Thursday, 23 June 2016

Epiphanies of Late

My mind works in epiphanies. Aha moments are frequent.  Little discoveries and realisations excite me and I am quite open to improving on them or changing them since that only leads to yet another 'Aha!'  For years I felt a bit as though I must be a very dull person, as I am not a thrill seeker but....while I am not much of a physical thrill seeker I am a mental thrill seeker.

Aha!

I am very much NOT in my own body.  If anyone needs yoga, I do.  I live in my head and this is partly, or perhaps entirely, why I have accidents.  Usually they are minor.  I trip over things, bump into things, walk into the door frame as I seemingly have no concept of how to allow for my physical self to pass through spaces.  Recently I fell down the stairs.  In trying to figure out how this happened, I can only say I was not in my body at the time and thus I somehow missed the last three steps.  The resulting pain and my bruised, swollen, sprained ankles are currently reminding me of the body I tend to ignore.

I tend to mainly share self discovery on this blog.  Sometimes I worry that it misrepresents me as a self absorbed navel gazer.  But sharing my thoughts about other people isn't appropriate and I do experience the world in a self-centred sort of way as we all do.  I experience it as me, with my senses, my thoughts, my interpretations and quite often my discoveries are about how I am functioning in this world.  Those are the ones I write about here.  Because I am willing to share personal things, to talk about my feelings and to explore them verbally or in writing, people often assume that I am an open book.  In some ways I am, but I am a book that is open only to the pages I chose to show you.  No matter how much I reveal, much more is hidden.  It had not occurred to me until fairly recently that some people would not know this.  I assumed it was a given but I suppose that for people who are a totally open book, my unreadable pages are not an assumption and for people who are closed books, the fact that I show any pages at all is unrelatable.

Although my interests are strongly attached to philosophy and psychology, I usually stick to personal image topics-style, clothing, colours, home decor.  I cannot imagine giving advice or considering myself an expert on anything so I prefer to share information that I have gathered or describe what has worked for me.   I could study a subject in depth for ten years and I would not consider myself an expert.  Perhaps I never would as I am always so aware of what I do not know.   I always see the 'what ifs..?' or the 'yeah, but this..' that makes every pithy statement on life interesting but ultimately unsatisfying. 


The entry is so full of the word "I" that it's cringe inducing.  In fact I very carefully typed that sentence so that it did not say "I am cringing".  Seeing everything not as a fact or a given, but as just the way "I see it" makes essay writing a challenge.  The standard format is to write all your opinions as an assumption.  The statements should say "It is the case" not "I think it is so" and that is hugely difficult for me. 

And thus I think that my I-focus is not as self centred as it may at first seem, but rather a result of my awareness that I am but one small spec of dust in the giant dust bunny living my life, making my observations, having my epiphanies and sometimes writing about them here. 


 Less Deep Epiphany:

If the internet is to be believed, everyone is trying to figure out how to look effortlessly chic.  I doubt that, but still I have come to some conclusions (they may be temporary conclusions) about how to achieve effortless chic.  There are essentially two methods.

Method One:  The best method for most of us normal people.

Have deliberate hair and an anything goes attitude about your clothing.  Grooming is paramount.  Get a good haircut, something that looks intentional, flatters you but isn't time consuming or something that could get totally ruined in the rain.  Use makeup that flatters and isn't obvious, but chose one of the following:  a bold lip, exotic eyes, or one statement accessory.  Wear anything you like so long as it is clean.  Be confident that you look great.

Method Two:  For models and the people who look like them.

Wear something expensive but simple looking, a bit shapeless but that's okay because you haven't got any body parts that get in the way and ruin the simple, clean lines.  Use bold colours, geometric shapes, deliberately very stiff or very fluid clothing.  Go for something slightly ugly like a drab colour or unflattering silhouette.   Wear things that don't make sense like a giant blanket scarf with open toed sandals in winter.  Keep your hair deliberately messy and unkempt, consider a bad haircut, no makeup at all and if you don't smoke take it up immediately.  Be thin-that goes without saying, but I'm saying it.  It's more important than being tall, young or pretty but if you can be those things too, be those


If you are not aiming for Effortlessly Chic:

You  want to look like you made an effort because you did and you look awesome.
Or
You  want to look like you made no effort at all because you didn't and you don't give a feck.

