Perfectly Crisp Pumpkin Seeds

On Monday I went over our Halloweekend 2012, but want to dig a little deeper into those roasty, toasty, crunchy pumpkin seeds I glossed over. Everyone has their own go-to pumpkin seed recipe, and some even make their seeds ultra fancy with different flavors (cinnamon-sugar? spicy? curried?). While fancy flavors are fun, this girl enjoys the no-frills original recipe - nothing else but olive oil and sea salt. Mmmm...

This year, I tried a new method to give the seeds a little more crunch than I've gotten in the past. It's just one more step and 10 more minutes of time, but it totally pays off in the end. Our seeds were spectacular this year - and possibly even better the next day (I don't have a point of reference on how they hold up two days later... because ours certainly didn't make it that far).

Here's what you do.

Start with a bunch o' seeds. We carved two big honkin' pumpkins this year and ended up with about two cups or so of seeds once we were done. Try to pick out as many of the globs and strings as you can, but don't worry about them being ultra pristine. Then, soak 'em overnight in a big bowl of water.

The next day, dump your seeds in a strainer and rinse them off. I found the soaking of the seeds really helped make any remaining strings and globs wash off on their own very easily. After the seeds have been rinsed and de-strung, add them to a pot of water with one teaspoon of sea salt. Bring the water and seeds to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. The boiling process is what boosts the crispiness factor!

After 10 minutes simmering, strain the seeds then spread them out on a clean dish towel to dry. You can dab the top of the seeds with another clean towel to speed up the process. Don't worry about the seeds getting perfectly dry... just dry enough to where they aren't slippery. As the seeds are drying, preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

When seeds have quasi-dried, add them to a large bowl and drizzle in about two teaspoons of olive oil and mix it all up so the oil coats the seeds. Then, spread all the seeds out on a large baking pan, trying your best to keep them in a single layer (no overlapping). Add some more sea salt to taste, then pop in the oven. Bake for about 15 minutes, then stir the seeds around, and bake for about 20-25 minutes longer.

Honestly, they turn out so wonderfully crisp and crunchy this way. No more chewy seeds!

We munched on the seeds between visits by Trick or Treaters on Saturday, and the rest kept until Sunday, when I think I liked them even more! Ultra addicting - the perfect (healthy) fall snack!


Halloweekend 2012

Halloween proper may not be until this Wednesday, but the festivities in our neighborhood took place on Saturday. As you know, in our house we take Halloween pretty seriously, so this was a big weekend for us!

Last year, our first year ever having Trick or Treaters, we were totally unprepared for the hundreds of kids we'd eventually have ringing our doorbell... we ran out of candy almost an hour into Trick or Treat! Eric had to make a mad dash to the store to get a couple more bags to last the night.

This year, we were prepared.
We used up every bag you see here but one and a half.... it was another busy year! 

We set out our Jack O' Lanterns for the Trick or Treaters to marvel at as they got their candy.
Eric's is on the left, with a classic zig-zag snarl. Mine is the overly-happy pumpkin with buckteeth fangs. No frills with our Jack O' Lanterns this year... back to the classic pumpkin face.

As we waited for the Trick or Treaters to arrive, we snacked on some pretty delicious pumpkin seeds, harvested from our friends above.

Trick or Treat was a success, though we did have noticeably fewer Trick or Treaters this year than last year (maybe about 200-300 this year, compared to nearly 400-500 last year!). Maybe it was the cold? For the first time in my four years living in Milwaukee it was a cold Halloween, with temps in the 40s!

After Trick or Treat wound up around 8pm, Eric and I got ready to hit the town in our costumes, ourselves!

Now, as you may know, we take each year's costumes very seriously... often times settling on a costume idea months in advance of the big day. This year's costume was one nearly three years in the making, as I had been trying to convince Eric we should go as this for years.... However, we always got stuck because we couldn't agree on who should go as which character.

Finally, this year, he caved.
We agreed that I should be Sloppy Joe.

While Eric mastered the art of the Lunch Lady.

"Me and Sloppy Joe got married.... we got six kids and we're doin' just fine...."

And there you have it! This year's Halloween costume was our very first couples costume, recreating one of the most classic SNL sketches in the show's history: Adam Sandler's "Lunch Lady Land" song. In years past, we both wanted to be Sloppy Joe, but ultimately agreed Eric would make a much more hilarious Lunch Lady. Plus, he just really loved the opportunity to wear a butt pad all night.

