Monday, October 31, 2011

NaNoWriMo Eve

So here it is, guys:

I have fingerless gloves to keep my hands warm while typing throughout the entirety of November, the Xena soundtrack, and about 1/5th of an outline written in a Rainbow Zebra notebook. I feel like running around and screaming, and also like I am SERIOUSLY GOING TO EXPLODE with creative ideas. Yeah, NaNoWriMo starts in about 2 1/2 hours and I AM FUCKING READY. BRING. IT. ON.

Other things in my arsenal of novel writing include:

- So much Halloween candy, and even more when it goes on sale tomorrow.
- A netbook! I can now write any time, anywhere.
- High apple pie in the sky hopes.
- Three years of success under my belt.
- An espresso machine, and a coffee pot.
- A four day weekend in the middle of November.

Seriously.  Let's do this. I don't think I've ever felt more ready.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween Reflections, and Halloween Project #9: Pumpkin Seeds

Happy Halloween-Eve, everybody! Can anyone else feel the magic in the air? I know I can. I went to the grocery store today to pick up some things for a get-together I'm having tonight, and there were little kids dressed as bumble bees, Spiderman, unicorns...all kinds of fantastic and cute costumes, and I was overwhelmed by the power of this holiday. My windows are open and I have pumpkin seeds baking in the oven as we speak, and more than ever I wish I had the ability to stop time and live in this day for awhile.

I haven't always loved Halloween the way I do now, I used to hate it, in fact. I was a pretty pudgy kid, and I was certain that there wasn't a single costume in the world that would fit me. I was awkward, and I always forgot about Halloween until the last minute, and would be forced to come up with my own costumes (which for about 4 years straight was a shirt and skirt with the same pair of Fairy Wings), and one year I wore a devil mask and one of my Dad's suits...I was the Devil going to work, of course. Pretty clever, but no one would leave me alone about it. “Why are you wearing mens clothes?” They would ask.

What I should have said is “Because it's Halloween, and I can be anything I want to be. There are no rules here, and I want to be the mother fuckin' Devil, going to do his mother fuckin' job, and my mask is fuckin' AWESOME!” But I didn't. I stammered and stuttered and made up excuses about how Halloween was dumb, trying to cover up the fact that I was really just awkward, and I didn't have any imagination when it came to costumes (the costume was my Dad's idea, after all, I just thought it was quirky).

And then there were those 3 or 4 awful years where I was too old to trick or treat, too young to have a party. So I either tried to trick or treat in my makeshift costumes, old women sneering at my 'lack of effort' and turning me away from their free candy. Bah! Why even bother. I focused on the magic of Halloween, the beauty of Autumn, the colors, the spirits and the supernatural. I read ghost stories and learned about what the Wiccans and Pagans do for Halloween, I tried talking to spirits, I visited graveyards. It wasn't what I wanted out of Halloween (because I never met a spirit who gave me free candy), but if it weren't for that, who knows how I would feel about Halloween nowadays.

Then, about two years after I moved out, something hit me. Myself and my roommate decided to host a Halloween party, both dressed as pirates, and it was fantastic. I got drunk, I ate lots of candy, and at one point I was trying to steer my house from my porch. It. Was. Perfect. Halloween started running in my veins, and I immediately couldn't wait for next year. The next year, I spent about $150 on a fairy costume, and felt like a million bucks. Halfway through the night at the party I was hosting, myself and my at-the-time-friend Gabe went outside and confessed our feelings for each other. Tomorrow is our two year anniversary.

There is much more to Halloween for me, I could certainly write for hours about it. But it's something that I grew into, something that found it's way to my heart in every single aspect that a holiday can. For me, it's beautiful, spiritual, romantic...and of course, there's candy. I don't think there's another day of the year that makes me feel exactly the way Halloween does.

As a simple, delicious recipe, here's what I've decided to use to cook my pumpkin seeds this year. I wish I could give you my tried-and-true traditional Halloween baked good, but as I said, halloween isn't tried-and-true, it is always evolving for me.

What You'll Need:
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons margarine, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 cups raw whole pumpkin seeds

How To Do It:

  1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.
  2. Combine the margarine, salt, garlic salt, Worcestershire sauce and pumpkin seeds. Mix thoroughly and place evenly only a baking sheet
  3. Bake for 1 hour, or until crunchy, stirring occasionally. 

