Stylish Eco-Friendly Living

Eco-friendly doesn’t mean losing out on style.

Think Eco-friendly doesn’t equal aesthetically pleasing? Think again. Something as simple as stylish reusable shopping bags can be a fashion statement, not a fashion fail.

Here’s my outfit from Tech Fashion Week (reader selected by you!) plus a farmer’s market friendly tote bag. It shows that fashionable and Eco-friendly can coexist.

Non-ugly reusable shopping bags

California has a plastic bag ban, which makes sense because the Pacific Ocean doesn’t need any more plastic bags floating in it.

When I think of reusable shopping bags, I think of the free scratchy-fabric promotional totes given out at conferences and vendor fairs. Luckily, they’re not all like that. See why.

Cute reusable shopping bags

My roommate got the Marks and Spencer tote pictured above while she was living in London. I like to keep a packable nylon tote in my purse like these  from Kate Spade so I’ll never be stuck without a bag when I need one. The are washable and the nylon holds up well. It makes a good lunch bag, too.

Thrifted white tulle and lace skirt

I found the white skirt at Goodwill of Silicon Valley for $8! I linked to some similar skirts at the end of this post so you don’t have to scour your local thrift shops. Like reusable shopping totes, secondhand shopping is good for the environment because it keeps clothing out of landfills.  I do a mix of secondhand and new clothes. Like going green with your pet and gardening to save the bees, it’s all about small, doable actions to be more Eco-friendly.

Small ways to be stylishly green

Borrowing clothes is great too — just check out these gorgeous shoes that are definitely not mine but I loved wearing them!

Outfit Details

White Skirt – Jealous Tomato. Scored at Goodwill of Silicon Valley for $8!

Jacket – Anthropologie – newest style here

Shoes – Betsey Johnson

Exploring South Dakota’s Black Hills

Thanks to the South Dakota Department of Tourism for sponsoring this post. I’m excited to share part 1 of my recent cross-country road trip with you!

Leaving Home

Arriving at the Badlands as the sun turned the rock formations to gold was therapeutic, to end a long day’s journey with such a beautiful destination.

History of the Badlands

I picked up all the brochures about the Badlands because the history of the place is so interesting. The Lakota Sioux and the French settlers both called the place the Badlands in their respective languages. After driving through the flat expanse of South Dakota, to find this serene change in the cartography is stirring. It’s been described as otherworldly, and I have to agree. There’s plenty of history within the Black Hills region as a whole as well. The South Dakota Board of Tourism can help you plan a history-rich visit.

The following day we saw Mount Rushmore, which is a must see if you’re in the area, but there’s also so much more to the Black Hills region. Other destinations the area include Devils Tower and more. We had so much ground to cover on the journey we could only spend one night, but there was absolutely more to see so take your time in the Badlands region.

Dog Friendly Badlands, South Dakota

Bringing a dog? Perry was allowed on the trails with us, which isn’t the case at all National Parks. But keep pets leashed at all times! You can see the sign in the photo warning about rattlesnakes. I did observe a few places that looked like a place a rattlesnake would like to live. We were happy to find plenty of dog friendly choices for places to stay as well. This link has a dog friendly itinerary for the Black Hills and more info on places to stay.

Like these pics? Follow me on Instagram for more!

Fourth of July in the Black Hills

If you want to do something incredibly memorable for Independence Day this year, I found out by peeking at the event calendar that the Black Hills Rodeo is held that weekend, complete with a fireworks show. It says that most of the little towns in the area have their own Fourth of July festivals, which sounds so quaintly full of Americana I want to drive right back for it!

Save money on National Parks entry fees

One of the appealing things about vacationing in the Black Hills is the amount of memorable activities to do on a budget. If Badlands National Park (where all these photos were taken) is on your itinerary, you can save with an annual pass. We bought the America the Beautiful pass at the park gate, because we knew that would be seeing more parks on the journey. If you’re traveling with an American citizen who is over 62, they qualify for a lifetime pass to all the National Parks for only $10, so make sure to take advantage of that! We met quite a few retired folks on the journey who had the senior pass. There are also free passes available for U.S. Military, individuals with disabilities and 4th grade students.

