TREATS FOR EVERYONE!
If you haven't already claimed it, here's a FREE EBOOK!
If you haven't already got your copy, here's a 99c Halloween mystery that will go back to regular price tomorrow.
If you follow me on Instagram, you'll be entered to win my whole Lizzie Hart series for Kindle.
Oh, and one more treat--here's a first look at the cover for the new book in my Ellie Matthews series! It will be available for pre-order in just one week, so check back here on my blog!
We can't all be Martha Stewart...
I don't know about you, but I love looking at Pinterest Fails as much as I love looking at Pinterest itself. We all see those beautiful crafty creations and think, "I could do that!" And sometimes we can.
Other times...not so much.
Take the ever-popular Vampire Donut. Easy, simple, no cooking involved. Should be an easy win and a super-cute breakfast for my daughter's Halloween sleepover. Well, guess again.
First, let's talk about the plastic vampire teeth. They are way too big for the donut hole. And I didn't consider this, but when you stretch a donut, the glaze cracks. The Pinterest photos of uncracked vampire donuts are LIES. All LIES!
So, okay, what about using candy corn for the fangs? I even found "Vampire Teeth" candy corn, which is white with red tips. Perfect, no? NO. Again, the donut holes are too small to get two candy corns to fit in AND be straight. So we had Snaggletooth Vampire Donuts...and Crackhead Vampire Donuts.
Let's head outside to something that surely doesn't take much skill--setting out pumpkins and mums and crap. Just put them together however it looks good to you, and you're pretty well set if you don't forget to water the mums. (See this post for extra tips.)
It was all well and good until this sweet little thing decided to go ape sh*t...
...and do this. (I realize this isn't the same year's setup, but you get the point.)
I'm still grieving over the loss of my wicked awesome creepy dolls. Another item stored in an airtight bin with them was filled with water, and it broke sometime between last Halloween and now. When we opened the bin this year, there was mold EVERYWHERE. I had to pitch everything, tub and all. These girls were among the casualties--they were unfortunately the only ones I really cared about. I'm on the search for some replacements.
I guess I shouldn't feel too bad. Fails happen to everyone, even the "professionals." Take these two signs I found a couple of years ago at Dollar General...
I wish you a FAIL-free Halloween!
I've been sharing all of my non-author-ish Halloween favorites, so I thought it was time to talk books!
I apologize for missing Day 4--I was out of town, but if you check out my Instagram page, you'll find plenty of pics of my Indy trip!
I'm not into horror, so this isn't that kind of list. I'm much more into suspense and heart-pounding action and psychological chills.
Zombie, Ohio: A Tale of the Undead
By Scott Kenemore
Get it HERE
I wouldn't normally pick up a book about zombies, because of my non-interest in horror. And to be honest, I don't remember how I even stumbled across this book, or when I did, why I decided to read it. Maybe it was the description, which told me this wasn't your normal zombie tale. Peter Mellor, the main character, dies at the beginning and slowly comes to realize he has unfortunately become a zombie. Told from his perspective, it's a tale of his descent into the abyss of becoming undead. It's funny, sometimes gross, but always interesting. And I'm excited to note that there are two other books in the series, including Zombie Indiana, which is set in my Hoosier stomping grounds.
The Angela Panther Mystery Series
By Carolyn Ridder Aspenson
The Ghost Dusters Mysteries
By Wendy Roberts
By Rachel Caine
The Works of Edgar Allan Poe
The Harry Potter Series
By JK Rowling
That Old Black Magic
By Caroline Fardig
You thought my cupcakes yesterday were creepy?
Well, hold onto your witch hats.
A mystery author worth her salt ought to be able to come up with a fake dead body. After all, we conjure them in our minds all day. But it's even more fun to get hands on.
Ultimately, these things ended up at our station on our friends' Haunted Trail. See this post to find out what we did with them.
