December 29, 2009

Too Long Away

Happy New Year! Welcome to 2010! Part 1
Yes, I've been away a while--the Christmas season got the better of me. I apologize, and offer a brief update...

Clever Girl was happily buzzing with business all season, and our shelves have been in need of constant restocking. Many a gift was wrapped, and I must declare the men of Western Springs to be very good (if a bit last minute) shoppers. Scarves and mittens, cozy PJ's, sweaters, jewelry, books--you name it--we sold it. Santa did a lot of shopping...

Our Clever Girl open house back on December 10th was a great success. Tasty nibbles, cocktails and great Christmas music made for a cozy, candlelit evening that raised lots of money for the Anti-Cruelty Society, and put us all in a festive mood. Thank you to our great customers that braved the coldest night of the year to support the cause.

As they say, all work and no play, well, that's not good. I was happy to sneak out one day to celebrate the December birthday of a dear friend and raise a glass of Christmas cheer. We gathered at Roberto's in Elmhurst, (click here) and were taken care of by the most delightfully charming Italian gentleman...he added to the fun, good food, and good friends. If you haven't been there, get going!

Several trips into the city this season were great outings as well. There are a lot of terrific exhibits at the Art Institute right now, and the Victorian Photo Collage was at the top of my list. (click here) This did NOT disappoint, and if you hurry, you can still see it. I found it very inspiring... Lunch in the Modern Wing at Terzo Piano was an added bonus.

Our annual Clever Girl Christmas party was a ROARING good time (Just imagine all those clever girls gathered together at once!) We laughed, had a marvelous party, and greatly enjoyed exchanging gifts and relaxing together. The Clever crew is simply the best--and I love them all!

At home, our family tree was trimmed with the hundreds of ornaments we've collected over the years, and I think it was the most lovely we've ever had. The tree twinkles in the front window and is simply beautiful. The sweet scent of pine has filled the entire house all season, and I so cherish the ritual of putting it up with my Mom each year. Her whole house is an English Christmas dream come true, and seeing her beautiful decorations can't help but make me happy and ready for Christmas.

As we close out the year, new items are already arriving at the store. We've got fresh deliveries of all sorts of goodies and will continue to bring you the very best a clever girl could want. Thank you all for your support and friendship this past year, and I look forward to seeing everyone in 2010.
Happy New Year!!!

November 18, 2009

Holiday "Jam"

Well girls, Thanksgiving is one week from today--as if you didn't already know that. In an ongoing effort to assist the Clever Hostesses of the world, we offer a recipe that's sure to please, tastes delicious, and looks like great effort was put forth--yet is SUPER simple. If you can hold a spoon, you can make this recipe. Seriously.

Rich, creamy goat cheese pairs perfectly with the ripe pears, tart cranberries and sweet raspberries in our favorite Stonewall Kitchen Holiday Jam, and the little hint of orange liqueur flavor in the jam adds a wonderful richness. Make this and you'll instantly become a superhero hostess. Grab the little tart shells as you do your Thanksgiving Day preparation, and pop in to pick up some of this oh-so-tasty-jam here at Clever Girl. Chill a nice bottle of Riesling and let the good times roll. Trust us--you'll be a holiday hero!

Fruit & Goat Cheese Mini Tarts
Makes 30 mini tarts
3 oz. mild goat cheese
5 Tbsp. Holiday Jam
30 mini phyllo shells

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Fill each phyllo shell with 1/2 teaspoon of goat cheese and top with 1/2 teaspoon of Holiday Jam
Bake until filling is hot, 8-10 minutes

November 10, 2009

Here we go again...

Oops, I did it again. Yes, yet another copy of Pride and Prejudice has been added to my collection. But really, how could I be expected to resist this cover? I was just milling about in a book stall, at O'hare Airport of all places, when this caught my eye. Ruben Toledo has done the artwork, and it perfectly captures Elizabeth Bennet's rejection of Mr. Darcy. Toledo has done drawings for Harper's Bazaar and Vogue among others, and I just LOVE what he's done here. If you don't have our dear Jane on your bookshelf, you're in for one of the best stories ever told. Get this book!!!

October 31, 2009

Happy Orange Day!

Trick or Treat!
Perhaps it's the season we are now in, but it seems that orange is popping up everywhere I turn, and I'm talking about more than just pumpkins. I've always rather liked orange in its more subdued tones. Melon, Terracotta, and Sunset variations of orange do have a certain richness to them. It's amazing how the color orange, used properly, and in the right shade can be quite sophisticated. Hermes has know this since 1837, when they chose a burnt orange as their signature color for their iconic boxes. Great mixed with the dark brown, right?

Or, to see how just a single, well placed piece of orange, perhaps mixed with pink, can keep a room or an outfit from becoming too sugary and bubblegum sweet. It adds just the right punch.

