Halloween Memories

Halloween, 1990 -something (1)

I have happy memories of Halloween as a child. My mother always helped my sisters and I with imaginative costumes, hand-making them to encourage our creativity. She would only buy an accessory if it was too hard to construct or we ran out of time! I remember I was Miss Piggy one year in grammar school. I had a beautiful shimmery pink dress on and I was allowed to wear a full face of makeup to school. I borrowed my grandmother’s faux pearls but the rabbit fur stole she lent me was real! I didn’t even care that I was wearing a pig nose on my face, I felt like a movie star! One year my sisters were dice (my mom loves gambling). She made the costumes out of cardboard boxes and felt material. Also, there was a big punk rocker phase we went through in the 90’s. I have a blurry memory of choking on hairspray in the bathroom, having to run out, while my older sisters continued sculpting their hair.

The freedom to be someone you’re not, just for one day a year, is what makes Halloween so alluring. I felt it as a kid and I still feel the magic now.

In October of 2014, I realized it would be my inaugural Halloween as a homeowner. I couldn’t wait to receive trick-or-treaters at the front door. Well, actually we didn’t have a front door, it was boarded up with plywood. The house was under construction and looked like a real haunted house – siding stripped down to clapboard; there was caution tape where the porch banisters should’ve been; the facade was in shambles. People would pay for that kind of authenticity!  I sat on my rickety porch with a big bowl of candy in one hand and a big glass of wine in the other – waiting to scare the wits out of those little rugrats. One kid even asked me if I was a real witch! That was a year to remember!

Speaking of trick-or-treaters, have you seen the episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm (Season 2, Ep. 3) when Larry refuses to give candy to teenagers because the weren’t dressed in costume?? He argues with Cheryl (obviously) the next morning when they step outside to see the house covered in toilet paper and their door spray painted with “BALD *#SHOLE”.  Omg, it’s so hilarious, you just have to watch it!

It’s pretty amazing that in some form we’re still participating in an ancient Celtic tradition. Samhain is the Gaelic festival that marks the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter, the “darker half” of the year. During the seasonal change it was known to be a time where the boundaries between this world and the Otherworld could more easily be crossed. People would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts. To pacify their pagan deities villagers gave offering of food and drink, leaving them outside their doors.

I’ll be ready with a big bowl of “offerings” this Halloween and I’ll be dressed from head to toe warding off the spirits of the Otherworld. I hope the magic of this tradition finds you, this Halloween!

Previously published in The Wave.

tagged in halloween, memories

Decorative Gourd Season

I’m obsessed with decorative gourds. I can’t help buying them anywhere I see them – at the supermarket, at the garden store, at Home Depot. Can you blame me? There’s such a wide variety of colors, patterns, bumps, shapes and sizes. They’re perfect. In a way, Decorative Gourd Season makes me not even miss summer.

My husband doesn’t feel similarly. Last week he asked “So, how much money are you going to spend on gourds this year??” I responded, trying to look really cute, “Oh, did you see this wonderful arrangement I made for the dining room table?”. Followed by a clincher diversion,  “Do you want escarole soup for dinner tonight? It came out great.”

I buy gourds for decor but these hard-shelled fruits served real purpose worldwide throughout history. They were made into tools: cups, bowls, water jugs and spoons; and used as musical instruments: drums, strings, maracas and, of course, the nose flute. Gourds were objects of beautiful art and carvings; they were also used as food. The oldest documented gourds were found in Peru, discovered in archaeological sites dating from 13,000 BC. That variety found is called a bottle gourd.  The gourd may in fact be the first domesticated plant species ever, originating from Asia.

The name gourd refers to the fruit of the plants, of the diverse cucurbitaceae family. There are three main types: the cucurbita or ornamentals, the lagenaria or hardshell, and the luffa or vegetable sponge. Yes, your shower loofah is made from a gourd!

Along with gourds, I enjoy adorning my home with barrels of hay, corn stalks, mums, chrysanthemums and pumpkins, to create lavish fall displays. Lisena Garden Center (125 Cross Bay Blvd, Broad Channel) has all of these necessary items, so take a ride this weekend and get going with those gourds.

This is the oldest known gourd, the bottle gourd. I’ve seen them in KeyFood recently. Can you believe this fruit was unearthed in archaeological sites in Peru and also available in KeyFood__

This is the oldest known gourd, the bottle gourd. I’ve seen them in KeyFood recently. Can you believe this fruit was unearthed in archaeological sites in Peru and also available in KeyFood.

Turban Squash (1)

This is one of my favorites, known as the Turban Squash. It’s an heirloom, predating 1820 from Northeastern United States. There’s something about the white “brain” protrusion on this one that makes it so desirable. It’s known as  “the most beautiful in color, and the most worthless in quality, of all the varieties.” Lol!

On a recent trip to the Catskills, I had to get some hay and additional pumpkins. It was too good of a bargain to pass up! (1)

On a recent trip to the Catskills, I had to get some hay and additional pumpkins. It was too good of a bargain to pass up!

