Category Archives: Entertaining

I Asked the Experts

About a year ago, I wrote a post about my Comic Book Confusion.  Since I was at a loss about which comic books to read and where to start, I decide to ask an expert.  I got my opportunity at Wizard World’s Comic Con in Tulsa last month.  With so many artists and writers in attendance, and such a great program to choose from, I thought, surely I can get a couple of good recommendations from someone in the industry who should know.  Right?

I have a list.  Of course, I haven’t been able to read all the way through the list yet, but I’ve gotten enough of a start to be confident I’m going to thoroughly enjoy the rest of it.

Wait?  What was that?  You want to know what’s on my list? Okay, I’ll share.

The Comic Book To-Read List

  1. Saga by Brian K. Vaughn – Yes, this was already on this list, and along with Sandman by Neil Gaiman provided the basis for the rest of the list…also I’ve been reading all of the other volumes I can get my hand on, and eagerly awaiting the next!
  2. Dream Thief by Jai Nitz – I’ve read Volume 1 and couldn’t put it down.  (I promise a full review is coming soon!)  Volume 2 is sitting on my kitchen table.  It arrived today.
  3. Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Weibe – I would like to say I can only read one book at a time, but I’ve already proven that I can.  I just haven’t picked this one up yet.
  4. Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughn – He already hit one out of the park with Saga do we really doubt?

My first Comic Con was a resounding success.  We all did a bit of amateur cosplay, fondled light sabers we could not afford, bought some amazing pieces of art, and met some fascinating people.

My one gigantic failing…not enough pictures!  Somehow I got dazzled by “geekvana” and forgot to take pictures.  Oh well, there’s always the next con.

What do you think of the list?  Would you add anything?

‘Til next time,

Jessica


Tasty Goodness: It’s Time for Pie

Alright, Dean Winchester, listen up.  I’m making pie.

Apple Pie

Homemade Apple Pie

I mentioned in my Fourth of July post that I made an apple pie, so I thought I’d revive my Tasty Goodness (links are below) series, and share my recipe with you.  Now, I’m still tweaking the filling a bit, but it tastes phenomenal. (Also, my mother threatened strongly advised me to not forget whatever it was I’d done.)  For me, it is about the crust almost as much, if not more than, the filling, and I have finally gotten my grandmother’s crust recipe down pat.  For years, I’ve been told this made the easiest, tastiest, flakiest pie crust, but until this year, it never worked out as well for me. I don’t know what I did different, if I “cut in” the flour and shortening a little more or what, but it worked

Grandma Audrey’s Pie Crust

Ingredients

  • 3 Cups All Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/3 Cup shortening
  • 1 Tablespoon vinegar (yes, just trust me)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 5 1/2  Tablespoons water
  • 1  Egg, lightly beaten

Place flour in a mixing bowl and “cut in”* shortening until the mixture reaches a corn meal consistency (a little chunkier is okay too).  I used a pastry cutter, but I have been reliably informed that you can use a knife and fork to achieve this.  Add salt, vinegar, egg and water (one tablespoon of water at a time.  I usually only end up using 5 Tablespoons) and mix until everything is well combined and it looks like pie crust dough.

Split the dough in half and form each half into a ball.  On a well floured work surface, roll the dough into a piece big enough to cover the bottom of your pie pan with a little overlapping the edge.  (My pie pans are extra deep, so my dough is sometimes a bit thinner when rolled out).  Gently move into the pie dish.  Don’t worry if it tears a little.  This happens to everyone, and no one sees the bottom of the pie anyway.  Just use your fingers to press the torn edges together.

Jessica’s Pie Filling

Ingredients

  • 5-6 Large Apples (or 6-8 small apples) Peeled, cored and sliced (I used Jonagold in one and Granny Smith in the other.  Both were delicious)
  • 1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 3 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1-2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2-3 Tablespoons of butter

Disclosures: Okay, fair warning.  I mentioned this recipe needed a bit of tweaking to perfect.  I’ve tried this with both cornstarch and flour as a thickening agent, and both times it ended up a little runnier than I’d like.  The taste, however, is divine.  I’m thinking I use a bit too much lemon juice in combination with the vanilla. (I don’t actually measure the lemon juice).  Also, I mentioned my pie pans are extra deep, so you may not need as many apples.

Heat oven to 375 F.  As you peel, core and slice your apples into a mixing bowl, be sure to sprinkle them with lemon juice.    This will keep them from turning brown while you work.  When all your apples are ready to go, add the vanilla.  Toss until all the apples are well coated.  There shouldn’t be extra liquid in the bottom of the bowl.  If there is, I recommend you drain it off.

In a separate bowl, combine granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cornstarch, and whisk to combine.  Add the mixture to the apples and mix well with a large spoon until all the apple pieces are coated with the mixture.

Pour the apples over your bottom crust in the pie plate.  Cut up the butter into little chunks.  I usually quarter the tablespoons I cut from the stick of butter.  Dot the pie filling with butter (it adds a nice richness to the filling, but if you forget, it isn’t a problem).

If you haven’t already, roll out your top crust to the same thickness of the bottom crust (kind of close anyway.  You don’t want it to be too unbalanced).  Carefully transfer the top crust to cover the apples in the pie plate.  Make sure you have enough to overlap the edges of the pan a bit (although this isn’t strictly necessary, I found it helps me to make a prettier pie).  If your crust tears, just gently press the torn edges together with your fingers.

