October 13, 2013

My boys are in the "Star Wars" phase where everything must be "Star Wars" related...from pj's, to Lego Star Wars, to movies, to bed spreads... So, last year we decided to make a Yoda pumpkin to put outside our front door. Now, this is not a pumpkin carved to look like Yoda (I do watch "Halloween Wars" on Food Network and am always impressed on how amazing and fast the artists can do it...), this is an easier way to do it, and also, it's something you can keep and use again for the following year! In the past, when I made a penguin and a bat pumpkin, I used real pumpkins and painted them. The work turned out pretty good, but by the time Halloween came, the pumpkins were all moldy on the bottom... So, when we decided to make a Yoda, I went for practicality. First I bought a synthetic, already colored green pumpkin at Hobby Lobby (so I didn't have to buy paint and color the pumpkin). These synthetic, foamy pumpkins are really easy to use, and I can poke holes in it, cut it, or glue anything onto it. Then, I bought 4 peel-&-stick, adhesive-backed felt papers, 2 peel-&-stick big size wiggly eyes, and popsicle sticks. Finally, for the Yoda body, I bought a Yoda outfit (size 18 months) and grabbed an old pillow. I will give the step-by-step instructions, and I'm also including a sample of the ears, eyes, and hands, so you can just print it out, trace it, and cut it! For the eyes, you have two alternatives: you can trace the eyes onto the pumpkin and use white acrylic paint, or you can buy white peel-&-stick, adhesive-backed felt paper. It's up to you!  

You will need:
  • synthetic green pumpkin
  • 1-2 sheets of light green peel-&-stick, adhesive-backed felt paper (1 extra in case both large ears don't fit on the same paper)
  •  3-4 sheets of dark green peel-&-stick, adhesive-backed felt paper (1 for the hands, 1 for the large ears, 1 for the small ears, and 1 extra in case both large ears don't fit on the same paper)
  • white acrylic paint OR 1 sheet of white peel-&-stick, adhesive-backed felt paper
  • 2 peel-&-stick wiggly eyes (large size)
  • 2 popsicle sticks
  • glue
  • scissors
  • sharpie
  • Yoda costume (size 18 moths)
  • small size baseball bat
  •  Peel off the sticky sides of both the light green and dark green felt papers and glue the sticky sides together (so on one side you have light green and on the other side you have dark green).
  • Trace both large ears onto the light green felt paper (*I'm providing a sample of both ears).
  • Cut out both ears.
  • Trace the small ears onto the dark green felt paper, cut them out, peel them off, and glue each one on the middle of each large ear.
  • Take the popsicle sticks and glue each one of them on the back of the large ears (on the dark green side, BUT leave about 1 inch of the popsicle stick out).
  • With a sharpie, trace the eyes on the pumpkin and paint them with the white acrylic paint (it will need at least 2-3 coats, so each time you paint, let them dry and then paint another coat, until you can't see the green color anymore). OR
  • Trace the eyes onto the white felt paper, cut them out, peel them off, and glue each one on the green pumpkin (about 2 inches apart).
  • Attach the wiggly eyes to the eyes.
  • Hold the ears next to the pumpkin, above the eyes, and when they look right, mark a small spot (with the sharpie) where you want to place them.
  • Insert the ears, by putting a little pressure with the exposed popsicle stick (it's not necessary to push too hard).
  • Take the sharpie and draw Yoda's eyebrows, nose, mouth, lines of mouth, and chin.
  • Take the pillow and put on the Yoda's costume. Insert the top of the pillow with the baseball bat inside the hollow end of the pumpkin. Think "scarecrow"-like effect.
  • Trace both hands onto the dark green felt paper (*I'm providing a sample of the hands-Mine has 5 fingers, which the boys later corrected me saying Yoda only has 3 fingers, so I'm giving you the sample with 3 fingers).
  • Cut the hands out, peel them off, and glue each one on the sleeve/body of the Yoda outfit (*please see picture).
  •  Have fun! And "May the force be with you!" :D

October 10, 2013

Here's another delicious, creamy, authentic Brazilian dish that is pretty easy to make and can be prepared in about 45 minutes. Moqueca de Peixe (fish stew) is a frequent favorite meal in northeastern Brazil, where I lived most of my life. Moqueca is usually made with onions, green and red peppers, tomatoes, cilantro, and garlic, and we usually serve it with rice. It's prepared with coconut milk and an oil called "oleo de dende" (palm oil). Dende oil really adds a special afro-brazilian flavor to the fish stew; however, dende oil is hard to find in the US (unless you live in Miami, Boston, or Dallas), so I have been using olive oil as a replacement.
Here's the recipe:
  • 1 1/5 lbs fish filets (I use tilapia), cut in cubes
  • Fish seasoning (I like Weber Zesty Lemon)
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 3-4 chopped green onions
  • 1 bunch chopped cilantro
  • 3 Tbsp palm or olive oil
  • 3 cups coconut milk
  • *For the rice recipe, please check out my "Hungry For Brazilian Food?" Post
  • Marinate the fish filets with fish seasoning and lemon juice for about 20-30 minutes.
  • In a cooking pot, add the olive oil and saute garlic, tomatoes, onion, red and green peppers, green onions, and cilantro for about 3 minutes (medium heat). Add fish and saute for an extra 2 minutes.
  • Add coconut milk and cook for about 20 minutes on low heat or until fish is cooked.
  • Serve on top of rice.
  • Go for seconds! :)

October 1, 2013

Come and meet local authors like me at the  2nd Annual Northwest Arkansas Author Book Fair @ the Springdale Public Library in Springdale, AR! This wonderful event will happen this Saturday, October 5, from 2:00-4:00pm. Don't forget to bring a few bucks to get SIGNED copies of great books!