Thursday, October 30, 2014

Well, That Didn't End Well

     Does anyone remember when Monkey and I made an ecosystem back in June?  That thing has been growing ever since!  We lost the fish after about a month, so we opened it up to remove them, and then allowed everything else to keep growing.  It was doing great!  We had tons of grass, and the algae and water plants were thriving.  The crickets died out one by one, and we never really could see the earthworms, but overall it was a good project.  I had it placed in the window above the staircase, and I kept thinking I should take it down and take it apart, but honestly I forgot about it.  That is, until J would complain about it being in the way of the blinds every night when he would try to lower them as it got dark.  You see, the window on the staircase is in a rather awkward position.  It's almost too high for us to open and lower the blinds, yet I'm a sucker for sunlight, so every morning I lean forward over the steps and stretch out on my tip-toes to reach the cord that will raise the blinds and let the sunlight in.  Then every night, J has the hard task of stretching out over the staircase to slowly bring the blinds back down.  Since adding the ecosystem to the mix, you also have to be careful not to let the cord get wrapped around the bottle or let the blinds down too quickly to avoid knocking the ecosystem off the windowsill.  Every night I would hear J complain about the darn blinds being open, and how stupid it was for the people to design the stairs the way they did.  So, the other night to be nice (and to avoid hearing the complaints) I decided to lower the blinds myself.  I grabbed the cord, and stretched out over the staircase to begin lowering the blinds, but I forgot something.  I forgot the ecosystem.  So, as I tugged the cord and looked down to check that my feet weren't going to slip off of the stair I was standing on, I felt something rather heavy smack the top of my head. Next thing I knew I was covered in nasty, smelly, fishy water, and there by my feet was the ecosystem, leaking it's foul-smelling contents all over our staircase.  Needless to say, I'm very glad I didn't leave the dead fish in there so that Monkey could learn about decomposition.  Regardless, I immediately jumped in the shower after scrubbing the stairs to wash the dead fish remnants away.

     Not all of my attempts at doing something nice for someone else has ended in utter failure.  I think these Halloween-themed lunches I've been packing for Monkey have come out rather well.

Monday: Spider Sandwich with Monster Apples

      This box contains a ham and cheese sandwich shaped to look like a spider.  I used a round cookie cutter to cut circles out of two slices of bread, a slice of ham, and a slice of cheese.  Next I sliced 4 long pieces of carrot super thin.  When I assembled the sandwich I laid the carrot sliced across that sandwich before placing the bread on top.  I used sliced olives for the eyes, and voila!

     The second half of this was the monster apples.  I quartered and apple, and I cut wedges out of two of the quarters, and I soaked these slices in a mixture of 1TBS lemon juice and 3/4 cup water for 5 minutes to keep them from browning before lunch time.  After they had soaked, I wiped them dry, and added almond slivers for the teeth.  For the eyes, I used candy eyeballs "glued" on with Nutella.  (You could use any type of nut butter, but Nutella is the only kind my daughter will eat).

 Tuesday: Celery Mummies

      For this lunch I made my own Garden Vegetable Cream Cheese (recipe to follow), but you can use the pre-made kind.  I spread a little on each celery stick.  Next I took a slice of ham and cut it into thin strips lengthwise and wrapped those around the celery sticks.  I used bits of black olives for the eyes.  I sent these to school with some grape tomatoes, pretzels, and an orange.

Wednesday: Spooky Sandwich

      I took the easy route Wednesday by simply making a ham sandwich and then cutting it into a ghost shape with my spooky little ghost cookie cutter.  I made a little face for him using my food markers.  Next, I added a bit of celery, and a few orange "pumpkins" for dessert.  These are simply peeled Halo oranges with a bit of celery wedged in the top to resemble stems.

Thursday: Mummy Hotdogs

      Now, I normally don't do hotdogs, but every once in a while, I figure it's okay to let my kid be a kid.  This box took a bit more prep work, because you have to make the mummies the night before.  I followed the instructions on the Pillsbury website to make the mummies, adding eyes using my food markers, and then I served them with a bit of ketchup, celery, and a couple "pumpkins".

Friday: Gravestones and Ghosts Bento Box

     This box included two mini sandwiches cut to resemble gravestones (the RIP on the left headstone is spelled out with little strips of ham).  Next I added two banana "ghosts" to the box to make it look like they were coming out of the graves.  I threw in some grape tomatoes, celery, and some of that garden vegetable cream cheese for dipping, and sent Monkey on her merry little way.

 Garden Vegetable Cream Cheese  
8 oz block cream cheese
1 medium carrot, minced
1 celery stalk, minced
1/4-1/2 onion, minced (start with less and add more to taste)
1-2 cloves garlic, grated
Salt and pepper to taste

Add all ingredients into a food processor, and blend until smooth.  Let sit in the refrigerator until flavors have melded.  Serve with crackers or veggies for dipping, or use as a spread.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Best Birthday Present Ever

      I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before, but I am a huge fan of The Bloggess!  She's hilarious, and awesome.  Not to mention about a year ago she wrote a book, and it was one of those rare books that had me laughing and crying.  Anyway, in the book she devoted one whole chapter to my favorite blog post of hers entitled "And that's why you should learn to pick your battles".  You should go check it out.  But a brief overview (seriously, go read the whole thing, this summary is a pale shadow of the awesome humor you'll be missing out on.  Still here?  Fine!)  so in the post she talks about how her husband sent her to the store with a warning to not come home with any more towels.  Well, she obeyed that particular order, and instead came home with a $100 giant metal chicken.  At least it wasn't towels.
     My big sister was the first to introduce me to The Bloggess, so when I bought the book I was quick to ensure that she was the first to borrow it (after I had read it, of course).  Next I spread the awesome around to my mom.  She loved it too.  In fact they both appreciated it so much that they hatched a brilliant scheme.  Not long after my birthday, I managed to escape to Louisiana for a day, my first trip home in a few months, and so my sister promised to have my belated birthday present waiting for me.  She had prefaced this gift with a few hints of, "I'm so excited to give you this", "Mom and I went in on something awesome", and "You're gonna love it".  I had no clue what to expect, so when I opened my mom's front door I was in utter shock.

