Design

Four Fun Things

Good news: Our reading sweater is back! When we first launched this Alex Mill collaboration in September, it sold out within hours. Now, we’re doing a second run — including a new stripe. See all the colors here, if you’d like, for the coziest winter ensemble.

This month, we’ve been craving warm dinners, and when I saw this onion tart in my feed, I knew we’d be making it asap. It’s inspired by French onion soup and pairs perfectly with a green salad.

Have you been dating during the pandemic? The New Yorker wrote a funny piece about how dating these days is like being in a Jane Austen novel. For example, “it’s a long, drawn-out affair,” “you regularly inquire about the health of each other’s family members” and “it includes many brisk walks.” Made me laugh.

On chilly days, the boys turn into homebodies, and convincing them to go for walks is a production. So! I invented a new game: We stroll around the neighborhood in the evening and see how many Christmas trees we can spot through windows. We counted to 26 last night! Bonus: It’s a beautiful way to see the city.

P.S. More fun things, including an amazing book and how to get rid of a pimple.

(Alex Mill photo by Nicki Sebastian. Christmas tree photo by Holly Clark/Stocksy.)

  1. RA says...

    I received my reading sweater today, and I came here to say it really lives up to the hype. I ordered an XL (usually an M) per the advice of a reader and it fits great — just the right amount of oversize coziness. Thanks, COJ! xo

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i’m so glad to hear that!! xo

  2. On walks with kids…

    I’ve done this with my twins since they were little – we go on themed walks. Blue, orange, yellow, patterned, lines, etc. It’s easy to adapt to the seasons (red, orange or yellow in autumn), bright colours for spring, and it makes everyone hone their attention to detail. Just recently, on a short walk, we counted 9 blue things.

  3. I’m happily married, so haven’t been dating during the pandemic. However, a brilliant friend of mine, who has historically been extremely unlucky in love due – at least in part – to how disposable partners have become in big cities (dating apps make it far too easy to just drop someone that isn’t ‘perfect’ and have someone else on speed dial within the hour, she says) met someone special at the start of the first UK lockdown. They spoke for months on the phone and took socially distanced walks for even longer, truly getting to know each other before there was even a first kiss. Now they’re talking about moving in together, and marriage and babies seem to be on the cards! Finally, something good to come from all of this!

  4. Sharon says...

    My sweater came today…yes, on Sunday! For those who had questions…I got XL…it is very generously sized. And for those who want wool to make it warmer…this is a very heavy sweater…you might be surprised!

  5. Mareike says...

    When I was a child, my father and I would count lit up christmas trees we spotted while on long night-time car rides. If we would get above a certain number, he would stop at McDonalds and get us a treat. Even 30 years later, I can relive the excitement on winter night drives.

  6. Jax says...

    So funny, our family counts Xmas trees in our neighborhood too. We compare how many on different routes. Got super excited the other day, when we found an apartment building with a tree in all 6 apartments.

  7. Sharon says...

    I ordered the reading sweater as soon as I got the email that it was available!

  8. Clothilde says...

    Please make the same sweater, same colors in WOOL ! It is too cold to wear cotton right now.

  9. Jules says...

    Dang, those sold out so fast!!! …Now I’m secretly hoping my husband took the initiative when I mentioned it yesterday!

  10. Heidi says...

    We do something similar to inspire walking in our 3- and 7-year-olds. It also works during non-holiday months. We count brown versus blue versus green houses or cats versus dogs in yards and windows, or driveways with and without cars or something else. Often, before we leave we make a bet and sometimes the winner even gets to choose the reddest apple or what type of bath salt we use that night.

  11. Tammy says...

    We usually do one big drive on Christmas eve to look at everyone’s lights, but this year we went out on November 20th, just to get everyone out of the house, and turned it into a game. My daughters each counted the number of decorated houses they saw out of their side of the car, then they created a chart back at home to keep track. We’ve gone out every weekend since and they are dutifully filling in the chart. We’ve gone from 90 house the first weekend to 259 this past weekend. They take it so seriously, each bringing a notebook with them in the car. Kids can be incredibly resilient and still find joy, thank goodness.

    • Denise says...

      This takes me back 20+ years ago to a night when we were out driving around our neighborhood looking for Christmas lights. Heard from the back seat: “Rach, hit me when you see lights on your side.” Followed five seconds later by: “Ouch”. Thanks for the memory!

