20141023

CARING AND WARMING WITH WOOL


Over the weekend the winds picked up out here in Brooklyn, swirling and blowing and dusting out the last of this year's sunny warm weather. Leaves scattered across streets, breezes nipped at the backs of our ears, the skies were cleared of those last humid summer clouds. Temperatures have been hovering below 60 degrees all afternoon, and just like that, it's here, and we're hauling out the sweaters and dusting off our favorite recipes for curry and chili and other hearty soups and stews, buttermilk biscuits and warm apple cider. The radiators in the building kicked on this morning, hissing and cranking to life. It's about time to swap out the blankets for their heftier counterparts, and I can't wait to pack up the window a/c unit for a long winter hibernation and get that eighth of our window view back. :) It's my favorite time of year, it's your favorite time of year, it's your uncle's favorite time of year . . . the air outside has smelled like a fresh campfire for the last week and a half and it couldn't make me any giddier.

The winter before Huck was born I bid on and won this hysterical boys wool sweater off eBay. It was the first thing I ever bought for him, and it was an enormous 4T, a size designation that at the time had meant absolutely nothing to me, but it had fair isle detailing on the sleeves and yoke, and a very goofy brown moose on the back, and Huck desperately needed it, he just really, really needed it. It was the kind of sweater that a lawn gnome might wear. It only barely started to fit Huck near the end of last winter, but at the start of every fall I haul it out anyway and make him wear it once, so excited to try it on him, also sort of bittersweet to see how much closer it came to fitting him every year as he kept on growing and time kept on marching on.

The team at Woolmark reached out to me over the summer about partnering with them on a campaign to raise awareness of all the benefits of natural wool, and you know, I hadn't really thought about it that much, wool, but I realized I hadn't ever owned anything made of wool before that silly moose sweater and I started to wonder why? I suppose it was because I grew up in Arizona + Brandon grew up in Texas, where all you wore was leather and denim and cotton, and/or nothing, and I suppose wool may have seemed . . . old fashioned to me? British? Difficult to care for, maybe? We were living in Idaho at the time of the vintage wool sweater and it was certainly cold enough out there for some heavy duty wool, like, always all of the time, and I was a voracious knitter, too, though I tended to worked in acrylic since it was cheaper and we were on the broker side of poor college students, but I think it was simply that it wasn't until that vintage sweater arrived in the mail that I felt for myself the tactile quality of soft wool under my fingertips, and realized what a worthwhile investment it would be for our family. From there on out, we've been kind of gung ho about wool. We own a lot of wool. I started to keep an eye out for natural wool coats and blankets in the thrift stores around town, scored a few amazing vintage pieces from Brandon's Poppy (who was a sheep farmer in Idaho!), and have since stockpiled a decent collection of sweaters and socks and scarves and blankets for our winters. We maybe own more wool blankets than is strictly necessary for a family of three, but I suppose in case of a winter power outage we will definitely not be freezing to death, and that is worth something anyway. ;) 

I think because of my experience with that first sweater (and because of Ron's Christmas jumpers, you know what I mean), I've always associated wool with a kind of fierce maternal instinct. It makes me think of warm fireplaces. It's kind of a utilitarian fiber, and so hardly removed from its original source that there's almost a spiritual quality to it for me. (Thank you, my llama friends.)

Merino wool is a term you've probably seen around often. It's defined as the textile fiber obtained from Merino sheep, a specific breed bred in Spain and Turkey that is prized for its very soft wool. Unlike hair or fur, wool is crimped and elastic, and grows in "staples," or clumps. The crimping is what makes wool-spun yarn so very bulky and fantastic, and is what creates that nice trap for air, which is how wool comes by its famous heat-retaining qualities. (-source)

Wool is actually rather simple to care for. Most Merino wools are fully machine washable, hey heyyy. (I always use the delicates cycle on our washing machine with cold cold water, then lay flat to dry. Find more information on how to wash your woolens HERE.) Plus, wool has the added benefit of stretching back out if it's accidentally shrunk, something I have done a time or two. ;) It's a really great fiber for babies and children, as it is soft, warm yet entirely breathable, and it ignites at a higher temperature than cotton and with a lower speed of flame spread. Apparently wool forms a char when burned that is insulating and self-extinguishing? That is nuts. (-source)  Also, all those natural wool fibers in a light wool blanket are what give that great stretch necessary for achieving a real good swaddle. As every new mom knows, your swaddle is king.


