December 29, 2011

Holiday Guest Blogger: College Prepster

 The holiday season around our house is always a little different than other families!  My mom celebrates Christmas, but my Dad, Sister, and I are Jewish so we celebrate Hanukkah.  We end up basically celebrating both holidays in varying degrees.  This year was super special, as Hanukkah and Christmas truly overlapped.  (Hanukkah changes every year.)

Quite a few years ago, we were vacationing in the Florida Keys.  In between being out on the boat and eating tons of fish, we would sit around and watch hours (I mean, hours) of "The OC" as a family.  We got hooked on the concept of Chrismukkah and started incorporating it into our Decembers.

Because this year was a true Chrismukkah, we really went all out.  My dad's side of the family lives in Florida, so they drove to our house to celebrate on Christmas night as well as a few family friends.  We had traditional Jewish brisket (not me though... vegetarian!) and latkes.  The dessert table was a true mix of Christmas and Hanukkah.  We made sufganiyots and had tons of sugar cookies.

Instead of buying everyone lots of presents, we have a $2 gift "contest."  (We calculated for inflation and raised the limit to $3 this year though!)  Everyone brings a gift that's less than the limit to give to everyone.  Trust me, we start planning for this in July... trying to find the perfect gift!  I am personally a fan of super easy scratch off tickets though!

Our holiday traditions are always fun and always low-key.  No one is stressed on Christmas!  Win-win!
Want to read more from College Prepster?
Check her out on her Blog, Twitter, & Tumblr!

December 27, 2011

Brand Profile: Francesca Joy Palm Beach

Francesca Joy is an awesome designer out of Florida that has some beautiful hand-painted pieces. These products depict everything about the ocean, relaxation, and a finer life while maintaining a down-to-earth quality.
Francesca Joy offers a wide array of totes, iphone cases, shirts, shorts, and wristlets all featuring her signature brush-stroke designs.
I personally am a huge fan of her anchor print:
Don't you just LOVE the lobsters! These iPhone 4 cases make me drool to get an iPhone 4 just to have it! they're $40 on her etsy account.

and her geographic maps!
These beautiful hand-painted totes are $160.
Check out some of the other designs!
I recently had the opportunity to communicate with the founder and designer Elise Fargnoli. Check out what she had to say about starting her company:

When did you first decide to start your company?
In February of 2010, I had just had my work represented by a gallery in Chelsea, NY (Agora) and was seeking a new way to sell "Art"- introduce it to the fashion world on another level, with a non-jaded perspective. I feel as though inexperience is creativity.

What is your inspiration?
Passion, color, 1960's & 1970's- the time, the music, the people. My biggest inspiration is probably rock and roll. I love music, and I love fashion- the feminine affect on something contrasting like rock- how to marry the two in 2011 has to be fresh, and a mix up of a million different feelings, emotions, colors, and experiences. That is what creates the fresh, and the new. I am very inspired by whimsical art- the unexpected that doesn't try too hard. I saw two exhibits this year that made me want to push Francesca Joy to every level I could- Tim Buton in L.A. and Alexander McQueen in NYC. Two extraordinary artists.

 Where did you first develop your style?
Style is somewhere- somewhere there and then you figure out what you want to do with it. It comes and goes and I chose to awaken it with the development of the things I knew how to do--If I draw an anchor it is just going to come out the way you see it. I prefer to paint because I see things- the shadows, the dimension with color. The only way I'll know how to draw or paint something is what it will always be- so the anchors, the whimsical designs you see are simply the only way I know how to interpret. It then becomes yours- your style.

 What do you hope your products will convey about yourself and your style?
 A mix of different personalities, feelings, and ambitions. Something should never be just "one"- we shouldn't limit ourselves. Francesca Joy offers a mix of preppy, rock, and art because that's who I am. It's what I listen to, how I dress, or how I live- I don't know, really. If I was one or the other perhaps this would be a different brand. When you jump into something and don't over analyze it becomes exactly who you are.

 What has been the hardest thing about starting your own business?
I learn something new everyday- the lessons are not very easy, and I am young. I also started this on the money I've made selling paintings- when you aren't backed by any money, you have to be even more creative on how you can get something out there- you have to be smart about your branding and a step ahead every minute of the day. You will go without as you have to make your own way.  You have to be ambitious, yes, but more importantly, aware.  You have to be present- learn from those around you and the mistakes you've made.

What other products do you hope to add to your portfolio?
I wish to expand the current clothing line into a swimwear collection and childrenswear.

