To Universe, with Love

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’

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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.

 

Pranayam:

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.

 

Smoothie:

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.

 

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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 !


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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.

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Photography

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.

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Description

“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Communication

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.

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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.

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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.

They came home : Summer Roundup

Posted on August 15, 2015

Its 117 degrees today and its apparently end of summer/beginning of fall.  And here is my roundup. I was not teaching during the summer. I could put the trousers away for a little while and wear my little blue dresses. Denim shorts used to be another staple of mine. Wearing the short shorts that I have had since I was 23, have been making me very uncomfortable. I let them go. Turning 30 has made me rather age aware. I thought the change would be more gradual. I appreciate normcore less and less. Moving towards – little less casual, tad more elegant. 

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chambray shirt olive skirt

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An olive green skirt. I been looking for one but wanted to find one second hand. This ones from RealReal. Thanks to the popularity of decluttering in recent times and Marie Kondo, the consignment shops are flooded. I think “capsule wardrobes” are not very color friendly. The consignment store owners tells me people are giving away their colorful clothes and keeping their neutrals. I am rather tired of seeing these capsules all over the internet, with striped shirts and black/beige clothing. I grew up in India and love color. Although, I wear boring colors by Indian standards. Everything in my closet is one of the 4 colors – blue, black/grey, red and green. I can attest to the fact that you don’t need a huge closet to wear some color.

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Blue shirt dress. I own a few blue dresses and always bought heavy weight or lined ones. While they are durable, it’s just too hot in Arizona. I wanted a lightweight unlined blue dress that is a button up. I can not believe how hard they are to find. The ones I seem to find are too see through ( A.P.C Madras Collection included) ! This one seems to be an exception. Consigned from a tiny shop in downtown SFO.

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Vintage Navajo earrings, repurposed. From a local shop in Arizona. All the reading about Native Americans and history of Arizona makes me want to wear turquoise jewellry. I told Harsha I wanted a vintage squash blossom, and he was horrified. I am trying to find the stand alone pendant – Naja. But don’t think they break it up into parts, like I want.

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I was caught up in an endless loop of ‘what-can-i-donate-today’ for the last one year. It’s really taxing on the mind. And was ranting about each purchase. And then I reached a place in my head where I am at peace with my surroundings. I purged enough. I will let go whatever I need to, more organically from now on. Things wear out. Style changes ( slowly). I am strictly keeping with my one-in-one-out rule. I don’t want things to get out of hand again like they did in the past. I still take pleasure in finding that one special piece, every season. 

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READING: Americans lead in being able to justify unnecessary purchases. Ouch Onion, very ouch ! Making these posts is rather embarrassing for me, considering where I work and who reads my blog. But I am keen on using my blog to keep my consumerism under check.

Worth it, Not Worth it

Posted on August 8, 2015

 

Purse Forum

/pərs/ /ˈfôrəm/

noun

 

       1. A place where bag ladies chat.

       2. A black hole. And there is enough material to keep you reading for days.

        3. A database for everything about designer handbags.

       4. Borderline waste of time.

 

I did some research before I purchased a Proenza Schouler PS1, on PurseForum. I always knew shoes and handbags are a women’s ‘thing’ but got to see it all in person on that forum. People talk for days about their brand loyalty, durability, potential problems, their closet, their outfits with their bags, their dream bags, …. Ps1 is made of thin leather that sags, they all agreed. All fair warnings that I disregarded. And I now categorize this purchase as a regret. In lieu of this confession, I have to admit PurseForum has some lessons to teach. I stumbled upon one thread that talks about regrets – whats worth and whats not worth it: LINK

 

Did some semantic analysis on the data. Here is a comprehensive list of the popular items that these fashion lovers thought were worth the investment:

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And here is a list of a consensus on what’s not worth it. Surprisingly, I found myself nodding along a lot when I discovered this list.

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Reading this list got me thinking. Over the last few years, I made a few regrettable decisions. Here is my own list of what I think is worth the money. And not.

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I made this list last year. I have learnt so much since. I think its unfair to push a brand into these categories ( although I maintain my stand on Free People ). I think an assessment and understanding of quality is essential. Zara makes some kickass durable clothing in natural fibres. And Miu Miu makes some very expensive polyester dresses. There are other factors that go into making things last : lifestyle, upkeep, maintenance and care, etc. How do I know the commenters in the forum didn’t throw their clothing in the dryer and then complain about them not lasting ? Did they take care of their leather goods ? I wish there was a way to obtain some education about quality of goods. I can get it via experience while wasting clothing and trashing the environment. Are mistakes a must for learning ?

