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Thursday
Oct182012

Five tips for trying a NEW LOOK, inspired by MasterCard "PRICELESS CHICAGO"

Neiman Marcus popovers and consommé. More, please!Recently, my friends at MasterCard invited me to enjoy one of their "Priceless Chicago" experiences. Would I like to spend the day at Neiman Marcus, eating lunch at The Zodiac, getting a facial, and playing with makeup and clothes? Why, yes. Yes, I would.

Priceless Chicago experiences cover every interest from concerts to cuisine, with the schedule continuously updated. As many of you know, I'm the editor of the fashion/pop culture site You Know You Love Fashion and I decided to turn my Neiman Marcus Day of Pampering into a mini style session, based on TV's hottest heroines of the season.

(Incidentally, I recently saw a funny quote: "I wish I were as proud of anything as when people who don't watch TV are when they proudly claim that they don't watch TV.")

The details of the looks I chose are over at You Know You Love Fashion, but if you're thinking of trying a new look this season, here are a few tips to remember:

1) Stick to colors that flatter you. I have recently come to terms with the fact that unless I have a tan, I just can't wear a black turtleneck. It's too much black too close to my fair face. So, no Audrey Hepburn fantasy for me. Speaking of color...
2) Experiment with color in unexpected places. Yes, I'm talking about colored pants, and yes, you can wear them even if you're past your twenties.
3) Look for interesting details outside your norm. For instance, leather trim - real or faux - is huge this fall.
4) Try a subtle change in your hair. I feel ten times sassier with my new bangs! (Uh-oh.)
5) Switch up your makeup routine. Stuck in a smokey eye and lip gloss rut? Try a sharp cat-eye liner with a matte lipstick in a similar color as your gloss. It's a different kind of drama.

Me, sporting a daring new Trish McEvoy lipstick (hmm...what do you think?) and surrounded by gorgeous clothes inspired by this season's fall TV line-up. See the details of this collection on YouKnowYouLoveFashion.com.

Wednesday
Oct172012

Simple + Seasonal: Sage

We may determine the arrival of fall by the change in color of leaves but for me, it's also about the smells in the air. I love that moment when you realize that the air no longer smells sweet like summer but crisp from a cold snap with a hint of smoke from burning raked leaf piles. Around my house, the air is also heavy with the aroma of fall cooking-- apple pies, butternut squash soup, and roasted chickens. And where there's roasted chickens, there has to be sage.

I love sage-- the way it smells, tastes, looks and feels. The leaves are long and dark green with tips of purple, covered with a velvety fur. It has a strong, woody flavor and is also good for you, being a good source of calcium and Vitamin A.

 

Storage

Buy it fresh and it will keep for at least a week when stored in your refrigerator, the stems wrapped in a damp paper towel and kept in a plastic sandwich bag. Dried sage will keep for up to six months when stored in an airtight container in a cool, dark space.

 

Pairs with

Sage goes well with pork (think breakfast sausage-- that's the flavor you're no doubt tasting), chicken, turkey, and winter squashes.

But my favorite thing about sage? Throw it in some oil or butter and it crisps up beautifully. See for yourself by making this brown butter sage popcorn, a perfect autumnal snack to share with others after a day of apple picking or while watching a football game.

 

Brown Butter Sage Popcorn

Note: Brown butter is melted butter that is cooked until the milk solids are toasty brown. It's probably the most delicious substance on earth but can be tricky to make because there is a fine line between brown and burned.

Finely chop 1/4 cup of fresh sage leaves and place in a small, preferrably light colored pan with 6 tablespoons of unsalted butter. Turn the heat up to medium high until the butter melts. The butter will foam up, then once the foam dissipates, reduce the heat to medium low. Take a wooden spoon and stir the butter frequently. Do not walk away or turn your attention away from the butter because you need to keep an eye on it to make sure the milk solids don't burn. You're looking for the butter to turn a golden brown color and take on a sweet, nutty aroma, so a light colored pan helps with noticing the color change. Altogether, it should take about 5-7 minutes to brown. Pour the brown butter into a glass measuring cup and set aside while you pop the corn.

Pop 1/2 cup of yellow popcorn kernals in an air popper according to the machine's instructions. If you don't have an air popper, you can make it on the stovetop. Once you've made the popcorn, add it to a big bowl, pour on the brown butter, making sure to scrape in all those tasty bits of sage. Salt to taste with fine grain sea salt (I use 1 teaspoon) and mix. Serve it up right away and when the bowl is empty, I highly recommend using your fingers to pick and lick up any remaining crispy sage pieces that clung to the sides of the bowl.

Be sure to try using this sage brown butter on butternut squash ravioli or mix in toasted pumpkin seeds, for diping pieces of crusty bread for a twist on bread and butter too!

Simple + Seasonal Cooking by Christina Wong
Part of the Second City Soiree Contributor Series. Christina is the author of Unchained Kitchen and is on Twitter @cj_wong. Read her full bio here.

