E sca p e
o rd i n a r y.
Welcome home! It’s the place you can rewind the day and give it a happy ending, or unwind and be yourself without pretending. It’s the rattiest sweats you own and the moth-eaten
Cashmere Sweater you wear to bed. It’s setting the thermostat on My Comfort Zone, playing music you’re embarrassed to admit you love, letting the world go about its busy-ness without you.
Home is the Place you’re meaning to unclutter, the rooms you’re thinking of repainting, the weeds still waiting for uprooting. It’s the place you long for when you’re sick in a strange city, or you failed to nail a job interview, or you’re stuck on a date that was a big mistake. Home is a midnight snack standing up at the sink, a nightlight down the hall, the flashlight by your bed in a blackout. It’s intensive care when life knocks you for a loop, a place for an emergency landing, a recovery room for your soul. And no matter how far you roam, you hope the key is still under the mat. Cover copy by Nikki Hardin, art by Mary Richardson
“Home is where my habits have a habitat.” Fiona Apple
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The At Home Issue From the Founder
Mary Richardson lives in Melbourne, Australia, with her husband, two sons, and a cat, and she has always loved art—sketching, drawing, painting. She creates fun and colorful artwork, mainly featuring girls in various settings, by using acrylic paints on canvas. Mary’s work is reminiscent of Europe, travel, and the beach with a vintage/retro feel. Her inspirations include vintage fashion, old Hollywood movies and places she has visited. Some of her paintings are also inspired by memories of family or friends, and she often imagines a story behind them. You can find her paintings, prints and cards on Etsy at helloitsmary.etsy.com.
I believe the houses we grow up in shape us just as much as our families do. Until I was 10, my parents moved us to a series of shabby rental houses in our small town. During those years I actually spent as much or more time with my grandparents, who lived in an old house filled with family antiques, handmade quilts, windows with wavy glass and wide-planked wood floors. The front room was my grandparents’ bedroom and doubled as a sitting room because of the fireplace where everyone gathered. At the other end of the house, the big kitchen was heated by a wood-burning stove that turned out amazing meals I’ve never been able to duplicate. Those two sources of heat provided the steady heartbeat of a house that was an escape from the coldness and emotional poverty of my own family life. But I knew it wasn’t really my home, and every visit, no matter how extended, inevitably ended in my leaving and losing the warmth. For many years as an adult, the houses I lived in were always unfinished and incompletely furnished in some vital way. As if I were still mentally stuck in those barren rental houses of my childhood, never trusting in permanence or allowing myself to get too attached. When I bought my first house long after most people have made that commitment, I began craving texture and color in my life. I started hanging art, painting white walls aqua, apple green and buttermilk, creating little altars of keepsakes and photos and candles. It’s my grandmother’s house by way of Frida Kahlo with a splash of Nikki. I finally made myself at home.
From the publisher
In this issue, we reflect on the comforts of home. We all have a favorite chair, our assigned seat at the dinner table, a must-have meal or bedtime routine; there’s a certain comfort in knowing that some things in life never change. Like the familiar smell of my mother’s home cooking that takes me back 30 years to when we hung out in the basement watching “Hogan’s Heroes” and “The Brady Bunch” until Mom called us up to dinner. When I go back to my childhood home, I still sleep in the same twin bed in the same bedroom I shared with my younger sister Julie. And I don’t mind it at all. I’ve often been called a “home body,” and I’m OK with that. After all, home is the one place you don’t have to put on a pretty face; or worry about what others think of you. Home is unconditional love, acceptance and traditions. I’ve had the opportunity to live in many homes over the past 20 years while raising my children, and I’m always surprised at how difficult it is to leave behind a home where we made so many good memories and yet how quickly we become comfortable in our new home. Whether it’s a spacious suburban multi-level or a downtown high-rise, you can surround yourself with the comforts of home. And in the end, I guess it’s true what they say: Home is wherever love gathers!
From the Editor
When my husband and I bought our first home together, I was seven months pregnant and suffering from sciatica. We rented a UHaul and did the move ourselves. Needless to say, I wasn’t much help. Well, we just moved again in June, this time to our first “real” house in the suburbs. And this time, we had no illusions; we hired movers. Yet, somehow it seems a million times harder. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. With two young daughters, we have more stuff (literally, four boxes devoted just to stuffed animals) and less time. So the unpacking has been challenging, to say the least. I enlisted my sister for help, and she asked me, “Where do you want to feel comfortable now?” Yes, setting up livable and lovable spaces was crucial to sanity, despite the remaining unpacked disaster in other areas. Nevermind if the girls’ room wasn’t painted its Misty Pink yet; getting their beds and new sheets on made it home. So what if the kitchen is tiny; getting the pots, pans and dishes put away made it ready for home-cooked meals—maybe even prepped by our profiled Melanie Mityas of Madison & Rayne. Sure, if my budget allowed, I’d hire an interior decorator, no question. And tops on my list would be our other profile subjects, Meg Caswell of HGTV fame, and duo designers Melissa Lewis and Cari Giannoulias. Perhaps some of their style sense will just rub off on me. I’ll let you know. And feel free to contact them for your own home sweet home.