Trim off the excess crust with a small, sharp knife.  My pie plates have a pretty wide lip, so I use that as my measurement on where to trim.  It is about 3/4 of an inch wide, and I find that is just enough to make a pretty edge.  Press the top and bottom crust together with your fingers, and turn up a little bit.  Then, using your fingers, scallop the edge of the crust.**  (Really I should have taken pictures to show you, but I was too excited about eating pie.)  Finally, using a sharp knife, cut a pretty design in the top crust to allow steam to vent during cooking.

Cover the edges of the crust with foil to prevent burning.  Bake for 20-30 minutes, checking occasionally, until the crust is golden brown.  (If it takes a little longer, don’t worry about it.  I start checking at 10 minutes in, because I’ve owned ovens with a…unique sense of temperature.)  Once golden deliciousness is achieved, and your whole house smells like heaven, remove the pie from the oven and let cool.  I know we like warm pie, but that filling is hot don’t eat it too quickly and burn yourself!

* To “cut in” the shortening to the flour using a fork and knife, just act like you’re cutting up dinner.  You’re just looking to achieve much smaller pieces than bite sized, and it takes a little while, so don’t get frustrated.

**Keeping in mind I’m left-handed, I use the first two fingers on my right hand on the inside edge of the crust and the first finger of my left hand on the outside of the crust.  Press the single finger on the outside of the crust in between the two fingers on the inside and make your way around the edge of the pie.  Don’t worry if it isn’t perfect.  That’s called “rustic”. 😉

‘Til next time,

Jessica

P.S. Tasty Goodness links to parts

  1. Tasty Goodness Part One
  2. Tasty Goodness Part Two
  3. Tasty Goodness Part Three
  4. Tasty Goodness Part Four
  5. Tasty Goodness Cheesecake

 


A Weekend of Laughter, Celebration and…An Injury or Two

FireworksIndependence Day weekend just wrapped up, and I can say without a doubt it was an interesting one.  My friend and her son joined my family for our Fourth of July celebrations.  Where my parents live, it is okay to shoot off fireworks as long as you have a permit, and my family indulges my love of setting things on fire (I may have passed that to my nephew too.)  Every year we gather for a barbecue, games and legal explosions.

This year my dad decided to smoke ribs…the man makes the best ribs I have ever tasted.   I actually requested them for my birthday dinner a couple of years ago (in November).  They are labor intensive, but so worth it.  This year they were falling off the bone, flavor filled and perfect.  (He made more than enough for us all to take some home)  He also smoked a mouth-watering chicken, but the ribs…the ribs are what I needed.  Of course, we had all the fixings to go with them.  Potato salad, baked beans, coleslaw, watermelon…all of it making a glorious barbecue.  We capped things off with a homemade apple pie with vanilla ice cream. It was perfection.

Like I said, ribs take time, so while we whetted our appetites with the smell of ribs on the smoker, we played.  We set up a golf-toss game (which took entirely too long to assemble because I lost the directions), jumped on the trampoline, discussed the rules of Pitch (which I still don’t really know how to play), broke out the ball gloves and baseball for some catch, and watched the dogs…being dogs.

Then my niece challenged my friend and I to a race across the yard.  Why we took the track and field star up on her dare, I don’t know.  The 16-year-old is quoting her fastest times, and I’m thinking…yep, this is going to be ugly.  It was, just not for the reason I expected.  The ugly arrived in the form of the header my friend took into the dried up grass, barely missing the dogs’ leavings a couple of inches from her face and scraping up her knees the likes of which I hadn’t seen since an infamous bike crash when I was a kid.  I can still see the moment she started to fall and  I realized there was absolutely nothing I could do to stop it.  Fortunately, her injuries were not  too bad.  (I checked on her this morning, and she’s stiff and sore but okay.)  We kept to golf-toss after that and provided her with a drink or two (purely for the pain killing properties, of course).

After enjoying way too much food, and packing up leftovers to take home, we started with the fire.  Rolls of firecrackers filled the air with deafening noise, parachutes got caught in the trees, and spinning flying…things flew every which way.  The pyros in the family got to indulge while the others looked on with fond amusement, frustration and advice on how not to burn a hole in your t-shirt (which was ignored…until I burned a hole in my t-shirt).  Crackling balls, ground bloom flowers, whistling frogs and chickens laying fiery colored eggs kept us entertained until dusk.

Then it was time for pie.  I must say, I did a pretty good job with my homemade apple pie, and while the ice cream wasn’t homemade, it was pretty perfect.  The break for dessert gave the sky time to darken enough to enjoy the jumbo sparklers and put together our plan for the big show.  I still never get tired of writing my name in lights with sparklers.  That’s when my dog picked his hiding spot under my nephew’s bed (Dexter, Lord of the Great Toy Wars is not fond of fireworks).

Maneuvering the trampoline and assorted lawn chairs into position to watch both our display and the even bigger show our neighbors put on and laying out everything in order, we prepared for the good stuff.  Punks (not of the teenage boy variety), flashlight and lighter in hand we began.  Roman candles and pretty fountains got things going with showers of sparks lighting up the night in beautiful colors.  Then we moved on to the bigger stuff.  Cakes with 60 shots, artillery shells and more.  Everything was going great until the artillery shell tube fell over the first time. (Yes, first time)  No fires, no injuries though.  The second time the tube fell over and sent my friend and I running for cover faster than anything we thought we could do in the earlier race with the 16-year-old, decided it.   You get what you pay for, and as pretty as these artillery shell displays were, they weren’t as well constructed as those purchased in previous years.  The final three shots got pitched, because…I wasn’t willing to chance it again. (and I’m the person who decided that a half-dozen sparklers tip down in an empty wine bottle were a good idea)  The rest of the evening went off without a hitch, well except for the face full ash I got, and our last roman candle that got dropped.  The beautiful fiery colored balls shot directly under our lawn chairs and we put and end to the fun in our yard.  The neighbors fireworks were gorgeous. (also, minus the yelling and running to be found in our yard).

