December 27, 2010

It's Crunch Time!!!

Yikes.  Six months ago I set out to accomplish 30 things before I turned 30.  Shucks is all I have to say!  There's a lot left on the list, but a few I may be able to cross off the list in the next two weeks, including:

1. Go to the Art Institute of Chicago. (Next week after work - the museum is free starting Jan. 3 during the week!) 

2. Hang the chandelier in my bedroom. (Will be done tomorrow) 

7. Eat in Chinatown.

9. Ice skate at Millennium Park.

11. Stay out until 4 a.m. one last time…. and live to tell about it.

22. Have a dog at Hot Doug’s.

25. Eliminate any credit card debt. (Sponsors?  Just kidding - I'm almost there.) 

26. Enjoy the view from the Tasting Room on a clear night.

27. Plan a vacation to Napa. (I'm working on it!) 

28. Conquer my fear of the yoga studio.

29. Capture Ukie Village neighborhood attractions with photos – the neon signs at Alcala’s, St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, etc.

Everything else is either seasonal or out of my control.... how much can I get done in 10 days?????

December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

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I have lots of projects and stories and news to share, but for now, I just wanted to wish everyone a very merry Christmas! I have been reminded of the true wonder and spirit of the holiday season this year, thanks to my niece and nephew. Through their young eyes, Christmas is a magical time of year and I feel so blessed to have been reminded of all the fun and beauty a white Christmas can hold. We’ve tracked Santa’s journey across the globe on Christmas Eve thanks to Google Earth, helped Grandma bake cookies (with LOTS of sprinkles), read countless stories of the birth of our Lord Jesus, and gazed upon Him lying in the manger at church on Christmas Eve.

Merry Christmas to one and all!

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November 3, 2010

Off to a Good Start

In more ways than one, November is off to a good start.  I have so much in the works, but the pieces are coming together!

What do you think of these pieces?

Premier Prints YellowGreyBird


I've got quite a few projects planned - reupholstering chairs, sewing a slipcover, painting some furniture and sewing new pillow covers.  I'm getting excited!!

October 31, 2010


Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween!

This was the view from my dining room today.  My mom made "Jack" on the wall and I made the table runner last year.  The card with my face on a  broom as a witch?  Yeah, my best friend's mom made that.  I think she meant well.  ;-)

October has been quite a whirlwind.  I've crossed a few things off my "30 before 30" list, one of my best friends got married and that's just the start of it.  I've got A LOT up my sleeve (hence the premature "Congratulations" card), so please stay tuned!!

October 25, 2010

Are you or anyone you know looking for an apartment in Chicago???

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Are you or anyone you know looking for an apartment in Chicago???

Located in quiet Ukrainian Village/West Town yet just blocks from hot restaurants, bars and shops in Wicker Park and Bucktown, this 2 bedroom, 1 bath plus den apartment is waiting for you. This place is just steps from Dominick’s grocery store, #50 Damen bus, #66 Chicago bus with easy street parking for you and guests.

Apartment blends vintage built-in, crown molding, original hardwood floors and arched doorways with modern amenities, including an updated kitchen with dishwasher and large, energy-efficient windows. Shared rooftop deck and private back patio offers ample outdoor living.

Additional features:
- Onsite laundry in basement
- Large, private storage unit in basement
- Utilities not included, with the exception of radiant heat and water
- Window A/C provided for tenant during summer months
- Rehabbed kitchen featuring up-to-date cabinetry and appliances, including gas stove, refrigerator and dishwasher
- Small, 3-unit walk-up building
- Front entry unit
- Patio/deck/balcony
- Dining room
- Cable-ready

Apartment was featured on earlier this year! Check it out:

Sublet through April 30, 2011 for $1,250 per month. Option to sign one-year lease also available for $1,300 – your choice! Building is owner-occupied. Security deposit of $1,250. Email me through the "Contact me" button for exact address, set up an appointment or answer any questions. 

August 24, 2010

Summer Fun Update

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I crossed #19 off my 30 before 30 list with friends Angie and Aaron!  We caught an amazingly clear night and beautiful Brahms music played by the Grant Park Orchestra at Millennium Park.

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John took us out on the boat to listen to Zach Brown Band.  All I've got to say about my city is "She's got whatever is."  It was another beautiful night with friends, new and old. 

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Sweet corn and sparkling water for dinner - every night until I forget to go to the Farmer's Market.  There is NOTHING better than fresh sweet corn prepared with just a little butter and sea salt.

