Finding work for idle hands: making, baking and more.

Spooked October 27, 2013

Filed under: Halloween — lauravw @ 9:20 pm

ImageWe went early on the Halloween stuff this year: in September we went on holiday to Seattle, and Megan and Scott threw a party at a pumpkin patch, timed perfectly to coincide with our visit.

You can read Megan’s account of the party on her website, but I’m sure it won’t surprise you to know that she throws a very fun party. We went with Erica, who I was very happy to finally meet in person after many years of reading her blog. It was still light when we arrived at the farm, and I was in heaven as I had never seen so many pumpkins in my life – many had been picked at artfully arranged around the farm (in a Martha Stewart Living style), and many others sat in the pumpkin patch, waiting to meet their destiny (when we left the farm later that night, it was nice and spooky to see the pumpkin patch in the dark).

The idea was that you had to make your way through the maze to get to the party – and this was harder than it sounds, even with a map (which was actually an aerial photo of the maze). We were with Scott and so we didn’t get lost – I think it would have been a different story if we’d attempted it alone.

Once you made it to the maze’s half-way point, you could access the private bonfire areas, where we found Megan, a lovely bonfire with seating around it, and an open-sided tent filled with food. She’d brought hot dogs of every persuasion – real, vegetarian, and gluten-free, There were also the ingredients to make s’mores, and Megan’s friends were on hand to school me in the right way to make them. (I still struggled – American marshmallows are HUGE compared to the UK ones.) I’d taken English marshmallows, Dairy Milk, and digestive biscuits so that we could compare and contrast the flavours. There was also hot cider and there MAY have been some bourbon, I couldn’t possibly comment.

Some of the other guests really did get lost in the maze on their way to the party, and while Scott was heroically saving them and helping them find their way out, he also rescued a lost family or two. At the end of the party, most of us took the short route (round the outside of the maze), but a few brave souls went back in to complete the second half of the maze before making their way home.

I took a whole load of pictures on the trip, and I will try to get round to telling you about more of what we got up to soon. Bourbon will feature again, I fear.

In the meantime, have a happy Halloween! We have our decorations up and are ready for a small gathering with friends on Thursday night.


Halloween decorations are go! October 16, 2012

Filed under: Halloween — lauravw @ 3:02 pm

The shops have been full of Christmas cards and decorations since August, so I don’t think it can be too early for the Halloween decorations to go up. (There is actually a house on the next street that has had decorations up for at least two weeks, which means they are even more enthusiastic about Halloween than I am!)

Today the wind is doing its best to blow the leaves from the trees, and there’s a chill in the air that feels very autumnal. I love it.

I still have more to report about my trip to New England, which I’ll get round to soon. It already feels so long ago, but we have plenty of pictures, and I kept notes on what we did every day. But this evening I’m going to do nothing – it’s been a busy few days, and I intend to sit with my feet up, watching the final of the Great British Bake Off. I made a batch of oatmeal cookies earlier, so I can enjoy something homemade while I watch. With our holiday and other distractions, it had been over a month since I baked anything. I really enjoyed it, and it’s comforting to know the cake tin is no longer empty.


Halloween paper chains October 21, 2011

Filed under: Crafts,Halloween — lauravw @ 1:54 pm

Today I have been decorating our fireplace for Halloween, a job I love to do. I have two boxes of decorations: one for Christmas, and one for Halloween. They are both filled with things I have collected over the years, and I love to open them up each year and be reminded of what’s inside.

Some of my very favourite Halloween decorations are also the first ones I acquired: as a teenager I went on holiday with a friend and her family to the Outer Banks in North Carolina, where we visited a Christmas store. It was a big old house, and every room, except for one, was filled with Christmas decorations. The one room that wasn’t filled with snowmen and reindeer was instead filled with pumpkins and black cats. I loved it.

This year I have made new decorations – the paper chains that you can see in this picture. I’ve been doing an evening class in some graphics software, ostensibly for work reasons, but I found that these new-found skills can also be applied to Halloween decorations, which is a bonus. I tried to make the patterns I used modern and somewhat minimal (there’s a close-up shot of them here), and I’m really happy with how they turned out.

If you’d like to make some for your own home, download this PDF, and print out a few copies (ideally in colour, but I think black and white would look good too). All you need to do is neatly cut out the strips, then stick each one into a loop with tape or glue, making them into a chain as you go. For the chains you can see pictured on my fireplace, I used 5 A4 sheets of paper.

And if you do make some, I’d love to see a picture of the results!

I’ve had my eye on a few other Halloween projects that I’ve seen around the web. My favourite so far is this collection of yarn-wrapped pumpkins and gourds.


Happy Halloween October 31, 2010

Filed under: Halloween — lauravw @ 8:55 pm

So here is my not-so-floral-after-all pumpkin.

