temp check.

March 30, 2020
granola | reading my tea leaves

I’ve been sending temp checks to my family and friends all week, wanting to know how everyone’s faring in terms of the virus itself, but also more generally. What’s the mood? What are the worries? What’s helped? What’s hurt?

Me? A normal temp and a cough for the past week that’s been troubling but thankfully not worsening. We’re staying in and staying vigilant.

Outside the loudest sound is the chatter of birdsong (until it’s pierced by the wail of an ambulance siren). Inside it’s the thud of small feet that can’t always stay still (but they’re trying their very best for goodness sake).

This morning, my brother-in-law watched as the hospital ship sailed into New York Harbor and we received news from the first people we’re close to who have tested positive for Covid-19. We know there will be more.

What’s helping?

+ Candlelight.
+ Building forts.
+ Rolling balls of colorful play dough between my palms.
+ Patting Calder’s back as she lies on my belly.
+ Simple evening sewing projects that require two hands and two eyes and no Twitter feed.
+ Plugging ideas for posts into my editorial calendar. (Deleting them. Adding them again.)
+ Scribbling on paper.
+ Tidying toys.
+ Brushing my teeth.

What about you? How are you all feeling? What can I do to help in this space? Are there stories you’re craving these days? Are you after escapism, or are you looking for ways to navigate the current crisis? Do you need a project to work on?

We can’t expect folks to have a universal experience of this pandemic and we can’t expect a universal path to comfort, but if there’s something that you think you’d like to see in this space, let me know.

Finally, a brief note on funding:

As most of you likely know, the funding for this site comes largely through partnerships with brands. In some cases I work on dedicated sponsored campaigns, in other cases I use affiliate marketing to earn small commissions from goods or services purchased through links in editorial stories, and in past years I’ve been able to sell banner advertising space to small businesses. I’m so proud of this site and so thankful for the support I’ve received, but like so much right now, a lot of that support is currently on pause or cancelled altogether.

In the past week a few readers have reached out to ask if there are ways they can pitch in to help keep this blog thriving. I’m so thankful. One of the very best ways to help is to simply spread the word. If you have friends or family who might like to join the conversation, send them a link. If you have the extra money to spare, you can purchase a copy of my book, Simple Matters from your local indie bookstore (or ask your local library to buy a copy or three). If you sign up for my Skillshare class using the link https://skl.sh/erin, I will earn a small commission. And if you send that link to three friends who you think might love the class (and who would also enjoy two free months of Skillshare classes), even better. Finally, if leaving a small tip feels like something you’d like to do, you can drop spare change through Venmo or Paypal. Thanks so much for still being here.

For the curious:

The granola I made this week.

My favorite breakfast bowl.

Thoughts on oat milk.

This post includes affiliate links. Reading My Tea Leaves might earn a small commission on the goods purchased through those links.

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  • Reply Megan March 30, 2020 at 1:27 pm

    Maybe some ideas on staying connected to family and friends? Especially those out of state. More ways to help others. More ways to stay calm. Ways to care for infants and children in this time. Ways to take care of ourselves. Things not at all related to the on going pandemic outdoors. I’m mostly craving anything that’s not more numbers and statistics and inaction and politics. I’ve re-read simple matters twice since our social distancing began, your voice is really a comfort and a reminder that things can be simple in our homes.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE March 30, 2020 at 1:54 pm

      Thanks so much for this note. I’m so touched that my book has been a comfort. Yes to all of these ideas! Nose to the grindstone.

      • Reply Lindy March 30, 2020 at 4:42 pm

        FYI your book has been a serious comfort/ crutch to me too when Things felt so out of control in my life.I would literally have the book to run to

        • Reply ERIN BOYLE March 31, 2020 at 10:08 am

          I’m so glad to hear that.

      • Reply E March 30, 2020 at 5:37 pm

        I would love any thoughts you have on newborn life (with older kids) during this pandemic. I’m due June 5th and live in Virginia, and the virus is anticipated to peak here shortly before that. Any thoughts you are willing to share would be so appreciated.

