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I’m wary of going home these days. Sorry, Mom. After three years of successfully feigning momentary deafness to her appeals to remove the boxes of my childhood keepsakes and books that languished under her guest room bed, somehow, on a recent visit, they ended up in our car. Books, my elementary report cards, boxes of disposable camera photos from summer camp, of friends in braces, school dances, a portrait gallery of all the pets we ever owned and adored — bonfire anyone? — it was all there. I accepted these gifts under the delusional confidence that I would dump everything in the correct recycling bin as soon as we got home.

It will surprise no one, perhaps, that these boxes did not move from our living room floor for a month. We are the couple who hosts a standing monthly dinner party for the sole reason that if we didn’t have people over regularly, we would never tidy up. In frenzied preparation for one of these dinners, we moved the boxes to the office floor where they remained for another two months. Then a terrible thing happened. I steeled myself and tucked into the long days work of going through them. Finally my cluttered mind and apartment would benefit from the great purge of 2014. No one would be spared. Or so that was my intention. That is not what happened. The unsentimentalist got sentimental. After an entire day’s work, I only managed to carve out one box of throw-away.

“So what?” the sentimentalist says. “You’ve gotta keep that stuff, it’s personal history.” For the person with a mortgage and every intention of staying put for a while, yes, this is a fine solution. The kids you raise in your family home will one day derive hours of mirth and amusement from looking at your school year books and reading your 5 year-old stories about Frisky the cat.

That is not us. We have places to go still, many more years of suitcase living left. Stuff is our nemesis. Storage is a four-letter word. What are we going to do with all this stuff? Where will we put it? These are the questions that torment the nomad. And the most tormenting of all: What are we going to do with all these books? Because, you can’t talk about stuff without talking about books.

Herein lies the great dilemma. For two people who value our impermanence, our pick-up-and-goability, as highly as we do, we have a damn incompatible obsession with printed books. I’ve even changed my tune about eBooks in recent years, although it must be said, I still don’t gravitate to them. Theoretically, I can get down with eBooks, but in practice I know me. I will always buy and read and prefer the printed book. Done. End of story. So, what do we do?

As I ponder this emblematic first world problem (what to do with this stuff that we own because we have jobs and a place to live where we can keep it and money and health and… everything!), I am inspired by the rooted ones who are finding creative ways to live with their books. This family, featured on Cup of Jo today, are the latest. 

Which is all just to say we’re looking for storage solutions for renters. Got any suggestions?

In other news, this guy just wrote another book. I was, no exaggeration, just saying (to a friend at a recent clean apartment dinner party) that I wish he’d write another book because The Imperfectionist was just so perfect and timely and everything I wanted. And he did! Debating whether to pre-order or to wait and buy it as an eBook — :/.

(Photos from A Cup of Jo)

We need a new way of storing our books. Luke is all for contributing them to these, but… eh… I dunno. Would they be loved?

In any case, they’re piling up.

If I’m completely honest, the fireplace method would suit my organization style best — just shove it in and go. But alas, I haven’t a fireplace.

(Found these on Pinterest, along with so many more good ideas.)

globe/map decor IMG_5141It’s not something I’ve considered much. The fact that I like to surround myself with the world. Doesn’t everyone hang maps in their homes? It’s true though: I gravitate toward map (and book) decor a bit more than the standard household. Always have. Two large maps flanked my bed growing up, given to me on request for my tenth birthday; a globe appeared on the kitchen table on my twelfth. I was fascinated with National Geographic from an early age (but then, what kid wasn’t?) and collected the maps that came with them every few issues. Blue tacked them onto my closet door. Just last year my sister gave me an up-cycled map lamp for Christmas. She knew it wasn’t just a childish proclivity. I still love maps.

Strange as it is to admit, it wasn’t until these handmade Map Drawer Pulls popped up in my email feed that I realized I had an obsession a thing for all things cartography. So in the spirit of claiming our quirks, here are a few pieces that I’m ready to sweep up this very minute.

worldmapdecalThis world map wall decal. It’s beautiful enough to stand on its own.

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A check off map of the national parks. It would serve as a subtle reminder to book our next camping trip. northcarolinaprint

A print to remember where I grew up. And another for where my heart currently resides?

myrootsliehereAnd this one for Luke (impressively close to Luke’s actual hometown).

Do tell: do you have any decor collections? obsessions? tips? I’d love to hear them!

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Kudzo Antique Market is my zen spot. Every month or so, I stroll its cluttered aisles, sing along to Oldie Goldies and contemplate all the Mad Men cocktails I’d mix from this sixties bar cart, all the salads I’d toss in this Danish modern wood salad bowl. I rarely buy anything as the price antique shops put on nostalgia is usually a bit steep for me, and in any case, fantasizing about what you would buy is what the game is all about anyway. But this week I spotted the loveliest wrought iron fruit basket. It was the perfect solution for storing our Georgia peaches and at a pretty price, too. Happily, it now lives on our counter where the old splintered peach crate that was our fruit storage used to live.

balcony furnitureI was a major home body this week, spending most of my free time cooking up our farmer’s market hauls or redecorating/reorganizing our apartment. I came back from vacation inspired and refreshed, and I needed a living space to reflect that. The most recent acquisition to result from my decorating frenzy now sits on our back balcony, where I plan to sit practically every evening this summer, fall, and probably winter, sipping one of these and swatting mosquitos. It is Georgia after all. 
ikeabooksAs if I didn’t already fantasize about living in Ikea (come on, admit you have, too), this book stack centerpiece certainly sealed the deal. Spotted while we were out shopping for aforementioned patio furniture.

tinctures cabinetteHelping to move your sister and brother-in-law into a new apartment does have its perks, like free furniture. When I saw this glass-fronted tea cabinet I knew it was going to be the new home for my herbal concoctions. I must say, I’m pleased with the results. It certainly makes an improvement over the cardboard box where everything used to lived.

