August 26, 2013

A Little Time in the Country

I traveled back to Iowa this past weekend to hang with family.  Friday night led us out to my aunt & uncle's farm in Shellsburg where yard games, a pig roast, gigantic bonfire & some s'mores makin' ensued.  My sisters & I also took a nighttime spin on the giant merry go-round, but quickly realized we were becoming dizzy much faster than we did two decades ago.  We followed my cousin's adorable little kids, Nadia & Nash, around the property as they led us to see the old red barn lit up at night.  Our attention quickly turned to the huge, orange-hued harvest moon to our left, sitting comfortably among thousands of stars in the sky.  Little miss Nadia gasped, "I've never seen the moon look like that before - we have to tell every body!"

I love being out in the country, feeling like you're in the middle of nowhere; a gentle reminder that there's a whole big world to discover out there...

"Wherever you are, be all there"
- J. Elliot

Little miss Nadia

merry go-round  #pumpfaster

uncle Gene & aunt Lynn posing with dinner | love these two! #pigroast #farmlife

Aunt Lori & I | Shellsburg, Iowa  #campfirevibes

my new whip | vintage car show | Palo, Iowa

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August 20, 2013

Tres Leches Cake with Whipped Cream Frosting + Summer Berries

For my friend Meg's 30th birthday bash we enjoyed quite the day of festivities - brunch, hilarious storytelling over mimosas, a day at the beach with the girls, special cards, phone calls & letters for Meg, dinner at a charming little Mexican joint, followed by cocktails & dancing at some of our favorite spots in Chicago. Megan's friends & family all helped plan the day - whether they were there in person or sending their love from miles away.

close up of this little beauty

I personally love it when birthdays of my friends roll around because it gives me an excuse to bake a big ol' cake - something I usually don't do since I live sans roommates & don't have much of sweet tooth (unless we're talking cheesecake - I will eat an entire one of those myself, no long as it's with fruit and not chocolate or caramel ☺).  Knowing we were going to a Mexican restaurant for the birthday dinner, I wanted to make a cake for Meg that would be a nice compliment to the cuisine - something light since I also knew we'd be going out for post-dinner drinks.  This led me to try my hand at my very first Tres Leches cake - now officially one of the easiest & tastiest cakes I have ever made.

I adapted this recipe from one I found on Martha Stewart's website. I also picked up some gorgeously ripe summer berries from Whole Foods to top the homemade whipped cream frosting.  So good, so easy, such a hit!  Everyone loved the cake & it was the perfect end to a great dinner at Las Palmas.  Recipe & photos below...

Happy Birthday, Meg - cheers to the best year yet! xoxo

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a little slice of heaven right there

Tres Leches Cake with Whipped Cream Frosting + Summer Berries

- 1 stick butter, melted & then cooled to room temp
- 1 1/2 c flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp sea salt (regular salt is fine too)
- 3/4 c sugar
- 5 eggs
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 12-oz can evaporated milk

For Whipped Frosting
- 2 c heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 c sugar

For Fruit Topping
- 1 package fresh strawberries, rinsed & sliced
- 1 package fresh blackberries, rinsed
*OR substitute any kind of fruit your little heart desires

Preheat over to 350° and grease a square 11 x 11" inch metal baking pan, or a 9 x 13" baking dish.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and sea salt - set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat 3/4 c sugar and eggs together on high speed until pale & thick (about 4 mins).  Add the vanilla and mix to incorporate.  With the mixer turned to low speed, add the flour mixture in 3 parts, stopping the mixer to scrape the sides of the bowl after each addition.  Stop mixer - using a spatula, fold in the melted butter until incorporated.  Transfer the batter to your baking dish.  Bake for 15 mins, then turn dish in oven and bake for another 15-20 mins or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.  Once out of the oven & while cake is still warm, poke holes all over the top of the cake using a wooden skewer.

In a medium bowl whisk together the condensed & evaporated milks. Pour mixture all over the top of the cake & let cool to room temperature (about 1 hour).

For Frosting
In an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream & 1/4 c sugar together on medium high speed until peaks form & the consistency is like whip cream (should be somewhat stiff so it's able to spread like frosting, but still light & fluffy).  Once cake has cooled, frost with whipped cream and decorate with the fresh fruit of your choice.  Refrigerate cake until ready to be served, or serve immediately.

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August 15, 2013

Say Hello: Mike Berntsen & Nick Roy of Gentleman's Cooperative

I was recently contacted by an old friend from Iowa about a new business venture he's bringing to the Chicago area.  I always get excited when I hear about cool or fun new places opening in Chicago, but I get extra excited when it involves Iowans in Chicago.  Let me be more specific...

My friend, Mike Berntsen, and his business partner, Nick Roy, are opening what is sure to be the finest new custom clothier in the City of Chicago: Gentleman's Cooperative.  Located in the penthouse of 111 W. Jackson & sharing space with John Allan's Men's Salon, Gentleman's Cooperative is a men's custom clothier "established to provide men with the finest custom garments in the world. Whether you need an entire wardrobe, a sports coat, a fine custom shirt or simply a pair of stunning cuff links, we're here."

image source: Gentleman's Cooperative

A little about the owners...  
Mike has long admired & been a consumer of custom tailored men's fashion.  He's worked for many years for various companies, doing everything from selling books to working for one of the world's largest media & information firms.  Nick has been a tailor for the past several years with a couple of well-known custom clothiers, but you might know him from his other job working as a Corporate Magician (if you watched the last season of The Bachelorette, you may also recognize him).  With Mike's business acumen & Nick's knowledge of the fine clothing/tailor world, these two are bringing a dynamic experience in custom clothing to the Chicago area...lucky, lucky you men of Chicago.  

