December 30, 2008

recipe to try: black and white mousse

You’ll be in seventh heaven scooping the sweet melt-in-your-mouth spoonfuls of this dark and white chocolate mousse from Flagrante Delicia. What a luscious dessert for a New Year’s Eve in with your honey... which is exactly what we have lined up this year!

December 29, 2008

etsy calendar collection

I told myself I wasn't going to do this.

There are already enough blogs out there with round-ups of gorgeous 2009 calendars, so why should I add to the mix? But then I started looking at the delightful handmade designs on Etsy and I just couldn't resist.
So here are a few of my favorites...

Hand-Gocco Printed Calendar by Sarah Parrott. $20.

Colorful Prints Calendar by Susy Jack. $34.

Decorative Frame Calendar by Paper and Inkling. $15.50.

Celebrity Birthday Calendar by Beauideal. $24.
Animal Calendar by English Muffin Shop. $15.

Pattern & Texture Calendar by Satsuma Lynn. $44.

Round Funny Birds Calendar by ModernPop. $18.50.

December 23, 2008

holiday wishes

There are cookies to bake, presents to wrap and a queue of Christmas movies to watch – so I’m signing off for the next few days. I do hope your holidays are full of all the simple pleasures and little joys that make you happy. And may your dreams – today and always – come true.


Christmas Cookies via She Dances on Flickr.

December 22, 2008

100 things...

I've seen a few bloggers with their own lists so I decided to try one of my own. Wow... it's harder than you'd think to come up with 100 things! Here goes...

100 Things about Me:

1. When I was a kid, my cousin Kelly and I used to light sparklers and then see how many times we could run around our cottage before they went out.

2. I took great pride in beating him.

3. In high-school I had an iguana. His name was Bud.

4. I totally believe in horoscopes. I’m a Sagittarius.

5. My birthday is November 26th, which sometimes falls on Thanksgiving.

6. I did not like it when my mom made a birthday pumpkin pie instead of a cake one year.

7. My favorite book is “Just As Long As We’re Together” by Judy Blume and has been since about the sixth grade.

8. I read it every year.

9. I am left handed.

10. In elementary school, I was jealous of my sister because she had braces and “got” to wear a retainer.

11. Sometimes I snuck in her room to try it on.

12. Now I thank god that my teeth are straight and that I never had to wear braces.

13. I never get tired of 80’s hair band music.

14. And I’ll always have a crush on Jon BonJovi.

15. I’m a sore loser.

16. Once I lost playing “Life” with my family, and I ran off pouting and crying.

17. I was 24. They’ll never let me forget it.

18. I am totally uncoordinated.

19. I like to blame this on my parents who didn’t let me take dance class when I was little.

20. The last time I went ice skating was when I was eight with my sister.

21. She broke her arm and neither of us have skated again.

22. I have never broken a bone.

23. But I did drop a shot-put on my big toe in eighth grade.

24. And had my lip split open by a baseball bat when I was four.

25. I had to get stitches.

26. I also accidentally stapled the tip of my index finger with an industrial stapler when I was at my first week at a new job.

27. I was so embarrassed and couldn’t tell anyone since I just started there, so I had to pry it open and pull it out myself.

28. I almost passed out.

29. The first time I was on an airplane was sophomore year of high-school.

30. I went to Orlando with my friend and her family.

31. I went to Cancun for spring break my senior year of college with eleven friends.

32. When we checked in, they only had one room reserved for us so we had to share one room – and one bathroom – for a week.

33. When we were kids, we liked to sit on the floor vent in our living room when the furnace kicked on. We’d pull our sleep-shirts over our legs and tuck our heads in to create little tents of warm air.

34. I still like to sit on the vent in our bedroom now.

35. I have three tattoos.

36. I’d like to get more.

37. When I was sixteen, I lied and said I was eighteen so I could get my belly button pierced.

38. It was 2 months before my mom and dad found out.

39. When I was little, I used to love catching frogs and salamanders.

40. I wanted to keep them as pets.

41. Once when I caught a teeny tree frog, I was holding it, standing by the campfire, when it suddenly jumped out of my hand and into the fire. I cried all weekend.

