Tag Archives: home

how to reason with a stink bug


In case you ever have an infestation* of stink bugs,** allow me to share some hard-earned wisdom with you.

* Infestation consists of at least one sighting.

** Stink bugs, a.k.a Pentatomidae, are shaped like a shield and apparently emit a smell of rancid almonds if disturbed/squashed/or in any way hindered in their slow crawl across your couch.

1. First and foremost, proceed with caution. These are essentially the skunks of the insect world. In other words, upon seeing one, do not screech or flail your arms spasmodically. This could result in agitation and therefore stench.

2. Be complimentary. As in: “My, what a gallant and dignified creature you are – to which Order of Knights do you belong?”

3. Act interested. “So, I presume you’re residing in the attic. What, pray tell, brings you down to the living room?”

4. A little bit of graciousness and hospitality go a long way: “Thank you so much for stopping by. May I invite you to take a look at our lovely front door? From the outside?”

5. Distract with flattery: “That is my infant son you are walking toward. He is a young human, unable to greet you with the respect you deserve. He does not yet know how to shake hands, bow, or salute. Might I therefore suggest that you take your explorations in the opposite direction?”

6. Finally, if all else fails, resort to the kindly escort. “Can I, by any chance, interest you in a ride on this nice envelope containing a Citibank bill while encased in this clean glass, through which you can see many wonderful sights, including our entrance hall and our front porch?”

If he refuses this offer, then pick up your helpless child without visibly panicking, or, eh hem…”making a stink,” and flee to another room, or another house, or another country, whichever makes most sense at the time.


Are stinkbugs taking over your house and your life? Have you ever squashed one? Do they really smell that bad? Have any other insects or spiders had the nerve to come near your baby?

why you should never make deviled eggs while tending to a very-awake infant

egg half

1. Boiling water: it is imperative that boiling water does not get on, in, or anywhere near your Very Awake Infant (V.A.I.).

2. It goes without saying that you are attempting to make these tasty, bite-sized hors d’oeuvres to take to a party (surely nobody makes deviled eggs to eat whilst lounging on the couch?): It therefore also goes without saying that you are running late, in a rush, and fending off a fair amount of anxiety. After all, you haven’t exactly been a regular on the party circuit since V.A.I. hit town and you haven’t even begun to think about what you might fit into wear.

3. The result of #2 is shaky hands and an overwhelming desire to cut corners.

4. The consequence of #3 is a woefully clumsy session of peeling eggs that are still too hot, a situation that will in turn lead to:

a) Burned fingers.

peeling an egg

b) Bloody hands (as egg shell shards very quickly begin to resemble broken glass.)

c) Eggs as pocked and pitted as golf balls. (A far cry from the desired effect.)

messed up egg

5. While you are fighting the long yet frantic Battle of the Egg Shells, V.I.A. will be making a persistent and escalating eh-eh-eh sound nearby, which translates loosely to, “Please entertain me with a tap dance including complicated choreography and also perhaps a bit of melodic verse.” Since you obviously don’t have time to track down your old tap shoes, you hope that all the toys you have balanced precariously above his head will prove to be sufficiently amusing. They will not.

Ian in activity gym

6. If you use a food processor to combine ingredients instead of mashing them together with a fork and a little elbow grease (see “cutting corners,” above), you will save time on the front end but lose it again later that night when the apparatus needs to be cleaned. (Note that V.A.I. will still be eh-eh-eh-ing at that time.) (Note also that a food processor does make the eggy filling pleasingly smooth…)

deviled eggs food processor

7. And finally, the main reason you should never attempt to make deviled eggs while tending to a very awake infant, is that you probably haven’t had time to eat a proper meal today (okay, maybe for a few days) and you will therefore desperately want to treat yourself to a sample. This is impossible if you want to arrive at the party with a full dozen, or 24 halves, the pre-prescribed number of egg divots in the niche platter you got for a song at a Crate and Barrel outlet a while back.

deviled eggs

Take heart: while you may be a little worse for the wear, your eggs can still turn out delicious. As a matter of fact, isn’t that one of the earliest new parent-lessons? Difficult but good. Very good.