"We started Gentleman's Cooperative for a lot of reasons.  The main reason being that in men's custom clothing, the average sales is around $2,000 and all of our competitors only offer a "how can I help you?" - followed by a handshake & a smile, then you're out the door.  At Gentleman's Cooperative we want to make shopping for men's custom clothing a true experience. While picking out their custom wares men can enjoy a scotch or beer, play a game of pool, watch custom suits being built in front of them by our master tailor, who has 35 years of experience under his belt.  Also, with John Allan's partnership, men can enjoy unlimited cuts/trims, manicures, hot towels, hand massages and shoe shines.  It will truly be the most enjoyable way to satisfy all of their business clothing needs. We'll also be developing a perks card membership that will give customers perks around Chicago - whether that's a discount renting a BMW for the weekend or express seating at high-end restaurants around the City." -Mike Berntsen

image source: Gentleman's Cooperative

image source: Gentleman's Cooperative

They Also Have...

image source: Gentleman's Cooperative

>>>>  You're Invited!!!  <<<<

Gentleman's Cooperative is having their official kick-off party next Thursday, August 22 at their space - 111 W Jackson Blvd, Penthouse Suite - Chicago, IL 60604.  My sister Abbey & I will be hitting up the shindig and we hope to see you there too!  Just be sure to RSVP to JACHICAGO@JOHNALLANS.COM

Stop by and Say Hello to Mike & Nick - get cozy, checkout the digs and enjoy a few complimentary beverages & tasty bites!  

Be There...or Be Square

image source: Gentleman's Cooperative

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August 9, 2013

THE HAPPY SHOW... yes, yes, yes. it is

How happy are you?  Stefan Sagmeister's exhibit will have you pondering this question as you meander through the black, yellow & white gallery wrought with the designer's quirky thoughts & poignant observations about humans, sex, life & happiness.  You'll smile, you'll furrow your brow, you'll laugh, you'll be surprised and - despite Sagmeister's warning on the first big yellow wall you'll pass as you enter the exhibit - I think you will leave feeling happier.  I know we did.


It's up to you to get yourselves to the Chicago Cultural Center by September 23 to check out The Happy Show.  Time's running out and you really won't want to miss this one.  If my opener wasn't enough to sway you, here's a bit more information from the Chicago Cultural Center's website...followed by some photos taken by yours truly.  

"Graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister not only tests the boundaries between art and design, he often transgresses it through his imaginative implementation of typography. Filling the fourth-floor galleries and activating the in-between spaces of the Chicago Cultural Center, The Happy Show offers visitors the experience of walking into the designer's mind as he attempts to increase his happiness via meditation, cognitive therapy and mood-altering pharmaceuticals. "I am usually rather bored with definitions," Sagmeister says. "Happiness, however, is just such a big subject that it might be worth a try to pin it down." Centered around the designer's ten-year exploration of happiness, this exhibition presents typographic investigations of a series of maxims, or rules to live by, originally culled from Sagmeister's diary, manifested in a variety of imaginative and interactive forms.

To contextualize the maxims that appear throughout the exhibition, Sagmeister has gathered the social data of Harvard psychologists Daniel Gilbert and Steven Pinker, psychologist Jonathan Haidt, anthropologist Donald Symons, and several prominent historians. A 12-minute segment of the Happy Film, a feature length exploration of whether it is possible to train the mind the way we train the body, will also be on view." - source: Chicago Cultural Center

everything | I do | ALWAYS | comes | BACK | to me

A little secret to boost your spirits? #1 was the only gumball machine working when we visited.

"Uselessness is gorgeous"

capturing Garrett capturing gorgeous

double duty | #peddleandsnap

banana wall or banana stand?


? ! ! ! .

(Garrett gets credit for this one)


Saturday, July 13 - Monday, September 23, 2013
Chicago Cultural Center, Exhibition Hall & Yates Gallery - 78 E. Washington St., Chicago, IL 
Monday–Thursday, 9 am–7 pm; Friday, 9 am–6 pm; Saturday, 9 am–6 pm; Sunday, 10 am–6 pm

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August 7, 2013

Attention Almost-30-Somethings...and All Other Women For That Matter...

Have you heard about the piece Olivia Wilde penned for Glamour magazine on turning 30?  If not, get your head out of the clouds for a few minutes and read her hilariously & thoughtfully put together points (a Dos & Don'ts list) on why turning 30 is something to be excited about - not something to dread!  I must admit, this milestone is less than a year away for me so this article most certainly resonates (I literally love & agree with every point she makes).  Whether you're in your 20's or 30's or any wonderful age for that matter, we can all take away a tip or two from Olivia about how to grab life by the balls & totally rock out as the awesome, good people we all have the potential to be.  If you're already rocking out your life to the fullest (GO YOU!) I'd still suggest reading the article for your daily dose of smiles & laughter...

You can find the article here:

image source: