out and about: table on ten.

table on ten | reading my tea leaves


Last night, Faye’s snoring reached near comic levels. There were great blustering intakes of breath followed by high pitched whistles that sounded like a sound effect borrowed from a Disney cartoon and not something that would actually emerge from a human baby. She’s feverish this week for the first time in her little life and I’m finding myself somewhere between knowing that everything will be fine enough in a day or two and panicked, envisioning a full-on reenactment of Minnie-Mae and the great croup fiasco of Anne of Avonlea. 


There’s something bittersweet about nursing a sick baby in the midst of what was otherwise supposed to be a quiet week. The advantage is two parents home to do the nursing and plenty of undivided time for walking the apartment in circles willing her to take a blessed nap. The downside, of course, is a sickly baby and a whole list of ambitious, if quiet, goals that have been tucked into bed along with the feverish babe.

It’ll be an even quieter end to 2015 than we anticipated, but I’m grateful we squeezed in a tiny getaway before fever struck. Here, a few photos from our stay at Table on Ten in New York’s rural Delaware County. We’ve never taken advantage of the days between Christmas and New Years for a getaway of the true vacation variety, and even though our stay was short, the little respite between the excitement of the holidays and the lull before the new year felt just right. A new tradition, perhaps.

We stayed in one of the three rooms that Table on Ten lets through Airbnb. The entire place is an example of the triumph of simplicity and kindness. More gracious hosts could not be found and the understated rooms provided the exact backdrop of calm that we craved after Christmas. We gobbled wood-fired pizza and drank fresh coffee and drooled over brilliant eggs that we’ve already tried to recreate, twice. When we left, we took with us a hand-drawn map from owner, Inez, directing us to other local treasures. The only downside was the brevity of our stay.table on ten | reading my tea leaves


Linen sheets, simple fixtures, and a queen bed for snuggling in on a rainy day. 


table on ten | reading my tea leaves


Coffee and mixed-berry handpies for breakfast in addition to the most delicious eggs in a skillet I’ve ever eaten. table on ten | reading my tea leaves


No-frills curtains and a view of the neighbors.


table on ten | reading my tea leaves


My guys.


table on ten | reading my tea leaves


Tables and chairs waiting for hungry patrons.


winter citrus and root vegetable salad inspired by table on ten | reading my tea leaves


Winter Citrus and Root Vegetable Salad      

Because I wasn’t quite ready to leave it all, behind, here’s a little bit I took home with me. This is an approximation of a salad we loved at Table on Ten; an imperfect recreation of a truly perfect salad. It’s the right kind of salad for welcoming a New Year. A mixture of sweet and savory, bright and earthy, wholesome and indulgent. The original was made lovelier with the addition of very beautiful chioggia beets and yellow ones, too. I used what we had on hand and you should too—a combination of bright winter citrus, thinly sliced root vegetables, a smattering of endives and kale, and warm toasted nuts. 

Serves two.

1 large endive, sliced


3 leaves lacinato kale, massaged in cold water and chopped into small pieces


1/2 grapefruit, cut into supremes (aka, segments without skin or pith or any bitter bits)


1 clementine, cut into supremes


1 beet, uncooked and sliced as thinly as possible (carrots or parnsips or turnips or any combination of the above very much welcomed)


1 small shallot, thinly sliced


a handful of lightly roasted nuts (I used almonds and cashews because we had them. The original included hazelnuts which were lovely)


For the dressing:

1/3 parts champagne vinegar


2/3 parts olive oil


a squeeze of grapefruit juice


a pinch of sea salt


a pinch of sugar


Combine vegetables and nuts in a large bowl, toss with dressing and nuts and enjoy. Happy New Year!


Traprenovatie Limburg

Traprenovatie Limburg


Een rustieke, ietwat verouderde woning omtoveren tot een strak, schitterend plaatje, dat is de opdracht die dit koppel uit het mooie, Limburgse Rekem zichzelf hadden gesteld. Dit bereiken vereiste natuurlijk de nodige werkzaamheden aan vloeren, muren en andere interieurelementen, maar kon onmogelijk tot een stijlvol geheel worden gemaakt zonder ook de trap onder handen te nemen.


