Eleven is Hogwarts. Also: The Best Ever Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pasty Recipe

27 04 2013

Oops I forgot to Instagram this yesterday.

My daughter has been really into Harry Potter lately. Which I approve of, of course. Except that, to be honest, I can feel my position as Family Expert on the Wizarding World slipping away as she gets nerdier about it. She keeps quizzing me on little details and while I do pretty well for the most part so far, I can tell it’s not long before she wins that game.


In any case, the traditional celebration for eleven is Harry Potter, of course. And even though I swore off any more birthday parties until she turns 18, I totally got sucked into another one this year. And it was really, really fun. This is the kind of party I could do over and over again. I did some sewing, I did some baking, we had the party at a park, I did nothing else. WIN! Money is very tight right now so my goal with this party was to make due with what resources I have on hand as much as possible. Not counting the food, I probably spent just over $30 on this party. WIN! WIN!

magic stones and wands by ollivander

The thing about inheriting rocks is that from now on all your kids’ birthday parties will be heavily infused with rocks. For a Wizarding World-themed birthday, the rocks become magic stones the kids can take home. A giant slab of quartz geode can become a perfect weight for keeping the handmade goodie bags from blowing away. Tapers can sit in a little glass bowl filled with garnets. Because what the hell else will you do with all these damn rocks? I don’t know if it’s ghetto as hell or just awesome to send my friends’ kids home with rocks, but it seemed to be well received.

what? you don't use fancy polished geodes as paperweights at your kids' parties?

My life is so weird.

I don’t know a lot about sewing. I’ve been playing around with it since I was a kid so I know the basicest basics. But I’m the kind of sewing person (sorry, I can’t call myself a sewer in writing) who needs to google how to thread a machine every time she uses it. But I knew people did sewy things for birthdays so I decided to give it a shot. AND I DID SUPER AWESOME. I made little bags for the favors in house colors without even using a pattern. For the flag banners I read a how-to post online, but no real pattern there, either. I am so stinking proud of myself.


But even more exciting than that is the fact that I’ve finally found a kickass gluten-free pasty recipe. (That’s pass-tee, not paste-y. Just to be clear.) I’ve been trying to find one ever since we went gluten free and I’ve tried various ideas, but none have really worked very well. It’s the gluten that makes dough so flexible, so it’s hard to replicate in this sort of recipe where flexibility is so important. But these are not only workable, but they are strong and flaky. I’ve honestly never had any gluten-free pastry taste so gluteny. The original recipe for the crust is here, but I had to tweak it a little bit because my kids are sensitive to waaaay more things than just gluten. We’ve made this recipe with various meat fillings, too, and it’s delicious savory or sweet. I’m dying to try it with scrambled eggs and bacon or nut butter and jelly. For the pumpkin filling I used a modified version of the pumpkin pie recipe from the La Leche League cookbook. Here’s the whole recipe, put together.

pumpkin pasties

For The Pastry
2 cups white rice flour
1 cup tapioca flour
1/2 cup quinoa flour
1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp xanthan gum
2 eggs
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
8-10 Tablespoons cold water
1 c water
1 c palm shortening
1 egg, for glazing

In a large bowl mix together the rice flour, tapioca, quinoa flour, xanthan gum, and salt. Cut the palm shortening into the flour mixture using a pastry cutter. Continue mixing until the dough looks like small peas or a sand like texture.

In another bowl mix the apple cider vinegar, eggs, and cold water.

Slowly combine the liquid with the flour, kneading to incorporate all of the water.

Once all the liquid has been added knead for 1-2 minutes to ensure everything is combined well. The dough should be slightly sticky but not too wet.

Cover the dough and refrigerate for 1 hour. (I didn’t really do this step because I am lazy.)

For The Filling

1/2 can butternut squash (I KNOW. Even the “pumpkin” is a lie. But you can totally use pumpkin.) (You can freeze the rest of the squash or double the pastry part of the recipe.)
1 egg
1/8 cup sugar
1 tablespoon molasses
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Mix all that together.

