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DIY Halloween

October 24, 2011 1:09 p.m.

Halloween is becoming as big a holiday as Christmas in terms of decorating the house and putting on parties. Today's guests have some do-it-yourself tips and ideas for how you can celebrate the holiday.

Related Story: DIY Halloween


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. With all the bagged candy and spooky decorations available in stores, it's easy to grab a few things off a shelf and be ready for Halloween. If you'd like to make this holiday a bit more personal, put your own spirit into it, so to speak, we have a few hints today on getting together a DIY Halloween in San Diego. I'd like to introduce supply guests, Amy Finley is a traveler, cook, and writer, author of the blog how to eat a small country. She has recipe suggestions or adults and kid enforce Halloween. Welcome to the show.

FINLEY: Hi, Maureen. Nice to be here.

CAVANAUGH: And Curtis strange, is that your name all year long?


CAVANAUGH: Curtis strange is a film maker who loves Halloween. This holiday, he's adding to his year-round haunted house in his backyard. Welcome to the show

STRANGE: Thank you.

CAVANAUGH: You know, if our live listeners have any ideas on how to give Halloween your personal touch, we invite your calls on 1-888-895-5727. Amy, lots of Halloween school parties, lots of kids getting together.

STOCKS: Absolutely.

CAVANAUGH: So do you have a recipe that's fun to do with inquire your kids and appropriate to bring to a class party?

STOCKS: I know, right? Actually, sometimes the classes have lots of restrictions and things, you got to know about which -- is actually probably, the first thing, be sure you check with your kids' teach about what is and is not okay with the school. But this year, I actually made up this recipe that I thought was kind of fun. I think it's on the website, and it's called massacre to sweets. I was thinking about it, I was thinking of kind of the horror movie genre,y, and I wanted to make something appropriate for a kids' classroom. Because kids like funny. They don't necessarily like -- maybe a little on the gross side, but funny and gross is even better. So this year I made these short bread bars. And thennis was thinking to myself, how can we make them really kind of funny? And so I took the bags of autumn mix with the candy corns and the pumpkins that I cannot stop eating. I took them and I put them on the cutting board and took my biggest knife and whacked them into pieces. And you can bring the kids in, and let them help out. They have these great chunky plastic knife knives for kids. Then you make the short bread bars, it's just a real basic recipe, butte, sugar, flour, anybody can do it. Press them into a pan like a long rectangular pan, and when they come out, you take that massacred, chopped up Halloween candy and press them right into the bars so you've got kind of your cut up looking companyins, and mangled candy corn, then make this really fun glaze that I'm playing with this year. I'm using cherry jam. And I have a favorite go-to cherry jam. That's the bun mamoncherry jam, you can find it in all the -- chunks of the cherry in it that end up looking almost kind of like blood clots. So you make the jam, microwave it, and then you can use a spoon and spatter it all over the chopped up massacreded sweets. So you end up looking like you've got this tongue in cheek oh, my gosh, someone just killed the halwestbound candy on a cookie bar. And you cut them into slices and send it into the classroom and it's a good sugar rush for everybody at the end of the day

CAVANAUGH: You can see recipes and pictures on our website at And you brought in some cup cakes with fingers on them. And this raspberry glass, which does look very disturbing

STOCKS: It's so great. I tried raspberry. With residence berries, you've got seeds, maybe that's some sort of infection in the blood. But the cherry glaze is great because it's got this chunky bits to it. The other easy thing to do, all kids love cup cakes, and cup cakes are one of those nice individual portion that you can give to each kid in the classroom, they're easy to make in advance, and there's so many cute wrappers and things now. I've got these wrappers. Little Halloween themes. . Then I frosted them with some white frosting. This is I cream cheese frosting on a pumpkin cup cake, is what I brought in, then you can do everything from using -- I used marzipan, and you can tinge the Mars withina a lot bit of pink and yellow till it gets to a flesh color. And if you can make a sausage relate, one of the shapes out of play doe, you can make a human finger. You put some of the bloody glaze on it, and you've got a severed finger on top of the cupcake they look delicious and creepy at the same time. Curt Iis, I want to talk to you about what you're doing with are why us how. This is a special holiday for you. It's your wedding anniversary too

STRANGE: Uh-huh.

CAVANAUGH: You have a haunted house that's different from most people because you keep yours up all year long?

STRANGE: Yes, when we bought the house, I decided that the backyard was a little Keith Richards-like, not being taken care of. So we hacked out a backyard area, then we had this center piece that didn't really make sense in the way that it was bricked up with these trees. I'd like, let's make a grave yard. So we started small, you know, we had a few things. Then my wife and I one year made our own graves. We got the little markers out and made graves for my wife and ourselves and our snake. And we just added to it everyone year

CAVANAUGH: Now, do you go to seasonal Halloween stores to buy this stuff or do you make a lot of your stuff yourself?

STRANGE: We go and look. And we've added a few things that are store bought. Sometimes it gives us ideas of things that we can do or maybe you'll go and see something that you can go, I can do this a little better or make this a little creepier. But basic things like the blood or some, like, caution tape, the little 3, 4, $five items we'll buy from there.

CAVANAUGH: What's new for you this Halloween?

