Hand-me-down

hand-me-down

Dear Cath

Do you recognize this dress?

Because it was Alison’s, I call it my teacher-with-an-edge dress (readers, Alison is an awesome primary school teacher at a charter school in a low socio-economic area of Atlanta —  coincidentally where Matt and I used to live!). I wear it roughly once a week — usually with tights and a coat (that pic above is a lie — bare legs in Scotland? Ha!).

I feel like hand-me-down clothing is just another component to the ethical clothing supply. I’ve bought a few new pieces this year, but I’m still trying to be fairly conscientious about the amount I buy and where it’s sourced from. And this dress was not only recycled, but received from such a lovely person that I feel happier when I wear it than if I had bought it new.

I still remember the thrill of getting cool-cousin-Genn’s hand-me-downs: all those 90s Betsey Johnson dresses and random assortment of jackets and tanks. Thinking about it now, a large part of our wardrobe growing up was probably hand-me-downs. We couldn’t afford to do much shopping so we took what we could get.

It’s tricky not to be snagged by the siren song of the high street shops — especially when the seasons change. New coats, new boots, fuzzy sweaters, faux fur jackets, gloves! So I’m constantly looking for inspiration to fight the urge to run into Zara and buy everything that looks furry or glitters: enter We Make It Last.

we-make-it-last
Photo via WeMakeItLast

It’s a digital magazine all about sustainable clothing and style. One of my favorite fashion bloggers (see above) now blogs on the site, which equals double the amount of inspiration. It really helps to see a community that you admire trying to curb their consumerism and doing it with ingenuity and beauty.

So I’m going to keep trying to ignore the glittery enticement of over-shopping this holiday season (for myself and others). I know this will be a challenge, especially when all the festivities start. There’s less time to make things or source things properly and you easily get caught up in the frenetic energy of the season — so easy to shop and eat and shop and eat. I’ll let you know if I avoid any of that. (Considering make next post to you is all about food, I’m probably not off to a great start ;D).

I hope this post helps you, Cath! I know it will be hard to not spend money so you can save up for your endometriosis surgery. And especially when you are stressed with work and school and thinking about saving money, the last thing you want to do is … save money. But I’ll be with you every step of the way.

Love you more than that velvet Betsey Johnson hand-me-down dress from 1995!

Lar

 


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Sometimes Edinburgh feels like Italy

lunch al fresco

Dear Cath

You know how I was just bemoaning the fact that Edinburgh can be so miserably oppressive in the winter? Well, the last few weeks have been amazing. I mean, it rains a lot and we have gray days, but it’s not been cruel, ruthlessly windy and cold. And it’s the end of October!

In fact today is windy and rainy, but it’s warm-ish. And it feels wooonderful. And last weekend we actually sat outside in the sun for lunch. Our first summer in Scotland we couldn’t do that once. In summer.

Matt and I have been even more wary of this approaching winter because we won’t have our usual reprieve in Atlanta for Christmas. I don’t like thinking about not being together, but my fingers and toes are crossed that this will be the first and last time we spend the holidays apart. And in the meantime I’m sorry you’ll have to hear me give you constant Scottish weather reports.

Winter closing in isn’t all bad though. I love the drama of the light at this time of the year. As the sun makes it’s slow descent, the angle of the light is so intense. Yesterday I went strolling through Princes Street Gardens and up Castle rock just as the sun was setting behind the castle. Soon that will be happening at around 2:30 or 3pm, but for now it’s still at a reasonable 5:30pm and looks beautiful.

tree train edinburgh fall light

I hope you are having a wonderful weekend and are getting a touch of autumn in Atlanta. Can’t wait to chat later today!

xoxoxox,

Lar

 

 


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Today

Edinburgh sky

Dear Cath,

I took this waiting at my bus stop after work this evening. Bus rides are bumpy and irritable in Edinburgh — all cobblestones and constant road works. But I followed the sunset home. It was just dipping below the horizon as we turned onto York Place and everything it touched was daubed in gold.

Love you,

Lar

p.s. Still plowing through that Marx bio (my Kindle says I’m only 43% of the way through. Liar.). I learned today that Marx’s uncle, who repeatedly denied his nephew much-needed financial relief, was the founder of the company that would become Philips Electronics. An irascible, not-too-fond-of-Marx 19th century Dutch man. One degree of separation between the Communist Manifesto and an electronic shaver. Heh!

 


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Winter is coming, but not if I can help it

Edinburgh-castle-fall

Dear Cath (and readers!)

