California’s Most Instagrammable Inn

Are you looking for a photo op location in California, or maybe just a very interesting hotel venue? Or, like us, maybe just looking for a place to stop between the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles. I discovered the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo through a photographer’s website and I knew immediately it would be worth a look. It’s a mid-century hotel decorated in Bavarian-inspired design set on a ranch hillside in central California.

While driving to Disneyland, we stopped there for lunch. Immediately I knew I would like the place, as everything is lavishly decorated and a bit over-the-top. There is so much attention to detail here, even pink sugar packets with the Madonna Inn logo. There was a lot of pink everywhere, in fact. Upstairs are two shops, downstairs is a restaurant and a bar, so the space caters to people who are just passing through as well as hotel guests.

Since I haven’t stayed here I cannot vouch for the accommodations, but the common areas of the hotel seemed nice. It was a nice place to rest on the long drive between the cities of San Francisco and LA. It was kind of a perfect prelude to Disneyland actually, because the inn reminds me of Fantasyland. The architecture and design is straight out of Beauty and the Beast or Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Just across the parking lot is a pasture of friendly cows too.

Everything in this place begs to be photographed, from the wood interior of the restaurants to the pink plush chairs of the dining room. Outside, we were able to walk around and check out the beautiful white staircases and terraces that look out over a surprisingly beautiful landscape, for being so close to I-5.

I tried to practice being a carefree California girl. Did I nail it?

This is a little treasure of a hotel destination in San Luis Obispo. It’s also a short drive to the ocean, where we stopped quickly too on the way to LA. I’d definitely recommend Madonna Inn as a place for lunch and to take photos in San Luis Obispo. I’d love to come back here sometime for an event or a hotel stay, but the bottom line is come here if you can, even just to take a look around and get some Instagram photos!

Handmade Fairy Garden Tour

Handmade fairy gardenHow to make a fairy garden

Let’s talk about making whimsical, adorable miniature gardens. Your house/yard/apartment balcony needs one of these. Ready? Let’s get started. This post contains some affiliate links for easy shopping, but you can also make a lot of things for a fairy garden for free using natural items! Whether you are ready to splurge or on a budget, if you want to DIY a handmade fairy garden or buy it ready made, we’ll explore all those options here.

Every picture in this post is from my very own fairy gardens, past and present, that were featured on Midwest Living and Minnesota Parent. 

Find the perfect place for a fairy garden

A front yard fairy garden runs the risk of garden accessories deciding to walk off in the middle of the night, but it also has potential to bring joy to people who pass by. I hand painted this door and added glass gems. Set against a rock, it’s an out of the way surprise for only the observant to discover.

Handmade fairy garden

Did you know people have been making fairy gardens out of rocks and twigs on the East Coast for decades? It’s a tradition I first read about in the book Fairy Gardens of the Maine Coast. I bought the book my senior year of college and was enchanted.

The rise of fairy gardening

Fairy Gardens grew in popularity in recent years. All you have to do is walk into a craft or garden store and buy ready-made houses, bridges, figurines, garden benches, etcetera for your little garden. Seriously, anything you want you can find. Do your fairies want to live in cottage? You can buy them one. Need a fairy-sized terrarium? Easy:

Fairy Garden Tour

After writing about the trend for multiple magazines, I wanted to start my own garden. It’s a mix of handmade things and store bought ornaments. I even found a rock path and a little house at an estate sale. Let me show you around.

Fairy Garden Design Ideas

Here I placed a marble in a miniature bird bath, with a little cottage in the background. A pine cone forest surrounds it, with ivy plants and upcycled tile steps leading up to the house.

Handmade fairy garden

Fairy Garden on a Budget

A store bought house, purchased on sale at a craft store, set on a mossy hill with stone steps. A miniature flower pot houses a petite plant. Want to save big on store bought miniatures? Late summer is the perfect time to score savings on end-of-season fairy items!

