Category: Cafepress

Jun 01

Summer Selfie Giveaway

Hello! Summer is coming! And with the sunny days, I want to thank the wonderful people who have bought my designs at Cafepress. I’m a graphic designer who sells funny and snarky stuff at Cafepress. My customers rock and deserve something nice! I am holding a summer selfie contest for my awesome customers to thank them for their purchases.

All you have to do is take a selfie of you wearing or holding one of my designs and post it to the Malarkey Pie Facebook page at or tweet it to me @AltheaRizzo by June 21, 2014. On June 22, 2014, I will randomly pick one selfie poster to receive a t-shirt or coffee mug with their choice of design. Bought more than one thing? Then you can enter with each item!

Haven’t bought anything from me yet, but want to get in on the hot action? There is still time to order something and send in the selfie. Who knows, YOU might win something awesome!

If you want to see my new designs, check out The proceeds from Cafepress go to help me pay down my student loans faster. So with each t-shirt, coffee mug, or messenger bag I sell, I get out of student debt slavery all the faster! So thank you very much!!!

Read more about my struggle with student debt here:

Which part of the American dream won’t I have?


May 21

12 Great Summer Reads and the Bags to carry them in

12 Summer Reads

And along comes summer with all the lazy days spent in pursuits to refresh the soul. The tradition of summer reading is long and for good reason. We spend our days rushing about tending to the need for food and shelter. Summer is time to take a breath, see the sky, and open the mind.
This post is all about summer reading, lounging on the beach, and finding just the right bag to tote those books around in. So toss in your sunscreen, big floppy hat and head into richly textured world of other worlds and lives…


1. Written in My Own Heart’s Blood

“Diana Gabaldon’s century-spanning Outlander series deserves its avid fanbase. It’s making the leap to TV on Starz this summer, so now’s the time to devour the whole steamy series–including book 8, out in June.” –Mari Malcolm


OK, Who out there ISN’T excited about the Outlander series coming to the teevee? Get your Diana Gabaldon fix right here!

And the perfect compliment for all that glorious Scottish scenery (wink wink, nudge nudge) is the Celtic Triskele in highland perfect  greens and purples.


Celtic Triskele

Celtic Triskele


2. Half a King by Joe Abercrombie


“Half a King has young adults in mind, but doesn’t leave adults behind. In this coming-of-age fantasy tale we follow a reluctant new king through betrayal, hardship, adventure, self-discovery, and some excellent twists.” –Robin Rothman



The perfect accompaniment to a summer romp through history, the “Chivalry isn’t dead” design.


_Pinterest Summer Reads Blog Chivalry

Chivalry isn’t dead… you can find it were you offer it.


3. The Lincoln Myth: A Novel by Steve Berry


New York Times bestselling author Steve Berry returns with his latest thriller, a Cotton Malone adventure involving a flaw in the United States Constitution, a mystery about Abraham Lincoln, and a political issue that’s as explosive as it is timely—not only in Malone’s world, but in ours.



And speaking of myths and Lincoln, don’t you just love a good internet meme? I mean, just take the one about Lincoln quotes on the internet …


The thing about quotes on the Internet is that you can not confirm their validity -- Abraham Lincoln

The thing about quotes on the Internet is that you can not confirm their validity — Abraham Lincoln


4. Four: A Divergent Collection by Veronica Roth


I can hardly keep up with the teen sci-fi drama that moves from book to screen. But this series looks to be a universe that will keep us entertained until the next sexy dystopia comes along.



Science fiction, at least good science fiction, alway tells us more about being human. It informs us and asks many hard questions. The very best science fiction, also gives us the ability to laugh at our own foibles.


Diagonally parked in a parallel universe....

Diagonally parked in a parallel universe….


5. Hard Choices. by Hillary Rodham Clinton


Our next President has written a book. It seems to be the Thing to Do. Perhaps we should check it out and see what she has been up to.



