Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A sneak peek at our living room redo

I've been working with local interior designer (and friend of a friend) Amanda Miller to refresh our small, cluttered living room and dining room and I'm so excited to share a sneak peek at our progress!

We've ordered this couch in brown (with teal buttons and welt), added 6 can lights to the ceiling so the room isn't so dim all the time and picked out two chairs and an accent table to replace the loveseat (one is from Rowe and the other from West Elm). We're expecting a carpenter to get us a quote on a radiator cover for the dining room radiator so we can use that space as a bar when we're entertaining.

I'm knitting a cream-colored pouf for extra seating and Josh is repainting the tall bookshelf in the dining room a dark kona brown to better coordinate with the rest of the furniture. We're also ordering some hooks to hang some of his guitars on the wall. Check out my Pinterest board to see what we've got in mind.

But one big change has already been made--Amanda helped us rearrange our modular shelving and suggested a teal accent wall to go behind the shelves (it's actually Benjamin Moore Polished Slate). We took most of the clutter off the shelves and added baskets to contain the rest. Oh, and got a bigger TV. Looks pretty nice, huh?
2011-12-24 11.25.36

Monday, December 26, 2011

The airlines wouldn't dare lose my child on Christmas

2011-12-25 09.30.08On Christmas morning, when many of my friends and neighbors were lolling about in their pajamas, opening presents and eating cinnamon rolls, I drove Zoe to Midway airport for her first solo flight. The airport was surprisingly crowded--especially after an easy, traffic-free drive to the airport--but her flight took off on time and landed early. So early, in fact, that I initially missed the "I've got your daughter" call my mom placed to my cell phone immediately upon picking up Zoe in D.C.

And I'm only half joking when I say I booked her travel on December 25th knowing what a PR nightmare it would be for an airline to misplace a youngster on Christmas. It's only been a day or so, but it sounds like my 7 year old is having a grand old time with my mom and stepdad in Virginia--reading Ramona books, looking at old photographs, learning to pick out tunes on the piano, playing ping pong and visiting my extended family.

For the record, it isn't cheap to send your child unaccompanied. In addition to the regular airfare, United and American Airlines charge an additional $100 each way, while Southwest charges half that: $50 each way (and two bags of luggage fly free). Since Zoe is only going for 4 nights, we didn't end up checking any luggage. Instead, she rolled aboard with a small child's suitcase and a backpack packed with 2 Boxcar Children paperbacks, a couple of snacks, a pack of gum and an iPod Touch with headphones. I'd also tucked her birth certificate in there, but we were never asked to show it.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A guide to buying last minute gifts at Walgreens

This is my Walgreens
Thanks to Walgreens for underwriting this post. I was paid as a member of the Clever Girls Collective, but the content is all mine. Visit http://www.walgreens.com/beauty.

Walgreens might not be the first (or even the third) place you'd think to shop for holiday gifts, but they're convenient and they're open late on Christmas Eve and again on Christmas. If you need a last-minute gift, you could do a lot worse. Provided you stay out of the "seasonal" aisle.

Isn't it lovely?
I happen to live 2 blocks from one of the newly redesigned Walgreens stores, so going to Wags is actually a pleasure for me now. Gone are the cluttered aisles and singing fish--instead we have bins of fresh bananas, a clinic and a tidy beauty department where I stock up on Goody hair elastics. Pretty much weekly.

And thus I present to you: The Marketing Mommy Last-Minute Beauty Shopping Guide, gift suggestions heavily influenced by what I like.

Idea 1: Create a Curly Girl Method Gift Basket
Help the curly girl in your life embrace her ringlets with Curly Girl Method-approved products. Pick up a sulfate-free shampoo like L'Oreal EverSleek Sulfate-Free or a co-wash like Suave Milk and Honey Conditioner. Add in a more moisturizing conditioner like L'Oreal EverPure Conditioner, big bottle of L.A. Looks Gel (oh, yeah) and a microfiber towel.

