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Town Scout Blog

Feel Good Friday: Love the Last Weekend of Summer

Hello, Friends!  It’s hurricane season here and our first storm of the season is making its way across the Lowcountry.  Hermine, I’m ready for you!  Well, sort of . . . I stock-piled La Croix and rosé and made a batch of Rice Krispie Treats, or as they’re known in our house, RKTs.  (Yes, recipe to follow.  You’re welcome!)  Hopefully the provisions will get us through the next 24 hours of rain.  True, Georgia and I may have had a few RKTs for dinner last night.  Fortunately, though, I bought extra mini-marshmallows just in case the RKTs started running low.  As my husband will tell you, be prepared is my personal motto.

But let’s get back to the important stuff.  Yes, there’s a tropical storm coming through, but it’s Friday and it’s the last weekend of summer.  How could there not be a Feel Good Friday?  This week I’ve put together a beach house playlist to keep you company on your last few days on the porch and a few easy recipes to give you more time on the beach and less time in the kitchen.

End of Summer

 

Can I ask one question before we get started?  Where did the time go??  Weren’t my daughters graduating just yesterday?  Wasn’t the 4th of July last week?  How is it possibly September??

Alright, now that I got that out of my system, how about some tunes?

Beach Music

This playlist is inspired by the many, many nights I spent on the porch of the beach house I shared with friends when I still lived in D.C.  They’re laid-back, feel-good songs that you can listen to while laughing with 15 of your closest friends.  Now, head to the porch and get ready for some Allman Brothers.  As always, the playlist is on #Spotify:  End of Summer.

End of Summer

Ahhh . . . nothing like a big, old porch.  Photo:  Life Magazine.

Hot in the Kitchen

My approach to summertime cooking is simple:  stay out of the kitchen as much as possible.  I like to keep my time inside to a minimum so I can enjoy more time outside–on the beach, with friends, sitting on the porch.  That is especially true when I have friends over, particulary around cocktail hour.  Where would you rather be?  In the kitchen cooking up some elaborate appetizer, or outside with your closest friends making the most of these last long days of summer?  I thought so.

Here are my go-to, beach house staples for instant happiness and an almost-instant cocktail hour spread.

First up, RKTs.  One batch will last a few hours in my house, if I hide them.  These aren’t your average rice krispie treats.  These are the grown-up version and they are DELICIOUS.  I found this recipe on Smitten Kitchen a while ago and I think it’s fair to say it was a life-changing moment.  These RKTs are on another level, but they still only take a few minutes to whip up.  I’ve made them so many times now I could probably do it blindfolded, and they would still be good.  There are two secrets, and I’m about to tell you what they are.  I hope you’re sitting down.

RKTs (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

Ingredients

1 stick unsalted butter

1/4 tsp. flaky sea salt

10 oz. bag of mini-marshmallows (minis are a must for even melting)

6 c. crispy rice cereal (FYI:  I’ve found that generic rice krispies work better.)

Directions

Spray an 8×8 square cake pan with cooking spray.  I’ve found a glass baking dish works best, but metal is just fine too.

Brown the butter in a large pot over medium-low heat.  The butter will foam a bit, then go from golden to brown.  Stir frequently to prevent burning.  When the butter browns, it’s ready.  Turn off the heat, but leave the pot on the burner.  (Note:  This is the first secret.  Browned butter adds a nutty, rich flavor that you don’t get from regular melted butter.)

Sprinkle the salt over the pot and stir to mix.  (Second secret:  sea salt.)  Add the marshmallows and stir to melt.

When the marshmallows are melted, remove from heat and stir in the rice krispies, a few cups at a time.  When mixed, spread into the pan using wax paper to press the mixture evenly.  Let cool and you’re done!

I’ve experimented with fruity pebbles and cocoa krispies.  They’re okay and fun for kids, but you can’t beat the original.

Now that you have RKTs taken care of (elapsed time 10 minutes), you can work on your 5 o’clock spread.  I always like to have something crunchy, something sweet, and something savory.  Here’s one of each.

Crunchy:  Olde Colony Cheese Zingers.  Traditional cheese straws with a hint of cayenne for an extra kick.

Sweet:  Olde Colony Benne Wafers.  A Charleston tradition for a reason–a little sweet, a little crunchy, and a lot tasty.

Savory:  Hot pepper jelly and crackers:  grab a jar of your favorite hot pepper jelly, spoon over cream cheese, serve with your favorite crackers.  Done.

Put these snacks on a pretty tray and make yourself a drink.  Cheers to summer!

 

End of Summer-Porch Bar

Let your friends serve themselves and relax // Photo & pretty things: Eclectic Charleston

Why I Love Labor Day

Labor Day is always a little bittersweet.  It signals the end of the summer, the beginning of the school year, the return to regular work days.  That time of year when we move out of our languid summer swelter to a cooler, more productive state of mind.  When September rolls around, I always marvel at how quickly the summer months passed.  Where did all of those endlessly long days go?  I remember the days on the beach, the evenings spent outside, the family vacations, all the road trips.  I savor those moments.  And I also look forward.

