Monthly Archives: June 2016

Cooking with the Kitchen Overlord: A Parent/Kid Whovian Food Review

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Originally ran May 30, 2015:

Images: Lisa Kay Tate

I recently had the privilege of talking with Kitchen Overload creator Chris-Rachael Oseland about her work on a “Regenerated” edition of her popular Dining with the Doctor unofficial Doctor Who cookbook for GeekMom.

The book, funded with the help of a Kickstarter campaign through June 2, will offer more than 140 Whovian recipes, including 60 from the original cookbook and more than 60 new recipes, high-quality photography, interior artwork by Tom Gordon (illustrator for Oseland’s Kitchen Overlord’s Illustrated Geek Cookbook), bonus chapters for cocktails and Fish Fingers and Custard, and an updated index with dietary restrictions.

“Dining With the Doctor: Regenerated is going to be a brick of a book because I’m including a recipe and mini recap for every episode of series 1-8. So if you’re into NuWho (the 2005 reboot onwards) I’ve totally got you covered,” Oseland said.

Oseland also shared a few favorite Whovian recipes for myself and my family to try out, and the Minion Feeding 101 clan was more than anxious get started.

We had been familiar with Kitchen Overlord for sometime, and even used The Doctor’s Yorkshire Pudding recipe during Christmas dinner. This was the first time, however, the girls took on the task of creating a recipe themselves.

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Five-year-old Erin took her job of creating Zygon French Bread Pizza Heads very seriously. That didn’t mean she couldn’t sneak a few mini-pepperonis.

The first recipe we attempted was the Zygon French Bread Pizza Heads. This was the easiest of the three, and the best suited for my youngest daughter, Erin, a recent Kindergarten “graduate.” My only part in the process was slicing the bread and peppers, and adding the “nostrils” afterwards. Erin adeptly arranged the Zygon heads, and followed the recipe perfectly with the cheese, pepperoni and roasted pepper placement. She was extremely thrilled at these coming out looking close to the ones in the official recipe, and couldn’t have been happier if she’d made a perfect soufflé.

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My awkward little eggs, compared to the official image from Oseland’s beautifully crafted recipe. They were, however, still extremely nummy.

I tried the Deviled Ood With Horseradish and Bacon myself, primarily because it allowed me to face long-time culinary fear — hard boiling eggs. I’ve been able to get away with shoddy boiling jobs during the annual Easter egg hunts, but I really wanted to get this one right. The filler mix was easy enough, and temptingly good. If I didn’t want to go Whovian, I would have just mixed the egg whites, bacon, cucumber and basil in with it to make a sandwich spread…which I may do in the future, because it IS that good.

Now here’s the embarrassing part….of the three recipes Oseland suggested, it was the “grown up” who messed hers up the most. Despite thinking I have followed every “how to boil an egg” instruction to the letter, my poor Oods’ heads looked like they were still waiting for their skin to clear up after those awkward teen years.

I also didn’t realize until after they were half-consumed how squishy I had their heads, so they weren’t only battling a skin condition, they were getting over that adolescent Ood baby fat. Poor things. Despite this, they were still presentable, and very edible.

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Molly, now 14, spent her last day as a 12-year-old perfecting the art of dough-making…with a little help from official “glaze-master” and companion, Erin.

My oldest daughter, Molly, wanted to do the Pull Apart Bow Tie Rolls, because the little scientist in her wanted to see the process of making dough from scratch. She also confirmed, of course, that “bow ties are cool.” I was at first worried about her attention span in making the bread, but creating dough by scratch worked perfect for the tween. She got to take an hour break, to play on her “three Ps,” Pinterest, Polyvore, and Pottermore,” before getting to punch a big wad of dough. The assembling of the bow ties was also great fun for her, and they looked really good.

They turned out really nice, and the consistency and taste of the bread was wonderful. We saved them, and had them for her birthday breakfast with tea the next morning. And, she made them, all by herself…almost. Little sister insisted on helping so much, we designated her official glaze-master. She handled the task like a true companion. Better, actually (we don’t always have the highest confidence in the Doctor’s people collection).

This one turned out to be our favorite recipe of the three, and we plan on making this one again soon.

