Monday, October 31, 2011

blue, orange, and black themed halloween candies

This year, in an effort to reduce the amount of Halloween candies we consume, I decided to get all of our candy at Bulk Barn.

I thought it would be a good way to minimize our intake cuz I'd be able to get random weird candies instead of the really delicious, hard-to-resist chocolate bars we're usually prone to buying (and then eating before Halloween and then turning all our lights off and avoiding trick-or-treaters altogether).

I was very underwhelmed by their selection. I was hoping for more odd varieties of candies (at reasonable prices). Unfortunately, what they had was either pretty typical (I can get Oh Henry!s and Hershey mixed chocolates anywhere -- shocking, I know), pretty expensive, or neat but unwrapped (boo! I wished for little packages of chocolate rocks). At any rate, I thought I'd share what we got.

Admittedly, I got the idea for fortune cookies from The Art of Doing Stuff, but I'd like to think that if I'd have seen them of my own free will, I would have gotten some anyway. I did think these would be kind of exciting for kids. I remember I was always excited to get one. It was such a random thing to have Chinese food and even more random to get a cookie at the end (not all restaurants give them, you know). Personally, from the first ten cookies I had in my life, I saved the little fortune inside and pinned it up in my room somewhere. I just hope these weren't a mistake and kids don't think we're trying to get rid of our old take-out cookies. 

Obligatory Halloween gumballs. Personally, I hate these. I don't equate gum with candy. Gum's not for that reason. If I'm going to have calories, I'd rather have some chocolate not some dumb flavourless chew for no reason. (aka perfect candies to have in the house before Halloween.)

I also got these square chocolate caramels. I liked them for their dark brown colour, and I hoped they'd be delicious but they're only just okay. Another perfect score for the kiddies that minimizes adult temptation.

These are just chewy caramels, but I really liked the packaging and the name, St. Catharine kisses. I decided I should have the colour theme of orange, black, and blue after seeing these.

I rounded out the blue with some cookies and creme Hershey Kisses. These are delicious but there aren't that many of them (I purposely got half a scoop). And, strangely enough, I'm more likely to leave them since it'd be rather noticeable if I dipped into them all day (ah, tricking my brain, I am).

Oh yes and I'm adding these fake vampire teeth to the mix, too. I bought a package of them (for $1) thinking I might use them for the door monster, but I couldn't figure out how exactly to work them in. I hope I'll be able to get rid of all of them tonight!

What I would really like to hand out are homemade treats like cookies, popcorn balls or caramel apples, but I'm pretty sure that stuff (if it's handed out at all these days) would promptly go in the garbage.

Are you giving anything different for Halloween this year?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

mushroom pie

This is not a recipe. Does that make sense? Like, if you want to make this, you're just gonna have to wing it. Put away your measuring cups and spoons and just go with your gut.

I really wanted to figure it out for you. I was honestly quite prepared to measure it out. But then I got doing it and I really didn't want to dirty a measuring cup for you guys. Does that make me a bad person? Insensitive? Thoughtless? Will you forgive me if I told you I at least dirtied the cheese grater for it (and I really really hate using the cheese grater just cuz I know I'll have to wash it later)?

Well, at any rate, you're just going to have to grow a pair, throw caution to the wind, and cross your fingers because I don't have measurements for you and I never will.

Because this, friends, is another Greek recipe. Yup. And I believe I've already told you at great lengths how nothing is ever measured and if it is, it's measured in a tea cup or a drinking glass. Perhaps I'm turning into a real Greek now...

Greek Mushroom Pie Method

1 package of puff pastry
any white cheese you desire (I've used mozzarella and saganaki cheese)
1 250 ml container (that's 1 cup to the non-metric) of whipping cream

Unthaw the puff pastry as directed on the package. Unfold and fit into a rectangular baking dish (I used a small one, but literally, you could use any dish you've got). You do not have to use all of the puff pastry. Just use what will fit in the dish you have and fold the edges to form a puff pastry container (if you will).