While Labor Day means summer is drawing to a close, it also means that so much lies ahead.  The first year of college for our younger daughter.  A new city and a new home for our older daughter.  New opportunities, new work, new things to learn.  For me, I always remember Labor Day as the weekend I met my husband–in the most unlikely of places at last call on the last day of summer.  It may have been the very, very end of summer, but it was a beginning, too.

One of my favorite reads this week is this beautiful essay,  The Last Week of Summer by BettySweet Atkinson via The Southern C.  Do yourself a favor and curl up on your porch in the morning when it’s still quiet, read these lovely words, and savor the last days of summer.

End of Summer-Sunset Beach Stroll

Happy Friday, y’all.

xo, jen

Feel Good Friday: Back to School, Old School Edition

Happy Friday, y’all!  I’ve missed you!

I took a break from Feel Good Friday last week to help our younger daughter move in to college.  A rented minivan, more than a few hours on the road, and several crates of albums, boxes of books, and stacks of photos later, she’s all moved in and already through her first week of classes.  I can’t believe it’s been a week since I was hugging her goodbye–it seems like yesterday that we were teaching her how to drive!  Times they are a changin’ . . .

But some things never do.  Dorm rooms, shared bathrooms, roommates and hallmates, dinner in the dining hall, sunny afternoons on the lawn.   Sure, some things are different–the dorms are air conditioned (!!) and the dining hall is now a food court–but the essentials are the same.  Tailgating before football games, silly nights out, and friends for a lifetime.

Take all of that, add in a few days of being back in a beautiful Virginia college town, and you can see why I have been suffering from a serious case of nostalgia since last week.  Dave Matthews and Matthew Sweet have been on permanent rotation, my old J. Crew barn jacket has come out of storage, and I’ve had a week-long craving for fro-yo and dominos.

colonnade

How many days have I spent on this lawn? Too many to count.

Which is all a long way of saying that this week’s Feel Good Friday is in honor of those who are starting their college days and those for whom college is but a distant, somewhat-hazy memory.  So sit back, open a Nattie Light, and enjoy.

Tunes

This week, the playlist is going old school.  As in, went-to-college-in-the-90s old school.  As in, playlists used to be called Mix Tapes and you spent hours with your dual-cassette recorder, stopping and starting and splicing to create the perfect mix of songs to convey all of your deeply felt emotions.  It was an art form.

I love a good mix tape, but I also love the fact that I can whip up a weekly playlist on Spotify without losing hours of my life.  This week, I crowd-sourced the lineup by polling some girlfriends for the first song that came to mind when they thought of our college days.  I haven’t heard Rusted Root mentioned that many times since 1994.  Full disclosure:  we went to school in the mid-90s at a small school in Virginia.  We REALLY liked Dave Matthews.  And also Coolio.  And maybe the entire Pulp Fiction soundtrack.  We weren’t too original, but we did have fun.

Are you ready for a rewind?  Put earmuffs on the kids and prepare for a Fantastic Voyage with this week’s playlist:  90s Mix Tape.

mix tapes

Raise your hand if you have a box of these somewhere . . .  And, yes, that’s a hand-made mix-tape cover featuring a pink poodle.  #skillz

 

Things to Feel Good About This Week

Topping that list:  Social Media Did Not Exist in the 90s.   Thank the Lord above that my college days were not captured in a readily uploadable form.  Sure, we had photos posted to a wall, but it was an actual wall and those photos were called Party Pics.  After you lost your eyesight searching for photos of you and your best friends dressed as who-knows-what, you ordered photos, and they were mailed to you.  Not emailed.  MAILED.  Sure, I have a stack of embarrassing photos of myself . . . and they are hidden in a box in my parents’ attic never to see the light of day.  Long live the Party Pic!!

Another thing to feel good about:  I learned from my mistakes.  Apparently, the 90s are in again.  If you spent the mid-90s dressed as I did, this will come as quite a shock.  Did you ever think the fashion trifecta of birkenstocks, cut-offs, and flannel shirts would ever reappear?  Neither did I.  Honestly, when I look back on my college days, I wonder how I managed to talk anyone into going with me to all those date functions when my wardrobe consisted largely of thrift-store Levi’s, hiking boots, and over-sized t-shirts.  Here’s where the happy part comes in:  I know better now.  With age, comes wisdom.  At least when it comes to the appropriate times to wear flannel.

And, finally, this:

Matthew McConaughey’s screen debut.  Alright, alright, alright . . .

Stay tuned for next week’s #FGF with some road trip tunes just in time for Labor Day!

xo, jen

Feel Good Friday: If I Had a Boat . . .

Happy Friday, y’all!

It’s been a busy week here.  Summer is winding down, school is gearing back up, and our entire house seems to be full of movement and change.   Our younger daughter is hard at work packing for college (even as I write!) and our older daughter is sorting her gear for a road trip out west before she moves to The Big City.  It’s bittersweet watching them head off into the next phases of their lives:  I’ll miss them terribly, but so much lies ahead for both of them!

