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My name is Lisa and I'm a crafty girl with wanderlust working as an engineer by day. My blog chronicles projects in my home as well as pictures and stories from my travels.

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Monday
Jun152015

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Summertime means fresh fruit is in season which obviously means it is time to make pie. One of my favorites is the classic strawberry rhubarb pie. It is my grandfather's favorite and I grew up loving to eat it with him as a special treat.

Ingredients List
- 3 cups rhubarb, cut into 1/2" cubes
- 3 cups strawberries, sliced
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 Tbsp. corn starch
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 large egg, separated
- 1 teaspoon water
- Large granule sugar (optional)
- Double pie crust pastry

Directions
- Cut the rhubarb and place it in a bowl with the strawberries
- In a separate small bowl stir together the sugar, corn starch, cinnamon and salt
- Pour sugar mixture over rhubarb and strawberries, tossing filling to coat the fruit
- Roll out half of the pastry and line the bottom of a pie plate with it, trimming off excess
- Roll out remaining half of the pastry
- Add filling to the pie plate and then top with pastry using lattice crust or other vented style top
- Whisk egg white and water together to make egg wash glaze
- Brush glaze on pie and sprinkle with large granule sugar if you like
- Bake for 20 minutes at 425° F, turn heat down to 350° F and back another 35-40 minutes until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling

Tips and Tricks
- I make my own crust but you can also use store bought
- To make your pastry easier to deal with, keep it in the refrigerator until you are rolling it out
- To prevent your crust from browning too much, wrap it in tin foil for the first 20 minutes of baking

If you are interested, check out my apple pie recipe, my mixed berry pie recipe, my blackberry rhubarb pie recipe and my recipe for making pie crust from scratch

 

Thursday
Jun112015

Sunrise Hot Air Balloon Ride Over Luxor

One of the best things that Frank and I did while we were in Luxor was to go for a sunrise hot air balloon ride. Having arrived the night before on an evening flight from Cairo the aerial view was a fantastic first introduction to the area before we started exploring the sights.

We were picked up from our hotel a little after four am and shuttled to a dock on the Nile. On board we enjoyed tea while we were ferried to the West Bank.

After arriving on the West Bank we were driven to a large field where the hot air balloons were being inflated. It was a beautiful and fascinating process to watch.

Once our balloon was ready we climbed into the basket and got safety instructions from the balloon pilot. We did a little practice of how to crouch and hold the basket straps for the landing and then we were off. The lift off was so gentle that it was hard to even notice until we saw the ground receding away from us.

We started by floating over the ancient ruins on the West Bank. We had fabulous views of the Valley of the Kings, the Temple of Hatshepsut and the Ramessuem.

We continued floating over the West Bank enjoying views of the fields and town.

One of the most fascinating things was to watch the farmers at work in their fields in the early morning before the day became too hot. While we were in Egypt it was sugar cane harvest season and we saw smoke plumes rising from fires in the fields below. To make harvesting easier the sugar cane fields are set on fire to burn off the leaves while leaving the stalks intact.

We continued floating along over the Nile to the East Bank. The sunrise was lovely and we had great views over the town as well as Luxor Temple and Karnak Temple.

After about an hour in the air it was time to land. When the pilot directed us we got into our crouched landing position. We lightly bounced off the ground once before finally coming to a stop in a field that had recently been harvested.

The last thing I would ever be accused of is being a morning person, but getting up before the crack of dawn was completely worth the experience of the balloon ride. It was my first time in a hot air balloon and I would love to do it again.

Wednesday
Jun032015

Lately....

Things have been a bit of a blur for me lately. In a six week span I visited four countries, four states and had been on seventeen flights. Add some very long work days and a lot of spring yard work into the mix after I finally got home and needless to say things have been a little crazy. I have so much to share and plan to start posting again soon with life settling down a bit. In the meantime I thought I would share collages of my Instagram pictures from my recent travels.

New York, London, Madaba, Jordan's Rift Valley...

Kerak, Petra, Saqqara, Mephis, Giza, Cairo...

Luxor, Valley of the Kings, Esna, Cruising on the Nile, El Kab, Edfou...

More Cruising on the Nile, Djebel Silsileh, Kom Ombo, Aswan, Rome...

More Rome, Vatican City, Los Angeles...

More Los Angeles, Palos Verdes, Redondo Beach, Seattle...

Seattle, Phoenix, Tonto National Forest...

...and home!

