Happy New Year


Happy new year from this city by the bay!

Looking back at 2015 I realize it was a big year for personal changes – most particularly a shift in where I spent my money.  Early in the year I decided to reduce my consumption by creating a small, well crafted wardrobe of quality basics.

Then this summer I watched The True Cost and resolved to have my future clothing be from ethical companies.  I stopped purchasing from fast fashion companies like H&M and Forever 21; no small feat for someone who previously relied on these companies for everything.  I started researching clothing companies, holding them to a stricter standard – suddenly I was not valuing clothes based on how cheap they were but rather on how production impacted the environmental and the workers.

By the time winter arrived it became evident that I needed to hold my personal care and cleaning products to the same standards I was holding to my clothing.  I switched over to organic products – makeup, shampoo, dish soap, you name it.  All in all, it’s been a huge learning curve, but I’ve enjoyed the experience.  I  heard that it takes 66 days for a new pattern to become habit.  But now that it’s 2016, it finally feels like its become habit.

So what’s next for 2016?  I just read about a woman who decided to have a shopping ban for ONE WHOLE YEAR!  She only bought necessities for a year and gave up clothing, excess cosmetics, books, household items and electronics.  Can I do it?  Can I stop buying things I want but don’t need for an entire year?  It does sound like a exciting adventure!

Causebox review : Fall

My fall Causebox has arrived and it’s pretty amazing!


Some of my new favorites are…

Noonday Collection:  they work with artisans around the world to create jewelry and assessories for women.  They have some wonderful statement jewelry in fun shapes and colors.  My favorite part is that each item has a ‘who, how, where’ section allowing the buyer to see exactly how their item is made.  Talk about a transparency that we never get with fast fashion.

Krochet Kids: they employ women in poverty ridden areas of Uganda and Peru.  Each item made is signed by the artisan who made it, giving the buyer a more personal connection to the maker.

LSTN: my box came with the LSTN wood earbuds, but they also make headphones and speakers.  Not only are these beautifully crafted products, but they partner with the Starkey Hearing Foundation to help restore hearing worldwide.

Travel Diary / Mallorca



Here are some more pictures from my trip to Spain this last September.  After leaving Barcelona we flew to the island of Mallorca.  It’s a really short (less than one hour) flight from Barcelona and could easily be a weekend trip from the mainland.  Mallorca is the largest of the Balearic Islands; it’s more well know neighbor is the party island Ibiza.  We spent 3 days on the island, staying in the old medieval capital, Palma.  Palma was larger and more urban than I imagined, with all the modern conveniences of beach front restaurants, department stores, farmers markets and easy public transportation.  My favorite part of the trip was taking a 1920s train from downtown Palma to the beach town of Soller.  Soller is nestled in the Serra de Tramontana mountain range, an area travel guides had recommended visiting, and since we didn’t rent a car we thought that the train would be the best way to explore Mallorca.  It rained during our day in Soller but cleared up right before we left, just in time for us to get an epic view of the mountains.






Causebox Subscription Box!

For a while I was toying around with the idea of joining a subscription box.  How fun to receive little surprises in the mail! And after months of looking for the perfect box I finally bit the bullet and signed up for a year of Causebox.  What attracted me to this subscription box is its focus on ethically made products – a perfect match after deciding to switch my spending habits to more socially and environmentally responsible companies. I  recommend this box to anyone wanting to learn about ethical companies.

My first box to arrive was the summer box.


Three of my favorites from the summer box are:

Parker Clay: a company that works with artisans in Ethiopia to make leather goods, scarfs, and jewelry.  The bracelet in my box is made of Ethiopian leather and melted down bullets – turning something of destruction into something beautiful.  They partner with Women at Risk, providing women in the sex industry with counseling, skills training and the opportunities for employment outside of this industry.

Musana: the most beautiful jewelry, my necklace from this company has quickly become my favorite.  They hire women in Uganda, providing them with training, employment and education opportunities.  These artisans are truly gifted.

Everly: they made hydrating drink mixes that don’t use additives, preservatives or fake coloring (which turns out are very common in drink mixes).  Plus part of your purchase goes to Everly’s work with the non-profit ColaLife to provide oral-hydration salts to children who are suffering from waterborne illnesses.

