Inexpensive Halloween Decorating
Halloween on a Budget
As with so many holidays, it seems that Halloween too is growing bigger every year. As a child, neighbour's steps held a carved pumpkin or two... occasionally a trick or some creepy music was played, and the biggest thrill of the night was always the big bonfire at the local fire hall. These days however, Halloween is catching up to Christmas in terms of the vast amount of decorations available: inflatables, elaborate light displays and truly haunted houses are all the rage.
Last year I think we did pretty well, over 90 children came to our door, and although some of the smaller kids were frightened, most loved our display! My husband really likes to get involved too, and our best attractions came from him. Most of our decoration we create ourselves; an inexpensive trip to the hardware store should provide all the material you will need to recreate these ideas.
5 Creative Halloween Projects
1. The Graveyard: Using some old or recycled plywood, cut out "tombstones". Using a spray-on stone finish (available at a hardward store with the spray paints), completely coat the wood. Once it is dry, get creative. Use black, red or white paint to write some ghoulish epitaphs -beyond the classic RIP. "Y Z Still-Livin'", "Seymour Butz", "Ima Goner", and "Phil Dirt" are some of ours! A couple of wood stakes or heavy tent pegs on each side of the stones are enough to keep them secure. Several years ago we purchased some of the prefabricated foam tombstones but they were pretty much wrecked before the big night, so I would definately invest a little time and make your own.
To set the graveyard scene, we dug out a couple of wheelbarrows full of compost from our backyard bin. We made grave-shaped mounds either side of the front walk so that kids entered through the graveyard. We then got a some large plastic skeletons from the local dollar store and pulled them apart so that we had a few skulls and bones poking out of the graves. As a final touch we set up a couple of spotlights to shine onto the tombstones and had a fog machine going to really set the scene... it really is a hit!
2. The Murder Scene: A neighbour came up with this great idea, which works very well if your entry leads past your garage. He opens up the garage door about 2 feet high, then sets a "murder scene" by stuffing a pair of jeans with newspaper to make them stand into a pair of big black gumboots. Lying next to the boots is a fake bloody knife and a severed arm (again fake!), he leaves a soft light on in the garage so that the horrific sight is usually not noticed until the passerby is up close - it gives me goosebumps every time!
3. We make a skeleton dummy which sits on our front porch swing by simply stuffing my husbands work clothes and boots with newspapar. The inexpensive skeleton head has a sensor that makes it cackle when someone crosses its' path, and illuminates bright red eyes...
4. Inside we entertain with Witch's Finger Cookies, which are shaped as the name suggests, and then you press a blanched almond into the tip with red gel icing so it looks like a bloody fingernail. My kids' favourite treat is Mummy Dogs, made by wrapping a hot dog weiners with strips of dough weiner wrap (available in the refrigerated section of the grocery aisle) to look like mummies. I give them two yellow eyes with dots of mustard when they come out of the oven.
5. Fill a large clear vase or decorative bowl with the cute little gourd pumpkins available. This simple decoration gets a lot of positive comments and brings colour into any room.
Witch's Finger Cookies, from Donna Pari
I am not sure of the source, this is on an very well-worn photocopy passed on by a friend:
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup icing sugar
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup whole blanched almonds
1 tube red decorator gel
In a bowl, beat together butter sugar, egg, almond extract and vanilla; beat in flour, baking powder and salt. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Roll a heaping teaspoon of dough into a finger shape for each cookie. Press almond firmly into 1 end for nail. Squeeze in centre to create a knuckle shape; using a paring knife, make slashes in several places to form knuckle.
Place on lightly greased baking sheets; bake in 325 ºF oven for 20-25 minutes or until pale golden. Let cool 3 minutes. Lift up almond; squeeze red decorator gel onto nail bed and press almond back in place, so gel oozes out from underneath. Makes about 5 dozen.