habit shift: cloth napkins.

erin_boyle_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_4069I grew up in a house where we used cloth napkins for most meals, so I’ll admit off the bat that embracing cloth napkins wasn’t really a shift for me. Still, I know it’s an eco-friendlier habit that not everyone readily embraces. 

I think some of the reluctance to the permanent cloth napkin switch comes from perception. Cloth napkins feel fancy, like something that should only come out when there’s company or a special occasion. And they seem like a lot of work: all that washing and folding and for the neatniks among us—gasp— ironing. 

On one hand, the perceptions are true: cloth napkins can feel fancy and they do require cleaning. But neither of those things makes them complicated to use. 

Here are a few tips for shifting your napkin habit if you haven’t already:

  1. Go cold turkey. Some shifts take time to adapt to, but the cloth napkin trip is best done all at once, no looking back. Put back the package of napkins back on the shelf, leave the store, dig out the stack of cloth napkins you might be hoarding for a special occasion and put them to work on pizza night instead.
     
     
  2. Choose what you like. If you do not have a stack of grandmotherly napkins to dig into, you should buy a set that you like. (Obviously.) But: many people will tell you that you need to buy dark colored napkins to avoid staining. I will not give this same warning. Dark napkins end up getting just as worn as white ones, just differently. We’re talking about cloth that gets soiled and cleaned regularly: this is not cast iron, it will not last forever. So, choose a set to love, and try not to get too precious about it. (More on my napkin color theory in this post.)
     
     
  3. Consider linen. If you’re looking for longevity, I’ve found that the linen napkins we’ve had have held up the best over time. The only caveat about linen: they’ll be rumply unless you iron them. If you don’t dig the rumpled look, linen napkins are probably not the best choice for you—go for thick cotton instead.
     
     
  4. Reuse. For most adults, a cloth napkin can be used many times in a row without being laundered. The swipe of a few crumbs isn’t enough to warrant a wash. To keep things organized, growing up my family used napkin rings with our names printed on them to keep track of whose napkin was whose. We haven’t needed to institute a similar practice in our small family yet, but napkin rings, different colored napkins for each family member, or even little cloth pouches to keep only lightly soiled napkins are all possibilities.
     
     
  5. Just throw them in the hamper. Coming from someone who does not have a washing machine or dryer in my own home—let alone in the building where I live—I hope you’ll believe me when I say that you can toss a soiled napkin into your laundry hamper without thinking much more about it. We keep a pretty robust napkin collection (somewhere around 16 at last count). We don’t go through them all every week, but life with a toddler is a little messy, so the backup has proved helpful. I don’t do a separate napkin load and I very rarely pretreat napkin stains, unless Faye’s been particularly enthusiastic about spaghetti. (Note: In case you’re hesitant, in my humble opinion, cloth napkins were made for kids. It is so much less annoying to use the same cloth napkin throughout a meal than to crumple twenty flimsy paper napkins in the same space of time. (Even when you have a child who’s unswayed in her belief that oatmeal is a finger food.))

For the curious:

Our linen napkins (a wedding gift).

 

Our favorite tumblers.

 

Faye’s wooden bowl.

 

Faye’s tiny flatware was a gift from her grammy (unsure of the source).

 

Our plates and cutlery were from Brook Farm General Store (also wedding gifts, no longer for sale).

 

Everything else is vintage!

 

PS. More about my daily habits over on Remodelista.

Habit Shift is a new series. I’m hoping the series will offer quick tips, concrete takeaways, and a whole lotta can-do spirit for focusing on ways to shift personal habits in an effort to be little bit more environmentally friendly, a little more healthy, and a little more happy.  Good for us, good for our planet.

growing a minimalist wardrobe: silk camisoles.

growing a minimalist wardrobe | silk camisolesIf you read enough about so-called capsule wardrobes, you’ll quickly come across mention of the indispensability of the silk camisole (adorable shorthand: cami). Today’s post will demonstrate that among other things, I do not read enough about capsule wardrobes. (Taking the long way around, etc.)