Before the girls head off, we are taking a quick trip to visit my dad and see Lyle Lovett & His Large Band.  After seeing Lyle in concert for the first time, my husband declared him “the coolest guy on the planet.”  It’s hard to disagree.  I mean, just look at that hat.

Lyle Lovett

The Coolest Guy on the Planet

Tunes

I’m sure it will come as no surprise, then, that as I was thinking about songs for this week’s Feel Good Friday playlist, Lyle came to mind.  I’ve loved his music for years.  I can still remember where I was the first time I heard “If I Had a Boat”–riding out to Marin in the backseat of my friend Molly’s car almost 20 years ago.  We were barely out of college without a care in the world, but at least Molly had really great taste in music.  My how time flies . . .  And now, all these years later, I get to share a night with Lyle with my dad and the girls.

This week, you’ll find Lyle, Lucinda, John Prine, and a few other Texas songwriters in the lineup.  So grab yourself a Shiner and a seat on the porch, and ease your way into the weekend.   As always, you can find the playlist on #Spotify @townscout and right here.

Tasty Treats

When I think of Lyle, I think of Texas.  And when I think of Texas, I think of brisket at Saltlick and tex-mex at Ninfa’s and some Shiners and margaritas.  I can’t get to Saltlick too easily these days, but lucky for me–and the rest of Charleston–real-deal, Texas pitmaster John Lewis moved here from Austin a few years ago and has finally (prayers answered!!) opened his own shop.  Lewis Barbecue is legit and I may or may not have eaten my way through half the menu in a few short weeks.  May I make a suggestion?  Try the El Sancho–it comes with Hot Guts.

Lewis BBQ

The El Sancho at Lewis Barbecue (with a side of green chile corn pudding)

 

Now, there’s zero chance I am going to be firing up a pit and smoking brisket in my backyard any time soon.  I have some skills, but they do not involve me cooking over an open flame.  Brisket does make a girl thirsty, though, and I can definitely handle mixing up a tasty drink or two.

Like maybe this tasty tequila & watermelon fresca from the folks at Lewis.

watermelon cocktail

Tasty Tequila & Watermelon Fresca from Lewis // Photo: Eater

 

When all else fails, I can always head back to Lewis and order a house margarita at the outdoor bar.  Black lava salt?  Yes, please.

margarita recipe

Lewis House Margarita with Black Lava Salt

 

Happiness

When it comes to happy thoughts for the week, how about this trifecta:  Simone Biles, Michael Phelps (x22), and R. Eric Thomas.

If you haven’t been reading Eric Reads the News, you haven’t lived.  You’re also going to want to follow him on twitter and every other form of social media.  You can thank me later.

That’s a wrap for this week.  Happy weekend, and here’s a smile to warm your hearts!!

xo, jen

Simone Biles

 

 

Feel Good Friday: Hot Fun in the Summertime

Happy Friday, y’all!  It’s the second week of Feel Good Friday and what a fun week it’s been!

I spent Monday afternoon visiting with local artist, Marissa Vogl, of Meyer Vogl Gallery chatting all about birds and painting, favorite places and families.  I stopped in to do a gallery tour for the #birdsbymarissavogl One-Day Sale, and almost two hours later we were having such a good time that I forgot all about the fact my AC repairman was on his way.  Oops!  Time flies when you’re having fun!  You can check out a few videos of my chat with Marissa on Facebook.

charleston art

Sun Salutation by Marissa Vogl // Photo:  Meyer Vogl Gallery

 

PS:  A little birdie told me (sorry, couldn’t help it) that there may be a bird or two–maybe even this guy!–who hasn’t yet found his forever home.  Make your space a happier place and take one home!  Email info@meyervogl.com for details 🙂

Now, on to this week’s Feel Good Friday trifecta:  tunes, treat, and happiness.  Here we go . . . Feel Good Friday:  Week Two!

Tunes

Last week I was feeling nostalgic and took a stroll down memory lane with FGF:  80s Retro Edition. Maybe it’s the fact our AC was out for five LONG days, or maybe it’s because the heat index reached triple digits, or (more likely) a combination of the two, but this week’s playlist takes its inspiration from Sly & The Family Stone’s Hot Fun in the Summertime.  Think:  Dancing in the Street and My Girl and Under the Boardwalk, and all those happy songs that put a smile on your face and make you actually want to go dancing . . . dancing in the street.

As always, the playlist is on #Spotify.

Treat

Something about those songs always takes me back to my childhood.  I was born in the 70s, but my parents were big music fans and their collection ran the gamut–from Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass (dad) to Tom Jones (mom) to Ralph Stanley (dad again) to The Carpenters (yes, mom).  I can still remember dancing around in my leg warmers to whatever album my Dad put on the console-sized record player in our living room.  (Raise your hand if you remember record players that were the size of small cars:  [where’s that hand-raising emoji when I need it??]).

Which is all a long way of saying, I was thinking about my childhood and those songs and reminiscing about the good ol’ days when times were simpler and big wheels were all you needed to be entertained for six hours.  And suddenly I really wanted a Nutty Buddy.  So this week, instead of a cocktail, how about some grown-up versions of an ice cream sandwich?

