Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Enough Already!

I've wasted a lot of mental energy thinking about a whether or not to buy a green scarf. Seriously. This simple living thing can get out of hand if you let it.

I haven't yet published the blog about my simple wardrobe colors. I'll get to it eventually, but for now what you need to know is that green is not one of my colors. And therein lies the problem. Green is not one of my colors, and yet I find I want to buy a green scarf.

See, I find I am noticing how pretty bright colors look against black (one of my colors). I've been noticing things like that beautiful woman wearing a bright green scarf against a black shirt. Or that bright green zipper on that black jacket. Or the green suede tops to those black boots...how lovely! Or how the bottom of my new toaster is black and doesn't it look fine against the main green color. Or how the inside of my black purse is a delightful shade of bright green. Or have you noticed how beautiful Smokey Rose's green eyes look against her dark gray fur?

Bright green looks very fine against black. I think I would like to own a pretty green scarf. Just a scarf, not a whole wardrobe. Or possibly a small vest or some shoelaces or maybe even go for broke with some Keds. One or two green accessories that will look nice with all my black clothes. Just for a change.

But my simple living principles rear up and make me have to THINK about this possible purchase...think a LOT about it. Think TOO MUCH about it.

Do I NEED a new scarf? Obviously not.

Am I just being co-opted by our ubiquitous consumer culture? No doubt.

What's wrong with all those other scarves I own? Nothing.

Will I give away an older scarf to make room for the new one? Probably not.

Will this scarf I am thinking about purchasing be made ethically and have a zero carbon footprint? Doubtful.

Will said scarf make me happy? No, I know better than to fall into that trap.

How long will I want to keep this new scarf? Who knows?

On the other hand......

Can I easily afford this scarf? Yes.

Will I end up living under a bridge in my declining years because I did not save and invest the price of this scarf? What do you think?

Will it cause more clutter? No, it will just be hung up with all the other scarves.

Do I have room for the new scarf? Yes, I don't have to live out of a suitcase.

Will I actually wear it? Most probably.

Will I get a complement or two when I wear the pretty new scarf? Possibly.

And if I should get a complement while wearing the new scarf? Well that would be nice wouldn't it?

How long have I been thinking about the idea of purchasing this new scarf? Over a year at least.

Jeeze. This is nuts. Just buy the $%#@! scarf will you?

Monday, January 23, 2012

15 Minutes of Fame

Here we go.


This is the web story all about Smokey Rose & me. The photo above was one of the ones taken by the professional photographer but not used for the story.

If you click back from the story to the main page, there is also a really good close-up of Rosie against some red things that make her look really pretty.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Something New for Smokey Rose

Smokey Rose has a new friend. Her Mom met a woman in the Netherlands  via Postcrossing.com who lives with a big black cat named Woody. Woody has been sending Smokey Rose postcards and messages.

Woody got some great cat yoga cards and sent a nice one to Smokey Rose.

So naturally when Rosie's Mom came home with a new yoga mat, Rosie had to try it out herself to see if she liked this yoga thing.

But she didn't really take to it, and then the next day her Mom took the mat to work to use at an exercise class there. So much for formal study, although Smokey does, on occasion, invent some creative yoga poses.

Woody just wrote to say that his Mom also has ambitions to take exercise classes, but she more often than not ends up reading on the sofa with Woody in her lap. Smokey isn't so keen on her Mom going out in the evening all the time for those classes in Taiko drumming and now Tai Chi, of all things. (Smokey Rose's Mom thinks this will help her with things like "balance", but Rosie does not understand very well this idea that someone could possibly have problems with "balance").

 Rosie hopes her mom will take after Woody's Mom. Rosie's Mom says that she enjoys those evening classes a lot and will probably continue, however she finds the at work exercise class to be difficult. But Mom thinks she will probably continue attending because she is doing it with a whole bunch of her colleagues during work hours right in the building, and her most immediate boss set up the class and is also a student.

Woody seems just to want a friendship with the beautiful Ms Rosie. Probably he had that thing done that took away his interest in lovely lady cats as lady cats. He is just an all round nice fellow.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

MY Simple Wardrobe - Fabrics

 There was a time in my life when I was a natural fiber snob. Only woven cotton, linen, wool (alpaca, cashmere) or silk would ever touch this body. This prejudice had an unfortunate side effect. I had to be addicted to ironing. 

