Travelcraft Journal

Navigation Menu

Minimalist Space Needle

Posted by on Jan 26, 2015 in Travel | 1 comment

Messing around editing a photo I’d taken of the Space Needle during my Seattle trip, I realized I really liked it in black-and-white and stripped down to a more minimalist form.

So I posted a few of these minimalist black-and-white Space Needle photos on Instagram, including one from the observation deck.

minimalist-space-needle-1 minimalist-space-needle-4


I tend to err on the side of including too much detail, so this was a great exercise in editing and simplicity.


Microblog Mondays: Helping bloggers get over writer’s block since about last September. More on Stirrup Queens.


Read More

Sleeping and eating near University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ

Posted by on Jan 19, 2015 in Travel | 2 comments

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

While I’m working on wrapping up my post about Phoenix Comicon Fan Fest, here’s a prequel of sorts with our experience eating, staying, and hanging out in Glendale, Arizona near University of Phoenix Stadium – where a certain high profile football game will be played in a couple weeks.

(More of my top picks on my December in Glendale post.)

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset


The IHG folks were nice enough to put us up at Staybridge Suites Phoenix-Glendale, so we could check it out and be super close to the event. I arrived before Phillip and texted to tell him we should just move in there. Our one-bedroom suite felt like a little apartment with a living room, well-equipped kitchen, bedroom (with a door separating it from the living space), and bathroom.

Processed with VSCOcam with m3 preset

Living Space

Side note: Why does it seem like most couples consist of a morning person and a night person? Phillip and I both started out as stay-up-late people, but he’s evolved into this setting-the-alarm-even-on-the-weekend guy who says things like “I’ll just get up and finish this before work.” It’s so baffling it must be a law of nature. Anyway.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

The point is that if you’re traveling with someone who wants to stay up making popcorn and watching movies or whatever, and you’re ready to call it a night, you can just shut bedroom the door and hit the lights. Or, if you’re me, you can make yourself some dinner, plop down on the couch, get totally immersed in a National Geographic Channel show about the Bermuda Triangle, and then get sleepy and finish watching it on the second (!) flatscreen tv in the bedroom. The wild life of a geek.

Also like an apartment, it’s largely self-service. Housekeeping does not come every day – unless you request it. Unlike most self-service stays, however, you can help yourself to a breakfast buffet in the mornings. So it’s kinda the best of both worlds.

Processed with VSCOcam with m3 preset


Speaking of eating, having a kitchen in the room gives you so many more food and beverage options. This isn’t some minifridge-and-coffeemaker-tucked-into-a-closet “kitchenette” either, it’s a full kitchen. Yes, there’s a coffeemaker. There’s also a grownup-size refrigerator (with an ice maker), sink, 2-burner stove, microwave, dishwasher, and cabinets stocked with dishes, cookware, and utensils. You’re all set for chopping, mixing, sautéing, warming things up, and keeping things cool.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

Location and Cabela’s

It took me 25 or 30 minutes to walk from Staybridge Suites to the stadium. It’s even closer to shopping at Tanger Outlets and Westgate Entertainment District. And directly across the street is the outdoor/hunting/fishing gear store Cabela’s.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

That’s not really my scene, but we stopped in to check it out anyway. Somewhere in between whispering at Whisper Scarves and wondering at an animatronic talking deer head (why?!), we found the indoor archery range and a sales associate with a crazy fish cap and green-painted face and hands (in puzzling homage to the Grinch).

Quick backstory: Long before we met, Phillip and I had both tried archery (him at 4H, me at Girl Scout camp), both enjoyed it, and both hadn’t picked it back up since we were teenagers.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

Fast forward back to Fish Hat Grinch Man: he got us set up with the waivers we needed to sign and patiently demonstrated how to use the recursive bow. I took a few shots, each farther from the target than the last, and then took a (totally undeserved) Katniss Everdeen bow at the end.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset


University of Phoenix Stadium has some basic hamburger/hot dog/soft pretzel type concessions, and a couple food trucks were parked outside during Fan Fest. There are tons of restaurant options at Westgate and Tanger Outlets, as well as in downtown Glendale (about 10 minutes’ drive). We did a mix of our eating out and in, starting the day with Staybridge’s hot breakfast buffet.

