Amy Artisan

Family | Travel | Craft | Life | Books

Month: August 2007

Summer Reading

Some Summer Reading

A new poll released this week indicates that 1 in 4 adults in the US did not read “a single” book last year. When I saw that headline on a news website this morning my immediate thought was “I can’t imagine not reading books!” In previous posts I’ve mentioned how much I have always enjoyed reading – from the days of Ramona Quimby & Nancy Drew as a school girl. These days my reading list seems to include a little bit of everything.

It is hard for me to go into a book store (or even Costco) without picking up a book or two to add to my overflowing library. Christmas gifts in the Artisan family always include a slew of books – one of our traditions on Christmas afternoon is to see all of us in the living room with our noses in new books that have just been unwrapped.

Rebecca on Christmas Day

In the last couple of months I have made my way through quite an assortment of books.

In May I read an advanced copy of Peony in Love by Lisa See. Similar to Snowflower and the Secret Fan, this novel provided me with more education about Chinese culture and ritual. For me, this was a fast read.

Also in May, we discussed The Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriguez as our bookclub read. This book sparked a lot of interesting conversations among our group – from the writing style, to the focus of the book, etc. This was a very quick read – my initial reaction was that the book seemed better suited to be a paperback rather than the hardcover that I picked up.

Another preview book I recently read was The Virgin of Small Plains by Nancy Pickard. The tone of this story of “small town suspense” reminded me a bit of the stories of Jodi Picoult or Midwives.

This summer I thoroughly enjoyed reading Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. This week my bookclub will be discussing this read – I look forward to the discussion!

I have always been drawn to narrative non-fiction books and find that more and more of them appear in my reading lists. While at home in GA last month I picked up The United States of Arugula by David Kamp and quickly devoured it – it was a fun walk through the history of our foodiness.

I also have several of “these type” books in the current rotation: Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin; Tulipomania by Mike Dash; Color: A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finlay

The books in the picture above are in the “just barely started” category: Eat, Love, Pray by Elizabeth Gilbert; The Cloud Atlas by Liam Callanan; A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. And of course that are more “to read” books around the house that didn’t make it into the photo.

I’m lucky to have family and friends that are avid readers – we always have a rotating library of books on loan among us. In fact, many of these reads will be enroute to Maya in Texas soon.

Just as many knitters experience “Stash Acquired Beyond Life Expectancy” I’m sure that many ravenous readers have “Booklist Beyond Life Expectancy.” What about you…what good books have you read recently? How long is your booklist?

Seasoned Stitchers

As you may have read on other blogs, Stitches Midwest was in Chicago this weekend. So for the third Saturday morning this summer, I picked up iced coffees & my knit pals, Jen & Kristy, and headed out for some fiber fun.

When we arrived at Stitches last year I think “overwhelmed” was a very accurate word to describe our collective reaction to everything. This year, all three of us were much more prepared to make our way through the offerings. Since the Fiber and Folk Art Fair last month, we each had spent some time coming up with supply lists so that our shopping had purpose. After three hours in the marketplace we all were pleased with our purchases.

Handles Haul

Among my purchases – some leather bag handles from Homestead Heirlooms. The brown handles are for my stash bag that has been “in progress” for way too long. It is finally felting today & should be put into use soon. The pink handles are for my next felted tote project – which includes the brown and pink wool I picked up at the Webs booth.

Button Stash

A stop into the Color In Stitches booth yielded quite a stash of buttons. The best find was a semi-hidden basket of vintage buttons – there were all sorts of fun shapes, colors, sizes & the prices were some of the best I’ve seen for vintage things. I don’t have projects in mind for them but they will definitely serve as inspiration.

Brooks Farm Blue

Last month I picked up some Limited Edition 3 yarn from Brooks Farm that is becoming a Montego Bay scarf. It is a beautiful yarn that ebbs and flows from thicker to thinner weight. This weekend I picked up 2 additional skeins in a beautiful blue – I plan to turn this into Nereides.

Blueberry Mix yarn

My biggest purchase was also one that I never thought I’d make – yarn for a sweater for me. I picked up a beautiful Berreco Ultra Alpaca in Blueberry Mix at Webs. Stay tuned for details as I venture into my first sweater project this fall.

Button Yarn & Buttons

The last purchase of the day was at Black Water Abbey. I was immediately drawn to this Butter color. Last year I purchased the Seafoam color which has stayed in my stash – so I’m thinking of a project to incorporate both yarns. And these buttons were too cute to pass up. At the Black Water Abbey booth it was also fun to reconnect with Judy, my Vacation Knit Swap pal from last summer.

While wandering the aisle we stopped by to say hi to Jack & Kim at the Sit & Knit/Cast On, Bets Off booth where Jack was busy signing copies of the mystery the entire time we were chatting with them.

This year Stitches was sharing the convention center with a Wizard World convention – which yielded some extreme people watching opportunities. As we left the Marketplace, (classic) Batman & Robin got on the escalator in front of us. Jen’s husband Greg is a huge Batman fan – so it was only fitting to quickly get this picture with my cell phone.

As we headed back to the car – still giggling from the Batman picture which we emailed to Greg from the parking deck – we all were pleased with our purchases and joked that we were indeed Seasoned Stitchers with how we tackled the marketplace this year with purpose.

The day ended at Jen’s with Thai food, a movie, and of course knitting. I refrained from casting on any of the new purchases – rather I spent most of the evening working on a project with yarn from last year’s Stitches stash.