How pretty is this room? The orange trunk really does the trick here, doesn't it? Keeps the pink at bay and grounds everything around it. Love it! So, while Halloween may soon be over, I don't think the orange needs to depart just yet...there's a lot we can do with this interesting hue. For now, a happy and safe Halloween to you all.

October 28, 2009


Time is Running OUT!!!

Chic-Lit must be ordered NOW!!!

Clever Girls always want to offer the perfect gift, and deliver it on time. However, some things do require a bit of planning. This is one of those things.
...If Santa is to tuck one of these little gems under the tree, a bit of preparation is in order. The absolute last day to order deadline is Saturday, November 28th. No exceptions. So you must decide now: Bracelet, necklace, cuff, charm. You make the call--just make it soon. Tick tock, tick tock. I know that seems like a long way off, but it's not, that's only a month from right now!

Sure, you've got a little bit of time, but why wait?
As they say, beat the rush, order now. Operators are standing by...

October 19, 2009

Pumpkin Time

Yes, it's time. Off to the pumpkin patch in search of a worthy orange orb to hollow, carve and decorate. Ever since Martha Stewart demonstrated all a girl can do to a pumpkin with a drill it's been pure bliss when October 31st draws near. The two pictured above were part of last years collection. They sat on the porch rail in Maine quite happily, and were "lit" (with candles, not booze) every evening awaiting All Hallows' Eve.

I spend the tail end of fall in Maine, and often bring home several pumpkins to carve. Out East, pumpkins are taken rather seriously as evidenced by our local pumpkin boat races. The annual Damariscotta Pumpkin Regatta is the fastest pumpkin-boat racing in Maine, maybe even The United States. Fourteen pumpkins, weighing between four and seven-hundred pounds are converted into "boats" and raced on the Damariscotta River. This was started years ago when several local men began musing about what to do with a 700-pound pumpkin they had grown to show at the county fair. They decided to hollow it out, attach a motor and cruise around the cove near downtown Damariscotta. Thus began the Pumpkin Regatta races...quite a sight to behold, let me tell you.

The pumpkin crop is rumored to be a bit scarce this year due to all the rain, so I'm prepared to devote a fair amount of time in the quest of the perfect specimens. Mine won't be motoring down any rivers, but they will reach their true calling in style and have their time to shine. Happy Halloween!

October 14, 2009

House to Go

I freely admit to being a bit of a collector--as different things grab my attention, off I go seeking more of them out. For a long time now I've been gathering bits of truly ancient history in the form of fossils and coral. Setting them out, or using one as a paperweight is a great way to enjoy them and marvel at how old they really are. My current favorite, an Ammonite fossil was a gift from my mother. (It's the spiral shaped one to the left.)

Millions of years ago, this was the actual home of a sea-dwelling creature living somewhere near present day England. Only the last and largest chamber, the body chamber, was occupied by the living animal at any given moment. As it grew, it added newer and larger chambers to the open end of the coil. As the little creature needed more room, he simply grew it--round and round in a beautiful spiral pattern. No building permit required! Really rather a clever system, don't you agree? But, can you imagine toting your whole house with you everywhere? I think not...but it is amazing to think this heavy, rough fossil that was bobbing around in the English sea millions of years ago now has my roof over its head. Clever indeed!

October 1, 2009

October's Party

October gave a party; The leaves by hundreds came -
The Chestnuts, Oaks, and Maples, And leaves of every name.
The Sunshine spread a carpet, And everything was grand,
Miss Weather led the dancing, Professor Wind the band.

George Cooper
October's Party.
Here's to the beginning of the best time of the year...Happy October!

September 25, 2009

Costume Time's almost that time of year again. I need to get the Hound her costume. Hmmm.


Cutesy pea pod, or glow-in-the-dark x-ray. I suspect she'll be mad either way...Stay tuned, and I'll let you know.

September 13, 2009

New! The Caldrea Company

Clever Girl is proud to announce the addition of The CALDREA Company to our great line up of offerings.

I must confess that I have an incurable attraction towards new, exciting products and gadgets that promise to transform your life into one of ease and perfection. Infomercials on late night TV mesmerise me with tantalizing promises and pitches: Made in Germany. Money back guarantee. Snuggie anyone? And, my personal favorite, "patent pending." But, every now and then, a company comes along that deliverers on its promise of doing what it says. The Caldrea Company is a prime example...Caldrea offers a premier cleaning experience with products that are highly effective, consistently earth friendly, and an absolute pleasure to use. Already customers are raving about this line! It seems everyone has a favorite scent or cleaning product that they love to use--and, they are dying to share "cleaning miracles" with us. For example: "Cladrea Dish Soap Liquid is the only thing I have found that really cleans my plastic food storage containers." And, "Even my husband noticed how fresh the laundry smelled after I used the Basil Blue Sage Laundry Detergent." {Really, what price can you put on THAT?}
So stop in soon to discover your favorite scents and products, and be sure and enter to win a complete Caldrea cleaning kit that we'll be giving away on October 5th.
I must say, the whole kitchen smells quite spiffy after I've wiped up with the Sea Salt Neroli Countertop Clenser... Clean and fresh, and less than $9.99!

