spring cleaning with stowaway.

stowaway spring cleaning | reading my tea leaves

This post is sponsored by Stowaway, a right-sized cosmetics company.

The magnolias are going gangbusters. The daffodils have unfurled. It’s not warm out exactly, but I’ve sped up the arrival of spring in my apartment by forcing these tiny dogwoods. Old Mother Nature is ready to show off after her long winter’s beauty rest and you might be too.

It’s the time of year for throwing open the windows, plunking flowers in a vase, and in between checking to see if the lilac is in bloom, tackling your spring cleaning.

Where to start? stowaway spring cleaning | reading my tea leaves

In Simple Matters, I advise readers to take a good long look at their medicine cabinet when beginning the process of decluttering a space. A medicine cabinet-or whatever space that you have to stash your lotions and potions-can often act as a kind of litmus test for the state of the rest of your home (sorry if that’s bad news). But the good news is that it’s an easy place to start because the answers to the questions of what to toss and what to keep are clear and-hopefully-devoid of too much sentimentality. Either you use that lotion or you don’t. Either you like that mascara or you don’t. Either that lipstick is expired or it isn’t.

The advice is this: Be ruthless. Purge what you’re not using, toss what you don’t like, throw away what’s past its prime.

And then-and most importantly-think carefully about what you allow to come back in. This part, I call gatekeeping. Stand your ground. Let in only what you love. Make careful choices and by next spring, when it’s time for clearing out the cabinet again, you won’t have nearly so much to sift through. stowaway spring cleaning | reading my tea leaves

If you’re in the market for something new to replace your expired lipstick or your unloved cheek color, Stowaway might be the answer. As I’ve written before, I love Stowaway because it offers right-sized solutions for your makeup bag. Instead of selling makeup in sizes that are large and heavy and virtually impossible to finish before their expiration date, they’ve sized their cosmetics to correspond with the needs of the people who use them, and they’re always paraben-, phlalatestowaway spring cleaning | reading my tea leaves-, and cruelty-free.

A customizable Stowaway Kit includes six basic products: BB cream, concealer, pot rouge, lipstick, eyeliner, and mascara. It’s all the makeup you need for $75. The idea is that instead of lugging around a dopp kit the size of Rhode Island and keeping two more at home, you’ll have everything you need in a collection of products that fit-quite literally-into the palm of your hands.

 

stowaway spring cleaning | reading my tea leaves

 

And if you do want a little something extra? An extra lipstick for a zippy touch of color? A different cheek tint for a different mood? Those few additions won’t weigh you down either. (And even if all of your cosmetics fit in the palms of two hands? I’d say you’re still coming out way ahead.) 

 

stowaway spring cleaning | reading my tea leaves

 

What about you guys? Where do you begin your spring cleaning? Closets? Cars? Medicine Cabinets?

 

Stowaway is offering RMTL readers a chance to restock their makeup bag with something to love. When you purchase a Stowaway Kit, use the code RMTLCLEAN to receive an additional free lipstick, mascara, and cheek pot of your choice. All of the details right this way. Apologies to international readers: Stowaway is currently only shipping within the US.

baby proof: gifts for new parents.

gifts for new parents | reading my tea leaves
It’s the time of year (and the time of life) when I know a lot of folks who are welcoming teeny-tinies into their lives. Two of my very best friends are expecting little guys this spring and summer and just this weekend I celebrated at a shower for one of them. 
 
Welcoming a new baby into a house is, to put it lightly, a big deal. Doesn’t matter if you’ve done it before. For brand new moms and dads (and for seasoned moms and dads of brand-new babies), it’s really nice to receive a little something to know they’re being cared for while they’re so busy caring for someone else. Here are a few ideas for small gifts for new parents. They’re gifts that tow the line between practical, personal, and a little bit special, but that don’t often find their way onto traditional baby registries (see also).

 

gifts for new parents | reading my tea leaves

Stress relief.
It’s not all stressful, but there are elements of having a tiny newborn that can fray your nerves and I loved wearing this sweet scent when Faye was just born (and still). The tangerine and lavender are calming scents, to be sure, but there’s also something about feeling like you have a secret weapon against stress that feels comforting: a talisman in the form of a roller-ball, if you will. Best of all the scent’s not too overpowering for a newborn but it’s lovely enough feel refreshed…and….calm.
 
