Sunday, August 17, 2014

Gen Con 2014 in review

Gen Con: a tiring, fun weekend.

Since school started 2 weeks ago, we weren't able to get to Indy until Friday evening. I made sure to do my nerdicure before we drove to Indy, applying Espionage Cosmetics' Critical Hit nail wraps.

My nerdicure, Espionage Cosmetics' Critical Hit nail wraps
My nerdicure: Espionage Cosmetics' Critical Hit.
Since we were only at Gen Con for a few hours Friday night, I decided to cosplay in comfort. I donned a bathrobe, pajama pants and a towel to play Arthur Dent from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. For anyone looking to get into cosplay but intimidated, this is a super easy one to do.
Friday night cosplay: Arthur Dent
Friday night cosplay: Arthur Dent
 Of course, we stayed up way too late Friday night, playing a new board game, Epic Resort, with friends until sometime after midnight.

We tried not to over schedule ourselves this year, but we did have a few fun workshops and seminars Saturday. I started off my day decorating cupcakes to look like 1-Up Mushrooms. We rolled fondant, cut shapes, and learned how to apply it to the cupcakes. Of course, my cupcakes only lasted long enough for me to show them off before Chris and I ate them.
My 1-Up Mushroom cupcakes
My cupcakes
Saturday was the big cosplay day, as usual. I dressed as Kiki from Kiki's Delivery Service. This is actually the easiest costume I've made, with a pretty simple black dress and a big red bow. Of course, creating the pattern for the dress was a challenge, but Amanda helped me do that. A big bonus to this cosplay? It comes with a bag to carry stuff!

And I must share the cosplay pictures: me as Kiki with Amanda as Elsa, and me as Kiki with Chris as a Scotsman (he wanted to wear his kilt).
Amanda cosplaying as Elsa from Frozen and me cosplaying as Kiki from Kiki's Delivery Service.
Elsa and Kiki

Chris in his kilt, dressed as a Scot, and me as Kiki from Kiki's Delivery Service
Me and my Scotsman
I actually didn't take a lot of pictures of people cosplaying this year. I enjoyed seeing all the costumes, but didn't feel the need to document them all. Plus, I was usually too busy doing my own thing to stop and ask. I did go to a seminar on cosplaying on a budget. I knew a lot of the tips, although there was some good information shared. I think the best part of that seminar was the people attending sharing their tips and tricks.

Chris went to a leather working workshop in the afternoon. He cut and prepped all the pieces to make a new sporran. He still needs to sew it together, but that shouldn't be too difficult. This was actually a perfect project since he wanted to buy or make a bigger sporran than his current one. 

Saturday night in Indy was crazy busy, with a pre-season Colts game at the same time as Gen Con. Restaurants downtown were packed, but we really wanted to sit down to eat dinner rather than hit the food trucks again. We ended up at California Pizza Kitchen, which was a great choice, because the wait for a table was only 25 minutes. It was nearly 2 hours at Ram and 4 hours at Harry and Izzy's!

Oh, and the food trucks? Best addition to Gen Con. The variety of food is awesome, plus there is a lot less waiting than when convention hall food or waiting for a restaurant table were the only options. And there are cupcakes. 

We brought the boys to their first Gen Con Sunday. This year we've introduced them to cons, starting with Indy Comic Con in March, followed by Indy Pop Con in May. They were less overwhelmed by Gen Con, even though it's bigger than either of the others. I think having the experience of the other cons helped them feel more comfortable since they already knew some of what to expect.

New to Gen Con (I think) was a button hunt for kids. There were 9 Gen Con buttons to collect in various parts of the convention center. This was a smart way for Gen Con to draw kids into areas they might not otherwise go. And the kids loved it! The button hunt kept our two engaged and entertained for a good hour. They were able to collect 8 of the buttons (the mercenary was gone)--and then we ran into some friends who had only collected the mercenary and gave them to the boys. They were so excited to have a complete set!

The boys collected all nine buttons in the button hunt.
The boys with their buttons!
We were actually able to stay for over 4 hours with the boys, a record. (Previous con record was 2 hours before they were overwhelmed.) They were excited to see Waldo, Steve from Minecraft, and other cosplayers. Then we saw a Wookiee. And the Wookiee was playing cello in a band. They didn't quite know what to think about that!
Watching a band with a Wookiee on cello.
There's a Wookiee in the band!
 On our way out, we stopped to watch Rusty Bawls performing in the hallway. He's a Gen Con tradition. The boys didn't want to watch at first, but they soon were charmed by his juggling and antics.
Rusty Bawls juggling and entertaining the crowd in the hall.
Rusty Bawls, a Gen Con tradition
And then it was time to go. We were tired, and the boys were done with the crowds. They also needed time to play with their new dice and cards once we got home. Until next year....

