The FW'14 Capsule and a mini rant on Minimalist Wardrobes

I meant to write a long post about how I find that there are so many different variations of what a "minimalist wardrobe" means that it's rather exhausting trying to suss out how and why you should own a minimalist wardrobe (inspired in part by this thread). I find that a lot of times, bloggers don't really know why they're throwing or donating a bunch of clothing quite suddenly except that it seems trendy. There are questions about how much loungewear or gym clothes or underwear you should own. For the record, I own A LOT of loungewear and gym clothes and underwear because I live in lounge wear and I am terribly lazy when it comes to washing delicates (I stock up the same bra and knickers set from The Gap for every day use). There are also gripes about how difficult it is to include color and patterns into a minimalist wardrobe. Which all leads to the question, what exactly IS a minimalist wardrobe?

There are some minimalist wardrobe projects out there that talk about seasonal capsule wardrobes where you are suppose to only wear about 30-ish items per season (three months), underwear and bags and shoes excluded or something like that. That seems like an awful lot of stuff to me especially if you're only doing it for the season. I find that fall and winter is when I rotate through the least amount of clothing, mostly because if you wear a camisole under your sweater, you can really just wear your sweater through the season without it getting funky. If you actually have a formal office job, a few shirts, a pant suit, an extra pair of pants and a suiting dress should suffice. There's nothing minimalistic about being able to wear at least one different item of clothing a day!

In my mind, a minimalist wardrobe isn't so much about the minimalist aesthetic of boring monochromatic colors but rather an organic decision about consuming less for both social and environmental reasons. It's not so much about buying the most expensive things by excusing them as quality items but rather, seeking out things so that you don't have to replace them quite as frequently. It's about conscious consumption. It really doesn't matter if you're shopping from Zara or from Rick Owens, the key is to understand and learn where your product comes from, define what quality is acceptable to you and to reflect on why you are buying what you are buying and if it fits into your lifestyle, personality, and if it is practical.

The unfortunate thing is that there is no way to know what your personal style is without owning a bunch of clothes and having worn them for a while. There is also no way of knowing if something is practical for your lifestyle when things can change quite suddenly. Kids, a real job, suddenly working from home, manual labor, suddenly having to work at Taco Bell etc., etc., ... who knows. I've realize that the whole contrived way of building a minimalist wardrobe these days just seems slightly superfluous with the endless spreadsheets and Pinterest bookmarks and wishlists. Not everyone wants to look like the inside of an Eileen Fisher store, and not everyone actually has the time to make moodboards to suss out how to mix and match, and truth be told, some people just like really like variety!

It took me a long time to figure out how to streamline my closet, not because I was trying to be a minimalist in anyway, but because reading about the clothing manufacturing industry made me very sad. In addition, I hated doing the laundry and I didn't like having to spend a long time figuring out what to wear when the smart thing was to just throw on what I had worn yesterday that looked semi-decent; having a small closet helped with that. I have wasted a lot of time and money in trying to achieve that 10-item closet and tricking myself into believing the myth that $$$ = quality.

The funny thing though, was eventually I realized I couldn't have too tiny a wardrobe because I needed all these other things that made my hobbies and work more pleasant. I certainly couldn't muck around in the field or garden or hike or bring the dogs on a walk with the 10 or so items I tricked myself into believing would work for everything. Despite what anyone says, No. 6 clog boots are not made for hiking or sleek cobblestones in the rain.  In fact, sometimes I think the minimalist wardrobe is an ignis fatuus (illusions, Michael...) and really isn't applicable in any of these conditions:

(a) You have a full-time office job
(b) Over the age of 25
(c) Do not work in the creative industry
(d) Do not run a blog
(e) Are not a privileged individual 
(f) Like colors other than 000,000,000 on the RGB scale

I posted a little figure of the 12 items I will be wearing when I actually have to leave the house starting in October all the way through February. They're all kind of the same shade because I look terrible in colors and patterns and I have no skill in matching anything that don't belong on the same side of the color wheel. The Barbour jacket is rainproof and lightweight enough for me to layer over a black cardigan from Organic John Patrick and the grey Rag & Bone one I bought on sale from La Garconne. I find that I can prolong the life of my sweaters by layering underneath with an organic cotton camisole from Araks or if it gets a little chillier, a super warm woolen-silk tank from Hanro. I also basically rotate through two pairs of pants - the 6937 trousers has been my staple since I bought it earlier this month and got it hemmed a good two inches. Other than that, I have the perfunctory Acne jeans in basement , A.P.C. suede boots from 3 years ago, a silk Madewell shirt I bought eons ago and the very sturdy Isabel Marant scarf I bought last year.  Those are what I call my nice, 'put-on-a-front' clothing.  However, It took me a REALLY long time to figure out how to narrow things down to 12 items a season and it was mostly through trial and error and a lot of wasted income. You could probably come to the same conclusions I have or figure out what suits you at a much lower price point (something which I will touch on the next post) - I'll be the first to admit that I'm terribly particular about achieving that right 'look' and am an out and out pretentious label whore (self-worth intrinsically linked to aesthetics, blah blah blah).

The truth is that I'm home most days of the week when I wear a good amount of yoga pants, fleece sweaters, an Arc'teryx rain jacket* that I bought a couple of years ago with a measly student income, and a pair of Isabel Marant clogs. It's easy for me to list 12 items because for the most part, because I don't need to get up most mornings and schlep out of the house. I also simply don't care what people think anymore. It's strangely liberating and it's made me become a more conscientious consumer because I'm buying for me and my lifestyle and not merely because someone else set the rules.

* I live in a very rainy city so buying a good Gore-tex rain jacket seemed like a no brainer. I bought this a couple of years ago, first for field work, then for skiing. This is the one I own which I bought from on sale. You can find off-season colors for a fraction of the price.

Note: Some of the product links will provide me with a commission if you make a click or make a purchase. See here why I decided to do affiliate linking. As always, I encourage you to shop around for sale items and to shop responsibly. 

