Halloween 2006


funny & tempting!

As I walked through Target at lunch today, I saw these out of the corner of my eye, thinking “Those look like giant volumetric chemistry flasks!”…and as I walked over to inspect more closely, lo & behold they were even stamped like Pyrex and listed on the price tag as “Flask Vase”…I was sorely tempted to buy the 2000mL one to supplement my mad scientist display since it would fit a good amount of fun experimental liquid, but I resisted spending $12.99 plus tax for now…

Flask Vase at Target

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Halloween progress!

I’m finally getting caught up enough from being away so long that I can post some Halloween 2006 updates!

I’m wondering how much party progress detail I should post, since now I have more & more local readers who are party guests, so if I post too much, they won’t be surprised when they show up to the party. Also if I have grand plans that don’t end up working out, I don’t want them disappointed. We’ll see how it goes, since I’ve already heard from several people I only know from online “how come no Halloween blog updates from this year yet?” so I don’t want to disappoint them either!

Some of my Halloween recipes will be published in Tucson, AZ, and Bristol, UK in local papers or magazines, and I have been promised tearsheets from each to see for myself. :) I almost got included in a karaoke book for the UK this summer, but I was so swamped at work it was too late when I finally could reply.

I have successfully replied to 60 Halloween help requests so far since August, even while on vacation! Gotta find a way to make consultant fees off of all that time spent! ;) Of course the real time suck is all the emails that come in the last couple weeks before Halloween, so that will come pretty soon. I’m noticing a frequency uptick even just today during the day!

I have a working draft of my own party book “Eerie Elegance” that so far I’ve spent many hours writing this summer (boy, when I get on a roll, I either remember other ideas I’ve done before or have even MORE related ideas!), but it’s on hiatus right now for the sake of this year’s party. I am hoping to get more good photos of me doing party prep this year, especially for inclusion in my book, but since I always end up working on party prep into the wee hours, it’s hard to have other people take photos of me. I might set up the tripod & timer just to see what I can get. Of course that also means I have to look presentable while baking – always a challenge! ;) The big question is whether to self-publish or try to shop an outline & an example section to a publisher. I’m still up in the air about that, since I like the full-control idea of self-publishing, but supposedly there’s more financial potential from working with a real publisher who would do the distribution for me. Of course, I could get really lucky & someone could see my self-published book & want to offer me a deal…hey it worked for the kid who wrote Eragon! ;)

Now on to the immediate Halloween party progress, in roughly chronological order so far…not much executed yet, but I’m getting there…some of this was done before I left on my trip of course but had to be done for the party’s sake!

  • Name That Tune quiz finalized, with clips edited & organized in iTunes
  • brick patio & walkway completed!
  • house relatively CLEAN – amazing! (You probably don’t realize how much this will really help the final crunch next week!)
  • foam stone walls have been recycled from previous house sliding door use to current house screened patio use
  • extra foam stone wall carved to match with the other two
  • all foam stone walls painted to match house wall color (thanks !) but not yet aged
  • shed foam facade has been rough cut, need to cut doors, finalize structure, carve & paint still (scheduled for Sunday!)
  • found the brand new fountain pump, found correct size PVC pipe for skull funnel spine, still need to test how this can work in the big cauldron, then will sanitize everything religiously! (The vodka & rum in the blood-red punch will help protect against any possible leftover wee beasties anyway!)
  • purchased & configured new wifi webcam
  • configured both webcams for party use (not in final locations yet)
  • wrote new webcam broadcast webpage (since 2 different webcams now, can’t use HTML frames anymore)
  • updated Halloween index with this year’s party info
  • living room wall finished spackling but living room will stay white walls and I don’t have any flagstone gossamer left for this house – be prepared for no stone walls! :(
  • most of the party groceries purchased (I didn’t even have eggs when I got back from my trip!)
  • (stiill need the fresh fruit & veggies next week)
  • fresh pumpkin roasted to make pumpkin pasties filling
  • dough mixed for witches fingers
  • dough mixed for gravestone sugar cookiesStill SO much to do, as always, and Saturday is a bust because we’re in a choir recording session all day…promise me you won’t be disappointed in this year’s party, please!
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    more Halloween party progress…

    We had a recording session all day Saturday, but between Friday night, Saturday night & Sunday, I did get more Halloween party prep done! Sunday was my only daylight before the party, so I had to take advantage while I had the chance!

