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It’s Game Day. Time for wings & chili!

Tonight’s the night:  Clemson & Alabama (again).  I’m just going to say right now that I’m #AllIn for the Tigers.  ? ? ? I grew up down the road from Clemson and I live in SC.  Pulling for any other team would be downright treasonous.  But there’s one thing we can all agree on:  Food.  In our house, game day means wings and chili.  It also happens to be FREEZING right now, which makes this chili even more perfect for tonight.  Oh, and they’re both super easy, even for a weeknight.  So, get your game gear on and let’s do this.

If I were making this tonight, I’d start by putting the dry rub on the wings so they can marinate in the fridge while I get the chili going.  Then, I’ll put the wings in the oven and get the chili toppings together.  By the time the wings are done, the chili will be ready to go as well.

First up, my husband’s favorite wings.  My husband loves wings.  Like, really loves them.  When we first started dating, I told him I made pretty good wings.  He was skeptical.  Just like when I told him I was a pretty good shot.  Needless to say, I was right (on both counts).  Honestly, I don’t know why he doubts me.  I am always right ???  As for the wings, he loves them–they’re salty and crispy and just really good.  Plus, you bake them, so they’re easy to make and easy to clean up.

Old Bay Wings

INGREDIENTS

2 pounds of chicken wings

Dry Rub

1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

Sauce (optional)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 tablespoons Frank’s Red Hot sauce

2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a small bowl, mix together the Old Bay, baking powder, and salt.
  1. Pat the wings dry with a paper towel. Place about half the wings into a large bowl and sprinkle with the Old Bay mixture. Add the remaining wings, cover with the Old Bay mixture, and toss it all around to coat.
  1. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and arrange the wings. You may need a few baking sheets, depending on the size of the wings.
  1. Put the wings (on the baking sheets) into the fridge to marinate. You can do this for a few hours, overnight, or for 20 minutes. They’re delicious every way.
  1. When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 425 and bake until they’re brown and crispy, which is usually around 30-35 minutes.

The wings are delicious just like this. If you want to add a some extra kick, dress them in the sauce below, which is also delicious, though a tad bit messier.

Get Saucy:  Combine butter, hot sauce, and Worcestershire in a large bowl. Add wings, toss to coat, eat.

This is a pretty picture of wings I found on the internet. I serve my wings piled up on a big plate, and I’m okay with that.

 

Now, on to the chili.  I found the original version of this recipe ages ago and I have revised and improvised a ton over the years.  If you don’t have everything on the ingredient list, feel free to use whatever is in your pantry.  A few things I do recommend:  Heinz ketchup and Hatch green chilis.  Alright, here you go.  Get out your big pot and start cooking!

Beef and Bean Chili

INGREDIENTS

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 medium red onions, chopped

6-8 garlic cloves, chopped

2 pounds ground beef (15% fat)

1/4 cup chili powder

2 tablespoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon paprika

1 small can Hatch green chilis

1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes in juice

1 14 oz. can pinto beans, drained & rinsed

1 14 oz. can white beans (cannelloni or navy), drained & rinsed

1 1/2 cups. beef broth

Ketchup

Worcestershire sauce

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat oil in heavy large pot or Le Creuset over medium-high heat.
  1. Add onions; sauté until brown. Add garlic and sauté another minute or so.
  1. Add beef and sauté until it browns
  1. Add chili powder, cumin, and paprika and stir. The mixture should be quite dark (that’s the chili powder). I like to let this simmer for a minute or so to let the flavors settle.
  1. Add the tomatoes with juice, beans, green chilis, and broth.
  1. Now, get a little creative. I like to add a few generous slugs of Heinz ketchup to the mix, which I’d approximate as 1/4 cup. It adds a bit of richness and I use Heinz for its vinegar-y flavor. For the worcestershire, I do a few shakes of Lea & Perrins.
  1. Stir it all together, bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for a while—at least 45 minutes, but I’ve let this sit on the stove for two hours before and it’s just as great.
  1. Top with sour cream, grated cheese, chunks of avocado, pickled jalapeno slices . . . whatever suits your fancy. Serve with cornbread, or over rice, and you’re done!

 

Enjoy, y’all.  And Go Tigers!!!!!!!

Dabo’s reaction after eating Old Bay wings.  What can I say?  They’re good.

 

Down to the Deadline Gift Ideas for Everyone On Your List

Procrastinators unite!  You are not alone, my friends!  Waiting until the last minute is a time-honored tradition in the Owens household:  My dad started shopping for my mom on Christmas Eve.  Every year we piled into the car and headed out for a day of frantic shopping.  Looking back on it, this “shopping while under duress” does explain some of dad’s infamous misfires on Christmas morning.  I still remember The Year of the Microwave. Yes, it was the 80s and it was (literally) a big deal to have a microwave. But, for Christmas? I will never forget my mother’s response as she unwrapped a not-so-small appliance on Christmas morning: Well, at least it’s not a vacuum. My mom’s ability to see the silver lining in any situation was unparalleled.

