A Halloween Party in the Woods

A Halloween Party in the Woods

Two years ago, probably a day after Halloween, I was struck with another of those impossible-to-ignore urges to throw a specific party for my favorite little kiddos.

A Halloween party.

In the woods.

And I knew exactly what I wanted it to look like…

I saw a spread in Country Living once (hey look! I found it: click here) featuring an outdoor Halloween party inspired by festivities of yore where costumes were less “dress-like-your-favorite-Disney-princess” and more festive and Halloweenish. Here’s an example of one of the antique costumes at the party:

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I was completely taken with the idea, and tucked it away in the back of my brain where it sat for years. Every Halloween, I would think about it and pine for such a party and costumage (you can go ahead and add that word to your handy-dandy-Mrs. Gore-Dictionary); and as Halloween 2011 drew to a close, I made a decision. We would have our old-school Halloween party next year, or I would die trying.

Only one problem.

Vintage Halloween clothes are ‘spensive. And rare. And just like there weren’t a lot of WWII-kids-party supplies out there when it was time for Gid’s 6th birthday, I had trouble finding any reproductions of old-school Halloween clothes on the market today. I know, right? Cray-cray.

So we did the next best thing and bought every Halloween dress and accessory that Cracker Barrel had to offer. Every year, they sell an assortment of black, orange, purple or gold dresses with lots of tulle, and by the time we bought them after Halloween, they cost about as much as an Arby’s value meal.

Thus, for a full year, my Mom had bags of poofy dresses and funny hats hidden in her closet, waiting to surprise the children on a beautiful October afternoon in 2012.

Oh, and there was one bright orange shirt for Gideon from the hunting section at Wal-Mart.

And here were the goals of our party: 1. The entire concept had to be a surprise – when the kids arrived at Grandmother’s house for the party, we wanted them to have NO IDEA where they would be going or what they would be wearing, 2. We wanted to allow them to walk through the woods to the party alone – with the oldest being 8, this would be a big and memorable deal for them (and Amy would shadow them with her camera, of course!), and 3. Have a festive and magical hole-in-the-wall-type party all set up when they arrived.

And shiver me broomstick, we did it! I will admit, I almost died of fatigue before this party even started, loading and unloading mountains of supplies, single-handedly arranging all those haybales and pumpkins, and then there were the three giant wasps nests we discovered above the party table about an hour before go-time (my Mom is a rockstar and slayed every single one of them without fear)…

but this afternoon will forever be cherished in my heart as one of my favorites. The kids loved it. And I loved watching them love it. Take a look…

Amy made these labels that we taped over vintage milk bottles and filled with assorted candies.

Amy made these labels that we taped over vintage milk bottles and filled with assorted candies. We placed one at each child’s seat and they passed them around so they could sample all of the different flavors.

Welcome to our Halloween party in the woods!

Welcome to our Halloween party in the woods!

A sparkly bat greeted our little guests.

A sparkly bat greeted our little guests.

I lined the pathway with pumpkins we borrowed from a nearby farm and filled in the path with crunchy leaves. Very fun!

The pathway was lined with pumpkins we borrowed from a nearby farm and was filled in with crunchy leaves. Very fun! And free!!

We made a simple sacklunch for each child and had it sitting on a real plate with real silverware - we wanted this party to have an authentic tea-partyish feel, but heavy on Halloween.

We made a simple sacklunch for each child and had it sitting on a real plate with real silverware – we wanted this party to have an authentic tea-partyish feel, with a heavy emphasis on Halloween.

The table was simple, but festive, and very easy to put together.

The table was simple, but festive, and very easy to put together.

Donuts from a Tulsa bakery - I considered for two seconds making some from scratch, but Mrs. Gore ain't got time for that.

Donuts from a Tulsa bakery – I considered for two seconds making some from scratch, but Mrs. Gore ain’t got time for that.

Very rustic caramel apples, speared through with a twig from the backyard.

Very rustic caramel apples, speared through with twigs from the backyard.

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You can’t see them very well, but we also hung black bats and festive lights from the ceiling.

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The kids LOVED their surprise costumes. Each one was different (but similar), and each girl had a funny hat to wear (Gideon got a black superhero mask). Anna’s hat had a giant spider on the top, but still looked very beautiful and fancy.

