The Rich Life On a Budget

10 Easy Looks with 1 Basic Foundation

I knew it was time to break out of my latest fashion rut of a big sweater, rolled up skinny jeans and ankle booties when a friend told me she was meeting me for lunch dressed like “the rich life” and showed up wearing that very outfit.

While the jeans-sweater-bootie combination will stay on my style rotation, I decided I was ready to stretch beyond the predictable and try something new and something feminine that didn’t involve jeans.

To me, new sometimes means complicated and I am not a fan of complicated. So I came up with a way to create several outfits – that don’t include jeans – using what I call a Basic Foundation, then adding other clothes, footwear and accessories to create new looks. This has been my go-to method for creating a variety of outfits ranging from dressy to casual these last few weeks.

I started with my Basic Foundation outfit – a black scoop-neck tee by J. Crew, a black pull-on knit skirt by Stella Carakasi and black tights – then added jackets, coats, sweaters, scarves, jewelry and a variety of footwear to come up with 10 Easy Looks with 1 Basic Foundation.


#1 Add a Poncho

Casey of Mason Street Designs named these sweaters Luxe Pullover Wraps, but they are also ponchos – very luxurious, versatile and comfortable ponchos. I have two and I love them – one in Light Heather Gray and one in Taupe. I like to accessorize my ponchos with a long necklace and sometimes, if it’s cold out, I will wrap a black pashmina a couple times around my neck.  My gorgeous leather tote is by Adora.


#2 Dress it Up

Put on a dressy jacket, your fanciest shoes, and some blingy jewelry and grab an evening bag on the way out the door and you’ve got an evening look that starts with a Basic Foundation. This brocade coat was one of my luckier consignment finds. Shoes from Sole Society, necklace from a boutique in Sonoma and bag from Goodwill.


#3 Wear a Short Jacket 

Adding a short jacket is a simple way to add color, texture, pattern or all three to a Basic Foundation. I grabbed this great kimono style jacket, bought a couple of years ago on consignment, and accessorized with my black Adora bag and Evil Eye necklace from Michal Golan.


#4 Wear a Cape

I cozied up with my camel colored Royal Alpaca cape from Montecristi Panama Hat Company of Napa Valley and added the medallion necklace I wore in #2 and my very old Louis Vuitton Alma bag. This outfit says easy luxury to me.


#5 Layer with a Sweater

I layered my Basic Foundation with one of my favorite  Stella Carakasi sweaters, the Sublime Sweater. I love that I can create a totally different fall or winter look just by pulling a sweater over my head!


 #6 Tie on a Large Scarf 

This vibrant plaid, extra large tissue-weight scarf is one of my favorites. I bought on a whim at a boutique in Sonoma a few years ago. For this look, I folded the scarf in half into a triangle shape and tied it around my shoulders. I think it took all of 90 seconds! I brought out the cobalt blue in the scarf with my blue Adora bag.


 #7 Wear a Long Sweater Vest 

This Stella Carakasi Go-Getter Vest really gets a work out. I wore it all summer long, and now I am wearing it frequently with my Basic Foundation. I styled this look with my new Kate Spade Cedar Street Elissa tote, an early Valentine’s Day gift from my husband,  a tassel necklace by Vince Camuto (similar) and Boden booties.


#8 Edge it Up

Nothing says edgy better than leather clothing and accessories. I wore my very favorite leather jacket that I bought in San Gimignano, Italy with La Canadienne combat boots and a Kenneth Cole bag (very old). My necklace was a gift from Tamera Beardsley. I feel very powerful in this outfit.


#9 Dress it Down

Throw on a jean jacket, cozy scarf (this one’s by Madewell) and some oxfords for a casual, comfortable look, ideal for running errands or heading to a coffee shop to read or meet a friend.


#10 Go for Boho

I love boho style, it’s so casual and laid back. I added a long sweater coat by Free People (similar) to my Basic Foundation and topped it off with a boho hat from Montecristi Panama Hat Company of Napa Valley. I carried my black Adora bag and accessorized with long beaded necklace from La Brocante in Sonoma.


Can you believe how easy that was?

I created 10 completely different outfits using just 1 basic foundation and minimal effort!


A reminder that How I Wear My: Long Necklace is coming up fast. Submit a photo of you in your long necklace look (600 pix wide for best resolution) along with a brief description of your outfit to by February 2nd. Visit the How I Wear My page for more information.

