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

Be Passionate and Eat

If I could summarize Julia Child into four words, it would be, “Be Passionate and Eat.”  She epitomizes someone who brought her passion to life, despite many perceived obstacles.  She was hilarious, creative, bold and knew how to eat well – and, ahem, cook well – to say the least.  I found a few beautiful quotes of hers on Pinterest, some of which you can buy on Etsy at the unraveled design shop. These could make great kitchen art or a nice hostess gift.  Enjoy and cheers to passion and food!

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Shop Feature: MadeByGirl + 15% Off!

madebygirlEvery day I come across a new blog.  Some days I am impressed, sign up and follow, pronto.  Other days I don’t.  MadeByGirl falls into the former bucket and it’s one of those blogs that I get a little giddy when I see a new email in my inbox from her (her being Jen Ramos, blog and shop owner).  Here are a few reasons I love MadeByGirl:

Her content hits right on my passion points – design, color, fashion, food, art.  It’s a little slice of what I hope heaven is like one day.

She has some great contributors and does pretty cool collaborations and in this world of social media, collaborations are it.  Period.

She’s a Christian and open about her faith which is so admirable and inspiring to me.  She even shares her testimony for her readers to read.

She has a ridiculously cute online shop of her graphic design work-turned-prints-for-the-home that are simply irresistible.  Great gifts for a wedding shower, a wedding, a best friend, a colleague, um, ahem, yourself.  They are chic, colorful, glittery and she is having 15% off right now!  You just need to use code JULY15OFF at check out.

Last, if all that wasn’t enough, she has beautiful, original paintings featured on her other store called Cocoa and Hearts.  These paintings are all the rage right now (so much so that most, if not all, are sold out…but don’t give up, I am sure more will be available soon).  #love

So there you have it.  I have a little crush on MadeByGirl!

{All photos were taken from MadeByGirl website and Cocoa and Hearts website and are property of Jen Ramos}

Erin Gallagher Jewelry + A HUGE Customer Service Win.

ann-ueno-erin-gallagher-jewelryA few weeks back, as I was perusing the Lincoln Park neighborhood in Chicago, I stumbled into a super cute store called Erin Gallagher, a custom jewelry boutique.  There were two very outgoing, friendly women working and I instantly started talking to them as if I had been friends with them for years.  And then I spotted. the. best. monogram. necklace.  You see, I LOVE anything monogram.  I am the nerd that has monogram pillowcases.  I have an abundance of U’s around my house to the point it’s totally obnoxious but I sort of don’t care.  So when I saw this blocked-font monogrammed customized necklace, I knew I was going to make use of my credit card very shortly.  And I did.  I had to.  I LOVED this necklace.  It’s classic.  Unique.  Personal.  And a great price point, given the quality and customization.

Since it’s custom, you have to wait four weeks to get it which is a bummer, but makes sense.  And, since it’s custom, you don’t know what it’s going to look like until you pick it up.  And, since it’s custom, you can’t return it.  It’s a jewelry risk and one that I was willing to take!

It arrived last week and I love it even more than I anticipated!

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ann-ueno-erin-gallagher-jewelry-3 ann-ueno-erin-gallagher-jewelry-2And as if that wasn’t enough, I received a personal, hand-written note from EG! Ahhhh!  For someone who LOVES hand-written notes, this goes sooo far.  Oh wait, I’m sorry.  In this day and age of all things electronic, this goes SOOO FAR FOR ANYONE!

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Wow.  AND I saw on my receipt they took notes about me/our conversation while I was in the store.  I don’t know Erin personally nor do I know the women who work there, but all I have to say is well done.  And thank you for understanding what customer service means. I have already recommended EG to many women and now will even more!

I can’t wait to go back and play at EG!  🙂

Friday Round Up: Presence and Presents

ann-written-notesIt’s funny that these words come up and resonate with me so much this week.  Presence and Presents. In one case at work, we literally talked about social media engagement vs. social media presents.  Not presence.  Presents.  I made sure to clarify to the lovely listeners on the phone that I didn’t have a typo and it was, in fact, presents.  Would the event want engagement or presents (ahem, gifts)?  Engagement.

And it comes as no coincidence that last night I experienced both for my final birthdaymonth dinner celebration.  As we all know, schedules are tough and everyone is busy so for my birthday, I always try to get a date on the calendar for a girls dinner at some point within a week or two of my birthday.  And last night was the night.  Presence with friends.  Friends that matter most.

