Halloween wrap-up and weekend fun

Wow, I have a lot of updating to do from the weekend! And my weekend is continuing — I’m using up some vacation time today. As always, it’s been insanely busy . . . and I’ve been plugging away on my novel for NaNoWriMo. I’m up to 12,000 words! That’s way beyond where I’d hoped to be on day three, but not as far (I don’t think) as I was on day three last year. Well, it’s no matter — I’ll have more time this week to forge ahead.

So Friday was Halloween, of course, and we had a lot of fun! My day at the paper turned out well, with many folks arriving in costume.

A few highlights:

I'm an undead witch; Kelly is a butterfly!

I'm an undead witch; Kelly is a butterfly!

Brandon is Calvin of Calvin & Hobbes (he made that!)

My sister is a lovely '50s glamour girl; I'm still undead

My sister is a lovely '50s glamour girl; I'm still undead

So I ate way too much — especially where chocolate is concerned — but we had a good time. It’s hard to believe Halloween came and went in such a hurry, now it’s November and we’re gearing up for Christmas . . . but I’m excited for the holidays, too!

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Beginner’s candy-making with Meg

Armed with a print-out from Allrecipes.com and a little bit of chutzpah, I set about making a tasty fall treat for my Halloween pot luck at the office tomorrow: candy corn bark. Had I heard of this sort of snack? No — but it’s delicious!

I ran into a few problems right off the bat while gathering my ingredients at Target last night: They did not carry the specific type of chocolate cookies the recipe calls for, and they were sold out of white chocolate baking chips. Not a great start! But I improvised: they did have graham crackers (I figure chocolate, grahams . . . you know where I’m headed with this!) and plenty of milk chocolate baking chips. I know that “improvising” isn’t usually a good idea for an inexperienced chef, but I was exhausted after a very long day . . . and Mom and I were not about to head over to a grocery store.

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Making our own Halloween magic

We all know that as we grow up and enter the “adult” world, the magic of the holidays begins to fizzle out a bit, lost in the shuffle of e-mails, requests for time off, paperwork and crazed schedules . . . at least until we have our own children. Considering I’m not quite at that stage of life yet, I’m forced to enthuse as much of my own holiday joy into my usual, everyday life as I can!

This Friday, Halloween, I’ll put these skills to the test. Since I’ll be at work until early evening, I’ll be dressing up with my co-workers — probably as a witch — and fueling up on as much sugar as possible. We’re having a Halloween party, too — and this is where my next food dilemma comes in.

As I frequently blog, I’m trying (sometimes vainly) to learn how to cook. So rather than going for all of my old pot luck standby foods — brownies, pasta salad — I’m going to branch out and try something . . . different. Something fall-ish. Something with a Halloween theme!

I know, I’m talking crazy. But I found this recipe on AllRecipes.com, and I’m going to try it:

Candy Corn Bark

Ingredients:
• 16 Halloween-colored chocolate sandwich cookies, chopped
• 1 1/2 cups broken small pretzels
• 1/3 cup raisins
• 1 1/2 pounds white chocolate, broken into squares
• 2 cups candy corn
• orange and brown sprinkles

Directions

1. Spread the cookies, pretzels and raisins evenly onto a lightly greased small baking sheet. Melt chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, or in the microwave, stirring frequently until melted. Remove from the heat while there are still a few chunks, and stir until smooth. White chocolate burns easily.

2. Drizzle chocolate with a spoon over the goodies in the pan, spreading the top flat to coat evenly. Top with candy corn and sprinkles. Let cool until firm. Break into pieces and store in an airtight container.

~*~*~

Several folks on the website suggested using peanuts instead of cookies, so I think I’m going to do that — and I plan on tripling this recipe to make enough for all my snacking co-workers! And so I can have an extra batch for my snacking family — especially me. I’m off to get all my ingredients after work tonight.

If you’re looking for other goodies to make for Friday, check out the rest of their Halloween recipes and concoctions. Making my own hot spiced cider sounds pretty awesome, too . . . I love the fall!

Are you afraid of the… office?

