my week in objects (mostly).

    May 25, 2018

    five little things that made my week.  

    1. these chive blossoms.

    {and the ridiculous distraction they were for my kids this week.}

    2. this rhubarb jam.

    {and the decision to make a very quick jarful right before bedtime.}

    3. this cord.

    {for making a wonky kitchen a little less so.}

    4. this primed footstool.

    {and getting around to projects ten years in the making.}

    5. this quilt-turned-curtain. 

    {anything to get these guys to sleep past five. yes, am.}

    other things:

    sign here. donate here.

    quite possibly the very best rugs.

    these are books, works of the imagination.

    he was constantly teaching you how to appreciate things.

    slowly but surely.

    must plan escape. pronto.

    forever bracelets.

    psst!

    life in a tiny apartment.

    May 24, 2018

    white walls in a tiny apartment | reading my tea leaves

    Survival Tip #164: Seize the moment.

    In mating season, male cardinals feed the females they’re hoping to woo. They don’t just gather the food, they coax it into the female’s mouth, morsel by morsel.

    This week we’ve watched the firey red cardinal perch on our temporary apartment fire escape and crack open the husks of sunflower seeds to feed his companion. She sits nearby, waiting patiently. Or is it expectantly? Maybe she is not patient at all. Maybe she is bored by the ritual, wanting to carry on with her meal and faster, for heaven’s sake. But she remains there, opening her beak as the male slips bits of seed directly into her mouth. Temperaments aside, it’s clear there’s some kind of partnership at work. Some kind of finding their way together and working with what they’ve got. In this case, a handful of sunflower seeds in a soggy grapefruit feeder.

    //

    Last night, I went up to our apartment just to sit for a minute by my lonesome. By my wholesome? Whichever the case, I needed some quiet to sit and take it in. It’s a funny spot to find yourself, in the middle of a place you’ve called home, but without any of the trappings that make it feel like yours. There’s a sense of possibility but also an understanding that largely, things will stay the same.

    For the past two weeks I’ve been channeling the energy I would normally put into finding solutions for our new spot into finding better solutions for the spot we actually call home. In our temporary apartment there are walls that I would paint and light fixtures I would tamper with. There are the remains of an old security gate that needs removing and a fireplace surround that needs caulk, or a scrub, surely both. The window panes are about five years overdue for a cleaning. Despite my urgings, I’ve left well enough alone. Any day now we’ll be given the go ahead to move back upstairs. We’ll bid this birder’s paradise adieu and someone else will make it theirs. 

    Instead of washing windows, I’ve made secret boards on Pinterest. I’ve been stockpiling inspiration and tutorials and glimpses of what could be; feathering my virtual nest and trying to tackle tricky corners with a renewed sense of possibility.

    //

    Faye turns four on Saturday. I moved into this apartment when I was six months pregnant with her and climbing the ship’s ladder to the bed in our old place had become cumbersome at best. I’ve welcomed two brand-new babies in this apartment. Together with James, I’ve weathered the storms of infancy and toddlerhood. Of marriage and work, too. I’ve gotten my footing, lost it, and started over again. In these two rooms we’ve figured out, all of us, how to live as a family of three, then four. We’re still figuring it out. Indeed, everything is mutable.

    We’ve made minor fixes to this space when there was energy and permission. We’ve lived with loveliness but also wonkiness and, sometimes, downright grossness. Now, quite by accident, we’ve been presented with something of a blank slate. Sure, we have a kitchen and a bathroom that we’ll never adore—and that we’ll never have permission to change wholesale—but we have, perhaps, a greater appreciation that we’re lucky to have both. The floor still needs scrubbing, but the walls are freshly painted. The soggy drywall and peeling baseboard have been replaced. The flaking, rusty radiators have been stripped down and repainted. In the midst of this temporary move I went searching for silvery linings and found white radiators. What luck.

    With a limited budget and an apartment we don’t own, there’s only so much we can do, but I’ve decided to seize the moment. A week ago we ripped out an ancient mirror in the bathroom. This afternoon, I’m buying an electric drill. Tomorrow, a new mirror arrives to our door.

    //

    Last night, in our empty apartment, my cell phone pinged. “Dinner’s on the table,” the text read. Nourishment courtesy of a husband who knows how to give a bird her space. 

    For the curious:

    We gave every surface of our apartment a fresh coat of Benjamin Moore’s Natura Paint in Simply White OC 117. (Yes, even those formerly chipping and rusty radiators, prepped first with Ultra Spec HP Acrylic Metal Primer.) Many thanks to Benjamin Moore for supplying the paint and for helping us lay a new foundation.

    Tiny apartment survival tips #1 – 163.

    waste not: corn chowder.

    May 22, 2018

    corn chowder | reading my tea leavesWaste Not is a collaboration with my friend, Carrie King. The premise is simple: Carrie, a food writer and editor, shares a recipe highlighting at least one particular way that we can curb food waste. I make it at home, take a bunch of pictures, and share it with everyone here. 

    Growing up, I asked for corn chowder to be made for fully half of my birthday dinners. Didn’t matter how hot the early July weather was, I wanted silky, creamy chowder with sweet bursts of corn. As a kid, and in the original version of Carrie’s recipe below, there were pearly potatoes floating in there too. James is allergic to that particular nightshade and so I omitted them here. Potatoes or no, this chowder is delicious.