FYI – I used this very standard recipe; the one that came up first when I searched the internets. My only addition was dill, both in the mix and as a garnish. Have you ever made deviled eggs? Anyone else find it difficult to cook with a kid? (I know, rumor has it that it’s only going to get more challenging once he is actually mobile!)

what effect will all this food network have on my tiny child?

i love food network bib(image source)

You’d never guess that I went ten whole years without watching television – on principal, isn’t that just precious? – because ever since our son was born three months ago, I watch TV pretty much all the time. Hey, I’ve never been home this much. I won’t go into the embarrassing details of my recent watching habits (damn you, E!), but what I have on most is the Food Network.  It’s just background. It’s visual interest while I’m doing other things. It helps me imagine all the cooking and entertaining I don’t have the time or energy for these days. And it’s company – I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that, on some deluded level, I believe I’m buddies with all the hosts.

(Okay, I confess, have been battling this particular demon for a while now. In case you’re wondering, this is how you know You’re Watching Way Too Much Food Network. It’s a handy way to self-diagnose.)

Anyway, I try to not have Ian facing the boobtube (just the boob!), but I have to wonder what long-term influence the sound and atmosphere of all these cooking shows will have on his psyche. I wonder, for example, if he will:

  • Be inspired to become a world-renowned chef? (You know I’m resisting urge to google “baby chef hat.”)
  • Learn the skills to become a successful restauranteur?
  • Speak with Paula Dean’s southern drawl despite living in NY?
  • Become the only toddler who knows the backwards fact that “pork butt” actually comes from the pig’s shoulder?
  • Get in the pesky habit of speaking in acronyms, i.e E.V.O.O.? (I think this might already be happening – he’s suddenly making all kinds of sounds – if only we knew what they are short for…)
  • Develop an incorrigible cupcake addiction? (I can think of of worse things.)
  • I think the most likely result is that he will simply have a life-long penchant for diners. Or drive-ins. Or dives.

At some point, I suppose we’ll have to come up with a television policy – a number of hours per week, appropriate programming, etc. For now however, (reaching for remote control) let’s see what’s cookin’…

laundry room button art


Our laundry room is a crying shame. It’s dingy, it’s messy, it favors function over style a thousand-fold. This didn’t used to bother me. After all, it’s just a laundry room. But now that I have an infant and am doing approximately 65,000 loads of laundry per week, I find myself wishing it was a slightly nicer place to be. The best part about this laundry room is that it’s conveniently located on our main floor. But this can also be the worst part, i.e. if I accidentally leave the door open when friends stop by. Exhibit A (ok, I cleaned it up a bit for the photo shoot):

laundry room

I think we’ll eventually try to spruce up this room and do so with some color since the rest of our house is mostly white – I’m thinking black and white checkered floor, kermit green walls and a royal blue washer and dryer set. I’d like for it to be somewhat quirky — why not bring a modicum of fun to an activity that can feel like drudgery?

In the meantime, I wanted to share a little DIY I tackled a few months ago that has made a just a teeny bit of a difference in there and also served to organize my buttons so that I might actually use them. (Mind you, I did this pre-baby. Though this project didn’t take long, I’d unlikely have my hands free long enough to complete it now…)

First, I picked up a cork board from good ol’ Target. I chose frame-less but you could get one with a frame or even get several squares of those adhesive ones and cover a whole wall.  I also picked up a package of straight pins – I loved the colors of these:

straight pins

Then I gathered together all those extra buttons that came with sweaters or shirts over the years (or fell off clothing and never got re-attached…) I’m thinking: even if some of the sweaters are long gone, it’s possible their buttons will match a future piece of clothing. It was nice to have a variety of button sizes and colors to create some visual interest on the board.

