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Valentines at Gallifrey One 2014

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So this was my third Gally, and unfortunately for me, probably my worst.  I wasn’t as prepared as I usually am.  I went in thinking I was an old pro and that I could wing it.  That was SO not the case.  Probably the best thing was that I spent less money this year than last and that was me really budgeting for parking, food, and finally taking advantage of the hospitality suite.  Seriously, if you have kids or teenagers that are begging you for food, you don’t need to shell out tons of money, you can make them wait for a meal and tell them to go downstairs and get some snacks and water.  Oh if I’d only done that last year when I had two young people with me!  Since I’m a local I also had the advantage of bringing a small cooler with us to our hotel with more snacks, sandwiches, water, and such.

Valentines 2014What preoccupied me this year was Valentine’s Day.  Last year the con was a few days after and this year it was during but I have two kids that needed me to bring stuff to their schools (brownie roll-out cookies) on Thursday and I wanted to bake my husband his favorite cake before I left.  You know, the Valentine’s Cake that I also made him for his birthday, not the least complicated of cakes and not one that keeps well (whipped cream & strawberries).  So you can imagine my dismay that he hadn’t even had a bite of it till after we got home.  I was really bummed because instead of making his cake Thursday I could have finished my daughter’s cosplay of Doctor Whooves which I didn’t finish till Saturday morning in our hotel room.  It’s okay, he brought my niece over and she, my kid and I finished half of it before it went all bad.  The hubs did get a slice but just one.

Yeah, totally Lilly Potter on the right. She was in an episode of Doctor Who.  She was pretty awesome and her handler totally appreciated the cosplay I made for my daughter.

Yeah, totally Lilly Potter on the right. She was in an episode of Doctor Who. She was pretty awesome and her handler totally appreciated the cosplay I made for my daughter.

Friday we took our pictures.  That was another reason I had some spending money left over.  This year I prepurchased our pictures and that made a big difference.  I never got my email from Froggy’s Photos so I did have to stand in the messed up line on Friday with my receipt to get my photo cards but I didn’t mind.  It was the one hiccup in an otherwise superbly run con and swiftly dealt with.  Mostly we just walked around on Friday trying to find our stickers for our program books.  These yearly program book games are where my kid excels and its definitely something we like to do together at the con.  We took our pictures with Arthur Darvill and Paul McGann which was one of the highlights for us.  We also got Arthur Darvill’s autograph on Friday where the only things we asked were what is favorite Once song was to sing and what was his favorite football club.  His answers were “Gold” and Aston Villa respectively,  just in case you were wondering.

The best Stormageddon cosplay, my Chris Hardwick/Chloe Dykstra walk by (all I could say was "Chris Hardwick" and wave hi), and a Turn Left cosplay I loved.

The best Stormageddon cosplay, my Chris Hardwick/Chloe Dykstra walk by (all I could say was “Chris Hardwick” and wave hi, he said hi back but I still feel all dorky about it), and a Turn Left cosplay I loved.

I just really didn’t look at the programming beforehand and raising the subject of walking into a panel that didn’t interest the preteen just elicits the sigh of all sighs and that look of What am I gonna do? mixed with Do I have to go with you?  So mostly we just hung out and looked around.  Which isn’t to say that we didn’t have the best time doing that and there’s so much of that to do there that you’d never be bored, but I missed the differing insights into a show that I love and that I always get with a good panel.  We did hit a few panels in the big room though and I loved every minute of it.  Friday we went to the Travels with the Doctor panel which had bunches of people in it including Arthur and Billie Piper and quite a good one.  It was very nice to see some of my favorite classic Doctor companions and even though I really haven’t watched much classic who, I still have a few favorites.  After that we left to go back to our hotel for a bit to rest and eat.  We had such a good time last year on Friday night and we were hoping to have the same kinda fun this year.  Well, she did.  Once we got back I realized the programming I wanted to go to was probably not for her.  She wasn’t comfortable playing poker even though she could because there was no money involved so we went upstairs to a room we had been eyeing all day, the Hub.  It was quite the game room with board games, card games, puzzle games and greatness.  I just happened to look at the “Extra Programming” for Friday and they were going to start a game of Werewolves of Millers Hollow at 10pm. We both played the first time and she stayed to play a second time.  She had so much fun even though she didn’t get to do much (just a villager both times) but I think playing with Doctor Who fans around her own age helped her loosen up a bit.  I played a smidge of poker during her second game of Werewolf but to no avail.  I didn’t get more than a few tickets to enter into a raffle and made it back upstairs before her second game was over.  We left after that so I could work on her costume and hopefully get some sleep.

