December 20, 2015

Christmas Miscellany

I came across this little snippet by Harper Lee.  Quite a bit of emotion somehow packed into this short paragraph...

Outside, snow was falling, an odd event for a New York Christmas. I went to the window, stunned by the day’s miracle. Christmas trees blurred softly across the street, and firelight made the children’s shadows dance on the wall beside me. A full, fair chance for a new life. Not given me by an act of generosity, but by an act of love. Our faith in you was really all I had heard them say. I would do my best not to fail them. Snow still fell on the pavement below. Brownstone roofs gradually whitened. Lights in distant skyscrapers shone with yellow symbols of a road’s lonely end, and as I stood at the window, looking at the lights and the snow, the ache of an old memory left me for ever.

By Harper Lee, this story was first published in McCall’s magazine in the December 1961 issue, titled Christmas To Me.

Not sure where this picture was taken, but I love it. The ladies in their coats and hats and gloves. The street decorations are so wholesome, and it feels like snow is on the way, somehow, doesn't it? I wonder what the photographer was doing?

I love this photo, too.  It was captioned Mistletoe Sellers in France.  Perhaps they would sell people a snippet to put over their door?  Do they kiss under the mistletoe in France?  I suppose they do... noël amour.

Came across this Christmas card with my dad (on the right) and his brothers, David and Mike (upside down).  Everyone sends photo cards now, but I think Grandma was a bit ahead of her time to do so in the 50's.....

Carry on everyone--the season is fast upon us!

December 17, 2015

Happy Christmas

Here's hoping you are all on the, "downside" of your Christmas shopping. Happily, I've turned the corner, and now have things well in hand on that front....
It's lovely to see you all this time of year (and year-round, for that matter, as we're always here.) Western Springs really is like Bedford Falls, from It's A Wonderful Life; local, charming, friendly and quite comforting. This time of year always reminds me how blessed I am to live and work in this community. I know that I've already said it, but we're here to help (open late tonight, and every Thursday until Christmas) so bring in your shopping list, and let's get going!!!  
Happy Christmas from all of us at Clever Girl...

December 11, 2015

Hot Chocolate Time

A brief reminder, we're here to help with that list you're working off of.  The web site has lots of suggestions if you want to preview...

For Christmas gifts, so many of you now bring in you addresses and have us UPS everything out for you.  It's a terrific way to shop locally, and a tremendous time saver!  Let us take care of it for you!!! 
When you do have a moment to catch you breath this season, try a cozy mug of our favorite Hot Chocolate from Stonewall Kitchen.  We sell an absolute TON of it this time of year.  It's rich and delicious and always a treat.  Put on some Christmas carols, make a mug, and savor the season!  {Check out the Hot Chocolate right here}

December 4, 2015

"Y" is for Yummy...

We recently had our annual Christmas Open House, and I must say a very good time was had by all.  It's always so much fun to share a relaxed moment with our lovely customers, sip a bit of wine, sample some food and enjoy the Christmas music.  This year we were blessed to have pleasant weather as well!  

Our signature cocktail is the always festive, Clever Girl Cosmo, made with good vodka, Cointreau and served icy cold. [Click HERE for the secret] And, below, are two of the recipes I promised to post for everyone.  So glad you all liked these so much!!!  Ina Garten's scrumptious Frittata Squares, and the super tasty (super easy) Stonewall Kitchen Cranberry Horseradish dip seem to be real crown pleasers.  

Potato Basil Frittata Squares

(Serves 20 )

Gather the goods

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
3 cups peeled and 1/2-inch-diced boiling potatoes (4 potatoes)
12 extra-large eggs
22 ounces ricotta cheese
1 pound 2 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1¼ cups chopped fresh basil leaves
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 12 x 18 x 1½” half sheet pan.

Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a 12-inch sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the potatoes and fry them until cooked through, turning often, 10 to 15 minutes. Melt the remaining 8 tablespoons of butter in a small sauté pan and set aside.

Meanwhile, whisk the eggs in a large bowl, then stir in the ricotta, Gruyère, melted butter, salt, pepper, and basil. Sprinkle on the flour and baking powder and stir into the egg mixture.

