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Free Outdoor Movies

Posted by on May 2, 2016 in Travel | 7 comments

I love the feel of free community events where anyone can be in the audience, like outdoor concerts or Ballet Under the Stars.

Free outdoor events

Outdoor movies are particularly interesting because they turn the whole movie viewing experience on its head. In the theater, it’s all about blocking out the surrounding environment – controlling light and sound so that nothing distracts from what’s on screen. Outdoors, the environment becomes part of the experience.


As a teenager, I saw the movie Twister at a drive-in while a monsoon storm was moving in, the wind gusting hard and the sky turning a surreal shade of orange. I’m pretty sure I thought it was a better movie than it actually was because of the natural drama around me. On the other hand, sometimes the sound isn’t good or something blocks your view or the people from the Portlandia sketch show up.

Do you ever go to free or outdoor movie events?


Some places for free movies (inside or outside) here in Arizona…

May 2016:




Microblog Mondays: Write in your own space

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Chalkola Markers Review

Posted by on Apr 28, 2016 in Craft | 0 comments

I’m not that into chalk. It gets all over your fingers and dark clothing and erasing it makes you sneeze.

So when Chalkola contacted me about doing a review on markers that made to be a less-messy alternative to chalk, I was interested.


They sent me a pack of 10 Chalkola markers in neon colors (plus white, brown, and black) made to draw on chalkboards and other non-porous surfaces.


How They Write

The first time you use each marker, you need to shake it for awhile (they recommend 60 seconds, but I tried shorter times and that also worked), and then press up and down on scrap paper until you can see the ink. (You could actually do this on any surface you’re going to write on but there can be a little splattering when the ink first comes out.) You don’t need to repeat the whole shaking/pressing ritual after the first time.


I picked up the mail with my new markers on the way to a coffee shop and started doodling on paper I had with me. Not erasable, obviously, but they look great on paper. The ink seems to sit on top of it, rather than being absorbed like regular marker ink, so the colors even stand out brilliantly on dark backgrounds. They are much more vibrant and less smudgy than chalk.


How They Wipe Off

Using a wet cloth or paper towel, I was able to wipe the ink off most surfaces I tested. Some colors just required more elbow grease than others.

Oddly, it didn’t completely wipe off plastic film covering the acrylic I used in my gift guide video (so I just removed it and wrote directly on the acrylic instead – that wiped off perfectly). It didn’t work great with the chalkboard label I tried, but since actual chalk didn’t come off very well either, I think the issue is actually with the label.

Like with anything, you’ll want to test a small, inconspicuous corner before going crazy on a larger area.

Gift guide

The One that Didn’t Work

The record scratch moment came after I realized there were two markers I hadn’t used yet in my testing. When I shook the black marker to get it ready to use the first time, it sounded (and felt) a little different, like something was stuck maybe, and the ink never came out. I tried the last marker, the orange one, and had no problem. But I was never able to get the ink going on the black marker.


I looked at other online reviews, and this doesn’t seem to be a common problem with Chalkola markers, so maybe it was just a fluke. You can make a quality product and still have something go wrong with a single item.

Odds are you won’t have an issue. If you do, the markers are fulfilled by Amazon, so you should be able to make an exchange through Amazon.

Spice mix

Project Ideas

Here are some ideas I came up with for these wet-erase chalk markers.



  • Ditch the Solo cups, and use real glasses/mugs for parties and allow guests to write their names on them.
  • Blank travel-size bottles. (Shampoo, moisturizer, etc.) – The color may run a bit if used in the shower.
  • Containers of leftovers.
  • Jars of baking and spice mixes.
  • Dishes you bring to potlucks – You can write what the food is (along with any dietary notes like vegetarian, gluten free, contains nuts, etc.) or just write your name so you get your container back.
  • Items you’re photographing. I used these markers for my 2015 gift guide video.

Carrot cornbread label


  • Decorate and address envelopes.
  • Add neon color to photos for scrapbooking or collage.
  • Write on chalkboards or chalkboard-painted things.
  • Decorate plates for special occasions.

Collage image


  • Write notes or reminders on your mirror.
  • Write out menus, craft fair price lists, etc.
  • Mark your route on laminated maps.


If you decide to give Chalkola Markers a try, here’s where to find them and a code for 20% off:

These markers were provided to me for review by Chalkola.

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Coffee Sleeve Flower Press

Posted by on Apr 25, 2016 in Craft, Travel | 10 comments

I didn’t expect to be pressing flowers during this winter’s trip to Virginia, so I didn’t pack anything for that. But I ended up with a few rose petals from my cousin’s wedding I wanted to preserve.

