The moment you’ve all been waiting for…

Friends in pie, I know we’ve been very elusive this summer as we try and decide where we were moving this fall and I just wanted to thank you for your patience and support. It’s been an outstanding and necessary summer of weighing the potentials of Denver, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati against each other but it’s high time to finally announce (through pie, of course) our city pick!!

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I have to say I’m beyond excited to have finally made a choice AND such a stellar choice at that. For obvious reasons (like family, hometown pride, mountains) it didn’t always feel like an easy decision, but it is without a doubt the right move for us. What I have planned for Teeny Pies doesn’t actually exist in Cincy yet, which means I get to build the very first pie empire that the city has ever seen. It doesn’t get much better than that and I cannot wait to leap onto the small business scene and knock everyone’s socks off!

Because of Cincinnati’s proximity to our current Kentucky life we plan on taking our time moving north but once there I have every intention of diving right in! The idea is to develop a few strong wholesale partnerships straight off the bat in order to get the Teeny Pies brand out there while we search for the right space and gather an unbeatable team of bakers, baristas, and pie lovers. There are sure to be a lot of changes in the coming weeks, so be sure to check back regularly as we move forward. Again, thank you to everyone who made this choice impossibly hard and decidedly wonderful! Cincinnati, here we come!!

Six years of Septembers

Friends in pie, it’s mid-September; the leaves are at the very beginning of their glorious reveal, the evenings have a distinct chill, and in the wee hours of the morning I can hear wild turkeys clucking and calling their way toward breakfast. Fall is a wonderfully nostalgic season for me as I’ve come to realize that as the days get shorter I have a tendency to make large life choices… as though I can’t bear to let the season have all the fun.

Six years ago I peered into a magical CSA veggie box and gazed unwittingly onto my future. The world’s most perfect pie pumpkin gazed back with a knowing tilt to its stem and an unabashed wink in its eye. I fell in love that fall. Roasting pumpkins, swirling honey, whipping endless clouds of whipped cream, warming frozen hands with mugs full of spiced cider and whiskey laced hot toddies, dancing in the kitchen in my stocking feet with a boy I was falling head over heels for, and dreaming and scheming my way toward a pie filled adventure.

Five years ago I pushed my way through a set of doors that said ‘Bakers Only Please’ for the very first time. I spent a year earning my place among fierce, loyal and endlessly inspiring lady bakers and at the end of that year found my life entirely full. I accumulated mentors who were also friends, callouses that only a well worn rolling pin could make, the ability to deadlift a fifty pound bag of flour with ease, and a notebook full of recipes that I’d dreamed up.

Four years ago I published a book. In all of my dreaming and scheming I had never once thought about the possibility of someone recognizing that this pursuit of passion was worthy of being shared, shouted about, and enveloped within the extraordinary pages of an actual book. All my life I have consumed books because they are as essential to my well being as breathing, so the fact that there is a book out there with my name on it still leaves me giddy with boundless amazement.

Three years ago I was ‘pee-your-pants-and-then-hyperventilate’ scared out of my mind as I signed the lease to my shared kitchen space and experienced my very first week of owning and operating Teeny Pies. Rather than having to earn a place, I found myself on equal footing with other founders, fellow makers and dream followers. I was a boss, able to commiserate with crappy weather, slow markets, and confounding customers as well as celebrate the absolute exhilaration of selling out, signing on a new wholesale account, and hiring help for the first time. I honed my craft, created a brand, made hundreds upon hundreds of pies and then sold them to people who loved them, who had opinions about them, who anticipated them, who made space in their budgets (and stomachs) for them. I may have made them with my own two hands, but those pie loving people were the first people who made Teeny Pies a business in real life.

So, here we are. Six years of saying yes, of working endlessly hard, of taking huge and intimidating leaps of faith, and I can’t help but revel in the wonderful adventure of it all. It’s September again, which means it’s time to make some changes.

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Pop-Culture Pies

Hi pie friends! Remember when I posted a picture of this crazy, excellent pie?

