· comments  · 10-28-2011 · categories:halloween · links ·
These are photos of the test Zombie Head Cheese we created, thus the poor lighting and the two kinds of cheese. But I wanted to show you the idea for a tongue that I decided to skip.
I carved the tongue from a block of Spam I had coaxed out of the can as a whole rectangular chunk. Know what? Spam is surprisingly easy to carve. It’s also very slippery.
The tongue was ghastly. And since the skull wasn’t secure in order to keep the jaw open it tilted to one side when we attempted to scoop some cheese off. Eeek.
In the end I decided to drop the tongue made of Spam in part because it was slippery and in part because it smelled too strongly for me to recommend. But, if you want to have a go at making a Spam tongue it is really effective.
· comments  · 10-27-2011 · categories:food · halloween ·
I made you something for Halloween. You can serve it a party. Or maybe make it as a snack for your viewing party of The Walking Dead.
These are both made of soft cheese spread on a plastic skull. Easy. Creepy. Delicious. That is, if you can get people to dig in.
You know that old trick of unwrapping a block of cream cheese and topping it with soy sauce and some sesame seeds? Yum right? I added some food coloring and a life sized plastic skull and called it Halloween worthy.
(This is version #1, a slightly easier version is just below.)
First get a life sized plastic skull (wash it really well), some soy sauce, one 12 ounce tub of cream cheese spread and some food coloring. Tint the cream cheese to a fleshy color, I used about 15 drops of red and 10 drops of yellow here.
I found a plastic skull like this one at a local party supplies store, but I really wish I’d managed to find a plastic skull where the top of the head is removable. Something really frightening could be made with that. Spinach dip brains anybody?
Then add just one drop of blue food coloring and stir only a few times until the blue appears streaky. Less is more here, it will further streak as you spread it. Now, frost your skull like a cake. Start with the tricky bits around the face first. If you can’t hold the crown of the head to stabilize the skull it makes it much more complicated. Try to keep the teeth clean.
A detail of the blue-streaked cream cheese.
I used a small flexible spatula to spread this. There is no need to be tidy here, the messier the grossier. Grosser? Grossest? You know what I mean.
You can also stick a few rectangles of parchment paper surrounding the head so you can be a bit messy while frosting and then pull them out after you are done, a trick I learned about frosting cakes. If you can putting the head on a smaller plate on top of a larger plate will be useful to catch the fake blood, and it will be easy to artfully arrange the crackers. Saltines are the traditional cracker for this but these more artisanal crackers I found looked like creepy bandages and still have that bland and salty taste you want. You can frost your head a few hours early and refrigerate. It’s amusing to sit nearby and observe as unsuspecting people open the fridge.
Cocktail onions create nice dead eyes.
Just before serving mix a bit of soy sauce with some drops of red food coloring and drizzle it over the head so that is streams down. I used a pipette but if you don’t have one handy a small measuring cup with a pour spout or a carefully wielded spoon will work just as well. If you can get the soy sauce to pool around the onion eyes, it looks extra creepy that way. Also sprinkle on some bugs, I mean, toasted sesame seeds.
It’s even scarier after it’s been eaten. Yikes.
This is version #2, it’s slightly less involved. You just need spreadable cheese, cocktail onions and a plastic skull. Let’s face it, just about any pink or orange tinted spreadable cheese will look suitably disgusting.
I used this cheese that has reddish port wine streaks in it. I didn’t manage to capture the reddish colors in these pictures as well as I hoped but I promise it was pretty gross looking.
I’m smitten. What should I name it?
(See also: The Outtakes wherein I attempt to carve a tongue from Spam and am entirely too successful.)
· comments  · 10-26-2011 · categories:food · halloween ·
Guess what? I get to interview Jack Bishop tomorrow! You know, from Cook’s Illustrated and America’s Test Kitchen:
He’s in town talking about the Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook, 2,000 Recipes from 20 Years of America’s most Trusted Food Magazine. I’m totally geeking out over this. So, do you have any you’ve always wanted to know? I’m your girl. Post questions here and I’ll bring back answers.
· comments  · 10-25-2011 · categories:books · food ·
I’ve just put up a Not Martha page on Facebook and in a completely undisguised attempt to get you to become a fan (aka, click the Like button) I’m giving away some handy baking items. Remember my trip to Wilton? I picked up a few good things while I was there and now I’m going to give them to six lucky people.
