Tag Archives: Halloween

Pumpkin Bread and Other Things I LOVE About Fall

I think there are many reasons I love fall. The reprieve from the intense heat of summer. The colors. The hint of fun and joyful family time to come. Things seem to slow down or have the illusion of slowing down, anyway. So many things that make it a favorite time of year.


Pumpkins. Pumkins, pumkins, pumpkins.


Crisp Apples. Apple Crisp. Apple Dumplings. Apple Pie. Homemade Applesauce.

Our home, decorated in the rich and vibrant colors of the season. Warm and inviting.

Gardening and potting flowers. I know, only in Arizona. Our reward for surviving the summer.

Carving Pumpkins. Halloween Parties. Trick-or-Treating. Marshmallow Ghost Peeps. Ninja Turtles, Skeletons, Zom-Bees and Zombies.


Thanksgiving right around the corner.


And Pumpkin Bread. Not just any pumpkin bread, the best pumpkin bread ever.


Well we think so anyway.

Here is the recipe, originally posted last fall …

Real Good” Pumpkin Bread.

One of my very first posts in fact. And while a few things have changed since then, like the fact that I don’t eat sugar or much wheat anymore, it is still one of my favorite things to make as a treat for the rest of my family or a gift for someone special.

I have found some pretty tasty gluten and sugar free pumpkin recipes but there is really no substitute. Thankfully, I still enjoy the incredible aroma that fills the house with each loaf.

Okay, and a little taste once in a while.

Okay, and I ate a mini-Baby Ruth or two out of the kid’s Halloween Candy. Mostly sugar and gluten free. Mostly.

Happy fall, everyone!

Now go make some Pumpkin Bread!

And watch out for Zom-Bees.

They love Pumpkin Bread you know.


The Curious Case of the Missing Candy Corn

One of the main reasons I started this blog was to keep a record of all of the funny stuff that happens in our house. I don’t want to forget anything! I want my kids to be able to look back and remember all of the fun and joy in our lives. I want them to know how they made us laugh.

So, I have just one more Halloween(ish) story that I have to tell before we officially move onto Thanksgiving.

I decorate our home for each season, some seasons are more elaborate than others like fall and Christmas. This year, among the fall foliage and warm colors, I added glass jar lanterns to the dining room table centerpiece. Believing my children to be old enough to “leave things alone”, I filled the lanterns with candy corn and nestled a candle in.

A picture is worth a thousand words.

Oh, there it is, the candy corn candle holder that I was fully confident (mostly) my children would not touch.

Imagine my surprise (wink, wink) when the other night as we sat down to dinner, my husband noticed that one of the candles was leaning sideways and the candy corn had been “disturbed”. Upon further investigation, it became clear that quite a few candy corn were in fact, missing and that it was both candle holders, not just one. When Gary pointed this out, Nathan’s eyes got huge and he immediately said, “it NOT me! it NOT me!” Hmmmm, not the least bit suspicious.

When I pressed a little and asked a few questions, the five-year-old “wheels” started turning and without missing a beat, Nathan exclaimed “I know, I know, it was Sawahhh (Sara), she sooooo sneaky!”

You should have seen Sara’s face.

But before she could say anything, Nathan beings to tell the tale. His storyteller voice becomes hushed and Elmer Fuddish – as in “shhh, be vewy vewy quiet, I’m hunting wabbits”. I hope you get what I’m saying because the way he told this story was truly what made it so funny; of course, the dimples, mischievous sparkling eyes and expressive mannerisms didn’t hurt either. But I digress.

Nathan continues on, “yes, it was Sawah. She sneak up to da taybow and she reach vewy, vewy slowly and quietly into da jar an she take da canny corns so she can eat dem. An dats how it happen. It not me.” And he folds his arms, leans back in his chair and looks across the table at Sara as he shakes his head in disgust at her treachery.