A good night’s sleep.
There’s not much you can do to make sure your friends with new babies will get enough sleep, but a nod in that direction would still be welcome. New parents spend so much time in bed and while they might not have time to change their sheets as often as you’d like, there’s always time to swap in fresh pillowcases. I love the idea of offering a parent of a newborn a special set of pillowcases. Whether they’re vintage or new: wash ’em, iron ’em, and wrap them up with a sprig of lavender and a note wishing sweet slumbers for parents and babe, both.
 
Sweet dreams.
Similar to the idea above…it’s nice to feel at least a bit refreshed even in moments when you can’t have fresh clean everything all the time. A spritz of lavender on your bedsheets can go a long way toward maintaining sanity (and maybe even encouraging that precious sleep!). I usually make my own very humble linen spray (with just water + lavender oil), but this one is specially formulated for bed linens, minus artificial fragrances. 
 
Luxury.
If you want to give an extra-special gift, a new cotton robe would be lovely. I love cotton robes because they’re lightweight and easy to wear and they don’t take up all of the space that a terrycloth robe does. This organic cotton robe looks especially lovely. And this unisex robe would be as good for sleep-deprived papas or mamas.
 
Comfort.
It sounds a little personal maybe, but comfy underwear takes on a whole new meaning postpartum. I love these undies from Storq. They’re so soft and stretchy but don’t make you feel like you’re wearing something that’s only utilitarian. And I still wear them…22 months after the fact. 
 
Relaxation. 

 

Despite having known that my body’s shape had shifted during pregnancy, it wasn’t until after I’d given birth and was reaching for my coziest sweats the next day that I realized that they didn’t fit the way they used to (even during pregnancy). Luckily, my mom had brought me a pair of cotton pajama pants in a size larger than I normally wear. They were just what I needed to pull over all of my tender parts without having to shimmy or shove or generally try to make them fit. GODSEND. These look just right but anything soft and roomy would do. (PS. A nice idea for any parent of a newborn, not just the one giving birth.)

 
Protection.
If you’re close to the mama who you’re giving a gift to, you might choose to give something super practical but strangely missing from a lot of conversations about “new mom must-haves”. One of the kindest gifts I received before Faye was born was a set of washable nursing pads from my sister. I had zero idea that my boobs would be leaking breast milk for weeks (and months) as I first began to nurse and receiving the gift felt not only practical, but like I was being specially cared for. See also: nipple creambottom spray, and lots of encouragement to stock up on extra large pads and mesh underwear, and witch hazel pads from the hospital (or to buy ’em for birth at home). Another perfect gift? A shortstack of cloth prefold diapers in the largest size. Good for everything from acting as a burp cloth, to serving as a mattress protector, to giving extra breast-feeding support, to sopping up spills and accidents, to putting over your face and crying into when you just need to have a good sob, to playing endless games of peekaboo. They can do no wrong and they’ll always get used. 
 
Nourishment.
Maybe it goes without saying that one of the kindest gifts for parents of a new little guy is a homecooked meal. If you’re close enough to offer one: amazing. I’ll never ever forget the ravioli with fiddleheads that my brother-in-law came over and cooked us the night after Faye was born. I couldn’t sit in my chair to eat it, but damn did it taste good.
 
Peace of mind.
Finally, as so many folks in this space have expressed, there’s a lot of undue pressure on new parents to buy all the things. I’m firmly in the camp of you not needing very much at all in the way of baby gear, but if you did find something helpful and if it’s not so helpful to you anymore (or at least not the moment), consider offering it as a loaner to a friend. Getting the chance to use a bouncy chair for a few months (or a few weeks if that’s all you need) instead of buying one brand-new, might be just the thing that helps them get over a hump (or a crying fit).
gifts for new parents | reading my tea leaves
 What about you guys? Favorite little gifts to give to friends or family welcoming a new baby?

pastel-colored easter eggs, naturally.

pastel-colored easter eggs with natural dyes | reading my tea leaves

 
 

I’m not usually one to care much about what color Pantone decrees to be color of the year. But when they announced the double whammy favorites of rose quartz and a pale periwinkle blue they’ve dubbed serenity, well, they made my head turn. 

To celebrate the season of eggs and make at least a cursory nod to the rest of the design world, I thought I’d make a dozen eggs in those favored Pantone shades using humble vegetables to create the shades: beets for the rose quartz and red cabbage for the serenity.

Happily, making natural Easter egg dye doesn’t take much more skill than being able to chop up some colorful veg and boil it in water. When opting toward subtle pastel colors like these ones, the process is especially quick. 

