Object Lesson: The Perfect Travel Mug

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

I drink a lot of coffee. If I bought coffee everyday on my way to work, the cost would add up pretty quickly. So most days, I try to brew my own cup of joe and take it with me. I'm not the world's most graceful (or careful) creature, so I grew very accustomed to a life soaked in spilled java. That is, until I discovered Oxo's LiquiSeal Travel Mug. This mug is actually leak-proof. There's a button on the top that seals it up so tightly I can throw it in my purse — upside down even. And unlike a thermos, you can pull the Oxo mug out of your bag, push that button and sip your coffee. I think it's so remarkable that I am constantly pushing the little vacuum seal button on the lid and wildly shaking the mug about to prove to friends that it doesn’t leak. (Though be warned: if you have just taken a sip, a small amount of liquid will remain in the top after you seal it shut. Be sure to drink those last few drops before tossing the sealed mug in your bag or before demonstrating its incredible non-leaking powers.) Also, if you’re like me you received dozens of stainless steel coffee mugs as Christmas presents in the late 90s (why was that?), and probably shudder to think of owning yet another one. But trust me, this is the mug to end all mugs. It will make your commute spill-free and put a dent in your dry cleaning bill.

Good Deed: Great American Cookie Swap

I just came across this and it seems like a nice idea.
On December 9th, families, neighbors and friends across the entire country will participate in the first Great American Cookie Swap sponsored by DuPont™ Teflon®, an event where one and all can get together to bake and exchange homemade cookies. If you're one of the first 1,000 people to register, we'll send you a free Great American Cookie Swap hosting kit. It includes an oven mitt, cookie cutters, bags and sanding sugars, party invitations, napkins, recipe cards and other goodies. And, on behalf of everyone who registers, DuPont will make a donation to Treat The Troops® - an organization that bakes and ships homemade cookies all-year long to the men and women of the armed forces stationed overseas.
I threw a cookie swap two years ago, and it was a ton of fun — even if half of my city-girl friends brought store-bought cookies instead of baking. (Ladies, you know who you are.)

Sunday Supper

This past Sunday night I cooked dinner at home: chicken, mashed potatoes and broccoli rabe. There is something that is deeply satisfying about a meat, potato and green vegetable dinner, isn’t there? I made a tarragon cream sauce for the chicken, which is an easy but elegant sauce that only takes a few minutes to make. Here’s a recipe from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food for a fantastically easy version of this classic sauce. Sautéed Chicken in Mustard-Cream Sauce

If you haven’t checked out this digest-sized mag yet, go buy it now. Of all the food magazines I subscribe to,
Everyday Food is the only one of them that I have saved every issue I received, and that’s a commitment when you live in a tiny apartment. The recipes are always quick, straightforward and use ingredients that you can actually find at your regular grocery store. I only wish that Marty would publish an index each year for all the recipes from each issue, it’d certainly make my life easier.

Bookshelf: Home Comforts

Have you ever wondered how to get an ink stain out of your favorite shirt or how to make hospital corners on your bed? Maybe you haven’t, but I wonder that kind of stuff daily. Really, I do. And as a result I can relate to the first sentence of Cheryl Mendelson’s encyclopedic housekeeping tome Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House, "I am a working woman with a secret life: I keep house." These days it seems no one is interested in how a home works and how to care for the spaces we inhabit. It seems every home improvement show thinks the way to make our homes better is to paint the walls a bright, bold color and put in a funky light fixture.

Sometimes the solutions are simpler, and often what we really need help with is managing our households, organizing our everyday lives and making our homes into comfortable, functioning places. Mendelson's a pretty good companion to have at your side, if these are things you aspire to do. Home Comorts is my go-to book for any home-related question.
I find myself pulling this book out for advice all the time, and I recommend it as an addition to any personal library. It would also make a fantastic wedding or house-warming gift. (I bought a copy for my mother, and it was one of my most successful gifts to date.) Even if your idea of mopping is running the Swiffer Wet Jet over your floors once a month, this book is full of handy tips and everyday wisdom that anyone can use. However, Home Comforts is not just a boring how-to guide for cleaning and housekeeping. It is a smart, well-written (and often funny) book to read.