Holy schmoly it’s been weeks! I’m so sorry so much time has gone by and I haven’t posted diddly-squoo. And, no, you should not have been posting. As I’ve mentioned in emails, your life is about 15 times (that’s a conservative estimate) more busy and stressful and more social butterfly-full than mine is.

My only excuse is blind panic. My brain has, fairly dramatically, switched into winter-is-coming mode. The sunlight has perceptively shifted and we are on the speedy downward tilt toward winter. Days where the sun barely peeps over the horizon and even then it’s away again in five hours. The darkness is coming. Nooooooo.

Princes Street Gardens dusk

I keep trying to deny it, but my brain chemistry won’t be fooled. Already I feel more inclined to huddle under blankets and watch Netflix all day while I bat away those annoying gnats of Darkness, Gloom, Sunlight-is-dead buzzing around my head.

Always my first course of action is denial (aka binge Netflix watching). But this year, Matt and I are trying something new … The Gym.

I know you’re like an amazing working-out-er now, Cath. You wake up at 6am and go to the Y and lift weights. You do like four classes of Jazzercise on the weekend (and work full time and go to school practically full time). So very inspiring!

Before joining The Gym (has to have caps because it feels momentous and still a strange thing) all I did was jump on my mini trampoline (oops, I mean rebounder!) for 10 minutes and then did some downward dogging. I was/am intimidated by The Gym. All those people running and stepping and moving their arms on these clunky, mean looking grey machines.

You know why else I’m intimidated? The playground. Remember how when we were little and didn’t like to share the playground with other kids (we were extremely shy)? That’s how I feel about the gym. I get intimidated by all those people moving in athletic ways and it totally makes me want to retreat to the park bench/corner-by-the-lockers.

But I’ve been pushing myself to do things, even with other kids on the playground, because of the SAD brain. It needs all the help it can get.

YES-independence

Matt sent me this great article from the Nytimes about how exercise helps depression. I know we’ve heard that before but these scientist at a university in Sweden did some studies on mice (poor guys) and tried to tease out what exactly was happening in their brain chemistry.

How do they know when mice are depressed? They give up trying to get out of the cold water maze. They just sit there. That’s me! During a Scottish winter! Getting colder and more depressed.

And apparently, what happens when the rats exercise is they produce an enzyme called PGC-1alpha1 that makes these guards that combat this mean substance called Kynurenine which basically inflames your brain and leads to depression (and is caused by repeated stress). So the no-longer depressed mice fight through the maze and start caring about eating their sugar water again. Happy ending, phew!

So even though I still feel like an alien in the gym, I just keep thinking I’m calling up my PGC-1alpha1 guards. And I do actually think it might be working. “Kill those #%$@ing Kynurenine dead, PGC-1alpha1s!” Its a mouthful of a mantra, but whatever works against the cold water maze of a Scottish winter is good.

Lar one for one

And I can tell it must be working because I feel like doing (slightly) more than just watching Netflix during my free time. I’ve even (overly-ambitiously) started five books. Three of which I plan to finish! Maybe. Okay two. One’s our Women in Clothes (aren’t you loving it?!) and I will finish that. Two is a biography on Marx and his wife Jenny (probably won’t make it through that one — I’m a terrible nonfiction reader). Three is The Cornish Coast Mystery which is like a cozy Agatha Christie. There are also some feel-good books by Marianne Williamson and Gary Zukav to help with the 1alphas1 (as yet untested on mice however).

I think there is a good chance that I might retreat to the world of Netflix/toast/blanket/couch hibernation mode by December but if I can stave it off until then, I’ll consider it a job well done.

I hope with all you have going on and even though you feel so very stressed out, that the one upside to being so busy is that your brain doesn’t have time to mess around with winter blues. I do so hope that’s the case.

I miss you so, so very much!

Love you like happy mice like sugar water,

Lar


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I Love You, Scotland (Update)

aye scotland

Dear Cath

As wee, impressionable ladies in our teenage years you would have been hard-pressed to convince us that we would love this blustery, hilly land of sheep and castles. The closest our teenage love got for the green isles was for Michael Flatly (shouldn’t admit that out loud, huh?) and he’s from that other very green and very damp place.

We were never particularly keen on celtic things or ancestry — our ancestors are from pretty much everywhere else in the world but Scotland. Our naive heads were turned by the idea Paris, London and Madrid. And then we grew up a bit and actually got to travel to those lofty cosmopolitan hubs and we liked them very much indeed, but we didn’t truly fall in love with a place until we met Scotland.

