Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Happy Things: The Diffuser That Makes Our Home Smell Incredible

If you had stopped by our home before Waverly was born, I think you would have liked our vibe. We always had a great playlist (Nantucket Beach House Sunset, Sunny Summer Mood, Breezy Summer Soul Weekend. . .). The Palomas flowed and a Tapas-style meal would be languid and lovely as our favorite candlelit scents wafted up the night in our ocean, dream and enchanted glassybaby votives. Even now, if I just take the top off the Kringle Candle Aqua votive, I'm drawn back to balmy evenings with friends. It's such a good memory.

Let's talk about scents + memory for a minute. In his novel, "Rememberance of Things Past," Marcel Proust said that when he bit into a madeleine dipped in tea, he experienced an exquisite pleasure and vividly recalled memories of his aunt giving him this sweet before mass on Sundays and thus spawned 3,000 pages of recollections in seven volumes. See, your sense of smell is closely linked with memory and often a trigger for a past event.  When your nose detects a smell, the scent travels along the olfactory nerve to the brain and limbic system which controls memory, emotion and behavior. This is why when you smell the cologne your first crush wore, your stomach probably makes the same flip-flop giddy thing that it did when you had your first dance. It's also why realtors sometimes warm chocolate chip cookies in the oven when they host an open house. This scent makes you feel happy, cozy and at home. 

Now, here in our home in the present day, the music is still pretty chill (thank goodness Waverly, now three years-old likes Yacht Rock), we've turned to rechargeable evie tealights for our glassybaby votives and we're more into seltzer and quick dinners before bath time. The one thing that hasn't changed is our desire to have our home smell inviting and happy.  For safety reasons (a toddler in the house), we still burn our favorite candles when Waverly has gone to bed or on the kitchen island when I am preparing meals but during the day, we now use a diffuser. 

When I decided to buy a diffuser, I had five requirements: 

-  The tank would be over 200 ml, enough so that I could let it go all day
-  The diffuser had to fit into the decor since it would be placed on the console table, the first thing you see when you walk into our home
-  It had to be under $40
-  It needed to have a light feature
-  It would need to be easy to clean with little possibility for mold

As I do for most purchases, I started with an online search for best diffusers. My first choice for product research is always Wirecutter. Their reviews have never led me astray.  In this case, Wirecutter's #1 recommendation was the Urpower 300 ml Aroma Diffuser ($23.99) but while the tank was a good size, I couldn't get past the basic white plastic design that reminded me of a clinic. Also recommended was the  Vitruvi Stone Diffuser which I discovered in a number of recommended diffuser lists. I loved the clean lines but the tank only held 90 ml and I just couldn't justify the $105 price point. It also didn't have a light.

I did more research and stumbled onto the one I ended up purchasing, the Aroma Outfitters Diffuser ($35.99). I've been using it every day for two weeks and here is why this diffuser makes me so happy:

- The 230 ml tank lasts all day
- The LED light allows the user to change the color to your preference or no light at all
- The stream of ultrasonic mist is adjustable. We have an open floor plan so we set it to high and the scent wafts through our entire home
- It's beautiful. The exterior cover, which fits over the white plastic tank, looks like marble in shades of white and cobalt blue 
- Bonus! It comes with a remote!
I also researched essential oils and I bought several essential oils from Aromatech, including Love Affair The Hotel and Ocean Breeze . A 10ml of Aromatech essential oils is $29.99. It's an investment but the bottles are a generous size and you only need a couple of drops to scent your home for the whole day.   I also picked up organic eucalyptus, balsam and orange essential oils from Whole Foods.

Using this diffuser is easy. At 6am,  the first two things I do before I wake up Waverly is make an iced espresso and prepare the diffuser for the day which is really just rinsing our the tank, drying it gently and refilling it with water and a couple of drops of whatever essential oils I am in the mood for that day. (It isn't essential to rinse the tank out each time you use it. However, because I run the diffuser for most of the day, I like to start each day with a fresh tank and a new scent.)

Since we started using the diffuser, every morning when I wake Waverly up and we toddle together, hand-in-hand downstairs, she looks up at me and says "Mama, it smells SO good in here." That is all I could ever hope for - that when she is older and she passes by night-blooming jasmine or she bites into an effervescent orange that she is reminded of how very much we laughed and loved in our home. And someday, when we have friends and family over again, I hope they feel the same way too. 

Monday, September 21, 2020

happy food: Trader Joe's Rustic Apple Tarte

All summer long I am a coconut gurl. Coconut flavored creamer in my coffee, dried unsweetened coconut flakes as a snack,  coconut cream pie. . . Then literally September first arrives and I become an apple girl. Spiced cider, cold crisp apples to bite into, warm apple crumb pie, apple bread pudding and French toast with warm apple butter. Especially this fall, all I want to do is get cozy with the scents of apple and pumpkin wafting through our home. 

As I was stocking up at Trader Joe's this week, I picked up a package of their Rustic Apple Tarte, a fall staple at Trader Joe's for at least the last five years. I baked it last night  while we enjoyed Cacio E Pepe for dinner and even out three year-old asked "What IS that cooking?" If you want your home to smell like a cozy home in Vermont, pick up this tart which is a heavenly meld of apples, cinnamon, cream cheese, almonds and sugar baked into a flaky, buttery crust. 

