Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Beauty from Beautiful Balboa Park

One of the perks of weeding out your files is that you sometimes come upon lovely things you have forgotten about.  I took these photos at beautiful Balboa Park in San Diego, CA last year and I came upon them today while weeding out my photo files so thought I'd share the beauty with you.

Celebrating the art of simple, charming, elegant living!


Monday, January 19, 2015

Simplicity to Stop & Smell the Roses

 Notes in my journal this morning reveal the wisdom of ...

beautiful blooms ...

the clarity of soft white ...

the gentleness of pink roses ...

along with this quote:

"One does not accumulate but eliminate.  It is not daily increase but daily decrease.  The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity."  --Bruce Lee

Celebrating the art of simple, charming, elegant living!

Kathryn :)

P.S.  I took these roses photos at  Balboa Park  in San Diego.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Dinner in White on Rodeo Drive!

Photos this post property of Julia and Edmund, ( who are featured in this post), and used with their permission.

When I wrote about the "world's largest dinner party phenomenon" of Le Diner en Blanc, (Dinner in White), in my last post, my super longtime webmaster Julia, who lives in Los Angeles, told me that she and her handsome actor hubby Edmund and their friends had actually attended a real Diner en Blanc!

Guess where?

Right smack dab on famous Rodeo Drive, no less!  (Pronounced Ro-DAY-O where lots of luxury Gucci-esque goods and glamour-girls abound instead of Ro-DE-O cowboys.) 

When attending Diner en Blanc, one of the exciting things about it is you don't know where you're dining outside until you're actually there!  

The other beyond-amazing thing is that just like a huge wedding, the logistics are all carefully orchestrated behind-the-scenes and all by-invitation-only guests must comply with the rules so there's "fun order" instead of mass chaos.

I'm all for that!

Aren't they a cute couple?

Julia sent me these festive photos from their Rodeo Drive Diner en Blanc experience so I could share them with you ...

and Julia also wrote about their experience, capturing the spirit of the party so eloquently:

"What an adventure! We had no idea what to expect when we signed up to attend the Los Angeles Diner en Blanc. To be honest, the first hour was a little ... shall we say ... grueling! We had to lug our table, chairs and picnic baskets from the Hollywood & Highland underground parking lot, down Hollywood Blvd., past Grauman's Chinese Theater and up a fairly steep hill, (Thank goodness for husbands!!) There, we found several dozen waiting attendees, all in white, all eagerly awaiting the buses that would take us to our destination, (and speculating what that top-secret destination would be.) Finally, the buses arrived, and we all loaded our supplies, climbed aboard, and headed for .... Rodeo Drive!! 

Once there, we were all directed to our specific numbered locations - the whole event was a masterful display of logistical organization!  We raced to set up our tiny al fresco dining room. Not knowing what to expect, we had kept our table decor rather simple, but there were others who had huge floral arrangements, (white flowers, of course!), tiered crystal platters, candelabras, and more. Likewise with the attire - I had raced to the Goodwill and the Dollar Store that afternoon and outfitted myself for about $20.00. (Luckily, I still had my wedding shoes, as even footwear needed to comply to the all-white code), but there were people dressed head-to-toe in Victorian costumes, towering hats, Mardi Gras masks, - the display of creativity was spectacular!

Once we were all set up, the fun began - the weather was perfection, the street was lit up with tiny candles, (all electric, so there was no risk of fire), a jazz singer sang Edith Piaf and the mood was positively jubilant. We enjoyed our dinner, chatted with the tables to either side of us, and enjoyed watching unsuspecting tourists turn the corner! And we caught a glimpse of the gentleman who started it all, the exceptionally elegant Fran├žois Pasquier, and his wife. After dinner, the music became more lively, and people danced in the streets, and we strolled around, checking out the different table arrangements and costumes, and snapping pictures until it was time to pack up, and head back to our original departure point. 

It truly was a unique experience, and I was so impressed by how beautifully organized it was, and by the way that everyone attending had the same positive attitude - I can't wait until it happens again!"    Julia 

Julia told me next time she plans on hosting a white hat-making party for her friends prior to the event where they will bring their own white hat and she'll provide various beautiful embellishments for a night of over-the-top creativity!  How fun!

My Diner en Blanc Pinterest board will give you more ideas for hosting your own Dinner in White, whether you want to go all out, or keep it simply elegant.

Our Thanksgiving Dinner in White at our home, with links to more resources.

Notice too that Julia mentions more than once how organized this whole event was; I can't imagine the logistical skills it took to pull this huge all-white party off so beautifully.  (Well, I can imagine, which is also why I can't!)   :) 

Thanks to Julia and Edmund for sharing their wonderful real live Diner en Blanc experience with us!