Handmade fairy garden

Handmade Fairy Garden

Of course, one of the best ways to save is by making your own items. A cardboard cutout creates the door in this fairy tree, with a broken ceramic piece as the knob! A handmade fairy garden can be highly whimsical and a great test of creativity.

handmade fairy garden

Do you have a fairy garden? Do you prefer handmade fairy decorations or store bought?

Handmade fairy garden

Summer in Pacifica

Pacifica is a pretty, beach town destination just south of San Francisco that’s popular for surfing. When I pictured going to Pacifica, I envisioned the whole Instagrammable scene unfolding like this: me, sitting on the warm, soft sand in a light breeze for hours in the shade of my sun hat.

That didn’t exactly happen. Why? Because it’s not SoCal, that’s why. Pacifica in the summer is windy, chilly and best experienced in a wetsuit. I’m not a Pacific coast newbie by any means, but I’m honestly still a little disappointed by the lack of warm beach weather in NorCal. But I did manage to get some pictures of the coast, the wildflowers and my straw hat (a summer must-have essential).

The views from Pacifica are lovely, as are the sunsets. It’s a great little daytime destination when you want to get away from San Francisco.

Note: the front of this pink tee is so cute–It’s in the last picture so scroll down to see it!

Notice that I’m wearing a fleece in this next picture…in the middle of summer. Ha, you win this round, windy NorCal beach weather. And here’s another hot tip: stick a few bobby pins through that straw hat to keep it on in the wind.

Wildflower season in California

Spring through early summer in California has pretty wildflowers. It’s the dry season, so the pops of purple and yellow really stand out.

When I started traveling to National Parks last year, I began collecting patches to commemorate the parks I’d visited. I thought of affixing them to a bag or jean jacket as I’d seen some other parks patrons do, but I couldn’t find the right piece to put them on. The solution became clear–the dog would have to display them on his jacket. Perfecto.

Summer outfit details

A special shoutout to Parc in Minneapolis, where I bought this lovely Just Female brand tee. It looks like there’s one left in stock so someone should snag it! I’ve long loved shopping there for its ethically sourced brands, and the store will be moving neighborhoods to North Loop in downtown Minneapolis. The new location will be open soon and I can’t wait to visit.

The hat I found at DSW and I’m bummed that I can’t find it online to share with you, so I’ll use my affiliate linker to share a collection of adorable and very affordable summer hats below. I love the Anthropologie one with white flowers and I can’t believe it’s under $30!

The 13 Stages of Zero Waste Living

If you’ve read my blog you know that I like to make Earth-friendly choices whenever possible. As it turns out, there’s a name for this trend called Zero Waste. It’s where people like me aim to reduce the amount of trash they create while making more sustainable choices overall. Looking at how my own habits keep changing, I made a list of the stages a person might go through on a Zero Waste Journey. Which stage are you in?

Stage 1

What’s zero waste?

Stage 2

You learn it’s about sustainable living and think, oh, I already do a lot of that stuff. Like recycle and shop at Whole Foods. So I’m good.

Stage 3

After watching your zero waste friends bring their own utensils to restaurants, you get inspired by them and want to adopt their crunchy, hippie chic ways.

Stage 4

Now once you start, you can’t stop. You’re shopping in the bulk section, composting, and bringing reusable bags to the grocery store. You are conquering this zero waste thing! Oh honey. Little do you know, you’re just getting started.

Stage 5

When you forget your reusable bags, you pack groceries in your purse and then take five trips to hand carry the rest to the car.

Stage 6

You shudder when you see plastic straws at restaurants. Upon seeing styrofoam takeout containers, you consider leaving a scathing Yelp review.

Stage 7

You put on a disguise when you go into a fast fashion retailer, hoping no one you know will recognize you.

Stage 8

You start buying clothes by looking at the fiber content and thinking, could I compost it when it wears out? Which fabric will eventually mulch my strawberries better–strips of organic cotton or wool?