To start off, I raided my closet and found some old clothes I could easily part with. Then I pawed through my recycle bin. Flat cardboard boxes for the body, paper towel, toilet paper, and wrapping paper rolls taped together for the arms, and various plastic bags balled up to make the bodies more human-shaped. I think the heads were made from a big bag of crushed up Wal-Mart sacks. I sewed the arm and leg holes together so the garbage wouldn't slide out.
I wrapped my "body" in plastic sheeting. It doesn't have to be that neat, given the fact that a deranged killer would not take the time to be neat when wrapping up the poor person he killed in order to dispose of them.
I then splattered red paint all over the thing. I tried to use that fake blood you can buy, but it was too runny. Paint stuck better to the plastic.
Last, I wrapped the thing with duct tape. Let me tell you, this was no easy task. A "body" inside plastic sheeting is surprisingly slippery when you're trying to work with it. I couldn't imagine being a murderer and having to do this with an actual body. I was sweating and out of breath by the time I wrangled this thing into place, and it couldn't have weighed more than 20 pounds.
Needless to say, when my husband walked into our kitchen and saw this on the floor, he was a little freaked out.
Now onto a spooky craft that won't raise as many eyebrows...cheesecloth ghosts!
Make a form for the ghosts. I used a 2-liter bottle and stuck a ball of foil to the top for the head, then attached sticks with duct tape to the sides for the arms. Then I didn't have another 2-liter bottle for a second ghost, so I used a 20 oz bottle and set it on top of a cornstarch box for more height.
Use a 2:1 solution of water:cornstarch (you can also use actual fabric starch, but I had trouble finding that at my local market). 2c:1c works, if you're making a few ghosts. I think we made three and had some of the mix left over. Microwave mixture for around 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds. You want it to look like thin pudding.
It also took more cheesecloth than we imagined, because I wanted a more opaque ghost. I think we used about 2 packages for 3 ghosts. After soaking the cheesecloth piece by piece in the starch mixture, begin layering it over your form to look like the sheet of a ghost. Stop when you think you have enough layers. Make sure everything is the way you want it, because once it dries, it's stiff, which is the point.
These take a while to dry, especially if you've used several layers. Expect to leave them overnight or even 24 hours. You can put eyes or even a bow on their heads, but I thought they were spookier just like this.
And speaking of creepy, I'll leave you with this image. These girls were freaky enough as is, but then the bin where I was keeping them had an item filled with water in it that broke, and the airtight seal caused everything in there to mold. I love their new look, but unfortunately I had to part with them because they smelled like death.
Happy Creepy Crafting!
If you’re like me, you have very little interest in slaving over a hot stove, especially in October when there are so many other fun things to do. Do I browse Pinterest and pin intricate recipes that are more craft project than edible? Heck, yeah. Do I have any intention of making said recipes? Heck, no!
Here’s several recipes to get you through Halloween with minimal effort but maximum “wow” factor.
Let the slacking begin.
But Caroline, you say…everyone makes the coolest cupcakes for Halloween.
I want to be the one with the awesome Halloween cupcakes this year!!!
So do it. But DON’T get cute with it. Go against the grain and make gross ones. That way if you’re in a rush and they look bad, no one will be able to tell you didn’t do it on purpose.
Killer and Zombie cupcakes--I made these. Grossed a lot of people out. Gained a lot of street cred.
Cupcakes with white icing (store bought, if you’re particularly pressed for time)
Red gel food coloring
Candy knives (Wilton makes these)
Squirt some red gel haphazardly on top of the iced cupcakes. Stick candy knives in the “blood.” Done.
Cupcakes with white icing (store bought, if you’re particularly pressed for time)
Oreos, crushed in a food processor
Red gel food coloring
Cheap Barbies (the $2 kind from Dollar General), naked and cut into pieces—you’ll want to cut most of their hair off to keep it out of the icing. And don't use the torsos. Naked Barbie torsoes on cupcakes could send the wrong message.
