packing for a month away.

    May 24, 2016

    packing for a month away | reading my tea leaves

    Gulp an elderflower cocktail and throw caution to the wind while you fling your favorite things into a bag. There ends my packing advice.

    Just kidding. A few more cents below for what they’re worth.packing for a month away | reading my tea leaves

    When you keep a fairly paired down wardrobe, some of the hard work of packing is already done for you. In fact, taking a little look at steps 1-5 of Growing a Minimalist Wardrobe could be a helpful first step in thinking about packing a bag for a month (or a week) away. In case that’s too much reading, here are the main ideas:

    Step 1: Choose a collection of colors that you love and stick to a streamlined color palette. At home or away, I have most success with a fairly limited selection of colors. Mine tends to be neutrals ranging from creams and whites to blues and grays. Keeping my whole bag more or less in the same color family means that everything I pack can be worn together.

    Step 2: Stick to mostly trusty basics. You don’t need to pack only basics, but having a good base to work on keeps my bag light and makes getting dressed on the road easier. A trusty pair of jeans, a favorite sweater, a few tees, a solid dress or two. There’s not much more that I need than that.

    Step 3: Consider limiting factors. Mostly: choose quality over quantity and timelessness over trendiness for wardrobe strategies in general and for packing specifically.

    Step 4: Care for your clothes and to pay attention to fabric choices. Skip the stuff that needs too much special attention and choose clothes that can be easily hand washed or thrown into the laundry without too much special attention. I usually stick to natural fibers because they clean easily, they stink less when I wear them a few times between washings, and they hold up to being rolled in a suitcase. 

    Step 5: Choose underwear wisely. Even if I’m going away for longer, I try to pack just enough underwear for a week. All of my underwear tends to fall into the packable category, but in case you’ve got a wide range, I’d say sticking to natural fibers, solid colors, and comfort would be a good starting place.  (Lord knows, if you’re hell bent on bringing your laciest lingerie, don’t let me be the one to stop you.)packing for a month away | reading my tea leaves

    Beyond those general steps,  a few more thoughts about what I add to my bag and how I do it: 

    Choose a small bag.

    Keeping the size of my bag itself manageable guarantees my best success in packing modestly for a long trip (or a short one trip). If I bring a larger bag, I’ll fill it—Cheryl Strayed-style—and be unable to move forward, weighed down as I am with the extra two pairs of shoes that fit int0 that extra pocket.

    James and I ended up with Tom Bihn bags after deliberating between a few different ones before our last trip (as you might recall). I have the Aeronaut 30 and he has the Aeronaut 45. We took only these bags with us to LA and really loved them. We ended up needing to pack a separate bag for Faye’s clothes this time around since cramming a wetsuit and camera equipment and computers for working meant a slightly heavier load, but we’ve still tried to keep things fairly streamlined. Your best is all you can do.

    Pack clothes enough for a week.

    Chances are that regardless of the amount of time that you’re planning to be away for, you don’t need to pack for more than a week away.

    Overpacking almost always comes from wanting be prepared. What if it’s cold? What if it’s sweltering? What if I’m invited to a ball? But I like to think about what I would really wear in a week at home and pack those things. 

    Packing light means throwing a little bit of caution to the wind. You gotta just go for it. Do your best but accept that you might need to use a scarf as a shawl; you might not have a waterproof jacket if it rains; and you might not have a ballgown should you get invited to the palace. Alas, alack.

    Do I strategize a little bit. Definitely. Jeans? I wear the same ones almost every day anyway so I rarely pack more than one pair for trips. Tops? I find that loose-fitting clothes have slightly longer staying power between washes than tight ones. It doesn’t mean I won’t pack tight tees, but I’m just thoughtful about striking a balance. Sweaters? I bring one sweater that works over pants or a dress, and not the one that looks funky pulled over one or the other. You get it: choose your hardworking stuff, not your fussy stuff. (And don’t forget comfy pajamas.)
    packing for a month away | reading my tea leaves

    Bring your favorite stuff. 