3rd quarter State of the Union

I know people make resolutions during the New Year because of some ancient relic of Roman tradition and it's also psychologically easier to say you're going to do something on a significant day rather than on an arbitrary whim. That said, I've felt that I'm meandering through life lately and I really need to figure out exactly what I intend to do with the rest of the year  (and beyond, I guess because I'm horrifyingly bad at New Year resolutions) so that I can actually get started on it as soon as possible instead of spiraling  into some anxiety-laden, wall-staring fit.

Fashion-wise, I think I've finally figured out what works for me most of the time - it's a combination of Japanese work cloths practicality (e.g. Engineered Garments) coupled with the streamlined comfort of organic basics (e.g. Organic John Patrick, Base Range, etc.). I've whittled down a lot of clothes that no longer fit courtesy of my ever-expanding arse, to a few pieces of pull-on trousers, slouchy wool pants and boyfriend jeans. Slim jeans particularly, have given way to more forgiving denim pieces. I've been drawn more to baggy t-shirts and flowy blouses than stripey tops. That whole French thing never really did work for me mostly because (a) I'm not French or even look remotely like anything French - I'm a short, squat Asian with too much body fat and not an ounce of leggy lean-ness and (b) The idea of cigarette pants and breton shirts makes me slightly queasy these days.

Clothing Purchases for 2014:
- Celine trio in navy that was in part sponsored by my mom
- Barbour Shore jacket on sale from Nordstrom
February N/A
- Dries van Noten sandals from Barneys
- Eileen Fisher dress on sale from Nordstrom (for traveling)
- Hope Rescue top on sale from La Garconne
- Hope Won Sweater on sale from La Garconne
- Rennes Gretel Tote with a discount
- MHL cotton linen tee on sale from Mill Mercantile
- Ilana Kohn Darryl shirt on sale from Mille
- Ancient Greek Thais Sandals (leather instead of pony hair) at a discount from Shopbop
- Band of Outsider Pin-tucked top from La Garconne
- Rennes Meeting dress (custom made)
- Reinhard Plank Fanelli hat on sale from Totokaelo
- Lauren Manoogian Wide Jacket from Myth & Symbol
- Chanel ballet flats
- 6397 pull-on trousers from Need Supply
- Eileen Fisher Twill Utility Jacket on sale from Nordstrom 

I have no real explanation for why I bought the things I did, except they were all pretty much warranted and I couldn't find similar pieces for a lower price. Julia's (of Rennes) bags are of exceptional quality so I have no regret picking up one of her totes when she had a promotion going on (and before the recent well-deserved price increase). I found myself eventually buying one of the Rennes duffel bags for my mom as well (who after much coaxing and pouting by me, actually gave me the bag; yes, I'm a 14-year old trapped in the sagging body of a 32-year old).  The only sort of impulse buy was the Lauren Manoogian sweater which I had been eying for a while. Can I also just say that I'm not sure if it's the age I'm at but I've been browsing for Eileen Fisher stuff more than I want to!

The weird thing is that I've been rotating through every single thing that I've bought at quite an astonishing rate. I find myself wearing almost the same thing every time I have to leave the house with the Rennes meeting dress, MHL top and Celine Trio probably getting the most use. While I realize that I do indeed spend an insane amount on clothes I have actually been happier with my purchases this year than I have been in a very long time. I'm certain that you can achieve the same sense of contentment with a much lower budget but I'm a lazy person and the only places I even bother shopping at anymore are Mill Mercantile, Nordstrom and La Garconne. I think it's the "not caring" part that has made me happier - I'm buying things that fit into my lifestyle and that makes me comfortable, rather than something trendy or something that conforms to this idealistic notion of what the perfect closet should look like.

I think I'm pretty much good for now in terms of clothing. I've really been drawn to the brimmed hat trend of late for some reason, so I'm going to pick up a nice floppy felt one even though I think at some point I'm probably going to throw away the hat and revert to rain jackets with a hood. I'm also waiting for the sales to pick up an A.P.C. sweatshirt and track pants.

Somewhere in between those articles of clothing, I've also spent money on a Smythson organizer which in my defense was at 50% off, lots of terribly expensive ceramic planters, Cire Trudon candles, woven rugs, weavings, exercise clothing and trainers, and tons of crap from Beautyhabit. I cannot for the life of me understand why gym clothes are so expensive, and anything that doesn't make your butt look ghastly and squished tends to cost you your first born.

In other news, I've started weaving! I'm slightly embarrassed to showcase my handiwork, but over the next few months, I'm hoping that they'll look good enough for me to post a preview - I've been drawing inspiration for the tapestries from hikes around the Pacific Northwest and my strange fascination of late with old Japanese movies and Lady Murakami.

In yet other news, I'm finally drawing to a close on my PhD; I just need to put the final touches and find a real job instead of doing odd-and-ends like dog sitting and doing small projects with no real income. I guess my wardrobe of late also reflects that I'm in a field where I would probably be wearing more archival clothing than Charvet shirts. Still, in an attempt to maybe one day squeeze into a pencil skirt for my future congressional hearings (haw haw), I've taken up fitness martial arts. It's kind of brutal, but it also feels strangely fulfilling to have an avenue where I can release all this pent-up existentialist rage.

So instead of a new year's resolution, I'm actually going to work towards these following things in the next few months and beyond:

1. Save for traveling by cutting on frivolous purchases like flowers, house wares and expensive alcohol, and avoid going out to expensive bars. We're planning for trips to Korea and Japan, a long excursion of the British Isles and a two-week vacation in Sardinia. It all sounds so magical, except that it may take us as long as ten years to see this all come through.
2.  Seriously scout for a house.
3. Learn Brazilian Portuguese so that I can actually start working on projects in that area on my own.
4. Finish reading the 8 books I've been putting off since three years ago (I don't even remember which ones anymore)
5. Kid(s)? Now that is a ghastly thought which would probably make #1 - 4 redundant.