I learned to like ironing. Really, I did. It was satisfying to see that wrinkled fabric become all smooth and pretty because of my ministartions. I never minded ironing at home. It was just the end part of the laundry routine. And, as chores go, I'll pick laundry over floors any day.

But this was in the days before all hotel rooms were stocked with individual irons and boards. Young people, it is true. I know it may seem hard to believe, but back in the old, primitive times, you had to call to the front desk and request that a housekeeper bring you an iron and a board if you needed one. Sometimes this would actually happen before you had to go to bed.... you weren't stupid enough to call and ask for an iron IN THE MORNING were you? 

Hence, a natural fiber snob like myself also had to acquire a travel iron and maybe even a table top ironing board that would fit into a suitcase (as difficult to find them as now). And if you went to Europe or somewhere where they use that funny electricity, you also needed a whole bag full of power adaptors. Travel irons, being small, just don't work well at all. Never did, never will. But even though they are worthless for actual ironing AND they took up about a 1/4 of your suitcase AND added 7 pounds of extra weight, you packed them up anyway, if you were a natural fiber snob like myself. (But at least, these were the days when you could check MORE THAN ONE suitcase for free.)

What happened was that you would arrive at your hotel along with your travel iron. You would discover that the travel iron was virtually worthless when you attempted to iron your shirt for the next day, so, because you had important business meetings, you would just call for the darn hotel iron and ironing board and then guard them jealously for your whole stay. Sometimes you had to wrestle them away from well meaning housekeepers who found that vacuuming the carpet around a set up ironing board to be difficult.  "No, please, leave it! If you take it away, you'll just have to bring it back again this evening!" When it came time to pack up, you would look at the travel iron and decide it was not worth the space and extra weight to pack the silly thing to take home, so you would leave the travel iron in the hotel room. (Besides, you had acquired great stuff from your brief time shopping in the city that you don't live in, stuff that you needed space for in your suitcase.)

So, back in those days, it was difficult to travel and manage to look nice in those natural fiber clothes.

I imagine that after awhile, probably at the International Important Hoteliers Association Annual Meeting, a brilliant young go-getter from Marriot / Hilton / Sofitel presented a seminar entitled something like "An Iron in Every Room: How to Win the Brand Loyalty of the Natural Fiber Wearing Traveler, An Underapreciated  Market Segment" and the rest is history. Probably they had found that selling all those abandoned travel irons by the pound to shipping companies for use as ballast just wasn't the revenue center people thought it should be, and after awhile it became apparent that Something Had To Be Done.

The risk of putting an iron in every room was probably minimal.  Guests who had thrown out travel irons because they were too heavy were unlikely to be light fingered with a full size iron. Besides, these guests all probably had better quality full sized irons waiting for them to return home. And guests who arrived with nothing but polyester permapressed clothes probably would not get natural fibre religion from the mere sight of a potentially steal-able hotel iron. 

But I digress.

One day I looked around and noticed how the women who were my mom's age (Mom included) were all dressing all the time in polyester permapressed pant suits, usually in pretty pastel colors. What's with that? Why did they only want clothes made of petroleum products when there were so many gorgeous natural fibers to be had?

Somehow memories from my childhood helped me figure it out. I recalled things like wringer washing machines, clothes lines, ironing boards and electric mangles (machines that had a large, hot rotating drum  that ironed things like sheets and towels....yes, towels.) I recalled how our fathers all had underwear that was ironed. I recalled how doing laundry was a MAJOR CHORE for women my Mom's age.

No wonder Mom and girlfriends all found polyester to be a true miracle from on high. Polyester! Not only did it never get wrinkles in the first place, if you ever tried ironing, it would MELT.

About the time I figured that out, two things happened in the clothing industry. First people started making more things than tee shirts from cotton KNIT fabric.  It was my beloved cotton, but it never needed ironing.

Next, someone invented PolarFleece. OMG! Soft, cuddly, warm, bright, colorful, washable, dries in a flash. If it weren't for the whole melting if you get it too close to flame thing, it would be absolutely perfect. And if that weren't enough, they came up with microfiber.  Polyester to die for.

