I was recently in my home state of Iowa, spending time with family. The autumn weather was cool and crisp and it rained for almost nine days straight. It was the perfect weather for something cozy and warm, so I created this recipe one evening after my cousin and I went to the local pumpkin patch and picked up a few spaghetti squash. My spontaneous little meal tasted so delicious, I made it three times during my stay.
The blend of spices tastes like fall and the combination of textures is comforting. And for those with special dietary needs, it’s easy to remove the ground beef for a vegetarian option, reduce the amount of spice for sensitive palates, or switch out the cheese for a dairy-free alternative. This recipe makes enough for at least four people and we ended up with plenty of leftovers each time; I think it would make a great meal prep option!
1 lb Ground Beef
1 Packet Mild Taco Seasoning
Mild or Medium Salsa
Shredded Mexican Blend Cheese
1 Can Black Beans, Drained
1 Can Golden Corn, Drained
1 Green Bell Pepper, Chopped
1 Small White Onion, Chopped
1-2 Small Jalapeño Peppers, Sliced
1 Bunch Cilantro, Chopped
2 Roma Tomatoes, Chopped
Seasonings: Salt and Pepper, Mild Chili Powder, Cumin, and Turmeric.
Optional: Salted Tortilla Chips
Step One: Split spaghetti squash in half and scrape out seeds and pulp. Place both squash halves, inside up, in a baking pan with one inch of water in the bottom. Drizzle squash halves with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake in oven at 425ºF for one hour.
Step Two: In a large skillet, brown 1 lb ground beef with a small drizzle of olive oil, sprinkle of salt and pepper, and one packet of taco seasoning. Remove and place browned beef in a bowl and set aside. Do not drain leftover oil from skillet.
Step Three: In the same skillet, soften chopped onion, sliced jalapeños, and chopped green bell pepper with a tablespoon of salsa and a tablespoon of chopped cilantro on Medium heat. Add just a sprinkle of turmeric, cumin, and mild chili powder. Stir often for three to five minutes.
Step Four: Turn heat to Low-Med. Add one can of drained golden corn and one can drained black beans to the skillet mixture. Stir in 1 tsp. mild chili powder, 1 tsp. turmeric, and 1 tsp. cumin. Then add in the browned ground beef, mixing all the ingredients together. Taste to see if mixture is at your preferred level of spiciness and add more mild chili powder, cumin, and turmeric if needed. Turn heat to Simmer.
Step Five: Take squash out of the oven and carefully scrape out “spaghetti” with a fork into a serving bowl. To serve, place spaghetti squash on plates and top with the seasoned beef and veggie mixture. Add shredded cheese, tomatoes, salsa, and cilantro on top. Optional: Serve with salted tortilla chips on the side.
Note: Store beef mixture, spaghetti squash, and toppings in separate containers for best-kept leftovers!
I remember traveling with my mother as a little girl and noticing how she always looked so put together and polished. She would twist her hair up and wear one of her pretty scarves and she looked so elegant and beautiful. She continues to wear some of those same styles to this day and they still work because they’re classics. I’ve definitely taken note and have implemented some of her tricks into my own travel style with a few new updates and a few tricks to help you feel your best no matter how long you’re up in the air.
How To Feel Your Best
There’s something about these dirty little boxes of air that can make anyone feel exceptionally slimy, even after just a couple of hours. But there are a few essentials I’ve learned to bring with me that help me feel fresh and clean during travel. Upon arrival, I usually feel fresh enough to explore the city a bit or grab a bite to eat before heading to the hotel.
Let’s be honest, those “in-flight skincare routines” we see influencers post are for business and first class flights only. When you’re sitting in economy, you’re lucky if you can raise your elbows three inches without bumping the person next to you. If you are sitting in business or first, bring some makeup wipes and eye gel pads, but my best advice is to check in for your flight looking and feeling your best and simply try to preserve it until you can get ready again at your hotel.
