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 this year.

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 labelsConfetti 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

takechristmasdown

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?

Mrs Santa Dress How-To

Presenting My Mrs. Santa Dress

Mrs Santa Dress How-To

All dolled up in my Mrs. Santa dress–unveiled below!

You may remember my desire to make a big green velvet Christmas dress this year–I even had a pattern picked out! However, after an extensive search (at three different fabric stores) I couldn’t find any green velvet, and after a look at the calendar, I realized that realistically, I wasn’t going to have time to sew a dress anyway. I was quite disappointed–until I brainstormed a way to make the most Christmassy gown I could ever want, using a dress I made a few years ago!

Mrs Santa Dress How-To

Mrs. Santa dress: before!

About six years ago, I wanted to make a big red Christmas dress, which I did, using a pattern I cannot find, either in my sewing stuff or online, but I believe it was a Vogue pattern that must be out of print: boatneck, big swingy skirt, defined waist, bracelet-length sleeves. While I wore the heck of it that year, it was never quite right: I should have taken up the shoulders, and I chose a polyester crepe fabric (partly because it was inexpensive, partly because it was the perfect color) that was a little too stiff.

Mrs. Santa Dress How-To

Mrs. Santa dress: after!

But! If I took it to a tailor (who fixed the shoulders for $20) and hot glue-gunned a little fake fur around the edges–voila! I’d have a perfect Mrs. Santa dress! After I rummaged through my closet and found a black patent leather belt and heels, my course was set.

Mrs Santa Dress How-To

Out on the town as Mrs. Santa at the Rum Club!

You can see the end result, and I’m quite proud of it! I wore it to a party and out for holiday drinks with my best girlfriends, and let me tell you: it is a lot of fun to dress as Mrs. Santa–I got a big (and mostly positive) reaction everywhere I went.

I’m pretty proud of my ingenuity (or is that insanity?). It took me less than half an hour to glue the trim on, and I got a re-branded, very distinctive dress for less than $40!

Do you have an ideal Christmas outfit? I’m still dreaming of a White Christmas-type dress (basically my Mrs. Santa dress on steroids). Post it below!

Totino's Christmas

How to Prepare for the Holidays

Totino's Christmas

Bonus tip: have some Totino’s in the freezer.

Well hello there! It’s been more than a month since my last post, and I missed you all so much. I’ve been busy working on GeekCraft Expo Seattle (watch for me on New Day Northwest next month) and spreading the word for The Doubleclicks, but I am so glad to be back writing for me.

So . . . what’s new? Anything big happen in the last month? Looks like Nazis are a thing again. I found myself wondering the other day–will Captain Germany end up coming to America and defeating the Orange Skull? Comics gallows humor, folks. My main takeaways from the election: I need to get involved in (or at least be aware of) local politics, and I need to get my news from credible sources rather than Facebook.

But that’s not what I came here to talk about–what are you doing to get ready for the holidays? I love, love Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I’m looking forward to spending this time with my family, without stressing out too much. Here are my suggestions to prepare:

  • Roast a chicken. Really! It’s a simple, elegant dinner, but even more important–you’re going to need a lot of chicken broth in the next two months. Make it and freeze it now.
  • Deep-clean the kitchen. Ugh, I hate this part. But it is necessary. If you’re anything like me, you’re going to be cooking a lot and having people over. It’s going to be easier if you clean out your cabinets and fridge. One, you’ll have a good idea of what you already have (so you don’t go buy more molasses and miss the bottle in the back), and two, you’ll have room for everything you’re going to buy.
  • Count your dishes, plates, and silverware. I recommended this last year and didn’t follow my own advice. Then when I was setting the table for Thanksgiving, I realized I was missing two forks! Don’t be like me. This year I went to Replacements to replace a chipped plate and those two forks. If you’re not compulsive like me and don’t care if your pieces match, head over to Goodwill or a thrift store and stock up.
  • Envision your holiday gifts and projects. Now is the time to start putting together your Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa gifts, especially if you plan on making a lot of them, like I do. Jo-Ann Fabrics is having great sales right now–I got a bunch of wire-edged holiday ribbon for 50% off, and felt was on sale, too. I can’t get into what things I’m making this year (or I’ll ruin the surprise), but I will put together a post about the jar gifts I made last year. Also, there’s always my White Christmas cross stitch. I would love to see pics if anyone is crazy enough to make it!
  • Plan your Thanksgiving menu. I put this last because for most people, Thanksgiving doesn’t require a lot of planning–people tend to demand the same treasured recipes year after year (like my brother with green bean casserole). But you can usually slip in a new appetizer or salad. No one eats salad on Thanksgiving, they won’t care.

