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Archive for favorite shops

go . Sights and Shops in Downtown Asheville
[part 2]

A few weeks ago, I shared part 1 of downtown views and shopping fun from my recent trip to Asheville, North Carolina. It was an inspiring trip getting to see this quirky city for the first time, and today, I thought I would share part 2. I was in town for a conference on school public relations, and I actually stayed in a different hotel from the one hosting the events. That gave me the chance to walk around a good bit and explore some of the heart of Downtown Asheville.

Walking around the downtown area, I couldn’t get enough of the colorful buildings, sidewalk art, and the unique shopping experiences – all with a distinctly Asheville flair. Churches spires and doorways, art deco building details and both public and impromptu art captured my attention on every jaunt between conference sessions. I always enjoy looking at buildings and signs – particularly hand painted signs – when I’m visiting places, so I took time to capture a few examples to bring home for inspiration.

On one afternoon walk, a familiar name caught my attention… Kress. The fabulous art deco Kress building in Downtown Memphis is one of our favorite landmarks. The old department store chain has been preserved in Downtown Asheville as well. In addition to Kress, the historic F. W. Woolworth and Company building on Haywood, down from the Basilica of Saint Lawrence and Malaprop’s Bookstore, pays tribute to the department store era. Plus, what fun to find a historic marker commemorating Meridian, Mississippi native, Jimmie Rogers’ music career in Asheville right outside the Woolworth entrance. A good sign to go inside! It was great to see that both the Kress and Woolworth buildings had been reclaimed in Downtown Asheville as venues for local and regional artisans, crafters and small businesses. I found some quirky Asheville-made pottery in the retail incubator spaces on the ground floor of Woolworth’s. The venue also boasts an old 1950s soda fountain, which is on my list for the next Asheville adventure!

aSHEville Museum on Wall Street (with its twinkling lights) near the flatiron building offers a crazy, eclectic collection of artsy merchandise in the museum store. (I bought the children some pirate and princess crocheted finger puppets!) Plus, through rotating exhibits, the museum pays homage to girl power and the talents and legacies of women with walk-thru displays of memorabilia, art, and more. I also enjoyed visiting Bee Charmer on Battery Park. Bee Charmer features all things honey and bee-related, but most notably, a honey bar with the opportunity to taste local and a variety of hand-crafted infused honey options that are available in the store. From food items to skin care to wearables, Bee Charmer is definitely a sweet stop!

I’ve been looking through the tons of other photographs from my visit to Asheville, and reading some of the books by locals that I bought there. I’m looking forward to sharing a few more posts about the arts and tastes I enjoyed there. Stay tuned!

go . Sights and Shops in Downtown Asheville
[part 1]

Beautiful, quirky Asheville. There are places that grab you, that you immediately want to claim as your own. That’s how I felt about this vibrant, Southern mountain town. I had the opportunity to visit Downtown Asheville for a few days last month while attending a public relations conference, and I think it took my heart.

From Tuesday to Friday, I spent as much free time as possible wandering the downtown area, stopping in shops, poking my head down alleyways, and sampling the local cuisine. I found historic and colorful views, a love and commitment to all things Asheville-local, a penchant to spontaneous self expression, and an overwhelming sense of energy — really a “vibe.” Yes, there’s an unmistakable vibe, like something inspiring could happen at any moment. The jacket of a book I bought about the city described Asheville as “everywhere an easy gaiety.” That sums it up perfectly. The joy was so very easy.

The book, 27 Views of Asheville, came from Malaprop’s Bookstore on Haywood, along with the funky Only in Asheville tome. They were both on the recommended shelf of regional work, and kudos from the Malaprop’s staff carries good weight in indy bookstore circles. An iconic Asheville book seller and literary cafe since 1982, the store has a revolving door of events and author readings along with a stellar collection of bestsellers and unusual finds. After the public art, street musicians, and traffic bustle outside the door, the bookstore had its own buzz of book talk, event prep, and literary energy.

