Into Summer

Hope everyone had a good Memorial Day! Daphne (below) discovered her love of sunglasses this holiday weekend and she is infrequently without them now – couldn’t help myself posting her adorable Sunday church outfit:

We kicked off this weekend with a Spoleto Festival “block party” for which they closed down a picturesque street in Downtown Charleston for an evening of dinner and dancing.  It was one of those beautiful, magical Charleston evenings. I found the dress I wore at an estate sale for $10.  It looks to be from the 1970’s and is reminiscent of this season’s MAD MEN wardrobe , and although it’s made of a totally synthetic material it has a great, almost Grecian design.  I had to buy a little spandex dress to wear underneath it but I think I managed to pull off the least expensive “evening wear” ensemble I’ve worn to date!

We spent most of Saturday at Mixon Bath and Racquet Club where Daphne also discovered her love of poolside lounging and developed a new appreciation for swimming (before this visit she was scared of the pool).  Not sure she is quite ready for lessons but I think I have a fun summer ahead with her!

On Memorial Day, The Grace Episcopal Church Tea Room officially opened.  This is when Grace Church on Wentworth Street (downtown) opens a volunteer-run restaurant for two weeks.  The food is excellent – all made by the volunteers and church staff.  It is the kind of genuine, Southern cuisine you can usually only get in peoples’ homes.  All proceeds from the Tea Room go to local Charleston charities.  Last year they distributed over $50,000 of Tea Room profits!

The desserts rotate out every day, depending on what is donated and the wait staff comes around during lunch with the mouth-watering options.  I am volunteering as a waitress there tomorrow (Wednesday) May 28th.  It opens at 11:30 AM.  If you live in Charleston, be sure to stop in an eat at this pop-up cafe (open for lunch only) some time before June 6th!  More details on The Grace Church Website.

And speaking of mouth-watering desserts I decided to give this classic, Southern summer dessert a try, a Lee Brother’s Ice Box Cake I found in the May issue of Garden & Gun.  It involves no baking so you don’t even need to turn on the oven, which is why it is a perfect for summer. I started on it quite late Sunday night and even though there is no oven involved, you need to build in a few hours after mixing it to stir and fold it along with time for it to “set” in between.  Best to start it before 6PM if you don’t want to be stirring it at 1AM like I did.  I also burt my pecans while trying to lightly toast them which gave it a hint of “campfire” flavor.  Oops.  It still got rave reviews from my family though, and I’d definitely make it again, and maybe even add in a second seasonal berry next time.  Given the color palate it is perfect for Memorial Day and would also be great for July 4th!


Summer Traditions

It is almost (basically is) summer, and today for the first time, I got a literal surge of excitement about the upcoming months and fun to be had!  I am kind of a sucker for tradition – if I like something I do it to death and am heartbroken if I can’t do it again and again every year afterwards.  (Below photo from our Glitter Guide shoot with Olivia Rae James last spring).

I have now been married, living in one city, and even had a child long enough to rack up some pretty awesome summer traditions that I’ll be holding onto with an iron grip!  For the past three summers we have gone up to New England (Rhode Island to be specific) to escape the heavy Southern heat (there’s nothing quite like a Southern summer, I don’t think I’ll ever completely adjust).  We’ve stayed in both Providence (such a cool city!) and spent some time in a coastal town called Watch Hill, that is just one of those perfect, idyllic places that almost doesn’t seem real. We are going back again this June and I am counting down the days. This is our family of three, just two and a half years ago on my daughter’s first real trip across state lines, I just love this photo:

Having a lunch on the deck at The Ocean House, a completely restored historic hotel perched on the highest point in town (and with the best views available) is pretty much magic. I even have a wonderful memory of crashing an elderly Bingo night with friends in high school that was being held in it’s basement, back then it was an eccentric and rambling monolith. It has since been restored to its current state of splendor:

Here are me and some of my lifetime (dating back to high school!) besties, with a couple babies in tow (and hats galore – a far cry from our bikini clad sun worshiping days of tweens) that same summer.  They have maybe the best lobster roll I’ve ever tasted, if you are ever anywhere near there, drop everything and go have lunch there:

But coming in a close second is the lobster roll from Abbott’s Lobster In the Rough, just outside of Rhode Island in Noank, CT (I mean, lobster deviled eggs???):