Tuesday
Mar172015

Mint Oreo Truffles for St. Patrick's Day

Happy St. Patrick's Day! I wanted to make some St. Patrick's Day treats to bring into work for my co-workers today but I had a TV conference for work last night so I didn't get home until after eight. Since I had no intention of staying up too late I had to make something on the simple side so I decided to make some mint oreo truffles which don't require any baking. 

Ingredients List
- 1 package of mint oreos (30 oreos)
- 6 oz. cream cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon mint extract
-
Dark Green and Vibrant Green Candy Melts
- Green sprinkles and non-pareils

Directions
Pulse oreos in food processor until they are finely ground.

Add cream cheese and mint extract to oreos and pulse food processor until mixture is fully combined. Form mixture into equal size size balls, place on a a tray covered in parchment paper and place in the freezer for at least one hour.

Place candy melts into a small microwave proof bowls or glasses that are tall enough to dip one of the truffles into it. Microwave them for 60 seconds and then stir. If some lumps still remain microwave another 30 seconds and then stir until smooth. Dip truffles into the melted candy and then place back on parchment paper. 

While the candy coating is still wet add sprinkles for a festive touch. Once the candy coating has cooled and hardened you can stack the truffles on a serving plate or package them in treat bags.

Tips and Tricks
- To make even sized balls I used a small ice cream scoop to measure out equal amounts of oreo mixture.
- If the mixture is too soft or sticky to shape into balls, place it in the refrigerator for a few minutes.
- If your melted candy starts to cool making dipping difficult, just put the bowl back in the microwave for a few seconds until it is smooth again.
Wednesday
Mar112015

Rosemary Sea Salt 

A few months back I made a large batch of rosemary sea salt. It is a great way to use up any rosemary that you have in your herb garden at the end of the growing season and adds something special to your pantry for your cooking. There are a variety of methods out there that you could use but below is the method that works for me.

Ingredients List
- 1/2 cup fresh rosemary leaves
- 4 cups sea salt, divided

Put the rosemary leaves and one cup of sea salt in a food processor.

Pulse the food processor until the rosemary leaves are finely mixed into the salt.

In a bowl combine the rosemary mixture with the remaining three cups of sea salt.

The salt and rosemary mixture will be damp from the moisture in the rosemary leaves so to dry it out, spread it on a a baking sheet and bake it for about half an hour on low heat (200˚F, 95˚C).

After letting the mixture cool, break up any salt that has clumped together and store in jars.

The rosemary sea salt makes a great gift and Frank and I have also have fun using it in our cooking. Enjoy!

Monday
Mar092015

A Winter Morning in Karuizawa (軽井沢)  

On a recent trip to Japan at the end of February I decided I wanted to visit the famous hot springs town Kusatsu Onsen on the weekend. After I finished work on Friday evening I took the train to Karuizawa (軽井沢) to spend the night since it was too late to continue on to Kusatsu Onsen that evening. As long as I was in Karuizawa I decided to do a little exploring the next morning before catching my bus to Kusatsu Onsen.

Karuizawa is known for being a tranquil place in the mountains to escape the summer heat in Japan and it seemed to be fairly quiet in the winter while I was there. As I set out walking in the morning it was really lovely strolling along the tree lined streets with remnants of a recent snow fall.

My first stop was Kumoba Pond (雲場池), which is known for its beautiful views in the autumn reflecting the colored leaves on the still water. The name Kumoba means "Cloud Place" and refers to the frequent mists that linger over the pond but while I was there the sky was bright and clear. 

As lovely as the pond was, I found the little stream that ran beside the pond to be even more enchanting with its moss lined banks dusted with snow.

From Kumoba Pond I headed through more tree lined streets toward Kyu-Karuizawa (旧軽井沢), the old part of town. The main street through the area, Kyu-Karuizawa Ginza (旧軽井沢銀座), was fairly deserted with most shops indicating an eleven am opening time but I could imagine quite a bustling scene in the summer.

I turned off Kyu-Karuizawa Ginza to visit St. Paul's Catholic Church (聖パウロカトリック教会). Built in 1935 the rustic wood church was designed by Czech-American architect, Antonin Raymond, who had also designed a summer house for himself in Karuizawa a few years prior.

I returned back to Kyu-Karuizawa Ginza and stopped for breakfast at French Bakery (フランスベーカリー). John Lennon used to frequent the bakery when he and Yoko Ono stayed in Karuizawa and the bakery proudly displays a poster of him with their baguettes. As is typical in a bakery in Japan you pick up a tray and tongs as you enter and use the tongs to select the baked goods you would like to buy. I ate an edamame and cheese bun which I don't think is very French but was very delicious. I also couldn't resist buying an apple pastry and a bacon and cheese bun to take with me for later.

