Amy Artisan

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Month: November 2007

Holiday Transitions & Traditions

Every year it seems like Christmas arrives into the stores and advertisements earlier and earlier. I had to chuckle when the Christmas commercials started in on Halloween evening – most households hadn’t yet sorted through their trick-or-treat loot before the focus was on the red and green. With this rush to Christmas it seems like Thanksgiving tends to get overlooked. The last week has been filled with Thanksgiving fun that served as a great way to transition from autumn into the Christmas season.

In the last couple of years, a day trip on the Saturday before Thanksgiving has been what transitions me into Thanksgiving and on to Christmas. For 3 years now, Kristy & I have spent this third Saturday over in Harbor Country and this year the fun tradition continued. When we first ventured over there it was to pick up wine gifts at our favorite winery – the last 2 years we have added to the list of “must do” activities. This year’s excursion started at Round Barn Winery and then a quick stop in the old-time Ben Franklin. Continuing down Red Arrow Highway we stopped in a favorite antique mall and then at Pomegranate Home – where the shop owner greeted us with “Hello, it’s been a while since you’ve been in.” (Sisters weekend in June) After lunch at Stray Dog, it was time to Sit & Knit. The entire time we were there the couches and chairs were filled with knitters – one woman was on row 3 of her first scarf ever when we arrived; cousins were working on assorted projects; Bill came in with a bag of knits and started to work on a hat for a niece and wow us with all the other beautiful yarns in his bag; a recent Brooklyn transplant picked up some bright yarn for a winter scarf and proceeded to cast on. All the while, Kim & Jack were the ever attentive hosts in the shop keeping the coffee coming and providing snacks to munch on. When our sitting and knitting was done, we proceeded down the Red Arrow Highway towards Michigan City – a few shoe purchases at the Bass Outlet and then some “serious” holiday shopping at the Meijer’s. As we prepared to head back to the city I turned on the “constant Christmas music” radio station and commented to Kristy that it was now ok to hear Christmas songs. The yummy cranberry shakes from Culvers (best.shake.ever) kept the holiday spirit going. We arrived back in the city after the Christmas lights had been turned on along Michigan Ave. so the holiday spirit continued. In keeping with tradition, we ended the evening by picking up Thai food and watching Love Actually while working on gift knitting.

The Lights along Michigan Ave.

The Water Tower & Hancock Building & a few holiday lights

On Tuesday afternoon I headed to the airport to fly home for Thanksgiving with the family in the ‘Ville. Over eight hours after I arrived at the Chicago airport I arrived to the Atlanta airport – however my luggage didn’t arrive until after dinner on Wednesday. Tuesday was definitely one of the most difficult travel days that I’ve had in all my years of travel. At the last minute my flight was cancelled (reason: unclear) but I was immediately booked on the last flight out; however, that flight was delayed over 2 1/2 hours. Thankfully my carry-on bag was filled with plenty of knitting to pass the time. I think that Malabrigo projects are becoming a Thanksgiving flight tradition for me – when I got to the airport I cast on for a new winter hat and over half of the hat was finished by the time I arrived in Atlanta.

Our Thanksgiving day was quiet and filled with family, friends and food. We often joke that our Thanksgiving tradition is being non-traditional. The definite tradition is being together; however, the menu can be varied. In previous years we have enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner at Benihana and at the Planet Hollywood in Washington DC. When cooking at home we will try out new side dishes – but 2 things remain the same: how the turkey is prepared and the stuffing/dressing recipe that we use. This year family friends joined at our table. A favorite brussel sprout recipe is becoming my traditional addition to the holiday menu.

Our Thanksgiving Table

While at home I knit several triangles for a new batch of Christmas trees to be gifted this year. These will definitely be a family production – Mom & Dad will take the triangles and transform them into decorated trees – pictures will be posted later. In keeping with a recent “tradition” Dad & I picked up our Christmas tree on Friday morning – I helped to get the hundreds of lights on the tree on Saturday. While none of us were up at the crack of dawn on Friday morning to begin our holiday shopping, a couple of hours on Friday and Saturday with Dad and Rebecca yielded some good progress on the gift list.

Before I knew it, it was time to re-pack my suitcase and head back to my home in Chicago. An early flight this morning brought me and my suitcase back to Chicago with no problems at all. Today’s airport and airplane time provided just the right duration to finish up a current pair of socks on the needles.

And so, Thanksgiving is over. Although, Thanksgiving is more than just a day on the calendar – it is a state of mind. So often I’m reminded of how many things I have to be thankful for: family, friends, experiences and more! In fewer than 4 weeks it will be time to head back home to celebrate Christmas. However, between now and then there are lots of things to “complete” on the path towards Christmas: decorating the house, finishing up the gift knitting (& shopping), hopefully some holiday baking, the company holiday party, holiday get togethers with friends and of course – just taking time to enjoy all of the magic of Christmas.

