Wednesday, November 30, 2016

4 Shops in San Diego

Small Business Saturday spent in North Park

The Saturday after Thanksgiving was — and always is — Small Business Saturday. I was all about it on Instagram in the week leading up to this year's shopping holiday, sharing some of my favorite ways to #shopsmall in Milwaukee. But for me, I was actually shopping small in San Diego's North and South Park neighborhoods this year. 

And let me tell you: It was a blast! It was also like this consumerist monster awoke inside of me. You'll see why. Each of these shops has its own unique vibe that spoke to different sides of my gimme-gimme sensibilities. Luckily, I mostly capped my spending at cards (surprise!) and fridge magnets, of which I'm always in desperate need. It was for the best. 

Casa Artelexia
It's like a rainbow of Frida Kahlo confetti exploded in this shop, which is new to North Park (though there's a first location in Little Italy, the owner told me). I wish I'd had nothing but time to browse and nothing but extra suitcases to cart home the fruits of shopping at Casa Artelexia. I would have jumped at some of the embroidered folky pillows, the colorful linens, hand-painted tea towels, and the many Frida Kahlo holiday ornaments and paper doll books. 

Communal Coffee & Native Poppy
If I lived in North Park and zombies were coming and I knew it was only a matter of time before someone ate my brains, I'd camp out at Communal Coffee/Native Poppy. It's part coffee shop and eatery, part flower shop, part gift shop. I'll get into the eating in a later post – what's important now are the flowers and gifts. The arrangements are everything I ever wanted in a bouquet, and though the gift shop itself is small, it's highly curated. You'll find gorgeous handmade purses, notebooks & cards, tiny clocks, pretty vases, and stacks of enamel pins. The vibe in the shop is the perfect mix of hip & clean and pretty & Pinterest-y. 

Simply Local 
This more rustic haven describes itself as "a merchant marketplace featuring over 55 locally-owned businesses." We didn't spend a ton of time in Simply Local — simply because, again, I just wanted everything and had to walk away sooner than later. One of my favorite finds was this t-shirt by Circles & Squares. The owner (or manager?) was a delight, too — he complimented my red rain jacket, saying "it's just so you!" Here, take my money, sir — happy to oblige! 

This place is like floating on a cotton candy cloud through the most whimsical, sherbet-colored magic town. Everything at Pigment is organized by hue, with whimsical goodies artfully displayed in every nook and cranny. The space is sprawling and lofted, packed with everything from unicorn statues to rainbow zebras to feathery pink flamingo ornaments to tiny glittered houses to planters and succulents galore. There's also a wall filled with books, clothes, and décor for the little ones. And cards! Cards everywhere. Is this heaven? 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

4 Days in San Diego: Sights to see

The Del, Parks & seals — oh my! 

Over Thanksgiving weekend, Adam and I hopped on a plane to San Diego to spend Turkey Day with friends on the sunny west coast. Pro tip: Fly on Thanksgiving morning to save beaucoup bucks. We ate some delicious things, saw some beauteous sights, and walked in Marilyn’s footsteps. It’s recap time! Today it’s the sights. 

*Note: I can only speak from experience, and that experience did not include everything under the San Diego sun. Not even close — not even the zoo! But here’s what we did that I loved.

Hotel del Coronado 
Or, as the locals call it, “The Del.” Now don’t you feel fancy? This luxury hotel dates back to the 1800s, when it was a destination for celebrities, as it still is today. Charlie Chaplin would release all his movies at the Del, L. Frank Baum would read excerpts of The Wizard of OZ to kids at the Del, and one of my all-time favorite movies — Some Like it Hot — was filmed there. 

PSA: If you haven’t seen the movie starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon, you are missing out on an American slapstick classic. There’s crossdressing, gangsters, Marilyn being Marilyn, and zippy music that gets stuck in your head.

Sadly, unless you’ve recently won the lottery, you won’t be able to afford a room at the Del. If you’re like me, you will hardly be able to afford parking. $30 for the first two hours — are you for real!? But we found street parking and walked over, then strolled through the lobby, the little museum downstairs, and out to the beachside café area, where an ice skating rink is now stationed for the holidays. Yes, you can strap one your skates on minute, then go bounding into the Pacific the next. Rich people: They’re just like us! 

