A week of waste, an assessment

Waste assessment is a basic first step for the zeroish-waste curious. This can be done by looking at the garbage in detail or looking at the incoming stuff. I’ve recorded all incoming items for our 2-adult household and the volume of outgoing garbage. It’s not pretty, brace yourself, and show me your numbers afterwards!

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Monday, August 19

IN

Lentils + glass jar + aluminum lid.
White beans + glass jar + aluminum lid.
Pickles + 2 glass jars + 2 aluminum lids.
Artichokes + 2 glass jars + aluminum lids.
Pickled beets + glass jar + aluminum lid.
Pickled sprouts + glass jar + aluminum lid.
Mayonnaise + glass jar + aluminum lid.

Soy milk + tetrabrick + plastic screw top.
Barretxa + 4 plastic baggies.
Cheese + plastic wrapper.

Cherry tomatoes + 2 plastic wrappers + 2 cardboard trays.
Chocolate + 5 paper wrappers + 5 aluminum foil (wrappers.

8 receipts, still unclear how much BPA-laden are those and if I’m fucking up all my recycling with this.

OUT

1 small compostable bag of organic garbage.
1 empty paper bag.

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Tuesday, August 20

IN

Bread + paper bag. Will be used afterwards to collect our paper trash, though.

OUT

1 small compostable bag of organic garbage.

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Wednesday, August 21

IN

Snickers bar + 2 plastic wrappers.

Nectarines + 2 cardboard trays + 2 plastic wraps + 9 fruit stickers.
Aubergines + 2 cardboard trays + 2 plastic wraps.

Watermelon + 2 plastic wraps.
Pimientos de padrón + plastic baggie.

Loose carrots in my own mesh bag.
Loose cucumbers.

Receipt (14 paper).

OUT

1 small plastic bag (from Sunday’s bread) of organic garbage.
1 plastic bag of plastic/aluminum recycling (in a bag that Marina had used to cushion her last package).
1 paper bag (from last week’s bread) with paper waste.

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Thursday, August 22

IN

Museum ticket.
Restaurant reservation note.
3 receipts.

Watermelon + 2 plastic wraps.
Cream cheese + box + lid.

OUT

1 small compostable bag of organic garbage.

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Friday, August 23

IN

Bread + paper bag.

Beer + 4 cans + 2 plastic bags.

OUT

1 small compostable bag of organic garbage.

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Saturday, August 24

IN

Chickpeas + glass jar + aluminum lid.
Turkey + plastic envelope + cardboard wrapper.

Potato chips + 2 bags.
Smoked salmon + plastic envelope.
Melon + plastic wrap.
Watermelon + plastic wrap.
Pimientos de padrón + 2 plastic baggies.

Mushrooms + 2 plastic trays + 2 plastic wraps.

Loose lemons + 2 fruit stickers.
Loose avocado + fruit sticker.
Loose nectarines + 7 fruit stickers.

Loose potatoes in my mesh bag.
Loose bell peppers.
Loose zucchini.
Loose cucumbers.
Loose lime.
Loose cherry tomatoes.
Loose onions.

Receipt.

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Sunday, August 25

OUT

1 small compostable bag of organic garbage.

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Totals

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Alternatives

As usual with waste, avoiding most of these would require me changing my routines and doing more housewifing. And that, as usual, circles back to the extent I am willing to dedicate more of my time to the pursuit of less waste (I already wrote a rant about this a year ago)… In order of ease of change, these are the ways of reducing our waste:

A) Designate a bread bag and stick to it.

B) Deciding that buying zero waste is more important than ‘we are throwing these out’ discount trays of fruit and veggies (this week: nectarines and aubergines). This is an unfortunate choice I’m not sure about… a classic in the universe of sustainability decision overwhelm.

C) Switching to buying beloved watermelons (and just melons) whole with the risk of buying an overripe and garbage-ready fruit it entails. I already had three of those this year, and really hate that disappointment after paying for and carrying those 5-8kg home.

D) The next step would be choosing my lemons and avocados based on if they have lost their stickers already. Bah! Or changing my fruit vendor. Changing would also be needed for pimientos de padrón and mushrooms. And adding an another shop – after finding one that’s fine with filling my own containers – to our shopping routine for all animal stuff.

E) Then, making legumes at home. We don’t own a pressure cooker, hence stovetop legumes imply several hours of some vigilance, and additional heat and humidity that life in Barcelona does not need. I’m still very unsure if this way of cooking beans is more energy efficient than the industrial ones. But buying cooked legumes leave their jars behind.

F) Mayonnaise. I have never tried to make the proper traditional mayonnaise (as opposed to several vegan options and replacements) but what I know about the care to be put into it does not make it appealing…

G) Soy milk. We tried it once with my grandma but without knowing that it has to be boiled. Internet says that dry soy beans can be used, so this sounds quite plausible although not that attractive. Again, time…

H) Beer. Buying on tap and in growlers is an options…

I) All the pickled stuff, ugh… we have done some very basic pickling, and olives can be easily bought zero waste here. Anything beyond that would rather mean foregoing then starting a wide pickling operation here.

J) As for other forms of preserving produce, only now – after 5 or so years of mild interest in the zeroish waste movement – it dawned on me that I would eat some stuff very rarely or never if they have to be zero wast, namely the veggies I usually get industrially frozen. In my case those would be green peas and edamames. A kilo of green peas in shell cost around 4-6 €/kg here when they are in season. Mostly they are not. Even when you get the fresh ones – and if you are not a green pea monster and are actually able to shell them without eating them all – a tiny bowl of green peas is what you get. And there would be no edamames… or only the very overpriced restaurant edamames that most probably came from the same frozen plastic bag that the ones I buy now. Well, one of my big issues with zero waste has always been the assumption that ‘if I didn’t see/touch it, it’s not my waste’…

K) Industrial shit, like Snickers or Philadelphia cream cheese, are not really an issue. Those happen quite rarely here. As for snacks like barretxa and potato chips… I’d have to explore the zero waste shop in St. Antoni.

L) Chocolate. For all my love for Casa Perris, their chocolate (no wrapper) is very much meh in comparison with our Blanxart favorites. And Blanxart’s supply chain is clearer and more eco. Ugh.

M) The amount of unnoticed paper going around is just annoying, and the Spanish internets do not agree about the recyclability of the receipts. And, as far as the alternative is giving people my email to send me the receipts, I’m not sure what’s worse.

N) And don’t even get me started on fruit stickers. I’m currently doing a little artsy project with them, as to channel my annoyance.

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As for the garbage, it is summer in Barcelona – hot, humid, and full of gnats wishing to make sweet love in our garbage – hence avoidance of the immediate compost is a priority. Public health first. And, no, home composting is not an appealing idea for us. C is outright disgusted by the thought, and I don’t feel strongly enough to try to cajole him. Rigorous separation for the city organic fraction is how far we are ready to go.

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So, I’m not very happy or inspired after this. I feel guilty, but I’m not willing to add more places to go to my shopping list… Also, a curious observation: I am more willing to do zero waste with stuff that lasts more. For example, for the quite occasional Casa Perris or Safareig trips I get all prepared, with a tight list and all corresponding containers. But I am far more relaxed about the plastic wraps that go into the garbage almost immediately. Minds work in curious ways…

Are you doing anything to reduce your waste? What have been the easiest steps? And the hardest? It is painful to understand how a life dedicated to zero(ish) waste would be possible if only we were ready to to actually dedicate much bigger chunks of time to it or restrict our consumption to only the easily available… neither is an attractive option.

Vegan-friendly omnivore places in Barcelona

Let’s talk eating out! I’ve been thinking about writing a post about my favorite vegan-friendly omni places in Barcelona for a long time, and an unpleasant experience pushed over to finally do it… The first disclaimer here has to be about my preferences when it comes to eating and eating out in particular:

(1) Food matters to me. I like it, I enjoy, I cook (one of my very few useful skills once the digital apocalypse comes), and my food should taste good. So my interest in food – as for most people – go beyond fueling life in my cells. Fuck Soylent, I’m looking for pleasure.

(2) I eat mostly vegan (with aspirations towards a whole food plant based diet) and will do vegetarian when eating out, but eggs and dairy is as far I’ll go. I’ve been ovo-lacto vegetarian since 2006 (and toying with it since I was 14, so 2002), and seduced by veganism as the only reasonably ethical option since 2010/2011.

(3) C is an omni and, while he is very flexible and down for a good tofu (the V-only places he would approve of include El Vergel in Tarragona, The Spread Eagle in London, V Spot and Beyond Sushi in New York among others), prefers to have his options open when eating out.

(4) And I have to admit that there are veg*an places that take their Ⓥ clientele for granted instead of really taking care of the umami in their food. Also, I think it is more reasonable and engaging to include vegan food in your omni menus instead of making me feel like an outcast who is so weird she needs her own special restaurants or at least ask for special treatment in normal people places. And I want people to accidentally order vegan food because it’s so good. Or maybe I’m just too picky and know nothing of vegan advocacy…

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The quick suggestions if you came here for v-only recommendations in Barcelona are the following, all these are vegetarian with ample vegan options:
Maoz: €, great but always crowded which is a problem as the appeal of the place is in the unlimited salad toppings while you are working at your falafel;
Quinoa: €, good but very little seating + some former employees have filled Gràcia with ‘Quinoa exploits its workers’ graffitti;
Teresa Carles: €€, especially reasonable if you go for the working-day lunch menu but nothing otherworldly;
The Green Spot: €€, an attempt at veg*an fine dining, very nice but a long way to Vedge, my best (and only) experience at vegan fine dining so far.

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So, my current favorite vegan-friendly omnivore places in Barcelona… I’ve been there with v-friends and with omni friends and the satisfaction level has been very high. As for me and C, we have left a small fortune in every one of these:

La Rovira

These people have achieved a miracle: a craft beer place that doesn’t feel snobbish and has maintained the feel of a normal Spanish bar where people pop in for a coffee, to read the newspaper, to watch a Barça game (check before going, you will have less seating but so much more ambience if you go on a game day), to see friends, eat, drink, and be merry…

The menu consists of typical snacks and starters (olives, potatoes, fish conserves, etc.) and sandwiches. And among those sandwiches is my favorite vegan sandwich of all times (and three other vegetarian ones, all good). No, you don’t have to arrange anything or ask them to hold an ingredient. Legalitat is your perfect (big!) beer sandwich with seitan, grilled onions, white bean paste, dried tomatoes, and raw zuccini… if you do slightly spicy, ask staff for Salsa Valentina hot sauce. Delicious! There are also usually some vegan options in the seasonal offer, like vegan ‘meatballs’ or a saucy seitan bánh mì experiment. As for starters, guacamole, potato chips and banderillas (an olive, a pickle, a pickled oinion, and a spicy pepper on a little stick) are yours. The sauces for the patatas bravas are vegetarian but not vegan. Home olives contain anchovies, beware.

As for vegan dessert, go for a sorbetto in one of Gràcia’s plazas. The craft beer selection is excellent, and this is one of the rare places where they won’t treat you with contempt if you ask for a wine or water.

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Mosquito restaurants

Most Asian flavors are my cup of tea, so I’m always looking for the best new place that will make me happy without all the shit about traditional pork broths, fish flakes and mysterious sauces. And the Mosquito chain (several slightly different restaurants, same owner, same mochis) will do exactly that with your options clearly marked and staff knowing their menu while also keeping your omni friends happily slupring. Your options include Mosquito for dumplings (vegan: chard/collard filled dumplings, smoked tofu + rice, edamames, kimchi), Red Ant for ramen and bibimbap (just ask them to hold that egg), and noodles, kimchi, seaweed salad, Cal Cuc for hot or cold ramen (again, ask for no egg; the cold shoyu ramen is really nice). These places get crowded and Mosquite is infamous for its live queue, go to Cal Cuc in Poble Nou to avoid that but I’d say that the dumplings are worth it. Unfortunately, their incredible mochis are not vegan… Servers are knowledgeable, busy, and often very rude, focus on your noodles instead.

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La Taquería

I’m under a taco spell, what can I do? While there are many things here for the cheese people, the vegan option is one: guacamole for a starter and then vegetarian alambres (make-your-own tacos) containing bell pepper, onion and white mushrooms + I always ask for extra nopales (you can also get extra pineapple if you are so inclined) served with the four home sauces ranging from non-spicy to OMG. Use the sauces, they make all the difference – take that little non-spicy green pepper magic and spread it evenly on your 4 tacos, don’t share it with anybody else! Sorbettos (drunk ones, if you like mezcal on your postre) for dessert. I stick to my micheladas in this apparent tourist trap just by Sagrada Familia and try to forget that tables are covered with tarpaulin. And learning that sucking on ice cubes at least gives an illusion of calming the fire in my mouth:

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The best vegan ice cream ever (yes, leaving the glorious Van Leeuwen second)
Rocambolesc

Oh, brothers Roca, they have changed my life, OK, Jordi Roca has… because once I’ve tasted their sorbets, I can never go back to the usual icy sugary stuff that ice cream joints offer to vegans. The creaminess and the flavors are pure magic! I tried it for the first time in Girona last summer – blueberry and watermelon sorbets, pictured above – and I was blown away. After having found out that they also have a shop in Barcelona, on the f*ing Ramblas, no less, I kept re-asking if the sorbets were really vegan… they are! That creaminess, though.

The shop can feel a little overwhelming because there is a lot going on. Jordi expects you to choose an ice cream, then a mountain of toppings, then maybe put it into a bread packet and heat it… Bah! No! Go in, look above your head for the flavors available – typically 5, with 2 sorbets among them – pick yours and say no to toppings, the ice cream is good enough on its own. They also have pints to take with you. Bring one when you are visiting a Barcelona vegan, and they will love you forever!

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For vegans with pizza cravings, I recommend Messie where you can opt for vegan cheese on your pizza and Sortidor where their vegetarian pizza is so lush (spinach! artichokes! the whole garden!) that ordering it without the cheese does not destroy the experience. Madre Lievito was my first experience of the simplest pizza Marinara being truly enough and incredibly tasty.

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From left to right: El Vergel, Quinoa, Ale’n’Hop (our first vegetarian favorite when we moved to Barcelona).

If you have food restrictions, do you prefer to be integrated (separating what has to be separated in the case of allergies) or have restaurants catering to you specifically? If you inhabit the veg*an world, what are your Barcelona – or worldwide – favorites? I am ready to travel for food…

3 + 1 books to heal a burnout

According to my outlook, books can fix anything… So obviously my burnout journey – I dare to call this shit like that although nobody has diagnosed it – is book-based. I needed boosts of confidence. I needed affirmations that I was a valid person although my chosen profession has turned not to be the right one for me. I needed a permission to do new things. And I needed a confirmation that it is not too late.

It’s not only books, of course. My family, C, and friends have done their best to be there with me. And since last July I’m also in formal therapy. And, for good and for bad, I’ve been highly functional throughout. But I needed my lady-friends from books too. So here is my shortlist, yes, all written by women and, yes, all widely published and translated bestsellers. And none are fiction. I’m still making my peace with fiction…

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Cameron, Julia. 1992 (2002). The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity.
New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher / Putnam.