Founder/National Editor Nikki Hardin email@example.com Publisher Kathy Mitchell firstname.lastname@example.org Creative Director Caitilin McPhillips email@example.com Editor Elisa Drake firstname.lastname@example.org Regional Vice President Patti Ruesch Patti.email@example.com
At Home Issue
Account Executives Jenny Dennis firstname.lastname@example.org Kathleen Frey email@example.com Christine Griffith firstname.lastname@example.org Ad Design Cristina Young CHSads@skirt.com Contributing Writers Tracy Marks Martina Sheehan Geoff Weisenberger Photography Heath Sharp aheathphoto.com Fashion Stylist Danielle Sliva luxurylivingfashion.com
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Birds of a Feather Nikki Hardin ................................................................................................. 10 Room for Thought Stacy Appel ...................................................................................................24 A Tale of Two Nurseries Andrea Gallagher ........................................................................................34
IN EVERY ISSUE
Letter from the Founder ...........................................................................5
Women make more than 80% of all purchasing decisions. skirt! is published monthly and distributed free throughout the greater Chicagoland area. skirt! reserves the right to refuse to sell space for any advertisement the staff deems inappropriate for the publication. Unsolicited manuscripts must be accompanied by a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Letters to the editor are welcome, but may be edited due to space limitations. Press releases must be received by the 1st of the month for the following month’s issue. All content of this magazine, including without limitation the design, advertisements, art, photos and editorial content, as well as the selection, coordination and arrangement thereof, is Copyright © 2013, Morris Publishing Group, LLC. All Rights Reserved. No portion of this magazine may be copied or reprinted without the express written permission of the publisher. SKIRT!® is a registered trademark of Morris Publishing Group, LLC.
Letter from the Publisher..........................................................................5
Letter from the Editor ................................................................................5
Women spend almost 2 of every 3 healthcare dollars.
He’s So Original ...........................................................................................12
25 Things That Make Us Happy..........................................................18
Women control 2/3 of the nation’s disposable income.
skirt! Style .....................................................................................................20
Comfort Zone .............................................................................................23
Women influence 80% of all car sales.
Local Loves .....................................................................................................30
Skirt of the Month......................................................................................33
XOXO Kathy ................................................................................................38 skirt!magazine
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Illustration by The Pretty Paperie. theprettypaperie.com
“Oh my god, what’s going on? And why are you wearing a bucket on your head?”
Birds of a feather
One day during a heat wave in February, my friend Nancy and I were arguing about whether to go to the gym or go for a walk. I voted for the walk, because I’d rather have my leg hairs pulled out with a clam shell than go to aerobics, but Nancy likes the gym because there are no birds there. Due to her fear of having a bird swoop down and drill a hole in her head, she has to wear a thick wool hat when we walk outdoors, in even the hottest weather. Nancy’s bird phobia started several years ago when she was recuperating from a broken ankle. I had dropped by to hang out and share her pain and any snacks and drinks she might have, but I’d no sooner gotten out of my car than she hopped out of the house leaning on a broom and trying to hold a large yellow bucket on her head. She screamed at me to run and then pulled me through the door and immediately flattened herself against the wall. “Oh my god, what’s going on?” I gasped, “and why are you wearing a bucket on your head?” “It’s the bird,” she moaned. “I was sitting at the kitchen table drinking a cup of coffee and all of a sudden it came out of nowhere and started flying at the window screen, pecking at it and screeching at me! I tried to ignore it but it wouldn’t stop. Finally I had to come in here and hide but then I heard the dog crying outside. The bird was chasing her and pecking at her, so I couldn’t leave her out there, could I? I put the bucket on my head because I can’t run in this cast and I was afraid the bird might drag me down. But instead it got its little claws in the dog’s fur and I had to knock it off with the broom.” “Good grief, we need a plan. Do you have any wine or snacks?” “Yes, but don’t let the bird see you! Crawl in there on your hands and knees. If you stay down below the window, it might not notice you.” I felt like a fool, but I dropped to my hands and knees and crawled into the kitchen to the refrigerator, where I successfully extracted the wine bottle. When I reached up to the sink for glasses, though, the bird spotted me from its perch on the tree branch and came screaming at the window like a kamikaze plane. But I soon realized that we had an even more serious problem, and I didn’t know any gentle way to break it to Nancy. I crawled back into the living room, dragging the glasses and bottle to safety. “We can’t stay penned up in here forever,” I panted. “There’s