March Musings, Bring-On-Spring Edition

Soooooooo … I was supposed to wake up in London this morning. I think we all know why that didn’t happen. (Spoiler alert: covid.) Out of an abundance of caution, it’s been pushed back a few weeks, and while that means I’ll miss out on English Easter candy-buying, much of the itinerary will remain the same. Fingers crossed we pull it off.

At home, am watching my corner of the world slowly wake up from winter into early signs of spring. Our yard seems to be one of the latest to bloom: there are still just peeks of snowdrops and tops of narcissi tentatively poking their way through the soil, but the birds are more boisterous, and I cannot wait for it all to burst.

I’ve been faking spring for a while inside, forcing branches and arranging simple spring-y bouquets. It’s probably why I’m so in love with these pressed flower cards, which are SO fresh and happy, and a simple digital download! (They’d be perfect for a last-minute garden party! If, like me, you’re unlikely to be hosting a garden party, there’s always room for a little pressed-flower art.)

Decorating is still a work-in-progress. I have finalized the cocktail ottoman + am in the process of ordering fabrics to recover a chair that did not thrive over its term in storage. I signed up for a session with The Expert, in which the consultation  was just-ok but the access to trade brands more than compensated. (Coming soon is a more comprehensive e-commerce experience called “Showroom”: frankly, this a long-overdue disruption.) Speaking of interior design, I realize everyone on the internets has already discussed and shared this, but AD’s recent feature of Deborah Needleman’s house (designed by/with Rita Konig) was pages of eye candy and brilliant as it inspired me to stay the course with my own slow project while I continue to scroll, hoping to find the perfect spot for “what’s next”.

As far as reading/watching/listening, am thrilled that My Brilliant Friend is back for season three at HBO. Though I’ve read almost everything else Michael Lewis has written, I finally got around to reading Liars Poker, and in the most backwards of ways, have started reading the My Brilliant Friend series, too. Next up is Ina Garten’s new show, “Be My Guest”, which will have a companion podcast. (Looks like I’ll be reactivating the Discovery+ membership for a bit.) And I’m hoping to see Drive My Car and Worst Person in the World.

Am always curious about new places and things. These amazing illustrations piqued my interest about the soon-to-launch Newt Boutique … the same rationale applies to Restaurant Pastis … and I follow the gorgeously chocolate-box food shop Speceributik on Instagram, so it was nice to read a bit more about how it came into being (field trip to Malmö, anyone?) And have to check out this gasoline stand next time I’m in Paris, if only to try this soda.

But right now, the best news of all is that morning walks are back on. No more rehab, no more scarves and boots, and hopefully, no more snow.

photo at top: sunrise beach, lake bluff, on march 17, by jane potrykus

January Musings, Still-at-Home Edition

at home.

I have to be honest, I never imagined that over two years into this pandemic predicament, I would feel so isolated, trying to distract myself by keeping busy, marking the passage of time and wondering when things would get better (to which the answer seems to perpetually be “next month”).

In many ways, this parallels my younger parenting years: your time is spoken for, and at that time, it’s rightly not about you. It’s what led me to start this blog: I had so much to say and no one to say it to. Flash forward: most days my laptop is a jumble of open browser tabs, reminding me of special things to do/see/buy/discuss should the moment present itself and again, no one to talk to about it: which is where you come in.

In the spirit of my blog’s early days, here are a few things I’m enjoying in January 2022 that you might, too:

I recently fell in love with the concept (and branding) of Montrose Cheese & Wine … and thus by extension, Studio Robert McKinley, who is also responsible for the interior design at Hotel Kinsley, which has been on my must-see list ever since Happy Menocal shared her gorgeous illustrations for the property. (Other Houston must-sees include the Thompson+Hanson retail/restaurant empire — Tiny’s Milk & Cookies was magnificent, and Courtney Barton‘s gorgeous new design shop where if you’re like me, you’ll want everything.)

Speaking of design (and Texas), I’ve never been to Austin but I wouldn’t mind visiting just to go to Hank’s Restaurant and Bar — I’d swipe a matchbook for sure, as Go Forth Creative’s branding, with illustrations by Rebecca Clarke, are brilliant.

Naturally, there are paper goods to consider. Current favorites are Kinshipped’s cleverly graphic Scandi Type cards, Parcel’s Celestial and Etherial collection (especially the foil-pressed Tiny Stars card), and also everything at Hadley Paper Goods.

