Category Archives: Minimalism

Holiday Gift Guide for Minimalists

November 29, 2016

Holiday Gift Guide for Minimalists |

Don’t you just love the holidays? Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, all the twinkling lights, and the wonderful smell of pine trees. It really is the most wonderful time of the year.

Though the act of giving a gift is fun, shopping for them can quickly suck the magic out of the holidays. The list below should help alleviate some of the stress whether you are a shopping for a minimalist or are one yourself.

Sur la Table Cooking Class

Experiences are the perfect gift for a minimalist, and a cooking class is a great way to hone cooking skills whether your loved one is a novice in the kitchen or an expert chef. Extra points if you can afford two classes and you spend an afternoon or evening together. Sur la Table consistently has the best teachers and they also offer a wide variety of times and themes.

Salami of the Month Club

Give the gift that keeps on giving with a Salami of the Month Club from Olympia Provisions. For twelve months, you’ll receive a different salami with a brief explanation and pairing notes. Best enjoyed with a little wine, a couple of cornichons, and good company, bien sûr. If the salami subscription price is too steep, you could spring for the French Salami Sampler instead. Vive le cured meat!

Super Fancy Wine Bottle

Buy a wine bottle they’d never purchase for themselves (i.e. a very expensive one). As always, Trader Joe’s is a great place to get your wine. I’d go for the Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon or a bottle of champagne such as Veuve Cliquot or Piper Heidsieck. It would also be fun to gather your favorite affordable wine bottles together and gift them as a set of 4, 6, or even 12.

Bon Appétit Magazine Subscription

There’s nothing I love more than coming home and finding a new issue of Bon Appétit in the mailbox. Immediately devouring the issue is half the fun, but the magazine also pushes you to try new recipes and becomes an inspiration for dinner parties. Twelve magazines acquired over a year doesn’t necessarily take up a ton of space, but going digital will satisfy the soul of your minimalist.

Homemade Wine Gummy Bears

Cookies are nice and all, but perhaps a little over done. And, since I’m being brutally honest here, a box of chocolates falls in the same category. So, why not take an afternoon and make a big batch of boozy gummy bears with this easy recipe? Red wine gummies are a crowd pleaser and your gals pals will surely love the rosé-flavored ones. If wine is not your thing, then you can make these Campari grapefruit gummies.

Collection of Favorite Recipes

If you love to spend time in the kitchen, you’ve probably gathered your fave recipes into one spot already. A fellow cook would love access to all that deliciousness! There are a few ways to gift a recipe collection: 1) Use Molly’s tutorial for recipe cards, 2) print recipes and put them in a binder or scrapbook, or 3) create a Tumblr blog of recipes just for them.

Museum Membership

As head of membership at the local aquarium, I am totally and completely biased when I suggest purchasing your loved ones a membership to a local museum, zoo, or aquarium. That said, it truly is a great deal and allows for unlimited visits to a place that is both fun and educational. Plus, membership dollars almost always support the organization itself. Win win!

P.S. A cheese dome or a cast iron skillet also make great gifts.

Modern French Wardrobe for Fall and Winter

September 27, 2016

Modern French Wardrobe for Fall and Winter |

French Girl style is a thing. Believe me, I’ve read every single article, blog post, and book about it. It’s the striped shirt, ballet flats, and trench coat all wrapped up in a little bit of je ne sais quoi.

However, French Girl style may not be a real thing. See, my French girlfriends have styles that are wildly different and I have yet to see one of them dressed exactly like this. Maybe all these perfectly Parisian pieces are just for French wannabes like me?

Whatever the case, this is what I’ll be wearing in the fall and winter. You’ll see a bunch of classic cuts in white and black (so much black). The neutral color palette allows for mixing and matching so getting dressed in the morning is easy breezy.

Most of my clothes come from J Crew, Madewell, Banana Republic, Gap and Uniqlo, but every once in a while I splurge for something big like the Reed Krakoff Atlantique bag or that pair of Chelsea boots in the finest, butteriest leather. It’s the perfect mix of high and low, which is a trick of stylish women everywhere.

Enough musings on French Girl style, let’s get to the heart of what is actually hanging in my closet.

11 Tops: Black tee, white tee, light blue button-up, white button-up, black silk button-up, white long-sleeved tee, black long-sleeve tee, white blouse, black sweater, gray sweater, and striped long-sleeved tee.

6 Jackets and Coats: Navy pea coat, navy cropped trench coat, collarless light down jacket (a great layer under any of the other coats!), black leather motorcycle jacket, black wool toggle coat, and trench coat.

