Jack Daniel’s Smoky Bacon Mac and Cheese

I’ve been wanting to cook this recipe for the last month and I finally got a chance to last night. Let me warn you ahead of time, this meal is dense. It says on the recipe that it serves four and I could barely put a dent in my serving. To be honest it probably serves more like six. I will include the calorie counts for both a four portion meal and a six portion, for those of you who just want to have an idea of how much this is (but I promise you won’t like the results).

I got this recipe from Pinterest, but you can find it as well as some really nice pics on the site The Slow Roasted Italian.

Jack Daniel’s Smoky Bacon Mac and Cheese:

Jack Daniels Ingredients

Ingredients:

½ tsp salt (and don’t forget to salt the pasta water.)
12 oz Hickory smoked peppered bacon, uncooked
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
½ cup Jack Daniel’s Whiskey
½ cup chicken broth
¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon smoked paprika ( I didn’t have any smoked paprika and just used the regular kind)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon New Mexico chili powder ( I also didn’t have any of this specific chili powder, so I just used the regular kind)
1 tablespoon chili pepper paste
½ tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 cups milk
4 ounces extra sharp cheddar (white), shredded
2 ounces smoked provolone cheese, shredded
2 ounces Asiago cheese, shredded
8 oz dry elbow pasta
croutons (garnish)

Directions:

1.) Prep the ingredients. I’ve found that measuring everything ahead of time and getting it all set up, makes for a much more fun cooking experience.

2.) Bring a large pot of  water to a boil over high heat. Once it boils, add some salt and the pasta. Cook uncovered to al dente (has a bite to it). Drain and set aside.

3.) Meanwhile warm a large 12” skillet over medium-high heat. Using clean kitchen shears cut bacon into bite size pieces over the skillet and let them to fall into the pan. Stir occasionally as needed. Cook until crisp.

4.) While the bacon is cooking, (f you haven’t done so already) shred (or chop up) cheeses and prepare remaining ingredients.

5.) Once bacon is cooked through, remove bacon to a bowl with a slotted spoon. Reserve 2 tablespoons of bacon drippings and discard the rest. Wipe the side of the skillet to avoid flame ups.

Jack Daniels Rue
6.) Pour reserved bacon drippings back into the skillet over medium heat and add butter. Once melted add flour and whisk to combine. Add spices, chili paste, Worcestershire, whiskey and chicken broth. Whisk to combine. Allow to come to a bubble for 3 minutes, whisking occasionally to help pick up the bits on the bottom of the pan. Add milk. Whisk to combine. Bring back to a bubble and add cheeses.  Stir until cheese is melted and smooth.

Jack Daniels Mac n Cheese

7.) Add pasta to sauce and stir to combine. Add bacon. Cook pasta in sauce for 5 minutes over medium heat until sauce thickens and the pasta has a chance to absorb some of the sauce.

Sprinkle with croutons, if desired. Because this sauce is so thick and rich, I found that the croutons bring a much needed crunch to the dish.

Jack Daniels Mac n Cheese Finished
Enjoy!

I got the calorie counts by putting the recipe into the My Fitness Pal recipe maker:

For 4 servings it’s roughly 759 calories for each individual serving.

For 6 servings it’s roughly 506 calories for each individual serving.

 

I’m Back!

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I need to apologize for my absence. For the last year an a half, I was working for a tech start up. The original department I was working for was amazing, but I was promised a permanent position in another department so long as I helped them through the busy holiday season. I worked some horribly crazy hours, and had to work with some extremely demanding people. Everything seemed like it was perfect and everyone was happy and despite feeling drained at the end of every day, I felt happy. However, once I got them through the holidays, they broke their promise and ended up hiring someone else. Due to those events I’ve been too emotionally and physically exhausted to update this blog until now.

After this huge disappointment, my husband and I sat down and talked about our current living situation, we found that both of us working a crazy amount of hours hasn’t been too good for our home life. My husband sometimes works 12 hour days. When I was also working things like laundry, meals that don’t involve the microwave and the general cleanliness of our home usually fell by the wayside. I was also missing the freedom to work on my art, and do more writing. So it was decided that I would become self employed. I’ve been working on painting commissions, as well as two books and I’ve also been maintaining the home, cooking, and making sure my husband and I get some quality time before the challenges of the next week. I’ll probably be making a separate post about the responsibilities and stigmas of the American housewife later, but for now, that’s what I am.

So what does that mean for this blog? In the past I wanted to make this a more professional looking blog. I wanted it to be sleek and have a theme, but the truth is, there are a lot of things I want to write about and I don’t want to be limited to any one specific topic. I’m geeky, I love cooking, I like anime, I like art, I have cats, I do the housewife thing, I’m an artist, and I hate having to not write about something really awesome because it doesn’t “fit the scope” of this blog. I’ve decided to make this a more open blog. My posts are usually rather long, and while there will still be those, I’ve decided to also include shorter posts, pictures of paintings I’ve done, and other interesting things that don’t necessarily warrant a three page essay. This will not be a personal blog though. I have no intentions of making it lame and talking about people I met while in the line at the grocery store or how I got a cat toy out from under the fridge. Perhaps one day I’ll have a defined theme for this blog, but today is not that day.

Thank you again to those that enjoy reading this, and check in from time to time. I look forward to posting more and hopefully bringing some entertainment to your day. Here is a picture of my cat Moto. He’s a jerk and he’s fat, but I love him.

Motothefat

 

 

Alton Brown’s Bourbon Pecan Pie Recipe

I am a long time fan of Alton Brown. He doesn’t just throw a recipe at you, but rather takes the time to educate you about the way food works and explain exactly happens when you do certain things to your food. So when I was looking for a new dessert to try and make I found his Alton Brown’s Bourbon Pecan Pie Recipe on the Foodnetwork.com website. I served it actually yesterday for my Halloween party that I threw, but it is a wonderful fall dessert and easy to make in comparison to other things I’ve cooked. If you have any questions please feel free to drop me a line and I’ll do my best to answer. I hope you enjoy it.

