Friday, October 31, 2014

Countdown to Halloween 2014

We have been doing a Countdown to Halloween now for a few years. This year, however, we did as many activities each day as we have in past. It seems like as the years go by with homeschooling, there are more things that need to get  done academically, leaving less room for fun activities like we did when the girls were younger.

Nonetheless, we did so several things and had theme days (on some of the days leading up to Halloween from October 21st to October 31st).

The first day we focused on mummies. We've done the mummy dogs a couple times now and the girls really like them.

They're just hot dogs wrapped in crescent roll dough and baked until the crescent roll is golden brown.

The next day we focused on spiders since the girls were eyeing the miniature chocolate donuts I had bought earlier in the week.

For the spiders, we used one donut, some vanilla frosting for the eyes, and then broke pretzels into curved shapes to put into the sides of the donut.

It was easier to put little holes where the ends of the pretzels needed to go into the donut. In that way, the pretzel wouldn't break.

I think the donut spiders have to be one of the girls' favorite breakfasts during the Halloween season.

On another day, we focused on monsters. We made monster tacos again this year since we all like tacos.

A hard shell taco, taco meat, fixings, two olives, and a sliver of tomato is all we needed for each taco monster.

We're not huge hard-shell taco fans, so after we ate one taco - anyone who wanted another one just crumbled the taco shells into bits and put the meat and toppings on top. It's easier to eat that way.

On October 24th, we spent some time at the nursing home where we volunteer. We helped the seniors decorate bags for treats that they were going to fill and give to a group of preschoolers who would be visiting them in costume on Halloween.

The ladies enjoyed being creative and attaching stickers to the fronts of the bags.

Afterwards, we helped with a root beer social in the dining room while the seniors listened to music.  It was a nice way to spend the afternoon.

Another day, we focused on ghosts. The girls were asking when "ghost day" would be because they knew we would have Boo-nilla shakes.

Sophia found a delicious recipes for a vanilla shake online, so we used that this year. Before pouring the shake into the glass, we "painted" eyes and a mouth onto the side of the glasses. When the shake is carefully poured into the glass, the eyes and mouth stay in place.

We enjoyed the shakes and look forward to having them again next year.

On Saturday, the humane society where we adopted Cooper and Aspen from, had a Pet Fest. After looking for ideas for costumes, we decided on The Big Bad Wolf dressed as Grandma for Cooper, and Little Red Riding Hood for Aspen.

We spent several days before the event putting the costumes on them. They were always so excited to wear the much so that we were worried that they wouldn't be able to wear them at the Pet Fest.

At the event, we managed to get Cooper into his nightgown. The bonnet with the black fur ears to hold it in place stayed on his head for probably a good five minutes and then we just gave up. It kept falling off, and honestly was more trouble than it was worth. Oh well...

Aspen tolerated her costume, but she was pretty nervous at the event. There was a lot of activity, people, and pets there. Her cape stayed on, but kept going to the side. The hood did not stay on because her ears are upright.

Inside at Pet Fest there were games. A Golden Retriever did the tennis ball game before Cooper and loved it. Cooper, on the other hand, couldn't focus or wasn't motivated to retrieve the balls from the water.

Same thing with Aspen. Even though they like toys at home and like to play fetch, the tennis balls in the water confused them.

Sophia ended up playing a few games. The rubber-band gun was one of her favorite games.

We had a bit to eat and some pop to drink; did the costume contest; and looked at the vendors' tables. Chuck & Don's gave us a big bag of treats and a tennis ball which was nice.

The next evening, the girls made witches' hats with crackers, cheese in a can, and Bugles.

The only time I will buy cheese-in-a-can is for the witch theme day. Otherwise, it doesn't come into the house. Oh...unless one of the girls sneaks it into the grocery cart and I don't see it. But, other than that...this is a treat for them.

Sophia and Olivia each had about a half dozen of the witch hats.

They're simple to make, and the girls both enjoy them.

For the owl theme day, we made a fruit owl. The owl's body is half a pineapple. The wings are apple slices, the feet are limes, the eyes and beak are oranges with blueberry centers, and the outline is strawberries and cherries.

The girls were happy with how the owl turned out. The fruit was delicious too.

On vampire day, we made homemade pizzas. Sophia and Olivia were hungry, so they just wanted to make pizza the normal way. Olivia made hers with pepperoni and cheese.

Sophia had some pepperoni, vegetables, and cheese.

Because it was vampire day, I took a bit of time and made a vampire-shaped pizza.

We weren't sure what the pizza would look like after it was baked, so we took a before and after picture.

After we ate pizza, we made caramel apples for dessert.

I had sliced apples, and the girls added melted caramel, chocolate chips, and chopped peanuts on top.

The more caramel, the better. 

We even added sprinkles for some color and Halloween spirit.

