Happy Halloween!

The past week has certainly been a roller coaster.  Cancelled trick-or-treating, uncomfortable nights resulting in impulse purchasing, and of course I have to give a nod to our dear friend Sandy.  Needless to say it’s been a bit busy here at Chicly Green, and I promise to give detailed accounts of all things fun, awkward, and hurricane related.  For now I just want to say Happy Halloween!

 

Clearly, part of my storm-weathering technique was carving jack-o-lanterns.  I think Happy Jack is my favorite.

 

 

 

My sister loved this “crazy eye” design.

 

 

Did you make jack-o-lanterns this year?

Carbon Footprint Reduction for “Dummies”

There is so much discussion these days about carbon footprints.  People are trying to reduce them, major corporations are offsetting them, governments are even trading for allowances for them.  The problem is that while the discussion of how big and bad they are, it’s very rare you hear a discussion about what can actually be done about them.  In fact, my circle of friends agrees that yes, carbon footprints are bad, but they can’t tell me clearly what a carbon footprint is or how they can reduce it.  So, let’s start at the very beginning.  A “carbon footprint” is defined as the amount of CO2 emitted by a particular person or group of people due to the consumption of fossil fuels.

Okay, so now that I know what it is, what can I do about it?  The obvious answer is to drive less, or switch to hybrid and/or electric vehicles.  We’ve all heard this lecture so many times we probably know it by heart: Carpool!  Public Transportation!  Bicycle to work! Buy a Prius!  In theory I support all of these points; in practice I’m aware they aren’t always feasible.  For example, I bought a car 2 years ago that is not a hybrid.  (Sorry fellow greenies, it was a little out of my price point.)  While living in the DC area I religiously either carpooled or took public transportation.  It was awesome.  But I no longer live there.  I live in a place that has put minimal effort into public transit, and absolutely No One in my neighborhood (or the two surrounding it) work anywhere near where I work.  According to what most people know about carbon footprints and how to reduce them, I am a terrible “environmentalist.”

In truth there are far more ways to reduce our carbon footprint than what many people realize, and it all starts at home.  Did the apples or eggs in your fridge come from the “local” big chain grocery store?  Try the farmer’s market instead; not only will you get a better price and help the local economy, but you’ll reduce your carbon footprint.  The eggs, apples, and myriad of other goodies at the farmer’s market have far less packaging, and travel a far shorter distance, than the stuff at your local Giant Wiggly Lion.

Check out your household appliances.  Three of the biggest culprits in your house are (in no particular order) the hair dryer, the fridge, and the T.V.  Ladies, if you towel-dry your hair before picking up your blow dryer, and then use is on the “low” setting, you’re cutting both carbon emissions and hair damage.  Keep your fridge at 37F and your freezer at 3F.  Anything colder and you’re just wasting energy.  As for the T.V, trade in just one hour a day of television for quality family time playing a board game or reading a book.

There are lots of other ways to cut your carbon footprint, you just have to look at the things around you.  Turn off unnecessary lights, go “unplugged” for an hour each day (fully power down your digital devices while you’re reading or arguing over whether or not “zoink” is in the scrabble dictionary), wash your laundry on cold.  The more we realize how much energy we use as individuals, the more we can do for each other as a society.

Modernized Wicked Witch

When searching for Halloween costumes, a lot of women I know get really discouraged, and I can understand why.  It seems that most often we’re only given two choices.  The first are the skimpy costumes labeled naughty/sexy (insert things which should never be naughty/sexy here) which scream “I have daddy issues and need attention from men NOW!”  The second is the “nobody wants these costumes” category.  This category includes everything from the “funny” costumes (I’m the socket.  He’s the plug.  Do you get it, or should I keep slamming sexual innuendo at you?) to the “old standbys” of green-faced witches and dowdy cut-from-sheets ghosts.  What happens if a girl wants to go somewhere in between?

A friend of mine works in the pediatrics wing of a local hospital.  She’s allowed to dress up for Halloween, but nothing too scary or too obscene.  While she’s fine with not being Sexy Ms. Pac-man (Worst. Idea. Ever.) she didn’t want to be the same boring witch she is every year.  She also didn’t want to spend a ton of money on a new kid-friendly costume, so I suggested she update it by giving the Wicked Witch a more modernized look.  She doesn’t have any use for stage make up so using a simple “Halloween Face Kit” here’s what I was able to come up with.

