Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Yankee Christmas

This year Hannah, Matt, and I headed to Boston for a good old-fashioned Yankee Christmas (I do not even know what that means but I like the sound of it)
It was hard NOT to draw conclusions from the size of the stocking loot
After a Christmas brunch, we drove out to the Crane Preserve in Ipswich for a little hike
We headed down a rocky beach to the trailhead
But instead we wound up climbing a hill

And explored a massive 2,100 acre compound built by an industrialist family (the Cranes) in the 1920s.  Since it was Christmas day we had the place to ourselves and we (okay, I) felt like landed gentry surveying our estate

2 poolhouses, no pool  (it was filled in years ago)
What a dump
Looking lordly
After a minor detour through a bog (no estate is complete without one), we made our way back to the beach
Farewell, sweet manse...

Needless to say this had us feeling very Downton Abbey, so we went straight home, started a marathon, and barely moved from the couch for the rest of the day. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Top 10 Best Buys of 2011

As the music critics compile their Top 50 tracks/albums/etc. of 2011 (I recommend this one), I started thinking about my own top picks.  Like many people, I have attempted to cut back on the mindless consumption and focus on investing in quality items that I will love for years to come.  On the other hand, I am obsessed with deals and cannot bear to pay full price for anything.  Nobody takes me to the cleaners, thank you very much!  But my obsession with deals sometimes resulted in buying so-so items, just because they were ridiculously discounted.  In order to reconcile these two approaches, I made a list at the beginning of each season of the items I truly loved, regardless of price, and I vowed to stick to it.

And then I waited.  And watched.  And waited some more.  I was a snake in the grass.  Lying in wait!  Ready to pounce!  Eye of the tiger! (you get the idea...)

Until finally, one by one, they went on sale.  But by that point, I was really invested.  So I watched, and waited some more.  I needed an extra 20% off or at least some free shipping to sweeten the deal!  Well, sometimes this method failed, and I lost out on something I really wanted in the hopes of saving a few more bucks.  Or sometimes, after all that, the item wound up being disappointing or ill-fitting.  But other times, it worked like a charm.  Here are my big winners in 2011:

10.  Tibi Charlie Skirt
It was true love from the moment I laid eyes on this skirt.  Alas, it retailed for $238.  Shopbop put it on sale for $119, but I still wasn't ready to buy.  Finally, on a whim, I checked Tibi's own site, and wouldn't you know it, the skirt was on sale for $79! I snapped it up and have been enjoying it ever since.  It is a wonderful summer skirt but I plan to layer it with tights and Frye campus boots this winter.

9.  T by Alexander Wang Asymmetrical Hem Maxi Dress
I owe this one to Grechen, who declared this THE most amazing dress ever.  She was right.  Some clothes just make you feel great the moment you put them on, and this dress is one.  The jersey is soft and substantial, and it drapes beautifully.  I finally wound up buying it from I Don't Like Mondays for $119 down from $175... I eventually saw it for a bit less but I'm not too salty.  It was worth every penny!  

8.  Anthropologie Leather Circle Skirt
The leather is gorgeous and the smell! It's intoxicating... let's just say I enjoy it far more than I should ever admit on the internet.  I never pegged myself as the kind of gal who would wear a leather skirt but I regularly pair this with tshirts, button downs, and thin sweaters.  An unusual pick, but a definite win in my book.  The fact that I picked it up for $88 down from the original $228 doesn't hurt either.

7.  Loeffler Randall Draped Front Coat
I apologize for the tiny picture here but it's all I can find.  This is a super substantial sweater coat that I purchased during Shopbop's winter sale.  I have a weakness for large chunky knits and then the draped front... this is about as me as you can get.  I wound up wearing it about once a week during the winter months-- it is another item that just feels right when you put it on and looks really pulled together for work with slim black pants.  

I picked these up in the Hopper and Madewell washes a couple of weeks ago.  I am already wondering why I wasted so much money over the years buying AG, J Brand, and the like.  These fit me just as well and the denim has a substance to it that makes me think they won't fall apart after a few months (ahem, J Brand).

5.  Mother-of-Pearl "Cleopatra" Collar
I am not kidding when I say I imagined a starburst necklace like this.  I spent months looking something like it before I finally found it on Etsy for $50.  It is incredibly dramatic and absolutely makes any plain crewneck top, dress, sweater.

