Food + Style in NoCal: A Vegetarian’s Guide to Destroying Your Body (and Wallet) in Only a Week by Darcy Olmstead

Original post over at Outfits + Observations


Despite living in Arkansas, I’m a notorious self-proclaimed East Coaster. I try linking it to my roots (the Olmsteads were one of the founding families of Hartford, Ct and my dad grew up in the outskirts of Baltimore), but really I’ve just been up and down the Atlantic coast a lot. I’m familiar with it - hell, I’m moving to the Chesapeake basin in a few months. I consider the East Coast my home away from home. I’ve never subscribed to the whole “West Coast, Best Coast” craze.


I’ve only ventured West two other times in my life. First, it was San Diego in second grade. The only thing I have to remember that trip is a snow globe featuring Eddie Murphy’s zebra character from Madagascar. Then it was Seattle which I liked alright, but it was no contender to Boston or Portland, Maine. The Pacific Coast had yet to woo me.


Of course, I was pleasantly surprised by my week in San Francisco and Point Reyes. It filled my time, as would any other city, with art, shopping, and food. Not everything totally impressed me (I’d still list Boston, DC, and New York as my top three cities) but below are my top nine favorite stops in Northern California - from an Easterner’s perspective. I’ve also included some of my outfits from throughout the trip (which were more suited for an Arkansas June rather than a chilly SanFran one, but still cute! That’s what matters).


  1. Steven Alan


I spent my third day touring around looking for the perfect boutique showcasing unique San Francisco style. I found a cute boutique district going down Haynes St. and the surrounding neighborhood. I noticed 40% sales in most of the windows, so I was game to enter most of the shops. That said, 40% off in a notoriously gentrified city isn’t that much of a deal. While I loved shops like Rand + Statler, even the clearance sections weren’t in my price range. Steven Alan’s sample sale had the perfect deals for me and it was all up my alley style wise. Lot’s of sleek designs and handsome linens. I bought the top and ascot seen below and another striped button down that I wore to the Japanese Tea Garden.


Steven Alan knit top and ascot, EL CLOSET DE MI HERMANA jeans


  1. August (1) Five

We decided on this spot as our ~fanciest~ dinner of the week because it was started by the chef who used to work at Rasika in DC (aka the best Indian restaurant in the country) so we knew it would be good. It’s “modernized” Indian food, so everything’s plated like something off of Chef’s Table but still retains those classic Indian flavors. There are four courses so you’ll be stuffed by the end but it’s all worth the pain. I definitely recommend the Palak Chaat if you’re looking for your taste buds to explode in ecstasy.


  1. Samovar Tea Lounge

Samovar was the only place I agreed to visiting twice in one trip. Located in the immensely peaceful Yerba Buena Garden (and only a block from our hotel and SFMoMA), Samovar’s location was more than enough to put you in Zen Mode. They also had a fantastic world playlist going, featuring my favorite Nico song and Lhasa. The tea, of course, was amazing. Their Velvet Cacao Pu-Erh had me in utter bliss. Their toast and chia pudding selection was also something to rival Fayetteville’s own Church and Center cafe.



  1. SFMoMA

If you know anything about me, you knew this was coming. Museums are my heart, my soul, my everything. This is what I want to do with my life people! So we went to a lot of museums and galleries in the city but the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art was my favorite by far. We were there just in time for the Edvard Munch exhibit which was AMAZING. I found myself crying as I walked through. My favorite exhibits of all time have always been retrospectives. It’s the most intimate way to learn about a person, to watch their art develop throughout their lifetime, and boy was Munch an interesting person. The permanent collection was fabulous as well, but I was very much aware of how few women artists they showcased. There were entire rooms on Gerhard Richter (which I admittedly loved, particularly his portrait Lesende) but all the female painters, including Kahlo and Alice Neel, were lined up together in the back of the figurative section. Typical art world.


  1. City Lights Bookstore

A San Francisco must that definitely lives up to all its acclaim. If standing in the wake of Ginsberg, Kerouac, and other Beat generation legends doesn’t do it for you, City Lights is generally a good bookstore in itself. I’ve always judged great bookstores by organization and charm and City Lights has both. It’s filled with staff recommendations so browsing is much easier and the walls are lined with old posters and San Francisco history. Definitely venture upstairs to the small poetry room - it is City Lights after all. I left with Things to Do When You’re Goth in the Country & Other Stories by Chavisa Woods, Widow Basquiat by Jennifer Clement, and Hick Poetics edited by Shelly Taylor and Abraham Smith.


  1. Japanese Tea Garden

San Francisco has a lot of tea houses - and a large Japanese immigrant population. Get the best of both worlds at the Japanese Tea Garden adjacent to the De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park. I felt like I had appeared in Kyoto overnight and the art history nerd in me was freaking out over the ryoanji-like zen garden and the replica pagodas. It’s lovely just strolling through the twists and turns of the small park, but sitting down for a cup of sencha beneath the native Japanese trees is a must.




  1. William Stout Architectural Books

If you’re an art and design nerd like me this place will be heaven to you. It’s a gorgeous store just filled, floor to ceiling, with every book on art, architecture, and design you can think of. The owner is very nice and will talk to you about whichever book you’re looking at. We had a fun convo geeking out over mid-century brutalist architecture and I left with this utterly fascinating book on Soviet bus stops (definitely worth a Google if you don’t want to buy the book itself).


