November 18, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

We will, of course, be closed on Thursday, to celebrate Thanksgiving with our family and friends.  We won't be opening in the cold, dark dawn at 4 AM on Friday for a so-called "black Friday" (our usual, 9:30 opening will be just fine).  There will be no crush and crunch as people push and shove for the latest electronic device, or general rudeness that pervades the parking lots in the malls.  That is not the Clever Girl way.
  What you will find, the day after Thanksgiving, is a lovely store filled with wonderful merchandise, and a sales team that actually wants to help you.  We are happy to box and label your gifts.  We're glad to assist and answer questions.  That's what shopping locally is all about.

While nothing beats my Mom's cranberry sauce, this is one that I tried last year, and really liked.  Julie Russo, co-author of The Silver Pallet Cookbook, was a lovely customer of ours when we had our store in Saugatuck, Michigan.  This is her version...
4 cups (about 1 pound) fresh cranberries, picked over
2 cups sugar
1 cup fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
2 slightly under-ripe pears, cored, peeled and cut into 1/3- inch dice 
Combine all ingredients in a heavy saucepan and stir well. Place pan over medium heat and boil until berries pop open, about 10 minutes. Skim the foam off the surface with a metal spoon and let the relish cool to room temperature. Refrigerate, covered, for up to 2 months. Makes 10 servings.

Wishing you and your families a 
happy and blessed Thanksgiving!

On another note:
Now that the Christmas merchandise is out, I have been working on the Sisyphean task of cleaning the stockroom.  This probably means nothing to you all, however, as a result, a few items have joined the sale rack, so you might want to give it the once-over on your next visit.

October 30, 2012

Tricks & Treats...


On this spooky day, we set the clever controls on our time machine, and journey back to the pumpkin-patches of the past....What was Halloween like for our Clever Girls?

Dressing as Cleopatra, in a very elaborate costume was the best-ever Halloween for Donna and she always shared her candy haul with her Dad. Milky Way was her favorite candy bar, and Almond Joys were left unopened until everything else was gone, and they were the only thing left.  As an adult,  pumpkin carving with power tools became a big Halloween tradition.  Long before Martha Stewart ever did it, Donna was wearing safety goggles and carving up a storm.

Kathy reports that she was fairly casual about All-Hallow's-Eve.  She preferred her costumes to be sans any kind of mask, and covered lots of territory around Ann Arbor.  Her prized treat was from a Mrs. Boomisiki, who doled out homemade popcorn balls to the local children. Apparently these were quite the treat, and highly sought after.  On Kathy's list of unwelcome items were malted milk balls, and the dreaded root-beer barrel hard candy. She claims to never have pulled any tricks, but we have no real way of verifying this...

Childhood trick-or-treating always included a quest for the very rare full-sized candy bar for Sandy. The startled surprise of being offered one was so exciting, that now she has the fun of delighting all trick-or-treaters at her own door with full sized bars. Chocolate was always her favorite, and nougat /nugget items were avoided at all costs. Her best costume moment came as part of a Mother-Daughter duo when one of her three daughters was Madeline and Sandy dressed as Ms. Clavel, the Nun. We are encouraging her to reprise the look...

Linda dressed exactly the same every Halloween for her Long Island treat gathering.  Year after year, she costumed herself as a Beatnik. Black stirrup pants, a jaunty beret, and a long cigarette holder rounded out her ensemble as she foraged for goodies. Regional favorite "Jelly Apples" with a crunchy, cinnamon coating from the neighbor, Mrs. Anna Bruno, were the treasured treat.  Bit-O-Honey was (and is) considered most unpalatable by Linda.   

Down in Texas, Lynn notes that the weather was always warm and pleasant for Halloween, and one of her favorite costumes was a black kitty cat.  She used a pillow case for her gathering, noting it's large capacity. The family across the street had a haunted house each year; and while attending a party there, she remembers reaching into a bowl of "eyeballs", which were really peeled grapes, but rather startling never-the-less.  In her teen-aged years, Lynn referenced a party serving "Witches Brew" from a cauldron, but she declined to elaborate any further...

