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September 27, 2008

Daily Candy: Charleston in Charge

I went to Charleston on a babymoon and had a blast (well, as much as you can blast when you're 5 months pregnant).... click further in to read my piece here, or go straight to Daily Candy Travel to read it there.

broad street!

Charleston in Charge

DailyCandy Goes to Charleston

broad street!

Drop the hoop skirt and step away from the juleps. With a booming food scene and a subtropical climate that invites four-season travel, Charleston makes a Southern drawl seem cosmopolitan, from the shaggy East Bay to the snooty Battery.

Shrimp and Grits
It’s not food; it’s an icon. At Slightly North of Broad (192 East Bay St.; 843-723-3424), they make theirs with local grits and house-made sausage. Or get your usual a.m. suspects with grits on the side at Hominy Grill (207 Rutledge Ave.; 843-937-0930).


A View with a Room
You’re in the thick of it at the posh Market Pavilion Hotel (225 East Bay St.; 843-723-0500) at the corner of Market and East Bay. Head to the rooftop bar for great views of the water and Old Market. For quieter charm, stay at The Battery Carriage House Inn (20 S. Battery St.; 843-727-3100) on the exclusive residential tip of the Battery.

Gadabout Walkabout
The grid layout, gardens, and architecture make this a walker’s paradise, but the heat and humidity can get sweaty. Skip the pricey carriages and call a rickshaw (843-723-5685), the ideal late-night tippler’s taxi.

yummy wreck!

Get Out
Drive or jog over the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge to Mount Pleasant and Sullivan’s Island. Rent a bike and get up close with birds, fish, and, if you’re lucky, dolphins in the marshlands. Follow the locals to Shem Creek to scarf down just-caught seafood at The Wreck of the Richard & Charlene (106 Haddrell St., Mount Pleasant; 843-884-0052).

Spendy Thrifty
Hit King Street for antiques (sourced from local mansions) at Palmer Davis Antiques (436 King St.; 843-579-2888). Miostile (346 King St.; 843-722-7073) has well-edited designer clothes and cute kids’ jammies. At open-air Old City Market (Market St., b/t Meeting & East Bay Sts.), you can score everything from estate silver and wooden toys to sweetgrass baskets woven while you wait.

so cute!

You’re in one of the older American ports, so you may as well get your history on. Hop a ferry to Fort Sumter, where the Civil War started with a bang. Live out Gone with the Wind fantasies at Middleton Place (4300 Ashley River Rd.; 843-556-6020), where 65 acres of beautiful gardens surround a 1740s house. The plantation’s restaurant serves Hoppin’ John, she-crab soup, and other low-country fare from recipes developed by renowned chef Edna Lewis. Or grab a cuppa at Charleston Tea Plantation (6617 Maybank Hwy., Wadmalaw Island; 843-559-0383), the only tea plantation in the U.S. Tea is harvested every eighteen days during spring, summer, and fall — and you can taste and buy the freshly harvested teas on site.

And about those tea leaves: We predict a great time.

September 13, 2008

Black Book Jet Set Guide 2008

The Black Book Atlanta Jet-Set guide for Black Book magazine -- this is a gift guide you can buy at Intermix, with fabulous clubs, restaurants, and shops to see and explore in major cities around the country. I updated and rewrote the Atlanta section!


Book Review: The Girl Who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson

I recently reviewed Joshilyn Jackson's novel "The Girl Who Stopped Swimming" for Points North Magazine. Read the review after the jump...


Book Review: The Girl Who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson
Points North Magazine, June 2008
By Melissa Bradley Diskin

Beyond Faulkner and O’Connor, modern Southern fiction tends to inhabit two forms: Gothic, with a scent-of-wisteria chaser, or Chicken-Fried, served up with an overly sweet-tart side of sass. It’s a rare homegrown author who can buck either trend -- so it was a distinct pleasure to read Joshilyn Jackson’s latest novel, The Girl Who Stopped Swimming. A strong follow-up to her previous novels, gods in Alabama and Between, Georgia, Jackson’s third outing begins slowly, unpicking a delicate web of family secrets, chapter by chapter, peeling back layers of contradicting memories to reveal the painful truths lurking beneath the best-laid plans of a guarded life.

“Until the drowned girl came to Laurel’s bedroom, ghosts had never walked in Victorianna. The houses were only twenty years old, with no accumulated history to put creaks in the hardwood floors or rattle at the pipes. The backyards had tall fences, and there were no cracks in the white sidewalks.”

