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

5 Simple Joys: Seattle

I’ve always been a fan of the weekend trip: sufficient time to visit favorite spots, but not lingering to the point that you feel you’ve seen everything and wish that you’d booked an earlier return flight. (My motto: Always Leave Them Wanting More.)

And so, after years away (we last visited in 2011), I found myself booking an October weekend in Seattle, my curiosity piqued by Instagram’s serving up so many tempting places to see. From touchdown on Friday afternoon to wheels up on Monday, I covered as much ground as possible — mostly by walking, and given the rainy weather all weekend, I was elated when the sun peeked out for a few brief hours on Saturday.

My 5 Simple Joys from that weekend (instagram handles included for your ogling pleasure):

1. London Plane

My very first stop after hotel check-in — I determinedly walked through a heavier-than-usual Seattle rain to get there — London Plane is an assortment of all of my favorite things assembled in one place (that would be pastry, coffee, flowers, and stationery, lest you’ve forgotten). A bountiful, beautiful display of seasonal flowers await you at the entrance and set the scene. Just past that is London Plane’s coffee bar, perfect to grab a latte to go and perhaps a sweet (but please allow yourself a moment to admire the beautiful calligraphy delineating your choices). Have time for a longer stay? London Plane’s restaurant offers two levels of seating (upstairs gives you a bird’s-eye view of the space) and I can vouch for the deliciousness of their brunch offerings (yes, I made two trips). Not to be missed if you’re anything like me. // @londonplaneseattle

2. Flora and Henri

Once my long-time sources for simple, high-quality children’s clothing, Flora and Henri, established by Jane Hedreen in 1998, has recently been updated and repositioned as a full-on lifestyle store. In my opinion, this makes the shop an even more appealing destination: the airy new bricks-and-mortar space in Pioneer Square is a joy to wander, with items that are simple, functional, and beautiful, with the bonus that you have not seen them at every other retail shop. (In fact, many of the brands were new to me: a delight.) Especially strong were the selections of sweaters and books, which makes sense given Seattle’s weather tendencies. // @flora_henri

3. Le Pichet

I will admit upfront that dining, for me, is best when I can eat at the bar (even better if there is a selection of red wine from France). And so Le Pichet had me at hello. Charmingly cozy on a rainy evening. I stayed true to the classics, ordering a fresh salade verte with hazelnuts followed by bavette grillée, but I chose decadence for dessert: Le Pichet’s specialty, chocolat chaud, served in two dishes: one bittersweet chocolate; one whipped cream. Perfection.  // @lepichetseattle

4. Red Ticking

Pam Robinson has assembled the interiors shop of my dreams. Treasures abound, from the back of the shop,  given over to cubby holes filled with stacks of vintage floral and striped fabrics, to the center table, laden with beautiful dishes and housewares, to the perimeter, home to an abundance of accessories, from cushions to artwork to lamps to baskets to gift-worthy foodstuffs. Every item is artfully arranged and displayed, and the space is simply heaven. You’ll want it all, but it’s even worth a visit solely to window shop. // @redticking

5. Kurt Farm Shop

It is with sadness that I tell you about this delightful little shop, as Yelp reports it has now closed. No matter: Kurt Timmermeister’s charming jewel box of an ice cream shop was merely an introduction to learning more about Kurtwood Farm, Timmermeister’s Vashon Island dairy farm. (The shop’s closing will allow Timmermeister to devote more time to his farm and to photography.) For a taste of what you can expect, treat yourself to Farm Food, two seasonal booklets (Timmermeister describes them as serialized cookbooks) that celebrate life on the farm. // @kurtwood_farms

simple pretty seattle -- 5 simple joys in the city

photos taken and edited by jane potrykus

n.b. out of enthusiasm (or utter lunacy) i have started *another instagram account devoted to my favorite finds in the cities that i visit. please give @simpleprettycities a look + let me know what you’d like to see next

5 Simple Joys: Calendars and Planners 2020

2020 calendars and planners | simple pretty

1. Moontree Letterpress Leaf Identification Flat Calendar this is the calendar I wait for every year. Artist and designer Rebecca Kutys has an admiral gift for translating our botanical world into simple, charming illustrations. As part of my family room pinboard, it’s a handy, calming resource. (And word to the wise: it regularly sells out.)

2. Molesworth&Bird Hand Pressed Seaweed Calendar a recent addition to my “things I’m obsessed with” list is seaweed: likely due to the sublime subdued colors and soothing shapes. Hanging this calendar is like having twelve seaweed prints that you can enjoy one month at a time.

