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Halloween Costume Party

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Instead of spending a lot of money on a full buffet, offer a selection of scary finger foods. For each dish, create a sign on an index card and prop up next to the item. You get extra points for using a calligraphy pen or otherwise decorating the signs.
  • Appetizers—Grandma's Chicken Wings (call them "Barbecued Bat Wings"), Dried Scabs (a mixture of dried fruit, such as cherries, cranberries, blueberries, and anything else that resembles a scab), Iptacita's Guacamole (call it "Green Ooze") served with tortilla chips, and baked garlic (label it "Vampire Bane") with sliced baguette.
  • Entree—Make pumpkin sandwiches. Layer a slice of cheese and a slice of turkey between two pieces of bread, and use the condiment of your choice to help "glue" the whole thing together (I like a little mayo and cranberry relish). Press a pumpkin-shaped metal cookie cutter (the plastic ones don't work as well) into the sandwich and gently pull away the crust. Lift cookie cutter away and discard edges of sandwich. Arrange on a serving platter. Tip: Don't forget the candy! If you expect trick-or-treaters, make sure you get a few (dozen?) bags of candy. Instead of waiting by the door for kids, place the bowl of candy near the door with a sign reading, "Help yourself!" Whoever is nearest the door can hold out the bowl for the kiddies.
  • Dessert—Pecan pumpkin pie (skip the caramel sauce and serve with a dollop of whipped topping), store-bought Halloween cookies, cream cheese brownies (cut into squares and top with raspberry sauce, which will look like blood).
  • Beverages—Mulled Wine (serve from the stove top), Cranberry Cocktail Punch Cooler (spike with vodka, if you'd like), assorted cocktails as your budget allows.
Décor and Favors
Because entire books, magazines, and stores are devoted to Halloween décor, I won't go into great detail about creating a haunted house in your home. However, make sure you don't forget these staples:
  • Carved pumpkins—Set these on the porch, in the foyer, in the fireplace, in the bathroom, and/or in the yards. Be sure to use candles expressly made for pumpkins, lest your gourds melt.
  • Hanging ghosts—Blow up a balloon, cover it with a sheet, and tie the "neck" with string. Draw on a haunted face with a black marking pen.
  • Cobwebs everywhere—Purchase by the bag at Halloween stores and hang in every room. Don't forget to stud them with spiders!
  • Dry ice—Put small blocks in buckets with about 6" of warm water to create a foggy effect. Place buckets on the ground in various places around the room, and guests will move the fog about as they walk around. Be sure to wear heavy work gloves when handling the dry ice as it will burn bare skin.
  • Dead flowers—Visit a floral shop a week before the party and ask for their dead blooms. Call a few weeks ahead to make these arrangements so you won't be sniped by like-minded party planners.
These basics are just a few ideas to get you started. If you want to go all out, invest in a Halloween book and do some Internet research. If you have the time, budget, and interest, you can transform your entire home into a virtual graveyard.

Because this party will be large, making individual favors will be time-consuming and expensive. Instead, visit a Halloween or dollar store and pick up a bunch of spooky toys—plastic skeletons, spider rings, chocolate-filled pirate gold, candy, and other tacky treasures—for about $.50 to $1 each. Arrange in a bowl near the bar or in the foyer, and allow guests to take whatever appeals to them.

Music and Entertainment
Halloween compilation CDs are easy to find at this time of year. Here are a few that sound great:

  • Halloween Howls, Andrew Gold
  • Classics from the Crypt, Various Artists
  • Halloween Hits, Various Artists
Consider purchasing, borrowing, or renting a few Halloween or spooky sound-effect CDs, which you can play in the bathroom, "quiet" lounging room, front yard, or foyer. You'll need to borrow additional CD players or boom boxes for this effect.

I call one of my favorite Halloween party activities "Spooky Feel-It." A buffet of brains, guts, and eyeballs. What a delight for the fingertips!

    You'll Need
  • 10 to 15 large grapes, peeled
  • ½ lb. cooked, cold spaghetti
  • ½ lb. cooked, cold elbow macaroni
  • Slices of American cheese, cut into irregular shapes
  • Large grapefruit, peeled and halved
  • 5 large cardboard boxes, at least 18" on each side
  • Scissors
  • Note cards
  • Colored pens or pencils
Arrange the peeled grapes (eyeballs), cold spaghetti (guts), macaroni (maggots), cheese (skin), and grapefruit (brains) in separate bowls. Cut a 4"-diameter hole in the side of each box, and place a box over each bowl. Guests should be able to reach in through the holes to feel what lies beneath. Label each box as appropriate: eyeballs, guts, maggots, skin, and brains. Encourage guests to touch and squeal.

A costume contest is a natural for this party. Reward your guests for taking the trouble to attend in costume by inviting them to parade in front of the whole party. Award prizes for the three best costumes. If you can't decide who wins, let the crowd decide with rounds of applause.

If you're on a small budget and you still want to give a first-rate Halloween party, splurge on the decorations (which are relatively inexpensive), scale down on the food, and make the party BYOB, investing only in soda, water, and a small keg of beer. Make sure your invites read "BYOB," and your guests will bring enough hooch to go around. By creating great atmosphere, your guests will feel as though they are in a much fancier party than the one your small budget allowed.

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Reproduced from Plan a Fabulous Party In No Time, by Tamar Love, by permission of Pearson Education. Copyright © 2005 by Que Publishing.

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