Thursday, February 28, 2013

potting lessons.

A few weeks ago James snapped this blurry instagram of me potting a maidenhair fern in our apartment. It was the weekend and I was working on a story for Gardenista about what a neighborhood plant shop had informed me was a button fern, but what has become quite clear is actually a kind of maidenhair fern. Oh, wily pteridophytes. I'm learning. While I was busy repotting the fern, James sequestered himself in the loft to do some reading. Unbeknownst to me he was also hanging over the edge of the loft, snapping photos. I'm so rarely in photos, but so often in this position, that it was funny to see this view of me. It's a shot that should probably have stayed in its tiny instagram size, but I couldn't help sharing it here today. Especially since you can now read the full ferny story, right here.
You have read this article gardenista / life / maidenhair fern / potting soil with the title February 2013. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!
Wednesday, February 27, 2013

< two fifty: life in a tiny apartment.

Tiny things matter, too.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about importance of organizing the insides: all the little spaces in an apartment that you can close a door on and look the other way. I wrote about how the inside of one of our three toolboxes wasn't particularly spartan, but how everything had its place, how if I needed our tiny stapler, I would know where to find it.

Here's the part I missed: the stuff in the other two tool boxes. And if I'm really honest, I also ignored the pile of crumpled sticky notes and the errant bobby pins and the spare change in that one tool box that James did sort through.

As a child of the 80s, I grew up watching a lot of Sesame Street. In fact, in our house, New York's Channel 13 was the only one we were allowed to watch, so I became somewhat of an expert. One of these things is not like the other? I aced it every time. More importantly, I'm pretty sure it's responsible for my love of order and organization. That, and my fastidious father. This weekend, I woke up on Saturday morning and decided to really organize. Every solitary screw and tape measure and dried out rubber band came out of our tool boxes. I vacuumed out their insides. I washed them down. I sat in the middle of our "living room" and organized all of the contents according to use and size and this time when I filled the toolboxes, I did it in a way that actually makes sense. I threw away the roll of unsticky tape we've been carting with us since North Carolina, I gave one of our two tape measures to a neighbor, and I parted with at least one square of used-up sandpaper.

Working at things little by little is all most of us can manage most of the time, but in my view, there's nothing so satisfying as a mammoth overhaul. Nothing in these boxes is more than six inches across but strewn across the floor, they take up half of our apartment. It's nice to know they've been corralled. This time, in a way that makes sense.
You have read this article home / life in a tiny apartment / organization with the title February 2013. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!
Tuesday, February 26, 2013

secret: i don't wash my face.

face brush

Here's a secret: I don't wash my face. Or I didn't until recently.

I know. I live in the big bad grimy city and I almost never touch soap to these cheeks of mine. 

Matters of the face are personal, no surprise. What's good for mine will undoubtedly not translate to yours. But, I stopped washing my face about six years ago and I haven't looked back. Ceasing to use all manner of sudsing, bubbling cleansers has done wonders for my complexion. But in these last days of February, I began to feel like I needed more help. In case you've also found yourself looking at your face in the mirror and wondering where your youth went, I thought I'd share my latest discovery:

Maybe I should start by saying that I'm not a products girl. Scoping out Environmental Working Group's Cosmetics Database is enough to steer me away from most things stocking pharmacy shelves forever. These are the exceptions, currently: It doesn't have a perfect rating, but after nearly 15 years of using the stuff, I'm still pretty reliant on Thayer's Rose Petal Witch Hazel toner (I keep on saying that I'll make my own stuff that doesn't include the "natural rose fragrance," but that hasn't happened yet). I also have at my raccoon eyes with a cotton swab and hand soap (no doubt helping along those crows' feet...). And while I've used natural oils to moisturize in the past, this winter I guess I got lazy and I started using Burt's Bees Radiance Day Cream. Like just about every other product anywhere, the inclusion of fragrance ups this product's hazard rating. Sigh. If you'd also like to obsess over the potentials of your beauty routine to be disrupting your endocrine system, head here

But don't despair! There's a happy ending:

Over the weekend James and I did some small apartment storage overhauling and went to Muji to buy a new under-the-bed storage thingy. Has there been a study linking that store and endorphine production? No? Well.

While purring over the neatly stocked shelves, I stumbled upon this small wooden brush, which I mostly just liked the look of. When I read that the label called it a face brush, I was sold.

Four days of using it and I'm already ready to shout from the rooftops. I'm not ready to start using any real cleanser with it: just a little bit of the same olive oil-based bar soap we've been using lately in the shower. But really: a few small circular motions in the morning and I have the softest skin I've felt on my own face in years, and I'm not spending any time worrying about words I can't pronounce. Also: it's cute.

