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!
 
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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

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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).

January
- Johnstons Cashmere Sweater (sale)
February
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March
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April
- Hope Stay Jeans
- Hope Has Tee in Black
- A.P.C. Wedge Sandals
- Wood Wood Germaine Pants
- Engineered Garments Field Jacket
- Rancourt & Co Chukkas
May
 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
June
- Hope Has Tee in navy (sale)
- Oliver Goldsmith sunglasses
- Bottega Veneta purse
July
- 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)

August


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September
- Arcteryx Beta LT Jacket
- Saucony running shoes
October
- Comme des Garcons sweatshirt
- The North Face running jacket

November
- 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)

Shirts
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)


Blouses
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)

Sweaters
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)


Outerwear

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)

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

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

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

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

Accessories
Oliver Goldsmith Sophia Sunglasses
Raen Optics Ryko Sunglasses

Shoes
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.

In restrospect; thoughts on blogs and blogging


Lately, I've been thinking of upping and deleting this blog or maybe leaving it to spiral into the darkness of the world wide web abyss. I've realized also that I sound like a broken record, with posts usually going in this sequence - apologies for not blogging, I'm fat and lazy, let's buy clothes that fit and I'm tired of shopping.

Blogging feels empty a lot of times, even more frivolous than web surfing. I started to blog mostly because I felt passionately about buying ethical, well-made clothing and I loathed the fact that my indulgence was contributing in some tangential way to climate change, human rights abuses and all the things wrong in the world; things that have played out in frightening reality over the last few months and that have been discussed eloquently in quite a few blogs. I sometimes want to hit people over the head for their ignorance on current affairs and for continuing irresponsible habits. But the truth is that people have different priorities, income and tastes. We all agree that ethically-made clothing is expensive and terribly difficult to obtain and not everyone has the time or money or willpower to seek out these things. In fact, like eating organic food or buying artisanal cheeses or single-origin coffee, ethical-clothing is a luxury that a lot of us want but can't justify.

I've grown rather apathetic and exhausted just looking at blogs and magazines that seem to continually push a certain alternate reality - one where it seems that you can make printed art and pressed flowers all day and still afford vintage Boro rugs, Eames chairs and a closet full of APC. I mean, most days I get up, work until I look like a disaster at 3pm and continuing plowing on with a jug of coffee in my belly, and I mean literally a 33.8oz Stelton jug full of intensely over-caffeinated coffee (I also have a  theory that's how the Zombie Apocalypse will start). I run errands, do chores, feed one hungry dog and one overworked husband, and by the end of the day, when all the good lighting that bloggers go on and on about is gone, I just want to sleep, play Candy Crush or watch a movie - sometimes all three at once. Despite all that, I make pocket change and leech off of my husband. Life is already exhausting and unfulfilling, I really don't need looking at blogs and magazines to make me feel worse about myself.

Sure, I still want to buy nice clothes because my self-confidence is inextricably and embarrassingly linked to how good I look. But growing older has made me realized that some days, I'm too tired to care. There's so many more things to think about or to spend my money on e.g. traveling, buying a house, building a chicken coop, donating to spineless Democrats, etc., etc. Most days, I just want to feel warm, be comfortable and not have to worry about scuffing my shoes or setting my bag down in mud. I want to be able to go from field work to lunch to a walk with my dog to cleaning the yard without having to change or to use protective leather spray. Do you really think a pair of clippity-clop Dicker boots and hernia-inducing skinny jeans is going to help me achieve that seamlessly? I've taken to looking like a mountain-climbing lumberjack, wearing an endless rotation of the same 5 pieces that don't make me feel bloated. In fact, I wear these 5 pieces so often, I'm thinking of stocking up on multiples of them. The rest of the clothes that I have apparently so carefully "curated", lie unfolded and unironed in a giant pile in the back of the closet. I've garnered so much expensive, unused crap over the years that I get violently nauseated just looking at it. And that, dear readers, is not something that I want to blog about.

