Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Edgar Allan Poe October: A Halloween Toast

"Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door."

Edgar Allan Poe, "The Raven"

I don't drink.  Yes, I may indulge in an occasional serving of tiramisu.  I may even use real marsala wine in my chicken marsala, but I've never actually helped myself to a glass of it.  

That isn't to say that I've never been tempted to take a sip.  Every time I make that chicken marsala, I hold the wine bottle under my nose and breathe deeply until its rich, dark aroma settles into my marrow.  Mmmmm.

I have no proof, but I'm pretty sure I must be French somewhere in my ancestral line.

In lieu of alcohol, we drink a lot of other tasty brews around here.  This is one of our favorites.  We also like "swamp juice," especially around Halloween.

If you, too, are a non-drinking, French-feeling, kid-friendly kind of gal, then this is the cocktail for you.  

Swamp juice tastes a lot like Hawaiian Punch (wink, wink).  But when you float an eyeball in it and drizzle it with slime, it turns into a perfectly creepy libation.

To make the eyeball: Cut a marshmallow in half and stuff it with a chocolate chip or raisin.

For the slime:  Put a drop of food coloring into 1/4 cup of corn syrup and drizzle it along the top of a chilled glass.  Then dip the rim of your glass into sugar.

Now, please join me in raising our glasses to Mr. Edgar Allan Poe and the month of October . . . 


Miriam and I will see you in November as we celebrate an Alcott Autumn!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Edgar Allan Poe October: Fall Pleasures

"During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year,
when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens,
I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country; 
 and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, 
within view of the melancholy House of Usher."
~ Edgar Allan Poe, "The Fall of the House of Usher"

Today, while on an afternoon walk with my two youngest boys, 
I enjoyed some of fall's simplest pleasures, 
like watching two golden leaves of an aspen tree dance to the ground 
as if accompanied by a waltz.  

But that's nothing unusual.  

Everyone loves autumn leaves; 
they have been dancing for weeks now.

What I was more enamored with were the pleasures of fall that I didn't expect,
like realizing that you can use your dog to pull your big wheels . . . 

 or discovering that the perfect ensemble for said activity is 
an Iron Man Halloween costume from Target and a pair of black cowboy boots . . .

or capturing my flaxen-haired baby having a thoughtful moment . . .

or listening to the laughter of my littlest boys as they tickled each other in the leaves.

I love the scripture that reads "By small and simple things are great things brought to pass."  

Today seemed like a SMALL and SIMPLE day.
But it was also a GREAT day.

In the spirit of small and simple fall pleasures, I thought I would share the recipe for the cider that I enjoyed sipping with my kids today after our walk.

Mulled Apple Cider

1 gallon apple cider
½ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons whole cloves
5 -6 cinnamon sticks
zest from one orange

Place ingredients in a large sauce pan.  
Bring to a boil and then reduce heat.  
Simmer for 30 minutes.  Strain and serve in mugs.

May your day be full of fall's simple pleasures,
and may you be full of mulled cider at the end of it.  

(I know I will.)
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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Edgar Allan Poe October: Halloween Plate Silhouettes

"Dark draperies hung upon the walls. 
The general furniture was profuse, comfortless, antique, and tattered. 
Many books and musical instruments lay scattered about, but failed to give any vitality to the scene. 
I felt that I breathed an atmosphere of sorrow."

~Edgar Allan Poe, "The Fall of the House of Usher"

There is a strange phenomenon that occurs at our house somewhere near the middle of October.  I like to call it "poverty."  Maybe it is because I've been zealously trying to get my Christmas shopping done by Halloween.  Maybe it is because we are still recovering from summer vacation.  Or maybe it is because my grocery store had a sale on canned pumpkin and I panicked and bought two cases of the stuff.  


So, for whatever the reason, we're cinching our belts around here.

This means that when my heart saw these plate collections, I knew I couldn't go on a mad shopping spree to find a bunch just like them.  (And heaven knows we love silhouettes around here, like these and these and these.)

{via Tatertots and Jello}

{via Country Living}
So I did the next best thing.

I forayed into my creepy basement and found some scrap pieces of black felt and a stack of thrift store white plates that had yet to see the light of day.

Now here is the tricky part.  Pay close attention now because the intricacy of what is about to follow is mind-bending:
I cut some simple shapes and letters out of the felt and then used a washable glue stick to adhere them to the plate. 

And yes, I said "glue stick."

Minutes later I have my own collection of Halloween silhouette plates (that will easily convert back into plain white plates with just a little water).  

And not a cent spent.

That's what I call a scary-good deal.

