All posts by Lar

We love you, we love her. Please vote.

In this election I’m not voting for the lesser of two evils. I’m voting for the person that fought for minority and disabled children after leaving law school when she could have gone to a cushy firm and made partner. I’m voting for the person who fought for healthcare for families and children and continues to do so. I’m voting for the person who said “human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights” even though she was encouraged not to — and has continued to support women domestically and internationally. I’m voting for the person who worked across party lines as a senator and got money allocated for 9/11 responders (and to think when she was running for that senate seat everyone said she would be too polarizing and wouldn’t get anything done). I’m voting for the person who is the most qualified presidential candidate we have ever had in the history of our democracy.

Does she walk on water? No. Do I think she’s a perfect person? No. Do I agree 100% with all of her policies and choices? No. Has she made mistakes in her long, political career? Yes.

But I don’t expect perfection in the White House (even if you came close, Barack and Michelle!). I want a hard-working, strong and whip-smart, public advocate who embraces equality and can weather the undeniably complex issues of our present and our future.

A lot of stuff for my face

You know how you read those blog posts, magazine articles, and how-to-be-parisian books and they tease you with stories of frustratingly low-maintenance girls who just use a bit of coconut oil and a swipe of lip stain and they look (or at least sound like the look) perfect? Well, I wanted to be that girl. Doesn’t everyone want to be that girl?

So I bought the idea hook, (eye)line(er) and sinker. I hoped that in the process of becoming a coconut oil smearing, lip staining expert I’d also be using less chemicals on my face (mo natural, mo bettah, right?) and using fewer products (better for the planet because I’m curbing unnecessary consumerism). Win, win, win!

So I tried it for 5 plus years. I only used jojoba oil and warm water to cleanse and moisturize my face, and because I look dead to the world without eye make-up on, I focused my “look” on an eyeliner and brow filer instead of finding the perfect red lippie. I tried almost every natural (or natural-ish) beauty line at Whole Foods and every kind of cold-pressed, organic oil (avocado, almond, jojoba, sesame, olive and coconut oil — the latter which clogged my pores).

But somehow, even with all my water-drinking, mostly clean eating, oiling and staying away from bad chemicals my skin still looked red and splotchy, and dull and patchy, while simultaneously shimmering with oil toward the end of the day.

Turns out I’m not a low-maintenance girl. And maybe no one is (unless you’re 16 and blessed with acne-free skin). My skin takes work and a few chemicals to keep it happy.

I still try to keep my products as natural as possible, but now that I’m at the age where eye creams are my best friend (work, damn you!), I allow for a bit more power in my product even if I can’t pronounce all the ingredients.

I’m blogging about this because I’m a little frustrated that I care so much. Skin is skin and wrinkles happen (girl, you 33 and not 21 anymore). But I feel so shiny and pretty when my skin looks smooth and healthy — even if that means I have eschew the unattainable dream of being low-maintenance and 100% natural. An elusive, capricious thing to chase anyways, and maybe a disingenuous bit of marketing by the beauty world. I mean, Sephora and Ulta would be relics of the past if the low-maintenance myth were real.

Oh wait, one more snafu! This blog is how Cath and I are trying to live with less. And acquiring more lotions and potions was not my goal six months ago. Whoopsie daisies. So my intention is to try to use every last drop of all these products I own and not buy anything new until I’ve used them up. Cath showed you her empties and I hope to do the same in the spring!

 

I Totally Kate Middleton-ed This Dress

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Kate and I have soooo much in common: we both have brown hair, brown eyes, arms, teeth … the comparisons are endless really. But one thing we have especially in common — we like to re-wear dresses to events. Hashtag twinsies! (Wait, I’m already a twin. Tripletsies?!)

In all seriousness though, I think this is such a tricky thing to do. To find a dress that’s dressy enough, but not so dressy that it only works for one type of occasion, and you don’t get sick of it because it fits so dang well and lets you have a food baby without anyone noticing it — near impossible! But, guys, I found it!

This fairly nondescript dress was a last minute purchase in the wilds of Pennsylvania suburbia one summer when I was at a wedding and forgot to bring something semi-formal for the rehearsal dinner.