  1. 20th Century Cafe

We stumbled across this quaint little spot while shopping in the Hayes Valley. It’s designed to evoke, well, the 20th century and is filled with gorgeous velvet seating, marble tables, delicious-looking slavic pastries I could not pronounce (though I tried), and coffee about as good as San Francisco could do (I’ve yet to find some to rival my hometown’s Onyx brand). A good stop for breakfast or a mid-afternoon coffee stop.



  1. Point Reyes National Seashore - Estero Trail

Okay all of Point Reyes was the perfect escape after a week in the city. The Californian countryside is insanely diverse and the hiking out there was breathtaking. My favorite part of Point Reyes, however, was Estero Trail. The landscape changes so quickly on this 8 mile hike. You start out in these bucolic fields of wheat, through a windswept forest, over an estuary, straight through a couple cow farms, and onto a rocky beach. We actually ate our sandwiches from Inverness Market with a couple of cows. It was the perfect ending to the trip and I 100% recommend it.

Closet Swap by Darcy Olmstead

original post over at Outfits + Observations

The age old story: girl meets wardrobe but can’t, for all she can muster, come up with a single outfit idea. She’s tried just about every combination in the book. She’s worn scarves on her ankles, transformed skirts into tube tops, even tried earrings as nipple accessories, but her mind is squeezed dry. She doesn’t have time to freshen up her closet with an early morning shopping spree let alone the paycheck to fund it.

This is a problem we’ve all faced - not to mention a tired fashion blog cliche - but it’s about time we at Outfits + Observations addressed it. I for one have done a lot of thinking on the whole “Stylist’s Block” dilemma. Sometimes I feel as if my creativity has been completely cut off (I can’t remember a day when I was truly satisfied with one of my outfits). I’d find myself wishing I had the ability to just hire my own stylist, but who was I kidding? The average person has only themselves.

That’s where I was wrong.

Turns out, most girls who “like” fashion tend to attract others of the same variety. Who knew? I’m surrounded by friends with brains that seem to constantly ooze out style ideas (gross, but I want it). Why not have them style me? Bada bing bada boom this photoshoot/fashion challenge (captured by our own fabulous Jenna Blakeman) was born.

The Goal: each girl (Claire, Bailey, Abby, and I) was to be styled by the rest, in her own clothes, with NO OBJECTIONS whatsoever. We spent the afternoon touring house-to-house and tearing each other's closets apart. The hope was that with other people styling, our clothes and closets would take on fresh perspectives. Maybe we could learn a thing or two. Here’s each girl’s take on the process:

Claire: “I thought it was interesting to see how we interacted with each other's closets! The styling process put a completely different perspective on each girl’s clothes. We would select pieces that instantly stood out to us but the owner rarely touched. My favorite item in my closet is a black maxi dress, and I picked up the silver version (the one I was styled in) when I found it on sale, but I’ve only worn it once or twice. I was stuck on how to style it, but the girls made it fun and easy by adding a graphic tank and a choker that I made when I was five. I highly recommend letting your fashionable friends take a look at your closet!”

Darcy: “I didn’t realize how difficult the whole ‘without protest’ part of this challenge would be for me. I was totally game to be styled by my more fashionable friends, but I had no idea what I was in for. Having my own sense of style never seemed that important to me (I always thought I was a bit erratic in my taste, always down to try something new) but inviting Abby, Claire, and Bailey into my closet definitely changed my perspective. Abby kept trying to get me into a “vest” but I had to tell her that while that may work for her body type, it would just leave me looking frumpier than usual. I also got a lot of flack for my love of neutral tones and my hesitancy about mixing patterns. They eventually landed on an old shirt I hadn’t worn in months and spiced it up with some of my great-grandmother’s old brooches. Then, to complete the whole ‘walking picnic table’ look they tied some of my favorite bandanas to my wrist. I never would have seen bandanas as bracelets. All in all, I appreciated looking at my style through different eyes, but ultimately I learned to trust in my own taste. I’m the only one who knows what works best for me.”

Bailey: “In the beginning, my biggest fears regarding a closet swap were revolved around my friends seeing my messy room. After I came to terms with the fact that they didn't particularly care (maybe thanks to the quick, panicked clean up I did beforehand), I realized that the bigger issue at hand was my reluctance to give up control and let my friends style me. I took it all without any vocal complaints, but on the inside I really struggled with my outfit choice. They chose a patterned skirt for me that I had recently seen on a very pretty and very curvy actress on Riverdale, and to say that it didn't fit me the same way as it did her is an understatement. Pairing it with a thrifted red striped button down didn't make me feel much better, though I don't doubt the whole outfit would look better on any one of them. The outfit just wasn't really me, despite the fact that the two pieces came directly from my closet."

Abby: “Considering the goal of the closet swap, all in all, we failed miserably. Those being styled objected to new combinations. Those styling got worn out quickly. Each outfit looked unmistakably like something the wearer would wear. By the end, the process seemed more like a chore than a creative collaboration. In fact, there was little collaboration as each outfit tended to be dominated by one person (in some cases the one being styled). This is such a testament to how personal style is. Asking someone to wear something they wouldn’t normally is asking them to be someone they’re not. Furthermore, asking them to wear their own piece in a way they wouldn’t normally is asking them to betray the relationship they’ve forged with that piece. While this exploration can be a phenomenal tool to learning more about yourself while expanding your style perspective, it proves to be incredibly difficult. As I was the last to be styled, my stylists were exhausted. I ended up pointing out the outfit pictured and, relieved, they agreed.”