How the Stoehr Monogram XL Flooring Collection Saves You Time and Frustration

The Stoehr Monogram XL prefinished flooring collection gives you elegance without all of the work of installing, finishing, and perfecting the floors. They’re perfect right out of the gate. Here are some advantages […]

 

The post How the Stoehr Monogram XL Flooring Collection Saves You Time and Frustration appeared first on City Floor Supply Blog.

Advertisements

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 home.tips 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 life.tips 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 out.tips 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 it.tips 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.

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 home.tips 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 life.tips 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 out.tips 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 it.tips 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.

visit france.

donkey_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_0927

 

Here’s a donkey apropos of nothing at all. But isn’t it fuzzy and cute? I think we could all use an extra dose of that today. I’m working with the French national tourism site, Atout France, today. I’ll be posting snippets about some of our favorite stops on this trip so far on their Instagram account. I’d be thrilled if you followed along. More soon.

 

 

brittany, 9 pm.

brittany golden hour | reading my tea leavesWe’ve been singing rounds of Wheels on the Bus, except instead of rousing odes to wheels and windows and wipers, we’re celebrating a rowdy bus of animals: cows and doggies and fish, if you’d like to know. The fish on the bus go… [mime your best fishy faces while crossing your eyes]. It’s the most requested verse and only results in a slight headache after the eighth time repeating it. Small price to pay for relative tranquility on country roads. 

The sun sets marvelously late in Brittany this time of year and to take advantage of the sun without utterly neglecting our parental responsibility to get a toddler to sleep at a reasonable hour, we’ve been taking evening drives and walks in the golden hours before sunset. Faye wears her pajamas. We all wear the same dopey expression that only late-day sunlight can conjure. I’m holding out hope that one of these nights Faye might fall asleep in the car and we’ll get to stay out until the ten pm hour when the sun finally sinks below the horizon. An adequate date night if I’ve ever heard of one.

Until then, I spend my time obsessing over the way the light hits silvered fence posts. James spends his time chasing shots of birds in flight. Poor Faye cranes her neck in an effort to spot horses [herrr], goats [ meeeeh], and cows [cow] from her carseat. Last night she was utterly enthralled by a fly on her window [ssip…Little-Fur-Family style]. You know, simple stuff.

 

brittany golden hour | reading my tea leaves

 

brittany golden hour | reading my tea leaves

 

brittany golden hour | reading my tea leaves

 

brittany golden hour | reading my tea leaves

 

brittany golden hour | reading my tea leaves

 

brittany golden hour | reading my tea leaves

 

two nights in paris with onefinestay.

two nights in paris with onefinestay | reading my tea leaves

This post is sponsored by onefinestay, “pioneers of handmade hospitality.”

Luxury is a relative term. There are times of life when a stay in a questionably clean hotel room with a shared hall shower and no front desk to speak of feels like a luxury. But there are other times when luxury means having a dazzling home to call your own for a few nights, complete with crisp white bed linens, and personalized service every step of the way. When it’s this kind of luxury that you’re after, you’d be right to look no further than onefinestay.two nights in paris with onefinestay | reading my tea leaves

We spent our two nights in Paris in one of their gorgeous homes and we’ve never felt fancier. As we quickly learned, a stay in a onefinestay home means not only the guarantee of a beautiful space to call yours for a few nights, but also a host of other luxuries not found as part of your typical vacation rental. This is not your average key-found-under-the-doormat and faint-smell-of-cat-pee situation. Rather than being left to the whims of the homeowner, onefinestay acts as your (very gracious) host themselves.two nights in paris with onefinestay | reading my tea leaves

After first vetting every home they add to their roster (only one in ten make the cut and they need to pass tests ranging from mattress quality to whether there are an adequate number of bedside tables!), onefinestay swoops in.two nights in paris with onefinestay | reading my tea leaves

 

They do everything from arranging the cleaning, to swapping out the bed linens for hotel-quality sheets and duvets, to providing essentials you might need during your stay (from dish soap and laundry detergent to shampoo and conditioner).two nights in paris with onefinestay | reading my tea leaves

 

When we arrived, the kitchen was stocked with an array of teas and coffees and cookies and biscuits to make the short-term more manageable. There was even a little aperatif and fresh organic milk in the fridge to welcome us. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start at the very beginning. two nights in paris with onefinestay | reading my tea leaves

 

Our stay in Le Marais began with a greeting. A onefinestay ambassador met us at our doorstep. Before we left New York, we’d been able to make an invaluable special arrangement to have the apartment available to us in the early morning after our overnight flight and when we arrived a few minutes in advance, our greeter was waiting for us.two nights in paris with onefinestay | reading my tea leaves

 

Among other useful things, she walked us through the basic tasks of getting inside the place and finding our beds (onefinestay had been kind enough to bring in a crib for Faye, that was already set up when we arrived).two nights in paris with onefinestay | reading my tea leaves

 

In the case that anything of importance wasn’t covered during this initial meeting, we were assured that the onefinestay team was only a phone call away. And the phone? Well, onefinestay handled that too. For the duration of its rentals the company provides guests with an iPhone to use for data and local calls. The phone comes filled with local neighborhood recommendations, but also a simple and cleanly designed guide to the home itself.two nights in paris with onefinestay | reading my tea leaves

 

When we puzzled over the buttons on the dishwasher, we checked the app and found our answer. When we couldn’t remember the code for the front door, we consulted our app and found our way in. When we needed to find a place to get croissants and more coffee and as soon as possible, we had a list of recommended places to stop right in the palm of our hand. It was all very luxurious. And all extremely helpful.two nights in paris with onefinestay | reading my tea leaves

 

And while it’s these bits of special attention to detail and gracious hosting that sets onefinestay so markedly apart, it is, of course, also, the opportunity to stay in a home smack dab in the center of a world-class city.two nights in paris with onefinestay | reading my tea leaves

 

It’s the joy of being able to put your child to sleep in a clean and safe spot and to sneak back to the living room for a champagne toast. It’s realizing that you’ve slept half the day away, and not much minding because what a delightful place you’ve just woken up in (and if you have a question about how to use the coffee maker under the influence of jet lag, the answer’s only a phone call away). two nights in paris with onefinestay | reading my tea leaves

 

More than anything, onefinestay allows you to have all of the independence of staying in a home on your own, without any of the feeling of being lost at sea in a new place. 

