The domestic rebel- best peanut butter blossoms

In my next life, I’m going to do nothing but cook, take pictures and eat. Oh, and I’m going to come up with a super-cool website name like the domestic rebel. Who does that? Someone who must be solid. 

Like most good things that happen to me, finding this site was unexpected and wonderful. My first experiment are the blossoms, which I’m making at this very moment, writing between batches. What’s different about this recipe is the peanut butter + flour quotient.

Having made thousands of these divine little devils, I was a little worried when the dough finished mixing, because it was a tad on the crumbly side, and I’m used to a smooth texture. This means the cookies will be a bit more dense, but that’s good. I’ll compensate by undercooking, which will make for a divinely chewing final product.

Guest etiquette–Best Hostess Gifts

This is such a stressful subject for men and women, I thought I’d address some basics on the subject. Everything I have learned has been through mortifying experiences, good examples and lots and lots of well-intentioned acts gone awry.
What is a hostess gift?
It’s a present a guest gives the host/hostess as a means of showing gratitude and saying thanks.
Do people actually do this? (Rog asked the first five times)
Yes, they do. In fact, it’s a multi-million dollar business (just look on line if you don’t believe me).
Are you surrreee? (same source as above)
Yes. This is considered good form, tasteful, and in certain circumstances, required.
Is it expensive?

Not at all. Many gifts are less than $40, many less than $20. Homemade gifts, such as banana or pumpkin bread or cookies are a few bucks tops.

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Is it really required in these down, economic times?
Let’s broaden this question to: Is a host/hostess gift ever expected? No. I think not. Sometimes, if a hostess goes all out on a party, she may like a card or something in return. But I can guarantee nary a word will be uttered by the hostess. It’s completely bad form.
Overall, I have zero expectations some one will give me something for throwing a party. In San Francisco, the environment is a bit more formal, for lack of a better word, and gifts were a part of the scene. Loved that. In the south, it was considered bad form to bring food (unless specifically asked by the host/hostess), so flowers are more the norm. In NY, I’ve noticed anything goes, as long as it’s expensive and is in good taste (a’la jewelry and hard to get Broadway tickets are not uncommon) and anything from Red Envelope, with their little red boxes, will be adored.
What is a gift appropriate?
A few pointers:
The first time you have been invited to the home. That’s a must. It conveys appreciation for the fact that the host/hostess have gone to the trouble of making dinner for you (and perhaps your family). After that, you can casually offer to your host/friend if you can bring something. If they say yes—bottled water—ask if they have a preference. If yes, then honor their request for the type if possible. Don’t stray! The host/hostess will be counting on your contribution once you commit. If they decline, use your best judgement.
When someone throws YOU a bridal or baby shower. The hostess has provided the food, the invitations, the venue etc. This can be several hundreds of dollars. That said, when I host either for someone, I expect neither. This is due to the economic realities that the bride/groom-expectant parents have likely shelled out tons of money already. That said, if you are cash positive (and people know this), show good form and treat your hostess (see below).
I’ve received many well-intentioned, though odd things over the years.
Candle holders. This was for a baby shower I hosted. Puter, in a Gallic, fourteenth-century-type of a way. Very large, not my taste, but a nice gesture. Though Martha Stewart advocates candles for a hostess gift, I don’t give candle holders myself. Candles are very much a personal design/taste thing, and it’s easy to screw it up.
A pink Chantilly rug. Strange but true. It was cozy, looked expensive, and right out of the seventies. I’d worry about saying this, but we moved and haven’t been in touch with the guest that gave us the rug in three years. I’m pretty sure this blog isn’t being read by the gift-giver.
When is a gift not necessary? 
If it’s a “guy-thing,” such as a BBQ for Rog’s hockey team, I’ll ask the wife/girlfriend/partner if I can ‘bring something,’ which, for hockey players, means food or beer. The first time, I had Rog ask his teammate for a suggestion, and he received “nothing, just show.” I promptly ignored that comment, and made a vat full of delectable brownies. The entire professional size pan was cleaned out in ten minutes. Food is always a hit with the guys.
Note to girls: Rog claims men don’t drink beer and eat sweets at the same sitting. This, my friends, is false. Men are good with both.
Best hostess gifts
The best hostess gifts are the ones that convey thought and consideration for the host or the hostess’ likes and dislikes. A few examples…
If your host talks about fishing, pick up something small from the fly shop. He’ll likely return it, but it’s the thought (and the store credit) that count. When your hostess has a small garden, get a pot of herbs, or a pair of gloves. Don’t worry about the style. I for one, have never met a pair of gloves I didn’t like (they get dirty after all!) If you host has mentioned attending author events, get him the latest bestseller.
If your hostess is a cook, just about anything kitchen will do. Better yet, a cooking magazine subscription is awesome!!

