Sarah’s Second Birthday Party

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Sarah’s Elephant Cake (tutorial from My Cake School linked below).

Sarah turns two today, but we celebrated her birthday this past weekend by inviting 40 of her closest friends over. I know that sounds extravagant for a kid’s birthday party, but one, we often have even more over for brunch (does that sound smug?), and two, at this age, the party is more for everyone else (all of our friends with kids). When she’s older, I’ll cut it down to her actual friends. Maybe.

The party was actually pretty simple to set up: I basically made a birthday cake and what I call TFAW food. When I worked for Things From Another World (the world’s finest online and brick-and-mortar comic book shop), I catered all of our signings. I started out with superhero-themed quinoa salads and fancy canapes. After being overloaded with leftovers (no one wants to eat quinoa at an Avengers signing), I ended up making simple food everyone likes–dips, fruit, veggies, and cheese–with a firm plan for anything left over.

This menu is simple, relatively inexpensive, and perfect for almost any casual gathering. The birthday cake is a bonus! If you’re not throwing a birthday party or just don’t want to make an elaborate cake, I suggest cupcakes or (even easier) brownies.

Sarah’s Second Birthday Menu

  • Elephant Cake: This tutorial was great, and not too difficult
  • Nathan Fillion’s Seven-Layer Bean Dip of the Gods: This is seriously delicious–I spread it in a 10″ x 15″ glass Pyrex dish, so it’s easy for people to dip through all the layers
  • Salsa and Tortilla Chips
  • Veggie Platter with Spinach Dip: My mother’s specialty
  • Fruit: I went with grapes and watermelon)
  • Cheese Platter with Crackers: Since this was a kid’s party, I kept it simple: a wedge of Brie, dilled havarti, some sharp cheddar, and string cheese

Unfortunately, I don’t have many pictures because my phone died the morning of the party. We served lemonade, Arnold Palmers, flavored seltzer, and sparkling wine.

But as important as planning a menu is, it’s even more important to have an exit strategy for the leftovers. Here’s what I’ll be doing:

  • Cake: Gone, suckers!
  • Seven-layer dip: I made ersatz migas for breakfast the other morning with some tortilla chips thrown in. I’ll be adding taco meat and making burritos with the rest.
  • Veggies: The cut veggies have been going into my husband’s lunch, and Sarah and I have been snacking on the dip. Fortunately we didn’t have a lot left over–if there were more, I would have made “Free” French Vegetable soup.
  • Fruit: Lunches, breakfast
  • Cheese platter: If you know me at all, you know I have no problem taking care of extra cheese. The slices have been very convenient for sandwiches!

Do you have any go-to party food? Post below!

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My Mom’s Famous Spinach Dip

Every time I throw a party, my lovely, thoughtful mother asks what she can bring, and I always say, “A vegetable platter would be great!” This is for two reasons: one, my mom makes a beautiful vegetable platter–the way she cuts and arranges the veggies is gorgeous. Two, she always makes her famous spinach dip, which everyone loves. It’s rich and creamy and zesty and fresh-tasting, plus the spinach lets you feel healthy.

My mom wants to make sure I tell you it’s from Cookery for Entertaining by Marlene Sorosky. The book is out of print, but that cover is etched in my memory for all time. One day I will make that watermelon whale! Ahem. Back to the recipe.

My Mom’s Famous Spinach Dip

Makes 3 1/2 cups

1 pint sour cream
1 cup mayonnaise
3/4 package Knorr dry leek soup mix, about ½ cup (I always use the whole thing)
1 (10-oz.) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well-drained
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1 teaspoon dry dill
1 teaspoon dry Italian salad dressing mix

In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine all ingredients until blended. Refrigerate until ready to serve, or up to two days. Serve dip with assorted raw vegetables.

This truly is a superb dip, perfect for veggies, crackers, bread, or your fingers. Don’t ask how I know the last one. Make it for your next party!

Sarah Is Two

img_5820Okay, all you jerks who told me to “Cherish every moment, they grow up so fast!” were right, because Sarah is two–and I don’t know how, because it certainly can’t have been two years since she was born. But I love her so much I can barely remember what life was like before her.

She’s gone from a sweet, chubby baby to a laughing, climbing toddler who loves nothing better than getting us to laugh. Oh, and eating cheese. This is my daughter, after all!

Sarah at Two:

  • I always get asked how old Sarah is, and they’re surprised she’s only two. At 35 inches tall, she’s as tall as her three-year-old friend Eva.
  • She’s sleeping through the night (yay!).
  • We’re still nursing, at least four times a day. I didn’t think I’d be that weird hippie mom, but ah well. I’ve still got tons of milk. However:
  • Because of that, I’ve never left her overnight. I guess that’s our next big step.
  • Sarah is obsessed with books. She wakes up calling, “Mommy! Book!” and insists on sleeping with one. I hope it sticks!
  • She also loooooooves elephants. And baby dolls. And pretending to sleep (her fake snoring is hilarious). And “hiding” from Mommy.
  • Her pronunciation of the words “sock,” “fork,” and “walk” all sound like the F-word. It’s awesome.

Sarah’s still a Mommy’s girl, although she enjoys Daddy as well. We might both play second fiddle to her brother Sid, who is still the best big brother ever. She also loves Sid’s best friend, Ernie, who is also crazy about Sarah. He’s a tall, stolid 12-year-old whose feats of strength and daring are legendary, so it’s so funny and cute to see him dote on Sarah.

Overall, we’re very lucky to have Sarah, and it’s been so cool to see her grow into a toddler. Happy birthday, my sweet baby. Here’s to many more!

