I Love Japan

You know what I love? Being able to listen to a song whenever I want. The other day I remembered a song I discovered in high school. I think it was high school. College? I don’t know. Anyway, it was Forbidden Colours by Ryuichi Sakamoto and David Sylvian from the soundtrack of Merry Christmas, Mr. Laurence. I was very into the band Japan and lead singer David Sylvian in high school. My friend Steve had turned me onto Japan. We listened to a lot of obscure music. So, I found the song on Spotify and it took me down a Sakamoto rabbit hole. I started to think about my lifelong love affair with Japan. 

I suppose it has something to do with my dad’s love of asian culture. Growing up, my brother and I went to Judo class with my dad every week. I learned a few words in Japanese, but mostly how to count to ten. The Japanese family that ran the place were so warm and friendly and I was very in awe of the two teenage daughters who were black belts. I didn’t make it past the white belt. But I have such fond memories of going to the dojo, that smell of sweaty canvas…

My dad was fascinated by the Samurai ‘Way of the Warrior” and tried to instill in us the values of discipline, selflessness, honor and knowledge. I remember sitting through Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai when I was 6 or 7 years old. It was subtitled. Everything we did, or said we couldn’t do, my dad encouraged us to focus, to persevere, to approach it with resolve. That Zen mindset was repeatedly instilled in everything my dad taught me.

In addition to Judo and Samurai and Buddhism, my dad loved asian food. He still does. He taught himself to cook when he became a single father and so my brother and I grew up eating stirfry tofu and cabbage and many other things white kids living in the 70s never heard of. He cooked a variety of Asian dishes and shopped at the neighborhood Japanese market, the Mikado. We ate with chopsticks a lot of the time, and the running joke in my family is that my dad eats ice cream with chopsticks.

Later, I became more than a little obsessed with Japanese fashion when I got a book on it for Christmas that introduced me to designers like Yohji Yamamoto, Rei Kawabuki and Issey Miyake as well as the rich tradition and history of Japanese clothing. I almost chose a career in fashion.

I went to art school and majored in photography. It was in college that I tried Sushi for the first time. I worked for a photographer who would treat us to dinner. One time he asked me, “Do you like Sushi?” I had never eaten raw fish but didn’t want to look uncultured so I tried it. To this day, it’s my favorite food. It was also in college that I studied Japanese novelist Yukio Mishima. I read The Sound of Waves and Forbidden Colors and I saw the movie about his life, Mishima, Life in Four Chapters which was like nothing I’d ever seen.

After college I saw the movie Dreams by Akira Kurosawa. It’s a compilation of short segments based on his dreams, ranging from beautiful to terrifying. And later I saw probably his most famous movie, Ran. And I rewatched Seven Samurai. I appreciated it more as an adult. It’s so good. 

My brother got heavily into Japanese anime and convinced me to watch My Neighbor Totoro by Hayao Miyazaki with my kids. It was a big hit. So amazing. I loved it. So was so unlike anything made for kids in the US. 

That’s just a few things that I love about Japan. Now, if I could just find some way to visit.

How to Style Sneakers (aka Trainers)

How to Style Sneakers (aka Trainers)

I love sneaker outfits… on other people. I see photos, on Instagram and Pinterest, but when I try them on me, well, it never seems to work. Or I don’t even attempt it. Most days, lacing and unlacing shoes seems too ambitious. Then, I got inspired by a vlog by Brittany Bathgate which prompted me to put together these outfits with the four pairs of sneakers I own. I tried to do two outfits per pair but it was late afternoon and then I lost the light so the last pair only has one outfit.

Why do I try on outfits and take mirror selfies? Because I can’t tell what clothes look like on me by looking at them on their hangers. And because it curbs my appetite for new clothes. My goal is to only buy a small number of items each year. “Shopping my closet” is one way to figure out what I want to add or even IF I need to add anything. It also helps me define what my style is. I can go back through my photos whenever I need an outfit idea.

I recently added these Veja sneakers which are made with natural rubber. I saw them everywhere (online) and waited a really long time before purchasing them. They are more than I normally spend on sneakers but now that I have them and worn them, they are definitely worth it. I am willing to spend a little more on a sustainable brand. I also like that they can be styled a lot of ways.

