Bob & Jeannie

This year has definitely been like something out of a horror film, and never in our scariest nightmares did we think we would be living in the time of a global pandemic, but here we are. Back in the spring I was hopeful it wouldn’t interfere with Halloween because it’s my absolute favorite holiday, but people in the US can’t follow simple instructions apparently. In a normal year I’d be decking the halls with spider webs and costume building by mid-September. So, my family made a plan for a safe Halloween where we could get together with costumes, have dinner, and watch the new version of Roald Dahl’s The Witches because it was one of our favorite stories as kids when the Angelica Houston movie came out. We all decided to go simple, so for us that meant no costumes that required major hair and make up time…and time to remove it at the end of the night too. My fiancé’s costume requirement was that he didn’t want to shave off his beard like last year when he dressed as The Crow and I was Tank Girl. We figured that because we were comic book characters last year that this year we could be TV stars. Bob Ross was the perfect solution for an easy costume requiring a beard, all I had to find was a light blue button down shirt for $4.99 at Goodwill. We were lucky enough to already have a brown curly wig and an artist’s paint palette lying around.

Halloween 2019

When I was little we would draw costume inspiration from a big box of props and costume pieces that my parents had collected over the years. I always loved this light yellow genie costume from the box, but never had the right opportunity to wear it. It was an embellished vest top with sheer sleeves, and matching yellow sheer pants with elastic at the ankles – clearly it wasn’t going to be warm enough to wear for trick-or-treating! My favorite shows to watch were on Nick at Nite like I love Lucy, Bewitched, and I Dream of Jeannie. Lucille Ball, Elizabeth Montgomery, and Barbara Eden were some of my favorite on-screen role models because they were all beautiful, strange, and powerful women.

In 2016 I had been rewatching old episodes of The Munsters, another late night favorite, and desperately wanted to dress as Herman and Lily Munster. Unfortunately, at that time our schedules were very much determined by my partner’s job with the Navy, so I had to be prepared for a solo costume in case my Herman had to work. I always make a solid attempt to create the most screen accurate costumes I can without using a commercialized bag costume, but sometimes they work as a nice base, and I wasn’t having any luck finding a light pink dress like Lily’s. I made a trip to Red Light Vintage in Seattle to look for costumes and came across a second hand Lily Munster dress to fancy up, as well as a pink Jeannie top and light pink flowy pants marked “fairytale”. On my trip to the Silverdale Goodwill to find Herman’s threads I stumbled across a cheap Jeannie hat and pants in pink sheer glitter fabric with red velvet accents. It was a huge relief to find out just before Halloween that we were going to be able to do our couple’s costume as The Munsters and my lucky Jeannie costume finds were tucked away in a bin for a later date.

Halloween 2016

Anyway, back to 2020, since my fiancé wasn’t really into dressing as Major Nelson (now being a veteran) and finding an astronaut costume sounded complicated, Bob Ross it is. With his costume figured out I excitedly pulled my Jeannie costume from the bin and it RAINED GLITTER all over our bedroom. At that point I knew the cheaply made costume wasn’t going to work, so I found a way to cut the sheer glitter fabric from the red velvet hat and belt, then fashioned a new head scarf from a strip of material from JoAnn ($1.09) and a little hot glue. The belt from the pants fortunately fit around my waist and the fairy pants were a perfect high-waisted solution to hide my quarantine snack belly and were much warmer than other genie pants.

Jeannie’s hair was another story. After a good look at her ‘do, I realized it was going to be difficult to keep the hat supported on my head on top of a braid and still have enough hair for a pony tail to come out of the top. I was lucky enough to find a braid headband in my hair color on Amazon for $10 with Prime shipping, making our 2020 costume total just over $16. Then there were THE BANGS – did I mention that screen accuracy is important to me? Well I’ve been growing out my bangs for over two years and love my insanely long hair, but sometimes you have to make sacrifices for a good costume! I briefly asked my fiancé how he felt about me cutting my bangs and he didn’t seem to care much. I ran around looking for my professional hair scissors, but of course they’re at my parent’s house still from giving my dad a quarantine haircut, so office scissors were gonna have to work! I quickly watched a You Tube tutorial, took a long moment of hesitation, then cut. As Bob walked by to find his wig he stopped in his tracks watching me and said, “I thought it was weird that you would ask me if you could have ‘buns’, but now I realize I misheard you.” We laughed, and I cringed with every snip until I got them looking even. My Jeannie hair method was to curl my pony tail, pin the braid and hat into position, then use a large sock bun donut to hold my ponytail out of the top of the hat all while keeping it supported.

So just like that, with a blink of the eyes and a nod of the head, we were Bob and Jeannie for Halloween. Our celebration was a success and Halloween 2020 was saved! Cheers witches!