I planned out my design by laying the buttons in the configuration I wanted – I went with my first initial but you could do a flower, a punctuation mark or something abstract.

button board

Once I had my idea set, I applied the buttons to the board by angling all the pins upwards slightly so that the buttons didn’t slide once I hung up the boards.  (Actually, I have to give a shout-out to Rob for reminding me about a little thing called gravity…)

And voila:

button board complete

Next time I need a button, all I need to do is go into the laundry room and choose the best one. And the next time I go in there to do a few loads of wash, I can look at this board and pretend that this is a fun place to be…

taxi, please!


So the theme of Ian’s nursery has turned out to be Nature and City: this wasn’t intentional but this is how it evolved. And I suppose it’s not that surprising…

For those of you who don’t know, Rob and I met when I was living in Manhattan and he was located in the South Bronx. We lived together in the South Bronx for a while before moving to the Nyack area, which is about 45 min from NYC. We are now excited to share both urban and suburban experiences with our son. In other words, we hope to keep enjoying all the great green space out here AND we intend to take him in to experience the art, food, music and general vibe of New York often.

Before I met Rob, I lived on the Upper East Side, on 75th Street between 1st Avenue and York. This means that I lived relatively far from any subway stations. It took me 12 minutes to walk to the 77th and Lexington Avenue stop. This isn’t that big of a deal UNLESS you are: 1. trudging through slush and snow 2. attempting to wear high heels 3. trying to not break a sweat 4. running very very late 5. nursing a bum knee/ankle/shoulder/pinky finger 6. carrying way too many bags filled with bricks.

Suffice it to say that I was usually dealing with at least five of the above conditions on any given day. This is why I often ended up hailing a cab. This is, in turn, why I often found myself bemoaning the price of cab fares to my mother while we were blabbing on the phone. And finally, this is why she took it upon herself (I swear I wasn’t angling for this) to occasionally drop cab money in the mail for me.  It was usually a 20 spot (or in her words, a “Jackson”) and was indeed spent rather quickly as I made my way around town.

Mind you, I was in my early/mid 30’s and could afford cabs (that is, as long as I skipped a few dinners). But his was cute of my mother. What made it cuter is that she drew these little taxi cabs with colored pencil on the outside of the envelopes. I saved these drawings and decided to get six them framed for Ian’s nursery.

taxi art

I had a custom matte made at Michael’s Craft Store and I couldn’t be happier with the end result. It hangs on one end of the full length mirror we installed horizontally:


Ian just took his first trip into the city this week. Considering how tucked and snug he was in his car seat, I don’t think he got to see any cabs this time, but he certainly got to hear a lot of them HONK! That’s not a sound we hear too much in our neck of the woods.

ian in the city

The crazy thing is that Rob was a cab driver back when he lived in San Francisco. Therefore, he’s one of the few city dwellers I’d met who didn’t think it was a big deal to drive all over the city and who also managed to GET PARKING SPACES (and usually right in front of his destinations). I found this to be very intrepid. Let’s just say that once we met, I didn’t have to take too many subway rides or hail many cabs. I’ve pretty much had door-to-door service ever since.

Of course, the taxi envelopes eventually stopped arriving in the mail, but I am so glad I saved them. I knew I’d want to use them some day; I just didn’t know how.

This is all to say: thanks Granny. Ian and I look at them every day an will for years to come.

commemorative mushroom…commemo-shroom?


So my girls, Sara, Susan and Sandra, hosted a super-fun baby shower for me in the fall. It was a delightful affair complete with excellent food, adorable gifts and a lot of laughs. One thing that made it extra special was this crazy ceramic mushroom. Everyone signed it to commemorate the event:



“Is this weird?” Sara asked me a few times. “Yes!” I answered, “And I love it!” Commemo-shroom did give everyone a good chuckle, sprouting up as it did between the cheese plate and the salad.

