Monday, 31 October 2011

Happy Halloween ( + a small note)

Happy Halloween everyone! Hope your parties are fun and your trick or treating bountiful. :)

Tomorrow is November, the start of National Novel Writing Month! Are you participating?

If you are, good luck!

I took part for the first time last year and crossed the 50,000 word mark halfway through the month! I felt so accomplished that I'm doing it all again this year :)

Last year I finally wrote an idea that had been floating around in my head since I was about twelve!
The story sucked ass (my main protagonist was too old for the plot, really) but I loved writing without worrying about making it awesome, and found it astonishing how characters tended to develop of their own accord!

This year I'll be using another old idea, with some characters that have been sitting in my mind begging to be written about for the past five years or so.
What can I say? The older the idea is, the more time it's had to mature, like a good wine (that's my story and I'm sticking to it!)

So the bottom line of all this rambling is: across November, I might not be blogging so much. I'll be writing (or rambling) for NaNoWriMo!

Best of luck to everyone else participating!

Pumpkin & Red Pepper Soup

Earlier I posted about my selection of pumpkin cakes. Did it make you hungry?

This time around, I want to share my post-pumpkin-carving Halloween tradition: soup!

Soup is probably the easiest thing to make with the carved-out pumpkin flesh. I started off making it to a recipe with strict measurements, but now I ad-lib a little as I go along!

Here’s what I did this year:

Pumpkin and Red Pepper Soup

Pumpkin flesh (I used around 800g)
1 red pepper
1 small onion
1 vegetable stock cube
Sage/any other herbs you want to use.

Note on measurements: You can basically substitute the vegetables for others, add in others, use less/more’s up to you really!

1. If necessary, cut the pumpkin into small pieces (mine was already in shreds since I scooped it out with an ice cream scoop!)

2. Place the pumpkin in a large saucepan and add just enough water to cover.

3. Chop up the onion and red pepper into small pieces and add to the saucepan. Put the saucepan on the heat. Stir occasionally.

4. Make up the stock with around 400ml  of boiled water.

5. Once the water in the saucepan has started to heat up, add the stock.

6. Add in a couple of pinches of pepper, salt, sage and/or any other herbs. I only used a tiny bit of salt, but threw in a lot of pepper. After using the pepper mill, I found ground black pepper so added that, and then spotted some lemon pepper so decided to use some of that as well!

7. Cook for around 30-40 minutes, or until the vegetables have all gone soft. (I made rock cakes whilst cooking this soup!)

8. Liquidise in a blender, pour yourself a bowl and enjoy!

The soup I made tasted fairly subtle at first--then you get the bite from the pepper! Delicious!  I ended up with around 2 litres of soup, so have plenty to eat over the next few days!

Hope this was inspiring! I really think soup is a matter of taste, and cooking up a batch is really easy, especially if you use premade stock to add a little flavour.

Now I’m going to light my pumpkin and lie in wait for trick or treaters…

Linking up at the linkys in the side bar :D

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Pumpkin Cake ( + recipe!)

It’s Halloween! Hurrah!

Have you got your house decorated, your pumpkins prepared and your kitchen emanating the devilishly delicious smells of spooky foodstuffs? Are you garbed in creepy costume and armed with a huge container of candy for all the trick or treaters?

I have spent my day doing all the above :)
Obviously I carved my pumpkin yesterday, but today I dealt with all the leftover innards!

In the past I made soup from a recipe, this year I decided to be a little more ‘adventurous’ and try out some pumpkin cake, too. I’ll write about the soup (with a recipe) in my next post, but for now, here are the cakes!

 Clockwise from top: Bleedin’ Cupcake, pumpkin ‘cookie’, pumpkin rock cake

Of them all, the rock cakes came out the best--just sweet enough, light and yummy! Read on for a recipe!

