Happy Monday! Dark Places and Breakfast Burritos

Fudge Brownie & Cookie Dough Cake

Cake, cookie dough, and brownies: the ultimate birthday cake.

Happy Monday! I hope you survived your weekend. Our weekend was glorious because we finally got rain! I know that people think we get rain pretty much year-round in Portland, Oregon, but it’s been a warm, dry year, and a super hot summer (100+ degrees at times), so everyone was really so, so happy to get the rain. Especially me, because I didn’t have to drive 20 minutes to our garden plot to water. Lazy!

Books and Movies

Scott and I watched Dark Places, the Charlize Theron movie based on Gillian Flynn’s (Gone Girl) novel of the same name, and it was . . . not good. Probably why it’s already on iTunes. I remember loving the book, so I pulled it out and I’m going to read it again, but off the top of my head, these were some of the major issues:

  1. Charlize Theron is a wonderful actress, but horrible casting for little Libby Day, the now-grown survivor of the horrific mass murder of her family. Libby is small, weak, and mean–a stunted failure at life. Charlize Theron is a tall blonde goddess who looks like a model. The trucker caps did not disguise that $200 haircut. At all.
  2. The structure of the book had three different narrators: Libby in the present, her mother in the past, and her brother in the past. Obviously that wouldn’t work in a movie. They had a lot of flashbacks, and some of them flowed into the present-day action seamlessly. Others . . . did not.
  3. The casting of the younger versions of the characters was terrible. No one looked at all alike, except Andrea Roth and Chloë Grace Moretz as Diondra. The jarring non-resemblances took me right out of the movie.

One bright spot: I thought Christina Hendricks was excellent as Libby’s strained, worn mother. She turned in an understated but expressive performance, even as her character makes choices that make no sense.

I’m also reading Felicia Day’s new memoir, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost). It’s a charming peek into what it was like growing up as a very isolated, geeky, smart girl. Mainly I’m psyched to learn that she was into both Anne of Green Gables and Trixie Belden. I hardly ever meet other people who love Trixie. Bob-Whites of the Glen forever.


Each year for his birthday, my brother and I do a Birthday Cake Challenge. He finds me a bonkers cake, and I make it! This year I made this Fudge Brownie & Cookie Dough Cake and it was a showstopper. This should be someone’s wedding cake. It is that gorgeous, and the chocolate-chip cookie dough frosting blew my freakin’ mind!

I’ve been hitting a mental block for breakfast, lately. I feel like our typical breakfast of coffee cake or muffins, fruit, and orange juice is just too much sugar. We can’t eat scrambled eggs every day, however. And my 10-year-old, Sid, isn’t quite up for toast with avocado. This morning I whipped up some breakfast burritos: sausage, scrambled eggs, salsa, and cheese. They went over pretty good–I’m going to experiment with breakfast pizza next.


Sarah turned 11 months last Friday–incredible–so her first birthday’s coming down the pike, soon, and I must get a menu together. We’re doing a small friends and family party. While I have a pretty good idea for a simple cake (no fondant or marzipan for me, thank you), I will be making this zucchini and lemon soup, for two reasons. One, zucchini was Sarah’s first solid food. Two, we have a ton of zucchini. I’ll let you know how this goes. Wait. This should be under food! Oh well.

Do you have any non-sugary breakfast ideas? Did you like Dark Places? post below!

Summer Vacation

Notes on a Summer Vacation

Summer Vacation

Kicking off summer in style: cleaning Sid’s room. What can I say, I’m the fun parent.

School starts tomorrow for Sid (fifth grade!), and I can feel myself tear up just thinking about it–which is surprising, remembering how panicked I was back in June at the prospect of having a 10-year-old and a baby home all day for most of the summer.

Summer Vacation

Dino dig at the Portland Children’s Museum–a little young for Sid and Ernie, a little old for Sarah.

Determined to keep Sid (and me) from weeks of too much TV, I scoured the Internet for things to do and filled our “Summer Activities” calendar with so many good intentions. Library events! Dinosaur digs at the Portland Children’s Museums! Pool times! Perhaps we could take a tour of all of the fountains in downtown Portland (we did visit the one at Waterfront Park), or explore all of the different neighborhoods and parks (um, no)!

Summer Vacation

Solo trip for me and Sarah to the Portland Rose Garden.

