October 23, 2014

Recipes for Little Helpers Round Up

I've always figured that the kid friendliest recipes would be the ones that little hands could help out with. Kids can learn good kitchen etiquette, they get a sense of accomplishment from actually making the food they're going to eat, and Mom or Dad gets some help in the kitchen. Plus, food is fun, so everybody wins. So if you've got a little helper, I've done a round up of some of my recipes that fit this description: easy prep (and easy clean up), minimal use of sharp implements of doom, no mixer necessary, and many of them (with a few exceptions) are even safe for the littlest hands that have trouble staying out of their mouths. (I also had a little too much fun with the new "Comic Book Theme" on Picmonkey. :D)

Obviously, parents are the best judges of what their kids can help with, that should go without saying. I'm just trying to be helpful.


Gluten and egg free, can be made dairy free with the substitution of vegan chocolate hazelnut spread. Little ones can mash the bananas and mix the up the batter.

Dairy, gluten, and refined sugar free, this can be mixed right in the mug it's cooked in, and kids can watch it rise in the microwave. (Note: the mug can be very hot right out of the microwave)

One bowl, egg free muffins that include kid-friendly cereal

Peanut butter, banana, oats, and applesauce make them good for breakfast. Sugar makes them cookies. (Gluten and dairy free)

A homemade graham cracker crust is filled with canned peaches (peach pie filling also works) and topped with crisp mix (Egg free)

Lunch and Dinner

Great for a quick meal or a snack when making a whole pot of pasta isn't feasible. Older kids can learn to do this by themselves, and it's way better than Easy Mac. (Note: the bowl will be very hot straight out of the microwave.)

Kids can mix up this 5 ingredient meatloaf with their hands (always a fun time), and then shape it for the muffin tins

It's pizza and a waffle all in one. Pancake mix makes the batter a breeze to put together, and using the waffle iron means it cooks fast. It's a meal in itself or a fun alternative to breadsticks. (Egg free)

I loved Uncrustables as a kid, and it never occurred to me that I could make my own. Kids can make their own flavor combinations, and use pastry cutters to cut them into fun shapes. Plus, they can be adapted for different dietary needs (gluten free bread, nut free butter, etc.)

Peanut Butter Blondies

If kids are willing to sacrifice their Halloween candy, they can help make these blondies. The batter takes a little extra arm strength to whip up, but they can handle it.

I have a friend who makes this chocolate cake with her toddler's help (she even subs in grated zucchini for some of the oil), and uses the opportunity to talk about science (baking soda plus vinegar equals SCIENCE) and shapes. My addition was to use toasted marshmallows instead of frosting. (Egg and dairy free, vegan without the marshmallows)

I got this recipe originally from my middle school home ec class. Melted butter and instant pudding mix make these brownies super simple, and my public school curriculum agrees this is a good recipe for kids to make.

This barely counts as a recipe, and even the littlest can get involved by adding sprinkles or chopped nuts before they go in the freezer. (Gluten and egg free, use dairy free chocolate hazelnut spread for vegan)

The hardest part is shredding the zucchini. Bonus, it's a good way to sneak in some veggies (vegan)

October 16, 2014


Hey guys! Guess who wins the "best sister ever" award, alongside the "best wedding present ever" award, and is eligible for the "best nerd-themed joint bachelor/bachelorette party ever" award?

That's right, this girl.

For those of you just joining us, my brother got married this weekend. That's right, the same weekend as New York Comic Con. The biggest nerd event on the East Coast. In an attempt to still go, I asked my now sister-in-law if she would like to have a Comic Con bachelorette party. Her answer, of course, was yes (and then we let my brother come along, so it became a bachelor/ette) party. We pulled out all the stops: a limo into the city, a group Doctor Who cosplay, I made TARDIS corsages for the entire party...
The maid of honor was like, "Kim, I didn't know you could do this!"
I told her I didn't know I could do it either.
And a boutonniere for my brother
...out of dollar store flowers and mini papercraft TARDISes (I got them here, just resized them to make them a little bit bigger), and I even bought photo ops and we did autographing, even though that's not what I usually do at Comic Con, I wanted to make sure they had the true con experience.

