year end round up of sorts

I wanted to do a little photo roundup of my year.  I found pictures you've never seen and many you have.  It's long so if you need a nap, now may be the time.

I reunited these 2 pieces of luggage.  It really is a love story and one of patience.  And you can read about it here.

In March I decided to veganize my wardrobe.  We know how that worked out now.  All three pairs of these shoes fell apart.  I was especially sad to lose the Burberry Sandals on the right.

In April my son Alex started his own clothing business based on this striped sweater.  He's still going strong.

The rose garden maintained its high achiever status this year.

Producing blooms like this.  This photo makes me happy and sad.  It reminds me of losing my dear friend Miss Doris this year.   That mirror hung in her home and now in mine and is a daily reminder of her endless style and class.

Of course my trip of a lifetime.  These blooms can only be from the 100th anniversary of the Chelsea Flower Show. How on earth I ever got so lucky...I'll never know.  I look through my photos often and think back to all the amazing things I saw and the incredibly wonderful and sweet people I met.  Soooooooososososoooooo lucky.

And then from England over to France.  Paris, Provence and the French Riviera.  Still cannot believe it was me who went for 21 days.

This vegan ceasar salad.  The most popular recipe I've ever put on this blog.

This pretty and affordable Ikea bedding.  Still available here.

This Trina Turk jacket that I got at the Goodwill for $5.99.

Which brings us to today.  Larry bought me this top for my bday and I can't decide if I love it or hate it.  It is silver brocade and has a v back with a bow.  Why I didn't take a pic of the back...I don't know.  Anyway it feels vintagey and at the same time space agey.  This may be its only public outing ever.

Anyway that was a lot of my year.

I want to thank you again for reading along.  This is the luckiest blog on the planet because of its faithful, interesting, loving, kind and smart readers.  I really don't know how we both got so lucky.
I hope the new year brings us all good health, simplicity and a dash of style.



my rose garden.  like me it needs a lot of work.

You either love them or hate them.  I love them and also love this time of year.  There is something about the idea of a fresh start that is so appealing to me.  My resolutions this year seem to revolve mostly around money but hopefully that will ultimately bring me more simplicity and peace.

1.  Mix up my thinking and pay down my mortgage.  What I mean by this is to stop doing things purely out of habit and try and look at different ways I can save time and money.  In order to do this I'll have to...

2.  Stop shopping for things I don't need.  This is something I hope I can share with you about here because oftentimes I go to estate sales out of curiosity and wind up buying things I don't need because the price is so good. This will have to stop if I want to accomplish #1. Being completely honest with you, this is going to be hard for me. I really really enjoy estate sales. They are like walking through museums that you can buy things from.  So I will only allow myself to go to the very best ones and demonstrate great restraint.

3.  Continue to pare down, donate and keep things light around here.  I've worked hard at purging and simplifying and I want to maintain this.

4.  Grow a real vegetable garden.  I haven't had a lot of luck growing vegetables and we are surrounded by organic farms that sell to local markets and 2 farmers markets each week. So even though local veggies are cheap and plentiful, I want to give this a go and see if I can't live up to the name of my blog. We'll see.

5.  Continue on my vegan path.  Veganizing my wardrobe didn't work out for me this year.  I failed miserably at it.  I held onto my old vintage shoes, boots and bags and at this point I'm glad I did.  I really don't want to be spending money this year on poorly made substitutes that don't last.  I really thought I was onto something but for me, it didn't work.  So I suppose I'll just stick with what I've got.

6.  Stop fighting the Universe.  This is also a big one for me.  I really want to learn to go with the flow more.  I'm able to do it in certain areas of my life but there are a couple of relationships I have that I want to quit fighting and learn to accept fully.  In my head I know I cannot change people but I often find myself doing sneaky manipulative things to get things to go my way.    This will be really hard too.

Gosh I almost want to give up right now.  Just kidding, I like my list and I really do want to accomplish everything on it.  So what are you guys hoping to change this year?  Or do you not like resolutions?
Please do share.



oh surprise!

Well I finally figured out a way to photograph my house in a new way.  I put people in it.  15 to be exact.  15 doesn't sound like that many but in a small house it is.  It was a last minute surprise party for my dear friend Noelle.