OK, this one is hard-core woo-woo. I squirmed a lot at the ‘spirituality’ language, ‘God’ and ‘prayers’. But she delivers all the affirmations I wanted and offers tools to accept them as intimate truths. And I’ve always enjoyed journaling and writing as healing, that’s what I’d already done through all my previous turmoils, so her Morning Pages and written exercises are just the thing for me. It is comforting and soothing, and effective. After all, “creativity is like crabgrass – it springs back with the simplest bit of care…”

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Gilbert, Elizabeth. 2015. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.
Rīga: Zvaigzne ABC.

If you want an easier read (a medium-length air travel is all you need for this one and not 12 weeks), Liz Gilbert is there for you. Coming 25+ years after Julia Cameron, Liz says basically the same: creativity is an abundance economy, just showing up makes all the difference, and that all that truly matters is what all that means to you. That is, the bold ‘creative living’ she recommends can and should be expressed throughout your life, not expecting to necessarily get a Nobel for it). True to her usual style of scattered random anthropologies and history bits throughout, the book is entertaining and might serve as a gateway drug for more self help airplane books from the likes of Brené Brown and Gretchen Rubin…. Beware, book lovers! Reading about doing is not the same as doing.

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Pinkola Estés, Clarissa. 2001. Women Who Run With the Wolves.
Sounds True audio or any book-form edition.

Oh, Clarissa… at my lowest last summer I would binge-listen to her soothing voice, especially Theatre of the Imagination, and draw. And that was enough.

A fun detail: despite being familiar with her work since more than 10 years ago, only last year I learned that Women Who Run With the Wolves was an audiobook before it was a readable book. The printed versions are much thicker than the 2.5h audio original, but being able to listen to her voice is priceless. Her poetry is delicious and her sense of humor (especially commenting on Women Who Run With the Wolves fame) – intact, but for that you have to go to Theatre of the Imagination.

As with everything in this adult life, not 100% of her fairy tale selection and interpretations make sense, and some seem out of place. That is fine. Take what you need. This is the type of work that you can (should?) reread once every 10 years or so. Just to observe how your perception and take-aways change. Oh, and the poetry! I stole this from Homemaking: Women Writers and the Politics and Poetics of Home. 1996. Edited by Catherine Wiley and Fiona R. Barnes as Clarissa’s web has been listing a poetry book as forthcoming for years now:

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Kondo, Marie. 2010 (2014) The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
London: Vermilion.
Kondo, Marie. 2017. Spark Joy.
London: Vermilion.

Surprise, surprise! What an unexpected turn: me suggesting KonMari and then some tidying. But bear with me. Here you can find my mini-reviews of all three books and you could read any other book that propels you into action through your possessions (The Art of Discarding or The Joy of Less, or any other of the kind will do). My favorite comprison is with IT devices: if you run for too long without restarting, your systems clog up and slow you down, and you might think that the device is flawed. That’s why your every call with an IT person will start with ‘Have you tried turning it off and then turning it on again?’ This is exactly what KonMari™ does. It is an opportunity to revise and edit your present (hence also future) *and* the narrative of your past.

The power of past editing is my most recent tidying revelation. I have to admit – here comes a dirty secret, beware – that I still have digital photo clutter. My current photo archive is 120GB and I’ve just started tidying it. My obsession, even with the analogue soap box before the digital one, has been documentation, the conviction that there is ‘truth’ to be kept. And then my artsy expressions and allure of street art… that’s a lot of meaningless photos 15 years later.

So I’m slowly tidying up my digital photo past (I already did that with the analogues a couple of years ago) and it is incredibly liberating. Once I let go of the compulsion to keep something for its ‘historical value’ despite it being embarrassing, ugly, meaningless and applied the *spark joy* criterion, I enjoy it so much. There is the symbolical value of retaining only what I want with me going forward, and the pleasure of deleting hundreds of archives and liberating dozens of gigabytes.

Possessions are your road trip companions, a book of KonMari™ style can help you take action to retain only the ones that are kind and helpful.

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Which books have helped you at some points in your life? Which authors have given you those a-ha phrases that you have later calligraphed, embroidered, tattooed, etc to retain? Which books do you return to periodically for inspiration and solace?

Also, the tipjar is available if you ever feel like buying me a coffee:

Luisita 31 or 31 facts about me

Somehow this March 2007 selfie feels relevant…

I’m turning 31 today and here you have 31 things you didn’t ever necessarily wanted to know about me:

1. I’m an only child. That does explain a lot.

2. Although several millions of people share this experience, it still tickles me: the state that issued my birth certificate does not exist.

3. I have found a missing piece of family history online. The family legend was that my grandpa’s sister’s second husband had been incarcerated for anti-Soviet activities in the 1950s, but later in life he never talked about it, so there was no additional narrative about that. Doing a more general family history project a few years ago, Google revealed that he – Mikhail Krasilnikov (1933-1996) – was a vanguard poet and student experimenting with performances in 1950s Leningrad. The Russian internets have his prision-time photos, his poetry, memories of his friends and photos of my great-aunt too. I was high on this new piece of the family puzzle for days.

4. Quoting Hamilton, an ongoing issue in my life is “why do you assume you’re the smartest in the room?” with the answer being “because it’s obviously the case”. Since kindergarten I’ve had enough “no, Luīze, not you, maybe somebody else knows” situations to be prepared for this scenario, much more than the opposite one. This is one of the reasons why PhD has been so hard – you get a room full of people whose basic experience is to be the smartest on in the room. That ought to lead to trauma and friction.

5. The story about professional ambitions that I like to tell myself is that I’ve actually given a try to every idea that made sense. An alternative view would be that I’ve been quitting stuff when it stop making sense from a very early age…. At three I wanted to become a ballerina. My mom dutifully enrolled me and after a year or even less I had it clear that the tutu was the best part and that the classes with a strict teacher wasn’t. The next idea that persisted for a long time and, in a way, never really went away was becoming a fashion designer. So I drew, I read, I learnt classical drawing, and at the end, just before the entrance exams for the arts high school at 16, I stayed at the comprehensive programme. The next fantasy was to become a journalist. I did a gig for few small publications and realized that I didn’t have guts to do serious (read: dangerous) reporting from conflict areas while most local stuff was so boring and half-assed that I didn’t want to be part of that. By that time I was deep in volunteering for NGOs, so working for an international NGO suddenly seemed the perfect combination of politics and impact. Yeah, it took some more volunteering and a six-month internship to learn that that’s not the case. After that one dissipated, I started my undergrad, fell in love with the scientific method, vowed to become a sociologist and even got a tattoo honoring Descartes. Nine years later I am a few months from having a PhD in social and political sciences and no illusions about this industry.

6. Yeah, there are two tattoos. 2011 question mark honoring Descartes’ ‘methodological skepticism‘ and 2013 ‘el cuerpo de Osiris, cuerpo brotado, se alzó y caminó’ from Eduardo Galeano‘s microcuentos reinterpreting the myth of Osiris and Isis. No regrets and they are keeping up great (a n00b advice: mine are gray and not black), my grandpa still pretends he cannot see them, and I still haven’t been able to come up with a reasonable addition. The only nuisance are all the people who think that it is a fine icebreaker to ask about the meaning of my tattoos, no, not cool, stop that sh*t.

Planning my first tattoo the obsessive-compulsive way.

7. I’ve had several piercings that were done in the following order: a ring in the helix of my left ear at 12, nose stud in the left nostril at 13, belly button at 15, earlobes at 19. The upper ear and belly button never healed, so they disappeared quickly. The nose stud lasted until a few years ago. The earlobes are still here but very sensitive nowadays, hence I’ve let go of my extensive stupid earring collection and wear pharmacy earrings.

8. Until some German pop-feminst books set me free at around 14, I avidly read and believed women’s magazines. That’s an incredible amount of false beliefs about life, sex, beauty, femininity among other topics. Ugh.

9. An issue that was too big for pop feminism was body issues, fantasies about fatness, and linking bodies to acceptance and self-worth. The most reasonable way of describing it is a low-key body dysmorphia. And knowing that so many all of us suffer from this doesn’t help. Body positivity, the average user’s guide is the blog post I’m most proud of.

10. At 16 I realized that life with short fingernails was much easier. It took a bit more time to arrive to the same conclusions about life without nail polish and make-up in general, but I don’t think I’m ever going back to that.

11. I’ll never know if I didn’t learn to walk in heels or is the whole thing just that painful (long way beyond my boundaries of acceptable discomfort). Anyways, no heels for me.

12. I started drifting towards vegetarianism at 14, went serious ovo-lacto at 18 and started flirting with veganism at 23. A list of my favorite Ⓥ resources can be found here.

13. Yoga is the physical activity that I’ve practiced most. I started with a very fitness-oriented version sometime around 15 or so and – with differing intensity – it has stuck around ever since. The second most practiced is tennis that I (having until then only played with the clay and watching my mom play) started learning at 8 and abandoned at 14, I guess. I did take it up again during my first year of undergrad but didn’t continue. Posterior trials with ping-pong confirm that the neuronal pathways forged for this are solid and would happily come back. I hope it will make sense some day to go back to the clay and the amazing sound of a correct hit. Other sports I’ve given a committed amateur’s try at some point include floorball, volleyball and swimming. After 1.5 years of actively learning it, swimming must be the third most practiced by now.

14. I have an advantage in yoga, though. My joints are very mobile, not enough for Cirque du Soleil, but still enough to see difference very quickly and get a lot of satisfaction out of it. Only recently I learnt that also my recently cranky ankle (after a sprain) and lower back pain if I don’t move enough are due to the same random genetic gift.

15. I don’t have a driver’s license. This is the only thing I regret not doing when the rest of my cohort did it. It’s a skill I find useful and a good idea but I had other priorities when all my classmates were getting theirs at 17. And it has been like that ever since.

16. I have very few teeth, 27 of the 32 there should be. All my wisdom teeth were extracted (I lived in pain and on drugs for a year or so meanwhile) and on the bottom row where most people have four incisors I have three. Funnily enough, the space is so well filled that nobody, including dentists, had noticed that until I was 18.

17. On a related dental hygiene note, dental floss for me is a basic necessity and a happy little indulgence at the same time. Meanwhile, I only brush once a day.

18. I’m between ENTJ and INTJ on the Myers-Briggs matrix. Knowing that gives me a perverse permission to be even more ruthless… “Anyone who worries they are an unfeeling, manipulative lunatic is probably quite cuddly

19. Right before running into C, I was very excited about the idea of polyamory (thanks to Dossie Easton and Catherine A. Liszt, of course). So at that point monogamy was a radical choice for me (wording of that notion: Tristan Taormino), and much hilarity ensued when I announced I was settling down for an exclusive coupledom to the same friends to whom I had waxed enthusiastically about polyamory just months before. 6.5 years since then and going strong.

20. The food that never fails to make me happy is basic avocado maki. Even the pre-prepared ones in the airports. Most potato-based dishes come in as close seconds. Yes, I am a case of the stereotypical Eastern European potato love, and will never get bored of them.

21. The drink that never fails to make me happy is natural rooibos or any of the subtly bitter herbal teas: nettle, raspberry leaves, lemongrass. Like one of the characters in a Nora Ikstena novel, I get way too sentimental when drinking camomile, but in the great debate of fresh vs. dried mint for herbal teas I’m firmly on the side of dried.

22. Flavor I’m really NOT into: anise! Be it in licorice, liquor or fennel (probably the only vegetable I don’t know how to make palatable for myself), I don’t like it.

23. My drug of choice: alcohol. By now I have an extensive knowledge, both personal and cultural, on how it works and what to look out for (as opposed to many other substances), and it’s pretty clear that I’ll never be able to drink like I could (and did) when I was 17. Current favorites for an occasional indulgence include fruity session IPAs, easy chilled white wines and – if need be – quality distillate straight up.

24. Best smells are freshly mowed grass, lavender, roses and sunny pine forest. I don’t wear perfume, though.

25. The bulk of my taste in music was summed-up C in the phrase “dead black ladies”. Eartha Kitt and Ella Fitzgerald, in particular.

26. Yet my 2017 and 2018 have been heavily tainted by everything Hamilton, including the Mixtape and #hamildrops. Musicals do attract me in general, although the only one I’ve seen live is The Book of Mormon. As for hamildrops, this: “Rise Up Wise Up Eyes Up” by Ibeyi.

27. And I consider South Park to be among the best series ever. Yeah, it might be early childhood trauma, but that satire is wow. For me, much better than Simpsons or Family Guy. Some of my best early adolescence memories is watching South Park VHS tapes I had made from the TV and playing with matches (and candles) for hours. True story.

26. My favorite escape is to be drawing while listening to something. I guess there are many people whom I’ve offended because of my doodling during their classes or presentations, but I just can’t help (and it feels so good and so right). Also, I typically remember what I’ve been listening to while drawing that exact piece. I am very present while doing that.

27. I find chairs very uncomfortable. That position just does not feel comfortable. I wiggle, sit on my leg, try to sit cross-legged on the chair, etc. And wish that long distance travel – or work – could be routinely done with legs at the same level as bum. The Fifth Element-style travel drawers (with or without the drugs) seem very attractive for me. And not for nothing you get a similar thing when flying business class.

28. I’m a walker. True to basic human advantage in resilience to outwalk anybody, walking is my favorite way of getting to places in the city. A pretty typical day-off for us with C is walking some 3km to get dinner or lunch and then walking back. Fun. This goes back to the point about comfy shoes. Unwalkable footwear is useless.

29. I have a certain talent for languages, as far as I really have to use them. However, my two major pitfalls come from Latvian. In Latvian all words have fixed stress – always the first syllable – so I have to learn it the hard way in languages that have variable stresses, which is all others I speak: English, Spanish, Russian. Russian is currently the hardest for me when it comes to accents. The other Latvian quirk is not having articles… so I have no intuitive understanding of where it’s supposed to be a definite, an indefinite one or nothing. I manage somehow, but it’s a continuous struggle and startle people editing my texts. Well, at least I don’t have the typically harsh Latvian accents when speaking other languages… and some claim that my current Latvian prosody (and volume) are Spanish-influenced.

30. I’ve been more of a night owl since the kindergarten but can be trained to follow a reasonable schedule (but never get one of those 5am rise-and-shine inspirations). Additionally, I sleep a lot with up to 10h of natural everyday sleep. Although there is a lot of fetish around little sleep and early rising, I find solace in the internet knowledge that Einstein slept 10-12h too.

31. My mom’s inspiration for the name, however, was The Human League’s Louise. It was innovative at the time, according to contacts at Latvian Bureau of Statistics, I’m the 22nd Luīze registered in Latvia. Some years after it became more popular and now there’s a lot of Luīzītes. I just let people reinvent my name as they please, because nobody that doesn’t speak Latvian is able to get it right. Well, at least exactly as my mother intended. And people are creative alright! I’ve gotten Luis, Elise, Lluice, Luitze, Lizzie, Alice, Lucille… Luisa is not in use in our household, but Luise and Luisita is.