Wash mushrooms. Chop 'em, slice 'em, cube them, leave them whole for all I care, just make sure you've got enough to at least cover the bottom of the puff pastry cuz that's where they're going.

Grate up your cheese. I will give you a guesstimate of about a cup, but again, it's really going to depend on how large you're making this. Just top the mushrooms with enough cheese so they're (pretty much) covered.

Grind some pepper. Ha ha. That's a Greek joke. It's a euphemism for sex. Grind the pepper if you've got time and then put some pepper on your mushroom pie.

Pour the cream over the whole thing (keeping within the boundaries of your puff pastry). Greek mom used the whole thing, I used the whole thing (minus 3 tablespoons cuz I needed it for the caramel apples), but I really feel like you can get away with less if you were so inclined. It's a little sloppy (see visual above), but that's how it's supposed to be and it's kinda nice cuz the puff pastry crusts can then be dipped in aforementioned juices so you're never going to be eating just plain ol' pastry. Whatever. You decide. If you need some cream for something else, too, just use whatever's left over.

Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes or until it smells amazing and has turned a nice golden colour.

And if you're wondering what to do with any leftover puff pastry dough, just make some awful looking/great tasting turnovers. Cut the dough into squares, spoon on the jam of your choice (I used fig), and fold over diagonally, pinching the edges shut. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes or until golden and flaky.

Dinner and dessert. Bam!

Monday, October 24, 2011

DIY: halloween door monster

All right. I know I wasn't sure if I was going to decorate for Halloween, but I guess the spirit of the season got the best of me and I buckled. I have officially decorated the front porch. This is the first time I've really decorated for Halloween ever in my life (and I'm not really looking forward to taking down all of that spider web either).

Unfortunately, I left my restless rocks at our old house. I'm sort of lamenting that now. They would have been so cute sitting on the front steps. Oh well. This is a new year for new things! So my initial plan involved making a wreath. Let me point you towards some amazing ideas I was using as inspiration.

First, I really loved this wreath from The Art of Doing Stuff. It's kind of, like, classy Halloween. So I put feather boas on my list. Then I spotted this wreath and loved the random monster eyeball thing. Adding eyeballs to a wreath? Easy! Finally, I thought, if all else failed, I could make this simple snake wreath. There's nothing involved with it at all. It looks like I fussed but I didn't. That's the kind of Halloween decor I like.

But then I went out looking for this stuff at cheap-o places (minus Value Village which for some reason did not occur to me at all. dumb) and I couldn't find anything. No boas. No cool looking skulls. No packages of snakes. And I was not going to Michael's without a coupon.

It was then that I was randomly searching for some sort of idea to strike when I found myself staring at wigs. Superstore had some of them out of the packaging and the way they were dangling from peg hooks made it look like each wig was a little monster.

Do you remember Cousin It from the Adam's Family? Well, that's exactly what popped into my mind.

So I thought I could possibly get the eyeballs glued on and it would look like a little hair monster hanging on my door. I'm not lying when I say I got really excited and drove way out of my way to get supplies. I could have waited for the weekend, but I just didn't want to! This was so much more fun than anything else I could have planned that day. And unfortunately, neither Superstore or the Dollar Store had bags of eyeballs and I really needed a bag of eyeballs. (I never thought I'd ever say that in a million years.)

If you want the basic monster like I've done, this whole project is going to cost you about $10 (as long as you already own a glue gun).

These steps are just to give you a general idea of what I did. It's not necessarily what you must do, but I thought it worked best. Also let's not forget that this is a monster and monsters can look however you want them to look. Maybe you want one eyeball. Maybe you want to take the Cousin It thing seriously and just stick some sunglasses on there. Choose a different wig. There are short ones, black ones, blue ones. Cut the hair if you feel it needs it. You know. Whatever. Have fun with it. That's the point of Halloween, right?