I couldn’t be more thrilled that Sara stumbled upon this it at a local mom and pop paint-your-own pottery place called Jill’s Ceramics located in West Nyack:


I enjoyed going there to pick it up after it was glazed. This place has just about everything under the sun that you can paint to make your own. They do events and kids parties – what fun:

IMG_1930 IMG_1928

You KNOW I’ll be going back to paint this. Lets call him my own personal truffle holder :


…And of course I’ll want to visit Teddy the Parrot:


…Not to mention Travis, the Llama, out back (!):


Love this guy – and so did Sara and her daughter, Nora:


Now, the mushroom is all glazed. It looks great in Ian’s nursery, poised up high (out of reach) on some little floating shelves in the corner (Container Store). It sits adjacent to his Miffy book and some teeny animal figurines his Aunt Marcy gave him:


As my friends and regular readers know (I suppose the home tome header says it all), I have a thing for mushrooms. So of course this isn’t the only shroomy item in Ian’s world. Check out this muslin burp cloth:


And these organic toadstool rattles from Uncommon Goods that my friend Josie got for him:

mushroom rattles Uncommon Goods

Thanks to all those who attended the shower and signed this special (and, yeah, somewhat strange) commemo-shroom – Sara, Susan, Sandra, Josie, Martina, Nancy, Bobbie Anne, Katie, Stefanie, and Rachelle – You know I love you girls!

And to the rest of my readers – I highly recommend Jill’s Ceramics (if you’re local) and, in general, I think these paint-your-own pottery pieces (storefronts where you can do this are all over the place) make wonderful commemorative gifts. Okay, maybe not everyone wants a mushroom…but a nice platter, a big salad bowl or decorative plate would certainly be appreciated by most…

cold day, warm salad

warm cauliflower salad ingredients

A blizzard blew through, dumping about a foot of snow. Fortunately, our bookgroup was still going to meet – in fact, our gathering was fast approaching and we were all supposed to bring some comfort food. (I didn’t read the book this time, which is a first, but I still had to go see my girls. FYI, they read The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe and didn’t, for the most part, give it good reviews. Next up: George Saunders’ story collection, Tenth of December.)

Anyway, I didn’t want to arrive both empty-headed and empty-handed, so I wracked my baby-adled brain, trying to figure out what to contribute. Let’s just say that since the arrival of young Ian, I haven’t exactly been…productive…in the kitchen. I’ve warmed up leftovers on the stove and given the microwave a good workout, but I haven’t fully cooked a single dish. I’ve left that to Rob, my mother-in-law Sandy (terrific turkey meatloaf! plentiful pea soup! lovely lasagna, etc! Talk about comfort food…) and my friend Ann-Marie who flew in from Florida for some quality time with Ian and to nonchalantly whip up some delicious ginger-maple pork loin, insane arugula-bacon-goat-cheese pasta, and, oh, just a bit of biscotti.

Hmm, what could I make that would be quick and somewhat comforting? I remembered a recipe from Gourmet Magazine, RIP, for warm Cauliflower salad that might fit the bill: I rifled through the recipes in my pantry. In fact, it turns out it appeared in the Valentines Issue exactly 10 years ago. How fitting:

Gourmet Feb 2003

Is it just me, or do cauliflowers look kind of like snow-covered trees?


This recipe is easy enough to complete during a newborn’s nap (I guess this is my new standard) and the result is quite tasty. All you need:

  • 1 small garlic clove (I use three)
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 flat anchovy, rinsed (I skip these – Look, if they happen to sneak into my food at a restaurant, I am cool with that, but I’m not about to actually peel open a can of those hairy little sea critters.)
  • 2 T drained capers, rinsed
  • 1 1/2 T fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 c extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 head cauliflower, 1 3/4 lb. (I bought pre-cut, which is so not cost-effective -but time is money, right? – and I still had to cut the florets down a bit anyway.)
  • 1/4 c firmly packed flat-leaf parsley

You just boil the cauliflower for a while until it’s soft but not crumbling. Then combine the rest of the ingredients into a dressing. While I frantically tried to get this done (imagine me giving the capers a rough, wild chop, parsley flying, and more lemon juice ending up on the counter than in the bowl), here’s what Ian was up to. Ah, so peaceful:

Ian in swing

You’re supposed to whisk in the olive oil at the end in a slow drizzle, but I knew that even though he was snoozing in his swing, my little mouse could start squeaking any minute, so I dumped it all in at once. If there are any professionals out there who want to tell me why the slow drizzle matters, I invite instruction.

