Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sneak Peek: Stolen Tarts - With Recipe!

How lovely are these?!?!? This is how dresses up their linzer-style shortbreads - with raspberry and white chocolate. It was this recipe I altered last December for my cookie exchange contribution. Remember these gorgeous stained-glass looking beauties:

They were time consuming, but a HUGE hit - and I think I can handle it again provided I'm not making 12 DOZEN this time :) So, these are what I'm planning to make for part of my Halloween spread - the Queen of Heart's stolen tarts!

I know these are not tarts. But seriously, when you think of the nursery rhyme, do you really picture a tart? Tarts are kind of annoying, they aren't stackable, they fall apart when you bite into them...These seem much more appropriate. Here's the recipe, based on JoyofBaking's but co-opted with my own commentary as necessary:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup salted butter, room temperature
(they listed the recipe as unsalted butter + 1/4 tsp of salt...but of course I had salted butter, so I used that and omitted the salt and they were just great - so I'd save the step).
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Jam for filling

To make: In one bowl whisk the flour with the salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of your electric mixer (who loves their kitchen aid? Mine is harvest gold and from 1963, but I'm in LOVE! Or you can also mix with a hand mixer, if you're more patient), cream the butter until smooth - about 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat until smooth - about 2 minutes. Beat in the vanilla extract. Gently stir in the flour mixture just until incorporated. Flatten the dough into a disk shape, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill the dough for at least an hour. Don't skip this, or the dough will be sticky and too hard to work with.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees with the rack in the middle of the oven. Line baking sheets with parchment paper - if you haven't used parchment paper before, it's awesome - saves you a lot of scrubbing, especially of you are making a ton of cookies and have to re-use cookie sheets over and over. LIFESAVER!

On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough until it is about 1/4 inch or 1 cm thick. Using a 2 to 3 inch cookie cutter (I used stars for Christmas, will use hearts for Halloween) cut out the dough. Place the cookies about 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. Use a smaller cookie cutter to cut out the centers of HALF of the cookies on the baking sheet. You will be sandwiching two cookies together and there will be a small 'window or cut out' in the top cookie so you can see the jam underneath. Don't make the top cookie with the cut out too thin by using a big cut out, or it'll break too easily. Mine were borderline - I might go with a smaller cut out this time. Place the unbaked cookies on the baking sheet, in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes. This will firm up the dough so the cookies will maintain their shape when baked. I actually followed this, and yeah, it worked. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until cookies are lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack.

Make more than you think you want - these suckers are fragile, and you have a lot of handling to do.

JoyofBaking has a fancy schmancy recipe for filling, but I just used organic jam and it got great reviews. I chose based on what colors looked prettiest, as I am want to do - and ended up with apricot and raspberry. For Halloween I'll probably stick with raspberry and maybe a blueberry or blackberry for a black looking heart.

You can figure out the sandwiching, right? Full cookie, pretty side up - then slap on some jam, then carefully set the cookie with the cut out on top. Poof! You'll want to steal these pretty "tarts" too :)

Party City Review, I really mean the store...

I ran some errands last night which included a stop at Party City - they didn't have what I was looking for, and were confused and snotty when I asked if they could order it (hey, other stores do that all the time - I'm not a crazy person for asking), but as much as I've had bad customer service and hate their return policies (lack of mostly...or arbitrary...) I had to admit they had some cute stuff, it's easy to access, and they have a decent array of options.

My one caveat: if you're going to go, go SOON. In even a week it will transform into a snarling seething mess of humanity, children screaming and grabbing and snotting on costumes, teens trying to look as skanky as possible, jack asses opening packages and contaminating wigs & makeup, basically an old fashion cluster f!@#.

But as of last night, my local Party City was still pristine - and fully stocked.
There were also some great wonderland-themed costume ideas to be found:

Door Mouse - I am in love with this accessory pack with ears on a headband, matching tail, bow tie, and A NOSE THAT MAKES MOUSE NOISES WHEN YOU PRESS IT! I did it a thousand times. It was adorable. I seriously considered making my husband wear it, just so I could repeatedly punch him in the nose all night. It even looked reasonably comfortable - it was fabric, not sweaty plastic. I think it was around $9.99 - and you could pair it with whatever main clothes you wanted, from sweats to dresses.

They had the same set for a pig! Do you remember the pig in the book? Alice comes into the home of the Duchess, who is rocking a baby and dumping pepper on it. The baby keeps sneezing from the pepper, and she keeps beating the baby whenever it sneezes - so, buy this set, wrap yourself in a blanket, carry a jar of pepper - gazhundheit!

