Sunday, May 31, 2009

Farm Dinner

On Saturday evening, we went to dinner at a local goat cheese farm. We've enjoyed their delicious goat cheese, sold at our local Farmer's Market and food co-op, for the past year. Last summer they started featuring weekend dinners with different themes; our neighbors attended and raved about the experience, so we decided to tag along this year.

The theme for Saturday's dinner was "Celebrate Spring." The first event is iced tea and hors d'oeuvres.

It's BYOB, so we had already stopped by our local wine shop for a couple of bottles to go with dinner. We brought Beronia Rioja 2004 and Lirac Red Rhöne Wine 2006, knowing that lamb was the main course. Luckily, our neighbors remembered to bring cool white wine to start!

Here's the custom-built smoker/grill:

Before dinner we were given a tour of the farm. The goats were very happy to see us:

And these baby kids--unweaned--couldn't keep still, so excited were they. So adorable! Until one tried to eat my handbag...

The menu. All was incredible, but the cheese course was eye-wateringly amazing. All cheese is created on site, and made from the milk of the Farm's goats, with the exception of the Krotovina, which is a mix of sheep and goat milk. The Farm purchases its sheep milk from a nearby Amish sheep farmer. There was also a slice of honeycomb accompanying the cheese, which came from Farm beehives. All other produce and the lamb came from local farms.

Typically, the meals are served outside at long tables in a nearby field, but because the forecast threatened rain, we ate in the Farm's new barn:

It did start raining, but only after the dinner was nearly finished. As we were leaving, we glanced up at the rainy Prairie sky, and this beautiful break in the clouds.

A Couple of Things and Sangria Sunday

It's a beautiful summer day; a great day for lounging on the patio and drinking Sangria made from white Zinfandel, Cointreau, Triple Sec, peaches, lemons, oranges, cinnamon sticks and soda. It's chilling in the fridge right now.

I'll share with you soon last night's dining adventure, but for now I wanted to show you:

My Improved Blaze roses are blooming along our garage!

And, my husband painted a Tiffany blue tray for me. To see my Hermès orange tray, go here.

Finally, our newest home project. My husband and I were walking to the Farmer's Market yesterday morning, when we were diverted by several yard sales along the way. The first treasure to tempt us was a Victorian settee for $100. The wood trim was in generally good condition but it direly required re-upholstering, and I already have a piece-of-crap sofa and I don't need another. So we moved on.

The next yard sale was down the street, at an old church that has been used recently as a home. I always pass sales that have a lot of kitsch--I don't need anything more to dust--but this one had a bunch of furniture out front in the grass. My eye was first drawn to an old mirrored wooden dresser, but then my husband pointed out a buffet-like chest of drawers. You see, I've been looking for a piece of furniture to store my sewing supplies, yarn and fabric. I didn't want to spend a lot of money and so had been considering this or this. But I was game for a much cheaper piece that I could spruce up with a bit of paint. And this yard sale dresser was a very good candidate, well priced at $15.

I stepped inside to pay, where I met the owner of the furniture. "You know," he said, "there's a matching piece out there; have you looked at that?" Now this is cheap furniture and my house is already full of hand-me-downs and cheap furniture, and I really am not looking to continue down that path. But when he showed me a matching glass-doored hutch, I couldn't resist. Our baby house has little storage, and my beautiful china and glassware is crammed into cabinets from which it's often too much effort to extract them and they are shamefully neglected. So, for $30 bucks and some glossy Chinese-red paint and new hardware, I think this hutch may be alright. Anyway, here are my yard sale finds:

I'm thinking I want to paint the cabinet for my sewing storage blue like this.

(I'm sorry, I can't remember where I found this. I will be happy to credit it if someone knows--also would love to know the paint color!)

