my very first turkey know that it seems very department store of me to be thinking past the next holiday (though I’m not quite as bad as retailers who have been on Christmas since Labor Day) but for weeks I have been unable get my brain off of Thanksgiving. While it is undeniably my favorite holiday (is there any other day that is so centered around food?) this year I am particularly excited because for the first time, I’m going to host.

There is just one little detail that plagues me. I’ve never cooked a turkey.

I know this lack of large fowl experience will shock anyone who knows that I love to cook, although I will admit I did not always have a strong kitchen reputation. When I was married, many of friends didn’t realize I like to look, let alone that I can cook. My ex-husband often (okay, always) did the cooking, thus the number one question when we separated was not “what happened?” or “how are the children taking it?” but “who is going to cook for you?

(For the record, the second question was usually, “do we have to wait so late to eat now that you are cooking?” as ex was notorious for putting dinner on the table well after 10:00pm.)

I have certainly rediscovered myself in the kitchen these last few years, but do remain grill-averse. I firmly view grilling as a man’s job; after all, it’s called manning the grill for a reason. But anything else in the kitchen, I can do. And do well. I think. I haven’t cooked everything. I haven’t cooked a turkey.

Thanksgivings past have found me at BFF Nancy’s house, and last year at my dad’s. But this year, I want to host (by the way Nancy, is all this okay with you?) and I can’t wait. Except my brain might explode from all the turkey recipes I’ve read in the last few weeks. The pressure is on to prepare the best, and I want to exceed my own expectations. When it comes to the sides, I know I’m good. Mashed potatoes I make better than anyone. And stuffing? I have a great sausage stuffing recipe. Brussels sprouts with bacon, green beans with caramelized shallots, homemade cranberry sauce. Check. Check. Check. And of course, I can’t forget the traditional family appetizer and both of my sisters’ favorite Thanksgiving food: mushroom turnovers.

But turkey? Should I brine it? Should I stuff it with the stuffing or cook the stuffing separately? Should I order one from Whole Foods? (Kidding.)

Consider this post a plea for your experiences, ideas, recipes and guidance. Consider this post a contest. The one who submits the best sounding recipe, the one I ultimately use, has an invitation to join us at our table.

I can’t guarantee how the turkey will come out, but I promise the wine will be very very good.


pet peeves seems like a good time of the year (or maybe just a good time of the month) to delve into some of my worst all-around pet peeves. Some of these have been said or written before but bear repeating. I know I am mostly preaching to the choir and that none of my dear readers are guilty of or responsible for any of these complaints of mine. Feel free to share yours back. It seem like a good day to have a rant-fest.

1. Tourists take note: on the metro, we stand on the right, walk on the left. If you happen to be standing on the left and I say, “excuse me” (in a very polite voice, of course) don’t mouth off about how “everyone in Washington is always in such a hurry.” Yes, we are in a hurry. Guess what? We have a country to run. So kindly step out of the way and let me pass.

2. The metal clicking noise made by a pump that needs the heel tip replaced is worse for me than hearing nails scratch down a chalkboard. This shoe foul is particularly bad if said click is made when the offender is walking on a marble floor, and worse if that marble floor is in the Capitol where there is a cobbler conveniently located. (As in, there are no excuses for not getting it fixed.)

3. Restaurants that use white linen napkins. Are you really telling me that there is no such thing as a lint-free napkin? And instead of just having black napkins upon request, how about you default to the use black napkins and keep the white ones on hand for the random person wearing white? This practice would make sense especially in cities where the majority of folks dine in their professional attire, which more often than not (in DC anyway) comes in varying shades of black, navy and charcoal. Even a lint-roller couldn’t help me the other day after a run-in with a particularly linty napkin.

4. It hurts my eyes to look at women wearing pants with floating hems. You know what I’m talking about. Their pants have been altered to be worn with flats or a kitten heel, but then they wear them with a higher heel and the edge of the pant leg dangles awkwardly somewhere between the ankle and the ground. It’s the equivalent of men wearing high water pants. I know it sucks, but you have to have certain pants you are committed to wearing only with heels and some you are committed to wearing only with flats, and get the lengths tailored accordingly.