If you think you'd dig, you can find one here.

You have read this article beauty products / face wash / life / personal / secret with the title February 2013. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!
Monday, February 25, 2013

traveling in pairs.

We woke up Sunday morning to clean sheets. Clean sheets and the newspaper waiting for us. But somewhere between those clean sheets and morning paper something went wrong. Not terribly wrong or even very wrong at all. Some days you are just cranky.

You need to do something to shake the crankiness.

So, you ride the subway with your biologist husband for 40 minutes and you roam around a museum filled with models of enormous sea creatures and you feel better about the state of things. You take the stairs instead of the elevator. You park yourselves on a bench and observe tiny human animals mimicking their primate ancestors.

You stop for tea and split a treat. Then you buy another and split that, too.

You come home to make dinner feeling patched and restored and then you bark at each other again.

You take a few breaths.

One of you makes dinner, not two, and by the time that dinner comes out of the oven you've worked out the kinks again.

It's tricky business, traveling in pairs. But those moments on the subway bench, the socked feet tangled on the couch, the taking the stairs two at a time, together: all of that makes any of the crankiness not matter so very much.

For you on a Monday morning: one of my very favorite essays.
You have read this article american museum of natural history / life / marriage with the title February 2013. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!
Friday, February 22, 2013

my week in objects (mostly).

five little things that made my week.

1. these prints.
{because even though james took them with an inexpensive digital camera about a million moons ago, they look so pretty, printed}.

2. these cheese nubs.
{because they're the best treat going: pieces from the stinky brooklyn remainders bin. best way to try the new and unusual...and stinky}.

3. this bottle opener.
{because james rescued it from behind the stove (again)}.

4. this rose (and all the others).
{because they made for an extra bright spot in a chilly week}.

5. this velvet ribbon.
{because i just can't get enough of velvet ribbon lately and this moss-colored one was just right for a project}.

other things.
loving on my neighborhood.
this sweet post about my space.
dinner with friends.
color for the winter weary.
this fireplace makes me want to move to clinton hill.
You have read this article life / my week in objects with the title February 2013. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!
Thursday, February 21, 2013

make-believe: hawaiian vacation

In December, right before Christmas, our friends Simon and Jenny moved to Hawaii. James and I have been dreaming about a getaway to visit them (and soak in the island air) ever since. An email from Simon this week with a link to Hawaiian Airlines fares so low they looked like typographical errors sent us into a virtual frenzy of number crunching and daydreaming. Alas, even the rock-bottom fares weren't quite low enough to allow for a last minute trip. We're left staring at the giant surfboard in our apartment and wiping our collective tears. In homage to our Hawaiian daydreams, a make-believe post about our would-be adventure. 

5. & 6. prettiest dang multi-floral underwear-turned-swimsuit (top/bottom)
7. & 8. performance suit for surf lessons (top/bottom)*

*It should be known that James is the real surfer in the "family"(evidence, here). But I'd be totally game for giving the death-defying sport another Hawaii.

You have read this article adventure / hawaii / make-believe / surfing with the title February 2013. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!
Wednesday, February 20, 2013

< two fifty: life in a tiny apartment.

Choose your computers carefully.

As usual, this is less of a tip and more of a conversation starter. As you'll learn, I'm not very good at following my own advice, anyway.

Big ticket items in a small apartment are tricky. It's easy to justify giving away extra mugs, or those beach towels you never use, or 12 dresses you haven't worn in years, but parting with expensive things like furniture and computers (or any screened thing) can be more complicated, or at least more daunting.

When we moved into our tiny apartment just over a year and half ago, we brought with us this rawther large desktop computer. The computer was only a few months old when we moved and I wasn't in the market or the mindset to exchange it for something smaller.

A large desktop computer in a tiny apartment. Well. It's not exactly ideal, but we don't have a TV and it has served us well for catching up on episodes of Downton Abbey and The Goodwife (not to mention my personal favorite, Nashville). Perhaps more importantly, given the amount of time that I spend working at a computer these days (from home),  I haven't quite wrapped my head around the idea of getting rid of the desktop entirely. But to be honest, I've been feeling a little stir-crazy lately and I wonder if it's the ol' desktop that's keeping me down.

You guys all seemed to have clever solutions for your music-listening, show-watching habits last week, so I'm curious to know if you've also downsized your computers in favor of more portable options. Am I the only fool still working on a desktop?*

*NB. TO BENEFACTORS/TRESSES: I'm thinking perhaps I need both: un petit séjour en France would be much more manageable with the addition of a new laptop...