September 8, 2009

Merci, Julia

With the arrival of suddenly cooler weather here, I recently went in search of some fall-like recipes with soup on my mind. In rummaging about, I happened upon the old family copy of From Julia Child's Kitchen, by Julia Child. Unless you've been living up at the North Pole, you know that Julia is all the rage again, and her books are topping the Amazon best sellers list like crazy. (I guess a major movie helps...) As I flipped through our copy I re-discovered the inscription at the front. Julia herself had signed the book, as well as her husband, Paul! Why it was ever dedicated to my dad, I'll never quite know...he was a master at scrambled eggs, but his interest in the culinary arts never went much beyond that, so why a world-famous chef would ever be asked to sign a copy for him is a bit of a mystery. Now my Grandmother, that would make sense...

Grandma was not what you would call a "TV" person. PBS was the only station she ever tuned in to. All Creatures Great and Small, Upstairs Downstairs and The French Chef pretty made up her entire viewing schedule. Let's just say the Nelson Ratings people were not beating down her door...However, when Julia came on, she sat in rapt attention, 3 x 5 note cards and pencil at the ready. In her perfect, clear handwriting, she took notes and made comments on everything Julia Child ever whipped up on her show. (There was no Food Network then, after all) My mom and I have all her old recipe boxes filled with authentic, complex, detailed recipes for everything from Bavarian Cream to Roast Chicken. There isn't a single dish that calls for a can of Cream-of -Mushroom or a packet of onion soup mix--such a thing would be unheard of. Grandma was a wonderful cook, and, I think, quite ahead of her time. She was of old school, like Julia. No shortcuts. No quick and easy.

Julia and her cookbooks really were the best thing to ever happen to the home chef--nothing else like it had been done before. She began the revolution. As I look at the dozens of beautiful cookbooks we stock here at Clever Girl, they are filled with great recipes, ideas and beautiful photographs. We really do owe it all to the love, passion and the determination of Julia Child to provide us her textbooks about real food and real cooking. She launched the foodie nation we've become way back in the 60's, and we benefit from it to this thank you to Julia, and Bon Appetit!

August 27, 2009

E.S.S. {End-of-Season-Sale}

What better time to hold an
End of Summer Sale
than the end of summer???
Clever Girl has just taken further & final markdowns
on items in every department.

If it's end-of-season, it's on sale...

August 25, 2009

Resistance is Futile...

Just a quick post because I want you all to meet the new kid on the block. No, not mine, but the next best thing--my neighbors, the Mavons. Meet Whitley. The. Cutest. Ever. I dare you to disagree. Little puppy teeth nipping away, wagging puppy tail, paws exploring the big new world, and those eyes that melt your heart. Resistance is futile! Believe me...

I'm sure he'll be dropping into Clever Girl at some point {all well behaved dogs are welcome you know} and his new family will be taking him for lots of walks around town. So keep an eye out in Western Springs for this little one...clever girls love cute boys.

August 18, 2009

Oh Rats. Bats.

I've always privately thought of our little cottage in Michigan as "Bedlam Manor". I'm now re-thinking that. "Animal House" is seeming ever more apropos.

Squirrels in the attic earlier this summer launched a tiny war. Gus, our communal goose was, shall we say, taken (kidnapped? Goosenaped?) by some neighbors. The deer have had a salad bar of my Hostas (sob!) and, seemingly, we have now entered the bat cave...

To say I was startled one recent evening on the porch by a lone bat would be a HUGE understatement. Freaked. Frightened. Terrified. Yes, words like that paint the picture. How do you know if you've had a cardiac infarction??? I was able to show him to the door eventually, and a peaceful evening resumed: No nerves a cocktail (or 10) can't cure... Everyone else seemed to find this rather funny, but I fail to see the humor.

Whilst preparing to depart the next day, a glance skyward reveled the following:

A GIANT BAT KITE was snared in our tree. Coincidence? I think not. There are a great number of charming and colorful kite patterns of which to choose, yet the one ensnared in our tree is a large, black bat kite. Clearly this is some kind of bat revenge or warning. So, for now, I've grown weary of the natural world; perhaps a restorative trip to the big city is in order. The concrete jungle. Wildlife at a minimum. Angry taxi-cab drivers flashing birds of a different sort. Yes indeed-I think it's exactly what I need.

August 12, 2009

So long, farewell...

