Tuesday, October 30, 2012

No Tricks, All Treats

In past years, I always made treats for Kiddo's holiday party. He attends a small charter school this year, so there are less kids, more parents making treats, and smaller parties. Way to steal my thunder!

While I've aced the Christmas cupcake, I'm just getting warmed up in the Halloween treat department. Last year I went all out:


I made the vegan chocolate cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World (insanely easy and deeelish!). I lurv that cookbook and have sung it's praises more than once. I topped them with their vegan buttercream frosting, rolled them in crushed chocolate graham crackers, and finished off them with various fondant "bones." My husband is so awesome...he bought me a huge bucket of fondant just for the occasion. I have enough to last a lifetime of Halloweens. The bone molds were a couple bucks at Joann Fabric. It was such a simple, fun project.

I can't stop here! There's so much untapped Halloween goodie potential! Whether they want them or not, these kids are getting my cupcake creations. Just kidding. My lack of baked good outlets is not going to keep me from flexing my cupcake muscles. I've been collecting fun Pinterest ideas...the more fondant involved, the better.

Source: tumblr.com via Caitlin on Pinterest

Simple, but super cute!


I've been wanting to make these for ages!


I don't even know where to begin...but I love these! I see peach rings...


Another simple classic...

Stenciled Chocolate Cupcakes

These look so fun! No frosting...so the cake has to be really good.

Don't forget my first giveaway is going on! Guess Kiddo's costume and you could win a $10 Amazon e-card!

Monday, October 29, 2012

A Walk Down Halloween Lane + My First Giveaway

I love Halloween. And the fact that Kiddo is a costume aficionado makes it even more fun. He's twelve this year, but I'm hoping that I will get to continue creating fun and unique costumes with him in the years to come.

There have been some superheroes over the years, of course, but for the most part he chooses to portray classic characters and is very un-kidlike in his decision making process. This kid was meant to be mine.

Instead of forking over big bucks for something he will only wear once, we get creative and stake out thrift stores months in advance. Because at one point he had a 4 year plan for Halloween costumes. And stuck with it. This one's for you, Kid.


Upon searching through dozens of discs containing our old photos, I realized that Jack Sparrow and Napoleon Dynamite are missing. Those were two of his best years! Jack was identical in every way, and his Napoleon costume was all out: the glasses, wig, and I Love Tater Tots shirt.

In the spirit of all things Halloween, I've decided to host my first giveaway! Kiddo's costume is a little trickier this year, so I thought it would be fun to play a little guessing game.

Here goes:
  1. Below are 3 photos featuring elements of his costume. 
  2. Put your guess in the comments section.
  3. I will put the names of those who correctly guess in a hat Tuesday evening and have Little Man pick the winner.
  4. I will announce the winner in my Halloween post and put a call-out for your email (if you're a no-reply blogger).
  5. A $10 Amazon e-card will be delivered to your inbox!

 
  
Good Luck!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass...

...It's about learning to dance in the rain.

Vivian Greene

Sooo...a storm's a-brewing. As much as I wish it were this Sandy:


She looks more like this:


I'm not a storm-fearing person. Perhaps there have been too many false alarms in my life, but I never expect them to be as bad as predicted. Which is why we passed up the opportunity to buy one of the last portable generators at Home Depot.

Only, all the local schools have now been closed for tomorrow. And the college just followed suit. My college never cancels classes. I've trudged through three feet of freshly laid snow to get class. So now I'm a little concerned. As in, plug-in-the-rechargeable-batteries and eat-something-out-of the-freezer concerned.

I have my first giveaway planned for tomorrow! My internet can't go kaput! Oh, well. 

My fellow New Englanders, my thoughts are with you. Be safe. I'll see you on the other side of Sandy.

Sunday Social: Me, Myself and Halloween

Sunday Social

Hello, Friends! I haven't joined up in several weeks, but I'm back in the game! And just in time to talk about some Halloween favorites. 
Happy Sunday!