  12. Courtney H. says...

    Is there any chance of seeing some pictures of the reading sweater not on models? Or maybe on people who are larger than a size medium? Maybe some readers in different sizes and how they wear it? It’d be helpful to determine what size to get and inspire some outfit ideas, too.

    • Stephanie says...

      I agree. I really had a difficult time figuring out what size to buy. I am not 5’10” like the models. I wonder how it sits on someone shorter? I was debating between the S and XS. I definitely want the “oversized” look as it states, but I also want the arm length to fit correctly. I am worried I bought the wrong size!

  13. Kristin says...

    Night walks are the best! We just bought our kids little winter stocking hats with LED lights on the front, and my husband and I bought headlamps. Since we no longer have activities filling up our evenings, we head out for a “night walk” after dinner to soak up Christmas lights and trees, just like you said. My kids are so happy about their hat-lights that they don’t even complain about the cold or being scared of the dark.

  14. Emily says...

    COJ Team,

    I wonder if you’d consider making a sweater like this in a wool blend? Cotton just isn’t warm enough in the winter, sadly! (in New York or Northern California, haha)

  15. Lisa Tyler says...

    Never any plus sizes ~ sad!

  16. Liz says...

    Just learned this saying from Newfoundland. When you get together with your gal pals, you say, “Let’s put on our cardis and cluck!”

    • Heather says...

      This is adorable – love it!

  17. Emma says...

    We went through lockdown in Melbourne through winter, and would do kiddie scavenger hunts. People also put rainbows or teddies in their window and we’d count them. Spoonvilles also thrived!

  18. Christie says...

    In Australia during a covid winter, we had a similar game as the one you describe with counting Christmas Trees – ours were with teddy bears. :)

    Neighbours would put teddy bears in their windows, and the kids would stroll around and count them. It was such a lovely way to feel connected to people, even while we all isolated at home.

  19. Ramya says...

    My 7-year old has been inspired to get out for more walks with the Seek app, which identifies trees, plants, flowers, etc. that you spot. He loves nature (and my phone, which he never gets to use otherwise – ha!) so this is a real find for us!

  20. Maggie Pearson says...

    Hahaha! We make our boys look for ‘secret doors’ whenever they don’t want to walk anywhere. Works like a charm every time.

  21. Katie smith says...

    I made the onion tart for supper and it was super delicious and perfectly comforting.

  22. Sarah says...

    Honestly…I love walking at night and looking to see how people decorate their homes through the windows! I never mean to look at people and I’d be mortified to ever make eye contact and have anyone feel watched. I just love home decor!!!!

  23. kat says...

    Ditto on getting outside – with remote school, unless we create recess, there isn’t any. We have an active Buy Nothing community, and at least once a week I can feature either a pick-up or a drop-off as an enticing errand. Also – my son ADORES maps. We discovered that our region has a fantastic map designed for cyclists that includes all our streets very easy to read. He enjoys plotting new routes to do these errands.

  24. kelly says...

    Nice strategy! Here in San Diego we have a hiking trail 5 mins from our door. To get my then 4yr old son to go, I’d let him pee outdoors on a bush we designated “the pee pee bush”. He was *thrilled* at the prospect. I still think of that 8 years later everytime I hike by it.

  25. Marie says...

    Loving the sweater, but the price gives me pause. Wish there were some reviews posted on the Alex Mills site. Can anyone who purchased last time chime in? Thanks!

    • H says...

      I love mine!!!! So cozy, it’s heavy which I love. I just adored a second one!

    • H says...

      Ordered* hahahaha I guess adored as well 😂

    • CMC says...

      Mine is great! It’s good quality, and it’s a very flattering shape. I kind of regret the choice fo Navy blue, because I have a tone of navy blue things… but that’s on me! :)

    • Hannah says...

      Marie, I bought the sweater in ivory and have worn it almost every day since. I paused at the price too, but my boyfriend has even remarked on how I’m really getting my money’s worth. It is cozy yet polished enough to wear on Zoom, in my opinion.

    • Amanda says...

      I used an Alex Mills discount code for first-time buyers to bring down the cost a little. But I LOVE my sweater, which has been perfect all fall and I think will also work most of the winter (except maybe on the most bitter winter days- upper Midwest here). Already my cost per wear is pretty low, because I reach for it all the time.

