Most Epic Camping Trip, Part 2.

In the first part of this post I told you all about the good times and creepy fun I had exploring the abandoned amusement park next door to our campground. Little did I know that when I returned to the campground Vanessa would have yet another surprise for me. She said there was a neighborhood of abandoned houses just outside the campground, and we should go check it out. *Swoon* I couldn't get out there fast enough! And they literally were right next door. We had to climb over a tiny fence to get into the neighborhood, and I couldn't believe what I saw. About a dozen houses, all in various states of decay. Their styles and colors and the objects strewn about placed them as being built in the 1960's. Some were nearly perfectly intact on the outside, while others were flattened. It almost looked like the whole group had slid down the hill in a weather-related catastrophe, and that's the only theory we have going because I couldn't seem to find any information on them and we can't think of any other reason why such a lovely place would be wholly abandoned. You really should look at my flickr set to see all the houses (I'm sad I didn't have the right lens to take wider shots), because they're all amazing! But here are my favorites:

There were rusty old appliances laying around outside of the houses, as well as these few things. A hatchet, a shoe, 1960's bottles and cans. Vanessa said there used to be more but people probably took things, which makes me sad. I found an old punch-top cream soda can (kind of obsessed with punch-top cans), and I really wanted to take it, but I believe in being respectful of these places and leaving things for other people to see.

 Standing walls, collapsed roof.

 This house was nearly intact, and I loved the fading colors and moss.

 A lot of the houses were various shades of seafoam green and as nature reclaimed them they really blend into the foliage.

 Same little shack, different angle. I loved this one.

And on our way out of the rubble, Karol found tons of bullet casings. Slightly unnerving, but I'm sure someone was just using the houses as target practice, which is sad.

I hope these creepy places give you the willies for Halloween! And please remember, when urban exploring, stay safe, bring a friend, and respect the place you're in. Happy Halloween!


Most Epic Camping Trip, Part 1.

Probably my favorite adventure/party of the summer was my friend Glen's birthday camping trip. Every year since he was pretty young he's been going to a strange little independently operated campground near Guerneville on the Russian River called Camp Outback. This place is magical for so many reasons. We got a huge campsite with a ton of people, I got to rent some amazing camping equipment for free, we stayed up all night playing games around the campfire, and we spent the entire second day kayaking on the river. Could it get any better? Turns out, yes.

I don't know if too many people know this about me (Hello, internet!), but I've always wanted to be an urban explorer, and I love photographing abandoned buildings. But I've never been brave enough to go traipsing around private property, and finding abandoned spaces that are open to the public is pretty rare. But not at Camp Outback. After we got back from the river we got to go explore the abandoned amusement park next door to the campgrounds that also happened to house the camp showers. Yup, you read that right, abandoned amusement park. I did a happy dance. I figured this would be a good post for pre-Halloween inspiration, because really it was pretty creepy.

 There was an old go-kart track that was completely overgrown with blackberries.

The tilt-a-whirl cars were strewn about, but the actual ride was gone, and the structure in the background was once a bumper car pavilion, but all the cars were missing. 

This guy was huge, and stood watch over what used to be the haunted house. I was told they actually still do a haunted house here every year to raise money to buy Christmas trees for needy families in the area. 

This guy wasn't with us, he was just waiting for the shower, but the look on his face said, "I'm not tall enough to ride." 

And this is poor Glen, who had no idea this birthday would be his last...

Haha no worries, no hipsters were harmed in the making of these photos. There's a ton more to see on my flickr set here if you want more creepies! And stay tuned for part two! We found another creepy adventure to go on before the light faded on the same day!


Halloween is here!

You all know how much I love Halloween (you can see my crazy party from last year here), and my new fella loves it just as much as I do. He decks out his house inside and out for all the trick-or-treaters and has invited me to be a part of his big production this year. My house, unfortunately, never gets many trick-or-treaters, but I still like to do up the yard real-creepy-like, if only for my own amusement. And this year I've added some lighting so hopefully people will notice the decorations as they drive by at night and bring their kids by since my new roommate will be home to give out the candy, and our neighbors will too. I picked up these great zombie lawn flamingos at Spirit this year, and I have a zombie lawn gnome coming soon. I have a feeling these will be left up all year...

