Cosplay Tutorial: Adding a Non-Slip Sole to Spandex Boot / Shoe Covers

Spandex boot covers are a great way to customize less-than-perfect footwear to work with your costume. You can sometimes buy ready made covers, but personally, I prefer to make my own (I have full instructions available in my spandex cosplay sewing manual – Sewing for Superheroes). It just gives me so much more flexibility on the footwear I can use, and the final effect.

For some costumes – such as this “Peek-A-Blue” one – I’ll build my boot covers right into the tights, for an all-in-one look. The shoes are inserted into the tights, and the whole thing is put on like you would roll up pantihose. It can really complete a look!

The thing is, spandex boot covers can be a weak point in your costume, in terms of wear and tear. Spandex isn’t really meant to be footwear, after all – and all that walking can tatter it quickly. No worries, though – adding a sole to your boot covers is easy, relatively inexpensive, and wildly extends the life of your costume. It protected the seam itself, as well as the fabric under the shoe. Additionally, this creates a nonslip surface – makes your costume safer to wear!

I use a rubberized soling material called “ToughTek” that I purchase on Etsy, here. It comes in several colours, I like to keep a supply of white, black, and beige on hand, so I can best coordinate with whatever I’m adding a sole to.

Here is how I do it.

You will need:

Paper for patterning – either printer paper or craft/tissue paper
Pen
Scissors
Soling material
Craft paper, parchment paper, or etc to protect your work surface.
Shoe Goo
Disposable plastic knife, or similar
Clamps, vice grips, masking tape, etc (optional)
Clear Silicone Caulking
2 rolls of masking or packing tape
Small bowl for water
ScotchGard spray (optional, but recommended)

Method:

1. Put your shoe/boot inside the cover, being sure to line up the seams where they should go. In this case, that means the long seam goes straight up the middle of the sole, with the vertical seam extending from that seam, up the middle of the instep. Smooth out any wrinkles:

2. Place your shoe/boot over your pattern paper, and carefully trace out the sole shape:

3. If the shoe curls up at the front, be sure to roll forward on the sole when tracing, to get the full shape:

4. Your tracing will likely be rough, like this:

5. Cut out your tracing, cleaning up the edges as you go:

6. Place your tracing up against the bottom of your shoe, to see how well it fits:

7. Trim off any excess, if applicable. In this case, I needed to trim a little from around the ball of the foot:

8. Lay out your soling material, rough side down. (Rough side is up in picture):

9. Trace out your adjusted pattern piece onto the back (non-rubber, fabric) side of the soling material, once:

10. Hold your cut out soling piece against the bottom of your shoe. Make sure it fits well – you want it to cover everywhere that hits the ground, without extending beyond that surface area. Trim any excess, if necessary:

11. Place your adjusted cut piece down on your soling material – fabric side down, facing the fabric side of the main piece. Trace and cut a second, mirror-image piece:

12. Lay out some paper to protect your work surface. This can get messy:

13. Squeeze a fair amount of Shoe Goo out onto the underside of your shoes, being careful to keep it to the area that will be covered by the sole. For reference, this one piece took one entire mini tube as pictured in the last step:

14. Repeat with the fabric side of your cut out sole pieces:

15. Use the flat side of your plastic knife to smooth out the Shoe Goo on all pieces:



16. Allow the pieces to dry a little, 5-10 minutes. Once the time is up, CAREFULLY line up one sole to the appropriate shoe bottom, and apply. Aim to get it right on the first try, as it’s messy and difficult to try to reposition it once placed. Firmly press into place, then repeat with second sole/shoe.

17. Allow to cure for at least 24 hours, preferably 48 to be thorough. I’ll usually just set them up as pictured, so the weight of the shoe holds the sole in place. You MAY need clamps or tape to help, depending on the shoe/boot / shape of the sole:

18. Once the curing time is up, carefully pipe a line of clear silicone caulking around the edge of the soling. Aim to get it on the outside/top edge of the soling, right where it touches the spandex. The idea is to seal the edge of the soling. This may (read: will!) get a bit messy, don’t worry too much though:

19. Set your shoes/boots sole side up in the rolls of tape, as pictured. This will allow everything to dry freely, without getting stuck to work surfaces, etc. Fill a small bowl with water:

20. Dip your finger in the water, and use it to smooth out your line of caulking. Be sure to work it into the area between the spandex and the soling material. Try to get this as snmooth as possible – it likely won’t be perfect – mine usually isn’t – but once it dries, imperfections aren’t very noticeable. There’s a reason we’re using clear caulking, after all!

21. Place your shoes back into the rolls of tape, as shown, and allow to fully dry, 12-24 hours, until silicone is completely clear:

22. Once silicone caulking is completely dry, follow instructions on ScotchGard to treat the boots, if you like – I usually do, as it keeps them looking fresh and new. Be sure to test on a scrap piece of material to make sure nothing weird happens with the Scotchgarding:

When wearing, pull on as usual, and just be sure to adjust the cover so that the sole lays where it is supposed to, in case it shifted while putting it on.

Canada Day Playlist – Canadian Dance Music!

As you may have noticed, I’m a HUGE fan of dance music – 90’s-ish dance, in particular. I tend to just label most of it “Eurodance” by default, but a lot of what gets lumped in as Euro is actually Canadian!

There were a ton of great Canadian dance music artists back in the day. I’d listen to them on Chris Sheppard’s radio shows (and Canadians of a certain age now know exactly where “Celebration Generation” came from!), I’d watch them on Electric Circus, and – after moving to the GTA – I’d even hear them on top 40 radio, via Z103.5. Z has a heavy focus on dance music even to this day – It’s my favourite radio station ever, as a result!

So, with Canada Day coming up, I figure I’ll use the big party as an excuse to blog a Canadian Dance Music Playlist. It is out 150th, after all… so I’ll take any excuse to mark the occasion 🙂

To keep this reasonable, I’m only going to embed one song per group, though many featured have several / many great songs. If you hear something you like, I encourage you to look more into them. I love the high energy, uplifting nature of dance music, and love to share it with all of you!

In no particular order..

Laya – All My Dreams

This is one of my all time favourites, and gets played pretty much any time I’m in the truck or in front of the computer.. usually on repeat. LOVE.

Beatman – Nadia

This is one song I first heard through Z, and it’s a classic. High earworm potential, btw.

Roxxy – I’ll Never Stop

I love the speed and energy on this one, it was always great to play during skating practice or for workouts.

Jet Fuel – Hang on Here We Go

This song has a special place in my heart, as someone who was basically addicted to Electric Circus in my early-late teens – this song was the theme for the show Every Friday night, I would plan to watch, and usually record it. Living in Winnipeg – and being too young to go to clubs – it was the most readily accessible dance music, and it was fabulous. They’d open the Much Music studios and basically turn it into a club. The dancers wore bright colours, metallic fabrics.. spandex and feathers everywhere. LOVED. IT.

Capital Sound – Desire

Capital Sound was based out of Ottawa, and had a bunch of great songs. It was hard to narrow it down for the purposes of this list – so many good ones to choose from! I think “In The Night” was probably their biggest hit, but don’t quote me on that. “Higher Love” was right up there, too. “Feel the Rhythm” is probably tied for my favourite, but for my embed, I’m going with “Desire”. I don’t think it got as much love, in general… but I <3 it so.

Bif Naked – Spaceman

Now, I love me some Bif Naked at times, but she wasn’t really known for her dance music. I still find it a bit hilarious that she put out a dance remix of her “Spaceman“… but I’m certainly not complaining! I am firmly of the belief that dance music makes everything better.

Emjay – We All Need Love

I think “In Your Arms was my first exposure to Emjay, and it was DEFINITELY on Electric Circus; she performed live on the show at least once, and they played this video often. She had quite a few great songs, like “Fascinated“, “Flying to the Moon“, “Sound of my Heartbeat“, and “Point of No Return“. For the purposes of this list, though.. I’m picking “We All Need Love”. The video is so spectacularly 90s, and I just don’t hear this song get as much play as the others.

BKS – Living in Ecstasy

BKS was one of Chris Sheppard’s projects – featuring Simone Denny, who I adore – and they put out a lot of great music. Astroplane, Dreamcatcher, Take Control – which was, IMHO, the best song on Much Dance ’95…

I happened to be listening to the Astroplane album when I was trying to come up with a name for my business. It was during their cover of Swamp Thing, when inspiration struck. Chris Sheppard yelled “Celebration Generation, you know who you are!” – “The Celebration Generation” being his name for his fans – and in that moment, I just thought “Yes, I do!”. It stuck.