barely enough wine left for one glass each. I’m going to have to put on the bucket and make a run for the car.” I crawled back into the kitchen and pulled a metal colander out of the cabinet under the sink. I scuttled back to the living room, put the colander on my head and was helping Nancy adjust her bucket, when there was a loud knock at the door. We froze in horror. Nancy clutched my arm. “You don’t think...the bird...?” “Get hold of yourself,” I hissed. “A bird can’t lift the knocker...it would have rung the doorbell.” She looked out the peephole and groaned, “I can’t believe this, it’s the retired teacher who lives across the street. We’ll have to open the door, but get her in here before the bird sees her.” I opened the door and invited the neighbor in, but before I could remove my colander and introduce myself, Nancy started screaming hysterically. “It’s on her shirt, it’s on her shirt!” She was pointing and hopping up and down on her good foot. Sure enough, the bird was clinging to the back of the woman’s blouse, leering at us malevolently. I knew what I had to do. I threw myself at this kindly gray-haired old lady, shoved her (and the bird) out the door and slammed it in her face. “Save yourself!” we shouted to her as we ran to the bathroom and locked ourselves in. When things quieted down, we crept out to check on the situation. The neighbor was nowhere to be seen. For all we knew, she could have been lying in the driveway with her eyes pecked out, but every time we tried to leave the house, the bird drove us back indoors. Periodically, it gave up its vigil long enough to dive bomb a kid riding by on a bike or addle an unsuspecting dog. Once it even attacked a mom pushing a baby jogger. We feared the worst, but she pulled a tennis racket from the back of the stroller and knocked it into a ditch, where it staggered around long enough for her to make a getaway. When Nancy’s boyfriend finally showed up after work, we tried to explain what had been happening, but when he went outside, armed with bucket and broom at Nancy’s insistence, the bird sat quietly on its tree branch, warbling and preening like an animated Disney character. In fact, it looked like it might start whistling “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” any minute. Nancy and I looked at each and realized that this was just one more of those episodes that no was going to believe—like the time we went to the psycho mother/daughter palmreader team whose house was filled with family photos in which the heads of various family members had been cut out...but that’s another story.
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Nikki Hardin is the founder of skirt! magazine. She blogs at fridaville.com. skirt!magazine skirt!magazine aug/sept aug/septw w2013 2013 11
Photo by Heath Sharp
Ian Schneller is a rare specimen who makes instruments the old fashioned way. The idea of working with your hands until they hurt might not sound like the most appealing prospect. But if you’re making something you love—for someone else who will love what you’re making—it might not seem so bad. In fact, it might actually feel pretty amazing. It does to Ian Schneller, owner of Specimen Products. A sculptor by training, Ian designs and builds custom guitars, amps and his signature horn speakers— reminiscent of the old-timey gramophones—on the second floor of a converted warehouse just west of Humboldt Park. “Guitar-making has black and white, regimented rules. It is an established culture yet at the same time a blank canvass.” Not only does he make and repair instruments, he also teaches his craft. “I’m on a mission to uphold these hand-building techniques of the past. They’re in danger of going away and we don’t want to lose them. ”What do you like about reading skirt!? “I think it’s a beautiful concept for a magazine in a male-dominated world.” What do you like about wearing a skirt? “Two words: natural ventilation.” 12
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COMING IN OCTOBER
The Land of Me Issue
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Room for Thought Lately house-hunting had begun to seem a lot like dating. No amount of front hall staging could disguise the oddities revealed upon closer inspection. Each home I’d seen offered one mildly alluring feature offset by a number of fatal flaws.
ive minutes after I’d walked through the front door, I knew I wanted the house. Despite the peculiar, slightly abrasive landlord, despite the enormous sum I’d have to come up with every month, and however many roommates I’d need to interview to help shoulder the burden of rent, the place was a rare find indeed after a string of never-minds. Lately house-hunting had begun to seem a lot like dating. No amount of front hall staging could disguise the oddities revealed upon closer inspection. Each home I’d seen offered one mildly alluring feature offset by a number of fatal flaws. A spacious family room couldn’t make up for two claustrophobic bedrooms or the high school sports field with loudspeakers just down the street. A backyard hot tub or even an ornate music room with stained glass windows couldn’t outweigh the kitchen with almost no counter space, the washing machine positioned between the stove and refrigerator. But somehow the house on Vermont Street managed to contain every comfort under one roof. Expertly designed and freshly cleaned, it boasted four bedrooms with ample closet space, a full basement and a two-car garage. A door off the hall led to an upstairs deck from which to watch the sun set over the bay, and the master bedroom dazzled with a panoramic three-bridge view. I could imagine parties in the large living room overflowing through the French doors into the backyard, where an abundance of plum trees, camellias and Japanese maples formed an oasis beside a layered stone terrace.
