A Winter Sea

winter sea
Saddell House

Dear Cath

I think Saddell House will always be one of my favorite places in the woooorld. I’m not sure how many people wouldn’t enjoy a large, comfortable home by the sea — even though it’s a blustery, wintry Scottish sea. Somehow the remoteness, the shush-shush of the waves and the sound of the wind through the pines makes it all the more perfect.

And once you’ve had your daily tramp along the pebble beach and your cheeks are rosy from the buffeting wind, you can snuggle up on the down couch by the fire and enjoy your cuppa and a plate of buttery (or coconut oiled) toast. Heaven!
pancakes jam

I know it’s not Saint Antonio, but I think you would just love Saddell, Cath! It makes me feel the way we first did when we fell in love with Scotland the first time as uni students!

I didn’t take as many piccies of the house this year because I had a ton from our first year there if you need a refresher.

Spending a week Thanksgiving-ing was just perfect: delicious food all the time and roaring fires and candle-lit dinners. But the setting is what makes it all that much better. If I could wake up and see the sun rise over the water morning I wouldn’t ever complain about the Scottish rain later in the day.

I hope these piccies make you feel nice and relaxed during your last, very, very hectic week. You are almost done, master’s student!!! I’ll be crossing my fingers and toes for you whilst you do your exams and writing!

Love and sweet potato pancakes,
Lar

 thanksgiving
saddell sunrise
saddell bay
arran
 moss
winter beach

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A 16th Century Feast in a 16th Century House

Fireside banquet

Dear Cath

We love history and we love food. Put those two things together and you have this feast! It was put on by The Fireside Collective (making delicious pop-up suppers around Edinburgh) in one of the historic buildings off the Royal Mile — practically spitting distance to Edinburgh Castle.

The idea was to 1) eat delicious food 2) raise money from said meal for the Scottish Historic Buildings Trust (they are raising funds to refurbish Riddles Court — the beautiful building where we ate) 3) pretend that we were 16th century lairds and ladies.

The first banquet to ever take place in Riddles Court was back in 1595 with King James IV, his wife Anne of Denmark and her brother, the guest of honor, the Duke of Holstein. Apparently they spent the equivalent of £150,000 — on that one meal (thank gawd for modern and slightly more egalitarian societies, eh?)!

Our own Riddles Court banquet wasn’t nearly so spendy, but I wager that the Fireside’s take on King James’ 16th century menu was way better (and much less let-them-eat-cake — seriously, how did the peasants not constantly parade around with pitchforks in threat of revolt?! £150,000 for a meal — totally criminal.).

16th century banquet

Our menu was so delicious and way more budget-friendly than good ole James':

Mulled Mead Shots

Three Birds Pies with Bramble Sauce

Slow cooked pig’s head and shoulder with rustic root vegetables and garlic buttered greens

Frangipani Pears wrapped in delicate pastry served with salted caramel sauce

Cheese, nuts and dried seasonal fruits with a glass of port

As you can see, delicious, but not at all my usual vegan-friendly, gluten-less diet. I figured I’d splurge and pretend I was a 16th century lady, frilly collar, paneled corset (how did they fit food in their smushed organs?), brocade dress and all. #worthit

pomander ball

three birds pie

roasted veg and pig

pear caramelcheese plate

I think eating in a house museum, beautifully decorated, surrounded by lovely people and music — it doesn’t get better than that! Unless! Unless … your twinie were there. You and Troy would have loved, loved, loved it.

Edinburgh may be dark and rainy, but this is really the most magical city of stone and grey. Where else can you have a meal in such a beautiful and historic place? We’re trying very much to soak up the magic and not just moan about how dark and dreich the winter is (the sunlamps, exercise and vitamin D are working — they’re working! Delicious experiences like this one don’t hurt either.).

Wouldn’t it be cool if Atlanta could do something similar? Like what if you could have Martin Luther King, Jr.’s favourite meal IN HIS HOUSE! Wouldn’t that just blow your socks off?! You’d get to feel closer to an incredible visionary — and eat some really good food. Or what about going to The Wren’s Nest and sharing a plate of chicken (not rabbit) with the ghost of Joel Chandler Harris? History and food belong together, I’ve decided.

Speaking of feasts, I hope you had the most wonderfulest Thanksgiving ever! I so hope we’ll be together for it next year.

