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five little things that made my week.  

1. these chive blossoms.

{and the ridiculous distraction they were for my kids this week.}

2. this rhubarb jam.

{and the decision to make a very quick jarful right before bedtime.}

3. this cord.

{for making a wonky kitchen a little less so.}

4. this primed footstool.

{and getting around to projects ten years in the making.}

5. this quilt-turned-curtain. 

{anything to get these guys to sleep past five. yes, am.}

other things:

sign here. donate here.

quite possibly the very best rugs.

these are books, works of the imagination.

he was constantly teaching you how to appreciate things.

slowly but surely.

must plan escape. pronto.

forever bracelets.

psst!

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Survival Tip #164: Seize the moment.

In mating season, male cardinals feed the females they’re hoping to woo. They don’t just gather the food, they coax it into the female’s mouth, morsel by morsel.

This week we’ve watched the firey red cardinal perch on our temporary apartment fire escape and crack open the husks of sunflower seeds to feed his companion. She sits nearby, waiting patiently. Or is it expectantly? Maybe she is not patient at all. Maybe she is bored by the ritual, wanting to carry on with her meal and faster, for heaven’s sake. But she remains there, opening her beak as the male slips bits of seed directly into her mouth. Temperaments aside, it’s clear there’s some kind of partnership at work. Some kind of finding their way together and working with what they’ve got. In this case, a handful of sunflower seeds in a soggy grapefruit feeder.

//

Last night, I went up to our apartment just to sit for a minute by my lonesome. By my wholesome? Whichever the case, I needed some quiet to sit and take it in. It’s a funny spot to find yourself, in the middle of a place you’ve called home, but without any of the trappings that make it feel like yours. There’s a sense of possibility but also an understanding that largely, things will stay the same.

For the past two weeks I’ve been channeling the energy I would normally put into finding solutions for our new spot into finding better solutions for the spot we actually call home. In our temporary apartment there are walls that I would paint and light fixtures I would tamper with. There are the remains of an old security gate that needs removing and a fireplace surround that needs caulk, or a scrub, surely both. The window panes are about five years overdue for a cleaning. Despite my urgings, I’ve left well enough alone. Any day now we’ll be given the go ahead to move back upstairs. We’ll bid this birder’s paradise adieu and someone else will make it theirs. 

Instead of washing windows, I’ve made secret boards on Pinterest. I’ve been stockpiling inspiration and tutorials and glimpses of what could be; feathering my virtual nest and trying to tackle tricky corners with a renewed sense of possibility.

//

Faye turns four on Saturday. I moved into this apartment when I was six months pregnant with her and climbing the ship’s ladder to the bed in our old place had become cumbersome at best. I’ve welcomed two brand-new babies in this apartment. Together with James, I’ve weathered the storms of infancy and toddlerhood. Of marriage and work, too. I’ve gotten my footing, lost it, and started over again. In these two rooms we’ve figured out, all of us, how to live as a family of three, then four. We’re still figuring it out. Indeed, everything is mutable.

We’ve made minor fixes to this space when there was energy and permission. We’ve lived with loveliness but also wonkiness and, sometimes, downright grossness. Now, quite by accident, we’ve been presented with something of a blank slate. Sure, we have a kitchen and a bathroom that we’ll never adore—and that we’ll never have permission to change wholesale—but we have, perhaps, a greater appreciation that we’re lucky to have both. The floor still needs scrubbing, but the walls are freshly painted. The soggy drywall and peeling baseboard have been replaced. The flaking, rusty radiators have been stripped down and repainted. In the midst of this temporary move I went searching for silvery linings and found white radiators. What luck.

With a limited budget and an apartment we don’t own, there’s only so much we can do, but I’ve decided to seize the moment. A week ago we ripped out an ancient mirror in the bathroom. This afternoon, I’m buying an electric drill. Tomorrow, a new mirror arrives to our door.

//

Last night, in our empty apartment, my cell phone pinged. “Dinner’s on the table,” the text read. Nourishment courtesy of a husband who knows how to give a bird her space. 

For the curious:

We gave every surface of our apartment a fresh coat of Benjamin Moore’s Natura Paint in Simply White OC 117. (Yes, even those formerly chipping and rusty radiators, prepped first with Ultra Spec HP Acrylic Metal Primer.) Many thanks to Benjamin Moore for supplying the paint and for helping us lay a new foundation.