Stacy Appel is an award-winning writer in California whose work has been featured in the Chicago Tribune and other publications. She has also written for National Public Radio. She is a contributor to the book You Know You’re a Writer When… by Adair Lara. Contact Stacy at WordWork101@aol.com.
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I was thrilled by the enormous linen closet, the eat-in kitchen, and the elegant dining room, complete with chandelier, china cabinets and plantation shutters. But the room that clinched the deal was the study. A study is a mysterious, vital place that every house ought to contain, especially if a woman lives there. Mark Twain had one, and his family didn’t dare disturb him if he was in it. If they absolutely needed him, they blew on a horn. Growing up, I didn’t have the study completely to myself, but I did discern early on that it served as the intellectual heart of the house, as well as an oasis of solitude. The tiny room off of our family kitchen had its very own smell, distinct from every other room: a heady mix of art gum erasers, wood glue, stray oil paint tubes cracked and curling up at the edges, dog-eared recipes from my grandmother’s era, an assortment of ancient phone directories. The built-in desktop overflowed with a mix of pens, markers and pencil stubs in all sizes and colors, calendars, daybooks, graph paper, and a box of stale old greeting cards that I liked thumbing through. Wall shelves were resplendent with cookbooks, and a dozen gold-embossed boxes of my mother’s brand-new business stationery with its delicious new-paper scent. Another family might have called the small room a larder or telephone room—in fact, two low cabinets near the door were crammed full of canned string beans, tomato sauce and pumpkin puree, and two heavy black rotary phones perched side by side on the high desk, so it could have passed for either. My interior designer mother, however, imaginatively referred to it as “the study.” So narrow was the space that there was room for only one person to sit on the tall metal chair inside. So we might just as well have called the corner living room bookcase “the library,” or our small sun porch “the billiard room.” I loved the study, with its louvered door, small window overlooking our back yard, and all of the mysterious odds and ends spilling from drawers or hidden in old coffee cans. The study was where you went when you needed scissors, wrapping paper, or a parent who’d been on the phone too long. The study was where my older brother went to call girls for the first time, incurring my mother’s wrath afterwards for nervously doodling all over her business calendar with a felt-tip pen. The room wasn’t soundproof, but the walls were thick enough to afford privacy; clusters of carpet samples hanging from pegs on both walls effectively muffled conversations, dissuading even expert eavesdroppers like me. With the door shut, the study was a private sanctuary far more dignified than a bathroom. In the days of land lines and rotary phones, “I’m on an important call!” was enough to send even the most persistent family members back to the kitchen where they belonged. My mother trained me as a child to properly answer both phones. Her business phone was to be treated with the same reverence as the Red Phone in the White House, which it turned out never actually existed but was an excellent incentive nonetheless. If the business phone rang, I was to answer immediately and recite “Good morning” or “Good afternoon,” followed by my mother’s full name and the initials “N.S.I.D.” I had no clue what the initials stood for, but omitting them was a serious crime punishable by dessert-withholding. The incongruity of an esteemed member of the National Society of Interior Designers employing a six-year-old receptionist never once crossed my mother’s mind. The study was where a person could go to think, or make a list, or find the number for a neighbor or doctor or pizza place. It was the room where my father could cry for a few moments after getting a phone call telling him his mother had died. It was the nest my mother could perch in for a little while before dinner to jot down a poem and finish her martini in peace. No one could knock effectively on the flimsy louvered door when it was closed because it just made a bumping sound. You simply had to wait for the current occupant to emerge. Privacy reigned supreme. So many years later on Vermont Street, I felt I was meeting a long-lost love. Here was an elegant re-imagining of the remembered nook, updated to reflect my adulthood. Before me was a spacious, elongated room with a glass door at one end facing onto the garden, and a sturdy oak door, which could be locked, at the other. Floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and attractive cabinets lined one wall. Best of all was the beautiful wooden desk which spanned the length of the room. This was a study meant for an architect, a professor, a sage, a wizard. Maybe even an aspiring writer. Yes, yes, yes. I would marry this house. A woman needs a room where her thoughts may be ordered and protected, where her attention can migrate easily from papers to plum trees. I sat down at the desk, wrote a check for first and last month’s rent, and pocketed the key to my brand-new discriminating life.
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Hold Fast to Your Dreams.
home is where the key fi t s
Key tags from ThreePotatoFour.com.