Alton Brown’s Bourbon Pecan Pie Recipe:

IngredientsIngredientsforPecanpiecrust
Crust:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
3 1/2 ounces pecan halves or pieces
6 ounces all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons ice water
2 tablespoons bourbon, chilled
Filling: Pecanpiefilling3 large eggs
3 1/2 ounces sugar
6 ounces golden syrup
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 tablespoon bourbon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
8 ounces Spiced Pecans, recipe follows, coarsely chop 6 ounces and leave the remaining 2 ounces wholeDirections:To make the crust:
Chill the butter in the freezer for 15 minutes.
Pulse the pecans 6 to 7 times in a food processor or until finely ground. Add the flour and salt, and pulse an additional 4 to 5 times. Add the butter and pulse 6 to 7 times, until the texture looks mealy. Remove the lid of the food processor, add the water and bourbon, and pulse 5 to 6 times until the mixture holds together when squeezed and feels like dough. Transfer the dough to a gallon-sized zip-top bag, squeeze together until it forms a ball, then press into a rounded disk and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
To make the syrup which will be come the filling of your pie:
Whisk the eggs, sugar, golden syrup, butter, bourbon, vanilla and salt together until combined. Set aside.
Putting the pie together:Unbakedpecanpie
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Cut along two sides of the zip-top bag, open the bag to expose the dough and sprinkle both sides very lightly with flour. Cover with the bag and roll out with a rolling pin to an 11-inch circle. Open the bag again, and sprinkle the top of the dough with flour. Place the dough into a 9 1/2 to 10-inch tart pan that is 2 inches deep. Gently press the dough into the sides of the pan, crimping and trimming the edges as necessary.  **While the directions say to roll out the dough with a rolling pin inside the bag, I just found it easier to take the dough out of the bag and press it into the pie pan.**Evenly sprinkle the 6 ounces of chopped pecans in the crust and pour the filling on top. Bake for 20 minutes. Place the remaining 2 ounces of whole pecans in a border on the edge of the filling. Bake 10 minutes, until the center of the pie should reach 200 degrees F, and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a cooling rack to room temperature before serving, 3 1/2 to 4 hours.
This is basically the same recipe you can find on food network arranged in such a way I felt it flowed better and I added my own two cents.
FinishedPecanPie
If you’d like to see the original recipe please visit the Food Network site and search for Alton Brown’s Bourbon Pecan Pie recipe, or click here.
I also managed to find this fun clip from the actual Good Eats show on how to make this exact recipe! Check it out here.

Cafe Fleuri and their Amazing Chocolate Bar

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I’ve been living in Massachusetts for a few years now, and have done a lot of the touristy things. I’ve gone to Samuel Adams Brewery, I’ve been to the top of the Prudential Center, I’ve hung out in the Common and ice skated at Frog Pond.. but I keep my ear low to the ground for things that the average vacationer might miss and the locals keep quiet about . So while I was watching the Travel Channel, they had a “best places to eat” episode on, and one of the places they rated fairly high in terms of places to go for a sweet tooth was Cafe Fleuri’s Chocolate Bar. I saw this a few years ago, and I’ve been dying to see if all the hype really matched what I had seen on TV. Interestingly enough, while there are plenty of Yelp reviews about the place (which are mixed and made me at times wonder if the Yelpers where raised in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory due to their snobbery), no one had actually taken the time to really write an article about it or go into detail about the experience which made me wonder even more what this place was like. Stories about a dessert buffet with all you can eat chocolate delights seemed kind of on the crazy side. So I put it in the back of my mind till this last weekend….

1980stable

This is the 1980′s themed table

1990stable

This is the 1990′s inspired table.

 

I may have stated before, October is my birthday month and so my husband decided that for my birthday he was going to take me to this mystical Mecca of culinary delights. First, let me share with you why this is so incredibly special, besides the ability to stuff your face with exquisitely created pieces of dessert.  Cafe Fleuri is part of the Langham hotel which is located in downtown Boston’s financial district. Like some sort of crazy magical carnival that sweeps in at some point and then disappears without a trace, the Chocolate Bar only runs from September of 2013 through June 2014 and then returns the following year. It’s also not an all week thing. The Chocolate Bar is only open on Saturdays for four hours. Every year, the chefs pick a theme to decorate their chocolates to, and this year was the celebration of their 25th anniversary. Because of this, the inspirations were drawn from favorites from the 1980′s, 1990′s, 2010, and hopes for the future. Each featured time had it’s own table of treats which included cakes, bonbons, mousse, puddings, and other assorted delectables. In addition to that, there were several other stations such as a crepe station, an ice cream station which allows you to pick and chose what you would like mixed into your ice cream, a chocolate fountain, and a chocolate soup station featuring dark and milk chocolate soup.

Futuretable

Hopes and dreams for the future.

2010table

Inspirations from 2010.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I felt that there were not nearly enough pictures of specific items, so I decided to take pictures of the plates I got and talk about what was actually there to eat (you can find larger pictures on my Pinterest), and I have also included a  “game plan”  at the bottom of this post that I would suggest to those going to follow in order to maximize the amount of chocolate you can enjoy. Though if you are really looking to pack it away I suggest looking up how to be a Competitive Eater.

plate1

Plate one

For my first plate I followed the advice that I heard on the Travel Channel which is to chose the things you find most interesting first (because you might not have room to later). So for this plate I chose a small cup of milk chocolate soup which interestingly enough Bostoncreampiedid not taste like the cup of hot chocolate I was expecting. It was slightly salty and brought out very savory parts of the chocolate. I have to admit…the first plate I loaded with a few familiar things and then hesitantly with a few new things I’d never seen before. On my actual plate I got the following: The thing in the glass is a Tiramisu inspired by the 1980′s table, The square cake with a raspberry to the right of the Tiramisu is a tiny Boston Creme Pie also inspired by the 1980′s, Then to the left of that is another fluffy thing with what looks like bacon on top…good news…it actually IS BACON! This was a fantastic treat at the 2010 inspiration table called a”Banana Bacon Tart”. Imagine the taste of a toasted marshmallow wrapped around a piece BananaBaconTartof banana and the banana flavored pudding with the saltiness of freakn’ BACON on top, like a cherry on an ice cream Sundae. It was so good I could have had five of them, but there is a temptation one must resist…it is a trap. Don’t go back for seconds of the same item. It is folly. One does not simply eat a two pieces of the same dessert at the chocolate bar and expect the stomach to be forgiving of this flagrant expression of gluttony. If you have more than one of something it will take up valuable space in the food purse known as your stomach and this is NOT good…Lastly the strange cone thing at the far left of my plate was described as Dark Chocolate and Malted Milk Powder…I was weary of this one to be honest. I had flash backs of times when I hadn’t stirred my Swiss Miss chocolate powder coco mix enough and that first sip usually meant getting blasted in the face by chocolate powder which I’m sure even now coats some small spot of my lungs. But to my very pleasant surprise, the chocolate powder instantly turns into a kind of mousse thus preventing the urge to smuggle it into a bathroom to snort off a toilet seat like the addict one has to be in order to go to a place like this. The only thing I can guess is that the chefs might have possibly removed all liquid from the chocolate, which creates a fine dust, and then as it touches your mouth, it’s rehydrated.

