me, eight years ago, outside our cottage at the inn at palmetto bluff
Eight years ago today, I started a blog. “Midwest Musings” was oh-so-personal as I wrote about my obsessions, observations, and irritations du jour. Later, as I found my voice, I wrote at “The Speckled Egg” about my enthusiasm for stationery and fashion. For a while, I was posting multiple stories daily as inspiration was seemingly everywhere and the ideas flowed.
Since March 2009, I’ve settled into an aesthetic (and voice) as Simple Pretty, sharing Utilitarian Luxe® findings from around the world that I loved and I hoped that you, the reader, would too. I will forever be grateful for the connections I’ve made because I was brave enough to put my thoughts out there for the world to see. The friends I’ve made are oh so dear to me and I treasure every one of them. (You know who you are.) Blogging helped me find the courage to sell my house, pack up my belongings, and try the expat life in London, confident that I knew at least a few people who would ease the jolt of starting over in a new city/country/continent.
Perhaps my awareness is impacted by the move, but over the past few months I’ve noticed a change in the blog world, both from the writing/producer side and the reading/consumer side. In low moments, I bemoan the lack of comments/feedback on my posts, and yet at the same time I find myself reading fewer blogs and commenting on fewer posts. While I realize Instagram and its visual stimulation is simply the flavor-of-the-moment, at the same time, I appreciate the way it delivers maximum impact and social connection with relatively little demand on my time. It’s how I want to interact at the moment. I’m finding the beauty in optimizing.
In light of that, I’ve decided to transition this blog from a place that I check in weekly to a format where I update occasionally, most likely via my recently revived Tumblr blog. Some months, “occasionally” will look a lot like “frequently”; some months you may see tumbleweeds. I still get so much pleasure from writing travel guides and highlighting favorite looks from Fashion Week, and I will continue to produce and share that kind of content. I know there will be a stationery post or two as well. Follow me and you’ll never miss out!
And there’s even more happy news to share: I’ve just joined the Remodelista (and Gardenista) UK team: their presence continues to grow, both in the US and internationally. As a longtime fan of the Remodelista aesthetic, I’m crazy excited for the chance to work with Christine Chang Hanway and the rest of the team, and look forward to the new experiences and connections that are an integral part of learning the ropes.
Here’s to following your bliss — whatever it is. See you soon at Tumblr.
Our London adventure started last July when the taxi deposited us in front of our new home in Notting Hill just off of Ladbroke Grove. That very afternoon, we parked the suitcases in the foyer and started to explore our new neighborhood. Sadly, in just over a month, our stay in this area will come to an end (we’re moving to be closer to our son’s school). Over the course of my year of exploring, I’ve accumulated a list of favorite spots. To be fair, this list could be so much longer if I shared every single place that I’ve been and liked — Notting Hill is full of charming boutiques and eateries — but this guide accurately reflects my regular, tried-and-true spots.
When in Notting Hill, you should:
- Gail’s Artisan Bakery I think Gail’s was our very first stop as London residents. (Flying makes you hungry!) Of course, that visit was the first of many, as Gail’s is a great spot to meet for a coffee, pick up a quick lunch, or stop in for a sweet-tooth indulgence: I can personally vouch for the pastry offerings: pure heaven. (138 Portobello Road // @gailsbakery)
- Mr. Christian’s Friendly counter staff, a yummy selection of grab-and-go sandwiches, plus Poilâne bread on the shelf — Mr. Christian’s deli is perfect spot to gather the components for lunch al fresco. Their website describes Mr. Christian’s as a Notting Hill institution, and I’m inclined to agree. (11 Elgin Crescent // @nottinghilldeli)
- Ottolenghi If you can walk past Ottolenghi’s display window, packed to the gills with tempting baked goods, well, you’re a better person than I. Almost weekly, I stop in Ottolenghi for a small box of assorted salads, and I always add a chocolate chip cookie to my order (they’re best in London) for dessert. (63 Ledbury Road // @ottolenghistore)