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Another great day on the boat for the Air and Water Show - it was too humid to get a lot of great shots like years past, but still a gorgeous day on the water and a view that would make the 2 million people who watched the show from land just a wee bit jealous. 

August 4, 2010

I'm a Confident Driver - Check!

I feel it's time to cross another item off my "30 before 30" list!  Number 20: Conquer my fear of driving in the city.   Well, I've driven to O'Hare and back during rush hour, driven to work a few times, been complimented on my parking by my father and compared to a cab driver by my mother.  That about settles that, doesn't it?  

I'm also a car OWNER now - did you hear?  I love my silver baby!! Only one scratch to date - but otherwise she's enjoying city life. 

My Wheels!

July 24, 2010

Virtual Open House!!!

I had the privilege of welcoming Apartment Therapy readers into my home yesterday for a virtual open house.  Blogger Jason Loper was a joy - and wrote the nicest article ever!!  If you haven't already seen it, please take a look at my house tour, as well as the many other amazing posts on the site!! 

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July 12, 2010

Blooming Walls for Renters

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Something's blooming around here, and it's certainly not the flowers on my back patio!  I purchased these fun wall decals from Byrdie Graphics on a few months ago, but was a bit nervous despite their claim that "landlords love them." What if mine would not?  Well, before the big photo shoot I decided it was now or never.  (The boss man upstairs hasn't seen them, but I'm rather confident they'll come down without any trouble if he ever gets my tight grip on this apartment loose.) 

It was more difficult than I had anticipated, but I love them just as much - or more - than I expected.  The room is finally coming together!!  It's seen quite a few iterations in the past year, but it's almost done.  Don't you think?  Here are a few more looks to show how the rest of the room has come together. 

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A beautiful Amy Butler wallpaper would be better, but I'm quite confident that would not be landlord approved - or pocketbook friendly. Amy will have to wait. Until then, I very much like my white blooms. It'll now always be springtime indoors, no matter what's going on outside on the streets of Chicago!

"Cute" Gets Its 5 Minutes

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Recently my guest room was featured as a "Flickr Find" on!!  If you haven't seen it already, do check it out!  Apparently there are a lot of people out there that have nothing better to do than write somewhat negative comments on ApartmentTherapy all day, but despite one commenter leaving multiple posts to say it was "too cute" for her taste, I had a great time with it and felt really honored to be discovered on the Internet!! 

And stay tuned.... I welcomed blogger and photographer Jason Loper from ApartmentTherapy into my home recently to shoot a full hour tour! 

June 28, 2010

Shayna's Mission Accomplished

My best friend came to town this weekend and promised to help me cross something off my list.  We did it!  Amy and Shayna, may I introduce my neighborhood watering hole, Tuman's.  Tuman's, please meet my lady friends.

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June 20, 2010

Elephant Ears!!

While home to visit the family this weekend I learned it happened to be the Wayne County Fair!  I may not enjoy tractor pulls or portable twirling rides, but my hometown fair reminds me of several fond memories.... long nights sewing 4-H projects and ELEPHANT EARS!!!

Noting the #14 on my list of things to do before my birthday, I decided it was necessary to drag the family to the fair for elephant ears on Father's Day before returning to the city.  After all, it was my dad who taught me to appreciate the fried dough goodness!

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One down, 29 to go!!

June 12, 2010

Brought to You by the Bandwagon

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If you haven't heard already, the Chicago Blackhawks have won the Stanley Cup for the first time in 49 years.  Now, I may be crazy, but I don't remember a whole lot of hoopla over hockey around here when I lived just a mile from United Center just two years ago.... but people have come out of the woodwork lately to cheer on our hometown hockey guys.  More than two million, in fact, came downtown for the parade yesterday.... and I wasn't going to stay in the office and miss it.  These photos don't even begin to describe the excitement, but I tried my best! 

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June 7, 2010

Tik Tok

As I'm sure you've noticed, my last blog post was my first in quite some time.  I've been really busy with my new job, but that's really not an excuse.  Time has just seemed to fly by this spring, and I have a feeling the next seven months will go by just as fast.  The next six, however, mark the end of my twenties - the true end of an era. 