Putting It All Together

Preheat the oven to 425. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Take a palm-sized ball of dough (that’s palm of your hand, not palm tree, to be clear) and roll it smooth before flattening it into a circle. Drop a small dollop of the pumpkin mixture in the center and carefully fold the pasty in half, pinching it closed into a half-circle.

Once all your pasties are ready to go, brush with beaten egg to give them that pretty, shiny glaze. Put them in the over for 15 minutes at 425, then lower the temperature to 350 until the pasties are beautifully golden.


And then I made a costume.

30 10 2012

there are weeping angels in balboa park, you guys

My grandmother was a second mom to me, and since she was quite the seamstress, I grew up around sewing machines. I knew the basics of how to start and stop. I’d seen her cut out countless patterns over my lifetime. I even know how to go look up a pattern and then pull it from the drawer (by taking a big, long, sniff of the drawer. I love sniffing books, but there’s nothing quite like a pattern drawer. Mmmm). I’d even sewed Margie a dress when she was about 18 months old. But my sewing machine had started missing stitches and I didn’t have the money for a tuneup so I let it gather dust in my closet.

And at some point I lost my confidence. I think it might have something to do with knitting. As I got more experienced in that skill, I saw how much work it took to learn new things and to be good at them. It was overwhelming to have to start at the beginning again (essentially) with a different craft.

And then I inherited like four more sewing machines.

So, with a newly tuned up old machine, I decided I’d try my hand at making Elliott’s Halloween costume. He wanted to be a Weeping Angel and at first I was all OH HELL NO, because I’d seen this tutorial and got really insecure. But I took a deep breath and realized it was quite simple, actually. A kid’s Halloween costume doesn’t have to be as complex as an adult cosplayer’s. (And if he chooses to wear this at Gallifrey One next winter, I’m adding a sign that says it’s the first thing I ever sewed. Then it will look AMAZING in context.)

So anyway. I asked on Facebook for ideas in making the costume. I thought I’d buy a pattern for a simple dress, but my friend Mariah (who makes delicious allergy friendly candy) was all, “Nah, for a tunic you don’t need a pattern.” So I started doing that thing where I think I know what I’m doing when I really don’t. Just to be responsible, I did look for a pattern at JoAnn’s, but they didn’t have anything in Elliott’s size. Basically, it’s like JoAnn’s was egging me on.

I did not take in-process shots because I didn’t want step-by-step close-up shots of my failures. But here’s what I did. I looked up tunic how-to’s and followed this one. Sort of. I decided I didn’t like they way they folded it. I did some sort of crazy math in my head and decided they were wrong, so I folded it the other way. Long way first. I think. Luckily for me, this isn’t a tutorial. It’s just a blog post. FOLLOW ME NOT, INTERWEBZ.

I grabbed one of the t-shirts Elliott wears for pajamas and folded it, laid it on the folded fabric and lightly traced an outline for the dress. I made it even bigger than necessary because I knew I’d want it drapey and loose. I did not trace the sleeves. Weeping Angels just say no to sleeves. The better to grab you and send you back in time to let you live to death. Or something.

And then I got ready to sew.

So I fixed a broken needle.

And I threaded the machine.

And I tried to load the bobbin, but nothing happened.

When you inherit a machine that’s 30 years old, it usually doesn’t come with the manual. Luckily for you, the Internet has your back and has it loaded somewhere online. In fact, that’s how you learned to change the broken needle and thread the machine. But it was entirely unhelpful when you couldn’t figure out why nothing was happening when you followed the directions to load the bobbin. So you call your aunt (the machine belonged to her mother, after all, it’s her responsibility) and she comes over and adds some WD-40 and BOOM. Bobbin loaded. You are quite pleased with yourself, even though it was technically your aunt that fixed it.

And then I sewed it. And you know what? It WORKED. I even made some of the seam look relatively straightish. If you just look at this small section.

That seam is relatively kind of straightish. Go me!

This is the sort of thing that makes me cocky. I have essentially no sewing experience but I decide to just make up a pattern one day and it works just fine. Next thing you know, I’m going to think I can sew an orca and it will take me YEARS.

