Category: Home

Slow Days

“I don’t want to be alone, I want to be left alone.”
– Audrey Hepburn

Its not terribly exciting, but one of the things I really like is “doing nothing” with Jeff. We both work hard and long hours during the week and make it a priority to spend the weekends mostly together. Of course we’ll occasionally meet up with friends or run errands (Jeff goes golfing with the guys, I will meet up with friends for brunch or coffee, and so on), but most weekends will find us at home doing un-glamorous grown up things like laundry and cleaning the house.

Often, and especially during the cooler months, we may spend whole weekends at home and barely leave the apartment. This is by no means an every weekend kind of thing, but during particularly busy seasons or after a grueling week, by mutual consent, we’ll decide to do as little as we can reasonably get away with. We call these “Slow Days,” and they have a very specific formula.

Pajamas and exercise clothing feature heavily. Actual exercise is optional.

Podcasts. It’s a bit of a family tradition but we normally listen to NPR classic “Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me” together while we cook breakfast. Breakfasts are either roasted potatoes with eggs and avocados, or french toast. Almost without fail.

Naps may be involved.

We’ll play video games. Jeff is much more of a gamer than me, but there are some that I like and do play regularly. We may also play board or card games.

We’ll read. I normally have at least one book and audiobook going at any given point, and Jeff will catch up on news. We are both political junkies, but we take Slow Days to catch up on a lot of the news that we might have missed in the sturm und drang of the day to day media churn.

We will normally do a few chores to help justify our extreme laziness, but we usually do them together.

I’ll normally indulge in some skincare and slather a mask on my face. If I’m feeling particularly energetic I’ll groom my brows, wax my upper lip (let’s be real), and

At some point, because I’m hyper, I’ll get a bit bored and probably tidy something up or run a small errand. This is when my spice rack gets organized, or my pile of clothes that need to be taken to the dry cleaner gets separated from items for the regular wash.

Quite often, we’ll go hours not speaking to one another, even if we’re in the house together. Not in an unhealthy sense, but in a companionable silence sort of way that I’ve really come to value over the years. At the end of the day, there’s only a few people who I feel able to be “alone” with, without trying to be funny, clever, engaging, or “switched on” in some way. These people are my best friends (shout out to X. with whom I spent many a summer vacation day reading in silence–the stuff lasting teenage friendships are made of!) and my husband.

When you give yourself permission to have a slow day, what does it look like and does it involve anyone else?

The Faustian Cabinet Has Arrived

“If you love something, it will work. That’s the only real rule.”
– Bunny Williams

A quick moment of apartment appreciation, minions. We’ve lived in our current place for two years and our lease is for a year more, after which we may either need to move or at least try to negotiate on rent a bit more. We struck a bargain when we moved in that we would furnish the place ourselves in exchange for lower rent and we have done so…very, very slowly.

I don’t like living in what feels like a barebones apartment sometimes, I’m ready for a home that feels intentional and grown up, with art on the walls and furniture bought to keep instead of disposable IKEA goods. Simultaneous and paradoxically to that, I enjoy the ease with which we have been able to move, be it to another country or a new apartment on short notice. Owning fewer possessions definitely helps with that!

However, the older I get, the less satisfied I am with living out of suitcases. Our first ever apartment in Utah was starving newlywed accommodation, our first London apartment was a shoebox and not very nice, but this apartment feels like the first proper grown up place. I’ve enjoyed the process of putting it together, even if that process takes a long time and is constrained by the realities of budgeting and strategy. We bought a bed and a wardrobe when we first moved in, for obvious reasons. Over the coming months, our next purchase was a couch, which again is fairly standard. From Etsy we bought a coffee table and stools, from John Lewis a rug. After about a year we splurged on our fabulous vintage chairs and then closed our wallets again for a long while.

Furnishing is a balancing act. I’m a magpie who loves interesting, colorful pieces with personality while Jeff would be a Danish minimalist if he could. Smashing those two styles together into something that involves taste is a tricky, but I think we’re doing okay so far. He has his industrial tables, I get colors and patterns so long as the lines are modern. I get to do the majority of the selection, but he gets veto power so we don’t get overwhelmed with my magpie tendencies. It works. So when I spotted our latest piece online, I knew it would work too.

