Sunday, October 31, 2010

Caramel Apples; The Sequel

Oh yah, it's that time of year that I have been waiting for. I am going to be the comeback kid and I am taking no prisoners. Muaaahhahha!

Last year I attempted to make caramel dipped apples with several fun toppings and EVEN my own caramel sauce. It was a colossal failure; I mean I was in full on meltdown mode because what seemed relatively easy (it's not like I was building a rocket or making a new chemical compound) turned into a disaster! You can read all about it here.

This year will be different; it has to be, right!?!?!

 First I washed the apples to get them clean and then dried them off.

Then I put the sticks in the middle and put them in the "hot tub". I boiled them for only about 20 seconds each, just enough to get the 'shiny' off of them. As you can see from the below picture it totally worked.

Ha ha, stupid caramel! I win this year; this is for sure going to work.

 I prepared my M&M's (even in Fall colors, how cute is that?!) while I waited for my caramel pieces to melt down into velvety smooth caramel sauce. Also there was a bit of water at the tops where the sticks were inserted so I laid the apples on their side to dry completely.

Mmmm, caramel. Just 1 package of store bought caramels and 2 Tbsp of milk. It started to come together nicely.

Almost there; I am so excited at this point and confident that they are going to rock! But then just as I had hoped wouldn't happen, I dipped the apples in the caramel and then in the topping and put them on the wax paper and the caramel that had M&M's on it started to slide off.

I mean it was still a step up from last years complete and utter train wreck but darn it I wanted to knock everyone's socks off with my caramel apples this year. The Hubs stepped in and tried to rig something together with a bowl and my cooling rack, and it sort of worked, but now it was sliding the other way because of how they are facing.
We rushed them into the fridge; I can't even believe I took a picture of the inside of my fridge but I needed to have something for you folks to look at that was related to this post. I wish I could get one of those color blocked, high pitch squealing "this is a test...only a test" type things you see on the TV but unfortunatley I was fresh out. :) This is what you get folks--I picture of my funky junk apples and the inside of my fridge. Aren't you lucky! ;)

Every now and then when you opened the fridge you could hear a *plink* from the topping falling from the apples.
Not quite the disaster as last year but still not what I had intended. I have decided that I am going to leave this project to the pro's. Besides I am a really good cook and baker and make fabulous other treats that everyone loves so I am bidding farewell to Caramel Apples; peace out, apples!

What am I going to do with the apples that are in the fridge you ask...well the kiddo's will each get one because I am sure they don't care what they look like and the others, well I'm not sure yet. Maybe the trash, maybe to work...who knows.

I'm also bidding ya'll farewell for now because I need to get ready for trick or treating with the family.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Fall candle holders

I told you about these simple candle holders here. I made these babies in about 7 minutes, if that, and right before the in-laws showed up for dinner. Way super easy!

First I had three tall glass holders from the Dollar Tree. CHEAP!!

Then I cut up one of my burlap sacks from last Spring into three strips. Mine are about 2-2 1/2 inches wide but you can create yours however wide you would like.

First I positioned the burlap on the glass holder where I wanted, did a thin strip of hot glue on the burlap and pressed it to the holder. Then I did another thin strip of hot glue on the other end and pressed it to the the other end of burlap.

Then as you can see, I took some faux leaves I have in my craft box and put a thin dollop of hot glue on the backside and pressed it to the front of the burlap wrapped candle holder.

I put a tealight in each and voila! I love eating by candle light; it gives every ordinary meal a little oomph and makes it special.

I think it still needs a little somethin-somethin to jazz it up just a tad. I might go out and get coffee beans to fill the jar a bit and place the tealight on top. I believe it will give it that extra texture and color it's lacking.

So how about you, do you love to eat by candlelight? Have you made any special candleholders or centerpieces lately? Do share; I love to hear about all the wonderful creations people make.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Apple Picking at Greenbluff

One of my brothers decided to tag along with The Hubs and I while we went apple picking at Greenbluff. It's a tradition of ours to go apple picking and it ties into my birthday month so well. Normally we go around my birthday but this year it worked out better to go 2 weeks prior.
And it was an absolute beautiful day. Normally the weather is 'iffy' when we go but since we were early the sun was out, the weather was warm and I couldn't have asked for a more perfect Fall day.

The Hubs and I always hit up Walter's Farm first for the apple picking. And of course, The Hubs gets his twice a year treat of cheddar kettle corn while we are at it. It was extra special this year that my brother came along. We got to show him our favorite parts and share stories of years past.

Look at the apples! There were tons and we had our choice of pickings since we came early this year. Woohoo!

Just some more photo's of the beautiful orchards and our beautiful day!

At Walter's they also have pumpkins, a petting zoo, playground, concession stands with food and live music this time of year. It's really something to be able to be a part of year after year.

