Sartorial Sustainability Sunday: Michelle Valtas, @Mvaltas

last Sartorial Sustainability Sunday…

This week I am excited to introduce Michelle Valtas. I initially connected with Michelle when I discovered her tweets about paring down. I am always impressed with anyone who pursues a more minimal lifestyle. In the effort of wanting to clear out my own clutter, I wanted to chat with someone who has been through the process.

Having a dialogue with Michelle inspired me to take steps to minimize my life. Read on and find inspiration.

University books
Image courtesy of Michelle Valtas

L – What inspired you to declutter?

M – I’ve always decluttered more items than others and on a more regular basis. Then I heard about Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and after reading a few sections what stood out to me was the “rebound” she talked about. It resonated with me because that was exactly how I’d describe my constant purging – a cycle of buying and decluttering. I wanted out.

Another reason for me was to hopefully get some money from selling my items. I’ve always heard of people making money from reselling their items and clothes, so I thought I should give it a try and see how it went.

L – Can you share whether you resold via an online platform or a brick and mortar consignment shop? Where there any hurdles? Can you give any advice?

M – Based on a story of my friend’s mom’s success selling her unwanted items online (through an app called Let Go), I posted some of what I thought were the best items I was getting rid of. Over the course of two months I had a lot of favorites (or likes of items) and inquiries, but I only ended up selling one item – a large decorative (but functional) wall clock for twenty dollars. I’ve since deleted the app from my phone since it took more time than it was worth. After that, I used a consignment store called Plato’s Closet to earn money on some clothes and shoes I was getting rid of, donated all my household items to the Salvation Army, and all my books to GoodWill (Salvation Army wasn’t taking any). My advice would be to skip apps like Let Go and go straight to Plato’s Closet. I learned they’re a chain, at least in Canada, (editor’s note: also in the States) so what one store didn’t accept I took to another. After two stores, I donated the rest. There are a lot of people out there who are actually in need of items (as opposed to me who had an excess of items) so donating is a great alternative to reselling – or worse, keeping.

Overall though I was generally appealed to the promise of a constantly clean house, where everything is easily accessible, provides value, and sparks joy while making your life calmer and providing you with more freedom. With that big of a promise, how could I not try it?

L – You are over two months past your #minimalist and #sustainableliving journey. Tell us what you purged? What have you been on the fence on, and what did you say to yourself to make that decision?

M – I purged a lot of clothes. Eleven large bags worth. Plus books, random kitchen gadgets, and items that frustrated me because they didn’t work well or were hard to clean. I decluttered jewelry, papers, and more. I was on the fence for a few items: a portable matcha maker, a tea press, a book or two, a pair of black jeans. (They were my go-tos but were faded). For each one I asked myself if it sparked joy or was functional / brought value. If not, I pitched it.

L – I have to ask – did you keep the portable matcha maker? Also do you have any tips or tricks that made this less painless? (My mind goes to breaking open a bottle of chilled rose and keeping it in my marble wine cooler twice a year when I do my seasonal closet flip. It keeps me from having to leave my room and getting distracted by the inevitable madness in the living room / dining room / kitchen.) 

M – No, I didn’t. I love matcha lattes and make them often at home using a milk frother, so I only really used the portable matcha while traveling by car when I can pack more. While I liked the idea of making a matcha when I’m not at home, I don’t tend to actually do so – opting for easier options like a black tea with milk or a herbal tea. The biggest argument against keeping the matcha maker though was that it was so difficult to clean. Cleaning it actually frustrated and annoyed me. So in keeping with my decision parameters of “does it spark joy?” and “is it valuable/necessary?” the answer was no to both. The more I reflect on it, the more I stand behind my decision on it – so I guess that’s my advice. Weigh the pros and cons, use a parameter for your decision making that’s meaningful to you (in my case: joy and value), and take time to reflect on it several times.

L – Have you found yourself longing for anything you gave away?

M – Nothing at all. And if I ever do think of something it’s a fleeting thought – never a longing or sense of regret.

L – What has been the hardest part of decluttering?

M – Well to be honest, there’s a room in my basement that ends up storing all this random stuff: seasonal items, sports gear (golf clubs, skis, etc), and general items from when we moved in but didn’t unpack it. AKA a room full of junk. It haunts me so I haven’t started decluttering it yet. That’s the hardest part: getting started on the part I don’t want to do.

