Author Archives: Shannon Shirley

Local & Organic Produce – Delivery, Grocery, Markets

Since Ava came into our lives, I have become even more aware and concerned about what we are putting in our stomachs and calling food.  We are limiting our intake of red meat and when we do serve up some steaks, we make sure they come from a farm [usually local] that practices responsible and sustainable farming for the least impact on the environment and our bodies.  We also try our best to purchase organic produce and prefer local, but especially in the winter months, that can be difficult.  Then I did a search for local produce delivery and farmers markets and came across more options than I imagined.  [If you are not in the Chicago area, I suggest doing your own search to see what's available to you ... and I would love to hear about your own local organic groceries and markets!]  Our family will be trying each one out over the next couple of months and I’ll be sure to let you know about our experiences.

Irv and Shelly’s Fresh Picks. Chicago residents and parents of two, Irv & Shelly, started this year round local delivery service to help local independent farmers prosper by bringing fresh, chemical free, and delicious food directly into our homes.  In addition to seasonal produce boxes, you can also make a la carte selections from an assortment of fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy, eggs, and more.  We recently tried this service out and were very pleased.  We chose a double box of veggies for $25 [which included lettuce, radishes, scallions, potatoes, tomatoes, an eggplant, marinara sauce, a green pepper, and some mushroom patties], a few apples, some bok choy, whole wheat flour, blueberries, and tofu.  The delivery guy was super friendly and took the time to explain the drop off process to me and when I realized our mushroom patties had been left out, they were quick to get back to me and offer to drop them in our next order or give us a refund.  So far, we have only used the potatoes, scallions, and lettuce and they were delicious.

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Newleaf Natural Grocery. Strong advocates of supporting local farms, this grocery stocks their shelves with as many local goods as they can get their hands on.  They offer a variety of grass fed meats, fresh produce, fair trade coffee and bulk foods, and a hefty raw foods selection.  They offer six different box varieties for pick-up or delivery and this is next on our list to try!  Located at 1261 W. Loyola Ave.

Natural Direct. This grocery service serves the greater Chicago area and seems to have the largest selection of locally grown and organic foods that you can have delivered to your door.  You can customize your own order or choose one of their weekly boxes [they even have a grass-fed meat box!].  The site is easy to navigate and there is a pretty substantial list of grocery items in addition to the meat, produce, dairy, etc.  I’ll give you more details after we try it out.

Green Grocer Chicago. Although as far as I can tell, they don’t deliver, Green Grocer does have a produce box subscription.  There are two sizes available [$15 / $28] and you get a mix of local and organic veggies and fruits that you can pick up at their store every Wednesday.  I have yet to visit the store, but from what I hear they have a great selection.  I’m going to try to check it out sometime this week.  Located at 1402 W. Grand Ave.

Green City Market. This farmers market in Lincoln Park is the city’s most popular destination for local farm shopping.  During the winter months, you can visit it indoors at the Peggy Notebart Museum and the next date is February 13th [meat & potatoes].  There is no option for delivery, but it’s worth the trip and you get to meet some of the farmers and sample the goods and there is always some treat you didn’t expect to find – like chef demonstrations and little festivals.  Check out their site for a calendar of events.

And while I was looking into all of these local food sources, I came a cross The Local Beet – a site full of forums and blog posts all about “a practical approach to local eating”.  Check it out!!!

Upcycled Vintage Suitcase Ideas

I love the look of old luggage – it has so much character, so many stories to tell.  But what do you do with it?  Many vintage suitcases are too heavy or too musty to use for packing clothes.

So why not turn it into a pet bed?!  This idea falls into the category of “I could totally make that …. but I won’t”.  There are several different styles of these vintage suitcase pet beds at Love-Nostalgic-Whimsy on Etsy!

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The Love-Nostalgic-Whimsy store has several other upcycled vintage suitcase items for sale, including this retro looking side table.

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A vintage suitcase filing cabinet?!  Love it!  Courtesy of Poetic Home.

