Saturday, July 27, 2013

Minimalist Wardrobe

Now, this sh*ts hilarious. No, really... there is something severely awry when I feel entitled to blog about ANYTHING to do with style, fashion, or clothing. Yet, I feel like I do have something to share. While I don't claim to dress well, I think I can make the claim that I somehow now dress better after having carefully stripped my wardrobe down to the bare essentials.

Clothing was one of the first things to go in Oregon. I had way too many items that I didn't wear and wasn't willing to haul around anymore. Even worse, nothing went together anymore. It seems since I cut off my magical dreadlocks I've been floundering for a sense of personal style that is both professional, flexible, and expresses who I am.  To add to the mess, I never really have liked shopping, so what I did have was usually bought in an after-work hustle to find something... anything... fast. For example, if my black work pants ripped and needed to be replaced, that meant I would have to come home with the best pair I found that day regardless of how they fit, what they cost... and, sadly, if I even liked them.

A great deal of assistance was provided by reading Miss Minimalist by _____ . The things that rang truest to me were as fallows:

  • It is not everyone's calling in life to be a fashion model. It is just fine to dress nicely, even if you never turn heads with your "style."
  • Don't buy fantasy clothing. Are you a 1960's androgynous mod rocker? No? Maybe you don't need the striped pants and skinny tie then. 
  • It's not actually doing you any good to have it if you don't wear it.
I combined this with advice from one of  Tim Gun's books (give me a break, I was desperate... and I kinda love Tim Gun) and decided to focus on what works for me: a simple monochromatic wardrobe of basics that I can accessorize for different occasions. I took to polyvore and came up with this for inspiration:

Basic wardrobe

Basic wardrobe by kristin-muzzy featuring long pants

Of course, I couldn't just run out and make it happen right away, but over the last year I've slowly been building towards it. Here is what my actually closet includes:


1 kahkis (needs replacing)
1 pair of jeans
1 pair grey wool pants
1 pair black wool pants (needs replacing)
1 pair grey "scrubs" pants


Black Tanktop
V neck white Tshirt
V neck grey Tshirt (needs replacing)
V neck black Tshirt
Crewneck grey, sparkly Tshirt
"nice" crewneck white T shirt
"nice" crewneck black Tshirt
3/4 sleeve white Vneck
3/4 sleeve black Vneck

Sweaters/outer shirts:

Wool Vneck black sweater (light weight)
Teal/Blue wool cardigan (Hand knit- not going anywhere!)
Ferari red zip-up (Handy for hiking, but does not fit with anything else, will replace eventually)
Single button 3/4 sleeve "tux-style" coat, black
Button down over-shirt/coat, black


Red Troentorp clogs (casual)
Black leather Doc Marten Maryjanes (for work)
Black gladiator sandles
Hiking boots

*also some other items for sleeping, working out, and camping not included above

I learned I could live without several things. For one, I only have on pair of jeans. On weekdays, I change out of my work cloths and into athletic capris, so I really only wear jeans on the weekend. On top of this, one pair was always the favorite, so I never really wore more than one pair at a time anyway. When it really mattered, I always went for the favorite pair. The other pair only got worn once the favorites wore out... So why have them at all? That leaves three pairs of pants for work, meaning I have to re-wear or wash 2 pairs during the week, which is fine by me. I'm currently looking to replace the khakis with another pair that A) fit, and B) can work as my other casual pair of pants. Someday I will give up my last pair of scrubs... but for now they stay. I also learned to live without stylish or embellished shirts. I never did like prints, or ruffles, or pleats. I go for clean and monochromatic. If a style does come into season that I like, it's easier (and cheaper) to accessorize for the trend than to try work it into my actual clothing. Consider the following:

Black tee three ways

Black tee three ways by kristin-muzzy featuring slim fit jeans

Basic items can go from girly, to rocker, to business with ease. Not that I am after all of these looks, but it demonstrates the point of flexibility I'm trying to cultivate.  Truthfully, I don't have the variety of accessories to do different "looks," but I'm getting there. I haven't much more than a set of silver jewelry, a set of gold, and some random, favorite pieces I've collected through the years. I do, however, have a pretty good mix  of scarves to play with. I have been delaying buying accessories until I have a basis wardrobe first. Now that that is in place, I have started on the jewelry and accessories.

I'll probably never attain anything like the second photo, but looking at the first one, that seems doable. It's a method of dressing well that makes me feel competent and comfortable. You really can't mess it up... everything matches everything. That's what I need... a foolhardy set of clothing I don't have to think about and that meet my daily needs. Still, this can be adapted. Pick a few basic colors instead of black, white, and grey. Maybe you have a bohemian element to your pieces. This is just what seems to be working for me at this point in my life.... and it all fits in one rubber made ;).

