Happy Menocal

happy menocal illustration for brentwood, montecito + marin country marts | simple pretty

autumn 2013 ad for j.s. rosenfield’s country marts (brentwood, montecito + marin, ca)

I’ve been a fan of Brooklyn artist Happy Menocal for a while, and though her wedding invitations and save-the-dates are de rigueur in Vogue these days, I had the good sense to listen to my friend E back in 2006 when she was raving about Happy. At the time, I was enchanted with Happy’s watercolor takes on dogs, pigeons, and matadors, if I remember correctly. Later that fall, Elisabeth and Happy collaborated on a set of letterpress ’12 Days of Christmas’ cards for that year’s Design Sponge holiday shop. (Yes, I bought a set. Actually, I bought two sets: one-to-keep and one-to-save, which, per usual in my world ends up being two-to-keep. I do plan to frame a set at some point.)

Within the last couple of years, Happy’s work has been popping up with increasing frequency. Interestingly, during that time I’d been saving tear sheets of ads for J.S. Rosenfield’s Country Marts, which run seasonally in C magazine. At one point, I’d even considered emailing to ask who the illustrator was, only to have Happy serendipitously provide the answer recently on social media. It was her! Hoping that the Fall 2015 installment is revealed in C’s September issue.

happy menocal illustration for zero george, charleston | simple pretty

zero george, charleston

Earlier this year, Happy spent a few days at Charleston’s Zero George hotel, enjoying the local foodie scene + perfectly capturing the colorful, elegant Charleston spirit. (Coming soon: Zero George watercolor stationery by Happy!)

happy menocal geraniums for the paris review | simple pretty

geraniums for the paris review

In a 2013 “Week in Culture” feature for the Paris Review (it’s quite interesting and a great read — click through!) Happy captured my favorite flower of the moment, the geranium. I’m officially obsessed.

happy menocal illustration for saveur, august/september 2015 | simple pretty

saveur, august/september 2015

More serendipity: I picked up the current issue of Saveur magazine while in the States and was elated to find Happy’s illustrations atop a party dip story.

happy menocal holiday card for paperless post | simple pretty

‘snowy pastoral’ holiday card (online or paper) for paperless post

Happy also has a collection of online and print designs for Paperless Post. This ‘Snowy Pastoral’ scene is one of my favorites as it reminds me of the series for the Country Marts.

happy menocal x black pearl press "12 days of christmas" cards, 2006 | simple pretty

letterpress “12 days of christmas” cards produced in collaboration with black pearl press, 2006.

And a quick peek at the illustrations that started it all: Happy’s ’12 Days of Christmas’ cards letterpressed by (now defunct) Black Pearl Press.

image credits, from top: screen shot from c magazine digital issue, zerogeorge.com, theparisreview.org, paperlesspost.com, jane potrykus, designsponge.com

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Photo Favorites: August 2015

photo favorites, august 2015 | simple pretty

from last week’s trip to the Chicago suburbs

I recently tweeted “all of life is making peace with letting go”, and the past month has been spent living out that maxim. Senior Year looms large (a 9-month exercise in making peace with letting go if ever there was one), and my moral compass has retired (hyperbole, as I still know right from wrong, but Jon had a way of making me feel better about all the wrongs out in the world). Not to mention, fall is on the way: it’s my favorite season, despite the pervasiveness of intense beauty tinged with decay transitioning to intense decay tinged with beauty — or maybe it’s because of that?

At any rate, the Dog Days of summer 2015 were devoted to introspection, re-finding my place in the world, grabbing beauty where I could, and trying to settle into a contentment with “what is”.

A few images that capture that sentiment*:

  1. a few of many old stone outbuildings …
  2. French figs
  3. A late great …
  4. a moody, sombre haze.
  5. #manlyflowergram
  6. Came home to find these …
  7. weekend getaway …
  8. Cup board love
  9. Beauty & the bench
  10. untitled
  11. Bath(ed) in soft sunlight.
  12. Vitamin Sea …
  13. Post-hike
  14. No filter needed …
  15. #foggymorning
  16. I feel a peach cake …
  17. Jens Risom’s Block Island family retreat
  18. #ADK
  19. Friday.

* while putting together this list, I happily discovered that Instagram no longer limits you to the 300 most recent favorites! Hooray!

