Susan Branch: Author Extraordinaire

susan branch: the fairy tale girl and martha's vineyard, isle of dreams books | simple pretty

Some people have all the luck. And then some people have both luck and talent. Susan Branch is one of those people; a natural artist who writes like a close girlfriend and lends an undercurrent of sweetness to everything she does.*

heart of the home - 30th anniversary edition | simple pretty

heart of the home – 30th anniversary edition (coming this fall)

My introduction to her work was her very first book, Heart of the Home (which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year with an updated, expanded reprint). Looking back, it reads like an early iteration of a lifestyle blog: the recipes are presented as mini paintings, handwritten** and illustrated in watercolor, with tips and advice sprinkled in to boot. I was newly married when I discovered it, and was very grateful for those tips and advice, as it made cooking and keeping house seem like such FUN. As someone who never had an older sister, I was glad to have such helpful, positive advice.

 

susan branch, author extraordinaire | simple pretty

why i might feel we’re on that first-name basis :)

I fell for Susan’s style (and yes, it just feels like we’re on a first-name basis) and gobbled up each of her new cookbooks as soon as it was published. She sent out newsletters, too, equal to her books in charm. As a self-annointed super-fan, I was excited each time I saw her return address in my mail box. Over time, those infrequent snail-mail newsletters became more frequent email updates, as she started to blog. And then, Susan gave those stories a permanent, printed home. Her first book, A Fine Romance, highlighted all that she finds romantic and exciting about England, including a delightful visit to Beatrix Potter’s home. I find myself going back to it for a dose of positivity whenever I’m having a London pity party.

susan branch, author extraordinaire | simple pretty

a quick snapshot of susan’s approach to life

Her readers’ enthusiastic response to A Fine Romance inspired her to continue on: This new set of books, released approximately six months apart, chronicles Susan’s adult life: her first job (and how she met her first husband), her natural enthusiasm for all things house and home, discovering her talent for illustration and painting, the highs of friendship (and unbelievable right-place-at-the-right-time adventures), the lows of heartbreak, and the joys of starting anew all the way across the country. (Also, the I-totally-get-it reason that she no longer travels by airplane!)

As someone who struggles immensely to write in a way that feels approachable and readable, I admit I’m a bit irritated to find out that Susan is a gifted writer, too. I found myself racing through each book: The Fairy Tale Girl, which ends in heartbreak, left me impatiently and eagerly awaiting book two, Martha’s Vineyard, Isle of Dreams, and its happier storyline. (As a person who’s forever searching for the perfect house, the story behind her loving care for and restoration of her very first cottage on Martha’s Vineyard was an inspiration. She’s definitely a lemons-to-lemonade kind of girl, and I hope to emulate that spirit when I have my own house again.)

susan branch, author extraordinaire | simple pretty

a favorite quotation

I can’t recommend these books (or her blog) highly enough. (And Amazon readers agree.) Susan is on a book tour at the moment: if you’re lucky enough to live near a bookstore that’s hosting an event, go. And hooray, she’s also coming Across the Pond in September! As (non) luck would have it, I’ll be in the US dropping my son off at university — and sobbing madly — while she’s here. But don’t let that stop YOU.

 

geranium watercolor by susan branch, author extraordinaire | simple pretty

her first painting: geraniums

p.s. I’m purposefully not giving away too much of the story so that you’ll appreciate each serendipitous detail all the more.

p.p.s. Thank you Susan Branch for sending me copies of these books all the way to London: I’m sad that our paths won’t cross in September. Rain check?

She’s freakishly lucky. Wait until you read about all the people she’s met randomly. 

** As a handwriting nut who always wishes her own handwriting were better, I spent hours trying to emulate Susan’s style.

photo credits: amazon.com (fairy tale girl and isle of dreams ccovers), susanbranch.com (heart of the home cover)

iphone snapshot excerpts from the fairy tale girl and martha’s vineyard, isle of dreams by jane potrykus, for review purposes.