42. My first car was a brown Chevy Cavalier.

43. I named it Phil because the license plate started with FYL.

44. The first – and last – time I went snorkeling, it took me about 30 minutes to figure out how to breathe through the mouthpiece. Once I finally got it, we were called back on to the boat because the time was up.

45. Some day for Christmas, I’d like to get my husband and I (and whatever kiddies we have) matching pj’s to open our presents in.

46. We had to wear uniforms in middle school.

47. All the girls would roll up their plaid skirts at the waist, but we still wore shorts underneath.

48. When I was in seventh grade, I had a huge crush on an eighth grader. I wrote my crush’s name and “I heart my crush” all over the bottom of my shoes in class. When we went out for recess that day, someone told him, and he came over to look at my shoes. I was mortified.

49. When I was in high school, I finally dated that crush and when we broke up in college, it was me who broke it off with him.

50. I cannot drive a stick-shift. My friends tried to teach me in high-school, and I was awful. After about the tenth time of clonking out, I just gave up.

51. I am a Packers fan living in Bears’ country. We are a household divided on football Sunday.

52. I believe that ghosts exist and that houses can be haunted.

53. On our trips home to Wisconsin, I like to moo at the cows in the fields.

54. I don’t like to eat white foods – mayonnaise, cream cheese, ranch dressing, sour cream.

55. But I do like vanilla ice cream, marshmallows and yogurt.

56. Growing up I always wanted to be a teacher.

57. Sometimes I wonder if that’s still what I should have done.

58. I also wanted to be a librarian, a waitress, a cashier and an architect.

59. Some day still I would love to open a bakery.

60. We didn’t have Nintendo at our house.

61. The only video games I liked – and actually got good at from playing at friends’ houses – were the original Super Mario Bros. and Tetris.

62. One of my favorite books growing up was “Dr. Seuss’ ABC’s.” I still know it by heart: “Big A, little A, what begins with A? Aunt Annie’s alligator. A A A…”

63. I don’t have an iPod.

64. I’m scared of doing handstands in yoga class.

65. I can’t read in the car or I’ll get carsick.

66. But I can read when I’m on the train or running on the treadmill.

67. Whenever we roast marshmallows, I like to burn the top layer of my marshmallow, peel it off and eat it and then keep burning it down layer by layer.

68. When I eat a bowl of cereal, I like to mix a couple kinds together.

69. And then I drink the milk.

70. I love making lists.

71. Sometimes when I’m going through a list and realize I did a task that wasn’t on it, I’ll write it on anyway just so I can cross it off.

72. I love board games.

73. I always want to be Miss Scarlet when we play “Clue” and the dog when we play Monopoly.

74. I don’t like sushi.

75. I love karaoke.

76. When I was in kindergarten, I got to be the partridge in a pear tree in our school Christmas play. Every time that verse of the song came up, I had to get down from the “tree” and flap my wings and squawk around the stage.

77. And then when I was in sixth grade, I was the dove in our Christmas play and had to sing a solo. I guess there’s just something about me and birds…

78. I took Spanish in high-school and in college.

79. I still can’t speak it.

80. I’d like to take French classes now.

81. And then take a trip to Paris.

82. My top five favorite movies (in no particular order because it’s too hard narrow down): “You’ve Got Mail,” “Sixteen Candles,” “When Harry Met Sally,” “Love Actually,” and “Baby Boom.”

83. Every year growing up during one week of the summer, my mom would put up a tent in our backyard so we could “camp out” with our friends.

84. My grandparents lived on a dairy farm and used to name the cows after me and my cousins.

85. I loved to go into the barn and check the list to see what my cow was doing that day.

86. I love to do crosswords, sudoku and word jumbles.

87. I wanted to be just like Sam on “Who’s the Boss.”

88. And I thought Susanna Hoffs – from The Bangles – was the coolest person ever.

89. I have a birthmark on my upper thigh that I used to cover up with my hand whenever we went to the pool as kids.

90. I still have a habit of covering it up when I put on a swim suit.

91. My favorite ice cream novelty was always a Mickey Mouse Bar.

92. Now it’s a Dove Bar.

93. I never really liked cats until I got a dog.

94. Now that I’ve got her, I realize how much I love all animals.

95. The worst household chore? Ironing. Followed very close behind by dusting.

96. The best? Vacuuming.

97. I love books. Novels, coffee table books, kids’ picture books – all of them.

98. Some day I want a library in my house.

99. My niece and nephews have brought more joy to my life than I would have ever thought possible.

100. I can’t wait to have children of my own.

So that's 100! Thanks for reading!