Celebrating the art of simple, charming, elegant living!

Kathryn :) 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Dinner in White at Our Home

When I learned last year about the 40-city worldwide phenomenon of Diner en Blanc* (Dinner in White), I was absolutely smitten!  

*The world's largest and happiest dinner party, all in elegant white?

Count me in!  (Except neither my hubby nor I are in to massive crowds)  and so ...

Instead of attending a "real" Diner En Blanc, I told my hubby Steve I'd like to do our own at-home take on it and celebrate our Thanksgiving Day Dinner in 2014 in a non-traditional way as our very own  Dinner in White.

Sweet man that he is, my hubby was willing to forgo gravy and mashed potatoes and was instead game for this little Thanksgiving Day adventure of mine.

Here's how it turned out ...

Everything for our first Diner en Blanc, including our clothing and our table decor, became ...


No orange and yellow gourds for us this Thanksgiving Day!

And true to the "real" Diner en Blanc rules, we both wore (our closest version of) white clothing.

For our table, I started with a clear casserole dish sitting in a fancy antique silver holder that I found recently at Goodwill, where I love to hunt for great housewares bargains.  It became the holder for a clear vase holding a large fresh white orchid, a silver candle holder from Ross, a flameless candle from CVS, and I finished up the vignette with real pearls my hubby gave me one year for Christmas.

Those sweet white twinkly lights you see under our round glass-topped table?  Those are a 300-foot string of white Christmas lights that my hubby wrapped around our iron twig-legged table and plugged into a power surge thing-y.  That's his department in our home--electronics and cords and all that mechanical kind of stuff that I'm not good at and really don't have much interest in learning about, truth be told.

I love how the white lights turned out as it added such a romantic feeling to the table, especially at night!  In fact, we are leaving them on the table for future romantic dinner ambiance.

On top of the clear glass table, I put a sheer floral tablecloth I found years ago at my favorite La Jolla consignment store.

The silver charger plates we bought for a song at Tuesday Morning a few weeks ago while we out antiquing together one weekend.

I keep white damask napkins on hand all the time and buy more whenever I see them.  I usually can find nice ones at Tuesday Morning which is one of my fave home discount stores.

Did I mention I love the white twinkle lights?!

The etched water glass is from a favorite antique store and the etched champagne glasses I also found recently at my local Goodwill store.  (And they are just gorgeous in person; I think they were wedding glasses perhaps.)

But the best part of our 2014 Dinner in White Thanksgiving celebration?

We made easy-peasy homemade pizza instead of laboring all day long in the kitchen making turkey, stuffing, potatoes, pies, etc.

You read right:  Pizza.  Veggie pizza!  Really yummy Namaste-brand crispy crust  healthy veggie pizza!

And mini green salads and mini fresh fruit salads in lovely etched stemmed glasses that were from Goodwill too.

And you know what?

Our non-traditional Thanksgiving Dinner was not only great fun, but it was delicious too!

My husband toasted me with a glass of  champagne with a blackberry in it.  We seldom drink alcohol, but on holidays, or for very special at-home dinners, we sometimes enjoy an elegant glass of champagne or one small glass of wine.

After out at-home Diner en Blanc, we went for a stroll in our neighborhood to see the ducks that we enjoy so much.

Dapper, huh?!

So regal, this little duck guy!

I hope our little at-home Diner en Blanc will motivate you to ...

create YOUR OWN at-home Dinner in White!  (Valentine's Day is coming soon--why not then?!)

Read all about the amazing Diner en Blanc concept --  begun 20-some years ago in Paris, France and now celebrated in 40 cities all over the world!  Perhaps there's a Diner en Blanc where you live!

Watch the video documentary; love all the gorgeous white clothing and tablesettings!

Watch a video about Dinner in White in Paris (beautiful outfits, of course!)

Watch some more gorgeous videos of Diner en Blanc in beautiful cities all over the world, on YouTube.

And here's San Diego, California's 2014 Diner in Blanc pix just in case you live in San Diego like I do.

Need more ideas to have  your own  Dinner in White at home?  Check out my Diner en Blanc Pinterest board.

Since it's winter weather now many places, if it's snowing wherever you live, why not have your Diner en Blanc on your outdoor patio or in your snowy backyard so it would really be Dinner in White!  :)

Celebrating the art of simple, charming, elegant living!