1. What was your favorite Halloween costume as a kid?

I had to think about this. I couldn't remember a single one. I'm not that old, I swear! I guess Halloween wasn't a huge deal in our house, and the cutoff for trick or treating was twelve. Perhaps that's why I love it so much as an adult...I didn't get my fill as a kid. The one costume that (finally) popped into my head was the one I wore the year I turned six. I was the tooth fairy. I wore a fru fru dress and carried a Barbie skirt that turned into a fancy drawstring bag. My mom filled it with some Legos so it rattled like it was full of teeth. If pictures exist, I have no idea where. I've never actually seen one.

2. If you could go back and dress up as something what would it be?

I want to be an owl! But I wouldn't go back and do it, because I want photographic evidence and the memories to go with it. I found some good candidates...some would need to be adapted for an adult, of course.

Source: google.com via Sarah on Pinterest
Source: google.com via Sarah on Pinterest

3. Favorite costume as an adult?

This particular Halloween was so fun, which is why it's my favorite costume. It was rather simple, really, but we went to a party at a new friend's house and had a blast.

2009

I was the doctor and my husband was the naughty nurse. I never thought I'd find myself applying lipstick, mascara, and eyeliner on my husband. He has luscious lashes!

4. Favorite Halloween Candy?

My son has a dairy allergy, so most chocolate candies are out. When going through his stash a couple years ago, I came across something called Coffee Crisp. It was insane! Apparently, they are popular in Canada, so I had to do some finagling to get my hands on some full size bars (and I don't even eat candy bars...it was that good!). They were awful! If you can't find a fresh lot of Coffee Crisps, don't bother.  Otherwise, Almond Joy and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are favorites. So are Sweet Tarts.


5. Favorite Halloween Memory?

A few years ago, we were celebrating our first Halloween since moving to New England. Our neighborhood is pretty spread out, so we don't trick or treat around here. The counselor at my son's school told us about a great neighborhood. It was! My husband and I walked around with our pup and our kiddo, hot chocolate in hand. It was like a peaceful date night. Nothing earth-shattering happened, but it stands out as one of the best. Ever.

6. Whats your favorite scary movie?

I saw Urban Legend four times in the theater with various friends. I'm not big on horror movies, but that one was exciting and fun without being too horrible. One of my friends owned an Explorer, and we must have checked the backseat twenty times on the way home. 


I was so in love with Jared Leto as a teenager. He's gotten a little weird, but I think the love is still there, somewhere.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Double, double toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble

William Shakespeare, Macbeth

Source: weheartit.com via Alison on Pinterest

One of my best childhood memories is all of the great classic Halloween movies on TV. I'm not into scary, gory movies...instead favoring funny, lighthearted ones. The Disney channel had some of my favorites. Unfortunately, they don't seem to play them anymore. Bummer!


I don't want my son to grow up without these classics, so I work hard to find and watch them with him. You can tell they're classics when your 12 year old loves them as much as you did as a kid. 

Sometimes I have to get creative...but it's always worth the effort. I'd thought I would share some of them with you. If you're an 80's/90's child like me, perhaps you share the love. If so, tell me! I'd love to hear your favorites...I'm probably forgetting a few.

The Halloween That Almost Wasn't




This is one of my all time faves that showed on the Disney Channel every year. It's silly and cute and entertaining. And totally retro. Thank goodness for YouTube!

The Canterville Ghost


Another Disney Channel classic. It's short and sweet.

Garfield's Halloween Adventure


Kiddo loves this cartoon short, too! We bought the DVD that has all the Garfield holiday specials a few years ago and watching them has become a fun tradition. I just went on Amazon to link to it, and private sellers are asking $50-$75 for it. What?! I paid maybe $10. YouTube saves the day. Again.

Hocus Pocus


This is another silly, fun Halloween movie. It still gets played on ABC Family, so we get to enjoy it every year.

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown


When I asked my husband what his favorite classic Halloween movie is, he immediately named this one. "It's the BEST!" This one still plays on Halloween, too.

Little Monsters


Okay, so this isn't a Halloween movie per se, but it's a fun monster movie. And it must be mentioned. Little Fred Savage and Howie Mandel? Yes, please! Yep, that Howie. Luckily, it's on Netflix so we can watch it anytime. Or you can own it for 5 bones from Amazon.

The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad


I saw this at Target yesterday and immediately felt 10 years old again. It's so fun and at the top of my list.