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Too much information? Anything left unanswered? This is the opportunity…

The unwishlist for my 31st birthday

This was supposed to be short and sweet end-of-the-year post. The idea was born listening to the Spark Joy podcast episode with Tara Button from Buy Me Once in June 2018. We can discuss my reservations about this… but it inspired me to make this ambitious list of unwishes… and then several things happened. It starts like this:

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Being aware of what I don’t need is a cute and mindful practice, so here you have my approximate unwishlist of what I don’t want for this Holiday season, my 31st birthday and probably never:

A child
A pet
A car
A scooter
A microwave oven
A dishwasher
A new bicycle*
A new phone*
A new laptop*
A new camera*
Camera upgrades and accessories
Books I didn’t ask for (here you have part of my wishlist, wink-wink!)
Make-up or beauty products
Trousers
Heels
White underwear
Party outfits, gowns
A designer anything (shoes, handbags, watches, jewelery)
Handbags, watches or jewelery in general

* I have one now and would prefer it to last forever instead of upgrading. And when I will replace, it will be something similar.

*

What’s in your unwishlist for 2019?

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As you can imagine, that was when the Shadow struck… As of late March 2019, these are the revisions that life (and me!) has introduced in this list:

(a) We have agreed with my parents that their graduation gift will be a new MacBook Pro. Yes, I’m 31 years old and still want expensive and (for my new self-employed self) tax-deductible gifts from my parents. My current laptop (13-inch, mid 2011 MacBook Air) hasn’t died yet and is still going very much OK, but I like the idea of having a more powerful one. Boom, unwishlist!

(b) My own recklessness got me to a 210€ objective replacement for my camera. I did not use the occasion to upgrade but stayed with the kit objective. Also, the autofocus had already died on that objective making my life quite complicated. Lesson learnt? Buying things once work for certain objects and certain people.

(c) I now have three pairs of pants, all hand-me-downs, of course, but still… Here goes another ‘I don’t think I’ll ever x again’.

(d) Heh, and I’ve got a piece of non-black underwear. It’s not white but ‘silver peony‘, gorgeous, looks much better than black under many of my tops, and makes me feel very grown-up. F*you, no-no list!

(e) I was given a beautiful and already beloved piece of adornment that is not jewelery yet but almost… No, I didn’t ‘need’ it.

(f) And I’m considering going back to wearing a wristwatch. Again, nothing expensive or fancy… the real life vintage that C wore as a child. So I’m looking for a trusted watchmaker in Barcelona, my interactions to date have been pretty disappointing.

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Although the initial idea was a different one, the actual lesson learnt here is the one of constant flux and allowing for change. I am aware of my purity inclinations (see the I’m-not-perfect-enough posts here, here, and here) and the (literally) cheap thrill of taking the ascetic high gound of I-don’t-need-or-want-your-stupid-consumerist-shit. And that is why documenting both sides – the minimalist devoid of superficial desires and the real life introducing some moderation – was important for me. Just a kind reminder for the next time I’ll be feeling holier-than-thou.

Do you have an unwishlist? And have you experienced the ‘I only blinked once and life had already corrected this’ around your moral high grounds of (non)consumption or (not)owning?

1.5 years of blogging and adjusting expectations

Different from previous blogging-versary posts, this contains very limited amount of what George Carlin would have called ‘free floating hostility’. If you want more on what’s wrong with fashion and internets, here: Six months of blogging and adjusting expectations and A year of blogging and adjusting expectations.

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As you can see above, the visitor stats have improved in comparison with my n00b year. In these 8 months of 2018 there have been twice as much visitors as in the ten first months of the blog that fell in 2017. It’s still, of course, nothing in comparison of what proper influencers get, but I’m happy to see that there is some payoff. And I can see a high correlation between me promoting the content and people actually coming over, so that’s the double-edged sword I’m now trying to tame: my work here is recognized at least with some interest, but every time I leave the blog a bit off – for thesis or any other reasons – I feel guilty, because of all the action I am missing.

As I plan my posts weekly, I’m also used to looking at stats as weekly columns. The best week – and also month – stats-wise on this blog was in February when Archana misspelled my name but linked to #100wears. That brought in 200+ visitors in that week, and this meager number clears up how quiet it gets here. In weeks I’ve been off-ish, less than 40 weekly visitors is a normal thing. Around 100 feels great and busy!

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I recently went through a lot of past posts while preparing Swap masterpost, or all the resources so far, and I am happy to admit that at least I am happy with my content. I really like it. So I am acing at least the ‘I’m writing this blog for myself’ section. And in June I wrote the so far longest post that I am immensely proud of: Body positivity, the average user’s guide. It’s also funny that it is only so marginally about fashion and completely not about material sustainability…

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Post length in general has been fluctuating. The graph below suggests a slight increase, the 2017 shortest Wednesday post was 293 words and the longest – 1806. So far in 2018 the shortest Wednesday post has been 322 and longest – 3180 words. And Sunday posts have gained word count since I started to do link lists below #wiw photos. At the total over 100k words on this blog, I really wish I’d write my thesis at such speed.

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And now, a list of annoying things I’ve noticed around the internets:

(I’m not being constructive here, mind you, this is just hate)

A) Wedding dresses + and the whole idea of buying something new for a specific event, maybe wearing it only once, and fretting that ‘these people have already seen me in this outfit’. Not to even go into the idea of ‘that one special day in your life’ that you have to find the right dress for… Meh. But I’m weird that way, we already went over that: My take on “formal” and dressing up out of a capsule.

B) Cookbooks. Those are obsolete. A recipe book will never deliver what internet has, so why not just give up with dignity? In an era when I expect dozens of photos from all angles documenting the preparation, searchable indexes, google-able ‘what can I replace x with’, and even videos, not to mention hundreds of versions of the same dish available, why would I want a set book with one photo at most?

C) And a similarly absurd idea: magazines. Especially fashion and lifestyle magazines. How can such businesses survive while printing the same year after year? And why would I want to give my money for a solid copy of assorted articles that somebody else curated just to then throw it away? Or, worse, hoard for years? Again, the internets…

D) Making a problem out of laundry routines… what’s complicated about it? Maybe I’m too into professional organizer internet circles, but the fact that there are whole posts dedicated to this issue treating laundry as this great chore that needs planning and separating ‘folding’ as a separate one is confusing. Not mention people having ‘laundry rooms’. I brush this off as an American thing, result of too much space, too many children, too much free time, and an obsession with germs. Explain it to me if there’s anything else going on!

A note on my perspective: (a) We didn’t have a washing machine until I was 11 or so, my grandma worked at a kindergarten and would just use their facilities after work (once every two weeks, I guess?) to her laundry in that more advanced setting. (b) I was a cloth nappy child too, not because my mother was zero-waste, but because industrial diapers did not exist in Soviet Latvia in 1988, so boiling a pot of nappies on the stove top was a normal thing. Also, potty training took much shorter time. (c) As for drying, line drying, either outside, even in winter – sheets that have been drying outside in winter smell amazing, btw – or inside is the only thing I’ve known in my 30 years, except for 6 months in Brussels where I was using a launderette and in my mini-studio there was no space and a humidity problem that prevented line drying. (d) The only person in Latvia I know that for sure has a dryer – and enough reasons to have one – is a friend that has three small children. She  described getting one as such a liberating experience that I do recognize that it can be a good idea… (e) As for us, we typically do three loads a week, two of clothing (cold and 60º) and one of tea towels and other linen (60º). We line-dry on the roof of our building or sometimes on the balcony using a little drying rack. I’m the one making an event out of this for the 10 minutes I dedicate to KonMari folding the tea-towels (like this!). The only planning involved – that often goes meh – is trying to not to have laundry up on the roof during a torrential rainfall or during the top summer heat hours… Where’s the mystery? More on laundry: Breathe deeply, it’s clean enough and Yes, there are garments that I’ve never washed.

E) The list of ‘basics’ that everybody needs. Nope, I’m my own person, thank you very much! And what’s the idea? That the reader of such crap will just throw out all the stuff she has and run out to get her Breton stripes and trench coat? F*ck off.

F) Trends in general. How the fuck dare you to tell me that now my bolero is so very out and those ugly mom jeans are in? Nope.

G) 1980s and 1990s looks. Nope. I lived through oversize sweaters in clashing colors, shoulder pads, and weirdly shaped pants when I was a child. Never again.

H) Curating your feeds with other people’s stuff. Ugh! Not cool. I do get the desire for a visual identity on IG, but just re-posting other’s pretty stuff is… dumb. And false advertising, imho. That’s what Pinterest is for. And I’m talking about credited work, of course, once you read the captions. Blatant stealing is a whole another hell.

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See, at least for this kind of venting the blog is accomplishing all I could ask for. Let’s see if this shit ever comes back to haunt me… as I’ve already dismissed as idiotic all the ways how people make money from blogs. What internet stuff do you hate?

The decision fatigue of sustainable living

My sustainability votes, according to some…

Welcome to another summer rant, closely linked to the previous one. Decision fatigue is a real thing, especially popular among the capsule wardrobe preachers, but lurking around all of us, especially if many frequent and complex decisions are to be taken. Obviously, the more concerned about the quality of your decisions you are, the more tiring it gets. When a happily oblivious person is hungry after work, she pops in the supermarket, asks herself what of things that she can afford appeals to her (that’s probably a decision interacting taste and convenience), grabs it and goes home to eat it. When a conscious consumer gets hungry, it can be a decision-making disaster…

There are many choices to make and – having assimilated that € = votes and that each meal is an opportunity to change the world – it feels important to get it just right. Following a tradition of long, anxiety induced lists of shoulds, here are the questions I’m frying my brain when making a shopping list:

Is it safe to eat? (Yeah, dumpster diving is not my forte.)

Is it vegan? Or shall I make an exception again?

Is it in season?

Is it km0? But really? Or do I just like to think like that for Canary bananas? That’s ~2500km in a straight-ish line, btw.

What are the conditions of production? Is it basically slavery, although on EU ground? Looking at you, Andalusian greenhouses!

What’s the packaging? Is it wrapped in plastic or other unnecessary waste?

Is it nutritious?

Is it organic? Or has it been laced with pesticides that will kill me in 50 years?

Is it easily attainable or am I supposed to go across the city for those bulk goods?

Is is an establishment worth supporting?

Is it something I want to eat?

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Already suffering from a time squeeze, being an urbanite, and having left the CSA cooperative because it was hassle, nothing I eat ticks all the boxes. Boom! And that’s where the haggling starts… which restrictions shall I relax? I’ll walk you through some of my staples whom I have somehow deemed to be good enough just to share my 1st world struggles:

Soy yogurt. I’ve eaten liters of this particular one this summer since I discovered that it makes for the perfect tzatziki-ranch-mayo style sauce for all my salad and dipping fantasies. Organic non-GMO French soy, no added sugar… also two pieces of plastic, one of cardboard (although these people at least make the cardboard easily separable from plastic) and 2.02 € for 400 grams of yogurt. That’s a lot of garbage and a high price to pay for a bit of fermented soy milk. Considering myself a person who can resist most of the bullshit vegan products, I find it very annoying that I finally have one I’m craving and raving about. Fails at: zero-waste, bulk-buying, DIY ethos.

Huelva strawberries. Ugh. This one is annoying, because I don’t even like the taste once I’ve fallen for them in March – after a season with only citruses – and brought them home, but it happens. These huge strawberry monsters are not really strawberries, it’s a frankenstein derivative that looks good, smells enticing but tastes like a bad cucumber most of the time. It took me 10 years of disappointment with Spanish strawberries until I tried Catalan mountain strawberries. Those do taste like the Northern strawberries I grew up with! But concerns about taste, pesticides and the distances traveled is only half of the reasons to avoid these sweet-smelling abominations of fruit. Most intensive work in the Spanish agricultural industry is done my seasonal migrants from Morocco and the stories that come out of Huelva’s strawberry fields, when they come because there is a lot of opacity in the industry, are heartbreaking. It’s all discrimination, abuse, sexual assault, labor fraud, horrible working conditions, etc. Fails at: eat local, think about the worker, chose organic ethos.

Cooked chickpeas. Yeah, I can buy my bulk Spanish chickpeas and then boil them for several hours on the stove top. And time by time, especially in winter when the whole pot becomes a stew afterwards, we do. But a (vegan) girl has to eat, and soaking and boiling takes planning, time and fuel. I’m terrified of pressure cookers and we don’t have a slow cooker (and I don’t want to invest in another gadget). And I’m not that sure that 4 liters of water and chickpeas cooking on a gas stove top for several hours consumes significantly less energy than the industrial production. I expect those people to be more efficient than I am! Even more, taking into account the summer temperatures and year-round humidity, home cooking legumes messes with our quality of life by increasing already unbearable temperatures and humidity in summer and helping the fucking mold in winter. So I’m left with glass jars, metal lids and a couple of ingredients that my home-cooked chickpeas wouldn’t have, namely, calcium disodium EDTA and sodium metabisulfite. And hummus. And chickpeas for my salads. Fails at: zero-waste, bulk-buying, DIY ethos.

One of the reasons why I prefer swaps and hand-me-downs so much is that the decision fatigue so often becomes unbearable when a bigger purchase has to be made, and I’m so anxious to make the right choice.

A sports bra. My current fast-sport-fashion wonder from Karrimor – a desperate 2015 slip-up when I really needed one – needs replacing. It has been so much wears, both for yoga and casual, that it needed replacement a year ago but I just haven’t got myself to do so. Also, almost nobody sees it, so there is no social pressure… And I’ve already had enough failures in this field to know that the right breast garment isn’t necessarily easy to find. Examples: (a) I had a Nike top with built-in breast support from 2013 till 2017 that I used actively, despite the straps never being perfectly comfortable, even after several alterations; (b) I bought a basic Nike sports bra together with the Karrimor one in 2015 (oh, that was a shopping spree, I also got my athletic swimsuit then), but that one was so uncomfortable and itchy at the neck I just could not wear it; (c) my mom handed me down a top with breast support in January, but it was too big and awkwardly made… (d) and my yoga short fail still eats my heart, you would have thought that shorts were easy! Since I started to publish my swap wish lists, people are really helpful in offering anything sports bra-looking that comes around, but I know that my chances are very slim.

Internets do not make my life easier to get a new one. There was a Patagonia sports bra that, according to their homepage, ‘left Patagonia.com and joined a heavy metal band’. And another one. These people who wouldn’t disclose the no-name material described as ‘moisture wicking and breathable fabric’. Or these that wouldn’t reveal the country their stuff is produced in. And the merino wonders that had me ready to ditch the vegan prerequisite – it is true that all the synthetic athletic wear is stinky alright – but I couldn’t get their wares in Europe and then they discontinued the style I wanted…

Am I really asking that much? Is a basic comfy sports bra made for women with breasts produced in a Western country that much? And I’m not even looking at the prices…

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What are your sources of sustainability decision fatigue? Is it more about the little everyday things or about bigger purchases? What are your routine compromises just to overcome the decision paralysis?

The time squeeze of sustainability attempts and blogging

I started this endeavor knowing that (1) I wouldn’t be blogging full time at least in the foreseeable future – even if I would magically go viral and start to monetize as crazy – because of the thesis; (2) overnight successes happen rarely, so I better count on not being to live off a blog; and (3) I’ve always enjoyed much more blogs whose authors live off something else, makes them much more relatable and, when it comes to sustainable lifestye blogs, make their suggestions more viable. So I set out to be a twice-a-week blogger (yeah, insane!) doing several calendar-mandate recurring posts (money series and wardrobe update series) *and* a weekly outfit recap. On my own. While doing a PhD and – although that came later – establishing a KonMari consultancy.

