I am not a Black American. I am not a white American. I’m what’s called Brown in this country. There are other less savory names for my people, but I’ll stick with what I find acceptable. Middle Eastern. Arab American. Syrian American. And I’M AGAINST POLICE OFFICERS KILLING UNARMED BLACK MEN.

I didn’t know George Floyd. He wasn’t my neighbor or my friend. In fact, we live in different states. But he was a fellow American. And on May 25, 2020, he was murdered by men sworn to protect him. That was their duty – to PROTECT George Floyd. Every Black man in this country is supposed to be protected by every member of the police force. It is their sworn duty. Yes, even people accused of a crime.

“All men are created equal… endowed with certain unalienable Rights.., among these are LifeLiberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” When these words were written, Black people were not considered human. Today, in America they are still denied these most fundamental rights. A Minneapolis policeman murdered George Floyd. Two other policemen held him down. Another stood and watched. People begged them to let him breathe. The first video I saw was over eight minutes long. Eight minutes. Imagine slowly dying, begging for your life, while people stand by helplessly. My first thought, I wish a white person had been there to try to talk to the police. They might have listened. The white person might have been able to say something without the risk of being next. God knows, a Black person would have been risking their own life to try to intervene.

I’m not white and I’m not Black. So why am I opening up my big mouth? Because George Floyd was a fellow citizen, a fellow human being. And this is my country. If you’re white and you want to tell me that slavery in America wasn’t your fault because your ancestors weren’t here yet, that’s fine with me. We can talk about that another time. But if you’re a white American, I want to know what you’re doing about the institutional racism that exists in our country today. I want to know what we are ALL going to do to stop police officers from killing any more unarmed Black men. Ever. Ever. Ever again.

This country belongs to all of us, but some people have more power than others. Some people have more privilege. Over the last few days, I’ve been listening to Black friends of mine and others on social media call for white people to take a stand. Well, I’m not white. But I’m taking a stand anyway. Because I’m an American. And I don’t want to live in a country where my friends have to teach their children how to try to survive an encounter with the police, knowing full well, that it may be impossible.

It doesn’t even matter if they commit a crime. It can be a traffic stop. A pretext. A $20 bill. There may or may not be culpability. Have you ever passed a counterfeit bill? Have I? I have no idea. Maybe. I’m pretty sure I’d still be alive to write this, even if I had. Even if I was caught. Even if I was culpable. But not George Floyd. Not the millions of Black men and boys living in the U.S. today. Even if you intentionally pass a fake twenty, you still shouldn’t die for it. A sentence that shouldn’t even have to be written.

When the Civil Rights Act passed in 1964, it passed because a majority of Americans supported it and a majority of Congress voted for it. That majority was white. So, hey white people. Do us all a solid, will ya? (And by “us,” I mean ALL of us, We, the American people.) Stop shaking your head. Stop asking what he did to bring this on himself. (He did nothing. He didn’t bring this on himself. He was murdered in cold blood.) Stop saying you don’t see color. Stop saying things are better now. Ask a Black American. Are things better now? Are they good? Are they good enough?

We, the American people, just shut down our country, destroyed our economy, and holed up in our homes for two months, altering every single aspect of our lives. We did it to save lives. Mostly the lives of really old people with pre-existing conditions. George Floyd was 46-years old. His pre-existing condition? Living while Black.

I told you what not to do. Here’s what I think you should do. Speak out. Say it’s wrong. Write it down and publish it. You don’t have to get it all right. I probably didn’t. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that we all go on record as AGAINST POLICE OFFICERS KILLING UNARMED BLACK MEN. (Yes, “all lives matter” people, I’m against the killing of unarmed white men too, but I’m not addressing that here because that’s not what’s happening.)

Here’s what else you can do: Support prosecution. Demand prosecution. Demand training for police officers to stop each other before another unarmed Black man is killed. That cop that just stood there? He could have told his buddy to get the hell off George Floyd’s neck and let him breathe.

Call your congressional representatives. They won’t take action? Vote them out of office. Vote for People of Color. Are you a Person of Color? Run for office. Please. Make this your platform. Demand legislation. We could make it a federal crime for a police officer to kill an unarmed man. Is it already a law? If it is, let’s enforce it. If you’re on a jury, convict. If the D.A. declines to press charges, pressure the mayor, protest, vote them out of office.

Say it over and over and over again. I’M AGAINST POLICE OFFICERS KILLING UNARMED BLACK MEN. I’m not going to stop saying it until it stops happening. Let’s make George Floyd the last unarmed Black man in America to die at the hands of the police. And then, let’s keep talking about it. Let’s address the underlying issues. Let’s be the people we say we want to be, the people who live in a country where all people have unalienable rights that our protected by our government. Let’s be the country where no one is held down on the ground with a knee pressing the life out of them, cause of death – living while Black.


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Morning Pages, April 9, 2019

Morning pages are an exercise recommended in a FABULOUS book called, “The Artist’s Way,” by Julie Cameron, that you may or may not have heard about. Well, you heard about it now, if not before. This book includes many helpful, actionable ideas for finding and expressing the creativity that lives within us all.

The idea behind morning pages is simple. Every morning, before you do anything else, you write three pages in a journal, stream-of-consciousness style. Sometimes, my thoughts are disjointed and I jump around from thought to thought. Other times, as on April 9, I seem to have one long flowing monologue that presents itself to me. Today I am sharing my thoughts from April 9.

I have been working with morning pages for almost a year. I have learned a lot about myself and started making many positive changes. Doing morning pages helped me realize that there were areas of interest in my life that I wasn’t pursuing. So, I started capsule wardrobing and creating outfits that I share on Facebook and Instagram. I started sharing my yoga practice. I started taking taking tango and ceramics classes at my local community college. Oh yeah, and I started a business! Syrian Home Cooking. How cool is that?

I also realized that I wanted to go back to college, and so now, I am enrolling at Portland State University. I will start pursuing my degree in English with a writing minor and studying Arabic, as I have wanted to do for years. Each day, I have new insights into myself and new hope for the future. Here are my morning pages for April 9th. I have organized my thoughts into paragraphs, although these words are otherwise unedited and in their original format.

“April 9, 2019 Stardate 14745.2 mark 7. Whatever. For some reason, that came into my head. How can I figure out “what to do?” Ask God to show you HIS will. Her will. Whatever. These morning pages are designed to help us open ourselves up to the will of the Creator. Meditation and prayer, likewise. But it’s so easy to spend that fifteen to thirty minutes, or even just five, if we’re honest, listening and seeking, then just go about OUR business, never really connecting what we’ve learned to the actions of our daily lives.

As I’m drifting, rudderless, in this midlife ocean, I find myself slowly starting to relax. Literally relax. My shoulders are at least an inch lower, my neck is unstiffening. My dreams are vivid and I’m beginning to remember them again. And I find them full of insight. So how can we “let go and let God?” I’m starting to realize that we can’t let God if we don’t let go first. All my busy-ness, all my running around. Gotta do this, gotta do that! Here’s a list of 20 things I “should” have done yesterday that I won’t even have time to do tomorrow. So I stopped.

What am I doing now? Whatever is in front of me. Directly, immediately in front of me. And space is opening up. My body is opening up. My mind is softening. My lungs are expanding. My breath has deepened. My spirit is beginning to unfold again. I feel connected to God again. I feel like I’m floating, untethered, really. I feel like I’ve fallen off a cliff and I’m laying down, arms and legs wide open as I fall to the forest floor below. And it’s weird and it’s scary, but it’s good. And meanwhile, all of life continues around me. I run a business, I make baklawa, pay my bills, brush my teeth… but something more is going on. I don’t really know what it is, but I can feel it.

Fundamental change is possible if we have the courage to open ourselves up to it. And if we trust in a power that is greater than ourselves. I’ve been walking in the woods again. Last night I watched a nature documentary and was reminded again of the sheer beauty and majesty of the world we have been given. Wildebeests, penguins, flamingos, and fjords. Magic. It’s all magic. In the woods, I see the moss and mushrooms. Hundreds of flowers cover the forest floor right now. Water is glistening on the fern fronds, tree branches, and even the stones that lay on the ground.

Life is all around us and we are a vital part of it, whether we are immediately aware of this truth or not. I want to walk through life wide awake. I want to open myself up to life’s possibilities. I want to move beyond fear of failure, insecurity, and unworthiness and embrace God’s gifts. I pray today that I may lay down my ego and will and open my eyes to whatever lays before me. And I pray for the opportunity to help someone today. I pray that I may be of service in some way.”

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Thrift Shop Tips – Part II

Marcia and I were walking the other day and she asked me about Part II of Thrift Shop Tips. “It’s too long to tell you while we’re walking,” I said. “I’ll publish Part II soon though.” (That was a month ago!) And here it is. (finally!) It’s twelve steps. Not too many really, and they go by quickly.

As I mentioned to Marcia, I’m really proud of my system. In the old days, I bought many, many clothes that I ended up never wearing. They didn’t fit quite right, they had problems I didn’t notice in the store, and worst of all, more than once, I bought something that was great, only to find that it didn’t go well with anything I owned.

But those days are over! I’ve been using this system for a few years now. It’s fast, easy, and very, very successful! You can read Part 1 for general thrifting tips. This post is about the nitty gritty – sorting through your finds to make sure your money is well spent.

  1. Think broad when picking sizes. Normally a 10? Look at 8s and 12s too. Thrift stores carry a wide variety of brands, which translates to a wide variety of sizing standards. If it looks like it might fit and it’s on your list, put it in your cart. Put anything interesting in your cart. Don’t hesitate or give it too much thought. Gather everything in all your categories (if there’s room), or start with the most important category if you’re looking for multiple items. There’s a winnowing process, but the first step to efficient thrifting is to quickly choose items of interest.

    My initial haul at Red, White, and Blue. These clothes are not just draped on top of the cart. That thing is FULL!

  2. Initially, try everything on quickly. After you’ve finished your reconnaissance, slip into each item for an initial reaction. This is gut-feeling level judgement.
  3. A “no” or “meh” response means discard immediately. Don’t hesitate or try to talk yourself into keeping a “meh“. The goal here is to leave with things you love and more importantly, things you’ll actually wear. There’s no way something will end up being a go-to item in your wardrobe if your initial reaction is “meh.”

    Coral and cream open weave color block sweater – $8.

  4. Take time to put the item on properly before deciding, but don’t arrange it to look “right” in the dressing room. If it’s not right, it’s a no. You’re gonna walk, sit, and stand in whatever you wear. Arranging or rearranging your clothes throughout the day is never a good idea. 
  5. If you’re thinking maybe or yes, do a quick fit check. Is it tight in the shoulders? Does the chest button pull open? Any fit issues equals a no. Does it need altering or repair to be a yes? Is alteration feasible? Look at the price. Add in the cost. Still worth it? If yes, keep it for now.
  6. When you’re taking off a maybe, immediately look at the price. Still a maybe, put it in the yes pile. Sometimes, just looking at the price will turn a maybe into a no. Absolutely reject something because it’s more than you want to pay. Conversely, don’t buy something because the “price is too good to pass up.”
  7. When you’ve gone through everything once, get rid of all the nos. Get em out of there.
  8. Try on each of the maybes and yeses one more time. Take a minute or two to move around. Still laying properly? Is it flattering? Does the material feel good? Great!