Tiny apartment survival tips #1 – 163.

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Waste Not is a collaboration with my friend, Carrie King. The premise is simple: Carrie, a food writer and editor, shares a recipe highlighting at least one particular way that we can curb food waste. I make it at home, take a bunch of pictures, and share it with everyone here. 

Growing up, I asked for corn chowder to be made for fully half of my birthday dinners. Didn’t matter how hot the early July weather was, I wanted silky, creamy chowder with sweet bursts of corn. As a kid, and in the original version of Carrie’s recipe below, there were pearly potatoes floating in there too. James is allergic to that particular nightshade and so I omitted them here. Potatoes or no, this chowder is delicious.

I’m always looking for simple ways to make a vegetarian broth and after this trial run, I’ll be putting my spent corn cobs to better use. Simmering the corn cobs in the broth renders the soup creamy without making it overly rich. A splash of cream or coconut milk at the end makes it decadent. Maybe best of all, Carrie finally convinced me to stop subbing in sweet paprika when a recipe calls for smoked. I’ll happily make a little space cabinet for this crimson wonder.
From Carrie:

Aside from Frosty the Snowman’s pipe, I don’t know of many uses for spent corn cobs. Maybe bird feeders? Bear in mind that I’m saying that with absolutely no authority on whether that would work and based purely on inspo from Erin’s ingenious half-grapefruit bird feeder. Just seems like corn cob bird feeders could be a thing.

Practical uses aside, I definitely don’t know any recipe that has you actually ingesting corn cobs. Nor does it seem very enticing—unless you’re looking for some serious ruffage. But still, ears of corn are so much more than just their rows of glistening yellow kernels. There is lots of delicious flavor and corn milk hidden in their nooks and crannies. I think of cobs as the bones of the veggie world. You’d use bones to fortify the flavor of stock or soup, and you can totally do the same with corn. So, before you throw your next batch of naked cobs in the compost pile, here’s a recipe that at least makes sure you milk them for all their worth.

This chowder revolves around the use of the whole ear of corn (minus the husk—although those are also useful in their own right—looking at you tamales). The cobs act as an instant flavor booster for any veggie, or even chicken, soup. Sometimes I even use them to boost the flavor of broth to make corn risotto. If you had enough ears of corn, you could make pure corn stock for sundry uses. Next time you’re looking to use corn kernels-only for dinner one night, save the cobs in an airtight container in the fridge, and throw them into a pot of soup or broth the next day.

This recipe also uses one of my current spice crushes—smoked paprika. If you don’t have any in your pantry, I’d say it’s worth grabbing next market run. 
I think it’s a handy spice to have hanging around because a little pinch makes anything it touches suddenly seem next-level fancy. It adds lots of interesting flavor complexity with zilch effort. Plus, for veggie based soups, stews, and chowders, it kind of fools your taste buds into thinking there might be some bacon swimming in the depths of the pot, but—spoiler alert—there’s not! Magic.

Corn Chowder

1 Tbsp olive oil
½ vidalia onion, finely chopped (about 1¼ cups)
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
3 Tbsp butter
1 tsp smoked paprika
4 ears of corn, kernels removed from cob (about 4 cups kernels, reserve cobs)
4 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice (optional)
1 tsp salt
5 Tbsp flour
4 cups veggie stock
¾ cup cream/half & half/coconut milk
3 scallions or a bunch of chives

Heat olive oil, chopped onion, and bell pepper in a large pot over medium. Sauté until onions are translucent and peppers begin to soften, 4-5 minutes. Reduce heat if browning, you’re not looking for color here.

Add the butter, smoked paprika, corn kernels, potatoes (if using), and salt. Stir occasionally until the butter melts.

Once melted, sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes, making sure it doesn’t singe.

Add vegetable stock (and 1 cup water if you use potatoes), stirring to ensure the flour dissolves into the stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium.

Add corn cobs (break or cut in half of too long for pot) and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.

Stir in cream or half & half (or coconut milk!)

Taste for seasoning and add more salt is necessary. Remove and discard corn cobs.

Finely chop scallions or chives and scatter on top of chowder to serve.

