Exploring Crystal Lake

On Friday I was scheduled for an evening art fair at the Immanuel Lutheran School in Crystal Lake, a suburb I had never visited before. So prior to the 4:30 pm setup time I decided to take the afternoon to explore the town. An online search produced an intriguing map of a nice walkable cluster downtown, so I figured out where to park and set the coordinates for a leisurely drive.

The weather was lovely (albeit slightly chilly), and I parked my car in a 4-hour spot. Then I oriented myself based on the map by the train station.

Since it was lunchtime I checked the list of restaurants first, and picked two that looked intriguing. While passing a bunch of enticing windows I decided on Le Petit Marche, a lovely french-inspired bistro.

I ordered a tuna salad brioche with tea, which was served quickly.

The ambiance is lovely, and I would love take part in a wine and cheese evening sometime.

I was going to leave some postcards for Affair of the Arts, but someone already had. 🙂

Fully nourished, I walked to the end of the street and fell in love with the Crystal Lake Antique Mall. This place has rooms upon rooms of vintage pieces that inspire nostalgia and tempt those with a flair for spinning stories about old pieces. I saw a lovely wooden desk secretary at a bargain price, but instead settled on a tray I actually needed. I do think I’ll visit again though, maybe I will know a place to put that piece by then (if it is still there).

Fully uplifted by this historic surprise, I strolled back outside and made my way back into modern times in an old-town setting.

I meandered 2 fabric stores, some fashion boutiques, and then stumbled onto Kaleidoscoops via a gift shop, and couldn’t resist treating myself to a cone. This is a nice after-school hangout for teens. I needed caffeine for a long evening so “The Grind” was a perfect fix with its delicious caramel and the crunch of chocolate covered espresso beans inside.

Across from the ice cream store was Evolve, a store with yummy-smelling chakra candles, lots of healing crystals, altar pieces, incense and beautiful instruments to center the soul. I could have spent hours in there but had a schedule to keep.

So I strolled in and out of a few more cute stores before being stopped by the Metra. In the future I could catch the UP-NW metro line in Mount Prospect for a mini trip to Crystal Lake.

On my way to the car I spotted this fun sign that applies to so much of life.

Five minutes later I was at the Lutheran School to unload my car in the gym.

Soon the place was transformed into a vibrant and colorful fair.

Fancy meeting Le Petit Marche here again!

It was fun getting back into the booth setup routine.

I had fun doing a quick perusal.

 Tupperware is more vibrant these days.

Now that I am sewing again, this coat by Ginspiration spoke to me.

A raffle drawing was held every 30 minutes.

I gained some new admirers and a few pieces walked away.

My angels, dragonflies and ladybugs were all petted.

A friend stopped by and snapped me in action.

My neighbors were fun to connect with.

Soon it was time to pack up again and head home. It was a good evening and I look forward to visiting here again.

On to Affair of the Arts!

Exploring Utica

Last week I took a road trip to Utica to satisfy my July travel itch.

Cloudscape

It is just 2 and a half hours from home, an easy drive actually when you skip rush hour.

countryroad

I had visited the Starved Rock area a few times, and gradually upgraded my stays from a KOA cabin with plastic mattresses and shared shower facilities to a motel, to a B&B. The motel is now defunct.

oldmotel

I stopped for a sampling of ice cream (on the sweet side) and chocolate truffles prior to heading to the Brightwood Inn.

BrightWoodInn

The Brightwood Inn is a lovely Bed and Breakfast offering cozy rooms with luxurious amenities.

BrightwoodInnPorch

The property is adjacent to Matthiessen State Park, and the grounds have been landscaped as a wildlife habitat to encourage birds, insects and other critters to feed and seek shelter there.

BrightwoodInnHabitat

Sunsets from this vantage point are spectacular.

SunsetView

Every morning a breakfast buffet of cereal, fruit and scones stills ‘den kleinen Hunger’, with warm breakfast, coffee and tea offered in the dining room.

Swallowtail

I enjoyed the herb omelet on an English muffin the first morning, and whole grain blueberry pancakes the next.

TortolaRoomView

Matthiessen, Starved Rock and the I&M Canal Trail are just a short drive from the Inn.

uticawatertower

I perused the one-block downtown of Utica which has 3 pubs.

NorthUtica

There is also a grocery store geared toward campers and other things one tends to forget but need on a road trip.

UticaDowntown

On both days opted to have lunch at Noni’s as it felt more cafe-like and had outdoor seating.

NonisBakeryUtica

The area has a few wineries and several ‘trading posts’ offering leather goods for bikers passing through.

Tradingpost

After some hiking I checked into my room, a haven of tranquility.

TortolaroomBrightwoodInn

I splurged on a tub option, and was quite romanced by its heart shape and the stunning view.

Tortolaroom

There is a lovely bathroom of course.

TortolabathDetails

I read on the cozy lounge, peeked at hummingbirds feeding in the tree, and fully relaxed in this pristine room without any chores for me to do.

Lounging

My first evening I dined at Uptown Grill in LaSalle, which had tablet menus. The heat and late lunch had dampened my appetite, so I had the Asparagus salad. Their cocktails looked delicious, and I would dine here again to sample the other dishes.

UptownGrillAsparagus

The next morning I indulged a massage at Butterfly Landing, which stretched my muscles and helped me further sink into relaxation mode. Next time I want to try a facial in this lush day spa as well.

yellowflowersfield

The second evening I visited Amici in Peru, a lovely Italian restaurant that is decorated to mimic a piazza, with twinkle lights in the ceiling to enhance the ‘outside’ feeling. I could have easily shared the pasta entree, and took some home.