Word to the wise, gents: If you’re buying your wife a present and you think to yourself “this will really help her clean,” stop right there.   Put that vacuum back on the shelf and KEEP READING.

If you are looking at your calendar, counting down the days to Christmas Eve with increasing anxiety and need for Christmas Cheer, fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy  . . . and a last-minute gift guide.

I know, I know.  I should be adding in lots of photos and GIFs and links to R. Eric Thomas, but time is of the essence here and, honestly, I have presents left to buy, Peanut Butter Balls to make, and a dog to dress up like a snowman before I pick up my husband at the airport.  So, bear with me, put on this Baby, It’s Cold Outside playlist, and get in the Christmas spirit! ??????????

Gifts for the Men In Your Life

For the guys on your list, start with Townscout’s Gift Guide for Gents.  If nothing on there suits your fancy, you can’t go wrong with cashmere socks (trust me) or, this (NSFW) t-shirt for the Sturgill Simpson fans on your list.

Gifts for the Women in Your Life

My definition of a good gift is something you really want, but would never buy for yourself.  A few years ago, my mother-in-law gave me the most amazing pair of shearling slippers.  I would never buy them for myself–shearling! so fancy!–but I LOVE them.  I even look forward to the first cold day so I can wear them around the house.  In other words, they are the perfect gift.

Let’s start with Mom–she should always be at the top of the list:)  How about a cozy wrap to keep her warm all winter long?  I found two that I love.  This beyond soft cardigan from Barefoot Dreams Bamboo ($96) is so cozy I want to wear it 24-7.  If your mom is anything like mine, she would never spend $96 on a wrap to wear around the house, but she doesn’t have to know how much it costs.  That’s what Christmas is for!  PS: Oprah loves it too, so that pretty much seals the deal.  Hint:  If you live in Charleston, you can find these wraps at Gwynn’s and they’ll even do the wrapping for you!

If your mom wants a bit more style, this Rag & Bone double-faced wrap in port dresses things up, and the color goes with everything.  $425 at Hampden.

Moving right along because we don’t have a ton of time . . .

Every girls loves a little jewelry, and in Charleston we are lucky to have a jewel box right on King Street.  Croghan’s has been owned by the same family for over 100 years, and they have beautiful things for truly every taste and every budget.

I love a simple gold bangle.  Make it special with an engraving–words of love or encouragement, a favorite quote, whatever suits your fancy.  If your motto is Go Big or Go Home, then you may be in the market for Croghan’s famous double-rope bracelet.

 

 

For a bit of whimsy and a nod to our hometown, pick up a Gold Bug.  Crohan’s own Mini Hay designs all of the pieces in this collection, and I’d take home any of them.  The Love Train cuff is a fave, as are these deceptively simple studs.  From afar they looks so shiny and pretty; up close . . . they’re just so fun.  $160 and $60, respectively, at Croghan’s.

Last but not least, you can always find something truly unique in Croghan’s estate collection.  Like this little guy.

For Your Stylish, Smart & 20-ish Daughters

In case you weren’t aware, the 90s are back.  Sex in the City is a thing again, as are chokers and awkwardly fitting jeans.  [Small diversion courtesy of my daughters:  The “Which SITC character are you?” Quiz]  I won’t be giving anyone a pair of Blahniks for Christmas, but I do love everything from Neely & Chloe.  Their bags are classic and stylish–perfect for my daughter in NYC or pretty much anyone.  I’m particularly fond of this blue suede shoulder bag.  The photo doesn’t do it justice–in person, it is gorgeous.

And their smoking slippers are adorable.  In velvet, suede, and patent leather, stitched with fun designs they make a great every day walking around shoe.

 

Best of all:  you can order from the website TODAY and still get it there by Christmas!!

Other things your daughters might like:  a pair of Goldbug earrings; classic Charleston Rice Beads from Candy Shop Vintage (they’re in every color–something for everyone!); and these fun shades from Le Spec.

Loving these oversized olive & gold shades from Le Spec. $69 at Hampden.

Gifts for the Rest of Your List

Alright, we’re getting there people.  Hold on!!

Who doesn’t love a good book?

Some of the best gifts I’ve received are cookbooks.  My picks for the cook on your list:  Anthony Bourdain’s newest, Appetites; Jerusalem by Yotam Ottalenghi, and anything written by the entertaining-in-every-way (and Charleston’s own) Lee Brothers.

If you have an entrepreneur or business type on your list, check out The 16 Best Business Books of 2016.  I’ve been wanting to read half of the titles on this list and I just picked up a few as gifts (for others!! I promise!).

Want to inspire your daughters?  Or anyone else?  Give them In the Company of Women by Grace Bonney, the founder of Design Sponge.  In the Company of Women is a collection of interviews with over 100 women entrepreneurs, artists, and creatives.  I keep this on the table in our den to pick up when I need a little kick in my own pants.  It put a smile on my face to find my daughter (just home from college) reading it the other day.  It’s hard to put down, and it’s beautiful.

