27 April 2017. We spend a lot of time seeking happiness. The feeling of happiness is so pleasing that it can be hard to accept that it can't be squeezed into stillness or submission. Like every things else, it comes and goes, like a cloud in the sky.
It's helpful to put things in terms of Vacation Happy versus Everyday Happy. On vacation, free from responsibilities and surrounded by new experiences, happiness comes easily.
In everyday life, we must find happy in the ordinary. Listening to the birds on your walk to work, reading on the couch with your feet up, slicing carrots and enjoying the feel of a good knife -- in each, there is an absorbed contentment where mind and body are in tune. This is the stuff of everyday happy.
Most recently, a friend discovered this while typing on a typewriter. The process of typing slowed her thoughts until she was only listening for the satisfying snap of each letter, feeling the resistance of each key, and watching as words gradually formed and became rows of sentences. She lost track of time, and as she pulled her letter free, she felt lighter.
Whatever task is coming next, perhaps you can find that in-sync-ness that signals, Linger here, take it in.
21 April 2017. Sometimes, you need a soak in a tub or a long walk. Both can go a long way towards clearing your head. But, sometimes, shortbread is the only answer. With building blocks of butter and enough flour to act as cement, it has no substitute. Its butteriness is the focus, and all other flavors exist only as bolsters. When the first crumbs hit your tongue, all noise fades into the background. For a few seconds, it's just rich sweetness with the occasional burst of salt.
We recently discovered a shortbread that keeps external noise at bay for a satisfyingly long time. Its fine crumb has a slight chew, and the rosemary accent bucks tradition and makes people's eyes widen with surprise before they close with pleasure.
Made mostly in the food processor, the batter come together quickly, dumps (culinary term) into a pan, and gets expediently pressed down for baking. In short, it's delicious, unique, and the perfect end to a simple and fuss-free meal.
Rosemary Shortbread : Recipe from The New York Times
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon plus 1 pinch kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted cold butter, cut into 1-inch chunks
1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. In a food processor, pulse together flour, sugar, rosemary and salt. Add butter and pulse to fine crumbs. Pulse a few more times until some crumbs start to come together, but don't overprocess. Dough should not be smooth.
2. Press dough into an ungreased 8- or 9-inch-square baking pan or 9-inch pie pan. Prick dough all over with a fork. Bake until golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes for 9-inch pan, 45 to 50 minutes for 8-inch. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Cut into squares, bars or wedges while still warm.
Image: Linen Denim Napkins and Grey Chambray Linen Blanket
11 April 2017 At Shop Fog Linen, we get excited by linen and the versatility of flax, the plant that linen comes from. But people have been excited about linen for thousands of years, using it to create durable textiles, and these days, not much has changed; linen is still beloved for clothing, sheets, and towels. But dig deeper, and it turns out that flax's reach has expanded. Manufacturers have harnessed its natural qualities of strength and lightness and using flax to build cars, furniture, fishing rods, and even surfboards.
These innovative uses might seems worlds away from the linen in your home, but they all start with flax. Fog Linen Work products come from flax grown in Lithuania, an area well-known for its flax production. Flax is cultivated worldwide for its oil, seeds, and, most important for linen production, its fibers. Fibers run the full length of the 3-4 foot stalk into the plant's roots. Long fibers that are elastic and lustrous translate to higher quality linen. To capture the flax fibers at this moment, the plant is harvested at about 100 days old. The mechanized harvesting process pulls the plant up from the roots, preserving the integrity and length of the fiber.
After plants have been pulled from the ground, they are laid flat to dry for several weeks. Next comes retting, a process of exposing the plants to moisture to break down the internal cellular structure so that the fibers can be separated. The fibers are pulled apart from their woody stalks in a process called scutching. Finally, the fibers are combed through to separate long fibers from short, and they undergo polishing in preparation for spinning. When spun, flax fibers produce a fine, thin yarn. Multiple lengths of this thin yarn are spun together to produce a thicker weave. To create fabric, flax yarn is woven into sheets that can be bleached, washed, or dyed, or simply left untreated and spooled.
At Fog Linen Work, goods are created by designer, Yumiko Sekine, in Tokyo and seamstresses in Lithuania. A years-long working relationship between these parties results in small-batch production of the clothing and soft goods that make up Fog Linen Work.
As flax becomes a darling in the world of science and technology, it's finding applications beyond what we can envision. From the kitchen cloth in our hand, to the surfboard under our feet, the many uses of this natural fiber continue to captivate us. To learn more, here's a super-cool video about innovations in flax, and here's an artistic take on linen production through the years.
