Monday, September 19, 2016


  This recipe comes from www.confessionsoftart.blogspot.com .   Biscotti is one of my all time favorite things to make, especially during the holiday seasons.   It's easy to make and most people love it.

Pumpkin-Cranberry Biscotti


Books are kind of like people, don't you think? You can tell right away if you're going to be friends with one or if you'll have a brief conversation and go your separate ways. So it was with this book - as soon as I picked it up,* I could tell that it was going to be one of my favorites. By the end, I felt like I had met Frank and Jerome and had sat with them in the kitchen of their New York cafe as they took out trays upon trays of delicious tarts, biscotti and Madeleines. I've made many recipes from this book, always with great ease and great success, encouraged by the warm tone and the friendly, quick humor on every page.

Pumpkin Biscotti

The recipes in this book are thoughtful, inventive and yet inviting and unpretentious. In fact, you get the feeling that the authors put together a list of their very favorite things to make at home and opened it to the rest of us. These pumpkin biscotti are no exception - they are simply wonderful - wonderful! If you like pumpkin desserts (and oh, I do), you will LOVE these, I promise. Crunchy, spicy, packed with golden raisins, cranberries and toasted pecans, oh goodness, I can't even really express how happy these made me. And the generous proportions of this recipe ensure that your family and friends will be very happy as well, should you choose to share (which, by the way, you totally should - these biscotti will make you many, many new friends!). Happy fall, everyone!


*Disclaimer because some people might misunderstand: I bought this book at a bookstore, just like everyone else. I was not asked nor paid to do a review of this book, but I wanted to share it with you because it has become one of my favorite books to reach for lately.

Pumpkin Cranberry Biscotti Recipe
Note: I used 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/4 tsp ground cloves
Note 2: This recipe requires a little more effort than the traditional biscotti, but I'm telling you, it's so totally worth it.
(Makes about 25 biscotti - I got a bit more)


4 1/2 cups flour (495g)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled to room temperature (120g)
3 large eggs, at room temperature, separated
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar (230g)
3/4 cup pumpkin puree, packed tightly (183g)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup pecans, lightly toasted and chopped (150g)
1/2 cup fresh cranberries (75g)
1/3 cup golden raisins (50g)
4 tbsp of turbinado sugar (my addition, optional)


Position one of your oven racks in the center. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, spices, baking powder and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg whites on high speed until they form stiff peaks. With the mixer still on high, beat in about half the sugar until the egg whites are glossy. Transfer them to another bowl.

In the same bowl of the stand mixer, beat the egg yolks and the remaining half of the sugar on high speed until the eggs are pale and frothy and the sugar dissolves. Stir in pumpkin puree and vanilla to blend.

Gently fold in the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture. Also gently, stir in the melted (and cooled) butter, nuts, cranberries and raisins.

Gradually stir in the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until the dough comes together into a sticky ball. For into two logs (flour your hands because the dough will be sticky) about 3" x 10". If you wet your fingers a little, you'll be able to smooth out the surface of the dough should you so wish to. Sprinkle each log with about two tablespoons of turbinado sugar, if using.

Bake for about 50 minutes, until the tops are golden brown and feel firm to the touch. Cool on wire racks for at least 30 minutes (this is important - if you don't cool the biscotti, they will crumble like crazy). Place the logs on a cutting board and cut into 1/2 inch slices with a long and sharp serrated knife. Do not use a sawing motion, but make decisive downward strokes.

Line the slices on the baking sheet and bake for another 25-30 minutes, until they are crisp and golden brown throughout. Allow to cool completely before eating (this is kind of hard to do, with the amazing smell and all, but believe me, they do taste better that way).



