Friday, January 31, 2014

Finally: Embeya

I am so pleased to say I have finally been to Embeya, recently named Esquire’s best new Chicago restaurant, and I was blown away by my experience. After hearing wonderful feedback, I met one of my good friends for a leisurely lunch during restaurant week; accompanied with a glass of wine, a well- recommended Cabernet Franc, I was fortunate enough to sample several dishes from both the restaurant week menu and the traditional lunch menu. Each and every plate was impeccably dressed and tasted better than the previous. Among the sampled fare were the following stand-outs: green papaya salad, shrimp wraps, rice noodle salad, chicken roulade (pictured) and the fried banana dessert (I’ll take four more). I’m sure if I’d have sampled every item on the menu, this blog post would’ve looked more like a mouth-watering dissertation, but I digress; every employee was perfectly hospitable and a brief conversation with Attila Gyulai, himself, left me with nothing more than a desire to dine at Embeya every day. Thank you to everyone who made our lunch a pleasant one; I hope to return very soon and would encourage all looking for a new restaurant experience to give it a visit. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Work it Out

With January coming to a close, I am guessing most people have either abandoned their New Year’s resolutions or have started to experience the “why, oh why, did I decide this was a good idea” moment. I, myself, have started to experience the whyyyy-moment and have thus decided to renew my goals and energy by posting about cute workout clothes/equipment. Maybe if I think about my upcoming trip to Mexico I will want to work out; however, if that fails, I’m sure to want to work out if I have this cute workout bag and new tennis shoes, right? Eh. Keep trucking. I am nearing the two-year-mark with my gym shoes so purchasing a new pair is far from an impulse buy; pink is cheerful enough. Here are a few new-found picks along with some of my favorite stand-bys:

5.      Manduka Towel $16
6.      Nike Running Shoe $100
8.      S’well Water Bottle $40
10.  Yurbud Earbuds $30

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Cinnamon Baked Donuts

Cinnamon Baked Donuts. How could I not try this recipe within the first month of getting Ina’s new cookbook?! I know I should be sticking to the healthy, resolution state-of-mind, but again, how could I NOT make these. We had all of the ingredients in the kitchen and nothing to do during the second wave of polar vortex air. Before the first batch was fully flipped onto the cooling rack, Dan had eaten a donut; in fact, half of them were gone before I could melt the butter for dipping the donuts in cinnamon sugar. Not ashamed. These donuts are delicious and I wouldn’t be surprised if they are all gone within 24 hours. Tip: I'd recommend only sugaring one side of the donut as the batter itself is fairly sweet. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Le Petit Prince

When I was in middle school, I was introduced to Le Petit Prince in French class and there was no going back once I read the first chapter. I’ve been studying French for over a decade and can honestly say that I’ve read Le Petit Prince more than I’ve read Harry Potter, which is a lot. I was not thinking clearly in college when I sold my copy back to the bookstore; if anyone is EVER looking for a present, birthday or otherwise, a French copy of Le Petit Prince would trump all others. I was recently reconnected with a high school friend who agreed to create a canvas incorporating my favorite quote into my favorite drawing from the children’s novel. Picking the quote was difficult and picking the drawing was agony; there are so many wonderful illustrations, but I decided on this one and I couldn’t be happier with my choice. I will eventually frame this canvas in a black, vintage frame; however, I couldn’t wait to get it up in my French-inspired dining room. The frame will have to come later (hint: maybe with a copy of the book? Two present bonus points!). Thank you, Eileen

“Adieu, dit le renard. Voici mon secret. Il est très simple: on ne voit bien qu’avec le cœur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.” - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
"Goodbye," said the fox, "Here is my secret. It's very simple. We only see clearly with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eyes." –Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Confessions of a Spoiled Dog

It’s been quite some time since I’ve posted about Payton and I am happy to report that she is still the cutest dog on the face of the planet. I may be a bit biased, but it keeps me tolerable among friends to just agree. Given that I think she is the best, I can also say that she is one of the craziest dogs I’ve ever met. One minute she will be sitting on my lap and the next she will jump on my head and bark until I play with her. I guess I created a monster and I love her unconditionally, especially when she…

