Friday, September 28, 2012

Outline For A Great Halloween Party

Halloween is not usually celebrated in a big way in Australia, (and when it is we lean more to the scary than the cute...) But with Tammy born on the 31st October our family has had a few Halloween-themed parties over the years.  Last year Abby suggested that we hold a birthday party for Tammy at the house she shares with some friends.  This was the invitation that Abby wrote and sent out:

The 'cheap' shops, like Crazy Clarks and The Warehouse, make it very easy to decorate on a budget for Halloween.   The house entrance helped to set the theme for the night and get people into the mood as they arrived...

Inside, we had a CD playing Halloween sounds in the front room, (screams, creaking doors, the usual :)  while some more up-tempo dance music played at the back of the house and on the back veranda.  We rented an old black and white movie of 'The Ghost and Mrs. Muir' and had that playing soundlessly on the TV.  If anyone got bored they at least had something to watch!  I think we probably went overboard with the 'eyes' on the TV, but we had a great time decorating, with some of Tammy's house-mates helping us out.

We used lots of fake spiderweb and spiders, with bats, snakes, rats, creepy-crawlies and toads.  It was great!  The oranges you can see are ones that Abby made by sticking the sharp end of cloves into the oranges to make a face.  They smell good too!

We also bought some cheap muslin, and we had fun cutting it up and decorating some of the windows..  Although the camera flash shows everything in bright light we actually only used lamp light - enough to see by but it made everything nicely spookier! 

When people came to the door we ushered them down to the end of the house to have their picture taken.  This gave people something to do as soon as they arrived (alleviating that sometimes awkward.. 'um, hello... what shall I do now' feeling :)  It also got people moving through the house, rather than have them all bottleneck in the front room - which helped to get the party circulating.


Since people usually arrive in groups or couples, it's fun for them to be photographed together with friends.  As props for the photos we used an old frame decorated with spiders and webs, and had the backdrop of a cardboard skeleton on the wall, (so even if you did come alone you still had a friend !)  Tammy's Dad took the photos, which gave him a chance to meet more of her friends too :)

After having their picture taken, each person was given a rolled parchment tied with black ribbon and written with the following:

Dear Guest,

There is a Murderer at the House Tonight!!

These are the RULES of ZOMBIE MURDER!!

· If you are Approached and Told “You Are Dead!” - You Must Wait for At Least 10 Seconds to let the Killer Escape, before you DIE!  (There is a Prize for the Best Death!)

· Then, you must Affix the Red Dot you are Given by the
Murderer to Your Forehead or Face in Plain Sight!

· Check the Time!  In One Hour you may Remove your red dot
and Live Again!

· If you think You Know who the Murderer is, you may Accuse Them!  If you are Correct - You now Quietly Become the Murderer!!  If you are Wrong - you must immediately Affix the Enclosed Dot to your Forehead and Count down One Hour until you Live Again!  (No Great Death Scene, Sorry!)
· You MUST NOT Discuss or otherwise diverge the Identity of the Murderer while you are Dead!  When you Live Again, Go For It!!
· If the Murderer Eliminates Everyone within the Passing of One Hour,
He/She Wins!!

· There is a Prize for the Best Death
· There is a Prize for the Last Man Standing (for anyone Still Alive at the Witching hour of 10pm!!)
· There is a Prize for the Most Kills!!


Ok, I probably have a bit of a reputation for coming up with complicated games, and I know this one sounds a bit complicated, but it actually worked really well and was a lot of fun.  I had asked one of the guests to be the 'murderer', and given them a small bag of red sticky dots.  When the murderer began to 'kill' people we had some truly spectacular deaths!  One of our favorites was the girl who noisily 'fell' all the way down the stairs - but most people 'died' with great abandon and noise and were very entertaining!  The good thing about this game was that it went on for a few hours, but no one had to stop whatever else they were doing to play - if you don't count people rushing to witness the latest 'death'!  From there, guests were directed back to the front room again, to this table:

Guess the Guts' Grams!?
Write Your Name -                     Write Your Guess –

(We used sausages, liver, etc, in the glass jar for a good old-fashioned 'guess the weight.' game. I think I emptied some cochineal in too?)  Next to that, in the black cauldron you can see in the photo above, was a bag in which was the following note:

Witches’ Potion Scavenger Hunt

When you have collected all of the Ingredients Below in a Halloween Bag, close the Bag and Shake it well.  Find a Witch who was born on Halloween and Loudly say, 'Happy Birthday!'  If the Potion has been made correctly, A Special Prize with then Magically Appear!!