At first, Laurel Gray Hawthorne is an unlikely protagonist -- an art quilter whose sedate life in a gated subdivision with her husband and 13-year-old daughter Shelby seems as pastel as her unassuming, neo-Victorian house. But Jackson slowly reveals biting details in a seemingly innocuous burlesque: Laurel’s quilts hide teeth and other objects in myriad small pockets. Her dead uncle Marty visits her at night, moonlight shining through a fatal bullet hole. Her marriage may not be built on the solid foundation she thinks. And when yet another ghost visits her one night in her master bedroom, the ghost of a girl whose mortal body is currently floating facedown in Laurel’s pool, Laurel’s carefully architected life comes crashing down, piece by carefully stitched piece.

Laurel’s sedate existence is contrasted sharply by the antics of her sister Thalia, an actress whose histrionics threaten to undermine Laurel’s marriage as well as threaten her reputation among her blandly suburban neighbors. But despite their differences, it is to Thalia that Laurel turns when 14-year-old Molly DuFresne shows up dead in her pool, setting off a chain of events that has Laurel fighting to decipher mysteries of her own troubled past while she slowly connects the dots to solve a murder entirely too close to home.

The tragedy eventually tugs both sisters out of their lives and back to the town of DeLop, a rusted mining hamlet abandoned seventy years earlier by progress, and home to what Thalia calls “The Squalid People” – otherwise members of their mother’s family. In DeLop, people “lived squashed up on one another, three and four generations layered into one falling-down mobile home or trailer. Half of them were meth heads, the rest were drunks, and girls Shelby’s age walked around dead-eyed with babies slung up on their skinny hips.” Their mother escaped that fate due to the confluence of luck, beauty, and a firm desire to put the town sins squarely behind her.

The horror that is DeLop becomes a character in its own right, as Laurel and Thalia battle to move beyond a shared, fatal moment in childhood that continues to send ghostly reminders into the present. In an act of charity, Laurel brings one young girl, Bet Clemmens, out of DeLop to visit her family for an extended stay, only to find that Bet’s stunted childhood makes her cling even more tightly to Laurel, her family, and all the normalcy they represent. And when Bet and Shelby disappear, Laurel and Thalia must tease truth out of the snarled tangle of their pasts and learn to work together, before DeLop’s barbed indifference ruins yet another generation.

Laurel’s journey toward her sister, and toward the truth of her past and present lives, necessitates that she reject both her mother’s whitewash of DeLop’s influence as well as Thalia’s dark hints of betrayal and rot beneath the bland exteriors of Victorianna. Laurel’s love for her daughter reveals as much as it hides, blinding her initially to the reasons for the girls’ flight even as it leads her on to a revelatory confrontation in the murky center of DeLop.

Jackson’s storytelling power lies in her ability to view both Laurel’s manicured life and her family’s knotted, horrific past with a sharp, yet tender, eye. Her descriptions of the ghosts and their hauntings are lyrical, even though murder shines through them like moonlight. Her depictions of Laurel’s fornicating neighbors and the sickly pathos of DeLop are by turns comic and barbed. The tale of two sisters and the lengths to which they go to save each other are of course the most interesting parts of the story. But the secondary tale, the story of how place and roots and family both form us and pick us apart, is just as important. “The past isn’t over. It isn’t even past,” said William Faulkner once, and almost a century later Jackson lets her ghosts linger, stepping over shag carpet and garden beds with an air of quiet, but firm, proprietorship.

September 12, 2008

Atlanta Peach: makeup maven Tracy Ewell

A recent double-spread Peach Patrol for Atlanta Peach Magazine's May issue on local makeup maven Tracy Ewell...


Title: Face time

Time and tide wait for no one, but for Inman Park makeup and skincare maven Tracy Ewell, bad luck and worse weather were just a hiccup on the road to a thriving business. Her upscale makeup boutique in New Orleans had just expanded to meet the demands of a burgeoning clientele when Hurricane Katrina hit a mere three weeks later, forcing her to abandon her grand opening and the city to the elements.

After ten days, Ewell returned to get her cats – “I broke into the city with guys and guns” – and tried to see what she could recover from the wreckage of her boutique. With no money from insurance, she was forced to ask one of her suppliers for a job. “Caudalie, the French skincare line, put me in Atlanta as an account executive,” she says. “But six months later I decided to go back to doing what I love, somehow, someway.”

