Stay Warm and Cozy this Holiday Season

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

This week, I’m cleaning and getting ready for a visit from my family along with a Thanksgiving trip to see even more family. But as excited as I am for the upcoming holiday season, I have to be honest: I’m also cold. Like, my fingers could be used as ice packs cold. You see, my house is older and not well-insulated at all. So tea, blankets, sweaters, slippers and a warm dog are pretty intrical parts of my holiday decorating.

Warm up with along with me as we take a little peek into my winter world, which includes these fuzzy sponsored slippers from Isotoner with 360 Surround Comfort™. With everything going on, a cozy respite from the holiday happenings is just what’s needed don’t you think?

No other slipper has all-around memory foam that hugs your feet! It’s a lifesaver when you want to stay warm and cozy in the winter. Other brands may have memory foam in the sole, but this has it all throughout the shoe design. And they’re cute enough to pair with even a fancy party outfit (they are called the Microsuede Basil Hoodback if you want to snag your own with my discount code)!

There’s no reason not to be warm and comfortable while dressed in your holiday best. I thought that the gray slipper design looked good with my red and cream wool sweater-skirt combo that I’m wearing to a sorority alumnae service event tonight. One of my holiday traditions is giving back in some way, so my alumnae chapter is assembling birthday bags for foster children in our area. I’ll wear my slippers while we work!

They’re the perfect go-to indoor footwear for any occasion and make a great gift for pretty much anyone. I know from experience that it can take hours to make shopping lists, find the right stores, buy and ship gifts. And after all that you might end up gifting something useless that goes to waste. So I like the idea of finally finding a gift that can be good for anyone, since it’s comfy and super useful! I like quality items that seem like they will last, because that’s best for the environment, and these fit that requirement. If you’re curious about the brand or want to shop ASAP, check them out here.

Other equally cute styles include the Marisol Closed Back. Ya really can’t lose!

Dog-approved. Now if only he would fetch them…

 

REI Outdoor Adventures Moonlight SUP tour

Moonlight SUP Redwood City CaliforniaThis post is sponsored by REI but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.

Won’t you come out tonight and SUP by the light of the moon! I can honestly say I never thought I would stand-up paddleboard (SUP) on the San Francisco Bay at night. But last weekend, with the help of REI, I did. The brand had me register for a guided outdoor class of my choosing and bring a friend. I have to tell you, when I chose the Moonlight Stand-Up Paddleboard tour out of Redwood City, I was not wild about going out on the bay at night! The idea of darkness, deep water, unknown sea creatures and shipping boats was a little, shall we say, unsettling. But I wanted to try a new experience, and once I got out on the gentle lull of the water my uneasiness disappeared completely under the starlight.

Gear for Stand-Up Paddleboarding in the Bay

REI took all the stress out of trying a new experience. All we had to do was show up with and they took care of everything else including showing us where to park, providing gear and instruction, and guiding the tour. They brought a big van with boards, paddles, PFDs, headlamps, jackets and wetsuits. There was a kayak tour at the same time–see all the tours offered in your area!

If you’re wondering what to wear stand up paddleboarding, it depends on the time of year and location. This was at night in the cold bay, so I wore my nylon/spandex leggings, old sneakers, a wool long sleeve shirt with an activewear vest, a wetsuit top (provided by REI) and a windbreaker. I’m always concerned about being warm and dry enough, and these things did the trick. REI does paddle boarding tours all winter, our instructor Hayley said, they just supply more layers!

Stand-up Paddleboarding in Redwood City

First we practiced paddling around the Marina, which I’d been to once before for sailing. It definitely looked different by moonlight and by paddleboard. The wind dies with the sunset, so it was a glassy surface for the most part. SUP is definitely an arm workout and it requires lots of balancing muscles throughout the body, but without wind it was accessible enough for beginners. The group was intimately sized–our tour was limited to five participants and one instructor. It was open to different levels of participation–two of our group members owned boards and were comfortable in advanced paddling conditions. My adventure partner had never paddled before, and I had only gone a few times (on lakes in Minnesota). I’m happy to say that no one fell in (including me, and I’ve taken accidental swims off of stand-up paddleboards in the past).

My Experience with REI’s Outdoor Adventures

We paddled by the light of the harvest moon (the full moon closest to the start of fall). Hayley was so very knowledgeable and kept us entertained the whole time with facts about the area, the ecosystem, and, when prompted by me, the most fascinating things that have happened to her while paddleboarding (In New Zealand, she paddled under the milky way through bioluminescent plankton into a glow worm cave. In California, she had a close-up encounter with a whale).

When a fish jumped on Hayley’s board, that was the closest wildlife encounter we had on our SUP tour. Leopard sharks are the only sharks to venture this far down the bay, she assured us. She had us paddle close to a cement seawall to look for crabs, barnacles and anemones there. We also peered into the water with our headlamps to look for fish.

After we left the marina, Hayley led us beyond the buoys and across to Bair Island which provided shelter from the the (very light) wind. I learned that Bair Island is one of the only uninhabited islands in the Bay Area. After floating a bit and taking a break to sit on our boards and drink water, we paddled back across the bay to look at houseboats and then finished the night back at the marina. Hayley was always making sure we were comfortable and not getting too cold or tired, and she adjusted the tour based on our needs which I really appreciated.

See all the tours REI offers! 

Here, you can see me pointing out the general part of the Bay we were in:Truly, stand-up paddleboarding is a way to connect with nature on a deeper level. We were just steps away from Highway 101 and mere miles from one of the biggest cities in the world, but it was like being on a different planet. It was peaceful, dark and remote. We didn’t see any other boats moving on the water except for the kayak tour that embarked the same time as us. The moon provided more light than I expected and we looked for constellations and planets.

I left the experience grateful for having experienced the Bay in a whole new way. Paddleboarding is a graceful outdoor experience that gets you super close to the water, and if you haven’t tried it I recommend it highly!

 

REI offers plenty of other options besides paddleboarding in the San Francisco Bay Area and other cities, including hiking, cycling, nature photography and kayak trips to see whales and otters. I have no doubt they are all as quality as the one I experienced. The nighttime adventures especially are easy to fit into a busy weekend. Instructors don’t push you to purchase any gear or anything but they do try to prepare you to continue the sport on your own independently. Discover a tour for yourself by clicking here.

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!

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