Sundays with Joy/Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins

Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins

Okay, so its been awhile.  The thing is, I have totally been keeping up with my Sundays with Joy.  I just haven’t shared it with you.  I’ve also been working on some new stuff.  Not in earnest or anything, not to post, mostly because I really just gotta go at my own pace but things are coming along.  I’m working on a mash up of some favorite cookies, my Zucchini Herb Bread made a mini comeback without herbs and I’ve been contemplating a streusel topping for Joy’s Zucchini Cream Cheese Pound Cake so we’ll see what sticks first.  I did work on some streusel topped pies that I DO have the recipes for, I just gotta get them up.  Also, the “big” catalyst for not posting my Sundays with Joy was just that we were doing Oatmeal Raisin Pancakes that week and I made a big breakfast for the whole family so that I could have a big breakfast in my pictures especially since I overcooked my pancakes a bit that week.  So my husband goes off to work that Sunday and I get ready to take my pics with my “set aside” food for my shoot.  Seriously, I go upstairs to get some props (which I organized nicely during my hiatus) and my daughter (the SUPER picky 6 year old) eats my “prop” sausage!  I took the pictures but I just couldn’t get what I wanted.  I was just, ugh.  So I didn’t post that week and it just continued…

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins

Halloween also didn’t help but I want to do a post on that later.  I gotta show you the best sewing I’ve ever done in my entire life and even though I know it still kinda sucked, my 10 year old thought I was a rock star (for about a minute).

Onto these muffins…

ChocolateChocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins

I’ve enjoyed the Sundays with Joy that I haven’t posted about but seriously this was definitely the one to come back with.  The husband liked it and if it isn’t chocolate chip cookies or plain rice krispie treats, he balks when it comes to complements and could seriously take or leave the sweet stuff I make.  He had a good handful of these over last week along with the picky eater so yeah, this was a good one.  Also if you are wondering how the muffin holds up to a quick warm up in the microwave, all I have to say is that is 15 seconds not wasted.  It is definitely muffiny and NOT cakey, in the best way which had been a concern for me.  Also, Joy says this makes 12 muffins but I got 14 so that was nice.  Don’t forget if you want the recipe to buy Joy’s Cookbook: 100 Simple and Comforting Recipes.

Chocolate ChocolateChocolate Chip Muffins

Oh, and this was the first recipe where I was able to take pictures using my brand new hand me down awesome camera! Yes, unfortunately any back posts will be with crappier pictures than this but new ones will be SO purty. I’m excited.

My GeekyLink for today is all about Doctor Who.  Today brought the ‘Doctor Who’ Mini Episode ‘The Night Of the Doctor’ along with An Adventure in Space and Time trailer.  An exciting morning of squeeing for me around here.  However, in order to plan properly for the 50th you’ll need the Nerdist website’s Full DOCTOR WHO 50th Anniversary Week Schedule on BBC America.  It is SO going to be a major big deal around here.  The day of the 50th (Nov. 23rd) is also the start date of My Little Pony Season 4 and my girls are super excited.  So far the plan is for some sort of an Apple Jack pancake for the morning, apple cider, Tardis Cupcakes for dessert and well…that is it so far but we are still planning.  A little over a week to go so I need to nail it down but mostly we’re gonna have a great day regardless of the food.  OUR SHOWS are on!

Sundays with Joy/Chocolate Peanut Butter Ball Cookies

Chocolate Peanut Butter Ball Cookie

Well, this one is super late (five weeks!), but also I am going to skip last week’s Sundays with Joy (Seaweed Parmesan Popcorn) because I need to order a seasoning for it so I am just going to wait till I have other things to order from Amazon.  It actually may be sooner rather than later as the holidays approach so look for that to appear in a future post.  If anyone is thinking, “Ewww seaweed!  Why don’t you just skip it?” (cause maybe I was) it’s because all the really really good recipes in this cookbook start with me thinking “Really, Joy?  Are ya sure?”  I mean Orange Gingerbread Squares with Cream Cheese Frosting or Grapefruit Soufflé Pudding anyone?  So even though I’m a little wary of this seaweed popcorn, I’m still totally gonna do it.

