Our New bedroom featuring UO Home

After finding out the house we live in was going to be sold, the search for the perfect new place was under way. I like to do LOTS of research and I kiiiind of went into an obsessive frenzy in finding the right place.

In searching, I found the best options on Craigslist, which ultimately led us to finding our 2 bedroom, 2 bath apartment. We honestly couldn’t tell what it looked like from the one photo that was posted on Craigslist and when we visited, the entire floor was ripped out and equipment was EVERYWHERE! They were in the middle of replacing the old carpet with new wood floors so things looked very hectic. After some consideration, we saw so much potential with the vaulted exposed ceilings, built in cabinets, bright light, and the mid century vibe and we decided (thankfully) to give it a go.

Take a peek into the inspiration that fed into the design of our sweet space and peep tons of sweet goodies from UO Home.

Color Inspiration

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Interiors Inspiration

For the bedroom, I was so excited to incorporate the sweet items I received from Urban Outfitters! It was really important to me to maintain a neutral toned bedroom, especially since the room gets so much golden light. I also was convinced I had to purchase a sun catcher! I haven’t had a bedroom with so much light and I knew I just had to have something that played with the sun! I also found the sweetest shape study print from a local artist, Sueko Sage.

Shop the space!

Really excited to continue to decorate the space and make it our own! Our next room design will feature our living room and office, which will hopefully we spruced up with a sweet mid century desk!

Stay tuned! x Dani

Dani Toscano Comments
Thailand Travel Guide

We had an amazing time in Thailand last fall and truly found some of the BEST deals. It all kind of started with a conversation like “Hey! It’d be so cool to go to Thailand!” and other friends said “Yep! Lets watch on Hopper” and then I said “What’s Hopper?”

Now, if you haven’t heard of Hopper yet, you are in for a real treat (and no this is not sponsored, I really just love the app SO DANG MUCH). You can watch trips for designated times and the app will monitor pricing so that you can get the best deal! After about a month of watching, it alerted our phones one night that it had the best price from San Diego to Bangkok, which was (drumroll please!) only $330 roundtrip. That’s cheaper than a flight to New York, or a flight to the midwest, or a flight to Cancun. Yes, $330 roundtrip. Naturally, we decided to book IMMEDIATELY and convinced a total of 8 friends to go on the trip.

Here’s where we ended up going in November 2017:

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Bangkok

We arrived in Bangkok around midnight on a Friday and immediately went to our hostel that we booked via AirBnb. Hostels in Thailand are actually really nice and we found one that was so beautifully designed, where we were able to rent a private dorm for the 8 of us (with 8 really clean and private bunk beds). There were also 3 sweet kitties there, some even had tiny curly tails which ultimately sparked a 2-week-long conversation about whether or not the cats in Thailand had their tails cut by humans or were just born with them. They were born with them and yes, I was right in the debate, and yes, it’s the cutest thing ever. Cost: $70/night (for private dorm for 8 people) | $9/person

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Chiang Mai

The next morning, we took a small plane from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, which was about an hour and twenty minutes! We decided to leave for Chiang Mai immediately because we wanted to catch the famous Lantern Festival in November. It is truly such a magical time in the mountain town and there are tons of activities, music, and life happening all around during that time. Lots of people online say that the Lantern Festival doesn’t exist anymore but trust me it does and trust me you need to go. There are two festivals you can partake in: the $$$ one and the free one. The $$$ one is over $150 from what I remember… We decided on the free one, which was wonderful because you can purchase lanterns for no more than 50 cents, release them over the river running through the city, and watch the town parade.

During our stay, we stayed at Suneta Hostel, which was such a beautiful hostel. You can rent private rooms for a group or book a private room individually! Cost: $108/night (for a few private rooms split between 8 people) | $14/person

For our first day in Chiang Mai (pre-festival), we decided to explore! There is a TON of stuff to see and eat and experience. We visited temples, ate some amazing Pad See Ew street noodles, and sipped on some fresh coconut smoothies. All the food is incredible and incredibly CHEAP. You will end up spending $5-15 on food per day in Thailand. There is also mango sticky rice available at every corner which is one of my absolute FAVORITE treats. In San Diego, you get it for like $5-7 at a restaurant, in Thailand, you get it for 50 cents max.