The black Vans are also relatively new. Again, a style I saw everyone wearing. I probably didn’t need them since I have the Pumas which have a very similar look. Once they’re as broken in and comfy, I’ll probably donate the Pumas. Lastly, I have the New Balance pair which are cream and gold. They are so comfortable. I bought them used on Poshmark and love their retro look.

Four pairs of casual sneakers is not all that exciting but I’m very happy with them. And I promise I’ll wear them more often.

(You can see what I’ve purchased this year on this Pinterest board. Some of the items are sustainable. I don’t get any commission from any sales.)

#sneakers #trainers #tennisshoes #gymshoes

I See You Patagonia

I See You Patagonia

I was born second.

So I got the hand-me-downs. Even though my older sibling was a boy. Let’s be honest, my parents were frugal. God, how I hate that word. My dad was a penny-pincher and my mom learned to be really good at shopping at yard sales. I didn’t know my clothes were weird until maybe middle school. From an early age I looked for ways to make money so I could buy the clothes the cool girls had. I stretched my budget by shopping at thrift stores and tailoring clothes I found.

Now, I can buy pretty much anything I want – the newest, the trendiest, clothes, only ever worn by me. Only now I know there’s more involved. A worldwide crisis of over consumption, pollution and human exploitation. No fair. Now I have the money. But now I have a conscience.

I still fall for the “newer, better” trap. But every piece of clothing, or anything really, that I bring into my home, I fret over. How am I contributing to the problem? When I decide I no longer need or want an item, then what? Who will use it and care for it now? I have constant nightmares about the landfill.

Recently I was online shopping on the Patagonia‘s web site. And let me mention quickly, I have always felt like Patagonia is priced out of my reach. Also, I don’t feel like I’m that outdoorsy. I wish. But I dream. So, I was browsing. I’ve become a little obsessed about a particular jacket, the Retro Pile Jacket in the ‘Pelican’ color. It’s $139. So, I’m on the fence, also I don’t need it since I got something similar for my birthday last year. But that doesn’t keep me from looking at it and checking stock. Then I stumbled upon Patagonia’s WORN WEAR. This “Used Gear” link on their web site takes you away from their new product, directly to used stock. I got excited. It pretty groundbreaking for a brand to encourage you to not buy their new stuff, but their used stuff. But not surprising since Patagonia basically invented sustainability and have probably been rolling their eyes every time someone mentions the idea, like they just thought of it.

I LOVE that they are positioning used clothing almost at the same (perceived) value as new. With a stylish web interface within the main site. I mean, it’s a two part benefit: save money, because I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels like they can’t afford $139 for a jacket, AND save the planet. Also, how smart are they to brand their clothing as pretty much indestructible? They don’t have to brand it as such, I think it is very durable. So, it’s not too expensive. It’s priced right. If you’ve seen the documentary The True Cost, you know, if it’s cheap, someone is “paying” for it. I also saw that Patagonia (in the before times) hosted pop-up repair… um parties? Events? Festivals? I mean, they are doing it all.

Another brand I’ve been loving lately, COS, also has a buy used feature on their site. COS Resell. How interesting is it that brands are now co-opting used sales instead of leaving it to eBay, ThredUp, Poshmark, Vestiaire Collective… Patagonia and COS both offer to buy your old product and sell it. Similar to ThredUp.

And this leads me to think, you can tell people all you want that used is better for the planet as well as your wallet, but until people feel equally fashionable, it’s going to be a tough sell. The fashion industry has dumped billions of dollars into making you fell sexy when you wear new, and like the second (or third or fourth born) when you wear used. What if we could make used clothes as chic as new? I mean, we pay hundreds of dollars for ripped jeans?? And Golden Goose sneakers… I think the youngest generation is ahead of us. They fully embrace “vintage” and shop thrift stores like it’s the coolest thing ever. Used clothes have the benefit of being rarer. You won’t be wearing the same thing as everyone else. I “knew” this back when I was in high school but still acted like new was better. As soon as I had more money, I turned my nose up at GoodWill.

That’s something to think about when you’re out shopping, or in shopping. Am I being brain washed into buying new? Can “pre-loved” be cooler? Let’s promote that idea. Let’s hunt for unique, stylish, durable, interesting garments. And support those brands that think the same way.