Distribute the potatoes over the bottom of the sheet pan. Pour the egg mixture over the potatoes and spread evenly. Bake the frittata until it is browned and puffed, 30 to 35 minutes. Allow the frittata to cool and cut into 20 single-serving squares.

Cranberry Horseradish Bacon Dip
Serves 8 as an appetizer
Gather the Goods
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup Stonewall Kitchen Cranberry Horseradish Sauce
1/4 cup bacon, cooked and crumbled
3 Tablespoons scallions, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients and mix until uniform.
Serve with crackers, pretzels or baguette slices.

Both of these are easy and can be made ahead.  Thanks to all of you who attended our party.  Ready or not, here we go into another Christmas season!

November 20, 2015

Introducing Bain de Mer Elixirs

"The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever."
~Jacques Cousteau

I was so happy to discover this luxurious new line of bath products for Clever Girl.  There are, in my mind, two things necessary to make a product line work: It needs to perform well, and it must smell divine.  Happily, Bain de Mer delivers on both, and we're thrilled to have added it to our line up here at the store.  "Tranquility in a bottle" is a very apt description for this collection.  
The other thing I really like about the line is that there are scented candles for each fragrance collection.  That's hard to find!  So stop in and "sniff" out your favorite.  The bubble bath/salt set makes a wonderful starting point to "test the waters" as it were.  They also make a very sweet little gift...

Click here for a preview...

November 1, 2015

Falling Leaves, if you please...


Love this time of year!  The leaves are crunchy, the nights are crisp, and the heat is coming on more and more.  It's time to think about being cozy, and adding extra blankets to the bed.  This is a wonderful time of year for long walks with my dear Gracie May...she enjoys it as much as I do this time of year.  
Here at the store, we have all sorts of snugly scarves, stylish sweaters, mittens, hats and gloves arriving daily. Stop in soon and see!

Happy November!

October 23, 2015

So, THIS Happened...

Lord Stanley Stops by Clever Girl

One of the more unique traditions of the Stanley Cup is winning teams and eventually every player on the winning team gets to spend a day with the Cup. There are many interesting stories associated with this privilege. In 1906 it was forgotten at a photography studio where it ended up a geranium planter before being retrieved by hockey officials. It has been a movie popcorn bucket, champagne glass, and water bowl for both dogs and horses, the latter being the 1994 Kentucky Derby winner.

We were so privileged and thrilled to have the Stanley Cup at Clever Girl!!!  What an absolutely amazing day it was...  Kathy and Sally (pictured above) are incredible hockey fans, and have son's and husband's whom are equally devoted to the sport. 
Thank you to the Koehler family for letting all of us at Clever Girl and the whole town of Western Springs be a part of the Chicago Blackhawks victory and capturing the cup!!!

FYI:  The Cup is always accompanied by at least one representative of the Hockey Hall of Fame, dubbed the “Keeper of the Cup.” The current Keeper, Philip Pritchard, has held the position since 1991 and even maintains a Twitter account to update followers on where the Cup goes from day to day.

July 13, 2015

Vive la France!

Today, July 14th, is the day we trade our red, white, and blue for bleu, blanc, et rouge! It's Bastille Day--and it's always fun to inject a bit of French flair into the day.

As I take a quick spin through the store, we have lots of wonderful items from France to share with you.  One of my long-time favorites is the La Vie Parisienne jewelry line.  Lately, there has been an big injection of color into this beautiful jewelry that's designed just outside the city of Paris.  Check out these colors!!!
 We have a collection of trays and dishes, many of which have cheeky French phrases on them.  They're perfect for tossing your keys into, or the loose change from a pocket.  I have one that I tend to keep my rings in next to the kitchen sink.  Très Chic.
Finally, we have a delicious selection of French bar soaps, liquid soaps and hand creams.  Imported directly from the source, in the South of France, these products blend modern science with the age-old wisdom and the tradition of the past to refine soft textured and delicately scented products.  Every time I pass the display, the intoxicating scent instantly transports me to the French countryside.  All of this French luxury and fragrance has traveled across the ocean to us, and comes at a very small price.  (Check out some of the items on our website by clicking HERE)  It's a small indulgence that elevates the everyday to something infinitely more special. 
So cheers to the French as they celebrate their big day.  I haven't finalized the menu for tonight. Champagne is a must, along with some baguettes and grilled poussin.  
Oh, and cake will be served...
To everyone, Joyeux Quatorze Juillet!!!

