Sunday, October 30, 2011

The One Pumpkin

The One Pumpkin by light.

Forging The One Pumpkin

You can find a high resolution graphic of the inscription on Wikipedia.  If you want one for your very own, this can be scaled to fit your chosen pumpkin.  Use a sharp craft knife and set aside an hour or two for carving.

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 24, 2011

My Kingdom for a Spoon

Somehow I have less spoons than are necessary. I would buy matching spoons but, chances are, I will only be able to buy them in a new set so it seems silly. Instead, I'm going to troll thrift stores and any yard sales that are still operating at this time of year to accumulate a collection of mismatched cutlery. Then, when silverware disappears, as seems to happen around here, I won't have to buy a whole set to replace it.  I can simply buy the next fork or spoon I come across. Bring it on Goodwill!!  I will have my spoons. Yes, I will.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Eyeball Cookies

These little eyeball cookies taste as good as they look and they're looking right at you!  They come together quickly and are a great way to impress your Halloween guests.

1 cup salted butter, softened (use real butter or at least half real butter)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teas vanilla
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
red gel or powdered food coloring
2 Tbsp vodka
fine paint brush
green candy melts (I added a little bit of brown to make the irises muddy)
small piping bag
chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Cream together the butter and powdered sugar, blend-in the vanilla.  Add the flour and combine until the dough is smooth and uniform.

Roll walnut sized balls and place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

Combine the vodka with enough red food coloring to give it a nice dark tint.  Use the paint brush to add random lines to make the eye look bloodshot.  The very top of the cookie will be covered so start brushstrokes there and drag the coloring down the sides, tapering down the lines and making branches wherever possible.

Bake 9-10 minutes.

Remove and allow to cool.

Melt the green candy melts according to directions and pour into a piping bag.  Cut the tip off, leaving about a 1/4" wide opening.

Pipe an iris and when cool enough to touch it, press it down flat.  Then quickly add a chocolate chip.  Allow the chocolate to set.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

You Are Not So Smart

I love You Are Not So Smart!  It's a fabulous look at the trappings of our human minds  I'm excited to read David McRaney's new book.  I feel like his writing is geared for the geeky among us who are not psychologists but who like to examine our lives, reality, and the universe of which we are a part.  As the mother of a child with Aspergers, understanding and examining our own behavior is part of daily life.  I have spent years trying to teach my kids how to function within the perplexing human condition that still confounds me on a daily basis.  It's great to have help.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pirate Booty

Today is "International Talk Like A Pirate Day!"  In honor of the occassion, I made this copycat of a Tortuga Rum Cake.

My husband is very adept at pirate-speak.  It's practically a gift.  I've been hearing it, I've been called a saucy wench (which, in case you didn't know, seems to be a good thing), and I've cooked Caribbean food in honor of the day.  Now it's time for me to partake of the cake!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Creepy Eye-Following Pictures

I am decorating for Halloween!  My family room's theme is "Abandoned House" so I created some old-fashioned, creepy eye-following portraits for that room.  For full instructions and pictures, please visit my Instructables submission dedicated to the project.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Make Your Own Write-On Wine Glass Tags

These little drink tags are simple to make and easily customizable.  I used a large circle cutter to cut outer circle but it can be hand-cut..  However, I recommend using a 3/4" - 1" circle punch to make the center hole.

For step-by-step instructions with photos, visit my Wine Glass Tags contribution on Instructables.

Thursday, September 1, 2011


I have never made sauerkraut and have never tasted the fresh stuff--just what's sold in jars in the supermarket.  What an easy thing to make!  I still have a long wait to try it but I hope it's worth it.  Because it's what I had on hand, I made mine from purple cabbage.  It occurs to me that this would make a lovely addition to my Halloween menu.

I have referred to the Basic Sauerkraut Recipe from Old Growth Yiddishkeit..

Monday, August 29, 2011

Making New Bottles Look Old

Left: New Bottle,  Right: Aged Bottle
As previously posted, I have been creating a number of potion bottles in different styles for my Halloween Potion Lab.  I want some of my bottles to look very old--like they have been sitting around for quite a while, collecting dust and getting grungy.  Since they will be used for decanting beverages, I want the the bottles to be food-safe.  Thrift store glass bottles are bad choices because I have no idea how they may have been used previously.  So I have been augmenting new bottles.

Rather than achieve an aged look with paint,  I tried to seasoned the outside of the bottles as I do cast iron cookware.  This experiment was very successful.  Seasoning cookware requires applying thin layers of oil and baking the cookware between the layers to create a hard, protective outer surface.

