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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Happy

Like many of you, I've been busy as a bee preparing for Christmas and all the gift-buying, travel-planning and friend-seeing that accompanies this frantic month.  So this page has not been getting a whole lot of love from me lately.  Instead, I've been hanging out with my nonegenarian grandmas and the rest of my family and simply enjoying being home in Chicago for a few days.

So this is just a quick stop in to wish you a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy Holidays.  May the New Year be filled with peace, love and good health.  And more happiness doesn't hurt, either.  Whether you're checking in from Russia, Korea, Canada or just here in the good ol' USA, I hope you're spending the week with family and friends, pigging out on Christmas cookies and sitting down to a good dinner tonight, regardless of how you are celebrating.

I'll leave you with a few photos of my hometown lit up for the season.  While we usually see snow around this time of year, the rain still lends its own atmospheric stamp on these images.  And all the decorations ensure that it still feels like Christmas, even if the thermometer is all confused.

Now go out and be merry :)





Monday, December 12, 2011

Checkin' Out the Hot New Neighbor

Last Friday, my friend and I attended the much-anticipated opening party of CB2.  This relatively new retailer is the younger, more hip (and, thus, cheaper) sibling to the established furniture store known as Crate & Barrel.  Tending towards sleek and modern designs, CB2 offers the typical array of home products that look classic yet contemporary.  They also acknowledge the current obsession with mid-century modernism among like-minded customers.

Most of those in attendance at this private party were simply gleeful that the long-vacant space at the corner of 31st Street and Hennepin was finally aglow with lights and product.  The area has been a big, fat headache for neighbors.  Bringing up the rear of the development known as Calhoun Square (a shopping center that has recently changed hands and made some head-scratching choices), CB2's site was once a couple of old, yet endearing, buildings that were razed to make way for new ideas.  While we all know change is the only constant, the area known as Uptown (and more specifically, this stretch of Hennepin between 28th Street and 31st Street) has evolved in a way that might not be so grand.  Gone are fabulous little, locally owned spots like Red Lure Red, Orr Books, Lotus Vietnamese (sooo perfect on a cold, wintry night, of which we have like 120), the Tibetan restaurant, and the grand-daddy dive bar lovingly known as the Uptown Bar (where they served insane skillets with polish sausages and cheese, you could keep your Bloody Mary glasses for a few bucks, and where the Replacements played in the early days).

What's there now?  The mall, pretty much.  Victoria's Secret, Urban Outfitters (granted, they made a point to settle in urban hipster areas long ago), and the Apple Store.  Which is next door to Columbia Sportswear.  Which is next door to the North Face.  My husband and I half-joked if the Apple Store (while under construction and nameless) turned out to be a Patagonia, we were moving.

All the development raises the tricky question of what an urban neighborhood's retail landscape should look like.  Preserve local, but then is there a tendency to overkill on that?  (I sense the restaurant scene sort of suffers from that quandry).  Is having mall stores in urban areas bad?  That then raises the whole urban vs. suburban debate.  One which can make some of my friends go cuckoo for cocoa puffs debating the issue.

Anyways...  I'm sorry, your eyes are glazing over.  You're saying, "Isn't this about the CB2 store?"

Yeah.  I just had to give it some backstory.  I'm done.

So, CB2 is here - yay!  Like I said, most peeps are happy we have something new and sparkly to wander around in.  I'm beaming because I grew up with its older sib, which is based in the Chicagoland area.  I often shopped at the Crate & Barrel at Woodfield Mall as a teen.  Later, when I moved into the city, I had the lovely shopping destination known as CB2 & Trader Joe's - yup, they used to be neighbors at their old Lincoln Avenue location on the north side.

And now I can quit whining about not having CB2 because, hey, here it is!  And here are some photos...

Crowding into the vestibule on a cold night with temps in the teens, waiting for the doors to open:




The displays beckoning us in...




Yep, they had a rope.  I get it and yet I don't...







Scenes from the inside...










Like any proper party, there were hors d'oeuvres for the sampling...





Libations for the drinking (at the counter no less)...




And tunes for the listening...




Oh, and a large display of breakables directly behind the booze line.  For the smashing?  Odd strategery.  I did hear that unfortunate sound of breaking glass a few times...




Here's what I've been stalking online for the last year...  pretty dresser for all my pretty Missoni for Target stuff, right?





Um, I spent 4 years of grad school making stuff like this house.  I certainly don't want to buy one!  There's a cue from Pottery Barn that they could maybe ditch...











Appetizers from a nice lady...






Sound advice...






Ah, the telltale sign of a retail party...














I shouldn't have to explain why I took this picture...







That couch to the left is dang comfy and cute...  my friend and I could have lounged there all night, glass of wine in hands, surveying the party...




View from the couch...





