For the past few months we’ve been talking a lot about how we spend our time at home and how important it is to be more deliberate and creative about it. How quality time feels like something we have to really chase down or plan for in ways that we didn’t before Oliver. I remember a few years ago — a year ago, even — writing about our leisurely weekend mornings, crawling back into bed at 11 am for a second cup of coffee and the newspaper, just appreciating the light move across the room while discussing our day. Those days now seem further away than they are, and can seem as though they’re permanently behind us. Which is fine (and also not fine). But the thing I’ve been noticing, and which doesn’t feel as fine, is how much of my down time at home, especially at night, is spent “decompressing” on my phone. Eventually we started thinking about how to make the bedroom more of a quiet, spacious, tech-free place that we each want to spend time in, and finally we set about doing just that. To try to get back to breakfast in bed every now and then, to talk about our day instead of staring at our phones. We made some big changes in the bedroom (and made breakfast in bed) and I’m excited to show you around. (If Oliver will allow.)
When we bought our house a year and a half ago, we didn’t give much thought to the bedroom. There were other rooms that needed a little help and although I wanted to paint the walls a lighter color, it never felt like a priority. The ceiling fixture was a very basic situation — the same one I think I had in most apartments throughout my twenties — and we had a very small rug from our old house that we laid at the foot of the bed. It all… worked (if only just). But as we began talking about ways to make our bedroom more of a place we actually wanted to spend time in, we had some concrete ideas and reached out to my favorite home lighting and furniture store, Rejuvenation, for some help.
First up: dealing with the phones (and clutter) on the nightstands. I’d convinced myself for some time that my phone needed to charge and rest on my nightstand because it was my alarm clock, but let’s be real: Oliver is my alarm clock and looking at my phone right before bed and first thing in the morning was causing a lot of stress and anxiety.
Some of you may have seen Andrew Sullivan’s recent piece on social media and our obsession with being plugged-in and engaged with our devices at all times. He calls it the “epidemic of distraction.” While his experience of this is certainly severe, I recognized much of what he described in myself — in the sense that I pride myself in being a multi-tasking machine, while that tasking is typically at the expense of feeling present in the same room with Sam or having the space I need in my mind to dream up new projects. Sullivan notes, “Every hour I spent online was not spent in the physical world. Every minute I was engrossed in a virtual interaction I was not involved in a human encounter” and I think this really captures the gist of it. While we’re often physically together in the bedroom, if one of us is on our phones, we’re not fully there with the other. And when time together is so precious these days, it’s just a waste not to be all in.
So the phone (usually) charges in the bathroom now and I have the handsome Toledo Alarm Clock in its place for those moments when I want to quickly check the time. It’s taken some adjusting and I still find myself reaching for the phone out of boredom or if I’m having trouble sleeping, but ever-so slowly I’m picking up my book or, frankly, going to bed earlier. Both good things. We decided to continue de-cluttering the nightstands by installing a pair of Cypress Articulating Sconce Plug-Ins (you can put these up yourself!) in place of our clunky Ikea table lamps that were there previously. Without all the cords and the bulky lamps, there’s so much space for little things that make me happy to look at: fresh flowers and a tiny jewelry box. And more books.
Next up: our ugly ceiling fixture. Tudor houses are rightfully known for having small rooms and our bedroom is no exception; I really wanted to install a bit of a statement piece, but we ultimately needed to find something that didn’t have too large of a footprint so as not to overwhelm the space. And we found just the thing! Hello, Cedar and Moss Conifer fixture: I love your little pop of shine and airy linen shade.
Last, we really wanted to address the cozy factor, or lack thereof. The small rug at the foot of the bed was replaced with the super soft Citra Hand Knotted Rug, which now spans a large portion of the room. I love its subtle color palette and so far it hasn’t been shedding like crazy (big bonus). For a little color, this Italian velvet pillow in one of my favorite mustard colors is a new addition to our spare bedding. Oliver’s a big fan of dragging his books in and sitting on the soft carpet to read (translation: flip madly, throw frequently) and loves squishing his face deep into that soft velvet pillow. Suffice it to say, we’ve been all in on this change.
Now that we finished the room, it seemed only fitting to celebrate with breakfast in bed. To pull it off with busy schedules and a baby in the house, I made the waffles the night before and froze them (yes, you do indeed hear Sam wondering if we’ll ever have fresh waffles again). And Sam set up the coffee so it was all ready to go. Then the next morning when Oliver was down for his first nap it went something like: QUICK warm the waffles and whip up some yogurt and honey. It’s go time!
So maybe the ship hasn’t completely sailed on these kinds of mornings. Uninterrupted quality time is something that used to happen to us – a passive occurrence. Now, it can happen… it’s just gonna take a little work. We’re tasked not only with finding quality time but with creating it, too. A big undertaking and certainly a work in progress, as it always is. I’d love to hear if any of you have had success getting rid of technology from the bedroom and making it a cozier space, and what’s worked for you. As for recipes to kick start your own breakfast in bed, I made my Everyday Whole Wheat Waffles (and actually subbed in buttermilk instead of the whole milk – they were fantastic). I added a little honey to a bowl of plain yogurt and sprinkled fresh pomegranate seeds on top. Coffee with lots of cream and fresh orange juice and we were set.
And as for something nice to jump start a refreshed bedroom, Rejuvenation has been kind enough to offer one reader of A Sweet Spoonful a chance to win $250 to spend in their store or online. Check out how to enter below:
All photos in this post were taken by our friend Gabe Rodriguez of Gabriel Boone Photography. We were a little worried that it could feel a bit awkward crawling into bed and inviting Gabe over, but he’s such a pro, and we were lucky to have him step in and make our bedroom look so lovely.
