Amy Artisan

Family | Travel | Craft | Life | Books

Month: June 2014

Across the Pond…Again

Last week brought my third business trip to the UK in less than 3 months. A full week of workshops outside of London was on the schedule and I planned to stay through till Sunday to enjoy a weekend in London.


The work week was busy – I was glad that on Monday evening a colleague & I had made plans to check out a nearby tavern right on the Thames. Dinner was the best fish & chips I’ve encountered during these recent travels & the setting was a nice respite from the workshops. Throughout the week, I got caught up in World Cup fever as colleagues from multiple countries were in “full on” team spirit.

On Friday afternoon, as work wrapped up a car picked me up to take me into London for some fun. Once again, I enjoyed staying at a great hotel “in the middle of it all” using points from my WI travel. Once I settled into the hotel on Friday afternoon, I walked a couple of blocks to hop on the tube to the Swiss Cottage stop. On the agenda, catching up with a friend from my book club days in Chicago. It had been several years since we had seen each other so there was much catching up to do – in addition to “life” we were also trading book recommendations back & forth.

Saturday was a “full on” tourist day. After enjoying breakfast delivered to my room (thank you concierge status!), it was time to see the city. My first stop was The British Museum. I was there for about 3 hours and yet I know I only skimmed the surface of this amazing collection of artifacts.

After the museum, I strolled down Oxford Street to do some shopping. My main shopping goal was a return to Liberty to get one of their beautiful scarves. Along the way I did a bit of other shopping to pick up treats for family. I arrived at Liberty to signs of big sales – so my plan to get one scarf ended up morphing into picking up 2 of their gorgeous scarves on sale for the price of 1. After shopping, it was back to the hotel – an iced coffee, panini & coverage of the Royal Ascot races provided a respite from the hot day.

Late in the afternoon, I hopped on the tube & headed across the river to the London Eye. It was a gorgeous day to hop into one of the carriages for a “spin around the city.”
From the London Eye, I walked along the River Walk and came across a steel drum performer with a haunting performance of Amazing Grace. A walk across the Jubilee Bridge brought me back towards my hotel. Along the way, I walked past Trafalgar Square and then turned onto Leicester Square.

My goal was dining al fresco in one of the many cafes that line the square. A table at Muriel’s Kitchen provided a lovely end to that goal. My sister texted that I needed to get a slice of banoffee pie to end the day. The restaurant didn’t serve it. Thanks to my iPhone, I googled “banoffee pie near Leicester Square” & saw mention of a cafe in the area – as I walked back towards my hotel I came across the cafe & ordered a slice “takeaway.”

On Sunday morning, the city was just starting to wake up as my car took me back to Heathrow. After being in the middle of such hustle and bustle, it was nice to see the quieter side of the city. The flight home was for catching up on movies and reading…and also for tea time just before landing. I think one or two more UK trips will be on the horizon as the year progresses – I wonder what tourist adventures await on future trips.

Family Vacation Fun

This week, I was lucky enough to host my WI family for some “PA summer fun” family vacation time. This has been a trip a long time in the making – from the first possibilities of me moving to PA we talked of them coming to visit. This was one of the first things written on my fridge calendar back in January and as the months progressed we added possible fun times to our itinerary.

Last Friday, the kids had a half day of school to end their school year. Once school was out, they piled into the van and were off… Over the river into the UP – across the Mackinac Bridge – and through the Ohio & Pennsylvania Turnpikes to “Miss Amy’s House” they came.

Text messages and phone calls on Friday & Saturday provided a glimpse into the excited van as they made their way here. By the time the kids were pounding on my front door on Saturday evening we all were more than ready for days of fun, fun, fun!

Civil War on a Sunday afternoon

Civil War on a Sunday afternoon

Sunday is for Civil War! After brunch that included an introduction to Pork Roll & Scrapple, we headed to New Jersey for the afternoon. (Add another one to the visited states list, kids!) Our goal was to see an annual Civil War reenactment – we arrived just as the battle was starting. In addition to seeing the battle, we toured the encampment and learned quite a bit about the rifles and combat methods used during the war. To recharge from the hot and sunny outing, we stopped at a drive in for ice cream & floats. After a fun afternoon “out” we returned home for our “Sunday supper” routine that began during my Marinette days – after cooking many meals in their kitchen it was fun to cook with them in mine. Supper gave way to a lazy evening enjoying just being back together.