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Well, you weren’t the only ones to notice the awesomeness of my pie mind! FYI, which is a network within A&E, (not the acronym for For Your Information … although it is… just not this time) loved the pie so much that they hired me straightaway to do a pop-culture pie series. So, I wracked my brain for the most pop-cultureish things I could think of, I visited the website People.com for the very first time, got the most recent copy of Entertainment Magazine, and then I asked my friends, because let’s face it … I’m not, nor have I ever really been exactly up to speed on all things POP and my friends are way cooler than I am.

I developed six stellar pop-culture concepts and recipe tested my tushy off before I flew to NYC to film just outside of the city at this absolutely stunning house in New Paltz, New York. Any pictures I could have taken of Stone House would have paled in comparison to the pictures on their website, so click on that link and definitely check out the space! They do both events and vacation rentals. The kitchen was gorgeous and by gorgeous I mean my DREAM KITCHEN. They had a huge farmhouse sink and a rather epic gas range with stunning stonework, straight out of a move. And let me tell you if I could have soaked in that tub upstairs for four days straight I would have been one happy baker. Pruney, but oh so happy.

However, I had to bake!! My flight into New York was delayed all day long due to weather which meant that any and all prep time was slowly disappearing as I twiddled my thumbs at the airport. Thankfully, I had an awesome baker, Ashley Holt, from Sugar Monster, crushing the prep long before I arrived. Earlier in the week, I had sent along a list of ingredients, plus all the recipes and an outline of what all of the mise en place trays should look like and she make short work of a hugely extensive job.

The shoot itself took twenty hours!! Because we only had one day to shoot six different pies we started at 7am and didn’t finish until 3am. It was a bit slow at first as the team and I tried to feel each other out. After the first two pies we finally found our rhythm and sailed through the last 4 … and when I say sailed, I definitely mean that they didn’t take quite as long, because filming the creation of pop-culture pies is no joke. I was up to my elbows in flour for twenty hours straight and I just kept thanking my lucky stars that I came from a theatre background and am used to standing for hours, doing the same thing over and over (tech, anyone). Not to mention that I am essentially able make pie with my eyes closed at this point.Basically, what I’m trying to say is, I’m a pie genius. A very humble, beautiful, smart, funny, (and don’t forget hip) pie genius.

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So, head on over to FYI and watch my pie series, POP CULTURE PIES .. by genius pie baker, TEENY PIES!!

 

Change is in the air

This past weekend we went to the magical wedding of our two dear friends, Adria and Amy. Their love is a love that I admire so completely; it’s a love that reminds me to love harder, fiercer, and better every single day. It was a dreamy wedding. The ceremony was warm and romantic and so utterly them that we couldn’t help but be swept up in that lovely glowy feeling that was radiating from the happiest two people in the room. The food was wildly delicious and, in true Pennington Lee fashion, we were given the recipes for everything on the table. Dessert and dancing, a lot of dancing, capped off an altogether spectacular wedding and catapulted our friends into their first day of being Mrs. and Mrs.

I love weddings, and weddings with both old friends and new acquaintances are particularly nice.  We get to hear of old friends strating grand new adventures, we get to commiserate and compliment, break bread together, raise a glass, and at the end of the night we get to dance like crazy together. It was fun to see everyone’s shining faces and rather startling to realize that everyone seems to be going through a certain amount of transition right now. The weekend was filled with tales of starting new ventures, saying goodbye to old loves, falling head over heels for the first time, finding a new pace to life, and feeling stuck and dreaming up grand plans for how to fix it. It was altogether wonderful to realize that Aaron and I aren’t alone with our large and looming life changes.

Maybe it’s just what happens as you wind your way into your thirties; the inevitable growing pains as we figure out what the heck we want our lives to look like. Maybe after years of summer vacation and back to school Septembers, fall feels as though it’s full of potential. The air gets crisp enough to pull us out of our summer stupors, the days begin to shorten  which in turn prompts us to wake up earlier and finish faster, our languid pace quickens, and it really does feel as though change is in the air. Our madcap lives continue, the next adventure is upon us and we will be all the better for it.