The pattern didn’t immediately catch my eye, but I knew that a halter top is usually flattering on me so I thought I would give it a go. And low and behold, this Banana Republic Outlet dress (yes, outlet) has since become my go-to for semi-formal events everywhere … around the world: the rehearsal dinner in Pennsylvania, a dinner date with Matt in Split, Croatia, just this past weekend at my friend’s beautiful wedding, and a number of non-photographed events.

The other genius quality of this dress? It does not wrinkle! I can roll it in a ball and stuff it in a carry-on and still look fairly presentable at the end of a 5 hour flight.

Do you guys have a magical clothing item that does all that? I seriously didn’t think they existed before I found this dress.

Kate probably wishes she could wear something this casual on her state visits to some far-flung former colony. I mean Alexander McQueen is nice and all, but a BP Outlet dress is apparently where it’s at.

Is Minimalism as a Trend Waning?

Cath and I have always felt that minimalism and living with less, shouldn’t be thought of as a specific “look.” Living with fewer things does not mean your closet will look perfectly monochrome or your kitchen will have absolutely nothing on the counters.

Minimalism looks different for everyone. At least, I think it can.

And so here is where I make that argument that you can dress like this:

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And have a house that looks like this:

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And still be someone who is trying to be more a conscientious consumer.

It makes sense that the Minimalist trend coincided with the aesthetic trend of neutral palettes in both fashion and interiors. But if you look at the amount of color and pattern showing up in Instagram, on Pinterest, magazines and current fashion shows, I think it’s safe to say that that “look” is waning, if ever so slightly.

And I love it! I love a very neutral, clean look too, but I’m equally excited by the exuberance of saturated color and swirls of patterns clashing together.

Though this look is more layered and often more “cluttered,” I don’t think that means it’s because you buy more or have to buy more to achieve that look. In some ways, this more bohemian style works really well with using what you already own. Seriously, pull everything out of your closet and put it together — either on your own body or on your couch. Voila! Boho-ization!

(The street style pics in this post are Phil Oh’s via Vogue)

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(I particularly fancy what these Gucci ladies have going on this and last season):

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In fact, that’s what I’m trying to do. Instead of wearing more color and pattern by running to the shops, I’m scrounging through my closet and figuring out how to combine my existing clothes that didn’t appeal to me when I was doing the black and white thing. I have made some trips to Goodwill to mix it up a bit more, but I’m not interested in adding to me closet’s girth. So I’ve been weeding out things at the same time.

I haven’t gone full Gucci 2016 just yet, but you can see the style change happening in the pic below. On the left is an outfit photo from early spring and below right is from just a few weeks ago:

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These pics do a pretty good job of summing up how I was dressing and how I feel like dressing now. And who doesn’t love a little layer challenge come fall.

Are you guys feeling it? That change in the air?

If you are a monochromatic gal/guy for life, or have been missing your inner bohemian, I still think you can live with less. I’ll try to prove it the next little while and keep you guys updated on how my style progresses and whether I’ve slipped into buying more stuff just so my life looks like Justina Blakeney’s.

Your House Does Not Need To Look Like This

Back in July, a few weeks after Matt and I had moved into our new apartment, this was what was going on in my boudoir (aka the bedroom that also houses my $99 amazon vanity — fancy pants, you know):

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There’s a teeny shallow drawer in the front of the vanity that housed all my make-up. I was so proud of my efforts to keep almost everything for my face and hair in the drawer or my storage ottoman that I use as a vanity chair.

I mean just look how clean and white and serene that all looks, right?

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Okay, it actually looks a little too sparse in the above photo, but you can see the ottoman where my hair do-dads live.

I just loved the idea that most of my stuff was unseen. I don’t like the clutter of lots of little bits and bobs — especially all the different colored labels that come along with them and do not match my neutral palette (except for you, Aesop. You, you do can sit on any surface you wish!).