The floral pattern just didn’t work out: I wanted to carve intricate little coriander patterns into it, just like on my Rachel Barker tea pot. It seemed like such a simple (by which I mean possible) idea – I can’t draw, and yet this seemed like the sort of pattern I could emulate.

I couldn’t. Not carved into a pumpkin, anyway.

I spent rather a long time carving the pattern carefully into my pumpkin, and then tested it out by lighting a candle in it to see if it needed tweaking. Hardly any light showed through, and in fact there was so little air getting in that when I returned to the room a moment later, the candle had extinguished itself.

So I did a bit more carving, widening all the little lines I’d carved. Then I added two round air holes on the back, to help the poor candle get enough oxygen. It was at that point I noticed that the side with the air holes looked rather better than the side with my pattern on. So I added a nose, and a mouth, and turned the whole thing around.

You can see the reverse side here – to me they look nothing like the pattern on the tea pot now – rather, they look like little creatures (aliens?) reaching their many arms out. So I suppose that fits the Halloween theme. What baffles me most is how the Americans, with their fancy pumpkin-carving ways, can turn out such ornately carved pumpkins so easily. Do they have sharper knives, better skills or is it genetic? Whatever it is, I am lacking it this year. But I’m pleased enough with how the pumpkin turned out in the end, and we had a few trick or treaters stop by, all of them polite and well-costumed*, so I’m calling it a successful Halloween. Hope yours was too!

*By the time the last bunch of trick or treaters knocked at the door, my bowl of goodies had just three bags of Malteasers in it – and of course there were four very young children. I asked them if they could possibly share, and while the mother accompanying them enthusiastically said they could, their faces told a different story. So three of them got chocolates, and the fourth one got to take home a toy snake I’d put in the bowl. I think he was happier with that that he would have been with chocolate anyway.


Halloween preparations October 25, 2010

Filed under: Halloween — lauravw @ 11:38 am

Halloween seems to have arrived rather quickly this year, and I think it’s going to have to be a quiet one. We’d considered having a small party but I don’t think I’ve got the energy to make that happen this time.

However, over the past few weeks I have gradually amassed a collection of little pumpkins: from the local farmers’ market, a WI fete, and the local vegetable shop. I’ve also bought a larger one for carving (I’m going floral this year, you have been warned), and was happy to hear that it was grown on the allotments at the end of our road.

The decorations are up, and I hope to get chance to prepare some seasonal food. (Although M&S are selling Halloween whoopie pies, complete with suspiciously green filling, and so there’s no need to bake if time’s not on your side.) The little card you can see in this photo was made by me when we were in Seattle: in Impress Rubber Stamps they had a little craft table set up with all the supplies and tools ready for you to make one of these. I love the black and white stripey string – I bought some in orange and white.

Megan has come up with a spectacularly simple idea for Halloween food: tentacle pot pies. I love how simple they look, and suspect they will grace many tables this Halloween night. So many Halloween recipes seem to involve crazy amounts of food colourings, but the ingredients for this one are all natural and the end result is fantastic.

While pottering around the Nigella Lawson website I found that she’s got quite a few Halloween recipes online these days, most of them are rather gory-looking and so I imagine would appeal to children. Also appealing is this free template for a Halloween garland from Allsorts – and be sure to check out the photo of her fireplace at the bottom of that post, it’s amazing.


Putting Halloween back in its box November 6, 2009

Filed under: Halloween — lauravw @ 9:09 am

pumpkinsOur Halloween party was great fun – but exhausting! I think I got a bit carried away in terms of baking *everything* myself – next time I might be tempted to buy in a few things to supplement the home-made goodies. In the rush to get everything prepared, I made a mistake when baking the cornbread: I left out the baking soda, which meant the end result was flat and stodgy (and it wasn’t until after the guests had left that I worked out what I’d done wrong). But everything else was delicious – in fact I’d been hoping to have some of the leftover pastry bones for lunch the next day, but there were all devoured at the party (so quickly that I didn’t manage to get a photo of them).

The highlight of the evening for me was when dusk fell and our local neighbourhood bat (who I call Florence – even though there are two bats, but I haven’t yet decided on the perfect name for the second bat…) arrived and started circling the garden. We turned out all the kitchen lights and watched her for about 15 minutes. All the money in the world could not have bought that kind of perfectly-timed Halloween entertainment! And it was also pleasing because we had carved a picture of her into our pumpkin this year. The pumpkin is now outside in the garden, so I like to think she’s seen it (or picked it up on her sonar) and knows we appreciate her.

We had two knocks on the door from trick or treaters – and both groups were very young (with parents), in costume, and with good manners. A big relief since our house was egged by pesky teenagers a few years ago.

