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Stephanie Johnson is now on Instagram!  Won’t you join us?

Put your photo styling skills to work and you could win an entire organizational arsenal of Stephanie Johnson Mumbai bags – an ML Traveler, Jenny Train Case, and Martha Large Briefcase – in the color of your choosing:  fuchsia or turquoise!

Here’s how to play, in three easy steps:

1.  Follow @sjtraveler on Instagram

2.  Post your most creative photo featuring an SJ bag or bags and tag @sjtraveler

3.  Share your love:  caption the photo and tell us how your SJ bag or bags help you travel chic!

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Enter as many times as you like!  Stephanie will peruse the entries one week from today and personally select her favorite, announcing the winner with a mention on Instagram on Wednesday, July 16th!

Questions?  Email sarah@stephaniejohnson.com and she’ll be happy to assist.

Happy Instagramming!

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Stephanie-Johnson,-El-ideas

I had no idea what I was signing up for last week when I was texting with friend Jessie Freschl (of Covet Closet and Fresch Style) and told her I was en route to Chicago.  She pinged back that I should go to her brother’s restaurant and immediately got to emailing him.  Before I boarded the Chicago bound flight (for one night I may add), I was confirmed for the 7 p.m. seating and had completed the required pre-payment for the meal (a first for me).

I uber-ed over to the warehouse space in a largely abandoned industrial-looking dead end and the driver asked if I was sure I had the right address.  He insisted he wait for me while I sussed it out.  And here the adventure began as I entered the building to find an interior door with a sign reading ‘Get the EL in here!’  This was going to be fun.

Katelynn, who had helped me with my reservation and had inquired about dietary restrictions, welcomed me by name and sat me by the window in a table set for one.  There were only five other tables, a full house, and everyone else was already seated and enjoying a libation of their own bringing. BYOB and I hadn’t brought anything.  This was definitely the type of fourteen course meal (yep it’s true!) that would be best enjoyed with the perfect wine pairing, but alas it wasn’t to be as I’d forgotten this important note.  Chef Phil and team felt awful and offered me anything they might have hanging about including an open bottle of red that my server had in his car.  Hugely accommodating and it wasn’t even their fault.  I would enjoy these edible creations without interference from alcoholic beverages.

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Chef Phil introduced himself to the room and explained that he wanted to turn the idea of fine dining ‘on its head’ and that he encouraged the diners to come to the open kitchen at any time and observe, inquire, chat with the team as well as introduce ourselves to fellow diners.  He announced our first dish, uni (sea urchin) with black lava sea salt, shiitake, coconut pudding with wild trout roe, and said they hadn’t been remiss in not providing silverware:  he expected us to eat with our fingers and ‘lick the plate.’  Did I say this was going to be fun?  Fun and crazy delicious.  Not known to be shy, and when given the opportunity to actually lick a plate clean (in a restaurant no less), of course I dutifully obliged and loved every minute.  Successive dishes included ajo blanco, described as the precursor to gazpacho, with cuttlefish, garlic and green almond, and cherry radish with basil, shattered olives and white chocolate.  Other stand outs were the ‘French fries & frosty’ whose preparation had the kitchen engulfed in white ‘smoke’ and Chef Phil came around with a ladle and cauldron and finished off our dish with the smoky ‘ice cream.’  Not a wallflower, I visited with other tables between courses and the consensus among us was assuredly that this was the most creative food any of us had ever eaten.  When I spoke to Chef Phil and confessed that this experience had really shown that I know absolutely zilch about food and commended him for the pure tastes that came across in his food, he offered that he didn’t like to use foods or flavors that would mask any of the other ingredients in the dish.  Mission accomplished.  Michelin didn’t award EL ideas with a star for nothing.

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Stephanie-Johnson,-Harbor-I

The tranquil paradise of Harbour Island offers so much to experience, I couldn’t confine my trip to just one post.  For tips on my favorite Harbour Island resorts and restaurants, check out Destination Harbour Island, Part One.  Then read on below for Part Two of my Bahamian adventure!

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The preferred mode of transport here is the golf cart.  There are several rental options on the island and we got ours from Dunmore Rentals.  We woke early each morning and hopped in our dew covered cart to have breakfast and explore the island.  Morning excursions included the ‘Haunted House,’ visits to Goldie the talking parrot at Romora Bay, and feeding fresh water to Gina Valentina the manatee at Valentine’s.  Afternoons were ideal for ice cream runs to The Sweet Spot where we loved fresh mango and coconut sorbets, ginger lime and espresso ice cream.

Lil’ Shans is a tiny shack in the parking lot at Valentine’s.  This is where we found Luther, our captain for an afternoon of fun on the water.  He took us to neighboring island Eleuthera, where we saw giant sea stars dotting the clear ocean floor and baby turtles speeding along.  We snorkeled around a rock formation and fed the bright tropical fish and saw a giant sting ray camouflaged under the pink sand. We stopped in shallow water, where we discovered hundreds of sun bleached sand dollars underfoot. Our trip with Luther was the highlight for me and I can’t wait to return to those clear blue waters.

Bring a racquet and play tennis but you will have to bring a partner too.  Run on the beach where you are likely to see a tanned and toned India Hicks running with her Black Lab.  Soak up the sun and float in the ocean all day long.

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A visit to India Hicks’ shop The Sugar Mill will be where to find her own island batik bedcovers and sheets and bright nylon ntandy belts by friend Napper.   I loved my visit with Amy at The Blue Rooster, a well-curated island shop with island flavor and a high chic factor.  I found gorgeous gold jewelry, elegant beach cover ups and Stephanie Johnson bags!  Princess Gallery is where to find island entertaining essentials and local art.  I loved the Bahama Hand Print robes and napkins.  The gift shop at the Pink Sands Resort had an excellent selection of straw hats (that’s where I picked up mine), canvas espadrilles and colorful pareos trimmed in pompoms (I picked up one of these as well)!

Erela and I visited with Alice at A & A Hidden Treasures several times on our trip.  Alice hand weaves hats and totes and clutches and sells them in an open air space along the road.  Erela chose a cross body bag with a blue raffia butterfly and the word Bahamas embroidered on the back.  Alice personalized it with Erela’s name and E hasn’t taken it off since.

The best thing about this tiny island (it’s only 3.5 miles long and a half mile wide) was the people we met. Everywhere we went we ran into the same folks, mostly visitors like us, and unlike us this was not their first visit.  Harbour Island had been their special paradise for many years and we were happy to share in their secret.

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