Visual Packing

I'm not sure why traveling throws such a wrench in how I dress myself, but it does. I like to wear cozy stuff for the plane, be able to pack work- and weather-appropriate stuff and also have shoes that are comfortable enough to walk around in for longer distances in case we have a "that vegan restaurant is farther away than we thought" kind of field trip. Add in the weather variables of both the heavily air-conditioned meeting space and, well, any other climate, and it's a challenge for me to pack efficiently. 

Thankfully I tend to wear something to death if I like it so I managed to wear the same necklace, jacket and shoes (mostly) for my last work trip. (I wore some fake vegan silver Birks in off hours sometimes.) When packing, I like to lay out what I can wear together day by day (so I don't forget to pack something, like, oh, pants when I have all shirts). But when you have so many dupes that you'll wear most days, you can't just lay them out flat as an outfit to make sure you didn't forget anything so I take photos of each day's clothes grouped together. Also, I never remember what I planned to wear on which day by the time I get to the destination and this makes it a brain cell-free endeavor. 

Packing for personal trips is slightly better as I don't mind re-wearing the crap out of most things as long as the weather is decent.

^ the 3-day trip layout ^
top left - leggings & babydoll dress on plane
top right - first day of meetings
bottom left - first day of conference plus a change of logo gear
bottom middle - last day of conference and travel home w/leggings
bottom right - contingency dress

^ I thought I could swing a hotel outfit photo but... ^
the lighting was way too dark

I also have a standard packing list in my iphone Notes and copy it over to a new Note to customize it (legwarmers, bathing suits, sunhats, gloves, thermals, rice heat packs because I'm a baby in cold airbnbs) for each trip. Then I go through it, deleting what I've already packed. I think that's pretty standard -- we all have that, right? Before I started doing that, I would forget to pack contact solution (very bad) and pajamas...while I was staying at people's houses (very very bad). 

I also roll my clothes for packing but not individually! Sorry Marie Kondo! I lay them out on top of each other and put the most wrinkle resistant thing at the "inside" and then roll the whole thing up like a burrito. I think this keeps most of my stuff wrinkle-free since it's not too sharply creased anywhere. Also, it takes like half a minute to do.

Oh, and my liquids and personal care items always always come with me in my carry-on. I am not getting stuck without moisturizer, contact solution, glasses or deodorant, ever. 

I'm not sure how this ended up being a packing tips post - all I really wanted to share was the outfit-photograph-a-day thing, since I found it helpful, but found myself getting really self-righteous about my packing practices the more I thought about it. This is really more of a response to correcting the billion packing mistakes I've made prior than being an actual expert on packing -- but you got yet another packing advice blog post anyway! 


Nail polish, facial serum & moisturizer with SPF (all the hard topics)

Embarrassingly, after my last post lamenting that there's no such thing as "spring black", I passed a number of store windows that were almost entirely spring/summer black. I stand corrected, World. 

Last week was the Spring Bust Craftacular and I was excited to see that Floss Gloss would be there, as I only find a few of their polishes at local shops vs the whole inventory so I was happy to see them on the docket. I was also excited to see Armour lip gloss on the list but they haven't expanded any of their vegan glosses and I already have all 3 of the vegan ones so I give up there until something changes. (I would link it for you but when I tried to visit their site I just got a warning that I "might see naked people I know" spam so, good luck to you if you embark on your own.)

Floss Gloss is a vegan brand of 5-free nail polish. Their brushes are shorter than most polish brushes so it's easier (for me) to handle. I totally recommend the polish brand -- the colors are great, the manis last a while, the brush makes application easier and I love that they advertise that they're a vegan brand. (I have about 6 of their colors and I'm sure they've all made appearances on my IG in my wildly unpopular Instagram mani posts.) At this point when I buy new polish, it's almost all Floss Gloss. My only other go-to is the LVX gel top coat (it forgives many sins).

^ Floss Gloss's El Capitan ^

Also this isn't an endorsement of that lip balm 
- it was a beauty box item that I've been trying to use up 

In DIY news, I tried to make another round of carrot seed oil facial serum that didn't smell like...well, carrot seed oil. The smell goes away almost immediately after application but still, who needs to smell like a damp forest log even temporarily? 

What do you do with this serum? Add it to your daily moisturize to help moisturize -- carrot seed oil is supposed to be a good "anti-aging" oil, which basically means it's moisturizing and can maybe temporarily help with fine lines but let's be honest. If something is truly "anti-aging" it's some dark magic shit. 