3 Dresses: Long-sleeved black dress, black button-up dress, and black tee dress. Full disclosure: I have a three dresses that aren’t pictured here including a super cute dress from the Gap x Vena Cava collection a few years back.

7 Bottoms: Black pleated pleather skirt, black skirt with flared hem, black a-line skirt, black wool skirt, black slacks, dark denim skinny jeans, and black skinny jeans.

8 Shoes: Black patent pumps, silver pumps, black high heels, red ballet flats, black booties, black Chelsea boots, black kitten heel pumps, and black ballet flats.

Accessories: Cat-eye sunglasses, black aviator glasses, black structured purse, black envelope clutch, black beanie, camel scarf, and gray scarf. I also have two pairs black tights (one matte and the other opaque) and a small collection of jewelry that are not shown here.

P.S. How to dress like a French Girl in the spring and summer and five ways to dress like the French.

How to Organize Your Recipes with Gmail

August 30, 2016

How to Organize Your Recipes with Gmail |

Once I started getting into cooking, I quickly amassed a collection of recipes ripped from magazine pages, scrolled on pieces of scratch paper, and hastily bookmarked online.

At one point, I got tired of trying to hunt down my favorite recipes and decided I needed a place where I could easily access all of them. After some trial and error, I finally settled on a recipe saving system using Gmail.

Why You Should Organize Your Recipes with Gmail

Gmail is an easy, digital way to save your favorite recipes.

You don’t have to install a new app on your phone, which means you don’t have to keep track of yet another username and password. It’s also pretty accessible, especially if you are like me and are always logged into your email with your phone (almost permanently) attached to your hand.

Another plus is that it’s super easy to share recipes. If someone asks, just find the requested recipe and forward it along to your friend. Boom, done.

How to Organize Your Recipes with Gmail

The basic premise is that you email recipes to yourself and save them in a special folder in Gmail. Though fairly straightforward, here’s a detailed description of how to go about it.

1. Scroll down the left sidebar of Gmail and click on “Create a New Label.” Type “Recipes” into the box under “Please enter a new label name” and then click on “Create” to create the digital folder where you can gather your emailed recipes.

2. Start a new email and enter the recipe you want to save. If it’s online, simply cut and paste it into the body of the email. If it’s an old family recipe, then take the time to type it out or snap a photo of the handwritten recipe.

3. Now it’s time to organize your recipe within the email. Warning, it’s about to get a little OCD! First, put the recipe title in the subject line of the email. Then, organize the recipe in the body of the email using the following format: Ingredients, Preparation, Tags, Source, and Link.

Tags are like hashtags or keywords that will help you find a recipe and can be as detailed as you want them to be. You might tag a recipe with the meal (breakfast, lunch, or dinner) or recipe type (like starter, main dish, side dish, or dessert). You could even include key ingredients.

Since this is all a little esoteric, here’s an example of what a recipe looks like. Bonus! This is a Guamanian recipe from my mom’s side of the family that’s pretty darn tasty.

Chicken Kelaguen

6-8 pieces of chicken (legs and thighs preferred)
1 small yellow onion
2-4 lemons
Small bunch of green onions
1 fresh coconut (optional)
1 serrano pepper (optional)

Salt and pepper chicken to taste. BBQ chicken on grill until just barely cooked through (don’t worry, the lemon juice will cook it the rest of the way). Take chicken off grill and let cool. Separate meat from the bone and chop into fine pieces.

Finely chop onion and mix with the chopped chicken. Add lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste. If you have access to a fresh coconut, halve the coconut and grate it with a hand grater. Add the grated coconut into the mixture. You may also add in finely chopped peppers if you want a little heat.

Cover and allow to rest in fridge for a few hours. Garnish with sliced green onions before serving.

Source: Family Recipe
Link: N/A

4. Finally, email the recipe to yourself and drag it to the “Recipes” label in your Gmail sidebar.

Et voilà! That’s how you get your first recipe into Gmail. Continue and repeat until you have all your favorites saved via email.

Once your done, you’ll always have your favorite recipes at your fingertips whether you are cooking at a friend’s house, whipping up a meal on vacation, or in the middle of Trader Joe’s trying to remember what you need for your favorite dish.

Do you have a method to organize your recipes? If so, do you store them online or prefer an analog style?

Six Months without Social Media (What I Learned)

June 28, 2016

Six Months without Social Media (What I Learned) |

Last year I quit social media and then promptly shouted it from the rooftops because, well, I have a tendency to over share.