Meanwhile, Sara’s mouth has hit the floor at the shock of the accusation just leveled at her. As the injustice of it all sinks in, she becomes defensive and insistent that she WAS NOT the one who took the candy corn.

We know this. This isn’t our first rodeo. We just couldn’t compose ourselves enough to reassure her. Thankfully, she caught on (I’m not sure if it was the poor attempt at concealing our laughter or the shaking or the tears that gave us away) and actually even played along as Nathan continued to insist that she was the culprit not him.

No, of course not, I mean …

“It not me.”

is this the sweet, innocent face of a storyteller willing to throw his sister under the bus to save himself? Why yes, yes it is.

We did manage to pull ourselves together enough to express our dismay at “anyone” who would sneak or lie or more importantly, mess with mommy’s decorations. He just turned five, if he’s still doing this sort of thing when he’s in law school, I’ll worry then.

Truthfully, I’m pretty excited that my boy with a speech and expressive language delay told such an elaborate tale and that I was able to clearly understand every devious word.

Halloween Happenings

Halloween is over, time to reflect on how much fun we had! I told you about the wild beasts devouring our pumpkins. Incidentally, my husband was very disappointed that I did not share the harrowing tale of how he risked life and limb to rescue three of our six pumpkins from the “tusks of death”, or something like that. Honey, you are my hero! So, we were down three pumpkins. Thankfully, I knew where to get more and all was once again right with the world.

Let the pumpkin carving commence …

The newly carved pumpkins had to spend the night on the dining room table, safe from hungry wild beasts.

Trick-or-Treating …

also know as “mommy chasing Nathan up and down dark streets trying to prevent bodily harm, excessive doorbell ringing and a complete breakdown of all manners and self-control as the pursuit of candy switches off all but his basic reptilian brain function”.

Our house is not in the best area for trick-or-treating as we are a little more “rural”, so we headed a few miles down the road to Andrew and Eileen’s (Ethel’s) neighborhood for pizza and the truck-loads of candy family oriented suburban neighborhoods are known for. Our kids love their kids, Ryan and Molly, so they were VERY excited about trick-or-treating with their buddies!

Ryan (Clone Trooper), David (Snake Eyes), Sara (Genie), Nathan (Chop-Chop) and Molly (a Purple Butterfly Fairy)

We picked up a couple of extra fairies along the way (as is always a possibility while trick-or-treating in a family oriented suburban neighborhood) but we didn’t keep them.

The kids had a GREAT time and came home with a TON of candy …

I mean, A TON of candy, which you can see Nathan and Grandma obsessively sorted by genre’.

Disclaimer: I will in no way, absolutely never, not a chance in sugar heaven, allow my children to consume all of this candy. Masses of Skittles, Nerds, Laffy Taffy, Starbursts and Lemon Heads have been set aside for upcoming Cub Scout events so they can be consumed by other people’s children. Don’t worry though, my children will get some of their candy (I’m not a monster); oh, and a little of the chocolate has been safely tucked away for mommy. Okay, and daddy too. Okay, most of the chocolate.

The pumpkins made it to the porch Halloween night and survived the Javelinas but were done in by the 90 degree temperatures the next day.


What is that strange noise?

It is 10 o’clock at night and we are sitting down (finally), relaxing and watching a little TV that doesn’t have a square talking sea sponge, brightly colored Ninjas or a little pirate named Jake. The kids are all in bed asleep, Gracie is curled up in her dog bed next to us, Grandma isn’t making any trouble, so what is making that sound?

My husband gets up to investigate, looks out the window next to the front door and “whisper yells” – you know the voice I am talking about, that excited voice that doesn’t want to wake the kids or in this case scare something away (or wake the kids) but needs to convey urgency – at me “You have got to come take a look at this. You aren’t going to like it, but you need to come and check it out.”

This NEVER turns out well for me.

