Latest Entries »

I embarked on a colorful and adventurous 3 day journey up to Chicago for part of my 2014 Spring Break. I did all kinds of activities, saw friends and explored new territory. The overall piece:

Day 1: March 25, 2014
(as usual, the journey starts from the bottom to the top). My drive up to Chicago was on a cold and very windy day with highs in the 20s. I drove through pockets of blizzards but none of the snow stuck. The earth was barren, with patches of browns and gray. I arrived in the city in the early afternoon, the skies cleared, and drove to my friend’s house. I spent some time with his husband and his 2 sons. The boys are now over a year old and were playing with large legos and colorful toys. Then I went to Boy’s Town and met another friend for supper at Bountiful Eatery, a completely GF cafe. I ate out in a restaurant for the first time in 7 months. I had a bison burger. Then Roy took me to a bookstore that specialized in LGBTQ subjects and erotica. We then went our separate ways and I went to a vintage clothing store near the Red El stop at Belmont. It was fun but too expensive. Went back to the house and helped give the boys a bath.

Day 2: March 26, 2014
It was slightly warmer today with a high of 37 F. I took the El to Wrigleyville and discovered a great 100% GF cafe called Cassava, which specialized in empanadas. Had several kinds, including a chocolate filled one. Then I went to the Newberry Library. I stepped in but unfortunately, I could go no further than the lobby so I was rather disappointed. It was a stately gray and granite building. Afterwards, I walked into the Old Water Tower and saw a most inspiring and incredible bunch of drawings by Julie Murphy called “Escape into Absurdity.” There were many fantasy and made up creatures with very ornate scenes and details. A bit like Henry Darger meets Yellow Submarine.
I then went on to the Dreihaus The Richard H. Driehaus Museum. This was an incredible find. A huge, luxurious and opulent mansion filled to the brim with art noveau, tiffany stained glass, lamps, arts and crafts furniture, etc. Each room was an absolute masterpiece with stunning chandeliers, lamps, fireplaces, paintings and and Old World atmosphere.
After the Driehaus, I went to Loopy Yarns to get some roving for spinning and then walked around Andersonville and visited one of my favorite thrift stores; Village Discount Outlet. As usual, it was filled with some rather unsavory characters, but the merchandise was huge and I found some new sweaters to unravel. The top lines of knitting are from unravelled sweaters that I bought at this place.

Day 3: March 27, 2014
The warmest day on my trip and rainy. I first got my windshield wipers replaced at a orange store called Best Auto. It really improved my car, since my others were destroyed by this harsh winter. I then drove up to Evanston and did a small grocery shopping at Trader Joes. I bought some flowers for myself and a friend. Then I visited that friend’s new place in Uptown. We went to a nearby completely GF bakery called Cookie Bar on Wilson Ave. We bought a huge slice of vanilla cake with pink frosting and sprinkles and devoured it, plus a doughnut and some cookies.
At this point, it was getting late and I had to head home. I got on to I 90-94 east and the traffic was pretty horrible. I slowly crept closer to the vast sea of skyscrapers and then passed through into more urban wasteland. It was drizzling, but not raining hard. The rest of the drive was through overcast skies, barren ground, dead cornfields and trees and furious wind. Spring had barely started.

I love to make holiday cookies year round. At this time of year, I like to discover new recipes for St.Patrick’s Day themed cookies. I came across this recipe at Kitchen Tested for these yummy cookies. The recipe was not gluten-free, however. Therefore, I substituted gluten-free flour for the all-purpose flour. I also cut down on the peppermint extract to about 1 1/2 teaspoons as it’s very strong. For the filling, I only melted chocolate, no butter. The cookies are a great combination of sandy, buttery mint flavored shortbread sandwiched with dark chocolate. They taste a bit like a Milano cookie, but better!

I completed this Knitted Journey in February 2014. My recent 2 week trip to the northernmost island in Florida was the inspiration behind this piece. I wanted to capture the beautiful landscapes plus the distinctive colors of the town of Fernandina Beach. As you cross into the island, you pass a lot of marshland and then hit the historic downtown with the distinctive architecture. I also incorporated Egan’s Creek Greenway, the beaches and oceans and Fort Clinch State Park.