5. I beg of you, wear seasonally (and weather) appropriate footwear. While I do admit that before my physical therapist banned me from wearing flip flops for anything but a walk to the beach, I had been known to push the envelop on how long into the season I could wear them for my (short) walk to the metro. But then investing in a good pair of weather-hearty boots for winter was the best decision I ever made. Similarly, UGGs anytime, but particularly UGGs in the summer (with shorts!) totally gross me out. UGGs in the rain, I just don’t get.

There you have it. I apologize if I offend anyone but luckily it is National Champagne Day, so go out tonight and raise a toast to this sparkling elixir of the gods. Just make sure your napkin doesn’t throw up lint all over your pants, whether they are hemmed to the right length or not.

desperately seeking… always know what I want, and usually I get it. Occasionally I’m paralyzed by indecisiveness, but rarely. If you have lunch plans with me, and I ask where you want to dine and you say, “I don’t care” then I’m going to choose my favorite place. Only when I’m very tired or my creatively levels are low (or I’m trying to decide between two pairs of shoes) do I demure.

So it’s with a great sense of shock that I’m having a hard time choosing a new purse. I’m not a switch-your-bag-everyday kind of person. I like to buy one handbag and stick with it. Usually the way this happens is: I buy a new bag in the fall that I use through winter, then a new bag in spring that takes me through summer. Not exactly shopping rocket science, but it works. That’s how I justify splurging on some of my favorite designers and why I embrace today’s anti-matchy-match world where almost any color and texture combo is fair game. (Honestly, I hope color coordinated shoes and purses remain a relic of the past.)

But back to my inability to commit, the most perplexing part of my problem isn’t even that there are two bags I’m deciding between; I can’t find what I want at all. (Well, within reason.)

This summer, I had my eye on a purse called the Pippa (isn’t everything of “it girl” quality called the Pippa these days) by the British company Modalu. But back in August, when the color I wanted wasn’t going to be available until mid-October, I took a pass. (Now that it’s mid-October, of course I’m ruing the decision.) Then I had a crush on the Isabella Fiore Demi-Satchel but when I gave it a test run around the store, it felt a little too boxy (a-la-diaper-bag) to me. (This was one of those instances when Kassie, who was present for said purse try-outs, told me that she didn’t think the item I was considering was the right look for me.)

I’ve scoured my usual haunt, Kate Spade, but the problem there is I keep gravitating toward styles I’ve already owned. I want something different. I want a bag that screams Chelsea. On that note, I did contemplate a purse from the Chelsea line at Coach, but I just can’t help but feel like the Coach brand and my personality are not super compatible. A weekend shopping trip with girlfriends a few weeks ago to assist in the finding of the perfect purse only yielded frustration, not retail glee.

In case you have some suggestions to pass along, here are my specs: It has to have a zip or clasped top that can be easily accessed when I have a cup of coffee in one hand and a kid’s backpack in the other. I’m not afraid of color (after all, I just ordered two pairs of red-hued pants from J. Crew) though I prefer my purse fall in the “bold but neutral” category. (Too many brights in one ensemble and I fear I resemble a bowl of Skittles.) I learned my lesson with the Kate Spade Essex Scout this summer that I’m really not a small purse woman (though I did grow to love the hands free nature of a crossbody style). My purse must be large enough for my working mommy lifestyle (though I got mocked yesterday by my former boss for the moderately large bag in my current rotation). Seriously, a purse has to be able to hold my eyeglass/sunglass case, iPhone, wallet, small make-up bag, notebook, keys and whatever “treasure” the kids hand me to hold onto for them (sometimes rocks).

So if you see something along those lines, let me know. But if instead you come across my sugar daddy, let him know that the one purse I have seen and love is the Valentino Demetra. Yes, the price is equivalent to my first year’s salary when I first came to Capitol Hill. Yes, it’s the price of a small car.