FPFW: My Fall/Winter Collection

I’m already 6 months into my Five Piece French Wardrobe challenge.  Its been liberating (I can now put together an outfit in less than 1 minute flat) as well as difficult (when I see new things I want but I’m already at my 5 item limit).  This season, I added the new complexity of trying to buy only sustainable clothes.  All my purchases were from one, ideally more, of my ethical shopping guide categories:


Overnight Bag ($100): this duffle bag by Purse and Clutch is made in Cambodia by a women’s artisan collective. This company partners with artisans from around the world to create beautiful purses. I loved that when I received my bag it came with a description on how these textiles are made, giving me a much more personal connection to my bag and the artisan that made it. Also for every $200 spent an artisan is employed for one month.

Black Lace Up Boots ($18): These black wedge booties were not sustainably made. But it’s a good point to make that buying USED clothes is another way to be more socially responsible. These shoes are from Goodwill, and its far better to buy used items than for these products to go in landfill. Also, by purchasing used items I am not increasing the amount of products made.

Black modal/spandex dress ($88):  Marine Layer is a great USA made company. Almost everything is made in California – the one exception is they recently partnered with a factory in Thailand where they sew more technical products, such as outerwear.  My only critique is I don’t beleive their cotton is organic, yet their modal is made from 95% recycled beechwood. Their clothes are rediciously soft – my CA-made dress feels like pajamas but looks super chic.

White and black pullover sweater ($60): Marine Layer has got me hooked.  This is a reversible sweater – its black and white striped, but if you turn it inside out its black and white polka dot.  So cool that its actually like buying two sweaters!  The quality of their products is amazing.  I love that I’m buying locally-made clothing.

Plaid flannel long sleeve ($5): I included another item that falls under the sustainable category because I got it used from Goodwill. Plaid is the quintessential fall look!

Also, on another sidenote, when a piece of clothing from my basics collection has finally bit the dust I am planning to buy replacements from ethical companies.  Here are two I’ve found that I love:


Grey pencil skirt ($38): This skirt is from Alternative Apparel and its so lightweight and timeless. It’s made from organic cotton, recycled plastic bottles and used non-toxic, low-impact dyes. This company really emphasizes the sustainability of their materials. They don’t specify where their factories are located, only that they work “on a global scale.” Factories they work with are in accordance with the Fair Labor Association Workplace Code of Conduct. While I applaud their use of sustainable materials I am not  completely satisfied with the information regarding their factories and worker rights. I plan to do more research….

Blue and white striped long sleeve shirt ($35): This modal shirt is from Amour Vert.  This company is the cream of the crop when it comes to ethical companies.   Some of the other companies I found appeared to be using sustainable fabrics or were locally made, but not both.  But this company delivers!  (…at a higher price.  This shirt was originally $90 before its sale price).   The original price may be a little steep for many of us, but don’t give up on them because their sales are great. Also for every item you buy they plant a tree!

Travel Diary / Barcelona


I’m home now after two weeks of holiday in Spain.   Half of our vacation was spent exploring Barcelona, a city I had never been to but was eager to visit.  I have heard many things about Barcelona – both good and bad – and have many friends who did not like the city and wouldn’t go back.  It may seem strange to be eager to go someplace where the reviews weren’t glowing, but the truth is I was curious to see how I would feel about the city.  Some places I’ve traveled to have been raved up by everyone I know (and everyone I don’t know, for that matter too) and when I went there I was left wanting, underwhelmed and flat.  So Barcelona seemed like a risk, a wild card, where anything could happen.  Well I LOVED Barcelona! And by loved, I mean that I could see myself living there.  The architecture is incredible, the fashion and shopping is amazing, and the cuisine some of my all-time favorite food I’ve had in Europe (I’m a big seafood fan so I was blissed out in food heaven the whole time!).  Most importantly, I found the city warm, vibrant and diverse.  In many ways Barcelona reminded me of San Francisco with its similar carefree, and eclectic quality to it’s people.  We stayed in an apartment near the beautiful Parc de la Ciutadella, which was within walking distance of the gothic quarter, the waterfront and the underground train.  But Barcelona is also like SF in that so much can be explored by walking (with the added bonus of the city being flat!) so we would stroll all day and visit stores and restaurants that caught our eye.




