Contest: Win an Unplugged Vacation in Vermont

AmeeFarmLodge

One of my new year resolutions (like many of you) was to unplug and find time away from electronics. It can be so nice to have the time to connect with your loved ones, with nature, and with your activities without the distraction of new emails and tweets. Well, Vermont Perfection heard us loud and clear, and they want to help. They’re giving one reader an unplugged 2-day vacation at the Amee Farm Lodge in Pittsfield, Vermont.

The prize is a $600 value and includes:

  • A 2 night stay at Amee Farm Lodge (based on availability)
  • Deluxe Continental Breakfast each morning of your stay
  • Gift Certificate for Lunch to Original General Store
  • Welcome Basket/Bag from Riverside Farm

It does not include transportation to Vermont. But if you have some airline miles to spend or happen to live close enough to get there on your own, you need to enter. The area has 30+ miles of hiking and biking on the Green Mountain Trails,
yoga classes, snow-shoeing, skiing at Killington and Pico, tubing on the Tweed River, kayaking and fishing at Kent Pond and Tweed River, and on-site massages.

I’m ridiculously jealous that I can’t go and desperately want to hear from whoever wins. But after the trip. Put your phone and laptop away while you’re there, bring some board games and a good book, and get ready to relax. Find out more at vermontperfection.com and enter below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Banana-na-na-na-na-na-na Cupcakes (Batman-Inspired Banana Cupcakes)

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Smart Balance.

Batman Cupcake

I’ve been wanting to make these cupcakes for a while. Like, almost a year. I love bananas and I love cheesy names, so I naturally had to make a “Banana-na-na-na-na-na-na Batman” cupcake. So when Smart Balance wanted me to try their new blended butter sticks in the place of recipes that normally use butter, I thought “this is my chance!”

I threw on the Bat Signal and got to work.

See, I’m lactose intolerant (as are many of my family and friends) and yet I still use butter when baking and make buttercream frosting by the boatloads. I just assumed there wasn’t a tasty option. I swapped my butter for Smart Balance sticks in the cupcake and the buttercream frosting, and was pleasantly surprised! The cupcakes turned out fluffy and delicious, and doesn’t taste any different than butter would make it. The buttercream frosting turned out as well! The only caveat is that Smart Balance sticks have salt in them, so if you use it for frosting, it’ll turn out a bit more salty than usual. But it would be perfect for a salted caramel buttercream!

Banana Cupcake

If you’re looking for a less fattening, less lactose-y alternative to butter, I’d definitely recommend the Smart Balance sticks. It’s a 1-1 substitution for butter in your recipe, and I doubt you’ll notice a difference in taste/usability. The sticks are a butter/canola oil blend with no trans fats, and a blend of other fats that helps absorb good cholesterol and block the bad kinds. Kinda like your own personal Batman. If trans fats and bad cholesterol were villains and Smart Balance was really rich and had cool weapons and spent a lot of time brooding… ok, maybe it’s not like Batman. Maybe I really just want to make this analogy work because I like the name of these cupcakes more than I probably should.

On to the recipe!

Banana(nananananana) Cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 stick Smart Balance Blended Butter Stick (or 1 stick of salted butter)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (3-4 ripe bananas)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place 12 cupcake wrappers into a cupcake tin.

Mix flour, baking powder, and baking soda together. Set aside.

Cream butter and sugar together until well mixed and fluffy. Add mashed bananas, eggs, and vanilla to the butter and sugar. Mix together.

Add the mixed dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and stir until combined (be careful not to overmix!).

Spoon batter into the 12 cupcake cups evenly. (The batter will be thick–that’s fine!)

Bake for 22 minutes or until a toothpick goes in and out of a cupcake cleanly.

Let cool and enjoy!

These cupcakes are delicious on their own (like a banana bread-muffin-cupcake hybrid), but if you’re a frosting lover and/or want to make them more “Batman”-y, read on!

Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients:

  • 2 sticks Smart Balance Blended Butter Sticks (or 2 sticks unsalted butter)
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 TBS vanilla
  • 2 TBS milk
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • yellow food coloring (optional)

Directions:

Cream together the butter and powdered sugar. Add in vanilla and milk, mix until fluffy with an even consistency. If it’s too dry, add more milk 1 TBS at a time. If it’s too runny, add more powdered sugar.

Once it’s to your desired consistency, add in cinnamon and mix. Then add the yellow food coloring, a few drops at a time, until it’s the desired color. I used about 15 drops to get the bright yellow for my cupcakes. 