3. Appointed Undated Task Planner this planner is practically perfect in every way, from the lush fern green color, to the monthly and weekly planning pages, complete with tasks lists and a bit of extra space for notes. The only thing that would improve it for me would be to get rid of the “undated” bit, as I prefer the contrast of typeset perfection with my own wonky, unpredictable handwriting.

4. Shinola 12 Month Runwell Planner my preferred dated planner option, with month at a glance as well as each week spread over two pages, and lined pages for the inevitable notes. (In fact, a notes section is necessary as I keep a list of books read over the year in my planner.) Four color options to boot, including my personal favorites, pink and orange.

5. Monograph Weekly Calendar a new-to-me brand that I’ve gone bonkers for this autumn. Along with a planner, I’m constantly making lists to keep my week in order. (Paper forever!) This version is appealing as it gives Sunday a space all its own —  not lumped in with Saturday — and the set up works well with how I think about the week ahead. (Perhaps hard to find in the US — though there seems to be a NYC store — so may I also suggest Sugar Paper’s new notepads, which offer six different ways to attractively and efficiently wrangle your day and/or week.)

photo credits: 1. moontreeletterpress.com 2. molesworthandbird.com 3. appntd.com 4. shinola.com 5. societyoflifestyle.com | layout and design by jane potrykus

5 Simple Joys: Boston

So … after three and a half years … I’m back? Hear me out. The faster the Internet proceeds, the more I pull back. (Age, and a general sense of contrarianism could have something to do with it.) But I still feel the pull to share, and the passion for sharing favorite spots discovered over my travels is strong as ever. In the last month, I was asked — again — when I was going to get around to my travel book. My response was something along the lines of “Does the world need another city guide book?” and I think that answer to that is a resounding NO.*

Instead, what I’d like to propose is a recurring series featuring simple joys.** The sublime snippets you remember from travels. The quiet experiences that stay with you long after the bags are unpacked and the laundry is put away and you’re back into that … routine. Embracing simple joys allows the infusion of pleasure into the ordinary. And so, I’d like to launch this series with five simple Boston joys.

1.  Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Many facets of the Gardner Museum appeal (the art, the building itself, the story of the 1990 theft of thirteen works, for starters) but as far as I’m concerned, the courtyard garden is the draw. Visit during the autumn when you can gape at the glorious chrysanthemums-on-steroids. They’re magnificent.

2.  Craigie on Main Burger

Over a recent day-trip to Provincetown, the return ferry ride was spent chatting with a group of Boston area cyclists. They were understandably food-focused, having just spent the day riding from Boston to P-town “for fun”. I decided to work them for info, and asked if they would recommend a favorite restaurant, and also, their choice for Boston’s best burger. Craigie on Main was the answer for both options. Information in hand, we arrived at Craigie on Main just before opening time (5:30 pm) and noticed a healthy queue outside (a very good sign). When the doors opened, everyone rushed to the bar. As soon as we were seated the bartender asked “Are you having the burger?”  and we immediately replied yes. Little did we know that speed was of the essence, as only 18 burgers are served each night, so it was important to stake your claim. Now you know.

3.  Bodega

In an attempt to expand my Boston circumference of confidence, I decided to wander Mass Ave after the usual Newbury Street stroll. As I walked, I noticed a shop on one of the side streets with the most unusual frontage. The windows were lined with household goods like laundry detergent and canned goods. At first glance, it appeared abandoned, but lovingly, meticulously so. Upon entering, the tiny entry space gives the sense of being in a movie-set Bodega, but then the automatic doors open which give way to the airy, of-the-moment clothing store, and you think to yourself, “brilliant”, even though you are decades past the target audience.

4.   Bar at the Beacon Hill Hotel

Never has a hotel bar felt less like a hotel bar and more like the local watering hole. The regular cast of characters tend to highlight your presence-as-sore-thumb, but after your first drink (have a Harpoon IPA), you won’t mind …

5.   Trophies under the Longfellow Bridge

So weird! So unexpected! So utterly charming! Why/who/what/all-the-questions as to the presence of an assortment of sports trophies “installed” under the bridge that connects Beacon Hill to Kendall Square. Even more so as the “exhibit” returned after a reconstruction project completed in 2018.

photos taken and edited by jane potrykus, with the exception of photo 5, found via the boston globe at twitter

*That said, I would buy one if it was appealingly packaged. Because yes, I am a sucker for good design.

**Pretty joys may follow.