If you’ve been reading along you will have seen both Smalerie, and The Red Menace give their tips for beating the winter blues; coping mechanisms are so important y’all! Now it’s my turn. Those who know me IRL know that my crafting obsession almost borders on manic. If it’s crafty, I want to try it. Yarn, glue, paper, wood, beads, it’s all my jam. For me crafting can really hits my goal oriented brain center, plus then you have a cool thing to show for your work. That sense of accomplishment can be critical when you are cooped up inside feeling like you may never get outside again.
Because the general realm of crafting is so vast and wide there are thousands of options, and price points. You don’t need to drop a mint at Michael’s or some other craft store to take on projects. One of my favorite things to do is to comb thrift stores or dig around though what I already have and then re-purpose it into something better.
Ah, my old standby. When I was little, my grandmother tried to teach me to knit. It’s didn’t go well. But I picked it up again in college and things really clicked. Knitting has a relatively low start-up cost, especially if you can get your hands on some used needles and sale yarn (it’s always on sale). Knitting has also become much more popular so chances are you know someone who knits and can teach you, otherwise, YouTube. I’ve learned many new stitches and refreshed myself on some basics via the internet. All you need to know is the basic knit stitch and you can make a scarf. I personally find the repetitive action of knitting soothing and a bit meditative, maybe you will find it the same.
Gluing things to things-
Oh yeah! This is probably my favorite type of craft because it’s the broadest and I think most fun. Get yourself some good glue (I like e-6000), some found objects and go to town! Cover old containers with buttons or rhinestones, decorate a lampshade, make magnets…below are two of my favorite gluing projects. I wanted a 3 tier plate for a Downton Abbey themed tea party I was hosting, however I did not want to spend the money on one. Take one trip to a thrift store, plus one thing of glue, et voila, a 3 tiered plate that cost less than $7! The “bug” is the result of a broken clock I bought at a yard sale, dismantled, and then spent a very focused afternoon turning the pieces into some sort of sculpture. Again, super affordable and very rewarding!
I can’t draw, at all. But I can cut, glue, arrange, and stamp. Plus, making your own cards is much more fun and flexible than ones you get at the drugstore. If you’ve ever even walked past a Paper Source you can see how vast and varied the things you can do with paper are. I also think paper crafting lends itself to being social and sharing supplies really well….(prepare for shameless plug), and that’s why we are hosting a Collage Card Workshop at Comicazi on February 10.
If paper crafts are something you are interested in join us at our Collage Card event! We bring the supplies, you bring the creativity.
General craft resources-
Ready to dive into the sea of crafting? There are tons of resources out there but here are 2 of my favorites.
Craftster– The Old Dame of craft resources! I think every craft possible exists here. From knitting, to food, to soap, to cross stitch this bulletin board community give tutorials, help, discussion and general encouragement about crafts.
Possibility of falling down a craft based rabbit hole for the rest of the winter: HIGH
Pinterest– If you aren’t quite sure of the project you want to tackle, go to Pinterest and search “crafts”. You will get an amazing array of option, all visually lovely. So yeah, there are lots of pictures of possible crafts on Pinterest, but the directions and links are not always super reliable (see Pinterest Fails). I like to cruise the pics for ideas but then maybe head to another resource for a second opinion on reliable directions.
Pinterest is a particular danger zone because it doesn’t just have crafts…it has everything! You could start looking at it at the start of the next snow storm and not come up for air till the plows are done.
Possibility of not emerging until the hibernating bears do too: HIGH
Last week, Smalerie mentioned that we’d be doing a series on how to stick it to Old Man Winter and actually get some enjoyment out of a season that, here in New England anyway, can be best summed up as “grey.” Sometimes the outdoors is a frozen wasteland, other times it’s warm but muddy, but no matter the temperature and precipitation, winter can just seem a bit ho-hum. Once the holidays are over, there’s just a lot of staying indoors, dreaming of warmer, drier days. BUT IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY. The depths of winter are scientifically* proven to be the best time for a theme party. Plus, planning a party fits in well with several of Smalerie’s blues-busting tips, including starting a project and having accountability. And hey, if you host, you don’t need to actually leave the house!
