The Art of the Out-of-Office (& Friday Links)



Does anyone remember this post from a few months back on the “tyranny” of email? aka “Reply-all will be the death of me”? I was just again talking to someone about the pleasure of being unable to check one’s email while on vacation and it got me thinking about out-of-office messages.

There was a wonderful story in the New York Times last month called “The Art of the Out-of-Office Reply,” that details some of the variety of approaches people take to discourage the pile-up of messages. I recognized myself in one of the more wishy-washy ones: “frank admissions that the person on the other end of the email is actually available in some way, just less likely than usual to respond to you.”

But two alternatives really stood out. First:

“For the Dallas Morning News book critic Michael Merschel, a recent trip was an opportunity to do many things at once with his out-of-office. The first few sections covered the usual territory, including a few admonishments about how and who to correctly pitch.

For recipients curious enough to continue scrolling down, though, there was a heartfelt explanation of the reason for his absence: ‘I want you to imagine a middle-aged man who fell in love with a beautiful baby girl almost 18 years ago, and now he is driving her to a gigantic college in a distant city filled with all kinds of people who do the things people do at college … and he has to leave her there. And drive home alone. In the dark. In a minivan.'”

Shivers! Get the kleenex. How wonderful is that?!

And second:

“Correspondents who tried emailing The Toast editor and Texts From Jane Eyre author Mallory Ortberg in July received an email with the subject line ‘nope.’ ‘I am currently on vacation and not accepting any emails about anything. I’m not planning on reading any old emails when I get back, either, because that feels antithetical to the vacation experience.'”

Wow. Something to think about come holiday season—or the next time an out-of-office is warranted.

Some more items of note…


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On the Wall: Sourcing large art


Going For A Swim by Whitney DealOne of the questions I get most frequently is about where to find large-scale photos and art for walls—and where to get them framed. We opted for large pieces over a gallery wall in both our living room and our dining room.

It’s a good question: it’s hard to find quality prints at sizes that look properly scaled above a sofa or a bed. And it’s expensive to get them framed.

Recently, I learned that Minted had expanded their Wall Art Collection to include large-scale prints (with a framing option)—and there are so many great pieces. They have a range of mediums—drawings, paintings, photographs. I selected some of my favorites to share.

Seaside by Alexandra Nazari

The Beach by Baumbirdy

I’m really drawn to deserts (like this) and beaches lately—something about moving to California and seeing palm trees outside our window seems to have done that to me.

Summer Yellow Cactus & Blue Cactus by Wilder CaliforniaFullness I & Fullness II by Alexandra Feo

One option is to pair two large images side by side or vertically, if you have a particularly large space in need of an anchor.

Violet Intertube 1 by Annie Seaton

And while I particularly like to see photographs printed large, I couldn’t help but include this girl in the inner tube—it reminds me of Wayne Thiebaud’s paintings of his family at the beach.

If you’re going to get one of the Wall Art prints framed, do so before the 24th and get free shipping with the code ARTFRAMEDFS.

P.S. Other reasons to love Minted: holiday cards with pre-addressed address service and adorable new personalized kids’ name labels for back-to-school. (And you can get free shipping on those—over $39—with the code SCHOOLFS through 8/24).

Thank you to Minted for sponsoring this post. As ever, all opinions expressed are my own. 

Pictured: Going for a Swim | Seaside | The BeachSummer Yellow Cactus | Blue Cactus | Fullness I | Fullness II | Violet Inner Tube I

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Laundry Secrets


All Rights Reserved
All Rights Reserved

Have you heard of soap nuts? I hadn’t.

I recently learned about an Artisan-box subscription service with a great cause, called GlobeIn—they curate “beautiful, distinct products that give global reach to remote artisans and farmers from around the world.” My first box—the laundry box—contained a beautiful Upcycled laundry bag from Cambodia, a palm-leaf basket from the Mixteca region of Mexico, a fair-trade cotton bag from India, wool dryer balls from the Altyn Kol Women’s Cooperative in Kyrgyzstan, and these soap nuts: fruit shells from the ritha tree in Nepal that release a natural detergent called saponin.

You can read all about the Artisan Laundry box and the way its products contribute to the livelihoods of their makers, here.

But I want to know who has tried using soap nuts before? (At first I thought they were nutmeg shells.) What do you think? From what I can tell, they’re used in places for washing hair, too.

The note in the box had a list of tips—like adding a dash of black pepper to brights to prevent color from bleeding! Also news to me.