This serum is basically jojoba as a carrier oil with carrot seed oil and then lavender to cut the carrot seed smell. (Basic 3-ingredient serum recipe I used.) It worked only minimally better than the carrot seed oil on it's own. This is what I get for trying to recreate a really expensive brand's serum! I suspect the carrot seed oil needs to be cold-pressed to have less of an odor but until I'm done with this bottle and try a cold-pressed carrot seed oil, I guess I'll never know. There is suspiciously little about carrot seed oil and masking its disgusting smell online so if you have some insider knowledge, please lay it on me. 

^   the whole thing is like 2oz of jojoba oil, 
maybe 4 drops of the offending carrot seed oil 
and 6 drops of lavender oil  ^

In final skincare news, I've been trying to find a non-thick, non-greasy SPF 30+ daily moisturizer that's vegan (and thusly also not tested on animals). You'd think someone would have this on lockdown by now and product choice would be pretty obvious but, nope. I bought an Andalou BB oil control cream thinking the "oil control" part of it would mean it wasn't thick. This could not have been a more incorrect assumption, but I am trying to use it anyway. Then -- insult to injury and making me wonder exactly how old my brain is -- in cleaning out my makeup and skincare stuff, I found not one but two SPF 30 Andalou creams I was using earlier in the year, so I don't know how I'm going to get through all of them. I have to add a serum because they're so thick and once summer proper hits, these will be a no-go. Then, to really just layer on the buyer's remorse, I learned that there's an SPF 30 serum you can mix with your regular moisturizer made by Andalou. The For the Love of Vegan Makeup FB group is great...but just a moment too late on that one, damn it.

^ the day I found 2 more of the same product I just bought already in my house ^

I think that's all I have in makeup and skincare news. 

In non-makeup and skincare news, I:
  • Have started watching Orphan Black like 20 years too late (OMG! I love her)
  • Am hugging my not-so-healthy cat Ollie a lot, and just staring at her a lot, too
  • Rewarded myself with a new Sonny Angel (not eco) for doing my laundry the first time in like 2 months (super eco) because I'm an adult and I can do what I want
  • Am learning how to use my new Instant Pot (minimally eco re energy usage but not in buying a new thing)


Spring Black

Technically it's spring but I'm still not feeling it. Not only is it not warm but I'm really not feeling the switch to spring fashion featured in every apparel storefront. Would it kill them to not focus on flowers or bicycles every year? Can we get some kind of goth summer theme going one year?

I'm also slowly realizing that I'll have to wear different clothes for different weather. What a drag! I didn't realize how completely comfortable I am in what I wear. I barely have to think about getting dressed any longer. It's really down to:

  • black denim or blue denim with a boxy shirt and black shoes of some sort + necklace
  • short dress with leggings underneath and black shoes of some sort + necklace 
  • ...okay that's it
This is what I look like almost every day in the colder months. Ubiquitous leopard print Baggu bag. Either my army green jacket or my Vaute Couture black Emily. Those jeans are actually supposed to be skinny jeans...after I saw that picture, I finally retired them. 

^ hat: Askidas ^
^ jacket & jeans/sweatshop ^
^ sneakers: Keep neoprene Homers ^

There is something really comforting about just wearing the same stuff all the time. If I want to feel better about it, I just throw on some Aromi matte liquid lipstick. Speaking of...I am almost done using all the leftover samples I had from getting vegan beauty boxes for about a year. And I'm culling what just doesn't work, no matter how many times I want it to. Case in point - this mascara. It smells delightful and is supposedly made with tea. Yum! However, it's Raccoon Eye City on an average day. 

^ getting honest about 100% Pure mascara ^

So, it's almost spring and then it will be summer and I can't wear jeans all the time any more. Fashion themes: decidedly not-black. Painful. I'll have to dig out some dresses and get used to new "uniforms" all over again. I got a little panicked that I wouldn't have enough roomy sack dresses to loiter my way through summer in and ordered this gray parachute-material dress from Make It Good and an Everlane cotton dress. I also had my eye on this Uzi dress and this Mary Meyer dress (both cotton). For the record, I already have 2 gray parachute material dresses from Make It Good from last year, but they at least have prints on them. That's different enough that I can get a third, right? I can't help that it's the most comfortable, durable, not sweaty material ever.

Speaking of new stuff. I also bought these Matt & Nat shoes - I am not usually in love with white soles but I did like these and they're plenty comfy. 

In preparation for hot weather footwear, I got these Insecta shoes from Mooshoes:

Now that you know my bank account is empty...how are you dealing with impending Spring? Excited? Not so much? 