But maybe it comes with a cute guy who would carry it for me when it’s full of rocks.

trick or treat

Mad Eye Moody and Barty Crouch Jr. transformed into Mad Eye Moody

Halloween preparation at my house goes something like this: in February, one child will say, “I want to be [fill in the blank] for Halloween.” I will gently remind said child that he has plenty of time to think about it and plan accordingly. But then October rolls around, the idea from eight months earlier is all but forgotten, and a week out we have a mad dash of indecision-fueled panic over what “we” are going to be.

I do think the best costumes are homemade or in accordance with my skill level, home-altered. For example, since I am not handy with a sewing machine, two years ago when Jack wanted to be a Zombie Doctor, I bought a doctor costume and we zombied it up. Or back when Colin wanted to be a bloody ghost, I bought a white sheet and some gauze, and he quite artfully applied the guts and gore.

Last year we had utter costume failure when Jack, unable to pinpoint his idea until 15 minutes before we were due to meet up with our regular posse of trick or treating families, did not have all the supplies and materials necessary to execute a sufficiently festive getup. He looked like that teenager who pretends to be dressed up just to get candy.

Thus this year, I was the one who in February was encouraging the kids to commit to a Halloween costume.

I thought we had it settled when in July I made two Mad Eye Moody costumes (including the eyes) for the boys to wear to a Harry Potter party. Of course, I assumed we’d get multiple uses out of my uncharacteristically creative efforts. But no. Neither child wants to repeat the Mad Eye portrayal. Jack, having failed to make an adequate “army man” last year has decided he wants to go for perfection this year. As of Saturday, Colin was still opting between also being an army man (i.e. part of Jack’s squadron) or a werewolf. These are very different ideas with very different levels of stress-induced anxiety inflicted on this busy mommy. Luckily, by Sunday, Colin too had opted to be a solider, a decision that I believe was inspired by the fact that he gets to make use of the camo-face paint he got for Christmas last year.

Now I just need to remember to buy the Halloween candy.

fall foliage

Goodies Picked Up in J. Crew 25% Off Sale

Nothing says fall like hues of orange, gold, purple, red and green. Essentially, fall is represented by all my favorite colors. Autumn is truly my season. If I could find a city where it was fall all year round, with the leaves those perfect shades of change and the weather sunny but crisp, I would live there.

Instead, I suffer D.C.’s bleak winters, fleeting springs, and swampy summers just so I can enjoy a grand total of 6 (if we are lucky) beautiful days of fall. It’s the one time of year when you can comfortably walk down the street without feeling soggy and deflated once you reach your destination. It’s a time for layers. I can bring out my multitude of outwear that is not quite winter hearty but is perfect for these autumn days that reach highs in the 60s but lows in the 50s or even the high 40s.

I look forward to this all too brief season literally all year round, but this October, my closet’s offerings looked tired. Happily, J. Crew came to the rescue with a 25% off everything sale that provided me with a much-needed fall refresh. I think I nailed it with my five selections pictured here (though four of items I bought aren’t available until November, but that is literally next week so I don’t expect to wait long). The best part of the deal is that I have three pairs (at least) of fabulous shoes ready and waiting to be coordinated with any combination of my new items, and the accessories featured here are also already in my collection.

The skirt, which arrived yesterday, will pair with blouses and sweaters in hues of lilac, plum, moss, pumpkin, ivory… talk about versatile. Please excuse me if I wear it every week. But I promise I will style it differently each time until I run out of combinations.

And in November, when my Maraschino Cherry Cafe Trousers arrive, and you see a flash of color walking down the street amid the gray pallor that will have already descended upon our nation’s capitol, you can thank me for providing a burst of color to your day.

Or order me a Shirley Temple.

why I love Lillybee

The shoes that started it all
The shoes that started it all

I remember as clear as day the first time I heard of Lillybee, Simply Soles founder and owner Kassie Rempel’s self-designed shoe line. I was a busy Hill staffer, on my feet all day long, which meant that when I wasn’t focused on policy, I was focused on how my feet felt. (Although on some days, how my feet felt definitely distracted me from focusing on policy.) At the time, I was working full time on one issue (a luxury, even for a Senate staffer) and I worked on that one issue (climate change, if you must know) with an office that could not have been farther located from my boss’s office in the Senate complex. That meant a lot of shuffling (sometimes running) between our respective suites, always clad in three-inch heels.

