Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween Helpful Hint #4 Always have candles

When carving pumpkins for Halloween it is always wise to make sure you have candles in the house.  We carved 5 pumpkins today and I went to light them up so I could take some pictures and found I have NO candles.  So I guess I will just have to wait until tomorrow to take some pictures.  So you will just have to come back to my blog tomorrow to check them out then.  Have a wonderful Halloween and hope all your pumpkins are looking great.

Halloween Helpful Hints #3 Treats

Tired of giving kids tons of junk food and looking for a new treat idea.  This is my parents treat table already setup for Halloween this year.  They buy school supplies when it is really cheap at the beginning of the school year and save it until Halloween.  They put all the supplies on a table along with a bowl of candy and tell the kids they can pick any 3 items.  This year they have crayons, colored pencils, glue sticks, notebooks, regular pencils, scissors and some candy.  My kids have already raided the table and have gotten several items.  Art supplies are always appreciated at our house.  Happy Trick or Treating.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Halloween Helpful Hint #2 Carving Tools

When carving a pumpkin it is very important to keep the knife tools out of the reach of small children.  Not only to keep them from cutting themselves but also so they don't destroy the pumpkin you just cut.  Case in point, my daughter wanted a pumpkin with sharp teeth after I helped her get the pumpkin carved I walked away for a second to wash my hands.  Upon returning to the table I found her holding a knife along with a few teeth.  Lesson learned.  I think she got 3 teeth out before I came back.  Maybe she has a future as a dentist.

Another carving tools helpful hint is to make sure you look at all sides of the pumpkin before you start carving.  My daughter had started sticking a knife in the pumpkin before I had time to do that so we just started carving on this side.  I only realized after we were done carving that the opposite side was perfect with no blemishes.  Yet another lesson learned.

Halloween Helpful Hint #1 Pumpkin Guts

When gutting a pumpkin it can get kind of messy especially if you have kids helping you.  To solve this problem I usually find a small box or a pitcher then I use a plastic store bag for a liner.  Set it beside you and the kids while you are cleaning out the pumpkins for quick disposal of all the seeds and guts.  Then when you are done you can just lift the bag out for easy clean up.  Happy pumpkin carving!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

How-to & How-not-to Make Rock Candy

Rock Candy.  Mmmmmmm, pure sugar on a stick.  I saw some rock candy this weekend and wanted to buy a few sticks for my kids but for $1 a stick I knew I could make them some and do a neat little science experiment while making it.  So off I went to buy bamboo skewers and kool-aid because I didn't have those items already and now we are making several sticks of the stuff for just a couple dollars and have plenty of sticks left over to make more another day. It's now 3 weeks after I started writing this post I have found out how-not-to make rock candy better than I found out how-to make rock candy.  So look for my corrections below to learn from my errors.  Because really nothing is more boring than looking daily at a cup of sugar water not forming any candy.