Sorting through the stuff of someone you love who passed away

Recently I participated in the event every anti-cluttering expert gives specific but kind advice about: the sorting through stuff of the deceased. This is the first time I've had to do this. When my grandfather passed, my grandmother still lived in their house. She actually spent almost a year leading up to her passing carefully distributing specific items to the people she wanted to have them. I got dishes, a doll collection and jewelry over the course of a year. 

But then she passed away and while she cleared out a ton off stuff and therefore no one needed to be concerned about her wishes for specific items (thank you, Grandma!), my grandmother had a bit of Depression-era stockpiling in her and so there was still a lot more to go through. 

I showed up with my mother on the designated day, prepared to take only what I could use or what I felt was very dear to me. It worked well -- for a while. But I found old stuff I stored there (okay, that's my responsibility), stuff my own mother had made for me (okay, I guess that's mine to figure out what to do with), stuff that struck an oddly resonant tone with me (her vanity, her perfume bottle, her blush brush, her pasta maker), stuff I wanted (vintage servingware, cake decorations, vintage Lefton mermaid and resin seashorses)...and then after several hours of sorting, it just all came crashing down. Well, obviously I need at least a few pieces of her everyday Corelle dishes so I have that pattern in my house. Well, my family really is pushing for someone to bring this serving plate home so I guess I can take it. Well, I guess I can use a bunch of jars, even if they have water-soluable frog transfers on them. 

^ vintage Lefton mermaid ^

My living room ended up filled with boxes and boxes in addition to a vanity that I still need to put somewhere. Our kitchen table and counter was filled with dishes, serving platters, jars.

^ double-decker serving dish & dessert decorations ^

I'm still sorting through everything. Some of it is more precious than the rest. Some of it is mine to get rid of (my rock collection!) but it is all in my home. It is all scattered around my apartment. 

^ her perfume and compact blush brush ^

Considering the advice that clutter coaches give, I'm not sure I did the right thing. I feel like the sheer amount of stuff in my place is overwhelming. I am trying to incorporate some of it into daily life, and that feels good. I want it to be like an expert card dealer when they shuffle - one side of the deck just seamlessly fits into the other to form a complete deck. She is me and I am her to an extent and sure, why doesn't our stuff just feel that way, too? Having some of it in our home feels like always being able to wear my grandmother's ring or jacket -- just some way she seamlessly is with me and I've very purposely placed her memory upon me. But on the other hand, I am overwhelmed. 

^ her pasta maker ^

I know I won't keep all of it and I've given some of the stuff foisted on me away already. (And I did so even when I was getting stuff directly from her when it was costume jewelry or the like -- I'd already received dozens of rounds of stuff and sometimes I think she was just giving to move it or to show she was thinking about us.) I know I won't keep it all. And an interesting side effect is that I don't want one more thing to pass through our front door threshold and into our apartment. I feel like one new item in our apartment and it will implode. There's a benefit to that, I guess, and I wish I felt it more often and not just now. 

I think maybe holding this stuff a while will let me see what we can reasonably use, what we need to keep. It will help with the attachment issues. It will not be me making decisions with family members who desperately wanted someone who knew her and loved her to take her stuff. It will just be me and her memory and what feels right.

I am sure I didn't follow any of the clutter coach advice correctly. I thought I would. I really did. I've been known to ask my mother if she wants gifts she gave me back before I cull them because I know she liked them enough to buy them vs just having it disappear from my apartment (I know, horrible). I thought I'd be better about not taking too much. But when I was faced with her empty -- and emptying -- house, and pleading family looks, it just fell apart. And that's okay. For now.


Plastic brings out the best and worst of people

I've been reading Plastic: a Toxic Love Story recently and I was hoping it would give me a better sense of which plastics are horrible and which plastics are mildly redeemable in our usage of them. (Maybe they off-gas less or are "cleaner" to make or are more recyclable.) So far it hasn't done much of that but it's still been a worthwhile read, featuring facets of plastic I hadn't thought about much. 

For instance, I had no idea that plastic (or early plastics like celluloid or resins) replaced the use of animal parts in so much -- insulation, billiard balls, combs, jewelry -- because it could mimic the look of a carapace, ivory, bug-based shellac, whatever and was easier to secure. Sweet - that's great less animals are dying to become "stuff" for people. As the types and qualities of plastics expanded, things got cheaper and more accessible and production abilities ramped up so now instead of your 1 comb, you could have a billion combs. (Or, more realistically, 10 combs.) But who needs 10 combs? With the ease of production, there's the question of stuff we "need" to produce so everyone can have a good quality of life (combs? medical supplies?) vs stuff we "want" to produce (billiard balls) where maybe the positives don't outweigh the negative impact of producing such an item. But no one is poised to make the judgement call but the manufacturers (looking to make a buck) and consumers (looking to make their lives better, whether based on aspiration, lesiure or convenience). 