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Another side table idea – this time on casters!  So easy and so cute [doubles as storage too].  Via sassycrafter on Flikr!  Oh and be sure to check out Kim’s blog – The Sassy Crafter – she’s going to be posting a DIY tutorial for this lovely piece!

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Just stacking a few vintage suitcases can make a great side table too!

[Via m.bibelot]

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[Via deardaisycottage]

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Modern Fireplace Design: Portable, Rollable, Hideable

I don’t know about where you are, but here in Chicago IT IS COLD.  Right now I am looking out the window at a fresh blanket of snow covering the ground and even more flakes falling from the sky.  All I can think about are things that make me warm – hot cocoa, fuzzy slippers, comfy sweaters, and the warm glow of a fire.

There is something so mesmerizing about fire – watching flames dance around as they curl around the logs, listening to the crackling of the wood … the smoky scent that fills the air, the warmth radiating from the hearth … ahhhhh.

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[image via Frau Nocturna]

Modern fireplace design comes with a hefty price tag, but there are some really amazing options to gawk at and dream of maybe one day being able to afford.

Don’t have a fireplace?   Candles just aren’t enough?  Try this tabletop fireplace designed by Carl Mertens.  Two stainless steel “logs” that can bring a warm glow to any room.  Available at Generate Design.

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These indoor/outdoor ottoman fires turn your fireplace into a functional piece of furniture when not in use.  From Conmoto.

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These little hot pot fires are also from Conmoto and would work great for outdoor entertaining.

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And one more from Conmoto – a fireplace you can roll around.  What will they think of next?!

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This amazing fireplace design is from Rutz Feuerstellen [Troja]- the door slides open and closed, turning your fireplace into a work of art.

trojaAnother “hideable” creation from Rutz Feuerstellen [Amfri]- beautiful!

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Timber, leather, glass, and stainless steel sit upon a swivel base … introducinng Zeta, designed by John Dimopoulos and featuring EcoSmart technology.  Ventless, portable, sleek, and definitely on my Covet List.

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I Tried To Bake It: Cut-Out X-Mas Cookies

I always helped my gramma or mom frost cut-out sugar cookies every Christmas.  We would spread the creamy frosting onto wreaths, santas, angels, trees, and candy canes before stacking them into tins and eventually eating them.  These are the cookies my brother and I would leave out for Santa on Christmas Eve.  This year I decided I would carry on the tradition and whip up a batch for Ava to enjoy.  I found a simple recipe to follow and started mixing up some dough …

IMG_8638My bowl wasn’t really deep enough and using the mixer turned into a giant mess so I had to reach in and finish it off with my hands.  So much for keeping things neat and simple.

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It tasted pretty good so I must have done something right.  I put the dough in the fridge to chill, cleaned up the counters, and had a glass of wine.  Ahhhhhhhh.

Two hours later it was time to get the cookies rolled and cut and into the oven.  I enlisted Mike’s help for this.  We realized we do not own a rolling pin so we had to use cans of diced tomatoes to roll out the dough.  We got the first batch in and out of the oven, but then we were either working too fast or impatiently because our gingerbread men starting losing heads.  Let’s just say the majority of our cookies looked more like blobs than snowflakes, candy canes, and gingermen.

Finally it was time to frost!  I must have used too much milk because it was pretty thin, but I was out of powdered sugar so we had to work with it.

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“OOOOO.  Cookies are hard.”

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A few of them came out looking okay I guess …

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But in the end we just gave up, piled all the cookie pieces onto a plate and drizzled icing over them.

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I know for a fact that Santa won’t mind.  Will I be making these again anytime soon?  No.  Will they all get eaten?  Yes.  Maybe things will turn out better next year.  Happy Holidays! XO

Christmas Cookie Roundup

It is no secret that I love cookies.  In fact, I have a few almost every night with a glass of milk while relaxing with Mike on the couch after Ava finally goes to bed.  My favorite – chocolate chip – and I cheat by baking up batches of Pillsbury’s Simply Cookies [as you will find out in tomorrow's post, I am not a baker].  Growing up, we always had trays and tins full of cookies to eat at Christmastime.  My gramma must have been baking them in her sleep.

