Thursday, October 28, 2010

procrastination equation

Extreme Procrastination + Elementary School Halloween Parade =

8 1/2 hours work straight,

1 1/2 hours sleep,

two finished costumes (out of four,)

and one very tired mommy!

I'll post pictures later. 

They all look fuzzy right now, but I'm pretty sure that has to do with my eyes, and not the focus on my camera!!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

super soft caramel corn

I got this recipe from an old neighbor of mine.  It is hands down the best caramel corn recipe ever! 

It's soft,

it's buttery,

it's easy to make,

and it's melt it your mouth delicious (not like those hard, sticky caramel corns you buy at the store that pull out all your fillings.)

If you have an extra 20 minutes or so today, you really should make some and try it!

Super Soft Caramel Corn:

2 cups brown sugar
1 cup Karo/corn syrup
1 cup butter
1-14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
4 bags butter flavor microwave popcorn

1.  Pop your popcorn and then sift it to get out all the unpopped kernels (don't want to break any teeth!)  Place your popcorn in a large bowl.  Make sure you will have enough room to stir.*

*My largest bowl will only hold two bags of popcorn with room to stir, so I usually cut the recipe in half and do two batches in a fairly short time so that I don't waste 1/2 a can of sweetened condensed milk.

2.  In a medium sized pot, melt butter over medium heat.

3.  Add brown sugar and Karo syrup.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Boil for 45 seconds.

4.  Remove from heat and add sweetened condensed milk.  Stir until mixed in, and then return to heat.

5.  Return mixture to a boil, and then remove from heat.

6.  Pour over popcorn.  Stir popcorn until evenly coated.

7.  Allow to cool.

8.  Store whatever you're not going to eat an airtight container so that it stays soft & delicious!!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

pumpkin bread

After making (and consuming all by myself) too many pumpkin pies to admit to, my husband told me, "You know, there are other things you can make with canned pumpkin."

(Blank look.)

"I like pumpkin bread," he told my blank face.

"Okay.  I'll make you pumpkin bread,"  I told him.

Then, the search was on for a pumpkin bread recipe.  There were a slew of them, but I needed to make sure they would work for high altitude, and then I found High Altitude Cooking, which just happens to be the blog I got the sugar cookie recipe off of!!

I used her recipe for pumpkin bread, except that we substituted 1/2 cup chocolate chips for the chopped walnuts.--We're not really nut people.

It turned out really good, and the troublemakers and my husband were all happy with it, but I think I'll stick with my pumpkin pie.

Friday, October 22, 2010

pumpkin pie, anyone?

I was reading Dana's post about pumpkin pie and other such tasty pumpkin treats, and my mouth started to water, and it took a matter of an hour before I began baking my own pumpkin pies.

I love pumpkin pie, and if you are one of my three siblings, or my parents, you know that pumpkin pie and I have a back story:

At some point during my childhood, my parents moved from purchasing small, usually useless gifts for their siblings for Christmas to making each of them a pie, which we delivered on Christmas Eve as a family.  One particular year when I was around 12-years-old, (picture me gangly and skinny with a flat chest--wait, weren't those miserable pubescent years supposed to help my body out; change it in some way?!)  Anyway, I and my three younger siblings were in the van, each holding a pie, more pies carefully placed on the floor, all ready to go out delivering.

At each stop, we weren't allowed to move even one inch from our seats until Mom opened the sliding door (that's right--this story is so old, our van only had one sliding door) and moved the pies on the floor to her seat in the front.  We were then to each set our respective pies carefully on the seat or floor in our spot as we got out.

As the night wore on, we had been to roughly half of the houses and my siblings and I had "caught the Christmas Spirit" (reads: we were bouncing off the walls of the van and getting extremely obnoxious.)  We were bouncing in our seats belting out the song, "Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time," at which point Mom told us to calm down and quit bouncing around because, "If one of you steps in one of the pies, you're going to have to eat the whole thing." 

Do you see where this is going?

Of course, at the very next house, after delivering the pie we all climbed scrambled like wild children back into the van where I put my waffle-stomping hiking shoes (which I wore for traction in the snow) right in the center of an uncovered pumpkin pie.