Start with a green base from the lash line to brow bone

The green in this particular kit was almost an army green when first applied.  It took almost 4 coats to get the right shade of green, and even then it wasn’t even.  Then again, for $5.00 at the Salvation Army, I expect you get what you pay for.

Taking black eye pencil, extend the brows from the arch to roughly a finger-width away from the hair line.

Extend “cat’s eye” point down onto cheeks to create “cracks” in the skin.

That cheap little pencil would benefit from a sharpening.  I should probably do that before working on my own costume’s make up.

Redden lips for definiti

 

 

In my mind she’s less “wicked” and more “cracked.”

Enough nod to the original that with a pointy hat people will know what you’re getting at, but you won’t be washing green out of your pores for weeks.

 

 

 

Pumpkin Munchin’

It wouldn’t be Pumpkin Week without being able to actually eat some pumpkin.  With 6 pumpkins to work with, I’ve had plenty to go around so I have two recipes for you today.

First up is penne with a creamy pumpkin sauce.  I will admit openly that I took this recipe from Martha Stewart’s site.  I’ve never tried to make pumpkin sauce before; it was nice to have something to reference.  Martha’s recipe calls for a can of pumpkin puree, but since I had 6 sitting around I decided to make my own puree.  Of course, I failed to take pictures of this process, but it’s fairly simple.

Pumpkin Puree
1. Remove tip of pumpkin, and cut pumpkin in half.
2. Scoop out seeds (and set aside to roast later!)
3.  Place the pumpkin halves on a covered baking sheet.  (I prefer tin foil, but it could be wax or parchment paper as well.)
4. Cover with foil, and bake in the oven at 350 for about  1 1/2 hours.
5. Let them cool, then peel off skin.
6. Place in food processor or blender, and puree until smooth.

I had significantly more puree than what Martha’s recipe called for, so I put the remainder in the freezer for safe keeping until I have time to make some pumpkin pie.

Now that my puree was ready, I moved on to making the actual meal.  For those you who don’t want to click the link, here’s the recipe.  Oh, and the gluten-free pasta is my addition.  I’m sure it will work just as well with plain old penne.

Penne Pasta with Creamy Pumpkin Sauce

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces (gluten-free) penne regate, or other short pasta
  • Coarse salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
  • 1 can (15 ounces) pure pumpkin puree
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 tablespoon white-wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more for garnish (optional)

Directions 

  1. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Reserve 2 cups pasta water; drain pasta and set aside.
  2. In pasta pot, heat oil over medium. Add rosemary and fry, stirring, until starting to brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer rosemary to a paper towel, leaving oil in pot.
  3. Carefully (oil is hot and will spatter) add pumpkin puree, garlic, half-and-half, Parmesan, vinegar, red-pepper flakes, and 1 cup reserved pasta water to pot. Stir sauce until heated through, 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Add pasta to sauce, and toss to coat. If sauce is too thick, add some reserved pasta water. Season generously with salt. Serve pasta sprinkled with fried rosemary and, if desired, more red-pepper flakes.

Now, about those seeds we’ve set aside.  Everyone knows you can roast pumpkin seeds with a little butter and salt and they will come out yummy.  I, however, don’t particularly enjoy making the same bar-worthy snack year after year, and I’ve had a bit of a sweet tooth lately, so I decided to try something a little different.  I wanted to see what would happen if I tried to roast the pumpkin seeds in the same mixture of spices I use for pumpkin pie.  They turned out more delicious than I thought they would.  Crunchy, sweet, with just a hint of salt, and they smelled delicious while they were roasting.

Cinnamon Spice Roasted Pumpkin Seeds 

Ingredients 

  • 2 Cups pumpkin seeds
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp sugar (I always use splenda baking blend, but not everyone likes that)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Directions 

  1. Wash pumpkin seeds, removing as much pumpkin pulp as possible, and set aside to dry.  Heat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Mix cinnamon, sugar, nutmeg, and salt together in large bowl.
  3. Mix butter, melted, into spices and stir until well mixed.
  4. Toss pumpkin seeds in mixture, spread onto greased cookie sheet and bake for 25 minutes.
  5. Flip seeds, bake for another  25 minutes.
  6. Take out, allow to cool, and enjoy!

