Hard months

Lots of people refer to January and February as ‘hard months’. However, I love their hibernating nature and edging myself into the New Year gently. I treat myself by doing all the things I rarely do during the rest of the year. For example, getting my hair cut (thankfully I have long hair, an understanding hairdresser and hair that doesn’t tend to split), lunching out (a very rare occurrence), going to the cinema (even rarer than lunchtime gallivanting) and generally easing my way into introducing new healthy habits to my routine, so far it’s been a teaspoon of aloe vera each day and a dab-a-day of umeboshi plum puree.

I also draw up my resolutions and determinations (and I really take my time to think about these). This might sound a little strict and indeed ‘hard’, but it’s actually quite pleasurable. For example, amongst my ‘determinations’ I draw up a list of things I want to buy during the year. It’s something I highly recommend to people who want to cut down on unthinking consumption.

If you have a defined ‘wish list’ of things then if whilst out-and-about you’re tempted by a quick buy, just think of your list (carry it around with you if needed, as a reminder). It’s easy to randomly spend here-and-there and not realize just how much you’re totting up.

Are you reading this thinking, ‘My list would be as long as my arms and legs combined’? I felt the same when I first tried this, but trust me, putting everything down on paper focuses the mind. I use ‘quality paper’ to make it seem ‘official’ (in actuality, the back of an old ‘comp’ slip, but it’s a creamy, thick, heavy-weighted one), and select a handful of things using the categories that mean something to me: ‘clothes’, ‘books’, ‘raw ingredients for beauty unguents’, plus a ‘single item’ kitchen splurge. Of course, it’s not just ‘things’ but ‘experiences’ too … For example, next week it's the cinema and A Bigger Splash (I’m a huge Tilda fan).


Fashion for thought

Food for thought? Fashion for thought is equally important. The clothing industry is, after all, the world’s second most polluting industry.

As a postscript to yesterday’s post it’s not just about how much (or how little) we each spend, but about the number of items too. Spending less doesn’t necessarily mean consuming less.*

*In full disclosure mode, my eight years of accounting show years ranging from buying 27 items to 96 items.

All images are via Fashion Revolution, with 'The Buyerarchy of Needs' by Sarah Lazarovic.


£££ and clothes

I stumbled across Becky Earley’s website last year and really enjoyed reading her personal blog. In a similar way, for the last eight years, like some kind of early modern housewife (I’ve read numerous numbers of their seventeenth-century wills and inventories…) I’ve kept a detailed account of the money I spend on clothes, including shoes, bags and underwear, in the tiniest of notebooks.

I buy a lot of clothes from jumble sales and then have the occasional splurge on expensive dresses. My yearly totals for the eight years range from over £1200 to under £200.* Looking back over the entries it’s the emotional impact of buying that interests me. My high from visiting a particularly good jumble sale can last a week or so, but I’m also aware that the years when I’ve spent more on clothes are the years when I’ve felt I deserved to do so. That said, some low-spending years were because I was totally, happily, wrapped up in other projects and clothing took a back seat.

Two photographs in particular from the blog bewitched me (both above). One, of Bridget Harvey’s visible mending because the jumper looks so beautiful with its proud flashes of colour (I’ve been inspired to mend with vigour) and the other, a photograph of Angelica Kitchen, a vegan restaurant in NYC. I’ve never visited but was inspired to buy their cookbook, and then, as a follow-on, the cookbook The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen, by one of their former chefs (given to me as a Christmas present, and pictured here). The latter book (which is easy to adapt to vegan) I heartily recommend, in fact, I can’t stop dipping in and out of it, as do many others judging by the reviews.

*I felt almost shy about revealing these figures. This soon dropped away when a survey covered by The Independent in 2014 suggested the average UK woman spends £1200 a month (!) on clothes, the Daily Mail (urgh) suggested a figure of £4000 per year in 2012, and Good Housekeeping the lower figure of around £600 per year in 2013. Like all analysis, these figures depend upon when, who, why and where you’re asking…


Just wait...

I had been ‘on the hunt’ all last year looking for a vegan bag. It had to be big enough to hold all my junk (books, lunches and an umbrella), nothing precious (I am not known for being particularly delicate) and be easy to keep clean (I have lots of those eco cotton bags from various emporiums but they always seem to need washing and ironing after a couple of uses).

I’d heard about a trader, Treetap, who supplied Hermès with rubber bags. Alas, they seemed to have stopped trading in bags and instead now supply the rubber for Veja plimsolls. I thought I’d stumbled across a contender via Manchester’s Dojo Ecoshop in the shape of a ‘Bags for Change’ bag, but it seems that they too are no longer sold (and Bags for Change is no longer an on-going organisation). However, at the tail end of last year, browsing, just by chance on ebay, the rubber bag of my dreams emerged, made from a recycled tyre (and under £2). The moral of the story? Always … just wait.


'Later' presents

‘Later’ presents often set the tone for the year. Arriving after the hullaballoo of the festive season itself they sometimes seem to impart more meaning than those appearing in the scrum that is Christmas.

For me, the year never feels it truly starts until I have a calendar and a diary, and it’s always an Oxfam diary, although alas, its monthly pages to helpfully track expenses appear to have disappeared in favour of glossy world map pages. My Christmas present to myself has arrived in the post, a new iridescent Dosa blouse for a mere £30 (an update of the peach one I pictured years ago) and I’ve procured a few New Year bargains. This year it’s been a Dosa inspired double-breasted blouse (£1 from a local charity shop), additional organic unguents, cookery books at bargain prices (I’m guessing unwanted Christmas presents) and a giant wooden plant pot (again, a mere £1)…


2016: Setting the Scene...

A single image often sets the tone for my year. Last year it was a magazine cover of denim and navy (and the interior featured within, pictured, inspiring me to keep paring things down) and my year turned out to be pretty much dominated by the same. This year it’s an old image of jeweller Pippa Small (found whilst tidying up) that’s seeped into my consciousness. Not a huge departure from last year’s navy/denim tones but prettied up with a jangling arm of bangles and tiny ear cuffs. The sentences of the article have helped too in conjuring up my mood for the year (as does the featured recipe, spicy chickpeas and shallots with prunes – yum):

‘Food, for Small, has to be uncomplicated … When speaking of food, she keeps returning to a few key words: simple, natural, authentic.’

‘She is beautiful, tall and exotic-looking with hair in wild tendrils, and a shirt made from gossamer-like fabric bought from a market stall in India.’

‘She is not remotely interested in MagiMixes or Kitchen Aids. “It’s very relaxing to switch off and methodically cut, boil or peel,” she says, slicing a banana shallot to a chorus of crystal and gold.’


Life Itself is the Proper Binge

I’ve written before about how I draw as much inspiration from non-vegan cookbooks as vegan ones. It remains the case, but last year, my two favourite cookbooks both just happened to be vegan.

The first, Vegan Secret Supper by Merida Anderson (pictured) stands out for featuring zero vegan ‘junk’ additions and the second, Coconut Kitchen, features the rather wonderful slogan heading this blog post (there are a few smatterings of honey and bee pollen in the latter, but both are easy to substitute or leave out).

For a more considered summary, the reviews for both say it all.