Saturday, 12 August 2017

It's Never Black and White

My obsession with colour has lead me to read as much as I can find on the subject when I am procrastinating with regards to other things.   I am quite intrigued with the concept of temperature in colour because it's more subject to language vagaries than descriptions of saturation and clarity are.  How colour is perceived and described differs depending on whether we are talking about light or pigment and the idea of colours being warm or cool has mainly to do with how much blue (perceived as cool) or yellow (perceived as warm) are in the pigment mix.  I wonder how consistent this warm/cool perception is across cultures though I believe every human on this planet would consider shade cool and fire hot and generally we associated blues/greys/purple with shade and red/yellow/orange with fire.

Somewhere in my internet wanderings I got into a discussion with someone in which I was trying to explain why black and white, although usually referred to as neutral, were not flattering on everyone and particularly people whose colouring leans warm.  If black and white are neutral, why are you claiming they are cool? The woman asked me.  I didn't have an answer for her that was satisfactory to me, I only know that most humans do agree that black and white seem cool as opposed to warm and that in terms of personal colouring they are not neutral/work for everyone options.

It frustrated me that I understood this intuitively but could not explain it so I have been on a mission to improve my ability to explain this.  I doubt I have fully succeeded but it's taking better shape in my mind now.

The concept of warm or cool colour has to do with blue being perceived as cool and yellow as warm and thus the more blue in a colour the cooler it seems and the more yellow the warmer it seems.  That in itself had me puzzled as I tried to understand why a purely warm coloured person could wear any blue at all or a purely cool coloured person could wear any yellow.  I came to understand that in terms of personal colour analysis and pigment mixing, the idea is that people who need a palette of colours we would call warm need a palette of colours where there is obvious yellow added.  Those who need cool colours need their colours to be obviously blue infused.  People who are slightly warm or slightly cool wear colours that are less warmed or cooled by yellow or blue.

I wrote a blog post in which I explored what warm blue is, explaining that it is blue with yellow added, it pushes the boundary of what we would call turquoise or teal.  Cool yellow has a bit of blue added so it begins to push at the boundary of green.  Yellow is also cooled by the addition of white. 

Adding white pigment makes what we call pastel colours and pastels are generally viewed as cooler than the original hue they are based on. 

Black is reminiscent of shade or night which are experienced as cooler and pure black has a bluish tint to it.  Artists often use a pigment called Payne's Gray instead of black and Payne's Gray is a very dark blue that appears black but isn't as flat looking as actual black paint.

In  colour theory  based on light waves black is the absence of all light (colour) and white is the presence of all light (colour) which makes black a non-colour and white a colour.

In colour theory based on pigment black is the combination of all colours and white is an absence of them because you can't mix anything to make white, thus black is the colour and white is the non-colour.

In real life, colour is something we see and we see black and white just as readily as we see blue or red or yellow.  For practical purposes black and white are colours.  But are they neutral?  What does neutral mean?  Can anybody wear them?

Neutral is a word used differently in different contexts. Sometimes black, white and the grey they combine to make are referred to as neutral, based on the idea that white and black are non-colours.  This leads some people to assume that it follows that black and white as non-colours are also non-temperature, that is to say neither warm nor cool.

 Fashion neutrals refer to colours that go well with all or nearly all other colours.  There are caveats involved there because fashion neutrals can lean warmer or cooler or be highly saturated or very muted and this will influence how well they work with other colours exhibiting various properties.

The idea of personal colour analysis is that the colours that work to flatter a person are in harmony with that person's natural colouring, and thus share the same properties.  When it comes to perceived warmth (yellowness) or coolness (blueness) there is a blueness and a distinct lack of yellowness in what we call pure white and black.  That is why they lean cool and suit people with cool colouring better than people with warm colouring. 

Black can be warmed up by using a colour we may perceive initially as black but is actually a very darkened brown.  White can be warmed up by turning it into ivory by adding a bit of yellow.  Whether or not a person is flattered by warm-black (brown-black) or ivory-white will depend on what their personal mix of cool and warm colouring is.  For people who are very or purely warm, brown-black and ivory-white are not warm enough. 

Black and white are also very strong colours and so they work best for people whose own colouring is strong.  If you suit bright, clear colours black and white probably work for you.  If you are predominantly cool toned, they also probably work.  If you are cool toned but lighter and softer, in a category often called Summer, you are probably better off with your black softened to charcoal or replaced with navy blue and your white just hinting at ivory, taking away the intensity that will look harsh on someone whose personal colouring doesn't match it.

I had to think all of this through, organise my thoughts coherently and then write it all down in order to be able to explain this and the lengthy explanation given here would not be appropriate for a response to someone in a YouTube comment section.  I doubt that woman who questioned me on why black and white don't work for everyone will ever see this but this is for her.  This is the complete reply I was unable to give at the time.  This is the consolidation of everything I intuitively understood but could not express. 

This is also for anyone else who has been mislead by the fashion industry into thinking black and white are always right.  Wear them if you want to, if you love them, if you just don't care what personal colour theory says, but if black or white can't find anything to connect with in your skin tone they won't be doing you any favours and perhaps you would like to know that.

There are bigger things in this world to be worrying about than whether or not you should wear black.  Sometimes I just need to avoid those topics.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Life is Never Free of Drama for Very Long

At some point in our lives most of us encounter someone who would be considered a toxic person, although the terminology is new enough that I know of several people who will never have heard it.  With the internet available to help us diagnose everyone we know, it seems now that half the people I know on Facebook are dealing with someone who might be a sociopath or a narcissist.  There are a few people from my own life who might fit those descriptions too and I know how difficult and painful encounters with them can be, particularly if these people are family members or close to you in some way.  Toxic co-workers seem to be a bit of a problem as well.  After fifty years of living I find myself still somewhat surprised that there are people who just seem to be okay with not being very nice, with manipulative and lying behaviour, and who are quite willing to malign you  to others for their own gain.

Sometimes what is most painful is not the loss of what you thought was a good relationship with this individual but when they convince others to believe in their lies about you and you lose those relationships too or they are significantly weakened.

You have to ask yourself what kind of relationship existed in the first place if people are so willing to drop you, ignore you or believe lies about you, but the asking tends not to relieve the pain.  Only time does.

I've struggled most of my life with the belief that I can make people see truth or reason if I just explain things well enough.  Learning that I cannot has been a long, difficult though useful lesson.  I still have to resist the urge.  None of us can control what others think about us or even what they say about us.  We can only be concerned with our own integrity, make our choices, learn from our mistakes, and keep putting one foot in front of the other. 

Friday, 4 August 2017

More Colour Talk...I Can't Help It

I have just updated my Facebook profile picture to this, the most summery photo of me that I have taken this year. Yes, it's a selfie with the timer, it's outside on a cloudy-bright day, with the sky dimmed by smoke drifting in from the fires of interior BC.

It has been a long time since I've seen outdoor photos of myself, in natural lighting, showing that I am indeed warm-toned and summer has brought me some freckles.  Believe it or not that is a suntan though admittedly a light one. 

This is a makeup free face except for my Peach Me lipstick and the dress is my new favourite pink  colour, a pink that is warm, perhaps best described as a soft coral pink. I wear a lot of peach and coral these days.  It's one of the more easily found warm-muted colours at this time of year.  I feel fantastic in it to the point of being in danger of making it a signature colour. 

Although there are warm and cool versions of just about every colour, with a few exceptions as there is no cool orange, while cool yellows and warm blues can be tricky to identify, I find I like my appearance best in the very warm colours, that is the warmest versions of the colours that come from what most of us know as the warm side of the colour wheel. 

The right blue, which is something approaching teal, feels dramatic and perhaps it is.  In a sense, it is a complimentary colour to my golden skin tone as opposed to the analogous or more harmonious effect of the right versions of colour from the yellow/orange/red side of the wheel.   Cream and brown and olive also feel harmonious and natural, making good neutral bases.  

I Can't Wear Blue/Yellow/Pink/Green...