Alas, here’s the final result in all its salty, zesty splendor:

warm cauliflower salad close up

Only problem: this warm salad was no longer warm after taking it out into the bitter cold…so I heated it up a bit in the microwave when I got to the host’s house.

Note: subsequent servings of this also heat up well with healthy dose of parmesan cheese.

magical mobile

sqrl & bee mobile 2

In honor of upcoming Valentine’s Day, I would like to share how much I heart this mobile we hung in Ian’s nursery. Rob picked it out on etsy. It’s by Sqrl & Bee Studio, the creations of Melissa Frueh. It’s colorful, whimsical, and made of sustainably farmed wool. When you blow on it or push it, it looks like a bunch of dancing planets.

This fiber artist makes all different versions of this mobile. This one happens to be called: “Circus Came to Town.” I wasn’t sure if it would work well with the city/nature theme we have going on in there or jive with the backdrop fabric we got at IKEA years ago, but it’s all just crazy enough to work.

The best part about this is that Ian (six weeks old) is also starting to love it. I present an action shot:

baby mobile

Now that his eyes are focusing more, he can while away whole minutes in his crib gazing northward. This new hobby/fascination allows his mom to wash a dish, put on her socks, get a few gulps of coffee, or…post this blog. Woo hoo! The question is: what is our little superhero thinking as he watches this magical mobile bounce…?


I had every intention of posting a big ‘ol blog about his entire nursery…turns out I’ll be sharing in installments, for obvious reasons, ha! Hope you are all well!

from the new new newness department

first day

We are glad to welcome Ian Fletcher Strati as the newest addition here at the home tome headquarters.  He “started” December 28 at 3:02 AM and has been heading up the Cute Department for two weeks now. Though he is new to the position, he is proving to be quite talented. Above, you can see him on his first day on the job. He was already good at holding hands.

We are pleased to see that he is already a fan of mushrooms. (Thank you Josie.):

Ian and mushrooms

He looks dashing in formalwear. (Thank you Sarah Z.):

Ian in Tuxedo

And he does a great imitation of a burrito. (Thank you Stefanie for the swaddling tutorials and blankets.):


Sometimes he does sleep on the job, (thankfully!) and proves that real men really can rock polka dots. (Thank you Cousin Annette for the moses basket).

Ian in Moses basket

His hands are extremely small, yet busy, and he requires regular manicures so that he does not self-destruct (i.e. scratch his face.) (Thank you, Dara, for your delicate expertise.):


Mostly, he is serving as a serious distraction to the other home tome employees. It’s admittedly difficult to blog, eat, sleep, pay bills, exercise or perform many formerly regular duties when we can now, instead,  just gaze at this:

Ian asleep

Stay tuned for notes on the the nursery…we have had WAY too much fun setting that up.

holly jollies


Let me start off this otherwise lighthearted holiday post by saying that I hope we can bring our baby boy (due Dec 26) up a country with less access to guns and more access to help for mental health. The news out of CT is gut-wrenching and my heart goes out to all those affected.


While we have been spending a lot of time in the last month decorating the nursery (you know there will eventually be a post on that) and trying to proactively earn a PhD in the finer points of baby swaddling, we have also squeezed in a little bit of Christmas. Okay, more than a bit. Here are some favorite holiday baubles we have around the nest, both old and new.

Like the arrangement above, which I call the “vignette.” We love this silver leaf floating shelf left behind by the previous owners. It seems a perfect spot for my first white poinsettia. I’m digging how this flower (plant?) goes with our 1932 New Yorker cover featuring none other than Santa (thank you Martina), and the “Hans Brinkner and his Sister” skating on a canal print I snaked (with permission) from my mom’s house last year. I suppose some day I’ll get around to framing those. That tall, flute-ish, flute-wielding angel is from Marshalls circa 2010. And the little slate Xmas tree to the left? I’ve been schlepping that little guy around for years – he was one of my first Christmas decorations.

