Beach Towel Luau

Happy Monday! Links to Make Your Day Brighter

Beach Towel Luau

Low-key decor for last weekend’s luau!

Happy Monday! We survived 90+ degree weather this weekend, and it’s supposed to top 91 today–how’s it going for you?

Cooking:

We have some very good friends who throw a “Family Dinner” almost every Friday night. We finally go the chance to reciprocate, so we threw a luau! Fun, relatively cheap, and easy to feed a crowd. As you can see above, I relied heavily on beach towels for decor, as I’ve been trying to generate less waste. I had to buy leis, however. I justified it by saving them so we can use them on an annual basis.

The kalua pig recipe I use could not be easier. You just throw a little salt and liquid smoke on a pork butt, and simmer it in a slow cooker for 24 hours. The meat melts into a puddle of deliciousness.

I am a huge fan of Hawaiian mac salad. A little too much of a fan, as I made way too much (I will eat it all, eventually). The Wanderlust Kitchen’s recipe is simple but quite yummy.

This Shrimp Coconut Curry with Spaghetti Squash isn’t Hawaiian, per se, but it is colorful and tasty.

Comics:

Writer Scott Snyder (Batman, Wytches) gave an interesting interview where he discusses using horror as an antidepressant.

And, here’s an interview with director James Gunn about the upcoming (yay!) Guardians of the Galaxy 2.

I’m planning on writing a post about how to design a baby nursery (even if you suck at it) this week, as well as some more fashion-y stuff.

Have anything to share? Post it below!

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I Need a New Title

Ain't they cute?

Ain’t they cute?

(A few days ago): “You still can’t talk about TFAW without saying, ‘We,'” my husband said. “You need to get over it.”

(Last week): “Why don’t we let our guest, Elisabeth Allie, introduce herself?” “Hi there, I’m a former marketing manager for Things From Another World, now stay-at-home mom . . . ”

(My Twitter description): Comic lover. Former marketing chick for . A baby is my boss now.

It’s true. I quit officially quit my job in December to stay home with Sarah, but I’m still clinging to my old title like a security blanket–my identity. Who am I without a job? I’m afraid of the answer.

After all, I think–why would podcasts like Rachel and Miles X-Plain the X-Men or Ask Me About My Draculas ask me to be a guest, if not for my (now over) job? I still message a pal at work: Hey, so-and-so just announced a new book, this would be a great signing! I pull out my work history (history) as some sort of credentials whenever I meet someone new. It’s like I’m saying, I wasn’t always a housewife! People paid me to use my brains and (try to) make money.

Which is completely insulting to what I’m doing now: of course I have to use my brains to run our house and raise our children. And I’m “making” money by figuring out ways to trim our budget and use our funds wisely. So what am I so afraid of? Here’s a short list:

  • I’m afraid of losing touch of what’s happening in the comics world. Not only do I love comics, but it’s my husband’s life, as well. But now, when I hear comics news, I feel like I’m on the outside with my nose pressed against the window.
  • I’m afraid I won’t have anything interesting to talk about. I’m obsessed with zero waste and the 10-item wardrobe. I’m cooking and gardening. I’m fascinated with every developing detail of Sarah, and I can talk about Sid until the cows come home. But it’s hardly thrilling material to people who aren’t also parents or stay-at-home moms, and I dread seeing that slightly . . . glazed look on people’s faces, the moment I know I’m boring them silly.
  • I’m afraid I’ll never go to San Diego Comic-Con again. I know I know, so many of you will say, “I wish I didn’t have to go!” You’re fucking liars. It’s the big show, the big game, and even the parts that really suck are better than staying at home and seeing announcements on Twitter. It sucks!
  • I’m afraid that if I do go to SDCC again, it will be as . . . a wife. A nonentity. I was joking last night that if I went again, I would probably volunteer to man someone’s booth . . . and then I realized I wasn’t joking.

So who am I? How do I describe myself now? I don’t want to make up some cutesy, insufferable made-up title, and I don’t want to go back to work full time. I love being home with the kids, actually! But . . . I’m restless . . .