That night, we experienced the Lantern Festival. In every photo I have ever seen pre-Lantern Festival, it looks like a very tranquil serene experience where everyone meditates and then magically floats away into the sky with their lantern. I was expecting something like that, maybe yoga retreat vibes or a place where I truly channeled my inner “Eat Pray Love” epiphany.

No, this did not happen. Maybe it’s because we went to the free version of the festival, maybe not. But it is absolutely CRAZY! Think of a war zone where people use lanterns as their weapons. It was amazing and terrifying and funny and I would definitely recommend seeing how alive the city becomes but definitely definitely take caution in being a part of it. We stood at the bridge overlooking the river and let ours go and we soon saw other people letting them go too early and almost catching us (and nearby trees) on fire. It’s cool though, we’re okay. Cost: Free!

The day after the Lantern Festival, we went to hike into the countryside with ELEPHANTS. Now, we did a ton of research into this because it was very important to our entire group that we support an organization that rehabilitates elephants and does not promote riding them. If you are looking into riding elephants, the majority of them are abused (whipped, traumatized) in order to train them. Please do not support these organizations. Please support organizations that rehabilitate elephants who have come from these situations.

We found a wonderful place called Elephant Nature Park, where you can visit their park or venture into the wild with the elephants. We chose the latter (Elephant Highlands Tour) because we wanted to see them in their most natural habitat. The tour guides picked us up from our hostel and we drove ~2 hours into the mountains. Once we arrived, we cleaned up, got a bag of fruit, and the elephants arrived!

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We began our ascent into the country’s lush green hills and hiked with the elephants. It was such a beautiful walk but so so special because we were walking right next to the elephants. No chains, no inhibitors.

They made a buffet-style lunch for us and we then continued our hike. We arrived at a pool where we swam with the elephants and washed them. Afterwards, we made fresh food for them with brown rice and bananas.

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Everything about the elephant experience was magical and truly stayed in our hearts as one of our favorite experiences. I highly recommend doing this tour if you are in Chiang Mai. Cost: $176/person.

The next day, we explored some more temples and hiked to a waterfall. With temples, it’s important to note that you need to cover your shoulders and thighs (especially as a woman). They will not let you in if you are dressed differently, or they will charge you for a sarong or blanket to wrap around yourself. I recommend bringing a sarong or something you can wrap as a skirt or shawl. Cost: $2-5/person (for temples), free for waterfall.

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Phuket

The next morning, we flew to Phuket (the more tropical side of Thailand), where we drove south and checked into our apartments. We booked three apartments and had a full pool to ourselves. We decided to take a rest day and just relax. Cost: $118/night (for 3 apartments split between 8 people) | $15/person

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The next day, we went on a Sea Tour around Phang Nga Bay. We explored various beaches and islands in a full-day boat and kayak tour. This included seeing the incredible limestone cliffs and ancient caves of Hong Island and Panak Island, swimming around Lawa Island, and visiting the iconic James Bond Island (from that one famous movie). Transportation, a buffet lunch, and equipment was all included. I really recommend doing a full-day tour like this because you get to see a variety of islands and immerse yourself in the tropical turquoise ocean. Watch out for jellyfish though, we had a couple friends get stung! Cost: $80/person.

Koh Lanta

After our Sea Tour, we traveled to Koh Lanta, an island we heard is relaxed and quiet. It was very serene and we ended up staying at a really nice resort where we ate on the beach and swam to our hearts’ content. Cost: $226/night (for 2 private rooms split between 8 people) | $28/person

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Railay Beach (in Krabi)

The next day, we took a ferry to Railay Beach, a place that is only accessible by boat in Krabi. Looking back, I have a lot of mixed feelings about Railay Beach. It is absolutely BEAUTIFUL and I would highly recommend, but I did have a problem with the amount of stray cats and kittens there are (who have limited access to the right care). If you are feeling up for a donation, please donate to Lanta Animal Welfare. $5 goes a long way.

