Halloween recap {2017}

While I’m very behind in posting about our adventures in Buffalo, I did want to share this year’s Halloween recap with you. Only a month late. Oy.

Michael loves the zoo these days so he celebrated Halloween as Zookeeper Michael! He dressed in his safari khakis complete with a hat, vest, and animal cookies for his friends at school.

Michael’s Halloween costume

Zookeeper Michael

One of Michael’s (and our) friends came over and we trick-or-treated around our neighborhood and met some of our new neighbors, which was nice. It only took us 45 minutes to visit 10 homes. Michael brought his zoo along with him. This was the perfect costume for the chilly Halloween night in Buffalo: Michael stayed warm!

“Trick or treat!”

I did a quick Halloween craft too. It was a Pinterest find and very easy and inexpensive. There are an obscene number of dollar stores here, which I’m getting more accustomed to frequenting for party needs. For this project you need only a couple of supplies: vase (I chose three in varying sizes), googly eyes, a roll of gauze, super glue, and a flameless votive.

Ghost votives!

How do you make these spooky ghosts? 

  1. Clean glass in lower quadrant and eye area with rubbing alcohol.
  2. Glue on eyes.
  3. Place glue in area you’ve just cleaned.
  4. Place gauze on top of glue (don’t glue your finger!)
  5. Wrap gauze around the vase, avoiding the googly eyes.
  6. As you’re reaching the end of your vase or gauze, place a dab of glue.

It’s not a holiday without some candy eyes. I colored my favorite browned butter Rice Krispies treats, added some green candy melts to the stem, and made these magical pumpkins:

Rice Krispies pumpkins!

Finally, what do you think of my cheese plate?! I love it. I also love our new local grocery store Wegman’s– and their orange cheese! It’s kid and adult friendly and was delicious!

Halloween cheese tray

Finally, Brandon and I ditched Michael to attend an adults-only Halloween party! We had a blast as Homer and Marge Simpson.

The Simpsons: Brandon and Megan

I hope you had a wonderful Halloween! I’m already thinking about family costume ideas for next year, so please share your ideas if you have any!!

Still thinking about Halloween? Check out my recaps: 2013 | 2014 | 2015.

(I didn’t do a Halloween recap for 2016!? I’ll get right on it! It was too cute not to share!)

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The Handmade Project

Umm… did you know that my wildest dreams might actually come true?! It’s a long shot, but when Brandon forwarded me the application for The Handmade Project, a reality television show about crafting (!!!!), I knew that I had to apply.

It took three weeks for me to perfect my responses to the dozens of questions they asked, find my craft projects and photos, and to film just the right 3 minute video. The stars aligned last week and I submitted my application!

You have to apply to be chosen! Fingers crossed!!

I’ve never applied to a reality TV show before, but I’m guessing it’s a little bit of a popularity contest, so I’d really appreciate it if you could please watch, comment, and like my application video on YouTube, this blog post, and on my social channels. (Links in the top right!)

Who knows… you might be seeing me on the big screen in August!

Here are some highlights of my application, so you can know what you’re supporting:

My PR/introductory blurb:

During the day, Megan Szerwo is a real-life Leslie Knope, making her living working on behalf of the people of the City of Seattle. After hours though, Megan grabs a glass of her favorite red and she gets down to business on her real passion: crafting. A jack of all trades, Megan focuses her attention on party and holiday decor, gifts for new parents, and any and every craft possible with her endless supply of corks. Megan’s three passions in life are easily described: cats, crafts, and carafes! Megan lives in Seattle, Washington with her husband, son, and two cats.

And some of the projects that I highlight:

My Q13 debut!

My small business: Little Britches Bakery

Our homemade wood-fired oven in the backyard

My party pinatas

My mad party-throwing skills

Cork art!

And a couple of projects that are new to you as a blog reader:

Michael’s ONE HAPPY CAMPER first birthday party! I promise you’ll see it soon!

Muzzle Guzzler glassware: coming soon!

Fourth of July onesies! (Post coming only a year late, but in time for 7/4/17!)