Murder She Blogged

Happy Monday! Links to Make Your Day Brighter

Hydrangea Flower Arrangement

I made a flower arrangement. Deal with it!

Happy Monday! I hope you all had great weekends. Ours was packed: birthday/housewarming of one of my best friends, brunch with Sid’s mom, partner, and kids, and then a barbecue with my folks, brother, and girlfriend. A lot of cooking. And I’ve got a lot of cooking ahead of me in the next two weeks (two dinner parties and a brunch). I’m taking a break after the Fourth of July, I swear!

Links!

First up: I was graciously invited to guest on Ask Me About My Draculas, a vampire-themed Google hangout-podcast hosted by Ma’at Crook and Kel McDonald. This week, they introduced me to the hilarious New Zealand comedy What We Do in the Shadows.

Food/Cooking:

So I am the official birthday cake baker for most of my friends, but the above-mentioned birthday girl is paleo, which offers certain challenges. Fortunately! Said friend is also fantastic at picking recipes that are delicious, so I’ve made her this Lemon Meringue Cake the past two years. It looks like a cake, it feels like a cake (nice and spring-y), and it is delicious. Bonus: you’ll end up with about a pint of leftover lemon curd.

Another paleo winner (for the same party) is this Bacon Lime Sweet Potato Salad by PaleOMG.

I finally discovered (and used) the mini food processor attachment to my Cuisinart Hand Blender–it only took me three years of owning it. I was making a little baby food on the fly. Anyway, this sucker consistently impresses me (and it was a wedding gift from the birthday girl!). If you’re looking for a good immersion blender or are just building your kitchen and want one tool that can be a blender, hand mixer, smoothie maker, and food processor, I recommend it highly.

Household:

Ugh, it is warm and we have a lot of fruit, so a bunch of fruit flies cropped up this weekend. This apple cider fruit fly trap worked wonders.

Comics:

Archie vs PredatorI read the first three issues of Archie vs. Predator this weekend, and it was a total blast–in the vein of Afterlife With Archie, it is not for small children. The Predator crashes the kids’ jungle vacation and then hitches a ride to Riverdale, and the results are incredibly gory. Writer Alex de Campi (Grindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight) balances the traditional “Archie” tone with the darker material, and artist Fernando Ruiz (Life With Archie) handles the character moments and action superbly. The final issue is due out 7/22.

Murder, She Wrote:

My favorite Murder, She Wrote blog, Murder, She Blogged, is recapping my very favorite episode: “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall.” This season five finale was originally going to be the series finale (before Angela Lansbury agreed to continue) so it is extra! Dramatic! Seth!

Got anything to share? Post it below. I’ll just leave this here from Murder, She Blogged.

Murder She Blogged

SETH HAZLITT STOP MAKING JB CRY YOU BASTARD.

A Great Read: The Good Gut

Really fascinating article–has anyone else read the book? I need to brew kombucha.

The Zero-Waste Chef

The Good Gutmicrobiota

noun     mi-cro-bi-o-ta     -bī-ˈōt-ə

: a microbial community

microbiome

noun     mi-cro-bi-ome     -bī-ˈōm

: all the microbial genes in a microbiota


I first read about the Sonnenburgs—a husband and wife team of Stanford PhDs studying the microbiota—in an article Michael Pollan wrote for the New York Times a couple of years ago. When I learned they had written a book, The Good Gut, I headed to my independent book store on the pub date to pick it up. I knew I would love it. I was right.

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Chocolate Cake

Yes You Can: Make the Best Damn Chocolate Cake in the Whole Wide World

Chocolate Cake

The very best chocolate cake in the world. So seductive!

When I was a child, my goals were simple: I wanted to read all of the Nancy Drew mysteries, and I wanted to eat more cake. My library card helped me achieve my first goal. But when I would ask my mother to bake me a cake, she would tell me she was too busy and that I would have to make it myself.

I quickly agreed, but there was another condition to contend with: my very crafty mother told me she would not buy me cake mixes: instead, I would have to look in her cookbook, then look in the pantry, and see what I could make.

