Archive for October, 2013

Fall Foliage 2013: Where We Hiked

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

Our Fall Foliage adventure this year took us from meandering forest creek beds to colorful and quaking aspens and the beautiful and warm red rock of Sedona.

Wildcat Spring Trail
We started our trip heading down one of the nicest forest roads I’ve ever been on in Arizona that took us to the Pivot Canyon campground. Most of the guides available say the campground is unsigned, but when we got to it, there was in fact a sign. The trail meanders along a creek bed that was currently dry in the fall weather. The going was easy and the weather was perfect. The lush ferns this trail is known for had started to retreat with the cold but there were still patches of gorgeous wildflowers here and there. The patches of shimmering limestone were particularly beautiful along the trail and we even had a little hawk buddy come and perch on a branch to see what we were up to. We ran into very few people along the trail so I would hike this one with a buddy. I would love to visit this area in the spring or summer and repeat the Wildcat Spring Trail as well as the other two trails that start at the campground.

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Lamar Haines Wildlife Area/Veit Springs Trail
The Veit Springs Trail is right off Snowbowl Rd and is probably the easiest hike you are going to get in the area. The coolest thing about it is the variety of trees and trail that you get. There are beautiful groves of Aspen intermingled with the other trees, which is a little unusual, as on most of the other trails the Aspen seem to grow on their own. The quaking of Aspen leaves in the breeze could be heard throughout the entire journey. There is also a cabin from 1892 but be prepared as even relatively recent photos don’t show the recent reclamation by time of the cabin. As legend goes some bandits hid in the cabin with their loot and a bit of mystery still surrounds the place. Pictographs on rocks and symbols carved into the Aspens near the cabin deepen the mystery surrounding the area. The hike itself was fun but in order to find all the attractions you basically have to go on your own treasure hunt a little off trail.

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Slide Rock State Park
I love our Arizona state parks and the little gems of beauty they hold and Slide Rock is no exception. Slide Rock is on the property of an old apple orchard and is so named because the water from Oak Creek running over the rocks create a natural waterslide that is a most popular attraction in the Arizona summer heat. Visiting in the fall was great as the apples are in season and you can purchase one or a whole bunch to try. The trail above the rocks is more of a walk than a hike, but you are surrounded by red Sedona cliffs in the distance and this definitely feels like a magical place. The walk down at the creek is amazing and even in the cooler fall temps was filled with tourists and brave children jumping into the icy cold water. I had seen many pictures and video of Slide Rock but there is something that can’t be captured that makes it worth experiencing in person.

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Want to see more fall foliage photos? Check out our photostream on Flickr.

Fall Foliage 2013: Where We Stayed

Monday, October 14th, 2013

Finding the perfect cabin for a Wilderness Weekend can be a tough job. We like to feel as if we are somewhere remote and secluded but we don’t want to be too far from town for shopping and dining options. We get excited about a rustic “cabin-y” feel but we’re pretty attached to electricity and running water. We want to be cozy but still have plenty of sitting room so we can hang out together and we need good light for the inevitable crafting that will occur. A fireplace or fire pit for s’mores is an absolute necessity and Jenny loves bunk beds so we can have a sleepover.

Last year we stayed at Seed Tree Ranch which we thought had it all. It was just a few minutes off the highway, had ample land for hiking and elk-watching and there were bunk beds. We had such a good time there last year that we would have gladly stayed again except for the fact that it is enormous. There are so many beds and bedrooms that it is best suited for a large group. If your wilderness crew is 8 -10 people it would be perfect but for only 4 ladies it is less affordable than many of the other options. So began Christie’s quest to find us a different cabin.

This year Christie scored a major find with the Flying Horse Get Away. This property has so much to offer. The location is ideal in that it feels remote but the highway is right there and Flagstaff is just a few minutes’ drive. The land is adjacent to the national forest and scenic walking trails so lovely that you really don’t ever have to leave the property to have a wilderness experience.

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Flying Horse Get Away

Inside, the cabin has some rustic details like the lovely exposed wood railing to the 2nd floor and the flagstone fireplace but there are all of the modern conveniences as well. The full kitchen was well stocked with all the gadgets we needed and we were able to eat in for a few meals to save money and enjoy some great recipes we love to share like Christina’s delightful chicken chili blanco and Jenny’s mulled wine. The master bedroom on the first floor ended up being our “luggage suite” because it is next to the full bath.