Aside from that, the place is incredibly lush and full of monkeys and wildlife. We stayed in bungalows in the jungle, where we had monkeys jumping on our roofs over the next few days and saw lots of reptiles. Cost: $206/night (for 3 rooms split between 8 people) | $26/person

During our time there, we ate food from food boats (which are essentially like food trucks but on boats at the beach), swam in a cove during sunsets, and explored limestone caves around the secluded beach. Railay Beach was beautiful and provided so much more of an intimate experience with the Thai culture than other islands.

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After Railay Beach, we took a ferry to Krabi, and then a flight from Krabi back to Bangkok. We stayed in the same AirBnb hostel in Bangkok and ended our trip there. We had an amazing time exploring the variety of landscapes, from the mountains in Chiang Mai to the limestone caves in the islands to the huge huge city of Bangkok. What’s wonderful about Thailand is that once you are there, everything is incredibly affordable. Short flights range from $25-35 and can get you to the opposite side of the country in an hour!

Hope this guide helps inspire your trip to Thailand! x Dani

Travel + Receive $40 off your stay!

Dani ToscanoComment
Unique Portraits for you + loved ones

Over the years, I’ve searched for unique portraits I could partake in to either frame for my home or simply experience with a loved one. We’ve found some really amazing opportunities and I’m excited to share four of my favorite portrait experiences that I’ve stumbled across in San Diego (but that are honestly totally attainable in other places).

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Aura Photography

This is a really cool kind of photography experience James and I visited when Radiant Human came to San Diego. We honestly had no idea what to expect other than entering her iconic white dome where our portrait was taken. Here, you enter the dome and place your hands onto a sensor. If there are two of you entering, like we did, you simply place one hand on one sensor and the other places their hand on the other sensor. From what we understood, the sensors detect heat and translate it into a color. This “reads” your aura and produces a color which our photographer later interpreted once it was printed. It’s definitely something fun to experience and see come to life. Cost: $35/photo.

Side note: We’ll be featured in Radiant Human’s upcoming book! Take a peek at her instagram to see other images or search “Aura photographers” to find the one nearest you!

tintype

Yes, tintypes are still alive and well, but they’re quite rare and the experience is so SO fun. If you don’t know what a tintype is, let me paint a picture for you: you know those olden day photos that are printed on metal and look super weathered? THAT’s a tintype! Tintypes are captured with old film cameras, where the image is transferred onto a piece of tin, rather than paper. The tin is then developed in a darkroom and instantly transforms into a negative, which is then processed some more into the image. We had ours photographed by Scott Basile Photography, located in San Diego. He photographed ours in his home studio and let us watch the entire process which was amazing to see. Once he was finished, we had to wait a couple days for it to set but then picked it up, where we received 3 hard copy images and 3 scans! Cost: $$.

medium format photography

Medium format photography remains near and dear to my heart because I practice it in my weddings as a fine art film wedding photographer. To give a brief explanation, medium format photography is larger film than the standard 35 mm film that’s typically used in disposable camera. It has such a special high quality and tone to it and really produces some of the most gorgeous skin tones. This image was taken by the couple, Anna and Andrew, who I work with over at Dear Lovers. Honestly, for my wedding one day, I will 100% be using a fine art film photographer, simply because the quality is so dang beautiful. Cost: $$ - $$$.

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drone photography

I never really thought of renting a drone until last Christmas, when I asked James to gift me the experience of a drone portrait. I really really wanted to take one out to my favorite place (the dunes) and capture one of us among the beautiful landscape. It’s pretty easy to rent a drone in San Diego and we decided to rent the Mavic Pro! After we experienced this, I ended up purchasing a Mavic Air for our trip to Iceland! It truly brings such a different perspective (obviously) that is super cinematic and great for large prints for your home. Cost: $$.