And what an arbitrary meeting too! We knew we were Anglophiles and decided to give Edinburgh a try for studying abroad — almost on a whim. I know there must have been hard days during those two semesters in Edinburgh, but I don’t remember one moment. I remember the train journeys to far-flung castles and warming our hands around mugs of tea. Majestic stone cities and crisp, fresh air. And I remember how completely and utterly heart-broken we were to leave and go back to the States.

It’s been so hard to be here without you, Cath, but I’m glad that the place I’ve spent the longest living apart from you has been this country we both love so very, very much.

As a non-EU member and non-Commonwealther, I don’t get a say in the way things go Thursday, but I really do believe that Scotland will thrive no matter what. It’s a beautiful country full of talented people and I feel so lucky we got to meet and fall in love with her.

Love you like Scotland,

Lar

yes scotland

 

Update 20 September:

Dear All,

Waking up to a No vote yesterday morning was sad and disappointing, but that’s not to say I wouldn’t have been worried about a Yes vote and all the unknowns that would have come with it.

In Edinburgh the mood has been subdued, but it was a decisive No in our neck-of-the-woods. Things pretty much are carrying on as usual. Glasgow and Dundee were decided Yeses and I imagine there must be even greater disappointment, sadness and more than a few sore heads this weekend.

I hope that moving forward Scotland gets the powers it wants (and was pledged) while remaining part of the Union and that Westminster gives more credence to those fighting for a more equal and socialist approach to governing.

I also hope that our neighbors in England, Wales and Northern Ireland don’t feel hurt by Scotland’s desire for independence. I really strongly feel it was never a desire to be separate from such wonderful people and cultures, but a frustration at feeling unrepresented and ignored by the powers that be.

Hope you all are having a wonderful (reconciliation) weekend!

Love,

Lar


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Home Away From Home

flat-decorpom-pom garlandbook-shelfikea-cart

Dear Cath,

This is our teeny flat on a quiet Sunday morning.

One day we will live side by side like we always dreamed (because our partners wouldn’t have a say — didn’t even occur to us, did it)? But for now you live in a beautiful house, on a woodsy plot in Atlanta and I live in a teeny flat perched on the edge of a busy road in Edinburgh.

Love,

Lar


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Back to Edinburgh

George-IV-bridge

Dear Cath,

I left Atlanta a measly week ago! How does it feel so much longer? Leaving you and grappling with jet lag has been mitigated by Katherine and Maria’s Labor Day (not Labour Day — we don’t celebrate it here) mini visit. We’ve been very touristy: tramping up and down the Royal Mile, watching fireworks, eating haggis, going for afternoon tea and climbing Arthur’s Seat. Today we plan to hit the Palace and National Museum before they both head back to D.C. tomorrow.

Arthursseat Tower-restaurant-tea

Once they are gone I’ll have to face the fact that I’m back across an ocean from you. It’s a bad time to be moving into the dreaded dark months of winter here — it already feels like autumn: the leaves are changing colour and the air is crisp. Geek alert: I’m still making my way through the Game of Thrones books and each time someone says “winter is coming” I feel like throwing my Kindle across the room and throwing a hissy fit. I know winter is coming and it will be long and it will be dark and my sister is 5,000+ miles away.

Enough with the grumps though. It’s a new week and a palace awaits.

Love you like George Martin loves the word winter,

Lar

P.S. Memories…

cath-and-lar


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A Trip to the Anthropologie Outlet

Dearest Lar,

I can’t believe it’s been less than a week since you left, but it already feels like I haven’t seen you in ages. So I’m going to distract myself with some blogging!

Yes, an Anthropologie outlet does exist! It’s called Final Cut and it opened this summer in Augusta, GA right next to an URBN (Anthro parent company) call center in a nondescript strip mall. 
Final Cut Anthropologie outlet

What are the odds that the only Anthro (plus Urban Outfitters and Free People) outlet in the country is only 2.5 hours from my house!?!?! I really think the Georgia tourism department should do a whole marketing campaign around Final Cut, IMHO. I mean, Augusta, Georgia! Why not Philly where URBN is headquartered?!

But I digress. A few weekends ago, my friend, Thom, and I spent a Saturday making the trek out to Augusta from Atlanta to check out Final Cut to do some serious shopping for blog research purposes. They don’t allow photos inside the store, so if you want an insider look, check out Effortless Anthropologie’s post here.

Here are my thoughts on the place:

1. It’s huge! One half is mostly furniture and housewares and the other half is chockablock with clothes.

2. A lot of the furniture and rugs looked like they were from Urban Outfitters and there weren’t as many decor items (vases, knick knacks, art etc.) as I was hoping.

3. If you’re looking for a crazy bed, unusual night stand, delicate sofa (i.e. not kid or pet appropriate) or midcentury love seat, this is the place for you.