-         Wants to play fetch without dropping the toy.
-         Makes you fight her and chase her to grab the toy after a game of fetch goes awry.
-         Goes to the bathroom 1 million times a day
-         Barks whenever I give another human attention
-         Barks whenever I don’t give her attention
-         Eats my shoes
-          Jumps into the shower
-         Eats dirty laundry…and clean laundry
-         Eats pens and pencils
-         Has severe separation anxiety whenever either of us leave—if we leave at the same time our neighbors get concerned

She does have redeeming qualities, too…

-         She sleeps on my lap while I’m working or studying
-         She sleeps under the covers at night; sometimes her head is on the pillow
-         She has developed a love for popcorn and will give high-fives to get a piece
-         She eats carrots like a bunny, and hops like one, too
-         Whenever I’m sad, she licks my tears away and sits on my shoulders like a parrot puppy.
-         She helps cook and unload the dishwasher
-         She drags her blanket around the apartment

I couldn’t have asked for a better dog, right, Dan? 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe

Dan and I made this pasta recipe right after Christmas because I wanted to get a kick start on recipes from my new Ina Garten cookbook. As per usual, her recipe didn’t disappoint; since then, we’ve made it once more and have started to hone in on our version of the recipe by tweaking small things here and there. Given my love affair with red wine, we decided to add a splash to our second batch of sauce to enhance the bite of the broccoli rabe—good choice. The dish is surprisingly light, despite the sausage and pasta mixture, and would be perfect for entertaining groups of 4-8 people. Doubling the recipe would be no problem and a small serving goes a long way, especially when served with a salad and garlic bread.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Jackson Pollock

As mentioned here, I am a major scarf person and given the weather this season I am extremely happy scarves are one of my choice accessories. I bought this Jackson-Pollock-inspired scarf back in college after I did particularly poorly on an exam-the expression retail therapy trumped saving my money for groceries and gas. Though it was not the most well-thought-out purchase, I am so glad I scooped it up, as I have never seen another scarf like it. Paired with an eye-popping teal clutch, my otherwise androgynous look is appropriate for work, brunch or a casual night out.   

 J.Crew shirt // rag + bone pants // Frye boots // borrowed necklace  // J. Crew jacket // Tiffany sunglasses // Loft earrings // J. Crew clutch // Tolani scarf // Essie’s smokin’ hot nails

Monday, January 20, 2014

Top Knot-ch Hair

Top knots have been part of my daily “beauty” repertoire for at least 5 years now- it is a mere coincidence (read: miracle) that they are also considered stylish. It may be a learned habit from my twenty-plus years of dancing, but I feel so much more put together with my hair up and out of my face. With the exception of a misfortunate, elementary school bob, I have always had long hair; I love it and I would be sad without it, but after three hours of wearing my hair long, I put it up. I’m sure those of you who know me think three hours is a generous amount of time, but I digress. On a typical day, I let my hair air-dry and immediately toss it up into something resembling a bun. If I am seeing another human, I go for the structured top knot instead of the usual unkempt bird’s nest top knot, but sometimes there is no difference. 

Part of my love for the top-knot is the ease.  It takes 45 seconds and can be secured using bobby pins, a hair tie or a clip. With straight, newly washed hair, I usually secure it with a hair tie or a clip to avoid bobby pins slipping. If I’ve curled it, used hair spray, or am working with day-old hair, I secure the top knot with bobby pins to give it the more polished look.

Friday, January 17, 2014


Today is a very monumental day because I am venturing out of my neighborhood to get dressed up like a flapper and attend Second City Food, Wine + Social Club’s Speakeasy Soiree event! I am ending my hibernation and finally leaving Streeterville, an event that has been non-existent since fall. It’s no secret that I am a homebody; my normal amount of excitement usually parallels excitement felt by going to the grocery store. Sidenote: in the midst of all this record-breaking, cold weather, it’s been a challenge to get me out the door to even go to the aforementioned grocery store! Because my neighborhood offers everything I need to function and maintain a small shred of a social life, I truly have not left since before the holidays. Instead, Dan and I have found comfort in the bars, restaurants and lounges located just a couple of blocks away. Below I’ve listed a few of our favorites and I guarantee if you frequent any of our spots, you will run into us. After tonight, we will probably remain rooted in Streeterville until I can wear shorts, but tonight, I’m FINALLY leaving.