fired-pie-4 Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

Fired Pie at Tanger Outlets

Fired Pie is one of the few locally-based options in the area surrounding the stadium. We expected a sit-down restaurant, but it’s actually more fast casual. Think Chipotle for pizza, and you’re on the right track.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

They have a great selection of quality ingredients for toppings like kalamata olives, fresh mozzarella, and grilled chicken. You can order from the menu or customize your individual pizza or salad as much as you’d like. You can choose your pizza’s sauce, cheese, veggies, and/or meat. They wood fire it and have it ready for you in just a few minutes. We enjoyed it so much we’ve already been back – to the Chandler location.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset 1421461281.952544.IMG_3438

Food trucks

Of course, the Burgers Amore truck isn’t always parked outside the stadium. However, they’re worth tracking down. They have delicious steak burgers and sweet potato fries.



On the way home, we made an impromptu stop in downtown Glendale at Lenny’s Burger Shop to see if they had anything for a sweet tooth. Turns out they had chocolate peanut butter shakes. Um, yes, please. Great way to wrap up the weekend!

PS Did you spot Mr. Cheeseface?

Thank you to IHG / Staybridge Suites for providing our accommodations. Also, thanks to Fired Pie for our media discount.

Read More

Scottsdale Walking Tour Has Chocolate Lovers Covered

Posted by on Dec 30, 2014 in Craft, Travel | 0 comments

I have two words for you, friends: chocolate. tour.


Yep. That is now a thing that is happening here in the Phoenix area. So I did you a huge favor and checked that out for you.

I know. Sacrifices.


Stephanie Haworth also sacrificed and came along, tasting chocolate and taking the photos for this post (except the one of her below).


The Chocolate Tour of Scottsdale winds through Old Town to Fashion Square. You taste chocolate in various forms – hot, cold, cake pops, candies, cupcakes – from 8 different merchants. Some share a little about what they do and what sets them apart, and they all offer discounts to tour-goers.


The tours are lead by owner/operator Ofelia Montelongo, whose passion for chocolate lead her to start the company just this fall, and it’s off to a great start! In fact, she’s already quit her day job to devote more time to her business.


She meets tour-goers at the outdoor patio of Gloria’s Cafe with bottled water, maps, and bags for your extra chocolate. (Really. “Extra chocolate” does exist. I have a pretty serious sweet tooth, and I still couldn’t keep up with all the cocoa confections). She sets a friendly tone, keeping everyone oriented, and sharing points of interest along the way.


One prestigious Phoenix chocolatier, Julia Baker, has her own Cooking Channel show. Since her shop isn’t in walking distance, Ofelia brings Julia Baker chocolates to the tour. So you’re sampling even before the first step.


Then you head to the Paula Jacqueline bakery, which stays open late to greet the tour and hand out delicious fudgy cake pops.

chocolatetour-3 IMG_3395

Next, from behind a counter stocked with chocolate in all kinds of inventive shapes (squirrels, anyone? what about mushrooms? corn?) and flavors, a man in a Chocolade Van Brugge apron explained how their chocolate is imported from Belgium. He also claimed we were about to taste “the best hot chocolate [we'd] ever had.”

I was skeptical about that. But he may have been right.

chocolatetour-6 IMG_3416


The hot is followed by cold with a stop at Petersen’s Old-Fashioned Ice Cream, where you can sample your choice(s) of their wide variety of favors.

IMG_3450 IMG_3455 IMG_3448 chocolatetour-5

We continued through the 5th Ave Art Festival, which happened to be that weekend, pausing at the Bronze Horse Fountain for a group photo.


Our next stop was Classic Cakes and Confections, a bakery with such elaborate creations that some require signs explaining  ”this is a cake,” because otherwise you’d never guess. In addition to cakes, they had lots of amazing-looking desserts, teas in tins, and quirky coffee and tea accessories.

chocolatetour-8 IMG_3471

In Fashion Square, we stopped at Godiva for truffles and at the locally-owned Caketini for cannoli.

