Happy Monday: I Enjoy Yard Work?!?

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#wokeuplikethis #nofilter

Happy Monday! I am pleased as punch to have some blogging time this morning, but I am a little perplexed. I have been undergoing . . . changes. I understand that at various points of a woman’s life, certain things . . . evolve. But I never thought I would start to enjoy yard work?

Growing up, yard work was a definite thing–that I would avoid. While my mother is a serious gardener (in addition to keeping a beautifully organized home) who knows all the Latin names of plants, I hate worms. And blisters. And getting dirt under my fingernails. Yard work was always like running–I liked the idea of it at times, but as soon as I was standing in the sun sweating, I would start to think, wouldn’t reading be a better use of my time?

Until now, my gardening has been limited to growing essential food: tomatoes, zucchini, basil. Even then, I became overwhelmed with the weeds and volunteer hours of my local community garden and was summarily kicked out after my plot (10′ x 20′ plot of sheer hubris) became a jungle.

But something changed this year. Between us and our neighbors, we took down several ill-advised trees (seriously, someone planted a sequoia in a four-foot-wide space), and my previously shady back yard became suffused with light! Which meant my sad, patchy, weedy lawn (all 200 square feet of it) was much easier to see. And I became obsessed.

I suddenly found myself at Fred Meyer with an armload of products: weed killer! Moss killer! Lawn seed! I feverishly applied each in turn, setting up an old sprinkler and coaxing my lawn back to life. Not only did I start mowing it regularly, but I even edged it–by hand–last Friday. It took two hours! And I had blisters!

And it turns out that taking care of your lawn is like making your bed: the surrounding space suddenly looks 100% better. So I found myself thinking, “I should really rake those leaves,” and “I bet I could weed the whole area while Sarah is napping,” and “Scott should really sweep back here,” (I am not sweeping). And then I started bringing a book and an iced coffee out back and enjoying my back yard. Outside. We had a barbecue this weekend and it was awesome. Could hiking be in my future?!? HA HA HA only under protest.

But apparently this impulse isn’t going anywhere–I’ve caught myself eyeing the fallen leaves and weeds in the front yard and thinking, “Gee, I could clean that all up in a couple of days.” So I guess this is me now. I may even plant some perennials this fall and actually do most of the work, instead of standing back in awe as my mom goes to town!

Well! That was longer than I thought. On to links!

Geekery

The new Thor trailer is out and boy oh boy, if you’re a fan of Walter Simonson’s iconic run, you’re in for a treat!

Speaking of Walter Simonson’s Thor, my podcast with Miles Stokes, THOR: The Lightning and the Storm, is almost complete! The penultimate episode is up now.

Portlanders, there’s another geeky wine event coming up next month! Pairings Portland is throwing a Game of Thrones Wine Tasting Flight August 9-12. Eight wines paired to eight characters for $25!

What are you enjoying right now? Post below!

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How to Keep a Clean House by: My Mom

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My Mom’s kitchen, this morning–before 10:00 am!

My Mom, Cathy Forsythe, is a Clean Person. Caps for emphasis. Actually, to truly communicate her organizational and cleaning skills, perhaps I should type CLEAN PERSON. Or even:

CLEAN PERSON

What I mean to say is, my parents’ house is always lovely–and clean. Clutter-free, no-dirty-dishes-in-the-sink, no-hair-in-the-bathroom clean. The dining room table? When they’re not eating, it has placemats and salt and pepper on it. That’s it. When my Mom complains that her house is dirty? It’s actually cleaner than my house when it’s clean for company.

It was this way when I was growing up, too–except, of course, for my room. Because whether it’s my nature or it was some weird reaction to having a Clean Mom, I grew up an irredeemable slob. I actually unearthed a checklist my Mom made for me when I was about 14. Not only does this show how nice my Mom’s handwriting is, but it alludes to how horrifically messy I was. I remember wading through knee-high piles of clothes, books, and plates:

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It’s even in a plastic sheet protector! I’d like to say I took this to heart and mended my ways, but I really didn’t. And while I’ve gotten a lot better since marrying my husband and getting a house, I’ve been feeling overwhelmed lately with two kids and the unending piles of books and things taking over my dining room table. So I went to the source and asked my Mom for her advice! She wrote me an email later that day:

I was thinking about your question yesterday about how I keep the house so neat/clean. Thought I’d share some things that worked for me (not quite so regimented now).

1. Weed out the Clutter

First off, clutter makes me nervous so I don’t have a lot of things I don’t use or love.

Guys, my Mom is totally right. There are days when I feel like I am living her origin story, as I hold up my children’s toys and ask, “But really, when did you actually play with this last?” This is also why I’ve switched to a 10-item wardrobe and cleared the heck out of my closet.

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This Great Room is a great room, am I right?

2. A Place for Everything, and Everything in Its Place

Second, I try to have everything in an assigned spot so it’s easy to find, with things I use often handy.

Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up said the same thing, but I trust–and listen to–my Mom more. Hopefully I can follow this.

3. Timing Is Everything

Third, I try to stay ahead of things to make things easy to tackle. Dishwasher run at night and emptied so it was ready the next morning. Not as critical now of course! I still neaten up the house before bed. We make the bed first thing in the morning (I think you do too?).