December 21, 2008

design inspiration: decorating diy

I {heart} this lovely diy decorating idea from Lobster and Swan.

Create a lovely garland using bits of pretty paper and fabrics. String it up from wall to wall, and you’ve got a simple and sweet way to brighten up any room.

Garland by Lobster and Swan on Flickr.

December 20, 2008

crafting: decorating with cranberries

Here are some lovely ways to decorate for the holidays - in a cheap and chic way. Ruby-red cranberries can be used in myriad ways to spruce up your home. Gorgeous.

December 13, 2008

bedding love: cosmina & cirrus bedding from anthropologie


A ruffly, fluffy duvet and shams in a gorgeous steely silver color topped with a quilt swirling with paisleys of dark gray. The tones remind me of wintry days at nightfall when the gray sky casts its dusky shadows over the city.

This is some serious bed-love. {And actually, if I'm being honest... I'm smitten with this whole darn room - the tree wallcover, the drapes, the chair, the pendant. Oh if I could only have them all...}

Cosmina Quilt & Sham * Cirrus Duvet & Sham
{from Anthropologie}

December 12, 2008

holiday shopping: antique brooch

Wow. This is a real stunner. I love that it's black. I love that it's French. I love that it's old (over 100 years!). But most of all? I love that it's unique.

French Jet Clover Brooch from Erie Basin

gifts for a sweet-tooth

I'm sure these mouthwatering treats from Vosges Chocolate are every bit as delicious and decadent as they look. A perfect gift for the sweet-tooth on your list!

December 11, 2008

holiday shopping: coil candle holders

*UPDATE* Contented Me readers can save 10% at Burke D├ęcor! Shop online and get 10% off your entire order by entering CONTENTED at checkout. What a great deal!

Whenever the holidays roll around, I find myself totally gravitating towards things silver and sparkly. So naturally, I find these candle holders pretty pretty pretty.

Silver Coil Candle Holder from Burke Decor. $16.

Get a couple of these and throw in another lovely item or two to your shopping cart and get free shipping! That's right... enjoy free shipping on all orders over $50 at Burke Decor this holiday season.

December 10, 2008

stocking stuffers: glass ornaments

Moo-ve on over to CB2 this weekend to corral these adorable cow ornaments! Those little round bodies just make me smile.

{It says they're no longer available online, but maybe you'll be lucky and snap up a few at the store closest to you. I'm hoping there are a still a few left at the store by my house. Fingers crossed! }

But just in case the cows are gone...

starburst ornaments * trumpets ornaments * finial ornaments

December 9, 2008

spotlight: simply photo's winter wonders shop

I came for the photography, but I'm staying for these adorable hand-crocheted coasters. Just like snowflakes, each is unique. And together they make quite a statement.

I should have kept these darling coasters a secret – since I’m not supposed to be doing any shopping for myself right now and will have to wait until after the holidays to snap them up, which is a fat chance, since I know they'll be gone {sigh} – but I just couldn’t resist telling you about them. It is the season of giving after all…

Also be sure to check out the amazing photography at Simply Photo's Winter Wonders Shop

December 8, 2008

holiday shopping

J. Crew is having its Holiday Sale. Here are some lovely tops that I have my eye on. Loving feminine touches - ruffles & rosettes - on neutral colors. Hey Santa? I'm a size small...

Rosette Tank

Ruffle-Neck Cardigan

Necklace Tee

December 5, 2008

local shopping in chicago

There are so many things to do around the city this weekend:

Southport Holiday Stroll Friday from 5-9. Enjoy some holiday cheer – carolers, a sleigh ride, free samples and more. Between Byron and Belmont on Southport Avenue.