See, social media had become too much for me. I was so obsessed with getting likes and followers that I was missing out on socializing with my own friends and family. Plus, algorithm changes and forced ads in all my feeds were really getting me down (damn the man, right?).

Overall it wasn’t making a positive impact in my life, so I drank a glass of wine, deleted all of my accounts, and said au revoir.

The Tough Transition

A little bit of honesty here: The first couple of months were pretty hard.

Not only did it take me a while to get over the nervous habit of checking my phone for updates every two minutes, but then I basically switched one addiction for another and upped my internet usage. I subscribed to more blogs, followed more YouTubers, and often fell down an Internet rabbit hole that lasted one or two (or even three) hours. Whoops!

Eventually, I had a reality check with myself and decided I needed to figure out a way to limit my screen time…and I needed a solution fast!

Filling Free Time with Hobbies

It was then that I rediscovered the wonderful world of hobbies. By definition, a hobby is a regular activity that is done for enjoyment, typically during one’s leisure time.

As a kid, I had a gajillion hobbies including reading books and magazines, playing soccer, writing in my journal, making crafts, collaging, sewing, dancing, playing violin, collecting erasers, and (oddly enough) rubber stamping. Even if the Internet had existed then, I clearly wouldn’t have had time for it.

While Adult Alyssa had some leisure time on her hands, it definitely wasn’t as much as Kid Alyssa had. So, I did some soul searching and decided I would go back to my two greatest loves (reading and writing) and also tack on a new passion (cooking).

Hobby. Explosion. All of a sudden I was speeding through library books, writing blog post after blog post, and cooking up a storm in our little kitchen. It was a creative revolution, and the best part was that I didn’t even miss social media.

Happiness and The Domino Effect

Doing things you love will make you happy. This is awesome in of itself, but what’s even cooler is that it created a domino effect. Seeing the positive effects of good habits led me to pursue even better habits.

For instance, I finally signed up for French classes (a benefit for my brain) and started biking to work (a benefit for my body). A month or so after that, I started walking in the mornings while listening to my favorite podcasts (even more fuel for my brain and body).

Getting Back to Social Media

But then it started to happen. Every time I finished a great book or made a new recipe, I’d hear a little voice say, “Share it, shaaaaaare it.” Then, I’d re-do a little corner of our petite maison or drink an incredible wine and would hear it again. Share it, Alyssa, shaaaaare it.

Eventually, I had to admit that I really missed sharing little snippets of my life on social media and, more importantly, seeing little snippets of life from my friends and favorite bloggers. And so, I’m back on social media. This time with a better attitude and less time to obsess over it because I’m so busy with all these hobbies.

For now, you can find me on Instagram as @alyssapacaut. I’ll be the one posting photos of French things (because duh), white space (because j’adore), good books I’m reading (because you know I really want to share them), and glasses of wine (because that’s what I do when I’m not working or hobbying).

Are you thinking about doing a social media detox? Or have you done one before? If you have already taken a break from social media, what did you enjoy most about your time off? I’d love to know more about your own experience and hear your thoughts.

Photo from my Instagram.

What’s in My French Girl Bag

May 24, 2016

What's in My French Girl Bag |

Just like a good a French Girl, the stuff I keep in my bag is practical yet stylish. A leather wallet with no logo, wear-everywhere sunglasses, some chapstick, travel-sized perfume in a signature scent, and a few other essentials in black, bien sûr.

Clockwise from top left: Keys with Black Tassel Keychain, Muji Pen, J.Crew Ryan Sunglasses in Black, Moleskin NotebookBlack Leather Wallet, Reed Krakoff Atlantique Bag in Black, Burt’s Bee Chapstick in Honey, Daisy Rollerball Perfume, iPhone with Metallic Case

Modern French Wardrobe for Spring and Summer

March 22, 2016

Modern French Wardrobe for Spring and Summer |

Wardrobes are a big deal these days.

From the Capsule Wardrobe, Project 333, and the minimalist approach to the 5-Piece French Wardrobe—which is not to be confused with the 10-Piece Wardrobe—and the Kon-Mari Method, there are a million different ways to strategically dress yourself and deal with the contents of your closet.

Allow me to introduce the Modern French Wardrobe, which is less about rules and restrictions and more about what I actually have hanging in my own closet.

These 42-odd pieces will take me through spring and summer. By mixing and matching, I can create outfits for all sorts of occasions. This is partly due to some level of creativity but also because I’ve resigned to looking the same wherever I go.

My style is modern yet timeless. I rely heavily on neutrals and quite obviously have a penchant for black. Since I often end up wearing pieces for years at a time, I opt for classic cuts and invest in high-quality garments whenever I can.