(left) a detail of the beach and ocean section. Parts of the beach had tons of foam coming off of the waves. There was also a rusty pipeline that went for several miles on the beach in Fort Clinch.
(right) Egan’s Creek Greenway. The marshland, old oak forests and hanging Spanish moss, bright red holly berries, bright green ponds and diverse birds and wildlife.

details of the marshland, downtown Fernandina Beach with the festive holiday colors and the pastel Victorian gingerbread houses.

some of my inspirations:

I started this Knitted Journey after my trip to North Carolina in August 2013. This piece was inspired by a particular walk that I took in the Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway, near Asheville. It was called Waterrock Knob. It was very foggy and there were these strange white popcorn-like flowers with tangled yellow vines. There were spruce and all kinds of trees (some dead) jutting into the sky. There were also purple and yellow wildflowers. At the top of the walk, there was a clearing. But is was so foggy that you didn’t see much. I used several dozen different yarns in this piece.

The beautiful trip comes to an end. Here were my final 3 days.

Day 13, January 12, 2014
Side trip to Savannah, Georgia. That morning i drove up to Savannah. I noted the marshland and dark teal rivers on the way up. It was a sunny day.
When I got to Savannah, I started off near the river and did some shopping. I then walked through the various squares and soaked in the grand houses and architecture of all kinds of beautiful black wrought-iron gates, trims and fences. Some amazing doors, too. Beautiful colors of deep coral, ochre, moss, cream French blue, coffee, white and black. Enjoyed the huge oak, magnolia and palm trees. Walked as far as the Mercer-Williams house (where “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” took place).

Day 14, January 13, 2014
Side trip to Savannah, GA. Had a sore back these last couple of days, but that didn’t stop me from walking around. I was dropped off at Forsyth Park and I walked around the fountain and through some more squares and went to some more fun shops. Admired more glorious architecture.
That afternoon, I met up with an old school friend of mine at Leopold’s Ice Cream Parlor. We hadn’t seen each other since high school. We had a lot to catch up on and we were really happy to see each other.
After that, we drove back to Fernandina Beach. My aunt had a big beach-themed party that night. We played a money game (like gambling) and I was extremely close to winning $45 and then got beat at the very last minute. It was agonizing, exciting and frustrating.

Day 15, January 14, 2014.
My final day and the night I arrived back to Champaign. That night in Fernandina, there were really strong thunderstorms. The rain continued into the morning. My aunt took my mom and I to Fort George Island. We drove through a really dense forest of old oaks and palms and rain soaked dirt roads to the Rimbault Mansion. This giant yellow and cream colored mansion was in the middle of a clearing. It was (and still is) used to entertain crowds. The mansion was locked, but we walked around the grounds. Then we drove through more dense, lush, green forest and swamp land to the Kingsley Plantation. There were the slave quarters, which are now ruins and built from shells and clay. The various white houses of the plantation were surrounded by magnificent old oak, palm and cedar trees with unusual shapes. The grounds overlooked a river and other marsh land. It’s hard to believe that this whole park was within the Jacksonville city limits, as it was extremely remote.
I went to JAX and flew on to Dallas and sat next to a young man who had never flown on a plane before. I could clearly see the Mississippi River as we flew over it. The vegetation got browner and not as lush.
Once in the Dallas airport, I discovered a strange blue interactive sculpture that played musical notes as you walked through. The plane left Dallas in the dark and the metallic lights of the city formed interesting circuit-like patterns. As the plane went north from Dallas, the lights got much more sparse. We landed in Champaign that night to flurries and blowing snow. It was a change of scenery from that morning…fast.

Here is an image of the entire Journey, although it was difficult to capture the whole thing in one shot!

Day 10, January 9, 2014:
Visited 3 places on Amelia Island this day. It was warmer, low 60s and overcast. First, I took a long walk along the coast from Sadler Avenue beach to Peter’s Point. The waves were silver and full of seafoam. The skies were many shades and layers, like the sea. About halfway, I walked under a giant mint-green pier. Then my mom and I went to Egan’s Creek Greenway and walked a different part than the other times. This one also went along bright green ponds and bodies of water. We saw a log more wildlife, including several types of birds and some turtles.
After lunch, I went to Amelia Island State Park in the south tip of the island. It was a narrow beach with high sand dunes that flattened out as you walked further from the bridge. The beach widened and there were a variety of shells. The bodies of water and islands formed a nice back drop.

Day 11, January 10, 2014:
This day was warmer with a high of around 70. In the morning, my mom and I walked from the Main street beach all the way into Fort Clinch State Park. The whole time we looked for shells and found some good ones. The ocean waves were particularly forceful and large that day. It was quite foggy and the sea had a silver and gray tint. There were large amounts of seafoam-almost looked like patches of snow.
I estimate it was about 1.5 miles each way. We entered Fort Clinch with the odd rusted copper pipeline that went on for miles.
Later that afternoon, I took another walk around the downtown neighborhood and historic district of Fernandina. I discovered dozens of new, colorful houses in delicious pastels with detailed woodwork patterns. Then I walked around the cemetery on 8th and Alachua streets, savoring the Old South atmosphere, the rusted ochres of the gates, stones and beautiful trees.