So this is a ‘I’m pissed off at my own unattainable standards’ post. You see, I don’t care knowing that my favorite food bloggers do only that: come up with recipes tweaking them repeatedly for my ease of use. I somehow don’t compare my life with theirs and if this week’s recipe doesn’t resonate with me, see you next week! I understand that creating the perfect oven falafel burger takes time, and don’t resent them having all the time in the world to do that.

I have an issue with sustainable lifestyle bloggers, though. When style bloggers show off beautiful lives of pretty garments and sponsored vacations on turquoise beaches, I don’t care. I’m only there for pretty pictures. But the base assumption of sustainability DIY and ‘do this easy switch / ditch this horrible pollutant’ blogs is that the advice given must be replicable, easily so. And here we get into trouble…

Well, I get into trouble because I take all of it seriously and easily add new projects to my ‘true urban ecologist’ check-list. My eco-sin list was only part of my ongoing battle with all those ‘I should really’. Big part if the problem, of course, is that – at least I – tend to incorporate this stuff in my identity. I feel so deliciously smug being the person who gets a CSA veggie box, the person with only second-hand clothing, the person with the most sustainable yoga mat in my yoga studio, the person with the most nutritious whole foods plant based homemade meal in my work canteen. Self righteousness feels amazing! So I go on organizing anticaptialist events with local biodynamic wine, double fermented fair trade tea kombucha that I made myself and the most nutritious vegan brownie. Boom!

(On those mentioned: we left the CSA cooperative in May, I left the yoga studio too, not everything is second-hand, and the whole foods part of our eating is not true – white pasta, among others, for the win!)

What constantly ruins all this smug-fest of satisfying little gestures is that the day has 24 hours and everything takes time. Of course I’d like to, off the top of my head:

Start composting

Go zero waste and plastic free

Truly research the few industrial cleaning / beauty products we have left instead of relying on certifications and what the bulk shop guy tells me

Get all the produce from CSA

Go fully organic

Make my own bread

Start sprouting

Be 100% vegan whole food plant based

Reduce my possessions even more

Reduce my spending and move towards FIRE (1, 2), at least a teeny tiny bit

Do daily yoga

Meditate

Do morning pages

Experiment more with cooking

Take better care of our kombucha

Never fly again

Make my own snacks and sweets

Make my own plant milks

Make my own nut butter

Make my own ice cream

Learn to sew well

Cut my own hair

Look into natural dyes

Organize more events

Learn more…

You see where this is going, right? I’m already exhausted after just putting that list together. I want to do everything that’s cool on the Internets, I want to be good at it, and I want it now. And these are not all my goals, of course! Throw in a couple more languages (Russian, Catalan), several other arts (more drawing, analogous photography), cultural capital (literature, cinema), and you have my impossible life plan.

I know that my brain is doing that old trick of discounting all I’m already doing (nope, I won’t make a list of that, this is a different kind of post) and valuating all I’m not doing but I can’t really help it. Years of therapy around that Hamilton line is what expects me: “I will never be satisfied!” That’s the first part of my fit: frustration about not being able to do everything on the sustainability checklist. Knowing that even on the internets full of fringe lifestyle heroines I haven’t found anybody who would really do all of the above does not send a signal my brain can interpret adequately as “see, *nobody* can do it all”.

The second part is time spent blogging. Setting aside the whole question of if you went capsule wardrobe or zero waste and didn’t start a blog about it, did it really happened… I’ve realized that for me a post starts from 1000 words and often goes on for more (the body positivity post is the current record holder at 3180). I greatly enjoy inserting vaguely connected scholarly references and bits of song lyrics. The only post where the photos are not mine is the first one where they have to illustrate a point I cannot convey in any other way. (I have to admit that I despise – among so many other things and people, admittedly – content creators who use stock or other people’s IG photos. Yuck! Keep those in your Pinterest for inspiration, but do not make your visual identity out of those.) I love doing this, but it takes time. And the weekly outfit thing is stressing alright. And, of course, I’ve made a decision to stick to my initial concept of weekly outfit posts + the weekly substantial post, no summer vacations, no winter breaks, no PhD hiatuses. Thank you to all who worked so hard to instill all this self-imposed work ethic in me, great job, Grandpa and Grandma! On the other hand, this is a creative outlet after all, and I don’t really want to know what the counterfactual would feel like.

The aim of this post is not to announce that I’m shutting all this down or to just get yours ‘oh, poor thing!’, just to vent my frustration with – of course – my self-imposed rules. My blog effort mean that I take time off either the thesis, C, sleep, housework or leisure. And all these have suffered because of my blogging. The only silver lining I see to my time squeeze, falling behind on my posting schedule and ‘shoulding all over myself’ is an empathy that a full-time blogger cannot have. This experience brings me closer to normal people with more serious jobs and n other worries beside correct recycling and the most nutritional plant milk (it’s soy, btw).

Let me preach to you so maybe sth sticks to me as well! tl;dr: it’s OK to relax your sustainability standards to get through the day.

Here, have a spoonful of my climate pessimism! We are already all fucked and these little things are but feel good rituals of washing off the common guilt, taking an observer’s position to the havoc we as a species are wrecking and sigh ‘if only everybody would have said no to one more plastic bag’. Right now I’m unable to come up with a smart little bit of hopefulness, sorry. That stated above is my end of the day truth where the ultimate advice is not to have children and to get ready to witness a great deal more of misery. I re-watched George Carlin’s Jammin’ in New York recently and, curiously enough, I think he is ultimately right about the whole sustainability thing: “The planet is fine. The people are fucked.” I hope you all go zero waste and prove me wrong.

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Yeah, I fluctuate inexplicably between the extremes of ‘all the little things matter’ and ‘it’s all already lost anyways’. It may be the heat wave (or, as scientists would call it, this extreme weather event) making life unpleasant all over Europe that’s making me more rant-inclined than usual. (I have had angry outbursts before, though. They are all neatly filed here.) Is there anything that’s eating you? Do you experience the sustainability time squeeze? And where do you stand on the climate pessimism to optimism gradient?

Body positivity, the average user’s guide

This is a story about a never-ending road towards body positivity (including fat positivity but not only that) in a world where we are all damaged goods when it comes to our own bodies, a brainwashed civilization unable to appreciate everything our bodies do for us. I’ll do my best not to relive my traumas again in this post, I’m still busy healing them. Throughout this post I’m talking about a very mild case of body dismorphia and societal pressures felt while inhabiting still a very – in the statistical sense – ‘normal’ body, I am aware that life at other configurations of body shape, color, ability, sexual identity among other traits are very different, and I eagerly read when other people share their body stories but they are not mine to re-imagine and retell. Here I will try to capture what has let me be so much more happy with my body now than in any other moment since I gained aesthetic consciousness of it at around 8 or so.

Odessa 1995, I was the bubba on the left just having a really good time and pretty oblivious to bodies.

And even more absurd is the fact that, despite not having any experience of being properly fat, I have so much trauma around this shit. I have experienced very little direct body shaming, but I did the rest of the job myself with a little help from the popculture, thank you very much. I was prone to adolescent idiocy moments like observing that ‘my tights wobble in shorts’ and then taking around 15 years to wear short again, Barcelona summer made me. But now adolescence is over, and either (a) at least in my circles, Spaniards are less judgemental than Latvians, (b) my social circles are better selected now than 15 years ago, or (c) I’m getting immune to this crap. So I’m ready to impart advice:

1. Become an engineer, see function!

You might have been looking for the wrong shapes all along. Somebody told us that small, tall, young and willowy was where it’s at and here we are. But think about evolution! Think about primates! Think about what bodies are for! Your genes are probably a couple of hundreds (if not thousands) years off in their expression, but they are doing what they can. Try to see your body in connection with your ancestors, that’s the inheritance, the family trunk full of treasures that made sense way back. I’ve had to admit that my body is not made for gender bending, androgynous play and being willowy. It’s the opposite, just what my fertile peasant grand-grandmothers needed to live, work, and, yes, marry well and survive all those pregnancies. Wide back and shoulders to carry water from the well, firewood from the forest, and potatoes from the field. Strong tights and calves to keep walking all day long from one farm errand to another. Wide feet to keep my bare feet grounded in places that even now don’t have asphalt. A round belly to grow babies in and downward looking breasts to feed them. Such waste to have it all on me, from an evolutionary point of view, as the use is pretty limited, but that’s my trunk. Here, my best selfie ever (2016):

2. Become a historian, do your research!

Women’s bodies also have fashions, get to know those. The click-bait places are full of ‘the ideal woman through ages’ videos and there is an abundance of more serious materials too. For an extra level, try to explain the trends, i.e. fat when most people were starving, pale skin when only the leisurely classes didn’t spend the day outside followed by appreciation of tan when people started to spend most of their time in factories and offices, or the abundant meatiness of the 1950’s sex symbols following the Great Depression and WWII. And these trends move fast: I’ve seen supermodels, heroin chic, and Kardashian butt being all the rage since I am alive and that hasn’t been so many years. Assume that this – as bell-bottoms, platform shoes or millennial pink – will also pass. Maybe Rubens will have a revival and cellulite will be the next big thing! A girl can dream.

Although taking into account that only the scarce commodity can be truly valued, I’d suggest not giving a fuck as a more sustainable and reality-based alternative in comparison for waiting for the cellulite trend.

3. Become an art historian, de-earth women who chose to become icons instead of becoming pretty!

There are stories of rebellion and ‘fuck pretty’ for all tastes, including those that wanted to be part of the game and learnt that extravagant also works (hello, Diana Vreeland) and those that knew that she needed more than being recognized for her looks (hello, young Georgia O’Keeffe), because striking stays when the youthful beauty is gone. Frida Kahlo is a bit overused for coasters and pins by now, but always a good place to start. You have Wikipedia for days: Nina Simone, Iris Apfel, Virginia Woolf, Patti Smith, Joan Baez, Barbra Streisand, Elizabeth I, etc. etc. And for some gore and to remember that for a long time religion was the only reasonable alternative to the three Ks of domesticity, you have the stories of Joan of Arc, Agatha of Sicily, Hildegard of Bingen and Teresa of Ávila (those two actually succeeded at the whole thing) to begin with. And I’m sure you have a handful of local examples to add to this list, let me know in the comments!

4. Become a fly on the wall. Observe!

Relax! Look at real people instead of billboards. A ride in public transit, especially in a day of ‘wear shorts or die’ will do much more for your body confidence than a fashion magazine. The same goes for a day at the beach or gym showers. And I don’t mean it in a ‘you are so much better than’ way. Nope, it’s just bodies going places, and cellulite or upper arm flap is completely irrelevant Try to practice observing bodies without judging them: the shapes, the sizes, the little things nobody has had time for. Among strangers or friends, I love to notice half-shaven legs, undone nail polish, blood stains that never came out, droopy shoulders, early wrinkles, and all the rolls, rolls, rolls. As The Killers asked ten years ago, ‘Are we human or are we dancer?’

5. Use your body! Preferably, naked.

There is a great piece about this point exactly in Caitlin Moran‘s new book ‘How to be Famous’ (see the quote above). It almost boils down to the old cliché of nobody having a low self esteem at the moment of orgasm, but in a classier and more ample way. If you are truly present while using your body – in sports, traffic, crafts, dancing, sex – you are not likely to be thinking about it. Again, function trumps aesthetic, or at least we seem to lack bandwidth to process both at the same time. If you treat your body as tool for self expression (and life in general), the criteria are very different than if the body is an aesthetic commodity. In this sedentary world moving the body might require an effort, but only in movement it shows its magic.

The note about nakedness is not random, though. As most bodies we see are printed or digital, they are far removed from actual bodily experiences – they are plastic or cardboard, heavily airbrushed and sanitized. They don’t sweat, bleed or have random hairs sprouting out of unsuspected places. So hanging around – at least – with your own naked body creates counter-images of living, breathing, warm bodies being the norm. We have to hack our brain back to recognizing the true us as the baseline, not some painted lady on the billboard.

Oh, and – when taking a break among all that movement – take all the selfies in the world! I’d say that the greatest benefit of digital photography has been giving the tools of instant and infinite self-portrait to the people. Selfies have helped us all to discover that, while some are more photogenic than others, the great majority of us have a couple of great angles in the right light, and that great part of the airbrushed commercial photos we see around are due to – after make-up, styling and before photoshopping – about taking enough pictures until some came out nice. Of course it’s narcissistic, but in a world which puts us down for not being pretty enough while bombarding us with images of supposed perfection of others, knowing that the magic of one stunning photo is usually having taken 200 of them is power. I cling to the idea that my first digital camera did almost as much for me as my first pop feminist books did. If I was able to make ‘pretty’ out of myself, I didn’t rely on anybody else to do it. Ha, and be careful about putting naked pictures on the internets. Here, have some of mine instead (Berlin 2008):

6. Experiment with the limits of patriarchy in beauty.

Play a little truth or dare with yourself and body/beauty standards. First of all, there is already probably a bunch of supposedly ‘essential’ beauty routines you are not doing. How do I know? Because there are so many of them that nobody could possibly have time for them all! Make a list of every Cosmopolitan advice you are not following: painting the toenails? daily face/body/hair masks? curling your eyelashes? waxing your forearms? permanent make-up? permanent hair removal? hair transplants? magical pills for better skin? hockey mask with pink lights for acne treatment (that exists, btw)? If you do any of these or any else, that’s fine. My point is that the options and their combinations greatly exceeds our numbers.

So keeping in mind that there is no universal beauty list beyond the very basics of some soap and maybe cleaning under your nails, you get to decide and shake it up a bit. My minimalist-bias go towards reducing instead of adding, so I suggest looking at your routines and asking ‘do I enjoy this?’, ‘what does it do for me?’ and ‘why am I doing this?’. Allow for trial and error, it’s an experiment.

My personal recent ‘transgressions’ include: the above-mentioned short wearing (yay); trying to stop using a lip balm (nay, doesn’t work for me); replacing facial cream with almond oil (yay); and giving up yoga classes because those didn’t spark joy anymore – I was more attached to wanting to be the person who does yoga than actually enjoying the practice.

Older and established choices include: wearing my nails short and unpainted; wearing only flat shoes; not wearing trousers; getting a haircut only once a year; doing a diy hair dye with henna once a month; having a wax every seven weeks; not wearing make-up… Each of these was a process of ‘let me see how can I twist this’. For example, I tried not removing body hair at all just to realize that I am not comfortable living like that, unfortunately. So a compromise I’ve devised is to allow for a lot of time between waxes so that I actually get to live with some hair before they are stripped off again. While politically I would be on the side of ‘if it gets too bushy, you can trim’, I played with the external standards to find out where my current limits are. Remember that all that shit is arbitrary and relax! The same goes for experimental dressing and letting go of ‘no horizontal stripes’ type of prejudice – check and re-check that your limits are truly yours. And have fun with glitter and curling iron meanwhile!

7. Practice compassion for those in the first line of combat.

Some people’s value – measured in income – actually depend on their looks. People get dragged through the yellow press, shamed, and contractually obliged to lose or gain weight, hair, tan, etc. Imagine the exhaustion! Having come of age when Britney Spears was a thing and then not again when she couldn’t maintain the appearances, having read about Amanda Palmer switching to crowd funding and self editing because of record label considering her fat, Pink being dragged through media because of the same shit, Jennifer Lawrence being a ‘fat actress’ for the contemporary Hollywood, you know what? Thank goodness my life is not like that.