    • Reply marion March 30, 2020 at 2:34 pm

      I totally agree with Megan. I like as escapism this days, but stil relatable to our day to day : I a loved your post on making your space more workable. Others could be how to be creative this days with the cooking, space for each one, new family dynamics and activities, little projects on the house that were on the to-do, how to work from home more efficiently, little projects/DIY to help or encourage our community of our building and spread optimism…

      • Reply ERIN BOYLE March 30, 2020 at 2:41 pm

        Happy to oblige! Thanks so much.

  • Reply Sara March 30, 2020 at 2:33 pm

    I’ve loved your blog for years but have gone in deep this past year. Our kids are right around the same age — I have a 5, almost 3, and 5 month old. You’ve helped me to feel sane *many* a day and I refer to you as “you know — my friend Erin who lives with her kids and husband in 1 bedroom in Brooklyn” when telling my husband something I’ve learned from you here. Thank you for articulating your view and sharing it with us. Thank you for your great ideas. Thank you for your graciousness in what can feel like a fast and furious world at times. I read the comments regularly and I adore how no matter how snippy, rude or curt someone is, you always find a way to go high – to reply with kindness while not sacrificing or subjugating your point of view.

    I learn so much here! I asked for your book for both Christmas and my birthday, but alas I will gift it to myself today. I live in Philadelphia and my local bookstore is making free deliveries if you live in center city. So happy to support them and you in one swoop.

    I would love more escapism content, more simplifying, more cooking, more adapting to life with a new baby during this very strange time, and anything where you share more specifically *your* perspective on things. I’m not on any socials so love reading anything here.

    Congratulations on your beautiful Calder. What a gift!


    • Reply ERIN BOYLE March 30, 2020 at 2:41 pm

      A million thanks, Sara. I’m so grateful for this note. Thank you for reading and noticing! Yes to these ideas! More soon.

  • Reply Judith A Ross March 30, 2020 at 2:47 pm

    Escapism for sure, but without being oblivious to what’s going on — things you do anyway! What I really need right now is a dose of sunshine here in rainy, chilly Portland, but not much any of us can do about that. As it happens, I am making granola this morning. My recipe is similar but with much less sugar — I use a scant 2/3 cup of maple sugar in mine and 4 cups of oats. Other than that, pretty much the same. Stay healthy (my Brooklyn son has the same seemingly innocuous yet worrisome cough).

  • Reply Jessy March 30, 2020 at 2:48 pm

    Hello Erin,
    I always enjoy your “Make-Believe” pieces – they felt like little doses of escapism even before we all had to shelter in place for days on end!
    Best wishes to you and your family – as a momma cooped in with my husband and two little ones, I feel the struggle, too! Stay safe, stay healthy, stay sane…

  • Reply Claire March 30, 2020 at 3:02 pm

    Hi Erin, thanks for this lovely post. I appreciate how your blog has struck a balance lately of reality and levity. I know that’s not easy to do, but you have such a nice instinct for these things. Here are a few posts I’d enjoy reading:

    – how to support the global efforts to stop covid-19 if you’re on a very limited budget (AmeriCorps member here) and still working full time (while many describe extra free time during social distancing, I feel busier than ever)
    – how to create a dedicated workspace from home (currently using a desk that’s four feet from my bed; quite distracting!) and message “working/non-working” hours to family (sadly, no I cannot sign a birthday card while on a Zoom call with my team!)
    – creative art projects to do around the house with materials one already has at home (I love when you decorate with leaves/flowers/photos and washi tape/thread!!!)
    – thoughts on grocery shopping/meal planning (not something I prepare copiously for, but want to make grocery trips as efficient as possible now)

    P.S. Thanks for your note on supporting you financially during this time. So many think that blogs are easy to put out into the world. Having written a few personal blogs over the years, that is very much *not* the case and I appreciate all you do for this community.

  • Reply Amelia March 30, 2020 at 3:13 pm

    Another vote for posts not related to what’s happening in the news. I’d love to see a few good Make Believe posts, since we’re all sitting at home day dreaming anyway. Maybe some new interviews with folks that inspire you? A list of your children’s favorite shows and movies? Stuff you’d plant if you had a big garden? Mood boards full of whatever is inspiring you right now? Anything to help us all think of calmer days ahead!