What are your holiday prep secrets? Post them below!

Happy Wednesday! GeekCraft Expo Seattle and Food Porn

Snickers Cake

Oooh . . . Snickers!

Happy Wednesday, everyone! Hope you’re having a good week. Those with kids probably sent them off for the first day of school (*sniff*), but in any case, the last day of August always feels like the end of summer to me, even if it isn’t technically (that would be September 21).

But no worries. There’s tons of fun stuff happening this fall, in addition to Halloween! And Thanksgiving! Here we go:

Geekery

The Doubleclicks, Portland’s beloved folk-geek sister band, is everywhere this September: Dragon*Con in Atlanta 9/4, as a guest of nerd podcast supreme Geek in the City 9/7, in Portland for Rose City Comic Con and at Dante’s 9/10, then at the Portland Mercury‘s “The Undisputable Geniuses of Comedy” show at Revolution Hall 9/16–plus “Snakes on the Radio” tour dates in the Bay Area and Los Angeles. Get the Doubleclicks’ tour schedule!

For many of these shows they’ll be pairing up with actor/comedian/musician Lucia Fasano, who Kickstarted her debut album, “Radio Silence,” through Doubleclicks Records, the band’s new record label! Not only did it fund in one day, but with seven days to go, it’s 187% funded!

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/luciafasano/lucia-fasanos-debut-album-radio-silence/widget/video.html

The Doubleclicks are no slouches: they recently posted an amazing cover of Hamilton‘s “History Has Its Eyes on You.”

Remember GeekCraft Expo PDX, the amazing craft fair featuring handmade geeky goods by local artisans? Come on, I posted about it constantly. Well, we’re proud to announce that we’ll be debuting GeekCraft Expo Seattle December 10 and 11 at the Seattle Center! Right now we’re looking for amazing exhibitors to submit their applications by November 18.

The Portland show was incredible–as someone who has worked a lot of comic book conventions, I was blown away by the quality and originality of the crafts. Plus, the show is free to the public and family friendly. What’s not to like?

Speaking of comic book conventions, Portland’s Rose City Comic Con is next week! It’s been so exciting to see this show grow . . . and grow over the past few years. It’s an excellent show with some pretty high-profile guests this week–John Cusack, Stan Lee, Denise Crosby–and it showcases the best of the comics scene, so go!

I’m especially excited because with the influx of awesome comic book creators to Portland, we’re hosting back-to-back dinner parties, and going to some fun events as well. A multiple Eisner-winning creator actually contacted my husband to “reserve” a dinner at our table, so I was very flattered.

Finally, a shoutout to my husband, Scott Allie: the final issue of his series with creator Mike Mignola, Abe Sapien, is out today. I got a chance to read Abe Sapien #36 early, and all I can say is it’s a fitting end–and beginning?–for one of Hellboy’s most interesting characters. If you don’t have a local comic shop, order Abe Sapien #36 from TFAW!

Food Porn

But Elisabeth, where’s the food porn? Oh my goodness, readers. I made the best cake yesterday. It was my brother’s birthday, and every year, he gives me a birthday cake challenge. I’ve done a peanut butter cookie dough cake, a chocolate malt cake, and a 100 Grand cake, but the Snickers cake by Brown Eyed Baker he chose this year was the best. So fun to make: salted caramel sauce! Nougat filling! But damn, it was delicious. Here’s another pic:

Snickers2

So what are you up to? Post below!