Since it’s likely that this show would just perfectly foul up our Buffalo moving plans, it’s almost guaranteed to happen!

Don’t forget to watch my application video, tell all your friends to watch it, and like/comment on this post!

Thank you for reading and your unending support of my creative endeavors!

Super Bowl eats {2017}

SuperBowl LI ~ 2017

SuperBowl LI ~ 2017

We didn’t go all out for this year’s Super Bowl, like we have in the past (2016, 2014), but we tried out some new recipes and rekindled some old favorites!

We’ll start with dessert.

Cocoa Krispies Football Treats

Cocoa Krispies Football Treats

I used my very favorite rice krispie treat recipe and swapped normal Rice Krispies for Cocoa Krispies. These take less than 5 minutes to make and they’re delicious!

Cocoa Krispie football treats

Make a batch of the rice krispie per the instructions and spread them out on a jellyroll pan instead of a 9″ x 9″ pan, making them thinner than a normal batch (about 1″ tall).

Once cooled, use your football cookie cutter to cut out your treats.

Use icing (I used store-bought icing from my pantry, but you could easily make your own) to draw on your laces.

And… Enjoy!

Cocoa Krispies football treats

Cocoa Krispies football treats

We also enjoyed a large plate of shredded pork nachos, topped with my infamous black bean and corn salsa (recipe below!), which I can’t believe I haven’t shared here yet.

We went basic (but SO delicious): shredded pork nachos

We went basic (but SO delicious): shredded pork nachos

Our delicious SuperBowl nacho plate

Our delicious SuperBowl nacho plateWe also made pretzels from scratch!

First-time, homemade pretzel bites

First-time, homemade pretzel bites

I hope you had a great Super Bowl 51. I’d love to hear about any favorite recipes from your game day celebrations!

Megan's famous black bean and corn salsa

Megan’s famous black bean and corn salsa

Megan’s Black Bean and Corn Salsa

I’ve committed this recipe to memory and trigger that memory by going through the colors of the rainbow: red (tomato), orange (and orange), yellow (corn), green (cilantro, lime juice), blue (no ingredient, but a stickler for Roy G Biv), and purple (shallots).

Combine the following in a bowl:

  • 1 can corn, rinsed
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 1 Roma tomato, chopped (or a handful of grape tomatoes, whatever you have on hand!)
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • The juice of one orange
  • ~2 T lime juice
  • ~2 T White balsamic vinegar (I haven’t tried the normal balsamic vinegar because this one is too good! Buy it. It’s worth it.)
  • A liberal drizzle of honey (maybe 1 T?)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

The nachos were a hit, especially with Michael!

Nacho lover: Michael

Nacho lover: Michael

 

My new favorite thing: Chatbooks

Have you seen the app Chatbooks yet? It’s one of my new favorite things and I can’t stop singing their praises.

I discovered Chatbooks on Instagram through a sponsored post, while I was on maternity leave. I had nothing but time on my hands (at least when the kid was nursing, he wasn’t very good at sleeping reliably…) so I clicked on the ad and discovered a very reasonably-priced, creative, and super easy stocking stuffer idea. This would also make a great Father’s Day gift, which is coming up in a few short weeks!

Simply put, Chatbooks is an app that allows you to upload photos and create 8″ x 8″ softcover books.

My favorite option from Chatbooks: auto books. I’m rather prolific with posting of Michael photos on Instagram and I’ve set up my Chatbooks book by simply using a hashtag on the Instagram photos I want to include in my book.

IT’S THAT EASY!

Every 60 photos, Chatbooks emails me to review my book and three days later, it prints and ships! …And I’m working on volume nine. NINE. (That’s more than one per month!)

I’ll bet you’re glad I finally filled you in on my overuse of the #babymichael hashtag on Instagram, right? Now you know!

My Chatbooks. Book #8 should arrive soon!

My Chatbooks. Book #8 should arrive soon!

