The SIMPLEST fancy dessert recipe - paleo flourless chocolate cake! You can do it!


I'm finally sharing this baking success with you!

We just got back from a lovely long weekend visiting husband's grandparents in one of the most beautiful places on earth, the Olympic Peninsula, on a ridge overlooking the strait out to Canada. 270 degree views and no one else around, just family and relaxing and books. It's pretty great when we get up there.

We're often celebrating birthdays or other reasons for treats, and I've made this [mostly] Paleo flourless chocolate cake/torte FIVE times now while we've been up there visiting! Husband's grandparents and the family love it, and it's SO simple and can be made with ingredients they already have on hand.

It's inspired by this recipe, with a few tweaks since I've made it five times now! Here's my version!

The deal with Thrive Market


I've been hearing a lot lately about Thrive Market, and you probably have, too. I first heard about it a couple years ago on Robb Wolf's podcast, touted as a mix between Costco and Whole Foods--high quality groceries and products at a discount if you're a member.

It took me a while to try it out, though! I recently made my first order and have spent some good chunks of time researching and shopping at Thrive, and I wanted to talk about my experience - the pros and cons - and if you want to try it yourself, you can get a 1-month free trial and 15% off your first purchase!

Black and white gingham fit-and-flare dress


I made this black and white gingham dress earlier this summer and I'm pretty much obsessed. I've worn it quite a few times and it's so versatile, not too dress or too casual, super fun, and goes with everything!

Gingham in basic colors is usually easy to find and pretty affordable, too! I figured, with how much I love the first one, it wouldn't hurt to have another, though different, checkered dress, right??

I did want to do a pretty different style than my elastic waist, ruffled one. I looked around at gingham dress inspirations (there are a TON!) and decided to keep it really simple and do a fit-and-flare, full-skirted style. Like these:

I used/modified Simplicity 4531, which is completely ancient and I'm sure out of print, but you could use any fitted camisole bodice dress pattern. I did a simple gathered skirt, two panels.

The style is so simple and classic, except the shorter skirt!

I cut the center front of the bodice down to a sloped V, rather than the wide scoop the pattern called for.

So fun to wear, and summery!

Now I may have the issue of having to decide between these two checkered numbers when I get dressed for the next summer event... I guess this one is a little more formal and the other is a little more backyard BBQ-ey!

Pattern: Simplicity 4531

  • Changed shape of neckline to deep V/sweetheart
  • Ignored skirt pattern, used two panels cut to desired length instead
  • Cut straps on straight grain instead of bias cause I didn't have enough fabric

Of course, if you don't feel like sewing your own, there are a couple of great options for very similar ones!

Embroidery-inspired ribbon trim crepe shift dress


I sure do love summer dresses! This one's a little different than several recent ones because I had some fun with trim!

This sweet white crepe shift dress was inspired by this embroidered swing dress from LOFT, and I guess also by those beautiful, multi-colored embroidered yoke Mexican cotton ones. So pretty, and you could make one at home, but that's a lot of specialty embroidery! It would be quite a project. But I liked the simple design of the embroidery around the neck of the LOFT one and actually, I looked around and found quite a few with similar amounts and patterns of trim.

I figured, I  have some cool patterned ribbon, I could shape it pretty similarly to the embroidery patterns. I just needed a yoked dress pattern. I dug out Simplicity 2896 (very old) and modified the shape of the yoke a bit. And I gave it a full lining instead of the facing the pattern called for, since the cotton crepe I used is so sheer.

It's not as complex or detailed as the pretty embroidery patterns, but I really like the amount of trim in this pattern and the colors! Very summery, right?? Perfect with espadrilles and my new favorite thing, a summery straw carry-all tote.

I totally love it!!

Pattern: Simplicity 2896

  • Made yoke straight across instead of curved
  • Made neckline more of a scoop neck, less of a boatneck
  • Gave dress a full lining instead of facing
  • Made it shorter

You know how sometimes you smell something and it reminds you of a place or time? I feel I should also disclose that I carefully placed all that ribbon while watching the Seinfeldvision episode of 30 Rock. I recently started rewatching as a fun escape during sewing time. So Tina Fey is partially responsible for this dress!