When you don’t know someone well enough, and it’s a first time, relax. When you roam around the hostess’s home, check out what she likes. One sneaky guest of honor saw I like a particular brand of hard to find chamomile tea. When she came for the next event, she brought one wrapped in a bow. I was completely surprised and touched by her thoughtfulness and the effort she put in to get it!

Some specific gifts that I’ve given include….

  • a bracelet from Red Envelope, similar to this one (they don’t carry the actual one I purchased any longer)
  • little, unique ramikens. My mother loves to collect these things…all are different. Each one is fun, and such a girly-thing
  • kitchen hand towels that are seasonal or holiday
Note the trend here…things that are non-essentials; items a busy, overworked woman on a budget isn’t going to indulge herself to buy.
What about those times when you’re invited to a party, barely know the hosts and want to bring a gift instead of providing one after the fact. This could be a work, church or neighborhood event and you have to guess. That’s when you go for the old standards.
Flowers are good, but you must think about the situation of the party.
For instance, bringing uncut flowers to a large party won’t be appreciated by the hostess. The hostess has to stop everything to cut the flowers, put them in a pot and find a place for the gift. It requires her to stop greeting guests, dealing with the food etc, disrupting her flow and potentially making her crabby. That said, uncut flowers ARE great for casual, outdoor bbq’s or even a sit-down dinner with one or two couples.
An alternative for big parties is a gift of a small plant, already in a pot. It doesn’t need to be an expensive pot, in fact, cheap, plastic containers wrapped with some cellophane of the season is perfect. That way, you (the guest) can either sit it down on an open space, or the hostess can do so. It’s a wonderful thank you, and all wrapped up in a single gift.
Chocolate is great. Dark or milk. Hostess or host will love. (I prefer milk, rog is dark)…either way, it’s wonderful (no twix bars)
More often than not, people bring alcohol. We don’t drink wine, and actually, I don’t drink at all. Rog favors ‘fizzy’ drinks, like sparkling water. But heck, people bring what they know and like, and further, they don’t want to drink water. So what started as a BYOW(wine) motto turned in to something akin to the ‘Pay it forward.’
For our holiday party last year, most everyone brought wine or chocolate. This was because I placed on the invitation a note….
No food or gifts please.
If you feel compelled to bring something, the guests enjoy wine or chocolate.
By the end of the evening, we had enough bottles of liquor to open a store. Now, when guests arrive with wine, we either drink what they brought or choose a bottle from our stash we have. Either way, the guests are paying it forward.
When you are mystified, go to a shopping helper. I like sites that identify gifts specifically for Thank you/Hostess gifts. They make it really easy, from aprons to picture frames (and many sub $20).
If you are in doubt….don’t worry about it. If you are late, and the only thing between your destination and you is a Krispy Kremes stand, keep driving. It’s better to make it up after the fact (on round two) with your hostess than to arrive with something so obviously last minute.
Your job as the guest is to show up, have fun, appreciate the atmosphere and leave fulfilled. In the end, the very best gift is good friends, good company, and a return invitationJ

Halloween Treats- Gross Earwax Marshmellows (gluten free)

This is a great, gross, gluten-free idea that I found on Pinterest but decided to modify. In that version, a marshmallow was cut in a triangle and put on the end of a toothpick. I thought

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Bags of plastic bones

that was OK, but why not upgrade it? I went to the Halloween store (Spirit Halloween) and purchased two packages of small bones for $3.00 each. I then used my Ghiradelli chocolate used for melting and once I affixed the small marshmallows to either end of the bones, dipped them in chocolate.