We all pitched in and had a great time.  We ate, drank, listened to records, some people played guitars, we all played this game  (which was so fun) and then we, along with 2 million other people, went to the Mission Inn to see the Festival of Lights 

A few people took photos with their iphones.  Good thing b/c my hands always had *something* in them.

And thankfully a few friends agreed to let me put their photo on my blog.  The others have no idea it exists.  Thank God.

Hope you are all still having a happy holiday season.
My next post will be about my years resolutions. :)


another christmas eve house tour

Ah, here we are, another Christmas eve.  It's hard for me to believe anyone out there would be interested in how I decorated this year but just in case there you go.

I went with a tiny live tree this year.  Stuck it in an antique urn and put some white lights on it.
I got the vintage santa wrapping paper at an estate sale a few weeks back for free.

I put the red chinoiserie pillows with the RL blue and white pattern.  It kinda makes me crazy, but what doesn't this time of year?

I apologize up front because I swear I don't know how to photograph this room differently for you all.  My lack of imagination never ceases to amaze me.

This is new.  We set up a bar for parties. Well bar is being generous.  It's a silver tray that I fished out of the neighbors trash and a few bottles of booze.  There is bitters and vermouth which we have no idea what to do with but maybe someone else will.  A party better happen pretty soon though because that whisky is disappearing fast.

Merry Christmas!

winter salad - pomegranate

Here is a antioxidant rich winter salad that is as delicious as it is pretty.  Good for holiday parties right?
I love pomegranates!

This is the method I use to de-seed a pomegranate.

Mixed Greens
Orange Sections
Pomegranate seeds
Pumpkin seeds

Holiday Salad Dressing

Larry's grandmothers depression era salad dressing that is delicious but not exactly what I'd call healthy, use sparingly as an occasional treat.  Most of her recipes are delicious and made with what we'd call questionable ingredients today, like lard and sugar.  But his grandparents both lived into their late nineties so go figure.

1/3 cup vinegar
1/3 cup salad oil
1/2 cup sugar

Mix together in jar with tight fitting lid.  Shake until thoroughly mixed.  This thickens as it stands and keeps well.  You can add season salt or fresh herbs.

Happy Holidays!


my small wardrobe update

It has been almost 2 months since I took the leap and completely downsized my wardrobe.  You can read about that here if you'd like.  I have not even come close to wearing everything that I have, in fact I even gave away one of my silk blouses.  One of my worries was that I meet with my girlfriends each week for a dinner out and I thought they'd start to notice that I was wearing the same thing over and over.  Guess what?  I wore the same thing over and over before I cleaned out my closet.  Nobody has said a thing and I think it has helped me to be more creative with what I've got.

Yesterday was a warm day and so a white t shirt and jeans were fine.  I can't tell you how amazing it feels to open my drawers and closet, it's such a breath of fresh air.  I hope you don't think I'm too strange but I often do this, just stare into my closet. Okay, I know that does sound strange.:)

Another benefit has been that I seem to take better care of the clothes I have. Not that I abused my clothes before but now I have a new attitude towards them. At the end of the day I used to toss my clothes into the laundry basket without a care.  Now I carefully check to see if anything needs to be pre treated with detergent, repaired or maybe it just needs a brush down and can be re-hung and worn again.  I even fold my pj's instead of just shoving them in the drawer! Everything seems special to me now and I love that.  This is what I was hoping for.

Anyone else out there having similar feelings?  Do share.

staying warm while saving money

The entire nation is freezing right now. This is what the orange grove looked like yesterday morning on my walk at 10am.  And I do realize that there is a big difference between southern California cold and back east/mountain cold.  But nevertheless, it does get cold here.  So I thought I'd share my nightly ritual for keeping us as warm as possible while saving money.

When I'm ready for bed I turn on our electric blanket to 5.  I have a twin sized blanket that I layer between the sheet and comforter.  Did you know electric blankets are the most energy efficient appliance in our homes, costing on average just 2 to 4 cents per night to run?  You can read more about that here.  So while the bed is heating I take a quick (under 2 minutes) hot shower and then layer on my pj's and warm socks.  I've already set up my bedside table with a glass of water and reading material so I don't have to get back out of bed. When I'm ready to slip in, I turn the blanket back down to 1 and we're set for the night.