Idea 2: Buy the Upscale Stuff
No one will know you did your holiday shopping at Walgreens (not that there's anything wrong with that) if you buy their more upscale, beautifully-packaged lines like Fekkai, Yes to Carrots, Burt's Bees and Essie nail polish. My account director is sporting Essie's Bobbing for Bobbles, a dark bluish-slate shade, today and it is quite the talk of the office. Throw a ribbon and a gift tag on a bottle of Essie and you've got a hip hostess/colleague gift for under $10.

Idea #3: Power Toothbrush
Buy someone (okay, a close relative) an Oral-B power toothbrush. My mom bought one for me and Josh 10 years ago and we only just replaced it (with this one, actually). Your loved ones deserve the gift of immaculately clean teeth. Seriously, we've been getting kudos from our dentist every six months. 

Idea #4: Pick up a gift pack
Full disclosure: as part of my job as a creative director, I was responsible for helping design and market P&G's beauty lovely multi-brand gift packs. They've been priced at just under $10 at Walgreens and that's a pretty tremendous value--especially if you consider the booklet of coupons inside. So whether you use a lot of P&G products (think Olay, Secret, Venus) and want to stock up for yourself, or whether you want to get a gift pack to have on hand for that "oh shoot I forgot to get something for the babysitter/coach/neighbor" moment, they're a deal and they don't even need to be wrapped.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Nice cream for a cause

Illinois state regulators have made it impossible to operate a small, artisanal food business and one company is fighting back. Nice Cream is a small batch ice cream company with just 3 employees--while they've stopped production--they are looking to raise money to lobby the governor's office to change their rules so that small-batch companies don't have to follow all the same regulations as large-scale manufacturers.

As a Chanukah present to me, Josh donated $100 to their Kickstarter fund. In exchange, we were offered a custom flavor of Nice Cream--anything we could dream up. Fresh from our trip to Wisconsin, where I fell in love with Left Hand Milk Stout, I asked for a Chocolate Milk Stout ice cream with toffee and shortbread.

Four pints were hand delivered (along with a personal note complimenting my creativity) and I tucked into a dish after roller derby last night.

It was--far and away--the best ice cream I've ever had. If you're looking for a truly unique holiday gift (particularly for the activist-minded Chicagoan), I don't think you can do better than this.

Monday, December 12, 2011

And a glass of red wine

I was congratulating myself on a productive evening. Josh left to go see Wilco as soon as dinner was over. I loaded the dishwasher, put the leftovers in the fridge, read stories, supervised baths and put two "not tired" kids to bed. Then I sorted through old toys and puzzles, posted "free" and "for sale" notices, wrapped gifts for two out of three weekend birthday parties and straightened the living room rug. I addressed holiday cards for the overly ambitious folks who had already sent us theirs and put away the laundry.

Then I cut myself a wedge of brie, poured a glass of wine and grabbed the TVand Roku remotes. Of course, because I'm me, my glass of vino hadn't been set down for more than 30 seconds before I knocked it off its perch and into the wall, shattering it and splashing aromatic red liquid and tiny shards all over the wall, cabinet and floor.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

On Daddy...

As a follow-up to asking Ada about me, Josh interviewed both girls with the same questions about himself.

1. What is something Daddy always says to you?
Ada: “I love you.”
Zoe: “Go to your room.” 
2. What makes Daddy happy?
Ada: “Smiling and me being happy.” 
Zoe: “When we’re good.” 
3. What makes Daddy sad?
Ada: “Being bad.”
Zoe: “When we’re crying.”
4. How does Daddy make you laugh?
Ada: “Tickling me!”
Zoe: “Sitting on me.” 
5. What was Daddy like as a child?
Ada: “Being good for his momma.”
Zoe: “Had curly hair.” 
6. How old is Daddy?
Ada: “25”
Zoe: “36” 
7. How tall is Daddy?
Ada: “100!”
Zoe: “Hmm, maybe four foot seven or eight? Is that right?”
8. What is Daddy’s favorite thing to do?
Ada: “Work at home when I’m at school.” 
Zoe: “Write on the computer.” 
9. What does Daddy do when you’re not around?
Ada: “Work on the computer” 
Zoe: “Eat.”
10. If Daddy becomes famous, what will it be for?
Ada: “Being a scientist.” 
Zoe: “His articles being in the newspaper a lot.” 
11. What is Daddy really good at?
Ada: “Being on the computer.” 
Zoe: “Guitar.” 
12. What is Daddy not very good at?
Ada: “Ice skating.” 
Zoe: “Rollerskating.” 
13. What does Daddy do for his job?
Ada: “Help Zoe do her homework.” 
Zoe: “Daddy goes to concerts and then writes about them.” 
14. What is Daddy’s favorite food?
Ada: “Chicken.” 
Zoe: “Tied between chicken and fish. I mean, salad and fish!”
15. What makes you proud of Daddy?
Ada: “To cuddle with you.” 
Zoe: “He’s the funniest daddy in the whole wide world.”
16. If Daddy were a cartoon character, who would he be?
Ada: “A mermaid.” 
Zoe: “Charlie Brown. Or Scooby-Doo.” 
17. What do you and Daddy do together?
Ada: “Eat yummy lunch.” 
Zoe: “Go to museums with Hank.”

