At the end of the year I like to skim through my stats to see what search terms brought people to this site. It’s supposed to help me carve out a roadmap as to where the audience wants to go in the year ahead. From this excercise, I learned that 1. All y’all have a one-way ticket to Crazytown (Toot-toot — I’ll see you there!), and 2. You really, really want to know about removing candle wax from random stuff. You also like Niel Diamond, paper flowers, and new ways to upcycle pig sombreros.
It’s no wonder we get along so well.
That said, this is the time of year for carving out some plans for the blog in the year ahead. I feel like 2013 got away from me and now, when the year is fresh and the calender is blank, is the best time to start. Content here will always be my personal sandbox but if you were looking for stuff/posts/ideas/info on the interweb and came up short (I’m looking at you, you up-cycling hipsters with excess pig sombreros), leave a comment or send me an email so maybe we can tackle it together. I warn you, my existing knowledge base is very limited outside the realms of Liberace and sparkly things, so I make no promises, but whatever. This could be a fun exercise for both of us. Or all of us.
Anything you want to see on Aunt Peaches.com in 2014?
Greetings from the pile of crusty tissues on the nightstand.
Sorry to be MIA, yal. I picked up a nasty respiratory infection on vacation. Woot!
And even though writing blog posts requires little more than an internet connection, I am currently using my bandwidth for critically important things. Like cat videos.
Did you ever wonder what it would look like if Dick Cheney and Cookie Monster had a baby?
Sometimes when a new cat video finishes I take a study break to search my symptoms again on Web MD, secretly hoping it will tell me I have some illness with an exotic name to match my current state of grossness. Ideas;
figgy sluice syndrome
walking corpse syndrome
Actually, that last one is a real thing. It’s called Cotard’s syndrome. It’s when people think they are zombies but they are not. Not yet, at least. I know. Doesn’t that make you feel perky?
Welp. I’ll get back on track soon, but in the meantime I’m taking suggestions on the Netflix front. Any recommendations? Multi-episode mini-series especially. Brownie points for anything non-American and/or obscure and/or involving cool costumes. Or Benedict Cumberbatch. Or cat videos.
Gtg. I’m boiling a chicken.
It is currently -12ºF here in Chicago. That’s -24ºC.
Look, it’s never exactly warm here in January, I get that, but it’s NEGATIVE TWELVE, and that’s not counting the windchill. This is something new. I can usually coax myself through cold snaps by reminding myself that there are people in the world who cope with much colder temperatures all winter long. They are called Canadian. All of them. They all live further north than us. I tell myself, If the good people of Saskatchewan can handle this but worse, you can do this. You can do this. If Celine “I made an Anne Geddes calendar on purpose” Dion, can handle this temperature, you can suck it up.
Current temperature in Saskatoon: -10ºF. This means I can no longer look to the good people of Saskatchewan for inspiration as it is two degrees colder here (!!!!!).
You know, they just don’t make Hallmark cards to commemorate the level of badassery one feels at a moment like this.
But I digress. Let’s take a moment to discuss the benefits of freezing stuff. Like candles.
Want to make your long stem candles last twice as long? Freeze them.
The two candles above came from the same box, have been burning for the same amount of time (90 minutes), same location, same everything….except the candle on the left spent 24 hours in the freezer before it was lit. It lasts longer and dribbles less. I think this is because it takes more time for the flame to bring the wax up to liquid temperature. Or something like that. I’m not really sure. It’s just a cool trick to get you through a long dinner party (or a power outage – knock on wood!).
Where are you Christmas?
Christmas, you are here already!
Seriously, how is it December 24th??!?!?!
Christmas snuck up on me. I spotted her sitting in the corner around Halloween, and we’ve been chatting seasonal whatnot ever since, but I always sort of thought she was coming…coming…coming…then BAM. Hit me like a bag of Thunder Cats.
I’m soon leaving for San Francisco for Dan and Yasmin’s wedding, followed by a family “fake Christmas” over New Years in Virginia. I have a few posts in the pipeline, but it might be a little lighter than usual. Feel free to follow the fun on Instagram as I tend to get snap-happy on vacation.
However you choose to celebrate, Lola and I send you my warmest thoughts and best wishes for a Merry Christmas. May your song be joyful, may your plate be full.
C is for Cookie, that’s good enough for me.
C is for Christmas, that’s good enough for Jesus.
C is for bitch I’m hungry, where there hell is my cookie?
My co-worker made these for a football gathering a few weeks ago and brought the leftovers into work the next day. I usually stay clear of trifling baked goods, but she said they were flour-free and if I liked chocolate peanut butter combos, I might like these. So I tried it. And I was all, Yeah, these do not suck.
