The Monster Mash...

Though I'm not usually the kind of person to go all-out for Halloween, I've been looking for excuses to entertain and have people over, so the holiday seemed like as good an occasion as any to throw a party. Since money is tight right now, it was important for me to keep costs down, which can be challenging when hosting a gathering, especially a themed one. With some creativity, however, and some favors called in from Mom, I was able to decorate my apartment, make myself a costume, and feed my guests on the cheap.

I actually didn't spend a dime on decor for the party, despite the fact that my apartment received a full, ghoulish makeover. Luckily, I was able to borrow everything I needed from Mom, who has a formidable collection of Halloween decorations, leftover from a haunted house she put together for my elementary school almost twenty years ago. Disturbingly realistic severed limbs, heads, skulls, and bones found spots on my bookshelves and along the tops of my kitchen counters. I hung bats from the curtain rods, along with strands of stringy faux moss. Ravens found a perch on top of the vases on our entertainment center, and I rested an owl on top of our cookbook shelf.

Rats and spiders were tucked here and there, along with a particularly giant fake snake that I perched on the towel bar in the guest bathroom. Screams emanated from people who went to relieve themselves all through the night. I used Command adhesive to hang a three dimensional skull and crossbones in our hallway, as well as a skull wreath on the door. A giant, freakish rat was stationed by the fireplace, and a rabid-looking cat became the centerpiece of the dining table.

I was even able to decorate the food station, courtesy of the "haunted cafeteria" theme of that long-ago haunted house from grade school -- in among the dips and desserts were a pie baked with severed hands, a rat emerging from a piece of cheese, a pie of eyeball pie, and a human brain on a serving platter. I was a little concerned that these gruesome additions would deter people's appetites, but it didn't seem to stop anyone from devouring the treats.

Amazingly, I managed to make all the food for this party without going over my food budget for the month of October. I accomplished this by sticking mainly to dips instead of warm hors d'oeuvres, and relying on ingredients I already had around the house. My recently discovered Moroccan carrot dip made the cut, not only because it only costs a couple dollars to make, but because it was so well-received by everyone I served it to last time, and it's bright orange color seemed appropriate for Halloween. 

I also had Justin put together a batch of hummus with some leftover canned pumpkin stirred in for some extra Halloween panache. I was able to throw together the pepita brittle and a batch of fudge from ingredients I had on hand, so they were essentially free. The most expensive item on my buffet was guacamole, which I made because it's become a party signature for me this year (even though I can't stand the stuff), and even that cost about $7 for avocados, serrano chilies, and limes.

Though dressing up for Halloween isn't really my thing, I felt obligated, being the hostess and all. So I spent less than $10 to assemble an adorable bat headband I'd spotted on Martha Stewart's website. Because I was able to obtain black construction paper and double stick tape from Mom's supply of crafting materials, all I had to purchase was a new, fabric-wrapped headband, and some thin-gauge wire from Home Depot. I was really pleased how it turned out: the wires were barely visible at times, and it looked like I had a flock of bats just floating over my head.

Justin managed to one-up me in the cheap costume department, by working his wardrobe and borrowing a trench coat from his father in order to make a Tintin costume for free. I was a little worried that it would be too obscure, but pretty much everyone was able to guess who he was.

All things considered, we had a pretty good turnout for our party. I think it's a little easier to get people to come to parties that are during the day, like my Fourth of July party, or my annual cookie exchange, since there is more competition for activities at night, but I was really pleased that my friends were able to come out. The girls seemed go go for the costumes more than the guys, Justin aside, but I was happy to see everyone regardless of what they were wearing.

I think the award for best costume of the night has to go to my friend Jess, and her awesome TARDIS costume inspired by Doctor Who. I've never actually seen the show, but from what I understand, the TARDIS is a sort of time machine/spacecraft that looks like a British police box on the outside, but is much larger on the inside. Jess pulled off the look with a homemade dress with design elements that evoked the windows and color scheme of a police box, complete with a light-up headband to capture the standard light on top of a TARDIS/police box. She looked absolutely adorable!

We were also fortunate to have all three of Justin's sisters in attendance at our fĂȘte, since Cathie just happened to be in town in the midst of completing a move from Colorado to Ohio. Somehow, she managed to assemble a very impressive Black Swan costume from components found in her parents' basement, while Lizzie opted for a Darth Vader look, and Carrie dressed as Regina George from the movie Mean Girls. I suspect that I'll be vacuuming up hair from her wig for weeks, but I was happy to see all of them, and I'm sure that Justin enjoyed getting to spend some quality time with all of his sisters together.

All in all, it was a great night, full of delicious food and fantastic company. I know it was just what I needed to keep my mind off my unemployment predicament, and I'm happy that I was able to provide my friends with a fun evening in the process. I'm already starting to think about my next gathering, my December cookie exchange, and I can't wait to see everyone again. Thanks for coming guys!

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