Once we successfully created all three recipes, my girls offered their official on-the-record opinions:

“The recipe was fun to make, and it was really, really easy. I thought the dough would be hard to make, but it wasn’t at all. I was very happy with the way they came out. It was delicious. My favorite thing about making it was eating it!”

— Molly, age 12

“I thought these pizzas were really tasty. I really liked putting the cheese on them the most, but I also liked eating the pepperoni when we were putting them on the heads.”

— Erin, age 5 (who I estimate consumed a good two Zygons worth of mini-pepperoni pieces)

The final consensus from all of us was the recipes were simple, but not “simplistic.” There was actually something to them, not just a configuration of prepackaged foods made to resemble a pop culture character. The only one to actually come close to this description was the pizza bread, but that was a perfect fit for the busy hands and easily-distracted mind of an active five-year-old.

As for my older daughter, the bow ties were easy enough to not get discouraged, but involved enough to not be bored. Plus, you can never go wrong with “The Doctor” in our household. Most importantly, though, everything we made was genuinely yummy. Everyone in the family enjoyed all three recipes. Cooking and baking are fun, but what good is a recipe if you can’t have just as much fun consuming it?

Other books by Chris-Rachael Oseland we recommend. These aren’t “kids” cookbooks either, but recipes that are just fun to make and eat for geeks of all fandoms.

Other books by Chris-Rachael Oseland we recommend. These aren’t “kids” cookbooks either, but recipes that are just fun to make and eat for geeks of all fandoms.

The entire Minion Feeding 101 wholeheartedly recommends cooks of all ages and levels check out Oseland’s books and website to find a fandom befitting their culinary and pop culture tastes.

We’re looking forward to picking up a copy of her “Dining With the Doctor: Regenerated Edition” next year, as well as “going on an adventure” with another favorite of ours, Bilbo Baggins and crew with An Unexpected Cookbook: The Unofficial Book of Hobbit Cookery.

One of the best ways to maximize that important dinner-table family time is to get my girls in the kitchen beforehand taking part of the process. These were a perfect excuse to get them laughing together, talking about their day, arguing over who the best “Doctor,” is and just enjoying each others’ company. This isn’t easy with two strong-willed kids separated by seven years.

Being able to compare the results of their labor, and be proud of learning something new  and showing it off to Dad, Mom and Grandpa was a positive as well. Plus, this gave them a huge pool of ideas for parties, summer projects and other boredom killers.

When else can you get to hear at the dinner table, “can I have another Zygon?”

Find more great recipe, tips and product reviews on Oseland’s Kitchen Overlord website, or pick up her books online at Amazon.

Read the entire interview with Oseland at GeekMom.

— Lisa Kay Tate

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We Are The Music Makers with “Compose Yourself”

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Originally published in Minion Feeding 101, November 14, 2015

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ThinkFun’s Compose Yourself is a simple set of music cards that contains a world of imagination for budding composers of all ages.

“We are the Music Makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.”

These opening lines of the Arthur O’Shaughnessy, poem “Ode,” were the first thing that popped into my head when I saw the title card for ThinkFun’s musical learning product, Compose Yourself.

The cards were created by celebrated maestro, composer and cellist Philip Sheppard, who said he created the product with one goal in mind:

“This is a labour of love aimed at one single, simple point; that is to enable a child to feel (with goosebumps) that a bar of music can have the potential of a Lego block,” he said.

This is a very simple premise that opens up a vast pool of creativity. The product itself consists only of 60 transparent note cards, a simple instruction booklet, and a pull-string carrying bag. The entire thing is contained in a box small enough to be a stocking stuffer, but the worlds of musical inspiration it opens up are outstanding.

Plus, it is overwhelmingly easy to use.

The title card contains a code to log into and register on the Compose Yourself sit. Using the cards, users can put together a musical composition. Each card has four ways its notes can be played, with a coinciding number designation for each note pattern. Once at least four cards are plugged in (although the piece can be longer), it can be played back with marimba style, orchestra, or a combination of both sounds. The composer can then go back, add, or change cards, move them around and refine the piece.

