Happy Monday! Pudding Is Ridiculously Easy, Landonness Is Next to Godliness & More


Note: this is not pudding.

Happy Monday! I swear, I “write” this blog every day in my head, it’s just so hard to find actual time to type! I have so much to say, but I figure I’ll start out by sharing what I’ve been up to lately:

GeekCraft Expo, the handmade geeky craft fair I’m involved with, has been exploding all over the place. We announced the dates for our Portland show—

NOTE: I just have to say, almost as soon as I sat down to write this post, I was interrupted by my now-three-year-old daughter who told me she had to go to the bathroom. This is also why I can never write anymore! For those keeping potty training score at home: number one, 95%, number two, .01%. Pray for me.

Back to GeekCraft! Our Portland show will be Mother’s Day Weekend, May 12-13, and we’re moving to the Oregon Convention Center! This is a big move up for us that will allow us to grow the show (more geekiness!) and provide a world-class experience for exhibitors and attendees. Exhibitor applications are here!

I’ve also been doing some freelance PR for Dynamite Entertainment, publisher of such comics as The Boys, Nancy Drew, John Wick, Doc Savage, and more! If you’re a Doc Savage fan, Dynamite has a great “Build a Bundle” deal over at Groupees for the next couple of days: you can get 39 digital comics for $4.99, or 95% off the cover price, plus you can save 70% off rare Alex Ross variant comics!


Artist Alex Ross: still awesome.

Kids Stuff

We went to Great Wolf Lodge in Grand Mound, WA this weekend—courtesy of a book-in-advance coupon I used a year ago (I’m a planner). This was our third time there, and it is surprisingly fun for parents, although it helps that Sid and Sarah love it sooo much. I’ll go into detail in a separate, future post, but my three main tips to save money at Great Wolf Lodge are: 1) book in advance (they usually have a promo code on site to use if you book at least 60 days in advance), 2) book for one night, but get there early to enjoy the pool and lodge the day of and day after your stay, and 3) bring cereal and fruit to eat breakfast in your room. We splurged on the breakfast buffet last year (with two adults, our two kids, and Sid’s two friends) and it was expensive, and the boys were mostly excited about the sugar cereal anyway.

In other kid business, I need advice! We’re making our annual trek to Massachusetts in March, and I need ideas: what toys/activities/games can I bring to keep a three-year-old entertained on a six-hour flight?!? Help!


But Elisabeth, the title of this blog post mentions pudding! Where’s the pudding?!? So I’ve been fascinated by this cookbook, Wildly Affordable Organic—so much so that I actually bought it after checking it out at the library. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this book before. Although I don’t really do the organic part (I am cheap), and it’s a vegetarian cookbook (we do eat meat), I love that it has seasonal menu plans, a monthly shopping lists, and cooking plans where you do the heavy lifting—say, cook five pounds of beans, two loaves of bread, pasta sauce, dessert—on the weekend, so weekly cooking is easy. But also! The recipes are weirdly addictive, especially the chocolate and vanilla pudding recipes. Pudding, which I haven’t eaten since I was a kid, and almost never from scratch! Turns out pudding is stupid easy to make, and if you make it from scratch (and place parchment right on the surface to keep a skin from forming), it tastes just like the canned pudding I loved as a kid! Memories! But also: pudding is good.

Other recipes I’ve recently made (and loved):

Pork Loin Stuffed with Spinach and Goat Cheese: this is a lot of work (butterflying pork loin was so fun!), but definitely worth it. I roasted it instead of putting it in a Crock Pot because it was faster.

Panna Cotta: aka, Italian pudding. It’s my little joke (not really a joke) that I hate chewing, this is further evidence. It was delightful!

Cream Cheese Olive Roll-Ups: I made these to bring to Great Wolf Lodge because I had most of the ingredients on hand, although I substituted sundried tomatoes for green olives.

Basic Pancakes: Is this a glamorous recipe? No, it is not. Is it easy and damn delicious? Yes. Listen, Martha Stewart knows what she’s doing, and we eat these at least once a week.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Rabbit Hole

So, I read Alison Arngrim’s Confessions of a Prairie Bitch and it was fabulous. Alison is the actress who played Nellie Oleson on Little House on the Prairie. Her life was insane (in ways both good and bad) and now she’s an AIDS activist and standup comedian who defends survivors of incest. She’s hilarious and an amazing person and I wish we could be best friends. Read it!