One of the easiest Halloween crafts I've ever made has to be the "Man Eating Monster Plant" I presented on the Home & Family Show recently.
This Halloween plant craft is rewarding because it features many repurposed materialsthat can be found in your yard or garage.
The whimsical plants look like they are from the cult classic, "Little Shop of Horrors!"
The "Man-Eating Monster Plant" was designed by Dave Lowe, the talented art director for the show and is part of his "master Halloween design plan" for the front yard.
When Dave explained the craft to me, I was blown away and responded, "Genius!"
The steps are simple, making the monster plants an ideal family craft to get your kids involved in decorating for Halloween.
Start to finish (not including waiting 30 minutes for foam to dry), the project took less than an hour to make.
Once you have the materials for one plant, making another dozen is no big deal.
As a matter of fact, I would put together a group of monster plants in varying heights for the best effect.
I was so excited to present this Halloween craft to the audience because the results are very impressive and the plant can be styled in a variety of ways.
You can add skeletons to the display or spiders and skulls.
Make it as mild or macabre as you dare!

Watch the video segment of Man-Eating Monster Plants


Tree branch
Flower pot
Spray foam insulation
Artificial pumpkin
Spray or brush-on paint in green or any whimsical color
Silk or faux leaves
Hot glue
Pumpkin carver
Decorative touches such as moss, skeletons, spiders, bones


1. Find a tree branch from your yard with nice branch pattern
2. Find an old flower pot
3. Fill the flower pot with spray foam insulation and wait till it expands and hardens before inserting your tree branch
4. Draw a large, open mouth with sharp teeth along the legnth of your pumpkin. The pumpkin stem should be the back of the head.
5. Cut the mouth with a pumpkin carving blade (remember to hold the pumpkin long ways, so the stem is in the back).
6. Attach the pumpkin head to the top of the tree branch and secure with hot glue.
7. Paint the branches and the outside of the pumpkin with green spray paint.
8. Add leaves to the end of branches and secure with hot glue.
9. Spray the exposed foam insulation with adhesive and top with moss
10. Add your special decorative touches!
Experiment with your Halloween decoration and display with pride, indoors or out!


Picture of Be a Ghostbuster for Halloween!
I thought this would be a great idea for Halloween (I love Halloween!) so in my usual over the top fashion I went, well -- over the top. A buddy of mine wanted to do it as well. We tried to get his roommate into it too so we could have a third Ghostbuster but he didn't think we'd be able to do it......... :D

I made two complete packs, suits, belts and goggles in just over two weeks working mostly nights and weekends. I also made a ghost trap and pedal- it clips onto the belt just like in the movie. The guns come off the packs and the packs light up, as does the trap. I made two lighting circuits for each pack using a simple homemade 555 timer circuit, a few LEDs and 9v batteries. The trap weighs around six or seven pounds and the packs weigh about twenty- five pounds. 

The packs and trap are pretty movie accurate- they were made from plans that were drawn up from one of the original movie "hero" packs on display at Planet Hollywood. The A.L.I.C.E. pack frames are the same as the movie and were purchased from an Army surplus store. Most of the small parts on the pack are movie accurate and were located at a local electronics surplus store. Even our coveralls were from the original movie supplier. The "no ghost" patches were bought online. 

I made the goggles from hardboard, Bondo and thin plywood. I turned the aluminum and glass lenses on a lathe. All the labels on the packs and goggles are accurate and were printed on my computer. 

Like I said- over the top. But come Halloween it is oh sooo worth it. People go absolutely flippin' nuts when they see the whole getup. They absolutely cannot believe they were homemade. 

This is a BIG project so I'll basically outline what I did to make it go a lot faster. Follow on...

Step 1: Gather materials and resources

First you need to download all the plans, labels, templates, etc. Give a huge thank you to all the guys that have worked on this stuff over the years! Everything is here: http://www.hprops.com/labels/

The main ingredients I used to build my pack are blue insulation foam (available at Home Depot), MDF wood, 1/8" thick pressboard and lots of epoxy. The ALICE pack frames can be purchased from Army surplus stores. Also locate a good electronics surplus store for a lot of the small parts.


Step 2: First the suit

Picture of First the suit
The suit is a standard beige flight suit. You'll also want black rubber gloves, black boots and a military style belt. The arm pads are actually knee pads from a sporting goods store- mine aren't the "correct" ones but they were cheap.The "no ghost" patches and name patches can be purchased here:http://www.scifigeeks.com/index.php/cPath/4324_4325_5595

The pouch on the belt is a modified tape measure holder with little lamps glued onto an old circuit board. The actual movie ones used Nixie tubes... Use another old circuit and attach a coiled phone cord to it- this then hooks onto the back of the belt. The clear hose (it's a mystery)goes from the front of the suit (use a hose barb through the fabric) and attaches to the back of the belt. There is also a keychain clip that goes on the front of the belt- they used it to hold the proton wand in the movie. The name patch I used was made with velcro and fabric paint.

