Posts by Susan Johnson

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While there's nothing more magical than transforming your home into an enchanting and festive holiday wonderland to get you into the Christmas spirit, doing so can often be costly. But the best holiday décor is not always the most expensive, and if you make your own or get a little thrifty, it's cheaper and better for the environment. An added bonus: if you go the DIY route, you can recruit friends and family members to help you make keepsakes while enjoying one another's company, assuring each piece has a special memory tied to it.  

So no matter your style, here are some fun DIY and low-cost Christmas decorating ideas to help you deck the halls while staying on budget. Read on to get inspired! 

DIY Button Garland with Tassels 

Have you seen those farmhouse wooden bead garlands that are so popular in home décor stores? Why not make something similar with items you might already have? These garlands are perfect for wrapping around a Christmas tree, placing on a tablescape, or decorating around your home. Use buttons you have lying around your house, or grab a bag of inexpensive wooden buttons (or beads) from any craft store and let's get started. 


  • 2" x 5" piece of cardboard 
  • butcher's twine 
  • wooden buttons or beads 
  • scissors 


Make the tassels: these will go at both ends of your garland. 

 Take your butcher's twine (don't make any cuts just yet) and hold the loose end against the bottom of the long side of your piece of cardboard. Take the string up and over the top of the cardboard and back down again, and wrap the twine 50 times around the cardboard. 

 Put the scissors through the loop on the bottom where you started the first piece and cut all of the strings across that bottom side. 

 Take a 10' long piece of twine and tie a knot around the bend (middle) of your cut pieces. 

 Next, take a separate piece of twine about 2' long and wrap it around the bundle about 20 times. Knot the end to make sure it's secure. Trim off any excess. 

 Now we're ready to get those buttons on!  

 Thread the long end of the 10' piece of twine through the back of one button and then back through the opposite side of the same button (or beads if you're using those). The twine should start and end on the back of the button. Repeat this process until you're either out of buttons or are 6" from the end of the twine. You can decide how close you want the buttons together. 

 Take the roll of twine and hold the loose end against the bottom of the long side of your piece of cardboard. Repeat step one for tassel #2.  

 Simply attach your garland to the second tassel and voilà:  you have a beautiful farmhouse garland. Paint the wooden beads or leave them raw – but whatever you choose to do, have FUN!  

 Let Nature Be Your Decorator 

Take hints from Mother Nature as the beauty that surrounds us in December includes pinecones, tree boughs, evergreen branches, berries, and if you live near the beach: seashells. Make decorating on a budget fun by planning a walk in the woods or on the beach to collect natural décor to bring inside. Tree boughs are an easy way to make your home look and smell festive, while pinecones and seashells have a wide variety of options for using as décor.  

 Collect some branches and spray-paint them in white, silver, gold, or whatever color you want, then arrange them in a vase for a wintry bouquet. Choose a clear container and fill it with pinecones, seashells, and/or berries for a rustic centerpiece or swag fragrant evergreen boughs across your mantle, a window, or even on top of a dining room hutch or buffet. The cost is practically free while the result is priceless.  

Buy Décor from Thrift Stores or Flea Markets 

Two great places to shop for budget-friendly Christmas decorations are flea markets and thrift stores, but you have to be willing to dig and scour for items. Think of it as a fun-filled treasure-hunt! Great things to search for at flea markets are nativity sets, vintage ornaments, plaid blankets, and old Santa mugs. Carve out a Saturday afternoon and treasure-hunt-away!  

 Make Your Own Wooden Ornaments/Gift-Tags/Wine Bottle Tags 

Most craft stores sell unfinished wooden ornaments and cut-outs in shapes like Christmas trees, stars, snowmen – you name it – for one or two dollars apiece. Pick up some small bottles of acrylic paint and paint your way into a DIY Christmas frenzy. Craft stores also sell clear-coat finishes, some with built-in glitter, for protection and glam – just think of the possibilities!   

 Place the finished ornaments in a bowl for a festive centerpiece, hang them on your tree, tie them to a gift as a keep-sake tag, or around the neck of a hostess bottle of wine for that holiday soiree you're invited to. For a few dollars and some creativity, the sky is the limit on these DIY ornaments! 

 Use Items You Already Have 

Do you have an old Scrabble game lying around that you and your children have outgrown? With just a few simple supplies and a little creativity, make these whimsical and unique ornaments. 


Scrabble Letters 

Super Glue 

Red and Green Ribbon 


Jingle Bells (optional) 

Needle and Thread (optional) 


1.) Start by laying out a piece of ribbon and placing your scrabble tiles to spell out words like "JINGLE," "HOLLY," "MERRY," or whatever holiday words you want. Leave extra space on top for a bow if you wish. 

2.) Fold the ribbon in half, tie a piece of twine in a circle and put it through the top of the ribbon, where you made the fold. This will be for hanging. 

3.) Glue the folded ribbon together. 

4.) Whip-stitch a string of bells to the bottom, tie a small bow to the top, or leave it as-is. 

5.) Hang on your tree by the twine ring! 

 Give New Life to Old Christmas Ornaments 

If you're tired of hanging the same Christmas ornaments on your tree year after year, rather than buying new ones, try revamping your current ones. Take some silver or gold spray paint (or any color you want), give them a coat or two of paint and you have an entirely new look for this year's tree! 

 Create a Christmas Chandelier 

Nothing is more beautiful than a chandelier adorned with beautiful, festive ornaments, don't you agree? Hang some ornaments in whatever colors you like and enjoy the bright sparkles as you sit at your dinner table.  

 The holidays don't have to be a financial burden on you and your family and with a little creativity, your home will look like your very own Winter Wonderland in no time. From all of us at Watson Realty Corp. have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year!  


Ahhhh how we love this time of year! Cool weather and all the F's: family, festive, friends, food, firepit, falling leaves, fun. And the best F of all: Friendsgiving, a holiday that has blossomed into a tradition of its own.  

