How to Advertise Your Contracting Business on Houzz

Have you heard of Houzz? It’s a social network centered around the home improvement industry. Think of it as a Facebook that connects homeowners with contractors, designers, and architects. Logging into Houzz for […]


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baby proof: sleep away from home.



There have been a lot of questions and so here’s my best effort at answering how we’ve handled sleep and a toddler while spending more than a month away from home.


Here’s the thing: In my experience sleep away from home mimics pretty nearly sleep at home, which is to say, it’s anyone’s guess how it’s all gonna go down on a given night.

It will likely shock no one reading that we don’t own a travel crib and that therefore we don’t travel with one. We also don’t bring anything in the way of special bedding for Faye. For sure, she sleeps with her own set of blankets and other lovies while at home, but we don’t feel any urgency to tote that stuff with us and I don’t think it makes a lick of difference in how she sleeps. (We did bring a doll, which we promptly left behind at the second stop of our trip. Not to worry: she adopted a new bunny friend while visiting our dear friends this past week.)

On a typical night at home she sleeps soundly in her own crib-turned-toddler-bed for most of the night, but inevitably comes crawling into our bed around 5 o’clock in the morning. Hers are mostly welcome morning snuggles and at any rate, two years in we’ve grown accustomed to them. In general Faye sleeps fairly badly in a travel crib-for forty-eight different reasons, I’m sure-so unless there’s a real bed for her to sleep in all by herself, she tends to spend more time than usual in bed with us when we stay in hotel rooms.

If you’re not used the sensation of a two-year-old’s tiny elbows and knees jamming your ribcage, then this will undoubtedly be something of a shock to the system. If you are used to that particular kind of joy and if you find yourself suddenly in a hotel room with a king-sized bed, well, then you might feel like you’ve won the lottery and you might very well enjoy the best night’s sleep you’ve had in a while. No doubt there are families for whom any kind of co-sleeping is a non-option, in which case, I’m afraid I don’t have much in the way of advice to offer, other than reassurance that in every place we’ve stayed a crib has been at the ready and no one has blinked an eye when we’ve either asked for one or not asked for one.

When deciding between staying in an apartment or home versus hotel, it’s clear that a home offers a nice change of pace, a bit more privacy, and the chance to, say, enjoy a bit of adult conversation in the evening after putting a kid to sleep. But if that’s not an option, I’ll admit that we’ve also found that on nights when we’re staying in a more traditional hotel room, we’ve usually so exhausted ourselves during the day that everyone falling into the bed at the same time feels like the preferred option anyway.

The point is, I’ve found we can really make just about anything work. For myself, I believe in taking the path of least resistance which means that there’s a little bug in the bed next to me more often than not. As we say in France, tant mieux.

evening in saint-malo.


On the evening that we arrived in Saint-Malo, the light made the city glow like a colorized old-timey postcard. You know the ones? Everything cast in a pale yellow or green-blue or washed-out gray. Instead of parasols and bustles the beach goers wore hoodies and skinny jeans, but the sea air filling their lungs no doubt felt nearly the same as it would have a hundred years ago.

The early evening sunlight filtered through thick clouds that would open over the course of the next day and render photographs from the second half of our trip-an adventure up through Northern Brittany and Normandy-close to impossible. Not to worry: We won’t soon forget sloshing up the steps to the top of Mont Saint-Michel or scampering along slick cobblestones in Honfleur. I, for one, am grateful that a lack of photographs means that our drowned-rat dishevelment will be left out of the historical record. As I’ve said before: mine is an incomplete travelogue. Too busy checking out, to always check-in, as it were.

We stayed in Saint-Malo for only one night, but it jogged memories of visiting as a teenager and satisfied my reader’s itch to walk the same streets as Marie-Laure.

The historical walled city, known as intra-muros, was all but destroyed in August of 1944 when Americans bombed the town in an effort to wrest it from Nazi control. The city was rebuilt over the course of 16 years and it’s a sobering and fascinating experience to walk through the streets and notice new stones mashed up against the old ones. 

Here, a few shots of our visit and a few small details from our visit in case anyone’s planning a wander there themselves.st_malo_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_1372st_malo_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_1376 st_malo_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_1388 st_malo_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_1395 st_malo_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_1401 st_malo_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_1406 st_malo_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_1410

For the curious:

Where We Stayed: The very lovely bed-and-breakfast, La Villa de Saint-Raphael is just a ten-minute drive from the walled city. The room where we slept was lovely and the hosts generous and kind.  (True story: I found the place by googling “simple, pretty bed-and-breakfast Saint-Malo.” Ask and ye shall receive.) The entire place is a gem, entirely restored just four years ago. (If you go, ask to see the photo album of the process!) (No pictures, alas: but in Honfleur in Normandy we stayed two nights at the very lovely at La Chaumière. Highly, highly recommended.)