Some things were great successes and became part of our regular schedule: Book Babies at the library (the other mothers and librarian are going to miss Sid so much), and our visits to our community garden plot (we’re now reaping mountains of tomatoes). But there has been a fair amount of TV and other screens (so many computer games), and definitely not enough reading–although Sid does like reading to Sarah. And playing with Sarah. And teaching Sarah to walk. Those kids love each other.

Summer Vacation

Sarah and Sid at the park.

Looking back, some notes:

  • Planning our days around Sarah’s naps limited our adventures more than I thought they would–I’m looking forward to being able to leave the house for more than two hours next summer.
  • Oh, it was soooo hot this summer. 100-plus degree weather made the idea of getting in the car and going somewhere very unpleasant. So we spent a lot of time in the basement–where the TV is.
  • I learned a lot more about video games (and Agricola) than I ever wanted to.
  • I learned a lot more about crappy kids’ TV shows that I never never want to see again. Lab Rats and Slugterra are the worrrrssssst.
  • Sid ended up doing four different week-long day camps spread out throughout the summer: one week of Grandparent Camp with my folks, a week of Timbers soccer camp, and two Trackers camps. This was a perfect mix–he got to hang out with other kids and have fun, Sarah and I still got plenty of time with him, and it wasn’t too expensive.
Summer Vacation

Sid and Ernie double rainbow! OH MY GODDD!

It was wonderful to have Sid home with us as much as he was–not only because he was a huge help with Sarah, but because he’s so funny and sweet and weird. His ability to make complex games out of almost anything–a swing set, for example–is astounding. We’re gonna miss him during the school day. We love you Sid!

Summer Vacation

Next summer: more reading!

But, I have lots of plans for next summer–it’s going to be a challenge, coming up with things to entertain an 11-year-old and a year-and-a-half old. I need to start another calendar . . .

Garden Time

Happy Monday! Links to Make Your Day Brighter

Happy Monday! After a rough wakeup at 4 am (thanks, Sarah), she and I slept in until the glorious hour of 8 am, which meant she skipped her morning nap (a.k.a. my writing time), so this post is late. But hopefully still welcome!

Events and Geekery

Felicia Day of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog and Geek & Sundry is in Portland today, signing her new memoir, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), at 6 pm at the Cedar Hills Powell’s. In her book, Felicia details growing up geeky, complete with her addiction World of Warcraft, which inspired her hilarious web series, The Guild.

What, you’ve never watched The Guild? I have a link for you here. It’s charming and hilarious. In the meantime, watch Do You Wanna Date My Avatar, my favorite of her videos!

So. Many. Tomatoes.

Garden Time

Sid watering the garden!

We are swimming in tomatoes–we’re harvested more than 20 pounds so far! So my Mom and I will be canning my roma tomatoes tomorrow, and I’ll be using this water bath canning technique!

One of my favorite things to do with fresh, homegrown tomatoes is to make a simple sauce and serve it over spaghetti. I like this Fresh Tomato Sauce recipe from Martha Stewart, but I like to add fresh basil.


Oh my god, I spotted this 23 Incredibly Helpful Charts For New Parents post on BuzzFeed the other day–wish I had these handy oh, 10 months ago when Sarah was born! Read them, save them, live them!

That’s what I’ve got. I’m currently writing some stuff about the end of summer break and beginning of the school year–tune in later this week!

Anne of Green Gables Tea Party

Anne of Green Gables Annotated

The Annotated Anne of Green Gables. Now you can understand all that jazz about the Tories!

Anne of Green Gables has been a part of me for so long, I don’t remember when I first read it. The first volume about the misadventures of romantic, impulsive, ridiculous Anne Shirley might have been a gift from my dad, who always brought books home for me from his business trips. Or perhaps I borrowed it from the library?

All I know is, the book quickly became a place to me that I loved to visit, where a neglected orphan girl with an immense imagination could find love, acceptance, and independence when staid, sober siblings Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert accidentally adopted her. They were expecting a boy.

Anne of Green Gables Tea Party

The spread for our Anne of Green Gables tea party: fruit, raspberry cordial, plum cake, cherry shortbread, and tea sandwiches.

I quickly snapped up all the books in the series, grabbing them greedily from bookstore shelves and devouring them. I looked up the poetry they referenced in my dad’s books, and studied the clothing of the period at the library to try to form a more complete picture. And then I heard PBS would be airing a TV movie. Made in actual Canada. I swooned, in proper Anne fashion.