Where I Get My Jeans

Where I Get My Jeans

I recently went through all my jeans (and other pants) and ended up donating a few pairs that just weren’t working for me. Among the pairs that were lovingly passed on to a new home were: the GAP black cropped jeans, the AG skinny jeans, the H&M boyfriend jeans, the JCrew jeans, the GAP army green chinos, and the Topshop black trousers. All were too big except the JCrew ones. They were just completely worn out.

So that was six items, edited out of my closet. I didn’t need to replace them, but ultimately I found these three:

SHOPBOP: Levi’s Wedgie Icon Fit Jeans $98

I have been dreaming of a pair of “real Levi’s”, like the ones I had in high school. Were they really that good, or is that just how I remember them? I’d heard rave reviews of Re/Done jeans. Would I ever spend $300 (and up) for one pair of denim? I finally thought I would so I contacted them to make sure I chose the correct size. I heard they work with customers to find their perfect fit, from exact measurements. That turned out to be untrue. I was worrying about paying for shipping if I had to return them, so I did some digging and as you know, a little digging on the internet turns up dirt. I was so turned off so I pivoted to: new Levi’s. I found a pair of vintage-looking jeans on Shopbop (which has free shipping both ways with an Amazon partnership) for “only” $98. I chose my current size, a 28, and with 99% cotton and 1% spandex, they were only somewhat uncomfortable. I washed them and … still good. I actually could have gone down to a 27 (If I wanted the true Levi’s experience of not being able to sit or eat.)

STYLE ENCORE (Thrift Shop): AG PRIMA ANKLE $12

Finding a good pair of jeans at a thrift store is like finding a needle in a haystack. I had just gotten rid of a pair of Adriano Goldschmied jeans that were perfect except that they were a little too big and then I lost a little weight and so they were a lot too big. I couldn’t believe my luck when I found these. I love their wash, their length, and their overall fit. The rise is a little low but I’m willing to overlook it. I took some items in to sell at Style Encore, my local used clothing store, and so I ended up netting money on that trip. I’ve had good luck with AG jeans for my husband as well. He tried on a pair in-store in NYC, then searched for a used pair on Poshmark. Always check if you can find your favorite brands pre-loved first. (Found these on Zappos, if you’re interested.)

MADEWELL: MILITARY STRAIGHT PANTS $88

Ok, yeah, I know: not “jeans.” I really love a pair of army pants, especially with classic front patch pockets. They’re a closet staple for me. These are so similar to the GAP pair I had to let go, but better since they are exceedingly high-waisted and fit like a dream. I went down one size to a 27 and they feel tailor-made. I have always had good luck with Madewell and they continue to impress. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been talked into a pair of jeans which I later returned. But, you know, my choices usually work out. I put these pants on the second I got home and was so happy. What’s the opposite of buyer’s remorse? Satisfaction? Yes, I was very satisfaction. They are a little funky, I mean, somewhat “Manrepeller” but feel SO ME.

Historically I’ve shopped for jeans at the usual places: GAP, JCrew, H&M, Lucky Brand. I’ve done well at Nordstrom since they have a bunch of good denim brands. It’s hard to take a risk and try something new. Maison Scotch was a rare diversion. I happened to be in NYC and had heard of the brand. I was very happy with the pair of black chinos I got there. I haven’t bought another pair (or any other clothing) from them because they don’t offer free shipping. Making a mistake isn’t something I want to pay for by shipping things back. JCrew is another one. Ordering online from them is a drag since you have to pay for return shipping and their sizing is very unpredictable. I’ve never ordered H&M online and even when I’ve tried things on in-store and made purchases, the items didn’t always end up being a favorite.

My goal going forward is to shop more sustainable brands. I’ve shopped and loved: Everlane, COS, Amour Vert, and Girlfriend Collective.  This year I’m planning on purchasing from: Patagonia, Sézane, Alex Mill, and Jenni Kayne. And definitely hitting up the thrift store again!

Book Roundup

Hi there! It’s been a while since I talked about books. Here’s a catalog of what I’ve read over the last year. I like to keep track and also give a bit of a list of suggestions for anyone looking for something new to read.