Get your wig out of the packaging and let it breathe for a day or so. I found that since mine had been folded up, it was crinkled in the middle and looked odd. Try it on a few times. Get your husband to try it on. Heck, have everyone in your household try it on and laugh and laugh. Then put it somewhere to get the kink out (if it has any). I used a post on the stairs and put it on that (like the post was wearing it. Laugh some more). Once it's starting to look like a wig and not a weird folded piece of hair, find something to stuff in the head portion just to fill it out a bit. I used some t-shirt scraps.

Then I used some coordinating thread and quickly stitched the bangs to the bottom portion of the elastic head part (I do not know the technical term). Basically, just have it so the bangs are folded down and hiding the stuffing and the mesh as best you can. The stitching doesn't have to be perfect and it definitely won't be. This was the most tricky part because you're moving thread and needle around hair bits, but trust me, the hair will eventually hide whatever horrendous stitches you put in there (just don't stitch the hair down!).

Fluff out the bangs to cover everything and you should have something like this.

Next, decide how you want his "face" to look. While your glue gun heats up, figure out where you want to put the eyes (if you're using them) and how many eyeballs you want to use. Then put a dollop of glue on the back of each eye, hold the hair out of the way, and stick them firmly down onto the mesh netting under the hair. Once they're in place, you can arrange the hair around them to make them look a little more natural. Or as natural as eyeballs on a wig can look.

If you want, you can add other things like spiders or some bits of webbing. You could add bows or braid some of the hair. You could even get some black hair dye and change the hair up, too. Black streaks or even bleached bits would look neat. Chop into the bangs to give him an asymmetrical look. You're only limited to your imagination and how far you want to take your monster. 

Finally, hang it! The mesh that holds the hair on is the perfect hanging thing. Just push it onto your door hook or tie some string through the mesh to use as a hanger. Obviously, I'm without the use of my peephole until Halloween's over, but I'm cool with that (actually, I found that if I put my finger on the peephole and just wiggled the hair around it, I could still kinda see through it without the monster looking split open around the peephole. So it's not totally unusable).

Also, I've finally accepted the fact that nothing I hang on my door is photogenic. I can take a bazillion pictures of it, but it's always going to look weird and out of focus, and the door will always look wonky. Therefore, this is the best out of a bazillion photos and I really don't want to take any more. I'll just swear it looks better than this.

Don't forget to decorate the rest of your house accordingly. 

Full disclosure: Initially, I was just going to do the door monster and I wasn't going to put spider web all over the porch, but my neighbour happened to put all of her Halloween decorations out the same day, and... I know it's not a competition, but I just thought that I could do so much better. Anyone can push a fake tombstone into their lawn, you know? So I may or may not have spent an hour gingerly pulling spider web all around the porch trying to make it look "real."

I may or may not have wished I had picked up some better looking spiders, too.

One last note. The bag of eyeballs gives you way more eyeballs than you'll probably need (depending on monster species). I just stuck my extras into a jar. That's where extra eyeballs go, right?

Friday, October 21, 2011

friday fixations

{sonya tayeh's geisha girl routine} I am unnaturally obsessed with this dance and song. I know, I know. So You Think You Can Dance ended ages ago, BUT I just finished watching the finale a couple weeks ago (2 hours is too long to watch back-to-back) and STILL this song will creep into my head. It's definitely one of my favourite routines of all time, along with this one (I think I've watched it, oh, about a 100 times).

{bacon and tzatziki} This came about completely by accident. An accidental, delicious pre-Thanksgiving snack. Mom was making bacon for breakfast and some extra for adding to roasted vegetables, and I was making tzatziki. (Because no Thanksgiving is complete without it, right?) I put the tzatziki back into the yogurt container (as I always do) and (as I always do) I had a little bit leftover. So we're eating crispy bacon... the tzatziki was right there... so we started dipping it, and OMG it was like eating a little bit of heaven. Now. This isn't something I'd go around eating every month. And (honestly) it's probably not going to happen again in a million years. BUT if I were to suddenly crave chips and dip, I think I would much rather have bacon and tzatziki instead. Just saying.