 There are no hard and fast rules on how to host a potluck Friendsgiving, but there are certainly ways you can make it less stressful and more fun when you follow some simple guidelines. And one of the best things about this fabulous holiday is that your friends get to chip in and help. So read on for some tips, gather your crew, and start planning your own Friendsgiving this year! 


Pick the Date and Send Invitations  

Text your friends that you want to host Friendsgiving and ask them which weekend in November works best (obviously exclude dates that don't work for you). Go with the date that the majority picks. If you're worried things will get messy trying to combine everyone's schedules, another option is to simply pick the date yourself and hope most of your friends are able to attend. If you decide to do this, we suggest choosing something closer to the beginning of the month. Once you've picked the date, send your invitations via text or email (for a casual vibe) or send an evite or mail cardstock invitations for a more formal approach. Be sure and let your friends know this is a potluck and they'll need to bring a dish. 

 Divvy up the Duties  

As the host of the potluck, your main responsibility is to coordinate who brings what. You can get nerdy and do a shared Google sheet with the dishes that everyone's bringing, or simply send out suggestions and keep track of what's being made. Expect to handle the big items like the turkey (and gravy) and maybe one side, but let your friends fill in the rest. Keeping track of what everyone's bringing will ensure you don't have a duplicates. 

 Here's a basic list for divvying up the meal: 


Main: Turkey/Gravy 

Sides: Something potato, Stuffing,Something orange (squash, sweet potato, etc.), Something green (green beans, brussels sprouts, etc.), Cranberry, Salad , Rolls/cornbread, Wildcard (Aunt Thelma's world-famous casserole perhaps?) 

Desserts: There can never be too many! Let your friends show off their baking skills! 

 Note: Prepare to receive the bounty! When friends come bearing food, make sure you're adequately prepared with serving platters and utensils. This way, when Hannah arrives with her cousin Sierra's famous cranberry sauce in a plastic container with snap-on lid, you have a pretty dish on which to present it. Add a garnish and you're set!  

 Food Allergies 

You've more than likely spent enough time around your friends to know if Ken is gluten-free or Chelsea has a nut allergy, but play it safe and triple-check via group text so you're all on the same page. 'Nuff said.  

 The Bar Cart 

As the host of Friendsgiving, you may opt to make a signature drink or provide wine, but if you don't want to break the bank, ask your friends to bring what they plan to drink. Be sure and provide water with lemons or limes and a couple of non-alcoholic beverages. A cute idea is to fill a glass pitcher with fresh fruit and berries and add ice water; let it sit for a few hours for a delicious and refreshing fruit-infused water. Think berries, slices of watermelon, lemons, limes, even cucumbers! Not only is the water healthy and delicious, but it makes a beautiful presentation.  

 Set a Pretty Table 

Nothing beats a beautiful tablescape! Adorn your table with a festive tablecloth or put a simple runner down the center. For each setting, place a charger, dinner plate, salad plate, water glass, wine glass, cloth napkin, and utensils. If you want to add some formality and a little pizzazz, place a small pumpkin in the center of the plate and add cute name-tags made out of cardstock. Purchase an inexpensive bouquet of seasonal flowers from your local grocery store and make a centerpiece using pumpkins, gourds, flowers, and embellish with greenery from your garden. Light a candle or two, dim the lights, and voilà! You have an elegant and beautiful dinner table! 

 The Entertainment 

Background music is a must and will set the tone of your soirée, so a few days before the party, create a playlist and have it playing when people arrive. During dinner, go around the table and ask everyone to say what they're thankful for and encourage them to tell fun family stories. After the meal, crank things back up again with a game if Jenga, Scattergories, What Do You Meme?, Twister, or – depending on the weather – take it outside for a game of cornhole. And speaking of outdoors, everyone loves a good fire-pit! Roast marshmallows fireside or simply enjoy the warmth of everyone's company. The sky's the limit!  

 Clean-Up Help 

The casual vibe of a potluck means the organizer can ask everybody to pitch in to help clean. Group cleaning will also battle the post-turkey crash and is a great way to make room on the table for dessert. Return to the table for dessert or have guests bring their goodies outside to enjoy by the fire. Be sure and remind everyone to grab the dishes and utensils they brought to the party. 


Thanksgiving leftovers make amazing parting gifts, plus giving away food eliminates potential waste and spares you from playing fridge-Jenga for the next week. Encourage your friends to bring their own containers, but in case someone forgets, stock up on extras. Opt for eco-friendly paper containers and set up a food-packing station so your friends can easily take what they want.  

 As with any good potluck, the meal is about sharing everyone's favorite dishes, coming together as a group of friends, and making memories. And with a little planning, Friendsgiving can be stress-free and full of fun, especially when everyone's included on the cooking and cleaning. So, start planning yours now and remember to have FUN!  


The late 1970s through the early 1990s was the golden age of the slasher flick, and many horror houses from that period remain unchanged today, still possessing the power to give those in the know a good spook.

So, grab your popcorn and lets continue our list of some of the most iconic scary movie houses, some fun facts, a couple Home Value Estimates, and tips on how to survive these homes should you accidentally stumble across one of them in your nightmares--- errr, I mean your travels. 

The Amityville Horror, 1979 

Address:  112 Ocean Avenue, Amity, NY, but was changed to 108 Ocean Avenue to deter tourists

Film Location:  Depicting 112 Ocean Avenue, Amityville, NY; shot at 18 Brooks Road, Toms River, NJ

Year Amityville House was Built:  1927

Year Toms River House was Built:  1920

Current Ocean Ave. Home Value Estimate:  $1,087,600.00

Current Toms River Home Value Estimate:  $1,162,600.00

In 1974, Ronald "Butch" DeFeo, Jr. committed an unthinkable crime in his five-bedroom Dutch Colonial in Long Island, NY, an event that inspired a book as well as The Amityville Horror movie, released in 1979.  