Cotton knit, PolarFleece and microfiber, now those are my kind of fabrics. Add in a little bit of lambswool, alpaca and cashmere for sweaters, socks, scarves, hats, gloves and mittens, and there you have it....totally simple fabrics.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

MY Simple Wardrobe - The Theory

Sooner or later every simplicty writer has to write about clothes. It's very popular to describe how the writer succeeded in simplfying her wardrobe. (I haven't seen a guy write about this, which is not to say that guys don't write about this. But I kind of think it might just be a gal kind of thing to be interested in what other women...er, people... wear.)

So far I haven't yet seen my theory about developing a simple wardrobe described, so I thought it time to do this. I believe that theories are very useful. They help you figure out what to do in a specific situation that you have not encountered before. What you do is to apply the general concepts to the specific situation and there's your answer about what to do.

I think I do have a simple wardrobe, but my way to simplicty is clearly different from others. It seems to me that for many people simplicty is all about numbers ....how few clothes the person owns. That certainly is a legitimate way to think about this. I lable this the "Suitcase Theory." It's all about whether or not you can throw ALL your clothes into a normal size suitcase.

I can't throw all my clothes into a suitcase, normal or otherwise. I have too many of them. That's because I follow the Laundry Theory for a simple wardrobe. For me it's all about being the most efficient laundress. I simplify my wardrobe in order to simplify my launrdy.

Let's start by outlining the issues I'm dealing with that made me develop this theory. Here are my limitaions - I live alone and I do my laundry in a public laundry area where I have to feed quarters into the machine. I aim never to spend unnecessary quarters, and I need to be wearing some kind of regular clothes when I do the laundry. I always wonder what the suitcase crowd wears on laundry day. I guess it's not really a problem if the machine is in one of your own closets.

I can't do washing naked; the building mangement would have words with me if I were to try, and besides that's chilly, and you don't really want to see me naked in the laundry room either, do you? No, you do not.  And I don't belong to the generation that finds it  ok to go outside the confines of your home in your pajamas.  I know, I know. I'd be perfectly covered up in my pajamas (plus a big robe too, if it were me). It's just that I don't do that.  So I can't need to wash everything I own all at once. At least one outfit - the doing laundry outfit, I would call it - needs to be left out for the next time.

I did not select the kind of washing machine I use. It happens that our laundry uses those vertical axis, water efficient models .. good, good, good. But the drums in our machines are big, and if you don't have them really full with clothes, they don't do the final spin cycle correctly, and you end up with a pile of totally dripping wet clothes that have trippled their weight with retained water (no matter what time of the month it is).  Then you  need to do one of the following ( I speak from experience here):
1) have another go in the washer with more stuff added, hoping that you have achieved the necessary clothes to space ratio to make the spin cycle actually work or
2) use about 6 hours in the dryer set to high or
3) have all the clothes hanging all over the apartment dripping water onto the floor the whole time it takes to air dry - about 3 days even with living in a desert.

The bottom line - I have to generate  full loads of laundry every time myself without the help of  a partner, roommate or children. From what I understand this would be a cinch if I had kids. I believe that a baby generates its own weight in dirty clothes in about 2 hours - really dirty clothes that add up fast. I'd be able to just toss my few things in for the ride every day if I had a baby living with me. But I have found that Smokey Rose is of no help in this matter of developing full laundry loads. And somehow acquiring a baby in order to develop full laundry loads fast does not seem like an overall good plan to me; I can see a lot of drawbacks to that idea, not all related to clothing.

Also, being female, I believe in separating clothes and washing things according to their individual requirements. I believe that a women  (aka me) would wash every piece of clothing individually if she thought she could get away with it, each with it's own water amount and temperature, soap type and amount, washing timing in the various parts of the cycles, and, of course, the drying method and time. So many decisions just to keep your clothes in tip top condition!

(In my experience a fellow just dumps everything all together into the washer, uses the hot water cycle, and adds an indiscriminate amount of Tide plus an extra large amount of Clorox. Then everything goes into the dryer on high with enough quarters inserted to buy about 3 hours of drying time - the amount of time that game takes, I believe.  I've seen them do it more often than I can count. It makes me want to weep.)

This means I not only have to generate a full load of clothes myself, but that said load must consist of clothes that can all be washed together at the same time. A load of whites, a load of darks, a load of other colors, a delicate load, a study load.........

