Chitown shoes

A good pair of shoes on a man can be a deal breaker.  When I first moved to the Midwest from New York one of the first judgemental and superficial things I noticed were these hybrid men dress shoes.  Half loafer and half sneaker, they may even have laces, and the owner was most likely not wearing them because of orthopedic issues.  These shoes are bad.  I used to work in fundraising which for whatever reason is a female dominated workplace.  A coworker once said he was looking for a new pair of dress shoes and showed another female colleague and myself these rubber disasters.  We told him we were doing him and his girlfriend a favor, and no way could he buys those shoes.  I am sorry people, but they are bad.

There are so many great, simple and comfortable men's shoe options.  These cannot be an answer.  And, in Chicago many people have to commute in boots, so if you get to your workplace and then put on this geriatric cheesiness I don't know what to say!

Enter the Oak Street Bootmaker.  This is a wonderful family-owned Chicago men's shoemaker.  They are not bargain basement prices, but a good pair of shoes is well worth their money, especially if you have a good cobbler.  If not - find one, they will become a good friend.  I have a pair of black flats that should have been put to rest years ago that I keep taking back to the cobbler and he resurrects them to my amazement every time.  Back to Oak Street Bootmaker - the founder carried on this business from his father and all of the shoes are made in the USA.  "The highest standards of production are employed to yield shoes that are as durable as they are comfortable. Each pair makes use of replaceable outsoles, a feature normally reserved for formal footwear, to ensure a lifetime of wear."

They are not bad to look at too.  All-American and classic, they appeal to a wide range of tastes, ages, and interests.

Hello again!

Hi few dear readers,

Sorry for the MIA business.  I hope everyone is preparing for the holidays and looking forward to some cheer, family time, a nice meal, dressing up your pet in a cute hat (these all may be things I am looking forward to).  Living in a warm place is REALLY throwing my personal calendar off.  I am not directly complaining that it has been 78 and sunny for the past two weeks, but this is not December in my experience!  I am glad to be taking off to a snowy locale to celebrate Christmas to maybe check myself in that it will be January 1 in less than ten days.

I don't know how people really keep track of time if they have lived in a warm weather place for many years, the time blends!  I was talking with a friend about it when I was home for Thanksgiving and she made a funny and I think somewhat true comment.  "I don't think I could live somewhere like that, I need to live somewhere where to weather makes me suffer somewhat during the year."  Now the heat is nothing to mess with during the summer in South Florida, but it is the total opposite of when I "appreciate" good weather.  In Chicago everyone buckles down during the winter with the holidays, the Blackhawks, and a decent amount of drinking getting them through to the wonder of a Chicago summer.

This is not to say that I do not LOVE being able to walk out my door in shorts and t-shirt to walk the dog at all hours.  I never have an excuse not to go on a run, and really enjoying being outside!   I also do not think my legs have ever been this shade in December.

So I hope everyone has a great holiday and enjoys the people around them!

xo, katherine


In a pinch

I just came across this ingredient substitution table from allrecipes.com.  I needed to know what to substitute for shortening for the ginger cookies.  I have been to two grocery stores today, forgot to get this ingredient and I am not making a third trip.  You can copy-paste this into a Word table and it would be a great quick reference put up in your cabinet or pantry.  Happy cooking!

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Comedic relief

All this squawking about the holidays being a magical time of year is true.  For some.  For others it can be stressful, lonely, even sad.  The build up of the seasons by the media, our friends, coworkers may make one feel guilty about "not getting into it."  But, if someone is experiencing something negative or sad, the holidays have a way of exacerbating those feelings.  Loss, sickness, family strife, and general sadness can all take an extra toll during the holidays.

My advice would to be as active as you can possibly be, talk to those who provide you support, and buy this book.  No, it is not an advice book.  It is a hilarious darkly funny book of short stories by David Sedaris about the holidays.  I read it only last year, yet thought to myself, I really could have used this when I was having a tougher holiday a few years ago.  That is because tears from laughing so hard as he describes being a holiday elf at Macy's in New York City (Sedaris actually was one) were falling down my cheeks.  He also has a hilarious and kind of sick short story about a family that will do anything to make the perfect holiday newsletter to send out each year.  It really makes you laugh at all the hoopla and sit back and value what you think is important for the next couple of weeks.  So if you have a friend who you know might not be gunning for the holidays quite as much as the rest, give them this book.  They need to have a slightly dark sense of humor - you've been warned.  It'll hopefully provide them with some relief in not feeling guilty about not caring as much about trimming the tree this year.  It's ok, really.

