Friday, November 13, 2009

Paper Source Event

It's beginning to look a lot like stores and on-line, anyway. I'm starting to plan my Christmas projects and have been looking around for ideas and inspiration. Luckily, one my favorite stores, Paper Source, is having free holiday demos and "make and take" projects this weekend! Check out the schedule on their blog:

If you're in the area, I recommend the one on Hennepin in Minneapolis because there is a Penzey's Spices store and an Urban Outfitters on the same block! Penzey's can get expensive if you have no willpower like me but smelling the spices is free :) If you aren't near a Penzey's, no worries - you can shop online: Urban Outfitters has a lot of overpriced crap but you can find some cute little gifts or decorations, too. They also have a website, of course, and they have a lot of things that are only sold on the web:
FYI - I have no affiliation with these companies but like their products enough to spread the word :)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Pumpkin Quick Bread

I made a delicious pumpkin bread that I adapted from this recipe:

The changes I made are that I cut down on the amount of sugar (it's still plenty sweet) and replaced the cloves with ginger (didn't have any cloves and don't love them). I also sprinkled cinnamon and sugar on the top of each loaf to create a crispy sugary crust. The bread is very light for a pumpkin bread and not too moist. Next time I'll try to make some substitutions for some of the butter and sugar to make it a little healthier but didn't want to change the recipe too much this time.

  • 1 cup butter (two sticks), softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger (use less if using fresh ginger)
  • 1 15 oz can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
  • Additional cinnamon and sugar for sprinklin on top (optional but delicious)
  • Nuts to sprinkle on top (again, optional but delicious)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugar in large bowl. Add eggs, mix well. Add the dry ingredients and stir until batter is just moistened (make sure to get all the dry stuff from the bottom incorporated, though). Stir in pumpkin but make sure not to overmix. Pour into two greased loaf pans, sprinkle sugar and cinnamon on top (optional) and cook for about 45 minutes to an hour.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Halloween How-To: Decorations

As promised, here's a little more about my Halloween projects for 2009. The above is a pic of the bar - set up with a black light ($12 at Target), some cheap glow-in-the-dark skeletons and spiders (from the Dollar Store) and some carefully arranged tonic water (did you know the quinine in it makes it glow eerily under a black light? Apparently, a lot of people did know but it's news to me).

Above is the crazy Halloween headress that I made with a headband, silver ribbon with wire, scraps of purple fabric, and cheap plastic critters from the dollar store (painted with silver craft paint). I used safety pins to put it together so it easily came apart and didn't damage the head band.
I call this look "fun with spiders". The big spider in the middle is crumpled newspaper, taped into a ball with packing tape and covered with crepe paper. The web is more crepe paper and the baby spiders were cut from black construction paper and taped all around the room.
The coffin decoration is admittedly rustic looking but was mostly a way to try to cover the two tall bookshelves in the living room. My books are too colorful and cozily cluttered-looking to be spooky. I cut the coffin shape from cardboard and used low-odor spray paint to paint them black. I added the "R.I.P." because I wasn't sure you could tell it was supposed to be a coffin; I know that coffins typically don't have RIP on them but I think it worked.
This spooky wreath cost very little to make. I bought a weird straw wreath at a thrift store for a buck and covered it with black crepe paper streamer. You could used a foam wreath or buy one of those cool black wreathes made especially for Halloween. A little bit of spooky ribbon, some fake flowers in appropriate colors, a plastic skull from the dollar store, an old necklace, and some fake cobwebs complete the look. I did use hot glue to affix the skull to the crepe paper but everything could be removed easily, if I wanted to re-use the wreath for another purpose.
Above is our homemade mummy (serving as the warden here, to Melanie's prisoner garb at work). He was made out of crumpled newspaper balls (for the head, chest, and hips) connected together (more packing tape) with cardboard tubes from rolls of gift wrap (I knew they would come in handy some day!) for the arms, legs, and spine. Melanie worked hard to wrap him in white crepe paper and misted him with a very diluted mix of water and brown paint to give him an authentic ancient look.

I think this one above is my favorite project. I found the frame at a thrift store and knew I could do something creepy with it. I stained the wood with silver acrylic and printed some creepy pictures off the web. Voila! Sometimes you just have to be on the look out for strange items and used your imagination to make them fit your theme!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Halloween How-To: Food Edition

We made sure to have plenty of treats for our guests at our Halloween get-together this year. Included were the peanut butter eyeballs pictured above. The filling is PB and confectioner's sugar, rolled into a ball and dipped in vanilla candy coating. The eyeball is black frosting with lines of red gel frosting. Next time I will make the PB filling less sweet since the coating is super sweet and I will make the pupil from chocolate rather than nasty black frosting. Oh well.

Here'a pic of the treat bags we gave out. They are from Martha's Halloween line and appropriately creepy. Inside are wind-up vampire teeth, body organ gummies and chocolate body parts (all from Oriental Trading). You can see some of the candy in the photo below.

I made these creepy "frog eggs" from Tapioca, using the instructions from here:
We put out glow sticks for stirrers, which added to the look.
This is a terrible picture but I also made Red Velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. I made the cake from a mix and the batter was, indeed, blood red. Silver sprinkles completed the look.
Here are some other things that we served that I don't have pictures of:
Bacon-wrapped Squash Bites from here:
Pesto dip: garbanzo beans, pesto, and parmesan cheese
Chocolate cookies: made from the recipe on a box of Duncan Hines chocolate cake mix. No joke. They are awesome!
Pumpkin Dip: Canned pumpkin mixed with softened cream cheese and cinnamon. Serve with Nilla Wafers or ginger cookies.