Saturday, December 22, 2012

Milwaukee Faves: Usinger's at Christmas

Milwaukee is notorious for beer and brats. We know it. Both Miller Valley and Usinger's sausage deck out the halls for Christmas. Usinger's makes all kinds of sausage and still sells it in their Third Street location downtown.

It's really a beautiful building - like stepping back in time. The meat counter is marble, german frescos of their iconic elves working line the walls. In Milwaukee, Elves make Usinger's sausage. For the rest of the world, they make Santa's toys. So it was hard to rationalize as a kid why the sausage elves were made to work two jobs.

Usinger's puts up some great moving window displays and even have a mini Bavarian village in the windows for Christmas. I love going in and looking around....and inevitably walking out with a pound of knackwurst. Around Christmas, the lines are long, but if you're looking for a last minute Milwaukee gift, the gift shop next door to the storefront sells gift baskets with cheese and sausage. Go and check it out.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

10 Milwaukee Holiday Gifts

{My Christmas shopping is just about done, but this is truly a first. I was often the lady running in the background of the 5 o'clock news piece on last minute shoppers at the mall. Luckily, I figured out that shopping locally affords you an extra week of procrastination. Hurrah! And it supports Milwaukee, which I'm down for. So here is my 2012 list for great Milwaukee purchases (including where to buy them). For more ideas check out the 2009, 2010 and 2011 Guides.}

- Janelle Gramling Pillow, from the Milwaukee based designer is $58 (see her Facebook page for a 20% off discount code).

- Hugh Bob and the Hustle's latest album is on my top 10 list this year- pick it up at the Exclusive Company or on iTunes, $10.

- Milwaukee Beer Soap, $5. Purchase at Groom, Outpost, The Brass Rooster, or Glorioso's.

- Plushzilla are just too cute. Find them on Etsy, Sparrow Collective, or ReThreads for $15-$25

- City Tins, $25, (aka my favorite gift to give) are sold out online but are still available at Outpost and the Public Market. Madison City Tins now available, too!

- Bolzano Meats has salami and other meats available at these these places. Or give the gift of a charcuterie class.

- An annual membership to the Milwaukee Art Museum ranges from $25 to &75 will never disappoint.

- Amerique 1912 Absinthe Rogue from Great Lakes Distillery is $35 and great for a hostess gift or for the cocktail buff.

- Koss Headphones, $79, look sharp but don't cost a fortune. Shop their outlet on Port Washington Rd.

- Milwaukee Lakefront bandana from HANmade is so lovely, $18. Purchase online or at Broadway Paper.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Live Show: Sufjan Stevens Christmas

Ok, well the office title of the show was "The Surfjohn Stevens Christmas Sing-A-Long, with Seasonal Affective Disorder Yuletide Disaster Pageant On Ice", but I digress. If you haven't been spinning the Sufjan Stevens Christmas albums, I highly recommend it. There's only so many times I can listen to "White Christmas"...sorry Bing. So last night, he and the band came to town in a Flaming Lips- meet- Yo Gabba Gabba style interactive experience at Turner Hall. Yes, there was kitsch and ugly Christmas sweaters, but a few very notable sentimental moments as well. I tried to take a few pictures on my iPhone but then I realized that my friend CJ will always, ALWAYS take better pictures than me (um, did you see my post yesterday?). So here are his photos from last night's show.

Sartorial bucket list: Cowboy boots

Cowboy boots have been on the sartorial wish list or bucket list for ....quite....some time now. They're a good thing to have around. Sometimes an outfit just needs a little rockabilly added. That, and for when Taylor Swift comes back to town (we all have vices, folks). I found these Volatile Denver boots in Camel on sale at Ma Jolie at Bayshore Mall for $68. For pleather, they look pretty good. I've been pairing them with black skinnies, tunic tops and my cheetah scarf.

Monday, December 10, 2012

How to make a cheese plate

I do love my cheese. So when I discovered on that I come from a long line of cheese makers from Switzerland, so not surprised. I could eat the good stuff all day long. And when I walk into a party and see a well-curated cheese plate, I stop and applaud (slowly like this). This year we're hosting Christmas brunch, and I'll be putting together the ultimate cheese plate for an appetizer. They're easy to do and everyone loves them - a hostesses favorite things. Here are my tips on what makes a really good cheese plate.......
Step One: Pick a board. I like old wooden cutting boards or chopping blocks, but you can also use white trays, slate, or chalkboard.

Step Two: Pick your items. Cheese, of course. For a group of 4-6, I like to pick 3 or 4 cheese with one common denominator (same region / same style / same texture). For larger groups, throw in something unexpected like balsamic marinated mozzarella or brie with honey. Next, choose compliments such as nuts, dried fruit, arugula, currants, salami, or jam.