Now, this particular recipe had me perplexed as well.  It was not the flavors.  It’s peanut butter and chocolate, a no brainer!  My issue was the “ball” part…on a cookie.  I just didn’t get it.  It didn’t really matter.  I made them anyway.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Ball Cookies

Then as my family was trying to eat them it finally struck me what bugged me about them.  The ball makes it kinda hard to eat.  So since I was already late posting about my cookies, I decided to take the time and make them again.  Especially since the flavor combo was a big hit in this house, I wanted to see if I could go about making these cookies more practical to eat.  So I took the balls…and FLATTENED them, simple as that.  I also added a bit of melted chocolate just to make them a teeny bit prettier but they really don’t need it.  If you’d like the recipe be sure to pick up the Joy the Baker Cookbook: 100 Simple and Comforting Recipes.

My GeekyLink for this week is all about the extention of the wizarding world that will be coming soon.  As a young wife with no kids, reading Harry Potter in real time, waiting and waiting years for new books, of course I bought Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them  I wasn’t sure at the time how “real” they were (you know how some book and move tie-ins are barely legit).  Years later when it was revealed that J.K. Rowling herself wrote it and Quidditch Through the Ages I felt vindicated having bought them.  They were just bits of the world but it is a world I love and am eager to get back to, even 60 years before The Boy Who Lived or not.  With two kids yet to read Harry Potter and one that already loves it, I couldn’t be more thrilled.  But I’m also back to waiting…

Chocolate Peanut Butter Ball Cookie1

Sundays with Joy/Coconut Banana Cream Pie

Coconut Banana Cream Pie

Whoa, I’ve been gone a month!   It won’t be that long before the next recipe either.  It has been photographed and completely eaten already but before I post it, I need to catch up a bit on my Sundays with Joy posts as well.  The thing is, I’d been keeping up with the baking aspects of Sundays with Joy, I just hadn’t blogged about it. Yet…

I remember this particular Sunday fondly.  We had some friends over.  I say “we” but three more kids, one for each of mine, is not really for me.  Except when you take into account that I don’t get many requests for attention on those days.  Requests for food yes (oh man, 6 kids/1 cantaloupe/5 minutes!) but attention no.  It is actually great for the days that I have a Sundays with Joy to make.  I get time in my kitchen to focus on a recipe (kids are EVERYWHERE else!), lots of little people to eat it, and happy worn out kids by the end of the day.  What’s not to love?

Coconut Banana Cream Pie

I added chocolate ganache to the bottom of the pie and a layer of bananas before I filled it but used bittersweet chocolate instead of semisweet and ultimately that was just too dark for some of the kids’ tastes.  I didn’t like that I smeared my chocolate after drizzling it over the whipped cream and I think my pie would have looked loads prettier if I hadn’t but no biggie.  I loved the coconut in it and both flavors went great together.  This was simply a lovely recipe that I was glad to not have many leftovers of because I, like my grandma before me, am a sucker for a banana cream pie.  If you’d like the recipe please buy Joy the Baker Cookbook: 100 Simple and Comforting Recipes.

My GeekyLinks for this week reveal a bit about my childhood.  My mother used to work in a Hallmark store when I was very young and so ended up buying us and herself lots and lots and lots of ornaments over the course of her lifetime.  I buy some every year but not anything as close to what my mom used to buy.  Still, I will ALWAYS buy a few Hallmark ornaments especially as over the years they break out the cool stuff (yeah, I want Wicket so what?).  They’ve even revealed some cool stuff for 2014!

Coconut Banana Cream Pie1

A Berry Special 2 Recipe Post (Vanilla Berries and Raspberry Cake Filling)

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Berry Special Cake via NerdyBaker.wordpress.com

I promised you the recipe for Vanilla Berries from my Hunger Games Party post so I made them again when we went camping.  The only problem is that I still didn’t get decent enough pictures of them to merit it’s own post.  The same thing goes for the raspberry filling that I made for my cousin’s (well, two cousins and my brother in law’s) birthday party.  I mean I couldn’t go.  It was my oldest’s 8th dance recital and at her studio she gets a big award for that one.  We didn’t want to miss it.  My aunt had already commissioned me though, to make my cousin’s cake and since she went a little different with the favors (a fruit filling!) I didn’t care how busy I was with the girls’ recital, I was GOING to make this cake.  (Yes, I realize that it is still a “plain” chocolate cake with buttercream but its like pulling teeth to get my family to go outside of the box with the flavors they use in their cakes so I was way gung ho.)