La Jolla & the Seals 
I took French, not Spanish, so in case any of you need a reminder like moi, that’s pronounced like “La Hoya” — though it is a jolly place. Cliffs, tide pools, beaches, and sunbathing seals — big fan! Parking can be a real pain though, so proceed with patience. 

Balboa Park 
Hi, I’m a giant, kinda-overwhelming park! Where to start? Set your destination for the Botanical Building. Its beautiful copper roof is very photogenic, as is the ajoining lily pond. In fact, when our friends and charming hosts, Joel and Vanessa, decided to pose for a pic, we thought we’d found a lull in the crowd. But then a troop of children ran into the frame, squealing as they excitedly pointed at the still water. Freaking adorable. 

Anyway, the Botanical Building closes promptly at 4pm, and the guard on duty will playfully threaten to lock you in at 4:01 as he reminds you there’s no food or bathroom inside. After scurrying out of the building in the knick of time, we headed across Park Boulevard to the rose and cactus garden. The rosy scent is just lovely, though the blooms themselves are hard to capture in a photo. 

While I’m more of a flower girl, I could have spent an hour or more in the cactus garden, no question. So many of the plants are unlike anything I’ve ever seen — like something from an alien planet, huge and tangled with spiky flesh. They’re just too cool! Especially having never been in a desert climate before. 

I know there’s probably lots of other cool things to see in Balboa Park — things I’d like to put on my list of must-sees for next time. If you have any ideas, please comment below! 

Old Town 
We didn’t spend a ton of time in Old Town, but it’s a charming stretch filled with colorful buildings and a myriad of Mexican restaurants. The smell of fresh-made corn tortillas wafted on the breeze as we bopped in and out of shops specializing in gems and minerals, soaps and bath salts, luminous tin stars, and more. 

North & South Park 
Just bumming around this area of San Diego was probably one of my favorite things. We happened to be out and about on Small Business Saturday, and the local shops were all about it. I’ll tell you which stores we happened upon in a later post, but let me just say: Drool. And speaking of drool, we ate two delicious Italian meals in South Park, too. Shopping and carbs — what else is there in life? 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Milwaukee Rep presents "The Foreigner"

The most I've laughed at the theater, period. 

I hardly even know where to begin with The Foreigner except to say that I've never laughed so freely at a play. OnMilwaukee called it "one of the funniest plays you may ever see," and they're so right. And what's more, the Milwaukee Rep itself premiered this play in 1983, so this is, in a way, a sort of homecoming — and Milwaukee was ready for it. Since its 1983 premier, The Foreigner has been widely produced, once even starring Matthew Broderick off-Broadway. 

The Foreigner is the story of a stodgy Brit named Charlie who comes to the States to stay in a fishing lodge for the weekend. Charlie is woefully introverted and boasts a self-proclaimed lack of personality — a sort of human Eeyore. He tells his friend Froggy that he really doesn't want to interact with the other folks at the lodge. So Froggy tells the lodge owner, Betty, that Charlie is a foreigner who can't speak English, and that no one should bother talking to him. Great plan — until Charlie overhears sensitive info and villainous plots. Charlie must "learn" English quickly — and glean a little personality along the way — to help his newfound friends. 

It was evident almost immediately that Larry Shue's play is a crowd favorite and that lots of folks were anticipating the hilarity. The audience at the Rep's Quadracci Powerhouse last Friday was in stitches from the very start — like when Charlie says "I've often wondered, how does one acquire personality?" A lone woman at the back of the theater let out a hysterical burst of laughter, and the whole room followed suit. It's true — laughter really is contagious.

It helps that Charlie is played by Matt Zambrano, whose delivery is just about perfect. Charlie spends a great deal of time as a silent observer, communicating only through facial expressions and physical comedy (cue dying of laughter). And when Charlie finally starts to speak in his made-up native language and eventually "learns" English, Zambrano's performance gets even better. I'd love to go back to The Foreigner for a second time just to watch him in action. 