When I want a go-to, always delicious, she’s-reading-my-mind-because-that’s-what-I-want-to-eat-right-now recipe, I click my way to Deb Perlman’s Smitten Kitchen as fast as humanly possible.

Like yesterday.  I wanted something reminiscent of an ice cream truck, but something I would actually eat.  And what did I find as the recipe of the day?  Peach Melba Popsicles.  See what I mean about that whole ESP thing?

Popsicle recipe

Peach Melba Popsicles. The perfect way to use all of the peaches in your kitchen! // Photo Smitten Kitchen

 

If you look for savory over sweet, give these ice cream sandwiches made with saltine crack, which is one of those things us Southerners have been making for decades.  Yes, it involves saltines and butter and sugar and it is DELICIOUS.  Generations of Southern cooks can’t be wrong.  Deb takes saltine crack and elevates it to an art form.  Off to find that box of Saltines now . . .

ice cream sandwich recipe

Ice cream sandwiches made with saltines and chocolate. #YES // Photo Smitten Kitchen

Happiness

So far you have Dancing in the Street and an ice cream sandwiches and peachy popsicles.  Do you really need another reason to be happy?

Like maybe Maddie The Coonhound  with some sprinkles on her nose.

maddie the coonhound

The Always Elegant Maddie the Coonhound // Photo Theron Humphrey

 

Or maybe Maddie with Toast.  If you don’t know Maddie, you should.  She likes to sit on things–improbable things.  Theron Humphrey captures her personality in the way you wish you could for your own best friend.  You can see more of Maddie & Theron here and here.

Maddie the Coonhound

Maddie on Toast // Photo Theron Humphrey

 

Next up:  this pillow with a rooster on it from our good friends at Steve McKenzie’s in Atlanta.

decorating pillow

Why does this make me happy? I don’t know, but it does.

 

And, finally, happiness is meant to be shared.  Make someone’s day and tell them how great they are.  You won’t regret it!

happy quote

Spread the love.

 

That’s a wrap.  Happy Friday and have a great weekend!!  #FGF #behappy #fridayfeeling

xo, jen

Feel Good Fridays: Everything You Need to Get in the Weekend Mood

At some point yesterday, maybe as I was walking Georgia bright and early and dreaming about the coffee I was yet to have, my mind started wandering to Friday, the end of the work week, and the start of the weekend.  This thought crossed my mind:  It’s hard not to feel good on Friday.

An idea was born:  Feel Good Fridays!  Why don’t I do a collection of things every Friday to make people happy and get their weekend off on the right foot:  some tunes, a cocktail recipe, and something just to make you smile.  Wouldn’t that be fun?  It seems like it, so why not give it a shot?

So, here goes nothing . . . The Inaugural Feel Good Friday Blog Post!!

Tunes

Let’s get this weekend started with some music.  Who doesn’t love some feel-good 80s tunes?  No one, that’s who.  You can find the 80s Retro Edition playlist on Spotify here.  The handy image below was supposed to have links so you could click straight to Karma Chameleon and start your best singalong with Boy George (the original Chamillonaire).  Alas, my technical skills failed to measure up and those links, painstakingly added at 1 a.m., were lost in translation.  So you’ll just have to click on the entire playlist and sing along to every song.  If you disturb your officemates channeling Courtney Cox from the Dancing in the Dark video, well, honestly, who could blame you?

80s songs

Just a sampling of what you have to look forward to!

 

Drinks

Next up:  a refreshing, summery cocktail to cool you down at Happy Hour.  I mostly stick to wine these days, but I do have a soft spot for a grapefruit cocktail.  If you haven’t tried a Paloma, today is the day.  Tequila, grapefruit juice, lime, and soda . . . you can’t beat that on a sweltering summer afternoon.  Recipes vary, but I like this one from Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks because she uses real juice and soda (and generally knows her stuff when it comes to anything in the kitchen).  Let me know when you get the first batch ready.  I’ll be right over!

paloma cocktail

Doesn’t this look amazing? I’m getting thirsty just thinking about it. (Photo: Heidi Swanson // 101 Cookbooks)

 

Happiness

 

What’s left?  A few things to put a smile on your face.

These bulldog puppies.  The Citadel’s mascot had puppies and LOOK HOW CUTE THEY ARE.

Citadel bulldog puppies

The newest members of the Citadel’s bulldog clan. (Photo: Citadel Photography)

 

citadel bulldog puppies

I can’t. I’m overwhelmed with cuteness. (Photo: Citadel Photography)

 

This little girl.  Because we’ve all been there and probably could have used a pair of those shoes.

And this quote from Amy Poehler, because #truth.

amy poehler quote

Laugh, love and be silly. Words to live by.

