Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Monster Post about a Monster Party...

 Ever feel like you're being watched?

     Lots of eyeballs big and small kept tabs on the kids at our most recent Halloween party!  In keeping with my desire to do non-traditional Halloween parties, this year I wanted to do a Monster party.  Pinterest has just got gobs of so many cute monster party ideas that I couldn't stand it.  Many of the things you will see were inspired by pins on my board, like this eyeball monster by Dave Lowe though much of it is also straight out of my squishy gray matter. For example:

As soon as I saw these vibrant gerbera daisies, I knew I wanted some flowers and I knew I wanted eyeballs in those flowers.  A couple of 6 packs of ping pong balls and a Sharpie high later, I had an assortment of cute cartoonish eyeballs.  I bought the fern and the flowers and managed to stick the ping-pong eyes on with mounting tape.  All it took for the fern was tape, and for the flowers, I stuck a flat-head pin through a piece of tape, taped it to the ball, and stabbed the sharp end of the pin into the disk of the flower.  Worked like a charm!

     I also wanted there to be a lot of texture and color, so I bought a bunch of brightly colored boas and used them as I would streamers as well as general fluffy beauty.

There are several similar wreaths on Pinterest.  I made this one with two 6 foot boas and 6 ping pong eyes.  I just hot glued the eyes on.

I grouped all the eyes in one spot so it would look more like a creature than a decoration.

My friend Tori made this beautiful banner and I hung it on the table because it looked a little like teeth!

She also made pumpkins with candles and those super cute candy corn pots filled with candy corn and zombie finger puppets!  When I saw those napkins on Zulily I had to have them because they looked so much like monster hair!  But they were so cute, nobody used them, they thought they were decorations! 

 Of course, once all the decorations are set up and the candles lit, it's time to let the kids in, right?

This is my youngest.  He is the King of all Monsters.  He is part monster, part zombie, part ghost, part vampire, part alien, with a tentacle arm.  'Cuz hellz yeah.

Grim Reaperess here made her own scythe.  Admirable!

Homemade Sgt. Calhoun from Wreck It Ralph.  Her costume lights up!

Dr. Doofenschmertz and a bearded monk.

My other son.  A robot with a door that opens to see his innards.  Two boxes, some aluminum foil, and a trip to Ace Hardware.  Booya!

My cat.  The only one of my dependents who has not be vociferously demanding a costume for the last 363 days.  Clearly amused.

And here we have a rag-tag group of "Momsters."  Tutu tutorials are rampant on the web so I whipped up a few for these ladies, I found the leggings at Value Village and the teal and orange monster hats are something I banged together; more on those later.  The overall idea for the costume came from the blog Seven Thirty Three.  It says a lot that these ladies are willing to dress like this and tromp around in the woods with me after dark without being paid or plied with booze.

We shoved a little food in our pie holes after everyone arrived.  My contribution was:

Eyeball Soup.  The idea came from Martha Stewart, but I used my own recipe.

Tomato Soup
1 tsp Olive oil
2 medium onion, cleaned and sliced
2 medium sized carrot, sliced
4 small cloves garlic, pressed
4 quarts of tomatoes
6 leaves of basil, finely chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a pan and saute the onion until soft.  Add the carrot and cook for 2 minutes.  Stir in garlic and cook for about 30 seconds to allow the flavor to bloom, then deglaze the pan (use any fluid you like, I used vodka).  Add tomatoes and cook until carrots are soft.  Blend the soup with a blender or immersion blender until smooth.  Salt and pepper.  Add basil just before serving.

These eyeballs are tiny bocconcini cheeses and olives.  I cut a small conical opening in the cheese with a paring knife and sliced the tips off some black olives.  Just squish 'em in!  I kept the eyeballs in a separate bowl since I put the soup in a crock pot to keep it warm and I didn't want the cheese to melt.  They kept great overnight in the fridge in an airtight container.

I also made my quick and easy homemade orange soda.

We asked our guests to bring food too, which really cut down the food prep work this year!

After food it was game time, of course!

The kids threw eyeballs into monster boxes my gal Danika made.  It's amazing how much they love having a chance to display their throwing and aiming skills.  They are based on these adorable tattle monsters from Giggles Galore.