If you’d like to win click the Like button on the Not Martha page. Everybody who does so between now and Tuesday evening will automatically be entered to win. Three people chosen at random will win an amazing Skull Cake Pan (my very favorite), Master 56-Piece Tip Set (all the tips!) or Alphabet and Number fondant cutter set (I’ve always wanted one of these) respectively.
The Not Martha page will show when I’ve posted something new here and I’ll share anything extra cool I come across.
Don’t use Facebook? I’m not going to forget about you. Leave a comment here and I’ll be giving out the same three items. For the comments here the fine print applies.
Anybody anywhere in the world can enter. Cut-off is 5pm PST on Tuesday, Oct. 25th. I’ll do my best to get the stuff to you before Halloween (where did October go again?) but I’m afraid I cannot promise. Sorry about that. Ok, good luck!
(p.s. This is the cake that the Skull Pan makes. It’s awesome. You want this.)
update: Big oops, the Facebook page is now actually up and running. Sorry about that! And thanks to everybody for letting me know. Gosh I’m embarrassed.
Closed! Thanks for entering!
· comments  · 10-24-2011 · categories:food ·
I’m petite and struggle to find jeans I like. It seemed like I had a stretch of (long) years there where I just couldn’t find any that fit correctly. (Does everybody in the world have skinny thighs except for me?) But! I’ve recently found two kinds that make me very happy, it’s a high/low situation here:
The first are Joe’s Provocateur in a bootcut fit, I believe the pair I bought were petite. (Updated to add: I’ve just learned Provocateur are always petite. Thanks SR!) I found them at Nordstrom, $172. Now, I don’t normally spend that much on a single piece of clothing but these have been so very perfect to dress up or down that I find it was very worth it. These are bootcut with a high enough rise to eliminate the worst of the muffin top effect without making them feel like Mom Jeans. They are a nice dark blue without any fading or whiskering and a tidy fold ironed into the center front and back of the leg (which will fall out after a few washes if you’d rather not have it).
The second are Old Navy jeans in Sweetheart petite fit, again bootleg. I bought these on sale ($17.50!) but it looks like they are regularly closer to $30. The rise is similarly high but-not-too-high and the darkest wash isn’t too faded or treated looking. I think I might need backup pairs of both styles.
· comments  · 10-21-2011 · categories:shopping ·
· comments  · 10-20-2011 · categories:halloween · links ·
You know what is incredibly satisfying in the midst of dealing with a messy house due to a water leak needing repair? Redoing a room that is completely under your own control. We recently finished getting our bedroom in order (it took us, um, a long time). And know what? I think I finally understand what people mean when they refer to a room as a sanctuary. I keep wandering into the bedroom to take one last peek. Yay for new and more organized things.
While the room might be my sanctuary now it’s a very small sanctuary. The room barely fits our king sized bed (which I refuse to give up, don’t even suggest it) and because the window faces a neighbor’s house which sits higher on the hill above us it can also feel very dark even when the sun is shining brightly.
And before you say it let me say it, I know we need art above the bed. But we are struggling to find something big that we like and that won’t potentially fall on our heads. Did you know we have earthquakes here? We have earthquakes here. I’m afraid of earthquakes. Or, rather, big heavy things falling on my head while I’m sleeping because of earthquakes.
Because the room is so small I thought it was very important to avoid filling the room with unnatural materials whenever possible to keep the air quality in the space as good as I could. When we moved into our house we painted all the walls and ceilings with zero-VOC paint. We we decided our all white walls were good for keeping the room bright, but we really needed some color to make the room seem more intentional? Grown up? Yolo Colorhouse to the rescue. They make great colors.
Know what I’m not so good at? Making decisions. Going through the colors of Yolo Colorhouse paint options was so much fun I kept hanging more and more swatches on the wall, as you can see above. Scott and I went back and forth on what color to paint the wall. I originally wanted something dark and dramatic but he pointed out that the winters here are so dark that a dark wall might appear darker than I intended. Then we thought maybe a bright blue? But we just aren’t blue people. We wove our way through yellows, back to red for a moment, then Scott suggested we go with a gray that we could easily accent with different colors as we wished. Good thinking, sir. The paint is a cool gray and it looks richer than you might think of when you envision “gray”. We used Water .03 which is actually a blue but in our room it appears gray. I was so glad to get a few of Yolo’s painted posters that we hung on the wall, it showed us exactly how the paint color was going to act under the different light conditions throughout the day.