For this playlist, though, I figured I’d go old school and highlight my current favourite of theirs, “Living in Ecstasy”

Love Inc

Love Inc was another Chris Sheppard project, also featuring Simone Denny. Broken Bones was their first hit, and remains a favourite of mine today. You’re a Superstar is an amazing, feel-good anthem – one I load up on regularly, and make a point of sharing when someone needs it. Here Comes the Sunshine, Who Do You Love?, and more – all great.

Their song “Into the Night” didn’t get the same amount of play as some of the others ones, but it’s just such a gorgeous song, I had to include it here!

O.O.P featuring Simone Denny – You Make Me Feel Like a Star

Ok, this is probably my last Simone Denny song in here, I swear! So far as I can tell, I don’t actually know any other songs by this group, but this one – on the BeatClub CD – is definitely a favourite of mine.

Dion – Maybe

This is one of those songs that just really perks me up when it comes on the radio. Love it!

Ivan – Open Your Eyes

I never cease to be amazed at how obscure Ivan’s solo dance music seems to be. I do love to see the shock on friend’s faces when I point out that Ivan is Ivan Doroschuk, from Men Without Hats. Remember Safety Dance? Yep – that’s Canadian too!

Anyway, he put out an album in the mid 90’s – “The Spell”. This, and “SuperBadGirls” were my favourites from that album.

Temperance – Lost in Love

Temperance was a Toronto based group that had a couple of hits – A great cover of “Forever Young“, and Lost in Love, which was my favourite of the two.

Yakoo Boyz – Pipe Dreamz

Techno version of “Scotland the Brave” – what else can I say? This one has a special place in my heart, as I used to skate to the instrumental version. I thought my coach would kill me when I cut the music, choreographed it, and showed up to a competition with it, without telling him. The skirt was neon plaid, the bodice was made of 4 way stretch black PVC with metal zippers and rivets – looked like a stylized biker vest. I had my tattoo showing (a no-no for figure skaters back then!), a blue stripe in my hair… and I had FUN. This song makes me smile, just remembering all that nonsense 🙂

YBZ – Now That I Found You

Yakoo Boyz teamed up with Cleo-Patra,became YBZ (the code for a Toronto airport), and put out this song. Love it!

Outta Control – Tonight It’s Party Time

OK, I was wrong, this is another Simone Denny song. Whoops. This one was the first song on one of the compilation dance music cassettes I had way back in the day. Can’t remember which one, but I wore it out over this song. 🙂

Joee – Feel it in the Air

Joee is another one that had a bunch of great songs, making it difficult to pick one for this. Angel, Almost Suicide, Died in Your Arms, Arriba, etc

IN the end, I’ve gotta go with “Feel it in the Air” as my fav (“Almost Suicide” is a close second!)

Boomtang Boys – Dancing with Myself

Boomtang Boys are a group of producers/remix artists. Yep, they were the ones behind HamsterDance(and Hamster Dance 2.0)… but are much better known/respected for their work on other’s remixes (see “Spaceman”, above), and their own singles, Squeezetoy and Pictures (which had a memorably disturbing video!), and Both Sides Now, and – my favourite – Bang a Gong. (Which seems to be blocked in the USA, boo!)

My second favourite is their version of “Dancing with Myself”… even if I find the video – full of kids bouncing around – to be a completely bizarre choice, given the song’s rumoured (Though disproven) subject matter!

Prozzak – Omobolashire

I enjoy The Philosopher Kings, but I LOVE Prozzak – a project started by two of their members. Yes, the songs are cheesy, and the videos are corny, and the fake British accent is ridiculous.. but I LOVE it all. Judge all you want! 😀 Sucks to be You, www.nevergetoveryou, Europa, Strange Disease, the uplifting Be as… it’s all great for listening while sewing. My favourite, though, is the first song of theirs that I’d ever heard, Omoboloshire.

Jefferson Project – All I need is the Night

I don’t know much about this group, other than that I first saw them on Electric Circus back in the day. Love the song though!

Shauna Davis – Get Away

This song is a classic… and the singer is fascinating. Shauna Davis is Stéphane Moraille, who went on to sing for Bran Van 3000 (“Drinking in LA” is one of my favourite songs ever!), before becoming a lawyer and politician in Quebec!

…. this list is getting long! I’ll wrap it up with:

Solina – I Wanna Know

So. Yes. Canadians do Dance Music well! 🙂

Cosplay Tutorial – Handmaid’s Tale Bonnet / Cap

So, as I’ve mentioned on my Facebook Page, I’m in a Handmaid’s Tale cosplay group for Convergence 2017. With Hulu’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s classic – Canadian, btw! – novel being SO great, we just have to! I was originally going to do it with just my husband (who wants to be “Janine”/”Ofwarren”), then with a friend or two, and then we ended up joining up with a group of strangers. Adventure!

I offered to pattern up some of the elements, and here we are. Because many of our group are novice seamstresses, I’ve done this tutorial so that even beginners can make them. Yes, there are cleaner, fussier, more accurate ways of doing it… but this looks legit, and is easy to make. So, here we are!

You’re going to want about 1/2 yard of a natural, white fabric. I used a linen-look fabric from JoAnn (Here), for budget reasons. Actual linen or cotton would work, also.

Additionally: White thread, a bit of elastic (I like 3/8″ braided elastic), a sewing machine, a serger (if you have it), a cord threader or safety pin, and a hand sewing needle. For pattern making, some tissue, craft, or medical examination table paper, a ruler, and a pen.

Let’s get to it!

Part 1: Patterning

Measure from the middle, top of your head, down the side of your head, to the bottom of your ear. For most adults, this should be about 10″ – we’ll be using 10″ as the measurement for this tutorial.

On your patterning paper, draw 2 lines that are perpendicular to the edge of the paper, and this measurement (10″) apart. Have at least 15″ of paper extending out to the left.

On one of the lines, mark a spot that is 2.5″ from the edge of the paper. (left side, as pictured). On the other line, mark a spot 3.5″ from the edge of the picture. Using a ruler, join these two spots.

On the edge of the paper, mark a spot that is 2.5″ away from the line marked at 3.5″ – in this case, the line on the right. Use a ruler to join this new spot, to the 3.5″ mark

Mark a seam allowance out from the line you just drew. I like to use a 1/4″ seam allowance. So, I marked 1/4″ out at both ends, and joined those two spots to form a line 1/4″ out from the original line, parallel to it.

Fold the paper at the 2.5″ line, lining up long edges. Cut out pattern piece.

This is what your pattern piece should look like.

On another piece of paper, use a ruler to draw a line perpendicular to the edge of the paper. Mark it at the measurement you came up with earlier (10″, in this case).

Along the edge of the paper, you need to mark a spot that will become the length of the “bag” of the cap. For a larger bag (lots of hair), I like to use 14″. For a smaller bag (not much hair to hide), you can go 11-12″.

For this tutorial, I used 12″. I marked 12″ away from the original line.

Fold the edge of the paper to meet the line you drew, and press to form a sharp crease. This will show you the halfway point.

Unfold pattern. Mark a spot along the fold, that is the difference between your two measurements. As I was using 10″ and 12″, this means I marked a spot 11″ from the edge of the paper, measured along the fold.

Draw a curved line that smoothly and evenly connects your 3 measurement points.

Draw a second curved line 1″ outside of that line. This will be your seam allowance.

Cut out your pattern pieces. I like to add arrows pointing to the original paper edge on both pattern pieces, as pictured – this is where the fold of the fabric will be.

Part 2: Cutting


Fold your fabric, place arrow-marked edges of the pattern pieces on the folds, cut through both layers of fabric.

These are the two pieces that will make up your cap.

Part 3: Sewing


With right sides together (if applicable) – folded lengthwise – sew or serge the pointed ends together, as shows.

Clip the very tip off each point, without cutting the seam.

Carefully turn the points right-side out. Use a chopstick or other pointy instrument (closed tip of scissors works, just be careful!) on the inside, to push the very point out as much as possible.

While I didn’t bother, using a hot iron to press sharp creases into the fold/ pointed ends can make things easier for you.