If this is right for you then do that.




Wednesday, 15 June 2016

What Would You Expect?

I've realised I'm a minimalist with useful stuff and less so with the pretty stuff.  Applying the question, 'Is this something I find to be useful or beautiful?' is relatively easy and has helped me to declutter so much I may have gotten rid of half of what I had.  I didn't really count or measure but it has been a somewhat embarrassing amount.  There is at least one charity shop in town which might currently be entirely stocked by me.  I've still got clothing set aside to sell but it's not the right season so I"m storing it.  I find that I can't  wait to get rid of it, though haven't yet let go of the possibility of making money from it. There are definitely still things I could get rid of, things I am keeping just in case or for sentimental reasons and yet they are hidden away in a cupboard.  I have a set of pots and pans that probably includes one or two more pots than I actually need but I can't bear to break up a matching set.  It has never been my goal to be a minimalist and to assert that I only have X number of things or only exactly what I use every day or anything like that.  I will probably always have more than I need, but it is my goal not to have much more.  It is my goal to simplify and to continue to simplify.

On the other hand, I have allowed myself possessions whose function is purely decorative and I have so many of them my decor is in no way minimalist.  It is, and probably always will be more of an eclectic/bohemian/librarian/hippie looking sort of home.  I like a home that tells you who lives there and I am not a minimalist.  Minimalist principles are a tool I use to guide my life in a direction that is comfortable for me because it is simplified.  Most of my decor is not precious nor even sentimental, I simply like it.  If I grow tired of something I generally have no difficulty giving it away.  I have five hundred books after carefully culling.  I have 45 house plants, candles beyond what I'd need in a power failure, bits of pottery and bits of nature all over the place.  I don't find bare surfaces appealing.  I like the texture of some textiles and personal items around and I have my own sense of what is too much and what is not enough.

Imaginary guest (a rude one):  "Why is that pewter cup sitting on your hearth there beside all those rocks?"

Me:  "Because I really like it."

Guest:  "Is it an antique?"

Me:  "I dunno.  I doubt it. maybe vintage."

Guest: "Why is it on the hearth?"

Me:  "Because I put it there and left it there and found I liked seeing it there."

Guest:  "And what are all the rocks for?"

Me:  "They are not for anything.  I just like them, but I agree I might have too many.  Their abundance causes me no distress."*

Yeah, I really talk like that sometimes.  That's what you'd expect from someone whose home looks like mine.  I think.

Friday, 3 June 2016

The Life Changing Magic of Doing What Works Best for You



Let's face it, the minimalist aesthetic can look beautiful if your home is architecturally beautiful but if it isn't then a minimalist home just looks like student digs or a temporary living space.  For some people minimal homes are peaceful and relaxing but to me they are devoid of personality, seem incomplete, characterless and transient.  Anything beyond the basic needs (and even then defining basic needs is a challenge given various levels of privilege) is what tells the story of who the inhabitants of that home are.  Whether its art, craft, inherited treasures, bits and pieces brought indoors from outside, books that display interests, a few signs of living life scattered about, these are the things that to me indicate a home and not just a place to sleep at night.  For some people, a place to sleep at night, eat breakfast and hang their hat might all that is wanted or desired, especially if life is almost entirely about being away from home.  These people are often extroverts.

The minimalist movement gurus, especially the younger, often childless couples or single males, seems to promote this kind of life.  Do things, go places, see people, travel, get immersed in culture or nature.  Just don't stay home.

Another movement is the Kinfolk homesteading type where the ideal is more about staying home and growing all your own vegetables and preserving things in jars to also display attractively in your pantry.  Have people over often and serve attractive home cooked meals.  Wear simple linen clothing.  Dreadlocks are good, as are ugly sandals.  I confess I could become this stereotype more readily than the previous one as I am more likely to be a homebody.

I like nature and culture and travel but getting out and doing is tiring and I don't have much energy or stamina.  I like cooking and feeding friends and family and comfortable at home social gatherings, growing my own food and making jam but again, that also takes energy I don't have.