Summer Scoops!

With the summer heat that has invaded Chicago over the last couple of weeks, icy treats are a good way to beat the heat. My favorite these days is iced coffee.

Another favorite summer cooler is ice cream – although I don’t seem to keep it in the freezer a lot these days. Ice cream from the grocery store freezer case is nice, but there is just something much better about ice cream from a fun shop or ice cream that you make.

Not too far from my home is an ice cream stand that is definitely a throwback to a different era. One Saturday this summer I ‘finally’ stopped in to check it out and it was worth the stop. On a hot summer day I thoroughly enjoyed my soft serve cone that had been dipped in butterscotch. Their menu was huge – I went with a standard favorite for this trip instead of something new. As I enjoyed this cone I thought on other favorite scoops from summers past. Grab a few napkins and don’t let the ice cream melt…

When I was in elementary school we would visit my grandparents in Akron, OH during the summer. I remember many a trip to Springfield Lake to play in the water and we would always stop at Strickland’s Frozen Custard on the way home. From then on, any frozen custard treats were always measured against Stricklands. Earlier this summer, Mom & Dad’s road trip included a stop back in Akron – so of course they had to enjoy some custard for old time’s sake. The expression on Dad’s face sums up this delicious treat.

Strickland's Custard

When visiting Harbor Country in the summer season, the weekend isn’t complete without a stop at Oink’s Dutch Treat for ice cream. Our trip this summer included visits on both evenings. (And I saw several other vehicles there on both nights – we weren’t the only ones indulging!)

Ice Cream at Oinks!

Without a doubt, one of my favorite summer scoop memories is the first gelato I had in Florence during my Italy/Greece trip in 2005. After a long time traveling, we finally arrived in Florence around 1AM and were quickly back up & ready to start touring with Rebecca’s school group. After a morning of touring the sites we had some free time and our first stop (before lunch even) was a gelateria that we had seen early on. After Jen, Greg, Rebecca & I ‘finally’ decided on our flavor selections the gal behind the counter was kind enough to take our picture. Throughout the rest of our trip we tried to eat gelato as often as we could; however, I’m not sure that any of them quite compared to the first scoops.

First Gelato in Florence!

Ok, I managed to make it through those frozen treats without a brain freeze or ice cream dribbling from the bottom of the cone. Now it is your turn…

What are some of your favorite summer scoops?

42 Candles

If I were to bake a cake to celebrate today, I would put 42 candles on top to celebrate some dear people in my life.

Happy Birthday Rebecca!

Happy Birthday Rebecca!

Happy Anniversary Greg & Jennifer!

Happy Anniversary Greg & Jennifer!

Happy Birthday Miss Doodlebug!

Happy Birthday Miss Doodlebug!

Wishing you all a special day & a great year! I’m so glad to have you in my life!


My sister and I have always considered ourselves to be Sunflower Gals – even with all the moving around that we did while growing up, our home was always Kansas. From an early age I have always considered the sunflower to be a favorite flower; throughout the years I have collected many sunflower things and at times decorated with sunflowers (although all sunflower decor items are not equal and I can be a bit picky about what I use).


The sunflower was named the Kansas state flower in 1903:

This flower has to all Kansans a historic symbolism which speaks of frontier days, winding trails, pathless prairie and is full of the life and glory of the past, the pride of the present and richly emblematic of the majesty of the golden future, and is a flower which has given Kansas the world-wide name, ‘The Sunflower State.'”

Earlier this spring when Laura sounded the call for Rebuilding Greensburg – Block by Block I knew that was a “comfort knit” project that I needed to participate in. I dug into my stash and came up with the perfect yarn: Sunflowers that I had purchased from Cabin Cove Mercantile last summer. This was a thinner yarn, so I held it double and cast on in the Grandma’s Favorite pattern. The yarn knit up beautifully and the squares were so soft and squishy. In no time, 3 squares were complete. When I started the 4th square the yarn cake turned into a large knot. Since I had planned to knit more than 3 squares, a quick search on Etsy yielded another Sunflower inspired yarn from Laughing Rat Studios. The 5 additional squares I made with this yarn were a great simple knit when I needed some knitting to “slow down” from everything else going on over the last month.

Rebuilding Greensburg

While I was stateside and knitting on my sunflower yarn, my sister had the opportunity to go on a summer missions trip to Moldova – she was a chaperone for the church youth group. When I was home this past weekend, Rebecca showed me hundreds of pictures that she took on this life changing trip and told stories of her adventures – she also pulled together a highlights website. The group was involved in two camps while there – Rebecca was a part of the soccer camp. An unexpected highlight of the trip was the plethora of sunflower fields – did you know that Moldova produces a lot of sunflower oil? One afternoon her camp team was able to “frolic in the flowers” and captured some fun and beautiful pictures of the sunflowers.

Moldova Sunflowers

Sunflowers mean many things…as I was pulling together this post, the one I found most appropriate was that it is a symbol of community – what appears to be a single bloom is multitude of little flowers grouped together. A single sunflower plant can grow and blossom; however, single stalks normally need some sort of stake/support as they grow tall. Sunflowers are much stronger when planted in a larger patch and can collectively hold each other up as they grow towards the sun. What a wonderful reminder for all of us – we can indeed “go it alone” but it is much easier to grow and bloom when you are part of a community!

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