  • Reply Erin March 30, 2020 at 3:59 pm

    Another vote for escapism! I don’t need more news.

  • Reply Jessica March 30, 2020 at 4:01 pm

    We also made the maple olive oil granola over here — one of our absolute favorites! We added cinnamon and a pinch of cloves this week! Thanks for all you do! You inspired me to look through the advertisements on the right side of your page and see if any are selling something I’ve been needing. Glad to hear you all are well and making it through!

  • Reply Laura S March 30, 2020 at 4:17 pm

    ESCAPISM and activities for little ones. Oy. I’m in desperate need.

  • Reply Lindy March 30, 2020 at 4:39 pm

    Ok will sign up for skillshare.. and when things improve will lobby library to purchase book. They might already. Yr books not in Barnes and Noble Atlanta anymore. I unfortunately have zero income too due to lost % business.
    I love yr calming things.. precise functionality and making a space work. Somehow yr pics/ colors / making lemonade out of lemons is very distinct. Sounds like y not getting worse and as I mentioned before shortness of breath means hospital otherwise home. Masks are good in the outside so We Don’t Touch Our FACE‍♂️

  • Reply Sarah March 30, 2020 at 5:07 pm

    Hi Erin – thank you so much for all that you do in this space. It is so comforting to see how a fellow working mom is surviving here in Brooklyn. As a registered nurse who is 9 months pregnant with a toddler at home, this time has been disorienting and terrifying – it feels like a perpetual state of anxious anticipation, fear, and sadness, knowing the worst is yet to come. I decided to take early maternity leave after having an unprotected COVID exposure at work and quarantining myself from my husband and son for two weeks, though that decision has come with a strong sense of guilt. Luckily we are all in good physical health, but it has been so hard to figure out how to care for my mental health and the mental well-being of our family, especially as we prepare to welcome a new life into the world at a time like this. Any ideas on strategies for coping with uncertainty, mitigating anxiety, and practicing self-care would be so welcome! Also would greatly appreciate advice on how you’re talking to your kids about the pandemic and social distancing.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE March 30, 2020 at 5:09 pm

      Oh man. Holding you in my thoughts. More soon!

  • Reply Nicole March 30, 2020 at 6:12 pm

    Thank you for your wonderful peaceful space on the internet. It is always a little bright spot in my day when you have a new post. Mostly lately I’m searching for simple and easy projects and activities for myself and my little ones- best are those we can do together!!! Thank you!

  • Reply Nicole March 30, 2020 at 7:36 pm

    Just having a peaceful space on the internet is a lovely thing. As a funny note, I own your ebook, but randomly thought I’d check it out from the library. The library is closed, and now I can’t turn it back in! Such a comfort to reread your words, holding a physical copy in my hands.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE March 31, 2020 at 10:11 am

      Ha, so glad!

  • Reply Erin March 30, 2020 at 7:59 pm

    I would love to know what you are disinfecting with these days. Our family has used Thieves for a year now. I’ve just viewed the EPA’s approved list and am feeling incredibly overwhelmed & unprepared. I know I can come to you for a good cleaning tip!

  • Reply Amy March 30, 2020 at 8:29 pm

    Could you write something on hope, Erin? I am so lucky that I am still employed (albeit working from home) and my partner is also able to continue his building business at this time – we live in Sydney, Australia, and our lock-down laws aren’t as strict as your yet. But I have self-employed friends living in the US who have essentially lost their jobs overnight. I know that staying positive is so hard when you can’t leave the house and are struggling to find things to fill your days. All the suggestions of hobbies and activities that are being offered on the internet are great, but I think when you’re despairing it can be difficult to find the motivation. But maybe a story on hope and resilience could provide a little light on a dark day?
    I’ve been reading your blog and Instagram account for years – I have no idea how many. Your philosophies really resonate with me and with a baby on the way I hope to be the kind of mother (like you are) who will stand up for what she believes in, dive deep into her community to lend a hand and help her kids paint their protest placards before taking to the streets with the brave crowds willing to march for their cause.
    I was delighted to discover one of my favourite bookstores stocks your book and have just ordered a copy.
    Take care. X