However. This sent me down a nutty rabbit hole. Not only did I then get Melissa Gilbert’s Prairie Tale (juicy and scandalous, but it was kind of sad that she thought then-husband Bruce Boxleitner was a healthy choice when it was so clear he was not. I hope her new husband Timothy Busfield is better) and then discover the hilarious and fast-paced Little House on the Podcast show by Kim Reed, but I got a little obsessed with Michael Landon (?!?) which led to the discovery that Highway to Heaven is on Netflix. I started watching it thinking it would be hilarious to see Michael Landon cast himself as an actual agent of God and weirdly touching to see him and Victor French (Mr. Edwards!) team up again, but it is legitimately pretty terrible and Landon was lucky it was pre-peak TV. I am still going to watch it all.


So far Michael Landon, angel, has solved elder abuse/neglect, alcoholism, the grief of losing your husband and young son tragically, and racism!

Oh, and I’m re-reading The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure. When I commit to a rabbit hole, I go all the way. Don’t even get me started on road tripping to Missouri, because it. Is. Happening. Someday.

So. What’s up with you? Post your updates and comments below!

Mock Pizza Hot Dog Salad

The Secrets of “The Stuff”


Mock Pizza Hot Dog Salad

The Stuff on hamburger buns, because we’re classy like that!

Because it’s the holidays and I love you, I’m about to let you in on a horrifying family secret. One that if you are brave enough to attempt for yourself, you will thank me for. In secret!

Okay. When my brother and I were little, our Grandma Benge used to make us something she called “Mock Pizza,” and BJ and I dubbed “The Stuff.” It was cheesy and melty and meaty and indescribably delicious—we couldn’t get enough of it, and we begged our mother to make it. For a long time she denied knowing anything about it, but our will (and appetite) was strong, and we wore her down.

Now usually, when I get to this part of the story, the listeners lean forward, ready to hear about some charmingly rustic, vintage recipe. That’s when I say,

“You take a pound of hot dogs, a pound of Velveeta, half a red onion, and mayonnaise, and grind them into a paste.” Looks of betrayal, panic, and revulsion soon follow.


What? It’s delicious!

But trust me! Spread this, um, delightful concoction (a cousin to such delights as ham salad) on sliced French bread and put it under the broiler—or, to be super special, spread it on refrigerated crescent-roll dough, roll ’em up, and bake them according to package directions—and you will be rewarded with one of the most delicious treats you will ever be lucky enough to eat! It’s pure alchemy!


Okay, this photo is a little gross. Just trust me!

The red onion is my innovation (my Grandma Benge used pimentos), but you could make your own adjustments: I imagine pickles, olives, and other add-ins would be very tasty!

The Stuff, aka Grandma Benge’s Mock Pizza

You need:


1 pound hot dogs (whatever your favorite is), cut into 1-inch chunks
1 pound Velveeta, cut into 1-inch chunks
1/2 medium red onion, diced
1/2-1 cup mayonnaise, to taste

Mix the first three ingredients in a bowl, then run it through the coarse setting of a meat grinder or pulse it in a food processor. You want it to be spreadable but not totally smooth. Stir in mayonnaise to taste!


The Stuff ready for action! And the apocalypse.

To use: Spread on baguette slices, hamburger buns, etc., and place under the broiler. Broil until the cheese melts and it gets a little browned. Delicious!

Alternately, you can spread refrigerated crescent roll dough with The Stuff, roll them up, and bake according to package directions. Warning: let them cool a little so you don’t burn off the top of your mouth with molten meat-cheese paste.

Add this to your next holiday get-together and delight your guests! Maybe just don’t tell them what they’re eating!

Do you have secret special holiday family recipes to share? Post them below!

Happy Wednesday! Thor Podcasts, Sexy Party Fashion & GeekCraft Expo

Thor350covercrop.jpgHappy Wednesday! I hope you’re all enjoying your spring–the hot weather finally arrived in Portland this week, and . . . we put up all the AC units in our bedrooms. I was not cut out for 90-degree weather.

