life in a tiny apartment.

    January 18, 2018

    Survival Tip #160: Revisit the spaces you’ve resigned yourself to.

    Next month, it will be four years since we first rented this apartment. Four years since, while pregnant with Faye, I climbed onto the kitchen counters and stuck white contact paper over the offending multi-colored tiles interrupting a simpler backsplash. 

    Our kitchen doesn’t show up very often in this space in part because it’s in the very darkest corner of our apartment and impossible to photograph with natural light, and in part because as far as rental apartment kitchens go, it’s fairly generic. It’s the stuff of boring kitchen updates made on the cheap by a landlord interested in getting the job done quickly. It has a funky island spot that we mostly pretend isn’t there so that we can fit my desk and James’s surfboard beside it. It’s a spot that I often daydream about improving. What a difference there would be, I think, if we could extend the counter and have a row of lovely built-in cabinets beneath it? How much nicer would it look without a varnish on the cabinets and with a coat of ecru paint to brighten the dark corner? How lovely would a salvaged sink with a drain board look in that spot? If not a vintage sink, perhaps a more lovely faucet?

    We get into tricky territory when we try to see the spaces that we live in as a reflection of ourselves. A kitchen isn’t a window into your soul, it’s a window into what kind of design you like and admire and, far more crucially, what kind of resources might be available to you at a particular moment. But living in a spot that looks a bit more like something you’ve imagined for yourself sounds nice, too.

    As a renter, it’s easy to feel like you’re living in someone else’s home, because, well, you are. My general philosophy for inhabiting a space that I can’t do much to change has been to grin and bear it, and mostly, to ignore it altogether. In our apartment, our bathroom and the kitchen bones are so generally unappealing to me, that I’ve pretty much left them as is. But I think in some ways, I’ve over committed to my lack of adornment. It’s no news flash that I prefer under-dressed rooms but lately I’ve been trying to remind myself that not wanting to make rash or pricey—or just plain onerous—decorating fixes, doesn’t mean you have to abandon the idea of adding a personal touch altogether. 

    In the past year or so, I’ve been moving slowly in the direction of paying more attention to these neglected spaces by adding in things that feel a bit more me and a bit less someone else. In my space, that’s meant paying more careful attention to the elements in the rooms that I can control. Like slowly transitioning from cracked plastic brooms to more lovely looking ones, I’ve been thinking about what a big difference a small change in everyday objects can make in a small space. 

    Toward that end, we haven’t been undergoing a kitchen or a bathroom renovation or remodel, but we have been working on something of a slow-burn revisioning. Instead of making any huge improvements to these spaces, we’re playing around with the objects in them. Some of that has been about investing in new things. Some of it is about putting old things in new places. The revisioning isn’t about gutting or masking what I don’t love as much as showcasing what I do.

    For the curious, a few examples:

    Last spring, we decided to return our camping kettle to its spot in the closet next to the sleeping bags, and keep a more practical and also more beautiful wooden-handled kettle with a gooseneck spout on the stove instead. It drives our eye away from the contact-paper-covered tile and dare I say, the beech wood handle has almost made the honey-colored cabinets feel more intentional.

    After Thanksgiving, we bought a new cast iron dutch oven and sold our old green one. A block pot with clean lines pulled the kitchen together and made even the elements that I don’t really love (the stainless steel and black microwave, for instance), feel in harmony with everything else.

    Earlier this month, I decided to make my daydream a reality and bought a simple wall calendar to cover an ugly fuse box in the kitchen. The kitchen design might not be something that I’d choose for myself, but I love the stark simplicity of the calendar and having that in the space makes the stuff I don’t like (and certainly the fuse box) disappear a bit.

    In the bathroom, just after Silas was born, we bought a charcoal-colored linen shower curtain. In the throes of welcoming a brand-new-baby I felt like I just wanted a tiny space with a bit of privacy. It’s hard enough to find a moment of solitude, but when you have a potty-trained toddler needing to barge into the bathroom alongside doting aunties or grandparents or any other number of helping hands, an opaque curtain, is…helpful. Bonus: It hides exactly half of the butter-yellow tile in the room from view. 

    Just this morning, I took the leap and decided to replace grungy bathroom hand towels with something fresh that might hide grubby hand prints a bit better.

    All of this is about stuff, I guess. But it’s been a slow investment in stuff we can take with us. It’s stuff that we admire and that we’ve chosen ourselves. Mostly it’s been about making little changes to change my point of view about a place. Maybe one day I’ll be writing about picking out the right white tiles to improve a backsplash, or embarking on a DIY to rip out the heinous bathroom mirror and bring a bit of simplicity into that space, but until then, I’m focusing on what I can do. Petit à petit l’oiseau fait son nid.

    Tiny apartment survival tips #1 -160 RIGHT THIS WAY.

    back to basics with stowaway.

    January 16, 2018

    This post is sponsored by Stowaway, a right-sized cosmetics company.

