Things I Don’t Own

In the Japanese minimalist circle, listing stuff you own or don’t own is quite a fad. The impetus appears to be to gain self-awareness about one’s values and priorities, but there’s certainly an undeniable element of voyeuristic fun for the reader, which is probably a part of why the lists are popular among minimalist bloggers: They bring page views, and page views bring ad revenue.

things I don't own

Though I don’t get revenue from this blog, I’m curious what I’d discover about myself through listing what I don’t own. So. Here’s a quick list of things I don’t own:

  • Hair dryer: Call me a slob. I can’t take the heat and don’t care about my appearance that much. (To be fair, I’m probably born lucky with hair that doesn’t go crazy without hair dryers.)
  • Microwave: I don’t need one, and I don’t have the space in my 600 sq place.
  • Rice cooker: You don’t need one. Pot on a stove does a better job faster anyway.
  • Most makeup-related things: See above on hair dryer. I have a lipstick I never use, a MUJI all-in-one moisturizer and a tub of Nivea. That’s it.
  • Laundry machine: One thing on this list I wish I owned.
  • iPhone case: Nude is the best.
  • Car: Also I don’t have car insurance, alternate parking nuisance, oil changes, inspections, breakdowns, gas expenses and car taxes. I also don’t have the freedom to drive out on a whim on a weekend, which sucks, but Car2Go and rental cars are good enough.
  • House: I can’t afford the expense in much of NYC within manageable commute from work. Plus, I strongly suspect neither I nor Flaneur are made for home ownership (read: Did I mention I’m a slob? I’m also decidedly not handy, with too many other fun things to do than mow the lawn and fix the window leak, or whatever).
  • Cable
  • Landline phone: I don’t need one except for catastrophic emergencies.
  • Cats: Another thing on this list I wish I owned. Maybe more than a laundry machine.

I suppose I don’t own a private jet or a chalet in the Swiss Alps, either, but I think that’s kind of implied.

Coming up with a list of things I don’t own was actually pretty hard. The first three came to me quickly, but after that, it took a bunch of thinking, and placing myself in different rooms to imagine what a typical person would have in each room. To me, not owning a hair dryer is so completely normal that I don’t ever think about it (until I need one to remove the stick-on mount for my Moment telephoto lens for the iPhone… Grr). This listing exercise perhaps makes it visible that my normal is not everyone’s normal, and attempting to look at my normal from the viewpoint of other “normals” creates a distance and awareness about what I value and don’t value in stuff. Theoretically.

This was definitely an interesting experiment, though I’m not sure if I learned anything other than what I already know about myself–that I’m usually motivated by sloth, find it fun to improvise without resorting to unitaskers, generally dislike spending time and money on appearance beyond making myself look good in my own eyes (and I guess I have lowish standards, haha). I’m thinking of doing another list, for things I/we own but I would like to try living without. Now that might be interesting.

Spinach Egg Bake

A veritable hill of spinach.

(No comment on the stove-top gunk.)

It shrinks down so much when cooked. I probably should be using another, larger pan to sauté the spinach, but I’m too lazy and dish washing-averse for such an endeavor. That means my spinach egg bake turned out a little low on spinach; I’d nave liked twice, if not thrice, the spinach. Oh well.

Breakfast this morning:

  • Spinach egg bake (hidden bacon, Parmesan sprinkles)
  • Pane di casa toast
  • Watermelon! It’s summer! (And it’s 143% humidity! Ugh.)

Pane di Casa from Gian Piero Bakery

Pane di Casa from Gian Piero Bakery, an old-school Italian bakery on the Eastern side of Astoria, might very well be the perfect bread. When I moved to Astoria, I explored what feels fat too big and far too dense to be called a neighborhood virtually on Yelp, and Gian Piero was one of the things that got on my radar. Somehow, though, I didn’t go there until a few years later when we were flaneuring the eastern edge of Astoria and stumbled across the no-frills bakery with a green awning and a couple of tables out front full of Italian guys sipping coffee and biting into cakes and pastries. (Oh, how I love these older guys who don’t hide their love of sweet pastries and ice cream! I find them incredibly cute. :P)

pane di casa from gian piero bakery

We bought a couple of rainbow cookies and bite-sized cheesecakes (both of which are spot on, in case you are wondering), and a small loaf of pane di casa. I was hooked right away. The rustic bread has just the right balance of everything: There’s a satisfying crust, but it isn’t so hard it cuts into your palate (as so many otherwise delicious rustic breads do); the crumb is moist, but never too dense; it has just the right amount of salt. And the best of all? The flavor. I don’t know what kind of magic wheat they use, but this Italian bread packs some serious flavor. It’s not the tang of a sourdough bread. It’s the homey, comforting, deeply satisfying wheat flavor with a bit of toasty, nutty note from the crust.