I’ve been super busy with geeky projects and the kids–here’s what I’ve been up to!


As I mentioned the last time I wrote, I’ve started up a new Thor podcast, THOR: The Lightning and the Storm, with my friend Miles Stokes from Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men! We’re doing 13 episodes exploring Walter Simonson’s epic 1980s run on The Mighty Thor, and it’s been a lot of fun–and a lot of work! We’re covering three or four comics each episode, and our outlines are about 10 pages long. Plus we drive to Beaverton to record. This is serious stuff!

If you’re geeky–or you want to brush up on your classic Thor history before Thor: Ragnarok hits theaters, subscribe! We also have a special “zero issue” episode available for everyone who donates $5 or more to our IndieGogo campaign!

GeekCraft Expo PDX Nerd Wood

Wooden art by Nerd Wood Designs!

In other geeky news, GeekCraft Expo PDX returns to the DoubleTree Portland June 10 and 11 and ohmygosh that’s soon. We’re also throwing an epic kickoff party June 9 at Bridge City Comics with free beer (for those 21+) from Hop Valley Brewing, and prizes from Bridge City, Centerplate, Guardian Games, Ground Kontrol, Espionage Cosmetics, SCRAP PDX, and our exhibitors!


I’m still going through my spring/summer wardrobe and need to pick up a few things for this season’s 10-Item Wardrobe, but in the meantime . . . I needed a party outfit. And I realized I was having kind of an identity crisis, now that I am post-40 and post-baby.

In my 20s and 30s, my party style was tight. Literally. And short. Let’s say there were a lot of American Apparel dresses and not a lot of underwear.

But! American Apparel is no more, and I’ve shifted into classic, preppy wardrobe mode in recent years. And while this works really well for my everyday life, it made me feel like I was dressed for church when I went out for karaoke. If I have a babysitter and I’m out having fun and drinking adult beverages, I want to be sexy, dammit! But maybe not in a miniskirt.

Fortunately, inspiration arrived for me at the library, when Ines de la Fressange’s new book, Parisian Chic Look Book, finally came in. This was a fun one–first, the cover is metallic gold, and it’s filled with fun, classic looks with names like, “Date Night,” “Meeting Your Boyfriend’s Parents,” “Going to Court for Your Divorce,” etc. The “My Ex Has Invited Me to Dinner” look was exactly what I was looking for: a pencil skirt, a camisole, and a cozy jacket. Cute, sexy, comfy–I was sold.

My budget isn’t immense, however, so I promptly took myself to H&M. This is what I found: a sequined mesh camisole top, a black jersey pencil skirt, and a burgundy sweatshirt. Paired with some sandals, fancy makeup, and my garnet necklace, I felt I looked glamorous but not like I was trying too hard–or trying to look 25!

Twin Peaks

Finally: Twin Peaks is back! This created a lot of excitement in my house, especially for my husband (he loves David Lynch more than anyone I’ve ever known). We binged the first four episodes Sunday night, and I’m . . . intrigued. And frustrated. And wondering when we’ll see Audrey. But I knew from the beginning that this wouldn’t be a “reunion show”–this isn’t a Northern Exposure revival (although really, I would enjoy that as well).

Twin Peaks The Return

Here’s an article about the parallels between Twin Peaks and Gilmore Girls.

We did a Twin Peaks brunch (it happened again)! I’ll do a post later, but in the meantime, here’s a link to our Twin Peaks dinner party, in case you want themed eats and drinks when Episode 5 arrives June 4.

That’s it for now! I’m looking forward to blogging more after GeekCraft Expo is over–I still need to watch the new Netflix Anne of Green Gables show, and I am certain I will have many things to say. Plus, updates on my darling children (sorry Sid) and my Spring/Summer 10-Item Wardrobe. See you soon!

Fried Clams Clam Box Ispwich

Eat Better on the Plane & Other Musings

IMG_1093Hello all! I’m so happy to be blogging today–I’ve been dying to post the snack boxes I put together for our plane ride to Massachusetts last week for Spring Break (Spring Break!).