Thirteen months after the crime was committed, the Lutz family bought the three-story waterfront property along with its swimming pool and boathouse for a bargain $80,000.00. What transpired afterwards became the controversial and often contested subject of a 1977 best-selling book and multiple film adaptations. 

But The Amityville Horror was actually filmed at a private residence in Toms River, New Jersey after authorities in Amityville denied permission for filming at the actual location. The Cape Cod-style home in Jersey was temporarily remodeled to include the home's original iconic gambrel roof and creepy 'eye windows.'    

The Original Amity House – 112 / 108 Ocean Avenue Home: The 3,600 square feet home has five bedrooms and 3.5 bathrooms and is set on the Amityville River in a quiet village that was first settled in the 1600s by Europeans. For nearly 13 months after the crime was committed, the house remained empty until George and Kathy Lutz moved in and purchased the DeFeo's furniture, left intact, for $400.00 as part of their mortgage agreement. The Lutzes lasted 28 days before moving out, claiming they experienced supernatural phenomena. 

The Hoax 

Allegations of what happened during these four weeks included George Lutz awaking at 3:15 a.m. every morning to visit the boathouse, the exact time the DeFeo crimes took place. A few other noteworthy events were swarming flies in the house despite cold winter temps, Kathy Lutz experiencing repeated nightmares, the couple hearing slamming doors and finding green goo on the walls, and observing cloven hoof prints in the snow on New Year's Day, to name a few.  

 The Lutzes even hired a priest who apparently sprinkled holy water around a room in their house, recited a prayer, and claimed he heard a loud male voice say, "Get out!" The priest warned the Lutzes not to use the room as a bedroom, so they turned it into a sewing room instead.  

 Many skeptics believed the Lutzes, who were saddled in debt, concocted the stories with the help of DeFeo's defense attorney William Weber in 1975 as a way to make money. In 1979, Weber confirmed the hoax, stating that he and the Lutzes created the story over "many bottles of wine." The priest the Lutzes hired was later defrocked by his diocese because of his involvement in the hoax. 

The Amityville House has been owned by four other families since 1974, one of which had the address changed to 108 Ocean Ave. The house was also remodeled to include the removal of the creepy demonic eyes on the top floor. 

 Amityville may never see an end to the legendary ghost stories that made it famous. The hoax and mystery surrounding the house has weathered nearly four decades, successfully spawning a cottage industry built on a haunted house hoax.  

 Fun Fact 1: Public officials refused to allow filming at the real home, so a private residence was used and converted to look like the Ocean Ave. home. 

 Fun Fact 2: The Amityville house was briefly featured in The Conjuring 2, (2016), a movie about a single mother who believed something evil was in her house and hired paranormal investigators to explore.   

 How To Survive It: GET OUT!!!!! 


Poltergeist, 1982 

Address:  4267 Roxbury Street, Simi Valley, CA 93063 

Location in Film:  Cuesta Verde, a California planned community 

Year Built:  1979 

Current Home Value Estimate:  $1,012,700.00

The split-level, Tudor-style house filmed in Poltergeist was only used for exterior shots and was chosen for its "suburban appearance" as it was meant to starkly contrast against the malevolent paranormal activity experienced by the Freeling family in the film. The house itself was also chosen for its various rooflines because they suggested the house had a life of its own. 

 Most of the indoor scenes were shot at the studios, and apart from maintenance and a light face-lift, the house hasn't changed much from its big debut in the classic horror film. 

 As would be expected, the seventies Tudor gets its share of visitors every year, most of whom are respectful of its owners.  

 Fun Fact 1: To capture the final scene in which the house gets sucked into a vortex, set designers built a 4-foot-wide mock-up of the house in a California studio, then placed industrial-sized vacuums above the replica with hooks attached to specific points in the house. 

 Fun Fact 2: Steven Spielberg spent a great deal of time on the set as a producer, partially because his other film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial was experiencing delays. 

 How to Survive: Stay Away from the Light! 


The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 1974 

Location:  1010 Kings Court, Kingsland, TX 78639 

Location in Film:  La Frontera/Quick Hill Road, Round Rock, TX 

Year Built:  1909

 Built in 1909, this Queen Anne-style cottage originally stood in La Frontera, Texas in Williamson County, (now Round Rock), and was considered quite grand and luxurious for its time with fish-scale siding, chamfered corners, and gingerbread trim.  

 Through its life, the Victorian house was home to a succession of families and students until it was used for the movie in 1973.  

 In 1998, the house was purchased by The Antlers Inn – a turn of the century railroad resort on Lake LBJ (Lyndon B. Johnson), dismantled, and moved to Kingsland, where it was completely refurbished and turned into the Grand Central Café in 2012. Every year, the iconic horror-house-turned-café draws thousands of hungry visitors and Chainsaw fans to enjoy a good meal and tour the house.  

 If you're ever in the area, be sure and stop in for a meal as the café boasts fine dining with award-winning fare. And if you're feeling especially daring, walk up the rickety old stairs and visit Grandpa Sawyer on the second floor!  

 Fun Fact: The same farmhouse can be seen at the beginning of a B-rated rock-n-roll comedy Roadie (1980), starring Travis W. Redfish ("Meatloaf"), Debbie Harry ("Blondie"), Roy Orbison, and Hank Williams, Jr.  

 How To Survive It: Don't pick up hitchhikers and NEVER stay for dinner! 


A Nightmare on Elm Street, 1984 

Address: 1428 North Genesee Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 

Location in Film:  1428 Elm Street, Springwood, OH [fictitious address] 

Year Built: 1919 

Current Home Value Estimate: $3,042,100.00 

 On Genesee Avenue in Los Angeles lies Hollywood's stand-in for the fictional Springwood, Ohio in 1984's A Nightmare on Elm Street. The street name was changed for the movie because director Wes Craven didn't think A Nightmare on North Genesee Avenue had the same ring.  