Streeterville Picks:
Local Root
Emilio’s Tapas
Coco Pazzo
Bar Toma
Timothy O’Tooles

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

10 Closet Cleaning Tips

1.      If you haven’t worn it in a year, get rid of it.
2.      Use the same hangers to make the closet feel more put together. Small change, but it makes a huge difference.
3.      If your clothes don’t fit…get rid of it! Too bad if it’s a $300 blouse!
4.      Sort clothes into three piles: toss, donate and keep. If it’s been worn through, make sure it’s a toss.
5.      Color-coordinate your clothes—I use the ROYGBIVB mnemonic.
6.      Allocate different areas of your closet for different clothes. Use the long hang for dresses, pants and skirts; use the short hang for tops etc.
7.      Add personal touches to your closet-a candle, a picture or a piece of artwork, however small, will go a long way.
8.      Sort your shoes and the same rule applies: if you haven’t worn them in a year, toss them.
9.      Organize your accessories. Keep handbags, clutches and all jewelry in designated areas.
10.  Do laundry and keep clothes folded. Once your closet is clean and organized, you will want to keep it that way. Try to do laundry at least once a week and fold clothes immediately afterwards. Apply the just-get-her-done mentality.

With a new year, a new list (101 in 1,001) and spring (hopefully) around the corner, get a head start on cleaning that closet! I am a bit of a neat freak (as previously stated here) and it makes such a large difference being able to start my day walking into something organized and clean. I saw the above photo on pinterest, I’ve been on a huge pinterest kick lately, and the first thing I thought was: “Girl, clean your closet.” This coming weekend I'll be going through the same steps to re-clean mine! 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

101 in 1,001


  After I saw a similar list floating around on Pinterest, I thought it would be a perfect kick-start to my "Finally" series. I am also in the process of a few major business and life decisions. Having a to-do list packed with both business and pleasure will make it more fun to accomplish some of the less glamorous tasks. Here's to a New Year and 1,001 days of making life happen my way. Started 1/14/2014- Ends 10/11/2016. Over the course of the 2.75 years, I will be sure to update the list! What are some things you are hoping to accomplish over the next 1,001 days? Let me know!