No wonder there is a great demand for celebrity ‘stolen’ swimsuit photos – we all crave a confirmation that they are ‘wrong’ too. The chastising ‘how dares she not to be airbrushed!’ remarks and evil indulgence in those photos is the only passive aggressive ‘revenge’ that people have when reminded that we are being tricked all along. Obviously, that doesn’t change anything for anybody: the celebrities keep being tightly controlled by the masses willing to believe in their perfection and that 10 sit-ups a day will give the same for everybody who persists.

And when you think that people talking up about this stuff is celebrities doing alright, remember all those that just have to swallow the insults while doing the jobs where one *has* to be pretty, feminine, helpful, and not threatening: flight attendants, secretaries, waitresses… Or those arts/sports where eating disorders and communal hard-core body policing seems to come with the discipline. Yuck!

8. Carefully select food for your brain.

This one consists of two parts, one being media and other the everyday interactions. Fill your feeds with truly fat people. Knowing is not enough, our brains need to see things again and again to file them under ‘typical’, and, taking into account how many idealized and airbrushed bodies you have seen by now (because all the corporate dollars have been channeled into making sure you see all those), we need *a lot* of other pictures to counteract that. Depending on the stage of healing you are at, side effects might include: (a) de-stigmatizing the word ‘fat’ and reminding you that it is just a noun or adjective, not a crushing insult unless we make it so, (b) realizing that the fantasy world of ‘I’ll get thin / get a boob job / nose job / six pack and then I’ll be…’ doesn’t work that way, except for very few cases, (c) discovering the variety contained by the plus size and body positivity universe, especially the tensions around body shapes of most plus size models and plus size fashion representing mostly a slightly overweight, tall, long-legged, hourglass figure, (d) confirm that confidence and believing it is the key to sexiness (and all other -nesses, too), if that’s what you are going for. And try to cut out the toxic crap: hours on tumblr will do you much good while beauty pageants, talk shows that body-police, mainstream series, TV advertisement, and women’s magazines will put new images we are already sick of in your head.

9. Help liberate others’ brain (at least don’t add crap to it).

OK, so once you have have your power place built up on the internets (I have a tumblr partially dedicated to this and a Pinterest board to go back to when the day is dark) and your brain is high on #fatgirlsdoingthings, now your job as the secret avenger of the body shamers begin. All that toxic talk, all that damage we inflict on ourselves and others. It takes so little, only a subtle eye roll or a nuance in tone in ‘oh, that’s what you are wearing?!’ It is about control, fitting in, guilt, and equaling fat with a character flaw, and making sure everybody knows they are not photoshop perfect. Self-depreciation is the norm, kind of pre-emptive strike at ourselves.

I’ve adopted a strategy to be very blasé when anybody tries to discuss my body, especially when people do the ‘oh, you so thin today!’ bullshit. I won’t allow anybody to police my fat or feet or anything else I’m happily doing – faking incomprehension is my favorite way of challenging that, makes assholes name *their* issues – or try to buy me over with sweet talk. Even when people clearly mean the best, I try to softly switch those remarks towards them, because commenting on others people’s bodies without a good reason (a medical emergency, for example) is never about other people. It hurts me profoundly to think about all the direct attacks people get if they are… well, not even, as Clarissa Pinkola Estés would put it, in the wrong nest, just in a normal family where body policing is what people do, mostly among females and mostly with the best intentions of wishing acceptance and desirability upon their daughters and granddaughters, transferring the survival strategies they have learnt.

And from that follows the self-depreciation stuff you’ll have to deal with, especially as the above-mentioned ‘compliments’ tend to have the following structure of ‘Oh, you so x, me so not x’ that tries to trick you into responding with at least ‘Of course you’re x, we are all amazing here!’ and preferably, as body-confidence is frowned upon, one-upping into a self-hating tirade along the lines of ‘Naah, me the fattest ugliest troll ever, you the pretty princess’. And that spiral can go on – and downwards! – for years… I tend to respond with something between ‘babe, quit the bullshit’ and ‘stop talking shit about my friends, be nice to your body, after all the hard work it does for you’. Try to figure out if the person is just engaging in a familiar ritual, a game you just don’t want to play anymore, or is this an occasion to sit down and truly talk about it. You will meet plenty of people who are deaf to such conversation, so accept that your capacity to change them stops at making it clear that you are out of the body shaming game, planting the little seed of doubt, and reassuring that you will be there if they ever want to talk about it.

And for people raising little people, may the force be with you, because, despite all your body positivity work, feminist pedagogy, and unconditional love, they are bound to bring home all the toxic crap, and it will be your job to hold their hand and explain what patriarchy and unattainable beauty standards are about. This stuff is powerful with thousands of years of history and all the current big money behind, so, please join the resistance! We really need you.

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Obviously, there are better days and ones when the fat demons come back, but at least now we have an argument instead of a dismissive monologue. I have my safe places: that Pinterest board, the swimming pool, an intimate lube, and just plain spite of ‘nope, I refuse to be ordered around by stupid ideas, I have a great and functional body and I shall cherish it’.

How do you fight against the shame monsters, be they human or ghosts in your head? Do you have key songs, playlists, movies, books, fridge magnets with inspirational quotes? What do you tell yourself to get over the body shaming moments? And what do you say to others trying to do that to you?

Train travel long distance in Europe

If you have read this blog at least since March (1, 2, 3) or talked to me lately about traveling, you will know that in April I planned to do some some international train travel which I had to cancel due to French rail worker strike. However, in the beginning of June I did an even more ambitious route than the initially planned Barcelona-Paris -London-Paris-Barcelona. Ha! I did Barcelona-Lyon-Brussels-London-Paris-Barcelona instead.

This wasn’t my first time crossing borders in a train, though. I started at 7 doing Rīga-Odessa-Kiev-Rīga with my mom in a slow train where she convinced that trains were the best places to sleep, provided that we are talking coaches with compartments shared among 4 or less persons, having your own little shelf with a proper bedding and when the train is not a high speed one. It was 1995 and former Soviet Union, so seeing the tracks when going to bathroom was normal. As an adult I’ve done the very short Brussels-Rotterdam-Brussels, Brussels-London-Brussels, Brussels-Paris-Brussels trips and the overnight Moscow-Rīga (17h) we did for fun in 2012.
I’ve also crossed Spain and Poland by train but that was not complicated either, except that time I got confused when part of the train bound for Bilbao was left in Valladolid. They do the same in Paris-Montpellier-Barcelona train: half of it stays in Montpellier, so you want to be in the right coach when that happens.

This is what overnight travel Moscow-Rīga looks like in a 2-berth compartment. Very cutesy and sentimental! By the way, this slow but tranquil option but in a more luxurious compartments is known to be the favorite way to travel by some Russian celebrities with links to Rīga; makes sense: you get a no hassle and almost no disturbances travel packed together with a trip down the memory lane. The border guards that wake you up to look at you passport in the middle of the night not pictured:

Horrified by my last year’s 23 flights and 17 of the year before, and knowing that some options exist, I did my best and below you have a long list of the pros and cons of long distance train travel according to me. These are, obviously, restricted by external factors such as distances and your closeness to a railway hub. For example, I’m not planing to go to Latvia by train anytime soon, as around 1500km of train travel per day seems to be my limit with current speeds, it’s twice that to Rīga, and several day train trips with multiple uncoordinated layovers is not in my wish list (something like Barcelona-Paris-Brussels-Berlin-Warsaw-Vilnius-Rīga). The other is personal preferences, those, well, to each her own!

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(My) reasons to take train long distance:

Significantly lower CO2 emissions.

Time *seems* better spent as you are in movement for a bigger proportion of the journey. Because the airport waiting times are just soul crushing…

Though vistas still fly by, at ~300 km/h of high speed railway you appreciate distances better than at the ~1000 km/h of the commercial planes. In my book that’s a good thing – distance is not a trivial thing and being mindful about it is a nice added value. For example, now my knowledge that Paris-London distance is less than half of Paris-Barcelona is a very real experience. And, yes, I am aware that in both cases those mentioned are top speeds and that the reality is often lower, especially for the high speed railway lines with many stops.

As Eurostar advertised in its beginnings, train normally takes you to actual places that have the same name as your destination. Even more, as railway is much older, most of the big stations are pretty central. No disrespect to people living in Prat, Charleroi, Nyköping or Luton, but these are not the places I was going to.

While we are now used to airlines policing our bodies and stuff (remember, the 100ml restriction has been there since 2006, not forever), the trains are a much freer world. Depending on a station and type of train, there might be a bag scan, but that’s it. Nobody controls how much stuff you are carrying and if any of that is liquid.

The most heart-breaking example of what the liquid restrictions have to done to us was at the Eurostar check-in in Brussels Midi. There are recycling bins before security and passport control there, and there was a bunch of half-full drink bottles, water and soft drinks. I already got scared that for some reason Eurostar has adopted the airline liquid rules, and asked the security staff. Clearly enjoying themselves, they explained that people just did that without being asked. Sad.

So bring your own water, and, if you are willing to suspend your water taste criteria in favor of reducing all the stupid bottled water waste, get a filter bottle and drink some bathroom water. Mine is a Bobble, I’ve had it for five months without changing the filter yet because I only use it for travel as we have a nic etasting water fountain in the office. I have to admit that the filter bottle is not as comfy to use as any normal vessel as you actually have to push the water through the filter and – as all normal plastic bottles – it’s not insulated, so you are bound to drink your water the same temperature as the ambient. I have made my mind though: I am easily disgusted by the common public water (chlorine!), so I prefer to push mine through a filter, even if it’s warm. In any case, hydration is important, please take care of yourself even if that means purchasing overpriced plastic bottles of water!

And bringing your own food is normal and expected, and snacking is great! Bring sandwiches, sturdy salads (read about how pros do it here) and fruit, snacks, it all helps. My basics are granny smith apples, cherry tomatoes, carrots, pistachios, dark chocolate and then whatever else that seems like a good idea. On the other hand, there is such thing as a ‘restaurant-vagon’ or at least a bar section in all trains (significantly cooler in older and slower trains, of course). Moving around freely is OK when in train, serendipitous encounters might happen, and it’s a way of escaping your seat-mate if need be.

On the other end of hydrating and travel nutrition we have the bathroom issue. Just to keep it short: have paper tissues just in case, liquid hand sanitizer (regardless of what you think about harsh chemicals, I think that they are very good idea for travel, including dealing with toilet seats) and small change for those places (French train stations!) that think that taking money for access to bathroom is a good thing.

Space! There is significantly more leg space! For real. And only two seats together, so you will need to climb over a maximum of one person (those who have been stuck in the 6-seat mid-row on a trans-continental flight and then in a lap of a complete stranger mid-way through your gymnastics towards toilet know what I mean). Also, if traveling in a small group, you can get the 4-seat 2-facing-2 table to have some quality time of conversations, meals, and games. For example, Spanish railway actually give you cheaper tickets if you book the whole 4-seats because few people want to share those with strangers.

And plugs. There are plugs. The number depends on a train model (one per every two seats in most trains I took), but still much better than none. So non-online computer work is a real option from the moment you get into your seat until the moment the train stops in your station. None of the ‘all big electronics have to be safely stored in the overhead lockers’. And the unified EU no-roaming-fees zone will take care of your data needs, although access to those fluctuated across my itinerary.

Less crowded. I see two reasons for it. First, not all of these are full. For example, my Barcelona-Lyon coach was pretty sparsely populated. Second, even when full, there are just fewer people in one coach and that gives breathing space. Yes, a train is a chain of coaches, I know, but the feeling is different sharing a closed space with 2 seats by 2 sides by 11 to 15 rows = [44; 60] than by 3 x 2 x 30 (or a bit more) ~ 180 on commercial median distance flights. My Paris-Barcelona train was a double-decker, having 88 or so passengers per coach but divided in two spaces.

(My) obstacles to take train long distance:

It is more expensive. The only exceptions might be the very short ones like the Belgium-Netherlands ones. All those I took this time were more expensive than low-fare flying. Like twice as expensive.

In many cases, it takes more time. The Brussels-London (2h) and Paris-London (2’15h) seem to be among the exceptions, and so are the trains connecting Belgium and the Netherlands. But if you are covering longer distances or using slower trains, it will take significantly more time. So, apart from the few faster-than-flying itineraries, this is not an option for people in hurry. As the pink letters in London-St. Pancras claim, trains want their time with us:

Failure could be much harder to fix and more time-consuming. Especially because the connections are not formal, so nobody will reseat you in the next train if you just missed yours because of a delay or give you a hotel if you have to spend the night. Again, the probability of such desperate moments depends on your itinerary, and my feeling is that it’s mostly linked to industrial actions instead of tech failure. So do your research and err on a safe side, especially if people with reasonable power for industrial action are planning to strike (hi, France!).

The infrastructure and habitual uses are less homogeneous, hence more stressful for the traveller. The differences among airports are smaller than among train stations. Timing cultures, security checks, infrastructures vary a lot. And language is not English necessarily. There is much less baby sitting than in air travel: nobody will call your name throughout the station and, depending on the station, check if you are getting on the correct train! And you can lose your stop if you are not paying attention or sleeping. Connections are not formal, so you are the one responsible of being informed and alert.

Depending on train model and itinerary, and booking algorithms, you might end up being seated backwards. I was sitting like that on my Lyon-Brussels train and found it only mildly unpleasant, but I know that there are people who get truly sick with stuff like this and in a full train with all seats booked your only option would be an informal seat change with a flexible-enough stranger. Please, nobody talk about this to Ryanair, they could implement random – cheaper! – sitting backwards seats just to fuck with us.

Also, not necessarily pretty. You’ll be seeing this a lot:

You have to be able to deal with your luggage on your own. This is very important! While nobody cares how big your carry-on is the whole point is that it is an actual ‘carry-on’: you will have to move it on and off train, climb steps and put it in the luggage shelves, either together with others in one spot in the coach or on the shelf above your head. I had a typical size carry-on and a cross-body with my essentials, and even this way it was annoying at times to do all the steps and gymnastics. It is true that people with big bags looking helpless get assistance from staff or kind strangers, but that’s not something I would like to rely on, especially in French stations where in both cases – in Lyon and Paris-Lyon – the track was announced less than 10 minutes before departure resulting in mass hysteria and stampede. So follow my grandpa’s advice and always be able to comfortably carry your own stuff!

As you can imagine, my strategy was to plan for outfit repetition and carry very little. Most of the little cross-body was taken by my two cases for glasses, so my clothing and conference shoes, notebooks, books, laptop, grooming pouch, food and water bottle had to go into the carry-on. Apart from what I was wearing for travel (kaftan, sports bra, sneakers, cardigan + ‘just in case AC’ leggings), I took two dresses, a bra, a pair of formal shoes, extra underwear and socks. You can see all the outfits here and here. And this is my hotel wardrobe in Brussels, the things on shelves are drying after a sink-wash:

And more hand-wash drying in London. While I take extra pairs, I do not take enough to cover all days, so washing by hand is a routine. If my dad and Paul Krugman can do it, so can I! I heard Krugman telling about his book-tour sink hand-washing habits due to the ridiculous prices hotels charge for laundry on some youtube talk years ago and he’s been a role model since. My all-time favorite knickers both for comfort and the super-quick dry are Luva Huva Satin Frilly Knickers in black you see in this photo:

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Do you have any experiences with lower CO2 travel? What mode of transportation, where to and how did it go? Do any of the cons I mentioned that make it impossible to you: price, time, stress levels?