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We celebrated at one of my all-time favorite restaurants in Chicago, Shaw’s, and at the oyster bar nonetheless, at 6pm, I looked up to see five of my most favorite and closest friends around me.  They all hold different and special places in my heart.

  1. Liz is my oldest friend from home (18-19 years…oh my gosh!).  She gets the O-town (Ottawa, IL) jokes.  She makes me laugh.  She’s genuine and kind and has stuck by my side.  We have come in and out of each other’s lives, but always end up together again as if NO time has passed.  She still cracks me up.  I still love her.
  2. Sarah is my second oldest friend from college and we have both been through hell and back together.  We are both strong, energetic, travel and experience lovers and yes, at times, our personalities want to punch each other in the face.  But, that’s what keeps us together.  Our passion.  That common ground combined with what we have been through will always keep us together.  She’s sweet and loving and caring.  And honest.ann-written-notes
  3. Eileen comes next and she and I have grown deep into the real best friend kind of love the last 3-5 years.  Marriages, divorces, deaths, honesty, confessions, tears, laughter, farts, traveling and a lot of incredible conversations along the way, she is the real-deal kind of friend.  She’s not fake.  She will tell you the truth.  She stands her ground, she’s tough to argue with (because she’s smart and is an attorney), but I can hang with her and we both can love each other unconditionally which is why she remains such a dear friend to me.
  4. Rose.  Oh Rose.  The sunshine to all of us, the laughter, the kindness, the energy we all wish we had more of.  I met Rose through Eileen and I am SO grateful for that (love how God connects us Kevin Bacon style).  Rose is special in that she has more passion than most people and she radiates it and it just makes you love her even more.  You can talk love, spirituality, sex, finances, whatever with her and will NEVER feel judged and always walk away saying, “gosh, I love Rose.”  I can hear her laugh as I type this 🙂
  5. Vaneesha.  V.  My accountability partner, sister in Christ, dear, sweet friend.  I only recently met Vaneesha about 3 years ago through our church and the minute she walked in with her ear-to-ear smile, incredible fashion sense and passion for God, I knew this would be a friendship I would end up cherishing.  From our nights over food and wine, to our mornings of devotionals, to confessions and tears and sharing our fears and vulnerabilities, V has been an instrumental part of my walk with God and has grown to be one of my closest friends.

The presence of close girlfriends make up memories that go down deep into your heart and soul.  Last night, as I admired the beautiful women that surrounded me, was a memory that is now deep in my heart and soul.

And it doesn’t stop there.  Each of them were not only kind enough to take me out for champagne, oysters and sushi, but they each brought me a physical gift.  A present.  As we sipped our drinks and told stories, I opened each gift one-by-one and what kept coming to me was “I am known.”  Yes, presents are just material goods that perish, but for some reason, last night, they were far more than that.  As I opened each card that was unique with scribbles of inspiring words and love from each of them, the present that followed was just as special.

Paris in Color note cards from Sarah (she knows Paris in Color is one of my all-time favorite books) combined with Lush lavender bath balls (she knows I need to, ahem, slow down and relax).

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Chanel Chance perfume from Eileen (she knows that every girl needs a classic perfume AND I was in the market for a new perfume), followed by the greatest travel perfume holder (because she knew I wanted it).

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A glitzy gold iPhone case from Liz that she searched high and low, west coast to east coast to find for me, literally (she knows I love all things gold).

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A perfect animal-print Citrine by the Stone bracelet from Vaneesha’s favorite shop back home.  Proceeds go to a great cause (she knows I love gold jewelry, she knows my taste and she knows I love giving back).

ann-written-notes-animal-print-braceletA vintage pitcher with four matching glasses from Rose, featuring chalkboard labels (she knows I love to host and I love ANYTHING chalkboard and therefore, anything customizable).

ann-written-notes-chalkboard-glassesI truly know how blessed I am to have these women in my life.  Ladies, I love you and more importantly, thank you for loving me, thank you for knowing me and thank you for your presence and the presents.

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Shop Feature: Ruby Begonia’s

ann-written-notes-ruby-begonia'sWhen I go to visit my sister and her family, there is one thing I always try to squeeze in…shopping!  Being from a small town myself, one of the benefits is that there are usually quaint, one-of-a-kind shops to peruse and it’s no different in Morris, Illinois (about an hour southwest of Chicago).  And one of my absolute favorites is called Ruby Begonia’s.  It’s a shabby-chic-meets-French farmhouse store filled with loads and loads of unique home decor, accessories and clothes (and a lot more in between!).