Of course, we can expect that there will be some folks in the good ole U.S. of A. that will continue with the major freak out that has been going on since Barak Obama as first conceived…. as a viable candidate for President. At least she’s white, even if she does have lady-parts. She maybe she will only be half as irrationally hated.
So hat tip to all my feminist friends out there…


This is what a feminist looks like!

This is what a feminist looks like!


6. Euphoria by Lily King


“This historical novel–based on the life of Margaret Mead–is brainy, but sexier and more fun than you might think a book about an anthropologist might be.” –Sara Nelson

I have a soft spot in my heart for sexy anthropologists, although Margaret Mead isn’t usually the one that comes to mind. But she did have some very interesting things to say about sex.



The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity. — Dorothy Parker


The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity. -- Dorothy Parker

The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity. — Dorothy Parker


7. The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu


“What happens when an ugly rumor takes on a life of its own? Multiple narrators expose how far people will go to be liked and how little the truth seems to matter.” –Seira Wilson



We’ve all been there. Rumors and gossip taking the joy out of the day. Well, let the chaos monkeys fly. Get out there and be yourself!


Sing like no is watching

Sing like no is watching


8. The Heist by Daniel Silva


“I’ve developed a man-crush on Silva’s brainy, brutal artist/assassin/spy, Gabriel Allon, who in The Heist is on the hunt for a stolen Caravaggio masterpiece.” –Neal Thompson



This is the token MAN book. So this calls for MAN food. BACON! Bacon! Bacon! Gimmee salty fatty pig parts and gimme now! I want Bacon!


Bacon will save the World. I don't know how. But trust me. It will.

Bacon will save the World. I don’t know how. But trust me. It will.


9. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

the #1 New York Times–bestselling author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, has written a new novel about how we love, how we take care of one another, and how the choices we make resonate through generations.



Sometimes reading a good book is the best reward. So we are shopping for a house now, and while $650,000 for a domicile is a wee bit out of our league, it did have a formal library. Want! I figure that if I sell about 1.5 million t-shirts, coffee mugs or tote bags, then I can buy that formal library. So get to it! Buy something! 😀


All I want is Peace, Love, Understanding, and a Library as big as the Grand Canyon.

All I want is Peace, Love, Understanding, and a Library as big as the Grand Canyon.


10. The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

I like stories where the Princess does her own damn rescuing. Prince Charming is nice and all, but a girl has gotta do what a girl has gotta do.



With all the stories in the news that has our elder sisters and mothers wondering why we continue to still fight the battle for equal rights , it is important to keep moving forward. Be strong, be powerful, be AMAZING!


Princess be doing her own rescuing

Princess be doing her own rescuing


11. Top Secret – Twenty One by Janet Evonovich


Ok, let me just say this….. SQUEE! I love the Stephanie Plum stories. I loved the movie, One for the Money
and want MOAR! This series (along with the Discworld series) are the go-to books on tape that we listen to on long road trips.



I think I need to make Stephanie her own cupcake tote bag, but until then, here, have a lemon drop!


When Life gives you lemons, add vodka.

When Life gives you lemons, add vodka.


12. Raising Steam by Sir Terry Pratchett


I am saving the best for last. I am a late comer to the Discworld series and regret every moment I missed knowing about the awesomeness of Sir Terry Pratchett. His books are funny, insightful, compelling, farcical and deeply moving. My personal favorite is Thud! .



The quote that Pratchett “borrows” from Juvenal is just as apt today as it was in the days of Rome’s glory. Who watches the watcher? Indeed. Who?


Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?


If you want to check out all of the bag and totes at Malarkey Pie, go here.

And before you rush out to get your books and tote bags, I want to let you in on the back story here. You may have heard of the student debt crisis that is facing the U.S. right now. Millions of students, eager to improve their lot in life, face the reality that unless your last name is Trump, you will likely graduate from college with sizable student debt. I am no exception

I finished graduate school in 2010 and have since then been working for the State of Oregon in a job that I love. I don’t really love the mounds of student debt that is keeping me from saving for retirement or saving to buy a home. So I started selling t-shirts and other gift items to pay down my loans faster. So when you purchase either on of these books from Amazon or tote bags from Cafepress, you are helping out.

