Monday, October 31, 2011

The Knights Who Say "Ee!"

Today is my kids' first Halloween ever. Really.

No, I'm not one of those people who hates Halloween, but every year from October 25th until November 5th, our family has gone camping, and so we've never bothered with Halloween. 

Kindergarten changes everything!

My son came home from Kindergarten in early October, and said "Hey Mom, there is this day, it's called Halloween, and you're supposed to dress up and people give you candy!" 

My response: "It must be a brand new holiday!"

So Eli told me he wanted to dress up as a knight. (Halloween is a foreign concept, dress up is not)

His tabard is 1 yard of muslin, cut in half and sewn into a long strip, with a hole cut for his head (edged in bias tape) and his personal "coat of arms" appliqued on the front. For his coat of arms, he wanted a dragon, a lion head, and a letter "E". After I made the uppercase "E", I was informed that it should have a lowercase "e" also. That is so Kindergarten!

He also has a belt and a "sword holder", sewn from red flannel, interfacing, and a couple of "D" rings. I bought a sword for $2.97 at Wal-Mart. The crowning glory of his Halloween costume is his shield. I drew a template for the shape, my husband cut two pieces of thin oak veneer and glued them together. I painted the coat of arms on the front and we stapled nylon webbing straps on the back. 
Easy peasy. 

He is in love. 

(some action shots...)

Iris was going to be a dragon, so Eli would have someone to fight, but when she saw his costume (the sword especially...) she wanted to be a knight as well. 

So she's the purple knight. 

Same concept, except that she is shorter, so I got away with using only a half yard of muslin for her tabard. Her coat of arms is a kitty, an iris, and an "Ii". She also wasn't interested in a shield, so we skipped that bit.

Baby Greta ended up being the ferocious cuddly dragon. I had a size 0-3 month fleece sweatsuit from Old Navy. I used a bit of red fleece and green felt to make the tail, ears and spikes, and some shimmery green scaly fabric from JoAnn for the belly. Red socks complete her scary adorable dragon costume! 

So having your first Halloween at age 5 is slightly hilarious. We went to a Trunk or Treat, and Eli went to the first car in the line, said "Trick or Treat!" as instructed, and got 3 pieces of candy. He was thrilled, and went to get back in the car. His eyes almost popped out when I told him that he could go get candy from EVERY car.  
We'll see what happens when we go Trick or Treating in our neighborhood tonight!


<3 AmberLou

Sunday, October 30, 2011

DIY Twix bars using homemade caramel!

I've recently started using, which is a self-described online pin board. It's used to organize and catalog ideas you find on the internet. I'm pretty behind the times about such things, so you've all probably been using it for ever, but if you haven't you should check it out.

Anyway, I found a couple of recipes in the last few days that went together well and I decided to combine them.  First I found a recipe called better than Twix bars, which called for packaged caramels. I decided to make them Saturday for a pre-Halloween treat.  Then, I found a recipe for microwave caramels and decided to combine the two into one perfect concoction. They. Are. Amazing!
Here's the recipe I came up with:

Better Than Twix Bars

1 stick (4 ounces) butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
Homemade caramel (recipe follows)
8 ounces milk chocolate
1 1/2 teaspoons vegetable shortening, optional

Preheat oven to 300ยบ. Line 8 x 8 inch pan with nonstick foil or greased regular foil.

Beat together butter, sugar and vanilla. Add the flour. Press evenly into may need to flour your fingers to prevent sticking. Prick crust with fork. Bake 35-45 minutes till crust is golden.

Immediately after removing crust from oven, run knife around edges to loosen crust. Cool.

Make caramel according to recipe below and pour over shortbread. Allow to cool for 30 minutes or so.

Gently melt chocolate in microwave or in double boiler over low heat. Add shortening or oil if too thick to pour. Pour over cooled caramel and spread to edges. Chill till chocolate is well set. Cut into squares to serve. Store covered in refrigerator, but remove a few minutes before serving.

Microwave Caramels (For an 1100 watt microwave oven)

1/2 cup butter (real butter, not margarine)
1/2 cup light Karo Syrup (don't use dark)
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk (NOT evaporated milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

  • Line either an 8 x 8 baking dish or a 9 x 5 loaf pan with foil. Butter the foil.--An 8 x 8-inch pan will give a thinner candy, 9 x 5-inch loaf pan will give a thicker candy.
  • Melt butter in large microwave bowl. (I used a glass bowl.)
  • Stir in Karo syrup, both sugars, and sweetened condensed milk.
  • Mix until most of the sugar is dissolved.
  • Microwave on high for 3 1/2 minutes (that's 3 minutes and 30 seconds)
  • Stir down and scrape sides of bowl.
  • Microwave on high 3 1/2 minutes. (This will be soft ball stage.)
  • Stir in vanilla and nuts (if you are using nuts).
  • Pour immediately into buttered dish (or over shortbread for Twix bars) and refrigerate until set.
If making traditional caramels: Remove from refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature before cutting. The caramels can be left plain or decorated at this point by dipping them in chocolate and then in chopped nuts, sprinkles, etc. Wrap each piece in wax paper.

We really liked these. They were very, very chewy, especially until they warmed up a bit. We cut the first pieces as soon as we could get a knife in them, because we were impatient. Our teeth and jaws were sore and we feared for our fillings. But the next morning, they were much more manageable.

These will definitely have a regular spot in my Christmas goodie plates from now on.