Walla!

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bones with the marshmallows attached. You can see I basically pushed the marshmallows on the ends, which were helpfully curled. you have to be fast about this, because they start to harden, and you want the chocolate on before they turn crusty!

See the pictures. BTW- this also doubles as a game. The bones have two holes. String some fishing line in between and suddenly you h

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after dipping in chocolate.

ave a game that kids, or raucous adults can play–as in, eat the marshmallow off the line first without it falling to the ground. (I’d recommend you confiscating iphones before you do this however. It gets pretty silly).

 

Storage
Refrigerate (on parchment paper) because the chocolate will stick to a regular pan. Even then, be careful when you lift it off, because the chocolate/marshmallow may slide right off the bone. This happened probably 10% of the time so it wasn’t big deal.

Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Beyond that they taste stale.

 

Halloween Treats- Gruesome Ripped Ears

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after using the heart-shaped cookie cutter, take your edged knife (this is a pastry/fruit knife) and make a curl that will make the form for the inner ear. carry it all the way down

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The finished product

This is my other divinely gruesome treat. Ripped ears. It is made from the same dough that is in my recipe for Witchy Fingers. Since I’m sure you’d hate popping back and forth, I’m putting it below. This is far easier to create and form the ears–so once again, don’t be intimated. Let your inner spooky-self flow as you create these.

Requirements
Food coloring and a small paintbrush
If you have it, a heart-shaped cookie cut-out will make your life a LOT easier. If not, you can use a round one and modify it. OR, you can free form with a sharp, non-serrated edge knife.

Ingredients- Dough
2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (bourbon or Madagascar are my preferred choices)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted/sweet butter (not unsalted. The taste is SO much better this way)- room temperature

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this is what it will look like after. make sure to take eat the center circle:)

1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar)
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
Pinch of salt (I tend to use Himalayan pink salt as it gives the recipe a pop), and when it says “pinch” I use my grinder, and that means 3 turns of the grinder
1 2/3 cups of all-purpose flour

 

Directions
Separate 1 egg. set aside the white in a bowl.

In a small bowl, which together the yolk, remaining egg and vanilla. Set aside.

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mold and shape the ear using your thumb and forefinger. Before this, I will typically pick it up and work it in my fingers for the basic shape, then put in on the Siplat cooky sheet and get it a little better.

In a large bowl (like a KitchenAid), use the padded attachment and combine the butter, powered sugar, granulated sugar and salt. Beat on medium speed until well combined. Add the egg mixture and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the flour, mixing on low speed until just incorporated (over mixing makes the end result hard).

Wrap the dough first in parchment paper if you have it, the plastic. If you have neither, an airtight Ziploc bag will work. Chill until firm, 20-30 minutes.

Making the ears

Divide the dough into two halves. Put one half back in the fridge to keep it cold.

Roll out to be @1 cm thick. If you are going to err, make them a bit thicker. If the dough is too thin, it will tear and you have to start all over (e.g. chill, roll out then form).

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using the end of the paintbrush (or a toothpick) create a hole to represent an earhole (so you can make it black or colored later)

Use the heart-shaped cookie cutter. Using a knife, make a basic ear (see the pictures). Lift one side out, then start to form the ear. The key technique here is to use the thumb and forefinger to create the ridges of the outter and inner ears. The bottom lob can be modified, but again, don’t make it too thin or it will rip and not hold its shape.

Tip: as with the witchy fingers, if you are going to ERR, do so on the side of overexaggeration. It’s better to have an ear that is thick and has form than one that’s too thin and doesn’t hold a shape.

Once this is done and the ear if formed, take the edge of a knife (I use a pastry end that has a ridge for texture) and make some ‘cut-lines’ in the inner ear–which is actually the ripped part.

Painting the ears is really the easy part. First, color the holes. This does nothing more than make it look ‘ear-like’ and gorey. The next painting is on the inner ear, the part that’s ripped. Play around with this. Brighter red makes the blood look fresh while darker blood (red mixed with some blue or green) gives it an older, burnt look.

The both taste great!