You have read this article computers / home / life in a tiny apartment with the title February 2013. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!
Tuesday, February 19, 2013

things happen, serendipitously.

found wine crate
wine crate storage
wine crate
wine crate storage
I'm a big fan of serendipity. The utterly unexpected surprise of stumbling into something useful strikes me as so perfectly cheerful without having any of the ominous connotations of that maddening expression, "everything happens for a reason." On this morning's walk, I strolled past the shuttered neighborhood wine shop and found this smart box and a note: "Take me, please."

Well, don't mind if I do. After lugging it home and spending a few minutes performing minor surgery with a pair of pliers and a screwdriver, the box was ready for its new home beneath our couch. It's already become a secondary stowage area for homeless laptop computers and not-quite-finished weekend newspapers.

Wishing happy happenstances to all of you, today. Keep your eyes wide open.
You have read this article couch / home / serendipity / storage with the title February 2013. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!
Monday, February 18, 2013

dry goods: magentic thumbtacks

dry goods package
In the mid-1990s, in my small town in coastal Connecticut, there was still a small general store. It had a post office inside and the requisite bins of wrapped candy. My sisters and I would go in and fill wax paper bags with butterscotch hard candies and tootsie rolls that cost a penny each. Apart from the candy and the stamps, the store had mostly given over its shelf space to a strange brand of faux-Americana. Instead of being stocked with dustpans and twine, shelves were crammed with hand painted signs bearing Benjamin Franklin-style aphorisms fit for a seaside town: "All you need is love and the beach, " and "Life's better with sandy toes." The shop closed when I was in high school and I'm fairly certain it's now home to a nail salon for taloned beach-goers. Where they get their hand painted signs now is anyone's guess. 

Realities of that particular store aside, the general store lives on in my imagination as the ideal kind of retail establishment. Living in Brooklyn in the 21st century, I can happily report no shortage of small nouveau general stores that have embraced the more practical side of the business. While not everything on their shelves could be classified as necessary, the goods for sale are almost always undeniable useful. Dry Goods on Atlantic Avenue is no exception. 
magnet tacks
When I stopped in this weekend for a quick browse, I found myself compelled to make a small purchase. Magnetic thumbtacks don't fall into the category of something I actually need, but when I happened upon them I was certain I could find a use for them. 
magnetic thumbtacks
For now, they're holding those small bathroom accessories that have a habit of going missing. James isn't convinced that it's gentlemanly to display ones nail clippers, but I disagree. Bathroom accessories as art in a tiny apartment.

PS. Looks like the online shop doesn't have the thumbtacks in stock, but take a look at it anyway for whatever it is you didn't know you needed. UPDATE: Tacks are being restocked as we speak! Check them out, here.
You have read this article brooklyn / dry goods / general store / magnetic thumbtacks / neighborhood favorite with the title February 2013. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!
Friday, February 15, 2013

my week in objects (mostly).

1. this box of crayons.crayons2391
{because I couldn't remember the last time I used crayons, and this week they were just the thing for tracing routes}.

2. these tiny hearts.
{because who wouldn't want a little sugar heart in her morning coffee}?

3. this valentine.

{handmade by my mom: queen of valentine's day}.

4. these sparkles.
{because it only comes but once a year}.

5. these tiny vials.vials1359
{because i've been waiting to share my cheery valentines with you, and this week i could}.

other things:
enjoying this lately.
this is rad.
this studio tour.
tiny sugar hearts found here.
You have read this article life / my week in objects with the title February 2013. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!
Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine Posies

posies of quince, ranunculus, freesia, and spirea
Posies for Valentine's day, paired with family snapshots that seemed to exude just the right amount of gentlemanliness and romance for a Valentine-y ode to love.

To all of you gentlewomen and men: wishes for a day full of sweet notes and sweeter treats (even if only for the birds).

More about these pink posies over on Gardenista.

You have read this article gardenista / posies / valentine's day with the title February 2013. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!
Wednesday, February 13, 2013

< two fifty: life in a tiny apartment.

Streamline your music collection. Maybe.

Growing up my parents had a shiny silver stereo system that took up a corner of our dining room. Below it was a cabinet housing their record collection, or what remained of it after an unfortunate incident involving Wyoming in the heat of summer and the trunk of a Honda hatchback. I would sit on the floor of our living room and pull out the collection one by one.  The crown jewel for me was John Fogerty's Centerfield. By the age of three I'm certain I knew precisely the groove where I needed to drop the needle to hear the glorious strains of "Rock and Rock Girl." There were coordinated dance moves and the beginning of a life-long obsession with songs that include a rowdy tambourine beat. Do yourself a favor and listen to this track; the saxophone is pure 80s awesome.