25 February 2017. Fog Linen's new jersey knit linen epitomizes soft, graceful comfort. After debuting in Japan last year, the line is in its first, stateside run. Four pieces make up the new collection: the Kei cardigan, the Jun top, the Remi dress, and the Mami pants. With a delicate drape that hugs without clinging, the line has made a fast impression on us.
Though new to Fog Linen, jersey knits have a long history starting in the Bailiwick of Jersey in the Channel Islands off the coast of France. In Jersey, the knits were first made from wool to serve as clothing for fishermen, and until the late 19th century, jersey knits were usually confined to undergarments like hosiery and underwear. However, in 1852, the French fashion house Rodier started developing jersey knits for fashionable wear, and in 1916, Coco Chanel threw herself (and jersey) into the spotlight with one of her first clothing collections. The collection featured coats and skirts made with jersey, which was still considered more appropriate for underthings. Chanel continued to raise jersey's profile by using it frequently in her iconic suits of the 1950s and 60s.
These days, jersey knits appear throughout our closets. Their staying power is linked to their silky, soft hand that makes them a pleasure to wear close to the skin. With Fog Linen's jersey, expect to find four pieces you can look forward to putting on. Layered under a cardigan or over a slip, they possess the same wonderful qualities of linen with an everyday, easy elegance.
Image: Kei cardigan
9 February 2017. What inspires you when you're getting dressed in the morning?
Scratch that. Do you feel inspired when you get dressed in the morning? Especially in the winter, does the idea of waking up, getting out of a warm bed and into structured clothing cast a chill over your heart? It does mine. The last thing I want to do is get into clothes that require the right accessories, undergarments, and sucking in. Add to that every so often I decide I no longer like any of my clothes. To counter sounding spoiled, I'll offer that I've heard similar sentiments from friends. It seems like it's not uncommon to become disenchanted with everything in your closet.
The funny thing is, though, I love my clothes. I thought a lot about buying them before bringing them home and they are generally comfortable and match my style. Therefore, when I get that whiny, feet-stomping "I have nothing to wear" feeling, I know the problem is with me.
For most, buying a new wardrobe isn't an option. And, if I'm honest, I feel like that would be cheating. I have a theory that every piece of clothing has a certain number of combinations and permutations within it, and your job as its owner is to uncover them. Sometimes, it's as simple cuffing a pair of pants or unbuttoning a button-down. Often, it's taking a seemingly formal piece of clothing and pairing it with something laid-back. I have a blouse with a graphic print that I finally figured out can work under overalls. On its own, the blouse is loud and attention-grabby, but with overalls, it fits right in.
So, instead of starting from scratch, the real challenge is to find a way to become enamored with your clothes all over again. Full disclosure: this can involve buying a piece or two that help put a different spin on your look. Shoes and jewelry, especially, have the power to do this.
All too soon, you'll be putting sweaters and layers away for spring. While you still can, take another look at them, find a different vantage point, and give them a second, third, or thirteenth chance to win you over and put you back into the getting-dressed game.
Image: Runa Shop Coat
1 February 2017. Picture a cool summer morning. You wade into the garden ready to zone in and weed for the next few hours before the sun comes out and the bugs attack. You get so focused that you don't notice yourself growing grubby until, all of a sudden, you reach your heat-dirt saturation point. It's time to pack it in and scrape off the grime. That's the precise moment your neighbor chooses to stop by to admire your labor and chat. As you stand there talking, you long to feel less like a human bag of mulch. But how? A shower, certainly, but an instant remedy? An apron.
Aprons protect us from the dirt of everyday life, the stuff we don't want to wear after the task is done. They also create a united front of an outfit. This applies not only to gardening, but also painting, working with clay, dusting, cooking, demolishing. Imaginary scene #2: you're preparing for a dinner party, sweats on, hair askew, when you hear a knock on the door from a well-meaning but altogether too early guest. Suddenly, an apron is a godsend. It not only hides the not-safe-for-guests clothing, but makes you look put-together as you gracefully exit and scramble into your party clothes.
In essence, an apron is a uniform. It marks its wearers as hands-on, practical, and prepared. Even if you're attempting to throw pottery or rip up flooring for the first time, an apron can make you look ready for the job. And though we strive to have qualities that are more than skin deep around here, looking prepared is sometimes the first step towards feeling adept. It's only a hop, skip, and a jump from there to genuine confidence, the kind that, apron-clad, allows us to go out into the world and face the mess.
Image of our daily apron in Blue Violet by Jenny Hallengren.