Berry Special Vanilla Berries

I made sure that the one night that I didn’t have to be at the recital with my girls, I was going to be making this cake.  I baked the cake that day, did hair, dropped them off, came home to make the filling and frosting, put the cake together, and with the crumb coat on made it back to pick up my girls in plenty of time.  (It’s a long recital.)  The next day was more of the same but this time the cake had to be finished, dropped off, and all kids dressed and ready to go by early afternoon and I still didn’t know how I was going to decorate it.  Did I mention that it was super hot that week?  Yeah, so after each step in the decorating process I had to put the cake back in the fridge to chill.  It didn’t help matters that I was SUPER paranoid that the filling was going to spill out at any moment.  It’s not because I didn’t have any faith in my recipe or my cake its just that sort of thing tends to happen when you absolutely have NO TIME for that sort of thing to happen.  Thankfully, even with the horrid heat in the car, with the air conditioning that wouldn’t cool completely because we were stuck in traffic but still stayed squarely on the cake during the drive (my poor babies) my cake stayed intact and it was delivered to my sister’s to be delivered to the party, on time.

The verdict was a big thumbs up.  And although no one took pictures of a slice (I have a blog to run here people,  you could help me out),  I was assured the filling stayed put as it should and didn’t spill out. It’s just one of those deep seated fears whenever I am trying a new filling.

Berry Special Raspberry Filling via NerdyBaker.wordpress.com

My GeekyLinks for this week are PLENTY so we’ll start now. Frakker Lacquer is now processing orders so I went and bought three bottles yesterday. I’m gonna have to buy more because how can I live my life without Little Green Man and Protocol Droid?  For any panels you may have wanted to see at Comic Con a really great resource is GeekNation.  However, its also worth checking out the Nerd Machine for some panels because I preferred the Orphan Black panel (skip ahead 10 minutes) from Nerd HQ rather than the official Comic Con one. (Yeah, I said it.) I know Clint and Darrell from Golden Spiral Media (my beloved Fringe podcast guys) were there and have a ton of coverage debuting this week and I am looking forward to it.  So far my favorite trailers coming out of the con are Catching Fire, Gravity, and Veronica Mars.  Have fun checking some of this stuff out!

Berry Special Cake with Raspberry Filling via NerdyBaker.wordpress.com

Vanilla Berries

Ingredients

2 16oz containers of strawberries, washed and halved

1 6oz container of blueberries, washed

1 6oz container of raspberries, washed

1 6oz container of blackberries, washed

1/3 cup water

1/3 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla bean paste or 1/2 vanilla bean (you can use vanilla extract but I don’t recommend it)

Method

In a small saucepan, mix the water and sugar together and stir over medium heat until dissolved. Stir in the vanilla bean paste and let the mixture cool to room temperature.
To use the 1/2 vanilla bean, slice it in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds.  Put the seeds and pod into the sugar and water. Once your sugar is dissolved and the mixture is cooled, remove the pod.
To use vanilla extract, make your simple syrup with the sugar and water and wait till the mixture is at room temperature before stirring in the extract. (Using this method you can sometimes smell the alcohol in the vanilla, not appetizing I know but it’ll do in a pinch.)

Mix all of the berries in a large bowl and when your vanilla syrup is cool to room temperature, pour all over your berries.  I tend to not use all of the syrup (I use about 90%) but I always make this amount “just in case”.  Stir carefully, cover and chill until ready to serve.  When berries are on sale and in season, it makes a great dish to bring to a party.

Raspberry Cake Filling

Ingredients

1 6oz container of raspberries, washed

1/4 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 teaspoons water

Method

Make your filling by combining raspberries, sugar, water, cinnamon and cornstarch in a small saucepan.  Cook on low heat for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring constantly until the sauce is thickend and the berries are a bit soft.  They are all going to break apart.  Set aside to cool.  If you would like more raspberry pieces, just do what I did and quarter a few and fold them into the mixture after it is completely cool.

I kept the seeds in my filling but I imagine if you did not want them you could press the mixture through a fine metal sieve.

Use to fill any cake or cupcake (or doughnut?) with raspberry goodness.

