Quarantine Round-up, Easter Edition

Week three of stay-at-home is underway, with no end in sight (as of now, Illinois’ end date is April 30.I am hopeful, but doubtful). Meanwhile, the daffodils and tulips are pushing through the soil … trees are flowering … and even the grass seems a bit greener than it did a week ago.

I’ve been living vicariously in some of my favorite cities — including the usual suspects,  London and Paris — thanks to Instagram and resourceful companies who are delivering food, bread, and flowers. (The stuff of life.) And with Easter on the horizon, the offerings are even sweeter. Here are a few of the items I’m virtually besotted with:

Daylesford Carrot Jelly Sweets

I’ve been obsessed with Daylesford for a long time. Their shops are bursting with gorgeously displayed produce, foodstuffs and home goods. (A visit to their Kingham farmshop was a highlight of last year’s travels.) And they take it up a notch for the holidays, while remaining true to their consciously-sourced, organic principles. My favorite from this year’s Easter collection is the vegan carrot jellies, sweetly and simply packaged in a reusable bag. (Daylesford are also delivering groceries, and the shops are open at this point for food to go.)

Butter Baked Goods Chick Sugar Cookie

If you live in Vancouver, Butter Baked Goods is currently offering a variety of dinners and baked goods for delivery, frozen and ready to bake at home. But because it’s Easter, they also have plenty of beyond-adorable sweets, from cookies to marshmallows to macarons that will elevate your Easter basket, even if it’s a treat-yourself moment.

Spring Porridge Bread

I was lucky enough over my London experience to attend a party at Plain English, where the parting gift was a loaf of Spring’s sourdough porridge bread. It was amazing (amazing!) but only available in-restaurant. (Yes, I went to Spring shortly after the party for lunch, just to have more bread.) If you are in London, order this. And treat yourself to a bouquet of Fern Verrow’s beautiful flowers while you’re at it. Simple luxuries are the best.

Circus Bakery’s Flying Circus

Speaking of bread, Paris bakery Circus, famous for its cinnamon buns (and charming shopfront), is delivering daily by bike and car to many Paris arrondissements. You can pre-order bread, apple pie, jam, coffee, or even a cinnamon ribbon, because bigger is better when it comes to the quarantine iteration of cinnamon buns. (Follow them on Instagram + you’ll be treated to the doorways of Paris, captured on delivery runs.)

Other delivery options I’m following: Natoora (fruit and veg deliveries in London and NYC), General Store (fruit and veg + in London), Tiny Boxwoods (dinners to go and cookies in Houston),

Not delivery, but Babas on Cannon in Charleston is offering some delicious dinners to take away. I’ve been salivating from Chicago.

Please add any of your favorites in the comments.

image credits: daylesford.com, butter-baked-goods-myshopify.com, springrestaurant-shop.co.uk, flyincircusparis.com

5 Simple Joys: Quarantine Edition

Well, that was a title I never thought I’d type. But here we are, sheltering-in-place, social distancing, and generally trying to feel productive and purposeful while also trying not to freak out.

Just today, I realized that I am wasting wide swaths of time scrolling through Instagram: something I’m certainly going to address, in a heartless Marie-Kondo fashion if this carries on indefinitely (unless I “lean in”) …

So my new strategy in these early days is to divvy up my day à la Hugh Grant in About a Boy: “I find the key is to think of a day as units of time, each unit consisting of no more than thirty minutes. Full hours can be a little bit intimidating and most activities take about half an hour.” Why this bit of dialogue stuck with me is for another day, but I have set the time on my phone, and attacked email for one unit, Duolingo (in a never-ending attempt to learn French) for one unit, and so on. At the same time, I’m still making lists, still being curious, still discovering. As such, here are 5 simple joys I’m passing along in hopes that they will lend one of your daily “units” a bit more cheer.

1. TV   Curb may be ending, but thankfully, season two of My Brilliant Friend has just begun and I find it mesmerizing. Magnificent casting/costumes/scenery. And a stressful storyline — which frees my brain to worry about somebody else!

2. Books/Reading  I don’t know about you, but my attention span is NOT what it used to be. Most weeks, I’m just happy to get through the New Yorker before the next issue arrives. That said, I recently purchased the new edition of Gertrude Stein’s “The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas”, beautifully illustrated by Maira Kalman, and plan to read it. Find a title that speaks to you and do the same.

