Make Your Own Spooktacular Halloween Centerpiece

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It’s no secret my favorite time of year is the three month stretch beginning with October. I love the reflection that comes with the end of the year, the way we huddle with our families and gather with our friends a little more and, as a lover of all things holiday, I love the fact that there are three holidays–all of them grand–that inspire our decor, celebrations and family memories. I get a little more into Halloween every year–perhaps because my kids are growing and I want to drink up all these wonder-filled years as best I can. But also simply because I love it, and I’d like to think if I had no children, I’d still be pouring soup into cauldrons for Tuesday night dinner and hanging spider webs across the trees in our front yard because it brings me joy. That said, I’m having fun this year adding celebratory touches and going all out for my own family rather than reserving the special things for a party with more people.

Evidence A: Our Halloween Tablescape.

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I love creating festive tablescapes, and this one was not only so much fun to create but super inexpensive ($20), inspired by some bouquets of black and purple artificial flowers I picked up from The Dollar Tree. The kids think it’s the coolest thing ever, especially with the dry ice potion fog, but it still looks perfectly spooktacular without it.

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Here’s what you need:

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We picked up two spooky trees from The Dollar Spot at Target ($3 each), but I imagine you could bundle some foraged sticks together for free. We used about 7 bouquets of flowers. We found the chemistry Erlenmeyer flasks and beakers at Michaels in the Halloween section (currently 50% off–$2.50 for a flask!) and filled them with some water dyed with food coloring. You can find floral foam at any craft store, and the creepy crawlies anywhere they sell Halloween decor (I think these are also from Dollar Tree).

1. Hot glue your creepy crawlies on flasks and votives.

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2. Slice Floral foam into 3-4 blocks (square or rectangular) depending on how long you want your centerpiece. Ours are about 5-6 in long, and we made four of them. Using wire cutters, cut bouquets down into individual stems and poke into floral foam blocks leaving one side clean (to set on table) but covering foam completely on all other sides.

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3. Arrange flasks and spooky trees (one on each end) across middle of table and tuck floral blocks and votives in between.

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If using dry ice, drop a small piece (about the size of an ice cube) into each flask and beaker using tongs.

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Our flasks bubbled and fogged for about 5 minutes, but if you put a bigger block of dry ice in them, they’ll go longer. Last year, our punch bubbled and fogged for about twenty minutes with a large chunk of dry ice, and then we added more when effects started fizzling out.

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Add some creepy crawlies to your dinner plates…

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And Voila! Dinner is served.

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Need some inspiration for spooky Halloween-inspired recipes? Check out these ones from Delish.com or our spooky party last year (might I suggest Witch Guts & Vampire Hearts…aka black spaghetti and meatballs).

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We are looking forward to our Halloween party next weekend!

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A Potter Party Family Night

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I’ve been looking forward to Harry Potter Movie Night pretty much since I gave birth to a child ten years ago. I’ve read a lot of books in my life and can’t tell you where I was for most of them, but the Potter books? I think everyone remembers where they were for those–in my case, going to college, living with my grandparents, studying Wordsworth and Keats by day and J.K. Rowling by night. I drove two hours home on weekends to work in the hospital blood lab, a job that required me to man the phones and take tubes of blood sent from patient floors to their respective specialty rooms to be spun and analyzed. It was quiet on weekends, so Harry Potter came with me, and I vividly remember sitting hunched over the desk in my lab coat, turning page after page, stopping only to answer a phone or input a blood test when it arrived on the dumb waiter–sometimes unnoticed during a particularly harrowing event in the book.

Phlebotomist: “Ah, Kelle. You gonna get that? The dumb waiter alarm is going off.”

Me: “Would you shut up? Syrius Black just died! Have some respect! Jesus.”

It was amazing how quickly eight hour work days sped by when Harry Potter was with me. The elaborate imagination and detailed descriptions of that magical world transformed me, and I’ve waited over fifteen years to pass that on. And then came Lainey: “Dear God, please keep this baby healthy…and help her to love Harry Potter. Amen.”

Here’s the thing. We attempted to read the books together earlier this year, and even with the help of the Audible narrator’s British accent, Lainey was–oh, this is hard. She was….wait for it. She was like, “Meh.”

MIC DROP.

I repeat, I introduced my kid to Harry Potter, and I GOT APATHY.

Aw, hell naw. We’re doing this again. THIS TIME WITH FEELING.

We’re goin’ straight for the jugular. Jump to the movie. Add bells and whistles. Which brings me to our fall bucket list and that little unchecked box next to “Watch Harry Potter with Candles, Butterbeer and Bertie Bott’s Beans.” We took care of it this past weekend.

So here’s how we’re going to do this: I will bring this movie to life. I will make you feel the magic. I will lure you with Honeyduke’s candy and hook you with butterbeer.

Truth is, I love family nights and movies and end-of-the-year holidays, and this little party is less about forcing my kids to love Harry Potter and more about celebrating October in a fun, special way. And before I show you a peek at our little Potter party, let me also tell you that when you see stuff like this–fun parties for kids or holiday crafts and celebrations, for example–on my site or in my social media feeds, this isn’t about attempting to be a good mom. I don’t associate being a good mom with celebrations and details and parties. But I do associate being a good mom with doing things that make me happy and inviting my kids to witness my happiness and be part of it. This is more about me than my kids. Because I like creating things and celebrating parties and making space for the 10-year-old girl inside who never died. It makes me happy. And I think the best way to be a good mom is to do things that make you happy. For you, that might be Crossfit or home decorating or cooking or tending to your garden. For me, it’s planning little celebrations and making them come to life. I loved this little family night so much, and more than wanting my kids to remember any of the details I planned, I hope they recall someday, “Remember that Harry Potter party we did when we were little? Mom was so happy. She was doing what she loved.”