So she gave me the recipe…
That was maybe three weeks ago and these have been made three times since. I’m not going to tell you they are Sell Your Grandma To The Gypsies Good, because that would be politically incorrect, and I don’t think the gypsies want your grandma anyway. Buuuuuut, they are damn good. The base is peanut butter but the accents are crushed bits of pretzels and toffee. Each bite hits the salty-sweet-crunchy-chewy combo in just such a way that no cookie ever has before.
I get annoyed when people copy recipes into their blog, so y’all go over to Real Simple and see what they did. I will tell you, one batch I swapped out for 100% brown sugar, and for another batch, I swapped in gluten-free pretzels (which you can buy at any Walgreens nowadays, who knew?) — both came out glorious. You’re welcome.
If anyone else has any drop-dead-amazing cookie recipes, feel free to link in the comments, I’m all ears, assuming you make no mention of raisins. Let there be no talk of raisins. It’s Christmas and I’ll have no talk of devil trash raisins on this here holy plot of interwebs.
Anyone have any suggestions on what to do/see/visit/eat/enjoy while in San Fransisco? It’s my first time visiting as an adult. I’m leaving just after Christmas for a wedding, and although I don’t think there will be a lot of non-wedding down time, I want to pack in some sight seeing if I can. Suggestions?
|Golden Gate illustration courtesy of Matte Stephens
Also, nobody needs to mention the Full House house. I’m already on it.
Over the years, I have gotten a decent amount of emails from people that go like this:
Hi Aunt Peaches! We are coming to Chicago for a weekend adventure; can you tell us some fun things to do?
These emails warm my heart, because, if there is one thing I love talking about, it is Chicago. I am like Chicago’s biggest, fatest, loudest, sparkliest, cheerleader. Ask me anything about this place. I won’t claim to be an expert, but if I don’t know the answer, I’ll know somebody who does, or I’ll know a guy who can get it. This mostly comes from the fact that I did not grow up here, and thereby, because nothing here ever seemed familiar, I spent most of my 20’s getting familiar. The fact that I don’t own a car helps too – you learn a lot more about a city when you spend fifteen years watching it from the window of a bus or train. Collecting tid-bits of information on places I want to visit isn’t so much a habit as it is a way of life. This doesn’t come up on the blog much because I assume most of you do not live here. However, Ye Olde Google Analytics tells me a lot of you live near here. And with that in mind, I’m writing this post for my locals. Hay!
Everyone else, come back later tonight and I’ll post a crafty whatsit, I promise.
Anyway! These emails I get. They pick up quite a bit around December as people in the Midwest make a great tradition of going “into the city” for a holiday shopping excursion. The routine usually consists of one long day spent shopping in the loop and/or Michigan Avenue, capped off with tea at The Walnut Room and/or The Drake. Which is nice. But! There is so much Christmas fun in Chicago that has nothing to with “downtown.” If you are coming to the city, I would urge you to break the tradition, get out of the loop and see something new. There are about a hundred things, but as I want to get this post out before the shopping season is through, let me rattle off some ideas…
Museum of Science and Industry: Christmas Around the World
As if this museum wasn’t rad enough to begin with, come holiday time, they fill it with 50+ trees, each decorated to reflect a specific country. The concept is a little imperialistic, but the results are gorgeous. There is a giant tree in the central hall which is usually themed something crazy (like Kermit the Frog). This year it’s Mickey Mouse, which is kinda horrifying, but I’ll get over it. It’s still awesome. And there is there is a fairy castle dollhouse in the basement. Squee! This museum is equally fun for adults and kids. Plus, it’s in Hyde Park. You can poke around the bookshops on 57th street, have lunch at the Medici, then stop by and visit President Obama’s house. He serves really good gingersnaps, I hear.
Imagine 358 Tubas packed in a single room playing Christmas carols. It looks something like this.
There are several of these concerts scattered around Illinois, but the one downtown is the biggest. It takes place at the Palmer House (in the loop) Saturday, December 21. If you are not there on the 21st, you should stop in and have a drink in the Palmer House lobby. It is a sight to be seen.
The Music Box
The Music Box is an old fashioned movie palace. Not theater — PALACE. You need to see it in person. They play It’s a Wonderful Life and White Christmas throughout the month of December (and sometimes they do it sing-a-long style). There are a number of charming shops and restaurants along that stretch of Lincoln Ave. An easy way to spend a wintery afternoon.
The music of Handel’s Messiah performed by a chorus of thousands. Including you! December 19 and December 20 at the Harris Theater. Tickets sell quick, so if you miss it, mark this down for next year. You don’t need to be able to read music, but if you like to sing LOUD, you probably should. Don’t go just to gawk though, participation is required.
