growing a minimalist wardrobe: blue jeans.

9.01.2015

growing a minimalist wardrobe: blue jeans | reading my tea leaves
September seems like the right time to talk about blue jeans.

My jeans absoutely, positively do the hardest work in my closet. When we're not experiencing extreme temperatures, I wear them four or five—even seven—days a week. Usually I wear the same pair, day in and day out.

For me, I find it most helpful to have a pair or two of well-fitting skinny jeans in my dresser drawer. I prefer a mid-rise waist that's not so high that I feel like I can't breathe, but that's high enough to complement a slightly cropped or tucked-in shirt. For length, I tend to opt for something that hits just around my ankle.

Writing about clothes always comes down to a matter of taste. And when it comes to finding a favorite pair of jeans, it's clear that there's no one-size-fits-all approach.  These days, my go-to is a pair of skinny jeans with enough stretch that I don't spend the day hyperventilating or feeling like my thighs might soon go numb. Someone else might be perfectly at home poured into in a pair of stretch-free vintage Levi's. And surely there are others for whom easy, breezy, flares or broken-in boyfriend jeans are their preferred look.
growing a minimalist wardrobe: blue jeans | reading my tea leaves
Particulars aside, I think there's commonality to be found in the satisfaction of finding a truly great pair of blue jeans. When I find a favorite pair, I tend to wear them until they can't be worn anymore. I had a pair of jeans in high school that I wore so thoroughly that the entire bottom fell out and had to be patched. When the patches also gave up, I resorted to wearing them with a pair of black spandex underneath.

I think the most helpful approach to jean shopping is to find out what generally works for me, and to put my energy toward finding something similar. If I cast too wide a net, I finish with a pile of jeans that are only so-so.

I appreciate that buying premium denim isn't a choice that every can—or wants to—make. But I have found a distinct difference in quality, fit, and staying power of premium denim. And besides all of that, the shopping experience itself has often been more pleasant. Premium denim is usually sold according to waist size and not an obscure number system that can fall easy victim to vanity sizing and the whims of individual brands.
growing a minimalist wardrobe: blue jeans | reading my tea leaves
Most helpful, I've found that many of the premium denim brands offer consistent fit and quality. And the consistency means being able to search for discounted pairs on Ebay or in thrift stores and actually having success.

As always, I try to opt for jeans that have been made with workers and the environment in mind. I do my best to take good care of my jeans so that they last as long possible. There's a lot of debate about how to best care for jeans. I typically opt for the wash infrequently/inside out/in cold water/hang dry approach and save a few pairs that got stretched beyond repair in pregnancy, I've had most of my jeans for years (and years, and years.)
growing a minimalist wardrobe: blue jeans | reading my tea leaves
Here are a few favorites and a few new-to-me folks who look like they're doing things right:

J. Brand: I've been lucky to snag a few pairs of J. Brand jeans on deep discount over the years. Their 811 Skinny Stretch Jeans are my personal favorite, but I also have a pair of looser, less stretchy, selvage denim jeans of theirs (not sure what style!) that I really loved. Made in the USA.

Frame Denim: Their Le Skinny de Jeanne is the latest clothing purchase I've made (pictured!). I turned two pairs of jeans into shorts this summer when I reconciled with the fact that they just weren't going to unstretch post-pregnancy, and these have felt like a solid, hardworking replacement. Made in the USA.

Paige Denim: I found a black pair of these on a whim during a frantic hunt for wedding-appropriate shoes at a discount store a few years ago and have loved them. I think the ones that I have are the Transcend Verdugo Ultra Skinny Jeans (or similar). (I'm wearing them here and here.) Made in the USA.

Imogene and Willie: I've never tried on a pair of these jeans, but I really admire their small-scale, their use of selvage denim, and the all-around attention to detail that the brand has committed itself to. If I'm ever in Nashville, I'd love to try on the Imogene Indigo for size. (Also available on Zady.) Made in the USA.

DSTLD Jeans: This company touts its high standards and relative low cost. I can't vouch for the quality, but the price point is a little easier to swallow than some of the other jeans on this list. Made in the USA.

Good Society: These guys pride themselves on making carbon-neutral jeans from organic cotton. Their women's line looks promising, but it only appears to be available overseas. On my radar! Made in Italy. Organic Cotton.

Nudie Jeans Co.: For an organic option, I'm intrigued by this company. The jeans are marketed as unisex but the website only uses male models, so I'm not positive what the fit might be like. Organic cotton. Check out their production guide.

Industry of all Nations: Doesn't look like these guys have a womens' line yet, but their Clean Jeans are laudable sounding and cute too. Made in the USA. Organic Cotton.

In case you're curious, here's the 411 on selvage (AKA selvedge) denim. And here's a nice little history of denim. If you have jeans that it's time to reliquinsh, check out Blue Jeans Go Green. They turn blue jeans into housing insulation for communities in need.