Here are my basic notes, in case you’d like to make a dozen of your own.

+ To make one cup of dye, you’ll need approximately one cup of chopped vegetable and one cup of water. 

+ I find two cups of dye works well for 6 or so eggs, so I made two batches—one for each color—each with two cups of water and two cups of vegetable. (I mostly eyeballed my vegetable measurements. For reference: 1/4 large red cabbage yielded me ~two cups of chopped cabbage. One whole beet plus the peelings and scraps from two beets I used for dinner earlier in the week yielded ~two cups of beets.)

+ In this ratio of two cups vegetable matter to two cups water, bring your vegetable-filled water to boil and then simmer, covered, for ~15 minutes. The water should be richly colored by the time you’re done simmering.

+ Strain the dye from the sodden vegetables and allow time for it to cool. (I strained mine into mason jars and popped the jars onto the window ledge to speed up the cooling process.) 

+ Once cooled, stir in a tablespoon of white vinegar to help the dye set.

+ Submerge hard-boiled eggs into your dye mixture. I found that six eggs perfectly displace two cups of dye in a quart-sized mason jar. 

+ You’ll note that I used white eggs here to achieve the light shades that I was after; brown eggs work too, but the pink will be more maroon and the blue a shade or two muddier.

+ To achieve the pasted-colored eggs you see here, I submerged my beet-colored eggs for only ten minutes. I allowed my cabbage-colored eggs to sit for ~three hours. Once they’d reached a color I like, I removed each egg from the dye and dried it off with a bit of cotton rag. (If you’d likely deeply colored eggs, you’ll need to leave your eggs submerged over night. But the wait is worth is: you’ll get a deep red and cobalt (see also!)!

+ I love the dusty natural look of eggs without a sheen, but if you want to shine ’em up, a little rub with vegetable oil will give your eggs a glossy shine!

pastel-colored easter eggs with natural dyes | reading my tea leaves

Dyes, cooling on the ledge.pastel-colored easter eggs with natural dyes | reading my tea leaves

Hard-boiled eggs waiting to go into their dye baths.

 

pastel-colored easter eggs with natural dyes | reading my tea leaves

 

My pink eggs were a dusty rose after just ten minutes in the beet dye.pastel-colored easter eggs with natural dyes | reading my tea leaves

To achieve the light blue that I wanted, I allowed my eggs to sit in the red cabbage dye for a long time after I’d taken out my pinks! The blues stayed in the fridge for approximately three hours. (Don’t be shy about checking on your eggs to get the color that you’re hoping for.)

 

pastel-colored easter eggs with natural dyes | reading my tea leaves

 

Pale blue eggs, dried.pastel-colored easter eggs with natural dyes | reading my tea leaves

The end results were exactly the subtle shades I’d hoped for.pastel-colored easter eggs with natural dyes | reading my tea leaves

What about you guys? Onion skin-dyers out there? Turmeric? Other egg dying traditions I should know about?

a clutter-free easter basket.

clutter-free easter basket | reading my tea leaves

In case you’re on the hunt for easy and clutter-free (or waste-free!) gift ideas for filling up an Easter basket this weekend, here are a few ideas.

Simple, sustainable, and, some of them: free!

 

clutter-free easter basket | reading my tea leaves+ Choose an Easter basket that can get some use post-Easter. Most Easter baskets get used for exactly one day a year, but no one will be the wiser if you dump the little basket you use to wrangle your napkins (or other things) and fill it up with treats for a day. If you’re thinking of buying something new, try to choose a fair-trade basket made by folks getting paid a fair wage. Better yet: use what you already have and think outside the…er…basket. A bowl, a box, a bag: all fair game. clutter-free easter basket | reading my tea leaves

 

+ Buy unpackaged treats. If you want to indulge in some seasonal chocolate, go get ’em (I’ll be enjoying it, too), but if you can, opt out of the individually tin-foil wrapped eggs and shop the bulk section instead. Bulk candy shops are still relatively widespread and lots of bulk sections in grocery stores have at least a few treats. Bring your own bags and fill up on chocolates, jelly beans, and pastel-colored pastilles. Pack ’em up in a cloth bag, lay ’em end on end in a curvilinear bunny trail, or sprinkle ’em willy-nilly in your basket. (PS. If you’d rather avoid the candy aspect of the holiday altogether, that doesn’t mean you have to be bunny trail-less. Make a trail of tiny pebbles or feathers or seashells or birdseed instead!)clutter-free easter basket | reading my tea leaves

+ Go useful and practical. Think about everyday items in your house that need replacing or an upgrade and keep them in mind when filling your basket. Slip a few new pairs of underwear in a cloth bag. Replace yucky hand towels with a bright new set. Fold a new potholder into your basket. (And then just remember to pass along or dispose of whatever it is you’re replacing.)