Ghostbusters


What kind of friend would I be if I didn't mention Ghostbusters? The day my son was old enough to watch this with us was a great day. I should have a scrapbook page devoted to that day.

Edward Scissorhands


Brilliant. That is all.

Addams Family


Need I say more?

I could keep going, but this post is already a mile long. Here are a few more honorable mentions...
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (okay, not from the 80s or 90s, but it is a great Halloween movie so I thought I'd include it)
  • Young Frankenstein (Classic. Funny. Done.)
  • Practical Magic (I've seen it SO many times)
  • Beetlejuice (Don't say it three times!!)
  • Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit (also a newer movie, but it's already a classic in our house)
  • Casper (Little Christina Ricci. And Bill Pullman. My husband met him at a party once...and won't let me forget it)

Friday, October 26, 2012

The More You Know...

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.

Mahatma Gandhi

Photo: http://www.charitywater.org

Sooo this post is going to be a little weird. And possibly random. And it starts with a visit to a wastewater treatment plant.

Still there? Nice! Here's a little backstory: my Senior Seminar professor asked me to take on an independent research project that requires sifting through/reading A LOT of scientific studies, then compiling the data in a review paper (basically a summary of all the findings). I won't bore you with the details, but our local wastewater treatment facility is worried that an herbicide they have to use is hurting or killing the beneficial microbes the plant relies on to purify the water.

In order to gain a better understanding of the process and meet the amazing people who insure we have clean water, my professor and I took a tour of the plant. Again, I won't bore you with the details. But I will tell you this: we are really, really fortunate to live in a country whose citizens have access to clean water and indoor plumbing.  These people work night and day to ensure our safety and preserve our environment.

Too soapboxy? Sorry. I have a point...and it is this: knowing more makes us more socially responsible. Will I think twice before throwing something down the toilet? You bet. Will I think about those hard working people when I drink tap water? Definitely.

Photo: greencycle.net
The problem is, knowing the truth about things and how they work makes us uncomfortable. We all know where meat comes from, but we don't like to know how it gets from the feedlot to our dinner plates. We flush our toilets and turn on our faucets, but we don't particularly care to know where that water comes from or how it got there. We groan about the cost of organic produce, but do we really, truly know what it takes for those carrots to win that "organically grown" tag? Not really.

I watched Fast Food Nation four years ago. Although it is fictionalized, it shows the darker side of the beef industry and contains actual footage from a slaughterhouse. I can count the number of times I've eaten beef since then on one hand. But I'm better for having seen it.

Photo: aspca.org
I sometimes change the channel when ASPCA commercials come on. I admit it. We've adopted from the Humane Society...I know what horrible people can do to animals. I just don't want the heartache. The African babies with distended bellies? Too depressing. I care about these things, but having to face them head on is unpleasant. Yeah, well, that's life. The fact is, I can't call myself an informed citizen or possess opinions on certain subjects if I know nothing about them and still fail to educate myself. Sometimes my perspective is completely changed. Sometimes life goes on and I give it little thought after a few days. Either way, I can't regret obtaining knowledge.

Over the last few months, I've nearly un-friended a chunk of my Facebook friends. Since when is FB a political minefield anyway? I thought we were supposed to use it to talk about funny stuff our kids do and to let people know when your car breaks down or your coffee spills on your lap. Instead, it's "I hate [fill in the blank]"; "Dear Mr. President, it's all your fault"; "Romney is a poopyhead", etc. I don't mind differing political beliefs. In fact, my husband and I are on differing political spectrums. My issue is that it has become a place to air one's grievances without anything to back them up. I respect a well made point, a supported argument, and rational thinking...even if I don't feel the same way. But to write a never ending post about foreign policy when they've clearly never even read a news article pertaining to the subject just makes them look ignorant. Information is power, folks.

Holy digression, Batman! In the end, I realized today how little I know about so many things I take for granted everyday. But that's not who I aim to be. I can't call myself enlightened when I look at the world around me impassively. There should be a question mark after everything, and I resolve to do just that. And I ask a lot of questions as is...my husband will vouch for that. Complacency in any area of life is a bummer. Writing a check to St. Jude's then letting myself off the hook isn't cool. What if that was my sick kiddo needing hundreds of thousands of dollars in lifesaving treatments?

