The party did go well, but I would never have made it through at all without my helpers, especially Kael who came over again on party day. Thanks SO much Kael! I could not have managed this year without the help. The added stress & worry about my poor kitty feeling so awful sure didn't help. During all my frantic party prep I was still feeling so sad every time she would look up from her water dish, drooling everywhere, meowing at me to help her, but she only wanted so much petting or hugging, and I had already done all I could do for her until Monday. It was still very hard for me to see since I feel so helpless. I put up my new Black Cat Crossing road sign on my bedroom door so party people would leave her alone which worked well. We heard her meowing every so often since my bedroom sliding door is to the patio, but every time I checked on her she wasn't even under the bed or in the closet like most parties, so I hope that meant she was calmer this time. Since it was only making it hard for her to drink, no costume for Kylie this year.
So, for the party itself now...only 40 people this year, so backsliding a bit for numbers from last year, unsure why but sometimes it happens. I had figured from the Evite count only being 42 it wouldn't be much larger than that, and there were 4 who had RSVPd and didn't show. It was still a fun crowd who all said they had a great time. The ones who hadn't been in the loop yet for how many things have gone wrong for me this October said they never would have guessed, so that's good! Since we had 55 people last year which fit in this house fine, 40 seemed a little small to me, even though we still couldn't all crowd into the living room for the music quiz, so the patio speakers worked well to expand the quiz out there too.
Name that Tune Spooky TV Themes: So many people all got 11 out of 13 that I just had them all claim a prize, but I forget who! I think it was Nat, Nathania, Tracia, Daniel, who else won? Help me remember please!
Scariest Costume: Dave as Senator Larry Craig, complete with toilet seat, bald cap & muscle men magazines - he got more votes than the really creepy Grim Reaper, so truly scary! ;)
Most Original Costume: Jack & Johnathon as Jack & Coke...heehee!
Ultimate Costume: Robin & Charles as The Spartans ala 300, complete with hand-hammered brass cloak broach & armband - they even got compliments via webcam & email during the party!
Creepiest Cuisine: Since your Halloween Hostess was sole judge and I couldn't decide, plus I have plenty of prizes, I gave three awards:
Best Appearance: Deviled Eyes by Dave & Wendy - yolks dyed red with an olive slice as the pupil
Most Clever Presentation: The Last Temptations by Lyle - little chocolate confections with candy corn garnish, but with little signs describing the various temptations
Most Daring Culinary Risk: Frosted Bat Wings by Ruth - chocolate covered bacon! She won because they were not only clever but really tasty! :)
Halloween Party Post-Mortem
As I said, this has been a crappy month, and my mantra along the way has been "it could be worse" but then it seemed to keep getting worse! Kylie's eye developed her problem a week ago, and they took blood work to check everything out, but she had been status quo since then, still sad her eye wasn't working but otherwise okay, so I was cranking along on as much party prep as I could, including Angie helping Tuesday evening, Kaelyn & Angie both on Thursday evening, and Kael & Melanie on Friday afternoon. Kylie was still status quo until around midnight Thursday night, and we slept okay, but Friday morning she started drinking water constantly and drooling it all over, meowing at me like a request for help all the time. I called the vet after 3 hours of seeing no improvement, and I was still waiting for the callback when Kael & Melanie arrived and I was getting to be a wreck of worry by then. Melanie vacuumed and cut quiz sheets and Kael worked on cutting Batato Chips while I ran Kylie to the vet for another blood sample to see if they can confirm high thyroid, which is treatable but they wouldn't give me anything to make her more comfortable this weekend since they have to wait for a confirmed diagnosis. I'm calling the specialist first thing Monday morning, but my heart has been heavy from not being able to help her, and I've been feeling guilty for trying to have fun and host a party while she's obviously miserable.