The cookie recipe was one my Mum found on the internet. It didn’t honestly work that well, though that was because it’s all in cups, whereas I measure things in grams. So – after looking online and finding a ridiculous conversion that made no sense – I guessed.
Then halfway through mixing I threw in some more flour and sugar for good measure.
Okay, I added more cinnamon than the recipe called for, too. I like cinnamon.

The cupcakes were the same mixture as the cookies; I had a bit left over and thought it looked more like cake batter than cookie mixture, so I stuck it in some cake cases! Since they looked boring without any decoration, I added some blood-red icing.

I made the rock cakes based on a recipe in my Mum’s trusty and dog-eared copy of The Dairy Book of Home Cookery.  

Here’s my adaptation of the recipe:

Pumpkin Rock Cakes
Makes 10

200g/8oz self-raising flour
100g/4oz butter
75g/3oz caster sugar
100g/4oz pumpkin
1 egg
2-4 teaspoons of milk (I used 3)
2-3 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

1. Sift flour and cinnamon into a bowl and mix.
2. Rub in butter (this part is messy!)

3. Add sugar and pumpkin to the mixture

4. Beat the egg and add to the mixture along with the milk and vanilla essence.

5. Mix to a stiff batter (add a little more flour if the batter won’t stiffen)

6. Use a tablespoon to place dollops of the mixture on a greased baking tray, leaving space between since the cakes will spread a little

7. Bake in the centre of the oven at 200°C/400°F (180°C for a fan oven) for 15-20 minutes.

8. Transfer onto a wire rack to cool.

The original recipe called for dried fruit and didn’t include the cinnamon or vanilla essence. The great thing with the recipes in this book is that they’re easily adapted--the book itself has plenty of cake recipes that use variations of the same basic recipe; it’s a good way to learn how to cook!

Come back soon to check out my easy pumpkin soup recipe!

Linking up to the parties in the side bar!

Sunday, 30 October 2011


Recently I posted a pumpkin stencil tutorial and shared some pictures of last year's pumpkins.

Usually I'm very organised with my pumpkins; I'll have planned a good week in advance and know exactly what I want to carve. This year, I only decided on a design and made the stencil today.
I used this picture which I found on google--apparently it's a promo pic from The Ghost of Frankenstein

Stills and promotional pictures from old black and white films are brilliant for turning into stencils--a lot of them already use the harsh lighting that provides stark contrast and defined features. 
I also realised that the awesome little scalpel I've used over the past couple of years is missing its blade. So I had to use a stanley knife blade, wrapped in duck tape! Yay for improvisation! (And yay for my Dad hitting on the idea!)

Carving this year's pumpkin took just over four hours! My pumpkin carving soundtrack comprised of Jill Tracy, Noisy Crowds, Era and the Labyrinth soundtrack.

As you can see in the pictures, the weather tonight is a bit rubbish typical of a British autumn!
This pumpkin proved itself difficult to photograph, since I wasn't prepared to stand out in the rain and wait for a proper exposure time. Maybe tomorrow?!

Anyway. I added a couple of bolts to make it more worthy of Frankenstein's monster.

The snails like the pumpkin too!

This photo is terrible, focus-wise, but I love how the blurriness adds to the creepy, dreamlike feel.

Tomorrow I might dress up the front of the house a little. I'm all out of fake cobweb unfortunately, but I've plenty of little skeletons waiting to crawl up the front steps!

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Tutorial: Gothic Raven-Flower Necklace

Since I’m sharing a necklace tutorial over on At Home with Mrs H today, I was going to hold off on posting this one...
But I caved. The temptation was too great, and what I have for you here is totally seasonal! 

I made this Raven Flower necklace for my friend Lilia (of Horror Shock Lolipop) as a birthday/Halloween present!

The raven cabochon and chain came from The Big Bead Boutique in Brighton, one of my favourite places for finding lovely things for my stash! The black flower beads, on the other hand, are probably slipping into the category of ‘retro’ now, since they came from my parents’ old stash! (You might remember those beads from my black flower ring tutorial!)

