Erin boyle is a minimalist with a penchant for a good story and a soft spot for an aged patina. A lifestyle blog, written by Erin Boyle, celebrating a practical and purposeful approach to a simple, sustainable life.
This post and giveaway is sponsored by Bridge & Burn, makers of classic apparel for men and women.
The light in the evening lately is, in a word, glorious. When James and I steal quiet moments on the roof after the kids are asleep just one flight down, the setting sun burns orange over Brooklyn. Our faces, the tree-tops, the silvery reflective paint on the tops of buildings and chimneys, are all cast in a golden glow. Rooftops are momentarily electrified. If I sound like a desperate romantic, well, guilty as charged.
Bridge & Burn is a longtime sponsor of Reading My Tea Leaves and this week they’re offering one lucky Reading My Tea Leaves reader a $300 gift card to shop their collection for themselves. As always, their shop is filled with practical and purposeful pieces, perfect for exploring with.
Here are a few just-released things that caught my eye—an ode to July heatwaves and stealing quiet minutes on close-to-home adventures.
A pair of shorts for adventuring in (many pockets included).
Each entry via email or bonus entry will enter you into the running for this Bridge & Burn x Reading My Tea Leaves giveaway. The entry form closes on July 18, 2018. A winner will be chosen by July 20, 2018. The winner will be notified by email. Once accepted, the winner will receive a $300 gift certificate directly from Bridge & Burn (to use online or at one of the flagship stores). By entering you agree to be added to the Bridge & Burn mailing list. Bridge & Burn sends several emails a month detailing new products and giving access to special sales. You can unsubscribe from the list at anytime. Apologies to international readers, this giveaway is open to readers in the US only.
See something you’d like to snag right away? Reading My Tea Leaves readers get 15% off Bridge & Burn items with the code RMTL15. The offer expires July 18, 2018.
This post is sponsored by Bridge & Burn, thanks so much for supporting the brands that support Reading My Tea Leaves.
My forever motto is less stuff, not more storage. But there are some things that need having and those things need a place to perch. In those cases, a clever solution is worth its weight in gold.
Enter our new bathroom shelf.
Our bathroom is tiny. It’s windowless and furniture-less. Until now, we’ve stored our few essentials on the back of the toilet, but it’s been a cumbersome solution both because of the toilet’s tendency to sweat and because of our children’s tendency to grab anything within reach and use it to festoon themselves or each other. In the midst of our bathroom updates, I decided it was finally time to create a nook to store our in-bathroom essentials: stain remover and laundry detergent for hand washing clothes, and, if we could swing it, a few extra rolls of toilet paper.
I didn’t want anything too imposing—or too temping for tiny climbers. Above-toilet shelving units abound and there’s no shortage of small space advice extolling their virtues, but I crave open space and our bathroom storage needs are small enough that I can’t justify the expense or imposition of a large shelf. (Indeed, neighbors recently moved out of our building and left a lovely unit of this sort curbside, but even at the very tempting price of completely free, I didn’t want the space hog.)
Instead, we now have a shelf where I least expected one: Above the doorway. The wall above the bathroom door is the perfect place for mounting a slim shelf that virtually disappears from view. A quick step up on the footstool we keep below the sink for hand washing and teeth brushing purposes makes it easy to reach for adults but far out of reach of kids.
It’s a tiny fix that’s decluttered the back of the toilet and made room for an extra roll or two of toilet paper at the same time. I can see it being especially useful in a kitchen, too, but really it’s a simple way to use otherwise wasted space, anywhere.
For the curious:
+ We chose the Brake Angle Shelf, generously provided by Schoolhouse Electric. We have thicker-than-drywall plaster walls so we had to get extra long screws, but the mounting was fairly straightforward and I love the clean lines of the shelf.
+ Somewhat unrelated but I know the questions are coming. I’m often asked about I how I manage to wear white/sleep on white sheets while also living with two small kids. The answer is two-fold: First: I try hard not to be too precious about this sort of thing. (What’s a grass stain but a sign of good living?) Second: I remember that most stains, if treated swiftly, will come out. Here’s what I use:
+ My very favorite stain fighter are solid bars of stain remover a la La Laundress Wash & Stain Bar. We’ve also had equally terrific homemade options procured from small French markets. Should you be traveling this summer, keep your eyes peeled. Nellie’s All-Natural also makes a stain stick that I imagine is terrific, but I’ve never tried it. “We” once accidentally spilled an entire glass of red wine onto our slip cover and we removed the stain entirely using one of these bars. Truly, every bar of this sort that I’ve ever tried has worked extremely well and I keep one in a small glass jar in my bathroom at all times. We were also given a bottle of La Laundress Stain Solution that we keep on our shelf. I’m trying hard to avoid single-use plastic, so I wouldn’t purchase this again, especially because stain bars work so well.
