· comments  · 12-23-2015 · categories:christmas · food ·
A few years ago I made Trick Or Treat Cookies for Halloween and back then I noted that I’d love to do an all-coffin version. And look! It only took me three years!
I decided to imprint the tops with wood grain using a mat meant to imprint on clay, something I first spotted on Martha Stewart (video, there with Jeff Daniels on an April Fools episode). Doing a little research I found Haniela’s (video) has also created these, and her instructions are wonderful. She’s got a lot of great videos for Halloween baked goods, check out this Monster Eye Cake.
I bought my wood grain mat from a local pottery supply store, it’s the wood grain mat sold by Chinese Clay Art. There is a larger wood grain impression mat for fondant on Amazon. (I would have bought that one if I’d had time, also note: affiliate links.)
When you’re cutting out the cookies roll to 1/4″ thick. Roll the dough between two layers of parchment paper, this will keep the chocolate cookies nice and dark. I have a tiny kitchen so I roll dough on my dining room table using a medium sized Roul’pat. It’s pricey but I adore it, it grips the table and the parchment nicely so things don’t slide around, it gives me plenty of space to work on and I can roll it up to store away.
You’ll need one woodgrain top, one flat bottom and two layers of hollow sides for each cookie. I made these with two hollow layers in the middle, instead of the single layer from my original Trick or Treat Cookies, to allow for more room for candy. I used round cutters to cut out the insides because it was far easier than trying to trim out the middles and laziness ruled that day.
I used dark chocolate candy melts to use as glue because it sets faster, but if you have the time real chocolate would taste better. Use a plastic bag with a very small corner snipped off, no need to get out piping tips or a decorating pen for this one.
Gathering candies to go inside was a lot of fun, I wandered around a particularly well stocked candy shop long enough for the employees to get curious and start suggesting spooky candy for me. Here I have:
I wish I had bought the salted licorice black cats because it would make for an interesting good/bad surprise depending on who gets it inside their cookie. I’m pro licorice myself. The wrapped chocolate eyeballs shown here didn’t actually fit in the cookies so let’s all just ignore them. La la la. (Note: affiliate links above.)
Here is the best thing I learned from doing this project: clay art or pottery supply stores are excellent places to get interesting baking supplies. Wandering around Seattle Pottery Supply I saw a whole bunch of tools meant for fondant or baking and I was stunned by the amount of plunger cutters
that allow you to make teeny tiny cookies. Next time I have some creating baking in mind I’m planning to head to the pottery supply store first.
Click more for the recipe: [Read more →]
· comments  · 10-23-2015 · categories:halloween · holidays ·
Here are the things that have caught my eye this Halloween:
Eyeball on a brownie created by Christine McConnell. She’s made a candy eye look so much more threatening than simple sugar. Also take a look a the other treats she created. And the house she decorated. And basically everything else she’s done, it’s stunning.
Prosciutto Wands at Martha Stewart. I first encountered these back in the summer but they instantly made me think of Halloween. Very simple and easy to interpret as ghastly when set on a darkly decorated table.
Bleeding Heart Cake (video) by Ann Reardon at How To Cook That. This is a recreation of a cake in a Taylor Swift video but this entirely edible construction for holding hidden goo until you cut into it deserves to be used for Halloween.
Halloween Witch Hat Surprise Cookies at It’s Always Autumn. Easy to make and very cute, bonus points for mixing some candy eyes in with the other treats inside.
Creepy 3D Ghost Face tutorial from PiggieLuv (video). This uses gel polish built up in layers, creepy. Via this Halloween nail art round up at Brit+Co.
Halloween DIY Googly Eye Manicure at Design*Sponge. Silly and simple. If you’d like something even simpler take a look at the VandalEyes nail stickers at Espionage Cosmetics, both types glow in the dark!
