28 February 2010

Coffee Talk

The conversation is not only over coffee, but coffee is the conversation itself.

Part of its initiative to incite discussion about global affairs with young leaders in the community, the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh has invited Intelligentsia’s co-founder and VP to speak about its involvement in the coffee trade process. Intelligentsia (my favorite coffee and soon will be yours too if it isn’t already) practices direct trade with a seed to cup collaboration with coffee farmers all over the world.

In addition, sample coffee from around the globe provided by Aldo Coffee, meet other like-minded individuals, and learn more about the World Affairs Council. The event will take place on Wednesday, March 24th from 6-8pm at the Firehouse Lounge in the Strip District. Tickets are limited, so register soon! We participated in the council-hosted Beer Summit during the G20, which sold out in only a few days. In my book, coffee is just as essential as beer, so I am sure this will be a success too.

27 February 2010

An Escape from Reality

Very very soon, I will be far, far away from white snow and grey skies, and laying on white sand near glistening turquoise waters (provided Mother Nature permits us to travel this morning.) It's been several years since we went to the Caribbean, and what a winter to plan a return. I know, rub it in some more.

I hope that when we're back in Pittsburgh in a few days, we'll be greeted with signs of spring. Wishful thinking. Speaking of such, I thought I'd share a short film I have bookmarked and love to watch for an escape. This simple little romantic film, called Notte Sento, was pieced together with over 4,500 still photographs.

25 February 2010

Recipe for Dressing

On my latest Etsy search for things I don't really need but would make me feel so much better if I had, I stumbled upon the cutest little shop, decorative instincts.

How adorable are these bib aprons? I would dance around the kitchen and cook all day if I could wear one of these. Can I somehow make it into a dress?

This would be the most creative bridal shower gift ever, too.

23 February 2010

Orchid Display

There is something so graceful, elegant, and timeless about orchids. They complement both modern and classic decor, and I have never met anyone who doesn't find them absolutely beautiful. Including Steelers' safety and Phipps' board member Troy Polamalu, who apparently grows orchids in his home.

Phipps Conservatory is wrapping up their orchid show this weekend with a drawing for a football signed by Polamalu. (What better way to bring the better half.) It is peak season for the orchids at the Phipps, and in celebration, they've had special events all month about the exotic blooms. This weekend, learn about growing them at home and designing arrangements.

Orchid on a hall console, as shown on the cover image of Celerie Kemble's latest interior design book, To Your Taste. ( I love that glossy inlaid floor.)

Interior designer Glenn Gissler's portfolio of a city apartment. The orchid adds such simple organic beauty to soften all the modern lines. And they work in the most simple of pots.

22 February 2010

Well Done

One collection featured at New York Fashion Week that will make a debut in my closet is Alexa Chung for Madewell. The stylish British model showed very wearable (and affordable) pieces that have a relaxed vintage-meets-preppy flair. I love the slim lines and pleats mixed with chunky clogs.

It's so fascinating how modern style icons are playing such an influential role in the fashion world. And then trying to infuse the individuality of it all. My Madewell shows stylish young things sharing their looks in a digital scrapbook with their handwritten profiles to make it real.

Madewell is the edgier little sister of J.Crew. The Spring Madewell collection has a similar look to Alexa's upcoming collection, as it was said to be inspired by her. I'm happy the classic fitted blazer is everywhere.

Madewell is currently available at their limited retail stores and by phone until the online store launches this Spring (though Shopbop has a select few things.) I can only hope Pittsburgh might be an upcoming market. Madewell would fit here verywell.

21 February 2010

Fashion Issues

The September Issue is being released this Tuesday on dvd and digital download. For those who may have seen the fashion documentary in its limited release last fall (in select cities including Pittsburgh,) this now also includes never-been-seen footage almost as long as the film itself.

Think The Devil Wears Prada, but with Anna Wintour playing Anna Wintour. I thought it gave a pretty honest behind-the-scenes view of Vogue. The two unexpected surprises for me: the heavy influence of creative director Grace Coddington, who clearly is the artistic mastermind behind most of the pages of Vogue. And Anna's appreciation for color in the shoots and during her critique of some collections. She does have impeccable taste. I love the Tolix chairs in her office, her ikat print dress, and her comments that are spot on, if not brutally honest.

The biggest take away is not as much glamour but more aspiration: Vogue is in the business of selling fashion, and it packages just that with this Issue.