I’m definitely yearning to see more of the beautiful United States now. Stay tuned for more about my cross country trip.

What to Wear – Get the Look

Chi Chi London Dress Review

Formal and Fancy

Today I’m sharing what is quite possibly my favorite dress yet. It’s from Chi Chi London out of the U.K. This dress comes in many other lovely colors including white and blue, navy, and cream. I think it looks very striking in every color! This Chi Chi London dress review post is not sponsored in any way, I just couldn’t contain my love for this dress. I have included shoppable links that earn a few cents per click. As I often say, it’s a paper doll-sized amount!

Story of My Dress

The story behind this dress is that I needed it last year to be onstage. This dress had the right amount of modesty and frill that I was looking for! It’s so elegant and princessy. If you have a chance to try a Chi Chi London dress, do! I think this style would be appropriate for many weddings, military balls, and other formal events depending on the dress code for the occasion.

Chi Chi London Dress Review

If you read reviews of this dress, there are only two critical things that people mention. One is that the lace at the bodice is floppy and doesn’t stick to your skin. You can see this in the picture above. I didn’t mind it to be honest. It’s just part of the dress. If you wanted to, you could use a small adhesive fashion tape to hold it into place, but then it would cover the collarbone so I don’t think it’s truly necessary. The other review I’ve seen is that the lace is a bit itchy. I could feel the lace, but again it wasn’t a deal breaker. I hate itchy fabrics, and I didn’t mind this dress.

Vintage Inspired Lace

The skirt is also very poufy! It has several layers of tulle underneath. I almost cut out a couple layers because I felt like a cupcake! But as you can tell from the photos, it’s just part of the silhouette, which has a lovely retro appeal.

Shop the Look

I’ve compiled some of my favorite similar styles below. The style in my photos above is sold at Modcloth under the name Exquisite Elegance Lace Dress, at Asos, and directly from Chi Chi London. 

Colorful Summer Entertaining

Thanks for Sparkling Ice for sponsoring this post. Words, photos and opinions are all by me.

This is one of the first posts I’ve written from California, and wanna know one thing I really love about this place? There are no mosquitoes here, you guys. None! You can sit outside into the evening without risking your life to the bugs. So let’s celebrate that! When you’re hosting a gathering (or a get-together, as they say in the Midwest), you want it to be colorful, engaging and memorable. And since my California house has a backyard with a dining area, here’s a display I made for an evening on the patio last night.

Refreshments for all

While on a family trip as a teenager in a very hippie west coast town, I found a book about clean eating and natural beauty. I read the whole thing, because I was wild teen with a bustling social life and was not at all nerdy.

This book was a real joy killer, because it talked about how we all must give up sugar and anything indulgent to be healthy and beautiful. Instead of soda, you could learn to enjoy plain sparkling water with a dash of juice.

Who would ever want to live like that? I thought. What a sad, sad existence.

But fast forward a decade, and it happened to me. I never touch soda (pop for my MN readers– love ya!). Instead I reach for sparkling water drinks. Now I drink it, well, like water.

Sparkling Ice is a drink that will please all your guests, from the health conscious to those who need something a bit more, shall we say, flavorful.  It’s flavored and sweet, but without the sugar of other sparkling beverages so it would make a great soda replacement. And it’s caffeine free, which I appreciate. Grab it for a picnic, for lunch, or for your awesome summer adventures I know you’re busy planning! Get it easily in time for your parties and events on Amazon.

Cute drink ware

Grab those canning jars I know you have and add a decorative straw made of paper. Paper straws are not only decorative, they biodegrade and don’t hurt wildlife in the ocean! I just love when Eco-friendly and decor-friendly intersect, don’t you?

For an Instagram-worthy drink, I added fruit slices to color coordinate with the fruit flavored water. 

