Saturday, October 28, 2017

Easy Way To Remove Labels From Plastic

I have been saving this jar forever.  The kids talked one of their grandmothers into buying cheeseballs and apparently cheeseballs only come in these insanely huge plastic barrels.  I have no desire to acquire another insanely huge plastic barrel full of cheeseballs.  Although I can imagine presenting a large barrel of cheeseballs to Trick or Treaters and telling them to grab a handful.  I can also imagine trying to clean raw egg off the side of my house later.  So I've been hanging on to this one all this time, since besides having the capacity to hold an ungodly amount of cheeseballs, it could also easily fit a human head or a small carcass.   

Now back when I was a kid, we had reasonable sized containers of cheeseballs. If you're wondering whatever happened to Planters Cheez Balls, you are not alone.  

The reason I've been dragging my feet about using this container was the big label.  I really dislike removing labels from plastic, they generally refuse to nicely peel off.  Glass containers are so wonderful by comparison.  Soak in a little hot water, peel off label, razor blade any remnants off, use a little oil (I like coconut oil, it makes my hands soft) on the remaining glue residue. 

On the other hand unless you have magical powers you aren't going to be able to razor blade plastic without scratching it.  Some plastic containers can't even handle a hot water soak without warping.   Even if they can take the heat, usually only the top layer of the label comes off  leaving behind all the adhesive still stuck to the bottle.  I think Goo Gone takes less elbow grease than natural oils when working with plastic, but I hate working with that stuff it's pretty harsh.  

Well I had an epiphany last week. This is not the quickest process, but very little effort is needed. I'm sure instead of letting things sit overnight, a few hours would do.  It was just convenient to do right before going to bed.  I soaked a rag in hot water and placed it over the label and let it sit overnight.  The next day I rubbed that top layer of label off and rubbed oil into the remaining adhesive.  Then I let that soak in overnight.  I rubbed off that remaining layer.  I used a little more oil to get any last bit of adhesive off and then wiped it down real good and cleaned it up with water and vinegar. 

Even though it took a couple of days, I spent very little time physically removing the label.  This was so simple I could kick myself for not thinking of it sooner.  I have used the same method since with some smaller containers I was avoiding and it works like a charm every time.  I fear plastic bottles no more.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Zucchini Carving

So not another zucchini recipe, but a way to use zucchini nonetheless.  I've been seeing some amazing zucchini carvings on the internet.  I didn't realize that was a thing.  Some of them are quite beautiful, but pretty is not my thing.

I like the ones that could be used for Halloween d├ęcor like a toothy alligator , monsters, a skeleton, a ghost, evil grins and creepy faces.

I decided to try my hand at it, even though carving isn't in my skill set.  I prefer making things where I build up layers. Removing negative space is a hard concept for my brain to wrap around.  Still, I'm pretty happy with how this guy turned out.  I used a paring knife, potato peeler and a hammered loop of wire (my attempt at making a carving tool).

If you check out the alligator, make sure to look at the watermelon skull on the same site.  The chickens pecking the brains is priceless.

Update:  A week later, which has been cold and dry, and the surface of the skull is drying out.  I like the way it looks.  Here he is with a newly carved friend and my daughters mini pumpkin.

This is what he looks like with mood lighting:

Monday, October 23, 2017

Zombie Zucchini Daiquiri

Last zucchini recipe...for now.  I have to confess I've been pondering the creation of another diabolical confection, perhaps for Creepmas.

This summer I developed a bit of a reputation for bring zucchini dishes to social functions.  Jokingly, I texted a friend that I would bring zucchini margaritas to her party.  Her threat to send me home if I did was accompanied by a picture of a zucchini margarita.  I had no idea such a thing actually existed.  Well, since I swore I wouldn't bring zucchini margaritas, I had to come up with a recipe for zucchini daiquiris.  In a double blind taste test, no one could tell these had zucchini and they were deemed very yummy. In fact when I confessed I put zucchini in them, some people thought I was lying just to mess with them.

