Witchcrafts: Pumpkin Spice Balm and Candles

wc2Autumn brings all things Pumpkin Spice. It is an obsession for many here in the United States, this pumpkin and the heady warmth of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and clove. To add to the mania, I present this DIY recipe for homemade Pumpkin Spice Lip Balm. The pumpkin gives it a natural tint, and the spices add the necessary seasonal scent. What better way to keep lips kissable during shortening days swirling with gem-bright leaves and haunting nights?

 

Ingredients:

 

2 Tablespoons of bees wax pellets

1 Tablespoon coconut oil

Optional: 1 teaspoon vitamin E oil

½ teaspoon fine ground pumpkin spice

¾ teaspoon pumpkin puree

 

wc3Set a small pyrex container in a pot filled with 2-3 cups of water. Melt bees wax and coconut oil in this “double boiler.” Once melted, add vitamin E if desired. Stir in pumpkin puree and spices until evenly dispersed. Carefully pour mixture into small lip balm containers or cleaned and used EOS container.

 

The final product is nourishing, tastes yummy, and smells divine.

My son and I recycled some cardboard tubes (from T.P. and paper towels) and bought inexpensive battery operated tea lights to create safe and striking candles. To create them, we hot-glued the tea lights to the top of the tube, “flame” side up. I allowed the hot glue to drip over the outside of the cardboard tube, giving the appearance of melted wax.

The color of your tempera paint and coordinating glitter can be dictated by your decorating theme. My son used black tempera paint to cover the entire tube, the dried hot glue, and the plastic cap of the tea light, avoiding the actual flame. While the paint was still wet, he sprinkled it with black glitter to give that additionally magical look.

The only drawback to this project is the tea light is secured at the top of the tube, which makes turning the candles off and on a bit of a challenge. To do so, we used a barbeque skewer to flip the switch since our hands wouldn’t fit inside the tube.

Arranged together, the faux candles make a striking display.

Witchcrafts: Ghost Foot Prints

gfpFor my annual pumpkin carving party, I needed a super-fast and fun Halloween craft. I bought some 5” X 7” black archival board, dipped the bottom of my kid-guests’ feet in white paint, careful to be certain to coat their toes, and pressed the paper to the black paper. I then had the kids press their thumbs into black paint and press their thumbprint to the center of their heels to make an ominously open mouth. Two index fingers placed above the thumbprints became eyes. I allowed the pages to dry and then placed them in inexpensive frames as party favors. The kids’ parents loved the resultant artwork as much as I enjoyed helping the kids make them.

 

To make:

 

  1. Brush white paint over cute little feet.

  2. Press wet painted foot to dark colored, acid-free matting, board, or paper.

  3. Wipe off the little feet. (They often want to run about, after all, and unless you relish some ghostly footie prints on your carpeting, it is best to attend to this step as soon as an acceptable print is acquired.)

  4. Set aside and allow to dry. (If you did not use much paint, this step will not take long.)

  5. Once footprint is dried, press the little haunter’s thumb into black paint to make a nose. Use the index finger to make eyes.

  6. Allow to dry.

  7. Don’t forget to sign and date the print, either front or back as you prefer.

  8. Frame and add to your Halloween decorating.

Happy haunting!

Halloween Decorations: Jack O’the Mantel

halloween kiss

halloween recycleTo reinforce my kindergartner’s recycling and re-purposing lessons, I devised a simple Halloween art project. I patterned the project after holiday-themed jars sparking with tiny, festive lights, using as inspiration twinkle-lighted jars given to me by my husband.

My son and I decided on a smiling Jack O’lantern to grace our mantel.

Although many options presented themselves, including painting or pasting tissue to the container, we alighted on a simple solution.

First, we cleaned an emptied plastic mayonnaise jar, soaked off the label, and set it aside for later in the project.

halloween craftNext, we used safety scissors to cut simple shapes from black construction paper to use as eyes, a nose, and a smile.  We glued the shapes on the jar, making a face of triangular eyes, a smaller triangular nose, and a crescent mouth.

Inside the jar we stuffed sparkling orange material and couched within a battery-powered light.

In all, the charming effect pleased us. We had recycled and created an addition to our decorating repertoire.halloween mantel

GingerDEAD Cookies!