Watermelon skewers

Healthy, colorful and tasty! Skewered triangular slices are easier to eat and they look great on a platter. The skewers are biodegradable as well, so toss ’em in the compost.

 

Simple charcuterie board

A charcuterie board with various meats and cheeses is an easy way to make a dish with a pretty presentation. Adding a sprig of rosemary is a time-honored tradition, as well as a cluster of grapes or handful of blueberries. I like to add something unexpected, such as sliced peppers for a little color and flavor. The end result looks fancy, but it’s actually just cheese on a wooden cutting board. Congrats, you just leveled up to Hosting Level: Expert.

Last minute decorating details

I made this centerpiece (and I use that term loosely here) with the flowers I bought and hadn’t gotten around to planting yet. Who says procrastination doesn’t pay off?

Pop on a vintage apron or other colorful apron for some more fun color. Plus you can wipe your hands on it when they inevitably get sticky from rearranging the watermelon skewer tray. Win!

Need more hosting ideas? Try a tropical dip recipe that’s a colorful crowd pleaser.

The flavors used in this post are Kiwi Strawberry, Pineapple Coconut and Pink Grapefruit but there are tons more – find your favorite flavor here.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my summer hosting tips! Use them to add a little color and flavor to the table and help distract people from the fact that your backyard, like ours, might be covered in pine needles and garden hoses.

Are you a sparkling water or fruit flavored water drinker? Tell us in the comments 🙂

You don’t need a DSLR camera. Here’s why.

The perfect camera for bloggers

One of the most frequently asked questions I get is “what camera do you use?” I’m asked about it a lot when I’m out shooting at events. It’s so small, it looks like a point and shoot. But it’s not–it’s an Olympus mirrorless micro four-thirds model. It has the functionality of a DSLR, but at a fraction of the size. I think it’s the perfect camera for bloggers (and many other photographers!).

What it’s like to use a mirrorless camera

Here’s what it’s really like to shoot with a mirrorless camera and why for the time being I’m truly happy with this choice. Whether you’re a blogger looking to upgrade your camera or just getting more into photography, here’s what you need to know.

The size.

For me, this is the number one reason why I go the mirrorless route. I just can’t lug around a DSLR and its gear without getting a major neck ache. But with my Olympus, I can throw it in my purse and go to any event. It’s so portable and light.

You know when you see someone with a full frame DSLR and you’re like, “they must be a photographer.” That’s just not going to happen when you’re shooting with a dinky thing that doesn’t even look like it can switch lenses. This can be good and bad depending on the situation. If you travel a lot, a lighter and less expensive-looking camera might be perfect for you. Just some things to think about!

The brand.

I’ve been pretty happy with the Olympus line, which includes a range of cameras from the lower end model I usually shoot with up to pricier camera bodies. Sony is also really well known for its mirrorless line, which one of my fashion photographers used in this shoot–take a look at how well it does!

Some of my other fashion photos are taken by an Olympus EP3 and an Olympus EM-1:

The price.

It seems like you’d be saving money by buying a smaller camera, but sadly this is not really the case. The cost is pretty similar to a starter level DSLR kit–or even a little bit more.

Performance.

Now it’s not a perfect camera. I’m not satisfied with how the Olympus performs in low light, but for many blogging related needs it’s great.

With a prime lens, I can get depth of field for close-up shots for my blog.

It’s also great for taking flat lays for Instagram.

Of course, DSLR cameras are still a great choice. My outfit posts shot by pro photographers are done with DSLR and I used one on my summer cross country road trip. The majority of bloggers I know shoot with the Canon line, and I’ve heard nothing but positive reviews. With DSLRs getting smaller and lighter, I may consider getting one down the road. I just want you to be aware that there is a viable alternative for both beginning bloggers and more advanced photographers that I recommend for its portability.

Camera style

Just for fun, here are some camera bags and camera-themed accessories worth checking out.

Which camera do you use? Let me know in the comments!

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