// NOTES:

You could blend the chowder to make it even more creamy. In this case, you might even get away without adding the cream or half & half, if that’s your preference, because the pureed corn kernels will really amp up the creamy factor. If you blend, you might have to loosen the soup up with a touch more veggie stock or water.

Instead of chives, you could chop up some scallions to scatter on top.

Omit the smoked paprika if you’re not into it/don’t have it on hand.

Thanks to Carrie King for writing this post and developing the recipe. When Carrie’s not encouraging me in tiny-apartment cooking adventures, she’s a food writer and editor. Her cookbook work includes Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner….Life with Missy Robbins and The Chef Next Door with Amanda Freitag. She has contributed to Gather Journal and Life & Thyme and works as recipe editor at Marley Spoon and Dinnerly. Thanks to culinary school and lots of time spent in kitchens, both professional and home, she can cook just about anything, but usually just wants a few couple few slices of pizza.

For the curious:

Our black enameled cast iron is from Crane; I got ours from East Fork Pottery.

Our checked napkin is from Fog Linen.

What about you guys? Corn cob enthusiasts out there?

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Reading My Tea Leaves by Erin Boyle - 4d ago

The first of the neighborhood roses and these words:

1
Only now, in spring, can the place be named:
tulip poplar, daffodil, crab apple,
dogwood, budding pink-green, white-green, yellow
on my knowing. All winter I was lost.
Fall, I found myself here, with no texture
my fingers know. Then, worse, the white longing
that downed us deep three months. No flower heat.
That was winter. But now, in spring, the buds
flock our trees. Ten million exquisite buds,
tiny and loud, flaring their petalled wings,
bellowing from ashen branches vibrant
keys, the chords of spring’s triumph: fisted heart,
dogwood; grail, poplar; wine spray, crab apple.
The song is drink, is color. Come. Now. Taste.

2
The song is drink, is color. Come now, taste
what the world has to offer. When you eat
you will know that music comes in guises —
bold of crape myrtle, sweet of daffodil —
beyond sound, guises they never told you
could be true. And they aren’t. Except they are
so real now, this spring, you know them, taste them.
Green as kale, the songs of spring, bright as wine,
the music. Faces of this season grin
with clobbering wantonness — see the smiles
open on each branch? — until you, too, smile.
Wide carnival of color, carnival
of scent. We’re all lurching down streets, drunk now
from the poplar’s grail. Wine spray: crab apple.

3
From the poplar’s grail, wine spray. Crab apple
brightens jealousy to compete. But by
the crab apple’s deep stain, the tulip tree
learns modesty. Only blush, poplar learns,
lightly. Never burn such a dark-hued fire
to the core. Tulip poplar wants herself
light under leaf, never, like crab apple,
heavy under tart fruit. Never laden.
So the poplar pours just a hint of wine
in her cup, while the crab apple, wild one,
acts as if her body were a fountain.
She would pour wine onto you, just let her.
Shameless, she plants herself, and delivers,
down anyone’s street, bright invitations.

4
Down anyone’s street-bright invitations.
Suck ’em. Swallow ’em. Eat them whole. That’s right,
be greedy about it. The brightness calls
and you follow because you want to taste,
because you want to be welcomed inside
the code of that color: red for thirst; green
for hunger; pink, a kiss; and white, stain me
now. Soil me with touching. Is that right?
No? That’s not, you say, what you meant. Not what
you meant at all? Pardon. Excuse me, please.
Your hand was reaching, tugging at this shirt
of flowers and I thought, I guess I thought
you were hungry for something beautiful.
Come now. The brightness here might fill you up.

5
Come. Now the brightness here might fill you up,
but tomorrow? Who can know what the next
day will bring. It is like that, here, in spring.
Four days ago, the dogwood was a fist
in protest. Now look. Even she unfurls
to the pleasure of the season. Don’t be
ashamed of yourself. Don’t be. This happens
to us all. We have thrown back the blanket.
We’re naked and we’ve grown to love ourselves.
I tell you, do not be ashamed. Who is
more wanton than the dancing crape myrtle?
Is she ashamed? Why even the dogwood,
that righteous tree of God’s, is full of lust
exploding into brightness every spring….

– From the poem What To Eat, And What To Drink, And What To Leave For Poison by Camille T. Dungy in her book Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry.

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five little things that made my week.