We never made it to the Farmer's Market. We spent the next two hours getting our three new household items home. The big bureau went in the backseat of our convertible (top down, of course), where it towered over the car. The glass door shelf portion went on the roof of our Volvo, and the smaller buffet went in the trunk of the Volvo (sticking out outrageously). I wish I would have taken photos of this; picture the Beverly Hillbillies and you will have a very good idea of how we looked. Great fun!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Charm Bracelet

My charm bracelet. Organized roughly by date, starting from the right:

1. I played clarinet as a kid. I also played--and still play--the piano. My repertoire is limited to about five songs*, which I play over. And over. And over. And badly. And Loudly.
2. I was a bridesmaid in my brother's wedding, and this charm with my initials was my gift.
3. I was a cheerleader in high school.
4. My first trip to Europe was over Christmas break during my freshman year of college. I went to Vienna and Salzburg.
5. Son No. 1
6. I finally received my B.A. from Penn State (after three other colleges and two months in Dallas Texas). At the time, I thought I might start a gold charm bracelet but that never materialized, so it's the only gold charm on a sterling silver bracelet. I think it adds a certain...charm, no?
7. Son No. 2
8. During my first career, I worked briefly in the Sears Tower. 62nd Floor!
9. I was lucky enough to live on the Monterey Peninsula for a couple of years, This is the famous Lone Cypress in Pebble Beach California. A part of the charm broke off. I still have it, in case I ever get up the guts to try and solder it together.
10. My husband and I took a trip to lovely Bermuda. On the charm, you can see a moongate and Bermuda's distinctive longtail bird.
11. I went to law school, then grad school, at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
12. To celebrate the end of law school and to recuperate from a grueling summer of preparation for the bar, my husband and I spent an incredible week on Nantucket. This charm represents one of the beautiful Nantucket Lightship baskets, and has a faux scrimshaw on the top. It used to have a penny inside, but it tends to fall open and the penny is long gone.
13. After grad school, I moved to Los Angeles and taught at the University of Southern California. I've since moved back to Illinois, but my youngest son just finished his freshman year of college there.

I started collecting charms when my parents would bring them back from their trips. Now I usually buy them for myself. I love how individual charm bracelets can be; I determined that this charm bracelet was going to reflect milestones in my life alone, and so I all the charms my parents gave me from their travels have been relegated to a sterling silver charm necklace that I wear on occasion. But that's the beauty of it! I'm considering creating another bracelet on which I could document my passions, like fashion, books, and travel, because there are so many gorgeous charms available! For example, if you have children, you might consider splurging on these Absoleutely Precious charms by Lester Lampert:

In addition to personally selected charms, I also covet charm bracelets put together by someone else. Like this Chanel charm bracelet:

Or this slightly garish, but nevertheless fun Juicy Couture model:

And I would love to get my hands on this Louis Vuitton scarf with charm drawings. (Scarves are my first love, and I'm working on a future scarf post.) A limited edition from 2004, this beauty was created by artist Jeffrey Fulvimari, the illustrator of Madonna's book The English Roses.

Charm bracelets don't have to be expensive, though, since you can add charms over time and if you opt for sterling silver, they won't break the bank. While talking about bracelets, I do recommend you buy a Bracelet Buddy. It's not foolproof and generally takes a few tries, but what else are you going to do when a guy isn't around to get the clasp for you?

Now, I tag anyone who has a charm bracelet to take a photo and share on their blog! Then, please put a comment on this post with a link to your entry so we can all enjoy.

*In case you're interested, they are:
The Entertainer (duh)
The Merry Widow Waltz
Lara's Theme, from
Dr. Zhivago
The Missouri Waltz (a Truman favorite, I'm told)
Gypsy Song, from

Friday, May 22, 2009

Tiny Art Director

My son just sent this link to me. Brilliant...and hysterical.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Great Fun in the City

This weekend, we were invited to the Chicago wedding of a gorgeous friend from law school, so we decided to make a mini-holiday of it. We drove in Friday morning, checked into our hotel, and hit Michigan Avenue.

