Archive for the ‘Places to Go’ Category

An Inspiring Visit to the Studio Gang Architects Exhibit

December 10, 2012

I had the opportunity to visit the Studio Gang Architects exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago last week for a second time … so very inspiring. The exhibit is on view through February 24, 2013.

These woven seats are incredibly comfortable and the experience of sitting in this “bubble” of sorts and soaking up all the creativity was quite delightful!

IMG_2434-StudioGang

Just some of the prototypes on exhibit. (This photo is a bit out of focus but it is still kind of cool in a way.)

IMG_2432 - Studio Gang Prototypes

A peek into some of the inspiration for one project.

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See and learn more about the exhibit here.

Savoring the Change of Seasons

October 9, 2012

Last week I had the opportunity to be a parent volunteer on my daughter’s 6th grade class camping trip to Wisconsin. While the kids were involved with science classes one morning, I grabbed my camera and took a walk. The signs of fall were all around in the colors (burnt oranges, reds, yellows), sounds (dried grasses blowing out in the marsh in the not quite cold wind), and smells (dried leaves, campfires). It was nice to take a few days off a busy fall schedule to just be outside. I now have the photos below spread out on my desk for quilting inspiration and to study the shapes, colors, lines, composition – just some of the considerations when designing and making a quilt!

The area we visited also has several fruit orchards and is home to the Elegant Farmer, famous for selling pies baked in a paper bag. I brought home many pounds of apples for eating and baking, as well as a delicious apple blueberry crisp to eat until I had the energy to bake something myself! The second night home, I made a batch of applesauce (now gone) – scroll down to after the photos for the recipe.

Homemade Applesauce

  1. Wash and quarter/thickly slice apples, then cut up into 1/2 inch chunks. Use an apple that will get mushy/fall apart when it is cooked, like Cortland apples. No need to peel the apple – the peel will add color and flavor and will be barely visible by the time the apples have cooked.
  2. Place the apples in a pot (I use a large enamel Le Crueset pot) and fill it about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch with apple cider or apple juice.
  3. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring periodically.
  4. Then, when the apples are tender and falling apart, remove from heat and mash with a potato masher. If you need to add a bit more cider/juice because the sauce is thicker than you want, do so now.  You can also stir in your favorite warming spice now such as cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, or a combination of these – just taste and experiment to get the amount of spice right for your taste.

The sauce is great right out of the pan. It is also wonderful served with pumpkin pancakes. (Make your own or use Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pancake and Waffle Mix).

Fantasy Summer Camp Schedule

June 7, 2012

I have been busy diverting money out of my checking account into sports camps, ballet classes, clothes and shoes for such activities, and now, the ballet recital (“oh my, my,” is all I have to say about this last one).  So, I took an hour to daydream about what would be on my own summer camp itinerary if I had a few weeks or months to slip away.  Here is my Fantasy Summer Camp Schedule  …

  • Penland School of Crafts –  “The mission of Penland School of Crafts is to support individual and artistic growth through craft” (Penland website), and it has been doing so since its founding in 1929.  I’m going to enroll in John Horn & Beth Lambert – Exploring Letterpress: A Class for Beginners offered June 24 – July 7 during Summer Session 3.  If that is full, I will simply close my eyes, run my finger down the list of classes, and just pick one, any one will do really.
  • Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp – Manistee National Forest in Michigan – Many kids in the Chicago area travel to Blue Lake each summer for their renowned music camps; the setting looks beautiful and peaceful, perfect for focusing on creating.  In my Fantasy Summer Camp Schedule, I am signing up for the Adult Improvisational Beading Camp – July 8 – July 11.
  • Santa Fe Photographic Workshops – Santa Fe, New Mexico – It is clear from the pictures on my blog that I can benefit from a workshop here. Plus, for many years, we received their course catalog in the mail several times a year. I feel they have spent so much in postage trying to get me to enroll in their classes, that I owe it to them.  That said, however, the classes look wonderful and I look forward to the time that I can move from the beginner level classes to the advanced. I will enroll in Basics of Digital Photography, July 15 – July 20.
  • Penland School of Crafts – I will revisit Penland July 22 – August 7 (Summer Session 5) for Wade Smith’s Fundamentals of Boat Building. Many years ago I visited Turkey and in one coastal town, saw the most beautiful small wooden boats in the harbor. While it does not sound like I will build my very own boat, it will be a pleasure to work on boats in progress and learn new skills and another approach to design. Perhaps I will be able to make a tiny boat (kitchen-sink size) at the end of class, or at the very least, have even more admiration for those wooden boats in the harbor I saw so many years ago.
  • Lill Street Art Center – Chicago, Illinois – I think I will pop home, do some laundry, and catch up with everyone.  While home, I will take advantage of several workshops at Lill Street, probably focusing on ceramics and textiles.
  • Squam Art Workshops – Holderness, New Hampshire – September 12 – 16.  The details of the fall class schedule are not posted on Squam’s website yet but in looking at the teachers lined up, I would like to take a class with each one!