1. these binoculars.























{but mostly two very enthusiastic bird watchers.}

2. these post-nap curls.

{nope. never cutting them.}

3. these spring flowers.
{and a mom who brought them.}      

4. all of the incense.

{never enough in a new-to-me apartment.}

5. these stars.

{and someone’s insistence they hang from my bed.}

other things:

the slow motion oh shit.

what to do about oak cabinets.

“i am a candy person.”

there’s been too much rain this week.

delicate and resilient (mostly beautiful).

such a great shape.

pizza and salsa.

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I usually try to let a significant amount of time elapse before revisiting a post. But I couldn’t help myself this time around. It’s spring, the birds are chirping, our bedraggled tees need something to distract us from their frayed edges. Bandanas abound and before we all need to trade our cotton for wool and brace ourselves for winter all over again, I wanted to make sure you all get plenty of time to grow your hankie collections. Useful for looking cute, wiping up messes, passing on paper bags, and packing up snacks for afternoons in the park and playdates.

Here’s my original bandana roundup, and without further ado, here are a whole bunch more I’ve been admiring since then:

Apprvl: Artist and natural-dyer Megan Mussari teamed up with her sister, artist Jen Mussari, to design a series of graphic bandanas. All of the bandanas are illustrated by Jen and over-dyed by Megan. The Keep Your Chin up Bandana gets its dusty rose color from madder root and proceeds go to Planned Parenthood.

Ginew: There’s lots to love about this Native American-owned denim company, but for the purposes of this post, I’ll direct you to their bandanas. The G-M Bandana includes hand-carved bandana designs including Ojibwe and Oneida symbols, line art, and sculpture. Their Shop Bandana reminds me of something out of the 1920s and is a collaboration with House of Land. And while it’s not available for sale, my indigo-dyed bandana shown above with the quilt pattern was a gift from my longtime internet friend Maura Ambrose of Folk Fibers and was a collaboration between Maura, Ginew, and Lou Medel. (More about those bandanas in these posts.) 

FxCHRS (Foxcatchers LA): These gorgeous cotton bandanas are handprinted in downtown Los Angeles. Currently their online shop is based in Japan, but they’re opening a US-based site by the end of the month to make stateside purchasing a bit easier. I love their Dots and Maple Crest designs best. (If you’re impatient for the stateside shop, there’s a small selection of their bandanas available at Midland.)

Hum Creative: A Seattle women-owned creative agency made this set of contrasting cotton Introvert/Extrovert bandanas. I like to think of them as adult friendship necklaces, in cloth form!

Last Chance Textiles: Lindsey Fout’s cotton and silk bandanas are designed, sewn, and printed in Los Angeles. Her silk bandanas are naturally dyed with plant materials like madder, indigo, acorns, and osage. The Dot-Danna is currently sold out, but I love the rich golden mustard color she makes from Osage wood and iron. The intricate pattern on the Rosey-Danna Pitch Black Cotton Bandana was “inspired by Art Deco illustrator George Barbier, 18th century French textiles AND a border tribute to Indian woodblock printing.” So good.

Mary Claret & Woodhall Studio: Small-batch and low-waste clothing company Mary Claret partnered with illustrators at Woodhall Studio to design these beautiful Texas Wildflower Bandanas in navy, pink, and black. They’re designed, sewn, and screen-printed in Texas.

Misha & Puff: For their summer capsule collection, kids’ brand Misha & Puff have three beautiful cotton bandanas made in collaboration with artist Lena Corwin. I love the negative space and vintage-inspired design, especially on the Sand Dollar bandana. Not for kids, only.

Moxie and Moss: These Italian-made bandanas from women’s workwear company, Moxie and Moss were designed with messes in mind. They have a slightly more graphic and modern look for folks who might prefer it.

Nade: Maggie Pate takes food waste and turns it into color. I’ve admired her tassel scarves for a long time, but for anyone looking for a bandana-sized gem, her Misty Blue Ice Dye NeckScarf is my favorite. (And stay tuned! Her book, The Natural Colors Cookbook, comes out next month and is currently available for pre-order wherever books are sold.)

