Do-It-Yourself Halloween

Get into the Halloween spirit with ideas and step-by-step directions of to get involved in the upcoming, haunted holiday

There is no better way to celebrate fall than to get into the Halloween spirit with all your friends and family. That means scary decorations, fun costumes and autumn drinks all coming together on Oct. 31. Take some time away from the textbooks and spend this year’s Halloween night to relieve your stress from school and have a little bit of frightening fun. Here are our tips to make your Halloween experience a little more interesting this year.

Pumpkin Carving

One of the most exciting components of Halloween is pumpkin carving; over the years, the beautiful yet spooky end product, a jack-o-lantern, has become a Halloween classic. 

The process of creating these illuminated decorations is fairly simple and anyone can personalize their pumpkins with their own creative twists. The range of designs that you can experiment with are endless. You can go with the original but classy triangular eyes on top of an open mouth filled with crooked teeth, or you can be a little more adventurous with silhouettes of spider webs, ghosts and graveyards. At the same time, your pumpkin does not necessarily have to be scary. In fact, you can take a more playful approach by carving out cartoon characters or a simple array of shapes, whatever design may appeal to you. 

All you really need to create a jack-o-lantern is a pumpkin, a knife and a creative vision of what you want your final product to look like and you will surely make something that will make a great addition to the halloween decorations circulating your house. But in general, here are our tips to help you make the best jack-o-lantern yet. 

When picking out a pumpkin, find a larger pumpkin that does not have any bruises. Larger pumpkins are typically easier to work with and bruises and mold are usually clear indicators that your pumpkin is about to spoil. 

Remember to cut the lid of your pumpkin at a 45 degree angle so your lid has a place to rest and will not just fall through the hole. 

If you want your pumpkin to last longer, think about soaking the pumpkin in a solution of bleach and water (one teaspoon of bleach in one gallon of water) and then letting it dry.

If your pumpkin begins to shrivel up, rub both the interior and exterior with petroleum jelly or olive oil to give it a little more moisture. 

When you begin to carve the pumpkin itself, draw the design on a separate sheet of paper and then cut and tape the design onto the pumpkin. That way, you can keep track of your lines and make sure that your jack-o-lantern turns out somewhat similar to the way you had hoped. 

Before you light up your jack-o-lantern, sprinkle the bottom side of the lid with cinnamon, nutmeg or cloves so that your jack-o-lantern can also serve as an air freshener and bring that fresh fall scent. 

Places to Go

Halloween falls on a Friday this year, giving people the opportunity to spend the entire weekend celebrating, but most teenagers are skeptical about trick-or-treating because of its reputation as a juvenile activity. No need to fret, there are numerous other ways to make this Halloween one of the best yet! From having a horror movie night with your friends, to walking through frightening mazes at Great America’s annual Halloween Haunt, there are definitely a plethora of spooky activities that you can partake in to make this Halloween particularly special. 

The Halloween excitement can start on screen as early as Oct. 19, with ABC Family’s “13 Nights of Halloween”. Although most of the movies are not the type to make you jump out of your seat, the 2014 lineup includes favorites like “Casper”, “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and “Coraline”. For those looking for a little bit of heart-stopping terror, some titles guaranteed to freak you out are “Nightmare on Elm Street”, “Friday the 13th” and “The Shining”. 

Great America’s Halloween Haunt is also open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night until Halloween and the terrifying mazes and scare zones are not something you and your friends want to miss.

If you want to stay home, just invite your friends over and break out an Ouija board. This wooden “spirit board” is marked with letters, numbers and greetings that are used to indicate the spirits’ messages. Although it can seem silly, light some candles and hold a seance to connect with some spirits, and it will definitely turn into a creepy experience you will not forget.

 But Halloween does not always have to entail fearful activities. You can always take your family to a local pumpkin patch and get into the fall spirit by picking out a variety of pumpkins to decorate your front porch. Halloween marks the beginning of the holiday season, which is centralized around spending time with your family, so be sure to include them as you embark on whichever Halloween adventure you choose. If you are not up for that, you can always show your school spirit and cheer on the Vikings at the Homecoming football game on Halloween night. 

Halloween Food & Drinks

Pumpkin Spice Latte

The cult, fall-favorite pumpkin spice latte is back in season at Starbucks, but believe it or not, there is actually no pumpkin in the beverage, just a load of artificial flavoring. And with each cup costing over three dollars, the fall beverage addiction is going to add up. Check out this do-it-yourself pumpkin spice latte recipe:

1) Whisk ½ cup milk, 1 tablespoon pumpkin puree, one teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice and ½ teaspoon vanilla extract in a saucepan on low heat for five minutes. After mixture begins to simmer, whisk in remaining ½ cup of milk and one tablespoon of sugar, preferably brown sugar. You can also add ⅓ cup of flavored coffee creamer if you like your caffeine diluted. 

2) If possible, pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer to get rid of the chunks of pumpkin that may still be left. Then whisk the smooth mixture for two more minutes. Add ¼ cup of brewed coffee or espresso. 

3) Top off your beverage with whipped cream, a pinch of pumpkin spice and a dash of nutmeg or cinnamon. Enjoy!

All ingredients can be purchased at Trader Joe’s, so try out this delicious recipe and save some money this fall. 

Candy Apples

Candy apples are the epitome of fall and we all have heaps of leftover candy after Halloween. Try out this twist on traditional caramel apples with your favorite candies and chocolates! 

1) Wash and dry a granny smith apple, remove its stem and insert craft sticks into the stem. 

2) Place ¼ of a cup heavy whipping cream and one bag of soft caramel candies in a saucepan, heat on low-medium while stirring till the caramels have melted into a smooth mixture. 

3) Crush up Kit Kat, Twix and Heath bars, place in shallow bowl. Also prepare gummy worms and M&M’s. 

4) Hold an apple by its stick over the saucepan and spoon caramel over apple to coat. If the caramel gets too stiff, reheat it for a minute to smooth. 

5) Press candy and chocolate onto apple, pressing to help candy stick. When your apple is covered to the desired amount, place apple (stick side up) on a baking sheet. Let apples stand for about 10 minutes till they have fully cooled. Apples can also be refrigerated for a few days, but remember to bring to room temperature before eating. 

Decorate Your House

Halloween just is not quite the same if you do not decorate the outside of your house with a collection of tangled cobwebs, hairy fake spiders, luminescent jack o lanterns and a few aged tombstones. Instead of spending money buying new decorations that you will probably only use once a year, try to made do with your everyday household objects. 

Cobwebs? Find your family’s stash of cotton balls and start pulling those cotton fibers apart. To connect two frayed cotton balls together, use sticky hairspray to connect the pieces of cotton together and continue to add on. You can also make paper spiders to add onto your web creation. For tombstones, find a large piece of styrofoam and cut it into a rectangular shape. Then, use a stencil to etch into the styrofoam the letters of a spooky name and spray paint the styrofoam with some dark, mysterious colors. 

Last but not least, the classic jack-o-lantern. Though it might cost you some to buy the pumpkin itself, this investment is definitely worth it. Not only is it a blast to create the jack-o-lantern itself, but it is always an excellent final touch to your decorations. Check out our pumpkin carving tips and with a pumpkin, candle and knife, you are good to go. 

The best way to make this fall a lasting memory is to incorporate all the various aspects of Halloween into one spooky, but amazing night. Take the time to utilize our advice and prepare your jack-o-lantern, decorations, food and activities that will make this year’s Halloween one that you will always remember.