One Fair Saturday

Kane County Fairgrounds

On a free Saturday, my boyfriend and I wanted to do something really fun.  My idea was a day at the beach with food, drinks, and kayaks, but after some internet searching, we found that the beach I wanted to go to, Montrose Beach, was one of the “most frequently fouled by contaminated water” beaches in the Chicago area, according to the Chicago Tribune.  Who knew?  We googled “activities to do in Chicago” and “best places in Chicago” to find something else, and my boyfriend came up with the Kane County Fairgrounds.  It was about an hour away, but well worth the drive.  The food was awesome, we both had delicious sandwiches and shared a pile of homemade chips covered in cheese and bacon called “The Heart Attack.”  We stuffed our faces and suffered no health issues, but again, it would have been worth it.

chips

Throughout the day we played games, walked around looking at all of the horses, bunnies, and pigs that were competing for ribbons by their owners, and we had a caricature drawn of us.  I think it bears some resemblance.  A nice, talented man named Richard Sherman drew the picture, and we love it – I can’t wait to frame it.  We shot 25 ping pong balls at fishbowls to win a prize, and on the very last ball my boyfriend made it in, scoring us an energetic little goldfish.  We named him Chance, because on the very last chance he became our new pet.  The fair was such a fun experience and a great way to spend a day.  If you find yourself in a predicament like ours, searching for something active to do, try looking up county fairs in your area.  You might walk away with a full stomach, a new pet, and a story to tell.

photo 3

Chelsea

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Song Love

The first track of Guster’s new upcoming album is called “Long Night” and I love it!! I can’t wait for the release of the album in early 2015.  Here’s the Guster website in case you want to know more about one of my favorite bands or purchase some awesome Guster bobbleheads/coffee mugs/other paraphernalia.  If you like what you hear, preorder the album here, and watch a quirky video of Guster announcing it with farm animals.

Chelsea

Book Review: Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules

sedaris

Book Review of David Sedaris’ Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules

The first time I read David Sedaris I instantly fell in love with his writing.  I was reading Me Talk Pretty One Day, and when I finished, I could not wait to get my hands on another one of his books.  Next was Naked, and then When Engulfed in Flames, and I didn’t stop until I read everything he’s written.  Those three collections of his short stories are my favorites, and they make me laugh out loud imagining his life experiences.  I love his wit and humor, and his ability to tell stories so incredibly well.  This book, Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules, isn’t written by David Sedaris; instead, it is a collection of his favorite short stories by his favorite writers (authors who influenced him to become a short story writer himself).  Since I love his style, I knew I would love his taste.  This collection is so rich and wonderful, and I felt like every story was a treat.  It ranges in emotional appeal from humorous to morbid, and a story or two definitely brought me to tears.  It is a wonderful variety of excellent writing – and the great thing about short stories is that they are easy to read in a sitting, and if you don’t like one, you can skip it and move on to the next.  However, I felt that all of David’s picks were thoroughly entertaining, if only because of how well written they are.  I strongly suggest reading it if you’re looking for something really interesting and diverse.

A special note about purchasing this collection is that the proceeds go to a nonprofit organization called 826NYC, which is dedicated to helping young students ages 6 to 18 develop writing skills.  The book’s epilogue, written by Sarah Vowell, discusses 826NYC’s efforts including tutoring, writing workshops, assistance with school publications and with homework, and other free, educational events.  The organization is hidden behind the storefront of Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co., which draws in many of the students that end up seeking help from 826.  In addition, every cape and utility belt bought at the Superhero Supply Co. directly supports 826NYC, and the coolest part about it is that a secret door separates the store from the writing lab (very Scooby Doo bookshelf trap door if you ask me).  How much better does it get when you buy a book?  Amazing stories AND the benefit of helping kids.  Buy this book.  Have I convinced you?

Stories included in Children Playing:

  • Introduction by David Sedaris
  • “Oh, Joseph, I’m So Tired” by Richard Yates
  • “Gryphon” by Charles Baxter
  • “Interpreter of Maladies” by Jhumpa Lahiri
  • “The Garden Party” by Katherine Mansfield
  • “Half A Grapefruit” by Alice Munro
  • “Applause, Applause” by Jean Thompson
  • “I Know What I’m Doing About All the Attention I’ve Been Getting” by Frank Gannon
  • “Where the Door Is Always Open and the Welcome Mat Is Out” by Patricia Highsmith
  • “The Best of Betty” by Jincy Willett
  • “Song of the Shirt, 1941” by Dorothy Parker
  • “The Girl with the Blackened Eye” by Joyce Carol Oates
  • “People Like That Are the Only People Here: Canonical Babbling in Peed Onk” by Lorrie Moore
  • “Revelation” by Flannery O’Connor
  • “In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried” by Amy Hempel
  • “Cosmopolitan” by Akhil Sharma
  • “Irish Girl” by Tim Johnston
  • “Bullet in the Brain” by Tobias Wolff
  • Epilogue by Sarah Vowell

If you’re wondering about the name of this collection, David was inspired by a painting of the same name by Adriaen van der Werff in 1687.  He said he felt like a small speck at the foot of his awesome writing heroes, trying to accomplish a fraction of what they have done.  Here’s what the painting looks like, and you can see the same statue on the cover of the book:

children

Excerpt from David Sedaris’ Introduction: “When apple-picking season ended, I got a job in a packing plant and gravitated toward short stories, which I could read during my break and reflect upon for the remainder of my shift.  A good one would take me out of myself and then stuff me back in, outsized, now, and uneasy with the fit.  This led to a kind of trance that made the dullest work, the dullest life, bearable.”  He also states his belief that “stories can save you.”  I think David Sedaris is one of the best modern writers of the most up-and-coming genre of literature, the short story cycle.  I hope to meet him some day; I like to imagine that we could be great friends, talking over coffee and laughing at each other’s anecdotes.  For now, I am the child bowing at his feet and raving about his work, spreading the love of one my favorite authors.