Of course this is a design that can be used for other themes and colours! For Lilia, I went for a gothic Halloween look :)

But enough of my rambling. On with the tutorial! 

Time needed: 30-60 mins (approx)

You’ll need:
35 inches of chain
Jump rings
25x18 mm cabochon pendant setting
18x13 mm cabochon
3 shanked flower beads (buttons work just as well!)
Scrap of lace (or net)
Multipurpose glue and/or glue gun
Round-nose and flat-nose pliers
A file

1. Cut a piece of lace to fit inside the cabochon setting. I found (after some faffing) that the easiest method was to turn the setting upside down, rest the lace on top and carefully cut around it.
Spread a thin layer of glue in the cabochon setting and stick in your lace. 

2. File down the back of one of the beads to make it flatter.

3. Glue the cabochon into the bottom of the cabochon setting, against the edge.

4. Glue the bead you filed in step 2 into the setting to finish the pendant. I used a glue gun for this part.

5. Cut four lengths of chain: 2 x 9.5 inch, 2 x 8 inch.

6. Pair together the chains, one of each length (1 x 8 inch + 1 x 9.5 inch) and add a clasp to the end, keeping the 8 inch piece of chain on the bottom.

7. Join together the pendant and the other ends of the four lengths of chain with a jump ring, keeping the 9 inch pieces on the outside.

8. Add a jump ring to the back of one of your beads, without closing it.

9. Hook the end of the jump ring through the outer (9 inch) chain, 2.5 inches from the pendant end of the chain...

10. ...and link it to the  inner (8 inch) chain, 2 inches from the pendant end, then close the jump ring.

11. Repeat steps 8-10 for the other side of the necklace.

12. Go out and look awesome in your gothic masterpiece :) And remember to brag if anyone asks where you bought it!

Partying as usual at the linkies in the side bar!

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Photography Challenge Week #14

For this week of the photography challenge at A Step in the Journey, the theme has been sunset.

Of course, last week I foolishly bragged about the beautifully coloured sunsets we get here.

Have we had a single good sunset? Not one!

This week has been cloudy and dreary! Rather than lovely sunsets, it just got dark. Booooo.

Here is the best I could do, this week:

Glassy Fire

I'm not all that pleased with this photo, but it's the best I could do (and was taken on the one day the sky wasn't grey).
I snapped it through the bathroom window since I noticed how the mottled effect of the glass diffused the golden light of the sun. About five minutes after this picture was taken, the sun had been cloaked in grey clouds again!

So this post isn't completely devoid of a nice sunset photograph, here's one I took at the end of last year, outside a pub at the foot of the South Downs:

These are the kind of sunsets we can get...when the weather is nicer!

There are lots of awesome photographs on the link party over on A Step in the Journey. It's totally worth taking a look!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

What I Wore... #3

I managed to photograph my outfits for another week! This week I'm not as pleased with my efforts and whilst some outfits are okay, others are just plain cringeworthy!

I wore some of the same things this week as last week; not the exact same outfits but some of the same pieces. This doesn't matter so much with staples like jeans but when it comes to shirts and tops, it's more of an issue because I have tonnes of them! I still need to sort out a decent place to stand for these pictures...

Anyway, on with the clothes.

Thursday 20th October
Shirt: Happit
Scarf: New Look
Jeans: Marks & Spencer

Trying out a new hairstyle here :) I had my hair cut weeks ago and intended to experiment with lots of far I've not done very much experimentation!

Friday 21st October
Shirt: Betty Jackson (bought at TK Maxx)
Jeans: Marks & Spencer
Blazer: H&M (bought from charity shop)
Boots: New Look
Brooches: Bought from car boot sale
Necklaces: Bought on holiday/present
Earrings: A present

I forgot to take pictures of my jewellery all week! Gah!
This Friday I went to London to meet up with a friend. We had lots of fun and did so much walking that my feet were killing me by the end of that day--that'll teach me to wear heeled boots for the first time in ages!
We checked out the Wellcome Collection near Euston Station, and an Alice Through the Looking Glass illustration exhibition at The Illustration Cupboard, a cute little gallery hidden away around the corner from The Ritz!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Travel: Pompeii, Italy

I realised that it's been a while since I last posted anything about travel! In my last travel-related entry, I promised a post on Pompeii.