If these designs aren’t your thing, check out these other posts…


May 16

7 Great Teacher Appreciation Gifts!

Seven Great Teacher T-Shirts!

Seven Great Teacher T-Shirts!

Everyone has a story to tell and great teachers help us to learn  how to tell that story. With the school year coming to an end, take some time to show your appreciation for everything that your teacher has done this last year. The late nights at events at school grading papers… the way they buy school supplies out of their own money… how they pour their hearts and souls into our precious offspring. You can find great gift ideas at my Cafepress t-shirt shop. And if you want to learn more about why I am selling these t-shirts, follow the link at the end of this post. But for now, I hope you like these clever designs!


1. My students have an awesome teacher!


My students have an awesome teacher!

My students have an awesome teacher!

This design looks great on a pink t-shirt for your favorite teacher. It also comes on coffee mugs and tote bags.

Pretty in Pink!

Pretty in Pink!


2. Cool Teacher!


Cool Teacher!

Cool Teacher!

Not everyone is lucky enough to be “Cool” but your teacher gots it! Don’t you think that they would look marvelous sporting this t-shirt?

Cool Teacher!

Cool Teacher!



3. Alphabet Elemenopee


Learning your alphabet is the start of the wonderful journey of becoming a reader which leads to creative and fruitful lives. But doesn’t make a sing-song out of saying the alphabet. This adorable design brings back that giggling fun of childhood.


Fun Alphabet!

Fun Alphabet!


Put this alphabet design on a tote bag so your favorite teacher can carry their supplies in style!





4. Education is the key to unlock the golden door of Freedom.


George Washington Carver was a great thinker. A quote of his gives rise to this Victorian inspired design perfect for the history geek in your life.


Education is the Key to unlock the golden doors of Freedom. - George Washington Carver

Education is the Key to unlock the golden doors of Freedom. – George Washington Carver


The teachers in our schools help to form the person our children will become. Let them know how important that job is by giving them this t-shirt.




5. World’s Best Teacher


While we could argue for hours who is the Best Teacher in the World, but you can show your preference by giving this design on a t-shirt or mug!


World's Best Teacher

World’s Best Teacher


Bright red apples may have been the gift of choice in the past, but today we give t-shirts so we don’t have naked teachers running amok during summer break.



6. Teaching is a work of Heart


No one can doubt that teachers pour their heart on soul into educating the minds of the young. Honor that dedication and hard work by making sure they can stay reasonably caffeinated and hydrated. Because a dehydrated and de-caffeinated teacher is what we call in academic circles, a zombie. And we all know how THAT always ends.


Teaching is a work of heart

Teaching is a work of heart




7. I’m a science teacher. What’s your superpower?


Teachers are superheroes, plain and simple. The Avengers have nothing of the bravery and tenacity of those who join the ranks of educators. They may not always wear capes but they can wear an awesome t-shirt.


I teach. What's your superpower?

I teach. What’s your superpower?


Teaching is not for the weak. It is for those who believe in the power of thought, of ideas, of honor, and hard work. Show your appreciation for your local educator super hero by giving them an end of the year gift!



So, here are some excellent ideas for you when you are shopping for something to give those excellent teachers in your life. I sell these designs on t-shirts and other gift items in order to pay down my student debt. I finished graduate school with significant debt, as many do. But this hurts the economic well-being of an entire generation of students who need higher education to achieve success. So help a girl out and make a teacher happy at the same time!

If you want to learn more about my journey to get clear of my student debt, check out these posts.


Apr 09

5 Great Mother’s Day t-shirts for your crafty Mom

Does your mom go by the old adage that “she who dies with the most fabric wins”? ARe you likely to find piles of fabric in a vast rainbow of colors in her closets and sewing room? Are you looking for a unique gift to give your mom on this Mother’s Day? Then check out these top 5 t-shirt designs for your crafty maternal units!