AmiciPeru

The country roads offer lovely prairie and farm field views,

farmview

with some lovely river crossings as well.

StarvedRockBridge

I enjoyed the lush garden and journaled peacefully while listening to a variety of birds.

Journaling

Chairs and tables allow for lounging al fresco.

BrightwoodInnBackpatio

They also have a wonderful porch.

BrightwoodInnPorch

It is amazing how being away from home can put your mind at ease enough to simply watch clouds go by.

cloudwatching

It is good to just enjoy a day and ‘be’.

Americana

Perspective is so necessary in this world of personal and global tragedies.

behappynow

I look forward to returning to this heavenly place.

portaltoheaven

Hiking adventures will be shared in upcoming posts.

barefeet

Where will your summer vacation take you?

haybalessunset

Bluhm County Park

I attended a lovely wedding last weekend which called for a short road trip to Indiana.

01roadtrip

I’ve only passed through Indiana so it was a fun reason to explore the state a little.

02Skyline

Upon entering I was greeted with signs promising Krazy Fireworks and Showgirls, along with Hoosier references.

03Indiana

Further in, however, the scenery changed to luscious green landscapes and I felt more at ease driving around.

04CountryRoads

I got a little lost along the farm roads, since I expected street signs to be more prominent than they were, city slicker that I’ve become.

05TallCorn

Via a detour to Red Mill Park I found my intended destination of Bluhm County Park.

01bDriving

I’m sure Red Mill has its charms too, but I was drawn to the description of wildflowers, which I knew must draw critters to them!

06BluhmSign

The park is lovely, with a dog park, horseback trails, and great paths for biking.

06aBlumParkVista

There is also a playground for children and a barbecue area. This is a great spot for families and ‘beginning hikers’ and seemed to have handicapped accessible spots as well. I even learned some rules.

08HikingRules

The promise of wildflowers was fulfilled.

06YFlowers

09Wildflowerfields

Cabbage whites and sulphurs were darting about.

20Cabbage

Sometimes you only get one shot, which can be hit or miss.

19CabbageWhite

I also spotted admirals and a crescent that didn’t sit still long enough. But a Tiger Swallowtail posed for me.

08Swallowtail

The aptly named (and frisky) Red and Black-spotted beetle.

RedBug

I don’t know if this is a skipper or a moth, but its wings make a really cool buzzing sound.

21BrownSkipper

Not sure whether Viceroy or Monarch, but either is beautiful.

17Monarch

I went into the wooded area, but since the area is a wetland, the mosquitos swarmed around me immediately.

10Forest

There are options between the paved path and more woodsy earthy paths.

14Path

Stopping to take photographs of moths turned me into an instant meal.

12Moth

Forage Looper Moth.

13Moth

So I had to track back in spite of my bug spray.

11Trees

 On my way out I met this dashing Blue Dasher.

15aDragonflyPoser

It posed for a little while.

15bDragonflyPoser

I meandered around the flowers a bit more.

16Flowertubes

This Black Swallowtail captivated me for some time.

DarkSwallowtail

I then crossed the street to another woodsy path, which fortunately wasn’t as mosquito-rich as the other path.

25OtherTrail

It was clearly a lover’s lane, with numerous initials carved into trees. I didn’t see an R&L though.

26CarvedTree

24Shroom

There was the right amount of shade and light.

27Shadow

I was led to a pond, where mosquitos swarmed me again, but not as badly.

28Pond

These dragonflies weren’t the best posers, but lovely to watch as they patrolled the waters.

29DragnFly

29DragFly

As I wandered back to the parking lot this tree stared back at me.

30FaceTree

It was time to head for the B&B, which took me past the LaPorte County Fair.

32laPorteFair

32laPortefarm

The Arbor Hill Inn is a charming Bed and Breakfast near the lake of LaPorte, Indiana.

33aAHillInnSign

33bArborHillInn

I had picked my Chateau Provence Room online, which is in the guest house.

33cAhIllGuestHouse

33eDoor

The room is cozy and charming.

33eRoom

And the whirlpool tub was one of its perks.

33fBath

The butterfly by the house was an affirmation as well.

33dGuesthouseBfly

Since it was dinnertime, I made my way back past the lake into downtown LaPorte.

34Lake

Trattoria Enzo had been recommended to me by the innkeeper.

36Enzo

After the long drive and a few hours of walking I was ready for a hearty meal, which was delicious.

36EnzoMeal

Across the street from the restaurant is LaPorte’s main landmark, the courthouse.

35LaPorteCourthouse

The Potawatomi Indian has a broken spear to symbolize peace with the pioneers.

35aLaPorteIndian

It is INDIANa, after all.

35bIndian

Sadly there wasn’t much else to explore, so I made my way back to the hotel for a bubble bath and a good night’s sleep. Both mornings I was treated with a delicious breakfast.

37InnBreakfast

The day after the wedding I sunned at the Indiana Dunes before going home.

38Dunes1

38Dunes2

The line got long on the gorgeous afternoon.

38Dunes3

I took the more scenic drive of I-90 to Lakeshore Drive this time, though the tolls hurt my wallet ($4 upon entering Chicago after paying $2.30 between two stops in Indiana).

39Bridge

Hazy Chicago was a nice sight to behold.

39HazyChitown

It was a lovely weekend, and I look forward to planning another roadtrip in the fall. There is so much to see within 2 hours of Chicagoland, and between state parks and nature trails, it doesn’t have to break the bank.

41poppy

What are your favorite places to visit?