L – You got this! May I recommend bringing a chilled bottle of rose to help you?

Where can we find you online?

M – @Mvaltas on Twitter and @themillennialexplorer on Instagram

Shall I pastel thee to a summer’s day?

It is officially spring and I am here for the associated wardrobe. While many find turning over the seasonal wardrobe as a chore, I relish the day. It is like a semi annual Christmas and I love finding items that I bought at the end of the last summer season, at deep discount no doubt, that still have tags attached; I inevitably forget about these previously unworn pieces.

The seasonal associated excitement made it all the more difficult to pare down what I decided to bring with me to the west coast. I attempted to exercise utmost discipline and be especially discerning when it came to packing for our season in California. Nevertheless now that I am unpacked, it is now clear to me (and definitely my husband, who saw it happening while we were on the east coast) that I hauled more than I intended.

All this is to say that while I am not going to be adding to my wardrobe any time soon, I am always on the look out for tall…anything! I was surprised at how many hits this post (and before that, this post) attracted, so colored denim it is. Here is a second serving.

pink denim // ice purple denim

The pink denim are a cropped length and are available in short (26 inch), regular (28 inch), and tall (31 inch) inseams.

The ice purple jeans are full length and available in 34, 36, and 38 inch inseams. Listen up tall ladies! This pair is for you, because not only do they come in the pastel shade, but also white and traditional denim shades.

Spring Salad with Young Beets, Haricot Vert, and Goat Cheese // @2souschefs

“The spring equinox may have come and gone, but Mother Nature still has the majority of the country thinking the warmer weather is still be months away; however, the longer days have us chomping at the bit for spring ingredients. Very soon restaurant menus will be filled with dishes containing ramps, morels, fava beans, and a wide array of fresh produce. There may still be some time before this transition happens in full force but you will start to notice the first signs of spring vegetables in the local groceres. Delicate spring lettuces, tender yet spicy radishes, and even a few types of French green beans are popping up on store shelves. The aforementioned produce are the perfect ingredients to assemble an early spring salad with rich goat cheese crostini. Green beans, or haricot vert if you want to sound fancy, are typically considered a summer ingredient, but some specimens sprout early enough for people to enjoy as early as now.

Young golden beets are rich and earthy, the perfect counterpoint to the bright homemade vinaigrette, but take a considerable amount of time to cook. A piece of advice for the young beets: trim the greens off and cook them early, once cooked they may be peeled, chilled, sliced, and stored until the remainder of the salad is complete. In kitchen talk, to ‘blanch’ a vegetable is to cook the ingredient in salted water, then quickly place the ingredient in ice water to abruptly stop the cooking process, thus preserving the nutrients and color of the vegetable.

This recipe will make enough for entrées for two people.

Everyone needs a set of stainless-steel bowls in their own kitchen. We bought our first set of three bowls when we first moved to the west coast. We have since added two bowls to the set, but the original three bowls are still in rotation. When picking out your set look for one that can be stacked within each other to save cabinet space.” – Joe

For the Goat Cheese Crostini:

  • 4 ounces goat cheese – fresh, left out at room temp for one hour
  • 2 tablespoon chives – sliced thin
  • 2 tablespoons shallots – diced very small
  • 2 small clove garlic – minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Slap Ya Momma chili powder
  • 8 slices French bread
  1. Combine all of the ingredients for the goat cheese, except for the bread, in a bowl.
  2. Spread the mixture on the bread slices and toast in the oven on the broil setting.
  3. Set aside

For the Homemade Vinaigrette:

  • 1 tablespoon chives – sliced thin
  • 1 tablespoon shallots – diced very small
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • Pinch salt and pepper
  1. Place all the ingredients for the vinaigrette in a bowl and whisk vigorously to combine.

For the salad:

  • 2 cups fresh spring mix lettuce
  • 1 cup green beans – trimmed cut in half and blanched
  • 2-4 young beets – cooked, peeled and sliced
  • 3 radishes – washed and thinly sliced
  1. Place the beets in a pot of salted water and bring to a boil.
  2. Boil for about one hour or until it is easily pierced with a fork.
  3. Drain, cool slightly, and peel beets while warm.
  4. Split the greens into two bowls and toss with the homemade dressing,
  5. Split remaining garnishes between the two bowls.