As close to an old fashioned European Christmas market as you will find in America. I wrote about it a couple years ago. For being a tourist trap, the merchants, the goods, and the vibe are surprisingly authentic. Not as big as the markets in Nuremberg or Basel, but it’ll keep you occupied for hours if you are into this sort of thing. It’s kid friendly and 100% free, but be sure to dress warmly and keep your wallet in your inside pocket.
This is what I call an anti-gift shop. You go here thinking you are going to get a gift for someone else, but really, you can’t walk out of here without buying something for yourself. They do greeting cards and custom framing like you have never seen before. Giant apothecary jars of letters and puzzle pieces loving salvaged from flea market board games. Vintage flash cards. Delicious gift wrap. A car-sized canvas print of Barbra Streisand. If you are one of those people who likes to go to Anthropologie to gawk at the display work, you need to go to Foursided.
Bonus: Fourisided is right next door to Sonja’s, a first-generation beauty salon that offers the best $8 eyebrow threading in America. No, really. It hurts but you will thank me for it.
If Santa Claus was a gay man in 1965, Brimfield would be his country club. It’s three floors of gloriously assembled vintage treasures, but don’t think of it as a vintage/antiquey store. It’s an experience. If Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom had an official store – this would be it. The look. The smell. The plaid! A whole wall of old Hudson Bay blankets. A canoe suspended mid-air. An old fishing basket turned into a chandelier. Crystal punch cups strung up like party streamers. It’s masculine but very girl-friendly. They offer upholstery services and sell racks of garments made from vintage woolen textiles. You can visit and not buy anything, but you cannot emerge from this store and not wish you owned more plaid. Just go there.
Bonus: The upstairs can now be booked for private parties, and they now have a sister location in SW Michigan. Huzzah!
Double Bonus: Brimfield on Clark is in the heart of Andersonville and is within walking distance of a number of my favorite shops, including (but not limited to); Foursided (see above), Windy Knitty, Scout, Brownstone Antiques (actually an awesome junk shop), Toys Etc , Room Service,…and plenty more! It would be very easy to make a day of Christmas shopping exclusively in independent stores around Andersonville. Stop for lunch at Hamburher Mary’s, or grab a snack at The Swedish Bakery, or a drink at The Hopleaf. It’s a good time.
How do I describe Uncle Fun? A joke store? A magic shop? A retro kitch stocking stuffer emporium? It’s all those things and then some. Funny gadgets and used books. Postcards of Ronald Reagan eating pickles. It’s as weird as it is wonderful. It’s small, a bit cramped, and there might be a limit to the number of kids allowed in the store at the same time (and if there isn’t, there should be). One of the few places you can walk in with a $5 bill and come out with something splendid. Love this place.
Update: Sadly, Uncle Fun closed in early 2014. Wahh!
Gethsemane Garden Center
Also in Andersonville (What can I say? Swedes know how to retail!), Gethsemane is not so much a store as it is a neighborhood institution. They sell, hands down, the best quality Christmas trees in the city, if not the Midwewst. One year I came here to buy a tiny Christmas tree the first week of December – it didn’t drop a single needle until New Years, so I kept it up through Valentines. That’s how fresh the trees are at Gethsemane. No car – no problem. They deliver! More importantly, the gift shop will knock your socks off. Mostly handmade, artisan goods – everything from soaps and bubble bath to cutting boards and kitchen accoutrements. Moms love it. This is what I would call an “established” store. Not cutesy or crafty, but if you are looking for that special Christmas ornament or that one-of-a-kind item they won’t find anywhere else, this is where you come to find it.
Bonus: Come back in the spring for your garden. These people are mostly horticulturalists and master gardeners – they know their stuff.
Also worth mentioning…
The Mexican Shop
Not actually Mexican. Accessories aplenty. Jewelry, leather goods, gorgeous stuff at great prices. In my neighborhood – Evanston. It’s been there for decades and is now the anchor a clump recent stores of popping up on Dempster. Worth the trek! Across the strew from some other cute shops and a great antique store.
This isn’t an independent retailer, but they have great taste. Always a fun place to wander. Stationary and calendars are my two go-to all-occasion lady gifts, and Paper Source carries these in spades.
In the Ukrainian Village. Looks like a New Orleans apothecary, smells like a bookstore, but I have never walked out without some sort of under $20 piece of jewelry. Modern stuff. Funky stuff. A store with a sense of humor. The fellas who work there are a treat to chat with and the display wok is always gawk-worthy. Someone told me they had a store cat but I have never seen (I love a good store cat!).