Plastic is hard to avoid. In usage by us in daily life and in its aftermath - from the impossibility of recycling everything we use to how it impacts our world (sea life animals' guts clogged with plastic, Great Pacific Garbage Patch, etc. x 1,000). While there are benefits (sparing animals, hygienic medical supplies, sturdy plumbing or insulation products) it's still impossible not to think, "Wow, if we didn't buy so much junk, we wouldn't be pressed to find new materials to produce them. And if we didn't think we were entitled to everything, we wouldn't expect them to be on demand and cheap." 

Planned obsolescence is a part of this big plastic picture, although it doesn't have to be. The quote below struck me:

To call monobloc chairs unethical because they're flimsy and ugly and not because of what they're made out of struck me as funny, unreasonable, irresponsible. But the parameters that Fehlbaum values are design and quality, not whether the material itself is inherently bad for the environment. Things you will use and keep. There's still a ton of vintage Kartell kicking around (and probably plenty out of commission) but I wonder how often you hit that kind of design and quality luck? Or is that something that is made by us, by our culture? By the expectation that you keep and take care of the things you use instead of cycling through them.

It's the same with apparel, really. So many people go on shopping fasts or pare down their closets to an arbitrary number because that's really the only social construct we have right now that says "hey, this is a thing to do." While the fad of limiting our wardrobes is still on-going, it's less novel now. Hopefully some of us are keeping the "less is more" thought as a way to live. But it is not a societal norm yet for lots of reasons. We haven't reached that tipping point yet to have it become normal and I'm sure advertising, a pushback for aspirational luxury from the elite, convenience and the muddied mixed messaging of "get rid of your old non-eco stuff and replace it with all new" or "buy only the 'right' items for you and cull the rest" impossible holy grail will keep it from happening any time soon. 

Plastic is, of course, like any technology humankind develops or stumbles upon. We can do responsible, good things with it and we can do horrible things with it. But I have a feeling we all have a different scale as to what's justified and what's just truly horrible, dangerous and wasteful. 


Cheap and easy geometric necklace DIY

After my incredible victory with re-stringing my geometric wood bead necklace (see it in its glory here), I started thinking that maybe I could make my own necklace. I started poking around Etsy for some appropriate things to string together to make a necklace (most commonly referred to as "beads" I guess) but quickly became overwhelmed by the holy-shit-woah number of beads on Etsy.

After seeing a few polymer bead necklaces on Pinterest, and finding out that it's vegan, I started to think that maybe I could be so DIY that I could make my own beads. Ignore, for a moment, that Sculpey conjures images of psychedelic starburst bead adorned bongs and weird miniature fake troll babies made of polymer clay (true story - I secretly love those). It just might work. And how hard could making some shapes be, anyway?

I found myself at an arts & crafts store, staring down their Sculpey rack with "do or die" running through my head. (Fine, it was more like, "Man, Two Boots' vegan pizza is right around the corner. I'm so hungry.") I picked out a bunch of colors because I realized this stuff is pretty cheap. I was tempted to just get like 6 packs of black and black glitter and call it a day but I decided to live a little. 

^ loooook at all my Premo! ^

I laid out a flexi cutting board (that I'd no longer be putting foodstuffs on) and started mushing around one color, with the idea that I'd construct some shapes similar to both the necklace I mentioned above and also other necklackes I've seen around town. 

I rolled some very "organic" shaped round beads by rolling them around on the mat. (Example: wonky blue piece.) After my boyfriend made a few observant comments about the artsy-craftsy nature of my effort with perhaps some concern in his voice, I figured out that if you use just your palm, the beads come out a little smoother. (See: pink marbled bead.) The cylinders came out uneven until I used a flat surface to roll it out (I used the surface area of a full Sculpey pack). I used a small knife to trim the ends off of both cylinders to make them look neater. 

Since I knew I'd want to weight the necklace correctly, I paid attention to how many bars of Sculpey each bead took to make. The blue bead was 2. The gray cylinder was 1. The pink bead was 1.5 -- and the black tube was going to be in the middle so its weight didn't matter. 