As part of our partnership with Woolmark, we were sent a few items made with Woolmark Merino wool for Huck to wear and snuggle into. This Merino wool sweater, from il gufo, was perfect for our day at the pumpkin patch. It is lightweight and soft, thin but warm, stretches to fit over a few under layers but then shrinks back down to fit perfectly on its own. (Huck's hat is also made of 100% wool, sent over c/o She Makes Hats)



We were also sent a beautiful merino wool muslin blanket from Aden + Anais, fully machine washable (all A+A products can even be tumble dried), that Huck has been sleeping with at night. It's thick, yet light and stretchy, and has the texture of silk. I wish I'd had something like this when Huck was a baby! It would make an ideal outer layer swaddle, especially on a brisk autumn afternoon walk.


Thank you to Aden + Anais and to il gufo for their sweet wool gifts!

This post was sponsored by Woolmark. I'm so pleased to be working with such a fantastic group. We hope you'll keep an eye out for products made of 100% wool the next time you're in the market for something beautiful and warm. :)

20141022

KEEP THIS FOR A RAINY DAY

a photo I found while looking around today that I really, really love.

Just remember: other people look at you and think you have it all together. 

This morning I had a meeting in the flatiron with my editor at Abrams. 

Do you know how silly that sentence was just now? I just read it to myself and even I'm like, oh give me a break.

We were finalizing some photo resolution issues for the book. This has surprisingly been the most time consuming part of this entire process. There I was on one end of a desk with my laptop and about five million portable hard drives (no, there were just three), plus my old phone full of photos that I couldn't figure out how to transfer efficiently, and there was Holly on the other end of the desk on her iMac with all the book things open, with a bag of pumpkin chocolate chip cookies between us (peace offering to the book gods), and together we were over-analyzing photos of my face. Saying dumb things like, "I mean, I feel like I look sort of French in this one? Except for the Empire State Building there in the background, which maybe sort of ruins the point of it."

We made all kinds of crazy progress. And afterward, the book now 99.999% finished (and looking flipping rad, if I'm allowed to say so), my editor took me out to lunch. 

And, so, avocado toast happened.

We air kissed on the way out like you do when you are fabulous, and then I ran over to a coffee shop two blocks north to meet up with the wife of the CEO of one of my very favorite companies, who also happens to be a long time reader, and who is also, I will just say it, really freaking pretty. 

Side note: Do you know how amazing it is that you people reading my blog are all so very awesome? It's true. I love how the people I meet who read this blog are always completely rad, every single time. Surely I must have the coolest readers in all of the Internet. 

So, Tara and I, we met and she is adorable and competent and beautiful and witty and we had such a good time talking. And she had gifts! Did you know gifts are my love language? And then I met everyone at the office. I saw possibly the tiniest chihuahua on the planet. This office is full of a bunch of really handsome men by the way, holy cow, and then, my head brimming with ideas and projects and future exciting things, I dashed across Fifth Avenue to make a size exchange and wouldn't you know it? It had gone on sale! Price adjustment! Size adjustment! Huzzah! 

At this point I stopped in at City Bakery to use their restroom. Because pro tip for when you're in Union Square and happen to be human needing human things: City Bakery has a bathroom. And pretzel croissants.

On my way out I decided to wander through the Union Square Greenmarket. Heaven! I bought myself an apple for the long train ride home. (Side note, it was a dollar sixty. FOR AN APPLE.) The R was there and waiting for me the second I stepped onto the platform, and not only did I get a seat right away, I got a cold seat right away! Cold seats on the subway are better than price adjustments and air kisses. A cute couple was canoodling across the way from me, someone's earbuds were playing Beyoncé. I had an apple and a Diet Coke and a book I was proud of having written and opportunities that excited me and a really cute, now-cheaper, now-fits-my-kid-right shirt in a shopping bag and all was right with the world!

And then I promptly had myself a massive anxiety attack. 

Do you get anxiety attacks? I get anxiety attacks. 

I haven't always been an anxious person . . . hahahahaha writing that just now was really entertaining, no I have always been an anxious person, but I haven't always been an anxious attack kind of person, and I feel like this warrants a distinction. Attacks are a fairly recent development in the Natalie's Neurotic Tendencies treasure chest. I've been having them occasionally for just under two years now, and they seem to morph into different manifestations depending on whether or not it is flu season and just how many cold mini Twix bars I've raided from the fridge that day. 