Kathryn  :) 

FULL DISCLOSURE:  Namaste kindly provided their fab pizza crust to me gratis.  I  LOVE their gluten-free foods and the fact that they also don't have a ton of junky chemicals in their mixes since I am very careful about NOT eating "faux-Frankenstein-ish-food."  With Namaste products, I can um, bake my non-chemical cake, if you will, and eat it too!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Why Simple Isn't Easy, But Is SO Worth It!

"Sweetie, honey, sugar-pie, everyone, including me, has some degree of clutter that needs to be managed at all times and here's why:  because life continually evolves, adversities happen to get us off track, and because there are so many kinds of clutter today."  --Kathryn Bechen 

I love this photo I took at a SoCal garden walk many years ago because the fact that some of the blooms on the bushes have withered and other blooms are fresh and new feels to me like a metaphor for life in general about letting go of the old to make room for the new and lovely to bloom!

So, sometimes I think it's best to pluck those dead blooms off our life bush!

To that end, when my hubby Steve was home on a week's vacation for the 2014 year-end holidays, in addition to enjoying the time together by going out to fave restaurants, driving around to see Christmas lights, and watching vintage Christmas movies together for hours on end, we also worked side-by-side together on many organizing and decluttering and goal strategizing projects to ensure our best future life together.  In short, we tried to strike a balance between beautifully and restfully enjoying the holiday season, yet also getting things accomplished too that would make our lifestyle in 2015 and beyond be even more streamlined than it already is.

In just three words, our 2014 year-end organizing process, according to me was:

1.  Rewarding.  
2.  Cathartic.
3.  Grueling.

And according to my husband was:

1.  Inspiring.
2.  Hopeful.
3.  Painful.

I tell you honestly that it was grueling to me, and painful to my husband, because while consciously choosing to live a simply beautiful lifestyle  is one that we both love living, and always have strived to live in varying degrees to the best of our ability as the years have evolved -- in many ways, simple living isn't EASY!  It can be challenging as I'll share below.   (For starters, it's counter-culture.)

That being said, I used to tell my in-person organizing clients that during the process, things feel worse before they get better.  That's true for any of us which is why our own descriptor words "grueling" and "painful" appear above.

I certainly don't want to discourage you from tackling your many organizing projects in 2015.  In fact, I want to encourage you to get them done.   But DO think ahead and be prepared, because reality is that it takes both hard physical work to declutter and re-organize your surroundings, (even if they are already fairly streamlined, and especially if you have any physical limitations as I do).   Plus, organizing takes lots of brain power too to think it all through in the strategizing and goal realm for the big picture.   

I recommend you take some notes on paper before you ever touch a box or bin or pile!  This is what I always do, and what I did for in-person organizing clients when I used to do in-person organizing consults for several years in the 1990s. Just like before you go on a long vacation/trip, or have a blueprint professionally done before you build a house.  Simply put, it's called a plan/roadmap.  And then you work the plan, and you also go with the flow because as the old cliche goes,  "The best laid plans must go awry."  But, at least with a written decluttering/organizing project plan written down at the outset, you have some infrastructure and guidelines to start with.   Your written plan does NOT have to be complicated.  It DOES need to be well thought out.   It can be as simple as a yellow notepad To Do list, a typed Word list, or if you're like my banker hubby, an Excel spreadsheet.   (He is KING of spreadsheets, and me?  Not so much!  I prefer a typed Word document since I'm a wordy girl.)

Remember too that organizing and decluttering also takes time away from your regular daily routine that you're already immersed in, which is why my husband and I personally allow a block of time like a week's vacation every year to catchup on any loose organizing ends and prevent as many of them as possible in the future.  We have found it a good m.o. to invest our time this way because it helps us enjoy our life more in the long run.  The week you do your organizing blitz doesn't matter really, but choose a week or longer time block that is slow for you in everyday life so that you don't get too distracted and plan ahead for that week before it arrives, and then do the actual organizing work during the designated chosen week.

Organizing and decluttering also takes at least some money and shopping.  To buy bins and labelers and file folders and such.  There's no exact science to that, really.   It's a bit intuitive as you work through the process, and you may have to return some items you buy to the store, so save your receipts.    Alternatively,  it takes money to hire a professional organizer or personal assistant for help if you have given it your best shot and you're still overwhelmed.  Or, if a loved one has died, and you're called in suddenly by other family members to help organize and you need to buy a plane ticket etc., then, you need "organizing money."  Budget for organizing projects every single year.

Again, think it through the best you can.   Plan ahead.  Budget ahead.  And then, and only then, accept that some things, you can't plan!

