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DIY Pumpkins and Pie!

Posted by on Nov 15, 2017 in Craft | 0 comments

Here are 11 pumpkin-pie-inspired ideas you can bake or make!


Pumpkin Pie – First, a classic. You can make pumpkin puree for pies and other recipes from a sugar pumpkin or even a regular carving pumpkin. (Really! I did it!)


Holiday Spice Mix – Blend these ingredients for a versatile, cinnamony spice you can use as pumpkin pie spice or sprinkle into hot chocolate.


Spiced pumpkin martini

Spiced Pumpkin Pie Martini – A pumpkin pie garnish on your cocktail?! Why not? After all, it is the holidays.


Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread – You can use canned pumpkin or your own pumpkin puree for this addictively good quick bread.


Pumpkin Pie Smoothie – This is a great breakfast on-the-go – especially during the holiday season when you have a lot of pumpkin around and not a lot of time. I added pecans and an extra cup of plain Greek yogurt to Jamie’s recipe.


Pie Slice Cookies – I haven’t made these, but they were so adorable that I had to include them! (If you’re looking for cookie decorating ideas and tips, there are TONS on the Sweet Sugarbelle blog!)


Pumpkin pie garland by martha stewart


Thanksgiving Pie Garland – Turns out paper pie slices make perfect pennants! #TeamPie


Fall Succulent Planter – Rachel of Maison de Pax planted succulents directly into ceramic pumpkins. Another option would be to place potted succulents inside a real (or ceramic or foam) pumpkin and take them out when you take down the autumn decor.


Pie necklace

Pumpkin Pie Friendship Necklaces – StudioDIY shared a tutorial for this making polymer clay pumpkin pie necklaces as part of a Friendsgiving post!


Mini Pumpkin Candles  – A simple project from Faith Durant at The Kichn that turns a pumpkin into a candle.


Botanical Pumpkins – Fall leaves and Modge Podge are a striking way to decorate pumpkins!

Photos via:
1, 2, 4. Me.
3. A Beautiful Mess
5. Love Bakes Good Cakes
6. Sweet Sugarbelle
7. Martha Stewart
8. Maison de Pax

9. Studio DIY
10. The Kichn
11. Country Living

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Solstice Cookies and Solar Cooking

Posted by on Jun 27, 2017 in Craft | 2 comments

Solstice cookies

The forecast high in Phoenix for the longest day of the year was 120F (49C).

So it seemed like a great day to try baking outside.

Burton Barr Library

On the way home from the summer solstice celebration at Burton Barr Library last Tuesday, we picked up chocolate chip cookie dough. I chose that for my solar cooking experiment, because there’s no raw egg in it, and if it doesn’t cook all the way, you end up with doughy cookies – not a bad thing, in my opinion!

I scooped spoonfuls of cookie dough into a reflective aluminum roasting pan, covered the top with plastic wrap, sealed the sides with packing tape to trap the heat, and added a meat thermometer, so I could see how hot it actually got next to the cookies.

Solar baked cookies

I had intended to get an earlier start, but at 3:45pm, it was still 120 degrees out. So I decided to give it a go and set the pan in direct sun on our concrete patio.

The temperature inside the pan got as high as 160. The cookies began to look like they were melting, with the oil separating from the dough.

Baking cookies outside

Four hours later, the sun was low enough in the sky that the whole patio was in the shade. The dough had flattened out into cookie shapes that were somewhat solid but still pretty soft.

Solar baking

So we scooped vanilla frozen yogurt on top (à la pizookie), and it was delicious!

Apparently, a proper solar oven will bake faster, even if it’s not as hot out. But I would try my improvised “oven” again on a day when I could get an earlier start and give it a little more time in the sun.


– More info –

  • The package actually said not to eat the cookie dough raw. That didn’t stop me. But I thought you should know.
  • Many of the solar ovens I saw online have glass on top. If you decide to use plastic wrap like I did (because I didn’t have any glass panes just sitting around), try to get good cling wrap. I used the Target brand, and it was really annoying trying to get it tight across the top. (In the end, it was a wrinkly mess.)

Articles to check out…

Cookie dough


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Make a Mt. Lemmon Day Trip

Posted by on Apr 7, 2017 in Travel | 0 comments

Mount Lemmon wildlowers

You start in the Tucson heat surrounded by saguaros. An hour (or so) and a few thousand feet in elevation later, you can be sitting among spruce trees in air cool enough to not melt the chocolate chips of the oversized cookie in front of you.

Summerhaven tables

Welcome to Mount Lemmon, a 9000-foot peak in the Santa Catalina Mountain Range.

Mount Lemmon view

Drive the Sky Island Scenic Byway (also called the Mt. Lemmon Highway, the Catalina Highway, and – officially – the General Hitchcock Highway) through beautiful landscape and six (6!) different climate zones.

Mt. Lemmon

Mt Lemmon

Then you can hike or picnic or ride the year-round ski lift. (Yes, it gets cold and snowy enough in the winter for skiing up there!)