So please spill: What other laundry secrets am I not yet privy to? 

All Rights Reserved

All Rights Reserved

Interested in learning more about GlobeIn’s Artisan Boxes? You can subscribe for or buy individual boxes as gifts. And if you are interested in subscribing, you can get 25% off your first month’s box with the purchase of a 3-month or longer subscription with the code HITHER.

If you’d like to start a subscription with this specific box—the Laundry kit (with soap nuts!)—you have until this Wednesday, the 19th. Every month brings a new theme.

All Rights Reserved

This post is sponsored by GlobeIn. GlobeIn seeks out beautiful, well­made products and traces their origin to ensure that they are doing social good. They share those stories to take the burden out of buying better. Photos courtesy of GlobeIn.

P.S. The trick to using baskets to get organized. And our laundry room makeover.

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Tiny house: Small-space living



When we were in New York, it was not uncommon to find yourself invited into a 200-or-so square foot apartment, books piled under a kitchen sink that had toothbrushes beside it, belying its double-duty. It was always a thrill to see how friends and acquaintances managed to make these tiny spaces into homes. 

Our own studio apartment felt grand by comparison, all 55o-square-feet. It’s hard to imagine all three of us fitting now—now that there are four of us and a dog. We seem to accumulate toys the way the latter’s fur can attract foxgloves in an empty field (hardly trying). So I’m always particularly interested and inspired by tiny-home-dwellers who can truly call themselves minimalists. 

Shayne’s story goes a (giant) step beyond: She built it!

I asked Shayne Hodgkin if she would be willing to share how she came to build a home atop a 15′ by 8’6” car trailer and thankfully she obliged… 


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The 10 Easiest DIY Wall Hangings


No Weave Wall Hangings

By Anna Smith of Annabode.

Hey! It’s Anna again, from Annabode, here to share with you today a round-up of my all-time favorite DIY wall hangings.  I always ogle the beauty and texture of woven hangings on Pinterest, but all that time spent in front of a loom makes me want to run in the other direction.  I consider myself a pretty lazy DIYer—if I can’t finish it quickly or if it requires a lot of detail work, then I simply leave it to the professionals.  (Like Maryann Moodie—she’s a textile rockstar).

That’s why I’ve gathered the 10 easiest DIY wall hangings from around the web, no weaving required! Each of these bloggers has created something lovely and textural that won’t have you pulling your hair out (admittedly I’ve snuck one of my own in here, too).  Whether it’s a hack of an existing textile or a minimalist yarn creation, I hope these projects inspire you to create something of your own!


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Shopping Abroad: On bringing back furniture from Bali





I sometimes look around our living room, realizing how many things are from the vacation we took just before moving in, and wonder if our lives would look very different had we been in Belgium rather than Bali. Seven of the items in the second photo are from our month in Indonesia.

And a lot of readers have asked about our experience bringing furniture back from Bali. I hope that means a lot of lucky readers are going to that beautiful island. But I imagine some of this could be helpful for anyone shopping abroad.

Here’s our story…


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Living Clean: A Laundry Makeover (part 2)



I can’t tell you how much happier I am doing laundry in a bright, organized room!

You might recall, I was prompted to give our laundry room a mini-makeover as part of my commitment to use good, clean, and more sustainable products from Made to Matter, Handpicked by TargetTM.

We cleared out the clutter—part purge, part redistribution (e.g. swim goggles and pool towels by the pool, dog’s travel crate in the garage); we painted those red cabinets a more soothing grey; and we added a variety of boxes and baskets to add more concealed storage and free up some wall space. It makes the room feel much bigger! There are actually two windows in there, so it gets plenty of natural light—you just wouldn’t have known it from all the stuff we’d crammed in!

Here’s the before again…


…and the after.

We might add shelves to the wall over the washer/dryer eventually, but we freed up enough space to keep everything more spare for the time being.

Some favorite changes:



We switched out the outdated hardware on the cabinet doors and painted the cabinets grey. An electrician moved the light to the wall above the door for us.



I bought a set of matching Rubbermaid Bento Boxes (and added Room Essentials chalkboard labels) for storing things like sunscreens and bug repellants, lightbulbs and batteries, and supplies for sewing repairs.


We installed shaker-style peg rails (for hanging towels, cleaning supplies, and market totes).


We replaced some of our mismatched bathroom towels, and moved the old ones into a car-wash bin.

We added a valet bar behind the door for hanging shirts to dry. (Did I mention that I don’t own an ironing board?)