Hope you all have a fantastic Halloween!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Halloween Project #8: Ghost and Skull Cake Pops

I am learning a TON about white chocolate this week. Here are the two most important things:

- If you overheat your chocolate, it will scorch and become absolutely useless.
- Melting/melted chocolate can't get wet! If this happens, it will have the same reaction as overheated chocolate: it will get very stiff and absolutely useless. Bonus annoyance: This means you can't add food coloring to your white chocolate! Perhaps they make a dry food dye, but that's certainly not what I have, and it's something I learned the hard way.

So today, I have some plain white ghost and skull cake pops for you. They're rather easy, and super tasty.

What you'll need:

-Cake, of course! I used a box cake, because I'm lazy. And this isn't teribly important, as this will be crumbs in no time.
- Black Decorating gel
-White Chocolate
-Flavored Creamer of your choice (I used White Chocolate Macadamia Nut)
- Lollipop sticks
-Foam block, or a makeshifted ghetto rigged contraption to keep your pops upright after they've been dipped in chocolate (Mine was foam board and a couple books taped together...)

1. Bake your cake according to package/recipe directions. After it has cooled completely, break it apart into chunks and put them in a large mixing bowl. Using a fork, break apart the chunks until your cake has been turned into crumbs.

2. Add your creamer. I think I end up using somewhere between 1/4 - 1/2 cup, but what I really look for it that it's moist, and that the cake crumbs stick to each other.

3. Shape your cake crumbs into triangles and ovals. Make sure your triangles are thick enough so they won't break once you put them on the lollipop stick. Cover a baking sheet in aluminum foil and place the triangles and ovals onto foil. Freeze for 20 minutes, or refrigerate for an hour.

4. Melt a little white chocolate, and stick the lollipop sticks in the white chocolate, and then insert into the cake pops about 1/3rd of the way through, if not halfway. Refrigerate for about 15 - 25 minutes.

5. Melt the rest of your white chocolate, and dip the cake pops into the white chocolate, placing them in your foam block, or makeshifted ghetto rigged contraption. Refrigerate or freeze one last time to be sure the chocolate has hardened.

6. Give the triangles ghost faces, and the skulls skull faces! Om nom away.

I was really hoping to make some pumpkins, but my heart was broken when I added the food coloring to my chocolate and it completely seized. I like these guys, though. They came out very nicely, and I'm very pleased :)

Gabe is almost finished with his assignment, which is what these are for. He still has some loose ends for some of these projects to tie up, and as they are tied up, more projects will be provided! I have some days off work soon, so hopefully I will be able to manage to do these, and be ready for NaNo come November 1st. I am so nervous! There's no way I'm ready....but I still look forward to writing that victory post!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Halloween Project #7: Ghost and Gravestone Cupcakes

I'm buckling down, really. But Gabe's homework requires Halloween crafts, and he asked for my help, and I can't just let him down, now can I? This week has been crazy, though. What started out as "Maybe I could get some photographs of things you've already made", turned into "You should bake a bunch of great things!". It's not that I didn't want to, but there was certainly quite a bit of work required for everything I did. Other projects will be posted this week when they're all put together properly.

Anyway! Our project for today is actually rather simple, and I didn't do anything homemade, but you can make your own frosting and cake if you should desire. With just a few ingredients you can have a haunted graveyard!

What you'll need:

- Cake! I used a chocolate box mix, but what you choose to use is not important to this project.
- Nutter Butter Sandwich cookies
- White Chocolate (24 oz should do the trick), divided into 2.
- Black food coloring (I used Icing Coloring for this one)
- Green food coloring
- Black Decorating Gel
- Hot cocoa powder (Optional)
- 16 oz. Can of white frosting, divided into 2.

1. Bake your cupcakes in white cupcake liners according to box/recipe instructions.

2. While your cupcakes are baking, melt half the white chocolate (be sure not to overheat it, or your chocolate will seize and will be ruined. Melt for 1 minute in microwave, then in 15 second increments until it is smooth. If a few chips remain unmelted, just stir until it is smooth). Cover a baking sheet in aluminum foil. Dip Nutter Butter cookies into white chocolate, and place on aluminum foil. Refrigerate or freeze.

3. Melt other half of white chocolate the same way, slowly add in your food coloring until your chocolate is gray. Once again, dip the Nutter Butters in on both sides, and laying down on a baking sheet covered in aluminum foil. Refrigerate or freeze.