Is there anything else you'd like mentioned?
It should make you smile. That's what it's about.

Want to learn more about Francesca Joy? Check them out here:
Twitter: @FrancescaJoy_PB
And as always, if you have any companies you think I should check out and feature on my blog. Please let me know!

December 24, 2011

Holiday Guest Blogger: Christmas in Dixie

Hi Megan’s preppy followers!!!  I am Liz from  I haven’t been blogging lately because I have been so busy with work and just got married in November.  I grew up in Lafayette, Indiana (right next to Purdue University).  I know Megan and her BF from my Purdue days.  My husband and Megan’s BF are really great friends from the fraternity and we were honored to have him in our wedding as a groomsman.  I am so excited to share some of my family’s Holiday Traditions with ya’ll! 

I was so blessed to have grown up in a family where most of my cousins, aunts, and uncles lived so close.  Because of my family all being so close to each other, especially my mom’s side, we always spent Christmas Eve with them.  My family and my mother’s side of the family are Catholic, so of course the reason for the season was more than just the gifts.  In preparation for Christmas, like most Catholics we would prepare for the Lord’s coming with Advent, which starts the 4th Sunday before Christmas.  We always had an advent wreath on the dinning room table which had four candles to represent the four Sundays before Christmas.  My mom and I would usually volunteer at the church for families in need so they can have a Christmas, and we would make food for the homeless shelter.  I always loved the season.  We would go sledding in the snow, drive 2 1/2 hours to Chicago to see the store fronts, and drive around town and see all the lights on the houses.  There was even a family that did a huge display of lights out in the country and when I was very young I opened the door to our van and lost my shoe!  My dad still reminds me of that today, “I went to look at the lights where you lost your shoe...”

Christmas Eve in our home was always a blast.  Every other year we would have Christmas Eve at our house or at my aunt’s house.  My mom and her two sisters were always cooking and baking, especially on the holidays.  For our main course we would always boil a ton of shrimp and serve with butter and cocktail sauce.  Aside from the traditional pies and casseroles, My Aunt Judy always gave the boys of the family homemade beef jerky and I was always so jealous... she would even put it in the White Elephant gift exchange which was always a hit.

Homemade Beef Jerky
This recipe was given to my aunt by my great uncle.  They drying method in the recipe reduces the moisture content to around 18% which means the jerky will store at room temperature as long as there is any to be eaten :)  Any cut of lean beef can be used.  It is very important to select a lean muscle cut and then remove all outside fat.  Fat will turn rancid.  The easiest cut to use is flank steak.
1 beef flank steak                                         1/4 tsp. garlic salt
1/2 cup soy sauce                                        1/4 tsp. lemon pepper

Trim all visible fat from beef.  Cut lengthwise with grain into long thin strips, no more than 1/4” thick.  Combine soy sauce and seasonings.  Pour over beef strips and toss until well coated.  Place a wire rack on a baking sheet.  Arrange strips on rack to touch, but do not overlap.  Bake in a very slow oven (150º-175º) overnight, 10-12 hours.  Store finished jerky at room temperature.
*  Note beef jerky should not be crisp, if it is, oven is too hot.

Another great hit at all of our holidays are my Aunt Ann’s homemade Caramels.  This recipe has been around for 25 years, and they have been made for all the family weddings, even mine!

2 1/4 cups brown sugar                      1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
1 cup butter                                        1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup light Karo corn syrup                
Pinch of salt

In a large saucepan, combine the first 4 ingredients.  Cook over medium heat until all the sugar is dissolved.  Gradually add milk; mix well.  Continue cooking and stirring until candy thermometer reads 240º.  Remove from heat.  Stir in vanilla until blended.  Pour into a 9x13” buttered pan.  When cool enough, cover with plastic wrap so not to form a skin on the caramels.  You can use parchment paper to line pan.  When cool, cut into small pieces and wrap in wax paper.
Our favorite part of the night, besides all the food and games of euchre is the White Elephant gift exchange. Each family member brings a wrapped gift.  We then draw numbers to determine in what order we take turns choosing gifts. The first person opens a wrapped gift, then the second person chooses whether to open a wrapped gift or "steal" the previously opened gift. If a person has their gift stolen, they also have the option of choosing a wrapped gift or stealing an unwrapped one.  And so on... Our family has the rule that a gift can only be stolen three times.  There are usually re-gifted items, funny gifts, and sometimes one of the parents will put in something good (case of import beer, family heirloom, beef jerky mentioned earlier, etc).  It is more to entertain than get something really good.  Some entertaining gifts in the past have been:  A box of travel shampoos and conditioners, a beer bong, an ugly shower curtain, or even snuggies.