Funny...Amy and I dressed in all black and wore funny hats and accessories with absolutely NO intention of looking like witches. But we totally look like witches.

Funny…Amy and I dressed in all black and wore funny hats and accessories with absolutely NO intention of looking like witches. But…we totally look like witches.

Time to walk down the wooded path to the party! Everyone lined up, including our very uninvited guest, Batman the Cat.

Time to walk down the wooded path to the party! Everyone lined up, including our very uninvited guest, Batman the Cat. More on him later.

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Marching to Halloween! I was pretty giddy about this part of the party…

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Which way do we go?…

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That way!!

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They found us! And good thing, too, because I was about to eat all their candy.

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Ready to party.

I swear to you, just like our witch costumes were accidental, we did NOT invite my parents' cat, Batman, to our party. He followed the kids, and was by far our best Halloween decoration.

So. The cat. I swear to you, just like our witch costumes were accidental, we did NOT invite my parents’ cat, Batman, to our party. He appeared out of nowhere and followed the kids, but was by far the best Halloween decoration we had at our party. Way to go, Batman!

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I had to take a minute to get a picture of Amy and her girls (and the cat). They all looked so beautiful! (You too, Batman).

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And I have to brag on my party guests…

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they are used to their weird Mama/Auntie, so they gladly took a few “fake party pictures” for my blog before digging in to their treats.

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I’ve never been so proud. 🙂

Rebekah and Kate enjoy their party and some lively conversation.

Rebekah and Kate enjoy their candy and some lively BFF conversation.

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After their meal was consumed, Grandmother had a special game planned for them where they had to find special treats and surprises she had hidden in the woods.

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It took some earnest searching…

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but all the treasures were eventually found…

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and the rest of the evening was leisurely spent, playing, talking and daydreaming. One of my favorite things about children is that they need very little to entertain them. Just give them the great outdoors…

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and some playmates…

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and they’ll stay happily occupied for hours.

~

As a fittingly full moon began to shine through the trees…

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our Halloween party in the Woods mozied to an end and we made our way back to Grandmother and Granddaddy’s house…

tired?

Oh yes!

With a huge mess to clean up?

Indeed.

But our Halloween-lovin’ hearts were oh so full and happy…

especially Batman’s.

~

Happy Halloween, dear friends!

A Pinteresty Halloween

In celebration of our upcoming holiday, I’ve been sharing Halloween ideas all day on the Mrs. Gore’s Diary facebook page (where we have LOTS of fun! Join us, why don’t you?), and I thought I’d gather them all up together right here, along with a few more that have yet to be shared…

Last year, just awakening to the glorious world of Pinterest, I threw a Halloween party for all of our friends and family members employing many of the ideas I had come across at that most beloved site, along with a few I had picked up over the years from Country Living and Martha Stewart. We had a ball…but I think I’m still exhausted from our fete, as I have yet to put up a single Halloween decoration this year.

Still, I’ve had great fun looking back at all the fun we had last year, and would love to share with you some Pinterest ideas that worked…and then some that didn’t work…to help you with your Halloween festivities next week.

Really…you  don’t have to thank me.

Let’s hop straight to it!

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Pinterest ideas that worked:

Idea #1: Use a Sharpie to draw jack-o-lantern faces on clementines. On a night that is fueled by candy and sugar, its nice to have at least one healthy treat for your little ones. I’m pretty sure I drew all of these faces on while watching “The X Factor”…

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We also had a bucket of healthy, shiny apples. I am proud to say that, by the end of the night, only 3 of these beauties remained (thanks to our favorite and magical apple peeler/corer/slicer).

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Idea #2: Glitter Pumpkins! I saw these on the Martha Stewart show in college and had always wanted to give them a try, so one fine Fall day, Gideon and I sat on the front porch and did our first craft together. These were great fun to make (even though we made a HUGE mess on the porch), and seriously? I couldn’t take my eyes off of them. SO much glitter. SOOOO pretty! (and please don’t even think of comparing mine to Martha’s…you should know better).