How is your year coming along and do you have any plans for the rest of 2014 and beyond? I'd love to hear what you've been up to and maybe plagiarize some good ideas.

P.S.: There's still time for that giveaway from my last post! I'm sure there are still very many kind acts waiting to happen.

Note: Some of the product links will provide me with a commission if you make a click or make a purchase. See here why I decided to do affiliate linking. As always, I encourage you to shop around for sale items and to shop responsibly. 

Gratitude Sunday: A Giveaway

First image by assembledhazardly; All other images from Bailey's Home

I am giving away a new copy of  'Simple Home: Calm Spaces for Comfortable Living' by Mark and Sally Bailey as a way of saying thank you to readers who have been following this blog through its 3 odd years of obtuse rambling.

I received this book last Christmas and really enjoyed thumbing through the pages of shabby chic minimalism; the design found in this book is sort of  the British equivalent of 'wabi-sabi'. The main draw of the book for me is that most of the spaces featured are aspirational, the book actually offers a lot of really great ideas and inspiration to turn your home into a refuge where you can rejuvenate, reflect and meditate. The designers stress the importance of reducing clutter and present myriad ways of repurposing and recycling well-worn items . I think it's apt that as we transition into fall to prepare our homes into a nest and retreat of sorts by just reducing the amount of things we have. Coupled with great pictures from photographer Debi Treloar, this also makes for a great coffee table book.

All I ask from you in order to participate in the giveaway is to do something kind -  donate to an animal shelter, buy dinner for a homeless person, volunteer at a youth program or just call someone up whom you haven't talked to in a while. Come back here and leave a comment about your act of kindness and why you chose to do what you do.

The giveaway ends two weeks from today on Sunday, October 5.

** This giveaway has now ended. The chosen commenter was Jocy via a random number generator. Everyone else who participated, please send me your address as well, I'll put something in the mail for you as a thank you. *

Small things: Home pedicures

Let me start off by just saying thank you to everyone who took the time to read through my last obtuse post and leave a comment. I'm still trying to soak in all the opinions and ideas bandied about and thinking of apt responses (even two months on, it remains at the back of my mind). I've had a follow-up post on draft for the last month, and I just need to actually put my jumbled thoughts into coherent words.

In the meantime, I've been thinking about ways to avoid thinking about clothes and to concentrate on the small things that make me happy and that I should use to occupy my time instead of spending more money on frivolous things. Of course, the notion of frivolous is dependent on the individual - I know plenty of people would find nail polish or candles frivolous, but if it makes you happy and distracts you from envy or mindless consumption, I say why not. Over the next few months, I'll be writing on some of the things I've mentioned in this post. I'm trying to embrace organic minimalism as opposed to consciously making lists, doing closet clean outs and talking about buying even more crap in some effort to conform to that black-white-grey stereotypical minimalist fashion blogger mold.

One of the things that makes me happy is being able to do things at home on the cheap and getting better results than having to spend money out. I go for bi-monthly pedicures because I can't seem to justify the cost and after hearing plenty of horror stories, I've decided to keep my visits to a minimum. I find that I can pretty much maintain decent looking tootsies at home with the right products. The fun thing about doing pedicures/foot soaks at home is that you can basically just do it anytime you want for pretty cheap. Sometimes I even use it as a form of procrastination but I think on average, I do my home pedicures every ten days or so.

The three main items that I really cannot live without are a Japanese soaking bucket, the Tweezerman callus stone and the Fig + Yarrow Foot Treatment Alpine Pumice Scrub; everything else is just complimentary.  I've tried one of those drugstore home pedicure jet tubs and they just slosh water around your ankles and hardly gets hot enough. It's much cheaper and better to get the soaking bucket because it's deep and wide enough so that the water comes up to mid-calf. A little trick I learned is to use two little massaging balls at the bottom of the bucket and roll your feet around when you're soaking. The  bucket is also great for carrying around the house and you can even set it out on the balcony while sipping tea. I usually add some Seaweed Bath Salt with a few drops of tea tree oil for detoxification and disinfection (I mean, take this with a grain of salt, no pun intended - who knows what detoxification even means). The bath salt smells a little like the ocean so it's pretty relaxing.

Sort of a frivolous thing, but I've been really enjoying Lotus Wei mists as part of my home spa experience. You can achieve the same thing by just using essential oils and distilled water, but I'm prone to spending money on silly things anyway. I find the Lotus Wei aromatherapy combinations really lovely, and my favorite is Quiet Mind, which is suppose to help with physical tension. 

The Tweezerman callus stone may be one of the best inventions ever, I like it better than a foot rasp and if you use it daily in the shower for a week, it sloughs off the ugliest and grossest patches from your feet. It's made from recycled ceramic and works extremely well for heels as well without the danger of scraping off too much skin. It's my secret weapon for summer feet all year round without actually needing to go to the nail salon. Actually, the only reason I even get pedicures at all is because I'm terrible at applying nail polish and shaping my nails.

I used the Fig + Yarrow scrub after a 20 minute soak and after rubbing my feet like a crazy person with the callus stone. On the Fig + Yarrow label, it says, "... this tingling treatment deliciously transforms callused peds into kitten paws." Let me tell you that this is no exaggeration. It's literally one of the best scrubs ever made for feet. If you're the kind of person that wants sexy feet, this is the magic potion. The ingredients are pretty simple but extremely effective. You can even make this at home by mixing pumice powder with olive oil and shea butter. However, I find that the Fig + Yarrow scrub actually lasts a long time and because they seem like such a decent company, it's worth the $28 spent.