Not really sure the exact day I heard
Perhaps 'twas from a little bird
Yes, it said you were soon to go away
Another retail season you could not stay
But who will tell us what to think
And voice herself out loud?
How will we know what things will sell
And others eh, not so well.
Once a Clever Girl, forever a Clever Girl,
we all want you to know.
And with that i phone in your hand
You'll never really go.
Dear Allie is off. She's flown away.
Drat your fancy MBA.
We wish you well, but it's not the end
You'll always be our CNN
(Please, just don't lick the glass)

August 5, 2009

Homegrown Retail Roots

Enjoying a panini sandwich with a delicious, homegrown tomato the other day reminded me of my first "retail" experience. My best bud growing up was Bryan Rhodes, who lived right across the street, and he was my partner in crime back in the day. Ahh yes, the year of the juicy red tomato, and my first foray into the retail's the deal...

Bryan and I had a great many childhood adventures: HOURS in the sandbox, swing set games, firefly hunting, and chasing after the big, mysterious trucks that came around spraying for mosquitoes at night (brilliant, right?) Each summer day began at the crack of dawn with a bowl of Lucky Charms and a glass of Tang, and then we met up and headed out for adventure. The two of us tried to light anthills on fire with magnifying glasses, ran through the sprinkler, and rode Big Wheels around the block HUNDREDS of times: Brian had the super-deluxe model, but I had the sandbox... His mom was an expert at bandaging our skinned knees, and my mom made the PB&J sandwiches just the way we liked them. Evenings usually ended with a marathon game of Ghost in the Graveyard and then collapsing into bed only to start all over again the next day.

For rainy days, Brian and I were also fans of the local dime store as a source for some of our summer entertainment. Yo-yo's, cards, silly putty, comic books and glider airplanes were always on our list, and we relished the chance to wander the long aisles covered in white linoleum flooring. Of course, allowance and Grandma's good will stretched only so far: Often we found ourselves in need of hard currency. However, while some kids did the Kool-Aid stand, we saw the cash potential of tomatoes. No 5-cents a glass for us--we wanted the big score. My dad had a ridiculously good bumper crop that year, so...tomatoes to the rescue. Up went our little store front at the curb, out came the bags of home grown tomatoes, and in came the customers..........we hit it big. Flush with cash for the rest of the summer, Bryan and I spent many hours perusing the isles of the 5-and-dime.

Ironically, some 30 years later, Clever Girl now occupies the very space of that old dime store. Our stock room still has the old white flooring, and I often remember the excitement of time spent wandering among the displays of toys and goodies. Happily, the space is still full of goodies--now just a little bit more "grown-up" goodies.

July 30, 2009

Summer Sale

A quick announcement...

As August is almost upon us, it is time to start the Summer Sale at Clever Girl!
Markdowns of 25%~60% have been taken on summer clothing, hats, sweaters and accessories. Hurry in for best selection on sizes and colors.......

July 28, 2009

Warm and Wonderful

Our newest favorite find.........Natural linen and leather for sun kissed days. Meet Spartina 449, a fresh and new handbag line that will set you apart from the rest. Choose from the playful pinks of the Sea Island collection, go blue with the Ocean Wind grouping, or savor the fresh colors in the Clubhouse collection. Whatever design you select, you're going to LOVE these bags. This is color for grown-ups. This is a bag for many seasons. We have totes, draw-string bags, cosmetics, wristlets, wallets and more. If you're ready for something a little different, and want a bag that will take you easily into fall~search no more!

July 13, 2009

Three Simple Things

In catching up on magazines that have been piling up, I just read the April 2009 issue of Country Living and found a neat article on simple things we all can do to be more eco-friendly. Most are common sense things that we may overlook. Here are a few:

  • Tighten your gas cap until it clicks three times.

Here's why: Each year in the United States, 147 million gallons of gasoline literally evaporate into the atmosphere because of loose, damaged, or missing caps.

  • Serve a 1.5-liter magnum of wine when dining with a group instead of two 750-milliliter bottles. (Anything to help...right?)

Here's why:A magnum weighs less and requires less fuel to ship than two standard bottles.

  • Stow a reusable bag in your car for errands.

Here's why: If every American stuck with a tote, we'd waste 380 billion fewer plastic bags this year alone.

And let's be sure the bags we use are cute, clever and charming too. No reason we have to look too earthy, right? A few suggestions from the tote department at Clever Girl:

Vintage French school poster art have a second life on our amazingly popular Shopper. French language lesson added for your learning pleasure. Now you can learn while you shop.

Oui, always thinking of you!

Foxes, owls, kitties, brilliant birds and of course there's a squirrel or two. It's the pattern that makes you look twice and then it's truly twice as nice.

Of course we have many, many others as well. You'll have to decide which is "you". Our totes are big and long lasting with durable construction at a great price. Made from used grain sacks and plastic water bottles, they replace disposable supermarket bags and hold A LOT! Oh, and bonus, 1% of sales fund programs of The Nature Conservancy worldwide.

