To Universe, with Love

Elsa Paretti

Posted on October 3, 2015



Elsa Peretti ran away from home when she turned 21. She wrote a letter to her father declaring her independence and called herself a ‘big adult’. She started her career as a model, became the muse and friend to the designers during her youth and eventually moved to NYC. She has always had a very curious eye and a deep admiration for nature. This eventually moved her into the world of design and sculpture. During the age of ball gowns and garish jewellry, she created simple and sleek designs that we today call modern. Her yard necklace is a favorite of mine. She talks about how things age with wear, how they feel to the touch and design above other things. Her style is daring and adventurous reflecting her world travel. And growing old hasn’t made her old. There are very few people who can do this ….






“I hate that impeccable, perfectly perfect look, all matched and pre-arranged. Style is to be simple.”


“What I want is not to become a status symbol, but to give beauty at a price. A big diamond necklace is nouveau riche, really. People who have wealth a long time don’t wear such things.”


“We were looking for somebody who could capture the mood of the young woman as well as the older woman, someone who could make jewelry that women could wear with jeans and sweaters as well as with their ball gowns.”


“I design for the working girl.”


“I like to push myself to achieve a certain quality, eliminate the excess detail. I always want a high degree of purity.”


“I would like to get married, but it must be a man who is part of my work, or me part of his.”


“People surround themselves in their houses with things they don’t really need, that they have to dust all the time.”


“Good design for the home should be universal. A house should be like old shoes, comfortable, like a good friend… The Japanese aesthetic is important to me. Very organic. They have a sense of the weight of the thing: very balanced.”


WATCH : Introduction and overview of her work.

Fall Uniform

Posted on September 26, 2015

Our fake Arizonian Fall is here. So glad that outdoors are more tolerable. The summer was brutal. It’s no longer 117 but 81 degrees. I will take it ! Seasonal dressing is rather unnecessary in the climate I live. A jacket or coat can make all my clothing perennial. There is no need for a seasonal capsule wardrobe. But I do it for my own sake. Because I like wearing certain colors in certain seasons. And certain fabrics during summer. I like wearing silk during the not so warm months. And collars become tolerable. Shirt dresses are my staple. Its usually too hot to have anything touching your neck. I am still going strong on wearing my blue clothes everyday. I quite like the navy and black combination. The right navy goes well with everything.





Navy silk shirt dress by Amanda Uprichard. I wear a slip with it or else it clings to my body too much. Why do I buy expensive unlined clothing ? Forgetting everything my mom taught me at the sight of a beautiful dress == problems+regrets.



By Cydwoq. Am newly discovering the pleasures of open toed footwear. The Sartorialist published this photo, and I changed my mind about them. Not happy with the dirt I seem to collect on my feet though. I think I helped 4 women who stopped me on the street buy them so far.



Wearing red is a mood booster for me. This bag of mine almost got sold off and I fell in love with it all over again. Also, Stella McCartney is my favorite designer. I love the thought process she puts into sourcing her materials. I heard an interview in which she talked about how she wants to make sequin dresses but is finding it hard to get the factories to make sequins for her in the non-PVC. And how she wants to use sustainable fabrics and urges more designers to use them so that it’s easier to convince the suppliers to make the fabric for her. I fell in love with her some more. Her Fall/Winter shows are amazing !


 I have been hovering around A.P.C’s online store with lust and greed. More blue dresses is what I have on my mind. I think I am currently pretending to be Sofia Coppola. And been staring at photographs of Mademoiselle Mimi Thorisson. And hunting down pictures of Garance Dore on Pinterest. And thanking Yves Saint Laurent for making navy and black chic. I am hit hard by the (mythical) French chic. Cheers to jumping on bandwagons. 