I try to take my time getting ready before an international flight – exfoliating, shaving, moisturizing, etc. I don’t skip any steps because it’s important for me to feel completely fresh when I step on the plane. (Because it kind of goes downhill from there!)
When I travel I try to wear very little makeup. I make do with my favorite CC cream, a little mascara, and some tinted lip balm. I don’t go completely makeup-free because it makes me feel greasy and sloppy, but lots of makeup doesn’t usually look so pretty upon arrival.
Most airlines offer a toothbrush and toothpaste even in economy class, and if not, a pack of Colgate Wisps can do the trick.
I always bring a mini deodorant and a little travel sample of perfume to keep feeling fresh. I take them into the bathroom once or twice during my flight and freshen up so I don’t disturb other passengers by spritzing my perfume everywhere.
I never forget antibacterial wipes for wiping down the surfaces around my seat; planes are dirty places and when I do this step first thing on a flight I instantly feel better. I also use the wipes to wipe down my tech items like my phone, iPad, and laptop at the end of the flight before I put them back into my bag. And they’re nice to carry in your bag while you’re out and about exploring each day.
I’m sure you see the same people at the airport I do; they’re wearing their pajamas and they have piles of travel pillows and blankets with them. Don’t be this person. It looks tacky and it’s completely unnecessary, plus you’re really going to annoy whoever you sit next to with that load of bedding. (Trust me – my husband owns one and I want to bop him with it every time he brings it on a flight.) I promise, the airline will give you a decent pillow and blanket if you need one. And it’s just as clean as that pillow you’ve drug through seven airports. By layering your outfit, you can stay comfortable in fluctuating cabin temps and avoid looking like a mess.
I always bring a colorful silk scarf with me when I travel. It pulls any outfit together and can easily give a daytime look just enough polish to head to dinner or drinks. Tie it around your neck, drape it over your shoulders, or tie it in your hair or onto a bag… The options are endless.
Now that I’ve found these incredibly comfortable leather sneakers I want them in every single color. They are the only shoes that I can wear for hours on end comfortably. A little tip: start off wearing socks and when you get through security, stow them away and put your sneakers on with (clean) bare feet.
The other pair of shoes I love for travel? Tod’s driving loafers. They’ll last you for years and literally mold to fit your foot. But break them in for a day or two before traveling in them.
Don’t forget some classic sunnies to put on post-flight. Forget the trendy tiny sunnies out right now; the larger classic styles cover any hint of jet lag or puffy, sleepy eyes.
What’s In My Bag
I prefer a soft-sided duffel when traveling internationally. It can squish into the overhead bin nicely and is rarely forced to be gate checked. I usually bring a tote bag as my personal item and bag for daytime looks during my trip, then stash a smaller clutch or bag inside to carry in the evenings. This system forces me to pack a bit lighter than I normally would and I don’t risk losing important things by constantly switching bags throughout my trip.
I’m sure you’ve heard about noise-canceling headphones before, but they’re so great I think they’re worth mentioning here. They block out sound – whether it be crying babies or airplane noise – and this pair feels incredibly comfortable to wear.
This silk sleep mask is really just about personal preference. My eyes get so dry on planes and a few eye drops followed by sleeping in one of these masks seems to help. It’s not essential for everyone, but if you have dry eyes or are a light sleeper, you might want to try it. The silk isn’t just to be glamorous – it won’t give you face creases like other materials will.
I always pack an oversized wrap or pashmina in my duffel bag. During the flight when the cabin gets cold, I pull it out and bundle it around my neck. Sometimes I cover my face with it when I want to sleep.
I’m old-fashioned. I like a nice book in my hands. (Read about my current book list here.) I’ll load a couple favorite movies on my iPad pre-flight, but when it comes to books I have to read the paper kind. Leave a little extra time before your flight so you can check out the airport book store and browse the stacks.
This is the most important part. Pack a clean tee or shirt and undies to change into in the airport when you arrive. Best case scenario, you’ll feel fresh. Worst case scenario, you’ll have essentials if your luggage is lost.
