22 August 2007


Saturday afternoons often find Andrew and I enjoying the people and surroundings of our neighborhood. In the past year, we have learned that come 9:00 am on weekend mornings, young families with children and pets have already escaped the house to enjoy the urban, yet neighborly, activity of the Square. I have appreciated the down to earth character of those who inhabit this neighborhood. While it’s definitely not lacking a fashionable style, it’s not exclusively trendy. Think Anthropologie meets lederhosen. A few weekends ago, we were relaxing on a bench and I couldn’t help but notice a very stylish mom hanging out with her son. She had a great dress on and I kept wondering where she purchased it and how much she paid. I finally asked her, braced to hear about some chic boutique, forever out of my price range. The answer? Target. “Yeah,” she said, “they have great designers who create lines exclusively for the store. You have to check often, because things get snatched up pretty quickly.”

Yesterday, I heard on NPR that Vera Wang is coming out with a line, Very Vera, for Kohl’s stores. Ahhh yes, the Democratization of Fashion. In 2000, Target brought in its first design partner, Mossimo Giannulli, followed by Liz Lange in 2002 and Isaac Mizrahi in 2003. A year or two ago, Wal-mart adopted the same approach to attracting more fashion conscious shoppers, but without as much success. And now Kohl’s. According to one fashion blog I read, “In recent years, a slew of high-end designers have worked with lower-end firms to offer "designer" products at low prices. This trend came to be termed "massclusivity"--the idea being that a lower ticket price would make high fashion available to the masses.” But is it possible that by bringing high-end designs to the public, the high-end designers are diminishing their own distinctiveness? Is it not precisely exclusivity that contributes to a product’s prestige and demand? And are we, the masses, truly experiencing the high-end luxury that these designers are bringing to our discount stores? Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy to pay $35 for a dress instead of $150. But something has to give, and something does. I recently bought an Isaac Mizrahi dress from Target. Style and fit? Great. Price? Great. Quality and fabric? Questionable. These clothes are not the stuff of the rich and famous. Nor should they be. For the sake of fashion and design, Cate Blanchett should not (and will never) show up at the Oscars with a Mossimo dress from Target.

Bottom line: Massclusivity will not grant me the opportunity to adorn myself with the luxurious fabrics and unique patterns of high-end designers. That’s what makes high-end designers high-end. And if they ceased to be high-end, where would Charlize Theron shop? But massclusivity will give me the opportunity to find unique designs by talented designers for a very reasonable price. Sure, I may need to replace some buttons and trim some loose threads, but hey, you get what you pay for.

20 August 2007

Seattle's Sights

Two weekends ago we made our first trip to Seattle. Andrew's good friend from high school, Elizabeth, was getting married and graciously invited us and Andrew's parents to attend. It was a beautiful wedding with a lake-side reception (you'll just have to believe me that it was beautiful because I am severely lacking wedding pictures). We also had a few days to tour Seattle and see what everyone is raving about! Our friends, Andy and Erika, were wonderful and generous hosts and ensured that we didn't leave without taking in some of Seattle's most alluring sights.

The trip left us wanting more. Seattle displays a striking contrast between modern architecture and ancient natural beauty. Because of Seattle's many hills, there are many vantage points from which to see the city. For any foreground scene of recent architectural achievement, there is a background landscape of the Olympics or the Cascades--and always Mt. Rainier in full view. I was left marveling at how young our country is in the midst of a very mature, experienced and beautiful Mother Earth. We wish we had had time to explore some of the earth that cradles this bright, lovely city. To hike along the rises and kayak through the wrinkles. We will have to return.

[It should be noted that the wedding picture above is of Liz and her father, not her husband, Patrick. Sorry, Pat!]

17 August 2007

Baby At

In case you were craving some interesting news...

BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese couple tried to name their baby "@," claiming the character used in e-mail addresses echoed their love for the child, an official trying to whip the national language into line said Thursday.

The unusual name stands out especially in Chinese, which has no alphabet and instead uses tens of thousands of multi-stroke characters to represent words.

"The whole world uses it to write e-mail, and translated into Chinese it means 'love him'," the father explained, according to the deputy chief of the State Language Commission Li Yuming.

While "@" is familiar to Chinese e-mail users, they often use the English word "at" to sound it out -- which with a drawn out "T" sounds something like "ai ta," or "love him," to Mandarin speakers.

Li told a news conference on the state of the language that the name was an extreme example of people's increasingly adventurous approach to Chinese, as commercialization and the Internet break down conventions.

Another couple tried to give their child a name that rendered into English sounds like "King Osrina."

Li did not say if officials accepted the "@" name. But earlier this year the government announced a ban on names using Arabic numerals, foreign languages and symbols that do not belong to Chinese minority languages.

Sixty million Chinese faced the problem that their names use ancient characters so obscure that computers cannot recognize them and even fluent speakers were left scratching their heads, said Li, according to a transcript of the briefing on the government Web site (www.gov.cn).

One of them was the former Premier Zhu Rongji, whose name had a rare "rong" character that gave newspaper editors headaches.

10 August 2007


I'm not usually one to be interested in celebrity gossip, sightings or style... usually. But yesterday was an exception. A coworker of mine (who is one to be interested in celebrity gossip) rushed out of his office yesterday afternoon to announce that Angelina Jolie and her daughter, Zahara, had been at Timeless Toys in Lincoln Square that morning. Apparently, Angelina had taken a break from filming Wanted to bring Zahara to the quaint neighborhood toy store. The only reason this was at all interesting to me is because Timeless Toys is literally steps from my apartment. Steps. Even as I write this, I think, so what? But for some reason, there is something thrilling about a real live Hollywood star walking in the very same steps you take every day. She might as well have been in my apartment. Although my friends and I couldn't figure out why she would opt for a little neighborhood store over something more glamorous downtown, I secretly think: who wouldn't want to visit Lincoln Square?!

On a more substantive note, Timeless Toys was rated the best toy store in the city by Chicago Magazine and it was featured in the Chicago Tribune. I have experienced its grace and charm on a number of occasions, whether buying gifts for our niece and nephew or playing dress up over Memorial Day weekend.

It is a staple to our little neighborhood and perhaps Angelina knew that. Or perhaps she wanted to escape the glitz and glamor of downtown. Or maybe she just wanted to give us ordinary folks a chance to be starstruck.

02 August 2007

Dog Days

Every summer I try to adopt the mentality of living in the present. Summer arrives and the fun begins and then, before you know it, it's over. So I try to soak up every moment and be conscious of each day. Sometimes I succeed; sometimes I fail. But it's always a good reminder for me to look back at the summer's events and remember that we did indeed take advantage of those dog days. I know we still have some summer left, so all the more reason to be conscious of what we did and what we have left to do.

Celebrating Cristina's birthday in June

Fourth of July fireworks in Grant Park

A game of Cornhole (there have been lots of those)

Go Cubs!

Applying tattoos at our church's neighborhood block party

The Butterfly Conservatory at the Nature Museum

(Even the best of us can have an identity crisis)

The butterfly mating dance

Venetian Night at Monroe Harbor