Specific Pigeon: If you’re into hand-dyed textiles, sunprints, and botanical specimens (and you know that I am), you might well fall in love with Specific Piegeon. They make beautiful cotton gauze bandanas and silk bandanas. Naturally, I’m in love the Hydrangea/Viburnum on Marbled Blue Bandana, but if you want something fancier, the silk/cotton blend scarves are larger and very beautiful. 

Okay. I’m sure you guys have still more favorites to recommend! Let us know!

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Whether you decide to dive into the world of books on pregnancy, childbirth, and brand-new parenthood while waiting on a baby or after it’s very much arrived, here are a few new (or just new-to-me) books that might be exactly what the doctor (or midwife, or you, yourself) ordered.

Not everyone will relate to everything in each of these books. I think maybe that’s the whole point. Trying to articulate the raw, messy, simultaneously heart-wrenching and heart-warming experience of pregnancy, and childbirth, and new parenthood is as challenging as the experience itself. Sometimes as beautiful. Maybe always as fraught. In pregnancy and birth and learning how to live with the newest humans in our midst, we seek answers. We turn to friends. Or family. Motivated by schadenfreude or sincerity or simple curiosity, we log onto forums with perfect strangers. We see if we can find our own independent footing, while also trying to find common ground. Some people join parenting groups. Others don’t have the time (or the stomach).

The truth, of course, is that everyone’s experience of pregnancy and birth will be uniquely their own. When I was pregnant and preparing for childbirth, I found comfort in the stories of my own mom and in those told by midwives like Ina May Gaskin. I won’t disavow the comfort those stories brought me now, but I can appreciate with hindsight that my comfort was also borne out by my experience. Had I not experienced childbirth in the ways that I did, I can imagine I’d have a different relationship to those stories now. And despite the generally uncomplicated nature of both of my births, the experiences still left me reeling. I guess what I mean to say is that even though nearly everything went according to “plan,” I still felt like my world had cracked open. I still felt raw and tender and vulnerable in ways I hadn’t anticipated. And I felt all of that at the very same time that I felt brave, and strong, and capable, too. When it comes to telling the stories of pregnancy and birth, more is more. We don’t need just a few voices, we need an entire chorus. To that end, here are a few more voices.

(When we buy books, we choose to support our local bookstores—Stories BookshopBooks Are MagicGreenlight Bookstore, and Community Bookstore, to name a few. I’ve provided links below to where you can find these titles online or in your own neighborhood bookstores.)

And Now We Have Everything: On Motherhood Before I Was Ready by Meaghan O’Connell 
(Amazon/Indiebound)
I started reading Meaghan O’Connell’s essays after Faye was born. We had—as far as I could calculate it—given birth to our first children just weeks apart, in the same city, and at the very same age. Our stories of labor and delivery didn’t have much in common, save the infant and mother in need of care at the end of it all. Overlapping and divergent particulars aside, I felt buoyed by her candor, comforted by her honesty, relieved by her irreverence, and grateful for her companionship insofar as a person can claim as a companion someone they’ve never met, in real life or otherwise. This book of essays came out just a few weeks ago and it’s excellent. There are so many perfect passages, but this is one of my favorites:

“‘I mostly can’t wait to breastfeed again,’ she tells me.

‘What?’ I say.

‘Oh, yeah,’ she says, ‘I loved it. That’s basically why I’m having another kid.’

‘Wow,’ I say. ‘Huh.’ Wait, did I like it too?

With stuff this big, almost any way of looking at it can be true. We all talked like we were going to eventually reach some grand conclusion, some correct stance, but in fact it was different for everybody, impossible to pin down. Was childbirth traumatic or transcendent? Was pregnancy a time of wonder and awe or a kind of temporary disability? Were we supposed to fit our lives around our children or fit children into our lives? My feelings changed every minute, depending on my mood and on the company I kept. It felt essential, though, to keep asking the questions.”

Like a Mother: A Feminist Journey Through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy by Angela Garbes 
(Amazon/Indiebound)
If you’re pregnant and looking to hear from someone who’s interested in nuance more than answers, read this. It’s so encouraging and such a far cry from the infantilizing, scolding tone that I often associate with books on pregnancy. It weaves research with personal story and broaches all sorts of subjects that don’t always get the attention they deserve: miscarriage, recovery, pelvic floor rehabilitation…being a human being. It comes out May 29, but you can pre-order it wherever books are sold. I especially appreciated this passage:

…When it comes to pregnancy, we can’t seem to tolerate [nuance], in part because messages we receive over and over are free of nuance, free of discussion. The weight of the responsibility is intense. This is often the first time in our lives that our choices physically impact the well-being of another human being. That is sobering. It makes us crave simplicity in a state of being that is inherently complex. I don’t blame anyone for wanting certainty, but the truth is that there is little.”

