birthday

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Last weekend we celebrated the day o’my birth and my sister came in to visit me for the occasion. We had tons of girly fun – mani/pedi’s, boutique shopping, coffee runs & meals at fab restaurants. It was exciting and relaxing, exhilarating and restorative, all in one. Family time is good for the soul.

[the two sisters]

For some time I’ve had my eye on a brand new little brunch spot down the street from my place. The menu was clean and inventive, plus the two guys behind the restaurant hail from the iconic Charlie Trotters. Once I saw this rave review in Daily Candy, I was sold and knew I couldn’t waste anymore time. With my sister in tow, we set out for a Friday mid-morning brunch at Lincoln Park’s newest hot spot, 2Sparrows.

[and that, my friends, would be the general manager making house-made beef jerky right atop the bar]

We ordered the foie gras pop tart with cherry compote [!!] for a little app, then we each ordered the eggs benedict [had to see what the b-y-o hollandaise was all about].

[cappuccino made with intelligentsia coffee to start the day off right]

[the richness of the foie gras offset the sharp tang of the cherry. 'twas all wrapped up in a buttery, flaky crust. mmmmm.]

The eggs benedict was EGGCELLENT [shame on me. couldn't resist]. I’ve had quite a few eggs benedicts in my time and I would go out on a limb [branch?] by saying 2Sparrows has the best eggs benedict I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. Where oh where do I begin:

-the ham. I don’t normally like the greasy, fatty canadian bacon that typically comes with eggs benedict, therefore I order mine sans meat. In this case, our [amazing] server informed us that all the ham is made in-house and so I decided to give it a try. Boy am I glad I did. This ham was wonderful. Just the right amount of salty smokiness to round out the dish.

-the toast. Sometimes the richness of eggs benedict can leave you with that nauseously overfull feeling. I blame that feeling, not on my own gluttonous ways, but on the filling bread that most eggs benedicts are perched on. At 2Sparrows the small, almost bite-sized pieces of toast are just the right amount.

-the big green salad. I’d never seen eggs benedict paired with a big green salad before and oh lordy, was it delicious. My sister loved the fennel and the dressing was light and refreshing. The perfect compliment to our eggy & indulgent brunch.

-the b-y-o hollandaise. Whoa. This was another first for me. Our meal came with not one, but two different hollandaise sauces – one was infused with roasted red pepper, the other with scallions. You build your own [b-y-o] and mix it up however you like. Who knew brunch could be so much fun?

The atmosphere was dynamic [even for a Friday afternoon], the service was excellent, the food was right on the money [and for that matter, quite reasonable given the upscale feel of the place]. I can sum it up with this – never before have I been at a meal where my companion and I both completely cleared our plates. We ate every last crumb. 2Sparrows, I will see you [and your eggs benedict... & probably your maple & bacon doughnuts] again soon.

 

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Today is my brother Evan’s birthday! Here he is. Happy birthday Evan!

 

I also want to highlight a wonderful campaign by SEE, my fave fave fave optical boutique. For each Monday in September, SEE will donate a portion of all proceeds to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. In an effort to raise awareness for this often “silent” disease, they will be distributing free ovarian cancer education kits in each store. They’re also selling exclusive t-shirts and teal bracelets [the official color of o.c.] with all proceeds going directly to OCRF.

SEE has 25 stores nationwide, for a complete list of locations click here. There are only [2] more Mondays in September so stop into SEE and purchase a pair of prescription or non-prescription eyeglasses or sunglasses today!

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[rustic house]

Last night to celebrate Vince’s birthday we went to the [relatively] new kid on the block, Rustic House. I was initially drawn to this Lincoln Park locale because of the fireplace [love] and it’s cozy, intimate interior. Once I did a little digging I fell in love with the menu… the executive chef frequents Green City Market [yeaa!] and they have really interesting dishes like hand-rolled gnocchi with hudson valley foie gras & crispy pork belly, but also feature traditional feel good comfort foods like chicken pot pie and braised lamb.