To ensure my twenties don't escape without enjoying them to the max - I'm setting the following 30 goals to accomplish before the big, dreaded day seven months ahead: 

1. Go to the Art Institute of Chicago.

2. Hang the chandelier in my bedroom.

3. Cook one new recipe per month.

4. Go to a Bears game.

5. Have a constructive, positive six-month review at my new job.

6. Buy ice cream from the neighborhood ice cream man.

7. Eat in Chinatown.

8. Take the girls to Tuman’s.

9. Ice skate at Millennium Park.

10. Never hop on a scale, yet continue to "buff up" and stay fit. 

11. Stay out until 4 a.m. one last time…. and live to tell about it.

12. Do something that raises money for a charity close to my heart.

13. Cook with fresh herbs from my back porch garden.

14. Track down an elephant ear, even if it means going to the Wisconsin State Fair.

15. Take a cooking class.

16. Do something special for/with my Mamaw and Papaw Brock. 

17. Give a homemade present to everyone on my Christmas list. 

18. Eat ice cream at Margie’s Candies.

19. Go to a concert at Millennium Park.

20. Conquer my fear of driving in the city.

21. Blog, sew or photograph something at least one per week.

22. Have a dog at Hot Doug’s.

23. Play putt-putt at Grant Park.

24. Share my city with my niece, nephew and big brother.

25. Eliminate any credit card debt.

26. Enjoy the view from the Tasting Room on a clear night.

27. Plan a vacation to Napa.

28. Conquer my fear of the yoga studio.

29. Capture Ukie Village neighborhood attractions with photos – the neon signs at Alcala’s, St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, etc.

30. Be thankful for all those who have blessed my life in the past 30 years and have faith in what lies ahead in the next 30 years.

And to remind myself of this list, I have set my new phone's ringtone to Kei$ha's "Tik Tok."  You can all laugh at me, it's OK.

June 6, 2010

Squirrel Wars 2010: It's On

I finally planted flowers today.  And of course, before I was even finished, my squirrel neighbors were checking out the action.  You see, there are things people warn you about when you move to a big city:  be aware of your surroundings, don't give out your address to strangers, watch out for shady cab drivers.  No one, I mean NO ONE tells you that squirrels will ruin your potted plants because they have a hard time finding dirt in other places in which to bury their nutty treasures.

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Last year they fully uprooted all but two of the plants I potted.  This year, I think I'm ready for them.   I've got a modern version of a Geranium, a bit of ivy and something with darker leaves and red flowers in each of my hanging baskets.  What the red stuff is, I have no idea, but the lady at Sprout Home, my local hippie gardening spot, thought it would be perfect for a north-facing, shaded hanging basket.  I do not have a green thumb, so I took the lady's advice.  She won me over by suggesting the "Critter Ridder" spray I had already purchased at Ace Hardware.  Last year her colleagues told me how awful chemicals were for plants and animals, and suggested I use Cayenne pepper to ease my squirrel problem.... and we now all know how that turned out!

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She also told me marigolds were on squirrels' nasty list, so got a bunch of those to plant as well.  They're not my favorite, but if they'll ward off squirrels to keep my herbs alive, they are OK by me.

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Wish me luck in my quest to keep plants alive - and squirrel free - for the next 3 months!!!

March 23, 2010

Slacking Off!

Ever since I finished my quilt, I have had the ambition, but not the time and energy, to move on to my next project.  I got as far as to download a few patterns from the Internet for springtime clutch purses, but this is how far I’ve gotten in three weeks:
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What have I been up to?  Well, I’ve been obsessed with the zig zag/chevron pattern in these Anna Marie Horner quilts.  (And yes, that IS the same fabric line as the quilt I just finished.  One would think I’d want to look at a different material…. But I don’t!)

Anna-Maria Horner quilt
Photo courtesy of EarthGirl Fabrics on Flickr (quilt made using free Anna Marie Horner pattern.) 

I also had an unexpected visitor this weekend!  And the weekend before that was, well, festive, around here.  My Chicago friends take St. Patrick’s Day SERIOUS.  It’s a whole weekend of revelry. If you haven't ever seen our river green, please plan a trip up for 2011! 

March 8, 2010

Done and done!

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It was almost a year in the making, but this baby is finally complete!! It’s not perfect, but it was made by me, for me and I’m going to love it anyways.

