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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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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Dear Cath…

So I realized that now we are busier and feel further apart because of our busy-ness it might be a good idea to turn AsianCajuns full-on epistolary. What do you think? (And, readers, as always feel free to chime in with comments and questions — we aren’t excluding you, we’ll just be including you in more of our to-ing and fro-ing).

Skype is wonderful and limiting, isn’t it? I get to see your lovely face and catch up for an hour but I forget to tell you stuff — lots of stuff. And it’s just an hour. That’s not enough and sometimes makes me feel more depressed because I realise that’s all we get all week.

It’s not like the stuff I forget to tell you is that exciting, but little thoughts that I need you to hear. For instance, I now like the 1960s.

That was never a era for us: bouffant hair and stiff fabrics, but here’s why it’s growing on me.

When you get past the fashion-y bits of the 60s (loud prints and too much hairspray), you realise that it was a time when old and new still mingled because they had to. Maybe that happened more in Europe than America which is why we didn’t see it before. In the 60s people wanted the new but they also still had small wardrobes and would wear the same coat all winter and the same shoes. And one good purse.

Everyone looks to the French closet as inspiration for a minimal and chic approach to dressing, but I think the 60s had it right too.

I’m basing my new-found love of the 60s on three things:

• Michael Caine in his Harry Palmer movies (The Ipcress File, Funeral in Berlin and Billion Dollar Brain)

• Audrey Hepburn in Charade

• Inspector Morse as a youth (Youths!) in Endeavor

Harry-Palmer

Audrey-charade

Endeavor-morse
photo credit 123

There’s an economy in all their looks.

Sure Audrey has roughly six different coats in Charade, but somehow the style is streamlined enough that it fits this side of the 60s that I like. And Palmer/Caine and Inspector Morse fight crime in the same slim-cut suits, khaki mackintoshes and just-enough-shine dress shoes. Everyone looks great because they look like themselves.

Apart from the unethical and anti-environmental sides to fast fashion, I feel like places like Zara, and H&M and Topshop and even more expensive designers have created a really homogeneous culture. All fashionistas look alike — beautiful and bright (young things even when they aren’t) but somehow it’s not nearly as good as Michael Caine peering through his think-framed specs and Morse with his bottom blazer button unbuttoned and hands shoved in his pocket. Even though these two men have the same uniform, their clothes look unique to them. More unique than if I bought a blouse from Top Shop and you from Target. The clothes never wear them.

Maybe it’s a uniform? That would have sounded so boring and restrictive to me in my 20s, but really appeals to me right now. My closet is so teeny here it’s forced me to be minimal — and I like it. And because I seem to especially be hung up on coats-as-your-you-ness, here is proof that I only wear one all winter (and as you know winter is nearly a year-round thing here):

Scotland-sunny

Dull Scotland

AsianCajuns-Wallingford-Seattle Uwajimaya AsianCajuns-cath-lar

Chattanooga pedestrian bridge

(oh wait, that last one is you — you, so cute!)

Even 15 years ago wearing the same coat all winter would have been expected, but thanks to Zara et al we can now get beautiful coats that suit our every fashion whim. Or we can afford to have coats for when it’s wet-cold versus dry-cold versus cold-cold. And being someone who lives in a place where it sometimes requires all three in one day, I understand the luxury of REI-like purchases. But for me (not one who spends most of my days trekking the slopes of the Highlands) one coat should — and does — do.

Who knows, maybe I’ll run after Russian spies and overly-cultured Oxbridge criminals in my red toggle coat in the months to come.

Want to go uniform-refining with me?

Love,

Lar


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Happy Presidents Day – Let’s Celebrate Women!

women getty images mom

Sheryl Sanberg of Lean In fame has worked with Getty to add 2,500 images portraying women as leaders. These are just three of those 2,500 that the New York Times posted. You can see the full collection here. Happy Presidents Day and here’s to having a woman president soon!

women images getty profile

women getty images board room


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Happy-Making

I am always down for a few days after Lar and I part ways. This week has been no different (Lar left on Sunday). To fight off the blues, I’m focusing on the positive and surrounding myself with things/thoughts that make me happy:

dogs on the couch
1. My dogs. They can be a pain in the arse and expensive, but I love Wheatie and Toby – even if it means I have to keep my couch covered 90% of the time.

gem doll

2. Jem Doll. Lar and I found our Jem dolls when we were going through boxes at our parents’ house. Jem dolls were like a slightly bigger and flashier Barbie. Her earrings used to light up if you flipped a switch on her back. And look at those tights!


Letter from Bill Clinton

3. Letter from Bill Clinton. This was another find from the boxes in my parents’ garage. Lar and I used to think we could be besties with Chelsea Clinton because she lived in D.C. and did ballet just like us. So we wrote her a letter and were a little disappointed when all we got in response was a typed note from her dad.