Ewell pulled some money together and opened up a capsule makeup boutique inside Rockit Salon on the outskirts of Little Five Points. Nine months later she’d been voted best beauty boutique in Atlanta, but a bad fairy seemed to be presiding over the timing: her award went to press just as Rockit closed. Sure of her calling, Ewell persuaded her best friend to join her in Atlanta. Natalie Essaied packed up her belongings and left her job as a social worker in crumbling New Orleans. After a year and a half of working with children and displaced families, her friend’s plea to freelance as a makeup artist made her “the happiest person in the entire world.”

The partnership was a match made in heaven (or at least junior high): Ewell and Essaied have been best friends since the sixth grade, as evidenced by the school yearbook currently sitting on one of the store’s shelves. “I was the hippie girl who never wore makeup but always had been interested in the aesthetics of beauty, fashion and style,” says Essaied. “Tracy was my muse, and she would dress me and put makeup on me and write speeches for me in high school.”

The two found the perfect space to grow their fast-growing, word-of-mouth business in a charming rehabbed cottage in the heart of Inman Park. The calm, sunlit boutique’s beaded-board ceilings and whitewashed walls contrast with rugged wood shelves made from wood brought from New Orleans.

With hot-selling cocktail rings and pendants by Charles Albert, exclusive perfumes and lamps by Lampe Berger, and unique semiprecious jewelry by Lexi Lu and June Shin, business is booming, but it’s the makeup that’s the star, and Ewell and Essaied are their own best advertisement -- all clichés about dewy skin and enhancing natural beauty apply. The duo advises women on makeup, skincare, and brow shaping with a yin/yang tag-team style that feels as comfy as a slumber party, an approach that has nabbed celeb customers such as Dawn Robinson from En Vogue, indie actress Jennifer Coolidge and Rhianna.

 And the lines Ewell carries – Caudalie’s Vinotherapie skincare line, developed from grape extracts and created on the site of a centuries-old vintner, plus makeup lines by Susan Posnick and Face Stockholm -- are more than mere inventory, and you won’t find them in a department store, says Ewell. “None of these lines is corporate America – they’re more of an underground cult.” She unearths her faves in each line, citing her commitment to buying the most natural, skin-friendly products out there, such as Caudalie’s chemical preservative-free serums and Susan Posnick’s mineral makeup with SPF ground into the pigment. “We really believe in what we sell. We’re very picky as to what we use.”

Essaied chimes in. “Everything that’s here -- we’d love and marry it.”



In a natural disaster, I'd grab...

Ewell: Tola, my cat. The makeup kit. My portfolio, computer, phone, camera. Grandma’s jewelry and Tiffany lamp. My Lampe Berger, my buppy (childhood stuffed animal) plus water food gas and friends.
Essaied: Mimi,my cat. My iPod, old pictures, and important documents. Yaya's holy water, my gratitude stone and my favorite vintage pieces which cannot be replaced and my crystal collection.  

What makeup trend is overrated?

Ewell: All of them! I think trends were originally designed so that woman didn't get bored with their look, giving them options. Now I think the majority of trends are for marketing purposes. My advice, try new things but make the look...you!

Essaied: I think the only good thing about trends is that they can be a source of inspiration. The problem lies within the translation to mainstream fashion: often haute couture appears contrived when taken to the "street", and the same philosophy remains true with makeup trends. Best advice:  On a daily basis enhance, not mask; and when you want to look your best, don't be afraid to take chances; play with color and technique, because if you rock it with confidence and finesse, there are no rules, just infinite possibilities.


In high school, my style would best be described as...

Ewell: Artsy, fun, flirty, colorful, and classic. 

Essaied: Eclectic. I was more cerebral than stylish.


People are surprised to learn that I...

Ewell: Used to sing and secretly wish I was in a band! Also that before makeup I was a ceramicist, a photographer, and a graphic artist.

Essaied: Have a Master of Social Work and practiced clinical therapy and interventions with children for five years.  I was also influential in changing a law, lobbying both Senators and Representatives in Louisiana, by removing the spousal exemption from the Sexual Battery and Simple Rape laws, allowing the spouse to be prosecuted and sentenced.


What makeup item can you not do without?

Ewell: Susan Posnick Mineral Blush in Camellia, which can be worn on eyes, cheeks and lips! An instant transformation.

Essaied: Face Stockholm's Medium Quad Correcter Kit.  It conceals imperfections, neutralizes redness and blue undertones, and provides flawless coverage without feeling masked.


My favorite place in Atlanta is...

Ewell: Little Five Points, sitting outside watching the people go by -- it's like being in the French Quarter in New Orleans!

Essaied: Inman Park. It was the first place Tracy brought me when I visited Atlanta, it has an old historical feel, which is important to me. I think the area and the people represent the best of what it means to be a community. And not to mention it's absolutely beautiful.