Now living in Atlanta I am sure I will start some fun traditions with the husband and our dog Stout!  I will be spending my first Christmas away from my family and with the in-loves (I like that better than in-laws) for the first time.  I will miss my family tons, but I am not going to miss the snow this year!


December 23, 2011

Holiday Guest Blog: JM from Indiana

Happy Holidays, fellow Prep in the Midwest Blog readers.  This would be Megan’s soriroity sister, know from previous blogs as JM.  Megan asked several of us to do a blog post for the holidays and I told her I would be more than happy to after I finished my Law School Finals. I finished with everything today and I will never ever have to take over the holidays as a full time student and let me tell you finals put a cramp on the holiday season.  But finals are over so it now time to get into the Christmas spirit.
Growing up in the Midwest where Christmas Tree farms are plenty and one of the results from that is the annual family tradition of the hunt for the perfect tree.  Now for those of you who either have a fake tree or purchase your tree precut, you have never had the privilege of the thrill of the hunt.  Since we were little my family….Momma M, Papa M and sister SM have gone on this yearly trek and you have to understand there are certain qualifications for any tree we consider.  It must have a straight trunk, it can be no taller than 8 feet, and it must pass Momma M’s hug test (if she can’t get halfway around the tree its too fat.  Only once in my life have we not all gone and that was when Momma M was sick and couldn’t go….SM and I were still young so we had not bee fully schooled in “the hunt” and we failed.  It was the fattest tree we have ever had and was almost too big for the area in the old house.  Now the hunt is no something short, one year when SM and I were both in college or SM had just graduated we went to three, yes three different farms to find the perfect tree.  It is no uncommon for it to take half a day as we trek over 10-15 acre large tree farms.   We normally get it down to a couple of trees and then Momma M has to compare them which means normally SM, Pappa M, and I got left at our top three picks to guard them while Momma went between them.  Finally when we had reach a unanimous decision (ok really it was Momma’s call at the end of the day) we all assumed our designated roles which we have had since I was 8 years old or so.  Pappa would of course cut it down and Momma, SM and I use to hold it but after I hit 12 it was strictly my job.  Pappa and I would carry the tree, SM would carry the handsaw, and Momma the measuring pole.
When SM and I were at Purdue we normally wrangled dinner out of Momma and Papa before they went home.  Momma would put lights on it, normally around 1,000-1,200 lights, and when we got home we would decorate it.  We are at no shortage of ornaments as Grandma M has gotten SM and me an ornament every year since we were born, so right there we have 4 dozen or more.  We also have ornaments friends have given the family, several glass balls from my parent’s first tree together, ones from my parent’s childhood and even some that belonged to Momma’s grandparents. The only time we don’t go on “the hunt” for a Christmas tree is when we go to Florida and then I have to make do with a fake one….but throw in a beach and I can deal. 
This is the first year I was not home to decorate but I think they did a great job and Momma saved a couple of ornaments for me to put on when I head home next week. 
This is the first year I was not home to decorate but I think they did a great job and Momma saved a couple of ornaments for me to put on when I head home next week.  A picture of the finish product that Momma sent me. 
Over the years we have had scotch pines, white pine, Douglas fir and Frasier fir trees.  I have to admit Fraser firs are hands down my favorite and have been our tree of choice for the past 8 years.  Which is your favorite?
Scotch Pine
White Pine
Douglas Fir

Fraser Fir

I wish you happy holidays and I hope you get to sit around your Christmas Tree on Christmas morning whether it be a fake one, one you got precut or one you spent hours hunting with your family!

December 22, 2011

And the Winner is....

As you may know, I hosted a Giveaway last week for local designer and entrepreneur Chicago Belt Company.
Well I ran all the entries through the handy dandy random number generator....
And without further ado....

This Winner Is

I'll be in touch on how you'd like to receive your prize and what you'd like in addition to the Belt!


And for everyone else, thank you for entering! Keep your eyes pealed as I've got more giveaways and discounts coming soon!