One of my holiday favorites are Russian Tea Balls [or Russian Tea Cakes or Mexican Wedding Cakes].  I have lost more than one of these in my glass of milk.  Nutty, cakey, little balls of goodness covered in powdered sugar … and fairly easy to make!  I found a great recipe for these at Peppercorn Press.

[Click image for recipe]

russianteaballs

How cute are these little gingerbread houses?!?!?!  Thanks to Megan of Not Martha you can print out a pattern and start building your own tiny houses to accompany your mugs of coffee, hot chocolate, egg nog, etc.  Mike and I were thinking this recipe would be great to make little Santa’s to hang on your mug or snowflakes or candy canes or whatever.  Maybe one day I will give it a try and if you do, I would love to see the results!

[Click image for recipe]

ginhouses

While we’re on the subject of gingerbread, check out this recipe for Gingerbread Man Cookies [on a stick!] created by Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks.  Kids will LOVE these!

[Click on image for recipe]

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Gaby Dalkin of What’s Gaby Cooking? is to thank for these Chocolate Snowballs.  It’s basically a delicious chocolate cake and some cream cheese frosting rolled into cute little balls of goodness and dusted with powdered sugar.  Mmmmmm.

[Click on image for recipe]

devilballs

Now, this next recipe isn’t exactly a cookie, but it is a major Christmas sweet treat staple for my family [Ohio].  Buckeyes aka Peanut Butter Balls.  Sugar coma, here I come.  The family recipe Michelle from Brown Eyed Baker [or her old blog, Sugar & Spice] uses is pretty close to the Buckeyes my gramma makes.

[Click on image for recipe]

buckeyes

I love chocolate and Mike loves candy canes, so these Double Chocolate Peppermint Cookies are perfect for us.  Just looking at them makes my mouth water.  Get the recipe from Susan at Sticky Gooey Creamy Chewy.

[Click on image for recipe]

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Who can resist the crunchy creamy goodness of an Oreo?  Not me.  And even better?  A Homemade Oreo from Deb at Smitten Kitchen.  OMG these look amazing.  Milk!!!  I need milk!!!!!

[Click on image for recipe]

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And to wrap things up … I couldn’t have a Christmas Cookie Roundup without including some fruit and nuts.  This recipe for Cherry Chocolate Nut Cookies comes from Sybil Brown, via Taste of Home.

[Click on image for recipe]

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So there you have it.  Eight amazing Christmas treats to fatten up Santa [and your friends].  If you have an awesome Christmas cookie recipe, let me know and we can share it!  XO!

Alternative Wrapping Paper Ideas

I’ve been buying gifts like crazy online today, trying to get my orders shipped so they arrive before the big day.  Pretty soon, the boxes will start piling up and I’m going to need to bust out the tape and ribbons and rolls of – WAIT!  NO!  There’s got to be a better way.  I can’t see all that paper getting shoved into trash bags and tossed in the garbage this year without feeling guilty.  [Thanks to an article I read on Earth 911 informing me that most wrapping paper cannot be recycled due to dyes, additives, the tape, etc. and that around 4 million TONS of wrapping paper and shopping bag waste is produced during the holiday season.  This is definitely going to lead to a post on ways to reuse wrapping paper.]

Know someone that loves to sew?  Wrap their gift in old sewing patterns!  Even if they don’t sew, the idea is still really cool – I’m stealing this one for sure!  Read the full tutorial by Rikkianne at Creature Comforts.

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This idea is similar to the one above, but with a masculine touch.  Recycled architecture plans [via re-nest]!  Now, where can I get my hands on some of those?  [Andy Taylor, are you reading this?  lol]

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These wrapping alternatives are even better than the traditional wrap if you ask me … so much more personal and creative.  I love the idea of wrapping up wine bottles with tea towels – two gifts in one!  These lovely designs are from Studiopatro in San Fransisco.

