how we failed and won halloween

Halloween Bark: A Spooky Pinterest Fail (Gen's Perspective):

I first saw the recipe for Halloween bark in a magazine about three years ago. The cute little candy eyes drew me in. I managed to find eyes at Walmart, did some Pinterest comparison shopping to see exactly what I wanted my bark to look like, and then I settled on this recipe from familyfreshmeals.com.

Candy before it became bark.  Look how cute!

Candy before it became bark.  Look how cute!

The recipe is awesome and stunningly basic. Essentially, it’s some white chocolate melts and your choice of mix-ins, a nutritious treat comprised of at least three of Buddy the Elf’s four main food groups. When I first made it, it came out perfectly. That was three years ago. Since then, I have acquired a husband and a baby, and I have lost some crucial brain cells. This is what happened. 

Everything started out lovely. I decided to involve Patrick in an age-appropriate way by delegating to him the crushing of the Oreos. I double bagged the cookies and told him to throw them around. As you might imagine, he loved this. 

Patrick, loving his job.

Patrick, loving his job.

As you also might imagine, this happened: 

Go figure.

Go figure.

After I pried away the broken Oreos from his little fingers, I spread them in a baking pan covered in parchment paper. I also used an assortment of other mix-ins: pretzels, peanut butter cups, and peanuts. 

IMG_1906.JPG

I snapped a picture, turned on a podcast, and danced my way to the white chocolate, LOVING LIFE. I'm a great mom and a great candy artist! 

This is where things went terribly wrong. (If this were a Victorian novel, you would hear a thunderclap.) I poured all of my white chocolate melts into a large bowl and heated them for a minute. As any professional chef, home baker, or casual viewer of the Food Network could tell you, chocolate is a temperamental (pun intended) thing, white chocolate in particular. The melts need to be heated in small batches on low heat, mixing more in gradually. 

I knew this. I had (successfully) made this recipe before. I really can’t explain why I heated them all at once on high heat. I think I felt invincible. I know I was over-caffeinated. My white chocolate came out in a stiff blob, hot as magma with none of the viscosity. I attempted to revive the seized chocolate by stirring in a little vegetable oil, to no avail. 

At this point, the correct thing to do would be to throw out the mess, go buy some more chocolate and start over. I didn’t do that. Instead, I took the hot blob and started smashing it into the pan. It would not spread. Now I was frustrated and angry. 

(Remember that the artist commissioned to paint Hercules in the Disney version? He gets so fed up that at one point he scribbles all over his painting in a fit of rage. Picture that guy.)

I picked the chocolate back up, most of the candy now clinging to it, and mashed everything into a ball, which I then smushed back into the pan. The bright white chocolate took on the orange and brown colors of the candy. It looked like pumpkin vomit. I decorated it anyway, defiantly pressing little eyes and candy corn and sprinkles into the mess. I glared at it. “I hate you,” I thought. I put it in the refrigerator. 

You’ll notice there are no pictures of this part. There’s a reason for that. You don’t want to see it. 

You’ll notice there are no pictures of this part. There’s a reason for that. You don’t want to see it. 

When I took it out, I tasted it. The chocolate had taken on some of the peanut butter cup flavor, which was actually kind of good. The texture of the chocolate wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t noticeably bad. The eyes were still cute!

Look at the cute eyes!

Look at the cute eyes!

Learn from me. Heat your white chocolate slowly, in small batches, on low heat, adding a little at a time. It’s fine to use the microwave if you do it this way, just use half power and 30 second increments, stirring in between. After that, you pour the chocolate mixture into your baking pan, on top of the candy. After spreading the chocolate around to ensure that it’s even, you add sprinkles, eyes, candy corn, whatever you want. Place the pan in the refrigerator for about a half hour, then break up the bark into chunks and enjoy your treat, formerly known as Halloween Bark, now referred to in my house as Pumpkin Vomit. It tastes better than it sounds. 

If you put it on a pretty platter, it may even accentuate the creepiness of this vomit-like treat!

If you put it on a pretty platter, it may even accentuate the creepiness of this vomit-like treat!