1.      Make my own 101 list
2.      Take a trip to Napa Valley, California
3.      Read 15 new books
4.      Invest in a leather jacket
5.      Get accepted to dental school
6.      Launch website redesign
7.      Establish LLC once #6 occurs
8.      Try waterskiing
9.      Go skydiving
10.  Buy two floor lamps for the living room
11.  Invest in a pair of designer shoes
12.  Become an active supporter of a charity I admire
13.  Be featured on a blog I admire
14.  Design business cards
15.  Go camping under the southwestern stars
16.  Become a member at Museum of Science and Industry
17.  Go to Disney World
18.  Finally make it to Las Vegas
19.  Incorporate yoga into my routine every day for a week
20.  Take a cooking class
21.  Go without eating pasta for two weeks  
22.  Get up without hitting snooze button for a week straight
23.  Watch the sunrise at Olive Park
24.  Collaborate with a designer
25.  Bake every dessert in the Beekman Heirloom Cookbook
26.  Volunteer at a food pantry
27.  Buy a stranger coffee
28.  Reconnect with two old friends
29.  Send an old fashioned letter to someone once a month
30.  Send Christmas cards two weeks before Christmas
31.  Organize personal documents and implement filing system
32.  Buy a new Duvet cover with matching shams
33.  Finish the dining room’s DIY bar
34.  Host a game night once every other month
35.  Meet Graham Elliot
36.  Get certified to teach kickboxing
37.  Watch all the old James Bond movies
38.  Go to a vineyard in Bordeaux
39.  Ride the Ferris Wheel on Navy Pier
40.  Party on a boat on Lake Michigan
41.  Take a road trip up the west coast
42.  Kiss on a balcony overlooking the Eiffel Tower
43.  Wear my DDS white coat to a bar
44.  Run three 5ks
45.  Be featured in a popular magazine
46.  Go one week without social media or my phone
47.  Frame our antique Chicago Tribune
48.  Drink a margarita on the beach
49.  Buy new bedside tables
50.  Install a media display in the dining room
51.  Hire a photographer for a week
52.  Design a product
53.  Fill a cavity for someone in need
54.  Go to Ravinia once a week, all summer
55.  Give someone a present just because
56.  Go to a Bears vs. Packers game at Soldier Field
57.  Sit in the bleachers at Wrigley
58.  Get engaged
59.  Take another Goose Island brewery tour
60.  Buy Christmas stockings
61.  Go to the Eye Doctor for new glasses
62.  Go to the Chicago Botanic Gardens during June
63.  Visit Zoo Lights at Lincoln Park Zoo
64.  Drink only water for one week
65.  Donate 1/3 of my wardrobe to charity
66.  Spend a weekend with my mom and my sister
67.  Go golfing with my dad
68.  Read an hour before bed for one week
69.  Host a mimosa bar brunch
70.  Take a spontaneous weekend trip
71.  Paint an abstract on canvas just for fun
72.  Take an archery class
73.  Ride in a hot air balloon
74.  Get lost in the mazes at Versailles
75.  Sit in a French café for 5 hours
76.  Hike the Jim Thompson Trail in Sedona
77.  Light a firework
78.  Get a manicure once a week for a month
79.  Make homemade ice cream
80.  Invest savings in a low-risk fund
81.  Invest in a high-quality jewelry box
82.  Maintain my long-distance friendships
83.  Write down something I am happy about once a day for a year
84.  Make a snowman
85.  Complete a 500 piece puzzle in a weekend
86.  Eat 2-3 servings of vegetables per day for a week
87.  Do 100 squats a day for a week
88.  Eat a maple bacon donut with coffee
89.  Take Payton for a long walk every day for a week
90.  Play a game of football on the beach
91.  Take an AIR aerial fitness class
92.  Get a new retainer
93.  Do 30 outfit posts in one year
94.  Invest in a new car
95.  Do as the Romans do while in Rome
96.  Swim in the Mediterranean Sea
97.  Write an ebook
98.  Purchase a kegerator
99.  Dance like crazy at two weddings
100.  Drive a pick-up truck

101. Inspire someone else to make a list

Orange Creamsicle Angel Food Cake

I made this cake to both celebrate Dan’s birthday and experiment with my new Beekman’s Heirloom cookbook, which is one of the best Christmas presents I’ve gotten in a long time. A year from now, it is extremely possible that half of the pages will be smothered in chocolate, egg remnants and spilled vanilla, but that is the mark of a good cookbook. To stray from tradition, and bring a bit of summer into our lives, I opted for the Creamsicle Angel Food Cake. I’d never made Angel Food Cake before and suffice to say I didn’t think about how I was going to whip the egg whites into shape until after I started; we don’t have an electric hand mixer, so I definitely got a nice arm workout that morning. The recipe was fairly straightforward and the worst part about make it was not being able to sample the batter. Normally, I’m all for a spoonful or two, but with twelve egg whites, I couldn’t pull the trigger. While the cake was baking, I tried a variation of the recommended topping. Instead of macerating oranges, I decided to make an orange marmalade with cointreau. It was a bit more work, but it was worth the extra effort. The marmalade paired with the cake and made each bite extra indulgent.

To make the marmalade: Bring 2 c. water, ½ c. sugar and ¼ c. Cointreau (or other orange flavored liqueur) to a steady simmer. While syrup is heating, peel and slice two navel oranges. Once syrup is warm and combined, add oranges. Let simmer for 45 minutes to an hour. Serve either warm or at room temp.