One important thing here:  PLEASE don't wait until you have a major life crisis, like a sudden death, to declutter! Take the time NOW, and avoid yourself and your family some major stress.  It's a process; be patient with yourself. But also be fiercely determined too to accomplish your organizing projects and goals.  As I wrote long long ago in my first organizing book, (that's still relevant today in 2015), "Plan as if you'll live to age 100; live as if tomorrow will not come."  

Organizing is a constant process too, because no year plays out the same.   Some years are harder than other years for you, for varying reasons.   

And for me too, sweetie.  :) 

That's why you need to teach yourself organizing skills -- because you're going to be doing it for the rest of your life, my friend.  And you'll have those organizing skills under your belt for when life throws you a curve ball too, so that you can recover faster.  

Won't that feel good?!

Be well aware too that organizing and decluttering is emotional sometimes as you strive to let go of not only physical items, but also both good and bad memories, and come to terms with the fact that yet another year of your life has passed, and you aren't getting any younger.  (Or maybe you are if you're on some fancy anti-aging program, but still!)   :)    And, give yourself permission in your own way to come to terms with the fact that maybe some of the memories as you declutter were not only not-so-good, but they were terribly sad.  Let them go the best you can.  You did what you could; let God do the rest of the healing.   

Here's another biggie:  Give yourself little treats as you work through the organizing process:  That's why my hubby and I went out to eat, ate our fave take-in, and watched vintage Christmas movies in bed in between our organizing sessions.  Those were our rewards for working so hard and sticking to task too when it was hard rather than throwing up our hands and saying,  "Oh, whatever!"  as many people do. (They're the ones who have garages filled to the brim, and multiple storage units of "stuff" they might "need" some day.  They're also the ones whose relatives resent them when they die because they leave their remaining families to deal with their BIG MESS.  Sorry to be the harsh bearer of this not-so-nice clutter news, but in my experience helping organize many people in-person in the 1990s when I ran my Organized With Ease business I founded, and now in reader email feedback re: my organizing books, it's true that you will cause your surviving family much grief and heartache if they have to go through mounds of your STUFF at the same time they are grieving the loss of YOU.  Give your loved ones the greatest legacy you could ever give them other than your love that you gave them while you were living:   get organized and streamline your life STUFF!   

Please start TODAY!

If I die tomorrow, it gives me joy to know that my dear husband will not have to be buried in too much of my STUFF, (nor I his), since we live like this.  (I also tease my hubby that I'm not leaving any "good linens" for his next wife in case I die before him; I'm using and enjoying my pretty things NOW!)  :) 

He grins.

As you declutter,  realize too that no matter how much people love and/or like each other, NO two people will ever totally agree on how organizing and decluttering should best be done, so it takes loving compromise too when marital partners and/or families work together on the process.   Strive to be kind.  And diplomatic.  And patient.  That's not always easy.  But it's the best M.O.

Oh, and here's another organizing myth:  When I told a friend my hubby and I were decluttering, (she visited our home last August), she said, "But you don't have any clutter!"  

I'll repeat myself:

"Sweetie, honey, sugar-pie, everyone, including me, has some degree of clutter that needs to be managed at all times and here's why:  because life continually evolves, adversities happen to get us off track, and because there are  so many kinds of clutter today."  
--Kathryn Bechen

Even if we are hyper-vigilant about our life clutter, it's there to some degree, like this:

*Physical possessions of all kinds that wear out, need to be replaced, and take time to shop for
*Books/libraries (paper/hardback or ebooks now too)
*Computer files that are clogged to the brim
*Photos, both paper backlogs and now digital
*Drawers and cabinets 
*Storage units 
*Under the bed bins
*Calendars with too many commitments
*Too many event/social invitations you say yes to
*Too many kids' activities and social events
*Email we don't really need to read, or send
*And sadly, other people who are repeatedly a nasty/critical presence to others (vs. those who act badly only once in  a very great while since everyone's human and makes mistakes)
*Feeling obligated to write your annual mass-copied Christmas letter and send paper Christmas cards every single year when it's become draining for you to do so
*Too many Pinterest boards (Guilty as charged since I love pretty everything!  Nobody's perfect, right?!)  :) 
*And I could go on and on and on, but you get the um, clutter picture here!

Add our ever-increasing technological age that's upon us all at warp-speed and you quickly realize that unless you are constantly striving to curb your life clutter, AND learn the skills to do so, life's clutter will get the best of you!

And so, my blog friends and readers, here's to a fabulously organized and simplified and streamlined life for you this year because you have lightened your clutter load so much that you can't help but see and enjoy all life's beauty and joy that's around you!

You can do this!

Celebrating the art of simple, charming, elegant living!

Kathryn :) 

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