Well here it is!

Situated near Naples, Pompeii is the city infamous for being buried by volcanic ash after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD.

Naturally most of this city is in ruins, but the amount of things that have been preserved is astonishing! Thanks to the volcanic ash that destroyed this city, we can also peel back the centuries and see how these people lived, how they decorated their homes and public spaces.

Undoubtedly a lot of modern preservation and repair has gone into what remains of Pompeii. When I went there (six years ago), excavations and repair work was still being carried out! Taking into account that this city was rediscovered in the 18th century, the sheer size and complexity of this work becomes more apparent!

Whilst this was another organised trip, the sheer number of people milling around on that day meant we were limited in what we were able to see.

However, we saw a number of preserved houses, the ruins of the public baths, and the amphitheatre.

Of course, there were poignant moments of the trip, too. Plaster casts of excavated bodies can be found in situ. Due to the volcanic ash that layered upon the victims of the eruption, even details such as the folds of their clothing have been preserved for eternity.

Amidst the history and beauty these forms bring reality to the horror of the ever-present, looming shape of Mount Vesuvius.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Doily Head

This idea came to me on Monday, right after I made a post about my bargain doilies!

Putting it together was super easy; I got out a polystyrene display head (another charity shop purchase) and pinned the doilies to it using dressmaking pins.

In some places, I stretched the doilies a little, in other areas - such as the back of the neck – I placed small folds, which I covered by other doilies.

The bottom of the display head is covered in nasty parcel tape, so I hid it with a collar that came in a bag of stuff from my Nanny! I didn’t fix it on but put it around the neck.

I think the head looks great on my chest of drawers: 

Since I’m feeling Halloweeny, I dressed it up with an eye patch and my new hat

The eye patch is handmade; I posted a tutorial for it last year so if you’re curious, please check it out! It's easy-peasy and requires no sewing skills whatsoever!

Linking up to all the usual places in the sidebar! :)

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Halloween-o-rama (part 4)

Unfortunately Oh’s Halloween-o-rama ends today with an entry on books!

Originally I’d hoped to put books and comics/graphic novels into the same category, but ended up wanting to write about far too many!

If you missed the previous parts, find them here:

To start off, here is a book I read recently:

Wormwood by G.P. Taylor.

This book is meant to be a Young Adult book, but I believe books can be enjoyed at any age!

Set in London in the middle of the 18th Century, this book begins with Dr Sabian Blake, a master of the Cabala, astronomer and scientist, researching based on an invaluable book containing the secrets of the universe. Deciphering a note in the margin is his only hope of saving London from a deadly fate. But other, more unscrupulous people are in want of the book, too.
In this book we follow Blake, his maid Agetta, an angel named Tegatus and more in a race against time, fate, and evil...

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova follows three timelines - that of a father, his tutor, and his daughter - in the search for Dracula’s final resting place. The storyline takes us on a journey from America and across Europe, passing through England, France, Turkey and Romania, among others.

This is an excellent book filled with mystery; whilst the outcome of two of the timelines is obvious from the narration, the climax of the novel is kept tightly under wraps until the end--and even the end comes with an unexpected twist.

If you only read one book this Halloween, make it this one.

A Zombie Ate my Cupcake by Lily Vanilli is a cupcake cookbook with some fantastic ideas on decorating your cupcakes with a Halloween theme. It also includes recipes for making the cupcakes themselves.