3. Stationery  No parties, no weddings, no reasons to leave the house allowed, but still, I found Strawberry Sorbet online and am dreaming of (2021?) parties to come. (Marcella, Madeleine, and Felicity are favorites.)

4. The Hospitality Industry  trying to do my part, responsibly ordering take out to supporting my local sandwich shop, I’m also thinking about ordering a couple of Talbott & Arding’s beyond-delicious fruit and nut loafs.  One for me; one to leave on my parents’ front stoop. **

5. Goats   pure escapism: the Instagram site bringing me the most joy these days is Bracken Oaks Farm, and their delightful baby Nigerian dwarf goats, who jostle and jump and vamp for the camera while adorably playing king-of-the-tree stump.

if you’ve made it this far, apologies for the run-on sentences and the rambling … and please, add your quarantine recommendations in the comments!

** just ordered. sent to my parents’ house. i will pick up the second loaf from THEIR stoop. #thinking

5 Simple Joys: Charleston

Charleston is one of my favorite US cities to visit. It’s decidedly walkable, and I take full advantage: peeking at the beautiful houses and gardens over a quiet morning walk to a leisurely strolling into the shops on King Street. And not to worry: there are a multitude of excellent places to stop for a bite (or a drink) to refresh yourself. About the only thing I don’t like about Charleston is summer. (I melt.)

Here are five of my regular haunts in the Holy City:

1. Babas // @babasoncannon

babas on cannon: simple pretty charleston

I vacillate between wanting everyone to know about Babas because it’s THAT good, and wanting to keep it to myself (because it’s THAT good). Too late: I’ve told you, so please, GO. At breakfast, try the house-special banana bread, served toasted with a smattering of sea salt, or visit at cocktail hour for small plates and a glass of wine or perhaps a hand-crafted cocktail: it’s super cozy. (Or, like me, do both.) I like Babas so much that I’ve considered moving to Charleston just to be closer: yes, summer and all.

2. Sugar Bakeshop // @sugarbakeshop

sugar bakeshop: simple pretty charleston

I think I’ve been going to Sugar Bakeshop since it opened in 2007* — Cannon Street was a bit more quiet in those days. These days, it’s under new ownership (the original owners decamped to Maine**) but the jewel-box shop is as charming as ever, stocked with cupcakes and cookies to delight your sweet tooth.

3. Worthwhile // @shopworthwhile

worthwhile: simple pretty charleston

Worthwhile is the perfect shopping antidote to today’s overexposed marketplace. Eclectically enticing, the shop is a mix of avant garde fashion and carefully selected (and artfully displayed) items for the home. Worthwhile makes shopping FUN.

4. Harken Café // @harkencafe

harken café: simple pretty charleston

Harken Café has creative and flavorful sandwiches, pastries and drinks on offer, and a charming side room with table seating. It’s a terrific place to stop, refuel, and relax after a morning of exploring. At my visit, the turkey and sweet potato sandwich was outstanding (and unique). Of course, I also grabbed a couple of cookies (bourbon-cherry shortbread and chocolate-chip) for the road.

5. Little Jack’s Tavern // @littlejackstavern

little jack's tavern: simple pretty charleston

For a simple dinner out, a burger is always a good option, but a great burger is an even better one. I end up dining at Little Jack’s Tavern every time we’re in town, drawn to the retro-chic pub atmosphere, and yes, one great burger.

all photos by jane potrykus

* okay, it was 2008

** summer?

5 Simple Joys: Nashville

When you live in Chicago, Nashville is the perfect spot for a quick weekend getaway for that small-but-important weather upgrade. My husband and I spent a recent weekend in Nashville in order to visit the Antiques and Garden Show. On Super Bowl Sunday, ready for an afternoon of exploring, we headed to the charming 12 South neighborhood for lunch and a wander. Here are 5 Simple Joys from that outing.

1. Taqueria del Sol // @taqueriadelsol

taqueria del sol, nashville: simple pretty

One of my favorite drinks is a margarita on the rocks. And for me, it can make or break a Mexican restaurant. Thankfully, Taqueria del Sol has an excellent house margarita and tacos with a southern flair (fried chicken, memphis bbq). Pro-tip: skip the line and grab a seat at the bar for super-quick and attentive service.