(not pictured) Serge or zig-zag the rounded edge of the “bag” piece.

Your pieces.

With the right side (if applicable) facing down, fold up and sew a 1″ seam around the curved edge of the bag. Sew close to the serged/zig zagged edge, leaving a nice big tunnel, clear.

As you sew, gently gather in the excess fabric that needs to be worked into the seam. Don’t worry, this doesn’t need to be pretty.

The bag, with the tunnel sewn.

Measure the back of your head, from behind one ear, straight across to the other. Add 2″ to this measurement, for the length of elastic to cut. 8″ is what we get, so I cut a 10″ long piece of elastic.

Thread the elastic into your cord threader, or attach a safety pin to one end.

Thread your elastic through the tunnel you made, being sure not to lose the end of the elastic.

Leave 1″ of elastic hanging out the side you started threading through.

Sew across the opening of the tunnel, securing the elastic. This seam should be done very close to the opening.

Pull the cord threader or safety pin out the other side of the tunnel. Allow 2″ of elastic to stick out, hold it securely!.

Sew the second tunnel opening closed, as you did the first.

Trim excess elastic from both ends (It was just for ease in working with it). This will leave you with a length of gathered elastic that is 1″ shorter than your measurement – this is what we want. (it will be too big, otherwise.)

With the right side of your “bag” facing up (ie, the edge seam/tunnel underneath)Line up the raw edge of your brim piece with / on top of the raw edge of your bag piece, as pictured.

Sew or serge the brim piece to the bag. make sure to keep the brim piece folded and lined up with itself the whole time – you can pin it, if needed.

If you find that you didn’t do so well with cutting, or with maintaining the seam allowance measurements, you may find one piece slightly bigger than the other, as you approach the end. Feel free to just fold and tuck extra fabric to match the seam ends up, within the last 2-3″, if needed. This will be hidden by the folded point.

What it should look like at this point.

While not necessary, I like to tack the joining seam backwards against the elastic, just for an inch or so at each edge, as pictured. It just makes it look cleaner when wearing it – You can do this by hand or machine.

The end tack, from the right side.

Fold one point backwards to meet the joining seam, as pictured. Press with a hot iron, if desired.

Thread a hand sewing needle with white thread, and knot the end. Bring the needle up from the under/inside of the cap, right under where the point will touch the seam. Make a few stitches to secure it to the seam, bring needle back down to the wrong side of the cap, and finish off with another knot. Trim excess thread, and repeat with the second point.

The secured point.



And that’s it! If you’d like a video walk through of how to make them, I’ve now got one uploaded to youtube, here.

If you’d like to make the “Wings” – the large bonnet that the Handmaids wear outdoors, Click here to go to my Etsy listing for the pattern and tutorial!

Autism Awareness Month: On “Passing”, and NT Gaslighting.

With Autism Awareness/ Acceptance month more than half over (WHEW!), I’d like to take the opportunity to spread a little more awareness.

Autistic people face an infuriating Catch-22 situation, and I’m not entirely sure that neurotypicals are even aware of it – even the well-meaning allies. So, consider this a PSA of sorts.

People who meet the neurotypical definition of “autistic enough” – maybe they’re nonverbal, don’t withhold their stimming, and/or need assistance of some sort – are seen as being less than human. .. And less than capable of speaking up for themselves.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people written off as “stupid”, just because they don’t communicate verbally. (Not talking is not the same as not thinking… it’s not even the same thing as “not communicating”)

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen autistic self-advocacy written off because, essentially, autistic opinions aren’t “human” enough to matter.

Autistic people are under immense pressure from society to conform, and to present as neurotypical as possible. “Until every piece fits“, after all. Even beyond the ridiculously offensive idea of “curing” us, most “therapies”, etc are about bullying us (torture, in some cases – ABA, for instance) into submission, and appearing more NT. It’s not about helping us with things like over-stimulation, it’s more about goals of forcing autistic people to not flap their hands, etc. Parents and teachers telling autistic kids “Quiet hands!!”- when a child is stimming – is actually a thing.

(Don’t get me started on the whole issue of parents being upset about a lack of (verbal) “communication”, while actively working to silence actual, non-verbal communication by autistics. Words aren’t the only way to communicate, and for a society that is so hung up on body language… many neurotypical people sure go out of their way to ignore/squash Autistic body language!)

… but when you spend your life observing, mimicking, putting yourself through horrible discomfort, watching your every word and movement, etc… you know what your reward is for finally reaching that ability to “pass”?

It’s being told that you’re not autistic enough.

Autistic people who “pass” are frequently told that they’re not autistic enough, or just plain aren’t autistic. This usually happens when an autistic person speaks up for autistic rights, etc. I just read a tweet where the woman “came out” in a college class, was told she shouldn’t say “autistic”, she should say “person with autism”. When she said “I am autistic, and I disagree”, she was shut down with the “not autistic enough” nonsense.

This is not only completely illogical behaviour from neurotypicals, I’m pretty sure it’s related to gaslighting – if not actual gaslighting. The idea that we lack agency to talk for ourselves if “autistic enough”, and then lose agency to speak as autistic people if we DO try conforming is cruel and abusive.

I want to discuss something I don’t usually talk about. I don’t know if it’s a personal taboo or more of a community culture thing, but I don’t tend to talk about how much effort goes into “passing”. Like many other things in life, I suppose… the key to “passing” is to make it seem natural, and for people to not actually realize the effort that went into it. (I think I just made a makeup metaphor. Lord. All that work on “passing” is corrupting me!)

As a kid, I chewed shirt collars… all the time, all through elementary school. I’d chew them until my chin was red and irritated. It was just a source of comfort – stimming – during the constant stress I was put through at school and at home. I had no peace, and I had to be constantly on alert.

Through behavioural counseling at school and eventually moving in with my grandmother (and away from major stressors), that particular stim went away – but not without a lot of work. I had to be constantly conscious of it, until it was just habit to not do it anymore.

It wasn’t the only way I trained myself to pass. I spent YEARS watching faces, making note of patterns, and even studying facial expressions. I put myself in super uncomfortable social situations, to learn. I observed other kids interacting, and worked on mimicking. It was a lot of hard work, resulted in a lot of discomfort, and even more bullying.

These days, I can get along with neurotypicals, even if they’re not always the most logical creatures on the planet. I still have to watch everything I say (NT people are big on filtered speech, however inefficient that restriction may be), keep the rocking and flapping to a minimum, etc. When I’m out running errands, I have to endure incredible pain from high pitched electronic noises that you may not even hear… simply because wearing noise canceling headphones would be seen as “weird”. My eyes hurt from too-bright florescent light in stores, because wearing sunglasses inside is similarly seen as weird. I could be so much more comfortable, if I wasn’t so focused on passing.

You may see someone who passes as one of you, but what you don’t see is how much brainpower and energy is being wasted in trying to live up to a NT standard, or the physical pain I can be in. Because you don’t see that, it can be easy to write me off as “not autistic” or “not autistic enough”… and that is incredibly frustrating.

The thing is, living as an autistic in a neurotypical world feels a lot like an abusive relationship. We bend over backwards, and our efforts are rarely – if ever – reciprocated. Rather than being met halfway, we’re expected to do all of the changing. We have to understand NT facial expressions, but NT people aren’t expected to figure out autistic body language. We have to go through sensory hell, rather than expect stores to just tone down the brightness and noise. Let’s be real, NO ONE needs things that bright and noisy!

Because of this lack of reciprocity – and I can’t believe I’m admitting this – I often fantasize about just NOT trying to “pass” anymore. It’s a delicious fantasy – just being as comfortable as possible, no longer concerned about trying to live up to the NT “standard”.

I don’t really have the guts – or means (No longer passing would definitely affect my income!) – to drop my efforts entirely. The other day I felt a bit ballsy and wore my sunglasses inside – it felt completely subversive.

Maybe someday I’ll invest in noise cancelling headphones to wear while running groceries. It certainly would be nice to drown out all of the high pitched electronic nonsense that’s *everywhere*, but again… the beaten-in desire to “pass” prevents me from doing so, even though I’d be FAR more comfortable.

I guess the awareness I’d like to raise, through this post, is that you never can tell what someone else is going through, to present neurotypical. I wish people would think about this when trying to silence autistic voices.

PS Here are some of my previous posts on Autism.