  9. Now, think of at least three items you already own that will work with it. Still a yes? Excellent! Now, all you have left are solid potential purchases.
  10. What’s left? The fine print. Examine everything carefully now. Do the following:
    1. check the seams
    2. check the zippers/buttons/ other fasteners
    3. look for tears in the material or stains
    4. smell!!!! armpits or crotch area. Gross huh? Trust me, it’s much worse to find out AFTER you buy the item.


  11.  Once you have looked over everything carefully, add up the cost of all the items. Are you within or close to your budget? If not, look through what you’ve got and decide what to give up.
  12. Buy your YESSES! Take them home, wash them, add them to your closet. Wear them, rock them, love them!

I shopped for about an hour and a half and came away with six solid pieces for my wardrobe. A year and a half later, I’m still enjoying my purchases. The total cost: $52! 


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An open letter to a man who called me a “bot.”

     Unfortunately, this is the problem. Without any real research or conversation with me, you have dismissed me as a “bot.” My page is open to the public. I’ve been on Facebook since 2008. When I showed my son your comment, he laughed. “Wow mom, that’s amazing! This guy thinks you’re a bot?! He thinks you opened a Facebook account before the war, and then posted thousands of pictures of your family and friends, your garden, your bees, your home improvement projects, your outfits of the day, the food you cook, the food you eat, and the haflis you’ve attended, even our church festival, all so you could discredit the U.S. government’s narrative about Syria? Wow, that’s some serious deep state sh*t!”
      It’s kind of funny, but it’s also not. I’m a real person, a Syrian person. I have a brother and sister who were born and raised in Syria and still live there today. I’ve been to Syria four times since Bashar Al Assad became president. I know the country. I know the government. I know what life is and was like there, before, during, and after the war. My family were eyewitness to events that were misrepresented by the U.S. government and media from the very beginning of the war.
     You say you know our government has lied. In fact, Colin Powell went before the U.N. prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq and used forged documents and lies to garner support for the invasion. But because you don’t trust Putin/Iran, you’ll throw your support behind the U.S. government. Part of what you’re missing here is that it is the U.S. government that is the aggressor in Syria. Iran and Russia were not involved militarily until after the U.S.-backed rebels started a war.
     I have firsthand knowledge of Syria. I have done years of research. The article you reference and use against me may very well have a different opinion than mine, but I may have cited it to show that even then, the facts support my position. I don’t know because you don’t want to discuss anything with a “bot.” In less than an hour, you have come to a conclusion that what you’ve believed all along must be true and dismissed me as not real.
     I would say to you, that’s cold comfort for the millions of Syrians dead and injured, displaced from their homes because of U.S. policy. You certainly are contributing to a system wherein the U.S. government collects our tax dollars, lies to us about what’s going on in a foreign country, and then uses those lies to justify squandering our money.
     Our government destroys other peoples’ lives, while simultaneously denying us any benefit from our money – lower taxes, or lower deficits or debt, universal health care, education for our children, support for our veterans or the elderly, infrastructure repair, border security, you name it. Whatever you want to see for our country, we’re repeatedly told we can’t afford it, while our government arms and trains foreign radicals and mercenaries to secure natural resources of countries halfway around the world.
     And who benefits? Oil companies, weapons suppliers, private contractors like Blackwater, and reconstruction firms. This is U.S. foreign policy and I stand against it.

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Thrift Shop Tips – Part I

Ever have a really frustrating thrift shop experience? I sure have. Thrift shopping can be hit or miss, and sometimes it seems like a real waste of time. Other times, you can feel like you scored some great finds, only to take them home and realize you wasted your money on some real duds!

Over the years, I’ve developed a pretty efficient system for thrifting. I’ve improved my chances of finding things I love, and learned how to cut down on wasted time and wasted money. Following are some general guidelines for thrifting. On my next thrifting post, I’ll get into the nitty gritty of the process.

So, without further ado, here are four things to consider before you even set foot in a thrift store…

1. Read online reviews – find out what different stores carry. This is a time-saver. Does the store carry the type of clothing you’re looking for? In your size? Is it the style you’re looking for? There’s no sense going to a thrift store full of 40s and 50s clothes if you’re looking for 70s bell bottoms.

My initial haul at Red, White, and Blue. These clothes are not just draped on top of the cart. That thing is FULL!

2. Gather as much detail as you can about the store’s policies. What are the hours and special sales days? What is the price range, the cash/credit policy, store location? Are there dressing rooms?

This is a practical issue. Showing up at a thrift store an hour or less before closing can be frustrating in the extreme. Especially if it’s not close to your home or if you find a lot of great items. Ditto, showing up with no cash at a cash-only store.

No dressing room? You’d better know that for sure! One of my favorite stores in town has none. You wear exercise clothes or a bathing suit under your street threads so you can strip down and try on garments in the aisles. I forgot the last time I went (and this store is far away from home), so I ended up flashing everyone my granny panties (thank God I wasn’t wearing a thong!)

Coral and cream open-weave color block sweater – $8.

3. Give yourself lots of time. This is where knowing the hours comes in. Also, eat before you shop. There’s nothing worse than getting half way through your special finds only to realize you’ve got a hunger headache coming on. Stashing a granola bar in your purse can really help too.

Lightweight beige open-weave sweater – $6.

4. Go with an idea of what you want to buy. It might be as broad as “some new tops,” or “dresses for work,” or as specific as “a white button down blouse,” or, “a navy blue cashmere sweater.”  Also, have a rough budget in mind. This is thrift shopping. You may go slightly over budget and it may be worth it. Still, it’s good to have a baseline. That will help you make choices at the register.

A simple black sweater works well with this black lace pencil skirt – $6.

In Thrift Shop Tips – Part II I’ll talk about ways to improve the sorting process to help you make the best choices.

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On the Way to Homs

“I don’t hope that the West will come here, because it had a big hand in the war against Syria,” said Youssef Alousi, sales manager at Balkis Ceramics, a Syrian tile manufacturer which was showcasing, among other designs, a picture of Syrian President Bashar Assad printed on tiles. “Syria will be rebuilding Syria,” he added. (https://apnews.com/25b543ec1d9e4bfab219eecd165145e6)

This is a commonly-held feeling in Syria today. Despite this, all Syrians are anxious for commerce to move and keep moving. There is no active fighting in Syria right now, even in Idlib, where there are radical Islamist groups like Tahrir al Sham, a ceasefire is in effect. Throughout the rest of Syria, there is peace and security. The government has removed all radical fighters from the majority of the country, and while damaged buildings and road checkpoints make it obvious that there was recently a war in the country, life has largely returned to normal.

Here are some of the new buildings, which are being built all over the country – there’s absolutely a real estate boom in Syria right now. I saw construction literally everywhere I went.

The biggest impact of the war continues to be economic struggles. The people I spoke to in Syria blame the U.S. sanctions for these problems. They feel that the U.S. first used sanctions to try to turn the people against their government, a sort of “give up your leader or else” policy, and that now that U.S. policy has failed to overthrow their government, the sanctions are used to punish the Syrian people.

Syrians are, above all things, practical and stubborn, in almost equal measure. As it happens, I think stubbornness wins out. What this means is that the people of Syria will insist on what they believe is the best way forward, even if it means continuing to face crippling U.S. sanctions. Many Syrians even believe that the sanctions help them, making them stronger and more resilient. One day, I marveled at the fact that the internet remains working even when the power goes out. My nephew’s fiancée responded with pride, “yes, this is one of the accomplishments of the war. Our country has developed new technology to survive and even to thrive.”  Thriving despite the sanctions means that they have proven that they are stronger than the U.S. Of course, that is also a general belief now.

Before the war, there was virtually no anti-U.S. sentiment in Syria. In fact, the people who most resented the West were the people the U.S. has supported in this war – radical Islamists. They frowned on U.S. economic involvement in Syria, the popular European and U.S. fashions seen on the streets in Syria, and the generally liberal lifestyles of Syrians (social media access, cable TV, men and women mingling in public freely). The majority of Syrians, however, embraced Western culture and felt that U.S. involvement in Syria was largely a positive thing, especially economic investment.

Now, most Syrians want nothing to do with the U.S., particularly the U.S. government. They read things in the news like this:

“Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., insisted last week that America will not “rebuild Syria” for Assad and his Russian supporters, calling the idea “absurd.”” (https://apnews.com/25b543ec1d9e4bfab219eecd165145e6)

And Syrians respond, “good. We don’t want the U.S. here. They destroyed our country, why should their companies make money rebuilding it?” They also believe that the U.S. only helps countries who bow to their will, and they reject this option entirely. “For eight years, the U.S. government made war on Syria, and now they think we want them to come “help” us?” said one man I spoke to. “We want nothing from the Americans. NOTHING. Only that they leave us alone.”

So, what is Homs like today? I went to the city and spent three days there with my sister, Julia and sister-in-law, Nadia. You can read about my family here, here, and here.

My nephew, Antoun, drove us into the city. I sat in the front with him while Julia and Nadia chatted in the back. Antoun and I talked about the war. He returned to Syria from Trinidad the year before the war started. He and his wife were living in Trinidad when their son was born, but they hated life there. They didn’t have a close-knit community and the streets were unsafe. So, they returned to Syria, and a year later, war broke out. Despite Antoun’s past residence in Trinidad, they chose to stay in Syria.

“Syria will rebuild,” Antoun told me. “No one in the world will stop the will of the Syrian people. For eight years, almost every country in the world was against us, but we worked together to get rid of our enemies, and we will work together to make the country great again,” he said.

I asked him how he felt about the Russian presence in Syria. He shared a common opinion with others I spoke to, saying, “The Russians are our friends. They came because we asked for their help and they have helped us. We are happy to have Russians here working with us to keep the country secure and work toward rebuilding the country. The U.S. complains about the Russian presence in Syria, but the U.S. government wasn’t invited here, and they are against our country. Like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, the U.S. pretends that they want to help, but all they do is destroy and take what they want. Russia has helped the Syrian people and works with us as an ally. We feel very good about the Russian presence in Syria.”

As we drove down the road, we went through a checkpoint. Traffic slowed to a crawl. I looked at the people in the car next to me. There was a woman in the back seat with three children. Her youngest was adorable, all curls and smiles. I waved at the little girl and she waved back. The other kids waved and so did their mom, smiling at me as a mother does when others recognize her children’s beauty. This mother wore a black hijab, but she had no hesitation in smiling at me, a stranger wearing a shoulder-baring tank top. I found this very reassuring. This was the Syria I knew before the war, a Syria where people respected others’ religious beliefs and religion was not a barrier to friendship. Perhaps, Syria was recovering in spirit as well?

