smart spending

Trick and treat 'em: Halloween decorations

To add a foggy spin on a witches brew, Jyl Steinback, author of the "Fat Free Living" cookbook series, recommends taking a black bowl and filling it with a cider or orange-tinted champagne and dropping in some food-grade dry ice.

If you plan on serving a buffet-style meal at your party, make your tabletop come alive. Warner suggests making a ghost or skeleton tablecloth. To make a ghost, take a white sheet, fill it with crushed tissue paper to give the ghost a head, arms and a puffy body and cover the table with it. Then place the buffet on the ghost: one dish on the face, one on each of the ghost's hands, and the main dish in the center of the ghost's midsection. Or make your tablecloth with a skeleton. Buy a 5- or 6-foot-long paper or plastic skeleton. Lay the skeleton on the table, and set the food dishes on top or put the plastic bones among the buffet spread.

When it comes to food presentation, Moyle suggests serving nothing but black and orange colored food -- anything from grilled cheese sandwiches on pumpernickel to carrot sticks and black olives -- or use food coloring on your party favorites. Other ideas Moyle suggests include using plastic foam tombstones wrapped with cellophane as food serving trays. For the food table, she suggests a black table cloth on which you place patches of fake green grass, then dot it with minitombstones and fake cobwebs.

It's the Great Pumpkin

Don't forget the million-and-one uses for our favorite gourd, the pumpkin. Hollowed-out pumpkins are great as a means to serve dips or soups, Moyle says. She adds that carving out minipumpkins (called Jack-be-littles) and using them as candle holders is a way to make a great centerpiece for the table. Moyle also recommends taking dead tree branches, spray painting them black and inserting them into a hole made in the top of a pumpkin, and then hanging ghosts from the branches.

It's a dead man's party

If your costumed guests are acting like zombies, get some party games going to bring them back to life. Have a pumpkin carving/decorating contest or even a tombstone decorating contest, Moyle says.

Warner points out that guests who go through the trouble of concocting a Halloween getup should be rewarded with a costume contest, judged by either the host or the other guests.

Now there's no excuse not to get yourself and your "crypt" decked out in ghoulish garb for Halloween.

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