However, I do spend most of my time at home.  And for me the perfect environment has a moderate amount of tidy clutter.  No minimalist mantra of current times is as perfect, in my mind, as the words of William Morris, who is reported to have said "Have nothing in your house that you do not believe to be beautiful or find useful."  It's the inclusion of things of beauty that minimalists seem to leave out.  Or else their idea of beauty is empty table tops and blank walls.  Too much blankness makes me restless.  I don't know where I am as there are no visual clues.  At the same time, disorganised mess, objects with no home, unattractive things left out in the open and too much visual clutter also make me agitated.

Some people talk about practical minimalism or refer to a minimalist lifestyle as a journey and not a destination.  If I cared to I could join that camp.  My aim is to live only with things I truly want and need and for what is visible to be visually appealing to me.  Storage spaces full of stuff that I never use seem pointless and burdensome so I attempt to clear out that kind of clutter.  I have no number goal, no dogma about what appliances I should live without in order to be a minimalist, no desire for my home to look like I haven't gotten around to buying furniture for it yet.  I spent several years without a microwave by choice and didn't miss it.  At this point in my life I find one very useful.  A house is not a home if it isn't full of plants and books.  To me there is beauty and joy in those even if there isn't regular use.  Although I have not read her book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I believe that Marie Kondo has a similar approach to choosing what possessions to live with.  The mantra attributed to her is 'does this item spark joy' but I think that is the question to be asked once past the first question: do I use this and need this? The focus seems often to be on sparking joy though I cannot think she is unaware that a dinner plate doesn't spark joy but is typically very useful. 

Ms Kondo's approach, while associated somewhat with the minimalist movement, is more about  simplifying.  For some people this is what a minimalist journey is also about.   Reducing the unneccessary possessions, activities, people, thoughts and square footage of your home are all part of the simplifying journey aspiring minimalists focus on, but the goal is to not have to focus on these things so your focus can be on what you value most.  It's reasonable to assume that the journey towards this goal might at first require more focus on the stuff as you begin to eliminate it then will eventually be required.

For me, my goal is to live a comfortable and simple life with time and energy to focus on what I value most.  I experience stress and anxiety from mess and from an accumulation of items that do not prove their usefulness nor seem to me beautiful.  It may require regular reevaluation to determine if any given item continues to meet those requirements but it's true that the fewer possessions one has the less time need be devoted to that.  I won't be getting rid of my books, plants or candles, the beach stones, decorative plates or sofa cushions any time soon.  I like a bit of layered texture in my home and I have no need to feel unfettered and ready to toss my five belongings into a backpack and travel the world.  By the definition of some I am pursuing a minimalist journey and by others I am not.  It doesn't matter what it's called; it only matters that it works for me.


Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Sitting and Knitting

My knitting skills are best described as rustic.  No Aran sweaters, no Fair Isle, no sweaters at all.  Knitting is a form of meditation for me so I knit simple things.  My winter project stretched into spring but I've completed this blanket throw just in time for summer!


It's randomly created stripes of colour in 100% wool Roving.  The ivory colour was particularly prone to random breakage so whenever it broke I would just change colours.  No fancy stitches involved, as that would impede the meditative process. I used  large circular needles without knitting in the round and just changed colours whenever I felt like it or ran out.

My current project is a fine alpaca shawl in bands of neutral fawn, beige and grey.  I'm aiming to complete it in time to take on a flight to Nova Scotia this summer.  And after that I'm considering knitting or crocheting two placemats.  I don't have any at the moment and I am in need of two.  Sewing them is also a possibility.  For five minutes-no probably two minutes-I considered weaving some.  Hah! 

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Favourite Treats-Gluten Free, Low Carb, Grain Free

I eat gluten free and I generally also eat low-carb and grain free.  In addition to being diagnosed as celiac this just seems to be the diet my body is happiest on and I've tried many.  On a low fat, high carb vegan diet I was overweight and bloated.  I think we all have to find what is right for our bodies and not think there is one right diet for everyone.  I shun sugar but don't worry at all about fat.  Yes, there are things I don't eat or rarely eat that I wish I could but in the end my health and feeling my best wins.