 Genesee Avenue resembles a middle-class suburban neighborhood in the Midwest, which made it an ideal location for the film and its subsequent sequels. The fact that the film's production offices were located a stone's throw away on Sunset Boulevard was also a plus.  

 The house in the film belonged to main character Nancy Thompson (played by Heather Langenkamp), a teen fighting to uncover a dark secret concealed by her parents after she and her friends become targets of iconic villain-of-our-nightmares Freddy Krueger.  

 Almost four decades later, the house has undergone numerous transformations and in 2007, Angie Hill sold it for $2.1 million. The house eventually went on the market for $3.25 and was sold for a little bit less than the asking price at $2.98 million. 

 Thankfully, not a single sighting of Freddy has been reported since filming. (; 

 If you're ever in LA and wish to take a peek at the house, you can hop aboard CitySightseeing StarLine's Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour which will take you past the home! 

 Fun Fact 1: New Line Cinema was on the brink of bankruptcy when the film was released, but was ultimately saved by its success and was later jokingly nicknamed, "The House that Freddy Built." 

 Fun Fact 2: Director Wes Craven was a professor at Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York, which has the actual Elm Street situated between the State University of New York at Potsdam and Clarkson University. The house on which it was based is owned by a fraternity, and is listed at the address 20 U.S. 11, Potsdam, New York 13676. 

 How To Survive It: Whatever you do, don't fall asleep! 


Black Christmas, 1974 

Address:  6 Clarendon Crescent, Toronto, ON M4V 2P4, Canada 

Location in Film:  Montreal, Quebec 

Year Built:  1907 

"It was so cool the way it was laid out; it had every kind of wonderful potential for a horror movie," said actress Lynn Griffin who played Clare Harrison in 1974's Black Christmas. She was talking about the early 1900s Tudor-style home depicted as a college sorority house in the film, shot mostly in Toronto. 

 The house was discovered by director Bob Clark while scouting for locations, and its owners agreed to lease the home for the production. The house was chosen because of its ominous staircase, and Clark liked that he could get a good shot of someone's feet at the top without seeing their body. Other appealing traits were its dark polished wood with its contrast to the Christmas lights decorating the banisters, the trellis on the side of the house, and the creaky wooden crawlspace to access the attic. These elements are now signature to Black Christmas, a modestly budgeted Canadian film that inspired the slasher genre.  

 When the house was initially rented for film production, it had been unoccupied and was in poor shape, with old wallpaper and chipped paint, requiring the production designers to repaint every wall and replace the wallpaper. The entire movie was filmed inside the house; no movie set was used. 

 The home is currently occupied and stands to this day as a popular tourist attraction. 

 Fun Fact 1: Black Christmas was inspired by the urban legend "the babysitter and the man upstairs" and a series of crimes that took place in the Westmount neighborhood of Quebec. 

 Fun Fact 2: Some scenes in the script had to be slightly rewritten to accommodate the house's foundation and structure. 

 How to survive it: Stay out of the attic! 


The late 1970s through the early 1990s was the golden age of the slasher flick, and many horror houses from that period remain unchanged today, still possessing the power to give those in the know a good spook. 


So, grab your popcorn and read on for a list of some of the most iconic scary movie houses, some fun facts, a couple Home Value Estimates, and tips on how to survive these homes should you accidentally stumble across one of them in your nightmares--- errr, I mean your travels. 



Address:  707 Meridian Avenue, South Pasadena, CA | moved to: 1000 Mission Street,

South Pasadena, CA

Location in Film:  45 Lampkin Lane, Haddonfield, IL [fictitious town]

Year Built:  1888

Unlike many of today's horror flicks, John Carpenter's Halloween was filmed in an actual house rather than on a movie set. This simple fact adds another layer of authenticity (and creepiness) to the movie, knowing that somewhere out there, Michael Myers' house really exists. That somewhere is in South Pasadena, California where the town identified the historical significance of "The Century House," as it was once called, built in 1888, as being the city's oldest surviving frame residence. 

Historians consider the house to be the city's first duplex, marking the arrival of settlers from Indiana and their Midwestern influence on local architecture. The house itself blends several architectural styles, showing Midwestern Greek revival and salt box characteristics, as well as Victorian elements like the gable ornaments and gingerbread trim. Without intervention, the house would have been destroyed as it was set to be bulldozed in 1987 to make way for a hospital, but fortunately, it was salvaged and moved from its original location. 

 It was David Margrave who saved the house from imminent destruction on a whim as six houses that sat side by side on Meridian Avenue during the course of a three-week period were destroyed, one by one. The Century House was the last standing in that area and, upon passing the house one day, Margrave impulsively asked the bulldozer driver to stop just as he was giving the walls of the rickety old house their first push. Margrave then went to the owner, Dr. Joseph Kohn, and offered him a silver dollar for the home. Kohn accepted the offer along with Dave's promise to move the house within a week. 

 Unfortunately, Margrave had no property on which to put the house, so in a brash move one night he paid movers to transport the old structure onto a nearby railroad property. Even though Margrave didn't have permission to relocate the house to this area, the house remains there to this day because the city of South Pasadena recognized the building's historical significance and allowed it to stay. 
As a result of the relocation, the small addition in the back of the house for the filming of Halloween was removed, and the house itself received a small facelift, a fresh paint job, and interior modifications converted it from a private residence into office space. 

 Fans wanting to visit the house will have no problem seeing it from the outside. You simply get off the train at Mission Station and you're a short walk away, however, exploring the interior of Michael's old haunts proves a bit more difficult, as the businesses inside the house are not crazy about Halloween fans randomly dropping by to pay homage.  