 

That’s a wrap for the first Feel Good Friday.  What makes you happy?  I’m taking suggestions for next week’s musical line up.  90s hip-hop anyone?  Southern Rock Rewind?  Feel free to comment with any and all thoughts.  I’d love to hear from you!  #FGF #behappy

xo-jen

 

 

Recipes for Summer Joy: Easy Blueberry Cobbler & Tomato Pie

It’s Monday morning and I had blueberry cobbler for breakfast.  When it comes to Monday Motivation, it doesn’t get much better than that.

easy blueberry cobbler recipe

Cobbler & Coffee = Breakfast of Champions

I spent the weekend in the kitchen hiding from the heat.  You know it’s hot outside when standing in front of your stove and baking all weekend sounds like a great way to stay cool.  While summer in the South has its drawbacks (like that blazing heat), it has some pretty wonderful upsides:  sweet tea, vegetable gardens, and friends and family who love to share.  A friend went out to Johns Island and brought back baskets and baskets of local tomatoes, which she promptly shared with more friends.

My in-laws live in a beautiful small town in Georgia and my father-in-law and a friend have a garden every year.  They plant together, weed together, pick together, and I’m pretty sure sit under a tree and do a lot of talking together.

garden georgia

Fresh from the Garden

 

My older daughter visited her grandparents last weekend and came back with okra, squash, cucumbers, pink-eye purple hulls (raise your hand if you know what those are!), green beans, and more tomatoes.  Oh, and five gallons of blueberries from the family farm . . .

blueberry farm

Farm-fresh blueberries!

What does all of this mean?  I had a lot, and I mean A LOT, of fresh vegetables on my hands.  I fried okra, made squash and onions, and had cucumbers and tomatoes.  And that barely made a dent.  So, I decided to crank up the A/C, turn on some tunes, and cook a few old favorites this weekend:  tomato pie and blueberry cobbler, with a side of sweet tea.  Recipes below (and at the link for sweet tea!).  Happy Monday!

Tomato Pie

This recipe for tomato pie is the classic tomatoes, cheese, and mayo pie.  It’s 100% Southern, so if you’re looking for a fancy tart or something low-fat, you may want to keep looking . . .

The tricky thing about tomato pie is the crust:  all of that tomato juice can make things a bit soggy.  To avoid that, you can slice the tomatoes and put them on paper towels for 20 minutes or so, which will soak up the juice.  If you have more time, I like to roast them in the oven at low heat to bring out the flavor.  About an hour at 225 should do it.  Keep in mind that roasting will reduce the size of the tomatoes, so you’ll need more to make your pie.

Ingredients

A 9″ pie crust (there’s a reason god created refrigerated pie crusts; if you are a purist, you probably have your own pie crust recipe already!)

1-2 lbs. tomatoes, in 1/4 inch slices, roasted or dried on paper towels

Large vidalia onion, thinly sliced

1/3 c. Duke’s mayonnaise (I am religious about Duke’s mayo.)

2 c. sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

*********

First, dry out your tomatoes.  Roast at 225 for an hour, or place onto paper towels for 20-30 minutes.

While the tomatoes are roasting/de-juicing, combine the cheese and mayonnaise.  Add mayo as needed to get a pimiento-cheese like consistency, i.e. a little lumpy, but spreadable.

Preheat oven to 425.

Place your pie crust into a baking dish and use a fork to pierce the sides and bottom of the crust.  Bake at 425 for 9-10 minutes, just until brown.  Let cool.

Reduce the heat to 375.

While the pie crust is baking, saute the onions in a tablespoon or so of olive oil until soft.  Season with salt and pepper as they cook.

Layer the roasted tomatoes and onions in the pie shell, sprinkling eat layer with sea salt and pepper.

Top with the cheese mixture and bake about 30 minutes, until cheese is bubbling and brown.

Let sit for a few minutes before serving.  Tomato pie is great the next day, if there are any leftovers. . .

tomato pie recipe

Tomato pie . . . a little oozy, but still delicious

Easy Blueberry Cobbler

This recipe is adapted from Mrs. Whaley’s Charleston Kitchen, a book that is (sadly) out of print.  That little book was a go-to bridal shower gift for years.  If you’re one of my friends, you probably have it!  Mrs. Whaley’s recipe makes a deep-dish cobbler.  I’ve adapted it a bit for a 9X13 baking dish, which makes a bit more (and who doesn’t want more cobbler).  You can use any fruit.  I’m partial to blueberries and peaches.

Disclosure:  I made this with blueberries fresh from our family farm and it was one of the best I have ever made.  Ingredients matter, so buy local and help your local farmers when you can!

Ingredients

1 stick of unsalted butter (correct:  one entire stick of butter)

1 c. self-rising flour, preferably White Lily

1 c. sugar, plus a few tablespoons for the top

1 c. milk (not fat-free)

1 quart of peaches, peeled and sliced

1 pint of blueberries

*********

Preheat oven to 375.  Place stick of butter into 9×13 glass baking dish (use glass, not metal!) while the oven preheats to melt the butter.  Melting the butter in the oven helps to brown it, giving it a nutty flavor.

Combine the flour and one cup of the sugar in a medium bowl.  Add the milk and stir until just combined.

Pour the batter over the melted butter.   Do not stir!  You may be tempted, but trust me.  Don’t.

If you are using two types of fruit, combine them in a bowl to mix them up, then pour into the baking dish.  Again:  do not stir!  

Sprinkle the top with a few spoonfuls of sugar and bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes, until the top is golden and bubbly.