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I hope you get to experience one of these photography experiences! It’s so exciting for me to work with other photographers and see what art they’re practicing. Maybe you can book one of these yourself or perhaps be your own self-portrait photographer with a drone!

x Dani

 
New Zealand Travel Guide

Since our trip to New Zealand, I've received lots of questions about where to go, what to see, and how to go about it all. My first response to everyone is usually something along the lines of jumbled excitement and how I would move there if I could. It's true. I looked into it for a second before I realized that my cats would have to go through some long-drawn Hawaii-ish quarantine process so that dream lasted for a hot minute. But if the cats weren't my life... I would. The country is just stunning. There are so many gorgeous landscapes to drive through including the steamy geothermal countryside, the rocky tunnel beaches, the countless sheep farms, and the green green hills.

To give you some back story, James and I decided to road trip through the country while he was studying abroad in the spring of 2016! We planned our trip from mid April to early May and at that time, it was the end of their summer & beginning of fall. If you’re planning a trip and want some visual references, take a peek below or check out the north and south island maps in the sidebar!

Auckland

We began our trip in Auckland, since James was studying at the university there. We stayed there for a couple nights and explored the city and here’s where we went:

  • Wintergarden Auckland Domain: This is a huge park, with lots of beautiful gardens, green hills, and ponds. We fell in love with the flower-infested interior glasshouse and the fern botanical garden. A beautiful place for a picnic or an easy walk! Cost: Free!

  • Parnell, Auckland: This was a really great neighborhood for exploring. We found some yummy bites at local coffee shops + breakfast places. Our biggest recommendation: the NZ Meat pies! They're essentially like chicken pot pies, but you can get different things inside them. We enjoyed the minced meat pies from (funny enough) gas stations.

Cathedral Cove

After our time in Auckland, we rented a car and headed to Cathedral Cove, which was a 2.5 hour drive.

We arrived in the afternoon and hiked down to the most gorgeous cove. It's important to look into the time of sunset when you go, just so you can prepare for the hike down and hike back up. It's about a 2-3 hour hike (with rest stops of course). We stayed there overnight and "freedom camped" in our car! Freedom camping is very common in New Zealand. This means that you can park your car in designated areas and camp in your car for freeCost: Free!

hot water beach

Hot Water Beach is only half an hour away from Cathedral Cove, so we decided to go there after! Hot Water Beach is so fun because you can rent little shovels and dig until you hit the hot spring of water underneath the sand. We went in the afternoon so it was a little busier. We would recommend going earlier in the day to find a spot first! Cost: Free - $ (depending on if you rent a shovel)!

rotarua

From Hot Water Beach to Rotarua, it's a 3.5 hour drive. With Rotarua, there is so much beauty. It's a town unlike anything I've ever seen before. The town is situated over a geothermal area, so there is steam coming out of everything- the bodies of water, the sewers, the wells, in people's front yards. The first day, we explored the small town and took long walks around the lake. Cost: Free!

  • Polynesian Spa: This was truly a treat to enjoy. The entire trip, we were car camping and using public showers so it was so so nice to enjoy a spa day at the Polynesian Spa. We were kindly gifted this experience from a family friend and it was so wonderful! There are hot springs that you can swim in that overlook the lake in Rotarua. Cost: $10-244.

  • Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland: One of the most unforgettable places hands-down. If you need to skip anything, don't skip this experience. This park was magical and full of steamy colorful geysers and the most gorgeous hike. Cost: $35 (when we went)

three sisters and the elephant rock

From Taupo to Three Sisters, it’s about 3 hours! This beach is a beautiful, dark beach with stunning views of the three rock formations that jut out of the sand. There is also a huge rock shaped like an elephant! Cost: Free!