 Fun Fact: A fan of all things Halloween, Kenny Caperton of Hillsborough, NC reconstructed an exact replica of the home from the film. In addition to getting most of the details of the home exactly to spec, Caperton also hosts several Halloween-themed events, and his house is a popular spot for trick-or-treaters. The house has been featured in dozens of newspaper, magazine, and online articles and was even mentioned on ABC's Good Morning America. Halloween fans from all over the world have traveled to see the spookhouse and Caperton welcomes them with open arms. 

 How to Survive: You can't kill the boogieman, so there's nothing you can do! Sleep tight!  (; 


Hocus Pocus, 1993 

Address:  4 Ocean Avenue, Salem, MA 01970

Location in Film:  Salem, MA

Year Built:  1870

Current Home Value Estimate: $555,400.00

Max and Dani's house from the 1993 cult classic Hocus Pocus located in Salem, Massachusetts, is a private residence that gets a lot of tourist attention!  

 The 1,305 square-foot, three-bedroom, one bath is located at the end of the street with no neighbors on three sides and is a mere block from the water's edge. The current owners have kept the unique exterior, including the iconic lookout tower and red-trimmed porch, intact since filming wrapped in 1993. 

 According to research, people visit the home in droves, especially in the month of October, and the current homeowners don't mind people taking photos and selfies as long as they're respectful. 

 Fun Fact: Hocus Pocus shares another house with 1999's American Beauty and 1989's Christmas Vacation. The house is seen after the children escape the witches by locking them in the high school's kiln. To add more to the irony, not only was a certain house shared between the movies, so was actress Thora Birch who played Dani, then returned to the neighborhood to play Jane Burnham in American Beauty.  

 How to Survive: Do NOT light the black flame candle if you know what's good for you! 


Rosemary's Baby, 1968 

Address:  The Dakota | West 72nd Street, New York, NY

Location in Film:  The Bramford | Central Park West, New York, NY

Year Built:  Between 1880-1884

Known as "The Bramford" in the film, the ornate and somewhat gothic Dakota Apartments on New York's Upper West Side – the northwest corner of 72nd Street and Central Park West to be exact – was used for the exterior shots of Guy and Rosemary's apartment in 1968's Rosemary's Baby. 

 The Dakota was constructed from October 25, 1880 to October 27, 1884, and at the time of its grand unveiling, it was one of the only buildings on the block and boasted 65 luxury apartments, with no two alike. The architectural firm of Henry Janeway Hardenbergh was commissioned to create the design for Edward Clark, head of the Singer Sewing Machine Company. The firm also designed the Plaza Hotel on Central Park South.  

 The building's deep roofs and high gables, massive dormers, terracotta accents, ornate balconies, and balustrades give it a North German Renaissance character, but its layout and floor plan portray nods to French architectural of the 1870s. In 1972, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places and in 1976, it was declared a National Historic Landmark. 

 Fun Fact 1:The Dakota was host and home to celebrities Lauren Bacall, Rosemary Clooney, Boris Karloff, and Judy Garland, to name a few. Sad Fact: John Lennon was tragically shot and killed at the front entrance in 1980. 

 Fun Fact 2: Upon learning that people mistakenly referred to the fictitious apartment building as the Branford and not the Bramford, Rosemary's Baby novel writer Ira Levin stated that he chose the name in memory of writer Bram Stoker, and shudders to think that one might have offended his baby, "…who is still alive—you know he is—and whose name is Dracula," he once stated.  

 How to Survive: Stay away from Minnie's chocolate mousse and sleep with one eye open! 


The Shining, 1980

Address:  Filmed at Timberline Lodge, 27500 East Timberline Road, Timberline Lodge, OR 97028

Location in Film:  The Overlook Hotel in the Rocky Mountains, which was inspired by The Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, CO 80517

Year Timberline was Built:  1937

Little more than an hour's drive outside of Portland, Oregon sits the Timberline Lodge, one of the most storied hotels in the United States. Perched at 6,000 feet up Mount Hood, the hotel was built by artisans at the height of the Great Depression and snow-sport enthusiasts to this day enjoy its slopes and climb the tall, active volcanoes year-round. But these aspects of the Lodge aren't responsible for its darker, more popular appeal. 

 The inspiration for Stephen King's fictional Overlook Hotel was actually the Stanley Hotel in Estes, Colorado, but the film was shot mostly on a studio set in England, with exterior shots filmed at Timberline Lodge, a government-owned National Historic Landmark in Mount Hood, Oregon. 

 While the inside of the Timberline doesn't have brightly colored patterned carpet, nor is there a cool hedge maze in the parking lot (both were filmed on sound stages in London), the Lodge's distinct architecture still creeps-out thousands of visitors who make the trek to the famous hotel every year, especially when the snowcat is parked out front! There's even an axe marked "Here's Johnny" displayed inside the hotel.  

 The Stanley Kubrick film adaptation, released in 1980, has gone down in history as one of the creepiest films of all time. From where did the idea come, you ask?  


The Stanley Hotel and Stephen King's Novel, The Shining 

As the story goes, in 1974 King and his wife needed a weekend away and showed up at the Stanley Hotel on the day it was set to close for the winter season. The staff agreed to let them stay for the weekend if they paid cash, so they were the only two guests in the entire hotel. They checked into room 217, the Presidential Suite. That night, King had a nightmare that his son was being chased through the hotel by an evil spirit and after abruptly awaking, shaken, he went outside to smoke a cigarette. It was then and there that he thought up the grim idea for his first best-selling novel, The Shining. 


Other Stanley Hotel Oddities 

After Stanley Hotel inventor F.O. Stanley passed away in 1940, guests reported seeing his ghost at the front desk during check-in as well as hearing his deceased wife, Flora Stanley, singing in an empty room. No horrific crimes took place at the Stanley, but nonetheless, the flickering lights, moving objects, shadows, and unidentified laughter have made the hotel a hot spot for paranormal investigators. 