My Instagram bio states “always reading” and it’s not an exaggeration! I read every night before bed and just packed up a few new reads for my trip, so I thought I should share my new bookshelf additions in case you’re looking for something new as well. It’s about to get chilly outside; there’s no better time to cozy up and be whisked away by stories of other times and places. I’m so looking forward to diving into these new books and I would love for us to read them together so we can chat about them as we go! What are you currently reading?
When I read about this book and the true story behind it, I was intrigued to know more about this horrible employment rights violation. It’s unfathomable to think of such a tragedy happening in 2018, but in the early 20th century it wasn’t.
Description from Amazon:
“The Curies’ newly discovered element of radium makes gleaming headlines across the nation as the fresh face of beauty, and wonder drug of the medical community. From body lotion to tonic water, the popular new element shines bright in the otherwise dark years of the First World War.
Meanwhile, hundreds of girls toil amidst the glowing dust of the radium-dial factories. The glittering chemical covers their bodies from head to toe; they light up the night like industrious fireflies. With such a coveted job, these “shining girls” are the luckiest alive — until they begin to fall mysteriously ill.
But the factories that once offered golden opportunities are now ignoring all claims of the gruesome side effects, and the women’s cries of corruption. And as the fatal poison of the radium takes hold, the brave shining girls find themselves embroiled in one of the biggest scandals of America’s early 20th century, and in a groundbreaking battle for workers’ rights that will echo for centuries to come.
Written with a sparkling voice and breakneck pace, The Radium Girls fully illuminates the inspiring young women exposed to the “wonder” substance of radium, and their awe-inspiring strength in the face of almost impossible circumstances. Their courage and tenacity led to life-changing regulations, research into nuclear bombing, and ultimately saved hundreds of thousands of lives…”
This book was recommended to me by a great friend of mine. When I read the description and saw the book combined time travel and England, I was sold and ordered it that very day. It sounds romantic and mysterious; I can’t wait to read it.
Description from Amazon:
A journey through time and a story of love, The Rose Garden tells the story of a modern woman thrown back three centuries only to find that might just be where she belongs.
After the death of her sister, Eva Ward leaves Hollywood behind to return to the only place she feels she truly belongs, the old house on the coast of Cornwall, England. She’s seeking comfort in memories of childhood summers, but what she finds is mysterious voices and hidden pathways that sweep her not only into the past, but also into the arms of a man who is not of her time. But Eva soon discovers that the man, Daniel Butler, is very, very real and is thrown into a world of intrigue, treason, and love.
Inside the old house, Eva must confront her own ghosts, as well as those of long ago. And as she begins to question her place in the present, she realizes she must decide where she really belongs: in the life she knows or the past she feels so drawn towards.
When I read Plum Sykes’s “Bergdorf Blondes” years ago, I fell in love with her writing. “Bergdorf Blondes” was a light-hearted, fabulous escape and while “Party Girls Die in Pearls: A Novel” sounds a bit darker and more mysterious, I’m hoping to get the same sense of escape from Plum Sykes.
Description from Amazon:
The New York Times bestselling author of Bergdorf Blondes takes us back to the decadent 1980s in this comic murder mystery set in the tony world of Oxford University.
It’s 1985, and at Oxford University, Pimm’s, punting, and ball gowns are de rigeur. Ursula Flowerbutton, a studious country girl, arrives for her first term anticipating nothing more sinister than days spent poring over history books in gilded libraries—and, if she’s lucky, an invitation to a ball.
But when she discovers a glamorous classmate on a chaise longue with her throat cut, Ursula is catapulted into a murder investigation.
Determined to bag her first scoop for the famous student newspaper Cherwell, Ursula enlists the help of trend-setting American exchange student Nancy Feingold to unravel the case. While navigating a whirl of black-tie parties and secret dining societies, the girls discover a surfeit of suspects. From broken-hearted boyfriends to snobby Sloane Rangers, lovelorn librarians to dishy dons, none can be presumed innocent—and Ursula’s investigations mean that she may be next on the murderer’s list.
