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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Prepping for our First Thanksgiving

This year we will be hosting our first Thanksgiving feast!


Instead of going home to St. Louis like we do for every major holiday, we finally convinced our parents to make the trek to Chicago so that we could try our hand at making the family meal. It will be bittersweet since we will miss out on seeing our extended families that day, but now that we are married and have a ton of things which we registered for that we never use, I really wanted to start taking our turn at hosting it. Plus, now that my sister lives in Chicago as well, my parents have one more reason to come up north.

Last weekend, armed with 11 Bed Bath & Beyond 20% off coupons which I collected over the year, we picked up some extra odds-and-ends we'd need for the big day like a baster, a pie keeper and a few more things.

One of them was this great Counter Art Bamboo Carving Board:

I can't want to make my first turkey and carve it on our new board with our nice, Wustof carving knifes.

Another good find, was The Nifty 3-Tier Oven Rack.

I never would have thought of this, but I think this will come in extra handy for keeping multiple dishes warm at once on one half of the oven, while still having a large turkey on the bottom rack of the other half. At most Thanksgiving dinners, each of our family members have always been responsible for bringing different dishes and casseroles in a pot-luck fashion, but since I will be hosting out of town guests this year, our parents won't have an additional oven and prep space so that won't be possible. Thus, this will allow me to have more things in my oven simultaneously.

Another find was at the Crate & Barrel Outlet. I just think these are adorable. Dave thinks they are silly which is why I initially took them off of our registry last year, but now that we are officially hosting a meal requiring gravy I just had to get my hands on these super-cute Individual Gravy Boats from Crate & Barrel:


Besides being adorable, I also think these are practical and eliminate the need for reaching across the table or waiting for the graving boat to be passed around, resulting in immediate gravy gratification :-). Plus, they are only $1.95 each.

Now that we have all of the supplies it's time to start planning our menu. I will be preparing a dinner for eight and am just starting to brainstorm some recipe options. If any of you have delicious Thanksgiving recipes to share, please leave comments with recipes or links!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Tall Boots for Big Gams

Call them "Athletic", "Wide" or just plain "Large" but my calves do not fit in to just any pair of mid-calf or knee-high boots. You might remember my trials and tribulations just trying to find rain boots last year and I finally just gave up on new boots all together last season.


This was so especially upsetting because once you realize you have big calves and subject yourself to a limited search for "Wide Shaft" or "Wide Calf" boots you get stuck with just a few options of unstylish, frumpy looking boots that are as wide at the ankle as they are at the top.

HELLO! I didn't say I had cankles, too! Just what I would like to consider well developed calves from years of playing soccer and volleyball. Thank you very much. And even if I do have "larger than average" gams, they deserve to look stylish and trendy too.

Well, after a little more education and actually measuring my calf circumference, I set out again this season on the search for tall boots that fit my legs AND maybe would even allow me to tuck in some jeans for the first time ever.

The good news is that I have had success now that Zappos.com, endless.com and a few other online retailers have caught on to my dilemma and began adding shaft circumference to their product details! Zappos' search function is much more robust in this area, so I had luck finding many great options simply by typing in "16.50" circumference", etc.

So now I search for boots that have at least a 15.50" circumference and above. Through trial and error I found that going 1"-1.5" larger than that allows some additional room for knee socks or a pant leg and 15.50" exactly will leave room only for my calf and a pair of tights to wear with skirts & dresses.

So my first stylish pair to reveal are the Jessica Simpson Grella boots in Mud Brown:


The shaft facts: 15.50" circumference. 15.50" shaft height.

Jessica must be getting sensitive to fellow ladies with curves ;-) Being that these are a pull on style, with no zipper or elastic venting at the top, this will be one of those "fits like a glove" pairs that I will wear with skirt & dresses, and probably tights. The leather is soft and the color is rich, giving much more variance and dimension than this photo shows. I am excited to wear these soon! Also, my co-worker told me that she has a cobbler that actually adds in an elastic vent to some of her boots, who knew you could do that?! So if I really wanted to try it, I could see what a shoe guy could make happen, but I think I'm happy with the way they are now. Why mess with close to perfection?

Next, is a surprising find, Naturalizer Brommsly Wide Shaft boots in Black Leather:


The shaft facts: 17.00" circumference. 15.50" shaft height.

