Another Halloween party is over! We set a new Halloween record this year with 66 party guests…wow! It didn’t feel cramped so that surprised me when I counted everyone the next day! Thankfully the weather cooperated both for having all the patios available for guests and food, as well as for the new decorations and FINALLY the Ghoulish Gingerbread Haunted House!
…and the winners are…
Ghoulish Gingerbread Haunted House – Angie got all 13 spooky stories first!
Name That Tune Spooky Movies – Angie & Doug tied with 9 of 13
Creepy Cuisine – Tastiest – A Deathly Bite (Maple Coffin Cake with Spider) by Robert & Maureen
Creepy Cuisine – Best Presentation – Bloody Glass Cutcakes by Scary Jerry
Scariest Costume – Galt & Lyle Loving Each Other to Death
Most Original Costume – the Barbieri Solar System
Ultimate Costume – Cyd the Vintage Tintype
The costumes were fantastic and so much clever Creepy Cuisine that it was challenging to judge! Everyone had a great time, even after last-minute gingerbread chaos as guests were arriving led to food prep chaos, I was still in full vintage Webmistress of the Dark costume by 8pm, and the Rock Band after-party continued until 3:30am! I’m still recovering from only getting 6 hours sleep total from Friday to Sunday, but it was a blast! Hope everyone had a Happy Halloween!
Keep reading for the full party post-mortem & to see the entire photo gallery. There will be a separate post for the Gate Ghost (Secret Project #1) and Castle Brittahytta (Secret Project #2), plus another post for the Ghoulish Gingerbread Haunted House, telling its three-year story of planning & execution!
Wednesday night I was already behind from staying at work decorating until almost 8pm then had to get the final party groceries on the way home, so I was delayed a couple hours even getting started with the graphics for the interior walls of the gingerbread house. I finally had them printed, cut & on the walls by 2am, then the accent piping done finally by 5am…so much for my last night of decent sleep!
Thursday I finished piping the other side of the last double-sided interior wall, then prepped for help to arrive. Glen came to help me put up Castle Brittahytta in daylight, and before he arrived about 1pm, I was able to get the stained glass window, window surround, and the chimney tower up plus all the foam pieces arranged where they would go. My wind-stability plan of large wood plank washers didn’t work out because when I measured for the screws, I didn’t account for the fact that the wood eaves taper inward, so my screws were just a hair too short. So I gave up & screwed directly through the foam into the eaves, hoping for no breeze until after Halloween night…thankfully I got lucky! More detail on the Castle Brittahytta prep in the other post. I had just enough time to clean up the tools & ladder, arrange the hand lights around the Waterfall of Doom, add the canvas & lace tablecloths to the outside food table, and add gold luster dust to the picture frames on the gingerbread walls before Scary Jerry was scheduled to arrive at 5pm.
After lack of inspiration for way too long, I was still hemming & hawing about the gingerbread base board when Scary Jerry arrived to help assemble it! With his help, we finally decided on the original large board on a turntable, since it barely turned all the way around, had just enough yard space, and still left room for a couple plates on either side of the table. We got the two stories assembled by 7:45pm Thursday night, with the roof & bay window waiting until the base stories were fully stable overnight. Thankfully the weather was also cooperating, but Jerry’s hands were extremely helpful! Much better than my “cake challenge” horror story from last year doing it by myself in soggy weather!
After Jerry left, I blitzed all the gelatin body parts, a last batch of Mojitoes, the eyeballs, heart & brain, and prepped three cream cheese Sinister Skulls, then mixed up a double batch of pumpkin donut dough, which had to chill 3 hours before using. Since the housecleaners were coming the next day, I made the cotton candy mess out on the glass patio table for the graveyard fog, and the sugar glass & pulled sugar mess on the stove so they could clean them up for me. By the time I was done adding brown royal icing over the pulled sugar trees & picking up everything to be able to clean, it was 6am!
Friday I slept until the housecleaners came at 11am since I was exhausted already! As they were cleaning I arranged the giant spider & skeleton on the giant web on the front porch, then after they left, I unmolded all the gelatin body parts to soak the molds clean in the sink, then I cranked away on outside decor while I had daylight. The witch & cauldron went up by the shed with extra lighting for the patio food table, then the ruins & pirates went up out front with the gravestones, plus the scrim, projector & tripod & fog machine for the Gate Ghost. I was still arranging outside decor when Jerry arrived for a couple hours of evening help, so he helped me get creative arranging the “new” ruins and giving his opinion on the lighting as I set the LED puck lights around.