Seriously, I don’t know how they do it, but it’s one of the best breads I’ve ever had. And it’s so reasonably priced, too. (I almost want to say it’s unreasonably priced–it’s so cheap at I believe under $2 for a small loaf that’s enough for, oh I don’t know, five breakfasts for two people?

Try it. It keeps well in the freezer for a week or two, if you have the restraint to not gobble it up right away.

Breakfast this morning:

  • Toast (pane di casa from Gian Piero bakery)
  • Miso scrambled eggs with eggplant, zucchini, mushroom & ginger
  • White nectarine & strawberries


Zucchini Eggs with Khumeli Suneli

Last week, Blue Apron sent me a humongous, arm-sized zucchini for spiced shrimp couscous dish, which appears to require maybe a third of the giant fruit. I shaved off a chunk from it for breakfast, as I’m pretty low on breakfast veggies. To spice things up a bit, I tried adding khumeli suneli, a Georgian spice mix I picked up a couple of months ago (after a long and arduous hunt in Brighton Beach).

zucchini eggs with khumeli suneli

This khumeli suneli wasn’t bad, no, but it was a little too heavy on turmeric perhaps, and not much else. I think my go-to Blue Mountain Jamaican curry blend has a very similar flavor profile, but all the spices and flavors much more pronounced than this one. (By the way, I linked to an Amazon page, but don’t buy it there–over $7 seems really high for this, as I’ve bought several jars for something like $4.)

I’ve seen people rave about this Georgian spice mix, and I know how fantastic Georgian food can be (I should actually say “usually is,” since I’ve never had a mediocre Georgian meal), so I’m guessing the one I picked up wasn’t the best or the freshest specimen. The hunt continues!

Breakfast today:

  • Zucchini eggs with khumeli suneli
  • Breakfast chicken sausage patty
  • Toast
  • Greek yogurt with honey nuts

Constructing Minimalist Work Uniforms: Pants Inventory Edition

To construct a couple of minimalist work “uniforms” for summer, I figured I should start with an inventory of what I own, what I love, what I tend to wear to work, what I don’t love, and what I tend to avoid. This is the inventory edition of my journey to figure out the best pants for minimalist work uniforms.

Regular Work Pants (for the Not-Yet-Minimalist Work Wardrobe)


1) Black straight jeans

They are lightweight, but oddly hot and sticky in summer (particularly in the rear, I don’t know why). I do wear them in summer, too, but not when it’s going to be humid or in the 90s. They don’t look fantastic, but they are fine, and I like the sharp, solid black.

2) Blue straight jeans

These are a great, lightweight summer pair. It goes with pretty much anything, and thanks to the dark wash, I can dress it up pretty easily. Add a white shirt and a black suit jacket, and I feel sharp without feeling, you know, corporate.

3) White skinny jeans

I like the lightness these white jeans add to an outfit, but they look a bit sausagey from behind, to be honest. I gained 4 pounds or so in the few years since I bought this pair, and despite some effort on my part, I think the pounds are here to stay. I was pretty conservative in my dress for much of my 20s, and these were the first white denim pants I ever bought. I still remember the “wow, this adds so much fun possibility to the wardrobe!” feeling back then, after sticking to dark-colored bottoms my entire life. If I decide that I want to keep a white option, I probably need to buy a new pair. These white jeans are starting to look a little dirty around the edges, too, so a replacement is probably not a bad idea.

4) Blue boot-cut jeans

I bought these this year, after looking off and on for a boot-cut pair for at least a couple of years. I’m loving the leg-elongating effect of a boot-cut again after years of sticking to skinnies and straights. The material is a bit on the thick side for summer, but still wearable. The wash is lighter, which makes this pair a fair amount less business-y than the straight blue jeans above.