Hope everyone has a spooktacular Halloween!

September 17, 2012


As the days become shorter, and the nights begin to have a bit of a "nip" to them, I look for the return of The Creature in the back yard.  He is dressed all in black, with a single, stylish, stripe running down his back, and remains, at all times, illusive.  He caries no formal calling card, preferring to announce himself via olfactory means.  Officially he bears the name Mephitis Mephitidae: or as we call him, Skunk.

For four years running, every fall, he has returned to the back yard and called it home.  Very aware of his presence, the torture of our dogs is exquisite, as they "patrol" 24/7 hoping for a close encounter with this bold interloper.  (Little do they know just how much they would regret an actual meeting...)  So, while the skunk has become an autumnal regular for me, I hardly realized they were becoming fashion statements.  Behold the J.Crew spring pants for 2013...  Who knew? We were just ahead of the trend.

P.S. Totally unrelated, yet important:
Save the Date
 Eyebobs trunk at Clever Girl Thursday October 11th 9:30-5:00

June 17, 2012

Maine, by the Numbers...

Have just had a wonderful vacation in Maine--here's a little report, by the numbers...

Made it 1100 miles from Western Springs out to Maine, all the way safe and sound, and got 0 speeding tickets (with a sincere thank you to the very understanding officer in Ohio).  Brought 2 dogs and an ambitious 7 books to read along with me.  We washed and put up 28 screens on the windows, only to have 4 solid days of wind and rain totaling 5.5 inches.  Blah!

When the sun did finally reappear, I planted 96 pink Impatiens, and assorted other flowers.  We visited our 3 favorite antique markets, including the massive Nobleboro Antique Exchange found here and unearthed many, many treasures for Clever Girl.  {Treasure list includes: 1 amazing crystal chandler, 1 darling, vintage farmhouse light, 2 superb, vintage oil portraits, and 1 unique, folk-art tiny table with great red paint.}  We were tuned in to 106.9 FM non-stop, as it is the best classical music station, and it runs very entertaining, extremely  local commercials--you can listen to it here.

Several 750 ml bottles of our favorite local mead from Portland were consumed: It's like wine, but somehow better.  Read about it here.  On the foggy days, we hit the vintage book shops.  I found 1 vintage Underwood portable typewriter with it's original case, upon which Maine author E. B. White himself might have written Charlotte's Web while on the Atlantic shore.  
3 vintage James Thurber books were obtained for .50 (!) cents each, and they are full of his dry wit, charming illustrations, wry observations and have that delicious vintage book smell.  Is it possible for books to smell interesting?  I think, indeed, it most definitely is...

As for lobster, while technically 0 is the number of lobsters personally consumed, I can report that the Round Pond Lobster Co-Op was doing quite a brisk business.  They are right on the wharf, and you pick your little buddy weighing between 1 & 4 pounds out of the tank as they are unloaded from the boat.  A quick "steam bath" (for the lobster, not you) and dinner is served.
A bag of "steamers", fresh corn, a cup of butter and the ubiquitous bag of Cap Cod Chips round out the feast.  Personally I have the grilled cheese, which isn't half bad either.  It's BYOB, and it's TONS of fun to go!  Bring your binoculars to get a good, close look at the boats in the harbor.  Everything from a dingy  to $1,000,000 + Hinckley's are on display.

All-in-all, a 100% perfect trip, and I can't wait to go back!

PS--As per usual, my grand total of Moose spotted was a whopping 0!
My quest continues...

May 22, 2012

Summer Reading List...

As we head towards Memorial Day weekend, I can't help but think of it as the start of Summer Vacation, although school days are way behind me.  Just as the first few crisp days of fall make me nostalgic for the smell of fresh crayons, and picking out a new backpack, June's approach triggers thoughts of summer...
Growing up, we had a wonderful screened-in porch filled with super comfy furniture, and I spent my summers living out there drinking orange Tang, and sharing space with the cats and dogs.  The cushions were a cheerful yellow floral fabric on the front, and vinyl on the back that "squeaked" when you sat down.  It was here that I could seek protection from the bugs, and the angry summer sun that just loves to fry my fair Scottish skin.