Pack a Bag: Airlie, Part II

read part I here…

One of the strongest green initiatives of Airlie is the property’s approach to sustainable agriculture. Not only is there on-site farm land but there is also a community garden. Inviting and integrating Airlie guests as well as locals, into the agriculture component not only facilitates time in the outdoors but also promotes healthy eating and nutrition. The fresh air in the Virginia countryside…you just cannot top it.

 

Harry’s at Airlie is the on-site restaurant and named for the Philadelphian gentleman who established the property, Harry C. Groome. We dined at Harry’s the night that we arrived at Airlie and I could not have imagined a better welcome to the property. It was delicious.

Some of the ingredients that are served on the Harry’s menu come from as close as four hundred yards away from the restaurant. While not everything on the menu was designated as locally sourced, there was enough that both my husband and I found ourselves ordering as such, down to the beer we drank. (Powers Farm and Brewery Plum and Ginger, look into it.)

I think I was still full from the night prior, but found room for French toast, bacon, and eggs, and copious cups of coffee. Meanwhile, my husband made friends with the gentleman manning the design your own omelet station. I have to admit his spinach, ham, and bell pepper design looked pretty tempting from across the table, especially when mixed with toast and sausage links. 

Sincerest thanks to Airlie for sponsoring our stay.

Oh Shift!

It is no secret here, that I love Duffield Lane. Due to my obsession with the knit dresses (written about here and here), I wore them on the road trip from Philadelphia to Monterey. Also packed? This seersucker dress.

Did I break the rules and get a jump on wearing seersucker prior to Memorial Day 2019? Fact. Seersucker is a fabric which I relish wearing and four months a year is simply not long enough. With the recent turn in seasons on the east coast, I could not hold myself back. Oh, we are in for a seventy degree day you say? Excuse me while I steam out my Sinclair dress.

Duffield Lane does not release clothing in tall length (or petite length) sizing. Because the Sinclair dress is a classic silhouette, I think a shorter hemline is perfectly acceptable, especially with flats or a low block heel. (#proportions) However, rather than going with the size I ordered in the Sheffield dress or Spring Lake dress (medium, for reference), I went up a size (large in both the Sinclair dress and the Grand dress). Seersucker is a static fabric, typically devoid of stretch and it is less painful to get a dress taken in that having to skip out on dessert.

I said it. I meant it. I am not taking it back. Gimme dat ice cream.

The crochet trim at the front of the dress reminds me of what I love about classic Lilly Pulitzer shift dresses yet because it is such a classic shape and classic fabric, it just feels more appropriate for a woman of my age. What that age is? Mind your own beeswax.

[show_shopthepost_widget id=”3561528″]earrings

Pack a Bag: Airlie, Part I

Airlie hosted my husband and myself for the first night of our cross country road trip. Staying in Virginia was ideal, as we knew it was the farthest we felt comfortable driving from Philadelphia. The fact that it is a historic hotel is a cherry on the top of the sundae and I love me some ice cream.

The hotel initially hit my radar when it was announced as a Historic Hotels of America Awards of Excellence nominee for the Sustainability Champion category. Sustainability is an interest of mine not just in the clothing industry, but also the architecture and engineering industries. I have my LEED BD+C and ND accreditation and am always learning about green building techniques but, as studied at length throughout the first two years of graduate school, the greenest building is one that is already built.

Being a historic property, the long standing buildings of Airlie are inherently sustainable. Airlie goes above and beyond in the implementation of green initiatives and this consequently, is what makes Airlie stand out among its peers in historic hospitality.