20 February 2010

Antique Boutique

Always looking for something old and new for our house, we've started to scour the estate sales and auctions. Aspire Auctions, based in Cleveland and with a gallery on Ellsworth Ave in Shadyside, is currently displaying its latest collection with bidding starting next Friday, February 26th. I had bid on a few different paintings in the fall auction and won one. The online catalog is organized by category: objet, rugs, furniture, fine art and the like. The estimated prices are rather accurate, except for a few collector's items.

I am coveting this Belgian dresser. Please don't outbid me! Also in the furniture section is a set of Nakashima chairs.

The jewelry collection is beautiful and filled with bold vintage art deco and victorian pieces. How glamorous are these diamond drops?

Love the colors of this Hermes scarf.

17 February 2010

The Show Must Go On

I only realized it now, but the glimpse I caught of the tents at Bryant Park while in a cab on 6th Avenue last week will be the last time I ever see them again. Starting in September, New York Fashion Week will be held at Lincoln Center. Fashion is an artform, so it's an appropriate venue. But the tents have a history, for New York fashion and for me as well.

Out of college,  I landed the coveted position as the marketing intern for New York Fashion Week's office. I helped sell ad space for The Daily, stuffed press kits, obliged with Starbucks runs and very strange errands. But the perk of that one week outweighed it all: I helped seat sponsors and was able to watch all the shows my heart desired. I voluntarily returned the next season, and somehow I worked my way into the tents every season I lived in New York. One season it was as a publicist for a sponsor, one season as a freelancer, and the last few years it was backstage, dressing the models in jewels. It was work though; for a few weeks prior, I would be constantly meeting with the designers and their team, recommending pieces based on the theme of their collection. I drafted press releases, letting every accessories editor know to keep a look on wrists and necklines. A success means months of coverage in every fashion magazine.

There is creative energy and passion on display by all the participants, audience and backstage alike. I always took fashion with a grain of salt, as one must do to keep sane surrounded by so much fantasy. Hence, I was sorely disappointed when the only original article the Post-Gazette featured barely discussed style, and failed to see the glamour of it all. If you can't take the circus, stay out of the tents.

There is something so magical that goes on inside the tents. It is all about the show in every sense, a culmination of a vision. It is the final presentation after months of work. Countless hours and thousands of dollars go into a 15-minute show. And of course, there is drama. Musical chairs, a missed delivery, unexpected attendees, A-listers with their entourage. But the real stage is the runway. Every look is carefully crafted and styled to perfection. It sets the stage for what we're all clamoring for next season. And by the time we have it, they're on to the next show.

A fabulous look at the collection and a great recap on Carolina Herrera's Fall 2010 show earlier this week. Courtesy of Mary.

16 February 2010

Screenings Worth Seeing

I like watching the Oscars for two reasons: the red carpet and to participate in a ballot. Normally, I only vote for the films I've seen, but there is still time to view the others before the awards show on March 7th. Pittsburgh Filmmakers is showing some of the contenders:

Oscar-nominated short films (action and animated, back-to-back) on Friday, February 19th through next Thursday at Regent Square Theatre. 

The courageous story of Precious, next week at the Harris Theatre downtown. Nominated for Best Picture.

Cannes Palme d'Or 2009 winner The White Ribbon, an artfully composed, intense drama about a German village before WWI, starting February 26th in Regent Square. Nominated for Best Foreign Film.

15 February 2010

Creatively Content

The latest issue of Lonny Magazine was released last week, and I already liked it from looking at the cover (the featured room and the entire apartment are gorgeous and I have the same Dash & Albert rug!) I like each issue more, and might now even prefer this digital version for its ability to immediately link to all the featured items, which leads to even more new finds. Plus, the content is like the old Domino before it joined the celebrity cover craze: creative and affordable tips by established and talented up-and-coming designers.

In this issue, they give IKEA big props for its ability to offer the white t-shirt of the home: white lacquered storage options.

The Lack bookshelves as a makeshift divider.

The PAX wardrobe, transformed into a glamorous vanity.

And this one is saved to my inspiration file. I'm fascinated by the weathered treatment of this cabinet. There's an antique hutch from my great grandparents in storage with my name on it. Now if I could only get it to Pittsburgh... and then we'd have a lot of sanding to do...

Three Cheers for Beer

Events focused around beer are always a good time. And it makes it an easier sell to my husband. Three favorite East End establishments are offering a variety of special events with a planned menu and a tasting of different ales:

Kelly's Bar & Lounge, Saturday, February 20th @4pm
and Sunday, February 21st @1pm
Hell with the Lid Off  6th Annual Barleywine Festival

No comment on the ominous title. This event claims to have the most beers under one roof. Co-organized by Pittsburgh's East End Brewing Company. $40 in advance, $45 at the door, includes it all.

