While at the Gold Coast Art Fair in Chicago this past June, I spent a long time in the tent of artist LaVerne Thorpe, who calls her work All by Hand Fused Glass. I fell in love with her work and enjoyed chatting with her about her process and inspirations.

About All by Hand Fused Glass:

“I design and create beautiful fused glass art that is both functional and decorative.  All of my pieces are created one at a time.  If you see something on this site or at one of my shows that you like I can reproduce that item or make in it with your favorite colors.”

I particularly fell in love with her Jungle Scene (above right) which is spectacular and is not truly represented by photos.

About the Jungle Scene from All By Hand:

“This 10 x 10 piece is a cast block jungle scene made with several layers mounted on a beautiful custom wood frame.  The block is 1 inch thick creating a multi dimensional scene.”

Learn more about the Fused Glass from All by Hand here.

I like a good old fashioned grilled cheese sandwich just as much as the next guy, but I always thought there were way too many varieties of cheese to settle for the basic American and cheddar we use for the basic sandwich. So, I was thrilled to find a ton of options for jazzing up the old staple with the recipes in Grilled Cheese Kitchen by Heidi Gibson.

About Grilled Cheese Kitchen by Heidi Gibson:

“Melted cheese between slices of toasted bread—the ultimate in comfort food. This mouthwatering cookbook features 39 grilled cheese recipes created by Heidi Gibson, winner of seven grilled cheese championships and the co-owner (with husband Nate) of the American Grilled Cheese Kitchen in San Francisco. The classic Mousetrap is dripping with three kinds of cheese. The Piglet wows with its thinly sliced ham and sharp cheddar. And grilled cheese makes a great breakfast—just add an egg! With 40 additional recipes for great accompaniments and side dishes—including hearty soups, many varieties of mac & cheese, spicy pickles, and tangy spreads—plus tips on choosing the best bread and cheese and techniques for grilling each sandwich at just the right temperature, anyone can create the perfect grilled cheese sandwich.”

I like to experiment when I cook but often get nervous about trying something different (like swapping out a tried and true cheese for a new kind) so I like book like this that give you options, inspiration and ultimately permission to try something new.

Grilled Cheese Kitchen by Heidi Gibson is available from Amazon and other fine booksellers everywhere.

Continuing to catch up on the fine artists I found while attending the great Gold Coast Art Fair in Chicago this past June – today, I feature the fine folks from Great Lake Art. Great Lake Art produces a series of artwork featuring 3D reliefs of lakes (and other things) from all over the country.

About Great Lake Art:

“Lake art is a special process developed several years ago.  Using Russian birch, we transform it into a 3 dimensional lake, with details and facts regarding the lake.  We can also add or personalize your lake art.  We believe the beauty and uniqueness of lake art will forever be an enjoyment to view and to share with family and friends.”

Learn more about Great Lake Art and see all their fine works here.

While attending the great Gold Coast Art Fair in Chicago this past June, I came across the work of Jackie Mortillaro, who produces a fine collection of coasters featuring images of Chicago (among other things), which make them a nice memento of a trip to the city or a gift for someone special.

I was tempted to buy a few of these finely crafted coasters, a set featuring images of Wrigley Field and the Chicago Cubs – but I decided not to in the end. However, I did take Ms. Mortillaro’s card so I could order when I got home – and I am finally getting around to it.

This set of Chicago Cubs coasters (right) from Jackie Mortillaro will go nicely with my growing collection of tiles from places I have visited.

Learn more about the work of Jackie Mortillaro – including her coasters – here.


My yields are way down this year as I move from containers to a raised bed garden – all part of the learning curve. Mostly, I am disappointed in my tomatoes – with which I have always had pretty good luck. However, I have found evidence that some critter may have been pouching the earlier fruit. Meanwhile, I am excited to see that I have a few eggplants on the way, and the squash is still producing. And it looks like the peppers will come through in the end.

The fine folks at GOYA have many great products, but I like their beans. I buy cans of chick peas (garbanzo beans) all the time to keep in the pantry. But I am often stumped as to what to use these beans for. But now I have a new go-to recipe with this recipe for Quick Mixed Bean Salad from those very same fine people at GOYA, and it is super easy.

About the recipe for Quick Mixed Bean Salad from GOYA:

“This luscious Quick Mixed Bean Salad recipe combines GOYA Black Beans, GOYA Chick Peas, and GOYA Red Kidney Beans with crunchy fresh veggies, and a bright, lemony vinaigrette. Stick with our choice of beans, or mix and match with your family’s favorites. Whichever you choose, you can be sure that this protein-packed, heart-healthy salad is just as nutritious as it is delicious!”