+ For regular hand washing needs, including daily washing of cloth diaper covers, we use Common Good detergent which we can refill locally at our grocery store. (If you don’t have a local refill option, stay tuned. They’re soon going to launch remote refills!)
+ For loads of white sheets (and other laundry) that we send down to the laundromat, we supply them with Nellie’s Oxygen Brightner and detergent (most often these days, Charlie’s Soap). We wash our sheets weekly! Does this keep them perfectly pristine? No. But our current bed sheets are all more than two years old and they still feel mostly fresh to me!
There’s a skinny closet in the smallest bedroom at my mom and dad’s house, a room so small that a twin bed fits in it with only a bit of room to spare. This closet is home mostly to the sparkly dresses that my sisters and I wore to formal dances in high school. The bright red mesh and sequined number that I wore to Junior Prom is in there beside other bedazzled and velvet-strapped numbers. In one twill dress bag are two plain white dresses.
Like my sister Cait before me, I decided to have my wedding dress made for me, rather than buy anything in a shop. By the time I was ready to get married, my tastes had changed significantly from high school and so I traded tulle and beading for far simpler organza and lace. More than that, the idea of entering a bridal boutique made me squirm. The chapter I’d read about the wedding dress industry in Rebecca Mead’s One Perfect Day convinced me that I didn’t want to go the conventional route. I took my quandary to then-local seamstress, Tara Banerjee. She sketched, together we shopped for fabric, and all thanks to her, I was able to wear just the sort of dress I had been picturing in my head but didn’t see reflected back at me in any shops.
After my wedding, I had my dress cleaned and I hung it up in the skinny closet where dresses go to likely never be worn again. But last week, when I was home at my parents’, I decided to slip it on. I can’t say precisely what had stopped me before. Custom? Fear of spoiling it? For who? Wasn’t the point to have a dress made simple enough that it felt like something I’d want to wear again? What’s better than a dress that be worn over and over again? Why not slip on your wedding dress after an afternoon swim and before a summery date night?
So. In case you need it—here’s permission to first, wear absolutely anything to your wedding that you’d like to, and second, to wear it again whenever you very well please.
When I got married on the very hottest day of 2012, I was in the thick of writing survival tips for a life in our tiny New York apartment, but I hadn’t yet started to write about my forays into a more intentionally streamlined closet. I wasn’t clued in to small designers and I had my dress handmade in part because I simply didn’t know where else to look. To be clear: I loved having the opportunity to work with someone on something made just for me. If you’re in LA and looking for someone to make a dress just for you, or to alter something you’ve already found, you’d be right to contact Tara, The Williamsburg Seamster. But in case that’s not in the cards, here are a few other options for simple dresses that could be wedding dresses, or date-night dresses, or picnic-in-the-park dresses, if that’s your style. It’s a matter of mindset, really.
Dear Golden: I’ve been stalking the antique Edwardian dresses collected by Dear Golden shop owner Lauren Naimola for years now. They’re exquisite. Wedding material and then some, I say. (And by then some, of course I mean after-dinner ice cream shop runs.)
Doen: I love the romantic dresses from Doen. They’re like the modern sister to the vintage beauties found above. (They sent me one of their Primrose dresses earlier this spring and I wore it on my birthday—and on many other regular work days this summer.) Many of their designs come in white (the white Tansy Dress is one that’s currently in stock) and I think lots of them could be just right for an outdoor wedding.
Elizabeth Suzann: Sometimes formality is less about cut and more about fabric. I could see just about any Elizabeth Suzann design cut from ivory silk working for a simple wedding. An ivory Mara Jumpsuit in silk seems just right for saying vows or sailing into the sunset, don’t you think?
Hackwith Design House: Hackwith Design House has a range of gowns. Some of them are formal enough that you might feel a bit overdressed on a date night, but others, like the Myrtle Dress are more nimble. And it’s out of stock right now, but it’s worth checking back (or checking out their Sustain Shop) for something like last season’s Wrap Dress. Not strictly a wedding gown, but wouldn’t it be lovely?
Mara Hoffman: Mara Hoffman often has at least one beautiful white dress in her summer collection. This year, I love the big-pocketed Agnes Dress. It’d be so lovely to wear on a wedding day and just as great to wear on a summer jaunt to get pizza, napkins, of course, required.