I’m still missing England desperately. If I could, I’d teleport to Bruton this instant to hit every spot on the Modern House’s guide. (I’m glad they included the dovecote: I became smitten with it during our 2016 visit.) And London is never far from my thoughts. There are so many new-to-me places to visit including Spring to Go, Miel Bakery, and Pantechnicon. And of course, Petersham Nurseries. I miss it so much I am tempted to order Stone Hollow Farmstead’s rose-petal syrup so I can concoct an approximation of their rose-petal bellini while I wait.

There’s work to do at home, of course. I’m still (yes, still) chipping away at the decorating to-do list. Currently stymied by coffee table choices and general analysis paralysis. (Oh to have Rita Konig on speed dial or the budget to give Christopher Howe carte blanche.) Instead, I scroll Perrotine‘s website, filled with gorgeous hand-stitched lampshades, and study Matilda Goad‘s “Evolution of a Home” series for House & Garden (she makes it look so easy), and hope for divine inspiration.

What do you think? Now that I’ve finished, I realize it feels less like a blog post and more like a newsletter — my Instagram friend Jane Flanagan just smartly launched one and I love it! (Ann Mashburn also excels at the newsletter/blog format. If you’re not a subscriber, you’re definitely missing out.)

For the moment, my brain feels better for having put it all down. Maybe I’ll do it again soon.

* image at the top of my family room with pretty pink “think spring” quince branches and shelves that are in the process of being triaged and re-arranged, but luckily for you, I will spare you the details …

48 Socially-Distanced Hours in Hudson/Berkshires/Litchfield

simple pretty hudson-berkshires-litchfield

Have you ever planned a getaway around a hotel? I do it all the time. In late July, we booked a quick trip to the Hudson Valley/Berkshires/Litchfield area primarily so I could stay at The Inn at Kenmore Hall, which has been tempting me since its opening in mid-2018. The reason? I’ve long-admired Frank Muytjens’ designs and aesthetic. (At one time, he was head of menswear for J.Crew.) Muytjens and his partner, Scott Edward Cole, have created an comfortable but elegant bed-and-breakfast, lending their personal touch to the historic Berkshires property, and creating outdoor spaces that take advantage of the site’s majestic views.* (I was constantly taking mental design notes over our stay.)

inn at kenmore hall | simple pretty

fell hard for this space

inn at kenmore hall | simple pretty

the glorious morning view

An abbreviated synopsis of our escapades …

Day One: Late-morning arrival and late-afternoon check-in means time to explore straight away. After securing the rental car, we headed south from Albany. Our first stop was Hudson, where we walked Warren Street, popping into Finch and Clove&Creek, before making our way to Talbott and Arding. (I was eager to see their brand-new location on Allen Street. Selfishly, I miss the charm of their cozy original space, but at the same time am happy they’re growing and thriving.)

talbott and arding | simple pretty

treats at talbott & arding

As many Hudson shops are closed mid-week, we grabbed a sandwich at Olde Hudson and soldiered on. Next stop, Millbrook, home to the brand-new garden and home shop Orangerie, whose greenhouse and gardens did not disappoint. (There was a photo shoot taking place the day of our visit, so I’m guessing that a shelter mag feature is forthcoming.)

orangerie, millbrook | simple pretty

orangerie in millbrook

Goals for the day secured, we wound our way back north, stopping whenever the view demanded it, including a stop to poke around Millerton’s shopping area. Upon arrival, we were warmly greeted, given a tour of the house and property, unpacked, and then headed to Lenox for an early dinner at Bistro Zinc.

Day Two: Our day started with breakfast delivered to the door of our cottage. (I’m still thinking about the doughnuts that were a surprise extra to our order!) Motivated to stay outdoors as much as possible, we decided to visit the gardens (and house) at The Mount, Edith Wharton’s home in Lenox. It was a warm and sunny day, perfect for walking the wooded property, taking in the contemporary sculpture exhibition and chatting with local group of artists who were on site painting en plein air.

garden area at the mount | simple pretty

a fitting edith wharton quote given the current circumstances

Our tour complete, we started the day’s explorations, including the find of the trip, Stockton’s Lost Lamb Patisserie. Owner Claire Raposo, a 21-year-old graduate of Le Cordon Bleu Paris, had me completely charmed with her petite boutique full of tasty pastries and treats and darling branded accessories.

the lost lamb patisserie | simple pretty

the lost lamb’s wall of branded merchandise

Cookies procured, we then continued on to Great Barrington, serendipitously discovering a brand-new wine shop, Départ (and a quick pop-in to Rubiners) before heading to Connecticut for lunch on the lawn at The White Hart Inn (takeaway sandwiches from their Provisions shop) before heading to New Preston to have a thorough exploration of the visual and retail wonder, Plain Goods.

