Thursday, March 26, 2015

A simple spring pasta

Here is a dish that is a new favorite in our house, a simple spring pasta with marinated chickpeas and mozzarella, with wilted greens stirred in at the end. 

The recipe comes from Mollie Katzen via Serious Eats. I found it on my "Spring" Pinterest board, though honestly I'm not sure how it got there. (Yes, I do still use Pinterest quite a lot for menu planning.)

You really can't go wrong with Mollie Katzen, and this dish is a winning combination of very flavorful and dead easy -- accommodating of busy schedules, too. First you marinate a can of drained chickpeas and cubes of fresh mozzarella in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, and some dried herbs. (This takes me no longer than 10 minutes to pull together, people!) The original recipe says to let it sit for an hour or two at room temperature, but I think you could also assemble this part of the dish in the morning and then stick it in the refrigerator until dinnertime.

In the evening, you just boil some pasta, then dump the whole marinade shebang into the drained noodles. Stir in some arugula (it will wilt a bit with the heat of the pasta) and grated Parmesan cheese, and dinner is served.

I made this twice with arugula, and then wondered how it would be with Tuscan kale instead. The answer, of course, is excellent. And equally easy: just throw some roughly chopped kale (be generous; I'd say at least 6 to 8 cups) into the pasta water for the last minute or two of cooking, to blanch it. Drain along with the pasta and proceed as usual.

In fact I think the kale version of the dish has an edge, as it makes better leftovers (reheated wilted arugula is not my favorite).

I recommend using Pipe Regate for the pasta, as pictured in the photo at the top of this post; the chickpeas nestle nicely in the hollows of the noodles. Sounds like an obscure pasta shape, but I found mine at Whole Foods, and organic to boot.

My husband is agitating for the addition of red pepper flakes, which I am confident is a good idea, and plan to try it next time I make the dish, which I am confident will be soon.

Linking up with Anne's Pin to Present feature today, a very worthwhile challenge to actually do something with all that inspiration I collect online.

Original source: Pasta Shells with Chickpeas and Arugula, Serious Eats

Saturday, March 14, 2015

On Exuberance and a Purpose for Every Place

Recently via the charming sewing/quilting blog Flossie Teacakes I discovered a new home decor blog called Apartment Apothecary that I've really been enjoying.

The writer, Katy Orme, has a winningly down-to-earth voice. And she certainly has mastered the decorating style I aspire to. (Which, after poring over photos of her apartment, I can now label as Scandinavian white minus the austere modernism, crossed with English car boot sale minus the cluttery kitsch. Halfway between London and Copenhagen, if you will -- hey come to think of it, that's Amsterdam.)

Katy also co-hosts (along with Charlotte of Lotts and Lots) "Styling the Seasons," a monthly invitation to "style any surface in your home to represent the change of month and what it means to you." This month I thought I would join in.

I've expressed some skepticism about the concept of "styling" in the past so I suppose I should explain myself. (First Instagram and now styling? What's going on here, has the world or at least Sarah gone mad? Don't worry -- I remain morally opposed to Twitter.)

I suppose what I'm not so keen on is styling for its own sake -- form without function or even form that interferes with function (that's a nice looking arrangement of objects on that bedside table, but where am I supposed to put my glass of water?).

But switching things up around the house to follow the changing seasons? I can get behind that. And the idea that the objects in our homes should reflect our hopes and intentions? Oh yes, count me in. (Meaning is function, in my world.)

I decided to work with a marble-topped sideboard that was given to me by my aunt. It's moved around a bit in the house but at the moment it resides on one side of our dining "nook." Since it's right near the dining table (meaning, about a foot and a half from the dining table, which is on the other side of the nook, which should give you some idea about the scale involved and why I can't call it anything other than a nook, cutesy as that may seem), the sideboard tends to become a dumping ground for items hurriedly cleared off the table before dinner-time.