- Otto Pizza Inspired by Portland, Oregon pizzeria Dove Vivi, Otto’s cornmeal-crust pizza — sold by the slice — has become a favorite spot to kick back with a slice of pizza + a cold beer. I usually default to their excellent, mushroom + spice take on pepperoni, but their rotating specials are also worth a try. We’ve been known to “play American” and indulge in their speedy delivery service during lazier moments. (6 Chepstow Road // @ottopizzauk)
- Talkhouse Coffee beautifully built-out space serving top-notch coffee. Talkhouse has foodstuffs for a light lunch and treats for the sweet tooth, too. (275 Portobello Road // @talkhousecoffee)
- Aēsop Every sink in my house has a pump bottle of Aēsop’s Resurrection Aromatique Hand Wash next to it: I love the scent and the soap isn’t drying. And, as I’m a sucker for Aēsop’s brilliant packaging, I’m often tempted by other products in the range whenever I pop in to restock. (227A Westbourne Grove // @aesopskincare)
- Bodas Yes, a lingerie store. Because not every woman on the planet desires a bra that could double as a bulletproof vest. (At least I don’t.) Bodas’ range includes exquisitely simple undergarments in a variety of understated neutrals. (36 Ledbury Road // @bodasunderwear)
- Caramel Baby & Child This shop is baby gift central. Though my 16yo has long outgrown their sizing, that doesn’t stop me from a pop-in in to check out the latest and greatest Caramel fashions, and contemplating which Liberty-print dress and cardi would best suit my baby niece. (77 Ledbury Road // @caramel_shop)
- Daylesford Organic Sensory overload (in the best way) is the name of the game at Daylesford, and the space is a triple threat: equal parts cafe, foodshop and homegoods. The produce, which greets you upon entering, is displayed in an artful, casually elegant way, much like the rest of the shop. The cafe bustles at peak times, but if the weather is fine, I suggest you try to grab a table outside — it makes for excellent people watching while you dine. (208-212 Westbourne Grove // @daylesfordfarm)
- Lutyens & Rubinstein In an Amazon.com world, there is still a place — and a need — for smart, thoughtful bookshops. Founded by literary agents, Lutyens & Rubinstein is the perfect place to browse for inspiration. The shop is small enough that you won’t feel overwhelmed, but the selection is so carefully chosen (it’s clearly a bookstore for book lovers) that it’s impossible to visit without finding – and buying – a new favorite to tuck under your arm as you stroll home. (21 Kensington Park Road // @landrbookshop)
- Melt Chocolates Melt’s line of chocolate is worth the extra ££. My favorites are from the 45g chocolate bar collection: milk chocolate sea salt is decadent yet keeps it simple. An assortment of Melt’s fresh chocolates makes the perfect hostess gift. (59 Ledbury Road // @meltchocolates)
- Rococo News & Magazines The Notting Hill newsstand of record, Rococo stocks it all: UK, US and International, and the knowledgeable staff can quickly find what you’re looking for off the rack. (12 Elgin Crescent)
- Wild at Heart Flowers Located on Westbourne Grove’s traffic island, Wild at Heart’s floral displays are to die for. Nikki Tibbles has an eye for arrangements that let the flowers shine. Some of my happiest Notting Hill memories are the days I’ve treated myself to a Wild at Heart bouquet. I have also been known to shamelessly snap a photo or two while walking by — it feeds my flower-loving soul. (222 Westbourne Grove // @realwildatheart)
- Electric Cinema Soho House’s Portobello Road cinema is simply the most decadent way to watch a movie. All else pales once you’ve curled up (under a cashmere blanket) on a lounge chair while sipping a cocktail and nibbling on cinema snacks. Not enough for you? Then book one of the beds — yes beds — in the front row. (191 Portobello Road // @electriccinema)
- Portobello Road It would be heresy to write a Notting Hill guide and omit Portobello Road and its world-famous antiques market. While I’m not a fan of the jam-packed, weekend tourist experience, I have grown quite fond of strolling the road on a weekday morning, perusing the various produce stands and feeling very much like a local. I will also cop to checking out the weekend scene and the market’s eclectic mélange of vendors on days when the weather’s not very tourist-friendly. (Portobello Road, starting at Pembridge Crescent and continuing northward to Golbourne Road // @rbkcmarkets)
map layout, design + type by jane potrykus
“@” addresses denote twitter account names.
