Friday, March 29, 2013

my week in objects (mostly).

1 . this new system for napkins and dish towels.linen box
{also, that bright table cloth which has replaced our blanket as couch saver}.

2. this bridal crown daffodil.
bridal crown daffodils
{because it has lots of still unbloomed sisters outside, but inside it's queen bee}.

3. this closet.
{because i've got big plans for an overhaul. cannot wait}.

4. this white stair case.
{because james and i painted it this weekend. spackle saves the day}.

5. this tiny tin.
{because it resurfaced this week. imagining aunt ruth at maxim's is pure gold}.

other things:
something slouchy.
new york then and now.
horses in grand central.
beautiful pillows, photographed by nicole.
me + summer, everyday.
+ these.
this is fascinating.

me in other places:
questions answered.
lights out.
flowery splurge.
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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Blog Business.

As we welcome spring (or beg on our knees for it to get here already), I have a few sponsorship slots that have opened up and I have a sneaking suspicion that one might be just right for you. Or you.

I am delighted to work with a team of small business owners whose products and missions reflect the same ethos, attention to detail, and aesthetic that I try to foster in this online space. If you'd like to join the team that helps keep this space afloat, please send me a note with links to your business and I'll pass along a springtime media kit for you.

If you're a reader, hop on over to the shops and spaces of the folks who currently support Reading My Tea Leaves. They are awesome and I wouldn't be here everyday without them. Just so you know.
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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

two fifty: life in a tiny apartment.

Doling out marriage advice isn't something I really feel qualified to do. I'll wax expert on tiny-apartment living all day, but an expert on a happy marriage? Come back to me in a few years. Still, readers write in on a fairly frequent basis asking how we survive moments of marital strife in a tiny space. Mostly the call for help is something along the lines of nowhere to run to, nowhere to hide. In keeping with this week's national discussion of marriage, here's a trick for surviving a fight in a tiny apartment with your husband, or wife, or anything you got now.

I'm a 0 to 60 in 5 seconds flat kind of person.  I blow up easily, I feel bad about blowing up, and then I want an immediate recovery. I do cry out loud, I don't keep it inside. James is the opposite. Of course. He's quiet and contemplative during arguments. It drives me bonkers. Where I want to talk through things right away--often while my temper is still flaring--James needs a minute to separate himself. I can be pretty bad about giving it to him, and not just because there's nowhere for him to hide in our tiny space. 

I'm trying a new trick that is kind of mortifying to write about, but I'm going to anyway:

Play a love song.

Sometimes creating emotional distance from the fight itself is more important than creating physical distance. It's really hard to keep your blood boiling when you listen to a song that you love, with the person who you love, about love. It's kind of like putting on a lullaby to soothe a crying baby. If you force yourself to listen through a song, even if you're hot-tempered like me, you might just give yourself and your loved one the time that you need, as James would say, to "bring it down a notch." This is an old favorite.

We also sometimes scurry up the stairs* to the loft, or sequester ourselves in the bathroom, but neither of these options are really very helpful. Especially if you're James...I follow him up there every single time, poor thing.

*PS. James and I repainted our stairs this past weekend. Game changer. 
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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

new views.

crocuses, brooklyn heights promenade
Last week, the newly built Squibb Park Bridge, connecting the Brooklyn Heights Promenade with the fantastic Brooklyn Bridge Park, opened to pedestrian traffic. As a near-daily park walker, I am thrilled with this newest development. James and I took advantage of the blue-sky morning on Sunday and took a walk along the (very bouncy!) new bridge. The weather was far from spring-like, but the crocuses were out on the Promenade and just looking at the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory from this new vantage point made me feel like summer would get here eventually. In the meantime, I'm pretty tempted to get myself a skateboard and start testing out my moves. Cutest couple award goes to this duo. Don't get me started on the pup.
squibb park skate boarders
squibb park bridge
brooklyn bridge from squibb park bridge
erin on squibb park brdigesquibb park bridge
squibb park bridge
crocuses on the brooklyn heights promenade

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Monday, March 25, 2013

turning off the lights.

weck jar and wax flower hurricane glass
Over the weekend, James and I celebrated Earth Hour. Maybe celebrate is too joyous of a term. Perhaps I should be saying that we observed Earth Hour instead. That sounds awfully dour. In any case, as we have for the past five years, James and I turned off our lights at 8:30 pm in solidarity with folks around the world who'd like to raise awareness about the state of the planet. The idea isn't really that people turning off their lights for an hour will save tremendous amounts of energy (though it does), so much as it is to raise awareness about energy consumption in general. It's kind of incredible how much being without electricity for an hour in the mid-evening can awaken you to your reliance on it. James and I are thinking about instituting regular candlelight dinners. Maybe not every single night, but more often. Romantic + energy conscious. Did you guys participate in Earth Hour? How did you pass the time?

