A Halloween Reminisce

Since Halloween is this week, I thought I'd dig through some boxes of old photographs and reminisce a bit about the Halloweens our family has celebrated. We've never embraced the scary/creepy side of Halloween, but we are all about the fun! For most of our kids' growing up years, we lived in a fabulous neighborhood for trick-or-treating...a real family affair of parents, kids, and pets going door to door, lots of ooh-ing and ahh-ing over costumes, and always the whispered, "Don't forget to say thank you!" in the dark. 


Bethany, our oldest daughter, using the same candy pail that I used growing up.
With Julia on her first Halloween - 1993.
Some years I got creative with the costumes and made them (like the pumpkins above), some years we purchased them, and some years we hodge-podged a costume together from whatever we could find in the dress-up box. What was I thinking with that Humpty Dumpty costume? Yikes! That's a blackmail worthy sort of photo! He looks a bit dazed, but the girls look happy!

And then there were three...Raggedy Ann, Humpty Dumpty, and Snow White. - Halloween 1997.
Our traditional Halloween night dinner was hot dogs and macaroni and cheese, because it was quick and there was almost no clean-up and everyone was just eager to get out the door. Inevitably, a small trick-or-treater or two would ring the bell while we were eating, and this would start the angst about missing all the fun. Then it would be into costumes and their turn to trick-or-treat.

Rapunzel, a dog, and a cat. - Halloween 1999? or 2000?
We would take the kids house to house on our block and on just two other neighboring streets. One of those streets, a cul-de-sac, would have a circle of homeowners in the middle of the street with their portable fire pit and bags of candy and would pass out candy to the kids there, while having their own little party with glasses of wine.

Princess Leia, a "fierce" knight, and Laura Ingalls. - Halloween 2002.

I hope all of you have a fabulous Halloween with your families...full of cutely costumed kids, fun, and lots of candy!

Tips for Planning A Harvest Party


We recently hosted a harvest party that I'd been dreaming about for years! The autumn gathering, beneath our oaks and maples on a splendid fall day in New England, brought together our family and some young families that are dear to us. We began with activities for the kids, moved on to a candlelit dinner of chili cooked over a roaring fire, and ended with a dessert buffet while an almost full moon rose over the treetops. 

So many people have written to ask for my harvest party planning tips, that I thought I'd tell you how our fall party came together, so it will make things easier for anyone who wants to host a harvest party for their family and friends.




DREAMING
Start by dreaming up what your ideal harvest party will be. No rules. No limits. Just dream. Ours began as a dream of mine and it just sort of percolated in my head for several years. When you have so many ideas in your head that you feel you just can't keep track of them anymore, go to Pinterest and start a Harvest Party board (click here to see mine), and pin images that encapsulate all your harvest party plans. Again...no rules, no limits. Mine contains images for: food, what I might wear, music, games...but mostly the images revolve around the feel or the vibe I wanted it to have.




EDITING TO A MOOD BOARD
Now it's time to move those dreams into reality. My Pinterest Harvest Party board contains (at last count) 322 pins, but I could certainly not incorporate all of those ideas into a single party. To help edit all your pins/dreams into a reasonable/real party, it is incredibly helpful to create a party mood board. It's not just incredibly helpful, it's a game changer. It's a lovely, visual representation (and a goal reminder) of what you want to create. I created mine by copying and pasting images from my Pinterest board onto four, 8 1/2" x 11" Publisher documents which I labeled: Snacks, Menu, Kids' Activities, and Ambiance. The mood board contains all the ideas you are actually going to use for your harvest party.


STRATEGIZING
Your mood board is an excellent place to pencil in notes to yourself as you make your plans more concrete. I used it to break down the pictures into lists of everything planned and lists of everything we would need. Here are how I elaborated on my mood boards to create our harvest party:

SNACKS

pretzels, popcorn, dried apricots, apples, mixed nuts, cider
sliced chicken sausage for roasting with assorted mustards
(Here I made notations that I would need cups for cider,
a crock for nuts, a nutcracker, etc.)

MENU


Chili (Jenny Steffens Hobick's is the best! Click here for recipe.
Note: 1 1/2 batches served 15 adults.)
Chili Fixings - tortilla chips, Frittos, sour cream, green onions, shredded cheese, cilantro
Mac-n-Cheese (for the kids)
Cornbread
Harvest Salad
Cheeses
Olives
Wine and Hard Cider
Plum Almond Crumble
Apple Pie Bars (click here for recipe)
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread
S'mores


KIDS' ACTIVITIES

bobbing for apples
(need: a large, galvanized tub, apples with stems to make it easier for small children)
pumpkin carving
(need: pumpkins, tables, spoons, knives)
donut "catching"*
(need: donuts, string, slender piece of wood)
ring toss onto pumpkins
(need pie pumpkins with tall, straight stems, rings)

* Buy lots of donuts, because adults will want to play too!






AMBIANCE

Here I listed everything we'd need for practicality and atmosphere.
pumpkins, cornstalks, tables/chairs, wool blankets, skewers, trash cans, firewood, napkins, string of lights, hay bales, flower/leaves, mini pumpkins for little ones to take home, flatware, lanterns, etc.




DOING
Issue your invitations and you've got the ball rolling! We kept invites simple with just a Facebook message group invite.
Yes, it's a fair amount of work to host a harvest party. But it creates such happy memories for everyone, that it's completely worth all the effort. I would say that it took me about four days of concerted effort to pull everything together -- shop, make food, etc. And it took three of us about four hours to set up the day of the party. Enlisting help of willing family and friends would be a great idea! In addition to the smiles on everyone's faces, the laughter of the kids, and the general air of relaxed happiness that hung over the party, I will long remember it as one of the funnest parties we've had in ages!






Happy Harvest Party planning!
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