4. With your frosting divided in two separate bowls, dye one half green, and the other half black. To get a good BRIGHT green color, I added some yellow drops until it was less bluish green and more like grass.

5. After your ghosts and gravestones have hardened, remove from the fridge/freezer. Write "RIP" on the gravestones, and give the ghosts faces with the black decorating gel.

6. Frost your cupcakes, half in green, and the other half in black. Sprinkle hot cocoa powder over the green ones to be 'dirt'. If you'd like, you could make all of the frosting green, so as to make a 'haunted graveyard', but there are plans for haunted house cupcake liners in the near future so the ghost will have a place to haunt. It is entirely up to you, of course, as making cupcake liners will be a lot more work.

When you frost the grass, be sure to make the frosting very 'rough' so as to mimic grass, and keep the black very smooth so as to mimic a floor.

7. Using a spoon, dig a small sort of 'ditch' in the center of your cupcakes (this will prevent the cupcakes from cracking in half), then place the graves and ghosts in their appropriate cupcakes.

8. Indulge!

I didn't realize how fantastic this was going to be until I got to eat one of the gravestones that broke in half. Apparently Peanut butter + White chocolate is ACTUALLY PRETTY GOOD. I was very pleased, and the fact that there is a moist chocolate cupcake to go along with it makes things even better.

Coming up this week I have stencils, my first cake -pops- and a haunted house to put that ghost inside. While I am rather tired, I can't wait to see how everything turns out!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Buckling Down

I can't believe it's already October 23rd. There is pretty much no significance to this day, except for the fact that NaNoWriMo is ONE WEEK AWAY. I am writing a 2nd part to a novel I don't remember anything about, and I'm not even quite sure where I'm going with it.

So I'm buckling down.

I have to stop crocheting, and I have to stop everything else, because the next 5 weeks of my life are going to be incredibly busy and full of novel novel noveling.

I am lucky that I have a netbook now, so I'll be able to get some writing done at work...but I'm still going to have to kick my craft addiction for the next five weeks, and so I apologize for the hiatus, but it's November, which means a novel has to be written.

I'll be focusing on that for the next 5 weeks, so, sorry if it gets a little boring around here. I promise I will return in December, although wary, full of inspiration for winter and Christmas projects.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Cabin Fever Crochet

The days are getting shorter, the weather is getting just have to love fall. But soon, there will be snow days, there will be days so cold it won't be sane to even think about leaving your house, but the serenity of the snow and the beauty of winter will certainly overwhelm you.

Well, at least that's my experience.

Here are three wintry projects to help you get through the season without going insane, and hopefully being able to focus on the beauty and comfort of winter, as opposed to the chapped lips, snow shovels and icy roads.

1. Snowflake Dishcloth

This was a fun little project that would make a great gift, or a nice decoration (although it's a 'dishcloth' I think it would work better as a doily). I was kind of overwhelmed at the sight of it, but it actually ended up being rather fun, easy, and quick. There were some things about the pattern I had issues with, so I improvised a bit, but it still ended up looking very lovely.

2. Openwork Cowl

This is another somewhat quick project, and I really enjoyed it. This is a pretty small cowl in comparison to other cowls, but that was kind of its charm for me. You can have a nice, fuzzy thing around your neck with only 1/5th the amount of work as a regular sized scarf. I used bulky, soft yarn to make it extra cozy.

3. Snow Day Fingerless Gloves

For this pattern I used Vanna's Choice (I used an entire skein of it, I only had about 2 feet of yarn left when I was done! Miraculous.), and Lion Brand Fun Fur for the bottom edge. These are super chunky, fuzzy, warm, and to be honest; a little addicting. After I made these I thought about putting them up for sale on Etsy, but I absolutely can not take them off (I am wearing them right now, of course). And I think they will be perfect typing gloves for when the house gets a little drafty in winter. I adore these things, and highly recommend making a pair for yourself.

Row 1: Ch 37, sc in 2nd ch from hook, dc in next ch, *(sc in next ch, dc in next ch), repeat from * across, turn.

Row 2: Ch 2, (does not count as 1st st), hdc in each st across, turn.

Row 3: Ch 1, sc in 1st ch from hook, dc in next ch, *(sc in next ch, dc in next ch), repeat from * across, turn.