Do Division Holiday Walk All day Saturday. Participating stores offer sales and treats to customers, and there are free carriage rides down Division Street.

Renegade Craft Fair Holiday Sale Saturday and Sunday. Third annual craft fair with over 150 vendors. At the Pulaski Park Fieldhouse.

DEPART-ment Holiday '08 Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Over 125 vendors offering handmade goodies. 2000 W. Fulton (at Damen).

Lincoln Square Christkindl Market Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Eat traditional German food, listen to Christmas Carols, and sip on glogg as you shop among the dozens of vendors and merchants in Lincoln Square.

Roscoe Village Winterfest Stroll Saturday and Sunday. The shops (between Damen and Oakley on Roscoe) will serve cocktails and appetizers, host live music, and offer wine tastings or trunk shows.

With all these shopping options, you're sure to find something for everyone on your list. And it'll be fun trying!

December 4, 2008

in my recipe box: gourmet's favorite cookies from 1941-2008

I love this feature on It's full of the very best cookie recipes from the start of the magazine. Spanning seven decades, it's interesting to see how the ingredients and types of cookies changed over time. I'm sure you'll find at least a recipe or two that are worth trying.

November 27, 2008

thanksgiving wishes

From the cranberry relish to the pumpkin pie and everything in between, I hope you have a joyful and delightful day.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

(Pinecone Turkey from Martha Stewart Living.)

November 26, 2008

what I'm thankful for

A small list - in no particular order - of things I'm grateful for this Thanksgiving season:

cuddles with lulu * afternoon naps * the endless love and support of family and friends * starbucks vanilla steamers * tuesday night yoga * that our country is capable of greatness * weekend breakfasts * sweet mandy b's buttercream frosting * sunny mornings * going home for the holidays * the best nail salon that's right across the street * my health & the health of my loved ones * free samples at trader joe's * swiffer sheets (without which our house would be overtaken by dog hair!) * my mom's chocolate chip cookies * that no matter what happens, I still have hope

November 25, 2008

do you know the muffin man?

My friend, Jen, and I were busy bakers in my kitchen last night... whipping up two delicious batches of muffins for my office's Thanksgiving potluck today. As you can see... I couldn't pick just one recipe. Just like I predicted!

(Whole Wheat Apple Muffins & Pumpkin Muffins)

*Please disregard all of the background messiness (how embarassing!) on the countertop. My pleas for a cleaned-up picture redo were politely declined. But the good thing is - see that Crate & Barrel box back there? - well, in it was the most beautiful silver cake stand - you can see it on the edge of the table (to the right of the muffins) - from my darling Juju and "Uncle" Jason. What a wonderful birthday present indeed! THANK YOU!*

November 24, 2008

thanksgiving table setting

It's only three days away, and I can't get Thanksgiving dinner out of my mind! Turkey and stuffing and cranberries... and pumpkin pie! Isn't this a lovely way to decorate the table for your holiday dinner?

Photo by the amazing Miki Duisterhof. Be sure to check out the rest of her portfolio. Inspiration guaranteed!

November 21, 2008

photo inspiration

Just looking at this makes me happy. Makes me want to go out this weekend to find a perfect green wreath.

(via Simply Photo)

in my recipe box: pumpkin & whole wheat apple muffins

We're having a potluck breakfast at work next week. I know I want to bring a batch of muffins, and I also know that I want them to be with seasonal ingredients, but what I can't decide is which recipe to make. I've narrowed it down to two: Pumpkin or Whole Wheat Apple. They both look so delicious... so how's a girl to choose?

Pumpkin Muffins from Gourmet via Muffin Top.
Whole Wheat Apple Muffins adapted from King Arthur Flour via Smitten Kitchen.

I think the answer might be to make both!

November 19, 2008

spotlight: whitney smith

Oh it feels so good to play on Etsy!

I can't take my eyes off of the adorable handmade ceramics from Whitney Smith. I'd buy every last piece if I could. Of course, the cupcake stands hold a very special place in my heart.