What to learn more about Chicago Belt Company? Check them out here:

Twitter: @ChicagoBeltCo

December 20, 2011

Brand Profile: Tucker Blair

Tucker Blair is now a fairly established, quality needle point belt company founded out of Washington DC. Their owner/founder/designer, Taylor Llewellyn, is based around Georgetown (not too far from College Prepster herself!).
He creates a quality product, at a reasonable price, while maintaining his original ideals and designs. Taylor created a product based around the classic scenes of New England and the Northeast, such as these lobsters:
With my Derby Party likely to sneak up on me again this year, I'm already thinking about it with this great horse race scene belt:
But especially around these holidays, this Santa Taxi Belt seems especially appropriate:
And speaking of just in time for the holidays...
Taylor has generously provided a 20% discount to all you fabulous readers!
Just use coupon code: prepinthemidwest
on your next purchase! Get those holiday orders in fast! Only a few days left!

I had also asked Taylor how he got started and about his inspiration. Check out what he had to say:

 When did you first decide to start your company?
Summer of 2007, I was working in DC for another company. I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs. I loved needle point belts and thought there was an opportunity in the market. I thought it was a great product niche that I could jump into, and there was a space in the market for these really cool belts. It wasn’t until May of 2008 that we sold our first product. It took a while to find a source overseas. I was just sitting down with a pad of paper and pen drawing out my ideas.

What is your inspiration regarding your designs?
The whole company, and especially the design process, has been a huge learning curve. We started out with 12 designs, some of which remain the most popular today. The American flag, the lobsters they’re designs that remind people of what they love most. From golfing to American flags. The designs have become much better over the years with the addition of designer Chris George. We take a lot of customer input because if we get enough demand it becomes a standard product. Now we’re at over 100 patterns that keep getting better and better. I feel there’s a huge opportunity to make even more.

Where did you first develop your style?
I grew up outside of San Francisco; I was born there and went to college there. It’s not typically thought of as a preppy enclave. My parents are both from the East coast and that helped me develop my preppy roots. We’re very much east coast centric. A lot of the patterns are very much, and a lot of the inspiration is derived from, Cape Cod and DC. I went to college in the Northeast; I went to Colgate. However, one of our largest demographics is the Southeast; we sell a lot of product down there. That kind of fratty-preppy style is even stronger down there. It’s also very strong in the northeast. It’s also very divisive by defining our demographic, and you see a lot of the country club set in the northeast. It’s a very niche preppy product that a lot of people are put off by. You see a lot of those pockets of people around the country. And those are the types of people that we target. It’s a self selecting group.

What do you hope your products will convey about yourself and your style?
I hope they covey eccentricity and reverence. If someone’s going around with Nantucket red pants and a needle point belt, they’re clearly trying to draw attention to themselves, I mean I do. It’s the same kind of way that people are trying to dress hipster, alternative, that’s the same way people wear our belts, they’re trying to convey something.

What has been the hardest thing about starting your own business?
It’s been very challenging. I have no fashion experience, so to speak. It’s just been a huge learning curve. I’m also on a shoe string budget. I’m just trying to grow customers and develop sales. It’s just very hard. I have a much better appreciation for entrepreneurs. It’s a very inventory intensive business; very capital intensive. It’s hard to put all this money into inventory and then market to customers in the hopes that they will buy your business. I think I’ve made just about every mistake I could possibly make while starting this thing. I look back at some of the decisions I made along the way, and just thankfully have made enough of the right decisions.

What other products do you hope to add to your portfolio?
Over the years we’ve looked at offering other products, from headbands to polos to non-needle point belts, but we’ve just realized our niche is the classic needle point. I’m always evaluating the idea of other needle point products, but at the same time I’m still sensitive to keeping true to what we are, a cool niche belt company.

How would you define today's 'Preppy' and how do you think it compare to the preppy past
Lisa Burnbach wrote the official preppy handbook, but I think it’s like a country club type, beach style. It’s timeless, and doesn’t look any different from your grandparents to a few generations after that. It exudes a life style: golf, tennis, sailing, and eating lobster. It’s a small category; I see it a lot because I live in Georgetown because it’s one of the preppier places. Vineyard Vines is probably one of the largest 

Want to learn more about Tucker Blair? Check them out here:
Twitter: @TuckerBlair
And as always, if you have any companies you think I should check out and feature on my blog. Please let me know!