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

No Knead Bread

OK, so I really have been bad about blogging. Which stinks because now I'm almost done with my 3 months in central Illinois... and I really have no excuse. At the end of the day, it's me who loses, because I love the life I'm leading and want to have a record of it.

So this one is about homemade, fantastical, wonderful bread. Uber cheap, uber easy... and NO kneading. Unfortunately, I cannot provide a recipe for this one. I have neither tweaked it enough to call my own, nor is it common enough to consider it general knowledge for the sharing. This will come more as a book recommendation.

Since I travel and try to keep possessions to a minimum, a bread machine is absolutely out of the question. I have tried kneading bread before with bad results. While I could develop this skill, and I may try to do just that int he future, I didn't really see the point since I had heard about "No Knead Bread." I tried several variations found online, but eventually bought the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. 

The jist of it is:

  1. Mix up a batch ahead and let it rise on its own
  2. refrigerate until you need it, using time to replace kneading
  3. Cut off a piece
  4. let it rise for a bit
  5. bake it
So basically, you have to stir stuff together. Then, when you want bread, you tear off a piece, let it sit on the counter, then throw it in the oven. Its a miracle.

I currently make mostly white bread, whole wheat bread can be a bit trickier. I have made one whole wheat loaf before and it turned out a bit dense, but the taste was good and I will try again. My other little hint is to let the dough age a bit in the fridge, it gives a much better "sourdough" taste.

Pros: Excellent, crusty homemade bread that is easy to learn with little technique involved. Cheap and healthy with better results than store bread. Also, It's a great entry into bread baking that is pretty "no fail" and gives you the confidence to try other techniques as well.

The downfalls: They don't give measurements in weights, and I find measuring by weight is both easier and more accurate. Also, I am interested in sourdough starters and I'm not sure how I would use one with this. Equipment is minimal, they recommend a baking stone and a pan of water for steam, but I just use my dutch oven with the lid on for part of the baking time. This is how I learned to bake no-knead bread before buying the book; I ended up combining the methods. 

So look forward to more bread-related posts! Also, I encourage you to look up methods and recipes online or buy the book for a more thorough explanation of one method.

Oh, and the jam is the picture is a strawberry-blackberry Chia seed jam.... Epic fail folks. If anyone has a good chia seed jam they like, I'd love for you to share it. This one was not good.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Adventures in Minimalism.

Once upon a time, in a land now far away, I decided to become a traveler.  Over one exhausting month, I boxed up everything I owned, hauled it out onto the lawn, and pleaded with strangers to take it away. Anything left either had to fit into my car to come with me, or it had to be important enough to box and store... knowing I would not be using or seeing it for three to six months at a time. As I sat on one of the two small couches for sale, I got really frustrated. All that money spent on things that never turned out to be as handy, necessary, or important as I thought they would be... and I realized most of it was really, truly, just junk. I felt foolish and wasteful.

While I was in Oregon, I had the chance to try on new hats; to see what I really wanted in life. For two months I lived in a hotel room without a kitchen and only a very small mini fridge. Most meals were cold (sandwiches) or cooked on my little Trangia alcohol stove. I had a toaster oven, but never really used it. Although I only came with what would fit in my car, even that proved too burdensome to move every three months.

Thus the inspiration for the name change in my blog. A few of us travelers were chatting, discussing, strategizing the career path we've chosen. I noted that I was paring down my possessions and ultimately looking for the perfect "system" to travel with- simple, light, functional. Margaret replied to this with her master plan... three rubber maid bins: one for the bedroom and clothing, one for the kitchen, and one for the bathroom. While my possessions do not literally fit into three bins, I did indeed adapt this system. Coming from Oregon to Illinois, these three bins were sorted accordingly and fit perfectly into the back seat of my car. Other miscellaneous items were packed into the trunk.

Also while in Oregon, I started to find seven items per week to get rid of. This was a simple way to start questioning if I really, truly needed the things I had. As I simplified my belongings, I also simplified my life. I shopped and cooked simple meals one time a week. I opened mail and paid bills once every Monday morning. I gave up the gym and started walking and doing yoga at home. I rarely had to clean anymore- there simply was nothing to pick up. I got rid of cloths that I didn't wear or didn't look good. I found an insanely simple way to alway have fresh bread ready to bake.