My favorite spa-like towels are the Scents and Feel Fouta Towel which have a surprising range of functions. I've been using them as beach blankets, as summer throws and more recently, to line my dog's bed because it's super absorbent and soft. Just in case you didn't already know, you have to make sure your feet is toweled dry especially between the toes before applying cream and nail polish to prevent fungal infections. I use the Alpha Hydrox Foot Cream generously, apply some Eve Lom cuticle cream and slip my feet into one of those free slippers you get from hotels. If I'm feeling saucy sometimes, I'll put on some Sally Hansen Cuticle Remover, push my cuticles back with an orange stick and slop on some nail polish. My favorite nail lacquer lately is a nude polish (Lingerie) by Guerlain.

So there you have it, I love being able to use what I already have on hand, add a few additional items that will last a long time and create a pleasurable experience for myself at minimum cost.

Note: Some of the product links will provide me with a commission if you make a purchase. For the Scents & Feel towels, you can sometimes scoop up really good deals through Amazon. For the Lotus Wei mists, Spirit Beauty Lounge periodically has coupons/sales so I usually wait till then to stock up. You can probably find most of the other products at your local drugstore.

On the matter of "curating", the snob effect and jumping on the bandwagon


I bet you probably saw this coming, didn't you?

I'll bet that you've been wondering what the heck I'm doing with my endless Instagram posts of clothing and home goods and food and purchases and all the while espousing some terrible spiel about consuming less and more discerningly. Yes, I confess I've fallen off the high horse and I've given in to keeping up with the endless pictures of flowers, brunch and shoes. I've been trying to keep up with the holidays, and artisanal jewelry and the artfully arranged coffee cups, and Kinfolk magazines (well, in my defense, I don't do the Kinfolk magazine bit because I find it slightly insulting to anyone with an ability to read, but that's a different story altogether).

Either way, I admit that I've been sucked into the vortex of false pretenses and keeping up with the Joneses who earn about 10x as much as I do through affiliate links. Why? I don't really know. Maybe it's the fact that I'm 30 (ish) and still in school, the fact that I will never be tall enough or rich enough or thin enough or know enough obscure artists or pottery makers. Maybe it's the fact that towards the end of my mid-life, all I have is a rented house and few pairs of designer shoes and the ability to name all The Beatles albums in chronological order, sing along to every single Morrissey song and quote 'Back to The Future' word for word ('McFly! Hoverboards don't work on water... unless you've got power!!!'). It's not a bad thing, being regular - except that nowadays, social media makes you feel like you're really just not good enough.

Over the past year or so, I've had the opportunity to travel to a few lower income countries. It has been a simultaneously interesting and depressing experience, mostly because the pace of globalization and development far outweighs the ability of the general population and the environment to prevail. While I'm glad that more people have access to clean water and education and healthcare (okay, I guess Pakistan is an exception), I've been extremely dispirited with the rate that the most fragile amongst us are being left behind, and the rate at which we seem to be plundering the earth whilst feeling that it's some sort of entitlement for merely being part of the human species. 

When you travel to Bhutan or Brazil as a tourist, all you see are the nice and sugar-coated things; you see the new architecture and the beautiful scenery and the remnants of an odd, bygone culture. You taste the churrasco at DOM, get foot massages at the Aman and profess how great the nightlife in São Paulo is. It irks me that people think that being peasants and having working-class communal dinners is trendy, without addressing the fact that most peasants and/or working-class people don't really have access to $10 beeswax candles and overpriced dinnerware or time to enjoy a communal dinner of haddock and freshly-picked mushrooms.  When you live in Bhutan or Brazil, you see how farmlands and hillslopes and villages are destroyed for mining and dams and World Cup stadiums. You see how hard people work for measly wages and for things that we in the higher income countries take for granted. You see how a piece of meat and homemade cheese and homegrown chilli peppers from your yard in the village will make the most delicious meal because you've worked so hard and don't get to see your family for years on end.

What I've found amusing lately is this new fangled obsession with "curation" - a term that yupsters with time for leisurely pursuits seem to throw around as if they've spend years in training learning the fine art of slapping together several Futagami trivets and Ann Demeulemeester jackets.  It used to be that being a curator meant that you had a degree in the fine arts, or history or something meaningful that allowed you to defend your choices in the matter you "curated".  If you were a curator in a Museum of Modern Art, it meant that you needed to be learned in the works and life of Sebastião Selgado or Joseph Beuys. I'm not even sure if most people know who Oji Masanori is or that Ann Demeulemeester left the company last year. The new direction of "curation" these days veer towards the spartan and heritage and the Japanese. In some bizarre twist of fate, the Japanese who invented the whole wabi-sabi aesthetic is falling for this scheme; Kinfolk magazine is so wildly popular in Japan, the good folks at Kinfolk had to create a Japanese-language magazine and a peasantry-based set of clothing just for them.  The funny thing also, is that the well-curated stores are almost always similar - minimalist website design, quirky item descriptions, the same Japanese household items or the same line of clothing by certain people known for prints and dresses Made in India etc., etc. The only thing different is the timeline of when things go on sale and the prices.

I bring this up because I'm no less guilty of trying to "curate" my life - from the coffee I drink to the dishware I use and the rugs I own. It used to be that people just called it good taste; these days, choosing the right paraphernalia for your home or your body is supposedly a skilled artistry. Some people even choose the skincare they use based on the packaging and how it looks in their bathroom (hint: Aesop). The New York Times ran an article a few years ago on how the word curate may be a reflection of self-inflation (ironically, the article was written by the spouse of a well-known online lifestyle "curator"). I find it particularly true that most people who swing the word "curate" around nonchalantly seem to be the ones that are most pretentious and judgmental

In 1950, Leibenstein wrote about the snob effect and the bandwagon effect which are essentially microeconomic theories on consumer demand and preference. It seems to me that more than ever these days, that people tend to display both social phenomenons. I'm not entirely sure if it's social media enabling the bandwagon effect but snobs seem to garner copycats and followers almost instantaneously. Everyone always seems to be going on about something that isn't really even that good, and only because someone else said it was good. Maybe I'm the judgmental asshole who thinks that everything isn't good enough. Anyhow, I'll give the example of the quality of a certain well-known Japanese linen company that has its products sold in every "well-curated" store known to man. While cheaper than other brands, the quality just doesn't hold up to the ones from Libeco (Belgian linen) or Brahms Mount (woven in the USA, source slightly shady) or the ones that Alder & Co. sells that are manufactured in France. Thorstein Veblen argued in 'The Theory of the Leisure Class' that lower-status members of a society tended to emulate the higher-status class in order to move up in status. Anyone who disagrees with this theory need only look toward Instagram and the mass infiltration of the same pictures with the same coffee cups and magazines over and over again.