IMG_3504 IMG_3509 IMG_3491 IMG_3494

Across the street at Sprinkles, we snacked on mini cupcakes.

It was also the opening week of their cupcake ATM – one of only 8 in the world. It’s located outside, so, if you get a sudden after-hours craving, you just select the flavor you want and swipe your card. The machine gently delivers a boxed cupcake to a compartment with a small door that dramatically raises up to reveal your treat.




Our final stop of the day was actually an alternate, but it was one of my faves. If a merchant isn’t able to accommodate the tour on a certain day (due to an event, etc.), Ofelia has a whole list of pre-vetted backups.


The Chocolate Tour was a lot of fun, and I’d definitely recommend it to both local and visiting chocolate lovers.

– More info –

  • Chocolate tours run fall to spring. Ofelia will be offering other indoor events over the summer.
  • Book in advance, especially for weekend tours. As of now, Valentine’s Day is already full, but there are openings the day before.
  • Get $10 off with promo code CHOCOLATE!
  • Dress for the weather and wear comfy shoes.
  • You will probably end up with more chocolate than you can eat. You’ll have a goodie bag – don’t be afraid to use it! Take some chocolate home to enjoy later on.

Thank you to Chocolate Tours of Scottsdale for providing press passes! 

Read More

DIY Gift Bags

Posted by on Dec 19, 2014 in Craft | 0 comments

Does doing something 2 years in a row make it a tradition?

If so, then we continued our gift-bag making tradition at CraftHack this month.


You can make your own gift bags out of regular old paper lunch sacks and craft supplies you already have. Here are some tips…


Get your stuff together!

  • Lunch bags. If you have regular brown ones around, great! Otherwise, check out your color options – white, red, yellow, blue. I’ve seen a bunch at my local Target.
  • Scissors. Fancy-edge scissors, a small paper cutter, and/or a paper punch might also be useful if you have them.
  • Embellishments. Use what you’ve got – scrapbook paper, washi tape, old greeting cards, ribbon, glitter, stickers, that last little bit of wrapping paper on the roll, etc.


Bag size. Take a bit off the top to break up the lunch baggy proportions. You can use your fancy scissors to create an interesting edge.


Handles. 3 ways to handle handles:

1. Cut out a shape an inch or so from the top of the bag. Straight sided shapes – like a long inverted triangle – work best.


2. Vertical handles. Use ribbon, two pieces of washi tape (sticky sides together), or scraps cut from the top of your paper bag to make a handle that goes over the top of the bag. You can staple it (use your embellishments to cover staples), or punch/cut holes to thread ribbon through and secure with tape or big knots.

IMG_2859 1

3. Horizontal handles. Some of the CraftHackers came up with this one. It works best using fabric ribbon. You cut rectangles into thee bag that are as tall as the ribbon is wide and weave it through, maybe with help from a friend.


Decorate! Once you’ve sized your bag and made handles, get creative using supplies you have on hand. Cut shapes out of paper, add glitter, make a pattern from paper, create stripes from ribbon or washi tape, go a little crazy with stickers, have fun!

Check out my last-minute holiday guide for more gift, entertaining, and decorating ideas!

Read More

Mr. Cheeseface

Posted by on Dec 15, 2014 in Craft | 4 comments

My sister-in-law Liz added a lot of fabulous handmade touches to her sons’ monster-themed 2nd birthday party, including a whole pile of brightly-colored felt monsters she sewed for party favors.


Meet Mr. Cheeseface, who Phillip christened before we were even out of the parking lot – inspired, I assume, by the smiling creature’s yellow color. Mr. Cheeseface has shown up in different places around our house, but he mostly likes to hang out in our car and accompany us on trips.


Recently, a friend suggested I should pose him in our travel photos, Flat Stanley style. I liked the idea, but I also have this individualist streak that tends to make me feel I cannot just do what someone is already doing. I need my own twist. So instead of Mr. Cheeseface being front-and-center in our photos, I’ll make him part of the scene and let you guys find him.