We don't run the house heater at all at night.  It gets freezing cold inside but we're toasty under the blankets.  When I get up I turn the heater on to about 62 degrees and turn the kettle on for tea. Then it's back under the covers for the most luxurious cup of tea of the day!

As soon as the sun is high enough and starting to shine in the windows, I open the shades and drapes to let the sun warm up the house.  By noon it will often be warmer outside than inside the house, so I open the doors to let the warm air in.  When the temp starts to drop I close the doors and will start closing the shades and drapes to trap that warm air.  During the day I don't have to raise the heater above 62 degrees.  We will wear a warm knit hat and gloves inside if we have to. Chores like sweeping and raking leaves or even taking a brisk walk also warm us up so if we get really cold we know we have to get moving.

Doing these steps keeps our heating bill around $30 a month during the coldest months.  I Hope you are all staying toasty too, and I look forward to hearing how you stay warm in the cold.


tea bread

Hello and thank you so much for your kind words and inspiration.  I was so moved by all your stories and ideas.  I'm so looking forward to hearing more from you.

On Sunday I had a couple of friends coming over for a visit and wanted to serve something warm and yummy.  And I wanted to use things I already had.  I went to my pantry and found a can of cranberries that had not been used for thanksgiving. I've never made cranberry bread before so I just followed my banana bread recipe and subbed in the cranberries.  It worked really well and I think you could substitute any canned or fresh mashed fruit that you have. The best part is that I didn't have to go to the market for anything extra. I know my pantry looks bare, but it really is well stocked with basics like flours, sugars, vanilla and boxed non dairy milks.  I was super happy with the way this came out.

1/2 cup soy milk or almond milk
1 teaspoon vinegar

2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

2 cups banana or other mashed fruit
3 Tablespoons oil

1/2 cup chopped nuts

In a large bowl mix the milk and vinegar and let stand a minute or two.

In a medium sized bowl mix the next 5 ingredients.

Then add everything into the milk mixture, folding in the nuts last.

Bake at 350 degrees for an hour and 15 minutes in a greased loaf pan.  Maybe a little longer as the dough is pretty wet.  I kept checking with a toothpick to see if it was done.

I actually split the dough into 3 small loaf pans instead of just one normal sized pan.
It still took an hour and 15 minutes for it to bake through.  But now I have 2 left that I can give as gifts.

*Also before I put the pans in the oven I sprinkled a little mixture of brown sugar and cinnamon on the top of each loaf.

Chatting with my friends over cups of hot tea and cake was a lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  I didn't worry about putting out a big spread, that kind of thinking will actually keep me from having friends over.  This was just right. x


having a simple christmas and new year

Hello everyone.

As per usual, our Christmas will be simple.  I just can't have it any other way.  Here is what it will look like...

Christmas not to exceed $100

Simple and delicious food

Natural decorations

Little to no tv

Lots of music

Daily walks and yoga

Being calm

In addition to this I'm planning on big changes for the new year and beyond.  We have decided that we are going to do everything humanly possible to get our mortgage paid off asap.  We got off track back in 2009 (story here) and now want to rededicate ourselves.  This will require a great deal of discipline on my part but I feel the time is right.  I'm lucky enough to live in a small home I love and that really needs nothing.  I'm used to having a long list of things I want or think I need but currently I'm quite content. Hopefully, this feeling will become a way of life for me.

Our idea is to save as much as possible each month and apply that to our mortgage.
This means cutting back everywhere.  Because I took my Trip of a Lifetime earlier this year it will be back to camping. That's ok with me though because I still believe there isn't a hotel in the world that can compare to a star filled desert sky with someone you love.  I need no new or used clothing.  As I already mentioned, the house needs nothing.  There will be challenges I am sure and I hope to share them with you all right here.  I will be looking for the most economical and beautiful solutions to daily living.  The comment section of this blog is always full of great information and I'm looking forward to hearing about your tips, as I have much to learn.

