2015 Family Activities Guide for October and Halloween

1

eek's ideasOur friend, Eek the Owl, has shared with us some frighteningly fun ideas to make the Halloween season even more enjoyable.   He has the whole family covered: chefs, crafters, adventurers, and board game aficionados!  There’s something for everyone in our Halloween Family Activities Guide!  Feel free to take a gander and try out some of these activities with your family this Halloween season!  And be sure to subscribe to The Big Scare for even more ideas!

Any opinions expressed in the following article do not constitute an endorsement of any product or retailer.   The following is for information purposes only.  Any instructions are for information purposes only.  The Big Scare cannot guarantee you will experience the same results as we did should you opt to use these instructions.  Feel free to share ways to improve the instructions in the comments section below.  All activities should be conducted under adult supervision.

BEWITCHING BAKING

Our first wise idea involves everyone’s favorite holiday activity — baking.  And, as Eek points out, it’s not just for wintertime.  Halloween provides the opportunity to create all kind of creepy concoctions.  From cut-out cookies to brownies, they all make perfect October baking projects.

HALLOWEEN BROWNIES

While brownies are devilishly delicious by themselves, there’s just something even more appealing about a Halloween Brownie.  Making Halloween Brownies is just as easy as baking regular brownies.  You do exactly what your favorite recipe (or box) tells you to do, but you change up a few things before putting the batter in to bake.  Rather than just pouring the batter into a pan, you want to line the pan with greased aluminum foil.  Basically what you want to do is rip out a piece of baking foil and place it in your baking pan, pushing it up against the sides, making sure the whole thing (meaning the entire bottom and all the sides) is well covered.  Press the tin foil against the sides of the glass or metal pan so that it hugs it and assumes the pan’s shape.  Ensure that there is enough room left to lift the foil up out of the pan when the brownies have baked.  Then proceed to grease (and flour) it as you normally would or as you are instructed to in the baking directions, so as to prevent the brownies from sticking.  Bake the batter as directed.  Remove from the oven and let set until cool.

Rather than cut the brownies in the pan, you are going to remove the entire brownie cake, hence the foil.  Once cooled,  you can remove the brownie cake by lifting the sides of the aluminum foil or turning the pan upside down, a method preferable in cases of wide pans.  Place the brownies on a clean surface covered in powdered sugar and remove the foil lining.  Your brownie cake should have maintained its shape.  (If at anytime it appears that your brownie cake may be breaking, consider cutting the brownie cake in the pan and removing it in smaller portions.)

Now comes the fun part.  Take some open  Halloween cookie cutters (meaning ones that are just outlines that do not have tops which would prevent the cutter from cutting through thick brownies) and cover them in powdered sugar.  (Make sure your cookie cutters are deep enough to cut through the thick brownie cake.  You can buy these cookie cutters at a number of major retailers.  They usually come in “tubs.”)  Press each cookie cutter all the way through the brownie cake, just as you would with cookie cutters in cookie dough.  Carefully remove your brownie shape and place it aside.  Continue to press cutters into the remaining brownie cake until the area of usable brownie cake has been cut.  Take the cutout shapes and decorate them with frosting, powdered sugar and candies.  Use the “scrap” brownies, the unused edges that are leftover, to add layering and detail to your treats — or just eat them!

GRISLY GAME NIGHT

In a world seemingly run by electronic entertainment, it’s sometimes hard to remember that other forms of fun exist., like board games!  And when those board games have a Halloween theme, their fun level quadruples.

There are a number of Halloween-themed board games available on the market, and plenty more that can be purchased secondhand.  One of the easiest games to track down is Halloween Boo-Opoly.  Much like the game from which it derives its objective, Boo-Opoly allows players to buy properties, many of which will be familiar (like Elm Street) and many of which will be new (Gourd Walk).  The old railroads are now different creatures of the night, and the utilities consist of Jack-O’-Lanterns and Witch’s Brew.  Instead of houses and hotels, players may buy Haunted Houses and Full Moons.  The gameplay is quite similar to Monopoly, but there are some slight differences.  Overall, it’s a fun game with a nice design.  The only thing that would make it better would be if the playing pieces weren’t just plain plastic pawns, and instead were shaped in the forms of Halloween characters.

And if Boo-Opoly isn’t quite your game, there are plenty of other options.  From vampire games to zombie games, a trip to the local toy store is certain to reap a nice harvest of spooky entertainment — especially at Halloween.

FROM TRIP TO TREAT

WHAT’S IN A PATCH?

Most families pick up pumpkins from their local grocer (or the super-center which has invaded their neighborhood).  And while it is great to have access to affordably-priced pumpkins, there is just something missing from the experience.