5) Blue linen pants

I bought these lightweight and breezy pants on massive sale a few years ago. They were something like $5. Back then, they were a bit baggy on me, and I didn’t wear them much. After gaining the 4-ish pounds, though, I look better in them. It’s better, but not great. There’s something not quite right about the cut. I might have had them hemmed half an inch too short, too. Right now, these are pretty useful summer pants, though I wouldn’t say I love them.

6) Khaki/green satin pants

These are maybe 3-4 years old. I love the heavier-weight material. It has a beautiful shine and retains shape very well. This (and the other two below that belong to the same series) is one of my favorite pairs of pants that I wish the manufacturer would have made a perennial classic. (They did have the style for a couple of years.) It’s not deadly hot, but I wear this pair mostly in cooler months, partially because the color looks a little hot on a muggy day.

7) Black satin pants

They belong to the same family as the one above. I need to be on a good day, i.e., a pound a two lighter than my recent average, to fit in them comfortably. I do love these for the same reasons as I love the khaki/green pair.

8) Brown satin pants

These also belong to the same family as the khaki ones. I can fit into this pair but won’t stay comfortable for a whole day, though I still love the somewhat unusual color (“melted chocolate ice cream brown” might be the most apt description I can come up with) and shape. This would be high on the “discard” list for a rational minimalist, but I have a hard time parting with it because I know it’d be hard to find a comparable pair. Thus I’ve been clinging to the irrational “keep, in case I manage to lose the flab.”

9) Black boot-cut dress pants

These are ancient, probably more than 10 years old. These are made of polyester, and while they aren’t unbearable, they are kinda hot in summer. The cut is pretty good, but I can’t love this pair. I think it’s the cheap feel of the material, even though I don’t think it actually looks that cheap. (And I generally dislike synthetic material in clothing, other than performance wear for gym and hiking.)

10) Black summer ankle pants with white dots

They are made of lightweight cotton and have a fantastic cut. It’s more of a “fun” piece than serious work outfit, but I love them for summer. I don’t wear them as often as I’d like mainly because it’s difficult to create a good overall balance without going barefoot in my work shoes. My sweaty feet absolutely cannot go bare in leather shoes, and even footsies often cause blisters. I’ve thought about wearing novelty socks and let them show between the top of my shoes and the bottom of these pants, but the pattern of the pants itself can clash badly with novelty socks. So I’m stuck with black socks, which works all right, I suppose… I love how the pants feel and fit, but I guess I”m ambivalent about the whole outfit it can create.

11) Khaki chino boot-cut pants

This replaced a similar pair last year that was made of a much thicker fabric (which I actually liked). The predecessor had a strange cut that dug into my crotch, and this one solved that problem. However, I can barely fit into these high-waisted pants these days. Another sale purchase I never really loved (stupid, right?) despite the light, summer-friendly cotton fabric, this is definitely a candidate for a farewell party.

12) Blue denim wide pants

I bought these trendy pants earlier this year. Though the weight of the denim is pretty substantial, the loose cut makes them pretty breezy and wearable even on a hot day. I like the dark wash, too, which goes well with most of my shirts and keep the pants understated despite the more nontraditional cut. This is another “fun” piece. I’m not sure how long I can wear this pair without the current wide pants fad is over. I bought it knowing that it might be a one- or two-season item, and that’s okay. (But yeah, that means I should wear these more often while I can!)
 [No photo: These are hibernating somewhere in the back of the drawers.]

13) Heat-tech blue skinny jeans

This is a winter-only pair made with some sort of special fabric that converts the body’s natural moisture into heat. (It’s not a huge difference, but the heat generation thing does work. Somehow.) I don’t love the slightly frumpy cut or the lighter wash, but these pretty comfy jeans do go well with most everything I wear to work, and I end up wearing them on a regular basis come winter. There’s something convenient and reliable about this pair.

14) Brown corduroy straight pants

Also winter only. These are probably 4-5 years old, from the time my work outfits were a bit more casual than they are now. I do like the fit, and I wore them quite a bit in its heyday. I’d already gotten rid of a worn-out sister pair that was a boot cut. This pair might be on its way out, too, unless I start wearing them on weekends; I don’t quite see myself wearing corduroy pants to (current) work.