4. If you’re a soon-to-be bride and need a dress ABSOLUTELY make the trip to final cut. There are tons and tons of BHLDN dresses in great condition for around $100. There are also a handful of bridal shoes (although mostly in large sizes) and some bridal accessories.

5. There is a seemingly endless selection of clothing, but it’s not organized by size, gender, or store (Anthro, Urban, FP). I think most of the clothing was from Urban Outfitters, but I’m not an expert.

6. There’s a huge selection of bags, but they were definitely all from Urban so I didn’t spend too much time looking.

7. The prices are kind of all over the place. Some of the large rugs still seemed overpriced at $300+, but maybe that’s just because I’m cheap. Like I mentioned in #4, the wedding dresses are very well priced. The armchairs and sofas were anywhere between $200 and $900. And the clothing was $5-20-ish. Not bad, but also takes a lot of sifting through the racks to find something that’s your size.

8. The final cut staff is really nice and helpful and update the Final Cut Facebook page regularly.

So, if you’re in the Atlanta/Augusta area, I think it’s worth a trip if you have the time. If you’re in the southeast and looking for a BHLDN wedding dress, definitely make the trip. But if you’re on the other side of the country, it’s not worth a plane ticket.

Here’s my Final Cut haul:

Final cut purchases

  • A 3×5 rug for my laundry room – $25
  • 1 coupe glass – $5 (I would have bought more if they had more)
  • A set of 10 crackers for my mum – $5 (we’ll find out if they have good prizes and jokes in them come Christmas)
  • A midcentury-style ottoman – $30. Update: I was just searching U.O. site and saw that this same ottoman is selling for $129 – on sale! Didn’t realize I got such a steal!

Final cut rug and glass

I’m really pleased with my purchases, but probably won’t be making another trip out to Final Cut anytime soon. Thom just ended up getting two Urban Outfitters hats.

Since Final Cut is so close to downtown Augusta, we decided to have lunch at Nacho Mama’s – a classic burrito joint in a historic building = perfect lunch location.

August Nacho Mamas

Downtown Augusta is mostly restaurants, but we spent some time walking along the main street and near the river. I know this is cheesy, but I had to have a picture of this street sign – James Brown FTW!

Augusta james brown

Edinburgh might have beautiful cobblestone streets and amazing medieval architecture, but do you have a James Brown Boulevard?! I think not! And obviously there’s no Final Cut in the UK. Just a few more reasons why you have to move back to the states.

Miss you so much! Wish we could have explored Final Cut together!

xoxo, Cath


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A Short Week Together

Hello dear readers!

twin faux wooden sunglasses

Apologies for the radio silence. Lar was in town for a whole week and it was wonderful. So wonderful, that we didn’t even get a chance to blog about it! But we’ll make up for it this week. I promise! Some things we’ll be blogging about this week and next:

• What we did this past week together.

• The Anthropologie outlet – it does exist!

• Being a tourist in Edinburgh

• Fitbit vs Jawbone

• Lar’s abstract painting that she did for me. I hinted at it here.

At this moment, Lar is flying over the Atlantic back to Edinburgh (sob!). Hopefully we’ll see each other over the holidays, but until then we’ll be writing to each other on AsianCajuns :) Thank you, dear readers, for returning and reading about our lives – it means so much to us!

xoxo, Cath


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Gallery Wall

Dearest Lar,

It’s soooooo amazing to think that we’re in the SAME country RIGHT NOW and we’ll get to see each other in just a few days – eeeekkkk! I have a whole checklist of things I want to do to the house before you see it in person. It’s about 70 items long and I’ve gotten about 2 things done. One of those things is pizzazz-ing up this wall in my hallway:

Gallery Wall before

You know I love gallery walls – I had one in the teeny hallway of my last house. Unfortunately all of my frames were black. So I spent two sunny weekends (which has been a rare occurrence) spray painting the frames. Then I used newspaper to create a template for each piece.

Gallery wall pictures

I wasn’t planning on making the wall so symmetrical. I usually like gallery walls that are a little off kilter, but once I started playing around with the templates, I realized this was the best pattern:

Gallery Wall templates

All of the walls in my house are plaster so I have to drill before hammering in the nails to minimize any plaster crumblage (yep, just made up that word).

gallery wall drilling

And tah dah! (Ignore the bare light bulb. Troy and I are saving up for a really cool pendant light)

gallery wall after

gallery wall how to

In just a few days you’ll get to see the wall in person!

I’m going to keep this post short and sweet since I have about 60 other things I need to do around the house before you arrive.

Love you to bits and see you in 3 days!

xoxo, Cath


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