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First floor, from kitchen

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Jenny in the kitchen

We slept upstairs because the enormous second floor room had enough beds that we could all sleep together just like a sleepover. The bathrooms were updated and linens were provided. The living room was well stocked with fire wood. There were books and board games and we brought our favorite DVD’s (Pitch Perfect and Troop Beverly Hills) but if you want it Direct TV and wireless internet are available. For cell phone service Verizon seemed to work pretty well but AT&T struggled to connect so we had to wait to get into town to upload some of our social media pics.

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Panoramic view of 2nd floor bedroom

The house itself is a duplex. The rental property is on the left and the owner’s residence is on the right. At no point did we feel crowded or infringed upon in any way. True, it is not the same as not being unable to see another home for miles, but owner Valerie Hannemann is incredibly accommodating, goes out of her way to make sure her guests are comfortable and is quick with a suggestion for a good restaurant or local activity. We saw her a few times during our stay and really enjoyed conversation with her. It is easy to see that she’s alright by her love for animals and by how obviously they love her back — a dog is a good judge of character.

If you want to bring your pets — cats, dogs, goats, horses, etc. — they’re all welcome at Flying Horse Get Away. If you leave your friends at home Valerie’s hounds Dixie and Lucy and her corgi Katie will help keep you from being too homesick. During our visit there were four horses on property. Valerie’s guys Kidd and Cowboy had their friend Caliente staying in the paddock and her girl Leo was in the other paddock. The horses were very friendly and excited every time we arrived at the gate to pet them feed them carrots.

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Jenny and Rachael take a walk with the dogs

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Caliente the horse

Last but not least, I was pleasantly surprised to find that this cabin home has several sustainable features built in. All of the light fixtures were lit by energy saving compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL’s). The cabin is heated by clean burning propane and has a programmable thermostat with a reminder to please lower the heating set point when you leave the building or go to bed. Outside, Valerie is considering converting the barn to solar power for lights and water trough warmers. She’s already made great sustainable progress by installing two 2500 gallon cisterns to catch all of the water from the barn roof. This summer alone they’ve each filled twice and she hasn’t had to buy a drop of water to care for the animals on property. Where there are horses there is manure and Valerie is using that to create mulch and fertilizer which she uses to reclaim some abandoned roadways. Patches of land that used to be muddy tire ruts are now lush green areas of growth.

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Rain water cistern and barn

If you’re thinking about a wilderness weekend of your own and want a great place to stay with your best friends and family members you can’t do much better than Flying Horse Get Away in Flagstaff, AZ. What are some of the things you look for in a great vacation property? Have you ever vacation rented before? What tips and tricks do you have for people who are doing their first vacation rental?

Want more fall foliage photos? Check out our photostream on Flickr.

Friday Finds: 10/11/13

Friday, October 11th, 2013

Ever find something on your trip down the internet rabbit-hole that you just have to share with the world? The Wilderness Girls do! Every week we will link you to our favorite bits of the internet right here on Friday Finds. Click the links below to check out this week’s selections!

My vacation in a closed national park: Interesting account of trying to hike through a closed national park. They should have read my post on finding alternatives.

Find a Man Who Loves Pink: Laura, my favorite Hollywood Housewife wrote a lovely, honest recap of her sixth year married to The Gorilla.

15 Things Worth Knowing About Coffee: From my favorite comic site, this chart has some fun historical facts about coffee, including the origin of the “Americano.”

Hunger In Our Schools: October is Hunger Action Month and this infographic tells the story of hunger in US public schools.

Don’t forget to check out our blogroll in the menu bar to see more sites that we are addicted to. Find something that you would like to see shared on Friday Finds? Send us an e-mail at editor@thewildernessgirls.com and you could be featured on TheWildernessGirls.com.

White Cane Safety Day: 10/15/13

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

Before last year, I never heard of White Cane Safety Day. I knew blind people walk with long white canes because I saw it in the movies. I figured if you went blind it was lights out and you saw nothing but darkness. I’m ashamed to say it but I imagined Ray Charles and Helen Keller because they were the only context I had for understanding visual impairment. That is, until my mother went blind.

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Ok, maybe it wasn’t quite that dramatic. On rare occasion someone goes to bed sighted and wakes up blind but for most people the process is gradual and individual. The experience is as unique as the person but if you want to get a glimpse of what the world is like through the eyes of the visually impaired, check out the vision loss simulation site online. Mom actually lost her sight over the course of six years to a combination of diabetic retinopathy (tiny ruptured blood vessels of the retina aggravated by diabetes) and glaucoma (damage of the optic nerve). She had seven eye surgeries and countless very scary injections in her eyeballs trying to preserve what sight she had left. Her eyes continued to deteriorate and she didn’t have any resources to compensate for the vision that was already gone forever. Then she found Arizona Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ACBVI). This meant interaction with the blind community. It meant spending time with people who really could understand how she felt. It meant learning to navigate life without vision but most importantly it meant independence and a renewed sense of self-esteem.