Meer info at gebroedersjanssen.be

make-believe: ’twas the night before…

make-believe: 'twas the night before christmas | reading my tea leavesAs a child on Christmas Eve, I’d lie awake, in keeping with the cliché, waiting to see if I’d catch a glimpse of Santa Claus and his reindeer dashing across the night sky. I’d leave my electric window candle burning and pull my covers up to my chin. I’d eventually will myself to shut my eyes and would fall asleep to the sound of my parents making their best effort to walk on the stairs that creaked least loudly.

As a parent, I’m learning, after the festive merry making with the whole family, there’s the furtive merry making after the lights go out: The tying up of the last packages and tucking of treats into stockings. 

Here, a make-believe Christmas Eve for a merry-making mama:

+ A kerchief for Ma.

Cozy pajama pants and matching shirt

+ My very favorite Christmas album.

Fleece-lined slippers.

Fancy hot chocolate mugs

+ A plate with cookies enough for a jolly old elf or two. 

+ Beeswax tapers for a little light.

+ Clementines for late-night snacking.

Other things: 


Sugar plums, a brief explanation.


solstice poem.

cedar wreath | reading my tea leaves


A tree hulks in the living-


room, prickly monster, our hostage


from the wilderness, prelude


to light in this dark space of the year


which turns again toward the sun


today, or at least we hope so.


Outside, a dead tree


swarming with blue and yellow


birds; inside, a living one


that shimmers with hollow silver


planets and wafer faces,


salt and flour, with pearl


teeth, tin angels, a knitted bear.


This is our altar.

– An excerpt from Solstice Poem by Margaret Atwood, Selected Poems II: 1976 – 1986

Other cozy things:




Mulled wine.


gift wrapping alternatives.



Christmas is on Friday. And I have a hunch that some of you might be in the midst of wrapping presents. Or, at least, starting to gather together the gifts that you’ve slipped into various sock drawers and cabinets and onto high closet shelves for safe- and secret-keeping. If you’re like me, you rely on a tried and true formula for gift wrapping. You know it well: kraft paper + festive and vaguely elfin woodland element + twine + luggage tag. As with many things, I blame my infatuation entirely on The Sound of Music—brown paper packages tied up with string, and all that jazz.




It’s a sweet formula because a little bit of woodland flair can make even an old pair of socks look charming without much effort. And in addition to offering a neutral-colored blank slate, as far as paper products go, a recycled roll of kraft paper is a relatively gentle environmental choice.


But even more environmentally friendly than heading to your local hardware store in search of kraft paper, is gathering materials closer to home. This year, in the weeks leading up to Christmas, I kept a small tote bag hanging in the closet and have put into all manner of paper and packaging that’s come into my house and that might be useful for wrapping gifts.

In case you’re needing inspiration, here are a few of my favorite wrapping supplies to save you from the cartoon Santas and goofy reindeer and to encourage a Christmas trash pile that’s a little smaller and a little gentler on the planet.






Paper’s perhaps the easiest material to gather second-hand from the recycle bin. I’ve been saving pretty sheets of newsprint and packing paper and grocery bags since Thanksgiving. When embracing the once-used approach, if you don’t worry about crumpled sheets or wrinkled corners, the happier you’ll be. (And I promise everyone will be too distracted by your spritely sprig of juniper to notice the wrinkles.)




Newspaper: You can wrap a present with any kind of newspaper page, but I like to save pages with pretty pictures, interesting graphics, or seasonable headlines. It’s admittedly a little nicer to wrap a present in a newspaper page with a photograph of blue sky than one portending environmental doom or reporting bloodshed. Because the ink rubs off of newsprint, use it for presents that are already boxed—nobody wants an ink-covered hand-towel, for instance. For smaller gifts, magazine pages work too, and their ink is less likely to rub off.




Grocery bags: We do our best to always bring our own basket or tote to the grocery store, but on the occasion that a paper bag does make its way into our apartment, I know it can be cut open and put to work as well as any roll of kraft paper. (Note: it’s helpful to use slightly heavier duty tape—like packing tape—when wrapping with thicker kraft paper.)


Maps: If you have an old map hanging around, it could make for an artistic bit of wrapping paper. Depending on the thickness of the map, you might need to use heavy-duty tape here, too.




Packing paper: I receive a fair amount of work-related packages and I’ve been saving the best bits from inside of them to repurpose for my own gifting needs: even if it’s been wrinkled in the mail, thick black paper makes a nice statement and Greenwrap Protective Paper has thankfully been making its way into packages lately instead of bubblewrap. I think it makes an artful gift wrap all by itself.