Love you like King James loved fancy food,

Lar


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Real Kitchen Inspiration From Iceland

Dear Lar,

This post is kind of the opposite of the Konmari method of organizing. I forget how I stumbled upon these Kitchens of Iceland photos by Emily Johnston (possibly via Cup of Jo), but I just fell in love with them.


emily johnston iceland kitchens coffee

emily johnston iceland kitchen cabinets

emily johnston iceland kitchens stove

Not only are they great photos, I just love, love, love the imperfect, messiness of the kitchens. Even though we’re more Type A’s and love organization, we’ve both talked about getting so bored with all the “perfectness” that you see on social media these days. It’s all started to look the same: the perfectly styled coffee table, that plaid scarf and Valentino (or Valentino-inspired) heels, the touch of glitter, everyone being able to eat stuff like this, drink these, and still look like this, etc. It’s not real life.

So, in the name of keeping it real, here are current photos from my kitchen inspired by Emily Johnston (but not nearly as good). In a perfect world, I would have already painted the cabinets and walls white, replaced the hardware, installed some kind of cool backsplash, ditched the dirty sponge, and figured out a better use of counter space. But none of that is going to happen anytime soon – although, I did throw out the sponge this week ;)

red kitchen appliances

caths kitchen sink

I find that I’ve started following more blogs that don’t have picture after picture of perfect styling. Authenticity! That’s the word I’ve been looking for! I just want to see more authentic living. I find that so much more compelling.

Now, on a totally unrelated note, here are some links that I forgot to tell you about when we were skyping today:

• It’s almost dinner time and I’m thinking about making this because I have a spaghetti squash that Lena’s mom brought me from a Michigan farm a few weeks ago.
• Totally out of season, but I can’t believe these are sold by Payless. I love their high-end designer fugliness. I would get them in black and wear them with black shorts and a slouchy navy blue sweater – in the spring.
• On a completely irresponsible whim I bought this outfit for the holidays online. It arrived on Friday. It’s getting returned this Monday. I looked like a sparkly, navy blue marshmallow.
I was going to say, “I hope you have a great short work week!” but then realized there is no Thanksgiving in Scotland. Duh. So I hope you have a great regular week. I can’t wait to see photos from your week-long, relaxing holiday on the coast!
xoxo, Cath

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Tidying Magic: the KonMari Method

KonMari-makeup

Dear Cath

I clean begrudgingly but I love to organize. It feels like I’m putting in order the scattered contents of my brain. I know you like to do it just as much as I do, if not more so. It almost seems backward that I’ve read this book and you haven’t (darn that academic reading getting in the way of your magical tidying!).

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying. That title sounds a little overblown, doesn’t it? Ignore the slightly-screw translations (Marie Kondo’s tidy-guru status is still mainly Japan-based), this book is awesome. Maybe it’s not as awesome if you don’t list toward Type A on the personality scale, but it all felt very right to me. I couldn’t put it down and felt bereft when I finished it. A nonfiction book! About organising! Compelling stuff. Really and truly. I felt like a zen monk when I read it — even the part where you anthropomorphize your socks (remember how I couldn’t throw away that laundry-basket full of slippers when I was a teenager because I felt to guilty about how lonely and sad they would feel rotting in a land fill somewhere?).

Don’t let the sock thing deter you though. This book will make sense even if you don’t attach human feelings to inanimate objects.

Here are the main tenants of the KonMari Method:

• Marie Kondo (KonMari is her nickname, hence the name of the method) doesn’t believe in tidying day in and day out. You do it all in an unspecified, short period of time and then you don’t ever have to do a massive tidy session ever again. In. Your. Life. Because everything you love and keep will have a place to go.

• You start tidying by categories in the following order: clothes, books, papers, miscellaneous and sentimental items.

• The method to tidying each category is as follows: discard anything that does not “spark joy.” Do not start putting things away or organise anything until you have picked up each item you own and felt if it either sparked or fizzed.

“Sparking joy” does seem really vague, and quite honestly I found this the hardest part to do. But it was really, really helpful to be forced to take out each object I own and really look at it and evaluate how much I love something. It turns out I do in fact love that ugly Columbia fleece jacket I have as well as my lemon juicer. And I got rid of some things that totally surprised me at the time because I used them a lot — and now I can’t even recall what they were (just 2 weeks after I sent them off to Salvation Army).