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Nice one

As much as I love the holidays, I also love this -

Don't be empty handed

This holiday season you will probably be invited to someone's house for dinner, drinks, a party, maybe even a week long stay.  Your host most likely spent time and effort preparing for your visit and the gracious guest should always try to arrive with something in hand to give as thanks for the invitation. Allow me to channel my inner White Gloves and Party Manners.

This is where "the present drawer" comes in handy. (I will post on this, probably at length, another day.)   In short, the present drawer is where one keeps some extra candles, hand soaps, small picture frames in hand in case there's a last minute "oh sh-t" moment right before you head out the door.  People - don't allow your present drawer to be bare.  See a candle you like on sale - buy 2, notice a nice set of dish towels is half off- grab it.  Because inevitably you will forget to get something, or your spouse will mention that tomorrow night we need to go to my boss' home for drinks and you're booked solid from now until then.  Also, remember to keep some nice note cards to accompany the said present in the said drawer.

For now, here are a couple things I think are nice gifts to bring to a host of a holiday get together.  A bottle of wine is alway safe, but I say get them something more personal and fun (maybe throw in some wine with it for good measure anyways).  If you are staying the night I think the gift should be a bit more substantial, as overnight stays require more effort and time spent by the host.  (Overnight stay gifts to come later this week...)

Candles are a great option.  They come in a wide range of prices and (in my opinion) it is hard to have too many scented candles.  The first two items are from Anthropologie.  I think a pine scent is nice for the holidays, and the small votive holders (only $8 a pop) would be a nice present if you snagged 3 or 4 as a gift.  The last candle is from Calypso, which has lovely scents and packaging.

Claus Porto is a great soap brand.  Portuguese, founded in 1887, Claus Porto soaps are luxurious, have wonderful presentation, and make a great gift.  These almost-paper thin guest soaps are wonderful.  They are small enough that the host can change the soap before each gathering as they please and not feel wasteful.  It almost feels like opening a box of fine macaroons but without the calories.  These soap boxes are under $20 each and a lovely gift. 

Coffee tables books are also hard to have too many of in my mind.  It is a great way to give an easy, personal gift to someone.  Maybe you pick out a place you have taken a trip with the host in years past or have flirted with traveling to in the future.  It shows you know their interests, and is fun to look at with them if you have the time.

Enjoy the parties!

Images via 


Ginger alert

No I am not referring to a missing person.  (P.S. Is everyone aware of what a silver alert is?  I was not.  Until I moved to Florida.)

In any event, I am obsessed with ginger.  Sweet, savory, cut up pieces in hot water for a simple tea  - you name it.  So when Bon Appetit's Holiday cookie a day recipe appeared today, I may have squealed a wee bit.  The recipe is a triple threat - raw, powered, and crystallized ginger are required for these tasty delights.  (Note: you can find good, inexpensive crystallized ginger at World Market.)  We're having people over this weekend for a small party and I will be making these Chewy Ginger Cookies for the spread.  But not until Friday, otherwise I may consume all 48 prior to the party.

Image via bon appetit

Line drawn.

This is not a place to get into politics or touchy issues.  I know there are wide opinions on toys for kids in terms of gender issues, body image issues, the works.  But on Saturday morning I was on sitting at the island in our kitchen with the TV on in the background.  It had been left on since earlier, and kids cartoons were on and I had not bothered to get up and change it.  Obviously since 'tis the season most commercials were for toys.  This one commercial left me with my mouth open.

I studied public health, interned at anti-obesity organizations when in grad school, and still volunteer and advocate for children's nutritional improvement in America.  I do believe there is an epidemic of childhood obesity in this country.  And, Goliath's Pop the Pig is not helping.  I will not go as so far as to say this toy promotes children eating until you explode, but that is the point of the game!  You win if you feed the pig so much until it does not pop, but the belly is as big as possible.  I was literally shocked and I may even write a letter as I'm watching this commercial.  This toy company should be slightly more self-aware of the current problems with this country's youth before it touts a game involving stuffing food down a plastic pig.  I'm sorry but I think it is irresponsible and also kinda gross. 


Sucker for mercury

I love mercury glass - votive holders, candlesticks, Christmas ornaments...I could go on.  I recently happened upon this lamp from Ballard Designs, the Bethany Accent lamp.  I think it's very attractive, wouldn't take up too much space on a small writing desk or entry hall table for an apartment and is reasonably priced.  You could buy two to flank a sideboard in an entry way and it would look pretty smart.  Ideally I would use a drum lamp shade instead of what they offer, but it works just fine as is.  Ballard has other mercury table lamp options to choose from, but this would be my top choice.