In our own tiny apartment we have a somewhat smaller-scaled operation. In lieu of a record collection that takes up an entire piece of furniture, James and I have gone almost entirely digital. I say this with a certain amount of remorse and no guarantee that when it's time for me to have kids of my own that I won't invest in something more substantial. Call me crazy, but I just can't imagine a childhood that doesn't involve being scolded for dancing too enthusiastically next to a record player.

For now, a Tivoli radio and our ipods are the solution in this tiny apartment. We can connect our ipods right to the radio and the sound is honestly pretty stellar (psst: there's even a wireless bluetooth version now). Our radio was a gift from James's parents, but if you're considering investing in one bit of equipment, I have only good things to say about the Tivoli.

And now I'm curious to know: have you guys gone digital with your music, or are you still toting around your zippered CD cases and brief cases full of cassette tapes?*

*Just in case you're getting the idea that things are perfectly shipshape around here, I'll confess that James still has PILES of bootlegged CDs in a closet in his parents' home. You know, because studio recordings are for phonies.
You have read this article home / life in a tiny apartment / music / radio with the title February 2013. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!
Tuesday, February 12, 2013

an avian valentine.

bird seed hearts
I'm a big proponent of small-scale additions to public places. If it's the kind thing that blends into a landscape or eventually disappears altogether, even better. For Valentine's Day this year, I'm decorating the back alley with valentines for the birds.
bird seed heartsThey're little love notes left in birdseed as an afternoon snack for the chickadees and a bit of whimsy for neighbors passing by. The only thing nicer than receiving a valentine is making one for someone else, don't you think?
bird seed hearts

other things:
friendly gestures.
anonymous love notes.
tiny envelopes.
heart strings.
You have read this article bird feeder / birds / valentine's day / valentines with the title February 2013. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!
Monday, February 11, 2013

blushing sugar cookies.

sugar cookies hearts with pomegranate glaze
In preparation for this week's love themed festivities, I rolled up my (pajama) sleeves on Sunday morning and got to baking something appropriately heart-shaped. Fittingly for a girl who lives in a tiny apartment, I decided on miniature cookies and used just the inside of my linzer heart cookie cutter to make treats only barely bigger than your average conversation heart.tiny kitchen
I used Mark Bittman's sugar cookie recipe, which is an awfully good thing to have in your real or imagined recipe box. It's tried and true and can serve as the base for any number of sugary delights.
sugar cookie hearts
I've never aced cookie rolling. If you're like me and and can't quite manage to get an evenly thick dough, my only council is to watch your cookies carefully in the oven. Thin cookies will brown much more quickly than their heftier traymates. For softer cookies, consider taking them out of the oven after only five or six minutes. sugar cookies hearts
For the glaze, I wanted something subtle enough to not scare off the valentine-weary but pink and tasty enough to encourage gobbling. I mixed vanilla extract with bottled pomegranate juice and confectioners sugar. About two cups of confectioner's sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla extract and a little less than 1/2 cup of pomegranate juice was right for me, but glaze making is one of those things that you're better off winging. A little of this, a little of that, until it's just right.
pomegranate glaze
I think that next time I endeavor to make something valentine-y, I will crush up pomegranates myself for a slightly pulpier glaze in a slightly less bashful hue. If you want to achieve a more eye-popping shade of pink  (verging on purple), you might consider the mighty blood orange.
sugar cookies hearts with pomegranate glaze
Happy love week.
You have read this article food / food coloring / pomegranate glaze / sugar cookies / valentine's day with the title February 2013. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!
Friday, February 8, 2013

my week in objects (mostly).

five little things that made my week.

1. this turmeric and milk.
{my friend janet reminded me of turmeric's healing properties this week and i made a delicious combination of warm milk, turmeric, and honey. move over hot chocolate (okay, not too far over)}.

2. this quince blossom.
{because i used these branches for an upcoming valentine post and the leftovers lasted all week}.

3. this nearly used up candle.
candle bits
{because i've been sticking it on the radiator instead of lighting it, and it still smells so. good}.

4. this sleepy finch.
{for snoozing on the feeder all morning long}.