So, while you may opt to get your larger carving-friendly produce from the grocery store, a trip to the local (or not-so-local) pumpkin patch should be in order for your family this year, even if you don’t make your big pumpkin purchase there.  Not only do many patches provide fresh, right-off-the-vine pumpkins, they also provide a ton of activities for your family.  The experience that pumpkin patches provide is unprecedented.  Many of them have games, hayrides, corn mazes, and photo opportunities that the grocery store can’t possibly match.

So, even if you can’t afford a large pumpkin from the patch, your family should still make a visit, maybe pick up some Indian Corn or smaller pumpkins, and take advantage of everything that is offered.  It will be a memory your family will never forget.

BAKED PUMPKIN SEEDS

Now that you have found the perfect pumpkin and are already to carve it, you probably are wondering what to do with all of those insides!  We have the perfect solution — for the seeds at least!

Here is our recipe for delicious baked pumpkin seeds…

1.  Immediately after carving your pumpkin, remove the seeds and rinse them thoroughly.  After they have been cleaned, pad them dry and let them sit for several hours in a warm place.

2. Preheat oven to 300 F.  Once the pumpkin seeds are completely dry, place them in a mixing bowl and add 1 tablespoon melted butter for every one cup of seeds.  Mix the seeds so that they are completely coated.

3.  Sprinkle in garlic powder and salt, enough to taste.  Mix until every seed has a light covering.

4.  Pour the seeds onto a foil-lined baking sheet.  Spread the seeds so that they form a single layer.  It is important not to have them overlapping.

5.  Place the seeds in the oven and let bake 50 minutes, mixing them every 15 minutes or so.

6.  Add additional seasoning as desired and enjoy!

CREEPY CRAFTS

BOX OF BOOS

FRIGHTENING FOAM

If you have ever wandered into an arts and crafts store in the fall, you have undoubtedly seen a variety of pre-packaged art projects that can be used to dreary up any bright October day.

Kid-friendly foam kits, which let you and your family create haunted scenes out of small pieces of pre-cut foam, are just one example.  The variety of these kits has really expanded in recent years, and now you can create all kinds of things: graveyards, haunted houses, masks, monster boxes, cars, and more!

A lot of these kits don’t actually require much skill.  Some come with foam stickers, meaning you don’t even have to glue anything!  That is why they are good for the younger set as well as the older crowd.  But each kit is different, so be sure to read the box for details before considering a purchase.

One of the nice things about these kits is that they allow for a lot of customization and personalization.  You have the freedom and ability to place characters and other scene-setters in a variety of places on the foam bases, while still maintaining the same structure suggested by the manufacturer.  You can even add your own foam pieces or mix pieces among a number of kits.

These kits get the whole family involved in the building process and make great decorations when finished.  And there are a variety of ways you can incorporate the kits into your Halloween festivities.  You can buy one to assemble with the kids on a stormy evening, you can buy a number and have a family foam-building contest, or you can have a variety available at a kids’ Halloween party, set up tables, and have the party-goers bring their own creations to life.

CREEPY COOKIES

Another great option is the Cookie Decorating Kit.  We all know the classic Gingerbread House kits that come out at Christmas.  In recent years, many manufacturers have introduced Halloween-themed kits.  Take for example, the Cookie Graveyard kit from Target.  It is easier to assemble than a house, but just as fun.  The kit contains a cookie base, cookie tombstones, icing, as well as bat, bone, and ghost decorations, in addition to other candies that can be used to help decorate the edible display.  If you can’t track down this particular kit, check for alternate versions at other retailers.  There are a ton to choose from!

CHOCOLATE CHILLS

While you may already have enough chocolate in your house during the Halloween season, you may still be tempted to get some more, especially when you can create your own candy concoctions!  Companies like Wilton produce a lot of chocolate molds and kits that function as great activities for the whole family. Spooky Chocolate Dipped Pretzels are just one example.

The kit includes everything you need to decorate your pretzel rods:  6 fun-shaped mold designs (4 Rat molds, 3 pumpkins, 3 bats, 3 spiders, and 3 skeleton molds), 16 oz. Wilton Candy Melts brand confectionery coating, 4 disposable decorating bags, 1 decorating brush, 20 pretzel bags with ties.  The only thing you will need to supply is the bag of jumbo pretzel rods.  (You may also want to buy some additional chocolate.)

All you need to do is stick the chocolate in a bag, put it in the microwave, squish the bag with your hands, and then pour into the molds.  Stick them in the fridge for about 30 minutes.  And voila; you have some awesome Halloween treats for all those special little boys and ghouls in your life!  What a terrific idea for parties!  And these would make great gifts for the office staff on Halloween day!

