Amy Artisan

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Category: Family (page 2 of 16)

Bucketful of Summer…Revisited

Labor Day has passed, Columbus Day is around the corner…schools have been back in session for 4-8 weeks…the sunlight is starting to change…morning temps have already flirted down into the 40s a few times…meteorological summer has given way to autumn…leaves are falling and the season has changed. At the start of summer, a Ten on Tuesday prompt was for things I’d like to do before autumn rolls in. So, as the seasons change, a check-in on the list…

Summer Bucket Scenes


  • Continue to exercise konmari as I tackle the stuff in my house. I recently read “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” While I didn’t progress as quickly as I would have hoped, the #konmari is happening in my house. My bedroom and bathroom are complete. The kitchen is almost done. Next it is time to head into my office/guest room and start tackling books and then everything else. To date, a lot of things have exited the house: 12 bags of clothes; a large bag of sample and travel toiletries to a local women’s shelter; kitchen appliances & more that I “had to have” & realize now I don’t need & don’t fit in with life these days; in addition to pulling items for donation, it has also sparked joy to see some items leave my house & go to friends that will enjoy them.
  • See a movie at a drive-in theater. Our intention was good…but the timing didn’t work out to enjoy a kid friendly movie under the stars this summer…there’s always next year.
  • Take in another Iron Pigs baseball game. The last Sunday in June was a perfect day to take in a double header from the Bacon Strip
  • Add another presidential library to the “I’ve visited” list. (Truman, Carter, Reagan, Bush 2) Yes and no. The intent was to tour the FDR library as our family vacation in New York began. We ended up not having the time to tour – but post cards were picked up. It is on our list to do another time.
  • Can some jam. Definitely achieved – through 2 canning adventures. The first time was a Sunday afternoon with Gretchen and her girls at their house. Later on, a couple of hours in my kitchen yielded tomato jam. Now, I have jars stored in the closet for gift giving and meal enhancement as the seasons change and the summer produce becomes a distant memory.
  • Enjoy some family vacation time at summer camp in upstate New York. Most definitely achieved! This is a week that is staying with all of us and definitely goes in the pantheon of great family vacations.
  • Send a pack of t-shirts away to become a t-shirt quilt. My pack of t-shirts has returned to me from a visit to the textile factory in Massachusetts and is now a cozy quilt for cooler days ahead. I’ll share the quilt in another post.  
  • Achieve my “summer reading challenge” at the local library. My target is 12 books – of course, they consider summer to end on August 18th. Where’s my reading ribbon? I completed a baker’s dozen by Labor Day. Reading is a year round sport for me and I have several reads going at any one time. I set a 2015 reading goal on GoodReads for 40 books in 2015 and I’m well on track to meeting (& maybe surpassing?) that goal.
  • Spend some time coloring in my copy of “the” Secret Garden coloring book I picked up in London last summer. While I didn’t color in the Secret Garden, I have had fun coloring in the Paige Tate coloring books. This is an activity that is staying in rotation.
  • Complete a photobook for 2013 or 2014 with the Shutterfly Photo Story app. So this didn’t happen. While I have both photobooks started, I just didn’t find the spark to dive in and complete them this summer. Historically, I’ve been more productive with scrapbooking in cooler months…I’m anticipating this item will happen as the temps drop.

While I didn’t completely fill my summer bucket list – without a doubt the bucket has been filled with fun (&productive) times. As the seasons change and routines shift, I’m pulling together new items for my list – it will be fun to see what happens as the pages of the calendar keep marching onward.

What was on your list of goals for the summer? Did you achieve them? What is on your list for autumn and winter?

Adirondack Adventures

Since last October, the Artisan family had been planning for a July vacation. Our church in Georgia planned to spend a week “at camp” in the Adirondack Mountains and we decided that we would join them. By the time camp rolled around, a total of 51 of us made the trek to Camp-of-the-Woods in Speculator, NY.

As we left our Poughkeepsie Play, It was an easy drive north on the NY State Thruway towards camp – early afternoon we left that roadway in New Amsterdam and had a quick lunch, a quick Walgreen’s stop & filled up the tanks before the final hour drive up through the mountains to camp.

The first view of the lake...amazing!

The first view of the lake…amazing!

By mid-afternoon, we had made our way into the mountains and were checking into camp. As Mom & Dad settled into their adorable cabin with the screened in porch and Rebecca & I were settling into our room in the longhouse, Rebecca’s phone was abuzz with others from our church group arriving. Before long we were all gathering at our group of tables in the dining hall & our camp adventures began.

The sunsets were spectacular. Our first night there, as we came out of the great concert we were treated to a beautiful sky and a view of the new moon and Venus.

A few of the amazing sunset views from the week...

