Friday, December 16, 2011

Smith and Chang General Goods

My love affair with Smith and Chang General Goods (230 Pavonia Avenue, Jersey City) began with a classic Hollywood meet cute. Billy and I were on our way to Brooklyn to visit my sister and brother-in-law, and as we drove towards the Holland Tunnel I caught sight of a new store and yelled, "Stop the car!" He had barely applied the brakes when I swung my car door open in a mad dash for what I knew would be the shop of my dreams. It remains, to this day, one of my favorite stores of all time.

I've always loved the concept of a General Store. They remind me of my childhood trips to Oldwick, New Jersey—the town where my parents grew up—where we frequently returned to visit my grandparents' farm. Every time I step foot into the Oldwick General Store, with its creaky wide-plank floors and small town vibe, I'm instantly transported to the magic of my most beloved childhood memories. Smith and Chang brings me back to this very sacred place in my heart.

Alex Chang and Sawyer Smith have impeccable taste. Their store combines vintage American pieces with everyday essentials for the home. It's decidedly Colonial modern in feel, evident in the mix of brand new Lodge Cast Iron Cookware and antique brass furniture hardware and accessories. The space is beautiful—full of sunshine and propped to perfection. Many of my favorite belongings have come from their store: old tack boxes which I use in my kitchen to house cutlery and napkins; old yellowware bowls that I use for cooking; an old wooden towel rack; soaps, candles, and my favorite feather-topped pen.

Like all good stores, you leave with so much more than anything you could actually buy. I always walk out the door bursting with inspiration and a sense of community. Their new website captures the essence of the store, and what's even better is that you can shop online! There's something here for everyone on your list, so shop local, hunt for treasure, and be inspired.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Holiday Musing

I just finished eating the last of the turkey in my fridge. I'm already going through turkey sandwich withdrawal—that perfect combination of cranberry sauce and mayonnaise oozing out the sides ... God. Thankfully, I wrote down my menu so I can enjoy the same mouth-watering leftovers next year.

Even though I kept things very low-key, I think my Thanksgiving anxiety always lies in the fact that 365 days have passed since I last manhandled a turkey. It's like Groundhog Day every year, and while it was helpful to have all of the recipes written down, what I really needed was some experienced advice from me to me. Something like, "Don't worry. Just think of it as a large chicken." Or, "You made the pies the night before which was pure genius. Instead of waking up at the crack of dawn, you sipped your cappuccino while watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade. Well played."

Since I kept my Thanksgiving menu simple, I had more time to play with setting the table. 'Tis the season to be crafty! I decided to do a big flower arrangement, inspired by an old, rustic bread bowl my grandmother gave me. When I arrange flowers I love to gather different sizes and textures, all within the same color scheme. I bought the hydrangea and the eucalyptus berries at WholeFoods while I was on my Thanksgiving grocery run. Eucalyptus berries are one of my favorite go-to flowers because they look great with everything and they're very low-maintence. A few days later I saw the small cabbage flowers at the farmers' market and thought they'd work well. I bought a floral oasis and a cheap plastic container at a store in the flower district (28th + 6th Ave) so I could just rest the base inside the bowl.

The arrangement looked really beautiful on the table.

The hydrangea dried perfectly in the oasis and so I saved them for my Christmas decorations. When Billy and I bought our Christmas tree, I scooped up a huge pile of tree trimmings that were just laying on the ground; they smell amazing and look great strewn around the house. I used some of the branches, along with the dried hydrangea, to make a holiday wreath for my front door. I bought a wire wreath frame today from the flower district (now you know where to find me when I'm not teaching yoga) and some winter berries, which I thought would made the Victorian-looking dried flowers more modern and fresh.

Ideally it's best to work on a table, but I actually sat in Malasana and experienced some killer hip opening whilst I crafted. Using garden shears, cut off 12" pieces of tree branches and wrap 3 to 4 together into a bunch. Lay each bunch across the wire frame and wrap with floral wire. Repeat all the way around the frame until you've created the fullness you desire. I think a simple, green wreath is really beautiful. Last year I used eucalyptus berries with the Fraser Fir branches and I loved the different textures, all in green.

A homemade wreath lends something unpredictable to holiday decorations. It's also a feat worth celebrating, and the finished product hangs like a trophy on your front door. "I made that," you'll say! They also make thoughtful, inexpensive gifts that mean so much because the recipient will think of you every time they walk into their home.

Have fun with your holiday decorations. Making them yourself will definitely put you in the spirit of the season. Creating beautiful things with your hands is just another form of artistic concentration and self-expression. It'll be your very own crafty, holiday meditation.