Point Brugge Cafe, Monday March 8th @7pm
Dinner featuring Wisconsin's Furthermore Beer

We went to a similar dinner at the Belgian neighborhood cafe this Fall and enjoyed the intimacy and variety of the menu. I always get the mussels at dinner, so it was fun to try the chef's selections with the paired beer tastings. And it was also nice not to wait for a table (yes, you HAVE to make a reservation!) $40 per person includes dinner, beer, tax and tip.

The Cafe at the Frick, Thursday, March 25th @7pm
Craft Beer Dinner

The Cafe has never disappointed, and the setting feels like you're dining in a greenhouse. A five course meal paired with East End Brewing Company ales. Reservations required. $70 per person includes dinner, beer, tax and tip.

14 February 2010

A Lovely Day

I thought it appropriate to share one of my favorite romantic albums: Madeleine Peyroux's Careless Love. Every song on the album sounds hopelessly romantic and relaxing, and could be mistaken for Billie Holliday. Of course, the French-American artist sings in both French and English.

My husband and I first discovered her after we got engaged, and chose Dance Me to the End of Love as our wedding song.

Happy Valentine's Day!

13 February 2010

Tie One on

I love all the embellishments and ruffles on the tops at J.Crew. Being a layer person, this makes me love the Bib necklace even more. The Bib necklace can add sparkle to anything in the closet, from a plain T to a shift dress. It's an elegant costume piece at any price range (silk and crystal versus polyester and glass, perhaps?)

Cleopatra necklace at Nordstrom (in ivory or black), $46.

Jewel bib at Fred Flare, now $10.

Oscar de la Renta at Saks, $890

Chiffon and Floral bib at Shopbop, $118

Or find some crystal and ribbon to create with guidance from Martha and MJ Trimming in New York.

A Giveaway!

I have received many comments both on and offline about chicsburgh, and I appreciate all of the feedback. A suggestion from one of my top readers was to offer a giveaway. She also offered to supply such a giveaway. With that, I am pleased to offer a one-of-a-kind hand-knit buttersoft chunky cabled woolblend cowl in turquoise. A unique piece inspired by two posts: cowls and the color of 2010.

To become eligible for the drawing, you must:
1. Be a visible follower, and
2. Send a suggestion for chicsburgh.  Be as broad or as specific as you please! Maybe it's a hidden secret in your neighborhood, your favorite object, a design tip, or something you wish would be highlighted more about Pittsburgh.  Please send your brilliant ideas to chicsburgh (at) gmail.com until Tuesday, February 16th at noon. The winner will be announced later that day and the package will be sent with utmost priority so you can stay warm and stylish for the rest of the winter months!

Update: Jamie R. is the winner of the cowl. Thank you everyone for all of your thoughts! Much appreciated!

11 February 2010

Functional Art

I came upon the Elle Decor design calendar, hoping there might be an event coinciding with my future whereabouts. Lo and behold, the very first listing is for The Artistic Furniture of Charles Rohlfs, currently on display at the Carnegie Museum of Art. An actor-turned-artist influenced by his travels and mystery novelist wife, Rohlf's pieces reflect modernism and Art Nouveau, and contributed to the Arts and Crafts movement.

This is the first major exhibition for Rohlfs, who is a coveted and hidden secret among American furniture design collectors. The exhibit runs through April 25th before traveling to The Met in New York. Pittsburgh sees it first!

10 February 2010

American Looks

Somehow or another, I'm enduring the winter storm from this view.  A quick impromptu trip to New York for a project (and pleasure where it fit) evolved into contingency planning once my flight home was cancelled. I'm not seeking sympathy; it entailed checking out of the hotel and heading uptown to one of my best friend's apartment, shedding work clothes into something more comfortable, and doing a market run at Eli's.

I wish I had time to shop during this visit, but I strategically went straight to American Apparel and picked up winter leggings and a baby thermal crewneck tee.

Some new Spring pieces were out and looked so good.  Of course, I tend to like the more traditional pieces that are given a modern cut. I took home a unisex sailor stripe boatneck, which has a heavy canvas feel and slim, boxy fit. I walked past the metallic leggings. The salesgirl rocked them, but they just scream trend to me.

If only this oxford shirtdress were a few inches longer, I'd completely wear it in all the suggested ways. I love their basics and that everything is so reasonably priced. The American Apparel on Walnut St. in Shadyside has quite a good selection.

As for the storm's impact in New York, it hasn't been as severe as expected, but the snow removal is nothing short of impressive. (Maybe someone could learn a thing or two from Bloomberg.)