If you don't have time for sewing one yourself but love the soft, crepey, embroidery trim look, you can shop these similar ones below, some under $30. Also some great espadrille and tote options!!

How to host a [low-stress] clothing swap!


Have you ever been to a clothing swap?!? It's just like it sounds - gather with friends and bring unwanted clothing, and trade with them! I've been to two and just recently hosted one, and it was such a success that I wanted to share my tips and take-aways with you.

How to host a clothing swap (low-stress style!)

I've been to a formal clothing swap, with a long period of gathering/making piles and scoping out before a hard start point when the swapping began, and an informal clothing swap with potluck brunch and people coming in and out at different times. I decided I wanted to host one of my own when I noticed my thrift store pile had grown pretty big and had a lot of nicer pieces in it, things I wanted to share with friends. I've always loved trading clothes with friends, but my style is definitely different than that of some of my friends and I never want to impose a piece on one particular friend... so a swap is the way to go, though there isn't always one when I need one!

So I put together a clothing swap of my own and it went really well. Here are a few things I did that worked out great!

1) Find a co-host. I cohosted with my friend who'd held the informal swap before. She invited some of her friends and I invited mine. I hosted at my place so I still had to do a lot of cleaning, but having someone to help with invites, potlucking, and cleanup (see item 5) `was great! Plus, the more the merrier, and it's really fun to mix groups of people and get a wide range of styles at these things.

2) Create a Facebook event but also send personal invites. I created a big private Facebook event and even used the occasion to friend some people from work! The Facebook event was good to share content in, as well. Post info about what a clothing swap is, for friends who've never been to one before. You could post a link to this very blog post!! I shared this one but I don't think it was that helpful. Facebook events can get lost in the shuffle but every time you post, invitees get a notification. So sharing regularly before the event keeps it in everyone's minds. I also sent individual emails and texts to a few friends who I know don't check their Facebook accounts much!

We planned our party about a month ahead and held it on a Tuesday evening. There's never a day or time that works for everyone, but summer weekends can be so busy and we got a good group of people for a fun mid-week break!

3) Skip the rules. I conferred with my co-host about if we wanted to start swapping at an official time or do the one-for-one trade rule of some swaps. We both agreed it was best not to. It's really more fun for everyone when things are informal. It's first-come, first-served, but people are pretty nice about sharing things and it really takes the pressure off to keep it low-key. Plus, who has time or attention to keep track of how many items everyone's swapping??!?

4) Swap everything! It's called a clothing swap and it's mostly women's clothes, but people also brought cosmetics and I shared a bunch of home decor items. There was also a men's clothing pile. Notify your guests if you'll have room for other categories, so people feel welcome to bring whatever they want to share. We also had guests over a very wide range of sizes, so bringing accessories and all kinds of items means more people can swap with each other.

Also plan to swap athletic wear! That's been a surprisingly popular category at this and another clothing swap I went to.

5) Donate the rest to a good cause. I think we had about 15 guests at our swap. When we were done, some people took back some of the items they'd brought that no one had taken, but most of the clothes were still left over in my living room and dining room. Like, TONS of clothes. I counted 17 bags, but some were much larger than others. We sorted the clothes, accessories, etc. into three major groups: 1) work-appropriate clothes (these went to Dress for Success), 2) more casual, youth-appropriate clothes (these went to Northwest Children's Outreach, which provides clothes and goods to foster kids and is always short on items for older children), and 3) random miscellaneous such as household items--these went to Goodwill. I filled my car twice, donating things over a couple of days. This cleanup phase was definitely the most work, but totally worth it after such a fun evening with friends and I really hope our clothes go to people who really want and need them!

Hosting a clothing swap is a lot of work, but not more than any party, and you get new clothes at the end of it!! Everyone had a great time (and posted in the Facebook event afterwards, keeping the community going--yay!) including me, even with all the cleaning husband and I did the weekend before! Before it happened I was thinking, wow, this is a lot of work, I'm not doing this again! But it was so enjoyable bringing my groups of lady friends together and playing with clothes that I think I might again sometime. Although, if any of my friends wants to host one, I'd be just as happy going to theirs! ;)

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