A few of the amazing sunset views from the week…

Where to begin with recounting the time that was our camp vacation? Our pastor likened it to a “landlocked cruise” in that there were more activities than you could possibly do and you could choose as many or as few of them as you wanted and make the week your own.

The daily chapel sessions were powerful – the speakers for the week were Dr. Ravi Zachariah and Dr. Nabeel Qureshi and each time they spoke you were filled with new insights. And my virtual book stack grew with several titles from them and that they mentioned.

The music programming was top notch – great singing during chapel sessions and so much more. Stellar concerts from the camp music staff: on Saturday night the concert included selections from “Oklahoma!” which made us smile; on Thursday evening a great recital from some of the staff; to close out camp on Friday evening another great concert which featured “Phantom of the Opera” selections. The sounds of Brass on the Beach filled the air several times during the week.

Artisan sisters having ceramic fun in the arts & crafts cabin!

Artisan sisters having ceramic fun in the arts & crafts cabin!

After morning chapel, the days were wide open and the possible activities vast. A couple of mornings, we wandered over to the “Tee Pee” & picked up some of their famous cinnamon rolls and cups of coffee for a late morning snack at the lakefront tables. A few afternoons, we ended up at the beach of the gorgeous lake – our group had “a spot” staked out in front of the accommodations of one of the families so we always a place to enjoy the sun, sand and water.

The Monday afternoon canoe race to the island & back

The Monday afternoon canoe race to the island & back

On Monday afternoon, Mom & I cheered on Rebecca & several others from our crew that were doing the canoe race out to an island in the lake and back to shore. A couple afternoons, the Arts & Crafts cabin provided fun in the form of painting ceramics. One afternoon, I spent time with our pastor’s wife and she taught me shuffleboard. There was always the lure of the fabulous screened-in porch at the folks’ cabin – I didn’t read nearly as much as I had hoped, but just being in that porch was so restorative.

So much to do & so much nature to just enjoy!

So much to do & so much nature to just enjoy!

As we confirmed plans for the week at camp, I was only able to stay through Tuesday morning chapel – work commitments required me to be back in the office for the rest of the week…or so I thought…when I got to the office on Wednesday morning, the big item got rescheduled and so I decided to turn around and go back to camp. Since I had done camp laundry (but not unpacked the rest) on Tuesday evening, I was able to quickly load the car on Wednesday afternoon and head northward – I pulled into camp around 8:30 and in no time was around the campfire with the church group. Thursday and Friday at camp were definitely bonus days of fun and family for me.

Not a bad "office" on a Friday morning...

Not a bad “office” on a Friday morning…

Friday morning I had to do a little bit of work before starting my day. So I grabbed my laptop & went to the TeePee for coffee, a pastry & a stronger wifi connection. The view from this “office” was pretty inspiring and in no time, my work was done so that I could enjoy the rest of the day.

A quick family pic...maybe a Christmas card contender?

A quick family pic…maybe a Christmas card contender?

After Friday morning chapel, our family loaded in my car for a bit of local exploring – we picked up a few souvenirs at the fun department store in town and picked up delicious iced coffee from the local café – then we decided to drive for a bit and enjoy the scenery. Right about the time we needed to find a spot to turn around to head back to camp, a sign appear for a scenic stop overlooking a beautiful lake – so, we pulled in and found a great spot to snap some family selfies, listen to the sound of the water against the shoreline below us and just take in the scenery.

Our last night of camp included a large crew of us piled into several vehicles and ran into town for one last vacation ice cream at Lakeside Licks. Much too quickly, we arrived at Saturday morning and it was time for everyone to scatter from camp. Rebecca was the first to leave at 7AM – she was riding/driving back to Georgia with a family who first needed to deliver some folks to the Syracuse airport to catch flights back to Atlanta. After one last meal in the dining hall & picking up our glazed ceramics from the arts & crafts room, our vehicles were loaded and we reluctantly pulled out of camp – at the camp entrance/exit, I turned right to follow my route back to PA and Mom & Dad turned left to head west to visit family in Ohio.

Family fun at the camp carnival!

Family fun at the camp carnival!

One of the families in our church has been going to this camp yearly for more than 30 years. After our week there, we can see how this becomes a family tradition. We all hope to return there in future summers for additional spectacular weeks in Speculator, NY. Since camp, it is amazing how often it peppers our conversations – without a doubt, we are hooked.

What summer camp adventures have you had? 

Poughkeepsie Play

As I’ve mentioned, July included a great Artisan Family vacation in upstate New York. Since last October, we had been planning our time “at camp” in the Adirondacks. As the date got closer and plans solidified, we decided to take a bit of a detour through the Hudson Valley enroute to camp.

Ready for the show!

Ready for the show!

