Halloween Cocktail Presentation – Dos and Don’ts

I don’t think I need to tell you how to make a cocktail, but I did spend some time looking for ways to present them at the Halloween table.  I do think it’s fun to make one special cocktail and/or mocktail as guests come in the door ~ after that they are on their own.

My favourite drink growing up was when our Grammie simmered Choke Cherries with sugar.  She’d strain off the juice into ice cube trays.  Once frozen, she popped three in a glass and topped up with 7-Up.  We called it Cherry Up and it was awesome.  Here I used Organic Sour Cherry juice, but it was nothing like the exciting drink I had as a kid.   I added a striped paper straw [from Dollarama] to liven things up, but I think adults might be disappointed so leave it for the kids as a Halloween novelty.

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Here is a presentation for a “sweet” vodka cocktail with the glass rimmed in black sugar and decorated with a mini bone* from Michaels.  However, the trial proved that the black sugar has a dark green base which dissolves upon contact.  Unless you want your guests mouth and teeth looking like Calypso from Pirates of the Caribbean, I’d leave it off.

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I love the cross bones ice cube below of Sour Cherry juice for a small party.  Don’t bother with the skull as it quickly dissolves into a lump.  The cross bones are very fussy to pop out and the cocktail must be given to the guest immediately, but the shape is unmistakable and I love the way the juice bleeds slowly into the drink.

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I think my favourite for the black and red series is the simple gummie eyeballs for sweet cocktail and a peeled onion for savory one.  I’m crushed that the black sugar was a bust, it looked so cool on the glass.

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*with adults this size bone should not present a choking hazard, but I boiled my first

Arts & Crafts Home and Cottage Window Design

The main purpose of windows is to let in light and fresh air, but it’s also true that windows can be decorative.

The shape and style of our windows was defined by three things.  First by the arts and crafts style coined by Charles and Henry Greene, brothers and architects from the USA, in the 19th century.  Second, they had to be energy efficient and within the building code.  The third thing was more elusive ~ how did we want to feel in and outside the house?

At the cottage, my former husband wanted huge picture windows.   I liked a more human scale and glimpses of the environment.  For example, the horizontal awning window in the cottage kitchen swung up inside and with a hook and eye was latched out of the way.  It stood directly over the kitchen sink with a dappled forest view.  This became my mantra that windows didn’t have to follow the bigger is better formula.

It’s true that stock windows cost less, but aesthetically they perform less too.  Even if you can switch up one window, do it.

Here are some examples of the windows we selected, beautifully executed by Ridley Windows & Doors of Campbellville, ON.

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Upper Hall – small, square and set up rather high.

Had we lowered and enlarged this window, this is the view you would have had. photo 2

Instead, this is the view from the inside out.

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and the outside in

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Top Left is the Hall Window and Right is the Laundry Room

The second example are long vertical windows, the idea having come from the Gamble House designed by Greene & Greene and built from 1895-1903.  From the front door I can still see the outside at the end of this long dark hall.  Even if it’s just ambient, access to light here is available without being intrusive.

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This corridor leads to the pantry room and guest powder room.

and because this is a 360 degree house, this is the view I see while filling the bird feeders at the back of the house.

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Left Window is the Guest Powder Room, Right the Hallway

When you are designing your house, even from the ground up think about what kinds of views you want and why from inside and out.   I’m glad we did.

“Her wild, wild garden…”

The lost of conversation, found here.

Play Everything

One of my first jobs in play involved interviewing elderly residents of Islington about their childhood memories.  It was so easy to make these appointments, so smooth and sad to call ahead and hear the housing coordinator say “oooh, they’d love a visit”.  She’d meet me at the gate and escort me through the doors and hallways, into a parlour that smelt of bleach and starchy food.  A circle of eight or nine women, and one or two men, would be waiting for me.

“Why do you want to hear about this old stuff for?” they asked, once the tea and biscuits were laid out.

“It’s interesting,” I said.  “I’m curious about what children get up to…  especially when they’re on their own.  I’m curious whether it’s changing.”  Someone laughed, someone else nudged her friend.  Harold, a rogueish older gentleman suggested that his memories would make my hair curl, and…

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Halloween 2014

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Intern Cole as the Zombie Groom with our hat, wig, tie and make-up and his perfect DIY from his own closet of a bloody shirt and tails.

You may know in addition to the three blogs I write, that I own FeeFiFoFun Costumes, an online and concierge service for adults and children.  I ship all across Canada, but mostly it’s for people living in the Toronto GTA of Mississauga, Oakville, Milton and Burlington who want a little extra service or a higher quality costume.  I don’t mean more expensive because I believe sometimes all you need is a kick-ass accessory.