We’ve had a few posts on this subject before, but here are a few we haven’t yet shared that you might consider specifically for shaking the winter doldrums.
Granted, this particular theme appeals to a slightly morbid sense of humor – unsurprising, given that my husband, Mr. Menace, was responsible for dreaming it up. When the snow is thick on the ground and the air is frigid, what can be better than a reenactment of the Soviets surrounding the Germans at Stalingrad?
We were fortunate to have this party hosted at the home of our dear friends, who have a spectacular fire pit in their backyard, which allowed us to create a hard-core bonfire. If you are not so lucky, even a small fire pit will add the right amount of flare and sell the idea that you are huddling for warmth on the front. (We were also aided by the fact that this party took place in the February 2015 – winter where the Boston area saw about 8 feet of snow pile up on itself in rapid succession, followed by a deep freeze. Authentic!)
Cheap fur hats from the party store are also a must. Here the goal is less about authenticity, and more about a sense of fun and staying warm.
As for the most important part of any theme party, the food, this is your chance to put out an assortment of hard meats, cheese, and vodka, and call it good. At our hosts’ request, I also made piroshki, which are Russian buns filled with meat and onions.
Meat, cheese, vodka, and hats – a recipe for pulling anyone out of a slump.
The very next winter, our friends with the fire pit hosted another vaguely historically themed party – a Viking raid! This was a ton of fun to figure out costuming for – and a great excuse to break out the fur and cape from my Red Sonja costume from a Halloween party long past.
To host a good Viking party, consider offering mead, more of that wonderful meat and cheese, and an assortment of dried fish, if you’re feeling fancy. Horned helmets are not historically accurate, but if you change the theme a tad, you can host a 19th-century Romanticist opera revival party and the helmets are totally on brand.
Our latest party was a long time coming, and one of my favorites to date. For years, Tiny Doom has dreamed of hosting a “giant” party. The concept was that everything at the party would actually be extremely tiny – thus allowing the party participants to feel like giants. (Tiny Doom is, as her name suggests, pretty small herself, so getting to be big is a novelty.) For years, we discussed this party – what food we would serve, the tiny plates we could use, the props that we’d have – and we kept not hosting the actual party. Finally, after nearly half a decade, I decided to make it the theme of my annual New Year’s Eve gathering. 2017 was a pretty tough year all around, so I thought we could all use an excuse to feel bigger.
This party was heavily centered around two things – the food, and the table-scape. What’s great about this theme is that many appetizers are already small, bite-sized versions of regular food. You just have to make sure to play up that similarity – so cocktail weenies aren’t served in sauce, they’re lovingly encased in tiny buns. Sliders are regular burgers, a Cornish game hen is a whole roasted chicken, and so on.
Mr. Menace helped with the decor by getting two different sizes of figures – 1/6 scale GI Joes and 1/16 scale Star Wars figures – and strategically placing them around the food. The result was a sort of Lilliput-England-Brobdingnag vibe with the Star Wars guys as Lilliputians, the Joes as the humans, and us as the Brobdingnagians. It was pretty darn magical, and shockingly simple to pull off.
Ultimately, that simplicity makes this a perfect winter project – you don’t need to dress up or get too fussy with the decor to create a good time for your friends and help snap everyone out of a funk. After all, everyone needs to feel big sometimes.
Finally, it’s important to note that while we did this party on New Year’s Eve, it works on any random winter night equally well. How about you all – any other whimsical ways to punch Old Man Winter in the face?
*The science is extremely limited.
We are less than 2 months away from LadiesCon and things are getting crazy. Crazy in the best ways possible, but still quite a lot of twists, turns, and surprises. It’s during these times that we need to make sure we’re taking the opportunity to take a deep breath, brush up on your R’lyehian, and praise the Elder Gods.