If you're hoping to round out your outfit, here's a roundup of t-shirts and another on undies.

The rest of the minimalist wardrobe posts are right HERE.

make your own: coconut lime popsicles.

8.31.2015

coconut honey lime popsicles | reading my tea leavesEver since Sadie linked to this post on coconut popsicles last week, I've been on a kick.

I've made three batches of coconut milk popsicles in the space of ten days. And I won't be slowing down until the weather cools down.

I'll come right out and say that I have an on-again off-again relationship with homemade popsicles. I've sometimes had a hard time getting quite the right consistency. Too watery is usually the problem; resulting in pops where the flavor gets sucked out immediately and leaves you stuck with a flavorless stick of ice.
coconut honey lime popsicles | reading my tea leaves
But creamy coconut milk popsicles with limited additions and few frills do their part to offer a richly satisfying icy treat without emphasizing the ice.

In my first batch of the summer, I used two cans of whole fat coconut milk, 1/4 cup of sugar, and the juice of two limes. For my second attempt, I decided to sweeten with honey instead of sugar, because why not feel a little extra virtuous while subsisting on dessert? I also added lime zest for an extra punch of citrus.
coconut honey lime popsicles | reading my tea leaves
If you're not like me and just dipping into your freezer stash when the mood strikes, you can serve your pops to guests on a chilled cookie sheet drizzled in honey for a little extra dash of fancy.

What you need:

2 cans of whole fat coconut milk
1-2 limes to taste
1/2 cup honey

What to do:
Blend everything together in an electric blender. Pour the mixture into your cold popsicle mold (we keep ours in the freezer year-round) and allow your popsicles freeze overnight. Loosen from the mold by submerging the mold halfway in room-temp water.
coconut honey lime popsicles | reading my tea leaves
For the curious:
I wash and reuse wooden popsicle sticks.
We've had really great luck with this simple bpa-free popsicle mold.
Here's a stainless steel popsicle mold if you'd prefer.
I used honey that we brought back from Maine, but I'm awfully tempted by this big jug.

my week in objects, mostly.

8.28.2015

five little things that made my week.

1. these snap dragons.
snap dragons
{for still being pretty even when they wilted beyond recognition.}

2. this cd.
songs
{for having the sweetest tunes for our morning breakfast hour.}

3. the tiny message from a tiny guy on this phone.
message
{because: "helloiloveyougoodbye."}

4. this little cotton number.
bra
{for being as soft, comfy, and supportive as i'd hoped.}

5. this tomato.
tomato
{and the approximate four-hundred others i've eaten this week.}

other things:
best face forward. (caution, habit-forming.)
pizza, ranked.
talk about the weather.
put an egg on it. or a radish.
yes, please.
on my library list.
bitte.
non-toxic oilcloths.

life in a tiny apartment.

8.26.2015

closet | reading my tea leavesTip #128: Reality bites. Bite back.

Last week I hunted a cockroach. I spotted it skittering across the living room floor at 2:00 am on one of our first nights home from vacation. In contrast to the cool evening breezes of Maine—or even considered all on its own—the night was a stifling one in our apartment. On hot city nights the temperature hardly dips from sunrise to sunset and the effect is magnified when you live four flights up. Faye had been restless and so I was up myself when I spotted the interloper. 

I'm not a cockroach novice. They were unavoidable when we lived in coastal Carolina, and I became adept at both avoiding and murdering, but I am out of practice. And I never enjoyed the hunt anyway. 

While I flapped around the apartment trying to exterminate the thing without also getting too close, my heart raced. I finally found success when I wielded a winter boot in my attack.  The insides of the cockroach splattered out across the apartment floor and over the white curtains that we have hanging by Faye's closet. I knew white curtains might have been a regretful choice when I put them up, I just didn't realize they'd meet their demise due to cockroach guts. 

I'll spare you the morbid details but suffice to say that after successfully lifting the stain and washing the curtains and ironing them within an inch of their life, I realized that I'd also managed to shrink them an entire and improbable five inches, leaving a silly and unsightly gap between curtains and the floor. Curtains no more.

It's fraught work, these little attempts at homemaking.

My cockroach story isn't met to elicit any particular sympathy. (And I'm sorry if it's elicited any disgust.) It's just to acknowledge that cockroaches happen. Pillows get torn apart by puppies. Door jams get gouged by heavy furniture. Lamps got knocked over by toddlers. In the daily efforts we make to keep our spaces beautiful or practical or useful, sometimes the living part gets in the way. And sometimes the living part has six spiny legs.

Biting back means scrubbing at your curtain stain until it comes out. And when you discover that you've done even more damage in the process, you take a deep breath, fold up the curtain, and find another solution on another day.