Strawberry Zucchini Daiquiri

2 oz rum
1 oz lime juice
1 oz simple syrup*
1/4 cup frozen shredded zucchini
1/2 cup frozen sliced strawberries
8 ice cubes

You can just blend it all together, but I like to do the zucchini with the liquids first to make sure it's completely blended.  And then blend again with the strawberries and ice. Freeze it for later and you can eat it like a snow cone. Repeat as necessary until you run out of zucchini.

*Simple syrup is just that, totally simple to make.  Mix equal amounts of sugar and water and heat (stovetop or microwave) until the water looks clear again. 

If you are making this in large quantities you can cheat and substitute one ounce frozen limeade concentrate plus one ounce water for the lime juice and syrup.  

I used yellow 8 ball zucchini, because that's what I had, it tastes the same.  I don't know how a normal green zucchini would affect the color of this drink.  The strawberries definitely dominate both in color and flavor.  I can only imagine if anything it would be even more zombie-tastic.  But if you didn't want any green you can always peel the zucchini before shredding.

And here's a label for you to use.  Font is A Lolita Scorned by AngeliQ.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Monster Zucchini Cake Pops

I might have mentioned already that I've been plagued with an overabundance of zucchini this year.  There is only so much we can eat, freeze or give away, so I've been coming up with new ways to force it on others.  These were a big hit at the craft party.  My husband, who doesn't like eating plants, has not been a big fan of my zucchini endeavors.  So when I heard him say, "Wow these are really good. And I know there's zucchini in them, but they're still really good."  Well lets just say that's when I knew they were golden.  

And in other news I discovered there is a children's show that did a "Dawn of the Zucchini" episode about zombie zucchini.  There is a preview on NickJr.  

Wallykazam! - Nick Jr.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake Pops

2 1/2 cups sifted all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 cups grated unpeeled zucchini (about 2 medium)

1/2 cup frosting*
colored candy melts
candy eyes
chocolate jimmies (optional)

Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter and flour 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan.
Spread zucchini between paper towels to remove excess juice.
Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt into medium bowl.
Beat sugar, butter and oil in large bowl until well blended.
Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla extract.
Mix in dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk in 3 additions.
Mix in grated zucchini.
Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.

Let cake cool and then crumble.  Mix with 1/4 cup of your favorite frosting and add more frosting a tablespoon at time until it forms a firm dough.  Form into balls and then coat** with candy melts.  Microwave additional candy melts in a small plastic freezer bag.  Snip off the end and use to glue on candy eyes and jimmies.

*Below is the frosting I used.  Even making a fourth of it was too much, so maybe a sixth?  Because so little is needed, next time I would go with something with a bit more chocolate. I think a ganache that's not completely set would be perfect.

Chocolate Frosting

6 ounces semisweet chocolate chopped
1/2 cup whipping cream or milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted to remove lumps
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Microwave chocolate and whipping cream in med glass bowl 1 minute stirring after 30 seconds. Stir until chocolate is completely melted.
Cool 30 min. or until room temperature, stirring occasionally.
Add butter gradually, beating with electric mixer on high speed until well blended. Gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy after each addition

**I tried dipping these. I tried the fork thing.  I just can't do it.  Not cake pops, not truffles, not if my life depended on it.  I find it easier to roll them in the coating by hand. Really, really clean hands to be exact. They obviously don't turn out all smooth and perfect, but no one cares, they really don't.

Last note, to make just a regular chocolate zucchini cake I mix a half cup of dark chocolate chunks, a half cup of semi-sweet chips and a half cup of white chocolate chips together.  One cup goes in the cake batter and the remaining half cup gets sprinkle on top.  It adds about 5 more minutes of cooking time with all that. 

