Oh my God, I am finally That Mom. You know the one. She’s a Pinterest queen, pinning origami bats and coffee filter spider webs, making masks out of egg cartons. Her kid wears a hand-crocheted full-tailed peacock hat on her head. Not only does she print out family photos, she mounts them in a scrapbook, with colorful adornments enhancing her memories for eternity.
I was never That Mom. I am not the least bit crafty. If my daughter gets me to color with her, we put my picture up on the refrigerator. But after almost seven years as a mom, I’ve found my muse.
This week we had a Halloween party. I love Halloween and I love throwing parties. This was my chance to shine.
Writing is my first love. Cooking is my second. So when it came time to plan the party menu, it was on. I did some brainstorming. I chose the kids’ food out of the Big Four – Chicken nuggets, pizza, hot dogs and mac and cheese. I went with the first three. Then came the hard part: how to make these foods Halloweenie.
The first idea I got was for the pizza. I’d recently found kid-sized pizza crusts and I’d been told I should have a craft for the kids, so I decided on make-your-own-jack-o-lantern pizza. I cut some pepperoni into triangles, some salami into jagged mouths, some olives into teeth and a green pepper into stems.I already had a Costco-sized bag of chicken nuggets in the freezer, so I started to think about what to do with them. I thought they could look like spiders if I could stick legs in them. I did a dry run two days before the party with some carrot sticks. It worked. I wanted to put eyes on them, but olives would fall off, and I couldn’t come up with anything else.
I wanted to make mummies from Little Smokies sausages. I thought and thought, what would look like cloth? And then it hit me: string cheese. On dry run day, I peeled some string cheese and quickly found out that one piece wouldn’t wrap around the Smoky more than once, and I couldn’t make it stick to itself to add more pieces.
Stuck, I googled “Halloween snacks for kids.” I clicked on images and Wow! You would not believe what came up. There were hundreds of photos from creepy to cute. I learned that you can make mummies from Little Smokies, but you have to use biscuit dough. I already had pigs in a blanket on the menu, so I didn’t want to do that. I did see some fingers made of string cheese. Perfect. All I had to do was cut knuckles into half a piece of string cheese, hollow out a space for a nail, then paste an apple “nail” on it with cream cheese. And I had all of that string cheese I’d bought for the mummies, so I was set.
Having seen the mummies online, I wanted to do something with the pigs in a blanket, but they really couldn’t look like mummies. My husband and I discussed it and he came up with plating them on a string-cheese spider web so they’d look like they were caught in it. We put the chicken nugget spiders on the outside of the web and the concept really worked. I’d also learned online that I could use dabs of ketchup for the spiders’ eyes. Since the kids were going to have their jack-o-lantern pizzas, I figured what the hell, and made two big ones for the parents.
For dessert, I made meringue ghosts I’d seen in Real Simple magazine. They were so cute I just had to. I also found a big bat cookie cutter and made bat brownies. That one was my idea, but it’s not like I designed the cookie cutter or anything. I made cupcakes with pumpkins on them. That was a big deal for me and my daughter because she’s allergic to artificial colors. (See “Dethroning the Drama Queen.”) I made the frosting and used some natural food coloring to make it orange. I know my daughter was happy that she could eat something colored for a change.
When party time came, I was psyched, but I wasn’t done. Those chicken nugget spiders took a lot of doing. Fortunately several moms stayed for the party and helped me finish them. I was also late on the big pizzas, but again, everyone was helpful.
I’d planned tons of games for the kids, but I guess when you invite fourteen kids over, they pretty much keep themselves busy. I didn’t disturb them until it came time for their pizzas, and I had a great time getting to know the other parents. The kids loved the pizza making. I laid out the fixings and demonstrated how to spread the sauce and the cheese. The kids loved it and it got them to sit down and eat. The parents were pleased.We did run a costume contest and a donut-eating contest but other than that, the kids played on their own.
I got so many compliments on the snacks but I gave credit where credit was due. My husband posted photos of the food on Facebook and one of his friends said “You guys are the parents who make the rest of us look bad.” I couldn’t imagine a better compliment. For once, we were Those Parents. It felt good. Maybe we should have a Halloween party every year.