Yes, this makes me one of those picky-about-food people, and I might not be everyone's favourite dinner guest.  It's all been a journey that grew from knowing that something was not working for me with regards to food and a determination to find what worked best for me and my body.  When it comes to low carb I eat that way 90% of the time but I do have treats and I don't worry about carbs if eating in a restaurant or at a friend's house since I do those things rarely anyhow. 

I like treats.  Some of my favourite things are just not reproducible in gluten free form and I have tried.  I've researched all of the recipe options and when it comes to the texture of real bread made with wheat flour and all the nice stretchy gluten, there is no replacement.  There is no getting around the fact that rice flour only mills down to something that resembles the texture of sand and while various gums can act as binders to mimic gluten the most commonly used one in gluten free baking is xanthan gum and I have a severe and quite unpleasant reaction to it.

Since really good pizza and pasta are something I will never again experience, I am not going to be deprived of cheesecake or brownies even if I do need to eat low carb most of the time.  In fact cheesecake can be gluten free and low carb quite easily but it can also be made single-serve in the microwave in a jiffy.  Here's how.

Microwave Cheesecake Snack -for One

4oz cream cheese- softened in the microwave for about 40 seconds.

1 egg
1/4 cup sugar or low-cal sweetener such as Splenda, Xylitol or Erythritol*
pinch salt
1 tsp vanilla
4 Tbsp heavy cream

Whisk the ingredients together until smooth and microwave on high for 2 min possibly 2 min 30 seconds.  It should be solid enough that when lightly touched with your finger it stays firm.  It will resemble a baked custard.

Let this cool or even chill a few hours for most cheesecake-like texture and eat with berries and whipped cream.


I could have made this in mason jars and taken photos of it all with a pretty background and fancy filter but I'm not that kind of blogger.

Fudgey Brownies-Gluten Free (no flour at all, no xanthan gum)

1 cup butter, melted
2 cups loosely packed brown sugar (I've not yet found the right way to do this with just Splenda but 1 cup Splenda and 1 cup brown sugar probably works. Sugar gives texture as well as sweetness)
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup dark cocoa powder
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chopped nuts optional

Mix all ingredients together in one bowl until smooth.
Grease a rectangular dish-9x13 or similar and spread the batter in the pan. 

Bake at 350F for 35 minutes.

It's always better to slightly under bake brownies than to over bake them. If you want thicker brownies use a smaller pan and bake a little longer but keep an eye on them.

These are very gooey so cool completely before cutting and cut with a sharp knife that you frequently wipe clean.

If you want a simple icing for them, sprinkle chocolate chips over the still warm brownies after removing them from the oven, wait a few minutes and then spread the melted chocolate with a spatula.  These are lower in carbs due to the absence of flour but the best texture I've achieved comes with sugar so still a treat if following a low carb diet.


I also have a new favourite breakfast that I'd like to share.  I am sure this can be tweaked according to personal preferences and my own measuring was rather approximate.

First I made a grain-free hot cereal mix like this:

1 cup Almond meal or flour
1 cup Unsweetened coconut
1 cup Golden Flax meal
1 cup Hemp seeds
 1 cup Chia seeds

Proportions aren't too important, and based mainly on taste preference.  The chia seeds are important for giving this cereal a creamy and glutinous texture like cream of wheat or oatmeal.  I put all ingredients in my food processor and ground them together.   You could include 1/2 cup your preferred granular sweetener and perhaps pumpkin pie spice if you wish.

Instant Breakfast Cereal -for One

To cook this the simple method you just add boiling water or hot milk/cream and stir until it thickens to your desired consistency.  Roughly 2 parts liquid to 1 part cereal works well.  If it's too thick you can just add more liquid.

My Favourite Creamy Vanilla Custard Style Cereal -for One

Heat half cup light cream in a small saucepan over low heat.
Add a slightly beaten egg slowly so as not to cook quickly**, stir constantly
Stir in 1/4 cup cereal mixture and keep stirring, drizzle in more cream if needed.
Add 1/2 tsp vanilla and remove from heat. 

Serve with berries, yogurt or more cream!