So instead of waiting for January 1st to roll around, I'm starting now.  My Christmas gifts are all purchased.  They all came from yard sales and estate sales.  Friends and neighbors will get something fresh from my kitchen.  So really all that is left to do is to cultivate some stillness during this hectic time of year.  Love to hear from you.


washing cashmere

I've always wondered whether or not I could safely wash cashmere.  I only own 3 cashmere garments but I still really wanted to be able to clean them myself.  I wondered if they'd shrink or just overall be ruined.  I splurged and got a bottle of wool and cashmere shampoo from The Laundress.  If you are anything like me then you can wander around their website for hours finding all kinds of great tips for garment care.  The shampoo is $19 a bottle and washes 32 loads of clothes. With my smaller wardrobe, this bottle should last me many years.

The cedar/sandalwood scent of the shampoo is heavenly and naturally repel moths.

I followed their website instructions and took the plunge with this scarf I've had for many years.
I measured it first to because I wanted to see if there would be any shrinking.  I filled the sink with air temperature water and put two small squirts of shampoo in the bowl.  Then I mixed the water and shampoo to make it sudsy and then put the scarf in and gently agitated it.

I let it soak for about 45 minutes, drained the water and then rinsed it gently.  I did not squeeze or wring it out. Just gently pushed the excess water out.

I then laid it onto a dry white towel and rolled it up.

Again gently squeezing any water out.

Because the temp outside was slightly warm I hung it on the line to dry.  In about 2 hours it was completely dry and smelled so good.  I re-measured the scarf and it did not shrink one bit.
So happy!

I figure it would have cost $6 to $10 to have it dry cleaned and this is way better for the environment.
So good and so worth it.


some food for thought this thanksgiving

I have blogged through the holidays for the last five years and I just want to step away from the computer and enjoy some time with my family.  I suggest maybe you try it too.

But before I go, here are a few things of interest.

I am a Goodwill Industries shopper.  I always thought shopping the Goodwill was a responsible thing to do.  That is until I saw this report on Nightly News.

Before you buy your free range turkey, read this.

And finally if the stress is getting to you...this.

Have a simple and beautiful holiday!

*edited note.  it was brought to my attention that the uggs story was not true so i deleted it.
thanks little edie for bringing it to my attention!


my holiday survival guide

Well, well, it's that time of year again.  I started thinking about making myself a survival guide a few weeks ago and thought I'd share it with you here.  Now if you have a family where everyone loves pitching in on the work and getting together for the holidays (jealous) then you probably won't understand my guide.  But if you don't, maybe this can help.

1.  Consider the fact that you don't even have to do the holidays.  Who says they are right for you and your family?  There is no law dictating this!  Do what works for you.

2.  Do not go into debt for the holidays.  It is not worth it.  Stand your ground.  If you cannot afford to buy presents for 8 grandchildren, DON'T.  The commercialism for this time of year has gotten ridiculous.  Buying presents that you cannot afford is no way to show someone how much you love them.  The media is wrong.  Set a budget and stick to it.  Come January you will be so freaking happy you did.

2.  But if you are "doing" the holidays then now is the time to start cleaning your house.  Do all the deep stuff now.  Move the furniture and vacuum, dust the baseboards, clean the chandeliers or light fixtures, get the tile in the bathrooms too, wash the windows.  This way the day before Thanksgiving all you have to do is a light cleaning.

3.  Organize the pantry and refrigerator.  Prepare it for the onslaught of tons of food.  It's so nice to take everything out, clean the shelves with hot soapy water and discard anything past its due.  Also a good time to make note of what you need and what needs replaced, ingredient-wise.  When all that food gets bought it's nice to put it away on clean, uncrowded shelves.  Plus everyone usually gathers in the kitchen and they'll oooh and ahhh over your sparkling work.

4.  Decide what you are going to wear.  I always forget about this and wind up too exhausted to care.  Then everyone comes over all dressed up and there I am looking pretty bad.  This year I will decide this weekend and have that outfit ready.

5.  Plan your menu and shopping list now.  Start picking up those odds and ends so you do not have to go near a grocery store within 2 days of the holiday.