    • construction & design of the bell tower is finished except for mounting the bell – non-glue dovetail “cornerstone” joints are a success – hooray! This means the bell tower can store flat! :)  
    • entire chapel is carved for this year (future plans are to enhance with more carving detail, stained glass windows, maybe a roof on the bell tower, we’ll see)
    • bell tower & chapel walls painted with tan base coat (still need to do the spray-paint aging technique!)
    • chapel door cut from scrap fake wood paneling remodeling leftovers
    • new archway door cut from scrap fake wood paneling remodeling leftovers
    • Halloween accessories from inside the shed all cleaned up, hosed off, drying in the sun
    • 4 dozen witches fingers cookies done
    • 4 dozen gravestone cookies baked, royal icing setting, still need epitaphs
    • 6.5 dozen pumpkin pasties are pre-made & frozen to be baked the morning of the party
    • (still have double-batch crab puffs in the freezer, so I won’t make more)
    • 14 dozen Brittle Bone cookies done
    • Awful Arachnids barely started, but at least royal icing is black & in the piping bag!

    Other non-Halloween specific tasks but that really needed to be done before the party:

    • finally planted jasmine vine out front, included moving another juniper bush 
    • mowed front lawn, including raking leaves & sweeping gutter & sidewalk
    • finally planted both grapes & potato vines, one set on each white arbor

    …still need to DECORATE!!!

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    MSNBC.com linkage!

    Just found out from a Halloween email that my page is linked from the MSNBC.com “Test Pattern” Halloween page! Look for the “great scary recipes”, bones & fingers mention!

    Also, it’s pretty funny that I or my family have contacts in both cities where my recipes are being included in articles (Tucson AZ & Bristol UK), so they’ll keep an eye out for me… :)

    Hopefully I’ll have time to post more Halloween party prep progress a bit later…we’ll see!

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    more Halloween party progress

    First, the Tucson paper did run the article…as reported by my mom last night:

    My friend Sherril saw your article tonight in the Tucson paper. She called and said “Britta is weird!” They printed the eyeball recipe and the witches fingers and someone else’s recipe for toes. Your eyeballs were the teaser on the front page of the paper. Your name is in it, too. She is going to mail the article to me. She got a kick out of seeing it, said it was pretty creepy stuff. hahaha.

    Heehee! :D

    More party prep progress since Monday night, after choir rehearsal of course…

    • altered Melanie’s costume to fit her – the chains were too long 
    • tested out my own costume for hair & jewelry options – I am a Vintage Vampire in a teal corduroy Renaissance-style dress
    • purchased costume adhesive specifically for fitted fangs – hope it works!
    • spray paint & hose aging technique done on screened patio walls, chapel walls & bell tower
    • backyard mostly cleaned up for party ready
    • got out decorations I plan to use this year (gotta change things around to keep people on their toes!)
    • setup yard power extensions & “Disneyland spooky” lighting in backyard
    • hands setup in the hedge (I’ll leave this as a surprise vs. more description…heehee!)
    • more tests for where to put inside webcam – think I found a good spot that can easily be turned for living room vs. kitchen, but the wifi cam doesn’t have a tripod mount fitting – argh!
    • 4 dozen gravestone cookies iced & lettered in Old English style
    • about 7 dozen Awful Arachnids (royal icing spiders)
    • with louienet‘s help, got the wifi cam to spit out image captures on a schedule via a cron job – the motion detection trigger setup stopped working this week, so I would have had to click a web button every hour during the party to get it to save otherwise! :P

    So all the advance food is ready, the gelatin making starts tonight, gelatin decorating & fresh food prep tomorrow & Saturday during the day, with finishing some last props, decorating & cleaning inbetween! Wish me luck!

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    Halloween 2006 Party Post-Mortem

    Whew! Another successful party, with a record of 55 attendees throughout the evening, amazingly never feeling crowded! Hooray for nice weather & enough party space to spread out from living room to large kitchen to screened patio, covered patio & new brick patio, plus the firepit to take off the chill! :) I even got the majority of the cleaning & dishes done before I went to bed at 2:30 (the 2nd time around after “falling back”)…hooray!

    Who won what?

