In Praise of the Five O’Clock Cocktail

Morning brings the ritual of coffee.  When bedtime draws near, I often fantasize about having it in the morning, waking up to the amazing taste, smell, and enveloping warmth.  I have been known to audibly moan upon taking my first sip.

Midday I am walking or running my gorgeous mutt.  Okay, most days.  When it’s not brutally cold.  It‘s very difficult to say no to that face.

And at day’s end, you will find me in the kitchen making dinner for my family.  This is also when I have my evening glass of wine.  Sometimes I believe it is the act I enjoy as much as the wine itself.  I take great pleasure in the ritual of uncorking, pouring, and relaxing.  On the nights when basketball games, swim lessons or a scheduled sunrise workout preclude this, I will pour Pellegrino with lemon or lime into a beautiful glass to take the place of my 5 o’clock cocktail.  Tonight was one of those nights, and while I did enjoy the bubbles, a great Malbec would have been heaven.

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Nautical Chic

nautical chic

I have great affection for the open water.  Its influences can be seen in both my home and closet, where the colors of ocean, lake, sand and dune dominate.  The outfits above were inspired by my recent trip to the sea, but adjusted for our current cooler climate.  I love the idea of mixing and matching everything, and then swapping out the leather pants and dark jeans with white denim, casually rolled or patterned shorts, and breezy skirts when the weather breaks.

Rag bone short sleeve cotton shirt
Jil Sander fitted denim jacket
Armani Jeans fitted jacket
Hudson Jeans skinny fit jeans
Rag & bone mid rise jeans
Current/Elliott punk pants
Antik Batik embellished sandals
Giuseppe Zanotti peep toe shoes
J.Crew ballerina shoes
Proenza schouler bag
Yves Saint Laurent hobo handbag
Elizabeth Cole silver jewelry
Philip Crangi steel jewelry
Burberry Brit cashmere shawl
Club Monaco intarsia sweater

Anatomy of a Dinner Party

I am sitting at the dining room table with my favorite cookbooks strewn about and Martha’s Entertaining open wide, taunting with gorgeous tablescape imagery.  As I plan the menu for a dinner we are hosting next weekend, I am thinking not only of the ingredients for my dishes, but also of the ones that comprise a truly great dinner party.  Serving a wonderful meal (either made or ordered) is of course integral to the night’s success, but it is only part of the equation. You’ve also got to have:

Music.  It MUST be on when guests enter the home.  We’ve all been to a party where the host forgot the music and it felt more like a meeting than a social gathering.  I like to have several playlists ready – spirited mixes of 80’s, 90’s and contemporary songs for the cocktail and post dinner hours, and great jazz recordings during dinner (Chet Baker, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Cannonball Adderley, Mingus, and Miles are favorites).  If there is no time to assemble playlists, Pandora is your friend!

Drinks.  Offering a simple bar with a crisp white and a full-bodied red, Pellegrino for those abstaining or alternating (my usual MO), and the traditional spirits and mixers always seems to work best.  I love the idea of crafting a specialty cocktail to offer guests as they arrive, but I’ve found (after trying this several times) that most people prefer a good old-fashioned martini or vodka tonic over something fancy and complicated.

Small bites.  Taking a cue from Bernard’s, one of the chicest bars in Chicago, I often serve simple nuts and crisp kettle cooked potato chips in beautiful bowls.  And a well-rounded cheese platter (one soft, one hard, one blue) served with dried and fresh fruits is a must.

Lighting.  Nothing kills the mood quite like bright lights.  Setting out loads of candles and dimming the lights softens and relaxes both the surroundings and the guests.  Everyone looks and feels better in the warm glow of candlelight.

Dessert.  Who doesn’t love dessert?  Serving a seasonal, warm fruit crisp with generous amounts of vanilla ice cream makes everyone happy.  I also like to assemble a tray of locally made chocolates and fresh, perfect berries to serve with coffee or nightcaps.

And finally,

Laughter and lightness.  The two most important ingredients.  Planning ahead, keeping it simple, and enjoying a glass of wine before guests arrive help to create a happy and relaxed host.  And if the host is having a fantastic time, guests will surely follow suit.

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I’ve Gotta Fly to St. Somewhere…..

I’m off to escape winter’s chill with good friends and family.  And yes, admittedly, listening to Buffett while fantasizing about boat drinks and stone crab as I pack.  Half a dozen swimsuits, three dresses, white jeans, my go-with-everything bronze Jack Rogers, and far more pareus and tanks than I’ll need have so far gone in the duffel.

Sandcastle building, kayaking, fishing, and general lazing about in the sun (margaritas in hand) are the only things on our do list.  I will be posting a visual diary of the trip on Instagram.   And I’ll be back soon with adventures to share!

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The Winter Blues

This long sloooow march through the colder months often saps my spirits and ambition (cue The Dream Academy’s Life in a Northern Town).  It is much easier to spring out of bed when the sun’s rays embrace us early.  I am sharing a short list of things that carry me through the winter doldrums, and would love to know what works for you, too.

1) Coffee.  Coffee.  And more coffee.  I tried to give it up once and lasted until 10:30am.  Some things we must accept about ourselves and that I need coffee to survive is, for me, one of them.

2) My Quoddy Twin Strap Shearling Boots.  Gorgeous they are not, but let’s be honest, neither are Uggs.  And these are made by hand in Maine, and guaranteed for life.

3) Flowers.  I almost always have them on my bedside table and in the foyer.  An instant mood lifter, fresh bouquets or potted bulbs (loving fragrant hyacinth right now) are a reminder that things will, indeed, turn green again.