Since I had done all I could do for Kylie, back to party prep, albeit distracted all along, so I was even more disjointed than usual. I often have so much to do that I end up half-finishing one thing while I walk past something I can do quickly & get it off my list, but this year I noticed myself doing that even more! Very good I actually made the big final to-do list, printed it out & stuck on the fridge for Kael & me to use on Saturday, since Kael kept things on track by referring to the list while I was running around setting up yard decor & getting the food tables arranged. I worked on food on Friday vs. yard decor so there was no night-before decor lighting or fog machine test this year. I did get the outside webcam set up with lighting and proper aim the night before at least. Friday evening I worked on cleaning up & food, baking Batato Chips, making 4 dozen mojitoes 6 toes at a time, including decorating the heart, hands, brain & eyeballs until 5am, but didn't get the mojitoes painted. By the time I showered I was asleep by 6am to try to get a few hours rest, since anything would be better than the 45 minute nap I got last year, but unfortunately Kylie wanted to cuddle with me but still would get up for water every 30 minutes, meowing for help & drooling in my face when she'd jump back on the bed, so I didn't get much rest and gave up, getting up at 9:30 to get the dry ice at 10am. Kael came over by 12:30, and we cranked through the list, getting the patio ready this year before 6pm thankfully, until I decided my costume should start going on about 6:15, including the fight with my fancy giant fake eyelashes. My eyelids just aren't built for fake eyelashes but I finally got them on. Cyd came over straight from work getting the ice on the way, arriving around 6:45 putting drinks in ice before getting her go-go costume on, then the first official guests were Noelle & little Galen at 7:07, so Noelle was put on candle-lighting duty as I was rushing around figuring out what last food I could get ready...but at least my costume & makeup were on by about 7:15 this year! That might be the earliest time I've been in full costume for any of my Halloween parties! :)
Since I have been consolidating my food table space by using my tier trays, the food signs I made so many years ago don't really work anymore, and new food signs would be difficult on the tiers, so this year I made a Maniacal Menu board with the names of everything, including restaurant-style descriptions that I had fun writing. That took the place of the food tags as well as described things like cheese or meat for the non-dairy & vegetarians so they wouldn't have to ask before eating, however, it also made it obvious what food did NOT get done! The veggies were vicious since I had asked Kael to try to make a face which worked using mini red pepper teeth, but the fruit was less than ferocious, since only kiwi and black seedless grapes got put out, no spiky rambutan eyes & bosc pear teeth as I had hoped. I asked Angie to check my food against the Maniacal Menu in case there was anything quick I forgot that I could do, so we quickly got the apple slices & caramel sauce out (thank goodness for precut apple slices from Costo! They also didn't turn brown all night!), plus the Sinister Skull of cream cheese & chili sauce, then I insisted on arranging the party spirals into my Violent Vertebrae, flanking my antique real human spine on my large silver platter, so the only menu item completely missing was the Freshly Flayed Flesh. Considering this month & especially Friday's extra stress plus several new recipes this year, that is pretty darn good! I was able to take good recipe photos, even the spiderweb brie, this year with puff pastry spider sitting on the web too. The Mojitoes never got painted, so was hard to see the detail, plus I didn't get the idea I could have added coloring to the rum ones to distinguish from the virgin ones until halfway through making them, so my plan was the toenails would be different colors. Since that didn't happen, the party guest vote was to only put out the rum ones, and about a dozen got eaten. The interesting thing is that even though it was only 1/4 cup rum for 6 toes, so much less than a half shot each toe, the consensus was that the alcohol was very strong. Probably the lack of liquid and time that you usually have while sipping a normal mojito. ;) As for the other new recipes, the Savory Spiders with Gooey guts (buttermilk biscuits with nacho cheese filling) were a hit, only a couple left out of 4 dozen. Of course since there were only about 4-5 dozen Batato Chips, they were scarfed since they were only chips, not as filling, so hopefully i can make more & earlier next year. I think only a few tried the Slug & Snail Salad but I did forget that was the only dish I provided that needed cutlery so that could be why, since the mandarin orange & pineapple guava make a pretty tasty fruit salad. The brain pate somehow didn't get a spreader nor crackers or bread until very late in the party, so that explains why it wasn't eaten very much. Sadly people started leaving after the music quiz & costume voting, and we never served the bleeding heart or the hands so they're still intact! Since they were painted for extra accent, they still looked quite good in the mad scientist lab at least.