    Scariest Costume = Nat as Death, the Grim Reaper
    Most Original Costume = Box of Popcorn Dave & Pink Cotton Candy Wendy
    Ultimate Costume = Patnoes of the Rings: Gandalf the White Xtopher, Frodo Lisa & little Gollum Xander!

    Haunted Headstones quiz = Scarlett Nathania & Rhett Kevin with 43 of 57 possible – great job!
    Name that Tune Spooky Movies = Obi Wan Barbieri (Doug) with 24 of 31 possible – great job!

    We had lovely Ghoulish Goodies brought by guests, including Pimples (cherry tomatoes filled with cream cheese) among lots of tasty treats! I had provided sheets to fill out the title, description & “chef” in hopes we could vote later, but with all the quiz grading & costume voting going on, I think people were through with voting by then. Thanks to everyone who brought something! I love your creativity & the food was delicious!

    Only a couple people filled out Lab Reports of their mad scientist drink experiments for Laudable Libations, so we didn’t vote on those either, also the “done voting” effect, but people were definitely making plenty of potions! Between the open bar in the “library” on the screened patio, mad scientist laboratory in the kitchen, bountiful beverages were had by all, alcoholic or otherwise. :) Everyone said they had a lot of fun, and I had several first-time guests who were blown away…always nice to hear even if I didn’t get everything set up exactly the way I wanted…as always! ;)

    Now for the “gory” details… :) Even though I admitted this to during the party, and he said it was still my best Halloween party yet in terms obvious enjoyment had by all guests, with no one disappointed except me, I think this was my worst year personally for how much was NOT done in time for guests to arrive…ack! The screened patio still wasn’t even picked up let alone decorated at 6pm when the Barbieris were first to arrive! Yet another “eyes larger than stomach” effect, which I will chalk up to my endless optimism of how much I can do in limited time! :P Also I have gotten used to one or two “house-elves” offering to help, and this year was the perfect storm of none of my friends at all being able to assist, plus I was working from home Friday, not the day off, so it was a flashback to older-style parties when I’d only have Friday night to decorate due to roommate annoyance factor, plus no food prep help at all…but still with my personal expectations of being able to do more & more each year. Ah well…

    At any rate, the skull fountain still has a couple engineering problems to solve, so that didn’t happen, and by the time all the other drinks were out anyway, guests were saying there were more than enough drink options, so we didn’t bother with the alcoholic witches brew at all. I had already planned to have the lemonade in the witches cauldron anyway, which was better since it was more within kid reach anyway so safer. Something happened to the butterbeer jar so the spigot would not turn, which we didn’t discover until after the butterbeer was mixed up, of course, so spigot troubleshooting is in my future. I did buy the annual 20lbs of dry ice, but it didn’t even get used at ALL during the party – waah! :( Since I wasn’t able to start getting my teeth & makeup on until afer 7:30, ready by about 8:20, by the time my guests had helped setting out the rest of my pre-made food & filling all the lab bottles, I had to socialize, take photos & play hostess, so I didn’t bother with the dry ice. I will play with it for decoration photos later though, since I have it. The apples with caramel dip didn’t happen, nor did the fruit or veggie assortments, but the new Slug & Snail Salad, using the newly-discovered bumper crop of pineapple guava from another tree in my backyard, got made by Melanie, but since there was no sign I’m not sure how many people tried it.

    As for decor, I was already disappointed that I didn’t have the time to finish spackling & painting the living room to be the low-contrast-year-round stone wall effect, so the walls were left white for Halloween, something that hasn’t happened in this millenium! ;) However my brick patio & walkway WERE finished before my trip, and they got excellent use, including the firepit on the patio, just where I’d planned it to be good to sit around while still having enough walkway clearance with the new arbor bench. I got many compliments on the patio, especially after pointing out I did all but 4 rows of the bricklaying by myself! :) As I was taking photos, I noticed people actually sitting on my new arbor bench so I excitedly yelled “You’re the first guests sitting on my new bench!” and took a photo. :D The graveyard was more in the back corner by the quince tree & wishing well, since I wanted to be sure there was plenty of milling about room on the grass as well as the patios. I put a light in the quince tree so the graveyard was lit well enough to inspect the epitaphs up close, plus the light was not staring into the graveyard webcam that way. There was another light in the lilac tree by the gate arbor, also filtered by tree leaves to not glare in anyone’s face, and the lamppost got propped up by the old concrete blocks left in the yard so it lighted the brick patio & the shed chapel & bell tower well but was filtered by loquat tree leaves so it wouldn’t glare into the webcam lens on the other side of the yard. Yet another clamp light was aimed at the ceiling of the covered patio, giving enough light to see food & witches brew with still being spooky. Candles & the existing patio light on the screened patio was perfect as well. My dining table chandelier on mid-range dimmer level was good for the laboratory, but the kitchen overhead light stayed on the whole time, so it wasn’t very spooky lighting inside.