Mt Lemmon trail

When Phillip and I and my parents went, we stopped at a picnic area (Box Elder, I think-?) before driving to the parking lot at end of the road and taking a little hike from there.

Mt. Lemmon

Along the way is the town of Summerhaven, a one-and-a half mile high city that caters to visitors seeking shelter from sweltering Tucson summers.

Cookie Cabin

It’s also home to the giant cookies of Cookie Cabin. Four of us split one sampler cookie. There was literally a line out the door but plenty of nice outdoor seating.

Mount Lemmon cookie

I taught my dad how to use the Hyperlapse app, so we could take timelapse videos of the drive up. You can see the dramatic changes of scenery compressed into two minutes.

Mount lemmon

– More Mt. Lemmon info –

  • Be prepared to pack out your own trash.
  • Ski lift – The “sky ride” to the summit lasts about half an hour. Off-season (summer) adult tickets are $12/ride. Winter lift tickets are $45/day. Details at
  • Keep the high altitude in mind when you’re planning hiking or other activities.
  • We were there in mid-August, right at the end of the summer wildflower season.


Scenic Drive:

Mt. Lemmon - Ski Valley


  • Many places you can park on Mount Lemmon require a pass, including the visitor center, picnic areas, etc.
  • You can purchase a Coronado Recreation Pass on the mountain at the Palisades Visitor Center or buy one before you go.
  • Passes are available at several locations, including the Coronado National Forest Supervisor’s Office at 300 W. Congress near Downtown Tucson.
  • Day passes are $5 per vehicle. ($10 for a weekly pass.)
  • Instead of worrying about which specific places require it, consider just getting a day pass in town before you make the drive. It’s only 5 bucks and helps to support the forest.

Mount Lemmon

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Apple Desserts for Fall

Posted by on Sep 19, 2016 in Craft | 6 comments

Apple trees

It’s apple season here! And I wanted to share a few of the delicious-looking desserts I’ve been seeing recently.

First, if you’re planning to go to an orchard, check out these apple-picking tips from Bon Appetit. I wish I had read an article like that before Phillip and I went to pick apples at Apple Annie’s in Willcox! We had a fun time, but would’ve been helpful to know a few tricks.

Apple picking

Speaking of which, did you know you could core an apple with a metal melon baller?

1. Baked Apples (via a Beautiful Mess): Whole apples covered with puff pastry and stuffed with pecans – yum!

Baked apples via A Beautiful Mess

2. Caramel Apple Bar (via Craftberry Bush): A fun idea for a fall get-together, slice up apples for people to dip in their favorite toppings!

Caramel apple bar


3. Apple Pie Bites (via The Blond Cook): A quick recipe for crescent roll-wrapped apple slices that taste like little pies. I’d try these with my DIY Holiday Spice mix.

Apple pie bites via the blond cook

4. Peanut Butter and Apple Oatmeal Cookies (photo and recipe by Creative Culinary): Okay, peanut butter + apple + oatmeal cookie…how could I argue with that combination?!

Peanut Butter and Apple Oatmeal Cookies

Do you have a favorite apple dessert?

Photos via respective sites.

Microblog Mondays: Write in your own space

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Where to Stop for Date Shakes on California Road Trips

Posted by on Aug 18, 2016 in Travel | 2 comments

Palm yuma
We don’t order date shakes at home in Phoenix. We could. There are a couple places that serve them, since date palms grow here.

But we only look for them on road trips through a certain western Arizona/eastern California corridor.
Hadley date farm cabazon california


If you’re headed from Phoenix to Los Angeles on the 10, there’s the Hadley Fruit Orchards store in Cabazon near the dinosaurs.


The decades-old farm store recently moved to a shiny new building. They still have a little cafe, and it’s still a great place to stop for snacks – all kinds of specialty trail mix and dried fruit and veggies, much of it from the local area and/or their own blends.

Hadley date farm cabazon california

Shakes come in a reusable souvenir cup. Last time, we got there near the end of the day and they said they were out of regular date shakes but had banana date shakes. So they must mix them in advance-? Anyway, you could mostly just taste the banana, and it wasn’t the same.

Marthas garden date farm, yuma


If you’re on I-8 headed for San Diego, I’d recommend skipping the well-publicized Dateland and opting for Martha’s Gardens in Yuma instead. Coming from Phoenix, it’s about another hour down the freeway but worth it. The shake we got at the Dateland Travel Center tasted overly, artificially sweet with dates in clumps. The Martha’s Garden shakes were blended well and sweet without being sickeningly so.

Date shakes in Yuma

The Martha’s Garden store is smack in the middle of a working date farm, down a dirt driveway surrounded by rows of palm trees. While Martha’s store shelves are mostly stocked with bulk dates, they do sell some other local products like honey and salsa.

Marthas garden date farm, yuma

From the counter at the back, you can order sandwiches, date shakes, coffee, or a shot of espresso in your date shake. Behind it is a room of tables and chairs – and a couple outlets if you need to recharge.

Marthas garden date farm, yuma

Have you ever tried date shakes? Do you have food/drinks you only get on road trips?

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