Now when I say “eat better,” I don’t necessarily mean we ate healthier–that’s not usually my primary goal in life. However, I was tired of spending too much money on food that wasn’t that great and came in too much packaging. I knew that if I could find the time, I could make us homemade in-flight snack boxes that would be tastier, cheaper, and offer more food.

I took my inspiration from one snack box that I actually love: Alaska Airline’s fruit and cheese platter: a triangle of brie, Beecher’s Flagship cheese, Tillamook cheddar, grapes, apples, Partner’s crackers, and a Seattle Chocolates truffle.

I only have two problems with this delightful platter: one, it tends to sell out (and I tend to be in the cheap seats in the back of the plane), and I need more cheese (on my headstone: Here lies Elisabeth Allie. Needs more cheese.).

I started with our longtime lunch containers from EasyLunchboxes.com, which I bought five years ago and use constantly. The large, medium, and small compartments make it easy to pack a lot of different types of snacks without them getting gross.

Next, I hit the grocery store for supplies. Here’s where I went:

  • The $5 and under box at my local supermarket’s cheese counter: here, I scored brie and some lovely estate gouda.
  • The salad bar: this is a great way to get just what you need with minimal packaging. I packed one of their large containers with salami, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, chickpeas, and chicken.
  • The bulk section: using my own containers, I gathered nuts, veggie chips, and yogurt-covered pretzels.
  • I also picked up some Babybel cheese, tangerines, and Ritz crackers (all favorites in our house), as well as some braunschweiger.

Here they are!

IMG_1093My box! Clockwise from top left: a tangerine, Ritz crackers, mixed nuts, brie, salami, cherry tomatoes. I asked for a plastic knife from an airport restaurant, since I doubt I could have gotten a metal one through security!

IMG_1094 (1)Sarah’s box: tangerine, Cadbury mini eggs (so irresistible), chickpeas, chicken, braunschweiger, baby carrots, estate gouda.

IMG_1097 (1)Scott’s box: My husband is, horrifyingly enough, forgoing cheese. So we have veggie chips, Ritz crackers, salami, chickpeas, tangerine, mixed nuts, and baby carrots.

IMG_1098 (1)

Sid’s box: Yogurt-covered pretzels (my son loves them), Ritz crackers, salami, mixed nuts, cherry tomatoes, tangerine, Babybel cheeses.

I put all the boxes in our sole remaining lunchbox cooler, popped them in our larger soft-sided cooler, and brought it on as a carry-on. Easy! When everyone got hungry, I passed out the boxes, and we were able to seal up the leftovers and minimal trash back in them to take them off the plane! Plus, portions were generous enough that we had leftover snacks to eat once we reached our destination, which was great!

So we spent a week in Ipswich, Massachusetts, visiting my in-laws. My brief notes (mostly food related):

The Clam Box has the very, very best fried clams I’ve ever had. Ipswich is known for its clams, and these were fresh and delicious. Look at them! Whole-belly fried clams are hard to come by in the Pacific Northwest, so I treasured my time with these.

Fried Clams Clam Box IspwichThe correct way to order coffee (or rather “a coffee”) at Dunkin’ Donuts: size, temperature, style. For example: a “medium cold coffee, black” is an iced black coffee, no sugar. A “medium hot coffee, regular” is a hot coffee with three cream, three sugar. I’m sure there are countless variations! And yes, we went to Dunkin’ Donuts with my in-laws for breakfast every single morning, where I got a “medium hot coffee, black” and a plain glazed donut. Yum.

The Ipswich Museum is delightful! They have a large collection of paintings by Arthur Wesley Dow, and their winter exhibit features a historically correct model train set that takes up an entire room and depicts Ipswich’s railroad in the 1800s. My son had a blast operating the trains and picking up cars! Also, one of the volunteers’ wives baked some incredible chocolate-chocolate chip-sea salt cookies that they gave out to visitors. Always back to the food with me!

It was a delightful trip, but I’m very happy to be home! More blogging soon, especially about a cool project that I have in the works that I am very excited about!



No-Dine-Out February Update!