4.  Dream Collective Large Crystal Mountain Earrings
I entered into a major brass phase this year, both in home decor and in jewelry.  I wore 'em today, I wore 'em yesterday, and I think I actually wore 'em on Monday too.  Enough said.

3.  A.P.C. Rue de Fleurus Gray Trench Coat
Pardon the cheeseball little logo in the corner, this is all I could find.   I bought this coat for more than 50% off on eBay in a fierce bidding war that left me frantically searching for signal while on a hike (I know).  There was no way I was going to lose this one!  It is a classic with a bit of a twist (the grey versus the traditional tan), and the fit and quality are both perfect.

2.  Virginia Johnson Zig Zag Chain-Stitch Tote
I purchased this last January during Virginia Johnson's online sample sale and was initially disappointed to see how huge it is.  I considered sending it back but am so happy I didn't because I've used it on every trip since, including a weeklong trip to Maine.  The bag that makes me want to pack light is a special bag indeed.

1.  Rachel Comey "Hitch" Ankle Boots

It seems everyone out there fell in love with Rachel Comey ankle boots and I was no exception.  My dear friend originally purchased me the Mars boots at a very significant discount but after a few weeks of wearing them around I realized I was lying to myself.  They were too small.  I mean, it is just not normal to develop a numb foot after 10 minutes of standing. 

In the depths of my despair I saw a ray of hope shining through... a girl on LoGE had a pair of size 9 Hitch boots, and did anyone have an 8.5 Mars boot to trade?  It was like it was meant to be.  We traded, and my Hitch boots and I have lived happily ever after. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Some Beautiful Things That I Will Not Be Buying Anytime Soon

In order of likelihood of purchase...

Iacoli & McAllister Necklace No. Ultra, $260

And last but certainly not least, 300 N. State Street #4103... $535,000

"What's so special about that address?" you might ask.

Oh, it is only the most iconic apartment building ever!  Whether you love them or think they look like corncobs (I personally love them and think they look like corncobs), you can't deny that the Marina Towers are a historic Chicago landmark.  Marina City was designed by Bertram Goldberg in 1959 and is widely credited with beginning the renaissance of the American inner city.  At the time, its mix of residences and business was unique, but it has been copied in cities around the world.  What makes it really special, however, is the layout.  The Marina City apartments are all pie-shaped and contain no right angles.  This allows every single apartment to have the massive balconies you see below. 
I'd happily live in any Marina City apartment but this one combines three studio units (or slices of pie!) to create a 1500 square foot apartment with 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a den, a walk in closet, and three amazing balconies, all with stunning views of the Chicago River.  Oh, no big deal.  $535,000 is starting to sound like a steal...

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Lazy Sunday (Alternate Title: My Living Room)

While my living room is by no means "done," with the addition of my DwellStudio pillows, I am definitely happy for the time being.  If I do say so myself, this is just about the perfect place to spend a lazy Sunday.

The credenza and side table are mid-century Lane Craigslist finds.  The curtains and rug are both West Elm purchases.  The Parsons coffee table is also West Elm and was acquired for free by moi after it was used for one night by a friend-of-a-friend at a presentation (note, there will be a lot of shameless bragging about my deal-finding below). 

I did take the tag off the pillows, I swear.

From the other side of the room (photo taken in the pre-pillow era): the mirrors are from CB2 and I got all three for the price of one on Craigslist! The glass globes are from the Crate and Barrel outlet, super cheap.  The wooden bowl, ceramic jug, and brass sculpture on the credenza are hand-me-downs from my parents' move.  So is the brass floor lamp.

Kindly ignore the old orange dhurrie rug is curled up in a ball in the corner (where it has rested for at least three months now).

I am sorry but doesn't the slate of the rug look perfect with the nutty/caramel color of the leather?  The chairs were purchased for $120 on Craigslist as temporary placeholders until I could get my hands on a pair of classic Westnofa Siesta chairs.  After buying them I found out that they are actually a lesser known Westnofa design (what can I say, my eye for mid-century Danish design is impeccable!).   While they are a little low-slung for the room, they are super comfy and I doubt I'll be replacing them anytime soon. 

I have a ridiculous weakness for brass and found this shell-ish thing for all of $30 on Etsy.  I adore it and cannot believe it took me months to finally buy it.  It rests atop a rather diverse assortment of coffee table books, because who wouldn't want to brush up on their Jay-Z lyrics and learn new Paul Starr makeup techniques while relaxing in front of a toasty fire?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Alright ya'll, my neverending quest for a new winter coat is coming to an end.  Out of all the coats in the world it's come down to the two you see above.

