Pages

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry, merry!

Sorry for the recent lack of posts - I've been scrambling around getting everything done for the holidays.  Today, all I want to say is this:

Wishing all of you a wonderful year ahead filled with peace, happiness and prosperity.  Great food, tasty cocktails and some fabulous new shoes don't hurt either, right?

For those of you celebrating Christmas - my gosh, Merry Christmas to all!  Travel safe and enjoy your time with family and friends.

Lastly, thanks to all of you for reading my fledgling blog.  I'm so happy to be doing this, and I hope it brings you a little bit of silly joy as well.

Cheers!
Maggie


Monday, December 13, 2010

I'm Dreaming of A... Big, Fat Blizzard?!

Since my last post, which had me dreaming of even more Karin jewelry that night, many of you now know we got slammed by a fairly big snowstorm in Minnesota.  Currently buried under 17” of the white stuff, I will weirdly admit that I like snow.  Yes sir, I like it.  But maybe not in the form of four foot-high snowpiles everywhere I turn.  Sad to say, but that storm kind of whupped our arses.  The main event was Saturday (and I mean all dang day, Saturday).  Tonight, I can still hear the sad howl of overtaxed snowblowers on their fourth go-round.  Cars are still stranded in a cement-like soup of frozen snow drifts, people are scrambling over these mini-mountains to get to their buses, and in many cases, we’re just walkin’ down the street because the sidewalks never got plowed.  Traffic is a mess, and to top it all off, we started this morning at a lovely -7 degrees Fahrenheit.  Not cold enough fer ya?  Then I’ll add the -20 degree Fahrenheit windchills that accompanied the cold.

Oh yeah, and the Metrodome roof collapsed.

Wish you were here…  no, really!

The crappy weather did not dampen the spirits of the hardy Twin Citians, however.  Nope.  Like those ueber-chirpy Whoville residents, people were out helping people.  Whether it was snowblowing a neighbor’s driveway, helping push someone’s poor car out of a snowdrift, or some other kind gesture, “Snownami/Snowmageddon/Snow-whatevs” brought out a very admirable quality in the people around here.  It also failed to keep a small crew of us from venturing out into the nuttiness for some beer and bowling.  Yes, we walked for nine blocks (the roads were often impassable).  Yes, it was cold (so I looked like that kid from A Christmas Story for realz).  And yes, it was a great night!  At least in our neighborhood, the bars were packed and people were out and about, sometimes on skis and snowshoes.

So.  I like the snow.  I do not like the messy aftermath.  But I do like the attitude of most people up here regarding the inevitable winter weather.  We live in the Upper Midwest.  Snow and subzero temps are an annual rite of winter in these parts.  So we might as well try our best to enjoy it.

For your enjoyment (whether it's because you truly love winter or just love laughing at us Northerners), here are some images from Snowmygosh, as well as some video.  While I was dreaming of bling, I don't have to dream of a white Christmas, because I don't think this stuff is going anywhere until April.


It started out innocently enough...


Keep watching the car next to the sign post...









Braving the snow and cold for beer and bowling...




Yep, there's a bike under all that stuff...


Snowstorm?  What snowstorm?




The morning after.  Aaaand...  car's still there.



Here's what downtown looked like this morning:




And some pics from our local TV station KARE-11...

Yaaay...  running in the blizzard is fuuuuun!


Driving, on the other hand, not so fuuun...







Oh wait, did you ask what it sounds like?

video


For those of you who haven't seen the broadcast-everywhere footage of the Metrodome roof collapse, our City Pages takes it one step further and delves into the mystery of the blur hauling you-know-what in the upper right-hand corner of the video.  Click on the City Pages image below for the link to the article:



And there you have it.  Snowtastic 2010. 



All images:  my own except for the 4 from KARE-11 and the last image from City Pages
Video:  my own


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Sharing the Bling Love

My husband and his friends have a running joke.  Whenever one of them discovers a new band, movie or, I don’t know, iPhone app – they like to say they “invented” it.  I guess by sharing LCD Soundsystem tunes or the Angry Birds app with others, they take some pride in having found it and then passing their new treasure along to others.  I suppose we all do that.  In fact, color me guilty, because one of my favorite hobbies is making mix CDs (and back in the day, yes, mixtapes) and handing them out to whomever wants one.  Sure, it’s a rather narcissistic way of showing off your “style,” but I’d also argue it exposes people to new things they might not have checked out on their own.

While I’m going to stop short of saying I “invented” Karin Jacobson and her amazing jewelry, I definitely think she and her work need to be shown off and shared.  Because I really, really like her stuff.  And, being in the midst of prime holiday shopping, these make for some pretty awesome gifts.

Taking inspiration from science fiction and comic books, among other things, Karin translates these sources into some downright funky-fresh jewelry.  Bright and playful, yet strong and clean, her pieces feel like they’d belong in the 1920’s and the 2020’s.  She works in a variety of materials, from sterling silver to gold to palladium.  Lately, she’s branched out to experiment with plastics and leather; the results are just as fun and fab as her metalwork.

One thing I appreciate about Karin is her use of lab stones.  Synthetically produced, these little “gems” not only keep her prices more affordable than the real thing, they also appeal to those with ethical concerns about their stones.  This is especially true for her gorgeous line of wedding rings, in which she can swap out diamonds for moissanite.  Looks just as blingy, but for a fraction of the cost and more peace of mind.  Even if you’re a hard-core adherent to the real rock, these pieces sure are pretty.  And she’ll work magic with whatever you hand her, including Grandma’s gorgeous engagement ring or an estate find that needs some cleaning and a new home (i.e. setting).