December 19, 2011

Weekend Recap - Last Shopping Weekend before Christmas

This past weekend started busy. This past week has been filled with holiday parties, and Friday continued the trend. I had a Birthday/Christmas party over in the western burbs for a girlfriend from work. It was an interesting place. I say the 'i' word because it was kind of a local bar, and in fact if BF would've come, I'm sure he would've seen a lot of old high school peeps.
The Lodge was having 7th Heaven, a local Chicago band, playing. They pretty good cover and I've actually seen them before at Rib Fest.
Overall great evening.
I woke up Saturday morning to our first measurable snow fall of the season.
Saturday evening, BF took me on a bit of a date night. BF had gotten a groupon for Chen's up by Wrigleyville a while back and it expires over Christmas. We made our way on the LONGEST bus ride EVER, for a night dinner. I will forewarn anyone who thinks this would be a good place to go, they charge... A LOT... like unnecessarily so. I'm not a cheapskate by any means, but $4.50 for a hot tea is a bit much. Especially when they charged that per person.
Afterward we grabbed a cab to catch the zoo lights down at Lincoln Park zoo. Each year, ComEd (the electric company around here) puts on this free event for the Chicago area. It's really nice to just walk around and enjoy the music while admiring all the lights.
They set up colored light trees over the sea lion exhibit that change to music!
They even had an ice sculpting exhibit! Check out that cool Moose!
The evening was topped off by awesome Hot Chocolate and Christmas specials.
Sunday was a much more relaxing day. BF had to attend a baptism of a fraternity brother's new beautiful little girl. I had some errands to run including trying to locate a gloriously heinous holiday outfit for our office party on Tuesday. (Mel - I love you, but threatening people with paying for the party for not wearing an ugly sweater is somewhat unfair when our own company doesn't even SELL these things!). I spent the afternoon/evening doing laundry/ wrapping gifts/ cleaning/ and writing this blog.

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend.


December 16, 2011

Holiday Guest Blogger: Christmas in Los Angeles

 A quick intro: I've known Erin for over 13 years! We cheered together all through middle school and high school, both on school teams and competitive teams. She's an amazingly happy and wonderful person! She moved out to LA after college and has remained there. In her Blog below she talks about the traditions she's started there. Enjoy!
Happy Holidays from La La Land! 
It may not be snowing here in sunny Los Angeles, but the tempurature has changed and we are no longer able to enjoy the beach.  For these few months of cold weather, we pull out our cute boots, fashionable scarfs, and put on holiday themed productions all about town.  There is an advantage to living in this crazy city, and that is the people.  Everywhere you turn, there is a little theatre, dance production, comedy show, extravaganza going on, and the holidays are applauded through all various acts of talent.  Some do it normal, but mostly Los Angeles can get really weird and that's why I love it here.  I ran into two dancers at the farmer's market the other day, and they were explaining to me their Christmas show they were putting on.  It wasn't just a dance Christmas show, it was a wacked out, Santa on crack type of event.  I wasn't able to go, but I can imagine it was wild. 
To gear up for Christmas here, I attended a few Christmas parades in the many nooks of Los Angeles.  Burbank has a full-on parade and the streets are filled with candy and cheer.  Hermosa Beach also gets down, and puts on a parade right near the pier.  I'm pretty sure the Santa in the parade has Hawaiian shorts on.  Woodland Hills has candy cane forest, and Santa Monica opens up their very popular outdoor ice skating rink.  One famous production that goes on is the tree lighting at The Grove in Hollywood.  Up and coming singers perform and fake snow covers the inside grounds of the massive shopping area.  A little too commercial for me, but still a great time. 
So, that's what the holidays are like in LA!  I have yet to spend Christmas here,  so all I can share is the excitement leading toward the magical day.  I usually head home a few days before Christmas, and always seem to see C level actors in the airport.  Each year it's a fun guessing game of who I will see.  Last year I saw one the guys from the 90210 show.  Then home to Atlanta it is.  The #1 holiday tradition in my house is watching White Christmas on Christmas Eve, and drinking (vegan) Egg Nog.  
This year, I am bringing a bit of LA home with me, as I've become vegan in this past year.  Along with that, I work at the farmer's markets in LA too, so I hope to go home and encourage my family to eat as healthy as possible.  They are slowly coming around.  This incredible vegan mac n cheese recipe found it's way to me yesterday, and I plan on making it at home for my family. 
Last but not least, I'd like to share a song by one of my dear friends who passed away this year.  He is the reason I went vegan, and he is the reason I love LA so much. 
He has a little song to sing for you. RIP Tom!
Happy Holidays!

December 15, 2011

Stuck in my head - Christmas Memories

Growing up we have certain things that remind us of a time in our life, an emotion, a feeling.
I was just sitting here and this song popped into my head. I don't know when I first saw this little cartoon or what popped it in my head, but it makes me feel all Christmasy. 

PS I was totally a Disney Vault kid... I would stay up late just to watch the old re-runs of the Original Mickey Mouse Club, Nancy Drew, & any old movie with Annette Funicello!