He’ll start popping up in posts soon!

Don’t just stare at a blank screen – write something! Micropost inspiration at Stirrup Queens.


Read More

December in Glendale for Fan Fest Goers

Posted by on Dec 11, 2014 in Travel | 0 comments

This weekend (12/12-14) is the first-ever Phoenix Comicon Fan Fest. Besides being held during a much cooler time of year than the main all-pop-culture-encompassing Phoenix Comicon event, Fan Fest is smaller and focused on just 4 categories: comics, actors, costuming, and activities for kids.

Instead of taking place in central Phoenix, it’ll be at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, where the Arizona Cardinals play.

So what is there to do in Glendale?

Christmas lights at Glendale Glitters in Glendale, Arizona.

My top picks: downtown Glendale

Here are a few Glendale things I’ve checked out that you might also enjoy – whether you’re going to Fan Fest or not. They’re in the historic downtown about 10 minutes by car from the stadium (near 58th and Glendale avenues - PDF walking tour map).

  1. Glendale Glitters – Tons of holiday lights (“the largest free holiday light display in Arizona”), fair-type food booths (fried things, things on sticks, beer beer beer, etc.) live performances by local choirs and dance studios, and interesting people-/possible-wolf-watching.
  2. Unique Local Shops - Drawn to Comics has comics and comic paraphernalia. Pink House boutique focuses on stylish, hard-to-find clothing and is open until 10pm this Friday and Saturday. There are also several antique and vintage shops and other quirky local stores, right across the street from the Glendale Glitters action.
  3. Kimberly Ann’s Tea Room - For those into the high tea experience*, it’s lovely without being stuffy. When I went I last year with my mom and aunt, there was a long list of teas available, and we had all the tea sandwiches and sweets we could handle.


Cerreta Candy Company

Located near downtown, Cerreta Candy Company gives free tours Monday through Friday at 10am and 1pm. During the holidays, you can go in and decorate chocolate wreaths or trees for $10.


Walking distance from University of Phoenix Stadium

I was wondering what there would be to do right around the stadium, and here’s what I found.

Sports stuff

  • If you’re around there right now or will still be around next week, there are University of Phoenix Stadium tours today (12/11), as well as 12/18-20. Tickets are $9.
  • Fan Fest attendees headed to the 12/13 Arizona Coyotes game can get a discount. I’m not sure what the discount is. You might wanna check out regular tickets too.



In case you somehow don’t get your fill of shopping at the Exhibitor Hall, there is a lot more around the Stadium.

  • Westgate Entertainment District - stores, a movie theater, and holiday events, including free Carriage rides.
  • Tanger Outlets – apparently, Tanger rhymes with “hanger.” (Who knew?!)
  • Cabela’s – outdoor store focused on hunting and fishing (but also carrying equipment for camping and other outdoor activities). It includes a restaurant, aquariums, and an indoor archery range – if wanted to channel your inner Green Arrow or Katniss Everdeen. Just remember you can’t bring any actual weapons back to the Con with you.



I had trouble finding locally-based options in the area. Here’s what I hunted down:

At the Stadium

  • There are supposed to be food trucks at Fan Fest, but staff doesn’t have confirmation on which ones yet.
  • Regular stadium concessions by Rojo Hospitality Group will be open.


Westgate – 2 out of 3 of these are for frozen desserts. Because what’s more Phoenix than eating ice cream in December?!

Tanger outlets

  • Fired Pie – I’m intrigued by this place and hoping to make it over there this weekend! You can either order from their menu or customize your own pizza or salad for one price. (It’s not extra for each topping.) They are sustainability conscious and use local, organic ingredients.



*At the main Phoenix Comicon event over the summer, I wandered into the wrong room at one point and a panel was discussing tea and tea-drinking rituals. A friend later said “Oh, they must be fans of [name of something I'd never heard of and immediately forgot].” Fan Fest has a tea battle on the schedule. What does that mean? I don’t know. All I know is that there is some kind of fancy-tea-drinking contingent within the Comicon community. So I put a tea house on the list.

Read More