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wellington

It’s about a 4.5 hour drive to Wellington, but it’s a pretty one! We found an Alpaca Farm halfway through our drive and it was so much fun! The sight of alpacas running with their hideous underbites is so so so great. Wellington is a really great city! There are a lot of hip restaurants and shops, think about it like the “SF” of NZ! It’s cool, okay? So cool I didn’t get any photos. Lots of people will stop here and then take a short flight back to Auckland, but we decided to continue to the South Island.

ferry from Wellington (north island) to Picton (south island)

It’s about a 2 hour ferry ride from Wellington to Picton and it’s a really nice ride! You can sit indoors or outdoors and it’s very clean. Admission is available to purchase at the dock. Cost: $35-45

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Greymouth

Once we arrived in Picton, we drove 5.5 hours to Greymouth. This may seem like a lot but the entire time, we were able to pull off in the most beautiful spots! At this time of the year, the South Island showed the fall season much more, with yellow trees and crisp cold weather. We had to double up in our sleeping bags for the night to stay warm! Cost: Free!

Arnold’s Pass + Castle Hill

OOOOkay, Castle Hill is absolutely divine and makes you feel like all of your Game-of-Thrones dreams are coming true. It is INCREDIBLY scenic and such a beautiful (and easy) hike. You can explore the area for 30 minutes OR three hours. From Greymouth, it’s about a two hour drive, where you will drive through “Arnold’s Pass.” Cost: Free!

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Dunedin

It’s about a 5 hour drive to Dunedin. IMPORTANT NOTE (that we did not figure out until 2 years later): Dunedin is pronounced "Doo-nee-din” not “Doon-din.” Nonetheless, Dunedin is a cool city. There are some great restaurants around the area, along with a beach closeby where you can spot penguins! We went too late in the day to see them but it is still a really beautiful beach, with turquoise water and white sand.

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Tunnel Beach

Tunnel Beach is unreal and is luckily in Dunedin! We went in the morning when the light was golden and so so beautiful. I recommend going in the morning because after a while, tourists and hikers start to pick up! We had the space to ourselves and it was truly such a perfect place. Cost: Free!

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Cathedral Cave

Cathedral Cave has a collection of beach caves that are stunning, dark, and moody. You can visit some shallow ones if you’re afraid of the dark OR you can go pretty deep into some. Cost: Free!

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Milford Sound

Milford Sound is about a 5 hour drive from Cathedral Caves and I’m convinced it’s Atlantis. There are endless waterfalls. We drove into the Sound during a rainstorm, which was such a magical experience. There was mist and fog rolling over these sprawling waterfalls and rivers. I highly recommend visiting if you are in the South Island and NOT skipping out on this one. There’s a little visitor center in the Sound where you can sip on a cup of hot chocolate or shop for vintage inspired Milford Sound posters. Cost: Free!

Queenstown

We ended our South Island experience in Queenstown, where we took a return flight to Auckland and then I went HOME! ;( This town is considered a popular ski town but when we went, there wasn’t much snow yet! It’s a great place to stop by for a quick visit but in my opinion, you can definitely skip this if needed.

Hope this guide helps inspire your trip!

x Dani

travel + receive $40 off your stay!

north island map

south island map

follow along on the next adventure!

 
October Handmade Finds

Hello friends! It’s October and I’m in love with these handmade finds via Etsy! Check out these sweet shops, all of which have artists who pay attention to the most precise and loving detail.

x Dani

LifestyleDani Toscano
Do It Yourself: Floral Cookies

We’ve all seen the very loved, very beautiful floral cookies that are taking over Instagram. With art directors throwing them into photo shoots and brides requesting them for weddings, it’s a really exciting and fun way to spruce up some sugar cookies. Here’s a simple way to give your next dinner party a little something special!

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar

  • 1 egg

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • Edible flowers. These can be purchased from Speciality Produce in San Diego OR you can search “edible flowers” and find them in your local garden section.

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flower

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1 cup butter, softened



Steps

I used a recipe from All Recipes for the sugar cookies and then simply added the extra florals!

  • Preheat your oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit. In a small bowl, mix your flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.

