Thursday, October 28, 2010

Weird Vintage Halloween Costume Ideas

Thank you, Dorothy B, and therefore thank you, Huffington Post, for this 13-pic slideshow of the creepiest vintage Halloween costumes ever. Awesome!

"Unicorn Father," reposted via Huff Post via

Friday, October 22, 2010

Pink taffy mechanically separated chicken milkshake

I love that mechanically separated chicken looks like a really delicious strawberry milkshake-taffy snake, and that 20,000+ people, some rather angry, responded to this choice bit of social media, here:

reposted from Michael Kindt, author of Early Onset of Night, Volume One

p.s. Hey everyone! My events + communications partner Debi Schadel dreamed up a great new local-to-national action campaign for our social media client, the nonprofit SC Small Business Chamber of Commerce. It's all about shopping independent and local (like our Shop Tart prescribes):

Buy SC presents:
Local Has It: Happy Hardware Day!
November 20, 2010
Location: Everywhere, U.S.A.!
Time: All day

All you gotta do is hit an independent, locally owned hardware store on Saturday, November 20! Anywhere and everywhere. Easy!

fab poster design by Karen Williford of ADCO

I love working with clients I believe in.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Crazy good pumpkin-sage tacos w/fresh salsa verde!

These pumpkin-sage tacos with fresh salsa verde are crazy good!

They are also really rather easy to make if you happen to have shopped already in hopes of making an impromptu fancy taco or ten.

I knew I had some soft corn tortillas in the freezer, some jalapenos and serrano peppers on the bush out in the garden, and limes in the veggie drawer, so the signs were pointing to Mexican anyway.

Since avocados were on sale at the Piggly Wiggly the other day, I bought a few, plus a handful of little green, husky tomatillos.

And as for the pumpkin:

Inspired by my friend Claudia, who had an impromptu little pumpkin decorating party last night, we went to the store and got ourselves a couple of pumpkins to carve.

Jay's is incredibly artful, of course. I copied his nose-making technique and I think it's really the way to go (for me, at least) from here on out when it comes to pumpkin face noses.

I haven't carved a pumpkin in years! It was fun. Gorgeous autumn weather, an impossibly perfect blue sky, squirrels rustling in the pecan trees.

Mine, on the bottom, was an excuse to make a guy with a really big mustache. I just realized, though: it looks just like the Pringles man


While hollowing out the pumpkins to carve, we noticed two kinds of pumpkin innards coming out.

The gross, slimy, wet, clingy stringy bits attached to the seeds (the really orange-y stuff on the left), which are wholly unappetizing...

...and these firmer, fleshier, more opaque strands, which looked like they'd actually be rather good to eat...

...all fried up in a bunch of sage brown butter, perhaps?

Happily, nerd that I am, I have some sage growing in my container garden.

Just like Steven Seagal, it's hard to kill. (Um, btw you should def click on that link--there's a sweet excerpt from The Onion Movie.)

And good thing I didn't completely give up butter when I did the "Roxanne overhaul" on my pantry and fridge. (I do still use coconut milk creamer, Earth Balance, millet-flax bread and agave nectar instead of half & half, butter, wheat bread and sugar, among many other groovy next-generation health food substitutions.)

See the way the butter gets foamy? That's the fatty milk solid business. It's what gets brown.

Mmm. Fried sage.

(Seriously, all that is in that cast iron wok is some  butter on medium heat, into which I dropped about 10 whole sage leaves. Yummah.

I'm sure vegan butter would work just fine, btw.)

Now the pumpkin strands and a sprinkle of kosher salt. For 2-3 pats of butter, I used just over a cup of pumpkin flesh strands.

Again: not the clear, slimy strands -- just the firm, 1/16-inch strands that ultimately pack together so tightly on the inside of the pumpkin that they form its flesh.

Those ones.

I'd say you can get about 4-5 cups of good pumpkin strands out of 2 medium-sized pumpkins.

Me, I had some cooked field peas in the fridge, thawed and simmered up in some vegan bouillon and water, from back in the summer when I put up a huge batch for the winter.

After a few minutes of browning and frequent stirring on medium heat (which is pretty hot if you use a gas stove, btw), I added about a half cup of those field peas (or any beans will do, I think!) and a TBSP of chopped scallions. More browning. Yummah yummah.

Easy Salsa Verde
While the pumpkin strands and field peas were busily browning further (smelled so good), I grabbed my tiny food processor and whizzed up the following:

3 big tomatillos
1 very small, de-seeded jalapeno
1 very small, de-seeded serrano pepper
10-12 sprigs fresh cilantro, stems and all
juice of 1 lime
dash of salt & fresh ground pepper


I love to see an avocado sweat.

It's like it knows.

That it's almost taco time.

Did you know that vegan Tofutti brand sour cream is awesome? I learned this from Roxanne. Less calories, more protein and nutrition.