If styling can save us from this fate, then I'm all for it.
Recently I had made a conscious decision not to "decorate" some of the surfaces in our house but instead to try to leave them clean and empty. Yet what I am noticing is that surfaces left completely blank tend to attract clutter. It's almost as if, when a surface doesn't have a specific purpose of its own, it is doomed to become a catchall. In my head I'm revising the oft-quoted "A place for everything and everything in its place" to read "A place for everything and a purpose for every place."

I can see now that's part of what's going on with the sideboard. We put it in this spot because that's where it fits, not to serve a particular purpose. No wonder it's become a clutter magnet.

So the first step was to clean up and take things back to a blank slate. Then I added tulips! I also hung a print of birch trees that I bought my husband for his birthday several years ago. (You guys, I am so good at buying prints by independent artists off Etsy and the like...and so bad at actually hanging them on the walls.) By happy accident, the yellow in the tulips matches the yellow in the birch forest print.

So for this week at least, the sideboard's purpose is to hold something beautiful. An indulgent purpose, but it counts for now. And I have resisted piling crap on that sideboard for a full four days -- success!

As for what this month means to me? You have probably guessed from my posting schedule of late, but February was quite a slog around these parts. From March, I'm hoping for a little exuberance. So, not one bunch of tulips but two; not one vase but half a dozen.

Exuberance justifies a liberal hand with the photos, don't you think? Here we go....

Monday, March 9, 2015

On jumping on the bandwagon

There's plenty more cat microblogging where that came from.

I am just about the last person on Earth to make this announcement, but I went ahead and joined Instagram.

My beloved old lady cat died suddenly in mid-January, and after she was gone I went looking for pictures of her. I didn't have all that many. It made me resolve to take more photos in the future -- of the cats, my family, and everyday life in general.

For a while I did a series of posts on this blog called "Weekending," with photos and short captions describing our weekend activities. I've found that I like being able to look back on those posts and I thought that Instagram might offer a more frictionless way to accomplish something similar.

Most of the people I'm following right now on Instagram are artists or creative types of some sort.  I wasn't particularly expecting this, but I have been fascinated with the way this platform offers a glimpse into creative endeavors in process. I think it's a nice antidote to the focus on product or outcome that tends to arise from the blog format.

I mean that you can start to get a sense of how long it takes for a creative project to come to fruition, and how this is interwoven with the more mundane aspects of a person's everyday life. Of course, I know that these images are "curated," but I guess I'm choosing to believe that at least in some cases, in some ways, these visual narratives are telling an authentic story.

For example here is a post that's worth reading in its own right, but that became especially interesting to me in light of knowing that the writer had previously shared most of the images on the post via Instagram. So instead of seeing these words and images as being fully formed, final products that sprang out of nowhere, I have a sense of them being part of a questioning, experimental process. That's a really useful perspective, I think.

For myself, I'm hoping that sharing little snippets of projects in progress might create some kind of accountability to encourage me to follow through and finish them (which we all know is a perpetual problem for me).

So if you've jumped on the bandwagon and joined Instagram too, I would love to connect with you. You can find me here.

Friday, March 6, 2015

You are going to eat a half-pound of Brussels sprouts for dinner, and you are going to like it

Really, you are -- I promise!

Alright, I know, Brussels sprout season is almost over, if it isn't already. But it took me a while to work out this recipe so I wanted to post it here while it's still fresh in my mind.

This dish is actually very simple to make -- it's a version of fatteh, a Middle Eastern dish that combines toasted pita bread, vegetables and/or meat, and a garlicky yogurt sauce. Etymologically it has the same root as fattoush, or pita bread salad; both dishes are designed to use up stale bread. Well, bring on the plant-based peasant food, is what I always say.

The inspiration for this Brussels sprout version comes from a meal my husband and I had a couple of months ago at Mamnoon, a local Syrian/Lebanese restaurant. Their Brussels sprout fatteh -- or what was left of it by the time I thought to snap a picture -- is in the bottom left corner of the image below.

All of the mezze we had that night were amazing. There were foodie touches like kale butter swirled into the yogurt that topped the Brussels sprouts, and baby arugula accompanying the feta-stuffed sambusek pastries. But these didn't seem like mere trendy flourishes; instead they added to the flavor of each dish, without obscuring the simple, unpretentious nature of these foods.