Photo by Heath Sharp
Melanie Mityas—Kitchen confidante, prepping you for gastronomic greatness. Maintaining a demanding career as a management consultant while trying to serve up high quality, homemade foods to her two young daughters proved a challenge for Melanie Mityas. “I really didn’t want to fall into the chicken nugget and mac-and-cheese cycle.” So she began devising ways to cut her cooking schedule without cutting corners. Out of this desire for work-kitchen balance came Madison & Rayne (taken from her daughters’ middle names). She tossed the corporate job and launched her venture in spring 2013 with partner Josh Jones, former chef du cuisine at the acclaimed (now-closed) Spring restaurant. Jones develops ready-to-cook meals and preps the ingredients; Mityas tests and approves them, then delivers the pre-prepped packages to customers who simply assemble the recipes at home. Mityas’ favorite M&R dish: short rib with Japanese noodles and bok choy. “You can make this amazing meal in less than 30 minutes when it would normally take four to five hours!” madisonandrayne.com
Photo by Heath Sharp
Melissa Lewis and Cari Giannoulias—Chicago design has a dynamic duo who are best friends too. Imagine your job is brainstorming with your BFF over lattes, shopping together for one-of-a-kind finds, and helping others achieve their dreams. Melissa Lewis and Cari Giannoulias of Lewis Giannoulias Interiors laugh often, finish one another’s sentences, and offer clients design that’s focused on livable luxury. “We are as passionate about finding exquisite pieces as creating spaces for real people,” says Melissa. “We design for a variety of clients, from growing families to professionals,” Cari adds. “And as moms ourselves, one secret weapon is luxurious outdoor fabrics! One spritz, and grape juice stains are history!” Melissa, who has a BFA from Harrington Institute of Interior Design, loves neutrals with pops of color. Cari’s casually elegant, yet boho aesthetic draws upon years in film and music. They even agree on disagreements: “We love to challenge each other… When we work together, the result is 100 percent better.” www.lg-interiors.com
american tastes with a global twist.
Using fresh sustainable ingredients, and inventive ďŹ‚avor combinations, the all new freestyle food + drink features american tastes with a global twist. freestyle serves delectable small plates to allow guests to share their passion for multiple tastes, or scrumptious individual entrees to satisfy a single craving. Open 7 nights a week, take a food adventure at freestyle food + drink.
sharing your passion for good tastes. 660 n state st. chicago il, 60654 312.202.6050 freestylefoodanddrink.com
660 n state st. chicago il, 60654 312.202.6050 freestylefoodanddrink.com
40 Styles and
Singular Sensation With 99.6 million adult singles in America, how is anybody expected to find “the one”? Chicagoan Bela Gandhi can help. Founder of Smart Dating Academy, she has a few tricks up her sleeve. Gandhi and her full-service team of expert profile writers, photographers, stylists and dating coaches teach professional singles of any age how to “date better.” They also get readings, instructional exercises and mock dates—whatever it takes to prep you for the perfect match. smartdatingacademy.com
130 different fabrics in prints and solids.”
Dream Bags A purse is one of the few accessories we wear almost every day, so we’d better love everything about it, right? From the style to the size to the fabric. At 1154 Lill Studio, with locations in Lincoln Park and on Michigan Avenue, as well as in Boston, customers create their dream purse by choosing from 40 styles (clutch, shoulder and travel bags among them) and 130 different fabrics in prints and solids. The studio’s founder, Jen Velarde, named the shop after the address of the small Chicago apartment where she first began making bags in 1999. Now her shops host girls’ nights, bachelorette parties and simply stylish women who get exactly the bag they’ve dreamed of. 1154lill.com
Making Scents The slightest hint of perfume can conjure vivid memories— of a place, a feeling, a friendship or romance. Tara Swords considers scents so meaningful, she launched Chicago-based Olfactif, a monthly subscription that offers scent-wise women samples of three carefully chosen perfumes from around the world, like the spicy, citrusy Eau Nomade. Packaged in glass spray vials and delivered in a sophisticated black box, they look as beautiful as they smell. One month subscription $18, six months $96, 12 months $180; olfactif.com
Opera Light While grand, operatic productions by Verdi, Wagner and Puccini can stir emotions, following subtitles or sticking it out till the fat lady sings may just be too much sometimes. Which is why we love Light Opera Works, a not-for-profit music theater founded in Evanston nearly 35 years ago. This incredibly talented troupe performs with a full orchestra in an intimate setting (typically at Northwestern’s Cahn Auditorium)—and all in English. Their recent performance of “H.M.S. Pinafore” even kept the rapt attention of my two little audience companions. This month, it’s a sassy rendition of “Cabaret.” The season continues in October with “Gershwin’s Greatest Hits” and rounds it out with “Annie Get Your Gun” in December.Yeehaw! light-opera-works.org
Photo by Heath Sharp
Meg Caswell is a design crime fighter. Heeding her grandfather’s advice to pursue a career that gave her joy, Meg Caswell gave her intended law school life the boot and earned a BFA in interior architecture at the Art Institute of Chicago. The vivacious HGTV “Design Star” Season 6 Winner didn’t entirely flee criminology, though. Today, her savvy sleuthing skills help her develop client “profiles” that reveal hidden design preferences. “I peek at their cars and handbags and investigate flower favorites...a design aesthetic emerges,” she explains. Meg’s personal style is a preppy mix of modern and traditional with bursts of color and energy, but her goal is always “to give clients the home of their dreams. After all, they are going to live there.” Meg’s quick tips to transform a room? Get new throw pillows and rearrange the furniture. megcaswell.com
Photo by Heath Sharp
Meet Stacy Ratner, who turned a love of words into the charitable Open Books, an atypically cheerful used bookstore.
