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Design Advice Q+A // What are some of the best ways to prepare my tea?

Q: I loved your post last week on ways to prepare coffee in the AM, but what about tea toward the end of the day? Sometimes I get a little overwhelmed by all the factors - tea bags, tea leaves, how long to steep, how hot should my water be - but I'd like to get in the habit of drinking tea daily. What guidance can you give?

A: While we love our morning coffee boost, nothing beats curling up at home with a warm cup of tea. It's hydrating, full of nutrients and antioxidants, and can leave you feeling calm and focused. Try to drink organic decaffeinated tea when possible. 

Many cultures around the world have ritualized the tea making and drinking process for centuries. The famed Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh describes tea drinking as a means to ground yourself and to speak calmly to others: "Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves - slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future." 

Steeping Guide for Loose Leeves

We found this super simple guide to determine how hot your water should be and how long you should steep depending on the kind of tea you drink and how strong you'd like it to be. Simply pour your boiling water into a mug then place the steeping vessel on top. Ceramic is best, followed by glass, then metal. Pour tea leaves into vessel and allow the tea to steep for as long as the guide below suggests.

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Matcha Green Tea

We are huge fans of matcha, the oldest kind of green tea harvested in Japan. It's even been referred to as "the healthy espresso of green tea," and is being sold more often in cafes these days. Green tea is brimming with antioxidants, chlorophyll, amino acids, and other nutrients and vitamins. It provides sustained and focused energy, enables weight loss, and offers a natural detox. 

Panatea Green makes a gorgeous tea brewing kit ($67), so you can make ceremonial grade green tea at home. They also offer dozens of recipes that incorporate matcha green tea into all kinds of yummy, festively green treats. We can't wait to try the matcha lemonade popsicle once it warms up!

Bellocq Teas

If you're looking for a brand of teas to rely on, we suggest the delicious, Martha Stewart-approved line of teas called Bellocq. Their tea atelier is nestled in a quiet corner of Brooklyn, NY, and there, you can taste, smell, and admire their teas that come from around the world. Their teas transport you to the meditative place that Thich Nhat Hanh encourages you to go. They even offer an "Ultimate Year of Tea" box ($198), which contains 12 months of their finest artisan blends in their beautiful yellow boxes. Each package includes a handwritten note and metal strainer. 

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Design Advice Q + A // What humidifier should I buy?

Q: The dry winter has been brutal on my nose, throat, skin, you name it. I'd love to buy a humidifier for my bedroom but am not sure which one is right for me. Any pointers?

A: Humidifiers are a great way to create moisture in your room throughout the night in order to prevent snoring, coughing, and nosebleeds by lubricating your nasal passages; they also help to cure skin dryness and allow for a deeper, less disrupted sleep. We suggest going with a ultrasonic cool-mist humidifier because, although they require more upkeep than a warm-mist humidifier, the cold air feels great through your passages and are less dangerous as the hot water of a warm air humidifier can burn you. A regular cool air humidifier has a fan that makes a gentle humming noise (some people love it; it drives others crazy), but if you buy an ultrasonic, there is no sound at all.

Bacteria and mold can grow quickly in your humidifier, so for long-term results, be sure to change the water daily, scrub your device with water and bleach often, and replace the filter as often as the instructions tell you to. 

Below are a few ultrasonic cool-mist humidifiers that we love for their effectiveness and design; pick the one that fits within your budget and join the club of sound sleepers!

 

Crane Drop Shape Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier, $41.99

Air-O-Swiss Cool-Mist Ultrasonic Humidifier, $99.99

Broksonic Allonge Humidifier, $199.99

We're also eager to follow the development of the Osmos, a humidifier we found on Quirky, that allows you to monitor its care through an app on your smart phone and receive alerts when it requires cleaning or has achieved balanced humidity levels. A major technology swoon.

Design Advice Q+A // Saving v. Splurging

Q: When furnishing and decorating my apartment, which items are worth the splurge?

A: To save or to splurge depends on your interests and what you spend most of your time at home doing. If you love to write or do lots of work on your computer, it would make sense for you to budget more for a desk. If you're a fan of art, then tell yourself it's okay to spend more on artwork and frames. At the end of the day, your home is a direct reflection of you and your passions, so pay more for the pieces you'll be most attached to. 

There are a few items we believe everyone should invest in, so read below to learn more. 

MATTRESS 

You spend a large portion of your life asleep, so you might as well do it comfortably. Everyone's preferences vary when deeming a mattress comfortable, so do your research, test several mattresses, and make a decision understanding that you're going to spend a pretty penny regardless of the one you choose. Also keep in mind that you'll have this mattress for years to come, so the investment is well worth it.

A few websites to get you started on your research:

Splurge

www.tempurpedic.com

www.sleepnumber.com

www.sleepys.com

Save

www.casper.com

www.tuftandneedle.com

www.ikea.com

COUCH OR SOFA

Another piece of furniture intended for the long haul is a couch, sofa, or armchair, so prepare to splurge on a piece that suits you and your tastes most. Stores like Jonathan Adler, ABC Home, and West Elm offer different sized couches for you to accommodate the space you're working with. A few of our favorites are shown below:

West Elm Bliss Down-Filled Chair and a Half $849-949

ABC Home Cobble Hill Elizabeth Sleeper Sofa On sale $1,799

Jonathan Adler Lambert Sofa  $3,595

KITCHEN SUPPLIES

We highly recommend spending more on kitchen supplies, because not only will your kitchen look sleek and beautiful, you will also feel excited to spend time there. The more time you spend in your kitchen cooking and baking, the less time you'll spend out at restaurants or ordering delivery. Over time, your investments will pay off. A few of our favorite fancy kitchen appliances are listed below:

Nespresso Vertuoline Machine $349

Vitamix Professional Series 750 Blender $649.95

Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer $429.99

All-Clad Crockpot $179.99