my week in objects (mostly).

1.30.2015

five little things that made my week.

1. this book dummy.
book dummy
{because this 7-inch x 9-inch little pile of blank pages is going to turn into a book with actual things inside. and i'm ridiculously excited about it.}

2. this cookie dough.
cookie dough
{for still being there.}

3. this little lamp.
lamp
{because sometimes dreams do come true. thank you so much for sending this my way, schoolhouse electric. it arrived just in time for a snow day.}

4. this jar of unsweetened cocoa powder.
cocoa
{because i've been adding spoonfuls to my morning smoothies. try it!}

5. this second act.
amaryllis
{because i'll never tire of you, white amaryllis. thanks for blooming again.}

other things:
never too early to dream about summer.
watch the trailer. host a screening.
snow hush.
this 'bout broke my heart.
maps!
never wanted a clock so badly.
so many egg sandwiches lately, must spice things up.
it's january: i cracked.

ps. you have until tomorrow afternoon to enter the traditional medicinals giveaway. hop on over.

chocolate chip cookies for disaster preparedness.

1.29.2015

chocolate chip cookies
Today, I'm taking advantage of a perfectly ordinary Thursday to share with you a very extraordinary recipe for chocolate chip cookies. Why today? Because we're at the tail end of January and we've all made it this far. And because yesterday morning my monthly MetroCard didn't work. And because the ensuing events with a very grumpy station agent might have meant that I cried all the way to 14th Street. And I might have discovered upon arrival that I'd left the house without nipples for Faye's bottles. Again. No good, very bad, etc.

But, when I returned home to start my work day, there was cookie dough in the refrigerator. James made it on Monday evening to prepare for the great snow-mergency of 2015 and by some miracle we hadn't finished it all by Wednesday. Cookies to the rescue when I needed them most. As you see, this is really a post about disaster preparedness.
chocolate chip cookies
These are the cookies that we've been making on the regular for the past five years. And when I say we, I mean that we've been eating them, James has been making them. Because that's how things fly in this family.

Here's my opinion about chocolate chip cookies: they should be slightly crispy on the outside, slightly gooey in the middle, and most important of all, not too chocolately. I can't stress this last part enough. Too many chips spoil a good cookie, if you ask me. We're talking more than eight or so per cookie and you're walking a slippery, slippery slope into chocolate overload.

Here's another opinion: chocolate chip cookies are best enjoyed with a glass of cold, whole milk. The milk must be cold. And it must be whole. Because skim milk tastes like chalky water. In my opinion.


The Very Best Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

What you need:
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) butter (we always flout convention and used salted, but the original recipe calls for unsalted)
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed (the dark brown stuff really makes a difference if you can find it)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (we go overboard on the vanilla just for good measure)
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (the original recipe calls for 2 2/3 cup, which: woah)

What to do with it:
1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda.
2. Into the bowl of an electric mixer (or into another large bowl if you're doing this step by hand), beat the butter and sugars until smooth. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time. Beat each egg until fully incorporated. Add your vanilla last and beat again, just for a few seconds.
3. Add a portion of the flour mixture (we usually do about 1/3 of the flour at a time to avoid the entire kitchen getting coated in flour, but feel free to take your chances) and mix for 15 seconds. Repeat until all the flour is just incorporated.
4. Use your rubber spatula to fold in the chocolate chips.
5. MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL: Cover the bowl (we use this stuff) and refridgerate for 6 hours. If you're in a pinch, you can pop it into the freezer for less than that, but do not skip this step. This is the step that turns everything into magic. Go take a walk. Go out to dinner. Do anything to distract yourself, because those precious moments when the dough is getting all cold are priceless.
6. Once your dough is properly chilly, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. (The original recipe suggests lining your tray with parchment paper but we never do this. It's probably why our cookies are always a little extra crispy at the edges.
7. Use your hands (or a fancy contraption like an ice cream scoop) to scoop small morsels of dough and shape them into round 2-inch balls. Place them about 1 inch apart on a cookie tray. Bake for 12 minutes, rotating the pans once while baking if you remember. The cookies should be golden brown on the edges.
8. Remove the cookie tray from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes, or until you can no longer resist. Transfer each cookie to your mouth the rack so they can cool completely.
chocolate chip cookies

NOTE: Unless you're sure that you're made of the stuff that can stomach the entire batch (24 cookies) in one go, consider baking only as many as you can eat in one sitting and keeping the rest under wraps in the fridge. Two caveats: 1) Don't save yourself just one scoop in the fridge. Because while you might not be able to eat all the cookies in one sitting, you surely need to eat more than just one. 2) This habit might spoil you for anything but fresh-out-of-the-oven cookies from here on. Proceed with caution.