(The Ingredients can be Discovered throughout the Witch's house!)

Tammy's Birthday Bubotuber Pus Potion!

Approximately four centimeters of Hardened Bubotuber Pus. (is thick, black and slug-like)
One Mummified Baby
One Green Rat’s kidney
One Pink Baby Dragon pellet
One Shriveled Hairy Elf’s Ear  (often to be found in Old Wooden Homes)
One small Mandrake Head (root that looks almost human - wrap carefully to avoid blood stains!)
One leaf of Belladonna
At least 4 inches of Bristle from a young Witch’s Broom
One Bezoar  (a small stone found inthe stomach of a goat.  Used as an antidote to poison)
Powdered Giant Toad Wart (any colour, although the blue is thought to have the best flavour)
One part of a Peacock Feather
Eye of Newt
One Veela Hair (one hair only or the potion will be too temperamental!)
One jellied Boomslang (a small venomous snake native to Africa.  Sometimes red, but not always)
Striped lozenge fo Flobberworm Mucous
One Sopohporous Bean
Small Vampire Frog
Glazed Ghoul Head
Strand of Spider Web
Rose Thorn

There is a Prize for the First Potion Brewed
And a prize for each Fully Completed Potion!

I think this was the best game of the night.  The Scavenger Hunt took the players all over the house looking for the ingredients, which were hidden, some in plain sight - like these rat's kidneys above.  (Sorry, we took the photos before we had taken off the plastic wrap.  Abby made the cute signs.)   Some of the 'ingredients' were named, and some you had to figure out.  (eg  The four centimeters of Hardened Bubotuber Pus. (is thick, black and slug-like) was pieces of round, thick licorice.)  In the photo below, there were things hidden in the small wooden house (it comes apart), and in the plastic box behind the plant on the second shelf up from the bottom.  In many cases there were not enough 'ingredients' for everyone who came, which meant that those who were slow missed out..

The great thing about this game was that you could ignore it and go chat to someone or you could play as a couple or as a single, and it gave everyone something fun to do while they were meeting and greeting.  From what I could see almost everybody played :)

(This was on the back of the bathroom door.)

All the games were very much 'take it or leave it'.  I think that it can be a little annoying if you feel expected to join in an organised something when all you want to do is catch up with friends!  So these games were all very casual and you could move in and out of them.  For those who wanted to play, (other people were at the back of the house socializing or dancing), we later had a game of Charades...  

These are the titles we pre-prepared for Charades:

 Frankenstein    (book and movie)                                        Friday the 13th    (movie)
 Scream    (movie)                                                             The Exorcist    (movie)
 Halloween    (movie)                                                          Hocus Pocus    (movie)
 Nightmare on Elm Street    (movie)                                     The House of Wax    (movie)
The Rocky Horror Picture Show    (movie)                           The Ring    (movie)
The Hound of the Baskervilles    (book and movie)                  E. T.    (movie)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer    (movie)                                      The Adams Family    (TV)
The X-Files    (TV and movie)                                              Thriller    (song)
The Twilight Zone    (TV)                                                    The Munsters    (TV)
The Monster Mash    (song)                                                 The Haunting    (movie)
 Dracula     (book and movie)                                                Night of the Living Dead     (movie)

This was followed by a game of Halloween Mad-Gab, put together by Abby.  Anyone who didn't want to play gravitated to the back of the house and veranda for lounging or dancing, but most people seemed to enjoy playing.