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Looking for a great hostess gift?  I love giving flowers–they smell great and they last.  Another favorite:  any of the gift baskets from Caviar & Bananas.   They do baskets for Townscout clients all the time and they’re always beautiful.  Added bonus:  they’re the only place in Charleston that sells my favorite coffee, La Colombe.  A good friend sends down pounds of La Colombe from Philly at random times throughout the year–Christmas year round!  But I digress . . . Get a C&B gift basket.  They’ve already assembled the perfect assortment; you don’t have to think at all (who has time for that?).  Note:  TODAY IS THE LAST DAY TO ORDER FOR CHRISTMAS SO GET ON IT!!

Miss the C&B deadline?  Have a party tonight?  You can’t go wrong with a nice bottle of wine.  You can make it a little different by tying on a Goldbug ornament from Croghan’s ($30) or pairing the wine with a pretty, teak S’well bottle (for when your hostess wants to travel with a chilled bottle of her favorite drink).

 

Last, but not least . . . don’t forget your furry friends!!  Get your favorite four-legged family member a cozy blanket from our good friends at Blankets from Emma.  For every five blankets sold, they donate a blanket to a pet rescue organization or shelter.  Check out their adorable website–it’ll put a smile on your face.  Just like this girl.

 

Georgia getting cozy for Christmas ????

Alright everyone, get out there!!!  You got this!!

xo,

jen

A Gift Guide for the Men in Your Life

December is in full swing and so am I. It seems like there’s a get together every night of the week, not to mention all the extras that come along at Christmas: presents to buy, cookies to bake, halls to deck. I am getting up earlier and working later, but somehow my to-do list keeps getting longer! Where does the time go?

Amidst the holiday hustle and bustle, there is good news. All those get togethers mean I get to see folks I don’t see all the time, and that means lots of catching up and storytelling. Since my husband and the girls are out of town, my dad has offered to help trim the tree, hang the lights, and get the house in tip-top, A-1, Clark Griswold shape before everyone is home for the holidays (which will be, in and of itself, a Christmas miracle).

The neighbors are going to love the lights this year.

It’s good to have goals this holiday season.

 

So what does that leave? Baking cookies and buying presents. I’ll enlist my daughters to help with the cookies, but the presents . . . they’re on me. And probably on you if you’re reading this.   There’s more good news though! This year I have somehow (inexplicably) started my shopping early and I’ve managed to pull together a list of some of my favorite things. No, not raindrops on roses or whiskers on kittens. Favorite gifts to give!   If you aren’t quite sure what to get your father-in-law or your wife (it’s okay, I won’t tell) or your favorite four-legged friend, hopefully you will find the perfect little something in these Gift Guides.

[Note to members of my family who have been known to snoop around looking for clues to their Christmas presents: I’d stop right now if I were you. Remember: Santa knows if you’ve been naughty or nice . . .]

First off, a little inspiration . . .

And Now, Gift Ideas for the Men in Your Life

I spent the weekend at The Garden & Gun Jubilee, which was SUCH A FUN TIME (wait ‘til I tell you about the fried chicken, but that’s a story for another day).   In addition to the food and the band and the dogs, there were goods from some of the best Southern artists and artisans you can find. And they were all in one pretty spot.  Thank you, G&G.

One of my favorites: Billykirk, makers of fine leather and canvas goods. I’ve used a Billykirk card case for years and the leather is beautiful—it’s aged so gracefully. Billykirk has Southern roots, but their flagship is in NYC. So, imagine my surprise when I saw brothers Chris and Kirk Bray embossing and monogramming up a storm at Jubilee! They’re as nice as they can be, and they make beautiful things. Really beautiful things.

Camera strap courtesy of Billykirk. The coolness is all on you.

Camera strap courtesy of Billykirk.  Bring your own cool.

 

You’ll find something for everyone on their website (if that something is not already sold out). One of my favorites: the “change is good” valet tray. Perfect if you happen to know someone who empties the change from his pockets onto the dresser at the end of every day (??).  $36 at billykirk.com.

townscout-billykirk-change-is-good

Change is good, and so is this valet tray . . .

 

Know someone who loves music? I do. For the tech- and music-loving guy on your list, check out Skybuds, wireless headphones that have incredible sound. They’ve won all kinds of awards and been written up in all kinds of magazines and, yes, they actually fit in your ear and stay there. They also work for your phone and come with a handy charger. But here’s what sealed the deal for me: When I was talking to one of the founders about them, he said “it sounds like the music is in your head.” Done. $249.99 at skybuds.com.

When you borrow the gift you just gave . . . #averymerrychristmas

When you borrow the gift you just gave . . . #averymerrychristmas (Photo:  Skybuds)

 

Do you have a hunter on your list? Or someone who likes hunting dogs and also bourbon? Pair this decanter set with a bottle of his favorite brown liquor and maybe you’ll get to help try them out, too . . . $86 at ggmercantileco.com

These dogs don't hunt, but that's just fine.

These dogs don’t hunt, but that’s just fine.

 

While we’re on the topic of outdoorsy types . . . For all of those guys who spend a lot of time on the water—fishing, paddling, boating—make them happy with super soft and sustainable gear from Free Fly.