I felt horrible, I confessed, and then I continued to bounce around like a crazy with my siblings.  At each house, I had to either stay on the mat by the door, or take off my shoes so that I didn't grind pumpkin pie into the carpet, but still we were out-of-control hyper!

By the time we got home, I could see that Mom was frazzled, and I carried the damaged pie into the kitchen, cut it into pieces, and consumed the whole thing while the rest of my family was . . .

. . . come to think of it, what were they doing all together on Christmas Eve without noticing I was missing?! 

Mom and Dad came into the kitchen as I was finishing the last muddy, snow smooshed bites, and asked, "Did you eat the whole pie?!"

"Yes," I answered, feeling proud of myself since I carried out my own punishment and they hadn't even had to remind me.

"Oh, Audrey!  I wasn't serious.  That'll make you sick!" Mom responded, exasperated.  (I'm sure once I was in bed that night, she and Dad had a good laugh about how stupidly literal--or literally stupid, take your pick--I was about everything.)

Mom ended up being right.  Within an hour, I was puking pumpkin pie, and did so until my tummy felt better and probably most of the pumpkin pie had been flushed down the toilet.

Mom still tells that story to this day. 

Oh, and she has never again told me that if I stepped in the food I was going to have to eat the whole thing.
Now, that story having been told, it's absolutely obscene that I love pumpkin pie as much as I do.

I use the recipe on the back of the Libby's can of pumpkin,

with one exception: instead of using two 9" deep dish pie shells,

I use three regular pie shells.  (I think you end up with less batter left over--IE: wasted.)

When it is all finished, I like to put it in the fridge pretty quick (because pumpkin pie is way better cold,) so that I can eat it as soon as possible--of course with a dollop of Cool Whip taller than the slice of pie.

Embarrassingly enough, I have been known to eat all three pies on my own within a matter of four-five days!  I like to tell myself that I've really only scarfed two pies worth because I use different crusts.  (That's much less appalling, right?)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

dinosaur costume (mccall 2335)

Xavier's Halloween costume three years ago was a dinosaur costume!  He picked it out, and chose the colors, (which I loved because it's neutral, and I can add a bow to it, if a little girl wants to wear it in the future.)

I used McCall's #2335.  It was a lot of stuffing and pieces, but it was simple enough for a basic sewer, if you're willing to take your time.

I loved that the feet are attached to the bottom of the legs, and that it has optional gloves.

I also made a pink version of this very costume the same year for a neighbor girl who was very into dinosaurs.  I think they both turned out adorable!!

You could also add wings and not put the scales on the hat to turn this pattern into a dragon, if that's what you wanted.

Friday, October 15, 2010

dorothy costume (simplicity 4139)

Dorothy was the final installment to out Wizard of Oz themed Halloween last year!  I used Simplicity #4139, and made Rora into the cutest little Dorothy ever!!

There were a few things I really loved about this pattern:  first, I can reuse it to make Rora into a witch (like this year,) or a princess, or a fairy with the pattern pieces they give you in this pattern.

Second, I hate when a Dorothy costume is all one piece, and you can tell from a distance.  In the movie, Judy Garland wore a shirt with a gingham jumper over the top of it.  I really dislike when the "shirt" attaches to the top of the jumper, but for a small child I can see the value in having the costume all one piece.  This pattern was the best of both worlds.

The costume was all one piece, but the only place you could tell that was on the zipper in the back because the shirt attached at the skirt, not the top of the jumper!  Hooray and huzzah!

Don't forget to check out the other characters in our Wizard of Oz Halloween: Toto, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Man!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

the tin man costume (simplicity 4133)

Last year, in going along with our Wizard of Oz theme, Samuel was the Tin Man.

I once again used Simplicity #4133 with a few changes.
I didn't make the "heart" on the watch chain, since most of the book/movie, he doesn't have that.  Also, I tacked the uppermost shoulder hinge on each side to the shoulder so they didn't look so droopy.