Plate2

Plate 2

By the end of the first plate I could feel my body reacting to the sugar. My heart beat wildly in my chest, I’m sure my eyes were probably dilated. The top 40 that the DJ was spinning sounded really good…even the crappy songs that Taylor Swift put out. Everything was almost too perfect, nothing was wrong with the world. veganchocolatemousseThe few kids that were behaving nicely while I was normal, now seemed like perfect little angels, the crystal in the chandeliers seemed to be sparkling only for me. IT WAS ALL SO BEAUTIFUL! So now on the beginning of this chocolate high, I decided I’m going to get a bit more adventurous. I decided to go to the much talked about crepe bar! So I get a new plate and go up to this dealer of chocolate and she asks me what I want, so casually…she’s seen so many like me in this crazy position. I’m thinking she knew at this point she could make the crappiest crepe the world has ever seen and I’d still eat it because in my over chocolate pleasured brain, everything tastes good! I decided to get a banana, rum and chocolate thing on a chocolate crepe…It was amazing. I was extremely happy that I had brought my husband with me at this point because there in lies the second rule of thumb. milkchocolatecremebruleeShare the big stuff…Remember stomach room is as rare and needed as a cheap, decently sized apartment overlooking Times Square. You have to have the mindset that only the finest pieces can occupy the free crannies of your gut…There isn’t room any more for the lowly bonbon and a crepe is like an entire family complete with three kids, two cats, a dog and a deranged grandparent all wanting to move into a two bedroom apartment- It’s just not going to happen. Pace yourself and share. Along with my crepe I decided to be “healthy” and get something with fruit on top so I sauntered back to my table with a chocolate mousse topped with fruit which I also split with my man who in turn shared half of his chocolate creme brulee with me. This is one of the many reasons I love him…

At the end of plate two, what I was convinced wouldn’t happen, did…it was the dreaded sugar plateau. It’s like that sudden realization you have before you get cookiesnmilkreally drunk that this is a turning point…You’re happy now, but if you have another drink it could lead to you waking up dressed as a lion, lying on the floor surrounded by glitter, cheetos, and dirty gross people who you hope to God are actually several clones of Ke$ha and not the dirty gross random people they actually are…It’s at this point you discover the purpose for the chips and salted nuts and pretzel sticks that they have at the chocolate dipping fountain…You need something salty. The mere thought of chocolate at this point might even cause the most seasoned dessert fanatics to gag a little, but Cafe Fleuri has anticipated this, and just as chocolate can make you feel better after you’ve come across a Dementor….chips and pretzels can make you feel better after you’ve had too much chocolate.

patechouxswanswithpastrycream

Pate Choux Swan with Pastry Cream

After getting a second wind from the salty snacks you’re good to go back out into the fray…Now is the time for going for those things you never thought you’d be brave enough to try. My husband suggested that I get Fruit Pearls with Fruit FruitpearlswithfruitglazeGlaze which came in these cute, one bite sized spoons. The pearls seemed to bounce around your mouth mixing with the light chocolate sauce that was hidden in the bottom it was really good. I also got this Pate Choux Swan with Pastry Cream. The artistic value of this piece alone tempted me to take it home and put it on my mantle above my non-working fireplace…but this, like a rainbow, was to be enjoyed in the moment leaving only the memory of it’s crispy delicate pastry, filled with the best frosting you’ve ever tasted to linger in your mind forever…At this point too, the beer goggle effect started to take place…in the beginning I would have never stooped so low as to munch on something as Carnie-inspired as the pink cotton candy that sat in the corner like the reject of a high school dance….nor would I have glanced at anything from the chocolate fountain…but now, with my mind a little crazy and my stomach starting to ache, it became a test of endurance…it was no longer about the chocolate. It’s now about how much sugar could I pack within myself before falling into a sugar induced coma. So I devoured this third plate.

plate4

Plate 4.

It’s at this point where you realize that you’ve only tried perhaps half of the things at this buffet and you are completely out of room…This fourth and final trip is about finding the smallest things to pack up that small amount of space coconutricepuddingyou think you might have….but probably don’t.  For this I opted for a Pecan Tart with Bourbon…It was delicious… but even this small guy I had to split with my husband. In turn I helped him by eating half of his rice pudding which made me want to rename the Cozy Shack snack puddings I have at home to Crappy Shack. There was some sort of lemon white chocolate thing I had a nibble of which I wasn’t incredibly impressed with, and there…sitting on my plate was the shining example of where my head was at…It was a thick piece of rice crispy and marshmallow treat….It was the big fat thing that I was too wasted on chocolate to care about. Similar to turning over only to find some heinous hambeast is laying in bed next to you, and wondering at what moment you thought it was a good idea to bring them home…this was that moment, and this rice crispy treat was the symbol of my ultimate lack of judgment…I had lost my senses long ago, and now the best course of action was to go home.