It's easy to rule out a colour if we've only ever tried wearing one or two versions of it.  It's also easy to mistakenly think all versions of a colour will work if we find that one or two do.  I have heard people say things like "I can't wear pink" or "Blue is my best colour" but these statements always need to be qualified.  I used to think I couldn't wear yellow but I now know I'd only tried the wrong yellows.  I didn't know that yellow could be made warmer or cooler, brighter or more muted, and when I wear the wrong yellow for me it makes me look yellow in a bad way.  The right yellow makes me look golden and glowy and more tanned than I actually am.  I made assumptions such as, if bright, clear orange looks bad on me all oranges will.

This was before I understood the three properties of colour which can all be understood on a scale.


Getting all three properties right will lead you to your best colours to wear.  Often people instinctively get one of them right and there are personal style/colour gurus who tell people it's only necessary to get one property, your dominant one and then they offer up a selection of colours so wide they are really just leaving it up to you to figure out which ones work for you and which don't, whereas other systems will work that out for you and explain why.

I am of the opinion that we don't all see colour in the same way but that some of us see more nuances.  If you really can't get your mind around the three properties of colour, or learn to recognise them, you won't want to bother about them when choosing colours to wear.

 We all have a best fit for each of the properties and a dominant property.  Knowing what these are helps us select the best colours to wear because our best colours share properties with our own personal colouring. 

We see and understand colours best in comparison so we understand a warm blue or a cool yellow, a muted red or a bright red in comparison to other blues, yellows or reds but we can also learn to recognise them more readily with practice.

We have biases and personal preferences and many people identify the colours that best flatter them as their favourites, others wear their favourites without either recognising or caring that they aren't flattering and I have met people who are so fixed in their preferences they see the colour of the shirt and not the person, and thus believe everyone looks good in their favourite shade of blue.  I have to gently accuse my mother of this and thus she didn't look at her daughter and see someone for whom she should buy an orange shirt, she bought for me and later encouraged and complimented the cool, soft colours she favours herself and which happen to suit her.  She now admits with astonishment that I look amazing in peach.

There are colours I generally do not care for or would not use in my own home decor or on my person but can admire them when they are worn by someone who suits them.  Context is everything.

My partner loves bright colours and those that lean warm, and it does seem that what looks best on him are the colours of the True Spring palette, clear, fresh, bright and warm colours. Colour warmth is confusing to him and I probably bore him to death when I try to explain it.  It gets even trickier when I tell him that yes, he and I are both predominantly warm but that my best warm colours are a bit muted and earthy, slightly dirty looking even, while his are clear and bright.  I think I've mostly got him convinced to trust me when I say "this yellow is better than that one although they are both bright."

 Why Am I Obsessed?

Every once in awhile I stop and ask myself why I think it matters so much to wear the most flattering colours.  I know there are people who believe that if you like it you will look great.  Anyone who says this to me leaves me wondering whether or not I should tell them that they actually don't look great in every colour I've seen them wearing.....I always decide not to.

It's true that I don't very often see someone who makes me think "Oh dear that colour looks awful on her and she looks like death warmed over."  (Though there is a chance that is the case with many people wearing black.)  I think it is a form of perfectionism that I must confess to.  I tend to believe there is, if not 'a right answer' then 'a best answer' for most things and I have difficulty settling for less.  When I see someone wearing a colour that overpowers them and makes them look faded, or conflicts with their warmth or coolness level and makes them look a bit ill, I think 'don't you want to get it right?"

But many people really don't care and there is no good reason I can think of why they should.  Sure, it can be argued that looking your best, which can in part be accomplished by wearing the most flattering colours, is a form of presenting your best self to the world and thus increasing your chances of success.  For me, it's relaxing to achieve sensory harmony, and wearing the colours that harmonise with my natural appearance actually feels like a gentle resting place.  Like an evangelist I want that for everyone but I promise that I haven't yet begun knocking on doors and asking people if they know about personal colour analysis and offering to share the good news.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Summer Minimalism and Blueberry Cake

When I walk down the street in my smallish town, it strikes me that more people than not are employing a form of style minimalism.  This may or may not be deliberate and it is arguable that some people do it more stylishly though also arguable that many people aren't concerned much with being stylish.

Personal style minimalism can be summed up with the advice to wear simple clothing, only one or two accessories, wear what suits you and what you like.  You can't please everyone so there will always be someone who thinks you don't look good.  So what.  I would suggest that most people also don't care what you look like so suit yourself.

As I settle more and more into a return to a minimalist personal style it isn't any sort of calculated thing.  It's comfort in my own skin, knowing what suits my lifestyle and personality and understanding that I like many things that don't work for me.  Finding what works and appeals has been the process and inspiration can come from admiring others but it can also obscure and impede that process.  Perhaps it is a necessary delay while discovering one's true self.

I don't believe that we invent ourselves, I believe we discover who we are.  There can be different aspects to discover at various times in our lives, certain traits that are more or less significant or ways we wish to modify who we are and how we live.  But all of that is already within us.  Inventing ourselves would imply that nothing previously existed except raw materials.  From the moment we are born with a set of genetic tendencies we begin to experience life, developing ideas, strategies, understandings, habits, responses, all of the things that shape who we are.  We spend life becoming ourselves. 

When I wore multiple layers, accessories, creative outfits, I was still being myself.  I was being the explorer version of myself.  I was still trying things that appealed, that spoke in some way of who I am.  

In the process of that experimenting I discovered that part of who I am, a very significant part, is also someone who is physically comfortable in less, who feels movement and ease inhibited easily.  I also discovered that part of who I am at the moment is someone who has limited access to the styles I wanted to try.  Trying to find appropriate layering pieces and accumulate a wardrobe of creative layers became too all consuming and exhausting.  Who I am is not someone who wants to make that a hobby or passion.   Multiple accessories get physically in the way of my reading, writing and painting efforts so they accumulated on my dresser and were rarely worn.  All of this trying, exploring, learning and concluding IS part of who I am.

The result at this point is that it has lead me back to the style I had before I ever began searching, and before I got a bit mired in my work uniform.  For most of my life I have been told that I look great, that I am stylish or always look put together.  It's a nice compliment and I have a tendency to dismiss compliments as insincere even though I understand logically that they aren't all insincere.  So if other people saw me as looking like I had a distinct style and that it was appealing, then I must have been doing something effective before the period of great experimentation.  I thought that because it came easily to me that it couldn't be all that special.  I didn't know that being able to effectively combine colours, to know how to wear something that 'goes with' rather than something that matches was a skill.  I didn't know that French women were lauded for wearing a scarf with everything.  I have always worn scarves.

I was wearing what I liked, relatively minimal outfits but with a finished and deliberate look.

I was not overthinking outfits which is surprising considering that I overthink most things.  

I was doing some things wrong, in that I was usually wearing colours that didn't flatter me, but I have always been drawn to earth tones, muted warm colours and those strange, dirty yellow-greens that most people run from.  I just believed that when I wore those I was sort of cheating or getting away with something.  It's funny how well an erroneous belief can stick.

Fast forward to now, when I know my best colours and I am sure about what I want to wear, there is still a challenge in finding these things.....

getting good quality and good fit at a price I can afford
finding a good selection in a small town
and not being very comfortable with online shopping for clothing.

But now that I have realised I am content to have a small wardrobe, to wear the same things over and over, and that while my personal style may help define me my individual clothing pieces don't, limited selection is less of a problem.

In summer, I become even more minimal than in Winter, as hot sweaty days, allergies and the need to wear sunscreen all inhibit my use of makeup.  A motorcycle helmet means simple hair is best and I must accept some damage to whatever bouncy effect I achieved upon first washing and drying it.  Accessories get in the way of reading, writing, painting or just look a bit silly with my motorcycle jacket, so all summer I've been wearing two gold studs in each ear.  I am usually barefoot or in the same pair of cognac coloured sandals unless I am wearing my motorcycle boots. 