July 7, 2009

Seasides Squirrels

I flew out to Maine last week to celebrate Jinny's birthday and the 4th of July. The rain here has not let up yet, and we've set a new record low for the so called "high" temperature. Whatever that means. Anyway, as seems to be a new theme for me, the little red squirrels are here...

Everyday like clock work this little guy makes a daring (stupid?) run all the way across the front deck. There are three dogs here, and now they know to look for him, so it really is something to see. All day long we hear him chattering away in the woods, and having heated discussions with our little band of chipmunks that live in the rocks below. I can only wonder what they find to talk about...perhaps they are discussing The Real Housewives of New Jersey like the rest of us.

Now, here's the clever thing: cocktail hour here begins with the passing of The Hardy Boat that cruises past every evening at 5:30. The sound of that boat idling along very quickly leads to the sound of ice tinkling in the glasses. (This is vacation after all) But I digress. No sooner do we settle in to cocktail hour but our little red friend appears again. He perches on the railing and watches all of the cocktail activities for at least an hour! Our guests and neighbors all find this quite charming--the dogs--not so much.

Please forgive the rather poor photo, but is was raining and dark when I took this... but here he is, peeking in on the party. He paces a bit but remains out there more or less all evening and it's dark when he finally makes for home.
So, that's just a little update-here's to a rainy early July, and to our new found forest friend. I for one know a Beagle who's keeping watch to make his acquaintance...

July 3, 2009

A Fabulous Fourth


Word of the day: Vexillogy. n. Meaning: The study of flags.

According to legend, that early clever girl, Betsy Ross, got out her needle and thread and created the red, white and blue that we all proudly wave today. (With a little design direction from a Mr. George Washington)
The American flag flies on the moon, sits atop Mount Everest, and is hurtling out in space. The flag is how America signs her name. It is certainly no surprise that Betsy Ross has become one of the most cherished figures of American History. When we view the flag, we think of liberty, freedom and pride. As we attend parades and gather with family and friends this holiday weekend, let's remember Betsy Ross, way back in 1776 sewing the flag. Our flag.
A very happy Independence Day to you all!
Learn more about the creation of our flag at the Betsy Ross homepage

June 26, 2009

This just in...

Summer is here! The weather is finally with us. Horray horray! And talk about good timing: Our darling U.P.S. man is always eagerly awaited at Clever Girl, and today he delivered the most wonderful book. The Summer House Cookbook is full of inspired recipes to kick off this great season. The book is full of beautiful photos (after all, we want to see what it should look like) and packed with tasty, goof-proof dishes. So stop in for your copy and get cooking Summer style!

As any Foodie knows, chilled soups are quite the rage now, and this sounds especially promising...

Chilled Sugar Snap Pea Soup
Serves 8
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
1 carrot, sliced
1 ½ pounds sugar snap peas, strings removed
6 cups chicken stock, or low-sodium canned chicken broth
2 teaspoons sea salt
6 generous grindings of black pepper
20 fresh mint leaves
In an 8 quart soup pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion, celery, and carrot and sauté until they are tender, stirring occasionally, 10 to 12 minutes. Add the sugar snap peas and the stock, bring the soup to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the peas are just tender, about 3 min. Add the salt and pepper and set aside to cool a bit.
Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender along with the mint leaves, until smooth. Stir and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Before serving, recheck the seasoning and adjust if necessary.

With all the great strawberries in season this is a perfect, simple way to use them...

Get-Up-and-Go Yogurt Shake
Serves 3 to 4

1 cup strawberries (about 5 medium to large), hulled and quartered
1 large mango, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks (about 1 cup)
1 cup low-fat plain yogurt
1 cup ice

Place all of the ingredients in a blender. Puree until smooth. Serve icy cold.

Of course, a Clever Girl loves to experiment with other fruits and berries such as bananas, blueberries, and pineapple make what ever sounds good to you!!!
Recipes from: The Summer House Cookbook

June 19, 2009

In search of Summer

OK. I give up. Where is summer? I know where the clouds are. I've located the rain, thunder and lightning. The mosquitoes and I are now very well acquainted. The weeds are having a massive party without permission. What I'm seeking, however, is summer. You've heard of it I'm sure. Things like sunny days, warm breezes, walking the dog, kids riding bikes and flying kites. A lemonade stands pops up on the corner, and the ice cream man whizzes around in his funny little van. Summer stuff. So where it it?

We've done our part. The screens are up, the grill is clean and ready, fresh sunscreen (extra SPF) has been procured and beach books are waiting to be read. So where is it?!? This is like waiting for Santa into January, and the Easter bunny is a total no-show. In other words: VERY DISAPPOINTING! Cute outfits are waiting to be worn. New shoes want out of their box. Summer scarves are growing slightly desperate for exposure. What's a girl to do? Sadly, I don't have the answer except to say,"Don't give up. It has to get here sometime. Summer 2009 will happen."
Until then Clever Girls, download some Beach Boys tunes and perfect your Mojito recipes. Summer is just around the corner...right?