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It all started out last winter.  You can read my first post here and my latest installments here and here

March 3, 2010

Let’s Do Some Math

I had to reevaluate my finances a few months ago to be more budget-friendly. Seeing as how on a day-to-day basis I already am accustomed to a rather economical lifestyle, cutting more corners was hard to do. In fact, I was rather certain nothing else could go, and my social life and decorating habit would soon fall victim to the reality that is our recession... and my need to renew my gym membership.


But, then I had a thought where many people at least pretend to have brilliant ideas, the coffee shop. As I stood there waiting for the barista to perfectly blend skim milk, vanilla syrup and overpriced espresso, I realized that at $5 pop, a small fortune was being spent on my latte habit. In fact, after a quick count of the fingers and toes I realized that I was spending around $100 per month on non-fat vanilla latte caffeine fixes. Yikes! What was a girl to do? I may take the bus with no shame anywhere and any time (before 9 p.m.), but I don’t drink regular coffee or instant lattes (eeewww). I also couldn’t fathom giving them up completely.


So, I decided it couldn’t be THAT hard to make your own tried and true latte with the right equipment. I researched espresso makers and put it on the top of my Christmas list. And, I have to say, it’s the best money my parents have spent on me in some time. It took a few weeks to get over my fear and catch the hang of it, but that latte fund is now my new gym membership each month – and instead of tempting me with baked goodie coffee add-ons, it’s slimming down the excesses created by said baked goods.


Here’s the breakdown of what my caffeine habit now costs: I buy the vanilla syrup at the neighborhood Dominick’s for less than $7 a bottle about once a month – and a bag of my favorite espresso from Intelligensia costs around $13 with tax.  I'm still on my first one, so I might get 3 months out of it!  In short, I’m spending pennies now and have the convenience of making my own lattes whenever I want, without the walk, wait or frustration of a barista not understanding the difference between a “skinny vanilla latte” and a “non-fat/skim vanilla latte.” (Trust me, there is a BIG difference.)

I'm rarely a proponent of math (although despite popular opinion when the check comes at the dinner table, I'm quite capable), but I've gotta say this is math I'm glad I did.  I'm now fattening my wallet and fitting into my skinny jeans!!

March 1, 2010


Quilt in Progress

Remember when I started this quilt last winter? I lusted over fabrics, scoured the Internet for a cool pattern, and giddily set myself to work cutting and piecing. I loved watching how all the different Anna Maria Horner fabrics came together. But once I got it that far, it was time to move on to packing, then unpacking, and then all the home decor and seasonal projects I've blogged about over the past year.  And I just haven't gotten back to it....until now!

There are a lot of things going on in my life this winter that I can't control, and my natural tendency when I feel like I'm not behind the wheel of my own life is to focus on something I can boss around until the job is done.  Quilt, hun, if you hadn't noticed, you're IT!

If all continues to go well, I'll be cuddling up in this puppy by the weekend! 

February 20, 2010

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Today is my momma's birthday. I know everyone thinks their mom is the best, but my mom really is. She is and always has been my rock, my friend and my role model... as well as my problem-solver, creative mastermind, baker, cake-decorator, seamstress and financier (he he he). She is the picture of patience, understanding and poise, and I couldn't imagine my life without her. Just about everything I write about on this blog is because of a skill she taught me or something she has encouraged me to pursue. Should I be blessed with kids someday, if I'm half the mom she has been, they will be lucky kiddos. I certainly am.

I love you, Mom!!!


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February 15, 2010

A Splash of Color

My master bedroom has already been through countless iterations since I moved in May.  I recently decided I wouldn't be happy with it until I...

a) painted the walls 
b) built a girlie canopy  
c) got a fabulous rug

Painting will not only require landlord permissions, but disassembling and moving my furniture out of the room for a few days, an incredibly tall ladder and probably $60 worth of paint.  Building a girlie canopy I thought would be easier, but alas, my idea with discount window sheers won't work without assembling hardware, which I'm not willing to do.   Something about hardware I installed myself above my head while I dream sweet dreams is not a restful thought!!  

So, I decided to lust after gorgeous rugs online and hope one was on clearance.  Well, it wasn't at all what I was looking for...

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This little guy was just over half off at $9.99 and most importantly, it made me laugh.  (If you haven't figured it out yet, the sole purpose for buying a lot of things is that it makes me laugh or smile spontaneously.)  So, I purchased it.  Wouldn't you know?  It made a HUGE difference over the grey rug that used to be there!!!    

