Friday, September 26, 2014

Countdown to Hallowe'en 2014

I am amazed!

This is my 4th year participating in the Countdown to Hallowe'en, produced by Shawn Robare and John Rozum, two absolutely astounding artists. I've never quite managed to post every day of October, but we'll see how I do this year. I'm already off to a good start and it's still only September.

What is Countdown to Hallowe'en?  It is a blog festival - 31 days of posting by the ookiest, spookiest, nuttiest, most creative Hallowe'en lovers in the blogosphere. For a fun fix each day of October, find a new blog and check out what they're doing. We'll be starting off next Wednesday!  Sometimes you find a total keeper. I'm sure it's how I found a number of the blogs I follow.

Since I really do have to LOVE a blog to follow it, I'll recommend the following because they are frankly either beautiful, really fun, really useful or truly original (and sometimes all of the above!)

PUMPKINROT (if I only had one to choose, it would be this one)
Dave Lowe Design (or this one)
Haunted Design House
Mr. Macabre
Shellhawk's Nest
AranaMuerta (rare posting but fabulous)
Creepy L.A. (Hallowe'en-freaky stuff going on in L.A.)
Grim Hollow Haunt
Highbury Cemetery
Long-Forgotten (Haunted Mansion fun - longest posts EVER)
Maple Grove Cemetery
Orange and Black
PARA-Abnormal (best geeky cartoon ever)
Scotty Art (the art of Stolloween)
The Skeleton Key (posts during Hallowe'en season only)

Do you know of any blogs I should definitely be following?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

L'shana tova v'metuka

To a good and sweet new year!!!  Happy Rosh Hashanah 5775!

In honor of the sweet new year, on which we eat apples and honey and the upcoming Shavuot, when Jews are actually obligated to eat honey, I want to share a little update on my bees!  I have my suit, my smoker, and my hive tool. I have read every book on beekeeping on Amazon (almost) and I'm ready to not kill a hive of bees!

So, Ceebs, my beekeeping mentor, captured a bunch of swarms this summer and one of them is designated as my own little swarm. In my craft room/office is a completed hive (empty of bees, of course) and two complete hives waiting to be assembled.  It was going to be a project for the summer, but that sort of got away from me, so it's really a post Hallowe'en project.
This is me at the HoneyLove Sanctuary.

Anyway, HoneyLove, an awesome organization that you should check out, has a bee sanctuary out in the fields of Moorpark. My bees will end up there, but as Winter is Coming, the bees are starting to store up honey and plan for the cold season right now, so it is probably unlikely that I'll get my hives out there until Spring. Sad trombone.

Bunches of hives. Many, many bees!

Next year, hopefully, my hives will be up and running and the following year, in 5777, I should have honey to share with my friends and family on Rosh Hashanah!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Prop production

So, this year's theme is coming together. I, of course, decided to completely change up my theme somewhere around the first of August, which gave me about 2 and a half months to prep for Hallowe'en. Since August, I have been madly trying to finish the projects I was going to work on anyway, whether or not I changed the theme - lighting and fencing. In between working on these projects, I've been squirreling away time working on the little props that are going into making the new theme work.

Michael correctly stated that it was a lot of little detail and I wasn't really looking at the bigger picture. The bigger picture is a lot of little detail! I think people will be amused.

Personally, I like to inject some humor into my creepy. I always like to make people laugh at a little joke here and there. This year's theme has it's tongue firmly planted in cheek. I'll be giving away little clues throughout the next couple of weeks and hopefully by the end, it will all make sense (or it will be a giant mess, but who cares, it's not like we're landing on Mars!).

Here are the first steps on one of my props:

 Doesn't look like much yet, but it's coming together!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Pumpkiny goodness

Four of the pumpkins grown in my garden last year
I grew 17 pumpkins last year and one of them got nibbled on by a squirrel before I got a chance to get it inside. Rather than letting the furry rodent get more of it, and start to develop a taste for the things, I chopped it up and gave it to the chickens.

I have never heard them so quiet for so long. They LOVED it. While there are actually no controlled studies providing evidence for pumpkin being a natural dewormer in chickens, it certainly doesn't hurt!

In the spirit of pumpkin noms, and my enduring and illogical fantasy that the weather forecast for this weekend (over 100 degrees F.) is wrong, I give you my favorite recipe for pumpkin bread. This recipe is adapted slightly from the one over at Northwest Edible Life (who I just ADORE), but I like my version better - it's spicier.  Try hers though; you might like that one better and she uses chocolate chips!

Spiced Pumpkin Bread


Wet Stuff

  • 15 ounces (1 can) pumpkin puree or 15 ounces of home roasted and pureed pumpkin (home roasted, while more time consuming, is SO much better - you get that slightly caramelized taste of the pumpkin)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 tbsp. bourbon or whiskey. I use anything that's in the liquor cabinet  (Optional – substitute water or apple juice if you prefer not to use liquor)
  • 2-1/2 cups sugar

  • Dry Stuff

  • 3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 heaping teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon allspice

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2 loaf pans and line them with parchment paper. If making muffins, grease and flour or use muffin liners. In a large bowl, whisk together the wet stuff and sugar. Mix pumpkin, eggs, oil, water, bourbon and sugar until well blended. Sift the dry stuff (minus the sugar which you've already added to the wet stuff) directly into the wet stuff : Mix the dry and wet stuff together until just blended.