We’re spending the week at my mom and dad’s house and even though I’m spending a lot of my time hiding out in my dad’s office trying to get my work done, I’m taking advantage of bare feet, and grass between my toes, and dips in the salt water (and the neighbors’ pool).
It’s no secret that I love summertime. But a side-effect of the glorious sunshine and wanting to be outside so much, is that summertime brings with it a lot of so-called disposables. In the city, garbage cans overflow with towers of iced coffee cups. At the beach, picnic goers fill tabletops with plastic cutlery and cups. In my own life, there are plastic sunscreen bottles and marshmallows for s’mores that come in plastic bags. I don’t want to ruin anyone’s summer, but I do think it’s an especially good time for paying attention to the amount of plastic waste that we create and to make an effort to do a bit better.
Inspiration abounds in the Plastic-Free July challenge. It was started in 2011 in Western Australia and has since grown into a full-fledged nonprofit aimed at reducing plastic waste. On their site they offer lots of really simple ways to get involved, including this handy checklist. We’ve already done a lot to incorporate what’s there into our everyday lives, but here are a few things I’m trying to be better about this month (and always):
Piping up: I’ve had a few accidental single-use plastic encounters lately, mostly caused by not being proactive enough about stopping the plastic from getting in my hands in the first place. This month, and going forward, I’m trying to be more vocal about my requests to go plastic-free. I think the best route to take is direct communication from the get-go. If I’m ordering a drink in a restaurant, especially anything frozen or on ice, I try to assume it’s going to be served with a straw and simply say, “No straw please” when I place my order. (This recently backfired when a server misheard me and presented my drink with a straw and a flourish that he had accommodated my request for a straw. Win some, lose some.) Same goes for kids cups at restaurants. In most establishments in the US, servers are trained to bring kids lidded plastic cups with straws from the start. I try to remember to simply say, “These guys don’t need kids cups—glasses are fine,” as soon as we’re seated. In sum? I’m asking for what I’d like clearly and tipping a bit extra for the kindness.
Coming prepared: I’m admittedly not someone who likes toting very much along with me, and I’d typically rather do without a straw than remember to pack one, but when approaching summertime dining out in particular—especially in the kind of summery establishments that serve casual fare on paper plates and with plastic utensils—I’m trying to remember to pack our family a few essentials, picnic-style. You can invest in special gear, or just remember to bring along a handful of forks, a few reusable straws, and a few cloth napkins. On my birthday, my family ate at a local seafood joint and we packed our own cups, utensils, napkins, and wine! It was so satisfying to know that when we left, we didn’t leave a collection of throwaway plastic behind.
Thinking small: Two years ago, the World Economic Forum put out a report stating that by the year 2050 there’d be more plastics in the ocean than fish. The problem with plastics is that they break down into increasingly microscopic pieces, but they don’t disappear. Cutting out single-use plastic is one huge step in the right direction, but thinking about other less visible sources of plastic pollution is another. In our family we strive to wear natural fibers, but summertime means bathing suits and rash guards and other things that are made from a combination of fabrics that are comfy to wear in water, but not necessarily the best for it. Fabrics like polyamide, polyester, lycra, and elastane are all made from plastics that break down as they’re worn and washed and end up in the sea. I’m trying to be more conscious of microplastics that end up in our water ways and I’m currently looking into options for better stemming that flow. I recently spotted the guppy friend in a story from Jess Carpenter. It’s a bag that captures microplastics and keeps them from getting emptied along with the rest of the dirty water draining from the washing machine. Other things that help? Generally, trying to be gentler with your clothes: Wash in cold water, avoid abrasive detergents, hand-wash when possible, decrease your spin cycle, and hang dry.
Encouraging friends: My efforts to curb our family’s plastic use are no secret in this space, but I can be a little bit more shy when approaching the subject with real-life friends. I worry about seeming judgmental or sanctimonious. But I also realize that getting your friends to get on board is one of the best ways to help along actual change. So, let’s lead by example. I’ve been called Mary Poppins on three separate occasions lately as I unpack our picnic basket filled with reusable supplies. (I’m taking it as a compliment.)
+ We’ve been using the sweet drawstring bags that the kiddos’ swimsuits came in for toting takeout supplies with us! They’re the perfect size.
+ If you haven’t given them a try already, Plaine Products is encouraging folks to switch to reusable shampoo and conditioner (they also have body lotion, face wash) this week by offering a special discount. We’ve been using their shampoo and conditioner for months now and it’s been terrific. Use the code RMTLplasticfreeto get 20% off through July 7, 2018!
In early summer there are linden blossoms on city trees.