When we are finished at Walter's Farm then we head over to the main event, The Harvest House. This is where a ton of action is. They have a corn maze, wagon rides, booths of all kinds and of course the only reason we go---PUMPKIN DONUTS!!

My brother and I waited in line for almost an hour to get pumpkin donuts but it was totally worth it. They are so hot and fresh and rolled in cinnamon sugar mix. Oh heavenly! You must have at least 2 straight out of the fryer so we got a dozen. I know you probably think I am crazy but these donuts are crazy good and their not terribly big so a dozen isn't that nuts.

If you live in this area I recommend taking a trip to the Greenbluff area and trying out the experience for yourself. If you don't, I would also suggest researching for a similar experience near your home. The produce doesn't get any fresher and the experience can't be beat.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Casual Family Dinner

I enjoy entertaining family and friends; it's my special way to say "I care" or "I love you". Today we invited the in-law's out for a relaxed 'Sunday Supper'. I have a few party "rules" that I try to live by but will explain those later.

The Hubs and I decided that pot roast was on the menu tonight. It was a beautiful fall day and what better to serve then comfort food. I also decided that I would make an apple crisp since we hit up Greenbluff today; that will be on another post so stay tuned. I prepared the pot roast this morning before heading out to the apple orchards. My recipe is pretty standard, I think, and everyone seemed to enjoy the food. My favorite part of course is the company and then a close second is the vino. :)

My entertaining rules that I try to live by:

1) Set a budget; this is super important especially when you have invited more than two people over
2) Create a menu and stick to it. Also be sure to check with guests about dietary concerns if you don't already know.
3) Prepare as much in advance as the items will allow.

4) Always make a homecooked meal, even if it is something as simple as throwing items in the crockpot, like I did. It's always a great meal and requires little to no effort on my part. Score!

5) As the hostess, or host, you are responsible for setting the tone of the evening. So be sure to take a deep breath and relax at least a half an hour before your guests are to arrive. If you are rushed then your guests will feel the same.
6) Turn off your cell phones and TV, unless your TV is what is providing the music. Which brings me to my next rule...
7) Keep the music just loud enough that people can still enjoy the tune but not so loud that they have to shout to have a conversation with another party-goer. And while we are on the subject of music-ALWAYS keep it appropriate. Don't choose heavy metal or rap.
8) Keep the party simple; don't fuss over every detail and take everything so seriously. Things happen and while you may be upset that it didn't go just "perfectly", the events will be something to laugh about later. *(this one is a hard one for me)*
9) I never impose a seating arrangement. We may all be friends and family but sometimes you just want to sit where you want to sit. And that should be perfectly acceptable.
10) Candlelight; it's the most flattering light and it is a definite mood setter. I made cute little candle holders right before the in-laws arrived. I will show you that post later as well.

Oh and I just saw that in the November issue of House Beautiful magazine they have 101 party do's & don'ts. I opened it up and instantly saw a couple that I totally disagree with. Like don't use plastic or never use paper napkins but I also saw a couple that I might have to incorporate into my own tentative rules. For instance, always start with an empty dishwasher and warm plates before serving hot food on them-genious! Wonderful, wonderful ideas. You should check out the article yourself; for me I'm going to indulge in another glass of wine and read all 101 party "rules".

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Shop Update

Woo-to-the-freakin-HOO! The exterior of the shop is complete peeps! Well almost; we don't have a garage door yet but in due time. We are beyond exhausted, I mean excited. maybe a little both and I can actually, truthfully say that I helped. I did...I swear!

So the last you saw it it looked like this
So the first step, after The Hubs got it to this point, was to put on the roof. Then the walls, taking into account the doors.

Each piece of metal had to be cut to size; basically we touched each piece at least two times. I will spare you the crazy pitfalls but looking at it today it was worth it. Every two feet and across the entire length you put a screw through the metal and into the wood frame behind it to secure the piece in place.

It's a total construction zone around here and a complete eye sore but finally, this weekend, we get to pack it all up and haul it off. We are done! Well again with the exterior. The inside still looks like this...for now.

Over the winter though we will attempt to put in electrical, insulation, drywall and most importantly shelving so that by Spring 2011 I can start putting our storage items out there. Oh and of course have the professionals pour the concrete floor.

I'm not making any promises or putting a timeline on this because it's Murphy's Law that when you do something goes tiddlywinks. Besides, we want it done right and the first time. :)

Before: barren land was the only picture I could find of this area. I know...I'm putting some sort of vibe into the Universe to cause this white, fluffy stuff to fall. I'm sorry, I totally didn't intend to. I TAKE IT BACK...I TAKE IT BACK! :)

After: A shop! A real live, bigger than all get out SHOP!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Stuff and Fluff

I cannot even begin to tell you the amount of stuff we have going on and of course we are getting into the season with all the major holidays and family get togethers. Some days I wish I could slow down time and I don't know...take a nap! With that said, we do love all of the "stuff" that we do and one of the very fun events we have been looking forward to around this time of year is the Trinity Auction.