All these point to "curate" being the new terminology for the "snob effect". I suspect that coffee, brass trivets and hand-sewn shoes are becoming Veblen goods even though the shoes don't quite fit right or the trivets leave scratches on your table. Why settle for local roasters that charge $12/lb of Yirgacheffe when it makes you that much more pretentious to buy from microroasters that charge $22/lb for the very same beans albeit in a "minimalist" packaging? Can you really taste the finer nuances of melon and strawberries or are you going by what the package says? Which brings me back to my obtuse story about traveling to Brazil. The family I stayed with owned a coffee plantation and could tell the price and quality of the coffee just looking at the raw beans. When I asked if I could get whole, fresh roasted beans so I could lovingly grind it in my Hario Skerton which I lugged all the way across the continent in my carry-on, they laughed in my face and said, "Who has time for that?!"

And maybe that's why I find this whole thing about curating so irksome, that some people have taken what is really an upper-class, slightly elitist terminology and applying to consumer goods meant for the middle-class plebs. We're all pretending to be part of the leisure class when the we're really just at the higher percentile of the income curve with some time to waste. I don't know about you, but the bohemian mothers and the Brooklyn hipsters with the same sheepskin rugs (guilty!) and Eames chairs (guilty!) and the Kaico pans (guilty!) and Chemex coffeemakers (guilty!) don't exactly scream high class to me. It just says that we all kind of like the same items, can afford nice thing, have access to same goddamned websites, and follow the same people on social media. We also probably have a knack for procrastination and a tendency to argue on forums while we pound away on computers for work. Say we have good tastes, say we like the finer things in life, say we like artisan goods but don't say we "curate" our homes or we shop from "finely-curated" stores because it doesn't really mean anything and we're just really jumping on the bandwagon.

P.S.: I feel like I've contradicted myself somewhere but I'm not entirely sure. Also, I apologize for my lack of cohesion in the above rant. My lack of reading of any useful material lately has definitely taken a toll on my ability to reason logically.

Random Snippets

I recently bought a new walkabout camera lens and I'm trying to actually work a little bit more at brushing up on my photography skills. I know that everyone and their grandmother wields a DSLR now and it can get quite aggravating when you're constantly bombarded by a slew of badly composed and edited photos that have no context. I know I posted recently about taking a 6 month break from blogging, but considering that I need some form of escapism from the drudgery of a thesis, and I haven't particularly been inspired to post of late, I thought a photo series would be a good way to update everyone with little snippets of what's going on in my life - if you care enough, and lest you think I've gone (further) off the deep end. I think it's also a particularly good way to improve on my photography - I'm starting to think more about composition than just "spraying and praying". While I spend an inordinate amount of time on Instagram, I find that taking pictures through a larger, sharper lens gives one a different perspective on things and helps bring about a profound appreciation of life in general.

The second picture below is one of my favorites of the 108 Stupas in Dochula Pass that was taken on my trip to Bhutan last year. I drafted a whole post about visiting developing countries and its profound effect on the way I view consumerism now, but I think I'll come back to the post when I'm less pessimistic about the world...

The rest of the photos are just pretty-fied versions of the regular stuff - coffee, dinners alone, home scents and the perfunctory dog portrait. I hope you've had a good year so far, I can't believe it's already April!

On a hiatus

I need to finish this last leg of my dissertation and have made the New Year's resolution to abstain from procrastinating on the Internet. I'll be back in about six months with hopefully a more positive attitude and a bunch of cynical stories to share. Wish me luck.

ETA (01/23/14): Last year, this blog made $127.55 through affiliate linking. Once I receive payment, it will be going to the Oregon Dachshund Rescue in the name of Readers of Assembled Hazardly. Thanks everyone!  My pup Dieter, an ODR graduate, appreciates all the great help.

Acquisitions & A Few Favorites

Top row (L-R): Akiko's Pottery Mini Colander ($42) and Ambatalia Bento Bags ($17) from Art & Article; Shino Takeda ceramics; Ray Morales Pottery Mugs ($25) Second row (L-R): Wooden utensils from Richard Rose Culinary; Walnut cutting boards from A Sunny Afternoon ($69); Kaico Enamel Milk Pan from Anaise ($72); Mud Australia Teapot in Slate ($185) Third row (L-R):  Vintage Cocktails; The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Dessert Cookbook; The Roberts Court by Marcia Coyle; 50 Mile Bouquet by Debra Prinzing Bottom row (L-R): Astier de Villate incense ($40); Mad et Len candles ($80); Kashmir Body Balm from In Fiore ($80); The Lip Slip by Sara Happ ($24)

I think the idea of holiday gift guide is a little redundant since everyone has different likes and budgets. I don't presume to think that everyone can afford $80 chocolates and $200 sweaters. I also don't presume to know better than most people about the best thing to give their friends and family. I mean, with the ease of online shopping, the multitude of "gift guides" and the ubiquitous sales and promotions, I'm sure most people will be able to find the perfect gift quite easily.

In keeping up with my last post on cataloging purchases, I feel it's a better idea to list a few things that I've purchased this year and tell you why I love them while hopefully making a case for why you should own them too. Most of the items come from independent stores that stock plenty of unique artisanal products. If you click through any one of these stores, you'll find that they also have a ton of other great products at varying price points. I'm going to encourage you to shop responsibly and to buy something that is, to put in quite clichéd terms, an "heirloom". I've linked to some of the items using affiliate referrals, which will yield a small commission for me if you purchase an item. However, in case you don't want to click on an affiliate link, I've also listed the stores you can purchase the items at (where applicable).  All commissions are donated to the Oregon Dachshund Rescue (where my rascally dachshund Mr. Dieter was adopted from).