The rest of the weekend, was fun and family filled also.  I also discovered a burrow of bunnies in my front yard.  Hopefully, they’ll move back in after I almost hurt one of them with the weed eater.  Well, except for the part where I fell in a hole in the yard and sprained my ankle.  I could tell you that it was while I was mowing the lawn, and it was…I just may have been singing, dancing and playing air guitar on my way back to the mower when it happened.  (What?  I like Kansas!)  That didn’t stop me from playing video games, watching horror movies and taking my nephew for dinner on Sunday though.

Oh! Maybe the ankle was karma for the disturbed bunny rabbits?  Oh yes, an unforgettable weekend, indeed.

What did you do over the weekend?
‘Til next time,

Jessica

P.S. I can’t decide if this is an endorsement for fireworks or a warning against them… maybe a little of both?


Family

Candlewyck Cove ResortLast weekend, I joined my family at Grand Lake for our annual long weekend at the lake.  Every year we rent a house at Candlywyck Cove Resort (and a hotel room or two) and spend the weekend laughing, eating, swimming, fishing and playing dominos (and any other games we can come up with).  My dad and his brothers and sisters and their families (when they can) come in to just hang out and reconnect.  Most of the weekend we had about 15 people there, but on Saturday that jumped to around 25ish (I really didn’t count).  Let’s just say there were a lot of people.

Grand Lake has been a central meeting place for our family since I was a kid.  My grandparents retired there, and we would all gather at their house for every holiday (Memorial Day, 4th of July, Easter, Labor Day…you get the idea) and as many weekends as possible every summer.  Some of my best memories were built on that lake.  I learned how to fish, helped “teach” my cousin to swim, drove a boat for the first time, told stories, enjoyed the fruits of my grandparents’ gardens, learned checkers, became a baseball fan, watched my first soap opera, got my first black eye, and so much more.  When we were looking for a gathering place in later years, it seemed only natural to choose Grand Lake.

Yes, we put everybody in one house, voluntarily, for four days.  This is apparently unusual for families.  I had no idea.  Until I became an “adult” (however, my nephew’s friend questioned my “adult” status this weekend), I thought everyone’s family was like this.  There’s lots of laughing and good-natured ribbing, but rarely a “real” argument.  Our discussions this last weekend ranged from health care and financial planning to theories on how my dad and his brothers managed to cheat at Apples to Apples (We’re not competitive at all: Insert sarcasm font here).  These weekends have been influential in a lot of my major decisions.  When I was trying to decide whether or not to take a job in Chicago, I brought it to the family on one of these weekends.  This year, I even brought the short story I’m going to be submitting for publication for them to read.  (The general consensus is basically that I’m weird, and it must be the weird books, television and movies I like.  This is an acceptable and expected response.)

Some of my favorite moments this year included taking my nephew and his friend out on a paddle boat (apparently kids under 14 can’t go alone.  My nephew was horrified.)  The wind blew so hard the little boat moved backwards, no matter how hard they paddled, and they had to work hard for their trip around the cove.  However, there were no (major) crashes with docks, a couple of turtle sightings, a threat was made to eject someone from the boat (and an unsuccessful attempt), and a lot of laughter (also a request to turn in the boat 15 minutes early).  Paddle boating is tiring.

My cousin’s boyfriend and my uncle attempted to teach us how to play the card game, Pitch.  We learned how to play a game, but I’m not sure it was Pitch.  They kept remembering rules they’d forgotten as we were playing (they were threatened with their lives discouraged from implementing new rules halfway through the game).  However, I think I have it now…maybe…there are a lot of rules.  The most important thing to come out of the game was a nickname for our new “teacher”.  He now goes by Pickles. (It is funnier if you were there).

Everyone got involved in Apples to Apples, which was a treat since one of my aunts usually refuses to play because she says we’re “awful”…not awful, just competitive.  (Really!)  Only a few of us had played the game before, so we got to teach it to everyone else.  The Three Amigos (otherwise known as my dad and his brothers) blew everyone else out of the water…especially my dad.  This is what led to the cheating accusations, well the unexpected domination in the game and a vast and varied history of cheating at board games.  (Seriously, they even cheat at checkers!)

Also there was singing!  My dad only knows one song, and only part of that.  Have you ever seen the movie Paint Your Wagon?  It is an old western starring Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin.  Until I saw this 1969 film, I had no idea that Eastwood could sing, and although it is Harvey Purcell who sings my dad’s song, They Call the Wind Mariah, it was this unsuspected side of Dirty Harry that stuck with me.

 

If I remember correctly, this was one of the first movies my parents went to when they started dating.  The first time I sat through this film, I made my parents promise me that I wouldn’t have to watch it again for 10 years. (I think I was 10.)  I did watch the movie again, and really enjoyed it. (What can I say, it’s no Star Wars but it is pretty good.).  Now, I’m willing to watch it whenever they want to.  I suppose, it is pretty sweet that my dad still sings a song from one of my parents first dates.