Yes, there are garments that I’ve never washed

I revised my notes of Kate Fletcher’s Sustainable Fashion and Textiles: Design Journeys (2014, London – New York: Earthscan from Routledge) and found a ‘make post about this’ note in Chapter 3 waiting for me since November last year.
However, as I had it on a limited loan from a far-away library, I only have my notes… and I was convinced that the all data cited about wear frequency were from the Dutch paper cited below. It’s not! I checked all 170 pages of that report… So get Fletcher’s book from your library and check.

Chapter 3 is dedicated to *use* and this phase of garment’s lifecycle is a tricky one as it’s private and individual. It’s hard to track, and the industry just love to put the responsibility on the consumer reminding that (a) ‘ha, you made a shitty decision’ and (b) ‘loads of energy gets wasted and water polluted via poor laundry practices’. And they are not wrong. So (and this is from my notes, Fletcher does not use the f-word):

– A garment spends on average 3 years and 5 months in one wardrobe
– Get 44 wears
– Gets ~3 wears between the washes
– If a person has 10 pairs of underwear, that means 36.5 wears every year (provided that all are worn equally and one per day)
– Most garments get only around 20 washes that cause a lot of environmental impact
– Washing is responsible of 80% of the energy impact of underwear
– Cold washing and line-drying reduces the lifecycle energy for polyester 4 times and for cotton – 2 times
– The increase of individual households with more machines and less people tend to cancel out the washing machine efficiency gains due to smaller load sizes
– The launderette as an alternative are: better because they are communal and guarantee maximal use of fewer machines while getting big loads, worse because they use higher temperatures used and tempts people into using the f*ing dryer

(obviously the averages here are statistical artifacts, provided that there are categories of garments that are washed after every wear and ones that are never washed)

From the Uitdenbogerd et al 1998 paper “Domestic Energy Saving Potentials for Food and Textiles: An Empirical Study” we get that, according to the behaviour of Dutch families in 1997, the most promising options for energy saving in household when it comes to textiles are:

– washing at lower temperatures, including 25ºC cycles,
– use of ½- or S-buttons for ½- and ¾- loads, and E-buttons on the machines,
– longer wearing,
– line drying.

So, following St.Kate’s advice and being mindful that notions of cleanliness has more to do with idea about culture, civilization, piety, propriety (as opposite to dirty) than dirt. And for the germophobes: as a species we are not very good at disease prevention via cleanliness, unless you boil and bleach everything, and even then… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

(A disclaimer is due here that – quite ironically – our household experienced an order from a doctor to up our temperatures for certain types of laundry lately… So, as always, follow your doctor’s orders.)

Stop the automatic ‘I take it off and put it in the hamper’. Look at it, smell it, ask yourself if maybe drying it on a hanger and/or spraying with a mix of water and essential oils could be enough.

If you have decided that a garment needs washing, collect them until you have a full load (cold washes allow for not separating the colors), get an environmentally friendly detergent and go cold at least with the often worn clothing (very few of us truly cover our garments with mud every day). Rethinking the function of underwear is an idea, too. Let’s keep in mind that one of its missions is to separate the living, breathing, sweating, etc. flesh from our outer garments. The practice of wearing an undershirt might be on its demise (and now associated only with Marlon Brando and old men not wanting to show their nipples), but just give it a thought, especially for places with winters. And remember that the ‘iconic white t-shirt’ is not much more than a rebranded piece of underwear.

The impact assessments tend to include bleaching and ironing, so forget about that shit and the softener too. You never needed those for everyday use anyways. In our household only an occasional stubborn fruit stained serviette gets a 100ºC bleach soak before going in with the rest of household textiles at 60ºC. And only C’s summer shirts and my handkerchiefs get ironed.

Forget the dryer if you can, line drying is a beautiful practice in the sunnier parts of the globe (dry your brights inside out, though, sun is the original bleach; on the other hand, your whites will love it) and the northerners with proper heating at home get an actual health benefit from drying their clothes indoors on a rack – no need for an additional humidifier! The only people I’d give a permission slip for the dryer would be those with a lot of small children and those using launderettes (which normally comes accompanied with no space for a drying rack and a tendency towards mold in their studio apartments). But with reasonably cold/lukewarm water, good detergent and full loads, eh?

And now, after the yearly ‘how to wash’ primer (this was the last year’s), here is the phrase that peaked my interest: “It is very likely […] that we all have durable unwashed items in our wardrobes, but probably have never recognized them as such” (Fletcher 2014: 107). This is part that got me thinking: what are my no-washes? And rarely washes? What would be the common characteristics of the garments that do not get washed?

*No washes* are my fluffy coat (2006),

my festive bolero (2011),

my cape (2013),

my red woolen sweater (2015),

my Lithuanian woolen sweater (2015),

my swimsuit (2015) – rinsed a lot, never washed,

Ginta’s Monton bird skirt (2016),

Liisa’s velvet skater skirt (2017),

my Pavlovo Posad shawl (~2013) and my Cien Colores shawl (2017),

Julie’s cardigan (2017).

The WAG set has gotten no washes, but I’ve worn it only few times, we’ll see this summer if that structured but unlined cotton begs washing. Rare (as in ‘once in a season maybe’) washes are my parka (2003; the outer shell, the inner one has been washed once in 15 years, I think), HnM sweetheart dress (2008), Ginta’s trench (2010), Ginta’s blue silk dress (2016).

So, the riddle is served: what do these have in common? (1) Almost all are outer layers, so that my filthy body does not touch them directly. On the other hand however, the same characteristic makes them more vulnerable to outside dirt: bike oil, bird poo… (2) Many of them are worn strictly seasonally or for special occasions, so the overall number of wears is small, hence reduced exposure to being dirtied. (3) Materials! Wool is my golden amazing darling that does not smell, basically auto-cleans and any minor mayonnaise stain can be fixed with a damp cloth and all refreshing these garments need is just some alone time in wardrobe with a baggie of lavender. (4) Fear and awe inspiring items: I’m scared of fucking them up and wearing them out by repeated washing + the swimsuit which seems to be doing just fine with its chlorine soaks and less-chlorinated rinses afterwards.

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What are your *no washes*? Are those things that don’t need washing because of their function or are those things that you haven’t worn enough? Do you have any secret garment refreshing techniques: spot cleaning, steaming them in shower, freeing them? Tell me, I’m all ears!

My sustainability fails

Hello, there! The lent might be in the air in this historically catholic country or maybe I just want to make a dent in the holier-than-thou issues of the blogosphere and consumption-based activism. Anyways, this will be a mea culpa of my poorest sustainability practices. While I can go through one of those long ‘get greener’ bucket lists (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) and tick off quite few, there are several big ones I suck at. Welcome to the club!

Flying!

Ugh, the elephant in the room nobody in the online sustainability crowd likes to talk about. What’s the point to bring your own napkin to a transatlantic flight? I took 17 flights in 2016 and 23 in 2017. Aha, horrendous. And those include 8 intercontinental ones, just to make it completely awful. It must be much less in 2018 as my ‘take your PhD on a tour’ conference hopping is pretty much over, but is has already been 5 flights just between January and February 2018. I have none planned at least until June, and I’m trying a new trick at throwing money at my problem…

The basic step I am doing: Trains! I’ve been hating flying for a long time (I enjoyed my first few flights, it was all new and exciting, you know, going places), so I’ve opted to go to my KonMari seminar in train: Barcelona-Paris-London and back. It has cost me 260€ (flying would have cost me around 70€) and will mean hours more. On the other hand, it’s a better environmental option and better option for me: more space, views to watch, not fretting about the exact luggage size, not having to go to and from airports in the middle of nowhere (Eurostar had me convinced years ago with their ‘go from Paris to London instead of Charles de Gaulle to Heathrow’ ads), etc. And at least in this route it’s possible.

Not happening: I am not considering going to Rīga by train anytime soon, but the idea is to keep flying down to just love miles. I’ll let you know!

Garbage!

We (a shared household, so) are so far from being zero waste. We recycle religiously but I get guilt ping every time I stuff a bag in one of the colorful bins, even more if something goes to the gray bin. In Barcelona there are five different containers lining streets: brown for the organic waste, blue for paper, green for glass, yellow for plastics and aluminum, gray for the landfill. The additional services include textile containers of two different NGOs, furniture pick-up once a week from the curb and Punt Vert where they will take everything that’s shouldn’t go into the gray container or any other: electronics, batteries, random pieces of metal, used cooking oil, cava bottles. Ah, and pharmacies gather the pharmacological garbage: unused medicines and empty blisters! So significant space at our place is already occupied by different kind of garbage waiting for their turn to get out. And, yes, we are very lucky and privileged to have all that sorting and recycling being done for us by the City of Barcelona.

The basic step we are not doing: Switching to biodegradable bags for the organic garbage! We take out our paper in paper, glass in whatever as jars have to go in one by one, and plastic in a plastic bag. We did try a biodegradable bag for a short while, but they were too small and fragile for the amount of organic garbage we produce. I know, I know, my grandma also takes her kitchen garbage out everyday… and during summer we actually do switch to smaller bags because everything in that garbage bin goes compost and garbage juice in a very short time when it’s 28ºC and extremely humid.

Further steps we aren’t doing either: Composting! Without even entering into the conversation about where exactly and which type exactly, C has given a hard no on rotting stuff at home and I’m not passionate enough to try to fight that.

Dental hygene!

I switched to a children’s Humble Brush (the softest bristle but took time to get used to the small handle) years ago and I’m using an eco-certified vegan *with fluoride* toothpaste. However, Humble Brush has nylon bristle and my toothpaste travels to me by air from Germany clad in plastic (oh, all the waste and emissions of online shopping). I use dental floss every day knowing very well that it’s not biodegradable and peril to marine life. Oh, and I also chew a piece of plastic every night in the form of my mouth guard. It also has it’s own hard plastic coffin, of course.

The basic step I am not doing: Trying out real zero waste alternatives like baking soda or bar soap and neem stick. Nope! My gums are happy, my dentist and hygienist are happy. It’s actually funny because these people, despite the fact that they are peddling the latest super electronic brush, actually know a thing or two about dental hygiene. Nobody’s complaining about my current results while after a few months of experimenting with ayurvedic toothpastes years ago my dentist just had to intervene ‘with what have you been brushing your teeth? whatever it is, stop it’.

The teeny-tiny step I’m doing: Cutting my floss in smaller pieces, so that nobody could get tangled in it.

The tiny step I might do: Switching to Brush with Bamboo for my next toothbrush order (again, the flying packages!). Dental Lace, maybe? But, again, I have very sensitive gums and this stuff flies from far away (Maine, yo!).

Online shopping!

Of course I enjoy getting the best of all over the world right at my place. And I love receiving any kind of package! The excitement, the unboxing… and it goes to ridiculous lengths. My latest fails include (a) ordering four bottles of imported American apple cider vinegar from Madrid (and we did it twice as the first package had a broken bottle) without looking around in the neighborhood, and then I discovering that we can get French stuff in bulk for a very reasonable price in the shop I buy my almond oil and (b) being seduced by one of those companies that promote a ‘you buy and we give’ model and getting a present for C from the USA that didn’t ship to Spain so I had to engage an Italian friend to get it. Absurd! And Amazon Premium is nothing else than promoting laziness and killing local businesses. And so convenient, of course.

The teeny-tiny step I’m doing: For my German cosmetics I’m revising my existing supplies and postponing orders to make them big enough (and get free shipping, of course). I recently run out of lipbalm (the addiction thing keeps fluctuating) and made an excel (obviously!) just to find out that I’m up to my ears in toothpaste, solar protection, deodorants and cream. And the cream has fallen off my shopping list since I’ve discovered sweet almond oil! So I just stole a lip balm from my mom and carried on without buying more.

The other teeny-tiny step I’m doing: Stopping and thinking about possibilities to get what I want off-line. Barcelona is big and hip and there are a lot of great businesses either producing or importing. I do allow myself to buy online if I can’t find what I want or if the price is so much higher. The latest addition to our Amazon Prime basket of LED light bulbs and whatnot: (a) circle stencils for drawing that no shop in Barcelona had (I asked at several) and (b) a new Grids and Guides notebook as the previous one brought me so much joy; I suspected only one shop here to have them in stock and that would have necessarily been 10€ more. And we needed the lightbulbs!

The step I’ve completed: I’ve managed to stop buying books, headbands, and t-shirts with revolutionary slogans, though. Wasn’t easy. Very proud.

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These are only few, of course. Our food supply is patchy ranging from a weekly CSA vegetable box to palm oil in our conventional wheat tortillas. We wash our dishes constantly opening and closing the tap (and switching on the gas-powered water heater). We just bought a giant TV set…

On the other hand, I’m trying to relax my orthorexic and obsessive-compulsive impulses of living up to a sustainability perfection that cannot be achieved. Relax, sweety, relax! There is only one Bea Johnson, and I will never replace her. I’m not planning to turn my life into a one cause anytime soon.

So let’s talk trash! What are your sustainability stumbles you are not really planning to address? Any babe steps you feel immensely proud of? Any aspects of your life where you have decided to just let go?

Some things change: My bag now and 10 years ago

My Dad’s hand-me-down backpack I’ve been using since 2014. My sentimental investment has been allowing for the leather detailing, and my financial investment in repairing it were 25€ last year when the main zipper went kaput after all that strain. It’s also the perfect size for both carry-on luggage that fits under the seat in front and my everyday needs.

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Years ago there was a Latvian blog collecting photos and descriptions of people’s bags and pockets. I am unable to find it now, and I’m sure there are a gazillion more still doing it… However, having done such exercise in March 2008 and having found the email describing the contents when cleaning out my inbox, I just couldn’t resist repeating the exercise.

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So, the contents of my bag – a leopard-print plastic HnM tote, btw – in 2008:

For a bit of context: I was living in Ciudad Real then, doing my European Voluntary Service in a local NGO and actively learning Spanish. I worked mornings only and had lunch at home. The town is tiny, I walked everywhere, and actively tried to befriend the right people.

What you see here are:

My agenda
A notebook
A book: Taibo, Carlos. 2007. Movimientos antiglobalización (fun fact: this is the first book I ever read in Spanish!)
A CD: Veneno. 1977. Veneno
Headphones
MP3 player
A rechargeable battery
A USB drive 512 MB
Mobile phone
My purse
A Finnish lip balm
A Spanish lip balm
A pill-box containing chewing gum and pain killers
Honey perfumed kleenex
Passport
‘Libreta’ of Caja Castilla-La Mancha
Ciudad Real library card
A fountain pen
A marker pen
A ‘No sin él’ card holder containing: 2 debit cards, youth card, EU health insurance, AXA insurance, family doctor’s appointment card, bank password card,
A receipt for withdrawal of 30€
A boarding pass for a Brussels Airlines flight Brussels-Madrid

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And in 2018

I’m living in Barcelona, doing a PhD, commuting by bicycle, carefully planning all my activities and things to carry with me because popping home between, let’s say, yoga and work, would be a waste of time. I take lunch from home.

