Not Martha

links: halloween

Melting Wicked Witch Cookies at Juniper Moon Fiber Farm.

Spider Pinata DIY at Oh Happy Day. That is one meaty looking spider.

Easy Last-Minute Costume Ideas For Adults | Celebrations with Design Mom. This video has a few simple ideas that are low-commitment but still fun.

Pumpktris, A Playable LED Lit Game of Tetris Inside of a Pumpkin, at Laughing Squid.

Secret Horror – The Morning News. Six horror movies you might not know about but are worth watching.

skulls at Design Crush. A post by yours truly.

· comments [1] · 10-31-2012 · categories:halloween · links ·

links: misc

What books make the best audiobooks? | Ask MetaFilter.

Design Crush » Curious Vase. Three vases nestled inside each other, you have to break one to see what shape the next one is. Love it.

The True Spy Story Behind Argo – By Nate Jones | Foreign Policy. I read the Antonio J. Mendez book which tells the true story of the mission.

· comments [2] · 10-29-2012 · categories:links · misc ·

Halloween Gingerbread Tree

Remember last year when I made a 3D Gingerbread Christmas Tree out of interlocking cookies so that the tree stands on it’s own? I had so much fun making it that I decided to do something for Halloween too. This time I made a tree from four pieces so that the eight branches resemble spider legs. Perched in a dish of candy it looks rather creepy.

To make this I used one batch of Gingerbread House dough from Simply Recipes that was divided into four equal pieces before chilling it. I roll it to 1/4-inch thickness and bake it until the edges are browning so that it’s as dry and strong as possible. Directions and templates are all below.

I think I have some changes to make but in the mean time I feel like I’ve figured out how to roll out gingerbread dough with as little swearing as possible. As much as I love making gingerbread for construction purposes I really dislike rolling it out. Here is my set up:

The Roll-Pat is an investment but it gives me a smooth surface to use. It grips the tabletop and keeps parchment paper from slipping. A nice, heavy and super wide rolling pin with handles also makes a huge difference, before this I only had a cylinder rolling pin but this one with handles makes the job a lot easier. I have a 15″ rolling pin and it is large enough for everything I’ve used it for so far. I have both silicone and rubber rolling pin rings (one set has 1/2 inch and the other has 5/8ths inch heights). I cannot fit the thicker rubber rings around my larger rolling pin so I switch to my narrower rolling pin if I need to use them.

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· comments [13] · 10-26-2012 · categories:food · halloween ·

links: craft

How To: Make a Modern Geometric DIY Leather Mouse Pad » Curbly.

From the mailbag: flickering LEDs in series | Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories.

Technique – Finish Strings of Beads with Bead Tips – Luxe DIY.

Flower Party Blowers at Oh Happy Day.

· comments [0] · 10-24-2012 · categories:craft · links ·

links: halloween

DIY Spider Placecards | The Sweetest Occasion.

Mighty Thirst, Halloween: Killer Bloody Mary | Mighty Girl. Adore the garnish.

10 Caramel Apples You Should Consider Making | Hitting Refresh with Laura Mayes.

Bake It in a Cake • Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting.

A Salem-Lover’s Tourism Guide | The Hairpin.

· comments [0] · 10-22-2012 · categories:halloween · links ·

Trick-Or-Treat Cookies for Halloween

Trick-or-Treat Cookies, with a surprise inside.

These Trick-or-Treat cookies have a surprise inside. Each cookie either holds a treat, like mini chocolate candies, or a trick, here they are small sugar ants. Which will you get? You’ll have to break one open to find out.

How to make Trick-or-Treat cookies:

Make one or more batches of cut out cookie dough (recipe below, or use your favorite) and after chilling it take it out of the fridge to warm up so it can be rolled out. Preheat your oven to 350 and clear a shelf in your fridge or a spot in your freezer large enough to hold a cookie sheet.

Trick-or-Treat Cookies, with a surprise inside. Roll and cut first half of dough.

Roll out one half of your dough between two sheets of parchment paper to a 1/4th inch thickness. Remove the top layer of parchment and cut out your cookies, dipping the cutter in flour to keep it from sticking. We’ll be baking the cookies on this same parchment so space them about an inch apart.

Right now you are cutting two parts of each cookies (the top and the bottom) so if you have an asymmetrical cutter be sure to flip it over and cut half of them mirror image, as shown above.

Trick-or-Treat Cookies, with a surprise inside. Trim parchment paper.