 

All of this to say, there really is nothing quite like family.  Next year’s lake trip can’t come soon enough.

‘Til next time,

Jessica

 


We’re All Mad Here

Table Decorations by Creative Elements DS

Table Decorations by Creative Elements DS

The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party Bridal Shower has been accomplished (insert trumpet fanfare here!).  This was so much fun to plan that I’m going to have to do another one, because this much fun cannot be contained to one party.  To gather up grains of inspiration, I hit the original Lewis Carroll books, dredged my mind for details from every Alice in Wonderland based film I’ve ever seen, and spent many an hour on Pinterest to see what others have done.  Then I cut out about 2/3 of that because I do not have unlimited time or resources, but the ideas…the ideas are still bounding through my brain like the white rabbit.

To set the stage a bit here, my dear friend and I have an inside joke.  It loses all humor when explained to outsiders (as the best inside jokes do), but long story short, if either one of us says the words “white rabbit” we dissolve into laughter. (Apparently, I also get a bit of a giggle out of it when I type it too…white rabbit!)  What else would do except for a Mad Hatter Tea Party to celebrate her upcoming marriage?

Decorations

Toadstools from fairysmallthings

Toadstools from fairysmallthings

MadHatter5The table ended up being my favorite piece.  The runner came from a craft store, and it is two rolls of moss overlapping each other in the middle.  Each roll is four feet long.  Luckily my table is only six feet long, because the ends are a little ragged looking.  To get a cleaner, but not too clean, look for the ends, I turned them under and left a heavy(ish) object on them overnight.  (Think, good-sized hard cover book.)  Instead of cutting the moss to size, I let them over lap in the middle.  This offered the perfect solution for the fairy ring of toadstools around the centerpiece.  These little cuties from Fairy Small Things’s Etsy Store are designed for terrariums, and come attached to a wire that I bent and slid through the material.  The second layer of moss underneath protected my table without requiring me to disassemble the centerpiece and put tape over the wire.

The centerpiece was created from things that I already had around my house (have I mentioned I like tea?).  It gave me an easily available list of tea party appropriate items to stack up.  Yes, these are merely stacked.  There is no glue, tape, adhesive anything holding them together, and while I would love to say I got it right on my first try, that would be a big fat lie.  I stacked and re-stacked the tower until I could repeatedly bump the table with no noticeable wobbling. (Patience, my friends, and a generous helping of stubborn…probably more stubbornness than patience).

Mad Hatter Tea Party Decorations Floating Tea Cups

Floating Tea Cups

Since I was using both a tea set that my Grandma Joye bought for us to play with and a set of china my mother received from one of her friends, there were a couple of chipped cups that gained new life as magically floating tea cups.  Since I don’t actually have magic, I had to improvise.  I tied them off to the light fixture above the table to create the “magical” look using  clear plastic line (Fishing line, stuff for making jewelry, whatever.  Just make sure it isn’t stretchy.)  Make sure your knots are good and strong, and you’re set and ready to go.

photoA Mad Hatter’s Tea Party wouldn’t be complete without tags that read “Eat Me” and “Drink Me” for the refreshments.  Fortunately, Creative Elements Design Studio has an Etsy store filled with nifty printables for a Mad Hatter Party.  Since I’m working on not over extending myself, I took her designs and added my own touch with card stock in the bride’s wedding colors and scrapbooking scissors.  The files I downloaded contained table cards, a large banner, a mini-banner, “Eat Me” and “Drink Me” tags, directional arrows, and signs with quotes from the book that I used.  There were also wonderful playing card decorations that I didn’t use (but probably will next time).

Mad Hatter Bridal Shower Buffet Table

Buffet Table

Some additional elements that I wanted to include were keys, clocks, crowns and keyholes.  Fortunately for me (and unfortunate for my budget), when I find cool things, I just buy them.  Eventually I find a use for them.  This time it came in the form of scrapbooking decorations (at least I think that’s what they were).  When I was thinking about Doctor Who and Sherlock parties I found these pieces with a steampunk kind of look.  I used twine to turn them into garland to hang from the curtain rod on the back door. (I like it so much, I think they’re going to stay there!)

I also created some Cheshire Cat grins to put in unexpected places.  That disappearing cat always ends up where he doesn’t belong, right?

Menu

Since the menu at the Sherlock party was such a hit, I decided not to mess too much with a good thing.  There were sandwiches, a veggie tray, tea, biscuits, cupcakes, and cocktails.

Sandwiches

  • Cucumber (recipe on Sherlock Party Post)
  • Ham & Pimento
  • Ham & Cheddar
  • Turkey & Provolone

Cupcakes

MadHatter8The cupcakes came from Not Your Grandma’s Cupcakes in Broken Arrow, OK.  They have lots of great flavors, and I could create a cupcake menu around the characters every one is familiar with from Alice in Wonderland.