     Around my chicken's neck was a sign that said, "Knock, Knock....." and a birthday card that introduced this chicken as being Beyonce's less expensive little sister, my very own Star-Spangled Solange.  The laughs alone were worth the price my mom and sister paid for this present, and I was excited to bring it home and put it in my garden.  The problem was, Solange wouldn't fit in my tiny Saturn Ion, so we had to leave her with my sister.   This Saturday we went to Louisiana again for my godson's birthday party, and we were finally able to bring Solange home in my husband's car.  It was a tight fit, and Monkey was given many warnings not to touch the tetanus chicken on the ride home, but we made it back without event.

     This morning J was sweet enough to give me a day off by waking up and bringing Monkey and her friend we carpool with to school.  I didn't get out of bed until around 8:00 this morning, and after I brushed my teeth and opened my door to go downstairs in search of food, I was greeted, yet again, by this familiar face:

     I was really worried that the chicken joke would wear off after a while, but after about five minutes of giggling this morning, I have to say it's still funny.  And I have to give J props for lugging Solange all the way up the stairs this morning.

     So there was point a to this post, other than showing you how awesome my family can be when it comes to carrying out an epic joke, but whatever the other reason was is gone now.  I'm actually just hiding out here in blog-world to avoid studying again.  I have my final exam in Gero/Psych Nursing Friday, and as usual, "I don't wanna!!!"  Instead, how about I show you some more of my Halloween decor?

     No, J is not part of the decor, but this awesome mummy is:

     I found these giant glow-in-the-dark eyes at the Dollar Tree, and I decided to use them to mummify our back door.  J and I used white crepe party streamers for the bandages and taped them to the door until is was mostly covered.  We only had to do the top portion of the door, because the screen door blocks the bottom part from view.  Not to mention we were getting tired of tape.  And streamers.  And each other.  ;-)

     This next decoration is a spin off of one of my favorite garden decorations.

     I took an old pallet and had J bust it up.  I used the various broken pieces to make the different signs by painting them all black.  For "Pet Sematary" and "'Salem's Lot" I used a copy of Stephen King's novels as a guide to get the handwriting the same.

     After designing the different signs, I screwed them to a post I had also painted black, and voila!

     The final bit of Halloween decor was something so simple, yet it may just be my favorite.  I made a spooky sort of set up by my front door with a vase, a skull, and a pumpkin.  The plan was to have my cauldron set out there filled with candy for trick-or-treaters, but I have something else in mind for that now.

     This vase is my favorite part of the set up.  It's just a bunch of sticks Monkey, J,  and I gathered after one of our family runs.  I painted the sticks black, and I put them in this old vase.  I added a bit of the cheesy "spooky cloth" you can buy at any dollar store at Halloween time to the inside of the vase, so you wouldn't see the ends of the sticks.  Next I propped a black raven from Michael's on one of the sticks.  Finally I used some leftover ribbon from my new wreath to finish it off with a pretty bow.

     I really like it.  Now all that's left is to set up my cauldron for trick-or-treaters and carve the pumpkins we got yesterday at our local pumpkin patch.  Have I mentioned how much I love this time of year?

Friday, October 3, 2014

It's That Time of Year

     I love October!  It's one of my favorite times of year.  The weather begins to get cool; the leaves are changing colors; the last little bit of summer is fading away.  The birds begin to fly south.  The night comes a little sooner, and the general mood seems a little more relaxed.  There's something about this time of year that still holds a bit of mystery, something that is rare in this day of the internet where connections are made and lost in the blink of an eye.  Even with the soaring rate of information that's within our grasp, there is something still slightly haunting yet alluring about this time of year.  I feel as if I'm awakening from the long dream of summer.  My spirit comes alive this time of year, and I relish the feeling.  Perhaps I'm being a bit mystical and eclectic at the moment, but what can I say?  It's that time of year.

     To celebrate the being of October, and in preparation for one of my all-time favorite holidays, I've been feeling a little crafty.  I decided to make a new decoration for my door, since my old wreath has begun to fall apart.  After finding one I loved on Pinterest, I decided to make it my way.

     I got these letters from Michael's, which is awesome because if you go to their website, you can usually print out a coupon.

I preceded to paint them black, orange, and I left one white.

    I used the lid of the paint as a template to trace circle on the letters for polka dots, and then I painted them the various coordinating colors.

     I sprayed them with Rustoleum enamel to keep them from getting moldy since they'll be hanging on the outside door.  I tied them together with orange polka-dot 3/4" ribbon.  I topped the B with a pretty orange bow, and voila!

     I love it, and it makes me smile every time I come home!