December 14, 2011

Guest Blogger - Great Lakes Prep: Indy City

Nick from Great Lakes Prep has generously offered to switch blogs with me for the day (how cool is that?!). Below is his entry regarding his exploration of his home town and his recommendations to future visitors. Enjoy!

I’ve always found the best way to explore a city is from the local’s perspective.  They live there and are the most knowledgeable about which restaurants, attractions and other locations are actually worth visiting and which are simply overhyped tourist traps.  Even with the advent of the internet and the ease of anyone with a computer getting their opinion heard, I feel that there is still an overall lack of information from a local’s perspective when it comes to travelling.  It’s frustrating being in a new town where you know nobody and are trying to determine where you should eat or what bar you should go to.  Luckily, I have good news for you.  You no longer have to worry about this when you are in Indianapolis thanks to this handy local’s guide to the city.

Indianapolis is one of the most accessible cities in the country.  Nicknamed the “Crossroads of America,” there are interstates and major highways leading into the city from all directions.  Unfortunately, what makes Indianapolis so easy to get to also makes it very easy to pass on through.  The next time you are cutting across the state en route to your final destination, I suggest you at least consider making a pit stop to see what this great city is all about.

I’ve always felt the best way to describe Indianapolis is that it is a really large small town.  You’ll probably be shocked to know that Indianapolis is the 12th largest city in the nation and the second largest in the Midwest.  The reason behind this is that the city itself is very spread out.  What other cities consider suburbs are actually still within the city limits of Indianapolis and are known as neighborhoods.  The downtown itself is very compact and is roughly one square mile.  This makes it very easy to get around, decreases traffic and eliminates the need to find parking in various areas or rely on public transportation.  For this guide I will focus mainly on the areas of downtown, Broad Ripple and Castleton.  These are the areas you are most likely to visit when you are in the city.

Where to Eat

St. Elmo’s Steak House
Possibly the most well-known and definitely the best restaurant in the city, the iconic downtown steakhouse is a must visit.  It may be pricey but you get what you pay for and most of the steaks are large enough that you can easily split them amongst two people if you are looking to be more economical.  St. Elmo’s has ruined steaks for me at any other place.  If this is your first time, you must also try the signature shrimp cocktail, an appetizer featured on the Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.”

Cajun and creole food is not something normally associated with the Midwest so I won’t blame you if you somehow believe you were magically transported to New Orleans once you lay foot in Yat’s.  From the eclectic décor to the hearty etoufees, you’ll be hard-pressed to find another Cajun/creole restaurant this good north of the Mason-Dixon line.  The food isn’t flashy or gourmet but damn it is some good classic comfort food that will hardly even put a dent in your wallet.

Brugge Brasserie
Situated next to the Monon Trail in Broad Ripple, Brugge Brasserie serves up steaming pots of moules (mussels) accompanied by crisp frites (french fries).  Simply choose your style of moules, everything from classic Provencal with white wine, garlic, butter and shallots to more exotic options like the lime juice, cilantro, onion and jalapeno filled Citron.  Brugge Brasserie brews its own beers as well, highlighted by the Tripel de Ripple.  The only downside is there’s a two Tripel limit, but that’s probably for the best since it clocks in at over 10% ABV.  Any more than two and you might wake up the next day not remembering exactly how good it or the rest of the food tasted.

Café Patachou
Café Patachou and its sister restaurant Petite Chou are the premier breakfast spots in Indianapolis.  The omelettes are imaginative and made with free-range Indiana eggs.  The french toast is loaded with pecans, powdered sugar and maple syrup and the coffee is made with the best beans from sustainable farms engaging in free trade.  There are several locations of each restaurant throughout the city so you should never be too far from one.

Boogie Burger
Recently relocated from its quaint, cramped Broad Ripple strip location to a larger spot a little down the road on the outskirts of Broad Ripple (and conveniently less than a quarter mile from my house), Boogie Burger grills up taste-laden burgers with all sorts of toppings.  The best-selling Wild Wild West comes topped with cheddar cheese, hickory smoked bacon, onion rings and barbecue sauce.  The New York, New York tops the burger off with swiss cheese and pastrami.  The Disco Inferno raises the temperature with serrano peppers and pepper jack cheese.  Complement your burger with the garlic and parsley topped fries or the gigantic portions of bacon, cheese and sour cream covered fries.