Where We Ate: Breizh Café was recommended to us in Paris, but the Saint-Malo location was a true delight with nary a waiting list to contend with! We had an extremely delicious meal served by a warm and friendly staff (plus crayons!) (In Honfleur, a dinner at La Chaumière does not disappoint.) 




On me: My trusty Hackwith Design House overalls (limited edition – out of stock!); an Everlane heavy-weight tee; summer salt waters

On Faye: A genius little Mabo linen dress from last summer that’s serving as a tunic this summer (like this one); equally long-lasting little pants from Red Creek Handmade (like these ones); summer salt waters

On James: A sweatshirt from Marine Layer from half a decade ago (like this one); linen shorts from Bridge & Burn (same style, different color).

baby proof: travel tips from a toddler.



It must be known that a two-year-old is an intrepid traveler: all gut checks and self-care and general enthusiasm for the new and unexplored. 


To be fair, a two-year-old is also a terrible traveler: indifferent to the desires of the group, unimpressed by cultural monuments, and utterly lacking in discretion or restraint when it comes to airing opinions.

We can’t all be perfect all the time.


toddler_travel_trips_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_1280And despite the sometimes-terrible, there’s still much to learn from the often-intrepid. Indeed, I think that there are a number of tips from The Toddler’s Guide to Travel that we’d all do well to follow. (Note: I’m not positive that such a volume exists, but it seems to me that tiny humans must get their behavioral dictums from one place or another-and that they’re certainly not always from their well-intentioned parents. The Guide to Travel is no doubt shelved not far from the Guide to Ceaseless Sing-Alongs. To be investigated.)toddler_travel_trips_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_1296


Herewith, the tips I’ve gathered from my own tiny tyrant traveler.


1. Learn a few words of the new language and employ them with great gusto whenever the proper occasion arises and even when it doesn’t. If you sometimes shout “Merci!” to strangers passing you on a hike, they will smile cordially and wonder about what nicety they unwittingly extended. Please, thank you, hello, goodbye and croissant are all terribly useful.

2. Nap it off. Everyone the world over could use a little post-lunch siesta. Stop pushing yourself on to the next museum and give yourself a moment or two to rest. Your feet are tired, you’re getting grumpy, and your family members love you very much but could probably use a small break from you.

3. Eat often. No one travels well on an empty stomach and a chief joy of being in a new place is to partake in the local culinary customs. It would be a shame to leave a place without sampling one of everything from the pastry shop. Begin your sampling early, return often, and leave no crumb behind.

4. Embrace the great outdoors. You might get ten glorious minutes out of an art museum, but find a pile of sand and a bucket to shovel it into and there’s potential for an hour of delight. Running pell-mell through any open space is to be encouraged.

5. Revel in inclement weather. A rainy day is a chance to splash in puddles. Soggy shoes make hilarious noises. Mud is friend, not foe. Run in the rain now and laugh about it later.

picking grapes, sorting the laundry.

grapes and laundry

These are things I like to write about: Joy found in spreading salted butter onto already buttery brioche. Joy in picking roadside flowers and sticking them, in all their messy glory, into a jar in my uncle’s garage. Joy in finding the perfect t-shirt to pass my summer in. Joy in changing one tiny thing to make the space I call my own feel meaningful and peaceful and like an adequate reflection of myself. 

In college I kept the famous line from E.B. White taped to my dorm room wall: “We should all do what, in the long run, gives us joy, even if it is only picking grapes or sorting the laundry.” 

I stand by the sentiment. But I’m sure White would agree that we must also do what’s right, even when it’s not particularly joyful. I don’t like to write about gun violence, or homophobia, or misguided politicians. I have hardly any words for what happened in the wee hours of the morning in Orlando this past weekend. I’m heartbroken and devastated by the loss of life. I’m flabbergasted by the easy access people in my country have to deadly assault rifles. 

I woke up this morning and choked back tears when I learned that a brave senator from my home state was still awake and standing on the senate floor and demanding that something be done to hamper access to deadly weapons. 

I want to get back to my grapes and my laundry and I want to sleep at night unafraid that a lunatic might destroy more innocent people.

I’m closing the comments on this post because if you spend two minutes doing anything today, I hope that it’s calling your senator or signing a petition.