We tried to be conscious of the environment when we were painting. We bravely decided to skip the plastic tarp and use a canvas one instead, though we did put down a layer of cardboard underneath and used another bit of cardboard to hold the can of paint because, well, I’m clumsy. We gathered rollers from previous paint jobs, my favorite short handled edging brush and a smaller craft paint brush that I use to neaten up my atrociously crooked edges.
We managed not to spill anything! We also used a paint roller tray made from recycled plastic and bought some waste paint hardener. Waist paint hardener is like magic, it soaks up your leftover paint making it into solid so when you dispose of it it won’t leak. Just a note, Yolo paint is available at some Lowe’s stores. They offer all the colors that Yolo makes, we bought ours at the Renton store here in the Seattle area.
When we were ready to open the can of paint we found we didn’t have a stir stick, so we ended up using this old wooden fork we had in the kitchen.
I was all ready to buy the lowest profile bed frame I could find and DIY a headboard and some floating bedside tables in the little space that remained on either side of the bed. We have about 16 inches on either side of the bed and even the bedside tables I could find that are meant for tiny spaces were about 20 inches wide. Even if we could have found one I felt like it would have taken up a bit more visual space than I wanted to give up. That and I’m awfully clumsy so avoiding having yet one more thing I could stub my toe on made sense. I had plans for installing picture ledges on either side of the bed that would be just enough to hold a glass of water, a book and an iPhone and charger. I was pretty excited about it. But then we found a bed frame that has a built in shelf behind the headboard. Problem solved! Additionally it sits fairly low to the ground meaning that the room doesn’t feel filled with a tall bed.
I put these soft woven felt baskets next to the bed to hold extra pillows and iPhone cords. I cannot stub my toe on these no matter how hard I try. It’s basket love.
We have this Muppet-like shag rug at the foot of the bed. It makes my toes warm in the morning as well as reminding me to take my shoes off before I enter the room (a bad habit of mine). I find wool itchy (sad!) so I was happy to find this one made of cotton jersey strips. I’m honestly surprised at how well the rug seems to anchor the room and make it seem more welcoming. I see many more area rugs in my future.
To make this yellow and gray pillow that is out of focus in the photo above (sorry, apparently I didn’t take a better shot) I used silhouettes of our profiles cut out of wool felt. I was hoping it would look like that faces/vase optical illusion but instead it looks like we are about to kiss. This wasn’t my intention but I think it’s sort of cute.
The room is too small to hold a dresser with a top so I had to find some way to store my jewelry where it was organized and I could find it. I used these large cork tiles and t-pins from an office supply store to separate and hold everything. If I get more I can simply add some pins.
It’s great to be able to grab a pair of earrings and not have to spent a few moments untangling them. It’s also great to have a spot where I can put my wedding ring and do a quick check to make sure it’s there. Did I mention I lose things easily? I lose things easily.
What else? We have simple white cotton bedding and curtains to keep the space bright and calm and easy to accessorize should I find myself getting tired of yellow. We added a larger mirror and it makes a huge difference when I’m heading out and need to get a glance at my outfit. I’ve noticed that the sound in the room is softer, I think with the addition of longer curtains, a very dense rug and maybe even the yarn around the lamp sound is deadened a bit. It makes for a very “ahh” sort of feeling when you enter the room.
And last, the overhead light. I really want one of those Random string lamps but cannot afford one. I’ve seen them DIYed and figured this was the perfect time to try it out. And let’s just say I learned some lessons in the course of not getting this one right at all. It mostly fell apart when I deflated the small yoga ball I used as a form, there wasn’t nearly as much yarn in the skein I bought as I thought there would be, and I think my idea of setting it over a light fixture that is set in the ceiling is entirely the wrong way to go. You can’t tell from the photos but this ball is seriously lopsided. But, I did learn that as long as the light fixture is airy like this it doesn’t crowd the room as much as I’d feared, and it softens the room a bit, distracting you from the boxy shape that it is.
You will be hearing more about the string light fixture, at least once I have conquered it.
Huge thanks to Yolo Colorhouse for helping to transform my bedroom!
· comments  · 10-18-2011 · categories:the home ·
Today I’m happy to be a stop on the blog book tour for CakeSpy‘s new book: CakeSpyPresents Sweet Treats for a Sugar-Filled Life. Yay Jessie! I live in Seattle and feel very lucky to know Jessie and see how she has grown her business into a real life shop how she manages to spread bits of joy wherever she goes. The book is filled with her sometimes silly and always awesome baked goods reflect her certain style. Cadbury Creme Eggs Benedict? S’moreos? Cupcake stuffed cupcakes? Deep-fried cupcakes on a stick? All these wonders can be found inside along with her illustrations. It’s more awesome in one place than you could hope for.