Gingerbread men. Their spice scents the air and lingers on gd cookiesthe tongue. Many reserve gingerbread cookies for Christmas, but why not give them a Gothic twist?
Fred sells cookie stamps called “Ginger Dead Man” which leave an imprint of a skeleton into which white icing can be piped for a skeletal effect. Williams Sonoma sells skull cookie cutters crying for sugar skull status. Foodiggity offers a macabre little cutter called “conjoined.” Two heads for the horror of all.
Andrea from Cupookie in Los Angeles, California posted amazing Dia de los Muertos cookies with beautiful, devious designs. (www.cupookie.blogspot.com) She takes the ordinary form and transforms it into the extraordinary.

Zombies and monsters may lurk within the traditional framework. With swipes of white chocolate, a gingerbread man can become an avenging Mummy. Drip red from broken bits to denote victims. With a little poke and a pin or two, the cookies become weapons in the hands of a voodoo practitioner. Simple circles can become Tim Burton’s Jack Skellington.

To begin, bake traditional gingerbread men and ladies, or buy unadorned cookies to decorate.
A simple gingerbread cookie recipe:
3 cups flour
3 teaspoons ground ginger, 2 1/2 teaspoons Cinnamon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 egg
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Directions: Mix flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg and salt in large bowl. Set aside. Cream butter and brown sugar in large bowl on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add molasses, egg, and vanilla. Mix well. Gradually add flour mixture on low speed until well mixed.
Wrap dough in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness on lightly floured work surface. Cut into shapes. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets.
Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until edges of cookies are set and just begin to brown. Cool on baking sheets 1 to 2 minutes. Remove to wire racks and cool completely.

Then comes the fun. Let your imagination run wild.

THE MONSTERS ARE HERE! Second Wave of Horror Wax Warmers Now Available!

We are pleased to announce that our second wave of horror wax warmers have arrived and can be ordered for immediate shipment from our website! They will be showing up on other sites, but you can get a jump by ordering directly from us. And to encourage you to order direct from us: we are currently offering the new warmers for $25.95 (discounted from $29.95) and this sale will be good through Halloween 2015! Here are our new models, again, ready to ship NOW:

The Scent of Cthulhu:  This wax warmer was inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos. Warm cthulhu (1)your favorite wax scent on top of this slumbering behemoth of doom. But be careful not to awaken him. For if you call, he will come!

 

 

Zombie Apocalypse:zombie (1) Waiting on that Zombie Apocalypse that we all know is coming? Tide yourself over with this great zombie wax warmer. Want to know why our zombie is the perfect warmer? He always has wax on his brain! 

 

Mummy Dearest: Mummy lovers will come completely unraveled with this mummy design mummywax warmer! Melt your favorite wax in your own petrified pharaoh without the hassle of an Egyptian curse! 

And don’t forget that we also have our own line of scented wax cubes to feed your monsters:

monster melts 1-1Monster Melts Series 1: The Graveyard Gang: Haunt your favorite wax warmer with these monstrous melts. Create a spine chilling aura of pleasing fragrance at the witch’s hour or any time of day. Store in a cool place. Halloween Forevermore recommends storing the pack in the refrigerator about 30 min to 1 hour prior to use. Under these conditions, wax shapes will firm so that breakage and disfigurement will be avoided when they are popped out of the pack for use.

Who Could Say No to a Skeleton-in-a-Casket Cake?

Halloween Skeleton in Casket Cake
Halloween Skeleton in Casket Cake surrounded by creepy cake balls.
I opted to surround the cake with creepy cake balls.

Each Halloween I make yummy treats for family and friends. Cakes, cookies, cake pops… whatever tickles my fancy. When I ran across a casket pan by Wilton last year, I was in spooky heaven. Turns out it was the easiest cake I’d ever made. I use Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” cake recipe. This has been my go-to recipe for years, and the result is a moist, not-too-sweet, treat. But you could use any recipe or box mix, so long as it’s designed for baking in a standard pan. If you plan to buy this pan, I recommend spraying the pan with a cooking spray like Pam original, and dusting it with sifted, all-purpose flour. They also make cooking sprays with the flour included, but I’ve not tried those. You’ll want to bake the cake until it’s just slightly underdone. They heavy pan will hold enough heat to complete the process after it’s removed from the oven. This will also prevent sticking in case you missed some preparation spots in the pan. So far I’ve made three of these cakes. One was completely frosted, one (shown here) I piped accents with royal icing (see recipe below), and the third I over-floured the bottom and left naked. The result was faint accents of the skeleton – perfect for sprinkling chocolate crumbs on for “dirt”.