Mom & Dad arrived at my place on Thursday afternoon. On Friday morning, we picked Rebecca up from the airport and once back at my place we quickly packed up both vehicles and set out northward towards New York. Our plan was to do some tourist-ing along the Hudson River in the Poughkeepsie, NY area. Initial thoughts were to visit the FDR Presidential Library & Museum. A later addition to the agenda was for Friday evening – seeing a new staging of “Oklahoma!” at Bard College as a belated birthday present for Artisan Dad.

Due to a softball tournament in the area, our Friday night hotel choices were limited and we ended up staying further away from things than I would have preferred. But sometimes, that works out for the better. Once we checked into the hotel, I looked at the map and realized that we wouldn’t be able to get to the FDR site and to the show on Friday afternoon/evening. So as we all rested a bit in the late afternoon my first order of business was to find a fun dining option for before the show. I indeed googled “restaurants near me” and ended up finding a great winner for us: Farm to Table Bistro was just up the road from us and en route to the college. We enjoyed an early dinner at this delightful restaurant – reading through the menu it was difficult to choose from so many delicious sounding entrees.

With Friday traffic and smaller roads, it was about an hour drive up to Bard College – a lot of beautiful scenery filled our time. As we turned on the road to the theater, we were greeted with a spectacular view of the Richard B Fisher Center for the Performing Arts – a billowing array of stainless steel shingles that is a Frank Gehry hallmark.

The first glimpse at the Gehry design

The first glimpse at the Gehry design

(As an aside, I was very impressed with the emails I received from the center leading up to the performance date – in addition to directions to the venue & dining options, they included an online version of the program as well as links to the NY Times review and a pre-opening article.)

What an amazing experience we had at that Friday evening show. We knew going into the evening that it was a “different” staging of the show and I just hoped that the rest of the family was as game for the variation as I was. In the end, they were – whew! The show was in a small theater that had been configured basically as theater in the round (actually, a rectangle here) – the audience was seated at 2 rows of tables that ringed the stage. Red crockpots filled with simmering chili where on the tables. As the audience filled into the theater, the 6 person band was warming up. Before long the show started – 10 actors; the front row of tables were used as part of the staging; cornbread was mixed together in the opening scene and served during intermission with the chili and lemonade; with the pared down staging, I felt like I was noticing the lyrics and lines much more than I previously had.

After the show, we made a wrong turn on our drive back towards the hotel & ended up crossing the Hudson (unplanned) – we quickly picked the new way south on that side of the river & then enjoyed the late night crossing of the Mid-Hudson/Roosevelt Bridge to come back on the side of the river that we needed to be on.

There were a few raindrops to start our Saturday morning but that didn’t stop us. Since we were in New York, of course our day started with a great breakfast spread at a diner across from our hotel. Once our order was placed and we sat at our table with mugs of coffee or tea, we all were reflecting on the performance the night before – without a doubt, it had 4 Artisan Family Thumbs-Up.

After loading up the vehicles and picking up iced coffee for all of us we were once again on our way. We stopped at the FDR site (picked up a postcard or 2) but realized that we didn’t have the time on this day to spend touring the site – so, I guess we need to come back. And as we had driven through the cute small towns the day before we all could easily see us coming back for a multi-day visit.

Leaving the FDR site, we got back on the NY State Thruway in caravan towards our next stop…camp in the Adirondacks…to be continued

Bucket List Birthday

Ten years ago, I celebrated a decade turning birthday in Chicago in lots of different ways – culminating with drinks and dinner at the top of the Hancock Building with dear girlfriends. Looking back on the last 10 years, I know that as we enjoyed the city and lake views with our celebration I didn’t have a glimpse into how the next 10 years would progress and indeed how I would celebrate the next decade turning birthday. While I don’t have a formal bucket list, per se, as I look at the last 10 years there have been some pretty incredible experiences that have filled my bucket. So, it seemed appropriate to celebrate this decade turning birthday in Wisconsin with a bucket list experience – it was finally to see a Packers game at Lambeau. And not just any game – the latest installment of the Packers vs. Bears rivalry in prime time. This time last weekend, I was in the midst of enjoying a fantastic birthday celebration weekend with dear ones back in Wisconsin.

As the sun was setting on Sunday afternoon, we loaded into the van to head towards the game. All week we had been watching the weather forecast and so we made sure that we had plenty of layer options to wear & carry in so that we wouldn’t be frozen fans – in the end, we didn’t even deploy all the layers we brought with us. In no time, we were parking about 5 blocks from the stadium and adding layers to our ensembles before walking to the stadium. Along the way, we passed a lot of tailgating and cheering fans in the neighborhood that surrounds the stadium. As we reached the stadium we were swept up into the throngs of fans as we worked our way around to the front entrances and the new Lambeau Leap statue. (Trivia: C & V were at the game where the 1st Lambeau Leap was experienced) After capturing the appropriate leap pictures, it was time to enter the stadium and find our seats.