(Pro tip: keep your mini Twix bars in yo fridge.) 

My first anxiety attack I didn't know was an anxiety attack. I thought it was the stomach flu. It was Christmas Eve. We had just finished Christmas Eve dinner with a few friends from church. Most of these friends were new friends, some of these friends were old friends, and one of these friends was the kind of new friend who is friendly with all of your other friends, except not friendly with you. And I hadn't quite figured out the reason yet, so the night felt tense. The following day, after having Christmas Morning as just-us-three, we'd be flying to Utah. This was to be my first Christmas Eve and Morning in my own home, with my own budding traditions, a tiny victory I had won only after a lot of negotiating and cajoling, and there we were on our way out the door after saying goodbye and Happy Christmas and things and then stopping for one second longer for another small conversation, when I suddenly felt like I was going to be sick.

This was to be the anxiety attack that I would experience, over and over, pretty much every day, for the following 6 months. Over all sorts of things. Anything could set it off. All night long, that first attack, any time I'd try to get up to accomplish anything--make the aebelskivers, stuff the stockings, set out Huck's Christmas gifts, I'd be so overcome by nausea that I'd have to lay back down and only breathe. The only relief I could get was from listening to the clock go Tick. Tick. Tick. And counting my breaths. Tick. Tick. Exhale. Weeeeeeird kind of stomach flu, amiright? 

That was a really sad Christmas and I still feel irritated when I think about it.

You all know the rest of the story. To sum up: 
1. I resolved the major personal issues that were causing me stress, as best I could. (You can never really resolve all the personal issues that cause you stress, can you?)
2. I noticed a pattern and saw a doctor, got diagnosed with PMDD, tried all different kinds of medications and treatments and diets and supplements, lost a lot of weight in the process and then gained most of it back, and thankfully now only have one rough cycle maybe every few months (hooray!) 
3. I got really into Buddhism for a minute there? Let's talk about that later.
4. I made peace with the fact that I was Writing A Book, which would be Read By People, a lot of whom like to Hate Me For Sport, who would soon get to Hate Me Even Harder for all sorts of New And Improved Reasons that I was, more or less, willingly handing over. I tell you I made peace with this!!!!!! (This required mucho therapy.) (Ladies, and you know who you are, what you are doing is sick and wrong. Just FYI.) (1% of the time I still feel really hurt when I think of that whole . . . thing . . . but it's a very slim 1%, and seriously. KUDOS TO ME.)

Here I am now, I am sitting on my couch, it is late October, and I can count on just one hand the number of anxiety attacks I have had since the summer. This is a huge accomplishment for me, especially given the last two years and things. I feel more or less back to normal. Rough menstrual cycles are the exception now, not the norm. But they do still sneak up on me, and today was a reminder that illogical feelings can sneak up on you even in the best of times. When things are going really well, and precisely nothing is wrong, I can still create this sudden dread for myself, like I am going to Screw It All Up, that They Are All Wrong, that I Am Not Enough, and Holy Holy Shit.

Sometimes, my throat still closes up, sometimes my stomach still ties itself in knots. Sometimes I can't swallow. My breathing gets shallow and I feel completely awful about myself, like I'm the worst person alive. Even if I'm not trapped under the East River when this happens it still feels like I'm trapped under the East River when this happens. How rude is that? Usually I check my period tracker and I'm like, "Oh yeah. Hi, Day 20." But this is what I've learned to do, it's a trick that never fails me, and maybe it'll help another sister out in a similar situation sometime:

I remind myself that the only thing I need to do in this life is love

That is it. Love.

(I know, cheeseballs, stick with me here.)

I pick somebody around me. I imagine the love that other people must feel for that person, the love that it took to make that person, the love that that person must feel for others. (Sometimes I picture that person as a newborn? Weird thing but newborns to me are the most powerful anti-anxiety drug ever.) If I can just find that place inside me where I feel Love for something, if I can grasp onto it, I can pull that love out and push it outside of me until that is all that I am. Just love. Love for myself, love for that stranger, love for that subway pole that is probably covered in other people's urine but that some metal worker somewhere installed and put all this effort into . . . 

As long as I feel Love, nothing can hurt me. 

So that's all, I just felt compelled to write that down today, for whatever reason. 

Hang in there. 

Somebody out there loves you. A whole whole lot.