Now that bonfire night has been and gone I’m going to take down all my Halloween decorations and put them back in their box until next year. This means I need a new project to keep me out of trouble for a while – might have to have a rummage through my craft supplies and see if anything inspires me…


Happy Halloween! October 30, 2009

Filed under: Halloween — lauravw @ 3:41 pm
Halloween cookies

Halloween cookies

Happy Halloween to you! I hope you have an enjoyable weekend, whatever you’re up to.

I have been spending today baking in preparation for a small Halloween party we’re hosting tomorrow evening. Here’s a little preview of what our guests will be eating:

The savoury:

  • Cornbread (in honour of our recent trip to the Deep South)
  • Tortilla chips with guacamouldy
  • Bone-shaped cheese pastries (made from frozen puff pastry – very similar to these)
  • Cheese and crackers

The sweet:

  • Chocolate cookies with Halloween-coloured Smarties in (I had to buy a big tube of Smarties, and then pick out all the green, orange, brown and purple ones. Anyone want the pink, yellow and blue ones?)
  • Vanilla fairy cakes with chocolate spiders on top (I’m making the spiders from chocolate buttons and orange Matchmakers)
  • Snake eggs (from M&S – essentially these are purple Mini Eggs)
  • Satsumas
  • Grapes (or ‘eyeballs’ if you’re trying to spook them up a little…)

We also have some blackcurrant brew, again from M&S. This came in a set of four glass bottles (like a pack of beer) and was not sold as being in any way connected to Halloween, but it’s purple and has nice illustrations on, plus it contains the word ‘brew’. So it counts!

I’m pleased with how the chocolate cookies, pictured above, have come out. The food colouring on the Smarties seemed to struggle a bit with being baked, and the overall effect is that the Smarties look a little washed out and distressed – which I think lends them a good look for Halloween. Anyway, I’ve got more baking to do – back to the kitchen I go…


Vintage Halloween October 16, 2009

Filed under: Halloween — lauravw @ 2:04 pm

Oooh look: lots of vintage or vintage-looking Halloween goodies at the Crafts Dept. I am planning a little Halloween party at our place and wish there was time to order some old-fashioned Halloween cards from eBay – but with the upcoming postal strike I don’t think things would end happily. I hope to get all the decorations out this weekend and bring some orange and black cheer to the place. We’ve already got a couple of pumpkins sitting on the kitchen table.


It’s officially (almost) Halloween October 3, 2009

Filed under: Halloween — lauravw @ 1:49 pm

I’m back after a holiday in the US – two weeks on a coach tour around the Deep South. We spent time in Georgia and South Carolina, and it was somewhat mixed. We saw some lovely places, we saw some dull places, and so on. I’ll write about the lovely places soon – and you can see my first batch of photos on Flickr (lots more to come). It was far too hot and humid for me over there, but as I type, it’s a cold and very windy day here so I’m hiding indoors.

Halloween treeAnd now it’s dawning on me that it’s October, which means it’s just a few short weeks until Halloween (four weeks today, to be exact). I was hoping to buy some pumpkins and gourds at the farmers’ market this morning, but I got the date wrong and there is no farmers’ market today, so that was the end of that. But I can tell you that I saw in John Lewis yesterday that they have a great range of Halloween goodies. I got my little Halloween tree there last year, and they seemed to sell out of them very quickly – so you may like to know that there is a 2009 version for sale now. In the shop they also had little tealight holders of haunted houses and orange glass, but I can’t find those online – they were inexpensive and very sweet though, so it’s worth a look in the shop if you get chance.

While we were in America I managed to get a copy of the Martha Stewart Halloween special magazine, which I’ve enjoyed flicking through – and there’s an extensive range of Halloween ideas on the Martha website already. One thing in the magazine that really caught my attention is the fact that Martha mentions she is throwing a Halloween Ball this year, which sounds fascinating. I assume my invitation is in the mail…

I also found a Halloween edition of the American version of Country Living (which is a very different magazine to its UK counterpart). Again, lots of nice ideas, but unfortunately not many of them seem to have made it to the website.

Other Halloween things to look at:


More Halloween from Martha August 23, 2009

Filed under: Halloween — lauravw @ 12:45 pm

Given how hot and sunny it is here today, it is perhaps odd that I’m looking at Halloween goodies. But I can’t help myself when it comes to Halloween. Andrew at Martha Moments has just posted a ton of new Martha Stewart Halloween products, and I am already wondering which ones I’ll be able to bring home in my suitcase when we visit the US. The thing I want most (even though I have nowhere suitable to put it) is this witch silhouette. Thinking more realistically, I’m hoping I’ll be able to buy the Halloween banner near the foot of the page.