June 22, 2015

"L" is for Letter...

Greetings, Clever Girls...I wanted to share this little collection of initial trays with you: I think they are so sweet.  We've already sold through a whole big bunch of these.  Aren't they terrific?
There's just something intrinsically appealing about lettering, or fonts. These, in particular, are taken from old Parisian embroidery patterns.  They're ideal for office trinkets, jewelry, soap, or even for use as a paperweight.  

Here's my initial--"K" as in Katie.  I have it on my desk at home, and it's perfect for paperclips--I even bought black clips just because they look quite stylish in this dish (and they were on sale at Target)

Speaking of lettering and fonts, if you're looking for some indoor entertainment during all of the rain we seem to be having, try the film, The Grand Budapest Hotel for something rather quirky.  The detailed fonts and graphics throughout the movie are wonderful, done by the talented Annie Atkain {click HERE to see some of her work}  And click HERE to see these great dishes on our web site.  Each one comes in a really cute box, too...

May 7, 2015

Mother's Day Musings

A few quick suggestions as we think of Mother's Day.  All of these make a lovely gift: not only for mothers, but for any dear friend, any time of the year.  I so appreciate receiving a gift that has a bit of the givers heart in it.  They are the things I remember long after a celebration has past, and I'm happy to hold the memory each time I pick up a special book, or a sweet memento.  

Remember, we stand ever-ready to help you select just the right gift, and are happy to wrap them for you...

Our sweet Giving Bowls are one-of-a-kind and handmade.  Each bears a sentiment or phrase, and comes with a hand-printed muslin bag and story card that explains that a percentage of the profits go to animal rescue.  
Kind of a book...more than a card...Friends Like Us is a wonderfully illustrated sentimental celebration of friendship.  Revel in your similarities, notice your differences, and show her that you appreciate and enjoy all the moments you've shared, and that you thank every last one of your lucky stars for her. That you’re just so glad you’re friends.  That really says it all...

New from Nest!  Cedar Leaf & Lavender is the latest introduction from our favorite candle company.  Rosemary, lavender and sage are enhanced with cedar leaves and a touch of eucalyptus.  This is a clean, fresh scent that's already a favorite.  Every time you light one of these candles, the fragrance is a total joy.  Truly a great gift.

Kinfolk magazine—launched to great acclaim and instant buzz in 2011—is a quarterly journal about understated, unfussy entertaining.  Now there’s The Kinfolk Table: Recipes, a cookbook from the creators of the magazine. Each of these home cooks—artisans,bloggers, chefs, writers, bakers, crafters—has provided one to three of the recipes they most love to share with others, whether they be simple breakfasts for two, one-pot dinners for six, or a perfectly composed sandwich for a solo picnic.  

Whip up these pancakes for Mother's Day breakfast + present this tasty cookbook to Mom as a gift. Remember, cleaning up the kitchen is part of the deal...

Makes about a dozen 4-inch pancakes.

1 large egg

1 overripe banana, mashed

1/2 cup almond milk
2 tbsp fresh lemon or orange juice
1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted + cooled
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry (or oat) flour
1/2 cup almond meal
1 1/2 tbsp coconut palm sugar (brown sugar will also do)
1 tbsp flax meal
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup bitter or semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional, but not really optional)

Whisk the egg in a medium bowl until well beaten, then whisk in the mashed banana, almond milk, lemon (or orange) juice, melted butter, and vanilla, and mix until well combined.

Whisk the flour, almond meal, sugar, flax meal, baking powder and cinnamon together in a large bowl. Stir the banana mixture into the flour mixture just until combined. Allow the batter to sit at room temperature for 8-10 minutes, then stir in the chocolate chips (if using).

Heat a large pan over medium-low heat. Brush the pan with butter and pour about 1/4 cup of the batter onto it. You may be able to fit 3-4 cakes on a large pan, but don’t overcrowd it, or you’ll bring down the cooking temperature. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until the edges are set and the surface is bubbly. Flip the pancake with a spatula and cook for another two minutes. Transfer to a plate and repeat with additional butter and remaining batter.  Serve hot with maple syrup.  