Symbols Matter, Words Matter

Explaining Autism: Interoception, and Something Other Than Pain

Autism Awareness Day – A Few Thoughts from My Spot on the Spectrum

Autism Speaks Does Not Speak for Me

Interacting with Autistic Children: A Guide for Charity Appearances

Aspergers: You Can’t Cure “Awesome”

Potluck DIY Sushi Party!

A few times over the past 8 years, we’ve hosted a – what we EVER so classily refer to as – “All You Can Stuff Sushi Potluck Party”. Twice, it’s been as my husband’s birthday party, and each time, I think to myself that I should blog this.

My husband’s birthday was this past week, which was a reminder that I was planning to blog his sushi party a YEAR ago. Whoops. At least I kept the information all this time … even if we once again forgot to take pictures as it was all happening. Again… whoops.

Anyway, apparently sushi rolling parties are actually becoming a THING now… though it was a new, unique idea back when we started. Boo, missed opportunity to be trend setters!

This party is a lot of fun to do, assuming you’re good with logistics. There’s a lot to juggle, but when it all comes together, it’s super rewarding.

First Off: Decide the Basics

We’ve now done this party a few different ways, and which way you plan to do it depends a lot on your friends, your finances, etc. Personally, I prefer one of the potluck methods … it just feels more social. Only you know your friends and what would work best for you, though!

1 – Guests Bring Items:

For this method, I do up a wish list of items, and divide it out among the people attending. I try to keep it even, that people are all bringing about the same value of items (Don’t stick one friend with bringing expensive fish, and ask for a single cucumber from another!). One thing to keep in mind when dividing out the list is who you are asking to bring what. Some people, I trust to know what a good avocado looks like, others… not so much! Another consideration is “Who lives near one of the few places to sell trustworthy sashimi grade fish?”.

2 – Guests Bring Items OR Contribute Money:

If you have a lot of friends that you may not trust so much to pick up certain items, this can be a good option. Some people get excited about showing up with a beautiful piece of salmon, for instance… while others would much rather just Paypal you a few bucks and have you do it.

3 – Guests Chip in Money:

The most recent time we hosted a sushi potluck party, we asked everyone which way they’d like to do this, and everyone decided that they’d like to just chip in. It was just before a busy con season, so it just ended up more efficient to have me do the shopping for it. Fair enough – everyone sent $10 per person via Paypal ahead of time.

4 – Not Potluck

You can, of course, always just straight up host the dinner, rather than do it as a potluck.

Next: Finalize a Guest List

Due to the nature of the party, it’s really important to have a solid guest count before you start shopping and prep work. In Minnesota, that can be pretty difficult with the popularity of the “Minnesota Decline” – putting a “Maybe” instead of a “no” when a guest knows they won’t be able to make it.

It’s important to give a deadline for RSVP, and request a solid Yes or No – Maybes should be counted as no. A lot of cost and planning goes into this, and you don’t want to be stuck doing extra work and/or extra purchasing if you don’t have to. Also, sushi leftovers do not exactly keep well!

Plan The Menu

No matter which way you’re doing the potluck, it’s best to wait until you have your guest list before actually planning your menu. The more people you have, the more selections you can add.

Additionally, consider your guests. Are some not sushi fans? You can add tempura vegetables, gyoza, chicken satay, etc as options. Are some vegetarians? Be sure to have extra veg options for filling the sushi. Anyone gluten-free? Be sure to have a bottle of GF soy sauce on hand.

As an example, our most recent Sushi Party menu was:

Appetizers:

Edamame
Gyoza
Chicken Satay

Sauces & Garnishes

Mango Sauce
Dynamite Sauce
Eel Sauce
Soy Sauce
Ponzu Sauce
Sesame Seeds
Black Sesame Seeds
Wasabi
Pickled Ginger

Beverage

Green Iced Tea with Lychee and Mandarin Orange

Dessert

Matcha Pavlova with Matcha Whipped Cream,
Honeydew, Lychee, and Mandarin Orange

Sushi Fixings

Nori
5 colours of Soy wrappers
Sushi Rice

Tuna
Salmon
Hamachi (Yellowtail)
Roasted Eel
Ebi (Shrimp)
“Crab” sticks

Spicy Salmon
Spicy “Crab”
Spicy Tuna

Tobiko
Masago

Cucumber
Avocado
Green Onions
Zucchini
Jalapeno
Sweet Potato
Mango

Recipe Links

Chicken Satay
Gyoza
Matcha Pavlova
Spicy Tuna Filling(Can be used with Salmon, etc)
Sushi Rice
Sushi Sauces – Dynamite, Eel, and Mango

Do Your Shopping List

Once you have your menu designed, go through and see what needs to be purchased as-is (the vegetables, which sauces, etc), and which you will be making at home.

Do up a list for the stand alone items, as well as the ingredients needed to make the other items. Also, make a list of non-food items you’ll need – party cups, paper plates, LOTS of chopsticks, little sauce cups for wasabi/soy sauce, napkins, etc.

Get a few sushi knives. They don’t have to be expensive – I bought a few of this one, on Amazon. Love it! (Cosplayers: It is GREAT for carving foam!)

You’re more than likely going to need to go to more than one place, so I like to divide the list out by the stores I’m going to. IN this case, it was one normal grocery store, one Asian specialty store, and a fish monger.

If you are having some or all of your guests bring items, let them know what they’re bringing about a week ahead of time.

Plan Your Time Line For Food Prep

Take a good look at your menu, and list out what needs to be done, and when. It’s best to do as much as you can ahead of time, but you also have to take into account that some items need certain timing. For instance, don’t buy your fish more than a day ahead of time, avocados will brown if you cut them up too early.

As an example, here is the time line for our most recent party (which started at lunch time):

Me Porter
2 Days Before Buy everything except fish
Make gyoza, freeze
The Day Before Make sushi sauces
Make gyoza sauce
Make satay dipping sauce
Marinate chicken satays
Buy fish
Bake the Pavlova
Tidy front and back yard
Hose down the outside tables
Morning of the Party Make sushi rice (How many batches?)
Cut green onions, jalapenos, cucumber, mango, zucchini
Slice fish, prepare “spicy” fillings, chill
Peel and slice sweet potato, cook, chill.
Strain off cans of Mandarin Oranges and Lychee, use strained syrup for making iced tea.
Put the table cloths out
Dishes
Wipe off countertops in kitchen
Set out: Wasabi, soy sauce, plates, chopsticks, cups, pickled ginger, nori
As People Are Arriving Cook gyozas
Steam edamame
Heat satay sauce
Prepare sushi wrappers
Cut avocado
Set out remaining sushi items
Grill Satays
During Party Make whipped cream
Cut up fruit, assemble pavlova
Enjoy yourself, birthday boy 🙂

Set Up

Set up will depend a lot on your home layout, and how many people are going to be making sushi with you.

For us, we set up two 8′ long banquet tables, with a couple chairs at each. Each place gets a sushi rolling station – sheets of parchment paper for rolling, nori, soy paper. In between each two seats gets a big bowl of sushi rice, with a measuring cup or scoop. Along the back of the table is where the ingredients get set up. Due to the number of ingredients used, it’s a cooperative effort – lots of passing involved! Each table also gets a couple little bowls of water, a cutting board, and a couple sushi knives.

How the ingredients are presented depends on the ingredient. Stable ingredients are out on plates. Raw fish is on plates, covered in plastic while not in use, resting on a big bowl of ice. Only a small amount of fish is out at any given time, and the plates are exchanged for fresh ones with new fish as they run out. Avocado is also served up a little at a time, to prevent browning.

In addition to the rolling tables, a counter in the kitchen is designated as the garnishing station. There, the sauces (dynamite sauce is in an ice bowl), wasabi, sesame seeds, etc are laid out, as well as plates, chop sticks, etc. Once done rolling and slicing their sushi, guests go to the kitchen to finish their sushi off. Plate in hand, they usually head out to the patio to mingle and eat, as the next round of guests sit down to roll their sushi.

Throughout the party, we refresh ingredient plates, etc, as guests roll more sushi as they’re ready. Eventually everyone gives up as the sushi coma sets in!

Sushi Rolling

I like to have pieces of parchment paper (you can use wax paper, if you prefer) on hand for rolling, rather than bamboo sheets. Logistically, it’s great for clean up, and I also find it easier for sushi beginners to work with.