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(Photo by: Kristen Magee)

Cincy City Livin’

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As promised, I’m going to tell you the tale of our time spent in Cincinnati. Unlike Pittsburgh and Denver, we’ve not spent an entire week in Cincy but instead have had several separate weekends there over the past few months because it’s only a few hours drive from our Kentucky life.

The two neighborhoods that seem to have caught our fancy are Northside and Findlay Market. Now, that’s not to say that there aren’t a couple of other neighborhood options we would consider if Cincy were our choice (I’ve heard nothing but stellar things about Covington, for example, which is just over the river in KY), but so far those are the two spots that feel the most like us in terms of size and energy.

Northside has the quintessential main street; several blocks of bustling commerce, surrounded on either side by an ever growing and invested neighborhood community. After wandering up and down the shop lined streets one Saturday afternoon we decided we simply had to check out the local diner, Blue Jay, to determine if it was authentic and dinery enough for us.

You may not know this, but I have a thing for diners. Let me clarify. I have this deep, endless, pulse quickening, mouth watering, all-encompassing love for diners. And I’m not talking about Jonny Rockets or IHOP (though I mean no offense to those upstanding establishments) I’m talking about true-blue, cheap-eats, knows how long to cook an over-medium egg, quirky long standing staff, DINER. When I moved to my very first apartment in Chicago I was down the street from such a diner called Jerri’s (where they are open 24/7 except for one week a year when they all take a vacation together, they only accept cash, and you can get a patty melt for $4.00) and since I moved away I’ve been searching for that perfection. And let me tell you, Blue Jay is real. Not only did they know just how long to cook my over medium eggs, their hashbrowns were the perfect combination of crispy and homefry flavorful, and best of all their homemade Cincinnati chili (that you can smother atop those delicious hash browns) was on point! My love for Cincinnati chili isn’t quite so deep as my love for Colorado green chili, but it comes close and Blue Jay does it right. If we moved to Northside I would never be sad to breakfast there.

With full stomachs we wandered the neighborhood, which seems to be a fun mix of families and young professionals. The houses are exceptionally cute and the neighborhood itself seems to be going through a bit of a slow transition. It was a little sleepy for a Saturday, but quiet can be nice.

Our other favorite area is the Findlay Market area, which is growing and changing very quickly in comparison to other parts of the city. The market itself is wonderful; like a typical farmer’s market times ten. Every time I’ve gone there’s been live music, delicious smells of BBQ wafting on the air, endless bounty from local farmers and the best gosh darn Pho and Banh Mi in the city. They’ve just built out a kitchen and incubator space, so food producers could potentially rent both kitchen and retail space all within the same stellar market and with Rhinegeist Brewery right down the street the neighborhood is hopping! After a delicious meal of pork and lemongrass banh mi, it’s only right to hop, skip, or jump over to Rhinegeist and toast a successful weekend atop their stunning roofdeck with delicious sour cherry beer … right? It would be truly wrong not to, so without question it’s what we do every time and I have yet to be disappointed in myself.

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Like I said, there are a few other neighborhoods that we could consider, but Northside and Findlay Market are the two whose fanciest fancies we find ourselves fancying the most. Compared to the sprawling vastness of Denver, both Cincy and Pittsburgh feel compact but we’ve definitely found places in all three where we not only feel like ourselves, but also are able to catch an exciting glimpse of what the future might look like in any of these wonderful cities. Boy oh boy do we have some big and lovely decisions to make this month! Thanks again to all of the people who have showed off their cities and made this choice super hard, we wouldn’t have it any other way!

 

Denver Delights

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Friends in pie, Aaron and I spent the last week in Denver scoping out potential pie neighborhoods, searching for the ultimate green chile, and imagining a life lived in Denver. Needless to say it was delightful. We began the week in the vibrant neighborhood of Sunnyside. It’s just north of the insanely expensive hugely popular Highlands and seems to hold it’s own with a multitude of adorable houses, interesting shops, and delicious restaurants. It’s a neighborhood with major pie shop potential.

