Hurricane Sandy Welcomes Halloween in New Jersey: Time To Get Crafty
I still say hurricanes are boring. It’s not like a good, quick tornado which either wipes you out or it doesn’t, but it’s over in 20 minutes. A hurricane goes on for days and days. The television news stirs the pot and warns of apocolyptic futures for us all. The anxiety of it leads people to do all sorts of strange things.
My daughter says “Weather report brought to you by Home Depot”.” And that’s just about right. People are so anxious, they just buy everything. And that includes me.
Shopping for generators, and water, and lamp oil, and all sorts of stuff. Oh, I forgot about matches, and charcoal and starter, and candles. I could go on, but you get the idea.
So once I had the hatches battened down here, I’m about 12 miles from the ocean and high enough to avoid storm surges, so for me, it’s mainly about hoping and praying that we don’t lose electricity, which can and has caused my basement to flood because without juice, the three sump pumps don’t work.
But I think about people in their houses with bored and restless children who can’t go outside. Bought your Halloween candy yet? You’re in luck. Here’s a project you and the kids can do that is appropriate to the mood in the air – crackling danger, lashing winds and pouring rain – plus it may help distract all of you.
Last weekend, I was far across the country in Oregon with my two West Coast grandchildren and we did this for a Halloween project. Instead of gingerbread houses, we made Haunted Houses.
Couldn’t be simpler. Choose a couple boxes – shoe boxes, those post office shipping boxes, and tape them to cardboard bases. Rummage around in the cupboards for food coloring. If you mix all the colors together you can get a sort of sickening gray green which is perfect for the base coat. I actually bought Wilton icing coloring in “black” but you can get there by mixing stuff up.
I turned up a pastry sleeve and tips. In a pinch, you can just use a zip lock bag and snip a little hole in one corner. Kids find this terrific for outlining doors and windows. Maia, who is five, made some scary worms for the yard of her haunted house using that pastry sleeve.But the main idea is to use what’s on hand, and just give it a shot. It’s just plain fun for kids and grownups (especially grandmothers!).
Now make some royal icing. (see recipe below). Cut out and tape roofs onto the houses. My son, Jay, who is as crafty as I am and considerably better with fine motor coordination, put our houses together per the instructions of Maia and Aiden. One wanted a tall, skinny house, the other one wanted a bunker.
Now, put a skim coat of gray slime icing on the boxes. We found a butter knife was the best tool for little hands. Now you’re ready to decorate.
Work with one side at a time. Slather on a coat and using the Royal icing begin to decorate the houses. If you’re lucky, this project can take a couple hours. And voila, you’ve engaged our kids in making some dandy scary houses and when Halloween is over, you can either let them eat their house decorations or pack them away in the attic for next year.Happy Halloween and have a safe and scary date with Sandy who came to my party with no invitation at all.
Makes about 3 cups of icing.
I bought three pounds of confectionsers’ (powdered) sugar, but only made this 1 pound batch – three times – as needed.
This smooth, hard-drying icing is perfect for making decorations that last. It is also useful as a “cement” to fasten decorations together. Royal icing is edible, but not recommended for icing cakes.
If you’re stuck in the house and can’t get to a Michael’s Crafts Store or other cake decorating place that sells powdered meringue powder, just use an egg white and adjust the water down. Remember this should look a lot like Elmer’s glue for the skim coat and be as thick as goo for the decorating. Adjust sugar up or down as needed.
3 tablespoons dry Meringue Powder OR 1 large egg white
4 cups (about 1 lb.) confectioners’ sugar
6 tablespoons warm water
Beat all ingredients until icing forms peaks (7-10 minutes at low speed with a heavy-duty mixer, 10-12 minutes at high speed with a hand-held mixer).
Keep all utensils completely grease-free for proper icing consistency.
* For stiffer icing, use 1 tablespoon less water.
**When using large countertop mixer or for stiffer icing, use 1 tablespoon less water.
Thinned Royal Icing: To thin for pouring, add 1 teaspoon water per cup of royal icing. Use grease-free spoon or spatula to stir slowly. Add 1/2 teaspoon water at a time until you reach proper consistency.