09 February 2010

Sensibly Chic

It is a challenge to dress stylishly when stepping into 18 inches of snow. The keys are layers and sensible boots. I very much noticed girls in Hamburg schlepping through the snowy Straße in skinny jeans tucked into tall, tight wellies with a treaded sole.

Although the Wellington is most closely associated with British style and history, French-made Aigle and Le Chameau are giving Hunter a run for its money.

Aigle's R Boot

Le Chameau's Lady Iris

I don't care that Spring is six weeks away, and that the Fall 2010 shows commence this week. I need these boots and I need them now. Anything made to withstand the Pittsburgh weather is definitely an investment. I love pieces that are versatile and wearable for more than one season. Hunter has a fitted fleece welly sock layer that slips in and folds over. All of these encourage mucking around in city scape, countryside, snow or rain; or muddy rock concerts à la Kate Moss.

08 February 2010

Doggy Downtime

No, this is not a cushion for my living room chair. It's a doggy duvet cover. A dog bed, especially one for a larger dog, takes up a lot of real estate in your bedroom or living room, so why shouldn't it be stylish? This one has a similar palette to the fabric I just ordered. I love the playful floral pattern with little dog and bone silhouettes.

The Molly Mutt duvets are designed to be filled with your choice of stuffing. Either find a down doggy pillow (which does exist, I assure you), or purchase it with a stuff sack to fill it with an old blanket.

The duvets are cotton, washable, reasonably priced, and come in various patterns, shapes and sizes. Puppy not included.

07 February 2010

Conscious Decisions

Our plans for last night were obviously cancelled, so we watched Julie & Julia. It left me with three main takeaways:

1. Meryl Streep should definitely win the Oscar.
2. I have become completely self-conscious about cooking. Would Julia be appalled that the only time I've made Boeuf Bourguignon is in my slow cooker?
3. I have become completely self-conscious about blogging. Is anybody out there?

My husband laughed when Julie and her husband have an argument with both of them admitting that blogging has made her more self-absorbed. Fortunately, like Julie, I have a supportive husband; he makes suggestions and is a devoted follower.

Also like Julie, I began blogging to fill a creative void in my day-to-day activities. Whether or not I have a ton of followers, I've enjoyed collecting my thoughts about simple pleasures in life, and having an outlet to discuss style and events. I used to be completely surrounded by the fashion world and 360 degrees of stimuli, and while I have little regret about the decisions I made in my professional and personal life, I do miss it.

I'm always looking for more outlets and like-minded individuals in Pittsburgh. There is enough coverage on sports, politics, meds and eds, much more now on culture and the arts scene, but very little on design and fashion. Case in point: when googling Pittsburgh style, images of a Primanti's sandwich fill the screen. Now try that with New York or San Francisco.

I know there are many stylish young things in Pittsburgh. And I keep meeting so many nice people. I find it interesting that many times I do, there's a litmus test: "What brought you here and what do you think?" The general consensus usually involves a comparison with time spent in a larger cosmopolitan city, but finding Pittsburgh endearing with loads of potential.

So I'm trying to do my little part.

Now I'm off to cook. 

06 February 2010

Long Live Longchamp

I love my Longchamp bags. I bought a carry-on-sized Le Pliage five years ago at the Madison Avenue shop and it's gone around the world with me literally. It is the perfect weekend bag, and it also folds into a clutch-sized shape to bring in case of overages from vacations gone wild (by shopping.) I also have an actual clutch in bright orange that my husband gave me, and it fits credit cards, iPhone, lipgloss and keys perfectly.

My mother picked up one in Hamburg last week, which allowed me to peruse the boutique and drool over this turquoise leather tote.

I don't see Longchamp as much in Pittsburgh. More so in New York, and almost ubiquitous in Europe. I'm convinced this one below is the best seller, at least in Germany. (Visit the site to design your own Le Pliage, which takes three weeks.)

Longchamp has never looked better. The Kate Moss for Longchamp collection, designed by the iconic model in their campaign, is launching next week. I love this camel hobo with the detailed stitching. I hope the Saks or Nordstrom here carries the collection to see it in person.

And I can't help but become intrigued by the social media / twiller campaign for Kate. Get creative: the best statement post wins a Kate bag. And I love the typography here (Sigh, After Effects.)

Super Spinach Dip

For every Super Bowl party I've ever been to, I've always brought Spinach dip and left with an empty bowl and requests for the recipe. There are so many variations of this recipe: some with mayo, sour cream or alfredo, but I assure you, this is the best. It is easy, deliciously cheesy, and healthier than you'd think.