Also, while I remain uncomfortable tooting my own horn, I would like to thank the exquisite (and très Utilitarian Luxe® shop) Summerill & Bishop for including me in its recent list of  “Our Loves on Instagram”. What company to be keeping, and what an honor.

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#exploring Somerset: At The Chapel

at the chapel, bruton | simple pretty

street entrance (photo taken on sunny Saturday)

July has been the month of quick weekend getaways. (I excel at two-day vacations. I know: so American.) This past weekend, we took a Friday night train to Bruton so I could finally check At The Chapel off of my London Bucket List. The restaurant/bakery/hotel opened in 2008, and I think I’ve been plotting my visit since shortly after that.

It was a very rainy Friday, but thankfully it had slowed to a mist by the time we arrived at the station in Bruton and made the short walk to the property. We quickly checked in and then hurried downstairs for our 7:15 dinner reservation.

dining room, at the chapel | simple pretty

dining room

Our table was along one side of the chapel-turned-restaurant and I started to take in the surroundings. The restaurant quickly filled for Friday dinner: high ceilings and white walls helped disguise the dreary weather.

pizza at the chapel | simple pretty

pizza prep

The restaurant is known for its pizza, and I love pizza, so ordering was a no-brainer. (Don’t the carry-out boxes look great?)

dinner at the chapel | simple pretty


To add a bit of adventure to our pizza-and-salad meal, we added a side of Stills Farm carrots. They were amazing — buttery, colorful, and full of flavor. (In case you were wondering, the chorizo pizza was delicious, too.)

croissants and coffee at the chapel | simple pretty

room service breakfast

In the morning, guests at the hotel receive croissants at 7am, which arrive in a bag hung from your door knob (just in case your day starts later than 7). There is fresh butter and jam in the mini-fridge, and a French press for your coffee. Such an easy, elegant way to have room service!

bakery goods at the chapel | simple pretty

pastry + baked goods display

Of course, one pastry was never going to cut it for breakfast, so we headed downstairs a bit later to peruse the bakery‘s pastry table.

bread at the chapel | simple pretty

fresh-baked bread

Loaves of bread lined another wall, and most of it was gone by the afternoon, when we returned for lunch: this time, on the outdoor terrace (Saturday was sublime: gorgeous + sunny) with burgers and beer and yes, more carrots.

bakery/coffee at the chapel | simple pretty

view into bakery/pizza area

One of the highlights of my visit was meeting At The Chapel’s owners, Catherine Butler and Ahmed Sidki, at checkout. (They were manning the “front desk” when we came to collect our bags.) I was grateful to be able to tell them in person them how much I enjoyed our experience at their hotel. I also seized the opportunity to ask Catherine a few questions about the bottled wine they sell, as I was particularly curious about how an Oregon wine, Evolution, ended up on their short list. (At The Chapel’s retail selection is identical to the restaurant’s wine list, so if you find a favorite while dining, you can buy a bottle to enjoy at your leisure.)

all photos by jane potrykus

I didn’t take any photos of our room, but we stayed in room 5, which is on the top floor + offers magnificent views of Bruton.  The room was spacious, comfortable + perfectly appointed (Ren products are featured in the bath). I’d stay there again in a heartbeat, though I’m tempted to try room 8 next time, as it opens onto a private courtyard.

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Fern Verrow

fern verrow cookbook | simple pretty


The older I get, the harder I am to impress. And while I haven’t exactly been a star pupil of the Marie Kondo method, I have been quick to apply Kondo’s “Does it spark joy?” rule when considering new purchases. The brand-new Fern Verrow cookbook passes the Kondo test with flying colors: it’s full of joy.

A bit of background: Fern Verrow is a biodynamic farm located at the foothills of the Black Mountains in Herefordshire, England. When Jane Scotter and Harry Astley started out in 1996, they were new to farming but chose to educate themselves in the principles of biodynamic farming. The result is an intensely intentional approach, focused on the land both seasonally and holistically, often with a touch of spirituality. The couple incorporate many beautiful rituals into the work of a Fern Verrow farming year, but the story of Three Kings Day (January 6) is especially telling. Gold, frankincense and myrrh are ground into a powder that is added to water and then carefully — and deliberately — that bucket of water is used to sprinkle and hand-brush the elements onto all corners of the property. The time spent on this allows for reflection on the year that has passed as well as hopes and plans for the coming year. (The story is also a reminder that farming is hard work, even in January.)

