To be completely honest, I am so bad at it that I don't even deserve the privilege of using the word "particularly" in that last sentence.
I hardly remember any of my past costumes, which is probably due to the fact that the eve of October 31st is often bitterly cold and rainy in Michigan. Let me tell you something: it's disappointing to put on your totally awesome costume only to have it hidden beneath a sweater/jacket combo in addition to awkward-looking gloves, socks, and boots. How can I be expected to remember what I actually "was" if I looked like a marshmallow every year anyway?
I use that space in my brain for more important things.
Like cake recipes.
...And other equally important things.
...Which may or may not exist.
But I digress.
Even though I may not have been terribly interested in my costumes, I was definitely interested in Mom's Halloween plans. She made sure that our house was completely decked out and threw amazing parties each year without fail. Giant spiders were draped over our roof and enormous ghosts were stretched from gable to gable; all put in place by D under Mom's direction. A graveyard full of cleverly-inscribed tombstones sprung up in our front yard in the first year, then spread into the side yard as the years progressed. Drifting through the markers was a low, hazy mist provided by a number of modified fog machines, whisping ominously around the careful feet of our visitors.
I almost preferred being at home to trick-or-treating back then, just because I loved to sit on the porch and see everyone react to her work. Their widened eyes, dropped jaws and quickened paces made me proud of my mom; but seeing her reaction made me feel even better.
But her decorations didn't stop at the doors. Our entire house oozed Halloween from the floor to ceiling; the former covered in a dry ice induced fog and the latter populated largely by bats. Our kitchen counter was covered in platters piled high with creatively-named, delicious foods. Dragon Scales, Ogre Ears, Troll Toes, and Poor Sloppy Joe Sandwiches were among the offerings; each unappetizing by name but still completely welcome as relief from each one of the night's numerous sugar overdoses. Her menu was revised and edited year after year, perfected and stream-lined as she grew more and more comfortable with the tradition.
She was always worried that she was embarrassing my brother and I with the theatrics, but she never did. My mom put on an incredible show each year and continues to do so even now despite a slight shift in interests. She's always been good at finding something she loves and pouring tons of passion into it.
It's something I'll always admire.
Pumpkin Cupcakes via My Baking Addiction
Makes about 20 cupcakes
1 3/4 c (248g) flour
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp cloves
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
6 Tbls (85g) butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 c (300g) sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 c (235ml) canned pure pumpkin
1/3 c (78ml) water
Preheat oven to 350F (175C). Line 2 cupcake tins and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, spices, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In another bowl, beat butter and sugar until well-combined. Beat in the eggs, pumpkin, vanilla and water until well blended, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
Sift the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix until completely combined. Divide the batter amongst the cupcake tins, filling each about 3/4 of the way full. Bake 15-20 minutes until the cupcakes spring back when pressed. Let cool in pan for five minutes then transfer to cooling racks and let set until room temperature.
Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz cream cheese, room temp
1/2 c butter, room temp
1 tsp vanilla
Beat the cream cheese and butter until well combined. Add the vanilla. Add powdered sugar in 1/2 c additions until you achieve the desired consistency.
These were inspired by one of the treats my awesome mom made every year for Halloween. My only change is to use a chocolate coin (P's wonderful suggestion) instead of chocolate-dipped shortbread just for the sake of a smaller size.
Red royal icing
Pipe a thick line of icing around the bottom of a chocolate kiss. Press firmly onto the center of a chocolate coin so the icing spreads around the kiss to hold it in place. Pipe on a bow and allow to dry until completely set.