October 30, 2011 § 8 Comments
Ahh, I can’t believe Halloween is a couple of short hours away. I haven’t been holding out on you, I promise! I had some more ideas I wanted to test out and make and share here this month, but there simply weren’t enough hours in the day!
As mentioned in my last post, I spent the previous weekend brainstorming and carving pumpkins for the show on Tuesday morning which turned out to be such an amazing experience. I have plenty to say about what happened on Tuesday and I also have the video clips to post, but will do so in a separate post. After that, I caught my breath on Wednesday night. Come Thursday, O.T. was speaking at a conference in the east coast in Albany, NY, called me after work, and surprised me with “I’m taking the Greyhound from Albany, meet me at the station at 6:30 am”. Immediately after hanging up the phone, I attempted to embark on a cleaning frenzy, with no success (again, not enough hours in the day). In any case, my spectacular week couldn’t’ve gotten better! So he’s been here for several days and will be here until Wednesday.
As for the past couple of days, being Halloween weekend, the days are prime calendar real estate (after Christmas and Thanksgiving, of course). We had a couple of parties to attend this weekend and everything went by in a blink!
As for things that blink — I did have time to make these eyeball paper packages for the office tomorrow. 420 mini chocolates in 60 eyeballs in 2 hours. I wish I had shared this sooner, but I actually JUST came up with the idea today. One of the rare occasions when I’m glad I waited til the last minute. Otherwise, I would’ve simply reused my old ideas and would’ve felt a bit of self-reproach for not coming up with anything else different. I’m quite happy with the efficiency of these packages, considering how laborious most of my previous treat packages have been.
I have a 13″ x 19″ format color printer, and have stacks of 11″ x 17″ paper which I used. My very hastily made design (which you may download here for blue, here for brown, here for green) is intended to be 11″ x 11″. One eyeball paper package fits 7 pieces of mini chocolates. Simply fill with treats, gather, and twist. Yes, how handy that the excess twists into the optic nerve!
I’m sure you haven’t left your Halloween treats for last minute as I have, so perhaps this is an idea to consider for next year!
October 19, 2011 § 3 Comments
The latest article I wrote for Craft is available today! I know, I know, another caulking project from me?! I couldn’t resist, especially because it was so easy to turn a regular fitted ball cap into a bloody brain with my caulking gun.
This article had awesome timing. I finished it off here in Toronto before my vacation in California where I managed to get O.T. to agree to model it for the world. And how appropriate that the brainy wears a brain cap.
Did I ever mention O.T. is a computer chip designer in Silicon Valley with 3 patents to his name (one for each consecutive year from 2009 to 2011) and 4 more patents for approval? He exercised his brain from the age of 4 to 28, the years he attended school, unstoppably, from kindergarten to a doctorate (a fellowship, at that!) in both computer science and computer engineering. I love this chic geek of a man! Happy 32nd birthday, O.T. (it was his birthday this weekend and, yes, we’re only 2 weeks apart!). And thank you, O.T., for all your brilliant algorithms.
October 18, 2011 § 7 Comments
Everyone, meet Gord! For the holiday, I’ve carved this Halloween skull lantern out of a butternut squash, with a chunk leftover for some scrumptious soup (my fave kind of all time, not just du jour!). Yes, I do love pumpkins. But, of all gourds, butternut squashes are tops.
There’s no better shape for a carved skull than the butternut squash. It is bulbous, hollow in the bulb (perfect place for a tea light), and has a narrow shaft (appropriate shape for the jaw line).
This is my second go at butternut squash carving, all done with my trusty paring knife. Last year, my carved butternut squash flower centerpieces took half the effort and a fraction of the time as this one lone skull.
I figure it will be a challenge to explain the process into words, so I’m going to skip the long-winded tutorial and leave you with step-by-step pictures only (there is some interpretation to be left in between steps).