Nurture: A Modern Guide to Pregnancy, Birth, Early Motherhood by Erica Chidi Cohen  
(Amazon/Indiebound)
If you’re someone still hoping to find order in the chaos, this is the manual I’d recommend. Erica Chidi Cohen is a doula and founder of Loom in Los Angeles. Her book can help to guide new parents through just about any question they might have about pregnancy, birth, and most-poignantly, recovery. It’s hefty, which means a whole index worth of subjects for scanning in the wee hours of the morning when you might most need a helpful voice to guide you along. No matter what path your birth takes, there’s comfort to be found in this book. In Cohen’s words, “conformity, competition, and comparison don’t belong in the birthing space or dialogue.” More of a resource than a story, this is my choice for anyone feeling overwhelmed.

Body Full of Stars: Female Rage and My Passage Into Motherhood by Molly Caro May 
(Amazon/Indiebound)
This personal narrative dives straight to the heart of some of the more unspoken, messy, and just plain tender moments that might pepper—or permeate—a parent’s postpartum year. I’m very sure I wouldn’t have wanted to read this book when expecting my first child, but I cherished the raw recognition it offers to new parents who might suffer from postpartum depression, or rage, or really any feelings that don’t fit into a neat narrative of birdsong and rainbows post-birth.

“Because we are a culture focused on the singular act of birthing, no one tells you what comes before or after birth. Not really. How can they? It’s different for every woman. There may not be one narrative. However, there is one truth. Before and after are not times where all you do is glow. These are passages full of rocks and caverns and shards of light. Maybe we protect the uninitiated women (and men). Maybe we hope they won’t lose themselves like we did. Maybe time passes and we forget what we wanted to tell them in the first place.

Maybe we are scared to put the words baby and hardship in the same sentence.”

Amateur Hour: Motherhood in Essays and Swear Words by Kimberly Harrington  
(Amazon/Indiebound)
If you want to take a breath and snort and laugh, and—okay, I admit it—also cry, just do yourself a favor and snuggle up with Kimberly Harrington’s new book. It’s mostly about parenting past the newborn stage, but I think any soon-to-be or deeply entrenched parent will find moments of recognition in these pages. I especially liked her take on the working and stay-at-home mom conversation:

“Stay-at-home moms, working moms, all moms, we are allowed to be proud of our choices and to question them; sometimes all in the same day…We have all been left so adrift by our society, our culture, and our government when it comes to the first five or six years of a child’s life. We are left to sort it out for ourselves, to cobble together our individual plans. No wonder we take all of this so personally. 

If you don’t believe me, ask yourself the last time parents were shamed for sending their kids off to elementary school. Why would they be? There is a societal and governmental expectation that all children should attend school; that education is necessary for a child’s development and that schools play a critical role in any community. School has our support. Imagine if there was a societal and governmental expectation that all children should attend a quality preschool or daycare program? Imagine the freedom and peace of mind it could offer all mothers, stay-at-home and working-outside-of-the-home alike. Imagine.”

Other things

+ I haven’t read all of the books covered here, but I appreciated this essay, In a Raft of New Books, Motherhood from (Almost) Every Angle by Pahrul Sehgal.

+ If you haven’t been following along, the New Mom series by The Cut has been terrific.

+ I’ve mentioned it before a few times, but for working parents—and everyone—out there, I really loved the Longest Shortest Time series called It’s a Real Mother

+ Finally, please tell me you’ve watched Ali Wong’s Hard Knock Wife.

In case you missed it:

What to Read When You’re Expecting, Part 1.

Anything else? Would love to know what anyone else has read and loved.

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Survival Tip #163: List the pros.

We moved. Just temporarily. While a damaged wall and the associated peeling paint in our apartment gets repaired, we’re one flight down, in a space nearly identical to our garret home, but with higher ceilings and taller windows. In the kitchen, there’s a very apparent missing dishwasher, and everywhere a less noticeable, but still present trim in square footage. Rugs overlap in this space. Turns made around the table by a toddler hoping to escape capture need to be made slightly tighter.