 

Anyone reading this: Do you have a list of Worth It/ Not Worth It ?

 

READING : Florie’s essay on fleeting nature of things.

Summer Uniform

Posted on August 1, 2015

Black and blue are the most versatile colors in my wardrobe. And I suspect that is the case, in most wardrobes all over the world. Deep indigos and overdyed blacks, according to Yohji, are the easiest to dye. They dont show the dirt and stains making them immune to looking ‘frumpy’ as they age. My summer style is relaxed and utilitarian. Blue is my choice color for the summer. A blue dress with ballet flats is effortless. No need to match and pair separates. No high maintenance whites. A fabric like cotton or linen is a plus.

 

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DRESS:

Isabel Marant inspired chambray dress that everyone owned in 2013, but made by Madewell. The little details on the dress, the pockets and the lining make it a pleasure to wear everyday.

 

SHOES:

Frye makes shoes in distressed leather. While patent/structured leather looks more dressy, they seem to age faster. A crack in the leather or the scratches really shows. I like how worn in brown leather looks. Elegance in the wabi sabi sense – beauty in the rustic. These are my most worn shoes.

 

I am loving the summers in this house. We open up the doors and warm sunlight streams through. Its colder on the mountain making summers very pleasant. The light in this picture is something I want to remember for a long time. Mornings like these are a luxury. Light like this is a luxury. Thankful for it all. 

Late Summer Reading List

Posted on July 25, 2015

Phoenix is an oasis in the Arizonian desert. We do not have trees, real forests or mountains. But we have hills, canyons and giant handsome cactus. Sunsets are absolutely glorious out here and the warm breezy nights are beautiful. All the animals bury themselves into underground tunnels during the day and come to life in the night. Its 110 degrees and my sunburns dont heal easy. I changed my schedule to survive the weather. Get to the lab before sunrise or else, the bike rides are a misery. Get out by 7pm, eat dinner and sit outside to read a book of my choosing. Go home to cook, pack for next day and go to bed. Here is what I have been reading.

 

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ARTICLES ONLINE :

 

1. Simple living lessons and minimalism from Albert Einstein

2. Has travel become a consumer item to acquire ? Do we try to go to as many countries / climb as many mountains as possible to collect a list ?

3. Some amazing travers from our history books.

4. I am always observing the way people eat, how they look/feel and their health. A tiny island in the middle of nowhere, has a lot of healthy people who forgot how to die. And have some very good lessons for all of us.

5.  In search of silence, inside and outside.

6. The French Culinary does not have the monopoly on Sauces. Check out this compilation from Thailand

7. Fashion vs Clothing. Designers with no interest in textiles. Love of shopping disguised as love of fashion. A craft that became all about the catwalk show. Fast fashion created by bloodied hands.

8. Style. Very few have it. An interview with Richard Torregrossa.

 

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I have a lot of mind space and lot more time these days to do the things I want. Thanks to life sans online shopping, hours cleaning and less distractions at work. I used to hang out in the lab all day long and read non-technical books sporadically. I now have 30 minutes of time allotted for reading that has nothing to do with work. Since my days in Arizona are coming to an end soon, I decided to use all this reading to learn as much as I can about the land – the ancient people, the animals, the geology, the sand, …..

 

1. Hopi : following the path of peace.

I read a book called Radical Simplicty, written by an engineer who empirically shows the math to calculate your carbon footprint and amount of deforestation that went into sustaining your lifestyle. The bigger your house, weight of stuff owned, amount of furniture, size of closet, electronics and toys in your home, books, etc – everything has a cost function. And there you have it – a heart breaking number of acres of forest you helped destroy. An excerpt from the book is an interview with a native AmericanIndian women of the Hopi tribe :

“Now they blast Mother Earth apart. Look at the crack in my home. They drop a bomb on Japanese people with uranium from our mountain. We are a peaceful people. They pump the aquifer to slurry coal. Now the plants are dying.”

“ What can I do to help?” the author asked. She said,“ Go back to your people and tell them to live simply. Then they wouldn’t be out here digging up Mother Earth for coal and uranium.

The Hopi tribe are natives of Arizona. I am reading a 101 book on their wisdom.

 

2. A Sand Country Almanac.

Essays on nature. I can use more of those. Symptoms of Yellowstone withdrawal.

 

3. John Muir, Magnificent Tramp.

His biography. Muir is my fav naturalist. He had a deep spiritual love for trees, mountains and animals.

