Next weekend is a busy time for many reasons, and all of them exciting opportunities.
I'll be in Las Vegas to follow the step-by-step kitchen success of our Times reader Julie Beckwith of Crete, Ill. as she competes for the million dollars at the 46th Pillsbury Bake-Off.
I've been covering local contestants at the Pillsbury Bake-Off since 1993 and attending the event to shadow our regional finalists since 2004. I'll feature more about Julie on Wednesday with our big send-off food section cover interview highlighting her claim-to-fame recipes.
Crafty creativity is in the spotlight next weekend, both near and far. In Vegas, at this year's Pillsbury contest, TV reality star Whitney Port from the MTV show "The Hills" designed the official apron this year's contestants are wearing. In the past, TV's "Project Runway" stars Althea Harper, Kara Janx and Carol Hannah Whitfield designed the apron for the 45th cooking and baking competition in 2012, and in 2004, it was fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi who did the honor.
Closer to home next weekend, crafty handiwork of all varieties, from dolls to bookmarks to stationery are available for purchase at the 2013 Hospice Artisans' Holiday Gift Boutique hosted by the Friends of Hospice of the Hospice of the Calumet Region. The Boutique, which is a great way to do early holiday shopping for unique, one-of-a-kind gifts, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 9, at Cloister in the Woods banquet hall, 1101 Park Dr. in Munster. I'm told there will even be a complimentary cookie and coffee café set up for shoppers and the Lyrical Flutes will provide holiday music from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Besides unique paper goods and fine hand-knit accessories, there will also be polymer clay and beaded jewelry, glass goods, fabric totes and accessories, along with children's toys, artisan-designed greeting cards, stocking stuffers, treasures for pet lovers and many other custom items.
All proceeds benefit Hospice of the Calumet Area.
Organizers Marge Kullerstrand, who sat beside me in the newsroom for 15 years as our society columnist at The Times, and Susan Zivich, tell me among the more popular items each year are the beautiful bookmarks created by the group's members.
"Even in this wonderful digital age of Kindles and iPAds, there is something charming and fascinating about a real bookmark," Zivich said.
"To mark your place-to remember that special quote or to help you remember a memorable passage, you need a bookmark to make it extra special."
She said the group's bookmarks are created using the tiny pieces of paper that remain after their larger paper products are completed. Some are even created from more than a 100 pieces of scrap paper.
She said another popular item is called: Just In Case. It's a new fabric creation sewn from a variety of fabric styles and sized just right to carry in purses to fashionably hold items like a packet of facial tissues, a sewing kit, emery board and Band-Aids; tea bags with sugar, creamer and even a very cute little spoon.
For more information, call Zivich at (708) 862-2000.