More about James's baking habit, HERE.

traditional medicinals: a self-care giveaway.

1.27.2015

traditional medicinals | reading my tea leaves
You know what sound I really love? The sound of hot water being poured from a kettle. It's a thick sound, isn't it? All burbles and steam and the promise of something warm? Everyday magic, right?

But the sound of hot water being poured when it's destined to for a cup of hard-working herbal tea? In a moment when I could use a little extra support? A little boost to the immune system? A quieting of frayed nerves? A moment of calm? Even better.
traditional medicinals | reading my tea leaves
I'm thrilled to be partnering with one of my favorite resources for herbal supplements in tea form. Traditional Medicinals herbal teas are made with certified Organic herbs and plants. They're a staple in my house. I used their Raspberry Leaf tea when I was pregnant and their Throat Coat and Echinacea Plus blends are always on standby. This week, Traditional Medicinals is giving one lucky reader a collection of teas from their relaxation line—a little gift to help promote self-care in the doldrums of winter.
traditional medicinals | reading my tea leaves
The teas might be just what you need to create an atmosphere of calm, or find a bit of help on a night when sleep is elusive, or simply indulge in a little after-dinner quiet.traditional medicinals | reading my tea leaves
Stressed? Cup of Calm is designed to offer a bit of serenity in the middle of a busy day or night. Relaxing herbs in the blend include passionflower, chamomile, lavender and catnip.*
traditional medicinals | reading my tea leaves
Can't sleep? Nighty Night is a passionflower tea combined with chamomile, linden flower and hops, for a mellow blend to help you on your way to a good night's rest.*
traditional medicinals | reading my tea leaves
Tense? The Chamomile with Lavender tea helps settle your nervous system and relax your digestive system.*

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment below complete with a way to contact you and a note about your favorite way to find a moment of calm on a busy day. 

The giveaway will close at 5:00 pm EST on Saturday, January 31, 2015 and a randomly selected winner will be announced on Monday, February 2, 2015. Open to all readers.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

This post and giveaway was sponsored by Traditional Medicinals. Thanks so much for supporting the thoughtful, sustainable companies that keep Reading My Tea Leaves afloat.

shake the wintertime blues: hunker down, cozy up.

1.26.2015

Sometimes it takes a snowstorm. But it doesn't have to.

A few weeks ago, this listicle was wending its way around the internet, referencing cultural concepts that exist in places outside the US. Included on the list is the Danish concept of hygge, which for all intents and purposes is the very concept of shaking the wintertime blues. Candlelight? Friends? Hanging out in front of a fire? Hygge.

Of course, in the US we kind of have the concept. Afterall, everyone knows that hunkering down with pillow forts and hot chocolates—or, if you're the sort, a bottle or two of red wine—makes for merriness in the middle of a wintry day. But pillow-fort builders notwithstanding, I think it's safe to admit that without even a word to describe the concept, we haven't fully embraced the notion that cultivating cozy is imperative to getting through winter. Sometimes it feels as though we need a snowstorm to justify a little extra hunkering down and cozying up.

---

Growing up, I loved storms, mostly because they came with the threat—or hope—of a power outage and day off of school. Surely I'd read too many Laura Ingalls Wilder books, but I was desperate to light candles and watch the snow fall. My parents encouraged the enthusiasm by always making a celebration out of a snow day. On more than one occasion we went for reckless nighttime sledding excursions when there was the promise of canceled school the next day. The point is, a storm meant the opposite of business as usual.

I realize the romance only endures so long and I'm not actually wishing a wintry power outage (or worse) on anyone. But there's something about the habit-breaking power of a snowstorm that's worth trying to recreate, historic storm a-brewing or no. It's so easy to fall into a rut in the wintertime; to lie listless onto the couch, eating bon-bons and dictating which Hulu episodes you next want your husband to cue up. Just me? Well, here's a little pledge to shake things up. To unplug the computers and banish the phones. To take a nighttime walk in fresh snow. To take a nighttime walk at all! Here's to lighting candles and pouring tea and generally luxuriating in a little bit of self-imposed wintry quiet.