Trim the parchment away from the dough so that it’s small enough to sit on your cookie sheet and slide the parchment onto the cookie sheet. Put this in the fridge or freezer to firm up so you can pull away the excess dough.

Later we’ll baking the cookies right on this sheet so trimming the parchment means they’ll bake flat. I keep the cookies on this same parchment throughout so they don’t have a chance to lose their shape.

Trick-or-Treat Cookies, with a surprise inside. Chill dough, then remove from around cut out shapes.

Once the dough has firmed up pull away the excess from around the cut out shapes. You can save the scraps for more cookies later.

Trick-or-Treat Cookies, with a surprise inside. Chill again, then bake.

Before baking chill the cookies and the cookie sheet again for about 10 minutes before putting them in the oven. (You can roll out your second layer while you’re waiting, instructions are just under the next photo.)

Bake for about 10 minutes, checking and rotating the cookie sheet half way through. After that check often and remove once the edges of the cookies are just starting to look brown and the tops look set.

Slide the parchment onto a cooling rack and let them sit for a few minutes until the cookies are cool and strong enough to slide them off the parchment and right onto the cookie rack.

Trick-or-Treat Cookies, with a surprise inside. Roll out second half of dough thicker.

Roll your second half of the dough to 1/2″ or 3/8″ thick. You’ll be cutting the middles for you cookies so only cut half as many this time, so if you cut six earlier, you only need three now. (No need to make mirror image cut outs this time.) Use smaller cutters to create a hole in the center of each shape.

Trick-or-Treat Cookies, with a surprise inside. Chill and remove outside and inside of dough.

Trim the parchment, slide onto a cookie sheet and chill the dough as you did for the first round. When it’s firm remove the excess dough from the outside as well as the inside of your shapes.

Trick-or-Treat Cookies, with a surprise inside. Chill and bake.

Again, chill these very well on the cookie sheet before baking them. Check and rotate after five minutes and keep an eye on them after that. Remove when the bottom edges begin to brown and cool carefully, as you did for the first set.

Trick-or-Treat Cookies, with a surprise inside. Arrange top and bottom cookie layers, then glue bottoms on.

While your cookie pieces are cooling mix up some glue from one cup of powdered sugar and four tablespoons of milk (as per the recipe below). Put this into a sandwich sized zip bag and clip a teeny tiny corner off.

Lay your cookies out so the bottom piece has the flattest side up, the middle and tops will have the flattest side down. When constructed the top and the bottom of your cookies will show the pretty side that was up while they were baking and they’ll look nice and tidy. If you have asymmetrical cookies here be sure all the bits will match when they are sandwiched.

Glue the middle part of your cookie to the bottom.

Trick-or-Treat Cookies, with a surprise inside. Fill cookies with treat or trick, here mini M&Ms or sugar ants.

Fill the cookies with your trick or your treat. Be random, no cheating! Don’t overfill them and check to make sure the top of your cookie will fit on with no trouble. It’s much easier to do this not before more sugar glue is introduced.

Trick-or-Treat Cookies, with a surprise inside. Filling different shapes of cookies.

I made four different shapes: pumpkins, ghosts, tombstones and coffins (my favorite).

Trick-or-Treat Cookies, with a surprise inside. Detail.

A detail shot to show the middle layer of cookie is a bit thicker than the top and bottom layers.

Glue the top on, decorate if you’d like, and you’re done! Now, serve these and see how much fun people have breaking them open.


Important: Make sure anything you might put inside these cookies is edible, you don’t want somebody accidentally swallowing something like a plastic spider (which I really, really wanted to hide inside these).

These cookies were inspired by the Pinata Cookies made over at She Knows, which are genius. Since I didn’t need mine to be striped I used a cut out sugar cookie recipe instead and created a thicker middle layer. I did try to cut the cookies out when the dough comes out of the oven and is still warm, the technique that is in the She Knows recipe, but found it created an edge that was too crumbly.

I used a set of seven Halloween cookie cutters made by Wilton for the cookies you see here. I cannot seem to find the same set online, it came packaged in a coffin shaped box and it’s probably already 50% off at Joann. The middles of my cookies were cut out using my Ateco 12-piece round cutters, which I love and find myself using often.