 Today, guests may choose the "ghost adventurer" package to stay on the infamous 4th floor of the Stanley a.k.a. Overlook and they receive a mug that says "Redrum," an electromagnetic field reader, and other tools one would need to hunt ghosts. The most requested room by far is 217, the room that inspired King on that spooky night.  

 But at the end of the day, there was one major thing guests were missing during their visit to The Stanley Hotel: the infamous hedge maze that spelled Jack Torrance's (Jack Nicholson) creepy demise at the end of the movie.  

 So, in the summer of 2015 that omission was remedied when the Stanley installed a 10,100-square-foot juniper labyrinth in front of the hotel. The design, decided through a contest that attracted 329 entries from 34 countries, came from Mairim Dallaryan Standing, a New York City architect who cleverly incorporated an "S" (Stanley) and an "H" (Hotel) into her layout. The maze underwent a soft opening in October of that year during their annual Shining Ball, when approximately 300 guests descended on the Stanley for music, drinks, and a costume contest. The Stanley doesn't intend to let the junipers get too tall (they're currently about three feet tall), so the "maze" aspect might be limited to visitors younger than four or so. 


Timberline Lodge & Ski Area in Mount Hood – Film Location 

When it came time to find the perfect location to represent the fictional Overlook Hotel in the film, Timberline Lodge & Ski Area in Mount Hood National Forest seemed to be the ideal setting for director Stanley Kubrick.  

 Built back in the 1930s during the Great Depression, it's believed that the ski resort was haunted by skiers who never made it off Mt. Hood. These days, the U.S. Forest Service has worked hard to ensure that skiers and climbers are safe on the mountain. 

 In 1977, the hotel was named a National Historic Landmark and draws millions of visitors each year for skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, ghost-hunting, and more. During the summer, the property boasts a bike park for mountain biking and an outdoor pool. Other amenities include a hot tub, sauna, fitness center, and on-site restaurants including the Ram's Head Bar, Cascade Dining Room, and the Blue Ox Bar. You can even host your wedding there! 

 Fun Fact 1: Management at the Timberline Lodge asked director Stanley Kubrick to change the number of the sinister room 217 to room 237 (a non-existent room number) so guests wouldn't avoid booking the room.  

 Fun Fact 2: Rumor has it that when Jim Carrey was onsite at The Stanley Hotel for the filming of his 1994 comedy Dumb and Dumber, he stayed in Room 217. Something spooked him so bad that he ran from the room in the middle of the night and never returned. 

 Fun Fact 3: Declared a National Historic Landmark in 1977, Timberline Lodge is one of Oregon's most popular tourist attractions, drawing nearly two million visitors every year. 

 Fun Fact 4: During Halloween one year, a large Portland-based corporation purchased the Timberline Lodge in its entirety and hosted a private, Shining-themed event where they hired twins in blue dresses to roam the hallways and a boy named "Danny" to ride his Big Wheel throughout the dining room. Lodge employees dressed in costume and were told to work movie quotes into natural dialogue throughout the evening (i.e., BARTENDER: "Your money's no good here, Mr. Torrence."). 

 How to survive it: REЯUM. All work and no play, make Johnny a dull boy. So, catch the next snowcat and leave immediately! 


Cast a spell over your entire neighborhood this year with these fun, festive tips on how to decorate for Halloween. Whether it's your front porch, entryway, or even your yard, these fabulous ideas will draw costumed creatures in droves to your home on All Hallow's Eve!

  1. Decorate windows with artificial spiders and cobwebs.
  2. Darken the porch lights with black lights or use yellow, green, or purple bulbs.
  3. Add flickering electric candles to the windows.
  4. Carve or paint pumpkins to decorate porch steps.
  5. Use bed sheets or drop cloths to make white ghosts.
  6. Add creepy lawn ornaments such as tombstones, skeletons, ghouls, monsters, rats, spiders, or put together a scary scene using old furniture, clothing, and dolls.
  7. Paint scraps of wood or cardboard to look like tombstones and hang scary-looking figures or silhouettes from the trees.
  8. Opt for spook-free by skipping the scary décor and go for a classic fall front porch instead. Fill planters with a candle lantern and an assortment of pumpkins, gourds, and fall foliage that will carry you through Thanksgiving. Add some potted mums and a bail or two of hay and enjoy!

By now, most of you have heard of shiplap and you may even ascribe Joanna Gaines from HGTV's Fixer Upper as its discoverer, however the concept of shiplap goes back way farther than the modern-day farmhouse aficionado. Like, at least 1,700 years – around the time of the Vikings! 


SHIPlap derived its name from… well – ships. An ancient boat unearthed in northern Europe more than a century ago is the earliest example of clinker construction that used overlapping wood planks called lapstrakes – shiplap's precursor – to create a watertight seal. The boat was the Nydam ship from Denmark, a 24-meter-long rowboat with 15 sets of oars that was built c. 350-400 CE, around the time that Constantine was Roman emperor. 


In the centuries that followed, the practice of overlapping wood planks to eliminate moisture evolved and shiplap was born, eventually making its way from boats to exterior siding for barns and sheds and subsequently found its way indoors. A non-decorative element as it was never intended to be exposed, it was placed over a home's framing to create a smooth backing for wallpaper and other wall coverings. The rough-sawn boards were first covered with cheesecloth or muslin to hide the seams and give the wallpaper grip on which to adhere.  


Fast-forward to the year 2013 when Gaines exposed shiplap during Fixer Upper's inaugural season where she told her clients that she could limit renovation costs by painting the shiplap instead of covering it with drywall. With that, a modern-day farmhouse aesthetic was launched, and she became known as the "Queen of Shiplap" as she used it in subsequent episodes. People who owned houses without it raced to their nearest home improvement stores to buy it in bulk and created accent walls, headboards, fireplace surrounds – people even installed it on their ceilings! 