Since we moved to a more “deserty” area of the Sonoran desert, our home – which we now refer to as “The Brewer Nature Preserve” – has been visited by all manner of creatures. Most stay outside where they can be “appreciated” from a distance. However, on some regrettable occasions, a few have made their way indoors, prompting my husband to say something like “you aren’t going to like this, but you need to come and check it out.”

So I muster my courage, swallow the lump in my throat, and walk in his general direction; he’s still by the front door, looking outside. Whew, at least it’s outside. I peek out the window and “what to my wondering eyes do appear?” Three Javelinas devouring the perfect pumpkins I had just purchased earlier that day. I did not expect that.

Late night snack.

My immediate reaction was relief “thank the Lord it’s not a snake” (I do not enjoy snakes) which was closely followed by “hey PIG, that’s my kid’s pumpkin!” Which then quickly changed to “Hey, those are Javelinas. RIGHT THERE. Amazing”. And then I saw two more and then I saw the baby one.

Can you see that tiny baby “pig”?

Baby anything is a guaranteed heart-melter and this little piggy was no exception. Actually, Javelinas are not technically pigs but they sure look like ’em. Wikipedia tells me they are “a peccary, a medium-sized mammal of the family Tayassuidae or New World pigs. Peccaries are members of the artiodactyl sub order suina, as are the pig family and possibly the hippopotamus family.” What this tells me is they are “pig-like” and that I think I may have just figured out the origin of “here suie, suie, suie”. Maybe not but words like Tayassuidae and artiodactyl have given me a headache and I don’t want to look it up. I personally think they are RUS’s (Rodents of Unusual Size); can you name the movie?

Anyway, I couldn’t let the kids miss out on this but as any mom will tell you, it is best to let sleeping kids sleep. So, I ran and grabbed my camera and slowly opened the front door to get a few pictures. Javelinas are wild animals and are known to be aggressive but the “Lucy” (you’ve heard about her in a previous post) in me took over and I had to get close.

When I went out, they ran off – but not far. I called them back in a soft, soothing, sing-songy voice saying things like “come back, you’re okay, you can have the pumpkin” – “it’s okay widdow piggy, I won’t hurt you” – “come on, that’s it, that’s a good piggy” – “eat the yummy pumpkin” – crazy thing, they came back and started eating again with me crouching just a few feet from them. You can just call me “The Javelina Whisperer”.

So now, I’m slowly getting my camera in position and am saying something more like “okay piggies, don’t charge the nice lady when she takes your picture and sends a blinding flash of light through the darkness at you.” They didn’t. Thank the Lord. They just kept eating. Crazy!

I took several pictures, none of which were very good, but good enough to show the kids what they missed while snug in their beds.

Turns out the kids got to see the Javelinas for themselves because the next morning they were back to finish off whatever bits of pumpkin they had left behind. I called the kids to the windows and Nathan (who thinks a lot like his mom) immediately shouts out “HEY, MOMMMMMY, DAT PIGS EATIN’ MY PUNKIN” and goes to open the front door while saying “I go get dem way from MY PUNKIN!” No fear, no regard for the “strangeness” of the situation (it’s not as if we have “pigs” in our front yard on a regular basis) just a desire to save that which is his.

Of course, I did not let him go outside with the wild animals. I assured him that we could get new pumpkins to carve and he felt better. Then he saw the baby and I practically had to barricade the door. He was certain that the baby pig wanted him to pet it and that we should keep it.

There is not anywhere near enough “Lucy” in me for that!

In the end, the kids were satisfied with watching our visitors through the windows. Eventually, they trotted off around to the back of the house (making the dog go crazy as she stood nearly nose to nose with one through the back gate), knocked over my bird feeder and moseyed on down the wash. We haven’t seen them  since, which maybe a good thing as I have since learned a few more things about Javelinas. Things I probably should have known before I went outside to commune with them:

  • They are called Javelinas because of their razor-sharp tusks, Spanish for javelin or spear.
  • Adult males can weigh 40 to 60 pounds.
  • They can run fast and have been clocked at 35 miles per hour.
  • They have a distinct musky odor which they will emit when excited or threatened (think skunk).
  • Javelinas are generally harmless to humans when undisturbed but watch out when they are with their babies! Even in captivity, they are unpredictable.
  • They cannot be domesticated as they are likely to injure humans.