Free Fly's Henley . . . soon to be a favorite (Photo: Free Fly)

Free Fly’s Henley . . . soon to be a favorite (Photo: Free Fly)

I love supporting local companies and small businesses, and Free Fly is both of those. And I also love giving folks things they don’t expect to love as much as they do. The bamboo shirt from Free Fly will become the shirt they wear every day because it’s so soft, it fits so well, and it looks so good. I particularly like the Henley and right now the entire site is 25% off with code HOLIDAY25. They’ll thank you for it!

Last but not least, for the man who likes to cook, especially over an open fire: the Smithey No. 10 Cast-Iron Skillet. Just to be clear right up front: this is one fancy skillet. It’s hand-polished (right here in Charleston) to give it a super smooth finish, and it’s heavier than the standard Lodge, which means it retains and emits heat longer. I have a special place in my heart for my cast iron skillet (it was my grandparents’, from way back when they got married in 1927). I used to think “they don’t make them like that anymore.” But, now, they do. $160 at smitheyironware.com.

Smithey Ironworks, No. 10

Smithey Ironworks, No. 10

That’s all for now! Gifts for the Women in Your Life soon to come!

xo, jen

Cyber Monday Round Up: Local Favorites & Special Finds

I don’t know if you’ve heard the news, but it’s CYBER MONDAY!!  Yes, friends, that means we can do our holiday shopping from the comfort of our homes, wearing our most comfy PJs accompanied by the beverage of our choice.  Hooray!

I am literally on my way home from NYC now (via in-flight Fly-Fi–thanks, Jet Blue!) and, after a week in the hustle and bustle of the city, I will confess that I am looking forward to getting home, curling up with Georgia, and clicking through some shopping with a big cup of tea by my side.  (Yes, tea.  Oliver Pluff’s Peppermint to be exact.  Because IT’S AMAZING.)

Georgia resting up after a busy week ?

 

For all of you who, like me, have been working or traveling or just too busy to shop until now, I have good news:  It’s not too late!  I’ve put together a list of the best sites for what’s on my Christmas list. Maybe it will help you, too!  And if you aren’t sure what to get everyone on your list, never fear!  I have been working on Holiday Gift Guides for your friends and family.  Stylish 20-something daughters?  Check.  Father who says every year that he “doesn’t need anything”?  Got it covered. Your amazing wife who does everything for everyone and never for herself?  Yes, even her, that saint.  So, keep an eye out this week!  You know my motto here at Townscout:  time off, well spent.  That’s especially true at the holidays.  I hope you can use the Gift Guides to make your holidays easier, leaving more time for friends, family, and all things merry ?❤️?

But first, make the most of Cyber Monday with these great sites–many local favorites, all awesome–which just happen to be having amazing sales TODAY.  In no particular order . . .

Distil Union: For the stylish tech lover on your list. Charleston-based Distil Union makes functional and fashionable accessories that make your life easier, like this stick-on wallet for you iPhone and these skinny wallets for men who like to keep things simple.  Today, you’ll find lots of items 20-50% off.  So get to it!

Sideshow Press: For the witty hostess and pretty much anyone else. Another Charleston favorite that’s made it big, Sideshow Press has a little bit of something for everyone.  From fun bar accessories for your favorite mixologist to loads of journals for your favorite note taker .  Save 35% sitewide with code SSPCYBERMONDAY.

Barware galore at Sideshow Press (Photo: SIdeshow)

Cocktail Time is Fancy with Sideshow Press (Photo: Sideshow Press)

 

Steve McKenzie’s: One of my favorite spots in Atlanta from one of my favorite husband & wife teams.  I love wandering through Jill & Steve McKenzie’s shop because I always find something new to love, like prints and pillows of Steve’s custom-designed textiles or this super cute Holidays Across America Jigsaw Puzzle. Lucky for us, Jill & Steve have an online shop as well as their gorgeous store and today you can save 30% sitewide with code cybermonday2016.

Get ready for family time around the holiday puzzle! (Photo: Steve McKenzie's)

Skybuds: Stop what you’re doing right now and order these wireless headphones. They’re made for people who love music and they fit all the way into your ear, which means they don’t fall out and they offer natural noise-cancellation.  As one of the founders said when I talked to him last week, “it’s like the music is in your head.”  Yes, please.  Get them today and save 25% with code BLACKFRIDAY. That’s over $50!  So get that order in pronto!

Leigh Webber: Local Charleston photographer, artist, and all-around amazing person, Leigh Webber, sells a few of her photo prints online.  If you’ve been to Charleston and want to recapture those memories or have moved away and are feeling a little homesick, there’s nothing like one of Leigh’s prints to bring back those happy moments.  Today you can save 20% off pure joy when you order from her site and use code CyberMonday2016.

 

I still love Leigh Webber's photograph of Charleston during Hurricane Matthew

I still love Leigh Webber’s photograph of Charleston during Hurricane Matthew.

 

Charleston Magazine: Not just for locals.  Charleston Magazine is not just pretty, it’s filled with everything you need to know about our favorite town.  I love giving Charleston Mag as a gift to my friends who have moved away or who have second homes here—it reminds them to come visit! Subscription are 50% off (that’s only $14.95) with code CYBER until December 2nd, so spread the Charleston love and give the gift that keeps on giving all year long.