 

clutter-free easter basket | reading my tea leaves+ Consider affordable or free alternatives to cheap, plastic toys. Affordability dictates a lot of Easter treats, but there are affordable alternatives to throwaway gifts that often fill up baskets (and later, rooms). Usable (and use-up-able gifts) like flower seeds, a few new colored pencils, modeling clay or beeswax, homemade playdough, a jar of collected “treasures” like seashells and stones, and other homespun treats are all inexpensive (or totally free!) gifts for kiddos.clutter-free easter basket | reading my tea leaves

 

+ Choose one special treat instead of a basketful. Especially for older children or loved ones, maybe forgo the tradition of offering a basket full of tiny treats altogether and opt for one something special instead? Bonus if the gift encourages an eco-friendly habit shift: A new bento bag to bring to the bakery? A set of beeswrap to replace plastic wrap? A bar shampoo to replace your plastic bottle? A new water bottle?clutter-free easter basket | reading my tea leaves

+ Give something green. Spring is the perfect time to get things growing and Easter is all about new life. A potted plant in an Easter basket (for kids of just about any age) is a nice (and easily budget-friendly) idea.

 

clutter-free easter basket | reading my tea leaves+ Use the real deal over the fake version. I know a lot of folks use the argument that plastic Easter eggs can be reused in season after season. But if you don’t have them yet and you’d rather not store them or buy new plastic, opt out! Hard boil a dozen eggs, dye ’em if you’re up to it, and have kids hunt for those instead. On the Easter grass front, I never get around to posting about this early enough, but you might still have time to grow a little wheatgrass in a sunny windowsill. I worked on this post a few years ago…same basic instructions, in whatever vessel you choose. No time for real grass? Skip it altogether!

 

clutter-free easter basket | reading my tea leavesFor the curious, a few specifics:

 

The basket. (Found locally at Collyer’s Mansion.)

The seeds. (Found locally at GRDN.)

The colored pencils. (Found locally at Collyer’s Mansion.)

The brush.

The hand towel

The playdough recipe.

The bright blue easter egg recipe.

The pot. (Found locally at GRDN.)

The muslin bags.

out and about: joshua tree.

joshua_tree_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_5872We’ve had a decidedly indoor series of days and so, I thought, it’d be nice to live vicariously through photos of a few decidedly outdoor days that we passed earlier in the month. We headed out to Joshua Tree for the last two days of our trip to California, and I don’t think I’ve ever been happier about a travel decision. I haven’t spent much time in the desert. By which I mean, I’ve never spent any time in the desert. I couldn’t anticipate the way that the air would smell. Or the way the sun would hit the mountains in the distance. I couldn’t quite conjure the images of the jackrabbits or the scrubby cacti—even though I knew they’d be there. Even now, there’s no way to adequately describe the way the sun rose over a straight horizon and lit the sky up in shades of lavender and pink.joshua_tree_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_5838

To Stay:

We stayed at the beautiful desert home of friends whose #flattopprojects is the dreamiest little homesteader cabin I’ve ever seen. (I haven’t seen that many homesteader cottages, but still! Trust me at least with the fact that Lily and Peter’s place is a dreamland! Just, A+++.) (If you’re interested, here’s a characteristically lovely post from Lily about their decision to buy their desert home.)

 

joshua_tree_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_5867

 

joshua_tree_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_5885

 

joshua_tree_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_5908

joshua_tree_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_6086

joshua_tree_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_6097

joshua_tree_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_6127

joshua_tree_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_6120

To Eat:

We visited at the beginning of a week when a lot of the local joints are closed for business. We made meals at home and jotted down notes for what to do when we come back.

Joshua Tree Coffee CompanyLily and Peter had a bag of this stuff on their kitchen counter and I got pulled in by the pretty design on the label, so we did a little search and found a bag of our own (plus one to bring home).

Joshua Tree Health Foods: A quirky, incense-filled spot to get a dozen fresh eggs and ceremonial sunflower seeds (which, of course, we did).