My mom has no time for dilettantes, and I think she thought that I, as a third grader, would quickly give up. Instead, I made a chiffon cake with seven-minute frosting (and her assistance). But I wanted more. I wanted chocolate! During my trip through the pantry, I stumbled across our box of Hershey’s Cocoa, and discovered Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cake.

To this day, this is the most popular cake I make on a regular basis–and it’s cheap and super simple. It’s also rich, moist, and so chocolatey, it begs for vanilla ice cream (or at least a glass of milk).

When I got older and had more money, I tried other, seemingly more promising, chocolate cake recipes, bursting with butter (this one calls for vegetable oil) and good-quality melted chocolate. But everyone would eat them politely and then one person (usually my brother) would sigh and say, “This is good, but I really like that other chocolate cake you make …”

This is a great birthday cake. Or fantastic cupcakes. Or a superb sheet cake. I’ve even quadrupled the recipe and made a memorable wedding cake, with the addition of fresh raspberries between the layers.

Chocolate Wedding Cake

Add some raspberries and ribbon, and voila! A wedding cake!

But again: this is super simple, and simply delicious. Even a novice baker can make this, just read the recipe and follow the instructions!

Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cake

Makes one two-layer 9-inch cake, or one 9×13-inch cake, or 30+ cupcakes

You need:

2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Hershey’s Cocoa
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans and line the bottoms with waxed paper.

2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.

3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost with “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Frosting. Makes 12 servings.

Variations:
One-Pan Cake: Grease and flour 13x9x2-inch baking pan and line the bottom with waxed paper. Heat oven to 350° F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely. Frost.

Three Layer Cake: Grease and flour three 8-inch round baking pans and line the bottoms with waxed paper. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost.

Bundt Cake: Grease and flour 12-cup fluted tube pan. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 50 to 55 minutes. Cool 15 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack. Cool completely. Frost.

Cupcakes: Line muffin cups (2-1/2 inches in diameter) with paper bake cups. Heat oven to 350°F. Fill cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake 22 to 25 minutes. Cool completely. Frost. About 30 cupcakes.

Wedding Cake: Heat oven to 350° F. Make one batch, pour into two 9-inch round pans (greased floured, the bottoms lined in waxed paper). Measure the depth of the batter. Bake as above. Make a triple batch. Grease, flour, and wax paper two 6-inch round pans and two 12″ round pans. Pour batter to same height as the 9-inch layers in each pan (use any leftover for cupcakes). Bake 6-inch layers for about 22 to 25 minutes (test with a wooden toothpick–when it comes out clean, it’s done). Bake 12-inch layers 35 to 40 minutes. Test with toothpicks. Proceed with unmolding as above. Trim layers and decorate as desired (I spread raspberry jam and placed fresh raspberries between the layers of each tier of the cake above, before frosting the exterior in chocolate).

Chocolate Raspberry Wedding Cake

Detail shot of the interior of the chocolate raspberry wedding cake. I am very particular with berry placement.

“Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Frosting

Makes 2 cups

You need:

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
3/4 cup Hershey’s Cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Beat butter. Alternately add powdered sugar, cocoa, and milk, beating to spreading consistency.

2. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla.

Make it. Eat it. Bring it to parties and celebrations. Enjoy.

Morning Nap

  Sarah didn’t settle into a regular nap pattern until around three months–quite the Christmas gift to me–and oh man, the morning nap is my favorite.

It still seems like a miracle that after being up for two hours, she’s ready to go back down, but it is so sweet. And after being woken up by her (at 6:30 am), making breakfast for everyone, and doing the dishes, this is my pocket of downtime, just for me.

Her naps are getting shorter now, and she’s down to two a day, at nearly nine months (!!!). I’ll miss you when you’re gone, morning nap!

GroVia Hybrid Diaper

Six Items I Should Have Added to My Baby Registry

When I created my baby registry about a year ago (I used Babylist, FYI), I had no practical experience with babies. So my research consisted of Googling phrases like, “Best Baby Car Seat 2014” and plugging the “winner” into my Babylist.

However! I was fortunate enough to have some experienced mamas go off registry and give us things I never would have thought of–that have since become invaluable in terms of saving time and preserving my sanity, and I thought I would share them here.