But this is another thing you must not do. Do not succumb to the sweet desire to curl up and hold your aching paunch till sleep relieves you of consciousness. It’s best at this point, defeated by chocolate, whipped if you will by deserttablethe whipped cream, that you drag your sorry self out to the curb like a bum where you can cry in sweet joyful bloated pain and contemplate the events in your life that have lead you to this moment. I suggest you take a stroll through the Common, waddle if you must in hopes that the gentle rocking of each foot fall will perhaps help pack down your sugary mistake, and relieve your stomach ache. You will at this point probably contemplate living as a monk…far from the temptations of chocolate, perhaps tiramisuvarrinerehab….but no…deep in your mind, even while you break out in the sugar sweats as another wave of it flows through your veins, you know you’ll be back. Chocolate is your vice…Your nose will soon be smearing up the glass at the local Godiva…You’ll be eyeing the cheap dirty Hershey bars lining the checkout counters at grocery stores. But you’re also wiser now…The price of $42 dollars to go back to that nirvana of chocolate discourages weekly visits and that’s probably for the best. Perhaps this is why there are no other articles written about Cafe Fleuri’s Chocolate Bar…one would have to admit they have a problem, that might even require several years of counseling and shock therapy.

So go my friends, and as a veteran let me leave you with these words of wisdom:

1.) DO NOT EAT BREAKFAST BEFORE YOU GO!!!!!: Seriously, if you eat breakfast you will have a hard time putting even a little dent in that place.

2.) Check your diet at the door: This is no place to be counting calories…If you insist on counting calories you might find that all you can allow yourself is a bon bon….and you can do better….and you deserve more.

3.) Just like at a dance, go for the good looking pieces first, and work your way down to the wall flowers.

4.) If you experience a chocolate lag, reboot with something salty.

5.) Bring a friend…it doesn’t even have to really be a friend because honestly you’re just using these people so you don’t look like a jerk throwing out amazing food…just make sure it’s someone with a bigger stomach than yourself so you can split with them.

6.) Try not to double up… have two different things instead of two of the same.

7.) Walk it out. Walking might help your tummy settle a little and also help manage the sugar jitters you will inevitably be left with.

8.) Pepto Bismol works miracles.

If you are interested in learning even more about this please visit The Cafe Fleuri Chocolate Bar information page. Also please feel free to check out this awesome Travel Channel video about this amazing place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Horror Movie Review: Army of Darkness (1992)

Army_of_Darkness_posterEvery Halloween I decorate my house, dress up, break out the candy, and put on Army of Darkness. Out of all the Evil Dead movies, this happens to be my favorite. It really has everything from corny catch phrases, zombies, and of course Bruce Campbell.

Army of Darkness starts of where Evil Dead left off. Ash Williams is sucked through a vortex and lands sometime during the middle ages. He is quickly captured by King Arthur and his knights and taken as prisoner. They end up throwing him in a pit to be killed by what they call a “Deadite” which is basically this zombie, monster thing. Ash battles him and the kings wise man gives him back his chainsaw arm attachment and his gun (otherwise known as his Boom stick). He wants nothing more than to return to his own time period but in order to do that he has to get the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis, the same one that gave him so much trouble in Evil Dead 2. He manages to rebuild his hand using scraps of metal and bids farewell to a woman named Sheila who has fallen in love with him.armyofdarknessbdcap3 He takes his horse and rides in search of the book.

During his trip he is pursued by an evil force and he seeks shelter in a large windmill. There’s a lot of strange things that happen inside the windmill. One of which is that Ash shatters a mirror and small little reflections himself start running around. He tries his best to kill them, but one of them manages to jump down his throat and despite drinking boiling water (which is actually funnier than it sounds) it lives and starts making a clone of Ash. So now there’s a “good” Ash, and a “Bad” Ash. Eventually “Good” Ash manages to kill his clone and buries him. However when Ash messes up the magic words he’s suppose to say when he takes the Necronomicon he raises an army of Deadites including his buried evil self who inevitably leads the Deadites to attack King Arthur and his men.

siamesetwinbruceI think some of my most favorite scenes is when Ash is about to kiss Sheila. It’s so romantic, and then he says “Give me some sugar baby.” It ruins the moment in the best way, because it’s so over the top cheesy romantic. “Shop Smart. Shop S-Mart.” is another line from the movie that is a classic and again hysterical. This movie is probably the most lighthearted and genuinely funny of the two. There’s still some gore and a lot of dead people, but there’s so much slap stick humor that someone who wouldn’t normally watch scary films would really enjoy this. Hail to the King baby!

How to: Sculpt a Pumpkin

So for the last few years I’ve been watching Halloween Wars on the Food Network. It combines two of my favorite hobbies which is cooking and art. One of the things they do that I’ve been wanting to try for years is pumpkin sculpting. Pumpkin sculpting is much different than carving. Pumpkin carving conjures up images of the traditional toothy grinned pumpkins that you would see on anyone’s door stop. Pumpkin sculpting however is a completely different animal.

As I’ve stated before I’ve never had formal art training, my parents were artists and I guess I just come by it naturally. I’ve always wanted to learn how to sculpt. I watch shows like Face Off and I’m completely amazed by the artistic talents the contestants have when it comes to sculpting. However, on the show Halloween Wars they’ve recently had a fantastic artist who sculpts pumpkins and gourds. Ray Villafane was an art teacher for a high school for a number of years until he decided to go full time with his sculpting talents. After looking through his portfolio I got inspired to try my hand at this and since pumpkins are plentiful at the moment what better time than this to try? I went out and bought a few pumpkins and some carving supplies and sat down to try my hand at this.

If you would like to try, here are the things you might need:

Whatyouwillneednumbers

1.) You will need a pumpkin (obviously): You don’t need to choose a big one, but I wouldn’t choose one of the miniature pumpkins either. I believe the one I chose is called a sugar baby.  I cut a hole in the bottom to gut it so that I could keep the stem attached. Also it’s easier to illuminate the pumpkin using Christmas lights if you have them fed through the bottom where you can easily have the cord coming from the bottom rather than the top.

2.) Knives: I used the bigger knife to cut a hole in the bottom, and the smaller paring knife for the larger detailed pieces.

3.) Sculpting / Carving Tools: This can be a little hard to find. I actually bought my set at Michaels arts and crafts store in the clay section. It’s a little weird though because a pumpkins texture is a cross between clay and wood. You’re definitely going to want a set that has a “ribbon” tool. This tool will make it very easy to smooth out the carved lines and create flat surfaces.

4.) Potato Peeler: This makes taking that top hard layer of the pumpkin off. It will cut your carving time in half!