We pushed through the crowds and climbed the steps to our seats. Before long we were settling into our seats in the end zone, near the Packers tunnel. The pre-game festivities were stirring – it seemed appropriate that we were there for a great show of military service appreciation. We all dutifully held up our blue cards for the Card Stunts. And then, it was time for the game to start. Before long, the Packers were in the end zone and we were jumping up and down screaming & high-fiving with those in the seats around us. Early in the game, it was evident that it was not going to be a good night to be a Bears fan – the 20-something Bears fans in the seats in front of us quickly realized they needed to just embrace the Lambeau experience. As the Packers continued to score, we joked that it would be great for them to at least score as many points as there were candles on my cake this year. Little did we know they would surpass that by halftime.

As the game continued into the second half, it was obvious that we were lucky enough to be witnessing an incredible game in this longstanding rivalry. Even as seats around us started to empty, we stayed to the very end. There were still plenty of opportunities to scream and holler and cheer as great play continued. I had started losing my voice on Saturday but that didn’t stop me from cheering with the best of them during the game. As we headed back to the van after the game we all were floating just a bit from the excitement of a great game and a great evening.

While the game on Sunday night was definitely the highlight of the weekend, it was an all around great time with dear ones. My flight path to WI included connecting through Atlanta so I “picked up” Rebecca to join the celebration. The WI family picked us up in Milwaukee and we had our “normal” road trip fun including lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings and Kwik Trip stops. Saturday evening, the grown-ups enjoyed a very grown-up dinner of Concrete Mixers from Culvers. On Sunday morning we headed up to the land in the UP in the midst of a few snowflakes. Sunday supper happened at lunchtime & included cold weather grilling and a tasty birthday cake. On Monday, a pretty snowfall came down outside the living room picture window as we enjoyed hanging out before it was time for Rebecca to head back to GA. Monday lunch was at my favorite Blue Bike Burrito – it had been a while since I’d been there but it is always so fun to walk in & be greeted by name. On Tuesday, I was back in the office there as the snow started to stick more before it was time to fly back to PA.

And now, the decade has turned. Who knows what these next 10 years will hold. But based on the adventures the previous decades have held, I look forward to seeing what unfolds.


It was a treat to host Mom & Dad here for a bit of a vacation to start July. Over the last couple of years, it seems like Mom & Dad visits have included quite long “honey-do” lists tied to moving. This time, the focus really was on fun and exploring the area. #localtourist
Amish covered bridges...this time with sunshine

Amish covered bridges…this time with sunshine

On Thursday, we were “back” to Amish Country for the day. We enjoyed wandering through some of our favorite shops and went for a lighter lunch option of delicious sandwiches at Kitchen Kettle Village instead of the full family style meal. After “introducing” Mom to a fabulous swivel rocker at one of the furniture stores, she is now contemplating it as her Christmas gift – I don’t blame her, it may be the ultimate chair. Of course, I had to show them the covered bridges that I found the last time I was over there.

Exploring Valley Forge

Exploring Valley Forge

We decided that July 4th would be a good day to explore Valley Forge National Historic Park.  Even the few bands of winds & rain from Hurricane Arthur didn’t stop us from a fun day of exploring this slice of American History. We picked up the Audio Tour CD at the Visitor’s Center and set off to explore the park. The audio tour was excellent – I’m sure that I’ll use it many times as friends & family come to visit. Along the way in the park, we stopped at some of the sites to further explore. While there were July 4th activities planned throughout the park, we didn’t experience large crowds to make us question our decision to be there on Independence Day – the way the park is laid out, it is easy to “find space” away from other visitors. Towards the end of the driving tour, the Washington Memorial Chapel is an amazing piece art that captures the revolutionary history.

A gorgeous day for a canal boat tour

A gorgeous day for a canal boat tour

On Saturday, the plan was to head north to Easton – it is a beautiful drive along the Delaware River and I needed to do some gift shopping at the Crayola Experience store. As I looked to see what else there was to do in Easton, I discovered the National Canal Museum was nearby – so our plans for the day expanded. While small, the museum was filled with history about the Pennsylvania canal system and fun interactive exhibits to help kids (& adults) understand how it all worked. After touring the museum, we enjoyed a 45 minute mule-pulled canal boat tour. The weather was perfect for this. Since the day was spectacular, after lunch we took a more extended drive along the Delaware River as we meandered home.

Happy Birthday Dad!

Happy Birthday Dad!

Dad’s birthday is early in the month, so early in the week I picked up a birthday cake from a great local bakery & we enjoyed it nightly. We also celebrated with a great Sunday brunch at the historic William Penn Inn that is nearby. When we weren’t out exploring, it was fun to just hang out at home – indeed, we are a family that can easily spend time together “just being” – reading a book or something online, doing puzzles, knitting – together in the living room.

As is always the case with family time…it was over much too quickly!

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