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food coloring in a little pie dish (I use these micro pie dishes that are only about 2 inches across) for convenience

Tip: wait for a few minutes before you brush on the egg white, and AVOID the painted parts, trying to get along the edges and in the depressed area.

Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. You should underbake these little because you’d rather have them moist than dry. They hold for 3 days in an airtight container. After that, they simply don’t taste that great.

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painting the inner (ripped) ear

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sometimes, after baking, the ear will raise, and you will want to counter this by using the edge of a spook or whatever is handy an press down along the inner ridge. This will give the ear the best shape possible. It holds, so you only have to do this once.

 

 

 

Halloween treats- Witchy Fingers

One of my two, personal favorite bite-size treats. The other is the gruesome ripped ears. Both of these are divinely gross and absolutely delicious. They are also made from the same dough. The only difference is the witchy fingers are cooked longer while the ripped ears are slightly undercooked. I might also add that these take a bit of time (about an hour and a half) but are great to do with kids. They are also big attention getters, which I also like!

Promise- people get intimidated by the nails (the almonds) and creating the actual fingers. This is super easy. My motto is: if I can do it, so can you. I’ll give you step by step pictures on this. You can do it!

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Took a picture to show what “just incorporated means.”

Requirements
Food coloring. A box will give green, yellow, red and blue. You will use all but the yellow.
A knife, rolling pin, and small paintbrush (to color on the blood and moldy ear slice).
Parchment paper

Ingredients (first, the nails)
Food coloring – you will use this last
30 blanched almonds

Directions
In boiling pot of water, dump the almonds. You may want to do more than 30, just in case a few split.
After 1 minute (exactly) remove and strain. Immediately run cold water (from the tap) is fine. Only need to do this about one minute.
Dump on a paper towel. As you start to rub the almonds, the peels will come off. Not all though–perhaps not even half. Don’t worry. With your fingertips (thumb and forefinger) you can easily rub once or twice and the shell slips off.
Place the blanched almonds on the cookie sheet (this is where you will paint them once fully dry)
At this point, stop and make the cookie dough. The reason is you will need to refrigerate the cookie dough. As this happens (about 30-40 minutes or longer) you will paint return and paint the fingers.

Ingredients- Finger Dough
2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (bourbon or Madagascar are my preferred choices)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted/sweet butter (not unsalted. The taste is SO much better this way)- room temperature
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar)
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
Pinch of salt (I tend to use Himalayan pink salt as it gives the recipe a pop), and when it says “pinch” I use my grinder, and that means 3 turns of the grinder
1 2/3 cups of all-purpose flour

Directions
Separate 1 egg. set aside the white in a bowl.

In a small bowl, which together the yolk, remaining egg and vanilla. Set aside.

In a large bowl (like a KitchenAid), use the padded attachment and combine the butter, powered sugar, granulated sugar and salt. Beat on medium speed until well combined. Add the egg mixture and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the flour, mixing on low speed until just incorporated (over mixing makes the end result hard).

Wrap the dough first in parchment paper if you have it, the plastic. If you have neither, an airtight Ziploc bag will work. Chill until firm, 20-30 minutes.

Tip: For rolling out, divide in half. The reason is simple. It takes time to roll, parse (or separate) the individual dough pieces for fingers. then you must roll, detail and place the finger. The remaining dough will get too soft, and become gooey. So take out only as much as you can reasonably use before it gets warm, which is about half.

At this point, place the dough in the fridge and paint the fingers.

Painting the fingers
place red, green and or blue food coloring in separate bowls. holding the almond between fingers, paint both sides. Tip: I use a rubber glove so I don’t stain my fingers. It takes several days to come off and I hate that. Then again, it is Halloween so who cares? Let stand until you are ready to roll out the dough and make the fingers.

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this is the dough, already rolled out, then cut and formed into a 2-2.5 inch piece

Making the fingers
This fun. Don’t be worried. Just put on some good chill music and go for it.

Take half the dough and place the other half back in the fridge. Roll it out to @1 cm thick. Using a cutting utensil (I use a pastry spatula), cut the pieces into a manageable size (e.g. about the length of half a real finger. It will elongate as you roll it out.