20141020

FALL IN NEW YORK


Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I run up to Huck's little school to pick him up from school, learning and friends still flush on his cheeks. As we walk home he tells me about his day and about all his friends (his favorite right now is a boy named Victor, but Huck says "Fukter," which . . . well that's the whole point of having kids, I think), he teaches me the new songs he's learned and I tell him some of the things I did while he was at school. Each afternoon, as the leaves crunch beneath Huck's shuffling feet as he walks his little boy steps home, he'll eye the swirling leaves on the sidewalk carefully before asking, "Mom, is it still fall?" And I'll say, "Puppy, it is still fall!" He turns this over in his mind, trying to spin it into a positive I guess (now that he's decided winter is his favorite on account of snowmen), and then he'll say, "Is it at least Halloween then??" Without fail. Friend, you don't even know. Fall is rockballs awesome. Get with it!

The changing seasons have been so much fun this year. Having a Holbrook so new to the concept of things like crunching leaves and bustling winds, corn still in its stalk, that certain buttery yellow sunshine, warmed hands around a cup of something hot . . . the joy of brushing cinnamon and sugar off on your pants after eating an apple cider doughnut . . .  caramel apples! Sharing it with a curious preschooler is some really great stuff. We are all loving it. 

ALTHOUGH: kid ate his first caramel apple the other day the way you'd eat a slice of orange, leaving the caramel peel behind, handing it to me, all "here Mom, I'm done," like he was tossing scraps to a dog, and I'm like, Dude. We need to talk about this. 

We've watched a lot of It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, and Huck had been jonesing for a pumpkin patch of his own, so we set off this weekend to find ourselves the most sincere pumpkin patch in all the land, with not a sign of hypocrisy! Just sincerity, as far as the eye can see! On the drive up we passed Tarrytown, and to distract Huck from his mild car sickness (whyyyyy?), I told him the story of old knobble-kneed Ichabod Crane and his fearsome headless horseman. I told it with flair, Randy Lovin would be so proud. When I was finished--songs and all--Huck asked me to tell it again, and then again, and then again, and after the third time Brandon threw his hands in the air and said, "No more! I can't take it!" That story got real detailed there by the third round. What color was Katrina's dress again, Huck? What was the Van Tassel primary crop? Anyway, I've long dreamed of the day that old grouch pants Brandon would be outnumbered by a family of Natalie nerds and let me tell you, it is just as magical as I imagined! 

And now is when I throw some pictures at you. From the drive up . . . 


. . . and a few more from our day at the patch.



20141016

CAPSULE AW 14 / THE ROUND UP


The first thing I've learned about myself from this capsule exercise is that forty is a difficult number for me to land on. I could do twenty really easily, I could probably even do ten! Otherwise . . .  I need fifty. There doesn't seem to be an easy in-between. Which makes no sense because I really only ever wear the same three things over and over and over: Skinny jeans, boots, and a gray sweatshirt. Done. Three, twenty, fifty, ten . . . these numbers aren't adding up. My problem isn't in simplifying a look, it's in simplifying my options. I like this red plaid shirt, but I also like this red plaid shirt! And which one will I want to wear the most? And what would that preference that even say about a person? And then I get into all these existential thoughts about things, and suddenly fifteen minutes have passed and I still haven't picked a plaid shirt, but have maybe realized I might need an extra plaid shirt all together, of a different color. Don't even get me started on the boots. I love these black boots, but I also love these black boots, and I don't need both but they're just sooo different though! This is the exact opposite of the point of this exercise, I am aware.

I'm also noticing how I approach getting dressed and I'm fascinated by it. Navel gazing at its finest! (I am my most fascinating subject, like always. ;) I tend to think of my wardrobe like a meal, and each piece is an ingredient. My ideal fall wardrobe recipe goes something like this:

Gray sweatshirt
Skinny jeans
Slouchy light wash jeans
Chambray
Olive parka 
Red flannel
Stripes, stripes, stripes
White + gray tees as the structural basis
A fancy top
A baseball tee
A dress
Boots
Chucks
Oxfords/Loafers
Birks
Something with a heel
Something with a Peter Pan collar
Enormous oversized sweater
Clogs
Black midi skirt

Twenty! Done!

