Halloween Craft: Jar-o-Lanterns

Here’s another Creative Solution that uses recycled materials to make a Halloween craft called a Jar-o-Lantern.

Originally, I saw the Jar-o-Lantern craft in a Women’s Day magazine about two or three years ago; now it’s also all over Pinterest.  My kids love to do it every year because it’s so simple, easy, and fun.  Of course, part of the Creative Solution is to adapt it according to your needs/desires.  Some suggest decoupaging orange tissue paper onto a jar… others suggest painting… Some focus only on pumpkins… others suggest the same varieties of characters that I painted in the Carnival Cans Craft.


Supplies Needed:

  • Jars – clean inside and out
  • Paint & Brushes – Definitely use Acrylic paints!  Tempra will peel off.
  • Votive or electric candles

Jars: We recycle a ton of jars (from peanut butter, pickles, and salsa).  I started saving the jars and found that it’s easier to remove the label and glue immediately rather than waiting until I am ready to use them later… old glue is harder to remove and I’m less likely to actually follow through on the project if I have to spend the time to clean all the old jars.  While there’s a ton of suggestions for how to remove the label and glue, I find the easiest is to simply soak the jar in a container of hot water with some blue Dawn dish detergent overnight.  Then label scrapes off pretty easily and I wash it before storing.


Paints:  The first time we painted the Jar-o-Lanterns, we did all pumpkins.  This time we painted the jars similar to the Halloween Carnival Cans Craft.

  • Decide on your painting scheme, and apply the base coat in your chosen color.  You only need one coat of paint, the thinner the better (since these will be luminaries and glow).
    • Orange for pumpkins
    • White for ghosts
    • Green for Frankenstein’s Monster
    • Purple (or lavender) for Dracula
  • Let the jar dry completely.
  • Add decorative details… let it dry.

Light: Add either a tea light candle or an electric votive (usually available in a 2-pack for $1 at the Dollar Store).  My boys love keeping theirs in their bedrooms, in which case the electric version is the way to go.


Halloween Craft: Carnival Cans

I’ve been intrigued by this old-school carnival “Knock Down the Cans” game, which uses recycled materials, since I first saw the Halloween Cans on Pinterest two years ago.  So I finally sat down to follow through on doing it this week.  The Pinterest link is broken, so I just went with the images and did my own thing.

IMG_0151Honestly, it required a bit more effort than I imagined, simply because the cans required 3 to 4 coats of paint.  While I do use cheap acrylic paints, four coats is a lot.

  • Save and clean at least six 28 ounce cans.
  • Decide on your painting scheme, and apply the whole base coat in that color until you no longer see the can. (Like I said, it took me 3 to 4 coats.)  Definitely use acrylic paint;tempra will flake off.  Be sure to let it dry completely between coats
    • Orange for pumpkins
    • White for ghosts
    • Green for Frankenstein’s Monster
    • Purple (or lavender) for Dracula
    • (not pictured) Black for Cats
    • (not pictured) Brown or Red for Owls
  • Add decorative details… let it dry.
  • Spray finish in Rust-oleum Crystal Clear Enamel (note: if you don’t do this finishing spray, the cans will quickly chip, and the color won’t be as bright… trust me: you want to do the finishing spray).

IMG_0149 IMG_0136

Total time: 2 – 3 hours, paced over the course of a few days.  Cost: $0 (because I had all the paint and finishing spray on hand).

I plan on using this game at a Halloween party we have with family friends before trick-or-treating, but decided to test it out one afternoon that my boys had a friend over.  This old school fun was a HUGE hit!  Definitely worth the time to create.

Halloween Decorations & Crafts for Windows and Doors

Here’s a couple Creative Solutions for decorating your windows and doors for Halloween that are inexpensive and pretty easy.

1.  The Monster Door (as seen on Pinterest)


This was super, super easy.  Using leftover streamers, masking tape, and paper plates, I put this together in less than 15 minutes.

  • Hair: adhere some streamers to the top of your door with masking tape.
  • Eyes: paint black dots on a couple of white paper (or foam) plates, adhere those to your door with a loop of masking tape… add angry eyebrows with more masking tape.
  • Mouth: more masking tape… one across and several shorter pieces slanting in different directions

Since I already had all the supplies on hand, this cost me $0.