I know what you are all thinking - all I ever do is whine and moan and be utterly immature. Blogs aren't real! Just live vicariously through them! Magazines are aspirational! Nobody wants to read about your whining! We need better gun control laws! (see what I did there)? In all serious-ness though, I know these things. My point is that I sometimes feel as if I am personal failure when it comes to blogging - I don't have a purpose or a goal, sometimes I rant about conscious emption, other times I go on and on about shoes and clothing and wishlists and spending more money. As I've come more and more into figuring out exactly what I am trying achieve in my personal style, blogging has become more mundane and disappointing, bordering on futile. There are so many great blogs out there that post erudite discussions on the sustainability and ethics of fashion more eloquently than I can (Empty Emptor and The Nife in L'Air come to mind), other blogs do a better job of pointing you to the latest deals or the latest trends or the latest five-points to looking French. All of which leads to my blog being simultaneously unimportant and banal - the only thing that seems to keep it going is my perpetual rage and existentialism and a polite audience of loyal readers.

I spend most of my time these days dreaming about houses, cooking a lot (as evidenced by my Instagram) and working my arse off to get the hell out of grad school. I don't know if that's part of growing older or if that's just the siren bells of giving up and resigning to a suburban life, but the ennui stemming from style blogging is one that's been simmering for a while. I think that as I start realizing the tremendous responsibilities that adulthood brings, clothing and all the preposterously self-indulgent things in life seem so trivial. And maybe it's the sense of maturity and the process of maturing is what will finally lead one towards actual responsible consumerism.

Recipe: Tangelo & Almond Cake



A good many of you have asked for this recipe after seeing it on my Instagram, so I thought that I would post this in lieu of a write up whining about the state of affairs. This is my adaptation of Nigella Lawson's Clementine Cake. It's a very basic and easy flourless cake originated in the Mediterranean; best of all, flourless means gluten-free (if you're into that sort of thing)! You can use any kind of citrus fruit on hand, depending on the season.  I used tangelos because I had a whole bunch of them from my CSA box, but I reckon this will taste equally good, if not marvelously beautiful with Spanish blood oranges. I ate half of this with a glass (okay, several glasses) of Prosecco and I am now thinking that this would make for a lovely Mother's Day brunch dessert. Note of caution, if you are not a fan of marmalade, this may throw you off somewhat since the cake is quite literally bittersweet.

I promise to be back with some circuitous post about de-cluttering, new purchases from Hope, etc. but in the meantime, go get thee some eggs and maketh this recipe.

Tangelo & Almond Cake
Adapted from Nigella Lawson

Cake
3 tangelos (or about 3/4lb of citrus)
6 eggs
2 1/3 cups fine almond meal
1 1/4 cups granulated (caster) sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp Grand Marnier
1 tsp vanilla extract

Marmalade Glaze
1/4 cup really good marmalade (I cannot stress the really good part enough)
1tbsp orange juice
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp sugar
1tbsp Grand Marnier

Optional: Crème fraîche to serve

1. Put the clementines in a pot with cold water to cover, bring to the boil, and cook for 2 hours. Drain and, when cool, cut each clementine in half and remove the seeds. Then finely chop the skins, pith, and fruit in the processor (or by hand, of course).

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. (Nigella used 375F but I think that's too high)

3. Butter and line an 8-inch springform pan with parchment paper.

4. Beat the eggs. Add the sugar, almonds, and baking powder. Mix well, adding the chopped clementines.

5. Pour the cake mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour, when a skewer will come out clean; If the top if browning too fast, cover with foil after the 40 minute mark.

6. Remove from the oven and leave to cool, in the pan on a rack.

7. To make the marmalade glaze, heat all the ingredients in a saucepan and mix well. Poke a few holes in the cake with a skewer and pour the warm glaze all over the top. Let set for a few minutes and it's ready to be served with some  crème fraîche.

*This cake can be wrapped in foil and frozen. To serve after it's frozen, just nuke it in the microwave for 30 seconds or let thaw to room temperature.