Day 12, January 11, 2014:
This was the warmest day of the entire trip. I first went to Egan’s Creek Greenway for a short time. I walked around the one part I hadn’t seen yet. It wasn’t as remarkable, but there were several birds and turtles, yellow mustard flowers, bright red holly berries and vivid green bodies of water and ponds.
Then I was dropped off at the beach at Jasmine street and I walked south to Sadler beach. By that time, I had some serious blisters on my toes from all my hiking, so I took a stroll. I stopped and sat in a pile of shells and ate my lunch. Like every other day I’ve gone to the ocean, the colors of the water, sky and sand were different. This day was less gray and silver-more sea green and tan, less foam, more shells.
In the later afternoon, a huge monsoon-like rainstorm came in and dumped buckets.

Day 7, January 6, 2014:
the “Polar Vortex” that hit most of the country affected this area, too. It got increasingly cold that day. Before getting too cold, I took a 2 mile walk down the beach and found some shells and soaked in the great, crashing waves that sprayed mist. And the moody skies with clouds of many grays. There were hundreds of seabirds, all clumped together by color and facing the same direction.
I then picked all the lemons and citrus from my aunt and uncle’s trees because there was a hard freeze that night.
In the afternoon, I took a walk around downtown Fernandina. I discovered new neighborhoods with awesome Victorian mansions, bnbs and old wooden island homes with beautiful woodwork carvings and beautiful holiday decorations. The temperature continued to drop and the wind picked up. That night, it went down to the low 20s with a wind chill in the single digits. That’s rare for Florida.

Day 8, January 7, 2014:
the coldest day of my trip, hence, the arctic hues. The warmest it got was 37 degrees. Most of the day I stayed indoors. The house was not built to withstand such cold temperatures and heating it was nearly fruitless. Wore jackets and blankets.
But I still got out briefly. After lunch, I explored Old Fernandina, a secluded neighborhood by the Amelia River. There I spotted the Pippi Longstocking house and some other old Victorian houses. I went on to Bosque Bello Cemetery which was the highlight of my day. The old section had lots of huge oak trees with Spanish moss and a series of gravestones contained in old square iron fences. There were red ribbons and pointsettas. Walked around a bit but didn’t stay long because of the cold.

Day 9, January 8, 2014:
Day trip to Jekyll Island, Georgia. This day was warmer but not by much. Still, it was sunny and I took advantage of that and drove up to Jekyll Island, GA. Passed through lots of marshland and waterways on the drive, plus winter trees.
Arrived in Jekyll around lunch. Went to the Driftwood Beach first but the tide was very high and it was very cold and windy so I didn’t stay long at all. Next, I explored the Historic Old Town area with all the homes. The color combos of the houses are unique and refreshing: apricot and chocolate and gray, deep spruce and mustard, lemon and creme, dark olive and white, etc. Walked around the houses and shops for a bit. Noticed many of the plant had been zapped by the cold spell. Headed back to Fernandina and it got increasingly cloudy as we drove south on I-95.

The journey continues, including a day trip to St.Augustine, America’s Oldest City.

Day 4, January 3, 2014:
a cold day with a high of 45 degrees. Everyone was complaining how cold it was and for Florida, it was a bit unseasonably cool. Nevertheless, I went to Big Talbot Island State Park. The beach had huge skeleton trees and a magical forest of large, bent oak trees and palms. The beach was near the bridge off Amelia Island and had lots of driftwood, including upturned dead trees. The Black Rock beach had mud with lots of holes and interesting ripple patterns with oysters, clams and other organisms. It was very sunny, but very windy and cold so I didn’t stay long.

Day 5, January 4, 2014:
It was cold this day but not as cold as the day before. I went to Fort Clinch State Park at the northern tip of the island. I first went to the ocean. It was overcast and windy. The beach had a long copper colored pipeline that divided the beach up, although there were shells on either side. There was a distinct bend in the beach and at the bend was a long pier and hundreds of sea gulls and other sea birds. I continued past massive piles of sea foam (some of which was blowing around) and around Cumberland Sound, seeing Cumberland Island, Georgia across the water. I was in the northernmost beach in Florida. Then I took a walk around Willow Pond. This was one of the most spectacular walks I’ve taken in Florida. It was full of sink holes and many types of unusual trees including live oaks, magnolias, palms and trees with bright red lichens, strange bumpy patterns, hanging vines and lots of small, secluded bright green ponds. Walking through the place was magical like dreams I’ve had of Florida. The overcast and cool weather added more ambience. The holly trees were in full bloom and added splashes of red among the swamps. The textures, colors and patterns of the trees and plants were amazing.

