back to school groove with grovemade wooden desk accessories

Admit it. You feel pangs of jealousy as watching kids go back to school. No, not about the anxiety of grades or making new friends, but of the gear. Why don’t they make a freshly sharpened pencil room freshener? Just thinking about it is enough to make you feel like studying.


Well, we’ve found some grown up desk accessories that will spruce up your office and inspire your next great great project. Grovemade – the company that makes exceedingly cool device cases — has expanded into making more traditional gadgets sing with their new desk collection. Made with materials that beg to touched, like smooth walnut and handcrafted leather, the items are both gorgeous and practical. The monitor stand raises your work up higher and prevents slouching. The keyboard tray has matching wrist and mouse pads. And since we still appreciate the tactile, there’s a pen and paperclip holder and groovy succulent planter.


Finish things off with a walnut desk lamp, $99, a modern take on an Edison bulb.

Visit Grovemade to see the whole desk collection.

From our partners

post off: what kind of office chair do you use?

It’s a sad fact that most of my adult life will be spent in an office chair. I’m lucky that ones I have been provided have mostly been very ergonomically friendly, such as the Herman Miller classic Aeron. But as more and more articles arise about the dangers of a life spent sitting, I’m looking for alternatives. I don’t know if I’m ready to switch to a standing desk — and one of these peddle spinning contraptions is much too much. Perhaps the best alternative is a ball chair. I’ve given into the wonders of a bouncy ball before, specifically when our daughter Isadora was first born. We kept a large yoga ball in bedroom, and in the wee hours in the morning when she was awake and I was zombie-like, I would sit and hold her my arms and bounce, bounce, bounce. It did wonders for her mood, not to mention my thighs. Unfortunately most ball chairs are look like they belong in some kind of hideous man-cave straight out of the eighties. That’s why this fuzzy beauty from Pottery Barn Teen caught my eye. How fun is that? Underneath the shag is an inflatable exercise ball. Ergonomic and chic? I’m worried that I’ll be laughed out of the Time Life Building where I work (remember, it’s where Mad Men is set — very traditional.) For $129 I might just have to give it a try.

What do you think? Do you work in an office all day? What kind of chair do you sit on?

From our partners

blik’s new surface skins: decals for furniture — yay or nay?

As I type this I am looking at a plain, pine desk surface. It’s about as exciting as a bowl of cereal without milk. After seeing what can be done with Blik’s news Surface Skins, I’m beginning to imagine a bright future for my dull office. A new line of durable, cleanable, self-adhesive art work, it is re-imagining “contact paper” of our past: This is is meant for the outside of the drawers. Blik has launched Surface Skins with 12 designs to choose from, but there will be more coming soon. I personally, would love to see one that looked like this (spotted in artist JR’s studio on My favorites from the current line are Broadway (not sure why Broadway means beetles?) and Homage (it has a little Damien Hirst vibe to it). From watching the video they look simple to install, but what I want know is how does it hold up to a hot mug of coffee?

What you think? Decals for furniture: Yay or nay?

From our partners

seattle to chicago to seattle: finding a home for good

Last summer, I asked for advice on switching a living room with a dining room in a house I was renting in Chicago. I got some great responses, and I hope the people who now live in that house have taken that advice to heart, because just a few months after that post, my husband and I did something that shocked us (and quite a few of our friends, family members, and coworkers) but also made complete sense: I left my job, we packed everything up, and for the second time in six months, we moved cross-country. This time, we reversed the trip, moving back into the Seattle home we’d been unable to sell, and in the process finding home for good. It was a long, painful, and quite expensive (sigh) lesson. And here’s what we learned:

1) Listen to your gut. After we moved to Seattle from Ohio in late 2006, my husband and I had our issues with not being near family and longtime friends, not to mention the fact that it literally rained every single day the first month we were in town. But thanks to easy access to both fresh and salt water, mountains, and incredible forests (even within city limits), we said over and over, “I feel like we were meant to live here.” That’s something I should have carefully considered before I took a job in the Midwest again.

2) Don’t be afraid to change course. We are very, very lucky, and I know this. When we decided to leave Chicago, not only were my bosses incredibly understanding (One told me, “You have to be where it feeds your soul”), my husband was able to get his old job back in Seattle. But it was still a leap of faith. I didn’t have a job anymore (my department had been phased out in Seattle while I was away). We risked being viewed as incredible flakes for leaving in six months. But we ultimately decided that our mental health was worth whatever uncertainties we might face.

3) Know your costs of living — really, really know them. My move to Chicago came with a promotion, but even so, we ended up spending far more money than we were bringing in. It turned out to be very difficult to find a place to rent that would take two large dogs and include a yard, so we ended up spending $800 more a month than originally planned. Our Seattle house wasn’t feasible to rent out (we did our reseplace) but it also wasn’t selling. Of course, that eventually turned out to be a good thing, but it meant we spent six months paying both hefty rent and a hefty mortgage. On top of it all, my husband works in a very specialized field, so months of job seplaceing turned up nothing. It added up to a financial and emotional drain for which we hadn’t adequately prepared.

4) Distance is relative. We love and miss our families dearly (the bulk of whom live within about six hours of Chicago). However, it turned out that distance was, in fact, very relative. Weekends home ended up being exhausting, hours-long slogs across Indiana. We were living just far enough away that we were unable to convince anyone to make the drive to visit us — that may have happened eventually, but the point is, we were living closer to family, but we still weren’t really living near family.

5) Be realistic about what you want out of life. The Pacific Northwest isn’t for everyone. Summers are brilliantly sunny, but the gray season can last from November through May. But for us, proximity to incredible spots for hiking, whale-watching, and camping tips the balance, and we really can’t imagine being happier living anywhere else.

Chicago is a fantastic city — the downtown is just stunningly gorgeous. There is an endless supply of clubs, restaurants, incredible stores. A vibrant lakefront teems with people on summer weekends. All of which I adored during the many weekends I spent in Chicago in my 20s. These days, though, my husband and I like nothing better than to call it a night at 9 p.m., and we much prefer a solitary walk along a rocky shore on Vashon Island than living it up with a crowd covered in sunscreen. All of which to say: I am not knocking the city of Chicago; lots of folks just absolutely love it. But the truth was, we’d already found what was for us the perfect home. Seattle. It just took us two cross-country moves in six months to figure that out.


From our partners

post off: are you as busy as you think?

A few weeks ago, an article making the Facebook rounds caught my eye. In it, author Laura Vanderkam asks “Are you as busy as you think?” Now. To hear me answer that the way I’d like to, you’d think I was giving the President a run for his money in the overburdened schedules department. I always feel busy, often without respite. And the truth is, I am busy. At least in recent years, I haven’t come face-to-face with a block of time I couldn’t fill, but it’s how we choose to use that time, and how we talk about it that matters. For starters, according to Vanderkam it’s our perception of what we’re busy with that could use some work. Most American sleep more and work less than they believe they do. And, we also fill those remaining hours with tasks that may not be in line with our true priorities. To get a better handle on what really fills our days, she suggest three simple things: keeping a time log to help really understand exactly where the time goes, to be honest about how we want to fill that time and to change the way we speak, reminding ourselves that our priorities should dictate our schedules, and not the other way around. For me, it all comes back to a quote by David Allen, (author of this insightful book on the subject): “You can do anything, but not everything.” We have to choose. It seems simple, but in reality proves difficult to put into practice. Do you agree? Do you feel like your days are packed with no escape? Let’s chat!

From our partners