Let me back up:

Growing up, my mom made me and my sisters wear cotton camisoles underneath our turtlenecks in the wintertime (And tights under our jeans on the coldest days, but that’s a subject to discuss on another day.) I found wearing the camisoles (and tights) to be tantamount to torture. I hated them. They felt bunchy and, as I was prone to saying, “uncunchable.”

Cut to adulthood and can I empathize with my younger self. I’m not a terrific layer-er. Despite the fact that I’m frequently cold, I can be reluctant to putting on more layers. But instead of hating the humble camisole, I’ve come to really love them. A plain cotton camisole is usually thin enough that it won’t bunch, and with enough stretch added to the cotton, it stays neatly put. Sleevelessness cuts down on the all around discomfort, and layered underneath a button-up blouse or sweater, camisoles do, indeed, provide an extra layer of warmth enough to make the winter tenable when you’re not willing to go full-on long underwear. My mom was on to something.

But this winter, I’ve tried something new that’s making me rethink my camisole approach altogether: the silk camisole.

It started by accident. One night, I had worn these pajamas to bed and I woke up in the morning with an intense need for a doughnut. (Unrelated to wearing the pajamas, as far as I can tell.) After pleading with James to walk around the corner and scoop up a coconut-covered little honey for me, it became clear that if I wanted a pre-8 am sugar rush, I’d have to get out of bed and get it myself. 

And so, I did what any responsible adult desperate for a doughnut would do, and quickly threw on presentable-in-public clothes over my pajamas. From the moment I pulled a sweatshirt over my head, I was hooked. Underneath the sweatshirt, the silk tank top felt even better than it had on its own. It was silky and smooth and not the slightest bit uncunchable! Layering suddenly felt good.growing a minimalist wardrobe | silk camisolesI realize this might not be newsworthy for the more sartorially evolved readers—all you capsule wardrobe mavens out there. But it took me experiencing a silk base layer for myself to understand the hoopla. 

A silk camisole sounds so fancy. And what a versatile little thing to wear without anything on top of it at all! But for me, the real secret is the comfort found in layering: there’s nary a bunch to be found when wearing a silk camisole under a sweater. Everything slips and slides around in a warm little cocoon that’s the very opposite of suffocating and confining. 

I’m most hopeful that the silk will hold up fairly well. I’ve found that most of my cotton camisoles get stretched out and sad-looking after a year or two. With a little love and care, I’m thinking silk will stand up a little better. Yes? No? Maybe? Who’s already a silk camisole convert out there?

In case you’re in the market: Here’s a little list of other (non-pajama) silky options should you want in on the silky secret.

+ Brook There has a beautiful black silk chemise that looks like a very lovely start for a silk camisole collection. (Their discount code is applicable site-wide through February 2, ICYMI.) (Made in the USA.)

+ Cuyana has two nice options. The silk camisole is a little bit refined with all those straps—and could definitely pull double-duty as a special top all by its lonesome. The scoop silk tank is more casual, and slightly longer. (Made in the USA.)

+ Eileen Fisher scoop neck silk tanks follow the same classic lines as some of the others in this list; theirs comes with a bluesign certification for chemical, water, and energy usage.

+ Everlane has a number of silky things worth looking at, but the long length of their simple silk tanks look especially promising for winter layering. (Responsibly made in China.)

Other things:

+ If care for silk is a hangup, I’m happy to report I’ve been hand-washing my silk tank on the weekly since mid-December and it’s good as new.

+ If the price tag on silk tanks feels (understandably) steep, a second-hand search from a source like ThredUp might yield some nice results (as well as raiding your grandmother’s closet). 

fancy underthings with brook there.

brook_there_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_3963This post is sponsored by Brook There, a sustainable clothing and lingerie company selling garments that are designed, cut, and sewn in the United States.