Here are some documentaries that I've either seen or are on the top of my list. All of these are enlightening, but pretty painless:

  • Tapped (about the privatization of water and its global impact)
  • King Corn (a light-hearted documentary about corn and government crop subsidizing...I watched it in a class and learned a lot...corn is in everything!)
  • Food, Inc. (a great documentary about food...no scary scenes)
  • Food Matters (this one is about food and our health...it really made me stop and think about some things, less about others, but it is well made and worth watching)
  • Forks Over Knives (I've heard great things about this one. It's at the top of my Netflix queue)
  • An Inconvenient Truth (super interesting)
  • Sicko (okay, so people tend to either love or hate Michael Moore...I don't feel either way [I haven't seen all of his documentaries], but I found this to be a really interesting film)
  • Inside Job (a couple of the stock market shenanigans are hard to follow, but this movie opened my eyes a lot...it's well done; we watched it in one of my classes and I didn't want to turn it off and wait until the next class to finish)
If you have any additional movie/documentary suggestions, share! I'd love to know what you found interesting and enlightening.


Was that better or worse than you were expecting? I'm not sure either. But we're still friends, right? Just so you know that it's me and my blog has not been hijacked, I'll leave you with this:


Holy moly! That monkey is sitting like a little man!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Even On My Weakest Days I Get A Little Bit Stronger

-Sara Evans

Monday was a rough day. I started it off with a tough exam. Upon handing it in, my professor returned my last lab practical. The grade? Five out of twenty. Oof.  

That ego blow was followed by two hours of studying for a later quiz. Thinking I was well prepared, I went in confident. My professor must have sensed that and felt the need to take me down a few notches. The tears started to well up and I pushed them back down. More than once over the course of that two hour class. Needless to say, the floodgates opened when I got home. And all it took was a "How was your day?" from my husband. I cry very rarely, so tears usually indicate that I'm having a really rough go of it.

Source: imgfave.com via Sarah on Pinterest

The cracks are definitely starting to show around my edges. But wait! I'm a senior! I've endured almost four years of this. Why is the home stretch the most difficult yet? 

For starters, I'm WAY too hard on myself. That lab practical was brutal and unfair, and I'm guessing my horrible grade was pretty average that week. Almost everyone is struggling in the other class. And you know what? One class is not going to determine my whole future. If my chosen grad school sees one unfavorable grade out of dozens of great ones, they aren't going to write me off. Everyone has had a bad professor/semester/boss/landlord. But I let it spiral out of control, and it sounds something like this in my head:

"OhmygoshmyGPAistotallygoingtotankbecauseI'msureI'mgoingtofailthenIwon'tgetintogradschoolandIdon'thaveaplanB
andallthiswillhavebeenfornothingandmyresumesucksandIdontknowhowtowriteacoverletterandIdonthaveanyresearch
experienceandIwontstandoutagainstthemillioncandidateswhohaveactuallydonesomethingwiththemselvesandwhatamI
goingtodoforchildcarenextsemesterwhenIhavethatlateclassandwhatifIletmyfamilydownandevenworseletmyselfdown
andallthosepeoplewhohavedoubtedmethroughoutmylifewillbeprovenrightandwhatelseamIinterestedinbecauseIbetter
startfiguringoutplansBthroughZbecauseI'mdefinitelygoingtoneedthemandwhydidIthinkIcoulddothisand..."

Been there? It stinks. So I did what any normal person does when she's filled with self-doubt and on the brink of an emotional meltdown: I typed words like "zen" and "peaceful" into the Pinterest search bar. Looking at these images actually helped a little. Ommmm...

Source: imgfave.com via Sarah on Pinterest
Source: google.com via Sarah on Pinterest
Source: etsy.com via Sarah on Pinterest
Source: indulgy.com via Sarah on Pinterest
Source: tumblr.com via Sarah on Pinterest

And my personal favorite:

“You must learn to let go. Release the stress. You were never in control anyway.”