Coffee sleeve flower press

I’d been wondering if a cardboard coffee sleeve could work as an on-the-go flower press, so I grabbed one from the hotel. Since the inside had ridges, I tore it at the seam and basically turned it inside out, sandwiching the petals between flat sides. It may not have been necessary, but I slipped another sleeve over the top just to help everything stay put. Then I clipped it all together with a hair clip.

Coffee sleeve flower press

It actually worked pretty well! I imagine you could also use binder clips or wedge the sleeve under something heavy in your suitcase to keep it flat. Another way to repurpose coffee sleeves for crafting!


Microblog Mondays: Write in your own space

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A Strategically Located Embassy

Posted by on Apr 21, 2016 in Travel | 0 comments

Embassy suites DC

You’ve got some pretty impressive neighbors when you’re staying at the Embassy Suites Washington DC Convention Center. The President, for example, lives just down the street. The first night we were in town, we were wandering around after dinner and ended up strolling by the White House.

Embassy suites DC

We actually stayed there twice (at the hotel, not the White House), since we were flying in and out of Washington DC with the Charlottesville portion of the trip sandwiched in the middle.

Embassy Suites hotel, Washington DC

As the name would suggest, all of the rooms at the Embassy Suites are suites with 2 or 3 rooms. So the living room and kitchenette/wet bar is separate from the bedroom(s).

Embassy Suites hotel, Washington DC

For our second stay, our room was a large corner suite with its own conference table. It felt like I should call a meeting. Or at least spread out a craft project.

Embassy Suites hotel, Washington DC

While there is a microwave, coffeemaker, and mini fridge in all rooms, a hot, made-to-order breakfast in the adjoining Finn & Porter restaurant is included in your stay.

Embassy suites DC

You pick out your ingredients, and they whip you up an omelet right there in front of you. They’ll also serve diced potatoes, bacon, etc. on the side, and you can help yourself to fruit and pastries. It was really good, and the restaurant has a nice warm atmosphere.

Embassy suites DC

One morning, I finished breakfast and just sat next to the fireplace with my coffee for a bit, while outside the windows DC dwellers were rushing off to work.

Meanwhile, I didn’t even have to bus my own table. They take care of that. In fact, I was looking for a trash can to toss something on my way out and instead a server just held out his hand to take it for me.

Fireplace at embassy suites dc

In the evenings, there is a reception with snacks and beverages (alcohol is available with ID).


Really, the only thing that was a hassle was parking. And that’s a DC-wide issue. While there was only valet parking at the hotel, stopping to drop the car off or check in when you arrive had the triple-parked confusion of a busy airport’s arrivals curb.

Another strategy is to skip renting a car altogether, especially if you’ll be in DC during a peak season (like summer or National Cherry Blossom Festival). And especially if you stay somewhere centrally located enough for walking and transit access.

DC Metro

The Embassy Suites where we stayed is near the Metro and bus lines, the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, and the majority of Washington DC’s main sights.

A few of the places we walked to from our hotel:

See what I mean about great neighbors?

Washington DC

We received a media discount from Embassy Suites.

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Happenings List: April 2016

Posted by on Apr 14, 2016 in Craft, Travel | 0 comments

This is our monthly curated roundup of upcoming maker/artist/explorer events!

Angle brackets (>>) point to related info on our site.




ASU Art Museum fundraiser

April 16, 5:30pm at Macayo’s Mexican Grill & Cantina’s Scottsdale and Shea location, 11107 N. Scottsdale Rd.
Dine with Mexico City-based artist Tania Candiani and ASU Art Museum curator Julio Cesar Morales. Cocktail hour, four-course menu with Tequila Ocho pairings.
>>Macayo’s Mexican Grill & Cantina’s Scottsdale.

Yuma Jazz Company’s Village Jazz Series

April 21 + 28, 6pm in the Village Area of Yuma Palms Regional Center, Yuma.
Free outdoor jazz performances by Yuma Jazz Company and other musicians.

Chef’s Kitchen Dinner Series: Tastes of the World

April 22, 7pm at Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia, 4949 E Lincoln Dr, Scottsdale.
Customized meal pairing with liquors and wines from around the world. Dishes prepared and served using sustainable cooking techniques and methods.
>>Our visit to the Omni Charlottesville Hotel.

Community Pancakes with Ennoble Arizona

April 24, 8am – 1pm at Peixoto Coffee 11 W Boston St, Ste 6, Chandler.
Pop-up pancakes in a downtown Chandler coffee shop.
>>Peixoto and other great coffee spots.

Arcosanti Resident Art Show

Now – April 30 at Arcosanti, near Cordes Junction.
Art by Arcosanti residents and alumni for sale.
>>The day we had breakfast at Arcosanti was also during an art show. Work for sale included jewelry, photography, and mixed media pieces.



