Feeding Friendships Update

Remember the friendship project I’ve been working on? I posted about it in Week Five of its existence and was super pleased at the progress I was making. I am still hard at work making time to feed the friendships in my life and I thought that it was time for an update.

Week Five was my date with my mommy and we made time for her to come downtown early, before the planned dinner with both parents and Jim and myself at RPM that evening. We spent at least an hour at a quilt shop on the north side called Quiltology.
Fabric
My mom is a big time quilter and I am not. I am, however, a lover of all things crafty and sewing and most importantly a fan of supporting my mom’s hobbies. I found a pattern for a quilt that I actually really like and a fat quarter of fabric that I might want to play with at some point. Then we stopped at Café Ba-Ba-Reeba for lunch. My mom remembers hearing about them back when the opened decades ago but had never been. We went back to my place quickly and I showed her the videographers I have hired for my upcoming wedding as well as the photographer (her link is in the blogroll to the right). I even got a chance to try on my dress and of course we both cried. My mom is now officially the first person to see me in my wedding dress and she approves. Dinner was simply amazing at RPM and we ate the most transcendent parmesan risotto with fresh white truffles shaved on top tableside. Sidenote: Seriously you must eat this. For real.
Shaving White Truffles
Best. Risotto. Ever.

Week Six included a simple lunch at Big Bowl on one of the first truly cold days that I remember this fall. I thought that I might miss this week because the week itself had been busy and I was getting ready to leave for Detroit for the World Series in a long weekend adventure with my love. Nevertheless, I managed to fit in a lunch date with a buddy from work and we got caught up on all kinds of Chicago acting tidbits and talked about our families over a giant kettle of green tea and an even bigger tureen of squash soup before moving on to the main meal. I didn’t really take any photos of this meet up since I’m not sure if this particular friend wants to guest star on my blog.

Week Seven excited me immensely. My wedding photographer, Christina Brosnan, happens to be one of my oldest friends. Here we are, circa 1992:
Christina and Christiana, 1993ish
She grew up in the house across the backyard from mine and I have so many fond memories of jumping the fence of my childhood home for playtime at their house, summers in the pool, and watching my dad jump the fence in a single leap to go get his hair cut in her mom’s in-home salon. She moved further away right before my family and I packed up and spent a year in Russia (I’ll tell stories about that someday I’m sure) but in the age before text messages and email she and I wrote letters back and forth, becoming avid penpals. With first names that only differ by one letter, we quickly called our correspondence “CTC Letters” and I’m pleased to say that the lovely packet of wedding info I just got from her in the mail bore the exact same mark.
Christina and Christiana
In any case, she and her husband were in town and we managed to squeeze in a coffee date for a couple of hours. I had never met her lovely Irish husband before but was delighted that he seems the perfect match for my dear friend and we caught up on family and I finally heard the story of how they got together. The chat about the differences in Irish and American culture and politics was a total bonus. I love any opportunity to see my world from the outside. I spy a few Skype dates in the future!

Week Nine was just last week and included the Election Night party that I threw. I didn’t post hardly any photos of the attendees of the event because of the seemingly sensitive nature of politics in my country right now. Last week also marked some other Big Things: my littlest sister is home after a year overseas in New Zealand and my grandmother had her 80th birthday party with about 50 guests. Week Nine was insane from a personal energy standpoint and I think I’m just getting back to myself and my normal just now. I guess I never promised myself that any of this would be easy, right??

Sisters, circa 1992:
Sisters 1992

Exact reverse order in photo, 2012:
Sisters 2012

As for this week, the Tenth(!!!) week of my Project, I am meeting a girlfriend for coffee and some wedding-related fun on Friday. Stay tuned for my next update and I’ll be sure to keep reaching out to my friends and enjoying time with them.

What have you done with your family and friends lately? Anything special or exciting?

Election Night, My Style

What an election, right? This was, by many accounts, the most expensive election in history with the Presidential race costing billions and local races shattering records in the millions for hotly contested seats. Women and the LGBT community have made serious strides in election results. Colorado is now a top vacation spot for many for reasons other than the beauty of the landscape and skiing. I will say, however, that in my lifetime I don’t think that I’ve ever seen the country more divided or contentious.

But this isn’t a political blog. I’m not writing to give my opinions about the race itself though some things will be clear from the photos of the night and simply thinking about my statistical makeup as an American. I am a single, young, middle class white female who lives in Chicago and has a bleeding heart for children, animals, and the needy. You do the math and figure out which side I’m on and then remember that I don’t tolerate hateful comments, firestorms, or trolls. Play nice.