Cool for a few minutes, then serve with ice cream or a pat of butter for summertime bliss.

May I also suggest cobbler for breakfast . . . it’s a good way to start your day:)

easy blueberry cobbler

Fresh from the oven blueberry cobbler

Mother’s Day Gifts That Will Warm Her Heart

There are only a few rules when it comes to Mother’s Day:  tell your mother you are grateful for everything she does for you; tell your wife you are lucky to have her; and tell your children to love their mamas.  That’s really all Mother’s Day is about:  saying thank you to the women who are the heart of our families and without whom holidays, birthdays, graduation days, summer days, school days, and run-of-the-mill Tuesdays would not be the same.  You know who you are, ladies, and we love all of you.

If you are thinking maybe you also want to give your mother a more tangible illustration of your affection, we pulled together a few of our favorite things for the favorite woman in your life.   Hopefully this list will inspire you and make your shopping a little bit easier (husbands, we’re talking to you here).  Read on, and remember to love your mamas!

You Can’t Go Wrong With Pretty Flowers

Everyone loves beautiful things, and that goes double for flowers.  Pick up a bundle of her favorite blooms and brighten her entire week.  Not sure of her flower-of-choice?  Go with her favorite color.  And if you live in Charleston, go to Flowershop for natural, graceful arrangements so pretty she’ll smile all day.  (Hint:  Peonies are at their peak around Mother’s Day.   Who better to guide your Mother’s Day flower selection than Mother Nature?).  Flowershop, flowershopchs.com, 125 1/2 Spring Street, Charleston, SC 29403.

Pink flowers mother's day

Pretty in Pink at Flowershop (Photography: Olivia Rae James)

 

Every Woman Loves A Notebook

Women live by lists:  to-do lists, grocery lists, Christmas lists . . . the list goes on.  Why not give her something pretty to organize all of those thoughts, ideas, and important reminders (make Rice Krispie Treats; hide from teenage daughter; remember where you hid them).  I love Smythson’s bright and witty Panama Notebooks.  Filled with Smythson’s iconic blue paper, covered in cross-grain leather, and sized perfectly for a purse pocket.  The clever covers add a personal touch.  I’ve been carrying Live, Love, Laugh for years.  My mother was more of a Make It Happen kind of mom (and she made it happen, believe me).  $80, smythson.com.

journal notebook smythson journal for mom for mother's day

Smythson Panama Notebook

 

Give Her A Sweet Memory 

They say the sense of smell produces the longest-lasting memories.  To this day, the smell of White Shoulders takes me back to my grandmother and that swirling pink Art Nouveau box of White Shoulders powder that sat on her dressing table.  Who else remembers these?

nostalgia grandmother perfume

White Shoulders Powder, straight from the 1930s

 

For Mother’s Day, why not give a favorite memory?  Charleston candle company, Candlefish, offers a fragrance library with over 100 scents, from green and natural to watery and fresh to epicurean delights.  Remember a favorite moment–a special day at the beach, the flowers in her wedding bouquet, a spot from your honeymoon–and write her a note about.  It doesn’t have to be long, but women love words and they will hold onto that note forever.  And with that note, give her a Candlefish candle with a fragrance from that day.  She will go back to that sweet memory again and again, and she’ll appreciate you for taking her there.  Starting at $8, Candlefish, candlefish.com, 71 Wentworth Street, Charleston, SC 29401.

Best gifts for Mother's Day

The Floral Fragrance Library at Candlefish

Be Graceful, and If You Can’t Be That, Be Gracious

My lack of grace is a long-standing joke in my family.  I come by it honestly, which my mom readily acknowledged.  She always said that grace and confidence will take you anywhere, but since the women in our family didn’t exactly have the former we had to make up for it with graciousness.  There’s an entire generation for whom graciousness is an art form.  Step into my mother-in-law’s house and you will instantly feel at home, like you’ve known her forever, and that there’s nowhere you’d rather be at that very moment than sitting on her screen porch.  Within minutes, you will likely have a glass of sweet tea and a slice of her ever-present ten-layer cake.  That’s graciousness.  Let us keep it alive.

Enter Sideshow Press and their fabulous cocktail napkins.

cocktail hostess gifts mother's day

Sideshow Press’s Perfect Cocktail Napkins

 

Perfect for the gracious, charming, daring, and skilled hostess in your life (tip:  that is every woman you know).  Pair these with a bottle of rosé–it’s spring after all!–and some pretty glasses and she’ll be set. $25, sideshowpress.com, 25% off now with code MOTHERSDAY.

A Pretty Painting 

When I graduated from college I asked my parents for a painting for my graduation gift.  It was by a local artist and it was of a favorite barn I passed all the time driving along the backroads of Lexington, Virginia.  It’s bright pink and it hangs in my house today.  It makes me happy every time I see it.

Does your mom have a place she holds close to her heart?  Why not give her a painting to bring that place home?  The Charleston Artist Collective offers affordable original art by local artists, and 10% of the proceeds go to charity.  All-around a good thing.