My parents always encouraged us to read, and we had all the books we could devour.  As a young child, I did the reading program at Thomas Ford Library library (Back then, the library got most of my allowance money in the form of book fines.  I've since graduated to the upper level of parking violations, and, a few times, ventured into that rarefied arena of speeding tickets.  But I digress...)  The reading program was always full of titles that were age appropriate and expanded our horizons.  Harriet the Spy was an obsession one summer, and Little House On the Prairie was followed by Anne of Green Gables read until my eyes fluttered shut every night.  Later summers yielded a steady diet of classics like Gone With the Wind (my Grandmothers battered copy) The Great Gatsby, Pride and Prejudice, and To Kill A Mockingbird along with frothy romances and TONS of English mysteries that were voraciously read cover-to-cover.  Finding a good book is like making a new friend, and I'm always on the hunt for the next one.

So, tell me clever girls: What are you going to put on your reading list this summer? 

We're starting a book list at the counter here at Clever Girl, and we want to know what book you suggest for our Summer Reading List.  You can also reply in the comments section of this blog or click here for our Facebook page.  We'll gather up all your suggestions and post them in a few weeks.  I can't wait to see what you all recommend, and discover some new favorites to read on the porch!

"The habit of reading is the only enjoyment in which there is no alloy; it lasts when all other pleasures fade."         ~Anthony Trollope

May 12, 2012

Motherly Wisdom...

"Put on a little lipstick."  Did your Mother ever tell you that?  Or stand up straight?  That was always a good one...  Motherly wisdom is all around us if we choose to listen to it: Whether from our actual moms, or just people who have hard-learned wisdom to impart, we can learn a lot...
You'll recognize this quote from The Help, one of my favorite books.  It's really one of those simple, but true little saying, isn't it?  Just the sort of thing your mom might tell you as a child that doesn't make sense until we are a bit older.  

Whatever lessons you've learned, today is the day we celebrate the spirit of Motherhood, and all that goes along with it.  
 Happy Mother's Day to you all!

P.S. ~A very Happy Mother's Day to my very own wonderful, ever-encouraging Mother.  She is absolutely the strongest woman I know, and I couldn't have a better example to follow...  I love you, Mums!   

April 16, 2012

Tasty Tuesday: Spring Pea Soup

Discover the newest cookbook on Clever Girl's shelves: Very Fond of Food, by Sophie Dahl.  We love the format that takes you through a whole year of eating seasonally, and keeping things simple.  Great photos also encourage one to try something new... 
Take Pea Soup--this is a perfect brunch or light lunch dish, that celebrates all of the fresh bounty of Spring.  Give it a try and see what you think!
Pea, Pesto and Arugula Soup
Gather the Goods...this serves 4, and you will need:
  • A large handful of fresh basil leaves
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • A few tablespoons of pine nuts
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup/25 g grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 small zucchini, chopped
  • 31/2 Cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 package (1 pound) frozen peas
A large handful of arugula  Place all of the pesto ingredients in a blender or food processor and whiz up until you have a green, bubbly sauce, adding a splash of water if the pesto is a little thick. Taste, season, and adjust anything that needs adjusting.

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil and soften the onion. Add the zucchini, then pour in the stock and simmer on low for 8 to 10 minutes. Add the peas and arugula, bring back to a boil, and cook for another 3 or 4minutes until the vegetables are tender.
Let the soup cool for 15 minutes or so and then, in careful batches, mix in a blender until you have a velvety purée. Reheat in the saucepan or serve cold, as it works either way. You can either run 4 tablespoons of pesto through the soup when you’re serving or reheating, if you are. Or, if serving cold, add it to the blender when you are puréeing the batches.