Another thing I noticed is that everyone was continuing to smile and converse in their cars. No one seemed nervous or worried about going through the checkpoint. It seemed like a routine matter that people took for granted. It certainly belied the U.S. idea that Syrian citizens are afraid of the army and the government. When it was our turn, my nephew chatted with the soldiers, and one of them walked past our car with a little machine that my nephew told me was meant to detect explosives. The soldier in the front asked us where we were going and why. My nephew said we were going to Homs to visit friends for a few days. And just like that, in under two minutes, we passed through the checkpoint. All told, it added about ten minutes to the trip.

The worst sights I saw in Syria were upon us now, as we approached the city. Off in the distance, I could see the wrecked buildings. Tall apartment buildings bombed out, their top floors exposed and their windows missing. My family said, “see, this is where you can see the war Leila. But don’t worry. It’s only part of the city. Most of Homs is fine. Don’t worry, you’ll see.”

Next: My first taste of the city.

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Syria Today – Part III My Family (the other half of it)

Today I’m going to tell you about my sister’s family. If you missed my last post, about my brother’s family, you can find it here: Syria Today – Part II My Family (well, half of it). You can also read about my first days in Syria here: Syria Today.

This is my sister, Julia, the one in the middle. She has five children, three girls and two boys. Her daughters married and moved away years ago but her two sons are sticking around (so far).


Julia, with the heart of gold.

My dad says, “qalba dihab” (heart of gold), when he talks about Julia, and it’s true. She is such a sweetheart. She’s an exemplary Syrian mother, cooking and cleaning, anticipating the needs of her family, and working for the good of her family with a smile on her face. She loves her husband, children, and grandchildren and it shows! It’s clear they love her too, if their phone calls and visits are any indication. Her daughters call every day or so, keeping her up to date on their lives. Her oldest son, Antoun, lives down the street with his wife and three kids, and her youngest son, (and the baby of the family), Eddy, lives at home with his mom and dad. He’s engaged to be married – more on that later.

fullsizeoutput_4c2Julia and I spent a lot of time together in the village and in Homs. We like to sit and talk together or just be together. She is a great cook (I’m so lucky, everyone who cooks for me in Syria is a great cook!) and we had some pretty great meals while I was there. Additionally, she sent me home with her homemade za’atar blend, dibs ramaan (pomegranate molasses), and hand-dried sumac. She also sent a bottle of arak (anisette liquor) for my husband – she knows the way to her brother-in-law’s heart! She loves that I do yoga and is always telling her friends about it.



Her husband, Bashur, is a kind and gentle man. He loves Syria fiercely. The war has been very hard on him because of this. He ran his own laundry in Homs. The front, corner bedroom was converted to the business years ago. He did the laundry in the back of the house and outside in a shed on the back patio, then pressed clothes, hung them, and met with customers in the front room. In the village, there is no business, so he is retired.

I have never met anyone in Syria who knows as much about history as Bashur. You can ask him anything and he knows the answer. Not just about Syria, but the Middle East as well. His dedication and love for his country is something I admire so much about him.

My nephew, Antoun, is a driver. He takes people all over the valley and to Homs. He also drove me to Tartous and Baniyas while I was there. When I went to Baniyas, I went with him, his wife, and their three kids, as well as Eddy, and Eddy’s fiancée, Merna (whom I love, love, love!).

Antoun works hard and takes whatever work there is. Sometimes that means he works long hours and sometimes it means he works seven days a week. He is a very reasonable person, and when he talks about serious things, you feel that you trust his judgement because he is so sensible. He is also fiercely dedicated to his family.


Antoun’s wife, Amal, is literally one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever known (see for yourself). She’s that way on the inside too! She’s fun to hang out with and loves to have a good time. She’s a great mom and wife too. I’ll write about my trip to Baniyas another time and show you lots of pictures, so stay tuned.


Then, there are their kids, Edward (Edoody, 9 years old), Andrew (Andoora, 6 years old), and Naya (4 years old). Edoody acts very grown up for a 9-year old. He is pretty serious. He hates having his picture taken and I’m not sure I have a picture of him. He’s also too addicted to his cell phone games. I just want to say, Syrians have the same problems as Americans when it comes to cell phones! This is a totally universal problem.


Andoora is a ham! He is so much fun to play with and goof around with. We argue over the right way to pronounce words because his mother is from the Big City (Homs), and my Arabic is “Amar” Arabic with a distinctive accent. “Shoy.” “No, shai,” (rhymes with chai). Shoy. Shai. Shoy. Shai. Also, I taught him and Naya the slap game. You know, when you put your hands on top of someone else’s and they try to slap the top of your hands. They were ridiculously easy to beat. One of the many reasons I love hanging out with kids – I almost always win!


Naya is a little sweetheart who’s super sassy! She was really excited to start school in the fall and gave me a little fashion show of her school clothes and showed me her new backpack. It’s great to see kids excited about school!

So, about Eddy and Merna. Merna is Eddy’s fiancée and I’m so happy for them. I think they are just perfect for each other! Eddy is a painter. That is, he’s a house painter. There’s lots of work in the area now. There is a lot of rebuilding going on, but also just a lot of building in general.


Many people have moved into this area since the beginning of the war. It is free of terrorists and fighting. Of course, now, most of the country is, but the valley was cleared of terrorists back in 2015 or so, while there was still active fighting in other parts of Syria. So, of course, people left areas where there was fighting, and many came to our area. Especially Christians.

We live in an area called “Wadi Al Nasara” (Valley of the Christians).” There are many Muslims in the area as well, but with a large Christian population, many Christians from all over the country came here to escape opposition-held areas where they instituted strict shari’a law and threatened and harassed Christians. So anyway, the point is, there’s a lot of work for builders, painters, tile setters, etc. This is great for Eddy!


I love Eddy because he is a tough guy on the outside, but full of deep love for the people he loves. He’s quiet, smart, and really, really funny in a clever way. Merna is his equal, which is really important. Eddy is so strong, he needs a strong woman. Hopefully, they are getting married next summer. We all love Eddy so much that my son and daughter and I are absolutely determined to go back for the wedding. I’m so grateful for all the nights I got to spend hanging out with Eddy and Merna and their friends this year.

Wow! It takes a lot of words to tell you about my family. And think, that’s just the family I have living in Syria! Next time, I’ll tell you all about Homs.

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Syria Today – Part II My Family (well, half of it)

Syrians tend to have large families. Not so much today as in the past, but to give you a brief idea, I had eight aunts and uncles on BOTH my mom and dad’s side. As a result, I have a total of 35 first cousins! In my immediate family, there’s my oldest sister, Sana, then my brother, Yousef (whom we call Zouzou – like zoo-zoe (rhymes with “toe”)), then my sister Julia, and finally, my twin sister, Noel, and myself. (Are you still reading?)  I also have 13 nieces and nephews and 19 great-nieces and great-nephews. Just saying.

My older siblings were born and raised in Syria. My twin and I were born in Allentown, Pennsylvania. My oldest sister, Sana, came here when I was young. Zouzou and Julia stayed in Syria by choice. Up until the war, they had very good lives and were happy to be there. Even during the war, even though things were difficult, they decided to stay. Now that the war is all but over, they have both told me they don’t intend to leave Syria ever. If you didn’t have a chance to read about my first few days in Syria, you can read about them here: Syria Today.

My brother has four children. Shadi (the “a” is like “android” – “shad-dee”) is the oldest. His wife, Rihab, is from Habnimra, a larger town about 15 minutes away. Their children are Yousef (Zouzou – named after his grandfather), Jouri (like “bonjour” – “jouree”), and Laith (pronounced “Lais – rhymes with “face”). Don’t ask.

Shadi owns a mini-mart, which surprisingly, has EVERYTHING, literally anything you could possibly want. I think it’s magic. He also chauffeurs people around in his recently acquired Peugeot. Shadi is a hard worker and loves his family. In that way, he takes after his dad. Rihab is a blast! SOOOOO funny!!! She totally cracks me up, although, seriously, I can’t even print some of our funny conversations. Just trust me. I was having serious hair angst before a baptism reception, and she gave me an expert blowout. Also, I always ask her for advice when I’m in Syria.


A Peugeot in Homs. NOT Shadi’s Peugeot, which is far nicer!

Their son, Zouzou, spent the summer working part-time in his dad’s store. He rides around the village on a motorbike (like everyone else).  He’s very smart and is looking to study engineering at university. He’s a senior in high school this year. Jouri is sweet and smart. She writes fables for fun! I wish I had copied the story she read to me so I could tell it to you. I’ll ask her to screenshot it and send it to me. Laith is a blast!


Laith. Super smart, super sweet.

He’s super smart and nine years old. He’s a real ham and loves to ride around in his new bike.


Jouri and her selfie-stick.

Shereen is next. She lives in Hab Nimra. She married Rihab’s brother, Wassim. Wassim is great! He’s one of my favorite people ever! He’s a tile setter and a builder. I’m gonna do a whole entire post on Wassim and his work because it’s so awesome. I told him he should move here, he’d be a millionaire his work is so good! Shereen and I talk and talk and talk. Even when I’m here in the States, we’ll be on video chat for an hour at a time.

Their kids are Gibran (named after the famous Lebanese poet, Khalil Gibran), Jilanar (which is the what they call the pomegranate blossoms), and Jawad, whose nickname is Jado. Gibran is 11, Jilanar (Nara) is 8, and Jado is 4.

We like to go on hikes together. And walkabouts in general. In Syria, people ask each other if they’d like to go “a mishwar,” which means go for a walk.


Living on the edge.

Going for a walk together is definitely a popular activity. Shereen’s kids and Laith took me to the “Ain” (sort of rhymes with “fine”) in my village. This is a natural spring that’s been protected. We climbed the rocks. Even Jado!


Chillin’ on the ledge.

He’s a tough guy! We watched the frogs, and looked at all the plants, and closed our eyes and stood together in silence for an entire minute, listening to the sound of the wind in the trees and the bird calls. It was a magic moment!


Relaxing after work.

Danny and Muhanned are my brother’s youngest kids and they are twins! Muhanned got married last year and he and his wife, Sara, have a new baby daughter, Massa (which means “diamond”). She is the cutest. Here, see for yourself. I’m so happy for Muhanned. He’s very happy and his wife is lovely and smart and a great cook and mother. And Massa is, well, you see. She’s a treasure.

Danny is still single! Waiting for the perfect girl. He can sing “Bye, Bye Blackbird” all the way through. I taught it to him in 2010 and he still remembers it. He’s learned a lot of English since then and he practiced with me during my trip. He makes me laugh but he’s also really smart. He sings in church and has a beautiful voice. He has a lot of friends – everyone loves Danny. He and his friends often stay up until 4 or 5 a.m. talking and laughing, drinking yerba mate and smoking the argheli.

My brother is retired now. He still works every day. He’s super smart (I know I keep saying that, but my family is smart!). He is a family man. Absolutely the definition of family man. He has dedicated his life to his family and loves them and they all love him. His wife, Nadia is an amazing cook! She takes care of me like a mom when I stay with them. She did my laundry, cooked my favorite foods, and when I didn’t feel well, made me special foods and made sure I was comfy. I call her “Nadooshy” as a nickname, and also, Mama Nadia. We also talk and talk and talk when we’re together. She’s very clever and knows how to do all sorts of things really well. Oh and also, she alters all her clothes to fit perfectly and look stylish.