So - we're getting to the bottom line here - I own lots of clothes. Enough to make a minimalist say "OMG" and stumble out of the room holding her hand over her eyes. But here's the key ... everything is the same.

I have a drawerful of the same kind of underpants and half drawerful of the same kind of bras. I do have a few different styles of camisoles (the other half of the bra drawer.), but I also have a lot of camisoles.

I have a lot of socks. A lot of socks. I have handknit about half of my socks mostly for the sake of hand knitting socks. But I also engage in the activity known as purchasing socks ..  in multiples at least once a .... well, let's just say, often. They are inexpensive, colorful, and Smith's Marketplace ALWAYS has two for one coupons available in the sock department.  I don't get the idea that socks are not fun and interesting and that it's possible to own to many. To many socks? I sneer at that idea. Besides socks actually wear out and become cleaning rags quite easily. See? Simple living in action.

But even with all that,  I could wash every single piece of underwear and foot coverings that I own at the same time and still not succeed in having  everything emerge spun out and semi-dry. Hence all the knit shirts that are the same style. As well as the knit trousers that are very, very similar to each other. Add in a couple of pair of pajamas, and I've got a full load about once every 3 weeks! Ya Hoo! (or, because I'm Buddhist, "Gate! Gate!" [say it like gah-tey]) Laundry room, here I come!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Growing a Community Around Me

The Zen Center is just a house now. The buildings have  been sold to an architect who is going to do something or another with them. There was a ceremony to de-sanctify the space a few weeks ago. I didn't attend. I haven't been there for many months..maybe February? It is quite amazing how fast and how totally splintered the old sangha become. We broke like a glass bowl.

I have lost the larger sangha that I used to have, but I have to say I have probably gained a better one over this year. Some of my new sangha members are part of the Zen center diaspora, the ones like me who just could not go back once the damage had been done. The heart of my new community is the Jizo Knitting Circle which continues and gets stronger and bigger all the time. We have transferred our association to the Great Vow Zen Center in Corbett, Oregon, the center founded by Jan Chozen Bays. We began as Zen practitioners knitting, but now only a few of us are Buddhists. We no longer talk about the center very much at all except to look back with a bit of nostalgia for time to time.

What has happened is that beginning with the seed friends form Jizo, my circle of friends has expanded and expanded and expanded. Knitting is probably the thing my new community has most in common, but not everyone that I think as part of my life fabric knits.

Still there is a lot of knitting. The most regular group for me meets on Sunday afternoon in downtown Salt Lake a coffee & tea shop called the Rose Establishment. When we first began, we tried a variety of venues around town, but ended up at the Rose as our permanent home. There is plenty of room. Most of us can get there quite easily. The food and drinks are really good and the folks that work there just love having us there. We had a great holiday party there in December, with a while elephant yarn exchange. We intend that this is the First Annual Holiday Yarn Exchange at the Rose.
Sometimes I join many of the same people on Friday mornings for knitting at Coffee Garden. But this group begins at 0600 before work, and I am NOT a morning person. It doesn't matter..if I do show up, I am always welcome by my knitting friends.

And then there is the taiko drumming withe the Kenshin Taiko Group. Only a few of the center refugees go to that, but I am a regular now and I love it. This takes place at the local Japanese Church of Christ. This amazes me. I have not done any music myself since grade school which hardly counts. I really am pretty musically impaired. But the teachers from Kenshin are unfazed. They teach me anyway, and I am learning. I can do 2 songs from memory quite well after only a few weeks, have had lessons in two others and am concentrating on a 5th one right now. I just love those big drums, and I do not want to miss the drumming classes at all.

Of course, I have my friends from work and Red ButteSundance is starting up again. We are a tight little group at the Rose Wagner...we even have our own Facebook page. I joined the Osher Institute and have signed up for some classes and events that will begin soon. I'm now a member of the university faculty club, but those meetings often conflict with drumming classes, and drumming is my priority. I'm thinking of doing Tai Chi classes at the Red Lotus School. I transferred my local Zen loyalty to the Boulder Mountain Zen Center although I don't attend as often as I should.

A few years ago when I was attending a series of women's group with Diane Musho Hamilton we were asked to set a personal goal to work on. I decided I was getting tired of moving from place to place all the time so my goal was to "pick a place to stay and to grow a community around me." Reflecting on this year, I realize that is exactly what I have done.