6.  I like to eat outside every year.  I think it lightens the mood and because our house is so small, it gives people room to breathe.  We have a lot of squirrels and rabbits running around so they provide the entertainment.  Plus everything tastes better when eaten outdoors.

7.  Speaking of eating...if you are vegan, don't make a big deal out that fact.  Trust me no one cares.  And if there is someone there that is genuinely interested in your diet or becoming vegan, they'll talk to you aside.  Don't let this occasion turn into a heated debate, it's hard I know, but don't.

8.  Remember that there is a possibility that some of your guests find these holidays as emotionally charged as you do.  Set aside resentments and try on an attitude of gratitude.  If things get too emotional, step outside.  Take the dog or a kid for a walk, get some fresh air.  No one will miss you and you'll come back refreshed.

9.  It is possible to look like you are intently listening to someone while silently repeating the serenity prayer to yourself. :)

10.  Focus on the good.  There is always good in every situation.  You may have to look hard but you will find it.

I'd love for you to leave your best survival tips in the comments...please!


what's happening here...neutrals

I have a tendancy to dress like my interiors, I always have.  I guess I'm just drawn to a certain look and I have friends that are too.  I love her style and her's too.  Their colorful lives are so beautiful. But I get weak at the sight of vanilla.  I know I've flirted with color in the past but my heart belongs to beige.  I realize just how boring that sounds but really it's not that bad!

Seagrass rug right here from

Everlane sweater right here
Love it by the way.

Neutrals allow quick change ups.  I must like that because I do it a lot.  All summer the house was in blue and white and now I've brought back the browns.  For Christmas I'm sure to bring in the reds again.  So that's what's going on around here.  Have a great weekend!


roasted butternut squash risotto

This will be center stage at my Thanksgiving table for sure. Stick to your ribs creamy deliciousness that happens to be easy and nutritious.

2 cups cubed butternut squash
1 small onion diced
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup arborio rice
4 cups vegetable broth
salt, pepper, fresh or dried sage

Roast your butternut squash that's been drizzled with a little olive oil and s&p on a sheetpan in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes or so.

In a heavy saucepan saute the onion in a tablespoon of earth balance til soft then add the butternut squash.  Add the arborio rice and thoroughly mix it with veggies.  Add the white wine and cook until wine is absorbed.  Then add about 1/2 cup of hot broth to the mixture, stir until slowly absorbed.  Repeat this until all the broth has been added.  The slow stirring is quite medatative. :)

I taste at this point and if it needs adjusting then I add salt and pepper.  I garnish with fresh sage and cracked black pepper and serve.

I'm thinking of pairing a few salads, a hearty soup and assorted breads for our Thanksgiving meal.
Please add in the comments any vegan Thanksgiving ideas you may have up your sleeve.  Thanks!


a few eBay tips

Kate Spade Flats for sale soon!

A few of you wanted to know if I had any tips or suggestions regarding selling on eBay.  I am by no means an expert. Selling 20 items on eBay does not make anyone an expert but I'm getting the feel for it and if you have things sitting around your house that you'd like to sell, you should give it a try.  Here are a few things I've learned...

First of all, getting set up is easy.  This link can get you started.  They offer extremely easy guides for you to follow. I think it took me about 20 minutes to complete all the steps.  You also need to hook up with PayPal, that's easy too.  I only use PayPal and I request that the item is paid for within 1 to 3 days of the auction end.  Once you are set up, go into your closets and basement or attic and find something to start with.  I highly suggest you list something that is not too valuable. This way you can get a feel for how things work.  If it sells quickly then yay for you but if you have to relist it (which I've done a few times) then you can do some more research and see if your item was priced wrong. We all think our things are more valuable than they actually are. :)  It doesn't seem like getting $20 for an old blouse would be worth the trouble but it all adds up,

You also must get in the right frame of mind as far as letting your stuff go.  Rarely will you get exactly what you paid for it.  Unless, that is, if you have lots of stuff that you bought at yard sales and charity shops.  But if you paid full price for a shirt at a retail store you will be doing good to get 1/2 of what you paid for it.  But that's ok because you've already worn and used it and now you'll be getting a small portion back into your wallet.  It's a good thing when it works out.

eBay makes it so easy for you to price things too.  During the process of listing they make suggested prices to you based on what similar items have sold for.  If you are happy with their suggestion you just plug in their number.  I normally do that.