{apple tv} Another side-effect of Thanksgiving. Man, that holiday really brings out the worst in us, right? Well, we initially went to purchase a cable that would connect the iPad to the tv so we could all watch a nice movie on Netflix. That trip resulted in Apple TV because 1) Idle Husband overheard one of the blue shirts selling it to a customer and I guess it sounded pretty good; and 2) apparently, for not that much more than the price of a cable, we could have a lot more features and it's still super small and portable. It's been pretty great so far and it's made us realize that Netflix was only sucking because of the Playstation not the internet. (Also it's made mom want to get rid of her cable. Sorry, cable guys.)

{popcorn} After years of eating air-popped popcorn, something wrong started to happen. My popcorn wasn't popping. Half of it would be left inside the popper and the rest of the kernels would hide out in what little did pop posing serious tooth hazards. I figured something was wrong with the popper, so I got rid of it. I'd never popped corn on the stove top but I was willing to try, so I attempted Alton Brown's popcorn method. It seemed fairly easy and straightforward at first, but after popping one bowl, I thought there had to be a better way. It's surprisingly way too much work plus it burnt up my metal mixing bowl (those aren't designed to hang out on a high temperature burner and I have no idea how else to heat up the oil, Alton). A few days later, I was making pasta and it hit me. It was genius almost! The pasta pot was perfect for popcorn! This is the exact pot we have (Idle Husband came with it!). It's got high sides, it's nonstick, has a locking lid, and it even has steam holes (you know, the drainage holes)! And now I'm completely addicted to popcorn. I splash a bit of oil in the bottom (which heats up almost instantly), add in some salt, and Idle Husband does the popping (which takes less than 3 minutes). Then, magically, out comes light, fluffy, tasty, perfectly salted popcorn (it's so much tastier than air-popped, too. No more dry flavourless popcorn) and there's absolutely no need to add extra butter! Although, I do love shaking on some parmesan cheese (love love). I've been having it for dinner on Saturdays.

{paint it black} (almost) Everything is getting a coat of black paint in this house and I love it. (And I should be listening to this while doing it.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

crabapple bread

Like banana bread, crabapple bread is exactly what it says it is. Bread with crabapples in it. Short and sweet and simple.

I would never have thought to put crabapples in bread or regular apples, for that matter. But we've been literally swamped with jam this year.

I'm not kidding.

We arrived home from our vacation with plenty of apples, crabapples, chokecherries, and plums. I really wanted to try making chokecherry jam (the first time I've ever used them for anything), and I had to make a quick trip to pick up a bag of sugar (because of course I'm completely out of sugar exactly when I need cups and cups and cups of it and exactly around the time I'd decided I didn't want to buy huge bags of sugar anymore). While out, I decided to quickly stop at the post office to pick up a package from Greece.

I had my chokecherries boiling, the sugar ready for measuring, and we cracked into that Greek package to find... jam. Yeah. Lots and lots and lots of jam (and mountain tea and oregano and bay leaves -- still on the branch). 

I was making jam while humongous monster sized jars of jam were slowly being unearthed from a huge box on my dining room table. 

And that's when I started searching for something different for crabapples. Crabapple jelly was not happening. Not when I really wanted to make apple pie jam. Not when I was already making chokecherry jam. And definitely not when the only thing I could really think of to best use the plums was (you guessed it) jam.

It kind of sucks because crabapple is one of our favourite jams. It's got the best sweetly tart flavour.

Anyway, since I had so many apples, I thought I could experiment with a few different ideas.

First, I wanted to save some for Thanksgiving. I thought they'd be perfect chopped up in stuffing (and they were).

Then I found crabapple bread in a random search for crabapple related things and whipped up a quick loaf. It's an extremely easy recipe. The only labour-intensive process is chopping the crabapples themselves.