And yet I still dabble in lipstick.  The concept of wearing no other makeup other than lipstick seems like something a bit old fashioned, from the days of a powdered nose and some lipstick being required to look presentable, perhaps also gloves and a hat.   My grandmother wore no makeup other than to sometimes powder her nose on going out in public and my great aunt wore her signature bright red lipstick year round.  It seemed natural and normal that they did these things. Every generation has the additions they consider indispensable or the small touches they would rarely go without and I might be mistaken but if I had to guess I would have said that for my generation it is eye makeup.  The advice is often to use just a flick of mascara if nothing else.  Once I might have followed that advice.  I think I did in the eighties.

A flattering colour on my lips seems to wake up my face, bring out some colour, make my eyes sparkle, and because I don't do a dramatic makeup application I can achieve a stained effect that suits the minimalist makeup approach.

I have mentioned before that I am particular about lipstick scent and taste.  Everyone is different but for me the Revlon Super Lustrous bullets are scent and flavour free.  They are available in drug stores for a reasonable price and I can find good colours for my True Autumn palette.  Applied and blotted twice, I get a minimal and subtle look and the colour lasts well, only sometimes needing reapplying after eating or drinking.

                                                       Revlon Peach Me

                                                 Revlon Rich Girl Red

I am wearing two particular colours this summer, Rich Girl Red which is a sheer coral red, somewhat like a tinted lip balm, and Peach Me  which is a more neutral, soft, my lips but better sort of look.  I was initially hesitant as Peach Me is a pearl format but either pearl works for me or it is a very subtle pearl.  It isn't sparkly or chalky as I worried it might be. In these photos I have just swiped it on straight from the tube once.

Rather embarrassingly, I own four nail polishes that are all very similar.  I make my excuse that they look a bit different in the bottle, but when painted on my nails L'Oreal Julianne's Nude is indistinguishable from Sally Hansen Mudslide.  L'Oreal Bare it All and Au Naturale are the same colour but Bare It All is slightly thicker and more opaque.

Very short nails, rough cuticles and sloppy application aside, here is what they look like on my nails, first Julianne's, then Mudslide, Bare it All then Au Naturale on my pinky.

I favour last year's purchases, Julianne's Nude and Bare It All.  This year's mistakes will go to a thrift shop.

If you were drinking coffee or tea while you read all of that then you should have had a slice of this Blueberry Cake!

It's a bit like a coffee cake, very moist, and bakes up well in a loaf pan.  Because this cake is low carb and moderate-high in protein and healthy fats, I don't hesitate to eat it for breakfast.  It is easily part of a low-carb/keto eating plan.


2 1/8 cup almond flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 cup dry sweetener ( I use Splenda )
1/2 tsp salt
5 eggs
1/4 cup coconut oil or non trans fat shortening, melted
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup water
2 cups blueberries-fresh or frozen though frozen tends to turn the whole loaf purple

 Preheat oven to 300 degrees F

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Stir in the liquids, mixing well.  Fold in the blueberries last.  Line a loaf pan with parchment paper or grease it well.  A square pan also works, but watch baking time.

 Bake 50-60 minutes, checking that it is neither raw in the middle nor over baked.  My cake in a loaf pan does best at 55-60 minutes.  Some foil placed loosely over top for the last ten minutes can help.

Cool and remove from pan.  Slice and enjoy!  Can probably be frozen but mine always gets eaten quickly.

Monday, 24 July 2017

It Feels Like Starting Over

In my mind, in my private dialogues where I amuse and entertain myself, I am calling this sharing a life thing 'weeness'.  (Jim, yes my partner is now getting a name publicly, being from Scotland would have an entirely different interpretation of this word 'weeness'.)  This weeness is mostly a pleasant thing, the sharing of both the mundane and the delightful, but it is still something I notice because I have been accustomed to solitary functioning for so long.

Often he asks me, 'What are we doing today?'  I understand it's an attempt to gather information about his upcoming day.  Apparently I am in charge and I might not have any complaints about that.  Or perhaps he wishes to give me the illusion of control.  Quite likely he is asking as a form of consideration for me, not wishing to impose anything on me because he knows I will have some sort of plan or rough idea of how the day should unfold.  I have noticed that he likes to ask me what I want before stating what he wants.

When asked "What are we doing today?"  My thoughts begin like this....

1. I don't know what you are doing but I would like to write/read/paint/waste time on Pinterest or Facebook and drink coffee.

2.  Awww it's so amazing to be half of a 'we'

3.  OMG I am never alone anymore; how strange.  Even stranger...I don't mind.

4.  Wait a minute...I am alone sometimes.  Phew. Now, let's do something together.

Thought number one sounds a bit bitchy but it isn't meant to be.  It's mainly that unless my plans include some cooking or laundry, my plans for every day are always that I am intending to do some reading/writing/painting and I will probably also waste time on the internet. 

While I love and enjoy the company of other people, or at least some people some of the time, I will inevitably retreat to my lair to be alone again after a bit of social interaction and stay there with much relief.  I don't have social anxiety and am quite capable of going out and doing the shopping or going for a walk and encountering people with whom I will make friendly small talk but it's tiring.  Exhausting sometimes. I like being alone in crowds and not talking to anyone, just observing.  I like doing things my way, on my own time, in my own space, and I've had that for several years.  Now I am choosing to give it up.

Or am I?  Not fully.  Not really.  I chose a partner who is similar to me.  He likes to be alone, he likes to stay home, he likes to experience brief social encounters and then retreat.  He has solitary hobbies.  We are like toddlers in that we happily engage in parallel play.  At this moment we are each sitting at the table a few feet across from each other.  I am writing, he is uploading photos, making a slide show, uploading music for a playlist to use on our next road trip.  We make tea or coffee for each other periodically.   One of the greatest compliments we can give each other is to say 'being with you is as good as being alone.'

Of course there are exceptions, moments when the togetherness is too much for both of us.  Recently I was informed that my hovering was impeding his ability to enjoy shopping at Canadian Tire in the gadgets department.  I scarpered off to the bookstore.   Today we ventured out into the land of shops again and this time the plan was that he would happily wait in the car while I went to the second hand book shop and then I would wait in the next door cafe while he poked around in Home Depot.  It was a morning of popping into different shops and then meeting up in the car again.  There was a torrential downpour which we sat through, wondering if we needed to alter our plans and then realising that we have plenty of time, that we could sit and enjoy each other's company and wait it out.  So we did.  I got some books, Jim got his tools and electrical bits, we picked up some groceries and did a bit of banking, then happily returned home to our nest, the one we each share with another who is just as good as being alone.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Chocolate Cravings

 I am trying to lose a few pounds, and definitely to maintain a healthy weight and my partner is trying to lose a significant amount.  Low carbohydrate eating works for both of us but like anyone we don't want to feel deprived of treats and delicious food as this only leads to binging or going astray from the healthy eating plan.  Making rich and creamy food is quite easy since cream and butter are low carb staples, but baked treats take a little more experimentation.  I have been working on perfecting a low carb chocolate cake but it's really the icing (or frosting for my American friends) that is the tricky part.  It wouldn't be so tricky if my partner and I could eat powdered erythritol, which functions exactly like regular powdered sugar, but as I explain below, we don't tolerate sugar alcohols well so I have to make do with other options.

I find recipes online but often I adapt, modify and re-create them so this chocolate cake is my own creation now.  Since I'm not a dedicated low carb blogger and I don't actually count carbs, I just keep an intuitive sense of what I've eating, I don't have carb counts for this cake because I don't actively count carbs.  I have a pretty good idea of the carb count of most foods and know when I am in the range I want to be in.

Even when a treat is low-carb I still consider it a treat and not a license to binge. I would estimate the cake alone has roughly 10g carbs per serving but that's just an estimate.

Chocolate Cake-one layer in a square pan but can be sliced in half to make a two-layer cake.  I've been working to make this recipe more moist and although I've improved on the original recipe that I found online I think it still needs work.  My partner says I am terribly self-critical and that the cake is delicious.  I think of it as a work in progress so next time I might reduce the coconut flour by one tablespoon.