IMG_0961.jpgWhy hello there! Geez louise, am I writing an update about last month a month late?!? I’ve been a bit busy. And I’m about to get busier (psst! I’m gonna have an announcement in the near future!).

But! To refresh your memory, my family and I pledged to not go out to eat in February, with a few exceptions (coffee and a pastry allowed, in very limited amounts; we already had plans to go to Great Wolf Lodge for a night; we had one Burgerville “cheat” night to use).

The goal: To virtually eliminate our restaurant expenses (which comprises 33% of our monthly food bill) without increasing our remaining food budget by more than 10%.

The result: Overall, we reduced our total food budget by about 9%–which was disappointing, and far off the mark in terms of only increasing our grocery bill by 10%! But I was pretty sure why: while our restaurant spending went down by 70% (I did take advantage of our “cheats”), our grocery bill went up by 37%. This was mainly because of Valentine’s Day (I splurged on steak and lobster), and because we held two or three dinner parties for eight–lots of comics folks were in town for Wizard World Portland (no I’m not linking to them).

Conclusion: If we were going to realize the full benefit of cutting out restaurants, I needed to similarly tighten our grocery budget. A no brainer for most, probably, but oh well!

Plus, we did eat out a few times, using a loophole I discovered near the beginning of the month: we used our weekly cash allowance instead of our food budget. While not strictly kosher, I was grateful for this for a few reasons:

  • I got super sick
  • I had a week where I cooked three freakin’ four-course meals and I was exhausted
  • If I can’t go out to eat occasionally life is terrible

Other observations:

  • Cooking virtually every meal (with a few exceptions) was, overall, easier than I thought. When I made our monthly meal plan, I made sure to add in any activities/events we had, so I was better about planning something super easy the night I had book club, for example.
  • While the urge to have a treat is a powerful inducement to go out to eat, I actually felt like social pressure was even more of a factor. The idea of looking cheap (or like I was no fun) made me more uncomfortable than passing up a sushi dinner.
  • Using my “personal funds” (my weekly cash allowance) made me a lot more selective about going out to eat–the reality of handing over cash made it much more real!

Finally, the most interesting thing I learned during this experiment is how to make pressed sushi (pictured above)! I’ll post the technique/recipe . . . before June. I hope.


cinnamon rolls

No-Dine-Out February Okay I Ate Out


Yummy yummy cinnamon rolls!

Okay, I have a confession: I went out on Sunday. For a snack. That was sushi. I had a birthday party at a brewpub that I had already planned to attend (before coming up with my brilliant no-dine-out February plan), so I fed the family and headed out. My compromise: to use my personal weekly allowance to buy something small, so I wasn’t technically eating into (HA! I am a genius) our food budget, and I could still be social and not viewed as a cheapskate (my personal albatross from years of waitressing).

And then. When I got to the brewpub? The party had ended early! And me, with no dinner. And, more importantly: my husband was home with the kids and putting our toddler to bed for me. I suddenly had an extra hour and a half, out and about, on my own, with a couple of twenties in my pocket! Reader, what would you have done?!? I was hungry! I eschewed the brewpub and got a mocktail (don’t snicker) and a small plate at a nearby restaurant (okay it was Yakuza).

So . . . yes, I already cheated. But I don’t feel (too) badly about it. And the rest of the week has been going very well. I’ve been meticulous in outlining our various social activities in our monthly meal plan–for example, since I knew I had the birthday party that night, and a Super Bowl party during the day, I planned to make grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for the family. Quick, cheap, and universally beloved! Yes, that also describes me.

Here are some recipes that have helped me out this week–all from the Pioneer Woman:

  • Seven-Can Soup: Open seven cans, pour them in (no draining), heat it up–boom, boom, boom, you’ve got some pretty tasty soup! I added tortilla chips and avocado.
  • Cinnamon Rolls: I made a huge batch of cinnamon rolls this morning (this recipe makes at last 60). I’m going to freeze them in packs of six and dole them out over the next month or two. Note: I actually use the dough recipe for her Parker House Rolls (it has butter instead of oil), and instead of the coffee glaze, I use the glaze from her Orange Marmalade Rolls.
  • Best Breakfast Potatoes Ever: I also made these for the month–it makes a ton! I’m going to freeze them in portions and thaw as needed!