If you haven’t read Kristen Gudsnuk’s Henchgirl, you should really do one of the following: a) buy it now so you have a copy for Kristen to sign at LadiesCon or b) buy it at LadiesCon and so you have a copy for Kristen to sign. Ok ok, I know I’m really driving the point a bit hard here, but there’s a reason we reached out to Kristen as a guest.
Without turning this post into a review, I will tell you this much. Henchgirl is such a charming and funny story. It’s filled with such great visual gags and puns that when I found myself faced with these panels…I knew immediately what I had to do.
Yes, I needed my very own Cthulu Burger!
Normally when I do these Food and Fandom posts, I like to post a recipe. I’m not going to do that this time for a few reasons. The main reason is that there are times when (due to the either the complications of your project or the limits of your own culinary skills) you know that you’re going to have to choose between something that tastes great but is visually plain or something that looks amazing but will NEVER WANT TO EAT AGAIN. I chose and well, um…you’ll see.
When making a burger based on Cthulu, octopus was the most obvious choice. I was able to find frozen cleaned octopus in my regular supermarket quite easily, as well as a recipe that would allow me to cook it in my sous vide. I had never cooked octopus before and using such a controlled temperature was a pretty surefire way to ensure that the octopus would be soft and tender rather than horrible and chewy.
So I started with something that looked like this:
Did some stuff to it:
And hours later, I found myself with this:
The recipe also informed me that I should clean, then either grill or fry up the octopus to get the legs and tentacles nice and crispy before serving. So I did that too.
Next, I laid out my ingredients on my sacrificial altar/cutting board and got to work assembling what might very well be my most horrifying creation yet.
BEHOLD AND TREMBLE WITH FEAR YOU FOOLS! *warning: prolonged exposure to this slideshow may result in madness
I’m really proud of how I was able to get his worshipers to bleed from the eyes just right!
I delayed as long as I could taking these pictures. It wasn’t because I didn’t think I would like octopus. I’ve had it before and liked it a lot. It was the idea of eating it with bread and the other burger fixings that made me start to back away towards the door.
I mean, does this cross section look appetizing to you?
Since I wasn’t about to go at this alone, The Boy and I each took a half, bit in, and well…
Do I get points for accuracy if it tastes like it’s been asleep under a lost city in the Pacific ocean for thousands of years?
Ok, so maybe it wasn’t that bad. But dang, it tasted fishy. And the soft octopus with even softer bread was not something I found enjoyable in any way. No, it was not good. Nope. Nope. Nope.
In the case that you’re wondering what went wrong, I chatted with Tiny Doom and she believes it was a problem with the octopus recipe that I used. My recipe said that marinating the octopus before cooking was optional, so I skipped that step to save myself a little time. Tiny Doom has cooked octopus with great success but has always let it braise in red wine first. Perhaps that’s the key to removing the fishy taste? Maybe my frozen octopus wasn’t all that great? I’ll probably give cooking octopus a shot again, but will use a very different recipe.
Still, Lord Cthulu makes quite the dashing figure as a burger.
I’m the worst at writing intros for my posts. Honestly, it’s terrible. Happily for you, I’m not going to spend too much time struggling with it. Instead, I’m going to just say that it’s a pretty great time to be an Invader Zim fan. We’ve been getting our fix pretty regularly with the not-too-shabby Invader Zim comic, but then about three weeks ago, this was posted online. YES, my disgusting worm-babies, we are all doomed. And frankly, I couldn’t be more pleased.
Added bonus, this gives me another excuse to create an adult beverage based on one of my favorite fandoms.
Brace yourself people, and behold my inspiration.
There were a lot of different ways I could have gone about this. At first I considered tracking down some chocolate soda to make a very traditional Slurpee. Then I thought about creating a very traditional ice cream soda made with chocolate and bubble gum ice cream. I had two road blocks here. The first was that both initial ideas involved ingredients that were a bit hard to find. The second block was that if I was going to drink this thing, I didn’t want to use a ton of dairy.