The key steps are towards the end of the process. It is important that the sides of the squash be sliced off and the forehead shaved down to a flatter shape, otherwise the skull will look more like an alien. I realize my skull balloons last week are looking like aliens…I must do something about that…
October 7, 2011 § 6 Comments
October 2, 2011 § 7 Comments
It’s pumpkin and apple season!
I’ve noticed that when candy or chocolate apples are made to look like pumpkins, lines are piped on the surface of the apple, which happens to be quite the opposite of how pumpkins truly are. I figured, why not imitate the recessed lines of pumpkins by cutting thin slices out of the apple?
So, that’s exactly what I did to make these apples look truly like pumpkins.
Then I figured, why not make them taste like pumpkin pie?
And that’s exactly what I did. I threw in some cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger into the candy melts. And now my pumpkin candy apples taste just like pumpkin pie.
Did the apples brown at the cut edges? Not so much. They were immediately dipped in candy melts, which coated them well enough to keep from browning. Would the apples brown the next day because they’ve been cut? Hmmm, I’m not so sure. I ate almost all of them almost immediately.
I did save one for a friend, which I packaged using the technique in my recent tutorial on packaging cupcakes, cookies, and macarons, this time using a 2L pop bottle.
September 29, 2011 § 2 Comments
I cannot wait to work on fall and Halloween crafts for October, but before I do, here’s a recap of the fall and Halloween ideas I designed last year. If you didn’t get a chance to make any of these creations last year, I hope you try them out this season!
My most favorite post was the one with the Halloween balloon body parts. Doodle on balloons to create creepy eyes, bloody brains, and witch’s fingers:
Make cute little phantom place cards by drawing faces on pumpkin seeds:
Cut out and fold an itsy bitsy spider treat box with the very first printable I designed and shared on this blog (and it was my very first tutorial ever):
Grab a tupperware bowl, four corks, scraps of paper, a pen, and some raffia and create this witch’s candy-filled cauldron with broomstick:
You know I love me my packaging, so here’s another printable! Fill this harvest corn treat box with…you guessed it…candy corn! (I think this is still my favorite treat box out of all treat boxes I’ve designed for this blog to date):
Your little ones can make art of autumn grains with this wheat and corn décor made of exactly that: wheat (pasta) and corn:
And the most popular fall tutorial I made last year was the carved butternut squash centerpieces:
Oh, and I almost forgot: I did a whole week of pumpkin experimental recipes last year:
My favorite from pumpkin week was the pumpkin panna cotta:
And, I almost forgot, I designed and baked a ginormous woven cornucopia cracker for Thanksgiving:
Enjoy! More fall and Halloween ideas from me coming up in October! And I have a birthday GIVEAWAY coming to you this weekend! paper, plate, and plane is very soon turning 1. And I am very soon turning 1 year older. I am excited to host a special giveaway to celebrate the occasion(s). Stay tuned!!! 😀
May 19, 2011 § 73 Comments
It’s been raining cats and dogs here in Toronto. We have been swamped with seven consecutive days of rain. I’ve been ogling the clear umbrellas at the dollar store for over a year now and with all this wet weather, finally found a good excuse to pick them up. Doodling a custom umbrella is one rainy day project to soak in during this rainy season!
I have had a hard time finding that cute umbrella. It didn’t occur to me until experiencing all the rain this week that I can design my own umbrella any way I want. Oh, the torrent of possibilities! Skyline? Spring flowers? Sunshine? The list is endless and, luckily, the dollar store is fully stocked with these clear umbrellas this season. I will have an illustrated umbrella collection by the time all this rain ceases. For now, let it keep raining cats and dogs.
You will need: a clear umbrella and permanent markers.
1. This project has little margin for error, so I decided to sketch my cats and dogs on paper before tracing them ON THE INSIDE of the umbrella with my Sharpie.
2. Continue the design around the umbrella.
3. Color away! I wanted a simplicity to this design considering it’s quite cheeky to begin with, so I used my Sakura Permapaque white paint marker.
Now get outside, step into a few puddles, and sing in the rain!