(via Design is Mine - a favorite!)

mini holiday cards

From the Inkspot Workshop Holiday '08 Collection...

I {heart} these handmade mini cards and their frosty white envelopes.

From top:
Pinwheel Snowman Cards * Mod Ornament Cards * Tree Bird Cards * Pinwheel Tree Christmas Cards

November 18, 2008

let's dress up

LOVE this. Perfect for a holiday fete.

(Evening's Promise Dress from Anthropologie - $158)

design inspiration: swedish interiors

Georgeous interiors shot by photographer Mari Eriksson. The vintage furnishings, minimal design style and walls awash in white are so very Swedish.

recipe to try: crispy chocolate marshmallow treats

From the September issue of Everyday Food. So easy and tasty.

Makes 16
6 tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for pan
1 bag (10.5 oz) mini marshmallows
1/4 c. unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa
6 c. crisp rice cereal
2 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted
Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Line bottom and two sides with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on both sides. Butter paper and set pan aside.
In a large saucepan, combine butter, marshmallows and cocoa. Cook over medium, stirring frequently, until melted, about 6 minutes. Stir in rice cereal. Press rice mixture into prepared pan; drizzle with melted chocolate. Let cool to room temp; cut into 16 bars.
To store, keep in an airtight container at room temperature, up to 5 days.

November 17, 2008

design inspiration: white out

I feel like I've just closed the lid on the Halloween decorations bin, and already I've got Christmas on the brain. But you know? I totally don’t even mind. I love Christmas and say, the sooner the better! Listening to carols, baking sweet treats, decorating with twinkle lights. Love all of it. And so I have no problem whatsoever with getting in the Christmas spirit even if it is only the middle of November. Here are some lovely ideas for decorating when you’ve got a white palette. And you know how I feel about white…

Gold and Green pop in this neutral living room ; a simple white dining table is bedecked with vintage accessories; a snowy white bathroom is simply elegant with a single green wreath; and ok, so this bedroom doesn’t exactly scream Christmas, but I love it anyway and would give anything to have a little corner exactly like it.

By the way, I got these photos from which is celebrating the holidays by doing "100 Days of Holidays" with a daily email full of ideas for the holiday season. They run the gamut from seasonal recipes and craft projects to decorating tips and gift list ideas. Each morning I flip through slide shows full of spectacular photos and walk away with more ideas than I can count. Looking for Thanksgiving ideas? Be sure to check it out!

November 7, 2008

happy day

It's hard to believe that it's been a year since that little idea to start a blog blossomed in my head. Thank you all so much for your visits. I've certainly enjoyed having you.

And now I'd like to wish a wonderful weekend to you and yours.


chicago fave: chicago honey co-op

Yep – you read that right. I’m talking about a bee farm on the west side of Chicago with nothing but urban landscape for miles and miles. It's The Chicago Honey Co-op, home to over 100 hives.

The beekeepers, dedicated to practicing sustainable agriculture, started the farm a few years ago and have been churning out chemical-free honey ever since. Not only do they have an awareness of their impact on the environment in the big picture, they’ve also focused on their impact much closer to home and are providing job opportunities to the under-employed in the area. I read a big article about the Co-op earlier this year in the Chicago Tribune and was so blown over by how they’ve embraced the community by bringing jobs to those who in many others’ eyes would be seen as undesirable.

In addition to honey, which tastes amazingly good, by the way, they also make pure beeswax candles and soaps, scrubs and balms. During the summer, they sell their wares at Chicago farmer’s markets, but for those not in the area – and all of us locals who are getting ready to face another winter – their products are available online too.

November 6, 2008

hide and seek

I double heart these tiny cloth boxes (just 3 x 1.5 inches) that close up using origami folds and open again to reveal the treasures you’ve tucked inside. Perfect for jewelry, extra buttons, paper clips or cotton swabs, this cute box can be used for all sorts of things.

The Slate Pebble pattern is my favorite.

Hide Box available from Virtu in Chicago and online.