Tidying my flat

I don’t think you are meant to do the method in one weekend, but I was motivated by the fact that I have become quasi minimalist in the past few years. And because our flat is so tiny, there isn’t much room to keep … much. That’s not to say I hadn’t squirreled away a bunch of stuff. I donated 10 large bags to Salvation army and had about five bags of trash and recycling at the end of my tidy weekend.

In the images below the “before” pics show you the bedroom and lounge/kitchen with everything that I own pulled out of closets, drawers and cabinets. The “after” pics are what’s left once everything has been discarded or put away.

KonMari discard bedroom

KonMari tidy

KonMari discard

KonMari kitchen

Marie Kondo recommends a specific way to fold everything so that you can see everything you have every time you open your drawers: nothing should be stacked on top of each other. This totally surprised me, but even after two weeks (and a couple rounds of laundry later), my drawers still look exactly like this. It might seem anal, but having a place for everything actually makes it so much easier to put things away:

KonMari socks

KonMari folding

Every drawer, shelf and cabinet has been scoured and reorganized. I went through all of our papers (they now all fit in that grey box on the shelf in the pic below), photographs, cords and chargers. I’ve even been through all the kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Done and done:

organizing shelves Organizing Organising

 If you are feeling burdened by the amount of stuff you have, do it

You know how people make ridiculous claims on QVC or cheap cable commercials? I truly feel like I could do that for this tidy method – except it would be sincere (no offense, Shamwow). Not only do I feel calmer and happier at home now, I swear it has helped with the impending winter doom that I usually feel. Who would have thought putting things away and getting rid of things could help banish the seasonal darkness? Maybe it makes sense why we always feel blue post-Christmas season. It’s not so much that the celebrations are over, but because we are left with so much more stuff. Stuff is overwhelming. And feeling more calm and surrounded by only the things you love totally works. All common sense really, but it helps to have it laid out for you KonMari style.

Do you think I’m nuts? I can help you KonMari-ify when I’m home this summer. You’ll be done with classes by then and freeeeee!

Love you like my socks love being rolled (not folded),

Lar

 


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Fall Things

Dearest Lar,

Hello!!! It’s only been 2.5 months since I’ve last written here – and oh, how I’ve missed it!

Cath_plaidscarf

I’ve missed sharing photos with you and telling you about random stuff that’s happening in my life. Skype, Instagram, and FB are great and all, but blogging is better. That being said, I haven’t had much to blog about. I don’t think photos of my school work and regular work are AsianCajun worthy. That’s why it took me 2.5 months to get you a quasi-outfit photo and a picture of my fall mantel. Tah-dah!

fall mantel

Not great styling and vignette-ing, but autumnal! I made the wreath and garland last year and miraculously found them packed up together in the garage (a.k.a. the storage/catch-all room).  Some day I’ll have a Restoration Hardware/Pottery Barn worthy mantel, but not this year. Speaking of home catalogue/stores have you seen the Ikea holiday decor? I want it all!

fall garland

It’s been a typical fall here in Atlanta – 70 degrees one day, 45 degrees the next. The polar vortex is supposed to hit us on Friday so that’ll be the first time I’ll legitimately have to wear a winter coat – maybe even gloves!

cath_backyard

DKNY wool coat (remember when we bought these over 15 years ago?!?!?!) • Hat & scarf from H&M a few years ago • Gap jeans • H by Hudson boots

I so wish I could fly to Scotland next week and we could celebrate Thanksgiving in a giant house together for the second year in a row. I’ll be working for most of Thanksgiving break drowning my I-miss-my-twin sorrows in a bucket of wine. . . I kid. . . kinda ;)

Drink lots of tea and eat some Tunnocks teacakes for me!

Love, cath


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Hair-story: kinda wavy to kinda curly

curly hair

Dear Readers,

You know that hair the “it” girls have these days? It’s fairly straight with just a hint of wave and volume in just the right places? It’s the key to the insouciant off-duty model style and somehow seems bedheady without even a whiff of frizz.

That is the opposite of what my hair does.

Cath and I have had very thick, slightly wavy hair since we were about 13. Like most people, our hair texture changed when we hit puberty. As wee lassies we had very long, straight hair. I’ve always liked the bit of wave I got once I was older, but I usually would blow dry and straighten it to kill the frizz and not have to worry about the volume getting out of control.