December 6, 2010 § 4 Comments
It is certainly December! I drove back to Toronto to be met with a generous dusting of snow (oh, a good half a foot deep), after spending the weekend down in Michigan at my parents’. They threw a sizeable party for 50 people for a late Thanksgiving and early Christmas celebration. I’m utterly exhausted. I took on two experimental Asian desserts as well as prepared and packaged 50 favors — a small dent in an extensive party spread. I really can’t comprehend how mom hosts such big parties. I’ve got a lot to learn.
My idea for the party favors evolved quite, hmmm, favorably. About two weeks ago, I made a random visit to my local packaging supplier and found individual gold truffle boxes and miniature poinsettias on clearance for bargain-basement, jaw-dropping, only-a-fool-would-resist prices. The boxes were 25 for $1 and the poinsettias 36 for $1. For 50 people, $4 on all this beautiful packaging is beyond a steal.
Keeping things frugal and fuss-free, I thought of filling the truffle boxes with chocolate-covered roasted chestnuts. It’s the season for chestnuts roasting on an open fire, afterall. But there’s an easy substitute to buying fresh chestnuts for roasting. These days, Asian grocery stores sell packaged roasted chestnuts all year long, and they are just as good as fresh roasted chestnuts. A package will run you about $1.50, containing anywhere between 15-20 roasted chestnuts (already peeled), depending on quality and size. As luck would have it, I found packages of delicious chestnuts for $1 each. Three packages were enough for 50 favors. It took no more than half an hour to melt down a couple of dollars worth of Ghirardelli dark chocolate and dip the chestnuts.
The creamy texture of the chestnuts is comparable to very firm ganache, with some grit. In fact, I could’ve gotten away with calling these chestnut truffles, as they have the air and luxury of truffles. But at under $10 worth of ingredients and packaging for all 50 favors, there’s simply no putting up pretenses!
November 7, 2010 § 11 Comments
It’s interesting how inspiration comes knocking. Last Sunday, my brother treated me to a brunch for my birthday. Over a heaping plate full of bacon and eggs, he was raving about his recent experience of making and eating a bacon explosion with some friends. If you haven’t heard of a bacon explosion, as I hadn’t as of last week, it is bacon strips woven together in the style of a basket weave, topped with ground meat and rolled into a heart attack-inducing meatloaf. It couldn’t all quite register as I had a moment of eureka in the basket weave part. See, before last weekend, I was experimenting with creating shapes out of a whole wheat cracker recipe that I made one day by accidentally over crisping homemade tortillas. Since, I have been racking my brain for ideas on ways to make creative crackers. And my brother’s fervent blather about woven bacon was exactly the inspiration I needed. Thanks, bro!
So, that is how this whole wheat cornucopia cracker and cheese platter has come to be, and just in time for American Thanksgiving, unlike my many other belated ideas.
I must admit, this is an enormous task for a cracker and cheese platter (I realize my 15″ square oversize platter diminishes the horn which is in fact 10″ long and 5″ in diameter enormous). But it is well worth the effort. It is a beautiful addition to your Thanksgiving spread.
1. A large stainless steel cocktail shaker and aluminum foil.
2. Cut three pieces of foil, each one foot in length. Crumple the first piece, then hang on the lip of the cocktail shaker. Crumpling it before attaching it to the shaker saves on the use of foil (it gives shape, without having to use too much). It is crucial that only a small piece of foil is inside the shaker, because the shaker must be easily removed from the foil after baking.
3. Do the same for the other two pieces of foil.
4. Take a piece of foil about one and a half feet in length and wrap around the shaker. Make sure that the bulk of the crumpled foil is towards the mouth of the shaker, to have a nice cone shape.
Combine 1/2 c of hot water, 1/8 c of melted butter, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp sugar, and 1 c of whole wheat flour into a dough.
1. Separate the dough into two parts. For both, roll out the dough on a floured surface until very thin. Using a pizza cutter and a clean strip of paper measuring 5/8″ wide as a guide, cut strips of the dough.