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Today was the first team meeting for my new job.  Excited, challenged, inspired .. how many adjectives can I think of to describe how I felt? To say I was inspired by the women I’ll be working with would be a huge understatement. I left with an armful of books and a fire in my belly, eager to start prepping for my first year teaching ESL.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=gJV-O1e10z8%5D

In other news: this New Orleans bartender shows us what being passionate about your job is all about. That voice.

Hope you have an inspired weekend!

vietnamese balm face tonerIn the warmer months, when my thoughts turn frequently to that bit of green on our back balcony and what I’m going to do with all those herbs growing out there (Mint Juleps, anyone?), my bookstore peregrinations change course ever so slightly, veering less toward fiction and more toward the gardening section, the cooking section, and, when fortune would find me in a really good bookstore, the herbal and natural medecine section. My love for folk medicine is well documented in these pages. Equally, my love of a good bath (here and here). While I’ve found some true gems of recipes from various sources over the years, I’ve yet to find my herbal skin care Bible. I would love to have a well-loved, dog-eared tome sitting on my shelf, full of pioneering wisdom and my own notes scribbled in the margins. But until such a book turns up, I continue to float. vietnamese lemon balmIMG_4893 IMG_4895 IMG_4896vietnames balm steamer tab

Which is not always a bad thing. Sometimes you find a project on a blog or in a book that clicks as the perfect use of whatever ingredients you have laying around. This time it was a fragrant bouquet of Vietnamese Lemon Balm (or Mint Balm) from a friend’s herb patch. What to do with this mysterious herb. Actually, not so mysterious in East Asia as a bit of research into the plant revealed. A common herb included in salads, soups and curries, Vietnamese balm is often brewed as a tea for treating hangovers (useful after a few Mint Juleps), and is added to steam baths for clarifying the skin. Sounded like a good place to start and as I had a bunch of the stuff, it was time to get to work.IMG_4918 IMG_4919 IMG_4923

Toner tabs are made the same was as bath bombs — baking soda, citric acid, essential oils and witch hazel — just with more attention paid to choosing ingredients for specific skin concerns. For me that meant adding a few drops of Tea Tree oil for cutting oils and killing bacteria, mixing some fresh aloe vera gel in with Thayer’s Rose Witch Hazel, and of course, adding a few spoonfuls of chopped fresh Vietnamese balm. The result was a fragrant and potent brew that opened up my pores and cleared my troublesome skin.
IMG_4907 IMG_4910 IMG_4943 IMG_4950 IMG_4948Homemade skincare is too good to keep to oneself, and a piece of twine does a tidy job tied around a stack of herb-specked toner tabs. We may be starting a little bartering system with our Vietnamese balm providers. Herbs in exchange for product? Not a bad exchange at all.

Herbal Toner Tabs

1 cup baking soda

1/2 cup citric acid

2-3 Tablespoons of fresh or dried chopped herbs

10-15 drops of an Essential oil of your choice (I used Tea Tree. Lavender, rosemary or juniper berry would work very nicely as well.)

1/4 tsp aloe vera gel

Witch hazel for spritzing

Mix dry ingredients and herbs thoroughly. Add drops of Essential oil, stirring often to keep citric acid from fizzing. Shake aloe vera and witch hazel together in a spray bottle. Using one hand to spritz and the other to mix, spritz the dry ingredients with the witch hazel mixture, while stirring continuously with your other hand. If the mixture starts fizzing, slow down and keep mixing. When you can squeeze the mixture together and it holds its shape, stop spraying. You don’t need a lot of liquid, just enough to bind the mixture together loosely. 

Fill molds with tab mixture. Press down until compacted. Leave to dry over night. The next day, pop out of molds gently. 

To Use: Drop one tab in a sink or bowl full of hot water (not boiling!). Use a towel to make a tent over your head. Steam your face under the towel for a few minutes. Great to do before a face mask or at night after cleansing. Retain toner water and use either to wash off your face mask or keep in a spray bottle in the refrigerator and use as a toner for 2-3 days. 

Do you have any recommendations for really good herbal remedies and skincare books? I’m all ears. I got the inspiration for this recipe from Maria’s Self, though there are tons of recipes online.

library-bathroom-1 modern-bathroom-library old-rectory-bathroom-library bathroom_librarybathlibrary2

(1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

Traveling is great and all, but when we’re staying in other peoples’ homes I feel a little shy about hogging their bathrooms for a long soak in the tub. Is that just me? I have managed to sneak in a few cheeky soaks, which have been wonderful. English tubs, on average, are longer than the tubs in the States — I’m sure of it. Still, a few here and there isn’t cutting it. I’m missing my regular bathtub reading ritual.

Which is why these bathroom libraries are looking especially dreamy this morning.

Do you keep books in the bathroom? Also, my idea of the perfect night in.

(More bath time inspiration on Pinterest.)

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