Whew! Well, that’s my brother’s family. I’m at over 1,000 words and I haven’t told you about my sister’s family yet. You can read all about Julia and her family here: Syria Today – Part III My Family (the other half of it). If you have any questions about what you’re reading, just let me know. There’s a place at the bottom of the page for comments and questions. You don’t have to register to leave a message. Minshoofkoom ba’adaan! (See you later!)

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Syria Today


A view of my village, Amar Al Hosn.

Ahla wa sahla a Souriya. Most days, I sit down to write, and words pour out of me like water. As I sit here writing this, my thoughts are so jumbled, it’s hard to even know where to start.

Maybe I should start by saying, “ahla wa sahla a Souriya” which means “welcome to Syria.” Maybe I should start with “nishkar Allah”, which means “thank God.” I’m not entirely sure how many times I’ve said “nishkar Allah” since I’ve been here. I’ve been thinking, “thank God I’m here, thank God I made it, thank God I still have a country and family to come home to.” Nishkar Allah.


My sister-in-law, Nadia, my brother, Zouzou, my niece’s husband, Wassim, and his son, Jado.


My great-niece and great-nephews; Jado, Nara, Laith, and Gibran.


My nephew’s wife, Rihab, my nephew, Shadi, and my niece, Shereen.

As I approached the village last Saturday night, I started crying tears of relief and joy. Maybe mostly relief, truth be told. For eight years, I wondered and worried if I’d ever see my family again. I saw terrible things happen to people on the news, and lay awake at night, praying to God they wouldn’t happen to my brother or sister, their children, or grandchildren. And finally, I was here, rounding the corner, turning onto the street where my brother lives.


The view from my sister’s house. My brother’s house is behind those trees in the middle. I know everyone who lives in those houses.

My driver said, “don’t cry, be happy. You’re here! Your family will be upset if they see you crying.” I got out of the car and saw my sister-in-law, Nadia, first. We started hugging and kissing and I started sobbing. Sorry folks. Full-on wrenching sobs.


Rihab and Shereen, hanging out.

First Nadia, then my niece, Shereen, my nephew, Shadi, and his wife, Rihab, my nephew, Danny, and finally, my brother, Zouzou. I tried so hard not to cry too much, especially all over my brother. He’s not super fond of overwrought emotion. When I finally stopped crying, I explained how relieved I felt. Oh, thank God, nishkar Allah, I finally made it.

That last five days have been filled with laughter, music, good food, and talking, talking, talking. If there’s one thing our people are good at (there are many things), it’s talking. The cool thing is though, we’re also really good at just sitting around together, not-talking, too. But ok, seriously, we’ve mostly been talking. We talk about everything. My brother has a veritable zoo now – a rooster, chickens, baby chicks, two geese, and a duck. Also, more traditionally, a dog. He has a large garden filled with fruits and vegetables. Then, there’s the weather. It’s been unusually cool and cloudy. This is the reason why it’s been a bad year for fruit. There has been much conversation about the bad fruit year. It’s disappointing in general, because the figs and grapes are shriveling on the trees and vines, but it’s specifically bad for the olives because that is the big money crop. There will be olives to press for olive oil this year, but no olives for eating.

Another popular topic is “who is coming to the village and when are they arriving?” It goes something like this:

“Look, they’re cleaning Zakhour’s house.”

“Yeah, he’s arriving tomorrow.”

“Is his wife coming with him? How about the kids?”

“His wife is with him, I heard the two younger kids are too, but his oldest is coming next week.”

“Really? Hey, did I hear he’s getting married?”

“Yeah, he took a girl (took means “chose”) from Zweitini (a nearby village).”

“Oh yeah, min bayt meen?” (“from who’s house?” which means from whose family.)

“Min bayt Azar (the family name). You know Ibn Moussa (that’s “Moussa’s son”)?

“Ibn Moussa? Yeah, I went to school with his wife.”


(I just read this conversation to my sister and she said, “ibn Moussa? From Zweitini? Meen ibn Moussa min Zweitini?” and I’m laughing my ass off! So, I explained to her I’m just making up names to give you all an example of our conversations.) Seriously though, this type of conversation is repeated over and over throughout Syria, every day. For real, Syria is a place you can go where “everybody knows your name.”


A close-up, cuz she’s so darn, stinkin’ cute!

In addition to all these lively conversations, there’s “mut-tea” (yerba mate), tea, and coffee to drink; fruit, nuts, and seeds to snack on; and of course, cigarettes and argheeli (hookah) to smoke. When my brother told me he stopped smoking after his angioplasty last year, I told him, “bravo alaik (good for you)!” I just asked my sister-in-law about his surgery and she said so many men have had heart problems since the war. “It’s the stress,” I said. “Taba-aan.” (of course), she replied.

Lunch. French fries are everywhere!

Life is basically, pretty normal here now. Some things are worse, some things are better, and some have stayed the same. What’s worse? People are scared. I started to write, “more” scared, but then I realized that doesn’t work. Why not? Because it implies people were somewhat scared before the war, and then their fear level increased. This is inaccurate.


Jouri and her selfie-stick.

Before the war, there was no fear level. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true. People didn’t worry about their personal safety before the war. In the village, the worry is pretty much gone. It went away about three years ago when the fighters holed up in the nearby castle (yes, I wrote “castle”) were defeated by the army. I would say that for our village and the surrounding area, it marked the point where life began to return to normal.


Hanging with my great-nieces and nephews; Jado, Jouri, and Laith.

These days, children go down to the school yard every evening (called the “naadi”) and play with each other. Kids as young as four or five all the way through high school hang out there from about 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Kids go by themselves in groups and are unsupervised. People also feel free to travel from village to village in the dark now. This is a return to normalcy. Nishkar Allah.

Next up: My family. You can read all about my brother’s family here: Syria Today – Part II My Family (well, half of it) and my sister’s family here: Syria Today – Part III My Family (the other half of it).

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Syria: Ten things you can do right now to stop the bombs and stop the war.

Our government always brags about our democracy. How a government should do the “will of the people.” Let’s show the whole world that We, the People, have the power to stop our government from waging war. We’ve destroyed Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, but Syria is still standing. Enough is enough. No more senseless war.

I read an article today that said only the far right is against a war in Syria. I don’t believe this is true. I believe a majority of Americans are against bombing Syria, against regime change, and against going to war. So, here’s a list of ten things you can do right now to stop the bombs and stop the war:

  1. Call the White House. Tell them, “No more senseless war. No more bombs. No more regime change. Leave Syria alone!
  2. Call your representatives. Tell them the same.
  3. Write to your local newspaper. Tell them the same.
  4. Discuss the issue with your family and friends. Share on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Encourage them to speak out against going to war.
  5. Attend a rally on Saturday. Invite your friends and family to attend. They are happening all over the country. Look here to find one near you. https://www.springaction2018.org
  6. Call your local newspaper. Ask them why they’re not reporting on the issue. Ask them why they’re not more critical of official government reports. Ask them why they print headlines assigning guilt, when the articles contain no evidence.
  7. Think critically about what you read and hear about Syria. Is the source biased? Why are they biased? Is what’s presented as fact actually fact? Do the conclusions drawn make sense?
  8. Stay informed. Seek out different news sources and consider the issue from different perspectives. Be wary of news articles that try to tell you what to think. Look for articles that inform with facts and information.
  9. If you pray, pray.
  10. Don’t let up on the pressure. Keep at it until our voices are heard. Oh and one more thing….

Let this be the beginning. Find the issues that matter to you and learn about them. Stay engaged. Instead of frantically responding to each crisis as they come along, let’s start preventing them. This is our future and the future of our children. This is OUR country. OUR government. OUR money. It’s time for our government to carry out the will of We, the People.


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Media Analysis: Still, no facts, no evidence, no proof. No justification for war.

Syria ‘chemical attack’: France’s President Macron ‘has proof,’ reports the BBC. But what does the article actually say?

Let’s take a look:

“President Emmanuel Macron says he has ‘proof’”. Saying you have proof is not proof.

“…he would decide ‘in due course’ whether to respond with air strikes.” Respond to what? You have shown no proof.

Meanwhile, President Trump is “canvassing support for strikes from the leaders of France and the UK.” In other words, he is trying to convince leaders of France and UK to participate in strikes. Doesn’t seem like Macron needs much canvassing.

Also, meanwhile, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told Congress, “I believe there was a chemical attack and we are looking for the actual evidence.” Secretary Mattis, I don’t care about what you BELIEVE. Without actual EVIDENCE, your beliefs are meaningless.

Macron, who insists, “we have proof that last week chemical weapons, at least chlorine, were used by the regime of Bashar al-Assad,” DID NOT GIVE THE SOURCE OF HIS INFORMATION. White helmets? Rebel leaders? Rebels calling themselves ‘activists’? Casper the Friendly Ghost? NAME YOUR SOURCE President Macron (or sit down and shut up).

Macron justified his position by saying, “Regimes that think they can do everything they want, including the worst things that violate international law, cannot be allowed to act.”

Ah, finally we agree. But here’s the thing, President Macron. YOURS is the regime that will be violating international law if you bomb Syria without verifiable evidence of the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons. And authorization from the U.N. Security Council.

Here’s the rule: The law of war prohibits force unless force has been approved by the U.N. Security Council or unless a country has been attacked and is acting in self-defense.

Standing up and saying, “they did it, they did it. I know that they did it,” isn’t proof of anything (except perhaps, that you have no proof). If you did have any actual evidence, you could make it public and take it to the U.N. Security Council to get their thumbs up. That way, when you drop your bombs and kill the innocent civilians you surely will kill, you can justify your actions with FACTS. And EVIDENCE. And then, you won’t be violating international law. Something you clearly oppose. So, let’s hear it, President Macron. Give us the facts, show us the evidence. We’re waiting.

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No facts. No war.

I have taken a long break from writing about Syria. Mostly because of my health, but also because the situation improved so much there when the U.S. government and its allies stopped trying to overthrow the Syrian government. Well, apparently they’re not finished trying to destroy Syria yet. So I wrote this letter to the editor of the Oregonian. Please read it. Please share it. And please, if you are a U.S. citizen, call the White House, your elected officials and your local papers, and tell them, “no facts, no war.”

Our government is poised to take us to war. Why? Alleged chemical weapons attacks. After reviewing dozens of media reports about chemical weapons use in Syria, including President Obama’s red line and President Trump’s bombing of Khan Sheikhoun, I have found that every single article talks about “alleged” attacks that the U.S. government “believes” occurred that they “blamed” the Syrian government for. Today’s situation is much the same. The article, “Syria war: What we know about Douma ‘chemical attack’”, published April 10, 2018 by the BBC, uses the words “allege” four times, and “believe” and “suspected” twice each. No evidence is presented, and reports about what happened come only from rebels or rebel organizations. In 2013, UN experts confirmed use of sarin in Syria, but reported, “fragments and other possible evidence have clearly been handled/moved.” Ultimately, they did not find the Syrian government responsible. In 2011, UN investigator Carla del Ponte said there were “strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof” that REBELS had used sarin in Khan al Assal. The same team found no evidence against the Syrian government. Should we go to war over allegations and accusations? There were no weapons of mass destruction and yet we destroyed Iraq. In Syria, we are defending an organization called the Army of Islam. Is this how we want our tax dollars spent? Is this our foreign policy? War, no matter what. Please call your congressional representatives. Tell them, “no facts, no war.”


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Hiking Crescent Beach at Ecola State Park

ecola park map

About nine miles south of the Highway 26/ US 101 junction, you’ll find Ecola State Park at the north end of Cannon Beach. Within the park there are several hikes and beach areas. Last summer I had the good fortune to hike to Crescent Beach and enjoy what turned out to be a gorgeous summer day.

The hike itself is pretty low-key. It’s 3.6 miles round-trip, in and out, so that’s less than two miles each way. A series of 20170828_142235switchbacks lead you down with many different views of the beach below. At the end of the hike there’s a long switchback staircase that takes you to the beach.


A forest right next to the ocean.

You’ll find the trailhead just to the left of the bathrooms near the Ecola Point parking lot. Version 2There’s a series of steps at the beginning of the hike, making way into a beautiful forest. You’ll see spruce, alder, ferns, huckleberry, elderberry, salal, and lush native ground cover.

You won’t walk very far until you come to a service road that leads you to Ecola Park Road. That’s the road you took to get into the park. fullsizeoutput_2e4After walking next to the road a short distance, you’ll drop down onto the trail again. There may be elk or deer in the woods, so you may want to walk quietly and keep an eye out.

Almost immediately, you’ll get a view of the ocean. I remember thinking, “gosh, I thought the hike would be longer than this!” Then, I realized that even though the beach looked close, it was still pretty far away because of all the switchbacks. fullsizeoutput_2e8In the end, it was a lovely little hike. Version 2

I like to trail run, but most of this hike wasn’t runner friendly. It’s steep enough, often enough, that running would be dangerous. Still, you get a decent workout. Especially on the way back up!

All along the trail, you’ll see stands of old and second growth trees. You’ll hear birdsong. I’m not exactly sure what’s moving around in the brush, but I’m thinking maybe frogs and newts? I did catch a glimpse of a garter snake.


The beach itself is absolutely stunning. As it’s name implies, the beach is crescent shaped. There are some caves over to the right as you face the ocean. If you’re feeling brave, you can climb some of the rock formations too, but be careful! You should especially pay attention to high and low tide. You could be dangerously trapped in the inlets of the caves if you get caught by the high tide.

Version 2There are tide pools worth checking out. I’ve heard that you can actually walk to the beach at Ecola Point in low tide, and from there all the way to Indian Head beach, but that’s definitely impossible at high tide. If you’re not absolutely sure, I wouldn’t even try it.fullsizeoutput_2ee

If you head south on the beach, you can walk all the way into town. Cannon Beach is worth checking out while you’re in the area. It’s pretty touristy, but the beach is family-friendly and there are some terrific restaurants, shops, and galleries there. Keep in mind that walking into town would add some serious distance to your day!

A hardy crew from New Zealand carried umbrellas all the way down to the beach and back again, but boy, oh boy, what a great little setup!

Version 2

The Oregon coast is often cool and cloudy in the summer, but this day was quite warm, and in fact, it was too hot to comfortably lay in the sun. Luckily, there was a big ole rock formation with a little bit of shade beneath it. This was the perfect spot to sit and eat lunch, read a book, and indulge in a snooze-a-thon. I had some pretty interesting views, just laying there on my beach towel. Up, down, and all around.

My sweet little spot:


That’s me, practicing my napping selfies. That’s one of about forty pictures. Also, it’s seriously cropped so I don’t look like a pinup girl! Do I look like I’m sleeping?

Later that afternoon, before heading back up the trail, I found a little trickle of ice cold waterfall and some native Indian Paintbrush. When you’re hiking or walking around Oregon, it’s always a good idea to look carefully all around you. You never know what you might see.


Ocean views:


Any amount of time spent at Ecola State Park, anywhere in the park, is time well spent. Crescent Beach isn’t the easiest part of the park to get to, but it’s well worth the effort.


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Saving money by cooking on vacation.

I’m something of a planner. I plan things in my head all the time. Dinner party menus. Building a greenhouse. Yoga sequences. I guess I would say that enjoy making plans.

So, it should come as no surprise to find out that, as planned, the first thing I did in Hawaii was go to the grocery store. After all, it’s on the way to the hotel. We arrived at 10:45 am, and check-in wasn’t until 3 pm, and I love getting myself set up for vacation right from the get go. It’s worth it to me to sacrifice the first few hours so I’m free to enjoy the rest of the vacation.


I realize many people may be unwilling to spend their vacation cooking in their hotel room, but Honolulu is expensive, especially Waikiki. But we love Waikiki because you can walk everywhere here.

We’ve never rented a car, except for a taxi to and from the airport. We travel almost everywhere on foot, and occasionally take a bus. Keep in mind, we’re so lazy, we’ve never even tried to see other parts of Oahu. Even when I went to Manoa Falls and Diamond Head, I rented a bike.

fullsizeoutput_2b9But when you stay primarily in Waikiki, eating out can be really expensive. There are more affordable restaurants outside of the tourist areas, but even so, cooking in your room can save a lot of money.

There are other advantages too:

  • Eat whenever you feel like it.
  • No waiting for a table.
  • No waiting while your food is prepared.
  • Never leave the beach early to beat the dinner crowd.

All that translates to more time at the beach! There are some challenges to cooking in-room, however. Keep these things in mind:

  • Don’t forget important basics like cooking oil, butter, salt, pepper, and other seasonings.
  • Look for reasonably priced items large enough to last through your stay, without buying way more than you can use.
  • Scope out your cooking situation beforehand. Every “kitchenette” is different.

Vini and I are staying at the Ewa Hotel (pronounced “Ava”). My first impression of the hotel was of the overwhelmingly friendliness and helpfulness of the staff. I called Evan at the front desk twice from the grocery store to ask about the kitchenette. Each time he told me not to hesitate to call with other questions!

Here are some things to ask:

  • How big is the fridge?
  • How many burners are there? Is there an oven?
  • How about a rice cooker? (There often is in Hawaii).
  • Is there a microwave? A toaster?
  • What kinds of pots and pans are there?

20180101_181400We had a mini fridge, two burners, a toaster, a coffee machine, and a microwave. Additionally, there was one pot, one pan, two “ginsu” knives, a small cutting board, and a spatula. Pretty barebones.

This is our cute little kitchenette. Toaster and microwave on top, two burners to the left, and a drainboard/sink on the right. There’s a mini-fridge down below.

I was skeptical, but I’m turning out some great meals in this kitchen!



So here’s what I bought.

L – Chicken broth, onion and garlic, lemons and limes, walnuts, eggs, rice noodles, short grain rice, Bailey’s and Bogle Essential Red. R -green tea, earl grey, kona coffee, butter, umeboshi, yams, pineapple. On the top shelf are also cooking oil, rice vinegar, yuzukosho (Thank you Kurumi!), low-sodium soy sauce, and mirin,

Also: L – Poke, sushi grade salmon, pork, and beef, olives, ginger, oranges, shanghai choi, cabbage, and lettuce. R – Mayo, avocado, coleslaw mix (I like cabbage), yakisoba noodles, mustard, ham, chevre, and cheddar cheese.

On the top shelf are two pineapples, cooking oil, rice vinegar, yuzukosho (Thank you Kurumi!), mirin, low-sodium soy sauce, wasabe powder, whole wheat bread, and Stella d’Artois.

The ham, bread, eggs, cheese, olives, nuts, and lettuce to make:

  • Ham and cheese omelets with toast
  • Ham sandwiches
  • Cheese platters
  • Salads

Mostly though, I focused on Asian foods that could create a variety of meals. Why Asian? Well, of course, it’s delicious. It’s also fast and healthy. And one more thing – it’s affordable and abundant at the grocery stores in Hawaii! Here are some of the meals I can make:

  • Stir-fry with yakisoba noodles and tofu
  • Rice bowl with stir-fried beef and yams
  • Stir-fry pork with cabbage, carrots, and sprouts
  • Rice bowl with salmon sashimi, avocado slices, and stir-fried carrots with burdock
  • Nabe
  • Rice bowl with poke and stir-fried veggies
  • Fried rice with ham and veggies

I can also make pickled vegetables with the cabbage, cucumbers, and salt. I have umeboshi, and I can make vinegared carrots and cucumbers as well.

Slice the cucumbers as thin as possible. A challenge with my ginsu knife! Add a liberal amount of salt. Stir it in and let the cucumbers sit. Stir and lightly smash a bit a few times, let sit some more. In the end, you can discard the salty liquid and give ’em a quick rinse if you like. Then eat as is or season to taste with soy sauce, mirin, rice vinegar, furikake, umeboshi (in any combination), or anything else you like.

I also bought a variety of fruit including two pineapples, two papayas, two mangoes, four oranges, and four bananas. So, yep. Fruit, fruit, fruit!


So, what’s the tab for a week’s worth of food in Honolulu? Around $200. Not including alcohol. I don’t drink much anymore, but we got one small bottle of sake and one bottle of wine to share. For Vini, we also bought Bailey’s for his coffee and a short case of Stella d’Artois. All that liquor ran another $65.

That’s a lot more than I’d spend on groceries in Portland for a week, but remember, I had to buy staples and pantry items like oil, butter, mustard, mayonnaise, salt and pepper, soy sauce, mirin, etc. The thing is, dinner for two in Waikiki can easily run $100 a night, and if you consider breakfast and lunch as well, you’d probably average $160 – $200 a day per person! So really, the savings are considerable.

Here’s a gallery of meal photos for further inspiration.

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How do I choose what to wear?

How do I choose what to wear on any given day? Well, I start with the weather. Rain means no suede, cold means no open shoes. Variable weather means a sweater or jacket I can easily take off and on throughout the day.  For instance, I’d be more likely to choose a cardigan over a crew neck sweater on a sunny/rainy/cloudy day. (If you live in Portland, Oregon, you know what I mean.)

Version 2Next, I consider the day’s plans. If I’m thinking about a walk to the grocery store, I’ll want to wear walkable shoes. If I’m going to spend most of the day sitting, I can indulge in high heels. On a day when I’ll be cleaning up or organizing things, I’ll choose pants, but days with little to no physical work are great for wearing a pretty skirt.

Version 2Those are the basics. After that, it’s just a matter of what I’m in the mood for. Also, I have to say, I do tend to look around for something I haven’t worn in a while. With a total of 16 tops between my two capsules, I only wear each one every two weeks or so.

Version 3Some people use a system to rotate through their clothes. A popular method is to turn the hanger backwards when you hang up what you just wore. That’s also a good way to figure out if there’s something in your wardrobe that you think you should wear, but actually don’t. I don’t really bother with this system. I have a TERRIBLE memory, but for some reason, I never have a hard time with my wardrobe. A quick glance through my closet will usually elicit a, “hmm. I haven’t worn that lately.”