  • 24 Carrot Baby for the White Rabbit –   A carrot cake cupcake that is just wonderful and topped with cream cheese icing.
  • Crazier Than A Nut was irresistible for the Mad Hatter. – A butter pecan cake with a maple frosting and candied pecans that I left me craving more.
  •  Cha-Cha-Cherry Cheesecake looked like it was tailor-made for the Queen of Hearts.  With an incredibly moist cheesecake cupcake topped with cream cheese icing and cherry pie filling.
  • Not Just Another Pretty Cupcake  was perfect for Alice.  A vanilla cupcake with vanilla icing, sprinkles and a surprising tart candy on top.
Alice, Mad Hatter and White Rabbit Tea from Adagio Teas

Themed Tea Blends

Tea

Of course, you can’t have a Mad Hatter Tea Party without tea.  This is where the amazing Adagio Teas came in handy with their

  • Alice in Wonderland White Rabbit, and Mad Hatter blends of tea.  Adagio Teas has some wonderful teas blended with specific fandoms in mind.  I bought their Sherlock Sampler for my Sherlock party, and I’ve already picked out my favorites that I’ll have to order again.  I set the tea up on a separate counter in the kitchen, complete with biscuits, milk and sugar.  Each tea-pot had the corresponding package of tea behind it so guests could find what they liked.

Cocktails

Themed cocktails are always fun, and I enthusiastically scoured the web to find recipes with a Mad Hatter flavor.  The resounding favorite was the White Rabbit, and my favorite was either the specialty mojito or the Mad Hatter Tea Party Cocktail (Note:  No matter what the bartender says, if you shake it hard enough, the shaker will come apart…yes, it will.)

Mad Hatter Tea Party Cocktail

  • 2 shots tea infused Gin (I used Earl Grey, and just leave a tea bag in the gin for a minimum of 30 minutes.)
  • 1/2 shot simple syrup
  • 1 1/2 shots lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp marmalade
  • Shake in cocktail shaker with ice, and strain into martini glasses rimmed with sugar

White Rabbit

  • Vanilla Vodka (I used Pearl’s Wedding Cake Vodka.  It is yummy!)
  • Vanilla Liqueur
  • Milk
  • Ice

Alice in Wonderland

  • 1 shot amaretto
  • 1 shot orange liqueur
  • 1 shot peach liqueur

Mar-Tea-Ni

  • Earl Grey
  • Gin
  • Lemon

Blueberry, Blackberry & Lavender Mojito

One of the bride’s friends is crafting a signature cocktail for the wedding that incorporates the bride’s colors. We got to be the test subjects for her thoughtful, tasty, and gorgeous drink. Wow, just…it was great. I didn’t mind being a test subject at all. I figured it would be helpful to see if she could replicate the deliciousness, so I had to “test” more than one.

Games

Who Am I?

It’s always a little tricky to get people who don’t know each other talking at something like this.  All many of them knew about each other was that they all knew the bride, so to get things started and introduce people to each other in a…less than conventional way, I began with having everyone choose a playing card as they arrived.  Each card had a “mate” and they had to find the guest with the matching card to be their partner.  When they found their partners, I handed out sticky notes and pens.  Each person had to write a person or thing on the sticky note and stick it to their partner’s forehead.  Then everyone mingled to ask questions about who or what they were.  The first person to guess what was on their sticky note won a prize.

Mad Hatter Bridal Shower Gift Bags

Custom Decorated Gift Bags

Silly Hats

Mad Hatter Bridal Shower - Silly Hats

Silly Hats

This game had no winner.  It just got everyone relaxed, silly and feeling good.  Every time someone said one of the key words they had to wear a hat.  I didn’t expect everyone to be so enthusiastic about this game.  People worked hard to keep their favorite hats.  (If I’d known, I would have made up more rules!)

  • Date, Time, Day – White Rabbit Ears
  • Wedding, Reception – Mad Hatter Top Hat
  • Bride – Tiara
  • Groom – Propeller Cap

Love Story

Every couple has their own love story, and each person who knows them knows a slightly different version of that story.  For this game, take a large piece of paper, and have each guest write one line of the couple’s love story.  Then fold the paper so the next person can’t see what has come before.  When you’re finished, someone reads aloud the story, and the bride has a nice keepsake.  (Note:  It would be a good idea to have the guests include their names.  I didn’t do this, but a comment from the bride made me wish I had.)

Photo Scavenger Hunt

The guests were divided up into teams, and each team received a list of items found in the book to acquire pictures of.  Initially, the plan was to send the guests out into the world and the first team to report back to me with a complete picture list would all win prizes.  However, no one felt like going anywhere, so we got creative.  My house became the field for the scavenger hunt, and the teams had to get really inventive to come up with some of the clues.  Fortunately, these were smart women.  When the winning team couldn’t find it, they took to the internet for a picture, and it worked out perfectly.

Cards Against Humanity

Since my bride’s ideal bachelorette party included relaxing with cocktails, friends and playing games, I figured it was time to introduce them to Cards Against Humanity (duh, duh, dunnnnnn).  As the box says, this is a “party game for horrible people”. There are black cards and white cards.  The black cards include questions or fill-in-the-blank sentences.  The white cards are the possible choices to answer/fill-in-the-blank…all, I can say is that the more wrong it feels, the funnier it probably is, and the more likely you are to win.

That pretty much sums it up right there.  I laughed so hard my sides hurt.

The party was so much fun to plan, to host, to attend, and I’m excited to see what theme party I can come up with next.  Any ideas?  Want or need help planning your own theme party?  Just let me know!

‘Til next time,

Jessica


Sherlock Season Three Recap Party

Sherlock (TV series)

Sherlock (TV series) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So what happens when you have a friend who gets a kick out of planning themed parties?  You get a themed birthday party…whether you really want it or not.

Fortunately, my dear friend, is a fan of BBC’s Sherlock.  This is helpful, because I really wanted to throw a Sherlock themed party.  Remember my Doctor Who Birthday Party?  I’m now hooked on themed parties, because they are so much fun to plan.