STRANGE: This year, we just got a Studebaker Avante, and so because it's a very unique looking car, and it is parked in the back back, we have a second driveway in the back

CAVANAUGH: What neighborhood do you live in?

STRANGE: Not too far from here in the college grove Rollando pork. It's always been a great trick or treating neighborhood

STRANGE: Yeah. They even bus skids up there. They come by the house. Exactly. But this year, we're adding the plutonium rice race car, and the Avante is a unique car, painted yellow, which is horrible, and we're going to under light it with the really large green glow stick, and then we have a smoke machine, so it'll periodically smoke, and it'll be glowing green all light. And we've got some hazmat stick uppers that we made up all around the car. My role this year, I'm going to be the zombie race car driver. I've been with the car, the car is affecting me, and I'm not well.


CAVANAUGH: Now, Amy, I know that you're not a huge fan of the really, really really scary side of Halloween.

STOCKS: Oh, no. I'm a total wimp

CAVANAUGH: Tell us about your blob cake. I love that movie with Steve McQueen. Does it hook like the blob?

STOCKS: It does! Yeah, actually, so I do not remember the original 1958 film, but as soon as I started thinking about this, okay, what could I do for a different unique Halloween cake that was maybe a little kitschy, I started think about that season in grease, they're at the drive-in theatre, and in the background is the preview for the movie the blob. I still remember the theatre doors open, and out spills all of this sort of gooey globe guy. So immediately I thought of making like a chocolate molten center lava cake. There's lots of recipes for them. I have a recipe on your website. And it's a simple, six ingredient cake, I think, it's eggs and sugar, a tiny bit of flour because the whole cake is actually built on the eggs. And a little butter and flour, and you bake these inside of individual ramekins briefly, 7 to 8 minutes so that you just get a crust over the top, but the inside is still really goy and licty. Then when you're ready to serve, you invert them over the top of your place, leave it there, and when you lift them up, the cake looks intact until someone takes a spoon and drags it through the cake, then the whole thing just kind of puddles and oozes all over your plate. So it reminds me of sort of that blob crawling out of the -- except for this one is chocolately and delicious and you can eat it.

CAVANAUGH: And it's not going to eat you

STOCKS: Exactly. I like the more playful side of Halloween, I think. I'm kind of aism are wimp when it comes to the gore


CAVANAUGH: Curtis, can you go too far on making a Halloween themed display? Are there --

STRANGE: No. You can never go too far.

CAVANAUGH: You don't draw the line?

STRANGE: NO, I've got a neighbor down the street, the whole front of his house, it's very budget and home done, but literally by Halloween, the entire front of his house will be covered in these weird dolls. It's it has a nautical, swash buckling theme. I love it. We lived in an apartment and had these stair, and the kids used to come up, and I would smoke the stair stairway, and have the lighting going, and come out in some scary mask, and one year, I obviously scare aid father bad enough that he came back and grabbed the railing. And at that point we decided to scale back the scare factor because I didn't want to be liable to hurt anybody.

CAVANAUGH: You don't want to cause any is shes

STRANGE: Right. And I felt bad for the kid because it was in front of his kids?

STOCKS: That would be me. I don't take my children to haunted things because I'm afraid I'm going to reveal myself as the giant woos that I am

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I wonder, Curtis, have you been as the years have gone by sort of surprised to see Halloween get as big as it has?

STRANGE: NO, well, a little bit, maybe. But we were married in New Orleans in 98. And it was my first trip there. And Halloween in New Orleans is the second biggest holiday there behind the drunk fest, whatever it is.

STOCKS: Whatever that one is

STRANGE: Whatever the --

CAVANAUGH: Mardi Gras?

STRANGE: Exactly. And I love New Orleans. New Orleans is one of the most awesome places everywhere, but the people were out in droves and they were so into it, and they were all in costume. And you get on that little trolley and everybody is dressed up. And NO, I think be it's great. I think it's a holiday that really appeals to people

CAVANAUGH: How about you, Amy? To see this just grow like crazy in recent years. It's truly our second most popular holiday now, beside -- behind Christmas.

>> Yeah, well, you know what? I think what's appealing about it is is that it's just fun. I've always actually said that two of my first holidays are 4th of July and holwean because there's not really any obligation to do anything other than enjoy yourself. You don't have to buy presents for people, and then there's the costume factor. And for me, I cook all year long, but this is the time of year where I can actually go in the kitchen and kind of, like, let loose. So doing things like making marzipan ears and setting them on top of a field of bloody gaze on top of a cup cake, don't get to do that every day! And even this time, I like the playful side of Halloween. And I've been finding too, for one of these cup cakes I brought in today, I went into my kids' rooms, and everybody's got junkie toys all over their kids' rooms, tine pieces of things that have been broken apart. And I wassing think that's a great opportunity for Halloween to use some of this stuff. So I've got this little play mobile guy on top of a cup cake today. His head and body have become separated I long time ago. Now you put him on top of a cup cake, and he's kind of funny. There's all sorts of great opportunities in Halloween

CAVANAUGH: You two both prove the fact that you do not have to go and have a store-bought Halloween, you can do it yourself upon I've been speaking with Amy Finley, who is a traveler, cook, and writer and author of the blog how to eat a small country. And Curtis strange, a film maker who loves Halloween. Thank you both very much 92 thanks Maureen

STRANGE: Thank you.