This is the label I used.  Font is Misfits by Ravenous Media

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Modifed Ouija Planchette

Recently my daughter and her friends have begun dabbling in the occult.  Maybe I should be concerned about hell and damnation, but I'm just happy to see them put their phones away.  By some miracle they either don't know there are Ouija apps or they don't care.  If I had known all a board game needed was a little mysticism to attract this kind of attention, I would've claimed my Pente board had divination powers.  I just might try that yet.

For a while they used a Ouija board made out of paper and cardboard.  But we are now officially owners of an overpriced piece of chipboard and a hunk of plastic.

I was a little disappointed that it didn't come with any ominous rules, the girls already knew all the basics, but it still would have been fun to see them in print.  On the back of the box it does give some cheesy examples of what to ask, "Will my parents let me go to the concert? What should I wear?"  That's where I put my foot down and told them under no uncertain terms were they going to open a portal to hell just to find out what they should wear.

The board isn't horrible.  It's pretty sturdy, the graphics are still the William Fuld design.  The planchette on the other hand is the most boring shade of beige plastic imaginable. Probably the only kind of spirit you could attract with it would be one that would want to do your tax returns.  I guess that wouldn't be so bad, unless being on the other side of the veil transposes numbers, then you'd have a hard time explaining that one to the IRS.

Well I decided no daughter of mine was going summon malevolent spirits or be possessed by evil demons using institutional beige accessories.

First step is to remove the clear plastic piece.  Cover the planchette with Mod Podge, but not inside the ring.  Then add a single layer of tissue paper.  Notice I laid it right across the opening. Apply Mod Podge to outside edges of the planchette and fold the tissue over it.  Gently pat it all down.  You can pull the excess tissue paper off along the wet edge.

Design and make embellishments.  I won't lie. This part actually took me a while, which is a little ridiculous when the end product was a fairly simple design. But I changed my mind about a billion times before I got there. So I have this whole slew of twisted wire bits to adorn bottles at the next craft party.  All wire bits were hammered between two metal blocks. Just enough to make sure they would lay flat not enough to flatten the wire itself.

I used 18 gauge wire, but you could use a thin cord or small metal filigrees. I've even seen where people make awesome swirly designs with hot glue, although all I can do with a glue gun is make gloppy messes with lots of stringies.  The eye is from one of the local craft stores, but I can't remember which one. It came on a strand with five more just like it.

Glue the pieces in place and let dry.

I covered everything with Mod Podge except for the now covered opening, and the eye charm.  Again I used a single layer of tissue paper, covering everything including the eye.  I applied more Mod Podge and added on more lay one more layer, making sure to push into all the crevices around the wire and around the edge of the eye charm.  I slit the paper covering the eye and pushed it down around the eye piece. I added a small piece of tissue paper above and below the eye to flesh it out a little more and coated it in Mod Podge.

Once it was dry I trimmed around ring to make sure there was no tissue paper in the opening, otherwise the clear plastic piece wont fit. I painted it all black, including the inner ring and underneath.  After that dried I sponged on dark brown and metallics in brown, copper and gold. Any paint that I got on the eyeball I wiped off with a damp clean paintbrush.

Aside from me spending way more time than I should have making a few wire curlicues, this was a quick project and ended up looking way cool.  I'm sure all the really cool spirits will be hanging out at our house.

"My Ouija brings all the souls to the yard,
 And they're like, its better than yours,
 Damn right, its better than yours..."

...sorry, been spending too much time around teens lately.  

I also bought my daughter Ouija Board Nightmares: Terrifying True Tales.  It starts with a little mysterious history of the Ouija board, but it's mostly very short urban legend type stories.  There were quite a few stories about kids at sleepovers or parties just messing around with the Ouija and then...So absolutely perfect for the target audience at our abode.

Maybe they'll get into tarot cards next.  I would love to have a set of these Twin Peaks cards.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Zucchini Salt and Vinegar Chips

Yes another zucchini recipe, I'm warning you now I'm just getting started. I didn't make these chips for the craft party.  I didn't have time to experiment until afterward, but these could totally be marketed as some sort of skin scab for Halloween fare.  I didn't take any pictures of the zucchini chips.  They were small, circular and a deep golden brown color.  Instead please enjoy this skull I "drew" on a reversible sequin pillow.  