I myself have been blessed with an amazing mother.  She is friend, sounding board, hero and champion always, all days.  

Cheers to our Moms!

April 25, 2015

A New Favorite...

Well hello there, Clever Girls!  Allow me to share our popular "favorite thing" with you all.  As the cold rain beats down outside the store, I find myself drawn to our new Kantha throws.  The colors are so happy and cheerful, I thought you would love to see them.

These artisan-made quilts will brighten any bedroom, and make a perfect summer blanket. They straddle the line between the new boho-chic look, or an almost classic French textile.  Sort of modern, country French.   I love them--just look at theses colors!
"Kantha" refers to the type of stitch used in the craft of embroidery--the kantha stitch gives the quilts their general wavy, textured quality.  It's a technique that has literally been around for centuries. 
Wouldn't this just make your room?  Makes you want to dive right into bed?  Simply by adding this terrific pop of color, the whole aesthetic is changed.  I find them quite energizing...

I'm quite sure your assorted cats and dogs would find this most appealing as well...

And look how pretty a table becomes when this beautiful throw is the foundation.  How wonderful would a Mother's Day brunch be around this?  Mimosas for everyone!  Look at a detailed photo of the hand-stitching that is the signature of a kantha.
Truly, theses are so lovely.  Beautiful, handmade, and rich with history, our throws traveled the globe to find their way here to Clever Girl.Remember, no two are ever the same.  Visit our collection in person, or see them {HERE} on the web site.

April 4, 2015

Easter Blessings...

A most joyful Easter to you all...

March 9, 2015

Let's Get Sauced...

Repeat after me--say this slowly three times: Boozy Bacon Sauce, Boozy Bacon Sauce, Boozy Bacon Sauce.  Now.  How do you feel?  Primed with anticipation no doubt.  

Well, it's here at last: the latest and greatest offering from our favorite people over at Stonewall Kitchen.  It's thick, it's rich and it's zesty.  Bits of real bacon, onion and spices get friendly with a dash or two of smooth bourbon in this bottle.  Slather it on beef kabobs, pour it on racks of ribs or serve it on the side as a dip.  Kick up your burgers, highlight a hot dog or sauce your smoothie (not really!).  Here's a yummy plan for pork...

Boozy Bacon BBQ Pulled Pork
Serves 4

1 pound pork tenderloin
2 Tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup Stonewall Kitchen Boozy Bacon Barbecue Sauce
Salt and pepper
4 Kaiser rolls
Coleslaw, optional

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.
Trim silver skin and fat from pork tenderloin. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat oil in a large heavy bottom skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork and brown on all sides. Transfer to prepared baking sheet.
Apply Boozy Bacon Barbecue Sauce with a basting brush. Fold foil over pork and pinch top and ends to seal well.
Bake 45-60 minutes until very tender. Pull pork into shreds with two forks. Add additional sauce and season with salt and pepper. Serve on buns with coleslaw.

Clever Girl Quick Tip: If you're short on time, grab a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store, shred it up and sauce it up with this.  Quick.  Easy.  Tasty!

Click HERE for all the yummy details.

February 18, 2015

The Envelope Please...

Are you ready for the Oscars? Have you picked your favorites yet? Ready to watch the red carpet, and see who wore what?  Sunday is the big day...

I must confess, I've only seen one nominated movie this year, (The Grand Budapest Hotel) but I still love watching the awards. All of the Academy buzz has got us thinking and talking movies lately, and we thought we'd share some of the Clever Girl's favorite movies with you in celebration of this week.

Here are are three recommendations from each of us: Movies we love-for better or worse-that you might want to check out for yourselves.  And if you have something we would enjoy, let us know--we're always looking for a good movie to try...

Linda Recommends...
Rosanne Recommends...
Katie Recommends...
Sally Recommends...
Lynn Recommends...
Kathy Recommends...
Jinny Recommends...
If you're ever stumped for a movie to match your mood, try these two web sites for some ideas...tell them what you like or are in the mood for, and they will give you some suggestions.
There is a great gift-with-purchase offer on the Clever Girl Facebook page right sure to "Like" us on Facebook so you don't miss out on these specials!  Click HERE to check it out.