Hair Dryer Chair

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About 15 years ago my sister brought home this canary-yellow hair dryer chair she rescued from an old house pending a flip. She and I get our love for antiques and nostalgia from our mom dragging us from thrift stores to antique malls when we were kids, and of course the ever-famous “Mukilteo Garage Sale Day” we anticipated every spring. We couldn’t believe it still worked! The chair was a center of entertainment for a short while, taking funny photos with curlers in and sometimes actually using it. Over time it became part of our family home’s identity, and then a burden when we needed the space. I felt compelled to save the hair dryer chair from it’s inevitable ride to Goodwill and give it a new life creating conversation and providing extra seating in my homes. It’s now moved with me three times, never really thinking much about it’s condition because I’ve loved it unconditionally. For a time I thought I didn’t have space anymore, but it settled right into my Mid-Century inspired living room. Recently my partner sat down too hard and a button popped off the seat! This made me give the chair a good look for the first time – and it needed some love.

I was surprised with the first swipe of the magic eraser how desperately the vinyl needed cleaning! After an hour or so of scrubbing I found it’s true color again, unfortunately with a little fading. Reattaching the button was a challenge that involved a skewer, some pliers, and glue, but I managed to get it back on there. Today it looks almost better than ever and I love the color it brings to the room. As a designer I appreciate things with good form AND function, this chair earns it’s keep by being beautiful and a back up plan in case my hand-held hair dryer decides to bite the dust!

French Onion Beef Stew

When I was younger I had a spell of obsession with French cooking and culture. Maybe it had something to do with the beautiful French man I met in London or the Intro to Culinary Arts class I took in Community College, regardless it was a great learning experience. And this was back when I could have real butter! 

During this time, French Onion Soup was a regular menu item at the Grace house. I would suit up with apron and swimmer’s goggles to slave over a pan, waiting for the perfect shade of brown. I would wonder, what could I make with this to be a complete dinner? French Onion Soup was perfect for lunch or an appetizer, with protein and carbs in the cheezy, toasty bread-topping. Let’s be real, there are some pretty decent fake cheese products out there, but there’s nothing like real mozzarella and gruyère melted in each onion-y bite of your soup, so I wanted to get more creative with such a classic recipe.

The inspiration for my stew came from an instagram photo of something completely different, it was a delicious looking onion beef noodle soup with a Taiwanese-style broth. I love Taiwanese soup like no other, but this isn’t what my heart (stomach) was craving. I set out to make a French onion soup with shredded beef, which evolved as I went through the cabinets. I came across a bag of barley, an ingredient I love, but never utilize enough. Especially since Whole Foods broke my heart by removing their vegan Mushroom Barley soup from the hot bar recently…another recipe I need to tackle in the near future. 

Growing up, my dad taught me how to use a pressure cooker to make meals that would otherwise take hours, which was a game-changer in my culinary education. Consider yourself warned that if you don’t have one (or an Instant Pot), my recipe may seem inaccessible. PLEASE feel free to reach out to me for help redesigning a recipe for stovetop. I’m planning to try this recipe without my Instant Pot to figure out how a friend can make it.

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Now that you have some background, the rest of this should be easy! MISE EN PLACE. Seriously, I can’t stress this enough. 80% of my screw-ups in the kitchen are because I’m not paying attention while I’m prepping the next steps. The other 20% of the time I’m trying to get the crazy mess I’ve made while cooking cleaned up and forget what I’m doing. So let’s vibe with Thom Yorke and make sure everything is in it’s right place.

I always try to bring meat, especially larger pieces, to room temperature before beginning so they will cook more evenly. I heated olive oil in my Instant Pot on the sauté setting and browned all sides of the beef, which was just a small chunk I saved after making tacos the night before. Once the beef was nicely browned I removed it and set it aside. Here’s where things take a little time – brown those onions until you start to worry they’re going to burn – BROWNING IS FLAVOR…though burning is not, so keep an eye on them. When things are looking good, save all those yummy bits stuck to the bottom of the pan by deglazing with some wine. I use whatever I’m drinking, using bad wine won’t taste as good in the outcome, I don’t think I need to explain this part. Cheers fellow wine-lovers, after all of this browning you’ve earned yourself a glass too! 

Moving right along, add your beef stock, pepper, bay leaves, and plop that beef from before right into the soup. This isn’t in my recipe, but I added a few splashes of Worcestershire sauce into the soup for an extra kick if you’re interested in trying this too. Set your pressure cooker for one hour. This is a good time to simmer your barley, it takes a while so just stir it occasionally until the water is absorbed. Slice your mushrooms if you haven’t already and you weren’t paying attention before when I said mise en place!

When your timer goes off, release the pressure and remove the beef, it should be ready for shredding. I usually do this on a separate plate with two forks. Remove the bay leaves, and add your barley, beef, and mushrooms to the soup. Pressurize your Instant Pot for a few more minutes. When the timer goes off give it another stir and serve with all of that sourdough bread you have all been making while in quarantine. Thanks for reading my first post, I look forward to sharing more recipes and projects with you soon!