Mumkins

What happens when you mix the traditional fall color of golden pumpkins with colorful pops of color?

Mumkins happen!

Someone gave me mums as a gift recently, but since I have zero experience with planting flowers, the poor pink flowers just sat on my step in their straight-from-the-store plastic container.  Then I found myself with an extra pumpkin while making my jack-o-lanterns for the season.  I remembered seeing these somewhere (though I can’t remember where) so I hollowed out my extra pumpkin and now my mums are extra cheerful and seasonal.

Pumpkin Coffee Spa

I have had one of those days.  You know those days.  Those alarm doesn’t go off, the dog takes forever, late to work, phone won’t stop ringing, nothing goes right kind of days?  By the time I left work I was exhausted, my feet hurt, and all I wanted was a nice relaxing mani-pedi.  Just a little bit of pampering to take the edge off.  I only had one problem: I still haven’t found a salon.  Finding a salon which uses only cruelty-free products for women’s cuts, let alone in their entire salon, has proven to be an impossible dream.  While I still have hope that my fabulous-yet-bordering-on-crunchy day spa exists somewhere in a reasonable driving distance, that didn’t help me today.  I needed to do something, so I started researching what I could do (quickly and easily) at home.  That’s when I found this recipe for using coffee grinds to make an at home spa treatment.

I have a habit of saving my coffee grinds.  They’re great for composting which, yes, most people know.  Did you also know they’re a natural flea repellent? They also soften and add shine to hair, along with giving some pretty natural looking highlights (or low lights if you’re blonde like me).  But more on all this later.  The point is I save my coffee grinds, and right now I have this scrumptious pumpkin coffee blend which I picked up from a local supplier a couple of weeks ago.  I gathered up my grinds, sea salt, and olive oil and (after giving the salt and grinds a good run through my coffee grinder to make the pieces extra small) I mixed them all together.

After coming out of the grinder, the grounds were releasing the most amazing pumpkin smell.

With everything mixed up and ready to go, I pulled out my old foot spa and gave myself an at home mani-pedi.  Even having to do the work myself, it was actually quite relaxing.  I was amazed by how soft and smooth my skin felt after using this scrub.  I even applied it as a face mask!  (It turns out that caffeine, when applied to skin as a topical treatment, acts as both an anti-inflammatory and a wrinkle reducer.  Who knew?)  By the time I was done pampering myself I had smooth, exfoliated, moisturized skin on my face, hands, and feet, lovely nails, and I smelled like pumpkin spice.

The nails were done in a wine color though. Wine is the “it” color for fall.

Pumpkin Week Starts With A Good Ale

It’s Fall!  That glorious time of year filled with brilliant pops of color, luxe fabrics, and of course – pumpkins.  Pumpkins are everywhere at this time of year.  They’re in our yards, pies, soup, coffee, air fresheners, shampoos, etc.  And why shouldn’t they be?  The arrival of pumpkins means the approach of Halloween, the start of the holiday season, and the promise of celebrations with friends and family.  So let’s raise our glasses in celebration of this glorious gourd! It is officially Pumpkin Week here at Chicly Green.

Ever since I was a little girl my dad would bring me home a surprise whenever he had to take a business trip: a state magnet, a collection of postcards, and one notorious occasion a pair of pink cowgirl boots that didn’t fit.  This tradition continues today, although usually it’s something more useful or grown up.  On a recent trip to New England, for example, it was a six-pack of pumpkin ale from a local microbrewery called Shipyard Brewing Company.  I have to admit I was a little dubious at first.  Pumpkin in my beer?  I wasn’t so sure I was excited about that, but dad was so proud of himself for finding me something local and consumable to send me from his trip.  So I tried it.

It was surprisingly delicious.  The pumpkin, with touches of cinnamon and nutmeg, was a perfect compliment to a pale ale.  The tastes and aromas were subtly blended, without any one flavor overpowering another.

Also, I love an excuse to use my “Redneck Beer Glass.”

Do you have a favorite brew from your local microbrewery?