Clueless meets Agatha Christie in this wickedly funny tale of high society and low morals, the first book in Plum Sykes’ irresistible new series.
I’ve heard so many recommendations for this book; most of them from my readers on Instagram. The description sounds a bit mysterious and a bit suspenseful, so I’m not exactly sure what to expect, but my readers rarely steer me wrong so I’m up for anything!
Description from Amazon:
In this entrancing novel “that speaks to the Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor in us all” (Kirkus Reviews), a legendary film actress reflects on her relentless rise to the top and the risks she took, the loves she lost, and the long-held secrets the public could never imagine.
Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?
Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.
Summoned to Evelyn’s luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ‘80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.
“Heartbreaking, yet beautiful” (Jamie Blynn, Us Weekly), The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is “Tinseltown drama at its finest” (Redbook): a mesmerizing journey through the splendor of old Hollywood into the harsh realities of the present day as two women struggle with what it means—and what it costs—to face the truth.
I was so excited when I saw the trailer for this movie and even more excited when I realized the movie was based on a book. (I rarely come across a movie that’s better than the book.) I adore Blake Lively and I can’t wait to see this movie, but I want to read the book first; something tells me there’s a Gone Girl-style twist at the end.
Description from Amazon:
It starts with a simple favor—an ordinary kindness mothers do for one another. When glamorous Emily asks Stephanie to pick up her son after school, Stephanie happily says yes. Emily has a life that would make any woman jealous. She is the perfect mother with a dazzling career working for a famous fashion designer in Manhattan. Stephanie, a widow with a son in kindergarten, lonely in their Connecticut suburb, turns to her daily blog for connection and validation. Stephanie imagines Emily to be her new confidante and is shocked when Emily suddenly disappears without a trace, leaving her son and husband with no warning.
Stephanie knows something is terribly wrong. Unable to keep away from the grieving family, she soon finds herself entangled with Sean, Emily’s handsome, reticent British husband. But she can’t ignore the nagging feeling that he’s not being honest with her about Emily’s disappearance. Is Stephanie imagining things? How well did she really know her “best” friend?
Stephanie begins to see that nothing—not friendship, love, or even an ordinary favor—is as simple as it seems.
A Simple Favor exposes the dark underbelly of female friendship in this taut, unsettling, and completely absorbing story that holds you in its grip until the final page.
I discovered this book by mistake. I was looking for another title from this author and I noticed the title of this book. I read the back, saw it centered around the Pacific Northwest (which I fell in love with earlier this summer) and I thought it sounded intriguing enough to pick up. I think this will be a serene, soothing type of novel to read before bed.
Description from Amazon:
Jo Marie Rose first arrives in Cedar Cove seeking a fresh start. A young widow coping with the death of her husband, she purchases a local bed-and-breakfast—the newly christened Rose Harbor Inn—ready to begin her life anew. Her first guest is Joshua Weaver, who has come home to care for his ailing stepfather. The two have never seen eye to eye, and Joshua has little hope that they can reconcile their differences. Jo Marie’s other guest is Abby Kincaid, who has returned to Cedar Cove to attend her brother’s wedding. Back for the first time in twenty years, she almost wishes she hadn’t come, the picturesque town harboring painful memories. And as Abby and Joshua try to heal from their pasts, and Jo Marie dreams of the possibilities before her, they all realize that life moves in only one direction—forward.
I received so many recommendations from my readers to read this book. It seems a bit chilling and suspenseful; the Amazon description compares Ruth Ware to Agatha Christie so I’m assuming this will be a clever, creative mystery.
Description from Amazon:
On a day that begins like any other, Hal receives a mysterious letter bequeathing her a substantial inheritance. She realizes very quickly that the letter was sent to the wrong person—but also that the cold-reading skills she’s honed as a tarot card reader might help her claim the money.
Soon, Hal finds herself at the funeral of the deceased…where it dawns on her that there is something very, very wrong about this strange situation and the inheritance at the center of it.