Needless to say, I was a huge fan of the Sullivan Anne of Green Gables and the sequel. (Although I didn’t like how they condensed Anne of Avonlea, Anne of the Island, and Anne of Windy Poplars in the sequel: I wanted three-hour movies of each of them!) And I’ve never seen Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story, which wasn’t based on any of the books and is wrong wrong wrong. No.

In junior high, my “bosom friend” and I wrote each other notes as Anne and Diana and had big plans to put on a play. While the play never materialized, I was able to throw a tea party for the two of us, including raspberry cordial. I promise I did not set her drunk.

Anne of Green Gables Tea Party

Raspberry cordial–not currant wine, I promise! I served it half and half with club soda.

When I heard that Jonathan Crombie, the actor who played Gilbert, suddenly died this spring, I made plans with another Anne friend, Kari, to have a tea and watch the first movie. We had a wonderful time, and I thought I’d share my recipes here, in case you’d like to do the same.

Many of them are from the official Anne of Green Gables Cookbook, and several are my interpretations of what Anne intended to serve Diana at their tea party: fruit cake became plum cake (okay it’s prune cake, but delicious), and instead of cherry preserves, I made shortbread with dried cherries and orange.

Anne of Green Gables Tea Party

Closeup shot of the plum cake and cherry-orange shortbread.

Anne of Green Gables Tea Party

Poetical Egg Salad Sandwiches
Cucumber-Mint Tea Sandwiches
Iny’s Prune Cake
Cherry-Orange Shortbread Cookies
I subbed dried cherries for cranberries
I selected a variety called “Lord Bergamot” because it sounded so romantic
Raspberry Cordial
I made a quarter-recipe and served it with club soda for sparkle

I set up a coffee table downstairs, queued up my Anne of Green Gables DVD, brought out my best china and teapot, and settled in with my kindred spirit Kari for a perfectly lovely afternoon!

My 10-month-old daughter Sarah joined us for part of the movie, and while she enjoyed my basil egg salad, I don’t think she had the attention span for the story. I’m hoping we can make it a yearly thing as she grows up!

Anne of Green Gables Tea Party

Aerial view! Note the annotated Anne of Green Gables.

Have any of you thrown an Anne tea party? What did you do? Post below!

Basil Egg Salad Sandwiches

Oh, egg salad. How I hated you as a child. And how wrong I was. Well-made egg salad is amazing, and so easy to make. Chances are, you’ll have everything you need right in your fridge–except, perhaps, the fresh basil, which really makes it.

This is the recipe I used for my Anne of Green Gables tea party earlier this month!

Basil Egg Salad

Makes 2 regular sandwiches or 8 tea sandwiches

You need:

Four large eggs
Best Foods or Hellmann’s mayonnaise, to taste (start with 1/4 cup and go from there)
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 Tablespoons fresh basil, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
4 slices firm white or wheat bread

Place your eggs in a saucepan and cover them with water. Bring to a boil, covered, over high heat. Once the water reaches a boil, turn off the heat and let the eggs sit for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare a large bowl of ice water. Drain the eggs and place them in the cold water for at least 10 minutes. Then, gently crack the shells all over and remove them under running water.

Dice your eggs and add them to a medium bowl. Add the mayonnaise, mustard, basil, salt, and pepper. Taste your salad and add more mayo, mustard, salt, or pepper if needed.

Spread your slices of bread with mayonnaise and divide your salad between two of them, topping your sandwiches with your other two slices of bread. If you’re eating them immediately, slice them in half and enjoy.

If you’re making tea sandwiches, cover the sandwiches and refrigerate them for at least and hour. Then, using a serrated blade that you wipe clean after each cut, slice off the crusts, then cut each sandwich into either four squares or four triangles. Enjoy!

Deluxe Basil Egg Salad

When I’m feeling extra fancy, I add chopped sundried tomatoes (which have been rehydrated in hot water) and chopped kalamata olives.

Happy Monday! Links to Make Your Day Brighter

Nap. STRIKE! The view as I type.

Nap. STRIKE! The view as I type.

Happy Monday! This post is last because Sarah has decided to go on a nap strike today. Late, short morning nap and no afternoon nap. Oh boy. She’s rattling around in her playpen while I type this up.


I was so sad last April when Jonathan Crombie, the actor who played Gilbert Blythe in Anne of Green Gables, died that I made a date for tea and to watch the movie with my friend Kari. Schedules being what they were, we finally were able to get together this Saturday. There was tea. There was raspberry cordial. There will be (someday) a blog post! In the meantime, here are some recipes from the Anne of Green Gables Cookbook.

