Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Blue Fox Costume

Not long ago Noah sent me a link to a YouTube video. I didn't get the link until he was home, so before clicking on it I asked if Abe could watch it too. He said "yeah, I think so..." and just like that an obsession was born. We watched it twice and as I was putting Abe to bed the next evening, he told me "I had a dream and there was a fox and lights and a chair in the woods..." Apparently that video had made quite an impression. 

Naturally, when I asked him what he wanted to be for Halloween this year, he said "A fox!" Then added, "A blue fox!" and started to sing "What does the fox say? Ning ning nah NAH!!!" 

This costume was relatively easy to make and would have gone even faster if I'd done it all on my machine. I love hand stitching felt though, so it took more than one episode of Project Runway to complete this project. I used this free pattern from Illi Style for the mask and just changed the colors to work with Abe's "blue fox" request. I did two layers of felt to give the mask a little added stiffness and added an elastic band around the back to keep it on his head.

He already had a pair of blue sweatpants (which is why we chose such a bright blue for the rest of the outfit), and because I knew he'd need a warm costume for trick-or-treating in Minnesota, I bought a blue pullover from Old Navy and stitched a large felt circle on the front. I was just planning to cover the pockets but then I realized I'd need to stitch around the zipper at the neck to get it over his head and Noah insisted that I do the same with the pockets. It took longer but if it helps keep his little hands warm I suppose it was worth the extra work.

For the tail, I took a 9x12 inch sheet of felt and cut it in half to make two long, narrow rectangles. Then I cut a couple white triangles and cut zig-zags along the bottom. I attached the white triangles to the ends of my blue rectangles, and then put the two tail pieces with right sides together and stitched all the way around the outside edge, leaving an opening at the base of the tail. After turning the tail right side out, I stuffed it with Poly-fil, closed up the opening, and attached it to a belt I'd made from a piece of blue ribbon and a couple D-rings. Did any of that make sense? I suppose I could draw up a pattern at some point, but I'm still working on Edie's costume so it'll have to wait.

This will be Abe's fourth Halloween wearing an animal costume. (Last year he was a dinosaur and the year before a white direwolf pup.) Edie will not be an animal and I won't either, although I'd reconsider it if I could walk around the neighborhood wearing a horse head mask and drinking wine like the guy in the video...

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Pumpkin Patch

After a number of cold, rainy weekends, we finally had a nice one - beautiful actually - so we took advantage of the great weather and made our annual trip to the pumpkin patch! 

Nothing like waiting til the last minute to pick our pumpkins. At least they had lots of pumpkins left...probably because the previous weekends were so miserable.

I put Edie down next to a pumpkin and she immediately said "ball!" Then she proceeded to eat a stick.

Of course we came home with the cutest pumpkins in the patch!

This time of year always makes me think of that Robert Frost poem "Nothing Gold Can Stay." It runs through my head as I'm raking leaves. It makes fall even more beautiful...and raking leaves a little less monotonous.

Abe had so much fun running around picking out pumpkins. He liked the funny shaped ones. We ended up with a few more than we needed...

Abe looked so much bigger on the tractor this year than he did last year. It's hard to believe we've been coming here since he was smaller than some of the pumpkins!

Edie is pulling herself up on everything these days and I think she's almost ready to start letting go!

As I was taking pictures of Edie, Abe said "I'm going to ride the horse" and the next thing I knew he'd climbed up there and was having a blast. He wouldn't let us start it up though.

Fall colors are so much prettier in the sunshine! I'm glad the gray skies went away before the last leaves fell. Here's hoping it stays this gorgeous until the snow flies...and hoping the snow doesn't fly until December!

After the pumpkin patch we made a quick stop at the Apple House and came home with some Honeygolds and Firesides - two of my favorite apples! 

 For more information about the pumpkin patch we visited, see this post about it from our trip there last year.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Glittery Urchin

Awhile back we bought a couple bookshelves to fill an awkward corner of our living room. I've been meaning to share some before and after/in progress shots of the room, but it's coming together very slowly so I'm not in a huge rush to take pictures at this point. I am, however, filling up our new shelves with books, photos, and a few other objects to occupy the empty spaces. This is one of those space fillers...