 

Warby Parker Glasses

4. Lar and Matt. I love this photo of the two of them – especially their matching hipster Warby Parker glasses.

desk mug

5. My desk/vanity. Earlier this month I cleaned off my vanity, threw away all of my old makeup, and made some more space so I could also use it as a desk. I feel a lot more calm sitting at it, sipping on tea, doing school work or blogging than I used to.

Writing this post already makes me feel better. Maybe I should start a gratitude journal. Have you ever kept one?

___________________

Dearest Lar,

I would be ten times more depressed if I wasn’t going to see you next weekend. NEXT WEEKEND! After getting to visit you in Scotland for Thanksgiving, then having you in town for two weeks for Christmas, and now getting to visit you in Seattle this month, I’m so spoiled. I could get used to this!

I think I really could handle this long distance thing better if I got to see you twice month. That’s not too much to ask for, is it?

I hope you’re adjusting to west coast time. You’ll probably get used to it right before you have to fly back to Scotland ;) That’s an 8 hour time difference!

Have fun this weekend in California. Takes lots of pics and bask in the sunshine for me!

Love, Cath


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Keeping It Simple

When I wrote out my four simple goals post* last November, one of my goals was to streamline my style. And one of my inspirations to achieve that goal is my very own twin sister! Lar has written on becoming more minimalist and I want to emulate that. She’s done a great job paring down her wardrobe to basic, comfortable, but still stylish pieces. Exhibit 1:
magnifying glass

Grey tunic + black leggings and boots = minimalist perfection. (Thanks for the photobomb, Toby)

AsianCajuns Duo boots

Warby Parker glasses • tunic from Target (similar here) • New Look leggings • Duo boots

I’ve gotten into full new years resolution mode and am culling through my closet to become more minimal. It’s a slower process than I imagined and it’s going to take a couple of trips to the thrift store, but I’m determined to simplify my life. Also, for the past few days Lar and I have been going through boxes of our childhood mementos at our parents’ house. We’ve kept so much over the years! It’s been such a daunting task trying to figure out what to keep and what to giveaway that I’m more motivated than ever not to clutter up my current life with stuff.

This is how Lar and I felt once we were finished going through all of the boxes:

Duo boots

Even with hours of box-sorting, it’s been so wonderful these past few weeks having Lar at home. We’ve had lots of quality family time, which usually involves delicious (gluten-free) food and three dogs running around (I have two and my parents have the tiny guy in the photo above). Plus, Lar is here for six more days and then she’ll be flying to Seattle to meet up with Matt for a month before they both fly back to Scotland. Troy and I are going to visit Matt and Lar in Seattle in a few weeks . So it kind of feels like the holidays are continuing well past all the new years celebrations – woohoo!

AsianCajuns glasses

*stay tuned for an upcoming post on our four simple goals recap :)


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Four Simple Goals (Before 2014)

Caths Four Simple Goals

I stumbled upon A Beautiful Mess’ Four Simple Goals post and wanted to take a stab at it. I love the idea of having action-oriented, simple goals before the new year instead of huge, impossibly impossible new years resolutions.

My goals are pretty self-explanatory, but I’ll add a bit more thought to them:

1. Make something pretty and fun for the home. Lar and I were big crafters when we were younger and I think my inner crafter is coming back. I recently made a felt flower wreath for my front door and I want to find a good holiday craft for the next month. Drop me a line if you have a great holiday project in mind!

2. Don’t shop for myself when I’m shopping for gifts this season. This one is the hardest for me. Even if I don’t have a ton of money to spend I’ll still be tempted to buy myself a little something. I’m the worst at this when I’m shopping for Lar. It usually goes a little something like, “Ooohhh, Lar would love this. I love this. I’ll get one each!” I’m determined to not let this happen this year.

3. Streamline my style. I talked a little bit about this in a previous post. I’m clearly drawn to grays and blacks, and want to stop being so tempted by the latest trends. I don’t usually buy a lot of clothes in December since I spend most of my money on gifts and other holiday stuff. Nevertheless, if I do happen to be shopping for clothes, I’ll make sure to stick to a strict shopping list.

4. Make oatmeal or green juice every morning. Earlier this year I was on a roll with my morning green juices and smoothies, but at some point I just got out of the habit. As a result I’ve early been eating less healthy breakfasts and/or spending too much money at my local Starbucks. For the next few weeks before the new year, I want to make an extra effort to prepare green smoothies for my weekday mornings. I’ve frozen some pre-made smoothie packs (spinach, lettuce, celery, banana, pear) so it’ll be easier to make each day.

What are your four simple goals? Lar will post her’s next week. Let us know if you post yours on your blog – or if you don’t have a blog, write your goals in the comments section.

Have a wonderful weekend!


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Confession: I am a Minimalist (kinda, sorta)

asiancajuns-fall-layers fall-layers-blue fall-layers-minimal

It’s been two years since Matt and I left our friends and family stateside and hoofed it to Scotland. Man, time flies when you’re having-fun-but-also-experiencing-an-exhausting-time-of-LEARNING-THINGS.

