A ceramic vase with a painted dragon from Pagoda Red
Celestial Reasoning

Rabbits are so last year, at least according to the Chinese calendar, which deems 2012 the Year of the Dragon. Every new year I like to check in with my friend Betsy Nathan, a Chinese scholar and proprietor of Pagoda Red, to get her take on what’s in store for us based on the Chinese horoscope. “Because people can’t see a dragon’s head and tail at the same time,” she told me, “they are considered to be unpredictable and untouchable. We might be in for some unexpected happenings this year. Dragons are also majestic, wise, and benevolent, and dragon years are particularly auspicious for new businesses, marriages, and children. In 2012 we should all embark on new endeavors.” (So stop dragon your feet, already!) To celebrate a mighty year of promise, Pagoda Red is giving this draconic provincial blue and white ceramic jar to one lucky drawing winner. Enter your email address on the website from January 18 through the end of the month to be eligible.

Men and women in wedding apparel

Wedding Invitation

If you’re one of those year-of-the-dragon bride- or groom-zillas who doesn’t have Kardashian cash and wants to tighten the purse strings while tying the knot, you’ll want to engage with the Vintage Bazaar’s Gettin’ Hitched event next Saturday, January 21, 11 a.m.–4 p.m., at the Empty Bottle (1035 North Western Avenue). This is the first themed sale for the VB visionaries, and they’ve assembled a party of 15 vintage dealers who’ll be bringing wedding fashions, tableware, paper goods and party supplies, and jewels, as well as sit-down ops with caterers, stylists, photographers, event planners, and florists who get the vintage vibe. The matrimonial market will also feature brunch cocktails and a DJ; admission is $5.

A cartoon fox playing a violin

The Jig Is Up, the News Is Out

Good news and bad news from the Renegade Craft Fair folks this week. I never eat dessert first and I like to handle the jeers before the cheers, so here’s the bummer: Renegade Handmade will be closing its Wicker Park brick-and-mortar retail shop (1924 W. Division St.) on January 31, after more than four years in business. The founders have become crazy busy with their successful craft fairs (in 2007 they put on three events per year in two cities; now they plan 11 events in six cities), and don’t have the time and resources to continue with the store. The good news is that Renegade Handmade will be more focused than ever on expanding its global reach and putting together local focused pop-up shops and workshops. It’s having a blowout sale of merchandise (think handmade ceramic housewares, letterpress cards and prints, pillows, jewelry and fashion accessories, toys, etc., from more than 400 artists) at the store and online, through the month, and also selling off store fixtures and display items.

A cash mob participant making a purchase

Retail Rendezvous

We’ve all heard of (and possibly seen or participated in) the phenomenon known as flash mobs, where dozens of people organized using social media show up at a public place, push PLAY on a boom box, and launch into a spirited dance routine to the amusement/amazement/annoyance of onlookers. I’m much more into another growing grassroots movement that doesn’t involve jazz hands or the dougie, called cash mobs, which hit Chicago last Wednesday night for the first time. The idea, inspired by similar events held in other cities, is to encourage people to support small businesses and help local economy by showing up at a designated store at a certain time, spend at least 20 bucks, then hit a local bar or restaurant. The first cash mob met at Andersonville Galleria, and included 18 people who boosted business by about $400 (I did say it was a growing movement, after all), and organizer Joanne Forster-Coffin has started a Twitter account, Facebook page, and website to let folks know about the next mob scene.

The Vetro Lucite crib from NurseryWorks

Baby Drama

Welcome to the world, Blue Ivy Carter! (I suppose in the annals of celebrity baby names that’s not such a bad one. Even if it is a bit X-Men-ish and possibly the name of a Batman villain, at least there aren’t any unnecessary umlauts or hyphens.) If you’d like your baby to chill like the notorious BIC, look into this Lucite crib Beyoncé and Jay-Z picked up for the nursery. It’s the $3,500 Vetro from NurseryWorks, a high-end line of furniture carried locally by Giggle (2116 North Halsted Street) and the Hinsdale-based online retailer The Pepper Kids. It’s a bit stark, but the transparent walls make it easy to keep your eyes on the prize, I imagine.

Cacti from Gethsemane Gardens

Garden Variety

This time of year, it’s nice to visit a garden center, greenhouse, or conservatory to breathe in some musky, fragrant air; plot future planting strategies; just slow down for a bit and daydream about spring. There are some local events coming up that provide even more incentive to venture out for a dose of green. Gethsemane Gardens is having a cactus and succulent lecture on Saturday, January 21 at 10:30 a.m. (limited space, so call 773-878-5915 or email greenhouse@gethsemanegardens.com to reserve a seat), led by Ted Biernacki of Ted’s Exotic Cacti and Succulents who’ll discuss summer vs. winter care, propagation and rooting, and repotting. The garden center will also be offering 20% off all cacti that day. Sale-ing away, Pasquesi Home & Gardens is marking down all houseplants by 25% and interior containers by 20% at its Lake Bluff and Barrington locations, now through February 14. And I’m more than a little intrigued by the Three Friends of Winter Bonsai Silhouette Show coming up at the Chicago Botanic Garden January 27–29, celebrating this snowy season in the Japanese tradition by honoring bamboo, pine, and plum (plants that endure and thrive in rough-and-tumble weather conditions). There will be lectures on bonsai and suiseki (the art of stone appreciation), scroll and calligraphy workshops, and other family activities during the weekend.