    Bring what you actually like. I don’t care if you own the “world’s most practical pair of zip off pants,” if you don’t like wearing them, they’re just taking up room in your bag and putting you in a bad mood. Of course, I’d consider parting with things you don’t much like indefinitely, but in the meantime, I definitely wouldn’t make room for them in my suitcase. I bring the stuff that makes me feel my best. My favorite stuff isn’t necessarily what you’d find on a list of travel essentials, but if it’s something that I don’t mind wearing over and over again, that’s far more practical to pack than something I don’t like. (See also.)

    Choose two pairs of shoes.

    I have a shoe thing, too. Too many pairs; not enough places to wear them. Never is this more true than in packing. Shoes are heavy. I try never to bring more than two pairs. If I have a dress-up occasion I might need to bend the rules—no need to be uncomfortable for more time than need be—but otherwise no. Two pairs or bust. For summer that’s usually canvas sneaks and sandals.

    Wear your bulkiest stuff.

    This goes without saying, but I always try to wear my bulkiest or heaviest things. Sandals get packed, sneakers get worn. Sweater goes over my shoulders, extra tees go in the bag. It sometimes means getting a smidge overheated in the airport, but I’d rather by cozy on the plane and not have to lug extra weight in my bag.

    Roll your clothes.

    There’s just no other way to do it. Rolling your clothes makes them easy to see in your bag, it minimizes wrinkles, and it keeps things organized. I will not be convinced otherwise. The technique is simple and probably doesn’t need explanation, but I essentially make a neat rectangle out of whatever item I’m packing and then roll it up, the way I imagine I would make a jelly roll if I were a more ambitious baker. The neat little rolls get all lined up for easy access and simple packing. I’ve recently become a devotee of the Tom Bihn packing cubes which really make a huge difference in keeping everything organized in our packs. (Especially since we share with Faye.) I also always include a canvas drawstring or two for tucking in shoes, dirty undies, slippery swimwear that won’t stay put, etc.

    Unload your toiletries.

    I’ve mentioned before that I keep my limited number of toiletries in my dopp kit. If this is not your habit, then I strongly encourage sticking to the basics when you pack. I always pack a hard-working little face serum. Ideally this is the one little bottle of goodness you need to keep your skin glowing while you cavort around and the beauty of an oil is that it can pull double-duty as makeup remover and moisturizer for the ends of dry hair. (Put a little dab behind your ear and call it perfume.) I generally pack mascara and chapstick and a cheek rouge for a dab of color. Since Stowaway came on the scene and made makeup in manageable sizes, I sometimes also include an extra rouge or their bb cream in case I want to look more polished. If I’m going anywhere for a significant amount of time—say, a month— I plan to buy bulkier essentials like shampoo or toothpaste or contact solution (for James) once I’ve landed. 

    Make room for reusables.

    Traveling can be a moment when efforts at sustainability can go out the window, but no matter how lightly I’m trying to pack, I still make efforts to bring along with me a few essentials that make lightening my so-called footprint a little bit easier. We’ll each take a water bottle, we’ll tuck two tiny reusable bags into the side pockets of our bags to use at markets, and a cloth napkin into Faye’s “undies’ bag.” We’ll put a little snack in a reusable tin that we’ll have with us throughout the trip, etc. If we weren’t flying and not wanting to check bags, I’d pack our foldable knife/fork/spoon sets, too.

    My sister’s best tips for packing light with kiddos right this way.

    my week in objects (mostly).

    May 20, 2016

    five little things that made my week.

    1. these felt sleeves.

    {because i felt like i was hunting forever for a super simple way of protecting my gadgets and i finally found it. i bought this laptop case a few weeks ago and got a matching sleeve for lil’ kindle yesterday.}

    2. this stack of ledger paper saved from a recycle bin.ledger_paper_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_9950

    {for being just the right size for this shelf. james’s elephant isn’t so bad either.}

    3. this rollable hat from brooke’s latest venture.
    ledger_paper_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_9955{because the hardest part about wide-brimmed hats is that you can’t always take ’em with you. not a problem here. the hat pin is pretty sweet, too.}

    4. this chive flower.