Step Three: Smaller is better. I don't like overly crowded cheese plates. It's fine to set the cheese onto a bed of cranberries, but just don't let the cheeses touch each other. That's a cheese-mongering faux paus. If you're having a lot of guests, break it up. Set out a couple cheese plates.

Step Four: Figure out the mechanics. Some cheeses are fine to cut and eat by hand, but some, especially soft cheeses like boursin are best with crackers or crostini. I like the idea of putting the bread separate, but a few toasted baguette slices look pretty nice on the plate, too. Set out small knives for slicing or spreading. Utilize ramekins or even shot glasses for separating honey, jam, mustard, or spreads. Even nuts in small bowls looks nice. Labels aren't 100% necessary but can be helpful (and fun)!

Images found via 1., 2., 3., 4., 5.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Christmas List

Dear family,
Since things like a new tile shower, a credit card payment, and textbooks would make a pretty weird Christmas gift, I made a list with more traditional items and posted it HERE on Pinterest!


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Saturday morning brunch

I hate to be one of those people who post pictures of their all food, but some things are just took good looking not to take a picture of. For example, the eggs benedict at Honeypie Cafe in Bay View. Two poached eggs with roasted tomato hollandaise and pulled ham. I kind of think it would be funny to have an ironic photo album of "greatest meals" - instagrams of plates of food. This one would make the book.

Friday, November 30, 2012

TV Night: Call the Midwife

I've been hooked on Call The Midwife lately. If you find Downton Abbey boring at times, this is your middle ground. Granted, I'm a nurse working in OB/Gyn with an anglophile addiction, so I'm completely biased here.

The storyline follows a novice nurse in London's east end in the 50's. She lives with nuns and bikes around delivering babies. Amazingly, it's based on a true story. Season 1 is all online at PBS.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Gettin' down with down.

top to bottom: Tahari Caroline down parka, Betsey Johnson down quilted coat, North Face Metropolis Parka

For Cyber Monday, I spent most of the evening surfing around for a good deal on a versatile down parka - these 3 really caught my eye. Because if Snowmageddon happens, I want to be ready. It took about 3 hours of indecision to get me to click the buy button on the Tahari coat at top, but I did it. So now I'll be ready for winter.....on December 27th......because it's backordered. Rats!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Burning the midnight oil

Final papers were due last night at midnight. And in true form, I was working off a caffeine induced frenzy an a voice inside my heading saying 'let's do this!".

Everything got sent in on time, but then the after effects hit me. I couldn't sleep until about 2am. Is this part of getting older? I've already succumbed to buying an ergonomic keyboard. So I guess it's time to accept that i cant hack finals like i used to: caffeine after 3pm is no longer a good idea an im probably getting carpal tunnel. Good-bye all-nighters, it was fun while it lasted, but I'm getting too old for this.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Local Top 5: Coffee Shops

I've often been asked for recommendations on where to go/eat/stay around Milwaukee so I'm creating a few posts called "Local Top 5" and I'll run down the lists of my favorite places around town. Up first, caffeine, of course! In no particular order, here are some places that won't disappoint. My recommendations may change over time, but these are some good ol' standbys.

ALTERRA on Prospect: This became a daily visit when I used to live across the street from here. I love the sidewalk tables, the hanging plants inside, the lovely latte art, and the steamy squeals from espresso machines. There are numerous Alterra cafes in Milwaukee, but this one I call home. Info here.

ANODYNE in Bay View: As much as I love Alterra, their coffee is hella strong so if I plan to have more than one cup, I go to Anodyne. Their coffee is nice and smooth, balanced and bright. It has a great neighborhood feel and I never feel pushed out the door. I like the nice sturdy tables and natural light. Lulu the dog likes the dog water dishes outside.

BREWED on Brady: If I'm out and about on Brady St. during the day, I'll skip the Starbucks and head to Brewed. They have good food, lots of organic options, and a boho coffee house feel. They serve up Anodyne coffee so best of both worlds!

FUEL CAFE in Riverwest: No sissy coffee here. This moto racing themed spot is worth the trek . It was one of my regular lunch spots when I was working on the north side. They have great sandwiches. And fast and easy service. And the rock turned all the way up.

BIRDIE'S in Highland Park: On the border between Milwaukee and Wauwatosa, Birdie's is homey and smells like pies. Perfect, because pie is really good with coffee. I like the cozy atomostphere here a lot. Info here.

Monday, November 12, 2012

I want to go to there: Historic London Pubs

I saw the new James Bond movie, Skyfall, over the weekend. Amazing. For an anglophile like me, all those shots of sweeping UK landscapes, historic parliament buildings, and refined accents sent me into a web-induced brit-binge. I looked up stuff on London for like 2 hours. After learning about the real WWII Churchill Bunkers, I brushed up on the parliamentary system and took a google maps tour of Downing Street. Then I fell into a great article about historic london pubs called 'Drink like Dickens' here. Yes, the web is a slippery slope.