Continuing up Kyu-Karuizawa Ginza out into the countryside there was a monument to the famous poet Matsuo Basho (松尾 芭蕉) erected in 1843. It displays a haiku that Basho wrote while in the Karuizawa area that reads "馬をさへながむる雪のあした哉". Through looking at a few sources I found that while literally it means something like "even a horse gazing out on a morning of snow" the haiku conveys that on a snowy morning even a horse appears elegant.

I continued along a little farther up the road to the Alexander Croft Shaw House and Memorial Chapel. Shaw was a Canadian Angliclan minister who founded St. Andrew's Church in Tokyo. He has been credited with popularizing Karuizawa as a summer resort when he visited in 1886 and subsequently built a summer home in 1888. Although the buildings were closed when I visited I enjoyed wandering around outside in the lovely setting among the forest.

From Alexander Croft Shaw House and Memorial Chapel I headed back to my hotel to pick up my luggage. My route back took me along a pretty little creek and I couldn't resist taking a few last pictures while I was in Karuizawa.

While Karuizawa was definitely sleepy on my winter morning visit it was a lovely place to walk around for a few hours and I'm glad I had a chance to make the short stop.

Karuizawa Train Station is conveniently located on the Nagano Shinkansen line and takes about 70-80 minutes from Tokyo depending on which Asama train you take. Kumoba Pond is about a 20 minute walk northwest of the the station and Kyu-Karuizawa Ginza is about a 25 minute walk north of the station.

Tuesday
Feb032015

Customizing Curtains with No-Sew Accents

Due to a variety of factors, my sister ended up needing to move in mid-January while she was eight and a half months pregnant. Understandably she was pretty stressed about it so I took a little time off work and headed out to the Seattle for four days to help Melissa and Justin with their move.

Although they had movers, unpacking and organizing was a lot of work, but helping to set up the nursery was a lot of fun. The nursery theme was Dr. Seuss and Melissa had picked out fabric that she wanted to use when we were in Sedona together for a sister vacation in November. I had sewn a few things for the nursery in advance but I also wanted to do something special for the curtains while I was in town. Unfortunately, my sewing machine was back home and my sister doesn't have one so I got creative with some fabric, ribbon, Stitch Witchery (fusible webbing) and an iron.

I started with a pair of red curtains from Target and ironed them flat. I then cut two rectangles of the Dr. Seuss ABC Blocks Adventure Fabric that measured 1-1/2" wider than one of the curtain panels and 1-1/2" taller than the height I wanted the accent to be. I flattened out one of the curtains face up and laid one of the fabric rectangles over the bottom of it, making sure to have 3/4" edge overhanging the curtain and making sure that the bottom of a row of blocks lined up with the bottom edge of the curtain.

I cut a piece of Stitch Witchery the width of the curtain. Carefully lifting the patterned fabric I laid down the Stitch Witchery along the edge of the curtain, replaced the fabric over it and then ironed over it to fuse the fabric to the curtain.

I repeated fusing the fabric to the curtain along the remaining three sides in the same manner. Once it was secured to the front I flipped the curtain over and used the Stitch Witchery to fold the edges over the back and iron the edges in place.

To hide the unfinished edge along the top of the fabric I used more Stitch Witchery to secure a piece of turquoise ribbon over it, making sure to align it with the top edge of a row of blocks.

I repeated the same steps for the second curtain panel and in about a half of an hour I had customized my sister's nursery curtains to match her Dr. Seuss theme. I think they are a cute addition to the nursery and most importantly my sister loved them. 

Sunday
Dec072014

Thanksgiving Getaway to Ft. Lauderdale

This year our Thanksgiving plans fell through at the last minute so instead of staying home Frank and I decided to take a quick trip somewhere. In picking a spot we had two criteria: 1) someplace warm and 2) somewhere that we could get inexpensive flights. I dug around a bit and found a great deal on flights from Detroit to Ft. Lauderdale so off we went for a three day trip.

I found a good deal at the W Hotel so we stayed there for our trip. The hotel was beautiful and modern looking inside and out. Getting mimosas at check-in was a nice touch as well.


Our room was pretty with a clean, streamlined look including a nice little seating area.

The best part of the room by far was our balcony with the amazing views. It was spectacular.

The purpose of this trip was to relax, not sightsee so I decided to book a mani/pedi at Bliss Spa in the hotel. It was a nice way to start our trip.