Free Fly Apparel:  I have mentioned my obsession with Free Fly’s bamboo shirts before.  They’re the softest things you can put on your body. I live in my grey hoodie and my husband has a few items in his wardrobe as well (you’re welcome, sweetie!).  They make perfect gifts for just about anyone, but especially folks who spend a lot of time outside or on the water. I paddleboard, and I love my long-sleeved hoodie for sunscreen and a little bit of warmth on the water.  Shop for your sportsman today and save 20-30% off with code SAVEMORE depending on how much you spend.

Neely & Chloe:  I am in love with everything by Neely & Chloe.  My black tote that I use every. single. day.  These adorable patent leather flats with whimsical touches.  THIS PLANNER, a collaboration with artist, Inslee Farriss.  The more you spend, the more you save–anywhere from 10-20%.

Love this planner from Neely & Chloe! Especially with the colorful sketches by Inslee ?

Love this planner from Neely & Chloe! Especially with the colorful sketches by Inslee ?

 

Alright, y’all.  I’ve got shopping to do.  And you do, too!  Happy Cyber Monday!

xo, jen

Thanksgiving in Charleston: Stay In, Go Out, Give Thanks

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  Yes, even more than Christmas and definitely more than Valentine’s.  I love that it’s a time when we get together with friends and family and do nothing more than eat a huge meal and be thankful.  No presents, no decorations, no obligations.  Just a big ol’ bird and some pumpkin pie.  And dressing.  Don’t forget the dressing.  (For those of you reading this who may not be from the South:  Dressing is what we call stuffing, and it’s served alongside the turkey, not from it.)

I also love Thanksgiving traditions.  When I was growing up, my mom and I spent Thanksgiving morning in the kitchen–cooking dressing and watching the Macy’s Day Parade.  Did anyone else have a favorite balloon?  And was it Snoopy?

Snoopy & Woodstock: BFF ? at the Macy's 2014 88th Thanksgiving DaA.

Snoopy & Woodstock = BFF ???? (Photo: Getty Images)

 

Even when I couldn’t make it home for Thanksgiving, I watched the parade and I always called my mom to see if she was watching.  One year I was stuck in New York for work . . . in a hotel . . . on the wrong side of Times Square.  As I was frantically trying to catch a plane home and find a cab that could get me to the airport across the parade route, I couldn’t help but laugh.  I called my mom–who was, of course, watching the parade and making sweet potatoes.  I may have been trapped in NYC by marching bands, but at least we could still watch the parade together!

In celebration of my favorite holiday I’ve gathered together (a slice of homemade pumpkin pie for anyone who knows that reference) some of my favorite tips for making the most of the best Thursday of the year.

Having Thanksgiving Dinner at Home?

 

As much as I love Thanksgiving, I do have one confession:  I never make the bird.  Never.  My mom left that particular task to others, and she was a wise woman.  If you fall into that camp as well, you are in luck.

This year one of my favorite local spots, Caviar & Bananas, is serving up a fabulous holiday menu.  How do I know it’s fabulous?  I’ve tried it!  C&B hosted a tasting earlier this week, so believe me when I say the bird is good.  Same with the brussel sprouts.  And the apple salad.  You get what I’m saying.  They have everything you need, from turkey and dressing to sides of all kinds to an array of desserts and sweet treats.  You can find the full Holiday Menu here.  Order soon, though!  Deadline for Thanksgiving orders is Sunday, November 20th at 2 p.m.!!

townscout-caviar-and-bananas-turkey

The perfect bird at Caviar & Bananas.  That would never come from my kitchen!  (Photo:  C&B).

 

The kind folks at Caviar & Bananas also put together some wine pairings for Thanksgiving.  One more thing you don’t have to think about . . . Give them a call and, if you live in Charleston, they deliver!  I may have sampled the Miraval rosé, and it may be delicious.

C&B Holiday Wine Faves 

Côté Mas Crémant De Limoux $15.99 (Champagne)

Pieropan Soave, $17.99 (White)

Miraval Cotes de Provence, $26.99 (Rosé)

Belle Glos, $29.99 (Pinot Noir)

Caviar & bananas wine and cheese

Wine & cheese from Caviar & Bananas. A great way to start Thanksgiving!

 

Prefer to Dine Out?  You’re in Good Hands at The Dewberry

 

You may be aware of my love affair with The Dewberry hotel.  If your family tradition involves dressing up and going out for Thanksgiving, look no further.  The Dewberry is offering a special Thanksgiving menu with carving stations, lots of sides, and, of course, pumpkin pie.