La Copine: Recommended to us by every single person that we met. Alas, alack this spot it open only Thursday-Sunday so we missed out this go-round, but I couldn’t resist sharing such a sweet spot. If I ever return, I’m high-tailing it thataway for the Grits & Greens.

To See:

For sightseeing, we probably would have been content to stay in Lily and Peter’s house and watch the sun move across the sky, but there was a National Park to visit and so we did. The Joshua Trees were blooming during our visit and we caught a few other flowering specimens on our ambles around. My best description of the park is that it’s a place on Earth that doesn’t feel a bit like it. Otherworldly and then some.joshua_tree_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_6079

 

joshua_tree_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_5946 joshua_tree_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_5956 joshua_tree_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_5972 joshua_tree_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_5990 joshua_tree_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_6041 joshua_tree_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_6066 joshua_tree_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_6071

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

And now, back to facing Monday.

For the curious:

I’m wearing this favorite fleece;

 

my favorite overalls;

 

these canvas sneaks

 

and my Alma.

 

Faye’s in our favorite linen pants

 

and sweater;

 

and sneaks.

 

(Same lightweight carrier that we used in Venice.)

 

(Favorite black Junes bag for stashing shed jackets and hats.)

 

potatoes, et cetera.

modern farmette | reading my tea leaves

 
 

I’ve mentioned in passing that we deal with a strange allergy in our house. Of all things to afflict a man with the name James Patrick Casey, a potato allergy would seem the least likely. But Irish ancestry notwithstanding, James can’t eat potatoes. Or touch them. Or breathe the air too close to them. 

 

I am the long-suffering wife; visions of smashed red potatoes and tiny fingerlings dancing in my head. Take me out for a plate of french fries and I’ll be your forever friend.modern farmette | reading my tea leaves

Our potato-free household can mean that St. Patrick’s Day celebrations pose a problem. While we can still pour out a Guinness and offer a cheerful Erin Go Braugh, I can’t say that I don’t miss also indulging in a potato-heavy meal. Growing up, my mom would make a huge pot of potato chowder for St. Patrick’s Day. She’d make an Americanized Irish Soda Bread replete with carraway seeds and currants. My sisters and I would cobble together outfits from every bit of green clothing that we could find. To my friends, I’d brag about the percentage Irish that I’d determined myself to be—conveniently forgetting my French and German and who-knows-what-else ancestry for the day. Kiss me I’m Irish, et cetera.

 

modern farmette | reading my tea leavesBut this year, I’ve got a brand-new bit of inspiration for a potato-free Ireland-inspired meal. On Tuesday evening I went to the launch of Imen McDonnell’s cookbook: The Farmette Cookbook: Recipes and Adventures from My Life on an Irish Farm in Dumbo. While there are plenty of positively delicious looking potato recipes in the book, the cookbook is also filled with recipes of the non-potato variety. Recipes riff on many traditional Irish meals, but Imen has put a modern twist on the classics.

 

modern farmette | reading my tea leavesMaybe best of all, the book is beautiful—the whole thing has a gorgeous springtime aesthetic that has me wanting to go frolicking in the Irish countryside. Not being even one bit ironic. There’s an apple blossom cordial recipe that’s going to have me hightailing it to my parents’ house come apple blossom season; a cream scone recipe that sounds perfectly Irish enough for St. Patrick’s Day with nary a potato in site; and a brambleberry ode to Beatrix Potter that got all my heart patters going.

 

modern farmette | reading my tea leavesIn case you need a bit of springtime inspiration to add to your repertoire: The Farmette Cookbook is currently for sale online and in local bookstores just about anywhere. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

 

habit shift: junk mail.

habit shift: junk mail | reading my tea leaves

 

The problem with habits is that everyone has them. And while we might be able to change our own habits, it’s harder to change other people’s habits. Foiled again.

 

Many companies and organizations have the particularly bad habit of flooding mailboxes with unsolicited advertisements in the form of direct mail. Donor solicitations and special offers clamor for our attention. On a weekly basis our mailbox is filled with flyers, postcards, and multi-paged documents complete with credit cards that no one asked for. Book-sized catalogs arrive unannounced from companies who we’re certain we never ordered from (a particularly jarring offense when you live in an apartment building and see a towering stack of the thick volumes). It’s a problem for the environment and a problem for our homes. Inside it creates unwanted clutter and mess; outside it ransacks resources and then ends up in landfills. 