Public Service Announcement



In case you're wondering, I've been neglecting my blog because I'm spending more time doing frivolous shite like updating my Instagram with pictures of my dog and tea breaks. Lest I become one of those bloggers that do "My Day/Week/Month/Year/Hour/Minute/Decade in Instagram Recaps", I will just point you towards that direction even though I'm probably jumping on the bandwagon a tad too late. I received one of those new Apple toys for Christmas and I'm slowly becoming an iLemming even though a certain person in this household works for the opposing team.

That being said, I find that because I'm constantly looking for ways to share what I actually enjoy in real life sans the need to elaborate, expand upon and purchase, I'm actually spending much less time doing online shopping! I've been getting back into the groove of cooking, eating better and brushing up on my photography skills (merely so I can show it off on Instagram because seriously, it's really just Flickr for a phone). I think the ability to capture minute details of your day in an instance makes one appreciate (slightly) the beauty of everyday life. I've also been enjoying other people's posts of kids (!!!), puppies and cheese immensely.

If you have an Instagram account, please leave a comment! I'd love a nosy glimpse into your life. :-) Or you can add me @assembledhazardly

The Beauty Regime

Top: My skincare stash, lots of unlabeled bottles with homemade crap in them. Bottom: Detox! (Note: Kusmi Tea is extremely overrated, the Detox tea smells like burnt cannabis)

Hello! I hope your new year is off to a banging start. I've been undergoing a strict detox and purging regiment, keeping away from all sorts of nasty food and from the computer. The holiday season hasn't been kind to my skin or my hips and now I'm sort of wishing that I had been eating more cleanly. It didn't help that I stocked up on a whole ton of Crémant, Prosecco and Cava during a recent wine sale and went a tad nuts with a bottle of Tanqueray and a box of lemons. It also didn't help that within a span of one month, I had two turkey dinners, a blueberry pie, multiple pumpkin pies, a bazillion chocolate truffles ('La Maison du Chocolat', oh mah gawd), a ton of processed meat courtesy of Olympic Provisions, and a whole vat of mashed potatoes (almost all in one sitting, I kid you not).

The unfortunate excess however, causes me to get really, really OCD about my skin this time of year, especially since meat and alcohol (yum!) inevitably causes severe acne for me. Couple that with a tendency to develop severe eczema in the winter months, I have been stumbling around looking like a pockmarked meth-addict. In that vein, I've been inspired to post something about my skincare regime due to a myriad of reasons - first by Alexandra's post about winter skincare, then noticing how much the holiday season has taken a toll on my skin, and finally, receiving emails from a reader asking about my homemade oil cleanser and In Fiore skincare.

I enjoy a mostly holistic approach to skincare, meaning I try to use a bare minimum of "natural" and "organic" products. The quotation marks just indicate that those terms are subjective I guess because is anything these days truly "natural" and "organic"? I think good diet and lifestyle practices does much more for good skin than the most expensive facial serum. However, as I have been told time and time again by my husband, this notion is just insulting to a lot of people who genetically have bad skin. So as a disclaimer, I just wanted to share what works for me, and give you an insight into how I approach skin and body care and list some of my favorite products. I generally have okay skin which gets terribly dry in the winter and the occasional breakouts and red splotches from self-induced pimple mutilation. I also have allergies to a whole slew of things (hops, synthetic fragrance, SLS, etc., etc.) that often result in hives so I steer clear of a lot of brand name skincare.

I'm a huge fan of In Fiore, a small label from San Francisco. I first discovered Julie Elliott's line when I was looking for an oil balm to help with my eczema. I apologize in advance that her products are really hard to find if you are outside the US, but if you know of another brand that is similar, I would love to hear about it. The New York Times printed a really good article last year about "modern apothecaries" and Julie's label came up as being one of the pioneers (the article also makes a good point about why I find Aesop products quite overrated). The Japanese, purveyors and consumers of fine skincare also seem to enjoy her products immensely. Evan Healy, another skincare brand carried in Whole Foods and other natural stores used to be my go to, but recently, I think her formulation has changed and it no longer works out for my skin - her milk cleanser was a favorite but it now causes me to break out along the jawline. That being said, natural skincare is mostly trial and error - formulations change, companies get bought out by Colgate-Palmolive or L'Oreal, and they tend to use a lot of essential oils and cold-pressed carrier oils that may not work for everyone. In Fiore tends to be very expensive initially but I find that they last me quite a while and nothing else I have used in the past has ever even come close keeping my skin in top condition.