Since I didn’t get the dough mixed & into the fridge to chill until too late on Thursday night, I saved the frying for Scary Jerry Friday evening, since he mentioned he’d wanted to try deep-frying but never had the chance. As I rolled & cut the first donuts, he arranged the spooky glassware, put the batteries in the new LED taper candles, and cut up some quiz sheets for me, then we changed the screen door to the arch door. We got through about 5 dozen donuts as a super-efficient team, then he had to leave at 9pm, so I finished the last 2 dozen donuts & had to wait for the fryer to cool down, which delayed my ability to set up the lab table how I’d like. So I can clean up the patio table & prep the lab setup properly much earlier, I need to get the donuts fried earlier & frozen like last year, then just heat them up with the rest of the freezer baking. At least I don’t think I’ll be making a cotton candy mess for next Halloween! The lab ended up arranged by Jerry when he arrived for the party, which worked out fine, just not my persnickety preferences, especially with the cool new stuff I bought this year and the new chalkboard placement. Even the chalkboard wasn’t done, so I gave the old paper version & chalk to Elisabeth & gave her free reign. Nice job, and definitely a different style than I usually do, so that’s great!
After Jerry left & I finished the donuts, I quickly rolled the Violent Vertebrae to chill in the fridge, then went outside for the fog test & projector test. This took longer than I’d hoped since just as I thought I had everything set, the whole table supporting the projector tripod wobbled so everything fell on me as I was on the ladder, so as I was trying to keep from hitting the ground myself, I was barely able to cushion the projector from hitting the ground too hard! Very glad for my tiny LED flashlight I can hold in my mouth, since I was able to set everything back up again & get it all working finally before midnight. I couldn’t place the fog too close to the scrim or all I saw was the beam of light through the fog, so I had to play around with fog machine placement. I also discovered that I am down to only one fog machine now. *sigh* Also the ghost edit I had done needed work for the end transition, so I took the PS3 back inside in hopes I’d have the chance to quickly edit & reload a new version before the party.
By midnight the outside was arranged to my satisfaction, so I finally was back inside doing more food prep & gingerbread house work. I mixed some marshmallow fondant purple with the mixer while I prepped the spiderweb pastry brie, then rolled out all the purple fondant furniture cushions, wishing the whole time I could sit down in one of those plush comfy chairs myself! I got the pipe organ & furniture assembled, the tower & main roof separately assembled on the table, and the bay window added to the house, so they could all dry overnight.
4am I knew I couldn’t start rolling any black chocolate shingles yet since I was hitting the wall, but as I was printing more quiz sheets & clearing boxes away, I re-edited the ghost footage & reloaded onto the PS3…which kept not cooperating with the final fadeout! That took 45 minutes to finally figure out how to get the PS3 to do the same thing as QuickTime…argh! There was another 6am bedtime unfortunately…
On party day I got up about 9:30am, quickly checked the webcams that were thankfully still working fine & aimed properly, then got straight to work on the gingerbread house & final character work again, while baking everything I had prepped for the freezer weeks earlier. The night before Jerry had offered to get the dry ice for me, so he already had my red ice chest and would go on his way over to help for another couple hours. That was a big help that I didn’t have to leave my house at all on party day!
When I got to a stopping point for the gingerbread work, waiting for more things to dry again, I set up the pipe organ electronics, which should have been done much earlier in advance of course! I was able to set up my old analog 4-track recorder as a live mixing board for the keyboard & my iPod so that the iPod was continuously playing pipe organ music, but people could also play along on the keyboard…finally! I heard mostly kids playing it, but at least they had fun!
When Jerry arrived around 1pm, I had just barely taken the lab bottles & accessories out to be ready for him to fill them with the fresh potions, then he cut the cheese discs for the Violent Vertebrae and was able to finish all the Freshly Flayed Flesh before he had to leave at 2:15. After he left I quickly pruned what was absolutely necessary (I had left pruning until the end to see what might help hide the light spillage around the Gate Ghost during night testing), swept everywhere outside & put the labels on the trophies before I popped in the shower & got my makeup & hair done.