I probably wouldn't eat it plain by the spoonful or anything, but as a creamy, cold condiment it pretty much rules.

I would like to whizz it up in the food processor with something amazing and bizarre and unusual. What should I use?

OK. Taco time!

I sauteed up a corn tortilla, then I filled it with these delightful things:

-browned pumpkin-sage field pea scallion magic (above)
-salsa verde (above)
-vegan sour cream
-sprigs of fresh cilantro

 ...a smidgen of this smoky habanero hot sauce from Salsas Asheville. Thank you to The Shop Tart, who got me some last time she and @Tankblack were up there!

This stuff is like crack. I would put it on anything. Even chocolate cake. (Would I really?)

To recap:

Pumpkin-sage tacos w/field peas and fresh salsa verde
Instructions are above, but for your shopping ease, here is the ingredient list:

Main taco stuff: 
1 cup of the non-slimy type of pumpkin strands, carved out of a fresh whole pumpkin (I bet shredded or julienned butternut squash would be really great, too)
1/2 cup field peas or beans
8-10 fresh sage leaves
1-2 TBSP butter 
pinch salt
small soft corn tortillas (an already crispy, all-American taco shell just doesn't do it for me)

Salsa Verde
3 big tomatillos
1 very small, de-seeded jalapeno
1 very small, de-seeded serrano pepper
10-12 sprigs fresh cilantro, stems and all
juice of 1 lime
dash of salt & fresh ground pepper

Additional toppings: 
Sliced avocado
(Tofutti!) sour cream
reddish, smoky hot sauce (Salsas Asheville!)
Fresh cilantro
Want to add cheese? Go nuts! Add cheese!

BTdubs, I tried this taco recipe first with my fave garlicky, oregano-y spinach-millet wraps, and it did not taste right. Not right at all.

But with a plain old corn tortilla? OMG. I think I am going to make another one right now!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Forage your own floral arrangements!

Down in the Lowcountry last weekend, I happened upon a giant, 6-foot tall American Beautyberry bush in a harborside wild spot -- it was positively popping with gleaming little purple berry clusters.

Thanks to Amanda McNulty ("Making It Grow"), who used it in her inspired, all-foraged arrangements for the 2010 CVSC Green Tie Luncheon, I'm kinda crushed out on purple beautyberry right now.

In a major way.

Since the beautyberry bush in our front yard is a tad spindly, I retrieved my pruners from their permanent spot in my car and clipped a few branches to bring home and add to an arrangement I'd done for the SC Small Business Chamber's networking seminar last week -- making sure to leave the bush looking balanced and still full of berries despite my little harvest.

Beautyberry is an important winter survival resource for birds.

(I really want to learn more about which wild plants and flowers are endangered or rare, so that my increasing forays into roadside greenery cutting don't inadvertently screw the pooch.)

Meanwhile, I'm really enjoying using wild, native, and "weed" plants, as well as bits from friends' yards (and my own) in floral arrangements -- not just because they save a great deal of money when it comes to an event budget's bottom line -- but also because there's some really cool stuff out there!

Image: The Shop Tart
This was fun; I did a bunch of dining table centerpieces for Tom and Julie Hall's big wine dinner with NYC/CHS authors The Lee Brothers out at SMOKE this past May.

I found those rad little ball-on-a-stick alliums and some lavender-colored spray flowers on the roadside near Heathwood Hall; noticed the dark pink wild roses in a mini-forest near Owens Field; took Julie's recommendation that I clip rosemary from their yard; and followed up on Tom's text message tip-off that there was a whole mess of light pink wild roses on the road shoulder near their farmhouse in Blythewood.

All I bought for these 30-odd arrangements were a few dozen roses to fancy things up a bit. ('Cause fancy is fun.)

This was a fun project, too! I had the best time gathering wild greenery for the recent "Green is the New Pink"  benefit at Momo's, for the Share Our Suzy breast cancer charity.

Shani Gilchrist (a.k.a. Camille Maurice) is such a lovely hostess!

I bought a few dozen roses and some gladiolus for something hot and bright and showy, and that's where the financial outlay stopped.

I found these big sprays of hardy, lime green, pre-bloom goldenrod (or ragweed?) to use as fill, again on the roadside near Heathwood Hall. Why pre-bloom? The flower buds were such a cool shade of green, plus I wanted to avoid triggering party guests' allergies! (Although I just read somewhere that the ragweed/goldenrod allergy thing is actually not true?)

I also found wild, ferny, dilly-smelling dog fennel; super-tall, graceful grasses; and these delicate little light pink accent flowers on a roadside near a feed & seed warehouse. Had a great conversation there with one of the distributors about how his wife likes to gather greenery for arrangements from the roadside, too!