There are a lot of things that sighted people take for granted. When a sighted person walks through a parking lot and there’s a speed bump, they don’t fall down. Sighted people look at the height of a curb and know how high to step without ever thinking about it. Sighted people reach for the doorknob and find it instead of misjudging and jamming their finger tips on the door. Once they open that door they pass through without clipping their shoulder on the jamb. Coffee tables and other low furniture are not dangerous to sighted people. For the blind and visually impaired these are a few of the thousands of obstacles they navigate in a day with the help of their white cane.

Regardless of how or to what extent someone experiences vision loss, learning to get around independently makes such an impact to the life of a visually impaired person. Still, when she first got her cane Mom felt self-conscious. She told me, “So many people were like me and didn’t want to use the cane at first because they didn’t want to draw attention to themselves. When you don’t use it you draw more attention to yourself and look even more blind because you’re groping along and watching each step. Your cane gives you the confidence to walk with your head up and move along at a normal pace.” Now Mom has fancy computer programs, talking e-readers, a high contrast large print clock, a template to help her fill out bank checks and even a talking crock pot. All of these assistive technologies are enormously helpful but none are more important than the white cane.

President Johnson recognized the importance of the white cane to the safety, independence and mobility of people who are blind and visually impaired. In 1964 he set forth a presidential proclamation designating October 15 as White Cane Safety Day and it has been celebrated across the US every year since.

I believe White cane Safety day is worth celebrating. I’m not the only one who thinks so – check out this visually impaired pedestrian crafted from rice krispy treats I found on Pinterest. While I probably won’t go the food crafting route, I really do love the creativity and the thought behind it. I will celebrate White Cane Safety Day by taking time to consider the achievements and challenges of the blind community and remembering to be thankful for the many rich blessings I sometimes take for granted. How will you celebrate? What are some of the challenges you’ve experienced and overcome with the right tools and support from people who care? Please share your experiences and opinions in the comments.

I Pinned It, I Did It: Pumpkin Extravaganza

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

I lamented about this in my post on mulling wine, but the season I miss most in Arizona is fall. The crisp air, the colorful leaves, and most of all, the hundreds of pumpkin spiced food and drink items. This time of year, I spend hours scouring Pinterest, repinning and drooling over pumpkin muffins, smoothies, cakes, soups, and just about any other orange concoction that has pumpkin in the name.

As good as all those recipes look visually, just viewing them on my glowing computer screen doesn’t quite satisfy my pumpkin spice tooth, so I decided this year I was going to do something about it. For five days, I made a different pumpkin recipe from Pinterest.

Come join me as we take a sweet journey for your taste buds!

Day 1: Pumpkin Brownies with Pumpkin Spice Buttercream

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Source: Cookies & Cups
How did it taste? The unique thing about this treat is that the brownie is two ingredients – a can of pumpkin and a box of brownie mix. The texture is more like a fudgy brownie and it’s not overly sweet, even with the icing
Any tips? They tasted great without it, but the frosting is amazing, so it’s worth the extra effort. Also, I don’t know what planet where a 9 x 9” pan yields 25 brownies, but it’s not the Jenny planet. I yielded 9 brownies.

Day 2: Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

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Source: Seeded at the Table
How did it taste? If you like snickerdoodles and pumpkin, you will love this. The cinnamon spice in combo with the pumpkin is fantastic. The dough is a great snickerdoodle base and wasn’t too dry once baked.
Any tips? I am horrible at measuring cookies. If a recipe says it makes 4 dozen, I usually end up with two. I had the opposite issue here in that I ended up with more cookies than the recipe said I would. This recipe yields 3-4 dozen. I ended up with 6. The bonus was that it took almost half the time to bake. My measurements were tablespoon-sized balls, so if you want 3-4 dozen, make them bigger.

Day 3: Pumpkin French Toast Bake

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Source: Minimalist Baker
How did it taste? I now understand why french toast bakes are so popular. It was incredibly easy, and the taste was great! It was very similar to a bread pudding – moist on the lower half, and crispy and spicy with cinnamon on the top half.
Any tips? Follow this recipe as-is and you can’t go wrong. I halved it, per her recommendation, and it worked great.

Day 4: Spiced Pumpkin Buttermilk Biscuits

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Source: Sweet Pea’s Kitchen
How did it taste? The first thing I thought as I bit into the biscuit was that it was an exceptionally good biscuit, not just as a pumpkin treat, but as a biscuit in general. Above and beyond that, the pumpkin flavor is subtle, making this biscuit perfect for Thanksgiving.
Any tips? I am not sure I did her folding method correctly, but I tried it anyway and the biscuits turned out exactly as they were pictured – tall and layered. I think a cinnamon butter would be spectacular on these.