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A burlap sack?  Yes, a burlap sack.  It never looked so good thanks to Faded Plains [there are some other great wrapping ideas to check out there as well!].

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So what have we learned?  Traditional wrapping paper usage is wasteful.  Tea towels, burlap sacks, old sewing patterns or blueprints, newspaper, wallpaper scraps, old book pages, magazines pages, shopping bags … geez – almost anything is a better alternative.  Take a look around your house and wrap up something unique.  Then send me a picture. XO!

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The Gift of Time – Wall Clocks!

The other day I came to the realization that I am surrounded by time, yet I never have enough of it.  The microwave, the coffee maker, the stove, the computer, the alarm clock, the cable box, the stereo, and my cell phone constantly remind me how very little time I actually have.  I swear I have aged like 10 years since I gave birth.  I don’t know where it goes, but time really does fly. Anyway, the point is that I have all of these digital clocks all over the place and not one wall clock – which is ridiculous.  The wall clock is a staple of the home and we can’t let that quiet tick-tock be silenced by an LCD display.  So, give someone the gift of time this holiday season … or give it to yourself – you deserve it.

This MDF and bamboo creation is the work of Keith Moore of PILOTdesign in Minneapolis.  I love his color combinations!  Be sure to check out the rest of his modern clock pieces and his lighting designs – very cool.  Splat White-on-Green Clock $59.00.

whitegreenbamboo

This little owl clock is soooo cute!  Made from laser cut bamboo and fitted with a silent motor [making it perfect for baby's room!].  Made by Maiko Kuzunishi of Decoylab in Kansas City, MO.  $48.00.

babyowl

These beautiful china clocks are the works of Jenilyn of Faire Houre.  The clock on the left is made with a porcelain plate from PiP Studio and on the right, some gorgeous lacey looking repurposed china.  ON SALE – $39.00 / $33.00

piplaceclock

Such a simple design and a totally modern feel.  I love this Pendolo Clock by husband and wife team Vincent and Jessie of uncommon.  Available in a wide range of colors.  $59.00. You should also check out some of the amazing furniture pieces handcrafted by Vincent at Dust Furniture.

pendolo

I Tried To Make It – Pom Poms & Snowflakes

I kept seeing these pretty tissue paper pom poms in all of my crafty RSS feeds and thought, “Those look simple enough even for me to make.  How hard could it be?”.

image via my whimsy [flikr]

pom

I had visions of little pom pom garlands wrapped around our tree and hanging festively in the windows so I went out and picked up some red and gold tissue paper.  I found a great tutorial at Imperfectly Beautiful with pictures big enough I could see what I needed to be doing.  I wanted them to be all different sizes, so I got busy cutting squares and stacking them.  Then it was time for the simple accordion fold.  “This is so easy!  I’m going to succeed at a something crafty!”  Instead of using floral wire, I used string to tie around the center so I could easily keep adding to my garland.  Then you are supposed to trim the ends in a round or pointy shape [something I forgot the first two tries - yes, I failed] and start carefully pulling away the layers one by one until you have a fluffy pom pom.  I was pulling too hard and some paper ripped and then they just ended up looking like flowers [they weren't very round].  I kept telling myself, “Come on, Shannon.  This is kid’s stuff.  You can do it.”.  I gave my first tries to my daughter [who is one and probably more competent at making these than I was at this point] who shredded them all over the floor so I could have the joy of finding bits of tissue paper all over the house.  [Yeah, I should have seen that coming, but I was too busy trying to make just ONE of these things.]

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Eventually, I got one pretty nice pom pom and one smaller flower looking pom – not exactly a garland.

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They are still sitting on my dining room table just daring me to try again.  In the end I sat down and started cutting snowflakes [based on this tutorial].  You really can’t go wrong there.  I put a few on the tree and in the window and called it a day.  [The little fence is so Ava and Biggles {our cat} can't get to the tree - not very festive, but sometimes practicality wins.]