    Pour batter evenly between the prepared pans or portion into muffin tins.

    Bake for about 60-70 minutes in the preheated oven for 9×5 loaf pans or about 25-35 minutes for muffins. Because baking time will vary based on your oven calibration, oven size, pan, etc., it’s really best to rely on the the toothpick test to determine when your pumpkin bread is done. Loaves or muffins are done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let your bread cool in pan until firmed up, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a cake rack and let cool completely before slicing. This is harder than it should be, but the texture of the bread is better if allowed to fully cool before you cut it open.

    This bread freezes well if well wrapped. I wrap in tinfoil and then put in a gallon ziploc bag.

    Wednesday, September 10, 2014

    Hallowe'en is spendy.

    My home-made lighting box!
    So, while I'm not buying pre-made props this year, I am on a bit of a home-built kick.

    You can add $8.38 to my total for the lighting, since I had to go buy more speaker wire. All in all, still not bad at about $123.

    Now I've started swiping the card for our fencing.  In the past I've done various makeshift fencing to keep kids off the props. I've used teeny tiny garden fencing from the 99 cent store (pictured below - nope), I've used broomsticks pounded into the ground in a diagonal to 'suggest' keeping out of the yard (did NOT work at all) and I've used more expensive Home Depot wooden fencing painted black that worked moderately well for 2 years but was a huge pain in the ass and kept falling down/getting kicked/looked like shit/didn't actually keep anyone out. 
    This is the 99 cent store fencing with my home-made columns.

    This is going to be long term fencing and keep-people-out fencing, so I'm kind of making this on the more permanent side of things. I hope to keep these fences for the next 5 to 7 years with some occasional touch-ups, which I think is totally doable.

    The 4th dimension makes this car get 110 mpg!!!
    Since getting my new car (a beautiful and massively fuel efficient Ford C-Max Energi) I have lost a good bit of hauling capacity; therefore, this weekend I'll be renting a Home Depot pickup truck and hauling all of the supplies back to the homestead for work. There is just no way I'm getting 4 bags of sand, 55 furring strips and 120 pvc pipes in my car.

    All of my cars seem to have a 4th dimension, but I think this car's extra dimension is in the gas tank, which I have only filled twice since May, so I'm really OK with the trade-off.

    I'll bring home a total on the fencing and let you in on the costs. I know it's something I'm always curious about. 

    A lot of the little props ingredients are being sourced from recycled materials though. A lot of cardboard, soda bottles, crates/baskets, wire coat hangers, twigs, and some things found at yard sales in the "FREE" bins.

    One of the best things about being in a Haunter's group is how generous everyone is with their skills and knowledge. It's also the thing I've loved so much about Stitch n' Bitch all these years. There isn't a person I've come across that says, "I'm going to keep this knowledge or this skill a secret so no one else can learn." Everyone is willing to help everyone else out. It's pretty awesome. So, this year, I'm going to hopefully be able to post the step by step on my fence building to share with y'all.  Hopefully it won't be a total disaster.

    Friday, September 5, 2014

    Seriously? September?

    Happy September everyone!!!

    You know what that means, of course.  It means funkins and pumpkins in Michael's and Joann's. It means pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks and pumpkin pie Pop Tarts.

    It also means I'm way freaking behind on my Hallowe'en planning.

    This year, of course, I've kicked it up a notch. In the past year or so, I've become involved in a group called So.Cal. Valley Haunters. While I thought I had some skillz, they have taught me about 100% more. I have learned new tombstone carving skills, lighting and all kinds of prop building.

    So, for the last month or so, I have spent nearly all of my free time building my lighting from scratch. In previous years, I have used just about anything I could get my hands on, from flashlights propped up against props to solar lighting, which lasts about an hour. This year I'm doing all LEDs. There are definitely companies that will sell you the set ups, but for what I'm building, I would probably have spent over $1,500. I checked out the set-ups at Scare L.A. this year, just in case I needed to buy something or I just couldn't figure out the workings. I have currently spent about $115 and honestly, I think I overbought a bit, also, I've had a few donations of speaker wire and 12 volt adapters (thanks Derek!) so it probably evens out:

    new soldering unit:  $24 (display model at Fry's - score!)
    project box: $8
    AV connectors: $20
    LEDs: $24
    Jack boards: $25
    Splitters: $14

    I should be nearly finished with the lighting by the end of the week and then I get started on my new fencing. Which, again, could likely be purchased, but for a buttload more money.  So, off I go to the local hardware store. I'll take more photos of the fencing as it's a lot more photogenic than soldering wires, and post them as I go.

    Happy almost we'en, y'all!!!