I’m quite the fan, and as you can guess, I’ve been a regular customer in her studio over the years.  My love of her design is shared by the American Jewelry Design Council, which bestowed upon her the prestigious Grand Prize award in 2002 in their New Talent Competition.  No measly accomplishment, kids!

Like a beaming, proud mama, I can’t resist showing you some pictures of my babies, er, jewelry:











Here are some shots from Karin’s website which displays a wider spectrum of her designs:








You know, I’ll be honest here.  Karin’s stuff falls into that category where you’re not so sure you want to show and tell.  Why?  Because I’m totally guilty (again) of that stupid inclination to have one-of-a-kind items.  Just like in those magazines where they’ll show a celebrity look and then smugly note “no longer available” next to the purse or bracelet you’re just dying to buy. 

In fact, I am the lucky owner of a "one-off" Karin original (it's the milky-green stone on my middle finger in the third picture).  One of my dearest friends, Linds, covets it.  Sometimes she tries to distract me with a cocktail in a sly attempt to grab the ring off of my finger.  Other times she's mentioned the potential loss of an appendage (namely, mine) - all in good humor, of course.  (Um, right, Linds?)

But, aw heck.  It’s Christmas time, right?  Love, peace, and being nice – I suppose it also means sharing, huh?  (Note to Linds:  the goodwill does not extend to that ring - sorry, hon!).

OK, I share, I share...  For you fellow Twin Cities dwellers, look no further than the ginormous Northrup-King compound.  Sitting happily in the artsy Nordeast 'hood of Minneapolis, this behemoth is home to tons of art studios, Karin’s included.  Her place is open to the public for events like Art Attack and Art-A-Whirl, and you can also find a nice selection of her jewelry at the Walker Art Center's museum store, as well as smaller boutiques around town.  If you’re not living with us here in the Minnesota tundra, said website above should satisfy your cravings for her sparkly and cool creations.

Karin is a lovely person, too, which makes it that much easier to end up buying multiple pieces from her when I swore I was going to choose just one  ring.  She's a friend, as well as an immensely talented jeweler, whose wares I proudly sport with just about every outfit, from my Tretorn wellies and Citizens jeans, to my shiny, red Nanette Lepore number, to the stupid amount of J. Crew staples that get worn to work.

I'm about done with my Christmas shopping, and if you're anything like me, there's nothing like treating yourself to a little present (or three) for surviving this insane ritual. 

I know where I'll be stopping in.

Monday, December 6, 2010

They'll Even Hold Your Purse For You

Remember when I said my brain likes to turn itself off on random Mondays?  Or more accurately, Sunday nights, which is when I try and write the bulk of my posts.  Well, the old hamster upstairs got tired from running on his little wheel.  So he’s taking a break.  Which means I don’t have anything super-ambitious to say right now.


I do have a culprit to blame for my lack of energy:  I just got back from my annual Christmas shopping trip to Nordstrom.  I love, love, love Nordstrom.  I hate, hate, hate that the only one in the Twin Cities is at the Mall of Insanity, I mean, America.  I could go on about malls, but I'll save those musings for a later post.


All I want to do right now is share with you a very funny picture.  Tonight was a private sale for Nordstrom cardholders, an annual Christmas event that my friend Annie and I have made our own annual tradition of attending.  There’s some nice, live music provided by a nice, live band.  There are also complimentary cocktails and hors d'oeuvres.  And tons of shopping to be had.

Hmmm…

Christmas shopping + crazy Nordstrom customers + free booze and snacks + special promotions = Insanity. 

Like I said, Mall of Insanity.  It’s not just a state of mind, sometimes it’s a physical place with endless parking stalls and GPS directions.

Anyway… this is Jeff.  Jeff works in the shoe department at Nordstrom (btw, Nordstrom shoe department + all of the above = Insanity x 3).




My brain/hamster doesn’t want to make the effort to explain anything here.  Just know that the place was a madhouse, and yes, Jeff is holding my purse.  That department store is known for its service, and boy, they did not disappoint, even on a night as nuts as this one.

I’m going to try my best to spike my hamster’s water bottle with some Red Bull or an espresso shot, in hopes of posting something more substantial by Thursday.  In the midst of prime gifting time, I want to share with you an amazing friend who does some beautiful (and very buyable) work.

For now, I need to recover after my pilgrimage to Insanity and back.  And last but not least, a big shout-out to Jeff H. at Nordstrom for more than living up to their reputation for great customer service - and wearing my purse.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Snowstorms and Icestorms and Cold - Oh, well!

Yup.  We finally got our summer arses handed to us here in Minneapolis this month.  After a deceivingly September-like start to November, Mother Nature decided our warm weather karma had hit the goose egg.  Only a few weeks ago, I walked home from work in nearly 70 degree weather.  In shorts and a t-shirt!  In Minnesota!  The following night was so balmy that a few of us took advantage of an al fresco happy hour.  A very surreal experience, knowing we should be getting pelted with a cold, uh, November rain (sorry, GnR!).  However, there was no complaining as we sipped our Jamesons and Guinnesses and watched the sun set at a very non-summer hour.

Good old Mama Nature must be a fun-hater, because just a few nights later, I was watching snow falling in the glow of the street lights.  That would turn into what was apparently the biggest pre-Thanksgiving snowfall in 19 years.  A week after that fun, she treated us to the biggest ice storm in 20 years.  Mmm, interstate skating…  not so much.  Just to really stick it to us for enjoying the super-extended Indian summer, she slapped us with subzero windchills.

From near 70 degrees to -10 degrees in a mere 20-odd days.  And all before December.