And one more, since I love this set (IT MAKES NOISE! THAT'S JUST TOO CUTE!) There's a also a cat - you can be Dinah :)

Cheshire Cat - in the mask aisle there was a great shiny pink cat mask that would be perfect, I think it was under $6. I'm bummed I can't find it on their website. There were lots of other cat masks as well. Here's one that is on their website for $7 that could be part of a fun Cheshire.

Big gold king crowns with nice foam padding that looks like you could tolerate it for a night - I swear these were under $6 (I did a double take - though they say $8 on the website, so I could be wrong) and would be perfect for a King of Hearts, Red King, or White King. Or even Queens. Or make a King of Diamonds, Clubs, or Spades. Break the rules, get down with your bad self. Okay, moving on...

Here's a different take on the White Rabbit, it's a fuzzy hood with ears attached. Says it's kid sized, but who knows what that means. Under $10 and includes the nose piece (which I'm not crazy about)

I didn't notice this in the store, but it caught my eye on the website and I'm awed - they're just $4! How about making a stylish gold dodo bird costume? You'd be my hero...

That's just what caught my eye, they also have all the old stand by skanky costumes, tons of wigs, some great beards, mustaches, and eyelashes (I scooped up some with red jewels for my own costume) and a million other accessories. Be aware that nearly all of it is NON RETURNABLE, so buy at your own risk.

Loving You is Easy Cuz Your WONDER-ful...

Wonderland is here. In my living room, to be precise.

This could be kinda awesome.


Now I'm reaching the part of the season where I don't want to give it all away, but sharing what I'm working on is like a substantiation of my work that I can't quite give up - it's like crossing something off the "to-do" list or getting a gold star - I've come to really enjoy listing out my daily tasks and accomplishments, and when that gets people excited about the party, my head swells and I hear birds singing (that means I LOVE IT!). So, another conundrum - what to tell you????

How about I just be very abstract, I'll tell you what I've done, but not show you how it all comes together? We'll try that.

I put up 3 of these across the ceiling, and they are SO COOL!

Hung four of these bad boys:

I'm putting this skirting on the walls, and got one panel of it mounted & trimmed around the doors & windows (got a couple more to go, but it was getting crabby about sticking and I threw in the towel for a while):

And I pretty much finished the fire place decoration. Draped along the top of the the Queen of Hearts themed collage frame I added a garland of black feathers & red light up hearts. The mantle is draped with the garland I made out of playing cards with little glass chess pieces tucked inside the arches, and lots of miscellaneous candle holders & sparkly skulls. Then framing the fire place I finished the garland I was working on of blood spattered roses, red heart lights, bloody knife cut outs, and gold skeletons.

I'm dying to post a photo, but also want people to be excited to see it in person. But I could break at any moment.

I've still got a few more tricks up my sleeve for the living room, but it already looks pretty festive :) October, I'm ready for ya!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Wonderland Costume Round Up: Looking to Buy Non Naked WONDERLAND costumes

Okay, here's the 2nd part to the costume round up I just posted - this is the results of my search for the best NON NAKED costumes that you can buy online or in stores - and this time I took on the Wonderland theme. Again, take my recs with a grain of salt, I haven't purchased from most of these companies so proceed with caution. But these all look pretty good - click on the price for better photos:

How about this for a Hatter? She's billed as a "Pretty Miss Patty" but tuck a little card in the brim of the hat (in this style...) and POOF! You're a non-slutty but still stylish Ms. Mad Hatter. This is listed at $84.99, at Costume Express, and the hat is not included (drat), but the pants, coat, bowtie and sash are.

This Goldilocks looks a lot like Alice, and she's on clearance at Costume Express for the phenomenol price of $18.99!

This one seems a bit overpriced (and possibly uncomfortable) but it's unique and a slightly different way to fit the Wonderland theme:

Teapot! This costume is listed for a whopping $136.99 at Buy Costumes.

Don't forget all the possibilities with being playing cards! Lots of options - here's a King of Hearts:

$28.99 at Buy Costumes - there's a cheaper version as well for a few bucks less.

This one makes a little more sense (the royalty weren't actual cards in the books/movie, they were people. The non-face cards were cards - the spades were workers, clubs were army/enforcers, diamonds the upper crust and I don't remember about hearts. So here's one of the spades for just $18.49 from Anderson's Giant Party Store - which I ordered decorations from this year and had a good experience with. You could wear whatever you want underneath.

They also have the Ace of Diamonds for $18.49 and a few others.

Now these next few are SHOWN as slutty, but could just as easily be done in a tasteful manner by substituting a dress or shirt & pants for the leotards. How about the doormouse:

Everyone's favorite drunken tea party guest - this kit of glittery ears & tail (& bowtie)is $9.95 at Costume Craze.