Roll the dough out into @a 3-inch piece. Then using your forefinger and third finger, depress a little, which will raise the middle (to create the middle knuckle). Adjust the end tip, to resemble the end of the finger. Adjust as necessary– e.g. raise the center, depress the in-between parts (as they will raise slightly during baking).

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depress the center. this makes the knuckles. 3 simple lines will do it

Take one of the almonds and wedge it within the end. Don’t place on top, as this will ensure it falls off after baking (I’ve done this before and ruined the whole batch). Make sure you have a bit of dough above, below and on all sides.

Take a knife or other untensil and create the ridges for the knuckle. Walla! you have created your finger.

Tip: Create the entire batch of the fingers and then brush lightly with the egg white. If you do this too soon, you will depress the ridges on the knuckles and it won’t look that realistic.

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now you are ready place the almond as the fingertip

Tip: Err on the side of exaggeration. In other words, if the ridges and length of the fingers aren’t pronounced enough, the finger will come out basically smooth. So if you are worried, its better to have a finger that’s super bony rather than one that looks flat and normal. You don’t want normal!

For cooking
Heat the over to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats (French non stick baking mats are my preference).

Using a non-stick brush, brush lightly with egg white.

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this is what it looks like before its cooked. you can add as much dough around the edge as you want. for fun, I sometimes go back and make them scraggly, but it tends to gross people out then they won’t eat them!

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This is a row PRE- covered with egg whites. I forgot to take a picture of that, but they slightly glisten when covered with the egg white

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this is a pic of just the green-tipped ones. This year I made red, green and then black.

For the presentation, my favorite way to display for eating is sticking out from within a cauldron. That way they are reaching out to you, saying EAT ME!

 

 

 

Halloween Treats- Mummy Milanos

Easy. Fast & delicious.

Requirements
Milano cookies (every grocery store has them). Tip: get the dark chocolate. Every stinking time I get the milk chocolate, the inside is crumbly and the milk chocolate tastes old. Clearly, people prefer the dark chocolate. It holds up better and is fresh. And yes, this is a IRK.
Milk chocolate especially made for melting. I use Ghiradelli. It is fresh, melts well and delicious.
A spoon or knife (to drizzle the chocolate)
Either chocolate icing (with a tip) that can be had for @$2.50 at most stores

Ingredients
1 package Milano cookies
1 package Ghiradelli white melting chocolate
1 container chocolate icing (or little chocolate speckles for the eyes)

Tip: do NOT use the gel icing sold in the stores. I used this and it doesn’t dry, even after four hours in the fridge. They smudged when I tried to layer them. Next time I went for the fast-dry icing.

Directions
Arrange the Milano cookies on a cookie sheet.

Melt the chocolate according to the directions. Short version is place the white chocolate in a microwave-proof bowl. Heat for 30 seconds. Every 30 seconds, stir. It will melt. By minute 2, it will be completely melted.

Immediately dip the end of your spoon or knife in the end and drizzle according to your desire. Before the chocolate dries, add the sprinkles. If you are using the icing, wait until the chocolate dries before applying.

 

Best Caramel Apple Dip

After many attempts to perfect this recipe, I’ve yet again mutated it into a dip that gets completely devoured at parties. The reason is it’s not “too caramelly,” which is a way of saying the caramel is overpower. Personally, I hate things that are overdone, which is what the original recipes is. This isn’t. It’s perfectly balanced between the caramel, cream cheese and marshmellow. For those people (e.g. men) who claim to hate cream cheese, they can’t even tell. As in, my husband Roger, hates the divine, bovine created product. Even he loves it. This recipe is a winner.

Requirements
A beater with a three-pronged paddle. The creamcheese need to be room temperature (softened, but not warmed in a microwave. I’ve done this and it curdles the product, ruining it).

Ingredients
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese. tip: on this, don’t go light. go full cream cheese. the consistency is much better and creamier
1/2 cup packed brown sugar (dark has richer flavor, but I prefer the light brown)
1/2 cup caramel- I hate the liquid, ice cream topping this calls for. Most versions have a horrid aftertaste. Go for the kind in a container. it’s very thick and can be found an most all grocery stores.
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup marshmallow crème
3 medium tart apples
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons water

Directions
In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese, brown sugar, caramel topping and vanilla until smooth. Fold in the marshmallow crème. Cut apples into vertical thin slices–I actually use my fun, holiday cookie cutters just to be different.