We have family members that attend this school as well as family members that are employed by the school so it's extra special to us. I decided last year that I wanted to make a couple gift baskets for the following years auction. Well I decided on one...see the note above about the "amount of stuff" we got goin' on. :) I wish I could do more but I just can't this year.

What is easy about gift baskets is that you literally stuff it and fluff it until it looks awesome. I'm not even kidding.

I started with a mixing bowl; white so that it could go with any decor for any of the wonderful families bidding on it.
I stuffed it with tissue paper. I monkeyed around with the burlap to go over this too for well over a half an hour but it just didn't sit right. You don't have to put tissue paper in the object you are 'stuffing' but I did because I wanted some height and dimension. Then what you do is stuff...take out...restuff...take out and restuff again until you get your desired look.

I put in a recipe box, two 20 count recipe cards, cookie/cupcake stencils in the middle. Then I put the cookie mix behind the recipe box and then stuffed two spoonulah's (spatula's that are more spoon shape) onto either side of the cookie mix. Then I placed the cookie cutters also behind the recipe box and then the jar of frosting front and center.

Oh and since it is fall...the look wasn't complete without some leaves scattered around. Then you wrap it up in a plastic bag (like me if you want the easy way out) or plastic shrink wrap. I tie mine off with a rubberband so it's easier to put the bow on.
Also I taped the sides of the bag; you really can't tell unless you look close but the sides stuck out like big ol' ears. Not the look I was going for. Then the final piece...the bow. Now I have to admit I bought my bow; the lovely lady at Michael's made it for me in like seriously 5 seconds flat. So if anyone has a tutorial or tips on making this bow I am all ears-big ol' ears :) -just kidding but seriously would love a step by step on bow making. For this project, the $8.00 (I know-GASP) was well worth the money since I didn't have time and an endless supply of ribbon to perfect it.

Isn't it lovely! I am in love of the color of ribbon. In some lights and certain angles it looks peach, then in others burnt orange and then in others pinkish. It's gorg! And I picked it out :)

The final result is a super cute, super easy peasy gift "basket" (or bowl) to be auctioned off.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Autumn Greetings

Although this week the temp is in the 80's I have been itching to put out a little bit of my fall decor. I just love the warmth and the smell of fall, don't you?

"Simple" is the plan in decorating this year. As like many of you, I have too much going on to fuss over the decor and coordinating such items with the seasons. However, I DO love changing it up but I'm taking all the pressure off this year-a free 'hall pass' if you will.

Last spring I showed you a few "simple" ideas that I used to decorate above the cabinet and a centerpiece here. I changed up above the cabinet for fall but I have decided not to do a tablescape or centerpiece, at least not right now. You see, for those who know me personally you know that I do not have my own desk yet (and my "office" aka the abyss is a disaster) and I'm going back to school so our dining room table is "my desk". With that in mind, I wanted to still put a bit of fall decor out but have it not be distracting that I lost interest in school and became obsessed with switching out my decor.

So first I took the black/white damask plates down, took the green/white and black 'fluff' out of the glass jar and took the believe book down.

I put a brown (plastic-shh) charger where the plates were. It was only $2.99 plus 20% off at Michaels with my coupon.
Then I also put fall 'fluff', you know leaves and pinecones (the smelly kind-not that anyone would notice from way up there) in the glass jar.

I left my cake stand up there, it's pretty much a permanent fixture since I have no where else to store it. Work with what you got people and integrate items, like this for storage, into your decor. I decided to put 3 small pumpkins I had from the 'fall fluff' and three beady candle holders into the cake stand and sort of treat it like a cloche. On a side note, am I the only person in the world that doesn't have a cloche!!

Then I just added a metal Petaluma sign I got in a thrifty/antique store for only $6.00. Originally it was going to find a place on the hutch but I just couldn't make it work yet with the accessories I had. Then the final piece of decor was a white, plushy pumpkin from Michaels that was $7.99 plus 40% off and then the additional 20% with my coupon. I bought two!

The final product is just enough warmth and just enough fall decor to satisfy my craving to change for the season. The whole process took about 10 minutes tops and that is including put a little bit on the hutch and a candle holder out as well.

I encourage you all to give yourselves a break and simplify your Fall decor. I feel liberated and I think you might too and Christmas will be here soon ( I know, sue me) and you can go all gangbusters then. Although if you are one that just can't force yourself to stop (it's our little secret *wink* ) then go for it and embrace it. You are who you are and that is why people love you.

So tell me, have you started putting out your Fall stuff yet or are you afraid it is cheating Summer somehow and you want to soak up all the sun before it's gone for good?

P.S. Sorry the pictures are so crap! I shot them at night which is a huge no-no. Do as I say not as I do. :)