Another classic New England Coastal spot is Evelyn’s Drive In in Tiverton, RI.  It’s not nearly as divey as the name suggests and they have the most beautiful patio overlooking a cove where you can watch the sunset while you eat.  You can practically SMELL the New England Summer night air in this photo:

Also a summer tradition for me is drinking rosé. Pretty much any kind, cheap or expensive, I’m not picky. I could basically live off of it (and think I did, one summer when I was nineteen).  This was a great memory of having a lunchtime drink with a fellow jewelry designer Lorraine West (wearing one of her own designs) at The Coffee Shop in New York last summer.  She came to my first Bloomingdale’s Trunk show to support me even though we had never met in person prior to that day.

Lorrraine is one of those people with whom I instantly felt a connection. It’s rare and special to meet someone who you’ve known for such a short time who feels just like and old friend. And the girl is INSANELY talented, a true artist.

Back in Charleston, there is always the obligatory beach trip.  For me, this is a free vacation, a fifteen minute drive from our house. I am actually not that much of a beach person, I’ve tried.  It is a pretty big flaw of mine since I live in a coastal city known for its beaches. This is partially due to my Casper The Friendly Ghost complexion and also because of the large quantities of sand you accumulate when trying to go to the beach with a toddler.  This was me at my most relaxed at the beach, glad there is at least one photo:

So, truthfully, that makes me MUCH more of a pool person.  This year, we became members at Mixon Bath and Raquet Club.  The pool is already calling my name:

I forgot to mention that there is actually one way to escape the heat in the South without getting on a plane. That is to drive, as fast as you can, to the nearest mountain (usually between 3 and 5 hours, give or take). There are some stunning mountain towns in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains including Cashiers, and it’s neighboring, family friendly Highlands.  I visited Cashiers last summer with two of the best ladies I know, Allison Elebash and Sally Benedict:

And a little closer to Charleston is the mountain town of Brevard.  They have one of the coolest toy stores I’ve ever been to called O.P. Taylor’s. I think Daphne agreed:

And one last very special summer destination for us is my husband’s family’s lake house in Florida.  It is on a chain of lakes called Lake Butler.  Seriously, you’d almost think you were in the tropics.  There’s a pontoon boat, a little beach and a dock. The whole thing is just really low key and relaxing.  Plus, there are some fun day trips to be had on the lake, like trespassing at this person’s property when it was briefly abandoned and on the market mid-rennovation.

Looking forward to doing most of these things again this summer and maybe I’ll even squeeze in some work in between ; ) Would love to hear what your summer traditions are!

Meet Me By the Pool

Tomorrow night in Charleston I’ll be in good company styling the fashion show in the Spa at Charleston Place to raise awareness for skin safety this summer.  Tickets are $40 and are available online here and all event proceeds go to the MUSC foundation for skin cancer research.  Chances are, you have already been affected (directly or indirectly) by skin cancer.  This is a great cause and will be a fun evening! Here’s a little vintage inspiration I pulled for my two models’ looks. Happy Summer!

On Being a Mom and a Business Owner

It’s almost Mother’s Day, and in case you missed it we got a little shoutout on The Garden & Gun Mother’s Day Gift Guide, for which I am very grateful – it is one of my favorite magazines and brings together the best of the South. So, in the spirit of Mother’s Day I thought I’d share a few thoughts about being a Mom and a business owner. I have one child – my daughter Daphne – who just turned two. My husband and I absolutely. Adore. Her. She is the sweetest, happiest and funniest little lady and was practically born smiling.  I think this is because she knew she had to go easy on us.  She arrived at an inopportune time, by surprise, in the midst of a lot of professional upheaval and uncertainty for both my husband and myself.  All stuff we could have handled pretty well until you add a brand new baby into the mix, then it can start to feel like living in a pressure cooker.

When I decided to pursue this business full time, I always imaged that if and when I had kids it would be years down the road “one day.”  When that fine day came, I’d have an office and a staff, be able to take time off, have a steady income, etc. etc.  I’d bring the baby into work now and then and sort of bop around in a blissful state of new motherhood with my hair perfectly blow-dried while my business continued to blossom and flourish. Reality: I hadn’t even gotten it off the ground when I found out I was pregnant.  I had a small Etsy shop selling vintage jewelry and was well into making significant personal and financial investment in manufacturing my own line of jewelry, but was no where near having a real income from it, much less staff or even an office.  I was in too deep to get out but hadn’t gotten anywhere yet. In fact, even my newly and painstakingly decorated home office had to be frantically converted into a nursery as soon as it was complete (which judging by the response it got was maybe not a bad thing!) and I had to move down the hall like an expat.