Always In My Purse: Sunglasses
My Pet: Jameson, my beagle
My Lucky Charm: Hedgehog necklace
Right Now I’m Reading: Agatha Christie
Favorite Beauty Product Urban Decay glitter eyeliner
My Workout: Hahahahahaha. Page-turning? Where I Get My Coffee: Blue Cat Café My Coffee Order: Hot chocolate / hot cider Favorite Flower: Purple irises + yellow daffodils Signature Scent: Paloma Picasso My Bad Habit: Ice cream My Gadget: Sodastream machine Three People I Want At My Dream Dinner: My grandmother, my mother, & my best friend Favorite Feminist: Abigail Adams My Muse: Aissa Primakov Tweet Me: @stacyjratner My Manicure: Silver sparkles My Home Page Is: Google / stacyjratner.com My Favorite Trip Was: Edinburgh Festival
Illustration by Monkey Mind Design, Unique Paper Expressions. monkeymindesign.etsy.com
Skirt of the Month
Skirt from DLR Chicago, 4703 N. Lincoln Ave., 773.561.5997 skirt!magazine
So somewhere along the way, we quietly made the decision that son number one would be son the only.
he room at the top of the stairs has served many purposes, but I’m not sure it was ever meant to be a nursery. It started out as a little boy’s room, but when the little boy grew into a big boy, the little room was replaced by a bigger one. Then it became a guest room, but since the only guests we welcomed on a regular basis were grandparents, it became “the Grandma room,” even when Granddad enjoyed the accommodations there, too. And then when Granddad passed, it really was the Grandma room. But now Grandma’s room is downstairs, and she is a permanent resident instead of a guest, necessitated by a life-altering stroke. The room at the top of the stairs has seen its share of visitors, but a baby wasn’t on the original guest list. The first nursery we had was on the agenda. The other items on the agenda seemed fairly easy to cross off—wedding, honeymoon, finish education, find gainful professional employment with opportunities for advancement, find a good neighborhood, buy a house, check, check, check. But month after month, the baby box went unchecked. When we finally did conceive, the nursery décor was easy. We planned our honeymoon around a Jimmy Buffet concert in St. Louis (also home to the National Bowling Hall of Fame and Museum), and so it seemed a natural progression to welcome our little parrothead into an appropriate environment—stripes of soft Caribbean colors, a wallpaper border with hide-and-seek parrots, and colorful birds flying and perched about the room. Baby added to the nursery—another agenda item checked off. But I don’t think any of us counted on it being so damn hard. For the first two weeks of baby’s life at home, he screamed relentlessly, inconsolably, for hours at a time. I carried him and paced, sobbing and apologizing for my inadequacies as a mother. When he was in town, Dad also followed and paced, but work required him to be out of town about three weeks out of every four. Add to the mix a major move that took us a full day’s drive from the closest family, sleep deprivation (this is a child who would not sleep through the night until he was twelve years—not months—old), the unshakeable baby blues, the sheer work of trying to turn a crying blob of potential into a well-adjusted minihuman. No one warned me about the bone-wearying, soul-sucking exhaustion that would come with parenting. If they did, I clearly wasn’t listening. Who would willingly sign up for this? So somewhere along the way, we quietly made the decision that son number one would be son the only. Life continued, our parents aged and needed more, our child aged and needed less, and the balance seemed to be tipping, but man-
ageably so. When the first child started school we confirmed with one another: We are done, right? We even confirmed with the little one: Would you want a little brother or sister? His answer: Sure, but not a baby. A brother like Christopher down the street, a playmate, one his own age or even a big brother, but definitely not someone with whom he would need to share space and attention. We were done. Until we weren’t. I had just finished a two-week working-around-the-house visit with my mother-in-law that included painting, pesticides, and wine with dinner every night. Visiting my mom in her senior citizen high-rise apartment building, I hid in the bathroom and took a home pregnancy test. I spent the next few hours researching. Can menopause cause a false positive on a home pregnancy test (oh, please)? What are the odds of an obese, hypertensive 43-year-old being able to conceive without intervention (and when she and her husband are rarely even in the same house at the same time) and