A VERY early post (ie: excuse the poor photography!) on this blog – Spicy Tuna Maki – shows more or less how I roll sushi. We’ve since taken to having the rice go slightly over the far long edge of the nori, to form a bit of a lip to overlap the starting edge of the roll, if that makes sense.

How your guests roll their sushi will depend on their own experience/preference, the type of roll they’re making (rice in, or rice out), and the amount of ingredients they’re trying to cram in there. You will likely have some epic failures, so forks can come in handy!

It’s also a good idea to have at least one person on hand who knows what they’re doing, who can demonstrate and/or assist beginners.

Enjoy!

Interested in Gluten-free cooking and baking? You’ll LOVE Beyond Flour: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking!

How many times have you come across a gluten-free recipe claiming to be “just as good as the normal version!”, only to wind up with weird textures, aftertastes, etc? Most gluten-free recipes are developed by taking a “normal” recipe, and swapping in a simulated “all purpose” gluten-free flour… whether store bought, or a homemade version. “Beyond Flour” takes a different approach: developing the recipe from scratch. Rather than swapping out the flour for an “all purpose” mix, I use various alternative flours as individual ingredients – skillfully blending flavours, textures, and other properties unique to each flour. Supporting ingredients and different techniques are also utilized to achieve the perfect end goal … not just a “reasonable facsimile”. Order your copy here.

Looking for even MORE fantastic gluten-free recipes? Beyond Flour now has a sequel: Beyond Flour 2: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking!

Imagine gluten-free foods that are as good – or better! – than their traditional, gluten-filled counterparts. Imagine no longer settling for foods with bizarre after-tastes, gummy consistency, and/or cardboard texture. Imagine graham crackers that taste just like the real thing. Crisp, flaky crackers…without the sandy texture. Hybrid tortillas that: look and act like flour tortillas, with the taste of fresh roasted corn! Imagine chewy, delicious cookies that *everyone* will want to eat! Imagine BAGELS. If you’ve cooked from “Beyond Flour”, you already know that these fantasies can be reality – it’s all in the development of the recipes. Order your copy here.

Symbols Matter, Words Matter – Autism Acceptance Month 2017

Well, it’s just about April … so I guess it’s time for my yearly rant about it. I’ve actually got a few mini rants this time around, all basically connected.

The other day, a sponsored post came across my Facebook feed. As an intentionally vague description, it used stolen artwork to associate the puzzle piece “Autism symbol” with a popular piece of pop culture, for commercial gain – not even linked to ANY non-profit. It was gross and appropriative on many levels… and then I read the comments.

… Where to even start with this?

First of all, props to all of the Autistic people in the thread who tried to speak up against it, while being wholly drowned out by non-Autistic people. It can be hard to speak up for ourselves, in the face of being outnumbered by many. I will never understand why some NT people have such a need to shout down Autistic people speaking up on Autistic issues.

A few issues to discuss here, as a result:

1. If you are not Autistic, you do not get to police how Autistic people address themselves.

This is a HUGE issue when it comes to identity-first vs person-first language. Autistic people tend to prefer identity first language – “I am Autistic”, “They are Autistic”, etc – VS person-first language – “She has Autism”, “He is a person with Autism”, etc.

Identity-first language acknowledges that this is who we ARE. We’re not inflicted with some disease, that we don’t need a “cure”, etc. Person-first language distances the autism from the person, and is associated with the view that it’s a disease. You have a cold, you have cancer, you don’t “have” autism. Autism is our Operating System, it’s tied up in to our personalities, our senses, the way we think, the way we experience life. It’s not some *thing* you can just take away.

I get so tired of seeing neurotypical people “correcting” Autistics on their choice of language. “You’re not ‘autistic’, you’re a person with autism!” is never an acceptable thing to say to anyone, period. That goes double when THAT is the response to an Autistic person explaining why something that NT people are doing is problematic.

Hell, even if you are Autistic, you don’t get to police the language that Autistic people use for refer to themselves. Some – not many, but some – Autistic people prefer person-first language. Many don’t. Let people address themselves the way they see fit, and have some respect for their choices.

2. If you are not Autistic, you are not Autistic.

This is an issue both on a smaller, individual level, and on a societal level. So often, we will see NT people in Autistic spaces, speaking over Autistic people, because they are related to an Autistic person. Relation does not equal authority, and it most certainly does not grant some sort of divine permission to speak OVER Autistic people.

On a societal level, this is a problem when it comes to issues of representation. So often, parents of Autistic people are looked to as “consultants” in matters of Autism (note: matters of Autism, specifically. NOT matters of being a parent to an Autistic child).

Under no circumstances is a neurotypical parent of an Autistic child an expert on what it is to be Autistic, nor should they be the sole voice when it comes to things like consulting for the creation of an Autistic character in the media. With so many actual Autistic people out there who are more than willing to consult on such things, there is really no reason for an NT parent to be consulted at all. There are, after all, Autistic parents of Autistic children out there!

Right now, this is the issue we’re seeing with Sesame Street’s new Autistic character. While they apparently did consult with Autistic people, they also consulted with Autism Speaks and NT parents “for balance”. This is probably a big part of the reason that all of their marketing uses person-first language, much to the disgust of basically every Autistic person who has said anything about the whole thing.

When you are specifically talking about women’s lives, you do NOT need to consult men “for balance”. When you are talking about black lives, specifically, you do not – AND SHOULD NOT – need to consult white people about it, “for balance”.

When you reach outside the actual community for such input, you are taking agency away from those actually impacted by the portrayal being discussed. There are far too many Autistics that are willing and able to educate and/or fight for proper representation, to keep them silenced in favour of NT people.

Autism Speaks – an organization almost universally despised by those it purports to represent – tends not to have any Autistics actually involved with the organization… go figure.

Autistic Self Advocacy Network, on the other hand, is vocal about “Nothing about us, without us”.

3. Let’s talk about the puzzle piece. Again.

This is a subject I’ve ranted about before, but let me try to condense this down into a shorter form.

The puzzle piece was around before Autism Speaks, though it is HIGHLY associated with them. The idea that we are a puzzle to be solved is dehumanizing and offensive to a lot of us.

The accompanying “Until every piece fits” may sound pleasant enough to the average neurotypical person, but you have to remember – your experience is not ours. You may hear that and think “yes! Autistic people should fit in!”. We hear it, and our thoughts are usually elsewhere. A few examples:

– ABA “therapy” (Which has left many Autistics with PTSD), other compliance therapy (Which could/should be considered torture, in many cases) and many other ways that many Autistics are forced to “fit”.

– The knowledge that the organization most associated with that phrase/image is also one who is big on researching in-utero markers for Autism. Yes, they want to employ eugenics against us. Much like words matter, context matters. Knowing what history knows, that phrase would sound an awful lot less warm and fuzzy if you heard Hitler saying it, wouldn’t it?

– There’s the issue that the puzzle piece – usually done up in primary colours – is infantilizing. These days, people are more likely to be diagnosed in childhood, but it’s not a childhood thing. There’s a lot of erasure of adult Autistics in the community. When it comes to “awareness”, support, etc, many Autistics feel that we are forgotten once we age out of childhood. When it comes to any online discussion involving Autistics, adult Autistics are frequently discounted or ignored entirely. We don’t become Neurotypical once we hit age 18, you know! To have such a “childish” symbol associated with us is a reminder of that whole issue.

– The very fact that we shouldn’t NEED to fit. Society benefits from the Autistic mind in so many ways – where do you think we would be right now, technologically speaking, without Autistics? You would not even be on the internet right now – it would not exist – and able to read this rant, if not for the many, many people on the spectrum who made the internet happen. It’s not logical to benefit from our brain differences, while simultaneously carrying on about how we should be just like you. Diversity is important, on so many levels. Even beyond just representation… but I’ll spare you the tangent about evolutionary biology. For now 🙂

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. We are UNIX minds in a Windows world… and the analogy works on many levels.

ANYWAY.

While the puzzle piece and phrase may sound positive to well-intentioned NT people, they can have MUCH darker connotations to those of us on the spectrum.

All of this, and I still see NT people shouting down Autistic people who try to explain how problematic the symbol is. We shouldn’t have to look past the dark, creepy overtones to the symbol and phrase, just because they make neurotypical people feel good. That’s not how this works.