I also use a lot of my own homemade concoctions, the main one being an oil cleanser that is a cross between Tatcha's Oil Cleanser and In Fiore's Treate. I've been using rice bran oil in lieu of sweet almond oil for the past year and the results are pretty good. I use a mixture of rice bran oil and camellia oils (sinensis because it's slightly cheaper, and a bit of japonica for the luxury) along with some Vitamin C (ascorbic acid), tea tree oil, vitamin E and glycerin which act as preservatives. Rice bran oil is much less of an allergen than sweet almond oil and if it's good enough for old-timey Japanese women, it's good enough for me. I also make my own daily moisturizer using a variation of the oil cleanser while adding in a very Asian mix of red panax ginseng and red marine algae. I've included the recipe for the oil cleanser at the bottom of this post, but the moisturizer is still under a somewhat trial basis. The three main things I use from In Fiore is a brightening serum ('Lucense'), an eye cream ('Vis Clair') and a very, very potent face balm ('Fleur Vibrante') - all of which I can't seem to replicate at home because of the herbal and floral infusion and because I don't want to stock up on so many essential oil extractions.

The main problem I find with organic/holistic skincare is the lack of good makeup and sun protection products. I usually stock up on free samples of lipstick or eye makeup whenever I can and I have a tube of Koh Gen Do foundation that's been rotting in my drawer for a couple of years now. In general, the RMS Beauty 'Un' Cover works fine for me as both a concealer and light foundation - just dab under the eyes, around the nose and on blemish spots. RMS is the namesake of Rose-Marie Swift, the makeup artist for the likes of Miranda Kerr and Gisele Bundchen. A few of her products come highly recommended, especially her 'Living Luminizer' which I must say is an awesome highlighter to minimize dark circles and to make your cheekbones more prominent (and if you're a flat-faced Asian like me, make your nose a tad sharper).

I haven't found a natural SPF moisturizer that rivals the soft, almost translucent look that Cle De Peau's Gentle Protective Emulsion gives, so I'm sticking to that in the mean time while I figure out a suitable replacement. Cle De Peau is definitely not holistic by any means, it comes fully chemical laden but a girl cannot resist a barely-there SPF product. It's strange how I avoid feeding my dog commercial pet food because of propylene glycol (antifreeze, yikes!), yet I'm slathering that crap all over my face. Below is a list of the products I use and how I go about using them.

Everyday skincare products:
1. Homemade Oil Cleanser (about $12 for 4oz.) ~ see below for recipe*
3. Organic Immortelle Hydrosol from Hood River Lavender Farm with added Witch Hazel ($18) 
7. In Fiore 'Fleur Vibrante' ($58)
8. Homemade Face Cream (about $12 for 2oz.)
11. May Lindstrom 'The Problem Solver' ($90)
12. RMS Beauty ''Un' Cover in 22' ($18)
13. Benefit Cosmetics Brow Zings in Dark ($30)
14. In Fiore Veloutee Lip Balm ($58)
15. Moon Valley Lip Treat ($2.99)

Morning skincare regime:
Oil cleanser, followed by Immortelle Hydrosol, In Fiore Fleur Vibrante, In Fiore Vis Clair eye cream and lip balm. If I'm at working from home (which is most days), I add some homemade face cream, spray a bit more Immortelle Hydrosol over the top and call it a day. If I'm leaving the house, then I use either the Cle de Peau Beaute Gentle Protective Emulsion (for winter) or Josie Maran's  SPF 40 cream (for summer) as a moisturizer. I apply a bit of Brow Zing, cover some blemishes with the 'Un' Cover and I'm good to go.