Zombie cake decorated - from the casket cake
Wilton-decorated example of a zombie cake from the same pan.

Wilton provides a “zombified” decorating example. It’s cool, but requires working with fondant, as well as more artistic skills than I possess. To display the cake, I left it on a cooling rack and placed cake balls all around. (See how I made the eyeball cake balls.) Of course, those with more patience and know-how could build a cemetery scene using edible grass and tombstones made from painted Styrofoam. For dirt, I’ve found that crushed graham crackers or chocolate graham crackers work well. Oreos are too black for daylight, but if you plan to display your cake in a dimmer setting, they’ll work, too! A few more tips:

  • Don’t use glaze icing, or icing that dries to a shimmering look.
  • If you’ve prepared the pan properly and it won’t release easily, use a rubber spatula to gently draw around the inside of the pan.
  • Want to make it ahead of time? Freeze the naked cake. It will keep well for a month or more and will not lose its shape. Allow it to defrost at room temperature or in the fridge. Don’t microwave it!
  • If you make a decorating mistake, cover it up with “dirt”. That’s the beauty of an unearthed cake – it doesn’t have to look perfect.
  • Do not scrub the pan. Use a faucet sprayer to gently blast out any crumbs from the crevices.
Wilton's Skeleton Cake Pan
Wilton’s Halloween Dimension 3D cake pan is made of heavy duty cast aluminum.

 Making Royal Icing One of the easiest icings to make, royal icing requires all utensils and bowl be free of any grease or oils. Here’s my tried-and-true method. You’ll need:

  • 3 tablespoons meringue powder
  • 4 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 4-6 tablespoons warm water

Directions:

  • In a large metal bowl, mix the meringue powder and confectioner’s sugar on low speed for 30 seconds.
  • Add 4 tablespoons of water and mix on low speed for several minutes until peaks start to form. If the mixture appears too dry, slowly add more water, a teaspoon at a time.
  • Continue mixing until peaks are stiff. When you can turn a spoon upside down and the icing does not fall, it’s done.

Store icing in a clean plastic container with a tight lid.

You can freeze any unused icing for a few months. Just let it thaw at room temperature, and if necessary add a teaspoon of water.

  Plan on making this creepy cake? I want to see pictures of the finished product. Post them below!

Scaring Kiddies the Right Way this Halloween

Zombie leaping out of a casket toward kids.

Zombie leaping out of a casket toward kids.Planning to host a spooky trick-or-treat event? Who could blame you? Every year my husband and I haul out the coffin and lots of props, and gear up to scare the heck out of the neighborhood. I’m talking lots of fog, strobe lights, bloody bodies, and a “corpse” you have to grab the candy from, praying he doesn’t jump out at you (and he will!).

And, every year, people watch the video montage and I always get some “shame on you” comments. I’m reminded of wee ones who’ll certainly suffer from nightmares, and autistic children who have no idea what they’re walking into. Yet, we’ve never received a single complaint from a parent. Not one.

We are privy to all the different conditions and fears of children and adults alike. That’s why we always give a choice. You can follow the crowd “over here” and pee your pants, or you can walk instead to the very nice lady sans costume and ask for some yummy treats. Two lines. Your choice.

I’m happy to report that about 95% of the trick-or-treaters take the scary line. In fact, the bulk of their parents and grandparents coax them into doing it, then want to take their own turn at the coffin. Yep, we’ve sent plenty of grandmothers sprinting away after Joe lets out a shriek and beats his fist on the lid of the casket. But we haven’t lost anyone—okay, that’s a lie. We did lose a teenage boy who ran down the block, and his friends came back an hour later still looking for him.

All in good fun.

Here’s some raw video of a recent Halloween night, whereas you can see that parents love to coax the kids to walk up to the casket, while a few others guide them to a different line. Rarely does anyone outright avoid the house.

 

Two lines. That’s really all it takes. Believe me, parents of children who can’t handle it know exactly how to handle the situation. They will either veer totally away from your house, or they’ll stand between their child and the scary stuff and go to the welcoming guy or gal handing out sweets by the fistful.

The rest of them, though? They’re fair game.

 

Eyeball Cake Balls

Eyeball Cake Balls
Eyeball Cake Balls
Make the eyes bloodshot by drawing with a toothpick dipped in red food coloring gel.

Looking for a unique treat for that Halloween bash? Look no further than gourmet style cake pop balls. Of course, these won’t cost you upward of $3 a piece (more like 25-cents), and they require less “perfection” than any cake or cupcake.

