Southport Stroll

I have to share a favorite Halloween tradition.  The Southport Stroll, here in our neighborhood, is always held just before Halloween.  It is just charming.

I live in the city, and am always filled with great appreciation for any type of small town hospitality organized for the modern urban family.

This event is just that – and is one day where everyone comes out of the house, their busy, busy lives, and celebrates as we all should.  All of the small boutiques, bistros, bars and businesses along Southport go all out for the occasion.  They dress in Disney costume, decorate with hay bales, corn stalks, spooky spiders, and hand out candy in what must be two ton quantities.

The family themed costumes this year were fantastic – I couldn’t get enough of them.  Each block was filled with more and more clever creativity.

Divine Dr. Seuss – one of my favorites of the entire day.

Genius – Mom and Dad went “ape” for their bunch of bananas.

Looking for The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown?

Look at this flock of feathered friend sisters – hands down the most elaborate handmade costumes of the day.  This is the big sis Peacock…

The fuscia feathered flamingo…

And of course, the sweet as sugar petite white swan.

And a real highlight each year – the doggie costume parade.  Bow WOW – a banana split brown lab?

A petite pink piggy en tutu – a la Olivia the famous children’s book heroine?

A tooth fairy Dane meets a petite pumpkin pooch.

Who wins the cute contest – puppies or babies?  Really hard to call…don’t you think?  My daughter, the opinion expert Miss Lil, says puppies.

Strawberry stroller shortcake…

Even cuter than the real Max from Where the Wild Things Are.

Did anyone else love the cartoon Hagar the Horrible as a child?  That was my favorite…and this pint sized Helda won my heart.

A handsome mini muskateer in his royal carriage avec la femme muskateer.

This geisha won my prettiest costume award.  I love her beautifully painted face to match the exact oriental rose pattern of her dress.

The Lakeview Chamber, always doing so much for the neighborhood, puts together a block party with fabulous face painting, balloon twisting, pumpkin patch and painting, haunted bounce houses, and carnival games.  Rumor has it my handsome husband is now the official “strong man” – the only dapper dad to ring the bell on the high striker.  Oy.

I love a balloon twister that really appreciates detail – and twists his own color themed bow tie to match the occasion.

Smarty Pants is really the bomb of balloon twisting.  I challenge each of you…what praytell do you think he is creating here for one lucky little critter?

Did anyone guess?  Be honest.

Seriously – it is a custom fit 3D tortoise shell!  I mean wow…mind blowing…just amazing.  I can sit and watch him craft for hours.

Balloon envy?  Like me, this snuggly, shaggy dog just couldn’t get over his artistic attention to detail as well…

Bob the Builder had to capture it on film like me…with his genius hard hat weighing him down…obviously.

For any upcoming kids or family party – the face painting just makes the entire event sing.  Miss Dena, also of Smarty Pants fame, is ever the artist as well – making her the perfect wife for her balloon twisting groom.  Have you ever seen a prettier bumble bee?

Happy Halloween…I’m off for the final stretch of the week long marathon with some enchanted wonderland-esque evening haunting.

Debi Lilly,

Street Soiree Sips

Street Soiree Sips

No street party is complete without some chilled cocktails rolled out into the open road for a few hours of family fun.

Even though a nip is in the air – I have my prosecco ready for a Halloween toast with the neighborhood. Never one for plastic cups, I packed my Italian colored aluminum cups – they remind me of my darling grandmother.


Debi Lilly,

Pot Luck Party Picadillo

Pot Luck Party Picadillo

Big Halloween block party today – one of my favorite days of the year.

The neighborhood pulls out all the stops with the pot luck treats. Last year I made a warm weather classic with sloppy joe sliders. Since my neighbor has the corner on the worlds best pulled pork sliders (her secret – ginger ale) I thought this year I would spin another favorite party food – Picadillo.

I worked for a two french caterers in college, and years later I still pull all their party favorites out of my recipe rolodex. This one is not only easy – ground beef, black olives, tomatoes and spices, but it is relatively unknown in the party buffet food world.

Everyone loves to try something new and different – and noone is scared to dip a chip or two into a hot, bubbling, sweet scented hors’d. In addition to tasting just perfect – your entire house smells just as delicious.

Debi Lilly,

Bubbly Brews

Need a few halloween holiday cocktails or witchy brews for your weekend celebrations?

City Provisions has you covered.  Look at all of these darling themed bottles and fun, colorful labels.  These are already “custom” printed and ready to display ontop your microbrew bar.

Moving over to their spirits shelf, many of which are locally produced, showcasing options from a digestif Honey Wine to organic Rums, local Vodkas, Tequilas and more.  This makes stocking the bar a real treat.

Above all, the real fun at City Provisions comes from supporting local, sustainable farms and artisan producers.  Everything in the shop comes from a 150 mile radius around the city, as illustrated on this brilliant map showcasing each farm by name and location.

Feeling good by feeding your soul – while keeping small batch artisinal farms top of mind – all right here in the city.

That’s provisioning perfected.

City Provisions: 1818 West Wilson, Chicago, Illinois 60640

Debi Lilly,

Terrific Tabletop Terror

ABC Morning News segments are always so much fun…even with a 3 am wake up call.

Here is a behind the scenes peek at our Haunted Halloween Table of Terror and Treats.

A collection of themed luminaria are displayed ontop a table covered in hay, strewn with jack o littles in all shapes and sizes, and black onyx footed urns and candlesticks.  To create the “luminaria” simply print halloween images onto paper on your printer, then wrap around glass cylinder vases (or water glasses in varied heights).  Use double sided tape to secure, then add a touch of whimsy with ribbon accents at the top and bottom of each vase, finished with simple square knot.  Fill each with a pillar candle, for a chilling effect as shadows dance and flicker across the room.