Caveat: There are products and techniques to paint on glass that require the glass to be heated to a temperature in excess of 300 degrees Fahrenheit.  This can be successfully done when proper care is taken to ensure that glass is not subjected to quick changes in temperature.  Be sure to start with undamaged glass--no cracks or chips please.  Be sure to place glass in a COOL oven, allowing the temperature of the glass to rise as the oven temperature rises.  Also make sure to turn off the oven with the glass inside, allowing it to cool as the oven cools.  Do not attempt to change the temperature of your glass quickly because that is how breakage happens.

I used flaxseed oil on my bottles because it is a "drying oil" which would give a hard finish while still being food safe.  It gave a yellowish sheen that was exactly what I had been looking for.  Since organic flaxseed oil is what I'm already using to season pans, I thought it was ideal.   My first experiment was with canola oil which gave the right sheen but was sticky.  So do yourself a favor and use a drying oil.  If you are simply aging bottles for display, you can use linseed oil instead.  To read a bit more about the chemistry of seasoning surfaces with oil, check out this post on Sheryl Canter's blog.

Before seasoning the bottles, I wiped down the clean bottles with rubbing alcohol and let them dry.  Next, I applied an extremely thin layer of my organic flaxseed oil to the outside of a clean dry bottles.  Then I wiped it off which left behind a very thin, almost imperceptible layer.  I placed the bottles on a foil-lined pan in a cool oven.  Then I turned the oven on to 350 degrees.  I baked them for about an hour and a half before turning off the oven and allowing the glass to cool down while inside the oven.  Once the bottles were cool, I repeated the process to build up a few layers.  It does take some time but the process was easy and the results were worth it.

Be aware that any pattern of oil streaks you leave on the glass will show.  Also, too thick of a layer will cause the hot oil to drip down the bottle, creating dark yellow droplets.  So make sure you create only the slightest haze on the surface when you wipe away the oil.  I experimented with several glass beer bottles in the pursuit of the right technique for applying the oil so you might consider some trial bottles before moving on to your favorite one.

The aged bottle pictured has three layers of oil.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Shameless Self Promotion

My little cauldron place card holders have now been entered in the Instructables Play with Clay Challenge.  Please vote for them!  I made them for fun (and for party props) but discovered this open contest for polymer clay creations.  I call it kismet!

I have many more projects for your gotthic, Victorian, steampunk and/or Halloween pleasure coming up in the next few months.  So follow me and keep an eye on this blog.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Aged Book: Most Potente Potions

This year's Halloween party will feature a Potions Lab for brewing up some amazing potent potables.  I have a number of things that will be included but the most important thing is the book of signature drink--err, potion, recipes complete with pictures.

To create the book I started with this little photo album.  The ring binding is not ideal for a medieval look but it makes the book easier to assemble and add to over time.  There may be a potion brewing contest, involving the invention of drinks using our bar ingredients and I'll be putting the entries from this contest into the book for later years.

To age the vinyl book and help it look like ancient leather, I took the following steps:

  1. I conditioned it with baby oil, to relax it a little bit.  I don't know if this did any good but it didn't seem to hurt.
  2. I sanded it.  I tried to hide the direction of my sanding but it was somewhat difficult.  This was not a big deal though, as other steps helped hide it.
  3. I used a small grater and really roughed up the edges and raised surfaces.  This is what I would expect to happen in a very old leather tome.
  4. I used the smooth edge of a butter knife to make ripples in the fabric.  I just pulled it across with the knife angled a bit.  This also stretches the fabric a bit and creates some more rough parts.
  5. I kicked it around.  A lot.  We live in a slightly rural area so I kicked it and pushed it around on a gravel road.  This got it nice and dirty and helped cover the directional lines from my sanding by adding new random marks.
  6. I polished it with brown shoe polish.  This was darker than some of the fabric and filled in the cracks and creavases with what looks like filth.  It also stained some of the stitching.
  7. Stain it liberally.  I used some brown stain that I made by soaking coffee grounds in warm rum (what I had in the house).  I dripped, dabbed, and splattered that everywhere.  I added a little red and blue food coloring and repeated the process.
  8. I tea stained the inside and sealed it.
  9. I used permanent marker to ink the label.

Now I have it sitting out in the sun during warm days and, hopefully, it will fade all of my work a bit and add to the effects.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Frank Kovak's Homemade Planetarium

Frank Kovak built a planetarium--an entire PLANETARIUM--with his own two hands, painting every star on the 4,000 pound globe that represents the night sky.  I am completely impressed that his fondness for the the stars would come to fruition in such an amazing way..  Read the NPR story here:  Homemade Planetarium Reflects One Man's Dream.