On our left we have this lovely Yigal Azrouel number.  It is unique, extremely on-trend, and undoubtedly very well-made.  But, let's be frank, she ain't cheap.  On the other hand, I have been thinking of it ever since I saw it last year, which has to say something about the staying power of my love.  And I have some Christmas cash coming my way.  But something else gives me pause- it's on-trend, but is it too on-trend?  In a few years will it bring to mind the ubiquitous Navajo patterns of 2010-2011?

On the right we have this nice, solid J. Crew coat.  Lord knows I love grey, and I also never met a shawl collar I didn't like.  The price is right too, at a mere $107 (with the option to make an offer AKA lowball, which you know I would).  It isn't anything particularly special, but do you really want a bold statement on a garment you wear every day for months?  This coat would look great with a variety of hat-scarf-mitten combos. But it's hard to get a sense of the quality.  Will it look shabby and pilly in a few months' time?

What's a girl to do?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Via Chicago

You can't get any more Chicago than seeing Wilco at the Riviera. 
They are much maligned as "Dad Rock" (and indeed my Dad loves them) but I simply don't care-- I still think they are great and their new album absolutely deserves its spot on all the year-end lists.   I'll leave the reviewing to more capable folks but it was a fantastic show with a perfect mix of old and new. 

Photo via Heather Kaplan at Consequence of Sound

Monday, December 12, 2011

3 of a Kind Etsy Finds

Hands Artshop has some great Debbie Carlos style large scale posters
Vintage Spike Necklace
That's a statement necklace all right...

There are tons of starburst clocks for under $100 but of course I fall in love with the $425 version

Sunday, December 11, 2011

I would not wear 99.99% of what Chloe wears.
I am 99.9999% sure I will not buy any Chloe Sevigny for Opening Ceremony.
But dear god I love her (Nikki Hendrickson!) and would kill to spend the day going through her closet:

A few highlights:

"These are a collection of illustrations that Alber Elbaz made for me..."
"This is an old impulse old Comme des thing..." (Love the casual "Comme des")
"Oh I have a really funny picture of me and Kate Moss backstage!"

If amazing 90s pics with Kate Moss are considered no big deal-- I need more.  Keep 'em coming OCTV!

On a completely unrelated and uninteresting-to-any-non-Hoosiers note,* I could happily watch this all day every day.  

*I fully admit that the only connection between these two topics is that I just learned how to post videos.  But...GO HOOSIERS!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

I Wish I Was Here: Austin, TX

It's cold, I've overcommitted myself, I have yet to buy a single holiday present, and I'm tired of working late. Quite frankly, I wish I could get the hell outta dodge and go visit my sister in Austin. 

I'd spend the day hiking and maybe taking a dip at the Hamilton Pool. 
(I could do without the bangs this time)

Then I'd head straight to Franklin BBQ for some brisket, coleslaw, and potato salad.
(In real life, they'd be sold out by 11am.  I didn't say my wish was realistic)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What I Wore to Work

Anthropologie Leather Circle Skirt, no longer available
Aldo Potra, also known as the poor man's Rachel Comey Barbaro

Some people say you should avoid combining black and brown.

I say, au contraire!!!

You should go out of your way to combine them.

On their own, black and brown are boring neutrals.  But when you mix them together with a little white, suddenly these background players get chance to pop!

To wit:

 the Dash & Albert Sidebar rug

Practically every room in The Brick House

and Biscuit's boyfriend, Gus.

Note- this is not actually Gus.  

Note- Gus is not actually Biscuit's boyfriend.  He is just a basset we see around the neighborhood and their relationship exists only in my imagination.

Note- I need a life. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Best $16.99 I Ever Spent

I spent much of my summer looking for a white sleeveless blouse to wear to work.  Equipment had a number of lovely options, of course, but I just couldn't justify spending well over a hundred bucks on something that I would inevitably ruin with my voracious eating and/or sweating habits.  Lo and behold, I found this BB Dakota top on Zappos' outlet,, for a mere $16.99.  While the material leaves something to be desired, it is flattering, versatile, and did I mention it was $16.99?

I promise that the diaper effect is not as pronounced in person.

But seriously, I love this top so much that I may have to buy a backup...and that is really saying something.

Ms. Nosey

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