  • In a large bowl, mash the butter and sugar until it’s smooth. Beat in your egg and vanilla! Gradually blend in the dry ingredients. Roll your dough into rounded balls and then flatten them on an ungreased cookie sheet.

  • Add your edible flowers however you would like! This is fun because I got an assortment of edible pansies in a variety of colors and had such a great time arranging them based on their colors!

  • Once you’re done arranging them, add a tiny bit of sugar over them in order to seal them into the dough.

  • Bake 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven or until golden.

Enjoy! x Dani

LifestyleDani ToscanoComment
The Sand Dunes | A Love Story

The Sand Dunes in Southern California is my favorite place in the world. It’s magical, mysterious, silent, roaring. I think some of the best work comes from this place, not because it’s a mirror of some distant overseas Morocco desert, but because it evokes this foreign, alien-like landscape that causes you to question your entire existence and placement in the world. Combine it with some morning sunshine during a west-to-east wind storm and you have this wonderful, insane, bizarre magic. 

The Process

We left San Diego at 5:00am on a Sunday and traveled to the Imperial Sand Dunes, a destination ~two hours away. Typically, Google maps leads you to the front end of the dunes, where bikers and ATV-riders zoom around, but luckily, we were detoured through the back of the dunes where we ended up staying for the entire shoot. The back of the dunes is close to the campground area, which had been deserted during our session, making the endless rolling hills ours for the day (with no bikers in sight). 

The Shoot

It was breath-taking and a bit chilly. On our way out from San Diego, there was a severe rain storm; luckily, we arrived at the dunes and it was sunny (but definitely had a chill crisp to it). The rule of thumb is whenever there is a rain storm in San Diego, there is a wind storm in the sand dunes. We did not know this at the time so we were met with some fast-moving winds that brought sand into every bag, item of clothing, camera equipment, you name it. It was wonderful for photos. The sand crept into every corner and kissed our legs in each shot. The light bounced off the white sand, creating a natural reflector for beautiful skin tones. The quiet slow-moving hills dissolved and were rebuilt in minutes. 

The Brands

I love to work with independent retailers so I was excited to include a few beautiful pieces of clothing from Pyne & Smith Clothiers, Barnaby Jack Vintage, and Ali Golden. Let me introduce you to these wonderful companies. 

Pyne & Smith Clothiers creates gorgeous linen dresses, sustainably made in California. They are airy, light, and definitely make you feel like you need to be laying in a prairie or having a picnic in a bed of flowers. Joanna sent a beautiful indigo striped v-neck maxi dress, which Serina adventured in flawlessly.

Barnaby Jack Vintage is wonderfully curated with vintage goods so everything is one of a kind. All of Sara’s picks are straight out of my desert-themed dreams. From summer cotton dresses to woven bags to vintage western boots, she continually restocks her shop with items of the best quality. 

Ali Golden, a shop based in Oakland, has some of the most beautiful minimal designs I’ve ever seen. They sent me a lovely pinstripe jumpsuit, which was so comfortable and airy. 

May Vintage Finds

Lately, I've been so excited to score some vintage finds that have a classic and contemporary feel. While I love Madewell and Anthropologie, I've been leaning towards finding second-hand pieces that not only stand the test of time, but have been lived in and have their own sweet stories. I always think about how someone might have fallen in love in their jeans, or maybe traveled to a new country in a cool coat, or maybe discovered something new that changed the course of their life. It's also wonderful to see contemporary trends inspired by these pieces and support second-hand shops. 

This week, I stopped by my local Amvets and found the sweetest detailed white blouse, a pair of high-waisted vintage lee jeans, and a peach linen overshirt. All for the total of $12! It took some time, but I gathered a bunch of pieces and hung them up next to one another and then decided which ones I just had to have. I used to feel very overwhelmed when I went into thrift stores and would actually dread them... only because you really have to pay attention to every little detail and have the patience to look through racks... but honestly, there's something that's really so special about the process too. If you look through 100 pairs of jeans and then come across 1 pair that fits you absolutely perfectly, it's a dream and pretty much feels hitting the jackpot.