My solution to both of these problems was to create an adult beverage. Making something smaller and using alcohol would give me an excuse to tailor it a bit more to my taste and maybe come up with something (prepare your pretension filter people) more sophisticated. And yes, even my eyes rolled as I typed that last sentence.
Unsweetened cocoa powder
Godiva chocolate liqueur
almond milk or regular milk
Bubble Gum flavoring
Pro-tip: Before you make this drink, create some ice cubes out of milk (or in my case almond milk). This will prevent your drink from getting watered down as you drink it.
There aren’t a lot of instructions here. All these ingredients can be adjusted to taste. For the sake of understanding my results, I will say that I used about 1 cup of frozen almond milk and 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder. In order to help things blend, I dumped in a splash each of the vanilla and simple syrup. For the booze, I used one shot glass.
The bubblegum flavoring goes a VERY long way. I used a drop from an eyedropper.
Once you blend up your drink, taste it and add any adjustments. I used a little extra sweetener as the dark cocoa powder made the finish a bit too bitter.
I know you’re wondering what this tasted like. The truth is that it wasn’t too bad. It tasted like a Tootsie Pop. If I ever make it again, I think the plan would be to create a pink bubble gum sugar rim and to see if I could make something that is less like a mudslide and more like an actual slurpee or even a Slush Puppie.
Not a complete failure, but not something I will be adding to any sort of rotation for dinner parties. I think I will just keep it in my pocket to bring out again when the Invader Zim movie/special airs next year. But frankly, who knows what monstrosity I will have come up with by then. I can promise you this much, it won’t include adding soap to waffles. Maybe I’ll add tuna instead.
Chocolate Bubble Gum Cocktail of Doom
2 tbsp Unsweetened cocoa powder
1-1.5 oz Godiva chocolate liqueur
1 cup almond milk or regular milk frozen into ice cubes
1 tsp vanilla
one drop Bubble Gum flavoring
1-2 tbsp simple syrup
optional: 2 tbsp cream
Combine all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust ingredients if needed. Serve immediately with an evil grin and promises to take over the world.
Soon it will be the new year, and several of us will find ourselves in that dark stretch of cold and unpredictable weather that seems to last much longer than the three months that make up the winter season. And while there are a lot of people out there who love winter activities, I thought it might be nice to dedicate a post to the importance of taking care of yourself and having fun as we both finish a rough year and do our best to make better of the next one.
At this point, you’d have to be lost in the Delta Quadrant to not know about our first ever Star Trek Trivia event this weekend. There’s going to be a lot of fun to be had, and The Ladies have decided to start the festivities early with our new recipe for Klingon bloodwine.
When creating this recipe, I did my research and decided to focus on the following facts:
- Bloodwine is highly intoxicating
- Worf likes his bloodwine “young and sweet”
- Traditionally, bloodwine is served warm
I will admit to a good deal of trial and error this time around, and my first attempts at a mixed drink with hard liquors were pretty awful. I mean, to make perfectly good liquor undrinkable? The shame.
When I finally went back to scratch, I realized that the answer lay in the fact that bloodwine can be served warm. Using mulled wine as a base instead of liquor would not only allow me to control the color better but also allow me to create something that could be more or less sweet (in the case that you and Worf are in agreement on this one).
In the case of this recipe, I wouldn’t say that you need to follow it to the letter. In fact, it might be difficult to do so since I don’t have that many exact measurements and the ingredients you use can make a significant difference in how things taste. Happily, I love mulled wine, so the process of tasting and adjusting was a lot of fun.
Bottle of red wine – I wouldn’t use anything too expensive, but you want to get something you are also happy to drink. I might even suggest Beaujolais Nouveau because it’s considered a “young” wine since it’s bottled only 6-8 weeks after harvest. It’s also sweet, fruity, and the kind of wine that people are just as likely to drink out of a straw or make slushies out of. So, it’s pretty unlikely we’re going to shock the wine snobs by mulling this one.
