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

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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:

Geekery:
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!

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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!

Cooking

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.

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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!

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GeekCraft Expo PDX 2017

Happy Monday! Thor Stuff, Twin Peaks & 10-Item Wardrobe

GeekCraft Expo PDX 2017Happy Monday, folks! Hope you’re having a wonderful start to the summer. I’m using this little lull to catch up on my blogging, woo!

Local Happenings

GeekCraft Expo PDX concluded June 11 and–whew–I was tired afterward. It was a great show. Our exhibitors are so great. Not only are they insanely talented and obsessed with all things geek, but they’re genuinely nice people! You can find all of our Portland exhibitors here. Up next: the GeekCraft Expo Seattle Holiday Market November 25-26!

It seems like as soon as I slow down a little, something else pops up that I cannot resist! I’ve just started working with Pairings, which bills itself as “Portland’s Weirdest Wine Shop and Bar,” and they are amazing. I went to their “Salmon 5 Ways with Rosé All Day” event right before Mother’s Day with my co-parent, Myndi (she discovered the place), and I had such a great time! Pairings focuses on making wine fun and accessible, so they pair wines to adjectives and personality traits–which means they have wines paired to Harry Potter characters, female superheroes, astrological signs, and more! Next they’re pairing eight wines to eight characters from Animal House. June 22-25, $25!

Geekery

Did you know that I am now nerd famous? It is TRUE. Well. Kinda. Anyway, the latest episode of my podcast with Miles Stokes, Thor: The Lightning and the Storm, is up! We’re going through Walter Simonson’s epic 1980s run on The Mighty Thor, and we’ve finally reached one of the most hard-hitting, metal moments in all of comics: the Executioner’s Last Stand!

I’m also recording a guest spot on Titan up the Defense, another local podcast I enjoy immensely. Brothers Hub and Cory alternate reading (and discussing) New Teen Titans and Defenders. I have a ginormous soft spot for New Teen Titans (thanks to my cousin Bryan’s collection), so I’m psyched to join in. Plus! They allow drinking during podcasting! Miles would never. Ha!

Finally, I’ve been invited to guest on Comic Book Cover Story, a podcast that features my good friend (and former TFAW co-worker) Sean Wynn and Kurt Loyd!

Fashion

With summer right around the corner, I need to spruce up my Spring/Summer 10-Item Wardrobe, so I’m going through my current clothes and shopping with my mom later this week. Get ready for a post next week, and maybe a prep post this week!

Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks is in a category by itself, because really . . . where would you put it? I just have to say episode 7 was intense. I admit I was kind of wavering about where it was going. I actually love “Dougie Jones,” but it’s super frustrating how no one will take him to a doctor! I mean, a man supposedly shows up one day with new hair and wardrobe, 20 pounds lighter, and can barely string one word together? Come on. But I love it. I love every moment (almost). I sit with my eyes as wide as possible, in silence, absorbing every second.

Confused? You really should have been prepared for that. But Laura Hudson’s wonderfully written Twin Peaks recaps may help.

That’s it for now! Man, I’m just glad I got to blog today. Do you have any Twin Peaks theories? Wardrobe hints? Other podcasts to check out? Put them in the comments!

Felicity American Girl Doll Restored

An American Girl Restores a Felicity Doll (and Loses Her Mind) Part I

Felicity American Girl

The original catalog: Felicity Merriman!

This past weekend seemed like it was going to be ordinary, perhaps even a little boring. I didn’t need to record an episode of THOR: The Lightning and the Storm, we didn’t have major plans–we could just laze around the house and take Sarah to the park at Buckman. As we left, we noticed a garage sale across the street and strolled by. As I walked past random books and toys, kitchenware, and clothing, I spotted her lying on a blanket. Felicity.

Ragged and frizzy, her signature side tendrils nowhere to be seen, wearing purple glitter shoes with a crumpled “Rose Garden” gown, Felicity was instantly recognizable to me as the redheaded Colonial American Girl doll I used to quietly squee over as a teenage babysitter going through the children’s Pleasant Company catalogs. And now, for $30, she could be mine my daughter Sarah’s! The lady even threw in a stand.

Felicity American Girl Doll Garage Sale

Garage sale Felicity: needs a little cleaning up.

A quick history: Pleasant Company introduced their line of American Girl historical dolls in 1986. The original three included Kirsten, the Swedish pioneer, Samantha, the ladylike Victorian, and Molly, the spirited WWII-era girl. Felicity, the spunky Colonial lass, was introduced in 1991–about the time the catalogs started flooding my neighborhood. They were (and are) of very high quality, with period-accurate clothing, accessories, and furniture, and each came with a line of books that dealt with such topics as war, child abuse, slavery, and other weighty issues.

