Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Which Witch is Which?

I made the mistake of asking my lab-mates what sort of Halloween treat they wanted at our late October meeting. The only strong opinion was voice was a request for, and I quote, "Those ice cream cones that taste like cardboard, but full of cake."

Sounds tempting, I know. 

But, I asked, so I went on a quest for Halloween themed ice cream cone and cake combinations. The first to show up on google was Betty Crocker's Witchy Cake Balls. While they don't use the cardboard flavored ice cream cones, sugar cones are far more delicious, so I was okay with the trade off. 
I seriously considered using cake cones anyway, but when I put them on my withes, they turned the witches into pilgrims very quickly (you may keep this in mind for Thanksgiving). The real rub for me was that preparing for this task involved buying a cake mix, frosting, and 8 different kinds of candy. You do not know shame until you spend $20 at the grocery store and leave with only sugar.

The first steps to making these were just the same as any cake pop. Bake a cake. Crumble the cake when it cools. Mix the crumbles with frosting. Form whatever shape you need (this time, just round balls, but bigger than average, think "cutie" size). Refrigerate for a couple of hours. Easy.

But then, things got harder. For one, I had no green candy coating, and was not about to get dressed to go buy more sugar. Yes, I bake exclusively in jammies, that's what happens when you live alone. So, I just dyed what I already had. Green was harder to make than I anticipated, so I decided that they would be teal witches. In retrospect, I should have at this moment given up. But no, I had to try to coat these monstrous cake balls. Without a stick to dip with, and with the added heft of a larger-than-average pop, I just sort of ended up spooning the candy coating on. First I did one side of the ball, let that set, then did the other. Then I tried to wash the teal from my now stained hands.

If I were to do this again, the I would have the foresight to prepare all of the goodies for the witch faces before doing the coating, so that I could stick on the eyes, nose, and hair while the the coating is still wet. Of course, I didn't do that.  Instead waited for it all to dry, then I turned on the gas burner and held each ball up to the flame for a second to resoften the candy melts. Once it was soft enough, I smooshed on the face candy.

With green balls, adorned with 2 M&Ms and a piece of candy corn, I started the laborious process of cutting sour straws into strips for hair. My advice: save yourself the mess and hunt down the Twizzlers, they have got to sell them somewhere. Do not try to cut up candy straws. It isn't fun.

Finally, essentially giving up on hair, I dipped each ice cream cone in purple candy coating and shoved it on the "head" of the witch. I tried dipping in sprinkles first, but the sprinkles made it impossible to fuse the cone to the head. Again, this may be some that could have been solved with a little foresight. First, dip all of the cones in coating and sprinkles. Then, while the candy coating is wet on the balls themselves, attach the hat. Duh. Well, next time, right? 

In the end, they're pretty horrifically ugly. But, its Halloween, so I think that's okay. And really, Betty Crocker's were no masterpiece either, so I'm not feeling so badly. Plus, they actually a little bit like this guy, what what's creepier than that?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Not Sharpie DIY Mugs

I am a firm believer in mugs. I have an owl mug from my sister I call upon when I need to be wise. I have a kitty-cat mug from my brother that I use when I'm ready for life as a cat lady. I have a CGU mug from graduation that I use when I need to work on school things, rather than prep lectures. I have a huge sheep mug from my grandmother that I use when, well, when no one is looking. So, when I was plum out of ideas for a DIY birthday gift for my friend Beth, a mug just seemed like the natural choice.
It all started with this image on an early, hectic, Tuesday morning. As my students grubbed for points I thought of Beth in her office, just trying to stay sane in a cubical. We both needed this mug. And, you know how Pinterest is always covered with images of decorative DIY mugs. The pin usually says something like, "Sharpie on a mug is dishwasher safe!" If you actually follow the link, more often than not you find that no, Sharpie on a mug is NOT dishwasher safe. But, it seems as though Paint Marker on a mug, cured in the oven for an hour, is dishwasher safe. Luckily, I actually read directions this time.
Armed with a set of plain white mugs and a black paint marker, I set to work replicating the Vodka mug.
Once that was done, though, it didn't seem right to give someone just one silly mug. On the other hand, I couldn't very well make 4 mugs that all say the same thing. After all, there is a possibility that not every boss would think the mug is as funny as I do. Instead, I set out on the internet, scouring Beth's social media for phrases that might be well suited for a mug.
Finally, I decided that the backs needed a little something fun on them. So, since I was already just drawing on mugs, I did that too. I spent about 30 minutes drawing that lab, I expect that you're pretty impressed. What might impress you less: the back says, "If I have to put on pants the answer is no."

Monday, October 7, 2013

Blue Desk Blues

I bought a desk to my room when I first moved to Claremont back in 2008. The guys at the thrift store told me that it wouldn't fit in my Toyota Echo. I told them it would. They made me sign a waver saying if they broke it, or my car trying to shove it in the Echo, it was my fault. I signed it gladly. They still didn't want to try. They told me to go get my boyfriend, or someone with a truck. But, I was new to Claremont, I had no one. So, they tried halfheartedly to make it fit, then gave up. I had no choice, I took matters into my own hands. I pushed the seat back, unrolled the windows, and darn it if I didn't make that desk fit. Yes, the legs were hanging out the window a bit. No, I couldn't use the bottom 2 gears on my shifter, so I drove home in first, third, and fifth. But I did it. 

When I moved to Orange, that desk almost went back to the thrift store it came from. In fact, it was the last thing on the truck when I realized that even if it was kind of ugly, my new apartment was huge and empty, so I shouldn't turn down free furniture. But in my new place with my pretty new bedroom set up, the discolored maple just didn't have the feel I was going for. You know where this is going. 

I thought about painting it white, or yellow, or even a soft green. But then I decided that I would regret it, and probably still hate it a little bit, unless I went big. So, I bought a quart of Peacock blue paint and set to work at 7 am. 

I sanded, cleaned, and painted, and painted, and painted. Then, I spilt the rest of the quart of blue paint on the carpet and cleaned, and cleaned, and cleaned. 

The final product, a lovely blue desk and a very faint blue stain on the rug. It's okay, I think it was worth it. Next up: the chair.