Best spring getaway: Cartagena, Colombia

by Christina Saratsis (Madewell)

After working hard through the winter months and trudging through miles of NYC snow (well, sort of), I decided to treat myself to a sunny getaway as a reward of sorts. I wanted to find something off the beaten path, so I decided to go into unchartered territory—unchartered by me, that is, but not by numerous socialites, fashion editors and artists. I had heard the buzz about Cartagena, Colombia, for years now and decided to explore it myself.

While Cartagena is technically on the Caribbean sea, it’s a sensory mix of Latin American and Afro-Caribbean culture. Take a stroll down the historic quarter and you’ll be face-to-face with beautiful old mansions, boutique hotels, fusion-y restaurants, galleries and local fashion designers. It’s basically Latin America’s answer to St. Barts.

There was music in the streets, local street vendors selling everything from juice to fried plantains and arepas, flower-filled balconies, remodeled convents turned into hotels and countless plazas where one can spend hours idly watching the scene.

I was feeling pretty inspired by these waterproof, ceviche juice–proof place mats we had at the amazing Anthony Bourdain–approved hole-in-the-wall restaurant La Cevicheria.

While I’m hesitant to give away my “secret” destination, it’s the perfect five-day getaway. Just close enough to be a short jaunt and just far enough to make you feel like a different person when you return.

Madewell HQ: Our Style Resolutions for 2012

At Madewell headquarters, we’re all very serious about committing to our New Year’s resolutions. OK, maybe not all of them and maybe not for very long, but we do take our style oaths seriously. Check out how some key players on Team Madewell are vowing to refresh their wardrobes for 2012.

GIGI, resident tastemaker

Resolution: Play Around With Plaid.

In her words: “I’ve always been a big fan of pattern-on-pattern dressing, and I’m all about taking style risks. Plus this look is offbeat and unexpected.”

What she’s wearing: Vintage made-in-Ireland poncho, Madewell Legging Jeans and a black plaid scarf—plus some very tartan reading material.

KIN, head of all things design

Resolution: Brighten Up My Blues.

In her words: “This ensemble may not seem very extreme, but I’m a huge lover of muted chambrays and washed-out denim, so this bold blue is a new thing for me!”

What she’s wearing: Madewell Silk Mosswood Shirt and Madewell Heritage Premium High Riser Jeans in Spur Wash.

CHRISTINA, spot-on stylist

Resolution: Dress It Up.

In her words: “I’ve always leaned more toward menswear-inspired style, so I’m trying my hardest to get into dresses.”

What she’s wearing: Madewell Lily Lace Dress and Madewell Clog Booties.

JAC, denim designer and devotee

Resolution: Stop Skirting Skirts.

In her words: “Everyone knows I’m obsessed with denim—in fact, I was wearing a denim jacket before we took this photo. So wearing skirts is something I literally forget to do because I just love jeans to death. I’m turning over a new leaf!”

What she’s wearing: Alexa Chung for Madewell Grandma Skirt and a vintage tank.

JOYCE, most excellent accessories designer

Resolution: Get Dotty.

In her words: “I’m very much a shirt-and-jeans kind of girl and even though I love prints and patterns, I forget to incorporate them. Dots are my first choice for branching out!”

What she’s wearing: Madewell Spotted Snowfall Sweater, vintage jeans and Madewell Polka-Dot Film Noir Pumps.

Neatniks Unite: A Blog for The Highly Organized

by Christina Saratsis (Madewell)

Most people think that fashion types are “superinspired”—meaning chaotic, messy and spontaneous. Well, I’m here to say, not necessarily true! Either I’m uninspired or part of the 1 percent, but hyper-organization is my life (styling mate Lisa can attest to my strictly color-coded closet, highly complex labeling systems and incessant desk wipe downs). But hey, I like to think of it as an appreciation for the finer things in life. Enter my dream blog, Things Organized Neatly.

This site is perfect for orderly people of all kinds—foodies, techies, designers, architects—anyone who adores system and method. If you’re like me, you’ll spend hours poring over these amazingly coordinated groups. (And if you’re not like me, well, you may just be converted after a visit.)