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Edgar Allan Poe October: Printables

Much to the dismay of my children, I don't do a whole lot of Halloween decorating. I don't get behind the cartoon version of the holiday, and the legit scary version makes me pee in my pants. I prefer to skip right on to Thanksgiving, where we can talk about everything we love, and eat embarrassing amounts of potatoes.

However, I have to admit that there are some awesome Halloween themed literary quotes out there, and I was playing around with  a couple of them, along with some "Vintage Wallpaper" textures that I find super creepy, and I they were just too good to not make a few printables.

Edgar Allan Poe

 William Shakespeare

I think these may have to go up in my entry. My kids will be so proud.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Edgar Allan Poe October: Pecan Pie Bars

That pleasure which is at once the most pure, the most elevating and the most intense, is derived, I maintain, from the contemplation of the beautiful.
-Edgar Allan Poe

I love that quote, and although it might not have much to do with Pecan Pie bars to you, that is because you haven't had them yet, and I assure you, they are pure beauty. Erika gave me this recipe two years ago, and since that point, these bars have become one of my "Everyone dies over these" kind of recipes. People who hate pecan pie love these bars. People who love pecan pie ask to have these bars at Thanksgiving instead of pie. I am serious, people. They are a game changer. I think the secret lies in that buttery shortbread layer at the bottom. It's just salty enough to balance out that sweet, gooey topping. Oh dear, I may have to go eat another. Without further ado...

Pecan Pie Bars
Makes a 9X13 pan of cookie bars.

    •    2  cups flour
    •    1/2  cup sugar
    •    1/8 teaspoon salt
    •    3/4 cup  butter
    •    1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
    •    1 cup light corn syrup
    •    1/2 cup butter
    •    4 large eggs, lightly beaten
    •    2 1/2  cups finely chopped pecans
    •    1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350. Combine first 3 ingredients in large bowl; cut in 3/4 cup butter thoroughly with a pastry blender until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Press mixture evenly into a greased 13" x 9" pan. Bake at 350 for 17 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned.
Combine brown sugar, corn syrup, and 1/2 cup butter in a saucepan; bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring gently. Remove from heat. Stir one-fourth of hot mixture into beaten eggs; add to remaining hot mixture. Stir in pecans and vanilla. Pour filling over crust. Bake at 350° for about 25 minutes or until set (Jiggle pan, and if the filling doesn't move, they're done) Cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Cut into bars.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Edgar Allan Poe October: A Halloween Porch

"I looked upon the scene before me---upon the mere house, 
and the simple landscape features of the domain---
upon the bleak walls---
upon the vacant eye-like windows . . ."

Edgar Allan Poe, "The Fall of the House of Usher"

I admit it.

I'm a wimp.  I'm a weak-kneed, yellow-bellied, lily-livered chicken.  I don't do scary.
 I avoid haunted houses, horror movies, ghost stories, and port-a-potties at all costs.

So while other people decorate their front porches with zombies, mummies, and ghouls, I choose to go the safer route.

Today, the safer route began with this.

I found this planter in a cluttered corner of the garage where it was hiding under a bag of potting soil.  With its cracked concrete exterior and chipped foot, I considered tossing it in the garbage.  But one can of black Krylon spray paint later, and it had a new lease on life---this time as the base for a pumpkin topiary (of sorts).

When I started stacking the pumpkins on top of each other to make a normal topiary, I couldn't help but see their "snowman-like" potential.  

After painting a face and some buttons on the pumpkins, I rustled up some sticks from the backyard and gave them a spritz of spray paint before using them as the pumpkin man's arms.

One trick-or-treat bag later, and our front-porch now feels just right---festive but not frightening, with nary a zombie in sight.

The irony is that it all started in corner of the garage---the scariest place in our house . . .

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Edgar Allan Poe October: Pumpkin Alfredo Sauce

"It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; 
but once conceived, it haunted me day and night."
Edgar Allan Poe, "The Tell-Tale Heart"

My hands-down favorite picture book as a little girl was this version of Cinderella.  I swooned over her golden hair, her elegant dresses, and her pie-making skills.  But the part that endeared me to her forever was that pumpkin patch in her yard.

I don't know what it is about pumpkin, but everything it touches seems to taste better---including cookies, and cupcakes, pancakes, and pecan bars.  But here is the real magic in pumpkin:  it even makes savory things taste better, too, like alfredo sauce (which is pretty much perfection already).

I fiddled with a batch of alfredo last night until I had a pumpkin alfredo concoction worthy of hitting the dinner table.  And while my people may not have the most "refined" tastes, they enjoyed this meal immensely.  

(In fact, I almost awarded my husband an Oscar for his What About Bob? dinner-table impersonation.  "Mmmm!  Mmmm!  Is this sauce hand-shucked?")