They have a similar white bunny set:

You could pair it with your own clothes - anything from sweats to a suit - to be the March Hare (another tea party guest) or white rabbit. $9.95 at Costume Craze. Or check out a cat set to be Dinah or Snowball - just ears, tail, draw on some whiskers and make your own collar with a tag to really hit the point home.

If you prefer a full bunny suit, here's one of the best prices I've seen:

$79.95 at Costume Craze, and I'm guessing you could easily remove that garish vest - maybe even flip it over if the back looks better for more of a dapper white rabbit.

This Arwen (Lord of the Rings) dress could easily work for the White Queen

Throw on a crown and a white wig/hairspray. $37.99 at Costume Craze.

And here's a great dress you could use for the Red Queen:

This full length gown is on clearance at JC Penny for $69.99 - and since it's a real dress, it's probably made better than most costumes.

And speaking of "regular" clothese turned costume, how about this dress for the Cheshire Cat?

$29.00 on eCrater, size 8 (maybe avail in other sizes).
I see it with purple gloves, ears, and a tail, and maybe a purple boa too.

Here are some ready to wear flower headbands:

Pair with your own green clothes, or continue the "bloom" with a flouncy pink or yellow dress. $8.00 at Costume Shop.

Feeling inspired yet? C'mon, it's not that hard, once you start looking, ANYTHING can be a costume!

NON-Wonderland Costume Round Up: looking to buy NON NAKED costumes!

My cousin Mindy made a comment today that she was depressed in her Wonderland costume search, finding mostly just "slutty Alice." If you're in that same boat, looking for a NOT naked costume, something to buy as opposed to make (yeah, I understand not everyone can devote their life to crafting, and honestly, it can often be CHEAPER to buy than making costumes a lot of the time - fabric is EXPENSIVE!) then this costume round up is for you! Here's my survey of fun, full-coverage costumes at national shops and websites this year - starting with non-Wonderland characters.

First I should say I'm doing a search here, not an endorsement - I haven't ordered from this site, so I can't give first hand experience, and you should always proceed with some caution when buying online. This is the right time to be ordering costumes though - most sites have their full stock in, and with a month before the big day you can choose the cheapest shipping and still probably be covered. So here are some fun options to consider from Costume Express - sorry about the little photos, click on the site links to see big ones:

Super Grover! OMG, how fun is this? Who else had the little golden book where Grover tries to keep you from turning the page? This guy is at Costume Express, at $99 its a higher end costume, but it is officially licensed and you wouldn't need to spend a ton on accessories, this is all you need.

Mary Poppins! This ladie's plus size costume is actually on clearance right now at Costume Express for $39.99. The costume even includes the bag, which to me doesn't look anything like Mary's giant carpet bag, but it's a fairly complete costume at a really nice price, and definitely offers full coverage.

Mother GOOSE! OMG, this is adorable. This is another plus sized costume that is on CLEARANCE for just $34.99 at Costume Express! That's a great deal, and includes the goose purse. I'm tempted to pick it up for a possible fractured fairy tale party down the road...

GUMBY! This is a cool "new for 2009" costume that is listed at $54.99 at Costume Express. Check out the hands - there are little flaps in the "mits" so you can access your fingers - SMART!

Jabba the Hut is an inflatable costume - gotta love technology - powered by a battery-operated fan. Anyone of "our generation" will appreciate a Star Wars reference - and for a great couple idea, chain yourself to Princess Leia! $69.99 at Costume Express.

I have to admit it, I'm a werewolf snob. In movies, I'll suspend my disbelief far enough to accept vampires and weres exist, but if the special effects and costumes are cheesy, I'm lost to the rest of the film (unless it's totally cheese-tastic, like TEENWOLF - that's a classic). But here's a werewolf costume that includes mask, hands, and a tattered flannel shirt, and I think it looks pretty decent! $44.99 at Costume Express.

Here's another one that I thought of buying for the fractured fairy tale/nursery rhyme party I'll have some day - the fork & spoon (like in Hey Diddle Diddle)! This SET of costumes is just $36.99 for BOTH at Costume Express.

Here's a different take on Marilyn Monroe - her "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" look - this seems like a great deal at just $29.99 @ Costume Express - diamonds not included :)

This onion costume makes me laugh. I'm not sure why, but I find it adorable. $99.99 at Costume Express.

It must be getting close to lunch time when I'm drawn to all these food-centered costumes - but Grimace sure is cute! $99.99 at Costume Express, but he's oficially licensed, and would be perfect with:

Hamburglar is only $69.99 at Costume Express, what a fun duo that would make. Maybe they could wage war on the Burger King and Dairy Queen.