I was also really glad to see this on our table:

Please don't misunderstand me here. I'm not trying to encourage slacktivism, and I certainly am under no illusions that my purchase of an appetizer is going to fix the situation in Syria. But it was nice to see a restaurant acknowledge the world we live in (this date night happened to be at the end of the week of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, so I was feeling rather bleak about the state of that world). And a relief to think that there might be an option other than total despair and self-abnegation on the one hand, and fiddling while Aleppo burns on the other.

As for those Brussels sprouts, what intrigued me was the sauce, which was gently, warmly garlicky rather than sharply so as it has been when I've made various versions of fatteh before. At first I thought the garlic might be roasted, but when I tried this the flavor got completely lost, even when I mashed an entire bulb of garlic into the yogurt.

In the end I turned to a trick from The New Best Recipe, which is my basic-recipe bible. In the recipe for basil pesto, the editors (the same nerd-tastic folks who run Cook's Illustrated magazine and America's Test Kitchen on PBS) suggest toasting whole, unpeeled cloves of garlic in a dry skillet to tone down its sharpness. That technique provided the flavor I was after in the yogurt sauce here, too.

In fact, I used a second technique from The New Best Recipe to cook the Brussels sprouts, too. When I roast Brussels sprouts, I am often frustrated by the way they cook unevenly -- the single leaves that fall off the outside when you trim and quarter the sprouts are charred before the sprouts themselves cook through. So I borrowed a method from the book's recipe for oven fries: cover the baking sheet with a second baking sheet and let the vegetables steam for the first five minutes in the oven, to get a head start on cooking.

One more note on ingredients: I am sorry to be a snob, but you need to find yourself a proper Middle Eastern market and get some good pita bread -- big, delicate loaves, not the thick, doughy stuff that passes for pita bread in mainstream American supermarkets. That stuff won't fly here (ask me how I know).

Alright, so the result of all this tweaking is the recipe below -- I hope you enjoy it, either now or next winter!

Brussels Sprout Fatteh

Inspired by Mamnoon restaurant.

2 loaves pita bread
olive oil

1 pound fresh Brussels sprouts
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. pomegranate molasses
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
freshly ground black pepper

2/3 C plain yogurt (I recommend full-fat)
1 large clove garlic

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Place the pita bread on a baking sheet and brush very lightly with olive oil. Put in oven and toast until the top of the bread is dried out but not browned. (You can do this while the oven is preheating, if you like. I don't know how fast your oven heats so I can't tell you how long it will take -- 5 to 7 minutes I'd guess, just keep an eye on it.) Remove bread from oven, flip over, and brush the other side of the loaves with oil, again very lightly. Sprinkle with a little bit of salt. Put back in the oven for another 5 minutes or so to crisp up the other side. Remove from oven and let cool while you cook the Brussels sprouts.

Meanwhile, wash and trim the Brussels sprouts, and cut them into quarters lengthwise. Toss in a bowl with 1 Tbsp olive oil, pomegranate molasses, ground coriander, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Spread out on a baking sheet and cover the baking sheet with another upside-down baking sheet like a lid. Place in the oven. After 5 minutes, remove the top baking sheet and allow the Brussels sprouts to continue to cook, uncovered, until they are tender inside and caramelized outside, about 20 to 25 more minutes.

To make the yogurt sauce, place the plain yogurt in a bowl. Heat a small skillet (I like cast iron) over medium heat and place the garlic, with the peel still on, in the skillet. Toast, shaking every now and then, for about 5 minutes, until the garlic is fragrant. When the garlic is cool enough to handle, peel it and press it through a garlic press into the yogurt. Add a pinch of salt and stir the sauce ingredients together.

To assemble the dish, break the pita into pieces with your hands and place on two plates (I like to have some small pieces that can get soaked-through with yogurt as well as some large pieces that I can pick up and use to scoop up the rest of it). Divide the roasted Brussels sprouts between the plates and pour the yogurt sauce on top.

