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Yay!  My design world meets my real world in this design*sponge post.  They did a pretty great round-up of places to eat, visit, and stay in The Berkshires.  I left a little note in the comments giving a shout out to a few places mentioned – most of which you can find right here on my blog.  I love to see the area generate excitement among young like-minded folks, especially savvy d*s readers.

What did they leave out?  Any comments of your own?

We should campaign for a Columbia County guide next.  Hudson alone deserves a guide.

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I’ve just returned from Anuj’s parents house in New Jersey where we spent the day in a cooking class with Anuj’s mom.  My belly is full, my hair smells like roasted cumin seeds and Anuj is sleeping beside me (it’s only 8:30).  I’d say that makes the day a success.

Stupidly, we didn’t take any pictures of the process, but I did get about a half a dozen recipes for Gujarati lunches and dinners and a goody-bag of spices to go with them.  This was an event Anuj, his sister and I have longed for for years, not only to watch exactly how their mom whips up her delicious dishes, but to capture the measurements and techniques she carries in her head so we could try them ourselves.  You see, my mother-in-law (and many Indian women, it seems) don’t use recipes – they’re taught how to cook staple dishes at a young age, and make them enough over time that it simply becomes habit to repeat them.  So today, it was my sister-in-law’s duty to convert the ‘pinches’ and ‘handfuls’ to ‘teaspoons’ and ‘cups’, and my duty to take precise notes (and then eat the results).

In my post-gluttony reverie, I came across this Mumbai shopping guide at design*sponge, which reminds me I never posted about our trip to India in February.  That’s a big to-do, considering all of the design inspiration I came away with.  I’ve got 1,000+ pics to show for it, but I won’t break them out now.

While we didn’t get to Bombay (this is how Anuj’s family refers to it, despite the recent push to go back to the original name) on the February trip, there are a few stores mentioned in design*sponge’s Mumbai guide that we visited in other cities, like Jaipur and Delhi.   The stores include:

Fab India – this was the first store we stepped foot in in India, as it was right around the corner from where we were staying in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, where Anuj’s parents are from.  According to their site, “Fabindia links over 40,000 craft based rural producers to modern urban markets, thereby creating a base for skilled, sustainable rural employment.”

I bought my favorite piece of clothing from the trip here, it’s a raspberry silk kurta with gold detailing (similar color and fabric to my wedding dress).  They also have great home furnishings, at a fraction of the cost of buying similar items in the U.S. (this is a frustration you must quickly abandon in India or else you’ll go nuts.)

Anokhia friend recommended Anokhi to me before we left, and I’m so glad she did.

To me, Anokhi is India’s version of J. Crew: colorful, fashionable, mid-range in price, and it’s everywhere.  Their pieces are made by local artisans using hand-block printing, an Indian tradition that has become popular with contemporary craftspeople around the world.

Shopping fanatic that I can be, I had to go into every Anokhi we came across (four) so I could see how they were different.  The one in Jaipur is easily the best, both for its size/selection and organic cafe.

Soma – This was not on the design*sponge list, but I can’t imagine they aren’t in Bombay.  Another high quality brand that sells hand-block textiles made by rural villagers, Soma was my favorite store on the trip.  Their items for the home were so beautiful that I barely looked at the clothing, and left their Jaipur location with a queen-sized bed spread, tablecloth, cocktail napkins, pillow covers, scarves, and a few small gift items.

I will post photos of the city neighborhoods, forts and palaces we visited on our trip someday soon.  In the meantime, what are you favorite Indian dishes to eat or cook?

Images: Julia Rothman for designsponge, fabindia, anokhi.

Another pit stop on our trip home from Maine was artstream, a spacious, sun-filled gallery in Rochester, NH.  Rochester is about 40 miles south of where I grew up.  In high school, my friends and I used to drive all the way to Rochester just to go to the movies, because it was the closest movie theater.  You could say I lived in the middle of nowhere, and you would be right.

artstream is run by Susan Schwake, an artist, educator, and advocate for both emerging artists and the downtown Rochester community.  The large front part of the gallery has lots of eye candy, and in the back they offer fine art classes for all ages.

For those of you not planning a trip to NH anytime soon, there’s also an artstream shop where you can find affordable prints, or if you’ve got a bigger piggy bank, one of Amy Ruppel’s animal portraits.

Meeting Susan and visiting her inspiring space made me nostalgic for the small town life of my childhood and teenage years.  New Hampshire is where the country in this girl was born, and I think I’ve spent the last several years looking for ways to bring it back to my city girl life.  The house upstate is the most obvious example.  But also the interest in gardening, furniture projects, county fairs, yard sales, sun tea, food co-ops, and dirt roads.

Back to artstream.  From what I can recall, Susan also lived in New York for several years (Brooklyn, pre-hipsters) before embarking upon her dreams of moving to the country, running a space and building a sustainable career in art.  Her story sounded a lot like the one I have in my head.