 

I Did Something Horrible to My Toe

Okay, I just had my second-most-bizarre injury yet. WARNING: GRAPHIC TOE STUFF.
 
So I was walking across the dining room and got my big toe caught in the hem of my pajama pant bottom, bending my toe in and causing me to put all my weight on that poor, folded big toe, resulting in a giant CRACK sound.
 
It was weirdly painless, but I could tell something terrible had happened. After determining that I could move said toe, I decided to try to walk it off. I was then that a thin thread of blood appeared at the base of my toenail, and in a burst of horror, I realized the CRACK sound was me snapping my toenail at the base!
 
Then the stinging started. Then shock set in. I sat on chair, trying not to faint/barf while Sid and Scott brought me ibuprofen, warm wet washcloths, cold wet washcloths, a bowl, a band-aid, and eventually a cold pack.
 
I’m steady now and can hobble around, but super dreading losing my toenail. I’ve never done that before–I’ve never been a sports-type of person. What’s next? Ooh, I’m gonna barf.
Oh–in case you’re curious, my first-most-bizarre injury happened when I was 11. I stepped on a wooden toothpick and it went through my foot and you could see it on both sides. I think I almost barfed then, too.
 

Happy Monday! Oh My God That Baby

img_0224Happy Monday! On a Monday! What the what? I’m sure you’re tired of hearing this, but the last two weeks have been totally nuts. Here’s a brief rundown of what I’ve been up to:

GeekCraft Expo Seattle has been announced for December 10 and 11 at the Seattle Center (Facebook event)! This is very exciting for me, because GeekCraft Expo PDX was so successful and so fun. It’s also pretty nerve wracking, because I don’t know Seattle as well as I do Portland, so I’m feeling the pressure to get the word out. So far the response from exhibitors has been fantastic . . . I just don’t want to get overconfident.

The Doubleclicks are part of the Portland Mercury‘s The Undisputable Geniuses Of Comedy show September 16–and then embark on a California tour with Lucia Fasano, with stops in Santa Clara, Oakland, Burbank, and West Hollywood. Then, get ready for the Lucia Fasano CD Release Party with The Doubleclicks & More October 15 at Books with Pictures!

You can hear The Doubleclicks and Lucia Fasano on Geek in the City, a delightful podcast hosted by Aaron Duran.

Whew! Then, it was Rose City Comic Con this weekend, which means we had a ton of comics creators and other friends pouring into town. It was dinner party city here, which was a lot of fun for me, but so much work. Here are the recipes I used:

Dinner Party #1: We had Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá over, with Diana Schutz and Bob Schreck.

I was super prepared for this dinner party, so everything went smoothly. Everyone even wanted coffee with dessert, so I could feel like a real-life grownup and use the little coffee cups and saucers that came with my wedding china. Yes!

Dinner Party #2: Team Hellboy

Whenever I feed Mike Mignola, I have this crazy urge to serve him tentacles, which is what brought me to paella. Although this recipe didn’t include squid, so–ah well. This menu was also great because one of our guests is gluten free. I wasn’t quite as well prepared for this dinner, because I clogged our sink with potato skins (never again! I promise!) so my husband had to take everything out of the cabinet and work under there for half an hour to save my irresponsible self.

Rose City went well. I always have a small freakout before dealing with the public, even when (and sometimes especially when) it’s packed with people I know, or at least know of. But I talked to all the crafters, caught up with some pals, and even scored a Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men t-shirt.

But Elisabeth, you’re probably wondering, what’s with the “That Baby” title? What’s with the picture at the top of this post?

The other thing keeping me so busy is my about-to-turn-two bundle of snuggles and destruction, Sarah. She got hold of a red Sharpie (damn you Scott Allie and your editor’s trove of red pens!) and covered our couch in permanent ink in less than two minutes. Like, I was cooking, I realized she had gone very quiet, I went into the parlor, and . . . oh my god. This was the day of the Hellboy party, so I had to quickly turn the cushions over and give myself a hard mental shake. Fortunately, it’s an 11-year-old couch, and I had already scheduled a cleaning for it the next day (didn’t help the Sharpie, but the rest looks 100% better), but . . . still! I may try rubbing alcohol and see what I can do.

Whew! I got tired just typing this, so maybe I need iron or something. How was your week? Any magical Sharpie-removal tips to share? Help!

Yes You Do Have Time for Breakfast: Peanut Butter-Banana Smoothie

Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie

Yummy Peanut Butter-Banana Smoothie!

Breakfast, according to the popular saying, is the most important meal of the day. I ask: why does it have to be so early? When I am sleepy? While I used to take that extra 20 minutes for sleep, with two kids and a husband to feed, I no longer have that option. So I try to find quick, healthy (ish), filling breakfasts like this Peanut Butter-Banana Smoothie!

I had to make this smoothie a few times. My first couple of efforts weren’t banana-y enough, and I like a really thick smoothie (thin ones kind of gross me out). But I made this for my husband and I this week and . . . I finally got it!

Packed full of protein, fiber, calcium, multiple vitamins and nutrients and (let’s not hide from this) fat, this is a full, satisfying meal that is absolutely delicious! And it takes about 60 seconds to make. So without further ado:

Peanut Butter-Banana Smoothie

Serves 2
You Need:

3 frozen bananas, cut into chunks
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup full-fat plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup peanut butter (creamy or chunky, your choice)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp honey
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup ice cubes

Place everything in a blender and blend! Pour into two pint glasses and garnish with additional cinnamon, if desired. Drink!

You can, of course, omit the cow’s milk and yogurt and replace them with almond or soy milk; leave out the honey if your milk is sweetened.

Who’s going to try it? Do you have a quick, tasty breakfast to recommend? Post below!