Winter is finally here.  Some friends jump for joy and run for their sleds and cross-country skis.  Others (particularly some of my Southern pals) have a meltdown.  Having grown up in Chicagoland, it’s more like “meh” to me.  I'm not a fan of the first cold snap (especially this one), but after a while, you accept it.  After all, we just move happy hour indoors!

Knowing that the weather is only headed downhill from here, I’ve become quite interested in the down coats currently on display.  I have a great black, ankle-length down coat that’s been my Old Faithful for the last few years.  As you can guess, it’s already made its debut this month.  Whenever I wear it, which looks to be now through February, I refer to myself as a pizza roll.  Not really sure why.  I look more like that kid in A Christmas Story than something from the frozen food aisle.  On second thought, after 10 minutes of waiting for the bus in frigid temps, maybe not.  A pic of Old Faithful:





She's long, she's super warm, and she's also kinda shapeless.  Hence, pizza roll-ish.  Anyway.  The trusty coat is starting to show her age (yeah, like my Aersoles boots).  This isn't to say I love her - oh, I do, do!  But she needs a day off here and there (don't we all!) so I don't run her into the ground.  And I’ve been seeing a number of cute coats via all the emails and catalogs crowding my inboxes, both virtual and metal.  So, here are some toasty-looking ones that have caught my eye...  click on the images for more info.

My friends swear by The North Face.  I might have to see what all the gushing is about.  The length of this coat, which is called the "Triple C," isn't as long as Old Faithful's, but it's still a possibility.  I found this one on both the Bloomingdale's and The North Face websites.





Again, the North Face…  this time from Nordstrom, my favorite department store.  The black color makes it a little more stylin' than the grey coat above, but the latter boasts a slightly longer hemline.



A while back, I got a catalog from Bloomingdale's.  One of the pages showed off a great North Face puffer in a red color that I adore.  Granted, it's not nearly long enough, but I got suckered in by the deep red.  With apologies for the slightly distorted angle, here it is:




When I checked back online recently, I couldn't locate this coat on their website in the shown color.  I checked the North Face's website as well, and it showed the coat in a seemingly different red hue called "Squid Red."  Having flashbacks to my earlier post about J. Crew's color miss?  Me, too.  So I'm not sure who to trust here.  Bloomie's and North Face, help?  Are these the same color or did Bloomie's get an exclusive edition?

OK, you’ve gotta love a company like the Wisconsin-based Lands' End, which has its own share of nasty winters and lets you search for outerwear by temperature rating.  I mean, where else can I shop in the -15 F to -40 F range?  Yes, they offer that range and yes, I can guarantee you we will see temperatures that low.  On a particularly harsh winter day this past January, my husband used his trusty iPhone to search cities with a lower temp than Minneapolis.  He couldn’t find a major city that could beat us.  Even Moscow was comparatively balmy that day.

Anyhoo... here's their Womens Luxe Down Coat.  I appreciate the belt, since I need all the help I can get to not look like some blobby column of pouf.  The faux-fur trim on the hood is a nice touch, and it has fleece-lined pockets!




Their Dory coat looks pretty hardcore.  Not liking the absence of a belt, but it's not a deal-killer.  Hemline looks longer, too.



Here's one from Juicy Couture, which I found via one of my favorite online retailers, Revolve Clothing.




Last, we have a sweet-looking option, courtesy of another fave e-tailer, Shopbop.  The brand is Add Down.  Again, belted = good.  It's definitely the sleekest of the bunch, all shiny and kinda sexy.







I have to say, it can be hard to look even remotely stylish when it’s cold enough outside to make your head hurt after 60 seconds.  But the above pictures give me some hope.  Considering I could be wearing down for the next 3 months straight, methinks I need to alternate Old Faithful with a New Faithful.  Like I said, a day off for the old girl.


While I mull over my big, fat coat predicament, I feel compelled to share the love and ask you (yes, you!) what your go-to winter coat is?  A big wool coat with thinsulate?  A puffer like the ones I’m contemplating?  It could be you’re lucky enough to be in warmer climes, and something light and cotton-y is all you need.  (I’m jealous now, but not come summer…  I used to live in Texas and remember what that was like when June rolled around).  Wherever you are, whether it's the US or the UK, Muenchen or Seoul, I'd love to hear about your favorite cold-weather coat.


For my fellow US peeps, I hope you’ve had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend full of good food, drink, football, family and friends.  I’ve enjoyed the last few days and amply imbibed, and now that I think about it, calling myself a pizza roll isn’t so far off the mark J


Images:  all credits are noted in the above text, the Old Faithful image is my own, catalog photo courtesy of Bloomingdale's

Monday, November 22, 2010

Swan Kick, Part Two



Last year, I had the silly idea of taking ballet classes.  Now, let it be known that I’ve never (as in, ever) taken a ballet class.  In fact, dance classes of any kind are totally foreign to me.  I grew up on a steady diet of clarinet lessons and other decidedly geeky (but great) pursuits.  While my friends were taking jazz and tap on weeknights, I was squeaking away at Mozart and Poulenc.
But over the last few years, I kept thinking about ballet. 

Why, my friends asked, would I want to take up something that was associated with pain and forever messed up feet?  A number of them had taken classes as kids.  While most of them loved it, they always warned me of the toll it had taken on their lower extremities.  As one friend said, "You've seen my Frankenfeet, right?"  This is not to say they didn't support me.  They absolutely did.  My supporters merely wanted to give me a heads up on the physical icks.  I assured them I was only taking a beginner's class in regular slippers.  No pointe classes for me.  Although, I have to admit as a shoe fanatic, those torturous satin constructions sure are pretty.