  26. J. says...

    In elementary school, we had this amazingly creative, kind, wonderful bus driver, who every day in December would issue a “counting challenge” for a different item: Christmas trees in windows, red velvet bows, UPS/Fedex trucks, etc. and you had to report your number as you hopped off at your stop. I remember so vividly how FUN it was (and how seriously we took this task) and it being that elusive blend of a competitive game where you are also kind of working together. Perhaps you could count a different item each day? People wearing winter hats, people wearing blue masks (?), colorful Christmas lights, railing garland, mail trucks delivering holiday gifts, etc. You could probably make just about anything fun by putting a holiday spin on it: “let’s count the number of dogs we see since Christmas is a dog’s favorite holiday?!” (Toby and Anton might be a little old for that one haha but hey, who knows what a dog’s favorite holiday is?!)

    • Theresa C says...

      I love this! And the counting Christmas trees in the windows!! Thank you!

  27. Kamina says...

    We’ve always done the counting Christmas trees/lights thing since my brother and I were little and my dad would take us for walks! It was one of our Christmas traditions (referred to unimaginatively as our “Christmas lights walk”). My husband and I still go for long roaming walks around the neighbourhood late at night and count how many we can spot.

  28. With regard to enticing children to go on a walk, my step-mother has created a really fun game. She creates a scavenger hunt of sorts for each child where she writes down a list of things for each child to find. The list is age appropriate for each kiddo and includes drawings to help. For example, the list might include things like a red car, a baby stroller, a dog, a snail, etc. The kids have fun exploring the neighborhood as they scavenge to find things to cross off their lists. Happy hunting!

  29. Angel says...

    Counting Christmas trees is brilliant! We’ve been counting birds nests we see in bare trees.

  30. Olivia says...

    Yes! I had to take a chilly night bike ride through Brooklyn on Sunday and spotting Christmas trees made it bearable, haha.

  31. A.E. says...

    Still hoping for the reading sweater in pink or red, for those of us who like to dress like it’s Valentine’s Day year round…. :)

    • Elizabeth R. says...

      SAME to all.

  32. Oh how I would love to stroll around Brooklyn Heights/Cobble Hill and peak into all the glowing windows. I just moved out of Boerum Hill (above the Blue Bottle!) and I miss Brooklyn terribly…

  33. we also used to count the christmas trees out at the curb for composting in january when i nannied your kiddos and linsay’s in CG!

  34. Heather says...

    That tart looks right up my alley, but I showed it to my six year old and asked if she would try it and she responded ‘only if it didn’t have onions in it’!

    If I was a better/ more efficient cook I’d make it and eat it all myself!

  35. My boys are now 14, 13 and 10 and they have been doing Christmas tree walks since they were tots- it’s a fun way to see your community celebrate the season! I just did this walk tonight with our Beaver Scouts, ages 6 to 9, and we had so much fun singing Christmas songs along the way. Merry Christmas from Dublin , Ireland 🎄🎄

  36. Cadence says...

    Love the game idea! I live in Minnesota and we’re determined that our boys (3yo and 2yo) learn to love winter as much as our other seasons. Every night after dinner, we bundle up and head out on a “flashlight walk.” They get to hold the flashlights and determine the course. They love discovering reflective surfaces and I love watching them decide where to go: “The Christmas penguin is this way!” Once we get home, it’s a tiny pour of hot chocolate for everyone.

    • Liz says...

      Fellow Minnesotan here – keep it up! My kids actually rank winter as their top season! Totally accomplished by just getting out in it and doing all the fun winter things.

  37. Deb in Oklahoma says...

    I love the idea that apartment-dwellers put their trees and twinkle lights in windows so passers-by can see the lights (especially for kids who are counting the trees). To see a bunch of windows in one building all lit up for Christmas would be lovely.

  38. Alexandria LaPree says...

    When I saw the onion tart I first thought “Oh, someone figured out my go-to holiday dessert!” I make an apple tart that looks exactly like this. My daughters make very chunky applesauce (a dessert in itself) as a side for the holidays and then I take the leftover, dump it on a store-bought rolled up crust, fold up, dab pastry with an egg wash and sprinkle Hawaiian sugar on the crust. Bake for about 25 minutes and act like you bought it from a French bakery!

  39. Kelly says...

    The first thing I thought of when I saw the onion tart is Justin Firstman’s latest impression on Instagram — American onion solid. :)

    • B says...