2016 Super Bowl party

Brandon was born in Colorado and as a result he grew up watching the Broncos. (We even cheered on the Broncos when they played the Seattle Seahawks in 2014.) He knows everything about the team and will root for them every chance he gets. He was offered that opportunity a few weeks ago during SuperBowl 50.

We held a SuperBowl party and went all out– as all out as we can with an infant at home who’d not big on napping. Thanks to Michael’s four-month sleep regression, we had the “pleasure” of waking up at 5 a.m., an hour earlier than we had intended, which worked out perfectly for the brisket. Brandon was able to get it into the Traeger an hour earlier! (It’s all about looking on the bright side, right?)

Here’s the party breakdown.

Our Super Bowl 2016 spread

Our Super Bowl 2016 spread

Menu:

  • Beef brisket (smoked for hours by Brandon)
  • Baked beans (we were going to make them from scratch and then we saw them for sale at Costco: So. Much. Easier.)
  • Superfood kale salad — this kit is available at Costco and is so easy to put together. It’s delicious too!
  • Veggie platter
  • Blue tortilla chips with seven-layer dip (pre-purchased, so worth it!)
  • Half time pepperoni pizza. We bought this ginormous pizza at Costco. It took me mere minutes to rearrange the pepperonis and cut a string cheese as the laces. (Photo below!)
  • Desserts: orange and blue browned-butter Rice Krispie treats and the most adorable and delicious sugar cookies you’ve ever had from my friend Robin (she also made the beehive cookies at our gender reveal last year)

And of course some photos:

The most amazing Super Bowl cookies ever. I wish I could make these myself!

The most amazing Super Bowl cookies ever. I wish I could make these myself!

Orange and blue Bronco Rice Krispies treats

Orange and blue Bronco Rice Krispies treats

Football pizza

Football pizza

Our Peyton Manning prayer candle. Worked spectacularly this year!

Our Peyton Manning prayer candle. Worked spectacularly this year!

Super Bowl bingo was a big hit-- it combined commercials and the game.

Super Bowl bingo was a big hit– it combined commercials and the game.

Our little fan watching the pre-game

Our little fan watching the pre-game

How I watched the game: wearing a wee one, with a {plastic} glass of wine.

How I watched the game: wearing a wee one, with a {plastic} glass of wine.

World champions!!

World champions!!

Michael's new super bowl ring. Tastes like VICTORY!

Michael’s new super bowl ring. Tastes like VICTORY!

We've got Bronco spirit!

We’ve got Bronco spirit!

Hopefully we get to have another successful SuperBowl party next year! This little guy has his game face on and is ready!

Game face = ON!

Game face = ON!

{Read about our 2014 Super Bowl party here.}

Christmas 2015 recap

Somehow the holiday season is already wrapping up and I’ve been getting ready to go back to work (!!!). Baby vacation is officially over on Monday. What a crazy wonderful past four months I’ve had! I digress. Let’s focus on the past week or so. Here is our Christmas 2015 recap:

Michael visited his first (and second) Santa and did a stellar job! He’s such an adorable kid. (‘Course I’m biased, since I’m his mom…)

Michael's first Santa photo

Michael’s first Santa photo

Michael was skeptical with his visit to the Santa at Theo Chocolate

Michael was skeptical with his visit to the Santa at Theo Chocolate

New Christmas Eve tradition

Michael, Brandon and I started a new tradition: reading the Polar Express before heading to bed on Christmas Eve! Michael didn’t quite understand the story yet, but he will in a few years.

Christmas morning brunch

My parents came over bright and early on Christmas morning and we made the fontina and spinach baked eggs with garlic brown butter breadcrumbs from the latest cookbook we’re cooking from, Seriously Delish, along with hashbrowns; a fruit salad of pineapple, blueberries and raspberries; and chicken sausage. We paired it with mango mimosas. Truly seriously delish.

Christmas morning brunch

Christmas morning brunch

Christmas tamales 

As I mentioned last week, we have a tradition of making tamales for Christmas. This year we made them on Christmas day.