One reason I wanted to learn ballet concerned discipline and grace.  Also, my last kickboxing instructor mentioned that ballet classes could help with balance and overall poise.  Because you do need poise to correctly kick the crap out of something, or someone.  And I like kicking and hitting.  This is why I’d been taking intermittent kickboxing classes for years.  We'll take a quick detour here, and I'll give you a brief history of that, since it's roundhouse kicks that ultimately led me to grands battements.

It all began back in, oh, 2002, while I was living in Chicago.  I'd joined a posh health club, and they offered a boxing circuit class.  So I signed up, figuring it would be a nice break from the elliptical and treadmill routines.  Taught by a former boxer, I quickly realized how much I enjoyed it all.  He made the class fun; we participated in drills like ducking back and forth under a rope and throwing medicine balls back over our heads.  And hitting, of course.  I loved it when we'd form a line and take turns just pummeling our instructor's arm pads.

Later, when I moved to Minneapolis, I joined other gyms and had different instructors.  More hitting, plus the excellent addition of kicking, but the recipient was always the instructor or a big old bag.  That changed when I moved to a little gym dedicated to kickboxing, run by a no-nonsense guy with a practical sense of humor that I liked.  At this place, you still kicked and hit, but you had a partner.  This meant sometimes you were hitting, and sometimes you were getting hit.  So you kind of had to be paying attention, lest you should space for a minute and get a cheekful of workday frustration swaddled in a stinky, sweaty boxing glove.  It wasn't really sparring, but there were some exercises where we were hopping around and waiting for our partner to take a swipe at us.

My partner was my friend Michelle, who’d been taking classes with me the prior year at a different gym.  We both ended up leaving after our teacher was laid off, and she convinced me to join her new spot.  Michelle was no less intense than anyone else in class, and I had to quickly learn to receive what I doled out (or tried to).  I have vivid memories of hugging a huge bag against my chest (I think they were called "blaster" bags), waiting for Michelle to do a running kick straight into my sternum.  I'm still surprised I didn't go into cardiac arrest at some point.  Sheesh.  While I was probably a less than stellar partner, it was great fun, a solid workout, and a good way to vent whatever was irritating me that day.

As mentioned earlier, I lucked into having an instructor named Suzanne, who was very encouraging and very nice.  You could also tell she could kick your ass in a moment flat.  It was Suzanne who seemed to possess the flexibility and grace that comes from a dancer's background.  I envied (and still do) her amazing and effortless spinning back kicks.

My interest in becoming a better kicker, coupled with the desire to try something new, led me to the doors of Zenon Dance School.  The school is part of the Zenon Dance Company, which boasts a solid reputation in the Twin Cities as one of the premier dance companies.  Not content to play second fiddle, the school was also recognized this year as the best place to learn how to dance by one of our local paper’s annual surveys.

I arrived for my first class in the stately old Hennepin Center for the Arts, a massive Richardsonian building located downtown.  It felt like school, it even smelled like school, as I walked down the hallway.  Since my new endeavor began in September, it felt all the more appropriate to enroll in a class.  Images of that TV show of my youth, Fame, and photos from the book, A Very Young Dancer, flashed in my head as I entered the room.  Three of the walls were lined with barres, mirrors took up one entire wall, and some very experienced-looking, sylph-like dancers were warming up in full-on dance attire.  I’m pretty sure I was the only one who looked like a lost gym rat in my shorts and t-shirt.  Making a fool of myself isn’t something I shirk away from, as you can see.

My instructor was a very high-energy lady named Becky.  She’d run around the room as we’d do our relevés, pliés and piqués.  And while I’d lumber through the exercises, Becky was always supportive and kind.  I mean, she’d correct you if your form was off, but in a way that your favorite high school teacher or aunt could point something out without making you feel like an idiot.  After hearing horror stories about stern ballet teachers from my friends, it's obvious that Becky is the complete opposite.  She wants you to try everything without the fear of being ridiculed.  She welcomes everyone.  In fact, I finally went to a class a couple of weeks ago after a (cough) three month absence.  She immediately said hello, addressing me by name, and said it was nice to see me again in class.  In fact, Becky gets a shout-out in the aforementioned poll.

It’s been over a year since I first walked into that classroom.  While I have not been very consistent with my attendance, I’ve probably racked up about 4 months worth of weekly classes.  I’ve learned a lot.  And I’ve found something I genuinely love.  You know how a lot of people have that thing that relaxes them?  Most of my friends swear by yoga.  Ballet is my yoga.  Similar to poses in a bikram class (or my experience of it), ballet makes me focus and relax at the same time.  It’s a workout.  Sometimes I even break a sweat.  Becky's class moves fast, and the last portion includes floor exercises.  My legs always feel like mush after the hour and a half class.  As for the discipline and grace I was seeking?  The German major in me appreciates the technique and rigor involved, and the little princess in me loves the grace in moving an arm up, out, and down.

I also love that the class is diverse, both age and gender-wise.  There’s a guy who’s probably in his late fifties; he shows up in his black leotard and is for sure in better shape than I am.  The general mood is casual and friendly.  One girl offered to sew the straps of my ballet slippers into the typical criss-cross pattern.  She’d spotted my decidedly un-ballerina-ish method of securing my shoes, which you can laugh at in my pictures.  Another gave me support when I admitted I’d never taken a class before.

So, there’s my ballet story.  I went into it thinking about kicking stuff.  Now, I relevé while waiting for the microwave to blast my dinner, and I'm currently practicing hopping forward onto one foot and staying there.  Like a clumsy old cat trying to pounce, I guess, but then keeping the back legs up in the air.  OK, bad analogy.  In any case, it's a lot harder than it seems.