Can you guess the one in the picture?  It's not hard to do these yourself and make them topical to your party.  These are some of the ones that we used:

Hop peeb earth date am me!    /    Happy Birthday, Tammy!
Bore nun hello way in    /    Born on Halloween
There teef earst ovoc toe bur    /    Thirty first of October
Duress apart tee    /    Dress up party
Drank yule aris jester pane in tharn ‘eck    /    Dracula is just a pain in the neck!
Tum mes ourf ave reet we itch    /    Tammy’s our favourite witch!
Vamp iris are rule sack res!    /    Vampires are all suckers!
Suck ellie tonnes earl hazeeb owns    /    Skeletons are lazy bones
If feud ropap um pa kin yogurt as quash    /    If you drop a pumpkin you get a squash
Aw itch with are ashes anitch ewe itchy    /    A witch with a rash is an itchy witchy.
Goes te sant am mee:  Ramp ant on hell owe een.
Ghosts and Tammy:  Rampant on Halloween
Blah ed curdle ings creams    /    Blood curdling screams                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              
Tree core tree eat!    /    Trick or treat!                                                                                                                                                       
We itch hing our    /    Witching hour                                                                                                                                             
Doe en tee t thaf ooed!    /    Don’t eat the food!

Finally, we had a 'Deadly Donut on a String' eating competition.  Each of the donuts had something inserted inside them - some were nice, like chocolate or jam, and others had garlic pieces, anchovy, tomato sauce, super-sour lollies, etc.  After that there was the cutting of the cake, awarding of a few costume and other prizes, dancing and just hanging out.

The best moment of the night?  When one of Tammy's friends took us by surprise in a HUGE way by charging up the front stairs, yelling wildly, wielding a screaming chain saw!  (Minus the actual chain, thankfully!)  There was a crowd in the front room playing charades, and everyone screamed in terror and ran as one to get away from the front door!  It was quite hilarious, and quite perfect for the night :)  

(A link to food for the Halloween party is here.)

(Felicity, over on her Bits and Pieces Bloghas a fabulous post about her ten year old son's 'Harry Potter' birthday party that you might also like.  It's the children's version of a great party in a similar  theme :) 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

DIY - The Perfect Hair Cut (for layered, semi-long hair)

Okay, you might be suspicious of the claim of this post that it really will produce 'The Perfect Hair Cut', especially because I'm not planning on posting a single picture of it, BUT, I had to take it on faith from the random Google search page that told me about it in 3 sentences four years ago, and it all worked out here! :)

I'm a little tired tonight, so I'm going to cheat.  I was halfway through writing this post, when I remembered that I've already written about it on my personal blog, years ago, so if you'll excuse me while I Copy+Paste...

Now the below post is actually an extended story about me totally screwing up this perfect haircut on poor Tammy (it's nice to reminisce), so I've highlighted the 3 sentences which are actually the instructions for the haircut in the middle there, so you can quickly just read those and move on if you haven't set aside your entire day for reading my blog post :)  If you do read the whole thing though, at least you'll know what not to do, right?? :)  Read the 'Lesson Learned' bit down the bottom - it is particularly helpful.

My New Calling in Life!

This is possibly going to be the most exciting post to date! - Not just because it's the first one after a looooong drought, but because my life has changed, been renewed, I have finally found my purpose!!! - It is.....(drumrolls all over the world...) to be a hairdresser!!!!


I made myself laugh, becuase I imagined Tammy's face as she read that... I'm just joking. I'm still happy to be a teacher, and can't wait to be a mama, which is more my purpose in life than anything else, really! On Saturday our brother Michael got married (yay!! :)). That morning I offered my darling older sister a haircut 'on me'! :)

Backtrack maybe 6 months...

I really wanted a haircut, and I had decided to deviate for the first time in my life, from the straight across haircut I've always had, and go with slight layers (adventurous doesn't even begin to describe me!). I mentioned it to mum a few times who said she'd be happy to help. One day I felt like I needed it done immediately. I called mum and she was busy at that moment, so she couldn't do it. Assumedly, I really really needed it done right then - I can't exactly remember why but something must have been coming up or I was going through an ID crisis or something, but I turned to James and asked him to please please please cut my hair.

James agreed to cut my hair, and suggested I look @ google to see if there was a 'how to' website. There are many many websites on how to cut hair, and millions of demo videos, but the helpful tip I found most helpful after searching for 'how to layer hair', was something along the lines of:

"Bend over, flipping hair towards the floor. Comb hair out straight and smooth. Make a cut straight across your hair."