Our list of stores to hit was long--in our town in Central Illinois, we have, uh, Macys, Gap, Old Navy, that's it....well maybe an exaggeration (a Banana Republic FINALLY opened a year or two ago), but still. We started at Neiman Marcus, where I had a return. We were molested by an salesperson pushing Hermès fragrances. I almost died in the shoe department where I saw these in real life. Actually, the in-store version was creamy patent leather, not the gold that originally enticed me. But really, they're more gorgeous than I even imagined. It was hard to walk away! In the Chanel accessory nook, I played with a beautiful pink ombre 2.55 quilted bag.

I scored at both Bloomingdales and Hermès--more on that later!

After a wonderful day of shopping, we were dying of thirst and hunger.

At Quartino, we started with Limoncello and Orangecello martinis and worked our way through four "small" plates of seafood and pasta, wine, and finally two enormous desserts and coffee. Then we headed over to Pops for Champagne for amazing champagne cocktails. If you live near Chicago, please go here and have the Vie en Rose sparkling cocktail. My God. My husband also speaks highly of the Black 75.

Saturday was the wedding, an all-day affair. Both Bride & Groom are Indian and the festivities were not only amazingly romantic , but exotic. Almost all the women wore colorful, opulent saris. The groom rode in on a white horse with an accompanying drummer and dancers. The wedding ceremony was traditionally Vedic, and we were given a booklet that described what was happening and the meaning behind the rituals. After a buffet luncheon, we had a couple of hours before the reception. Here we are (not shown, but I opted to wear the python pumps):

And later, in the photo booth, after a few martinis:

The food was Indian and thus hugely spicy; the music was pure Bollywood. Incredible fun on the dance floor, with all the gorgeous women in their silk saris and gold jewelry!

Sunday--Mother's Day--we met up with our oldest son for burgers at Kuma's Corner:

Good Times. Now back to reality. Sigh.

Happy Mother's Day!

Can you believe these two little cuties, in their flannel PJs decorated with spaceships and teddy bears ("Made with Love by Grandma"), are now twenty-three and almost nineteen? I had a lovely lunch with my oldest this afternoon, who gave me a new turntable! Now I can start playing all those old opera recordings I inherited from an elderly aunt. When I returned home, a beautiful bouquet of flowers awaited me from my youngest (who I'll see on Wednesday, when he comes home from college for the summer). Lovely Mother's Day!

Of course, sometimes I am surprised my career as a mother didn't end like this:

My Mom and I, March 2008. She's our source of flannel pajamas (pictured above). Her mission is to seek out the most ridiculous prints, which she buys with her JoAnn fabrics 40%-off-one-item coupons. When my boys left for college, they graduated to flannel quilts, fashioned with more subdued plaids. She even made me a pink flannel quilt, which is extremely comfy. It features pink princesses, pink flowers, and pink teacups. Love you, Mom!

Yes those are tools behind our heads.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Je voudrais un croissant...

My husband and I were recently IM-ing and we started conversing in faux-french...which always deteriorates into dialogue from this Flight of the Conchords episode. Last spring, I took a refresher class in French and we played this in class; I laughed until I cried. So, for a little afternoon entertainment:

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Window Boxes

Today we went to the garden place to get plants for our window boxes. Since we've done this since 2003, we have it down to a science. What works best: geraniums, coleus, and sweet potato vine. Fueled by a couple of pitchers of Bloody Mary's, we got to work (note the Bloody on the table above).

Getting the boxes ready:

I also pick plants for some pots to place around the patio. This particular mixture (above) is meant for the shade, and will sit under the Star Magnolia. I stole the idea from White Flower Farm. It includes Verbena, Heliotropium, and Helichrysum.

Pansies for the patio table:

Spring has come to our garden! The Miss Kim lilac is about to bloom.

Lilies of the Valley in our front yard.

My husband readies support brackets for the side window box, to be filled with red Verbena. I asked him to take his shirt off for this photo, but he was too busy. ;-)

Window boxes ready to be filled with dirt and then planted.

Husband digging around the compost pile for suitable soil:

The final product:

Basil and Hidcote Lavender