2.  Picture Window Pumpkin (Julie Original Creative Solution)


We have a 9-panel picture window in the “formal living room” that we use as the boys’ playroom. I decided to cover the window panes by making a pumpkin face using bulletin board paper from the Teacher Supply Store (Lakeshore Learning).  With the help of my 6 1/2 year old, this project took about 1 1/2 hours total.

  • Measure and cut the paper (30 minutes)
  • Paint the face on the appropriate pieces (20 minutes to paint, another 20 min to dry)
  • Hang the pieces on the window using masking tape (20 minutes)

The Pumpkin Window looks great during the day and glows at night.  Total cost: $6 – $7 for a roll of paper; I already had the masking tape and paint on hand.

IMG_0161 IMG_0158


You’ve Come a Long Way

A little garden art for this Creative Solution:

Place Signs4I’ve been wanting to do a Garden Art project that I’ve seen on Pinterest…

Literary Garden Sign

A few months ago I had shown the Pinterest pin to my Mom who remarked how it would be great to do one for all the places they’ve visited… This traveling in and of itself is significant.  She and my Dad were born and raised just outside of Philadelphia to working class families.  Neither had money nor a college education.  But my Dad worked.  A lot.  We moved from the Philly area to North Jersey when I was 4 (something people in Philly tend not to do–move away–ever… at least not people in our extended family). And my Dad commuted 60 miles each way from our rural town in Northern NJ to his job.  He went from working in the warehouse to customer service to management.  The family moved back to the Philly area when I was in college and then to Austin, TX for Dad’s job with Dell, for whom he’s now a Director.  His job has taken him all over the world; most notable are the two stints he and my Mom have had as expats, living in Xiamen, China and Adare, Ireland.

And then the other day someone posted a comment on a FaceBook picture of my Dad:

Dennis Dienno - Google Chrome 12312013 14251 PM.bmp Dennis Dienno - Google Chrome 12312013 14251 PM.bmp-001

And that’s how I came to this Creative Solution as a gift for my parents.

I used scrap wood that my husband cut into various size rectangles and painted a base coat with some white latex we had in the house.

Place Signs2

I painted each sign in a different acrylic color… it needed to be light enough to properly display the location.

Place Signs

I used their physical address as the starting point and calculated the distance between their current house and each of their former homes.  Google Maps couldn’t give me driving directions to Ireland or China, so I used www.distancefromto.net and plugged in as much info as I could.  I never remembered Dad’s address in Yeadon, but I knew the street.  And my sister was quick to inform me that I remembered our address in Limerick incorrectly (I thought it was 162… it was 161… but I did recall the street name).  Keeping it a surprise was worth it, though!

I’m super pleased with the finished product.  And so were my parents!!

Place Signs3And now I’m even more motivated to create my Literary Garden Art!

Painting on Glass and Ceramic

Painting glass is an inexpensive, easy craft.  Seriously easy.  And ridiculously inexpensive.  But if you’ve never done it before, it can be a little intimidating.

A while ago my Mom had asked her adult children, their spouses, and her grandkids to each paint a 4″ square ceramic tile so that we could provide a homemade tile countertop for an outdoor bar.  Mom asked that we consider going to a paint-your-own-pottery place.

Now I love those places, but they can get expensive.  I gleaned a tip from Pinterest that said you can buy the ceramic tiles from Home Depot or Lowe’s for $0.16.  So that’s what I did.  Next I found the kinds of paints needed for the project at Michael’s.

Folk Art Enamel Acrylic Paint for Glass and Ceramics

Folk Art Enamel Acrylic Paint for Glass and Ceramics

The box of Folk Art paints was purchased at Michaels for $17.99, minus a 40% coupon ($10.79).  It has a great variety of paint colors and includes directions on the back for how to heat set.

First I had the kids paint some tiles, then I got my siblings and our spouses to sit down, drink wine, and paint two tiles.




It was fun, easy, and quick.  Here’s what we learned:

  • Have a bottle of rubbing alcohol handy.  First use it to clean / prep the surface.  Then if you make any mistakes, you can either use a q-tip with rubbing alcohol to erase or simply wipe it clean and start again.
  • Other supplies needed: paint brushes, paper towels, newspaper (or other drop cloth), water to clean brushes.
  • Wine is optional.