They also were (and are) very expensive. In 1991, a Felicity doll and paperback book was $82. Add her entry-level accessories, and the total came to $108. A full Felicity set in the early ’90s, including the hardback books, clothes, tea set, school set, party set, winter set, toys, clothing, furniture, horse, and dozens of other items came to $1,332. I am not kidding. I did the math.

So owning a Felicity doll was out of reach, not only because I was 16 years old (the horror), but also because there was no way in heck I could have afforded it. But when I was younger, I had a very deep appreciation for dolls (I had two Kimberly dolls I was slavishly devoted to), and I was very impressed by the level of detail that went into the clothes and accessories when I pored through the catalogs. She had a Shrewsbury cake set with tiny cookie cutters! A silver chocolate set! I rued that I was not a younger–and richer–woman.

With all this swimming through my head, I handed over the cash and took my Sarah’s Felicity doll home, where I took to the internet to do some research. It appears that this Felicity doll is an early, pre-Mattel one: she has the softer red eyelashes, and there is ribbon edging at the base of the wig. The body is in great shape structurally, as are the eyes. The main issues were dirt, ink, and glitter on the limbs and face, frizzy hair that needed a good brushing, and someone pierced her ears. Also, while she still had her original “meet” dress, it was stained and crumpled, and she was missing the original shoes, stockings, and undergarments.

Fortunately for me, there are hundreds and hundreds of American Girl videos on YouTube, most shot by actual pre-teens. Did you know you can straighten an American Girl doll’s hair?!? Or curl it? While I won’t be trying that any time soon, I did learn that the best way to clean the doll is to use a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, which I quickly did, removing the ink from her feet and glitter from her face. I brushed her hair (I even found a few tendrils) and tied it back, then hand washed the dress and hung it to dry.

The next day I touched up the dress with the iron and redressed Felicity–much better! She has “official” undergarments coming her way thanks to my Dad, who wants my Sarah’s doll to be properly dressed, and I may have found replacement stockings and shoes for cheap on Amazon, and I may have ordered them.

But my biggest find? The Pleasant Company actually released doll dress sewing patterns, for those girls who had crafty moms, grandmas, or aunts. While I found some physical patterns for a pretty penny on Etsy, I found free pdfs online at AG Playthings. So, if I want to go totally crazy and make her a mob cap or a Christmas dress (who am I kidding I am totally crazy), I have the option.

Felicity American Girl Doll Restored

Ready for some new shoes and stockings!

I mean, I have time, right? Sarah is only two, and the dolls are meant for kids eight and older, right? I’ll totally be done playing with my her Felicity in six years.

Great Balls of Cheese

Happy Monday: Gilmore Girls, MSW & Cheese Balls

Great Balls of Cheese

Photo via Gluten Free Girl!

Happy Monday! It’s been a long time since I’ve done one of these updates, but I’m delaying my Winter 2017 10-item wardrobe post until later this week. I decided I needed one more item, and I found something for $10 on ThredUp. Fingers crossed. To the links!

Current Events

The Women’s March took place this past Saturday, and estimates place attendance at 2.9 million. Even more amazingly–no arrests! I stayed home with Sarah here in Portland, but my husband went with our son and his former wife, and said it was an inspiring show of unity.

What got me a little choked up was seeing all of the Princess Leia-related Women’s March signs, especially so close to Carrie Fisher’s death. Carrie Fisher was an outspoken broad of the first order, and I feel like she would have approved.

What’s next? I thought The Atlantic had an interesting take, comparing the demonstration to previous protests in Russia and their aftereffects.

Cool Stuff

My amazing husband, Scott Allie, and our son Sid put together an epic Gilmore Girls/Murder, She Wrote crossover comic for me for my birthday, bringing Brian Michael Bendis, Mike Norton, Dave Stewart, and Nate Piekos together to help make it. It is one of the very best things I have ever received in my life. Sid wrote most of Jessica Fletcher’s dialogue himself! More details at Nerdist.

Gilmore Girls Murder She Wrote Comic

Amazing, right?

Every year for Christmas, my parents buy me a set of Soma pajamas and I love them so much. They are cute and comfortable and have pockets. This year I got some that are gray-and-white striped with a little silver, and I just noticed they are way on sale.

My friend Liza got me Great Balls of Cheese, a cookbook dedicated to cheese balls, and I am obsessed. I will make every single one of these!

Geekery

I’m expanding my role with GeekCraft Expo to include all of their upcoming shows (including some that haven’t been announced yet–yay!). I love being able to work with so many awesome crafters and see their nerdy goods! Exhibitor applications for GeekCraft Expo PDX 2017 are open until January 31, so make sure to fill yours out now!

