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Welcome to This Awful/Awesome Life! My name is Frances Joyce. I am the publisher and editor of this magazine. We'll be exploring different topics each month to inform, entertain and inspire you. Meet new authors, sharpen your brain and pick up a few tips on life, love, entertaining and business. Enjoy and please share!

Keeping Halloween Simple by Fran Joyce

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Because our October 2017 issue contains several articles about Halloween, I thought it would be fun to combine a few Halloween customs and plan my perfect Halloween celebration.

What’s the perfect celebration? It depends on your family. My sons are grown, so the days of taking them trick or treating or driving them to parties are over. I’m not part of a couple anymore, so invitations to Halloween parties just don’t happen. I have cats which means my friends who are allergic can’t and won’t come to my house for a party.  I like to hand out Halloween treats to  the neighborhood kids and see their costumes. There’s usually a hockey game on, so we wait to watch our Halloween movie. Since I work from home, I don’t have to get up early the next day for work. Bottom line – Keeping it simple is my best option.


Halloween has its roots with the Feast of Samhain held to honor the dead. Samhain (summer’s end) marked the beginning of the dark time of the year. It was a harvest festival with huge sacred bonfires.  People believed the boundary between the real world and the underworld could easily be crossed by the dead during the last days of the harvest. The Celts believed the souls of the dead roamed the streets of the villages at night. To appease any unfriendly spirits, on the Feast of Samhain, they left treats outside to pacify the evil spirits and ensure next years’ harvest would be plentiful. Celts began to wear masks and costumes to disguise themselves on this night, so evil spirits would not know they were human.

Halloween, also known as Allhalloween, All Hallows’ Eve and All Saint’s Day was originally a Druid holiday in Ireland, Britain, and Northern Europe celebrated by the Celts on the last day of the Celtic calendar (October 31). The spread of Christianity into Ireland merged practices of the new religion with the traditions of Samhain. Fear of Halloween is known as Samhainophobia.

“Souling” is the Christian custom of baking and sharing soul cakes for all Christian souls. The poor (especially the children) went door to door on Halloween collecting soul cakes in exchange for praying for the souls of the givers’ friends and relatives. These customs evolved into trick-or-treating.

STEP ONE: Buy lots of Halloween candy for trick or treaters

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STEP TWO: Decorations

Outdoor: Jack-o-lanterns

Buy some mums and a few different sized pumpkins and get creative. Paint a scary faces on a few pumpkins. Carve a jack-o-lantern. It can be a scary face or you can download some patterns from the internet and trace them onto the pumpkin before carving. You can also paint an entire pumpkin black, red or gray to go with the orange ones. Hang a spider web or two and some orange lights and you’re done. For overachievers, you can make ghosts out of old white bed sheets or inexpensive white muslin from the fabric store or stuff some old clothes and make a scary scarecrow. I have these awesome neighbors across the street who string up lights and have some witches and a cauldron. They play spooky music. The bar is set so high I don’t even have to go near it.


I like to decorate with mini-gourds, mums and fall colors inside and add a few bats, ghosts or skeletons to make it feel like Halloween. Then when November rolls around, its an easy switch to Thanksgiving.

You can also consult for some amazing decorating workshops.

STEP THREE: Prepare a make ahead dinner That can be eaten before, during or after trick or treating

I enjoy seeing all the kids come by with their costumes. In my community there are set hours for trick or treating – usually 5pm to 8pm. That’s typically when I’m cooking or eating dinner. I like to make a nice pot of chili during the day, so it can simmer on the stove and be ready when were ready to eat. I like to make some cornbread that we can warm up to go with the chili and I always try to have a few salads in a jar to complete the meal. When my sons played hockey, their teams had pasta dinners the day befor home games. During October the moms always made dirt for the boys. I’m feeling nostalgic, so I’m thinking of making a batch.

Easy Dirt Recipe

2 cups cold milk


1 - 4oz. package instant chocolate pudding

8 oz. cool whip

1 ½ cups crushed Oreos

Gummy worms

Mix milk and pudding together – you can spoon into a large bowl, square/rectangular baking dish or individual plastic cups  - let set up for 5 minutes in the refrigerator

Mix ½ of the crushed cookies into the cool whip

Spoon on top of pudding

Sprinkle remaining crushed Oreos on top

Garnish with gummy worms

You can also frost graham cracker squares and decorate them to look like tombstones

STEP FOUR: Make some soul cakes for my family

There are many recipes for soul cakes, some are more elaborate and contain a number of spices. I like to practice the KISS principle (keep it simple stupid) whenever possible, so I adapted this easy recipe from two recipes on WikiHow.

Recipe for Soul Cakes

1 stick of butter

Spoiler Alert - I will not be wearing a dress and holding up a mask. I will be watching to make sure one of my cats doesn’t make a run for it when I open the door.

Spoiler Alert - I will not be wearing a dress and holding up a mask. I will be watching to make sure one of my cats doesn’t make a run for it when I open the door.

4TBS. Sugar

1 1/2 cups flour

1 cup mixed dried fruits (I like to use raisins for color)

2TBS. Honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Cream butter and sugar together

Add flour then dried fruits and honey

Mix until smooth

Drop by spoonfuls onto untreated baking pan(makes 12-15 cookies)

Poke tops with a fork

Bake for 25 minutes or until light brown

These soul cakes should be eaten within a couple of days for maximum flavor

I plan to munch on some soul cakes and sip cider as I hand out Halloween candy.

STEP FIVE: Enjoy some leftover candy and watch a Halloween themed video marathon.


It might be one movie or three movies, but something scary will find its way onto my TV. Since I cut the cord, the streaming services I use have been awesome about organizing movies for the holidays. They have a special section where all things Halloween live, so all I have to do is pop some popcorn, point and click and sit back and enjoy!

How will you be spending Halloween?



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