Oct 31, 2011

Halloween 2011: Alien Invasion!

As some of you may know, Halloween is the biggest holiday at my house.  As an owner of a DJ company, it's a perfect fit for our equipment, and it gives us the opportunity to connect with all the trick-or-treating families in our neighborhood (more than a hundred kids usually stop by).  They always look forward to our "getup" every year, and cars passing by during the day will often linger to check out our progress and ask us what movie we'll be showing.

Over the years, we've continued to outdo ourselves, and this year was our most complicated theme yet... aliens.  I've been wanting to do this theme for a few years now, and had finally committed to it a couple months out.  Little did I know that there was little in the way of store-bought items that followed our theme... plenty of ghouls, witches, and skeletons... but no aliens.  So with the support and help of the family, friends, and crew, we set out to create most everything ourselves.

Above is the very ambitious alien (from the movie Alien) that I made out of mostly recycled materials.  As the story goes, the Alien takes on some of the characteristics of its "host," and we jokingly referred to him as the Snowboarder Alien because he was formed from a reclaimed snowboarder helmet.  I really wanted to throw him out the window a few times, as it was difficult to figure out how to keep his head up structurally... luckily we had plenty of duct tape (thanks, Mark)!

To finish my alien, I used the paper mache technique from last year's Halloween for the head and torso, then made him silver, and painted on some details.  Plastic tubing from the hardware store finished off the look, and we even hooked up his "inner  mouth" to one of our fog machines, which turned out cool!

Our house on Halloween is usually set up with a tunnel-like entrance in the front, with decorations on the side (we're on a corner), interior "haunted house" structure that has expanded into three sections due to our new patio addition, and a 6 X 9 foot movie screen out front to show movies (we're video DJs).  With our special effects lighting, fog, and sound effects- it gets pretty crazy and impressive.  Our neighbor Gary from across the street supplies us every year with free pumpkins from the UC Davis Veg Crops fields, and can be spotted sitting on his lawn chair in his driveway to watch our movies on Halloween night.  
My husband, Mike made the awesome cyborg on the "launch pad" at the front entrance, Mark and Peter made cool UFO's out of old dog igloos, and Levon and the crew helped set up all the walls, audio/visual, and even carved a pumpkin or two!  Thanks, Cee for making awesome food- because we were about to forget about eating that day!

Here's a quick video I put together for you to see:

Yes, it's a hell of a lot of work, but in the end, there is one word that can describe this night... magic.

Little ones (and sometimes not so little ones), walking clumsily, yet proudly in their elaborate little outfits, are enthusiastically coaxed by parents to enter the scary tunnel.  Ninjas, princesses, and medieval knights huddle together as they warily walk through the fog, fake fire, and glow-in-the-dark lights towards their ultimate goal... candy.  Bravely they face their fears of unseen terror that may await inside- is that a monster? Will it get me?  Finally they're greeted by a lady in a funky space suit with funny goggles, carrying a basket full of treats!  As long as it's not her friend dressed up as a very convincing werewolf, they rush forward with their cute little voices...
"Trick or treat!  Trick or treat!"  
"What do you say?" ask the responsible adults behind them.
"Thank you!  Thank you!"

...Ah, the memories of being a kid on Halloween.

Oct 9, 2011

A Bun in the Oven

Yes, it's true.  I have one- in my oven, so to speak!  Surprise!  Although this baby was completely unplanned, and such a mystery as to how it happened, we are all thrilled.  Admittedly, the idea of a child did give my husband and I a freak-out moment or two when we first saw the plus sign on the, count 'em- THREE pregnancy tests, but I knew that this had to be destiny.  Only a month or so earlier, quite an unusual thought entered my mind, which I shared with Mike.  You see, I had never really longed for children like many women do- never felt the biological clock ticking or anything like that, and was perfectly content with the thought of being a childless couple.  But out of the blue, I told Mike that if we ever got pregnant, I would want to have it no matter what.  Although that statement was quickly followed by a don't-hold-your-breath-though disclaimer, it seems in hindsight a very interesting premonition.  

So here we are at the beginning of my 2nd trimester, and I have to tell you- my relationship with food has changed.  As expected, odd cravings and repulsions, along with feeling constantly and annoyingly... pukey, my motivations in the kitchen have been somewhat limited to eating foods that are quick to prepare, and (hopefully) easy to keep down.  One of my few wierd repulsions include anything with cinnamon.  This is undoubtedly a terrible time of the year to hate cinnamon, but there it is.  

These sticky buns would most likely make the most amazing cinnamon rolls, if you want to add a couple teaspoons of the stuff (yuck!)... but for my present state of pukeyness, I am omitting.

Side note:  leftover dough can also make a cute bear.  Can you tell that I feel like it's going to be a boy?
...We'll see...
Maple Pecan (Un-Cinnamon) Sticky Buns

(Makes 12-18 buns)

2 1/4 tsp. dry active yeast (1 package)
1/3 C. + 1 tsp. sugar
1/2 C. lukewarm water
3/4 C. non-dairy milk (I used soymilk)
6 T. canola oil
1/4 C. Vegenaise
1/4 tsp. salt
31/2 - 4 C. white spelt flour (or all purpose)

1/4 C. brown sugar
1/4 C. sugar
1/4 C. spelt (or all purpose) flour
1/2 C. crushed pecans
1/2 C. raisins
2 T. Earth Balance margarine (chilled)

1 C. powdered sugar
1/4 C. maple syrup
2 T. melted EB margarine
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract


In a large mixing bowl, add yeast to the lukewarm water and 1 tsp. of sugar.  Allow it to sit until frothy.  Add non dairy milk, canola oil, Vegenaise, and salt, and whisk together until combined.  Add flour a little at a time until a dough forms.  Add a little more if the dough is sticky- it should become a smooth elastic dough that doesn't stick to the sides of the bowl.  Knead for about 5 minutes.  Cover and set aside to double in size (about an hour).  

For the filling, mix all the ingredients except the margarine, until well combined.  Set aside.  After the dough has finished proofing, punch down and roll out onto a floured surface with a rolling pin until about 1/2" thick.  Sprinkle filling evenly over dough, then cut little pieces of margarine to dot the dough.  Roll carefully and as tightly as possible.  Press to close the end, and cut into 12 even buns.  

Arrange the buns in a prepared baking pan (they can be pretty snug, but remember that they will expand).  Cover, and let sit for another 30 minutes.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes.  Keep an eye on them, as oven temps can vary.  You want the bottoms to be golden, and the tops firm to the touch.  

For the icing, whisk all ingredients together until combined.  Drizzle over warm buns. 

Best when served warm and fresh!

NOTE: You can also freeze the raw roll, thaw, and bake later or refrigerate and bake a few days later.

Ultrasound at 14 weeks... amazing how the little sucker was moving around!  Not so clear in the picture, but we could see the spine, arms and legs, and little heart beating.  We could've watched for hours.