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

21 Questions with Ada

Pippi braidsAlthough I've interviewed the girls before (and posted their answers--though I'm too lazy now to comb my blog for the links), I was inspired by this post on DailyBuzz Moms and asked Josh to question four-year-old Ada about me over lunch the other day.

I was at work and laughed out loud when the answers came back.

1. What is something Mommy always says to you?
I love you.
2. What makes Mommy happy?
When I'm happy.
3. What makes Mommy sad?
When I yell and scream.
4. How does Mommy make you laugh?
She tickles me.
5. What was Mommy like as a child?
Hmm, being nice?
6. How old is Mommy?
Uh, 14.
7. How tall is Mommy?
8. What is Mommy's favorite thing to do?
Go to work.
9. What does Mommy do when you're not around?
Eat lunch.
10. If Mommy becomes famous, what will it be for?
Washing the dishes? [Someone alert the media if I wash the dishes--it is a very rare occurrence.]
11. What is Mommy really good at?
Making me Valentines.
12. What is Mommy not very good at?
Cutting out feet. [This is probably in reference to the poor job I do cutting out the feet of paper dolls.]
13. What does Mommy do for a job?
She does work.
14. What is Mommy's favorite food?
15. What makes you proud of Mommy?
When I hug her.
16. If Mommy were a cartoon character, who would she be?
A princess.
17. What do you and Mommy do together?
Go to the supermarket where there's doughnuts. [No idea what she's talking about here.]
18. How are you an Mommy the same?
We both have brown hair.
19. How are you and Mommy different?
We both have different clothes.
20. How do you know Mommy loves you?
She kisses me.
21. Where is Mommy's favorite place to go?
Rollerskating. [This took four tries, at my prodding, after "work," "Super Tony's" and "a concert." --Josh]

Stay tuned. Josh asked both girls the same questions about himself and I'll be posting that gem of an interview soon.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Downtown Oak Park Cookie Walk: It's like treat or treating for grown-ups

Downtown Oak Park has hosted a Winterfest cookie walk for a few years, but this was the first year we participated. It's actually kind of a genius idea--the merchants association sells shoppers a large, branded tin and then you get to stop into all the participating shops and get a single cookie from each one.

Many of the stores are places we regularly frequent (The Book Table, Sugar Fixe, Pumpkin Moon and Penzey's Spices), but there were a few new restaurants and some retail outlets I've never been to before, so experiencing them in a casual and friendly way let me get a glimpse around without feeling guilty about leaving fairly quickly. It seems like a good marketing strategy too--get a lot of shoppers milling around downtown Oak Park and popping into every shop on Lake Street and Marion. What surprised me was how few merchants included a shop sticker, coupon or flier with their cookie. Most handed out cookies from Bleeding Heart Bakery, Prairie Bread Kitchen and Cheryl's--all lovely local treats, but why not staple a 20% off store coupon to that baggie?

Even before they got their faces painted with Stars of David and dreidels at Potbelly's it was a lot of fun for the girls--particularly after they figured out a method of receiving treats that maximized both of their participation. The highlight of the day, aside from running into friends, was watching a sleight of hand magician use Zoe as his assistant.

Also, it was about 50 degrees out there. Where's winter? It's December!