They also played a game called "Who's got the Monster Paw?"  I modified the basic premise of "Who's got the Button?"  To make the paw, I cut the fingers out of an old glove, sewed some yarn on it, and each kid got a turn to wear it (he's actually got it on backward in this picture).  To play, one child is chosen as guesser and sent out of the room, another child is chosen to have the paw and puts it on, all the kids sit on their hands so that the paw is hidden and the guesser returns and guesses who has the paw.  As soon as the paw is discovered, the wearer becomes the guesser and leaves the room.  Play continues until everyone has had a chance to wear the paw and guess.  We played a trick on the last player and gave the paw to a grown up.  The kids loved it!

After all the stalling till it got dark, it was finally time to take them into the woods.  I sprayed each kid with some "Monster Protection Spray" (water), gave them each a flashlight, and lead the way to the forest.  I informed them that they were also going to need a disguise to keep the monsters from noticing them, too.  The first thing they got was a hat and a set of fangs.  

Later, they got some tails. Then they got to touch some actual monsters! 

These were eyeball monsters from the planet EyeGore.  I got the idea for these from the Fun At Home with Kid's blog.  I loved how her eyeballs caught the light and new I needed these things to glow in the dark.  I found six touch lights at a second hand store and knew they'd be perfect for the woods.  I had actually hoped this light would fit into the bottom of the fish bowl, but it was a little too big.  It worked out OK just to hold it underneath, though.  As for the rest of the lights:
Box monsters!  We had been racking our brains to figure out how to make monsters in the woods.  About a week before the party, we received some new stools in the mail, and the boxes were perfect!  I painted pupils on some lights with some patio paint and used mounting tape to affix them to the boxes.  Lauren helped me give this beauty her swagger.

This guy, who I promised the kids probably wouldn't eat them, was three boxes taped together, supported on either side with a couple of logs, and covered with leaves.  I used a piece of string to keep the eye flap open.

Their next adventure was a trek through the eyeball forest.  I got two different size white beach balls from Oriental Trading Company and painted the end opposite the inflation spout, which already conveniently has that round patch.

Even the roots had eyes thanks to Danika and Matt!


The final pieces of their disguise were some eyes and antennae. Then I dropped the bomb on them!  Instead of "Monster Protection Spray," I had actually used "Turn to Monster Spray!!" They were going to be stuck like this for the rest of the night!  In order to release them back into the wild, they were going to have to be cataloged.

Then back to the house to wild rumpus it up for a few more minutes before it was time to go home!

My kids have been wild rumpusing it up for a few days now...

I hope you have a monstrously fun Halloween!

P.S. I've got gobs more Monster Party ideas pinned on my Pinterest Board.  I'm also considering making a tutorial on those hats if you guys want it.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Spine-Chilling Soda...

 Homemade Chemical-Free Soda Pop

     My kids love soda as much as any other kids, though they hardly ever get "real" soda like cola or root beer because the chemical sludge in them is too scary for even the most Halloween-hardened humanoid.  Recently, a friend and I attended an interview with Mollie Katzen, author of the Moosewood Cookbook and many others, as part of an innovative series of lectures and demonstrations about food the library system in my area is sponsoring this year.  She has such an engaging and relaxed personality, I ended up buying her new book and my friend bought two of her cookbooks for kids.  As October Unprocessed rolled around, I took a look at the "natural" sodas I had been buying for my kids that were sweetened with fruit juice and had no hfcs.  I noticed that in spite of all their positive ingredients, they were also loaded with "natural flavorings."  (There are very few things that annoy me more than food labeling buzz words.  "Natural," "Cage-Free," "No Sugar Added" none of these things mean what you think they mean.)  I was so disappointed because my kids love to get "soda" once in a while and I had felt great because I wasn't filling them with junk.  Except, of course, I was.  

 Simple, Homemade, Orange Soda Pop

     My friend mentioned that Mollie Katzen had a homemade soda recipe in one of her kid's books and sent it to me.  I was sad to see it used frozen juice concentrate since I rarely use concentrates and I figured it wouldn't fit into the whole October Unprocessed thing.  (Carbonated water is also on the iffy side, but I figured I had to draw a line somewhere...) So I just kinda messed around and figured out my own recipe based on hers.  And it just so happened to be the right color for a certain holiday that's quickly approaching.  You can definitely make a ghoul or two happy with this simple concoction.  In fact, you may have a mad scientist under your roof who'd like to help you whip this up!

Easy no chemical soda pop for kids

Spine-Chilling Soda
Yield: 1 serving

1 C orange juice
3/4 C carbonated water

Combine juice and water and stick a straw in it!  You can make any size portion using a similar ratio juice to water.  I have found a tablespoon or two of cream added to each glass gives it a nice Creamsicle flavor, but the boys aren't crazy about it.  You can use any juice you want, but you may have to fiddle with the ratios. 