Today, I’m featuring the same sweater and pants in all three pictures. In each case, I added different shoes, accessories, and toppers to create three different looks, appropriate for different days.


Forever 21 Sweaters (similar) : LOVE 21  Striped Ribbed Knit  Striped Chenille              Cargo Pants: Express mid rise belted cargo (very similar) Dex Skinny Cargo (also similar)

The sweater was purchased at Forever 21 in Vancouver B.C., on vacation with my daughter Maddy. Yep, that’s right. We went all the way to Vancouver B.C. and ended up shopping at Forever 21! What can I say. They got the goods.

The cargo pants are from H&M and they are my big score from this year’s fall shopping. I absolutely LOVE these pants. I got the “Wow! Those pants look great on you!” comment from a fellow shopper in the dressing room – always a good sign. They wash well, and they’re super comfortable! I needed to let go of my last pair of cargo pants this summer because they were faded, and they got too big for me (that is NOT a complaint!). I was afraid I wouldn’t find a better pair, but I did!  It just goes to show, we shouldn’t be afraid to let go of things…

fullsizeoutput_217In this first outfit, I went casual. It reflects what I would wear if I were staying home, maybe doing a little work around the house, and probably planning on taking a walk or two.

I’m not wearing any jewelry. I wouldn’t if I was going to clean the kitchen, do some yard work,  or basically anything that might have me getting my hands dirty, or bending over (necklaces are not great for tasks that involve bending).

Those are legit, vintage Vans, by the way. Pretty darn happy about them! I bought them for $8 at a thrift store in Newport about 10 years ago.

You may also notice I’m using them to do a little more low key pattern mixing. I’ve made no secret of the fact that pattern mixing doesn’t feel natural to me. But I’m breaking out of my old ruts and trying something new.

My Instagram/Tumblr/Facebook feeds have some other pattern mixing experiments. Baby steps, people. Baby steps. The choices below are not as fly as mine, but whatcha gonna do?

Vans: Old Skool Platform Sneaker  Classic Slip-on


In this case, I’ve dressed the outfit up with a black blazer, mixed stone necklace, and burgundy suede booties. I bought this blazer from Forever 21 a year ago on Black Friday.  The booties are from DSW. I’ve owned them for three years and they still look brand new! There’s a zipper up the back, which is a really cute detail. The necklace was my mother-in-law’s, and just like my mom’s necklace, seen here, it’s one of my favorites because I loved my mother-in-law a lot!

This is what I would throw on in the middle of the day if the outfit above needed to transition to lunch with a friend. This is also what I might wear for various errands. A bootie with a nice blocky heel really elevates an outfit, but is still comfortable enough for running around town.

Blazer: Forever 21 Cuff Sleeve Blazer (exact)        Booties: Charlotte Russe (with cute buckle detail) Crown Vintage (lower heel, deep color)  Necklace: DKNY- jewel tones DKNY-smokey tones Robert Lee Morris – gorgeous (all similar)


So, you know right off the bat, this is one of my favorite outfits. Of course, you can tell because I’m wearing my leopard print shoes! If you didn’t read about my love of leopard print already, you can do so here. You can also check out some great leopard print shoes in a previous post, featuring current options at DSW and Nordstrom Rack, here.

This gorgeous leather jacket was a hand-me-down from my darling friend, April. I think the white contrast stitching really takes this up a notch.

Hand-me-down tip: Go to the consignment shop with your friend. You never know what you might end up with if the store takes a pass. Leila for the win!

The leopard print shoes are just lovely, don’t you think? I finally broke down and bought the Franco Sarto’s I was craving. I justified the purchase on the basis of their lower, more comfortable heel.

They didn’t make it in the mail yet. It’s fun to have something to look forward to. You can see them here. You should look at them even if you don’t want to buy them. They’re perfect.

This is also an outfit I could run errands in. (I like to look spiffy!) It would also look great going out to dinner. None of the jacket choices here are very similar (how could they be – it’s so unique). But they’re stylish!

Jacket: Via Spiga  Kut from Kloth  Cole Haan     Shoes: Franco Sarto Head Over Heels (very similar!) Diane Von Furstenberg (how can you go wrong?)

How do YOU choose? Do you choose? You can leave a comment at the bottom of the page. Signing in is optional. I want you to feel totally comfortable! I used to agonize over these things, but capsule wardrobing has made getting dressed in the morning easy, breezy, and fun!

Remember, no matter what; do your thing! Everybody gets to be whoever they are. Your clothes are just one way to express your fabulousness. So get out there, don’t apologize, and take no prisoners. All’s fair in love and fashion!


Me, rocking Iris Apfel glasses.              Iris Apfel, my fashion hero.

Check out this great interview,  IRIS APFEL: “YOU CAN’T LEARN STYLE” at online interview magazine The Talks (photo credit), interview by Emma Robertson.

A note to readers: There are affiliate links in this post. If you click on these links or make purchases, I will be paid a small commission. I only promote or recommend what I sincerely adore. Thank you for reading!

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One Dress, Three Ways

One of the most fun things about capsule wardrobing is the mixing and matching that’s possible. I swear I could reach into my closet with my eyes closed and pull out a great outfit every time! Among the many benefits of this is learning to use your clothes in many different ways.

I remember what getting dressed was like before I started capsuling. One of my biggest problems was that I had clothes that I couldn’t seem to pair up with anything. The other problem I had is that I ended up using many of my pieces in rigid outfits that I never changed. I would find that a blouse I owned looked good with a particular pair of jeans and shoes, and it would end up being the only way I ever wore that blouse. I basically had a closet crammed full of clothes, half of which I rarely, if ever, wore, while the other half was relegated to one-use outfits. Crazy, right?

I mentioned in a previous post, How I Used Capsule Wardrobes to Organize My Closet, that I now have two mini-capsules in my closet, 18 pieces each. Because everything in each capsule coordinates, I can make endless outfits. I can also dress up or dress down any outfit easily.

I tend to categorize outfits from casual to dressy and this corresponds to things like my daily life, lunch with a friend, dinner out with my husband, going to church, etc. So one of the things I keep in mind when choosing an outfit is the occasion, and then I think about how to dress up or down to suit my plans.

Here’s a dress I picked up from Old Navy a few years back. It’s all cotton, and has held up to multiple washings. It’s great in the summer with bright red accessories – a sort of nautical look, but works well in the fall and winter too. I found three different versions of similar dresses online and the links are below. Sadly, Old Navy isn’t make this particular dress anymore.

fullsizeoutput_21fThe first way I wore this outfit was to church. I felt like such a lady! I wore these really lovely Anne Klein navy/cream patent leather heels. The piping on the shoes makes them work really well with the striped dress. That cream colored bag is also patent leather. It’s a vintage bag that I found at my neighborhood thrift shop, Red Fox Vintage. It feels awesome to go to church feeling put together AND comfortable.


The second way I styled this dress is designed for everyday wear. The boots are low heeled and comfortable. They’re also real leather and hold up to rainy days. The cardigan I’m wearing came from ThredUp, one of my favorite online thrift shops. There’s a pattern knit into the sweater that works well with the stripes in the dress. If I planned a day spent working on the computer, cooking and cleaning around the house, and maybe taking a walk to New Seasons, this would be the way to go.




I love this last outfit! I’m so happy when I can find new and interesting ways to wear something. Here, I’ve basically turned this dress into a skirt. The sweater is from New York and Company and looks absolutely brand-new after almost two years of wash and wear. The shoes were a steal at DSW on the sales rack. Something like $15. Real leather and a stacked wooden wedge heel. Seriously gorgeous. And the beads came from my mom. Vintage, mixed blues and long enough to be versatile. It’s one of my favorite necklaces. I can’t find anything that’s really like it, but I’ve included a triple strand necklace, below, that would look good with an outfit like this. The sweater, below, is from Macy’s and has a horizontal ribbing pattern. It would look terrific with a skirt like this!

  • Dress: Adrian Papel c/o 6pm (similar)
  • Sweater: Charter Club c/o Macy’s (similar)
  • Shoes: Chloe c/o The RealReal (similar)
  • Necklace: Nakamol c/o Nordstrom (similar)

Have you tried putting together a capsule yet? I think if you do, you won’t be sorry! Either way, go into your closet and find a dress you love. Try to come up with three very different looks using the same dress. You may be surprised at how many options there are. Flexibility is good in all things, including fashion! Part of learning to make do with less is learning to expand the possibilities of each item we own.  Let me know what you think? Do you already do this? Would you like to? You can leave a comment at the end of the page, no sign in required. Have a great day, and thanks for stopping by!

A note to readers: There are affiliate links in this post. If you click on these links or make purchases, I will be paid a small commission. I only promote or recommend what I sincerely adore. Thank you for reading!


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 Airport fashion. It’s a thing. 

The fabulous Anthony Leroux. A terrific stylist based in Phoenix, I met Anthony while returning home from a visit with my folks. He caught my eye because my son, and then my daughter, had both bought thrifted wool, camel-colored coats in the last couple of weeks. Are the young and hip embracing the camel coat right now? Good for them. It’s a timeless classic and I love to see the different ways they’re styling it.

“Can I take your picture for my blog?” I asked him. “I love your coat!” It took me five minutes to get up the nerve to ask. And it was my very first ask ever. For sure it won’t be my last. Anthony’s friend, fashion stylist, Danni Ordonez, based right here in Portland, Oregon, was picking him up. And so I happily met Anthony and Danni and made two new friends! Fashion blogging – bringing us all together.


Click on the link above and check out Anthony’s work. Seriously high style. You can also follow him on Instagram @aconsciousaesthetic.

You can read an article about Danni here. Full disclosure – there is some nudity in the pics in this article. The article is published in Nakid magazine. I think the photos are beautiful, edgy, and packed with style! You can also follow her on Instagram @synethetes. I highly recommend checking her out. See if you can find the photo I referred to as “Amy Winehouse meets Amy Sedaris.”

Update from Anthony: “If you’d like, I can send over the details for my outfit so you can list it on your blog.” Me: “That’d be great!”

  • Fedora: Brixton, here
  • Shirt: Lagerfeld X Terminator  from Tupakra SS2018 Collection   @YOHVNIS
  • Jeans: YSL, similar
  • Blue Suede Boots: Topman, similar
  • Scarf: Mango, gift from Paris, similar
  • Camel Coat: Banana Republic (thrifted for $6), similar (Forever 21 for the win!)

#airportfashion #airportstyle #fashionforthepeople #anthonylerouxstyling #fashionblogger #synethetes #camelcoat

A note to readers: There are affiliate links in this post. If you click on these links and make purchases, I will be paid a small commission. I only promote or recommend what I sincerely adore. Thank you for reading!

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Leopard print – it’s my thing.

Since I started my wardrobe remodel last year, I’ve learned to mix and match with the help of capsules and to hone in on my style preferences. Preference number one? Leopard print. Don’t ask my why, I really have no idea. But for me, leopard print just resonates. I’m drawn to it. It seems to embody the idea of effortless chic. For me. I have no idea how other people feel about it.