Thanksgiving at The Dewberry

 

If you want to REALLY enjoy your Thanksgiving, take advantage of The Dewberry’s Thanksgiving Package.  Spend the night in one of The Dewberry’s Signature King rooms and receive two tickets to the Thanksgiving Feast.  For details, give them a ring at 843-872-9065 or book via the link above.  Just remember to use the code THANKS when booking.  That’s won’t be too hard to remember:)

Around the Dinner Table

If your family is like mine, it covers a lot of conversational ground while sitting around the dinner table.  This year, we are a house divided and the debates have already started.  It’s getting heated and we are over a week out.  But I don’t really see what all the fuss is about.  In the highly scientific Which Thanksgiving Food Are You? quiz, you would obviously prefer to be a Green Bean Casserole (ahem) than, hypothetically speaking, Mashed Potatoes or Pumpkin Pie.  I mean, clearly.  #greenbeansforeva

That’s all for now, friends.  I’d love to hear about your family’s Thanksgiving traditions!  I will be in NYC next week with my daughters.  We’ll be at the parade, looking for Snoopy, so be sure to keep an eye out for us!!

xo, jen

Old School Sopwith Camel Snoopy ?✈️

Old School Sopwith Camel Snoopy ?✈️

 

 

How to Pack for Happier Flying of the Friendly Skies

In my old life, I travelled constantly—and I’m not talking short trips. I’m talking Europe, Asia, and parts beyond.  An eight-city, seven-day trip through Malaysia, Singapore, India, and Indonesia stands out as one of the more memorable marathons, er, I mean work trips.  Planes, trains, automobiles, and tuk tuks . . .

Townscout Tuk Tuk

Memories from one of my favorite road trips . . .

All of which is to say, I can pack.  As in, I consider my packing skills to be Olympic-level.  Two-weeks of meetings all over Asia?  I can fit that in a carry-on with room to spare. Overnight to NYC?  Child’s play.  Multiple climates?  More of a challenge, true, but I did recently pack for a trip to the Middle East and Scotland with both of my daughters and I still only had to check one bag.  Abayas, hijabs, winter scarves and boots, a Barbour jacket, and one checked bag . . . that’s gold-medal-worthy packing right there.

Townscout Travel in Middle East

Definitely not a pic from the UK.  Hello, Red Sea!

 

Right now, I am busy packing for a trip to Edinburgh and London to see some girl friends and celebrate birthdays, babies, and being friends for almost half our lives.  Where did the time go???  PS:  Keep an eye on townscout’s Instagram and Snapchat (@townscouttravels).  When I’m not busy laughing so hard I’m crying, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite spots in two of my favorite cities.  I just got distracted thinking about Ottolenghi and Dishoom and Valvona & Crolla.  So much food, so little time . . .

But first, I have to get there!  And, as you may have guessed, I have some tips for packing light and surviving long flights.

Five Essential Items for a Happy Traveler 

First Up: A great bag

I’m not talking about your carry-on, I’m talking about that other bag—the one that’s not luggage.  Choose wisely: this bag will hold your laptop, all the magazines you haven’t had time to read (New Yorker, I’m looking at you), your ziploc full of 3 oz. liquids, and everything else you will need for the next seven hours. My go-to is a tote bag, and I am IN LOVE with this roomy and smart tote from Neely and Chloe.

neely & chloe tote bag

Action shot of my new favorite tote from Neely & Chloe.   There’s a laptop and half my life in there!  It’s the ? . . .

 

The No. 2 Large Tote has a detachable zipper pocket to keep valuables handy (and safe!) and two pockets for easy access to things like your phone and boarding pass.  It’s big enough for my laptop and other essentials and, when I don’t need all that room, it has an inner toggle clasp to make it a bit smaller.  Did I mention it’s also gorgeous?  Perfect for the plane, the airport lounge, and a stroll around London!

Make Yourself Comfortable

Get comfortable?  On a seven-hour flight?  It’s possible, I promise.  Even in coach! (Full disclosure: I’m short, which is a positive in only a few situations . . . like not needing leg room when there’s not much to be had.  Gotta look for the silver lining, friends.)

So how do I get comfortable on a long flight?  Aisle seat, socks, a scarf or comfy wrap, and my own tea.  Do I sound like my grandmother carrying my own tea around?  Honestly, my grandmother met my grandfather in the 1920s at a costume party when she was dressed as a man.  Mama Lena probably wouldn’t be traveling with her own teabags.  But I do and I’m okay with it.

My grandmother, Mama Lena.

My grandmother, Mama Lena.

Now, back to getting comfortable . . . I am always cold, especially on planes.  If you’re lucky enough to turn left when you board, you don’t need to pack your own socks and blanket. If you’re sitting in coach, it’s best to follow the Boy Scouts’ lead and be prepared.  I pack socks to keep my toes warm and a wrap or a scarf that’s large enough to double as a blanket.

Townscout Scarves

A few scarves for color and some clutches for going out on the town:)

Oh, and the tea. Sleep can be hard to come by on over-night flights; drinking something warm tells my body it’s time to rest. While it’s easy to get hot water on a plane, it’s pretty near impossible to get a mint tea.  So, I make things easy and put a few teabags in my tote: ginger to tame a bad tummy, mint to help me sleep, rose to make me happy, and a black tea to wake me up in the “morning.”  My favorite mint tea is from Charleston tea maker, Oliver Pluff & Co.  I love the stories for each of the teas and the beautiful tins, and they also happens to taste AMAZING.  Mint was also rumored to “quicken the brain” and help with absentmindedness, not that anyone I know would be needing that ?