Here are a few galling numbers to put things in perspective *:

  • 100 million trees are cut down each year to produce junk mail.
  • According to EPA estimates, only 40% of junk mail is recycled.
  • 1.7 million tons of junk mail ends up in landfills each year.

There’s nothing like returning home from a week away to put your junk mail problem into perspective. I’d thought I was pretty on top of it. I had my account with Catalog Choice all set up. I’m discerning about giving out my mailing address. I opt out of receiving catalogs whenever given the clear choice. And yet: these kinds of things require maintenance. And when we returned home from California last week our mailbox was full to bursting, mostly with utter and complete junk. It was depressing. And so I’m on a renewed kick.habit shift: junk mail | reading my tea leaves

A few quick tips for keeping junk mail under control:

  1. Stop giving out your zip code at the register. We’ve all been there: Making an innocuous purchase at a point-of-sale when the peppy sales clerk asks for our zip code. I’m the first to admit that it’s awkward to refuse to comply. It’s not, after all, the cheery clerk’s decision to ask for your zip, it’s surely company policy. But with the five-digit zip code, coupled with the name on your credit card, the store is able to capture your mailing address and to use it for marketing purposes (read: junk mail). If you do give your zip, expect a catalog in the near future. (Here’s an in-depth article with details about how this works.)
     
     
  2. Sign up for an account with Catalog Choice. Unfortunately, unsubscribing from direct mail mailings isn’t as easy as the digital equivalent available from a site like unroll.me. But with a little patience and a little time, Catalog Choice can help curb the amount of junk mail coming in. Here’s how: The site allows you to search for a company or organization name and will direct you to one of a few ways to get yourself off their list. In some cases, it’s as simple as entering your address and clicking a few buttons. In other cases, companies require a little more legwork. In these instances, Catalog Choice helps you draft an email with standard language asking for your name to be removed. I’m not going to say it’s an easy solution. But it is a solution. 
     
     
  3. Register with DMAchoice. It might feel a bit like getting into bed with the enemy, but registering with the Direct Mail Association’s DMAchoice in addition to opening a Catalog Choice account is a good idea to ensure that your bases have been covered. For both Catalog Choice and DMAchoice, it’s nice to have a running list of the usual suspects that end up in your mailbox so you can give clear directions for what you don’t want to receive.
     
     
  4. Register as a user when you shop online. If you go through the effort of unsubscribing from catalogs through Catalog Choice, make sure your hard work doesn’t get undone the next time you make a purchase online. A lot of companies will add your name back to their list if you register as a guest when you check out of their online shop. I’d always felt like registering as a guest was preserving a bit of my privacy, but it turns out not to be so. If you don’t like to give out your email when you shop online, you might want to create a dedicated account to use only for online shopping.
     
     
  5. Never let it come inside. This isn’t about stopping junk mail, it’s about dealing with it when it inevitably gets sent. Don’t bring it in. It sounds simple enough, but I read posts on a regular basis encouraging folks to have an inbox, or a special basket for corralling catalogs et cetera. I think the idea is noble, but I think the reality is an overflowing, messy basket that doesn’t get much attention anyway and becomes another source of clutter in your home. I say recycle directly. A caveat: I’m so good at leaving catalogs in the recycling bins outside, that I’d kind of stopped realizing the number of them that were still coming in on a weekly basis. If you have a bad junk mail problem (and you probably do), let it build up for a week or two (take a vacation!?) and then spend some time doing a massive unsubscribe session (see #2 & #3).  Being able to enter specifics from the companies that have you on their lists will help your unsubscribe efforts be much (much) more effective.

Whaddyathink? Any genius tips I’ve missed?

*Numbers from Catalog Choice

out and about: venice, santa monica, + malibu.

craftsman mini-me: venice, california | reading my tea leaves

 
 

Sigh, California. We had the very best time visiting you. You were even better than I imagined. Here are a few photos and some of the favorite places we peeped during the first half of our stay out west.

To Stay:

Eastside? Westside? We did a fair amount of hemming and hawing before deciding to spend our LA visit mostly on the Westside and specifically in Venice. (The Siren call of ocean waves, you see.)