In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice and water. Toss the apples in the lemon juice mixture. Drain. (it prevents the apples from turning brown).

Tip for serving: you have a lot of fun options for making a simple dip look impressive. You can:

a) drizzle some caramel on the top
b) add nuts of any type to the top
c) put paprika on the top (don’t use Hungarian Paprika though. it’s too strong and will give a weird aftertaste whereas regular paprika won’t).

Lastly, on the color and flavor. If you want a darker look, simply add more caramel. This will enhance the flavor. Adjust to taste.

Halloween Treats – Meringue Bones

A light weight, gluten-free party favorite for all ages is bones. I’m talking meringue bones. It’s simple, fast and impressive. Most important, it doesn’t require a fancy icing tip. As a backdrop, I’ve tried a number of recipes from major sites, and I hated all of them save one, and even that, I modified. The following has a basis in the recipe from fishieking on allrecipes. My first round, I didn’t totally like the consistency of the bones (too mushy both in the better and final outcome). I increased the amount of cream of tartar just a hair and it was perfect.

Tip: make sure the Cream of Tartar (its a spice, just in case you haven’t heard of it), is within the expiration date. The first batch was ruined, and I looked at the culprit, which turned out to be 6 months overdue on the expiration. The next batch made with a brand new bottle turned out normally.

Requirements
Egg beater, big Ziploc plastic bag, parchment paper to line the cookie sheet.

Ingredients
6 egg whites (room temperature)
3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 pinch salt
1 1/3 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I used bourbon or Madagascar vanilla. it makes a huge difference)

Directions
Preheat oven to 225 degrees F (110 degrees C). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper (I prefer this to the tinfoil in the original recipe. it’s less sticky)

Beat the egg whites with cream of tartar and salt with an electronic mixer until egg whites are foamy. Gradually beat in sugar, a few tablespoons at a time, beating until the sugar dissolves in the meringue before adding more. Continue beating until the meringue is glossy and forms sharp peaks. Add the vanilla. At this point, the batter should be very gloppy (a technical term of course).

Spoon the batter into a Ziploc or pastry bag.

Tip: when I read this direction, I thought great. Reality is that I use a large KitchenAid mixer and couldn’t hold the bowl, and the Ziploc and spoon the stuff. I enlisted my husband, who held the bowl as I used a spatula to slide the batter into the bag.

Cut the end of the tip with a scissors.

Tip for formation of the bones.

Start at the upper left hand corner, draw down to the bottom of the V. Then go up to the right of the V. Quickly take the tip straight down for the long center. Then draw down for the lower left, then up to the base V then down to the lower right. Lift up the tip.

I made a few testers, which necessitated me changing the grip of my bag. It’s easy enough to push out, but half-way through, the bag will deflate and air bubbles will collect. To prevent this, stop, open the bag, squeeze out the air then resume.

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Meringue bones – gluten free party favorite

Key directions for cooking

Place the cookie sheets and bake for 1 hour. Do NOT open the oven door, not even to peek. I ignored this part of the directions (thinking it wouldn’t make a difference. It did. They flopped). So, lesson learned. Leave it shut for an additional hour. (seriously. do not skip this).

When removing the bones, slide off the parchment paper onto a rack. Wait until cooled, then place in an air tight container.

Tip for storage

The original recipe didn’t give any commentary on storage, but I read that they could be sealed, room temperature for several days. I made one batch on Tuesday, thinking they would be fine for Saturday. Well, I checked on Thursday, and they’d become really brittle. By Friday, they were falling apart at the touch, with the exception of a few of the thicker ones. That meant I ended up creating a new batch, which I served the following day.

Pictures show the formation and the outcome.

By the way- I had these on a “gluten free” table, but all the guests had them- adults and kids (about 50 total). They were the first to go!

Halloween kid games (but work for adults)

Graveyard bowling

Graveyard bowling

Fourthings to do that work equally well for kids and adults, because really, when it comes to Halloween, adults revert back decades, dress silly, act sillier, and generally have no shame when it comes to what happens in the darkened rooms of a Halloween party.