Full of spellbinding menace and told in Ruth Ware’s signature suspenseful style, this is an unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.
Finally, my last Washington post. And what a beautiful one it is. My upcoming travels reminded me I needed to post these photos and looking at them makes me feel so inspired all over again. There’s something special about water – especially the misty, moody Washington ocean – that gets my creativity flowing like nothing else.
We were looking at the map, driving back from the Hoh Rainforest to Seattle and John told me to pick one more beach to visit. Ruby Beach stood out to me because my feisty, strong-willed grandmother was named Ruby. We got out of the car and walked down a trail lined with lush greenery, dripping with moisture from the recent rain. The trail turned and the green plants stopped, opening up to piles upon piles of giant bleached driftwood and a dark gray, misty beach beyond. As we climbed over the piles of driftwood, we began to smell the scent of freshly cooked oysters and clams. A family was gathering them from the area where a small river met the wild waves of the Pacific Ocean, bringing them back to their oceanside campfire to cook.
I’ve been lucky enough to visit a lot of really magical places in my life, but Ruby Beach truly took my breath away. The soft mist hanging in the air around us, giant rocks looming out of the fog in the distance, and the dark gray palette of the beach dotted with brilliant green patches of moss and greenery beyond… It came together in the most romantic, wild way. I could have stayed there forever.
When I was younger, I would save beauty product samples and use them whenever I traveled. This way, I could try a few products while having the added benefit of a bit more suitcase room on the way back. But then my skin became extremely sensitive and each trip began to coincide with an allergic reaction or two. My mother (who faithfully packs her full-size skincare each trip) finally convinced me that traveling is the worst time to try new products. No one wants to deal with skin sensitivity and allergic reactions while traveling – not to mention how annoying reactions or bad hair can be when you’re taking extra photos on vacation. So this time I decided to do things differently and made a stop at the Neiman Marcus in Cherry Creek Shopping Center so they could help me prep for my trip.
One non-travel-sized item I picked up? Creed’s newest fragrance, exclusive to Neiman Marcus. The perfume is called “Floralie” and gives a nod to the company’s deep commitment to the arts via their foundation, the Heart of Neiman Marcus. The fragrance also celebrates Neiman Marcus’s founders who loved using fragrant floral displays throughout the original flagship store as a way to combine beauty, fragrance, and artistry. “Floralie” is a sunny floral fragrance comprised of Bulgarian rose, tuberose, lilac, marigold, amber, lily of the valley, cedarwood, and musk rose. Before you think I’m completely insane to buy a new fragrance before a trip, consider this… Our sense of smell is the longest sense tied to memory; we will remember the scent of something far longer than we’ll even remember the view or the sounds of a place. Each time you smell the scent in the future, it will trigger special memories from your vacation or event.
If you’re curious about trying some new skincare and makeup for the fall season, I highly suggest Neiman Marcus’s First Look at Beauty event this Saturday, September 8th in the Grand Court from 12 PM – 5 PM at Cherry Creek Shopping Center. Get a sneak peek at the top fall beauty trends, take pics with your girls in the photo booth, and get an illustration from one of Denver’s top fashion illustrators while a live DJ sets the mood.
If you’ve read my recent blog post on La Mer skincare, you know that I’ve completely fallen in love with the results I’ve experienced after using this skincare line. My sensitive skin has been soothed, all redness is gone, my skin has softened, and my pores are minimized. After seeing the improvements in my skin, it terrified me to travel without my favorite products. So… I bought a few minis and the La Mer representative at Neiman Marcus gave me some extra samples to use as well.
My hair stylist introduced me to the Oribe line almost a year ago. I was going from blonde back to my natural brunette at the time and I needed something to help me keep the dark color in my hair. I started by using the ‘For Beautiful Color’ set listed below and went from there. I love Oribe products because they offer great hydration, shine, and moisture without weighing my hair down.