Sometimes you need fancy underthings; impending holidays loosely related to love notwithstanding.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there’s something about a matching set of bra and underwear that just do a body good. Or, perhaps more to the point, they do a mind good. And at this time of year, fancy underthings are at least twice as magical as they are in the warmer months. At the time of writing, I’m sitting freezing near to death in a cafe. I have yet to take off my hat or scarf. My ears are starting to ache from the particular tyranny of wearing a hat all day long. I’m wearing wool sweatpants and thick socks tucked into my boots. I’ve got on a camisole and a long-sleeved t-shirt. Everything’s covered up by a blanket of a sweater. As my mom would say: It’s quite a look. And I admit I’d feel frumpy if not for the fact that I’m wearing the matching little duo you see above underneath it all. 

I’m the first to admit that I’m a romantic, but my love affair with matching underwear has everything to do with me and nothing to do with making myself appealing to a Valentine or anyone else (happy accident is all that is). A matching set of underwear is a secret, you see. It’s a private little thing to grin about while ordering a slice of pizza or standing in line at the post office. I might look like a disheveled worker bee hunkered in this freezing cafe, but actually I’m a hot little mama with matching silk undies. See?

Loving on myself and personal enthusiasm for matching lingerie aside, it’s clear that not all of these fancy things are created equal. The offerings in the Maine-based Brook There shop make a particularly lovely choice if you’re in the market for a little something new. Brook There lingerie is designed by owner Brook DeLorme, and cut, and sewn in the United States—from organic, US-milled cotton when possible. They take their dedication to sustainable fashion seriously. You can read more about the Brook There ethics and fabric choices, right here. And here’s a little more about three of their most popular styles right this minute:brook_there_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_3837The Lilac and Black Lace Organic Cotton Lingerie Set is sexy without being cheesy; sweet but not saccharine. brook_there_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_3846The organic cotton fabric made with with 6% spandex is soft as can be and stretchy enough to be comfortable, but not baggy. The bra straps are thick and substantial enough to feel practical without looking only utilitarian. brook_there_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_3857Next up, the Tub Dye Blue Organic Cotton Triangle Set Lingerie acts as a bright spot in the dreary winter. (Talk about a little secret underneath all those layers.)brook_there_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_3870Brook hand-dyes the organic cotton fabric in her studio in Maine before sending it to Massachusetts to be cut and sewn. The double-layer cups provide extra support.brook_there_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_3882If you’ll allow me to play favorites for a minute, the Black Alchemy Organic Lingerie Set would be my choice. The old-fashioned, full-coverage cut of the bottoms and the little bits of silk strike just the right old-timey starlet note for me. No surprise, I love the understated neutrals.brook_there_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_3938And just for you: Brook There is offering Reading My Tea Leaves readers a whopping 30% off with the code VALENTINE30RMTL. The code expires on February 2, 2016. You might not be able to tuck away your woolens just yet, but damned if you can’t still feel sexy.

snow day.

snow day | reading my tea leaves snow day | reading my tea leaves snow day | reading my tea leavessnow day | reading my tea leaves snow day | reading my tea leaves Just a little snow report for a Monday morning. We had exactly the snowy, time-stopping kind of weekend I’d wished for: Grilled cheese sandwiches and chocolate chip cookies with neighbors; a shoelace rope, a little extra packing tape and a sheepie thrown inside her box to make a sled for Faye; a snowy ride to get croissants. Starting Monday feeling equal parts wistful and refreshed: it’s January after all.

make-believe: reading nook.

make-believe: simple matters reading nookAt the risk of too much navel-gazing, it’s been a really lovely week of finding that my book has made its way into so many of your homes. I’ve said this already, but more than a week later, I’m no less touched to see your posts crop up on Instagram, or Facebook, or in emails sent directly to me. It’s such an incredible honor to see Simple Matters in your spaces. It’s funny, too, to see how you’ve been cozying up to read. Some of you have been nuzzled next to a favorite human, or pooch, or other furry thing! Other times, there’s been a mug of warm something or other nearby. There have been green things, and candles and many too many beautiful wooden tables to count.