I think everyone agrees that shipping costs are the most tricky part of selling.  eBay does a good job at that too now. If I'm unsure about what it would cost to ship a pair of shoes to Wisconsin then I usually post the priority flat rate box prices.  That way I don't have to pay out of pocket for shipping.  I'm sure as I sell more I can learn more but this is what I do now.

I also try to package my things nicely.  I always wrap clothing in tissue paper and tie it with twine. I recently sold earrings and the lady who bought them said one of the earrings was slightly damaged but that she was able to fix it easily.  She was super nice and I was glad she told me because in the future I know to wrap more carefully.

Brand names sell well on eBay.  J.Crew lovers know their stuff and are quite savvy shoppers. Every single J.Crew item I've listed has sold fast.  Right now I have a London Fog coat listed and if it had a J.Crew label it'd be sold already.  Be as descriptive as possible when listing the item - that way you'll attract more buyers.

I also list winter things in winter and summer things in summer.  I don't know if you remember the good deal I got on my vintage riding boots in the middle of summer a few years back but if the seller had listed them in the fall she'd have gotten twice as much as I paid.

The main thing I'd suggest is to just go for it. If your stuff is just sitting there and you feel like someone else would like it then just list it.  If it turns out to be too much work or not worth it to you, donate it. Since I'm in the process of letting go and paring down it's working for me.  Keep in mind that there are at least 10x more buyers than there are sellers on eBay.  Really you have nothing to lose...give it a try.

If you want more tips just google eBay for beginners and lots of articles will come up.  I'm just a beginner and it works!  I just wanted to give you the courage to try.  Happy Selling!


beautiful utah

Last week we made a quick trip up to Utah to visit my father-in-law.  Utah in the fall is so incredibly beautiful.  We missed most of the color show but were still able to catch some of it.

Estate Sale I. Magnin Cardigan $4.

I picked some dried wildflowers while there and mixed them with some greens from my garden.
I'm going to work on some of the things I've learned about selling on eBay.  I haven't sold that much but I have learned a few things I think I can share, so as they this space. :)


fall - another chance to simplify my wardrobe

I have been simplifying my wardrobe...yet again. Last week I mentioned bucket lists and one of the items on my list is to have a small but beautiful wardrobe. Since starting my blog I've been attempting to cross that off my list and yet I never have.  But I must say I'm getting dangerously close to doing so, and that is exciting.

What's stopping me from creating the wardrobe I want and actually dream about?  Fear is the main thing, fear of letting go, not having enough.  Facing mistakes (the worst!) and possibly regretting letting go of something I may need one day.  All of these reasons are really just excuses that keep me stuck.  I made up my mind that if I really wanted to make this real, I needed to get serious.

I wanted to make this as pleasant as possible so I put on some music and had a pitcher of iced green tea to sip.  I started by emptying all the drawers, my closet and armoire onto my bed. I vacuumed and wiped everything down, lined the drawers with lavender scented paper and then went through each and every item I own.  One by one I sorted through everything and put things in bags either to be donated (4 bags!) or sold on eBay (already sold $400!).  Once and for all I let go of things I had, up until this point, been unable to.  If I was in doubt about an item I set it aside and went back to it later.  Two days later I edited some more.  I did this with my accessories many mistakes. Letting them all go feels so good though.  Yeah, this is way better.  Very little will have to be purchased to fill in the holes.  I plan to add a sweater for this winter and towards spring I think I'll add a couple of cooler items for the summer.  Right now I have under 30 items of clothing and that includes my coats and jackets.  Wow, the emptiness is amazing.

3 silk blouses
2 silk sleeveless blouses
1 chambray shirt
1 white shirt
3 dresses
3 t shirts
3 sweaters
4 jeans
1 slim black pant
2 skirts
1 trenchcoat
1 peacoat
1 herringbone jacket
1 dressy coat
1 dressy jacket

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