The first meetings I attended with my factory I was pregnant.  I tried to hide this fact because they knew it was just me and I didn’t want them thinking I was not a serious client, or that I was going to drop off the radar when I had a baby at a time when I was trying to sell them on a long term partnership.  And truthfully, I think I was a little scared about whether I would be able to pull it all off.

The first year and a half was a blur – a blur of breastfeeding, lack of sleep, patching together childcare with some fun, amazing and hilarious moments mixed in. I stayed at home and worked when my daughter was asleep and was awake when she was awake. I did it all but I basically didn’t sleep myself.  This brought me to tears on many occasions, I never felt like I had enough time. Breastfeeding made me feel like I was in the military, no matter what I was doing I would have to stop every two hours and check in with my Captain. Even to this day, my Dad’s nickname for Daphne is “The Captain” because it can feel we are all subject to the impertives of a toddler.

But somehow, amid the chaos of new parenthood, I eeked out my jewelry line, my other baby.  I had been building up to that moment, as if somehow that’s where my work ended.  But, once it was out there, I realized the real work (like with parenting) was just beginning. I started traveling to try to get wholesale accounts, and do trunk shows in other cities as well as Charleston.  We relied on supportive friends and family to fill in the parenting gaps when I was gone.  My husband wanted to kill me and I suffered from a serious case of mommy guilt whenever I was away. And sometimes, that guilt was just at the sheer relief I felt being out of reach of the Captain’s orders. It is uncanny how closely building my business mimicked pregnancy and motherhood.  In some ways, Candy Shop Vintage seems like Daphne’s twin sister.  They have developed at similar rates, they have brought me joy and frustration and watching them both grow and develop is deeply fulfilling in a way that I struggle to put into words.

Just over two years in, I feel I’ve finally reached new ground, both as a parent and as a business owner.  As we all grew I came to terms with the fact that we were all going to need to get out of the house.  I enrolled Daphne in a wonderful, full-time pre-school and I moved my business into an office down the street.  These two changes alone have literally almost entirely restored my sanity.  The non-stop traveling I did in the first year and a half of my business has slowed as I am currently focused on expanding my line of Charleston Rice Beads, a product which enables me to spend more time in our home city of Charleston and with my family.

I take advantage of every hour of childcare Daphne’s preschool provides but when she is at home or we are together I try to make that quality time and focus on her only.  In the moments where it seems difficult to manage it all I think about the story I want to tell Daphne, not about the smaller difficulties, but the bigger successes.  I want her to see that doing what you love is worth fighting for, even if it doesn’t come easily because like being a parent, it is a privilege.  Happy Mother’s Day!

Lessons in Entertaining

When I first moved to Charleston six years ago, I felt like fish out of water – my cooking, entertaining and, well, good living skills were fledgeling at best.  I could throw a great theme party if given the right New York City loft for the evening, but candy bacon or mix the perfect daiquiri I could not.  Who was out there who could teach such a thing? Enter The Deans of the Charleston Academy of Domestic Pursuits. Nestled in our beautiful historic city, Suzanne Pollack and Lee Manigault have such a passion for living well it has boiled over into an elegant, hysterical and let’s face it – utterly necessary book if you are to keep your head above water in the choppy seas of domesticity.  “The Deans” as they call themselves and I partnered for an evening of lessons in hosting the perfect cocktail party.  Of course, I provided the accessories and they dropped their knowledge, albeit in a picturesque kitchen with with their trademark, tongue-in-cheek joviality.

Their newly-launched handbook of etiquette and recipes is a kitchen, coffee table and bedside staple – not to mention a perfect gift for the host or hostess who wants a brush up on their entertaining skills or add a few more recipes to their arsenal.  Thanks to the Deans for having us at The Academy for the evening and who make being back in school feel like a party.  Enjoy a peek into our lovely evening in Charleston!

All photography by Clay Austin. To see more, visit our Facebook gallery.