Chelsea

Picture of Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules

An Ode to Kate and a Thanks to Lucy

kate

A friend gave me these gorgeous, gold polka-dotted Kate Spade notebooks and the adorable pencil bag which had a ruler, two golden pencil sharpeners, two pencils that say “to whom it may concern,” and an eraser inside.  She also gave me these awesome Kate Spade paperclips which are shaped like bows.  Paperclips that look like bows!!

kate spade

more kate

I’m fairly confident that a more beautiful writing set has never been created.  I love the eraser.  It’s so cute and encouraging with the words, “to err is human” printed on it.   The gold, pink, black, and white combine in a sophisticated, but fun look.  I have been using the big notebook nonstop, making grocery lists, to-do lists, and jotting down directions.  Lucy gave me the perfect gift and I LOVE IT!

Cheers to being Kate Spade girls.

Chelsea

 

One Person’s Garage Sale is My Treasure Trove

table find

$45.00

I bought this table and four chairs for 45  bucks at a garage sale!! Driving past a sign, I felt compelled to turn and check out the sale, just to see, and I found this gem.  It was priced at $50 and I wanted the table enough for my negotiating skills to go slack, but still, I think it was an incredible steal.  I had to borrow a suburban to fit the kitchen set, but I realized when I was returning to pick it up, I forgot the exact address.  I drove around for about half an hour before I found the sale again to take home my prize.  It was well worth it.  Here is how much the set costs at retail, compare and contrast:

table

Table found at houzz

Chairs found at IKEA

chair

Let’s do the math: $347 + (4 x $79) = $663.00

I saved 618 dollars.

Now, I want to share a treasure from another type of sale.  The wonderful things that can be found at an estate sale are surprisingly abounding, and it’s so rewarding to recognize something valuable among heaping piles of junk.  If you haven’t tried stopping in estate sales, I seriously recommend trying it, if not for one day of entertainment.  At a “5 dollar bag sale” (where you fill plastic bags with anything and everything being sold, and the whole bag costs $5) my mom and I posed in multiple fur coats and ended up buying a bunch of them.  I’ve bought an elf costume to dress like “elf on the shelf” around Christmas, I’ve bought CocaCola glassware, a Kitchen Aid mixer, a tiny portable grill that looks like a magic 8-ball, a putting green with putter, a sofa table/wine rack, and so much more.

This table was found recently at an estate sale on half-price day, and it cost me $5.  I wish I had a ‘before’ picture because the table top was white and the wine rack was neon, bright pink, and the whole thing had a dust-covered fake vine of plastic flowers woven all over it.  After depleting a can of chalk spray paint and about four other black spray paint cans that were already low, I came out with this beautiful sofa table.  It’s awesome to store wine and wine glasses, plus it’s so fun to show guests and watch them get creative with chalk.  It’s also great for leaving messages for someone.  Can you tell I love this table?

wine table

The gorgeous catch-all tray and picture frame were grad gifts from family friends, so special thanks.  Here is what some creative friends did with the top:

wine table art

Love it.

Chelsea

Dream Cake

cupcakes

Orange dream cake?  Ok, dream cupcakes.  This recipe was shared with me after many, many delicious orange dream bundt cakes were devoured at my college house.  My roommate’s mom would send us a cake for each person’s birthday, and we always looked forward to the wonderful treat.  She deserves total credit for the recipe since she is, after all, the real master of the orange cake.  I think my cupcakes were a close, second, though.

Preheat oven to 350° and line cupcake pine with liners (or grease bundt cake pan)

Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

1 box Yellow cake mix

2 cups sour cream

2 eggs

1 package (3.4 oz) of instant vanilla pudding

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup orange liquor

1 cup white chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Beat together all ingredients EXCEPT white chocolate chips
  2. Fold the chips into the batter
  3. To make cupcakes, bake for about 25 minutes, until lightly browned.  To make the bundt dream cake, bake for about an hour.
  4. Pull the cupcakes out of the pan and onto a rack to cool completely.  For the cake recipe, let it cool 10 minutes and then turn onto wire rack until completely cool
  5. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or frost with orange buttercream frosting.

photo 4  photo 3

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting Recipe (Made Orange)

This amazing vanilla buttercream frosting is taken directly from America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook, because almost all of their recipes are amazing, especially this one.

Serves about 3 cups

Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

pinch of salt

2 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened

2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

4 teaspoons orange juice

1 orange

Directions for Vanilla Buttercream

  1. Stir together the heavy whipping cream, vanilla, and salt in a small bowl until the salt dissolves. Set aside.
  2. Beat the butter on medium to high speed for 30-60 seconds.
  3. Reduce the speed to medium-low and slowly add the powdered sugar, beating until smooth for about 2 to 5 minutes
  4. Beat in the cream mixture, increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, for 4 to 8 minutes.

To make it ORANGE frosting –

Add 4 teaspoons of fresh orange juice and 1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange zest to the heavy cream, vanilla, and salt mixture.  Add into the butter/powdered sugar mixture in the last step of the vanilla frosting.  It’s so delicious.  Garnish with a piece of orange zest, sort of curled.  Maybe sprinkle some white crystallized sugar sprinkles.  Orange cupcake liners would be adorable, too.

batter

Don’t forget to lick the beater!

Chelsea