Chop artichoke hearts. Mix in bowl with defrosted spinach, 1 1/2 cups of shredded mozzarella, grated parmesan, and softened cream cheese until texture is well blended. Spread into lightly greased baking dish. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella on top. Bake at 375 for 27-30 minutes, or until cheese is lightly browned and bubbly. Allow 5 minutes to cool. Serve with tortilla chips or toasted pitas.

Sur La Table has the best collection of baking dishes, among other fun kitchen items and I love going to the South Side Works store. All of the bakers below are $20 and are microwave, freezer, and dishwasher safe too.

05 February 2010

Snow Sales

What's a better time to search for cute things online than during a snowstorm? Even better when it's dramatically discounted. I loved hitting New York sample sales, and I wish Pittsburgh had some resources. Access to the new limited sale sites does alleviate some of the pain from not participating in knock-down-drag-out fights and hour-long lines I once experienced. A few favorites:

Gilt Groupe
Of course this site is fabulous: it was founded by former e-bay and Louis Vuitton execs. Also links to Gilt Fuse for contemporary, Gilt Man (enough said), and JetSetter (luxe hotel specials).

Another fashion and accessory site with pretty steeply discounted prices.

The Mini Social 
I'm certain I will be a frequent customer once we have a little one. Some things I wish came in adult size...

Haute Look
Great site with stylish home, fashion and accessory brands. Moleskine planners are half off until Monday.

One Kings Lane
Designer home decor that looks like it was pulled off the pages of a magazine.

03 February 2010

Eco Fabulous

I always found myself upset at the checkout aisle in Whole Foods, realizing I've left my reusable bags at home tucked in the pantry. (Or even more upset at a certain grocery store that would bag 11 items in practically 11 different plastic bags.)

That has changed since I received an adorable EnviroSax tote. Rolled up like an umbrella but into a size of a sushi roll, the sexy little sack is as durable as it is stylish: it weighs 1.4 oz but when unraveled it holds 44 lbs of stuff and reveals the cutest patterns. (And they're $8.50 each! And waterproof and washable!) I have been so diligent with tossing it back into my handbag that when we were at the market in Germany earlier this week, I was proud that I had it on-hand like any good European shopper.

There is a huge global following-- the Australian-based eco company sells EnviroSax all over the world. It was part of the Golden Globes gift baskets this year as well. Fortunately, they're sold online and through Contemporary Concepts in Squirrel Hill. Perfect to tote on the next trip to the Strip District.

Teach green practices young with the adorable kids line.

A more neutral look if he prefers not to help carry the groceries in a floral bag.

Perlora support for Haiti

Just got word this is postponed due to this weekend's expected storm. I will update it when it's announced.

I am constantly amazed by the outpouring of local support for the Haiti victims in such creative ways. Perlora will be hosting an auction of pieces from their collection with 100% of proceeds benefiting two Haiti hospitals with Pittsburgh connections: Hõpital Albert Schweitzer and St. Franqois de Sales Hõpital (through Pittsburgh Mercy Health Systems) in Port-au-Prince.

The auction will take place at the Lawrenceville warehouse, 3524 Charlotte Street. this Saturday, February 6th, with a 9am preview and the auction from 10 am to noon. The bidding will begin at half of the retail prices.

02 February 2010

Guide to City Chic

I am back home after a whirlwind but a very special weekend with family in Germany. Jetlag hasn't hit; probably because I got my own row both ways on the transatlantic flights to adjust and sleep horizontally. I did hear a passenger mention that the weekend flights are packed, so note to try to book the Paris flights for weekdays!

I have returned with memories and inspirations I look forward to sharing. My mother and I had a free day to spend in downtown Hamburg and hit as many shops and cafés as one can fit in a day. Our supplemental guide was the Wallpaper* City Guide I picked up a while back in a museum shop.

We had lunch at Cafe Paris, featured in the city guide.

A collaboration between the edgy magazine and Phaedon press, Wallpaper* city guides are a perfect pocket-sized book filled with recommendations of stylish jaunts only an insider would really know. The guides map out the hip neighborhoods and recommend dining, boutique, spa and hotel options, and the must-see architectural landmarks. It isn't substantial on its own, but these guides make you feel like you really experience a city like the way a stylish young local lives.

Wallpaper* guides are available for over 80 cities, and a select few cities are available as iPhone apps. The guide is small and conspicuous enough that I didn't mind whipping it out when needed, and for $7-10 apiece, it's worth having the book in your hand and not worrying about international data limits. I might give the NYC app a go and try it out on the next visit.

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