June 8, 2009

Rain or Shine Rugs

Clever Girls all have their favorite things, and at the top of our list are the oh-so-incredible Rain or Shine rugs from Dash & Albert Rug Company. These are the rugs you've been searching for all your life. Need something cute but functional by the back door? What about a rug for the screened in porch? The cottage in Wisconsin? Every woman has wanted one of these magic carpets for in front of the kitchen sink. Something with style, soft underfoot, that looks like it belongs in a room-it's almost too good to be true.
Made of superheroic polypropylene, these indoor/outdoor area rugs are terrific for high-traffic areas and muddy messes. Scrubbable, bleachable and UV-treated for outdoor use, this collection of woven rugs can stand up to all that you dish out, and we have personally put them to the test. Three dogs, a boatload of houseguests and a muddy spring were no match for our rugs. They have performed perfectly. Regular vacuuming and the occasional gentle shake will keep your rug in shipshape condition. That's it.
Available in 35 patterns and a wide range of sizes from 2 x 3 minis all the way up to 8.5 x 11 room size rugs. Many in stock, all easily orderable. Lightweight, reversible and affordable. Striped for your delight. A rug for all seasons. Rug problem solved. Pretty clever, huh?

May 29, 2009

Back in the Backyard

Posted by Picasa  
Well, we've all planted, weeded, fertilized and nurtured our little plants along all spring.  Now it's time to begin enjoying the fruits of our labors.  The great outdoors beckons us, and Clever Girl has a fresh, colorful selection of tablecloths to add the finishing touch to your outdoor spaces. Ranging from fresh stripes to french country classics, these table cloths are just the thing to add polish and flare to your back yard spaces.

Breakfast coffee and the morning paper just seem better in the backyard.  Why not grab that dogeared copy of the guide to backyard birds and see who joins you?  Add a bouquet of fresh flowers, a scattering of flickering votive candles, and evening meals beg to be savored with an extra glass of wine. Even a simple salad tastes better in the backyard.  Or, load up your iPod with some classic summertime tunes, and you'll have the hippest, hottest neighborhood gathering spot in town.  And don't even get us started on what a leisurely Sunday brunch can be like...
Whatever your style we've got the cloth to match the mood.  So don't let summer slip away.  The Fourth of July is just around the corner, and it's all downhill from there.  Get going out in the back yard and savor all that summer has to offer!

May 26, 2009

The Way Life Should Be

Greetings all, have arrived out east. 1200+ miles and not a single speeding ticket! As many of you know, for me, that is most excellent indeed...

Maine is a bit behind the Mid-West as far as spring goes. Tonight we are going to be at 31 degrees--a fact I discovered only after planting up all the pots, garden beds, containers and window boxes. So it's out with the sheets tonight to keep the tender new plants safe until the sun is up to warm them in the morning.

On my way to Moose Crossing (yes, that's the real name) to get the plants, I stopped in to see Lisa Bottero owner of the Nobleboro Antique Exchange. Lisa, and her many dealers are fully stocked for the season, and even her dog Renata was in a good mood and happy to see everyone. This is not always the case.

On the upper level of the exchange, I spent a long time browsing the book room, and found some treasures as always. There's an assortment of odd bookshelves filled with titles like, Gardening by the Sea, Walking the Coast of Maine, Maverick in Mauve (didn't get that one). We already have multiple copies of Jaws--required reading on the shelf of every east-coast cottage--but I love all of the local Maine books they have. There are also bins full of charts and maps, and the slightly musty smell of old books mingles with the fresh scent of the grass waifing in from the field out back. The classical music channel plays softly in the back, and it's just a perfect place to spend an hour perusing the stacks. In addition to several books, I also found a darling vintage dog from Royal Doulton in England. It's a Beagle (shocking, I know) and looks just like my Gracie. (Actually I'm reading lots of good books right now, including the newest from Donna Leone, About Face; I've followed her detective Guido Brunetti for some time now, and always enjoy her writing. Also on the reading list is Best Food Writing 2008 and Dog is my Co-Pilot: Great Writers on the World's Oldest Friendship.)

Anyway, from there we went on up to get the plants. Moose Crossing was bustling as usual, and soon the back of the car was loaded with flowers of every sort. Back at the cottage planting commenced, and I'll post a few pictures of the final product soon.

P.S. I found a wonderful new glass artist that makes amazing rings. We'll have them in by July, and I'll let you know exactly when they arrive. I NEVER stop looking for special new things to bring to Clever Girl!