I'm not sure what I'll do about the curtains. Leave them off for now is the plan. I've got a little painting project in the works for that space, which I'm hoping might make me more excited about showing it off anyway.

In any case, the beat goes on.

More tiny apartment survival tips, RIGHT HERE.

out and about: monhegan island.

8.25.2015

out and about: monhegan island | reading my tea leavesThe islands off the coast of Maine have always intriqued me. After finishing graduate school I seriously considered moving to an island off midcoast Maine. And even though circumstances were such that I made my way to an island of a slightly more urban persuasion, those pine laden rocks has always appealed  to my romantic side.

James spotted Mongehan on a map while we were planning our trip to Maine and on closer investigation we realized it was the magical place that my parents had spent a few days visiting last summer. The island is ten miles offshore and just pure magic, as every single person visiting will tell you. In our three-day stay nearly everyone who we met—and you do meet just about everyone on Monhegan—told us that they were repeat visitors, some of them coming year after year for decades. We're delighted to report we might have also been bitten by the bug.

Here are a few of our favorite stops from our first trip:
out and about: monhegan island | reading my tea leaves
GETTING THERE: 
Boats leave from a number of different spots along midcoast Maine. We left our rental car behind and took the Monhegan Boat Line from Port Clyde.
out and about: monhegan island | reading my tea leaves
GETTING AROUND:
The only traffic you'll find on Monhegan is an occassional flock of chickens crossing the road. There are no cars on the island, save a fleet of island pickup trucks, so be prepared to be carless for a few days and do plenty of walking. The carlessness is one of the very best parts of Monhegan and signals a slower pace right from the minute you set foot on the island.

PLACES TO VISIT:

Hiking: On an island that's only about a square mile, you can explore practically every inch without over-extending yourself. We spent most of our time hiking around. Faye took "hiking naps," strapped into the carrier while we scrambled around on the island's hiking trails.

You can pick up a trail map when you get to the island and make your way along all of the shady, beautiful trails maintained by the Monhegan Association. Trail #1 takes you along the craggy coastline. We weren't sure if we'd be able to take Faye along with us on that hike, but there were only a few spots that we decided to turn back and take slightly less steep trails. If fairy houses are your thing (and I hope they are) you can see the best ones on the Cathedral Woods (#11) trail.
out and about: monhegan island | reading my tea leaves
out and about: monhegan island | reading my tea leaves
Monhegan Brewing Company: We made two stops into the tiny and delightfully delicious brewery on the island. We tried a sampling of their beers, but I returned for the seasonal Berliner Weisse served with blueberry syrup.
out and about: monhegan island | reading my tea leaves
Monhegan Light Station & Monhegan MuseumThere's a small museum inside the Mongehan lighthouse that's worth a stop even if you don't have a soft-spot for scrappy local history museums like I do. Head back up to the lighthouse at sunset for a beautiful view of the sun setting across the water. $5 entry fee to museum.
out and about: monhegan island | reading my tea leaves
out and about: monhegan island | reading my tea leaves
Fish Beach & Swim Beach: The names of these beaches are literal—at least for anyone brave enough to brave the chilly water or cast a line. A walk down fish beach will get you fresh fish and lobster to bring home for dinner—or eat beachside. There's lots of good seaglass hunting to be done, too. Swim Beach was packed with warm-blooded humans in the under-ten set every day that we were there. Faye delighted in the cold water. I nearly got frostbite.
out and about: monhegan island | reading my tea leaves
out and about: monhegan island | reading my tea leaves
Gallery Hopping:
We were too busy hiking on this visit to duck into many galleries, but there are small artist studios—and tons of plein air artists—all over the island. A vibrant community board has notices on just about anything you might want to do, from visiting galleries to taking a yoga class to visiting the adjacent teeny-tiny Manana Island.
out and about: monhegan island | reading my tea leaves
Aimless Rambles: Monhegan is a place to explore. We made our way up and down every dusty dirt road that we could find. I have a new-found love of cosmos and black-sashed windows after our trip to the island.
out and about: monhegan island | reading my tea leaves
out and about: monhegan island | reading my tea leaves
PLACES TO STAY:

The Island InnThere are a bunch of places to stay on Mongehan, but we really enjoyed our stay at the historic hotel, The Island Inn. It's a rambly old hotel that sits on a bluff overlooking the harbor. The accomodations themselves were simple and clean. We had a room with a shared bathroom for part of our stay, and it was a slightly more affordable and totally pleasant way to stay at the inn. A delightful breakfast is included in the cost of the room and every morning I indulged in lobster scrambled eggs, blueberry french toast, and peppery roasted potatoes in the beautiful, sunny dining room.
out and about: monhegan island | reading my tea leaves
out and about: monhegan island | reading my tea leaves
PLACES TO EAT:
Since we were staying at the hotel, we enjoyed dinners out for the three nights that we spent on Monhegan. (We brought our trusty basket with a loaf of bread and peanut butter and jelly for daytime lunching.) For such a tiny place, the dining options are really terrific. The restaurants on the island are all BYOB, so either pack a bottle or two of wine and bring it over or buy at one of the shops on island and tote it along with you to dinner.