5.) A Bowl for the Seeds: One of the rewards of gutting a pumpkin would be baking the seeds. Now this post isn’t really about baking pumpkin seeds but I’ll give you quick instructions on how.

6.) A Surface Covering: This craft can get messy so it’s good to have something covering the surface. For this I used an open paper bag.

So first before you start anything, you want to gut your pumpkin. As stated above, I cut from the bottom so that it’s a bit easier to light. If you remove the seeds mix them with a about 2 or 3 tablespoons of olive oil, and salt and bake for around 40 minutes at 300 degrees.

pumpkin2In traditional pumpkin carving you usually sketch out what you want to cut. This is a bit more difficult to do with pumpkin sculpting since there are so many layers and things to take into consideration. I found that it was best to take a moment to really look at the pumpkin and consider what kind of face would fit the pumpkin, rather than making the pumpkin fit the face. Once you have an idea, pick up your potato peeler and take off that first thick dark orange layer.

Once that top layer is gone, take your paring knife and lightly sketch out what you think the face should look like. If you aren’t going to be sculpting the eyes, then make sure you cut them out before you start doing and real detailed cutting.

pumpkinsketch

 

After you kind of sketch it out with your paring knife, start carving out the features. This is easier said than done; I’ll be honest. I have issues drawing noses and I had a lot of trouble sculpting a nose. I actually found this You Tube video to be extremely helpful. Even though the face wasn’t exactly like how I was doing mine it helped show me how to shape certain parts like the nose or cheeks. Once you have your sketch done, it’s a matter of removing layers. This was a little weird though because I’ve played with clay before and for me it’s about adding clay to create the things you want to see. With pumpkin sculpting it’s really about taking away. Another thing I’m honestly still getting used to is the depth of the pumpkin skin. It’s okay to dig deep for deep lines and creases.

pumpkinkindasculpted

 The old saying “If at first you don’t succeed- try, try again” applies here. Truthfully my first attempt at pumpkin sculpting was really bad. This pumpkin was actually my second attempt, so perhaps it was just a matter of getting used to the tools and seeing how they work. Understand that this is something that will take practice. But first and foremost, it should be fun. If you find yourself getting frustrated, take a break, let your eyes rest, look at some guides online to help, and then come back and try again. I’ve also found that when dealing with cheeks or wrinkles that it helps to smile or make the face you’re going for in a mirror. For the wrinkles, try cutting a small “v” and then rounding the edges out so it’s not so “carved” looking. In the end here’s how my pumpkin turned out. It’s a far cry from Mr. Villafane’s pumpkins, but I think it looks happy enough. :)

Oh and as an extra tip, I loved how this guy turned out so much I decided to keep him in my house….BIG MISTAKE….Pumpkins are wild creatures and thus enjoy being outside in the open air. Poor Bob as I so affectionately named him decided to grow a goatee of mold about four days into his stay. I didn’t take a picture of this, as it was just too disturbing and my heart was just too broken. Please enjoy these beautiful pictures in loving memory of Bob. *sniffle* He’s….just so…happy…..T_T.

**Check out the “About” section of my blog to link up with my Twitter, and Pintrest accounts, and ask me questions directly through email!**

smilefinishednight1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

InmemoryofBob

In Loving Memory of Bob as he inspired its design. :(

How To Make a Vintage Halloween Garland

October has to be one of my favorite months next to December. The air starts getting cool and you get to break out all those great fall and winter clothes that you had packed away (or in my case laying on the basement floor waiting to be washed. -_- don’t judge me bro.)

As a kid I was taught that Halloween was an evil holiday and my family didn’t celebrate it. It kind of made me sad because my birthday lands during the month of October and for a while I hated that it was during such an “evil and scary” month. Having moved out and developed a brain of my own, I’ve found that holidays are really what you make of it. While I’m sure there are some less than savory activities performed during this month, I can chose how I wish to celebrate it. So I’ve really started to enjoy the holiday for what it really is….a time to get a sugar high and dress up….that’s it. I’m also a sucker for decorating for the holidays, except I don’t have a lot of cash so I’ll try to make whatever item I want and if I fail miserably then I’ll go out and buy it. I saw several versions of “vintage” Halloween garlands except they were quite pricey…And never one to pass up a challenge I decided I would try to make my own. Obviously it was a win, otherwise I wouldn’t be sharing how to make such cool garland with you guys. So here’s how to make your very own for Halloween!

You Will Need:

Whatyouneedforhalloweengarland

1.) Some fun Halloween paper. I got “The Spooky Time Stack” and the “Halloween and Fall Stack“. The Spooky Time Stack is made of a heavy card stock and the Halloween and Fall Stack is made out of a more regular paper.

2.) Black Yarn

3.) Glue (any kind is good as long as it’s made for paper.)

4.) A couple of sheet white paper

5.) A pen

6.) Scissors

7.) A ruler

How To Make Vintage Halloween Garland:

steps1.) The first thing you’ll want to do is make a lettering that is large enough to read. If you want to make your own lettering like I did you might want to use the ruler to make sure all the letters are the same size. For my sketches, I made each letter about four inches high. The font is really up to you. You can use a very straightforward design or you can create a kind of crazy artistic kind like I did. Sketch whatever phrase or letters you’ll be using on the white paper and cut them out. These will become stencils for you to use.

2.) Take the stencil letters and put them on another white sheet of paper. These will tell you how large to make your triangles and other shapes. You want to make sure that the letters fit on the “flags” you make. I’ve cut out triangle pieces for the “Happy” part, and these weird squares with the corners cut out for the “Halloween” part. You might also want to make another mini triangle  to fit onto the large one so that you can add more contrasting colors.

cutouts3.) Once you have all the stencil cut out start picking out papers you’d like to use. Be sure to use your stencils on the back sides of the paper. That way the marks that your pen or pencil make won’t be visible on the front of your garland. Also be aware of readability. I did all the letters in a textured black paper, however the triangles and the strange squares are really up to you. I just suggest that if you pick a really crazy background for the large triangle or square, that you pick a more subtle or complementary paper for the smaller triangle or square, one that will really pop out the black letters.

layered4.) If you have an X-acto knife now would be the time to use it especially if your design is complicated. I sadly do not have one of these so I just cut very carefully with scissors. Once you have everything cut out, it’s time to put it all together. Take a big triangle and glue a smaller triangle to it. Once that is dry glue the letter to it. If you’ve used cardstock you might notice a bowing or bending of the paper. Don’t worry. Once it dries, put it under something heavy like a stack of books to get it flattened out again. Do the same thing to the square pieces.

tabs5.) Once you have everything glued up, you want to cut out small thin tabs. I cut tabs that were about a quarter of an inch wide and about 4 inches long. You will want to glue these in such a way that they create little loops in the backs of your triangles and squares. Just glue one end to the triangle or square and then glue the other end to that…there should be a loop that you will use to string it up. Once all this is dry, thread some black yarn through the loops and you’re ready to hang them!