Step 3: Start making the pack!

This is that hard part. Study all the plans over and over. The motherboard is made from 1/8" thick board and is bolted to the ALICE pack frame. The spacer is made from blue foam as are the gearboxes, Ion arm and bumper- this speeds things up dramatically and really cuts down the weight of the pack. The cyclotron is made from MDF rings and 1/8" thick board. I ended up using flashlight refelectors with red LED's in them for the cylotron lights. The lenses were made from translucent plastic folders. 

The powercell is made from 1/8" thick board and is held in place with screws, making it easy to remove for battery access. I used another plastic folder (blue) to make the powecell lense. I made the gun hook from a piece of 1/8" thick aluminum sheet but a lot of people use a Dixie cup dispenser hook. I machined my own knobs and Ion knob but many people use stacked washers for the Ion knob. The N-filter was made from a can. 

The trick to working with foam is to finish it properly or paint will melt it. Once your foam is cut to shape sand it lightly and smooth all the surfaces with a lightweight spackling paste. Then cover it with Minwax Polycrylic sealer. This will allow you to paint it with good old black spray paint. It will also make the foam a little tougher.

Step 4: The proton wand

Picture of The proton wand
This is made mostly from 1/8" thick board. The grips were carved from blue foam and the handles are PVC pipe. The clip that is mounted on the underside of the proton wand body hooks onto the proton pack so it can be removed- just like in the movie. I made the side plate removeable and stuck a lamp in there- it's turned on by one of the toggle switches on the wand body. 

I also added lights to the powercell and cyclotron in the proton pack. They are each based on a simple chaser circuit and use LED's and are powered by a 9v battery. They are actually quite bright in person.

Step 5: The trap and pedal

The trap body is made from 1/8" wood and MDF and the handle is a dowel. The sideplates are thin aluminum sheet and are epoxied on. The pedal is made from some aluminum door kickplate (attached to the base with a hinge), MDF for the base and has a 2 1/2" flexible ducting hose hot glued underneath it to act as the bellows. The relay and other electronic parts/knobs came from an electronics surplus store and are attached to some plastic boxes that are screwed to the pedal. 

The trap lights up ( I used the same LED chaser circuit as the lights for the proton pack) and the trap doors open. The trap has a catch plate on the underside (same as the proton wand) and a matching plate on the belt holster so it can hook onto my belt. The pedal then hangs over the trap by hooking the gray cable on top of the pedal over the trap handle.

Step 6: Goggles

Picture of Goggles
These were made by making the basic frame shape from 1/8' thick board and then making a curved flange on the back by bending some super thin 1/64" plywood (this can be found in some hobby shops.) This was then smoothed with bondo. The lenses were made from old microscope lenses I bought for one dollar each. I made PVC rings to go around them and added the small knobs. I then attached some foam weatherstripping to the back of the frames. 

This is a VERY abbreviated tutorial (a step by step could fill a book) but is shows that with a little creativity it's really not that hard to make a great Ghostbuster costume in record time.


    The Abbots Bromley Horn Dance is an English folk dance involving reindeer antlers and a hobby horse that takes place each year in Abbots Bromley, a small village in Staffordshire, England.


    There are no recorded references to the horn dance prior to Robert Plot's Natural History of Staffordshire, written in 1686. However, there is a record of the hobby horse being used in Abbots Bromley as early as 1532, and it is possible that the horn dance component of the custom was also present at that time but not commented upon by the writer. A carbon analysis discovered that the antlers used in the dance date to the 11th century - though these may well have replaced an even older set. According to some, the use of antlers suggests an Anglo-Saxon origin along with other native Anglo-Saxon traditions that have survived into modern times in various forms. It has been speculated, for example, that the dance originated in the pagan period and was