· comments  · 10-17-2011 · categories:books · food ·
· comments  · 10-17-2011 · categories:beauty · links ·
Anybody have tips on where to look when you just need a little bit of matching laminate flooring? We could use the help.
Remember the water leak I had last month? We’re on our way to getting it fixed. In the mean time our house with all of it’s stuff moved out of some rooms and into others means we look half hoarder and half squatter around here. It’s been so long that we have come to refer to it as This Is How We Live Now.
Unfortunately the water leak destroyed some of our laminate flooring. Said laminate flooring covers most of the upstairs and kitchen, the stairs down to the front door landing and the landing. It ties our tiny house together very nicely. The water only ruined about 12 boards and we could just replace those if only we could find matching laminate boards. We’ve been told by our very awesome contractors that there is a chance we could find old stock (apparently flooring companies change the colors every year or so, maybe so people like us have to buy all new floors?) but that we shouldn’t hold out hope. The thing is, if we do manage to find a box or two of our old color we could potentially avoid having half of the house ripped up. And I like our current flooring, more than the replacement colors we’ve gone to see so far. We’ve called the store that we know it came from (big box place, little they could do), we’ve Googled to death and have had no luck. I feel like this is a whole other world I know nothing about. So, anybody know of a fantastic old stock or remnants flooring warehouse we might try? By any chance? Oh-I-hope-so please?
· comments  · 10-14-2011 · categories:the home ·
· comments  · 10-13-2011 · categories:links · misc ·
The other weekend I got to visit an alpaca farm with friends.
Alpacas have very soft necks. And they like apples.
There were chickens there too. Chicken butt!
We took a walk on the beach at low tide and found lots of things, including a sea cucumber, some tiny crabs, some truly horrifying looking seaweed, the shell above and one very startled heron.
These rocks looked decorated.
Miss you already sweet things!
· comments  · 10-12-2011 · categories:travel ·
I recently got a manicure and a pedicure for the first time ever. It was pretty darn exciting. After I found myself walking back through the mall to my car wearing the disposable flip flops you see above since I didn’t wear the right shoes. It felt like doing a sort of walk of shame. Has this ever happened to anybody else? Or just me? Why do these things seem to happen to me? I got a regular pedicure and managed to smudge it later that day. Still, the pedicure is still going strong a month or so later.
Here is the manicure shortly after I got it. Shiny!
Since I know how clumsy I am I got a shellac manicure (they didn’t offer it for a pedicure, but I would have done that too). Shellac is awesome. I left the nail place with it shiny and set and two and a half weeks later it was still just as shiny. I only had it taken off because it had grown out to the point that a lot of my nail beds were showing and my nails were longer than they had been since high school. Know what? My shellac manicure lasted through the flooded basement incident and all the moving of furniture and fabric and books and stuff that that entailed, all without my then freakishly long nails breaking. If I could constantly have a shellac manicure I would but I’ve read too many accounts of frequent application and, more likely, removal destroying the health of your nails. So I’ll keep it for special occasions when I know I’ll need my nails to look great for a long stretch of time.
Here is the shellac manicure that is two and a half weeks old. Still shiny! But pretty dramatically grown out.
One note about the shellac manicure: After they have applied the color and the top coat and your nails have been in and out of the UV lights between each step there is one last thing they need to do, which is wipe away the tacky top layer to reveal the very shiny and hard finished manicure. Of course when I was getting my nails did I didn’t know that so I sat though the whole thing and when I thought it was done I was admiring the finish and, oh horror, smudged a nail. I nearly cried until the nice nail lady came back and showed me that they just weren’t quite done yet. My drama might have inspired the “please take these flip flops and get out of here as quickly as possible thanks” thing that happened.
Image taken by Vellumblue, as seen over at Flickr. Thanks for letting me borrow it!
And last weekend I tried those nail polish sticker things. I had my doubts but they’re great so far. Pretty easy to apply and none of that carefully waiting for it to dry stuff that I’m so bad at. These were Halloween themed Sally Hansen Nail Polish Strips. The mini bottle of whiskey that I’m clutching here is a different story altogether.
· comments  · 10-11-2011 · categories:beauty ·
· comments  · 10-10-2011 · categories:halloween · links ·