If used over and over again, cloth is perhaps the most environmentally friendly gift wrapping choice. In the form of drawstring bags, squares of cut up fabric for Furoshiki-style wrapping, or simple totes, you can put the same small collection to work year after year. recycled_gift_wrap_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_1877


Drawstring Bags: I’ve mentioned before that I keep a stash of small cloth bags on hand for repurposing. They’re the perfect thing for wrapping tiny presents and can be used over and over without showing much sign of wear.




Furoshiki and Bento Wraps: The Japanese custom of wrapping gifts in square cloth is centuries old and as useful today as ever. I have a few squares of thin muslin that I keep on hand for wrapping up presents for James and Faye. (Unless the fabric is part of the gift itself—a bandana or a scarf, or instance—I try to use cloth for gifts for family members so that I’ll be able to save the fabric for use on another occasion after the presents have been unwrapped.


Canvas totes: I can’t remember the last time I bought a paper gift bag, but I do like to use plain canvas or muslin totes for wrangling harder-to-wrap items. If you’re looking for a plain tote, Muji sells them very affordably (and they’re sturdy enough to put to use at home—I use several of these bags to wrangle other bags in the closet). recycled_gift_wrap_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_1882

Finishing Touches:

At the risk of acting like the sales clerk in my very favorite scene of a favorite Christmas movie (“This is so much more than a bag…”it’s nice to add a little something special to a plain brown paper package wrapped up in string.




Tags: I love the look of  tiny luggage tags, but a classic single-hole punch is a useful thing to have and can turn just about any kind of paper into a tag with just one punch.




String: I like to use plain hemp string or cotton twine to wrap my packages. If I keep the lengths long enough, I find I can reuse them over and over again, but if they get scooped up before I can gather them, the untreated string is recyclable and biodegradable. But there’s also a practical purpose: traditional wrapping paper is thin and creases easily making it great for wrapping boxes neatly. Using slightly more quirky materials can mean a package that needs a little more help staying wrapped. String helps!




Greenery: A snip of just about any kind of greenery will do for adding a wintry flourish, but I like to choose delicate greens with interesting pops of color when I can. A cinnamon stick or a glued-on bit of star anise make for a sweetly spiced gift. A bit of cedar berries or juniper adds a bit of understated color. Bonus points for tiny pinecones.


Other things:

A brief and fascinating history of wrapping paper.


A helpful diagram of Furoshiki techniques from the Japanese Ministry of the Environment.


Beautiful Furoshiki-style wrappings: here, here, and here.


free gifts, fifty ways.

free gifts | reading my tea leavesThe best things in life are free. So instead of getting caught up in finding the perfect something to give during the holidays, I think it’s kind of nice—if slightly offbeat—to think of the resources that we have right under our noses: the kindnesses and favors and generosities-of-spirit that, in all honesty, might mean about a million times more than a new pair of socks or earrings (nice though socks and earrings might be).

Giving a free gift doesn’t have to be an exercise in Scroogey asceticism. Carefully planned, thoughtfully described, and tenderly given—maybe even with a bow on top—a free gift might be an offer of help, a gesture of kindness, a promise for accompaniment somewhere special (or hard).

My top fifty ideas for friends and family, below. Specifics, unimportant. Mix and match, etc.

Give a foot rub to your son.

Accompany a sister on a long walk.

Read aloud a favorite book to your wife.

Make a playlist for your husband.

Give a hand massage to your sister.

Write a love note to your brother. 

Share a secret recipe with your mother-in-law.

Volunteer to pet sit for your neighbor.

Reorganize the coat closet for your wife.

Label the linen closet shelves for your family.

Donate a stack of books for your grandpa.

Reindex your mom’s digital photo collection, according to her preferences.

Turn down the covers for your wife.

De-pill every sweater in your daughter’s drawer.

Plan a garden with your spouse.

Get your kid’s passport paperwork in order.

Scrub out your husband’s garden pots.

Configure your dad’s new hard drive.

Clean your mom’s oven.

Shovel the neighbors’ walk.

Teach your babysitter how to knit.

Babysit your friends’ kids.

Teach a friend to play the piano.

Offer a head massage to your husband.

Prune your mom’s apple tree.