In interior design, shiplap – also known as nickel board – is customarily painted white and mounted horizontally, but it can be painted any color and mounted vertically, as well. When placed horizontally, shiplap makes a room feel larger and when it's installed vertically, the space grows taller. These visual tricks are one of the reasons why designers and homeowners love it, but its true defining characteristic are its rabbets: step-shaped recess cuts in the edge of the board that, when met with the next board, create a "shadow-effect," providing a stunning touch.  


But to many, shiplap evokes a coastal vibe which will remain timeless for those of us who live near the beach and there's a reason for that: historically, it was used in seaside cottages to keep wind and water out of the house. Oh, and yes – it was used on boats!   


So, enough of the history lesson, read on for tips and ideas on how to install your very own shiplap feature wall! 


First: Pick Your Feature Wall 

The wall you choose to highlight should ideally be the space to which your eye is first drawn when you enter a room. Walls with fireplaces or existing design features like mantelpieces also work well. In the living room you might choose to highlight the wall behind the sofa; in the bedroom, the wall behind the bed. But once the shiplap is installed, avoid obscuring the wall with too much furniture as the aim of a feature wall is to guide the eye towards a room's best assets and design features without overwhelming or cluttering. 


Next: Measure Your Space 

You've no doubt heard the old adage: "Measure twice, cut once" and that applies here! Carefully measure your wall's height and width in order to figure out how much shiplap you need. There are shiplap coverage calculators online which will make this step a no-brainer and a good rule of thumb is to allow for human error by ordering an additional 10% more than you need. 


Note: You can purchase MDF shiplap that has an almost "perfect look" – straight lines, very smooth surface with no knots or wood grain, but for a more authentic feel, purchase reclaimed or new wood shiplap. There are even articles online that show folks using strips of plywood or standard pine boards in order to cut costs, placing a nickel in between to create slats, but for purposes of this article, we'll talk about wooden shiplap boards with pre-cut rabbets. 


Prepare the Space 

Once you have your shiplap, it's important to let it sit for 48 hours in the space where it'll be installed to allow the wood to acclimate to humidity and moisture. During this time, clean up and empty the area to give yourself ample working room, wipe down your walls and baseboards, and remove wall plates and outlet covers. Set up your "workstation" with saws, tools, etc. in a garage, side patio, or adjacent room where you're not afraid to make a mess. Lastly, and this is a personal preference, I recommend removing the baseboard as opposed to installing the shiplap above it. Remove it carefully so you may reinstall it once the shiplap is hung. 


Next, you'll want to make sure you have the proper tools and materials to install the shiplap. 


Tools and Materials: 

  • Wooden Shiplap Panels 
  • 2" 18 Ga. Straight Strip Brad Nails 
  • Pneumatic 18 Ga. Finish Nailer with Air Compressor 
  • Extension Cord 
  • Adhesive Glue (like Liquid Nails) 
  • Sandpaper 
  • Caulk 
  • Wood Putty 
  • Ladder 
  • Measuring Tape 
  • Hammer 
  • Stud Finder 
  • Pencil 
  • 48" Beam Level 
  • Vertical Chalk Line Marker (optional) 
  • Jig Saw 
  • Circular Saw or Chop Saw 
  • Table Saw (if you have one) 
  • Primer (if your boards are raw wood) 
  • Paint – color of your choice 


Mark the Studs  

Find the studs using a stud-finder and mark them on the wall with a pencil. Most studs are placed 16" to 24" apart. After you identify the studs, use your beam level with pencil or a chalk line to mark the studs vertically along the wall. This will be your guide to know where to nail the shiplap. 


Cut and Hang the Panels 

Measure each board and cut with a chop-saw or circular saw. Start at the bottom of the wall and work your way up as this will make it easier to ensure straight lines. Cut around electrical outlets and vents using a jigsaw. Run a bead of adhesive glue along the back of each board before you nail it in. Important: Nail at a slight angle into the rabbet (at the joint) and not directly into the face of the board and make sure your air-compressor is set at a level that you countersink your nails just under the surface of the rabbet.  


Each shiplap panel should securely fit into the last panel, making this easy to install. Continue to use your beam level to ensure you're keeping the boards level and even throughout the installation. 


When you get to the final board at the top, you'll more than likely need to run it through a table saw to rip the board to the width you need. If you don't own a table saw, use a circular saw or a jigsaw, very carefully. If the cut isn't perfectly even, that's okay as a nice bead of caulk will smooth out any imperfections and once you paint, you'll never notice.  


Finally, reinstall your baseboard trim (if you removed it), fill any nail-holes with wood putty, and caulk all seams. 


Prime and Paint 

If you bought pre-primed boards, go right ahead and paint, but if your boards are raw wood, you'll need to prime them first (unless you plan to keep the wood raw or stained). As noted above, shiplap is often painted white for a farmhouse aesthetic, but there are no rules. Be brave with your paint colors. If your room is already a neutral color, choose a strong contrasting shade to give the space instant drama and depth. A rich black shiplap wall in a room with lots of natural light and clean, airy colors would be a knockout… just sayin'. If your walls are already painted a bright hue, try a complementary color a few shades darker or lighter or simply leave the boards unpainted, stain or clear-coat them for rustic warmth or pair with metal to create an industrial vibe. Going coastal? Paint them a rich, navy blue! 


The best thing about this project is that the sky is the limit! Decorating is no longer about following rules. Be creative with your paint colors and remember to HAVE FUN 


Jacksonville is quickly becoming a popular destination for locals and tourists alike and it's easy to see why. "The River City" packs a lot of fun with an eclectic mix of neighborhoods, miles of sandy beaches, vibrant museums, a wide-spread artist's community, and glorious state parks – there's truly something for everyone!