And learning stuff is painful, isn’t it? It usually involves changing and change is a cranky, inelegant process. I don’t know about you, but I get grumpy and petulant and just want to zone out in front of Netflix with a big plate of cookies bowl of oatmeal.

But the annoying thing is, the pain and the crankiness and bumbling around usually leads to good things. Most of these things I’m sheepish to own up to because the grumpy part of me wants to stay mad at how annoying the process of learning was. “Oh so you want me to stop eating all that’s delicious in life like sugar and wheat and meat and cheese because of a chronic disease?! Talk about adding insult to injury, body! Thanks a lot.” Now a year and half later (after much, much sniveling) and I feel healthier and actually excited (cue sheepish look) about living a healthier lifestyle. I feel a bit embarrassed because I used to be the sweet-tooth queen and now I’d choose a bowl of oatmeal over a stack of cupcakes.

You want to hear another batch of crazy (oatmeal over cupcakes?! uh-huh)? When I was living in Atlanta my favorite thing to do was guilty Target shopping. You know where you tell yourself, oh I’m just going to pop in just to look and then leave $100 poorer with a designer-collaboration outfit, two new lip glosses, Method floor cleaner, and a festive utensil jar.

Well, I don’t do that any more. And it’s not just because there’s no Target equivalent in the UK (I could force Primark to be Target’s doppleganger if I squint real hard and look sideways). And it’s not because I don’t get hit by the compulsive shopping bug every once and a while. What’s changed is 1) I don’t have the space to put an extra utensil jar and 2) I’ve learned more about how unethical a lot of shops are.

If you are a long-time reader (hello, you!) you’ve heard me talk about #2, so I’ll stick to #1 for a minute: lack of space to put impulsive buys.

Exhibit A: Our shared wardrobe.

Small-wardrobe

Matt and I fit all of our clothes in this and a shared dresser. Erm, obviously Matt hogs most of the space (cough, cough).

Exhibit B: Make-up storage

minimalist-makeup-storage

This biscuit tin and tea cup hold all of my make-up and most of my skin products. I’ve tried to reduce the amount of products I think I need and have been slowly replacing my chemically make-up with more natural alternatives. Next up? Home-made deodorant. I know that’s a bit cringe-worthy, but anything that might be healthier for my body, I’ll give it a go. Aren’t you glad I live in a cold climate?

Exhibit C: Our Kitchen (corner in our) Family Room.

small-room

You can’t add more stuff to a kitchen that’s basically your couch’s side table.

I never meant to become a minimalist. And I’m not really. I think a real minimalist would poo-poo my unnecessary decorating or some bits and bobs I keep on the shelves because it makes me feel like I’m Emily Henderson. But generally, Matt and I kinda sorta are minimalists. If we buy something, a new shirt for instance, we’ll give another piece of clothing away to the local charity shop. There just isn’t room in that dinky wardrobe for more stuff.

And our kitchen corner? We have just the right number of pots and pans that we need and no more. Everything we have gets used and used a lot. The thing is (cue sheepishness again), I like it. I really like it.

There are days when I bemoan the fact that I wear the same clothes over and over again and don’t look like my former fashionista self. But I like knowing every single item of clothing I have. It feels liberating compared to my former self who would walk into her closet (walk-in closets?! what are those?!) and get overwhelmed by choice. Maybe I was never a true fashionista to begin with because I know a lot of stylish ladies love expressing themselves through their clothes. I would get confused instead of creative. A quasi-uniform always sort of appealed to me.

It’s shocking to find out that as a former shopping-happy, Louboutin-yearning, cake-devourer I could become a quasi-minimalist, gluten-free vegan who almost happily chooses chamomile tea over a Pumpkin Spice Latte, all in the space of two cranky years.

p.s. Did you guys notice how I dropped in those outfit pics at the top of the post like I was going to talk to you about fall layering? Thanks for sticking with me this long if you’ve made it down here. Instead of layering tips, I gave you cranky change and minimalism. Don’t hate me. Cath will make it up to you with a Give-away post tomorrow!

p.p.s. If you want some true minimalist inspiration and how-to, read about Emily’s 30 Day Minimalist Challenge on Spatial Drift and Esther and Jacob’s 100 Days of Less Challenge.

——–

Dear Cath,

Sheesh, I was long-winded in this post. Did you make it through all that? What do you make of this whole minimalist thing? I think you would slip into this groove much more elegantly than me. When we were teenagers and early 20ers I felt like I was the one that always bought lots of crap and you were always on the look-out for nicely made, quality items. Maybe we are both quasi-minimalists at heart? Sacre bleu!

Miss you like mad and wish it were Christmas already so I could see your face minus a pixelated Skype window.

Love you like I used to love cookies and now love oatmeal,

Lar

 

 


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