3/4 cup cocoa                    6 eggs, 2 egg whites
1/2 cup coconut flour         1/2 cup olive oil
2 1/2 tsp baking powder    1/2 cup greek yogurt
pinch salt                           1 tsp vanilla
2 cups Splenda

 Preheat oven to 325F
Combine the dry ingredients and the liquids separately and then whisk the liquids into the dry.  Spread batter in a parchment lined 8x8 inch pan and bake at 325F for 45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

To ice the cake I improvised by melting chocolate and cream together, adding Splenda to taste and later stirring in some cocoa powder.  I beat it all in my mixer aiming to get it as smooth as I could, dribbling in a little bit of boiled water.

I am not a food photographer and made no effort to beautify this, as you can see.   It generally looks and tastes like real cake though so if you are eating low carb or feeding a diabetic, you could do worse than to try my cake.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Fudge-gooey and best kept frozen.

1 cup heavy cream
4 squares unsweetened chocolate
1 cup Splenda
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 oz cream cheese

Melt the cream, chocolate and Splenda in a suacepan over low heat, stirring to incorporate the sugar well.  Add vanilla.  Pour the chocolate mixture into a mixing bowl with the cream cheese and beat on high until the mixture is smooth-about 5 minutes.  Spread the mixture in a parchment paper lined pan, using a larger pan for thin pieces of fudge or a smaller pan for thick fudge.  I used a 9x11 pan and made thin fudge.   Refrigerate an hour or more until firm and then lift out the parchment paper and cut the fudge into squares while still on the paper.  Place the fudge squares on fresh paper on the original pan and put in the freezer for an hour or two.  The fudge keeps best in the fridge or freezer and I store mine in plastic containers.  Once the cut up fudge is frozen it is less likely the pieces will stick together or at least they will separate from each other fairly easily.  

 Some Ramblings About Low Carb and Particularly Sweeteners

My partner and I both love carbohydrates.  If I had to pick a favourite food group it would be the breads/cereals group followed by dairy.  I've struggled over the years with health and weight issues and before being diagnosed as celiac ate far too many bready things.  They never seemed to satiate or satisfy and one piece of bread lead to several pieces, and so it went with anything made with wheat flour, sweet or savoury.  I was vegan for several years and I had the same non-satiation problem with the grains and vegetables and beans I lived on.  In order to feel full I ate large quantities and I gained weight.  I was eating the plant based, low fat, whole grain diet so often recommended for health but I couldn't manage my hunger or my weight.  A celiac diagnosis muddied the picture but for a time I experimented with using any non-gluten whole grain and although this addressed the celiac issue it didn't address my weight or my hunger.

Diet can be a very emotionally fraught thing.  People feel strongly about the ethics or the health beliefs associated with various diets and although I was once one of those obnoxious vegans who thought anyone eating animal products was misguided about both ethics and health, I am no longer that person.

I have done much research but the field of nutrition is a difficult one.  There is much misinformation, confusing information, experts promoting opposite ideals and not much money is put into nutrition research.  Big agriculture, the makers of processed foods and sellers of health and fitness products all have something to gain by funding research, publishing the results of limited studies and blocking the publishing of results that don't favour them.  I have done my own reading, come to my own conclusions and eat a diet that works for me based on how my body responds and what I believe to be the best information available, the most scientific studies and as usual in life, I also make compromises.

With all of that in mind I eat a low carb diet that is high in saturated fat, moderately high in animal products, and low in carbohydrate with most of my carbohydrates coming from vegetables.  I eat grain free both because it is more comfortable for my digestive system and because it is low carbohydrate.  My daily food consists of meat, cheese, eggs and vegetables with a small amount of berries and yogurt.

When I bake I use almond or coconut flours.  When I need to use a sugar substitute I use Splenda or imitators.  People with nut allergies won't be able to use almond flour and may not be able to use coconut flour.  Low carb/gluten free baking tends to use more eggs than regular baking so it's not good for those with egg issues either.  When it comes to sugar substitutes my ow conclusion is that there is no real evidence (thought plenty of scare tactics and misinformation on the internet) about any of them being unhealthy and it is an error to believe that 'real' sugar is a healthier choice.  You may be able to include real sugar in your diet in small amounts with no problems.  If you need to lose weight or keep it off you may not.  Sugar substitutes vary in their qualities and sugar alcohols give the best results in baking but I am among those who don't tolerate them.  They act as a laxative for me and for my partner so I don't use them.  We both tolerate Splenda well.  The drawback to Splenda is that it does not reproduce the texture that real sugar does.  It sweetens but it is terrible for that crispy-chewy texture you want in cookies or brownies.  It doesn't powder well either so isn't good for frostings and icings.

Splenda, or sucralose, in powder form is combined with maltodextrin which is an actual sugar, complete with calories and blood sugar spiking abilities.  However, it is combined with such a small amount per serving that it is mainly negligible unless you eat a batch of fudge daily.

Most Stevia powders are a mixture of Stevia with xylitol or erythritol, which are the sugar alcohols I mentioned that I don't tolerate.  Some brands use inulin, which is a water soluble plant fibre.  For me, Stevia tends to have an aftertaste.

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol with that laxative effect being possible.  It also has a mouth cooling feel, sort of a minty taste and thus it is often used in toothpaste and sugarless gum.  It is toxic to dogs.

Erythritol is popular with most low carb bloggers and recipe developers.  It is expensive but functions the most like real sugar in baking.  It has the laxative effect for me and for my partner.

Some people are very anti-sweetener and nothing I can write or link to would change their minds.  I am not going to even attempt to do so, but am just trying to outline my own choice and the reasons for anyone who is curious.  You can find articles to back up any perspective you wish to take.  The validity of those articles will vary but we all believe what we want to believe. 

Splenda and Maltodextrin

Splenda Safety

STOP THE PRESSES!!!  I tried this recipe today and it's the best I've tried so far.  It will be my go-to chocolate cake recipe.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Recipe for Marital Bliss (and Pancakes)

Even people who love each other can have communication problems.  The most helpful thing is being able to laugh at communication breakdowns which is the method my partner and I are using with success.  I can only hope that lasts. 

It seems a certain thing to me that one of the significant factors in a partnership failing is that the diminished love and care one feels for one's partner is not conducive to making any attempt to understand just how communication failed or to sharing in the blame for that failure.  Both my partner and I are very fond of logic but human beings are not terribly logical, even when they aim to be.  It's quite easy to assume that one's own logic is the supreme version of logic, that just because one way of thinking makes sense to me it is thus the most logical.  It is quite easy to assume. 

Assumptions cause problems.

Two people of middle age, with many years of habits and customs behind them and a slight variation in cultural norms will encounter some difficulty and we expect it.  We expect to need to spell out for each other what we are doing and why at times, or to ask the other which method would be preferred.  Such negotiations always seem to take place in the kitchen and centre around what food will be eaten and how, what utensils are needed, does this food item go in a bowl or on a plate, what condiments does it require, should it be cooked this way or that, should it be sliced, diced or mashed.  It might all be straightforward if the need to ask these questions right from the beginning is understood but it isn't always.

Assumptions are always made.

Eventually, the time will come when we settle into some sort of way of doing things that fits us as a couple or at least an automatic awareness of how the other one prefers things.  At six weeks in of living together and never having spent time in each other's physical presence during the seven years we've known each other, it's a bit early to expect that and thus I can only conclude we are doing quite well. 

By the time we sat down at the table with food for breakfast this morning we were debating whose thoughts and statements were more logical and insisting that the other person just wasn't getting it, but soon we were laughing.  Ironically, much confusion comes from my partner wanting to be helpful in the kitchen and my not being used to having help.  I don't know how to respond when something isn't done the way I expected it to be.  Intellectually and after the fact of course I know how to respond, but in the moment I tend to say things like "No, that's not how it's supposed to be." 

It's difficult not to conclude that I am just a bossy kitchen jerk but my partner always meets me halfway and rarely allows anything to be all my fault.  We agreed that we had each made assumptions, each favoured our own 'logic' and gotten quite entangled in a very silly situation involving breakfast food.