Jacksonville also happens to be ideally located in terms of its proximity to the various neighboring gems, including everything from national seashore beaches populated by wild horses to ancient natural springs. There are so many different places to visit within a short drive, which makes day trips a marvelous idea in your staycation or weekend itinerary. You'll find that it's easier (and cheaper) than ever to enjoy Northern Florida's stunning attractions within the space of a day.

Here are eight great daytrip excursions: all you have to do is pick a day, pack a small bag, and go!

1. Blue Springs State Park

One of the most beautiful stretches of the St. John's River, the turquoise waters of Blue Springs State Park span an impressive 2600-acres of sparkling, tranquil landscape. The springs are also home to West Indian manatees that are visible during manatee season. While the ocean waters turn cold in the winter, the springs maintain a steady 72° all year long, so as the air turns cold, hundreds of manatees seek the warm spring waters. So, if you want to see the manatees, wintertime is a great time to come. But no matter the season, Blue Springs is a great place to spend a day swimming or kayaking, walking the boardwalk, or embarking on a guided tour throughout the area.

Find more information here: Blue Springs State Park

2. Amelia Island | Fernandina Beach

A quick hop, skip, and a jump away from Jacksonville (more specifically, about 30 miles) lies the serenely beautiful Amelia Island – an Atlantic barrier island with white sand beaches and a lush, vibrant interior sprinkled with marshlands. The Fernandina Historic District area of the island offers art galleries, historic saloons, and a mellow, small-town atmosphere. The island also boasts a collection of beaches, upscale resorts, and great golf. You'll find popular festivals ranging from music to foodie throughout the year.

For more information, visit Amelia Island

3. Palatka

For a fascinating insight into a historic Floridian settlement, make the one-hour journey to the city of Palatka, where you'll find old-town charm coupled with beautifully preserved and restored historic homes and churches dating back to the 1800's. A visit to Palatka feels like you've stepped back in time, and boasts a thriving art scene with galleries and street vendors alike. Enjoy a nice lunch followed by the Palatka Mural Tour or, for a more nature-focused outing, venture out to the Ravine Gardens State Park, home to two ravines and lush gardens galore!

For more information, visit City of Palatka

4. Silver Glen Springs Recreation Area, Ocala

Another pristinely beautiful escape from metropolitan life comes in the form of the sun-drenched region of Ocala, featuring mile after mile of untouched natural reserve – the most attractive of which is the Ocala National Forest. Here, you'll find a mixture of narrow valleys adorned by weeping willows, and tranquil springs of clear waters. Juniper Run and Silver Glen Springs are particularly popular for swimming and tubing routes, while the Silver Springs State Park offers land activities such as horseback riding and picnicking.

For more information, visit Explore Ocala

5. St. Augustine

We would be sorely remiss if we didn't include the infamous St. Augustine in the list as this is a major bucket-list Floridian destination. The oldest city in the United States, let alone Florida, is a delight for those with an interest in history, architecture, good food, interesting museums, or simply just appreciating a unique, old town. Spend hours walking the cobblestone streets, shopping in the cool boutiques and kitschy tourist shops, dining in some fabulous farm-to-table restaurants or visiting some of the tourist landmarks like the Alligator Farm, Ripley's Believe it or Not! Museum, the Fountain of Youth, or the centuries-old Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest still-standing masonry fort in the United States. Take in some breath-taking views of the town, then climb atop the St. Augustine Lighthouse, where you'll take in a breathtaking view of the city in all its glory. But whatever you do, wear some comfy walking shoes, make sure you allot a good amount of time, and, most of all – enjoy!

For more information, visit City of St. Augustine

6. Ginnie Springs

Dubbing themselves "A Slice of Pure Florida," Ginnie Springs is known for the clarity of their waters, making them particularly popular with snorkelers and divers alike. From inner-tubing, kayaking, paddleboarding, or simply swimming, there are so many ways to enjoy these glorious springs. And just like Blue Springs, their crystal-clear water stays at a perfect 72° year-round, so come and dip your feet in January or February while wearing a cozy sweatshirt. Ginnie Springs also offers a large network of subterranean caverns under the surface that are exhilarating to explore… so grab your bathing suit and some towels and get ready to have a swimmingly good time!

For more information, visit Ginnie Springs Outdoors

7. Cumberland Island, South Georgia

Yes, you read that correctly: South Georgia! Jacksonville is 30 miles from the Georgia state line, so this excursion does indeed fall into the day-trip category and is a beautiful attraction. Board a ferry at St. Marys, GA to get to the island and be sure to have your phone or camera ready to capture Cumberland Island's most intriguing feature: its herds of wild horses roaming free along the beaches and tree-lined paths. Enjoy biking, take a guided tour, or simply hang out on the beach, but whatever you decide to do, don't forget to pack a water bottle, food, bug-spray, sunscreen, and an extra layer of clothing!

For more information, visit Cumberland Island

8. Big Talbot Island State Park | Blackrock Beach

On the Northeastern edge of Jacksonville, you'll find a surreal setting, one that features marshlands populated by wild birds and a boneyard of sorts full of sun-drenched, bleached tree "bones" that have been preserved by nature, aptly named Boneyard Beach. Enjoy a picnic in one of the pavilions on the water or avoid the crowds and come early to catch the sunrise and hike the half-mile trail through hammock forest and coastal scrub. Be sure and keep an eye out for turtles, beautiful birds, and bald eagles along your way and make the most out of your visit by packing plenty of water, snacks, sunscreen, bug-spray, beach gear, towels, and $3.00 (cash only) for parking.

For more information, visit Florida State Parks Blackrock Beach

Well, there you have it! A list of some amazing daytrips that are a quick stones-throw away! So, whether you're in the mood for a tranquil getaway, a beautiful beach experience, or more of a shopping and dining excursion, you can't go wrong with any of these trips. Just remember to do a little research, pack accordingly, and most of all enjoy fun close to home!

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