One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to spend more time with my friends (an unwritten one is to not get myself in over my head).  Parties are ideal for getting my favorite people together in one place.  The challenge is not getting carried away with the theme planning.

photo (2)For this party, I decided to serve tea as a subtle (or not so subtle) reference to Sherlock serving tea to Moriarty in The Reichenbach Fall.  Besides, I’d just unearthed the tea set my Grandma Joye got for us to use when we were kids.  She would have definitely approved.  My parents are remodeling their kitchen, so I helped them clean out their current cupboards.  We found all kinds of gems there.  Serving plates, dessert trays, and even a fondue pot.  (I’ve never had fondue, so I’m not attempting it for the first time at a party.  However, this is not my last theme party!)  My kitchen cupboards are a little short on space now, but I have a lot of really neat stuff that will be put to good use!

photo (2)I didn’t get to do all the decorating I would have liked.  (Note: don’t plan a themed party when you’ll be traveling for work the week before.  It makes everything feel rushed, and fun stuff has to get cut do to time constraints.)  The writing was on the wall, so to speak, with Dry Erase markers providing the assist for “Get Sherlock” messages and “Honey, you should see me in a crown” on the bathroom mirror.  The mirror was complete with a crown drawn just above the head of the viewer.  As a parting shot for party goers, I printed a picture of Moriarty with “Miss me?” at the bottom.  Since a number of people hadn’t seen all the Season Three episodes, I provided “shock” blankets, because…they’d need them.

The blankets were simple to make.  Orange fleece cut to whatever size you desired with hems around the edge that were whipped stitched with dark brown embroidery thread.  I’m a fan of decent sized blankets to snuggle in, and the bolt of fleece I found was perfect for that.  At 60″ X 54″ there’s plenty of soft cuddly comfort to be found.

The menu consisted of items typically found at tea-time, and the bonus was it was quick and easy to put together.

photo (1)Menu:

  • Cucumber Sandwiches – spread: 8oz cream cheese, 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1 packet of dry Italian Dressing seasoning.  Mix well and refrigerate for at least 6 hours.  Spread on bread and top with sliced cucumbers.
  • Ham & Pimento Cheese Sandwiches –
  • Ham & Cream Cheese Sandwiches
  • Mini-Quiche
  • Celery & Carrots
  • Biscuits
  • Cupcakes
  • Tea

Adagio Teas has a wonderful selection of fandom teas.  I ordered the Sherlock Sampler.  Which arrived with tea specially blended based on Sherlock Holmes, John Watson, Mycroft Holmes, Anderson, Sally Donovan, Greg Lestrade, Mrs. Hudson, Molly Hooper, The Woman, and Moriartea.  They’ve pared down their current sampler size and price, but after tasting most of these teas, I think they’ve made good selections.  My favorites were Sherlock Holmes, John Watson, Moriartea, and Greg Lestrade.  I like a bold strong tea with a bit of milk and sugar, and these were all perfect for that.  Mycroft Holmes was also really nice, very chocolaty.

Shock Blankets and Tea

Shock Blankets and Tea

A Sherlock & Watson Cocktail was also in the plans, but it calls for Cardamom Bitters.  I had no concept of how difficult it would be to find this necessary little addition, so...we just splashed whiskey in our tea and called it a day.  You can order Cardamom Bitters online or check your local specialty food stores.  Just plan ahead for that little gem.  

We played “Sherlock” , a game I read about online that combines Clue with Jenga (the Lego guy was my idea).  Setup the board just as your normally would for Clue, however in the center where the envelope containing the killer’s information goes, place the Jenga tower.  The Lego figurine goes on top, since there is no Sherlock Lego yet, I used Loki (I didn’t think he’d mind.).  We played with traditional Clue rules, however each time someone made an incorrect suggestion to solve the murder, they had to remove a Jenga block.  The person who makes “Sherlock” fall loses.  Yes, someone went there, I ran with it, and it was good.

The "spray paint" effect did not go as planned...but they still tasted great!

The “spray paint” effect did not go as planned…but they still tasted great!

The original goal was to pick up something from each episode to use as a decoration, party favor or menu item.  Unfortunately, some things had to get cut, because life interfered with party planning.  Ah, well.  The things that got the ax included:

  • A “photo booth” using the table-cloth fabric as a back ground and cutout mustaches, deer stalkers, blue scarves, an umbrella, and a tiara
  • “Crime in progress, please disturb” note for the front door
  • Sherlock cupcake toppers
  • Skull on mantelpiece
  • Black lotus origami
  • Rache spelled in red tape on the floor
  • A bandanna with H.O.U.N.D. Liberty, IN to go around the dog’s neck
  • A riding crop (or something that looks like one) randomly lying about
  • Laser pointers for guests to play with

The party was a grand success, and I will be keeping my list and props intact for the next Sherlock party.  Watch party for Season 4?  Anyone?  Anyone?  Since I have a good bit of time to plan for the next one, send me your ideas.

‘Til next time,

Jessica


Here’s My Weekend…

I know.  I know.  It is a bit repetitive, but I can’t stop singing this song!  It’s like a Pavlovian response now.  I realize it’s Friday, and the song starts playing in my head.  What can you do but pass it on?  (I also think of the movie Friday.  “You ain’t got no job…” Every. Time.)

This weekend it is all about taste testing some cupcakes for a Bridal Shower/Bachelorette party I’m throwing (Mad Hatter Tea Party anyone?).  Have I mentioned I like theme parties?  (There is a Sherlock Party post coming soon. Promise)  So far, I love, love, love this Mad Hatter Tea Party theme.  There are so many possibilities!!