Night skincare regime:
Oil cleanser and rinse, followed by Immortelle Hydrosol and either In Fiore Lucense or a few drops of Camellia Japonica (Tsubaki) oil. Finished with In Fiore Vis Clair and some In Fiore Fleur Vibrante if my skin is extra dry.

Extra skincare regime:
I do scrubs twice a month with  May Lindstrom's 'The Clean Dirt' and mask once a week with her 'The Problem Solver'. I cannot speak more highly of those two products if you're trying to get rid of acne and tighten up pores. I also use a homemade hydrating mask made of 1 tablespoon each of oat flour (you can make your own by grinding up some old-fashioned oats), honey and goat milk yogurt with a few drops of Vitamin E. Leave on for 15 minutes and then rinse off with cool water.

For body care, I tend to keep things really low key - I use a homemade brown sugar scrub once a week (made with 2 parts brown sugar, 1 part rice bran oil, 1 part oat flour and a few drops of essential oil). I use J.R. Liggett's Shampoo Bar most days, along with John Masters' Organics Rosemary and Peppermint detangler, and I buy olive oil soap in bulk. I used to wash my hair every day (sometimes twice a day!) but I think it was causing some sort of thinning, so now I use a very simple homemade dry shampoo made of corn starch, kaolin clay and slippery elm powder and wash my hair every two days or so. I do believe in dry brushing your skin at least every other day to keep off dead skin cells and help new ones regenerate. My body cream is whipped shea butter that I mix with rice bran oil and argan oil. I also use argan oil on the ends of my hair or Yarok's 'Feed Your Roots' Mousse when I'm heat styling (which is exactly four times a year). Every once in a while, when I'm feeling saucy, I dab on some MCMC Hunter but otherwise, fragrance free is the way I roll.

More importantly, I think diet plays a vital role in keeping my skin in a somewhat decent condition - this includes drinking lots of warm water with lemon and ginger (I love Pukka Herbs Three Ginger Tea with added cracked, dried ginger), drinking lots of green/detox tea and supplementing with fish oil, Vitamin C and a Vitamin B-Complex supplement every day. Also, a good green food and probiotics blend (I use Vibrant Health 'Green Vibrance') shaken with coconut water or Odwalla Superfoods juice is wonderful for those days when you're just not getting enough vegetables in your diet or when you're travelling. I love meat, carbs and cheese more than the next testosterone-driven bloke, but the threat of cystic acne and heart failure is making me pare down on those things for the next couple of months while my body gets the cleanse it needs (alcohol is pretty hard to give up though, so everything in moderation, eh?). In the meantime, I'm going to be having tons of the aforementioned tea and getting lots of walks, reading and work done.

As an aside, Renee from Anaïse was generous enough to offer me a percentage-off coupon to her store during my wedding, and I finally got around to picking up the Olio Lusso Crema by Rodin since I had heard great reviews about it helping with dry patches. I've been using that somewhat religiously over the past week and I'm a little sad (and at the same time, quite elated since this cream costs $80!) to report that the combination of macadamia and jasmine scent is a little off-putting to me - it smells like sweaty clothing and mothballs. In Fiore uses a lot of jasmine too, but it never gets as heady as this. My two main gripes about Rodin however, are: 1. the complete ingredient list to all the products is terribly difficult to find and 2. all good aromatherapists/naturopaths/purists will tell you to 'always store your oils in a dark bottle'. I think a huge part of the Rodin hype is that she had easy access to the fashion and beauty market, being a former model and a style editor. I'll confess that I'm an elitist, but I have been using jojoba oil, calendula and argan oil for ages, and it just seems that if your only experience has been with skincare brands that are sold in departmental stores, then Rodin may seem like a tremendously exclusive experience. Either way, I just wanted to thank Renee again for giving me a chance to try out Rodin's cult, and if you haven't already visited her store, please do! It offers a drool-worthy selection of finely curated lifestyle pieces.

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* See the recipe here.