Now the recipe, I noticed, states to spread the batter into a "loaf pan(s)" which had me going back and forth as to whether I should use a loaf pan or a larger cake pan. I didn't think I had enough batter for the cake pan, so I went with one loaf pan and because of that, this one loaf took twice as long to bake and it rose a lot more than I anticipated. So the idea to put a crumb topping on went completely out the window. Just be careful to split it into two loaves or maybe use a larger square pan. It doesn't look like much, but it does fill out quite a lot during the baking process.

We couldn't wait for it to cool much before slicing it, so it was a little crumbly (and accounts for my haphazard photography). No matter. Crumbs are just as good. Spread some salted butter on, and this is the perfect snack, breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, coffee cake... the list goes on. The little slices of chopped crabapple are such a nice treat. Not that it's wrong or anything but sometimes it gets a little boring eating something sweet with more chunks of sweet things throughout. The crabapple lends a burst of tart flavour that works really well with the sweet, almost plain bread.

In case that wasn't enough, crabapples fair pretty well in the freezer. So I painstakingly chopped up the remaining apples and measured them into freezer safe jars. This way when we're craving a little something different for Sunday breakfast in the dead of winter, I'll be able to grab some apples out and get to baking.

adapted from here

1/2 cup butter or margarine (I used the latter)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs (I used egg whites only -- the carton kind)
2 tblsp milk (I used soy)
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
2 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 cup roughly chopped crabapple (leave the skins on, but remove the core and seeds)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (or other nuts or delete them altogether)

Cream the butter and sugar. Add eggs, milk, and lemon juice. Mix flour, salt, and baking soda together. Add to butter mixture. Stir in the crabapple and walnuts until combined.

Grease a large loaf pan or a couple smaller pans. Add batter and bake at 350 for 45-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean (timing depends a lot on what size of pan you choose to use). Cool (if you can) then slice.

{note} I think this batter would be swell as breakfast muffins. Adjust baking time accordingly.
{noted} You could use any tart apple. Granny smiths would probably mimick the tart flavour best.

Monday, October 17, 2011

don't-DIY: wallpaper covered lampshade

I really wish this idea had gone better. Smoother. Nicer. But it just didn't. And sometimes, that's what happens in the DIY world. You have this great idea and about halfway into it you think, "This is not working. Please stop." But you can't stop. You just keep doing it, determined to have it work out like it did in your mind.

This is one of those projects.

I'm sure you remember this lamp. The lamp from my how to fix a vintage lamp post.

Well, it was determined that the lampshade was quite dull and very boring.

I had two different ideas on how to fix it up.

One involved fabric flowers and ribbons; the other involved using my scroll-y vintage wallpaper.

I had really lusted after the flower idea. I really did. The problem was in finding the fabric. It had to be (in my mind) that perfect shade of pink. Pink like the flowers on the base. Any other shade would (and did) look wrong.

I had the wallpaper idea one day as I was cleaning scraps up and realized the yellow kinda worked with the stem and the pattern kinda made sense towards the whole flower scheme (climbing vines? lattice work? whatever). And since I had the wallpaper already in my possession and since I discovered it was the perfect width, I decided to go ahead with option two. Even though it was the less desirable option.

The first challenge was in making a pattern or template for the shade. Thank goodness I had the foresight to do this with some inexpensive craft paper instead of cutting up my roll of wallpaper a dozen times. I'm sure there's somewhere on the internet that can teach you the mathematics involved with doing this, but I greatly underestimated the difficulty of this first step and besides, math doesn't usually play fair with me.

Eventually (through pure frustration and annoyance at my whole craft room and table being taken up with this project for weeks), I ended up putting the lampshade back on the base and wrapping, taping, and cutting the craft paper while on the shade. Definitely not smart. Definitely don't do it.

Then I stewed for another week over how to attach the paper to the shade.

Eventually (and more through my sheer annoyance at not having a single ounce of table to take pictures or do other projects), I made the decision to go with hot glue and just frickin' do it already damned the consequences. At least with hot glue, I can pull it off later. I'm pretty sure I can pull it off later. I've picked it off other things before...