2. Weave the strips together. The best trick is to move the strips back when you are adding a new strip under.
3. Continue to weave.
4. Make sure the weave is larger than the foil-covered cocktail shaker.
5. Place the foil-covered cocktail shaker on the weave and roll until your weave forms a cornucopia.
6. Carefully place the cracker on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Using a sharp knife, trim any excess strips and ensure that the foil at the mouth is not covered. This is crucial in removing your shaker once the cracker is baked.
7. Bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.
8. To remove the shaker, first lift the foil from the lip of the shaker. Slide the shaker out carefully. Then working from inside out, slide out the pieces of foil.
November 4, 2010 § 4 Comments
I teach several after-school and lunch-time programs throughout the week and have the good fortune of being in the company of young children on a daily basis, even just for an hour or two. One of the many things I love about teaching is the free access pass to a labyrinth of art-clad school halls. There’s nothing as refreshing to the eyes as beholding children’s work.
I realize, despite all of the technology and gadgets and gaming and software at a child’s fingertips, when it comes to kids, art doesn’t change. In fact, it isn’t at all different from the art I used to make years back (okay, more like two to three decades back). Kids are still making art from beans and pasta, as we did when we were kids, and as our kids’ kids will be doing.
I thought it would be fun to make bean art with a theme for fall — appropriately, the harvest. Now when it comes down to children’s art techniques, the subject is often forced to be as irrelevant as possible to the medium. I remember when I was six years old, my bean art was of a galloping horse, its mane spiraling with mung beans.
For this craft, I felt it apropos to abandon our childhood paradigm of obliging imagination and, instead, make things out of what they really are. Corn art out of corn. And wheat art out of wheat (well, more technically speaking: pasta. Semolina is really just a fancy name for wheat flour!).
November 2, 2010 § 41 Comments
Just when I thought I’d seen enough squashes and gourds adorning a Thanksgiving table, I came up with an idea of carving butternut squashes into beautiful flowers. I’ve always fancied the butternut squash for its shape, color, and density (apart from being so incredibly delicious!). Butternut squashes are adorably unique. They also happen to have a substantial amount of flesh, are considerably less hollow than most gourds, and make for a divine base for carving.
What’s best is that butternut squashes are overly abundant and inexpensive this time of year. I got mine at thirty-nine cents a pound. I spent a miserly $2.40 on this entire centerpiece arrangement. For a couple of bucks, half an hour of time, and a striking conversation piece, you absolutely cannot go wrong with this beautiful project.
You will need as many butternut squashes as you’d like and a paring knife. I bought three medium-size squashes weighing two pounds each. It takes only ten minutes to carve each one, so carve as many as your table and schedule can fit! Just make sure these are carved on the morning of your party and kept in the fridge until your table is ready for setting.
1. Using a paring knife, peel the skin in six sections at about 1/8″ in thickness until you get to the bulb of the squash (about 3/4 down) and the peels are hanging.
2. Continue carving a second layer of six slices (petals). It’s best to carve in such a way that the peaks made by the previous cuts are now in the middle of the new cuts.
3. Carve a third layer of six petals.
4. Carve a fourth layer of six petals (by this time the petals are much smaller). Cut the center flesh into a short stump.
5. Carve the center until it is rounded.
November 1, 2010 § 22 Comments
I started my blog days before Canadian Thanksgiving and agonize at having missed the opportunity to post some crafts for the holiday. It’s a blessing that American Thanksgiving is still to come! I like entitling myself to the double celebration of Thanksgiving each year, considering that three of the four most important people in my life live in America. Every American Thanksgiving weekend has been spent at my parents’ in Michigan. Having said that, my next few crafts may regrettably be a few weeks out of date for my beloved Canadians, but for my American family and friends, the crafts are just in season.