Oliver Pluff Tea

Colonial Remedy No. 3 from Oliver Pluff & Co. for the “occasional absent minde”

Look Good When You Get There

We all know that long flights dry out your skin.  I drink tons of water (and tea!), but nothing feels better on your face mid-flight than your favorite hydrating spray.  I am a fan of Mario Badescu’s facial spray with rosewater—it’s an instant pick-me-up, it smells amazing, and it comes in a 2oz. size that won’t offend the TSA.

Speaking of the TSA . . . given its limits on the amount of liquids you can take on a flight, I ration the available space in my ziploc bag by opting for solids and packing liquids that do double-duty.  One of my all-time faves (that you will find in my purse every day of the week and twice on Sunday) is Smith’s Rosebud Salve.  It’s been around forever and there’s a reason why—it works.  I use it for everything:  as a lip balm (it smells great and has just a hint of color), to cure dry spots, to protect nicks and cuts.  It costs $6, comes in a pretty tin you’ll never lose, and lasts forever.  What’s not to love?

Travel Essentials

It wasn’t until I took this photo that I realized I may be a tad obsessed with roses . . .

One thing I never leave home without: eye cream.  I know, I know.  Surely I could rely on a good moisturizer and skip the eye cream for a week or so?  Wrong.  There are some things in life I refuse to skimp on and eye cream is one of them.  And let me tell you this:  When it’s three in the morning your time and you’re getting off a long-haul flight, take a look around at your fellow passengers.  You will thank me for telling you to pack eye cream.

I am finishing this up as I sit in the lounge waiting for my flight to Edinburgh.  I can’t wait to share my favorite spots with y’all soon!  You can follow me along my (somewhat edited) UK adventures on IG @townscout and ?: @townscouttravels.  It’s a girls weekend–some pics will not be suitable for sharing, or that’s my hope anyway ?

xo, jen

Feel Good Friday: It’s Indian Summer in the South

Happy Friday, y’all!  It’s been a few weeks since the last Feel Good Friday and I’ve spent that time driving around the South, where summer is hanging on, not quite giving way to fall.  It feels a little wrong to be tailgating at college football in a heatwave (thanks, Georgia!), but I did have a taste of fall when I headed to Virginia last weekend.  The leaves had just started to turn in the Shenandoah Valley and I woke up to a few cool mornings in Charlottesville.  Oh, Virginia . . . how I miss you.

For now, though, I am loving the bright, sunny days back home and waiting patiently for slightly cooler days ahead.  And now, on to Feel Good Friday!

Tunes

This week’s playlist is a random collection of old and new, sing-a-long songs and songs you may not know quite as well (at least not yet, anyway).  You may find yourself riding down the road, windows down, doing your best Stevie Nicks.  You’re welcome.

Townscout-Road Trip

We’ve all been this girl // Photo: Averie Woodard

 

As always, you can find the Indian Summer playlist–and all of the others!–on Spotify.  Enjoy ?

What I’ll Be Cooking This Weekend

As you all probably know by now, I am a Smitten Kitchen superfan.  I’ve been reading Deb Perelman’s blog for years and, despite the fact I have never met her, I feel like she’s one of my oldest friends.  If you’re like me, you have a group of girlfriends who get together, share the latest in your lives, and solve the world’s problems all while cooking a huge meal and cracking yourselves up.  When I read Deb’s blog, I see her sitting in my kitchen, laughing along with all of my other friends, cooking up something amazing (and easy).

Which is all a long way of saying, I really like her.  And everything she cooks.  If you don’t know Smitten Kitchen, I suggest you check it out this weekend and also MAKE THIS CAKE.

Two years ago I had a pile of fall apples and no idea what to do with them.  I came across Deb’s recipe for her Mom’s Apple Cake and decided to give it a try.  I mean, if it’s from Deb’s MOM it has to be good, right?  It was.  In fact, it was amazing.  It instantly became a favorite in our house, to the point that my younger daughter would ask when I was going to make The Cake.

It may be 85 degrees and 95% humidity this weekend, but I’m going to pretend it’s fall in Charleston and make The Cake.  Too bad my daughter is away at college . . . maybe we’ll see how it ships:)

This is Deb’s recipe–word for word–from Smitten Kitchen.  I am not tinkering with perfection.

 

mom's apple cake

Apple Cake on point // Photo: Smitten Kitchen

Mom’s Apple Cake

For the apples
6 apples, Mom uses McIntosh apples, I use a mix of whatever looks good
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
5 tablespoons (65 grams) granulated sugar

For the cake
2 3/4 cups (360 grams) flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
1 cup (235 ml) vegetable oil (safflower, sunflower, olive and coconut oil also work, as does melted butter)
2 cups (400 grams) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (60 ml) orange juice
2 1/2 (13 ml) teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1 cup (130 grams) walnuts, chopped (optional and to be honest, we never use them)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a tube pan. (I use this one.) Peel, core and chop apples into 1-inch chunks.Toss with cinnamon and 5 tablespoons sugar and set aside.