While the entire cast deserves a standing ovation, I have to give a shout out to Linda Stephens and James Pickering (as Betty and Froggy), whose rapport is a sheer delight. But Brendan Meyer as Ellard came close to stealing the show for me. Ellard is slow-witted, unabashedly childlike, and eager to befriend the foreigner. Meyer plays the part with such gusto and adorable naiveté, my heart hurts and my sides ache just thinking about it. I really can't get these remarkable ("re-mark-a-ble!") performances out of my head.

While the tone of The Foreigner is overall a light and hilarious one, it's not without a healthy nod to the Milwaukee Rep's mission to "provoke and inspire meaningful dialogue." While some characters, like Ellard and Betty, are enchanted by the idea Charlie, there are others who despise foreigners and are downright nasty. I don't want to spoil anything, but let's just say that the prejudice found in The Foreigner is incredibly timely given the rhetoric in our country post-election. It's frightening and sad, and though this play doesn't solve anything, I hope it will be food for thought for some and a much-needed escape for others. Sometimes, laughter really is the best medicine. 

The Foreigner is playing at the Milwaukee Rep now through December 18th. Information and tickets at

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Ex-Girlfriends Cards

New favorites from Etsy

New pop culture card obsession coming in hot! These cards from Ex-Girlfriends Rebellion on Etsy are totally rocking my socks. The designer is Angel Woolcott, hailing from Melbourne, Australia. That's quite a distance, so order early and stock up. It took about six weeks for my order to arrive. The cards are a good size and blank inside, so make sure you have something to say. The paper quality is smooth and solid, and the envelopes are covered in black polka-dots. In case you missed it, cute envelopes are the way to my heart!

But enough nerding out about paper and envelopes — let's take these cards at face value. They're hilarious! There's everything from 30th birthday crying Dawson to Nicholas Cage Christmas cardsWhat pop culture-loving person wouldn't be psyched to hang these babies on their fridge? That's the goal of Ex-Girlfriends Cards: To send something that will stay on the fridge for months, even years. Angel Woolcott is also all about preserving the environment; her cards are printed on 100% recycled paper and are biodegradable. So save the Earth and send some laughs one greeting card at a time!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


Cedarburg restaurant for fancy dinners & yummy lunches

The weather has been absolutely glorious for November, so last weekend we took the opportunity to scratch a day trip to Cedarburg off the autumn-in-Wisconsin bucket list. Our day started, with a stop at Farmstead for lunch. In checking out the website and photos online, I was instantly drawn in by the stonewalled, rustic farmhouse vibe and great online reviews. I knew we had to give this place a try. 

What I didn't expect, however, was that Farmstead is located outside of the cute downtown area of Cedarburg — near a McDonald's and Piggly Wiggly. But I'm happy to say that once you get inside, you'd never suspect the odd location. A quick read of the Farmstead website tells you that the building is 150 years-old, so clearly the fast food and box grocery store cropped up while the historic fieldstone house was just minding its own business. 

Anyway, the country-cozy Farmstead with its windows framed in twinkle lights is mostly known for grilling some awesome steaks. But steak wasn't on the menu for our Cedarburg day trip. Adam and I shared a dill havarti grilled cheese and an "ultimate BLT" — both solid, but not mind-blowing. The soup of the day, however, was a heavenly brie and mushroom bisque. I also snagged a bite of Erin's Cedarburg Melt: a 1/3-pound burger topped with bacon, sautéed onions, and American cheese on grilled marble rye. That melt will keep me up at night, it was so juicy and flavorful. Must. Go. Back. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Lenarduzzi Interiors Atelier

A little French country store in Waukesha 

On Bluemound Road in Waukesha, there's a small complex of old stone buildings dating back to the mid-1800s. The place has been a favorite of mine for several years now, ever since I discovered Jack's Café. Earlier this fall, after dining at Jack's, my mom and I stopped at one of the teeny tiny stonewalled houses — an interior design and home décor shop called Lenarduzzi Interiors Atelier.