Tonight, a local used book store is having a Ladies Night, and it is buy one get one free (I think).  Of course, I’m going to a book store after two people have told me it would be easier to stop buying books than buy more bookshelves.  Silly people… Not to mention, this is where I end up getting most of my comic books. (Thank you for the recommendations! Keep them coming!)

I’m finally going to watch Catching Fire and possibly Divergent.  Apparently, it is also YA movie adaptation weekend.  Here’s to hoping they do a better job than they did with Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.

Also, I may go to the zoo.  Yep, maybe the zoo.  “Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my!” Maybe finally finishing the furniture I started re-finishing like a month ago.  We’ll see how motivated I’m feeling.  Honestly, I’m not holding out much hope for that furniture, but there is still a tiny sliver of possibility there. (There are also books to be read…which will win?  Work?  Books? Zoo? All of the above?)

As I’m looking at this, and the list of normal stuff that has to get done (grocery shopping, laundry, etc.), I think I may have figured out why I’m tired…ah, oh well, who needs sleep?

So what’s going on with you this weekend?

‘Til next time,
Jessica

P.S. Have you ever accidentally ordered a foreign film from Netflix?  I have…twice now.

P.P.S. Sorry for the rambling…I can’t stop…still…

Tasty Goodness Part 4: The Doctor Who Theme Party Menu

Are you ready for Part 4 of Tasty Goodness?  I thought after my post about turning theme parties into a way to give back to your community, I should give you the recipes used in my Doctor Who theme party I hosted a couple of months ago.  Of course, all of this can be made without the Doctor theme. (It isn’t as much fun though.)

Moisturize Me Lasagna

This one is a super easy and simple way to put together lasagna.  The amounts you’ll need really depend on how big your baking dish is, and personal preference

  • Moisturize Me Lasagna from my Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Party

    Moisturize Me Lasagna

    Lasagna Noodles (I like the oven ready ones.  Less work!)

  • Marinara Sauce
  • Ground Beef (optional)
  • Ricotta Cheese
  • Mozzarella Cheese
  • Frozen Spinach (Optional)

Cassandra’s Face

  • Red Bell Pepper
  • Radish
  • Black Olive Slices

Preheat your oven to 350.  Brown the ground beef and drain off excess fat before mixing the meat with the marinara sauce.  Spread a little marinara sauce (without meat) in the bottom of your baking dish to prevent sticking, and lay an even layer of noodles in the bottom of the pan.  You can leave a little space between the noodles (the noodles swell a little when cooking), but make sure you don’t over lap them.  On top of the noodles, spread a thin coating of meat sauce.  Drop a few spoonfuls of ricotta over the meat sauce, space them out (otherwise you run out of ricotta!).  If you’re using spinach, make sure the spinach is thawed and gently patted dry to remove excess water.  Layer the spinach over the ricotta and top with another layer of noodles.  Repeat this process until you reach the top of the baking pan, ending with a layer of meat sauce.  Spread grated mozzarella cheese on the top of everything.  Bake in 350 oven for 1 hour.

If you don’t like ground beef, you can replace that with ground turkey or even buffalo.  If meat just isn’t your thing at all, just use spinach.  Some of the best lasagna I’ve ever eaten was made with spinach!  Be careful not to burn the roof of your mouth!

After the lasagna is out of the oven, you can assemble Cassandra’s face using two slices of radish, two slices of black olive, and a red bell pepper cut to look like lips.

Bow Ties are Cool Pasta from my Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Party

Bow Ties are Cool Pasta

Bow Ties are Cool Pasta

  • Bow Tie Pasta (actually you can use any kind of pasta you like)
  • Cherry or Grape Tomatoes
  • 5 Cloves of Garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Fresh Basil
  • Fresh Mozzarella (optional)

Cook the pasta according to directions on the package.  While the water is boiling for the pasta chop the garlic and brown in a skillet with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.  (Watch the garlic closely.  It can burn quickly and will get bitter!)  Slice 1/3 of the tomatoes and cook them over medium heat with the garlic until the tomatoes release their juices.  Toss the cooked pasta with the tomatoes and garlic.  Tear fresh basil on top of the pasta and toss in some pieces of fresh mozzarella (because why not?).  Now let’s eat!

 

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Oh No…I’m Getting Ideas Again

Recently, my Facebook feed has been inundated with content and videos from Upworthy, and I watch some of them.  For the most part, I realize that these are a time suck.  Maybe I get a bit of good news or get outraged over an injustice, but on the whole were they really worth my time?  Probably not.

 

Today was different though.  Today I saw a video that inspired me to actually go out and do something.  The video was for the Urban Innovation Exchange that started in Detroit, and discussed a SOUP project they do.  People come in, pay $5 for a bowl of soup, salad, and a vote.  Individuals from different projects come to the event to talk about their project/organization, and whoever gets the most votes at the end of the evening gets the funds raised from the event.

 

Random Acts of Kindness 2013

Random Acts of Kindness 2013

That started me thinking (always a dangerous idea, I know!).  After my Random Acts of Kindness 2013 , I received great feedback about how this inspired other people.  Some people did a 12 Days of Christmas theme, others just went out and did nice things for people, and others said that they wished they could do something like that but time/money/resources was an issue.  So, how could I make giving back to the community part of things that they already do?  How could you put your own spin on this Urban Innovation Exchange and SOUP project?