PS. I wrote more about Earth Hour here...including details about making these wax flower candle holders.

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Friday, March 22, 2013

my week in objects (mostly).

five little things that made my week.

1. this white blanket.blanket
{because we're on a spending hiatus of epic proportions, but an all-cotton blanket made the cut}.

2. this basket.
{in a new spot that makes so much more sense}.

3. this plastic bucket.
{because it's the perfect thing for carrying our compost to the market. coffee grinds in freezer and ripping plastic bags, be gone}.

4. these egg shells.
egg shells
{for making such tasty salad}.

5. these dishes.
{for not being a total eyesore while they dried}.

other things:
quilts to drool over.
my favorite soup: made vegetarian!
so many awesomely mini things.
museum guards.
sucker for ephemera. also, i need one.
food for thought: here. here. here. and, finally, here.

more from me, in other places:
the paper bag princess, sort of.
what's in the water?
spring in a bowl.
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Thursday, March 21, 2013

daffodils and other things.

On my walk this morning, there were snowflakes. I tired to imagine that what I was seeing were white spring blossoms falling from the sky, but there was no mistaking the chill on my nose, or the sight of my neighbors' faces being buried into their scarves on their own morning walks. Looks like winter hasn't quit us quite yet.

Yesterday, I wrote a post for The Neighborhood with ideas for celebrating the first day of spring, but I think this second day of the new season is as good a day for putting them to use. Spring will be here soon enough, even if it takes a little coaxing. In the meantime, get yourself a green bowl and fill it up with daffodils. You won't regret it.

Other springtime ideas, here.
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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

< two fifty: life in a tiny apartment.

Overnight guests: permission to say no?

In previous apartments, James and I had a futon that could accomodate two guests quite comfortably. In North Carolina and again in Rhode Island, we had loads of overnight visitors. I loved setting up our futon: adding fresh sheets, smoothing a blanket across the foot of the mattress and shouting goodnight from our bedroom after we'd turned out the lights. In the morning, it was pancakes from James and jazz on the radio and coffee while everyone took turns showering. Since we've never had a distinct guest room, I always preferred to fold up the futon during the day and set it back up at night. It's a little extra work, but it meant space for raucous games of trivial pursuit and other nerdities. I like to think that we hosted some pretty stellar sleepovers.

Hosting overnight guests in our current apartment is a whole different ballgame. In fact, I'll admit that in almost two years of living in New York City, we've only done it once. Yes, you read that correctly. Did I mention that our guest was my sister?

The largest swath of unoccupied floor space in our apartment measures just under 6' x 6'. If we moved our small telephone table and blocked the entrance to the bathroom, that's enough space to just barely squeeze a double air mattress. Where guests would put their bags or coats or, even, their toothbrushes is a bit more of a mystery.

I'm honestly a little embarrassed about our lack of hospitality when it comes to offering a warm place to spend the night in the city that never sleeps. The problem is that I'm not sure that inviting folks to sleep in our tiny apartment would really be enjoyable for anyone. For now, I think my best tip for truly tiny apartment dwellers is to give yourself permission to explain that you don't have the space overnight guests.

What do you guys think? Do you invite guests to stay in your tiny spaces? Or do you make like I do, and suggest a good find on airbnb?

PS. We're back to that time of year when there's a sun patch on the floor in the afternoon. Time change, I love you.
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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

curried egg salad with apple and almonds

curried egg salad sandwich with apple and almonds
curried egg salad sandwich with apple and almonds
The best part about making hard boiled Easter eggs is the egg salad that comes after them. Egg salad is tricky. It's not the most transportable of the salads. Anyone who's ever had the misfortune of being seated next to someone--or even five rows away from them--on an airplane who has packed an egg salad sandwich knows this. The sandwich has a pungency problem which makes it much better for Sundays at home than cross-country adventures. If like me you also decide to test your craftiness with a little egg decoration this spring, consider the lowly egg salad sandwich as a follow-up project. It will be much less easy to mess up and a delicious reward for all of your hard work.

I wasn't particularly feeling the classic celery and mayonnaise egg salad this weekend, so I decided on something with yogurt for creaminess and curry powder for flavor, drawing inspiration from A Cozy Kitchen and 101 Cookbooks.