Dark Echo. You can’t see the monsters but you can hear them. I played a demo of this at PAX this year and even standing in a large room filled with people I was frightened when I would finally encounter something that was stalking me. (Mobile on the App Store, Google Play, Amazon Apps and on Steam.)
Spider: Rite of the Shrouded Moon. This is the second Spider game and this one is larger and tells a much darker story. You maneuver a spider around an estate and it’s grounds and find clues as you explore. If spiders freak you out you can play as a tiny walrus instead, which is hilarious. (Available in the App Store, Google Play, Humble Store and Steam, later for Vita and PS4.)
All In Your Head at the 99% Invisible podcast. They detail how the sound designer behind the television show Hannibal made sounds that make us uneasy.
Caitlin Doughty of Ask A Mortician on the Explain Things To Me podcast. A great interview on how she got started in the death business, how embalming became common and what she wants done with her body when she dies. Also listen: Another interview on the Nerdette podcast.
Charles Manson’s Hollywood, a twelve part series on the You Must Remember This podcast. Karina Longworth follows the series of events and the who, how and what sort of society of the time led to the Manson murders. There is meticulous research and in depth stories of the people surrounding Manson’s time in LA. It’s worth looking at the webpage for each episode to see photographs from the time.
Two Halloween playlists for your party needs: at Oh Happy Day and the Marloween 2015 at The Amber Show.
QUESTION FOR YOU
Has anybody tried those lace temporary tattoo masks? Do they stay on for the duration of an evening? I want to try out the various temporary tattoos that are out for Halloween (zombie bites, spiders, masks) but I’m afraid they would flake away after only an hour or so.
· comments  · 10-20-2015 · categories:halloween ·
Remember last year when I went a little manic over dyeing eggs in an effort to get juuust the right colors? Yeah, me to. All the instructions and tips are over here.
· comments  · 04-2-2015 · categories:holidays ·
Winter Punch Recipe – 101 Cookbooks. Citrus, fresh ginger, gin and rosemary. Yum.
How candy canes are made by hand. at Kottke.
Gluing a gingersnap cottage (like a nerd), at Instructables. Directions on how to make your own sugar glue gun inserts.
Watch the Building of the Most Complicated Gingerbread House Ever | FWx. From the people behind Modernist Cuisine.
Holiday Music 2014 | The Amber Show.
How to Make Christmas Tree Napkin Fold – DIY & Crafts – Handimania. Via Swissmiss.
Why Tory MP is the father of all Bernards – Telegraph. Screenwriter Richard Curtis (Love Actually, Three Weddings and a Funeral, etc) nearly always has a character named Bernard in his films, a character who is treated quite badly, this is why. I’m delighted to know that Bernard and the Genie is also named for this reason.
· comments  · 12-23-2014 · categories:christmas · holidays · misc ·
I love gift guides but, honestly, I find myself using them most often for the sources they draw from so please allow me to just go ahead and tell you about the spots I’m using for ideas this year:
Kickstarter at MoMA – That neat stuff that was on Kickstarter but you might have since lost track of? Here it is! Also see: the whole gifts section. (I’ve been eyeing that Bubble Necklace for a few years now. Not a hint. Ok, yes, it’s a hint.)
Good Gift Games at The Morning News – An annual curated list of tabletop games by Matthew Baldwin and one of those things I look forward to every year. I know the guy in person and can vouch that all these games have been well tested over rounds of beer with good people at good pubs. I’m going to throw my support on the Marrying Mr. Darcy: The Pride and Prejudice Card Game and also call up a past game that is a most-played in my house: Forbidden Island.
Cool Tools: Mark’s Picks and Under $10 – Have somebody on your list who is a Maker or very practical or just plain hard to shop for? Cool Tools will have a suggestion for that one thing that they might not already know about. Among the most well received gifts to family that I’ve given have come from past Cool Tools recommendations including a craft assistant setup for a model-making family member and guitar tuning devices for my part-time rock star husband. (If said giftee just likes knowing about neat things they might love the Cool Tools book, which I fully admit to becoming engrossed in myself, it’s huge like a coffee table book and packed with information like a catalog.)