Museum of Contemporary Art Gift Shop
It has a separate entrance if you don’t want to pay admission for the museum. This place is steps off Michigan avenue is rarely, if ever, crowded. If you are shopping for a design or architecture buff, you’ll find something fun here. Awesome kid stuff too. Hat tip to their book buyers – you won’t find these books in any regular bookstore. Thirty minutes in the book section, alone, is worth the trip. The Art Institute’s gift shop has improved drastically in recent years, but I don’t know that you can visit without admission. Anyone?
The Art Institute (in general…not sure about the gift shop. It’s been a while.)
Okay, I have mixed emotions about the current state of the Art Institute, and I get it, blah blah blah, everyone comes to Chicago to go to The Art Institute (including me – it’s my alma mater) but if you go at Christmas, YOU NEED TO GO IN THE BASEMENT. Go and see the Thorne rooms dressed up for Christmas. It drives me nuts that nobody ever goes in the basement but school kids. They don’t even know what they are missing.
Chicago Architecture Foundation Store
Speaking of the Art Institute, this place is just south of the Art Institute on Michigan Ave. Not unlike the MCA gift shop, but they also have a decent selection of non-tacky Chicago souvenirs. Not that I mind tacky, but, you know, not everyone needs a 1985 Superbowl Shuffle beer mug. This place has fun items for men, women and kids. Easy to spend $5 or $500 and come out equally happy.
Okay. That’s all I can think of for now, but I’m sure there will be Chicago folks reading this who have more ideas – feel free to pitch in the comments!
Hot Topic: When does the Christmas season officially begin?
Everyone has a die-hard opinion on when it’s okay to break out the tree and the Christmas carols. Everyone. And everyone thinks they are right. Some purists save it for the last week of December, while others break it out shortly after Halloween. Most people consider any time after Thanksgiving fair game, but I say, it starts the moment you see someone wearing an ugly Christmas sweater. It could be anytime, anywhere. And no – you can’t pay your mom a hug to put one on early. It has to be organic.
It used to be that I could increase my chances of spotting an exotic red jangled beasty by hanging out at a library or antique mall, but now that hipsters are crazy for the ugly sweaters, I was free-and-clear to start decorating in *September.
*A special thank you to Northwestern student at the Einstein Bagel on Sherman. You were wearing ripped jeggings and a puff paint Christmas kitty sweatshirt Labor Day weekend, and it looked stunning. I owe you one!
When the folks at Ugly Christmas Sweater.com approached me about taking one of their sweaters and making it even uglier, I thought, Hell, Why not? When in doubt, just add glitter.
If you don’t know this line from Home Alone, you might want to go and get reacquainted.
Originally, I was thinking I would go all crazy on this sweater. Glitz! Sparkles! …But, thing is, I like the sweater so much I backed off and just added some frosting. A tinsel neckline, some stick-on stars, and gold pom-poms. You know, the classy stuff. AND! A couple of jingle bells on the elbows for fun.
Speaking of fun, they sell all sorts of naughty options. Warning: This ain’t your granny’s Santa sweater.
A real life conversation on people who make gift-buying difficult.
Me: Hey, do you still need a gift for your drunk uncle?
Them: You mean, the Libertarian who watches too much Duck Dynasty? Or the one who likes to tell dirty jokes and watches Mexican soap operas on mute? Or the one who takes the boys in the yard to show them how to write their name in the snow?
Me: Yeah. That one.
To enter, leave a comment below answering the following question; What is the worst Christmas carol?
Oh, come on. If you ever wanted to rag on Frosty and Rudolph, now is your chance! Leave a comment below. One entry per person. Winner to be selected 9pm Friday, Dec 13, CST.
****WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER****
Winner selected at random : Theo Winterwood.
Theo send me an email by December 21st and we’ll get you that sweater! Emailauntpeaches@gmail.com
So today is #givingtuesday. Hashtag. Giving. Tuesday.
Case in point:
Lola came to me in May 2008 via The Treehouse, a no-kill, cage-less animal shelter here in Chicago. At the time, her eyes were bad and a respiratory infection made it difficult for her to breath. When she walked into my lap and started purring, her nose started dripping and I could feel a painful raspiness in her lungs. The Treehouse had saved her from another Chicago winter outside, and they were treating her as best they could, but the stress of the environment wasn’t helping. Given her health, and her “anger management issues” with other cats, almost any other shelter would have put Lola down without a second thought. The Treehouse gave her a shot.
How do I say thank you for this gift?
Winter is the time when animal shelters and rescue center’s are needed the most, and there are hundreds of them who need assistance. I’ll bet there is one in your community. I’ll bet there are hundreds of organizations who could benefit from your generosity.