Thursday, October 28, 2010

Project - Scary Centerpieces

Today's daily double is...............A Skull Centerpiece.  Project after project, recipe after recipe, that is what this season is about. 

This project was adapted from one I saw on Martha Stewart.  She puts her elegant glittered skulls under glass.  I have given it my own creepy twist, making creepy centerpieces with gross skulls and crawly creatures.  With a little hot glue, and some ghoulish imagination, the results can be stunning.

Glass cake plate or large vase
1 bag Spanish moss
1 block green florist foam (optional)
1 fake skull
Assorted small bones
Assorted plastic bugs
Dry or fake leaves
Hot glue gun and glue sticks

  • Glue the foam block on the cake plate. 
  • Cover the foam with the moss, using hot glue.
  • If using a vase, fill the vase with the moss (no glue, no foam needed)
  • Arrange the skull, bones and leaves randomly around the moss.  Attach with glue if needed.
  • Use hot glue to attach additional spiders and bugs to the outside of the glass vase or cake dome.  Hot glue can be removed from glass easily.
  • I usually make several of these to place around the house for Halloween parties.
  • You can remove the arrangement from the glass and store in a large ziploc if you want to use them from year to year.

Halloween is nearly here, and soon the decorations will come down.  What will I do next?  Look for me to post my first attempt at hand rolled chocolate truffles and kale chips.  I wonder how those will turn out (separately, not together!)
Enjoy your Halloween!

Recipe - Perfect Pumpkin Seeds

I know, it may be silly, recording all these simple recipes for all to read.... But I have tricks.  Tricks I would like to share.  So, there are two schools of thought to roast the perfect pumpkin seed:  hot and fast or low and slow.  I chose the later.  There are many permeation on the perfect pumpkin seed, but to avoid a dissertation on contrasting those methods, let me get to the point.

Soaking pumpkin seeds.

Pumpkin Seeds
2 or more cups of pumpkin seeds
4 T Olive Oil
1 t Cumin
2 t Onion Powder
2 t Garlic Powder
1-2 t Chili Powder
Seasoned pumpkins seeds in pan
1/2 t Cayenne or Chipotle Powder
2 t Kosher (or Sea) Salt

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees.
Roasted seeds.
As you clean your carving or baking pumpkins.  Reserve the seeds.  Sort the seed from the pulp of the pumpkin.  Soak the seeds overnight in several cups of heavily salted water.  Drain the seeds and spread out to dry (slightly) or pat dry with paper towels.  (Dry them so they roast in the oven - not steam)  Spread in a single layer on a sheet pan or two.  Toss with 2-3 T Olive Oil.  Sprinkle with spices (as much or as little as you want) and stir gently.

Roast at 250 degrees for 1 1/2 hours or more - look for them to be golden brown.  Stir once or twice during roasting.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Project - Halloween Pumpkin Candlesticks

I got the idea for these pumpkins at a chain store.  Their version was cutesier than mine.  Theirs was also pretty cheap looking.  I wanted to make a pair of pumpkin heads that would look a little vintage and a little spooky.  I like the dark effect of my two pumpkin heads.

2 fake pumpkins
2 metal candlesticks
2 cardboard cones
black spray paint
orange and black lace and trim
tiny pumpkins or orange pompons
old buttons
hot glue and glue gun
Exacto knife

  • Paint the pumpkins, the cones, and the candlesticks black.
  • Using hot glue, attach lace above or below the candlestick plate. Layer two laces or trims for extra interest.
  • Using the Exacto knife, carve a face into each pumpkin.
  • Attach the trim and buttons to the hats with hot glue. Again, layering works well.  I used buttons and pompon trim on one hat and layered two types of trim on the other hat. Top with tiny pumpkin, tassel or pompon.
  • Assemble the two candlesticks with hot glue.

I like how mine turned out.  I wanted them to be a good pair; I like that one is happy, but wacky, and the other sad.   We will put battery operated candles inside on Halloween.  (you can find  mini battery lights to put through the mouth or eye hole, or cut a larger hole underneath to accommodate a small battery candle)

 I wonder how I can adapt this project for other holidays?  What can I use instead of pumpkins.  Good luck, and let me know if you try this one out.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Recipe - Pumpkin Soup

Another yummy pumpkin recipe.  This one come by way of my daughters' first grade teacher, and has been a favorite ever since.   We love it on a cool fall night.  You could probably substitute Butternut Squash for the pumpkin for a different flavor.  Try it, you'll love it!

