Friday Feature: My New Favorite Book + A Giveaway!

the-delicious-life-of-julia-child-2If you have followed me for any amount of time, you know how much I am obsessed with love Julia Child.  She has been an inspiration for years and in the past couple years after watching the movie Julie and Julia, reading My Life in France and just stalking Julia online, naturally, my love affair continues to grow.  I literally used her in a presentation a couple weeks ago – the lady started her career/published her first book at the age of 49!  She’s AWE-SOME on so many levels.

While I was in San Francisco this past weekend, I saw this children’s book at a boutique on Fillmore street and almost died.  Bon Appetit! The Delicious Life of Julia Child by Jessie Hartland.  I bought all the copies in the store (there were two) and the next store we went to was a men’s store so while Rick shopped, I sat down and read the book.  It’s fascinating and creative and inspiring.  And it also made me realize I want to read more children’s books in my life.  They are far less complicated, much more fun to read and just simple.  I think authors could learn a lot from children’s books.  I have since read it two more times and plan on reading it at least 100 more times in the coming months.

It’s a perfect gift for adults and children alike (per point above).  Or, if you are obsessed with Julia like I am, it’s a must-buy for your sweet self.  OR, today could be your lucky today!  Write in a comment telling me why you love Julia Child to win a copy of this delicious book!  And feel free to share this post with any Julia lovers in your life to help someone else win!  I will pick a winner by Monday.  Trust me, you want this book.

Bon Appetit and Good Luck!

the-delicious-life-of-julia-childPhoto Credits:  Jessie Hartland

Meeting Monica Pedersen

ann-ueno-monica-pederson-15This past weekend I attended a designers dream event at Pottery Barn on North Avenue in Chicago featuring the ever vivacious, creative and warm HGTV legend, Monica Pedersen!  Admittedly, I didn’t know a ton about her going in but grew to learn more and love more about her during her book signing event.  Unlike other book signings I have gone to, Monica was engaging, informative and welcomed a conversation.  It wasn’t all about her, but rather, it was about her sharing pages from her book and how-to’s, hilarious stories and really inspiring hosting ideas.

What I personally loved most about the event was her story.  Her journey into design.  The fact that at age 35 she started her career with HGTV and pursued her passion of design is amazing to me!  Most of what she knows is because of testing, learning, doing, experiencing.  Not a Harvard design education (hmmmm…not even sure Harvard has a design program…).  Of course, she has a gift of the design eye and incredible hostess skills.  But, she activated and gained credibility in the entertaining and design world because she went with her heart.  #loveit

Check out some of the shots from the event below and a huge thanks to Pottery Barn for the great feature!  Oh and P.S. can we talk about how cute she is?!  And she’s like 8 months preggars?!

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{Note to Self} bittersweet

Over the past month, I have been reading a book that was brought into my life for a very specific reason.  I’d like to call it a divine intervention.  I have mentioned it in a previous post and it’s on my “What I’m Reading” page of my blog.  It’s called Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace and Learning the Hard Way by Shauna Niequist.  I have had 2-3 divine interventions while reading the book, one of which happened during the last chapter a few nights ago.  It’s a book that reminded me I wasn’t alone.  I’m not alone.  That there is hope.  That what I have is enough.  But, more on that stuff later.

In the meantime, I have decided to start a series on my blog called Bittersweet.  A visual and written appreciation to Shauna and her story.  A thank you for her honesty and transparency and creativity and faith.  But more importantly, a sharing of what I have learned from her book and some really important words she brought to paper that just so happened to connect with my eyes and resonate with my soul.

And today I bring you the first of the series which is the premise of her book and words that, at this point in my life, are needed and are necessary.  Maybe right now you are in a place in your life to celebrate.  I encourage you to do so.  Do so well.  With a bottle of Veuve Clicquot.  And friends. And perhaps the perfect LBD that makes you look 10 pounds skinner than you are.  And if you are in a place in your life of growth, grow the crap out of it! Embrace the growth. Grow well.  Invite your friends, hang tightly to the tissue in your hand, get on your knees in prayer and know that growth is good.

For me, I fall into the latter (and yes, just a few days ago I was parallel with my West Elm rug in my dining room praying fervently to God).  And a few close girlfriends are joining me on Friday night, in their Lululemon gear, with junk food and red wine and games and hugs and laughter and tears, I’m sure.

Thank you for the sweet.  Thank you for the bitter.

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Gifts Worth Sharing: A Recap of My Holiday Favorites.

I feel very blessed this year to have had such a great Christmas and New Year spent with family, friends and so. much. food.  It went by way too fast, as always, but was memorable and really, really fun.  And I have to say, I received some pretty awesome gifts.  Gifts that screamed “Ann!” and gifts that couldn’t have been more perfect.  So, I had to share.  Maybe this will help spark some gift-giving ideas for any upcoming birthdays or anniversaries.  Or maybe it will spark an idea for, um, a gift to buy yourself 🙂  Enjoy!