Relatively new to the Broad Ripple restaurant scene, 10/01 takes classic comfort food dishes and adds a gourmet twist.  The mashed potatoes are finished with bourbon gravy.  The pork tenderloin comes with a mustard aioli.  The sweet potato fries, more of a dessert than a side, are the best I’ve ever had.  I have yet to find something on the menu that I didn’t like.  They have a great selection of local beers on tap, an excellent porch for summer dining and large picture windows that give you a view up and down the Broad Ripple strip during the winter. 

Edward’s Drive-In
If you really want to eat like the locals, then you must try a pork tenderloin sandwich and if you’re going to try one, you might as well try the best in the city.  The deep-fried breaded tenderloin is practically the size of a small Frisbee on your plate.  Accompany it with onion rings, the large, traditional kind that you just know are probably adding a couple of pounds just by looking at them, and their signature root beer in a frosted mug.

Where to Drink

Howl at the Moon
A Thursday night favorite of the college crowd due to no cover with a student ID and $1 Coors Light, Howl at the Moon is well worth it on any night.  Indianapolis doesn’t have much live music at the bars so the dueling pianos a welcome change of pace.

Broad Ripple
Broad Ripple itself is a great place to spend an evening.  On the strip that runs through it are a variety of bars that cater to all types of crowds.  Chumleys is excellent if you are looking for a bar with a huge selection of beers.  Rock Lobster and the Vogue are good if the dance floor is your calling.  Covers are few and far between so it’s easy to start the night at one bar and move on with the party as the night progresses.

Slippery Noodle Inn
The oldest continuously operating bar in Indiana, the Slippery Noodle Inn is the place to catch live blues in the city.  The Inn has been around in various forms since 1850 and attracts both local and nationally recognized blues acts.

The Rathskeller should be located under both the where to eat and where to drink sections.  During the colder months it’s a great rustic place to grab a beer and excellent German food.  Once the temperature starts to climb, the Biergarten opens up and becomes a go to spot for gigantic beers and large music.

What to Do

Attend a sporting event
Indianapolis is considered by many to be the sporting capital of the United States.  The NCAA and National Federation of State High School Associations are headquartered here.  The city has played host to the Final Four multiple times, the Big Ten Men’s and Women’s Basketball tournaments and the Big Ten Football Championship and will host the 2012 Super Bowl. 

Although suffering through a dismal year without Peyton Manning, the Colts are usually one of the top teams in the NFL and Lucas Oil Stadium is a much improved upgrade over the former RCA Dome.  The Pacers have been much improved as of late and tickets are relatively inexpensive.  The Fever went to the WNBA Finals this year.  The Indians play at the AAA level of minor league baseball and Victory Field is consistently rated as one of the top minor league ballparks.  The Ice are the local minor league hockey team.

If amateur sports are more your thing, Indianapolis has two Division I institutions, IUPUI and Butler.  Catching a basketball game at Hinkle Fieldhouse should be a must stop if you are in town during the season.  Several powerhouse high school football and basketball teams located within and around the city are consistently nationally ranked.  Catch the high school basketball state championships at Conseco Fieldhouse if you can.  Indiana high school basketball is what football is to Texas high school sports.

Indianapolis also has a rich racing heritage.  MotoGP holds the Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix and NASCAR runs the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard every year.  Of course, one of the greatest spectacles in sports takes place every Memorial Day weekend, the Indianapolis 500.

Indianapolis Zoo
The Indianapolis Zoo, located in White River State Park, is actually more than just a zoo.  It is also accredited as an aquarium and botanical garden and was the first to be accredited as all three.  Exhibits are split into Forests, Oceans, Deserts and Plains and feature interactive exhibits such as the Race a Cheetah and the dogshark touch pool.  The dolphin show is also a can’t miss.

Children’s Museum
Indianapolis is home to the largest children’s museum in the world and a must stop if you have children accompanying you.  I haven’t been since I was much younger but am anticipating we will be taking me nephew in a few years.  The exhibits range from an indoor carousel to the Dinosphere, a sound and light experience recreating a day in the time of the dinosaurs, to a planetarium.

Soldier’s and Sailor’s Monument
Located in the heart of downtown, the Soldier’s and Sailor’s Monument is a 284 foot tall monument honoring Hoosier veterans of the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War and the Spanish American War.  Inside the monument is the Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum, which details Indiana history during the Civil War.  You can also reach the top of the monument by stairs for free or by elevator for a small fee.  Come during the Christmas season to see the monument decorated like an enormous Christmas tree.