Extra Credit! Because that was just too easy for you!

After doing all the stuff above, if you still find yourself needing a little extra something here’s how to make fringe to go in between each letter. In order to do this all you will need is yarn, a hand (preferably your own), and scissors.

finishedtassel1.) Take the end of the yarn and start to wrap it loosely around your hand. I would wrap it around 20-25 times. Once you’re done wrapping it tie a string around the top part. Slide it off your hand. On the ends that are longer, cut them so that they are no longer loops but hanging free. This is the fringe part. Tie a little string from the top of the tied part to the string that holds your letters. I made one of these fringe things to go between each letter and at the ends.

After that you’re done. This can be hung in door ways or if you have a fireplace this is a perfect place to put it. :)

 Finishedgarland

 

 

 

And I Quote: “Happiness is Not Something Ready Made.”

DaliLamaXIV

“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” – Dalai Lama XIV

We live in a very fast paced society. We want the fastest phones, we want to lose weight fast, we want to get rich fast, we want our food microwaved and sometimes when we’re really hungry even 1 minute can feel too long to wait for food. Many things are packaged to fit that instant gratification kind of life. Unfortunately Happiness is not one of those things.

It’s interesting how we cram our entire lives with things to do and places to go in the search for happiness. We get jobs in hopes we’ll become rich and that will bring about happiness. We buy homes outside of what we can’t afford because we believe it will make us happy. We run around taking our kids to all kinds of events and things so that they feel successful and happy. We even take medication in the hopes that it will somehow help us see happiness. But happiness is actually extremely simple.

I was raised in a family that believed that happiness, if you weren’t born with it, required that you had medication to really feel it. And while I don’t blame anyone for taking anti-depressants, some people don’t actually need them and only you as an individual can tell. For me, I became extremely stressed and anxious during my college years. There were a lot of reason for that, the big one was culture shock. I was ill prepared to be away on my own. My mother and father were on anti depressants and they assumed that it was now my turn…I was on anti depressants for a few years, and while I was on them I noticed that they didn’t really make me feel happy like I thought they would. I told my doctor and we tried different kinds of medications and dosages until he told me something that sent me on my journey for happiness…He said “I personally do not think you have a chemical imbalance…I think this is an emotional problem.” At first I remember thinking “Well, crap! Does that mean I’ll just never be happy? but then again, what was I expecting happiness to be? Was it rainbows and unicorns? Was it to wake up and have the birds sing to me? Was I suppose to feel like I was at Disney all the time? Was I even really happy when I went to Disney? And if that was what my definition of happiness was, then was it realistic and what would I have to do to get it?”

I took moving up here to Massachusetts as a chance to start over with my life and really search for what “happiness” really meant to me. I cut out a lot of negative people in my life, read a lot of books, talked to a lot of people, went to therapy, and in the end, I’ve found that happiness isn’t like a microwave dinner that you can just make in one minute and 30 seconds, it is like a relationship. It’s something that takes time to develop. You don’t just go up to a man or a woman and say “Hey I like you, let’s get married tonight!” I mean you could…but it probably won’t work out as well as you think. Happiness must be courted. It’s something that you might see with someone else, and you think. “I would love to learn more about that”. Then begins your search. You might try at first to run after happiness. You might stalk it from the distance, taking picture and putting it up on your bathroom mirror. You might read as much as you can about it, buy things to attract it, and visit website about it. You’ll cry over how badly you want it, and then get angry that it doesn’t seem to know you exist. But happiness is a simple relationship. You don’t need to do much to get it.

I met my husband on the second floor, in between classes, at a high school we both attended. For about a month I didn’t know his name and he didn’t know mine. We just wave and smiled at each other as we passed to go to class. Then one day, he decided to introduce himself. He didn’t throw his number in my face, or ask me out. He just told me his name, and that he liked the color of my hair back then (which was bright crazy red, kind of like how I recently dyed it.), and five years of dating and six years of marriage later we’re still in love. Happiness is kind of like that. You might see it over and over, and then one day it says hi to you. You could obsess over it, and stalk it but then you’re not really enjoying it. Happiness needs to be enjoyed when it’s around, and it’s not a relationship created day by day, but moment by moment…It starts small. I saw a butterfly land on a flower and that made me happy. I feel warm and well fed in this moment, I am happy and I’m thankful for that.Then gradually it grows. “I went on vacation to a really nice place and had a lot of fun and I felt happy.”

You’ll have days when you don’t feel happy any more but just like a lover who has gone away temporarily, you miss it but you have thankful memories until it returns again, and it will return because happiness is faithful and that’s one thing you need to trust. If all you do is focus with your head down and your hands in your pockets on the fact that you are not happy, you might not even notice it when it passes you in the hallway.

To Parents with Nerdy Kids: Four Things You Need to Know

revenge-of-the-nerds

Dear Parents of Nerdy Kids,

What I’m about to write to you, is what I wish I had been able to write to my family as a kid. This is not a letter to bash, or be mean, but hopefully to shed some light on how I felt, and possibly how your kid might feel being considered a nerd. I’m writing this with the perspective that you as parents want the best for your child as I think my mother wanted for me, but perhaps you may not “get” or understand them all the time, and they may not even know how to explain to you how or why they are nerdy. Hopefully, this letter will give you some relief in understanding the awesome kid you have.

