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Carving pumpkin into pie

Posted by on Nov 26, 2014 in Craft | 1 comment

As a kid, I didn’t understand where pumpkin pie came from. My best guess was that it was somehow made from the goopy insides we scooped out while getting ready to carve jack-o’-lanterns. I thought of the outside as kind of a hard shell and was surprised to learn that (minus the peel) is actually the edible part. It seemed like magic, and I knew I had to try it one day.


Fast forward to November a couple years ago when I finally gave it a try.

I started with the wrong kind of pumpkin. At least that’s what people kept telling me. This giant orange carving pumpkin came with our CSA box. Even though I knew it wasn’t a pie pumpkin, that’s what I had, and I wanted to make it work. A little internet research made me think it could be done, so I gave it a shot.

I scooped seeds, cut the squash into pieces, and baked it. Phillip helped me remove the peel.

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One of the downsides of a carving/non-pie pumpkin is they tend to be more watery. The fix is letting the baked pumpkin set for awhile and then pouring off the excess water. Easy enough. I did this a couple times, then immersion blended it into a puree.

pumpkin-pie-5 The taste seemed a little bland (another one of the potential side effects of carving pumpkins) until I added my homemade spice blend. All of the sudden it tasted like pumpkin pie.


I had decided not to do the crust from scratch – another project for another time. I made 3 pies and later pumpkin bread. I froze the extra pumpkin puree in large freezer bags.

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The pies got rave reviews.

The process took way longer than I expected. Still, I enjoyed the magic of transforming a pumpkin into a pie. And watching the naysayers eat their words.


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Peeking inside desert art studios

Posted by on Nov 24, 2014 in Craft, Travel | 1 comment


There is an artist community in Cave Creek, a town north of Phoenix nestled into the desert wrapping around Black Mountain.

Every year they host a self-guided open studio tour with over 100 working artists participating. You can meet the artists, see their work and a little bit of their space, ask questions, buy art.


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If you’re in the Phoenix area, check out the Hidden in the Hills tour this Friday through Sunday (11/28-30)!

Photos: 1) Cave Creek Sunset. 2) Studio and artwork of Judy Bruce. 3) Paul Diefenderfer demonstrating ironwork at Desert Rat Forge. 4) Booths and artwork of (l to r) Betsy Halford, Christiane Barbato, Nicolette Maguire Bonnstetter. 5) Artwork in progress by Gordon Paul Mischke.


Microblog Mondays: I’m thankful for Mel, the fabulous founder of the Stirrup Queens community!

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Windows into Seattle

Posted by on Nov 19, 2014 in Travel | 0 comments

I’ve never heard anyone say writing a novel was easy. The fact that so many aspiring authors have trouble completing the task gave Christine Smith and Jessie Kwak the brilliant idea to form Four Windows Books.

It’s an author incubator and publishing company that guides new authors through the writing process all the way to completing their first books. The novels are written and published in serial format, delivered to subscribers via ebook a quarter at a time. Each year, Four Windows will choose four new authors and a new city to feature.

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The first-ever Four Windows books are being written by four authors who live in (or have lived in) Seattle. Part 2 is set to be released November 30. It was cool to revisit Seattle through Part 1 of these books – places like the Aurora Bridge (where the Fremont Troll is) and the International District, which is where the excerpt below takes place.

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Here’s a taste of Trace by Ian Smith:

Joanne stepped off the bus in the International District station, the last underground stop before the transit tunnel disgorged its travelers to disperse throughout the forsaken lands south of the stadiums. The scent of curry entwined itself in the more familiar smells of black coffee and wet concrete, and the walls echoed with a busker’s saxophone wailing out Moon River.

She ascended the steps to street level, and felt a wave of nauseating anxiety — like the free falling terror of hearing a professor announce an exam that she’d forgotten to study for. There were Chinese characters on signs and the frenetic song of tonal language all around her, foreign as hieroglyphs, but all reminding her of where she was not from, what she did not know, who she could never be.

She took a moment to orient her phone to her surroundings, and then headed off down a side street.