(Word to the wise: Skip Mendelson’s Laundry, it's the 'Laundry' chapter from Home Comforts reprinted as a separate book. Also, invest in the hardcover version of Home Comforts; like the Joy of Cooking, this is the sort of book you’ll refer to often. If the cover price gives you sticker shock, amazon.com's marketplace and abebooks.com have cheaper used copies.)


Monday, October 30, 2006

So why am I moving? Why am I writing about it?

I’m moving because I am obsessed with real estate and fell in love with another, bigger apartment that I could actually afford. Scratch that. I was obsessed with real estate. I think the whole process of buying and selling apartments has kicked the habit for me for at least a few years to come.

I am writing about this whole process because I think I have something to share with you about creating a home and about making the most of what you have. I believe wholeheartedly in living well, even if your means are small. I have a great job writing about homemaking, decorating and entertaining. But I think most of the women who read the publication I work for would be horrified to know that a 26-year-old woman with no husband and no children, who lives in a small studio apartment is telling them how to live their lives. Frankly, sometimes I am horrified that I am. That said, I also think there is another group of women (and men) who would be thrilled to get advice about how to live their lives on their very real budgets of time, money and space. My father has also always said to me, “Take notes.” So, I suppose these are the notes he’s always wanted me to take.

This blog will be about all the things I love. More than anything, I’d like to share the things I’ve learned about making a home, especially since those lessons were often learned the hard way. I won’t write about things I couldn’t afford myself or about beautiful lamps that can only be custom-ordered from Sweden. This will be a space for everyday life, and for making it better.

The Little House on 10th Street

This tiny apartment has been my home for the last three years, and I will be moving soon. Clocking in at a mere 277 square feet, my home is truly little. But it has been a wonderful place to live and I will be heart broken to leave it behind. It is the first home I owned. It is the place I have lived the longest since I arrived in New York eight years ago. It is a space that is filled with my life.

Many of people couldn’t imagine living in my shoebox and wouldn’t care to dream of folding away the Murphy bed each morning, but I have always been happy here. My friends have always remarked that I, “made the most of the space,” shaking their heads at the bed in the wall and the half-size fridge, but no one has complained about the Murphy bed out loud — at least, not yet.
This apartment was christened with a house warming of more than thirty people, each guest pressing elbows with the next: people spilling into the halls. I’ve had dinner parties of up to eight guests around my coffee table, and I even cooked a full lobster dinner for friends one February night. (Everything smelled like shellfish for a week afterwards despite multiple moppings.) Lobster wasn’t the end of culinary ambitions in a kitchen fit for munchkins, at one point during my unemployment, I ran a make-shift catering business out of my miniature kitchen, using the fire escape as extra fridge space.

Houseguests while not out of the question always did have to share my full-size bed (including my mother when she stayed). I had three people sleep the night only once, when I had my sister in my bed and our 6-foot tall friend Mandy curled up on my love seat sofa. My old roommate even lived here with me for a week while he sorted things out with his life.

I have had so many good days here and so many friends to enjoy them with. So much fit in to such a small space. But it was enough. It was an embarrassment of riches: This little house in the city that I could actually call my own.


Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Little House in the City is a lifestyle blog written by Laura Fenton. Laura is a writer and stylist based in New York City. She started the blog in 2006 as a chronicle of her move from a 277 square foot studio in Manhattan to a one-bedroom apartment in brownstone Brooklyn. Today the site is a journal of everyday experiences and inspiration. The Little House in the City is updated regularly posts about home improvement, decorating, cooking, entertaining, crafting and other projects. The site hopes to offer lessons in living well while spending less.

In addition to penning The Little House in the City, Laura is a freelance writer and editor. She also works as a producer and prop stylist. She currently resides in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

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