I used canning jars to store clothes pins and dog treats—and kept an empty one handy for emptying pockets of things like loose bills and change… or chapstick (that I had a tendency to melt).

We added a wall clock. We were on the fence about whether we needed a clock in the room, but I like glancing at the wall to remember when I started a load of wash.

Finally, an update on restocking our shelves from the Made to Matter, Handpicked by TargetTM collection:

I feel good about replacing our bathroom tissue and paper towels with 100% recycled products. And I found that that making that switch made me more conscious about using reusable cloths where appropriate, too. The Seventh Generation laundry detergent does everything our old brand did, but with less packaging (it’s ultra concentrated)—which is nice, especially when you’re trying to maximize your storage. And while I like to use free & clear laundry soap for the kids, I found that I love the smell of Method’s pink grapefruit hand wash (smells so clean) and all-purpose surface cleaner. Finally, I love the clean look of everything in the cupboards—it’s, well… delightful!

P.S. This is the third part of a series about giving the Made to Matter, Handpicked by TargetTM  collection a try. See my interview with the founders of Method and my first post on cleaning up and making over our laundry room with “before” photos.

This post is sponsored by TargetThe Made To Matter line has been handpicked by Target to bring you brands that make things better for your you, your family, and the place we all call home.

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Living Clean: A Laundry Makeover (part 1)


There’s a reason why all of those house tour posts never showed our laundry room: it’s a huge mess!

I figured, if I’m going to stick with my commitment to live clean with non-toxic, sustainable products from the Made to Matter, Handpicked by TargetTM collection, I should do it in a (clean) laundry room that makes me want to spend a little time in there. There is a skylight, after all!

So in addition to stocking up on recycled paper towels and high efficiency laundry detergent from Seventh Generation and method, I’ve been bringing home lots of storage boxes and baskets, poring over inspirational (aspirational) images of laundry rooms on Pinterest, hunting down the perfect peg rail, and replacing dingy plastic scrub brushes with pretty wood ones. (You know, so I’ll use them more.)

[Pictured above: Towels / Wire Baskets (and the boxes I’ll use inside the cabinets) / Seagrass Baskets / Market Tote / Laundry Truck (similar) / Dustpans (red & green) / Wall Clock / Peg Rail / Made to Matter Household Goods]



Here’s what it looks like now. In my wildest dreams, we’d move all of the hookups so that the washer and dryer are stacked on the back wall; we’d get a tankless water heater to save on space; and that water softener would go somewhere else to free up the corner. Then we’d have someone come in and build custom cabinetry. But realistically, I think a little paint, a little purging, and a lot of reorganizing will go a long way.

What do you think about the grey for the cabinets? I’m leaning toward a very pale, cool grey (like the one on the upper right) at the moment, but it will probably be a last-minute call.

As for what’s inside, we’re cleaning up our act. I think we’ve moved that bleach with us at least twice, but we never use it. I think I have it because my mom did. (Sort of like my iron.)


[1. Dustpan and brush / 2. method Glass + Surface / 3. Utility brush / 4. Seventh Generation Laundry Detergent / 5. method Wood Surface Cleaner / 6. Feather duster / 7. method Smarty Dish tabs / 8. method Daily Shower Cleaner, method Bathroom Cleaner, and method All-Purpose Cleaner / 9. Seventh Generation 100% Recycled Bathroom Tissue]


A little paint, some new hardware, and a change in routine. Stay tuned.

P.S. My first post on committing to using products from the Made to Matter, Handpicked by TargetTM collection: a chat with method founders, Adam Lowry and Eric Ryan.

This post is sponsored by TargetThe Made To Matter line has been handpicked by Target to bring you brands that make things better for your you, your family, and the place we all call home.

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Living Clean. Talking method.



Over the next few months, I’m going to be trying a little experiment. I’m going to clean up my (cleaning) act.

Have you heard of “Made to Matter, Handpicked by TargetTM”? Target has handpicked a group of high quality products and brands who have been tasked with making these sorts of better for you products more accessible. Some of the collection are products you already know—from brands like method and  Seventh Generation—others will be new innovations (exclusive to Target).

So I’m going to toss the bleach to the curb (okay, definitely not literally) and see how well these products work.

This is all out of my range of expertise, so:  first step was a chat with Adam Lowry and Eric Ryan, the guys who founded method. I wanted to know about how these two Bay Area friends became passionate about cleaning. (And if it involved magic, could they work some of that on me please?)