What I am actually writing about is the evening itself and what I decided to do with it. I decided that the worst thing that I could think of would have been having to work my night gig at the restaurant and watch the results while trying to give my best level of service to the few guests who would be dining out in a place without televisions. I couldn’t stand the idea of not being able to soak in the moments of the evening, which were so exciting in 2008. I decided that I’d better take the night off and better yet, wouldn’t I want to enjoy the evening with some like-minded folks?

So I did what any extroverted redheaded lady in my position would do: I threw a party!!

I decided I wanted a patriotic-themed event but I also wanted to keep things affordable and not get completely overwhelmed with decorating my entire home in Old Glory bunting. I think the touches that I came up with, mostly using what I had already, turned out great. I believe that the lack of money (or the lack of desire to spend it) creates great opportunity for creativity! We had just over a dozen guests all told for the evening and I think it ended up being a great evening. Enjoy the photos from the night.

What’s a party without coordinating cupcakes?

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Like the glasses? I decorated them myself, minus the one in the foreground with the stars. I bought stemless wine glasses from Target for $1 a piece and procured oil-based Sharpie paint pens from Michael’s. I’m pretty convinced that the paint isn’t great to put in your mouth so I made sure the polka dots were below the “lip line” on the glass.

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I threw them in the dishwasher after the party because, let’s face it, who has time to handwash a dozen wine glasses? Oh, I suppose I could find the time but it’s just not high on my priority list. The paint came off completely in the dishwasher. This, to me, is actually a bonus. You mean I can decorate a glass with polka dots and have a completely new glass to redecorate next time I throw a party? SWEET! I’m sure that the paint would have stayed on better with a gentler handwashing if you are sold on the idea of keeping an elaborate design.

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I have a lot of paper stockpiled in my craft supplies. I lined a tray with a piece of patriotic paper from a holiday variety pack and put a few other coordinating sheets under plates and cake stands to continue the theme. I found some red and blue treats to coordinate, down to the blue corn chips with red salsa. I could have really, really gone much more overboard with this but like I said I was trying to keep myself on a budget and I’d rather have better wine to drink. ;)

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Did I mention that I really like polka dots? In truth, I was so obsessed with the awesome glassware that I forgot to take pictures of any of the food!! I mentioned the chips and salsa. There was also hummus and veggies and chips and rice flour bao from Wow Bao that I steamed. The chicken teriyaki are by far my favorite. Overall, given the later time of the party, most people had already had dinner before arriving and the amount of food seemed appropriate as well as the wine (I calculate at least a half bottle per person for 2-3 hours and it was quite the long night).

Watching election results can be tense:

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Mom, stop worrying. That’s a bottle of water! What can I say… I was thirsty!

I told guests to dress in patriotic colors and look what happened:

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We ended up with red, white, and blue hair all in one place at the same time. This totally made my night.

Would you believe that I never got a decent picture of my election night outfit? What was I thinking?? I must have been busy with hosting duties or scampering about the party as the results started coming in. In lieu of an actual photo I whipped together a quick composition of the outfit:

Election Night 2012

I wore my new polka dot jeans (yes, polka dots again) from Old Navy which are really just a cheaper copy of the original designer ones that some celebrities were wearing this summer by Adriano Goldschmied. I coveted them and now I have version that I could easily justify buying! My t-shirt was a simple gray t-shirt from Target and the cardigan is a basic one from New York and Company. I finished the look with a white bubble necklace from J Crew (but probably not authentic J Crew since I bought it on eBay) and red pumps. I kept my makeup classic with a cat eye swoop and bright red lips. I wasn’t carrying a purse since I was hosting in my own home but if I hadn’t been I would carry my Kate Spade purse that is a similar color scheme to the one I chose above.

Finally, last but not least, I came up with a patriotic manicure a day or two before the party that definitely coordinated perfectly with my entire outfit.

What a fantastic night! What did you do during Election 2012 and what did you wear?

How to Layer for Warmth and Style

I spent a long cold weekend in Detroit for the World Series and the Lions game and it occurred to me that my years of experience in being sensitive to the cold and the strategic layering I’ve developed could be useful to write about on the blog. I’ll detail exactly how I managed to stay warm almost the whole time we were there and exactly how I layer for ultimate warmth. This will be helpful for outdoor games (usually football, who knew the World Series would be 40 degrees cold and windy?) and even skiing, which is a hobby I’ve picked up in the last couple of years. I hope this is helpful! I’ve linked to the products that I use which should save you some time and effort.