Unlike the candied zucchini, I could eat these by the handful.  Like the candied zucchini, drying these out is pretty forgiving, so if you have to leave the house or go to bed.  Turn off the oven, leave them in there and they will quietly dry while you go about your business. Of course if you have a food dehydrator, do your own thing.   

I read through a lot of recipes and the biggest complaint was that they didn't taste vinegary enough.  First I tried soaking the slices in vinegar, which helped.  But it wasn't until I layered the slices between paper towels to draw out the zucchini juices and then soaked them in the vinegar that they really flavored up.  

Vinegar Chips

3 cups of zucchini thin sliced rounds
¼ cup vinegar (balsamic, malt, apple cider, etc)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt

Preheat oven to 170
Lay zucchini slices between paper towels to wick out moisture.
Toss slices with vinegar in a dish and let stand for 30 minutes. Toss every 10 minutes to evenly distribute vinegar.
Drain and toss with olive oil.
Lay slices on parchment paper covered cookie sheets.
Sprinkle with salt.

Bake for 1 ½ hours, flip zucchini and switch pans around. Bake another 1 ½. If they are still too chewy and there is a lot of oil/moisture still on the parchment paper, transfer to a clean sheet and bake for another 20-30 minutes. When crisp transfer to paper towels to cool. 

Friday, October 13, 2017

Candied Lizard Skin

My Lizard Skins are based off of two different recipes. I liked the Martha Stewart recipe because she doesn't peel the zucchini and I think that adds visual interest, but probably not in the way Martha intended.  I didn't think it would look as gross peeled and for this I wanted gross.  

Her recipe calls for just sugar, water and zucchini and I knew I needed something to mask the zucchini flavor which led me to this recipe that uses Kool-Aid.  It also uses a dehydrator, which I don't have.  Martha's just relied on air drying (I think rather unsuccessfully because the recipe warns you to serve it immediately.)  I dried mine using the lowest temperature on my oven, 170 degrees.  You could try speeding things up by going up to 200, but I wouldn't go higher than that.

As I mentioned in my Craft Party post, my zucchini are looking a little different this year.  If you like the yellow peel contrast yellow summer squash would work as well.


The baking time listed is more of guess. The reality is I would bake it for about an hour, turn the oven off because I had to leave the house. Come back flip it, bake it some more, have to leave, turn the oven off. I think the second batch I left in the oven, turned off, overnight. It's not rocket science and obviously there is a lot of wiggle room, so don't feel like you have to dedicate a whole day to watching zucchini dry.

The real question is how does it taste. Opinions varied. Some liked it, some thought it was pretty good for zucchini, some went back for seconds or thirds, others didn't care for it or were satisfied to just try it once for the novelty.  I had expected the artificial flavoring to overpower the zucchini and it didn't. In fact then general consensus was that it tasted "sweet".  For flavor I used one packet of unsweetened lemon-lime Kool-Aid. I would have preferred a straight up lime, but couldn't find any. Maybe using a different flavor or two packets or some other form of concentrated flavoring would have made a difference. 

I think this is one of those recipes that are fun to make once, but I can't say I'm dying to make or eat it again.  It's definitely something different to do if you are drowning in zucchini and it has a great Halloween look to it.  

Candied Lizard Skin

2-3 zucchini
1 ½ cups water
1 ½ cups sugar
1 pkg unsweetened Kool-Aid
Additional sugar for coating

Use a mandolin to slice zucchini into thin even strips.
Lay slices between paper towels to wick out excess moisture.
Heat water and sugar together stirring until sugar completely dissolves.
Add kool-aid, stir until combined, bring to boil.
Add zucchini. Reduce heat and simmer 25 minutes. Gently stir occasionally.
Remove from heat and strain. (Liquid can be saved to make another batch)
Pre-heat oven to 170.
Once zucchini is cool enough to handle, lay strips in a single layer on cookie sheets covered with parchment paper.
Bake for 2 hours, flip zucchini bake another 2 hours. If using more than one cookie sheet, switch positions. The zucchini shouldn’t feel sticky. If it does bake it a bit longer.  If it's just a little tacky that's fine.
Let it cool then toss with a tablespoon or so of granulated sugar in an air tight container or ziplock bag. This will keep it from sticking together.  

