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A week before Halloween, I decided to make this costume. In the past, I would have these HUGE costume birthday parties the weekend before Halloween, and in the last few years, I’ve somehow lost the urge to spend an entire month preparing for my birthday drinking weekend. I was actually really let down by myself; that I wasn’t eager to find or make the perfect costume for my little one- something that I’d always looked forward to doing as a mom. But that urge kicked in as I was dredging through the limited selection of reduced price costumes online a mere seven days before my favorite holiday. I saw a costume like the owl one pictured above in a virtual shop that my bestie showed me back in August, but it was too springtime flowery and too spendy. It haunted me as Halloween got closer. Finally, when it seemed that I already had too much on my plate between trying to finish up a commissioned portrait, taking a watercolor class, and the rest of daily life, the urge really struck.
Six days before the holiday, we headed out to the fabric store to purchase our fabrics. I used scrap felt for the eyes and beak, a scrap of fuzzy fleece for the chest and face, and the rest is purchased flannel, perhaps about a yard in total. I did a few sketches, and used an existing hood from one of her sweatshirts and a tighter hat as a guide for the owl’s head, and then constructed the rest of it on my own. I must say, I work best under pressure. Because in those six days, I was able to finish a 3×4 foot portrait of my nephew dog, prepare this cake (for the 4th time, with raisins, BOMB!) for mine and my mom’s birthday, spend a day with mom, learn some new watercolor techniques, carve some pumpkins (see below) and bust this costume out.
I’ve taken some pattern drafting classes in the past, and I must say, if you like to sew, and want to learn to sew your own clothes that fit perfectly, I highly recommend seeking some out. It definitely helps if you are one of those people who enjoys visualizing and translating a three dimensional idea into a two dimensional pattern and back into a three dimensional product, but it’s something that you can definitely get better at. I found my class at our community college, and learned SO much in just two trimesters.
I don’t have a pattern for this costume 1) because I didn’t have time to make one and document as I worked, and 2) because it’s so similar to the one I was inspired by. Next year though, I’m thinking ahead. I’m going to start early. It’s going to be fabulous. Hold me to this. Please.
Another festive thing that took place were these bars:

Salted Caramel Popcorn Pretzel Bars adapted from Shutterbean

Nonstick cooking spray
12 cups plain popped popcorn (from 1/2 cup kernels or 2 microwave packages)
4 cups coarsely chopped small salted pretzels
1 cup toasted almonds, chopped
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
2/3 cup Unsweetened MimicCreme
2 cups (1 package) Dandies vegan marshmallows

Coat a 9 x 13″ baking dish with cooking spray.  In a large (your biggest!) bowl, toss together popcorn, almonds and pretzels.  In a medium saucepan, bring sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 cup water to a boil over medium high.  Boil, undisturbed, until mixture is amber in color–8-12 minutes.  Remove pan from heat and slowly pour in cream (mixture will sputter).  Immediately add marshmallows; stir until melted.

Pour caramel mixture over popcorn and pretzels and quickly stir with a rubber spatula to coat.  Transfer mixture to dish and use a dampened hands to press the mixture into the pan.  Sprinkle with a heavy dose of kosher salt.  Let cool completely before cutting into bars.

They were SO GOOD. I veganized them, using this awesome product called MimicCreme that I found recently at my market, in place of the heavy cream, and Dandies vegan marshmallows in place of the regular marshmallows. Those marshmallows have the best flavor, I had to resist eating half the package. It paid off, and these made such great treats to share with friends and family. As Shutterbean shared with me, the recipe claims to make 12 servings, but those would be HUGE. I ended up with 24. And I’m the queen of out of proportion portions! I’d recommend chopping up the marshmallows so that they melt more easily- though they aren’t jet-puffed, they’re not minis either! They’re much denser with a better flavor than the regular nastioso marshmallow. A special thanks to Bean for coaching me through this- from not disturbing the boiling sugar mixture to reassuring me that this concoction really WILL fit into that 9×13″ pan!
And, here are my pumpkins. I like to wait until just a few days before Halloween so that they don’t get all yucky and moldy, needing a shovel to be disposed of. Also, I was smart this year and wore vinyl (Latex would work too, if you aren’t allergic like me) gloves to guard against that awful dry skin that I always get from carving multiple pumpkins. I can’t believe it took me so many years to figure this out. I always do a kitty as my warm-up pumpkin. It’s tradition:

I hope that you had a happy Halloween!

from Gluten-Free Goddess by Karina Allrich

(Here is the fabulous recipe…)

Good thing I was making this for a crowd, because I could have eaten the entire thing by myself. I love pumpkin, and I love spice. And there’s something to using quinoa flour in a recipe- it adds a sort of nuttiness that is so faint and light, yet still substantial. Plus, it adds protein and fiber! This cake is practically good for you! Ms. Allrich is so right when she claims that this cake is moist enough that it doesn’t need a topping. But I thought it looked a little naked, so I modified this recipe, using orange juice instead of lemon, and maple syrup in place of a couple of those tablespoons of nondairy milk, and maple flavoring in place of the vanilla. It was like the topping for a maple bar! Sickeningly sweet and delicious. I drizzled it on top of each slice, just before serving. All i can say is UNGH.
Now, about some alterations due to my lack of altitude. I live basically at sea level, so I panicked a little bit when I saw that The Goddess bakes at 7,000 feet! Looking back, it’s a good thing that I didn’t read this before I was actually in the kitchen with the ingredients out to make the cake, because this intimidated me so greatly that I would have backed out, even after having purchased sorghum flour just for the occasion. I did a quick search and found this guide, which totally saved the day! I ended up mixing the flours together, as instructed for the cake, and then I took out a few tablespoons of the three combined, since I didn’t want to upset the balance of flours, figuring that Ms. Allrich had chosen that ratio for a reason. Adjusting for the sugars, baking powder and soda was easy, and since the recipe called for an eyeballing of liquid anyway, it was pretty easy.
This truly amazing cake needs to be made for one of the 63 gazillion people that I know with an October birthday. Now, who’s deserving?

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