The couple’s narrative makes for great reading. Through their stories of work and celebrations at Fern Verrow, I found myself drawn into the rhythm of the seasons and at times romanticizing about a farm of my own.

eggs: fern verrow cookbook | simple pretty

eggs (spring)

Thankfully, the cookbook appeals whether you’re in it for substance (the farming information and seasonal recipes) or style (with gorgeous photography by Tessa Traeger).

spring garden sandwiches: fern verrow cookbook | simple pretty

garden sandwiches (spring)

In the spring, nothing is simpler (or tastes better) than a radish sandwich — hopefully, with plenty of fresh butter.

edible flowers: fern verrow cookbook | simple pretty

edible flowers (summer)

A summer salad crafted from edible flowers is not only aesthetically pleasing, but healthfully decadent (and yes, delicious).

ducklings: fern verrow cookbook | simple pretty

ducklings (spring)

Is there anything cuter than a paddling of fuzzy yellow ducklings?

BBQ chicken w/sweetcorn and lime leaf relish: fern verrow cookbook | simple pretty

the recipe that sold the book (summer)

What impressed me the most about the book is that the recipes were approachable. As I flipped through it on the display table at my local shop, I could actually imagine making most of the recipes. In fact, the one that sold the cookbook for me sounds straight out of an American cook-out: barbecued chicken with sweetcorn and lime leaf relish. (Perhaps the Lime Leaf Relish renders it English?) I can almost taste it from the photo and when I have a patio and a grill again, it will be one of the first meals on the docket.

The farm used to operate a weekly stall at London’s Spa Terminus (Nigel Slater was one of their regular customers.)* These days, Fern Verrow supplies Spring, Skye Gyngell’s restaurant at Somerset House, for the ultimate in farm-to-table dining.

Fern Verrow (Quadrille, £25) is available in the US (and UK) via Amazon.

photographs of book excerpts by jane potrykus

(to see more from Fern Verrow, follow them at Instagram)

if, like me, you’re curious about what the Fern Verrow stall looked like, Tina at Colour Living took some lovely photos during her visit in 2012.

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#exploring Bath: The Fig Store

the fig store, bath | simple pretty

the fig store | 76 walcot street

I’ve been to Bath twice now: my introduction to the city was a whirlwind day trip showcasing the best of the city, courtesy of my host, Cereal Magazine‘s über-chic travel savant, Editor-in-Chief Rosa Park. Even at our not-enough-time frenetic pace, I could sense Bath’s laid-back vibe and fell in love with the city’s gorgeous Georgian architecture.

Earlier this month, my husband and I returned to Bath to continue the exploration at a more leisurely pace. One place I was eager to get back to was The Fig Store. The home and garden shop opened on Walcot Street in summer 2014 after an initial run on Milson Place as Fig and Pinker. To me, the new location is perfect, as Walcot Street feels like Bath’s art/design district (although truthfully, much of the city feels like an art/design district).

the fig store, bath | simple pretty

the view from the shop entrance

What made me fall in love with The Fig Store was its uncanny ability to read my mind and stock everything I need/want to bring my dream home to life: this refectory table on the shop’s ground floor showcased utilitarian luxe® goods perfect for entertaining simply with great style.

stoneware at the fig store, bath | simple pretty


A charcoal-black cabinet was filled with covetable creamy-white stoneware.

the fig store, bath | simple pretty

a range of plants for sale in the newly-opened garden

New this summer is The Fig Store’s courtyard garden area, elegantly showcasing a range of outdoor furnishings and plants. I rued the fact that we’re renters, as I wanted to scoop up one of everything and start a simple pretty London city garden.

garden at the fig store, bath | simple pretty

a view of the newly-opened garden from inside the shop

The shop is open Monday through Saturday, with the exception of Bank Holidays. If you visit the UK, a trip to Bath (and The Fig Store) should be high on your list. (A glimmer of hope: online shopping seems to be in the works.)

The Fig Store / 76 Walcot Street / Bath

Monday-Saturday, 10:00 – 5:30

+44 (0) 12 2542 8031

all photos by jane potrykus

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