First, some background so you know where I’m coming from. I was a first born, which meant that I didn’t have a lot of children to relate to. I related much better with adults. My parents never spoke baby talk to me which meant I had a different vocabulary than most kids my age and I wasn’t put in daycare. I was home schooled, and what little social interaction I got was when I went to church, and naturally because I didn’t have a lot of common ground with the kids there I got picked on and in the end I didn’t socialize with them very much. Once again I was more likely to keep to myself or make friends with the adults in the room. I was eventually put into a public high school where I had much the same issues with my peers as I did at church.

ParenttoanerdwhygodAround the age of sixteen when most girls are talking about boys and nail polish, I had glasses, and braces, and I didn’t know how to dress, but worst of all…..I was a Star Wars fan….I mean, I painted my room a dark blue, I put stars on my ceiling, and furniture, I had action figures from the movies, I had the books, I played the soundtracks, I watched the movies whenever I got a chance, I even had a book with the entire script to A New Hope, and I’ll even admit to writing fan fiction about it *cringe*. Perhaps love is not strong enough of a word…Obsessed would be more accurate. Unfortunately for you, and really good for me, I don’t have any photos of this currently in my possession to post on here or I would…maybe.

My poor mother didn’t get it. I’m sure she worried about me. She probably wondered if I would ever get married, move out, get a job and be “normal” for whatever that word is worth. She rolled her eyes when I rambled on about my latest chapter that I wrote, or the new Star Wars book I was reading, and honestly I don’t fault her for that, because she wasn’t a nerd and it must have been really hard to understand and relate to a kid like that at times. If I could go back to that time these are some of the things I’d tell her:

1.) Being a “nerd” is not really a bad thing: Some of the best minds, and most creative people are nerdy, and more often than not I’ve found that nerdy people tend to be extremely good at being friends. Let’s start with that. Friends. That was one thing I think that really really worried my mom. I didn’t have a group of girls I hung out with. I was quiet, hard to relate to, and I found more often than not the PoorBabbagegirls that I thought were my friend often made fun of me behind my back. However, if you got me around people who were equally passionate about the things I was passionate about, we’d talk forever! The problem is, nerds are picked on, and criticized. We don’t wear that we are a nerd on our sleeve like a jock might wear tight shirts or a cheerleader might be a bubbly fountain of charisma. We are quiet by nature and stick to more intellectually stimulating things and that’s where we find our friends. So my first request to you as parents would be to find what really interests your child and go with it. If they love sci-fi writing, get them books and let them write. If they love to draw let them draw. If they are computer nerds please let them do their thing, allow them to make friends of their own kind, and get to know their friends even if they too are nerds. I ask that you consider this: If Leonardo DaVinci’s parents had made him do what everyone else of his time was doing, would he have become the amazing artist that he’s now known to be? If J.R.R. Tolkien had been discouraged to write fantasy would we have such a wonderful story as The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings? and if Charles Babbage had been picked on and not supported in his love for math would we have the computers we can’t live without now? Maybe, but maybe not. Your child might be on the cusp of being one of those amazing people, please  understand that being a nerd is not really a bad thing. Without nerds, a lot of the things we take for granted might not be here.

2.) Nerds are like a puzzle or a mystery: If you have a girl and she’s really into fashion or you have a boy and he’s into sports, that easy to relate to because that’s the stereotypical norm. However, what if you have a daughter who loves Harry Potter, or you have a son who can’t get enough of Star Trek, you’re going to have to dig a bit deeper to understand what is really making them tick. Like I stated above, I loved Star Wars and there was a reason for that, looking back I don’t even know if I was aware of it, and because I wasn’t aware of the really deep reason I loved Star Wars I couldn’t really explain it to my mom. I liked Star Wars because it was a story of how good triumphs over evil, which wasn’t always how the world I grew up in worked.worst-iron-man-cosplay It was about a teenager, who was isolated and stuck on a desert planet and a little weird (which was not too far from my reality) who was able to become someone respectable, and loved and special and those were things I didn’t always feel at that time in my life. The point is, you might have to look below the surface of your kid’s interests to really find what makes them tick and see how it relates to their lives and what they are going through. If they are really into Harry Potter, do they feel out of place, and the idea of being some how special comforts them? If they are into the Hobbit, is it the idea that someone small can do great things in the face of great adversity, like the nerd who stands up to a bully or deals with a troubled home life. If it’s Star Trek, is it the idea of a future where they are free to explore, or the more deep thoughts on ethics and philosophy that the story brings up? When in doubt, just try asking. Honestly, if your kid is passionate about something they’ll talk your ear off about it ( I know I did and my mom didn’t even ask). But they’ll tell you what they love about a story, and they’ll probably be really happy that they have someone who is actually interested in what they are interested in and will listen to what they have to say.

3.) When to Worry: There is a documentary I watched not too long ago called “Monster Camp” It’s about a group of LARPers which is fine if that’s what you’re into, but the thing that I found extremely troubling was how little they enjoyedMonster camp real life. Some of these young adults hadn’t completed high school in favor of playing video games for hours on end. There were parents who were so involved in playing video games and LARPing that their kids complained that they weren’t getting enough attention. There was one very interesting guy who said that “It becomes an addiction when it begins to hurt you and the people around you.” but then he goes on to talk about how his daughter said he wasn’t spending enough time with her, so he decided that he was going to get her a computer so Bluechickshe could play games with him….Which really isn’t addressing the issue which was that he wasn’t in her life. I to this day enjoy playing video games. It’s nice to step out of the world that we are bound to and have responsibilities that need attention  and go into a world where you can play and have fun. I think even parents can relate to that much of gaming. However, when their grades start to drop, when they start missing school or work, and stay immersed in this world that’s when it’s time to be concerned. It’s really the difference of having a beer at a party and being an alcoholic who can’t cope in the real world unless they are drunk. Many of the kids in this documentary had some really tough things they were dealing with whether it was a troubled family life, moving constantly and having very little time to make lasting friendships, or just being bullied and having a low self-esteem. Those were the things that needed addressing. It wasn’t about the game so much as something a bit deeper. If you feel that your child is using the game to escape during a really troubling time, try to solve that troubling issue. Taking them away from the fantasy world they’ve created might not solve anything. A kid who has a troubled family life is still going to be a kids with a troubled family life whether the games are there or not.