These three sentences gave me the best haircut ever and saved my day. Since then James has re-trimmed it in the same style and I'm loving it. He's also cut my sister Bethany's hair this way, and Jessima (another sister) got Jonny to cut her hair the same way - she looks really cute.


Tammy wanted to join the club - it was really turning into a sister thing! I agreed, and Tammy followed the instructions to stand bent over with her hair out...just as I was about to 'snip snip snip', Tammy mentioned that she'd like a trim and not to be afraid to take any length off.

I decided to follow her advice, and took of about 8 inches in parts. It was sort of an accident, in that it looked like 'just a trim' to me when I first began, but it very quickly became obvious that I was fulfilling nightmares. Once you start though, you can't stop with half the hair long and half short (as I learnt about 2 years ago now :)), so I continued, almost laughing and almost crying.

Tammy is one of the nicest people in the world. She didn't get mad. Not even when she looked in the mirror and saw a mullet looking back at her. Not when she realised I'd given her a punk rock chick 'do', and not even when she noticed that she practically had a fringe - a random line of hair coming halfway down her face!

3 happy report items to finish this sad tale:

1. Lesson Learned: It turns out you should always just cut a modest amount of hair off at a time, because it dries even shorter than it is when it's wet.
2. Okay so it's actually really really cute when Tammy's got her sunnys on her head pulling back the weird short bits at the front! The layers kick and curl around Tamster's face and it's adorable! Even mum said so!! :)
3. When I was approximately 3 years old Tammy (on two seperate occassions) played 'hairdresser' with me, and I ended up looking more than interesting. Very interesting fringe length consistency especially. She thought I'd forgotten after all these years... muahaha :)

So I'm not really going to become a hairdresser, but I'm happy to complete some private business on the side, just give me a call! :)

PS: Tammy I really really really am sorry! I love you!!!
PPS: I would have posted some pics of Tamster's cute 'do', but she has a 'no photos' policy (sigh)...

Okay just in case this post wasn't long enough, I thought I'd better try and find a photo of this haircut, but I don't think it was fresh or anything for these photos - they were just the photos I found that my hair was showing in.  I was actually giving Maggie her last 'only child!!' hugs before I went and got induced with Ana!! :)  But you can sort of see my hair in them so here...

(How's Maggie's hair for cute!)

I know, it would have been way more fun to get photos of Tammy's punk rocker mullet.  If I manage to convince anyone else to sit in front of me while I'm wielding scissors, I'll be sure to pack my camera ;)

Does anyone else have a great DIY hair cutting tip?!!!  Or actually know something legitimate about haircutting?! :)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Iron levels on the rise...

After weeks of weariness and a 'dragging-my-feet' visit to the doctor, it turns out that I'm not getting enough iron in my diet. 

Now, according to the doctor the best sources of iron are eggs, leafy greens and red meat.

Eggs - check! I have one for breakfast every day. Go me.

Leafy Greens - okay, well, I could always step this one up. But honestly, I'm not doing too badly in this area.

And Red Meat - Well! This one I almost never do.  I didn't realize it until I stopped to really think about it, but unless I'm out at a restaurant (and even then it's not that often) or for dinner at mum and dad's, I pretty much never eat red meat.

No, I'm not a vegetarian.  (If you know me at all, you're probably laughing at that thought).  No, it's because even after 30 years, I still haven't figured out how to cook red meat!

Now, it's not as if I haven't tried.  I go through phases where I put strips of steak in stirfries, and there was that beef curry I cooked for mum and dad last week.  But the fact that it took us each about 5 minutes to chew each piece of meat was pretty typical.

I've been given instructions, and I've tried to follow them: Seal the meat in a hot pan, then put it on simmer for a loooonnnngggg time.  But it doesn't matter - it's still as tough as leather.  So I tend to stick to fish or chicken, which I know how to cook.

But yesterday, while I was at Woollies pondering my dilemma (do I buy and murder some red meat or not?), I noticed these on sale for $20:

Ah-HA!  Slow cookers are supposed to be SUPER easy, right? You throw in your meat, veggies and some sort of spice/flavour, and then you just walk away for ages.  And when you come back the meat is tender, and delicious, and your iron levels rise quickly and impressively.