I made scrambled eggs with green onion, sausage crumbles and grated cheese.  I also made pancakes with whipped cream and cherry sauce.  Both of these items were requested for breakfast, or so I had thought but already there were assumptions involved.

My partner had asked for the pancakes and eggs for breakfast.

My assumptions followed:
I have so far only ever given him pancakes with whipped cream and fruit sauce and I only ever eat pancakes with sweet accompaniment.  I never eat pancakes in place of toast with the savoury food, the eggs and sausage.  It did not occur to me that was what he had meant. 

My solution to this breakfast mix was that I would serve it on two different plates, in order to keep the sweet apart from the savoury.  Then I decided, at the moment just prior to dishing up food, that the scrambled eggs could go in a small bowl.  My partner wanted to help.  He arrived in the kitchen willing and able to dish up food and I indicated where I had placed a plate and bowl for him and a plate and bowl for me on the counter.  He began to dish up the food in a manner I had not anticipated.  My immediate reaction was to say, 'No, no.  That's not right.'

Upon later reflection we discovered that not only had he not realised I was serving whipped cream and cherries with the pancakes, but that there is no logic involved in deciding whether or not the bowls should hold the eggs or the pancakes but I had a vision, I had made a decision about how it would work and his logic lead him to a different conclusion. 

Suddenly we have two sensitive, stubborn people defending their version of what goes in plates and what goes in bowls and why.  Two people determined to find logic in their own preferences and choices. 

As I write this my partner is fixing the fridge door.  He is putting the contents of the fridge door back and I think he is doing so with some trepidation.  He called out to me that he might do it wrong.  I have asserted that anywhere the items fit in the door is fine.  Now I have to follow through with that. 

Low Carb Pancake Recipe: Gluten Free ( Not egg, dairy or nut free )

1/4 cup cream cheese, softened
2 eggs
1/4 cup almond flour
2 tsp coconut flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp sweetener of choice

Mix the cream cheese and eggs with a whisk until well combined.  Whisk in remaining ingredients.  Mixture will thicken slightly after sitting a few minutes due to the coconut flour.  Drop tablespoonfuls of batter onto a hot griddle with melted butter.  Cook until the edges  lose their gloss and bubbles break on the surface of the pancakes. 

Makes about 8 cakes and recipe can easily be doubled.

I find recipes on Pinterest, Blogs and in cookbooks.  I don't know where this recipe came from but there are many similar ones to be found.  I've tried several and this one is consistently the best.  The pancakes freeze successfully so a larger batch can be made and stored.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

She's a Day Tripper

I began this post complaining about what the motorcycle helmet does to my hair and how poorly the protective clothing fits me, but it did come across as a bit whiny.  Or more than a bit since I also ended the post on that note.  In reconsidering this wording I simply have to acknowledge that I enjoy day tripping with the motorcycle but I am vain enough to be disappointed by the same fit difficulties I might have with regular clothing.  I am, however, well padded against any close meeting with the asphalt, warm enough when riding at highway speeds, comfortable, and I don't have anything in black.   It's probably asking too much that these garments should also be flattering. 

We took a day trip to Denman Island and then Coombs, BC with plenty of photo opportunities provided by wild flora and fauna as well as the domesticated.  A day trip always involves a picnic and a picnic always involves ants.  Ours was no exception but we were determined to find a lovely, quiet, private place away from the noise of the power tools so beloved of human beings.  No pressure washers or leaf blowers, just birds, lapping waves and some very busy ants making off with bits of cheese or blueberry muffin three times the size of their own bodies.

                                   Our Ride:  vintage Honda named Rhonda

                                               Bill Mee Park, Denman Island

                                            Bill Mee Park, Denman Island

The Market in Coombs has goats on the roof.  It's a bit of a tourist trap sort of place but still fun to poke around and have a coffee there, which we did.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

I'm Still Here...If You're Interested

My apologies to the very sweet people who read my blog, I have been quite caught up in life changes and not ready to write anything.  I think it is still somewhat an odd concept to me that there are readers and people who might wonder why I suddenly fell off the face of the earth.  For the past month and a half I have been very occupied with the process of making my home ready to be shared with my longtime boyfriend, transitioning from a long distance relationship to full time living together.  I don't know if I can even describe the emotions involved and I wasn't even aware of how intense they were for me until a day after he moved in and I had a bit of a physical collapse.  My body just gave in and I thought at first that I had a virus.  I was hot and chilled and I shook.  I ran to the bathroom often and then I collapsed in bed again.  It wasn't the way I imagined beginning the process of cohabitation, but I know I am with the right guy because he was just very sweet and soon I was back to my normal self again. 

My partner and I have been in a long distance relationship for nearly seven years, spending hours a day together online and developing a friendship and a relationship without ever having expected or intended to at first.  As time went by it was obvious to us that we had something we didn't want to lose but there were lives to sort out, there was a great distance to traverse.  By the time we decided to live together we were also meeting in person for the first time.  That's not the way most people do things but who wants to be ordinary?  We knew we were too well suited and too much in love not to be able to make things work out so we took the chance.  He got on a plane....three planes actually....and arrived at the end of May.  The time that has passed so far feels like minutes and also like years.   As someone who quite enjoys her space, likes living alone, values her independence, this felt like a very big step for me but I felt sure of it.  I knew it might be slightly difficult to adjust but that it would be worth it to share my space and time with a man who is my best friend, a soul mate, a partner and lucky me quite romantic too!   Two and a half weeks in and I have to say it feels completely normal and right.  Phew!

We both come from dysfunctional and abusive marriages, both happy to now be with someone who loves and values us for who we are but we aren't young and delusional either.  We are middle aged and set in our ways.  We know that there will be times when compromise, tolerance and forgiveness are needed.  While very much alike in many ways and very compatible there are some ways in which we are very different.  We also both live with chronic illness which allows for sympathy and understanding but we may need to cross our fingers that we have our bad days at different times so there is at least one person available to put the kettle on.  Mostly we hope to be able to help and support each other cope with physical setbacks and limitations and to some degree heal physically as much as we have helped each other heal emotionally already. 

Well this was not a typical post for me, but I have nothing to say about colour, personal style, growing out a pixie cut or about being an INTJ.  I have dabbled in painting but nothing new to share has emerged in the past month.  Life right now is a strange and wonderful sort of domestic honeymoon.   We have a motorcycle, a Honda Goldwing, which we take out on day trips sometimes and anticipate taking on a longer trip this summer.  Future posts may be motorcycle related at times.  My partner is working on weight loss and I am helping by providing a nutritious and varied low carbohydrate diet so as I experiment more with low carb cooking I would like to share some recipes here also.  I expect this blog to continue to be the usual mixture of my thoughts, experiences and efforts to live a full and rich life despite limitations.  It astonishes me really that there are actually people who read and follow along but as always my hope is just to connect with others and to inspire those living with chronic illnesses.  We all just keep on keeping on, meeting life's changes and challenges with a positive attitude and the hope of making the world a better place even in small ways. 

                             I recently turned fifty and had some help celebrating.

                                    We had a lovely short vacation in Tofino, BC

Friday, 5 May 2017

Coral Red Lips and Growing Out a Pixie

I've never really experimented with the colour coral before, but for anyone with a bit of warmth in their colouring there is a flattering coral.  Peach and coral are better on me than pink, or one could say they are my best versions of pink.  When coral is deep it can even be a coral-red.  The sweater I am wearing is a coral pink and I've got a new lipstick that looks coral red in the tube and is named Rich Girl Red, but it looks more like a deep warm pink on me.   Where does pink end and red begin?  Sometimes that's difficult to say.

Really true red lipsticks always seem a bit overwhelming on my face and I need a bit of a muted effect, warm and earthy, not warm and bright.  That's why I go for the browns.  Revlon has lots of reds and some of them are obviously warm but  although I have a couple in mind to some day try,  a bold lip isn't really my comfort zone.  