Puppet Master is a young adult novel by Joanne Owen. Set in Czechoslovakia in the nineteenth century, Puppet Master is a fairytale-style gothic story that follows a girl named Milena. Her parents once ran Prague’s best puppet theatre, until her mother disappeared and her father died under suspicious circumstances. A travelling puppet theatre comes to town, run by the Puppet Master, a frightening man who seems to control people as well as he controls his puppets. The Puppet Master plans to take over the city, and only Milena - with the help of her magical aunts - can stop them.

Mr Darcy, Vampyre by Amanda Grange sets itself up as a sequel to the classic Pride and Prejudice.
As Darcy and Elizabeth tour Europe on their honeymoon, the secrets of Darcy’s family curse are slowly revealed.
If you like your vampires to be romantic vampires, this is the book for you!
I was given this book for Christmas a couple of years ago (along with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) and whilst it was a little cliché and predictable, I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Lost Souls by Poppy Z. Brite is another vampire story. With this tale, Brite breaks a number of taboos - underage pregnancy, drug abuse, incest, homosexuality, violence and more - and wraps it up in a neat little package with daredevil vampires and a little North Carolinian band, ‘Lost Souls?’
The story begins with four storylines that swiftly roll into one: that of three-hundred-year-old barkeep vampire Christian, adopted outcast Nothing, renegade vampires Zillah, Twig and Molochai (old by human terms, young by vampire) and that of Steve and his psychic friend Ghost, who make up the aforementioned band.
All characters gravitate towards Steve and Ghost’s hometown of Missing Mile, NC, the vampires picking up Nothing on the way (and discovering a few things about him). Steve’s ex-girlfriend Ann becomes enamoured - and impregnated - by Zillah, and when the vampires skip town, follows them to New Orleans where the story reaches its climax.

This is a seriously gritty, gripping novel; due to its content I wouldn’t say it was everybody’s cup of tea. I’m well aware that it contains situations that would make some people uncomfortable!
But I’m putting it here because a book that journeyed half-way around the world so I could read it (a New Zealander friend sent it to me) deserves some notice! Kudos to the author for putting so much tough stuff into one novel and making it work.

These final two books are by authors much more well-known, but still heartily recommended!

Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett is part of the Discworld series of books but as with all of them is suitable to read as a standalone novel. It focuses on the character Death (an anthropomorphic personification. After the Auditors - beings responsible for making sure everything in the Discworld follows The Rules - decide that Death is forming too much of a personality, they send him to live with everyone else. He assumes a name and starts working on a farm. Consequently, all species create their own, new Death. Except for the humans, who take some time to create their new Death. The lack of a human Death leads to a rise in paranormal activity, with characters such as the wizard Windle Poons finding themselves returning, undead, to the Disc.
When the New Death is created - a being with no humanity and no human face -  it goes to claim the old Death.
Death has to outwit the New Death, tidy up, and face Azrael, the Death of the Universe.

This is the 11th book in the Discworld series and the second with a story focused around Death. Unlike the foreboding character usually expected in stories of Death, Terry Pratchett’s creation is comical--as is the book.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (yep, him again) is the last book I’ll write about today. Though it’s a children’s novel, it’s equally enjoyable as an adult! The Graveyard Book is the story of Nobody Owens (‘Bod’). As a toddler, Bod’s parents are murdered by ‘the man Jack’. Bod finds his way to a graveyard where he is adopted and named by the ghosts of Mr and Mrs Owens. Bod is granted the freedom of the graveyard, and the somewhat mysterious Silas takes on the task of providing for him.
The story revolves around the adventures Bod has in the graveyard, though danger lurks close by in the form of Jack, who is set on finishing the job he started.

Well, that brings us to the end of my little series of Halloween-themed entertainment ramblings!

If this wasn’t enough, then I have one final recommendation for you!

Horror Shock Lolipop is a blog run by a group of Horror fans. Interesting and informative, here you will find all things scary and cute, weird and wonderful, and of course, a good deal of Halloween and Horror.

Enough of my recommendations, now I’d like to hear from you!
Do any of you like to read horror or fantasy books?  Which books did you enjoy reading the most?

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