Packing List : Camping

Posted on September 18, 2015

I promised a friend I will give him my Yellowstone packing list. So making a blog post out of it. I searched for this information and didnt find what I was looking for. The pro backpackers can get by with way less. They are the ones with the books and packing advice on the internet. This is what I needed to get by for 10 days. We didn’t know what to expect and what we really needed. We didn’t have the experience to pull off a long trip while cooking on the go. We didn’t know how to cook when it rained hard. Boxes of cookies and other junk food was consumed. We took ALL the cold weather gear we had. And ended up needing only half of it. I want to go to the Grand Canyon and Yosemite National Parks in the next one year. I hope this list serves us better for the next trip.


camping packing list


We packed a backpack that we could leave at the camp ground on most days with food and clothing. When we moved campgrounds, it was easy to displace all the ‘stuff’ with us.


Clothing : sweat wicking shirts ( 5 ), good insulation jacket (1),  pants ( 2 ),  sleep tent clothes : yoga pants ( 1 )+ hoodie ( 1) ,  Sports bras ( 5 ), underwear ( 7 ), Camp socks (3), Gloves and a beanie. I love how good lululemon clothes are, for this purpose. They are light, dry fast and have excellent sweat wicking properties. I didnt need special camping/workout clothing. Most of my everyday clothes did great. I wore Madewell and Citizens of Humanity stretchy jeans for hiking. And J Crew linen shirts for tops. Socks were the only indulgences before the trip.

Food : I need to work on this area for the future. I ate so much junk food that its disgusting. Dehydrated “healthy’ food from Backpackers Pantry. Shin bowls from Asian stores. Anything that said pour water and heat from Trader Joes : polenta, beans, potato soup mix, spanish rice, chilli, etc. We also ate large amount of chocolate and cookies when tired. Longer the stay, harder it gets to eat fresh.


camping packing list


Our third bag consisted of camp essentials – Tent , sleeping bag, camp light, camp stove, fire starter, a book and a few utensils.


camping packing list


A day bag is essential for going away all day from the campground and for sustenance on hikes. It is tempting to pack for every emergency but it comes at the cost of fatigue per kilo per hour. Bear spray, hydration pack, rain jacket, snack, wallet, phone, memory card, battery, sunscreen, Camera, compass, maps, gloves, shades, torch light and a good multi purpose knife.


Backpacking is a lifestyle. It’s not something you do on a trip and go back to your usual self. I have noticed my favourite backpackers forego the 20$ meals and expensive shampoos all year long to be able to afford full time travel. They wear the free t shirts, live off of PBJ’s if they have to while living in 8 by 5 feet spaces, forego pursuit of the non essential to do what they want to do. It is not a choice of suitcase/luggage while travelling. Its the thought of having one more thing than the essential == will break the back and make it harder to travel. And in turn, travel changes you to fit into this lifestyle. It took me a long time to learn this. I am in perpetual conflict between my nomadic tendencies and pleasures of having a well stocked nest. I don’t see it ending any time soon.

In search of the Wok

Posted on September 11, 2015

We did not wander far. I found one right under my nose – in China town, San Francisco. This has to be my fourth visit to THE WOK SHOP. I always hang around and eves drop on the conversations. “…. no teflon … no no …. carbon steel ….. cast iron …. gas or electric stove …. if you want to bargain, please leave …. “. It is fascinating to learn from the elder Asians on what they look for in their wok via eves dropping. The seller tries to make a sale by comparing the quality to his woks to his grandfather’s wares in China. This visit was special since The husband came along. And he is one meticulous calculated person. He has been wanting a wok for a while now. He always complains about how hard it is to toss food in the cast iron skillet that we own. He walks into THE WOK STORE, falls in love with a wok, walks out with one in the next 20 minutes. No obsessive internet research, chats with best friend over seas, reading online reviews, …. We trusted the shop keeper when he offered to help. And we did learn a lot in the 20 minutes.