Once completed, they can name their piece, print out the sheet music so they can play it offline, share it via email and social media, and (if using a desktop computer) download an MP3. The cards work with both desktop and tablet devices, but not with mobile phones.

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Erin, 6, took her music choices very seriously.

Sheppard described one of his own struggles working on a particular piece as a reason for creating these cards.

“(Late) one night, I was working on some music for a film and I was stuck,” he said. “I thought to myself, what would Bach or Mozart do? Well, they would take a few notes and turn them upside down or backwards until their musical lines danced across the page, through an orchestra right into your heart and soul.”

He then found a piece of transparent paper on his desk and tried this idea out. By being able to physically flip these notes around so quickly, he ended up writing three pieces that night. And so, the seeds of Compose Yourself were planted.

My biggest complaint with this product is that it didn’t come around sooner.

When my oldest was in fifth grade, she was active in both choir and her beginner guitar club at school. Unfortunately, her experience in music class was so frustrating it nearly poisoned her love of music. There was nothing wrong with the instructor (who was also her guitar and choir teacher), but this particular year was the dreaded “Recorder Class.” This simple plastic woodwind-meets-whistle has been the way music teachers have taught beginning music concepts for ages. Somehow, my daughter just couldn’t master even the simplest song on it.

Whether she couldn’t synchronize her fingers with the right holes, or whether the sound just didn’t move her, she became more and more bitter (and at times downright angry) with the instrument. She did learn enough to earn a good grade at the end of the year, but grew to hate the instrument so much when her class performed a end-of-the-year recorder concert, she found me in the audience as her class filed back out of the “cafetorium,” deliberately got out of her line to approach me, and defiantly planted the recorder in my lap.

“There! I’m done,” she said, as she hurried back in line, relieved to be rid of her musical bane.

What if, just what if, I had said, “Why not write your own piece to practice with; one the shows your frustration with this instrument?”

She would have loved that, I think.

Having access to Compose Yourself might have been a simple way to do this, making the experience so much better.

To find out how much this product would inspire, I had both my daughters (and myself) create some personal compositions. The outcomes, not to mention the reactions from my girls, were much more impressive than I would have thought.

My youngest, 6-year-old Erin, tried first.

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Molly, 13, loved being able to save her composition as an MP3.

Using an iPad, we sat at the kitchen table while she insisted on putting together a song without our suggestions. Her face upon first seeing her result was priceless, and she named her piece “Angel Songs” because they “sounded like angels,” and she liked hearing it in both the Marimba and Orchestra/Marimba combined versions.

“I felt is was neat that I got to hear my song, and I want to listen to it everyday,” Erin told me. “I like having the printed paper that has the musical notes. That was really cool.”

She told me she wanted to share her song with her choir teacher in church (a member of the local symphony orchestra), so he can play it for her on his guitar.

“I love my song,” she said. “It sounds like an angel playing an angel song and drum, and I want to play with (the music cards) for a long time.”

Since using a tablet devise prevented her from being able to create an MP3, she really wanted to make sure she was able to save her song later using a desktop. I told her when she finishes her homework each day, she can create a new piece. Being able use something educational as an incentive for taking her school work seriously is appreciated.

Listen to Erin’s “Angel Songs” here.

My 13-year-old (and former recorder curmudgeon), Molly, used the desktop computer to create her piece. The age 13 is a tough one when it comes to getting them excited about something, but she really wanted to try this product. After kicking little sister out of the office so she could concentrate, she composed a piece she called “Into The Garden.”

She said this piece was “really fun to create and compose.”

“You can create up to four lines with your own music,” Molly said. “It can help teach people to write and compose their own music. It can also help to calm down and relieve stress. I thought that it was a good idea for teachers to try out in a class for a lesson or anything related to this subject.”

One of her favorite things, was being able to create an MP3, and putting it on her iTunes list among some of her favorite artists. In the days of digital downloads, this made her feel she was a worthy musician. I was happy to see her love for making music was still intact.

Listen to Molly’s “Into The Garden” here.

Finally, I had to try this myself, and created a song for (and about) my young composers: “Two Daughters.”