Local artist Marissa Vogl paints sweeping landscapes of the Lowcountry along with more abstract pieces.  If those are a little too big for your wall or your budget, how about a sweet little painting of a songbird?  This fella is Looking Ahead . . . to Spring and all that lies ahead.  $400, Meyer Vogl Gallerymeyervogl.com, 122 Meeting Street, Charleston, SC 29401.

local artists in charleston

Marissa Vogl, Looking Ahead, 8 x 8, oil on canvas.

What’s your favorite gift to give or to get?

Happy Mother’s Day!  And don’t forget to #loveyourmamas!

xo-jen

 

 

 

Mad for Madrid: All Things Bright, Beautiful & Charming

I just returned from Madrid and I think it’s fair to say that I have fallen in love. Maybe it’s because my husband and I got to spend a few days together, just the two of us, but I suspect it’s more than that. You know how it is when it comes to love: when you know, you know. And in this case I do. Madrid is the real thing.

What’s to love? A city where shops and offices close in the afternoon and everyone takes their dogs out for a walk and has a real coffee break, complete with café con leche and pastries. A restaurant barely wider than a door frame that serves only champagne, cava, cake, and ham. A sunny neighborhood café playing jazz on a Saturday afternoon. People who smile at my broken Spanish and still know what I am trying say (usually: champagne, cava, cake, or ham). Really, what’s not to love?

Madrid, Spain

If you’re ready to take the plunge, check out the places I scouted below and start planning your trip! You can see more about Madrid on our pinterest board here. And feel free to share your favorites or ask questions in the comments below! #townscouttravels #inlovewithespaña

Stay

When I travel, I like to stay in places that reflect the city’s culture. The Only You Hotel is elegantly beautiful, thoughtfully designed, full of warm people, and totally welcoming. That is Madrid to a T.

Only You is less of a hotel and more of a home, complete with a living room, a library-ish bar, and a blue and white, sun-filled dining room.  I did a little work in the cozy living room, curled up next to the fireplace and resident rhino. Just across the hall is the hotel bar, which specializes in exotic gins and specialty cocktails. If you prefer to stick with wine (like me), you could do worse than the Albarino.  They even have Cliquot by the glass!

Rhino and cozy fire in the living room.

Rhino and cozy fire in the living room.

 

A comfy bed, waterfall shower, and floor-to-ceiling windows make the room a sweet resting spot when you make it home from your 10 p.m. dinner reservations.

Madrid, Spain

Get some sleep in the deep blue bedrooms.

 

 

Only You Hotel; 21 Calle Barquilla; onlyyouhotels.com/en/

Dine

Madrid elevates dining to an art form. From perfectly composed pastries to perfectly cured jambon, the plates at even the smallest cafés are not only delicious, but beautiful. After eating our way through the neighborhood, I pulled together a few of my favorites for your dining pleasure. There are so many more wonderful spots—just explore!

For coffee, pastries, and macarons visit Mama Framboise.   I could have eaten my weight in tartaletas, the two-or-three bite version of Mama Framboise’s famous tartas. You cannot go wrong with lemon or chocolate raspberry.

Mama Framboise; multiple locations (including the airport for last-minute gift shopping!); mamaframboise.com

Tartaletas and Cafe con Leche at Mama Framboise

Tartaletas and Cafe con Leche at Mama Framboise

 

You must have at least one meal at Gastromaquia. Lunch or dinner, it doesn’t matter. Just go there. We spent a leisurely afternoon in this tiny spot and did not want to leave. Gastromaquia is known for its rice dishes, but do not miss out on the goat cheese with a crisp honey shell or the grilled octopus in a creamy foam of sweet potatoes (!!).

Gastromaquia; No. 6 Pelayo near the Chueco metro; open 1:30-4 and 8:30-midnight 

Gastromaquia, Madrid, Spain

Gastromaquia

 

Dinner comes late in Spain. As in, the early-bird special starts at 8:30 p.m.   Fortunately, that gives you plenty of time to have a drink and ease in to the evening. Only You serves drinks in the living room as well as the bar, which means you can curl up beside the fire and sip your drinks. My husband swore by their old-fashioned. For a cozy spot, head to the tiny bar at Dray Martina, a lovely and gracious restaurant just a few years old. The bar seats only five or six and there’s a single table for two. It doesn’t get more romantic.

Dray Martina; 7 Calle Argensola; draymartina.com

Dray Martina

 

From Dray Martina, walk a few blocks to dinner at Taberna La Carmencita, one of Madrid’s oldest restaurants. Pablo Neruda is rumored to have penned poems there, and Lorca is said to have enjoyed a drink or two at its tiny zinc bar. If you visit, you can understand why. It’s beautiful and eccentric and traditional and modern all at once. Dark wooden benches, full-length windows and colorful tiles feel more like your favorite old kitchen than a fancy restaurant. The waiters’ English was on par with my Spanish, but we laughed and ate and had wine and it didn’t matter at all. Oh, and the food. I felt adventurous and took our waiter’s suggestion: bluefish balls. I can assure you that it would never occur to me to order fish “meat balls,” and I am so glad I did. Can’t wait to see you again soon, Carmencita.