If I were to do it again, I would lose the foot covers completely, and maybe just spray paint an old or cheap pair of shoes silver, since I already had the paint from spraying the funnel on his head.  The foot covers just flopped around all night long while we were Trick-Or-Treating and ended up getting completely mangled.

Don't forget to check out the other costumes in this series: Toto, the Scarecrow, and Dorothy!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

scarecrow costume (simplicity 4133)

This costume was actually the second costume I ever made, and it's been worn many times since then.  Last year, the idea for doing the Wizard of Oz theme with my kids all started with this costume.

I used Simplicity #4133 to make the scarecrow costume originally, and when I realized the costume would fit Xavier, and that I still had the pattern, the wheels in my head started to turn about turning my other kids into characters, too.

From what I remember about this pattern, it was a fairly intricate pattern with rafia for the straw, patches on the pants, five different pieces to the costume, etc, but it's the best scarecrow pattern I've seen out there.  Just keep in mind that if you're going to make it, give yourself some time.

I also made one change to the pattern.  I didn't use their pattern patch because I thought square ones of different fabrics would look better, and when I was done appliqueing them on with the sewing machine, I handstitched large sloppy stitches around each patch with some really thick thread for an added detail.

Don't forget to check out the other costumes from this year: Toto, Dorothy, and the Tin Man!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

toto baby "costume"

Last year, I made all of our costumes in the Wizard of Oz theme.  Samuel was the Tin Man, Xavier was the Scarecrow, Rora was Dorothy, and our one-month-old baby, Zoram was Toto.

Since he was such a young baby, but growing rapidly, I made the Toto "costume" a blanket/hooded towel.

I used faux fur for the outside, and lined it with fleece.  It was just a rectangle (about 1 yard size) with a smaller rectangle for the hat, attached to the center of one of the long sides.

I sewed little triangles out of the corners of the hood for his little ears, and then painted a nose and snout on his little face, and placed him in a basket.

This way, I could have him dressed up and snugly warm, but when it was time to feed him, or he just decided he was done, I could easily take him out--the best of both worlds!  Also, if he grew, I didn't have to worry about his costume not fitting.

Don't forget to check out the other costumes from last year: the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and Dorothy!

short break

Sorry about the short break yesterday!  I kept meaning to sit down and post something, but my husband caught the home improvement bug over the weekend, and it spilled into yesterday.

The good news is that we bought a much-needed garden shed, prepped the area, put down a weed tarp, spread gravel, placed the shed, then sanded and repainted our front door and shutters!!  Whew!

It was a long and productive weekend!  How was yours?

Friday, October 8, 2010

arrrrrrgh, mateys! (mccall's 4952)

Two years ago, Samuel wanted to be a pirate.  "That sounds easy," I thought . . . and for the most part, it was.

Since I don't like to just wing it, I used pattern #4952 from McCall's, and the shirt took me three times as long as I thought it would because it had what felt like a thousand pieces to make up the collar, facing, etc.

In the end, I'm always glad that I put in the time because the shirt was also a much higher quality than I thought it was going to be, and Samuel was a pretty proud pirate.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

my little lamb (simplicity 2788)

This costume was from two years ago when Rora was 11 months old.  I used Simplicity #2788:

She made the sweetest little lamb ever.

I tried and tried to find a little bell to put on the front of her costume, but couldn't find anything satisfactory, so I went ahead and took her pictures without it.

On Halloween day, my sister called me to tell me she and my mom had found it while they were out and about!!  She brought it up to me that night and I put it on just before Trick-or-Treating.

I have to say that it totally completes the costume!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

the monkey (simplicity 3594)

Time to show you another costume!!

This was from three years ago when Xavier was 2-1/2 years old.  It was super cold that Halloween, and I made him into a little monkey using Simplicity #3594.  The costume and the pattern themselves were not super complicated, but if you're going to use faux fur, just know that you're in for a challenge.

Overall, I love this costume, but it still kills me that I didn't realize until too late that the fur was definitely directional, and if you look close, this little monkey's fur is growing up his body, not down.

If you want something more simple, the vest could easily be made and put on top of brown clothes, but the hat (also easy) would have to be mounted on some sort of headband, or something.