1. Akiko's Pottery Mini Colander & Ambatalia Bento Bags from Art & Article
One of my favorite online discoveries this year is Michele's store, Art & Article which stocks a small but very unique selection of home goods including Akiko's Pottery ceramics and Ambatalia bags. I've been a huge fan of Akiko's Pottery for a few years now after visiting her studio in West Seattle. I use my Ambatalia bags for wrapping bread, toting fruits and vegetables and for bring my lunchbox to work. The added bonus is that it's all made in San Francisco of organic cotton, linen and hemp. 

2. Shino Takeda Ceramics
New York-based Shino Takeda's ceramics is every yupster's must-have. I particularly like her style of multi-color glazing and hand-pinched clay which results in really extraordinary shapes and textures. They tend to be slightly expensive (in my opinion), but the several dishes I have from her have been conversation pieces at the dining table.
3. Ray Morales Mugs
The person who makes my favorite morning coffee mugs is Ray Morales, who is a ceramics professor at Miami-Dade. I particularly like his mugs for the way they feel in hand, the handles are extremely comfortable and sturdy for when you're still bleary-eyed. His pottery is also well-made enough to hold up to everyday abuse and comes in beautiful shino glazes. 

4. Richard Rose Culinary
Rick Odea runs Richard Rose Culinary (formerly known as Phoenix Culinary Products and the other half of Ozark West). I first noticed a lot of Rick's beautiful wooden utensils being used on Giada De Laurentiis' cooking shows and I finally purchased a pair of salad hands and a few spoons this year. I can't really convey how beautifully made these utensils are, from the luminous sheen of beeswax on walnut, the wavy carvings, the way the wood fits perfectly in your hand and the subtle elegance, it's a wonder anyone buys wooden utensils from anywhere else.

5. Cutting boards from A Sunny Afternoon
This year, I also discovered beautiful cutting boards made by Sarah Sherman Samuel and her father at A Sunny Afternoon. I love the cutting boards particularly because they have such interesting shapes, have a good heft to them and are made from my favorite kind of wood - the American black walnut. And... I kind of have a crush on Sarah, who is possibly one of the most beautiful bloggers ever (other than Jenny Gordy, but that's a different story). 

6. Kaico Enamel Milk Pan
I use my Kaico enamel milk pan for hot chocolate, morning porridge and for making very small amounts of sauce. Having bought the saucepan based on some idealized online photos, I'm actually quite surprise that the pan has managed to stay pretty clean for the most part even though I make my caramelized sweet soy sauce in it quite often. I bought the pan at Alder & Co. but I'm linking to Renee's store since it's slightly cheaper there.

7. Mud Australia Teapot
This teapot was a nice wedding anniversary gift from my husband and having owned Mud Australia ceramics for many years, I must say that Shelley Simpson's company has really upped their game by making their ceramics much more durable than before and in more exquisite colors. Customer service at the Mud store in New York is also top notch.  My teapot is in the 2-cup size and it's just perfect enough for a pot of good Wuyi Oolong when you want to class things up.

8. Vintage Cocktails by Laziz Hamani & Brian Van Flandern
Vintage Cocktails has been my go to recipe book lately (I drink more than I cook these days), and the six or so drinks I've made from it have actually been able to rival some of the fanciest cocktail bars and pseudo-speakeasies I've been to. It's part of my effort to go out less and spend too much money on craft cocktails. After all, the amount you pay for a "mixologist" to hand you a French 75 is equivalent to two bottles of Prosecco at home.

9.  The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Dessert Cookbook by Josh Kilmer-Purcell & Brent Ridge
Ever since I came across a cardamom cake recipe from The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Dessert Cookbook, I've been a fan. I highly recommend the cookbook for all your holiday baking needs (and more), I'm making their fruitcake laced with my personal touch pf Single Malt scotch for Christmas this year. The few other recipes (Ginger cake, cinnamon buns, etc.) I've tried from the book have turned out beautifully.

10. The Roberts Court by Marcia Coyle
I am sad to report that I haven't really been reading much this year, but in the small amount of free time I've had to actually curl up with a book,  Marcia Coyle's detailed insight into 'The Roberts' Court' has been one of my favorites. It's simultaneously depressing, eye-opening and an indispensable book for anyone interested in the current state of American politics. Marcia Coyle writes for the National Law Journal and appears periodically on the PBS Newshour, talking about SCOTUS decisions and cases. She has a uncanny knack for explaining things in really concise and intellectual manner and this book is a reflection of that ability.

11. The 50 Mile Bouquet  by Debra Prinzing
This year, I've also started to make myself a little bit happy by purchasing a floral arrangement every few weeks. One of my favorite sustainable florists in Seattle is Terrabella Flowers and 'The 50 Mile Bouquet' was recommended by the owner Melissa Feveyear. The book explores sustainable flower farming through stories and insights into the lives of growers and floral designers. If you're interested in the slow flower movement, whether by purchasing through a florist or growing your own, this is a really good read. 

12. Astier de Villatte Incense
I was first introduced to Astier de Villatte fragrance at Alder & Co. in Portland. I've come to the conclusion that I like their incenses more than their candles and my favorite scents are the mystical Namche Bazaar (reminisce of mountains and old Buddhist temples) and the rustic Aoyama. Great for burning during the winter.  

