Amy Artisan

Family | Travel | Craft | Life | Books

Month: January 2015 (page 1 of 2)


In January…new calendars are opened & begin to fill…winter tries to make a statement (which is muted compared to last January)…slowly, the days are getting longer…these are some of the things that filled my January days…

Keeping warm in a fun British Soldiers scarf from my sister

Keeping warm in a fun British Soldiers scarf from my sister

Readingmaking progress on the stack from under the Christmas tree…loading “The Giver Quartet” on my Kindle for travel reading – my 11 year old goddaughter is eager for me to finish reading it so we can discuss it…

Watching…I’ve “finally” jumped into Downton Abbey – I *might* have watched seasons 1 & 2 one weekend and now am caught up to the current season…enjoying the Agent Carter mini-series…got a good laugh out of the NKOTB themed episode of The Goldbergs…

Listening…searching out more podcasts since I finished Serial…thoroughly enjoying Invisibalia…Start Up…Reply All…

To be blogged...a simple scarf knit...finished

To be blogged…a simple scarf knit…finished

Crafting…a simple scarf was my Christmas knitting while home in the ‘Ville & I finished it up during Downton Abbey…taking stock of the stash & determining what to keep & what needs to find a home with others that will put it to better use…yarn & needles in a project bag in my backpack for work travel (shh…gift knitting in progress)…

Browsing…a history of some New Year’s day food traditions…a great fundraiser for a Green Bay Shelter – cheesy scarves…another installment of It’s Aaron – this time connecting with kids who lost parents to combat…on smartphones and the case for boredom…how open office concepts aren’t helping…Packers playing games

A second batch of soup was perfect for snowy days!

A second batch of soup was perfect for snowy days!

Cooking…yummy Carrot-Coconut Soup, twice!…Mom’s marinated black eyed pea salad to start the new year…a box of holiday pears from Harry & David was put to use in a Cranberry/Pear Baked Oatmeal as well as modifying this recipe to with a pork tenderloin instead of chicken…Chocolate Chili in the crockpot twice during the month…trying out breakfast quinoa in the crockpot (need to tweak it just a bit)…

Oh my darling...finally finding great clementines for cheerful snacking

Oh my darling…finally finding great clementines for cheerful snacking

Sipping…Really enjoying the coconut macaroon coffee from Target  – with a splash coconut milk (or frothed coconut milk)…this White Vanilla Grapefruit tea is a refreshing iced tea and is helping me increase my daily water intake…

Fizzing…making Airborne a part of my daily routine to ward of the winter colds and crud that are going around…maybe its all in my head but it seems to help keep me well…

Scenes from a busy & exciting first week on a new Florida...

Scenes from a busy & exciting first week on a new project…in Florida…

Traveling…a project at work meant a week in South Florida – in the midst of some very busy days, the dining al fresco for 3 evenings was so delightful (& I can’t complain about FL travel in the winter)

Cultivating…as I focus on my word this year…focusing on some opportunities at work…keeping consistent in daily quiet time…charging up the FitBit again to keep moving towards better health…

Loving my Mary Englebreit page-a-day calendar on my desk at work!

Loving my Mary Englebreit page-a-day calendar on my desk at work!

Looking Ahead….more business trips to South Florida…wondering if the jury duty summons will get called…more cultivating steps to take…

Linking up with Leigh Kramer for the monthly “What I’m Into” round-up. What are you into these days? How are you passing the winter days?  

Simply Soup: The Carrot Edition

Earlier this month, as I was cleaning out my fridge I found a bag of carrots hiding out in the back and decided that they needed to be used up. My first thought was soup – followed quickly by the thought of using coconut milk in it. So, I searched for a recipe and found one that included ingredients in my kitchen: Carrot-Coconut Soup from Bon Appetit.

Carrot Soup

Carrot Soup

I pretty much followed the recipe as written. My main differences were using coconut oil instead of butter and the types of salt & pepper I used. In the soup, I used a lemon sea salt flake and my favorite Trader Joe’s Lemon Pepper grinder. As I “plated” the soup & drizzled a bit of the Thai sweet chili sauce in it, I also sprinkled flakes of a homemade chili lime salt on top.

That first bag of carrots included three colors: orange, yellow & purple. As the soup was simmering on the stove, I thought for sure I was going to end up with a purple soup. Thankfully, the whirl of the immersion blender balanced out the colors to something closer to refried beans.

