Thursday, 27 October 2011

Getting in the Hallowe'en spirit

Hallowe'en has changed a lot since I was a kid. I remember learning about witches and making pictures but trick or treating was a strange custom they did in the USA when I was small. I think I was pretty grown up before I even heard of it happening here, but it seems like it's the norm these days. I'm really in two minds about it - I think it can be great fun for children and I don't mind joining in if the children are just out to get as many sweets as possible - that'll be my two then - but I don't like the ones that are quite obviously out for money and are vaguely intimidating if you don't offer coins. I mean, what the hell? I am not made of money. There are times I've sat in the living room with all the lights off in the front of the house and ignored the door. Yes, I know, I'm a killjoy - what of it?

The children love Hallowe'en. A couple of years ago, they got to go trick or treating for the first time, round at some friends who live on an estate where nearly everyone does it. Their friend's dad dressed up in an inflatable pumpkin and I don't think I've ever laughed so much in my life. My friend and I trailed round the estate with 5 children under the age of 5, knocking on all the doors. The children got so many sweets, they lasted until Christmas! They've been to Hallowe'en parties and the school, not being religious, holds Hallowe'en discos as fundraisers just before they close for half term.

This year, I've been sent a few things for Hallowe'en next Monday. I can't decide if we're going to go trick or treating as it's a school night but we have plenty of things in now to be able to mark the occasion. First, Poundland set me a Hallowe'en challenge to see how much I could buy with £10 vouchers that they kindly sent me. They were especially generous because somehow, I also got an envelope full of Hallowe'en tinsel, deely boppers with spiders, a witch's hat, a themed wine "glass" and some frog's leg sweets!

So, off to the local store we went. The children loved that they could choose things and actually buy them. (Can you tell I'm Mean Mummy?) We got:

- 2 flashing ghost lights
- 2 Simpsons Hallowe'en mugs
- Skeleton party straws
- Critters party decorations
- Jewelled ring
- 3 packs of Hallowe'en sweets

As the Hallowe'en items apart from the sweets were on 6 for £5, we had a pound left over. What did we buy? A book on times tables, at Monkey's request. Seriously! Poundland have pretty much everything, including some costumes in the smaller children's sizes, masks, all your partyware, sweets and decorations. We're sorted now for Hallowe'en; I might actually bother to answer the door to trick or treaters this year.

Something else we have been sent are a couple of items to try by Dr Oetker for a spot of Hallowe'en baking. They've sent me a bat cookie kit and some gel food colouring. I'm thinking of using the gel colouring to make a Hallowe'en version of my Neapolitan marble cake from last week for the day itself but we've made (and, er, eaten!) the bat cookies. The kit contains everything you need to make the cookies apart from 85g butter. You just rub the butter into the mix and bring it into a ball, then roll it out and use the bat cutter to cut out your shapes. I think my butter might have been a bit too soft as the dough was very crumbly. I tried bunging it in the freezer for a few minutes which helped a bit but my, it was fun trying to keep the shapes intact and onto the baking sheet.

Once the cookies were baked and cooled, there's also black writing icing to draw features on your bat. We've all had a go - and I discovered that writing icing takes a bit of warming up to work properly and you need to be slightly patient with it to get your designs drawn. I think my husband found his calling and did the best design on the bat:

(The upside down ones are mine, and the children's efforts are on the left hand side!).

As I said, the cookies didn't last very long - we had an afternoon cuppa (milk or juice for the children) and they were gone! They are shortbread like in texture: I made 8 whereas the pack said it made 6, but I thought the thinner ones were better as they were crisper. I would have rolled the dough out thinner had I been able to roll it out better so 8 is probably conservative.

I may not be a huge fan of Hallowe'en, but I think we're all more in the spirit of it this year.

(I was sent the items mentioned above by Poundland and Dr Oetker and I have received no other compensation. All opinions and words are my own, and I retain full editorial control.)
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