Wooden skewers (I found 75 for 75 cents, sounded like a good deal to me)
Glass Jars (I had some mason jars, old jelly jars & some glasses)
Kool-Aid (optional, for coloring & flavoring) Kool-aid did not work, so don't try it.  If for some reason you want to totally disregard this advise and try it for yourself at least don't put the whole package in each cup like I did.  Because all you will get is a cup full of very syrupy kool-aid and that's just nasty.  So skip step 8 below and just add a couple drops of food coloring instead.
Step 1:  Gather the supplies most of the things used to make rock candy you probably already have around your house.
Step 2:  Cut the sharp ends off of the skewers so no one pokes themselves with it.  I used my kitchen shears for this.  Then you will want to cut each skewer in half.  I used my kitchen shears to just make an indentation around where I wanted to cut it at and then snapped each in half.
Step 3:  Dip the skewers in water and roll in sugar.  Let them all dry.  This will help the crystals start forming on the sticks.
Step 4:  Add clothespins to the end of each skewer.
Step 5:  Get a pot, sugar & water ready.
Step 6:  Add a 2:1 ratio of sugar to water.  I used 2 1/2 c. of water to 5 c. sugar and heat using medium-high setting on your stove until simmering.  I then added a little more sugar once the first sugar dissolved and brought just to a boil.  I've heard you can add up to a 3:1 ratio but I don't think I added that much.  (I made 2 batches of this in order to fill my 8 jars/glasses).  Remove from heat right after it starts to boil. I think I also messed up in this step.  Make sure you keep adding sugar until no more will dissolve. I don't think I added enough sugar which is why it took me 3 WEEKS for my candy to finally get big enough for me to really consider it rock candy.
Step 7:  Carefully pour the sugar/water mixture into your jars/glasses.
Step 8:  (optional) Add a little Kool-Aid to each jar.  This will add color & flavor to your finished rock candy.  If you don't want to use Kool-Aid you could use a couple drops of food coloring & some flavoring extracts.  Of course it taste great just plain also if you don't want to add any coloring or flavoring.  COOL COMPLETELY. 
Step 9:  Insert your sugared skewers into the glasses/jars.  Don't let the sticks touch the bottom or the sides of the jars.  I think maybe it would also help to put your jars in a sunny window to help the water evaporate faster so the sugar forms rock candy faster.  I don't really have a good spot in my house to put the jars by a window (or at least not a spot that I would trust my dog and kids not to mess with them) so I just left them on my kitchen counter.  But if you have a good spot in your house put them in a window becuase I think that would make it work faster.

That's it.  Now you just have to wait a few days and watch as the crystals form and get bigger on the skewers.  A few days/3 weeks, it's the same thing right?? :)  I'm just glad the plain glasses of sugar water that I did turned out.  Because if I would have had to throw out all the jars that would have been really depressing. 

So................drum roll please................. My finished Rock Candy.  Pretty impressive right.  Ok, ok they are kind of wimpy rock candy but by making mistakes I've learned some valuable lessons on how-not-to make rock candy that maybe will be put to use in a future science project or used to make candy for a birthday party.  So mistakes are not bad things they are just learning tools to make life more interesting. (At least that's what I keep telling myself)

I pulled them out of the solution and I'm letting them drip over some wax paper to dry.  Out of the 12 sticks I started out with I got 4 sticks of candy but the kids had a good time watching these get made so I guess it was worth it after all.  But next time I may just buy them a stick of rock candy instead of making it and let them have a little instant gratification.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Rapunzel Birthday Cake

The new Tangled movie from Disney had my little girl wanting a Rapunzel themed birthday cake.  My first idea for this cake was to do the tower that Rapunzel lives in using different types of ice cream cones for the base of the structure and applying candy clay over it to get the tower design but then after looking all over the web I found that this had already been done but a lot of people and I wanted something different.  I found a few cakes that wrapped her long hair around the cake but none were done in a way that I really liked.  So then I thought up this idea using her crown on top of the cake and having her braided hair wrapping around the cake with flowers in the braid.  I first sketched out the design on the computer and when my daughter saw the design her jaw dropped (she can be a little dramatic) but I knew then that I had to make this cake for her.  I think it turned out pretty cute and she really liked it.  The cake was made using 2 layers of each an 8 in pan and a 6 inch pan.  The tiara, flowers and bow were made out of candy clay (see my other blog here for a tutorial on how to make the tiara).  Then I used buttercream icing for the cake and Rapunzel's braid.  For the braid I used the 1M tip from Wilton and Wilton's Buttercup Yellow coloring.  I then added a little edible glitter for a little princess sparkle.  Oh and the reason why I "roughed" up the icing on the cake is that I could not find my icing spatula to make it smooth but I think the roughness ended up working out and make it look even better. And my daughter thought the dots going around the edges of the cakes made it look like necklaces but they were really just a quick afterthought to cleanup the edges a little bit.  But I guess it all worked into the princess theme after all.

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