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Minecraft birthday cake

For his birthday this year, Sam wanted a Minecraft cake. I think what I came up with is pretty darn creative and cute. The birthday boy loved it.

I made 2 boxes of cake mix (strawberry, Sam's favorite). I found square cake pans to make a tiered cake: 6", 8", and 10". The 2 boxes of mix were a good amount to fill the 3 pans.

I stacked the tiers then cut a couple of cubes and moved them to emulate the Minecraft world.

Now, I am not the world's best cake decorator, but I think this came out great. I mixed 4 colors of icing: blue for water, green for grass, brown for dirt, and gray for stone. I even managed to create a waterfall.

Minecraft cake side 1, featuring a waterfall.
The waterfall side.

Minecraft cake side 2, featuring a cavern.
Is that a cavern to explore?

Minecraft cake side 3, featuring water, stone to the side, and a grassy hill.
A grassy hill leading up from water.

Minecraft cake side 4, featuring dirt and grass.
The 'boring' side: grass and dirt.

For characters, Chris found pictures to print on cardstock and cut out. We loaded up the cake with Steve surrounded by zombies, skeletons, creepers, and an Enderman.

Complete cake with Steve, zombies, skeletons, creepers, and Enderman.
The cake with all the characters.

And the final touch was placing the candle on the single dirt block at the top. The kids at the party all loved the cake. I am really happy with how it turned out.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Recipes for my CSA veggies

We have bought a 1/2 share in a CSA for the past couple of years. Getting a bag of veggies each week has been a good way for us to eat more veggies plus try ones we otherwise wouldn't. Of course, the downside is we get some veggies we don't care for. And we have to find ways to prepare everything!

I thought I would share some of my favorite recipes.

Beets: I like to roast beets. I had no idea I liked roasted beets until I tried them. Wash and cut into chunks (bite-size or so is good). Place on foil in baking pan. Sprinkle with olive oil and sea salt. Pinch foil closed and bake at 400 for about an hour, until tender. 

Kale: I don't like kale. Hate it. The only way I will eat it is in soup. The two soups I've tried that work well are Zuppa Tuscana (recipe from allrecipes.com) and Pork, White Bean & Kale soup (recipe from Eating Well).

JalapeƱo peppers: Bacon jalapeƱo poppers. Yummy! I use my friend Lisa's recipe, although I sometimes omit the scallions.

Berries: If we aren't going to eat them before they turn, jam is my go-to. I like these recipes from allrecipes.com for Blackberry Jam and Strawberry Jam because I don't have to go buy pectin or can them. I just put them in the fridge and use them. 

Rhubarb: Rhubarb muffins (from The Rhubarb Compendium; I like the 7th recipe listed on this page). Or, if I have strawberries, Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler (recipe from Taste of Home). I should try jam sometime, because I love strawberry rhubarb jam. 

Basil: I chop the basil and freeze it in olive oil to use in sauces. Fill each compartment on an ice cube tray with chopped basil, cover with olive oil, freeze. Easy.

Tomatoes: I love BLTs, of course. Or even plain tomato sandwiches. Sometimes I substitute spinach for lettuce or add feta. When I have a LOT of tomatoes, I've been trying my hand at making sauce. Poach the tomatoes to remove skins, remove seeds and most of the liquid (squeezing works pretty well), then puree. Bring to boil in a pot, then simmer until it thickens. Add garlic, oregano, basil, onions, whatever. I cool the sauce, then put it in quart size freezer bags. Then I just thaw a bag when I make pasta. (Hint: green tomatoes will ripen if left on the counter or in a paper bag.)

Zucchini: My go-to for zucchini is Zucchini Bread. Of course, my recipe makes 2 loaves at a time, and I often have enough to make several batches, so I shred and freeze the zucchini to use all year. (Hint: my recipe, from allrecipes.com, calls for 2 cups of shredded zucchini, so I freeze bags of 2 cups.) 

Turnips and Rutabagas: Well, I'm not crazy about these. This year I tried my hand at pasties. I don't have a recipe down yet, but this was actually not a bad way to eat these root vegetables.

Cabbage and Leeks: My friend Amanda passed along this recipe for Potato, Cabbage, Carrot and Leek soup that I tried this year. It was quite good paired with corned beef.

There are, of course, other recipes I've used. And the most popular way to eat cucumbers, green peppers, green beans, broccoli, and cauliflower in our house is raw. I just put them out for snacks and they disappear.