Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The NOT-Halloween Party

Our family has never been much into Halloween. My older siblings went trick-or-treating a few times, and I have a vague memory of passing out candy one year, but mostly Halloween has been the day we must get through in order to get to the 50%-off candy sales.

Last year was the easiest Halloween yet----for me, anyway. I had no kids at home at the time, so it was a breeze for me to sit home in happy anticipation of cavities-to-come. But 'twas a little more difficult for Noni and her horde of discontented munchkins in town. So at the end of the evening, we made a solemn covenant to meet out at my house the next year. A solemn covenant I promptly forgot.

A week or so from the Big Day, I impulsively suggested to Noni that she bring the kids out to my house on Halloween.

"I thought that's what we'd already decided to do."

"Heh-heh. We did?"

"Oh, yes, of course. We did.....How did we?"

Good thing I thought to invite them again, or we all would have had a little surprise Halloween evening!

I wanted to do something a little different from past years. Usually we would just rent a movie and sit around stuffing caramels into our faces, but the older I get, the more important memory-making becomes to me. I wanted an evening that would be worthy of a place in my guests' Roll of Memories; something they would remember (hopefully with fondness) for years to come.

My first decree for a memory-filled evening was to ban the candy. After all, what could be more memorable on Halloween than zero candy? Besides, we were inviting our neighbors, a family with 3 wonderful little girls who eat an extremely limited amount of sugar. All of our previous parties have been sugar-paloozas, so I wanted at least one time where they weren't having to say "No, thank you" all evening.

The second decree was no movie. We were going to spend time together and enjoy it, or die trying! I planned a quiet evening of board games until supper was ready, then a treasure hunt in the dark, in the snow, and a few more games before calling it an evening.

The boys played nicely out in the living room while the supper finished baking. Not so with Tiggy and Noni, the evil pumpkin doughnut fiends! They stayed out in the kitchen and "helped" by "filling" the vegetable tray, and "safe-guarding" the doughnuts, a process that left things emptier than when they started. The Andersons weren't due until after supper, so there was no social pressure for good behavior. Tsk, tsk.

After a delicious meal of spaghetti, home-made pizza, garlic bread, and a lick each of the empty vegetable tray (I think I got some broccoli crumbs!), our company arrived and it was time to suit up for the highlight of the evening. Tiggy had helped me earlier by hiding the clues and maps. We divided up into two teams, the "Intermediates" and the "Challenge" Teams.

Each team was responsible for following the clues and bringing back their treasure, but, it being North Dakota, dark, snowy, and cold, each team was also required to stay together and stay on authorized paths. Before heading out into the dark, our crew gathered for a picture. Winter wear isn't slimming, OK?!

The Intermediate Group (because no one wants to be called a "beginner") had to tromp back and forth in the farm yard area a few times before finding the treasure map that led out across the field. The treasure was hidden in a brushy area part way across our neighbor's harvested wheat field. Tiggy had put it out there, but in the dark she couldn't even find it, so we formed a human chain and walked north until we saw the dim outline of the treasure against the snow.

 One of MY favorite memories of the evening was of Avonly Rose running up to the old tin washtub to see the treasure it contained, only to stop short when she saw it was empty. The "treasure" WAS the old washtub!

Meanwhile, the Challenge Team was off to a great start, picking up their first clue clear at the end of the driveway. It led them back up to the house, then a stop or two more before they found their treasure map. Which directed them back down to the end of the driveway to where their treasure was hidden about 20 feet from their first clue. Insert evil chuckle here.

I had already informed everyone that the two treasures would have to work together, so our team hauled back the washtub (which turned out to have a hole in the bottom) and their team brought back a bag of green apples. After getting a smaller, though intact, washtub out of the attic, we were ready for our next bit of fun. Bobbing for apples.

We went youngest to oldest. Shayla was first, and everyone spent several minutes bombarding her with a loud cacophony of advice. Then, while people were still calling to her on how to push it up against the side, or use the bottom, and don't be afraid to get a little wet, she darted her head down and daintily pulled out an apple by the stem. What a problem solver!

Not Devon, however. He had to go the whole enchilada.


Of course.

Once the fun of apple-bobbing was over, we had dessert. The evening may have been candy free, but you can't have a fall party without a few goodies. Everyone got to cut up their apple and have it with caramel dip, and---the few---the brave---the proud---pumpkin doughnuts that had managed to survive were brought out of hiding. Unfortunately, I didn't see the doughnut with THE LARGE BITE TAKEN OUT OF IT until after I'd offered them up to company!

After all that excitement, everyone was more than ready to chill out a little with some relaxing games. Snort. As relaxing as a full-contact sport! Those games can get intense! The Andersons' had brought the games of Giant Spoons and Balderdash, neither of which I had ever played before. We had a great time, and I'm sure that it was one for the memory books of each person.

I know I'll always remember it. After all, it's not every night that your oven melts down, sends out sparks, and threatens to burn the whole house down. RIP dear little harvest gold kitchen range. You sleep with the trash bags now.

The recipe that brought my oven to its knees:

Pumpkin Doughnuts:

1/2 C oil
3 L eggs
1 1/2 C sugar
1 1/2 C pumpkin
1 1/2 t pumpkin pie spice OR 3/4 t cinnamon, 1/4 t nutmeg and ginger (this is the amount the recipe calls for, but increase for yummy spiciness)
1 1/2 t salt and baking powder
1 3/4 C + 2 T flour

Grease doughnut pans. Beat oil, eggs, sugar, pumpkin, spices, salt, and BP. Add flour. Fill pans 3/4 full. Bake 15-18 min. Let sit for 5 min. Remove, and when no longer fragile, shake with cinnamon and sugar.

I had to use brown sugar because I was out of white, so mine were a little, er, odd-looking, but they tasted very, VERY good.


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