19 January 2016 The other night, as we walked home, a full moon shone above us. Low in the sky, it gave us license to explain away the day's missed connections and inconsistencies. Weird interaction? It was because of the moon. A memory lapse? Oh, right - that moon!
But did we really believe that those anomalies had been caused by the moon? We did and we didn't -- but we wanted to believe. It was more fun, reassuring, even, to point a finger at that full moon than to have no answer at all.
For lots of us, these beliefs have been rattling around for so long, they're nearly second-nature. In a quick sweep, we found that many of our nearest and dearest avoid walking under ladders and crossing a black cat's path. When we think seriously about it, sure, we can see that superstitions have a childish, silly quality to them. But in adult life, with its unavoidable realities and challenges, it seems only natural to seek an easier explanation. That small bit of comfort we're afforded when we make sense of something is the reward.
Like that stash of emergency ice cream, these superstitions will be kept close, for they have the power to soothe and to brighten. At a time when so many things feel out of our control, we can't think of a single thing wrong with that.
05 January 2017 An insubstantial breakfast can be blamed for a litany of problems, from crankiness to headaches to sleepiness. So, given the wide-reaching effects of a sad breakfast, doesn't it make sense to eat a good one? But what exactly is a good one? If you look to trends, it's a green smoothie or avocado toast - chia seeds and bee pollen strongly suggested.
Let's pause for a moment and think back to a time when breakfast was simpler. Perhaps it was made for you by someone else, or came in the form of a toaster pastry in a silver packet. Maybe you had a little fun reading the back of the cereal box and even sat down while eating. Most likely, it didn't matter how many grams of protein could be packed into whatever was in front of you.
What if we could take this simplicity and lightheartedness and combine it with our needs now? As adults, our needs probably include being well-fed and somewhat healthfully so. Aside from that, the beautiful thing about breakfast is that it can be anything. It can be wonderfully easy - a banana. It can be deeply savory - a bowl of spicy stew. It can be sweet - a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. And it we remove the chatter about all of the things breakfast should be, it may leave a little space to simply enjoy it. Though sitting down might not be an option, taking a moment and savoring always is, and that moment of pleasure might be the most powerful antidote to midday crankiness. So, come on - let's try it and see.
5 December 2016. How do you decide what to get someone as a gift, especially if you don't know the person well? An age-old question that has stymied the best of 'em. With two easy steps, you can get a lot closer to painless gift-giving.
Step 1: Accept that it really is the thought that counts. Reverse psychology is helpful here. Have you ever received a gift from someone you don't know well (so not your best friend or partner) that actually made you think less of that person? Chances are you haven't. A gift, even if it's not your style, almost always makes you feel warm and fuzzy and appreciated. The feeling that someone thought of you and made an effort on your behalf is part of the gift.
Now switch the psychology back to the normal direction. You're putting time and thought towards someone, and that is a kindness in and of itself. The gift could be a broad range of things, and it would still convey the desired message: I care about you.
Step 2: Plants, food, and experiences are winners. Plants: olive, rose geranium, and succulents are a few of our favorites. Food: a bottle of small-batch olive oil, pâte de fruit, or panforte. Experiences: a gift certificate to a new, local shop, a three-month long subscription to a spice/craft/coffee of the month club, or passes to a museum or theater.
Most people, even the most finicky, will appreciate something that brings beauty, flavor, or a new experience into their life. And if they don't, that's where "it's the thought that counts" comes in and saves the day.
This holiday season, don't agonize -- shop wise!
22 November 2016. The other day, I found myself in a field with a pack of dogs. They were romping around me, barking, jumping, zigging and zagging, playing like pros. So much of being a human around an animal involves play: chasing an animal through a park, rolling around on the floor, giving belly rubs and getting couch cuddles are a few examples.
But without an animal, play can become a complex pursuit. The Oxford Dictionary defines play as "Engag[ing] in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose." So is reading a form of play, or only if you're letting yourself sink into a story with no concern for edification? Is getting sucked into an hour of phone scrolling play, or not so much if you're doing it to distract yourself from a painful commute?
This kind of analysis probably defeats the purpose. Simply, real play should feel invigorating, natural, and absorbing. It's helpful, when you've been sucked into the internet or find yourself unable to get up from the couch, to think of those romping animals. Get focused on fun, whatever it may be. Maybe you get a little muddy and dirty, but play until you're so tired that all you can do is flop down and fall asleep. A bath can wait until tomorrow.
*image of grey white stripe cushion by jenny hallengren.