New from Laura Stoddart

laura stoddart bloom notebook | simple pretty

‘in bloom’ notebook

Filed under “Patience Rewarded” is a lovely assortment of new paper goods from Somerset-based artist Laura Stoddart. Launched back in January at Top Drawer London (I was giddy with anticipation in the run-up to the show), the scale of her new drawings differs slightly from her earlier style (the people are slightly bigger these days), but the overall effect retains Stoddart’s signature whimsy. My favorite item from the launch is the “In Bloom” notecard set as I love her way with flowers, but the other ranges, “Tea Time” and “Odd Dogs”, are equally English in feel and beautifully illustrated. Glad to see you back, Ms. Stoddart. (Please) keep it coming …

laura stoddart in bloom cards | simple pretty

‘in bloom’ note cards

laura stoddart 'tea time' list pad | simple pretty

‘tea time’ list pad

laura stoddart at top drawer london, january 2016 | simple pretty

laura stoddart at top drawer london / january 2016

laura stoddart at top drawer london | simple pretty

preview of the line at top drawer

image credits: laurastoddart.com (product photos), jane potrykus (top drawer photos)

25 Years

25th anniversary inspiration board | simple pretty

Today my husband and I celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary … and as someone who writes a lot about fashion, and flowers, and stationery (and has a terrible sweet tooth), I thought it would be fun to put together an inspiration board for my wedding, if I were getting married today.*

 

* safe to say, this go round there would be no navy chintz Laura Ashley bridesmaid dresses, but the rest of my original choices were solid, looking back.

image credits: oscar de la renta courtesy photo for voguerunway.com (dress), fiftyflowers.com (rose), cwarrendesign.com (invitation), cakebloom.com (cake)

layout and type by jane potrykus

xo david

Simple Pretty Boston: Charles Street Top 5

top 5, charles street boston | simple pretty

Boston is one of my favorite cities: it’s eminently walkable, full of interesting shops and restaurants, and even boasts a charming public garden right in the middle of town. In fact, it feels a lot like a miniature version of London.

Whenever I’m in town, Beacon Hill is one of my favorite places to wander. The neighborhood offers an abundance of interesting destinations in a relatively small area: whether you’re in search of home décor, a cozy sweater, or a good glass of wine, Charles Street has you covered.

To get you started, here are my Top 5 spots on the street:

  1. Good // no. 133 @shopatgood   good, charles street boston | simple prettyPaul Niski and Kate Brizius’s shop Good is a longtime favorite of mine — the original jewel box location, which opened in 2001, made the most of its tiny space. (I inevitably found myself drawn to the jewelry, and the display wall of John Derian decoupage.) A move down the street to a larger space in 2012 allowed Niski and Brizius to expand their offerings while maintaining their expertly-honed aesthetic. Clothing (including tees from Small Trades), and some of my favorite books and magazines have joined the assortment, nicely complementing the wider range of home wares. The displays are perfection: the space feels like a shop/gallery hybrid. Do not miss it.
  2. French + Italian // no. 119 @frenchanditalianfrench + italian, charles street boston | simple prettyI’ve long had to obsess over French + Italian owner Aimee Lombardi’s chic fashion sense from afar, as the shop was located in Marblehead, MA, and I was not. (Big assist to Instagram.) Designers carried range from A.P.C. to Acne to The Line — a minimalist’s dream lineup, all expertly mixed and matched by Lombardi. Not to mention, the store’s business cards and signage are graphic design catnip. The Boston location opened in late March, and I’m so happy there’s now a way to get my fix in person!
  3. Danish Country // no. 138 @danishcountrydanish country, charles street boston | simple prettyThe older I get, the more I appreciate unique furnishings, an antidote to a world that suffers ever more often from “sameness”. Jim Kilroy’s shop was a great spot to wander for a bit of decorating inspiration while in town. Eventually, when I have a house again, it will make a great resource for shopping!
  4. Dress // no. 70 @dressbostondress, charles street boston | simple prettyAnother long-time favorite, as I’ve been a Dress customer since the original boutique opened on Newbury Street back in 2001. (They relocated to Charles Street in 2013.) The mix hits the right side of preppy, with simple basics that are neither loud nor boring. I can never have enough jeans, tees, and sweaters, and true to form, over spring break, I walked out with a fabulous stripey tee from Current/Elliott.
  5. Beacon Hill Hotel & Bistro // no. 25 @beaconhillhotel 
    beacon hill bistro, charles street boston | simple pretty