4) Regularly scheduled workouts with friends.  Again, it’s easy to jump out of bed and throw on your running shoes when you don’t have to layer up and freeze your way through the first half mile.  When I’m tempted to throw the covers back over my head and skip it, I won’t when I know there is someone counting on me for motivation, too.

5) Casual, intimate dinner parties.  I love hosting laid back dinners in winter, when no one feels like going out.  There is nothing better than sitting elbow to elbow with good friends over a rustic meal, then cozying up around the fire place for great wine, dessert, and conversation. (And yes, I actually baked that apple pie pictured below.)

6) My evening glass of wine.  Okay, if we are being completely honest with each other, this ritual occurs during all seasons.  But in the winter it is always red.

So tell me, what brings you pleasure throughout the cold season?

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What is sexy?

What is sexy?

My 9-year old daughter recently asked this from the backseat of my car (isn’t that where all of the amusing/difficult/serious inquiries come from?) after hearing the word in song lyrics.  The question gave me pause.  Not because I didn’t want to answer, but because sexy is undeniably subjective.  I responded eventually in a generic, text-book sort of way (my mother’s voice in my head saying, “answer honestly, giving no more information than they ask for!”), but the question stayed on my mind.

So I set about asking.  One sister responded, “Food is sexy – I am currently eating filet mignon wrapped in bacon with spinach and brie melted on top.  Gant videos.  Edith Piaf.”  Another said, “men with deep voices and strong thighs, confidence, solid ground strokes and a great sense of humor.”  And from sister number three, “confidence, charm, passion for life.  And a well-tailored suit!”

Friends – male and female – also weighed in:  A devilish smile.  A woman in a tank top and a baseball hat. A man with confidence toeing the line of arrogance.  Intelligence.  Great legs in heels.  The well dressed man.  Wit.  Ripped abs.  A woman who can pull off glasses.  Accents.  Bare shoulders in winter.  The dip in her lower back.

What do I think is sexy, you ask?  French press coffee with the New York Times.  Bill Evans.  Working up a sweat.  Red by the fire, white on the beach.  Salted caramel ice cream.  Grey cashmere.  Stolen, knowing glances.  And the sound of a spinnaker catching the wind.

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Queen of Hearts

I abhor whimsy.  I really do.  So much so that after expressing that exact sentiment to my husband, he had it printed on the bum of boyshort undies and gave them to me for Christmas.  Paradoxically, I have always loved heart iconography (it is inherently whimsical, is it not?).  My great-grandmother wore a beautiful diamond heart pendant which I admired as a child and I suppose that is where the love affair began.  She passed it down to my grandmother, and when my grandmother died she left it to me.  It is one of my greatest treasures.

Whenever I see something with hearts – jewelry, clothing, images – I am tempted (that’s me, above center, at a concert with sisters Kate and Lauren).  And hearts are everywhere this time of year!  So in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I am sharing with you the pieces that have caught my eye recently, with links added so that you may indulge in any way, and for anyone, you wish:

J Crew Heart Print Silk Blouse

So chic.  I have to admit I bought it.  I will wear it tucked into Habitual dark denim flares with black Brian Atwood patent leather Maniac pumps and a multi-strand mixed metal chain necklace to toughen it up.

Me&Ro Gold Sacred Heart Bracelet

I adore the above Me&Ro bracelet.  The cotton cord and ivory scrimshaw help create an intricate but not-to-sweet vibe, and the 18K gold setting and button clasp make it low-key luxe.

Smock Have My Heart Letterpress Card

Who wouldn’t love to receive a sweet sentiment written on a card from this eco-friendly paper company?

Rebecca Taylor Ikat Heart Cami

It would be perfect with white denim skinnies or cut offs and gladiator sandals.

Finn Onyx Heart Pendant Necklace

This necklace rocks.  The best part isn’t even the onyx heart or the diamond pendant – it’s the gold arrow toggle closure (click the link to see it).

Vosges Haut-Chocolat Sweet Coquette Truffle Collection

From my favorite chocolate makers (who got their start in Chicago), these truffles are incredibly decadent and worth every silky calorie.

And for those of you who prefer to keep your hearts undercover:

Only Hearts Cou Cou Coulotte Panty

These will go with anything…

New York Revisited

Let us go back to New York and revisit three favorite experiences (after Freemans, of course):

The famous French macaron shop, Laduree (see above). Located on Madison Avenue between 70th and 71st streets, Laduree’s only shop stateside is as beautiful and sweet as the amazing confections it sells.  My first impulse was take one of each (there must have been 25!) but I chose Salted Caramel, Pistachio, and Cassis Violette (a jammy blackcurrant).  I have had many macarons in my life as they are among my favorite sweets, and Laduree’s live up to their reputation as the best of the best.

Vermeer’s Mistress and Maid (1666-1667)

Turner’s Fishing Boats Entering Calais Harbor c.1803

Mere steps from Laduree, the incomparable Frick Collection.  Built in 1913, the neoclassical mansion was designed to house American Industrialist Henry Clay Frick’s collection of paintings, sculpture, furniture, and decorative arts.  Viewing the steel magnate’s breathtaking collection in such an intimate setting was a rare and moving experience.

And finally, Saturday afternoon with a college friend brunching at DBGB Kitchen and Bar, Daniel Bouloud’s casual space in the East Village.  After catching up over Bloodys and omelets (with a side of their famous house made sausage), we worked off the calories perusing the fabulous shops in SoHo.  Kirna Zabete may be my new kryptonite!