So 10 years later, on a normal Friday evening, I take out of my backpack:

My agenda
A notebook
Office key card
Home keys: front door, apartment door, postbox, both bicycle locks + bottle opener
Two cases for glasses: regular ones and sunglasses
Empty lunch tupperware with orange rinds, dirty knife and fork, a serviette in a cloth bag
A loaf of ‘German bread’ (a sad Spanish attempt at rye bread, ugh!)
Used yoga outfit: t-shirt, racerback top, leggings, knickers, socks

The pouch my mother-in-law made (she also made the two other ones inside) containing:

Phone + charger
My purse
Pill purse containing bandaids, painkillers, antivirals, a tampon
A Pusheen snack box with three dried figs
Oral contraceptives
Dirty handkerchief
Kleenex (those are a ‘last resort’ I don’t use routinely but you never know when you’ll end up in a dirty Spanish bar with no paper/towels)
A hand sanitizer
Earplugs in a case
USB stick 32 GB
A Latvian lipbalm
7 writing tools: a fountain pen, 4 markers, a permanent marker, a pencil
A hair elastic
A tiny clothes pin that was attached to Gulia’s present
A PAA card holder: ID, university ID, 2 Riga travel cards (one empty, one usable), 2 Barcelona travel cards (1-zone and 4-zone), a receipt for having spent 44 euros in the post office, debit card, bank password card, Catalunya health care system card, EU health insurance card, gym membership, La Festival buy 9-get-10th-for-free card

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Se vogliamo che tutto rimanga come è, bisogna che tutto cambi: while many aspects of my life have changed – the daily distances, schedules, tasks – other have stayed the same. I am still faithful to paper agendas and paper notebooks, and I still routinely carry with me a ‘first aid’ kit of wellbeing (that has expanded in last 10 years): handkerchiefs, kleenex, pain killers, ear plugs… I did finally switch to a smart phone last December and my lipbalm addiction is much less severe than before. But on days I’m not taking bicycle (rain!), I will always carry a book with me.

If you would shake out your everyday bag now and 10 (5? 15? 1?) years ago, what would still be there? What are the little things that help you maintain comfort when you are out and about? Is there anything you panic without? (I had that with lipbalms for years…)

The reading matter: part 2 – Save and sustain

The first part = The reading matter: part 1 – Art and inspo

My information diet is almost as lean as my closet: I have unfollowed everybody except my mother, my partner and some pages on Facebook, I don’t read press, I don’t use Twitter as a source of reading matter… I watch a Spanish late-night comedy show to keep up with the local news, Stephen Colbert to keep up with the American news and have my feeds to keep me warm. C did a search for a new RSS feed organizer when Google killed it’s Reader and found Feedly. It’s not perfect (very few things are, ugh), but does its job of bringing my news to me instead of me having to go after them. I really don’t get the ‘check my latest post’ logic on Instagram – if I like your content, I already have it in my reader, thank you very much!

So I’ll show you my reading lists… only the fashion and sustainability related folders, though, if you want recommendations for recipe blogs, illustrated sex toy reviews or my favorite academic journals, just ask.

Folder 2: Save + sustain
Eco-fashion, zero waste, financial independence, etc…

I’ve postponed this post for a long time due descriptions I wanted to write, as done is better than perfect, here you have them in descriptive categories.

Sustainability in general:

Ethical and green living with Lucy Siegle

Sustainable America

Fashion as Business:

The Fashion Law

Sustainable fashion / Fashion as Business:

Elizabeth Suzann

Sustainable fashion / Garment Stories:

Patagonia’s Worn Wear

Sustainable fashion / Conscious Dressing:

Kate Fletcher

Style Bee

Un-Fancy

Good on You

Sustainable fashion / Conscious Dressing / Minimalism:

Anuschka Rees

To Universe, With Love

Sewing / Upcycling:

Refashionista

Zero Waste:

Zero Waste Home

Paris to Go

Wasteland Rebel

Zero Waste / Whole Foods Plants Based:

Mama Eats Plants

Plastic Free:

(In Spanish) Vivir sin plástico

Zero Waste / Minimalism:

(In Latvian) Seek the Simple

Tidying:

(In Spanish) Orden y Limpieza en Casa

Spark Joy Podcast

Financial Independence:

J.L. Collins

Mr. Money Mustache

Miscellaneous:

Bonzai Aphrodite

Madame Manumus

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What are your favorite feeds for sustainability inspiration? Is there anyone out there in the blogosphere that changed your life? Bea Johnson of Zero Waste Home is often the answer to this one, i know. Whom am I missing in my list? Suggestions are more than welcome!

#whatiwore 2018w05 + Sunday links

This post marks a new year in the weekly outfit world – it’s Nº53. You can see them all via this link or on Pinterest! And on we go with the brain-food:

On sartorial butterfly effects: The Marie Antoinette Dress That Ignited the Slave Trade. Allows you to appreciate the pros of a multi-polar world when one dress (or dress-wearer) doesn’t have that much trendsetting power. Oh, no, wait, the fucking Kardashians & Co… + now we all have the power to ignite slave or – in the best cases – almost slave labor while eating brioche fruit flown in from faraway lands ans swiping left.

Menstrual cups are still a novelty or what? They just keep popping up in my feeds, see examples here and here, and on display in our local pharmacy. I’ve had mine since the winter 2012/2013 (this one, because C’s sister was getting one and Fleurcup does this pay-for-1-get-2 thing so she offered giving me the other one), I had to cut the ‘stem’ part off to make it comfortable and have been happy since. My cup is dark brown now because I do not obsess about cleaning it. It’s fine, only my cervix sees it and he doesn’t care!
What truly strikes me every time somebody writes about menstrual cups is the ‘oh, it was scary, oh, you get to go to places you have never been to’ tone. Really? Are we really missing so much sexuality education that people with cervixes don’t know how to locate them?
Nevermind, tl;dr – try a menstrual cup if you haven’t yet, especially if you are not sure about your basic anatomy, and get your hand in there! It’s about the time you understood where all that blood came from.

A little fun Buzzfeed piece Here’s Why Clothing Sizes Are The Way They Are that so beautifully reveals the naïveté of early applications of social research. Serious and dedicated people going out there and doing thousands of measurements just to have the results completely off because their sampling was shit.

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What are your (sustainable) menstrual product preferences? Hand-made reusable pads, eco-tampons, period undies, a cup, or just bleeding all over the place your moon goddess magic? Was there ever a life-changing switch (that one for me was the change from maxi pads to tampons some 15 years ago)?
Additional dysmenorrhea pro-tip (I have street cred for painful periods, I’ve been taken to hospital in an ambulance): forget the anti-inflammatory analgesics and look for antispasmodics. Not for nothing those are called menstrual cramps!

The reading matter: part 1 – Art and inspo

The second part = The reading matter: part 2 – Save and sustain

My information diet is almost as lean as my closet: I have unfollowed everybody except my mother, my partner and some pages on Facebook, I don’t read press, I don’t use Twitter as a source of reading matter… I watch a Spanish late-night comedy show to keep up with the local news, Stephen Colbert to keep up with the American news and have my feeds to keep me warm. C did a search for a new RSS feed organizer when Google killed it’s Reader and found Feedly. It’s not perfect (very few things are, ugh), but does its job of bringing my news to me instead of me having to go after them. I really don’t get the ‘check my latest post’ logic on Instagram – if I like your content, I already have it in my reader, thank you very much!

So I’ll show you my reading lists… only the fashion and sustainability related folders, though, if you want recommendations for recipe blogs, illustrated sex toy reviews or my favorite academic journals, just ask. Keep in mind that while I might be critical (see the ‘nothing’s perfect’ note above), this is the content I enjoy.

Folder 1 – Art + inspo:
These are the pretty picture blogs that don’t care about sustainability or minimalism.
Also, a lot of illustration.

A Clothes Horse: breathtaking photography, orange hair, great style. I think I re-pin Rebecca’s photos the most. While she is neither into sustainability nor minimalism and a lot of content is sponsored, this is real style inspo for me.

A Curious Fancy: Indian, plus size, into all things cute. Think lace tights, thoughtful accessorizing, and very nice photography + an occasional essay on bodies, like this one.

A Robot Heart: Polish, sews some garments, occasional post-soviet anthropological references. Lately a lot of sponsored content, but time by time a styling gem like this session appears there.

African Prints in Fashion: I really tried to find some African fashion blogs with an aesthetic that resonated with me after I came back from Cape Town in late 2017 (oh, the amount of ’10 African fashion bloggers that are slaying it’ articles with broken links that I went through). This is one of the few satisfactory ones I found.

All You Need is a Wall: illustrations by Alexandra Dvornikova. If Clarissa Pinkola Estés would have been born Russian and more recently, this is what she’d be doing.

Edits All the Way: the classiest moodboards on Tumblr.

Cupcake’s Clothes (defunct): I’m so sad Georgina stopped curating her blog! It was the perfect over-the-top sweet plus size hybrid. And when C thought that the cat ear headband was too much, I threatened him with getting one of Georgina’s antler creations from her Etsy shop.

Gemma Correll’s illustrations on her Blogspot, Tumblr and Facebook page. She is great, dedicated to feminism, introverts and animals, so I find her merch so hard to resist.

Annya Marttinen’s Tumblr – her work is a lighter, more childish version of Dvornikova’s ‘she lives in a dark forest and runs with the wolves‘ vibe.

Taryn Knight’s work: What can I do, I love me some nice drawings… and hers are excellent.

Johanna Öst’s art and occasional dark pin-up outfit – Oh, when people live their art!

Kate Tokley’s blog: I came across this via #FashRev, I think. She crochets, she deals with anxiety, tries out capsule wardrobes. It resonates, I don’t know why.

Pauline aka Punziella who went viral with her casual Disney princesses. So much talent, so cute!

Madison Ross: again, a lot of wild women art I find hard not to buy.

Martha Anne illustrations. Defined borders, clear colors, female characters, and food! What’s not to love?

Miss Pandora: Oh, Louise! Elaborated editorials, background in art history and all that in French only. Rarely truly my aesthetic (too much heels and make-up to start with), but so undeniably cool.

Nancy Zhang: or when fashion blog meets illustration. Move over, Garance, this is the real deal!

Olga Valeska: Her photos, paintings, collages, etc. etc. are so stunning I don’t even care for her religiosity, and that’s rare! Truly breathtaking and makes my 19th century Russian-aesthetics-loving heart rejoice.

Pagnifik: another source of ‘wax hollandais‘ magic.

Serina Kitazono’s illustrations.

Zuzana Èupová’s aka Suwi’s illustrations.

Third local: a Ugandan now in France, urban, mostly pants and very cool. And a side of beautiful photography to go with it.

And just for fun in the same folder also Pusheen and Heart & Brain live.

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What are your favorite feeds for pretty pictures? Whom am I missing in my list? Suggestions more than welcome.

Fashion, sustainability and tidying books I read in 2017

For the second year in row I’ve had the ambition to read more books than there are weeks in a year, and for the second year in row I’m failing miserably. I ended 2016 at 42/52, so 81%. At the moment I’m at 37/52, so 71%. Disappointing! However, 12 of those 2017 books were blog-related either touching the whys (sustainability, climate change, consumerism), hows (sustainable fashion) and aesthetic pleasures (style!). Here’s the list in the order I read them:

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Tuite, Rebecca C. 2014. Seven Sisters Style: The All-American Preppy Look.

A pretty look-book explaining the rise of the preppy look which I’ll always eagerly repin despite the class bias. The funniest part is that styles that we now associate with arrogance and careful selection to “look the part”, was born out of quest for comfort and were seen as highly inappropriate and rebellious at their time. What can I say, give me a mix of nice knits and emancipation of women any time!

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Black, Sandy. 2008. Eco-chic: The Fashion Paradox.

A bit outdated and avant-garde focused sustainable fashion book. A reminder that less than ten years ago sustainable fashion was an artsy fringe activity nobody expected to become relevant to the mainstream.

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Carson, Rachel. 1962 [2005]. Silent Spring.

Yes, I hadn’t read the seminal book that launched the environmentalism. And now I have. It still is a very powerful reminder of the arrogant recklessness of the industrial management of nature (that tends to bring unintended consequences of colossal scale). Although the pesticides of today are not exactly as horrible as the organochlorine pesticides that Carson was focusing on, we have more than enough toxic messes around the world continuing the proud tradition of human hubris.

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Sontag, Susan. 1977 [1979]. On Photography.

Aha, another classic that I finally read this year! While not neatly fitting in the overarching theme, a recommended read to everybody taking daily selfies. Somehow I do feel relieved that Sontag did not live to see Instagram… Diagnosis? We are all sick, but that won’t stop us from documenting the illness.

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Gilman, Charlotte P. 1915 [2002]. The Dress of Women: A Critical Introduction to the Symbolism and Sociology of Clothing.

Oh, this was such a treat! Gilman, the ultra-rational feminist hero – read her What Diantha Did for a 1910 (!) answer to the still-relevant housework issue! – charging against the stupidity of fashion. Early social scientists just wrote what they thought, interpreting their participant observations from the armchair (OK, like Bauman and other theorists of postmodernity still do / did until they left us). You cannot trust them as describing a representative reality, but they surely reflect certain stirrings of their time. This one is fascinating! I already mentioned this book here and here.

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Corn, Wanda M. 2017. Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern.

I got this gem thanks to Marina who was willing to cater to my “see an exciting book in a museum shop, decide later” whims. For me this book was just the right mix of art and personal style without entering personal life. Bravo! The argument is very convincing, and more so with O’Keeffe than with others: if the artists has spent decades carefully curating (and making) her wardrobe and surroundings, it makes perfect sense to analyze them alongside her paintings.

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Fletcher, Kate and Lynda Grose. 2012. Fashion and Sustainability: Design for Change.

Another sustainable fashion textbook, better than Black’s, worse than revised 2014 Fletcher below. In 2017 I was eager to build up an adequate knowledge base to start with, now I think I’m good, thanks! But I have to agree that in the last decade the sustainable fashion industry has moved with an incredible speed.

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Fletcher, Kate. 2008 [2014]. Sustainable Fashion and Textiles: Design Journey.

For a still-relevant overview of the sustainable fashion industry from the point of view of design (and lots of optimistic hope about the designer’s power to be an influence for good), read this one! Fletcher is the fashion philosopher of NOW (of, the notion of “craft of use” is irresistible), but if you have other favorites, let me know in the comments.

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And then I went on a Marie Kondo binge you can read about here

Kondo, Marie. 2010 [2014]. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.

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Kondo, Marie. 2017. Spark Joy.

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Kondo, Marie and Yuko Uramoto. 2017. The Life-changing Manga of Tidying Up: A Magical Story.

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Monbiot, George. 2006 [2007]. Heat: How Can We Stop the Planet Burning.