I’m gearing up for my brother’s girlfriend’s baby shower this weekend! My Mom and I are having so much fun with this. We chose Tiffany blue, black, and white as the colors, along with pandas (my brother’s girlfriend’s favorite animal). While designing some of the tags and things, I came across a Tiffany font that’s pretty close to the real thing. I’ll be sure to take pictures and post them!

Our Twin Peaks dinner party was so much fun last May that we’ve decided to throw a Twin Peaks brunch in September! I can get a lot more people over for brunch than dinner (50+ versus 14), and there was a lot of breakfast food on the show.

The Twin Peaks revival on Showtime won’t arrive until 2007, but TVLine’s Twin Peaks Is Back: 14 Burning Questions Season 3 Must Address article should refresh your memory and pique your interest.

Zero Waste

I know, I know, I had a temper tantrum about this last week. But I’m still committed to reducing our waste. Thus far, I’ve only done curbside composting, but with our big new community garden plot, I might take Zero Waste Chef’s simple advice and just start throwing scraps on the ground outside!

In the same vein, school’s starting again soon, but my EasyLunchboxes are starting to break down after three years of constant use. Tempted by these stainless steel LunchBots at Life Without Plastic.


Oh my god, I am so far out the loop I didn’t even realize there was a Star-Lord and Kitty Pryde series coming out! Issue #2 is out this week, and I’m gonna hunt #1 down as well.

Speaking of comics, here’s a preview of Abe Sapien #25, with a quick word-association interview with the co-writer (and my husband) Scott Allie.

That’s all I got! I have so many blog posts in my brain but I need to send them out through my fingers and onto the Internet . . .

The Baby Diaries: Ten Months

Sarah hit the 10-month mark last Thursday while we were on vacation! Here’s my update.

I'm ten months old and I'm a happy lady!

I’m ten months old and I’m a happy lady!

Vital Stats:

Um, I’m not sure. She’s taking a nap right now. She’s huge! Bigger than the one-year-olds at Book Babies!

  • Sarah is finally crawling on her hands and knees, yay!
  • She’s also quite determined to walk, grabbing my hands and hauling herself up and stumbling around the house. She’ll even jump down off the sofa while we’re holding her.
  • The little lady can pull herself up, and . . . sit down! Kind of. It’s more like a controlled drop.
  • The big news: there are finally some teeth! Her two bottom teeth are slowly coming in. She’s been fussy this past week, but infant ibuprofen has been taking care of it. I went a little crazy and bought her one of those Baltic amber necklaces, but then I did a little research and realized the choking hazard probably outweighs the (unproven) benefits. Nice parenting.
  • Solid foods have been coming along nicely. We’ve moved beyond simple one-ingredient purees: I’ve started blending up our dinners (for example: pasta with peas and prosciutto), and she gulps it down just fine.
  • However, nursing is still going strong. This is probably why Sarah is a giant, cute Hulk baby.
  • Personality-wise, Sarah’s still sweet and friendly. She gets a little separation anxiety and is still a mama’s girl, but . . . I’m still a daughter’s lady. Not quite ready to leave her for more than three hours. I’ll probably need to work on it.

I’ve been taking her picture each month, ending at 12 months. I’ll post a gallery then!

Things I Forgot to Take Camping

Hey Elisabeth, remember us? No . . . ?

Hey Elisabeth, remember us? No . . . ?

Remember when I blogged about my compact, flexible 10-item camping wardrobe? It was pretty cool, right? I was super prepared for camping. I had checklists! But, at the end of the day, I forgot a couple of .  . . oh . . . minor items. Like my sneakers. And my razor.

Camping in sandals: not fun. There were socks involved. Forgetting my razor was less important (it was camping, after all), but even more frustrating, because I always forget my razor. How many disposables have I purchased over the years in convenience stores in San Diego, Seattle, Dayville? Dozens!

Well, I’ve had enough. From now on, I’m treating all travel like convention travel! I started with some pretty decent checklists, but I left off the things I thought were no-brainers. (Like decent shoes, and oh yeah–a sweatshirt or jacket for Sid. I am usually the jacket Nazi!)

So now I have a Travel Checklists folder in my documents. Right now I have a Camping Checklist and a Go-Bag Checklist of general essentials (you would not believe how much conditioner my husband needs). After each trip, while I’m doing laundry and unpacking, I’m going to review these checklists and add to them as needed.

As god is my witness, I will never be hairy agaiiiinnnnnnnn!