My plan for the hat was similar. In that I had no plan. I also did not have a child at home that weekend to try the hat on so I had to guess. Luckily my kids have big heads and mine is small. So we pretty much have the same size head. I cast on and knit a couple of rows 1×1 ribbing so it wouldn’t roll, and then I switched to knitting two rows, followed by purling one row. I made sure to make a line of purl stitches going up the front to act as a part in the hair. Once the hat was complete, I took the rest of the yarn and braided it, sewed the braid into a bun and stitched it onto the back of the hat. BOOM. Hat-wig-thing.

The wings were a little harder in theory because I wasn’t sure where to start. For one thing when we cleaned out my mom’s house last year, I threw away all the wire hangers. So I looked for wings that had the right general shape, but was mostly not finding anything remotely Weeping Angelish. Until I went to Michael’s for felt. They had a pair of perfectly-shaped angel wings ON CLEARANCE. Because The Universe was trying to be a sewing enabler by making this project easy.


So I bought them and all the gray felt that was on the shelf. I cut the shelf to the shape of the wings and used my cordless cold heat glue gun (they DO exist!) to glue them on. That’s easier said than done. When you are gluing large things, the first glue dries before you get to put it all together. So I learned quickly to do it little by little. And then I spent the next several hours cutting out feathers. I even took some to knitting group to work on last week (we don’t discriminate against non-knitting projects). Only I forgot my big, sexy fabric scissors and it turns out that using little clippers to do serious cutting is quite painful on the knuckles. But what’s a little crafting without bone bruises? WIMP CRAFTING. That’s what.

And then we put it all together. No bad, actually. I took the kids to Balboa Park over the weekend and impressed a lot of people with the homemade costume. Yay me!

Next I think I’m going to go sew some pillow cases or, if I get ambitious, pajama pants.

Dapper Day at Disneyland

9 09 2012

Dapper Day outfit. This is what I came up with on short notice (cause its not like I've known since February or anything) and on a budget. Does it work? What kind of purse would I need?

Earlier this year when we went to Disneyland on a Sunday in February we saw people dressed up in retro-style fancy clothes. Mostly 40’s, but some from the 50’s or 60’s, and a few modern formals. At nearly the last minute we gathered the courage to ask some of them what was going on and they pointed us to Dapper Day. AND THEN WE DECIDED TO DO IT.

I had seven months to plan an outfit so naturally I waited until the last two weeks. I hit all the stores in the mall and unsurprisingly found nothing. I hit a few vintage shops and found some cute things, but none in my size. I had this sweater hanging n my closet (I know sweaters shouldn’t hang, don’t judge.) that my grandma had knit my mom back in the actual 60’s so I decided to build an outfit around it. I found an appropriate skirt at Target, some cute shoes, and I even bought nylons. I KNOW. The outfit wasn’t as fancy as most of the ones we saw, but I was wearing nylons and heels dammit. I found a satchel that worked as a work bag so I decided that my character was a librarian on her way to work. And then I had a nail polish snafu which resulted in red nail polish so I decided that my character was a slutty librarian on her way to work. Because red is such a slutty color. In 1963.

And then I got my crafty on. I like reading how Jen at Epbot creates her own jewelry from odds and ends she has saved because they look cool. Mostly I just like reading it. I’m rarely inspired to do it because I am very lazy. But I happened to have some odds and ends that would make a fantastic distractor and pull the outfit together. Years ago I’d bought a pair of cat-eye sunglasses at the swap meet for like $5. I loved the idea, but they never felt right with any of my outfits so I never wore them. But they were perfect for this. I popped the lenses out (because I do not wear my sunglasses at night) and decided they needed a chain. I knew I had a broken string of pearls that I thought might work, but I also thought that was too… big? for an eyeglass chain so I considered adding pearls to bits of chain. And then I wandered into my bedroom and found EXACTLY that. I’d forgotten I even had it. It had larger pearls on it, too, but I took them off and reconnected the chain together, and then added large jump rings which I smooshed (technical beading term) into ovals to fit on the glasses. Perfect. And I felt all sorts of crafty. Even though I hardly did anything. Like I said. Lazy.