Conner Prairie
Take a step back in time to the pioneer days of Indiana at Conner Prairie, a living history museum located northeast of the city in Fishers.  You can tour a 19th century village and speak with characters in period costume or visit a Native American fur trade camp.  You might even be able to take a few swings as part of the 19th century baseball demonstration.

White River State Park
Located in the heart of downtown Indianapolis, White River State Park offers green space for picnics, museums for exploring and riverfront pathways for walking.  You can learn about various NCAA sports at the NCAA Hall of Champions, view Native American artwork at the Eiteljorg and learn about the history of Indiana at the Indiana State Museum.  During the summer the lawn is used for hosting concerts by nationally-renowned musicians.

Indianapolis Museum of Art
Free admission (donations are accepted) make the IMA a great place for a cheap date.  The collection encompasses a wide range of styles and cultures and there is a rotating special exhibit you can visit for an additional fee.  Perhaps the best part of the museum is the surrounding 100 Acre Woods, a scenic park filled with artistic installations.  It’s wooded trails surrounding the small lake are perfect for long walks on brisk fall days.

Butler University
I’m an alumnus so I may be biased but I believe no visit to Indianapolis is complete without a stop at Butler.  The campus is picturesque with many scenic hideaways and Hinkle Fieldhouse is one of those arenas all college basketball fans must see at least once in their lifetimes.  Catch a game on a Saturday afternoon to witness the awe-inspiring beauty of the court basking in the rays of the midday sun.

Fashion Mall at Keystone
If you’re looking to do some shopping while you are in town this is the mall to check out.  Located on the north side of the city you’ll find Nordstrom, J. Crew, Brooks Brothers and The North Face among other options. 

For more tips on visiting Indianapolis, as well as insight on food, travel and preppy fashion in the Midwest, be sure to check out my blog at  If you have any questions regarding any of the above topics or just want to chat, you can get in touch via the Great Lakes Prep Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr pages.

December 13, 2011

Brand Profile: Chicago Belt Company

 BF & I are always on the lookout for new companies starting out in the Windy City. Since Chicago is so much the Second City, there aren't that many companies that start out here, so when we find one, we get really excited. In the past, I've talked with Salmon Cove, an up and coming company out of the Loop in Chicago.

And small world that it is, wouldn't you know the owners of Salmon Cove, are fraternity brothers of the founder of Chicago Belt Company. They are both graduates of University of Dayton in Ohio, and natives of the Midwest. Therefore they are quite the experts of Midwest fashion.

Their line of ribbon belts are unique and feature iconic images from around the Midwest (including the Chicago Flag in the picture above, and the Great Lakes in the picture below)

I recently had the opportunity to sit down to brunch with the founder and owner of Chicago Belt Company, Rob Cardenas. Over a wonderful meal at local brunch spot, Orange, Rob described how he got his start.

When did you first decide to start your company?
Officially, over this past summer. Rob graduated and started working in the corporate world, and really enjoyed it, but knew he wanted to start his own business. It's been an aspiration for him since he was a kid. He learned a lot about business development in his corporate life, and transferred it to his new company.

What is your inspiration?
The great lakes area. Rob was wearing vineyard vines, and says he's always had clothes that came from similar companies and so did his friends. He's always wanted something of his own and looked to make something unique but with the same feel and look that would fit his style. Rob wants to create something that is relatable to those in the Midwest and beyond.

Where did you first develop your style?
Rob developed his style from his family. Growing up as a little kid, he always sported kind of the casual classic look. An all American style.

What has been the hardest thing about starting your own business?
Patience, the hardest thing is maintaining your focus and staying the course to accomplish your goal. But Rob has made it look easy! He has created is brand image, sourced product and launched a great website all within the last 6 months.

How to Enter for a chance to win a Belt and your choice of a Koozie, T-shirt, or a pair of croakies from Chicago Belt Company:
Required first entry: Leave your email address in a comment and follow Prep in the Midwest.
1 additional entry: Follow Prep in the Midwest on Tumblr
  1 additional entry: Like Chicago Belt Co. on Facebook
1 additional entry: Follow Chicago Belt Co. on Twitter
2 additional entries: Blog about this giveaway or Tweet.  (Be sure to include a link back and @gaboiler07 and @chicagobeltco in the tweet!)

Please include all entries you completed in ONE comment!!!
There is a maximum total number of six entries.
Giveaway ends 12/19/11 at midnight EST. The winner will be announced 12/22/11.

What to learn more about Chicago Belt Company? Check them out here:

Twitter: @ChicagoBeltCo

And as always, if you have any companies you think I should check out and feature on my blog. Please let me know!