Turns out it was probably very much like what really got Aron cleaning, too: living with a bunch of other guys in a dirty apartment in San Francisco. (Only whereas Aron decided to move down to Southern California to live with his girlfriend, these two got serious about becoming social entrepreneurs. Equally brilliant moves, of course.)

They decided they wanted to make relevant cleaning products that they could be proud of—products that would be less toxic, to human health and to the environment, and still… delightful. That was Adam’s word: simple products that would be relevant, desirable, and delightful. “It’s the only way we can all make greener products mainstream.”

Here are a few other highlights from our conversation… 

On Being Part of Made to Matter, Handpicked by TargetTM
I was curious to know how they felt about being grouped with these other brands (who I’m sure compete for business), and was interested to hear about they feel joined by a desire to create a lasting social impact. “Most of us—the founders, the CEOs—know each other well. We are a group of people with a common belief, and we know that Target is a great platform for consumer change… It’s like ‘Go big or go home!’”

I could tell they were proud of being part of a movement they believe in. And it was inspiring! Their record was inspiring.

On Their Priorities 
“It starts with human health.” We talked about the “dirty ingredient list,” but they said the trick is not to have a product that works and then remove these but rather to design from the ground, up. “There’s a fear of green not working. So we have to be sure everything is safe, preferably recyclable, and super-effective” The idea is that having the green seal on this collection will take some of the guesswork out of making good choices for one’s family and, by extension, the planet.

On Their Bright Colors
I had to admit to them, I’d always been a little skeptical about those pretty colors. Why a red soap for a green brand? I thought the reason was really compelling: They explained that it has to do with the overall footprint of the product. It takes a whole lot of dye to color a plastic bottle (that may then be rendered non-recyclable) but only a tiny amount to color a liquid inside a clear, degradable bottle. (I felt like I was quizzing them and I should ring a little bell before saying, Family-Feud-style, “Good answer! Good answer!”) And, well, color is pretty. And delightful. And you can match your soap to your bathroom!

Finally, I had to ask… 

About Where To Eat Around Their San Francisco Office
“Wayfare Tavern. And the best Dim Sum is right around the corner (near the Trans-America building): City View Restaurant.”

You know I love Dim Sum—nothing better than food passing immediately on carts when you’re out with an impatient toddler (we usually go to Yank Sing)—so I’m eager to give it a try!

Thanks, guys!

This post is sponsored by Target. The Made To Matter line has been handpicked by Target to bring you brands that make things better for your you, your family, and the place we all call home.

Where we blog from
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Our Home Office (and Friday Links)




Thank you again for letting me share our home tour this past week! It’s been a lot of fun and, as usual, you have all been so generous and kind.

This is the last of it—our office. I spend quite a bit of time in this room, so we just had a skylight added to get more of that uplifting natural light! I was amazed, actually, at how straightforward it was. It’s just as you might imagine: you simply have a giant hole cut into the ceiling and someone puts in a window. Best decision! There are actually lots of skylights in the house—there’s even one in the laundry room—so I thought it only seemed fair…

I’ve shared some details about this room already. You might recall this Ikea Chair Hack and this Ikea Bookshelf Hack?

Here are some links for your weekend… 


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Our Home: Backyard



Having a backyard to spend time outdoors in was most definitely what we were most excited about when it came to moving into a new home in California. And though we had a ton of furniture to buy for inside (coming from a small, studio apartment), we agreed that the number one priority was furnishing and tending to the backyard. We knew that those purchases would go most directly toward making us feel happy about the move from New York, and give us the most dramatic sense of an increased quality of life.

Simply the addition of outdoor space was plenty to be happy about (okay, that, and the bit of trivia that there’s an average of 300 sunny days a year here).  But there was still a lot we wanted to do in the yard.


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Our Home: Living Room and Dining Room




We moved to Davis nearly two years ago now, and I feel like it’s been almost as long that I’ve been saying I’d like to do some home tour posts. For some reason or another, I just kept putting it off—maybe it felt like too much of a work-in-progress for me. But then our friend, Joanna Goddard asked about featuring it on her site, A Cup of Jo, and it finally gave me the push I needed to take what we’ll call “after photos” (for simplicity’s sake, because while we’re really excited about the house as it looks now, the word feels a bit too final for me). The post went live with an interview last week!

So I thought it might be fun to share my favorite (long overdue) “after” photos this week—some from the feature, some not previously shared—along with a few of their “before” counterparts.