It’s a vintage piece, but one that’s been upcylced. It’s a muted dark blue, which goes with the blue-gray leather of the sofa, and the blue and white rug. The gold touches keep it feeling chic instead of just a solid block, and it’s deep enough to absorb a lot of items that heretofore didn’t really have a home in the apartment–thus tidying up mess and satisfying Jeffs desire for lack of clutter. I’m absurdly pleased with it and it really has helped me feel as if the front room is “finished” in some way. The only other thing I would want to do in this current apartment would be to frame and hang our art, but if that doesn’t happen until our next lease somewhere, I think could be satisfied.

As promised, this is my last purchase for the year (minus the usual things like socks, underwear, or unsexy items like toothpaste and shoe inserts) and any failures on this point will be publicly documented for shaming purposes. I’m fairly confident that being able to gaze on my growing domestic kingdom will help keep me in financial check. How could you not feel happy in a room that looks like this:

 

 

A Month of Healthy Eating

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” 
― Hippocrates

Bad news for me, team: I lost nearly 15 lbs in a single month doing nothing but changing the way I eat. I didn’t step foot in a gym, didn’t exercise at home due to an erratic work schedule, and made no other significant changes to my day-to-day life.

Why bad news you ask? Because it’s become abundantly clearly in record time that while I knew my diet was affecting me, I didn’t at all realize the extent. To see this much change this quickly has been startling.

Now, let’s be clear, I also changed up my birth control in this time frame (see here for the recap) which, based only on anecdote and personal experience, I thought may also have affected my weight (remember, the science is still out on this point). There’s no way to tell if this may  have had an effect, but I fully intend to talk to my doctor about it at a follow up appointment this month. There’s a working theory that I may be negatively affected by some unknown food item group (which is the most stupid, millennial thing to type) but that’s still up for medical confirmation. More info on that if and when my delightful GP helps me figure it out.

So, what did I do exactly? I’m sorry to say that there is nothing here you haven’t heard or read about before and there are no tricks, I simply cut out all the foods that make life worth living: no dairy, no sugar, no alcohol, no grain based anything. I massively upped my intake of fresh fruit and veg and have eaten more eggs this month than probably at any other point in my life. Seriously, if I never eat a hardboiled egg again, it will be too soon. I virtually eliminated all snacking, even healthy ones, and instead stuffed myself full at almost every meal with salad. I don’t care who tells you they love kale, there’s a 50/50% chance they are lying to you and dying a bit on the inside.

It worked. I’m feeling great. Damn it.

I didn’t tie this to a New Year’s resolution, I didn’t talk too much about about it or make a big deal out of it online or to friends, and I certainly didn’t have any weight expectations going into this. Like my birth control choice, I decided at the end of last year to try and proactively sort out some behind the scenes health and body issues that have bugged me for a long time and evaluating food groups is part of that overall project. The weight loss is just a welcome, if startling, side effect.

I mean…yikes.

I was looking forward to reintroducing a lot of food back into my diet…but honestly I think my consumption of these things will have to stay reduced if I want to continue trying to be more healthy. Things like dairy and alcohol are not food groups I ingested a lot of anyway before this started, but bread on the other hand… And while I don’t and never have eaten processed foods and have made good headway in reducing my sugar intake over recent years, clearly I could have been doing more to eliminate something which I suspect is one of the main culprits to my recent health roller coaster.

Final disclosures: I remain an unrepentant omnivore and moderate, I don’t think foods should be eliminated from anyone’s diet without medical advice and I’m certainly not urging anyone to do so. That being said if you do feel physically crappy for extended periods of time, notice changes to your body or brain rhythms, or sense that something is “not quite right” internally, talk to someone about it. Seek answers and options. I’m trying to be a less passive passenger in my own body than I have been for several years, and to have this many positive outcomes so quickly has been extraordinary.

To the comments! Have you made any big health adjustments in your life? What were your motivations, and what were the outcomes, both good and bad? 

