Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Good evening! I hope everyone is enjoying some spooky festivities and lots of treats.  Here are a few pictures from our Halloween....

The Little Guy is dressed as a doctor, as is the Big Guy.  The Big Guy's scrubs are the actual ones he was wearing when the Little Guy was born. 

Despite having practiced "Trick or treat" for a full week, the Little Guy still froze when it was time to deliver the phrase.  Fortunately, the neighbors were won over with his cuteness and overlooked this detail.  We only took him to a few houses--in our case, it was more about getting him used to the tradition, rather than collecting candy.  Besides, the Little Guy is only two...I have no intention of giving him any candy right now.

We encountered some super cute trick-or-treaters while we were out.  For the most part, the neighborhood kids had some great costumes.

And for you, my dear readers, I hope your treats far outnumbered any tricks this evening.  From the TMI house to yours, happy Halloween!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Trick-or-treaters beware

I take Halloween very seriously.  When I'm not raising the dead or concocting a poisonous brew, I'm getting ready to pass out sweet treats to the darling neighborhood children.  It's something I enjoy and look forward to all year.  In the past, I've given out handfuls of candy for especially awesome costumes...this year, I'll reward the trick-or-treaters who go the extra mile with a full-size candy bar.  Yum!

Some children, as you can imagine, are not so darling.  Some children just show up on your doorstep with a large bag and an even larger sense of entitlement, and think that because they've bothered to show up you are required to give them candy.

I don't think so.  If children want candy that I've paid for with my hard-earned cash, and even more importantly, candy that I've managed to avoid eating so that they could have a delicious treat, then they need to put on a costume. Seriously.

This was a huge problem at our old house.  Naturally, I had to take steps. 

I made this sign from a piece of countertop.  It's spray painted with textured paint for a stone look, and the wording accurately conveys my feelings about the 'no costume' issue.  Have I mentioned I'm quite serious about Halloween?

And yes, I've enforced this rule on many occasions.  And no, my house has never been egged or teepee'd because I've taken this stand. 


So to all the potential trick-or-treaters in the new TMI neighborhood, consider yourselves warned:  you had best be wearing a costume when you ring my doorbell.

Or else...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

My favorite Halloween decorations

I have a ton of Halloween decorations. Unfortunately, this year I was only able to put about 10% on display.  I'm blaming a unique combination of birthday fatigue, pregnancy fatigue, flu/cold yuckiness and a severe lack of spare time for my inability to decorate the house the way it should be decorated. 

Excuses aside, I did get a few of my favorite pieces out in time for the holiday.

I put out this handy door mat as a prompt for the more nervous or shy trick-or-treaters. 

I made this wreath several years ago.  All the pieces are store-bought, but I put it together.  Isn't it fun?

I especially like the purple glitter spider.  Because nothing says 'Halloween' like a sparkly arachnid, you know?

This last piece is my absolute favorite Halloween decoration of all time.  My Big Martha bought it years ago.  She says it's a Halloween depiction of me.  MBM displayed it proudly for years, and when I got a house of my own, she passed it on to me. 

I put it on the mantel.  Besides being a beautiful decoration, this witch is also functional.  A tealight candle goes in the bottom, and a wax potpourri tart goes in the cauldron to fill the air with a great smell.  I always go with a fall scent (apples, cinnamon, etc.). 

Of course, I could always put some eye of newt and tongue of snail in the cauldron and get a true Halloween effect, but I don't think that's what My Big Martha had in mind when she bought this.  Eye of newt just isn't that functional in the TMI household.  Trick-or-treat!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Lurking in my pantry...

This fun candy bag is on the pantry door handle.  If I'm smart, I'll heed the monster's warning that too much candy is going to lead to a belly ache.  Plus, he's protecting me from the darkness that is currently lurking on the pantry floor...



Okay, I guess it's not that scary, but 277 pieces of candy are posing quite a danger to my willpower.  Must...resist...temptation...