China town is one fascinating place. Some days, it feels authentic and foreign. On somedays, it feels like a theme park for white people. My first visit had me transfixed on all the details. The more I visit, the more it feels fake / put together. Its too touristy with the lanterns and souvenir shops. But the pleasures of what it has to offer is not lost on me. The lanterns do look beautiful. And the cast iron pots make me drool. All the bamboo cutlery is echo friendly enough sans the plastic wrapping. The antiques smell and look rustic. The food – fantastic. The people – busy. The plastic souvenirs – cheap enough. Maybe Harsha and me if we can find an apmt to live out here in the future. All the red brick buildings look gorgeous. Live in SFO and interact with another culture … Sounds good, no ?



This is the Wok Shop, a 40 year old family run imports store. They have all kinds of cookware. And the accessories. The people have always been nice to me – letting me eavesdrop on their conversations while I linger around and answer my inane questions. “Why are all woks carbon steel?”. They burst out laughing. “No, they are not. This is teflon. This is cast iron. This is steel. We have all kinds for all needs.” Fair enough. He goes on to educate me on how to choose one. And tells me some cool stories. Let me share what I learnt.


1. The term “Wok Hay” means the prized elusive seared taste that comes only from stir-frying in a wok. There are stories about restaurant talk in China town SFO where the customers walk up to the chef and ask for the ‘best wok hay’ he can make for the day. Wok hay lingers only for the first few minutes and needs to be savoured immediately.


2. Pow – the verb for tossing food.


3. Think high heat and short cooking time.


4. Hot wok – cold oil principle : If oil is added to a wok that is not heated, food with stick. The wok must be hot to its smoking point. Follow the cues of smell, taste, touch and hearing.


5. A wok can be used for steaming, frying, braising, boiling, poaching and smoking. But learn the proper technique.


3. Dear cast iron skillet, you are not perfect. Some recipes should not have you chase the ingredients and drag them around. Some ingredients need to be cooked on high heat and flipped. In a skillet, everything is spread out. A spatula can only do so much for moving the ingredients. Woks shape makes stirring easier. More oil is necessary to coat a skillet than the bottom of a wok. No spilling – if that can be counted an advantage.


4. Materials available : Chinese cast iron, enamel lined Chinese cast iron, American cast iron, carbon steel, stainless steel with aluminium core, anodized aluminium, … I picked the carbon steel.


4. Flat bottomed woks do better on electric stove. The rounded woks do great with open flame stoves. There is carbon steel and cast iron woks. The thickness of the wok is what makes it special. The storekeeper boasted about how the thin woks are mastered by the Chinese. And the American and French woks are too fat in comparison to pow.


5. A wok is humble. Price wise. There is no reason to spend a fortune on woks. Or buy the non sticks coated with nasty chemicals.


5. Seasoning the wok : Wash the wok with soapy water to remove the factory grease. Dry it. Heat some oil and fry some chopped chives in it. It can be any vegetable with high sulphur content – most of onion family fits the bill. After this, the wok acquires a beautiful patina. Without this step, food may taste metallic.


6. First time cooking :  Deep frying is good for a new wok. Make bacon / fry potato skins. Avoid cooking tomatoes or using vinegar till the seasoning is set.


7. Washing the wok : Place the wok under running water and use the bamboo brush to scrub any particles stuck to the surface. Once done, place it back on the stove to let the water dry.


8. Hard work shows ! The really non stick deep dark woks are so because of years of cooking.




The day ended with us walking home with a plastic bag containing a wok, a bamboo brush and a steel spatula. And a pamphlet with instructions on how to season it and wash it. We are excited to do something with it all. Master of stir-fry – is a real title. I am hoping to confer it on my husband one day soon. I bought us a book to help us out. Indian and Chinese traditional food has a lot of dishes that we can try to learn. I used to think India has the most diverse food choices. That was until I started travelling. Last week, I stumbled upon a 800 page Chinese cookbook on how to cook mushrooms. Turkish-Persian food is quite diverse. So is French-Italian cusine. The more I learn about a culture, more my myths seem to shatter. But cheers to that thought. 