Thank you for sharing.

Here’s a make-believe collage to celebrate my very favorite hashtag. Neutral-colored reading nook, not required of course, but here’s my stab at dreaming up a few favorite things to recreate your collective nooks:

+ A copy of Simple Matters for reading.

+ A candle for smelling good. 

+ A blanket for snuggling with.

+ A mug for drinking something warm.

+ A lamp for light to read by.

+ A plant for greening things up a bit.

+ A sweatshirt for being cozy in.

+ A little cheese plate for snacking.

PS. To all of my beloved international readers, never you fear: books are coming! In this week’s episode of Things I Didn’t Know Before Writing a Book,  I realized that Simple Matters wasn’t actually released on the 12th the world over. Who knew? But it is coming! Thanks so much for being patient!

habit shift: favorite documentaries.

habit shift: documentaries that changed my mind | reading my tea leavesHabit Shift is a new series that I have in the works. I’m hoping the series will offer quick tips, concrete takeaways, and a whole lotta can-do spirit for focusing on ways to shift personal habits in an effort to be little bit more environmentally friendly, a little more healthy, and a little more happy.  Good for us, good for our planet. I hope you like it.

With the Sundance Film Festival officially kicking off tomorrow, I thought it was the perfect time to talk about the list of documentaries that have made an impact on my habits over the past ten or so years. Fair warning: These aren’t exactly feel-good movies. And, if I’m being really frank, some of them border on being a little annoying, or a little depressing, or, well, both! Yay!?

But they’re all films that actually made something click and inspired me to make a change. To be clear: They weren’t films that made me feel hand-wringy and anxious, but they spurred me to change my mind, kick a bad habit, or reassess my choices. Most of them are more than a few years old at this point, but I think they can still hold their own.

In case you’re finding yourself searching for something to occupy these long, dark nights. Here are a few of my favorite habit-shifting documentary recommendations, in no particular order.

King Corn: This one’s a real oldie at this point, but when my brother-in-law and our friend Ian made this way back in 2007, it changed the whole way I thought about the food industry and what I was putting in my mouth (and not just the corn)! Even though we’re all quite a bit older now, it still offers good food for thought. (Currently available to rent on Amazon and iTunes)

Supersize Me: It’s probably not terribly surprising that I’ve never been a huge fast food junkie, but before I watched this movie, I definitely still partook in the occasional road-trip fast food. Afterward, even that paper packet of fries was harder to stomach. (Currently available to rent on Amazon, Netflix, and iTunes.)

Bag It: More than just encouraging me to stop using plastic bags—this film had me reassess my dependency on single-use plastics in general. Prepare to invest in a reusable water bottle and a cloth grocery bag after watching (and maybe to feel less thrilled about your recycling efforts). (Currently available to rent on AmazoniTunes, and Netflix.)

The End of the LineThis film took me on a deep dive (pun, of course, intended) into the world of fish and fisheries that I’d never even considered before I watched it. I’m not a regular fish eater, but when I am, I make sure that the fish I’m eating has been sustainably sourced, all thanks to this film. (Currently available to rent on Amazon and iTunes.)

TappedIf you still haven’t kicked your plastic water bottle habit, this might just be what finally makes you do it. Since watching this, I’m pretty sure I can’t count the number of disposable plastic water bottles I’ve used on one one hand. (Currently available to rent on Amazon and iTunes.)

Toxic Hot SeatThis documentary tackles the chemical industry. In particular, it traces the Chicago Tribune reporting on the chemical flame retardant industry. Fascinating and scary stuff that definitely made me rethink my approach to upholstered furniture. (Available to rent on iTunes)

What about you guys? Anything you’ve watched that made you change your mind about something, or change an old habit?

baby proof: gracious gifts.

gifts_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_2787We’ve passed the halfway point of January. The last of the holiday decorations have likely been put away, any lingering pine needles have been swept up. If you’re like me, you’ve moved on to the deep-cleaning, forced-bulbs-and-branches, and candles-everywhere portion of the month.