Moral of the story here?  I went into ballet with a supplemental mindset, but instead, I found something that I really, really like.



Images:  my own


Monday, November 15, 2010

Swan Kick, Part One

It’s Monday, but my brain says it’s still Sunday.  Or maybe it just fast-forwarded right to Friday at 5:00 PM.  At any rate, it doesn’t want to help me write anything substantial tonight.  So, I thought I’d just share something I like and have been longing for.




Formerly for sale on one of my favorite e-tail sites, Threadless.com, this little gem is a t-shirt design that has since sold out.  It's called Swan Kick.  Click on the photo to get the 411 I was able to find on the designer.  Because you can request shirt re-prints, I’ve been pestering them to do just that.  Man, I love this t-shirt.  I waaant this shirt.  Heck, I would kick someone for this shirt.  Menacing, I know.

As a longtime Threadless fan, I’ve enjoyed buying a number of their great offerings over the past few years.  It’s set up so anyone (or it seems that way) can submit a design for a shirt.  The submittal then gets voted on by the Threadless-going public.  As you can guess, the most popular designs win.  They then get printed up and retailed out.  Love it.

Ish.  I feel like I owe this design words more eloquent than my braincells can muster.  It's fun.  It's bright.  And it involves kicking.  I love kicking.  But it’s also Monday.

So, happy lethargic Monday.  Enjoy the image.  I’ll follow it up with an explanation in the next post.  You’ll be amused, I promise.

Image:  Threadless.com

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Vielen Dank!

Before wading into this blog any deeper, I need to pause at the kiddie-end of the pool and give some serious thanks to a couple of ladies. 

First, to my friend Elly, who is savvy in many things computer-related and writes her own blog.  One reason I decided to join the madness was the enjoyment I had from perusing her posts.  My good friend has had the privilege of work-related travel taking her to exotic places.  While I was flying over to Denver and Boston, she was jetting off to Amman and Beijing.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the Mile High City (hello, my earlier marathon blog entry) and Beantown.  But, dang, her pictures are just a whole lot cooler than mine.

She helped me through some of my basic questions, such as “what blogging tool should I use”, “am I a total nutcase to start a blog”, and the always popular, “what if it sucks?”  She came over to my place one night and, with her steady confidence (and a couple glasses of red wine), we just decided to go for it!  So, a big thanks to Elly for helping me start the blog in the first place.

There’s another gal to thank as well, especially since fashion plays a huge part of her blog’s mission.  With a solid three years experience under her belt, Sally McGraw can be very proud of her blog, “Already Pretty,” which aims to help women conquer self-image issues through fashion and advice.  Given the barrage of media images and messages that surrounds us, this is no small feat.  I check into Sally’s blog regularly; her enthusiasm, upbeat tone, and breadth of relevant topics have won her many fans, as evidenced by the sheer number of comments she gets after her posts.  She also models ridiculously cute outfits to illustrate her points and give inspiration.  Love it.  You can see what it’s all about here.  In fact, I had to include a photo from her blog, posted today, because I may stalk her over the gorgeous skirt that she's wearing.  Covet, covet...





Sally was very kind to meet with me back in September to share her experiences with blogging.  Ever the supportive soul as I asked more questions and babbled on about my big ideas, she had me think about the larger picture, as well as how to manage details and navigate blog terms (“what’s a gadget?”).  Since her blog is quite public, it was also interesting to hear about the issues she’s dealt with, from advertising to comments to blog design and layout.

While their blogs are generally geared towards different audiences, both Elly and Sally gave me valuable advice and suggestions.  I’m sure I’ll be turning to them again when I’m wrestling with something on here.  Many of my friends have been supportive of my new endeavor, but if it weren’t for these two ladies, you probably wouldn’t be reading this. 

So…  to Elly and Sally – cheers and many thanks!

Image:  courtesy of Already Pretty

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Back To The Topic At Hand...

Lest we all forget what the majority of this blog is about, it’s time to steer my writings back to all things fashion-y.  And, before the last two posts about mile-high drinking and You Tube madness, it was about boots.

I’m still in a tizzy over boots, but not the winter ones.  Not right now.  The obsession with all things cozy and shearling was promptly forgotten the other day, when I discovered my favorite boots were starting to go to hell.  

You know how you have that one pair of boots…  the ones that are cute, classic, get tons of compliments and are totally comfy?  The ones that get worn for nearly eight months of the year (hey, remember, I live up Nord)?

Well, I have that pair.  Actually, I have three of ‘em.  Same style, different colors.  They've all celebrated their fourth birthdays and are, sadly, starting to show their age.

Ooh, you ask, "Are they Cole Haan?  J. Crew?  Via Spiga?"

Nope.

My all-star boots are...  Aerosoles.  And better yet – they’re pleather.  I love them dearly.  So much, in fact, that I snapped some pictures to share with you, in all their beloved and beat-up glory.











You might be thinking – meh, fake leather boots.  So what?  Well, I’ll tell you what.  They are the best-fitting, most comfortable and reliable boots that I own.  We can all blab on and on and on about those stately Cole Haans and sexy Stuart Weitzmans, but in the end, they just mock me.

Why?  Alas, I have small calves (although my recent foray into ballet has about a 5% chance of changing that, I suppose).  I ogle and drool over gorgeous leather boots (real leather!) by those fine brands, but in the end, I look like a complete doofus.  Like a little kid trying on her mom’s "grown-up" boots.  It happens all the time.  I’ll be in the store and totally gravitate over to a pair of fabulous leather boots.  Why not, I figure, maybe this one will be different.  So I send off the poor salesperson to find my size.  Try them on.  Sigh.  Yeah, who looks ridiculous?  Me.