Phoebe Philo

Posted on September 5, 2015

This is my ode to Phoebe Philo, the current creative director of Celine. She changed the way women dress in her own way. I dont know what came first : her leadership or the minimalist aesthetic that is the current trend. “I find mediocrity hard. I find that whole area difficult. I’m a very passionate person; I care very much about what I do. I believe I give it a lot, so it’s gotta be good; otherwise, what’s the point?”, she once said in an interview.  And style isnt about the clothes. Its about how you wear them, what you do and the life lived. How inspiring !



I absolutely adore this image of her. I love her glowing skin. I love how feminine she looks wearing a boyish outfit. She does not look preppy. I love the casualness of her pants. Like that they are not denim. Shoes are worn in, like all good shoes should be. Her silk button up, worn like a tshirt. Buttoned all the way up, … She came up from backstage, took her shy bow and went right back to work.


Yohji put in words better than I ever could :


For me, a woman who is absorbed in her work, who does not care about gaining one’s favour, strong yet subtle at the same time, is essentially more seductive. The more she hides and abandons her femininity, the more it emerges from the very heart of her existence.


In my philosophy, the word androgyny doesn’t have any meaning. I think there is no difference between men and women. We are different in body, but sense, spirit and soul are the same


….why, then, should women be condemned to wear close fitting clothes, to exhibit their skin, to endure pushed-up busts and other microscopic or tight garments?


I like it when there’s air between the garment and the body.


I sense a kind of sacredness when I see a women absorbed in her work. My clothes are dedicated to working women like these, not inactive women who stay at home.


Reading : PhilophilesPhilophiles .

Set a new intention: Experience Early Mornings

Posted on August 29, 2015

Every morning was a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal simplicity, and I may say innocence, with Nature herself. I have been as sincere a worshipper of Aurora as the Greeks. I got up early and bathed in the pond; that was a religious exercise, and one of the best things which I did. They say that characters were engraven on the bathing tub of King Tchingthang to this effect: “Renew thyself completely each day; do it again, and again, and forever again.” I can understand that.   – Henry David Thoreau, ‘Walden’


I got active on Instagram last year to do a project 365. I told myself – I will wake up early in the morning, take a picture and post. My enthusiasm for taking pictures got me out of bed on most days. Until I failed. Time for another attempt at it. I want to become a morning person. I want to see sunrise and sleep at a sane hour. Reading about ayurveda which is all about being in tune with the nature and seasons, inspired me to make this resolve. I also have a fair plan as to how I want my mornings to look like.



They are breathing exercises proven to improve lung capacity and general health. My mom and me are hiking a mountain in the Himalayas next summer. I can definitely use some additional lung health to beat the altitude fatigue.


Body Brush:

Body brushing is an age old Chinese method of improving circulation in the body and skin tone. It is rumoured to help with detoxification and prevents cellulite. I like how good I feel after.


Read something that sets the tone for the day:

I have a 20 year old habit of reading before bed time. But the books I have been reading are rather good, robbing my sleep. I want to reserve these for the morning and use this inspiration to carry me through the day. I am currently reading Jiddu Krishnamurthy‘s The Book of Life.


Make a small to-do list:

Put all those moleskines I own to good use … Checking something off the list is extremely gratifying and small victories count.



I want my breakfast to be something green, something raw & something balanced in nutrients. I have been drinking green smoothies everyday for the last four years. And there is no going back on it. I never crave anything else in the morning. It is one thing I do right and will keep at it.


Dress up:

Inspite of my vested interest in fashion and personal style, I have repeat offenders that I wear all the time . This results in unused clothing or my favourties being saved for later. If I am not running late every single day, I know I will make an effort. Every day is important.


The cons :

A lonely life. There is so much night life around me and most of my teammates are night owls. So am I. The thought of going to bed before midnight feels like it’s going to be life devoid of the late night excitement I currently have.




I can not believe the number of times I have failed at this resolution. I think its easier to do a 30 day challenge and go from there. I have attempted 5am and it never worked. I think I should attempt 6am for now and go from there. The husband promised to take me rock climbing as a reward if I keep at it for a month. Climbing is on top of my list of new things to try before I die. Its a month away from me if I do this. Lets go !