Frost your cupcakes!

Chocolate Batman Toppers

Finish your cupcakes off with these fun (and delicious) toppers!

Chocolate BatmanDirections:

Find a Batman symbol online and paste it multiple times to create a template sheet. Print the sheet out. 

Place the sheet on a baking sheet and place waxed paper over it.

Melt some chocolate chips in a bowl by microwaving for 30 seconds, mix. Microwave for 10 more seconds, mix.

Place melted chocolate into a frosting sleeve, and using a thin tip, trace the shapes on the wax paper. Fill in the shape.

Place tray of finished chocolate outlines into the fridge to cool and harden.

Carefully peel off the chocolate symbols and place (flat side up) onto the top of the cupcake.

Voila! a delicious banana cupcake ala Batman.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve substituted butter while baking, and how it worked out for you. Have you tried Smart Balance before? 

Smart Balance

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Smart Balance.
Tracking Pixel

Minecraft Cookie Cutters

1207_minecraft_cookie_cutters

How cute are these Minecraft cookie cutters?

ThinkGeek just announced this set of 5 cookie cutters. You get a pickaxe, sword, player, cookie, and creeper all wrapped up in a Minecraft-themed tin. While the creeper is cool because of the cutout in the middle, my favorite shape is the cookie. Make your best sugar cookie recipe, use the Minecraft cookie cutter, and as the cookies come out of the oven and are still warm, stick some square chocolate chunks into them. They’ll look and taste like the chocolate chip image you’re used to seeing! Talk about awesome presentation for a game night.

The Minecraft cookie cutter set is $19.99 at ThinkGeek.

Giant ModCloth Sale!

nowornever

ModCloth is one of those sites that I visit whenever I just want to take a break and look at pretty things. Everything on their store is fun, cute, and so “me.” And I’ve found most of my friends feel the same way. I haven’t purchased something from them yet (but have received items as gifts), but that all may change today. ModCloth is having a huge “Now or Never” sale where items are up to 70% off. The sale will continue as long as the items last. I already see some things I want to snag, like these playing card salt and pepper shakers for $5.99 and these amazing charcoal-grey  boots for $14.99.

Check out everything they have at www.modcloth.com/shop/sale. But go fast, things are already selling out!

Happy 2014!

GH-Booth

Whew! 2013 was a busy but fantastic year, and I can’t wait to see what 2014 has in store for The Geeky Hostess and myself. But before we get too settled into 2014, I wanted to have a quick look back.

In 2013 I:

A huge thank you to everyone who came up and said “Hi” at a convention, left a comment on my post, or shared Geeky Hostess with their friends. I wouldn’t be doing this ridiculously fun site without you and your support!

Here’s a look back at the top 5 most popular posts from 2013:

5. Arrested Development Premiere Party

4. Geeky Cookie Cutters

3. Recipe: Butterbeer Mug Cake

2. Game of Thrones Party

1. Kristina and Tara are Betty and Veronica

What would you like to see more of in 2014? Let me know in the comments! And Happy New Year!

Tara’s Resolutions for 2014

Nothing is Impossible

Before we get into my resolutions for 2014, I want to share a bit about the above picture. This is the product pic for a necklace my dear friend Liz gave me. Whenever I need a little pick-me-up or am about to handle something big and scary, I put it on. Although grammar-lovers may notice the double negative, I think the phrase is absolutely perfect. You see, “Anything is possible” sounds like anything could happen at any time purely out of coincidence. “Nothing is impossible” makes me feel like nothing is out of reach if I work for it. And that’s the big thing: if you work hard, nothing is impossible. Remember that. 

Yes, I know resolutions are a silly thing. We all pledge to better ourselves, and most resolutions barely last a month. Well, that’s a month more than you may be motivated to do otherwise. So while in the past I’ve resolved to not have resolutions, I’ve been spending a lot of time reflecting on myself and how I want to improve. Why not start now? (If it helps, think of resolutions as a chance to give yourself a “yearly review.”)

Here are my resolutions for 2014:

Be More Active
Sure, losing weight would be great. But overall, I want my goal to be more active. Working on the computer all day means I struggle to get any bit of movement in. I pledge to take more steps, make time to exercise, and attempt to relax by going for walks as much as I relax in front of the tv. I’ll be monitoring my progress with my FitBit. Do you use FitBit? Friend me and we can keep each other motivated!

