Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Happy Halloween

Chad and I celebrated BYOPTYOHTY by carving jack-o-lanterns Sunday night. Happy Halloween from a scary clown (aren't they all a little scary?) and the grim reaper. Sweet dreams!

I doubt that we will dress up this year. Plans for two different charity costume parties fell through this Halloween season when the charities both cancelled their events. Bummer.

Thursday, October 17, 2013


Bring Your Own Pumpkin To Your Own House This Year Party

Chad and I throw an amazing BYOP (Bring Your Own Pumpkin) Party every other year here at the 1952 House. This year is not the "other year". You are on your own, party-people. Be creative. Be safe. Have fun. 

If you want to recreate our party atmosphere:

Make mac n cheese muffins. (My recipe appears at the bottom of this post.)

Make some Morning Star Farms veggie corndogs or State Fair brand meaty (eww, but hey, it's Halloween, so get your scare on) corndogs.

Have a Halloween music playlist, or tune your Time Warner Cable TV to Music Choice channel Sounds of the Season.

Grab apple fritters from Ken's Donuts. (Starbucks also has good apple fritters for non-Austinites or Austinites who don't like driving near the University of Texas campus.)

Throw "fun-size" favorites of candy on your dining room table with some glittery Halloween doo-dads.

Carve a jack-o-lantern, or otherwise paint, bedazzle or sticker a pumpkin. *HERE* are some great ideas courtesy of the lady I want to be when I grow up, Jamie Meares.

Post a photo or it's like it never happened.

If you live in Austin and are free on Saturday, October 26, get yourself to Central Market on North Lamar for a pumpkin carving exhibition from one of the Food Network stars of Halloween Wars 2013, Gabriel Vinas.


Here is the recipe for the Mac & Cheese Muffins I made for the pumpkin party:

3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups skim milk
2 Tablespoons low-fat cream cheese
2 cups shredded low-fat cheddar cheese (1/2 cup reserved for topping)
10 ounces elbow macaroni, cooked to package instructions
2 Roma tomatoes, sliced (optional)

In  a saucepan over medium heat, mix flour, salt, onion powder and pepper. Cook 2 minutes stirring. (Yes, these are all dry ingredients.)

Slowly whisk in skim milk, then add cream cheese. Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook 4 minutes, stirring until thick. (It will be lumpy.)

Remove from heat, and stir in 1 and 1/2 cups cheddar cheese until melted. (It takes a few minutes. Keep stirring.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a 12 muffin-tin with cooking spray. 

In a big bowl, mix cooked macaroni with cheese sauce. 

Spoon into the muffin tin. Top with a slice of tomato (or not), then with the 1/2 cup of reserved shredded cheddar cheese.

Bake until bubbly and golden-brown, about 25 minutes at 400 degrees. 

Monday, October 07, 2013

Busy & Sleep Deprived

Getting up for work at 3:45 AM for a 5:00 AM start time for six day stretches for three weeks in a row is no one's idea of a good time, I'm pretty sure. That's what I've been doing since I got back from London. To make things a little more chaotic, I got my arm twisted (figuratively speaking) into learning and performing a new role for a three-act dinner mystery show down in San Antonio, right in the middle of those 3:45 wake-ups. Heaven help me, I made it through. I'm now enjoying five days off from both jobs as a birthday present to myself. I have many magazines to read, a few chores and much sleeping to do.

Photos of the new Holiday I (yes, there will be a Holiday II) floor set at my retail job:

Moss, butterflies and moody colors make up the "Enchanted Forest". This is the most beautiful directive I've seen from the higher-ups at my my retail job to date. *Click any photo to make it bigger.*

I lined the backs of bays with roofing paper and used a dry-brush technique to paint birch trees (a recurring motif in the "Snowdrift" areas of this floor set. Merchandise was then stacked on shelves in front of the trees, but kept the trees mostly visible.

This photo shows a column I painted in chalkboard paint, a birch tree I chalked, a birch tree I built out of a telescoping concrete form and paper, AND a Christmas tree I decorated. Trees everywhere!

I really loved making the birch tree poles with lit willow branches in the background, painting the birch trees and setting out the beautiful, sparkly merchandise for this floor set. I loathed making the giant pine cones out of chicken wire and cardboard (in the foreground under the table). I wanted to cry when people called the pine cones "artichokes".

Again, apologies for the glare of the glass windows. The bottom crates will be filled with firewood this week. I was instructed to use existing shelves and new crates to construct a pyramid shaped window display. I like the way it came together.

There's so much going on in this window, and it's hard to see. Left to right: more birch poles with cascading paper butterflies, a tree house sitting on seven birch risers stocked with a settee, side table, lamp, pillows, throw blanket and rug, evergreen mini trees with mulch islands and finally a pieced photo collage of a moody twilight forest for the background. Phew! So much work went into this! I have to give much credit to the corporate higher-ups in the visuals department for a meticulously planned  and beautifully themed floor set. I also owe thanks to the local visuals team: my boss and super-carpenter, Kat; my peer in making it pretty, Lori; and our fabulous helpers, Joey and Summer.

Here I am after trekking down to San Antonio in the middle of floor set madness to play "The Godmother" in a mobster-themed dinner mystery show. This is my "son", who is the same age as me. That's a wig I'm wearing. I looked pretty haggard from sleep-deprivation, but still probably wasn't convincing as a sixty-year-old crime boss.

Here's a recent photo of me with prettifying Instagram filter just to prove I don't look like anyone's grandma.