Graveyard bowling

All you need is an empty space about 10 5-8 feet long. Carpet works, as does cement or wood. What you need:

  1. A sign. Pumpkin bowling. $3 bucks for the black cardboard. white spraypaint. tacks.
  2. old water bottles, 1/3 full of water and red food coloring (strip off the label).
  3. round, white cut outs on taped to the floor. 10 of them.dsc_0907
  4. smallish pumpkins.

Place the bottles on the floor. Behind the bottles, tack the cardboard. Walla. You are done. I was surprised how many adults wanted to play this bowling game. It was hilarious.

 

Mummy wrapping

This was a party fav two years ago with the kids & the adults had so much fun I ddsc_0901id it again. It’s easy. Teams of 2 or 3, and two rolls of toilet paper. One package from Costco means 2 rounds of ten-give or take, so the teams of two can each hav a chance to wrap and be the mummy.

Toss the finger & eat the earwax

This is easy, but unfortunately I don’t have pictures of the former and only one of the latter.

Tossing the finger means you get a bucket (we have a cauldron) and set it about 10 feet away from the kids (in a line) and they toss 3 fingers. The one to get all three wins the prize. Adults do this to. The cauldron can be on the piano, side-stool, inside or out. You’d be surprised how few people can get the finger in (or eyeballs work) in the cauldron!

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Earwax on a bone

The second game is awesome! This came about when I saw this Pinterest idea for earwax on a stick. I modified the idea by purchasing bones at the Spirit Halloween store (25 for $3.00). I then took a small marshmellow and stuck it on both ends of the small bones. After than, I melted Ghiradelli milk chocolate and dipped the ends in the chocolate. It looks like brown earwax…so grossly awesome. The game came about because the bones came with two small holes. I was able to run string (I used fishing line) through it, then hung the bones. The kids were able to see how many they could eat without the ear wax falling on the floor. Adults are way more grossed out on this game than the kids–no telling why.

Look for the recipe and other info on the earwax which doubles as a treat in other blogs.

 

 

Gym’s, Gerry’s and the petri dish of life

Going to my gym is like experiencing a cornucopia of life. A mixture of people, sizes and persuasions along with contradictions and for me, curiosity.

kroc center

Who gets a gym that looks like it belongs in Aspen? Me and 14,000 other people, that’s who

Maybe it’s because this place is a multi-purpose center as opposed to a strictly iron and class oriented gym. This place is rock climbing and swimming, theatre and basketball courts. I’m sure there is more, but my curiosity taps out where the day care center stops. It starts back up as I approach mile three on thick rubber bottom-treadmill and the sweat is dripping in my, blurring the letters on my Kindle. My mind starts to wander and I look around. Out of my left eye, I spy an older man two treadmills down about 5’7 who has a crunched right hand. At first I only sense this, because he’s having extraordinary difficulty pushing the buttons. In front of me is a younger couple that are engaged in the type of back and forth that only occurs in the dating phase. Married couples, FYI, go separate directions, or if they stay together, move with military-style precision. They are here to get things done, not flirt.

I move on from the young couple. They are boring me and honestly, if I have to watch people flirt on the treadmill, my only recourse is to give myself more pain as a distraction.

Downstairs, over the railing, I see a late-twenties man rolling his wheelchair. He works here. Once I overhead him talking to a group of elderly patrons. He said a snowboarding accident left him in his present state. He wheels everywhere with vigor, being much more helpful to the senior citizens who occupy this place than I would normally expect a late-twenties employee to be. (Nothing against late twenties, mind you. It’s just that a person who is half the height of a granny tends to be a) non-threatening, b) interested in what life’s lessons are all about and c) funny. If you have lost the use of your legs, along the path, I believe a decision is made whether or not to become bitter. And if that’s not the choice, happiness usually is. Have you ever noticed how happy disabled people are? It’s like it was a blessing. But I digress.)