Note: All of the gifts I received were amazing, thoughtful, and useful, and I am so grateful to our friends and family, who were so generous. These are just the things I was a stranger to, pre-baby. Thank you everyone!

  1. Baby Play Gym

    The exact Baby Einstein Play Gym we have–you can switch out the toys in these to keep baby entertained.

    Baby Play Gym: When my aunt sent me a Baby Einstein play gym, I thought, “Cute–for when she’s older,” and stashed it under the crib. Little did I know how this would change my life: when Sarah was two months old (and just coming out of a three-week-long fussy period that often left me in tears), I laid her under it–and she was enthralled. She had never reacted to a toy before at this point, so it was incredible to see her respond and “talk” to it. Even better, it soon kept her occupied for up to 20-30 minutes–long enough for me to, say, write a blog article. I could even (before she started rolling) leave the room for a moment to grab a load of laundry and fold it next to her. Once Sarah could sit, I got an activity jumper off Craigslist–amazing. And that version traps that roll-y baby so she can’t get into mischief

  2. Happiest Baby on the Block DVD

    Sanity. Saver.

    Happiest Baby on the Block DVD: So about that “fussy” period I referenced above? Some people call it colic, but the Happiest Baby on the Block dude refers to the first three months of an infant’s life as the “fourth trimester,” and says they are still more like a fetus than a baby at that point. That’s why they freak out. He offers some very simple techniques to calm your baby and help him or her sleep longer, and by God, they really did work a lot of the time. Even when they didn’t, it still made me feel better and more in control on those days when I was home alone with Sarah and she decided to cry . . . for hours . . . for seemingly no reason. Get this. Watch it before you give birth, I wish I had.

  3. Babysoy Kimono Top

    So easy, so cute!

    Baby kimono tops and gowns: You know what you don’t want to do with a tiny baby who you’re afraid you’re going to break? Pull something over his or her head. Dressing a baby gets much easier later, when they can move their heads and limbs, but in the beginning, it’s like trying to pour a bowlful of jelly into a sausage skin. Kimono tops and gowns are super easy. Open it up, lay the baby down, wrap it up: done. My Mom got me these kimono bundlers from babysoy.

  4. Clothes sizes 3 months and up: Newborn-size clothes are for suckers. You might have a tiny baby. Mine was 21.5″ long at birth (8 lb 4 oz), and I could barely squeeze her into the newborn footie pajamas I brought to take her home! Plus, for the first couple of months, Sarah only wore a diaper, a swaddle, and a hat, unless we were going out (we rarely got out of the house). So I ended up with so many cute newborn outfits that were barely worn! Start with the 3 month size. Even if they’re a little big, your baby will be growing so quickly, they’ll be too small before you know it.
  5. Carters Sleep and Play

    Sarah lived in these!

    One-piece baby outfits: Once you recover enough to be embarrassed by your practically naked, unfashionable baby, you will be ready to dress him or her in actual clothes. However, I suggest you start slow, with footie pajamas (Sarah lived in Carters Sleep and Plays) or other one-piece outfits. They’re easy to dress your baby in–no coordinating, no keeping track of socks–and they’re really easy for diaper changing. My two cents: zippers are nice because they’re fast, but they also mean you have to practically undress your baby to change a diaper. Snaps are more of a pain, but you can just take the legs out as needed. If the weather’s cold and you have a zippered outfit (and are trying to keep your baby sleepy during nighttime diaper changes, which is a worthy goal), slip him or her into a short-sleeved onesie under the footie pajamas. Footless one-piece baby outfits are a little more flexible, size-wise, while your baby grows, but I found keeping track of socks was a pain.

  6. GroVia Hybrid Diaper

    The most important thing: diapers.

    Diapers: This was the biggest duh of all. Hello, the things you will definitely need, no matter what, and will always use, no matter what, are diapers. Although I love my GroVia cloth diapers, I wish I had asked for starter packs of several kinds, so I could compare. The same with disposables: I kept her in those the first few months, and again, it would have been nice to have several types on hand.

So, here are the things I haven’t been able to live without while bringing up baby: what are yours? Pass your wisdom along, mamas!