Before I really get into the details of our city visit, please allow me a moment of indulgence to wax poetic about green chile. Green chile is one of those delicious, magical things that I didn’t understand and therefore never took advantage of while I lived a whole life in Colorado and I consider it to be one of the more terrible and ridiculous mistakes of my youth because it’s SO GOOD. Unless I make it myself there’s zero chance of my getting decent green chile anywhere in the east/midwest so I pine for it when I’m not in the west and tend to go a bit crazy when I am. It’s the perfect combination of savory gravy and spicy salsa. If made correctly it has immense depth of flavor and a slow burn that hooks you right in the soul part of your heart and I can’t believe I wasted eighteen years of my life not eating it. I am the worst kind of fool. But back to Sunnyside where my gargantuan breakfast consisting of mostly green chile did not disappoint.

We brunched at Sunny’s where both Aaron and I thoroughly enjoyed every bite of breakfast. Their ‘made-in-house’ green chile was the perfect start to our Sunday. After we ate we walked through the neighborhood, admired the surrounding shops, supported the local farmer’s market with a purchase of Palisade peaches and spent the remainder of the afternoon posted up at a lively beer garden (Recess) in the Highlands with friends and family.

Our second morning in Sunnyside was a workday so naturally we checked out two separate coffee shops to suss out whether the neighborhood could support our delicious coffee requirements. Both Huckleberry Coffee and Common Grounds passed with flying colors, although it should be noted that Common Grounds had pie in their display case and therefore must be seen as the competition.

Later in the day we moved to our new neighborhood, appropriately named Baker and situated ourselves at a killer happy hour to assess what we had discovered so far. First, two out of two green chile experiences had been altogether excellent. Second, while we weren’t quite hip enough to be hipsters in either of our potential neighborhoods we also weren’t quite overly fit and sporty to fit in either, so we came to the conclusion that we might have to start lifting bro in order to find our place in the Denver vibe. Third, Baker was just as nice a neighborhood as Sunnyside with a slightly livelier vibe. Whereas in Sunnyside the shops and the residential parts of the neighborhood blended nicely together, in Baker all of the shops, restaurants, and stores were all on one main thoroughfare. Broadway is a major street that runs north to south through the city and the eclectic and hip retail of Baker line either side. The houses to the East and West of Broadway are gorgeous and rather whimsical, single storey victorians, interspersed with nice but efficient duplexes and connected houses.

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Our two days in Baker were lovely. We found our favorite coffee shop of the week (Metropolis Coffee), had a phenomenal anniversary dinner worthy enough to kick off our third year of marriage (Cho77), and we were close enough to the train tracks to hear the idyllic blast of the train horn from our breezy front porch.

The rest of the week was spent with friends and family, driving to different Denver neighborhoods, discussing the merits of moving there, and searching out enough green chille to tide me over until our next trip. On our last day in town we put on our wigs, dusted off our fake accents, and scoped out the one, true competitor, Humble Pie. They have a beautiful shop just off of West Colfax and their  menu is extensive as well as seasonal. They share a building with both a budding brewery and a trendy restaurant that both offer Humble pies on their menus. It seems to be a super smart and thriving business and to top it all off, they serve delicious pie and coffee. If we do choose denver the competition will be fierce.

Now is the time to ruminate and make the choice that’s best for the three of us (even though Ladybird wasn’t able to visit Denver we took plenty of pictures of various parks and sticks that she was able to peruse upon our arrival home). I still owe you all a Cincy post, so keep an eye out for that and I’ll definitely keep you posted as we let all these potential decisions churn through our brains over the next few weeks. Life is quite the adventure and it’s been entirely lovely spending the summer weighing our choices. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to show off their cities, we really appreciate you making this decision super tough. More to come.