You will need scissors, good quality double-sided tape (I always use the ones with backing), and the following:
a. Corn patterned paper. Don’t worry, I’ve done the designing for you!! I am happy to provide the sheet here for free for you to download and print on cardstock. Each sheet has two yellow corn patterns and two Indian corn patterns. Kindly note that this sheet is only for your personal use. *Edit: I’ve had a special request for a black & white version of the corn pattern so that your little ones can color the kernels in, so you can upload the b&w version, too. Thanks for the great suggestion, Bridget!*
b. Green and yellow crepe streamers.
c. Candy corn.
Now, to make this fun and easy project:
1. Using double-sided tape, roll the corn pattern into a tube.
2. Take the quarters of tissue paper and roll into balls.
3. Plug one end of the corn tube with a ball of tissue paper, then fill with candy corn, and plug the other end with a second ball of tissue paper.
4. Cut your streamers into 5-1/2″, 6-1/2″, and 7″ strips and shape into husks. Each corn will need two 5-1/2″ strips, two 6-1/2″ strips, and one 7″ strip. I used green streamer for the yellow corn and yellow streamer for the Indian corn.
5. Using double-sided tape, arrange and adhere the husks to cover the bottom of the tube entirely, the sides of the tube, and the top of the tube partially.
October 30, 2010 § 2 Comments
Well, it’s time to wash down a whole week’s worth of pumpkin with, well, more pumpkin. Yes, I love it so much, I could drink the stuff. And why not? Though I’ve noticed pumpkin spice latte to be a growing trend, I haven’t actually bought some. I’m not very big on any type of latte and only submit to it on occasion. Now if they could have you choose how you want your pumpkin spice drink mixed. A veto on the latte. A vote on hot white chocolate. Until the baristas conjure this up, my last batch of pumpkin purée has been rationed out to some hot white chocolate. No better way to end my pumpkin week!
1 c milk
1/3 c roasted pumpkin, puréed
1/4 c white chocolate, chopped
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
Over medium heat, simmer all ingredients until white chocolate is melted. Sip and enjoy on a beautiful autumn day like today (well, I can have it any day or everyday, for that matter)!
October 29, 2010 § 1 Comment
Naturally, I get my desserts and snacking out of the way. Now, it is time for the main dish. I am a big eater of salmon. No sobering warnings of mercury levels have stopped me from over-consuming the stuff. With all the pumpkin cooking in the kitchen, of course I had to concoct some type of purée to compliment my salmon. And compliment it did. I was so stunned, in fact, that I ended up Googling it afterward to see just how many people are catching on to this. Not as many as I had hoped (why is unknown to me), but I’ll give it time. Salmon and pumpkin are a sensational team!
The salmon is sweetened, bringing to mind the same sweetness of teriyaki — the most universal savory sweet salmon dish available. I wanted to call the puréed pumpkin a glaze, but that would be a downright misnomer. I still have no idea what to call this dish, but for now it is what it is…and it is delish!
4 fresh wild salmon fillets
1/2 c roasted pumpkin, puréed
1/4 c brown sugar
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp granulated onion
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1. In a small bowl, combine pumpkin purée, brown sugar, garlic, onion, salt, and pepper.
2. In a baking dish, arrange the salmon fillets and generously top with the purée.
3. Bake uncovered at 400°F for 15-20 minutes.
October 28, 2010 § 1 Comment
Just yesterday, Dr. Oz mentioned that pumpkin seeds are chock-full of magnesium, iron, and zinc. Well, I am glad I had my healthy dose of pumpkin seeds over the past week. Mine were roasted as soon as I opened my pumpkin.
I made up this recipe aiming for a great-tasting snack, but was delightfully surprised at the wonderful aromatic scent that filled the air while roasting. If only my house could smell like that all the time!
2 c pumpkin seeds
1 tsbp butter, melted
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp powdered sugar
1. Wash your pumpkin seeds and separate from strands.
2. Lay the seeds on a baking sheet and dry overnight.
3. Coat with melted butter and toss in the spices and powdered sugar to coat.
4. Bake in 300°F for 20 minutes.
Here is an informative article from USA Today explaining all the health benefits of pumpkin.