Day 6, January 5, 2014:
Day trip to St.Augustine. The nicest day so far-sunny and in the 70s. Arrived in the Oldest City in the United States and walked around for several hours. Took in the grand Spanish architecture and colors, the Old World charm and festive holiday decorations. Besides walking in the touristy areas (especially St.George street), I also explored the quieter neighborhoods, taking in beautiful gardens, flowers and handsome homes, specialty shops, cemeteries, fountains and Flagler College. Then drove to St. Augustine Beach. The town was not much to write home about as it had mainly cheap motels and very dated looking condos and boardwalks. But the beach was nice and full of shells. Drove back north to Fernandina Beach, via Jacksonville, that afternoon.

My Journey includes the in-depth exploration of Amelia Island, plus side trips to Jekyll Island and Savannah, Georgia, and St.Augustine, Florida. As with all my Journeys, the day starts at the bottom of the photo and ends at the top. Enjoy!

Day 1, December 31, 2013: Arrival to Fernandina Beach. Got up just before 5 am for one of those horrible early morning flights. Extremely cold and completely dark outside. Flew to Chicago. On the way, the sky turned from the darkest blue to lighter shades and the gold and copper of glimmering lights punctuated the barren landscape. Snow blanketed the land with the exception of waterways, rivers and buildings. A slow sunrise and a dramatic descent with views of the Chicago skyline and Lake Michigan, which was frozen into fascinating patterns. Arrived in O’Hare with the sun going up. Took a second flight to Jacksonville, FL. The snow quickly turned to barren brown fields, then hills, then more water, steeper hills and more green. Then it clouded over for awhile. When the sky cleared again, it was the endless marshland and curly-q rivers of the greater Jacksonville area. The characteristic tall pines and swamps. It was cool but not cold out. After taking a nap, I walked around downtown Fernandina Beach before it got dark. It was decked with beautiful holiday decorations, many with a nautical theme, especially the stores and b’n'bs. Went to a party hosted by some of my aunt’s friends that night. A beautiful, Old World southern Victorian house. Fell asleep right before midnight and then was awakened by firecrackers at midnight, marking the start of 2014.

Day 2, New Year’s Day, January 1, 2014: Fernandina Beach. A rainy day. Went to the beach. Saw lots of sandpipers, seagulls and other sea birds. Looked for shells. A muted palette of gray, seafoam, tan and muted celadon. Went on to Egan’s Creek Parkway-a large area of marsh land near the ocean with waterways, forests, bridges and birds. Some areas of shocking green and lush foliage. Walked about a mile and then turned back. Raining off and on. That afternoon, I stopped in several antique stores and other stores that were open on New Year’s Day in downtown Fernandina Beach. I bought some lace and enjoyed the seashell art and ornaments.

Day 3, January 2, 2014: Fernandina Beach. another rainy day in Fernandina Beach. I first went to the Jasmine street beach to look for more shells. The waves had sculpted low hills and trenches in the sand. Then I went to a different part of Egan’s Parkway. This part was more spectacular than the other. Entered from Sadler road and walked along an elevated wooden walkway in the woods. Then walked on trails that encircled numerous ponds, creeks and waterways. The growth was very lush, even for winter time. The ponds had bright green algae in them, giving them an otherworldly appearance. There were lots of different types of birds including large red-headed woodpeckers. Also saw 2 male deer run through the preserve. It was raining and parts of the ground had large puddles, but the light was atmospheric and perfect. Parts of the creeks and rivers were next to giant oak trees with Spanish moss and beautiful palms. It was a most magical place-the place of dreams. Later in the afternoon, I walked around downtown and enjoyed the pastel colors of all the Victorian homes.

Colors of Fernandina Beach: Houses

I just returned home from my 2 week trip to Fernandina Beach and Amelia Island, Florida. I also took side trips to St.Augustine, Jeckyl Island, Georgia and Savannah. The trip was very refreshing and although it was quite unseasonably cold, the nature was as beautiful as always. Having spent a lot more time on Amelia Island, I got a better sense of the various neighborhoods, the beaches and nature parks like Fort Clinch State Park and Egan’s Creek Greenway. The trip gave me lots of new inspiration for future art projects. Now if I only had the time to do them! I did do a Knitted Journey, which I will share as soon as I get in photographed. Meanwhile, I will share some of the colorful houses that I saw in historic Fernandina. I would like to knit a piece that is inspired just by the colors and designs of these magnificent homes. Why can’t we have houses like this in Champaign-Urbana?