4.) They might grow out of it, but it’s still okay if they don’t: Please understand that what your kid might be at 16 probably won’t be who they are when they are middle aged. At the age of sixteen I was obsessed with Star Wars, and yet now I don’t really care too much for it.

*Do I still write fanfics?

No, but I am a writer. While I enjoy writing fiction and blogs, I think writing fan fiction allowed me to practice and gain confidence in knowing that I could write 250 pages on one particular subject…even if that subject sucked. I have also gone through great lengths to bury all traces of that fanfic…if you are really interested in finding it here‘s an item it might be buried with.

*Do I still have my collectables?

For the most part no, they went away sometime during my college years. All that is left from that time of my life is this mug which has the Imperial emblem on it, which basically tells you which side of the war I would have been on had I been around a long long time ago in a galaxy far far away. Other than that, I have moved on to painting video game themed pots and collecting other nerdy things…like Heroscape figurines, and World of Warcraft stuff.

*What about the music and videos?

From time to time I still listen to the soundtrack, but I appreciate classical music now because it always seems to get my mind thinking on a story that could go along with it, and every now and then I’ll take the weekend to watch the Star Wars Trilogy straight through.

*Did I ever get married and lead a “normal” life?

Yes. I no longer have braces but a great set of straight teeth. I wear glasses from time to time, but they don’t look as bad for some reason, and I figured out how to dress like an average person. I got married to my high school sweetheart who was also considered nerdy. He currently works for one of the best tech companies to work for here in Massachusetts and is a huge supporter of the free software movement. I am also employed at a fantastic  tech company where I work closely with the operations department and support department and deal with the scheduling of computer environments for maintenance. My husband and I live in a home in a nice part of town, we pay our taxes, we have two cats, we might one day have kids of our own, etc. But we still celebrate our nerdiness from time to time. We are both avid gamers, we throw LAN parties and Heroscape parties. We enjoy being nerds because in the end, that’s what makes us happy…and isn’t that the goal for all of us.

So in closing, I really hope this has soothed some fears you might have of your socially awkward, nerdy child. They are special in a good way. They are thinkers, and innovators, and world changers and if you support them, they will thank you. At best you raise a child who makes it into the history books, at worst you raise a child who is happy because they have supportive parents.

Thank you,

Autumn

Vintage Horror Movie Review: Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Quiet honestly, I’m not a fan of many modern horror. There’s either too much blood and senseless dismemberment, or the computer generated effects are just way too real looking. I’m fairly certain if I watched the remake of Evil Dead, I wouldn’t be able do laundry for a week because my washer and dryer are in the basement of my house.

I am however a fan of vintage horror which I consider to fall into the time range from the 1950′s  to the very early 1990′s (with the exception of classics like Dracula with Bela Lugosi, The Wolf Man with Lon Chaney Jr. and The Mummy with Boris Karlof as who can really go through life without seeing these fresh off of Vaudeville actors in their prime). I feel this was a sweet spot for horror cinema on the basis that they at least had to work on the special effects with either good make up, and artistry or building suspense. Writers of that time couldn’t rely on computer graphics to carry a rather pitiful storyline. Now granted some of the horror movies I enjoy are also fairly campy, but it is that campiness that allows me to really enjoy sitting in the dark with a bowl of popcorn and watching the movie, as opposed to not being able to sleep for weeks and considering therapy.

rosemarys-babyI’ve chosen to review Rosemary’s Baby since it’s currently on Netflix and I feel that any of the millennials who have yet to see this really should, as it is a classic in vintage horror. I actually became curious of the film after Tyra Banks had mentioned she wanted one of her models on “America’s Next Top Model” to have Rosemary’s hair cut. I have the same opinion as most of Rosemary’s friends do when she comes home with this hair cut which is that it is hideous and bangs that short only look good on Vulcans.  I also must warn that there is some nudity in this film, but it’s fairly tame to what is seen in movies now a days.

I would place this firmly into the suspense category as there really isn’t much gore with the exception of a woman who is killed by falling out of a window in her apartment, and even with this, the scene is fairly dark, and a far cry less traumatic than what would be seen in any of the SAW films (all of which I have been avoiding).

This story follows a woman who unknowingly moves into an apartment building which is occupied by a coven of witches/Satan worshipers. Through the act of eating a poisoned chocolate mousse Rosemary is impregnated by Satan himself, though she doesn’t at first realize this. We watch as she struggles with not being allowed to see her preferred doctor but one that unbeknownst to her is also part of this coven. She also is struck with strange symptoms of pain and weight loss, all while her husband dismisses her fears that something is wrong. As the story progresses she starts to put the pieces together that the people she found as annoying old people who constantly find reasons to bother her, might actually be part of something far more sinister. The more she tries to avoid these people the more they close in around her, all the while dismissing her accusations of witchcraft as some sort of delirium brought on by her pregnancy.

rosemary-babyknifeThis film prey’s very obviously to a woman’s fears of being pregnant for the first time, as well as the thought of giving birth to a monster. Having no children of my own yet, I found this to be a very understandable and easy to relate to. It was extremely entertaining to watch as the suspense of this poor woman who is in pain, and desperately trying to seek help is cornered every moment by the same people she’s trying to avoid. There were also times in the movie where I wondered if perhaps she wasn’t being delusional and that at the end we’d find out everything was actually okay.

You find out very early on in the story that she has been impregnated by Satan, so I don’t feel bad in talking a little about the end sequence, as this is where it turns from a horror movie into a bit comical. Rosemary gives birth to Satan’s son, and as she’s being told this news in a room full of the coven members every now and then someone will break out into a “Hail Satan” cheer. I found incredibly funny as these are a bunch of senior citizens dressed as if they’ve come from a tent revival in the south, and to hear them cheer that really removes any tension one might have after watching this thriller. The classic 1960′s to early 1970′s home decor and fashion also caught my attention as I have a love / hate relationship to designs at that time, and I’m truly thankful for how far women’s maternity wear has come since then.

So for those of you who enjoy horror that is creative as opposed to computer generated gore, I highly recommend this film. It’s easy to watch with the lights off, and you’ll probably still be able to sleep that night, unless you have strange elderly neighbors, and you’ve suddenly found yourself pregnant after eating a chocolate mousse.