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.


PhotoJojo University

21 04 2013

Back in March I took a month-long iPhoneography class from PhotoJojo. It was a really fun class that pointed me to some cool new apps, showed me a few things about my phone I wasn’t aware of before, and taught me some techniques I’ve been having fun playing with. These are my favorite photos from the class.

#pjuniversity Tower. Double exposed.

#pjuniversity #nofilter Squirrel's eye view.

Pine and oak bokeh. #pjuniversity

And then we practiced quidditch. #pjuniversity #fastcamera Contrast adjusted in #snapseed

7 Days: Day 3 (Triplets)

#slowshutter #snapseed

The rest of the Yule pictures.

22 12 2012

We decorated the house.


When I was a kid my grandma had this little village she’d set up every year and I ADORED it. When she died, someone offered it to me, but I couldn’t take it. Because, as an adult, I now realize it was ugly as sin. Inadvertently, I’ve spent the last years collecting various little houses and trees during Christmas clearances, and I realize now that these are becoming my village.

We made Yule candles. And then I added Frankincense and Myrrh because why not?

We rolled candles out of beeswax to light on Yule. I set up the chimes on the altar.

Yule altar.



We drove to look at holiday lights.

Holiday of lights.

And then my kids woke up at 4:30am. Which was not cool at all. But, almost two and a half hours later, we saw the sunrise.

Solstice sunrise.

Chimes for the sun.

Sunrise watchers

And the world did not end. Which was good, because I’d bought a ham for dinner.

Yule Dinner. All sorts of foods we shouldn't be eating. Wish us luck.

And Yule is the one day of the year that I actually find a mess joyful.

Yep. That's how it works. And this doesn't even include the mess of Legos being built in the other room.

Happy Yule!

A Very Disney Holiday

14 12 2012

decorated castle

I started this before the horrible news from Connecticut broke. But now we can especially use the holiday cheer. And you know what? Peace on Earth. Every day. Please?

holiday decorations

Also I have nothing to say here that the pictures cannot say.


small world

small world

There is just one moon and one golden sun, and a smile means friendship to everyone.

(Sorry for the ear worm. But the lyrics are good even if they are cheesy.)

Kayaking: Mostly Less Scary This Time.

10 09 2012

row o' kayaks

Remember when I went sea kayaking without understanding the phrase “sea kayaking”? This time I was somewhat more prepared. Also, there was less “sea”.

We met the kayak people at Shelter Island which is not even a real island. Nor is it even real. In that is is a man-made isthmus-shaped peninsula. In any case, it had no breaking waves to kick my ass so our takeoff was smooth. (Can I say “takeoff” in relation to kayaking?)


Once our whole group was floating, we headed off along the bay. Last time we kayaked it was in La Jolla, which is Spanish for “the jewel” and rightly so. La Jolla is amazing. San Diego bay is nice because there is water and ocean life and sky, but it’s less naturey since it’s full of moored boats, and surrounded by Navy sites. So visually the two are quite different, but this trip was quite exciting, too. We passed some people working with the Navy’s dolphins and got a little show as we passed. We saw this really weird ship that flips itself sideways into the water without spilling a drop of coffee. And we saw a building sort of thing that lowers totally into the bay in order to bring submarines up to be worked on when needed. The Navy is way more interesting than I ever thought.

kayak and paddle

We also saw sea lions. We were warned that the sea lions were, um, extra matey right now. And I don’t mean “matey” in the Talk Like a Pirate Day kind of way. I mean in the twitterpated kind of way. So they were swimming around us in pairs, hopefully not mating right at that moment. I’m choosing to believe they were merely at the flirting stage and hadn’t even French-kissed. At one point (and this was the scary part) I had been trying to get a picture of one who was nearby when suddenly he was NEAR.BY. Like I could have probably pet him if I was stupid. Luckily I am not. So I put down the camera and paddled the hell away. And that’s why I have no good pictures of sea lions.

i was there, too.

I love kayaking for a lot of reasons, but my favorite part yesterday was the smooth movement over the water. I could feasibly live somewhere that I needed to commute by kayak. Somewhere like Venice. Which is known for its kayaking. And also has incredible coffee.

We theoretically have another date coming up soon to explore a whole other area of San Diego Bay which I think includes a trip under the World’s Scariest Bridge. But I don’t think it’s so scary being under it so probably I’ll be OK without Xanax. Probably.


Meeting The Internet, Part 3: The Bloggess

16 08 2012

they set her up in the children's section

Why do internet-famous people only come here during the summer? Two summers ago we met Jen from CakeWrecks, and last year we met Dancing Matt. This week we got to meet The Bloggess, and check another one off our list. (We’re almost done meeting the Internet now, right?)