carry a pregnancy to term? What kinds of dangers had I already exposed this tiny person to? How do 16-year-olds feel about newborn siblings? Is it possible to love child number two as much as child number one? And then I debated the etiquette of telling my husband via text that he was going to be a dad again. At 52. And then I sent the text. My husband had a heart attack. Not right at that moment, but a few weeks later, the really almost harmless kind that left him with a stent, no muscle damage, and the promise of a long life with some lifestyle changes and medication. When we told his mom, she had a stroke. Not right at that moment, but a few weeks later, the really unquestionably horrible kind that left her unable to swallow, speak, follow directions, or use her right side. A baby was no longer at the top of the list of things to worry about—he was just along for the ride, a constant unseen companion in the chaos. The next few months were consumed with doctors, therapy sessions, packing, moving, unpacking, rearranging, finding caregivers for mom during my c-section and recovery. A baby was on the way, but a nursery just wasn’t on the agenda. The room at the top of the stairs still isn’t quite finished even though Sammy is almost three months old. The new gray carpet is installed, and the walls are painted a quaint shade of yellow. His crib is assembled, his clothes in the dresser drawers. There is no rocking chair yet, no matching crib ensemble nor cute wall hangings. He has made himself at home in the downstairs part of the house, sleeping on his grandma’s lap or on his mom’s shoulder or with his dad in the big comfy chair, or in his playpen where he really likes to stretch out. In the same way that we never expected him, I am not sure what we ever did without him. He is new, but it feels like he has always been here. I wasn’t sure how we were going to manage the topsy-turviness of our lives with him, but now I am not sure how we would manage without him. Even if he wasn’t on the agenda.
Andrea Gallagher is a full-time caregiver and mom who is trying to learn to use naptime to write. She lives in South Carolina with her husband, two sons, and mother-in-law. 34
Illustration by Monkey Mind Design, Unique Paper Expressions. monkeymindesign.etsy.com
Laura Ingalls Wilder
At Big Night at the Chicago Cultural Center, the must-have drink is the “Cosmopoodliton.” The cause: raising funds for Animal Care and Control. Tickets $100. fcacc.org
17 Aug Sept
Raising money for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in Chicago Public Schools, Premier3 Foundation hosts its Casino Masquerade Ball at the Museum of Science and Industry. 877.564.5557
You glow, girl. Especially during the nighttime Firefly Run Chicago, benefitting the American Red Cross. Participants don glow-in-the-dark bracelets and armbands. fireflyrun.com
Food-lovers, don’t miss the James Beard Foundation’s Taste America Chicago dinner, hosted by James Beard Award nominee Andrew Zimmerman of Michelin-starred Sepia. $300-$350; or post-dinner bites $75. jbftasteamerica.org
Usually for industry folks only, the Merchandise Mart opens to the public for its Fall Design Center Sample Sale. Online preregistration requested at merchandisemartdesigncenter.com
It’s a bounty of goodness, plus kid activities at Purple Asparagus’ Corks & Crayons Benefit at Greenhouse Loft (2545 W. Diversey). purpleasparagus.com
If you’ve got Big Ten school spirit, then B1G Night at Wrigley is calling. Tickets ($55) include a pre-game party, bleacher seat, drink specials and more. Proceeds benefit nonprofit partner Alumni for Public Schools. chicagoten.org
Got a book in your head that’s just dying to get out? Check out the 2nd Annual Writers Block Party: The Road to Published in Elgin. Free. chicagowrites.org
Be wowed and help raise awareness and funds for AIDS organizations in Chicago at the annual Dance for Life at the Auditorium Theatre. Tickets $50-$75 (with gala $200-$500). danceforlifechicago.com
Dance, drink and shop all under one roof at the Summer Sip N’ Shop at Castle nightclub.Your $5 gets a champagne ticket, free apps and vendor shopping.
The Beethoven Festival is inspired by the great composer, but not limited to him. Case in point: a series of new works curated by Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche. internationalbeethovenproject.com
For $65 ($75 after Sept. 14; $85 at the door), you can help preserve the National Historic Landmark Auditorium Theatre at the Devil’s Ball. Held at the theater. auditoriumtheatre.org
One Good Deed starts at home.
home is where the key fi t s
Key tags from ThreePotatoFour.com.