Quick tangent:  Granted, the recent trend of stuffing your jeans into boots has helped me with the toothpick-in-a-boot look.  I’ve got some good skinny jeans that have worked nicely and allowed me to buy, and actually wear, leather boots now.  I've snagged a pair of Frye boots as well as a couple pairs of more affordable black ones.  Casual Fridays at work are a lot more fun.

But, back to my tizzy!  Back to what to wear the other four days of the work week, when I live in skirts and not in Citizens of Humanity!

When I realized all three beloved pairs were starting to bite it, I panicked.  And hit the web.  I’m not sure what the company’s current status is, but I’m noticing Aerosoles are a little harder to find right now.  Zappos, that bastion of infinite shoe heaven, turns out to be finite after all.  In fact, it doesn’t even carry Aerosoles.  So I went right to the source:  http://www.aerosoles.com/And nearly screamed with delight when, at the bottom of their sale page, I found my old boots!  Score!  I thought they were gone forever-ever.  Even more sweet was the name of my boots - "With Love."  I mean, how appropriate is that?!

As happy as a clam as I was to find my old boot style still alive – and in both black and dark brown – I was disappointed to find that my tan pair seems to be discontinued.  Tan’s a tricky color, but oh I love that pair just as much.  I’ve got outfits matched to those boots, saving precious time in the morning from having to think about such coordination.

With no tan boot to offer me on their website, I quickly bought the two pairs I had found (On sale!  Free shipping!  Did I say "score" already?).  Then I took a virtual stroll over to eBay, where timing and luck seem to play a strong hand in what you'll find.

Since the purchase of the original trio, I’d turned to eBay before, to find back-up pairs.  I'd done OK in the past and found 2 pairs of black Aerosoles similar to mine.  One is holding up pretty well, but the material is stiffer.  The other is closer to the pleather material of my old boots, and more comfy, but it’s deteriorating already. 

Well, this visit to eBay was not as fruitful.  There was one tan pair being auctioned, but they were about as worn as mine, according to the honest description by the seller (which I truly appreciate).  So, the search will have to continue for those.

Anyway, it's not all bad.  I can't wait to get the boots from Aerosoles.  Here they are in their latest incarnation, all shiny and new on their website:




Mission is two-thirds accomplished.  It's almost the weekend.  I've got a friend's birthday happy hour to attend tomorrow, and a Saturday night ahead full of football, cheap Bloody Marys and cheese curds.

No complaining from me :)
 


Images:  first four - my own; fifth - Aerosoles website

Monday, November 1, 2010

Some Things Just Can't Be Explained

Since I probably fried your braincells and eyeballs with my last gi-nor-mous post, I thought I'd keep today's entry short and sweet.  And silly.

Boy, I guess I've been living under a rock, because I had never seen or heard this until my husband ran across it this weekend.  He jacked up the volume on his Mac, and, within seconds, I was hooked.  It was all the rage in 2008, or so I hear.

There are probably multiple reasons for me to *not* like this, but...  well, I love it, and I can't even really explain why.  Better to leave the theorizing alone and just start dancing like it's 199... 2?

Without further ado, and courtesy of the insanity called You Tube, I give you:  Das Racist - Combination Pizza Hut & Taco Bell.

Happy Monday!


Friday, October 29, 2010

Havin’ fun at 5280

In keeping with my attempt to make every 5th post about something other than pretty pictures of clothes and accessories, I figured this was the perfect opportunity to share my fabulous trip this summer to the Mile High City.  My city entries sort of act like both a memoir of the trip as well as a guide for you, should you happen to find yourself in these places.  Depending on the length of my visit and how much I saw, these posts will run longer – but they’re chock full of fun stuff, I swear!  Of course, not everyone has the same tastes, but I thought these were places worth sharing.  And when I’m old and senile (which sometimes I think is already beginning to happen), this will make an excellent photo journal for me to peruse.

I had never been to Denver, and the last time I was in Colorado, I was a kid traveling with my family.  Memories of beautiful mountains, altitude sickness, matching plaid shirts (yeah, the whole family), horses, and my sweet great-grandma were about all I could associate with the state.  I was too young to drink and appreciate fashion.

So this past August, I finally made good on a promise to visit one of my dear high school pals.  Actually, she started it J  K and her guy J called me up sometime in April and pitched an offer I just couldn’t refuse:  a concert by one of my all-time favorite bands at gorgeous Red Rocks amphitheater.  As a teenager, I had rented U2’s Live at Red Rocks video (oh come on, what do you mean "what's a VHS tape?") and remembered what an amazing venue it looked like.  So I was geeked to get the chance to see a concert there, for realz, and check out Denver with them.  The trip coincided with my birthday (with the concert tix being a very generous gift from my friends).  How could I turn this down?

My husband and I were there for 3 days, and I have to say, we covered a lot of ground.  Even our hosts agreed.  While I love that my husband loves checking out new cities, he’s also a notorious champion of walking.  This is actually one of the things that makes him so great, but sometimes I max out.  He knows exactly what will make me happy:  stopping into stores, food and booze.  So, our time in Denver pretty much consisted of that combination:  walking, eating, shopping and drinking.  And a lot of it.

The photos below are a fairly edited version of what all we did.  Due to my 10 year-old camera dying on the first day of the trip, the remainder were taken with my Blackberry, hence some of the nighttime pics being blurry (I bought a brand spanking new Canon a few weeks ago, so that problem is now solved.)