The ingredients I finally decided on are below, the measurements are approximations:

6 eggs, hard boiled, peeled and chopped
2 teaspoons curry powder
4 heaping tablespoons plain yogurt
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
1/3 red onion, finely diced
1/2 apple, finely diced (I used a honey crisp)
a handful of roasted almonds, roughly chopped
a pinch or two of salt, to taste
juice from 1 lime

After I chopped and diced and otherwise made smaller all of my ingredients, I piled them into a stainless steel bowl and whipped them together with a fork. The key with this salad is to taste as you go. Need a little more lime juice? Add it. Need an extra pinch of salt or a dash of curry powder? Add those too. Not creamy enough? More yogurt. As my friend Carrie always reminds me, it's easier to add than it is to take away, so start small and add more of everything as you go. James and I piled our salad onto a crusty loaf from Bien Cuit, which is just about the best bakery around.
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Monday, March 18, 2013

natural easter eggs: botanical blueprints

botanical blueprint eggs
I've said before that I prefer my Easter eggs to be au natural. At the Goddard's Barberry Hill Farm where James and I got married, they have chickens producing eggs in more beautiful shades than any dye could conjure. But when I saw these botanical blueprint tiles a few weeks ago, I decided to try my hand at recreating the look...on Easter eggs. I made a preemptive batch to share with you, in case you wanted to try them for yourselves.
dyeing eggs with red cabbage
Finding stark white eggs that are from chickens that have been treated kindly is a little tricky, but I managed to find a batch at a nearby market that met my standards. I hardboiled them before I began and plunged them into icy water afterward to stop them from cooking. Really nice instructions for hard-boiled eggs, at The Kitchn.
making botanical blueprint eggs
Next, I chose my botanicals. I wanted to experiment with a range of shapes and sizes so I bought a few stems from a local florist, pinched an end off my maidenhair fern and pilfered a leaf or three from another fern I spotted growing in the garden in front of my building.
making botanical blueprint eggs
In general I found that the softer the leaf, the more successful the print. The small ferns that I thought were going to be perfect ended up producing a much less dramatic print than I expected. I think the problem was the stiffness of the leaves, which allowed dye to sneak its way underneath them instead of the leaf adhering itself to the shell.*
making botanical blueprint eggs
The maidenhair fern on the other hand, clung to the egg perfectly.
making botanical blueprint eggs
I used lengths of cut up white stockings as a way to hold the leaf to the egg during dyeing. I had the most success with using two rubber bands per egg and wrapping them up the way you might a butterscotch hard candy. It's a slightly laborious process, but I'd developed a good technique by the time I wrapped my sixth egg.
dyeing eggs with red cabbage
While I wrapped my eggs, I had a solution of red cabbage and water boiling away on the stove. In what can only be described as magic, red cabbage produces the most beautiful natural blue dye that you can imagine.dyeing eggs with red cabbage
To make the dye, chop up your cabbage (I started with just half and then opted to use the entire thing), and fill your pot with enough water so the cabbage has some room to move, but not so much that your dye will be too diluted. Make sure you use a stainless steel pot to avoid discoloration. This is not the moment to bring out your white enamel. Bring the mixture to a boil on the stove, and then allow the cabbage to simmer in the water for at least a half an hour. I left mine in a little longer, just to be sure.
dyeing eggs with red cabbage
When the water has become a deep reddish purple, remove the pot from the stove and let the whole batch cool. Sticking the pot outside for a little while will speed up the process. If you don't let the dye cool, you'll end up overcooking your eggs, so it's worth the wait. Once cool, strain the dye with a large sieve.
dyeing eggs with red cabbageAdd white vinegar to your cooled dye at a ratio of one tablespoon vinegar for each cup of dye. Some recipes that I looked at have you add the vinegar while the cabbage is still cooking. I'm not sure if there are merits to doing it one way or the other. Any theories out there?
dyeing eggs with red cabbage
Now is the time to dunk your little bundles! I poured my dye back into my original pot so that the eggs wouldn't be on top of each other. I cleared a spot in the fridge and let the whole gang hang out in there overnight. The length of time you allow your eggs to sit in the dye bath will determine their color. If you're hoping for more of a robin's egg blue, you should take yours out sooner than I did. I was admittedly perplexed by recipes that advised merely dipping eggs in the dye bath. Dipping the eggs briefly resulted in no discernable color change in this kitchen. Slow and steady wins this race.
botanical blueprint eggs
Yesterday morning, when I unwrapped my eggs I was somewhat underwhelmed by the result. This is not a project for the perfectionists among us. But I've decided I like the subtler, softer look. Even if the prints are not crystal clear, they're still awfully pretty. Next year I think I might forgo the botanicals and opt for a cheery rainbow of turmeric, beet, and red cabbage dyes instead.
botanical blueprint eggs
I found the following two articles to be especially helpful in making my eggs: Vibrant Eggs, Dyed Naturally for dye-making and Masked Easter Eggs for the stocking tip, because it turns out there's nothing new under the sun.

*Admission: I did neglect to adhere my leaves to the egg shells using egg whites as Martha Stewart advises...for shame. There's always next time.
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Friday, March 15, 2013

my week in objects (mostly).

five little things that made my week.