How I Wear My Badge

You may remember that I attended the inaugural G3 Women’s Conference last fall. I loved it so much, I am attending the next one coming up in March. Starting Monday, January 26th, the founders are conducting a contest to win a general admission ticket, valued at $699! Visit the G3 Win a Ticket page for details on how to enter (they’ll be up first thing Monday morning) and like their Facebook page to stay up to date with all things G3. Hope to see you there!


 I’m linking up with Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style.



Make it a rich day!



Calistoga Getaway to Brannan Cottage Inn

I have been traveling rather frequently these days – travel is a true love of mine – and noticed that I’m writing about my trips about once a week. I thought I would make Fridays all about travel, whether it’s a hotel review, tips on packing, or a short guide to a particular town in the wine country, Fridays are now Rich Life Travel Fridays!

For my first Rich Life Travel Friday, I am sharing my recent Calistoga Getaway to Brannan Cottage Inn. 


Calistoga is much more than just a refreshing bottled mineral water. It’s a charming town with a fascinating history and lots to do and see for locals and tourists alike.

Located at the northern end of Napa Valley, Calistoga is a charming and quaint town and many would agree, the most laid back and relaxed of all the towns. It’s the ideal wine country getaway – a great place to unwind, explore and enjoy all this quaint town has to offer.


We did just that a couple of weekends ago. The lovely people at Brannan Cottage Inn offered to put an itinerary together for us. How could we say anything but yes?

Our first stop, after arriving in Calistoga on a crisp January day, was Sharpsteen Museum. Open daily, this museum is a real treat for visitors.  The Sharpsteen Museum was a project of Ben and Bernice Sharpsteen who lived in the area. Ben had a successful career as an animator and producer for Disney and even won an Academy Award.


Sharpsteen offers self-guided tours for visitors. But we arrived at the right time and were lucky enough to have an impromptu tour by Jo, one of the dedicated and very knowledgeable volunteers. First, we visited the room with many of Ben Sharpteen’s creations for Disney and a case full of accolades including his Academy Award.

In the next room, Jo showed us a 30 foot diorama depicting the original Hot Springs resort of Calistoga

Sam Brannan developed Hot Springs Resort in the 1860’s after visiting the area’s natural hot springs. He was a publisher, promoter, entrepreneur and California’s first millionaire. And he gave Calistoga its name – a combination of California and Saratoga in New York, a popular destination in the 1860s. You can read more about Brannan’s colorful and productive life here.


Entering the Victorian home section of the Sharpsteen Museum is like stepping back in time 150 years. Three rooms in the home remain in tact – a bedroom, a parlor and a dining room – and depict what Victorian life was like in California in the 1860’s.


The Victorian era lacked the technological toys that keep us busy today in our free time. They spent their leisure time playing musical instruments, embroidering, sewing clothes, reading and creating art with human hair. Yes, that was a thing as exhibited here. Victorian women would weave the hair of family members, sometimes including their own, and create intricate pieces of jewelry or wreaths, as seen at the Sharpsteen Museum.  You can read more about this fascinating craft in this interesting article.


Once we concluded our tour, we stopped off for a quick lunch, then headed into the hills outside Calistoga Jericho Canyon Vineyard. It’s a family owned winery on 135 acres of steep hills, winding creeks, oak trees and 40 acres of vineyards.


Tara Hole was our guide. She is a brilliant – and I do mean brilliant – young woman with a passion for enology, viticulture and anything having to do with the art of making wine. I learned more about the intricacies of wine making and grape growing in the hour we spent with her than I ever thought possible.

Tara took us to the top of a hilly vineyard, then showed us the breathtaking view across the canyon. The Bleechers now live in the villa on top of the hill but raised their children, now adults, in the small farmhouse below.


A redwood winery, seen above, leads to a 6000 square-foot cave where we had our private tasting with Tara Hole. Well-known for their Cabernet Sauvignon, Jericho Canyon wines are all fantastic. I couldn’t leave without bottles of their Rosé and Sauvignon Blanc. I am saving them for a very special occasion and will savor each and every sip!


Before we left, I had to say goodbye to these two cuties. Every winery needs at least one adorable dog. Jericho Canyon has two!


After our tasting and tour at Jericho Canyon, we headed back to the town of Calistoga and checked into Brannan Cottage Inn. We were greeted by Kathleen, who gave us a tour of the property. Recently renovated, this quaint and abundantly charming inn has six rooms, four in the main building and two in the smaller building behind it.


The lobby is charming and inviting. It has such an historical feel, yet it’s all fresh and modern.


A rare 1880 Guild Church & Co. square grand piano sits just off the main lobby area. Guests are welcome to play their favorite tunes. I decided to spare everyone my rendition of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and just enjoy the craftsmanship of this beauty.