November 5, 2008

table dressing

A bunch of catalogs arrived in the mail last night. As I flipped through, the table settings kept catching my eye, and so I was inspired to come up with a setting of my own. It's nice to mix and match styles for a personalized look, so here's how I'm setting my table:

It starts with the dinnerware. I love this understated white with pebble-textured rim collection from Pier-1. At $4-5 per piece, the price is right! To add a bit of pizazz to the table, I'm bringing in a beautiful line of stemware from Anthropologie with an etched floral pattern that is delicate and ethereal. The handmade pewter serving set from Uncommon Goods has a branch handle and maple leaf scoop... perfect for an autumn gathering! The simplicity of this flatware from Pottery Barn is striking. It's very sculptural. And finally, there's the placemat (also from PB). Layers of silkscreened "leaves" dress up any table.

Now all we need is the food!

Sandy Lane Dinnerware from Pier-1 ($4-5).
Horta Stemware from Anthropologie ($12).
Maple Leaf Serving Set from Uncommon Goods ($80).
Collins Flatware from Pottery Barn ($45 for a 5-piece setting).
Flocked Leaf Placemat from Pottery Barn ($69 set/6).

November 4, 2008

spotlight: up in the air somewhere

I love love love the line of ceramic pieces by Chicago-based designer Susan Dwyer of Up in the Air Somewhere. Using Chicago’s industrial architecture as her muse with its linear and minimal qualities, Susan designs simple yet elegant vases, votives, pitches and planters. Her pieces have an organic essence and that they are hand-made ensures a one-of-a-kind uniqueness.

I think any of these would be a perfect Christmas gift for a few lovelies on my list, and I'm sure you'll find a few too. But do know this: the deadline for orders is November 12th for delivery in time for Christmas. So get shopping!

Up in the Air Somewhere * Available in Chicago at Post 27.

November 3, 2008


I decided a few weeks ago that I could really use some help in the jewelry department. I have a tendency to stick with the same old tried and true pieces - a diamond pendant necklace from Wade's grandma, my silver Tiffany "Bead" earrings from Wade, and my black-faced watch that I never leave home without. And it's not that there's anything wrong with any of these pieces. Quite the opposite, actually... I LOVE them. But because I love them so, they never get tucked back into my jewelry box at night. Instead, they sit right there on the bathroom counter for me to slip back on in the morning, and I don't even bother to give a thought to something else. It's mostly out of laziness, I guess. But then all those other worthy beads and baubles in my jewelry box hardly ever get to see the light of day.

And so it's high time I do something about this. I'm pretty certain it would be impossible to ignore any of these gorgeous pieces if they were in my jewelry box:

Foliage Sparkle Ring (from Banana Republic); Sun Chip Ring (from Anthropologie)

Novelty Owl Necklace; Peacock Brooch Necklace (both from Banana Republic)
Cabochon Studded Bracelet (from Banana Republic); Concentric Cuff (from Anthropologie)

October 31, 2008

happy halloween!

We had a Halloween Potluck lunch today and my contribution was an old favorite - Dirt Cake! Decorated to look like a graveyard, of course, with little headstones bearing each of our names. The cake was a hit, and I had a ton of fun making it with Kate. As you can see from the photo above, we don't have a lot of leftovers!

Here's the recipe for anyone who wants to make this super easy, super tasty treat:

Dirt Cake
1-1/2 lb. bag of Oreo cookies
3/4 stick butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 c. powdered sguar
4 c. milk
2 sm. packages instant French Vanilla pudding
12 oz. Cool Whip topping, thawed

Crush cookies (cream and all) in a food processor, set aside.
In a large bowl mix milk and pudding until thick, set aside.
In another large bowl blend butter, cream cheese and powdered sugar until creamy.
Slowly add pudding to cream cheese mixture and stir until well mixed.
Fold in whipped topping.
Using a 13x9" pan, starting with cookie crumbs, layer cookies and pudding, ending with cookie crumbs.
Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

(As you can see this is a truly decadent dessert, but if you wanted to cut a little fat and calories, you can use skim milk, reduced fat oreos, reduced fat cream cheese, sugar free/fat free pudding and fat free Cool Whip. It tastes exactly the same - and no one will ever know it's a "healthier" version!)