Fortunately, I only have to last a few more days.  And with any luck, I'll get 277 trick-or-treaters (and not one more) at the TMI House so I won't have to worry about leftover candy.  Because once Halloween is over, any leftover candy is all mine.  And that might not be such a good thing!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pumpkin carving

According to Martha's calender in the October issue of Martha Stewart Living, she doesn't carve her pumpkin until October 30.  I simply can't hold off that long. 

Here's my pumpkin. It's huge. So huge that I made the Big Guy carry it into the house for carving, and back out again for display.  For many years now, I've used the Pumpkin Masters carving kits.  I buy them after each Halloween when they go on clearance, and they've never steered me wrong.

Here's the inside of my pumpkin.  Doesn't it look like there's a face in there?  Spooky!

Scooping out the goop.  In years past, I would alternate between thinking this was fun and really, really gross.  Now, after having one child and with another on the way, I'd say that dealing with substances of this sort (gross and abundant) is a daily occurrance.  How's that for scary?

If you're familiar with the Pumpkin Masters series, then you know how it works:  tape the design to the pumpkin, punch little holes in the outline, carve out the pieces according to the outline, and TA-DA! You're done!  It helps to make the punch holes fairly close together, so you can play connect-the-dots for carving.

Almost done....

And here's my finished product.  Isn't it creepy?

Halloween is almost here...I'm so excited!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Martha Monday!

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays.  The leaves, costumes, decorations, ambience, and (I'll admit it) the candy make this holiday stand out from anything else throughout the year. 

Halloween is one of Martha's favorite holidays, too. To help you prepare, has a bunch of crafts, recipes and projects all centered on Halloween.

Every year I find plenty of good, er bad, things there to inspire me for this wonderfully spooky time.  Happy haunting!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Apple crisp

On Monday I made Martha's apple crisp. The Little Guy got into the act by eating an entire apple's worth of slices and stirring ingredients. He's becoming quite the assistant.

Eating it fresh out of the oven is best, but it reheats quite well in the microwave.

TMI pop quiz: Doesn't this look like a tasty dessert?

Ha! That was a trick question. The above photo of apple crisp actually denotes a tasty breakfast. The apple crisp below, which is topped with vanilla ice cream, is the actual dessert.

Well, if you're serious about getting a serving of dairy in the morning, then I guess this could be breakfast, too. How can I differentiate breakfast apple crisp from dessert apple crisp?
Wait, I've got it...cinnamon sugar sprinkled on top. Now it's dessert apple crisp.

Another TMI pop quiz: Who is the cutest kitchen helper ever?

No tricks there. It's the Little Guy, hands down.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The party scene

The Little Guy's birthday parties are over, and we all survived. I did want to share some images with you from the celebrations. The birthday boy opened presents in front of the fireplace, so it served as the 'stage' for part of the parties.

Guests were greeted by balloons and Sesame Street characters in the foyer.

No matter what the occasion, I like to use my Wilton cupcake stand to display the treats.

For this special occasion, I kept with the Sesame Street theme and got Elmo cupcake liners. I bought them at the Wilton tent sale.

Finally, I make my special sugar cookies whenever possible. The Big Guy helped with these, and they turned out beautifully.

Plus, it allowed me to bring in more Sesame Street fun: "This birthday party was brought to you by the letter P and the number 2." How fitting! And delicious. How fittingly delicious.
Or is it deliciously fitting?

Well, that's the end of the Little Guy's birthday. He is now two, and all that the age entails. And now that his birthday celebrations are over, I can turn to the next big event...Halloween!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Party favors

In true Martha fashion, I assembled favors for the Little Guy's birthday party. Obviously, I stuck with the Sesame Street theme.

I tried to tailor each favor bag to the age of the recipient. As you know, there is a big difference between a 2-year-old and a 6-year-old, and I wanted everyone to enjoy their treats. Kids in the 2-4 age range got a Sesame Street board book, a Snuffleupagaus noisemaker, and fruit snacks.