1. It’s not a hobby. It’s a post-apocalyptic life skill.

CRAFT It's not a hobby



2. Know your cuts of lamb

CRAFT Know your cuts of lamb


3. Yarned and Dangerous

Crafts Yarned and dangerous



4. I am not easily distracted. Oh, look! Yarn!

Craft Distracted by yarn


5. I sew, therefore, I rip!

Craft I sew therefore I rip


My daughter is starting at Oregon State University in the fall. And gee, wouldn’t you know, I still have student loans of my own to pay off from graduate school. Let’s hear it for multi-generational student debt. I am selling this t-shirts and gifts to pay off my students which you can read about in other blog posts. (here and here). So, help a girl out and get an awesome t-shirt for your Mom at the same time. Or coffee mug. or messenger bag. or tote bag!


Feb 21

5 Great Pi Day T-Shirts and Gifts!

Get your Pi here!

Get your Pi here!


I’ve been busy designing new t-shirts for the upcoming International Pi Day on March 14. I hope you like them!

This first one is for all you raiding pirate lovers!

1. Pi Day is for Pi-rates!




2. Who doesn’t love a Pi Rat?


so cuddly!

so cuddly!

3. Sweet Cherry Pie




4. And along comes Cow Pi!



5. And we can’t get enough of sweet cherry pi!

Retro woodcut illustraiton

Retro woodcut illustration


Feb 15

Pi Day is coming! Pi Day is coming!


Come to the dork side, we have pie

Who doesn’t love pie? Seriously. Who? I will tell ya who…. geeks, nerds, scientists and mathematicians of all stripes. Ok, well, just about everybody loves pie.

I’m not here today to talk about PIE, but about PI. The mathematical constant that relates a circle’s circumference to it’s diameter and is often shortened to 3.14159, or even 3.14. Actually the number is infinite. It goes on and on and on and on and on and … It is an irrational number, meaning it can’t be defined using common fractions. So it’s a bit of a conundrum as you can never really find the square of a circle using a compass and a straight edge.

It has also spawned an International Pi Day, observed on March 14 (Get it? 3/14?) that started, of course, in San Francisco as all good counter culture movements have in the past 5/10ths of a century. A fine gent by the name of Larry Shaw started the first Pie Day at the Exploratorium in San Francisco by eating pie on March 14, 1988. Since then it has become a beloved, yet little-known holiday … except to the geeks who observe it.

Larry Shaw, the founder of Pi Day, at the Exploratorium in San Francisco (Ronhip (Ron Hipschman), uploaded to the Commons by Furfur on 22-Jul-08)

Since I love geeks, but think they really shouldn’t be running about naked (think of the children! And the cold cold winter!), I have a bunch of t-shirts and hoodies over at Cafepress perfect for wearing on Pi Day. And since my student loans won’t pay themselves off, the proceeds will help me end my debt slavery. So be a darling and get a t-shirt or two. I will be adding new posts and t-shirt designs here regularly throughout the month leading up to Pi Day. There might also be recipes for pie. I also welcome suggestions for new concepts, and new pie recipes.

So help a fellow geek out and fly your Pi High …..

How have you celebrated Pi Day in the past? What are your amazing plans for this year?


Nov 30

Save the endangered tree Octopus….

One of the rarest creatures to haunt the Pacific Northwest, the elusive tree octopus shines in the pantheon of fantastical animals. Rarely seen, the shy tree octopus loops itself around the branches of trees to lay in wait for it’s next meal. Currently, one of the most endangered of the arboreal arthropods, the tree octopus needs your help if it is to survive.

Save the endangered tree octopus!

Save the endangered tree octopus!

This retro design in the colors reminiscent of the tree octopus will remind people of the care we need to take with our tree-dwelling eight legged friends.


Save the tree octopus t-shirt

Save the tree octopus t-shirt


Check out these designs at Malarkey Pie!


Nov 22

10 Best-selling t-shirt designs at Malarkey Pie

Bold (and often snarky) graphic designs for geeks and science-y types abound at Malarkey Pie, but some designs rise to the top and become best-sellers. Here is a review of the designs that have been purchased recently! Every single item that I sell helps me to pay down my student loan even faster!