{P.S. Don't forget, the Western Springs Farmers Market starts Thursday, May 3rd.}

April 4, 2012

Happy Birthday to Us!

April 4, 2012
Happy 4th Birthday, to Clever Girl!
It was just 48 short months ago that we opened our doors in Western Springs, and we couldn't be more pleased.  Thank you to all of our wonderful staff, customers and friends that have been so fun to work with and share all of our great merchandise with.  We say there is something new here every day, and that certainly has been the case!

We look forward to many more years in the town we call home, and in the community we love...

March 22, 2012

Color of the Season

"Orange" you glad it's Spring???
Call it what you will, the color of the season has a decidedly orange-y glow about it--but we love it!  Clever Girl has hints, and full on hits, of this sunny shade.  With our recent warm-and-balmy weather, these are pieces you can wear right now!!!  
Add some orange accents in your accessories, a pop of color in a new pen, or go bold with one of our darling new dresses. However you choose to try it, we've got some orange for you...

March 7, 2012

A Friendly Reminder...

We have all sorts of goodies to fill your Easter baskets, or decorate the table for Easter Brunch!

Rabbits, fluffy chicks, candies and toffee, soft slippers, pastel sparkly earrings, wonderful children's books, beautiful ribbons-by-the-yard for your baskets, and on and on...  

Let us help you gather items to make this year's bounty from the bunny extra good!

March 5, 2012

Tasty Tuesday

So.....the feedback we've had is that you want more Clever Girl Blogs; and we'll happily oblige!  You asked for more recipes, book reviews, fashion updates, decorating info and on and on.  Tasty Tuesdays will offer you something yummy to try from some of our best selling cookbooks, or from our own scrumptious flavor vaults.  (There are a lot of good gourmets here at Clever Girl.)  We'll even offer a few customer favorites if you're willing to bring them in, or email us--we'd love to hear from you.

Today's dish is from the fabulous keepsake edition of The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook, written by the stars of the Planet Green show, The Fabulous Beekman Boys.  We love this cookbook, and it flies off of our shelves!  The fleeting asparagus season will soon be here, and this is a great way to use it...
Gather the goods...This serves 6, and you will need:

  • 2 pounds asparagus, tough ends trimmed, cut into 2-inch lengths
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter
  • 3 large shallots, minced
  • 3 green garlic stalks or scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 10 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons minced tarragon leaves
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups (6 oz) shredded semi-hard cheese
  • 1/2 cup cracker meal or crushed water crackers

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a shallow 6 cup glass or ceramic baking dish.
Steam the asparagus until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes.  In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic stalks and cook, stirring frequently, until the shallots are tender, about 3 minutes. Add the asparagus, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and cook for 2 minutes.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, basil, tarragon, cayenne, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Whisk in 1 1/4 cups of cheese and the cracker meal.  Fold in the asparagus mixture.  Transfer to the casserole, sprinkle with the remaining cheese, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned and the center is just set.  
You're going to love this, great for brunch, or as a meatless meal, just add a big salad...YUM!

January 31, 2012

On the Hunt

It's that time of year again, when we go off hunting far and wide for all good things for Clever Girl.  Thus far, we've bagged the BEST!  There are new items from our favorite lines, great new designers, fresh spring scarves, hats and dresses, lots of terrific new books, and a few surprises mixed in along the way.  They will all be in the store very soon.  (Actually, many things, like our new stationary, cozy slippers, and brand new candle line are already in.)  It has, indeed, been a good hunting season.

Speaking of good things, I hope you have all been watching  Downton Abby Sunday nights on PBS.  The series focuses on that wonderful, Edwardian time period in England and is filled with all sorts of yummy treats that make it such fun to watch.  Maggie Smith is Violet, the Dowager Countess, and delivers her lines flawlessly.  There are butlers, maids, hats, dogs, lots of tea, great dialog, and words like "brouhaha", not to mention the amazing estate, Downton Abby, itself.  Don't miss it!

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