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Idea #3: my favorite Halloween decoration everrrrr…and another Martha Stewart stroke of genius! Use her templates to trace and cut out these little mice (I did mine on black cardstock) and attach them to your baseboards or have them crawling onto your windowsills or mantle…I will admit that, after they were stationed all over our living room, they caused me to shiver a few times, but my kids loved them. And I do love Halloween decorations that aren’t gory or scary…just classic, kind-of-spooky, old-fashioned fun.

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Idea #4: These cake-like cookies (on the bottom tier) were not too difficult to make and…I loved eating them. I don’t remember how well they were received at the party, but I do know this: they were all eaten. Maybe mostly by me.

(source and recipe)

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Idea #5: Amy brought the drinks for our party, and they were a huge hit among the kiddos. Giant pickle jars (with Dollar Store signage) held the drinks, and little jelly jars with spill-proof laminated “lids” served as perfect spooky vessels…topped with a spider ring for each guest. This might have been the kids’ favorite part of the entire party, and was born solely out of Amy’s creativity and resourcefulness. Love her.

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Idea #6: I’ve seen this game several times in magazines and blogs, but I can’t recall from whom or where or whence it came. Its just something we picked up along the way and have used many a time at Halloween or Fall parties. So the source is…whoever gave me the idea. Thanks, you!

Anyhow, as an alternative to dunking for apples, simply tie donuts to long strings and elevate them. The children have to hold their hands behind their back and try to retrieve the yummy donut, resulting in lots of giggles. Our donuts were tied this year to a broomstick that I held in my hands and lowered or raised according to each child’s height.

Yes, I have a picture of me holding the broomstick. Yes, I look about 6 months pregnant in that particular picture. No, I was no pregnant at all. Yes, I was having so much fun I forgot to suck in my gut. No, I will not be sharing that photograph. But YES, I will share this one of sweet Anna trying to get her a donut, as her friends cheer her on…

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Idea #7: You may recall us making these lanterns at my Mom’s Halloween party…well, they looked even more magnificent at night, and helped give our party a festive, family-friendly Halloween vibe. And the kids were so proud to see their own handiwork on display! This idea came straight from Southern Living and was discovered by my Mom, not on Pinterest, but in a real live magazine. Yes, they still make those (and we still love to peruse them!).

(source)

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Pinterest ideas that did NOT work:

So not every endeavor ends in success. You win some…you lose some…even on Pinterest. I definitely lost some in the next two instances.

Failed Idea #1: Would you just look at these adorable cupcakes all tied up with a little bow? Upon seeing them, I directly added them to my list of party treats.

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And then I made them, foolishly using a different recipe that obviously wasn’t destined for such Halloween cuteness. I almost smashed each puny little cupcake as I tried to gingerly tie a pretty bow on them, a sea of powdered sugar covering my kitchen floor. They tasted great, but…I still hate the sight of my version, a blight on my memory and my stupid Halloween party. Gah!

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Failed Idea # 2: I keep a board on my Pinterest account just for Amy so she doesn’t have to mess with an active account, and there, I share things that I think she might like, or projects I think she would excel in, but more often than not, we bounce around photography ideas. One day, I shared this precious photograph with her, eager to try it out on Betsie. I mean, look at how content that sweet little baby is to sit in a pumpkin! I just knew Betsie, the most content and happy baby I’d ever been around, would do exactly this and more!

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Amy was as gung-ho about it as I was, and we couldn’t wait to set up our little pumpkin photo shoot…

Turns out, Betsie wasn’t keen on the idea of being stuffed inside of a cold pumpkin. Epic fail.

My sincerest apologies to my sweet baby girl who, for some reason, now has a pumpkin phobia. Just kidding. But she might if I showed her this picture…

And just for the record, we got her out of this horrid predicament as soon as possible, whereupon she received lots of cuddling and sympathetic baby-talk.

~

Pinterest failures notwithstanding, it was one of the most festive and enjoyable nights we’ve shared, music playing, Fall breeze gently blowing, trick-or-treaters showing up at the gate and realizing too late that we were having a private, rather than a neighborhood, party (“Oh hi! Um…we only have candy for the kids inside the fence. Sorry…”).

And I was doing one of my favorite things. Sitting around a table with little people, in costume, eating lots and lots of sugar…

Life, in my opinion, doesn’t get much better. Thanks, Pinterest…

Except for where you miserably failed me.