Caution tape, spiderwebs, sparkly chains, and various signs and tombstones will hopefully entice trick-or-treaters.

And every good Halloween display, for me anyhow, needs to have a graveyard and zombies. I've been slowly gathering tombstones, picking them up for 1/2 off the day after. Soon I hope I will have a really large grouping. Also, I've had that skull mask since I was really little!

But the star of the show, of course, is Wolfie, who was reading in my bed last year and is now snacking on an unsuspecting passerby on the front lawn. He looks really great at night with the green light on him, which also shines splotches on the upper part of our house and looks spooky, and I have little LED candles lighting the flamingos and tombstones, plus two black lights behind the blinds in the second photo for an ominous glow.

This year I have a few parties to attend and will probably wear the good old tail, ears, and fangs for my cat costume, but on the actual holiday my new beau is going to be the Mad Hatter (his house is done up in a sort of dark wonderland theme and gets more elaborate each year, and he used to do a lot of drama so he has a great character for the kids), and I'm going to be the March Hare. I've got a couple summer-catch-up posts that have some creep factor all their own, so stay tuned!


Oh Baked Oatmeal, Where Have You Been All My Life?

One day I had some fruit on hand that I really needed to use before it got too ripe. But I wasn't in the mood for shoveling 4 helpings of fruit down my gullet, nor was I in the mood for a super-involved baked good. And then I remembered seeing a baked oatmeal recipe floating around the net, probably on Pinterest, and I thought it was just the thing. In fact, I had found multiple options, and after reviewing each one thoroughly I formulated a recipe that I assumed would work for the fruit I wanted to use.

Guys, seriously, I've been missing out. I've never had baked oatmeal before and that makes me sad, because this stuff is amazing! When I was a kid I used to make those little fruit & cream oatmeal packets, but I'd use the absolute minimum amount of water because I liked it more toothy than soupy. This is like an adult, healthy, delicious version of a childhood favorite for me and I really hope you try it. I've made it three or four times now, each time with a different fruit, and it works perfectly every time. So if you have a couple handfuls of nearly overripe fruit sitting around, or need an easy crowd pleaser for breakfast, do this!

Baked Oatmeal with Pears and Blueberries
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

1 small container of blueberries
2 pears
2 cups whole milk (can use 2% for a lower-fat version)
2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp brown sugar (can do 1/3 cup if you like it a little sweeter)
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup chopped nuts for topping (optional)

1. Chop the pears into small cubes and spread them with the blueberries in the bottom of a casserole dish.

2. Combine the sugar, salt, baking powder, and pumpkin pie spice in a small bowl. Sprinkle half the oats over the fruit, then half the sugar mixture, the rest of the oats, and top with the rest of the sugar mixture.

3. Combine the milk and the vanilla extract, then carefully pour over the oats.

4. Bake for 30 minutes at 375 degrees, and if you'd like to add chopped nuts (I used pistachios and they were amazing!), sprinkle them on top, reduce heat to 350 degrees, and bake for 5 minutes more.

I like to let it cool for 5 minutes, then serve it with agave syrup and heavy cream on the side if anyone wants to get extra-decadent with it! It's soooo good. I've made it with strawberries, white nectarines, and black plums and it's great every time. I hope you give this a try, you won't be disappointed!


Welcome Karol.

I have to say I really enjoy when my friends make their way onto my blog. I feel like, while I'm all about crafting and such, a lot of my friends and family read these posts as well and I want to let them know how much they truly inspire me, and I hope that in turn they inspire others too.

My friend Alex (above right), who makes it on here fairly consistently because she doesn't have a blog of her own (when she is the one person in my circle who really, really should), recently had an old friend move to the area, and she threw him a welcome party to meet all her friends. His name is Karol (on the left).

This was such a charming idea, and we had a lovely time. She's been keeping a couple of chickens that I had never had the chance to meet, and when she let them out they were so friendly! Easier to pet and handle than any chicken I've ever seen. Good job Alex!

Even though the party was in July in a typically hot part of the bay area, the weather was mild and we lazed about on the grass, knitting and drinking iced tea while barbecuing.