Hope that gives you a few ideas of what NON-slutty costumes are out there to purchase this season!


Do you ever jury-rig something phenomenal and feel like a rock star for figuring it out? Every once in a while I do. It's never a cure for cancer or a way to make a million dollars, but I feel very smug and accomplished in my own little way.

I had one of those moments last night - I was working on creating a garland that was 8-10 feet long, based off a string of heart shaped lights I kept trying to sell in our garage sales but could never get rid of. Thank goodness, since they are PERFECT for the "Queen of Hearts" scene!

Anyways, I was having a difficult time keeping things laid out, untangled, and knowing how it would drape. My craft table was full of drying letters and blood spattered roses, and laying it across the table didn't show how it would hang on the mantle anyways. Solution:

3M hooks to the rescue! I dug up 3 of them and stuck them on the edges of my craft table. They'll come off clean without any damage, and kept everything laid out perfectly!

This made it so much easier to wrap in the floral sprays and wind the bloody knife garland around the lights - and I could see exactly what it would look like in use! SCORE!

I'm still waiting for the rest of my roses to dry:

And then I'm going to recycle some of these skeletons I sprayed gold last year and tie them on as accents:

So far I'm loving the feel - dark, dangerous, bloody, creepy - and very detailed, like everywhere you look there's another little aspect to see.


I come from a long line of hoarders (sorry mom, you know it's true), and tend to bounce wildly between getting rid of everything (especially when I'm moving and don't want to pack it all) and keeping every little item I could possible use again one day. Since we moved and I have my own craft "lair" I've definitely favored the latter. Every once in a while this "keeping" comes in very handy, and I feel a little better about reusing and recycling than tossing out.

Case in point: I have this pile of "whirls" from a 60th wedding anniversary party we threw a couple years ago - they're foil swirls that hang from the ceiling, bright fun colors, with little "60" numbers on the end. Well, it was probably a safe bet I wouldn't be doing another 60th anniversary for a while, slightly more probable that I could do a 60th birthday, but I kept them anyways.

I also have all these Halloween whirls that I've used for a couple years now - same deal, but in Halloween colors, with bats, pumpkins, and spiders on the ends:

Clearly, I like shiny colored foil whirls :) So, I decided it was time to "upcycle" the 60th anniversary ones, which was pretty simple: I cut off all the "60" tabs so they are just swirls.

Snip/snip = a whole forest of whirls! Perfect for Wonderland, don't you think? And I saved a nice chunk of change over buying more.

Mad World...

Another project I tackled last night - the 3D letters for my Mad Tea Party scene. I had painted these white assuming they'd automatically glow under black light, but apparently not everything white reacts that way. The craft paint glowed in a strange light pink, but it was hardly bright enough to see. I searched the aisles of Michael's for a glow in the dark paint and found little luck - one was out of stock, of two others I found (all tiny little bottles) I went with the Tulip brand Glow Paint:

I'm not sure if this is meant to be fabric paint (I didn't read the label that closely) but the bottle is the same as their fabric paint line - the paint is a bit runnier though. I ran a line down each leg of the front of a test letter, spread it with a paint brush, and let it dry. Then I took it down to the black light for a test:

Success! It's a fuzzy blotchy glow, but much brighter than the craft paint was and it'll work just fine for my needs. I finished up painting the rest of the letters, and hung the same plastic tab hangers on the back, so these words are ready to go up on the walls!

I also started unpacking and sorting out the Halloween decor I already had, and came across these skeletons from the Dollar Tree a few years back. They were supposed to glow in the dark but never really did. Hmmm, wonder how they work under the black light?

I have most of the glow paint left too, since it was thin it didn't take much to cover the letters so I might have a few more projects to make with it. It seems to be coming together!

Deals & Steals

I've got a couple of GREAT bargains I scooped up a while back that I thought I'd share. First up, I've had these paper flowers for YEARS. I've actually moved them several times. I found them at the Taher clearance store for $1.25 each and bought up all they had - I didn't know what I'd use them for at the time, but I knew they'd come in handy at some point. Flash forward a few years and BANG! My garden of jumbo singing flowers is almost complete!

These guys will get a little hot glue and some eyes, and they'll really fill out my garden scene - much bigger and cheaper than real flowers, and easy to put together.

The other amazing score is from a Goodwill trip a few months back.

Two boxes of unopened Target paper lanterns, WITH the electrical string of lights! They were pristine and marked just $4.99. At that price, even if the electric didn't work they'd still be a good deal, but guess what? They do! SWEET!
I put them together and tried out each string, I can't wait to hang these somewhere. I'll probably end up using them year round!