This seasonal $4.99 tart is found in the frozen section and is a no-effort dessert (350 oven for 20 minutes). Serving size: 1/4 pie at 370 calories/slice.

Monday, August 31, 2020

how we are teaching our toddler to be an ally

There are some events in life that you know change how you move forward in the world. George Floyd's unimaginable death was one of those events  During the days following his death, I laid awake at night thinking of George's family and of all of the other acts of violence and racism that led up to this moment. I closely followed the social media accounts of those I trusted and started following new accounts like @theconsciouskidlib and @rachelcargle. I was mad. I needed to channel my feelings into something positive. I needed guidance. I needed to know what to tell our toddler so that in her lifetime, there would be too many people on the side of good for this to happen again.  I needed to be an ally and I wanted to gather all the tools my husband and I needed to help our daughter use her voice and become an ally too.

Since the day Waverly was born, we have told her that she is loved beyond measure, that she is kind and loving, brave, tolerant and resilient.  Recently, though, I've come to believe that this isn't enough. It's too vague.  It isn't enough to be tolerant of others. Tolerance = quiet and complicit. To be a good citizen of this world, means being an active participant in the support of others. It's about being an anti-racist and an ally when you see injustice.

As I researched how to best educate Waverly (3 years-old), I realized that I needed to educate myself too. I started gathering lists of recommended books on racism for adults and for kids and I found two great bookstores, Ashay by the Bay and Mahogany Books (both Black-owned bookstores). I spoke with brilliant women who helped guide me in my choice of books, best appropriate to Waverly and I. They were back-ordered for awhile but they started arriving in a flutter over the last several weeks.

While Waverly naps, I read my books (I started with "So You Want to Talk About Race?") and then Waverly and I curl up in the sun together reading her books. We talk the beauty of Black hair and the multitudes of colors of skin and how we stand up for someone. We takes about countries and lovely melodious names. We talk about what it means to be an ally. The children's books are teaching me just as much as they are teaching her. 

Even though she is three years-old, I've loosely told her about George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor.  I don't think it's ever too early to help shape her future and how she treats others and stands up for her beliefs. 

At night before we go to sleep, we pray. Waverly has said their names, George, Ahmaud and Breonna as she prays to God. After our prayers and our songs, I tuck her into bed. Along with a stuffed dog that looks like our dog in heaven and a Virgin Mary soft doll, she holds tight to one of her dollies, including Gabrielle, a Black baby doll. I watch her as she closes her eyes and nestles into her baby and I know that Bob Marley was right. With love, every little thing's gonna be all right.

Our List of Books


Friday, May 22, 2020

how to get over embarrassment, a personal story

I have a bad habit of replaying an embarrassing situation that I have been in, over and over in my mind. The scene plays out on repeat in my head. This week, I did something that made me feel stupid.  I laid awake at night ruminating over my mistake and wondering what other people must think of me. It's something I have done my entire life. I just don''t give myself a break. After staraing at the clock most often night, I decided that I needed to stop the cycle. By thinking about it, I was just cementing the situation on my mind. Then I came across an article about exactly this thing.

In the article, the author suggested the reader think of the last embarrassing thing they remember a friend doing. Think about it now. You probably can't think of something, right? I couldn't. She reasoned that most people couldn't recall an embarrassing situation about someone else close to them. You are (more than likely) the only person who remembers.

This made me feel better. We have such a tendency to be cruel to ourselves and yet when a friend needs encouragement, we unconditionally provide love and support. We say "It doesn't matter. It's done. No one will remember this."

As I look back on my life, there were times when I did things that were humiliating at the time but now I can laugh at my naiveté or my clumsiness (I have no coordination. At all.) So, if you need to feel better about something you've done that makes you shake your head and think "Why did I do that?" this should make you feel better.


Several years ago, I decided I needed a new hobby so after watching "East Pray Love" I registered for Italian for Beginners at a local  college. One the first day, our very chic Professoressa (from Sardinia) asked us to write out a place card with our name that we would place in front of us on our desks. She said, "And include your title!"

I don't know what came over me but instead of Signora, Signorina or Signore, my mind went to titles as in Contessa, Principessa, Marchesa and Baronessa. I thought "Sure, OK! Let's have fun with this!" so I wrote my title and name down and placed the card on my desk.

It was then that I noticed that my classmates had written their equivalent Italian title + their name i.e. Signore Paolo, Signorina Caterina. Then there was me. My place card read Principessa Taylor. It was too late to change my card. I watched as Professoressa scanned each person along with their card and addressed them by their title and name.  Then she got to me and she started to laugh. I was wildly embarrassed by my  faux pas but Professoressa chuckled as she said "OK, Principessa Taylor. Buongiono!" And that is what she addressed me as for the entire semester - Principessa. After several weeks it just seemed as normal as being called Signora but at the time I felt ridiculous for making such an idiotic mistake on my first day. 

Other than this mistake and the inability to not speak Italian without using my hands, the semester was so fantastico that I went on to take Italian II and this Principessa was very sad to say ciao to one very understanding Professoressa

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