The Hidden Drawer

“But have a care! It is a bitter blade, and steel serves only those that can wield it. It will cut your hand as willingly as aught else.” 
― J.R.R. Tolkien

We have lived in our apartment for over a year and have only just made an embarrassing discovery. We have a cutlery drawer.

How could you just have discovered this, you ask?

Part of the reason we decided to move into this apartment was the fact that it had recently been renovated and a brand spanking new kitchen had been put in. It’s so shiny, guys, we nearly cried the first time we saw it. It’s not my Platonic Ideal of a kitchen but coming from the one room flat we lived in for three years that had one small cupboard stuck on a wall and about two feet of counter space, it’s downright Nirvana. The whole thing is designed for maximum storage and it’s nice to actually be able to put things away in an orderly fashion and cook with new appliances.

One of those appliances is a flat topped stove with built in ventilation and other systems that I’m sure I don’t properly understand. It appeared as if some of the design of this stove was also built beneath the surface of the counter because it because there was some bulky hardware when I opened the drawers situated a bit further down. Turns out I should have tugged on the nooks and crannies of this a bit more because I found a random tab on it the other day and put some elbow grease into it…and this popped out.

Jeff was in the other room and I had to call him over to make sure I hadn’t lost my mind. He too did a double take and demanded where this totally new drawer had sprang from.

After shaking our head at ourselves a bit, we resigned ourselves to our stupidity and stocked the drawer.

This is actually our first proper cutlery drawer of our married life. We begin to feel quite grown up.

ETA, the album of the week is Say Less, by Roy Woods

 

Five Things I Loved in January

“I adore simple pleasures. They are the last refuge of the complex.”
― Oscar Wilde

2017 is off to a rocky political start but there are small pleasures still to be enjoyed and we at SDS believe in signal boosting the good things in life, no matter how small. Here’s a rundown of the media, beauty, and little luxuries that kept me healthy and functional this month. Share yours in the comments!

 

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Hot water bottle. Our new apartment is lovely but the insulation is not the best, plus we tend to keep the temperature lower for both money and environmental factors. Why else were lovely jumpers invented? At any rate, I tend to get cold at night partially because Jeff claims he overheats when he cuddles me too long (side eye) and partially because I have poor circulation in my feet. In looking for some kind of seasonal solution to this most wintery of problems, I noted that retro looking hot water bottles are everywhere in Britain in a way that I don’t remember seeing in the States. I always thought that hot water bottle were old school and a bit silly but eventually I decided to spring for one on Amazon (in late December, so it doesn’t violate my shopping ban). Kittens, I repent. I grovel. I abase myself for my ignorance. This thing is incredible.

 

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Pestle & Mortar. I have been test driving this beauty brand since December and it has been a good decision. A small company and based in Ireland, they ship worldwide and meticulously detail what goes into their small but impactful line. I’ve been using this serum and their nighttime retinol oil everyday this month and to say that it has been doing good things for my face would be an understatement! I gave the sample of their moisturizer included in my order a go and liked it so I will likely make that my next test drive when my current moisturizer runs out.

 

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Everlasting Mini Liquid Lipstick Set, by Kat Von D. This was a Black Friday indulgence that I’ve been testing out ever since and it gets rave reviews from me. Very uncharacteristically I’ve been reaching for non-red lips this winter so far and this mostly cool toned set of colors has been scratching some kind of beauty itch. Excellent staying power and opaque pigmentation, with modern vamp colors–what more could a girl want?

 

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tarte Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Blush, in Seduce. Yep, another beauty pick, sue me. I’ve been having a bit of a neutrals moment lately (very out of character again, what is happening?!) and this blush is another of my Black Friday buys that I’ve been wearing almost exclusively ever since. The screenshot doesn’t really capture its tone accurately; I might have to throw another pic up on Instagram to show how it looks in the pan so keep an eye out there. tarte expanded their line of blushes last year to include more neutral tones–previously they were known for the pigmented, bright colors of their blush so this was a bit of a departure for them–and the formula is just ace.