We are also enjoying this macrame Santa made by my mother-in-law Sandy and given to us last year:

Macrame Santa

She made him for Christmas in 1976. I know my mom was also into macrame around this time and we had a few homemade hanging planters in our house back in Wisconsin, but I don’t personally know anything about it. Sandy told me she went to classes at a woman’s house in the neighborhood where they lived in Columbus, OH. She also learned how to make a Christmas tree that was so easy that she volunteered to teach some 4th and 5th graders how to make it. She remembers that there was a special project board she sat on her lap to help line up the knots and she had to pull the cords apart and brush the beard to make it look fluffy. (Cute.) She hung this in her Cape Cod-themed kitchen around the holidays for years. We are honored to have him in our kitchen now! (Don’t you think he’s a little bit gnome-ish?)

It’s difficult to express how happy this ornament makes me. My friend Martina gave it to me a few weeks ago:

smurf ornament

It should probably also be difficult to admit that The Smurfs were my favorite cartoon when I was a kid. But, in fact, it’s not: the Smurfs lived in MUSHROOM cottages, people! I shouldn’t have to justify myself further.

I’ve already shared the jaundice and replacement of our actual Christmas tree, but here’s our little disco tree:

disco tree

This was purchased by Rob four years ago – he used it to decorate his apartment in a super-magical way the night we got engaged at Rockefeller Center rink. I would be remiss to not mention here the Queen of Disco Christmas, Victoria Elizabeth Barnes – check out this blog – can you say sparkly?

I can’t claim to fashion anything near as elaborate as Victoria, but this year I did feel a bit clever when I hung some white star ornaments (Tarjay) from our dining room chandelier:

Star ornaments

I like how they look with the red berry twig things I try to get every year:

star ornaments red berries

And just because I’m not drinking wine at present doesn’t mean I can’t accessorize it, right? (I got these from the Sundance catalogue a few years ago.):

wine hat and scarf

Many of you know that for a while there, I made punctuation-themed ornaments for my friends and family. Then they stopped making/selling these exact frosted bulbs (or I couldn’t find them, anyway) so I discontinued. But here is the one that is displayed most prominently on our tree this year, as if to ask: When will our Christmas baby arrive? How will it all play out? What will he be like?

question mark ornament

This old-fashioned, polka dot skate from my friend Ann-Marie snazzes up our front entrance:

old fashioned skate

Speaking of our front entrance, I know I featured this last year, but I have to give a shout out to Rob Strati and his outdoor LED lighting installation fashioned around our pergola and culminating in a chandelier-ish centerpiece:

ornament chandelierornament chandelier pergola

Rob prefers that I do not refer to this “piece” as art, and I am trying to respect that. What I will do instead is brag that he has a fantastic solo art show in Brooklyn RIGHT NOW at Robert Henry Contemporary at 56 Bogart in Bushwick:

outlines Robert Strati

It is featuring his digital prints, wire sculptures (i.e. above) and a wonderful balloon installation. Check it out, or check out this link, anyway! He also has another show coming up in LA at Arena 1 in the Santa Monica Studios next month.

And finally, I leave you with an image of the very LAST pizzelle in the box:


These crisp, light, anise-flavored waffle cookies have fueled all of the above and have become a bit of a joke around our house because the word is so fun to say. Most obviously, this word nicely combines one part pizza and one part gazelle, but if you draw out that second syllable in an extremely breathy, theatrical fashion, as in pizzellllllllllllllllle, I promise it’ll feel good.

Hope you are enjoying your holidays…Will keep you “posted”!

Here are some other holiday decorations I have been admiring from fellow bloggers…check them out:

Aluminum tree and chalkboard tree from A Goode House: here.

Up-cycled star wreath at Northstory: here.

Pear and Cherry Christmas Root at Scrap and Salvage: here.