I didn't use all my gravestones since I put some in front this year, then I only put a few in the back since Pirate Corner was where the graveyard started last year, so I only put a few up out of the way since the graveyard chapel is back, so I thought thematically it would be odd to have the chapel in back without any gravestones there. Plus after people enter, they won't look out there again but in back it's where the main party is so people can see them throughout the party. Even though I already have 2 fog machines, this year I saw a new one at Costco from Straight From the Grave (SFTG) that advertised "low lying fog" which intrigued me. Could it have a built-in chiller? For those of you who don't know fog machine technology, the fog juice is heated to become fog, which means it wafts up into the air instead of hugging the ground. For years there have been fog chiller instructions online, and I tried making a cheap little one with my first fog machine, but it didn't make much difference so I gave up, and my foggy graveyard worked fine at the duplex and it was okay last year at this house. I'd been wondering why no one made a combo unit that would have a chiller inside. Costco's price was $40 which included 1 gallon of fog juice plus a timer, which is a decent deal but I wanted to be sure it was an upgrade to my current equipment first. I saw the same unit at Spirit without the timer or fog juice for $60, then again during our Halloween shopping weekend at Party America for $25 but they were all out. I asked the Party America cashier if they've tried out that machine if the fog really hugs the ground, and she said "Yes! You put your own ice cubes in and it looks really cool!" So then I decided I would get it from Costco, test it & return it if I wasn't satisfied....but I was planning on doing my test in advance which didn't happen. Since I didn't want to fog up the whole street and my coolest gravestones were at the entrance, I had set it too low so Noelle futzed with that after candle-lighting duty and got it working, saying it looked good along the ground. I never saw it since when we took the Grim Reaper's photo out there, the fog was going but wafting upwards, which was great for the photos, and I checked & the ice in the chiller section was all gone of course. I will be using it Halloween night for trick or treaters so I'll be able to take tripod photos then. My other fog machine was in the backyard just for ambiance, but with the firepit smoke around already, people didn't notice it so I shut it down. With the enhanced pirate display I'll try fog around that instead & hopefully I'll be able to do test runs next year.
Onto lessons learned. Smoke from the firepit is as bad for costume photos as the fog machine location was 3 years ago...*sigh*...several pix I thought were fine are actually not crisp at full resolution because it focused on the haze in front instead, which is a shame. Perhaps figuring a way to safely move the firepit off the brick patio so I could still use the chapel doors for photos will be something next year. We kept trying to use the patio door with the new columns for photos which was well away from firepit or fog machine, but for quite awhile that area was really clogged with people & I couldn't convince them to move away enough, so I started using the shed, but the chilly evening air had people starting the firepit and pulling chairs around it as soon as they arrived. I also needed to point out my new spooky lace tablecloths to many people, but the reason I loved it so much was because it was that subtle, so that's okay. The menu sign was large & prominent so I think most people read it. Some saw it but didn't actually read the details, so I pointed that out to them. Since the pirate corner was under the tree in the back corner and not as many people were entering through the gate, some people didn't even see it. I was hoping to make a treasure hunt with a fun map to draw, which would have clues that make people look at decoration details and send them around the whole party so they see everything, but this month it didn't happen so it's definitely on the list for next year, plus enhancing like actual contents with the treasure chest open. It was just closed this year since I knew no one would venture that far for drinks if it was being used as an ice chest. There is a black wax mess on my white Halloween towels so hopefully with a little bleach after a session with the iron I can clean those up. The wall candleholder looks cool, but I've had issues before with wax running out of the saucers so I wasn't planning on lighting them, but this is what happens when others are on candle duty, so it's my own fault. I had already tested the flesh blood dripping candles earlier in the week and messed up my speaker & photo frame, so I had moved them out of the way, since the tabletop itself is just contact paper. Boy did that burn into an intricate wax sculpture! I am very glad the housecleaners will be coming this Friday so I can clean up otherwise but they'll tackle the messy tile floors and carpet in their normal cleaning, since it's party messy but not too bad. No candy corn stuck on the tile this year thank goodness!
Another problem was the wifi webcam somehow stopped capturing images after about 1pm so missed all of Kael;s & my hard work running around, and I didn't get to check anything until 9pm when I saw from my email that a friend and a couple complete strangers were able to see outside cam but not the inside one. Someone had turned off the lightswitch that runs the same outlet as the webcam so oh well! At least it was back on for the rest of the party, since Tash even complimented the Spartans via email! Good thing I checked at that time too, since the outside cam had stopped about 8:30 so I got both up & running again with a powercycle and they stayed working through 2am...the first 2am at a Halloween party that did not fall back from Daylight Savings time! Tracia, Doug & Ashlyn stayed the night, but pregnant Nathania in her comfy jammies costume had fallen asleep on pillows on the floor so Kevin was chatting with Tracia until they left around 2am.
I grabbed Tracia's photos off her camera before the left, so those & my photos are now up, and someone or two have been peeking already before mine were finished uploading! Hopefully others will send their photos to me too so we'll have the grand collection again.
Have a Happy Halloween everyone!