                                           Lipstick:  Revlon Rich Girl Red

This lipstick is a sheer, creamy texture which I like.  The lipsticks I have felt quite heavy for warmer weather and lighter clothing and this morning I wasn't happy with any of them.  I have one in this same sheer formula that is a lighter colour and a bit more of a nude but I found myself wanting a colour with a bit more punch.  Revlon is my go-to for quality, price, availability and no strange taste or fragrance.


Growing out a pixie cut yet again.....

I didn't get past the awkward ear-muffs stage a couple of years ago and I gave in to the people who like a pixie cut on me.  I MUST NOT DO THAT anymore.  I feel the need for hair.  While I love a pixie in theory and I like the way it looks on me from a front view, I am generally not happy with it overall and don't feel flattered by it.  In part that is because I feel like a pin-head on a larger body when I have very short hair.  But growing it out is difficult and the awkward stages along the way have made me give up more than once.

The photo above goes back to summer, and is already a growing out pixie.  It's a month or two since the haircut and there are so many whispy layers at the side it's no wonder it has taken 10 months to grow them out to something that resembles a bob.  The hair is shorter around the ears than the bits you can see at the front. so growing that out into something with a more even length takes time too.

I'm in a reasonable stage right now but awkward stages are coming again because once the the length gets down to jaw level it's not as flattering.  It drags my face down, emphasizing and enlarging the lower half of my face.    I have to get past that stage for that effect to end so must remember it's just an awkward stage, just as I've already been through one or two of those. 

Some more layering might help take out some of that bulk so I am telling myself that I will see a pro in six months.

Speaking of layers......

My hair is very fine in texture and there is a lot of it.  This means that when it's cut short it is cut with a lot of detail, a lot of thinning, and this also makes growing it out awkward.  I was wondering if my hair grows particularly slower compared to others.  There are images and blogs all over the internet on how to grow out a pixie and most people doing so get to a layered bob within six months.  I've been growing out awkward layers for ten months and only now have something that sort of resembles a very short, layered bob.  I've had to do lots of little trims  to avoid the mullet, but also evening up layers a little bit.  It seems some people have hair that can be cut quite simply and it grows out easily.

So this is where I am at with my growing out pixie.  My last professional haircut was July 2016 and I've been doing my own trims to cope with strange shapes, mullets, thin or thick spots and the inevitable situation where one side of my head grows faster than the other.

Bangs, fringe, whatever you call it there is the question of do I keep it or grow it out too.  I can never decide.  Most people think I am best flattered with bangs and I generally worn them for the past 40 years regardless of whether or not they are in style.  I will probably keep them.

Hats, headbands, hair pins..... these come in handy when growing out hair and the hairpins certainly prove useful when I can't decide about the bangs.  If I let them grow too long I need to pin them off my face.  I have grown out some of the bangs and left a smaller section short, so using the hairpins helps with that process too.

Hair spray comes in handy.  Sometimes I just need to plaster sections of hair back off my face and there is nothing like hairspray for achieving that.  Stiff hairstyles are not my style preference but over the next year style preferences are not always going to be achieved.

I haven't got any magic tricks for growing out a pixie and there are plenty of sites online offering advice.  All I have to offer is the reassurance that for those of us who find it a laborious, it is possible.  I've done it a few times before and intend to manage it again.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Less and More

One has to be careful when writing about decluttering and downsizing on one's blog.  One's soon to be cohabitation partner reads the blog and could get the idea that one is a minimalist and thus he should not bring any clutter into the home or relationship.

One is not a minimalist.  One is making room for what is important and HE is important.  Co-decorating is potentially fraught and I have to admit I have very definite opinions about what is tacky and what I want in my rooms and on my walls.  I am fortunate to have a partner who is not particularly concerned with decor, happy to leave that sort of thing up to me.  For someone like me that is the definition of compatibility.  Compatible taste would also be ideal but I suspect it could be rare.  Compromise is required in a relationship.  Some give and take and respect for what the partner values is a must as is re-visiting and reconsidering what we value ourselves.

That's why making room for someone else requires letting go of things that I do not love or use.  It isn't about declaring less is better or more is better, but that the goal is a just right amount.  Is it called The Goldilocks Principle?

And speaking of too much or not enough.....

I am trying to find my own personal balance of less and more in my art.  I often over-paint, finding my way by adding more, covering it up if I don't like it, changing it a little or a lot.  Sometimes I completely cover over a canvas and paint something else on top.  Sometimes I regret this but most of the time I don't.  Sometimes I paint something quickly.  It's simple, and takes maybe an hour.  I like it so I stop and yet I wonder how can it be any good if it was so quick and easy? 

The painting on the bottom is now buried under the painting on the top.   I wasn't achieving what I wanted.  There were three incarnations of the painting above and I didn't like them so I slapped a ton of paint on top and obliterated it, creating the painting above it.  Now that I look at it in a photo I like it.  I wonder why I was upset with it.  But there's a life lesson in there somewhere.  Maybe more than one.   And I can paint again.  Perhaps the painting on the bottom was meant to teach me something.  Probably it was meant to teach me not to be so impatient and so hard on myself, but do I ever learn that lesson?  

In the photo I really like the bottom painting but in reality it irked me.  It looked over-painted.  It looked like too much.  As a photo it is inspiration. I painted my way into it, not knowing where I was going.  Now that I know I want to go there, perhaps I can again, more directly, with more purpose next time.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Let Go and Just Paint

                                                      When We Parted

I haven't painted in a few months and now that I am in a time period of restless anticipation this is a very good time to pick up my brushes again.  When I think of the three activities I am most passionate about, reading, writing and painting, I realise that painting is very special.  Reading and writing are things I have to do.  I must feed my brain and I must pour out my thoughts and ideas or I get tangled in a mental mess.  Painting is different.  When I paint I lose myself in the way one is supposed to with meditation.  I am detached from my thoughts and most of my senses and the only thing I know is what is happening on the canvas, what I want to do next in terms of colour and brush strokes, and the tension between what I am intending to create and what is being created despite me.

My art isn't particularly correct and that's also something that really takes me outside myself because I tend to put great stock in knowledge.  In general I crave knowledge, I want to know things that I do not yet know, I want to understand the universe I live in.  I seek to learn what, why and how and in general am a very big fan of science.  There are truths and facts in this world that can be known, there are things not yet known but within sight and they inspire awe.   I am someone who favours knowing but painting is about not knowing.  I am someone who takes few risks but painting is very risky.  Every time I finish a painting I like I am terrified that I cannot do it again.

Painting teaches me things I have difficulty articulating.

 Many things in this world are not subjective.  But art is.  Sure there are people who will say there are certain techniques or methods that must be followed, there are rules that some adhere to, and yes, I've got the bar set too high to ever touch let alone jump over because unless I can produce something to rival Leonardo Da Vinci I will only ever consider myself a dilettante, a dabbler, an amateur.  I am unschooled and I do not practice enough to ever become good.  Sometimes that bothers me because I tend to only want to do things I can be good at.

Quite regularly I have to speak to myself sternly.  Just who do I think I am, and what arrogance this is to imagine that I could or should be good at anything let alone the things I wish to be good at.    There are many people much more skilled or talented than I am and many others with no talent at all dabbing away either believing themselves to possess skills they do not or else not caring.  My inner perfectionist scorns them as I would scorn myself.  No, I am not kind.  I am a harsh critic though in general the criticism is aimed at myself.  While I might easily be critical of others who are also not Leonardo Da Vinci, my energy is not invested in their improvement.  It is invested in desiring my own.  So I paint.  And while I paint I forget to criticise.  I forget everything and I know only colour and texture and a liquid world.  While I paint I hope, I imagine, I believe that my intentions are being deposited on the canvas and that the results might not only please my own eyes but the eyes of others.  I could say that I paint for myself, and I do, but can any artist or would-be-artist truly claim not to hope her work appeals to others too?

I am sure that art is a form of communication and communication is not about releasing ideas into the void.  Communication is meant to happen between conscious beings, beings with sensory perceptions.  I paint to get outside of my own head and yet I also paint to communicate something to others.  I paint to say here I am.  Perhaps I am like you.  Perhaps we are connected in some way.  Perhaps I will understand myself better by painting and perhaps you will understand me and yourself better too.