[the birthday boy & his present, which i stealthily concealed in a missoni for target shoebox. more on that traumatizing shopping experience to come.]

We had the gnocchi to start, it was a modest portion but delicious. For dinner Vince ordered the halibut ["sweet corn & lobster succotash/champagne beurre blanc"] and I got the veal cheek ragout ["pappardelle/pear tomato confit/saved pecorino"]. Vince’s was REALLY good, he got quite a sizable piece of fish and the sweet corn & lobster succotash combo was amazing. I wasn’t as crazy about mine, it was a wee bit salty for my liking, but I’m a sucker for fresh homemade pasta and enjoyed the pappardelle. Oh and we also got a side of roasted garlic mashed potatoes, they were tasty.

[onto dessert. decisions, decisions.]

[worth noting: you can order wine by the glass, carafe, or bottle. the carafe is the equivalent to a glass and a half, the perfect middle ground.]

[we went with the whatchamacallit]

Highlights of the night were the excellent service, great beer recommendations, warm’n cozy ambiance and tantalizing menu. Overall verdict: we loved Rustic House and will be back soon!

 

 

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[9.14]

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Oh dear. I’ve been a bad, bad blogger. Here August has come and gone and not a peep from me… nadda one. I certainly had plenty to talk about, like the time I traveled home for my niece’s 4th birthday where I made these itty bitty cinnamon buns for breakfast:

[hi dad!]

And the fateful day we went to an ice cream shop I had been dying to try, Jeni’s in Chagrin Falls. I’m going to level with you all, it’s hard to go wrong as far as ice cream is concerned but when you throw nutty ingredients like cayenne pepper into the mix things could theoretically go either way. Right? Right! Well Jeni’s was… utterly fantastic. It surpassed all of my expectations. My mom’s favorite? Salty caramel & she even bought a pint to take home. I feel bad but I ate nearly the entire thing… I didn’t know ice cream could be that velvety smooth. What does Jeni put in there?! I need help.

I got {1} scoop of sweet corn & black raspberries and {1} scoop of goat cheese with red cherries. Life changing. In every way. At that moment I decided to be a better person, pay my electric bill on time and be nice to my grumpy doorman who I believe has a moral objection to smiling. It was that good.

You’ve got to love Jeni’s creative twist on ice cream flavors: burbon buttered pecan, queen city cayenne, wildberry lavender, the milkiest chocolate in the world:

So I hope you’ll let this one slide. We’ll be back soon with some new exciting finds from Wednesday’s Green City Market. ‘Til then if you’re eager to get your hands on some of Jeni’s ice cream she sells pints at several local grocers in Chicago including The Southport Grocery & Cafe and The Goddess & Grocer. Get some for dessert tonight.. or breakfast.. lunch… anytime you have a spoon nearby, really.

 

 

 

 

 

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My niece Catherine might be the only baby in the history of the world who didn’t go bananas on her first birthday smash cake. Not even close. She gave it a couple jabs and a few sidelong glances before deeming it perfectly uninteresting. It might as well have been a plate of brussel sprouts [actually, she'd probably enjoy that more].

[officially could not care less.]

The point is that the gal is selective – she knows what she wants. In turn, I knew I had to get her something extra special for her first of all birthdays, but what? I searched high and low until I came across this handmade jewelryon Etsy. The artist behind Jeneri Jewelry is based right here in Chicago – and whattya know – she’s originally from Cleveland too.

It was tough to narrow it down but I got Catherine the Near Your Heart necklace engraved with “M&C” and Madeline [my other niece and Catherine's sister] one with “C&M”, both in sterling silver. They turned out beautifully. Jen of Jeneri Jewelry is a tremendously talented artist who does it all. I truly love her pieces as they are each one-of-a-kind.

[my jeneri necklace i had made with my parents initials]

Jen was kind enough to take a break from her hectic schedule to answer a few questions I had about her designs, background and inspiration. Read on for an exclusive coupon code for navy + cream readers, and to hear more about what makes Jen tick…

[1] Jen, your jewelry is so beautiful and meaningful. What gave you the idea to start your business?