5. this chocolate pizzelle. pizzelle
{for all these reasons}.

other things:
we just made this again. best blizzard meal.
ground hogs!
old folks + old footage = heart swells.
this is life affirming.
i'd love pore over these.
You have read this article life / my week in objects with the title February 2013. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!
Thursday, February 7, 2013

make-believe: valentines

I know there are a lot of folks out there who could really rather do without Valentine's Day.  February rolls around and I begin to hear sighs about the hype of what's essentially a commercial holiday.


I won't deny that the consumer push around this holiday borders on outrageous, but I will say that a wholesale disregard for the day also seems sad. What could be better than a day devoted to sending little messages of love? I say that we all take a lesson from our friends in kindergarden and get crafting.

Here is an assortment of things that you could purchase--and some you likely already own--to get you in the spirit. A valentine can be made with a few snips of a scissor and a few strokes of a pen and it doesn't take much money or extravagance to do into that.

You have read this article make-believe / valentine's day / valentines with the title February 2013. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!
Wednesday, February 6, 2013

< two fifty: life in a tiny apartment.

Be kind to your radiator.

Our radiator has the biggest personality in our tiny apartment. When people exclaim about our ability to live together in such a tiny space, I'm tempted to reply: "...and with that pushy radiator, too."  He's the supporting actor who desperately wants to take the leading role in our wee family drama. He clanks and fusses and spits and steams until he's certain he's gotten our attention. Heat during the day? Who needs it? 80 degrees when you're trying to fall asleep? It's yours. Symphony of clatters and bangs at 3:00 am? Everyone's dream, no?

But he also keeps us toasty and he's small and discrete, so we stay friends. If you live in a tiny apartment in New York--or anywhere in the Northeast--chances are you have a radiator friend (or foe) of your own. Here, a few tiny tips for living with an overbearing bully:

On particularly dry nights, I fill loaf pans with water and set them on top to make things a little steamier. I can't imagine introducing a humidifier to this space and this is a free alternative (though honestly, this thing is verging on cute).

To help mitigate the rattling we've wedged small wooden shims under the feet in an attempt to straighten him out.

And to help with incessant hissing, we replaced the radiator vent. We're basically home-maintenance heroes. I know.

At the risk of revealing all of my dorkiness in one blow: I think this video is all kinds of awesome and much more helpful than any of my rambling. (Some day I'll tell you about my ardent crush on Bob Villa circa 1988).

Do you guys have steam radiators? How do you keep them happy?

PS. We're thinking about painting our little buddy come spring. Stay tuned.

You have read this article heat / home / life in a tiny apartment / radiator with the title February 2013. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!
Tuesday, February 5, 2013

lemon and honey.

lemon and honey
Oh, sweet elixir of the gods.

If you've been experiencing any of the persistant sore throat that's been loitering by me for the last few days, there's only one thing to do: boil yourself some water, squeeze in half a lemon and stir in a heaping teaspoon of honey. It's the commonest of remedies for sore throats and still, I have a sneaking suspicion that it gets cast aside in favor of lozenges and bemoaning our collective winter misery. This combo is sunshine in a glass and welcome change from the fire cider I've been swallowing with gusto. Sometimes even the most hardcore herbalist tires of smelling quite so much like a head of garlic.

If you find yourself reaching for a lemon-flavored tea or packet of fizziness, consider giving this a go instead. Lemon zinger, you've got nothing on the real thing.

PS. This honey was made by bees that live way uptown where James teaches.  Turns out the students aren't the only hard working ladies at 116th and Broadway...
You have read this article herbal remedy / lemon and honey / lemons / natural cold remedy / natural remedy with the title February 2013. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!
Monday, February 4, 2013

on balance and chocolate pizzelles.

pizzelles (chocolate)
On Sunday James made chocolate pizzelles. They were just like these ones, but with the addition of a 1/4 cup of cocoa powder and the absence of fuss over having them turn out perfectly. It's a difficult balance sometimes: making things for this space so that they look good enough to share and deciding to simply capture something as it's happening, free of contrivance or art direction. I try not to stage too much--the goal is for this space to be a reflection of the life we're actually living, not pure simulacrum--but sometimes I can't help myself but to drag the table into the sunlight, to swap a dirty towel for a clean one, to refuse use of the ugly potholder. As I'm doing more and more work that involves styling and photographing for other sites, I can feel the lines separating fact and fiction begin to blur. There's an impulse to have everything appear as perfect as the pictures in my mind. Snapping these shots of James as he made pizzelles was a welcome reminder to just let some things be. They don't look so very different from a shot I might try to style anyway, but they felt different. There was no pressure, no hand-wringing, just shots of my husband making italian cookies on a Sunday afternoon. 
You have read this article food / life / pizzelles with the title February 2013. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!