Stir together flour, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, orange juice, sugar, vanilla and eggs. Mix wet ingredients into dry ones; scrape down the bowl to ensure all ingredients are incorporated.

Pour half of batter into prepared pan. Spread half of apples (and their juices) over it. Pour the remaining batter over the apples and arrange the remaining apples on top. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, or until a tester comes out clean.*

Cool completely before running knife between cake and pan, and unmolding onto a platter.

Do ahead: This cake is awesome on the first day but absolutely glorious and pudding-like on the days that follow, so feel free to get an early start on it. I keep it at room temperature covered with foil.

* Tip: The apples love to hide uncooked pockets of batter, especially near the top. Make sure your testing skewer or toothpick goes not just all the way down to the bottom, but does a shallow dip below the top layer of apples to make sure it comes out batter-free. Should your cake be browning too fast, before the center is baked through, cover it with foil for all but the last few minutes in the oven.

A Few Things To Make You Smile 

This pug in a blanket (you see what I did there . . .).

Townscout-Pug-Indian Summer

ready for fall, already // photo: Matthew Wiebe

 

My Ongoing R. Eric Thomas obsession meets My Ongoing Hamilton obsession.  Not sure I can handle it, but I can try:  Eric Reads The News.

townscout-Hamilton

And the Pulitzer in facial hair reporting goes to . . . // photo: Elle.com

 

Enjoy the weekend, friends!  Eat, read, and be merry 🙂

xo, jen

Feel Good Friday: A Few of My Favorite Things . . .

Happy Friday, y’all!  It’s 88 degrees here in Charleston and I am writing this outside, under a bright blue sky with 100% humidity keeping me company.  It may be September, but we are still in the throes of summer here!  I know other parts of the country are gearing up for Pumpkin Spice Season, but I’m not there yet.  It’s still smoothies and sweet tea, not s’mores and earl grey.  Which is a long way of saying . . . I’m going to go enjoy the sunshine!!

But first, a little Feel Good Friday to get your weekend off to a good start . . .

Tunes

This week’s playlist is courtesy of one of the coolest guys I know (about):  Sid Mashburn.  In our next lives, my husband and I want to come back as Sid and his wife, Ann.  They are each interesting in their own right as designers and taste-makers and all-around-cool people, and together they are One Dynamic Duo.  If you’re lucky enough to live in Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, or D.C., you can visit one of their stores, which are more like salons of cool than a retail shop.  If not, take a stroll through their websites and you will get a feel for their style and funky point of view:  Sid Mashburn and Ann Mashburn.  Here’s a sneak peak of what you’ll find at AnnMashburn.com.

townscout-ann-mashburn-collage

What’s New for Fall at Ann Mashburn (artful collage from annmashburn.com, not yours truly)

 

When you’re feeling kind of cool and ready to channel your inner Steve McQueen, check out Sid’s Top 40 playlist on #Spotify.

As an aside, I may have been so in love with a skirt I bought from Ann that I may have written her a thank you note.  Trust me:  if you have that skirt, you’ve thought about writing a thank you note, too.  Right now, I am thinking of writing her a thank you note for having a 2LP set of TLC’s Crazy Sexy Cool album available on her website.  If you don’t tear up when you hear Waterfalls, you aren’t human.

Favorite things TLC

Don’t go chasing waterfalls . . .

A Few Other Favorites . . .

Hermine passed through this week and brought with her a little bit of cool air–finally.  It’s still 88 and steamy during the day, but when late afternoon rolls around and there’s a breeze coming off the ocean, it starts to feel the tiniest bit like fall.  And that’s when I put on some long sleeves and settle in for a bit longer to enjoy the last of the long, pretty days.

Which brings me to my newest favorite thing:  this bamboo hoodie from Free Fly Apparel.

Grey Hoodie from Townscout

PERFECT GREY HOODIE!! With dog!! And thumb holes!! (Photo: Free Fly)

 

Free Fly is based in Charleston, truly a small business, and they make great things.   There’s nothing like supporting a local company, especially when their product is amazing.  They’re having a sale right now and it’s an extra 40% off with the code EXTRA40.  I do not get a commission or free stuff or anything–I just love their stuff and you probably will, too.  I even bought one for my husband for his birthday (surprise, sweetie!).

Alright, I know this is a short post, but I am running out the door to one of my favorite galleries for the opening of a new show with works by Laurie Meyer:  ROY. G. BIV. at Meyer Vogl Gallery.  I’m so excited to see all of the new works filling the gallery in a rainbow of color!   Just look at downtown Charleston in all its glory:

Townscout-meyer vogl-morning glory

Morning Glory by Laurie Meyer // On view at Meyer Vogl Gallery, 122 Meeting

 

 

Hopefully I will remember to post some pics to Instagram and Snapchat–sometimes I get a little distracted talking and enjoying myself and forget all about social media.  Oops!

 

That’s a wrap for today.  Get out and enjoy the sunshine!

xo, jen

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

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