    {because three cheers for overwintered chives.}

    5. this dark curtain.ledger_paper_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_9970

    {because i still have to hem it, but for now it’s nice to be able to darken faye’s room with the flick of a wrist; no clothespins involved.}

    other things:

    mules in new york city.

    sidewalk poems.

    good night stories for rebel girls.


    travel without research, yes please. 


    farm, field, sea. (all of my favorite things in one place.)

    a gallon a day.

    my kinda mess kit.

    22,000 stitches.

    you risk relying on the opinion of mostly men.

    growing a minimalist wardrobe: summer weddings.

    May 18, 2016

    growing a minimalist wardrobe: summer weddings | reading my tea leaves
    In case you needed a reminder about my general philosophy on dressing up: I wore flat oxfords to my wedding. My dress was mostly cotton. Married in my hometown on a neighbor’s farm, our wedding wasn’t a terribly formal affair but I was assuredly less dressed up than some of the guests. 

    Dressing up is hard to do. I’ve already written a bunch about that here, but that was in a wintry time of year. And now that I’m looking at three different save-the-dates tacked to my refrigerator, I’ve got warm weather weddings on the brain.

    We’re used to the cultural expectation that for every bride-to-be there is ONE PERFECT DRESS.* But for the minimalist dress shopper, this same kind of pressure can creep up when we’re mere guests. A wedding invitation might spark an existential crisis about why we have yet to find our perfect match, or if we’ve found it, or whether we’ve failed at minimalism because we’re not sure we can bear to wear the same little black dress to the fifth wedding in a row. Whether for brides or wedding guests, I’m not going to try to suggest that there’s ONE PERFECT DRESS out there. I realize this sounds like minimalist wardrobe heresy, but that’s a lot of pressure, perfection.

    No, I’m not going to suggest that we all go forth and find the great unicorn of dresses that’s timeless and beautiful and guaranteed to stay in gorgeous, impeccable condition FOR ALL TIME. A great dress is a great thing to have. When we happen to find the perfect thing for us to wear for a particular moment—or ten particular moments—well, then hallelujah. But sometimes we will find something that’s very good for right now and maybe not so much for all time. And you don’t know really know whether a dress is for all time until you try it out. None of us can make a full-time job out of hunting for unicorns.

    For my own summer wedding guest conundrums, I’m continuing on my personal quest to find a dress or two that feel like me. Tall order. But for me, dressing up often feels like playing dress up. Like I’m walking around in someone else’s clothes. Sometimes this feels great: like I’m playing the role of my sexy alter-ego and damn it if I don’t look amazing. But often it feels less great: like I’m wearing someone else’s clothes and they tug in the wrong places and possibly everyone can see my underwear? 

    In case you’re on the hunt for something schmancy to wear, here are a few beautiful formal dresses that have caught my eye lately.  They’re all fancy-ish things that are also being made thoughtfully. To be sure: they’re things that fit my particular definition of pretty and wedding-appropriate. They might not fit yours. Feel free to chime in with suggestions below!

    Elizabeth Suzann: The current collection at Elizabeth Suzann is filled with ethereal pieces that might just be the route to finding a formal dress to love. (You might recall it was an Elizabeth Suzann dress that I ended up wearing to my last sartorially stressful event.) Dresses like the Inez Midi in Hemp Twill tow the line between comfortable and dressy and I can see it looking gorgeous at an outdoor summer wedding. And in silk crepe for a fancier evening affair? (And for the betrothed, The White Collection is even better. Please! Someone get married in this skirt!)

    Of A Kind: This Pinstripe Picnic Dress by Christine Alcalay for Of A Kind is begging someone to wear it to multiple summer weddings. I love that the cut looks elegant, but that the fabric looks relaxed. Get thee to a farm wedding. (PS. Like everything else at Of A Kind, this dress is made by an indie-designer and part of a limited-edition run made just for Of A Kind.)

    Lisa Says Gah: I love poking around this online shop, partially because I too say gah, and partially because everything in stock has been carefully selected from designers who are mindful about ethical production. If you want to make sure no one has the same dress as you, I’d choose the Delfina Balda Flora Dress.