  • Reply Heather Leigh Fuller March 30, 2020 at 9:10 pm

    Hi Erin,

    Thank you for asking. Things are odd, but I am so glad that 20 years ago I made the right choice for my desert island partner. Pandemic aside, just go with me here for an brief escape, spending weeks with him and our 2 and 5 year old has been so good for us. Back to reality, I come here because you are a calm place to pause and catch my breath. Escapism or reality it all works for me!

  • Reply Abby March 30, 2020 at 9:40 pm

    Echoing what others have said, your little spot on the web is a high point of my day. Your writing and perspective are so refreshing and reassuring. I’d love to see posts on what you’re doing with your kiddos at home–activities, challenges, schedules–and ideas for supporting those on the frontlines when childcare/work/other responsibilities take up a lot of time.

  • Reply Shannon March 30, 2020 at 9:43 pm

    Oh, keeping connected with loved ones for sure. I’d also be so grateful to know your thoughts on simple wholesome meals and snacks, on endless loop. (I might just move my bed to the kitchen.) I’ve loved your work over the years, your book is a balm. I’m so happy I can give a little to the tip jar. Also, all those times you reacted with grace to odd comments – those moments inspired me to keep kind, even when… Your work matters. Thanks for all of it. Be well!

  • Reply Elle March 30, 2020 at 10:07 pm

    I am finding acceptance and realism very useful right now. The threat of infectious disease is omnipresent, and it’s a good time re-evaluate what kind of life we want to return to when our freedoms are restored. This essay helped me to feel hopeful and to anticipate the future with a joyful optimism, without dwelling on the unknown personal health outcomes for myself and my family. It underscored how much value I personally place on human connection and physical presence. It reminds me that I am interconnected.


    Some things personally useful right now: With schools closed here, my kindergartener and I have been going to her elementary to work on the gardens. Planting bee feed mix and preparing the beds for vegetables for our community, weeding and mulching. We BYO all the tools and she calls us the fairy garden-mothers. It’s been a great bonding experience and I find we are connecting better than we ever have.

    Other things: reorganizing all the rooms that have gone to shit over the years. Washing all the irregular stuff: extra blankets, pillows, bath mats, entry way rugs. Painting (walls, not art, though I’d love to be able to paint artistically!). Mailing off my baby stuff to friends and family having babes of their own. Pressing flowers with me kids. Writing letters to grandparents and teachers. Gardening in my own yard. Building forts in the woods. Maintaining the trails for our community. Catching sun fish at the pond. Washing muddy boots and clothes every.single.day.

    These aren’t escapes. They are reality, and deserve equal space and attention as any other present experiences, statistics, news, or events.

  • Reply C March 31, 2020 at 12:56 am

    How did you like the granola?! I have almost everything but the coconut which is fine as everyone thinks they are too much like fingernails!
    I saw a recipe for an olive oil chocolate cake from @3191milesapart that I am going to make…any day now. Coconut milk in the fridge and raspberries in the freezer for the topping. Thank goodness for freezers and summer berry picking.
    Mostly it’s nice to hear anything from anyone really. We are all struggling, some more than others, and we all have or highs as well. I love seeing your little ones and wondering about both of these, what has worked and what has not during the days. What has worked for you and what you are struggling with. Realness is what I crave more than anything. True connection.
    Mine are doing schoolwork, picking many, many vases of flowers, going on a daily walk or bike ride (today it was nettle picking), sowing seeds and watching them pop up, reading, painting, playing, and on and on. And sometimes, because we are both actually very busy with our work, there is not alot of patience, hurt feelings, and yes, a wee bit of worry. We try too to include, every day, ways in which we can be of service to others. There is always a way, no matter how small. This is something I try hard to remind my children of and myself! It can be hard being so small in such a big world but no matter how small, we each matter and make a difference. Much love to your family. Be well.