It isn't about deprivation, Zen, or 100 items. It's about making deliberate choices to only have items that work for me, and choosing not to work for my items. It also is about stopping the ongoing onslaught of items shifting in and out of my home and my life. How many things have I bought in my life whose lifespan was a year or less? Even when moving back from Oregon I left items I bought while I was there, so I still fall victim to the same impulses, but they are losing their power the more I grow.  Now when I buy something, I try to ask myself if I can imagine it surviving and being useful ten years from now. If not, why? Sure, some things wear out... clothing, shoes... but why have I gone through at least three sets of pots and pans since high school? How many water bottles have I bought in my lifetime? And where did they go anyway? When is the last time I used an entire tube of lip stick, or a pen ran out of ink, before I lost it?

It's not that any of the above are major atrocities, but applied to every situation in life, I've been nickel and and dime-ing myself for years. So I've been trying to go a different way. Some of it is necessary for my lifestyle, some of it allows me to feel more in control and secure, and some of it is just rewarding and fun.

SO... Here are the "seven items" for this week. Obviously I found more this week, but as time goes by it should get harder to find things...

From Left to right are: Sell, Give Away, and Trash. The first is a sleeping bag that I started car camping with, but is WAY to heavy for hiking and has since been replaced. I'll give it two weeks to sell on craigslist before offering it up on Freecylce. The next pile I will bring to a local thrift shop. Other options include the free section on craigslist or Freecycle. The last, sadly, is my first air  bed. I tried to repair it, but it is dead, dead, dead. I will offer it as scrap on Freecycle for a week, then I will toss it.

It's as simple as that. If you have a lot of clutter, you may find you want to start with a closet, a drawer, etc, just to get a head start. Still, tossing one item a day will help anyone decrease unsightly clutter.

I'll try and keep updating on this in my blog. I'd also like to include posts of where I have (or have not) de-cluttered my life.

Monday, May 6, 2013

On the Road Again...

So this is just a quick one, an attempt to get back at blogging. I finished my 6 months in Oregon and returned "home" for a brief visit and then it was on to my new location in central Illinois. It felt strange to leave Oregon; I had made a life and home there. Still, part of my new life necessitates the need to turn and walk away, and just appreciate the time you had.

I've been trying to have a healthier and more frugal life all around, as well as cut down how much plastic I have been using. I have to admit, while not as bad as going to Oregon, I found I had to leave/throw many things... plastics included... when I moved due to space considerations in my car. I will have to figure that one out. My ultimate goal would to be have one permanent "system" of items that all fit into my car and can travel with me, reducing the need to throw away and get new each time.

I did have one new challenge while on the road: produce less waste and spend less money. I'm terrible when I'm in my car- I live on soda, fast food, snacks... anything to make the miles go by easily. Not only is this terrible for my health, it increases my fatigue on the road and costs a TON of money. I set a goal to try and only eat 1 meal a day take out and to make this a salad. I packed all my snacks, breakfast, lunch, containers with me. It looked a lot like this...

The above items include:

  • Vacuum seal thermos: These are awesome. Mine will keep coffee piping hot for 12 hours. I usually just filled this once a day at the hotel, but of course gas stations and coffee shops will fill them as well. Plastic waste: 0
  • Life factory glass bottles: one of my favorite things. I have three and used them all. I kept them in a cooler with ice and refilled as needed at gas stations and hotels. I always offered to pay at gas stations, but they usually told me I didn't have to pay. Plastic waste: 0
  • Celery and carrot sticks: for times I was just "munchy" but didn't want extra calories. Plastic: got one more use out of the containers, but yes these were disposed of in the end.
  • Bread: I'm gonna miss Dave's bread in Illinois. (However, I can make my own now... more on that later.) This was used to make PB sandwiches. Plastic: the bread bag.
  • Snacks: GORP/trail mix, wasabi peas, grapes. Plastic: I re-wash my plastic bags now and try use them sparingly.
  • PB and J: for sandwiches. Plastic: 0
  • Cheese: for a snack with the grape. Plastic: the wrappers and bag.
  • MIO water enhancer: To wean myself from soda pop... and yes, I am able to resist soda with this. However, optimally, I want to switch to plain or lemon water, because MIO definately fits into the "NOT FOOD" category I want to get rid of. Plastic: the MIO bottle when I'm done, but an improvement over bottled pop/juice.
Other Items used not shown above:
  • Cooler: Plastic, but I'm determined to keep track of it and get good use out of it. I got the old-fashioned, hard, durable red and white kind.
  • Utensils: I just brought some from home in a cloth bag and washed them as needed at the hotel.
  • Ice: Free from the hotels.
  • Lindt dark Chocolate bars: In case I got a sweet tooth. I find Dark chocolates nip a sweet tooth in the butt, but they are a food I don't go crazy over. Plus the high-cocoa dark chocolates have some health benefits. Funny though, I only ate a bit of one bar... the trail mix kept me from reaching for sweets.
For my evening meal I got salads from McDonalds. I thought that I would go crazy if I didn't get one "real meal," but honestly I should have just packed that, too. They aren't very healthy, they're expensive, and they're wasteful. Also, after drive 12 hours a day... pretty much anything tastes good and you would rather get to the hotel sooner than waste time getting food. For some reason, cold food tastes good on the road. I think a cold pasta salad would pack great and would be just fine for the evenings. The ice in the cooler stayed all day and night (changed twice daily), so I have no concerns about it not staying cool. Plus most of my hotels had mini fridges. It was definately a success, and I would say I now prefer to travel like this. I felt better hydrated, more alert, and saved a ton of cash.