* Sugar alcohols (they end in -ol) can act as laxatives in large doses and Xylitol is toxic to dogs.  I generally use Splenda, which is sucralose, though have sometimes used Erythritol for baking as well.  It's more expensive and there is that laxative issue to consider.

** The fool-proof method of adding raw egg to hot liquid is to stir a little bit of liquid into the egg to gradually warm it up before adding it to the saucepan.  Add 1 tbsp hot liquid at a time and stir well.  

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Beyond Week One- Spring Outfits and Thoughts

I'm keen to be authentic, to prove that I wore what I said I wore, thus the previous post had photos of nearly every outfit.  But I don't enjoy modelling, I quickly get tired of photos of myself and I feel as though showing a photo of myself in an outfit implies that the outfit is special in some way that should be admired or copied.  I'm just trying to demonstrate what is working for me and document what I actually wear in order to be sure I'm not holding onto things pointlessly. 

So this time I'm just photographing the clothing and you will have to trust and believe that I wore what I say I wore.  Why would I make this up?  If I show you a clown suit, then you can be sure I'm lying about having worn that.  Or a bikini.  However, I do not own a clown suit or a bikini  so that problem is solved!

The look starts something like this and if I'm not leaving home it doesn't progress much further.  There will be some jewelry and possibly a belt.


If I leave home selections are made from these shoes-the Spring and Summer Options


And if it's below 18 degrees in temperature I will add a scarf but warmer than that and I get too hot wearing one, which means in April I probably wear one but by May and June it's less likely. 


Any given day in May can be as hot as summer (say, 25 degrees) or several degrees cooler.  It can warm up significantly as the day progresses too.  I need to be able to add a cardigan for warmth, or change from jeans to a pair of shorts part way through the day and not have to change the rest of the outfit.

This Week's Combinations

white sweater + grey jeans + birks sandals + default earrings

cropped jeans + beige linen tee shirt + taupe cardigan -no makeup, bare feet + default earrings + one silver chain necklace

cropped  jeans + light green tee shirt + taupe cardigan + silver and green earrings + silver chain + taupe mary-janes

cropped jeans + taupe/brown linen tee shirt + ivory-white cardigan + copper earrings

cropped jeans + teal cowl top +silver and green earrings + taupe cardigan + sandals

cropped jeans + white tee shirt + default earrings + birks sandals

cropped jeans + blush silk sweater + taupe cardigan + hammered silver circle earrings + no makeup and bare feet

Below is what has been worn in the past two-three weeks with no repeated outfit but individual pieces repeated.

                                  I have two identical pairs of faded, cropped Levis


Colours here are fairly accurate.  The grey tee shirt is more blue-grey than shows here.
Colours are fairly accurate here-the top shirt is teal and a bit lighter, the bottom right is sage green, and not as grey as it looks here.



                                               The casual cardigans

                         The formal cardigans-I'd wear the navy blue one year round.



I wore this leather jacket in April but probably won't put it on again until late September.







I wear the skirts less often than the jeans so don't pair as many different tops with them.


I should perhaps be ashamed of photographing this dress before it went into the laundry.  I am not.

                                         These pieces were worn this past week.


There's clearly a uniform here:  jeans and top to suit the season, a casual skirt or dress sometimes.  I resisted this jeans look for a couple of years, thinking it would be boring, that it would identify me immediately as a non-creative person.  But comfort, lifestyle, a disinterest in shopping or sewing and my preference for natural fibres, lead me in that direction and it all looks very much like what I wore when I was a 22 year old student.

Out

The rejected denim skirt (last week) went into the donate/sell pile after another try on.  There is something about it being a bit of an A-line shape that I don't like. A stiff A-line doesn't work on me. I also put a blouse in the donate pile as the sleeves were a bit odd and unflattering on me and I gave up the grey jeans I've worn last week and this week.  They stretch quickly and end up more droopy and shapeless than I have a tolerance for.  I'm disappointed as I really want a pair of grey jeans but these are not keepers.


Three  items out means it was totally appropriate to find a great pair of shorts and a cardigan at the consignment shop this week when I took in three pairs of high heeled sandals to sell.  I had a pair of shorts on my shopping/wish list and since I live in cardigans adding another to my wardrobe is quite appropriate.  I have two formal/dressier cardigans one in navy and one in ivory which don't get regular wear and now two casual cardigans, ivory and taupe, which are worn almost daily.

