Thursday, September 8, 2022

The Scariest Hour of Halloween: So, You're Hosting a Halloween Party

What's the scariest hour of Halloween? It's not midnight or even 3AM. It's not the hour when your trick-or-treat candy is about to run out and you see a busload of kids pull into your driveway- although that ranks up there. 

No, the scariest hour of Halloween for me is the hour before our Halloween party is about to begin. Ask my husband; he'll tell you. He gets really nervous as that hour gets closer. He tries to stay at least 8 feet away from me and gives me sly, worried, sidelong glances. He gets very quiet.

One hour before the official start of our party I turn into a panicked maniac. I'm like a cross between a mad scientist and a werewolf. Simultaneously throwing food and alcohol around and biting the heads off anyone trying to help who cannot read my mind. My stomach is in my chest and my heart is in my throat. 

What are you doing? Fan those slices of cheese! No the cookie tray is all wrong! Alternate colors for gods sake! Who put these napkins here! Turn the music down! Turn the music up! We need more ice! No!No!No! You can't mix IPAs and Ciders in the same tub! Who was lighting candles? You forgot half of them! Oh, never mind. I'll take care of it.

Me, looking calmer than I was
while my friends worked furiously behind me

Sound familiar? You've either arrived early at a party at our house or you're a demanding control freak with unobtainable standards like me. If it's the latter, you're in the right place. (Hi.) If it's the former, I'm so terribly sorry. I'm learning to do better.

So what's a ghoul to do? I love the idea of throwing parties. It's the reality that throws me. 

Well, I've decided to let the orderly Kitchen Witch sweep the mad scientist and werewolf out of the house this year. I've been ruminating on my situation (our Halloween party is only weeks away) and thought you might perhaps find my revelations useful. 

Let's be realistic. We only have four segments of 15 minutes the hour before the party starts. That's not a lot of time. Trying to do too much only leads to chaos. To make the Scariest Hour of Halloween less frightening, I'm going to have to do a party run-through the day before. I never do this the way it should be done and things are going to change.

New & Improved Rules for the Scariest Hour of Halloween

Start the music and light the candles (1st 15 minutes)

Music can be relaxing. I always hated starting the music too soon because I thought what if all the best songs play first?! Who cares! I'm making a Scariest Hour playlist of all my favorite songs and I can repeat them later in the playlist. 

Light the candles early. Again, it sets the mood and gets this task out of the way. Candles won't burn down for at least a couple of hours. I can always tuck some spare ones out of sight in case I need to relight.

Ice the drinks and set out the food (2nd 15 minutes)

We put our beer and cider in tubs of ice. For some reason we always try to do the ice and arrange the cans at the same time. This year I'm putting the cans in the tubs the day before. That way we just have to pour the ice over the top. If I add some cold water to that, they'll cool down even faster. (If you're using metal tubs, I suggest lining them with a garbage bag. Crawling on your hands and knees trying to mop up water between the legs of guests is a mood killer. Been there, done that.)

Set out the food onto the buffet table. The less temperature challenged the food, the better. In the past I've served hot foods and frankly that gets crazy at the last minute. Unless the appetizer can  be made in a crockpot and quickly transferred to a warming dish it's off the menu this year. I'm serving room temperature foods that can be made ahead of time and placed on the table 30 minutes before the start of the party. No complicated platter preparations- that all will be done ahead of time, wrapped in plastic or aluminum foil and kept in a cool place)

Powder my nose and take a few photographs (30 minutes mark)

I never take a moment to fix my hair and adjust my costume before guests arrive. This year I'm going to take 5 minutes or so to powder my damn nose. And then, I'm going to take some photographs of the buffet table and chilling drinks. I never get a chance to take these photos before the guests arrive and the table becomes disheveled. I will take pictures of the party decor (sans the table) the night before in a dry run. 

Drink a toast to a great evening (15 minutes before the party starts)

Let this be the quiet before the party revs up. I'll pour myself and my husband a drink and make a toast to a successful party. We really need to set intentions- a spell if you prefer. A final walkthrough to admire our handiwork seals the deal and we're ready to great guests.

This is my dream of how the Scariest Hour of Halloween will go. (Well, actually my dream is to have the party catered with wait staff where I walk down a grand staircase 30 minutes after the party has started in a fantastic costume- yah.) 

Being realistic, the above four steps are all I can manage in 60 minutes- even that seems a bit rushed. In the past, I've tried to do way too much. In order for my plan to work, it relies on prep work earlier in the day and the day beforehand. Hosting a party that people will remember is a lot of work and takes a lot of planning, but it's so worth the effort.

You're probably wondering right now how this helps me to be less demanding and in control. It doesn't. Ha! That's going to take a lot of therapy and meditation. The good news is I'll try not to stress out my family and friends anymore. If I need help, I'll gather people at least 6 hours before the start of the party so that they have time to go home, relax, and get ready for a fun evening too. That's the point of a party!