About two to three years ago I noticed my hair was getting dryer and my trusty hair straightener wasn’t taming the fly-aways like it used to. I blamed it on the Scottish water and Scottish wind (when in doubt, blame the weather!) because I figured moving from Atlanta to a place with a considerably different climate would wreck any girls usual hair routine.

I persevered though — more heat! More oils! More hair masks! And still I had a halo of frizz that seemed to get more, not less, tenacious. I also started to notice my hair curling in loose tendrils instead of just “S” waves when I would give my hair a break from heat tools.

The past three weeks I’ve put my blowdryer and straightener away to see what my hair would do left to its own devices. And by “left to its own devices” I mean I googled “how to style curly hair” daily to figure out what to do with this frizzy lion’s mane. And, man, does it want to curl.

This hair story probably sounds really undramatic, but having your hair change is a bit mind-blowing. At times when I look down at my curls I feel like I’m wearing a wig — that’s not my hairs! I send Cath constant texts with pictures of the status of my hair: day two, less frizz, slept with it in a pineapple (I had never heard of pinappling hair before last week). It’s just a bizarre experience that I feel compelled to share with the one person who not only knows me so well, but also used to share my exact same hair.

That’s what makes it even more bizarre — my genetic identical no longer looks like me. Cath’s hair waves but doesn’t curl, and it looks way more slick when she straightens it.

So using Cath as a constant, I think we can say my hair change is environmental, not biological or at least not congenitally biological. I do live on a different continent and eat a different diet from Cath. I changed my diet (mainly vegan and tons more green stuff) drastically when I moved over here three years ago. My endometriosis was also getting much more severe (and was much more severe than Cath’s is now, thank goodness!). So maybe diet and hormones are having their say (Curly! Curly! Curly!).

Quite honestly, a year and a half ago when I was hospitalised because of the complications I had from endo, I thought the stress and the pain of the experience would change my hair. I was expecting a lot of it to fall out (and it did thin out for a while) and/or maybe even go grey. Curly was not on the list of things I thought might happen.

And I do kind of like to think that all that’s happened: the good (beautiful Scotland) and the bad (hospital stays) and the different (I wasn’t even vegetarian before I went vegan) maybe all contributed to this change.

So the question is, have you guys had this experience? Or have your friends? There’s been very little scientific research about this (I know because I’ve been a-Googlin’ like crazy) so it’s great to talk to other women and hear their “hair-story.” I’d love to hear yours!

Xoxox and curls,

Lar

p.s. Cath, I hope you aren’t getting sick of hearing about my hair bafflement! I promise I’ll start culling the curly hair What’s App pics.

 


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This Week: KonMari Method and Curly Hair

St Giles
Lovely St. Giles on a blue-skied day in Edinburgh

Hi Cath!

I’m so sorry things have gone quiet on my end. As you know, outside of work, most of my brain power has been used on two things:

• Becoming a tidying disciple of this book

• Figuring out what to do with my “new” curly hair

Those must seem like luxuries to you as busy as you are: full-time work, two work-heavy classes at night, saving for your surgery, taking care of your pups and your fam, your new house, going to the gym. I seriously don’t know how you do it.

Since I only do about 32% of what you do, I’ve had time to throw myself into Marie Kondo’s method of discarding and then arranging your house AND watch endless Youtube videos on what to do with wavy/curly hair.

I will write a proper post all about Marie Kondo’s book, but in the meantime here is a sneak peak before and after:

KonMari method

And here’s what my hair looks like most mornings after I’ve slept on it (photo does not show copious amounts of frizz) — Sorry about the weird glow on my face. That would be my sun lamp:

Wavy curly hair

Sara and I tried out Heads and Tales gin bar the other night. Mine is the pink cocktail which was smoked grapefruit and gin. The “smoke” came from a few squirts of peaty whisky around the rim of the glass — and you know how much I love my peaty whisky!

Heads and Tales

After tidying all weekend, we did take one break to go to our favourite new local café called Milk. Our favourite is their rosemary egg and mushroom burrito served with wild rice and a chopped cabbage salad:

Milk Edinburgh

Apologies for the state of most of these photos. I’m home mainly when it is pitch-black outside (the sun rises around 9 am and sets before 4 pm). I’ll do a proper post on the KonMari method if you want to see all the changes it’s made (I know I sound like I’ve drunk the kool aid — I totally have).

Hope the week is treating you well and cutting you some slack.

Love,
Lar

 


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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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