Here’s the best part …

“It is not recommended that you feed them in your yard since they WILL return and in larger numbers. They will get into your garbage cans, dig holes in your yard, knock over your potted plants eating the entire plant AND eat your vegetable, cactus and flower gardens!”

Great. So, they are raccoons. Smelly, fast, potentially dangerous, pig-like, razor tusked raccoons.

Welcome to the desert! Wait until you hear about some of our other visitors.

Lucy and Ethel Plan a Halloween Party

We love being a part of Cub Scouts! David is learning new skills, we have made wonderful friends and are having A LOT of fun – Nathan can hardly wait to be a “Hub-Scout” (as he calls it) when he gets older.

Last Thursday was our Halloween Pack Meeting/Party. I am the Assistant Committee Chair and I LOVE putting a party together so I took up the party planning reins. Thankfully my friend, fellow party lover, Wolf Den Leader and kindred Pinterest addict, Eileen, became Ethel to my Lucy and helped me put the whole thing together.

Just like Lucy and Ethel were prone to do, we went a little crazy! At one point (I think it was when we were discussing the white chocolate dipped pretzel topped brownie skeleton treats) Eileen’s husband looked at us and said, “you know they’re just boys, right?” I think he was insinuating that the stack of hand dipped pretzels topped with a puffy Marshmallow face all resting on a homemade brownie decoratively wrapped in a cellophane treat bag, would be lost on them. I think he was suggesting that the “Cake Walk” would be just as successful if we were to just buy cupcakes at Albertsons.

Silly guy, doesn’t he know that this is our chance, our long awaited opportunity to try out ALL of the amazing ideas we have been pinning on our Halloween boards for months?

So between the planning meetings which doubled as play dates, text messages, phone calls and midnight e-mails, here’s what we came up with:

Games and Activities

We had two activity stations and five game stations, mostly because we have five different dens so each den could be in charge of a game and the den parents could rotate through making sure there was always be a parent at each station to help. Each game had a bucket of candy and small Halloween themed toys to be handed out to the kids when they finished participating.

The Guessing Table – At the entrance to the party was “The Guessing Table” where we had mason Jars filled with gumballs, eyeballs, malted milkballs, cheeseballs (aka: pumpkin poo) and candy corn. I used white jumbo cupcake wrappers topped with Halloween themed wrappers as decorative (and really easy) lid covers. We set up orange and yellow gift bags behind each jar for the boys to put their guesses in and whoever had the closest guess won the jar.

The Guessing Jars

The Eyeball Guessing Jar

For the “Eyeball Guessing Jar”, I topped it with a treat cup filled with candy so that the winner would have something yummy and not just eyeballs. Although I can’t imagine any elementary school age boy who wouldn’t be thrilled just to win a jar full of squishy, sticky eyeballs.

Grandma and Nathan making their best guess.

The Craft Table – Eileen ordered canvas treat bags from Oriental Trading Company for the kids to color and then use to hold all of the candy and goodies they would collect at each game station.

Coloring Treat Bags

The Costume Contest – Before the games got started, we had all of the kids parade across the stage for a costume contest. We had three of the pack leaders judge the costumes based on Originality, Imagination, Wow-Factor and “Selling-It” (being in character). We had some great costumes and all of the winners (1st, 2nd and 3rd place) put a lot of thought, creativity and effort into their costumes and each received a prize that included a black light (which here in the desert is great for night-time scorpion hunting – if you like that sort of thing, which I don’t), a frozen yogurt shop gift card, Halloween pencil and a bag of treats.

