila! Swirls.