These four pubs have been added to my travel lists. Aren't they darling? And their history is just fascinating!

Olde Cheshire Cheese: Rebuilt after the great fire in 1666, Charles Dickens would often hang out here and supposedly based some of his darker characters on pub regulars.

The Mayflower: Originally called the Shippe in 1620, a group of pilgrims met for send off drinks before boarding the Mayflower docked down the street en route to 'America'.

The George Inn: An old coach house located down the street from a small theater called....the Globe and was a popular hangout among actors. So Shakespeare probably had a few drinks here. The current George Inn was rebuilt on the same location in the same style.

The Dove: Supposedly Charles II would cheat on the queen with a mistress here. But in addition to adultery, this place looks like a good place to sit back, have a pint, and take the patio over-looking the Thames river.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Sara's Staples: Winter Beauty Supplies

Every year around this time, my skin and hair look like the Mojave. My skin and hair naturally lean towards the dry end of the spectrum, but during fall it gets out of control. Dry, flaky skin is not pretty....nor is the greasy look from lotion trying to cover it up, and it can turn into an ungodly cycle. In Wisconsin, one day it's 70 degrees, the next I'm scraping ice off my windshield. And with those sudden drops in barometric pressure, the moisture gets pulled out from the air (and the skin) very quickly.

Here are my suggested solutions:
1. I bought the Clarisonic Mia ($110) about a month ago after reading a million and a half raving reviews. I'll add myself to that list because I have noticed a HUGE difference in my skin. Softer skin, less dry, and smaller pores. It's an investment but if you add up facials, using more moisturizer, and the cost of feeling gross - the ledger is in the black here.

2. I have been using this Kiehl's moisturizer ($26) for years and notice best results when my skin is mild to moderately dry. I hate greasy feeling moisturizers and lotions. It's like fingernails on the chalkboard to me. This stuff is very light, easily absorbed, and it staves off dryness for the entire day. I don't need a lot, so a small jar lasts me about 6mos. For the under eye area I use Aquaphor ointment ($3) at night.

3. Lastly, I use Moroccan Argan Oil ($7) a few times a week now, up from once a week in the summer as I had been taking a long-needed extended break from color treatments to try and repair the dull and 'hay-like' texture of my hair. In addition to this oil, switching to an extra-moisturizing shampoo and not rinsing my hair in too hot of water.....there have been some hair looks great!

I haven't found an 'amazing' lip moisturizer yet. I have been resorting to exfoliating at home with sugar and using trusty Carmex, but would like to find a better alternative. Do you have any suggestions?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Cat Power (update)

Just wanted to show you some epic photos from Cat Power a few nights ago. Her performance was quite emotive; adding a whole new layer of soulfulness to her already heartbreaking, breathy songs. After hearing about her breakdown in Minneapolis the next night and her bizzaro message to the started to all make sense. Oh, rock stars.


On Monday, I checked this off my to do list. I was not going to take any chances. And no faulty plumbing is going to stand in my way. I lost my job to the infamous state budget cuts last year and I'm freaked it's going to happen again. So for me, this election is very personal.

I thought the early vote process was quick and painless- there were about a hundred people in line at 3pm with only a 15 minute wait. There were some extra envelopes and signing in the mix, but an astute poll worker stopped me from committing the ultimate sin - sealing the envelope without a poll worker as a witness. Close one. And I utilized the free parking for voters in front of the building. It was hella cold on the Vespa, which 2 sweaters and a coat did not fix, but I made it.

The last day to early vote in Wisconsin is this Friday, November 2nd. For city of Milwaukee dwellers, go to the Zeidler Municipal Building (behind City Hall) from 8:30am to 7:00pm. I'm linking the city website HERE. Go vote!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Listening to: Cat Power

Friends and I are going to see
Cat Power at Turner Hall tonight. I'm pretty excited. Not only have I been wanting to see her for a while, but I'll be joined by my two friends with small babies at home. I sometimes complain that I have no time, but I really wouldn't have any time if I had kids at home. Even if we make time, it still gets hard to meet out - 'I have a test this week', 'the littlest is sick', 'everyone's tired', 'sorry, already busy that night'. There's a natural falling off the face of the earth after having a baby so when the babies are old enough to be without mom for a few hours - the excitement gets quadrupled and then magnified by ten. Dinner AND a concert? It's like Christmas. Welcome back gals!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Shopping List: Bold Prints

1. aztec scarf, 2. JCP dress, 3. Clare Vivier clutch, 4. FermLiving cup, 5. Target socks, 6. Oil painting

I do love my prints. Bigger and bolder the better. I used to worry about how to mix prints - will it be a little too "circus meet acid trip"? Au contraire, Mon frère. After I started reading this blog, I realized it's not that scary. And it can look really cute.