I got back from a quick lunch at Panera to discover that the lights in our office building were out! It’s been incredibly windy all day, so I guess the storm blew the power lines around. The main traffic light across the street was out, too. And, as I often whine, I have a windowless office . . . and with only a tiny security light to keep us safe, Brandon, Sandy and I hunkered down for about a half hour waiting for order to be restored — and our lamps and computers to come back to life.

So, reclining in the near pitch-black, what could we possibly do to fill the time?

We told scary stories, of course!

Well, by “told scary stories,” I mean rehashing the plots of the creepiest movies we’ve ever seen — culminating in the acting out of some of said terrifying scenes. Sandy’s votes for scariest movies ever include “Children of the Corn” and “The Village”; Brandon is not a fan of “Predator” or the Jason films. I don’t like anything creepy at all, period — and I really hated “The Ring.” I know, most people thought it was stupid . . . but watching it during a theater lock-in in high school, shifting about in a huge, cold and darkly empty auditorium with that creepy undead girl climbing around on the giant projector screen, I was terrified! I think I watched most of it from the tops of my eyelids, staring at my lap.

Rehashing all the gore and psychologically terrifying plots we’ve been privvy to over the years was pretty fitting right before Halloween. My sister has long been afraid of “Edward Scissorhands,” and I actually cringe when “Hocus Pocus” comes on — Bette Midler screeching with those gigantic teeth for the “BOOOOOOK!” And I don’t like seeing people being hanged (not that anyone enjoys that!) — it really disturbs me. So the opening sequence is just a little too much.

But it was a fun, tiny break from the routine! Everything came back on about an hour later and we had to then work double-time to get everything to press as scheduled. But all’s well that ends well — and now I’m thinking about all sorts of creepy things.

My growingly alarming pumpkin obsession

My Friday off — also to be known forevermore as the day my pumpkin obsession reached a fever pitch . . . and a point of no return. If I’d gotten over to Starbucks for my pumpkin spice latte, I think I would have had to enter gourd rehab. Instead, I got this early this morning, having breakfast with my sister and grandparents at Einstein’s:

A pumpkin bagel with pumpkin cream cheese! Now, if that doesn’t cure your pumpkin hankering . . . nothing can.

After I got my haircut (yay!), we came back home to take our family holiday photo and regroup. Then it was off to the pumpkin patch! Earlier in the month, I fretted over the possibility that it wouldn’t open this year — the first year in my recollection that we wouldn’t be able to gather up our favorite orange gourds. Well, rest assured — the stand is open, we got the pumpkins — and now all that’s left is to carve those babies.

Then we followed it all up with a little of my grandmother’s homemade pumpkin and cranberry bread. I only wish I were kidding.

And I’m wearing an orange sweater today!

Another delightful, pumpkin-filled afternoon! And once Halloween is over, I’ll still have Thanksgiving to look forward to . . . all those pumpkin pies . . .

Getting my pumpkin hopes up

I got really excited for a few seconds this weekend when I thought I saw our favorite pumpkin stand on Route 5 had gone up! It’s too soon, of course — and there was nothing there but an old, crumbling building and an empty pick-up truck. But I’m slightly concerned because, after picking out our prized gourds last October, the woman working at our stand told my dad she wasn’t sure they would be continuing to sell on Route 5 anymore. I think she said her father, who technically owns the operation, was getting older and wasn’t able to keep up with it.

But what will I do without my pumpkin patch?! My mother has photos of my sister and I toddling along as children, pointing to the pumpkin we wanted so my dad could haul it off to the back of the van. We have the same pictures year after year — all of us standing in front of a scarecrow or witch or bale of hay. We pick out the gourds, then listen as they rattle around in the backseat on our way home . . . then pick a quiet evening, scoop out the “guts” and decide whether to make our pumpkin faces “scary” or “pretty.” In later years, as we’ve gotten busier and busier and somehow couldn’t find time to actually carve them, we’ve painted them with glitter. They’re always displayed at a place of prominence on the kitchen table or the bar.

A fall without my Route 5 pumpkin patch? Insanity! Unfathomable. The world will have gone mad! Here’s hoping it really does appear sometime soon . . .