  • The property includes a farm and Community Garden. I loved that Harry’s, the on-site restaurant, incorporates produce and meat from its own farm in its menus. The farmhouse even has off-the-grid solar panels.
  • The site forgoes the use of fertilizer in order to avoid contamination of the local water source.
  • The Pavilion is new construction and used for large scale events. The structure is LEED Certified Gold.
  • The Airlie parking lot has dedicated electric car parking spaces, all of which have car charging stations. Have Tesla, will travel.
  • Guestrooms include a dual recycling / trash bin. I realized while throwing out waste, how much I could (and did!) throw in the former.
  • Rather than an aggressive bar of soap, the guestroom toiletries included a ring of soap.
  • While our guest room was average in terms of size, the layout of the guest room was so functional. I loved that there was a window in the bathroom; most hotel guest rooms have bathrooms that require light bulb power. During the daytime, there was no need for turning on any lights.
  • Bonus Fact: During a 1969 conference, United States Senator Gaylord Nelson announced the concept of Earth Day while at Airlie, which was celebrated for the first time the following April 22.

While there are 149 guestrooms on the property, 122 are available to book. The Carriage House recently underwent a refresh; currently the accommodations in the Farmer’s House is undergoing a refresh. In addition to the Carriage House and the Farmer’s House, guestrooms are also located in the Groom’s Collage, Lodge, Silo House, and Lake Cottage.sDSC07215sDSC07234

Sincerest thanks to Airlie for sponsoring our stay.

Seerswimsucker

Earlier this week I rounded up standout seersucker pieces on the market. There was one glaring omission and that was purposeful. I did not include seersucker swim because there is so freaking much of it this season.

Unfortunately, only one of the tank styles is available in long torso. Life is not fair.

top // bottom // tank

top // bottom

knot-swimsuit-e1552426083774.jpg

knot top (in yellow, pink) // knot bottom in (blue, yellow, pink)

underwire top // bottom // underwire tank suit

top // bottom

tank suit in blue (available in long and standard torso lengths) // tank suit in pink (available in long and standard torso lengths)

top // bottom

JCflutter

flounce top // high waisted bottom // tank suit version

 

Crowning Glory

Headbands are having another moment, though if you asked me, they were never not a wardrobe essential. I have always been a fan, as evidenced by blog posts past. Feather detail, pearl encrusted, plaid, wide, and narrow, give me all of the sartorial crowns. I am also really getting into the workout headband, a la Olivia Newton John Physical album cover. The newest trend in athleisure? Maybe.

Whether headbands will hit another fever pitch as instigated by Lauren Conrad’s time on The Hills circa 2006 and sustained by the mean girl army of Blair Waldorf circa 2008, this remains to be seen. I can speak to so many retailers creating the supply of the preppy hair accessory. I, for one, did not see a second coming.

Naturally, I am drawn to the Jennifer Behr styles that top three hundred dollars. While the styles of this designer are gorgeous, it just feels a bit excessive. I can picture my husband rolling his eyes at me confessing to purchasing a 325 dollar headband. In efforts to keep it real, I included premium headbands that hit the very aggressive sticker price but also more modest price points, down to eighteen dollars. I bet you cannot guess which of the following black knotted headbands is 28 dollars and which one is 150 dollars. Headbands for everybody, no matter the numbers on your paycheck!

Now that is what I call the democratization of headbands.

option one // option two // option three

rosette headband // knotted headband // striped headband

clockwise from top left: gun metal knot // crystal encrusted knot // platinum knot // pearl encrusted knot // blush metallic knot // lavender metallic knot

clockwise from top left: braided headband (also in blue, dusty rose, acid yellow) // flower headband // rosette headband // rosettes headband // bow headband

pink headband // tweed headband // black studded headband // black headband

sīrsakar 2019

Within the last two weeks, retailers have released seersucker styles. I do not know about you, but this is the only evidence I need that spring is about to turn and after a long winter spent wearing black opaque tights, we can sport the seasonal summer fabric.

I wrote about Capitol Hill’s seersucker Thursdays last year on the blog. It was brought back by Mississippi politician Trent Lott, but make no mistake, a penchant for the lightweight breathable fabric and an adolescence growing up in Mississippi is where my similarities end with the former senator.

I digress.

