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Inspiration at Navy Pier

The Chicago Flower & Garden Show approacheth.  Between seminars on container gardening and the history of our "Urbs in Hortis"  motto, I'll be stopping by the Tablescapes.  Few things impress guests like a lovely table, don't you think?

030509flowersFrom Martha Stewart

The Chicago Flower & Garden Show runs March 7-15 at Navy Pier.  Details on their web site


Yet another obscure day

It's Square Root Day! Celebrate with this delicious Roasted Root Vegetables with Walnut Pesto dish.


Pulaski Day

Well, I was all set to make recommendations for a dinner party involving precariously tilting cakes and green-eggs-and-ham (Happy birthday, Mr Geisel) but then I realized today is also another, much more locally relevant holiday - Pulaski Day! For those of you not in the Second City and its environs, Casmir Pulaski is a Revolutionary War hero of Polish decent, and Chicago being a town with a significant Polish population, it's become a local holiday.  Sort of like Patriot's Day in Massachusettes.  Schools are closed, but the majority of people still have to work.  It's one of those days. So, what can you do to recognize this relatively obscure day?

photo source

Mmmm....pierogi.  I like mine slightly crispy and sauteed in butter.  I recommend the Kasia brand, which is available in most local grocery stores.  If you're stranded in a part of the country without such delicacies readily available, here's a fairly standard recipie. If you want to go crazy, invite some friends over for vodka shots, some barscht (you probably know it as "borscht" which is the Russian spelling), the aforementioned pierogi, and kotlet schabowy, (breaded pork).  Finish the meal with makowiec (poppyseed cake...usually reserved for holidays but hey - this IS a holiday!).

Alternatively, head over to Podhalanka near Ash/Div/Mil for a homey Polish dining experience.  They don't serve alcohol, so you'll need to do the vodka shots at home. Enough of those and you'll be tilting precariously, in effect celebrating both of today's occasions.  Everybody wins!


Gee March, you sure look like February


I'm sure some of you, in some parts of this very same country, are enjoying sunshine and warm breezes.  We in Chicago are not.  It's one of those late winter days when all you want to do is crawl back to bed and stay there until MLB Opening Day.

I like to drink my way through the cold.  Pictured above (in a too-cute mug by Intelligentsia) is Green & Black's Hot Chocolate Drink.  I'm partial though, to local chocolatier Vosges' drinking chocolates (especially the Aztec Elixir).  Both are available nationally.  If you're in Chicago and feel like braving the elements, go to Hot Chocolate on Damen or Coco Rouge on Division.  Both make a heavenly drink, and the latter sells their own hot chocolate truffles that are fab.

Yes, these are all a little pricier than a box o' Swiss Miss from Jewel.  But what price happiness on a day like today?  If you insist on the watered down stuff, remember they'll have it at the concession stands during those early-season Cubs/Sox games.

Yeah, it'll still be cold on Opening Day...better stay in bed until the Taste.


Planning for large-scale decorations

Recently, I helped style an event that was held in a gorgeous rented hall. I hadn't been there in ages and was immediately taken by the beauty of the space, and looked forward to gilding the lily.

According to my collegue, our client had a rough idea of what she wanted, and asked us to come up with the final design on the spot, using a selection of raw materials. While I actually enjoyed the design challenge and the finished product looked very nice, we probably could have done an even better job with some advance planning and proper tools (honestly, there were a few times when I wondered if I was on some sort of reality show..."Can Team A pull this event together in just three hours with nothing but fishing line and packing tape?")

The lesson here is this - overcommunicate your vision to anyone who will be helping you AND plan ahead! Take into account the architecture of the space. If you want things hung up, consider ceiling height and if you'll need to do any installations (3M Command hooks are a godsend!). Make sure sturdy ladders are available. If you're doing any sort of draping, remember that you're dealing with gravity, which has an exponential effect when a piece of fabric or other material has to cover a wide distance, such as the example here:

Studio in a School dinner by Van Wyck & Van Wyck, New York. Photo by Mary Hilliard

If at all possible, set up the day before. This will do two things - 1) give your decorators enough time to account for any unforeseen issues and 2) if the decorations are strong enough to withstand the night, you know there's no danger of them drooping during your party. I know getting early access isn't always possible, but if you have that luxury, by all means take advantage of it!

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