One night, after such a long day of back-and-forth meetings, home, feet up on the coffee table, catching up with personal emails, I read with interest that week’s Daily Candy Deal: a discount for readers on any pair of Lillybee shoes. I had never heard of Lillybee but immediately clicked on the link to the Simply Soles webiste where there was a small but gorgeous new collection of shoes called Lillybee, designed by Kassie Rempel, a local woman (I call her Goddess) who also owned a shoe store (I call it empire).  I knew I would have to own at least one pair of these shoes. Where had Lillybee been all my life?

After designing mental outfits with each shoe Lillybee had to offer, I bought the Hilary, a vibrant blue patent leather pump with a chunky heel that would help soften the blow as I stomped through the marble halls of Congress. But weeks later, I couldn’t get the Angelina out of my head. A little black dress in shoe form, I just knew that I had to make it part of my collection as well. (I did.) I also coveted the Gwyneth, a silver pointy-toed wedge, but sadly it didn’t come in my size, leading me to a desperate step-sisters of Cinderella moment when I contemplated what measures I was willing to take to squeeze my size 8 feet into the available size 7s. (I now own two pairs of Gwyneths, appropriately sized.) All the shoes in the 2008 collection, the Jessica, the Halle, even the vegan Natalie (Kassie is probably scared that I remember the names of her Lillybees like they are children) would not only have coordinated well in my wardrobe but would have kept my feet stylishly happy.

What sets Lillybee apart for me is not just that the line offers shoes that are unique, affordable, comfortable, and fashion forward, though all those qualities are certainly reason(s) enough to love a brand. I love Lillybee because through this shoe obsession of mine, I grew to know Kassie, who has quickly become a “sole sister” to me.  Today, when I need (or want, which in my book can be the same as need) a new pair of shoes, I immediately consult Kassie. I know that her advice is going to be honest. She has stopped me from buying shoes that she didn’t think looked right. She has introduced me to designers I now can’t live without, including Lillybee. She kept me upbeat during the Beatrix days. Her opinion means the world to me. But mostly, it’s her friendship that I value.

That I might get to help create a new Lillybee is just extra heel on the shoe.

identity crisis

Granted, it is hard to write when a furry critter likes to sit on your laptop.

It happens every time I write an emotionally charged post. I suffer extreme writer’s block for the next two weeks. Maybe it has to do with the amount of energy it takes to get the words just right or fear that the next post won’t inspire the same level of response, but while I can get on a roll and post two, three days in a row, such level of activity is always followed by days, if not weeks, of idea emptiness.

Well, not true emptiness since I have numerous ideas come to me in the middle of the night.

Me (in the middle of the night): I will remember this idea in the morning.

Me (in the morning): I should have written down that idea I had last night.

I understand why some great novelists only write one book.

Over the last few weeks, I have been referred to as a blogger on more than one occasion, but I don’t consider myself a true blogger. A true blogger would write everyday, come hell or high water. A true blogger would have regular columns, a cohesive theme, maybe some drive to post daily. A true blogger would have followers.

For me, the blog is sort of an extended Facebook status update. While blogging started off as a way to divert my attention from a bad situation, it evolved into a way to share a touching story, provide a random rant or style a needed outfit.

And therein lies the problem: do I need to hone in on one major theme?

I like that my blog is part parenting, politics and style, because those are all things that are very much a part of me.  But then I get caught up in wondering who reads what columns. At Kaitlan’s engagement party last month, many of her young friends came up to me to say, “oh you’re Chelsea! I love your blog – and your style.” Just as frequently, I got the same comment from their mothers. Apparently the fashion posts have cross-generational appeal. But I know my dad (and most men) hate the fashion posts. Do my fans without children read the parenting pieces? Am I alienating readers of both parties with my snarky (yet bipartisan) admonishments of Congress? Am I writing for myself? Or am I writing for you? Is it possible to do both?