May 9, 6pm at Gangplank Chandler.
Meet other artists and crafters and learn something new or bring your own project to work on!

>>A past CraftHack.

Latino Cultural Festival

May 14, 10AM-8PM at Altadena Main Library, Phoenix.
Book readings and signings, art market, live music, Latin American food and beverages.

Elstree 1976 presented by Phoenix Comicon

May 19, 7:30pm at FilmBar, Phoenix.
Documentary about the bit-part actors and extras who were in scenes filmed in suburban London in 1976.

Phoenix Comicon

Jun 2 – 5 at Phoenix Convention Center.
Convention for fans of pop culture.

>>Check out our guide for newbies!



Class: Modern Needlework Tapestry

April 16, 3-6p at Parallel Print Shop, San Anselmo.
Modern needlework as home decor.

Maker Costume Expo

May 21-22 at the Anaheim Convention Center

>>Where to eat in and around the Convention Center.

#BlogHer16: Experts Among Us

Aug 4 – 6 at JW Marriott LA Live, Los Angeles.
BlogHer annual conference.



V for Vegetables art exhibit

Now – May 15 at Denver Botanic Gardens, York Street, Gates Garden Court Gallery.
Explore the historical and contemporary graphic traditions surrounding the victory gardening movement and celebrate the virtue of growing food in your own backyard.

>>Denver Botanic Gardens.

Mounds park


Monroe Lake nature events

  • Lunch with Nature: Ferns. Apr 25, 11am at Paynetown SRA, Activity Center. Bring a sack lunch to enjoy during the main presentation. Afterwards, there is a short hike/activity that highlights the topic.
  • Flora Field Day. May 3, 9:30am at Salt Creek SRA. Work on your flora identification skills with a naturalist! Free.

>>Also check out Mounds State Park in Anderson.


+New York

Rochester Film Fest

Apr 14 – 16 in Rochester.
The World’s Oldest, Continuously Held Short Film Festival. Free admission.

Artistic Furniture of the Gilded Age

Now – May 1 at Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC.
Rockefeller-Worsham Dressing Room now open in Gallery 742 of The American Wing. While you’re there, listen to the “Gallery 742” episode of the Memory Palace commissioned for the exhibition.


Arc of Appalachia Wildflower Pilgrimage

April 15 – 17 at the Highlands Nature Sanctuary, Bainbridge, Ohio.
Hikes to wildflower displays and talks by naturalists.


The Legendary Deconstructed Songwriters Showcase

April 19 7pm at Kimbros Cafe.
Free-form open mic night for musicians and writers of all types – weekly on Tuesdays.

Spring Tennessee Craft Fair

May 6 – 8 at Centennial Park, Nashville.
Craft, food from local vendors, kid-friendly activities, and demonstrations from artisans.

Downtown Charlottesville


Tom Tom Founders Festival

April 17 in Downtown Charlottesville.
Community-led festival with concerts, competitions, talks, workshops, local food, and public art.


Devils Backbone Oyster Roast

May 14, 12pm at Basecamp Brewpub & Meadows, Roseland.
Fresh oysters from Rappahannock Oyster Co., special beer and live music at Basecamp Brewpub & Meadows.

+Washington DC

Now – TBA Life in One Cubic Foot

Natural History Museum. Interactive exhibition about the marine life that can be found in one cubic foot of water during a 24-hour period.

>>Monuments on the National Mall.


Artisan Chocolate Tasting & Scotch Pairing

April 16, 2-4pm at Barrel Thief Wine & Whiskey Bar, 3417 Evanston Ave N., Fremont.
Taste and learn about chocolate with optional Scotch tasting flights for purchase.

>>Public art in Fremont.

Sourdough 101 Cooking Class

April 17, 9:30am – 12:00pm at Book Larder.
The team behind Sea Wolf Bakers will teach the key points of bread baking in this hands-on class. Everyone will leave with their own jar of starter, a recipe for Sea Wolf’s white sourdough bread, and a Book Larder tea towel for proofing your lovely new loaf. Class is limited to 8 students and includes light dinner.

>>Fremont Sunday Market.


Workshops at Duduá, Barcelona

  • Introduction to Paper Cutting. April 16, 10:30am.
  • Introduction to Weaving. April 16 + 17, 4pm.
  • Spinning by Hand. April 23, 5pm.
  • Lettering with Watercolors. April 30, 10am.


Star Wars Celebration

July 15 – 17 at London Excel Centre, London.
Star Wars fan convention.
>>Things we saw at last year’s Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim.

Photo credits:

Gilded Age chair via Metropolitan Museum of Art

Tennessee paper boat by my friend Michelle.

Other photos by me.

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