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They put it best from the Ruby Begonia’s Blog, so here goes:  Located in the heart of the historic Illinois-Michigan Canal town of Morris, IL., Ruby Begonia’s offers a wealth of shabby & chic cottage antiques. Featuring a warm and wonderful mix of new & vintage, from wonderful architectural elements & painted primitive cupboards to one of a kind painted signs, folkart, & European enamelware.

I personally have at least 10 things in my house from there.  I buy gifts there.  I buy things for clients.  I buy things I don’t need (you can’t help it…the stuff is THAT cute).  It’s truly one of my favorite home decor stores to shop in Illinois!  If I ever opened my own store, this would be it.  Here’s a peak into some of what they offer:

Creative signs and wall art (I may have bought this chalkboard sign…yes, I have an obsession with anything chalk related):

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Picture frames, pillows, lamps, baby gifts, oh my!  And a whole lot more 🙂

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Oh and mirrors.  The mirrors are fabulous!  I insisted that my sister buy this one.  You can’t see it in full but it’s over 5 feet tall and about 2 feet wide and is just splendid!  Antique window pane-esque yumminess.  It’s going to be the focal point of her gallery wall project I am helping her with.

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I snagged up this amazing French laundry powder for myself and  one as a gift for my mom.  What I can’t wait for is to use this as a fabulous vase when I am done with the soap!

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How cute is this England-inpsired space of the store?  Next stop…Paddington Station. Mind the gap!  Whoa, that was incredibly cheesy.

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I’m always a sucker for chic and beautiful soaps and candles…ahhh!

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For more information on this lovely little shop, you can check out the Ruby Begonia’s Blog or follow them on Facebook.  Or if you are ever in the Morris area, stop in.  Happy shopping!

Birthday Party Ideas for Tweens: My Attempt at Winning Aunt of the Year.

IMG_1369There are things that I write about that I can say with confdience I know what I am talking about.  Travel.  Food slash eating.  The hotel business.  Awesome interiors.  And so on.  Having a birthday party for a little girl, in this case, my niece Hannah, wasn’t one of those things.  Until now.  I brainstormed with my sister and we ended up with having Hannah’s birthday party at my house.  So fun!

As I don’t have young children, I sort of forgot there should be a bit more to the party than just ordering pizzas.  You know, um, like decorations.  Cake.  Maybe some tween flare.  So the tween birthday party challenge was on and I was going to attempt getting the aunt of the year award and make it special for not only Hannah, the cutest tween ever, but everyone who attended.  See the play-by-play below (I’m watching football right now, hence the use of that weird sporty language).

Set the theme.  We decided on a mani/pedi party which seemed fitting for not only the tweens, but the adults, too.  Oh and don’t forget to rock some awesome bright colors!

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Spruce up your space with some girly, but not cheesy, decor.  I raided Paper Source and walked away happy, despite their ridiculously over-priced everything.  It’s so cute and chic it’s worth it.  Ugh, I’m such a sucker.  I bought a pinwheels kit and a happy birthday banner kit which made me feel like a DIYer, even though I’m not really a DIYer.  Paper Source is smart like that…they can make even gals like me feel like Martha Stewart.

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I’m not sure about you, but when I was a tween I was obssessed with arts and crafts. So naturally, I had to have an activity.  I bought craft letters and a bunch of stickers and paper and tissue for the girls to decorate the crap out of them.

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{We have some serious crafting going on here}

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Having a girly mocktail was also a must.  Thanks to my friend Vaneesha for loaning me these cute mason jars and straws.  What tween doesn’t like a pink lemonade spritzer?!

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It’s always good to have door prizes so I whipped together these cards (same color scheme as Paper Source kits) for everyone to add a personal touch to the giveaway.

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Speaking of personal, it’s always good to give the birthday girl some extra love via the art of personalization.  I used my chalkboard easel and slapped on her recent school picture.  Done and done.  Easy breezy.

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And last, but not least, the sweets.  Cakes are a little circa 2008 so of course, I defaulted to cupcakes.  In the continued battle of having the best cupcake here in Chicago, Sweet Mandy B’s is for sure a front runner.  Not only are they beautiful, but the flavors are creative and the taste is DEE-LISH.  Yes, please.

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{I hope all your birthday wishes come true, Hannah!}

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