Old timey.

So off we went to Disneyland, dapper as hell (new blog tagline?). Here is a very blurry picture of us. Some lady took it and was so proud of it that I didn’t have the heart to ask her to take it again. But it is also the best picture of all our outfits. That’s my friend Kathy, me, Katie and Summer.

we totally ate here*

My heels made it nearly the whole night but I had come prepared with a pair of flats tucked away in my satchel so I changed shoes around 10pm. I impressed myself with my heel-stamina.

iphone selfie

We hope to go again next February. And this time, maybe I’ll sew a cute dress. Or just buy one from Modcloth. Whichever.

The Shiny

18 04 2012

I have a lot of sewing machines. I don’t (yet) sew. I’m not hoarding these machines, though, I’m getting rid of them. Well, most of them. Well, half of them. Just a regular sewing machine and the serger because I’m told I need it. But, sadly, I’m getting rid of this pretty shiny one. I would have kept it, but it only does a straight stitch and I’m told I need more than that. Instead Yara (who may or may not be hoarding sewing machines) is going to keep it. To help me deal with this loss of Shiny, I’ve taken pictures. To help me look like I’m blogging more than I actually am, I’m posting them here.





Z is for Spy. I may need some help with my alphabet.

21 12 2011

I’ve known Brenda online for awhile now. And then there was that day when I met her in person for the first time in a public bathroom. What? That’s normal. And we’ve since graduated to outside-of-bathroom social gatherings, too.

Brenda’s an incredible artist and has recently written some children’s books. Secret Agent Josephine’s ABC’s, Numbers and Colors. When she asked me this summer (outside of a bathroom) if I’d like to join her book tour, I jumped at the chance. Her books are, as can be expected, super cute. The colors are crisp and bright on the Nook. The books are full of humor. My kids already know their numbers, letters and colors, but we all (me, too!) enjoyed the books. My personal favorite is Numbers because it is FULL of awesome spy gadgets I need to have. Margie loves Colors, particularly for the page about the polar bear. Elliott just loves ABC books. Seriously, he’s six and a half and he’s known his alphabet since he was 2 and he still checks out ABC books from the library every week.

Since today is the beginning of 7 Days (it starts on a Wednesday this time! My brain is broken) and that coincided with my turn on the book tour, the kids and I decided to dress up as spies. I am considering wearing this mustache everywhere I go today. Guys, I know kung fu.

7 Days: Day 1 (Z is for Spy. I may need some help with my alphabet.)


Here are the links to where you can buy the books on any format (we loved it on the Nook!).
Amazon: Colors, Numbers, ABC’s
iBooks: Colors, Numbers, ABC’s
Barnes and Noble: Colors, Numbers, ABC’s

And guess what? One lucky reader will get to win a print! This print:

Just leave a comment below and I’ll choose a winner a week from today.

UPDATE: Contest is over and the winner is announced here!

7 Days: Day 5 (Overexposed) (Not DEAD)

22 06 2011

7 Days: Day 5 (Overexposed)

Overexposed against a while wall. Maybe not the most creative idea, but it’s the best I had. I even put on lipstick for you people. You’re welcome.

Only then Summer made me think I looked dead and I had to clarify that I looked artistic and that’s totally different. And now I may or may not be creeped out by my own photo. (Hint: I am.)

And THEN I noticed I look very beard-y in this photo, thanks to the flash. Which amuses me slightly. But only slightly. In any case, this photo is falling out of favor quickly.

And here’s another picture I took today. Just a hint of posts to come!

Happy Thing: Carving Stamps

That Darn Orca (Starring Hayley Mills)

25 05 2011

That’s a lie. Hayley Mills has absolutely nothing to do with this. But I do remember her on Saved By the Bell before it was called Saved by the Bell (it was called Good Morning, Miss Bliss). And that also has nothing to do with anything.

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” – Douglas Adams

(I will only stop quoting Douglas Adams when he stops being so damn relevant.)