Winning Halloween with a Great Costume (Kat's Perspective):

**Poor quality pictures were taken on camera phones before iPhones were better than professional cameras.**

I understand that there are some people who don't like dressing up for Halloween because it's a pagan holiday and one that glorifies demons, witchcraft, etc.  I can sympathize with this, and I don't support glorifying those types of things either.  However, being from New Orleans means that any time we have an opportunity to dress up, we do it.  Mardi Gras, Halloween, Murder Mystery parties, you get the drift.  We absolutely love dressing up.  I don't know if it's the quirkiness of the culture or our love for festivals and traditions, but something everyone should know about New Orleanians is that we take our costumes seriously.  And I think Halloween can be one of those holidays during which we can celebrate in a fun, happy way that doesn't give credit to the devil or any of his minions.  Plus, children in pumpkin costumes should be something we are blessed to see on a yearly basis.

1. Choose something topical and/or funny but be careful.  It’s so important that you pick something you’re going to be proud of.  Go for something funny if you want to be funny.  If you've always wanted to dress as Scarlett O'Hara or Dorothy Gale, do it.  And do it well!  You should own what you dress as.  After all, if you’re like me, you’ll be showing random people pictures of your costumes from years ago whenever you get the chance in everyday conversation.  

Our brother Joseph is so good at making costumes, he was actually recognized for it in the valedictorian's speech at his high school graduation.  This is his version of Mr. Darling from Disney's animated  Peter Pan.

Our brother Joseph is so good at making costumes, he was actually recognized for it in the valedictorian's speech at his high school graduation.  This is his version of Mr. Darling from Disney's animated Peter Pan.

  • Note:  Don’t pick something that people are going to be offended by.  It’s a good idea to run the idea by someone whose opinion you respect before you do any costume, especially one that may be political or emotional.  
  • Example of something topical: One of our most successful costume choices was for Comic-Con 2014.  Frozen had just come out a few months prior, and it had basically JUST started to explode but it hadn’t exploded yet.  Like it was about to become crazy popular, but not everyone had seen it, it wasn’t annoying yet, and people who had seen it knew how good it was.  So when my siblings and I dressed as Frozen for Comic-Con, it was basically one of the best days of my costuming career (?why is this even a term in my vocabulary?) Everyone was super excited when they saw our costumes—which were, of course, pretty good; also I was recognized as a Disney princess and it felt wonderful; it's been all downhill since then.
IMG_5107.JPG

 2. Look for items you already have that you can use to create or enhance your costume.  For example, for my Kip costume, I used my mom’s polo shirt, my dad’s chino shorts, his socks and belt, and my own pair of Sperry’s.  All I had to do was buy a pair of nerdy glasses, add an eye-liner penciled mustache, and voila!  It was uncanny.

I'm on the left, dressed as Kip, Napoleon Dynamite's brother.  For our costume dance that year, my friends and I knew we could pull off this look well.  We even danced in character that night.  When this picture was first posted on Facebook, someone who didn't know me wrote in the comments, "Wow that kid looks exactly like Kip," implying that he didn't know if that "kid" was a guy or a girl.  Success.

I'm on the left, dressed as Kip, Napoleon Dynamite's brother.  For our costume dance that year, my friends and I knew we could pull off this look well.  We even danced in character that night.  When this picture was first posted on Facebook, someone who didn't know me wrote in the comments, "Wow that kid looks exactly like Kip," implying that he didn't know if that "kid" was a guy or a girl.  Success.

3. Go thrifting for the things you don’t have.  Thrift stores have tons of stuff for cheap (like interesting shoes and things like that), so if you know what you’re looking for, you’ll likely find it between 1-2 thrift stores.

This is my friend Sarah and me.  Almost every part of our entire Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly outfits were from thrift stores.  I'm wearing Sarah's black leotard, but my skirt is the bottom half of a dress that I cut to look like a famous Grace Kelly picture.  The creepy men in the window are not from a thrift store.

This is my friend Sarah and me.  Almost every part of our entire Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly outfits were from thrift stores.  I'm wearing Sarah's black leotard, but my skirt is the bottom half of a dress that I cut to look like a famous Grace Kelly picture.  The creepy men in the window are not from a thrift store.