Brit+Co Shop – Among the many awesome things in this shop I’m particularly in love with the Gold Leaf Valet Kit with Lovely Indeed, the customizable wood burnt Cheese Board with Design*Sponge and the wooden Pop-Out Ornament Cards. See also: the whole Tech (Bluetooth Camera Shutter Remote for an iPhone!) and Merrymaking Color Block Muddler!) selections. Full disclosure and blatant self promotion: this winter I have my own collaboration with Brit+Co for a set of mini gingerbread house mug topper cookie cutters which, as of me typing this,
should be back in stock to purchase on Friday 12/12/14. Update: The DIY Kits have sold out, thanks to everybody who purchased one!
What are your favorite sources for the difficult to shop for?
· comments  · 12-8-2014 · categories:christmas · shopping ·
Here are the decorations I’ve collected to decorate the tiny gingerbread houses that decorate mugs which I’ll be making this year. The houses are so small that decorations to be sprinkled on are all you need. I tend to keep an eye out for holiday worthy sprinkles and decorations all year long, so some of these might have had me contemplating the holidays in the middle of July.
Crushed candy canes – Easy, colorful and festive. Also, candy canes are easy to find at the corner store or, say, in the lobby of your bank so you don’t need to make a special trip to find sprinkles. (If you use the pre-crushed sort I promise I won’t tell.)
Nonpareils – Tiny and crunchy and if you get one of those containers with sections for six different colors you can create your own color mix.
Sugar pearls – These are like giant nonpareils, I found these at a discount store.
Itty bitty edible gold foil stars – Itty bitty edible gold stars! These are amazingly cute. I’ve found these sold by Wilton in the baking aisles of Michael’s and Joann stores as well as specialty cooking shops.
Gold dragée – I want more gold in my holidays so I was thrilled when I found these. Unlike their silver counterparts these are safe to eat since they’re made using edible metallic dust.
Oversized sprinkles – Colorful like twinkle lights. These are from Wilton and they make me very happy.
The next three options are great for creating a simple snowy roof:
White nonpareils – I like the details of a sweet covering of precious little snowy white balls.
Sanding sugar – The larger sugar crystals sparkle nicely.
Edible glitter – I bought this at a specialty cake supply store where the owner assured me that the edible glitter is the best for reflecting the sparkle from twinkle lights. I’ve done a terrible job at conveying that in this photo.
The last row are all from a decoration set that came in one container.
Holly leaves and berries – Sweetly festive.
Tiny snowflakes – You can place these individually if you want, or just sprinkle them on and let randomness do it’s job.
Tiny candy canes – Much to my dismay they don’t actually taste of peppermint, but all is forgiven because they are terribly cute.
Don’t forget! This winter I’ve collaborated with Brit+Co on a DIY kit which includes cookie cutters for my tiny gingerbread houses! It makes creating the gingerbread houses very easy. Go have a peek!
· comments  · 11-24-2014 · categories:holidays ·
I’m so utterly thrilled to announce this collaboration with Brit+Co to create a DIY kit for my tiny gingerbread houses that sit on the edge of a mug!
The kit includes two cookie cutters that are 3D printed (!!!) and each kit comes with a mug, a pen for decorating or personalizing the mug and recipes for gingerbread and royal icing. May I suggest that the kit would make a wonderful holiday gift? Even if just for yourself?
They’ve created a complete DIY tutorial for baking and assembling the house.
I couldn’t be more pleased, go have a look!
· comments  · 11-17-2014 · categories:christmas · food · holidays ·
If you need to do some last moment Easter Egg dying these instructions will help you create simple, vibrant eggs using supplies from the grocery store.