(Fun fact: when I walked up to Brent Spiner to ask for his autograph, he asked if he could take my picture. Freaking Commander Data asked for my picture! That really actually happened and I have witnesses. I think I may be doing autographing more now.)

The bride insisted that I be a dalek for our group cosplay (so I was unable to just reuse my TARDIS Dress and Top Hat from last year. Le sigh), and you guys know me. Instead of just buying a dalek dress from Her Universe, I had to go and craft it up.

To start with, you want an a-line style dress in any color. I just happened to already have a blue skater style dress that had been one of the TARDIS dress contenders last year that I couldn't return since it had been on sale. I paid about $17 for it originally, I think. I also bought a petticoat skirt to wear under the dress, a cheap costume-y one, to give it a little more fullness. That's optional, but I think it helps make it look a little more dalek-y.

As always, cotton or cotton blends are best for a dress you plan on modding, and always wash clothes first since they are treated with stain resists that will also resist glue and fabric paint
The next thing you want to do is hunt down some craft foam balls, mine were about 3 inches in diameter, but smaller works too. I found them at the dollar store, two to a pack for a dollar. (In contrast, the ones at Michaels around the same size were 6 to a package for $6, so double the price). I bought out their entire supply since there weren't a whole lot left, and you never know if you'll be able to find something again at the dollar store, so I didn't want to chance coming up short. The cashier looked at me funny. The amount you'll need depends on the length of your dress, but I think I used around 15 (30 halves).

Measure the foam balls against the dress to determine the approximate number you'll need (I figured out the minimum and maximum I'd need, so I knew the actual number would fall somewhere in the middle), then using a large, sharp knife, cut the balls in half. (I may or may not have used my big chef's knife to do this. WHAT. My utility knife was too short) The foam balls I used had a seam around the middle, so I used that as a guide.

Now, the foam I was using wasn't very porous, so I was able to skip right to the painting. If you're using a more traditional styrafoam, you'll want to glaze it first using mod podge or school glue thinned with a little water, this way all the paint won't soak into the foam. Then you want to buy my new favorite thing: metallic craft paint. It's inexpensive ($1.50 for 2 oz. at Michaels), works on multiple surfaces, and actually does look metallic. I used the gunmetal color.

You're not going to cover the foam balls in one coat, so don't try. It's better to go with lots of thin coats than thick, uneven coats. It took about 4 coats of paint before I was satisfied with the color, and then I went with one last thin coat to cover any last brush marks or imperfections. And the good thing about thin coats was that by the time I finished painting the last foam ball, the first one was dry enough to paint over, so you could theoretically do it all in one sitting.
Watching Doctor Who on Netflix helps make this part less onerous.
I'm liking Pertwee.
While your foam balls are drying, you'll want to take some thick, black ribbon and glue it along the bottom edge of the dress. My dress was rather shorter than I would have liked, so I took the opportunity to add an extra inch to the length. I just took the ribbon I had left over from my TARDIS Top Hat, and lined it up with the hem of the dress. Don't try to glue it all at once, you'll make yourself crazy. Work in sections, and let them dry for a few minutes before moving on to the next section.
If you have a cat, he will want to assist you with this part.
Needy McSnuggles says your costume doesn't have enough cat hair
The next step is gluing the foam balls to the dress. Using the waist of the dress as a guide, space out the best arrangement for the top row. It just so happened that 4 worked for me. Then I took thin, black duct tape (left over from TARDIS Dress) and used that to space out the rows. Remember to put it on an angle to account for the flare of the dress. Then just space out the rest of the foam balls-- columns of three worked best for the length of my dress. Once you've got the spacing right, glue it on there (and remember that tacky glue dries clear if you make a mistake).
Let that dry completely (overnight is best) before working on the back of the dress. It's harder to do the back since you can't lay the dress flat, but it's also more important that the front looks good. :3
Watch some more Doctor Who while waiting for your dalek balls (heh) to dry.
Now all we've got left is the waist. Now, I glued the same black ribbon I used on the hem around the waist, but take the benefit of my experience-- that wasn't a good idea. I ended up having to rip off the back half and I was literally hot gluing it back onto the dress mere minutes before I had to leave. The problem is that the ribbon doesn't stretch along with the dress, so it didn't want to go over my shoulders or around my bust. I thought I had planned for it-- I left room in the ribbon along the sides, but it wasn't enough. So instead you might want to go with black elastic ribbon or just paint it on with black fabric paint. Or hot glue yourself into the dress the day of the con. I am proof that that works.
Needy McSnuggles is judging my inability to account for the lack of stretch in the ribbon.