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Happy Homecoming

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My baby brother was in town this weekend and I knew I had no choice but to bake him a sour cherry pie. We grew up in a pie household. Every holiday, major accomplishment, summertime picnic, and birthday was celebrated with a delicious, homemade pie baked by our mom. She was the one who helped me roll out my first crust, gifted me my first rolling pin and taught me the secret to making the best pie in the world. Since we were kids my brother and I have both been obsessed with one pie and one pie only; sour cherry. I make a lot of pie and I care very deeply about creating and successfully executing wonderful and whimsical flavors, but nothing holds my heart quite like the tart yet sweet deliciousness that is sour cherry pie. Knowing it was a family favorite, my mom grew her very own sour cherries on large bushes in the backyard, bribing my brother and I into being her own personal pickers and pitters with promises of bright cherries suspended in their own vibrant juice and tucked into an impossibly flaky crust. I’ve spent my lady-baker life chasing the perfection of that pie and having my brother come to town meant that it was time to start baking.

We’re too far south for locally grown sour cherries, despite my hopeful scouring of the sweet produce at our local farmer’s market this past weekend, and I’d already used up my personal stash that I’d thoughtfully frozen last summer earlier this year, so I had to settle for canned cherries, which should have made me sad but somehow didn’t because at the end of the day I still got to make my favorite pie. I pulled the secret family recipe together from memory and in no time I had the perfect pie with which to welcome my brother to Kentucky.

Yesterday we all feasted on decadent slices of pie and slowly sipped pipping hot coffee. My brother and I grinned at each other after the first bite; it tasted like home.

This weekend Aaron and I are headed to Colorado to check out the next potential city on our list. We’ve a few specific neighborhoods on our list to check out (Baker is one of the said neighborhoods, which feels entirely appropriate), fun restaurants to eat at, meetings to take, pie competition to scope out, and family to do it all with. I can’t wait. If you have any Denver recommendations to make I would love to hear them or if you know any ridiculously wealthy pie-lovers who are looking to invest in the best darn pie shop that will ever be, feel free to make an introduction. I’m super excited for my happy homecoming!

 

Proud to be a Lady

Last night we, as a country, made history. That’s right, HISTORY. It happened right in front of our eyes and regardless of how you vote or what feelings you have toward our country right now, I think we should all step back for just a moment jump up and down, fist pump, shout with unbridled joy, bust out the bubbly, shotgun a beer, or do whatever feels large enough to celebrate this huge and historical moment. A major political party just nominated a woman to be the presidential candidate. Please excuse me while I go high five everyone on the street for several hours.

I love being a lady. I love that I was raised by an insanely strong and unwavering lady who in turn helped shape me into the strongest, happiest, pie-making, future-dreaming, lady baker I could be. I love that my pursuit of pie led me across the United States and into the lives of smart and accomplished women who would help me shape my future in their likeness. I love that I get letters from little girls who have read my book and have started down their own path of becoming lady bakers and I love that by simply working my ass off and following a dream I am able to be a lady business owner.

My reality is due entirely to the women who came before me and fought the incredible fight to be seen as equals. I am able to follow my whimsical pie-making dreams because 96 years ago ladies much stronger than me fought for their rights and won. And last night an incredible woman was the very first lady to become the Democratic presidential nominee. Millions of little girls will be able to look to this woman and see their own potential reflected back at them. They will have just one more reason to imagine they can do anything. Like I said, HISTORY. I am super proud to be a lady today and will do my very best to push onwards and upwards toward a future where having a woman elected as the presidential nominee is no big deal. In the meantime, though, HIGH FIVES FOR EVERYONE. HISTORY.

Teeny Pies in Kentucky-TP-0011

(photo by an incredible LADY business owner: Leah Putkammer of Gray Kammera Photography)

Pokemon Pie

The Pokemon Go phenomenon happened last week and in addition to catching countless Pidgeys and taking the dog for extra long walks to hatch my Poke eggs, I’ve been lamenting the fact that I don’t currently have a storefront because the marketing possibilities are endless.

The game is rather exciting in the way it’s getting people out of their houses and into their neighborhoods. Strangers are meeting strangers, when they choose to acknowledge that they’re all trying to catch ’em all. Aaron spent half an hour in McDonalds/PokeStop yesterday hanging out with a random group of teenagers while they talked favorite teams, reveled in rare pokemon snags, and shared fries.

Happy Pokemon Catchers are out and about which brings me to marketing possibilities!             (This shelter has the right idea for taking advantage of your aimless wandering)

First of all, PokeBalls are round … as are pies, which makes the following SUPER easy to accomplish!!