Pumpkin Alfredo Sauce

1 stick butter
8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 cups half and half
1 cup parmesan cheese 
1 cup canned pumpkin
2 teaspoons crushed garlic
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt (depending on taste)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried sage
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Melt butter in a saucepan and add cream cheese.  Mix until no lumps remain.  Slowly add half and half until sauce is smooth.   Add remaining ingredients and cook on low until parmesan is fully melted.  Serve over hot noodles.  Serves 10.

Really, the only thing that could have made our dinner any better last night is if it had been accompanied by a pumpkin pie.  

Where is that darned Cinderella with her pumpkin patch and pie-making skills when I need her?

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Sunday, October 7, 2012

Edgar Allan Poe October: A Frugal Table Runner for Fall

“Deep into the darkness peering,
long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal
ever dared to dream before.” 

Edgar Allan Poe, The Raven

Attention Ideal, Patient, and Go-with-the-Flow Parents:  

You may want to avert your eyes from what is about to follow.  

In a moment of exasperation with my toddler, I started calculating what he cost me in repairs this week.  Between broken vases, stained carpets, markered walls, and ruined toilets, I figured that my little man packs at least a $20 daily repair punch.

Most parents wouldn't stoop to actually crunching numbers, but they've never raised "the destroying angel" (as we affectionately call him around here).

So when fall dawned at my house and I started to dress the table, I knew I couldn't invest a lot of money or effort on a seasonal table runner.  Chances were my little man would have the runner off the table and in a light socket within five minutes anyway.
So here is what I did.

1.  I purchased an inexpensive length (like 2 dollarsish) of felt fabric to span the width of my table.  

2.  I cut notches in the edges of the fabric to give it a squared-scalloped look.

3.  I then scoured my random button collection for all of the orange and orangy-red buttons I could find.

4.  Finally, I hot glued the buttons onto the notched edges of the runner.

Two dollars and ten minutes later I have a frugal runner for fall which may or may not last through Halloween, depending on when my little guy gets a hankering for chewing buttons.

Even if he does, I figure I'm only out two dollars.  

And at the end of the day, I'll just add it to his tab.

It's a good thing he's worth it.

{photo by Samantha Mitchell}

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Monday, October 1, 2012

Fall Poetry: Dressing Up a Chandelier

From "Autumn"

Autumn: Her dress is a net of mussels;
dark shelled, it covers up
summer’s weatherbeaten body.

So pull out your boots
and stand on an aged, wood floor
like an evergreen.

~ Mary Hamrick

My mother wouldn't let me pierce my ears until I was twelve years old.  


For years I resorted to parading around the house in her "clip-ons".  Wearing those plastic pearls and rhinestones made me feel like an eight-year-old Christy Brinkley---
without the hour-glass figure, long legs, and perfect teeth.  

For the first few minutes after putting those earrings on (along with her shiny gold heels and a misting of her l'Air de Temps perfume), everything was right with the world.  

But then I would feel my earlobes getting warmer and warmer and warmer until it felt as though lava was brewing beneath the clip-on clasp.  When I removed the rhinestones and pearls, I discovered red-hot welts on my skin where a REAL earring should have been.

Fast forward many earlobe-cattle-brandings later . . .

I have now been a card-carrying member of the pierced ear world for over two decades.  I even had a brief stint in college as a double-pierced-ear-rebel-kind-of-gal.  Gasp.

I love earrings, and they love me.

This may explain why I was looking at my chandelier this week and decided that it, too, needed some "earrings".

Here is what the chandelier looked like before.

There is nothing really wrong with it (if you're into that "Shriner's hat" look on your chandelier).

But then I saw these and knew my chandelier could be better.

I got these Christmas ornaments for 40% off the package price at a local craft store.  That meant I could give my entire chandelier a Christy Brinkleyish overhaul for under $4!

I used these supplies to start the makeover.

I then secured the "earrings" to the chandelier with the craft wire and trimmed the excess with the wire cutters.

5 minutes later, my chandelier looked like this.

I can't believe the difference a few sparkly bobbles can make on a light fixture.

Every time I look at my lovely light, I wonder two things:

1.  Why I didn't do this sooner?

2.  Where were these ornaments when I was 8-years-old?

They would have looked fantastic with a pair of shiny gold high heels.

P.S.  My mother finally took the plunge a few years ago and pierced her ears.  I guess even she got tired of "lava lobes."

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Homestories A to Z
Savvy Southern Style
My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia
Cedar Hill Ranch
From My Front Porch to Yours
Common Ground
French Country Cottage
Stuff and Nonsense
At the Picket Fence 

No Minimalist Here 

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