 

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To Walk Invisible, by the BBC. This period drama about the lives of the Brontes is not entirely unlike their works in some ways: quiet in places, slow, and intense in spite of (or perhaps because of) both. This film encompasses the last few years of their brother Bramwell’s life, when his descent into alcoholism and their father’s illness put their prospects for support as Victorian women into sharp relief. Their resolve is to try and publish their work, and the rest is well documented history. The moment that hit me most was when their manuscripts are returned from yet another publisher, and they immediately pull out their list of targets for the next one to contact. There’s a lesson in that.

 

The Paradox of Space and Stuff

“Our pleasures are not material pleasures, but symbols of pleasure – attractively packaged but inferior in content.”
― Alan W. Watts

When our friends were in town the other week it was an amazing chance to catch up. One half of the pair, Chris, and I have been friends since freshmen year of university. In fact he, Jeff, and I were all in an assigned cohort for freshmen students and it’s kind of funny to think about how life has turned out for us in the past 12 years. I absolutely adore his wife, who I’ve known almost as long, and having the ability to see friends from the States is such a rare pleasure for us.

In talking all things work, life, and adulthood related we got on the the subject of upgrading. They live in California and bought a house there. Since then they’ve been working on all kinds of DIY projects to improve their home and add value to it, and seem to be enjoying the process. But in spite of being able to do these improvements on a tight budget and by themselves, we quickly found we were dealing with a similar issue even though we live in a rented apartment.

The famous saying is mo’ money, mo’ problems. Add mo’ space, mo’ spending to the mix.

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We started comparing notes on how that as soon as we’d either moved into a house or a larger apartment, we found our “stuff” multiplying. Closets full of items they rarely used on their end, furniture we’ve never previously owned on ours. More empty space that we feel compelled to fill for us, a garage for them to store stuff, which means they’re holding on to things that they’ve never accumulated before.

Chris told me of a piece of motorcycle equipment that he doesn’t use anymore, but is loathe to give away or even sell because 1) it cost him a pretty penny to get in the first place and, 2) what if he needs it again in the future? We now have a second bedroom (currently being used primarily as storage) which is where, if an item doesn’t really have a home yet, there it goes! A quick, sheepish scan of the contents this morning revealed a number of older cords and electronics I should probably recycle and a bag of linens and stuff that I’ve been meaning to drop off for donation since we moved in. Oops. Having space clearly does something to our mental relationship with stuff!

In our old flat, we didn’t have room for much…and so we didn’t have much. When we moved to a twice as large apartment in October, we suddenly had twice the space to fill. Plus we gave up landlord-provided furniture as part of a negotiation for lower rent and so had to buy furniture for the first time since living in London. Our old apartment barely held a loveseat, but suddenly we needed a sofa to fill a living room. In our old apartment, that loveseat and a desk chair were the only places we had to sit down in, in our new apartment we had a breakfast bar but we now needed stools to sit at it. We have two bathrooms and so needed two bathmats. We have more than one cupboard now and have somehow acquired a mug collection. Oops again.

Like water, people, their money habits, and their stuff seem to expand to fit their containers. Ours certainly have. When we have made more money, we have historically spent more money…even after living quite comfortably on less! Before moving to a larger apartment, our expenses didn’t necessarily change, but we found our habits did. Both we and the handful of friends I have unscientifically surveyed for this post have also found their ability to accumulate and retain stuff grow significantly due to moving into a house for the first time, a bigger apartment, or a first home all to one’s self after leaving the sharing economy that is living with roommates. Call it the curse of comfort! Part of the reason I don’t want a big house anymore is because I don’t want to have to pay to outfit it, keep up a yard, and take care of the whole thing. I’d rather have a much smaller home with fewer, nicer things, and spend my money on other priorities.

On the other hand, I do think there is a correlation between generally being in a position to make more money, and it having more places to go. If you are working full time, you are likely to be an adult with either rent or mortgage to pay. If you’re living in certain areas, you are more likely to require a car. Past a certain age you are statistically more likely to have a partner or children, leading to different kinds of costs. Life gets more expensive the longer it goes on.

As I’m working to limit my consumption, I’m starting to think a portion of that mindset long term will come from limiting my space, both physical and metaphoric. What else will I have to resize besides a “dream home?”

Have you found this same correlation between space and stuff? Those of you who have up- or downgraded at some point in your lives, I’m doubly curious to hear from you.