13. Mad et Len Candles
Mad et Len candles are hand-poured soy & vegetable wax candles made in the Grasse region. They may not be the most eco-friendly candles but the scents they come in are mind-blowing. My favorites so far have been the leathery Black Afghan and the smoky Nag Champa. The candles come in hefty cast iron molds and last a really long time. My everyday candles are beeswax ones by Big Dipper Waxworks, but for sitting by the fire with a glass of wine, Mad et Len lends that touch of luxury. I purchase my Mad et Len candles from Garde in LA, Mohawk General Store and online from Farfetch
14. Kashmir Body Balm by In Fiore
Most of you already know that I'm an In Fiore disciple so it's no surprise that one of my absolute favorite moisturizer is In Fiore's body balm. I love the sensual Kashmir scent, which is grapeseed, jojoba oil and beeswax infused with sandalwood and neroli. It's an excellent remedy for dry elbows and knees as well as healing cracked heels. I keep a jar on my nightstand and I find that the scent is a really good for putting me to sleep as well. 

15. The Lip Slip by Sara Happ
I bought this on a whim from Nordstrom a couple of months back after reading in a magazine about how great it was for severely chapped lips. It's been one of my favorite beauty products this year and while a little expensive, the jar has lasted quite a while. I find that after using The Lip Slip religiously for a week, slathering it on twice a day, I hardly even need to apply any other sort of lip balm. This is definitely one of the few hyped products that actually works.

On cataloging purchases


When I first started this blog in 2011, it was an experiment on cataloging my consumption habits and a lame attempt I had at just talking about random things that inspired me. Somehow or other, Assembled Hazardly evolved into a "style blog" of some sort, even though it was never really my intention. People and fellow bloggers who have met me can attest to two things: I'm probably not the most fashionable person in the world, and I have more food-related/household junk than clothing.

I talk about clothes because I like clothes. But then again, I like clothing as much as I like ceramics and pottery and artisan fish sauce and alpaca rugs and handmade planters - what I buy somehow reflects my  pretentious tastes and personality. I like clothing as much as much as I like liquor and books and music and movies but nobody really wants to hear about that. No one really wants to read about me waxing lyrical about the newest Foxygen album or the greatness of the second season of 'The West Wing' or how incredibly dull Nicholas Sparks' books are (I've only ever read one book and it made my brains bleed through my ears). No one (at least none that read my blog) is interested in my concoctions of brain-cell killing mixed-drinks or microbrews or how I meticulously plan my dog's raw food menu.

The posts that have received the most comments and traction on this blog have been the ones where I talk about personal finances, shopping habits and occasionally, ones where I launch into an existentialist diatribe. I guess I post on average once every two months because I really have nothing to say about style or fashion that hasn't already been said. I don't have any constructive advice on how one should dress because at the end of the day, I can barely dress myself and I've realized that it's tremendously obtuse to tell someone where and how they should shop based on some idiotic notion that only certain brands or labels or aesthetics are good enough. I mean, my collection of severely overpriced clothing have obviously not survived the chopping block and/or lasted any longer than things that cost half the price, so why should I think I'm authority on getting dressed? If someone wants to looks like a 90s grunge version of Pippi Longstocking, they're probably going to be able to shop more responsibly than someone who is into the whole Yohji/Sander aesthetic, minimalist or not.

I feel there is some need, after all my hoity-toity spiel about consuming more responsibly, to be held accountable to the things I buy. Someone commented recently that "minimalist blogs" such as mine tend to sweep purchases under rug and that we really still buy as much as run of the mill bloggers, which I guess to some extent is true. That being said, I've been inspired by the handful of blogs I still read on occasion to catalog my purchases as a way to reflect on my shopping habits (and I swear this is not a passive-aggressive way to address the aforementioned comment).

- Johnstons Cashmere Sweater (sale)
- Hope Stay Jeans
- Hope Has Tee in Black
- A.P.C. Wedge Sandals
- Wood Wood Germaine Pants
- Engineered Garments Field Jacket
- Rancourt & Co Chukkas
 Hope Has Tee in Black
- A.P.C. Black Sandals (on sale)
- Peter Jensen Pleat Front Shorts ( sale)
- Nike Free 5.0+ 
- Kletterwerks Backpack
- Shoes Like Pottery sneakers
- Hope Has Tee in navy (sale)
- Oliver Goldsmith sunglasses
- Bottega Veneta purse
- Hope Has Tee in beige (sale)
- Comme des Garcons black pouch
- A.P.C. black sandals (sale)
- Wood Wood Germain Pants (sale)
- Jil Sander bag (sale)



- Saucony running shoes
- Comme des Garcons sweatshirt
- The North Face running jacket

- Dries van Noten Sunglasses (on sale)

I seem to have purchased a great amount of things in April and May, but only because I was doing extensive traveling from April to July. I needed comfortable shoes, a large-ish backpack and some easily washable short-sleeve t-shirts. I'm trying to be much more responsible with the things I buy in that I want to make sure that (a) I'll use the heck out of them and (b) they're actually well-made enough to last a while. I wear those Hope t-shirts a lot because they wash and dry really well in hotel bathroom sinks and don't seem to unravel quite as fast as other cotton tees I've owned. I've tried hunting down organic, locally-made t-shirts to no avail - Archival Clothing and Organic by John Patrick makes some really good t-shirts but they don't come with the easy slouchiness that I desire.

I've also been slowly amassing a small collection of Arc'teryx and Engineered Garments clothing because the fit and construction is top notch. I know that the aesthetics of athletic workwear is not what many people who read blogs like mine aspire to, but as I've said before, I think I've finally come to a point where I really don't care anymore. I'd rather be warm and dry and comfortable enough to swallow two pints of beers than hobbling around in suede shoes that need babying.

Most of the other items listed seem to have been purchases that were warranted. I bought a tiny Bottega wallet to replace a larger CdG one that I just didn't need, the Jil Sander bag was purchased because I I'm need a small-ish sling bag and the running gear... well, I needed them because I'm trying to get back into exercising. The items bought on whim are the A.P.C. sandals and the Dries van Noten sunglasses which I just bought yesterday after a bout of online browsing. I really need to stop filling my boredom and anxiety with dicking around on the online shops - they nearly always end in some regrettable impulse buy.