Yes, even as the world warms and it feels increasingly like it must also be spinning out of orbit, there is comfort to be found in moments of predictability. In the midst of chaos and corruption and cowardice and a political landscape filled with actors so craven that they seem like the stuff of fiction, there are linden flowers.
Even the most novice urban forager can identify a linden tree. The leaves are heart-shaped. The flowers are honey-colored and loaded with pollen. To pass underneath a linden tree in June is to be stopped in your tracks. The thick scent of the honey-sweet flowers will draw your nose skyward. It masks other city smells and for a minute, standing underneath, you’re engulfed by sweetness. The chalky gray-green undersides of the leaves form a patchwork pattern. Allow your eyes to focus and you’ll see honeybees feasting on the flowers. Join them.
The pale green slender leaves are the ones you want to pick, alongside the flowers. Hunt for low-hanging branches and pinch off what you can without hoarding too many. Bring your flowers home. Spread them out on a board or a table or a basket. Let them dry. After a few days and before too much dust has settled, pop them into a paper bag and let them dry out even more. Brew a cup of linden tea. Share it with your kids. Let the plant medicine work its magic to calm nerves and quiet thoughts.
There was a federal primary election in New York this week. A few miles north of here, in New York’s 14th Congressional District, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28 year-old Latina woman from the Bronx, ran on a platform advocating for living wages, medicare for all, fully funded public schools and universities, affordable housing, justice for immigrants, renewable green industry, clean campaign finance, and, in her words, “an economy of peace.” She won.
What I’m trying to say is forage for linden, fill your cup with comfort, and remember that there’s goodness to be found everywhere. Remember that even in the midst of dirt and grime and concrete sidewalks, lindens are in bloom. Remember that in the midst of a moment defined by monstrous attacks on humanity, that smart, qualified, just humans abound. You are likely one of them. You have sisters and mothers and brothers and fathers and friends who are, too. Maybe you can forage for linden and draft your platform. Maybe you can forage for linden and call your representatives. Maybe you can forage for linden and appeal to your friends who might think that they disagree with you but perhaps, after all, you can both agree that all people deserve to be free.
It’s splash pad season. That season in the life of a city kid—and the adults who care for them—when parks turn on their sprinklers and children run pell-mell doing their best to get as drenched and cool as possible. What we lack in blow-up kiddie pools and shady backyards, we make up for in long afternoons spent carrying buckets of water from one end of the splash pad to the other. (Lest you think it’s kids who get all the fun, as a parent there’s nothing quite as unexpectedly delightful as getting soaked yourself. I walked around with a wet skirt last week and I’d never been so happy, or so cool!)
Whether you’ve got yourself regular dates with a city splash pad or a shady backyard and a hose, the result is relief from the heat and an assortment of soaked swimsuits* to contend with after the fact.
Enter our latest solution and a bit of encouragement to get your drying rack off the ground. I’ve been debating the addition of a wall-mounted rack for well over a year at this point and I’m so glad I took the plunge. In our apartment it’s freed up precious floor space and it’s stopped our drying rack from being turned into an ever-buckling fort on the daily.
I found our drying rack—a vintage swing-arm towel rack—on Etsy and painted it in the same shade of gray that I used on Faye and Silas’s new dresser.**) Hung up on the back of our open closet wall, it’s discreet and useful and dare I say, pleasant to look at. (We like it so much, we actually decided to remove the curtain we’d had hanging in the space before.) The rack is vintage and handmade in a style similar to the rack that I’ve long admired from Iris Hantverk, but it was far less expensive and it arrived in just a few days. There’s nothing exactly like the one I found listed right this minute, but it’s worth a regular look on Etsy or Ebay to see what vintage goodies might appear. Try searching “swing-arm towel rack,” “wall-mounted drying rack,” or a similar combination and see what you find!
It’s perhaps worth a note that lots of small-space dwellers might get by without a drying rack at all. (Alternatives in this post!) In our family we’re fairly religious about hang-drying clothes in an effort to extend their life and as folks who have put two kiddos through cloth diapers, there’s a regular need for hanging up diaper covers to dry. I love having a dedicated drying spot to keep things tidy.
To that end, we haven’t given up on our floor drying rack altogether—it still gets pulled out once weekly when our laundry comes back from the laundromat—but for rinsed rags, hand-washed items, and bathing suits that need daily drying, we’re new devotees of this wall-mounted solution.
What about you guys? Any other favorite clothes drying solutions out there?
**The rack is painted with Plummet from Farrow & Ball. Farrow & Ball generously provided the paint for our dresser project in the kids’ room—more to come on that front—and I’ve been busy putting the remainder of the can to good use!