Dressier Work Pants (for the Not-Yet-Minimalist Work Wardrobe)

By “dressier work pants,” I just mean wool pants. I have three of these. I used to own another absolutely beautiful pair made of the most lightweight wool I’ve ever seen, but the poor pants got eaten by moth before I had too many occasions to wear them, and I had to throw them out. That checkered pair was from some high-end designer, a surprise find at a discount store for something like 5% of its original price, and one that taught me that once you go above a certain dollar amount, the quality reeeeeally gets upgraded. It’s a pity that pants didn’t fit my life when I had them! Anyway, though.


Black suit pants

I only wear them with the matching suit jacket on special occasions–read: interviews and such. Though I don’t wear them often, these are a necessity.

Blue suit pants

Ditto. Can’t get rid of them.

Brown wool pants

This decade-old veteran has been worn maybe 5 times? I bought it for work interviews, wore them for exactly those occasions, got the job that led to my current job, and never wore them since. Until I started listing my pants, I’d mostly forgotten about this one.

There’s nothing wrong with the pants–they fit well, I like the material and color, they aren’t particularly hot or cold. It’s just that I don’t wear wool pants regularly, mostly for cleaning and ironing concerns. And maybe suit-style wool pants don’t quite go well with my shirts and shoes that skew more casual. This pair can easily stand in for the brown satin pants above, though. (Aaaand I still fit in these, lol.)

Just listing this, and not even getting into the other one or two pants I don’t wear to work, three shorts, six hiking pants and two gym shorts, I’m kind of staggered by just how many freakin’ pants I own. (I must have been a centipede in my previous life.) And honestly, just how many of them I can’t be 100% in love with for various reasons.

The good thing is that most of the work pants are versatile enough that I usually rotate through just two or three of them during our two-week laundry intervals unless it’s the height of muggy NYC summer. That means I already know I only need three or four pants for my “work uniform.” The harder part is deciding which ones. I do feel like with the visual inventory, I’m getting some clarity on what I like, why I don’t like some things, and what I should look for in pants for minimalist work uniform, but I’ll have to try some things out before deciding which pairs to include in my first trial set.

Tandoori Egg Breakfast

This is a rare breakfast around here: It covers a good chunk of the color spectrum, which makes me, an unintended queen of monochromatic breakfasts, usually along the yellow-brown spectrum, rather happy. I mean–look at it. Green lime, yellow egg yolk, red tandoori-marinated chicken. It’s BEAUTIFUL. 😛 Basically a leftover breakfast, these tandoori eggs was a winner on the palate department, too.

tandoori eggs for breakfast

We’ve been cat-sitting for a friend for the last couple of days, and had an Indian takeout from Samossa Bites one night, surrounded by her cats. (Oh, bliss.) Flanneur had been sans lunch and wiped off most of the delicious meal, but I managed to save half the onion flatbread (kulcha, which could have used a bit more of the cilantro flavor) and a piece of the tandoori chicken (plus the onion bedding underneath).

In the morning, I just reheated the shredded tandoori chicken and onion, cracked two eggs on top and seasoned the whole thing with salt, pepper, cumin and nigella seeds (aka kalonji). I could have toasted the cumin and nigella on the dry skillet beforehand; that would have enhanced their rich aromas a lot–but all in all, this was a nice change of pace from the usual.

Breakfast this morning:

  • Tandoori eggs (sunny side-up with shredded tandoori chicken and onion)
  • Onion kulcha
  • Yogurt

I used “tandoori eggs” for brevity, but now that I’ve been looking at the phrase for a while, I’m thinking tandoori eggs might be pretty tasty. I’m not sure exactly what that would entail, though, other than that throwing a raw egg against the clay walls of a tandoori oven probably won’t yield a great result. Boiled eggs marinated in tandoori spices and flash-smoked? Egg salad with yogurt dressing with a tandoori spice kick? Hmm.

Unhealthy Breakfast Galore!

Yesterday was tough. I got yelled at in the morning rather extensively, then in the evening had to have business dinner with the yeller and a business partner who was also at the earlier scene. Without getting into too much details, I’m still fairly convinced that the yeller should have listened to my (perfectly airtight, obviously) reasoning for a change in direction before unleashing their anger, but it was dumb on my part to have forgotten (seriously, me!?) to loop in the yeller on the direction change earlier on.