I’ve also been really enjoying working with The Doubleclicks! You can check out their free online show 1/26 (with special guests the Library Bards), or catch their #NerdNightOut shows 2/11 in Seattle and 2/12 in Portland!

As regular readers know, I’m a huge fan of podcast Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men. I’ve just been invited to guest-host again next month, I’ll keep you posted! In the meantime, listen to their latest episode, which covers Excalibur’s Cross-Time Caper and the aftermath.

Phew! I hope you all are enjoying January. I must admit, I’m relieved to have the holidays over with. Portland got about 10 inches of snow and then some ice, which prolonged Sid’s Christmas vacation (which was actually pretty nice), but kept me housebound a little too long.

What have you been up to? Post below and say hi!

Confetti Bean Soup Jar Gift

Confetti Soup Mix Jar Gift & Recipe

Confetti Bean Soup Jar Gift

Confetti soup looks as pretty in a pot as it does in a jar!

Yes! I have finally given out 99.9% of my Christmas gifts (listen, we were all busy), so I can post pictures and how-tos without spoiling them! As you know, I love jar gifts, especially those with pretty layers, so I was excited to try this Confetti Soup Mix, which I found at Organized Christmas.

I have to say this was successful on all levels—it’s inexpensive, easy, pretty, and (most importantly) delicious! My directions to make the soup are a little different than Organized Christmas’s, so I thought I’d post them here. Also, I have some printable labels to share!

To Make the Confetti Soup Mix Jar Gift

You Need (to make 12 jars):

12 wide-mouth pint canning jars with lid and rings
3 cups each of seven different varieties of dried beans, peas, and lentils. I used the following, but you can use whatever you like:

  • Pink beans
  • Red lentils
  • Navy beans
  • Red kidney beans
  • Split peas
  • Black beans
  • Pinto beans

12 bouillon cubes (I used chicken and veggie)
12 bay leaves

Instructions

1. Wash and dry canning jars.
2. Layer beans in jars (this is especially easy with a canning funnel). Add 1/4 cup of each type of bean to the jars, layering the beans. Think about how the colors will look as you layer!
3. Place a bay leaf and a bouillon cube on top of the beans in each jar.
4. Seal each jar using lids and rings.
5. Add a label, if you like! My husband did the lettering for these and I scanned them into a template for these Avery round kraft labels. Download my Confetti Soup Jar Labels!

Confetti Soup Mix Jar Gifts

Confetti Soup Mix in a jar! Pretty!

Recipe for Confetti Bean Soup

You Need (four servings):

Confetti Soup Mix
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
6 cups of liquid—I used 4 cups chicken broth and 2 cups water
14-oz can chopped tomatoes in juice
Dried oregano and basil (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Remove and set aside the bay leaf and bouillon cube. Soak the beans in salted water overnight, or bring beans to a boil and let sit for one hour. Drain the beans.

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil and add the onion and garlic. Saute, stirring frequently, until softened. Add the remaining ingredients except for salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until beans are tender, about two hours.

Taste, then season with salt and pepper.

These are perfect for Christmas, hostess, and teacher gifts—and since beans are pretty much non-perishable, you can make a batch and keep them on hand!

Has anyone given this a try? Post below!

I Hate Taking Down Christmas

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As soon as I touch this, the remaining needles are gonna hit the floor. Help me Hellboy!

It was about 6:00 last night when I realized that–ugh–garbage and recycling pickup was the next morning, which meant I needed to buckle down and get our once-beautiful Christmas tree out to the curb. This was made easier by the fact that our tree had completely dried out and only weighed about five pounds, but still: I hate taking down Christmas.

Preparing for Christmas is magical–getting out the decorations! Picking the tree! Lovingly reminiscing over ornaments! Your family members join in, because we’re making beautiful memories we’ll cherish forever!

Putting Christmas away is drag. Why do we keep some of these hideous ornaments? Can I get rid of them without anyone noticing? Why did I put so many lights on the tree? Is there any way to take them off without taking out half the branches (answer: science is working on it)? As I grimly wound hundreds of tiny lights and stuffed them back into their boxes, a traitorous, non-Christmassy though invaded my head: what if we didn’t do a Christmas tree next year?

What has happened to me? Along with my brother, I’m the most Christmassy jerk I know! But trees are expensive. And messy. And wasteful. And I hate doing the lights. But I won’t let anyone else do the lights. And our house is small. And WARM (hence the extra-crispy needles all over the house).