I should also mention that a lot of the places are highlighted, so click away for more information from their websites, if you'd like to learn more (or are just really, really bored ;)

OK, let’s go!

Our trip kicked off with a stop at Surdyk's Flights, a smart addition to the already better-than-decent food and drink selection at the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport.  After sampling some very solid drinks and tasty paninis, we ran off to catch our flight, vowing our return.



Upon our arrival at the tented Denver International Airport (complete with a scary-ass horse with blazing red eyes that don't, but should, be shooting out lasers), our hosts K & J whisked us over to Mezcal for some great Mexican eats.  It was the perfect introduction to Denver.





After dinner, we drove out to our friends’ lovely townhome, just east of downtown Denver.  A cozy guest bedroom outfitted with all things Colorado and its own guest bath – boy, even better than a hotel!  We loved their home and their overall insane graciousness as hosts during our entire time in Denver.  K even met us at the airport with water bottles – a must given the dry climate and altitude.  How’s that for hospitality?  The only fail was by the airline – they sent our luggage somewhere else.  They assured us we’d get it around, oh, 3AM.  Fine, as long as it didn’t botch our planned outing to Boulder the next morning.


Well, the Boulder trip was delayed thanks to the airline.  The bags didn’t arrive til closer to 11AM, which nixed our lunch plans at the Chautauqua Dining Hall.






Nevertheless, we did get to spend the afternoon in Boulder (and at least see our intended lunch stop, a charming old building with lots of happy-looking diners).

For architecture kicks, K & J drove us up to the I.M. Pei-designed NCAR (National Center for Atmospheric Research).  I went a little crazy with the pictures here (hey, I went to grad school for architecture, what can I say).













Pearl Street Mall was next on the agenda, home to tons of retail, restaurants, bars, and a few buskers.





Beautiful and ornate ceiling of the Boulder Tea House.




We stopped at a great little establishment for lunch on the Mall.  However, I've since had a big, fat brainfart, and I cannot for the life of me remember its name.  It had healthy fare (yeah, I know, this is Boulder we're talking about) and some great beers.  I had a lovely, rich porter.  Once my friends remind me of the name of the spot, I'll include it here.

Currency was exchanged for some sweet merchandise at Topo Ranch, which boasts some fine wall décor in addition to their fun t-shirt graphics (bicycles, bandit raccoons and bacon-mobiles, anyone?).






Back in Denver, we checked in to the hotel.  To give our hosts a break, my husband and I spent 2 of the 4 nights at the very nice Hotel Teatro.  I scored a special rate thanks to Jetsetter.com.  In fact, K had emailed me their offer, and since I was already a member of private sample-sale purveyor Gilt (their well-known sister website for all things retail) it was an easy choice.  Although K & J had offered to put us up for the whole trip, we didn’t want to wear out our welcome.  We also loved trying out a new hotel.  Located right downtown in the happening LoDo district, we found most places extremely walkable from the hotel. 

After checking in (and getting a complimentary room upgrade), I had a short attack of the grouchies and decided to chill out in the room.  My husband wandered off and discovered Larimer Square.  He finally coaxed me to walk back over there with him, and I’m glad he did.  It remains my favorite block in Denver, so far.  Boutiques, restaurants and bars all over!  Here are some photos from our evening walk:


















Before meeting up with K & J for dinner, we had some delicious cocktails at the Cruise Room.  Part of the adjoining Oxford Hotel, this beautiful art-deco establishment is, according to their website, “downtown Denver’s first bar…  opened the day after Prohibition was repealed in 1933. Boasting Art Deco décor, this bar is original in its entirety…  fashioned after one of the lounges on the Queen Mary.”  I highly recommend this little gem.







So our taxi driver got confused by the address to our dinner destination, in the trendy Lower Highland neighborhood (it’s always good to get out of downtown and find the local’s hotspots).   Although it was dark outside, the street we drove along was amply speckled with what looked like fun bars, shops and restaurants.  I’d like to check the area out on a return trip.  Once we finally got to our destination and met up with K & J, it was a fun atmosphere, great drinks, and some darn tasty steak at the Lo Hi Steakbar.

Following dinner, J wanted us to check out the bar called Meadowlark for a nightcap.  The picture really doesn't show the place as much as it sets a mood.



Just before hitting the hay, I took a quick pic of the building across the street from our hotel.  I don't know, it just struck me...  quiet, composed, sort of like one of our models from studio back in architecture school.  Well, with lights.




The next day, we tackled more of Denver.  We headed right back to Larimer Square, hitting the shops and enjoying brunch al fresco at Bistro Vendome, where my husband dug into a big ol' bowl of mussels.








We then set out to see more of the city.  Here are some randoms:







Since I like to collect the local lifestyle magazine when visiting new places, I was directed to the Tattered Cover Bookstore, where I picked up a copy of 5280.  Our friends said the Colfax Avenue location is very cool, but, alas, we ran out of time

The legendary Rockmount store was a mandatory stop for all things Western.





A number of people recommended we stop by the Cry Baby Ranch.  Initially, I scoffed at the place at a glance as it's not my typical style.  However, once we took the time to look around, I changed my mind.  It's filled with some great finds, and we even scored a great hosts' gift for K & J.

Sensing a need to switch gears and get a little bit of culture, we visited the MCA Denver.  Housing a small but intriguing collection of contemporary art, the building itself is an architectural statement, from the crazy-tall mechanical front door, to the sunny roofdeck, all reflective glass, warm wood planks reminicient of a spa or garden, and great city views to boot.  Again, lots of pics here.


