Eileen asking Nathan who he is for the Costume Contest, “I’m Nathan B.” he answers matter-of-factly. Eileen tries again, “But whooooo are you?”  “Naaaathaaan Broooweeeeer” he says slower and much more clearly so that the confused lady with the microphone can understand. Actually, he was “Chop-Chop” one of his super cool and much beloved Skylander characters.

Our Winner, Jacob the Giraffe!

Dara and Davin, the coolest Mother/Son Zombie team I know!

And David is a Ninja, three years running. He does make a good Ninja. Actually this year, he is technically “Snake Eyes” from G.I. Joe so he’s not really just a Ninja … again. Sara was a very pretty Genie but in the craziness, I missed getting a picture of her – I’ll get one on Halloween!

Let the Games Begin!

Station 1, Games for the Little Goblins and Ghouls – We set up an area, removed a little from the main chaos and craziness that comes with a large group of 6-11 year old boys, for all of the little brothers and sisters that came. I can’t believe I never got a picture of this station but we had a pumpkin bean bag toss, sticky spider web splat game, toilet paper pumpkin bowling (TP rolls with ghost eyes and mouths drawn on stacked in a pyramid and then bowled over with a small pumpkin – so cute) and pin the nose on the pumpkin.

Although I don’t have a picture, the TP bowling was inspired by http://bedifferentactnormal.com

Station 2, The Toilet Paper Mummy Race – Teams of three boys, two at one end of the race one at the other end, one boy would wrap another in toilet paper (using the entire roll), the newly mummified scout would then run down to the other end where he would be unwrapped by his waiting team-mate and then race back to the start. I’m not sure if the actual “race” part of the activity was successful but the kids sure had a lot of fun wrapping each other in toilet paper!


Grandma “mummifies” Nathan.

Station 3, Pop Goes the Pumpkin – Young children overly excited with party fever and consuming way too much sugar, why not add darts to the scenario? There were a few concerns about this but when did Lucy and Ethel ever let the threat of danger or potential harm stop them? Actually “Pop Goes the Pumpkin” was very safe, a lot of fun and VERY popular with the boys. Inspired by a Pinterest Post from http://marthastewart.com, Eileen took two foam core presentation boards, taped them together and then covered them with black cloth. The balloons were taped to the board in a pumpkin(ish) shape and she put a green paper stem at the top to complete the effect. Two big black garbage bags filled with extra balloons were standing by to replace the popped ones. We blocked off the area around the dart board and only one set of plastic darts was used so that just one boy at a time could shoot thus minimizing the risk of life and limb to the parent volunteers.

“Pop Goes the Pumpkin”

Station 4, Fear Factor Challenge – My friend Jenn, Cub Scout Treasurer extraordinaire, took this one over and did a great job. She covered bowls filled with “interesting” things for the kids to reach into and see if they could guess the contents. Were they feeling slimy worms or spaghetti noodles? Cockroaches or banana peels? Peeled grapes or gooey eyeballs? You get the idea. Gross and perfect for boys! Wipes and hand sanitizer were a nice added touch.

Ewww, gross what is in there?

Station 5, The Cake Walk – Timeless and a necessity at any Halloween Party! Incidentally, neither Eileen or her husband had any idea what a “Cake Walk” was – how is that possible? To have never walked around and around in a circle desperately hoping for your number to be called so you can victoriously march up to the cake table and select whatever delicious treat your heart desires. It really is unthinkable.