May 15, 2009

Magic Dress

More colorful than the little black dress. More sophisticated than the basic black dress. More "I feel pretty" than any ordinary dress. This is THE magic dress for the summer of 2009. This dress is going with you to two weddings, a party at Navy Pier, the Tom Jones concert at Ravinia, the big charity event (you know, the one you agreed to co-chair in a weak moment last year) plus the quiet get-away weekend with your husband up in Lake Country.
... Yes, this is the dress. You will introduce it to both your high healed rock-star black shoes and your Tory Burch ballet flats. They will all get along. They will all work in perfect harmony to make you look good. All this little dress asks of you is that you twirl around in it once or twice so it can show off its full potential. That's really not too much to ask--after all, this is no ordinary little dress...
Lemon Lime Summer Party Dress. Also available in Bluebell.
S, M, L, $86.oo.

Hurry, hurry, the parties are coming!!!

May 7, 2009

Maine Dish

For all of you Clever Girls out there itching for a new recipe, may I offer you the Maine Dish.
For years the Broccoli Waldorf Salad at the always super tasty Damariscotta River Grill in Maine has haunted me. In the long stretch of dark winter days, I crave this tasty, crunchy, tantalizingly simple side dish that I always enjoy whenever I visit the coast. However, I could never quite put my finger on what exactly made it so good. Many times I have tried to re-create this at home to no avail--something was missing--but what? It took Robin Jones to crack the code.
Robin, a dear friend, and year-round resident of Maine, had strong cooking roots from the deep south. Leave it to her to figure out what I had been missing...the secret ingredient if you will...maple syrup! What follows is the perfect side salad, inspired by the River Grill, and perfected by Robin. The apples make it tart, the broccoli gives it crunch, the Cranberries add a chewy texture, and the dressing is light and refreshing--not heavy at all. Super simple. Super good.

Cranberry Broccoli Salad

12 to 14 ounces of raw broccoli floret's cut into bite sized pieces

Cut 2 Granny Smith or your favorite apples into small pieces (I leave peel on)

Chop about 1 cup of carrots

A couple handfuls of dried cranberries

1/2 - 3/4 cup of mayonnaise

2 - 3 tablespoons of real maple syrup

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.


May 4, 2009


One of the greatest things about sudden, random free time is taking a ramble; just jumping in the car and seeing where the road takes you. On one such day I found myself at a little gallery located in an historic barn in Michigan. While meandering about, I came upon a beautiful display of jewelry and was smitten by a pair of earrings in blue and chocolate colored glass. I, of course, had to make them mine. While chatting with the gallery owner, she told me they were by an artist from the Chicago Suburbs. Western Springs to be exact. Humm...guess where I'm from??? So, as often happens, one thing led to another, and it turns out I live only a few short blocks from the designer Donna Sauers.

Happily, we have carried Donna's beautiful glass jewelry work from the very beginning at Clever Girl, and she now even works at the store. (Talk about artist in residence!) Additionally Donna does many art shows around the Midwest.

Clever Girl is pleased to host a two-day trunk show on May 8th and 9th, featuring the jewelry of Donna Sauers. This show is just in time for Mother's Day, and we will have extra stock on hand to insure a wide selection. Please join us for this very special event.

Please call the store directly if you have any questions: 708.246.5050
Click here for more information on Donna.

May 1, 2009

Happy May Day!

When I was a little girl, my mother and I always made a May Day basket for my Grandmother. A May Day cone is actually a more accurate description. Mom helped me cut a circle out of paper, and decorate it with cut~outs and drawings of flowers and birds. We carefully rolled it into a cone and tied on a pretty ribbon handle; then we filled it with daffodils. Grandma lived right on our block, so we would sneak over and leave it on the handle of the front door as a suprise. It was a charming project done in celebration of the full fledged arrival of Spring.
To this day, I love a vase full of the seasons first daffodils with their happy flower faces. Perhaps you can celebrate this May Day with a friend or family member. Make a little basket, enjoy a picnic, or simply take a walk and look for the daffodils and other flowers that are celebrating Spring. Our own local flower shop here in Western Springs, Stems and Twigs, has buckets full of charming flowers to savor. I think I'll pick up a bunch today in celebration of May.

April 24, 2009

La Arrival of L'Argent

So...if you've read this blog at all in the past, you're aware of my candle obsession. It's not a secret. Lately I've been on overdrive due to the gorgeous new line we have recently gotten in from Seda France.
L'Argent, means silver in French, and has been regarded since ancient times as a precious metal. This collection is a new level of modern luxury, with crocodile patterns on the classic Pagoda box packaging and six new fragrances. Siberian Palm, Belgian Marigold and Imperial Boxwood are already strong favorites at Clever Girl, and many customers are falling in love with the African Violette-- The French are a fan of this light and lovely scent, and I know it's going to catch on here in a BIG way. Seda is well know for the high quality of not only their candles, but their packaging as well. These are truly a ta-da type of gift.
Finally, saving the best news for last, there is a mini size candle in this collection that makes the perfect favor at a dinner party, or a sweet thank you for a friend. These are definitely the kind of thing a true Clever Girl keeps on hand so as to be prepared for any and all gift giving needs!