Christmas evening tamales

Christmas evening tamales

We followed our recipe, but this year paired the tamales with some black beans, queso fresco, toasted pumpkin seeds, a kale salad with a spicy lime vinaigrette, and red and green tortilla chips with homemade guacamole. I think this will be our new usual. The whole meal was delicious!

Our Christmas night feast

Our Christmas night feast

Christmas treats

I also made a recipe that I’ve been lusting over for a few weeks: the clementine-cocoa nib meringues from Eating Well. (We picked up the nibs while Michael visited with the Santa at Theo!) These were super easy to make and delicious.

Clementine-Cocoa nib meringues: SO GOOD.

Clementine-Cocoa nib meringues: SO GOOD.

I did run into one snag however. It’s very important that you break up the chocolate nib/powdered sugar combination before you fold it in to the meringue. I wasn’t as diligent about it and chunks of chocolate got stuck in the tip of the piping bag and made things trickier.

Our family feast

We concluded the Christmas weekend with a prime rib feast at my parent’s house, with asparagus, potatoes, and a delicious salad, paired with a pinot noir. The place card snowmen I made last week completed the table scape!

Our Christmas 2015 feast

Our Christmas 2015 feast

Our place settings

Our place settings

Here are a few more of my favorites from this year’s Christmas celebrations:

Santa's little helper

Santa’s little helper

Three generations on Christmas!

Three generations on Christmas!

Santa Baby!

Santa Baby!

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and 2015! Cheers to an even better 2016!!

Christmas tamales

For the past several years Brandon and I have created our own tradition of making tamales on (or around) Christmas. Making tamales requires just a little bit of pre-planning (supply buying and day-of timing) and are fairly easy.

We use this recipe from Pepper Fool, of course with our own tweaks:

For the tamales:

  • 1/2 eight-ounce package dried corn husks
  • 4 ounces (1/2 cup) vegetable shortening
  • 1 pound (2 cups) fresh masa
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 16 oz purchased salsa verde (We use the LaVictoria Thick’n Chunky Salsa Verde)
  • Shredded chicken from a rotisserie chicken (about 2-3 cups)

Toppings:

  • Cilantro
  • Cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Onions
  • Whatever else you want!

Prepare corn husks:

Soak the husks in water till pliable. Make sure they are fully submerged. If using room temperature water, they made need to soak for a few hours.  To speed this up, you can put them in simmering water for 10 minutes and then let them continue soaking while the water cools. 

To make the dough:

Beat the vegetable shortening in a mixer until very light, for about a minute. Add 1/2 pound (1 cup) fresh masa to shortening. Beat until well blended. Continue beating, adding alternately the remaining 1/2 pound masa and the broth, adding only enough broth to give consistency of medium thick cake batter. Then sprinkle in the baking powder and salt. Beat 1 minute more.

To form the tamales:

Remove husks from water when they have softened. Pat husks dry. Tear extra husks into 1/4 inch wide, 7 inch long strips one for each tamale. Take one that is at least 6 inches across on wider end and 6-7 inches long. Lay out this corn husk with tapering end toward you.

Tamale making begins

Tamale making begins

Spread a couple of tablespoons of dough mixture into a square, leaving at least a 1.5 inch border on side toward you and 3/4 inch border along other sides. Add chicken, cheese and salsa. (Along with whatever else you decide to add!)

Filling the tamales

Filling the tamales

Pick up two long sides of corn husk and bring them together, overlapping one over the other.

Fold up the bottom section of husk tightly right up to the filling line. Leave top open. Secure it in place by loosely tying one of strips of husk (or some baking twine) around tamale base.

Wrap up the tamales

Wrap up the tamales

Repeat with remaining husks and dough mixture.

Stand tamales on the folded bottom in prepared steamer, being sure they are not packed too closely in steamer they need to expand.

Cover with layer of leftover husks. Check carefully that all the water doesn’t boil away, adding boiling water when necessary. Cover with lid and steam for 1 hour.

Unwrap the tamales, discard the husks and serve with additional salsa on the side.

Our tamale feast

Our tamale feast

Yield: 4-6 servings