When I wash up my brushes my thoughts grow a bit more practical and I worry about how much paint I used and can I afford to buy some more.  Can I afford not to?

Saturday, 22 April 2017

When Life Changes Dramatically

Life is about change and...

I'm no stranger to dramatic life changes.  I've had my share of the standard ones, moving to a new town, buying a first home, having a baby, getting a divorce and giving up a career.  Add to that living with a chronic illness which isn't suddenly dramatic until it takes you down a road you didn't expect and brings a lifestyle you hadn't anticipated, then the dramatic life changes are beginning to add up. 

More change is coming my way and it seems to me that it's fairly radical.  I've written very little about some aspects of my personal life because when it involves other people I don't feel I have the right to make public stories that are not purely mine.  At least not without permission.  Although it's supposed to be a blog that attempts to chronicle life with a chronic illness, I really can only give glimpses, snapshots, very controlled peeks into what my life actually is.  Focusing on personal style allows me to keep it relatively impersonal so I stick to that often.

And sometimes I veer away from it....

I've made reference to an abusive marriage, and to being divorced. I sometimes talk about living alone, but I believe I may have referenced a partner or significant other once or twice.  Then I wrote one or two posts about internet dating.  The short explanation for all of that is that a long term and long distance friendship turned into more then fell apart over a misunderstanding that involved a breakup that each thought the other was initiating only neither really was.

Holy Cow, communication is everything.

A close friend thought the way to get me through that was to immerse myself in internet dating.  Hah!  Fortunately for me, the misunderstanding was sorted out and the relationship resumed better than ever and internet dating become merely a five day slightly amusing interlude.

So a long distance relationship is about to become a case of cohabitation which leaves me without any cold feet even remotely, although in bed at night  I am prone to wearing not very sexy fleece socks.  A relationship deal breaker?  Nah. 

I am not a person who seeks relationships or needs to have a partner in my life.  The right one is heavenly, but I I would rather be alone than in the wrong relationship.  I like living alone so you have to be very special and I have to be very sure of you before I am going to share my living space with anyone who is not a cat.

How does life change when you are sharing space, sharing time, and pursuing together-activities?  I'm about to find out, or re-explore that.  Anticipating this change has become a full time preoccupation and the days cannot pass quickly enough.  I have five weeks left to wait, five weeks of not needing to consider the needs or comfort of another person.  Five weeks of erratic sleep patterns, eating whenever I feel like it and considering only myself when I spend money.  If I am worried about anything these are the things I'm worried about.  Can I adjust properly?  Time will tell but I do know I've been smart enough to be in love with someone who tells me to stop worrying.   It will be fine.  I will not be a bother, he will not tell me I am not good enough or my ways are wrong.  That was my old life, a different partner.  Now I am with someone who is my best friend, who loves me for who I am, not what I can (or cannot) do and who, like me has to contend with chronic illness so understands.  "It's fine", he says.  "We will just hold hands and cross the bridges."

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

My Minimal Standard

I spend a great deal of time just at home and I am always aware of the chronic illness I live with, aware of the fatigue, the aches, the limitations it imposes on my activities and abilities.  A life spent in lounge wear with unwashed hair and no effort at all put towards self-presentation would be too constant a reminder of what has been taken from me.  So with this in mind I have a minimal standard which I break only on those days when I am really feeling awful and might get out of bed only to find food or make tea.  Some days it's more of a struggle to meet that minimum standard but  by simplifying it and my personal style I have achieved something that approximates effortless chic, if I do say so myself,  and it really is minimal effort.

There are days when I pick and choose carefully what I will expend energy on and in all honesty that means I do not shower and/wash my hair daily.   I think that we've gotten to a point in western culture where that might almost be shocking to some people.  A daily shower and daily washed hair has become a norm and I was once someone who participated in it.  Given that I don't do much intense physical exertion and the climate where I live is rarely so hot as to make me sweaty, a daily shower isn't really  needed and a quick sponge bath in between showers will do.  At the moment, while my growing out hair is in an awkward stage, I usually will soak it in the sink and comb it into some sort of reasonable shape but sometimes, a good brushing and some hair pins will get me through the day.

Looking intentional is the secret to looking pulled together, but intentional stopping short of too much effort is my goal. 

My Minimal Standard

My wardrobe is pared down to easy to wear, mix and match pieces that flatter me and I love ( as much as I can love clothing which isn't much compared to most other things )  so that anything I put on looks intentional.

I always wear earrings.  I generally sleep in a simple pair so that I don't have to think about putting them on in the morning.  If I want something a bit more impactful then I can change them when I get dressed.  I never leave empty holes in my ears but if I want to wear a necklace for going out I make the earrings small.  I find I don't feel as comfortable in necklaces so I am more likely to put on a bracelet just before going out but I don't wear one around home.  Going out I will probably add a scarf but I don't wear one around the house. 

I think that earrings, a hairstyle that feels right and a little bit of makeup are the key factors that can make me feel ready to face the day as a properly functioning person.  And since my life does not involve wilderness hikes, gardening or mucking out the barn, this little bit of polish also feels appropriate.

I have a uniform style of dressing, suited to my lifestyle and it consists mainly of jeans and various tops-sweaters, blouses, tee shirts, with some accessories to round out the look and some variety in cardigans and jackets. 

My minimal standard makes it easy to go out without having to do much.  I am most likely to brush my teeth, reapply lipstick and grab an accessory or two.  Very little thought needs to go into footwear or jackets because it is dependent on the weather and my clothing.  Every jacket or shoe goes with more than one clothing outfit but every outfit looks best with a particular jacket or shoe.  This makes it easy to get out the door knowing I look pulled together and like I put some thought into what I am wearing but it's all premeditated.

Internal Nagging

If I don't go out at all, which is likely, I've got my basic uniform on, a simple hairstyle and my minimal makeup which makes me feel like I am participating in life.  There is a little voice in my head that wants this to be a world where women don't 'need' makeup.  This voice sometimes needles me for participating in this game and demands to know what is wrong with my face as it is.  Nothing is wrong with my face.  We live in a culture where it is entirely acceptable and often expected that a woman's face will have a bit of makeup on it and I could choose to fight that standard if I want to.  There would be no consequences but it would also be a moot point.  Nobody cares if I put on makeup or not.  It is only my own concern.  I do not have a job where it is required of me or where the lack of makeup might prevent a promotion and thus my not wearing makeup contributes nothing to changing that situation.  I do live in a culture where at least a little bit of makeup is the norm and I think that the very purpose of my minimal standard is to give me the feeling of participating in that culture because being ill and rarely leaving home can cause feelings of isolation.  Isolation is perhaps great if it is by choice.  I can imagine myself sometimes choosing it.  The goal is to find my personal balance between being one of the herd and standing alone.  For now, what I have chosen as my minimal standard gives me that power, a power that could easily be taken away from me.

For some women, daily life is about putting on a makeup mask, a uniform that is not of their choosing, and participating in a public life which they are happy to shed when they return home.  For them, claiming some power over their own appearance might mean the opposite of what it does for me.  It might mean taking off their makeup and putting on pyjamas or lounging clothing.  Claiming some power for ourselves means having a choice and getting away from something that is either imposed on us, or is so frequent that we need a change.

I have no problems with being seen in public bare faced.  I'm not even sure that my minimal makeup makes much difference to my appearance except perhaps an obvious lip colour.  That isn't really the point.  The point is that it makes me feel that I have gotten ready to take on the day.


I've had a good time playing with makeup over the past year, finding the best colours and exploring products, but one thing that has always been true of me is that I am not interested in makeup trends, in trying different looks or colours, taking more than five minutes maximum to apply it, in wearing makeup that I can feel or that I must touch up or generally worry about.

I'm aiming for a healthy, awake, me-but-better look and given the face I start with, that may look more tired or more vibrant depending on the day.