Halloween is my favourite time of year because it allows us to explore the more macabre parts of life and our personalities with much less chance of being judged by our family, friends or business peers.

I’m going to be very happy, very tired and very busy until November 1st so if I appear distant, I am all things ghouls.  I am a sponsor of many small and large events such as Toronto Zombie Walk & Halloween Parade [10,000 people can’t be wrong] and the Toronto West Halloween Fest [a fundraiser for St Joe’s Hospital] and the Haunted Houses of several local schools.  I also hire myself out for only one private function a season.  This not only am I decorating a Stag & Doe event on All Hallow’s Eve, but I’m outfitting all the bridal party who will be staffing the event.

If you also like disguise, cosplay, dress-up or Halloween please check out the daily selections of products and ideas on my Facebook page and my Pinterest with my annual Board featuring the best of Halloween Party& Costume 2014.

Healthy Savory Fish Tacos

I’m terrible at reading and writing recipes, which is probably why I cannot bake or, as a matter of fact, doing anything with flour ~ except paper maché.  I’ll cook an entire turkey dinner and get my sister Alex to make the gravy.

This is a recipe for people who like to wing it.   *Spoiler Alert:  It’s messy to eat*  It will serve approximately a family of three and is perfect for your vegetarians friends who are also gluten* free.  If you want to extend the rations, serve sides like dirty rice or black bean dishes, nacho chips, sliced avocado or guacamole.

Healthy Fish Tacos

Fish Tacos on Lettuce with rice and sliced avocado.

Trio of Peppers – yellow, orange and red and one medium Sweet or Vidalia onion – chop and saute in oil, first with the onions and then the peppers then shredded white or red cabbage.  I like my veggies a little firmer, but Rick likes them very tender, so how far you saute them is up to you. Generous dose of chili flakes, a touch of ground cumin and salt, add juice of one half lime.

We have a friend, born in Jamaica, who works at a local spice company and who grows his own hot peppers.  He only metes them out one at a time, so we save them for delicate fish dishes that require not just heat, but flavour.  I add just a minced sliver and it is enough.

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Peppers, Onions and Cabbage

Cod Fillets – one medium tail fillet per person, sprinkle with ground chili powder, add whole fillet to oiled pan or butter if it suits you and cook till tender and hot.

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Fish Fillets

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My husband snuck in butter, bad boy.

Pan frying in butter on high heat on a gas stove carcinogens are no different than those from the BBQ, but baking or poaching your fish may be just as satisfactory for this dish and is healthier.  You know yourself and your body, right?  

Wash and dry romaine lettuce leaves, two for the light eaters, four for the hockey players.

This casual dinner is best served right from the stove.  Each diner can use the egg lifter to chop the amount of fish for each taco and put onto each lettuce rib, top with veggies.  It’s always fun to put out a selection of hot sauces and salsa because some people just want to sweat.

Serve with accompaniments, for me a glass of organic Bonterra Chardonnay and for Rick, a cold German Bitberger or Grolsh.

*I have celiac and grind most of my own spices including chili powder.  Some people are really sensitive to gluten, so let them know if you are using store bought ground spices and I am sure they will understand and act accordingly.

Chocolate … ‘nuf said.

It’s no news that chocolate makes you happy and dark chocolate savored slowly after a meal can actually help you maintain a healthy body weight, but what constitutes “good” chocolate?  My palate has definitely changed over time.  I remember Easter chocolate as a child, followed by candy bars after high school that had better chocolate than they do today.  I remember my mother’s love of digging into that box of Quality Street.  I remember tasting wine with Chocolatier Bernard Callebaut and naming my dog after him, so much did I loVe his champagne truffles.  It’s been years since I found a new fix of this dark beauty.

For me it’s now the darkest chocolate that softens in my mouth just at the right time.  Not too quickly because I’ll just reach for another piece.  Not to slowly, because I’ll get impatient and bite it … and again, I’ll reach for another piece.

For the first time, at my local grocer Battaglia’s, I bought a four dollar bar of Donini Chocolate and for a change I got the Dark Couverture Chocolate with Cranberries.  While I understand couverture is chocolate made with extra cocoa butter to give a high gloss and used for covering sweets and cakes, I wanted it for after dinner.

I was not disappointed.  The lovely snap of breaking off the piece, the tiniest slap of cranberry contrasted by a slow mellow melt of sweet and smoky yummy-ness.

If you love chocolate and to shop local, Belleville, Ontario’s Donini Chocolate is waiting for you.