Happy snow day, friends. Stay safe out there.

Photo from my Instagram feed. Lots more snowy shots from the neighborhood to come, no doubt.

my week in objects (mostly).

1.23.2015

five little things that made my week.

1. these exhibit postcards.
matisse
{because they're always my favorite gift shop item.}

2. these un-paper towels.
rags
{long-coveted. finally purchased.}

3. this corner.
sun
{sunset in a north-facing apartment.}

4. this little vial.
portland apothecary calm
{part of the very fabulous new mom kit i tested out for portland apothecary. so, so good.}

5. this dishtowel.
towel
{for endless games of peekaboo.}

other things:
a very inspiring kids' room.
just tried this. insanely good with a spoonful of this.
neon in nature.
to file away for someday.
so much to like, but eyeing those wide-legged pants, esp.
flowers in ice.
spring dreaming.
out of stock, but to consider.

baby proof: a simplified diaper bag.

1.21.2015

baby proof: a simplfied diaper bag
The diaper bag we pack for Faye is a fairly bare bones affair. Of course it's not entirely bare bones, because life with a baby isn't bare bones. It's padded bones. A little messy and jiggly but very lovable bones.

In fact, it turns out that unpacking a bag and writing about its contents is a surefire way to feel like what you have is anything but simple. But eight months on the job, this is where we are. Our diaper bag might not include everything you include. It might include quite a bit more. But in case you're looking for encouragement in the crusade against schlepping the entire nursery on your shoulder, here's what's been working for us:
baby proof: a simplfied diaper bag
As I've mentioned before, the bag itself is a several-year-old tote that I scooped up from Forestbound. If I were to buy a dedicated diaper bag, I'd choose this one, which has convenient snaps along the top to help keep everything secure on long subway rides. And there are plenty of long subway rides. This is the bag as I pack it to drop Faye off for an afternoon of babysitting or a long day out on the town (say, museum hopping). When I head to the grocery store or the post office, or even for a long winter's walk, I bring exactly none of this stuff because I hate being loaded down with stuff. More on that here.

For clarity's sake, I've divided the bag's contents into three main categories:

Diapering essentials:
diapers
wipes
coconut oil and/or assorted sample-sized diaper creams
wet bag*

Fairly self-explanatory, I think. (A bit more about diapers, here, in case you're interested in going the cloth route.) The wet bag is something that's essential for cloth diaperers, but when we've traveled and used disposables, I've found that it's helpful to have around then, too. Kind of a nice relief not to have to ask someone if you can throw a soiled diaper into their trash can. We bring Faye to my sister's house for babysitting most weeks, so there's always a bit of coconut or jojoba oil around for her to use, but we've also been given a number of samples of these creams as gifts from friends, and I keep them in the bag just in case we're out and about and need something soothing.

Food essentials:
stainless steel containers
spoon
a bib
baby bottles (+ milk, of course)

Now that Faye has nearly reached the eight month mark, we're firmly entrenched in solid food territory. I've been using small stainless steel containers to pack up a bit of mashed avocado or squash or anything else mushy. We use glass bottles for milk (they come with a silicone sleeve, which I usually remove because they have a tendency to soak up freezer smells if the bottle's been frozen.)

Just-in-case extras:
an extra set of diaper fasteners
an extra diaper cover
an extra onesie
an extra pair of pants
a small toy or two

I keep this stuff to a minimum because it's amazing how fast you can find yourself cramming in the just-in-case snowsuit or the just-in-case sun hat on a day when it's raining torrentially and 70 degrees. I don't think there's ever been a time when I really wished I had something that's not on this list.
baby proof: a simplfied diaper bag
I keep things organized in the diaper bag by reusing small muslin bags: one for Faye's bottles and one for her solid foods. I admit that this step might appear precious or unnecessary, but I find that using the bags helps me to remember to pack them. A morning trek to the nearest (read: far away) Whole Foods to buy a new nipple because I'd forgotten to pack one taught me to develop a packing strategy. Luckily, our amazing babysitter packs everything back up for us at the end of the day. Together I think we've got a pretty good system going to make sure that we're not constantly leaving behind spoons or bottle caps or nipples or any of the little things that could get lost in the shuffle.
baby proof: a simplfied diaper bag
This zipped pouch from my friend Becca houses all of the extras: diaper cover, bib, onesie, diaper cream, etc. Keeping all the little stuff zipped up makes finding it easier than it would be if everything was floating all around.
baby proof: a simplfied diaper bag
Into the main bag go the diapers (loose), a small plastic box that we refill with wipes (similar, here), the wet bag, and the other pouches.

