Weekly Home Help with items on affordable decorations for Halloween, the new iPhone 4S, Congress' new waste-burning program and more.

Many people find the idea of hosting a Halloween gathering stressful.


"It doesn't have to be," says Sabrina Soto, home style expert for Target. "Small touches can make a big Halloween statement. Try placing a decorative note card that says 'witches brew' next to the punch bowl and one that says 'eye balls' by a bowl of peeled grapes."


She also recommends making a glam centerpiece with Halloween treats displayed on a two-tier tray covered in spider web and flanked by spooky candles. It instantly creates an eye-catching focal point on the table. A big trend this year is haunted gingerbread houses; have kids decorate them at the party for a fun and delicious activity.


Also, take advantage of free resources and do-it-yourself crafts to use as decorations and fun activities for the whole family. Many websites have free printable stencils for pumpkin carving and other craft projects.


Masks are an easy and affordable way to jazz up a kid's costume, and they’re great for parents who don't want to wear a full costume. Host a pre-Halloween masquerade party and invite each guest to bring one embellishment –– sequins, glitter, feathers and buttons –– to create one-of-a-kind masquerade masks. Provide paper masks, glue and scissors, and set up a designated area where kids can decorate their own masks with friends.


-- ARA


Decorating Tip: Cast a spell on your home


* Hang glow-in-the-dark cats, skeletons and spiders from ceilings and trees.


* Write scary Halloween messages on your front walkway using colored chalk or washable fluorescent paint.


* Tie small glow sticks with string to helium balloons and let them float over your house like mysterious lights in the sky.


-- Family Features


Home-Selling Tip: Remodeling before the sale


When remodeling your home in preparation for selling, the trick is to keep up with the Jones’ but never surpass them. So you need to know what is standard in your neighborhood and what similar homes near yours are offering. On a tight budget? These quick fixes add the most value for the least money: interior paint, flooring, front appearance and light fixtures.


-- FrontDoor.com


Going Green: Congress’ trash turns to steam


The Architect of the Capitol, the agency that recently assumed responsibility for Congress’ sustainability initiatives, announced that its annual 5,300 tons of non-recyclable trash will soon be burned to create heat, which will, produce usable steam and electricity. The new initiative will start in November. However, others criticize the greenhouse gas emissions produced by waste-burning facilities.


-- Earth911.org


Did You Know …


Pending home sales in August declined 1.2 percent from July but is 7.7 percent above 2010 numbers. – Realtor.org


New Product: Apple iPhone 4S


A record-breaking 1 million people have pre-ordered the new Apple iPhone 4S. The smartphone is available to the U.S. on Oct. 14, and Sprint-Nextel has now joined the team of partnered wireless service providers with Apple, joing veterans AT&T and Verizon.


-- ConsumerReports.org


Garden Guide: Store bulbs for winter


While you're storing your summer clothes for the winter, University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator Greg Stack recommends doing the same thing with your tender summer bulbs.


"If you've invested in cannas, tuberose begonias, dahlias, gladiolas, caladium or elephant ears, you may want to take a little time this fall to gather them up and save these bulbs for next season. It's easier than you think and doesn't really require a special place or container. If you have a cool, dry, dark location you have a suitable bulb-storage area.”


GateHouse News Service