    It doesn’t happen very often, but every once in a while, I like being told what to do. There are some things that I just don’t want to think about too hard. Some things that I’d rather have someone else work out for me. Makeup is one of those things. 

    If you’ve been reading for awhile, you know that I’m not generally much of a makeup person. I wear mascara on lots of days, I wear cheek color when I can manage to put it on before work in the morning. I occasionally add a spot of color to my lips. But even in the midst of this relative makeup minimalism, I still like to be prepared should the occasion for something more crop up. When I have a meeting or a photo shoot or on a random Tuesday, it’s nice to have a small tool kit of cosmetics to help me feel polished. Figuring out what those essentials should be is something I’m grateful to delegate to someone else.

    Enter Stowaway. When they first came on the scene, Stowaway felt like the answer to my unspoken makeup prayers. I was attracted to the diminutive sizes and minimalist design, yes, but also to the idea that they were solving a problem. Stowaway’s products are developed in response to the fact that the cosmetics industry typically sells makeup in sizes too large to ever reasonably finish before their expiration date, and too bulky to reasonably store or carry around with you. The women-run business found an answer to this problem in smaller sizes (and slashed prices).
    Stowaway’s customizable Every Day Kit includes just six basic products: BB creamconcealera lip & cheek rougelipstickeyeliner, and mascara. I don’t use all of it every day, but it’s awfully helpful to know I have it around just in case. And yes, as I’ve mentioned before, all six of those neat little packages really do fit perfectly in the palm of my hand. If you’re someone who likes to go beyond the basics, Stowaway has you covered there too. They have eye palettes the size of a credit card, and bronzer, and powder, and blush, are all available in the same smart sizes designed to reduce waste.

    If you’re interested in trying out an Every Day Kit, you’re in luck. With every purchase of an Every Day Kit, Stowaway is offering Reading My Tea Leaves readers an additional three of their very favorite products: An additional cheek and lip rougelipstick, and an eye palette of your choice. Now you’ll really have everything you might need. You can start building your kit, right this way. (There’s no expiration date on this offer. Sorry guys! This offer will expire on January 31, 2018. Stowaway is currently only able to ship to addresses in the US.)

    This post was sponsored by Stowaway. All opinions are my own.  Thanks for supporting the brands that support Reading My Tea Leaves.

    things you can do today.

    January 15, 2018

    four things to do on MLK Jr. Day | reading my tea leaves


    Four things to do today to celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

    + Listen to the Seeing White podcast. I’ve mentioned this here before, but it has been the single best thing I’ve listened to in the last six months as I try to grapple with what it means to be a white woman in a racist America today. Begin the eleven-part series today.

    + Support Higher Heights, an organization committed to expanding and supporting Black women’s leadership, from the voting booth to public office and beyond election day. Get involved or donate today.

    + Talk to kids. About Dr. King, yes, but about overt racism, too. In November I took a Raising Race Conscious Children workshop along with Faye’s preschools teacher and redoubled my efforts to make sure that I’m not taking a race-blind approach to discussions with my kids about race. You can get tons of great strategies from their site, but to get started, here are 100 Race-Conscious Things You Can Say To Your Child to Advance Racial Justice, today. (And here are some books to read to kids, too.)

    + Read what Black women are writing. I’ve loved reading essays by Ijeoma Oluo this year and her book So You Want to Talk About Race comes out today. Buy it!

    What else?

    PS. Image above from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail. You can read the full letter here.

  • my week in objects (mostly).

    five little things that made my week 1. this last blossom.  {because all the best things are fleeting.} 2. this second round of blooms. {smaller than the first, but twice as many.} 3. less…

    January 12, 2018 8 Comments
  • winter wardrobe resolutions with thredup.

    This post is sponsored by thredUP, a secondhand shopping website selling high-quality, like-new clothes for a fraction of the price. On any given day of January you might find me opening my tiny notebook and…

    January 11, 2018 18 Comments
  • make-believe: january sunshine.

    January. Such a paradoxical month, isn’t it? At the same time that I’m raring to start fresh and forge ahead, I’m tempted to cozy up, hunker down, and nap through the duration. You too?…

    January 10, 2018 25 Comments
  • make your own: calendula salve.

    For all of its loveliness, January is a month in New York that requires some amount of defending against. To fend off the cold we need extra layers of wool. To combat the blues…

    January 8, 2018 38 Comments
  • my week in objects (mostly).

    five little things that made my week. 1. these mended pants. {because now they’re ready to start again.} 2. this scarf start. {for slowly getting longer.} 3. these candles. {because all i wanted for…

    January 5, 2018 24 Comments
  • how to know it’s january.

    By the radiator, woolly layers laid out to dry. On the windowsill, flowers. White ones. In strollers, toddler cheeks greased to shining with salve, or else red and ruddy and in need of it.…

    January 3, 2018 65 Comments