Moving house always creates a moment of reckoning. When it’s time to pack my earthly possessions into boxes, I nearly always notice that I’m less perfectly organized than I wish I were. There are still too many mason jar lids. The spice cabinet has gotten disorderly, again. Why, again, are we hanging onto this blanket? It takes work to move, not just physically, but psychologically, too. The cons are obvious enough: exhaustion and precious time and peace of mind. But instead of focusing on all of that, I thought I’d write a list of pros. An exercise for myself, mostly, but also because it feels nice to remember that we’re surrounded by so much that’s lovely even when we’re momentarily displaced and rather wishing the kitchen cabinets were not so grimy.

+ Cardinals. A pair of them, diving in and out of fire escapes and occasionally landing on our very own. A four year old who recognizes their call. A baby brother who double-steps with glee at the sight of them.

+ Daydreams about a garden on this south-facing fire escape. Moonflowers, for sure, running up a length of twine in front of the kids’ room. Moonflower-scented dreams in an alternate universe where we’re settling into this spot more permanently.

+ Across the way, an elderly couple for neighbors. She brings him a bottle of beer to sip while reading the newspaper and settles to sip on her own—foamy in a tall glass—from her perch on an ancient sofa. 

+ One door over, a child’s nightlight spotted while kissing sweaty foreheads goodnight. Rainbow lights circling the room. No doubt we read simultaneous bedtime stories.

+ One flight up, a flickering candle in the window. (Lives in tiny apartments abound.)

+ In the bathroom, a medicine cabinet mirror that closes all the way.

+ On a marble fireplace mantel, a romantic place to light a tall candle. And peonies from a husband who took care to ask the florist to leave off the plastic wrapping.

+ Mourning doves. Cooing from a cherry tree only a week denuded of her blossoms. Underneath, a carpet of pink fading to brown but still caught somewhere in a transition you might call rust.

+ In the afternoon, sunlight on floorboards. It’s a never-occurrence in a north-facing apartment and no wonder this place is more expensive than ours. Someone sunlight-loving must have worked out those numbers. (We’re determined to soak in every last ray while we can.)

(More details on our temporary move in my Instagram stories, if you’re interested in following along.)

Tiny apartment survival tips #1 – 162.

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five little things that made my week.

1. this collection of precious things.

{in their temporary new home downstairs.}

2. these boxes.

{for meaning we didn’t have to go on a neighborhood sweep of liquor stores begging for cardboard.}

3. this mantle.

{and this crop, which hides the years of debris caked inside it.}

4. this patch of light.

{because the rear of our building gets such beautiful light. silver linings abound.}

5. this mama’s day present.

{and the much-needed dose of color and brightness. (for the curious: i ordered a large kid’s size so mine would be fitted).}

other things:

#freeblackmamas

why i take selfies.

slowly warming up to block heels.

i will gladly give my home address to anyone willing to deliver this to me tomorrow morning.

also this.

and while we’re at it! (thank you!)

pasture.

one thing nobody told me about motherhood.

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Last week, I was on my way home from a morning meeting when I was met with a sudden urge for an iced coffee. I’d walked that very same stretch of Delancey Street ten times over the course of the winter and I was positively buzzing from excitement that instead of fighting off wind or rain or bitter cold, I was floating down the street in the sunshine, not feeling so much as the whisper of a chill in the air. Dare I say, I actually felt a smidge…warm. (If spring in New York could be bottled up and sold, I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to afford it.)

When I spotted a tiny café open, I poked my head in to see if they had glasses for their iced coffee. It’s a habit that’s become second-nature for me since committing to forgo the ubiquitous plastic iced coffee cup, more than six years ago.

Alarmed by the overflowing state of street corner trash bins, and even more alarmed that I typically slurped down my coffee-to-go in only a handful of blocks, I decided to quit, cold turkey. Now, instead of getting my coffee for the road, I often sit down to sip in-house. If the café doesn’t have anything but plastic to pour into, and I don’t have a cup of my own on me, I skip it altogether. No cup, no coffee, the saying goes.