February 1, 2015

"G" is for Groundhog...

As a true blizzard swirls outside my window this morning, I'm crossing my fingers that Monday shall bring happy news from a furry Groundhog in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Yes, it's Groundhog Day, everybody!

 This quirky little tradition, involves the weather and a rodent, and was forever immortalized in the movie, Groundhog Day, staring Bill Murray.  (It's running all day today on the AMC channel, by the way...)

What you may not know is that the movie was actually filmed in nearby Woodstock, Illinois! I had no idea about this!!!  The town is devoted to celebrating all things Groundhog.

"Woodstock Willie" is available for photos, there's Groundhog Bowling at Wayne's Lanes, a trivia contest and even a walking tour!  You can stay at the Royal Victorian Manor Bed & Breakfast which was featured as the “Cherry Street Inn” in the movie; and there's even a Groundhog Hotline (815- 334-2620) if you need updates.  I don't know about you, but next year I'm heading there for the big day... 

Here's something else I didn't know: Brian Doyle-Murray, who plays the gravelly-voiced Groundhog Day official, is Bill Murray’s older brother!
So, whatever the outcome; shadow or not, Groundhog Day is quite the fun little February diversion to observe when the wind is howling and the snow is a-flying.  Thank you Mr. Groundhog...

Please note:
As a service to readers of the Clever Girl Chronicle, we offer two important links below.

Should you be interested in acquiring your own weather forecasting mammal (AKA, a Groundhog) my internet searching reveals that they seem to sell for between $400-$700. Decidedly not the cheapest weather forecasting method available.  
Click HERE for an example.

Before you and your family take on one of these fuzzy companions, I strongly suggest that you read this short, yet helpful article on Groundhogs as pets.  I found it most insightful. Especially Section 5, entitled Special Dietary Needs. Click HERE.

January 29, 2015

Soup for the Super Bowl...

Good Morning!  Can you believe another week has flown by?  It's the Super Bowl on Sunday, and we'll all be tuning in for the game, and, of course, the commercials.  
I was perusing one of my favorite cookbooks and this struck me as a good game-day recipe to try. Best Ever Beer Cheese Soup sounds like a good Super Bowl idea, right? Add a crusty loaf of warm bread, and I think we'll be all set. If I keep it on low heat in my giant Le Creuset pot on the stove, everyone can help themselves.
 The New Midwestern Table is quite a cookbook; and if you like to "read" them as well as cook from them, this is defiantly one to check out.  Author Amy Thielen weaves great backgrounds and history into every recipe in this book.  

Best-Ever Beer Cheese Soup
8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter
1 to 1 1/2 large carrots, diced (about 3/4 cup)
3/4 cup small-diced piquillo peppers, or 1/2 large red bell pepper, diced
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken stock, low-sodium store-bought or homemade
One 12-ounce bottle beer, preferably a mild-flavored blond or pale ale
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
12 ounces aged yellow cheddar (aged at least 2 years), grated
1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Dash hot sauce
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Mustard oil or extra-virgin olive oil, for garnish
Fresh goat cheese, for garnish
Fresh thyme leaves, for garnish

In a large stockpot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the carrots, peppers and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring, until well incorporated, about 5 minutes more.

Add the chicken stock, beer and half-and-half and cook, whisking often, at a very slow simmer over medium-low heat for 15 minutes.

Add the cheddar to the soup by the handful, whisking each batch until smooth. Add the Worcestershire, hot sauce, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, the nutmeg, mustard and lemon juice, and stir to combine.

Puree the soup in batches in a blender (holding a thick towel over the lid to prevent overflow) until very smooth.

Just before serving, reheat the soup until steaming and taste for seasoning, adding salt as necessary. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish each bowl with a swirl of mustard oil, a dollop of goat cheese and a sprinkle of thyme.

May the best team win on Sunday!!!

P.S. Here are two quick links for you:

Click this link to see a short video about cookbook author Amy Thielen from Midwest Living Magazine...

And please check out the book on our website here:
The New Midwestern Table

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