― Steve Maraboli

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Insta-gating


Upon compiling my pics for this week's Insta Tuesday, I realized it is a bit of a hodge-podge. My week kinda felt that way, too. Here's the past week...in moments of time.


These were all taken on Saturday: Pumpkin Festival!

Clockwise from top left:

  1. Every year our town celebrates Pumpkin Fest, where we vie for the World Record for most lit jack o' lanterns at one time. The town last won in 2003 but have since lost the title. This year we had over 29,000. It is so fun to walk up and down Main Street after dark and look at all the cool carved pumpkins glittering in the night.
  2. The giant scaffolding they put up in center square every year. It's topped off with a giant jack 'o lantern.
  3. This little beauty was sitting on my trunk after lunch with Husband. Isn't it lovely...especially against the stark silver background?
  4. My son started at a charter school this year. Charter for us means amazing, but also underfunded. Underfunded means TONS of fundraising. Every year they do a food tent at Pumpkin Fest. My husband and I helped make and bake 40 of these roasting pans full of apple crisp on Friday night. Yeah, we have a rocking social life.


  1. This is what the last week has looked like for the most part. It seems like I coast by for a few days, start feeling pretty together, and the boom drops. Welcome to this week. I was feeling frisky that particular day and ordered a decaf soy coffee light frappuccino. Whoa, Nelly!
  2. My husband picked me up between classes for a quick lunch date. When I looked down, I noticed he had folded his socks over. "I couldn't find any ankle socks!" was his reasoning. He was just a scrunchy shy of 1992.
  3. Kiddo dinked around all evening and ran short on time. We have him pack his own lunch most days since he's getting older and needs to learn some independence. This is what he came up with. I can't decided if he's resourceful or just lazy.
  4. Making a weird face in Costco. I got a few rare hours to myself and decided made the one hour drive to Costco, Trader Joe's and Sephora. I couldn't let my free birthday lip duo go uncollected! Costco was on fire with the samples that day, too. I was almost able to ignore all the people who stopped in the middle of crowded aisles and abandoned their carts for said samples; leaving the rest of us trapped behind them. P.S. After seeing this picture blown up, I'm regretting the fact that I didn't load up on more eye cream. Holy bags, Batman!


Monday, October 22, 2012

Getting Wild with Rice

I'm not a huge rice fan. Especially in soups. Chicken and wild rice? Meh. Aside from sushi or occasionally a little brown rice under stir fry, I shy away from it. The nuttier and more interesting it is, the more likely I am to give it a go.

There are a few rice-containing dishes that really do it for me. This is one of them. My amazing aunt sent me home with some long-grain wild rice this summer and a recipe for rice soup. I finally got around to trying it a week ago.

Where has this recipe been all my life? My husband and I were so enamored with this soup that I'm making another batch tonight to have for lunches and dinners this week since things are going to be a bit hectic.

I followed the recipe pretty closely, but should note that I didn't measure the veggies. I just eyeballed it. I tend to go a little heavy on them anyway and it suited the soup just fine. I am also going to increase the pecans to 4 tablespoons because I loved the crunch. Finally, my son has a dairy allergy, so I substituted plain Silk creamer for half and half and it turned out perfectly. I never would have been able to tell the difference. This is so quick and easy! I simply cooked the rice the night before while I was doing other things and dumped it in the next day. Enjoy!

Creamy Wild Rice Soup

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup uncooked wild rice
  • 3 tablespoons chopped green onions
  • 1/4 cup shredded carrot
  • 3 tablespoons chopped pecans
  • 6 tablespoons butter, cubed
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cans (14-1/2 ounces each) chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup cubed fully cooked ham
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup half-and-half cream
  • Green onion, cut into thin strips, optional

Directions:

  • In a large saucepan, bring water and salt to a boil. Add rice. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 50-55 minutes or until tender. Remove from the heat. Let stand for 10 minutes; drain and set aside.
  • In a large Dutch oven or soup kettle, saute the onions, carrot and pecans in butter for 1-2 minutes. Stir in flour until blended. Gradually add broth. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Reduce heat. Add the ham, pepper and wild rice. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes or until carrots are tender.
  • Reduce heat. Add cream and heat through (do not boil). Sprinkle with green onion if desired.
Yield: 8 servings.