Planning a Halloween Party


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“Thinking of having a Halloween party? Here’s a scary thought for you: You don’t have much time to get ready. Unless you have some magic fairies to help you later, you’d better grab your broomstick and your thinking cap — preferably the black, pointy kind — and get going. With the right planning, you can have a party that kids and even adults will love.

Pick a Theme
Before you even send out the invitations, think: Is this going to be a free-for-all costumed get-together, or will it have a theme? If this is the first boo bash you’ve ever had, your guests might appreciate your telling them how to dress, says Marjorie Funk of Canton, Ohio, who, with her husband, Don, has been throwing Halloween parties for the past 25 years. Is it OK for the adults to dress up, too?

“[If so], the main trick is to keep with a theme, like a toga party or [costumes from] things you find around the house,” she suggests, adding that she once created a “domestic goddess” costume complete with a crown of plastic forks and a plunger for a scepter. “Give them a vague hint.”

Some possibilities: TV or movie characters, historical figures, pirates, villains, superheroes, decades (such as the ’70s), monsters, animals, dead rock stars. You get the picture.

Once you get that figured out, send those invitations. Go the easy way with store-bought invites or show off your artsy side with some wicked homemade creations. Send them e-mail or snail mail, just make sure to include RSVP info. You’ll need to know how many people to expect so you know how much food to get.

Which Brings Us to ... Food.
It’s a party essential. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be fancy. “Halloween is a lot easier than other holidays,” says Diana Krohn, the public-relations director for Halloween Express, a national retail chain. “The snacks can be candy and more munchies-type of food.”

Food can be tied in with games or a party theme, such as hero sandwiches for a superhero-themed party, Funk says, or you can opt for the old standby and order pizzas. Asking friends to bring something can be helpful, too, if you trust they won’t put real spiders in the cupcake icing.

Something to keep in mind: Put out the snacks early, but don’t put out the main dishes until most of the guests arrive, Funk recommends. And, to be safe, “have food that’s not going to spoil if it’s left out,” she adds.

Here, There, Everywhere
It’s not Halloween without gobs of fake spider webs in every doorway and skeletons hanging out in the front yard, but that alone is not enough.

According to the National Retail Federation, Halloween is the second-biggest decorating holiday after Christmas, with 67 percent of consumers planning to buy Halloween decor. Almost half plan to decorate their home or yard.

“With Halloween parties, decorating has become one of the most important parts, and it’s the most time-consuming part,” Krohn says. “You need to think about how much you want to do and how much you want to spend. And you need to think about do you want one thing, like a theme, or do you want a general Halloween mishmash?”

An easy way to decorate is with vinyl wall coverings that make a room look like a dungeon or laboratory, Krohn suggests. Try creepy window clings, hanging bats and scary sculptures for inside and tombstones and animatronic figures for outside. And don’t forget the traditional staple — the jack-o’-lantern — but maybe with an electric candle so that it’s safe for kids.

Playing Around
If sitting around in costumes eating edible eyeballs and gummy worms isn’t enough entertainment, you can always break out some games, which are always a hit with the younger guests. Funk suggests having costumed relay races, creating off-beat trivia questions or a contest to create the quickest mummy out of toilet paper. And, of course, there’s the costume contest. Have guests vote on their favorite. You could also give away more than one prize — one for best kid costume and one for best adult costume.

“Having a contest is a good idea, because some people go all out with their costumes,” Krohn says, adding that pirates are big this year. “It really adds to it all.”

Funk suggests having the costume contest early — but after a good number people show up — so that bulky costumes don’t have to be worn all night. Be sure to compliment those who don’t win, too.

“The main thing, especially for first-time Halloween parties, is that you don’t put your guests under stress or obligation to go all out for it,” Funk says. “It’s a Halloween party. Have fun. That’s what it’s about.”

Spooky Treats
If you’re getting into the Halloween spirit and are a whiz in the kitchen, try these recipes and give your guests some eerie edibles.

Nothing says “welcome” quite like a plate full of googley eyes, which can be accomplished with some ingenuity, a little food coloring and some marzipan. The claylike paste of ground almonds and sugar (which is easily molded) is available in the baking section of most grocers.

 If the recipe seems too complicated, you can do a simpler version. Knead several drops of red gel food coloring into a 7-ounce package of purchased decorating marzipan. Divide the marzipan into 12 pieces, roll into balls, then press a chocolate chip into the center of each to create a pupil.

 Of course, your guests will want something to help wash down those peepers, so give them a cup o’ black punch. Replete with an icy hand, the punch is sure to send chills down your guests’ spines.

MARZIPAN EYES

• 1 (7-ounce) package cake decorating marzipan, soft (this differs from baking marzipan)
• Powdered sugar
• 2 ounces good-quality white chocolate, divided
• Blue, green and red gel or paste food coloring (available at baking supply shops)
• 12 chocolate chips
• 3 tablespoons light corn syrup

Equipment:
• 1 thick marker
• Toothpicks
• 4 thin-bristle paintbrushes
• Mini cupcake liners, optional

Line baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Set aside. Divide marzipan into 12 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. If marzipan is too sticky to work, dust the counter and your hands with powdered sugar. Place balls on baking sheet. Gently press bottom of the marker into the top of each ball to emboss a circle. Leave balls uncovered for 24 hours, during which time the marzipan will dry slightly.

After 24 hours, break white chocolate into small pieces and divide evenly between two small glass bowls. Microwave chocolate in 10-second intervals, stirring between each, until melted. Use toothpick to add blue food coloring, a drop at a time, to one of the bowls of chocolate. Stir between each addition until you achieve the desired color. Repeat the process to color the second bowl of chocolate green. Use brushes to paint the embossed circle (iris of the “eye”) of each ball either blue or green. Carefully press a chocolate chip, point-side down, into the center of each iris to form a pupil. Allow the chocolate to dry several minutes. Mix several drops of red food coloring with one to two drops of water. Use a brush to paint “veins” along the whites of the eyes. Be generous to give the eyes a bloodshot look. Allow the veins to dry several minutes. Once dry, use another brush to paint the eyes with corn syrup to give them a glassy, shiny look. Once dry, use a spatula to transfer the eyes to a tray or small cupcake liners. Cover and store at room temperature for up to a week. For a step-by-step photo slideshow of these directions, go to: www.odense.com (click on “Cake Decorating” and then on “Marzipan Eyes.”) Note: Start to finish 24 hours, 1 hour active. Yields 1 dozen.

— Recipe by Andre Prost Inc.

 BLACK HALLOWEEN PUNCH

• 2 rubber gloves
• 1 (0.16-ounce) envelope unsweetened grape drink mix (such as Kool-Aid)
• 1 (0.16-ounce) envelope unsweetened orange drink mix (such as Kool-Aid)
• 2 cups white sugar
• 3 quarts cold water
• 1 liter ginger ale
• 1 liter cola

Fill gloves 3/4 full with cold water. Tie open end in knot. Lay one of the gloves flat in small baking pan. Arrange other glove palm down on freeze-safe jar, allowing the fingers to hang down the side. Freeze both overnight.  Once hands have frozen, combine drink mixes, sugar and water in large punch bowl. Stir until mixes are completely dissolved. Stir in ginger ale and cola. Briefly run ice hands under cool water then cut away gloves. Float 1 hand in the black brew and hook the other over the side of the bowl. Serve immediately (the fingers melt quickly). Note: Start to finish 10 minutes, plus overnight to freeze ice hands. Yields about 20 servings. 

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