This soup…wow! A tasty and tangy combination of flavors that is so, so good. That hint of the Thai sweet chili sauce is the perfect “extra” in this recipe. I thoroughly enjoyed this and have decided that this will be a “always on hand” recipe. In addition to being a great soup “as is” I also see opportunities to use it in different ways – ladle over brown rice & some cooked shrimp for a heartier meal; throw some veggies in the bowl to bulk it up and more. With business travel back in the schedule, it’s nice to know that I can count on having a simple and tasty homemade meal in short order after eating out ALL the time while on the road.

What soups are simmering in your kitchen these days?

Frosted Cranberries

As a new year starts & I begin my 9th year chronicling life here at Amy Artisan, it seems appropriate to start with a finished knit – it was discovering knit blogs in the fall of 2005 that set the wheels in motion for me to hang out the shingle here.

Always fun to wear a new hand knit!

Always fun to wear a new hand knit!

While knitting isn’t as prolific recently as it used to be, one thing is for sure…. as the holidays & associated travel approach I’m always reaching for a simple project to have with me.

In October, I pulled yarn from stash & found a cowl pattern that I thought would be the 2014 fall/holiday travel project. But, when given the option to knit during my TX & WI trips I didn’t – I just wasn’t feeling the yarn & pattern combo. So, the day before I flew home for Thanksgiving I ripped back the project & cast on for a simple favorite.

In detail

In detail

That Thanksgiving week at home in the ‘Ville ended up being prime for knitting. The majority of the knitting in this is basically built on my “go to” dishcloth pattern. By the end of the week, I was ready for the “lace” border which was Packers knitting early in December.



Once Christmas presents were wrapped & shipped, I spread out the blocking foam, dug out the blocking wires & in no time this piece was ready to wear. Over the Christmas holidays, this scarf saw plenty of wear – the reds and greens are certainly festive; however, I know the colors will serve me well throughout the year.

(Raveled here)

Flax Pond Farms - September 2013

Flax Pond Farms – September 2013

The yarn colorway name is “Christmas Candy” and that is definitely an apt description. But, I also thought of another name as I knit…Frosted Cranberries. The combination of reds and greens reminded me of the pallet of color I saw when I visited a cranberry farm and watched a dry harvest 2013 and the hint of silver thread provides a bit of frost to it all.

What’s on your needles these days?

Recently Read…January 2015

Plenty of books under the Christmas tree!

Plenty of books under the Christmas tree!

A welcome site in the Artisan family, stacks of books under the Christmas tree. As I mentioned, we spent Boxing Day at home enjoying our new reads, hot coffee & afternoon naps – I’m fine with us creating a new tradition with that. My requests were varied this year – a mix of fiction and wide ranging non fiction. While some of these books have already been consumed, others await to be read throughout this year.

During this most recent Advent season, I picked up a couple of books to establish a daily advent reading routine. One book I put on the Kindle, The Dawning of Indestructible Joy: Daily Readings for Advent by John Piper. These were short reflections that were focused on the Gospel.

My second Advent reading was Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas. I found this through another blog and was a couple days late getting started with the readings. This is a great collection of writings from a wide range of voices from the ancient to the modern: Brennan Manning, St. Thomas Aquinas, Madeleine L’Engle, C.S. Lewis and so many more. Some days the readings were brief – other days they were longer. Most of these readings were new to me and many authors were new reads, too. On several occasions, I was actively highlighting & sharing words I was reading with family & friends. I look forward to coming back to this book each year.

Beyond the Advent reads, these are some of the books that I have enjoyed recently…

The King & Checkmate by Steven James – The final 2 books in the 7 book Patrick Bowers series. I started this series several years ago with books under the Christmas tree and have enjoyed it the entire time (even when I fell behind in reading the books as they came out). This is a smartly written thriller series with Patrick Bowers as an FBI agent who focuses on environmental criminology as a way to solve the crimes. His back story is developed in early books as he solves other cases and as the series progresses everything “comes together” towards a bit of a final showdown. This series wrapped up nicely and I think the door is open for a new series to develop with “minor characters” in this series taking the lead. As an aside, I now use honey as a sweetener in my coffee because of this main character.

Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II by Vicki Croke – The fascinating story of an Englishman who goes to work for a British teak company in Burma after WWI and becomes an elephant master. Over the years Billy Williams develops an amazing relationship with the elephants he manages; changes how elephants are trained for the work; truly becomes an elephant whisperer. When WWII hits Burma, he & “his elephants” join the British military and the elephants are used for some great people exoduses from Burma into India. In addition to being a good story about a piece of history I was unfamiliar with, there were leadership lessons to glean from how the elephants worked.

One Word that Will Change Your Life by Jon Gordon, Dan Britton, Jimmy Page – As I mentioned, this year I’m choosing one word to focus on for goals, intentions, resolutions: CULTIVATE. As I was “in process” on coming to that word, I read this book – a very quick read – to further wrap my head around what this sort of goal setting could achieve.

The Patmos Deception by Davis Bunn – From under the Christmas tree, a fairly fast read from an author I enjoy. This time the blend of current action and history was centered in Greece – against the backdrop of the Greek financial crisis, Grecian antiquities are disappearing. A journalist and a forensic archaeologist, lifelong friends, team up to investigate. Along the way to solving the mystery, they are drawn into the island of Patmos where John the Baptist wrote of the apocolypse. This adventure wraps up by the end of the book…there are definitely some loose strings that leave the door open to future adventures with these characters.

Everything I Need to Know About Christmas I Learned From a Little Golden Book by Diane Muldrow – From under the Christmas tree. Another clever installment in taking the illustrations & words from the classic Little Golden Books and getting to the heart of what matters during the Christmas hustle & bustle. A fun add to the Christmas books.

– A long term read for the year, as I’m focusing on making daily devotional time a priority, I am working my way through The One Year Women in Christian History Devotional. So far I am enjoying learning more about women of faith that span the ages.

Still in progress, Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free by Hector Tobar. So far I’m enjoying it – I’ll provide a review next month.

With some business travel on the horizon, I see more Kindle based reading in the coming weeks. Also, my 11 year old goddaughter is eagerly awaiting me to finish reading The Giver Quartet so we can discuss the full cycle. I’m excited at the prospect of book discussion with this sweet girl!

Connecting up with Modern Mrs. Darcy’s monthly reading roundup, now renamed QuickLit.

What are you reading these days? Do you have any reading goals for 2015?

Beating back the Bleak

For this Tuesday…how to make winter less bleak. Knock on a wood-like surface, winter around here this year hasn’t been nearly as bleak as last winter. In fact on Sunday evening, a local newscast mentioned that this time last year PENNDOT had used 4 times as much salt as they have so far this season. While the snow has been less than last year, we have definitely had quite a few gray days and soggy days here – so there is some bleakness.

In the bleak midwinter...

In the bleak midwinter…

So, a hodge podge of simple things that seem to keep the bleak at bay around here.

  1. Lighting a candle in the evening – the glow & scent of citrus candles easily takes me to warmer days on the calendar.
  2. Snacking on citrus. Now is the time to enjoy peel & eat mandarins (which honestly seem not as good as past years). It’s time to make my Sunshine Citrus Salad again, too.
  3. Starting to plan summer vacation fun…looking at the summer months and fun times with family & friends on the horizon…family camp in NY…graduation & birthdays in WI…and more…
  4. Even though toes are hidden in thick socks, bright colored pedicures bring some cheer.
  5. Using the Shutterfly Storybook app to get back into personal scrapbooking…remembering bright bright days and good memories as I create pages (an evolution from January scrapbooking weekends to escape winter)
  6. Wearing the hand knits – without a doubt, this is the season when being a knitter is the best.
  7. Accessorizing the work wardrobe with travel memories…the scarves I picked up from Liberty in London last year; a scarf from Assisi in 2011; my cameo from Italy in 2005; fun necklaces from visits with my girlies in TX…bringing a bit of travel into the office…
  8. Meyer Lemons – the smell of one takes me back to my Grandma’s house in Southern California
  9. Wrapping up in my Wisconsin Wanderings afghan – keeping warm in the living room while remembering happy days
  10. Keeping on top of groceries and having basics on hand so when bad weather comes through, I can easily choose to “hunker down” through the weather.

Connecting up with Carole’s 10 on Tuesday prompts.

How do you battle the bleak during these winter days?

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