The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

October 9, 2013

DIYW (Do It Your Way) Halloween

By Lisa Shrewsberry
Lifestyles Editor

— Frank Sinatra had the endurance of common table salt for this simple reason: he did it HIS way. As I pored over Halloween recipes involving springform pans, thermometers, waterbaths, and pumpkin carving plans that could earn my kids scholarships to culinary school, I thought: There has to be an easier way.

And there was.

While I enjoy a slice of multi-layered candy corn cheesecake just as much as the next gal, I also have to schedule both calls to my loving mother and bathroom breaks. Sadly, the two often overlap. (Sorry, Mom).

So I’ve included the down-and-dirty tips and spirited inspirations I found, tried and adapted for getting into

Halloween without spending a fortune or taking a furlough.

I also consulted a local pharmacist who moonlights as the Queen of Halloween, asking her thoughts on the subject. I learned if a busy mom to two young boys has time to indulge her fun side, then anyone has time.

Don’t Mind If I Dippity-Do

This dessert dip is as pretty as it is delicious. Just for fun, serve in a small hollowed-out pie pumpkin with an assortment of fruits for slathering, or with vanilla wafers or ginger snaps for a crunchy, sweet twist to party chips and dip.


1   tub of French Vanilla

        Cool Whip

2   packages white chocolate

        instant pudding

1   15-ounce can of pumpkin

        puree (not pie filling, but    

        100 percent pure pumpkin)

1   cup milk

1/2 cup sour cream

     Pumpkin pie spice to taste

        and for finishing garnish

In a medium-sized bowl, mix pudding with milk and fold in Cool Whip and sour cream. Fold in pumpkin and a tablespoon (more or less) of spice until well blended. Sprinkle with a finishing dash of spice and refrigerate or serve immediately.

Decor to Die For

There’s something only close friends who’ve received her annual Halloween Party invitations know about Cyndee Wills — she and husband Eddie, a firefighter by trade, are closet zombies. The Hallow-fiends have historically gone all out hosting as many as 80 guests and blitzing their home in orange, black and red decorations.

This year, something had to give. The woman whose recent Facebook posts include: “Halloween Wars (Food Network) is on. YAY!! I wait all year for this!” has scaled back, at least temporarily, confining her staging to one room in her house, a clever idea for those who lack the time or motivation for inside-out decorating.

“I have had a big Halloween party every year since college. Then we would always go to Universal Studios in Orlando for Halloween.” Now, she has two children, Blaine who is 1 year old and Alston, three. Add to the mayhem the fact that her oldest is in a bodycast from a recent accident.

“About the only thing he can be this year is a mummy,” she admits. Fold in her extra mom duties, a crazy 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. schedule and her friends’ “married with kids” status change, and it’s a recipe that could use a pinch of rest. So, at least this year, she opted to forego most of the outdoor decorations and focus her efforts to a definite space in the dining room, choosing carefully from stuff she’s accumulated over the years and adding a few things here and there.

Instead of the daunting, three-day ordeal plus a DJ, she comes home now after a long day to enjoy the creepy scene she created. “Honestly, we’re never home to enjoy outdoor decorations. So, when I do get home now, I just turn on everything inside then.”

Even pumpkinheads could take a lesson from Wills’ compromise: You don’t HAVE to do outdoor decorations and you also don’t have to carry decorations throughout the home. Pick a clever theme and confine it to a room, which also makes clean up easier. Use what you have, and make new additions each year.

For those with the patience to wait until next year for display, there are great bargains to be had on decorations the day after Halloween.

For those moaning over missing the Wills’ party— never fear. It may return next year.

“I’m hoping to move it out of the house so it can be even bigger. We may turn it into a charity event,” she predicts.

Dracula Cookies

Chocolate chip cookies

   (cool before preparation

   if baking from scratch)

Red cookie frosting


Sliced almonds (for fangs)

Frost outer, underside edge of two cookies and carefully place marshmallows between to resemble a mouth with teeth.

Add “fangs” and voila!

(Or should we say: mmwhahahahahaha?)

A Crafty Trick

This is one of those: “Why didn’t I invent that?” moments. Moms who serendipitously clicked on the website aren’t sweating Halloween preparations for singletons or even classrooms of kiddos this year.

They had all the materials, prepped and boxed with illustrated directions, shipped to them in single 1-2 kid appropriate craft crates, travel crates and individual party-favor sized crates. Kiwi Crates take the time-consuming elements out of crafting with kids.

This season’s Glowing Halloween crate includes materials (including flickering night light inserts) for four decoupage luminaries (glittery Mod Podge and carefully cut tissue squares also included) and for a top-quality ghost necklace.

This is so far beyond the typical kid craft kit, there’s no comparison. $19.95 for single crates or $60 for a three-month subscription, Kiwi Crates are geared more for kids ages 3-7, but my 13-year-old thoroughly enjoyed helping her sister and displaying her own luminary.

Haunting Your House

Americans spent close to $8 billion on Halloween last year, according to the National Retail Federation. Becoming the best-decorated house on the block may seem difficult — but it’s easy if you have insider tips and tricks.

Create a cemetery: “Haunting” your yard sets the tone for your whole haunted house. One of the easiest yet eeriest things you can do is turn yard into a graveyard.  Let your grass grow long, add a gothic fence and a zombie or two popping up through the ground and make your own tombstone or coffin to complete the look.

- Get pink or blue foam from the hardware store. Cut the foam into the shape of a tombstone and then coat it with light plaster, thin concrete or other textured material found at the hardware or art supply store. Paint it gray, and use a hot-wire knife to carve in RIP and a name.

- To make a coffin, use 1x6 pine boards and 2x2s nailed together into a box. Paint the outside and then get creative with your theme. For a Victorian vampire style coffin, line the interior with velvet curtains. For a an Old West theme, use jute or burlap.