 (Vanessa, looking lovely as always.)
 (Peter, Vanessa's dapper boyfriend.)
(Vanessa and her best buddy Willie.)

We played horseshoes and bonded with Alex's lovely dogs, and eventually went inside for a game of Pictionary that lasted into the wee hours.

(Willie and Lillian.)

 (Alex's husband, Patrick.)

And of course, as per her sweet old-timey sensibilities, we had to take a group photo. (Maria and Diane are on the right and left respectively.) I have the best friends ever, I simply don't know what I'd do without them, and I'm very happy that we brought Karol into the circle. The more the merrier! Also, there's tons more photos of shenanigans, horseplay, and tomfoolery on my flickr set.


Jewelry Making Party!

I had the idea for this party at the beginning of summer, and it actually happened some time in June I think. Yeah yeah, I know. But! It was such a lovely time and I have to say that parties are so great when they are structured around an activity. It makes me feel a little like a kid again, except that there's cocktails involved...

This was early in the setup. I decided to take it easy and make an impressive-looking yet incredibly quick menu of different sweet and savory tarts, as well as some fancy drinks. There were vegans and non-drinkers attending, so I tried to make sure there was something for everyone. My homemade pickles made an appearance as you can see, and the mason jars with paper straws for the drinks were well-received by everyone. I think there were 14 or 16 of us in all, which was quite the turnout!

For the food, I made a vegan and non-vegan heirloom tomato tart with a Parmesan crust and fresh basil (out of focus above), an asparagus-Gruyere puff pastry tart (below left), rustic apple tart with Meyer lemon caramel (below right), and Lavash with marscapone, golden cherries, and honey (below right). Everything was delicious but I think the tomato tart was the crowd favorite. All of the recipes were gleamed off of some form of Pinterest inspiration, and you can check out my "Droolfest" board here to see them and way too many more delicious recipes.
For the drinks I made a raspberry-infused vodka the week before (above left), which is really easy - just put a pint of cleaned raspberries into a decanter filled with vodka and refrigerate it for a week. It will turn a beautiful color and will soak up all the flavor of the berries. Then I made a strawberry-basil iced tea (above right) and a raspberry pink lemon-limeade (below left) that guests could add the vodka to if they wanted. And I made a blueberry-mint-lemon iced tea (above back), a punch made of white Merlot, sparkling blood orange juice, and lemon slices (in the big yellow thing above), and the greatest cocktail of the day: a concoction of gin, grapefruit juice, bubbly water, and thyme simple syrup that I have dubbed the Carnelian, in honor of the beads we were using at the party (below right). The cocktails were also all inspired from Pinterest (lovely tool that), and my "Thirsty?" board is where it's at!

It ended up that the guests were divided right down the middle into two groups: those who had made jewelry before, and those who hadn't. We kind of naturally divided into two tables, this one being the "grown-ups" table, where people knew what they were doing:

And then there was me, with my huge pile of supplies for the taking, at the "kiddie table", teaching my friends how to make earrings and necklaces (though really I'm quite the novice myself). By the time we started in on the actual jewelry-making process we were all loopy from being stuffed with good food, if not slightly inebriated, so of course hilarity ensued. Everyone went home with at least one piece of jewelry and, I hope at least, some good stories and recipes.

Oh, and I whipped up a sorbet of sorts to serve at the end of the day, made by chopping fresh strawberries and ginger in my food processor until smooth-ish, adding a little agave nectar, and freezing overnight. I stole this idea from Shannon's boyfriend at her beer and cheese tasting party. I served it in tiny vintage Jell-O molds, too cute!

There's a couple more photos on my flickr if you like. Anywho, this was the start of a most epic summer, I can't wait to show you the rest! Stay tuned...


Well, that happened...

Hey everyone! I know I've been kind of slacking off on here for the past few months, but I've been going through a lot of crazy life changes. To make a long story short, Dennis and I have gone our separate ways and I have since acquired a lovely new roommate, a new fella, and a new sense of self-worth. So yay! All is well and is sure to get even better. I have so many photos from summer shenanigans to post and I'm committed to getting caught up! But for today, I'll just leave you with a new, happy me. More on that later.