 

A pair of aces is arguably the best hand to be...

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I used to be part of a poker game when I lived in Chicago.  Each person would buy into a Texas Hold ‘Em tournament for a whopping $5 per tournament (some nights the first one ended early enough there was time for a second…or we’d had enough to drink and enough fun that we just weren’t ready to stop), and whoever won the tournament usually donated the money for food.  Yes, that’s right, no one ever really left with a dime, just the joy of winning (and I do so enjoy winning).  We showed up because it was fun, and we liked playing. (even if occasionally an individual would bet to make all their piles of chips even)

The SOUP event got me thinking about how a night like that could be turned into a mini-fundraiser.  The winner of the tournament got to pick the charity to receive the evenings winnings.  It seemed like a revelation to me, because somewhere along the line I forgot (even after the Random Acts of Kindness 2013) that giving back didn’t have to mean big bucks, supporting causes you believe in doesn’t have to feel like work, and that a lot of people worry that they don’t have enough time or enough money to make a difference.  

 

I may have mentioned that I hang out with some really amazing people. (Seriously though, why would you spend time with people who weren’t?)  I host a lot parties (in some form or fashion) at my house, and I almost always cook for the get together (because I just love cooking).  I always get questions like: “How can I help?” “What can I bring?” “Do you need anything?” I’m willing to bet that next time if I tell them they an bring a can of food, $5, a personal hygiene item, a get well card, a letter for military personnel stationed overseas, or even an hour of their time to donate to a good cause they’d do it in a heartbeat.

Maybe you don’t play poker or host dinner parties.  So what?  You can use this for movie nights, game nights, book clubs, quilting circles…whatever you do for fun.  Seriously, I would love to see a group of people who get together for like a Halo night write thank you letters to military personnel…how cool would that be?  Too bad I suck at Halo…any takers?  Maybe you’re planning a Sherlock watch party, and you have everybody bring stuff to make a package for a member of the homeless “network” or a Doctor Who party where everybody brings something for either mental health services (because he’s a mad man with a box) or for a children’s charity (because he can’t just sit there and watch children cry)….oh crud, here I go with theme parties again.  Can you see the possibilities?

So how do you know where to donate in your community?  Well, excellent question.  Although, I only looked briefly, when I did a search for “Tulsa Non-Profit Organizations” the first link that came up was a website Great Non-Profits that you can use to search either by city/state or by area of interest.  People can leave reviews and share experiences with different organizations too, which I love.  I haven’t actually dug in to ensure that every non-profit is on the up and up, but I do know that the ones I skimmed through for the Tulsa area were well-known, reputable organizations.

Need more ideas?  Send me what you and your friends do for fun, and I’ll come up with something!

‘Til next time,

Jessica

 

 

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Tasty Goodness Part 3: Homemade Irish Cream

Presenting the follow-up to Tasty Goodness – Part 1 and Part 2!  So, did anybody try out anything from the first installments of Tasty Goodness? How did it go?  If you made any particularly yummy changes, I let me know about that too.  I’m always looking for new stuff!

photo (16)This week I thought I’d talk about a recipe that I got from a customer at my previous job.  Homemade Irish Cream.  Now, this is an adult beverage, but it tastes like a milkshake…only for adults.  In a previous life (known as 3 years ago) I was a banker at a large financial institution, and just as holiday season was kicking off, a customer sat down at my desk.  We started chatting as I took care of the business he was in to discuss, and he started telling me about his contributions to any family gathering….yep, Irish Cream.  This is something I’m a fan of, Irish Cream. He said that I would never purchase another bottle of either after trying his, and that he made it so much that he had the recipe memorized.  Of course, I asked him to prove it, and I slid one of those pink message notes across the desk with a pen.  Fortunately, my boss, who was nearby, found my glee to be amusing.  A week or so later, I agreed with my client.  I was never buying another bottle of Irish Cream again.  This stuff is heavenly!

Irish Cream

  • 1 1/2 Cups of Bushmills Irish Whiskey
  • 1 Pint Heavy Cream
  • 1 can Eagle Brand Condensed Milk
  • 2/3 Cup chocolate sauce
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 4 eggs

In a blender, blend 1 egg with the whiskey for two minutes , repeat the process with each additional egg.  It is very important that you blend each egg with the whiskey for the full two minutes.  This is what cooks the eggs.  Add cream, condensed milk, chocolate sauce, vanilla and almond extract, blend until well mixed.  Store refrigerated in a glass container.  It is drinkable now, but after storing for a week it is much more smooth and mellow.  Makes about a half-gallon.  

Things I learned about this recipe….

  1. If you serve it in a chilled glass, it gets thick…really thick, like a milkshake.
  2. I made a gallon of this and ran out of chocolate sauce as I started the second batch.  You can use 2/3 Cup of chocolate sauce for a gallon and it doesn’t hurt the taste…at all.
  3. This makes a really nice gift for friends.  Just make sure that you use glass bottles when you give it away.  Not only are they prettier, but…you have to store it in glass bottles!  You can also discover brewing supply stores in your area…glass bottles were harder to find than I thought.
  4. Don’t drink all the results if you tell your friends you’re making this.  They will know (and mention it) if they don’t get any.
  5. Make sure you taste test a few glasses before giving it away….okay, that isn’t necessary.  It sure is a lot of fun though!

I would tell you how long you can store it, but it never lasts more than a couple of weeks.  Really, it is that good.

‘Til next time,

Jessica

 

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