I am going to incorporate the dishwasher tip tonight–my day generally starts with me delaying doing the breakfast dishes until I empty the dishwasher. If something comes up (it always does), this means I’m struggling to clean the whole kitchen right before I make dinner. No more!

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Living room!

4. Make a Weekly Schedule

I did find the thing that really worked for me was a regular schedule. I cleaned house, washed sheets and towels on Monday, clothes laundry on Tuesday and grocery shopping on Fridays. Wednesday and Thursday were used for projects, volunteering, and fun. Saturday morning I gardened while Dad golfed!

This makes so much sense to me! I need to figure out what is going to work for our schedule. Also, this reminds me of Ma Ingalls’ schedule: “Wash on Monday, iron on Tuesday, mend on Wednesday, churn on Thursday, clean on Friday, bake on Saturday, rest on Sunday.” Um, I’m glad I don’t have to churn every week.

5. Create Systems–and Assign Them Accordingly

I guess I really like systems, I was always missing stains on your Dad’s clothes so I finally put a bottle of stain remover under his bathroom sink and told him to pretreat his own stains before putting in the laundry!

I wish I could have Sarah do the same–but two is probably a little early for that. I have started having Scott and Sid do the dinner dishes while I’m putting Sarah to bed, which helps a lot.

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Look at those shelves. This pic is from when my parents first moved into this house, but it still looks nice. How?!?

6. Let Something Go

We also had that great play space downstairs that I could ignore if needed!

Phew! In our house, I also can shut the door to our basement and let the kids run wild while I entertain upstairs.

7. Limit the Interruptions

Another thing occurred to me is the difference with social media and internet. We didn’t have to react and reply to texts, twitter, Facebook, and emails. Lots of interruptions now that we didn’t have!

This is probably the hardest guideline to follow–not just because I do a lot of side projects where I need to answer email or post things on social media in a timely manner, but because the advent of this technology makes me feel obligated to respond in real time. I’ve been toying with the idea of just putting my phone away for an hour or two at a time every day–stay tuned!

Thank you to my wonderful Mom for passing on her wisdom to me (again), hopefully I can follow it this time. Hope you all find this helpful!

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!

Geekery

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!

Fashion

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!

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!

Christmas Detox: Holiday China Edition

So what, Christmas decorations can go up in stores before Halloween, but we’re just supposed to stop December 26? In the immortal words of Cher Horowitz, I don’t think so. I’ve been wanting to do a post on my Christmas china for awhile–I do so love it, and I have so much, but I’ve hesitated because I worried that it was too self-indulgent. Then I realized that having my own blog was pretty self-indulgent, so why not?

I had a lot of fun taking pictures of everything before I put it away until (sigh) next December–I hope you enjoy!

Lenox Holiday China

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For me, Lenox Holiday is the gold standard, the ne plus ultra of Christmas china. For years, I eyed it like a future junkie: “I’ll certainly never buy that, that would be ridiculous! Ha!” I knew I’d only be able to hold out so long. I finally started collecting it after I made a little deal with myself: I would start slow (buying two place settings on sale), and I would use it for every meal, every day in December.

This justification was aided by the fact that Lenox Holiday is basically a holly-festooned version of my wedding china, Eternal, so I could mix and match the pieces until I gathered a full set. I currently have eight place settings, thanks in large part to my Mom, who has also donated to the “cause.”

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Um, as you can see, I didn’t stop with the place setting (see also: the adorable Santa train salt and pepper shakers, above). I have more Holiday serving pieces than Eternal (I actually have none for that), because Holiday goes way on sale around the holidays, and Eternal never does! Get that wedding registry money, Macy’s–you jerks! But. I love these, and I generally entertain a lot around the holidays, so I use them a lot.

Rosanna Twelve Days of Christmas & More

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While the Lenox Holiday is my drug of choice, my gateway plates are from Rosanna, a Seattle company that designs delightful tableware. I believe I first saw these 12 Days of Christmas appetizer plates in Martha Stewart, and they’re still available on the Rosanna site! A real bonus: Rosanna packages their wares in collectible boxes that are cute and actually useful for storage.

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Yes, there’s more. Listen, I can stop whenever I want. These three items were all presents from my brother, who raided Rosanna’s Jolly Holiday collection. Unfortunately, these are no longer available on the site. I use the small tray for cookies for “Santa,” and the plates and mugs for snacks and hot chocolate.

Thrift/Unknown

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I got this large vintage plastic (melamine?) tray at a thrift store a long time ago and I love it. The pearlized plastic is embedded with flecks of silver, and it’s unbreakable. Thrift and vintage stores can be a great source of holiday china and serve ware–garage and estate sales, too!

When I see my holiday china all laid out like this, 50% of me is embarrassed and the other 50% wants to roll around on it like Indecent Proposal (weird, also: ouch). But I love it so much: I love the holidays, and entertaining, and family traditions, and I love having something special to use in December. I look at my china and I see decades of holidays around the table, and it makes me very happy.

I’m gonna close with another shot of salt-and-pepper Santa! Thanks for reading about my jolly folly!

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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 . . .