Untamed

by Glennon Doyle

The most recent book I’ve read is this third memoir by Glennon Doyle. I’ve been reading her writings since the early Momastery days. I read her first book, Carry On, Warrior but never got around to her second one, Love Warrior. Now I’ve just finished Untamed. I loved it! It is so powerful, so real. As I was reading, I thought of numerous friends that I wanted to tell, “You have to read this.” I will be forever grateful that she had the courage to put herself out there, to lead the way, to tell me and all women, that we are meant to be wild, we are worth it, and the world needs us to be untamed.

Anxious People

by Fredrik Backman

My friend Joan told me about this book and I thought it looked really enjoyable. I had seen the movie version of Backman’s previous book, A Man Called Ove, so I assumed this would be equally lovely. What I appreciated most about this story was how light it was. Even though it deals with the hardships of life and how they can lead to our self-destruction, this story about a bank robbery gone wrong and subsequent hostage situation at an apartment open house is full of humor and real human connection. It was an easy read with a twisty plot that kept me guessing until the end. A delight.

An American Marriage

by Tayari Jones

I feel like everyone was reading this so I jumped in too. A couple struggles early on in their marriage and then are torn apart when the husband is accused of a rape he did not commit. It shows the challenges a marriage endures, from the point of view of everyone involved. What does it take to stick it out? How much do you sacrifice? A very real and honest story with good character development and artful writing.

Pachinko

by Min Jin Lee

This is a hearty book! I think I read it on Brittney Bathgate‘s recommendation. I do love a book set in the past and very much like a book set in Japan. I read a few books by Yukio Mishima in college. Anyway, Pachinko is a beautiful, heart-rending story about a Korean woman who’s fate is altered by charming Japanese businessman. It chronicles her struggle and “luck” and those of the generations that follow. I learned so much about the history and culture of Korea and Japan.

Modern Lovers

by Emma Straub

I went on a search for the quintessential light beach read back in August. I remember liking The Vacationers, so looked for another Emma Straub book. Modern Lovers feels like a Netflix show. The characters are easy to get to know and seem somewhat familiar. Everyone makes foolish decisions and you can see how they’re going to regret them later. A quick, easy read.

The Immortalists

by Chloe Benjamin

I jumped into this book and pretty soon wondered if it was a mistake. Four siblings go to see a psychic and each find out the day they will die. So, it was kind of dark. I stuck it out and I’m glad I did. It was a page-turner. I had to find out if (and how) they died. And of course, I thought a lot about which is worse; knowing when or not knowing when.

The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying

by Sogyal Rinpoche

After I read Noah Levine’s The Dharma Punx I went out and bought The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, which Levine describes reading and implementing as he attempts to find meaning in his life. That was four years ago. Then this past summer, out of the blue, a friend said I should read The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. He said it was the most important, most life-changing, most profound book he’s ever read and I should do myself a favor and read it. I said, I OWN THAT BOOK! But, I was about to go on vacation and didn’t think it would be a casual read. I did end up reading it on my trip and it was fantastic. I am still reading it, many months later, putting it down as I read other books, but I will say it is life-changing. No one wants to confront death. But what I didn’t know is that death is not what we think it is. This book is full of wisdom and truth … and beauty. You should read it.

The Snow Queen

by Hans Christen Andersen

This book was recommended by my therapist. She often talks about fairy tales and myths to describe the psyche. I bought the hardback version linked above because I loved its Scandinavian illustrations but before I got a chance to read it I got an email from my friend Jennifer who had just recorded the book! So I listened to it. I don’t usually like audio books but JC’s voice is so amazing I had to. The Snow Queen tells the tale of a two young friends and an evil mirror. The original fairy tales aren’t like Disney’s. They are dark and strange. I enjoyed listening to the 7 stories of the Snow Queen but think I’ll read the physical book too.

Purchase the audio book here.

Awakening the Heroes Within: Twelve Archetypes to Help Us Find Ourselves and Transform Our World

by Carol S. Pearson

Also recommended  by my therapist. I’ve only started reading this so I can’t say much but I gotta say, I love an epic quest. I had to read the Odyssey in high school and then I chose to read it again as an adult for fun! Also, Circe. But this isn’t fiction, it’s more of a psychology text book. Or a self-help book. The goal being that you discover “archetypal allies that can help you live the story that is needed for you to discover your true identity, calling, and purpose.” So, yeah. I’ll get back to you on how it goes for me.