Winter Comfort Food
I intended on baking holiday cookies to share with you today, but when I sat down to brainstorm all I could think about, truly, was the morning porridge I've been making and how that's really what I wanted to send you away with. The holiday season always seems to zoom on by at its own clip with little regard for how most of us wish it would just slow down, and this year feels like no exception. We got our tree last week and I've been making a point to sit in the living room and admire the twinkle as much as possible. I have lofty goals of snowflakes and gingerbread men and stringing cranberries and popcorn, but I'm also trying to get comfortable with the fact that everything may not get done, and that sitting amongst the twinkle is really the most important. That and a warm breakfast before the day spins into gear. This multi-grain porridge has proved to be a saving grace on busy weekday mornings, and it reheats beautifully so I've been making a big pot and bringing it to work with some extra chopped almonds and fresh pomegranate seeds. While cookies are certainly on the horizon, I think I'll have this recipe to thank for getting us through the busy days ahead.
We returned home from San Francisco on New Years Eve just in time for dinner, and craving greens -- or anything other than baked goods and pizza (ohhhh San Francisco, how I love your bakeries. And citrus. And winter sunshine). Instead of driving straight home, we stopped at our co-op where I ran in for some arugula, an avocado, a bottle of Prosecco, and for the checkout guys to not-so-subtly mock the outlook of our New Years Eve: rousing party, eh? They looked to be in their mid-twenties and I figured I probably looked ancient to them, sad even. But really, there wasn't much sad (or rousing, to be fair) about our evening: putting Oliver to bed, opening up holiday cards and hanging them in the kitchen, and toasting the New Year with arugula, half a quesadilla and sparkling wine. It wasn't lavish. But it's what we both needed. (Or at least what we had to work with.) Since then, I've been more inspired to cook lots of "real" food versus all of the treats and appetizers and snacks the holidays always bring on. I made Julia Turshen's curried red lentils for the millionth time, a wintry whole grain salad with tuna and fennel, roasted potatoes, and this simple green minestrone that I've taken for lunch this week. Determined to fit as many seasonal vegetables into a bowl as humanly possible, I spooned a colorful pesto on top, as much for the reminder of warmer days to come as for the accent in the soup (and for the enjoyment later of slathering the leftover pesto on crusty bread).
If I asked you about what you like to cook at home when the week gets busy, I'm willing to bet it might be something simple. While there are countless websites and blogs and innumerable resources to find any kind of recipe we may crave, it's often the simple, repetitive dishes that we've either grown up with or come to love that call to us when cooking (or life in general) seems overwhelming or when we're feeling depleted. While my go-to is typically breakfast burritos or whole grain bowls, this Curried Cauliflower Couscous with Chickpeas and Chard would make one very fine, very doable house meal on rotation. The adaptations are endless, and its made from largely pantry ingredients. I never thought I'd hop on the cauliflower "rice" bandwagon, but I have to say after making it a few times, I get the hype.
People describe raising young kids as a particular season in life. I hadn't heard this until we had a baby, but it brought me a lot of comfort when I'd start to let my mind wander, late at night between feedings, to fears that we'd never travel internationally again or have a sit-down meal in our dining room. Would I ever eat a cardamom bun in Sweden? Soak in Iceland? I loved the heck out of our tiny Oliver, but man what had we done?! Friends would swoop in and reassure us that this was just a season, a blip in the big picture of it all. They promised we'd likely not even remember walking around the house in circles singing made-up songs while eating freezer burritos at odd hours of the day (or night). And it's true.
Oliver is turning two next month, and those all-encompassing baby days feel like a different time, a different Us. In many ways, dare I say it, Toddlerhood actually feels a bit harder. Lately Oliver has become extremely opinionated about what he will and will not wear -- and he enforces these opinions with fervor. Don't get near the kid with a button-down shirt. This week at least. He's obsessed with his rain boots and if it were up to him, he'd keep them on at all times, especially during meals. He insists on ketchup with everything (I created a damn monster), has learned the word "trash" and insists on throwing found items away on his own that really, truly are not trash. I came to pick him up from daycare the other day and he was randomly wearing a bike helmet -- his teacher mentioned he'd had it on most of the day and really, really didn't want to take it off. The kid has FEELINGS. I love that about him, and wouldn't want it any other way. But, man it's also exhausting.
It's been a uniformly gray and rainy week in Seattle, and I'd planned on making a big pot of salmon chowder to have for the weekend, but then the new issue of Bon Appetit landed on my doorstep with that inviting "Pies for Dinner" cover, and I started to think about how long it's been since I made my very favorite recipe from my cookbook, Whole Grain Mornings. I'm often asked at book events which recipe I love most, and it's a tough one to answer because I have favorites for different moods or occasions, but I'd say that this savory tart is right up there. The cornmeal millet crust is one of my party tricks; when we need a quick brunch recipe, this is what I pull out of my back pocket because it's so simple and delicious. This is a no-roll, no fuss crust with a slightly sandy, crumbly texture thanks to the cornmeal, and a delightful crunch from the millet. In the past, I've used the crust and custard recipe as the base for any number of fillings: on The Kitchn last year, I did a version with greens and gruyere, and I teach cooking classes that often include a version heavy on local mushrooms and shallot. So if you are not keen on salmon or have some vegetables you're looking to use up this week, feel free to fold in whatever is inspiring you right now. Sometimes at this point in winter that can be hard, so hopefully this recipe may help a little.