My kids actually like this better than their favorite store-bought "natural" soda!  To be sure this is still a "sometimes food" but it's definitely a healthier alternative.

If you need a few ideas for your Halloween party this year, have a look at some of my previous Halloween Party posts! 

Halloween Carnival Party for kids

Fairy Party for Kids

Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for details of our party this year!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Savory Pancakes and TMI...

     I'm the type of person who has to tell the story of a gift when a person opens it.  People receiving gifts from me have to sit patiently though a long and winding tale of how the gift came to be in their possession.  I regale the receivers of my gifts with harrowing yarns of brave treks to Target surrounded by temptations of every shape and size or long and rambling quests through the jungles of Amazon.  My Mom did it.  I don't know why she did it, but because of her it's how I feel gift giving needs to be done.  The person can't fully appreciate the gift if they don't understand why I chose it for them and how it arrived.  Each gift has a birth story.

Christmas takes a long time.

Squash Blossom and Nasturtium Pancakes

    Food blogging is a little bit like that.  Each recipe has a story.  Sometimes I don't have the time to flesh it out the way I'd like, especially recently with all the upheaval in the living room.  (Maybe someday I'll tell you that arduous tale.) But today I have a moment.  It's raining outside and my boy's bellies are full.  The dishes are piled in the sink.  I've got my apron on and this is why:

     This year, to mix it up a bit in the garden I decided to plant nasturtiums and zucchini.  The poor zucchini has never zuked a single zuke, but it has made tons of blossoms!  Until this year I've never really eaten a good one.  I tried stuffed squash blossoms recipes which were inevitably full of cheese and way too greasy, and decided I liked them chopped up in salad best.  The nasturtiums were to save the kale from insect invaders.  They worked rather well and had the added benefit of being pretty and fragrant.  (I had no idea what a nice scent they had!)

      Besides the unexpected bounty of flowers in my garden, I had also made some homemade cashew milk.  The boys had some friends over this weekend who have special dietary needs and I don't like all the chemicals in the nut milks available in stores.  And anyway, it's super simple:

Cashew Milk
1/2 C raw cashews
2C water, plus more for soaking
1 tsp honey, or to taste (opt)
1/4 tsp salt, or to taste (opt)

Soak raw cashews in water for one hour, then drain and rinse.  Add 2 Cups of water to a blender along with the cashews and blend until liquified.  Strain it if you want and you can add a little honey or salt if you like.  I didn't do any of that for my version.

     I had been toying with the idea of savory pancakes for a while.  There's not much sugar in a pancake except what you pour over it.  They aught to make a great base for a savory breakfast.  To test my theory, I decided to combine all my weird ingredients and see what happened.

Savory Pancakes

Savory Pancakes
1 C Whole wheat flour
1 C White flour
3 t Baking powder
1/2 t Salt
1/4 C Coconut sugar
2 Eggs*
2 T Oil
1 3/4 C Cashew milk
2 Leaves Sage
1/2 tsp Rosemary
1 tsp Thyme
3 or 4 Nasturtium blossoms, chopped
2 Squash blossoms, chopped (pistils and stamens removed)
1/4 C Spring onions for garnish
*You could make this vegan by substituting 1 mashed banana for the eggs.

Combine the dry ingredients, then add the wet ones.  Mix until well incorporated.  Grease a frying pan with butter or oil and preheat.  Spoon batter into pan.  Cook pancakes until done in the middle, flipping once. 

Yield is entirely dependent on how big you make your pancakes.  It usually yields around 12-14 of my small "silver dollar" size pancakes.  Top them with raw, fresh Spring onions and a pat of butter, no syrup necessary!

     If you're wondering about that funky coconut sugar up there especially after I wrote a post about processed sugars for October Unprocessed last year, coconut sugar, as far as I can tell, is one of the least processed sugars there is.  I found this article describing the process of making coconut sugar and Wikipedia backs it up.  I'm sure as soon as it catches on, manufacturers will figure out a way to process the snot out of it, but for now, it seems pretty safe.

I'm really grateful my husband is open to trying new things.  The kids wouldn't have it.  I think if I had come up with another name for them besides "pancake" they would have been on board.  My husband and I both liked them.  I think next time I'll try a little goat cheese or feta on there, too.
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