Pumpkin Soup

3 cups chicken broth (low fat, low sodium)
1 cup half and half (use milk for a lower calorie soup)
1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
2 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon (or more) chili powder
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
cayenne pepper (optional, to taste)
black pepper (to taste)
¾ cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

Mix chicken stock and half and half in a pan over medium heat.  When it starts to simmer, mix in canned pumpkin and all the spices.  Reduce heat and simmer until soup thickens, 20 – 30 minutes.  Stir occasionally.  Add salt and pepper, to taste. 

  • Top with cheddar cheese and toasted pumpkin seeds.
  • This recipe can be made a day ahead and reheated.
This recipe was adapted from Ms. Laverdure’s 1st grade Pumpkin Soup recipe.  It is enjoyed by adults and children, alike.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Late Harvest

I am an aspiring gardener.  I love to grow flowers, herbs and vegetables.  That being said, I really want a garden that takes care of itself.  Therein lies the problem.  While I strive for a beautiful perennial garden of native blooming plants, invasive weeds keep returning.  While I love the bright colors of annuals, they need lots of water.  And although I love fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs, my steam for tending them runs out some time in mid-summer.  It's a problem.

My late harvest, tomatoes and peppers from our  modest garden.
 Thankfully, some plants persevere.  Our strawberries continue to grow and spread even thought they are the repeated victims of the squirrels' digging.  The tomato plants, well cared for in the early months, continued to produce plenty of delicious fruits.  We also had basil, spinach, rainbow chard, greens, green beans and a variety of peppers.  And, though I didn't plant it, we are waiting on one "volunteer" pumpkin to ripen up in time for Halloween.  Now, the weather is cooling, and we are awaiting our first frost.  The garden is done for the year.

So, thank you little garden, for providing just enough for me to call myself a gardener.  Maybe next year I will tend you more.  And you, in turn, will provide more.  Until next year...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Recipe - S'Mores

 Yes.  I am going to share my S'More recipe with you.  No, these aren't any usual s'mores.  I, in fact, do not even like s'mores.  But, Sunday evening turned into s'more night at our house. 

Our family habit this summer was to build a fire in our small outdoor fire dish, wait until the coals burned down, and roast some marshmallows. (The Hanson family secret for the perfect marshmallow, is to wait until there are no flames, only glowing coals) 

This waiting time is difficult for some.  It really doesn't even look as though there is enough heat to roast a marshmallow, but this tried and true technique will prevent your marshmallow from catching on fire and turning into a charcoal mess.  And the time around the fire is the perfect moment for chatting with the kids about the week to come or the week that's ended.

But, as I don't even like s'mores, I had to do something to turn the basic into the bold.  How could I spice it up a bit?

We discovered the way to make a Gourmet S'More is to substitute the sublime for the mundane.  Instead of graham crackers, use any variety of Anna's Thins (we've tried the Ginger Thins and the Almond Cinnamon, both are yummy).  Instead of Hershey's Milk, use a one of Boulder's own Chocolove's varieties of dark chocolate bars (Our favorites, so far, are Chilies & Cherries in Dark Chocolate and Orange Peel in Dark Chocolate).  We still use Jet-Puffed marshmallows - I have tried the "off brands" and they always end up sticky in the bag.  I haven't tried to make my own, that may come next. 

One of the nice things about this way of making S'mores, is the possibility to "customize" your own, and share your new creation with one another.  The girls love to try the different combinations and flavor profiles.  And, yes, don't forget to serve the adults red wine with their Gourmet S'More.

So, there it is:  our fancy S'More.  These are S'Mores I can sink my teeth into!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Tea Cup Wisdom

I love the wisdom my tea tag provides...from a warm cup of Good Earth Tea...
"Why should I buy expensive art
when I can make my own."

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Teaching Friendship

One of my daughters entered middle school this fall.  She was excited to be a 6th grader.  I was excited for her.  But, I had not so fond memories of middle school, myself.  I didn't share those with her.  I hoped that she had a strong self confidence and a stable friend base that would help to give her a positive experience.  I think I was lacking those things when I was her age.  Unfortunately, those things aren't the "cure all" for the madness that can be MIDDLE SCHOOL.