While in town we enjoyed some great food at restaurants within walking distance of the W. For one of breakfasts we walked south to St. Barts Coffee Company. I enjoyed some delicious croissant french toast while Frank had an omelette. The food was inexpensive and the service was fast making it a good breakfast stop.

Another day we headed to H2O Café for brunch which had a nice outdoor seating area with ocean views. The food (blueberry waffles for me, an omelette for Frank) was good, but the best part was definitely the view.

We had a fabulous lunch at S3, which was conveniently located next door.

For out Thanksgiving dinner we ate at Steak 954, splurging on the amazing seafood platter. The meal was so fantastic I didn't mind not eating a traditional turkey dinner.

The boardwalk and beach along the strip where our hotel was located was really pretty and we enjoyed several lovely strolls. We were lucky to have gorgeous weather and didn't miss the cold back home one bit.

We spent a good bit of time relaxing at the pool, soaking up the sun and reading. The weather was really beautiful.

One of the neat things about the pool was the passageway that lead down a flight of stairs through the pool into the lobby. It was a really cool, unique feature.

We also enjoyed some beautiful sunset views. The beach was to the east, but to the west over the Intracoastal Waterway the sunset was quite lovely.

Our impromptu trip may have been short, but it was very relaxing and it was so nice to escape the cold Ann Arbor weather for a few days. It definitely wasn't a traditional Thanksgiving but it was a nice escape for us.

Monday
Nov242014

Relaxing at L'Auberge de Sedona

At the beginning of November my sister and I went on a long weekend getaway to Sedona. She is expecting her first little one in a few months so we wanted to have a trip together before her baby arrives. As part of our relaxing we spent a morning at L'Auberge de Sedona, which is a beautiful resort situated on the banks of the Oak Creek. We started off our visit by getting massages at the spa, L’Apothecary, located in a cute rustic building.

After checking in at the front desk we headed to the women's locker room to change into our robes. I snuck a few pictures with my iPhone when no one else was in there.

From there we headed to the sitting area where we sipped on some tea while waiting for our masseuses.

Our massages, maternity for my sister and deep-tissue for me, were fantastic. After we changed back into our street clothes we headed back to the lobby of the spa. Our masseuses left us notes with the products they had used during our massages in case we wanted to purchase them to take home.

Feeling refreshed from our massages we walked over to the L’Auberge Restaurant on Oak Creek for their Sunday champagne brunch. The setting of the restaurant was fantastic with tiered terraces overlooking the creek. My sister and I got a fantastic table right next to the water.

The bruch buffet was wonderful with a variety of delicious foods. I indulged in a mimosa while my sister enjoyed some sparkling water. I particularly loved the desserts, like the key lime cheesecake and the peanut butter mousse in a chocolate bowl.

One of the cool things about being right on the creek was watching the ducks swim by and wander up on the banks. Pictures just don't do justice to the beauty of it all.

We had a fantastic time relaxing at L'Auberge de Sedona and I would definitely recommend it to anyone visiting Sedona who is in the mood for a little pampering.

Monday
Nov172014

Pickled Beets

Growing up I have always loved pickled beets so when I saw a large basket of beets for $3.99 at Block's Farm Stand I decided I need to put some up this year. I have my grandmother's recipe that I grew up with, but to be on the safe side I used the vinegar/water/sugar/salt proportions recommended by the NCHFP but adapted their recipe to taste like my grandma's recipe by omitting the cloves and onions.

My girlfriend, Sylwia, came over and we spent a fun evening pickling the beets. It ended up taking quite a while since the basket ended up making three batches of the recipe, but at the end of the night we had 24 half pints of delicious pickled beets. It's like having a taste of my childhood in a jar.

Ingredients
- 7 pounds beets
- 4 cups vinegar (5 percent)
- 1-1/2 teaspoons pickling salt
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups water
- 2 cinnamon sticks

Directions
Scrub beets thoroughly and cook until tender in boiling water (about 25 to 30 minutes).

Drain the beets, discard the liquid and let the beets cool. Slip off the skins or peel them if the skins are being a little stubborn. Slice the beets into 1/4-inch slices. I used an egg slicer which worked really well.

Combine vinegar, salt, sugar, cinnamon and fresh water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Add beets and simmer for five minutes.

If you aren't familiar with canning, I cover the basics in my post about canning applesauce. Remove the cinnamon and fill jars with beets leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Pour hot vinegar solution over the beets leaving 1/2-inch headspace.

If you are at sea level (altitudes less than 1000 feet) then you will need to process pint or quart jars for 30 minutes. If you are at a higher altitude check the NCHFP processing times for pickled beets.