Awareness vs Acceptance

It’s 2017. We’ve been around for a very long time, and we’ve even been known for a long time. It’s time to move on from “awareness” in April.

I’ve noticed a very clear divide in the hashtags used by Autistic people, and by non-Autistic people in April. We tend to use #AutismAcceptance”, while those not on the spectrum tend to use #AutismAwareness. Words do matter, whether it’s this set of two options, or the earlier discussed identifying language.

This April, please reconsider your words. Please reconsider the use of the puzzle piece. Please consider NOT “Lighting it up Blue” – an Autism Speaks initiative – and consider one of the alternatives, being promoted by actual Autistic people to combat the “Light it up Blue”.

A few hashtags to follow on Twitter, or to use to search for further reading:

#ToneItDownTaupe
#REDInstead
#DontLIUB
#BoycottAutismSpeaks

Just now, I see there’s a new movement.. To use #AutismAppreciation. I like it!

Now, if you’ll pardon me, I think it’s about time for my yearly viewing of X-Men: The Last Stand.

Marie

PS Here are some of my previous posts on Autism.

Explaining Autism: Interoception, and Something Other Than Pain

Autism Awareness Day – A Few Thoughts from My Spot on the Spectrum

Autism Speaks Does Not Speak for Me

Interacting with Autistic Children: A Guide for Charity Appearances

Aspergers: You Can’t Cure “Awesome”

Earl Grey Pie – Happy Pi Day! (Gluten-Free)

It’s March 14 – 3/14 – and first thing this morning, my husband rolled over and wished me a Happy Pi Day. You know, his favourite “holiday”.

Well, first thing that came to mind was a long string of expletives – for the first time since we’ve met (and I’m including the year following the tornado that destroyed – among other things – our kitchen!), I’ve completely forgotten about Pi Day. IN my defense, I’ve been swamped with development for More Than Poutine. This month has been ALL about developing recipes for Canadian junk food; most recently, that’s meant snack cakes. There is sugar everywhere, I can’t picture having added a pie in on top of everything.

… but I didn’t even post anything about Pi Day, leading up to today, on any of my social media. Not even so much as a share of my big “Pi Day is Coming, Are you Ready?” master list of Pi Day stuff. Kinda feeling like the worst wife AND worst nerdy blogger ever – I really dropped the 4/3πr^3 on that one!

Thankfully, his workplace is taking care of his pi day needs that I so woefully neglected, but I still feel bad. So, as my mea culpa to the universe, I will share my Earl Grey Pie recipe now! This recipe is one of the many fabulous gluten-free recipes in Beyond Flour 2: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking & Baking, so if you’re gluten-free, or know someone who is, you should definitely check it out 🙂

If you don’t need this to be gluten-free, feel free to substitute a store bought pie crust, or one from of your favourite recipes. My go-to is my Great-Uncle Tom’s Pie Crust Recipe.

This is an elegant pie that isn’t cloyingly sweet – the Earl Grey flavour comes through well, and is really well suited for use in a pie!

We served it for some friends, and one of them – Derek – was almost in tears as he declared that “Everything is perfect with the world” after the first bite. When another friend joined us later, He told her that when she tries the pie, “The gates of heaven will open, and you will see everything”.

So. That happened.

I hope you enjoy this pie as much as Derek did! (And everyone else, really… his reaction was just amazing though! )

Gluten-Free Earl Grey Pie
Makes 1 pie

Crust:

1/2 cup Light buckwheat flour
1/4 cup Sorghum flour
1/4 cup Sweet rice flour
1/4 cup Corn starch
1 Tbsp Granulated sugar
1 tsp Xanthan gum
4 oz Cream cheese
1/4 cup Cold butter
Zest of 1 lemon
1 Large egg
1/4 cup Cold water

Filling:

2 Large eggs
1/2 cup Granulated sugar
1/3 cup Corn starch
1/4 tsp Salt
1 cup Milk
1 cup Heavy cream
3 Earl Grey tea bags
2 Tbsp Butter
Whipped cream, for serving

Measure flours, corn starch, sugar, and xanthan gum into the bowl of your food processor, blitz to combine. Add cream cheese, butter, lemon zest and egg, blitz a few times until mixture resembles gravel.

Stream in cold water as you run the food processor, just long enough to start to bring it together as a dough – you may need to use a little more or less water. Do NOT over-process it!

Remove dough from processor, knead lightly to bring it together as a ball. Wrap in plastic film, chill for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 450 F (230 C), lightly dust your work surface with extra corn starch. Roll your crust out to about 1/4″ thick. Line a pie pan with the crust, trim the edges of the crust to only slightly longer than the edge of the pie plate. Use your fingers to crimp/ruffle the edge of the pie.

Use a fork to prick some holes on the bottom of the crust. Chill in fridge for 15 minutes. Once chilled, bake pie crust for 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven, allow to cool to room temperature while you prepare the filling.

Whisk eggs together with sugar until fluffy and pale yellow. Add cornstarch and salt, whisk until incorporated and smooth. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, bring milk and cream just to the start of a boil. Remove from heat, add tea bags, steep for 5 minutes. Remove tea bags, squeezing out excess liquid back into the pot. Bring cream up JUST to a boil once again.

Measure about 1/4 cup of the hot cream mixture, and stream slowly into egg mixture while whisking. Continue streaming liquid and whisking until it is completely incorporated, and mixture is smooth. Repeat with another 1/4 cup of hot cream.

Remove saucepan from heat, pour remaining egg mixture into cream mixture, whisking constantly. Once fully incorporated and smooth, return to heat. Turn heat to medium-low. Continue whisking mixture constantly, cooking until mixture is very thick. Remove from heat, stir in butter until melted and smooth. Cool to room temperature.

Spoon filling into prepared crust, cover with plastic wrap. Chill until set, about 3 hours. To serve, top with whipped cream.

Interested in Gluten-free cooking and baking? You’ll LOVE Beyond Flour: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking!

How many times have you come across a gluten-free recipe claiming to be “just as good as the normal version!”, only to wind up with weird textures, aftertastes, etc? Most gluten-free recipes are developed by taking a “normal” recipe, and swapping in a simulated “all purpose” gluten-free flour… whether store bought, or a homemade version. “Beyond Flour” takes a different approach: developing the recipe from scratch. Rather than swapping out the flour for an “all purpose” mix, I use various alternative flours as individual ingredients – skillfully blending flavours, textures, and other properties unique to each flour. Supporting ingredients and different techniques are also utilized to achieve the perfect end goal … not just a “reasonable facsimile”. Order your copy here.

Looking for even MORE fantastic gluten-free recipes? Beyond Flour now has a sequel: Beyond Flour 2: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking!

Imagine gluten-free foods that are as good – or better! – than their traditional, gluten-filled counterparts. Imagine no longer settling for foods with bizarre after-tastes, gummy consistency, and/or cardboard texture. Imagine graham crackers that taste just like the real thing. Crisp, flaky crackers…without the sandy texture. Hybrid tortillas that: look and act like flour tortillas, with the taste of fresh roasted corn! Imagine chewy, delicious cookies that *everyone* will want to eat! Imagine BAGELS. If you’ve cooked from “Beyond Flour”, you already know that these fantasies can be reality – it’s all in the development of the recipes. Order your copy here.

Interacting with Autistic Children – A Guide for Charity Appearances

If you follow me on social media, you may know that I recently joined The Royal Sisterhood, a member of Costumers for a Cause.

CFAC is a local nonprofit which brings costumers together to volunteer their talents for local charities, to aid and enrich their fundraisers and other events. Dressed as princesses, superheroes, and more, we do appearances at events such as charity walks, Children’s hospital TV programming, and more.

Prior to joining The Royal Sisterhood, I was involved with another division of Costumers for a Cause, doing appearances as Superheroes/ villains, along with my husband. (I went as Beast, he would usually go as Magneto or Loki, all from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.)

At a TRS meeting yesterday, my friend Sara did a great presentation on gender inclusiveness while doing charity appearances. With an Autism Walk coming up, I asked if the group had ever discussed interacting with Autistic children. I have seen some pretty bizarre things with regards to Neurotypicals interacting with Autistics, after all.

After sharing a few thoughts on the matter, I was asked to write up a bit of a guide. I went home, brainstormed with my husband, and here we are! While this was written specifically for a group of Princesses, we thought that it was good advice for those doing charity appearances in general, so decided to post it here.