The 6th grade social scene can be quite brutal.  Girls!  It's true, girls can be horrible.  My daughter has had some unpleasant experiences with friends.  I don't have any concrete answers.  We are trying to figure it out together.  My hope is that we can ride out these years and come out stronger on the other side.  My goal is to teach my daughters to be strong, to be good friends, and to be confident in themselves.   I hope that with these tools they will end up alright when they have to weather these storms as adults.

photo by M. Hanson

Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It's not something you learn in school. But if you haven't learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven't learned anything.
- Muhammad Ali

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Post Card Collage

I have an extensive postcard collection, which you can view at my other blog, Postcards, etc.  I am in a quandary about what to do with all those cards.  Trash them?  Sell them?  Recycle?  Use them?  I find it hard to do any of the above.  I do, however, scan them and use the images. 
This collage uses a vintage postcard - a nifty fifty's one with the lady and the horse.  How very Dale Evans.  I have scanned the original, and used a smaller printed version of the card.  I also used a vintage - original Cold Remedy label, original vintage stamps - to go with the post card-y theme, and store bought embellishments (rub-ons, stickers, etc.) My favorite thing, perhaps, is the quotation by Marilyn Monroe.  I love using words in my collages!  (I guess I can't help that I was an English major.)  The entire piece is mounted on an 8 x 8 canvas and sealed.   
I love the overall effect - a little vintage, a tad western, a little kitsch, a bit artsy.  The message is fun, too.  Who wouldn't agree with Marylin Monroe:

I don't mind living in a man's world,
as long as I get to be a woman in it.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Recipe - Cranberry Salsa

Fresh from the store....
I love cranberries!  But is it that time already?  What should I make first?

I feel a recipe coming's one that doesn't feel too wintery.

Cranberry Salsa
1 bag cranberries, washed and chopped
3 green onions, chopped
½ cup (or more) cilantro leaves, chopped
2 limes, juiced
½ - ¾ cup sugar
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced

Mix together gently.  Serve with corn chips, crackers, or tortilla rolls.  Also works well as with roast pork tenderloin.

  • To make spicier, add more jalapeno
  • Let sit in refrigerator 1 – 2 hours.
  • Can be made a day ahead, add cilantro before serving.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Art by Inches

I am trying to reinvent myself in art.  What should I do?  Should I find a "real" job?  Should I continue with my volunteering and creating for myself?  What should I do with all those things I like to make?  Too many questions!!  that's for sure.
Inchies in progress.
The last question continues to haunt me.  I like to make things - collages, bags, purses, totes, candles, jewelry, ... but there is only so much a girl can keep and so much I can give away.  What to do with it all.
Two years ago, I became fascinated with miniature collages, called Inchies.  As the name suggests, these collages are an inch big.  One inch by one inch, to be exact.  I discussed inchies in this post.
I made quite a few.  Some I used on greeting cards, others ended up in a plastic box.  Until now.  I finally found something to do with an inch. 

Inchies mounted in a 5 x 5 grid, on painted canvas. The top is seales with Mod Podge.
Make a collage.  Now I have a new style of collage.  I really like the effect, the possibility of combination, the juxtaposition of ideas or the similarity of images.  One more thing to make!  Now, if I can only figure out what to do with the collages.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Recipe - Hot Pumpkin Dip

I took a walk this morning and the air is finally feeling cool.  The leaves are just starting to change and fall.  I love the season.  The falling leaves, the warm colors, the cool air, and the hearty flavors. 
This is one of my favorite things to make for autumn get togethers.  It may sound a bit strange, but the flavors of the sharp cheddar and the earthy pumpkin complement each other nicely.  It's a warm and hearty dip for the fall.  Enjoy!

Hot Pumpkin Dip
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
8 oz. cream cheese (less fat)
1 cup sour cream
1 can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
½ teaspoon dry mustard
½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2-3 drops hot sauce
Black pepper to taste

Mix well.  Put into 9 inch round baking dish.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until bubbly.

Also may be placed in a large, hollowed out bread bowl.  Fill bread bowl, cover with bread lid, and wrap in foil.  Bake at 300 degrees for at least 90 minutes, or until heated all the way through.

  • Serve with veggies or sliced baguette.
  • Can be made 1 day ahead, but not put into the bread bowl until just before baking.