I mentioned this to my friend, Kurumi, and she told me that middle-aged women in Osaka are famous for loving, and wearing, leopard print. So I guess I’m in good company. Additionally, I met Trixie at my friend, Katherine’s, wedding last weekend. Katherine and Billy had a DESTINATION wedding in PORTLAND! How cool is that? Anyway, on Friday night, at the meet and greet, I met Trixie. Va va voom! I am featuring her in today’s post as a woman of style because: Damn, does Trixie look fine! I love the dress. I love the coat. I LOVE the gloves. And that sassy attitude? Well, that just wraps it all up and puts a bow on it for me!


Gee whiz, I just noticed the orange silk lining. Honestly, I think this outfit is perfect in every way. And the lips and the Bettie Page hairstyle. Trixie, I tip my hat to you, my friend! I couldn’t find any coat as fabulous as Trixie’s, but here’s one that would look great worn this way, and a dress similar to the one above, to go with it, if you’re so inclined…

And as for my leopard print collection? So far, I have amassed:

Version 5

A pair of pumps from DSW. $10 on sale four years ago! Can you believe it? This was my first ever leopard print purchase. Little did I know, it was the start of a beautiful friendship! You can check them out here on my Instagram page. I was playing around with some pattern mixing. You know, if I bought a pair today, it would be this one. As mentioned previously in DSW/Nordstrom Rack Roundup, I think this Franco Sarto shoe is perfect in every way. Also,  I’m still looking for flats, and holding out for the perfect pair.


A belt from Amazon. See the exact one here. I spoke out against anything but real leather for belts on a previous post, Gotta get going. A fashion post. (I love Fall!) but in this case, I went for it. I just went into it knowing that it may be a one or two season belt at most. I love to wear this when I want a subtle pop of pattern. Another super cute belt from Amazon is this one.


A scarf, also from Amazon. See the exact one here. This scarf is nice and big. Long, and wide, it offers the ultimate in versatility. Someday, I’ll post multiple ways to tie this! The material is silky, which can pose a challenge in terms of keeping it put, but there are some great and stylish ways around that. Also, I think it’s not a super big deal. Sometimes, I tie and retie my scarf throughout the day. I think it’s one of those things you don’t need to take too seriously!

Version 3A skirt from H&M. I bought this last season. I like this skirt because I can dress it up or down, depending on my mood. I like to pair this with blush, tan, light brown, or black on top. I’m mulling over navy. I think it could work. This skirt looks equally good with high heels, boots, or booties. H&M used to be hit or miss for me, but the last year or so, it’s been mostly hits, so I’m pretty smitten! This skirt is no longer available. (Insert sad face here), but here’s a really cute skirt of a different cut, with a great zipper detail that I’d consider adding to my collection.

Version 2A fancy dress. I bought this from Dress Barn about four years ago. I stepped out of the dressing room to look in the three way mirror, and several other shoppers said, “Wow! That looks amazing on you!” So like, seriously, who’s NOT gonna buy THAT dress!? You’re gonna hear a lot more about Dress Barn from me in the future. I’m a HUGE fan. Don’t let the name discourage you. This is one of my top go-to shops, and I get compliments on their clothes EVERY SINGLE TIME I wear them. More on that later. Of course, my dress is no longer available, but here’s a great looking metallic leopard print fancy dress from BB Dakota.


Sunglasses. Yes. That’s plural. Full disclosure – I lose sunglasses like crazy! Every year, I buy three pairs. Often, I replace a pair or two through the summer. And no, buying an expensive pair would not help me keep track of them. Trust me on this. This year, I found this SUPER cool pair with the bright blue back at one of my favorite vintage shops – Red Fox Vintage. My other pair? Walgreen’s baby! Because style doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Here’s a cute pair that rings in under $10!

Version 4And finally, drum roll please…. My GORGEOUS leopard print coat from New York & Company.  Another place I love to shop; New York & Company knows how to fit and flatter a woman! When I wear this coat the compliments just come pouring in! I couldn’t find a leopard print coat on their website this year, but here’s a similar coat from Via Spiga available at Nordstrom, and another, slightly pricier but even more similar one from Calvin Klein here.

If you’ve never given it a try, go ahead! What are you waiting for? Leopard print not your thing? What is? Do you have a signature style?


All my leopard print, in all it’s glory:


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DSW/Nordstrom Rack Roundup

Oh happy day! Nordstrom Rack opened at Cascade Station. There’s already a DSW, Target, Ross, and Dress Barn. What more could a girl ask for?! I went to DSW to return some boots, and I was pretty determined not to buy anything to take home, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t do a little window shopping. There were several items I would have loved to buy, and some definite misses as well, but it was fun to see what’s out there.

We’ll start at DSW.

Hallelujah! Prince boots are back and looking fine!

I’m not sure I would wear these, as they don’t really fit my personal style, but I will be glad to see other rock this look. In my opinion, Prince elevated both music and fashion to an art form. Here are the links, from left to right:

Similar: Shein Vintage Inspired Patterned Ankle Booties

Exact: Unisa Cayzea Bootie

Similar: Steve Madden Women’s Lombard Bootie

I’m pretty dedicated to not acquiring new clothes anymore. As I mentioned in this post, How I Used Capsule Wardrobes to Organize My Closet, I have put away quite a few boxes of clothes I’m not wearing right now. My plan is to cycle those clothes into my capsules as I get tired of wearing something in my current capsule, or outwear, outgrow, or otherwise damage an existing item. Nonetheless, there is my love of all things leopard.

I have a large collection of leopard print items. You can see them all in a future post (except the bra – a girl’s got to have some secrets). So even though I have a lot of clothes, and specifically a lot of leopard print, I’m still looking for the perfect pair of leopard print flats. I’m extremely picky about shoes, which is lucky for me (and Vini), because it means I haven’t bankrupted us yet. I check in with DSW pretty often, waiting for the perfect pair at the perfect price. Here’s some of their current offerings and my opinion about them:


What I like: The print, the color, and the faux animal-skin texture.

What I don’t: The buckle! The fact that this looks more like a slipper than a shoe. Also, the black edging (again, looking very slipper-like.)

Exact: Adam Tucker…Me Too

What I like: The heel! I also like the print and the price.

What I don’t: the texture of the shoe. It’s this weird kind of fuzzy velour. Sorry. I told you I was picky.

Exact: Mix No. 6

What I like: The texture, the print, the scalloped edge, and the little heel.

What I don’t: You know, looking at this picture, I’m not sure what I don’t like. I think I’ll go back to DSW and give this one a try!

Exact: Audrey Brooke


And to wrap up the leopard print from DSW (for today…):


This isn’t a flat, clearly. It’s got a heel, and yes, I already own a pair of leopard print heels (the first leopard print item I ever bought. Right here at DSW, btw). But OMG, look at this shoe. It’s what I would call a perfect shoe. I love the curve of the heel, I love the print, the material, the cutaway at the arch, and most of all(!) the ankle strap!!! There’s a lot of excitement going on over here, in case you can’t tell.

Only one problem…It’s a shoe that’s clearly a want, not a need. Grrr. Just can’t do it. So there it sits, in all its leopard print perfection. Franco Sarto, no less – one of my favorite designers. I’m hoping I get VERY lucky, and somehow, miraculously, that shoe ends up under the Christmas tree this year. (Vini, are you reading this? Size 10.) Fingers crossed.

Exact: Franco Sarto

From Nordstrom Rack:


Here’s an example of leopard print that I truly abhor. It has a weird animal skin texture, but it looks like plastic. Ugh. What a shame.

Here’s a much better looking bootie of a similar design. No surprise, it’s Franco Sarto.



And now, on to the winners from Nordstrom Rack:


How darn cute are these?  I just love them! Burgundy balls of fur puff, and burgundy suede! Combined with a low heel and sexy curves, I think this is a beautiful shoe.

Similar: Prada



Blue suede shoes. I really love this shade, and the style is great! Cute little zipper detail up the back, too.

Exact: Kenneth Cole Reaction


Yeah. Pretty much love everything about these. Shiny AND bling-y! They’re higher than what I normally wear, but they definitely fall in the category of, “who cares? I’m buying them anyway.” Still, I’m working hard on exercising my “look but don’t touch” habit, so I admired these and moved on.

Similar: Dolce Vita (These are cute, but not as amazing as the ones up above. Just sayin’.)


I have also discovered a love of coral. These are smashing, I would love to wear these a la Audrey Hepburn – ankle pants and a fitted, fine gauge knit or print top. Couldn’t find anything similar to this shoe. If you love it, better run to Nordstrom Rack.

And one more for the road, from DSW:


Similar: Adidas Women’s Superstar Foundation

This isn’t quite what I love. What I really want is a pair like the ones Freddie Mercury was wearing at the LiveAid concert at Wembley Stadium circa 1986. This is one of the greatest concerts EVER! Additionally, Freddie Mercury is absolutely mesmerizing. Check out the shoes, but really, watch the video to enjoy this fabulous music moment.

A note to readers: There are affiliate links in this post. If you click on these links and make purchases, I will be paid a small commission. (I think. I’m not really sure I’m doing this right.) Anyway, I love all these shoes (except for the ones that I don’t, but to each his own), and I am always giving you my own personal opinions. Have a great day!

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Six Things I Love About Caffe Destino

fullsizeoutput_1b41. Elizabeth. Elizabeth is the gal that took my order. She’s number one because she was so warm and friendly! She agonized a bit over getting my chai latte just right. Anyone who cares that much about my chai latte gets a 10/10 from me. She also wore a great outfit. A combination of sweet, old-fashioned and modern sassy. Here she is with her “Nasty Women Keep Fighting” t-shirt, and totally retro apron.

2. Art. They have local art on display. In fact, I came to Caffe Destino to check out the art. My friend, Ursula McCabe, is the artist in question. Her show ran through the end of October. Our interview is the first in my series, “Women I Admire,” coming soon, right here at O.K. Look, Here’s the Deal. She does beautiful animal watercolors. Here are a few from this show. There’s a little glare in these photos. I did my best to edit it out, but it’s particularly noticeable on the swan’s wing below. I posted it anyway because it’s so very beautiful.

fullsizeoutput_1ae3. Food from scratch. They make everything from scratch, “except the bagels and English muffins,” said Elizabeth. No quarrel here – bagels and English muffins are extremely time consuming. I broke my no-sugar habit to indulge in a lemon poppy seed scone. It’s one of the best I’ve ever eaten – light and flaky, lemony, and not too sweet. Stop eating sugar for a few months and you, too, will prefer things to be very lightly sweet. Absolutely delicious!

fullsizeoutput_1ab4. A great soundtrack. I didn’t realize it at first, but as I was sitting and sipping my latte and blogging away, I was also singing along. Loggins and Messina, Elton John, Tom Petty…works for me.

5. Friendly patrons. I was listening to the gal behind me sing along to a song, and I mentioned the awesome soundtrack. We struck up a conversation that spanned a half an hour. That may be more connection than you’re craving at a coffeehouse, but it’s nice to know there’s such a friendly vibe. I told her I came from a couple miles north and she told me she’d come all the way from Belmont because she loves Caffe Destino so much!


