life in a tiny apartment.

    September 17, 2018

    small space projects | reading my tea leaves

    Tip #175: Look to what you have.

    This weekend I found myself mired in a new project. It’s one I’ve been wanting to work on for ages—putting collected scraps of fabric together into something that’s useful and, with any luck, nice to look at. I’ve got a new callous forming on one of my fingertips. I’ve stayed up too late for three nights running just wanting to pull a few more stitches through delicate fabric. Every night, I pack away my supplies. Scraps of fabric go back into the canvas bag that hangs from back of the linen closet door. Needles get tucked back into my tin box. The iron is left to cool on a dresser top and stashed back up in the closet come morning.small space projects | reading my tea leaves

    When I’m asked to give small space advice, folks often direct me to what’s missing. What do you have to live without? What did you have to give up? What do you think you miss? A work space, I might say. I long for a spare room with a long table and brilliant natural light. I want a spot I could sneak off to to be alone or finish some work or leave an iron out overnight. It’s easy to rattle off a list of things that might be nice to have. But working on this project over the past week has made me think a whole lot about the things I already have. There are the scraps themselves, of course: saved fabric leftover from past projects or former curtains or no longer serviceable swaddles. But at the risk of being insufferably saccharine, it’s kind of humbling to think about what else there is that’s already lying around. Turns out, of course, that opportunities for thankfulness abound. I don’t have a studio space, or a large work table, and I need to clear off my work surfaces after every hour or two that I steal for the project, but look at what I do have: A felt pad for ironing, a table I can drag over to the light of the window, a drying rack for hanging freshly ironed handkerchiefs and other scraps. Needle and thread and two working hands.

    The real advice here might simply be to listen to my own advice. I’ve said so much of this before:

    Embrace messy projects! Embrace your hobbies! Undress your art supplies. (Space is mutable!)

    Here’s to a new week and noticing what’s right in front of me. What are you all working on?

    my week in objects (mostly).

    September 14, 2018

    five little things that made my week:

    1. this chair cushion.
    {and one day, hopefully soon, when we can leave our highchair days behind us.}

    2. this new dust pan.
    {found at this new neighborhood gem.}

    3. these rug pads.
    {thicker, cozier, and a lot more sound absorbent.}

    4. these plums.
    {for being just what school pick-up called for (also cookies).} 

    5. these sweet stars.
    {and the two little guys who could barely stay awake through dinner this week.}

    other things:

    life in a (not at all) tiny apartment.


    plants heal.

    just like that, fall.

    soccer mom hate.

    never met a pocket i didn’t like.

    kids don’t damage women’s careers.

    an imaginary utopian homeland.

    to do list.

    September 13, 2018

    celosia and salvia | reading my tea leavesI’ve been given myself a breathing week. A take-a-step-back-from-the-desk week. A wander-the-farmers’-market week. A dive-into-the-archive-and-remind-yourself-what-you-love week. (A rest-your-aching-back-for-heaven’s-sake week.) It’s been something like an impromptu Reading My Tea Leaves staff retreat, except of course, the staff is only me and I’ve yet to find the open bar or the free massage.

    In lieu of trust falls and obstacle courses, I’ve been thinking a lot about my work: What it is, exactly. What I’m doing here, precisely. In January, this blog turns ten. It will have been a decade of waking up in the morning and figuring out what I’d like to say. (And a decade of waking up in the morning to see what other people have said back.) 

    What is this work? Where do we go from here? I’m still figuring it out, but I think that’s maybe exactly the point. I’ve always been an imperfect tea leaf reader. I like to try things on for size. I like to ask questions. (I like it far better to find answers.) I like to write down lists and check them off. I want to know if there’s the best of something. If I see something that needs fixing, I can’t help but attempt the tweak. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail and when I find something that works, for a while at least, I like to share it.

    There’s a lot of pressure to have it all figured out, isn’t there? The wardrobe. The apartment. The career. The climate! The children. The finances. The will. The childcare. The marriage. The in-laws. The siblings. The toys. The underwear. The mascara!?


    A neighbor recently found out about my blog. We both worked in the same shared office space for a few months and one morning she stopped me at my desk to say she’d read through the archive. She was matter-of-fact:

    “You take something that’s okay and try to make it better.”

    It was such a terribly lovely thing to hear that I’m sure I mostly only blinked back at her, stunned by the kindness, but more so by the understanding. This week, I’m trying to focus on that work (and that kindness). In this humid, cusp-y week between summer and fall, before we enter the season of magic (and mayhem), I’d love to know what you guys are hoping for, too.

    A few things in the works:

    + On the heels of this post (and this one!), I’m starting to put together a series on smart, simple finances for this fall. I’m hopeful to invite a few other voices to join me in this work and to offer a bit of guidance where I can’t. If anyone has particular resources you’ve found to be helpful, don’t hesitate to say.

    + I’ve also been gathering a list of potential folks to interview for a rekindling of the Simple Matters interview series. I love to learn how other people define simplicity: what their version looks like, or sounds like, or feels like. I hope you do, too.

    + I’m planning to dust off my newsletter again, retooled a bit for a new season and a fresh start. If you’re not signed up already, you can head here to sign up for occasional recaps, favorites from the archives, and brand-new things to add to your no-pressure to do list.

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  • my week in objects (mostly).

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  • my week in objects (mostly).

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    Waste 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.…

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