So, if you've been keeping count, in the five Halloweens I've spent in Milwaukee, I've gone as a cat-themed Internet meme twice, and an SNL character twice (three times if you count Kerri Strug's appearance with her brother Kippy on "Weekend Update"). Sometimes you can't go wrong reaching back into the same pool.

We had a lot of fun with this costume. We got plenty of people singing the "Lunch Lady Land" song with us on the street, and a lot of people came up to ask to have their picture taken with us! Yet another Halloween success.

Our favorite costume we saw that night? This incredibly crafty claw-game, complete with a claw grabber that actually worked!
It was pretty rad, indeed.

I always get a little sad when Halloween passes... but this year I need to remember I've at least got a couple more days to enjoy the spooky festivities! And I can get away with nibbling at any of our leftover candy until Wednesday, as well!

What was your Halloween costume? Or did you have a favorite you saw this year? I'd love to know!


What I'm Loving Today

When I started this blog nearly three years ago (come January... and I cringe when I look back at those old posts....), my original intention was to post one specific product, event, tradition, etc. that I was currently obsessing over (hence, why my subtitle on this blog says ". . .on the constant search for a new obsession"). As time went on I realized I wanted my blog to focus more on the little projects I busy myself with.... first it was baking and cooking and then morphed into home design as we bought our first home. Though I've been trying to keep things house-related, I realize I've been kind of all over the board lately.

In preparation for the blogs third birthday, I've decided to reintroduce a series inspired by this blog in its infancy. At least once a month I'd like to share a little about some products or experience I'm currently crazy about. I'm actually a big fan when my favorite blogs post some of their "favorite things," and hope you'll be a fan of this new series, as well! Hopefully I can inspire you to try a new product or go on a new adventure, or maybe you can leave a comment pointing out one of your latest obsessions! Either way, I think it's fun to share about the little things that make our day.... even if, in my case, they are usually food-related.

So..... now that the explanation's out of the way, let's get to it!


Almond Breeze Coconut-Almond Milk (Unsweetened)

You guys, this stuff is seriously my new jam. I've been on the almond milk train for quite a while now (I personally prefer it to milk in cereal, oatmeal and just straight-up from the glass), but had been curious about my favorite brand's (Almond Breeze) latest product blending regular almond milk with coconut milk. The verdict? This stuff tastes like you're drinking an Almond Joy (ehhh... kind of. There' no replacing a delicious Almond Joy...). I've made hot chocolate with it and it was amazing. I've added it to coffee and loved it. I've been enjoying it in my morning oatmeal and it adds a great coconutty flavor. I may never go back to regular almond milk again.

Trader Joe's Speculoos Cookie Butter
Now, technically I've been loving Cookie Butter for about a year now. I first discovered it last year just before Christmas, and I pick up a jar every time I stop in Trader Joe's. This stuff is absolutely incredible. It tastes like a gingerbread cookie you can spread over anything. Picture peanut butter, but sweet and made out of cookies..... Yeah. It's as good as you think. You know what makes it even better? Mixing a little in with oatmeal, some dried cranberries and a little splash of that delectable almond-coconut milk above.... such a perfect fall/winter breakfast. (No, this stuff isn't healthy. It's got 5 gram of sugar, essentially no protein, absolutely no fiber and its ingredient list reads rather long.... but it's something to treat yourself with every now and then). Dip cookies in it... pretzels.... nuts... WHATEVER. It's good on anything. And if you're not near a Trader Joe's, I've also discovered a product that is incredibly close to cookie butter: Biscoff Spread. You know those little gingersnap-type biscuit cookies you normally eat around the holidays? Those are Biscoff. And Biscoff Spread has been around for a while now.... find it in the peanut butter aisle. Whichever of these two products you buy, trust me, you won't be disappointed with either.

What have you been loving lately? Is there a product you love you think I simply have to try? Leave a comment and let me know what you love!


Your Weekly Pins

Another Friday, another weeks of pins! Here's what caught my eye on Pinterest this week...

Every time I see this, I like this.
[This just may be one of the most clever, attractive coat/accessory hangers I've ever seen. I absolutely love this idea - and it would be easy to make yourself!]

[I love anything combining salty with sweet, so these peanut-butter pretzel bars sound absolutely delicious to me... like a chewy, crunchy, salty blondie..... now excuse me as I drool all over myself.]