 

4. Silent Spring, Rachel Carson.

More reading on environmental issues. I need to detox my skincare routine. I am addicted to some products. I could let go so much so far, inspired by what I have learnt till date. Trying to cram in more information for some extra motivation.

 

Thank you for reading. I have been overwhelmed by how supportive the comments on this blog have been. Thank you ! For taking the time to write to me. Thanks for all the positivity. For all the acquaintances made. As Douglas Adams would say, “So long, and thanks for all the fish”. 

Surviving Small Spaces

Posted on July 18, 2015

Firstly, I do not think our space is that small. But it did feel like it, a few months ago when we picked out the place and started downsizing. One blogger who really helped me out with preparing me for the move is Erin, who blogs at Reading My Tea Leaves. I LOVE her blog and am awaiting her book. I heard a podcast about her lifestyle and why she finds it hard to shop – sustainability, origin of products, lives of the workers and living with less. It was my ahan moment and rather life changing. Here is what helped me so far.

 

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1. Downsize for the right reason

If downsizing from a larger space, having the right motivation helps. We moved so that we may live on this mountain. I have a friend who moved to NYC for the experience and lives in a teeny tiny studio. We may have to go smaller so that we may experience San Francisco, next year. My parents are looking to downsize so that they may retire and be able to manage their space without external help.

 

2. Find the right small space

Thanks to the tiny house movement, modern spaces are being fitted with multi purpose appliances, retractable furniture and smart storage solutions. Given some time and energy, I think its not too hard to find the right space. Dont care for a bedroom ? Smart lofts are out there. Need a big closet ? 4 closet studios exist in SFO. Indian food intense kitchen ? Tiny bedrooms to make sure everything don’t smell like curry can be hunted down. I personally dont believe I can one day move into a tiny apartment and live happily for ever. But the right space helps.

 

3. Detox and Declutter

This goes without says. I think there is only one way to make tiny homes look breathable : go minimal. When we first moved  in, having everything put out made it look like a dumpster. More I let go, better I feel and nicer my home looks. Our home is in the process of gaining more breathable space with more culling happening every month.

 

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4. Go on shopping fasts

Once the home is setup, it’s easy to fall back into old patterns and accumulate stuff. One strategy that has been working out for me is to go on monthly shopping fasts. Its easy to buy with one click and have it show up at your doorstep by the next day. Going on a fast helps sleep over it for a few days and re-assess the need. I do shopping fasts on alternate months of the year. Gives me 15 days on an average and I usually forget that’s on my wishlist by the end of it.

 

5. Embrace a Seasonal Capsule Wardrobe

Seasonal dressing is rather cliche because of all the air conditioning and the actual time spent outside by most people. I think layering is all that is needed to get through the year. That being said, I do think natural fabrics are healthier for the body and planet. Linens in the summer and silk/wool in the winter is what I wear making my wardrobe seasonal. Instead of hanging everything I own in the closet at all times, having items for immediate use helps. Jackets and boots get stored away during the spring cleaning. Linens and shorts get tucked away during the fall cleaning.

 

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6. Create negative space

A space devoid of art, color or personal objects may look ‘minimal’ but is necessary in small dosage to make a living space warm and inviting. We installed this wall shelf to display our memorabilia. It immediately made the entire space look crowded. We ended up leaving it mostly empty to create negative space. Small spaces can use some of that. Its an vision-mind trick to make the spaces look bigger.

 

7. Forego bookshelves

Our previous space had every wall lined with books. I recently discovered that book stacks touching the ceiling look good. I dont need cram in shelves. And since I read one/two books at a time, I am not tumbling my book towers too often. Going digital helps too.

 

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8. Find beautiful storage

So all those beans and lentils need to be stored some place. Instead of the plastic cereal boxes that are widely available, why not switch to glass or metal jars, cloth or jute sacs, mason jars, or anything that is beautiful and earth friendly ? The appeal of a space is inversely proportional to amount of plastic that lays in it.

 

9. Create a ritual – put it back where it belongs

Pick out a perfect spot for everything. Take the time in putting things back. The few things that survived the cull, are special and deserve the attention. Or else things run away and end up where ever.

 

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10. Let go of perfection

Pinterest and all the free advice on internet ( this post including ) may or may not work. If its not for you, its not for you. Going small comes with its own set of headaches and we all try to do the best we can. Falling into an endless pattern of perfecting-small-space beats the essence of downsizing.

 

Clean, small and decluttered home are extremely beneficial for mental health but are not to drive you crazy. There will be days when your house will look like a disaster. Shrug it off and get to work. And it’s all going to be fine. So far, the pros out weight the cons. Taking all these steps helped. 

 

 

 

 

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