One thing you have to prepare for, in addition to a little extra patience, is looking for your target colors. For me, I went in with the mindset that I was going to find clothes with neutral colors: whites, rust browns, tans, olive greens, and maybe a light pink. I've been so inspired by the lady-run shops Barnaby Jack and Boheme Goods, both of which I am constantly stalking for the latest pieces that aren't immediately sold out! Their eye for color is just spot on! 

If you prefer to online shop or don't have an awesome local thrift store nearby, here's a roundup of the latest vintage finds from some really amazing female-owned digital thrift shops! Lots of linens, knits, and vintage denim! Take a peep at my finds, but also be sure to peruse through the rest of their goods!

 

Hope you guys enjoyed this vintage roundup! Feel free to message me on Instagram and let me know what you want to see in the next roundup!

xx Dani

Flourish | An Interview with a Florist

Spend time with a florist and I can guarantee you will feel inspired. Kate, owner of Flourish, proves to be one of the most graceful, positive, and family-oriented women, shedding light on her floral business, her love for her city, and her inspiration from wildflowers. I sat down with her in her lovely Ocean Beach abode and spoke with her about her florist + creative journey.

Tell us about yourself.

Well… In college, I studied English. I just love everything about words and how they change people. I’m really passionate about people being everything they can be and that’s exactly why I named my company Flourish. It’s because every passion that I have comes back to: how can I make people flourish and how can I make people fully live out their true selves? For me, flowers make me feel like my true self. When people ask for flowers, they’re usually celebrating things and they’re usually celebrating the fullness of life, who people are, and the fullness of their stories. It’s like being in the crux of their moments.

Why did you decide to start your own business, versus work for someone else?

I guess I just felt like I could. Maybe that sounds a little pretentious (laughs). I just feel like I can do a good job and I work really hard to do those things. I love designing things by myself rather than people telling me what to do, not necessarily because they’re wrong, but because thinking about it myself and going for it is just the most exciting thing I can think of. Having these things I create and watching them grow is so much fun.

Do you remember when you first learned about floristry? How did you discover what it was and how you knew it was what you wanted to do?

I think it’s been a really long process. Although I initially decided to go into teaching, I have loved flowers since I was five years old. If you ask my family or friends, I have arranged flowers on the sides of the roads and make people pull over just so I can arrange them right there. I loved it from before I can remember. For the actual techniques,  like composition and color, I feel like a lot of them were ingrained in me just as an artist by nature. Things it takes to actually understand and arrange flowers, I learned through trial and error, research, watching people and studying their bouquets, and really just thinking about them in the middle of the night.

You mentioned that a lot of techniques are ingrained in you because you are an artist by nature. What other art do you practice?

Well, life is art. I think in teaching, it requires a lot of skill and strategizing. I think about art as a wider topic like who you are as a human. Looking at things outside of the box, thinking about raising my daughter, how she thinks, and how to incorporate that into teaching all require a certain element of artistic ability. But I also love to watercolor and I love to craft... Paint... Cook... All of those things.

What was the best piece of advice you were given when you were starting to create?

I have a group of girlfriends who encouraged me a lot. I think the best piece of advice I received was to just go for it. “What do you have to lose? Worst case scenario, you were able to play with flowers and do what you love to do. There’s nothing you can lose out of this situation. When people try to bring you down or discourage you, you’re already everything you need to be and you don’t need to get their approval.”

So when you were first starting off, did you feel like you needed that reassurance?

Yeah, I feel like having people say that empowered me in a way that I couldn’t. I had been doing flowers for friends for a while and for them to say, “Why would you not do this all time?” really encouraged me to listen to what was inside my head.

What was the most difficult part of starting your business?

Not getting clients. Not hearing back for weeks. It just made me think, “This is all over now.” I think having the strength to still have that vision when it’s not a reality is difficult. And holding onto that, not letting it fade, and maintaining that inner vision is the hardest.

Can you think of your greatest business success?