  • Reply Sonya March 31, 2020 at 2:35 am

    Hello! This past week I’ve been diving back into your book because time spent so intensely at home has helped me look at my space and belongings in a whole new light. Plus things that keep my hands busy, and off my phone, are exactly what I’m looking for right now. That being said one thing I’m mentally grappling with is at-home office gear and how to stick it out to work out what you need (if you need anything at all) compared to the temptation to buy a work desk not knowing when this will end.

  • Reply Dani March 31, 2020 at 3:51 am

    Hi Erin, no suggestions on what to write at the moment, as I know it will be great anyway. Just wanted to say Thank You for your constant showing up and inspiration. I´ve loved your blog for years and eagerly awaited your book release, which became one of my favorites on the always accessible living room shelf. I thought about you yesterday morning after I read about the challenging situation in NY. Just sent some money over through Paypal via my husband´s account. Big hugs and best wishes to you and your family <3

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE March 31, 2020 at 10:40 am

      Thank you so much, Dani! I’m so grateful for the support!

  • Reply Kim B March 31, 2020 at 4:21 am

    Bless you for who you are and what you do and the community you have created. Coming here, I enjoy not only your thoughtful words, but those of the contributors too — so many thoughtful, human responses just on this post.

    Going to see if I can find a way for my indie bookstore back home to order your book.

    Thinking of you and James and all your family. Thank you for being the beacon of light that you are.

    P.s.: where I am: in Paris, on lockdown, with my husband and I both having already contracted Covid. I had the lightest case ever; he had a pretty mild case but still had fever for 10 days and quite a bit of discomfort (muscle aches and headaches). We are some of the lucky ones.

  • Reply Lily March 31, 2020 at 6:17 am

    Thanks for asking us, Erin. As your other readers do, I so appreciate this spot on the internet now and always.
    Two things I’m interested in reading about.
    The first is politics. Though today and everyday is tough because of the virus and the lockdown, my steadiest source of anxiety remains the election in November. How can we organize from the safety of our homes to be sure that the presidential election happens, is fair, and results in a new president? In addition to all of the other horrors he’s exacted, he has failed completely to lead in a time of crisis. I can’t believe it. Resources and action please!
    The other is, well, escapism via you writing about your life! The reason personal blogs such as yours are the best escapism (even when practical) is in the, well, juicy details. I realize you have become more private, but these are desperate times. Without offending you by asking, I know I’d like to read about your new baby’s birth and your recovery and how you parent a newborn differently when it’s your third not your first, how your kids and apartment have adjusted to one more, what you guys are cooking and why, how you’re doing childcare. Things you maybe would have shared back in the glory days of 2014 (take us back!) when boundaries seemed less important.

  • Reply Rona Mitchell March 31, 2020 at 6:39 am

    Recommendations for what to read these days! Also I agree with all the other comments. Would love to see some ‘make believe’ posts, and online resources to enjoy some cultural gems that have opened up to wider viewing. Thanks for continuing to write, this is my favourite little corner of the internet.

  • Reply Harper Kimberly March 31, 2020 at 7:50 am

    Dear Erin, My heart goes out to you. A new baby, two active kiddos, a husband AND a pandemic. Navigating our emotions and sleep deprivation is difficult during any season of birth. But this. You are being hit from several sides.

    I’m older (61), a grandmother, and I live in a large house in AR, but, I fell in love with your book and found your blog and YOU. Yours is the only blog I follow. Your words, photographs, kindness…make a difference in my world.

    I miss your poetry.

    I wish I could give you a hug. I left a tip in lieu.

    Blessings, Kimberly

  • Reply Christina March 31, 2020 at 10:04 am

    Hey Erin – hope you are on the mend. I think about you often – I had my second baby in December and know how tough those first few weeks are. Hoping you are able to get some rest here and there. Don’t be shy about letting us know how we can support YOU. You provide so much to many of us. If you are making any good recipes over there, that would interest me. My family also eats vegetarian and trying to get our toddler excited about the repeat train of meals is challenging. Maybe you have some favorite meals we haven’t tried yet. What are we doing over here? Saying the serenity prayer, making meal time a BIG deal, and having dance parties at the 2-year-old’s request. Whatever works!