Every year about this time, I have a very special fantasy. Close your eyes, Mom! Just kidding. I think about artificial Christmas trees: beautiful, non-shedding, pre-lit Christmas trees that are perfectly shaped and can hold those super-heavy ornaments that came from god-knows-where. But then I sigh and realize I don’t have the space to store one–that’s why I keep our artificial garlands up all year long (also: I’m a Christmassy jerk, see above).

I know that I have a year to regain my Christmas spirit. Sid loves doing the tree (and is getting pretty good at helping with the lights). Sarah is only two–I certainly can’t deprive her of these precious Christmas traditions (I can’t, right?!?). But today, I still have a whole house of ho-ho-ho to stuff under the beds. Maybe some holiday music would help . . .

 

Happy New Year & Zero Waste Jar Gifts

jar gifts lentil soup zero waste

Filling my Curry Lentil Soup jar gifts with my trusty canning funnel!

Happy New Year everyone! Wow, I did even less blogging than usual over the holidays, partly because of GeekCraft Expo Seattle and working with The Doubleclicks, but also because my computer went down, and then when it was functional again, Portland had a snowstorm (and wicked icy roads) that prevented me from getting it for about a week. Plus, I’m crazy.

I also didn’t want to blog about the things I was actually making this year–I’m keeping that as a surprise until the Epiphany, which is when my friends and I usually exchange gifts. However! I did want to share the jar gifts I made last year. If you, like me, are a little behind in your gift giving and want something easy, zero waste (or close to it), and cool to give your friends–or you’re making a game plan for next year–pull up a chair!

Jar gifts are great: not only do they look cool and handmade, but they’re useful and quite economical. They’re perfect for the holidays, hostess gifts, teacher appreciation day, etc.

jar gifts zero waste

Supplies to Make Zero Waste Jar Gifts:

  • Jars. This is probably a no-brainer. You can save glass jars throughout the year, pick them up at thrift stores, or buy a box of them at the grocery store. The grocery store option will include some plastic packaging, but in a pinch, they’re convenient.
  • A canning funnel. This is an essential piece for creating jar gifts, and the best way to get pretty layers–it’s like a regular funnel with a much wider neck, so pouring things like beans or marshmallows neatly is easy.
  • Reusable produce bags or containers for shopping. I got almost all of my supplies from the bulk bins at my local WinCo. Not only was this incredibly cheap, but I had nothing to throw away afterward–especially nice around the holidays.
  • Scraps of fabric for decoration. I used pinking shears and cut squares of decorative fabric to cover the lids.
  • Card stock and twine. I printed up recipes for those items that needed it–soup mixes. etc.

Jar Gift Recipes:

These are all the recipes I used last year, ranked in order of “would I make them again.”

  1. Curried Lentil Soup: Winner, winner, chicken dinner! I loved this recipe and will keep it in the rotation. Not only was it very pretty in the jar, but the recipient doesn’t need to add much to make it (onion and garlic, perhaps broth), it can be vegan, and the soup itself is delicious and easy to make. Yummy!
  2. Sriracha Salt: This looked fancy and was useful. It only takes the second spot because it takes a couple days to dry before you can pack it up.
  3. Cowboy Cookie Mix: Everyone gets cookies around the holidays, but what about after Christmas and New Year’s? Now your friends can have something to tide them over. This was visually appealing and tasty, but the resulting cookie dough was a little dry.
  4. Classic Cocoa: This was very pretty and very tasty, but I wouldn’t make it again. Why? Because to use it, the recipient actually needs to dump it out, mix it up, and then put it back in the jar–silly and needlessly messy. I didn’t really think this one through.
  5. Almond Joy Energy Balls: I took this recipe and made it into a jar mix, layering the ingredients. I was, frankly, searching for something Paleo for some of my friends, but if I made this again, I would just make the balls and pack them in jar.
Jar Gift Lentil Soup Zero Waste

The winner: Curry Lentil Soup–so cute, and tasty!

The method is simple: line up all your jars, and have all of your ingredients, measuring cups and spoons, and canning funnel ready. To get the most attractive layers possible, I like to pour in each ingredient and then tap the jar on the counter to level it.

Cocoa Jar Gift Zero Waste

Layered cocoa is cute, but a loser for the giftee, I realized too late.

There are tons of jar mix recipes out there, and it’s also pretty simple to take a regular recipe and jar-ify it. My rule of thumb is to make sure your giftee doesn’t have to go out and buy a lot of things to actually make the gift, like meat. If the recipe needs extra stuff, it’s better if they’re pantry staples like butter or eggs. The recipe itself should be simple, too–you don’t usually want to give two hours of active cooking to someone, unless you know that’s how they like to spend their time.

Have you ever gotten a jar gift for Christmas or a hostess gift? Did you ever use it?