Stage 9

You notice when your friends don’t compost and offer to help them learn how. Those banana peels aren’t going to turn into soil by themselves, Karla.

Stage 10

You start picking through the trash after your housemates throw away things that don’t belong in the landfill. Congratulations, you’re a basic zero waste bum now.

Stage 11

You break the ice at parties by starting conversations about composting toilets.

Stage 12

Coincidentally you don’t have as many invitations as you used to, but you don’t notice because you’re so busy making your own body lotion, toothpaste, lip gloss and non-toxic household cleaner, perfecting your sourdough bread recipe, weeding your organic vegetable patch, installing solar panels and tending to the family of goats you just bought.

Stage 13

While on vacation, instead of souvenirs you collect filthy plastic bags blowing around the streets of San Francisco to take home and recycle. Your family might refuse to be seen with you, but at least the ocean fish will respect you and be your friend.

A Day in SoMa with Good2Go App

This post is sponsored by Good2Go but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.

Exploring SoMa, SF

I spent an afternoon getting to know the SoMa neighborhood in San Francisco. I’ve spent some time in San Francisco for work and fun–I love the Palace of Fine Arts and all the shopping. But SoMa was pretty new for me, and as it turns out it’s pretty fun to discover. I also tried out a new app that you have to hear about! Spoiler alert–it’s a totally new, high tech approach to public restrooms and I’ll review it at the end of this post–but you can get skip ahead and peek at the app first.

SoMa gets its name from its location South of Market Street. It’s easy to get to because it’s close to 4th and King where the CALtrain station is. It’s probably best known for AT&T Park where the Giants play, but there is so much more to see and do than most people know. And it’s super colorful!

Things to do in SoMa

I started out by heading to Yerba Buena Gardens by way of the Metreon, which houses a movie theatre and an extensive food court. It reminded me of train stations in Europe, where people could congregate for shopping or a bite to eat. Walk right out the doors of the Metreon and find yourself in the center of Yerba Buena Gardens, a green oasis in the city. The Martin Luther King, Jr. waterfall, tall sequoia trees and flowering gardens create a respite from the city construction and traffic. The park is surrounded by museums–literally. Its neighbors are the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Contemporary Jewish Museum, the African Diaspora Museum, the soon-to-be Mexican Museum and a historic church.

The Children’s Creativity Museum has a carousel out front and a lovely courtyard garden and playground. You could spend all day in SoMa, easily, but it’s also a quick walk to the tourist stop of Union Square which I walked to the edge of to do some shopping.

One tricky thing about day trips to metro areas is finding convenient, clean restrooms while out and about. I used the Good2Go App to see how it is solving this problem for travelers in San Francisco–and soon other cities too. So I headed to the CALtrain station on foot with the plan to use the app along the way.

Good2Go App Review

When I first heard about Good2Go I thought it was just for finding public restrooms, but it’s so much more than that. Each restroom is located in a popular business such as a restaurant or cafe, and is clean, functional and high-tech. So what was the actual experience using the app? It was cool and unexpected. I’d already downloaded it and signed up for a trial-it’s free, all you do is enter your phone number. I went to the location I’d selected, a hip little urban cafe called The Creamery, and I used the app to join the queue. The door had a scanner and when I placed the QR code the app gave me on the scanner, the door popped open to admit me. No asking the waitstaff for a grubby key on an oversized keyring that I would awkwardly hand over afterward! Revolutionary. The whole process was very techy and made me feel like I’d had a real Bay Area experience.

Inside was a single-stall bathroom that was clean. It was definitely nicer than the train station bathroom across the street. And now I learned about a new cafe I can try when I need a quick bite before hopping on a train.

Download it on the app store and Google play. 

So after you’ve navigated to your clean, high-tech bathroom, you’re good to go on to the rest of your day sightseeing more museums or riding cable cars around the city. What is your favorite area of the city?

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