    • Reply Kirsten March 31, 2020 at 11:56 am

      Recipes indeed!

      We are mostly vegetarian, but have swung even more so lately. My poor two year old is always saying “I miss chicken.” Yummy veggie meals that your kids love would be great!

  • Reply Rachel March 31, 2020 at 10:46 am

    Thank you for everything, Erin. If I click through a sponsor on the right-hand side to make a purchase, does that help sustain the blog?

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE March 31, 2020 at 12:08 pm

      Thanks so much, Rachel! For the most part, the current banners are static ads that shops purchase quarterly. For the moment, as so many small businesses are struggling to make ends meet, those ads are actually on the site gratis. Happy to have you support these longtime supporters of mine all the same!

  • Reply Elizabeth March 31, 2020 at 3:39 pm

    This little corner of the internet is one of my favorites — I’m always telling people about you. As far as content goes, I’d love to know where YOU go for escapism on the internet, Erin — what other blogs bring you comfort and joy.

    • Reply Maggie March 31, 2020 at 8:20 pm

      I agree! I’m always interested in what the writers I love are reading themselves !

  • Reply Beth March 31, 2020 at 3:55 pm

    Just saying hello and thinking of you and your family. Stay safe, loves. <3

  • Reply Joanna Schoff April 1, 2020 at 7:23 am

    I love your posts on simple foods to make
    ( a bread or cake) and homemade sewing projects that i may be able to tackle with limited skills.
    I agree with so many comments. You bring a peace from a city I adore and call home although transplanred to another area of New York now.
    Thank you for your simplicity as it is unique and is just what i need.

  • Reply Melina April 2, 2020 at 2:26 pm

    Thank you for asking. Like others, I deeply appreciate this calm space and return regularly because of the balance you strike between acknowledging reality and offering hope, rest, and simple actions that make a difference in my own life as well as those of others. My own 3 year old (and 29 week fetus) and I have been baking up a storm lately. Easy recipes are always appreciated. My own offering… I run a Spanish language forest school class in Brooklyn, which is obviously on hiatus for now. We have started sharing ideas for simple and flexible activities for small explorers on our website as a way to connect with and support our community. They are all bilingual, free, and doable either on neighborhood walks or in small apartments. Feel free to check them out if you find yourself needing something easy to occupy your little ones at any point. Looking forward to continuing to follow along here as we all navigate this new reality.

    • Reply Betsy April 2, 2020 at 7:53 pm

      Hi Melina, my kids are in Spanish immersion and we are struggling with homeschool Spanish language lessons – their teachers have not provided a lot of instruction – can you share your website here – or maybe you have other resources – thank you!

      • Reply Melina April 3, 2020 at 1:20 pm

        Hi Betsy, I believe my website is linked if you click on my name. It is http://www.nidoforest.com How old are your kids? And what do the lessons entail? I’ll think about whether I have any resources to share with you. Would be happy to help if I can!

        • Reply Betsy April 4, 2020 at 7:06 pm

          Thank you! My kids are 6, 11 & 14. The oldest is tutoring the 6 year old and my 11 year old is using duolingo. We’re getting by – I’m just not at all qualified to homeschool Spanish immersion and always looking for more ideas.

  • Reply Maryann April 2, 2020 at 3:56 pm

    I don’t have anything new and exciting to suggest. But I do love coming to your site and will continue to do so. I look forward to whatever you come up with.
    I wish you and your family, Erin, and your larger community all the best during these uncertain times. I’m at home with my husband, two kids, and an English language learner teen who my husband and I are acting guardians for. It’s an interesting time! Sometimes I feel like a sociological experiment in family dynamics! But aren’t we all right now?!

  • Reply Laurel Christine April 4, 2020 at 8:32 am

    Love the idea of temp checks and assessing how everyone is fairing both emotionally and physically. I also love candlelight and bubble baths and making my favorite breakfast bowl to help me get through this challenging time. Hope everyone stays healthy and that nothing worsens over time.
    Laurel Christine

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