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I've decided color is exactly what that room needs, and maybe I could get by with it not being on the walls after all.  I'm going to try my hardest to save up a little cash and scout clearance sections so I can buy a bit of colorful bedding.  Stay tuned!!  

February 12, 2010

I melted.

I’ve always felt loved by my family. Their greatness stands the test of time and trial, for sure. But this past week, they’ve also proven to be the cutest, most creative family EVER!

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First, my mom sent me a bunch of Valentine’s Day goodies, along with this amazing hand-crafted snowman runner made from old quilts from my grandmothers. I love the vintage fabrics and the history behind it…. even if I’m not sure if previous generations of Garens or Shirdens made the quilts or if my Grandma Garen picked them up at a farm auction (she was a bargain queen suitable for “Hoarders” I’m sure), but either way, it holds a very special meaning – and my momma made it, too! So, I melted a little when I got to display it in my home.

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But it doesn’t stop there! Last night I came home to second package from Indiana! In it I found a lot of homemade “Goodies by Nikki” fabulousness from my sis-in-law.

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But wait - one last thing! This made me totally, completely melt. I love you too, A.J. and Zoe!!! I hope they know that in their aunt's eyes, they will always, truly be my little angels! This magnet will now ALWAYS be on my fridge!!!

Happy Valentine’s Day! I’m not typically one to really appreciate the romantic sentiment of the holiday, but it is a nice excuse to take a moment out of our busy lives to show each other how much we care, and to remember how much, even us single girls, are loved by our family, our friends, and of course God!!

I hope everyone reading this feels as loved as I do today!

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. - John 15:12-13

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 8:38-39

We love him, because he first loved us. - John 4:19

February 9, 2010

Dealing with the White Stuff

In Chicago, we get pounded by a blizzard and you know what?  Everyone hikes up their Hunter boots and keeps on moving, even despite a totally dysfunctional public transit system!  This city is hard core and I LOVE it.  This morning everyone got to work, and tonight, everyone got home.  It was a slow commute, but we made it happen.  

As I type, the snow is still coming down and I can hear a cab laboring to pull away after dropping off my downstairs neighbor (I assume... we're really the only two on the block that take cabs frequently) and there's another neighbor shoveling.   The city never sleeps!  After growing up in an area that freaks when the four-letter s-word is used in a weather forecast, it's refreshing to see an entire city buck up and take the winter weather by the horns.  I'm proud of my city.  And after six years of residence and finding my way through the snow this morning without falling flat on my face (because I couldn't tell where the curbs were under all the snow), I think I can claim Chicago as my own.    

In the coming days I'll share yet another iteration of my master bedroom decor, the progress I'm making on my quilt (finally) and a few projects I'm working on for others, including curtains for Covenant's nursery.  I've been quiet because I've been working on a far less exciting endeavor - project get in shape for spring weddings.  It's coming along slowly but surely and I'm trying to recall how to balance this ball in the air along with all the others.  

Happy snow days to those of you who aren't Chicagoans!!    

January 27, 2010

When Life Throws You Faux Lemons - Do You Throw Them Back?

My natural gut reaction to fake flowers in home decorating is “no.” I simply don’t like how they collect a lot of dust. But, I realize that I’m not against other faux botanicals, specifically lemons and limes and pussy willows. So what do you think – are faux’s a yeah or a neigh?

My near-obsession started with lemons. I lack the flower gene and didn’t want the fake ones within a certain radius of my house, so I was forced to think outside the vase a bit. I knew I wanted a second splash of yellow in the room to compliment my favorite chair, and somehow, I can’t remember how, I thought of lemons. So, I waited for the half-off cycle at Hobby Lobby to turn to the flower department and I bought myself a bunch of high-quality faux lemons. (Trust me, you don't buy real fruit in downtown Chicago and tote it home for LOOKS. It's all typically just too expensive and far too close to spoiling for that, you can take my word on it!)

But the fake ones on the other hand, those puppies last. Flash forward seven months and those lemons are still living happily in my tall glass vase and have yet to smell, require extensive cleaning (only the occasional dusting) and have tricked more than one houseguest into thinking they’re the real deal. This week I added faux limes into the mix in the neighboring bowl that had once housed glass Christmas ornaments. They’re not fooling me as well and I’m not sure why – but the bowl looks plain stupid empty. And my attempt at real ones, well, that literally stunk.

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Any thoughts? I’m stumped, but I want to use my bowl there for two very important reasons: I love it and well, I love it.
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