Propagating the Pothos Plant

I’ve been outside in the garden so much I feel like my indoor plants, of which I have many, have suffered. This past week I gave them all a tune-up, adding compost to the soil and cutting back dead and straggly leaves.

It’s always hard cutting back the long trailing vines of the pothos plant but mine were leggy, thin on top, and unhealthy looking. Pruning the vines encourages new growth and my cuttings would not go to waste. I propagate from them and create new plants!  I’ve been doing this for almost a decade so I’ve learned the best practices which I will share with you.

But first some background on Epipremnum Aureum. There are several hybrids but only two cultivars: golden pothos and marble queen. The houseplant is resilient and easy to care for. It grows in very low light but will thrive in indirect light. Avoid direct sun. The general rule on watering is every 1-2 weeks. It’s best to let the soil dry out before watering again. If you wait until the leaves are wilted, no problem, they’ll pop back up after a drink. The plant can tolerate a temperature range as low as 55 and as high as  90℉. Pothos is tropical and loves humidity – perfect in the bathroom or you can mist once a week.

The attractive trailers of the pothos plant are ideal for hanging baskets or a top a shelf where the long vines can cascade down. When you notice the vines getting straggly, it’s time to snip and propagate!

Step 2. The correct way to clip the vine for propagation

How to:
1. Cut the strand at the top of the plant close to the base but leaving a leaf node. The leaf node area is ¼ inches before the leaf. You should see a bump or root under or near the leaf. This is the node.

2. Starting from one end, cut ¼ inch out, from the leaf node on either side. Continue until all healthy leaves are cut down from the vine. Each one of these cuttings will root and become a mini plant.

Step 5. This is ready to be planted!

3. Fill a clear glass with water to the top. Bundle all the cutting in your hand and place them in the cup. Many cuttings will help them stay firm at the top. Make sure the end node’s are touching the water.

4. Place the glass in an area without a draft and somewhat warm. On top of a radiator cover or the refrigerator are good locations.

5. Plants receive oxygen from water so its important that you change the water in the glass every 3 or 4 days. In one week you’ll see new white roots forming. Wait until they’re an inch long before potting.

6. When transferring the mini plants keep them tightly packed for a full appearance. Keep the pot moist the first 2 weeks until the plant establishes.

The new pothos plant

The Beach 91st St. Community Garden is hosting a plant sale on Oct. 14 from 12-4pm. I’m addicted to propagating plants but have know place to keep them all so many of my plants will be for sale at the event! 60% of the proceeds will be donated to the Beach 91st St. Community Garden. I hope to see you there!

tagged in plants

Cookie Vs. Biscuit

hobnob

Hobnob v 1. to mingle, usually with the upper class of society.

But more importantly, a Hobnob is the name of a cookie. Wait… I mean a biscuit. From the UK. They’re made from rolled oats, jumbo oats and often are sided with chocolate. They’re among the most popular of British biscuits.

But why do Brits refer to cookies as “biscuits”? What’s the difference? Here in the states we put poached eggs and bacon on biscuits, we don’t dunk them in our tea as our neighbors across the pond do. US biscuits are a variety of small baked goods with a firm browned crust and a soft interior. A biscuit in the UK is classified as a small hard baked product which can be savoury or sweet. The term “cookie” typically refers to only one type of biscuit –  a chocolate chip cookie.

I’m still confused.

I bring this up because my husband has become obsessed with Hobnobs ever since his co-worker and our good friend Or Zubalsky brought the biscuits to their office. Or’s  first encounter with hobnobs was when he was visiting his friend in London. He and his wife brought a bundle back from the UK. After running out of the addictive “cookie”,  Or tracked them down at the Park Slope Food Coop.

But Matt needed his own stash so he ordered boxes in bulk from England. Shipping wasn’t cheap and it took a while to arrive. Only a month after the deliver he ran out (sigh).  It happened to be our 9 year anniversary that week and — being the amazing wife that I am — I thought it would be “brilliant” to make homemade hobnobs for my husband as a gift!  I followed the recipe so carefully. I wanted them to be authentic. Matt said they tasted more like a cookie than an English biscuit but he loved them nonetheless. The hobnob is meant to be dunked so enjoy them with your morning coffee or evening tea!

Hobnobs before adding the chocolate

Ingredients:

1½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ cups old-fashioned oats
1½ teaspoons baking soda
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons whole milk
2 teaspoons honey
150g of milk chocolate

Directions: Preheat oven to 300°. Whisk flour, oats, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl to combine. Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 min. Beat in milk and honey. Turn off mixer and add dry ingredients; mixing with a rubber spatula. Spoon tablespoonfuls of dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets, pressing down lightly to flatten and space 1½” apart.  Bake the biscuits until golden brown, 25–30 min.

When cooled, melt the 150g of milk chocolate in either the microwave or in a bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water.  Be very careful the chocolate doesn’t seize (the transformation of chocolate from a fluid state to a stiff, grainy one). This of course is what happened to me. Make sure the bowl and utensils are water free, keep stirring the chocolate and keep the temperature very low.  Once the chocolate is melted, paint the tops of your hobnobs our dip and leave on a drying rack.

Recipe from bonappetit.com/recipe/homemade-hobnob-cookies