Then I cut a few wide, dark green fatsia leaves from our yard; despite its unseemly name, fatsia is one of my new favorite decor tools. The SC Arts Commission's visual arts director, the amazing Harriett Green, taught me the wonders of using long-lasting, dramatic-looking fatsia leaves -- as well as spiraling, striking curling willow -- in her arrangements at 701 Center for Contemporary Art.

All that remained was to jam in a few sprigs of purple beautyberry and a big branch of dried okra, all of which I had recycled (with permission, of course!) from the remains of Amanda McNulty's all-local arrangements for the Green Tie Luncheon.

Oh, and a few pears that one of undefined magazine editor Cindi Boiter's friends had brought from his tree to one of her fab little country gatherings.

Pop those bad boys onto bamboo skewers, and voila!

Similarly, you can stick bananas, citrus halves -- whatever -- onto bamboo skewers (or whole pineapples on bamboo sticks!) and jam them into a floral arrangement for a luscious effect.

Just watch out for drippage when it comes to those pineapples -- if they're super ripe it can get really really sticky, really really fast.

I learned that one while prepping this centerpiece for the Free Times' 2010 Best of Columbia party. My event planning colleague, the awesome Debi Schadel, was very patient with me while I figured out how to mount the pineapples without making a giant mess and toppling the whole thing. Pineapples are heavy!

I had a real blast doing arrangements for master gardener Jenks Farmer's recent nutrition soiree at the historic Seibels House, which I just learned is the oldest house in Columbia! 

Lucky me: I had the great pleasure of clipping treasures for the party from Jenks' glorious yard! He's all about perennials, which is inspiring; his perennials blog is fantastic and full of practical advice (as is his monthly Columbia City Farmer blog on The Shop Tart!)  I plan to plant more perennials over time, so that my yard becomes a year-round cutting bonanza.

That's right. A bonanza!

(Thrift store containers like this vintage coffee pot thinger make nice, inexpensive vases, btw.)

I bought some roses and glads for the Seibels event, but the financial outlay was truly minimal. There are so many groovy -- and sustainable -- ways to do floral decor without breaking ye olde banke.

You can put together an entire arrangement, in fact, with zero dollars -- like the centerpieces I assembled for SMOKE's Andy Friedman wine dinner at Momo's Bistro earlier this summer. I wanted to try to do the whole thing foraged; it was challenging but very fun!

Again I clipped some rosemary, as well as magnolia leaves & seed pods, baby figs & fig leaves from Julie Hall's yard. (I love your yard, Julie!)

I then found these wild white hibiscus-looking flowers with groovy pods out by the water treatment plant; and I collected orange trumpet vine from a railroad right-of-way. Boom! Done.

Granted, it will consume a fair amount of your time -- many hours, often of the sweaty, suncreen-slathered variety -- to hunt these things down, harvest them, and remove their many scraggly, unappealing bits and bottom leaves which could, if submerged, not only look yucky but also poison your arrangement from below.

Each project is a welcome reminder for me that there's a *really* good reason florists charge a bundle for those pretty, perfectly processed, ready-to-go flower bunches and arrangements, and it's not just because shipping cut flowers from Ecuador is pricey. 

Word up to professional florists, especially those like local star Floral & Hardy, who take a sustainable approach to growing, cutting and arranging flowers!

But when I have the time, I totally enjoy rambling around country roads and wildflower-strewn industrial areas with my water-friendly sandals, bramble-resistant knee boots, a panoply of gardening gloves, pruners, scissors, bath towels, and my sweetheart's Corona saw (pilfered and as yet unreturned to him!), as well as giant water buckets, bungee cords galore and NPR blaring from the open car windows -- on a hunt for something strange and pretty to use in an arrangement.

What do you do to be green, save money, and jack up your creativity when it comes to decor? I would love to hear about it.

Til then, happy autumn, and see you on the roadside!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

High five from a bumble bee!

Basil harvest!

Temperatures are dropping to the 40s at night here in South Carolina, so I get the feeling I'd better get most of the big leaves off of the 12-15 sweet Genovese basil plants I grew from seed this summer in the garden.

For making pesto! Which I will freeze and use all year when I am feeling lazy!

I've found great success harvesting basil by picking the big leaves and the very tops as well, so that the little guys budding by the stem can flourish and become big, themselves.

And so the plant doesn't flower and therefore go to seed yet, so I can keep maxing out my basil supply.

I like to use the pesto recipe from The Silver Spoon cookbook as a rough guide to making my own (thank you again, Wendy, for giving that book to me!); and subbing in toasted walnuts for pine nuts seems to work real, real nice for my taste buds right now.

(Doesn't hurt that the modest, pedestrian walnut is cheaper than the astronomically expensive pine nut.)

Meanwhile, my green shiso plants are flowering in a very basil-like fashion, hopefully meaning lots of little shiso plants scattered about the yard next growing season!

This bee is puttin' five on it.

What are your herb harvesting tips? Pesto recipes?

Let's nerd out.