We had one baby at the party. Sweet Grace is coming up on her first Halloween, so she got a bib and socks. I threw in a noisemaker for her, not because she can use it at 6-months-old, but because her smart older brother would notice if she didn't get one. No dice on the fruit snacks, though. Safety first!

Older kids, who have outgrown Sesame Street, got something different and more suited to their tastes. The Little Guy has two older cousins who are very into writing notes and cards, so they each received note cards, fun sticky notes and cool colored pencils along with the noisemaker and fruit snacks.

Note to self for next year: I should make a party favor for myself, in the form of paid housekeeping or perhaps an hour on a massage table. Wouldn't that be a good thing!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Martha Monday!

Fall is a bittersweet season. Sweet because it brings such great fun and treats (Halloween, pie, cozy evenings by the fire) and bitter because an Illinois winter is right around the corner (freezing cold, no daylight and the terrible fear that you will freeze to death every time you step outside to walk the dog). In these parts, it's best to enjoy fall while you can.

So have no fear, TMI fans...I am determined to make the most of this autumn season with good food, fun activities and delightful treats. To begin, I'm perusing Martha's Pear and Apple Dessert Gallery. This Apple Crisp has caught my eye.

Doesn't it look delicious? That is on the menu for tonight. Martha has a ton of fall harvest dessert recipes, which is exactly what I need right now, and not just because of the dropping leaves and temperatures...

Behold the 10+ pounds of apples and pears, courtesy of the Big Guy's Uncle D.

I see a lot of pies, breads, muffins and applesauce in my immediate future. But not in my long-term future, because it'll all be eaten in a few short weeks.

I can live with that. Happy Columbus Day!

Friday, October 9, 2009

The finished cake

After I solved the eye problem, it was time to finish the cake. Because the cake was not iced a solid color before doing the design (per the directions) some bits of chocolate cake showed through. Fortunately, this was an easy fix---more frosting!

And for those places where icing is off the cake and on the cake stand, there's a simple solution for that, too.

Simply pipe frosting shells over the mess. Now you see it, now you don't! Magic!

And here's the finished project--the Little Guy's 2nd birthday cake. Made with love, and an outrageous amount of frosting, from me to him.

I think pulling something like this off gives me instant Martha credibility. And since I'm making another Big Bird cake for the next party, my skills will continue to improve. At this rate, I'll be a Big Bird cake pro in a few months. Big Bird cakes are good for any occasion, right?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

My eyes! MY EYES!!!

Things were going so smoothly with the Big Bird cake, until I got to the eyes. Oh, the eyes!

Aren't they hideous? With these peepers, the Little Guy, and everyone else who saw this cake, was going to have nightmares.

Heck, even I was terrified. And stunned. How could I fix this? I started by doing what any good baker does when confronted with an icing mistake--I scrapped off the frosting. And ate it. Problem partially solved.

Then I remembered that I had candy eyes in my supply arsenal. They are just like those colored candy buttons you peel off the wax paper. Remember those? I got my eyes from Candyland Crafts. If you are into cake/cookie/candy decorating, then be sure to check them out!

There, isn't that better? The eyes are considerably less scary, which is good, because Big Bird is not supposed to give people nightmares. Thank goodness I had the candy eyes on hand, otherwise I might not have had the strength to go on...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Cake decorating by numbers

I meant to make some practice cakes before making the actual cake for the Little Guy's birthday. I really did. Summer just got away from me, you know?

Fortunately, the instructions for this 1983 cake pan largely resembled a paint by number kit. It even had instructions for how to make the perfect color of yellow for Big Bird's feathers--mix golden yellow and lemon yellow.

I am amazed, and thankful, that the gel colors for the icing haven't changed names or pigmentation since the directions were written in 1983. Thanks, Wilton!

The instructions were quite detailed: apply white frosting here.

Put yellow frosting here. And blue frosting here. It was a lot easier than I was expecting.

As you can see, the cake is coming together. I was doing so well, too, until I got to the eyes.
Oh, the eyes...