Try a New Recipe Each Week
For the last few years I’ve resolved to cook more at home, and I’ve gotten better at it each year. Making meals at home is healthy, less expensive, and is a fun, relaxing hobby. This year I pledge to go through the recipes I’ve bookmarked in my recipe books but have never made. The goal is to try something new each week, whether it’s a quick snack or a full meal. I’m hoping to broaden my cooking/food horizons and find a few more staples in the process! I’ll keep you updated on any amazing recipes I try.

Set Boundaries
When you work for yourself, you never stop working. I do social media marketing, I run the Geeky Hostess blog/brand, I make online videos, and I do whatever other projects come to my mind each day. I don’t stop. This year, I will. I want to set clear boundaries on when I will and won’t respond to emails or spend time in front of the computer. I want to disconnect from my phone and connect with my friends and family. It may mean someone will have to wait a few extra hours before they hear from me, but in the long run, I think it will help my sanity, relationships, and time management skills. Do you take time to disconnect or set hours when you work for yourself? Any tips or suggestions?

What are your resolutions for the new year?

10 New Year Resolutions for the Geek Community

New Year's Resolution Tee available at shirt.woot.com.

New Year’s Resolution Tee available at shirt.woot.com.

New Year’s Eve is tomorrow. Do you have your resolutions picked out yet? If not, I’d recommend including some of these. These resolutions will help you strengthen your geekness and become a better person. And some of them are just plain fun.

1. Pledge to get fit
And by “fit” I don’t mean “skinny.” Make yourself feel better and help your body perform better by keeping active. Come convention season, you’ll be thrilled to see that you’re not dying after the first day on the convention floor. There are so many fun and geeky ways to get motivated, whether it’s by playing fitness games on your new console, keeping track of your steps with tech like FitBit, or training for a zombie-themed marathon. Find some other geeks who enjoy the same things as you, and have Dance Central nights, or compete to get the most steps each week.

2. Finish that game
We all have it. An unfinished game. A “To Be Read” pile of books. An unopened RPG guide sitting on our shelf. Make the time to finish it. Schedule it into your calendar if you must. Your mind will thank yourself for giving it one less thing to feel guilty about, and you’ll enjoy having some scheduled time to do something you love!

3. Introduce someone new to your fandom
Share your love with others! While they’re geeky or not, introduce your friends and family to something you love in a non-threatening, non-crazy way. Remember that you were noob once too! Tell them why it means so much to you and encourage them to give it a shot. Want to bring a non-geek over to the dark side? Start slow. Maybe watch The Avengers and ask them if any of the characters stood out to them. If they loved Iron Man, then introduce them to some of the other movies, or to some good issues of the comic. Find points that they will relate to that you can talk about.

4. Try a new fandom
There’s a whole lot of geek out there, and there are fandoms you probably haven’t even touched. Ask your friends for recommendations, or do a “fandom swap” and try out each other’s favorite show/movie/book/game. I, for instance, have never seen an episode of Star Trek (although I have seen the recent movies). I’d love to be able to check that out in 2014!

5. Don’t read the comments
Simple as that. Don’t read the comments on  your work, and don’t read the comments on others’. If you need to leave a comment, imagine you’re saying it to someone’s face. When in doubt, don’t be a dick.

6. Support those you love
Your favorite authors, artists, filmmakers, musicians, bloggers, and game makers need your support. Many of them crowdfund their new works and/or accept donations. Tell them you want to see more from them by supporting them financially when you can. Don’t have the money? Not a problem! Help spread the word about their new projects, ask for some of their merch for your birthday, and let them know what you think of them. A kind word or two can mean even more to an artist than money. If you have a convention or event near you that needs speakers or exhibitors, suggest them. You’ll help them grow in popularity which will enable them to create more of the work you love.

7. Attend a con
There is no better feeling than attending a convention for your fandom or hobby. It’s like a giant slumber party love-fest of meeting people that “get it” while learning all of the coolest news, trying new products, and meeting your idols. GO. There is likely one near you, and likely one for just what you’re into. You don’t have to go to one of the big comic-cons. Start small if you want. Just try one.

8. Dress up for your next game night
Show everyone that geeks can look good. Instead of throwing on the closest jeans and t-shirt and heading out the door (I’m guilty of doing this), take some time to put together an outfit that makes you look and feel amazing. Who knows what may come of it: you could meet a new friend (or lover), encourage your friends to start regular “Dapper Days” in your game group, or even play better with your new-found confidence!

9. Find a healthy go-to gaming food
Yes, Cheetos are delicious, but are they the best thing you should be eating? As my friends and I get further away from those days in high school and college where we can eat anything, we’re trying to find healthier alternatives to our favorite snack foods. Try veggies and hummus, air-popped popcorn, or a homemade version of something you normally get from a drive-through or a convenience store!