Sundays with Joy/Texas Sheet Cake

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Texas Sheet Cake via NerdyBakerGrrr, I can’t bring myself to write this post.  It’s not the sheet cake, don’t worry.  It’s just that after two very hectic weeks, I am in the middle of what I consider only our second week of summer vacation and I am just trying to hang on to it.  Sure, camping was vacation but anything you have to prep and clean that much for takes some of the fun out of it.  I’ve been having fun these last two weeks alternately doing nothing and then deep cleaning corners of my house that have desperately been needing it.  I also decided three weeks ago that the most fun and rewarding thing for me to do over the summer (besides catch up on some sewing, which has been going well but there is still more) is to reorganize my craft closet.  I spent way too much time looking for stuff in there over recital and it is hampering my ability to catch up on projects.  I think that putting some blog props away in there would be a good idea too.  The two shelves that the stuff currently occupies is getting awfully cramped.

Texas Sheet Cake pouring

Pouring…

I also now realize what a crippling thing procrastination is.  I will put off lots of other things if I have a more pressing deadline.  But if I push back on a deadline it’s hard for me at that point to reprioritize and move on from there.  It just makes me push everything back and nothing gets done.   Procrastination was fine for papers in high school and even college but running a household?  Not so much.  And even though this is my blog and I’ve been “late” before, being two weeks behind for Sundays with Joy was just not something I wanted to do.  So I had to get it done.  Plus, we have ice cream coming up this week!  I bought a small ice cream maker for this summer so even though I may have to churn in batches at least I won’t be hand cranking a child’s toy like last year.

So in an effort to look forward, here is my cake from last week.  Can you believe I’d never made a Texas Sheet Cake before?  What the heck was I waiting for?  Super easy to whip up.  If you have just one hour’s notice before company comes you can have a from scratch cake baked, frosted, and cooling for them when they arrive.  It is no diet cake mind you.  There are reasons it is such a crowd pleaser.  My only issue was that the sheet pan I used was crooked and I didn’t realize it till after the cake was baked.  I had some very thin pieces but most of it was perfect.  If you’d like the recipe please buy Joy the Baker Cookbook: 100 Simple and Comforting Recipes.

See?  Crooked.

See? Crooked.

My Geekylink for this week is aliens!  Well, no, not really but anytime anything like this happens I get all goosebumpy.  Also, if you have any alphabet learners out there, you might wanna check out my latest iGameMom review that posted just the other day.  Also, my friend Alyssa has embarked on the most awesome business adventure.  So if you are into some of the stuff that I talk about in this section and you like nail polish, I’d advise you to check out Frakker Lacquer!

TexasSheetCake via NerdyBaker

Sundays with Joy/Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies - NerdyBaker.wordpress.com

Where does luscious, mouthwatering, chewy, soft cookie perfection begin? Brown butter.

Brown Butter

I’m telling you, you totally wish you could smell this.

The bane of my existence as a baker is that my family’s tastes are just boring.  Sorry but they are (except my daddy, he’ll eat whatever).  Its just chocolate and vanilla over and over and when it comes to my husband the only thing he ever wants me to bake for him is chocolate chip cookies.  Thanks to Joy, I don’t mind so much anymore.  I am even a bit eager and I haven’t heard my husband complain, “Why can’t you just make me chocolate chip cookies?!” since before Christmas.  Ever since the first time I made these chocolate chip cookies for my family, I have only made these chocolate chip cookies for my family.  I can’t even tell you how many batches of these have already been sent to school for functions or just for us as a family to eat.  Split between the five of us that can’t be too many can it?  Some days I’ll send extra for sharing with friends at lunch.  Joy has made me very popular on the playground.

They bake up perfectly.

They bake up perfectly too!

I’m just gonna say it.  This is the last and the best chocolate chip cookie recipe you will ever need.  Thank you to Joy for posting the recipe for Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies this week for you all.  Do it, you will NOT regret it.   Then you could thank Joy for this magnificent recipe by buying her wonderful book.

My Geekylink this week is Geocaching.  I had read about it years ago and wanted to try it but never looked into it.  About a year ago I finally looked into it but without a GPS or a smartphone, I realized I really couldn’t do it.  My brother in law picked it up around that time but I hadn’t heard too much about his and my nephew’s adventures looking for caches.  So the other day, before our camping trip (armed now with a smartphone), I thought that might be great time to download the app and get started.  We only did it for one of the days we were on vacation but I hadn’t had more fun with my nephews or my daughters since well, ever.  It was like we all were all treasure hunters for a day.  For one I had to put my 10 year old daughter on my shoulders and give her a stick to reach it (and put it back) and we wouldn’t have found half of them if not for my nephews.  Since they had done it with their dad, they knew all the good places to look.  I was sunburnt and sore once we were done but it was totally worth it.

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