Day 5: Pumpkin Spice Smoothie

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Source: Sweet Peas and Pumpkins
How did it taste? It’s like pumpkin pie in a glass. And the best part is that you get a filling and healthy pumpkin fix instead of a coffee drink that gives you the calories but none of the nutritional value that this smoothie packs into one glass.
Any tips? To make it more filling, I added ¼ cup of old fashioned oats and ½ tablespoon of ground flax seed. I also blended all the ingredients and then added ice and blended again to make it colder.

This was a really fun experiment, and I plan to do this again around Christmastime with gingerbread or breakfast/brunch recipes.

What is your favorite pumpkin treat of the fall season? Are there any Pinterest goodies that you want to try out? Let us know how it goes in the comments below!

Chicken Chili Blanco

Monday, October 7th, 2013

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I’m willing to bet that there are few dishes more comforting than a big bowl of chili.

With humble beginnings as a staple meal for settlers on the American frontier, chili is relatively easy and inexpensive to prepare and can be made using ingredients most of us have readily available in our pantry.

This recipe is for a white chili, but much like more traditional recipes, the meat, beans and rich spicy sauce are all there. While I know that chili ingredients can be a controversial subject for some, I challenge you to not love this white chili once you’ve tried it.

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Chicken Chili Blanco, serves 4-6

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 (29 ounce can Hominy
2 (15 ounce) cans Pinto Beans
1 cup Jack Cheese
1 1/2 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons taco seasoning (I use this recipe)
1 (15 ounce) can white corn
1 (10 3/4 ounce) can cream of chicken soup
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 (2 1/4 ounce) can diced green chili
1/2 cup chopped green onion
tortilla chips (optional)

Drain and rinse pinto beans, hominy & corn. Place chicken, pinto beans, hominy and corn in the bottom of a 4 quart slow cooker. In a large mixing bowl, combine chicken broth, cream of chicken soup, taco seasoning & green chilis. Mix well and add to crockpot. Cook for 4 hours on high or six hours on low. About 30 minutes prior to serving, shred chicken using a fork and add 1/2 cup sour cream to crockpot. To serve, garnish with remaining sour cream, cheese, green onion and tortilla chips.

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P.S. I like to set up a topping bar with all the fixings so my guests can choose their own toppings. Adults and kiddos alike will enjoy customizing their bowl with a variety of toppings like cheese, cilantro, avocado, hot sauce, sour cream, green onion, etc.

P.P.S. If you want to make this recipe a Iittle healthier, substitute Greek Yogurt for sour cream. You can also leave out the cream of chicken soup; instead just blend 1 cup of the cooked beans prior to shredding your chicken and return to crockpot. It freezes great too!

Have you tried white chili? What would you top your bowl of chicken chili blanco with?

Friday Finds: 10/4/13

Friday, October 4th, 2013

Ever find something on your trip down the internet rabbit-hole that you just have to share with the world? The Wilderness Girls do! Every week we will link you to our favorite bits of the internet right here on Friday Finds. Click the links below to check out this week’s selections!

Kitty CATure: Picture worth a thousand words.

The Chronicles of Lunchboxia: Calling all Mommas! And, Poppas too. I loved reading this article from Rebecca of Girls Gone Child about how she feeds her four unique kiddos. Mostly I loved this article because I often skip lunch simply because I can’t decide what to pack. You can bet that my lunches next week will probably look like they were packed for a first grader.

X-Wing Fighter from Office Supplies: Challenge accepted!

Illustrator Draws Faces, Lets 4 Year-Old Draw Bodies: The name of this article speaks for itself, and the end result is a cool and quirky piece of art. I think I might need to commission one of myself.

Ghoulishly Good Adult Halloween Party Ideas & Tips: Now that Octobers is finally here, I’m dreaming of a grown-up Halloween party.

Don’t forget to check out our blogroll in the menu bar to see more sites that we are addicted to. Find something that you would like to see shared on Friday Finds? Send us an e-mail at editor@thewildernessgirls.com and you could be featured on TheWildernessGirls.com.

Paper, Plastic or Germs?

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

We all have them – tangled wads of reusable shopping bags shoved haphazardly into the trunks of our cars waiting to carry our purchases from grocery shelf to kitchen countertop. Sometimes they haul our library items back to the book return. On Saturdays they carry the farmers’ market treasures that we painstakingly select for freshness and health benefits. If we do really well and remember them every time we shop, they might even transport our personal care products like cosmetics and pharmacy items. In a pinch our reusable shopping bag becomes an impromptu beach bag, diaper bag or tote for the kiddo’s toys.