The Cake Walk Treat Table

My youngest son, on the other hand, is the greatest cake walk competitor of all time. This child is serious about his cake walk and it is hysterical! We discovered this last year at his pre-school Halloween Party. He patiently and methodically stepped from number to number, no pushing, crowding, hurrying, he was all business – which was made even funnier by the fact that normally he is a run-away train barreling through his day at 100 miles an hour. When the number was about to be called he would wait intently, eyes wide, ears straining to find out if he was the winner. When his number was not called (and it was not, many, many, many times) to our amazement, he never got frustrated or upset he just continued on patiently walking around and around that circle somehow sensing that his “day” would come, even clapping for winner after winner as they walked up to select the sweet treat he was so determined to win. Finally, after what felt like a thousand trips around that circle, his number was called and you have NEVER seen a more excited, proud little guy. His patience and “never give up” attitude had paid off and as he approached that cake table to claim his prize, he reached out and selected … the tiniest individual cupcake on the table! I am NOT making this up, all that and then the tiniest cupcake on the table. But he was happy, thrilled actually, and that was all that mattered. Much to our amusement, the same exact scenario played out at the cake walk this year. About a thousand methodical trips around the circle and when his number was called, he proudly walked to the table and claimed … an individual cupcake. The table was filled with whole cakes, and dozens of cupcakes and he chose one lone little cupcake, just enough – so adorable! Okay, I’m done with my “mommy moment”.

Nathan anxiously waiting to see if his number is called.

Look at that intent little face and if you look at the bottom of the picture do you see how he is standing perfectly placed on top of his number (the orange square)? ALL BUSINESS. Precious boy! Okay, now I’m really done.

Some of our Cake Walk Treats …

The Skeleton Brownies – Ethel, I mean Eileen, did make them and they were amazing!

The skeleton Brownies were inspired by http://wantsandwishesdesign.blogspot.com

Jenn made “Brains in a Jar” – Yummy! Cake on the bottom, topped with raspberry preserves and then covered with light grey tinted frosting piped back and forth to look like brains. So cool! I do have some talented friends. This somewhat gross but really cool “Brains in a Jars” idea came from http://totallyloveit.com.

Candy Cups as a fun alternative!

My candy cups were inspired by http://thesugardiva.com but I put the cupcake wrapper inside of a small plastic cup for a little more stability.

So that does it for the fun and games, now onto the Party Food.

Sacks and Treats – We had a snack and treat table which, thanks to the help of our pack parents, was overflowing with apples and caramel dip, snack mix, cookies and cupcakes.

For the snack mix, I mixed equal parts pretzels, cheese crackers, cheese puffs, mini caramel rice cakes and then threw in some small ghost shaped marshmallows and fall colored plain M&Ms for good measure.

We also served a “Witch’s Brew Punch”. Our Committee Chair Tammy took care of the punch but the recipe came from one that both of my grandmothers often made; in truth was probably served at every bridal and baby shower from 1964-1975. Lime Sherbet Punch is green and foamy and delicious – PERFECT for a Halloween Party, especially if you freeze gummy worms into pineapple juice ice cubes and throw them in (which is only successful if you actually remember to bring them, which I did not).

Witch’s Brew Punch

Here’s how you concoct this venomous brew …

  • 2 Quarts Lime Sherbet
  • 2 Liters Chilled Lemon/Lime Soda, ginger ale, or squirt
  • 1 – 46 oz. Can of Chilled Pineapple Juice

Scoop the lime sherbet into the punch bowl (or cauldron) and let it sit for 10 minutes or so as it will foam up better if it melts a little. Pour the cold soda over the sherbet and then add the chilled pineapple juice. Throw in your pineapple juice gummy worm ice cubes (if you remembered them) and a chunk of dry ice for the spooky effect above.

All in all, the party went off without a hitch and the kids had a great time! I can’t thank my very own Ethel (Eileen) enough for all of her help and great ideas. I am quite sure there will be more Lucy/Ethel adventures in our future.

So for now “Thor” (my other amazing helper) and “The Mad Housewife” (me, inspired by the wine label), wish you a Happy Halloween! I hope you can use a few of the ideas here to make it sweet, fun and festive.

Thanks to the Pack parents and leaders for all of their help making our party such a success and thanks to our local Albertsons for donating cakes and punch supplies, they are always willing to help us out and I thought they deserved a shout out! Also, thanks to all of the talented “pinners” out there for their ideas and inspiration!