Last year I was making all those cute amigurumi animals, remember? They were fun and easy and quick to knit. So when I saw that Knit Picks was selling the pattern for an orca I coveted it at once. I posted the link on Facebook and the next thing I knew Bethany had commissioned me to make it for Annalie. This was back in August I think.

Deadline #1: Bethany’s Baby Shower
I wasn’t ready with her actual baby shower gift yet so I thought a fantastic placeholder would be the orca with an IOU note.


Happy Thing: FINISHED Orca (Swimming Amongst the Books)

As it turns out the orca involved a few things I’d never done before. I had to learn a crochet cast-on (and later how to pick up those stitches and knit in the opposite direction) and the whole thing surprised me by being done in intarsia. Probably in the future I will read patterns more clearly before I go proclaiming how I want to knit them. (Read patterns clearly? No I won’t. Why lie?) But no big deal, because I can learn stuff and I should learn stuff and I enjoy learning stuff. So it’s all good, just a surprise. However. I’m a sporadic knitter at best, and when there is thinking to be done I find myself not only putting off projects more than usual, but also finding it more difficult to find time to do the knitting requiring the thinking. My usual knitting is done in front of the TV or chatting with friends. I can’t multi-task. I am physically incapable of it. So Knitting With Thinking requires my full attention. Which makes it even more sporadic.

Deadline #2: Christmas
Bethany said, “No problem! I’ll just give it to Annalie for Christmas!”


the orca waves to you

After I got well into the body of the orca, I noticed the number of white stitches was off. The total number of stitches I had on the needles were right, but the number of white ones was wrong. I was confused. I puzzled over that for days. Weeks, maybe. I even took the pattern to my friend Karen who is Expert at All Things Fiber and she and I puzzled over that pattern for a full half hour before we figured out what I’d done wrong. Before this I’d never knit from a chart before and I decidedly do not like it, but I cannot tell if this problem was caused by me being inexperienced or if the chart itself is just really stupid. Anyway, after some frogging I was back on track and knitted away. By the time I got to the end of the chart, though, it was clearly Very, Very Stupid as it made some stitches magically disappear without any warning. I decided at that point it was best to ignore the chart and make up my own rules. It seems to have worked out well for the orca. And my sanity.

Deadline #3: Annalie’s Birthday
Bethany said, “No problem! We’ll just give it to Annalie for her birthday!”


fins in the RIGHT place

And then, when I was still possibly on timeish maybe, and certainly only two steps away from being finished, I sewed the pectoral fins on exactly where the pattern told me to, took a step back and looked at it and wondered why on Earth the fins were on the bottom of the damn orca. At which point my brain exploded all over the place. By this time I was certain that there must be reviews online about how this pattern is wrong and wrong and also wrong, but I didn’t find anything. In fact, when I looked it up on Ravelry, I saw that every single person had the fins sewn onto the bottom of the orca. I cannot figure out what to make of this. It is clearly not right. It looks strange and doesn’t begin to match the picture on the pattern itself. And yet I am the only one to have noticed? Or am I just the only one to speak up? It’s like I fell into Bizarro World only I haven’t yet met Me-With-a-Mustache (that’s how you can tell which one is the evil version of you).

Despite needing a few days to recover from that I probably would have made it on time but then Matt Lauer screwed everything up.

And so. I fail at deadlines. And, Bethany, I am so, so sorry.

But! I ROCK at orcas! Look how awesome he is. Very, very awesome.

handy travel-size orca

And poor Bethany has told me she feels awkward for putting me in the place of having to struggle with this project (meanwhile I feel awkward not doing it faster or better since she commissioned the project) but it’s really like how your little sister drives you nuts and you complain about her all the time and you love to complain about her all the time, but you still love her to pieces not so far underneath all the complaining? I mean. I don’t have a sister, but I assume that’s how it is. Anyway, that’s how it is with this orca. I don’t regret him one bit. All the confusion and stress I felt while making him makes me even prouder that I finally finished him (*cough*three deadlines later*cough*).

And my orca? He’s the one with the fins in the right place.

So thank you, Bethany – I honestly mean it! Now all I have to do is not procrastinate getting him in the mail. Let’s say by Annalie’s next birthday?