Serves 2.

P.S.: The UNHCR's Syria relief fund is right here.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

On the psychological paradoxes of capsule wardrobes

Well as you have probably guessed from my silence since last month's capsule wardrobe post, I've been a bit swamped over here. But it's (past) time for another outfit linkup with In Residence and Just Jacq and I've just met a massive writing deadline, so I thought I'd try to get a post up.

I find myself fascinated with some of the paradoxes people talk about related to capsule wardrobe experiments. For example: the more I got rid of, the easier it was to let go of things. As you'll gather below from my lopsided subtractions and additions lists, that's been the case for me too. But it's not out of some general sense of finding out that it's so easy to live with less. Instead, it's that the fewer choices I have the less inclined I am to tolerate not-so-great ones.

I think in the past I've let a lot of items hang out in my wardrobe that I might wear once in a blue moon even though they are fussy or "off" in some way. But when I put such items in the context of a capsule wardrobe and contemplate wearing them every two weeks for three months -- it's easy to see that they should go.

I also hear people say things like: the fewer clothes I have, the more I feel like I have to wear. I do think that when you strip away the wardrobe dross, you have a higher percentage of workable choices, and that leads to the perception of more choice. It's the difference between "nope, nope, yes, nope, yes, no freaking way, no, nope, nope, yes" and "yep, yes, hell yeah."

On the other hand, at this point I think I've pared back my winter capsule so thoroughly that I do bump up against a lack of options. I generally plan what I'm going to wear weekly (this might sound weird or obsessive, but the fact is that I have five minutes to get dressed in the morning while also haranguing my child to get dressed, checking to make sure that she has everything in her backpack, etc., etc., so it's much better to have an outfit on deck ahead of time).

So given my acceptance of the idea that "everything goes with everything" isn't a workable goal for me, and the fact that I generally prefer not to wear a given item twice in one week (again possibly weird or even misguided, but there you go), and also the need to dress for the weather (waterproof shoes or no waterproof shoes?), sometimes outfit planning feels a bit like sartorial Sudoku these days.

Of course this is a bit silly, since I have a whole bunch of other perfectly serviceable clothes sitting on my shelf that I'm choosing not to wear simply because they're "not in my winter capsule." So I simultaneously have these clothes and don't have them; they're sort of like Schrödinger's pants.      

Well this is all an experiment anyway, so I'm just putting it all out there -- the good, the bad, the possibly silly, and the (self)-contradictory. So with all that said, let's get on to what I've been wearing.

February outfits

tan clogs | burgundy cords | purple long-sleeve tee | fair-isle pullover
Dutch locket | dark blue bead earrings | agate ring
Just my cup of casual-folkloric tea.
black dressy tall boots | black opaque tights | black jersey dress | sky-blue cardi
silver and black enamel bangle | agate ring | blue stone earrings | lavender/aqua paisley scarf
This outfit is so simple -- just a neutral background, a cardi with some interesting details,
and a few beloved accessories -- but was such a pleasure to wear.
gray tall boots | gray skinny jeans | lavender cashmere tee | ivory Aran cardi
Russian silver earrings | abalone ring | photo-print scarf
I tend to wear this scarf mostly as outerwear -- this outfit is from one of those crazy-warm
and sunny days that we get every now and then in Seattle in January and February. 
gray tall boots | medium-wash skinny jeans | white tuxedo shirt | gray shawl-collar cardi
Russian silver earrings | abalone ring | agate ring | lavender/aqua paisley scarf
I put this together on the fly after the outfit I'd planned for that day turned out to be a total fail.
So despite the impression I gave above, my current collection of items does
enable that "get dressed without thinking" feat every now and then.

February subtractions

Here's what left my capsule this month and why.

Black/gray/white fair isle crewneck: I like this sweater a lot, but I don't like wearing it at all. The neckline is too high, the hem tends to roll, and it's puzzlingly itchy (it's made of merino wool, which I normally have no problem wearing next to my skin).