Monday, October 4, 2010

clown costume (mccall's 6142)

During the past 7 Halloweens, I've made a lot of costumes.  For my kids, other peoples' kids, adults, etc. 

I didn't keep pictures of all of them, but I'm going to share the ones I do have pictures of during the month of October.

I have several criteria for making costumes:
1.  It would be nice if it's not form-fitting, so that another child of different proportions could possibly wear it later.
2.  It is preferably gender neutral, but I realize that's not always possible, so that rule is bendable.
3.  I try to do the best job possible so that the costume is good quality and will last for many years.

So, my first costume I ever made was a clown costume for Samuel from McCall's 6142.

It was a very easy pattern, but the first year, I decided to only do the fabric because I don't really like pom poms that much, but couldn't decide what I wanted to do to embellish it.

(Sorry the picture is grainy.  It's old and was taken on a 2.0 MP camera! *gasp*)

Sometime before Xavier wore it, I added over-sized buttons to the front (and discovered the magic of face "paint.")
Isn't he ADORABLE?!
If you're looking for a clown costume, this one is simple and quick - and it comes with adult pattern sizes, too!

Friday, October 1, 2010

birthday fun!

Yesterday was two of my little troublemakers' birthday.  That's right--my oldest and my youngest were born on the same day, six years apart. 

You would think that with 365 days in a year, I would be able to give my kids each their own special day . . . nope!!

It's been a lot of fun so far because Samuel (my oldest) is so smitten with his baby brother, and Zoram (my youngest) is only 1.

We had a fun day yesterday, and there was not much money spent, so I thought I would share a few fun celebration ideas with you:

Balloons: roughly $2.00 per bag at Wal-Mart.

After Samuel, and his bunk-mate, Xavier were sound asleep the night before his birthday, I snuck into their room all Tooth Fairy-like and littered their floor with balloons, which I thought would be a really fun way to wake up in the morning.

Unfortunately, that "fun" waking-up happened at 5:30 in the morning when Xavier (who has a whisper that sounds like a Mack truck firing up on a cold winter morning,) saw the balloons first, and informed Samuel that it was his birthday!!  I had to go into their room and tell them to calm down and try to go back to sleep until 7 am, since they both had school in a few hours!

Still fun, but maybe not a good idea for light sleepers, or kids who go to the bathroom frequently at night.

Another fun idea I had was to decorate the ceiling with crepe paper!

My mother-in-law's 50th birthday party was a few weeks ago, and I used black crepe paper in lines stretching from one side of the room to the other, which created a kind of canopy.

This time, my husband thought it would be more fun if the lines were more random across the ceiling.  When I got done, he asked, "There now wasn't that easier, not having to be so exact?"

If you know anything about me, it's that I don't do random very well, so I found myself analyzing each piece wondering if I had too much yellow in one spot, or if there were too many blank spaces in one area of the room, etc.

And since my husband knows about most of my faults better than I do, I answered honestly, "No, it was definitely not easier this way."

He laughed, kissed my forehead, and thanked me for trying anyway. **gushing**

Isn't he great?
Samuel, on the other hand loved the effect, and felt very special.

Total cost: $3.75 at Wal-Mart

Finally, I won Mother of the Year award when I told Samuel I would bring his lunch to school later, and then showed up at his classroom as they were leaving for lunch with a McDonald's Happy Meal.  All his friends gasped with jealousy, he turned bright red, and I got a huge hug when he got home from school! (Cost $4.)

This all sounds like a lot of effort for one child, and no effort for the one-year-old, right?

Zoram couldn't have balloons in his room because he shares a room with troublemaker #3 (Rora) who loves to share fun things with Zoram by putting them into his crib for him.  A baby toddler sleeping with balloons in his crib didn't sound that safe to me, so we skipped that part and let him play with Samuel's balloons (supervised) while his older brothers were at school.

He could have cared less about the crepe-paper ceiling, but since he loves fries, and it was his birthday, I let him just eat McDonald's fries for lunch.

So, there are a few simple ideas costing around $10!!