Moscow mules are one of my new favorite cocktails. So obviously, my mom hit this target with buying me these amazing (and official) Moscow mule mugs!

My dear friend Rose nailed it with this one! I heart Julia Child.  Here's to French food in 2013.

My dear friend Rose nailed it with this one! I heart Julia Child. Here’s to French food in 2013.

Perfect stocking stuffer from Rick. This truffle and salt is so delicious I can hardly stand it.

Perfect stocking stuffer from Rick (via Vaneesha). This truffle and salt is so delicious I can hardly stand it.

I love coffee table books and this one, from my  mom, is beautiful inside and out.

I love coffee table books and this one, from my mom, is beautiful inside and out.

My sister-in-law and brother-in-law couldn't have picked out a more perfect book!  Anything French is a sure Ann pleaser.

My sister-in-law and brother-in-law couldn’t have picked out a more perfect book! Anything French is a sure Ann-pleaser.

Foiled dot napkins from Anthropologie that are sparkly, yet classic?  Okay! Amazing job, Rick :)

Foiled dot napkins from Anthropologie that are sparkly, yet classic? Okay! Amazing job, Rick 🙂

Now I'll always know the rules to the games, especially in Poker!  Awesome gift from my mom.

Now I’ll always know the rules to the games, especially in Poker (ahem, Dave and Brenda…)! Awesome gift from my mom, naturally.

This was the nicest surprise and delight from my amazing neighbors! Such a thoughtful, classic and beautiful bracelet from J Crew.  Plus, love the emerald to kick off 2013!

This was the nicest surprise and delight from my amazing neighbors! Such a thoughtful, classic and beautiful bracelet from J Crew. Plus, love the emerald to kick off 2013!

My friend Vaneesha had this amazing quote customized and framed for me from Posh Paperie! Love it so much!

My friend Vaneesha had this amazing quote customized and framed for me from Posh Paperie! Love it so much!

A gift card to the Dana Hotel Spa?  Sign me up!  Rick giving me some R&R is so perfect :)

A gift card to the Dana Hotel Spa? Sign me up! Rick giving me some R&R is so perfect 🙂

I almost cried when I got this...a wish ornament from my sister, brother-in-law and their kids.  Check out those wishes they made for me!

I almost cried when I got this…a wish ornament from my sister, brother-in-law and their kids. Check out those wishes they made for me!

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I've been wanting this weekend travel guide by The New York times for a year now and my sister gave me it!  So excited.  Let the travels continue!

I’ve been wanting this weekend travel guide by The New York Times for a year now and my sister gave me it! So excited. Let the travels continue!

What were some of your favorite gifts from the holidays?

Jayson Home Event with Heather Clawson of Habitually Chic

The timing couldn’t have been better when I received the email from Jayson Home announcing their book signing with Heather Clawson, just having published her book, Habitually Chic: Creativity at Work.  I had just completed our Starwood office design and decor (you can view it here) so I was thrilled to meet Heather.  Um, a blogger turned designer turned photographer turned author writing a book about creative office spaces and more?!  At Jayson Home?  Don’t twist my arm…I’m in.  Here is a description of the book taken from Jayson Home’s website:

Author Heather Clawson is the author, editor and photographer behind the popular blog, Habitually Chic. In her first book, Creativity At Work, she profiles creative people of all types, including Bunny Williams, interior designer, Jenna Lyons, creative director of J.Crew, fashion designer Chris Benz, and Richard Wright, auctioneer. Each subject is briefly introduced by Heather as she shares her relationship to each of them. Then they tell their own story about how they got their start, what keeps them going, the best advice they ever received and more. It’s a fascinating and inspiring peek into the work spaces and professional lives of 29 creative people.

Check out the visual recap from the book signing at Jayson and enjoy!  Oh and don’t forget to visit Heather’s blog, Habitually Chic, as well (your Pinterest boards will thank you).

White chocolate truffles and champagne?!  Twist my arm (again).
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My beautiful, kind, creative friend, Vaneesha!  How about that amazing red lipstick?!  Gorg.
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Love how the book looks in my place now.  Not only is it dense with inspiration and ideas, it looks beautiful on an end table!