Kitchen Kettle Village fun

Kitchen Kettle Village fun

Monday is for Amish Country! Once we were all up & fed, it was time to load into the van and head west towards Lancaster County. It is definitely a favorite day trip spot for me – so of course we would go there. As we started sharing the road with buggies, the boys were responsible for keeping count of how many we saw throughout the day. Our day was filled with shopping both at Kitchen Kettle Village and other favorite stores; sampling many tasty jams, salsa, mustards & more; tasty family style lunch at Good & Plenty Restaurant; just exploring the countryside. As rain started to move in late in the afternoon we searched out 2 covered bridges in the area – one to drive through and one to walk around.

Discovering Covered Bridges

Discovering Covered Bridges

Tuesday is for Cheese Steaks, Coloring & Baseball! I went into the office for a few hours in the morning while the kids enjoyed some splash time at their hotel pool. At lunchtime, we headed out with an itinerary to take us a bit north. First up was another local taste – delicious cheese steaks. Then, a beautiful drive along the Delaware River took us to Easton, PA and the Crayola Experience.

Channeling our inner artist

Channeling our inner artist

The Crayola Experience was a hit with all of us – we could probably have spent twice as much time there. Each of the kids has a creative streak & this was a perfect place for all of us to channel our inner artist as we worked our way through the various art stations. We named our own crayons, made markers, created digital art, colored pictures, captured “family selfies” into coloring pages and all around had a fun time.

Take us out to the ball game

Take us out to the ball game

After a couple hours in color wonder, it was time to head a bit west to see some baseball. Our seats in “The Bacon Strip” in the far right outfield made for an excellent place to cheer on the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs in a minor league game. It was a beautiful night for baseball – we were lucky that rain in the area did not come to the ballpark & impact the game.

Wednesday ended up being for an unexpected early departure due to a family need back in WI. While we were all sad as they drove away from my place in the early morning hours, we were so thankful for the time that we had together here. From the fun adventures to the simple hangout times at my place and everything in between, we filled the days with many great memories!

Summer Shows

Connecting up with Carole’s Ten on Tuesday this week…the prompt was 10 Bands/Individuals I’ve Seen in Concert. Since it’s summertime, which means that there are so many opportunities for great outdoor shows, I’m adding a twist to the list & only focusing on outdoor shows I’ve seen…

Scenes from Summer Sounds...

Scenes from Summer Sounds…

  • The Hollywood Bowl – A classic American concert venue…in July 2002 I had the opportunity to see a concert there…Pink Martini opened for Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66…It was the first time that I saw Pink Martini & I instantly became a fan. In fact, I flew back to Chicago on Sunday on Monday at lunch I was picking up a copy of their CD. Since then, I’ve seen Pink Martini in a wide variety of venues and their shows never disappoint.
  • Ravinia Festival – A quintessential summer evening in Chicago is to picnic on the lawn at Ravinia & enjoy a great show. Pretty much, a no fail recipe is “group of friends + some sort of picnic + any performance = great evening.” During my time in Chicago, I enjoyed many an evening at Ravinia – from work team outings, to book club gatherings to evenings with good friends, no matter the performance the evening was a delight. Among the performances: James Galway (1st Ravinia experience); Chanticleer; Joshua Bell; Tony Bennett; James Galway with Tiempo Libre; and my fave Pink Martini.
  •  The Jay Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park – A more recent addition to the Chicago outdoor venue (& skyline) is this striking Gehry designed band shell. Several fun evenings were spent enjoying a performance there. Again, great picnicking is a key component. When I worked downtown, it was so easy to do this. Among the shows I saw there The Decemberists put on a great show in a race against an incoming summer thunderstorm and I also enjoyed seeing The Joffrey Ballet performing to tunes of The Beach Boys, Motown & Prince.
  • First Midwest Bank Amphitheater, Chicagoland – A standard outdoor concert space. It’s hard to believe that it has been 5 years since Rebecca & I reverted to screaming teenage girls for the first NKOTB reunion show that we saw. The Jabberwockez as an opening act were great; Jesse McCartney, not so much.
  • Back in high school and college, the concert pavilion at Six Flags over Georgia was the scene of several fun concert adventures with friends. One evening was Richard Marx & Wilson Phillips. I also remember getting rather sunburned one weekend while enjoying a Christian Music Fest (including The Newsboys, PFR and so many more…)
  • A fun evening while on a project in Chattanooga during the summer of 2006 involved see Los Lonely Boys at the Riverbend Festival – just blocks from our hotel & office.

What about you? What are some of your favorite outdoor concert venues & performances? Do you have any outdoor concerts on your summer calendar yet?

P.S. Several years ago, I wrote about the joy of partaking in outdoor performances – both musical & theatrical.

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