All dressed up as “The Fairy Godmother”,
prior to a charity appearance.

Interacting with an Autistic Child

1. Don’t force eye contact.

Eye contact can feel very threatening/intimidating to some, and far too intimate to others. If it’s obvious they don’t want to make eye contact, talk to their shoulder or their chin. Just because they’re not looking at you, doesn’t mean they’re not looking at you… if that makes sense. Don’t take it personally if they don’t want to look you in the face.

2. Do not touch – even a fist bump or high five – without asking first.

Don’t take it personally if they don’t want to touch you, or shy away from you physically.

3. Talk to the autistic child first, not their parent.

For example, ask the child if they want a hug, not the adult if it’s OK. If it turns out that the child needs the adult to communicate for them, the adult will step in. Asking the adult first is a sore point in the community.

4. Be mindful of sensory issues.

Avoid or go very light on perfume, etc when attending an Autistic event. Be mindful of the fact that loud voices (loud to us, not to you!) can be very startling.

Of particular note for princess events: The high, very girly princess voice and accompanying laugh can be difficult/painful, especially in groups. If you are in a group of two or more princesses, try to keep laughter subdued.

5. Know your audience.

Autistics are very, VERY literal. There’s a fine line between staying in character, and offending the children. Many of us have no ability to suspend disbelief, and some of the things said to enhance “character” can come off as lying, or as mocking the Autistic child.

For example, if you say “I just came from Arendelle…”, an Autistic child is likely to process it something like: “Arendelle doesn’t exist. Is she making fun of me? Does she think I’m stupid? What am I supposed to say to that?”.

It can be very awkward and uncomfortable. If at all possible, avoid making definitive statements about the fictional world you’re portraying (I know, this is super counter-intuitive, for showing up in character). For this reason, various figures of speech can also be confusing and make things awkward.

6. Speak very clearly. Enunciate!

Many Autistics also have sensory processing disorders, which can be exacerbated by busy environments like the charity walk. When you hear EVERYTHING going on around you, it can be very hard to pick out a certain person talking, even if right in front of you.

Please don’t be offended if you’re asked to repeat something, or if you are misunderstood. Also know that many rely on reading lips, even if they don’t have a hearing problem. Try to face in their general direction when talking to them, even if eye contact is an issue.

7. Give plenty of time for a response.

Autistic children can take longer to reply than neurotypical children. If you’re sure they heard you, just have a bit of patience in waiting for a reply. They’re processing! Also, know that long pauses may feel really awkward to you, but aren’t necessarily to Autistics. Autistics can enjoy your quiet presence, and don’t necessarily need nonstop conversation. Social cues are not our strong point!

8. Ask about hobbies, BUT…

… be prepared to have your ear talked off. If you get an Autistic child talking about an area of special interest, they can go on and on. It can be hard for them to tell when the other party is not interested, or the conversation should move on. Be ready to be very, very patient!

On that point, know that when the conversation has ended, be clear that you are ending it. Don’t hint around that you have to move on, just be clear and honest that you need to meet others, etc. Again, social cues!

9. Do not take anything personally.

I’ve touched on this with a couple of other points, but it should be expanded on. For one thing, Autistics can be very frank with you. There’s not usually a lot of sugar coating, more just saying what’s on the mind. It can come off rude, but is usually not ever INTENDED to be rude. These can fall into observations or questions about physical appearance, etc. Try to roll with things, even if something hurts a bit.

10. Watch your wording.

Please avoid the use of “high functioning” or “low functioning” to describe an Autistic person. Don’t compare an Autistic to a non Autistic, or use phrases like “For an Autistic…” (“You’re so friendly/empathetic/well spoken for an Autistic”, for example). Though it likely won’t come up, it needs to be said: Don’t use “cure” language.

Additionally, know that – much like gender pronouns – How you refer to an Autistic is important. Many/most Autistic adults prefer identity-first language, ie: Autistic person, Autistic child, etc… while many non-Autistic people seem to think that person-first language is most appropriate: “Person with Autism”, “Person who has Autism”. Many of us see “with” or “who has” to be offensive, as it usually accompanies the idea of us being “inflicted” with something, that it’s something separate from us, and/or is a temporary/ “curable” thing. Autism is our Operating System, it’s who we are.

If an Autistic person tells you what their preference is – identity-first or person-first – please respect it. Also: Please don’t ever say “suffers from Autism”.

11. Tone matters.

You don’t necessarily need to mimic how the parent talks to the Autistic child. Some parents of Autistics are… less than ideal in how they treat their kids, and can talk to them like they’re babies and/or idiots. Aside from issues mentioned above (eye contact, enunciation, literal speech), you shouldn’t feel the need to talk any differently to an Autistic child, than you would a neurotypical child. As an example, nonverbal children are often looked at as stupid or lesser-than, and are frequently talked down to. The fact that they don’t speak *doesn’t* mean they don’t understand, or aren’t intelligent. Some of the most intelligent people I’ve ever known are non-verbal.

12. Know that every Autistic is different.

Some of these tips won’t apply to everyone. For some, every single one will. You will likely meet Autistic children who “pass” for neurotypical.

*****

As a bit of an aside – this isn’t so much about dealing with Autistic children, as it is a bit of information about the Autism community, culture, etc…

April is coming up, and with it… “Autism Awareness Month”. Every Autistic adult I know dreads this month, as the promotion and observance of it tends to be hugely offensive to Autistic people. I’ve written about it Here, Here, and Here. I’d encourage anyone planning to do Autism charity appearances to read through those posts.

The TL;DR:

1. Autism Speaks is a horrible organization, on so many levels. Most Autistic adults and many parents of Autistics are horrified by their campaigns and treatment of Autistics. Please consider NOT supporting A$, and look to alternative organizations. I tend to recommend Autistic Self Advocacy Network, as it is “Nothing about us, without us”

2. As an extension of #1, the puzzle piece and “Light it up blue” are very much Autism Speaks symbols, and as such are pretty offensive to a many Autistics. For more information/perspective, I recommend Goggling such things as “Don’t light it up blue”, and “Autism Speaks doesn’t speak for me”.

3. The #ActuallyAutistic tag on social media – particularly Twitter – is a good read if you’d like to hear what Autistic people have to say.

A few members of The Royal Sisterhood

Ravings of a Canadian Expat: Christmas Oranges

I was going to start this entry out with something like “This time of year, the topics of discussion in groups of Canadians living away tends to turn to food…”… but let’s be real, at least 80% of what we talk about in Canadian groups is food.

Foods we miss, foods we’re now cooking because we miss the source material, how COMPLETELY inferior American chocolate is, griping about how corn syrup is in everything here and makes stuff – soda, certain candies, etc – taste weird, etc. I don’t remember us being particularly food obsessed when I still lived at home, but man… take a Canadian out of Canada, and food is the great bonding experience.

Recently, I noticed that “Christmas Oranges” don’t really seem to be a THING in Minneapolis. Like, you can buy Cuties or Halos, but there doesn’t seem to be a culture of … well, them being particularly “holiday”.

When I was a kid, we’d get one in the toe of our Christmas stocking, and it usually ended up being my favourite part. I LOVED them!

As I grew a bit older, holiday season meant buying crates of Mandarin oranges. They were the same oranges I’d have as a kid – sold in boxes, imported from either China or Japan, and individually wrapped in green paper. There was always at least one completely moldy one in the bottom, but the rest were *gold*.

I would buy several 5lb cases at a time. At least one would end up consumed within a day or two – I’d crash on the couch with a book, and snarf ungodly amounts of oranges. I’d buy more than one case, as it was usually insanely cold (I’m from Winnipeg), and I liked to have enough to last me a week or so.

… December is the month where I am least likely to come down with scurvy… By a longshot! In addition to snarfing oranges by the case, I also enjoy to make things from them, such as:

Candied Orange Peels

Cuties Mead

Cranberry-Cuties “Christmas” Wine

Cuties Marmalade

I even juiced and zested a bunch of them to make a Cuties mousse last New Years.. Oh, it was amazing.

Anyway, I digress.

This past week, I decided that I NEED THOSE ORANGES. Cuties and Halos just don’t cut it, I wanted a bit of *home*.

My first stop was a group for local food bloggers. I explained what I was looking for, and a few people weighed in with suggestions.