Rows 4 - 26: Repeat rows 2 - 3, 11 times, then repeat row 2 once more.

Fasten off leaving a long tail.

Fold Glove in half with WS facing outward, sew together the first 22 sts of row 1 and 26 for seam. Fasten off. Starting from other end, sew together the 1st 3 sts of row 1 and 26 for seam. Fasten off, leaving 11 sts not seamed for thumbhole.


Rnd 1: With glove still inside out, attach yarn with a sl st to st closest to seam, ch 1, hdc in each st around thumbhole, join with sl st to 1st hdc.

Rnd 2: Ch 1, hdc in front loop only of each st around, join with a sl st to front loop of 1st hdc.

Rnd 3: Ch 1, hdcdec in front loop only of 1st 2 sts, repeat with each pair of sts around, join with a sl st to back loop of 1st hdc


Invert glove to be right side out, and attach fun fur yarn in any stitch at the bottom of the glove with a sl st. sc in each each st around. Working in continuous rounds, make 5 rows of scs. Fasten off.

I hope you guys enjoy these projects, and hopefully they will make the winter a little more bearable, not to mention cozier and warmer.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Halloween Project # 6: Viking Hat and Beard

Well guys, here you go. As promised, one full-on amazingly badass Viking get-up. As I write this, my eyes are drooping and my whole body feels numb with exhaustion. I'm finished with day 7 of a 9 day work week, and I can honestly say that this project got me through most of it. It kept my spirits pretty high, my hands busy and my mind occupied on other things besides...well, work.

This whole project took about 6 days, and I'd say overall it cost me about $25 to do (although worth every penny when Gabe put it on and the thing actually fit). I'm sure one could also do it for cheaper, but I used Caron Simply Soft, which runs about $4.50/skein. You could easily use Red Heart for $2.90/Skein, I just wanted it to be as nice as I could make it (I tend not to skimp on yarn when it's a gift).

Unfortunately, $6.50 of that expense was purchasing the pattern, so unfortunately I can not provide it for you here, it would not be fair to anyone, especially the creator of the hat.

If you would like the pattern of the hat, it can be purchased through Etsy here.

If you would like the pattern for the beard, you can get that for free on Ravelry here. However, as I stated in my last entry, throughout the beard I used long rows of fringe to make the beard more realistic, then added 'sideburns' so they could properly connect to the hat.

If you're looking for something to get you through a long week, or something to keep you warm and silly through the winter, I definitely recommend both the hat, as well as the beard. Both of these pieces were equally fun to make, and I had a ton of fun getting a laugh out of my co-workers by explaining to them that I spent my day crocheting a beard :)

Here are some more detail shots:

I added a button to the inside of the hat, and a loop at the end of the 'sideburns' so the beard can be attached or detached whenever you want.

Hat, sans beard.
I'd never used 'fun fur' yarn before, and although it looked quite sparse and difficult to use at first, it ended up being rather easy and fuzzy.

This was a great project, and I definitely recommend spending the $6.50 to make it (or if you're really crazy, you can just improvise based on photos).

Hopefully next project will be something great, but I'm not sure what yet! I hope you guys got a little bit of inspiration from these pictures, and I can't wait to take more 'action shots' of this as Halloween approaches :)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Viking Beard

Gabe being a fantastic model

While this beard may seem as though it's in the spirit of Halloween, it really isn't. My lovely boyfriend had his birthday last week (it was the 1st anniversary of his 29th birthday!), and while a sushi dinner was probably sufficient, I still felt as though his 30th should be bigger and better. For my 22nd birthday, he spent 50+ hours making me a digital painting of Mermaid Fairy Princesses, so I thought I should make him something, too.

The idea came about on the night of his birthday when we were looking through Ravelry patterns together, and it all came to me in a beautiful clear picture when a friend of mine posted a picture of a 2' long crocheted Viking beard to a crocheted Viking hat on my Facebook wall. So we decided that was what was going to be made.

I used the beard from this pattern as a kind of 'face cozy", then proceeded to take groups of 4 strands of yarn and pulled them through like fringe on a scarf throughout the beard. I used about 160 groups of this 'fringe' to make different layers of 'hair' on the beard. I used a little over a 315 yard skein of Caron Simply Soft to make this, but I think it was completely worth it.

The Viking Hat will be next, probably done in a few days or so :)