In the early weeks after Faye came, we purchased a small travel changing pad (this one). I can now safely say that like so many new baby purchases, the pad served mostly as a way for us new parents with a tiny infant to feel better. With the changing pad, we felt prepared. Having it safely tucked into our tote meant we'd never show up to the pediatrician without extra diapers again. For that extra bit of piece of mind, it was probably worth it to have the changing pad. But I can also honestly say that we rarely really needed it and only occassionally used it. A few weeks ago I left it out on the stoop for some other young parent to scoop up.

And if there's one take away from this post, that's it. Some things will work and you will cling to them for support. Some things won't, and you'll abandon them on neighbors' stoops for someone else to use. Nothing makes parenting a tiny human easy, but a very few things make it easier. You just have to find what those things are. More often than not, it's not very many things at all. For me and for now, the solution to a diaper bag has been using an old tote and stuffing it full of pouches.

*I can't find our exact wet bag or seller on Etsy anymore, but a quick search for "cloth diaper wet bag" (or a similar combination of words) will get you lots of similar options. Found it!

More baby proof posts, HERE.

shake the wintertime blues: museum hop.

1.19.2015

Days boasting wintry or summery extremes are my favorite ones to go museum hopping. Inside the climate-controlled walls of the museum, I can last for hours when I might otherwise succumb to frost-bite or heat exhaustion or cabin fever. And watching the rain stream off the glass window at the Temple of Dendur yesterday, I was convinced we'd found the coziest spot in the city.

This past weekend, we did something that we don't do nearly enough and made it a two-musuem weekend. On Saturday, we took advantage of a Christmas present from my mom and dad and made our way to the Matisse Cut-Outs at MoMA. And on Sunday we headed to the Met to see Madame C├ęzanneDeath Becomes Her, and to sneak a peek at the new Cubism exhibit. All Junebug approved. (Well, except for that last one, which did require a race-through and lots of lullaby humming.)

A few tips for wintery museum hopping:

1. Choose an exhibit or two. James and I used to do marathon museum visits, but with Junebug in tow, we've found that it's more pleasant for everyone if we set our sights just a little bit more modestly and plan to really enjoy one or two exhibits instead of trying to see everything.

2. Bring your baby. The only caveat is that museum goers of grandparent age will be so distracted by the baby that they might very well wander from gallery to gallery missing all of the art and none of the gummy-smiled drool. If you go to two museums in as many days, you might find that you're visiting with the same crew of delighted grandparents and everyone involved might just about faint from happiness.

3. Keep up the blood sugar. At the risk of sounding like a petulant 10-year-old, I'll admit that I can get a little cranky when my blood sugar dips, so I like to plan museum trips for the hours right after lunch, and then to finish them off with a big slice of cake, or a sugary cappucino. Relatedly: Sneak into a quiet gallery with a bench for a little milk break. No one will be the wiser, except for the baby who will be 10,000 times more delightful all milked up.

If you're worried that you won't be able to last long at a museum with a baby, or, you know, with low blood sugar, here's a partial list of museums in New York that offer reduced or free admission. Afterall, an hour at a museum on a wintry day is an hour spent out of the house, which is the point.

The Met - $25 suggested donation
MoMA - Free: Fridays, 4 pm - 8 pm
The American Museum of Natural History - $22 suggested donation
Cooper-Hewitt - Pay-What-You-Wish: Saturdays, 6 pm - 9 pm
The New Museum - Pay-What-You-Wish: Thursdays, 7 pm - 9 pm
The Guggenheim - Pay-What-You-Wish: Saturdays, 5:45 pm - 7:45 pm

More posts on shaking the wintertime blues, HERE.

Photos from Instagram (his/hers).

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