family

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[the makings of a caprese salad]

[making peppermint bark with my cousin]

[bowlin' the night away at lebowski fest]

[my niece, madeline's, work of art]

[snapped a pic post-lunch at nighttown]

[a couple "light meat" & "dark meat" turkeys from oakmont bakery]

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[the artists' work: a st. laurence high school logo, a nightmare before christmas jack-o-lantern, a chicago bears logo [hehe] and an owl on a branch]

The best kinds of weekends are the ones where you don’t have plans but things sort of unfold as you go. This weekend we did just that, fall style. We carved pumpkins, watched football [or if you were me, napped], drank spiced cider [simmer apple cider with cinnamon sticks, whipped cream vodka & captain morgan - delish] & watched a scary movie. The weather was crisp and picture perfect. I’m craving more fall weekends just like this one.

While we’re on the subject of fall, the other week I baked up these miniature chocolate pumpkin spice cakes with a cider maple glaze for our flag football team. They were super easy to make and a tasty way to celebrate our first win!

[even though they look semi fancy they're simply doctored up cake mix plus doctored up vanilla frosting]

[more cute cakes with my crock pot simmering away in the background]

Mini Pumpkin Spice Cakes with Cider Maple Glaze

for cakes:

  • 1 package of Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Bread and Muffin Mix
  • eggs, oil & water per box directions
  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • dash of pure vanilla extract

for glaze:

  • 1/2 cup of your favorite vanilla frosting
  • 1 dash of apple cider
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 dash cinnamon

{optional but yet also sort of a necessity this time of year: bag of candy corn}

Preheat your oven to 350F. Combine pumpkin bread mix with eggs, oil, water, vanilla and chocolate chips. Pour into your favorite [greased] cupcake tin [I used a mini bundt cake pan]. Bake per package directions. While cakes are baking, whisk frosting, cider, maple syrup, and cinnamon together. Let cakes cool completely, then drizzle glaze over top with a fork. Decorate with candy corns and serve.

 

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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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… I’d buy my soon-to-be niece [via my wonderful cuzzie & cuzzie-in-law!] these adorable, hilarious, over-the-top extravagant things. Because every baby needs some skinny Seven’s to tuck into a pair of miniature Frye boots, right?! The tiny things they make for the babes seriously kill me, especially the shoes. Oh, the shoes.

1. Primigi Kids Maglioncino Sweater [$41]

2. Frye Harness Bootie [$38]

3. 7 for All Mankind The Skinny Denim Leggings [$59]

4. Bonpoint Cardigan Milky White [$145]

5. Burberry Gathered Check Cotton Dress [$165]

6. TOMS Tiny Canvas [$29]

7. Tod’s Baby Gommini Shoes [$165]

8. Lili Gaufrette Infant’s Tulle Skirt [$79]

9. Petit Bateau Rain Coat [$116]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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[our precious brigham, 2 months old]

This post is dedicated to Brigham, our little cheese loving, car chasing, pool swimming, tail wagging girl. She brought so much happiness and joy to our lives. If you were having a so-so day, all it took was one of Brigham’s “hugs” to make you feel instantly better. Her version of a hug: she’d wiggle her brown butt in between your legs and just stand there, with you sort of straddling her while she stood there, tail wagging back and forth maniacally. It’s something she’d been doing since she was a puppy, we have no idea how she started doing this but it always made us laugh. That was a common theme with our Briggie.

There will never be another Brigham, she was the best dog there ever was. I know she has a very special spot in Heaven, surrounded by wheels of cheese and big pieces of cake. We love you Briggie!

 The Last Battle

If it should be that I grow frail and weak
And pain should keep me from my sleep,
Then will you do what must be done,
For this — the last battle — can’t be won.
You will be sad I understand,
But don’t let grief then stay your hand,
For on this day, more than the rest,
Your love and friendship must stand the test.
We have had so many happy years,
You wouldn’t want me to suffer so.
When the time comes, please, let me go.
Take me to where to my needs they’ll tend,
Only, stay with me till the end
And hold me firm and speak to me
Until my eyes no longer see.
I know in time you will agree
It is a kindness you do to me.
Although my tail its last has waved,
From pain and suffering I have been saved.
Don’t grieve that it must be you
Who has to decide this thing to do;
We’ve been so close — we two — these years,
Don’t let your heart hold any tears.