Tuesday
Oct162012

HALLOWEEN Table: "Deserted DOWNTON ABBEY"

Halloween is such a theatrical holiday, don't you think? Sure, Christmas has the big tree and the carols, but Halloween is toothy pumpkins, dark vampire liars, mummy tombs, and all points in between.

Joanna of MommaCuisine.com recently invited me on her new show Momma Cuisine Live and asked me to conjure up a sophisticated Halloween tablescape. I had to look no further than my DVD player. My husband and I love PBS's Downton Abbey and have been making our way through season two (yes, we're late to the party).

Downton Abbey is set in the early 20th century and tells the story of both the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants "downstairs". The Crawleys weather life's curveballs yet Lord and Lady Grantham always manage to end their evenings with an elegant dinner...thanks in no small part to the servants' efforts!

But what if the Crawleys went mad? And what if the servants had enough of their shennanegans and simply left the estate? And furthermore, what if the Crawleys barely took any notice, and kept trying to entertain as per usual? These thoughts led me to...

Deserted Downton Abbey

Colors: Dark neutrals, tarnished silver, aged gold, and ivory (never white).
Style: Keep it antique, and slightly mis-matched. This is a great way to use incomplete sets of china. Borrow from friends or rent, as I did, from Tablescapes Event Rentals. Everything you see here, (with the exception of the flower vase and candleabra) is from Tablescapes!
Details: Crinkled placecards written in half-dry markers, bent forks as amuse-bouche servers, dripping candles, dry flowers

 

Below: Candles bend at precarious angles and drip freely. At right, these bent forks from Tablescapes are meant to be used as placecard holders, but I like them as amuse bouche forks. Placecards are crinkled and written with a half-dead marker, to add to the look of neglected elegance.


Silverware should be mis-matched, as seen here with Tablescapes' heirloom flatware collection. And did you notice that one place setting is gold-ivory, while the other is ivory-gold?

Don't polish the silver before this party! You don't want anything too bright on the table.

 

The overall look is coordinated, but not overly matchy. Note the complimentary crystal wine glasses.

 

A behind-the-scenes look! It doesn't look nearly so forboding in the daylight, does it? I recommend dark lighting and chamber music played on a scratchy record to set the mood. And feel free to dress in your moth-eaten finery!

Happy Halloween!

Monday
Oct152012

Gorgeous ANTIQUES at Randolph Street MARKET

Do you know about Randolph Street Market? Far from a flea fair, this is an indoor-outdoor urban antique market (often touted as the "Barney's of vintage") featuring 200+ carefully curated purveyors of furnishings, vintage clothing, jewelry, collectibles, etc. Randolph Street Market holds events approximately once a month, sometimes with a specific focus. For instance, October 20-21 is their Modern Vintage Jewelry & Clothing Expo.

But before you scurry off for mid-century dresses and Edwardian baubles, let me share some photos from last month's market, where I was honored to participate in Randolph Street Market's "Editors Choice for Charity". Each of us were handed five blue ribbons, a clipboard, a drink ticket (very important!), and a mission to select our five favorite pieces. Should our pieces be purchased, the charity of our choice (mine was the Junior League of Chicago) would receive a donation. And they were purchased! Thanks to all who supported us that weekend.

A few of my "blue ribbon" choices are below...

Clockwise from top left: 1960s vanity chair, reupholystered with material from a dress; 1940s painting, artist unknown; 1930s Italian painting; 1890s silver plated buffet steamer.

Upcoming Randolph Street Market dates:

MODERN VINTAGE CHICAGO
Fall Jewelry & Clothing Show
Oct 20-21

HOLIDAY MARKET
November 17-18, 2012
December 15-16, 2012

Thursday
Aug162012

Attracting BUTTERFLIES and HUMMINGBIRDS to your balcony

Late summer brings many outdoor pleasures, but two of my favorite things that turn up this time of year are butterflies and hummingbirds. Our annual big butterflies like monarchs and swallowtails typically begin to arrive in July and August. Hummingbirds have been flitting around since April, but some of their favorite flowers are blooming now.

If you have a sunny, protected spot in your yard or on your balcony, consider building your very own butterfly and hummingbird container to attract these colorful creatures. You can do a mix of annuals and perennials for a longer show.

Butterflies favor flowers high in nectar production such as verbena, milkweed and lantana. Hummingbirds are attracted to red and blue tubular blossoms where they can sip nectar with their long tongues. They love salvia, fuchsia and lobelia. You can create a mix of colors and textures to attract both species. Consider annual coleus for its big, bright, colorful leaves, but allow it to flower instead of pinching back. Mix in some perennials such as sunset hyssop, coneflower and black-eyed Susan for added nectar sources.

If you choose annual or perennial milkweed, check your leaves frequently. Monarch butterflies only lay eggs on plants in the milkweed family and you may get a caterpillar or two! Raising caterpillars and watching them transform into chrysalises then butterflies can be a magical experience, especially for your little gardeners.

 

Gardening by Heather Prince

Part of the Second City Soiree Contributor Series. Heather is on Twitter @FearlessGarden. Read her full bio here.

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