Lisa Congdon

We did have an agenda for our visit: Ashley Goldberg.

Ashley Goldberg’s illustrations have been featured on places like Design*Sponge and poppytalk, but it wasn’t until I saw her latest series “Progress” that I became obsessed.

Progress, black I and II

I had this picture (taken by artstream) from the “Progress” show up on my computer for a few months.

The show was still running when Anuj and I were planning to drive home from Maine.  Naturally, we had to stop by so I could see it for myself.

Now one of them (“Progress, black 1”) is on our wall.

I love the scale of the piece, and the movement of the circles and lines – something about them reminds me of the rope mesh in a lobster trap.

Ashley has a blog you can check out here, and an etsy shop here.

On our drive home from Maine, we made a few stops.  First was LL Bean, where I wanted to check out their Signature collection in person.  The Signature is Bean’s attempt to have a hip, more slim cut and urban line, closer to that of the direction J.Crew has taken in the last few years.  Katy Elliot posted about it here.  Turns out, they don’t sell the line in the store, only online.

We did, however, pick up one of Bean’s cottage benches (in black) for our entry/mudroom, and it fits perfectly, though I’m second guessing the black as it’s turning out to be a dust magnet.  (pic is Bean’s, not ours) 

We stopped in Portland for lunch, and then visited my favorite showroom in town: Angela Adams.  Angela’s been enjoying a bit of a meteoric rise in the design world in the last few years.  You may have seen her partnerships with J.Crew

Or Ann Sacks

And more recently Anthropologie

But it’s her rugs I love, and have been lusting after for years.

Her designs aren’t for everyone – and not all of her designs are for me – but there are few that I find just beautiful.  And stepping on them?  Even Anuj was ooh and aahing.  Each hand-tufted rug has different levels of cushiness (made in India, natch).

Here’s pictures from our trip to her store.  Rugs as wall art:

(I love those dining chairs).

A peek of her furniture collection over one of her classic rugs, Ocean:

This one, called Canopy, is my favorite:

Here’s Angela’s inspiration pic for Canopy:

And here’s Jilly, a new design they had front and center in the store:

See the tufting?

The prices are beyond our budget, but sample sales happen about once or twice a year – only in the Portland store.  Anyone up for a last minute road trip?

View more rugs here.

Here’s a taste of our trip to Maine.  We seem to take the same pictures every year, but it simply can’t be helped.

More dramatic mist.

From the top of the lighthouse.

The sign originally said: “Park your cans outside, or wind up in the ice house.”  (I’m not so good at resizing the vertical pics.)

A fellow Scotsman heralding “Tea by the Sea” – an annual fundraiser for the island library.

We opted for “Bourbon Punch by the Sea.”

Some J. Crew model I picked up in shore.

Cocktail hour.

My favorite house on the island.  Rockwell Kent built this for his mother.  What a nice boy.

Lunch.

Dusk.

On our way home, I took a picture out of the car as we passed the crazy line outside Red’s, only to read about it a few days later (didn’t snap fast enough to get the line, but I got the sign).  I’ve never had one of their legendary lobster rolls, so I can’t speak to the hype.

Maybe next year.

So it’s been a few weeks.

We had a weekend in Louisville with friends, and fell in love with the architecture, bourbon and eco-business sensibility of the city.

New restaurants and shops are popping up in LEED buildings, visual and performing arts are in abundance, and the beignets are really, really good.

Churchill Downs was closed, but we drove up and peeked through the gates.  We’d love to return for a horse race someday.

Louisville was followed by the weekend of the killer windstorm upstate (actually, it hit the entire northeast).  I have never been in winds that loud or strong.  It was terrifying.  Between about one and three a.m. I lay panicked in bed convinced our windows were going to blow in.  The poor walls were quivering like a saw.  It wasn’t just the intensity of the storm that scared me – it was the relentlessness.  All night long that wind blew.  Some county workers came by our neighbor’s house sometime around two a.m. with a chainsaw.   Apparently one of their trees had fallen into the road.

In the morning, we woke to find our bird feeder had come off its post, a few small trees were down, branches were strewn about the yard, and a few of our deck cushions had wedged themselves into the bushes of our property line a good 2 acres away.

Now two weeks later, it has been the most beautiful weekend I can remember.  Spring has never hit me with such warmth and hope as it did this weekend.  Seventy-five degrees on April 3rd!  Daffodils pushing their way out of the ground.  Bright sun.  Clean air.  We opened every window of the house and blasted the New Pornographers and the Grateful Dead (strange combination, but it worked).  I baked an Easter cake.

Which we enjoyed with friends in Lenox today.

After a delicious arugula, grapefruit and radish salad.

Followed by lavender infused rack of lamb, scallops, potato gratin and barbecued vegetables.

We are full, tired and happy.

What’s Doing in Columbia/Berkshire County

Find out what's going on in Columbia and Berkshire county:

Columbia county: CoCo To Do

Berkshire county: Rogovoy Report

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