Obviously, if you follow me on Instagram, you'll realize that I do buy more than just clothes - I'm thinking about cataloging monthly purchases that include A.P.C. quilts, books and random home purchases as well (like Maja and Kali). You can read here about my budget from about two years ago and it's remained pretty much the same except now I spend more on skincare and flowers. I think a good way to keep this blog going is to keep myself continuously liable and have readers tell me off if I'm being a moron or a hypocrite (hopefully very politely). It's a good way to keep me in line with being a responsible consumer.

P/S: I've started food blogging again, so hopefully that will take some edge away from spending all my time browsing the Internet!

The Wardrobe Inventory

Breton (Long Sleeves)
Hope Byronesse (black/natural)
Marimekko (navy/white)
Petit Bateau (navy/white)
A.P.C. (blue/white)
Saint James (navy/white)
CdG Play (cobalt/white)

Breton (Short Sleeves) 
Hope Has Tee (black/white)
Hope Has Tee (navy/white)
Hope Has Tee (beige/white)
Wood Wood Abril Tee (navy/white)

Other tees
Hope Byronesse (black)
Hope Byronesse (white)
J. Crew linen tee (white)

A.P.C. Oxford (blue)
Steven Alan Linen L/S (blue)
Chimala Work Shirt (chambray)
Madewell L/S shirt (floral)
YMC L/S (plaid)
Dries van Noten L/S (white)

A.P.C. Floral S/S (white)
A.P.C. Eyelet S/S (white)
Madewell Silk L/S (white)
Girl. by Band of Outsiders L/S (white)

Hope Wood Sweater (gray)
Johnstons Cashmere Pullover (gray)
CdG Shirt Cardigan (navy)
Rachel Comey Pullover (gray)
Primoeza Cardigan (beige)
Derek Lam Cashmere Pullover (black)
Acne Ruth Chunky Sweater (navy)


Gloverall Duffle (navy)
Arc'teryx  Atom LT (black)
Arc'teryx Gamma MX (cobalt)
FWK Engineered Garments Field Jacket (navy)
Hope Flight Jacket (navy)
See By Chloe Peacoat (navy)

Acne Flex (Basement)
Acne Flex (Black)
MiH Oslo (Blue)
Hope Nice (Dark Blue)

J.Crew Elan Trousers (black)
Wood Wood Germaine Trousers (black)
Wood Wood Germain Trousers (beige)

Peter Jensen Pleat Front (black)
Vanessa Bruno Athe (cobalt/white)
Girl. by Band of Outsiders (black)

SC X LV (cobalt)
Jil Sander Crossbody (navy)
MM6 Tote (black)
Comme des Garcons Luxury Pouch (black)
A.P.C. Sac (navy)

Oliver Goldsmith Sophia Sunglasses
Raen Optics Ryko Sunglasses

Hope Guys Brogues (black)
Hope Soft Shoe (black)
A.P.C. Wedge Sandals (navy)
Miu Miu Mary Jane Pumps (cobalt)
Marni Mary Jane Pumps (black)
Nike Free 5.0+ (black/white)
Shoes Like Pottery (black)
Hope Chy Boots (black)
Hope Speaker Boot (brown)
A.P.C. ankle boots (brown)
NDC Made By Hand Boots (black)
Ferragamo Vara Pumps (black)
Tod's Degas Flats (black)
Robert Clergerie Valof (black)

*Updated list as of 05 Feb. 2014

I've been procrastinating a little this week, seeing as we have a heat wave warning over here in Seattle and I've been sitting next to a fan and eating ice cream all day.  Ever so often on this blog I talk about a closet purge and this summer,  my frivolous procrastination tool is a substantial re-evaluation of my current wardrobe.

Taking a leaf out of Dead Fleurette's wardrobe inventory post from a couple of years ago, I took everything out of my closet and chest of drawers and whittled things down into two categories: (a)  general clothing - which I've listed above and (b) travel/athletic/lounge clothing. Of course there are overlaps between the sets, but the latter is made up of a stockpile of Champion running tights, Eddie Bauer travel pants, fleece sweaters and tattered Marks & Sparks tank tops, so in the interest of sanity, I'm not going to list those things out except to say that I'm pretty ashamed that there's so much of them.

The inventory above are things I wear on a regular basis and a combination of any of them basically makes up my "uniform". Making this list has actually made me realize that I have more clothing than I thought although I do wear every item (except the dresses) on an endless rotation. I have no idea why I've amassed such an insane number of Hope tees except that they travel and wash really well. I also realize that I need a white shirt (Acne Patti) and a blazer (J.Crew Ludlow) and a pair of slouchy pants in navy but other than that, most things should last me a good while. Most items (barring a slew of new shoes) have been with me for a couple of years (e.g. most of the breton tees, shirts, blouses and dresses) and I guess in retrospect, maybe these are the things I should stock up on at the next opportunity. I know that my wardrobe seems to have a dearth of business/work friendly pieces, but I don't think I'll ever be working at a job that requires horrifyingly uncomfortable pantsuits, so a nice blazer and a pair of jeans should suffice.

I think it's pretty obvious that there's a few brands and color schemes I tend to stick to - Hope and the color gray being the major one.  I've mentioned before that there are only a selected amount of places I shop at,  and I absolutely hate going into stores and finding new things. I don't know if it's shallow or boastful (and I certainly don't wish to come across that way) that I'm listing the brands of my clothing, but I thought it might be helpful to those who are looking to curate their wardrobes carefully to have a list of brands/stores that I find myself constantly going back to simply because they make such simple and functional clothing.

I read a few months back about how minimalist style blogs seem to be peddling the notion of restraint while simultaneously hiding a shopping addiction by periodically purging. I found it somewhat sobering, given the fact that I never seem to be short of clothing to get rid off. It's strange how after two and the half years of babbling about simple, ethical living etc., I have more mass produced junk than ever before. I also seem to keep buying stuff I have no intention of keeping, which may signal a need to return to a therapist's chair.