My ski socks filled with Traitorous Toes

Your first step is to pick out suitable footwear. My toes are always the first thing to go, regardless of how much bundling I do, and even with my strategic planning after so many hours of sitting outside in the freezing cold… well, my toes just give up and demand to move. Note that I haven’t experienced this issue while skiing or walking- this really seems to be a factor of sitting. Which is pretty much what you do at a sports event unless you have an exciting moment or a 7th inning stretch in which case jump around as much as possible and get your blood moving again! Socks are important. Get good quality ski socks and get fibers that will breathe and dry quickly. This is a great pair from Amazon, similar to the ones I have. Remember the old runners’ adage: Cotton is rotten. Cotton is not a good fiber for your feet in high intensity sports or for warmth because while it breathes it doesn’t dry quickly meaning any possible sweat on your feet will instantly start to either chafe or make you cold. Your next step is to pick out warm footwear. There are TONS of options here with just as many opinions. Some people swear by the Ugg boots, which were actually designed for surfers and hot sand but provide great warmth and durability and a lightweight boot. I’ve never owned a pair. I am told that should explore their other options and I’m sure I will eventually but for now I just can’t get over how fugly their original design is. Yuck. For my purposes as a Chicagoan (which means snow and slush and freezing rain), I choose Hunter boots. I have the knee high black boots with a glossy finish and these are great for being both completely impenetrable to the elements and, with the addition of a fleece liner, rather warm and cozy. Throughout the winter here I can skip through the slushy streets with no fear of my feet getting soaked or splashed.

I can’t resist.

Other accessories to consider are a warm hat and gloves. For a game, I suggest a hat that covers your ears and gloves that have the ability to let you operate your cell phone without removing the entire glove. Either glittens or conductive thread will help you there. Skiing and other outdoor sports (or if your game is well below freezing) require a much thicker glove which will likely eliminate your ability to text, sorry! A cold weather game means that any hat will do but for truly inclement weather I own a skier’s face mask which is less about being a burglar and more about protecting your delicate facial skin from wind burn and even the sun. Mine is designed for ski goggles to be worn over it but I’ve never had to wear those outside of sports until Jim and I decided to explore during the crazy Chicago blizzard in February 2011 that I nicknamed Blizzasaurus Rex. One thing that you’ll need in cold weather for everything BUT winter sports: a scarf! I like big fluffy warm ones that I can wrap my (long) neck and face in and pull up over my ears. Winter sportswear, however, is designed to insulate your neck so chances are you won’t wear one unless it’s super thin fleece under your overlayer.

I’m trying to NOT look   like this guy.

Finally, the important stuff: Long underwear and a proper down coat and potentially insulated pants, too. You have options in your long underwear choices. Some people swear by silk since it’s lightweight and doesn’t bulk under clothes the way others can. I’ve been meaning to try it but after the crazy winter that was 2011, this most recent winter was one of the mildest and driest I can remember. I guess we’ll see what this year brings. I will say this, though: This is not the place to cheap out. You can get away with a cheap fleece hat and my everyday gloves are simple texting gloves from Target. But you get what you pay for from long underwear. I’ve owned the cheap waffle-weave cotton ones and the ones designed for sports and there is a difference! Just trust me there. As for coats, the obvious choices for everyday warmth are those made by Columbia or North Face. They are high-quality, well-tested, reviews are easy to find online, and they aren’t going to make you a marshmallow man. Mostly. Look for a model with a high down count and a belt. This will give you themost warmth, especially in North Face’s lighter-weight coats, and a belt will help give you shape. I am a princess and a label chaser and I will admit that my everyday down coat is made by Burberry. It’s totally unnecessary but it’s really nice. ;) My ski clothes are different- again, you get what you pay for. My best advice is to borrow clothes from a friend who skis (in this case, my guy) and once you’re positive you like winter sports buy the clothes at the end of the season. I have a really nice coat and pants that I got 50% off at a ski shop in late March-April because they were clearing out inventory and getting ready to close for the year. They have made the difference!! For layering between the coat and your thermal undershirt, consider thin fleece shirts or a breathable sweater. On super cold days I put a thermal vest over that just to keep my core warmer. My mom used to say, “If your feet are cold, put on a hat!” It’s true. The more covered you are, the less body heat escapes and the warmer you become.