I've made these before as Christmas ornaments, but this time I improved my method by using oven bake clay to hold it all together. It worked great and this one seems much sturdier than my previous models.

Here's what you'll need: a small bar of oven bake clay (Michael's and Joann Fabrics carry the 2 oz. bars), a bag of wooden craft sticks (also available at Michael's and Joann), Mod Podge, and glitter.

Roll a small (about 1 inch) ball of clay (I used almost 1/2 of a 2 oz. package) and insert craft sticks using the method described here. Once the craft sticks are inserted, put the whole thing on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven at 275° F for 1 hour. (The directions say to bake it 15 minutes for every 1/4 inch of thickness. Since my clay ball was about 1 inch across I had to bake it 4 times longer. Adjust the cooking time if your ball is larger or smaller than 1 inch.)

When it is finished baking, let the ball cool completely before adding glitter. I skipped the painting step this time around, but it does help conceal spots where the glitter isn't thick enough, so I'd recommend painting it first. Then use a paintbrush to apply Mod Podge, add glitter, and put it out where you can admire it everyday!

Oh, and if you're wondering about my zinc M in the background...I thought I followed the instructions found here for a DIY version of Anthropologie's zinc letters, except I swear the instructions I followed said to really glop on the black paint and spread it around with your hands, so that's what I did. Then I sprayed the whole thing with silver spray paint (found at Michael's). And since I couldn't find a cardboard M I liked at the craft store I bought a W instead. The M they had was too straight up and down (University of Michigan style) - we're Gopher fans.

Originally I intended to paint my imitation urchin silver, but I really liked the glittery ones I made for Christmas, so I decided to use this dark blue glitter I found at Michael's. I think these would look cool though with any color glittery, metallic, or even neon paint! The next time you see my shelves they might just be covered in a rainbow of spiky spheres...

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

More Halloween Art

If all my years of shooting weddings and family portraits in the fall has taught me one thing it's that fall colors are at their peak during the first two weeks of October in the Twin Cities. Earlier than that and most of the trees are still green; wait much longer and most of the branches will be bare. However, this leaf-dropping timeline apparently does not apply to the giant maple tree in our front yard. Every year that tree seems to cling to its leaves longer and longer, and every year I fear another Halloween blizzard that could leave our front yard covered in an ugly blanket of snow and matted leaves. I'm not really sure how to keep the snow away or convince our tree that it's time to start shedding some leaves, but I can make our house a little more Halloweeny on the inside. 

Candy Corn Footprints

There's all kinds of Halloween creatures you can make with hand and foot prints. Last year we made spiders, two years ago we made ghosts, this year we made candy corn.

I started by using acrylic paint to paint a piece of cardboard black, then used a brush to paint white, orange, and yellow stripes on my kids' feet. I had Abe step on the cardboard to transfer the paint, but I kept Edie in her highchair and carefully pressed the board against her foot. I kept a wet paper towel close by to wipe off their feet as soon as we were done, although we still managed to get paint everywhere!

Crinkly Legged Spiders

I remember making these construction paper spiders all the time as a kid. Cut one piece of black construction paper into 8 long strips and cut a large circle from another half piece of paper. Normally, I'd fold the paper for the legs back and forth to make them crinkly. Abe didn't quite get that folding action and started crumpling them instead. Worked just as well if not better! Once the legs are crumpled, attach them to the underside of the spider with glue.

Flip the spider over and add some googly eyes. The more the scarier!

Poke a couple holes in the back and attach a white string or piece of yarn for hanging. Hang it in a spot that creeps you out every time you walk past it in the dark...

Bat Clips

Abe made this bat from a template I found from my teaching days. Cut a bat body and wings from black construction paper, glue the body to the wings, add a couple eyes and some teeth...

...and glue to a clothespin so you can hang them up around the house. I'm thinking we might start making these every year until we have a whole colony of bats! 

Finger Painted Pumpkins

Edie woke up early from her nap the other day and to keep her occupied while Abe slept I let her do a little finger painting. Painting doesn't keep her busy for long though. She usually starts trying to eat the paint, at which point I clean her up and call it a day...or a finished masterpiece. Whatever. 

This time I cut a couple circles from her finished painting, and added faces with a Sharpie to make jack-o-lanterns. If this was Abe's project I'd have him add the faces with a marker or cut paper himself.