As of 5pm none of the gelatin body parts were painted, which was okay for the heart, brain & Mojitoes, but that meant the eyeballs weren’t served, a tragedy that has only happened one other year. Since it still wasn’t trustworthy, I gave up on setting the gingerbread roof on, so I used the woodplank frosting sheet scraps to cover the bare ceiling piece and set the tower on that. I also knew there was no way to get the window trim done or the jack o’lanterns painted in time, let alone fuss with any of the extremely fragile black chocolate railings, so I decided I would get it ready enough for the quiz, then leisurely finish the details after the party to my satisfaction. I started placing characters and decorating the yard, which went fairly quickly. The pipe organ was giving me grief all afternoon since the candy sticks on the gingerbread backing were too heavy for the royal icing to anchor them to the wall, and I realized I attached them wrong so I was out of luck. I was finally able to use a scrap of gingerbread as an extra full backing piece, and with some clever bracing while it set until the very last, it finally stayed up for the party! That was finally about 7:45, one of the last pieces to go in place, then I finally got into costume by 8pm, sadly often the norm that I’m not in costume until after a bunch of guests had already started arriving.
All the freezer baking was done by 2pm on party day, but not set on serving trays until the first wave of guests arrived & were enlisted as house-elves. The Barbieri clan comes long-distance to get in costume when they arrive, but they weren’t available to help until they were dressed, so about 7:15-7:30 was when food & drinks started going out with their help & Elisabeth, with me still finishing the gingerbread house and directing what should go where. I am also so thankful Troy, Ginger & Craig were as willing & able to help as Scary Jerry who brought them! Even with all that last-minute help, the kitchen was such a disaster there was no workspace, so we weren’t able to get the fruit or veggies out at all. I think I will have to make a new rule that unless I have a helper able to come about 4 or 5pm for the final fresh stretch, there will be no fruit or veggies going out. Most of the prepped food went out, which was still a lot, but we all forgot about the Violent Vertebrae or the Sinister Skulls that were already prepped, so they didn’t go out. Darn!
The Creepy Cuisine table out on the brick patio ended up also housing a lot of my food since the gingerbread house took up so much space inside, plus when I was still working, the table was covered in plastic so wasn’t clear for extra food until the end. I never saw if the witch cauldron lemonade got more traffic by the shed but people definitely consumed the cans & bottles in the giant cauldron next to her. The extra lighting aimed on the patio table helped hide the 10-ft tall projector setup for the Gate Ghost in the backyard corner. I was pleased with this setup, and very glad the weather cooperated…whew!
Since I was insisting people do the Ghoulish Gingerbread quiz, there was such a crowd around it that people had to wait for an opening to move in close to inspect for the clues to the 13 spooky stories they needed to identify! I intentionally had low lighting inside the rooms because of the glow effects for the sugar glass, but that made some of the other clues on the walls hard to see, so people started using their cameras or smartphones to light up the inside…haha! I ran out of time to set out Ogle the Owls, but two activities were already too many, since several people left even before the music quiz, let alone costume voting. We must have had about 20 still left around 11pm for the music quiz who gave their costume votes as they left, then as others kept leaving and I tallied the costume votes to award trophies to those winners still present, the ones staying for the “after-party” requested Rock Band…hah! I had to go out in costume, climb up the ladder in my long skirt & high-heeled boots to turn off the projector 10 feet up, then gather the PS3 to come inside to hook up Rock Band. Glen had followed me outside to collect the equipment, and he was a bit worried when I asked him to spot me in case I fell, but thankfully I was fine.
Rock Band continued for a few hours including Ghostbusters (hooray!) until about 3:30am, when Glen, Victor & Laura left and the Barbieri clan went to bed. Ashlyn stayed up helping me clean until about 5am, and I was so exhausted I could barely see! 3 hours later, Tracia & Kian were up already, trying to be quiet to let everyone else sleep, but my kitties didn’t get that message. 9:15 I got up & started making breakfast for everyone, and since the gingerbread house was occupying the dining table, we used the Creepy Cuisine table in the backyard for Halloween brunch in the nice sunshine next to the waterfall. With only 6 hours sleep between 2 days and such little sleep before then, I’ve been trying to recover all week!
The secrets of the Gate Ghost and Castle Brittahytta will be in another post, and the extended saga of the three years of the Ghoulish Gingerbread Haunted House will be yet another post…until then you can view the entire party photo gallery here.