Twice-Baked Jalapeno Sweet Potatoes with a Chipotle Streusel Topping
[If this doesn't scream "Thanksgiving" to you, I don't want to know what's on the table at your Turkey Day dinner.... say it with me now, "Twice-baked sweet potatoes with chipotle pecan streusel." Holy cow, what a side! In fact, this sounds do good I believe I'll be making this for our annual "Friendsgiving" meal next month!]

Buffalo “Chicken” Cauliflower Bites
[If there's one food in this world I love, it's popcorn. But if there's another food, that would probably be mac 'n cheese..... but right behind that, I promise, it would probably be buffalo wings. However, although I'd like to enjoy them every Sunday afternoon, I'm afraid I'd have a heart attack before the age of 35. So I love the idea of these buffalo cauliflower bites - all the taste, but so super healthy too!]

Polka Dots
[I loved this ultra-femme blouse (ew.... did I really just type "blouse?") back when I thought it had polka dots, but fell in super-love with it when I realized those polka dots are actually little hearts! So sickeningly girly..... I love it!]

Now THIS is a Halloween costume
[This may be one of the greatest Halloween costumes I've ever seen. Robbie Sinclair.... from the show "Dinosaurs!" Impeccable. I'm only mad I didn't pull this one off myself.]

You otter be here.
[There are few things on this Earth cuter than otters.... one of those few is a baby otter. Just look at it. LOOK! Awwwwww....]

There are plenty more where these came! To see everything I pin all week long, follow me on Pinterest!



Mecca's Found on Cleveland Street

Over the weekend we traveled to Cleveland to celebrate the wedding of one of my best friends. The weekend was a blast and the wedding was beautiful, but before we began the celebration, we finally crossed something off both our bucket lists... an experience that changed both our lives.

We made the pilgrimage to what is truly Eric's personal Mecca. His Shangri-La. His most holy land in all the world.... The "A Christmas Story House."

Now, if you're not familiar with "A Christmas Story" I think we need to sit down and reevaluate our relationship.... because clearly this isn't going to work out. "A Christmas Story" is the greatest Christmas film ever made. Full of nostalgia, charm, wit and, of course, screaming and cursing children, the movie is close to perfection. In Eric's book, it is the Greatest Movie of All Time. Sure, you may think you know all there is to know about the film, but I'm certain there are only a small handful of people on Earth who know the movie as well as Eric. All its intricacies, its flubs, its background.... Eric knows every little trivial piece about the movie you could imagine, aside from having the ability to quote it from start to finish. He's got a "Christmas Story" trivia game, and the one time I sat down to play with him (in our first year of dating... and I thought I knew a lot about the movie at the time...) he absolutely astounded me with how much he knew about the film. I refused to ever play the game against him again. He is, in the sincerest of ways, obsessed. 

And, yes, he's worn a pink bunny suit ("The Pink Nightmare," as it's come to be known) every Christmas morning for the last seven years (but more on that later). He is, my friends, the definition of a superfan.

So anyway, back to the house...

We'd been wanting to go for years, but had the perfect opportunity while we were in town for the wedding. We drove from Milwaukee straight to 11th Street in Cleveland.... and it truly was a magical experience.

Now, any true Christmas Story fan knows Ralphie and the Parker family lived on "Good ol' Cleveland Street. How could I forget it..." Sure, the actual house may be located on 11th Street in Cleveland, but I was tickled to see the city had honorarily named it "Cleveland St," a nod to the film.

And there it is! The House itself! I won't go into detail about just how the Christmas Story House was turned into a museum in honor of the film (if you want the whole story, click here), but it all started with another superfan who saw the house was for sale... he bought it and spent over $200,000 to restore it and went frame by frame through the movie to model it exactly how it looked in the film. That's a dedicated fan!

After we parked, we bought two tickets for the tour. Our tour guide let us into the house, where we gathered in the living room as she told us the background behind the film, some fun trivia (did you know the profits from "Porky's" gave directer Bob Clark the funds to be able to make "A Christmas Story?") and also about how the house was purchased and restored (Eric had already known about 98 percent of what she told us.... he could guide that tour in his sleep.) Then, she let us loose in the house to take pictures in all the rooms. Like kids in a candy store, we gleefully bounded through the house, snapping dozens of photos and taking turns acting out our favorite scenes from the movie.

Here's Eric checking the mailbox to see if his Little Orphan Annie Secret Society Decoder Pin had arrived yet.... "Oh, skunked again!"