I didn’t plan on writing a dedicated post on this area of our home, but I’ve received a lot of requests to do so after showing it on my Instagram Stories. Late this spring, my husband and I did a huge overhaul to our yard and outdoor areas. The only professional we hired was someone to mud-jack our back patio where the concrete had settled and cracked four years after our home was built. We did everything else – removing mulch and fabric, shoveling new rock, laying sod, planting flowers – completely on our own over a long Memorial Day Weekend. (We are from the Midwest, after all… Dirt has never scared either of us.) It was a labor of love, we saved ourselves about $15k, and we were beyond happy with the results.
I was excited to create a serene, soothing front porch area to read or enjoy a glass of wine at the end of the day. In fact, I was so excited I finished this area before we even finished the landscaping – you can see the red mulch we had previously in these photos. I’m not exaggerating when I say I utilize this space every single day. I can work from my porch swing or just relax with the wind chimes twinkling overhead. But we live in the city – we don’t have a lot of space and I’ve had to implement a few tricks to make this small area look cozy and inviting.
Create a Focal Point
I knew my focal point had to be the porch swing because it takes up the entire depth of our front porch, so the only place it could be hung was at the back of the porch area. This meant everything else on the porch needed to draw the eye to the porch swing; it would have the most inviting accessories, the chairs would be pointed toward it, and everything else would be lined up with the swing. Now when I step onto our front porch, my eye is instantly drawn to the porch swing; I want to cozy up and have a cup of tea!
Decorate in a Tonal Palette
This is a tip I use throughout our entire home, not just on the front porch. In order for things to flow, I keep everything in various shades of neutral colors like ivory, beige, taupe, and gray. I like a French country feel in my home and this neutral palette makes everything feel really soft and light. The eye can just wander here and there throughout the space. This same trick works in small outdoor spaces as well, making the area look larger instead of breaking it up with bold colors and lines.
Utilize Indoor Decor
Does anyone get really excited to snuggle up on a stiff, waterproof outdoor fabric?! No. While I keep our bases outdoor-friendly (the rug, porch swing, coffee table, dining chairs, and cushions are all outdoor pieces) I add in softer, more cozy indoor pieces to tie it all together. The porch swing is piled with budget-friendly indoor throw pillows from Target (the sprinkler occasionally likes to spritz this area, after all) and a soft cotton throw I bring inside when I’m not using it. I also have a large gray-toned basket for storing the outdoor furniture covers when we’re not using them. And I added a pretty little tea towel from Magnolia to soften up the little black outdoor table.
Build in Threes
This is a trick that always seems to work for me, no matter what. I simply build little areas of three! For example, notice the little black side table, large basket of furniture covers, and watering can. There’s also a section of three on the coffee table with two lanterns and the large rose quartz rock. You can repeat this pattern with pillows, chair arrangements, etc. The number three just seems to draw the eye up and onto the next area in your space; I find it adds a little movement and keeps things from being too divided or chopped up.
Use Smaller Versions
I would love to build large outdoor sectionals, put in a fire pit area with chairs, add a relaxing hammock; the list goes on and on. But the truth is, we just don’t have that kind of space here in the city. Despite lack of space, you still don’t have to give up on all your seating. Just look for smaller versions of what you love! What I really wanted? A couple of these larger, cushy lounge chairs and a dining table. But I achieved a similar look with the much smaller dining chairs and coffee table from the same collection without crowding the area.
Plants and flowers bring life to your space. Add a little plant to one of your lanterns or bunch varying heights in a little group of three. Since I snapped these photos, I’ve added English lavender, myrtle, and another hydrangea to our little front porch. They feel like a breath of fresh air when I see them each morning and add so much energy to this area.
Ever since I began using skincare, I’ve heard glorious tales about La Mer. I’ve heard the brand is the key to Jennifer Lopez’s ageless appearance, the secret behind Kate Hudson’s effortless glow, and has apparently charmed everyone from beauty editors to royalty. While La Mer’s prices will give just about anyone sticker shock, there’s a reason so much hype surrounds their products.