I’ll be back to talk about the laundry tomorrow.


photographing a family vacation.

tips for photographing a family vacation | reading my tea leaves

I’m not an expert of photography, but over the years I’ve developed a philosophy on picture-taking while on vacation that I thought might be helpful to share.

Over the course of a family vacation, it’s possible to take thousands upon thousands of photographs. And facing that kind of catalog upon your return home can be overwhelming. I’ve come back from many a trip away to find myself daunted by the sheer volume of photographs I’d taken. Upon sitting down to make selections that might end up in a photo album or in a blog post, I’d grow even more disheartened. There’d be hundreds of photographs that I couldn’t use because the lighting was awful or the subject matter boring, or the faces all a blur. For reasons unknown, I’d realize that I’d decided it was a good idea to press the shutter ten times in row in order to capture the nuance of a glass bottle sitting motionless on a shelf, but I’d snapped just one (terrible) shot of a group of a friends around a table.

Last year when we went to Maine, I made a concerted effort to change my approach a bit. Instead of lugging my camera with me everywhere we went, I brought it out only when I knew the lighting or the setting would be conducive to nice shots. I took many action photos of Faye, and fewer action photos of bottles. Heretical as it might seem, I didn’t try to capture everything that happened. There were whole days of our trip that aren’t documented in a single photograph. But the result of putting down the camera occasionally, and being a bit more mindful when I did pull it out, resulted in some of the nicest family vacation photographs that we have.

In case it’s helpful, I’ve compiled a few tips on making the photos that you do take count, and on resisting the urge to document every moment of the livelong day, lest you forget to actually enjoy your time away from for photographing a family vacation | reading my tea leaves

Embrace cloudy days: For picture-taking purposes, they’re bound to produce some of your best shots. On sunny days, embrace the sunshine without the camera. Turn your face to the sky, lounge on the beach, visit scenic overlooks with clear views and marvel at insane brilliance of the world. Pull your camera out on the overcast days when the light is evenly distributed and natural filter will help your photographs come to for photographing a family vacation | reading my tea leaves

Stop lugging your camera around in the middle of the day. Related to the tip above, there are just some times of day that result in nicer photographs than others. Namely, the early morning and late-afternoon (or, depending on the latitude, the early evening). For the most part I don’t bring out my big camera during the middle of the day, even if it means missing out on photos from a spot we might not visit again. The shadows are so harsh under the noonday sun, but mostly I need a break from carrying a heavy camera. As much as I’m a sucker for documentary evidence of a good time, I don’t want to always be doing the documenting. I try to think of my picture-taking as gathering a collection of photographs that will trigger memories, give a sense of our time away, capture the particular moment in which we traveled, but not necessarily to serve as a blow-by-blow of our vacation. 


tips for photographing a family vacation | reading my tea leaves


Follow the action: Rather than commandeer the situation for the sake of a photograph, I try to follow suit. If that means I have more photographs of Faye in the middle of walking away from me than toward me, I’m okay with that. (Metaphor for parenthood, etc.) No one wants a pained photo of forced family fun, and I’d prefer a sweet candid moment any day. These are also the moments when I up my shutter speed and take a quick succession of shots in hopes that one or two might turn for photographing a family vacation | reading my tea leaves


tips for photographing a family vacation | reading my tea leaves


Find a side street: No shade to the hoi polloi, but sometimes it’s nice to have shots of a place minus the crowds. I love to walk on side streets and away from the throngs a bit to capture a quieter side of things without having to stand in the same place for ten minutes waiting for a stranger to walk out of the frame. tips for photographing a family vacation | reading my tea leaves

Hand the camera over to someone else: This post serves as evidence that this is something I’m still working on, but in general I try to make sure that I remember to hand the camera over the James so that I appear in a photograph or two myself. When there’s a friend or family around, switching the camera to automatic and handing her over is always worth for photographing a family vacation | reading my tea leaves

tips for photographing a family vacation | reading my tea leaves

For the curious, a few more details:

+ I shoot with a Canon 7D. The exact camera isn’t still in production, but this one is similar and I mostly use this lens.

+ I use an ONA camera bag insert so I can tote my camera safely in whatever bag we happen to be using (for this trip, it’s been this one).

+ I typically do some minor editing in Photoshop after I take photographs (upping the contrast, altering the exposure, straightening things out) and so I always shoot in RAW so that I can make edits more easily.

+ Of course you don’t need professional equipment to capture lovely family photos-a phone and an editing app like VSCO can also do wonders.

+ I’m woefully behind on my own album making, but I’ve loved using Artifact Uprising to print photographs and compile albums in the past. 

More posts about traveling, right this way.