I once overhead on the Senate floor the following conversation between staffer and Senator:

Staffer (responding to question from boss): I think so…

Senator: Well stop thinking and start knowing!

I feel like need to give myself a parallel directive. I need to spend less time thinking about what types of posts will appeal to whom and just write. I need to rediscover the original purpose of the blog, which was to provide me with a creative outlet to distract from those aspects of my life that aren’t as perfect as I’d like them to be.

Namely, politics, fashion and parenting.

You’ll read it and you’ll like it.

farewell to running

At breakfast after the last race I ran: the Capitol Hill Classic 2010.

Today is the day of one of my favorite races, the Army Ten-Miler. It is also the day of the Chicago Marathon, a race I had planned to run as my qualifier for the Boston Marathon. It’s a beautiful day in DC, perfect fall running weather, and I’m imagining the same for Chicago, where my friends Corry and Jeff are running their annual marathon. This morning, I didn’t get up at the crack of dawn to make my way to the start line at the Pentagon like I have in years past. Instead, I slept in. Then I took a walk. An hour walk over the streets (read: hills) of Cheverly that I used to run every morning. An hour into the ATM, I would have been just over two-thirds of the way done (if I count by the time I set the last two times I ran it, when I clocked the exact same time for each race). But that was before my back betrayed me. That was before I had this conversation with the doctor on Thursday.

Me: So essentially what you are saying is that I can never run again?

Doctor: You can do whatever the fuck you want, but I highly recommend you never run again.

It’s true that I had been nursing this fantasy that one day he would say, “take a short run, Chelsea. See how it feels.” And I wouldn’t care how slow I felt or how hard the 5-mile course I used to practically do in my sleep seemed after a ten-month hiatus. But I’ll never again organize my day to the beat of my feet hitting the sidewalk. I’ll never again take aggression out on [fill in the blank] by charging up a particularly steep hill. I will never again be able to judge the outcome of a day by whether or not I managed to not step on any sidewalk cracks on my final sprint home. I will never be able to rely on a week of 5-mile runs to ensure that my favorite jeans will fit just right before the weekend arrives.

Well, I could do these things, but for a price. I assume it was accidental (and not some cruel calculation the doctor made to give me a preview of what I look forward to if I don’t take his advice) but joining me in the waiting room the other day were two people in wheelchairs and one man with two canes who sat in his chair moaning in agony until he was ushered into an examination room. My steady pain-level of three, while annoying and throbbing and limiting at times, seemed nothing compared to how these people felt.

I know there are other sports and activities, but I need time to mourn running. I was never a team sport person (unless you count cheerleading, which I know you don’t unless you were once a cheerleader too) and my horrible hand-eye coordination makes options like tennis and golf not impossible but a challenge (I have thought I could get really good at tennis though if I had a hot instructor). But those aren’t sports you jump out of bed at 5:45 and do for 45 minutes and come home ready to face the day.

So I accept my doctor’s advice, though not without tears and not without envy at all those runners setting PRs or just enjoying the camaraderie of a race. After all, the end of our conversation could have been worse.

Doctor: Your shoe choices don’t help your back any, but I know better than to tell you not to wear heels.

I don’t have running, but at least I get to keep shoes.

help me style this dress

help me style this dress
Dear Readers: Sometimes we all need a little help. Yesterday, I bought this dress from the wonderful Teisha at Betsy Fisher, but now that I brought it home, I am having some angst on styling. Let me say first off that it is very much NOT a “Chelsea dress.” In fact, I hated it on the hanger. But then I got it on my body and it hugs and hides all the right places.
I had on the Chie Mihara’s pictured to the left when I tried the dress on, and they really did bring out some subtle tones from the “racing flames” down the side of the dress. But I may need to wear this dress with black opaque tights. I own a version of the black pump pictured, plus one with more sass and substance (a Dana Davis peep toe that sports a 4-inch heel but half-inch platform).
Maybe it is the addition that tights that is throwing me off. Maybe it is a combination of colors that wouldn’t normally attract me. But I would love your thoughts on (1) the dress; (2) shoe options; and (3) jewelry options.
Yours in fashion,
The Chelsea Chronicles