 

In case you’re planning a getaway, onefinestay is offering the first fifty Reading My Tea Leaves readers who book with them a 10% discount (for stays up to 30 days). To receive the discount, mention the code ReadingMyTeaLeaves10 when either emailing or calling the onefinestay reservations team. Make your bookings through london.reservations@onefinestay.com or at +44 20 7167 2524
 
To find the full roster of onefinestay listings in Paris, London, Rome, Los Angeles, and New York head this way. To read more about the beautiful home we stayed in while in Paris, head here.
 
This post was sponsored by onefinestay. Opinions are all my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Reading My Tea Leaves.

elderflower cordial.

elderflower_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_0670

 

Elderflowers bloom in spring and so imbibing them in the springtime seems like a wise and festive thing to do. An elderflower cordial is not an alcoholic drink. It’s a glorified soda. But cordial is a far more delightful word than either syrup or soda and when given the choice between a delightful word and an ordinary one, delight wins. (If a cocktail is what you’re after, you would not be wrong to mix a bit of elderflower cordial with a bit of gin, to top it off with soda water, and to bask in a bit of sunshine.) elderflower_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_0494

 

Elderflowers are everywhere in Brittany right now. I spotted my first bushes surrounding a gas station as we filled up the tank of the car we’re borrowing from my aunt and uncle. Then I made it my mission to find another bush within easy reach and a bit further away from gas station fumes. I use the term hunt only for effect. The hunt included little more effort than driving down a country road and selecting the bush that looked easiest to clip from. My point is that you don’t need to go hunting for elderflower at this time of year in France. The bushes present themselves quite willingly. (While much more abundant in Europe, elderflower is certainly findable in the US. A bush grows in Brooklyn...et cetera.)

 

elderflower_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_0502The goal for your foraging should be to find fresh, creamy blossoms full-to-brimming with pollen that you can see with your own two eyes. You’re essentially making a pollen infusion, and so don’t shy away from the blossoms that look most covered in the stuff and for heaven’s sake, don’t wash the stuff off. When identifying elderflowers, make sure you’re snipping flowers that grow on a bush and not from the ground-those would not be elderflowers. Flowers should be pungent-floral and sweet. If the bush you find does not smell like something you’d like to drink, find another spot to forage.elderflower_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_0507

 

Pick from a bush that’s filled with flowers, and take sparingly from each plant. The flowers become elderberries of course, and they’re marvels in their own right and deserving of the chance to grow into themselves.elderflower_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_0685

 

There are as many variations on a basic elderflower cordial as there are recipes on the internet. Some call for infusing the water with flowers and then adding the sugar. Others call for infusing the syrup itself. I chose to steep the flowers in the syrupy sugar water because the high sugar concentration helps prevent the flowers from molding while they steep (and because I have PTSD from once letting an entire bowl of hand-foraged linden go moldy). Most recipes that I’ve found yield an ungodly amount of syrup. (I’m all for drinking your flowers, but multiple liters of cordial sounds excessive unless you’re planning to sell the stuff.) I used just about two cups water and two cups sugar and got what felt like a reasonable jar of syrup for enjoying over the next few weeks.elderflower_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_0690

Elderflower Cordial

Here’s what you need:

~ 15 heads of elderflowers 

2 cups water

2 cups sugar

1 lemon

elderflower_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_0706

Here’s what to do:

1. Over a large bowl, remove the elderflowers from their stems using a sharp knife or pair of scissors. Pick off any offending bits or bugs, but don’t rinse your flowers; you want to retain as much of the pollen as possible.

2. Use the same knife to remove the peel from an organic or otherwise untreated lemon. Place the peel into the bowl with the flowers. Slice the lemon and add the rounds to the bowl, too.

3. In another vessel, mix together sugar with boiling water. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. (Depending on the kind of sugar you use, you might prefer to do this over low-heat on the stovetop so the sugar properly melts.)

4. Pour the sugar water over the top of the bowl, cover with a towel and allow to steep for at least 24 hours.

5. Once steeped to your satisfaction, strain the golden liquid into a clean vessel and refrigerate.

 

elderflower_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_0715

 

The flowers will brown a bit as they steep-not to worry-just make sure that they’re well submerged.elderflower_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_0726

I let my bowl of syrup sit covered in the garage for 24 hours while it steeped. (Oh, the joys of a dedicated workspace outside of a tiny apartment.)elderflower_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_0732

The next day, the syrup was a rich golden and the flowers a bit browned.elderflower_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_0736

If you’re fussy about stray bits, use a bit of cheesecloth, but I found a classic sieve to do a fine job of straining the finished the syrup.elderflower_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_0742

Finished cordial, not to be confused with melted butter.elderflower_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_0750

Store your cordial in any clean jar with a tight seal and keep refrigerated for maximum longevity. Like other flowery syrups, elderflower cordial is delicious on everything from buttery cakes to sliced strawberries and poured into all manner of summery drinks-alcoholic or otherwise. Tchin-tchin.

PS. Drink your lilacs.