On the candy corn theme day, we made a healthy snack. The bottom layer of the fruit salad is pineapple. The next layer is mandarin oranges; and then whipped cream covers the fruit salad.

On the pumpkin theme day, which we've done quite a bit in the past on, we simply went to a local pumpkin patch. Our pumpkins didn't produce anything this year which was frustrating.

The pumpkin patch we went to was picked over, but the owner said if we could find anything in the field we could have it for free.

The girls ran throughout the field looking for pumpkins.

We ended up finding about a half dozen pumpkins which surprised us.

Although we didn't carve them this year (neither of the girls wanted to do that), we did put them out by the gate so that is the first thing we see.

On Halloween, we volunteered to help at the nursing home. When we arrived, we saw Annabelle and her daughter dressed as the Good Witch (Glenda) from the Wizard of Oz and her daughter as the Wicked Witch of the West.

There was a costume contest which the girl participated in.

I sat with John and tabulated all the voting sheets that the seniors filled out. They were supposed to vote for one person whose costume they liked. Some of the seniors understood this, while others voted for lots of different people. Apparently they really liked the costumes.

Everyone who was in costume had their picture taken together.

Around dinner time, the girls got into their costumes again. Olivia was a princess.

She found a dress that fit her perfectly at a fraction of the cost of a costume which was great! She and Sophia thought it looked like a shorter version of Belle's dress from Beauty and the Beast.

Sophia went as a vampire complete with the makeup and pointy teeth.

It seems like such a long time since Sophia dressed as princesses and Olivia dressed as a lion and giraffe. Time goes by so quickly.

We went to the fire station which sponsored - along with Lions and a local church - dinner. There were hot dogs, chips, cookies, and hot chocolate.

There were games that the girls played before we headed out.

Our first stop was the cafe which was transformed into a haunted house.

Some of the decorations danced and sang.

After that we went to the senior cottages, another nearby town, and then back to homes in our neighborhood.

All in all, we had a great Halloween season. 

Countdown to Halloween 2014

October 19th - Caramel Apple Dessert

To kick off the countdown to Halloween this year, we had a special treat for dessert: caramel apples. These weren't ordinary caramel apples. No, these were ones that were easy for Olivia to eat (since she has braces) plus had some special toppings.

After the girls drizzled melted caramel sauce onto peeled and sliced apples, they could add chocolate chips, chopped peanuts, and sprinkles to embellish their dessert.

It was fun to choose how to customize our desserts.

This is something that we all agreed we'd like to do again next October.

October 20th - Choosing Pumpkins

This year we didn't have any success with growing pumpkins. We're wondering if the decline of the bees (native and domestic) is the reason since everything else we've been doing is the same as in past years.

That being said, there's a pumpkin patch that did very well that's about 7 or 8 minutes from our home. We ended up going there to get pumpkins.

The girls ran through the field since it was rather chilly and they didn't have coats. They found some pumpkins they liked as well as gourds and Indian corn.

This year, though, they didn't want to carve pumpkins. So, we just put them out as decorations near the gate leading to our back door. 

October 21st - Mummy Hot Dogs

We've made Mummy Hot Dogs for several years now around Halloween. Basically, you take a can of crescent rolls, unroll the dough and separate it into pieces; and then wrap each piece around a hot dog.

There are instructions on the can that tell at what temperature and how long to bake the rolls. We always follow that.

We had vegetables and fruit with our Mummy Hot Dogs.

October 22nd - Spider Donuts

For this breakfast, we used chocolate covered mini-donuts, pretzels, and vanilla frosting. Before we got started, we broke the pretzels into curved pieces. We ended up breaking more pretzels into non-curved pieces than curved ones. At this point we wondered if it wasn't more trouble than it was worth.

At any rate, the next step was to make small holes with a knife into the side of the donut. We made three on each side. 

Then, insert the pretzels into each hole.

Add some frosting for the eyes.

And there you have it.  A spider donut. The spider could be standing on its legs....

or the legs could be coming out of its upper-back. In that case, the spider is rather immobilized and unable to walk.

We each made one spider and were satisfied with that. We didn't want to make all the donuts we ate into spiders. We were hungry and just wanted to eat.

October 23rd - Monster Tacos

One of our favorite meals during the days leading up to Halloween are monster tacos. We normally get taco chips, but for this meal we used taco shells.

We prepared the taco meat as usual and had a variety of toppings we added in addition to the basic ones needed to make a Monster Taco: shredded cheese, two olives per taco, and a thin slice of tomato for the tongue.

We made different versions...took pictures of our Monster Taco...and then added some more toppings (like onions, peppers, lettuce, and salsa).

It's a simple, but filling meal.

October 24th - Volunteering at the nursing home

Sophia, Olivia, and I helped the seniors at the nursing home to decorate bags for preschool children who would be visiting them on the 31st.