I won’t go into to too much “composer notes” details, but this piece takes me through a day of being woken up by the over-enthusiastic six-year-old, the sluggish awakening of the young teen, the manic mornings, sibling bickering and laughter, and the calm-downtime at the end of the day. One thing I wanted to work with was repeating certain note patterns to hold it together. Not too bad for my first digi-composing attempt.

Listen to my “Two Daughters” here.

I will say this: the game suggests age 6 and older, but adults will find it addictive as well. This was a very relaxing and fun process, and one which will be repeated often by my family.

ThinkFun’s Compose Yourself retails for $19.99, but is available on Amazon for $14.99. Visit ThinkFun.com to learn more about this and other games and products.

Molly, 13, loved being able to save her composition as an MP3.

The first three installments in our “TVW,” aka the Tate Works Catalogue. Being able to print out sheet music for use with multiple instruments is one of the great features of Compose Yourself.

— Story and Images by Lisa Kay Tate
— Music composed by Erin, Molly and Lisa Tate.

Find That Prop!: Janye’s Cunning (and Controversial) Hat

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A four part-look at the props of Firefly.

janeshatJayne Cobb, portrayed by Adam Baldwin, is one complicated guy. A tough-talking mercenary with a sensitive side, he has plenty of humor where he (seemingly) lacks in compassion.

Although he has little tolerance for those can’t or won’t keep step up the fight, it has also been indicated in the show he is man of quiet faith and love of family. This is where his assumed lack of compassion is a front, as his mercenary funds go home to help his mother care for a little sick girl named Mattie.

It is Cobb’s mother who made the infamous yellow and orange knit tuque complete with those attractive ear flaps and pom pom. Cobb loves not only the hat’s practicality, but the fact his mother made it for him. In his own words, this head topper is “pretty cunning, don’t you think.”

However, for the rest of the Serenity crew it is a source of friendly ridicule. The most famous line comes from Wash, who told Cobb: “A man walks down the street in that hat, people know he’s not afraid of anything.”

Cobb, of course, replied:
“Damn straight.”

Every Browncoat seems to want to be seen sporting this hat, or be seen with someone in it, including fans of all shapes, jaynesotherstuffsizes, ages and species, as well as a few celebrity fans. And why not? It really is an awesome hat.

This hat is the center of controversy, because after Fox released an “official” version of the hat a couple of years ago, created by Ripple Junction, they claimed intellectual rights on the hat stifled the creative efforts of many Firefly-loving crafters who had already been selling their own version of the item. This included hats from many popular artisan sites like Etsy.

On a good note, Baldwin, a strong supporter of the military, auctioned the original hat from the show. It sold for more than $4,700 to raise money for the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation, making Jayne a real-life “big damn hero.”

Where to find or (shhhh) even make one: FOX’s claim on the hat may rankle a few feathers, and for good reason, but at least they make it easy to find. The “officially licensed” hat, by Ripple Junction, is available through several dealers of pop culture related items including, ThinkGeek, and Entertainment Earth will be selling the hat as well starting this summer.

The ThinkGeek price for this cunning piece is around $25, but thanks to holiday and summer sales, it can be found cheaper on sale sometimes, and Amazon had the hat for $19.48, as well as a limited amount of cute little Christmas ornament versions for around $11. The forthcoming Entertainment Earth version will also be around $20.

othershatsThere are still “unofficial” out there, but not marked as actual Jayne’s hats. The sellers keep it legal by giving it other distinctions unofficial indicators including “Firefly-inspired” hats or “cunning” hats.

This ban on sales hasn’t also stopped Browncoat fiber artists from making their own hats for personal use, and when all that is needed is light orange, dark orange and yellow wool yarn, plus the ability to knit or crochet, there’s nothing stopping them. And knit they have, everything from Firefly-inspired hats, to scarves, cup cozies, cupcakes, jewelry and gloves, not to mention some very uncomfortable-looking bras.

What did this “outlaw” cast say about this hat ban? Well, they wanted to remain diplomatic to their bosses business decisions, while celebrating the freedom of expression and enterprise of the independent artist.

Captain Mal, Nathan Fillion, tweet to fans, was “I like to think there’s a little bit of Malcolm Reynolds in all of us…But especially me.”

