The crisp cool air, the golden sheen blanketing the earth, and pumpkin pie flavors everywhere, sends excitement through me. Soups, boots, the countdown to Christmas, but one of my favorite things about fall is Halloween.

Every year we gather together as a family and celebrate the season with what I like to call a “Monster Mash.” I choose a different theme to base our food and activities on, but no matter what the theme, we always carve pumpkins, dance to Halloween music, and watch a Halloween movie. My theme for this year will be Monsters.

We typically conduct the fun family event a couple of weeks before Halloween, so this year we will have it this weekend, and I can’t wait.

Our normal activities include pumpkin carving, seed toasting, dancing, munching on food and drinking a yummy punch, and then ending with a family friendly Halloween movie. To change things up a bit, I plan on adding a fun guessing game. The kids will have a blindfold placed over their eyes and will reach into a bucket containing either slimy eyeballs (peeled grapes), wet noodles (worms), tapioca pudding (frog eggs), chicken bones (bones), and any others that may pop in my mind.

I would like to share a few tips and tricks to help you have a “Monster Mash” your children will remember for years to come!

Pumpkin Carving

We have carved pumpkins a number of ways over the years. When our budget was tight, we would purchase one large pumpkin and each of our four children would be in charge of designing and carving a specific part, such as the mouth, eyes, nose, etc. If we had enough money for each kid to have their own pumpkin, then we allow them to choose their design and trace it onto the pumpkin. We use the carving tools that come in kits. They aren’t too dangerous and can provide some independence for those about eight and over. Use your discretion as a parent to determine if your child can handle the responsibility or not.

The first year our youngest carved a pumpkin, I looked to see my husband almost falling out of his chair with laughter. Our little guy reached his little arm in the pumpkin to grab a handful of guts and then gagged at the squishy, wet glob. It was quite funny. He grew out of the squeamish stage and can now handle the guts with no problem.

Themed foods

As many of you may know, Pinterest is a great resource for anything you can dream up. I can come up with many things on my own, but sometimes I turn to the creative site for new ideas. Last year I did a graveyard theme and found many ideas. Most of the foods are snack foods, like pig-in-a-blankets that we call “mummy fingers,” or something similar.

As for the punch, you can really do anything. I have made “Pumpkin Guts” by mixing a scoop of vanilla ice cream with orange soda. I have also made “Monster Blood” by mixing lime sherbet with a lemon-lime flavored soda. Last year, I made “Zombie Brain Juice” by mixing rainbow sherbet with white grape juice, lemon-lime soda and a little orange soda. There are so many options and if you get stuck, just look up some ideas.

Halloween Music

We love to turn up the volume on a few seasonal favorites, then sing and dance as we eat and enjoy each other. And, if you have ever seen me or a couple of the genetic versions of me, then you would enjoy the spastic movements we call dancing! One of my favorite memories was of my oldest son of when he was about 7. He was a werewolf for Halloween, and so he put on his mask and hopped onto our ottoman and danced along to the music, and he was only wearing his underwear at the time. It is a priceless, sweet memory. We love Thriller, Purple People Eater, Ghostbusters, Monster Mash, and others that are similar.

Halloween Movies

Our favorite family Halloween movie is “Hocus Pocus,” but some others that we also love are “Little Monsters,” “Monster Squad,” “Casper,” and “Scooby-Doo Monster’s Unleashed,” to name a few.

Every year when I announce the time for our “Monster Mash” my kids cheer and hop with excitement. Every one of them love this night of family fun.

Jennifer Watson is a Herald correspondent.

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