So the kids and I picked up my aunt and we met Summer and Katie at the bookstore. We left earlier than probably necessary because I am scared of north county and also traffic in north county. Once on the road I realized I hadn’t triple-checked to make sure I knew where I was going so there was a possibility of adventure. A possibility which did not pan out because, as it turned out, I did know where I was going. (I know. Weird, right?)


So we wound up in the front row and had actual chairs and everything. We chatted and ate leftover camping chocolate (leftover. chocolate. I know). At some point a bunch of people took a group picture of themselves with metal chickens. This is normal stuff for Bloggess fans (we call ourselves Lawsbians). As the time drew near, the guy in charge of setting this whole thing up made some announcements including one that was all, “Oh and if you brought children, you should be warned that there might be some material unsuitable for innocent ears.” At which point I was all, “DUDE. Who are these kids and why are they calling me mommy? I know them not!” And also? We were all sitting in the children’s section. When Jenny got there she loved that bit.


So she read a chapter all about laxatives and possible rapists passing her notes under her bathroom door. And Margie may or may not be scarred for life. She told me later, “I didn’t understand any of it. It was just weird.” Elliott, on the other hand (the child I was positive I could count on not paying attention because he was drawn into his Angry Birds game), laughed heartily every time she said the word “bathroom”. Apparently, when bathrooms are involved, he can multi-task extremely well.

margie, possibly scarred for life

And now let me back up about 25 years for a minute. There was a night when I was a kid when my grandma became obsessed with the idea that I needed to pick a vase to inherit. As a nine-year-old, vases weren’t really my thing, so I kind of didn’t care, but she wouldn’t let it go. I remember being a little bit freaked out, actually, by her incessant vase-pushing. Looking back, I realize she was probably a little drunk and honestly that explains a lot. Who else pushes vases on nine-year-olds? She eventually picked one for me and stuck my name to it with tape so that when she died, everyone would know to make sure I got it. Years later, after she passed, I asked my family if they’d found my vase. Not necessarily because I wanted my damn inheritance, actually. It was mainly to fact-check myself. But no one knew anything about it, so I assumed it was some weird childhood hallucination.

there's a story that goes with this

Until last summer. When I found it sitting in my mom’s house. Now, one could assume she simply hadn’t noticed the tape on the bottom of the vase. Except that I found numerous references to the whole story in her various angry letters to me that she’d written on her computer and/or the backs of paper plates. Luckily I’m barely even scarred by any of that. In fact, I keep the vase in my living room where I think of drunk, vase-obsessed grandmas, and angry paper-plate-letters and chuckle about it to myself. Fucked-up families are totally the funniest ones.

the vase

Anyway. Back to 2012. I’d already bought Jenny’s book on my Nook, but since you can’t really get that signed (or I guess I could, but it might be very confusing while I’m reading Anansi Boys), I decided to buy my aunt a copy of the book. And I was going to tell her that she better make sure I get it when she dies (cause, you know, family tradition) when I had a better idea. I could have Jenny write it in there. Jenny thought it was brilliant. As I knew she would. THIS is why we need to be BFFs.

it's a family tradition

Summer and Katie weren’t going to participate in the book signing portion of the evening so they headed out after the reading was done. I kicked myself for that later, realizing that they should have at least stayed to get a picture with her. Oh well. She promises to write another book. So next time. My aunt, missing my mom, was drawn to the fact that Jenny’s sister, Lisa, was there with her, so she made her hop in the picture with us as well.

jenny's sister, jenny, luanne, elliott, and me

It was a great evening. Laughter, scarring my kids for life publicly, chocolate, and, of course, meeting the Internet.

The Sharks Were a No-Show

13 08 2012

It’s the time of year when the leopard sharks come to San Diego’s shores. I’ve always wanted to go and now I have an underwater camera so I pretty much have to go. Also, I think it’s good therapy fodder for when my kids are grown: “And this one summer? She made us SWIM. WITH. SHARKS.”


Only the sharks didn’t show up (my kids may or may not have been somewhat relieved). So instead we had to, like, just enjoy the beach or whatever. Meh.


Kidding. It was lovely. A tiny beach with clear water, a sunny day, excellent parking provided by the parking gods, and the water wasn’t even as frigid as usual (it was only slightly frigid). At one point I forced the kids to sit with my purse safely away from the waves while I took a short turn swimming by myself. It was either win or child neglect. One of those.

and then i made the kids sit with my stuff while i went to swim.

Days like this make me remember that I don’t hate the beach. Days like this even make me wish I owned a house on a beach. Days like this? Are totally weird. But wonderful.

goofy kids