What big dream do you have?  There should always be something we all reach for.  For Frank Kovak, it's the stars.  What about you?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Cauldron Place Card Holders

These little cauldron place card holders are a fun Halloween decoration for spooky dinner parties.  They are made from polymer clay and can be customized with different colors of potion.  The cauldrons themselves can be made from a variety of metallic colors to match your theme.

To make each place card holder, you'll need:
  • Aluminum foil (about 4" off the roll)
  • Stiff wire -- I used 10 gauge copper wire but you can use floral stems
  • Needlenose Pliers
  • Wire Cutters
  • Polymer Clay in the color of your choice to be the "potion" -- about 1/8th of a 2oz block
  • Black Polymer Clay -- about 1/4th of a 2oz block
  • A thin pointy object such as the end of a small craft paint brush
  • A thin, smooth rod, such as a screwdriver, to wrap the wire around when creating your card holding loop

First, make a foil core.  It's possible to use polymer clay to serve as the core but I didn't want to waste clay.  Create the core by simply wadding up your foil into a ball.  Don't press it too tightly.  You want the ball to be about 1.25" across.  Then press the ball down on two sides to create a flattened disk.  The disk should be about 1/2" thick.  Poke a hole in the center of your disk.  You can use the end of your wire to do this but I used a toothpick.

Cut a 6" length of wire.  Using pliers, make a rough loop in one end and then bend the wire at a 90 degree angle to the loop.  This way, when the loop is laying flat on a surface, the wire is sticking straight up in the air.

Pull the straight length of wire through the hole so the loop acts as a stopper at the other end.

Roll your colored clay, about 1/8th of a 2 oz block of clay, into a ball.  Flatten it until it is about the diameter of your foil disk.  Pierce through the center of this clay with the end of the wire and pull the disk down over the foil. Smooth the edges of the clay down over the sides of the foil.
(It is possible to make the loops in the wire that will hold the card in this step instead of later.  See the last step for details.)

Bake this at the temperature and time specified by your brand of polymer clay, in a glass baking pan.  I line the bottom of my baking pan with paper.

Once this foil and clay creation has cooled, it's time to form the cauldron around it. Gather about 1/4th of a 2oz block of clay and roll it in your hands until it's soft and pliable.  Pinch off enough to make about a 1/2" ball of clay and set this aside.

Form the larger clump of clay into a ball and flatten it into a disk until it's about twice as wide as the foil disk.  Place the foil disk in the center and work it up and around the foil piece, as shown.  Pull the clay around the top and smooth the top edge.  Then press the clay to taper away from this edge and create the flared top of the cauldron.

Divide the rest of the remaining black clay into four equal sections.  Set one aside.  Roll each of the other three sections into a ball.  Place the balls on the bottom of the cauldron, evenly spaced, to serve as legs.  Then press the cauldron down, pushing in on the already hardened colored "potion" in the center of the cauldron, until it's level and the legs are pressed on well.

To create the handles on the sides, divide the remaining clay in two.  Roll each section into a ball and flatten slightly.  Press the end of a paintbrush or chopsitck into the the center of one disk and then, keeping the point in the clay, place it against the side of the cauldron and press the point in slightly to secure the handles.  Pull away the point.  Repeat to create a handle for the other side.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Bilge Water Bottle

This is a fairly simple bottle that I decorated.  I used a bottle, paint, dirt (yes, what you find in your garden), and some letter stickers to create this container which will hold whiskey at this year's Halloween party.  It's a 32oz Mississippi Mud Black & Tan beer bottle.  

First, I masked off the top section of the bottle.  Then, I applied letter stickers.  The goal was to use the stickers on the glass to mask off the letters, rather than keep them applied to the bottle.  The plan was to paint over these and then remove them to reveal the color and texture of the bottle.  The stickers I found were a perfect font so it didn't matter that they were glittery pink.  I used some of the leftovers to frame the label.  Once the letters were on, I coated it with a few layers of matte finish clear spray paint.  The paint sticks to the glass and, once dry, creates a "tooth" for acrylic paints.  It also seals any of the gaps between the stickers and the glass to prevent colored paint from bleeding under the stickers.  

Once this layer of paint was dry, I dabbed a few layers of beige acrylic craft paint over it.  When that was dry, I took it outside to a planter of beautiful dirt.  To create a textured, aged surface, I layered paint and dirt.  I sprayed sections of the bottle with the clear paint, tossed on some dirt, brushed off the excess and repeated until I had covered the whole bottle with uneven filth.  I sealed the top with clear polyurethane.

Finally, I used tiny sharp tweezers to pull off the stickers and reveal the label.