Other road successes:

  • Pod casts
  • Books on tape
  • The Stooges.... the whole trip was pretty much an Iggy Pop love fest. One of the audiobooks was even on Iggy. I finally bought Metallic KO on the second day to "refresh" my music list.
So, that pretty much covers the road trip from Oregon to Illinois. I've been in Illinois a little less than a week, so I'm still just adjusting. More updates on my new place later!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Ramblin' On...

1,900 miles from Minnesota to Oregon. Part 1.
...And it looked a lot like this. I took a lot of photos on the road, but they really aren't worth posting. You would only wonder why I posted so many photos of the same stretch of road. This was not an interesting drive, at all. It took me three days to complete, and really, I would not do it in any less as a solo driver. I got up early each morning and averaged about 12 hours a day. I took plenty of breaks to avoid too much fatigue on the road.
This sign should be updated to "No sign of intelligent life next 81 miles." And at that 81st mile there was only a diner/gas station combo and one very unfortunate hobo.

These I just found fun to collect...
Beware of Bull
Beware of Pronghorn
Beware of goat (or donkey?)
Beware of Horse
Beware of Ram
Beware of Moo-Cow
Beware of Elk

Banjo was a model citizen the whole trip. He just snoozed the days away and thankfully would still sleep most of the night. I can't imagine doing the trip without him. My best friend through it all.

I lived for 2 months in a tiny Motel room. Nothing fancy inside and kinda trashy outside, but it worked. I had a TINY fridge (smaller than most mini fridges) and no kitchen, but I made it work.
I learned to cook a LOT of things on my camping Trangia stove. No fire alarms were ever set off (most likely due to dead batteries.) I am now a gourmet camp chef.

Monday, March 18, 2013

A Change of Heart... and Place.

Greetings from.... OREGON!

I'm sorry it has been so long. I never forgot about my blog, but it had to go on the back burner because of the long hours I was logging at my last job. I then changed jobs... because of the long hours I was logging at my last job. I just couldn't make it work there anymore, I won't blame the job or myself... we will just say that something was not working, and we will leave it at that. 

In an exciting turn of events, I took a travel job last October, with my first placement being in Oregon. When I came out here, I had no internet or functioning computer to blog with. Just last week I received my long awaited new computer, and I am hoping to resurrect Good Gestalt. I am so sad that I wasn't able to blog through this huge transition in my life... so you may see a series of posts about my travels and transition, because I want to record them for myself as well as share them with friends who read this blog.

So far I am loving my new life. It was a little scary packing up my car, dog, and driving 1,900 miles across country alone to a place I'd never been, but there was something deeply rewarding about it. I surprised myself. Sometimes I am still in awe that I had the guts to do it.

It also changed my perspective on what I want in life to a staggering degree. Before moving I was living in a house (rented) with my girlfriend. We painted, decorated, and quickly filled up the space with furniture, crafts, patio furniture, a grill. All of that went lock stock and barrel out of my life when I moved. My girlfriend moved to a smaller apartment, and I could only take what would fit in my car. All of my other possessions were given away or hauled out onto the lawn in one hug garage sale. 

It was strange. All these things that had soaked up my personal spending money now looked like a heap of cheap junk sitting in the yard. I then realized that all things lose there value in time and will someday be discarded. I took what at the time seemed wanted or necessary, but even that seemed to be weighing me down. Since then I've been trying to scrape down to a system of essentials that are needed, used, and cherished. I suspect this will be a subject of future postings. Minimalism apparently is a trend on the internet, so I used some of what I read for inspiration, but I don't really want to adopt a label or set of rules. I just have realized that I have been brash and reckless in acquiring things that I end up not using and just throwing away. With fewer things, life seems lighter, freer, and cleaning is much easier. Plus, there is that whole "gotta fit into my car when I leave," thing. When you move every three months, anything that is not used frequently quickly quires resentment.

So I pardon me a bit as I catch the blog up. As I've said before, the blog is always going to be a personal blog, so I do want to record some things that have passed, but you are all invited along for the ride. And the ride just got a bit more exciting....