The best molds are definitely the rats.  These things are huge – and you get 4 rat molds, so you can make a whole family at one time.  The second best molds are the skeletons, followed the pumpkins.  The bats and spiders are fun, but my final versions didn’t turn out as great as the previously mentioned molds – though they are still pretty nifty.  Regardless, this kit is well worth the affordable price.  It makes for a great weekend activity to do with the kids or with yourself.  Plus, how can you beat the spooky, edible payoff?  The product is available to purchase at various locations: craft stores and other retailers.  And if you aren’t a fan of homemade chocolate creatures, there are plenty of other food craft kits out there – like the JELL-O Jigglers and the Rice Krispy Treat Pumpkins.

OTHER CRAFTY CREEPS

But not all craft projects come out of boxes, and Eek always wants to foster as much creativity as possible, so he suggests you head out to your local retailer to find materials for your next project.  Some craft shops sell Paper Mache.  Recently, Michael’s offered up miniature Paper Mache skulls.  Eek had a lot of fun with these and wanted to share some paint-scheme ideas to get you started:

1.  Paint the skulls the colors of your favorite sports teams.  Even consider painting a logo on the top!

2.  Paint your skull with a base color and then add “metalic” coloring for a shiny look.

3.  Give your skulls a classic Halloween treatment by painting them orange and black.

4.  Give your skulls a tie-dye look.

5.  Use stencils to add images to the top and back of the skulls.

Once you’re done, consider adding them to your current Halloween decor.  Or how about using them as table toppers or as party favors?  The possibilities are endless.

We will be adding to this page as we think of more activities, so why not subscribe to The Big Scare for the latest undead updates?

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2013 Family Activities Guide for October and Halloween

0

eek's ideasOur friend, Eek the Owl, has shared with us some frighteningly fun ideas to make the Halloween season even more enjoyable.   He has the whole family covered: chefs, crafters, adventurers, and board game aficionados!  There’s something for everyone in our Halloween Family Activities Guide!  Feel free to take a gander and try out some of these activities with your family this Halloween season!  And be sure to subscribe to The Big Scare for even more ideas!

Any opinions expressed in the following article do not constitute an endorsement of any product or retailer.   The following is for information purposes only.  Any instructions are for information purposes only.  The Big Scare cannot guarantee you will experience the same results as we did should you opt to use these instructions.  Feel free to share ways to improve the instructions in the comments section below.  All activities should be conducted under adult supervision.

BEWITCHING BAKING

Our first wise idea involves everyone’s favorite holiday activity — baking.  And, as Eek points out, it’s not just for wintertime.  Halloween provides the opportunity to create all kind of creepy concoctions.  From cut-out cookies to brownies, they all make perfect October baking projects.

HALLOWEEN BROWNIES

While brownies are devilishly delicious by themselves, there’s just something even more appealing about a Halloween Brownie.  Making Halloween Brownies is just as easy as baking regular brownies.  You do exactly what your favorite recipe (or box) tells you to do, but you change up a few things before putting the batter in to bake.  Rather than just pouring the batter into a pan, you want to line the pan with greased aluminum foil.  Basically what you want to do is rip out a piece of baking foil and place it in your baking pan, pushing it up against the sides, making sure the whole thing (meaning the entire bottom and all the sides) is well covered.  Press the tin foil against the sides of the glass or metal pan so that it hugs it and assumes the pan’s shape.  Ensure that there is enough room left to lift the foil up out of the pan when the brownies have baked.  Then proceed to grease (and flour) it as you normally would or as you are instructed to in the baking directions, so as to prevent the brownies from sticking.  Bake the batter as directed.  Remove from the oven and let set until cool.

Rather than cut the brownies in the pan, you are going to remove the entire brownie cake, hence the foil.  Once cooled,  you can remove the brownie cake by lifting the sides of the aluminum foil or turning the pan upside down, a method preferable in cases of wide pans.  Place the brownies on a clean surface covered in powdered sugar and remove the foil lining.  Your brownie cake should have maintained its shape.  (If at anytime it appears that your brownie cake may be breaking, consider cutting the brownie cake in the pan and removing it in smaller portions.)

Now comes the fun part.  Take some open  Halloween cookie cutters (meaning ones that are just outlines that do not have tops which would prevent the cutter from cutting through thick brownies) and cover them in powdered sugar.  (Make sure your cookie cutters are deep enough to cut through the thick brownie cake.  You can buy these cookie cutters at a number of major retailers.  They usually come in “tubs.”)  Press each cookie cutter all the way through the brownie cake, just as you would with cookie cutters in cookie dough.  Carefully remove your brownie shape and place it aside.  Continue to press cutters into the remaining brownie cake until the area of usable brownie cake has been cut.  Take the cutout shapes and decorate them with frosting, powdered sugar and candies.  Use the “scrap” brownies, the unused edges that are leftover, to add layering and detail to your treats — or just eat them!