So, how did the camping/beach rental wardrobe go? Pretty good, although I’d make one change and swap the coral cardigan for another T-shirt. My chambray shirt pretty much fills the same purpose, and it would have been nice to have one extra shirt. Although I never wore the dress (we decided to skip dinner out and eat at the beach rental), I was glad to have it on hand just in case.

10 Item Wardrobe

Sorry coral cardigan, you’re outta here!

Do you have any travel tips or travails to add? Post them below!

Happy Monday! Links to Make Your Day Brighter

Happy Monday, everyone! Hope your weekend was good. We just got back from a week-long camping/beach rental vacation and, while it was a blast, I am so happy to be home. My bed! My kitchen!

Fort Stevens State Park was amazing. The campsites were shady and large, there were great bike paths, the lake was gorgeous, and the showers, while slimy and gross, had plenty of hot water. The one bummer? While the Fort Stevens Museum was interesting, the actual Fort Stevens military site was incredibly boring. Everything is preserved, but empty. No signs, no context, no information at all. It was like walking around a huge, empty basement.


I give camping with a baby a C+, maybe a B-. The Pack N Play was essential, both as a clean place for her to hang out in outside, and as her crib. However, while we have a six-person tent, it was a tight squeeze for the three of us plus Sarah in her baby cage. Plus, she kept waking up in the middle of the night and crying. Since crying it out isn’t really an option when you’re surrounded by people in tents, I was up the majority of the first night and finally put her on the air mattress between me and Scott.

But! To get to the point. With all the camping stuff we had to bring, plus all the baby stuff, our (borrowed) truck was super packed. I think next year we’re going to book one of the Deluxe Cabins and forgo tent camping until Sarah is a little older. Plus, I’ve always had a thing for log cabins.

I was actually (for once) pretty good about not bringing too much food on our trip, and making stuff that was tasty, too! We did Hawaiian Grilled Pizzas (note: I actually made them in a skillet), and they are my new favorite camping food.

Wall art at HWY 101 Burger.

Wall art at HWY 101 Burger.

Our next stop: a house in Lincoln City, OR, where I lost myself in the bliss of laundry. My affection for the smell of a campfire goes up in smoke (c’mon, I can’t help it) as soon as we break camp. The house was great, but the real highlight was a trip to HWY 101 Burger. They really are the best, and the closest thing we have to In-N-Out. The meat is fresh, never frozen, the special sauce is solid, and you can get grilled onions on your 101 (one patty + one slice of cheese), 202 (two patties + two slices of cheese), 303, or even 404 (you get the picture). Plus, the man who runs it is great with kids. He got Sid’s name and called it for our order, wrote his name in ketchup in a boat of special sauce, and even gave him some quarters for the video machines and pool table because there was a wait. Sid was psyched.

Sid and Scott at the Oregon Coast Aquarium.

Sid and Scott at the Oregon Coast Aquarium.

Weirdly enough, our trip ended up having a shipwreck theme. It started when I picked up a copy of my favorite childhood book, The Swiss Family Robinson, to read to everyone. Then, there ended up being an actual shipwreck of the Peter Iredale on the beach near Fort Stevens. Then later, at the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport? The Secrets of Shipwrecks. I couldn’t have planned it better myself!

Phew! I definitely want to write about camping and vacation food, but I have more laundry to do . . .

Baby Boy Beach Nursery

Baby Boy’s Beachy Nursery

After writing about designing my daughter’s nursery, I’ve been itching to try my hand at a baby boy’s room. And when my brother announced that he and his girlfriend were expecting a boy, that was all the excuse I needed!

Since I was really pleased with the quality and color palettes of the Serena & Lily crib sheets I got for Sarah’s room, I immediately went there and started browsing. I was drawn to their Madras Crib Sheet for two reasons: one, the plaid fabric looked exactly like a shirt my brother would wear, and two, it included so many colors–aqua, navy, red, brown, white, and yellow–that it would provide maximum flexibility when it came to the rest of the decor!

After getting the blessing of my brother, I picked up the sheet and couple of swatches. But, since I couldn’t leave well enough alone, I decided to use the swatches to create my own fantasy baby boy nursery–with a beach theme–and tried out Polyvore for the first time.

As with Sarah’s actual nursery, I tried to pick things that could still be used as their son grows up, and I had lots of fun with all of the colors! The result is below.

Boy's Nursery

So what do you think? Am I the most meddling big sister ever? I just can’t help myself.