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If you are excited to walk around catching imaginary pokemon on your phone, imagine how excited you would be to eat a pie that looks exactly like a PokeBall.

Second, I’ve totally stocked up on my People Pokemon Lures and I would utilize their exotic scent to bring the pokemon to my shop while the tantalizing smell of fresh baked pies would lure the humans into staying and snacking while they threw PokeBalls with abandon.

Third, I would offer limited deals to Pokemon Go players who showed loyalty to my team, the Blue Barracudas blue Mystic team, led by the indefatigable Blanche. A dollar off your cup of coffee or teeny pie if you prove you’re a member of Mystic. It’ll cost you a dollar extra if you’re a venomous Valor or an insipid Instinct. Nah, just kidding, all teams would be welcome and you would get a dollar off if you catch a Pokemon on the premises!

Finally, I would totally redesign my entire menu to reflect different Pokemon … Peachachu, Venonapple, Jugglypuffpastry, Cherryfairy, Razzzata, etc. and encourage my customers to CATCH ‘EM ALL.

If I had my own storefront I would be crushing the Pokemon Go game. I guess I’ll just have to cry a few tears, eat this Pokemon pie, and take Ladybird for another walk. Happy Catching Pokemon Professors.

Pittsburgh Pie

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Happy July, I hope you all had a stellar holiday!

It must have seemed like I fell off of the pie planet but in fact I was scoping out potential pie cities, starting with Pittsburgh. And it was lovely! Pittsburgh is fantastically gritty, full of city pride and delicious food. We started our city visit in Lawrenceville, which seems to be coming up pretty quickly. As we wound our way down Butler Street we encountered effortlessly cool tattoo parlors, the diveiest dive bars, coffee filled cafes, adorable shops and fun sounding food. We ended up BYOBing our very own twelve pack (because you can’t buy cold six packs…) and having a fantastic meal at Pusadee’s Garden. Other neighborhood favorites included Umami, Franktuary, Round Corner Cantina, Constellation Coffee and Arsenal Park, where Ladybird had her daily romps. 

The city was a great size, by the end of the trip we felt like we already knew our way around. It seems like a fun combination of history and friends in food making a name for themselves. In addition to staying in Lawrenceville we checked out Garfield and East Liberty for potential neighborhoods. We also swung down to the Strip District to wander around for an afternoon. I loved all of the open air fruit stands and the incredible number of awesome looking asian markets, not to mention the crepe pancakes at Pamela’s and the unbelievable steak sandwiches at Gaucho Parilla Argentina. Other notable moments were any and all of the homemade perogies I consumed and going to banjo night at the Elk’s Lodge where the whiskey was $4.00 a glass and the banjo tunes were on point! 

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(how ridiculous does this steak sandwich look)

I also had an opportunity to do a little Pittsburgh baking as well! I went back to the Strip District to snag the freshest fruits and went to work in my tiny Air B and B kitchen. I soon realized that other than an outstanding oven the kitchen had very little to offer by way of pie baking. I had been smart enough to bring my own rolling pin so rolling out my crusts was a breeze, but from then on things got a bit weird. I had no cutting board and only a butter knife with which to do any cutting. I fashioned a cutting board out of the bottom of my fruit box and thankfully the peaches and the strawberries were ripe enough to yield easily to my butter knife of doom. The trickiest bit was sawing open a can of sweetened condensed milk with the smallest serrated knife found on the end of a corkscrew bottle opener. Despite the strange kitchen the pies came out great and it made me think that I’d do really well on that cooking show where they make you use absurd utensils and with only one hand or whatever. I am a lady baker, hear me roar! 

Pittsburgh was a success and it was wonderful to visit a city with the express purpose of envisioning a life there. We’ve not made a choice yet because we haven’t visited all of our cities but Pittsburgh is still on the list! I’ve a few meetings to take in Cincinnati and we’re headed to Denver mid August so if you all have any advice, city tips, or people I could meet with in either of those places, please let me know. The pie adventure continues.