GRISLY GAME NIGHT

In a world seemingly run by electronic entertainment, it’s sometimes hard to remember that other forms of fun exist., like board games!  And when those board games have a Halloween theme, their fun level quadruples.

There are a number of Halloween-themed board games available on the market, and plenty more that can be purchased secondhand.  One of the easiest games to track down is Halloween Boo-Opoly.  Much like the game from which it derives its objective, Boo-Opoly allows players to buy properties, many of which will be familiar (like Elm Street) and many of which will be new (Gourd Walk).  The old railroads are now different creatures of the night, and the utilities consist of Jack-O’-Lanterns and Witch’s Brew.  Instead of houses and hotels, players may buy Haunted Houses and Full Moons.  The gameplay is quite similar to Monopoly, but there are some slight differences.  Overall, it’s a fun game with a nice design.  The only thing that would make it better would be if the playing pieces weren’t just plain plastic pawns, and instead were shaped in the forms of Halloween characters.

And if Boo-Opoly isn’t quite your game, there are plenty of other options.  From vampire games to zombie games, a trip to the local toy store is certain to reap a nice harvest of spooky entertainment — especially at Halloween.

FROM TRIP TO TREAT

WHAT’S IN A PATCH?

Most families pick up pumpkins from their local grocer (or the super-center which has invaded their neighborhood).  And while it is great to have access to affordably-priced pumpkins, there is just something missing from the experience.

So, while you may opt to get your larger carving-friendly produce from the grocery store, a trip to the local (or not-so-local) pumpkin patch should be in order for your family this year, even if you don’t make your big pumpkin purchase there.  Not only do many patches provide fresh, right-off-the-vine pumpkins, they also provide a ton of activities for your family.  The experience that pumpkin patches provide is unprecedented.  Many of them have games, hayrides, corn mazes, and photo opportunities that the grocery store can’t possibly match.

So, even if you can’t afford a large pumpkin from the patch, your family should still make a visit, maybe pick up some Indian Corn or smaller pumpkins, and take advantage of everything that is offered.  It will be a memory your family will never forget.

BAKED PUMPKIN SEEDS

Now that you have found the perfect pumpkin and are already to carve it, you probably are wondering what to do with all of those insides!  We have the perfect solution — for the seeds at least!

Here is our recipe for delicious baked pumpkin seeds…

1.  Immediately after carving your pumpkin, remove the seeds and rinse them thoroughly.  After they have been cleaned, pad them dry and let them sit for several hours in a warm place.

2. Preheat oven to 300 F.  Once the pumpkin seeds are completely dry, place them in a mixing bowl and add 1 tablespoon melted butter for every one cup of seeds.  Mix the seeds so that they are completely coated.

3.  Sprinkle in garlic powder and salt, enough to taste.  Mix until every seed has a light covering.

4.  Pour the seeds onto a foil-lined baking sheet.  Spread the seeds so that they form a single layer.  It is important not to have them overlapping.

5.  Place the seeds in the oven and let bake 50 minutes, mixing them every 15 minutes or so.

6.  Add additional seasoning as desired and enjoy!

CREEPY CRAFTS

BOX OF BOOS

FRIGHTENING FOAM

If you have ever wandered into an arts and crafts store in the fall, you have undoubtedly seen a variety of pre-packaged art projects that can be used to dreary up any bright October day.

Kid-friendly foam kits, which let you and your family create haunted scenes out of small pieces of pre-cut foam, are just one example.  The variety of these kits has really expanded in recent years, and now you can create all kinds of things: graveyards, haunted houses, masks, monster boxes, cars, and more!

A lot of these kits don’t actually require much skill.  Some come with foam stickers, meaning you don’t even have to glue anything!  That is why they are good for the younger set as well as the older crowd.  But each kit is different, so be sure to read the box for details before considering a purchase.

One of the nice things about these kits is that they allow for a lot of customization and personalization.  You have the freedom and ability to place characters and other scene-setters in a variety of places on the foam bases, while still maintaining the same structure suggested by the manufacturer.  You can even add your own foam pieces or mix pieces among a number of kits.

These kits get the whole family involved in the building process and make great decorations when finished.  And there are a variety of ways you can incorporate the kits into your Halloween festivities.  You can buy one to assemble with the kids on a stormy evening, you can buy a number and have a family foam-building contest, or you can have a variety available at a kids’ Halloween party, set up tables, and have the party-goers bring their own creations to life.