To D.I.Y. For: Gearing Up for Halloween

So as you can tell, we really got into the Hallow’s Eve spirit this year. Super-stylist Christina had a great idea to break out the mini-pumpkins, candy corn and ghosty marshmallows and create a true union of Madewell and Halloween (Hallowell? Made-oween?). Anyway, here’s the result, as showcased by the always-game Romo:

Are you doing anything (witch)crafty this weekend? (This includes costumes, of course.) Take a couple photos and send them to us at madewell.musings@madewell.com. We’ll post our favorites right here on the blog on Monday, Halloween day. Till then—keep it spooky.

Desperately Seeking Date Shakes (in Palm Springs, CA)

by Christina Saratsis (Madewell)

Pretty meta: me, drinking a date shake in front of a date palm.

Anyone who knows me knows I have a serious sweet tooth—and not for chocolate. I’m talking about yummy, gummy, sugary goodness. So when I discovered an amazing new food craze on my recent getaway to Palm Springs, California, that involved nature’s best candy—dates—you can imagine how happy I was. After hearing a lot of talk about this mysterious treat, the Date Shake, I did some research and uncovered a buzzing online community devoted solely to the art of making them. Which of the 300+ date varieties should you use? What tastes better, date crystals or date puree? Should the base flavor be plain or vanilla? Needless to say, I got sucked in (and dragged my poor unassuming travel companion along for the ride). Below, my foray into date-shake tasting.

Palm Springs is truly the best place stateside for extra-soft and tasty dates.

DAY 1: Palm Springs Fudge & Chocolate

After a deliciously indulgent breakfast at Norma’s and some leisurely sightseeing, we made our first pit stop downtown at Palm Springs Fudge & Chocolate, a sweets shop known for its date shakes as much as for its abundance of old-fashioned American candy. Despite all the Swedish Fish and gummy snakes calling my name, I had to stay focused on the task at hand. So we promptly ordered two date shakes (but quickly realized we should’ve ordered one for the both of us). Even though we got insanely full, this first experience was a pleasant surprise: its milkshake consistency, French vanilla ice cream base and subtle date flavor were perfectly balanced.

 
DAY 2: Shields Date Gardens

After visiting the Air Museum and Richard Neutra’s Kaufmann House, we headed down south to Shields Date Gardens for what bloggers claim is the most innovative date shake out there. I went for the original with mango juice, which sounded a bit weird at the time but turned out to be my favorite by far! It was surprisingly light and not as milky as the ice-cream version. Before we left, we were also invited to watch a short film on the “romance and sex life of the date,” but we decided the pun was too much for us. (After leaving, we went farther down the road toward the Salton Sea to peek into Oasis Date, but the idea of another shake so soon was also too much for us.)

DAY 3: Hadley’s Fruit Orchards

After walking off some of our food at Joshua Tree National Park, we hit up Hadley’s Fruit Orchards by the outlets in Cabazon, CA. (Yes, I may have done a little drive-by shopping too). The date shake there is made with crystals (which are essentially dried fruit pieces) and, therefore, ended up being much chunkier and grainier than the others we’d tried. Alas, it was a no-go—but I couldn’t resist buying a few dried plums and nectarines for the plane ride home.

And for all you readers interested in Palm Springs for things other than sweets, here are the non-candied highlights of our trip.

Ace Hotel: Hipsters abound, but the all-night dessert stand and great live music from ex-Village People members are worth it.

Cheeky’s: Brunch is delicious—be sure to order the acai and kale smoothie.

Hope Springs Resort: A great mid-century modern motel redone with thoughtful accents.

Le Parker Meridien: A Jonathan Adler-designed oasis on the outskirts of Palm Springs. Who could ask for more?

Melvyn’s: Great for dancing, music and hanging out with a sharp older crowd. The tuxedoed staff is a nice touch too.

Norma’s: Words cannot describe their pancakes (thankfully there’s one in NYC).

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown: One of my favorite stops the whole trip—a great bar and restaurant in the middle of nowhere on a hill near Joshua Tree. You feel like you’re in the Wild West!