The instructions suggest either air dry for 21 days or air dry for 1 hour, then place in a cool oven, bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees, and cool in oven.   Heat setting was pretty easy, especially if you let it cool in the oven overnight.  Start out in a cool oven so that the items slowly get hotter and won’t break.  Start the timer for 30 minutes once the oven comes to temp.  Then turn the oven off and let the items slowly cool (so they won’t break).

It was so easy that I decided to try painting on glass.  I purchased a few matching pairs of small glasses from the Dollar Tree and painted a couple of glasses for my kids,  I approach painting like glorified coloring.  I stick to basic shapes and patterns.


Lego Glasses painted on Irish Coffee Mugs


Train and Rocket painted on glass mugs

I chose these size glasses because they are appropriate portions for my kids.

Getting the glasses from the Dollar Tree meant that the glass itself was thicker and sturdy.  And they were inexpensive… if they turned out looking crappy, I wouldn’t be devastated,

Since the paints aren’t food safe, it’s recommended that you avoid painting along the top lip of the glass.

After heat-setting, the glasses are top rack dishwasher safe.

The kids loved them!  Coincidentally, the same Christmas I gave these glasses to my boys, my sister-in-law gifted our family with a set of drinking glasses from Uncommon Goods:


These are adorable!  The instructions recommend handwashing, but note they may be ok for top rack dishwasher.  Well, between wooden cutting boards, good knives, pots and pans, and special platters, I don’t have room in my life for more things that aren’t dishwasher safe.  So I decided to try the dishwasher…and 3 out of 4 glasses were fine.  But the decal on the 4th glass (my younger son’s) half peeled off.   And he was devastated.  While trying to figure out whether to spend $12 for a replacement glass, plus shipping, I accidentally knocked my older son’s glass off the counter and shattered it on the tile floor.

So that night, after FaceBooking my parenting fail, I grabbed two glasses from our cabinet and attempted to paint our own “Family Glassware.”  A very helpful tip here is: sketch out the drawing on a piece of paper, tape it to the inside of the glass, and then trace over it in paint.


Homemade “Family Glasswares”

The kids loved them!  In fact, I decided to start painting glorified stick figure glasses as birthday presents for my friends’ kids.


I’ll ask their Mom’s what their favorite colors are, and paint their clothing accordingly… along with hair the appropriate color and style,

When painting glass, the same tips apply:

Use rubbing alcohol to clean the surface of the glass.

Use rubbing alcohol to clean the surface of the glass.

  • Use rubbing alcohol  to clean / prep the surface.  Then if you make any mistakes, you can either use a q-tip with rubbing alcohol to erase or use a paper towel with rubbing alcohol to simply wipe it clean and start again.
  • Other supplies needed: paint brushes, paper towels, drop cloth, and water to clean brushes.
  • Heat-set the glassware the same as ceramic: either air dry for 21 days or air dry for 1 hour, then place in a cool oven, bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees, and cool in oven.   
  • Since the paints aren’t food safe, avoid painting along the top lip (1/4″ to 1/2″) of the glass.
  • Wine is optional.

To help prevent the paint from chipping or peeling in the dishwasher, I have started to seal my painted creations with a clear medium.  There is a bottle included in the Folk Art kit I referenced above, but if you buy containers of the acrylic paint separately, consider getting this as well.mXQkJMzLzAtzQ368mJYpkJA

I’ve had such success with painting glasses that I decided to paint a slew of them for my son’s Lego birthday party favor:


First I printed a copy of the mini-fig head I would paint, and cut it out.

Then tape it to the inside of the glass.

Then tape it to the inside of the glass.

Then trace the border with the outline color (black) paint.

Then trace the border with the outline color (black) paint.

Fill in the rest of the color and design.

Finally, fill in the rest of the color and design.  And paint the “clear medium” to seal it in before heat setting.

I purchased these glasses from IKEA.  The GODIS glasses were $6.99 for a 6 pack of 8 oz glasses, which made for a party favor costing just over $1 per kid.  I painted their names on the glasses as well, which all the kids loved.

You can easily print and trace whatever design for whatever themed glassware you’d like.  For instance, superheros:


Or instead of glassware paint a vase…


So it’s up to you!  What kind of Creative Solution will you create with painting glass and ceramics?