2. White’s Mercantile // @whitesmercantile

white's mercantile, nashville: simple pretty

Every day of exploring needs a good dose of shopping (even if it’s window shopping). White’s Mercantile, on the site of a former gas station, is a delightful take on a Southern general store. I had a good browse: spotting Sugar Paper products brought a smile, and true to form, I could not leave without buying a few new greeting cards.

3. Las Paletas // @laspaletasnashville

las paletas, nashville: simple pretty

A friend told me not to miss Las Paletas, located at the end of the 12 South shopping district near Sevier Park. She was right: the hardest decision was which flavor to choose! (I went for strawberry; my husband chose chocolate with chocolate chips.) My recommendation? Grab one to enjoy over a stroll through the park.

4. Five Daughters Bakery // @five_daughters_bakery

5 Simple Joys Nashville // Five Daughters Bakery

A cute bakery (which usually means striking graphic design) never fails to get my attention. Five Daughters Bakery specializes in 100 Layer doughnuts, their take on the cronut. I can attest to the deliciousness of the Purist, a 100-Layer option covered in a simple vanilla glaze. I’m an afternoon bakery shopper (usually thinking of the next day’s breakfast) so it was nice to learn that the Five Daughters website features a doughnut cam for each location. Strategy.

5. Amelia’s Flower Truck // @ameliasflowertruck

amelia's flower truck, nashville: simple pretty

The one spot I’m sad to have missed (the flower truck’s off season is December through February) … what could be better than a truck filled with flowers by the stem? Would have loved to cap off the day with a pretty bouquet. Next time.


photo credits: 1-4 by jane potrykus; 5 via ameliasflowertruck.com

5 Simple Joys: Podcasts

A good percentage of my adult life was spent driving my son to various sports practices. The soundtrack of those years was NPR: not only did it keep me entertained (and informed) but I like to think some of it rubbed off on my backseat passengers.

Now, my day is not complete without a long walk, outdoors as much as possible. Podcasts keep me company on those outings in the same way NPR did while I was driving: engaging my brain yet still allowing me to take in my surroundings.

For a simple joy, check out one of my five favorite podcasts at the moment, and please leave a comment if you have a favorite show that I’ve missed.

1. Freakonomics

5 simple joys: Freakonomics Podcast

As someone who devoured the 2005 Freakonomics book, signing up for the podcast was an easy decision. Stephen Dubner covers an eclectic range of topics … from the mystique of Trader Joe’s to the politics of Andrew Yang to the problems with high school math. Invariably, I learn something new, and predictably (annoyingly?) I try to pass along said information to whomever will listen. Pro tip: the live shows are fantastic.

2. Slate Money

 slate money podcast | simple prettyI discovered the Slate Money podcast last fall while in the throes of my Succession obsession, searching for “more” about the show. The weekly recap and commentary was clever, insightful, and had just enough snark to keep me hooked. The “regular” episodes are a lighthearted and straightforward discussion of the week’s financial news. Plus, I must confess, I really like Felix Salmon’s accent.

3. Reply All

reply all podcast | simple prettyA fascinating and entertaining dive into all things Internet. I have learned so much from this podcast … and have become so much savvier regarding my phone/laptop/app use. Is Facebook listening to you? Why did a Snapchat account get hacked? Wonder about two-factor authentication? Or just want to understand something tech-related better? PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman have you covered.

4. Conan O’Brien Needs A Friend

conan o'brien needs a friend podcast | simple prettyRecommended by a culturally savvy friend, I admit I was skeptical at first, as I don’t watch O’Brien’s TV show. I started by listening to episodes that featured celebrities I found interesting. (see: Lin-Manuel Miranda; Tina Fey; Charles Barkley) Each week, the concept grew on me. O’Brien is a skilled interviewer (no surprise), but my favorite parts just might be the banter between O’Brien and the regulars, Sona Movsesian (his longtime assistant) and podcast producer Matt Gourley.

5. Lovett or Leave It

lovett or leave it podcast | simple prettyAfter the 2016 election, I found myself consuming a lot of political media in an attempt to process “what happened”. I first landed on Pod Save America, as their outrage was cathartic. It sustained me for a while, but I know myself: I process grief/outrage/anger best through comedy. Jon Lovett’s weekly podcast is a targeted smart-take on politics, with extra-credit for exposure to the millennial mindset/culture.

image credits: freakonomics.com, slate.com,gimletmedia.com, earwolf.com, crooked.com