Outside of the rustic front door arched with blooming foliage, a sign hangs: "Little French Country Store." The charming entryway is echoed inside. The place feels like a fairy cottage with artful vignettes and décor on display from floor to ceiling.

There's so much to take in, you could easily play a game of I Spy. You'll find chandeliers, candles and candle holders, birdcages, glass terrariums, wall art, sprawling vines, French table linens, ornate mirrors, and trinkets seemingly pulled from a storybook.

Jewelry sits near the register and dangles from a chandelier. The owner of the shop told me these glitzy bracelets came from a show in New York, where she was first to pluck them up — only to have Anthropologie quickly follow. So you can see there is great taste at work in this little French country store.

There are also seasonal pieces — foliage and more. I recently saw on Facebook that the shop is starting to trim the place for Christmas; I would love to stop back sometime soon and see what wonders await! From what I saw of the everyday style at Lenarduzzi Interiors Atelier, their holiday selection is sure to enchant.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Holiday greeting cards for 2016

From vintage-inspired to fresh illustrations

Truth bomb: Next month is Christmas. That's basically tomorrow. Which means we snail mail freaks needed to start shopping for Christmas cards yesterday. Last year, I stocked up on some choice cards while in New York, and like any sleuth with a greeting card obsession, I tracked down their makers by googling the info on the back of each card. Boom! The search paid off. Check out these goodies.

Driscoll Design
These charming cards from Driscoll Design with their retro flair are some of my favs. The brand is family owned, eco-conscious, and all products are made right in the USA. I think the About page on the Driscoll website best describes their vibe: "You know, feel good stuff." I have the Noel card; the falling snow is dotted with glitter and the envelope is a shiny gold. It's one of those cards I'm having trouble parting with — I might just frame it instead! 

Cavallini & Company
I have an antique-style reindeer card from Cavallini & Company waiting in my stash for a lucky someone. The card is trimmed with holly, ivy, and the perfect dash of sparkle — a nice heavy and textured stock, too. I've already blogged about Cavallini's flora & fauna postcards; you can find their holiday greetings at Paper Source

Carolyn Suzuki Goods 
I feel like some of the holiday cards by Carolyn Suzuki are hit or miss — but the hits are home runs. I'm really loving these gnome and yeti cards, the gnome which I bought in New York last year. It's blank inside, comes with a craft paper envelope, and is just the right size to write a nice little note. The artwork also extends the grey sky and snowy scene to the back of the card. It's all about the details! 

If you're in the Milwaukee area, here are some more ideas on where to shop locally for holiday cards: Soaps & Scents, Beans & Barley, and Broadway Paper. Though it's a chain, I'd also recommend checking out Paper Source at Bayshore, as they carry a lot of cards from various artists. Happy snail mailing! 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Oconomowoc Halloween Parade 2016

Featuring The Tooth Ferry (get it?!) 

Another year, another Halloween parade in O-town, repping my dear friend Dr. Jahnke (Fritz) and Jahnke Dental. Last year, Fritz turned the tailgate of her mom’s SUV into a gaping mouth — and even won $20 from the parade committee for best float. This year, Jahnke Dental took it up a notch with three little words: The Tooth Ferry. 

Adam donned the tooth costume like a total champ. Given the placement of the armholes, he had to keep his arms raised and waving, otherwise the tooth’s grin collapsed into frown. After an hour spent snaking through downtown Oconomowoc riding The Tooth Ferry, Adam’s shoulders weren’t exactly happy — but the kids were!

I got to wear the smile costume; Blythe, the tube of toothpaste. The rest of the crew wore sailor hats to fit the Tooth Ferry theme. We handed out 2,000 toothbrushes to kids and parents. The kids gleefully grasped for the neon brushes, and parents laughed and thanked us as we preached, “Happy Halloween! Don’t forget to brush!” 

When we finally reached the packed Main Street and home stretch of the parade route, we (sadly) quickly ran out of toothbrushes. Even 2,000 wasn’t enough for the huge crowds. So to entertain the masses, we handed out high-fives and Dr. Jahnke brushed the kids’ teeth with a jumbo tooth brush. They were big fans! 