READING : Man Repeller’s tips on becoming a morning person.

TIPS: Selling on Ebay

Posted on August 22, 2015

Why should we live with less? This infographic explains it well. Donation is the easiest way to clear it all. For selling, I love Ebay ! Over the last year, I have had some great luck on eBay. For myself, friends and family. With designer bags, shoes and clothing. And this has got me to believe I can give some free advice. Some of these are the most obvious tips, but I didn’t know any better when I created by eBay account. So, here we go !


Dont make it look unwanted.

This is the best advice I can possibly give. I dont want it, but I dont want them to know that. Given that eBay is full of sad looking unwanted junk that nobody wants …. that doesn’t mean my item should look like it belongs to that pile. When a potential buyer scrolls through the page,  he is more likely to give more consideration to a beautifully styled item.



A high quality photo is a must in my book, to get more views. More the views, more the likelihood to be purchased. Good looking items do fine when photographed without too much effort. The ugly ones look good with some Shallow Depth of Field. The picture above has all this uneven distressed weave that did not look good how ever hard I tried, until it was blurred out. Plain backgrounds fare better when the item has a lot of visual clutter or even otherwise. All natural lighting gives the most accurate color information and flattering pictures. I would suggest doing as little post processing as possible. A buyer could raise a flag indicating that the item is not described, and ebay is known to be partial to the buyers.



“Pre-loved” – is a golden word. Again, do not hint that you are desperate to get rid of the item. Your description should also reflect the sentiment. Tell them a good (fake) story on why you need to let it go in spite of really liking the item : moving, leaving country, going back to school, downsizing, change in lifestyle, tuition fee, will-sell-for-good-return, etc. Your story should prevent the buyers from sending you emails haggling over price of the item. More the words in the description, the better the listing will do with Ebay’s algorithm.

Processed with VSCOcam with j4 preset

Sell a lifestyle

Stories sell. If it’s a handbag, place it next to items you usually carry inside the bag on a nice surface ( instead of on a random kitchen floor ). If selling a yoga mat, place it next to a yoga book or something soothing. Create a little story to let the scrollers give your item additional time in consideration. Create a small flatlay.


Lessons from instagram

White backgrounds and cool toned images are extremely popular on instagram . This is one way to get away with taking pictures without a high resolution camera and still get noticed. Good natural lighting + vscocam aesthetics somehow seem to sell. Find that white bedding. Or white table. Or light airy spaces to photograph objects in.


Make the flaws look beautiful

I made a few scratches on this handbag. But none of the sellers who asked me questions asked me for a reduced price. In a previous listing, when I had not made this scratch artsy, they haggled, a lot. Shallow Depth of Field has this effect. Find a DSLR and some natural light to do the trick.



Give them excess information and be eager to provide more. Tell them about where it was bought. Preferably in the format of a little story. And why you are selling it. And include in an unsuspecting manner as to how you adore the item and reinforce Advice #1.


Pricing :

Research similar items listed for a quote. Do not go with ebay’s recommendation unless really desperate to sell. I sold all my items at at least 40% above what they recommended. If your pictures are better than a competitor, you maybe able to make a sale at a higher rate. When I had lots of potential buyers watching the item, I held on to my asked price every time I had to relist the item.


Dont put all your eggs in one basket.

If you took the trouble to taking the pictures and writing a description, why the loyalty to eBay ? Upload the content to Poshmark, Shop-hers, Tradesey and other consignment stores. Just remember to take all the listings down after it sells. If you dont want to take the effort and time, send your wares to a website like theRealReal. They will pay you a tiny fraction of what the item is worth upfront and do the selling.

 I am happy to see all these consignment stores pop up online. It also gives me a venue to find something I like online & secondhand. I believe hoarding unused items prevents other people from finding something they are looking for and promotes consumption of new items. Please do donate or sell ! Its also a great exercise in testing ones marketing skills. It can be a fun exercise.

READING : How to get rid of clothes.


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