I don’t celebrate Halloween, per se, but I do enjoy the candy aspect (and if there’s an excuse, it can be fun dressing up). I didn’t want to sit around the house waiting for the one family of kids who makes the trek to our house each year – but, ironically, we will be staying in after all.

I thought it would be neat if the sibs got together, so they’re coming over here for grub ‘n’ such. Philip said we could have a huge bonfire, but not sure if that idea is still on the table. I stayed up last night making some of the food, even though the other peeps should be bringing pizzas.

I made what I like to call Oreo Grasshopper Truffles – really easy! Take a bag of Oreos (I used the Cool Mint variety, hence the “Grasshopper”), minus a few to crush for topping. Crush the remaining, stir in with a softened, 8 oz. bar cream cheese, and form into 1″-in-diameter balls (I chilled the mixture first, but I suppose it doesn’t matter). Melt a package of semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used the bakers’ squares since they were on sale, and added some shortening to thin it out somewhat), coat each ball, then sprinkle with some of the reserved topping. Let set – I use the fridge or freezer for this process, and it doesn’t take long at all. The recipe didn’t say whether or not they had to stay in the fridge, but mine are in there, just in case.

I also made S’Mores Squares, another easy dessert. I haven’t tasted it yet, but we’ll see. It consists of Nilla Wafers, Chocolate Pudding, White Chocolate Pudding, Cool Whip, mini marshmallows, and grated chocolate. It’s sitting in the fridge right now, and before serving I’m supposed to top with the marshmallows and place it under a broiler – but, to be honest, I’ve never been very good at the broil function of my oven. I thought that was what the bottom drawer was, but it never seems to work correctly. And I don’t want the pudding layers to melt! Ah, we’ll see.

Even though we’re having pizza, I decided to make some sort of pasta dish – guess we’ll be going Italian tonight. The lasagne noodles were on sale at Stop & Shop yesterday, but when I picked up the package I thought, “my, this seems really small.” It was the no-bake version, and I’m a bit apprehensive to see how it will turn out. It looks really yummy, aside from the fact that – in it’s current state – the lasagne are these thin, dehydrated boards. There’s plenty of cheese, though, and cheese makes anything taste better!

After making the truffles, I decided I wanted another candy-type item. I decided on fudge, but didn’t know what kind. Then I remembered the jug of maple syrup Philip got for me recently. I couldn’t find a suitable recipe in my cookbooks, so I got a simple one online, and began the process. It’s relatively easy – you just have to stir stir stir and watch the candy thermometer. When it was all said and done – it tastes maple-y, but it’s more like maple sugar than maple fudge, and I’m not sure if that’s how it was supposed to turn out.

Oh, I forgot – Nikki, I’m making the wontons! I got the wonton wrappers a couple of weeks ago at the store, already had some leftover cabbage from the last time I made them, and was already getting ground beef for the lasagne. I didn’t get green onions or water chesnuts, but they’ll still taste good. I hope. Laura is supposed to come early because she can’t stay for the rest of the evening, so maybe I’ll enlist her help in assembling them. It’s pretty easy – just time-consuming. It’s nice to have someone there to talk to. :)

Speaking of all this food… I know I’ve probably e-mailed most of you about this before, but just in case I forgot or you haven’t put your two cents’ in yet, I would like to know your opinion on the idea of my opening a cafe/bakeryish/giftish shop. Here’s the text of an e-mail I sent out recently (and thanks for all the feeback I’ve already received!):

“I am constantly trying to figure out what to do with my life, what I ‘want to be when I ‘grow up’,’ that sort of thing. It seems I have all these ideas, inspirations, but never enough time, money, and expertise. I keep tossing back and forth different ideas, but of course nothing ever happens.

It’s a dream of mine to open a family business. There are many resources, talents, within my immediate family, and who better to work with than those who understand the silly move lines I quote all the time? Hehe. And of course put up with my eye rolls and cynical tendencies. (pause) But I digress…

Long story short, I want to open a coffee shop/cafe. My idea is to sell all sorts of coffee-related beverages, tea, chai, hot chocolate, seasonal drinks (cider, smoothies, yadda yadda), baked goodies (some of ’em homemade – perhaps branching out into sandwiches/wraps, salads, and other food foods), ‘penny’ candy (I LOVE candy, and am sadly aware of the lack of good candy stores in the area), and perhaps some other gift-y items (notecards, candles, blank journals, snazzy pens and bookmarks, perhaps some handmade/antique decorations, ETC.).

I have LOTS of ideas, and have been compiling a huge list. I would like your input on anything and everything. I know SOME of you have firsthand knowledge about running a business – hello, Ron and Jean! I don’t want it to turn into a restaurant, but of course there will be edibles. At any rate – any ideas/suggestions/inspiration/advice/constructive criticism you can share would be most helpful.

Some things to think about:
What are your favorite cafes/hangouts like? What do you look for? What’s your biggest complaint? What are the things that make you relax, put your feet up, sit back and enjoy that cup of coffee (perhaps go up and order another brownie)? Since I probably won’t be taking any business classes (at least, not in the near future), what are some shortcuts to learning the ropes – applying for licenses, coming up with a business plan, TAXES, best places to look for suppliers. What are some good ideas for promotions; what would be an incentive for you to come back or continue frequenting such a place? Which items would you be willing to pay more for if it’s good quality? What kind of atmosphere appeals to you the most? Are you particular about a certain brand of coffee/tea/whatever? Heard anything about awesome appliances/equipment (blenders, espresso machines, etc)? How important is the color/shape/weight/etc of your coffee cup? What else would you consider buying at a coffee shop, or what are some interesting items that you’d be pleased to find on sale (CDs, mugs, candy, trinkets…). ETC.

Lastly – (to my family especially) is this something you would consider helping/supporting? Would you be interested in investing some time to help out in this venture if it ever happened? Do you want to work at the counter and pour coffee? Hehe. Seriously.

If you know anyone else who could offer some advice, please pass along the message.’