Find the recipe for Quick Mixed Bean Salad here.

Learn more about GOYA’s products and find other great recipes here.

FF: Longbranch Bourbon from Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey is a fine bourbon, sure, it’s not the top shelf but it is pretty reliable and tasty. Now, the fine folks at Wild Turkey has upped their game with their small batch Longbranch bourbon, which comes from the partnership of celebrity spokesperson Matthew McConaughey and Wild Turkey’s Master Distiller Eddie Russell.

About Longbranch Bourbon from Wild Turkey:

“Eight Year-Old Wild Turkey Bourbon is refined with Texas mesquite and oak charcoals for deeper flavor and complexity. The aroma is a balanced blend of vanilla and spices. Flavors of caramel, pear, and hints of citrus round out the palate, while the subtle, smoky finish is buttery smooth—with notes of gentle pepper and toasted oak.”

Learn more about Longbranch Bourbon from Wild Turkey and where to find it here.

FF: Old Fitzgerald Bourbon from Heaven Hill

Meanwhile, the fine folks over at Heaven Hill are still making the classic favorite Old Fitzgerald Bourbon – which I have featured before but is always worth remembering. As in everybody loves an Old Fitzgerald of one kind or another – am I right?

About Old Fitzgerald Bourbon:

“An historic brand, which dates back over 120 years, Old Fitzgerald Bourbon enjoys a nationally recognized reputation as an award winning whiskey with a tradition of extra-aging. Made with a “whisper of wheat” instead of the more traditional rye grain, Old Fitzgerald offers a unique and well-loved taste profile. Today, Master Distillers Parker and Craig Beam have preserved the traditional formula and techniques, while adding the benefits of seven generations of Bourbon distilling expertise.”

Learn more about Old Fitzgerald Bourbon and where to find it here.

OK, now I need to start saving my pennies, I found something that I really, really, really want: The Field Bar from the fine folks at Kevin’s Fine Outdoor Gear and Apparel.

About the Field Bar from Kevin’s Fine Outdoor Gear and Apparel:

“Recreate the ‘under canvas’ ambiance in your own home or out in the field with our British Campaign Bar. Since the early 1700’s British Campaign furniture has been appreciated for its innovative design, durability, versatility, and elegance ensuring British troops the highest level of comfort while operating in distant lands. All partitions are removable for a custom fit and there is even a spot for a decanter and cups, or take the spacers out to make room for books. 100% handmade of rosewood.”

About the Field Bar from Kevin’s Fine Outdoor Gear and Apparel.

See all the great products from Kevin’s Fine Outdoor Gear and Apparel

My mother loved bunnies, and particularly loved the work of Beatrix Potter and had many prints of her work and little knickknacks and such depicting the amazing universe she created. So I was overcome with nostalgia – and newfound admiration – of the work of Beatrix Potter when I picked up The Art of Beatrix Potter – Sketches, Paintings, and Illustrations by Emily Zach.

About The Art of Beatrix Potter – Sketches, Paintings, and Illustrations by Emily Zach:

“Published to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Beatrix Potter’s birth, this magnificent collection celebrates the artist behind The Tale of Peter Rabbit and numerous other beloved children’s books. Brimming with famous images and rarely seen gems—ranging from character sketches and notebook pages to watercolor landscapes and natural history illustrations—this monograph explores Potter’s artistic process and reveals the places that inspired her timeless work. Organized geographically and featuring more than 200 images from the artist’s oeuvre, The Art of Beatrix Potter includes illuminating essays by Potter scholar Linda Lear, illustration historian Steven Heller, and children’s book illustrator Eleanor Taylor. It is the definitive volume on one of the world’s most influential authors, a woman whose artistry, until now, has not been fully celebrated.”

The Art of Beatrix – Sketches, Paintings, and Illustrations by Emily Zach is available from Amazon and other fine booksellers everywhere.




I drink a lot of water and often think that I could benefit from drinking water with something extra in it that may help me stay healthy – like the Chlorophyll H2O I found from the fine folks at Pressed Juicery.

About the Chlorophyll H2O from Pressed Juicery:

“Chlorophyll is the green substance found in plants that stimulates oxygen supply to the cells and helps regenerate your system. Chlorophyll contains a high concentration of vitamins and minerals that can increase the quantity and quality of red blood cells in the body and help you feel more energized!”

Find the Chlorophyll H2O from Pressed Juicery here.

Learn more about Pressed Juicery and see all their products here.

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