Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Great Jack 'O Lantern Blaze

Last year was my first time going to the Great Jack O' Lantern Blaze at Van Cortlandt Manor near Tarrytown/Sleepy Hollow, NY. I loved it so much that a few months ago we bought tickets and planned a return trip. After touring Lyndhurst in the morning, we hung around Sleepy Hollow until it was time to go to the Blaze—tickets really do sell fast, and 9:30pm was the only time slot available even a few months in advance.

It turned out to be a great time to go—we had just enough time to see everything before it closed at 11pm and there were hardly any children (aka ruiners of all events). Since I knew what to expect this year it might have been slightly less impressive than my first time, but it was still totally worth the price of admission.

Although there were some repeats, there was still a lot of brand new things to see, including a few Washington Irving displays (the Headless Horseman throwing his pumpkin head was great) and a fun 10th birthday cake to celebrate the Blaze's tenth year.

I'm sad that October is coming to an end, but I can't say that I didn't pack a ton of fall delights into the past 31 days. It's definitely my favorite month, and now that it's over I'll just go back to being that creepy coworker who wears skull socks and talks about cemeteries all year long.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

BOOzy Brunch

When I moved into my new apartment back in August, I knew I eventually wanted to have a housewarming party. I also decided that I wanted to have a Halloween party, so I decided to combine them into what I called a 'BOO'zy Brunch last Sunday afternoon. My new place is much larger than my last one, and it's so wonderful to be able to finally have more than one person over at a time.

I threw two epic Halloween parties back when I lived in Ohio and it's my very favorite holiday to celebrate. I love the aesthetic of Halloween—skulls, bones, orange, black, spiderwebs and pumpkins everywhere.

I told everyone to bring a drink of their choosing, and I took care of all of the food. I made spooky spiderweb deviled eggs, breadstick bones, Jello worms, clementine pumpkins, hot dog mummies, ladies' fingers, graveyard and monster cupcakes and the most delicious (and simple, and disgusting-looking) salsa dip.

Probably the biggest hit on the table was the pumpkin who had clearly partied a little too hard. It took me only a few minutes to carve, a few more minutes to mix the salsa dip (thanks Francesca!) and it looked great. Every time I made the dip in the past, someone would comment that it looked like vomit, so when I saw a pumpkin puking up guacamole I knew I had the perfect substitute (am I the only person on the planet who doesn't like guacamole?)

The Jello worms, however, were a new addition to my Halloween repertoire, the thing I was most excited about, and a complete failure. From start to finish they were the most frustrating and most time consuming thing I made, with the least return on my investment. I am no stranger to kitchen failures but the worms were definitely the most mind-bogglingly disastrous thing I've ever attempted. In the end they looked ok, but of course no one ate them (does anyone really like Jello?) so I crossed them off my list as quickly as I had added them.

This was the first party I threw since moving to New York so my domestic Martha Stewart-y side is a little out of practice but it was nice to be able to share so many Halloweeny delights with all the people I love the most.

If I had to choose my very favorite thing about the party (besides all of the lovely company!) it would have to be my fireplace full of pumpkins. I saw the idea on Pinterest and realized I had the exact same fireplace that was shown in the example—non-functioning and already painted black. All I had to do was make two trips to the grocery store with my old-lady shopping cart, carry them up two flights of stairs and hope they didn't decompose by party time. A week and a half later they are still making me happy, even if I'm slightly terrified to touch them in case they really are rotting—my party might be over, but I'm not ready to say goodbye to Halloween just yet.

Monday, October 27, 2014


On Saturday three of my friends and I went to Sleepy Hollow/Tarrytown for a day filled with fall delights. We had gone last year for the first time, and loved it so we knew we'd be back. One thing we didn't do last year was tour Lyndhurst, "one of America’s finest Gothic Revival mansions," so it was our first stop this year.

Lyndhurst was designed in 1838 by Alexander Jackson Davis and had five different owners from three different prominent families before it became part of the National Historic Trust for Preservation in 1961. The mansion is furnished with original furniture/d├ęcor from all five owners so the inside is just as interesting and historic as the outside.

Of course since it's October, the mansion was also decorated for Halloween, which I would usually be annoyed about if it didn't naturally fit so well with the gothic architecture and if I didn't love Halloween as much as I do.

There were tombstones out front, ghouls in the trees and spiderwebs on everything. They even had a few pieces of mourning wear on display, and one very awesome example of Victorian memorial hair art (when asked if anyone knew what it was made from, I was the only one to very enthusiastically—and totally embarrassingly—yell out, "HAIR!"). 

The grounds of the estate are worth a visit alone. Before we even took the house tour we saw the bones of the nation's first steel-framed conservatory, a shingle-style, stand-alone bowling alley, Jay Gould's footbridge—over the railroad tracks and down to the river—that he used to board his boat, a rose garden, a children's playhouse bigger than most New York studio apartments and sweeping views of the Hudson river.

Lyndhurst was also used for the filming of two Dark Shadows movies in the '70s, which I have never seen but I will definitely be tracking down soon. I dream of one day owning a real-life haunted mansion that I can fill with taxidermy and curiosities and clones of Mozart (my cat)—I wouldn't mind having my own bowling alley either.