      * Jordan :)

  40. Laurence says...

    Any chance we might eventually be able to order the reading sweater in Canada… I’ve been keeping my fingers crossed, it’s just so lovely!

  41. I love this NYC take on driving around to see the Christmas lights. One of my favorite childhood traditions :)

  42. Jessica says...

    Praise the accuracy and hilarity of the New Yorker piece! I am single and not dating right now (because germs) and if I read one more article telling me that now is a great time to find love because singles are interested in deep connections like never before, I am going to toss all of my devices out the window of my speeding car next time I drive to Target for a socially distanced pickup. I have already shared it widely with friends and family. Made my day!

    • Elizabeth says...

      So it’s not just me :) Who/where are these deep connection-seeking singles?

    • Jessica says...

      It’s not just you, Elizabeth, and I’m so relieved to read your comment! I, too, thought I was the only one. Usually I give FOMO the side eye, but I am starting to feel like I’m the one doing something wrong. Like you say, if there are so many singles seeking deep connections, where on this pandemic Earth are they hiding?!?

    • H says...

      Can confirm these deep connection singles are not in NW Indiana! Haha!

    • Ramya says...

      Elizabeth, Jessica, they’re where they usually are – dating apps! But the pickings these days are so uninspiring – to me anyway!

    • ellie says...

      I live alone and have surrendered to an imaginary lover, and he is wonderful ; D The absolute best. Such a gentleman, he is always there for me, thank god.

    • Jessica says...

      Ramya, I have been on and off dating apps in between relationships, and I wonder after my last experience if I may give them up for good. The offerings are just so…unworthy of my time. Would rather be a happy single than deal with the ghosting nonsense!

      Ellie, I have a work crush. I am fairly certain he does not know I exist, but it makes for fun daydreaming. Go on with your imagination!

      (Love this thread of conversation, btw!)

    • Gretchen says...

      I am convinced the people writing these articles are very much not single. Oh yes, please, do tell me how great it is to date when you are afraid that touching may result in one of you literally dying. Just a little health anxiety to spice.things.up. You’r right, perpetually walking 6 feet apart outdoors is indeed all that one needs to form and sustain an intimate connection. :)
      Sigh…

  43. Denise says...

    As a single person during a pandemic, I spent my evening last night on the floor wrestling with a christmas tree, trying in vain to get it in the stand straight all by myself. Really, one needs someone to hold it up while it’s being screwed into the stand. But I surrounded it with chairs to hold it and laid on the carpet with my arms through a forest of chair legs to tighten the screws again and again and again. Finally after numerous attempts and re-dos, and rocks and props because it just wanted to tilt, I got it to stand up sturdy enough for the cat to scram around and play under. Putting up a christmas tree is definitely a doubles sport! All that to say, I’m glad someone will go walking by and see it in my window. What a fun way to get your walks in in December.

    • Cynthia says...

      I’m married and I put up the tree by myself. Mine is artificial, so I put the bottom section in the stand and then attach the other sections.

    • Manda says...

      Haha there’s definitely a difference between putting up a real and a fake tree! I’ve done both and the real trees truly need a couple pairs of hands! Good work though how satisfying to get it done yourself 🥰

    • d says...

      I love your comment denise.

    • Madhura says...

      Denise, I am impressed you got it up by yourself! My husband and I had a tough time getting our (tiny) tree to stand up straight. Your comment made me chuckle as despite being a tag team of 2 we were in similar positions. We ultimately tied one hidden side of the tree to a nearby handle to ensure a certain toddler doesn’t manage to pull it down . But oh, the joy and cheer it adds to our days – worth all the antics this past weekend.

  44. jenson says...

    Pissaladiere, delish. Be sure to try with dijon spread on the crust – essential here, imo. Sweaters are cute, very homely!

  45. Cooper says...

    On neighborhood walks, I’d always assumed that people decorated their homes for their own pleasure and enjoyment, but this year I am SO GRATEFUL for all of the holiday decorations – the trees centered in windows, the bright red bow tied around the neck of the lion statue on my neighbor’s stoop, and those immense blow-up figures that my toddler ADORES. I finally see the decorations as the acts of love for the community that they truly are.

    • Caitlin says...

      I have had the exact same revelation, Cooper! I wrote thank you notes to a few of my neighbors (who I don’t know) who have really been on the decorations since October. My toddler is obsessed, we walk by these houses multiple times a day to take a look. It’s been a true pandemic highlight.

    • i love this, cooper!