Black cashmere tee: Neckline is too high. I will never choose this over my black scoopneck layering sweater -- which isn't perfect either, as it is a fiber blend and tends to pill. What I really want is a black all-cashmere scoopneck, but until then, instead of keeping two imperfect items in my closet I'll just hold on to the imperfect item I'm actually wearing.

Ivory cashmere tee: Again with the too-high crewneck. This tee and the black one used to be absolute wardrobe staples. How could I have failed to see how unflattering this neckline is on me?

Black maxi skirt: I want to like maxi skirts, but they don't play very well with my vintage-y tops and sweaters. I could only come up with a few possible outfits from my capsule using this skirt, and they all felt costumey to me (with a solid black maxi skirt it's all too easy to veer into "witchy woman" territory). I may keep this around to see if it works better in my summer capsule, but more than likely I'll let it go altogether.

Ivory argyle sweater vest: Droopy up top, boxy down below, no thank you overall.

Gray shawl-collar pullover: Any outfit that I can make with this pullover I'd be equally if not more happy wearing with my gray cardi instead. I'd rather just wear the cardi a few "extra" times, and free up mental and physical space for something that lends more true variety to my wardrobe.

Black Aran cardi: My ivory version remains a beloved staple, but this is bulkier and itchier. I've known that, I think, and yet I've kept this item in my wardrobe because I really want a long, cozy black cardigan. It's been a placeholder item, if you will. But if I'm not actually going to wear it and enjoy it...what's the point of marking the place?

Gray argyle v-neck: The pattern on this sweater isn't really gray, white, and burgundy, it's gray, white, and brown, and I don't wear brown. Doesn't that sound impossibly self-indulgent? Oh, I'm getting rid of this because it doesn't perfectly fit my color palette. Check your privilege, girl. Well, frankly, the sweater doesn't fit all that great either -- it's a little short and tends to ride up. (It must also be admitted that I'm carrying a bit more weight these days than I was when I purchased this item.) So this is a case where the imperfect color makes it easier to acknowledge the less-than-stellar fit.

February additions

Here's what I added to my capsule this month and why.

Medium-wash bootcut jeans: LOFT (not currently available). Pretty much the same color as my medium-wash skinny jeans, I know, but the difference in cut is important here. All of the other pants in my capsule are on the skinny-ish side; I prefer to wear longer/larger tops with skinny pants but a larger fraction of my tops/cardis are shorter and more fitted. So these should help balance out my wardrobe a bit. They need to be hemmed, though -- bah!

Ivory scoopneck layering sweater: Woolovers. Similar to last month's gray scoopneck sweater purchase, I've swapped out an unflattering cut for one I much prefer.

Norwegian silver earrings: vintage via Ebay. Oh, heck. I really can't justify these from a "minimalist wardrobe" point of view, can I -- after all, I just bought another pair of silver earrings last month. I will say though that I don't really use the two pair interchangeably -- I tend to wear these as pretty much my only accessory, whereas the others are less "statement-y," if you will. The dangles at the bottom are called "spoons" and they are meant to protect the wearer from evil spirits, which pretty much qualifies these as "wardrobe essentials" in my book.

Gray and pastel scarf: Liberty of London via Ebay. I have to admit that the color palette here is a bit darker than I was expecting based on the online photos, but I do think it fits in my winter capsule and I'll wear it in spring too.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Thoughts on month one of dressing like a birch forest

Linking up today to the January Outfit Showcase at In Residence and Just Jacq.

January Outfits

While capsule wardrobes promise to simplify the process of getting dressed, I struggled at first to put together outfits that I liked.

I think this is because I am sort of an obligate layer-er: in order to be comfortably warm during the cooler seasons of the year I almost always need to be wearing a long-sleeved top with a long-sleeved sweater over it. Sometimes the necklines or hemlines of these layers don't combine well, plus there is the comfort factor of one set of sleeves underneath another to contend with. So it has taken some trial and error to figure out which combinations of the tops and sweaters in my capsule are feasible. I've come to the conclusion that while it's easy to create mix-and-match collages of clothes on a computer screen, "everything goes with everything else" isn't a realistic goal in real life. 