The total cost of this summer camp schedule? Priceless!

There were many more camps to choose from but this will have to do for now.

The French Seam – A Must See Fabric Boutique in Indianapolis

December 16, 2011

Over Thanksgiving, while visiting my brother and his family in Indianapolis, I discovered The French Seam, a place where “Vintage and Modern Meet,” according to this fabric retailer’s website. So, while most people rushed out on Black Friday to pick up the latest electronic for someone on their Christmas list, I went to the The French Seam. 

Photo Courtesy of The French Seam

It is hard to write this post without gushing, but The French Seam is truly a lovely fabric boutique – yes, “boutique,” not “store” because, well, store sounds too common, too JoAnn Fabrics. The French Seam is not pretentious in the least; on the contrary, when I walked in the door, it was like walking through a magic portal into a  welcoming, relaxing, inspiring environment – a respite from the busy world on the other side of the doors. The French Seam is a family endeavor with Courtney Young full time and her mother, Linda Compton stepping in when not at her day job. They are experienced sewers with an impeccable eye for fabric; the fabrics (linens, silks, wools…) are simply gorgeous – the feel, look, colors. Even though I have not made a pair of trousers in years, I want to make a pair (or twenty)!

Photo Courtesy of The French Seam

The store is smartly laid out and there is much attention to details: There are comfortable chairs on which to sit and contemplate what you are going to make or to peruse patterns and books (or even balance your checkbook to see if you can afford to buy EVERYTHING you want). The lighting is good and there is space to move around. The 1000+ bolts of fabric are nicely displayed so that you can see color options and the quilting cottons are laid out in collections or interesting palettes that work together. For example, I found Lotta Jansdotter’s fabrics grouped together and promptly selected an arm full to purchase. The notions are easy to find and the assortment is well-curated – many are of high-quality, there are just enough choices and each one has a purpose (i.e., no gimicky devices here).

The store caters to people of all sewing abilities – from the beginner to the professional. This is evident in the fabrics, patterns, books, and now class offerings. The boutique is also extremely customer focused – so important if much of your competition sits in the form of a computer in front of many of your customers 24/7. Courtney and Linda (and the other employees working the day I visited)  were attentive to each customer, not in an intrusive way at all; they simply wanted to introduce themselves to customers and offer to help in any way if needed. While some of the customers were new to the store that day, many were returning and on a first name basis with employees. My bet is that this store will play a key role in attracting a new generation of people who sew and provide inspiration to those who all ready enjoy this craft!

Photo Courtesy of The French Seam

Whether you are visiting Indy from another place or just “playing visitor” in the place where you live, there are many places to explore in this very drivable city. My ideal itinerary (in no particular order) …

The French Seam

Mass Ave Arts District to stroll through the independently owned shops, including the Mass Ave Knit Shop

Broadripple area shops

Zesco – a restaurant supply company that I have not personally been to, but have received the best ever muffin tin from; it is open to the public and it is on my list next time I go to Indy.

Lunch at Taste

Dinner at La Piedad

This ideal day in Indy is going to have to wait for now, however, because its back to the sewing table for me to finish up some gifts. Happy sewing!

Thirty-Something Again for a Few Hours

July 18, 2011

Let me just start by saying I have not been to many concerts (okay, not counting High School Musical, probably one) in the last decade, so when my dear friend Diane called and invited me as her guest to see U2 in Chicago earlier this month, I was excited. Imagine, I thought, 24 hours without kids, a cat that likes to wake me up at 4 a.m., and other responsibilities that go along with being an adult – time to just catch up on each other’s lives and enjoy the music. Wonderful! To top it off, her tickets were in the Red Zone, which for U2 aficionados, means you can stand next to the rail and see the band members really close.

Flash forward to a few days later when I am at a neighbor’s backyard party listening to  one of the guys explain how he lost his wedding band in a mosh pit. Needless to say, my eyes were big, my heart racing, and my voice an octave higher. My neighbor assured me that this was not going to happen at a U2 concert.

The big day finally arrived and after some logistical close calls, I met up with Diane at the hotel, dropped my backpack off and we walked over to Soldier Field to eventually join 60,000+ U2 fans. Any lingering fears about a mosh pit soon evaporated – and a fellow concert goer soon clarified that the knifing story he was telling did not happen at a U2 concert – as concert goers shared stories about how many u2 concerts they had attended, what was their favorite, etc.

For a few hours, I was transported back to thirty-something. The music was great, the fans were excited, and the weather was perfect.

When the lights came up and we were walking back to the hotel, reality hit: It was 1 a.m., time to kick off my shoes and get to sleep!