CREEPY COOKIES

Another great option is the Cookie Decorating Kit.  We all know the classic Gingerbread House kits that come out at Christmas.  In recent years, many manufacturers have introduced Halloween-themed kits.  Take for example, the Cookie Graveyard kit from Target.  It is easier to assemble than a house, but just as fun.  The kit contains a cookie base, cookie tombstones, icing, as well as bat, bone, and ghost decorations, in addition to other candies that can be used to help decorate the edible display.  If you can’t track down this particular kit, check for alternate versions at other retailers.  There are a ton to choose from!

CHOCOLATE CHILLS

While you may already have enough chocolate in your house during the Halloween season, you may still be tempted to get some more, especially when you can create your own candy concoctions!  Companies like Wilton produce a lot of chocolate molds and kits that function as great activities for the whole family. Spooky Chocolate Dipped Pretzels are just one example.

The kit includes everything you need to decorate your pretzel rods:  6 fun-shaped mold designs (4 Rat molds, 3 pumpkins, 3 bats, 3 spiders, and 3 skeleton molds), 16 oz. Wilton Candy Melts brand confectionery coating, 4 disposable decorating bags, 1 decorating brush, 20 pretzel bags with ties.  The only thing you will need to supply is the bag of jumbo pretzel rods.  (You may also want to buy some additional chocolate.)

All you need to do is stick the chocolate in a bag, put it in the microwave, squish the bag with your hands, and then pour into the molds.  Stick them in the fridge for about 30 minutes.  And voila; you have some awesome Halloween treats for all those special little boys and ghouls in your life!  What a terrific idea for parties!  And these would make great gifts for the office staff on Halloween day!

The best molds are definitely the rats.  These things are huge – and you get 4 rat molds, so you can make a whole family at one time.  The second best molds are the skeletons, followed the pumpkins.  The bats and spiders are fun, but my final versions didn’t turn out as great as the previously mentioned molds – though they are still pretty nifty.  Regardless, this kit is well worth the affordable price.  It makes for a great weekend activity to do with the kids or with yourself.  Plus, how can you beat the spooky, edible payoff?  The product is available to purchase at various locations: craft stores and other retailers.  And if you aren’t a fan of homemade chocolate creatures, there are plenty of other food craft kits out there – like the JELL-O Jigglers and the Rice Krispy Treat Pumpkins.

OTHER CRAFTY CREEPS

But not all craft projects come out of boxes, and Eek always wants to foster as much creativity as possible, so he suggests you head out to your local retailer to find materials for your next project.  Some craft shops sell Paper Mache.  Recently, Michael’s offered up miniature Paper Mache skulls.  Eek had a lot of fun with these and wanted to share some paint-scheme ideas to get you started:

1.  Paint the skulls the colors of your favorite sports teams.  Even consider painting a logo on the top!

2.  Paint your skull with a base color and then add “metalic” coloring for a shiny look.

3.  Give your skulls a classic Halloween treatment by painting them orange and black.

4.  Give your skulls a tie-dye look.

5.  Use stencils to add images to the top and back of the skulls.

Once you’re done, consider adding them to your current Halloween decor.  Or how about using them as table toppers or as party favors?  The possibilities are endless.

We will be adding to this page as we think of more activities, so why not subscribe to The Big Scare for the latest undead updates?

Spook Spotter: Dollar Finds: Paper Monsters Play Set

2
The following does not constitute an endorsement of any product or retailer.   It is for information purposes only.

While browsing through the 99¢ Only Store, we stumbled on a most amazing phenomenon…something so incredible, we mistrust our own judgement.  Look!

What you see above is a very unique item featuring great looking monsters and a cool haunted house.  And while we aren’t entirely certain what it is supposed to be, we decided to call it a Monster play set.  Despite the fact that the package insists this is not a toy, we are uncertain what else it could be.  Oh, of course, they can call it a “centerpiece” all they want, but with 8 stand-up monster figures and a haunted house, a paper play set is more likely.

Included with the haunted house are small cutout figures: a vampire, werewolf, Grim Reaper, witch, mummy, skeleton, scary scarecrow, and a Frankenstein Monster who will look awfully familiar to many a monster kid.

Take a look at this beauty for yourself at your local 99¢ Only.  Well that’s a wrap for September.  Join us next week as we kick off October with The Big Scare’s Halloween Activities Week – 2012 edition.

Spook Spotter: Dollar Finds: Creepy Cloth

0

The following does not constitute an endorsement of any product or retailer.   It is for information purposes only.