^ these are the shapes I made, inspired by other necklaces ^

I needed to create holes to thread the necklace cord through. With the round beads and the small cylinder beads it was not a problem. I used a wooden skewer and made sure to move it around a bunch so the hole would be big enough to thread cord through. The black curved tube was a bit more challenging. I was able to use the skewer to make a pretty big hole through the straight tube and then carefully bent it into the shape I wanted - and just hoped for the best. (Well, I bent it and then carefully unbent it to neurotically check to make sure the hollow was still intact. About 10 times.) Once I trimmed the ends, I needed to reinforce the hole again but the clean edges seemed to stay intact despite the re-holing efforts. These all went in the toaster oven at 275 for 30 minutes. That's right! Not even the real oven. It wasn't as fun as my old Holly Hobby Easy-Bake oven where I essentially used a lightbulb to "cook" cake when I was 7 or Creepy Crawlies where I used some weird plug in cauldron to make the best gummy bugs ev...er. But still pretty neat. 

^ all baked and ready to thread ^

Thankfully {insert all holes were okay comment without sounding gross} and I was able to thread the cord through with no problems. With the curved tube I was able to thread it by staring it on one side and giving it a jostle until it went all the way through. Basically I'm the best at this stuff, I guess. 

Then I went ahead and finished my necklace by knotting each bead into place with some consideration as to weight. It's not exactly weighted but it's such a small difference that the necklace lays the right way when worn. 

I left that orange speck in the granite cylinder purposely, after noticing it happened accidentally.  I just liked it. Plus, lazy.

So, there you have it. My cheap and easy geometric shape necklace.


3 ingredient facial cleanser DIY

I feel like I blacked out back in early January and just woke up right in February. I'm grateful, I guess. Who wants to actually experience January in the northeast US anyway?

While it's been milder than usual, we have had some legit winter weather and when that starts to kick in, I usually swap out my facial cleanser and moisturizer. The cold and wind make my skin cranky and I go a little gentler on the cleanser front. And obviously - like most humans with skin - cold weather and dry radiator heat tend to make me need a heavier moisturizer. 

When I was still subscribing to vegan beauty boxes, I tried out a simple 3-ingredient cleanser made by an independent company. It was gentle and smelled good and I figured I'd purchase another bottle...until I realized it was $10 for not more than 4 oz. And it only had 3 ingredients. Ingredients which, if purchased separately, would cost me less than $5 to make for the same bottle. I mean...I like to support the little guy and all but a 50% discount was too steep to pass up. And I wouldn't have to get a new container each time.

What you need:

^ ingredients needed ^
- vegetable glycerin (3 oz)
- rosewater (1 oz)
- optional: sweet orange essential oil (a few drops, less than 5)

^  sweet orange essential oil ^ 

It's extremely simple: 3 parts vegetable glycerin and 1 part rosewater. Less than 5 drops of sweet orange essential oil. Pour into a clean bottle. Shake. (The vegetable glycerin and rosewater are a different viscosity so they separate. One will sit right on top of the other unless you mix them.)

^ 3 very thick ounces of vegetable glycerin ^ 

^ I used an empty bottle purchased from the Bach's Rescue Remedy line ^

To use, apply to your wet face and rinse with water. I know that's like most cleansers, although I have one that tells you to apply it dry (it is so weird) so I guess it bears specifying.

Rosewater acts as an astringent so if you need to up that factor in your cleanser, you can increase the ratio of rosewater. 

Learn from my mistakes

Don't try to pour both the vegetable glycerin and rosewater into a glass and try to mix it with a cocktail stirrer. It doesn't mix as well as you might think. You're already going to be pouring it in a bottle with a cap where you can easily mix it by shaking it.

Don't use a teeny tiny funnel for your bottle. The glycerin is just thick enough that it will slow down to droplets and it won't be efficient. A funnel with a hole straw-sized and larger would probably be fine - but that's not what I did.

A note about some essential oils:

Some essential oils (including a bunch of citrus ones) are photo-toxic or can make your skin photo-sensitive (more sensitive to the sun). What can these essential oils do to your skin? It can cause burning or skin pigmentation variable (when exposed to sun). It's also possible to have more severe reactions.

Sweet orange is on a few of the lists for somewhat photo-toxic and on a lot of lists for not being photo-toxic so, up to you! I'm okay with it because it doesn't seem to bother my skin and also it's in a small amount in a cleanser (which I'm washing off my face) vs moisturizer (which would stay on my face.) The original recipe for this cleanser used tea tree oil.

I've really just started reading a few books on essential oils and use in skincare and one of the very first scared-straight lessons I've learned is that it's important to know what's safe on skin, in what dilution and to pay attention to the latin names! (You'll notice lemon and lime variations are on both "yes - burn your skin off" and "no - I'm okay to use" lists.