Next to the door were replicas of the long stocking caps Schwartz wore in the film... along with the mile-long scarf that bound Randy in his snow suit, looking "like a tick about to pop."
Of course, the leg lamp, outside the famous "FRA-GEE-LAY (must be Italian!)" crate sat right inside the foyer where it was opened in the film.

From the foyer, we went into the kitchen, where Randy was coaxed into eating his meal by pretending to act like "Mommy's little piggy." 
We were even encouraged to hide under the sink where Randy famously exclaimed "Daddy's gonna kill Ralphie!"
 We both did our best Randy impressions. Though no one offered us any milk.
And here is the radio where Ralphie so eagerly listened to his favorite program, "Little Orphan Annie." While we were there, it looked like he'd remembered not to leave his glasses on the radio again.

And here it is, arguably the most famous addition to the house. Sitting there, emitting the "soft glow of electric sex gleaming in the window...." The Major Award.
 Also known as "the leg lamp."

 "Yeah.... a statue....."

Eric had a great time pretending like it was Christmas morning, finding the Old Man's bowling ball ("Ooh, it's hard!").

But obviously the most prized possession under the tree was that Red Ryder BB Gun (with "a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time.")

Upstairs, we were tickled to see Randy and Ralphie's bedroom... complete with the same sailboat wallpaper!

Next to the boys' room was mother's sewing room, where she kept her Look magazines, where Ralphie would not-so-subtly place his hint for what he wanted for Christmas.

We also saw the bathroom where the dreaded Lifebuoy soap lay ("It.... It... It was..... SOAP. POISONING!"). We were sure to watch our language as we toured the house so as to avoid getting our mouths washed out.

While in the bathroom ("the only room in the house where a boy of nine could sit in privacy and decode."), Eric set out to decode his first Secret Society message....
 "BE SURE TO DRINK YOUR OVALTINE." A crummy commercial? Son of a bitch!

After leaving the bathroom, wiser, we were told we had five minutes left to spend in the house. Now, we hadn't driven nearly seven hours to make it to the Christmas Story house for Eric NOT to wear his Pink Nightmare suit (his mom made it for him years ago, and he, honest to god, wears it every Christmas morning while opening presents), so he rushed out to the car to put it on and pose for a picture, looking like "a deranged Easter Bunny." 
I just hope this picture doesn't get out to Flick, who upon seeing it would make Eric's life at Warren G. Harding School a veritable hell.

The other tourists in our group absolutely LOVED Eric's pink bunny costume, exclaiming it's "Way better than the ones the have for sale in the gift shop." It looks just like the original, which came from Aunt Clara.... with those blue bunny eyes staring up at him.

Now, we could've spent at least another four hours playing in the house, but the next stop was across the street, in the official Christmas Story museum, filled with artifacts, props, costumes and behind-the-scenes photos from the film.
Inside the museum, we marveled at all the original costumes.

And Eric had a little someone marveling at his own costume! This little boy was enamored with Eric's bunny suit. He came up to hug him, and squealed with glee when Eric shook one of his bunny feet at him. It was adorable.

I loved getting a look at all the photos from the film's taping, like this one of the whole crew gathered around Peter Billingsly as they shot the "I shot my eye out!" scene.

 Fa ra ra ra raaaa ra ra ra ra.
And there is is! Scut Farkus's coonskin hat, which sat just atop his yellow eyes... yellow eyes! So help me god, yellow eyes!

And here's the original chalkboard from Mrs. Shield's classroom! Where Ralphie day dreamed he'd received an "A + + + + +" on his beloved theme.

Outside, there was a replica Oldsmobile, just like the Old Man had... and outside where Ralphie yelped "Oh.... FUUUUDDDGGGGEE." Only he didn't say "fudge..."

We finished up the tour at the gift shop, filled with all sorts of film memorabilia (most of which you can also purchase at the house's web site). We chose a new Christmas Story House ornament for our own tree this year, and Eric settled on a Major Award tie. And while I was tempted to pick up a pair of these pink bunny slippers, I opted against it, this year...

As silly as it sounds, it was hard for us to leave. We'd wanted to visit the house for so long, and we had such an incredible time while we were there. If we lived closer, we'd certainly make it a tradition to visit every year at Christmas time. I'd love to go in December, with snow on the ground and the lights all lit up, blasting the movie soundtrack. We will definitely make it a point to visit around Christmas one of these years, but for now we were just happy to get there now while we could!



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