1. Apparently, fiber geeks also like coffee (or tea! or hot cocoa!)

I am not easily distracted... oh look, Yarn!

I am not easily distracted… oh look, Yarn!









2. Do you love that science fiction television show with the LSD dropping mad scientest, the peacoat wearing prodigal son, the sensible show wearing FBI agent, and a Holstein cow named Jean? Yeah, I loved FRINGE, too! Because, really, every laboratory needs a cow!

Every science lab needs a cow like Jean!

Every science lab needs a cow like Jean!









3. Even feminists love a  comfy t-shirt, and they really seemed to love this fiery feminist symbol. This seemed to pop up on jewelry a lot.

Where there is smoke there is a fiery feminist heart

Where there is smoke there is a fiery feminist heart








4. Edgar Allen Poe himself  would probably drink absinthe wearing this t-shirt.

I'm just  Poe boy from a Poe family!

I’m just Poe boy from a Poe family!









5. If you are looking for geekwear for your favorite geek to wear while watching Star Wars for the thirty thousandth time, then this is just the thing.

Come to the dork side! We have pie!

Come to the dork side! We have pie!









6. Inspired by Dante Alighieri’s 14th-century poem, the Divine Comedy, this design  showcases beautiful calligraphy.

Inspired by Dante Alighieri's 14th-century poem, the Divine Comedy.

Inspired by Dante Alighieri’s 14th-century poem, the Divine Comedy.










7. The great state of Oregon is represented here. Pentagon, Octagon, Oregon!

Pentagon! Octagon! Oregon!

Pentagon! Octagon! Oregon!





8. The Ride of the Valkyries is not just an awesome song by Wagner used in a quirky slapstick comedy called Apocalypse Now. No, these awesome female riders carry the heroic Viking fallen warriors to Valhalla.

Ride of the Valkyries

Ride of the Valkyries






9. The real Seven Deadly Sins ….

The seven deadly sins ...

The seven deadly sins …









10. Not all who wander are lost. Tolkien’s words are so right on today.

Not all who wander are lost....

Not all who wander are lost….










Check back for more best-selling t-shirts and gifts for geeks and scientists!


Jun 13

Press Release: Artist is crushing student loan debt with t-shirts and coffee mugs

Salem, OR,  June 12, 2013.

With student loan debt passing $1 trillion dollars, one doctoral graduate is taking an unusual approach to paying off her debt. Dr. Althea Rizzo, a 2010 Ph.D. graduate from Oregon State University, is selling her graphic designs on apparel and gift items at to pay down her student debt. Starting tomorrow, she is in a race with Congress, who doesn’t seem inclined to move forward on legislation to curb the impending rise in interest rates. She has over $100,000 in federal and private loans and currently pays about $1400 per month.

Like many other students graduating with crushing student debt, it was difficult to save up money for emergencies. Then Dr. Rizzo’s car died, the clothes dryer motor seized up, and her daughter broke her thumb last week. After that, Dr. Rizzo decided to take matters into her own hands to find a creative solution to the financial dilemma.

“On the other hand, I like to think of myself as resourceful,” said Dr. Rizzo.  “For the last few years, I have been selling t-shirts and other apparel and gift items on This has been a slowly growing endeavor, providing a bit of pin money each month, but never really breaking into the realm of real money. My background in graphic design and my intensely snarky sense of humor combine to create fun and irreverent designs to paste across your chest.”

These unfortunate circumstances spurred her to pay down her student loan debt faster.  Something had to be done and she ramped up her graphic design business. Her goal is to sell 50,000 items before Congress raises the interest rate on federal subsidized student loans in July, 2013.

“Will it be hard? Sure, but if 50,000 people buy just one thing each, that’s only 0.014285714285714287% of the U.S. population. That’s totally doable.”