There is a success every time you completely create a project. I feel really proud every time I finish an event. I guess the bigger, the better, the more success you feel from that. Seeing it displayed and altogether and just giving that to someone is very satisfying. Like, “Oh, I just stayed up for two days and here it is, it’s beautiful.”

What’s the hardest thing about being your own boss that isn’t obvious?

It’s hard to figure out just what to do. I have all these ideas, I’ve learned so much from so many people, and I’ve researched more than you can imagine. I have steps I need to take to move things forward but it would be easier if there was someone telling me what’s the best way to get clients and make it all happen. When something doesn’t work because sometimes it doesn’t work, it’s all on me. It’s a great learning experience but that’s hard too because there’s no one else to blame.

What inspires you to create? Is there anyone who inspires you, keeps you going?

I don’t know. I can’t stop. I feel like I’ll wake up in the middle of the night from a dream of flowers or envisioning my clients’ vision. It’s so much fun. I’m always dreaming up new projects. I’m always thinking about new things. Part of it’s my daughter and seeing all the incredible life that’s inside her and watching her learn and create things, like stacking blocks on top of one another. Seeing that thriving life happening always inspires me.

Do you ever collect flowers? What’s been your most favorite location to get those flowers?

My husband’s family owns a ranch in east San Diego with no cell reception. We go out there and watch the seasons change. Because of that, I get to make things that are inspired by that change. A lot of time, it’ll just be greenery and dead things and it’s just so pretty. And in the spring, there are tons of crazy colored wild flowers, like the hot orange, purple, white, bright yellow, and cat tails. I think I like making those the best because they’re not necessarily the most luscious and beautiful flowers but because they’re all so different and challenging to arrange.

When you hit a creative block, where do you find new inspiration?

It happens all the time and it’s so frustrating. A lot of times I’ll just need to leave and not look at them because flowers are beautiful. You could throw them on the ground and they’d be beautiful. A lot of times if I’m not using a technique correctly or getting results, I’ll just go for a walk and take a break. Other times, I’ll look up flowers for inspiration. Based on my client’s needs, I’ll look for size and color that I’m going off of and I’ll pull those as inspiration when I’m arranging them.

If you were a flower, what flower would you be?

That is such a hard question. I don’t know. I don’t know. I have no idea. I feel like it all changes, my style and color palettes change all the time. Maybe I wouldn’t be a flower, maybe I’d be dirt that grows flowers that change all the time (laughs)

What do people not understand about being a florist?

It’s hard to conceive how difficult it actually is to be a florist because like I said, flowers are instantly beautiful. You could throw them on the ground and they’d be gorgeous. You could stuff them in a pot and they would still look pretty. But how it is, like you said, it’s more about being an artist because you have to take a style, a look that someone gives you, and create something out of it. I’m well versed in flowers but it doesn’t always translate into a bouquet. It takes a wealth of knowledge and understanding of different textures, colors, etc. Sometimes clients will ask me things that aren’t possible, either with their budget, season, or color palette.  Like blue is such a hard color to work with and find in flowers.

What is your go-to flower?

I think my go-to changes all the time. I love wax flower, but I haven’t been using that recently. I also love birds of paradise.  I used to hate them but now I just love them. They’re super sharp and strange. Like a bird. I really just love texture. Texture is my thing. I’ve also been loving sweetheart roses. They open beautifully and they die beautifully. The leaves keep curling back and there’s more and more underneath the first layers. Peonies are probably a go-to, as well. They’re just gorgeous.

I have a go-to leaf. This is Ruscus. I’ve also been loving carnations because they open and open and there are tons of layers. It’s also a great fill-in flower because they’re really cheap and you can get it in any color and it looks so natural. Besides blue. Don’t ask for blue. (laughs)

For anyone who loves flowers, where would you recommend they go in San Diego?

Well, because I love flowers, I will say that in Balboa Park, the Botanical Garden has beautiful orchids. I would also say an unknown thing is go to the San Diego Central Library, their top floor is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen!

Dani Toscano