You should know that they’re covered in germs. A lot of bad, bad germs. Sometimes even poop germs.

A study by University of Arizona and Loma Linda University in California revealed that we don’t wash our reusable bags. I don’t wash mine. You don’t wash yours. The dude in front of us at the grocery doesn’t wash his either and he’s rubbing it all over the belt and bagging area. In fact, 97 percent of those interviewed in the study never washed or bleached their reusable bags even though doing so would eliminate virtually all danger. Of the bags the researchers tested about half contained serious bacteria like E.coli.

The truth is, I never gave it a single thought before reading about this research. It’s not like I don’t care about cleanliness but I was putting my healthy fruits and veggies in a filthy bag. I certainly think about it now and I’ve changed my ways.

This is a gross-out story intended to scare you. Now go find those germy bags and hit the washer with them! When you get back from the laundry room we would love to hear your opinions on bags. What are your ideas for keeping your reusables clean and safe? Do you use woven polypropylene, string, canvas or some other material?  Do you have any tips & tricks for remembering to wash them AND get them back in the car to be used again next time?

Art Space Reveal

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

I’m really excited to show you my art space today. It’s been a labor of love. The room had become a dumping ground for homeless furniture, vintage finds and too many art supplies. It took me about a month to clear out, purge and organize. Then I went to work making the space my own. I’m sure it will always be a work in progress, just like the things I create there. But, for now I’m in love with it. This space is my new favorite spot in our home.

I’m using the Edland dressing table as a desk that was a final markdown find from IKEA. The lamp is vintage; I topped it with a shade found at Target. The little white owl planter is from Joann’s. The scarf and embroidery hoop are local estate sale finds. I made the dream catchers hanging on the wall using doilies that belonged to my great-grandmother.

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Originally I had planned to hang a gallery wall over my desk. But, I decided that I wanted something a little more organic with pieces that would be easy to change out every so often. The print in the middle is actually Rob’s birth certificate backed by a piece of scrapbook paper; the painting and the photo print were both done by yours truly.

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The sewing table belonged to my Nanny and was passed on to me by my aunt. I also have her pinking shears and lots of unused patterns she collected over the years. I hope to share them with you in a future post.

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The little sitting area showcases my favorite vintage chair; who doesn’t love crushed velvet? The basket and pillow are Home Goods finds. The shelves above display lots of my favorite things; a Crosley record player, which was a gift from my Mom, one of my favorite Neil Young records and a few owls from my collection (there are many more). I really love that Rob has a place to hang out while I work and our dogs love to lounge around in here too.

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I already had the tabletop that I’m using as a cutting table; the Nipen legs are a recent addition, I love the pop of color they add. The utility cart is also an IKEA find and the notions box belonged to my Nanny. The tchotchkes lining the windowsill are vintage finds. One of my favorite pieces in this room is the pink lady portrait; it’s a print of a painting my dear friend Jan created when she was in middle school.

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This room is pretty tiny, so I decided to take off the closet doors. After living with it this way for a couple of months, I know it was the right decision. It’s much easier to locate supplies and remove the tubs that store my tools and various crafty bits.

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I wanted to create a spot where I could curate all my little bits of inspiration and corral my reference books, clipping binders and journals. The bookcase is vintage, eventually I’d like to paint it white and sew a fabric curtain to conceal the shelves. The ceramic deer is a new addition; I picked it up from one of my favorite antique malls for a couple dollars. I purchased the clay bowl in Mexico; it’s filled with little mementos that remind me of happy times. I bought a few mini clipboards and painted them a minty green color using sample paint that I had purchased for a different room. I hung the mini clipboards over a bulletin board; it’s still pretty empty, but I’ve slowly started to add fabric samples, quotes and photos of my favorite people.

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The wood shim wall border (inspired by this post) turned out to be way more work than I originally anticipated. Don’t expect a DIY just yet; I sort of made it up as I went along (with a couple temper tantrums and lots of help from Rob). The border evolved over a couple of weeks because I couldn’t seem to recreate the image I had in my mind on the first try. I’m really happy with it now, but I think there is an easier way to do it. I’ll put a DIY post together once I figure it out.

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I’m a very sentimental gal, some might call me a stage-five packrat. Over the last few years I’ve worked hard to purge the excess and only keep the things I love most. This room is filled with all of those things, lovely and unique images and objects that inspire me to create.

Thanks for letting me show you around.