At one point, Fritz even pretended to brush me in my smile costume, while I did a silly dance. Smile costumes make you do crazy things. At that moment, a smart aleck kid of about 12 looked at me and dryly said, “The dancing isn’t helping.” I was so taken aback, the only retort I could muster was to stick my tongue out at him like a real mature adult. That stunned the whippersnapper into silence — then he smirked as if to say “didn’t see that coming.” Touché me. 

While I found myself getting picked on by a kid, Dr. Jahnke was building more positive relationships with the O-town community. At one point, a lady urgently gestured her over, saying she really hoped we still had toothbrushes since she missed out on getting one at the last parade. “We always love seeing you every year!” she said. Yes on this, Jahnke’s Dental’s second year in the Oconomowoc Halloween Parade, they’re already a community favorite that feels like they’ve been around forever. Hope to see you next year, O-town!  

P.S. Follow Jahnke Dental on Facebook — Fritz rocks at toothy humor! 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Creamy chicken mushroom soup

Simmer chicken, veggies, herbs, broth & cream

I think soup is one of the best things about fall, really. It's warm, comforting, can be healthy, and you can make a big batch that'll last you for days or even weeks in the freezer. Chili is usually my go to — something with lots of veggies, or (for a crowd) turkey chili that can be stretched even further by adding noodles (yum!). But when I saw this creamy chicken and mushroom soup from Damn Delicious, I knew it would be next on my list of soups to try. 

Boy am I glad I did! This soup has just the right amount of cream (hardly any, so you don't feel guilty digging in!), and I love chicken and mushrooms together. It's best made a day or two before you're going to eat it, so the flavors can really mingle. I also added more herbs than the original recipe called for, because why wouldn't you want the most flavor you can get? 

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1 TBS olive oil
8 oz. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 TBS butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz. cremini or baby bella mushrooms (slice a bit if needed)
1 onion, diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced 
2 celery stalks, diced
1/2 tsp dried thyme or 1 and 1/2 tsp minced fresh thyme
1/4 cup flour
4 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup half-and-half
2 TBS chopped fresh parsley
springs of rosemary
sprigs of thyme
salt and pepper

1. In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add chunked chicken, seasoning generously with salt and pepper. Cook until golden, then remove chicken from the pot.

2. Melt butter in the pot over medium heat. Add chopped mushrooms, onion, carrots, and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, seasoning with salt and pepper as you go. *Note: The carrots will take longer to become tender. I first cooked the diced carrots in some olive oil in a separate pan so they would start to get tender, before adding them to the pot with the other veggies. 

3. Whisk in flour until lightly browned, about one minute. Whisk in chicken stock, bay leaf, dried/minced thyme, chicken thighs, and extra springs of rosemary and thyme (two of each, or so — just feel it out!). Cook, whisking constantly, for about five minutes. 

4. Stir in half-and-half until heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. *Note: I added a lot of salt and pepper. I generously seasoned about eight times (for a double batch, so try generously seasoning maybe four times for a single), tasting the soup between each addition. Don't get discouraged — just keep seasoning until the flavors start to pop, and know that the flavors will really sing after the soup has rested for several hours or overnight.

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This soup got rave reviews from everyone in my family — save the mushroom-hater, but everyone knows mushroom-haters can't be trusted (sorry Kev). The original recipe says you can eat this soup right away, but it really is so much better once the flavors mingle for a day or two. I also left the sprigs of herbs and bay leaves in the tupperware when I stored the soup (it can't hurt, right?). 

Another thing to note: The measurements above are for a single recipe. When I made this soup, I actually doubled the recipe and ended up with six hearty, dinner-sized servings. I also froze the soup for about a week, and it thawed out fine. I took it out of the freezer the night before I wanted to eat it, then heated the still-kinda-frozen soup on the stove. Once it was all heated through, it tasted just as wonderful — reminiscent of Thanksgiving, what with all those wonderful herbs. My mouth is watering just thinking about it — get cookin'!