Place Oreo crumbs on a plate. Turn cupcakes over and mash icing into the crumbs to adhere, to resemble the soil of a fresh grave. Stick dismembered Barbie parts into the tops of the cupcakes. Squirt red gel onto Barbie parts to make the whole thing that much grosser. Done.
Spider web cookie cake
Tube of chocolate chip cookie dough
Tube of black gel icing
Press dough into a deep dish pizza pan or form into a circle on a pizza stone. Bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes, or until it seems done in the middle. Doneness for this on is sometimes difficult to decide, mostly because I don’t always mush the dough evenly across the pan. But most people I know don’t seem to mind underdone cookies, so you’re probably good to go. Once cooled, draw a big spiral with the black icing. Make spokes coming out the middle to resemble a spider web. Cut the ring part off the spider ring and place the spider on the web. Done.
Cheesecake Ghoul—so this one was born out of me being too lazy to read a recipe. The original recipe said that you should make a pumpkin pie, make a dough face, put it on the pie, bake it all together, then put strawberry jam in the orifices. Way too complicated, plus I don’t like pie. Anyway, I looked at the picture only and assumed it was a cheesecake face with graham cracker crumbs and cherry pie filling. I think mine’s better. (I couldn't find a photo of mine, but it pretty much looked like this one.)
Graham cracker crumbs
Tub o’ cheesecake filling
Cherry pie filling
Cover the bottom of your dish with graham cracker crumbs. Spoon filling on top, in the rough shape of an oval for the face. Carve out eyes, nose, and mouth. Fill holes with cherry filling. Done.
Make the Jello according to the package directions. Pour into mold (you can get one at any craft store) and refrigerate. Overnight is best, because it takes forever to firm up in the brain mold, which is fairly deep. In a pinch, I’ll put it in the freezer, but that doesn’t always turn out great. Unmold and done.
Oh, and see the big skull next to the brain? It's filled with Cheetos "Bag of Bones" and puffs. Another easy Halloween snack where you had to do nothing but open a bag.
Peeps on a stick
Assorted Halloween Peeps
Place Peeps on skewers. Place in vase. It adds a little height to your buffet. Kids like to eat stuff on sticks. Done.
Bowls. Of. Candy.
Literally no one is going to have anything against you serving candy they can scoop up by the handful. Except maybe your dentist.
Or if you're really feeling saucy...Candy Corn and Peanuts
Mix the two together in a bowl. It’s exactly as complicated as it sounds.
If that’s not a spread that will knock the socks off your friends, then you need new friends.
Disclaimer: This is a bit of a cop out to my
"13 Days of Halloween" series.
Deborah Nam-Krane and I scheduled the "Bingeworthy TV Blog Hop" a month ago, before I decided to do the "13 Days" bit, so rather than make a double post today, I'm going with just the one. I feel like a slacker, but I have a looming deadline (Nov 1) for a first draft that's 5k words away from completion. And that doesn't count fixing some glaring continuity issues I know I have going on...
But deadline, shmeadline! Let's talk fun stuff.
I seriously can’t keep up with all the bingeworthy shows out now. I’ve got my network series I watch weekly (9-1-1, Hawaii 5-0, Dynasty, The Rookie). And I also have my seasonal cable series (Killjoys, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Game of Thrones, Silicon Valley, You’re the Worst) as well. But add in Netflix and Amazon Prime, which we’ve had for a while, and then now we’ve added Hulu, and there’s more to watch than I can ever hope to watch if all I did was watch TV 24/7 for the rest of my life.
I don’t have that kind of time, so I have to be choosy in my bingeing. My two top binge picks are Insatiable (Netflix original) and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FX original available on Hulu), which I have recently discovered.
Let’s start with Insatiable, because it’s so…uh…CRAY CRAY!