…stay tuned for a post with finished knits…

A Mano

Handmade…

As someone who enjoys knitting and other handicrafts, it is obvious that I’m drawn to the handmade in life. The last week has provided me with an assortment of A Mano moments.

Stacey's Peru Hat

A co-worked recently returned from a vacation to Peru that included home stay lodging. As a way for the host families to recognize their guests, the mothers knit hats for everyone. Not only did the hat provide a signal in Peru, Stacey is using her hat to keep away the chill here in Chicago. I was in the office on Wednesday and had a chance to see this beautiful hat up close & personal. In a word – wow! The colors are so vibrant, the colorwork is so perfect. What a great way for her to remember this great trip.http://www.amyartisan.com/images/birthday_dinner_close.jpg This handmade colorwork piece is definitely something to aspire to.

Celebrating another year!

Another year, another birthday. To celebrate my birthday on Wednesday evening Greg, Jen, Kristy & I enjoyed a fabulous evening at a new restaurant in Chicago – A Mano. We were ‘drawn’ to the restaurant because it was part of the Bin 36 restaurants that we enjoy, it featured Italian food and they made many flavors of gelato in house. The evening didn’t disappoint. This is a great place to go with friends and share items off the menu – in fact, all of the pastas can be ordered as half portions – all the easier for sharing. As the name suggests, the menu focuses on the handmade – from the starters of celery root salad, prosciutto, mole salame and a lamb meatball/eggplant pizza to the hand-cut pastas (gnocchi, lasagna Bolognese, pumpkin ravioli, pappardelle with boar & raisins plus  a mushroom risotto) to the gelatos (we sampled chocolate, vanilla, chocolate-hazelnut, pumpkin, mascarpone, coffee, and a cranberry-apple sorbet) everything was delicious. They have a nice Italian wine list and were helpful in pointing us towards a “new to us” wine that we absolutely loved – a white Pinot Noir. Instead of a candle in the dessert, they brought out half glasses of a rose’ prosecco for us to toast my birthday – I thought that was a nice touch. It was an all around great evening and we all agreed that we needed to come back again soon to enjoy more of the A Mano specialities.

A baby blanket for Kristina

The last couple of weeks have been filled with some secret knitting. This weekend it was gifted and can now be revealed. My friend Kristina is pregnant with her first baby so one my Artisan Baby Blankets was in order. The gender of Baby C is not known so I went with a gender neutral color combo that also didn’t fall into the traditional baby colors. This blanket was knit with Cotton-Ease in the Violet & Almond colorways held together on size 10.5 needles. This was my first time working with Cotton-Ease and it was a great knit – I think it will be able to handle the task of being a well used baby blanket. I hear that the blanket is in the bassinet awaiting the arrival of Baby C.

With the holidays just around the corner my hands will be very busy in the coming weeks with the assorted handmade gifts that I’m hoping to finish up. (Hmm…my sweater may be taking a back seat to other projects for a while…) I also hope to spend some time in the kitchen making some handmade Christmas treats to share. What about you – what handmade experiences are you having these days?

In Rememberance

Remember 

 

IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

– By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army

(photo by tt24813055)

Picture Perfect

This past weekend out of town capped off several weeks of fun activities. The title of this post sums up the weekend in so many ways: Picture Perfect!

Picture Perfect

On Friday morning I headed over to Michigan City, IN for a scrapbooking getaway weekend with friends. We had seen the website for the Picture Perfect cottage a couple of years ago & hoped that sometime we would be able to pull together a group for a weekend of scrapbooking fun. Late this summer we started planning & were originally booked for a weekend next May. Through some scheduling mix-ups we were lucky enough to end up with a fall weekend.

Picture Perfect

If you’ve ever scrapbooked, you know that you have a lot of supplies involved with it. My car was loaded up with supplies for 3 gals & then Jen & I headed over across the Chicago Skyway (Kristy would be coming later in the afternoon). Just after noon we all descended on the charming cottage & immediately said ‘Wow’ – it had a great layout for everyone to be working. Once everyone unloaded our bags & bags of supplies we “set up shop” and got to work.

My project for the weekend was completing the Mexico Mission Trip 1988 album that I had started planning 2 weeks ago. It quickly came together. It was fun to read through my “journal” entries from the trip & then expand on them as I built out the pages.

While the focus of the weekend was scrapbooking, everyone was free to do what they wanted. A couple of women brought their bikes and also did some Nordic walking. Others strolled through the charming development & over to the beach. Naps were taken as needed. I have a secret knitting deadline so I was able to make great progress on that. I had thought I might go to a few of my favorite Harbor Country shops but found the pull of this charming house was too great.

