I don’t make costumes. Instead, my kids pour over websites roughly entitled “lazycostumes.com” and select their favorite TV character, rock star or princess of the moment.
Sometimes I feel a bit guilty about this short cut. My mom always made our costumes herself even though she could barely sew. Like my children, I would start dreaming up costume ideas in August. The actual costume-making itself began around October 29th or 30th. This usually involved rummaging through the closet to approximate the look of the desired character. To become Sandy from Grease, I wore a poodle-ish skirt and spent the evening looking dewy-eyed singing “Hopelessly Devoted To You.” It was a stretch at best.
Despite her artistic shortcomings, Mom always put in a solid effort. Her finest work was when I wanted to be Wonder Woman a la Linda Carter. She made me a pair of blue bloomers covered in white stars; Bought a can of spray paint (her costuming tool of choice) and drew a poor rendition of Wonder Woman’s insignia on a t-shirt. I even wore a gold spray-painted cardboard tiara, and blue power bracelets made from electric tape. After all of her hard work, I complained that my hair wasn’t blackish-blue like the real Wonder Woman.
The tricky thing about raising kids without your mom around is that you don’t have her live input. Would Mom have supported me for ordering costumes online? Perhaps she would, saying: “Homemade Halloween costumes are overrated! If I could reclaim those evenings of inhaling fumes from spray paint, I would do it in a heartbeat.” Or would she reminisce about those heart-felt, albeit lame, outfits. Unrealistic costumes, she would argue, were an invaluable lesson in creativity. Better to become Wonder Woman in your mind than own the right gear.
Most likely, the truth lies somewhere in between. However, here’s the (sort of) wonderful thing about raising kids without your Mom: You can make up whatever you want, and forge your own damn tradition. Forget guilt; forget trying to do it right. It’s your family, your life, and it works for you. I think this is the attitude that mom would have appreciated the most.
That’s why I am quick to set aside all Halloween-related guilt (a sentiment that certainly came in handy when I polished off nearly an entire bag of candy corn, remembering only afterward that candy corn always makes me nauseous). In my family, we order our costumes online, and if your kid looks trashy and possibly inappropriate –so be it. These are their memories.
My kids and I do, however, enjoy baking together. So this year, we baked a batch of Erika George’s Pumpkin Spice Bars for a Halloween party. Though truly Halloween-y, the pumpkin flavor is a winner with adults all season long. To cut down on the chaos, you can bake the pumpkin part ahead of time, letting kids frost and/or decorate later.
If none of this appeals to you, orange cupcakes and candy are plentiful at the grocery store this time of year. No judgment, I promise.
ERIKA’S PUMPKIN SPICE BARS
Our friend Erika George served these delicious desserts during a visit to her home in Portland, Oregon. I have since incorporated them into my baking repertoire, and passed it on to countless friends. Always a home run.
2 cups graham cracker crumbs (roughly 2 packages; I usually crumble in food processor)
7 Tbsp butter, melted
1 2/3 cups plus ¼ sugar, divided
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree
1 cup vegetable oil
Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe below) OR 1 can (16 oz) cream cheese frosting
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 15X11-inch pan with foil; set aside.
2. In a small bowl, mix graham cracker crumbs, butter and ¼ cup sugar until well combined. Spread mixture into prepared pan. Using a measuring cup with a flat bottom, smooth mixture to form an even crust.
3. Bake crust until fragrant, about 6 minutes; let cool completely.
4. In a medium bowl combine flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, beat eggs, remaining sugar, pumpkin puree and oil; stir in flour mixture.
5. Using rubber spatula, spread the pumpkin mixture evenly over the cooled crust in pan.
6. Bake until filling pulls away from the pan, 25-30 minutes; let cool completely in pan.
7. Frost the top of the cooled bars with cream cheese frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 3 oz package cream cheese, softened
6 Tbsp margarine, softened (I use Smart Balance)
1 Tbsp Half & Half (I often use whole milk)
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Beat all ingredients in mixer until smooth.
Please consider this my Sunday night post. Come Halloween night, I’ll be too hopped up on sugar to put together a sentence.