But one thing that’s been very apparent over the past few weeks is that there remains for some of you a lingering sense of ill-ease about the overabundance of the holidays. For parents of young children, the concerns seems to be especially acute. There’s wondering about how to incorporate so much abundance into your space without feeling overwhelmed, questions about how to gently let friends and family know what kind of experiences (and things) you most wish for your children to have, nerves about hurting feelings.

gifts_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_2713I’ll begin by stating the obvious, which is that I am only a year-and-a-half into this parenting gig. I can’t anticipate precisely what will unfold in my house over the next ten or twelve years. When we came home from the holidays this year, we came with an array of new toys and goodies for Faye that required some rejiggering of our space to accommodate. This is always part of the process when something new comes into our place: The making room; the settling in, the reassessing.

Earlier in the fall, we’d done a bit of this rejiggering already. Rattles and teethers and infant toys that Faye’s largely outgrown, we weeded through. The ones that we most cherished were zipped into a small case in the linen closet. They live in the same small, hopeful space where I’ve also nestled the maternity clothes that I bought for myself while pregnant with Faye. Other things—duplicates and redundancies and less-cherished items—we passed along to the neighborhood thrift store. 

Gifts are, of course, things that are supposed to be enjoyed. It’d be a rare thing for someone to give a gift with the sole intent of causing a problem. And yet, it’s clear that many parents view gifts as a challenge; something to be dealt with. My approach is to be as gracious and thankful as we can be, without also feeling that our spaces and our belongings are out of our immediate control. Here are a few tactics that can help maintain a sense of control, keep a focus on graciousness and gratefulness, and, hopefully, offer a few ideas for alternatives to an ever-growing pile of toys.gifts_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_2780Send A Clear Message:

 

 

I think there are both gentle and clear ways to let loved ones know that you might be hoping to embrace less rather than more when it comes to gifts for your kids. For me, the opportunities for spreading this message began from almost the moment I announced my pregnancy. In the same way that I opted out of a traditional wedding shower, I opted out of a traditional baby shower. I didn’t want a party in my honor based around giving material goods and I explained that I wanted to keep things very simple for the baby-to-be. The supplies that I gathered before Faye came along were very few and carefully considered. As I write about in my book, I did, at my mom’s urging, put together a small registry of items from a variety of small shops that I thought I—and a baby—would love. It included just a few things but for friends and family who were very eager to give a gift, the list provided a jumping-off point and an indication of the kinds of things we were hoping to bring into our home. Co-workers pooled resources to purchase us our stroller. Aunts and cousins pooled resources to buy us a baby carrier. Many friends gave gifts not on the registry: books and music and rattles and precious onesies. I loved all of them. In expressing from the start an interest in doing things differently, I avoided feeling too overwhelmed by gifts in those early months.

As kids get older, I think a similar kind of messaging can be effective. Many people I know have requested no gifts at birthday parties and gatherings. (Many people, myself included, have ignored the bidding, but the point is to try.) If asking for no gifts seems so staunch as to be surely ignored, try, perhaps, an alternative suggestion:

+ If you’d like to bring a gift, please consider making a contribution to our art supply box.

 

+ If you’d like to bring a gift, please bring a non-perishable food item that we can donate to our local soup kitchen.

 

+ If you’d like to bring a gift, please consider bringing a children’s book to donate to our local homeless shelter.