plain goods shop | simple pretty

plain goods (obsessed)

Circling back home, we ended the day at the Prairie Whale, with pizza and wine in their —  surprise! — summer pizza garden.

pizza garden at the prairie whale | simple pretty

prairie whale’s pizza garden

Day Three: Our leaving-day breakfast was served on the Inn’s patio/terrace and yes, there were more doughnuts! We packed our bags, headed back to the Lost Lamb for a couple more cookies (where we were met with a healthy waiting-for-opening-time queue) and hit the road. En route to Albany, we stopped at Bartlett House in Ghent before returning to Hudson for lunch (hotdogs at Buttercup, though I regret not trying the lobster roll) and one last shop wander, including a favorite interiors/antiques/inspiration shop, Red Chair on Warren, The Secret Gardener, Nine Cakes (more cookies!), Florent (natural skincare), as well as a peek into James Coviello and Warren Battle‘s jewel-box of a summer pop-up.

garden furnishings at red chair on warren | simple pretty

patinated garden furnishings at red chair on warre

Getaway complete, we returned to Albany, boarded our flight, and it was back to reality. Until next time …

all photos, layout and type by jane potrykus

*you can read more about the property’s history, take a virtual tour from the Inn’s early days and of course, follow along on Instagram

48 Socially-Distanced Hours in Atlanta

Buoyed by the success of my April Charleston trip, Atlanta beckoned.* It’s been ages since my last visit, and I’ve long admired the creative spirit of the town, which at present revolves around bakeries and the design genius of Family Brothers (admittedly, those categories can intersect). Curious about how it went? Follow along:

Sunday The first stop, post hotel check-in, was Atlanta hot-spot Ponce City Market (PCM), a mixed-use space that was formerly home to a Sears retail shop and warehouse (read more about the property’s history here.) The site now bustles with activity from the food and retail operations, apartments and a rooftop amusement park (with city views and a serious weekend queue).

While the initial draw was Root Baking Co (weekends only, and as we arrived just before Sunday close I was just happy there were still cookies available), it was equally fun to check out Archer Paper Goods, a perfect little paper provisioner which at the moment boasts an enchanting pencil shop in the front window.

After the crowds of PCM, it was a nice change of pace to settle in at the hotel and meet an old blogging friend, for the first time in person, for low-key drinks and dinner.

Monday The morning started with a leisurely stroll though Piedmont Park, passing the Botanical Garden (closed Mondays), and eventually necessitated an Uber to The Buttery. Warning: The Buttery is outrageously adorable and well worth the time and effort. Inside, you’ll find a full pastry case (a late-breakfast doughnut and takeaway cookies for me) and assorted snacks and provisions and cocktail mixes** In cooler  months, The Buttery also offers hot dinners for pick up.

Late morning found us at Westside Provisions District where we spent the bulk of our time perusing Sid Mashburn and Ann Mashburn‘s flagship retail shops; Le Jardin Français, an amazing florist; and a peek at Perrine’s Wine Shop. The center hosts some great restaurants, too. If we had more time, I would have loved to return for dinner at Marcel or JCT Kitchen.

We then headed east to Inman Park in search of a good lunch spot. Serendipitously, we chose Victory Sandwich (a full bar and perfectly crafted petite sandwiches – I recommend the Tea Bird). After lunch, we followed the BeltLine pedestrian trail down to Krog Street Market for a food-hall wander before heading back to the hotel to escape the southern sun for a bit.

At dinner time, we ventured back to PCM to try H&F Burger. (The original plan was to eat at Holeman&Finch’s Public House, but it is currently closed as it relocates to Midtown.) Luckily, Mondays are much quieter and we were able to command prime seating with no wait. (The burger was delicious). To cap off the evening, we noticed signs in the market leading the way to the BeltLine. Taking the BeltLine again made for an enjoyable, easy walk back to the hotel. (The Uber rides had convinced me it was far away: it was not.) It made me happy as we got to see not only more of the city, but more of its people. The final leg of our route took us through Piedmont Park, which ended the day much as we started. It was a glorious spring evening, the park was full … and in the moment, it reminded me a bit of London.

Tuesday En route to the airport, we stopped for breakfast at The Little Tart Bakeshop. (surprise! another bakery!) The caffeine and pastry breakfast went down with time to spare, so we used our last moments in the city to walk from Little Tart’s Grant Park location to its newest spot in Summerhill (we passed the Atlanta Zoo on the way). Both locations are darling, but in my view, the advantage goes to Summerhill as there is a soft-serve shop, Big Softie, next door … mark that for my next visit, Atlanta.