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Where do the crafty people find the time?  They must not have small children or maybe they stay up all night like little elves thinking of cute stuff to make that will make someone like me feel inferior.  But if I can’t make it, someone can and then people like me can just buy it.  If any of you are interested in doing a guest blog craft tutorial, let me know!

Happy Holidays! XO

Christmas Tree Inspiration

I am so excited about Christmas I can hardly stand it!  Last year we just had a mini [fake] pine tree, daintily decorated and placed on a side table … our place was tiny and we couldn’t accommodate a full sized tree.

2008 tree

Ava was only a little over a month old and spent most of the day sleeping, completely oblivious to the mound of presents waiting to be opened.IMG_1927

This year she is running all over the place and into everything, so I am chomping at the bit to get our tree and finish putting up all of our holiday decorations.  Despite the fact that I am trying to be more eco-conscious this year, we are going to pick out our [real] evergreen today.  I want the house to be filled with the scent of pine and a big full tree and memories of Christmas’ of my youth.  My dad was a big pine tree fanatic – he planted them all over our property and I’m all for planting trees too – at sites like goevergreen.org you can ‘plant’ a pine for $35.00 – good stuff!

Now we have tons more space and I am going to take advantage of it!  I’m still deciding how I want to trim our tree and spent some time looking at other people’s decorations on Flikr for some inspiration.  Here’s what I found …

via boopsie.daisy – so bright and colorful!  and love the sweet stuffs on that sofa, turning formal into fun!

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via craftybeaver – the tinsel tree looks great w/ those walls – so retro!

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via floodinpdx – great alternative tree … such a natural look … and i’ve gotta have those lights!

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via ATLITW – i would keep this up all year round … genius!

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via dottie angel – very crafty, very inventive, very awesome

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via Super*Junk – so adorable for a kids’ room … and i just love that rug.

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via Simple Tess – so simple and some would say bare, but i really like it.  sometimes less is more.

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via matt-pearson – another simple, yet very elegant look.

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DIY Bows, Plantable Gift Tags, & Holiday Cards!

I love the holiday season!!!  Twinkling lights, festive decorations, and of course PRESENTS!!!  This year I want to be a little more eco-conscious than in years past, so I’ve been searching the internet for creative ways to top my gifts and send out my holiday greetings without wasting tons of paper and going through endless bags of bows.  [And don't worry ... I'll be talking about wrapping paper solutions later in the week.]

Check out this tutorial on making your own bows from magazine pages from Talk Crafty To Me [they also have tons of fun holidays crafts!].  I think they look even prettier than store bought bows and the customization possibilities are endless!  I am going to be making some of my own bow creations this week and will definitely share the results with you.  How about you?  Will you be making your own bows?  What are you using to make them and CAN I SEE THEM??bow

I am really digging [no pun intended] all the plantable cards and gift tags hitting the marketplace.  Grace Graphics in Eastern Oklahoma turns out these plantable creations using recycled fibers and soy & vegetable based inks.  She has quite a selection of Christmas and Hanukka cards available and I just love the “Seeds n’ Greetings” phrase printed on the gift tags!  1 dozen gift tags for $11.50 and cards are $3.75 each.

seedsngreetingsletitsnow

I came across a lovely little blog today called ormolu, belonging to Kaitlin Sheaffer who is a mom who loves paper, handmade, and interior design.  She has an Etsy shop filled with all sorts of wonderful things like these A is for Angel Alphabet Gift Tags – 26 for $8.00 …. and these Love Song Paper Chains [that I completely ADORE], which would make an excellent garland [there are also some Christmas themed chains available] – approx. 1 yard for $4.50.

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As I perused through the holiday cards on Etsy, I smiled and maybe even chuckled a little when I saw this letterpress print by Paper Elixer.  I laaaave it!  $4.00.peacejoylaaave

Be sure to check out all of the great holiday deals at Earth Lover!

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