 

Offer Guidance:

In my experience, friends and family who really want to give a gift will often ask for a bit of guidance. Anything Faye needs? Anything you’ve been thinking of getting? Here’s your chance! Take a few moments to respond thoughtfully. In my family, my mom is a champion gift giver. She really loves the hunt. She loves finding the perfect little thing and the other two things that go along with it. I don’t deny her of the thrill of gift giving, but I do offer some ideas for things that might be most useful. (And, admittedly, I outsource to her some of the hunting that I find personally less satisfying. We all have our strong suits; use someone else’s gift-giving enthusiasm to your advantage!)

Shuffle What You Display:

Once the gifting is finished, we’ve always had the best luck with leaving out only a selection of toys at a time. Personal anecdotes aside, research shows that children respond better to a simple collection of toys than a vast one. A child need not have a shelf stacked full-to-brimming with options. If you are given more than you feel can be used or enjoyed or displayed without feeling crowded, opt to save some of it for later instead. An occasional rotation out of old and in of new is exciting for little guys. Whether it’s brand-new, or borrowed, or just re-emerged from a little sojourn in the closet, novelty wins every time. So tuck an extra-beautiful set of blocks under the bed and only take them out to build a gigantic castle. If you notice that a certain toy isn’t getting played with, put it on the top shelf of a closet to present again at a different time. We don’t have room to stockpile a huge number of toys, but we’ve managed to find little places to tuck things away.

As children get older and more attached to their belongings (and more interested in creative control of their space) this same practice of curation might prove beneficial. Provide a space for them to display their cherished objects and encourage a periodic reassessment. I remember particular joy at having a tag sale as a child and getting to mark the prices on various stuffed animals and toys that my parents had gently encouraged my sisters and I to sell. 

Encourage Charity:

Faye’s too young to fully grasp the concept, but I think there’s something to be said for starting early to instill a sense of charity in children. Some of these ideas, I already listed above, but when, despite your best efforts, children receive more than they need or could use, why not encourage them to give the gift to someone else in need? Local religious institutions and community centers often accept gifts of this nature all year long, but you might also save a collection of things to give to a family in need at the holidays. Like the tag sale story from my childhood, it might be a useful moment to teach a child the value of a gift beyond their personal enjoyment of it.

Embrace Ephemera:

It’s the play dough kick going on in our house that’s speaking, but I think on the giving side of things, it’s lovely to think about giving gifts to children that don’t necessarily require a longterm place to store them. Or else, to give gifts that encourage an activity or experience beyond what needs to be kept on a shelf: tickets to a museum, membership to a public garden, swimming lessons, an art or music class, etc. Even the very loveliest handmade toys can become overwhelming in multiples and most will eventually be forgotten. But the gift of a special lunch out with an aunt, or a trip to a local aquarium with a grandparent, or a solo-drive with an uncle to spend the day at the beach? Those are all things that won’t go forgotten. In fact, they might just be the very things that get remembered.

Accept Graciously:

It goes without saying that graciousness is really the only route to take when it comes to gifts. It’s hard to change people’s minds about what is good or useful or fun to have. Indeed, it’s likely impossible. Pick your battles. Your family might not love your handmade sugar scrub either. But accept graciously, send a thank you note, use the gift if you can. If ultimately a gift is not right for your home or your family or your child, graciously give yourself the permission to let it go.

What about you guys? I’d love to hear what’s worked for each of you!

PSV Eindhoven Stadion

PSV Eindhoven Stadion

Toen het PSV Eindhoven Stadion op zoek was naar een warme, stijlvolle vloer om de Skybox nog meer klasse te geven, boden wij natuurlijk graag onze expertise aan om deze wens te vervullen.

De vraag was duidelijk: een klassevolle houten vloer van 70 m2, die zwevend op vloerverwarming moest worden geplaatst. Het verlijmen van de vloer, zoals meestal wordt aangeraden bij gebruik van parket met vloerverwarming, was in dit geval geen optie, omdat de vloer moet kunnen worden verwijderd, wanneer de Skybox een nieuwe eigenaar zal krijgen.

 
 

Meer info at gebroedersjanssen.be