From the skirt! Test Kitchen Dreamy, Creamy Cookies Finely chop peaches and mix with whipped cream. Spread between two graham crackers and chill them in the freezer until cold. Serve as soon as you take them out. Pair the cookies with glasses of prosecco that have a dash of crème de cassis and a splash of vodka added. The Chill Playlist “Tea for Two” Pink Martini “In a Sentimental Mood” John Coltrane & Duke Ellington “Beyond the Sea” Kevin Spacey “Here, There and Everywhere” Charles Lloyd Quartet
Peaches Cool Whip Graham Crackers Crème de Cassis Prosecco Vodka
Taste of the Town
Gluten-Free Goodness A variety of family member dietary needs sent Susan McMillan on a quest to create delicious baked goods that stood up to their glutenous twins. Lucky for us, she succeeded.Taste the bounty at McMillan’s East Lakeview restaurant Senza, whose bakers Lina Elakhaoui (formerly of Fattoush) and Amelia Fonti also both have food restrictions, so you know they eat the cookies and breads they bake. 2873 N. Broadway, 773.770.3527.
Drink to Your Health Vibrant greens, oranges and reds tantalize your senses even before your ﬁrst taste of the vitaminrich, immunity-boosting juices and smoothies at Green Grocer. Get one as a power snack or kick your body into green gear with a light or deep detoxifying cleanse. Kids happily slurp up the Hulk, made with grapes, spinach, cucumbers and apples or the Elmo with pears, oranges and carrots. 1880 N. Damen Ave., 773.292.4393
Bread Nirvana There are many things to like about Homestead—its commitment to local organics, its rooftop garden and patio, its rustic-chic décor—but for us, the most memorable is pastry chef Chris Teixeira’s (formerly of Sixteen) Bread Basket, a warm-from-the-oven assortment of manchego and jamón Serrano “laminated” brioche, pan d’epi, herb sourdough and ciabatta, served with whipped Oaxacan honey butter, house pickles and herbed oil. The challenge: saving room for anything else. 1924 W. Chicago Ave., 773.904.1145.
Lunch Makeover Skip over-loaded, overcaloried mega-wiches and ﬂaunt your ﬁnesse with an artfully delicious open-faced creation from Duran European Sandwich Café.The Duran brand began in Vienna nearly 50 years ago and its counterpart here does it proud with fresh ﬁxings like feta, sundried tomato, and olive tapenade; or brie, French salad, egg, tomato and cucumber. Pair it with organic juices, loose-leaf teas from Germany or cappuccino. 529 N. Milwaukee Ave., 312.666.6007. skirt!magazine
xoxokathy Why is it that I associate comfort with eating? I think it has something to do with the therapeutic feeling of walking in the back door and smelling Mom's cooking. I'm immediately taken back to my childhood and that sense that nothing can harm you once you enter. I wonder what comforts of home my children will associate with their childhood? Unlike me, they have lived in several homes. Each home with their own set of memories and good times. My children have had to learn to live with change, but the one constant in every home was love.
W h a t ’s k e e p i n g m e a w a k e a t n i g h t : Looking forward to:
Rockin’ out to Journey, at Ravinia Aug. 21 Incredible music at Lollapolooza Cooking out on Labor Day New fall TV lineup! Da Bears opening game against the Bengals
Rising early for my morning workout skirt! skirt! skirt! Getting my son Austin ready for college Sales goals :( Which new fall fashion trends to buy into Botox or not? My famous spicy chili My Mom's 75th Birthday Sept. 13: Happy Birthday Mom!
W h a t ’s o n m y i Pa d :
I am jealous of:
The Nike Training Club app is so cool! It’s like
nd al isla Tropiccations. va
W h a t ’s o n m y m i n d : Summer’s last breath is upon us; the days are already getting shorter, and
having a personal trainer in your ear as you work
the summer festivals are winding down.You can't watch TV or walk down
out—without having to pay for one. Plus, it covers
the street without seeing an ad for Back to School sales, which still to this
all fitness levels, the routines are fun and engag-
day makes me sad just knowing the carefree days of summer are coming to
ing, and you can track your progress. Now, I really
an end and it's time to get serious again. Thank goodness we have all the fall
have no excuses.
fashions to look forward too!
THE BEST USE OF
Note to self:
“Schedule vacation time”
Rose-scented volumizing Geri G. Mascara
Must haves this month:
Kate Somerville tan maximizer
Anti-aging serum from MG Rejuvenation Center
Rebecca Minkoff studded purse from DNA2050
Deep conditioner from Veria ID
Kathy Mitchell is the publisher of skirt! Chicago. She can be reached at email@example.com. 38
AKIRA ANTHROPOLOGIE DISNEY EILEEN FISHER EXPLORE STORE GODIVA LADIES & GENTLEMEN AN AVEDA SALON LOCAL CHARM L’OCCITANE MAGNOLIA BAKERY SABON SEPHORA SIMPLY THALIA STARFRUIT STEVE MADDEN ZARA THE PERFECT PLACE TO SHOP & DINE IN THE HEART OF THE LOOP 1 0 8 N . S T A T E S T R E E T A T T H E C O R N E R O F S TA T E & WA S H I N G T O N 312.261.4700 W W W. B LO C K T H I RT Y S E V E N . C O M