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Travel Diary / Lago de Garda

With my imminent trip to Spain, I’ve started to get nostalgic of past holidays spent in Europe.  Here are some pictures of northern Italy, almost exactly 6 years ago.166It had been two years since my internship in Tuscany when I made my way back to Italy.  This time I traveled up north to Riva de Garda, a small town right along the banks of Lago de Garda.  It was marvelous to travel to another part of Italy that looked very different than the region I knew so intimately.  Being back in Italy felt so good; a time to practice my Italian and indulge in all the foods I had missed.  Riva is very small, you can see everything in a few days, but there are tons of surrounding towns that are a quick bike or ferry ride away.  And its compact quality has a lot of charm; you can easily get to know your local grocer or settle into a pattern of afternoon dips in the lake.






The True Cost of Our Clothes

If you watch one thing this week please make it The True Cost.  It’s streaming on Netflix right now, which is where I ran across it.  This powerful documentary shows us the real cost of our clothes – the disregard of worker rights, the environment – all for cheap, disposable, trendy fashion (fast fashion).

This movie opened my eyes to how much I am contributing by purchasing from environmental and socially irresponsible companies.

I did some more research and found lots of great blogs including Life, Style, Justice that has this wonderful guest post on the garment industry.

Thankfully, it’s easy to change the way we shop!

From this day forward I will strive to have at least 80% of my clothes come from ethical companies.  I will define ethical companies as companies that use at least one if not more of the following: organic fabrics, fair trade practices, socially responsible factories, USA made, and donations to social/environmental causes.

I plan to continue my Five Piece French Wardrobe Challenge, because I believe that having a small wardrobe is also an important step in a sustainable direction.  The tools I learned here about a minimalist wardrobe are still completely relevant.


FPFW: What I’m Learning from My Downsized Wardrobe

I’m now three months into my Five Piece French Wardrobe challenge.  Already I’ve learned so much that I wanted to share.


Embrace your own style.  I don’t like those posts about the items that every woman should have in her closet.  We are all different in our style, so why should we conform to one checklist of clothes?  I had a black blazer in my closet gathering dust for 6 years.  I never removed it because I believed it was a staple I needed; I must have read this countless times in fashion magazines.  The worst part is that I didn’t even buy it – it was a hand-me-down from a friend and I still couldn’t bring myself to part with it.  But once I was finally honest with myself and admitted it was something I would never wear, removing it from my closet became a liberating experience.  My closet was closer to representing me and less of what I thought I had to be. The more I embraced my own style the happier I became.

Investing in quality items doesn’t have to be financially daunting.  I thought that my switch from fast fashion (Forever 21, H&M etc) to quality fashion was going to cause me to spend more.  But I’ve been surprised at how many quality items I can buy on sale. For instance, I buy all my jeans on sale so none of them are over $40.  This spring I got a gorgeous sweater from Lucky during their blowout sale for $10 even though it was originally $100.  And good finds are not just in the sale section.  Check out thrift and consignment stores. I found a brand new, unworn, pair of Madewell boots (that retail for $230) at my local consignment store for $45.

Sometimes you may get in a style rut. After investing in some quality basics I was tickled by how small and versatile my wardrobe was.  But then I started to wear the same striped shirt, jeans and faux leather jacket every day because it was easy and comfortable.  I realized that with a small wardrobe you have to maintain the motivation and creativity to make your style shine through.  Otherwise it’s easy to starting looking pretty monochromatic.  So maybe I could wear those jeans and striped shirt every day but I needed some other pieces to make the outfit reflect my own style. But even though this was a hard hurdle, overall…..

Basics make getting dressed easier.  I’ve heard bloggers say this before, but it’s hard to believe until you actually try it yourself.  But it’s true – creating outfits becomes so much less time consuming and stressful when you have a small closet made up of your favorite items that you know pair well together. And I really love that I can get up in the morning and quickly put an outfit together.  It’s so refreshing to not have that feeling of “I have so many clothes but nothing to wear.”