Halloween Decorating and Dining
I tend to get pretty excited about any kind of annual festival. Christmas is the biggest, but Halloween is definitely in second-place. Around this time of year, Sam has learnt to just accept that Clementine and I have free reign over our family room. Sat at his desk, a string of Mexican Day of the Dead faces accidentally falls from the shelf and makes him nearly jump off his chair. He says nothing and continues to type - he's lucky we haven't already covered his computer in pretend spider webs.
We've amassed a fair few pre-made Halloween decorations this year. A raid of both poundland and poundworld furnished us with a few strands of skeleton bunting (both sparkly, and non-sparkly); a string of skulls on a ribbon, and some fold out pumpkin, whilst our Halloween box already contained some pumpkin-shaped candles, LED flickering tea lights and some ready made stretch-out spider webs.
However, the most fun part of Halloween for Clementine and I is making our Halloween window display. Last year, we made a graveyard, with bats flying around it. The year before, we made a spooky castle with witches and black cats. This year, we made a pumpkin patch with ghosts in the windows above. Our method is pretty achievable even for the least artistically talented among us. The first step is always finding images that we really like on the computer. After this, we print them out at full A4 size, and then cut around the image. We then trace around the image onto coloured card, and carefully cut out this shape. You can be quite ambitious here and use scalpels, but there's no need since you can make something just as effective with very basic cutting out skills! We then either use them as they are, or add to them in sharpie marker, glitter, googly eyes etc. Whatever we think will work. This year we chose to give all of our cut-outs faces. Here is how it turned out:
The streetlights on our road give off a kind of orangey glow when it's dark, so with the blinds drawn, the silhouettes of our window displays always take on a whole new life for us, casting really exciting shadows.
Not content to simply decorate our house, and ourselves for Halloween, we also decided to make a three course spooky dinner for our friends Amy and Bob. A brief pause here to say that although I always hugely enjoy the company of these particular friends, I deeply regretted getting quite so Pinterest-happy with the food on a day when I was all alone with the children and they both needed Halloween costumes and wanted to go Trick or Treating. I'd also insisted that our dinner party would be fancy dress, so I had to get myself ready too. We never get very good pictures of ourselves in our Halloween outfits because it's always so dark and we're always in a hurry to get our trick or treating. Here's a vague idea of how we looked!
For our starter, we had carrot and garlic risotto balls, disguised as pumpkins. These were really simple to make, although I'd recommend waiting for your baby to fall asleep before making risotto, otherwise, you too might nearly destroy one of your saucepans and be looked at like a murderer by your fiancée... You make the risotto how you normally would- adding the liquid slowly and continuously stirring. I used white wine, Boursin and Carrot juice in ours. The carrot juice is what gives it the orange colour, but it did take the entire bottle! A quick note here to say that if you want to make these, you'll need to forward plan, as it took absolutely ages and about ten shops for Clementine and I to find carrot juice. (We eventually found one lone, slightly dusty looking bottle in Holland and Barrat.) To make the risotto resemble pumpkins, you roll it into balls, stick the end of a green bean into the top, and cut up black olives to make the face. I've seen images on Pinterest where people have made the whole face, but due to time constraints I just did the eyes. Personally I think mine look cuter that way...
For our main course I made 'eyeball' tagliatelle. I chose green tagliatelle because it looked more suggestively gross. I made my famous 'everything in the cupboard' tomato sauce to go over the top: tinned tomatoes, capers, anchovies, paprika, 'Oooh! What's that? Lea and Perrins? Yes I'll add that too' ... Probably several other spices and condiments. I can't really control myself when there's no recipe. Since we're already off piste, I like to go WAY off piste. Anyway, my guests were lucky because I also added a whole punnet off fresh baby tomatoes and some organic spinach, so there was genuine nutritional goodness. To make the eyeball topping, you're meant to halve a baby tomato, and hollow it out, then scoop some mozzarella into it and then put a little bit of a basil leaf on top to make the pupil. By this point in the evening, even though I'd pre-made my weird cupboard sauce, time was against me as Clementine was fading fast and needed to be fed. Amy came to the rescue and helped me make the eyeballs (actually she made more or less all of them.) If I was going to make this again I would use Philadelphia or some other soft sort of cheese instead, or maybe bake them to make the cheese look smooth. Somehow, our mozzarella wouldn't come out in smooth eyeball-esque shiny pieces. Anyway, there was a passing resemblance to eyeballs, but that was about it.
Clementine and I pre-made the pudding the day before. For 'the kids' (actually, just Iris really..) we made 'skeleton gelatin.' To make ours, we bought a plastic fishbowl style punch bowl from poundworld, and layered different colours of jelly onto one another to give a rainbow effect. This takes a fair bit of patience, as you have to wait a good six hours between each layer to make sure the previous layer has set so you don't get any colour or flavour bleed. To make our skeleton gelatin supper gross, we added the spookiest sweets we could find (teeth, jelly babies...) and also added in various plastic body parts which we'd found in pound land - parts of a skeleton and some eyeballs. Clementine absolutely loved making this, and was particularly excited about the glitter jelly that formed the top layer. We accidentally left this to cool down for a little too long before adding it on top of our lime and strawberry layers, so it had already partially set when we poured it over. This actually gave it quite a cool 'brain-like' texture, which actually really worked. Here's how it turned out:
For the grown ups, I made smaller jellies in martini glasses. I didn't add any glitter jelly to this one, but I did add a shot of vodka to the lime jelly layer, and a shot of amaretto to the strawberry layer. I'm told they packed quite a punch, but by that point in the evening I was just so completely exhausted that I honestly didn't even notice. I was also suffering from (what was apparently a one-day only) dreadful cold, so I didn't have masses of energy anyway.
I didn't get any good shots of the rest of us, or the lovely dessert that Amy also brought with her (a sort of haunted apple tart), but it should probably be known that Sam was wearing a red and white striped maternity top of mine and a red bobble hat in a half-hearted attempt to be Where's Wally, whilst Amy and Bob were wearing t shirts with the EU Flag on them, and zombie face paint. Probably the funniest (and saddest...) Halloween costumes I've ever seen.