And there certainly is could be a little Jayne on all of us in the form of a very bright hat.

Except for Baldwin, who tweeted to his fans on the importance of free enterprise said: “I don’t have a ‘Jayne’ hat. I have an Adam Baldwin hat.”

Find That Prop!: Kaylee’s Parasol

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A four part-look at the props of Firefly.

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The Prop: Kaylee’s Parasol.

Kaywinnet Lee “Kaylee” Frye, played by Jewel Staite, is the naturally gifted mechanic on the ship Serenity. Not only is she known for her exceptional know-how, but for her kindness and optimism.

The parasol is a typical Japanese paper umbrella, or Wagasa, adorned with a plain colorful swirl pattern, umbrellasand typifies the Asian influence of the world of Firefly.

Where to Find It:

There was at, and one time, an official licensed Kaylee parasol complete with a decorative carrying case, but these are extremely rare to find today, even on sites like eBay.

These best route is to make one with a plain white umbrella, and use orange, yellow and green acrylic or craft paint for the swirl. Plain umbrellas can be found on party and wedding supply stores and online sites like The Knot or Paper Lantern Store, some for as low as $10.

Don’t want to paint? Etsy artists have this market covered as well, with ready-to-purchase homemade Firefly-influenced parasols.

Even though Kaylee isn’t always seen with her parasol, it has become an inseparable part of her look from cosplay to fan art. For good reasons, it’s hard not to feel happy with a bright paper parasol in tow.

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Find That Prop!: Wash’s Battling Dinos

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A four part-look at the props of Firefly.washmainThe Prop

Wash’s Battling Plastic Dinosaurs, made famous by one of the show’s most popular…and certainly a favorite of Wash fans…moments. This scene, featured in the very first episode, not only gives viewers an instant indication of character Hoban “Wash” Washburne’s personality, but also of the fun and adventurous nature inevitablemarketingof the series itself.

For those who might not know, Wash, portrayed by Alan Tudyk, is playing with two of his toy dinosaurs, a Ceratosaurus and Stegosaurus to be exact, with the following playtime exchange:
Stegosaurus: …We will rule over all this land! And we will call it…this land!
Ceratosaurus: I think we should call it….YOUR GRAVE!
Stegosaurus: Aah. Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal.

Fox Television (whom Browncoats maintain issued their own “sudden but inevitable betrayal” by cancelling the popular series after just one season) listed the clip as an “all time favorite” of viewers when they announced the Blu-ray collection of the complete series.

Where to Find It

officialdinosetSince these are simply plastic dinosaurs, they are relatively easy to find. Some of the nicest dinosaur models are made by Schleich and Animal Planet, available at various retailers. Cheaper dinosaurs can be obtained from party supply sites like Oriental Trading Company for about $13 an assorted dozen.
However, for fans who want exact, “official” (and really cute) versions of these bickering prehistoric beasts, there is good news and bad news. Good news first. Yes, there are officially-licensed “Firefly Inevitable Betrayal Dinosaurs with Sound” created by ThinkGeek and suitable for ages 6 and older. They also feature“authentic voice” clips from the show. Whee!

Bad news is these retail for around $30 for two plastic dinos, and are consistently sold-out from many on-line sites like ThinkGeek and Entertainment Earth. They can still be found on eBay and Amazon, and lucky shoppers can run across them at comic and collectibles shops.

According to some fan sites, Wash’s entire dino collection toydinos(he has more than just the two), were amassed from different toy makers including Imperial, Safari. Ltd. and Hasbro’s Jurassic Park 3 line, so even Wash followed the collector’s practice of hunting and gathering from different sources.

Of course, capturing this iconic Wash moment doesn’t mean having to corral the dinosaurs themselves. The t-shirt, poster and collectibles market is flooded with inevitable betrayal-inspired products. Pop culture t-shirt sites like Tshirt Roundup, and Redbubble have more designs to choose from than any fan could want. Quantum Mechanix even made a popular maquette of Wash and his dinos as part of their best-selling Little Damn Heroes line. The maquette is sold out on their site, but can still be found, for now, on Amazon.

With moments like these, even Firefly’s short on-screen life couldn’t escape that “sudden but inevitable” fan marketing.