Seersucker is coming in hot this year. (See what I did there?) There are so many options in terms of styles and price points. I even included some marked down styles that are in stock from last summer, which is part of the reason that I am such a fan of seersucker. Since it is such a classic fabric, it never goes out of style.

shorts // skirt

clockwise from top left: cover up // sleeveless shirt dress // cover up // wrap dress // mixed color dress // boatneck belted dress

v-neck belted dress // // tie dress

clockwise from top left: cropped pant (available in standard, petite, and tall sizing) // tie skirt // curvy fit cropped pant (available in standard and petite sizing) // scallop skort // capri pants (also available in blue and in standard, petite, tall, extended sizes) // tie shorts (also available in pink) // high waisted wide legged cropped pant // critter shorts

wrap dress (also available in pink) // shift dress (also available in blue) // scallop neckline dress (also available in pink)

 patchwork shorts // / pajama pants

clockwise from top left: boat shoes // belt // embroidered pocket square // blue tie // green tie

Throwing Shade

Who else keeps their sunglasses in the cases in which they were purchased?

That was me too, up until a year ago. While it is a respectable method of storage, it is not the optimum method of storage. How many times have you completely forgotten about owning a pair of boss sunglasses, but due to only wearing them in special circumstances (ie a coordinating outfit), completely forget that you own them? I stand by having a method in which you can see all, if not most of the sunglasses in your collection.

Enter the sunglasses storage box.

I purchased this one last year and it was money well spent. As someone with a mere eight pairs in her arsenal, more if my husband throws in his Ray Bans, I love storing the six I tend to wear least in the top tray of the box and the ones that I tend to lean on more frequently in the pull out drawer. This forces me to evaluate whether there is a better match for any given outfit, while never forgetting that I have a standby in the drawer.

While the drawer is not full, I like to use the remaining sections for jewelry that do not fit in my jewelry box. (More about those storage solutions here.) The sections are the perfect size for big bangles and over sized statement pieces.

This method of sunglasses storage also allows you to pare down on the sunglasses cases in which pairs arrive. I stored all of my extra ones in the back of my undergarment drawer and only kept the biggest one, necessary to accommodate my largest and most extra pair of sunglasses, in my purse.

clockwise from top left: ecru box // blush box // small box // eight section flat box // gunmetal box // six section flat box // twelve section ebony box // collapsible box

Shaken, Not Stirred

I love myself a cocktail shirt. Named for mixed shirting fabric, (like a mixed drink, get it?), a cocktail shirt has mixed colors and striped shirting fabrics. Depending on the company, I have heard of this style branded as a party shirt or fun shirt.

blog post with blue stripe button down // blog post with pastel stripe shirt

I never met a cocktail shirt that I did not love. Case in point: the above photos which were both on the blog respectively at the beginning and middle of 2017. Both of the shirts (likely sold out, but I included the link in the case of a freak return) were available in tall via J.Crew. I love that the style is a button up but the mixed patterns and / or colors just gives the shirt a less stuffy vibe. The cocktail shirt is as good as bought if the style is produced in tall sizing. I restrain myself otherwise, as appropriate fitting sleeves are a nonnegotiable for me. both shirts still live in my closet as I think we will be lifers.

As a design, cocktail shirts are more frequently found in the men’s section, but there are currently a few female options available in the market.

vvcocktail-e1552486511778.jpg

This shirt is similar to the one that I wore on the blog circa February 2017. Unfortunately, it is only available in standard sizes, so if you are tall like me, you should sit this one out.

shirt

BrooksBrothers

You might think that this shirt is…less than festive as cocktail shirts go, but that would be because this shirt is open to be customized. That is right ladies (gentlemen and boys too), you have a choice of fifteen fabrics for each section of this shirt: right front, left front, back , right sleeve, right cuff, left sleeve, left cuff, placket, and collar. You want to add a pocket? Pick your fabric. How about a monogram? There are two styles available. And if you want to add the retailer logo, that is up to you.

Sadly, this is not available in tall.

customization shirt

LEcocktail

This cocktail shirt is available in standard, tall, petite and extended sizing. Talk about a shirt that we can all get behind! I have big plans for adding this to my collection of cocktail shirts.

solid color shirt (available in tall, petite, extended sizing)

Shopping Moratorium 2019 | 76/288

last week…

My husband and I are on the third day of our eight day cross country road trip and I am currently en route from Asheville to Little Rock today.

Believe me when I say that between packing for the next few months, sorting boxes into short term and long term storage, and planning a coast-to-coast itinerary, adding to the stuff I had to pack was the last thing I wanted to do.

No shopping for me last week. How many weeks am I up to?

(Whoa. Eight. A record.)