And it was simpler than it sounds. The family activity planned was simply to watch Harry Potter together as a family on a Saturday night. What I added? Four things:

1. Floating Candles. I hung twelve “floating candles” in the air with fish line. I didn’t get as elaborate as this D.I.Y., but I followed a similar method, tucking flameless flickering tea lights into cardstock paper that I rolled around the tea light and taped in place. I then taped two strands of fishing line on the candle and strung them to the ceiling. It took me 30 minutes to make and hang twelve of them.

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2. We made a candy bar to model the Honeyduke’s shop in the book.

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I poured melted Wilton chocolate melts in this frog mold for the chocolate frogs, and for the fizzing whizzbies, I poured chocolate melts into this bee mold but layered pop rocks in the middle. The fizzing whizzbies were definitely the favorite.

3. We made butterbeer.

I looked at several recipes, but a lot of them were just too rich (butterscotch PLUS brown sugar PLUS whipping cream PLUS condensed milk PLUS cream soda–whoa). Ours was pretty simple–I mixed vanilla ice cream with a tiny bit of milk and butterscotch topping in the blender. I poured cold cream soda in a frosted glass leaving room at the top for our butterscotch “foam” and then spooned the ice cream mixture over top. For the adults, we added some rum and butterscotch Shnapps. Totally delicious.

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4. We dressed the part. 

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I dug up some witch hats from last year’s Halloween party, found Harry Potter glasses and drew Harry’s forehead scar with eye liner. Dash dug up a cape from the dress up basket.

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And I love that just when I wonder, “Is Lainey growing out of this? Am I too extra for her?,” she comes out of her room with a wad of black pipe cleaners and hands them to my dad. “Poppa, can you turn these into a witch hat for Latte to wear?” because she believes, like I do, that my dad can make anything. Later, when Lainey’s friend arrived for a sleepover, she came to me and asked if I could make a Harry Potter scar on her too and if we had another witch hat. Be still my heart, I thought you’d never ask.

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And that’s it. That’s all you need to make it special. Candy, candles, a good drink and a hat. The rest, as they say, was…magic.

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We’ve rekindled a love for Harry Potter, and I couldn’t be happier about it. While Nella and Dash eventually fell asleep, Lainey was all in. And for at least a good hour, it was everyone…huddled together by candlelight, sipping butterbeer, entranced by the magic of Hogwarts…making one special memory.

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Honeyduke’s Intermission:

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And Brett got to bust out his new popcorn maker, so he’s happy.

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This scene at the end of the night:

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Top night. I love these last months of the year and the little celebrations they hold.

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Dash’s 4 Year Trash Bash: A Garbage Truck Party

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I used to record what my kids were loving every single month, scratching endless notes on loose leaf paper and tucking them in the baby book where the given lines under “monthly milestones” couldn’t contain all I wanted to remember. Things like…

You love avocado now. You run into the kitchen when you hear me doing dishes so you can climb in the dishwasher, your favorite place for mischief. You love Goodnight Moon and Twinkle Twinkle. You’d eat scrambled eggs for every meal if we let you. You love your new blue flip flops. You like to pour your own bath soap, and we let you.

Every single month, I wrote them down–a page for each child–until life with three kids got too busy, and I recognized my effort to write down every love, every month, for every child was another way of hanging on too tight to what would never stop changing…time.

There are still occasional notes written down and tucked in the books–things that are too good to let go, too funny to forget. And the rest, we summarize in our birthday parties–a celebration of what our kids love and who they are. For Dash and his fourth year, it’s garbage trucks. Or, as he shouts every Tuesday and Friday morning as he runs to the viewing perch at his bedroom window, “The jerbage truck is coming!”

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The bonus in choosing a garbage truck theme for a party? EASIEST. PREP. EVER. You decorate with…wait for it…

trash.

As in, save some newspapers, egg cartons, tin cans and milk jugs, and then pile it up and call it decorations.

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I’m learning where to cheat and save my energy for where motherhood needs it most right now, so I bought a store bought cake (Wynn Dixie chocolate cakes are so good!) and decorated it in FIVE MINUTES. Scrapped off the top, dumped some crushed Oreos and arranged a toy garbage truck and a few dollhouse miniature newspaper and groceries.

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We did make the cupcakes, but they were easy too, thanks to tipped over garbage can cupcake toppers (there’s a list of links for all the party details at the end of the post).

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Party favors: treats in a trash bag.

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Some favorite moments from his party:

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We played a trash toss game…

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…and had an art station where kids were encouraged to make new treasures out of old trash. On one side of the table, I piled up recycled bottles, cans, cartons and cardboard, and on the other side, put out a bunch of craft items I found in my craft closet–tissue paper, pipe cleaners, moss, beads, pom poms, fabric and paper scraps, sequins, glue, washi tape, etc. And then it was a Project Runway challenge…except with garbage.

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The kids got creative and made sculptures, vases and collages with their garbage.

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The little ones’ favorite game was the Trash Pick-up Relay–two teams that raced to fill their garbage can first, collecting and dropping one piece of garbage at a time using a grabby hand picker-upper. That’s the official name for it, right?

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Dash is still adamant that he’s not four and will stay three, so he blew out 3+1 candles

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Last one at the table eating…that’s my boy.

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Another candle, another year, another shoe size–so happy to celebrate our boy and everything he loves right now: balloons, wearing “handsome man” cologne like daddy, grapes in his lunch box, cutting his own hair (once–dear God, the scissors are hidden now), his train pajamas, having his hand tickled while he falls asleep, being kissed on his eyelids…and big, loud “jerbage” trucks.

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Dash’s garbage truck t-shirt
Garbage truck garland
Trash can cupcake toppers
Mini trash can and recycle bin set (we used as cups)
Black plastic favor bags