    • Hayley says...

      I’ve felt this in the past year, too. Just really noticing and enjoying the small things that make life lovely both in my home and in my community. It’s probably the slowing down and the having fewer distractions, I guess. But I’m so much more appreciative of every effort to make something beautiful, meaningful, festive, and/or comforting. 🥰

    • Lauren says...

      “Acts of love for the community” <3 <3 <3

    • EmBed says...

      I feel exactly the same way about people’s gardens and windowboxes, too! They aren’t just doing it for themselves, they are doing it for everyone which is so, so nice. I feel a little bad that my gardening skills are abysmal and I can’t provide this for others.

      Although, I do always try and dress nicely/with thought, so by beautifying myself am I also beautifying the community? I like to think so!

  46. Joslyn says...

    Yesterday I got my 3 year old daughter out the door for a walk in the 27 degree cold, by saying we were going to find the tallest tree in the neighborhood. I then forgot about it on our walk. About 15 minutes into the walk she started screaming, “I FOUND IT!” I asked her what she had found and she said “the tallest tree”, and my goodness she was right. I was just impressed at her memory.

  47. Bobby says...

    Was that first photo shot in the Rodin Museum in Paris?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      I wish, that would have been amazing. The photo shoot was this past September at a rental house in LA. They had really beautiful artwork and furniture. xo

    • J says...

      …. and yikes it would NOT be ok to be hugging the priceless artworks in the Rodin (or any) museum – I’m turning into the screaming emoji inside just thinking about it!

  48. Sally says...

    I live in the Hudson Valley and my latest trick for getting my homebody 5-year-old son outside is to go geocaching! I might like it more than him. Basically, it’s technology assisted treasure hunting and I’ve been shocked and delighted to find out there are little treasure boxes hidden all over the place with a secret society of people looking for them :) There was even one in the landscaping outside my favorite coffee shop – who knew?!

    • Ramya says...

      Thanks for the tip!

    • Claire says...

      Oh, I’ve done this before and it is really fun, but I had forgotten about it! and you are so right – it opens up a whole new secret and fun aspect to the world.

  49. Molly G. says...

    We’ve been doing “Christmas walks” with my 3 year old. He loves to see how many decorations have gone up since the last stroll :)

  50. Ceridwen says...

    The Christmas tree spotting idea is great! I am going to try that with my kids. It is hard to get them out of the house these days after our lockdown. We used to have “evening strolls”. I am bringing them back!

  51. Katie says...

    Every Christmas Eve as a kid we would all pile in the car with a thermos of hot cocoa and drive around our small town, looking at Christmas lights and counting the number of trees we could see in windows. We usually get to at least 100 before heading home! It is still one of my favorite Christmas traditions and I look forward to doing it with my kids someday.

  52. Meg P says...

    I like your “spot the Xmas tree” game to get the boys out the door. I’ve been letting my girls take turns as the “camera woman” taking pictures of what seems special on our walks. It’s funny and surprising to see what random things they choose to capture. And always funny to see – oh yea! – that’s what things look like when you’re still quite short!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s so sweet!!

  53. Rose says...

    Janet Austen :). Having taught Persuasion today, this amused me greatly.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh shoot haha! fixing now!

  54. B says...

    When I was little, my brother and I LOVED taking evening walks around the neighborhood with our dad once December hit. My brother and I would each grab one of those little handheld clicker counters to take on the walk (which I’m now seeing all over thanks to covid occupancy limits!); one of us would count the houses with holiday decorations, and one the dark houses. We totally made it a competition, but it was always a fun one. Thanks for making me think of that!

  55. Ashley says...

    Apologies if this was answered on the old reading sweater post (it was sold out before I had a chance to ask!)…where/how is it made? Trying to vote with my dollar! :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Of course! Here’s what the Alex Mill team told us (they’re a small, family-run team in NYC): “It’s 100% cotton. We made this sweater at our factory in China that specializes in knitted goods. We’ve been working with them since Alex Mill started back in 2013, and they are known for their excellent craftsmanship and ethical manufacturing standards.” Thank you!!

    • KP says...

      @joanna goddard I love the sweater and I think this collaboration with Alex Mill is an excellent fit for Cup Of Jo, but representing the team as a “small, family-run affair” doesn’t really get at the whole truth- the family includes Mikey Drexler (the retail giant that spearheaded the Jenna Lyons-era success of JCrew, if I remember correctly!)