This past weekend, we held our 10th annual Pumpkin Caving Party. It’s a great Everage family tradition in which we invite our friends to come on over and enjoy some food and drink, while carving the pumpkins. What makes it particularly fun is that it’s not just a kids party, it’s a family party. Held on a weekend afternoon, in between the soccer and fall baseball games, it is an ideal way to reconnect with friends before the craziness of the holiday season descends upon us all.
It’s hard to believe we started this tradition a decade ago when we lived in Santa Monica. The neighborhood families gathered at our home, babies in hand, and the Dads (mostly) were the one carving, while the ladies chatted and helped divert our fast-crawling children from the dangers of the carving utensils.
Now, ten years later, living in a different city, and a houseful of children – we are glad that we’ve kept the tradition.
Through the years we’ve invited different friends to join in this annual tradition. The kids look forward to it, and as they grow older, the love to participate in the planning of the party. They participate in creating the guest list, start planning their pumpkin designs, and have lots to say about what we serve. They even help in the kitchen.
For the most part, I have provided the food that we serve at the party. At times, it’s been enough for a full meal, along with a smattering of appetizers and Halloween inspired desserts. I’ve served a cheese fondue, homemade macaroni and cheese, various salads – from bean salad to bread salad. Of course, there are the sweets – cupcakes, cookies and homemade Halloween-inspired ice cream sandwiches.
It’s a pretty low-key party – our house is already decorated for Halloween, so there isn’t much to do on that end of the planning. The biggest challenge has been the time and expense of the menu offerings. I love the opportunity to bake and cook delicious fall recipes for our guests, but as the party guest list has grown over the years, I find myself spending more and more time in the kitchen the days before the party. And, in recent years, I have come to realize that I spend more time serving up the food and making sure everything is in order, than I do relaxing and enjoying the party.
This year, we decided to do things a bit differently. With the kids getting older (and their desire to invite more friends), it quickly became apparent, that we couldn’t hold the party here (limited outdoor space). As well, with the larger invite list that hovered around 35, I made the decision to get a little help with the food. (If not for my sanity, then for my pocketbook.)
Luckily we live down the street from a great park that would provide a perfect backdrop for the party — tall redwood trees, picnic tables, ample space for the kids to run around . . . all rented for just a handful of dollars. We pulled a few decorations from our home, spent the night before making tissue paper ghosts to hang, and covered the tables with Halloween-themed tablecloths, and that was all we needed to do.
To help on the food side of things, we turned it into a potluck party, which would ensure that my food preparation time and expense could drastically be minimized. I did, however, still have the opportunity to prepare some of the family’s favorite Halloween and fall recipes. This year, because it was potluck, I had a little extra time on my hands. So, I decided to try one new recipe – making candy corn. I then relied on some stand-by favorites including Owl Cookies, Witch Wands, and a pumpkin and blue cheese galette. That was it – I cut the cord and relied on our guests to provide the rest. As it turned out, we had more than enough, and I was able to enjoy the party and relax a bit.
What has helped me with the planning of this tradition is my focus on each of the Four Pillars: Planning, Purchasing, preparing and Partaking. When I focus on each of these aspects, the whole process of maintaining this tradition goes much more smoothly. Whether you are planning a Halloween party this year, or looking forward to maintaining holiday traditions, keep the Four Pillars in mind, and you just may be able to escape the stress of pulling it all together. Here are a few tips to get your started on your journey to Reconnect with the food you eat and the family you love:
- Decide on type of party and who to invite – know your limits and plan accordingly
- Make a budget – and stick to it
- Create a list of what you will make, what you will buy
- Create a timeline of when you will start preparing food
- Make a list of what to buy at the store
- Make changes to that list according to your budget
- Plan to purchase provisions a few days ahead of the party
- Remember the budget, and stick to it
- If it’s a new recipe, do a trial run a few days ahead of time
- Plan a schedule of when you’ll make the foods
- Limit your distractions when cooking/baking. Delegate whenever possible
- Pull together last-minute food preparation for celebration
- Create a feeling of togetherness – welcome everyone and invite them to enjoy the food and drink
- Find time for everyone to gather together to enjoy the food
- Have a conversation — and enjoy yourself