Dress up bottles and spirits with custom designed “poison” labels, adding a toxic theme to the bar.  You can create these yourself by printing onto paper, or download designs from sites online if so inclined.  I love to display my bar bottles as a collection ontop trays – for a chic look.

Black licorice straws make the perfect drink garnish – with top and bottom snipped for super easy sipping.  Add spider web accents by printing webby graphics on cardstock, and then cut into 1″ squares.  With an exacto knife, make a slit near the top and near the bottom of each square, and slide the licorice straw through each slit to the “back”, so the web is visible from the front.

Moving on to the boo-tiful buffet…

Mouthwatering Monster Mini Pizzas are fun for the entire family.  Who doesn’t love to cut teeny tiny provolone pumpkins, spooky stars, and ghoulish ghosts for themed toppings?  Simply roll fresh pizza dough out flat, cut with a pizza roller into 4×6″ rectangles, top with pizza sauce, veg, and the cut cheese shapes.  Bake until golden, hopefully just before the cheese begins to melt and lose its cut out shape.

And who can possibly resist tantalizing mummy muffins – another fabulous favorite for all ages.  Slice whole wheat english muffins in half, spoon generously with pizza sauce, tear apart string cheese into long “bandages”, and lay across the pizza.  Make sure to leave space for the evil eyes.  Slice green olives stuffed with pimento into eyeballs, and place inside the cheese where you left space.  Bake till cheese begins to bubble and brown.

Make sure to leave room for creepy crabcakes…slicing orange pepper crab legs, which by the way naturally exhibit prickly, shiny crab leg tendencies, lucky for us.  Once crabcakes are golden brown from the oven, place onto a serving platter, then insert a pair of legs into each side of the cake.

And what fall fest would be complete without a slider bar?  Using another cute cookie cutter, slices of cheese instantly become monterey jack-o-lanterns.  Use petite dinner rolls from the bakery instead of traditional size buns, and off you go.  Toppings in bowls can include seasonal flavors like spicy corn relish, herbed hot and sweet mustards, fall chutneys, and more.

The dessert tower of terror saves the best for last – featuring More Cupcake halloween “flights”, Boo and Spiderweb Cupcakes, Licorice Shots, and take home favors filled with gumdrop pumpkins, spice drops, gummy worms, gummy brains, and pretty much every possible halloween gummy treat.

Do you prefer a trick, or atreat?  No matter which – happy halloween!

Debi Lilly,

S'more Devilish Decor

I love to create a kid’s halloween party centered around a great big dining table, adorned with a collection of zany, interactive, pull-apart centerpieces that they can tear into and enjoy during the party.  You can find so many ready to go decorative elements right in the grocery aisles – place them in glass collections – add a whimsical name printed on cute labels – and poof – you’re done.

Twilight was again carried through in several decorative elements on the table.  The kids loved helping me at the grocery, looking for foods and candies we could spin in a whole new way for the party.  Those six and eight year olds are simply full of crazy, clever, creative ideas.

Squash were made squeamish with a sharpie pen mustache.  Spider rings, centipedes and cock-a-roaches…oh my!

Wheatgrass flats found in the produce aisle quickly convert to graveyards filled with bones a la skeleton pops.  Long, twisted “witch hands” are designed in a flash grouping five Lombarbo Pepperoncini “fingers” placed in a juice glass, with ring accents.

Nothing tastes more terrifying than Slug Bugs…a k a Dry Roasted Edamame.  Ghostly green apples are spotted with spooky dappled shadows, picked ripe from trees with stems and leaves still intact, right from the in-laws Peoria garden.

At each place setting at the table, I set the craft supplies needed for each child to assemble the four creepy crafts.  Always pre-make at least one sample of each craft before guests arrive, so the kids can follow along with the finished craft as a reference point in front of them.

Mummy cups were our first order of business, so kids could quickly hit the Bevs Bar for the trio of Twilight punches.  Simply take a styrofoam cup, wrap it with white crepe paper adhered with a glue stick, and adorn with googly eyes.

Next up, ghost and vampire lollies.  Each requires a Tootsie Pop, a white paper napkin “ghost”, a red paper napkin, half of a black paper napkin for the vampire cape, scotch tape, and a sharpie and/or googly eyes for making faces.

To create the ghost lollie, unfold the napkin so it is flat.  Place the lollipop in the center of the napkin, and twist the napkin ends underneath the round lollipop, to create the flowing ghostly “body”.  With tape, quickly twist the  long ends of the napkin so the tape can create a tight, slip proof neckline.  Add in facial features, with a pen or googly eyes and you are done.  These make great Halloween homemade gifts for trick or treaters to boot.

Now, you can’t make all of these tricky treats without some kind of haunted favor bag to carry them safely home.  This brown paper lunch bag was adorned with construction paper windows (including an Amityville Horror arched window of course) and next got black bats, white ghosts, and more.

Now, the real fun begins after food fun, after creepy crafts, after spooky s’morin.

The kids love to end the night, as requested on the invitation: BYOF ‘n GS.

Translation – bring your own flashlight and ghost stories.

We sit all around the fire, each child reads favorite terrifying tales, and my husband quietly, secretly sneaks next door.  He starts scratching the wooden fence with sticks, howling, and making spooky sounds.  The kids look at each other with wide eyes – unsure if it is city “noise”, or a neighbor’s dog, or what exactly…

Their faces – the entire evening – simply glow with delight.

And you know what?  So does mine.

Debi Lilly,

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