So that's as far as we've gotten with Halloween decorating this year. We haven't even gotten pumpkins yet! Hopefully there'll be a few left in the field when...and if...we ever get there. If you're looking for more Halloween inspiration, check out my Halloween posts from previous years here, or browse through my Halloween board on Pinterest to see what inspires me!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Dinosaur Bone Breadsticks

The bone breadsticks I made for Abe's birthday are super easy and fun for a dinosaur party, dog party, or even Halloween! Here's what we did...

I'm sure this would work with any homemade or store-bought bread dough, but to save time I just used a can of Pillsbury's Classic Pizza Crust. It's easiest to work with cold dough so don't take the can out of the fridge until you're ready to start!

1. Spread out the dough on a cookie sheet and use a pizza cutter to cut the dough into 6 or 7 long strips. 

2. With either the pizza cutter or kitchen shears, make a small slit at each end.

3. Pinch the dough together in the middle and pull apart the ends (where you made the slits) to shape the dough into "bones."

4. Bake 12-15 mintues at 400° F or whatever is recommended for the dough you use. 

These can be brushed with a little butter or olive oil but wait until they've been baking for at least 10 minutes before brushing it on. I brushed the first batch with olive oil before putting them in the oven and the dough wasn't sticky enough to hold together where I'd pinched it.

I made at least a dozen of these and they were all gone by the end of the party! That hardly ever happens...

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

S'mores Cake

So Abe's dinosaur dig s'mores cake was a devil's food chocolate cake basically covered with a giant marshmallow and coated with crushed graham crackers. Sounds weird, but it was delicious! It was however missing that roasted marshmallow flavor. I suppose the marshmallow topping could be toasted with a kitchen torch or under a hot broiler, but I tend to set marshmallows on fire so I decided to stop while I was ahead.

Edie is allergic to milk, which means I have to avoid dairy foods as well. Since it's almost impossible to make a cake without a little sampling along the way (right?) I did a quick search online to find out if there were any dairy-free cake mixes out there. I was surprised to find that Duncan Hines actually had some dairy-free options! A quick trip to the grocery store, and I came home with a box of their devil's food cake mix  (double check the ingredient list before buying - not all of their cakes are dairy-free).

Next I needed frosting. Since my go-to cream cheese frosting was out, I was a little more determined to try a marshmallow frosting. Most of the recipes I found contained eggs or butter, and none of them sounded very marshmallow-y so I decided to make my own. Actually, I didn't create a marshmallow frosting recipe so much as mixed up a batch of Martha's homemade marshmallows and poured the gooey mixture over my cake. Then I coated my sticky "frosting" with graham cracker crumbs (instead of the powdered sugar called for in the recipe). The texture was a little different since it was spongy like a marshmallow instead of creamy like normal frosting, but I could get used to these marshmallow covered cakes!

For the T. Rex skeleton, I found this silicone ice cube tray from Fred & Friends (they also have a triceratops version), which says right on the box that it's safe for temperatures up to 446° F. Perfect for making an edible white chocolate skeleton! I made the fossils a few days ahead. Just melt chocolate chips (or candy wafers) in a double-boiler (I used a ceramic bowl over a pot of boiling water), and pour into the mould. The mould I used was pretty flexible so it helped to put it on a plate before pouring the chocolate in. I also discovered that it works best to put the mould in the freezer (plate and all) until the chocolate sets. It was easy to pop the pieces out once they were frozen. They looked a bit shiny though right out of the mould so I dusted the pieces with graham cracker crumbs for a more believable "I've been buried for 65 million years" look.

So from certain angles my cake looked sort of...lopsided. That's because after pouring the marshmallow layer in the middle, I neglected to put any skewers in to hold it in place. Once I poured the marshmallow on top and started spreading it around the top layer started to shift and I wasn't able to move it back into place. I did put a few skewers in to prevent it from shifting further and removed those the next morning once the marshmallow was set. Oh, and I left it out on the counter lightly covered with plastic wrap to set overnight. I was afraid the cake might dry out, but it was still perfect the next day. 

I considered doing a chocolate, chocolate, chocolate version but couldn't find chocolate graham crackers anywhere, and I liked the sandy look of the regular graham crackers. Maybe I'll do a chocolate version for Edie's birthday...