I read Heat for the first time in 2008, and it was a game-changer for me. I took several small, individual steps to reduce my carbon footprint but didn’t stop flying (bad, bad me…). Not being a home- or business-owner, those were really tiny, but the book cemented my convictions that (1) climate change is happening (I know that in the USA “climate change” is understood to be the doubting term vs. much stronger “global warming”; however, assuming that words have meaning, not only spin, the shit storm that has already started goes beyond warming and is changing the climate in a multitude of ways, for example, when the Gulf stream stops, we won’t see much warming happening)  and we made it happen, obviously; (2) we have enough knowledge since long ago about the causes, so in principle we could have stopped it; (3) but we are shitty animals, our brains cannot deal with gradual and impersonal danger, so deserve to die and leave it to lizard-people to build the next civilization. That third part is not Monbiot’s, he really tries to be optimistic about the whole thing, but re-reading ten years later and knowing that we are even more fucked now, oh, well! Monbiot’s book started my climate change education and nothing has changed my climate pessimism since I read it for the first time.

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What were your sources of wisdom and brain-food in 2017? Do you have any information-consumption goals for 2018? How about less screens and more books?

#KonMari for advanced minimalists


My first konmari tidying spree in 2016 resulted in giving my adolescent bedroom back to my parents.
Well, better late – at the ripe age of 28 – than never.

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I spent November under the spell of Marie Kondo books. I had already read “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” last year, but now I binged through all three of them. Apart from enjoying them a lot, I have some reflections and suggestions on how to approach the (now somewhat subdued) “does it spark joy?” fever.

For anybody curious about the whole thing, I’d suggest this order of reading:

1. The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up: Being manga, it’s a very short read – you’ll be done with this in a couple of hours and will have either curiosity about the whole “method” or none at all. However, I do see how this less esoteric than “The Life-Changing Magic…” and clearly young-adult-professional-women-looking-for-love targeting book could put some of us off. Kondo comes across as the love fairy that will discipline you into throwing out your sentimental garbage, hence opening space for the handsome neighbor next door.

2. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The classical best seller that has filled Instagram. It’s short and follows the classical self-help book outlay of tracing the protagonist’s steps until they see the light and can now share it with the rest of the mortals. Kondo comes across as a spiritual teacher with a rigid “method” that you should follow without complaint in order to reach clutter free nirvana. While Kondo always repeats that relapse rate for her private clients is 0%, I am willing to bet that the great majority of people who read this one stayed with “oh, sounds interesting but a bit too harsh” and never did anything and the other ones did some purging of the obvious clutter and left it at that.

3. Spark Joy: This one is my favorite and has a very distinct tone from the other two. Kondo repeats the basic tenants of her method but also accepts all kinds of bending of the rules as far as you stick to things and practices that “spark joy”. This book is the real talk of “we are all weird”, going as far as the author revealing that her animistic relationship with objects is probably due to her difficulty of relating to humans. Boom! The stern fairy godmother just became vulnerable and human, although still suggesting ordering our lives along the lines of a slightly modified William Morris‘ maxim of “Have nothing in your houses [i.e. your lives] that you do not know to be [indispensably] useful, or believe to be beautiful [i.e. spark joy].”

Lettering by Kelly Cummings.

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Now, not to be counted among those “nice idea” people, I can proceed to lessons learnt and musings for future:

Having toyed (i.e. binge reading) with minimalism and capsule wardrobes since 2014, I have much less stuff to begin with. These are both good and bad news when thinking about a proper KonMari tidying festival. The good news are that the physical threshold of gathering my stuff in our living room by categories is a relatively easy task. On the other hand, my “joy-meter” is off and I don’t have a heap of little loved clothing to fine tune it. After several years of becoming what Kondo calls “a discarding machine” – and describes it as one of the tidying pathologies one can fall into – I’m able to rationalize throwing away almost anything.

Very few things are *perfect*. True indispensability and great design are very rare. If all my possessions are to be measured against the *ideal*, basically everything goes, and I’m left with the problem of finding the perfect replacements. The alternative explanation would be that my ~55 item wardrobe is already paired down to a reasonable level of joyfulness (and I have no 0 joy items to feel the difference) while I expect a joy-gasm just from opening my wardrobe. That’s one of the problems with an author promising *magic* – a lot of self doubt: if I’m not feeling the magic, is it because I’m doing it wrong or am I living the magic already without realizing it?

Objectively, the quantity of possessions and clutter we have is rather low. There are few black holes of stuff that would benefit from airing out, but overall we are kicking ass in not accumulating useless shit. To enhance the magic, here are some of my future tidying plans extracted from “Spark Joy”:

A) Following Kondo’s and C’s example, I’m ditching the seasonal wardrobe overhauls and the big plastic box for out-of-season clothing. Everything will be visible, foldables will be folded in the drawer below, the plastic box will get another job, and we’ll see how it all will work out:

So going from this

To this

Which in reality means this as we share the hanger space:
an ecosystem with natural limits

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B) I’m using my vacations in Riga to review (again!) my possessions left there, in line with Kondo’s warning to never ever send stuff to our parents’ homes. Thankfully, my parents live far away and their flat is small, so there’s little to no sense to store my things in Riga. My resolution stays the same as in August: only the indispensables that shouldn’t be moved back and forth (parka, rubber boots, winter boots, a dressing gown, and few more).

C) I’ve done a partial joy-check with my books, and oh! that was hard. Having been raised by bibliophiles and having always aspired to have as many as possible, I took a deep breath and did my first division into “stays”, “will see”, and “out” trying to base it on the joy factor only… I’m still not sure how to go about books that can’t possibly bring joy due to their content. Global crises, totalitarian crimes, failing humanitarian aid schemes will never make a joyful read… I already realized it in Riga with my novel collection: it is much easier to sort out fiction this way!

D) I intend to carry out a full tidying festival focusing on joy instead of discarding. Only when I’m done – my plan is to give myself a very generous permission to *keep*, to use this process to reaffirm my love for my things (C could tell you that I’m often very careless with my possessions) via the positive focus of choosing what to keep instead of focusing on throwing away – with my own stuff, I’ll move towards our common komono.

E) For the household clutter and “maybe someday”, Kondo suggests mapping out the storage spaces to identify where to look. I’ve done that on paper already, and even in our tiny flat there are several pockets of mystery and miscellany to be tackled: rarely used cupboards, boxes under the bed, boxes on top of the wardrobe, items we “inherited” from the previous tenant and never started to use or threw out, etc. Again and again, I’m grateful of having a small flat with little storage space, I have no idea how people with n-bedrooms, basement, attic, and a garage do it. Oh, wait, they don’t!

F) To either put full stop on my KonMari fever or to enter the sect forever, I’m planning to do her consultant training this spring. The price is ridiculous, several of my loved ones have doubted my sanity, and I am aware that the most likely outcome of the course will be slight disappointment and a depleted savings account. But I want to do it. It will be my 30th birthday present to myself. Some people jump with parachutes or swim with sharks, why can’t I spoil myself with a Japanese decluttering seminar?

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Have you done any decluttering campaign with your possessions? How did that go? Have you read any of Kondo’s books? Did they spur you into action or did you find her method too extreme?

How to Survive *Winter* in Barcelona

Temperatures fluctuate, and you never know which mild winter you are getting.

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While I am complaining about the “fake winter” again, the midday 15-20ºC does not change the fact that we have no heating at home… OK, there is the hot air option on the AC and a little electrical heater but our windows are poorly isolated, ceiling is high, and we have tile floors, so we use neither. Hence getting out of under the blanket is a major life challenge from November till February.

The key is to get warm and comfy (read: under-blanket appropriate) as soon as possible after coming back home. This means a sports bra, leggings, woolen socks and a hoodie or a sweater. Looks like this:

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Although, to be honest, quite often this is the complete look:

I didn’t chose any of these infantile patterns – the hoodie is a gift from my mom and blanket came from C’s mom – but they only reinforce my resolution to be like Greg from Over the Garden Wall when I grow up.

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The major *winter* challenge is to overcome the stupor and the wish to stay under the blanket forever. In mornings I wake up to have breakfast with C, and afterwards get warm – instead of going back to bed – with a (typically) shortish yoga practice. When I feel too lazy for creative yoga and want instructions, I turn to doyogawithme.com. My favorite instructor there is Sarah Jane Steele (try her yin classes when feeling impossibly stiff) and my current go-to class is this 23 minute hatha flow.

Evenings are easier as there are things to do, meals to prep, and the local swimming pool is still 26ºC. I don’t use hair dryers, but I bring a hat to cover my hair on my way home! The swimming pool routine also helps to make sure that I get at least two showers per week.

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My minor – outdoors – challenge is to adjust to temperature changes due to movement. Cycling to work (downhill) is cold and breezy, coming back (uphill) is hot and sweaty + all the associated risks with then hanging out all sweaty and getting a nasty cold. Prevent pneumonias instead of treating them! Hat, gloves, and sunglasses (the sun is still here and going strong!) are my friends. So are woolen mix tights. I had given up tights for several years, and have no intention to going back to the typical transparent plastic, but I admit that a cashmere mix is much better than my previous combination of stay-ups and biker shorts under dresses (for warmth and for not showing the lacy parts of the stay-ups to all other drivers).

I still haven’t got a proper winter coat in Barcelona, because I – DO – NOT – NEED – ONE. I have two winter coats of varying warmth in Riga but they just don’t make any sense here. For the coldest days – around 10ºC – I will layer my trench with a wool sweater and be toasty enough.

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Despite my wish to go almost product-free in skincare (= soap + coconut oil + deodorant), November won and I made a big Lavera order. Oh, a hand cream and a lip balm can bring so much pleasure in life! Sweet almond oil also entered in my routine as supposedly better oil for the face as the coconut. Feels nice and smells delicious indeed. Coconut is still here for the rest of the body after the swimming pool chlorine.

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The summer fruits are out, but apples and citruses are IN. And the same goes for soups (miso is our lazy favorite) partly replacing salads. It’s Mediterranean, our CSA box has lettuce year-round!

My big cold weather switch is not going close to cold water and drinking a copious amount of herbal teas instead. My grandma’s magic are my favorites, but I haven’t been in Riga since August, so I’m long out of Latvian herbs. I spent the previous winter emptying local herbalist’s nettle reserves, but after a trip to Cape Town I’m back to rooibos all day. And as a special treat a colleague brought me two packages of this Swedish magic of passiflora, lavender, lemon balm, and mint.

Latvian heather full of grandma love.

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Rooibos is more robust than the herbs, so I leave it in the thermos for many hours, and just add hot water and more tea as I wish. Most herbs won’t stand this kind of treatment and become yucky after a couple of hours.

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So far I haven’t got a proper snot-and-bed time this, but if need be, here are the hankies (the only textile items I iron!) and the possibility to set up a little home office from the bed.


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Enjoy the season and tell me how you deal with cold weather, be it real or fake winters!


The Pink Post: Instrumental and subversive uses of the traditionally feminine

Yes, pink, florals, and pearls look good on me!

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I hadn’t though much about the significance that might me ascribed to the aesthetics of my style until I came across (via the amazing illustrator Ezra W. Smith!) this post (in Russian!) that apparently shook Russian internets to their core.

Long story short: the article is called “My armour: How I learnt to love pink (and myself with it)” and filed under “Experiment” label. There journalist and pundit Dasha Evans-Radova describes how she realized that pink was a color she had been (unconsciously) ignoring in her life due to the derogatory significance assigned to it (infantile, too sweet, too feminine, stupid), and set up to analyze this lack and integrate pink in her life. The results can be seen here, and I got thinking…

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Trying to be true to third wave feminist notion of individualism and cross-sectionality that could be sloganized as “you do you”, I haven’t wrote much about my aesthetic preferences. The focus of this blog is ethics of fashion and not looks – while my #wiw posts do show a set of clear preferences in case you are interested – and so it will stay. However, #grownuppinkroutine in combination with Kate Fletcher book I’m reading made me wonder about the signals my wardrobe is sending to passers-by (and my acquaintances and co-workers who have unfollowed me on social media since I started this blog). One of many points that Fletcher makes is how sustainable fashion, having been traumatized by unbleached and shapeless eco-chic of the 90s, now often looks exactly the same as conventional one, hence being invisible as social phenomenon. And this is even more so with second-hand and hand-me-down items. If you are saving fast fashion from the landfill by wearing it, nobody will know that you are not earnestly embracing it. And your conscious investment pieces might look exactly like the newest HnM collection. Yes, shit happens!

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With aesthetics it is easier to signal that your choices are ironic and intended to be transgressions. Mixing and misplacing – think of the now classical combination of floral dresses and work boots (that’s a fashion advice that Caitilin Moran gives in her How to Be a Woman as looking nice on everybody) or how people dress up funny for marathons – is an easy way to signal lightheartedness about the attire. Yet, if you are all in on classical “flattering” cuts, New Look, Mad Men wardrobes, minis, maxis, florals, bodycons, and pearls… Ooops! You might be part of a play you never rehearsed for.

Obviously, this has nothing to do with the hue, cut, or pattern as such. Fashion is a symbols’ game and too much get hoisted upon innocent colors and textiles… but as the basic maxim of sociology would have “if [people] define situations as real, they are real in their consequence“. And, as far as these common notions are internalized, shapes and cuts affect behavior and body language. You are not supposed to feel and act the same way in boyfriend jeans and in a non-elastic super-mini. In this way fashion is a form of social ingeneering that we have consented to (not always, of course, and there have been fashion liberation movements such as Rational dress movement when harem pants were revolutionary).

Donna Mae Mims in action, via classicdriver.com.

The practice that is the most interesting to me – and the one I’ve been semi-consciously practicing more and more – is that of traditionally feminine as camouflage. A good example of this (that I learnt about via Dasha’s original post) is Donna Mae Mims, the first woman to win a Sports Car Club of America national championship. While known as the Pink Lady for her pink cars, helmets, overalls, and described in press as “a delightful blonde with an intriguing smile, well-shaped figure and a laughing sense of humor […] and much like most other members of her sex, she delights in leading men a merry chase”, there’s another side of the story. Mims has described her racing as follows:

“I psych myself. I remove all my makeup. I think stern. I bristle. I don’t talk to anybody. You cannot think nice. Chivalry is dead on the racetrack. You’re out there only for one thing. To win. Nobody remembers second place. […] A lot of the male drivers think I’m out there to prove that I can beat them because they’re men. That isn’t so. They claim that I sometimes charge into the corners, cutting them off. I don’t mean to. I’m just trying to win.”

Boom! You see it, right? Embracing her love for pink and knowing that the feminine appearance will help her navigate the ultra-macho world of racing. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but makes sense to me: if you know that your words or actions go against the grain of patriarchy, it might be useful to ease into it via instrumental use of traditional femininity. That’s working behind enemy lines: everybody let their guard down and then you kill them! Yes, it is unfair for those who have never been interested in pretty dresses and might be attracted to aesthetics with negative social dividends. And I have no honest advice for that, apart from suggesting to bring down capitalism and patriarchy.

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I don’t really care about pink, it’s here, it’s queer, and I like it. The only colors I treat with suspicion are neon (because of class prejudice) and crisp whites (for practical reasons and class prejudice). Beige and grays are not my favorites either, but somehow they always find their way into my wardrobe. Here are some of the other pinks happening in my life:



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What are your relationships with the traditionally feminine and pink? Do you feel the social pressures attached to colors and cuts, or are you oblivious to them? And how do you deal with them?