– Unknown*

*from an email from my aunt teri

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[#1 dad]

I often wonder… for as much as our parents love us and for all they do for us, how can we possibly thank them for giving us… everything?

I wish I knew.

Until I think of something really really good all I can say is… Dad, thank you for being my biggest fan, my rock, my constant. Thank you for filling my childhood with the best of memories. Thank you for driving me to school each morning [and passing your love of the beatles onto me... lovely rita, meter maid..], for taking me down to the kitchen to fix me a midnight snack when I couldn’t sleep [orange slices sprinkled with sugar], for telling me a bedtime story each night [he created them on the fly every single night], for being strong, imaginative, kind and unfailingly dependable.

I love you more than you know. Happy Father’s Day.

And now some pictures from our weekend on the homestead…

Happy Father’s Day dad! :)

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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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I’m sort of embarrassed to admit what I did last week. Because I am a weirdo and enjoy grocery shopping more than a normal person should, I made a night out of it. You can’t blame me though, I live 10 minutes from the wondrous glory that is the Lincoln Park Whole Foods [15150 N. Kingsbury], the third-largest Whole Foods store in the world. This is not your average grocery store. It is the gargantuan mother of all grocery stores. Sure, you can pick up milk and eggs but why stop there when you can hit up…

  • Da’Vine Wine Bar [totally acceptable to sip a glass of wine as you shop]
  • 1550 Bar [complete with nightly specials such as Trivia Night]
  • Mix-and-Match Cookie and Trail Mix Stations
  • Make-your-own Bath Salt Station
  • Make-your-own Peanut/Cashew/Almond Butter Station
  • Seven in-store eateries [fresh sushi, bakery, deli, and more]
  • Rooftop yoga class
  • Nightly cooking classes

+ so much more

…all under one [massive] roof.

This beautiful behemoth is truly something to behold. I’ve taken both my brother and sister to check it out when they visited me and they were blown away too. My sister and I were lucky enough to score seats at the bustling wine bar and enjoyed wine flights and prime people watching. There were couples on dates, guys catching up over a pint, girlfriends with glasses of champagne. All in the middle of a grocery store – who’d a thunk it.

I wanted to share some photos of my shopping trip with you, and, me being the responsible blogger that I am, called ahead to get the OK from Whole Foods to take some photos. With some minor stipulations, they welcomed me with open arms. Without further ado…

[the sheer volume of everything is astounding]

[endless rows of fat, juicy heirloom tomatoes]

[lifetime supply {and then some} of carrot juice]

[fancy soap station]

[bath salt bar]

[pellegrino as far as the eye can see]

[had to do it]

A few things that came home with me…

[my favorite tea]

[freshly ground 100% almonds... it was warm as it came out of the grinder!]

[my new obsession: black truffle oil... a bit of a splurge at $12 for a small bottle but you can use it in everything and a little goes a long way. i've added it to mac + cheese and eaten it just by itself with whole-grain bread]

[icelandic style yogurt is very thick and has a TON of protein]

[farm fresh eggs you literally pluck from a little chicken coop-esque bed of hay]

[i've lived in chicago for 3 years and had never tried the famous oberweis milk - til now!]

 

 

 

 

 

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[r + r]

This weekend while the rest of Chicago was getting saucy & celebrating St. Pat’s, Vince and I roadtripped to Cleveland for my mom’s birthday. Although we missed the bulk of the St. Patty’s festivities, it was one of those weekends that hit the spot; relaxing and good for the soul. We caught up on lots of sleep + quality fam time, had brunch with some of my high school pals, and topped it off with a birthday lunch celebrating my mom.

[trust.]

[team effort]

 

[party dress fit for a twirl]

 

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[photo from a trip home that i might have staged.]

[and my valentine's roses make an encore from monday]

[hot, creamy coffee to start the morning]

[dried bouquet from the 'rents... they sent them 'just because'. love them. :]

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