Dr. Rizzo is an employee of the Oregon Office of Emergency Management, where she heads the Geologic Hazards Program. She created a Café Press shop to cater to those who are interested in progressive politics, science, and general geekery at She blogs at




Jun 12

Recent grad races Congress to retire student debt before rates rise

Going back to graduate school when I was 41 years old and a single mom was not an easy decision to make. But I was in a dead-end (but well paying) job and needed to look to the future. So I looked at the nearby state school, Oregon State University, and hopped right in. I knew there would have to be student loans as being a single mom meant I couldn’t do the “stuff-a-handful-of-grad-students-in-a-loft” cheap route. Having kids also impacted my studying routine as I rarely got to hit my own books until after 9PM once the kids were put to bed and the house cleaned (well, somewhat cleaned).

Just like many other graduate students leaving graduate school with a useful degree and a pile of debt, I think it was very worth it. I love my current job and I would never have landed here without my doctoral degree. I mean really do love my job, deeply and passionately. That huge pile of debt? Not so much. I work in public service for the state of Oregon, so the theory goes that after 2019, the balance of my federal loans will be retired, but I’m not holding my breath that Congress actually authorizes that particular budget item.

Having over $100,000 in debt means that my economic life is stunted at the barely pubescent stage of economic life. My monthly student loan payments, both federal and private, are nearly $1,400. Luckily, I don’t have much personal debt, just a small amount left over from grad school that I have been paying down. The upshot of having this huge amount of student debt means that I don’t have a lot in savings. Actually I don’t have any savings at all, if you don’t count that jar of coins in the back of the closet.

Not having a savings account built up nice and fat means that when something happens like say, your old car throws a rod, your clothes dryer motor seizes up, and your daughter breaks her thumb all within a few days, you don’t have the resiliency to recover quickly,  if at all. And being an emergency management professional who travels around the state trying to convince families and communities to be more resilient, it was both embarrassing and ironic.

If you add my monthly totals to the fact that Congress is going to double my interest rates in a scant few weeks (unless it gets off its frakking collectively gridlocked ass), then you come to the conclusion that something needs to be done to crush my student debt before it finally crushes me. So, I spent an angst-filled weekend kind of freaking out at how my student debt was impacting my ability to quickly recover from a few days of bad luck.

On the other hand, I like to think of myself as resourceful. For the last few years, I have been selling t-shirts and other apparel and gift items on This has been a slowly growing endeavor, providing a bit of pin money each month, but never really breaking into the realm of real money. My background in graphic design and my intensely snarky sense of humor combine to create fun and irreverent designs to paste across your chest.

I also like to think of myself as optimistic. So, I thought that I could bump up my t-shirt sales and pay down my student debt even faster. Then I thought, hey, go big or go home! If I sold a LOT of t-shirts, I could really make a dent on my student debt and create some financial breathing room in the family finances. I will have two kids in college in two years, so I really need to get this cleaned up so that I can be the whole parent and help my kids in their own endeavors.

After spending some time on the webs, brushing up on some of the latest thoughts on marketing and using social media, I put together a game plan and launched this current effort to Crush the Debt in a Race with Congress. Will I be able to retire more student debt before rates rise in July? I need to sell about 50,000 t-shirts or coffee mugs or messenger bags to pay off a huge bulge of my debt and to pay the taxes on that income (or you can hit the donate button on the side over there and I won’t have to pay taxes on that. See? I can be bipartisan!).

So, how about it? Want to buy a t-shirt? Don’t think of it as giving me a handout, think of it as getting an awesome t-shirt! Please help spread the word! Share this on your Facebook page, Twitter (#tees4debt, #crushthedebt), Digg, Tumblr, or whatever social media you crazy kids are using these days. My brief research into social media marketing tells me that getting “bloggers of authority” and “thought leaders” to talk about something on their websites is a great way to make things go viral. So feel free to contact me to arrange for an interview. Yes, I know this kinda like begging, but I’m racing Congress. Who doesn’t want me to beat Congress at their own game, rigged as it is? I think getting rid of my student debt can be done. (See above about being an optimist!)

So here is the Plan ™. I want to sell 50,000 t-shirts, coffee mugs, messenger bags or other whatzits on my website. I need 50,000 amazing people to step forward and help a girl out. That is 0.014285714285714287% of the U.S. population. But even Canadians and Australians can play along.

So just buy a damn t-shirt!