Amy Artisan

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Category: Harbor Country (page 1 of 2)

Summertime Blues

Chicago is known as a blues town. This summer, I’m experiencing a different twist on local blues. I’ve mentioned numerous times that one of my favorite parts of summer is the fresh produce – whether it’s attempting to grow a few things on my deck or my weekly treks the farmer’s market on Saturday morning. This summer, I’ve added another fresh produce option into the Artisan Kitchen. Earlier this summer, I came across a new take on a CSA share – the opportunity to “own” a blueberry bush for the summer & then go pick the berries.


Joe’s Blues is a “new” farm of 50 year old Jersey blueberry bushes in Bangor , MI. In addition to being able to order cases of blueberries, you can own a blueberry bush for the summer and then come pick at least 12 pounds from your bush during berry season.

I'm Amy's!

I knew that I didn’t have the freezer space for all the berries so I invited my friend Elaine to join me in owning the blueberry bush. We looked forward to a day trip later this summer to load up on berries. A couple of weeks ago, the farm emailed me with a picture of the blueberry bush that had been tagged as mine.

Ready to Pick!

This past Saturday, it was time to go harvest our blueberries. It was a beautiful day for a road trip! A little over 2 hours after leaving Chicago, we were meeting Joe and Frank and walked towards my blueberry bush.

All boxed up!

In no time at all, Elaine & I had filled our buckets with the sweetest blueberries we’ve ever tasted. We boxed them into 17 pint clamshells to bring home with us. We could have gone back out for some more from the bush but as it is, we have quite a lot to process. Many blueberries will be frozen to enjoy when summer days are a distant memory during winter. And in the coming weeks I’m sure I’ll be trying all sorts of blueberry creations. In the interim, a bowl of “my own” blueberries is about the sweetest snack around!

Still Picture Perfect


The first weekend of this month, it was once again time to leave the city & journey to the Indiana Dunes for a weekend of scrappin’ & more. Within a week or so of returning from the weekend last year, we coordinated calendars among the group and picked our fall 2008 weekend. When I started a new purse calendar in January, this was one of the first entries in it.


On Friday morning, after picking up coffee & loading up the car Jen & I headed out of town, across the Skyway bridge and into Michigan City to begin our weekend away. After a quick spin through Meijer’s we grabbed a quick lunch at Culvers (yum – pumpkin shakes!) & actually met up with most of the other gals there at the counter. At noon we were unlocking the doors to the cottage & immediately unloading our cars and setting up our individual work spaces. While I have lots of recent pictures to yet get into albums, my goal for the weekend was stepping back in time to do an album of my senior year of high school. Several years ago, while home in the Ville I found a “high school specific” album at a local scrapbook store so I picked it up & put it away for “one day.” It didn’t take me long to get my table set up & start walking through my senior year in pictures, letters, programs, dried flowers & more.

On Saturday afternoon, I took a break from scrappin’ and headed up the Red Arrow Highway to my favorite winery – since I was so close & didn’t know if I’d make it back over there before the holidays I wanted to pick up some wine from Round Barn. One of the gals came along with me & we had a lovely time enjoying the scenery & tasting several delicious options. Heading back down the highway, we stopped at a roadside fruit stand & I picked up a basket of apples for applesauce & more.

As sunset approached on Saturday, several of us walked down to the beach. We had picked up some bubbly at Round Barn & planned a sunset toast. It was a beautiful day to see the sunset from the beach. In fact, the weather was so clear that you could actually see the Chicago skyline across the lake from us.

Saturday Sunset

By the time my car was repacked with our gear on Sunday afternoon, I had finished about 80% of my album and also had enjoyed some knitting & reading moments. We each had different “goals” for the weekend and as the weekend ended, we all agreed that they had been met. As is tradition, we have already reserved our weekend for next fall’s retreat!

Back to the Beach…

…another summer weekend, time for the annual Kansas Sisters Weekend over in Harbor Country.  Rebecca flew in from Atlanta last week and late Friday afternoon, we picked up Jen & Kristy and pointed the car east – towards our escape. While the trip is a ritual, each time we visit we mix & match from our “menu” of favorite items, add some new items to the mix and end up with another lovely experience.

Beach Morning

Our time away was a bit shorter this year so some “standards” of previous trips were passed by this year – all the more reason to go back again soon. On Saturday morning we picked up coffee and scones for breakfast, packed up our beach bags & walked a few minutes from our inn to the beach. It was a beautiful morning to enjoy the view, read a good book, catch up with one another.

Beach Morning

Saturday afternoon our priority was to sit and knit with Kim & baby Max at the always charming Sit & Knit, A Yarn Cafe. Baby Max charmed us all. Rebecca & I continued our tradition of picking up “matching” yarns as souvenirs – this year it is sock yarn. Hmm, how is it that the non-knitter ends up with yarn souvenirs on these trips? 🙂 Throughout the weekend I made great progress on the latest sock on my needles. We didn’t do as much shopping as we have in years past; however, we still stopped at a few of our favorite shops as well as “discovered” a few new ones. And there was no shortage of delicious dining and drink options.

Beach Morning

Sunday morning it was rainy as we packed up the car to head back to the city. After breakfast and picking up some produce at the farmer’s market it was time to point the car west & come back to Chicago. As the rain gave way to sun and beautiful skies, DJ Becca Bec in the back seat kept us going with quite the eclectic lineup of tunes on the iPod.

Until the next time, this quick clip of the beach on Saturday morning will serve as a reminder of another wonderful weekend to celebrate sisters.

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…

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)

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