I’ve always loved jewelry. We moved from Cleveland to Chicago four years ago and I became a full-time stay-at-home mom to our son. I had always worked since the time I was 16, and found myself going a little crazy after two weeks. I was within walking distance [dangerous!] to a bead shop and decided to give it a whirl. I never wore any of my jewelry because I wasn’t really a “bead person”. A few months later I took an “introduction to soldering class”, and then the real fun began.

[2] What inspires you?

Simple items. I like meaningful pieces that can be worn everyday with a t-shirt and jeans, but special enough that you’d wear it to a nice dinner.

[3] We agree. What is one of the most unique requests you’ve received for a design?

A woman had me design a “tug” necklace for her boyfriend. She wanted a heavy choker with 3 circles integrated into the chain. She explained that it needed to be durable enough for “strong tugging”. I was too embarrassed to ask if it lived up to their expectations.

[4]  On the flip side, what’s the most popular item in your store?

Anything gold! I’ve seen a substantial increase in gold sales over the last six months. The “Near Your Heart Personalized Choker” has been especially popular.

[5] Can we find your pieces at any boutiques in Chicago?

Nope! The boutiques that carry my jewelry have all found me through my Etsy website – but none in Chicago yet! I can be found in Nantucket, Tennessee, Michigan, Minnesota, Texas, and LA.

[6] Hopefully we’ll see you in stores here soon. So you have roots in Ohio and Chicago, like myself! What brought you to Chicago?

My husband’s job. I came kicking and screaming, but fell in love with Chicagoland and never want to leave!

[7] What do you enjoy most about your business?

The ability to create meaningful keepsakes, and the freedom of my own schedule. Professionally, I was an Audiologist [hearing & balance] for seven years before moving to Chicago. I enjoyed it, but didn’t have a passion for it. I truly have a passion for jewelry.

[8] Do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Take a few business classes! All of my higher education was in health and sciences, and I desperately wish I’d taken some accounting/finance. Other than that, have passion for what you’re doing and always be open to trying something new.

[9] What jewelry do you wear on a daily basis?

1. Wedding Rings

2. Rosary Ring [I’ve worn this since my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer 12 yrs ago]

3. Max necklace

[10] What’s your idea of the perfect day?

Sleeping in. Eating anything I want without heartburn or gaining an ounce. Visiting with family and friends. Hearing my son laugh. Kissing my love goodnight.

~

Jen has generously offered the readers of navy + cream a discount code for her Etsy shop. Enter the code NAVYANDCREAM at the checkout to receive 10% off her entire shop. Jen’s jewelry is ideal for a birthday gift, an engaged pal, a new mom, an anniversary present… the sky’s the limit.  Thanks again to Jen, happy first birthday to my niece, and happy shopping everyone!

 

 

 

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This weekend I got to spend some much-needed quality time with my sister who surprised me with a birthday visit. We had a lovely ladies weekend from start to finish: we got mani/pedis, we ate delicious meals, we sipped some wine, and, of course, we shopped ’til we dropped.

One of my favorite finds was this Itsy Bitsy Bag for just $18 from Francesca’s Collections on Halsted. I love the snazzy gold chain-link strap and the go anywhere, ready for anything crossbody style. Although teeny, it’s just big enough to hold the essentials. The funny thing is, I must have been subconsciously looking for a similar version of this $228 wonder I’d been fawning over from Marc by Marc Jacobs. Can you point out the pricier find?

Aside from the gold chain, you’d have to do a double take to tell these two apart. They even share the trademark Marc by Marc Jacobs turnlock, and yet the one on the left was a staggering $210 cheaper [almost enough for this pretty retro KitchenAid Mixer in a mod shade like pistachio].

I also snagged these little gold bow earrings for a mere $12 [also at Francesca's Collections] that suspiciously mirror these pricier Marc by Marc Jacobs studs [$38]:

[the look...