The resulting shade isn't... that bad, I guess. The photo makes the edge appear very crinkled and unruly, but it doesn't look like that in person. Or at least not until you're very close up. And it's very "oh. damn." if you happen to get a peak inside the shade. That's when you realize it's kind of a chop-shop job.

I'm going back to the flower concept even if it takes me 5 years to find fabric. It took me 10 years to fix the lamp in the first place. Five years will feel like a cake walk.

Friday, October 14, 2011

friday fixations: thrift edition

One of the best parts of the vacation? Thrift shopping! You know I love a good thrift store. So here are some of the things I picked up:

{1 owl salt and pepper shakers} I still feel like I paid too much for these ($10 is too much, right?), but they're owls and they're salt and pepper shakers and they're cute! I just couldn't let some other person get them, I just couldn't.

{2 glass water decanters} I was literally paying for stuff when mom came running over with these bottles. They're both different shades of purple and they've got glass stoppers. I think I'd like to use them bedside. I think. I'm still not sure.

{3 little cubby of painted ceramic drawers} I really don't know what I'm going to use this for, but it seemed too handy to pass up. Currently, I'm leaning more towards using it for jewelry storage but it could also go in the kitchen or in the craft room. The wood is in pretty bad shape, so I'm planning on painting that portion. It's kinda hard to tell by the photo, but I've already filled in cracks with wood filler and given it a quick sanding. (I had that stuff out so I wanted to do it all at the same time, and then I thought, wait I haven't taken pictures of the before yet! Stop the presses!) Ah, question. Should I paint it white or yellow? I have both. I'll probably make the decision once I see it primed.

{4 jewelry boxes} I mentioned it in a friday fixation post and I'll mention it again: I'm gaga for jewelry boxes now. I'm still using my little frame and doily jewelry hangers, but I'm tired of them. They're nice. They work great. But I'm just really sick of seeing all of my junk hanging there. The two larger boxes need a good scrubbing and I'm going to fix up the wooden one a little. Hopefully I can figure out how to change the fabric top on it. I'm not 100% keen on the floral couch-like fabric. The small one is another suede travelling jewelry holder which almost makes up for the one the thrift store took away from me a couple weeks ago. It's newer, but it's in better shape (I have to do some searching on how to clean that suede/velvet type of fabric).

{5 lettuce shaped serving bowl} I think this little ceramic lidded bowl is the cutest! Maybe it's not lettuce. Maybe it's a cabbage? Whatever. I really want to serve some vegetables in it (preferably brussel sprouts).

{6 more decorative tins} Two have hinges! I can't pass up a tin with hinges! The other two, well, I just liked them and it's been ages since I've allowed myself to even look in the tin section let alone buy anything from it. Besides, it's winter. That means it's time to display them. I got a little excited.

And then there's this:

It's a headboard! You know those old ones with the drawers? My gram used to have them at her summer cabin and I always thought they were the best. You could hide all sorts of stuff behind the doors and the top is wide enough for lamps and books, too. I think it's the most useful headboard ever designed.

So when I started to notice that someone needs a little more storage for things such as cords and phones, I thought this would be the perfect solution. Would you believe we got it for $15?! (This and the footboard, but I don't plan on using that part.)

I've painted it already and I'm going to drill a hole in the back (behind the doors) for cables to slip in, then everything can be closed and hidden so our room has that nice, neat, and orderly look while still providing the necessary space for gadgets and doodads. I'll definitely do a before and after post once I finish it up completely. I'm already totally in love with how it looks after painting. What a difference from the photo!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

caramel apples

Can you believe I've never once had a caramel apple? Not once. Sure, I've seen them and lusted after them, but they're always sold in public settings, and, like, how on earth do you eat one of these things in public without looking foolish and/or getting stick all over your face?

It seemed like something I'd feel mortified to attempt so I figured it was best to avoid them.