But you know what transpired after a few weeks of being settled into our new space? I noticed I was leaving all my stuff out — on the floor and on my vanity, sometimes my bed. Because in the morning, when I’m rushing out the door, the last thing I want to do is carefully wrap up my blow-dryer cord and open the ottoman to put it away. And my concealer? Brow powder? No time for putting you away either!

So even though all the beauty products I own can easily fit in my storage areas, it wasn’t working. My bedroom was only clean and clutter free when I had a moment to stop and put things away (you know, like that time when I took the above pics ;D) — and that rarely happened.

So that got me thinking.

As much as I want a space that looks like this:

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that is not how I live my life. I’m not saying things can’t be clutter-free, but I don’t want a space to not work. And it doesn’t work if you can’t use it the way you really use it.

So even though I initially thought — yeah I totes put allll my stuff away every single day. That was a lie. And I fought against it for months. I wanted to use my space how I thought it should look instead of how I really need it to function.

So I hushed my inner perfectionist (she’s so noisy and bossy most of the time) and decided to think about how I go about my day-to-day face painting and hair doing — and set up my vanity that way.

So now it looks like this:

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Yup still neat and tidy, but much easier to have my skincare and most-used make-up items at my finger tips rather than under my bum (that sounds weird — I’m talking about my ottoman storage again).

This also helps me remember the bits and bobs I want to use up. They won’t get lost in the back of my drawer or bottom of the ottoman — which has recently lead me to buying way more overpriced skin serums than one person needs.

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So even though it doesn’t look like I’m living with less now, I’m actually less apt to buy more stuff because I see what I have on a daily basis.

This goes back to the pic at the top of this post. I think it’s so lovely and serene, but apart form the obvious styling done we know even the most minimalist of minimalist don’t live like this. When real people sleep there (who are these fancy pants people, Architectural Digest?), they would have a bottle of loud-labeled hand-lotion on their bedside table and cotton balls scattered on top of that vanity (with the teeniest mirror known to womankind) and a pair of pink Target pjs that say “Turnip the Beets” strewn on the bed. Or, you know, the rich person equivalent.

Cath’s in Seattle (again!)

Cath has had a hard summer and it so sucks that I can’t be right next to her when she needs me. So for her birthday, we bought her a roundtrip ticket to Seattle for a week. It has been heavenly! The only problem? I don’t want her to leave.

Hear that, Cath? You. Can’t. Leave!cathseattle-4 cathseattle-3

Goodwill Hunting Part 2

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Top: shirt from Goodwill (drawn on by moi), cropped shorts from UK charity shop, shoes Superga. Bottom: Club Monoco dress from Goodwill.

Since taking these photos last week, a strange thing has happened — a new season. Somehow the end of summer rolled into town. Why and how and why so fast?

I’m sure Cath is rolling her eyes at me in Hot-lanta where the temperatures still soar and the humidity smothers. But here in the temperamental PNW, we’ve had one or two 90 degree days nestled between chillier 60-70 degree weeks. I’m not complaining — nooooo. It’s far summerier than the summery of summers in Edinburgh, but it’s still ending too soon.

And for some reason, this change in season has me moving away from the above pictured minimalist style and into piling on rings and a sweater or two with a (gasp!) print or pattern.

Does that happen to you guys too? Change in season or time of life and your style asks for a shake-up without you realizing it?

It’s confusing because I thought in my 30s I would sort of start sticking to one style a bit more (Cath and I have talked about this repeatedly on the blog here and here). Maintaining one style is friendlier on your wallet and your closet (aka living with less). So I’m kind of baffled by this need to, stylistically-speaking, maximize my wardrobe — at the same time as limiting acquisitions.

But I’m going to go with it. I find any time I try to stick too closely to one school of thought — even when I can feel things shifting to explore new avenues — I end up frustrated and feeling stuck. So let’s embrace the confusion and the arm parties and contrasting patterns.

Happy almost-Fall!

Goodwill Hunting Part 1

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Tee thrifted from Revival, Pants from Goodwill, Dress from Goodwill, Red bandana from Ban.do

I’d say roughly a third of my closet is thrifted, the second third is at least five years old, and the last third is stuff bought within the last five years. That’s pretty good, right?