P.S. There's also a nifty travel candle that's the ideal way to take a tiny bit of French luxury with you wherever your winding road may lead...happy trails!

April 10, 2009

Bunny Basket

A tiskit, a tasket, some goodies for your basket. May we suggest a few clever items that the bunny might like to bring...

Bunnie slippers~ Yes, a bit obvious, but they are so cute.
Faux Chocolate Rabbits~ 100% darling and calorie free!
A new hat~ What could be better for spring?
Geography Sweaters~ in a seasonal spring color...
Big Buddha Bag~ All new styles and colors have arrived!

We have dozens and dozens of new spring arrivals, and are ready to "hop" to it and help you select all of your special gifts. Don't forget the hostess either~surely she deserves something eggstremely eggciting!

March 20, 2009

Mother's Day Jewelry

And now...our latest great find..."Chic~Lit" jewelry has arrived. It's your turn to play designer!

Step 1-Choose a handmade glass bead color. Step 2-Select the name, date or word you want on it. Anything you want (there are some restrictions on word size) will be hand stamped onto a sterling silver band and wrapped around the bead. Step 3-To finish it off, decide if you want a necklace or a bracelet.

There is no limit to what you can say--part of the great design challenge is to see how clever you can be with a few words. Of course, it's great for putting names and birthdays on too! The colors range from earth tones to punchy brights. It's a great way to put a little self expression on every day. P.S. Attention Mothers...ready or not here it comes. Time to make the reservation for brunch and start dropping hints. Mother's Day is Sunday, May 10th. Like all good things, this jewelry takes a little time to arrive, so best to order early-send him in NOW!

March 18, 2009


Greetings all! Went off on a "ramble" this weekend to Michigan. 100+ inches of snow this winter has broken every record on the books, and kept me away from our little lake house. But no more-loaded up the dogs, and off we went. Going around the lake encountered a "whiteout" and had to share the road with a snow plow, but nothing really stuck-thank heavens! The eagles have returned to the lake, and are pulling out fish every day now. The deer continue to nibble the ewes around the house-much to the dog's distress-and a very loud owl has moved into the tallest of the pine trees. Always amazing to observe the constant wildlife activity up there.

I had a chance to visit one of my favorite places Blue Star Antique Pavilion and poke through all 100+ booths for a few treasures. Saturday was gloomy and overcast and still quite chilly, so it was the perfect place to spend an afternoon-new items are brought in daily by the dealers, and it's never the same place twice. You really have to go around several times to take it all in. Among my finds are a bunch of great vintage bottles-my latest obsession-and, a terrific vintage set of carnival game pieces. I think they'll make a neat jewelry display-stop in to see them if you're curious-they make a great visual!

We had friends over for a boisterous Chili dinner and sat around the fire catching up on all the latest gossip on the lane. Biggest news: The communal pet goose, Gus, has been taken by our rivals one road over. We hatched our (brilliant) plan to recover him fueled by lots of good wine. Stay tuned...we'll either get Gus back or all end up in the county jail together. Maybe I should stash some bail money just in case...

March 6, 2009

Kim's Clever Cake

The Clever Girls here at the store truly do live up to the title. Case in point: Kim's Chocolate Cake. This is the best-ever-piece-of-homemade-goodness-you'll-ever bake. And it's quite simple to make too; pastry proficiency is strictly optional. Now, Kim found this little gem of a recipe in an old file of clippings from newspapers and magazines. Being a good and righteous clever girl, she'd like to give credit where it's due, but there is no chef or date on the little torn out piece of paper. Therefore, if in the early 90's you invented this magic cake let us know, and we'll be happy to give you the accolades you so richly deserve. As it stands, our Kim the Clever put that little scrap to good use, and life is all the tastier for it. So, here it is: The Best Ever Chocolate Cake. Made and loved by clever girls everywhere...
Chocolate Cake

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Baking Time: 55 minutes
Chilling time:30 minutes
Yield: 15 servings
1 1/2 cups cake flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1 1/2 tTeaspoons baking soda
1/2 Teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cup sugar
2 cups sour cream (not non-fat)
1 stick plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 t. vanilla
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup whipping cream
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, cut into small pieces
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 Tablespoon vanilla
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Sift flour, coca, baking soda and salt into bowl of electric mixer; stir in sugar. Add sour cream, butter, eggs and vanilla. mix together in large bowl with electric mixer on low speed; increase speed to medium. Beat about three minutes. Transfer batter to greased and floured 9-by-13 inch pan; smooth batter with batter with spatula.
Bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool completely on wire rack.
For frosting, stir sugar and cream in heavy 3-quart saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Heat to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer 6 minutes; remove from heat. Stir in chocolate and butter until smooth; stir in vanilla. Refrigerate until set but not solid, about 30 minutes. Beat with wooden spoon until light and fluffy. Spread on cake.

Related Posts with Thumbnails