I find rolling dough to be tedious so I invested in a Roll-Pat (that page shows it as Roul-Pat but mine says Roll-Pat on it). It’s similar to a Silpat but oversized and the bottom layer grips your counter top. This is lovely because I prefer to roll dough between two layers of parchment and this keeps the parchment from slipping on my counter top. Love it, especially as what I think of as gingerbread construction season arrives.

There are so many options for what tricks you can hide inside, here I used some black cake decorations made by Wilton, they are complete edible but don’t taste like much. I also considered some small flat sour gummy candies, salted licorice coins, various cake decorations (skull and crossbones!) and Pop Rocks. For the treats the only things could find that are small enough are mini M&Ms or (my favorite) Valrhona Perles Craquant. Sadly I found that Reeses Pieces or candy corn wouldn’t fit inside, I tried. A friend mentioned that mini-candy corn might exist in the world and if I’d managed to find some I definitely would have used that as well.

I’m also considering seeing if I can make the coffin cookies tall enough to fill with some sugar skeleton pieces I found. I’d also include the Valrhona Perles Craquant as graveyard dirt. And small gummi worms if I can find some.

Trick-or-Treat Cookies, with a surprise inside.

Click more for the recipe. [

· comments [100] · 10-18-2012 · categories:food · halloween ·

links: travel

We are visiting Paris for 5 days in mid-September. Where should we stay? | Ask MetaFilter. Lots of great inexpensive options here.

Sprizee :: A simple girl replete with complications: Roadtrip to Zillah. A teepee with an air conditioner on a working ranch, my kind of place! Sprizee is becoming my personal travel recommendation source.

Kinder Eggs and Codeine Cough Syrup: Contraband across the Canadian border | Ask MetaFilter. What to buy while in Canada.

On the Road: Good Beer & Food on the Las Vegas Strip.

· comments [3] · 10-17-2012 · categories:links · travel ·

links: halloween

Hungry Happenings: Skull and Crossbones Mozzarella Cheese Shapes for your Halloween party. – How to melt and shape cheese using silicone molds..


Halloween Food: Piggy Coffins! | The GastroGnome.

Skull Votives | Freshly Picked. I love the glittery interiors of these, and I love that they are a pretty easy and impressive DIY.

· comments [0] · 10-15-2012 · categories:halloween · links ·

links: misc

swissmiss | Makeably. A site where you can find makers to help you create custom anythings.

Guide me home shoes « Variations on normal by Dominic Wilcox. These are amazing, go have a look.

Luminata « Tea & Cookies. I’ve been meaning to get to one of these for a while, so glad Tea was able to document this one so well (I was out of town).

Barbican’s Rain Room at Kottke. An art installation that tracks your movements so it rains all around you but you stay dry as you pass through the room.

· comments [0] · 10-11-2012 · categories:links · misc ·

Visiting America’s Test Kitchen

I was in Boston recently and got a chance to tour the offices of America’s Test Kitchen. It was utterly thrilling! At the time we visited most of the staff were up in Vermont filming episodes of Cook’s Country so the upshot was that instead of feeling hopelessly in the way my group got a chance to have a nice look around. Huge thanks to Steph for arranging and giving us the tour, it was an excellent way to start our trip.

Thanks to Busywork, A and Scott for cheerfully joining me. Especially considering for some of us it was hideously early in the day and for others it was well past lunchtime.

We got to peek at their library of cookbooks and recipe related publications and learned that they have their own classification system. And they do have a full set of Modernist Cooking which I was too afraid to touch without gloves. (This being the second time I was too timid to grab these books makes me all that much more likely to carry my own cotton and/or latex gloves just in case I should encounter the set again.) We also got a brief look into their photo studio which is actually a corner room that gets fantastic light. Their room was full of bounces, which makes a northern-dweller like me feel better about what lengths I’ll to through to get a half way decent photo on dim days.

The offices and studio are in an old building and space is limited so shelves holding cookware are everywhere. Everything is organized and labeled and I desperately envy their collection of All-Clad. Know what? They do use paper plates to separate frying pans and plates when they are stored, just like the tip in the magazines.

They have two kitchens, the larger one you see during the show and a smaller one where recipes are developed. They have walls of ovens and Kitchenaid mixers and storerooms full of the recommended appliances, which they keep for two years in case they need to do some follow up testing with them.

They use gas stoves for recipe development but somewhere, hidden under a countertop, is an electric stove that they test all recipes on to make sure people with electric stoves (including myself) will have the same results.