So I'm now the proud owner of a small 1.5L slow cooker, and I've prepared the meat and vegies, and I'm going to duck home at lunch today to 'put it on' for dinner.  Sound be excellent - wish me luck!

xo Tammy

PS.  Just as a question for all those slow cookerers out there: all the instructions I read recommend that I seal the meat in a fry pan before I put it in the slow cooker... but that's kind of annoying, isn't it? I mean isn't the whole point of the slow cooker that I don't have to do anything but throw things in and turn it on?  I'm wondering what would happen if I didn't bother with that 'sealing the meat first' thing.... what do you think? I mean, how bad could it be? ..... (Are you starting to get an inkling for why the things I cook don't always turn out?)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Is Blogging a Waste of Time?


Over the Back Fence

Women talking over a fence Bert Hardy/Getty Images

My mother used to spend part of each day, more or less, chatting over the back fence to one or more of her neighbours.   My husband remembers his mother doing likewise.   I'm pretty sure their mothers would have done the same.   Back then - and it was really not so very long ago - fences were almost always about waist high, so you could easily see one another, and have something to lean yourself, or your basket of washing, against.

I suppose that these women would discuss their children and husbands, a television show they had enjoyed, cooking and recipes, their housework and homemaking tips, world events and local news, and their personal thoughts about Life, etc.   Over the back fence you could admire a new baby, exclaim over how much little Jonny had grown, and be invited in to see the new lounge suite.

When our children were little I had a close neighbour whose brother commited suicide.  I think she and I spent at least half of all our weekly daylight hours together after that, for at least six months, at her place or mine, while our children played and I mostly just listened while she talked it all through; enough for her to come to terms with what had happened.  

Then six-foot high wooden paling fences gradually divided our properties, and women began to go out to work more and more anyway, and to stay home with children less and less.  Those who were still at home began to stay inside more too - enticed by  larger, more comfortable homes and colour TV's and year-round air-conditioning.  Women who did stay at home were in danger of becoming isolated, lonely, and sometimes depressed.

(I've always thought that Motherhood and Homemaking as a profession, if you will, is not for the faint-hearted.  I remember how keenly I would clean and tidy every morning, and how I was the only one, aside from our beautiful children, who ever saw the bathroom in all its perfection - before the four o'clock bathing tsunamis that drenched all the surfaces I had shined so assiduously that morning!  No one is ever going to come along to a hard-working mother and say: "Wow, You have been doing such a Great Job that I am going to give you a Promotion, and a well-deserved Raise!   Nope.  You have to really believe in what you are doing yourself.  But there is still nothing else that I would rather have been doing.   What is helpful though, is to have some understanding, encouraging and supportive friends to share the ride with...  )

Most blogging Mums I know, (admittedly, not a gigantic number), worry to some extent about the time that it takes to blog and to 'blog-stalk'.  'Is it a waste of time?', we guiltily wonder.  I'd like to throw this thought out there, as an answer to those worries:   Through blogging we are merely re-introducing, with a modern take,  the cameraderie our mothers and grand-mothers enjoyed quite naturally and happily over the back fence everyday.  Everyone knew that you weren't supposed to be outside nattering all day; but the usual amount of chit-chat was seen as a positive and emotionally healthful endeavour.  I think it still is.

I like that women have a new way to connect; a way that suits our lives and modern living constraints.  

(Of course, a one-sided conversation with yourself doesn't do so very much to alleviate feelings of alone-ness, or add as much as it could in the way of encouragement or understanding either, so I think it's always nice to leave a comment on people's blogs too :)


While looking for a picture to illustrate depression, I came across this photograph...

Today we feature the famous picture of the woman of the Great Depression. The photograph was taken in 1936 by Dorothea Lange. This picture has become synonymous with the Great Depression.
Photographed by Dorothea Lange

The caption read:  

'Migrant Mother 1936 This California farm worker, age 32, had just sold her tent and the tires off her car to buy food for her seven kids. The family was living on scavenged vegetables and wild birds.' 

I know it's really another post, but this photo..   

for what we have today.