connected with the ruling dynasty of Mercia, based some 15 miles away at Tamworth, who owned extensive hunting lands in Needwood Forest and Cannock Chase surrounding Abbots Bromley. On this theory, the royal forester would have organised sympathetic magic rituals to ensure a plentiful catch each year, a tradition that survived into Christian times and gradually came to be seen as affirming the villagers' hunting rights. Even when the lands were granted to Burton Abbey in 1004 a forester would still needed to have been employed, and by the 16th century, when the abbey was dissolved, this hereditary position bore the title "Forester of Bentylee" (Bentylee being the wooded area of the parish). From then until the 19th century the dance remained the traditional prerogative of the Bentley family, eventually passing to the Fowell family in 1914 through a marriage alliance. The Fowells continue to run it to this day.
    Such an ancient origin for the dance has been doubted by some folklorists, who point out that while the reindeer antlers date to the 11th century, reindeer were long since extinct in the England and wales (and probably Scotland), and there is no evidence that any domestic reindeer herds remained at that time. Therefore, even more confusingly, the antlers must have been imported from Scandinavia at some point between the 11th and 17th centuries. This fact may lend weight to the theory that the custom originally began with only a hobby horse, and the horn dance component was added later, explaining why only the former was mentioned by 16th century sources.

    The dance was, like similar events throughout the country, temporarily discontinued during the Commonwealth years. Prior to this, according to Robert Plot, it was performed on Christmas Day, New Year's Day and Twelfth Day, in addition to the local Wakes Monday - though upon its revival in 1660 it was confined to the latter alone.


    The Horn Dance attracts a large number of visitors to the village. As well as the dance itself, Wakes Monday sees a Fair on the village green; Morris dancing; and numerous other attractions. The right to hold this Fair was granted to the village in 1221.

Date and schedule of performance

    The Horn Dance takes place on Wakes Monday, the day following Wakes Sunday, which is the first Sunday after 4 September. In practice, this means that it is the Monday dated between September 6th and September 12th.
   The dance starts at 08:00 with a service of blessing in St Nicholas Church, where the horns are housed. The dance begins on the village green, then passes out of the village - but not out of the Parish - to Blithfield Hall, owned by Lady Bagot.
   The dancers return to the village in the early afternoon, and make their way around the pubs and houses. Finally, at about 20:00, the horns are returned to the church, and the day is completed with the service of Compline.
    The dance starts at 08:00 with a service of blessing in St Nicholas Church, where the horns are housed. The dance begins on the village green, then passes out of the village - but not out of the Parish - to Blithfield Hall, owned by Lady Bagot.
   The dancers return to the village in the early afternoon, and make their way around the pubs and houses. Finally, at about 20:00, the horns are returned to the church, and the day is completed with the service of Compline.


    There are 12 dancers. Six carry the horns and are accompanied by musician playing an accordion (a violin in former times), Maid Marian (a man in a dress), the Hobby-horse, the Fool (or Jester), a youngster with a bow and arrow, and another youngster with a triangle. Traditionally, the dancers are all male, although in recent years girls have been seen carrying the triangle and bow and arrow.
    Until the end of the 19th Century the dancers were all members of the Bentley family. The dance passed to the related Fowell family in the early 20th Century in which it remains to this day, though rising house prices has meant that none of them live in the village any longer, with many residing in nearby towns. They have been known to allow visitors to "dance in" if asked politely, and will often invite musicians and others to take part when necessary.


    The "horns" are six sets of reindeer antlers, three white and three black. In 1976, a small splinter was radiocarbon dated to around 1065. Since there are not believed to have been any reindeer in England in the 11th Century, the horns must have been imported from Scandinavia.
    The antlers are mounted on small heads carved from wood. Since 1981, the horns are legally the property of Abbots Bromley Parish Council. For 364 days a year, they are on display in St Nicholas Church. They were once kept in the main Village Hall, which is now the Goat Inn, beside the Butter Cross. An alternative set of antlers (red deer) are kept to use when the Dancers are asked, as they are, frequently, to perform outside the Parish boundaries.

   The dance itself is simple, since the antlers themselves have some weight to them and are large and bulky.
    As described by Cecil Sharp, there are 6 figures in the dance. He describes the dance as being done with the participants in a single line; however, it is currently performed with the dancers in a double column.