Except I definitely need two striped shirts, and if I have space for more than one gray shirt, I need at least three gray shirts . . . plus there's the boot situation, because . . . and make that three striped shirts . . . and I might want more than one skinny jean, obviously, so . . . Fifty! See? No sweat. ;)


Here's my dirty secret. I've been fussing with my capsule, still, a few weeks after I should have had it locked down. I think I've been using it as a crutch when things get stressful. I can't change this certain situation in my life? Well. Lucky for me I can control the number of striped tops in my capsule, so here, let's take something out and swap it for something else so that I can feel like I have some control around here. (I'm a fairly predictable Natalie, so far as Natalies go.) But I'm ripping off the bandaid here! We're sticking with what's up there, right this minute! Minus what is in the laundry of course, this is real life here people, and it does come to forty! Right on the nose! Whew.



Here it is!
TOPS /
1. White linen baseball tee
2. Blush linen long sleeved tee
3. Gray linen long sleeved tee
4. Silk shirt (old)
5. Olive shirt
6. Linen striped tee
7. St. James striped tee
8. Boxy striped tee
9. Chambray (old)
10. Cherry red flannel (old)
11. Muted red flannel

SWEATERS/
12. Short sleeved sweatshirt
13. Gray sweatshirt
14. Red sweatshirt
15. Gray Peter Pan collar (old)
16. Black Peter Pan collar (old)
17. Black Everlane sweater (old)
18. Accompany alpaca wool sweater
19. Ganni oversized sweater
20. Cardigan NY white sweatshirt (old)

BOTTOMS/
21. Dark wash skinnies (old)
22. Medium wash distressed skinnies (old)
23. Light wash distressed skinnies (old)
24. Light wash relaxed jeans (old)
25. Black distressed skinnies 
26. Black coated leggings
27. Black midi skirt
28. Dress (old)

SHOES /
39. Black booties w/heel (old)
30. Tan booties w/heel (old)
31. Clogs (old)
32. Chucks (old)
33. Birks (old)
34. Oxfords (old)
35. Loafers (old)
36. Moto boots (old)
37. Peep toe booties
38. Clog boots (old)
39. Flat ankle booties (old)
40. Saddle shoes

(Click the images below to find the source.)


* You may note there aren't exactly 40 items above. I've included links to a few items that don't count toward my capsule (like coats and bags), since I found the links while looking for the others and it might come in handy. Also because many of my items that do count toward my capsule are old, and while I couldn't find the exact item, I did find an item or two or three that are similar-ish. A few I couldn't find at all. We'll live with it, I'm sure. :) (I don't feel bad that I am counting two pairs of Birks as one in my fall capsule. Because this is a good mental exercise in letting go of perfectionism?) 

** Exclusions: I decided not to count the following, and of course everyone should adjust their own list of exclusions to suit their own lifestyles: Coats, hats, bags, or anything else you'd take off when you walk into a restaurant, that don't count. Shoes count yes, scarves count no. Jewelry counts no. Just because that got complicated fast. Loungewear and pajamas don't count either, even if it's a lounge-y item I might wear outside as actual outside clothes to pick Huck up from school or after my yoga class when I hit the grocery store or stop at a wifi cafe to answer emails, just because that is pretty rare for me. I think if it were a more common occurrence I'd have to count it, my conscience wouldn't allow me not to. I'm also giving myself unlimited slouchy white tee-shirts and socks and undies because I'm the boss and I can do things like that if I want to. Weather or work out specific footwear, like rain boots or snow boots, sneakers, shower flip flops... (hah), those don't count either.

*** Lastly, it was suggested to me that I put together a weekly round up of my capsule outfits and I think that is rather brilliant. And so I will do it. Weekly or so. Ish.

I suspect everyone who is doing a capsule is going to be doing it for very different purposes, or with different "end goals" in mind. For me, the point in this exercise isn't learning to make do with a simpler look--my look is already very simple and very predictable. It is maybe a little bit curiosity driving it: Could I live with a drastically simpler look? (Yes, easily, turns out.) But I definitely need to learn how to live with JUST ONE of something, just one, and letting that one be enough. And not needing back ups. Or the same thing only slightly differently. Obviously I have made zero progress on this front, but I'm more aware of it now and it seems doubly ridiculous to me, so maybe personal growth and a cease to senseless purchases is on the radar! (Though, on the other hand . . . life is short? Who really cares? World peace and things?) It's also just getting dressed and I promise you I'm not taking it that seriously. Well. More or less. ;)

So! How are your capsules coming? What are you figuring out about yourself through this silliness? How do you approach your wardrobe? What inspires you when you're getting dressed??? Do you like to start with your shoes first like I do?  :)