1. this hot sauce.piri piri sauce
{because i've been inventing reasons to eat it all week}.

2. this afternoon light patch.
march light
{because there are a few weeks in march when the sun is high enough in the sky that it pours into our apartment. three glorious hours}.

3. these wax flowers.
wax flowers
{because they dress up a room so nicely, but without being fussy. you know what i mean}?
lemon water
{this lemon and sage water with lavender essential oil for fresh scents}.

5. this clamp light.
clamp light
{because we suffered a few seedling casualties this week, so i decided to bring out the big to speak}.

other things:
i had the pleasure of meeting this woman once. everything she does is inspired. this especially.
i'm into silhouettes lately.
james says i can't link to sharks without mentioning this.
i'm in the market for a new book. all three of these sound terrific.
chelsea's beautiful bouquets, all in one spot.
this dress, all spring long. please?

and more from me, elsewhere:
hiding dirt, in plain sight.
tiny green things.
spring branches.
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Thursday, March 14, 2013

make-believe: spring linens and other things.

After yesterday's post about my sleepless night, I've got sleep and bedrooms on my mind. While my nighttime dreams may be lackluster lately, my daydreams have been as active as ever. I've been scheming about ways to brighten up our tiny sleeping loft and I've got an ideabook in the works about springtime linens and bedroom accessories. If I came into a little extra spending money, I'd change things up by mixing and matching colors and patterns. I might tend toward being somewhat of a neutrals girl, but I don't want to be boring. Bright yellow checks for spring? Yes, please.

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

< two fifty: life in a tiny apartment.

Sleep tight.

At the time of writing I am sitting in front of my computer in the bluish pool of light that only comes from a screen being turned on the middle of the night. I am trying, unsuccessfully to make my keystrokes noiseless.

Difficulty in falling asleep is not something that commonly afflicts me. As my dad is fond of saying, I'm the kind of person whose head hits the pillow once, bounces back, and before it hits the pillow a second time, I'm sleeping. Once I'm asleep, I tend to stay that way. There are no midnight snacks or trips to the bathroom. For all my other failings, I'm an ace when it comes to sleeping.

Until I'm not.

Sleeplessness in a tiny apartment is no joke. There's no hiding inside these four walls, no sneaking off to curl up on a couch in some faraway room where the sounds of your munching on cookies and feverishly clacking away at the keyboard won't disturb someone else's slumber.

Tonight, James spoke up after we'd been in bed for about 30 minutes.

"Are you still awake? Because it sounds like you're awake."

I hadn't made a noise, and I was sure that I wasn't even fidgeting, but there must be some kind of super-spousal-hearing that develops over time and can detect the sound of blinking eyelids. I was awake and I wasn't going to be falling asleep anytime soon, so I trundled down the ladder from the loft and fired up my computer to begin to write. There aren't walls on our loft, so the only thing separating me from James now is my wakefulness and a precious few extra feet of space. As a remedy, I'm sipping a cup of valerian root tea. Have you tried the stuff? It smells like your dirtiest socks, but I promise it does wonders for quieting a racing mind. That's what I'm hoping anyway. James too, undoubtedly.

When there's only one room and you're not the only one in it, you've got to at least try to fall asleep.

PS. Did you guys read this article this week? Or maybe this one last fall? Good reading for your next sleepless night or your morning coffee, whichever comes first.
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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

starting seeds.

helioptrope seed packet
seed starts
Even though today is the dreariest day on record--well if it it isn't, it must be awfully close--there's a tiny spot of spring in this apartment that I've been doing my very best to nurture. I started heliotrope, salvia, and lobelia seeds a few weeks ago and despite my dim apartment's best efforts to thwart their progress, a few tiny seedlings have sprouted. I sincerely hope you'll join me in rooting for their survival. Pun only mildly intended.

The full story's on Gardenista, including a little how-to for newspaper pots.
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Monday, March 11, 2013


dumplings, prepared
I've written before about our weekly dinners with Cait and Curt. With the arrival of tiny Oliver, the ritual has become somewhat more unpredictable than it was this summer, but whether it's dinner on a Tuesday or dinner on a Sunday, we still find ourselves gathered around their table on a weekly basis. These days the only difference is that we pass a tiny burping being from one shoulder to the next as we enjoy our meal.  On Saturday, we made dumplings.
Curt did most of the work while the rest of us cooed at Oliver's ability to bob his head rhythmically and blink his eyelids.
dumplings, folded
Kale and mushrooms, garlic and ginger, sauteed and folded into dumpling wrappers.dumplings, pan fried
Pan fried until deep golden and crispy.
dumplings, cooked
Served with scallions and jalapenos and sauces for dipping. dumplings, served
The food's secondary to the company, which only serves to tell you how much we love this newly minted trio.
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