    steak frites for lunch

    So many things to like about BHB: when you walk in, on the right there’s a cozy bar which feels like the local watering hole; on the left is the excellent restaurant, serving simple, delicious bistro food from breakfast to dinner. Upstairs are 12 comfortable guest rooms: book one and you’ll feel like you’re staying at a quaint bed and breakfast in the city (the hotel’s front desk also services the bistro). Located in a perfect spot to explore Boston, it’s also a very welcome sight when you return from a long day of walking.

Bonus: Rouvalis Flowers // 40 W. Cedar Street @rouvalisflowersrouvalis flowers, beacon hill boston | simple prettyNot on Charles Street, but how could I put together a travel guide without a flower shop? Rouvalis has been around for more than 40 years, and there’s nothing better than a good old-school place to pick up a pretty bouquet.

denotes instagram user name // all photos by jane potrykus

there are plenty more amazing spots on charles street, including tatte bakery, black ink, paramount, savenor’s, e.r. butler, upper crust …. add a comment with your top 5!

Favorites: April 2016

peony photo by jane potrykus | simple pretty

can’t believe peony season is here!!

Is there anything better than peony season? My heart jumps a bit when I first spot a bucket of golf-ball sized buds at flower stands. That said, apologies in advance for the glut/surfeit/bounty of peony pictures you’ll have to endure at Instagram (just from me!) over the next couple of months — worth it, I hope.

It’s been a busy month around here. The boy decided to attend the University of Chicago*, and we spent a day on campus over spring break. I’m proud, and a bit envious of all the opportunities headed his way over the next few years, and I’m also a bit (over)emotional at the thought of a new chapter beginning for both of us. Because while he knows where he’ll be in September, the left-behind parents are still adrift in options. The upside is another summer in London, the downside is that for a planner, having no plan is stressful. I would like a base in the US for my baby bird to fly home to that’s “ours”. Ideas welcome. Alternatively, I’ll take recommendations for a good massage therapist :)

A few of my current favorites:

Instagram

  1. Withering
  2. On the road again ….
  3. Spring has sprung
  4. ocean blue
  5. cherry blossom season ….
  6. untitled
  7. Garden store packaging.
  8. Phew. ….
  9. A new one showed up ….
  10. New pieces ….

To Watch

  1. Everything is Copy  Thankfully, caught this on HBO while in Chicago, as it doesn’t seem to be making its way to Sky Atlantic like many HBO shows do. I used to treat a new Nora Ephron article/book like gospel, hanging on every word, and this documentary, written and directed by her son Jacob Bernstein, helped to fill the huge hole left by her passing.
  2. Togetherness Another HBO show! The second — and sadly, final — season just concluded. What a wonderful little show it was: never afraid to be real. Only 16 half-hour episodes in all: an easy binge watch. Highly recommended.

To Read

  1. Martha’s Vineyard, Isle of Dreams  I’m only 250/362 296/362 of the way through, but I promise you: click over to Amazon (or SusanBranch.com) and order this book right now — do not pass Go. When it arrives, you’ll want to drop everything until you finish. Susan Branch writes (and draws) like a dream, and what a talented, wondrous, magical life she’s lead. Not to mention, she’s relentlessly positive, and I need more of that in my life.
  2. Domino Magazine I’d kind of given up on Domino 2.0, and then Jenni Kayne on the cover of the spring issue tempted me to take another look. So glad I did, because the current issue, with a focus on fashion, feels much in the spirit of the original quirky-insidery-yet-approachable magazine that I worshipped. Loved reading about Sleepy Jones, Capitol, The Line, and yes, Ms. Kayne.

photo at top: peony at absolute flowers and home by jane potrykus

speaking of which, while visiting campus, I spotted someone wearing one of these sweaters — now I want one, and they seem to be sold out, and possibly defunct? arrggh! such good design.