    As you walked up to the house, a skeleton was hanging from the tree at the corner, gesturing up the front path, which was lined with black cat luminaria bags and battery powered mini-jack-o-lanterns. This year there was no reason to block off the front door for food in the foyer, so I used my signpost at the front door with the open side gate to encourage people to enter the party via the graveyard. I wanted people to be able to use the front door if necessary, especially to leave since that’s often easier, so I thought people would see the graveyard beckoning with the open gate & get the idea, but since they didn’t, I’ll revise that plan for next year. Perhaps a spooky sign, since my motion-detect Webmistress voice has NEVER worked so I didn’t even bother trying this year. Of course the gravevine & skull wreath I made back in 1994 BEFORE anyone started selling any was on the front door, with the Webmistress standing outside guarding some assorted pumpkins. The Welcome to the Graveyard sign sat at the ground next to the open gate, and the broken skeleton was sitting on my garden bench, top half on one side & hips & legs on the other, so from the side view coming through the gate he looked intact. ;) Walking through the gate you saw the graveyard with fog, then continued along the path with the graveyard chapel with bell tower at the far end. The extra food table for Ghoulish Goodies was on the covered patio next to the witch guarding her brew on the hanging cauldron. The large plastic cold drinks cauldron was in the other corner, with my cast-iron bistro set at the corner by the new arbor bench. I even got the new archway door – cut from fake wood paneling remodeling leftovers! – to function by attaching the hinges to the screen door frame! Hooray! Of course it doesn’t close into the foam archway completely, but that can be improved later. I used the same fancy scrollwork hinges I made for last year’s door, which I still like, and I used last year’s foam wall pieces from the sliding door cut to fit my screen area, added a third sheet of foam carved to match, then painted to match my house color & aged them with brown spray paint. Quite an effective entrance that sure does NOT look like it does the rest of the year! :)

    Going through the archway door you saw the “library & portrait gallery” screened patio area. Since I was already using an old bookcase year-round to house glassware & bottles for my bar area next to the fridge, I had thought of making the screened patio into more like a library with bar, which would be a good place to house all the spooky portraits I keep acquiring or making. Since this room got decorated last and frantically, it has a LOT of room for future improvement, but I just thought this morning that it actually turned out quite nice for such a rushed job! I already had an off-white canvas tablecloth hiding the utility table, so I had found my hallway black lace curtains I had saved from Halloween 2000 ($0.44/yard clearance that year – score!) & used those as tablecloth covers for the brown tablecloth on the bar table & both off-white food tables. They added a nice touch with them all able to match. I wish I had more spiderweb lace left to match my table runner, but I used that on the living room coffetable instead this year.

    Through the sliding glass door into the kitchen there was Edward Scissorhands standing in the Mad Scientist Laboratory on my glass dining table. The chalkboard had instructions for some experiments, and some periodic table charts were also on the wall with the lab coat hanging waiting for the scientist to return. An old non-working oscilloscope was under my old Chem1A lab report book open to a nice lab drawing of mine (someone asked during the party “Is this your actual chemistry homework?” haha!), and my mom had found our old microscope from growing up, so I had that sitting on top of the brain in a jar, with the small Fry’s microscope I bought last year on the other side, past my attempt at a fake distilling setup using thriftstore candleholders. I was fairly satisfied with the mad scientist lab setup, even though it doesn’t glow anymore except for the drink stirrers. Since I’ve made it a drink station now, but the old glowing liquids are poster paints, non-toxic although not very tasty, I’m hesitant to have display-only bottles with liquid in them, fearing people might not pay attention to which bottles aren’t meant for drinking. This display also gives a great backdrop for all the body parts food since it connects them with a theme! I will be brainstorming on other ways to improve this display in the future of course. A better display setup with more height levels, maybe actually over a heat source to continue bubbling, getting dry ice to keep some potions going, are all possibilities! I’m never at a loss for ideas, only time & resources to execute them! ;)