1 cup pomegranate juice – Most mulled wines are made with citrus, but I wanted something more tart that would not only add some bite but would also bolster the color.
4-8 whole cloves
1/2 tsp ginger – fresh or ground
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 cup sugar or honey – optional
Spiced rum – I used a shot and a half, but you can certainly use more or less depending on how strong or “authentic” you want this to taste.
Add ingredients to a pot and slowly bring to a gentle simmer. Allow to simmer for about 10 mins. While it cooks, feel free to taste and adjust. Just remember that the longer it simmers, the stronger the spices will taste. Best served warm, but can also be served at room temperature as a punch.
IwlIj jachjaj! (May your blood scream!)
On occasion, it’s appropriate to step back from raptor questions, book reviews, and opinions about movies and just talk about a random assortment of things we really love. All the odds and ends that don’t quite fit into a properly themed post, but are worthy of mention all the same. So here, in no particular order, are some things that are making me happy lately – maybe they’ll make you happy, too!
I’ve written a bit before about my love of running – it’s been a passion of mine for about a decade now. For years I focused my training on increasing my distance, but after running more than one marathon it was time for a new challenge, so I’ve been working on getting faster. There are many tools out there for tracking your progress, but Smashrun is the one I like the best. It syncs with whatever fitness tracker you use – I have a Garmin watch – so you don’t need a new piece of hardware or even to download an app. You just connect whatever you already use to the website, and it will import all of your data. Then you can look at what pace, cadence, mileage, and elevation you did for any particular run – but also over time. That information lets you know what conditions work best for you and what you need to do to get faster. It also rewards you with badges for certain distances or goals that accumulate from the date you sign up. They’re silly and fun but oddly satisfying to achieve – I recently accumulated the total miles from Sydney to Melbourne, Australia. Who knew?
Finally, it breaks down the calories burned for each run by telling you the equivalent in both a healthy and unhealthy food, which is a great, tangible way to really understand what you burned, since most folks overestimate. Last night’s track workout got me the equivalent of a bagel with cream cheese, not shabby!
I guess a lot of people get happiness from homemade bread, but my joy has been coming from baking it, rather than eating it. For the past two years I’ve baked a loaf or so every single week. It started as a way to use up a pound of yeast I’d ordered by mistake, but it’s become so much more. It does all of the things you’d expect – provides food for my family, and is a healthier alternative to commercial bread, which is full of chemicals and sugar – but it’s also been a rewarding personal project. Much like my running, baking has provided a routine that allows me to grow in skill, to get better at each week. The early efforts were still useful, but I can track how far I’ve come, and see how far I can still go. At the same time, unlike some of my other hobbies, the product has a short life span. We’re not accumulating more stuff with this project, and in fact have been able to reduce the amount of bread we buy. If you’re interested in trying your hand at bread, I recommend this English muffin recipe from King Arthur (my flour brand of choice.) It’s pretty easy, and so much better than Thomas’ that you’ll wonder why you never tried it before.
The tagline for their website is “A New Boogie for All Mankind” and I am here to tell you, darlings, that the hype is real. I first discovered this band through the tune-yards – Merrill Garbus performed backing vocals on “Little Queen of New Orleans” and shared the video on ye olde Facebook. I gave it a listen and was instantly smitten. I bought Hi Honey, the album it came from – the band’s third. This was quickly followed by the entire back catalog and waiting obsessively for the band to come to Boston, then dragging Mr. Menace to one of the most heartfelt live shows I’ve ever been to. This is old-fashioned rock and roll at its finest, complete with saucy lyrics and co-founder Adam Weiner’s forceful piano. The keys haven’t been played this hard since Jerry Lee Lewis, and the result is the perfect soundtrack for some summer fun. Grab the tunes and bring ’em to your next barbecue – you won’t be sorry.