I’m not always perfect. Last summer coconut bubble teas ordered by officemates proved far too tempting to pass up. (More than once.) But while sipping my first, barista-poured iced coffee in that tiny café last week, I decided that this summer it might be fun to forgo plastic more publicly. The United States goes through 500 million straws each day. 500 million. They’re not recyclable. They end up in our oceans. They don’t biodegrade. It’s a problem that we can solve by shifting our habits.

Last week, when I sat down to drink my iced coffee I was ready to continue my walk to the subway five minutes later and I was left with only a glass of melting ice cubes but nothing at all to throw in the garbage. It felt good. How much more fun to do it with a group? I came up with the imperfect but effective #plasticfreeicedc hashtag as a way of tracking my summer coffee habit and holding myself accountable. The idea is to get through the summer without using a single-use cup, lid, or straw, of any kind. (Doesn’t matter of course if you’re drinking coffee, or tea, or a thirst-quenching lemonade.) I’d be so glad to have you all play along. In case you need a little encouragement, a few pointers:

+ The easiest way to skip plastic is to embrace straw-free sipping. If you embrace drinking without a straw, you don’t need to buy anything new, remember anything on your way out of the house, or clean anything once you’ve finished. Easy!

+ If you can’t imagine drinking an iced coffee (or anything else) without a straw, you’re in luck. There are a ton of reusable options. Glass, stainless steel, bamboo, silicone, even edible straws making their debut later this summer (I met one of the founders of the edible Lolistraw a few weeks ago and I’m so hopeful these guys get picked up by the restaurant industry, especially). James and I bought our glass straws nearly a decade ago. We’ve loved them and they’ve never broken, but when we had kids, we added stainless steel to our collection so we didn’t have to worry about straws breaking and could tote them around more easily. We have tall straws for the adults in our family, and small cocktail straws for the kids. 

+ If cleaning your reusable straw seems daunting, not to worry. Many straws come with their own small brush for cleaning. We keep ours in a glass on the counter by our sink. Give your straw a good rinse and a quick pass with the brush, and you should be just fine. If you’re using your straw to drink something a bit more viscous, like a smoothie, I definitely recommend cleaning your straw immediately to prevent build-up. Otherwise, I never worry about waiting until the end of a day out to give my coffee straw a good wash.

+ When I carry my straw with me, I don’t do anything special to pack it up. I just pop it in my bag. If you feel squeamish about bag debris, you could solve two problems at once and wrap your straw in a cloth napkin that you could also use while out and about. If you feel like you want something even more special, consider a straw sleeve.

+ If you’re looking to up your at-home game, you might find this old cold brew post to be helpful. James and I make cold brew in the summertime in our regular old French press—no special equipment required.

+ We make ice cubes at home with this stainless-steel ice cube tray. It’s really terrific and totally solves the stinky ice cube tray problem I’ve found to be inherent with all silicone trays. (Also great for making coffee ice cubes, if you want to get extra fancy.)

+ It’s not always possible to find coffee shops that serve in glass, but not to worry! There are all kinds of vessels for taking your coffee on the road. I admit that I think just about anything from a regular old mason jar to an insulated, vacuum-sealed, high-tech wonder cup will be totally fine, and I firmly believe that there’s no need to have a cold-brew specific vessel. (But if it helps you not take the plastic one, by all means, go forth and buy one!) Here are a few vessel options:

+ I use a wide-mouth insulated Klean Kanteen water bottle for my water, coffee, and cold-brew, depending on my mood. I prefer the 12-ounce cup, but they also come in 16-ounce and 20-ounce sizes if you’d like something bigger. I love that they’re wide enough to fill with ice, easy to carry around all day without spilling, and insulated to keep my coffee cold (or hot!).

+ If you prefer glass, the new glass Keep Cups also look lovely. I had an original plastic version a decade ago that leaked, but I’m sure things have improved since then and I know lots of folks who swear by these guys. 

+ Many of you also stand by the Yeti Rambler tumbler, also insulated. Great! Looks like a very solid option.

+ In case you’re looking out for my boba consumption. I have, finally, decided there’s enough room in the cabinet for a stainless-steel boba straw or two. Can’t go missing out on *all* the fun, now can I?

Who knew there’d be so much to write about saying no to plastic coffee cups? Let me know if you have any other questions and please, please, join the fun!

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