Without further ado, here’s the list! It doesn’t include sleepwear, swimwear, or work out gear, but everything else is hanging in my closet right at this moment (or will be soon…I’m looking at you, white jeans!).

11 Tops: Black drapey tank, black tee, white tee, striped tee, black silk button-up (with the sleeves rolled up!), black tank top, white tank top, creme colored blouse, and a chambray button-up.

3 Sweaters: Black sweater, camel sweater, and black cardigan.

3 Jackets: Dark denim jacket, cropped trench coat, and black leather motorcycle jacket.

5 Dresses: Black crepe dress, black dress with flared skirt, black romper, white dress with embroidery detail, and black tee dress.

7 Bottoms: Black a-line skirt, black skirt with flared hem, light denim shorts, dark denim shorts, dark denim jeans, black jeans, and white jeans.

8 Shoes: Black patent pumps, silver pumps, black high heels, gold high heels, black sandals, nude sandals, white sneakers, and black ballet flats.

7 Accessories: Cat-eye sunglasses, black aviators, black structured purse, black envelope clutch, black Panama hat, black tote bag, and straw tote bag. Plus, I have a small collection of jewelry and a few lightweight scarves that are not shown here.

Editor’s Note: This post was updated on September 13, 2016.

How (and Why) I Quit Social Media

January 12, 2016

How (and Why) I Quit Social Media |

As always, January has turned into a month of reflection. A time to look back on the past year with fondness and look forward to the upcoming year with hope. One of my proudest achievements of 2015 is that I officially got off social media.

Before we get started here, I want to make one very important point. I am no better than you for quitting. If social media makes a positive impact on your life and allows you to connect with others, then more power to you. And if you successfully use it to grow your business or blog, please teach me your ways!

But if you feel a bit uneasy about the whole thing, then take my word for it: You too can quit social media and come out the other side in good shape. Great even!

Quitting Social Media: A Two-Step Program

Step One to quitting is to evaluate if it adds to your life in a positive way.

Fair warning: The first step can be long and tedious. My husband can attest to this as he spent hours listening to me talk about the pros and cons of each platform. I’ll sum those many months of conversation into three points:

1. Social media was making me less social. Ironic, non? I found myself checking out of a conversation to put together a post or editing a photo during a dinner while everyone else enjoyed the meal. At the time it seemed like a small sacrifice, but was it really worth it?

2. Social media wasn’t making me happy. Sure, a little like would put a smile on my face, but it was a small moment of bliss compared to the many hours I would spend wondering why no one liked a photo or obsessing over how to get more followers.

3. Social media always ended up revealing its true ways, i.e. using me to make money through advertising. As someone who works in marketing, I understand the value in generating revenue through targeted ads. However, seeing promotional stuff in my feed sucked the soul out of social media and tainted the community feel that originally got me hooked.

Step Two is a surprisingly painless and incredibly freeing. To quit, simply drink a glass of wine and go through the process of permanently deleting your account. Be sure to take a screenshot of the final step and send it to whomever you annoyed most with your social media soul searching.

If you prefer to quit with training wheels, you could spend some time saving your favorite content before pulling the trigger. For instance, I saved favorite photos from Pinterest to my desktop and bookmarked the links of my favorite Instagram accounts.

Life After Social Media

Every time I deleted an account a small part of me thought my world would come crashing down, but life continued on and most folks didn’t notice. In fact, someone just told me how much they love my Facebook posts and I deleted that account two years ago.

The best part is that those who did notice began sharing links and photos with lots of emojis. These personal texts and emails are much more meaningful to me than blanketed sharing on social media.

Of course, quitting social media has given me more time. I’d love to say I’ve used that time wisely to train for a marathon or attain Nirvana or something. Truth is, I still spend a ridiculous amount of time on the Internet reading blogs and watching videos. Nobody’s perfect, I guess.

Above all, I’ve freed up a lot of space in my brain. All those parts that used to obsess over creating the perfect post and worry about likes and followers are now free. Free to read a new Bourdain book, watch a documentary, tackle a new recipe, or learn a new French word. Free to think about everything, anything or even nothing at all.

Are you considering breaking the shackles of social media and joining me in this bliss? Or do you totally disagree and want to sing the praises of social media? I’d love to hear what you have to say, please do comment below.