Some of my favorite prints right now are leopard. I wear my J.Crew Factory leopard scarf 4-5 days a week. I just bought a snow leopard dress from H&M and might just (maybe) wear a leopard belt with him. Hang on tight, we're going bold over here.

Lastly, I realized last week that JCPenney has some very cute dresses. Who knew?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Hello Kohl's!

The new Narciso Rodriguez collection at Kohl's is coming out this month and with these looks, my mind is a little blown. Wisconsin's own Kohl's department store has taken it to a whole new level with their designer collaborations (insert slow applause here). My favorite piece has got to be that top color blocked dress. I can see wearing that for upcoming holiday parties with some black tights and booties. The prices for this collection range from $50-$150 but don't worry - they always have a sale going on - I don't think I've ever paid full price. The best is their Kohl's cash, $10 cash back coupons when you spend $50. It's pretty freakin' awesome around the holidays. It makes me want to walk in with my Kohl's cash in hand like THIS.

Shop the entire collection online HERE.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Sara's Staples: ankle pants

There are a handful of things in my life that count as sartorial staples. Going back to school hit my wallet pretty hard so when I shop it's all about value and function and practicality....but mostly value. I learned how to find key pieces - the few go-to items that are affordable, versatile, stylish and practical that I can't live without. So if you're on a budget or just need some good recommendations, here are some of my staples.....

One of my fashion secrets is that when I find something that fits great and looks great, I buy it in another color. These ankle pants are one of those items. I first bought a pair in June and realized that they work well for my business casual needs and they're a little stretchy so comfy when I'm out running errands, so I bought them again in black. I'm not saying you won't ever see me wearing yoga pants (aka glorified sweatpants) to the grocery store, but having these pants around give me more options. The cropped cut hits right at the ankle giving a modern look but still feeling classic. Think Audrey Hepburn. The black ones are great for traveling because of the stretch. Lately, I've been wearing those with a denim chambray shirt and leopard scarf. So they've been transitioning into fall quite well.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

morning walk

This is Humboldt park in Bay View. When I have time I try to tag along with Lulu the dog and the husband on their morning walk. The leaves are almost at their peak and the park looks gorgeous.

Fall, I've missed you.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Dinner and a Movie: Indie, Spaghetti and Cocktails

While I love going out and seeing what's new and exciting in Milwaukee, I also love making dinner and watching a movie in my pj's. My friend Melissa is on the same page. So last Friday was GNO in my living room with the both of us looking up recipes on Pinterest, cooking, and watching Your Sister's Sister.

The movie was great. It's about two half-sisters and the guy that gets between them - a little awkward, a little funny, and a lot of layers. I had actually watched it the night before but talked it up so much that we watched it again. I remember hearing about the movie on NPR - the acting was very organic, often unscripted. Speaking of movies......the Milwaukee Film Fest is going on and I'm determined (even with working 10-12hr days) to get my butt over there to see the documentary Ethel.

Anyways, onto the food. Our spaghetti with tomatoes, black olives, garlic, and feta cheese recipe was from Food & Wine here. Our Honey Badger cocktails were champagne and St. Germain Cocktails with honey syrup from the blog Design Love Fest. Find the recipe here. These were freakin' delicious. So perfect for fall.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Backyard Discovery: Oro di Oliva

Oro is one of those places that I've always wanted to walk into but never found the time. Today, I can check it off my list. For those of you that know me, I go three places: Milwaukee, Chicago and the I-94 Oasis rest stop. That's why a trip out to Wauwatosa can seem like a hike.....but it's not. Oro is located in the Tosa Village and a straight shot over on State Street from downtown. They sell only two things, really. Tank after large tank of olive oil and balsamic with names like Herbs d'Provence and Sicilian Lemon. And all are available to taste. Drinking a tablespoon of olive oil or more is an interesting experience. The richness is almost intoxicating, but it's not thick or greasy like it would seem. On my way out I spotted their walnut oil (the possibility wheel started turning). But that will have to wait for another day. MyFitnessPal was already confused enough.

Oro di Oliva

3 Milwaukee area locations:
338 E. Silver Spring Dr. Whitefish Bay, WI

7606 Harwood Ave. Wauwatosa, WI

400 N. Water St. Milwaukee, WI (Public Market)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


I have been hearing amazing reviews of Jo Malone fragrance swarming around the internet. There was a new light citrusy-scent out there? I had to try it. But the price for Jo Malone is sort of high. So I bought a sample. Yes, $3.49 is sort of dumb for tiny sample usually given out free, but it was better than spending $70 or $110 on a bottle I didn't like. Jo Malone is not sold anywhere near Milwaukee. Try the Neiman Marcus in Northbrook, IL. I got the Nectarine Blossom and Honey sample from here and really liked it. It's light, a hint of floral, but very fresh. The Christmas List is already forming, people.

photo: bloomingdales


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