That said, a well-chosen set of items does have tons of mix-and-match potential, so here's a week's worth of outfits that I've really enjoyed wearing.

tan clogs | medium-wash skinny jeans | fuchsia scoopneck sweater | ivory Aran cardi
agate ring | abalone ring | garnet earrings | teacup-print scarf (worn in hair)
I love the way this abalone ring looks against my burgundy and fuchsia items.

black casual tall boots | black skirted leggings | fuchsia scoopneck sweater | burgundy long cardi
wedding rings necklace | pink pearl earrings | abalone ring
I wear these skirted leggings a lot on the weekends -- they're super comfortable but a step up from yoga pants.

black dressy tall boots | black ponte knit pants | white tuxedo shirt | light blue long cardi
gray/pastel paisley scarf | agate ring | gray pearl earrings
I wore this on a day when I had a professional event in the evening -
I had forgotten it was happening that night and was very happy to feel like I didn't have to worry
about what I was going to wear because I was already wearing something appropriate.

black dressy tall boots | black opaque tights | black jersey dress | fair isle cardi
black enamel and silver bangle | agate ring | blue stone earrings
This cardi is admittedly difficult to mix and match, but I do love it so.

black dressy tall boots | black ponte knit pants | charcoal tunic sweater | blue handknit cape
black enamel and silver bangle | agate ring | blue stone earrings
Rather dramatic in an equestrienne sort of way --
yes, it felt a bit over the top at first, but ultimately this outfit was great fun to wear.

black dressy tall boots | black A-line jersey skirt | gray scoopneck | medium-blue cardi
black crochet tights | recycled metal necklace | braided metal bracelet | dark blue glass bead earrings
I love the vintage feel of a slightly A-line skirt and a longer, narrow-fitting cardi.
black dressy tall boots | merino jersey straight skirt | dragon-print shirt | sky-blue cardi
black crochet tights | agate ring | black enamel and silver bangle | onyx and pearl drop earrings
In the past I've always paired this shirt with a black cardi --
I like the way this challenge is pushing me to try new combinations. 

Items Not Yet Worn

I don't have much to say about this, I just thought it might be useful to record which items in my capsule are the last ones I reach for, and start to think about why.

gray/black/pink rose-print dress | black maxi skirt | black cashmere tee | black Aran cardi
ballet-pink cardi | gray shawl-collar pullover | blue and rose floral shawl

January Subtractions

Here's what I removed from my capsule this month and why.

Black and white plaid pinafore: This top has elastic along the neckline and shoulders which has lost its stretch, rendering it pretty dumpy looking at this point. And it was never very versatile to begin with.

Black faux-wrap pullover: In theory, effortless and apres-ballet-chic. In practice, just plain fussy with all the tops I tried underneath it, and gapes unflatteringly.

Ivory short-sleeve sweater: At some point I had convinced myself that this was oversized in a funky way, but it is really just bulky. Also it has slightly puffed sleeves, which aren't flattering to my broad shoulders.

Gray fine-gauge turtleneck sweater: I just feel frumpy in this, and will never choose it over one of my long-sleeve tees when I need a top with a higher neckline to wear under an itchy sweater.

Blue-gray lace pullover: I love the color and the lacy knit, but the cut makes my torso look like a short, squat rectangle.

Silver and faux-pearl bracelet: This was my grandmother's, but it's not really my style. It is retro in a  Mad Men kind of way, whereas I am more Call the Midwife.

Brooch with thistle and bee; brooch with watercolor landscape: I still like these items so I'm not removing them from my jewelry box -- just from my capsule, because I realize now that they don't really "fit" the overall look.

January Additions

Here's what I added to my capsule this month and why.

Gray scoopneck layering sweater: Cashmere Cache, via Ebay.
You could say that this replaces the gray turtleneck that I got rid of this month, swapping out the frump for a top in a similar color with a neckline that I much prefer.