I should mention that part of the problem with looking for oranges like I knew back home, is that when it comes to this sort of thing, oranges suffer from the same sort of thing that Sweet potatoes / yams do. Different products are sold as the same thing, the terms are used interchangeably, and people have wildly different ideas of what is meant when you say “yam” – and, in this case, “Mandarin orange”.

One blogger commented to say that it sounded like I was describing Satsuma oranges, and that she knew they sell them at a local coop. She then mentioned that they’re more abundant in January (not the case, back home!) – so I had to make sure that she wasn’t thinking SUMO oranges (another addiction of mine). She wasn’t, so I called The Wedge coop, and grilled their produce guy.

HE agreed that I was talking about Satsumas, but then referred to them as being “more tart”. What a let down – I never would have described Christmas oranges as being tart!

I posted a quick note about my mission to a couple expat groups, and asked for info on what they remember of the oranges back home.

I got in my truck and headed over there anyway, because when you need a mess of oranges, you NEED a mess of oranges. I was surprised to see that they had several types of oranges that looked good… so I bought a few of each. I bought a whole bag of Satsumas – I know myself, and if they were even close… a bag wouldn’t be enough!

As all of this was going down, the threads were blowing up – Us Canadians are VERY passionate about our Christmas oranges, as it turns out!

As it also turns out, the whole “oranges going by multiple names” thing got further complicated by regional differences in what constitutes a “Christmas Orange”.

People from everywhere except Atlantic Canada agreed – sold in boxes, with almost everyone specifically referencing the green tissue paper. MOST people agreed that they were imported from China and Japan, though a few pockets of Canadians apparently got theirs from Morocco! I’m 90% sure I’ve never seen an orange from Morocco, so I found this fascinating. We all knew them as “mandarins”.

On the East Coast, “Christmas Oranges” are sold in smaller, wooden crates, usually with a red plastic mesh holding them in. There is no green tissue paper, and they are known as “Clementines” – not Mandarins. From my time in Newfoundland, I was familiar with them. They were definitely different from what I knew back home: A bit harder to peel, not as juicy, smaller, and rounder. Still tasty, though!

Anyway, back to the mission.

I noticed that all of the oranges at The Wedge were from either California or Florida, and I remembered that basically all of the oranges I’d seen anywhere in Minneapolis tended to be the same. I guess there isn’t a big market for imported oranges here?

I decided to follow up on another suggestion, and headed to United Noodle – a large Asian grocery store. They would for SURE have Japanese or Chinese oranges, right?

Nope. Neither did Sun Foods, another large Asian grocery.

What they did both carry, however, were Halos. Halos are fine – and they’re actually pretty close to the Atlantic Canadian idea of Christmas oranges, packaging aside – but I really wanted my Mandarins!

So, I ended up with 6 different types of oranges (as well as “Limequats”, which had absolutely nothing to do with anything, but fascinated me nonetheless!), and wanted to do a comparison. Aside from the Halos and the last “Mandarins”, all of the oranges – and Limequats – were purchased at Wedge Coop.

Of course – if it hasn’t been obvious from this blog post so far – take my findings with a grain of salt. Due to the nature of naming conventions, there’s a good chance you could buy something that is called the same as one of these, and have it be something completely different. For that reason, I am including as much identifying information as possible!


Table below is pictured in order, left to right

Photo Sold As Details
Kishu Mandarin Tiny – about 1.5-2″ in diameter! Very easy to peel, loose skin, very little pith – which rubs off easily. Good balance of sweet and tart, leaning slightly towards the tart. Fairly juicy, seedless. Expensive, but fun. (They were obviously not Christmas oranges, but I couldn’t resist!)
Halos Halo is a brand name, not an actual variety. They’re very similar to Cuties, which we tend to prefer but haven’t seen in a while. Like Cuties, the variety of orange depends on the time of year. According to the Halo’s site (here), these were Clementines. Makes sense, given how similar they are to the Atlantic Canadian “Christmas Orange” – also sold as Clementines. These were not as easy to peel as I was looking for – skin comes off in small chunks. Also slightly more tart, and had no seeds. Readily available – it was all they carried in the Asian markets! Clementines also tend to be more spherical than what I was looking for.
Sunburst Tangerine This Florida orange was very smooth and shiny – a stark contrast to the rough, dimply skin of most of the other varieties. It was VERY difficult to peel by hand – probably better to slice. Thin, hard skin, with pith that is very attached to the segments. Has seeds, tastes like a pretty basic orange (not “Christmas” orange).
Algerian Mandarin These are called “Algerian”, but were grown in California! They were purchased at The Wedge, and is one of two oranges that were labelled as being Mandarins (not including Halos, which refer to their oranges as Mandarins on their site). This had a medium-thick skin that was very easy to peel, while not actually being loose/separated from the orange inside. It had a fair amount of sticky pith – harder to remove than some varieties. Tastes right, but the sticky pith is annoying. No seeds.
California Satsuma This was the “ugly” one of the lot – irregular, kind of squat shape, with very dimply, loose skin… AND IT WAS PERFECT. Very easy to peel, medium thick skin, only a small amount of pith that detaches from the segments very easily. Absolutely my favourite, and the closest to what I remember “Christmas”oranges being. Very plump and juicy segments, and among the sweetest of those tested. No seeds.
Mandarin After paying about $4/lb for the Satsumas, I saw 3lb bags of these “Mandarins” at Hy-Vee… and they looked very much like the Satsumas, just slightly larger. These were also very easy to peel – but had much more pith. Also has the thickest skin of all. The flesh isn’t has juicy as any of the other varieties, and has a gigantic grain to it. Has seeds.

So, as you can see… not only can the names be confusing (“Mandarin” was used for three wildly different oranges, none of which was what was referred to as “Mandarin” back home… which is “Satsuma” here!), but appearances can be deceiving, also: The Satsuma and second type of “Mandarin” looked VERY similar!

I’d asked this on my Facebook page, may as well as here too – the replies were FASCINATING (here):

1. Were “Christmas oranges” a thing where you grew up, and/or where you are now?

2. If so, what exactly does that mean to you? What was the actual orange called, what did it look like, was it easy to peel or not, how was it sold, where were they grown, etc. As much detail as possible, please!

3. Where was/is this (state/province, etc)

With 2017 being Canada’s 150th birthday, it’s about time I wrote the Canadian cookbook I’ve been planning for YEARS.

“More than Poutine” will be a Canadian cookbook like no other – written by a Canadian living away, it includes both traditional homecooking recipes, as well as homemade versions of many of the snacks, sauces, convenience foods, and other food items that are hard to come by outside of Canada!

High quality gluten-free versions of most recipes will be included.

The Kickstarter for “More Than Poutine is live, here. Please consider backing, and sharing the campaign with your friends!

Handpainted Eye of Sauron Holiday Ornaments!

He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake… 😉

Last year, I designed and made an Eye of Sauron pen holder for a convention booth. After the event, I looked at it and thought “That would make a great Christmas ornament design!”… and here we are!

Perfect for any Tolkien fan on your gift list, this ornament will add a special something to any geek’s holiday tree – Lord of the Rings themed, or not. Go ahead, hang it next to a TARDIS, it’s all good!

Ornaments are all hand painted on plastic (I’m a cat owner. I can’t wrap my head around glass ornaments hanging from a tree!), are durable, and look great!

The “eye” is painted on both sides of each ornament, so it looks great from multiple angles.

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Due to the hand painted nature of these ornaments, no two will be alike – expect some variation from the photos shown. Order before December 12 for delivery before Christmas, US only.

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2.5″ Diameter Ornament

$12.00
Add to Cart

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3″ Diameter Ornament

$15.00
Add to Cart

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3″ Diameter Disk

$15.00
Add to Cart

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Set of 10 2.5″ Ornaments

$95.00
Add to Cart

CCNow is our authorized online retailer for online orders.

Tolkien Fan? Be sure to check out these other posts:

The One CHEESE Ring
How to make a Hobbit Hole Cat Shelter
Caturday: Tolkien edition
How I Made that: Dwarf Wig
So I’m Dressing My Husband up as Thranduil…
The Two Week Thorin Costume!
Thorin Costume!
How to make Thranduil’s Crown
Smaug the Terrible… I mean, Terribly AWESOME.
I am Fire, I am FRUITY – Smaug Fruit Bowl
Smaug Costume
Doing the Elf Meme Thing…
Gandalf the Fabulous

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