Hang a shelf for your grandson.

Scrub the bathtub, without being asked.

Loan a friend your car.

Teach a niece to skip rocks.

Do your aunt’s grocery shopping. 

Plan a week of meals for your sister.

Lend your power drill to your daughter.

Update the address book.

Draft a running plan for a newbie runner.

Give your son a sewing lesson.

Teach your brother how to pickle.

Share your sourdough secrets with your uncle.

Take a friend to your favorite foraging spot.

Record family stories.

Vacuum out your father-in-law’s car.

Help your daughter master the harmonica.

Pass along a cutting from your houseplant.

Tutor your co-worker in a foreign language.

Teach your friend how to make a button hole.

Show your grandson how to darn socks.

Sing an aria for your grandma.

Tune your brother’s guitar.

Pass down a cookie recipe to your nephew.

Teach a cousin a card trick.

Show your granddaughter how to chop wood.

Need more ideas?

Holiday Gifts, Two Ways


Holiday Gifts for Kids, Two Ways


Simple Gifts, Two Ways


Any to add? To the comments!

dried orange ornaments.

dried orange ornaments | reading my tea leavesFirst a quick note to say message(s) received and rest assured: We have no intention of lighting our apartment on fire in the name of holiday cheer. In a prudent twist on my original plan to create a holiday candle tradition, I’ve decided it’d be a fun and wise plan to light candles on the first night the fresh tree comes inside, and to follow the lighting with rolling candles that we’d use to decorate the tree for the rest of the season, and to light the following year. See how that cycle works? Breathing easier?


But I also wanted to update you on the ornament situation chez nous. In search of a bit of color, I took 5 minutes to slice oranges and pop them into an oven set to a very low temperature. Now our tree is looking sufficiently cheery and sufficiently old-timey and sufficiently earth-friendly to make my heart sing.dried orange ornaments | reading my tea leavesI’m a committed low-impact DIY-er, meaning that I like to make things myself that have a pleasant impact on a space, but low-impact on me in terms of time, and expense, and levels of difficulty. Dried fruit ornaments fit the bill.


I first wrote about making a dried fruit garland in this post, originally published a couple of years ago. The advantage of these simple orange ornaments is that the sun comes streaming through them in a way that gets a little lost with a more abundantly strung garland.orange_ornaments_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_1611They’re also terribly easy to make. If I hadn’t been taking photos to share with you, the entire affair would have taken mere minutes (not counting drying time). dried orange ornaments | reading my tea leavesI used a tiny screwdriver to pierce holes near the top of each dried orange slice.dried orange ornaments | reading my tea leaves


I used cotton twine to string my orange ornaments, but you can use whatever ribbon, yarn, or wire you’d like. 


What you need:

Oranges (Any kind’ll do. I used two naval oranges I found lingering in the fridge drawer.)


Sharp knife


Cookie sheet


Drying rack


Small screwdriver (or similarly poke-y instrument for making a hole in the dried fruit)




+ Begin by slicing your oranges into 1/3-inch rounds. (Be careful to cut the slices as evenly as possible. Thinner sections will dry more quickly and could burn or curl in a warm oven before the thicker sections have a chance to dry.) (Wash well first if you plan to include them in mulling spices or other edible treats).

+ Place a drying rack on top of a cookie sheet and arrange orange slices on top of the rack. (If you don’t have a drying rack, you can place the slices directly onto the cookie sheet, but in that case, you’ll need to flip the slices every 1/2 hour or so.)

+ Place orange slices in a warm oven set to the lowest possible temperature. (That’s about 200 degrees F for me, but if you can go lower, do). Bake oranges for 2-4 hours until dried. I like to err on the shorter side of total time spent in the oven, and allow my oranges to finish drying completely on the tree. 

+ Pierce a small hole near the top of your orange (below the rind) and string with twine, ribbon, or wire as you prefer.dried orange ornaments | reading my tea leavesDried oranges make a sweet ornament to a simple Christmas tree, but they’d also make a nice addition to a pouch of mulling spices, or a simple gift wrap. And the best part? If properly dried, the orange ornaments will last and last. But once they become too fusty to keep, or if you don’t have the place to store them, or if the theme for your tree is more white and gold than, say, orange and honey, then into the compost they go, with a nary a landfill filled.

More wintry posts, this way.