6. Bomb-ass breakfast. My friend, Debbie, arrived the next day and promptly said, “let’s go to that coffeehouse you posted from yesterday.” So, we ordered breakfast and there were many good options. I had the Greek breakfast sandwich with scrambled eggs, feta, tomato, onion, and olive tapenade. Debbie had the two egg breakfast with home fries. I remembered to take a photo of Deb’s breakfast before she dug in. My sandwich didn’t last long enough. We split a scone with jam, which was, yes, homemade and delicious. The portions were generous enough for me to take half my meal home to Vini.


IMG_20171020_140141_934    fullsizeoutput_1b2

So glad I launched my Travel plans! I’m having a blast exploring Portland as if it were all new to me. It’s amazing how many great places I’ve never been in my many years here. I’ve finally decided to be one of those people who sits at a coffee house and blogs, rather than sitting alone at home. Caffe Destino is one of my top picks!


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How I Used Capsule Wardrobes to Organize My Closet

A little over a year ago, I discovered the magic of the capsule wardrobe. You may be familiar with this concept, but in case you’re not, here’s a quick explanation. The idea of a capsule wardrobe is to create a small collection of clothes that mix and match so well together, that you only need a minimal amount of clothing to create a wardrobe with a wide variety of looks. My previous blog post, Gotta get going. A fashion post. (I love Fall!), gave a great example of how capsule wardrobes have helped me spiff it up a bit.

A popular capsule wardrobe concept is Project 333. The idea is to wear only 33 items for 3 months. I loved the idea, but it seemed a little too restrictive to me, so I came up with my own system. When I first organized my fall wardrobe this year, I set up four mini capsules and cycled through them each day. This system gave me a great deal of variety and allowed me to use different color schemes, yet it was still easy to choose an outfit. The smaller wardrobes limited my choices enough, while still giving me plenty of options.

After a couple of weeks, though, I realized I wasn’t really satisfied. I still had too many clothes in my closet. I also realized that I had some items in my capsules that I really didn’t want to wear on a daily basis, but I still access to them. My closet should have been neat and tidy, and my options should have been easy to see at a glance. Instead, my closed looked like this mess you see here.

Seriously, yikes. Then I read an article published by Fashion Magazine called, “You’re Doing the ‘Capsule Wardrobe’ Wrong.” Which began: “People of the Internet, listen up: enough with your bloated versions of the “capsule” wardrobe. You keep saying that word; I don’t think it means what you think it means.”

So yeah. I had to admit, I was doing the bloated version. And I wasn’t really getting what I wanted out of it! I figured out that I was trying to create capsules that would serve ALL my dressing needs. That works for some people. If your life is very casual, you may use leggings for a workout and then for a going-out-to-lunch outfit another day. Maybe you get up every morning and put on your work clothes, and then wear them all day, until bedtime.

In my life, I need different kinds of clothes, or maybe I should say different categories. I read this in Project 333: “These items are not counted as part of the 33 items – wedding ring or another sentimental piece of jewelry that you never take off, underwear, sleep wear, in-home lounge wear,  and workout clothing (you can only wear your workout clothing to workout).” Once I stopped trying to fit ALL my clothing needs into my capsules, I was able to organize my closet in a way that really made sense. I cut my four “mini” capsules in half, leaving me with just two, and I eliminated many of the pieces that “bloated” my capsules until I was down to just 18 in each, for a total of 36 items. And I organized and acknowledged my other clothing categories to meet my other dressing needs. Not a bad days work.

Here are my clothing categories:

  1. Pajamas. I have very specific pajama needs. Shorts and a tank top. I used to sleep in sexy nighties (THAT was a long time ago). Then it was flannel pjs as I got older and colder. Brrr. Then came menopause! Now I sleep hot. So summer, winter, spring, and fall, it’s short and a tank top for this gal! The lesson here: know your needs, and meet them.
  2. Schlubby wear. AKA scrubs, sweats, couch potato attire. For days when I’m shclubbin’, chillaxing, or otherwise lying like broccoli. This category includes a couple pairs of sweats, some old tees, and a few oversized, warm, cozy sweatshirts and sweaters. Remember, not every day is a capsule day.
  3. Yoga and running gear. Easy peasy. Yoga pants and a few workout tanks. A couple of Under Armour tops for warmth. A note about the yoga pants. I have been buying mine at Fred Meyer for quite a long time. They’re affordable (usually in the $30 – $40 range), comfortable, and flattering, and they last a LONG time. As someone who does yoga daily, that really means something.
  4. My daily wardrobe. This is where the capsules come in. I may wake up in pajamas, schlub my way through the morning, and then hit the park for a run, (or run my morning vinyasas – sun salutations make me happy!), but eventually, I shower, change and get going on my day (most days). So post shower, this is where I go.
  5. Construction-wear. This is for the days when I’m working on a project. This may include, but is not limited to: building a greenhouse, replacing a window, or cutting a hole in a wall. (That’s my next planned project. Hey, Vini. It’s happening.) Clearly, these clothes are old. And stained. And probably torn.
  6. Special occasion, “fancy” wear. This is the category that was messing with my capsules the most. I need them in my closet, but I don’t necessary want to wear these items on a daily basis. This includes clothes for church on Sunday, or date nights with Vini.  Now that the kids are grown, I’m happy to say, there’s a lot more romance these days. (Ooh la la.)

So, problem solved. I set aside space for clothes to meet all of the above needs, including my two capsules for every day use. I could have made one capsule – 36 pieces in all, but I was really interested in keeping each days’ choices to a minimum. I found it easier to create two separate capsules, 18 pieces each, as follows:

  •  three bottoms
  • eight tops
  • three toppers
  • four pairs of shoes

In addition to the section of “fancy” clothes, I also have a section of “fancy” shoes. I find that basic shoe styles in basic colors work best for capsule-wear. But gosh darn it, I LOVE shoes. And I’m just not willing to live without my leopard print pumps, burgundy suede heels, blue leather wooden wedges…you get the idea. I feel the same about my other accessories. I don’t limit them to specific capsules, but I have limited the TOTAL number of purses, scarves, and jewelry in my closet. I like the number four here. Again, it allows for variety without creating chaos or decision paralysis. Can you believe this? One blogger wrote, “Purses. You only need one.” Maybe SHE only needs one. I need four. Day in and day out, I lean on my capsule clothes, but when the mood strikes, my fancy clothes are ready and waiting.

Now my closet looks like this:


Ah, neat and tidy!

And my capsules?

My capsules are so easy to see! Getting dressed is a breeze. I wear something different every day. And love everything I wear. And the overflow? What I love went into storage. When I’m ready for a change, I have many other options to swap in. No shopping necessary. What I don’t love will go to someone who will. And the empty hangers? Anyone need hangers?

How do you keep your closet organized? Do you capsule wardrobe or do you have another system?

One last thing. One of the joys of blogging is the discovery of other peoples’ blogs. I’d love to refer you to Courtney Carver at BeMoreWithLess. Courtney writes about simplifying; not only our closets, but our lives. The more I grow in life, the more I want to let go. There’s a wealth of great information and ideas here, so check it out!


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Gotta get going. A fashion post. (I love Fall!)

“Gotta get going. Where we going? What’re we gonna do?” That’s an old song my mom used to sing to us at the beginning of every road trip. But where are WE going? Well, we’ve been going nowhere fast lately, as a result of my inability to finish and publish a blog post these days. I want to write about my wardrobe and some recent changes I made, but I keep having trouble narrowing it all down to a consumable post. Here’s a quickie, so I can at least put something up on the board!

I wore this outfit the other day, and it felt like the first day of Fall to me. I know “fall” shouldn’t be capitalized, but as far as fashion goes, I feel like Fall is a superstar, so, you know…

Here’s the outfit:


Here’s why I love this outfit:

  1. I think it’s so cute and I felt really put together.
  2. Everything I was wearing was super comfy.
  3. I had just finished reorganizing my closet and was excited to quickly and easily put this look together.

What I’m wearing

T-shirt from Target’s Merona line. I love their t-shirt selections. They have several different styles, they’re inexpensive, and so far, they’ve lasted two years. This t-shirt is very soft and comfortable, launders well, and has a great drape. Also, I love the vaguely French-girl vibe.

My friend Luciana

My dear friend, Luciana. (photo credit: Jane Keating)

Zip-up cardigan from Luciana Proano. Luciana is not a fashion designer. She’s one of my closest friends. She’s also a yoga teacher, dancer, musician, and glass-maker (among many other things). See: InkaJam. Basically, she’s a Renaissance woman. This ribbed, rust-colored cardigan was her father’s. I never met him, but from all accounts, he was an amazing man. This is one of my favorite pieces, for obvious reasons.

Cabi flare-leg jeans. This is my favorite pair of jeans, hands down. Again, super comfy (my number one criteria for anything), great fitting and great looking. Cabi is what I consider to be an expensive brand. I paid over $100 for these jeans (I hope my husband doesn’t see this post). I bought them at my friend, Paige’s, Cabi party. Full disclosure: I had a little tiff with Vini right before the party, so I pretty much went crazy and bought four items for over $200! I’ve never before, or since, spent that much money on clothes. But, don’t cha know, they ended up being some of the best clothes I own. I have since discovered ThredUp, and now I get some great deals on Cabi clothes.

fullsizeoutput_fbThe tennie-runners are Clark’s. Another favorite of mine! They’re all so comfortable! I’m not loving how droopy the shoelaces look in this picture, but that’s just me being picky. These shoes are grey and black with some mesh material. They were a total impulse purchase, but one I’m glad I made. They’re a core part of my wardrobe now. I bought them the same place I buy ALL my shoes these days – DSW. How did I survive before DSW? They’re really the best, best, best! I’m only recently paying any attention at all to my clothing, but I’ve loved shoes for as long as I can remember. Shoes are ART!


Cute scarf, loose belt!

Accessories. Yes, I wear accessories these days. They just take the whole thing up a notch. Don’t you think? The scarf is a vintage scarf that I bought for three dollars a couple of years ago at a secondhand store. If you, like me, suffer sticker shock in resale stores these days, aim for the scarf section. They’re usually a steal. This one is a graphic print in classic fall colors.

The belt is a plain, black leather belt from Fred Meyer. Yes, Freddie’s. They have a pretty great selection of clothes and accessories these days. If you haven’t checked it out in a while, I think you should.

One more thing. Leather. Let me tell you, I’m a fan of buying things on the cheap whenever possible. But belts that aren’t made of genuine leather are a complete waste of money, in my opinion. They just don’t last. Only other comment I have to make about this belt is: Woot! Woot! It’s too loose! I need to punch another hole in it to make it fit better. Gotta love that!

What do you think? Am I figuring it out? I’ve hit the ripe, old age of forty-eight, and finally threw off my daily yoga pant/tank top wardrobe. This whole fashion thing is new to me. What do you love about fall fashion this year? Any great finds you’d care to share? (I like to remind people – there’s a place to comment at the very bottom of this page. And you don’t need to provide ANY personal information AT ALL! Thanks for stopping by).


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