A Day at the Beach

June 16, 2011

We have had a lot of rain over the last seven days in the Chicago area and it is still coming down. On Sunday, however, there was a break so even though I should have been playing with fabric, we instead took off for a few hours and went to the Indiana Dunes. A bit overcast but the temperatures were a cool 58 degrees, perfect for hiking and a tailgate picnic afterwards. I also got to experiment with the camera on my new iPhone; while convenient, I like the pictures my camera takes better.

Basking in the Last Hours of the Holiday Season and Looking Forward

January 2, 2011

The holiday season is about to draw to a close and the school bus will be arriving in front of my house in less than a day. No, I’m not counting the hours one bit – it has been a relaxing holiday spent with family and good friends. We also took some time to just do the things we always say we will over the holidays – thanks in large part to ideas in the advent calendar (December 2nd post) and to the fact that we were not hosting any Christmas parties at our house this year. With no house to frantically clean, we actually made it to the Zoo Lights at Lincoln Park Zoo followed by dinner at the Chicago Diner, Science and Industry Museum (fairly quiet on Christmas Eve), and a couple of movies (including Tangled which is great).

My family was not as excited about their gift of yarn (December 16th post) as I was; my son described his attitude about it as “resigned” but willing to do it since everyone else is knitting a scarf for someone else. The guys, in fact, have begun their scarves; us girls will begin this week. I am still optimistic that everyone will be laughing about this gift in the days ahead!

My daughter made a poster out of the goals and quotes everyone in the family wrote out for the advent calendar and placed it front and center on the refrigerator door – no excuses for not remembering what we want to do in 2011. Some of the family goals, ideas listed:

  • Go horseback riding
  • Go snowshoeing
  • Go to DisneyLand
  • Listen to more music
  • Celebrate each others’ accomplishments
  • Give thanks everyday
  • “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Today, we are busy cleaning and de-cluttering; I am happy to report, we are filling up boxes of items to be donated and passed on to friends. So while the mood is right, I better continue on. Happy making in the new year!

Chicago’s Bucktown Neighborhood – A Destination for Crafters

August 13, 2010

Like many big cities, Chicago is a mosaic of neighborhoods and one of my favorites is Bucktown on the city’s northwest side. It is home to many wonderful restaurants; unique, locally-owned shops; and is simply a great neighborhood for wandering about in when you feel like doing a bit of urban exploration. So, on a recent Sunday, my daughter and I combined a trip to see our new baby cousin with an excursion to some of our favorites stops in Bucktown.

Since breakfast is good any time of day on a rainy Sunday (in my opinion anyway), our first stop was Toast, which serves great coffee and breakfast fare. The lunch items also look good, but I have not ventured off the breakfast menu.

With tummies more than full, we went off to The Needle Shop, a fabric store that carries a limited, but very nice, selection of fabrics for apparel, home decorating, and upholstery projects. I have never walked out of the store empty handed and this time was no exception – this cute Alexander Henry owl print and the polka dot trim (from Soutache – see below) will soon be a pillow.

The Needle Shop also offers a wide range of sewing classes, from making your own clothing to sewing up cushions and other home decor items.

Next stop was Soutache (French for “braid”). This store is like a candy shop except instead of candy, it sells ribbons, buttons, feathers, and other adornments. Everything is wonderfully displayed – some items are out in the open and others are tucked away in drawers. The store is abuzz with ooohs and ahhhs as customers open cases or see yet another spool of beautiful ribbon. My daughter and I just kept saying to one another, “Oh, you have to come see this one!”

The woman who owns the shop is especially nice – she helped my daughter select ribbon and then walked us through the steps of using it to cover a headband.  She also makes lovely silk ribbon flowers and other custom items to use on clothing, hats, etc. and, like The Needle Shop, offers classes.

Our final stop was Virtu, a well-curated shop of mainly hand-made items. The selection includes ceramics, jewelry, paper goods, textiles…

There are many other shops and restaurants alongside the ones mentioned above, so whether you live in the area or are visiting, if you are looking for an interesting neighborhood to stroll through, I would put this one at the top of the list.

An Afternoon of Inspiration at Morton Arboretum

June 15, 2010

The Morton Arboretum, located about 25 miles west of Chicago, currently has a beautiful outdoor sculpture exhibit, Steelroots, featuring the work of artist Steve Tobin. The exhibit is a reminder that just as interesting as the parts we do see are the parts we don’t immediately see, roots in this case, but I’m also thinking of seeds in a piece of fruit, the insect life under a rock, or the world beneath the surface of a pond or other body of water.

As Tobin does not name the majority of the sculptures, my kids and their friends had fun coming up with a name for each one based on what they saw in the piece. The sculptures will be on exhibit through January 31, 2010. I am lucky enough to live just several miles away from the Arboretum so I plan to go back this winter when snow is all around the sculptures.


If you visit with kids in tow, the Arboretum boasts one of the best children’s gardens around; right now, the toad nursery is teeming with baby tadpoles.

Now, to take the exhibit one step further and go back to work in my studio feeling a bit more inspired than I was several hours ago!