Picture Perfect

As we shuffled through our assorted iPods on the great sound system in the house (talk about an assortment of musical styles…) the conversations among us flowed from one topic to another. While pictures were cropped and pages completed, stories and anecdotes were shared. As we looked through our own albums and the albums of the others we were reminded of truly how blessed we each were – with family, friends, experiences and fond memories.

Picture Perfect

During the days, the autumn sunshine through the trees streamed in through an abundance of windows. In the evenings the overhead lights were well placed and ensured we didn’t have to work in poor lighting. In addition to the great space for working on our scrapbooks the rest of the house was well thought out to meet our needs. The five bedrooms & 3 baths comfortably accommodated the 10 of us. A full kitchen had everything we could need & the catering package supplied us with more than enough food for all of our meals (at the end we brought a lot of leftovers back to Chicago).

We joked that the time change meant that we would have an extra hour to work on our albums. Turns out it wasn’t a joke for some of us – 5 of us were up and sitting at our tables before 6AM on Sunday, sometimes you just wake up & can’t get back to sleep.

Picture Perfect Gals

Much too quickly it was time for us to pack up our cars, take out the trash and set the alarm code before leaving this charming getaway and returning to real life. We all agreed that it was indeed a Picture Perfect weekend and are already looking at when we can come back.

(more pictures here)

Tricks, Treats & Sweets

This past weekend it was time once again to spend several days in Texas with the adorable Miss Butterfly & Miss Doodlebug and their parents. I arrived on Friday evening (after the girls were in bed) and by the time the I left on Tuesday evening had enjoyed several days filled with tricks, treats and sweets.

The Tricks – Isn’t it amazing what sticks & strings can become? This Halloween I used sticks to trick yarn into 2 Halloween costumes. Last Thursday I decided that I needed to bring a costume for the family Halloween party on Sunday evening. On Ravelry I had seen the Candy Corn Hat & had the colors in my stash of Sugar’n Cream dishcloth cotton – so Thursday evening I cast on for the hat. The hat was a very fast & easy knit – most of the knitting was done at the airport on Friday afternoon. As I was finishing up the hat on Saturday afternoon the girls were sitting on each side of me watching the stitches & giggled when I put a big candy corn on my head.

Super Sweet
1 Candy Corn Hat + 1 Superman t-shirt = Super Sweet!

The 2nd string trick turned out to be the hit of the party. On Friday Matt decided he wanted to be a lion for the party because the girls love when he “roars” at them. Maya was stumped about how to do that costume on short notice. A trip to Hobby Lobby on Saturday morning yielded the ingredients for a yarn mane. On Saturday afternoon while the girls were napping I started to map out the mane and decided the best thing would be to knit a hat & attach the ears & mane to that. I cast on some stitches & made it up as a went along. Sunday morning the girls jumped on my bed to watch me knit and “helped” with the knitting and sewing (pulling yarn out of the skein). By Sunday afternoon we had a pretty cool mane (a skull cap, 2 knit ears & lots of loops of yarns) – I think I will write up this “pattern” & post it in the near future. Add a fur boa for a tail, some fur “scrunchies” at the wrist, paint on a nose & whiskers & soon you have a lion. The girls loved their daddy as a lion – they dubbed him the Lion King of Texas.

The Lion King of Texas

Another trick that had great reviews – the purple & orange finger jello that I made for the party & that we also took to the preschool party. The “magic” of 3 small boxes of jello + 4 packets of knox gelatin + 4 cups of boiling water never ceases to amaze kids & adults.

The Treats & Sweets – It is always a treat to spend time with these sweet girls – there were so many fun little moments as we were hanging out at home or out and about that just made me smile.

On Saturday evening we went out for dinner – at the last minute the girls decided that they wanted to dress up in dresses & high heels – they were so proud of their outfits and tried to act so grown up.

Dressed for Dinner

Home highlights – swinging on the swings, watching Disney’s Robinhood – their continuous giggling during the archery contest scene was contagious, reading lots of stories, doing crafts, sitting on the bathroom counter while I did my makeup so I could powder their noses.

Milkshake Gals

On Monday afternoon we made our annual trip to the pumpkin patch. In 2005 it was “too hot” on our visit (in the 90s) and in 2006 it was “too cold” on our visit – this year was “just right.” Both girls were pretty adventureous with feeding the assorted animals. On the hayride we saw some turtles sunning themselves on a rock. Of course we took pictures in front of the “How Tall This Fall” scarecrow (taller & taller) and picked out some pumpkins to take home.

On Tuesday morning we dropped off Tinkerbell and Witchy Woo at preschool. Maya & I enjoyed a few hours of “big girl time” with some shopping & sushi before going to the school for the Halloween parade & classroom parties.

Dallas Highlights

(more pictures here)

Too quickly it was time to come back home to Chicago. It truly is a treat to spend time with the girls.

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