I served my family (and Sid’s best friend Ernie) fresh cinnamon rolls and breakfast potatoes this morning and they lost their minds! I am actually really good about making breakfasts during the week (we need to eat, and we’re not going out before Scott goes to work and Sid to school), but it is nice to be prepared, and I’m hoping this makes us less tempted to go out on the weekends. I do love going out to brunch.

That’s my update thus far! Feel free to throw tomatoes–I need a couple for next week anyway.


No-Dine-Out February?!?


Farewell, sweet sushi! Picture from Haru Sushi.

Reader, I swear this seemed like a great idea right after Christmas. Like most Americans, we had spent too much money. I (specifically) had eaten too much candy. I was feeling undisciplined. And wasteful! What better way to get back on track, I thought, than to pledge to not go out to eat for an entire month? February seemed like a good pick–the shortest month of the year, I don’t need to be a hero–but also, it seemed so far away, back in January! Now it’s here, and I need a plan.

Crunching the Numbers

At first glance, it doesn’t seem like it would be too much of a change–looking at our spending on Mint over the past six months, we go out to eat an average of 12 times per month. This usually includes:

  • 4-5 brunches (I admit, I love not cooking breakfast on the weekends)
  • 3-4 lunches (usually my husband, on those days I don’t pack him a lunch)
  • 3-4 dinners (either sushi, Burgerville, or pizza delivery)

Currently, eating out comprises about 33% of our monthly food bill, with groceries totaling 61.5% and coffee shops about 5%.

The Goal

My goal for this month: to virtually eliminate our restaurant expenses without increasing our overall food budget by more than 10%.

The Exceptions

One: we are going to Great Wolf Lodge for a night this month. While we’ll bring food for breakfast/snacks, we’ll most likely eat dinner there. Two: getting a coffee and a pastry at a coffee shop is allowed, but I’m going to try to limit that to once a week at the most. Three: if I go completely crazy and cannot bear to cook one night, we can go get Burgerville.

The Plan

This is where I’ll put my monthly meal plan to the ultimate test. I’ve been using it for a year, so I just need to make sure to populate it with food I’ll be excited to eat–and cook–all month long!

Looking at when and where we typically eat, I can clearly see my weak spots. First up: I honestly dislike making breakfast and enjoy going out on the weekends. The solution? I’ll add things like cinnamon rolls, bread pudding muffins, and individual egg breakfast cups to our monthly meal plan and freeze them–then I can put breakfast on the counter to thaw at night and warm it up in the morning!

Second: While I’m pretty good at packing lunches for my husband, I’ll need to be extra vigilant this month. Making them the night before is best–I’ll need to get back in the habit.

Third: It’s a little eerie how we almost only go out for (or get delivered) three things: sushi, Burgerville (a regional fast food restaurant here in the Pacific Northwest), and pizza (although we do get Thai occasionally). This is because if I’m going to go out, I’m going to get things I either can’t or don’t want to make myself (homemade pizza is a paaaaainnnn). So I’ll be experimenting with oshizushi (pressed sushi) this month. As for burgers, we’re already covered–I received the Bob’s Burgers Burger Book for Christmas, and we’ve pledged to try a new burger every other week (so Sid doesn’t miss out). As far as pizza, there’s always Totino’s. Aw yeah!

But What About Burnout?

Yes, I love to cook. But even I have nights I just don’t feel like cooking. To combat burnout, I’ll be stocking up on go-to convenience foods like Kraft macaroni and cheese, Campbell’s tomato soup (with grilled cheese, of course), fish sticks and tater tots, and Seven-Can Soup. But I’ll also be making big batches of soup and freezing them for last-minute dinners.

Valentine’s Day

Actually, I think it’s been years since I’ve gone out to dinner on Valentine’s Day. As a former server, I think that’s for suckers anyway–too busy, too expensive, etc. Instead, I’m going to follow a Valentine’s Day menu from Martha Stewart (although I’ll probably do cherry pie for dessert).

So . . . wish me luck! I promise I’ll come clean if I fail miserably. And if you have any tips for me, post them below!