My kids grew up watching Debby Ryan on the Disney Channel, and of course since kids programming was on all the time in my house, I grew to have my favorites as well. (Although I prefer Nick to Disney, hands down. Victorious was always my favorite—which is a big part of the reason I’m watching Dynasty, because I adore Elizabeth Gillies.) But I digress…
Insatiable is about Patty (Debby Ryan), who is a “fatty.”
I’m sure the name was chosen for that particular joke, but whatever. She gets into a fight with a bum and has to have her jaw wired shut, causing her to lose an amazing amount of weight very quickly. Now thin and beautiful, she begins to be treated differently, and for some reason decides she needs to become a beauty pageant contestant. It seems like a big leap the way I’m telling it, but I promise it makes sense in the show. Enter Bob Armstrong (Dallas Roberts, who steals every scene he’s in and is a cosmic twin of the late John Ritter), who is both her lawyer for her assault charge as well as a disgraced beauty queen coach itching to get back into the biz.
A match made in heaven, right? Well, it gets nuts from there. Add in hilarious performances by Alyssa Milano (Bob’s wife) and Christopher Gorham (Bob’s nemesis, also named Bob) and a ton of cringey one-liners, and this show really pops.
I admit, the tone of the show sometimes veers off course a little, but it gets back on track and ends with a real kicker. There was a lot of backlash at the beginning by totally misinformed sheep who jumped on a misguided bandwagon (like ALWAYS happens on social media—can we not research hot-button topics and make up our own minds, people???) about this show being about body-shaming. It is anything but. It really explores the psyche of people who have been body shamed (and gay shamed, and poor shamed, and religion shamed—nothing is off the table here) and how they deal with the pressure of it all, especially in high school. Sometimes they make the right choices, but sometimes they don’t, and then they have to deal with the backlash of that as well. That hubbub seems to have died down, probably when the people making the noise actually took the time to watch the show instead of fighting about it.
There. Now it's a Halloween-ish-themed post.
Speaking of fighting, I stumbled onto It’s Always Sunny years ago but unfortunately couldn’t get into it—the characters were all yelling at each other, and I couldn’t get a sense of what was going on. In short, I didn’t give it a chance, which was a big mistake. The show has some of the cleverest writing in all of entertainment, and if you don’t pay attention, you miss things. Practically every line out of their mouths elicits a laugh from my son and me (it’s our favorite series), but many things they say are so laced with razor-sharp sarcasm, the show makes you think while you’re yukking it up. They make it a point to skewer every hot topic out there, and they do it so well it’s sometimes painful.
The five leads—played by genius developers/writers Rob McElhenney, Glenn Howerton, and Charlie Day, the hilarious Kaitlyn Olsen, and comedic legend Danny DeVito—are all horrible people who own/run Paddy’s Pub in Philly. “The Gang,” as they call themselves, gets into ridiculous situations every week. They’re constantly trying to play angles and run schemes to get ahead. Of course their efforts always backfire, and hilarity ensues. They’re into Season 13 right now, and still going strong, so there’s PLENTY to binge. If I had to pick several favorite episodes, they would include in no particular order…
“Time’s Up for the Gang”
“Old Lady House: A Situation Comedy”
“Chardee MacDennis” (both episodes)
“The Maureen Ponderosa Wedding Massacre”
“The High School Reunion” (both episodes)
“A Very Sunny Christmas”
“The D.E.N.N.I.S. System”
“The Gang Solves the North Korea Situation”
Now get out there and binge away!
Oh, I almost forgot the most important part—if you’re easily offended, don’t watch either of these shows. Like, ever.
Don't forget to check out the rest of the blog hop:
10/22 Deborah Nam-Krane
10/23 Kerrie Olzak
10/24 Morgan Cain
10/26 Deborah Nam-Krane
In the world of home decor, Fall is the new Christmas.