    Candles vs white walls in the living room was pretty bright, so I look forward to next year’s improvements for the interior decor. :) Gargoyle corner was on top of the TV again, but I’m not sure who noticed, since that’s where the gargoyles have been living all year! I did add the giant plastic gargoyles hanging above, so it was different than normal at least. The Addams Family crest hung above the fireplace instead of my grandfathers painting. The piano corner wasn’t much decorated since the candles started to drip pretty early so I blew them out, but some eyeball pillows & pumpkin pillows decorated the nearby chair. The tapestry above the couch was replaced by the Catoween tapestry, and I splurged on some new cute woven jack-o-lantern pillows that mixed in with the spiderweb pillows for the couch & love seat. The glass coffeetable, for so many years hidden in black as the old glowing mad scientist display, now gets to shine with the spiderweb lace fringed table runner, with the Decayed Corpse Chips with Entrail Salsa with the small skeleton in his coffin. Some cute candy dishes go around the coffin, but this works well as a good space to set drinks, food & complete quizzes.

    I will need to do more fog testing for next year! I didn’t leave them running very long on my Friday test run, so I had just tested for positioning and that they worked. My grand plan of using the drainage pipe for fog to rise from the ground didn’t work because the fog is too hot & would need more force to be directed down into the drainage pipe, but behind the arbor bench is still a great place to hide one fog machine, since it can still just pipe onto the walkway, giving fog headed in the opposite direction from the other machine behind plants underneath the quince tree by the wishing well behind the gravestones. However, even on the absolute minimum timer setting, which worked perfectly for the side yard graveyard at my last place, it was much too much fog in the yard, so I kept shutting them off after 5 or 10 minutes, which meant we spent most of the evening without fog. I think I’ll rearrange some setup for Tuesday night, placing some gravestones in the front yard for trick or treaters & using a fog machine out there, so maybe I’ll switch around using one in the front yard for next year’s party too. I’m hesitant to keep my painstakingly created gravestones out in the front for too long for fear of tricks vs. treats. Last year was the first damage I’ve ever had, and someone threw my signs & luminaria around plus broke the top off my resin Welcome to the Graveyard sign since I wasn’t there on Halloween night. This is a new neighborhood for me, and there are enough kids around hopefully trick or treating will be fun! I still have to buy trick or treating candy, but there’s no need to have that on hand for my party since there is PLENTY of other food, so I still have time to buy that. Also my fun motion sensor grabbing hand candy bowl has bit the dust, since all the rubber skin has disintegrated & flaked off the hand! Waah :(

    At midnight we sang a Choral Project-style a cappella Happy Birthday to Binty, then the majority of the guests started leaving, with them all gone by about 12:45. Some had left earlier of course, and the last ones to arrive were Heidi & Noah around 11pm when we were grading the Name That Tune quiz, but there had to have been at least 40 people minimum there at any one time during peak party time, which is great! As I mentioned at the beginning, even with 55 people as the total count, it was not overly warm and never felt crowded due to all the usable space to mill around everywhere. I’m SO glad the brick patio was finished, since it did serve its purpose well of yet another area to hang out, especially with the firepit going out there. It’ll be even more usable next year when I will allow the loquat branch to be pruned off, but it already has a ton of baby fruit developing that will be easiest to harvest! After I get the fruit, then I’ll prune the tree for better patio use. :) Often costumes have more layers than normal clothes, so it’s usually been a problem of being too warm at previous parties, with outside being welcome to cool off, plus this year it was chilly but quite nice outside. Another lucky Halloween weather year – whew! So far in over a decade of parties I’ve only had one rainy Halloween, which was 2000. With both covered patios, even if it does rain, at this house I have enough covered area for large parties in even inclement weather. :)

    Photos to come later, since first we’re off to celebrate ‘s “golden birthday” this evening. :) Hope everyone is having a great weekend!

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    Happy Halloween!

    Photos are now posted in my gallery for this weekend’s big Halloween bash!

    Halloween 2006

    Hope everyone is having a Happy Halloween today!

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