... for less]

Without meaning to, I landed two charming copycats for a fraction of the price.

PS: I also picked up this pretty bauble from Mint Julep on Armitage [bad news: that location is closing, good news: everything is 20% off, plus their Southport store is alive and well]

Have a lucky day everyone!

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Yippie! Today is my birthday! I know I sound like a twelve year old but birthdays have always been celebrated as a special day in my family. Every birthday growing up, we’d wake up and scurry downstairs to see the kitchen decorated with a big “Happy Birthday” banner and find the kitchen table set with the special birthday tablecloth. We’d eat cake for breakfast and bring giant frosted cookie cakes to school to share with everyone. It was the best.

For the first time ever, this year my birthday has morphed into a birthday :week: ! I celebrated with my family this past weekend while I was home [complete with not one, but two cakes], last night Vince + I went out to dinner, then this weekend my sister planned a surprise visit to Chicago. Maybe everyone feels bad for me because I’m inching towards my late-twenties [which, I know isn't old but it sure feels old]. So tonight I have a work event that I’m looking forward to, and after that am planning on meeting up with some friends in from out of town.

Last night my honey, ahem, + I …

[honey {+honeycomb} purchased at patterson fruit farm in chesterland, oh]

… went to the most amazing restaurant: Browntrout at 4111 N. Lincoln [North Center neighborhood]. The place was perfect for a quiet date night. Dimly lit, good crowd, wonderful service, and best of all – delicious food. Browntrout has a great thing going. They specialize in sustainable, locally farmed, and organic dishes. While I don’t necessarily go out of my way to find restaurants like this, it’s always a major plus when I end up at one.

We opted to have our server pair each dish with a drink, a first for both of us. I was impressed by how well each drink and dish complimented one another; it made each bite taste even better. We shared the Pommes Frites [w/three dipping sauces incl. gruyere fondue...heaven). I had the Wild Burgundy Snails, I can't remember the name of the fish I had for dinner and it's not listed on the site.. eep.. but I think it was bass, yum, and for dessert I had the Butterscotch Creme Brulee. Vince had the Illinois Corn Risotto, Idaho Golden Trout, and Fallen Chocolate Souffle. They pretty much had to roll us out of there.

[ready to dig into the trout]

[bass {i think} w. saffron sauce]

We really enjoyed ourselves. Browntrout, we’ll surely see you again soon.

Thank you loved ones for a star-studded 26th,

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I’m pretty excited. I received the new iPhone as a gift and I love it. I haven’t experienced the issues with dropped calls [yet] that everyone’s been talking about but there will surely be issues with reception. Over the years I’ve grown accustomed to AT&T’s patchy [that's putting it mildly] service. Rumors are swirling that Verizon will be picking up the iPhone in January but that particular rumor has been around since the birth of the iPhone several years ago. Who knows when that change will take place, I hope soon, but ideally it will be two years from now right around the time my contract is up.

I once took a tour at the Merchandise Mart and we rode in an elevator about a mile underground. I legitimately had better reception [meaning: two bars] a mile underground than I did at my apartment in metropolitan Chicago [zero bars]. Someone at AT&T please explain this to me.

[photo via we heart it]

To all the ironies of technology,

Z

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I love taking pictures. There is nothing better than having once-in-a-lifetime memories captured forever. I recently invested in a new camera and put it to work on my trip home this weekend. This will, without a doubt, become my new obsessive hobby [it already has].

By the way, fellow Chicagoans, if you’re on the market for a new camera or just want to poke around a camera shop, I highly recommend Wolf Camera at Clybourn + Sheffield. Ask for Josh M., he was so very helpful and honest. In a word, my experience was fantastic. I’ll be back for some of the [free!] classes that came with my camera purchase.

Here are some of my favorites:

[vintage dior blazer that my brother used to wear in middle school. it fits perfectly and is coming home with me. thanks evan!]

[brigham our trusty, cheese-loving chocolate lab]

[beautiful birthday cake a few days early]

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