I don't know why the thought to make my own never occurred to me until now. Probably because they seemed like one of those high fuss desserts. Kinda like cake pops. Baking, then mashing with icing, then rolling, popping them on a stick and dipping them in chocolate. Whew! Why not just eat the cake pre-cake pop? Making caramel, inserting sticks, dipping, rolling, letting cool. Why not just dip some apple slices in soft caramel and call it a day?

Anyway, this is another non recipe because I just couldn't be bothered to make my own caramel.

It's not because I'm too lazy or I just didn't have time. I've had ups and downs with caramel in the past. Either I cooked it too long or too short (usually because I was nervous as hell and thought my candy thermometer was playing tricks on me) or I was a complete dummy and used shortening instead of butter which gives it a weird flavour (do not do that).

With Halloween upon us, what's stopping me from buying a huge bag of creamy caramels and melting them down? You can find these bags literally everywhere you go at this time of year. And if you want candy apples in the middle of May, soft caramels can always be found in the bulk aisle. So there's really no reason to go through the nerve-wracking agony of making caramel.

Still not convinced? Well, I should also mention that there's usually a recipe/how-to printed right on these bags of caramels. Yeah. I just saved you a good bit of searching on google for a recipe. And I saved you a trip back to the store to get some cream because who the heck knew that that was necessary in making caramel apples. Oh and you know what else is in most of those bags? Sticks. So you don't have to go foraging for branches or buy that super econo pack of 1000 wooden popsicle sticks just to make 12 apples (like I had to for making popsicles because the regular, normal-person sized boxes of wooden popsicle sticks were out of stock every. single. time. I went to the store and I was tired of hounding popsicle sticks like a crazy person).

I used these tart little apples homegrown by mom and self-picked by Idle Husband and I. I think that makes them specialer. Plus there's no waxy coating which I've heard can keep the caramel from sticking (make sure to really scrub your apples if you're using store-bought).

The branches were kind of one of the main reasons I wanted to do these in the first place. I saw a picture of some candy apples with branch sticks a couple years ago and I really wanted to do it, too. In retrospect, I should have made sure to find branches that were smooth and had bark that was not falling off all over the place. I had some issues with a few of them. I really should have snatched an apple branch at the same time as picking these, so if you want to do the same thing, fair warning.

I think that using little apples made a huge difference when it came down to the eating part. Not only were they a little more tart than the average grocery store apple (which pairs really well with the intense sweetness from the caramel), but the smaller scale made them a little more manageable in the "how do I bite into this?" department.

My favourite was chocolate and caramel. I just chopped up some semi-sweet chocolate chips and dipped the warm, caramel covered apple into them. (I may have gotten chocolate on my face while eating this but at least I was in the comfort of my own home.)

I also rolled a few in chopped walnuts. These were Idle Husband's favourite. Basically, I'm saying you can roll them in pretty much anything you choose. Just have everything prepped before you start dipping.

I almost forgot -- if you really want to be lazy about it and still have the same effect, just chew a piece of caramel while eating an apple. It totally works in a pinch. (Don't ask me how I know these things! No! I'm not addicted! I can stop any time! Stop judging me with your judgy eyes.)

Monday, October 10, 2011

celebrating the harvest

Happy Thanksgiving to all you Canadians out there! Check out the monster carrot we pulled out of the garden!

Friday, October 7, 2011

friday fixations: thanksgiving cookin' music

I've been busy in the kitchen prepping some dishes for Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend. Mm, mm, mm, gonna get me some pumpkin pie.

Here's what I've been listening to (and where you can download it)!

{1 Hospitality: Betty Wang} 

{2 Azealia Banks: 212}

{3 Alex Winston (RAC Remix): Velvet Elvis}

{4 The Heavy: How You Like Me Now?} We watched Horrible Bosses during our vacation, and this song was played during the movie. I downloaded it the moment I got home. (Incidentally, the movie was pretty awesome, too. It's got all of our favourite actors in it.)

{5 Spoon: Utilitarian demo}

{6 Destroyer: Savage Night at the Opera}

{7 Os Incríveis: Uma Rosa Pra Dita}

{8 Metronomy: The Bay}

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

DIY: fall wreath

This is the best wreath I've made so far. Of course, I've only ever made two, but that's not really the point now is it?