If you spend much time on Pinterest or Instagram, you'll see that Fall/Halloween decorating has become as much of an Olympic sport as Christmas decorating in recent years. That said, I don't quite go so overboard on Halloween decorating. After all, what you get out, you have to put away. That's always the drawback for me of any holiday decorating project--knowing it all has to be boxed up and put away at some point.
Outdoor fall decor is the easiest to manage, though. If you buy living things, they die and/or decay, so they can be thrown away rather than packed away. Total time saver! And if you have a few acres of woods in your backyard, it's even easier. It's basically composting, but since I don't have a garden, I just let my gourds nourish the trees and wild blackberry bushes. It also doubles as an end of fall activity, the ever popular pumpkin smash! (Your kids don't even realize they're helping you clean up your decorations!)
Now that we know how to dipose of our decor, let's talk buying, placement, and grouping. I always feel like I buy the wrong amount of things--I either have too much or not enough. I also try to remember to buy items in odd numbers--which as you can see I totally didn't do below. I think last year's display worked out well, though. It could have used one more mum on the right side on the ground. But the stack of 3 flat pumpkins more than makes up for it.
It made a great backdrop for family photos at our Halloween party. And my Boxer, Lucy left it alone. The previous year, not so much...
This year I concentrated on the front porch instead, since we didn't do our big Halloween bash. Could have used some tall corn husks on both sides of the door to be totally Instagram-worthy, but it's still pretty darn cute.
And Bob always has a special place in my Halloween decorating. He's so friendly, but for some reason people don't want to pull up a chair and sit next to him on the porch.
Merry Fall Decorating!
Caroline's Top 10 Must-Watch Halloween Movies
I am an admitted TV and movie junkie, so I thought it fitting to share my Halloween favorites that I make it a point to watch in October every year.
10. Fun Size
Is it a great movie? Eh, not exactly. But it's very Halloweenish, so it puts you in the spirit of the season.
Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice! A lot of the actors in Beetlejuice weren't super famous at the time, but nowadays it's an all-star cast. Super spooky, and lots of fun.
8. Sleepy Hollow
Not the TV series, the Johnny Depp movie. I thought it was particularly cool that they turned Ichabod Crane into a forensic pathologist.
7. Goosebumps--either the TV series or the remake with Jack Black
My family's personal Goosebumps episodes include the ones with the creepy doll, Lilly D, and "Scary Mary." The movie was also excellent. Haven't seen the new one yet.
6. Any Tim Burton cartoon...
Although I think I like The Corpse Bride the best.
5. Practical Magic
Not a big Nicole Kidman fan, but I love this movie--especially uber-creepy Goran Visjnic.
4. The Office Halloween episodes (Honorable mention to Castle, Hawaii 5-0, and It's Always Sunny for also killing it on the Halloween eps)
Not a movie--but when you watch them back to back to back, it kind of feels like one. Ranked in order of my preference: 5. "Spooked" (I hate all Robert California episodes. Period. He ruined Season 8 for me.) 4. "Costume Contest" (The costumes are the best, but the side stories with Jim/Pam/Danny and Michael/Darryl are super cringey.) 3. "Employee Transfer" (A great episode, except the Michael/Holly breakup makes me cry.) 2. "Here Comes Treble" (I always love some good a cappella, and I really enjoyed all of Season 9.) 1. "Halloween" (A quintessential Michael Scott episode, especially since he has 2 heads for most of the day.)
3. Slither (Honorable mention for horror films goes to Get Out, The Babadook, and Scream)
I'm not really into horror movies. I don't believe in ghosts, etc. so it's hard to "scare" me with stuff like that. However, give me a home invasion (Scream) or a kidnapping (Get Out), and that'll scare the pants off me--because that kind of stuff actually happens IRL. The Babadook had an excellent story is the reason why I included it in my favorites. However, for good old-fashioned horror, it gets no better than Slither for me. There's so much blood and guts, I don't know how they ever got that movie set cleaned up, or the poor actors for that matter. The cast is stellar, with the leads all being able to carry any movie on their own, but together they are absolute magic. My personal favorite scene is when the mayor loses his sh*t over his $&!^@# Mr. Pibb!