A few years back I spent some time using good old fashioned food color to dye very saturated and vibrant eggs for my Easter Surprise Eggs project. I wasn’t quite happy with a few of the colors made back then so this week I set out to refine the process and what went from an easy and cheerful activity quickly turned into obsessive madness as my kitchen and dining room were turned into an egg dying laboratory. Timers were used, results were carefully examined and tweaked, charts were made, home production assembly lines were perfected. (A whole lot of my manic energy came from the fact that most of my week was spent with various crews of workers fixing our ceiling. I’m glad to report that the room is very nearly back to normal.)
The most fun part? I had an excuse to buy eggs in those large flats of 30. I never get to do that!
[Read more →]
· comments  · 04-18-2014 · categories:holidays ·
My Easter treat for this year is a couple of giant Kinder Surprise eggs. Look at how big they are! It’s shown here with a regular sized Kinder Surprise Egg for scale and a Mini Kinder Egg which I added because I happened to find them in a local shop.
The Mini Kinder Eggs are filed with hazelnut paste and bits of hazelnut. They are delicious and I recommend you grab some if you see them.
If you’d like to see what was in my giant Kinder Surprise eggs click through for all the details. (If not I’ll be back later with a spectrum of vibrant eggs dyed using food coloring!)
[Read more →]
· comments  · 04-16-2014 · categories:holidays · kindereggaday ·
I’m not very focused on Valentine’s Day this year, we usually cook a fancy meal and stay in but this year we’re feeling a bit of cabin fever so we’re headed out to see the Lego movie and get cocktails at our favorite local bar. I might still get a little creative, here are some last minute Valentine’s ideas that have caught my attention.
Printable pop culture valentines over at Mighty Girl. See also: her roundup of nerdy valentines.
Valentine’s Day cocktails at Serious Eats. I’m also looking at their bitter anti-Valentines cocktails.
A simple paper heart garland that can be whipped up with office supplies, at Just Bella.
Last minute Valentine’s Day party at Oh Happy Day, a few simple things you can probably grab at Target to make staying in a celebration.
Bake a heart (or a broken heart) into a cupcake from Bake It In A Cake. (I’m still in love with all her ideas.)
I’m not a huge fan of cut flowers (because I’m thinking ahead to when I inevitably leave them too long and end up with dead flowers and a moldy vase) but my favorite Valentine’s gift remains this String Of Pearls plant (even though we’re on version #3) which Scott admits he bought me on the way home from work.
I hope you have a romantic Valentine’s Day, unless you’re dreading Valentine’s Day in which case I hope you have a really amazing Friday.
· comments  · 02-13-2014 · categories:holidays ·
Merry Christmas everyone! I’m going to take the next week off and I’ll be back after the new year. I hope your holidays are warm and full of cheer and all that stuff.
How To Build An Indestructible Gingerbread House : The Salt : NPR.
Bon Appétempt: Video Attempt: How to Make a Bread Wreath. I love that something goes wrong about 3/4ths of the way through. Exactly like at my place but with far more composure and a whole lot less giving up and ordering pizza.
Orangette: From now on, a good recipe for spiced nuts. It’s not too late to make them for the holidays!
Perfect Party Wine: Sparkling Wine Under $20 | Serious Eats: Drinks.
Hot Ginger Toddy – Not Without Salt. I’ve been trying a few toddy recipes this year and this one is my favorite, I took it to a party and it was a big hit.
· comments  · 12-24-2013 · categories:christmas · links ·
· comments  · 12-17-2013 · categories:christmas · links ·
Our Christmas tree this year is an illusion. Well, sort of. It’s created from twinkle lights reflected in a large mirror. The tree is meant to be mostly viewed at night when it is lit up. After all it’s the time of year when by the time we’re home it’s always dark and, let’s face it, we could use some cheer.
When we bought our house it came with a large mirror that we placed at one side of our dining room where it reflects the view all the way down a hall to our back door. It’s in the corner that would make the most sense to set a Christmas tree so I decided to use the mirror instead of obstructing it. I was also still thinking about floating Christmas trees; my previous ornament tree was fun but I missed the twinkly lights. So a floating, lighted, reflected light tree it was. It’s got the added benefit of taking up very little space so we didn’t have to move a pair of chairs out of the way.