There are a lot of options available to haunt the tables, walls and countertops in your home.  From black draperies to cheesecloth to patterned fabrics, the options for adding that extra bit of spookiness to your Halloween display seem limitless.  Recently, black and gray cheesecloth-esque materials, complete with strategically placed holes, have become big in the decorating world.  You have probably seen the stuff in a variety of catalogs, superstores, and Halloween specialty shops.  And some retailers have charged rather high prices for the material.  Now The Dollar Tree is offering its own option — Creepy Cloth.

This material is basically the same type of fabric you see in Halloween stores, but it’s only a dollar.  While specialty stores will charge about nine dollars for a package, Dollar Tree is offering it for a buck.  And while you certainly don’t get as much as you do at the other stores, purchasing a few of these packages will surely do the job you need done, and you probably will still end up saving.  But, in the end, you have to decide how much you need for your home and which option is the best for you.  As for us, one package from The Dollar Tree covered that one empty shelf that needed that extra bit of “Eek!”

Let us know what you think of this offering in the comments below!

And we will see you back here on Monday with all new content!

Spook Spotter: Modern Horror Decor: Jason Candle Holder, Air Blown Freddy, More!

0

The following does not constitute an endorsement of any product or retailer.   It is for information purposes only.

While we spend a lot of time at The Big Scare discussing the monsters from the Golden Age of Hollywood, it would be unfair to discount the mark (or marks!) that have been left by the fiends of modern Horrors.  Where would we be without Michael Myers and his mask?  Freddy Krueger and his glove?  Jason Voorhees and his mother?  The fact of the matter is that they have become as much a part of our favorite season as Dracula and werewolves.  As such, there is some interesting new merchandise featuring these modern monsters this Halloween season.

While we haven’t seen any of the following items in person, we invite you to hunt them down, check them out and decide for yourself just how cool they are.  Share your comments below!

First up is one of the most unique items we have seen for the Friday the 13th franchise — a Jason candle holder!  This is one of the first “classic” tabletop items we have ever seen for any of these modern monsters.

If you like outdoor air-blown displays, you may enjoy this one featuring Freddy.

And last, but not least, Michael Myers Halloween Luminaries!

What do you think of them?  Have you found others?  Tell us in the comments section!

Spook Spotter: Martha Stewart Halloween Bargains

0

The following does not constitute an endorsement of any product or retailer.   It is for information purposes only.

Some Marshall’s stores have received shipments of Martha Stewart Halloween decorations and craft supplies.  And they are selling them at discounted rates, something usually unheard of when it comes to the Martha Stewart line.  Our local Marshall’s store has everything from window clings to Halloween scrapbooking supplies.  The selection, if available, at your store will probably vary.

We managed to pick up an “Elegant Witch Scene Setter” for just $2.99.  Unlike the more common — and more expensive — scene setters at party stores that are made of a vinyl-like material, this one is made of a light fabric, so it appears to be more durable.  But, the name is also a little misleading, as it is less like a ”scene setter” and more like a traditional wall or door hanging.  You may want to check out a Marshall’s store to see if they have anything you can use to haunt your home… or your Halloween craft projects!   If you should go, let us know what you dig up by posting in the comments section below!

Check back next week for our final weekly post before our daily countdown begins, September 3!

2013 Family Activities Guide for October and Halloween

1

eek's ideasOur friend, Eek the Owl, has shared with us some frighteningly fun ideas to make the Halloween season even more enjoyable.   He has the whole family covered: chefs, crafters, adventurers, and board game aficionados!  There’s something for everyone in our Halloween Family Activities Guide!  Feel free to take a gander and try out some of these activities with your family this Halloween season!  And be sure to subscribe to The Big Scare for even more ideas!

Any opinions expressed in the following article do not constitute an endorsement of any product or retailer.   The following is for information purposes only.  Any instructions are for information purposes only.  The Big Scare cannot guarantee you will experience the same results as we did should you opt to use these instructions.  Feel free to share ways to improve the instructions in the comments section below.  All activities should be conducted under adult supervision.

BEWITCHING BAKING

Our first wise idea involves everyone’s favorite holiday activity — baking.  And, as Eek points out, it’s not just for wintertime.  Halloween provides the opportunity to create all kind of creepy concoctions.  From cut-out cookies to brownies, they all make perfect October baking projects.

HALLOWEEN BROWNIES

While brownies are devilishly delicious by themselves, there’s just something even more appealing about a Halloween Brownie.  Making Halloween Brownies is just as easy as baking regular brownies.  You do exactly what your favorite recipe (or box) tells you to do, but you change up a few things before putting the batter in to bake.  Rather than just pouring the batter into a pan, you want to line the pan with greased aluminum foil.  Basically what you want to do is rip out a piece of baking foil and place it in your baking pan, pushing it up against the sides, making sure the whole thing (meaning the entire bottom and all the sides) is well covered.  Press the tin foil against the sides of the glass or metal pan so that it hugs it and assumes the pan’s shape.  Ensure that there is enough room left to lift the foil up out of the pan when the brownies have baked.  Then proceed to grease (and flour) it as you normally would or as you are instructed to in the baking directions, so as to prevent the brownies from sticking.  Bake the batter as directed.  Remove from the oven and let set until cool.