Ideally I would find everything I needed (and wanted — such a bad minimalist) at Goodwill or a charity or vintage shop. But certain things (undies, a fresh white T-shirt, socks) are better bought new.

I’m always on the hunt for good ethical sources for closet staples. If you guys have any suggestions please do send them our way.

Thrifting has become my default for “ethical” — I feel I’m at least not adding to the overabundance of STUFF by re-using. And I honestly think being conscientious about our buying habits is a first great step to living with less.

I currently live about a 7 minute walk to the nearest Goodwill where I found these pants-that-feel-like-pjs (#winning!) and this dress that, with a red bandana, makes me feel like Rosie the Riveter. I really can’t ask for more sartorial dreaminess for less than $30 combined.

To sum up: get thee to a Goodwill (or similar establishment of thrifty repute)!

In which I (inadvertently) wear two pairs of underwear

queenieOne of the wonderful results of living with less is that you know exactly what you own. For instance, I used to have a mess of a sock drawer, but I now know exactly what’s in there: orderly wool socks, posh socks, sporty socks — the whole Spice Girls gamut of sockdom.

I also know exactly where to find the stuff I need because I don’t have to keep track of so many things. Generally speaking, things don’t go missing because there’s a space for everything. Since my KonMari weekend a few years back, nothing gets relegated to a miscellaneous closet that never sees the light of day.

Well, that might not be exactly true. I don’t actually know everything I have. But I really thought I did — until last week.

You know what they say, pride goeth before the fall, etc.

I bought this new hoody back in early spring. It’s light-weight and super soft – perfect for a bit of light layering. I ended up wearing it all day last week because Seattle hadn’t quite warmed up to a proper summer just yet.

I went to meetings, I went out to lunch, I had multiple water-cooler chats with coworkers. It was an unusually long day, but my super-soft hoody made me feel comforted even after blinking at a screen for 9 hours.

And then I came home.

I dropped my bags on the floor and shook off my hoodie and on to the floor falls a pair of undies. Mine, thankfully. And clean ones! With no holes (thankyoubabyjesus)! But still!

I have a sneaking suspicion that they were sticking out of my hood all day after comingling with my hoodie in the laundry. I’m praying everyone just thought I had a purple-lined sweatshirt.

So here’s a fair warning to you all: check your hoods before leaving the house, kids! You thought the pant-leg undie-rider was bad, just think what would happen if you casually popped on your hood and a pair of frilly knickers slides over your forehead. (I bet Queenie, pictured at the top of the post there, checked her hood and scarf before venturing out for a bit of fox hunting or what have you — one can never be too careful).

So this really isn’t a helpful post on owning less, but this incident has really made me seriously reconsider the true genius of days-of-the-week underwear.

Oh and guess what, guys?! I actually have two outfit posts lined up for this week and next. So hold on to your hats, kiddos, AsianCajuns is back in business!

Unintentional Minimalism

Like Cath said in her last post, we did not mean to take such a long hiatus from AsianCajuns. While Cath has been going through a bit of a rough patch in Atlanta, we’ve had a steady stream of visitors to Seattle, packed and moved apartments, traveled to Vancouver twice, Edinburgh and Amsterdam, and D.C./Maryland.

But busy times, as fun as they may be, always leave me feeling discombobulated. I have a hard time settling down with my own thoughts and after living out of suitcases and boxes for a while, I start to feel really disconnected from everything — including blogging and trying to live with less.

Even though I’ve lived abroad and traveled a lot, I am still, at heart, a nester and homebody. So I always feel more anxious and disconnected when moving and traveling, and Matt and I have crammed in all the above these two months.

Today is my first full day in our new place since we moved in three weeks ago. It’s still empty and not decorated — and very unintentionally minimalist — but do you want to see it?

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I am honestly not trying to do the white minimalist trendy look. I do not think you have to live with that aesthetic to be a minimalist or when creating a life where you live with less. My true style is more squishy sofas and cottagey-sized rooms, but our nomadic apartment-living these past five years hasn’t really leant itself to my granny aesthetic. So, in the meantime, it’s simple and open (and easy to move) until I move into this dream home or apartment.