*the South is getting priority at the moment because soon, I will have zero interest in paying to be hot. 

**delivery within a four-mile radius, and for the locationally-challenged, shipping is available for non-perishable goods. May I suggest the Margarita Mix.

photo credits: top row (l to r) ponce city market, archer paper goods, the buttery; middle row (l to r) ann mashburn and le jardin français; bottom  row  (l to r) victory sandwich, h&f burger, little tart

all photos and layout by jane potrykus

48 Socially-Distanced Hours in Charleston

As soon as the CDC announced travel was low-risk for fully vaccinated people, I knew our inaugural adventure would be to Charleston. Not only because late-April weather is bound to be better in Charleston than Chicago, but because I had been torturing myself at Instagram by following the Post House Inn account since it opened in August 2020,  and knew this was my moment to strike. (Also: it was our 30th wedding anniversary and I really wanted to have a “real” celebration if I could.)

Fearful of overstaying our welcome, we kept our trip to under 48 hours on the ground with a tightly edited list of spots to visit. Want to know my favorites? Read on:

post house inn: room 4 in the late-day sun

Post House Inn  Stop one was (of course) the aforementioned Post House Inn … we arrived late afternoon, checked in and realized that my Instagram obsession paid off: the inn is delightful, the rooms simply but appealing decorated and I felt at home right away. As we had a bit of time before dinner, we went for a wander around the Old Village district of Mt. Pleasant, where Post House is nestled. (I hadn’t been there in ages, since the days of visiting Patriot’s Point when our son was young.) It was nice to have a leisurely stroll, admiring southern homes in full-spring flower with the scent of jasmine filling the air, then circling back to the hotel for a French 75 cocktail followed by dinner al fresco. Our server, Zoe, was a relocated Chicagoan and we hit it off straight away — she expertly guided us through the wine options and also smartly pointed me towards the burger for dinner, which was an excellent decision.

all set for al fresco dinner (graphic design courtesy of über-talented charleston studio stitch design co)

post house inn’s burger: perfection

I can’t say enough nice things about Post House Inn: the design is top-notch of course (I knew that going in) but the food was great, too, and best of all, the staff was friendly and helpful and really went out of their way to make us feel at-home during our short stay. (And yes, I bought the Post House tote bag I’d been eyeing for months as a souvenir.) Already thinking about my next visit, as room 3’s wallpaper needs to be experienced.

Elizabeth Stuart Design  Easily the serendipitous surprise of the trip. In the planning phase, I had noted Elizabeth Stuart Design as a “to visit” spot as it’s quite close to Post House. In my head, I had assumed it was an interiors shop, where I could pop in for some inspiration and hopefully, find a thing or two that would work chez moi. What I was not expecting was the expansive and simply amazing garden shop. (Amazing!)

There were tables, chairs, glasshouses, and plant containers, all expertly and elegantly displayed. I wanted to linger and drink it in, as it was the closest I’ve felt to being at Petersham Nurseries in a long, long, time. (I was kind of hoping I’d stumble across a bar serving rose-petal prosecco bellinis.)

They had just recently hosted a book signing for Christopher Spitzmiller and the indoor space, which is more focused on lifestyle and interiors, luckily still had the flower arrangements for the event on display. The heightened effect was glorious. I cannot wait to go back.*

glass house

containers for days

the interiors shop (with pretty flowers)

Babas on Cannon  The other main draw for my Charleston adventure was Babas on Cannon … which I have been thinking about ever since my first visit to Babas in January 2020. In what seems impossible, but justified, Babas is even busier and buzzier during Covid. The menu has been edited and condensed (and helpfully written on the front windows); ordering is inside, one-party-at-a-time  (there’s an app to streamline the going-inside bit for locals); food is prepared to-go or delivered to one of the charming outside tables … the effect was winning as ever.

Babas is picking up well-deserved buzz in town, too: a shop owner around the corner from Babas raved about the g&t’s (per her they’re the only g&t she likes) and the ham and beurre sandwich. Following her advice, I ordered the ham and beurre for lunch, and my husband got a g&t (the cocktails all come pre-bottled and sealed). The g&t was so good we came back at cocktail hour so I could have my “own”.**

babas on cannon: (most of) the menu

ham and beurre

gin and tonic for one: perfection in style and substance

* For a deeper dive, if you like gardens as much as I do, you’ll enjoy this video tour of Elizabeth Stuart Designs owner Muffie Faith’s garden.

** I seriously wish there were a way to mail order a case of g&t’s … visions of a garden party wafting through my brain.

all photos by jane potrykus