Rather than cut the brownies in the pan, you are going to remove the entire brownie cake, hence the foil.  Once cooled,  you can remove the brownie cake by lifting the sides of the aluminum foil or turning the pan upside down, a method preferable in cases of wide pans.  Place the brownies on a clean surface covered in powdered sugar and remove the foil lining.  Your brownie cake should have maintained its shape.  (If at anytime it appears that your brownie cake may be breaking, consider cutting the brownie cake in the pan and removing it in smaller portions.)

Now comes the fun part.  Take some open  Halloween cookie cutters (meaning ones that are just outlines that do not have tops which would prevent the cutter from cutting through thick brownies) and cover them in powdered sugar.  (Make sure your cookie cutters are deep enough to cut through the thick brownie cake.  You can buy these cookie cutters at a number of major retailers.  They usually come in “tubs.”)  Press each cookie cutter all the way through the brownie cake, just as you would with cookie cutters in cookie dough.  Carefully remove your brownie shape and place it aside.  Continue to press cutters into the remaining brownie cake until the area of usable brownie cake has been cut.  Take the cutout shapes and decorate them with frosting, powdered sugar and candies.  Use the “scrap” brownies, the unused edges that are leftover, to add layering and detail to your treats — or just eat them!

GRISLY GAME NIGHT

In a world seemingly run by electronic entertainment, it’s sometimes hard to remember that other forms of fun exist., like board games!  And when those board games have a Halloween theme, their fun level quadruples.

There are a number of Halloween-themed board games available on the market, and plenty more that can be purchased secondhand.  One of the easiest games to track down is Halloween Boo-Opoly.  Much like the game from which it derives its objective, Boo-Opoly allows players to buy properties, many of which will be familiar (like Elm Street) and many of which will be new (Gourd Walk).  The old railroads are now different creatures of the night, and the utilities consist of Jack-O’-Lanterns and Witch’s Brew.  Instead of houses and hotels, players may buy Haunted Houses and Full Moons.  The gameplay is quite similar to Monopoly, but there are some slight differences.  Overall, it’s a fun game with a nice design.  The only thing that would make it better would be if the playing pieces weren’t just plain plastic pawns, and instead were shaped in the forms of Halloween characters.

And if Boo-Opoly isn’t quite your game, there are plenty of other options.  From vampire games to zombie games, a trip to the local toy store is certain to reap a nice harvest of spooky entertainment — especially at Halloween.

FROM TRIP TO TREAT

WHAT’S IN A PATCH?

Most families pick up pumpkins from their local grocer (or the super-center which has invaded their neighborhood).  And while it is great to have access to affordably-priced pumpkins, there is just something missing from the experience.

So, while you may opt to get your larger carving-friendly produce from the grocery store, a trip to the local (or not-so-local) pumpkin patch should be in order for your family this year, even if you don’t make your big pumpkin purchase there.  Not only do many patches provide fresh, right-off-the-vine pumpkins, they also provide a ton of activities for your family.  The experience that pumpkin patches provide is unprecedented.  Many of them have games, hayrides, corn mazes, and photo opportunities that the grocery store can’t possibly match.

So, even if you can’t afford a large pumpkin from the patch, your family should still make a visit, maybe pick up some Indian Corn or smaller pumpkins, and take advantage of everything that is offered.  It will be a memory your family will never forget.

BAKED PUMPKIN SEEDS

Now that you have found the perfect pumpkin and are already to carve it, you probably are wondering what to do with all of those insides!  We have the perfect solution — for the seeds at least!

Here is our recipe for delicious baked pumpkin seeds…

1.  Immediately after carving your pumpkin, remove the seeds and rinse them thoroughly.  After they have been cleaned, pad them dry and let them sit for several hours in a warm place.

2. Preheat oven to 300 F.  Once the pumpkin seeds are completely dry, place them in a mixing bowl and add 1 tablespoon melted butter for every one cup of seeds.  Mix the seeds so that they are completely coated.

3.  Sprinkle in garlic powder and salt, enough to taste.  Mix until every seed has a light covering.

4.  Pour the seeds onto a foil-lined baking sheet.  Spread the seeds so that they form a single layer.  It is important not to have them overlapping.