Here is another view showing how the tiers of the tree appear to float (if you look really hard you can see me holding the camera):
To assemble the tree I used dowel rods and some metal wreath forms which I took apart. After it’s all together the frame that is assembled is surprisingly sturdy and lightweight but it likely won’t hold a traditional strand of Christmas lights, I went with those micro LED lights on the delicate copper wires. I secretly was looking for an excuse to buy those mini lights because they are awfully charming.
- two strands of 20-foot long micro LED lights on thin wire
- three 1/4 inch dowel rods in the 48 inch length (found at hardware stores)
- six tiny screw eyes, brass if you can find them
- gold twist ties
- 6″ box wreath form, I found these at Jo-ann
- 12″ box wreath form
- 18″ box wreath form
- 24″ box wreath form
- heavy duty wire cutter
- needle nose pliers
- regular pliers (your wire cutter tool might do double duty as this)
- black duct tape
- black electrical tape
- safety glasses (non-negotiable)
- work gloves
- paper or markable surface large enough to cover a work surface or area on the floor that is at least 48″ x 24″
- gold paint and brush (optional)
- thin gold tinsel (optional but nice to have)
- required: a mirror that is at least 48″ tall and 24″ wide
Note on the lights: The micro LED lights shown here were bought at Restoration Hardware and you can also find them over at Amazon in both warm and cool variations.
[Read more →]
· comments  · 12-12-2013 · categories:christmas ·
Each year here in Seattle chefs from the Sheraton hotel pair with architects from various firms to create a Gingerbread Village display that is truly stunning. The village is free to view and donations are taken for the JDFR. This is the 21st year and the theme is “there is a rhyme and reason this holiday season” and the various structures are based on classic nursery rhymes. If you’re here in Seattle I highly recommend making a visit to see the gingerbread village part of your Christmas tradition. It opens this year on November 27th and stays up for viewing in the Sheraton lobby under the new year. If you like to avoid the crowds, or if you just want to extend the holiday as long as possible, going in to see the village after Dec. 25th means you’ll have more time to linger and study the details.
Yesterday I was lucky enough to get a peek at the gingerbread structures in the midst of construction. I managed to play it cool but I was so excited to learn what goes on behind the scenes.
From the factoids I got: “The gingerbread creations are made from an estimated 1,200 pounds of dough, 800 pounds of icing and hundreds of pounds of chocolate, almond paste and candy. Creations are designed in partnership with Seattle’s top architecture firms and trade associations, and are made possible by more than 2,500 volunteer hours from the Sheraton’s hotel staff.”
Chef John Armstrong told us that people keep an eye out for candy they can use all throughout the year.
Since the display is up for over a month they do have to use some non-edible interior support. By the time this is ready to be viewed by the public nothing inedible will be showing.
He also showed us the industrial oven which was massive and has eight surfaces that can each hold a bunch of full sheet pans. Yet in order to bake some of the gingerbread pieces needed they had to extend the baking surfaces to be large enough to hold them. That, people, is some serious gingerbread.
This boat has to be built in pieces because, no joke, it’s too tall to fit inside the room where it’s being constructed.
Kids respond most to the past gingerbread creations that have lights and movement so almost each sculpture will incorporate some of that. This entire ship will sway back and forth, I cannot wait to see it’s finished state.
All the details in the walls here are hand carved into the gingerbread before being baked.
The clock shown here was created by coloring dried pasta then embedding it into a pane of sugar while it was still hot. So smart.
Figurines awaiting showtime.
I love the Gingerbread Village every year but I think this year is going to be really special. Thanks again to the Sheraton and Chef Armstrong for taking the time to show me behind the scenes!
· comments  · 11-21-2013 · categories:christmas · seattle ·