The show is underwritten by certain brands so they are unable to test and recommend those brands’s products. On the other side they cannot accept underwriting from companies whose products they test and will potentially recommend, which is why you won’t see underwriting from cookware brands you might know and love yourself. They purchase all the equipment they test and never accept freebies.

The larger kitchen looks just like you see on the show but overhead are lights and cords, and when they are filming cameras and sound equipment are crammed all around one counter.

When you see people working in the background of filmed segments they really are cooking, but are doing so more slowly and quietly they they would normally. If they need activity to fill in the background beyond what would normally be going on, we were told, you can often see interns making batches upon batches of cookies.

One of the most delightful things we learned was that all their grilling is done in the alley outside the building. They test things on multiple grills (and we saw at least 20 grills while we were there) so if anything is being slow cooked or smoked there will always be somebody out there.

If you turn around you are looking at a few parking spaces which is where they film back yard segments. This is why they thank their neighbors at the end of each episode. They also send over cookies, which have got to be the very best thank you cookies ever. Gosh I wish I was their neighbors.

One of the most popular places to be at the end of the working day is peeking inside the leftovers fridge where all the food made that day is portioned and available to be taken home by employees. (Curse our 10 a.m. visiting time.)

This oven right here is the one you see Bridget using in the show. Which: Eeeee! I have seen so many perfectly finished things emerging from this oven.

The Wall of Awesome is updated each week with the good stuff people blog and tweet about. This photo was taken really early in the week and I can only imagine what it looks like by Friday. I have to admit I was inspired to know that the people there (who work six or more months in advance) could see the ecstatic results of what they do as they speed past on their way to making cranberry sauce in, say, June. So, cheers to America’s Test Kitchen! I’m amazed at how much quality you pack into such a small space. Here is to many more years of the test kitchen on public television!

· comments [28] · 10-9-2012 · categories:travel ·

links: food

Bake It in a Cake • Get ready for your life to change. Creme brulee in a cupcake. OMG yes.

What is your homebrew sanitization process? | Ask MetaFilter.

3 Female Craft Brewers to Watch | Serious Eats: Drinks.

DIY Friday: Make an Altoids Mini-BBQ. Perfect For S’Mores! | Gadget Lab |

A video pronunciation guide to Scotch, at Kottke.

Chocolate Butterflies with Wax Paper and Books · Edible Crafts.

· comments [3] · 10-8-2012 · categories:food · links ·

Design Camp Seattle recap

I had an excellent time at AB Chao’s Design Camp here in Seattle. The Pantry at Delancey was a perfect and charming location (and so very convenient to Essex’s 4:30 opening time). I came away from the two day class looking at my house with a critical and organized view and with a clear plan for a whole bunch of problem spots (ahem, my window coverings). The second day of class included going over a room in each attendees home and mine was troublesome, I think all my classmates might agree. The exercise was amazing because I found myself applying everything I’d learned the day before and, this was great, feeling like I can do this. Among the swag that comes with the class is a USB/bottle opener (right?!) with the whole presentation on it including the resources that I completely forgot to write down.

My favorite bits, though, were getting to hang with the women whose sites I’ve read for years: da*xiang, Erica Mulherin and of course AB Chao. Ladies, it was an honor!

You can find more pictures of Design Camp Seattle over at AB Chao’s site because somebody forgot to charge her camera battery and needed to use my camera instead. Only with her way-better lens.

· comments [4] · 10-3-2012 · categories:the home ·

links: the home

easy DIY outdoor candle stakes | a subtle revelry. Via Design Crush.

Three Apartment Makeovers | Making it Lovely. I like all these quick makeovers, excellent job Nicole!

Radar Sconces from Schoolhouse Electric. | Door Sixteen. Many colors.

Cool Tools – Tool Rental Know-How. Some neighborhoods in Seattle have tool lending libraries.

· comments [4] · 10-2-2012 · categories:links · the home ·

links: craft

So Many Sweets: Guest Post: DIY Cookie Cutter. Full instructions on making your own shaped cookie cutters, via Edible Crafts.

Cool Tools – OLFA Auto-Lock Utility Knife. A simple, safe and inexpensive utility knife.

Cool Tools – Recommendation for a store that carries all sorts of fasteners and buckles.

Laura’s Loop: Cashmere Cuff – the purl bee. These are chunky grown up friendship bracelets.

DIY Vintage Salt and Pepper Shakers | Say Yes to Hoboken.

· comments [6] · 10-1-2012 · categories:craft · links ·