Craftsman Mini-Me: The little 400-square-foot bungalow where we stayed sits in the backyard of a house owned by the loveliest couple. Kevin and Susan lived in the tiny house themselves while they renovated the main house on the property, and they made it into a marvelous retreat, complete with the world’s most magical outdoor shower, a fully functioning kitchen, an outdoor patio, and more ambience than you can shake a stick at. We adored every second of our stay there, including a very dramatic hail storm that pelted the tin roof (Faye was utterly unfazed). The first half of our trip to California was pretty well filled up with book-related events, and so we were so glad that the space where we slept and woke up in each morning was pure magic. When you can’t be 100 percent out and about, it’s nice to feel like you’ve found something special when you’re inside and cozy. We haven’t stopped hearing about the owners’ dog, Boo, since we came back. You can book your own stay with them on Airbnb, right this way.craftsman mini-me: venice, california | reading my tea leaves

craftsman mini-me: venice, california | reading my tea leaves

craftsman mini-me: venice, california | reading my tea leaves

craftsman mini-me: venice, california | reading my tea leaves

craftsman mini-me: venice, california | reading my tea leaves

craftsman mini-me: venice, california | reading my tea leaves

To Eat:

We did a lot of eating at our Airbnb, but we made it out for a special treat or two, too. (Two snaps below from Instagram.)

Superba Bread Co. –  This place was close by to the place where we stayed and we stopped in a few times. It’s bright and cozy at the same time with lots of delicious options (and plenty of things vegetarian). It’s also roughly ten times bigger than any restaurant we have in New York and it was kind of amazing to stretch the old limbs while eating.

Taco Punta CabrasThank god Faye’s amazing babysitter is an LA-native. Lourdes hooked us up with the best recommendation for tacos (fish and tofu!) on our way back down the coast from Malibu. So, so, so good. But the experience was also kind of tragic. I’ll be wanting these tacos every damn day until I get to eat one again.

Santa Monica Farmer’s Market – You know you’re talking to an East Coaster when a farmers’ market with citrus is a revelation. We drooled over everything, scooped up as much as our bag would carry, and somehow lost two of the most beautiful grapefruits I’d ever seen on the route back to our car. 

 
 

Gjusta – So delicious and beautifully designed. Highly, highly recommended. (Also: it’s super close to LAX in case you’re hankering for a little taste of California to take home with you.

 

blood oranges | reading my tea leaves tacos | reading my tea leaves

To Do:

Our time in Venice was punctuated by book-related stuff and driving to and fro, but we did manage to sneak out for a few adventures. 

Venice Canals: The loveliest Hopie from Blockshop directed us to cruise the Venice Canals at dusk and we were so, so happy that we did. What a totally wild place. The history nerd in me wants take a deep dive into this place. Canals! Houses! Neglect! Restoration! FASCINATING. 

Venice Walk Streets: I was initially disappointed that we got to these streets after dark, but then I was THRILLED when I realized that so many of the houses were lit up with fairy lights. MAGIC. (Yes, I want to move to Venice.) 

Venice Boardwalk: Faye tried to steal no fewer than three skateboards and then rushed headlong into the thrashing ocean. Girls will be girls.

Abbot Kinney: The main drag in Venice is worth a stroll. It’s got your usual retail contenders, along with spots like the Cuyana store where we celebrated Simple Matters. Also: Palm trees. (All this Brooklyn girl needs to feel jazzed.) We never made it to the the highly recommended and nearby Flowerboy and General Store shops. Clearly, we need to go back immediately.

PCH to Malibu: On our one unscheduled day in LA, we decided to hightail it to the coast. We drove up the Pacific Coast Highway and veered off the road on a naptime-imposed ramble. After Faye woke up, we spent a few hours hiking around Point Dume. Faye got a lil’ friendly with the sea squirts and girl doesn’t mind a single bit ’bout getting her skirt sandy. venice, california | reading my tea leaves

venice, california | reading my tea leaves

 
 

venice, california | reading my tea leaves

 

 

 

malibu, california | reading my tea leaves

malibu, california | reading my tea leaves

malibu, california | reading my tea leaves

 

malibu, california | reading my tea leaves

And that’s about it before we headed out to the desert. Tell us what we missed! Tell us about the perfect tiny bungalow you have waiting for us to move into! 

For the curious:

I’m wearing the same jeans I’m always wearing;

 

these sandals;

 

a beautiful shirt given to me by Pas de Calais;

 

and my beloved Alma scarf.

 

Faye is wearing her trusty Nieva snowdrop sweater;

 

this little dress

 

and these trusty little sneaks.

 

I’m using our new uber-lightweight carrier. (We’ve been loving how light it is for trips when we’re not sure how long Faye will tolerate being carried.)