She walked past the Tiantang Medicine Shop twice before finally Googling a picture of the building — two red characters painted over a nondescript door marked the entrance. She opened the door to be greeted by a heady wall of aromas — licorice, pepper, and ozone with a slight undernote of sewage.

A wrinkled man hunched on a stool behind the counter, wispy-haired and liver-spotted. He was gazing disinterestedly at a talk show when Joanne entered; he regarded her in solemn silence for a moment then focused back on the television. The shop was lined with shelves, and each shelf held an amalgam of irregular plastic bins containing dried bits of organic god-knows-what. There were a scattering of identifying cards about the shop, but only a few were in English, and those bore such cryptic legends as ‘concentrated gel of antler velvet’ and ‘codonopsis’. After a minute of surveying the inscrutable, she gave up and approached the man behind the desk. “Excuse me, could you help me find some of these herbs?”

He replied without taking his eyes from the brewing domestic dispute, “You from Dr. Keller?”

There was a note of disdain in his voice that made her want to deny it, but her list was on his letterhead. “Yes, I just started seeing him.”

“He’s a fool.” Without ceremony, he slid from his stool, took the paper from her hand and started scooping various powders and plant matter into bags.

“I’m sorry?”

“He’s big fool. You should know.”

You can download the entire Part 1 of Trace and the 3 other books for free in your e-reader format of choice.

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PS Yes, Ian is my brother, but he didn’t ask me to do this. I’m just excited about the project and the books, and I can’t wait for Part 2!

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Pinterest boards for travelers

Posted by on Nov 17, 2014 in Travel | 2 comments

I’ve started a Pinterest place board with a map of sights and cities I’ve shared about here called Travelcraft Journal: explore. It’s kind of like a geography-based index to the blog.


While you’re perusing Pinterest, here are my other travel-related boards you might like to check out too:


Some of these boards overlap a little, because I wanted each one to be able to stand alone. Looking at the map I realize I still have a lot of ground to cover. :)


Microblog Mondays: A weekly roundup of short posts on the Stirrup Queens blog.

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Minimum Daily Requirements at the post office

Posted by on Nov 12, 2014 in Craft, Travel | 0 comments


While I love art museums and galleries, there’s something really delightful when art pops up in unexpected places like libraries or alleyways or under bridges.

What about the post office? Art isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when I think of post office buildings. However, the downtown Tempe post office has rotating installations just inside its large windows, so you can see works both from inside and from the street.


I didn’t realize this until artist (and fellow CraftHack-er) Crystal Daigle told me about the exhibition she was curating.

It’s called “Minimum Daily Requirements,” and will be on display in the Mill Avenue post office until December 10. Each of the windows displays mixed media work by a different Phoenix-area artist, exploring their own daily requirements.



Crystal’s piece was truly a community effort, funded by a Kickstarter campaign and partially pieced together by volunteers at maker spaces under her direction. It’s called “Push Down & Tango” and, in Crystal’s words, is “designed to celebrate the resiliency of survivors, thrivers and caretakers.” The centerpiece is a large circle of fabric roses. At the base are leaves formed from prescription bottles covered with images of people dancing tango, since learning tango was a turning point for Crystal. The 3 leaves are surrounded by hand-lettered names to pay tribute to resilient people.


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Phillip and I stopped by the exhibition during its opening celebration in September, just as a dust storm was rolling in. We took shelter inside the post office during the worst of it and it blew over quickly, leaving a dramatic sky as a backdrop for the gathering.




– More info –

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Each day a GIF

Posted by on Nov 10, 2014 in Craft, Life, Travel | 6 comments

I tried out this free app called GIFmojo that puts the still photos on your camera roll together into animated GIFs.

You might remember seeing a couple of these (one of going under the Golden Gate Bridge and one of our food tour) in my San Francisco trip wrap-up post.

Here’s one of the Bay Bridge.


Don’t remember why I decided to give the app a try, but it was surprisingly addictive.

I GIF’d some photos from our anniversary trip.

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And some from last month’s CraftHack mask-making project.

It’s like watching the whole event in a few seconds.

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Here’s Anne photobombing Vesna.

Photo Oct 30, 7 21 56 AM



Microblog Mondays: we’re bringing blogging back.

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