My final tip is to watch how you tuck your clothes together as you get dressed. Long underwear is your base layer, with shirt tucked into pants. Socks go over the pants to your knee. Then you layer your middle layers (sweater/vest/etc) and make sure you tuck one those things into whatever pants you are wearing whether it’s ski pants or jeans. Then boot liner, then boots, then finally your coat. Making sure you tuck the layers ensures that no body heat sneaks away from you. I reassure those fearful of Chicago’s winters often by telling them that the right clothing makes all the difference. Let me know how these tips work for you!!

Skiing at Night

My Current Obsession: Vintage Velvet Sofas

I am obsessed with vintage velvet sofas and all their cozy, fuzzy, tufted goodness. Our current sofa is a contemporary three-piece sectional with clean lines, no tufting whatsoever, and a tight upholstered back with single cushion seats.

I know. That’s awfully technical. So here’s a stock photo from IKEA:

Ours is the grey version, except it is a perfectly equal-on-both-sides L shape that both of us can stretch out on entirely. It’s great for evenings of gluttony and movies. I got it on Craigslist, just as IKEA was discontinuing the entire model (Kramfors, if you’d like to know the special Scandinavian name). It’s a great couch and I love it.

But to be honest? (Earmuffs, couch!) I love the lines of these old world styles made new in cushy velvet upholstery and modern colors. In our next home I really want to get an old couch and reupholster it in green… or most likely grey. It’s the most versatile neutral I know and I love it. Eventually I’ll upload lots of photos of my home and talk about the decisions I made in furnishing it. Suffice to say that the color grey plays a major role in my home.

For now, enjoy the delicious eye candy below!!

 

Delicious design!

Product Review: Revlon Colorstay Nail Polish

I am diligent about keeping my nails done. I think it is one of the easiest ways to ensure a consistently polished (ha) appearance. If you figure out how to do it yourself rather than visiting a salon it also becomes a very affordable way to keep looking your best. That said, I am usually a fan of nail polish lines like OPI, Essie, and China Glaze. The formulas are good and usually easy to work with. I have been skeptical of drugstore brand nail polish since it usually winds up either streaky or gloppy.

I am pleased to say that Revlon’s newest line of nail polish in their Colorstay family is a surprise in its performance. I own seven of the line’s various colors and have tried them all out. I’ve heard this nail polish called a demi-gel because of its ability to harden quickly with impressive shine much like a UV-reactive gel manicure. Indeed, the polish does seem to set very quickly and the coverage is good with one coat alone, perfect in two. The polish is durable and shiny and usually lasts me about a week, depending on how hard I am on my hands. The brush is wide and reminiscent of OPI’s Pro-Wide brush which makes application much smoother than skinny little brushes.

Revlon’s Midnight on my nails.
Only slight wear after 4 days!

The only downside is that application can be a little tricky. A thin coat is much better in any painting job, whether spray painting or polishing nails, and this polish formula can be difficult to get a smaller amount of nail polish on the brush. I’ve been able to adjust my application accordingly and have great results. The line of polish colors isn’t as expansive as OPI, Essie, et al and I doubt it ever will be since Revlon has so many other products and only so much shelf space in stores. I would love to see new colors in the future but feel that they did a very good job of picking out a range of hues for the line. There should be something for everyone.

Here’s my breakdown by shade:

  • Delicious- The first shade I tried and my go-to red for candy apple brightness and great shine.
  • Marmalade- A bright orangey coral that has been a great transition from summer to fall and works well with both seasons. Great pedicure color!
  • Amethyst- This purple is a little too bright for my skin tone. I think it would be great on a darker complexion. It has some shimmer.
  • Provence- Great pale lavender shade. Excellent for the pastel manicure craze this past summer and I’m sure I’ll go for it again in the spring.
  • Midnight- This is the color that is on my nails as I type this. It’s a lovely navy blue with a hint of green. A modern classic that gets me compliments.
  • Stormy Night- Nice neutral shade of gray that has some purple undertones in it. I would prefer it less “purple” but it works great for fall into winter.
  • Bare Bones- My least favorite shade. This looks downright creepy on me and makes my nails look like bony claws. The one time I tried it, however, it ended up being perfect for a photo shoot I did so I’m keeping it around.