I have not, that I can think of, tackled any new house-related projects since the last post that I can think of. But I am happy to fill you in on what I have been working diligently on for the last couple weeks. For a few years now, it has been my heart’s desire to throw a Halloween Party. While I lived in the apartment, I bought a big furry spider with (just two) beady red eyes from the craft store and my favorite time of year was when I got to drag that puppy out and make a scary nest for it outside my front door with storebought spiderwebs. I just didn’t want the party to evolve into some hellish house party and so I waited. I now have the space and wiggle room to have a little fun with decorations and I don’t have to worry as much about disturbing the neighbors as no one lives below me anymore.
Plans started out as a costume party where guests would just get together in costume and mingle and have a great time. That might be a little boring though, and truth be told several of my sons’ birthday parties were total flops. All I had planned for those was some swimming, music, and snacks. Apparently easy pool party isn’t enough and not everyone comes hungry. A former co-worker and his wife told me about a murder mystery dinner party they threw and about how fun it was. I tried to write my own once also but didn’t know where to go with it. I checked them out online. Some games I found were really expensive and some were reasonable. Then I had to take into consideration how many guests would actually want to play a character. Creating a guest list was tough for me. On the original “brainstorming sheet”, there are about 20 names with +1s next to them. And I began the list in mid September when my son’s birthday was coming up and when I still thought it was a good idea to host Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s at my house. I began to look forward to this event. After I began the guest list, I thought of food and beverage ideas. If I wanted my nearest and dearest all to be there, no way could I afford to have a dinner party. At the same time, I want to provide for the people who took the time to drive out to my house for my get together. And honestly, I didn’t want to do a potluck. Cocktails and snacks around eight o’ clock in costume started to have a nice ring to it.
Around this time was when stores began to roll out their Halloween goodies. At this point in my life, and for a while now, cutesy figurines and flags and pictures do not appeal to me. By the same token, I’ve never been into the terrifying side of Halloween. I like the spooky medium where you’re not really sure if what’s around you is real or even there; the psychological side maybe. That and the eerie silence of the past or history of a place or an object. Although my Halloween bin in the garage was full, there was very little in there that I could actually work with. Plus. this place is bigger and therefore requires more. So far I had two ceramic skulls, one furry spider, a few webs left over from years past, orange lights, and three tiny spiders that came with the webs. Oh and two scary ghosts to hang up. I also had little ghosts that I made out of Kleenex as decorations for my sister’s bachelorette party. The rest of what was in the bin — foam headstones, corny cheerful ghost candleholders, and glow in the dark skull and hands named Bobby Bones went to Goodwill.
I knew that party planning was getting a little out of control when I realized I had lots of little projects to do and not much time or funding to get them all done in. On the list:
clean the house
make paper bag headstones
make nametags for characters
put up webs
track down reasonably priced candles
find caution tape
get white sheets for furniture
buy food and mixers
get green light bulbs!
make hand-blown rotten eggs
unscrew most of the lightbulbs in the house
come up with icebreaker games
. . . and the list went on. So I shopped the thrift stores and the sales and got everything I wanted to decorate with. I even went so far as to ask for paper bags at the supermarket to use for the headstone luminaries for the front yard. This made the cashier wince and I actually had to ask two trips in a row because so many groceries fit into a paper bag that we only needed two or three per trip! I made the gravestones just by lettering on them with a paintbrush and putting battery-powered lights in each. Calligraphy is still the single most useful class I have ever taken. I took it in fifth grade and to this day I use it all the time. So I set those out in the front yard along with a large plastic skull with a centipede crawling through its orifices. It leaned against a barrel cactus, smiling. I also spread webs around the front door, snagging them on the stucco as far up the wall as I could. Then I added my big furry spider and a bunch of little black spiders I bought. 100 to a bag for $4.00. Not too bad. I replaced the porch lights with green bulbs to give the webs an eerie glow and to make the house easier to find from the street. Then I got a Martha Stewart window cling from Michaels. It’s a sad-looking skeleton holding a spider on a thread. That went onto the upstairs window with a green light behind it.
Just inside the front door, I wove webs from the ceiling to about halfway down the walls. Since it’s an acoustic ceiling in the entryway and partially up the stairs, I spread the webs all the way across it and dragged them down real close to where I thought people’s shoulders might be. I also scattered spiders in the bathroom and all through the webs inside. I stuck up spider silhouettes near necklines and overhead.
I covered the couches and my tables with white sheets and behind each of the boys’ doors, I plugged in orange lights that shone under the door for a creepy glow. Michaels had silver chargers for $1 each so I set candles glowing on two of them to reflect light around. I was able to get my mits on one holographic image of a Civil War Pirate looking man who changes to a zombie at the right angle. On a whim I picked up two plastic black roses that looked nice in a red vase. I also bought at Walgreens two orange candleholders with a graveyard scene and a haunted house on each.
As the house became spookier and more prepared for costume party guests, so did guests approach me with how excited they were about the upcoming party; especially the mystery characters. They wanted to know about costumes and what they were allowed to say or not to say and when to say it. We would smile at eachother and I always wished we were at the party already. I was thrilled that they were thrilled. I was asked repeatedly if I needed help with anything or if I’d like for them to bring anything. I’d planned for pretty much everything but that. And once I started saying “yes” to that question, I began to look forward to beer, dessert, wings, and gin and tonics. I held onto my dream of making cranberry and black vodkas. And of making pico de gallo and guacamole to be served with blue corn tortilla chips. Other than that though, I let the guests do the rest.
After I lit all the candles around the house, I began the layers of makeup that would transform me into a vampire/hostess/character for the mystery. And as I was being force-fed a sandwich, the first guests arrived. Steadily, they trickled in, my faux husband bringing me flowers, Caesar arrived in gold leaves, Mr. and Mrs. Waldo in matching stripes and spectacles, my brother as a photographer in a vest and a tie, the lovely Kara as Brad from Rocky Horror, a beautiful butterfly and her bug-catching date, and lastly the lovely astronaut in a track suit after a long day. With the wine chilling in the refrigerator and plenty of snacks to go around, I left everyone in the living room to go make myself a cocktail, including a few of the plastic eyeballs I froze with the ice cubes and dropped into the sangria to make it extra creepy. All I could hear were voices and laughter filling up all that extra space I have with these vaulted ceilings. I couldn’t help but smile. This was the most people I’d ever had at my home — any home — before. The party turned out as well as I’d hoped it would; warm and jovial, just like I want the house to feel.
Shortly thereafter, we started the mystery. All the secrets came out and my head spun a little with all the new information I learned about my character in the hour or so it took us to decide who the culprit was. After I read the confession to everyone, we all kind of slapped ourselves on our foreheads because the killer was so obvious through the whole charade. After some more chatting and speculating, my lovely guests began to depart. It was just me left after everyhing with a cup of coffee and a little clean up. And honestly, looking forward to the next party I will host.