Whole Larder Love is Coming to Chicago

PrintThis SUNDAY, JUNE 9thRohan Anderson, author of Whole Larder Love, will be in Chicago for a reading, a cooking demonstration, and a dinner, starting at 2pm.
[Read more…]

Stock Mfg. Co.’s Kickstarter


Chicago’s Stock Mfg. Co. recently launched a fundraising campaign via the website, Kickstarter, a crowd-sourced funding site perfect for the small, local designer. With nine days and about $7,000 to go before hitting their goal of $20,000, I spoke with one of the partners, an old acquaintance of mine Areill Ives, about what he and the other Stock dudes hope to accomplish post-kick.
[Read more…]

Remi Canarie


Recently, Liz Patelski and Lisa Panza, two designers I’m fortunate enough to call friends, launched the first collection for their line Remi Canarie. To say the two LPs have had an eventful year would be an understatement. Not even a full 365 days after graduating from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, they have traded in their mortar boards for something a little more elegant, a well-thought-out, complete line of classics for today’s world-wise, modern young woman.
[Read more…]

Birchbox Man: Natural Haircare

Shortly after I moved to Chicago, I asked Jessica Herman, then a co-worker and now my girlfriend, where I should go to get my haircut. She’d recently interviewed Ryan Babbitt, a graphic designer-turned-hair stylist and thought we’d hit it off. Fast friends, as so often becomes the case with barbers, I entrust Ryanwith more than my haircut. We discuss everything from design to dating (then-co-workers, in my case).

Since then, we’ve seen each other through a lot: break-ups and make-ups, and a few different job opportunities. And as meaningful as those have been, they pale in comparison to the results his natural haircare methods have had on my frizzy ‘do.

The dude makes all of his own hairstyling products.

Earlier this year, I spoke of my head regimen to my friend Martin Mulkeen at Birchbox Man, and he asked if I’d write about it for their blog. I happily obliged, and I’m pleased with the results.

Head over to Birchbox Man for the full story.

Oh, and if you live in Chicago and need someone to cut your hair, Ryan is awesome.

The Campaign for the Accurate Measurement of Creativity.

When I was really little, like five or six years old, my parents’ friend Greg, a contractor in the small town where I grew up, showed me a device he’d created. My five-year-old brain remembers it being enormous. It took two of my little hands, and then some, to hold it. It looked like something out of a Tim Burton movie. Sheets of metal were riveted together. It was this big silver cylinder that tapered into a cone shape on one end. At the tail end of the cone, a little, pink eraser from a Number Two pencil stuck out. It was a glorified electric eraser, which he used on his drafting table. Since then, I developed a fascination with taking pens and pencils — particularly mechanical pencils — apart and finding new ways to make them work. I’ve attached pen caps to Chapstick; I’ve taken ink and tried to dry it around graphite to make blue pencils; In fifth and sixth grade, I even used to cut Bic pens in half, shove a red ink pen into one side and a blue ink pen into the other side, and sell them to my classmates for $5. Called them “Two Color Shorties.”

This is why, when I saw my friend, industrial designer Craighton Berman had tipped his hat to the current Mason Jar Craze by topping one with a pencil sharpener, I had to jump on board.

On a conference call the other day, Joe Gannon asked, “And how many of you have actually supported a Kickstarter?” Only one of us replied that we had, in fact, put money into a Kickstarter. I’m writing today on behalf my friend Craighton to let you know I supported this, and I think you should, too.

The Campaign for the Accurate Measurement of Creativity.

Chicago Past

Chicago’s History. Now in convenient Tumblr form.

H/T Michael Kiser.

The 900 Shops

Ryan M. Beshel, Public Relations Coordinator for Chicago’s shops at 900 North Michigan, reached out recently, asking me to pick out some of my favorite things from their stores for their holiday season’s“Must Give Gift Guide.” You can download my picks, along with Abe’s Market’s Ari Bendersky, Pure Wow’s Amalie Drury, A Perfect Event’s Debi Lilly, and Chicago Parent’s Elizabeth Diffin.

Thanks for the opportunity, Ryan.

The New York Times

Over the weekend, I was quoted in an article in The New York Times, the Old Gray Lady. Fortunately, owing to it being a holiday weekend, I was able to witness firsthand the reaction of several family members. My parents, old and graying themselves, excitedly grabbed for their reading glasses the minute they learned the news. As she finished the piece, my mother simply laughed a little and shook her head in disbelief. My father asked, “What does it say that it took leaving New York for you to appear in the Times?” He was half-right in his asking (more on that in a minute). My great-aunt, a retired nun and one of the smartest people I know, said, “I guess I should be paying closer attention to men’s suits.” Of course, I assured her she absolutely shouldn’t, or I would begin to question her intelligence. My aunt and uncle gave a resounding “Oh, cool!” at breakfast that morning.

As I walked the mile-or-so to the nearest Starbucks to pick up a couple copies (Why is Starbucks is the only place in the Midwest to carry The New York Times?), I thought about what it meant to have my picture taken for The New York Times. Friends of mine, close ones even, have appeared several times in this paper-among-papers. I thought about them. After they appeared, my impression of them remained the same. But these were great people receiving great attention for doing or saying great things. Why was I tapped to talk about slim suits? I wear one. I know a bit about construction of suits. I am a champion of one Chicago suit maker in particular. But, I’m a fairly regular guy, who — yeah — I wear a suit, or at least a suit jacket a lot, but I wouldn’t consider myself an expert. On my walk, I thought to myself that I hope this doesn’t change peoples’ impression of me.

And I suppose it’s fitting that I was as gussied up as I was appearing in the paper this time around. That’s right. I appeared in the paper one other time.
[Read more…]

The Ballad of S.E. Kiser

A couple weeks ago, my friend Michael Kiser asked me to play his great-great-uncle, noted Chicago poet S.E. Kiser, at a beergathering called the Mash Tun Festival. To learn more about S.E. and see some hysterical photos of my performance go to Good Beer Hunting.

Bow Truss Coffee Roasters Presents: Max Wastler’s All Plaidout

I’m just a regular ol’ coffee drinker, like so many of us, but lately, it’s begun to define me. From my home office at Heritage General Store to one of the first questions asked of me in a blog post for Crain’s Chicago business journal, to this: my very own roast, you might as well call me Juan Valdez.

Thanks to Kelsey, Monique, and all the folks at Bow Truss Coffee, whose roastery is just a hop, skip, and a jump away from my apartment in Chicago, I was given the unique opportunity to go through a killer tasting of all the roasts being produced at their facilities. I can tell you one thing, it’s damn good coffee. And if I were to tell you two things, don’t drink all the coffee they put in front of you during a tasting. I didn’t sleep for a week.

The Yirgacheffe I picked out is such a unique drink. It’s super sweet, like dessert in a mug. I can’t wait to pour it over a big bowl of ice cream.

Buy your own bag of the All Plaidout Roast, available now for a limited time at Bow Truss Coffee Roasters.

Visit their blog post on the subject to learn of my mother’s love of Sanka and of my Uncle Bobby, frappuccino pusher.