Taberna La Carmencita; 16 Calle de la Libertad; tabernalacarmencita.es

 

Carmencita, Madrid, Spain

Dinner at Taberna La Carmencita

See & Do

There’s plenty to do in Madrid: the Prado, the Thyssen, the Royal Palace. If you prefer to get lost and wander, try a few of these spots.

Mercado de San Anton. Don’t be put off by the 1970s, non-descript architecture of this market. The first floor looks like a typical grocery store. Keep going. The second and third floors are filled with food stalls offering everything from tapas, spices, cheese, and ham to wine, coffee, and pastries. There’s a restaurant and bar on the roof and outdoor seating just off a pop-up art gallery. On the weekends, it is packed with locals and full of energy. 24 Calle Augusto de Figueroa; mercadosananton.com.

Jambon at Mercado de San Anton

Jambon at Mercado de San Anton

 

Do Design Concept Store. I stumbled upon this little gem while I was out for a walk. Do is a combination art gallery, housewares, clothing, and all-things-beautiful store. I loved it so much I went back and bought a few gifts for our daughters. I’m still thinking about a certain grey foldover bag in Spanish leather . . . non-buyer’s remorse. 13 Calle Fernando VI; dodesign.es.

Do Design & Concept Store (Photo: Do Design)

Do Design & Concept Store (Photo: Do Design)

 

Take a stroll along Las Huertas (or any street).  Madrid is a city where you can wander, take your time, and spend a whole day doing nothing more than taking it all in. It is a city full of surprises and charms, and full of people willing to be kind to strangers. We spent an afternoon walking up Las Huertas from the Prado. We saw some street art, stopped in shops and galleries, and took a break to listen to jazz and have tapas with a room full of locals. It’s nice to live like a local, if only for a weekend;)

Street Art on Las Huertas

Street Art on Las Huertas:  LOVE WHAT YOU DO

Fallen In Love with Charleston’s Best New Restaurant: Spero

There is no shortage of good places to eat in Charleston. You can barely walk down the street without finding an out-of-the-way bakery with out-of-this-world pastries, the locals’ favorite pizza spot, and a throwback parlor serving up deluxe versions of ice cream, hot dogs, and tots. That street—Saint Philip—actually exists, and I’m only describing a few blocks of it. Turn the corner and there’s more where that came from.

Parlor Deluxe, 207A St. Phillip St.

But sometimes you find a spot that’s special, that feels like home (if your home churned out sweet potato ice cream), where everyone feels like an old friend.  When you call and say, “This is Jen, can you save me a bird?” they know not only who you are, but also that you’re probably going to want a little kale salad to go with that bird—a.k.a. the magically delicious whole fried chicken they serve up every now and again.

That place is Spero and you should go there while you still can, before the word gets out and finding a table in its cozy space becomes pretty near impossible.  [Note:  It’s probably too late.  Spero was just named Charleston’s best new restaurant . . . the secret it out!]

Spero, Restaurant, Charleston

What makes Spero so special? Well, not to be too obvious, but the food is pretty amazing. A fried chicken sandwich that will bring tears to your eyes. Local clams taking a swim in a sweet and smoky broth (you’ll want extra bread to soak up every last bit). Roasted sweet potatoes and an aioli that is so good you may find yourself cleaning the bowl with your fingers. Not that I would know.

The menu changes often, which can be bittersweet. Something new to love? Yes. Always. Mourning the loss of brisket-filled steamed buns from heaven? Yes. Something tells me I will find a way to go on, though.

Kale Salad & PBR, Spero

Kale Salad & PBR

Spero, Restaurant

Clams & Sauce & Stuff

 

It’s not just the food, though. It’s the fact that everyone who works there is having a good time and wants you to do the same; that the Beastie Boys and George Clinton both make appearances on the menu; and that the wine list includes an insane muscadet alongside flights of Miller High Life. Executive Chef R.J. Moody and self-appointed El Jefe Rob Laudicina are clearly having a ball. Why not join them?

Spero is fun, a little irreverant, and the place I take everyone: my teenage daughters, my hip friends from Brooklyn, and—soon!—my 77-year-old, 100% Southern dad. He’ll love it. Everyone does.

Spero, Restaurant, Charleston

Spero, 616 Meeting St. #word

 

Spero, Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.; 616 Meeting Street, Charleston, SC 29403; limited reservations: 843.203.3255; www.sperocharleston.com.  Fabulous photos courtesy of Jonathan Boncek.

 

Hello, Friends!

It’s been just over a year since I launched townscout, and what a year it has been.

The idea I carried around with me forever has grown into a real-life business.  I welcomed my first clients to Charleston and had so much fun showing them my favorite spots for coffee, cocktails, and everything in between.  Along the way, I discovered new favorites, met some real characters, and continued to love the place I am lucky enough to call home.

Now, townscout is continuing to grow with About Town:  a collection of things we can’t live without, people you will probably want to get to know, and reports from our scouting trips, both near and far.  Oh, and maybe a recipe or two  . . .

Here’s to another year and a new adventure!

jen

townscout charleston townscout charleston

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