Winter Staples


Since the man of the house, wait, that's the dog... I meant the literal 'man' of the house, is working long hours this winter, I've taken to snuggling by the fire and treating myself to some very feminine indulgences. The mood board above is a collage some of the things that have been keeping me company through the somewhat cold and rainy season.

1. In Fiore Veloutée Balm for Lips and Eyes ($58) (also available here)
I discovered 'In Fiore' skincare products a few years ago and have been hooked on their Veloutée balm ever since. I tend to get eczema on my eyelids during the winter, so this balm doubles as a lip and eye moisturizer. In Fiore skincare is ethically made in San Francisco with natural and organic ingredients. I am also quite taken in by how beautiful their packagings are - the Veloutée balm comes in an elegant, antique gold compact (complete with a mirror). Whipping it out while sipping on a glass of French 75 reminds me too much of Gloria Swanson (I was going to write Mary Pickford, but I decided I'm more of sinister grouch than a sweetheart).

2. Swans Island Merino Wool Throw ($295)
I bought this Made in Maine throw last year for my drafty study and it's kept me toasty all through winter and even the early days of summer since it's technically a summer-weight throw. The dog loves the smell of the wool and he steals it from me ever so often. During specials, J.Crew offers a nice discount on these throws, so wait till then and pick one up (ETA - 12/6/12: Use GIFTNOW for 30% off). I like them better than the Brahms Mount linen blankets because they're softer and much warmer.

3. 'A Christmas Carol' by Charles Dickens' ($7)
Along with watching 'Home Alone' and 'It's a Wonderful Life', reading 'A Christmas Carol' whilst snuggled with spiked apple cider by the fire is one of my favorite things to do during the Christmas week.

4. La Maison Du Chocolat Truffles ($77)
If you have no self-control, I would strongly recommend against purchasing these. Saks puts these delicious French-made chocolates on discount every two weeks or so. 42 pieces should (can it really?) last about three weeks - although I usually end up consuming them in front of 'Boardwalk Empire' episodes in a week and then moan about how my clothes no longer fit.

5. Timothy Han Candle in Tobacco and Jasmine ($65 - sold out)
I've read so much about London-based Timothy Han's range of apothecary goods and have wanted to try out a few of his products for some time. I've long given up on Diptyque candles (no-no to paraffin wax),  the Le Labo Santal was starting to get boring and I wanted something a little more luxurious than my beeswax candles. When Barneys recently marked down Timothy Han's scented candles, I picked up one in Tobacco and Jasmine. It's an excellently grown-up scent that seems to juxtapose fresh and old, it reminds me of fresh flowers and mulled wine in an old Victorian study, filled with history and books and the brief waft of snow outside and a man smoking a pipe. It's strange how smells can stir the imagination.

6 & 7. Merino Wool Scarf by With & Wessel ($120) & Steven Alan Cashmere Beanie ($98)
Perfect for dog walking in the blistering cold and when you're just standing there hoping he'll do his business ultra quick so you can go back in and enjoy a cup of tea. The merino scarf is super soft, not too expensive and in my opinion, works better than cashmere for running errands or hiking in the cold. I would suggest waiting for Steven Alan's January/February sample sales to pick up the beanie.

8. Noda Horo Potoru Teapot ($125)
I love this little pot/kettle that can go from the stove to the table. I drink lots of tea and this enameled pot is particularly useful for 'genmaicha' or roasted barley tea ('mugicha') since I just make huge pots of it all through the day and every time the tea gets cold, I can reheat it gently over low heat on the stove.

9. Johnstons of Elgin Cashmere House Socks ($33)
My feet are constantly cold and clammy so I wear these for lounging around the house and to sleep . It also works great for air travel. These socks are not robust enough to handle being worn with shoes or strenuous activity but they keep my toes from falling off in the winter, are breathable and work tremendously well at putting me to sleep with all sorts of warm and fuzzy dreams.

I know that these items are a little expensive, but a lot of them have lasted me for a few years e.g. the Swans Island blanket, cashmere socks etc., and they have given me so much comforting joy that I feel splurging on them every once in a while is good for my mental health. What are your winter staples and do you have any recommendations for me to try out?