And, of course, this is what it sounded like:


video



So that was how I spent my Friday night.  Not too shabby, eh?  Afterwards, we drove down to a "normal" mall in the suburbs, stopped into a couple of stores, and then enjoyed a nice dinner to wrap up the festivities.

Evil mass-retailer or not, I'm personally more than glad to have this place as my new neighbor (we live ridiculously close to it).  It's pretty.  It's cheerful.  And I just might have to give it some business.  Also, while it gives the locals a new spot to shop, CB2 manages to connect me back to Chicago at the same time.

If you're in the neighborhood, you should definitely spend some time browsing the space.  Especially as Christmas closes in and people are still panicking for gifts, CB2 offers many great home items at various price points.  And yes, they're online, for those of you pobrecitos without your own store.

Let's give these guys a warm welcome and show them some love :)


All images and video:  my own

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Presents!

So, I was in Target the other day.  And, no, not to buy Missoni leftovers!  Or at least, I didn't go there with that intent.  I actually decided it was high time we had a Christmas tree in the house!  Granted, a low-maintenance one.  Kinda like that virtual hamster that used to live on my old, old Compaq desktop computer back in grad school.  It ate, it slept, it usually had its butt facing my screen.  But it was cute and required no more care than a few mouse clicks.  And unlike those Tamagochi digital animals, the hamster didn't die if you neglected it.  But I digress (as usual).

I found a nice little 3' tree, already lit and no assembly necessary.  Because that is about as fancy as my husband and I can handle.  We have accrued many ornaments from family over the years, so I'm hoping to try hanging a few of them on the wee tree this weekend.

And what goes under trees, kids?  That's right - just like the little boy at Target, who was dragging his feet behind his mom, kept yelling - presents, presents, presents!!!  (Note to parents:  I don't know how you get through the season without picking up a serious tequila habit).

While everyone has had enough gift ideas dangled before their eyes already, here I am to parade just a few more that I saw yesterday on Ideeli.com, a flash-sale site.  You're saying to me, gosh darn it, why are you showing me stuff that will probably be gone by the time I read this?  Good point.  While you aren't going to get the deal, I'll provide links to the design websites along with the pictures.

Ready?

One of the brands featured was Kikkerland, an arty, whimsical site dedicated to home goods.  I rather liked these guys...



An alarm clock that quietly glows through a "wood" surface:



All USB's on deck!




Honestly, I'm not sure if I like this or it just creeps me out.  Yeah, they blink when you tip them upside down.  Like your little doll from childhood, just a lot...  weirder:




I've seen the next offering on a couple of different sites.  Tall blackboard-looking pieces which list different streets and neighborhoods of various cities.  They're fun, although sometimes I wonder how certain names made the cut.  Nice idea for someone who has relocated and needs a reminder of their old stomping grounds.  Courtesy of Uptown Artworks.





They even have pillows:



And, of course, there's no need to exclude your pets these days.  Love this jar and the cute doggy, made by Yep Yup:



I'll try and post some more goodies soon.  Considering most retailers are bombarding us with all kinds of gift ideas for our moms, uncles-once-removed, teachers and the UPS guy, I'm sure there should be plenty of great things to share with you this month.

Til then, happy shopping!


Images:  all via Ideeli.com

Monday, December 5, 2011

An Ode to a Swirling Good Site

After a week of all sorts of "blowout sales," I should have known one e-tail site in particular was closing its virtual doors.  I logged onto swirl.com today, the former retail arm of fashion newsletter Daily Candy, only to be greeted with this screen:




OK, so Swirl really just moved down the block; it hasn't ceased to exist.  Still, I enjoyed the site and its daily dose of cute stuff at flash-sale prices.  I've ordered from them as well.  In fact, I just got some great holiday cards and a present for a dear friend, thanks to these gals and guys.  One of the things I truly enjoyed was their copywriting.  Somewhat similar to my casual style (but much better and wittier), Swirl's writing and editing team introduced each designer with a cute blurb, lending both information and sparkle to what could have been a textbook, boring paragraph.  They had lovely illustrations to boot.  Ones that were cute without being over-sugary.  Here are a few images:









I'll be sure to check out their new location.  In the meantime, I'll leave you with some of their past sales that tempted me enough to save them in a folder for further wishing and drooling.


A luscious bag from Rebecca Minkoff...



An adorable Orla Kiely dress...




Some sweet kicks from Gola...




Who doesn't love penguin ornaments?




And horse pillows!  Horses are the new owls, by the way...



A bad-ass ballerina, courtesy of Veda...




If only my entire to-do list involved shopping...



And, aw heck, more Rebecca Minkoff...



Sniff.  Just looking at all these great sales makes me a little teary.  It's like looking at photos in your old high school yearbook.  OK, not really.  Hmm...  fine, not at all.  But, instead of weeping into my empty margarita glass, I need to check out the Daily Candy site and have a look around.  I'll do that in the next few days and report back on my findings.



All images:  Swirl.com