Remember the fabric wreath? That thing hung on my door all summer and I really never tired of it at all. The only thing I will note is that the fabric got a little droopy. I don't know why. Maybe it was humidity? Dust? Heat? Wind? Whatever the case, it started to look a little tired. So that's when I began thinking about making another wreath for fall or the in-between before Christmas wreaths are acceptable.

Lately I've been noticing a lot of pretty foliage on my daily walks. Berries and grasses and seed pods are quite beautiful this time of year and without showy distracting flowers taking all of the attention, these plants should get centre stage.

So after weeks of forgetting, I finally brought a bag and some clippers with me and walked around to all the spots I remembered seeing great grasses.

You would not believe how many looks you get when you're carrying around a bag of grasses and weeds. People looked at me like I'd gone mental. It probably would have helped if Idle Husband didn't stop at Save-On to get an ice cream for the walk home. I guess you might look a little more crazy if you're also in a grocery store carrying around a bag of weeds.

The ice cream was totally worth it though! (This flavour is always sold out and now I know why!)

Once home, I put everything in a vase of water and formulated my plan the rest of the day.

The vase of water is pretty important if you're not planning on doing this the day you collect your weeds. You don't want them drying and becoming brittle. It will be impossible to bend them into a circular shape without them cracking and breaking at that point.

I don't really have much of a tutorial for this one since it's kind of something that depends on the weeds, what you want it to look like, your own personal esthetics, yadda yadda. I will say that it's super messy and as grasses dry, they like to pop out their seeds. So if you think my table is messy, you should see the floor. Work on this project outside or somewhere where you can do easy clean-up (i.e. not on a carpeted floor like I did).

just a reminder

My first thought was to use sturdy branches as the base, but that quickly changed since I found them too floppy and they wouldn't attach to each other very well. I still had a metal coat hanger leftover from the fabric wreath, so I did exactly the same thing. Bend, pull, push, shape the hanger into the best circle you can. This time, I left the hook part intact so that I'd have something to hang the wreath with (just use a pair of pliers to bend the hook around into a closed circle). But if you'd like to add a nice ribbon instead, feel free to use the hanger part in your form as before.

Next bend your collected branches, berries, and grasses around the wire frame and attach them as you like. Initially I attached mine with twist ties, but once I was done, I went back through and tied everything on with brown and green string and then removed the twist ties so the attachments would be less noticeable (am I the only one who longs for the days of paper twist ties when you could easily strip it all off with your fingernail to reveal the bare wire? Or the ones that were orange or brown or just clean white without a bunch of printing on them?).

Now if you were smart and planned ahead and wanted to spend just a tiny bit of money on this project, you could buy some floral wire and you'd be able to skip my extra step. I'm still happy I started with twist ties since they're a lot easier to use when attaching with one hand while holding branches with the other. I definitely wouldn't suggest you start with string. It's a little too fussy and I think you'd get frustrated trying to hold and tie at the same time. Otherwise, this project cost me exactly zero dollars and I think it looks pretty amazeballs.

Note to future self: please please paint the door hook the same colour as the door! (The hook has been digitally enhanced -- for now.)

I love the red berries against the turquoise on the door. So pretty! They've now turned a deeper shade of red which makes this a nice evolving look. I've also since rounded out the branches in the middle a bit more so our peephole actually functions. Be wary of that if you're a peeper like we are!

I constructed the wreath about three weeks ago and it still looks pretty fresh. The leaves have drooped and dried a little more now that it's gotten colder, but it still looks pretty good from the sidewalk. I'm hoping it lasts at least into November. I'm kind of entertaining the idea of adding some Halloween charm to the house, but I'm not completely sold on that idea yet. (gah I've always wrinkled my nose at Halloween decorations cuz it's not technically a holiday I feel needs decorating for but there're so many cute and whimsical dark and macabre ideas about now, it's terribly tempting.)