Monday, August 12, 2013

enchanted mushroom forest

We have a favorite forest about 40 minutes from us where we go to camp, hike, and forage for wild foods. A few weeks ago, after the rains had fallen and the temperature began rising, we tried a new trail that led us through a small loop around a damp valley. I called it the Enchanted Mushroom Forest because everywhere you looked, scores of mushrooms of all sizes and colors were popping up through the forest. We did not find any of the chanterelles that we were looking for, but we had a good time.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Midori Traveler's Notebook

The notebook after several weeks of wear

 I'm not sure what I had originally started out looking for, but one morning I found myself plummeting down the rabbit hole of heirloom journals and premium papers. Have you had this experience? When you stumble across one of the many highly specialized subgroups on the internet with their own lingo and holy grails, and you're horribly fascinated and somewhat repelled but just keep reading (hint: if you ever want to find an answer to an obscure question, just google search your key terms and "forum").  Eventually, I came away a little boggle-headed but also a lot more schooled within a very narrow body of knowledge. And I found a better journal for me than all the previous ones I've tried over the years. In short order, a small part of my tax refund was applied to a Midori Traveler's Notebook coming all the way from Japan.

It's a simple notebook system, in the quiet and refined style that the Japanese do well. There's a thick vegetable-tanned leather cover that's made in Chiangmai, Thailand; elastics that hold the pieces inside as well as wrap around the entire journal; and a tin medallion to bind the elastics together. You can swap in different notebooks and other accessories to customize it to your needs. It's designed to be personalized, portable, and long-lasting. Once a notebook is filled, it can be slipped off and swapped for a new blank one. It's only the paper notebooks that have to be replaced, not the whole journal itself.

The notebook can comfortably accommodate about three notebooks before it gets too fat

I decided to customize mine with a blank notebook, a 2-month daily diary, a graph-lined notebook, a zip pouch, and a credit card holder. That way, I would have a place for thoughts, inspiration, a daily journal, receipts, and less important credit cards that don't fit in my wallet. I imagine it to be a cross between a Filofax and an ordinary journal, versatile enough to warrant my taking it everywhere, and therefore capable of actually being a kind of ongoing scrapbook of my life. One user described it as "adventure journaling."

This is how the 2-month universal diary is set up

Now that I've had it for a few weeks, switching out different notebooks and changing the order of things until it felt just so, I have to say that I really love it. The leather is getting worn just as expected, still stiff and sturdy but with a crosshatching of surface scuffs and wear marks (if I ever decide I dislike the worn-in look, I can oil it and it all disappears). And it's been very convenient to have a central location for my things. When I change bags, I just grab my wallet, phone, and notebook.

It's turning out as useful as I had hoped, and I feel some easing of my anxiety that time is passing me by, unrecorded. And ultimately, that is the reason I got the notebook. Flipping through my old journals gave me a feeling of connectedness to the past and to my former self. I felt a mixture of curiosity, surprise, and nostalgia, and I was glad to have them.

Fountain pens exhibit little feathering on the paper (quotes are from Walden)

To complete the tour of this rabbit warren, here are a few places I came across in my readings that may interest you. In no particular order:
- the Midori Traveler's Notebook Flickr group
- the "adventure journaling" YouTube unboxing and review
- Everyday Carry (kind of like the ever-popular "what's in your purse?" post, but predominantly male and with a survivalist slant)
- the 2013 Hong Kong ferry meetup to commemorate the anniversary edition
- the brand website, which includes profiles of artists and other notable persons and how they use the notebook, along with uploads from ordinary users

I went whole hog and acquired a Lamy Safari fountain pen, too

Note: You don't have to order directly from Japan to get this notebook. It's even sold on Amazon, but it turned out to be about 25% cheaper for me to order from a Japanese website even with shipping (, if you're interested), and there was a complete selection of accessories.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

{this moment}

{this moment} A Friday (oops!) ritual started by Soulemama. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment.

Friday, March 29, 2013

the days are long, but the years are short

So you'll never experience such an onslaught of advice and commiseration as you will when you become a parent. It's like being inducted into a secret cabal that I never knew existed. I can't go anywhere now without being stopped by someone--usually an older woman whose children are past the childhood stage--who offers some piece of well-worn advice and then wistfully talks about when their kids were that age. The most common bit of wisdom? "They grow up so fast." It's nothing new or earthshattering, but it contains the poignancy of being witness to something both so mundane and so awe-inspiring.

I particularly like the slightly expanded version of this: The days are long, but the years are short. And now that M is definitely a toddler, not a baby, I can confirm that it's true. She has grown and changed so quickly. Even as I tumble into bed exhausted at the end of every day, ready for it to be over, I can't believe that those infant days are done.

I've been following a new blog that features the portraits of a group of kids, taken by their photographer parents, week by week. It's inspired me to try that, too. I already find myself grabbing my camera every day to try to document some funny occurrence, and I'm hoping that by formalizing it I can overcome my problem with constancy. This photo is of M several weeks ago, playing with my lenscap in the morning.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

On perfection

I have come to realize I'm not a minimalist, not by a long shot. I like the coziness of woolen layers, and I'm an inveterate thrifter. But the past few months have made me a minimalist of sorts, by necessity. (I know I restate this idea in some form every few posts, but I feel weirdly apologetic about it.)