In Asheville wanderings, like in so many of the South’s urban centers, I found an inspiring mix of art deco ornament, historic structures, cobbled streets, sacred spaces, public parks, and the region’s overlapping colors of fall. What was even more inspiring was the obvious creative energy – community gardens outfitted with hand-made sculpture, outdoor artisan market areas, colorful facades, doors open with music outpouring, goods and wares pulled out into the sidewalks, and many shops proudly displaying not only a commitment to inclusion, but a list of wares available from fellow shops and artisans around the region. I walked back to my hotel each evening believing that each shop or restaurant or artisan I encountered knew they had something unique and wonderful to add to the world around them. Somehow Asheville seems to have created a place where those gifts are overwhelmingly welcomed and set on display for anyone to partake in the vibe.

On the last morning of my trip, I stopped by another Asheville shopping icon, the L.O.F.T., offering “lost objects and found treasures” since 1996. Squeezed into a vibrant street level and basement walk-down, I found quite a few treasures, indeed. Unusual books, ethnic memorabilia, gypsy-esque fabrics and decor, Asheville products, unique wall hangings, outdoor art and more. The color alone, displayed in every inch of the place, was enough to set my eyes in wonder.

Over the next few weeks, I’m looking forward to sharing some glimpses and thoughts from my morning visit to the beautiful Basilica of St. Lawrence, also on Haywood, the spectacular Grove Arcade on Page and Battery Park, a few favorite local restaurants, and some of the vibrance of the Flatiron area on Wall Street. So many memories that will stick with me! I think I love you, Asheville.


go . Sugarplums from The Peanut Shoppe


The holiday season isn’t complete without a few visions of sugarplums, right? It was drizzling on our last morning in Memphis during the recent Nutcracker trip, but we didn’t let that stop us from ducking into what’s become one of our favorite candy, nut and snack-attack spots! The Peanut Shoppe on Main Street — under the big “Peanuts” sign — has been around since 1949 when it was an official “Planters Peanuts” store. Mr. Peanut still graces the sidewalk sign out front and sits atop the 1929 antique peanut roaster, but the owner for nearly the last 25 years, we learned, has been Mr. Ridda and his wife. That’s his first name, and when he introduced himself, he explained it was pronounced, “Ree – DAH.” I was so thankful for the time Mr. Ridda gave us that morning and the wonderful Memphis experience he shared with us.

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The shop is only the width of one long aisle next to a series of display cases filled with nuts and candies, and what seems like barely enough room for popcorn makers and the nut roaster. The walls are filled with old photos, posters from various Memphis events, “Go Tigers” memorabilia and tins. You would think that a tiny spot like this would be more conducive to a quick pop in and out, but it usually seems like folks want to linger.  We did!  I guess it’s the warm smell of roasting peanuts and buttered popcorn, or maybe the wonder of so many spice-sprinkled or chocolate swirled nuts and shiny, sugary candy varieties.

Mr. Ridda was engaged with another family when we came in, which gave us a little time to narrow down some of our candy favorites (ha! narrow down was a bit unrealistic). When they left, he turned his attention to us. He learned each of the children’s names and promised to get their help with some roasting before we left. Our first selections were buttered and cheddar popcorn, so he demonstrated how to work the popcorn maker and showed us how he dripped the butter in. While that finished up, he showed us the antique roaster.

Mr. Ridda brought out a tall narrow black metal bucket filled to the top with peanuts in their shells. He let each of the kids grab a handful and then opened the peanut hatch on the front of the roaster and poured the rest of the bucket in. When he closed the hatch again, he showed us a small circle opening where he let each of the kids drop their peanuts in one at a time. We left them to roast, and he told us we had helped him make the peanuts that another customer later that day would enjoy! Mr. Ridda’s reward for peanut roasting… suckers for each, of course! We went on to finish out our selections, and Mr. Ridda — who I think will now forever be known as the Peanut Man in our family — made us promise not to eat any of the treats until after breakfast.

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We left The Peanut Shoppe with a near ridiculous variety of popcorn, nuts and candy, candy, candy. Our purchases? A bag of buttered popcorn, boxes of cheesy popcorn, ring pops, and carefully measured pouches of gummy bears, sugared fruit slices, jelly beans, yogurt covered pretzels, cinnamon pecans, sugared pecans, spicy pecans, and of course, peanuts! And, we left feeling that a unique part of historic downtown Memphis had become our very own! Sorry, Mr. Ridda… we didn’t keep our promise. We sampled some of these “sugarplums” right away!

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taste . Sweeteeth for my Sweet Tooth


I bought these for the drawings. I’ll just get that little confession out there right away. I mean, it’s just chocolate bars, right? And I’m a little bit of a packaging nut, so my online purchase wasn’t that much of a stretch.

