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.


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


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.


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


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


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.


Sunsets from this vantage point are spectacular.


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.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


There is a lovely bathroom of course.


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.


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.


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.


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.


The country roads offer lovely prairie and farm field views,


with some lovely river crossings as well.


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


Chairs and tables allow for lounging al fresco.


They also have a wonderful porch.


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


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


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


I look forward to returning to this heavenly place.


Hiking adventures will be shared in upcoming posts.


Where will your summer vacation take you?


Bluhm County Park

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


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


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


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


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.


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


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!


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


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.


The promise of wildflowers was fulfilled.



Cabbage whites and sulphurs were darting about.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Forage Looper Moth.


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


 On my way out I met this dashing Blue Dasher.


It posed for a little while.


I meandered around the flowers a bit more.


This Black Swallowtail captivated me for some time.


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


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



There was the right amount of shade and light.


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


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



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


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



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



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



The room is cozy and charming.


And the whirlpool tub was one of its perks.


The butterfly by the house was an affirmation as well.


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


Trattoria Enzo had been recommended to me by the innkeeper.


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


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


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


It is INDIANa, after all.


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.


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



The line got long on the gorgeous afternoon.


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).


Hazy Chicago was a nice sight to behold.


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.


What are your favorite places to visit?