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Office Space Before and After

It’s rare that as a Director of Marketing you will get {politely} asked to evacuate your office, find new office space for your team, figure out how to sign a corporate lease, speak IT speak (aka combo of Japanese, Taiwanese and Swiss), understand corporate finance, hire an architect, design a space, curate art and move into a new space within a calendar year.  Yeah, pretty sure that wasn’t on the job description when I signed up at Starwood almost 9 years ago.  But, I must say, having the privilege to lead a project like that was truly a career highlight for me.  There are many reasons why, but let’s focus today on, well, admittedly the main reason…because I got to pretend I was on HGTV and design an office space people!  How fun is that?!  It’s like a dream job within a dream job.  Domino magazine, here I come!  Design Sponge, here I come!  Extreme Home Office Makeover, here I come!  (For those of you who know me well know that I am actually pretty serious…sort of…yes, I am…100%.)

Anyways, I won’t bore you with the details of how I had to spend 45 minutes on the phone figuring out how to expense a refrigerator.  Or the time when I had to interrupt all of the really smart IT people and ask them to speak in English as I had no idea what they were talking about and really just wanted to know if we could get some wi-fi.  Or the time I called our VP of real estate early on and essentially told him I had no idea what I was doing…we had a good laugh…and then signed a lease…it was so fun {sarcasm}!

Okay, I will stop for real this time.  Just here to share with you some fun before and after pictures of our new office space (plus some fun photojournalism of when my team saw the space for the first time!). While it’s not 100% complete, it’s pretty dang close and for my first big gig as a pseudo interior designer, I’m happy with the outcome.  A humungous thank you to OKW Architects (loved working with Amber!), Synergy Construction Group (Phil and Sam ROCK!), Henricksen (Emily was really helpful finding affordable and chic furniture solutions!) and Cushing (Sheldon, Liz and Matt were great…loved the outcome of the art and wall quotes!).  Enjoy 🙂

Mood Board

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Entryway

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http://www.cushingco.com/index.shtml

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The Separation Solution (having a loft office is great, but it creates a need for separation and this turned out to be a perfect solution…hence, the separation solution!)

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Collaboration Area

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The Art Column (if I told you how many hours I spent curating the art you may make fun of me for a very long time)

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Kitchen

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Loved leveraging our existing brand photography.  These shots are part of the Westin SuperFoods program…perfect for our kitchen!

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Conference Area (how bad do you want to go there?  Talk about inspiration during a meeting!)

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Vinyl, inspiring quotes on walls (think company brand messages, taglines, etc.) are an easy and low-cost way to perk up a space!

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Here’s another quote that is located in one of our hallways.  It’s all about being inspired and proud to work for Starwood!  Oh and for some reason the picture is showing it looking crooked…weird…it’s not crooked at all in real life.  Hmmm…

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The Details (aka the super duper fun part for me!)

In each person’s office, I curated art that has some sort of meaning to the people on my team.  I had asked them their favorite Starwood Hotel, their favorite travel destination, their dream vacation, etc.  My goal was to make them feel inspired and give them some visual eye candy throughout their workday!

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I’ve had a personal goal to learn graphic design so the last 4-5 months, I did just that.  And I took my new skills and brought them to life in a personal way for my team.  I asked each person their favorite quote as well as their personal passions.  With that, I made each person an 8 1/2 x 11 print for their desk, as well as signs for the front of their door.

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Always important to have your CEO’s book on your desk, right?  I worked with our corporate office to get books sent in time for the opening.

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And it’s only perfect that since we are in the hotel business that we have do-not-disturb signs for our doors!  I had our corporate brand teams send these so each office door has one.  Let’s just hope that nobody is actually sleeping at their desks 😉

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The final product!  Can you tell I’m happy?

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Nate Berkus Book Signing at Jayson Home in Chicago

Next to my husband, Rick, I would say that interior design is the second love of my life.  And living in Chicago, there is no better store to get lost in that love than at Jayson Home.  I have blogged several times before about Jayson and this probably won’t be my last, either.  The store is an aspiring interior designer’s dream, filled with unique furniture, European flea market finds, perfect gifts and fresh flowers and plants.  And because I am pretty tight with Jayson on Facebook, I was informed of their Nate Berkus Book Signing (for his new book, The Things That Matter) and of course, cleared my calendar and arrived to the event 20 minutes early with a fresh layer of Chanel Rouge lipstick on.  Here’s a recap of the evening!

  

Sofia Coppola Mini’s are always a hit and a great way to celebrate any event.

    


Waiting in line I had to take a couple of shots of the gorgeous products.  I LOVE the turquoise candle holders!

Nate all smiles, with a beer, signing my book!

    

Now I’m all smiles having just met Nate (short and sweet…he wasn’t overly talkative and the line was long so I’m sure he wanted to get moving!).

Love going to these events and meeting new people.  Here is a great gal I met named Amelia and she is the co-founder of The Chicago Life Blog.

You can order Nate’s (we are on a first name basis now) book, The Things That Matter, online at Target today!  I would highly recommend the book.  The story of his life, his passion for design and amazing visuals. It also makes for an amazing coffee table book!

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