Holy Wow, was I wrong in the “just chocolate bars” department! I learned about Sweeteeth, the Charleston confectioner shop that made these goodies in an article on Southern chocolatiers in Garden & Gun magazine. Now, I AM a pretty avid chocolate lover, so I decided I would give myself the little assignment of taste-testing all the featured shops in the article (good idea, huh?). The illustrations on the Sweeteeth bars convinced the designer in me that these should be first on my list.

I ordered the Sweeteeth gift pack you saw above from their website, where I learned that chocolatier Johnny Battles prides himself on “hand crafted chocolatey goodness with a twist.” It’s the twist part that makes my “Holy Wow” an understatement. Here’s a glimpse at the chocolate and some of the surprising flavors that will definitely get your mouth watering…


Dark chocolate, plus candied ginger for a snap and chocolatey popping sugar! Yes, if you’re thinking “pop rocks” you’re right on track, only more sinful. I think this one is actually my favorite combination of flavors and fun in your mouth!


This one was the first to go — in one sitting, which is saying a lot considering how very decadent the whole package is. It’s dark chocolate filled with Sweeteeth caramel and dusted with sea salt. Great sweet + salty gooey-ness — and kind of rich!


“Two great tastes that taste great together” gets a jolt in this version, where the “C” equals chipotle peppers. Yes, you read that right. It’s such an unexpected flavor blended with the peanut butter, and gives the bar a really smokey, savory flavor with just a tiny bit of spicy bite. The perfect pairing with dark chocolate and another touch of sea salt.


This bar is almost like a whole dessert. It pairs dark milk chocolate with dried cinnamon apples and candied pecans. Sweet, fruity flavor layered with that velvety milk chocolate taste make for a very nice chewy + crunchy combination.

I have to say that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my Sweeteeth sample pack, and it’s gotten me through several harried days of design deadlines — another true test of great chocolate. If I’m ever in the Charleston area, I hope I can stop in to see what other wonderful-ness they might come up with for the day to day chocolate cravings!


The packaging — Seriously. I think I saw a duckbill platypus in there!
The service — My online ordering experience went off without a hitch. Since then, I’ve also ordered a gift pack shipped for a friend’s birthday, and the Sweeteeth team happily fulfilled my request for gift wrapping and a personal message attached. Nice!
The creativity — It’s great to see how the creative spirit comes in all sorts of flavors down South.
The chocolate — Do I need to repeat my Holy Wow?!

Thanks for sharing a taste with me!

inspired by . Cookies with Santa


This weekend I was out of town and doing a little online window shopping with Terrain. I really love their collection of simple, nature-inspired products. I decided to have a little fun and collect a wish list of favorite finds for Christmas Eve cookies with Santa. Hope you’re enjoying your own sugarplum visions today!

1. Juice jars — an old-fashioned vessel for cold milk!
2. Striped paper straws — green is a nice contrast to the red suit!
3. Hickory wood coasters — to protect the holiday table! Handcrafted by American woodworkers.
4. Red-striped napkin — to keep those crumbs out of his beard!
5. Stitched side plate — a design a toy maker could certainly love!
6. Reindeer penny candy — what midnight Santa snack is complete without candy? And a reindeer to boot!

favorite things . Holiday Leftovers

If you’re ready to get in to the Christmas creative spirit, check out Collage Lab! I just ordered myself a pack of their “Holiday Chock Full of Paper” packs. It’s leftovers and scraps from old paper ephemera with a holiday theme — vintage papers, cards, ribbons, etc. You never know what you’ll get, but that’s such a HUGE part of the fun. I also love these packs of red, green & black letters and numbers from old graphic designers’ text kits (before the days of computers, kids). Oh the possibilities for holiday fun!

favorite things . Other People’s Paper

Daily PONDspiration [for the well-intentioned design nerd}… Yep, this inspiration will surely confirm my design nerdy-ness. I just ordered myself one of these paper packs from Three Potato Four filled with snipped specimens of paper and text from their curious collections of vintage items. The promise that each pack is curated from an “assortment of maps, tickets, stamps, cards, labels, signs, stencils and and all things old school” sold me for sure!

[I’ll keep y’all posted about what typographic loveliness arrives.]

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