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Creative Retreat

March 21, 2011

Friends are the good stuff in life. One of my best friends from college and I don’t see each other very often, but thanks to email we are able to bounce ideas off of one another all the time. We send therapy notes to one another debating the meaning of what we do day-to-day. We discuss knitting and sewing and jewelry making. We dream big and sometimes keep each other in check, but most of the time we just fuel each other’s inspiration.

Recently, in one of our email therapy sessions where we questioned how happy we each are with our work, we decided we needed to have a creative retreat for just the two of us. We needed to find a way to renew our energy and to focus on the things we truly love to do. This weekend my parents kindly lent us their cabin located midway between our two cities. Nestled deep in the woods without internet and only occasional cell reception, the cabin has quilts on the beds, the sweet scent of wood smoke lingering in the air and a feisty, yet precious cat as an added bonus. It was the perfect place to retreat, regroup and emerge ready for this week.


We took Friday off and spent the afternoon catching up and planning for the rest of the weekend. What did we want to make? How did we want to spend our days? We looked through cookbooks and bread making books. Due to limited time and resources we scaled back our slightly extravagant wish list (brioche, rye, sourdough bread) and settled on croissants as the first project to tackle. The recipe took hours of rolling, folding, chilling and shaping. We started on Friday night and pulled our compact, yet flaky croissants out of the oven at 10 pm Saturday night. The bottoms were burnt, and the layers weren’t exactly as flaky as we had dreamed they would be, but we were really proud of the finished product. A new obsession has definitely begun. I will absolutely create the perfect croissant this year.


Saturday we drove to Downtown Lafayette and wandered up and down Main Street, peeking into little shops, touching every skein of yarn we could find, and filling our bags with candy flavoring and coloring as we determined another fantastic project would be candy. Salt water taffy to be exact. However, it turns out some creations are better left to the experts. Below is what we lovingly refer to as key lime poo. Patti has cuts on her hands where the candy hardened as she tried to pull it. I have small blisters on my hands where I tried to pull through the pain. And even though we maimed ourselves to make something lovely and delicious, it’s not lovely at all. And it’s rock hard.

Then we decided that if taffy wouldn’t work we could just make hard candy since we’d already proven ourselves such pros. Sadly we didn’t have molds, but Patti recalled seeing a tutorial on making molds out of corn starch so we gave it a go. After packing a pan full of corn starch we scoured the cabin to find shapes with which to create molds. After trying nearly everything, including a heart decal from Patti’s Croc, we just used the bottoms of the candy flavoring bottles. We didn’t have stellar results with that experiment either. It turns out that homemade candy is well worth the price considering the skill and patience it takes

Thanks to Patti for this picture

Thanks to Patti for this picture

Luckily we found one other project to work on Saturday night. Before leaving Lafayette we headed over to Von’s in West Lafayette. Von’s has records and books, movies and gifts. It even has a dough shack. But we went there for the beads. It’s the best bead store I’ve ever been to and the two of us spent nearly an hour pouring through the selection. I wasn’t convinced that I was going to get anything since I don’t love bead projects, but of course I got sucked in. So much color!

With Patti at my side I learned what head pins are and figured out how to actually put together a quality necklace. With some silver-plated chain, the tiniest jump rings ever, the finest gauged head pins I could find, a selection of softly dyed freshwater pearls and a hearty magnetic clasp, I set to work on a little necklace that was perfectly gratifying. The success of this project made up for the failed salt water taffy and hard candies, and its relative speed made the 24 hour croissant process a faded memory.


I highly recommend a creative retreat with a good friend. You’ll bring different skills to the table. All projects will seem less daunting with the two of you tackling them. And even if not a single thing turns out, you’ll have had a remarkable time and remember why you are such good friends in the first place. Thanks Patti Wu! Thanks to Mom and Dad, too (p.s. you are out of corn starch now).

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Lisa permalink
    March 21, 2011 1:17 pm

    That sounds like the most amazing weekend. I’m jealous of your projects, your time away, your friendship and for sure your creativity! Lovely post, as always.

    • Claire permalink
      March 21, 2011 2:23 pm

      Thanks, Lisa. It was a pretty fantastic getaway. We’re already planning the next one, but with more good friends and perhaps a Christmas baking theme. What do you say to that?

  2. Patti permalink
    March 21, 2011 11:25 pm

    I feel so privileged to be named on your blog, and with such pretty products too! Next time we’ll have to have a “bring your own bread starter” party. Maybe with more good people with great ideas, we’ll have a whole bread basket to eat!

    • Claire permalink
      March 22, 2011 8:24 am

      And I’m privileged to be your friend. There will for sure be a next time and a lot more preparation in anticipation of the wild country side without internet 🙂

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