Sky blue cardi: Nieman Marcus, via Ebay.
I realize that these mosaic pictures make this look like a duplicate of the medium-blue cardi already in my capsule, but the color is quite different as is the cut (this one is fitted and a bit cropped; the other is longer and straight). I know. I sound like I'm rationalizing, even to myself.

Onyx and pearl earrings: via Ebay.
These are not so much an addition as a replacement for a long- and much-loved pair of onyx and pearl earrings, one of which I lost on New Year's Eve. Sob.

Russian silver earrings: vintage, via Etsy.
I wanted a pair of silver earrings that would have more presence than my thin silver hoops. One of the real benefits of this approach that I can already see is the aesthetic clarity it brings to purchasing decisions. Yes, my jewelry box was lacking a pair of plain silver earrings, but there are hundreds of such earrings out there; how to figure out which ones I should add to my wardrobe? Riffing on the idea of the landscape I'm channeling with this capsule, I started thinking about the lands of winter birch forests -- Russia, Scandinavia. I could see assembling just a handful of old but not too precious jewelry pieces from these areas -- together with a few distinctive items like my fair isle cardi and photo-print scarf these could define the look and feel of my winter wardrobe, which would also contain many basic pieces (gray scoopneck layering sweater, medium-wash skinny jeans) that carry over from season to season.

Norwegian silver pendant: vintage, via Ebay.
I have a couple of tiny gold pendants that I wear a lot, but I think silver fits better with the palette of this capsule. This was a mateless screwback earring that I got for a song, and converted to a pendant. Also, see earrings discussion above!

Braided metal bracelet: husband's grandmother.
This is not new to my jewelry box but I didn't initially include it in my capsule because it is gold. I added it because my black enamel and silver bracelet didn't look right with my recycled-metal necklace. This bracelet is a pretty soft or muted tone of gold, so it still blends well with the silver items in this capsule.

For the record, yes, I do feel rather sheepish that so far I've added nearly as many items to my capsule as I've taken away. I would say that in general I have really enjoyed wearing this capsule, but I sometimes feel frustrated by fussing with it. Of course, this is exactly why people do the work of defining their capsule up front and then just get on with the wearing of it. I keep reminding myself that hopefully, this is my up front -- just a longer, more experimental version of it.

For more about my approach to capsule wardrobes in general, go here.

For details on the items in this capsule, go here.

Monday, January 26, 2015

On narrative play

My daughter had her cousin over for a sleepover this past weekend. That's the two of them in the picture above -- my daughter, 7 1/2, is on the right and her cousin, who is almost 9, is on the left.

The girls set up a sprawling landscape in the living room using our wooden train set, a number of quirky Lego structures, and various Playmobil sets. In the picture above, they're sorting out the details of an area called Camp Happy Hollow.

They also spent a lot of time playing "kitties," which I'm pretty sure is the game my daughter would prefer to play over any other and involves acting out a long and fluid narrative about being slightly skittish yet resourceful beasties in need of a home.

(At one point I was recruited to muse aloud about the DELICIOUS MOUSE PIZZA I was ordering for dinner, and drop broad hints about when I would be out of the house so that the ravenous kitties could sneak in and eat my leftovers.)

I'm thinking a lot about narrative these days, as the project I'm working on during my 32-day writing challenge is a novel. In the great schism between pantsers and plotters I am sort of a self-hating pantser and I'm chagrined to admit that even though I started working on the story *mumble mumble* years ago there are still whole swathes where I don't know what happens next.

So it was fascinating to see how the girls would sometimes change some aspect of their kitties narrative and then re-enact a scene to reflect the change. It wasn't just that they made things up on the fly and the story evolved over time, they actually went back and revised earlier scenes in the game.

It struck me as not all that different from what I am doing with my own writing, and I started wondering whether that sort of re-vision and re-enacting is an important part of the developmental function of narrative play, or maybe even something fundamental to how we humans create and experience narrative in general.

All this isn't apropos of anything much; I suppose it ties in with our earlier discussion about creativity and family life, but mostly I just wanted a place to record these observations while I mull them over.