With a partner in graduate school and a constantly growing toddler, there's not much in the budget for clothing. But the thought of turning to mass-produced cheap clothing to fill in any gaps isn't appealing either. And as much as I subscribe to the idea that a well-made item is worth it, and as appealing the idea is of having an entire closet of clothes that may have cost a lot initially but have withstood the vagaries of time and trend, I find it hard to justify when my budget must account for so many other things and my style is in so much flux, post-baby. Both of these factors have prompted me to make use of an unlikely resource, the "community closet" that's open to all residents of the county I live in. It's a way of recirculating goods in the community. I've donated bags of stuff that I felt good about getting rid of, and I've found the bulk of Maizie's winter clothes from there.

It's altered my perspective on consumption. For one, it seriously curtailed my pursuit of the "perfect" version of something. Other than perhaps classic items (like a peacoat), I'm starting to think that perfection doesn't exist. Even classic items have details that may end up dating them, like the rise of the pants or the length of the collar. I've tried to find the be-all-end-all versions of things, but all that that's done for me is fuel the pursuit of More Things. It's quite possible that I just lack discipline or a clear sense of style, but the idea of perfection was for me a fantasy that didn't bring me much closer to a conscientiously edited closet.

My recent foray into buying a suit for my partner has highlighted how difficult it is for anything to be really perfect. Here is an article of clothing purported to be durable and classic, but it seems to take only 10 or so years before it becomes dated. In the thrift stores where I initially searched,  I saw racks and racks of suits with cuts too baggy and long to pass as modern. Or perhaps it was the placement of the buttons or the width of the lapel that gave the suit's age away. Whatever it was, it's clear that even supposedly enduring clothes can end up in the dustbin.

Rather than seeking perfection, I've come to really like the idea of choosing from the "best available." Good enough, just what I need, and I don't need anything more. It's like relying on the largesse of the world to bring around the right thing at the right time.

Anyway, I suppose a shift in my sartorial perspective and personal interests accounts for why this blog will see a change in future posts. I started the blog because the idea of the French Method really appealed to me, and it still does. I think it's an intelligent solution to the problem of overconsumption and under-satisfaction, and it's just fun to meditate on one's purchases this way. But lately I've found myself wanting to post about vintage clothes, thrifting trips, motherhood, photography, wild foods, and and random things from my life. I expect I still will write about style now and again, but I want to make the blog a little more relevant to my life. I know these new topics won't appeal to everyone, but I think it will make the blog feel more true to me. Thank you, sincerely, for reading thus far.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

french hair

Along with the cooly chic clothes and the radiant skin free of obvious makeup, French women leave their (often long, often brunette) hair undone. I've long admired the look but couldn't pull it off. If you want your unbrushed tresses to look effortless as opposed to crazy, your hair has to be in tip-top shape, and mine was not. So Caroline de Maigret's tips in a article (below) for attaining that French look is as much about how to care for your hair as it is about how to style it. The gist? Don't wash it too much, don't touch it, and don't brush it.

“Charlotte Gainsbourg. Jane Birkin. Betty Catroux. French women have always had that nonchalance to their hair, that devil-may-care attitude. It looks like it’s been slept in or like maybe you didn’t wash it for a few days,” says hairstylist Guido Palau who was busy zipping from one backstage to the next) of the flyaway style favored by front-row fixtures from Emmanuelle Alt to Joséphine de la Baume.  
According to Paris-based model Caroline de Maigret, who wore her signature rumpled hair with a lamb’s wool–trimmed Chanel coat to the house’s Tuesday morning show the style’s distinctive appeal lies in its understated cool. “French women always want to look more smart than beautiful,” she says, musing on the national preference for lived-in, effortless, artfully laissez-faire strands. “If you’re spending two hours under the hair dryer, when do you have time to read?”    
In the interest of looking more cerebral—and, inexplicably, sexier at the same time—we asked de Maigret for her guide to scoring the look. “It’s very easy really, and there are actually some tricks,” she says of paring down the strategy to five simple rules. 
Rule #1: “The more supermarket the shampoo, the better the hair looks,” says de Maigret, who uses Pantene or L’Oréal Elsève. “I don’t know why, it just does. Wash it once in the morning, not twice, like they do at the hair salon.”
Rule #2: “French women never put conditioner in the hair. It makes it straight and flat.”
Rule #3: “After you get out of the shower, don’t touch it.  No hair dryer, nothing. You just let the air do it naturally.”
Rule #4: “Don’t brush. Also, you know, Parisian girls walk a lot, which makes the hair a little messy from the wind. If you’re going to go outside and have it get messy anyway, it’s better to just not brush it from the beginning.”
Rule #5: “Sometimes if you put some dry shampoo, it gives a cool texture—instead of washing it every day. I wash my hair every two days. I know. It’s really too much.” 

[full article here]