    I’m always looking for simple ways to make a vegetarian broth and after this trial run, I’ll be putting my spent corn cobs to better use. Simmering the corn cobs in the broth renders the soup creamy without making it overly rich. A splash of cream or coconut milk at the end makes it decadent. Maybe best of all, Carrie finally convinced me to stop subbing in sweet paprika when a recipe calls for smoked. I’ll happily make a little space cabinet for this crimson wonder.
    corn chowder | reading my tea leavesFrom Carrie:

    Aside from Frosty the Snowman’s pipe, I don’t know of many uses for spent corn cobs. Maybe bird feeders? Bear in mind that I’m saying that with absolutely no authority on whether that would work and based purely on inspo from Erin’s ingenious half-grapefruit bird feeder. Just seems like corn cob bird feeders could be a thing.corn chowder | reading my tea leaves

    Practical uses aside, I definitely don’t know any recipe that has you actually ingesting corn cobs. Nor does it seem very enticing—unless you’re looking for some serious ruffage. But still, ears of corn are so much more than just their rows of glistening yellow kernels. There is lots of delicious flavor and corn milk hidden in their nooks and crannies. I think of cobs as the bones of the veggie world. You’d use bones to fortify the flavor of stock or soup, and you can totally do the same with corn. So, before you throw your next batch of naked cobs in the compost pile, here’s a recipe that at least makes sure you milk them for all their worth.

    This chowder revolves around the use of the whole ear of corn (minus the husk—although those are also useful in their own right—looking at you tamales). The cobs act as an instant flavor booster for any veggie, or even chicken, soup. Sometimes I even use them to boost the flavor of broth to make corn risotto. If you had enough ears of corn, you could make pure corn stock for sundry uses. Next time you’re looking to use corn kernels-only for dinner one night, save the cobs in an airtight container in the fridge, and throw them into a pot of soup or broth the next day.corn chowder | reading my tea leaves

    This recipe also uses one of my current spice crushes—smoked paprika. If you don’t have any in your pantry, I’d say it’s worth grabbing next market run. corn chowder | reading my tea leaves
    I think it’s a handy spice to have hanging around because a little pinch makes anything it touches suddenly seem next-level fancy. It adds lots of interesting flavor complexity with zilch effort. Plus, for veggie based soups, stews, and chowders, it kind of fools your taste buds into thinking there might be some bacon swimming in the depths of the pot, but—spoiler alert—there’s not! Magic.corn chowder | reading my tea leaves

    Corn Chowder

    1 Tbsp olive oil
    ½ vidalia onion, finely chopped (about 1¼ cups)
    1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
    3 Tbsp butter
    1 tsp smoked paprika
    4 ears of corn, kernels removed from cob (about 4 cups kernels, reserve cobs)
    4 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice (optional)
    1 tsp salt
    5 Tbsp flour
    4 cups veggie stock
    ¾ cup cream/half & half/coconut milk
    3 scallions or a bunch of chivescorn chowder | reading my tea leaves

    Heat olive oil, chopped onion, and bell pepper in a large pot over medium. Sauté until onions are translucent and peppers begin to soften, 4-5 minutes. Reduce heat if browning, you’re not looking for color here.

    Add the butter, smoked paprika, corn kernels, potatoes (if using), and salt. Stir occasionally until the butter melts.

    Once melted, sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes, making sure it doesn’t singe.

    Add vegetable stock (and 1 cup water if you use potatoes), stirring to ensure the flour dissolves into the stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium.

    Add corn cobs (break or cut in half of too long for pot) and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.

    Stir in cream or half & half (or coconut milk!)

    Taste for seasoning and add more salt is necessary. Remove and discard corn cobs.

    Finely chop scallions or chives and scatter on top of chowder to serve.

    // NOTES:

    You could blend the chowder to make it even more creamy. In this case, you might even get away without adding the cream or half & half, if that’s your preference, because the pureed corn kernels will really amp up the creamy factor. If you blend, you might have to loosen the soup up with a touch more veggie stock or water.

    Instead of chives, you could chop up some scallions to scatter on top.

    Omit the smoked paprika if you’re not into it/don’t have it on hand.

    corn chowder | reading my tea leaves

    Thanks to Carrie King for writing this post and developing the recipe. When Carrie’s not encouraging me in tiny-apartment cooking adventures, she’s a food writer and editor. Her cookbook work includes Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner….Life with Missy Robbins and The Chef Next Door with Amanda Freitag. She has contributed to Gather Journal and Life & Thyme and works as recipe editor at Marley Spoon and Dinnerly. Thanks to culinary school and lots of time spent in kitchens, both professional and home, she can cook just about anything, but usually just wants a few couple few slices of pizza.

    For the curious:

    Our black enameled cast iron is from Crane; I got ours from East Fork Pottery.

    Our checked napkin is from Fog Linen.

    What about you guys? Corn cob enthusiasts out there?

  • borrowed words.

    The first of the neighborhood roses and these words: 1 Only now, in spring, can the place be named: tulip poplar, daffodil, crab apple, dogwood, budding pink-green, white-green, yellow on my knowing. All winter…

    May 21, 2018 5 Comments
  • my week in objects (mostly).

    five little things that made my week. 1. these binoculars. {but mostly two very enthusiastic bird watchers.} 2. these post-nap curls. {nope. never cutting them.} 3. these spring flowers. {and a mom who brought…

    May 18, 2018 13 Comments
  • life in a tiny apartment.

    Survival Tip #163: List the pros. We moved. Just temporarily. While a damaged wall and the associated peeling paint in our apartment gets repaired, we’re one flight down, in a space nearly identical to…

    May 14, 2018 11 Comments
  • my week in objects (mostly).

    five little things that made my week. 1. this collection of precious things. {in their temporary new home downstairs.} 2. these boxes. {for meaning we didn’t have to go on a neighborhood sweep of…

    May 11, 2018 16 Comments