I’ve been making cake pops and cake balls (seriously, it’s the same thing without the stick!) for some time now, and find it difficult to keep up with requests from friends and family. But these are so easy to make.

Here’s my tried-and-true method for making these yummy treats.

  1. Bake any flavor cake as usual. For chocolate, I use the Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” recipe. It’s been around for decades and it produces a tremendously moist and flavorful cake.
  2. Once cooled, spoon the cake out of the pan into a large mixer bowl. (I use a stand mixer.)
  3. Mix the cake alone on low speed until the cake is all crumbly. If the cake is moist it will start to stick together a little bit.
  4. Continue mixing, adding 1 to 2 tablespoons of buttercream frosting at a time (here’s a quick recipe) until a huge mass forms. Test the dough by squeezing and shaping it into a ball.
  5. Put the mixture into the refrigerator for an hour or more (overnight is fine).
  6. Roll the dough into 1-1/2 inch balls and lay on wax paper.
  7. Freeze the formed balls for 20-30 minutes.
  8. Melt dipping chocolate or almond bark as instructed.
  9. Dip balls into chocolate or candy coating, and use a soup spoon to spin the pop and remove excess chocolate. For creepy eyeballs I just spoon them out without spinning.
  10. Decorate as you’d like!

For the eyeballs shown here, I applied candy eyes while the vanilla coating was still wet. Once the coating hardened, I dipped a toothpick in red gel food coloring and drew the bloodshot lines.

Of course, you could get a lot fancier, er, bloodier, but under dim light, these work just fine.

Plan on making these? Be sure to post your finished pics!

Thinking Inside the Box

Joe Monks lying in a casket - Halloween 2013

You’ve heard the phrase, “Ain’t nothing like the real thing.” It’s the truth. Sure, perhaps for a film or for a stage production, you can get away with a cheap imitation, but when it comes to getting up-close-and-personal in the scares department? Get real. No paper mache casket is going to cut it.

Me in a casket - Halloween 2013
Yep. That’s a real casket…

Couple years back, I was going to do a short film, and needed a coffin. In the past, when I’d run a haunted house attraction for the Valley Stream Parks Dept. (I think they’re still recovering), I built one with a fake bottom, hid the base so it didn’t look so deep, and we scared the heck out of kids and parents (and my bosses) by turning an empty casket into one with a resident in ghoulish makeup in the split-second it took to shut the lid and open it again. Great, easy-to-pull-off stunt-if you build it yourself.

But there was no denying, that box wasn’t going to pass for the real deal no matter how many manhours I put into making it look good. So, for my short film, I stopped banging my head against the wall trying to figure out a work around, and caught myself wondering: what if I could get my hands on a real one?

This led to a lot of internet hunting and contacting casket companies, many of which wouldn’t sell direct. The few that would, sold higher end models, and being an indie filmmaker (read: low-budget), I wasn’t going to spring for $1,300 for their bottom-of-the-line stiff stuffer.

That left calling funeral homes to see if I could rent one. (Laws vary by state, but in most you can’t rent one except to use at a viewing for the truly-deceased. Post-viewing, the funeral parlor must remove the interior lining and destroy it. I guess they’re worried about the dead catching something from one another.) Anyway, with rental of a deposit box for the necrotic out of the picture, I struck up a conversation with a funeral director who told me she’d be happy to show off some of her older inventory, and see if one of those from the showroom might work. Kind of like buying a car left over from the previous model year.

End result? I got a brand new steel casket with lining for $500. I didn’t do much shopping around due to the proposed shoot schedule, but afterward, I did find that yes, other funeral parlors had “clearance” coffins. No surprise, they would’ve been happy to cut me a break, considering, well, there just isn’t much of a market for caskets past their sell-by date.

Being the Halloween lover I am, I’ve used my spiffy steel single-sleeper at my Sis’ place the past 4 years. I’ve also multipurposed it for another shoot; for a promo clip used for the LatinHorrors.com anniversary celebration; and at the local bar we haunt (ha-ha) for their Halloween festivities.

As well, I’ve been approached by fellow filmmakers about renting it for their own projects. Let’s face it-not many people have a real, honest-to-goodness casket in their garage for use at a moment’s notice. The $500 I spent on this baby? Worth every penny. And, I was in Miami when I bought it. If you’re in Duluth? Manassas? Cumberland, and start looking now? My guess is you’ll be able to beat the price.

But you won’t be able to beat the results. Trust me on that.