2. "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown"
A favorite since childhood. Enough said.
1. Hocus Pocus
Hocus Pocus has become THE iconic Halloween movie, complete with a rabid cult following, and with good reason. It came out when I was 18, and it has definitely aged much better than I have! The story is excellent, the acting is hysterical, and it's literally dripping with Halloween everything--the set dressers and costume artists outdid themselves. This one plays on repeat in my household on Halloween like A Christmas Story on Christmas Day.
Happy Halloween Bingewatching!
Fall is the best.
Our favorite time of year to get out and do family activities is fall. None of us like the summer heat, so when fall rolls around, we're all in better moods and ready to get out and enjoy the great outdoors.
Every year it seems there are more and more Halloween and fall-themed activities to do in my area. Wish we could hit them all, but our September and October weekends lately have been taken up by marching band contests. Another great fall activity, but sadly lacking in giant bins of corn in which to lose oneself.
Probably the most quintessential Halloween activity is going to haunted houses. I wasn't much into it as a kid (I was kind of a scaredy cat), but as an adult, I rather enjoy them. Everyone needs a good scare now and again to feel alive. My area has a great selection of them, from ones out in scary woods to one in the actual old catacombs underneath the court house. That was the spookiest by far, for the venue only.
On the other end of the spectrum, my little girl (who's not so little now) and I used to love to have Halloween-themed tea parties. And our favorite snack to make was Chocolate Cookie Spiders (recipe below).
Chocolate Cookie Spiders
1 box chocolate cake mix
1 stick butter, melted
1 tub chocolate frosting
Stir cake mix, butter, and eggs together to form a dough. Bake cookies for 10 minutes at 350 degrees.
Cut the twizzlers so you have enough to make enough legs for the number of cookies you have. We usually make 6-legged spiders due to not having enough Twizzlers after sampling a few. Slather cookie bottoms with frosting, add legs, and top with another cookie to make a sandwich. Affix M&M eyes with frosting. (If you need the eyes to be sturdier in place, you can affix them with melted chocolate instead.)
And fall just wouldn't be fall without a trip to the pumpkin patch (a sincere one, of course). We have some fantastic farms in our area, and we definitely have our favorites--the ones that have a pumpkin smashing party on the last day of the season!
In fact, we had so much fun smashing pumpkins, we made it a yearly activity at home as well. When I'm finished with my outdoor decorations, we take them out in the woods and smash them to bits. Even the big kids get in on the fun.
And last but by no means least, trick-or-treating. The perfect end to the perfect Halloween season.
Hope you're out there making memories this fall!
See you back here tomorrow for more 13 Days of Halloween!
It's not Halloween without a few scares!
Every year my husband and I participate in a haunted trail at our friends' house.
There's a big party, and then we take to the woods to scare kids and adults alike. This year's theme was zombies, and my job was to be a person trying to get away from and get rid of the zombies. Basically I was the distraction for the trail goers while my husband snuck up on them to scare them. I'm usually the distraction, because I'm not scary at all.
Like last year, when it was my job to try to get the kids to touch "brains" and "intestines"...
...so Pigman could scare them. Pigman seems to be the go-to mask choice lately. Works well for both slaughterhouse and zombie themes.
And sometimes we cross a line...
My husband was hoping not to get pulled over while driving out to the trail with these babies in the back of his truck. I made these props at home, which I'll discuss in another post, so be sure to check back. That year I was a doctor trying to cure an epidemic that was turning people into...whatever it is that my husband is portraying below. I think it had to do with a flesh-eating virus or something like that.
Regardless of the theme, or whether or not we can get some kids to scream and jump (this year my husband made one kid cry), we always have a great time with our friends. If you ever have a chance to participate in a haunted house of some kind, do it!