Now onto the eyestalk. This was the part that I think really made the costume. What you need are 1) a paper towel roll, 2) duct tape (the regular silver kind is best. I had white so I used it and painted it silver. Save yourself some steps), 3) a sheet of black craft foam, 4) a blue LED light, found in the flower arranging aisle at most craft stores (mine was left over from TARDIS Top Hat), 5) scissors and hot glue. My beloved tacky glue just doesn't work out here. I know, I tried.

The first thing you want to do is cut the paper towel roll open and measure it around the LED. You want the LED to fit into it, but not fall through it (please note that in the pictures, I had rolled the cardboard too tightly. I ended up having to redo it. The light should be able to sit in the tube without being held.) Wrap the tube in duct tape, and you're gonna want to cut a couple inches off of it. I found this easiest to do after being duct-taped. Hot glue the light into the tube, being careful to make sure you can still turn it on and off.

Cut a wide strip of the black craft foam long enough to go around the light, with a little bit extra. I found it easiest to cut a shallow curve along the bottom of the strip, so when I wrapped it around the light, I was able to have it flare out a bit, allowing easier access to the light. Hot glue it to the tube, then decorate with more thin strips of foam. I added foam around the top to give it more depth, and very thin strips around the sides, to mimic the look of a dalek eye. Then I just added a little bit more of the metallic craft paint, mostly to cover the fact that I am not a neat gluer.
FYI, cats enjoy lying on top of black craft foam.
And they can't resist getting in the picture.
Make sure to test that you can get your fingers in there to turn the light off and on. PSA: the LEDs are extremely bright, and you're basically making a flashlight, so you may accidentally blind a few people since it will be at eye level. Whoops.
Then hot glue the eye stalk to a headband. Glue a small, disposable plastic cup on either side for the "lights." I had originally intended to put actual lights inside the cups, but I thought I already had the two white lights, and I only had one and no time to run to Michaels. If you don't add actual lights, you'll need to add a counter weight of some kind to the headband. Everything that you use to make it is so lightweight that the LED at the end of the eyestalk made it kind of top heavy. I had to keep readjusting the headband all day. Or you might be able to get away with using a heavy duty headband.

As it was, one of the faux lights fell off, so I ended up taking the other one off as well. I'm sure that didn't help the weight disparity either
Fun story: I did a photo op with Stephen Amell (I was buying one for my brother with William Shatner when I thought, ah, what the heck, I'll treat myself), and when it came to be my turn, he jumped back and went "aah" all joking like, then he told me I looked great, and put his arm around me even though we'd been instructed that Stephen had asked for no physical contact (which, considering I'd contracted Con Crud last year, I found to be completely understandable) and you can see that my face is red in the photo, and it appears that Stephen Amell is in possession of the singular talent of being able to make me blush in under 10 seconds.

Arthur Darvill (Rory Williams) also said my costume was great, and Brent Spiner said I was "a vision" (direct quote. I have witnesses!), so despite being a little slapdash, I'd say my costume was a success.
As for the plunger, there is a Home Depot brand one for $3. It's smaller, with a shorter handle, so it's not ideal for actual plunging, but it's perfect for cosplay. The handle was bright orange, though, so I just gave it a quick sanding and painted it with silver metallic craft paint. I didn't have time to do anything for the whisk arm, but I was kind of happy to have a hand free for side hugs from Stephen Amell. Le sigh