Here are a few food label ideas, the two I used and two blue varieties in case you're in a blue raspberry kind of mood. Font is You Murderer BB by Blambot.


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Craft Party 2017

At the party someone asked me how many years I've been doing this and I couldn't remember off the top of my head.  Going back through old photos I realized this was our 10th year of official organized Halloween crafting. I guess I missed the opportunity to have a "10th Anniversary" party.  I can't believe I've gotten away with inflicting my addiction onto my friends for an entire decade.

The one thing you can count on every year is me not getting pictures of everything. This year I totally outdid myself and took crappy pictures besides.  I apologize to everyone who's creations look less than what they are due to my sorry photography.

It wouldn't be a Halloween craft party without potion bottles. 
There were glittery potions,

...disgusting concoctions,

...and just plain spooky bottles, 


Flowers might not seem spooky until you realize
that's a pile of bones at the bottom of the jar.

...and new this year, creepy bottles inspired by Russian crafters. Not that the Russian's are the only one's doing this, but more often then not I find myself on Russian craft sites.  You can check out my Craft Party 2017 pinterest board to see a few examples or search on "altered bottles".  This is what we came up with.


The best and worst thing about these bottles is you can use almost anything.  Sometimes having limitless choices can be a bit daunting, but this is a great way to use up odd bits of stuff.  These bottles used a variety of tissue paper, netting, twine, cord, beaded garland, old or broken jewelry, beads, glass gems, shells, dried lentils & seeds, faux flowers, and plastic critters & bones.  I am happy to see my salt dough skulls and wire components I made practicing with a wire jig finally getting used for something. 

Vampire Blood and Life Renewal labels courtesy of Love Manor. 

There were more fashionista skeletons this year.  I think the outfits were even more elaborate than last year if that's possible.  This a great way to use up fabric scraps and old Barbie clothes.  Nothing goes with gold pants like a Madonna style bustier and although it's hard to tell, the gal next to her is pregnant will a smaller rubber skeleton.  Congratulations, I guess?  

I like this bottle cap & cork top hat.  

Another great hat and who doesn't like furry gogo boots?

What this guy lacks in fashionable attire he makes up for with his interesting array of friends.  Bonus points for using a leftover piece of fence from an old project as a ladder to stand on (can't see in this picture).

There were also skeletons in jars.  Which is a nice way to display your favorite skelly, like this mermaid from last year's party.

A couple of our younger patrons came up with these jar ideas. 

The pictures don't do them justice, but I loved them so much I had to make my own.  I really like how the water doesn't cover the skeleton. I imaged it was low tide with the sea foam (sesame seeds) swirling around him.  I couldn't get the right sea levels on mine and ended up filling the jar.  Another nice thing about using jars, is the skeleton is protected. I had to snap a few joints to get mine posed right. They aren't broken all the way through, but they definitely wouldn't survive long if he was being man handled.  There was some leftover chain with tiny medallions that I piled up to look like treasure.  You can't take it with you, but that doesn't stop some from trying. 

This was a plastic bendy skeleton, partially spray painted. I like the two-face effect. You have to be careful when using spray paint on plastic, even if it's paint & primer or it says it's specifically for plastic. He's one of those plastics that doesn't play well with spray paint and as a result he will be forever sticky, but he looks so dementedly cool.  I'd be curious to see him sprinkled with black sand or glitter on the sticky bits for a little texture.