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Last year, around this time, we were just planning our garden: planting citrus trees and succulents, and making room for plots of Sungold tomatoes. We were also hoping to address an aphid problem. One way to do so, is to encourage beneficial insects—like ladybugs and lacewings—to take care of them, rather than use pesticides. Sounded good to us!

But even more appealing, to be honest, was the chance to play in the garden with Hudson—who was, at the time, just getting really excited about dirt and worms and rolly-pollies and the like. He would surely love to release ladybugs!


Date night
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Home inspiration (and minimal bohemian-ism)





Sometimes (rarely, but sometimes) on Pinterest, I realize that I’m repinning or—as the case happened to be—have already pinned image after image from the same source, the same single post. That happened to me last week, when Eva at Sycamore Street Press posted lovely light-filled images of living rooms, and coined the phrase “minimal bohemian” to describe the aesthetic she had just recognized as hers. And I felt like saying, “Yes!” “Exactly!” “Mine too!” Minimal. Bohemian. Love it.



Until now, I’ve sort of thought one might give it the name California Bohemian (if one were to need to), or something that implied mixing comfortable with “desert modern”; something that felt a little bit Angeleno, if you know what I mean. But it turns out I should be looking to Australia, if this home is any indication. (All of the incredible wood-pieces are by the homeowner, Mark Tuckey. They remind me a little of these incredible Alma Allen pieces we saw at Heath SF.)

Then again, this one, in—yes—East Los Angeles is equally inspiring at the moment…

LA collage


“Minimal bohemian.” I like it.

P.S. Find all of my interior/home design boards on Pinterest.

[Images of the Tuckeys’ home in North Sydney via The Design Files; Images of Jed Lind and Jessica de Ruiter’s home via Martha Stewart Living Blog]

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Ikea Hack: Office Bookshelves


Bookshelves Hack
Bookshelves Hack

When we first moved into our home, I talked about my fondness for the Dieter Rams’ Universal Shelving, sold by Vitsœ. And we came quite close to calling the company to get started. You might recall that I said they made a great case for starting small with the “starts-cheap-but-gets-exorbitant-quickly modular system.” They really did. But I still couldn’t do it. The shelves and E-track were reasonable, but the drawers (which I really wanted) started in the $800-1000 range (each).

Lo-and-behold, Ikea came through again. Their STOLMEN closet system bore some striking resemblances. The only issue: the shelving system is designed as a closet system, so everything is centered along long axis poles that you fix to the ceiling or wall, to allow for hangers extending out on both sides. However, if you’re hoping to store books on the shelves, you want those shelves to back up flush to the wall to keep things from falling backward into a large gap. If all of your shelves are the same width, no problem. If you want to include deeper drawer units, here’s how you might avoid this…


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Happy six years, Hither & Thither!



It’s been a fantastic year. I can’t believe this past Sunday marked six years of blogging on Hither & Thither. It continues to inspire me—owing so much to the feedback and comraderie I get from readers, but also thanks to the joy of having an outlet to practice skills like writing and photography and to the joy of documenting and sharing personal milestones. I would have never expected this to become the rewarding work that it has, when Aron and I first started building the space together on that cold January day. (He wrote the first post! With no photos!)

I really enjoyed looking back over highlights last year, at five years, and hoped you might again, too. (Warning: it’s a long one!) …


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Getting organized: Calendar wall



With baby girl’s arrival imminent (I’ve entered that limbo where I’m physically uncomfortable enough to be done being pregnant, but not yet mentally ready to have a newborn—the latter keeping me hoping her arrival is not too imminent), I’m thinking it’s time to get more organized.

I’ve seen (and engaged in) a lot of discussions lately about electronic versus paper calendars and such. I definitely refer to my Google Calendar for appointments and such, but I need a more visual way of organizing ideas. The result is that I often end up with is lists jotted on various scraps of paper—which I may or may not come across again at opportune moments.

On the heels of learning about how decor affects productivity, I love the idea of a giant calendar wall like this one (in the Oz-based studio of The Design Files), but wonder if it might make my office feel too messy or cluttered. (And imagine if Hudson got his hands on it.) This particular one is used in the service of blog-content creation, and I think it’s especially nice how it allows for ideas to be easily manipulated from a brainstorming pool onto a calendar grid. I’m going to give it a go, however, on a smaller version by SugarPaper.

But this leads me to a bigger question that I hope you’ll help me with, as part of the getting-organized bit means I need to (would like to) start planning blog content further ahead: What content would you like to see more of this year? Emails or comments (anonymous or otherwise) are always welcome!

[Image of calendar wall published in Dwell, September 2013 issue]

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