10. Disconnect
I know, I know. You’re tech savvy and your job and hobbies all revolve around your phone, computer, and tv screen. But find some time to disconnect. Set daily limits for the amount of time you’re gaming or on reddit. Don’t refresh your phone looking for new emails after 10pm. Pick up and read a physical book instead of grabbing your Kindle. Eat dinner with friends or your family without the tv on and with phones put away. Sure, you won’t be able to take a selfie or tweet about your meal, but you’ll be able to reconnect with the people that are right in front of you. It’ll be worth it.

Any other resolutions you think the geek community should make? Let me know in the comments! And come back tomorrow for my personal list of resolutions.

Doctor Who Christmas Special: Dress Like Clara

Clara

Clara was sporting a cute look in this year’s Christmas Special, and the look is easy to replicate for any day. Whether you want to cosplay as her or are inspired by her “appropriate for the family AND fake-boyfriend” look, you’ll succeed in this outfit. No holograms needed.

Go school-girl chic with a plaid skirt, thick tights, a frilly button-up, and a cardigan. Add some edge with black booties and spiked/studded jewelry. And of course, it wouldn’t be a Christmas or New Year’s outfit without accessories from a party cracker! I like these.

What did you think of Clara’s look? And what did you think of Matt Smith’s final episode? Are you ready for a new Doctor?

Friday Favorites: December 20

Friday Faves 12-20

The year is almost over, and most of my time has been spent trying to wrap up things from 2013 before taking some time off to spend with family. But my mind keeps wandering to 2014 and what’s in store… I’ve got big plans and can’t wait to sit down and assess the projects in my life and find ways to make them bigger and better.

When I haven’t been bogged down with all of that, I’ve been checking out the following:

Favorite Tumblr: The Bob’s Burger Experiment
Someone is making all of the burger specials that are on the board in “Bob’s Burgers.” I want to eat them all. While kicking myself for not coming up with this first. Check it out!

Favorite Music: The NSYNC Christmas Album. 
WHAT. Judge me all you want. It’s not Christmas until I listen to it.

Favorite Food: Muddy Buddies
This is my go-to holiday snack. It’s quick, easy, and delicious. The only problem is I end up eating way more than I should. Whatever, I’m gonna make some more tonight. Make some yourself.

Favorite Holiday Helpers: Whole Foods Wine and Cheese Department
I went to a wine and cheese pairing tasting last week at Whole Foods, and it was amazing. The wine and cheese folks at Whole Foods are ridiculously knolwedgeable, and are pretty sassy/fun to boot. I gave them some of my toughest questions (“What’s a good riesling for someone who doesn’t like rieslings?,” “What’s your dirtiest, earthiest tasting wine, and what cheese should I pair with it?” and “Got any wines from the Horse Heaven Hills area?”) and they were able to answer them all with flying colors. Plus, their wines were not as spendy as I thought they’d be. If you need to grab a wine or a nice cheese for a party or gift, hit them up and challenge their knowledge. You’ll walk out with something great.

What are you loving this week?

Use DogeCoin at the Geeky Hostess Store

Doge

…Yep. Until 10pm PST on Friday, December 20th, you can use DogeCoin as currency at the Geeky Hostess Store.

Why? Why not. Here are other questions you may have.

What is DogeCoin? 

DogeCoin is a cryptocurrency created a little less than 2 weeks ago. It started off as a parody of BitCoin, but has taken on a life of its own.

Why not just accept BitCoin?

Because DogeCoin is cuter. And based on a meme. But seriously, BitCoin has become unmineable for the average person, and DogeCoin is a fun way to be introduced into the concept of cryptocurrency. So Fun. Much Coin.

I am a DogeCoin millionaire. Can I buy your whole store?

No, please. There is a limit of one of each item in my store per DogeCoin-paying customer. You may, however, buy more items with US Currency.

How do I buy things from you?

Since there isn’t a prebuilt way to do that (yet!), here’s how it works:

  1. Pick what you want in the store.
  2. Email me at tara(at)geekyhostess.com with what you want and your physical address.
  3. I’ll message you back with a wallet address.
  4. You send Doge to the wallet, and when it arrives, I ship your things.

How do I get started with DogeCoin? 

Go here!

I want more info. 

That’s not a question. But check out my reddit post, leave a comment, or shoot me an email and I’ll be happy to answer any additional questions!