Here are some silhouette lantern jars.  Lightly spray painted in the inside and designs copied on the outside with black paint pens.  I'm glad to see more salt dough skulls finding a purpose.  I wish I wouldn't have tried to get the skulls into the first picture because it's not a good view of the four cats below.  The cat clipart can be found at ClipArtQueen. The "Eek" is from TheDiyVillage. The owl I found at FaveCrafts and the other cat is on pinterest.

One last creation is this Lost City. 
I forgot the actual name, but it's not Atlantis, because that's underwater.  

And now for the only reason my husband comes up from the basement while all this is going on, the food.

People brought some awesome goodies.  Monsters & mummies, spidery treats and other creepy delights.  There was a really pretty fall decorated cake, but I didn't think to take a picture until after I had already hacked it to pieces.  Seriously I shouldn't be allowed to cut cake, ever.

I have to admire these spider cookies, because I too once fell for the old “use a toothpick to drag out ‘legs’ from melted choc chips” and mine didn't turn out nearly as well as these.  There is a whole story about the photoshopped cookie that's plastered across the internet and has led to millions of chocolate chip cookies being decimated by toothpicks. 

I have zucchini up the wazoo this year, which is slightly more uncomfortable than it sounds.  So I might have made a few things with zucchini.  I'll post recipes later.  

I made Candied Lizard Skin (left) with one of my neighbors regular green zucchini and Frog Skin (right) with some of mine.  I should explain that mine is of the 8 ball variety, which as the name suggests is round and should be picked when it's about the size of an 8 ball.  This year my zucchini is having an identity crisis and has been more yellow than green.  

I also saved the syrup they were cooked in because it was bright green and purty.  I poured it into a beaker and set it by the food.  Halfway through the party I hear, "Mom can I drink this green stuff?" After I said yes I hear a bunch of others say, "Ooh I want to try it too!"  It wasn't until they had all tried it that I told them it was zucchini syrup.  Yeah, I'm a special kind of evil.

Alien Zucchini Ball

These are chocolate zucchini cake pops.

Since I had candy melts in other colors than the usual red and green, I decided to go for a bruised, decaying rat look. It ended up looking more like tie dye rat. 

And then I dropped the mold before I had poured the bottom, which wouldn't have been a total disaster, except this was "fancy rat" with raspberry blood, so it totally cracked and started to ooze. I sealed the bottom by laying it on top of a pool of melted red candy melts.  My husband had a great idea of adding more red candy blood to cover the cracks, which probably would've looked really good, but I think eating wise would've been too much candy melt.

Everyone at the party was very polite and lied and said my rat looked great and the cracks added character.

I do like how the raspberry blood oozed from the nostrils.
Too bad I would never be able to recreate that in a million years.  

I still had leftover purple and green melts so I decided to make Crunchy Beetle cookies in honor of Glenda Glinka:Witch-At-Large, one of my favorite books as kid. She's a bored witch who decides to amuse herself by turning into a little girl.  She's not sure what "PTA" cookies are so she decides to make her favorites in purple and green with lots of beetles.  I didn't actually want to bake anything so I dipped Oreo cookies and topped them with chocolate covered pecan roaches. 

One last thing just for fun.  I don't really decorate for the party.  Generally anything I display is a past project for inspiration or guidance.  Any other macabre stuff has probably been there all year.  The exception to that is the bathroom.  I saw this on Halloween Forum  and I knew I had to do it.

I used about 100 roaches.  Most of them are behind the door so people don't notice them right away.  There are a few strategically placed near where people would normally touch things like the light switch. Roaches are truly the gift that keeps on giving.  They freak people out even after they know they are there.  Roaches are magical that way. 

I use Loctite Fun Tak Mounting Putty. It comes cleanly off painted walls and does a great job holding the roaches. The only downside is it's blue and you can definitely see it from an angle, but trust me that's not what people see first. I did try Scotch Clear Mounting Squares, but they weren't strong enough.

And so that's what happened. I want to thank everyone for helping me make this a success year after year.