    Hackwith Design House: The new Bridal Collection isn’t just for brides only; in addition to cream and white, most of the pieces in the collection come in black, a pale pink called blush, and a lovely green called sage. I love the Hallie Pant paired with the Emmy Top. Fancy-casual, I say.

    Reformation: These guys have lots of fancy-dancy things for wearing to a wedding. For formal evening occasions, when the words black and tie get put together, I’d probably head here. I’ve got my eye on the Francesca Dress for the next time I need to dress like royalty.

    And if none of these specifics works, here are two more ideas, stolen right out from under friends who are maybe smarter than I am:

    + Get a personal shopper. It sounds far-fetched. Or uber-fancy. Who do you think you are, anyway? But there’s a case to be made for some good old-fashioned in-the-fitting-room shopping. And working with a personal shopper can make the experience feel luxurious and…easy! Lots of major department stores offer the service, so ask around. To be sure: you’re letting go of a bit of control, but I know someone who did this recently and the results were ah-mazing. As someone who hated shopping, this friend felt particularly daunted by shopping for formalwear. But she was able to relay her budget, her general style, and a sense of what she wanted, and the on-staff personal shopper returned with a selection of ten dresses to choose from that fit the bill. My friend ended up leaving with everything that she needed for a complete outfit: dress, shoes, scarf, bag…earrings. I know. (And she’s worn the entire outfit to three different weddings so far.)

    + Rent, borrow, beg. Another friend recently used fancy-dress rental service, Rent the Runway to huge success. She was able to find a gorgeous designer dress to wear to a black-tie event. Sure: she had to pony up cash for something she had to return just a few days later, but it allowed her to wear a truly lovely dress and to feel like a queen for an evening for the same amount she might have spent on a less-nice dress that she wasn’t sure she’d have the opportunity to wear again.

    (If renting isn’t in the cards, old-fashioned borrowing has served me more times than I can count. Whether it’s the dress itself, or the strapless bra you need to wear with it, or the perfect necklace for the neckline of the dress you just found, borrowing your friends’ best stuff is maybe the best and the very oldest trick in the book. I wish we all dipped into each other’s formal wardrobes more often. Return it clean and loan something of yours next time around and I say, deal done.)

    *If you’re into this sort of thing, I read One Perfect Day a few years before I got married and I recommend it to anyone interested in taking a slightly less conventional approach to wedding planning. The chapter on the wedding dress industry convinced me to get my dress made by a local dressmaker

  • watercolor_skillshare_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_9918

    learning to watercolor with skillshare.

    This post is sponsored by Skillshare, an online learning community for creative skills.If you’d asked me six months ago whether I’d ever take a watercolor class online, I would have said no. Or at least…

    May 17, 2016 12 Comments
  • rhubarb_lilac_spritzer_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_9800

    rhubarb lilac spritzer.

    I won’t forget the first time that I was in France as a young teenager and I witnessed kids my age pouring mint syrup into flat tap water at a sidewalk café. The result was green…

    May 16, 2016 13 Comments
  • lilacs_reading_y_tea_leaves_IMG_9541

    my week in objects (mostly).

    my week in objects, mostly. 1. this bag. {for being just the sturdy buddy i needed. and because one person’s discontinued floor model is another person’s treasure. (psst: if you’re in new york, there are others here!)}2. this…

    May 13, 2016 12 Comments
  • childrens_books_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_9525

    baby proof: bedtime stories lately.

    I’ve gone to the dark side and am now the owner of an e-book reader. (James gave me a Kindle for Mother’s Day. I had no idea that Mother’s Day is the new birthday,…

    May 12, 2016 76 Comments
  • bridge_and_burn_packing_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_9354

    a summery giveaway from bridge & burn.

    This giveaway is sponsored by Bridge & Burn, makers of classic and understated apparel for men and women. I’ve got a running list of things I’m planning to pack for our stay in France.…

    May 11, 2016 29 Comments
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    make-believe: paris morning.

      We’re checking the days off the calendar and somehow it’s feeling more and more unreal that we’re bound for France in just two weeks. (Ack!) We’ll be staying a few nights in Paris when…

    May 10, 2016 17 Comments