4. Get creative with anything you can’t find at a thrift store.  For example, with the Frozen costume, I already owned the dress (it was a prom dress from sophomore year of high school—okay, I’m a hoarder), but I needed a glittery, silvery, almost invisible cape (but y tho??), and silvery, shimmery sleeves (also ???).  So I just bought some pretty tulle fabric from the fabric store (read:  I got Gen to pick it up for me, oops), pinned it to the back of my dress, and wrapped some tulle up over my arms to create sleeves (which in hindsight I wish I could have sewn them on because then I wouldn’t have been fixing them the whole time I was at Comic-Con).

My Elsa costume consisted of my prom dress, sparkly blue tulle for the cape, and regular tulle wrapped around my arms.  Gen's consisted of a blue skirt she already owned, the vest was a top of an old dress that we cut and painted with acyrilic paint, shoes and shirt were thrift store finds.  Joe (our brother)'s outfit was mostly all thrift store and some ribbon Gen attached to his clothes.  Gen ordered the wigs for us from Amazon.

My Elsa costume consisted of my prom dress, sparkly blue tulle for the cape, and regular tulle wrapped around my arms.  Gen's consisted of a blue skirt she already owned, the vest was a top of an old dress that we cut and painted with acyrilic paint, shoes and shirt were thrift store finds.  Joe (our brother)'s outfit was mostly all thrift store and some ribbon Gen attached to his clothes.  Gen ordered the wigs for us from Amazon.

5. Sew on the things that aren’t attached well.  If you can’t sew, get your mom, sister, aunt, or grandma (JUST someone who can sew in your life) to do it.  Trust me, it's worth it.

6. Hair and makeup are very important when they’re important.  If you need a wig or to spray your hair a certain color, it’s always worth it.  It just adds a special touch that lets people know you ain't playin'.

Kip and Napoleon were such a hit in high school that we decided to bring them back for a Harry Potter movie premiere while we were in college.  I was, yet again, mistaken for a man during this experience; I owe that to my hair and makeup.  And taping down of my chest with medical tape.  Add trash bags and paper wands, and voila!  A costume within a costume.

Kip and Napoleon were such a hit in high school that we decided to bring them back for a Harry Potter movie premiere while we were in college.  I was, yet again, mistaken for a man during this experience; I owe that to my hair and makeup.  And taping down of my chest with medical tape.  Add trash bags and paper wands, and voila!  A costume within a costume.

7. When you can’t do any of the above, there’s always papier-mâché.  

  • I used chicken wire to build a structure for my ham costume. (I saw To Kill A Mockingbird in elementary school, and ever since I saw Scout’s ham costume, I wanted to be that for Halloween, because it’s HILARIOUS and A KICK IN THE HEAD).
  • I don’t really remember what I used to construct the outside of the structure, but I’m pretty sure I did a variation of this.
  • I spray painted (and acrylic painted over it the “Ham”) the structure once it was all done, let it dry over a few days (bc I didn’t want to get high in my ham) and knocked out my guests at our Halloween party with the hilarity and well-executed-ness of my costume.  I mean, I can brag, right?
Jonathan's not a huge fan of dressing up (unless he's going to be projected on the big screen at an LSU football game), so when I told him all he'd need for this costume were a book and a suit, he was happy.  I, on the other hand, was perfectly content in my very uncomfortable but totally worth it homemade ham.

Jonathan's not a huge fan of dressing up (unless he's going to be projected on the big screen at an LSU football game), so when I told him all he'd need for this costume were a book and a suit, he was happy.  I, on the other hand, was perfectly content in my very uncomfortable but totally worth it homemade ham.

8. Take one (only one—it keeps people wanting more) picture for social media that looks hella good and demonstrates all aspects of your costume, come up with a clever caption (even something simple like Happy Halloween from the Smiths), post, and enjoy the comments that come flooding in. 

All I needed for this costume was a grey tank top and fabric marker.  Miriam provided the round shape, I already had a cardigan and black maternity pants, and we got the Darth Vader helmet from the kid's toy section in Target.  The caption for this post was "Darth Vader and the Death Star.  Happy Halloween from the Finneys."

All I needed for this costume was a grey tank top and fabric marker.  Miriam provided the round shape, I already had a cardigan and black maternity pants, and we got the Darth Vader helmet from the kid's toy section in Target.  The caption for this post was "Darth Vader and the Death Star.  Happy Halloween from the Finneys."