This is a minimal face with a bit of oomph added by a swipe of lipstick.  My lipstick home is in the browns, so I've got brown-oranges and terra-cotta colours in my makeup bag, the one in the photo is Revlon Toast of New York, blotted.  I'm quite tired and it shows, so there is a bit of concealer under my eyes and a bit of medium brown shadow on lids with one swipe of brown-black mascara.  It looks like no makeup on my eyes but just wakes them up a little to balance the lip.

In my photo-taking efforts the lipstick took a dive, while open, right onto the floor.  Thankfully it was not carpet.

I have allergies too and at this time of year wake up with swollen, red, watery, itchy eyes.  Cold compresses, eye drops, antihistamines and a prescription nasal spray are all required but a bit of makeup can help to eliminate the look of spent all night crying. Too much makeup can make the effort look obvious though.

I've used a little bit of neutral powder on the T-zone of my face because it gets very shiny in photos but if I'm not taking a photo for this blog I tend to ignore the powder.

 Other options for my basic day look.....

I have liquid blush in a browned-peach colour for days when it seems I need it.  For the sake of fun I've got some gold eye shadow though I mostly use a matte medium brown and a bronze-brown pencil.  I don't do jumbo lashes, so mascara is just to darken my lashes a bit and I never put it on the bottom lashes as I don't like the look of spider eyes.

I sometimes do a bit more with my eyes but because my eyes are small and deep-set  I don't get too dark with this and always use a medium brown-taupe colour.  With more makeup on my eyes I do a lighter lip but a nude-beige look doesn't suit me so it's a creamy terra-cotta colour, Revlon Rose Velvet, which is a very natural look for me.

                      I should have cleaned up that eye pencil but it would be too much trouble to take more photos.

This is a close up of my eyes looking down so you see the eye makeup better.  It's very subtle and this is as much as I ever use.  I'm convinced it makes a difference even though it's so minimal.

My Makeup Basics

Not only do I want a minimalist makeup look on my face, I want makeup minimalism in my makeup bag.  A few options are nice for a bit of variety, but I've discovered I am the type to have a preferred look and to stick with it.  I tried some more obvious colour for eyes but didn't like the look.  stick to a bronze-brown range, though finding a light, medium and dark in exactly the colours I want is a bit tricky, especially with drugstore options.  I really dislike having a quad or trio of shadow where I only use one or two of the colours but sometimes that's the only place I can find the colour I want. I currently own four lipstick shades and I use them all equally.  They are similar colours but have different qualities in texture or finish.

For Every Day:

liquid concealer
brown eye pencil/shadow

For Extra Special:

liquid cheek colour
gold eye shadow

As always this is a long post so it's time to stop.  I will stop right HERE.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Kitchen Purge

A kitchen purge is another of my favourite activities lately.  When my nesting habits were at their peak crockery was something I was highly attracted to and not only did I want to be well equipped to put on a beautiful dinner for ten people with all the required dishes, cutlery, glassware and serving pieces, I tended to be drawn to random finds in thrift shops so would end up with an large and eclectic assortment  as well as pieces that ended up being essentially decorative.  I do prefer the look of  open shelves and colourful crockery on display to a pristine, monochrome and everything hidden away sort of kitchen, but I am becoming less tolerant of clutter too so my definition of what is attractive and what is just too much is shifting.  Also, the reality of my life is that I do not make meals for or entertain ten people.  I do not entertain any people.  At most there may be one or two other family members and we are quite casual.  It only makes sense to be equipped for the life you actually live.  I began purging items from my kitchen a year ago. I am still purging and I thought I'd gotten rid of a lot already.  I had gotten rid of a lot. I am a bit embarrassed now by how much I had, how many boxes I moved into this place with and what I continued to add.

It's along way from prepared to host ten elegantly to casual meals for two but that's the reality of my journey.  The gluten-free and grain free way that I eat now has also eliminated much baking and certain types of cooking so various implements are also now not needed.  Getting rid of extra cake pans and duplicates in the kitchen tools drawer was fairly easy.  Getting rid of the pretty things is a bit harder so I don't force that on myself in the name of simplifying.  I wait until it hits me that I no longer love something, no longer believe it to be useful or beautiful.  In some cases I may still think it's an attractive item I just no longer feel an attachment to it. When I look at something and think objectively that yes, I like that but I no longer feel some sort of connection to it then it's time to let it go.

 At one time in my life I had a thing for jugs.  I still rather like them but I had accumulated quite a few, the way some people collect mugs or that salt and pepper shaker collecting craze of the seventies.  I Had visions of using these jugs regularly, serving the morning orange juice in a pretty jug for example but that's not reality.  I don't drink orange juice and there is no family breakfast table.  I like fresh flowers displayed in a jug, and in summer if I make sangria or lemonade it's nice to put that in a big jug but okay there, that's two jugs I can argue a need for.  There are seven remaining in my possession and while I like all of them they are sitting on a shelf gathering dust and this has come to outweigh any joy their appearance brings. 

I've selected three jugs to give away, as you can see in this photo of items I pulled off the shelves today.  These are destined for the donation box. 

The watering can and the brick of butter are not being donated, but everything else on this counter is.  It's a lovely soup tureen and I do make soup often but I do not need a tureen.  I've never used this one and have had it for seven years. It took me about five minutes to pull all of these items off the shelves and feel certain that I could give them up.  Large serving platters, extra wine glasses and mugs, some canisters and some cruets, a small tea pot in a green colour I love but which is quite useless as a tea pot.  When the moment comes that these things seem surplus to want and need it seems so obvious.  How could I not see it before.  But then I've felt that way about breaking up relationships too.  Yes, I did just compare tossing out unwanted crockery to tossing out unwanted boyfriends.

I definitely don't have a minimalist kitchen because I still have items surplus to what I use regularly.  I have a few duplicates, a few not yet used items I think I am still going to want and I have some things that I really like and am not ready to part with for now.  The irony is that other than a home I rented for about four months, this is the largest kitchen I've ever had.  I quite like the counter space and the room to walk around but I have more cupboards than I can fill.  About a year ago I took the doors off the upper cabinets to see if I would like living with open shelving.  While the doors are in excellent shape the cabinet cases are terrible.  They are cheap looking and ugly, not the older solid wood type that one might paint and use as open shelving.  I intend to take them down and replace them with more attractive open shelves but the reality is that I don't actually need half of them.  I'm pondering what to do about that, whether I want to leave empty wall space or put up shelves I don't need.  I could more thinly disperse the crockery I do have and put some plants on the shelves too.

My plans horrified my mother, who said this sounds too radical to be suitable for resale value.  Since I don't have any plans to sell my home in the near future I am prepared to take that risk.  If I need to sell I can buy some new cheap upper cabinets that can be someone else's problem after I am gone.  For now, while the ugly cases are still there, I also have on display some of the items I am not yet ready to part with.

The task this weekend is to get some boxes and pack up the items for donation carefully with some newspaper to protect them.  Everything is in pristine condition and it would be a shame to let it get chipped or cracked on the way to the charity shop.

There will be future purges in the kitchen, I am certain.  For one thing, I have a supply of alcohol that I don't drink.  I have no idea what to do with that and may end up pouring it down the drain.  I'll see if I've got any local friends who want it before I get that drastic.

Nobody is going to walk into my home and mistake me for a minimalist.  It's simply not my aesthetic style.  I still like a home that feels cosy and has personality and to me a minimalist home has none of that.  I will have just insulted any minimalists by saying that but I assume it goes the other way and that my home would seem cluttered to a minimalist and not restful because of that. 

Easy Kitchen Purging Tips:

Duplicates or Multiples?  Pick your favourite and get rid of the rest.

Haven't used it in a year?  You probably don't need it.  Give it to someone who does.

Don't know what it is or what it does?  Into the donation box it goes.

You won't be ready to get rid of everything that is surplus.  Be patient with yourself and review and purge again in a few months or keep a box in a cupboard that you can put items into one at a time as you reconsider them.  I still have too many jugs and a small collection of glass vases even though most of the time I put flowers into the same green jug because it's my favourite.  I'm not ready to let go of any of those things yet but the time may come.

The next kitchen job to tackle is my spice cupboard.