October is my favorite month. I love it. The temperature starts coming down and the leaves get all pretty and you wear comfy jeans and start throwing on hoodies, and football starts to get good (well, better). It's also a good excuse to make pumpkin everything. Pumpkin cookies, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin burgers, pumpkin gumbo, pumpkin poor boys and so on.

And my favorite of all things pumpkin: the pumpkin spice latte.


It's also Halloween, which is my favorite holiday. Or at least it used to be. Every year it seems like the holidays get more and more ridiculous and commercial and get to be more and more hassle and less and less fun, and it's really starting to get on my nerves.

Did you know that even though no one can pay their student loans these days, people are going to spend an estimated $6.9 billion on costumes, cheap candy and skeleton decorations? Which actually kind of makes sense if you think about it. What better way to forget that you're broke and one paycheck away from being homeless than by buying an over-priced slutty pirate costume that's made in China and forgetting that you're totally miserable for a night. And what better way to combat childhood obesity and the rising prevalence of Attention Deficit Disorder than to buy a ton of candy in orange packaging from the "seasonal" aisle at Walmart and hand it out to every kid in the neighborhood.

It's also that time of year when crafty people get to make you feel bad about yourself by making cute witchy front-porch displays and whipping up cutesy spider cupcakes with hand-crafted sugar webs and edible sparkles. I mean, just go to Pinterest and type in "halloween" and you'll see all sorts of stuff that you have neither the time nor the money to create for yourself. And hey, I'd love to make cute cupcakes, too, but the last time I did that, I ended up buying $80 worth of partially-hydrogenated ingredients to make a few dozen cupcakes that ended up looking more like a deflated mess than the cute green witches from the picture.


(It was a lot like this … only with witches.)

And I've all but banned myself from Target around the holidays because they really know how to trick me there. Last year I marveled at their amazing Halloween displays and their rows of cute orange-and-black doo-dads in clever packaging and walked out of the store with a few hundred dollars worth of total crap. I thought to myself, "They got me again! They made me think that while I was standing there in the aisle that I needed those tombstone-shaped ice-cube trays!"

And then the costume. Oh, the pressure of putting together a costume! I'm always scrambling at the last minute to put something together because I don't like the idea of buying cheap-looking plastic costumes that barely cover your ass for $100. But then I end up at the store anyway, looking at a costume aisle that's been totally picked through and looks like the water and lumber aisles during hurricane season. Things are strewn about, coming out of packages; maybe there's one lone Donatello costume left because he's everyone's least favorite Ninja Turtle.

So I'm done; I'm tired of it. I'm tired of wasting time and energy just to wake up the day after Halloween and think … that was it?

So this year I'd like things to be different. I'd like to start taking a turn in a different direction. These are the things I'm going to do this year to make sure my Halloween goes back to being awesome instead of being a big, huge, expensive let-down.

1. KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid). I'm not making spider-web cookies or a mummy meatloaf or breadsticks that look like witch fingers this year. I've done all of these recipes in the past and they never end up looking like the picture because I don't live with a food stylist. It ain't worth it. This year I'm just going to stick to some basic seasonal fare, or rather my favorite fall ritual of putting pumpkin in everything.

2. Play to your strengths. I can do awesome make-up, but I can't really sew cool things because I never learned how. I'm not going to think I can buy a pattern for a costume and all of a sudden channel my inner Christian Siriano over a span of three weeks.

I figure that since I can do this for Mardi Gras:


Then I should be able to do this (found this on Pinterest) for Halloween pretty easily:


I think I'll focus on make-up and just wear all-black – of which, being the stereotypical graphic designer that I am, I already have a closet full. And I'm sure I can just pick up a few fake flowers to put in my hair from Walmart. Costume = done!

3. Don't drop cash on stupid crap. It might sound like a good idea at the time but where are you going to store all those severed finger martini-picks you use for your "bloody-tini" one night out of the year? Don't let Martha Stewart or Sandra Lee talk you into thinking that you need this shit. If I'm not using it all the time or if it has no significant sentimental value to me (like, they were not my great-grandma's severed finger martini-picks that she used way back in the olden times), then I don't want them in my house, cluttering up my space. It is possible to have fun and get into the spirit of a holiday without dropping half of your paycheck on cutesy tchotchkes that have been marked up for the season and will be absolutely worthless to you for 364 days out of the year.

4. Do something cool. My first year in New Orleans, a bunch of us went to the Haunted Mortuary; it was cool, but I don't think I need to go back. Once was enough. I don't like spending money to feel scared out of my mind. Which is also why I don't go see scary movies like Paranormal Activity. I don't like my fight or flight response being messed with. I know a lot of people really like the rush, but I hate it. I do love actual ghost stories though and I love to watch the Travel Channel almost exclusively during October because they're always playing those "Most Haunted Places in America" type shows. I love it because I'm a history buff and love learning about the mysteries and lore of different places. So this year I think what I'll do is get some friends together, grab a few hurricanes and go for a walking ghost tour or a cemetery tour, like we used to do when we were just wee tourists.

5. Remember to stop and have fun. Remember fun? At the end of the day, holidays are supposed to remind you that life is to be celebrated. Especially Halloween, because that is the day when we laugh in the face of death and dress up like all those things that normally scare us. Or we dress up as the things that we might secretly want to be (like a slutty fairy). Holidays should be fun, not stressful – which means they don't need to be Martha Stewart-perfect. They just need to be what is good for you. And no, that doesn't mean spending 6.9 billion dollars. It means putting down the credit cards and the iPhones, turning off the everyday problems and headaches and living in the moment with your friends and loved ones. So when you wake up the next day, you think to yourself: Wow that was fun! And not … wow, that was it?