How to Pack for France in the Winter

December 15, 2015

How to Pack for France in the Winter |

The first time we went to the France in the winter I made a rookie mistake and didn’t pack very well. In my own defense, I’m Californian and was totally unaware of what a real winter entails. With only a thin coat, no knowledge of layering, and boots that had me slipping all over the ice, I was freezing and uncomfortable. That is, until my mother-in-law came to the rescue and clothed me in all of Arnaud’s old winter clothes. While I wasn’t exactly the picture of chic, I was finally warm and that was all that mattered.

Cut to a couple of years later: Winter was coming and we were planning another trip to France. Since I didn’t want to make the same mistake twice, I did a ridiculous amount of online research and crazy girl list making. I even took notes during the trip on what was necessary and what I had missed. So, below are the fruits of my OCD labor: A list of things that will allow you to weather the elements while also looking pretty and put-together.

Row 1
Button-Up Shirt: Wearing a button-up makes you feel instantly polished, especially when you tuck only the front part of your shirt in à la Emmanuelle Alt.
Striped Tee: Of course, you can’t go to France without a striped tee. Feel free to accessorize with a beret and baguette under your arm.
Long-sleeve Tees: Great for wearing alone or layering under the sweater or button-up for extra warmth. I picked up these Supima cotton tees at Uniqlo in black and white (of course).

Row 2
Pea Coat: A classic and (most importantly) warm winter coat. This wool pea coat makes a casual outfit more pulled-together but also goes well with your dressier outfits.
Wool Sweater: Chic but functional aka everything I want in a piece of clothing. I swear by the Tippi and Tilly sweaters from J Crew in merino wool.
Silk Blouse: The French are known for classic pieces in understated colors and luxurious fabrics. So, pick up a silk blouse from Everlane, Cuyana, or Equipment in a neutral color and you’ll fit right in.
Wool Skirt: This skirt is another J Crew find (long live Jenna Lyons!). Pair it with any of the tops and be sure to wear those black tights underneath.

Row 3
Shift Dress: Another piece that easily transitions from day to night depending on your accessories. Case in point, I wore this while walking around a cobblestone city and then later on at a wedding.
Skinny Jeans: Black denim and dark denim. I wear them all the time in regular life and wore them just as much in travel life. Essential!
Structured Purse: I like my purses structured, lady-like, and on the small to medium size. Be wary of taking a big purse. They get heavy really quick, which could make the straps cut into your shoulder. Ouch.
Ultra Thin Jacket: The best winter advice I ever received was to pick up one of these from Uniqlo. It easily fits underneath a coat and is so incredibly warm. Plus, it packs up into it’s own little pouch!
iPhone: Probably one of the most important things on this list for reasons I don’t really have to explain. Download some fun wallpaper for your iPhone for free like this “Oh la la” one from

Row 4
Toiletry Bag: Stock up on small versions of everything at Target or pour your favorites into little bottles. You can also stash your make-up here or put it in a Ziploc bag in your purse for the flight.
Simple Jewelry: Leave the diamonds at home and take a few simple pieces. One pair of earrings, a hefty watch, and a delicate silver bangle worked well for me.
Cashmere Scarf: Something nice and warm to wrap around your neck or use as a blanket when you are traveling. I suggest a light gray, beige, or something colorful to contrast with all that navy and black.
Mini Steamer: How did I not know about this magical little device before? My Little Steamer (available on Amazon or at Bed Bath and Beyond) is a total lifesaver. Au revoir wrinkles!

Row 5
Bras & Underwear: Pack two bras (in black and nude) and enough undies to last you halfway through the trip (so seven pairs for two-weeks). I love these lacey thongs because they are
très sexy and don’t take up a lot of room in the suitcase.
Flat Boots: Have you ever walked to the Eiffel Tower in excruciating pain because you were wearing high heel boots? I sure have and after that one experience, never again! I got this pair of flat boots from Lacoste (10 French points for me, wee!), but there are Chelsea boots everywhere this season that are just as cute.
Ballet Flats: Again, flats are a French girl’s best friend. I wore these for dressier occasions (like a fancy dinner or with the black dress for the wedding) and reserved the flat boots for days full of walking.

Not Pictured
Pajamas: I won’t judge you for wearing a slubby tee and yoga pants (because that’s what I do). But one day I will buy a pretty pajama set that screams chic AND sleep.
Beanie & Leather Gloves: Two essential items that keep you warm and can easily be stashed in your purse if you don’t need them. Win win!
Tights: Wear the tights under the skirt or dress and if it gets cold enough you can wear them under your jeans. My favorite is a black matte pair by Hue, but all zee French girls were wearing black tights that were semi see-through.
Socks: Don’t forget a variety of socks in (you guessed it) black. I pack the same number of pairs of socks as I do undies and then wash them halfway through.