There’s always been plenty of unhealthy and unproductive dynamics going on, and this was just another manifestation. It would have unsettled me a lot more even just a year ago, but for better or worse I’d managed to disentangle my sense of self from this particular job at this particular organization in the last 10 months or so. Though annoyed by my own tactical mistake, I was more or less all right. It’s a difficult balance between keeping a healthy distance from dysfunctions at work and staying fully engaged with the work itself, but I like to think I’m better off now than a year ago, when I was leaning far more toward the latter. Not having to attend dinner on the same day would have been nice, though.

Anyways. That’s a long excuse for the unhealthy breakfast galore I had this morning!

unhealthy breakfast galore

My lunch plan included eggs, so I decided to avoid eggs in the morning, and settled on breakfast chicken patties I picked up on the way home last night. I’ve generally found Al Fresco’s chicken sausages to be a bit on the bland side, with too much reliance on the flavoring additions like cheese and herbs (which, well, usually don’t seem to solve the blandness issue), but the “country style” chicken sausage patties were pretty good. These patties actually had that junky-good mix of fat, spices and sweetness that I find addicting at diners but can never get my hands on from grocery store breakfast sausage patties.

Unhealthy Breakfast Galore:

  • Costco cherry danish
  • Breakfast chicken sausage patties
  • Strawberries (the redeeming feature, I suppose)

And no milk! What a complete disaster. 😛

Summery Cheddar Grits

I’d been feeling a bit dull around breakfast the last few days, as though all my breakfasts were boring scrambled eggs with variations that made no difference. It could just be the meh of humid mornings after muggy days and AC-cooled nights, but I needed something special to spice up the routine. So I broke out a secret weapon (read: leftover!) and made a breakfast of summery cheddar grits.

summery cheddar grits

The leftover cheddar grits (from Oath, an awesome craft beer bar in Tarrytown) got reheated in a little non-stick pot. This, by the way, was a sobering experience. The grits, formerly an innocuous solid chunk after a few nights in the fridge, slowly bubbled up an unexpected fountain of presumably dairy fat. The thing must have contained half a stick of butter and a whole fistful of cheddar–when it was heated through, it was under about 5mm of orange, Cajun-spiced liquid fat. Now I know why it was so delicious, but… did I want to know why? I’m not so sure. 😛

While the grits heated up, I sauteed some julienne zucchini and sweet pepper with chili mix and scallions, and fried up sunnyside-ups, then topped the grits with these. This most certainly kept me going well past lunchtime, which was a good thing given the hectic day I had at work.

Breakfast today:

  • Summery cheddar grits with vegetables and sunnyside-up
  • Pear

Zucchini Scrambled Eggs with Chile-Lime Sauce

Summer’s here! And I feel it in the pool of sweat I’m swimming in! Woo hoo! o_O

Anyway. That was supposed to be a seasonal introduction to zucchini, the endless summertime horror of over-productive vegetable gardens everywhere. Mine just came from a corner grocer, but picking up zucchini certainly makes me feel like we are really heading into the height of summer. Which is kind of strange, because zucchini seems to be one of those weird vegetables that don’t seem to change much throughout the year, whether they’re in season or not.

Sliced up, they landed in the zucchini scrambled eggs with chile-lime sauce.

zucchini scrambled eggs with chile-lime sauce

I’m kind of struggling with breakfast variety lately. Although I don’t think that’s really the case, I feel like I’m eating the same old scrambled eggs every. single. day. I need to spice things up a bit.

Breakfast today:

  • Zucchini scrambled eggs with chile-lime sauce (mushrooms, too)
  • Toast
  • White nectarine & yellow peach

Smoked Salmon Toast

With an early brunch plan in place, I needed a lighter Sunday breakfast. I usually limit my egg intake to one a day, and since the brunch plan came with a strong possibility of eggs, they were out. Consulting with the residents of the fridge, here’s what I settled on: Smoked salmon toast with Costco’s smoked salmon and lettuce piled on a wheat toast.

smoked salmon toast

Not much to write home about, but it made for a perfectly refreshing breakfast for a holiday weekend with big meal plans. Note to self: Lettuce is delicious. I should buy it more frequently than once every couple of years.

Breakfast today:

  • Costco smoked salmon toast (lettuce, shallots, mustard, butter, black pepper)
  • Yogurt

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