5.  Place the seeds in the oven and let bake 50 minutes, mixing them every 15 minutes or so.

6.  Add additional seasoning as desired and enjoy!

CREEPY CRAFTS

BOX OF BOOS

FRIGHTENING FOAM

If you have ever wandered into an arts and crafts store in the fall, you have undoubtedly seen a variety of pre-packaged art projects that can be used to dreary up any bright October day.

Kid-friendly foam kits, which let you and your family create haunted scenes out of small pieces of pre-cut foam, are just one example.  The variety of these kits has really expanded in recent years, and now you can create all kinds of things: graveyards, haunted houses, masks, monster boxes, cars, and more!

A lot of these kits don’t actually require much skill.  Some come with foam stickers, meaning you don’t even have to glue anything!  That is why they are good for the younger set as well as the older crowd.  But each kit is different, so be sure to read the box for details before considering a purchase.

One of the nice things about these kits is that they allow for a lot of customization and personalization.  You have the freedom and ability to place characters and other scene-setters in a variety of places on the foam bases, while still maintaining the same structure suggested by the manufacturer.  You can even add your own foam pieces or mix pieces among a number of kits.

These kits get the whole family involved in the building process and make great decorations when finished.  And there are a variety of ways you can incorporate the kits into your Halloween festivities.  You can buy one to assemble with the kids on a stormy evening, you can buy a number and have a family foam-building contest, or you can have a variety available at a kids’ Halloween party, set up tables, and have the party-goers bring their own creations to life.

CREEPY COOKIES

Another great option is the Cookie Decorating Kit.  We all know the classic Gingerbread House kits that come out at Christmas.  In recent years, many manufacturers have introduced Halloween-themed kits.  Take for example, the Cookie Graveyard kit from Target.  It is easier to assemble than a house, but just as fun.  The kit contains a cookie base, cookie tombstones, icing, as well as bat, bone, and ghost decorations, in addition to other candies that can be used to help decorate the edible display.  If you can’t track down this particular kit, check for alternate versions at other retailers.  There are a ton to choose from!

CHOCOLATE CHILLS

While you may already have enough chocolate in your house during the Halloween season, you may still be tempted to get some more, especially when you can create your own candy concoctions!  Companies like Wilton produce a lot of chocolate molds and kits that function as great activities for the whole family. Spooky Chocolate Dipped Pretzels are just one example.

The kit includes everything you need to decorate your pretzel rods:  6 fun-shaped mold designs (4 Rat molds, 3 pumpkins, 3 bats, 3 spiders, and 3 skeleton molds), 16 oz. Wilton Candy Melts brand confectionery coating, 4 disposable decorating bags, 1 decorating brush, 20 pretzel bags with ties.  The only thing you will need to supply is the bag of jumbo pretzel rods.  (You may also want to buy some additional chocolate.)

All you need to do is stick the chocolate in a bag, put it in the microwave, squish the bag with your hands, and then pour into the molds.  Stick them in the fridge for about 30 minutes.  And voila; you have some awesome Halloween treats for all those special little boys and ghouls in your life!  What a terrific idea for parties!  And these would make great gifts for the office staff on Halloween day!

The best molds are definitely the rats.  These things are huge – and you get 4 rat molds, so you can make a whole family at one time.  The second best molds are the skeletons, followed the pumpkins.  The bats and spiders are fun, but my final versions didn’t turn out as great as the previously mentioned molds – though they are still pretty nifty.  Regardless, this kit is well worth the affordable price.  It makes for a great weekend activity to do with the kids or with yourself.  Plus, how can you beat the spooky, edible payoff?  The product is available to purchase at various locations: craft stores and other retailers.  And if you aren’t a fan of homemade chocolate creatures, there are plenty of other food craft kits out there – like the JELL-O Jigglers and the Rice Krispy Treat Pumpkins.

OTHER CRAFTY CREEPS

But not all craft projects come out of boxes, and Eek always wants to foster as much creativity as possible, so he suggests you head out to your local retailer to find materials for your next project.  Some craft shops sell Paper Mache.  Recently, Michael’s offered up miniature Paper Mache skulls.  Eek had a lot of fun with these and wanted to share some paint-scheme ideas to get you started:

1.  Paint the skulls the colors of your favorite sports teams.  Even consider painting a logo on the top!

2.  Paint your skull with a base color and then add “metalic” coloring for a shiny look.

3.  Give your skulls a classic Halloween treatment by painting them orange and black.

4.  Give your skulls a tie-dye look.

5.  Use stencils to add images to the top and back of the skulls.

Once you’re done, consider adding them to your current Halloween decor.  Or how about using them as table toppers or as party favors?  The possibilities are endless.

We will be adding to this page as we think of more activities, so why not subscribe to The Big Scare for the latest undead updates?