Kathleen told us that Brannan Cottage Inn is a luxury historical property, one of a handful left in Calistoga in its original location, part of the luxury Hot Springs Resort built in 1862 by Sam Brannan.

Newly remodeled, it has retained its Victorian charm and acquired all the bells and whistles of 2015. Rooms are chicly decorated with fabulous wall paper, stylish decor accessories like light fixtures and window treatments that mix seamlessly with antique furnishings.


Our room, a Deluxe King, was tucked away behind the main building.


With heated bathroom floors, luxury Frette linens and robes, a plush and irresistible bed, local shuttle service and high-end bath products, we felt well taken care of. It was hard to leave our gorgeous and comfortable room to venture out!


We decided to unwind in our lovely room with a glass of Napa Valley’s finest. With restaurants, art galleries, shopping, tasting rooms, spas and more within walking distance – plus a shuttle. – there is no need to drive. Conveniently located, Brannan Cottage Inn is only steps from the main thoroughfare, Lincoln Avenue but tucked away in a quiet and peaceful residential neighborhood.


Soon it as time to go out for dinner. We walked down to the other end of Calistoga, a few blocks, to historical Calistoga Inn. I felt like comfort food and ordered the short ribs with mashed potatoes. It was delicious and such a large portion, I took some home with me and put it in our room’s refrigerator.


Bill and I  shared an apple crisp with ice cream for dessert. We loved the romantic ambiance, charming decor, and friendly and attentive staff. Calistoga Inn is owned and operated by a mother and son team. They also have a brewery with a lovely patio area, ideal for relaxing outside when the weather is nice and enjoy a beer with lunch or dinner


We returned to our room at Brannan Cottage Inn, a bit excited to unwind in luxury after a fun-filled day. We both slept soundly and deeply. I tell you, we didn’t hear a thing and the bed was heavenly!

The next morning, we made Illy coffees in our room, turned on the fireplace across from our bed then heated up the bathroom floors before getting ready for the day ahead. Every day should start like that, don’t you think?


But before that, we had to stop off in the lobby to try the special coffee provided each day for guests of the inn. Kathleen raved about it and we just had to have one more cup of joe before we left for the morning. Yo el Rey Roasting is located just a short walk from Brannan Cottage Inn. Their coffee is delicious, rich and it’s fair trade – everything I like in a cup of coffee!


Our first stop of the morning was Cafe Sarafornia. This lively breakfast and lunch restaurant spot on Lincoln Avenue is a local and tourist favorite. Owner, Drake, sat down with us while we had our breakfast and told us that their delicious oatmeal –  that I greatly enjoyed – was made to order rather than left to sit in a pot all day. A sign of a restaurant that knows how to make great food!


After breakfast we were off to our mud and mineral bath appointment at Baths Roman Spa. Calistoga is known around the world for its mud bath treatments. They are not everyone’s cup of tea but I like them. It was Bill’s first time trying one and he said he found it relaxing and enjoyed the feeling of being suspended.

After a 20 minute soak, we showered off the mud, then relaxed in a mineral bath for another 20 minutes. My skin felt so soft and smooth afterwards.

For the finale, I was treated to a divine 50-minute massage. Gina, my massage therapist, was wonderful and really took note of my preferences. I will be seeing her again for sure for relief from my sore shoulders and back.


Once our treatments at Roman Spa concluded, we packed our things and headed home. We had a truly wonderul stay at Brannan Cottage Inn. It’s the ideal place to stay in Calistoga combining history, modern amenities, a great location and superb hospitality. And it makes the ideal place for a wine country wedding or private event. Find out more on their Events page.


Right now, Brannan Cottage Inn is offering a Valentine’s Day getaway special. The “Olive My Valentine” includes:

~ Newly renovated and romantic luxury accommodations for two

~ Welcome amenity: Calistoga Olive Oil Company EVOO and Balsamic gift set

~ Side-by-side mud or mineral treatments for two at Baths at Roman Spa (Monday -Thursday only)

~ Complimentary beer tastings at The Calistoga Inn, Restaurant & Brewery with purchase of dinner for two

Doesn’t that sound fun and romantic?

For reservations and pricing inquiries, please visit or call (707) 942-4200.

Make it a rich day!



Disclosure: My stay at Brannan Cottage Inn, wine tasting and tour at Jericho Canyon Vineyard, dinner at Calistoga Inn, breakfast at Cafe Sarafornia and our treatments at Roman Spa were all complimentary. All opinions expressed here are, as always, my own.