Still In

What hasn't yet been worn, from my Spring/Summer grouping are the three pairs of shorts and three sun dresses which typically I wouldn't wear until the temperatures are a little warmer, either of my dressy cardigans and one white peasant style blouse.  I love the blouse but consider it more of a semi-dressed up look so am less likely to wear it just hanging around home.  I do expect to wear it more than once over the next four months though and anticipate wearing it the next time I have a coffee date. So it stays.   The same tops I've paired with jeans can be paired with the shorts though the cotton sweaters will not likely be worn in mid summer and possibly not the two skirts, but those will reappear in early autumn.  This is why I don't do a seasonal capsule.  I'm focusing on what I wear seasonally right now, to assist in keeping only what I truly wear but most of my clothing is good for at least two seasons but some items are more Spring/Summer and some are Spring/Autumn.  I am not interested in packing things away and making seasonal capsules, just in having only the clothing pieces I actually wear.

Minimalist gurus and capsule wardrobe experts sometimes toss out a recommended number-33 items total or 37 not including accessories.  If that works for some people, great.  I didn't follow that.  Interestingly perhaps, I'm not far off those guidelines and if I don't count scarves, handbags and jewelry I'm at about 32 pieces of clothing.  When counting, minimalists tend to count everything and capsule wardrobe makers are less likely to count their socks, underwear and pyjamas.  Without trying to follow any number rules, I ended up in the ballpark so something in the 30-40 range is probably comfortable for most people.  I don't want clutter but I don't want to have to wash everything twice a week either.  I'm wearing 14 pieces most often-jeans, tee shirts, cardigan, birkenstocks and Matty has not complained once that I look the same every day.

Friday, 13 May 2016

Rant

Every morning I wake up and say my mantra.  I tell myself English is  evolving, changing, adapting as it always has, and that there are more important things in life then getting upset over grammatical errors and malapropisms... and then I get onto the internet.  These days everyone is a writer, an author, a communicator with the written word, and no credentials are needed.  Websites, articles, blogs, memes created on some meme generator site by people who don't know when to use your/you're  or lie/lay leave me ready to put some whisky in my morning tea.  And don't get me started about the phrase 'could care less'.

I know, I know, I should take a chill pill. Get off the internet.   Even more than grammatical errors I am pulling my hair out over malapropisms.  The internet abounds with them and the more they are written and shared around and read by others the more they will be perpetuated.   And I tell myself it doesn't matter but that little voice pops up and says 'words matter', 'words have meaning' and I believe this.  I believe that effective communication involves accurately saying what you mean.  But we live in a time and a culture that likes ideas and the gist of things and what you have to say is more important than how you say it.  Perhaps that is sometimes true.  We don't need flowery or poetic language for everything but I will still argue for accuracy. 

And yet, the meanings of words do change over time and we all seem to survive that.  Sometimes they actually take on the very opposite meaning to what they original meant.  Sometimes we make one word good enough when we used to insist on two, as in further and farther.  The distinction between the two is becoming redundant and I see the point in that.  In fact any time I pull some hair out over a malapropism it's not that I don't know what the writer is trying to say.  The fact that I do know is part of what allows me to see that the wrong word has been used.  It's just that I love words and I love accuracy.  I love to understand distinctions and finer points. I have to admit that my own use of the language is not flawless though, and so I am trying to learn to let go in the same way that I have almost let go of caring how people wield a knife and fork.  If it gets the food into your mouth in a generally non-repulsive way isn't that all that matters?  The point of table manners is to be considerate of your dining companions' level of squeamishness and not to make threatening gestures with a knife.  I'd much rather my companion employ strange cutlery tricks than chew with mouth open.


Favourite Poem from Childhood

I eat  my peas with honey;
I've done it all my life.
It makes the peas taste funny,
But it keeps them on my knife. 

-Anonymous

And so, I am trying to nit-pick less about language use and tell myself that I am glad, really glad, that English is not a dead language and remind myself Shakespeare would never have gotten past the Language Police.  Now, I'm off to put some whisky in my tea.