Confession: I am a coffee drinker and a coffee lover. But since moving to London, I’ve heard over and over how it was only a matter of time until I discovered the joys of tea and made the switch. Though I’m not ready to give up my morning au laits anytime soon, London Tea Club has come along to tempt me further. The club’s monthly £10 membership fee entitles you to a box containing three vials of loose tea, adorably and simply packaged in plastic vials with an envelope of drawstring filters included for brewing, as well as a muslin carry-bag for chic portability. If, like me, you’re wondering how to select teas from such a wide range of options (including white, green, oolang, puerh, black, and herbal), no worries — simply fill out the club’s flavor profile and a tea shipment will be selected to complement your palate.
My introductory order included monk’s blend, park lane, and a lovely ginger peach, which at the very least could become my go-to iced tea flavor for summer. (And I’m sure you’ve noticed how beautiful the branding and packaging is. Perfection, right?)
London Tea Club is participating in a pop-up event at Work-Shop (6 Newburgh Street, a stone’s throw from Liberty) through the end of June. Stop by to check out the teas, and you might even meet owner/director Cecelia Lau!*
brewing guide, vial + filters
club shipment of teas
muslin carry bag
all photos by jane potrykus
* right now, London Tea Club only ships to the UK, but keep checking Facebook + Instagram, as expanded shipping options may be on the way!
Though I’m in London, and couldn’t make it to the show this year, I’m eagerly following all things stationery via social media*. Sugar Paper, one of my all-time favorites, has a slew of gorgeous new wares I’m coveting from afar. Like the “California Girl” print, pictured below. I need one, framed + displayed, stat. Plus, keep your eyes peeled for some darling notebooks coming this summer in perfect polka-dotty grays, pinks, and golds. In the meantime, if you need a daily dose of Sugar Paper, be sure to follow them at Instagram.
a peek at the sugar paper booth, via @sugarpaperla’s instagram
images courtesy of sugar paper
* a quick instagram search of #nss2014 should keep you busy for an afternoon …..
Who isn’t tempted by souvenirs when travelling? The charm of a petite treasure to remind you of favorite places and experiences is irresistible. As a minimalist, I find that edible gifts are the perfect way to bring the essence of a city home with you with a minimum of clutter, and the hunt for the perfect combination of product and packaging can be as much fun as the purchase! Here are a few discoveries from my recent trip to Paris to inspire you:
- Sebastien Gaudard a jewel box of a shop on Rue des Martyrs, Gaudard’s pâtisserie is filled with prettily packaged cakes, candies and cookies to tempt your sweet tooth. I selected a cello-bag of salted butter cookies for the train ride to London. A fleeting sort of souvenir, but they were delicious. (For extra credit, I’d suggest indulging in a tart or croissant to enjoy on the spot.)
- La Chambre Aux Confitures also on Rue des Martyrs, the shop’s shelves are lined with a wide assortment of jams and spreads. I plan to work my way through LCAC’s flavor library (more adventurous options include pear & hazelnut as well as apricot-lavender) but as I have a 16yo’s taste buds to accommodate, I’m perfectly happy to start with their exquisitely simple strawberry jam.
- Found water admittedly, Found isn’t a Parisian brand (it’s Aussie-American), but I discovered their flavored waters — prettily bottled and available in elderflower! — on the shelves at Le Bon Marché’s La Grande Épicerie during a Saturday morning wander, which qualifies it as a French souvenir in my book. (La Grande Épicerie is a highly recommended wandering spot, by the way)
- Les Marquis de Ladurée Ladureé’s new chocolate shop (on Rue de Castiglione) was right around the corner from my hotel — so of course I had to indulge in a petite box of chocolate medallions. All of Ladurée’s gift boxes are perfection, so I’ve saved it for storing tiny bits of ephemera.
- The Fine Cocktail Company also discovered during my La Grande Épicerie wander, I was so enchanted with the bottle that I scooped up the Lemon/Ginger/Vodka elixir without a second thought — one of the benefits of train travel is no worries about packing liquids in a carry on!
layout and type by jane potrykus. image credits: 1. jane potrykus 2. lachambreauxconfitures.com 3. foodbev.com 4. marquis.laduree.com 5. publicisdrugstore.com