There were stickers, foam figures, and other embellishments that we used to decorate the bags.

For some, the project was challenging; and for others it was easy.

After we worked on the bags, we went to the dining room and helped served root beer floats while a pianist played the keyboard.

October 25th - Halloween Party with Northwoods

We had high hopes that Cooper and Aspen could tolerate wearing Halloween costumes this year to a party that benefits Northwoods Humane Society (where we adopted both dogs).

It turned out to be more challenging than we anticipated.

Cooper was supposed to be The Big Bad Wolf dressed up as Grandma (he wore a nightgown and was supposed to wear a cap held in place with big black furry ears).

Aspen was supposed to be Little Red Riding Hood.

She managed to wear the red cape (although it kept falling to the side) and the white blouse, but the hood kept coming off because her ears stand upright.

We played games (both the girls and the dogs).

For some reason, both the dogs weren't interested in getting the tennis balls out of the water tank.

At home, they enjoy fishing out ice cubes from the water bowl, but the tennis balls weren't capturing their attention. Maybe it was just too much to take in for them.

We also had a snack and participated in a costume contest. It was an enjoyable afternoon and wore out the dogs (which was an extra bonus).

October 26th - Boonilla Shakes

We have made Boonilla Shakes before and enjoyed them. This year, Sophia found a new recipe for vanilla shakes so we tried that recipe. It was equally as good as past years.

Before pouring the shake into the glass, we spread some hot fudge sauce on one side to represent a ghost's face.

The sauce stays in place while you're eating the shake if you carefully pour it into the glass. the case of Sophia, enjoying the shake out of a mug was just as tasty as the other version with the hot fudge sauce.

October 27th - Witch's Hat

The girls were eagerly waiting for this day when it was the witch theme. They knew that we'd be making the hats again this year with the cheese in a can (something I don't normally purchase).

To make a witch's hat, you put some cheese onto a round cracker.

Then place a bugle on top of the cheese and press down.

It's as simple as that.

For those who really like cheese, as shown above, add some more cheese around and up the witch's hat.

October 28th - Fruit Owl

Looking for something a bit more healthy, I came across an owl made from different types of fruit. The body of the owl is a half of a pineapple. Its eyes are orange slices with a blueberry in the center; and the beak is an orange segment cut into a triangle. 

The wings are apple slices, and the feet are limes. Around the owl are strawberry halves and cherries.

We all enjoyed the fresh fruit, and had more than enough for several extra meals.

October 29th - Vampire Pizza

Perhaps because it was past dinner time and we were hungry, but I was the only one who wanted to try to shape the pizza dough into a vampire head.

The girls were content with seeing what I came up with, while they created their own pizzas with favorite toppings. For Olivia that was pepperoni and cheese.

For Sophia, that was pepperoni, green peppers, onions, and cheese.

We baked the pizzas, and laughed when we saw how the vampire pizza came out.

Nonetheless, the pizzas tasted great...and we would make them again.

October 30th - Candy Corn Fruit Bowl

We did this last year as well, and it's a simple side dish for a meal. The bottom layer is pear slices, the middle layer is mandarin oranges, and the top layer is whipped cream.

The colors are supposed to resemble what candy corn looks like. This is a much healthier version of the candy, though.

October 31st - Halloween!!

We volunteered at the nursing home in the afternoon. Sophia and Olivia dressed up, and as we entered the building we saw one of our favorite residents (Annabelle) with her daughter, Shelly. Annabelle was dressed as the Good Witch and Shelly was the Bad Witch.

The staff, some of the volunteers, and residents' family members dress up and participate in a costume contest. Each person receives a number and they go around the dining room where the residents are sitting. 

The residents are the judges and vote on the costume they like the best.

Before the votes were tabulated, the group gathered for a photo showing all the costumes.

We had a great time as did the residents; and we'd enjoy doing this again next year.

When we came home, we had a bit of time for the girls to get ready to go out trick-or-treating. Olivia dressed as a princess.

She and Sophia thought the dress looked like a short version of the one that Belle would have worn.

Sophia dressed up as a vampire. She even had a mouthpiece so it looked like she had fangs.

The girls were ready to go trick-or-treating even when it was still light outside.

Our first stop was the fire station where there is a free dinner, games, and bonfire each year. The Lions, fire department, and a local church sponsor the event. 

The girls played some games and won candy.

Next we went to a little cafe that is transformed each year into a haunted house. They do a great job.

They have people sitting around who pass out candy. There were also little figurines that would sing and dance. I don't know why I haven't noticed them in the past.

After that, we went around trick-or-treating. The girls got quite a bit of candy.

It's always fun to see the houses and senior cottages decorated for Halloween. Although it was chilly outside, the girls had a great time. It was a nice evening.