The Island Inn: We tried to get in as much Maine seafood as possible on this trip. I had amazing Maine scallops here with potatoes and kale that was crisped to perfection. And James and I shared local mussels. Faye stayed in her highchair for all of ten minutes, which felt like a triumph.
out and about: monhegan island | reading my tea leaves
Monhegan House: The dining room at this old inn is gorgeous in its simplicity. James and I both opted for lobster and it did not disappoint. Fresh-from-oven bread stole the show.

The Novelty: To break up the fine dining, we opted for pizza at The Novelty on our second night. It was delicious, affordable, and inventive. This is also the island ice cream spot.

The Barnacle: The Island Inn runs this small shop where you can pick up a bottle of wine before dinner or scones for a quick breakfast.
out and about: monhegan island | reading my tea leaves
out and about: monhegan island | reading my tea leaves
Reservations at restaurants on the island end on the early side, so don't plan for anything too late in the evening. But you won't want to be inside at that hour anyway. We enjoyed beautiful dusky walks around the island after dinner every night. (It gets a little blustery on Monhegan in the evening, so we were glad that we made the last-minute decision to bring along sneaks in addition to our sandals.)

More about our trip to Mount Desert Island, HERE.

one-pot pasta.

8.24.2015

one-pot pasta for camping and tiny apartments | reading my tea leavesWhile we were in Maine we attempted one-pot pasta for the first time. I've been meaning to make it for forever and what better excuse than camping to try something new and easy and that dirtes only one pot to boot?

The result was a delicious, creamy, wholly satisfying meal that required nary a strainer or second pot. A camping dream, but a tiny apartment dream, too.
one-pot pasta for camping and tiny apartments | reading my tea leaves
We opted for the classic approach ingredients-wise: olive oil, fresh tomatoes, sea salt, garlic, onion, and pasta. Because we were working with the cast iron pot that's slightly on the small side, I improvised on the measurements that I found on a few different recipes that I found online. I also decided to add fresh mozzarella while camping. Minus a slight foible in filling the pot with a bit too much cheese in an enthusiastic attempt not to have cheesy leftovers to deal with, the experiement worked and then some. I recreated the same here, with slightly less mozzarella. I'd say you can follow measurements I've provided if you want to, but you can also wing it depending on the size of your pan, and you'll probably end up a-ok.

To make preparation even easier, we used tiny sungold tomatoes and bocconcino mozzarella so that I didn't even need to dice tomatoes or cheese. I've used them here, too, but you can certainly make the same thing with diced tomatoes and cheese.
one-pot pasta for camping and tiny apartments | reading my tea leaves
One-Pot Pasta
adapted mostly from this recipe on Martha Stewart

What you need:
12 ounces of pasta (we used fusilli but you can use what you love)
1 small yellow onion, sliced
3-4 cloves of garlic
12 ounces sungold tomatoes (we didn't slice them, but they all burst beautifully)
a small handful (or so) bocconcino mozzarella (or cubed mozzarella)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3-4 sprigs of basil, stalks removed
3 cups water (or enough to cover the ingredients)
olive oil
one-pot pasta for camping and tiny apartments | reading my tea leaves
What to do:
Add all of the ingredients to the pot, finishing with a generous glug or four of olive oil. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 10 minutes or so, until the water has evaporated and the pasta is al dente. Serve. Gloat.
one-pot pasta for camping and tiny apartments | reading my tea leaves
If you want a mess-free approach to meal cleanup, forgo the mozzarella. Even with using less of it, it was a little bit of a bear to clean up in round-two, too.

More tomato-y stuff, HERE.

my week in objects, mostly.

8.21.2015

five little things that made my week.

1. stone fruit.
mount desert island, maine | reading my tea leaves
{of any and all varieties. three trips to the market already this week.}

2. this teddy gertie.
gertie
{because faye's been giving her kisses and feeding her imaginary food all week. death by cuteness.}

3. this tablecloth.
table cloth
{a sweet vintage find. thanks mom!}

4. this zucchini bread.
zuke bread
{because it's way too hot to turn on the oven in our place, but it's cool enough in connecticut. mom strikes again.}

5. this skillet.
cast iron skillet
{i've said it before, but it's my new favorite thing. even if we're not camping anymore.}


other things:
author shot.
thoughts on leisure.
golden joinery.
formal farm wear.
herbaceous!
voracious!
summery sale.
furniture's new standard.

things you might have missed:
favorites stops from our week on mount desert island.
a family camping recap.

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