I’ve written about the works of Patrick Ness before , and he’s gaining some recognition in the larger fantasy/sci-fi circles as the man behind the upcoming Doctor Who spinoff, Class. Since that show will be set at the Coal Hill School, The Rest of Us Just Live Here, which revolves around a group of friends in their senior year of high school, is the perfect introduction if you’re curious about his work. Lighter in tone than A Monster Calls (the crying book) or his fantastic Chaos Walking trilogy, The Rest of Us still brings plenty of depth. It’s about the kids who aren’t the chosen ones, but who are surrounded by those who are. While the indie kids are battling vampires, zombies, and fairy queens, Mikey and his friends are just trying to survive the madness they bring, go to prom, graduate, and maybe get a date. I loved reading a story about what happens to everyone else while someone is saving the world, and I loved the little snippets of the chosen ones’ story that were the intro to each chapter. If you’ve ever had to find the extraordinary in being ordinary, you’ll get a kick out of this.
You may be wondering why I’m recommending the Instagram feed of a library located in Rochester, NY, a city 8 hours away from where I currently reside. And to be honest, if a very dear friend didn’t work there, I’d probably never have stumbled on this particular gem. But luckily for me and you, she does and I did and now I’m sharing the good fortune with you. This is a list of things that spark happiness and this feed has it in spades. Do you like our Fashion Raptor posts? Check out Henrietta’s whole Dinovember series (which we are totally doing this year.) Like a bit of whimsy? (and what are you doing here if you don’t?) Look for the photos of the Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly, who swallows various resources around the library (cleverly letting you know that they exist.) The feed makes me happy with its content, which is funny and charming and sweet, but also because it’s such a stellar example of a library showcasing its relevance in the modern world. It’s also a great example of the power of social media when it’s done well – the folks behind it also run workshops for other libraries on how to use Instagram effectively. And they have a turtle named Cooper wearing a Batman balloon, which I think is pretty great.
So that’s what’s been bringing a smile to my face lately – what makes you all happy?
If you follow any of the Ladies on social media, you’ll notice that we are having our second View and Chew event coming up in a couple of weeks. This event is going to be even more crazy than our last as we prepare to celebrate all things Supernatural. As part of our preparations, we have been making prizes, choosing the perfect plaid clothing items to wear, and having extremely detailed conversations about the best way to paint demon traps on everything from our toilets to our own finger nails. As someone who really likes to theme her nails in line with various Comicazi and Ladies’ events, it seems only natural that I am not only prepping special nails for our event, but have been experimenting with the best way to create theme-appropriate nails for future events as well. And as I suffer from all this trial and error (and acetone fumes), I am going to share with you what I have learned. PS – If you are dying to see the finished product, you should really get your tickets to our event, or follow me on Twitter or Instagram (Krebstar5) if you are not local.
The Goods – Believe it or not, I don’t feel like I have enough nail supplies. As soon as I hit a stride with something, I discover something else that I REALLY want. Also, I never seem to have enough colors and random things to glue to my nails. My last practice session looked like this:
It’s been some time since I have cooked anything for the blog. I think I was just waiting for the right thing to cross my path and I am happy to say that it finally has. Several of the ladies get quite the kick out of vintage (and sometimes gimmicky) cookbooks. This is especially true when the books come from properties that are near and dear to our hearts. If you are interested in our past adventures with silly cookbooks, might I direct you to part one of the DC and Marvel Recipe Book Showdown. Just don’t forget to come back and see what else we have managed to dig up.
In the Kitchen with Miss Piggy: Fabulous Recipes from My Celebrity Friends was a gift from a friend who found it while in the process of moving to a new house. I want to give her a shout out before diving in. Without you, this culinary adventure would not have been possible.
Pancakes have been on my mind a lot lately. Part of it was looking over some of my past posts in search of motivation, but the larger part of it was probably the epic Facebook debate Tiny Doom and I had over the superiority of pancakes or waffles. I am staunchly on Team Pancake.
And so I wanted to prove the versatility and superiority of pancakes in a very Ladies of Comicazi kind of way. And so help me, that way is going to be fancy! It’s time to do some Pancake Art. *cue awesome power ballad