WOW! This pair of boots is perfect. Comfort. Style. AND I wore them already and was able to fit my calf, my knee sock and my skinny jeans into them without looking like a stuffed sausage! SUCCESS! Plus, they are skinny at the ankle, so they look tailored as opposed to frumpy. The ankle detailing is also very cute. I wore these puppies from 7:30am on Friday until 11pm that night, and can say with certainty that the Naturalizer comfort factor is still upheld in these boots. They actually inspired me to write my first ever Zappos review!

Lastly, with my new found knowledge of circumference and recent boot luck, I'm debating giving Hunter Wellies one last try.

You see, before I was only ordering the women's wellies style which only have a 15.00" circumference:


But now I realize that the Men's version is actually unisex and has a 17.00" circumference, which could be perfect!:


Look just about the same, right? Of course, the unisex ones have much fewer color choices but I do think that classic green is still a nice option. I think I will order them and see what happens!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Florence: The Food

Our second stop on our tour of Italy was the beautiful City of Florence.


This felt like a whirlwind because we were only there 2 nights, the shortest stay of our trip. But between the food and the history, I think it needs a few posts.

First, we checked into our hotel, the gorgeous Hotel Principe:

Which faces the Arno River:

And has a beautiful back yard garden:

AND had a balcony on our room (the only one all trip!) with a view of the famous Duomo:

Next, we boarded a bus to Chianti for a tour of the wine region, where we stopped in a few different towns which I'll explain in another post.

The next morning we woke up and headed to meet our tour guide, Eliza, for our Taste Florence tour... one of our favorite parts of our trip!

Our meeting point was in front of the Basilica San Lorenzo:

Which was steps away from the Central Market, San Lorenzo Mercato Centrale, where our wonderful food journey began. We saw yummy things like fresh made pasta:


And not so yummy things like tripe and testicles:


But then Eliza led us through a wonderful wine, bruschetta, cheese and balsamic tasting at Conti in the market. We bought lots of great things to take home from this store!:




After educating our palettes we headed off to learn more about gelato... mmmm. We learned that the bigger, fluffier and more vibrant the gelato in the window the more artificial it probably is! Bright coloring agents and chemicals are what make it glow and make it stand a foot tall in the 90 degree weather. Instead, natural color gelato that looks even, possibly a bit melty and scoopable is what you want to go for. We got our fill at a cute little gelateria called "Perche no!...", meaning "Why not!" which I think is just a perfect name and sentiment:

Here, we tried EIGHT flavor combinations:


If you thought the food tour would be done by now, your are wrong! Our last top was Enoteca Alessi where we learned all about Tuscan wines in a cool, cellar atmosphere and paired our wine with different salume and bruschetta:



Phew! Hungry yet? Well now that I've worked up your appetite I'll follow up my post with another post full of gorgeous photos of the Duomo and other Florence (non-food related) sites.

Buon Appetito!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Today's Chop

I didn't want to be that girl that chopped her hair all off as soon as she got married, but 11 months after it was about time to do so!


Before, taken 2 months ago:


After, taken on my iPhone today post-cut:

It's amazing what a few highlights and losing 8 inches will do! I can't wait to cut all of that time off of washing and drying my hair in the mornings, though I'll probably make up for it in having to actually style it now.

What do you think?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Venice

The first stop on our tour of Italy was Venice.


Well, technically that is not true; we first landed in Munich, Germany and then hopped a short 1 hour flight to Venice with some of the most AMAZING views of the trip. Can you believe I captured these photos from my window seat?





Then we got transfered to our water taxi:


And we arrived at our beautiful accommodations, Hotel Santa Marina. We had breakfast on this veranda every morning (best espresso & coffee we had all trip!) and then we had night caps here most evenings as well.


Our hotel was a nice stroll from the major sites, including the Rialto Bridge:






We also took a gondola ride and saw many gorgeous things:





We also ate very well, with great views while doing so:



And we had some of the best pizza I have ever tasted. My favorite was Pizza Diavola, the Italian version of pepperoni pizza with a spicy salami on top:


Overall, Venice ended up surprising us as one of our favorite, most stunning stops all trip. It is quite a magical place, romantic and unique. With the absence of motor vehicles and lots of narrow walkways to get lost in, you would never believe how quiet and serene the whole city is which just adds to its appeal.

Next up, we board our train to Florence...


Arrivederci!

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I'm a St. Louis native, but I have been living in Chicago since 2005 and am loving every windy minute of it. I enjoy cooking (more-so eating), home decorating and really anything creative. I'm a supporter of DIY & handmade goods, a fledgling foodie and a connoisseur of kitsch. I spend my days filling online shopping carts, emptying them and repeating the process all over again. Most of all I love spending time with my husband, Dave, our first child, Claire and my dog, Louie.

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