Craving more art, we moved on to the Denver Art Museum, where K met up with us.  Flaunting a striking major addition by Daniel Libeskind, this is the main art museum in the city.  It takes up a couple of blocks and offers a more comprehensive collection of art.  Below are some works that we particularly enjoyed.  The first image is our approach to the museum by car.  It's a pretty striking first impression.  The third image is an adjacent residence.


















Across the street from the art museum, also known as the DAM (heh), is the Denver Public Library, familiarly designed by Michael Graves.




After all the art, we took a stroll over to Denver’s beloved (and ginormous) Blue Bear:





Hmm, all this culture was making me thirsty for a drink…  so over and up to the Peaks Lounge we went for a cocktail and sweeping city views.





While K went home to pick up J so they could meet us out later for dinner, we decided that we if we were going to get two doses of culture, we must need two doses of cocktail venues.  So we needed to find #2.  Before our visit, we’d heard about the Corner Office, so we headed there.  OK, I was kind of disappointed that the bar wasn’t located on a higher floor (it’s at street level), but I fell in love with the semi-retro décor (especially the cheeky bathroom door signage).  They also make a stiff drink.




























My husband suggested walking from downtown to our dinner spot, which was close by in the Uptown area.  We walked along the Sixteenth Street Mall, which is home to more stores, a pedestrian and bus only street, and about the only street people I encountered on the whole trip.  The bus is actually free in the downtown zone, which is nice.  We stopped into the Brown Palace to see about a drink (I'm sensing a theme here), but all we found was high tea in the atrium and a cigar-friendly bar (I'm smoke averse).  Notice in the photo at the bottom, ladies who tea with hats.







Dinner was a comfort food affair of chicken wings, etouffee and Shiner Bock beer (which I became a fan of while living in Texas).  The place is called Steuben's, in the Uptown neighborhood.  They also sell some fun t-shirts, which my husband and I couldn’t resist buying (we bought a stupid amount of t-shirts, in fact, at various places throughout Denver as souvenirs).





As you can guess, a nightcap was in order after we stuffed ourselves at Steuben’s.  K & J drove us over to the Thin Man Tavern, where my husband discovered a quirky painting of the Last Supper, with some character substitutions.  Also quirky but awesome are the lights at the entry - I spy lampshades!  Next door is a little coffee shop, where I bought yet another t-shirt.









The next day, I dragged my husband back to Larimer Square to do my last round of shopping. 



We ducked into the Denver location of Goorin, stocked with all sort of hats.  Both my husband and I ended up buying one.





I scored a cute floral top and fun fabric bag at Violet, and I also visited its cute neighbor, Blush Boutique.  Whenever I travel, I try to find locally-owned shops.  Chains are great, but ubiquitous (OK, granted I had just left Goorin, which - at the time - I didn't realize was a chain, albeit a smallish one).  I'd rather check out something I can't find at home.  Besides, supporting local businesses gives me that warm, fuzzy feeling.













We then stopped into the Wazee Supper Club to refuel with some pizza before our next walkabout.




My husband wanted to check out the area on the other side of the Millenium Bridge, so we walked over that way.  Novel idea of the day:  someone had threaded yarn flowers into a chain-link fence at a construction site.  Nicely done!  We stopped into more shops, including the REI store, which is housed in the historic Tramway building, dating back to 1901 (source, REI website).

















We got back to our hotel early, so we could meet up with K & J for the main reason for the visit – the concert at Red Rocks.  OK, so I need to diverge briefly for a minute here and steer us into music.  I did not see U2 at Red Rocks.  Instead, the band I consider to be one of my all-time favorites is…  Rush.  This probably disqualifies me instantly from ever getting fashionista respect, but there it is.  The crazy vocals, brooding lyrics, songs that are sometimes as lengthy as a dance club track, and big “geek” sign for all of us fans – bring it on.  Who says I can’t enjoy Neil’s legendary drum solos while outfitted in my Elizabeth & James heels, Biba dress and Charles Chang Lima coat?  Plus, for a band that has been around some 40-odd years, they are solid live performers.  Every Rush show that I’ve been to (holy cow, I just counted 8 times) has been fantastic.  For a band that jokes about how few female fans it has, well, I’m one of them!

Let’s get back to Denver, before you all run away.  We drove out to Red Rocks, which is just 20 minutes or so outside of the city.  Since the place isn’t near any restaurants, the big thing to do there is tailgate before the show.  K & J proved what tailgating experts they are.  Delicious margaritas made by K, and some excellent grilling from J (soft tacos, guac & chips – yum!), plus stunning scenery made for a perfect pre-show experience.  Oh yeah, and a rainbow!  Really!













The show was as fab as I expected, including some hilarious video at the start, intermission and end (the guys from I Love You, Man played a part in the latter).

We crashed at K & J’s after the show, and in the morning, we were headed back to the airport.  We had high hopes for our Denver visit, and we were definitely *not* disappointed.  I have no idea what Denver’s reputation is for things to see and do, but it seemed to be that there is plenty to keep you busy.  We know we only saw a fraction of the place, and we still ran out of time.  We didn't even get close to the side of downtown where Coors Field sits.

In closing, another huge Thank You to our hosts, K & J.  They knew all of the places to hit and made sure we saw as much as we could, from restaurants and bars to Colfax Avenue to everything else they suggested.  Our trip could not have been as awesome as it was without them.  I will give myself and my husband some cred, though, for doing a bit of online research before the trip.  A number of places we jotted down were already on our friends’ list.

XOXO, Denver.  Til the next time.

All images:  my own