Then comes the group of big, bald and…(no, not bloaty, I know you thought I was going there), but hard. How can that be? You ask. I can answer because in my alter life, I am the quizat haderachk. These men are mostly forties to sixties, and own their bigness and baldness. As I ramp up my treadmill to 7% and then 11%, I’m in awe of how these men own it. Actually, I have to give credit to my friend from LA, Mark S., a snowboarding, surfing CEO of not one but two companies (he’s single, but has attachment issues, sorry ladies). In any case, he will look at you when you completely err (e.g. fart in a closed-windowed car) and say “Claim it, bro.”

These men, I watch them and then claim it. Claim their bigness that is so big, their tummies is one, enormous round entity that stretches the t-shirt like a balloon ready to go into the stratosphere. They strut. They laugh. They do the man-bro hug and pat each other’s back twice with a bap-bap. I must say, I applaud it. They are so full of confidence it almost makes them appealing. Almost.

Then we have another group of Gerries (what I call older women, Gerries—with a j–) is short for geriatric. Rog thinks it’s insulting but in my posse of grandmas who I hang with (thing church and service-based activities), a Gerry is really an affectionate term, one of endearment. (e.g. oh that Gerry si so cute driving her scooter, oh, that’s a hot Gerry, she’s working that lace skirt).

In any case, these place has the female equivalent of the balding, big men. They are the not-so-well preserved women who are trying really, REALLY, hard. (yes, I shouted, but more of a nice emphasis cuz I like these women). This area, in Northern Idaho, isn’t about pretense, plastic surgery or make-up. When I’m talking try hard, I’m referring to a completely different try, one that requires my complete respect and more than a little bit of awe.

To wit (invoking my high school English lit class), one woman in her late sixties, her face an unfolded piece of parchment paper that attests to her a lifetime in the northern Idaho sun, has poured her skinny self into a pair of stretchy leggings and a skin tight halter top. Rock climbing shoes without sock are the only other piece of clothing she puts on before scrambling her little superhero butt into the harness. She shimmies up the rock wall, putting the out of shape fourteen year-old male’s to shame.

That girl has claimed it. Dang. I look around wanting to claim something of my own.

As I get off the stationary walking apparatus of pain, I head directly to the weight section. There I run into a wall of Gerries who have commandeered the machines, many with their personal trainer (compliments of the center). They have their small white pieces of paper, attached to a clipboard and their minder. (I’m borrowing that from the Scientologists. I like it. It fits. I hope I don’t get sued. If the government of the US doesn’t have the funds or gumption to sue the Scientologists, I’m pretty sure I don’t). In any case, the minder keeps tabs on very push and press, pull and dip. Nary a sweat drop in sight, but I tell you what I do see. A lot of looking around. Gazing—at the opposite sex!

I ponder this as I continue into the free weight section where I’m in the company of only one other woman (who is definitely not a Gerry) and a whole lot of maleness under thirty. I’m okay with this, but as I mention to my husband later than evening, I’m confused as to what to do and how to be. My natural, nice, talkative self creates the impression that I want to talk, instead of working out, and that my talking is a forward to getting into bed. So after realizing I was creating a legion of potential stalkers who would follow me around from bench to pole, I tried the other approach. I stared straight ahead, barely making eye contact, and only doing so when I needed to verify bench or item was available. I’m terribly conflicted about this, because I think avoiding someone’s gaze is rude and I run this risk of thinking I’m all that (which, if you saw me at the gym, would know I’m very little of all that).

I’m reminded of what Rog told me earlier in the week. “Who cares if they look or talk to you? Why are you even thinking about this? Enjoy a younger man talking to you. It’s not going to last forever.”

What the…? Laughing while foreseeing my old-age Gerry-ness coming into play, I continue working out, trying to find a balance between being focused and polite but distant and not-b—chy. The good news is I have better things to focus on, like the man who has been burned on half of his body, and the woman plastered with so many tattoos I can barely see the skin. She doesn’t look very happy but has an amazing body. This then makes me wonder if I have to be grumpy and focused to have a great body.

Closing the locker on my things, I wipe some sweat off and head out. The meanderings of my time at the gym. I came. I exercised. I pondered. I realized I don’t know half of what I need to be wise, but if the Gerry’s around me are any example, I’m going to have a lot of time to figure it out.

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