The science behind the La Mer brand? Aerospace physicist Max Huber was badly burned in a laboratory explosion in the 1950’s. He spent the next twelve years testing and experimenting with a variety of sea kelp found near his home in California. Finally he created an elixir that healed his burns and regenerated his skin; removing all traces of the accident in the lab. He called his creation Crème de la Mer or “cream of the sea”. This “miracle broth” is in every one of the La Mer products.
Toward the end of 2017, I read an article about French women and their spending habits. The article suggested that French women invest in a few key clothing staples that will last them years and regularly undergo facial treatments and procure great skincare, viewing them as essentials instead of indulgences. The article contrasted those habits with that of American women who choose to spend more on trendy, fleeting pieces and much less on skincare in general. The article argued that the French way was better; that by investing in skincare, the French women are actually investing in the long-term health of their skin, using less makeup to cover imperfections, and end up looking healthier and more beautiful in the long run. I was sold. I had been having serious problems with my skin and was naturally gravitating to a better skincare routine anyway. This article simply sealed the deal. I went to our Nordstrom store here in Denver, made friends with a sales associate, and had him fill a small bag with a wide range of product samples for me to try.
One of my favorites? La Mer’s Moisturizing Soft Cream. After using it every night for two weeks my skin began to feel softer and smoother, my pores minimized. I bought my first jar, cringing at the checkout and mentally swearing off costume jewelry and makeup purchases for the quarter. I held to my plan and after three months, the redness in my skin was soothed and my complexion was more even. I stopped wearing makeup to run errands and go to the gym. I felt happier and more confident. That little jar of goodness was worth every penny.
Since that first jar, I’ve tried and explored more of the La Mer line. The products are actually changing the texture of my skin. I know it probably sounds insane, but it’s true. My skin is softer, smoother, more radiant, and more even-toned. I wear very little makeup on a daily basis and am happy to go makeup-free when I’m just dashing around town. I’ve found that having more confidence in my skin makes me much happier than having more things in my closet. I know it’s not for everyone, but it’s a choice I’ve made and am quite happy with. Below I’ve listed the products I love from the line and would recommend trying.
I highly suggest buying these products during Sephora’s Beauty Insider Appreciation event to get 20% off. VIB Rouge members can take 20% off now with code YESROUGE at checkout. After September 3rd, all VIB members can shop.
This is where my La Mer routine starts. I’ve chosen to invest in products that stay on my skin versus cleansers and scrubs that wash off. The Tonic is a gentle toner that balances the skin after cleansing and tightens pores without drying skin out. It removes any leftover traces of makeup and gives me the perfect canvas to finish my skincare routine and apply makeup. Apply it with these super soft, 100% natural cotton pads for the best results.
A lot of people think this silk-gel product is a moisturizer and perhaps those of you in more humid climates could use it as such, but the Perfecting Treatment is actually designed to be used post-moisturizer and take the place of a primer. I thought this product seemed unnecessary until I tried it, but it’s fantastic. This silky-smooth gel gives me an added layer of hydration, evens my skin tone, gently blurs imperfections, and minimizes pores. It’s like a touch of airbrush in a jar. Sometimes I stop with this step and head out the door; it makes me look like I’m having a ‘great skin day’ naturally. If I choose to continue with makeup, it provides a smooth and even canvas.
Hands down, the most gorgeous foundation I’ve ever tried. This natural-looking, flexible coverage foundation gets me more compliments than anything else. It protects my skin with antioxidants and SPF, evens my skin tone, and gives my skin a radiant glow without feeling heavy or cake-like. La Mer’s foundation contains the Miracle Broth its products are famous for, so it’s like a two-in-one combo. I apply it with La Mer’s foundation brush then blend out with a damp BeautyBlender sponge. The foundation brush is my current favorite foundation brush, but if you’re trying to cut one item out, this is the one to remove from your cart. It’s a great foundation brush, but if you already have one you like it’s not necessary.
La Mer’s foundation isn’t designed to be layered with lots of different cream products; it does its job well alone. When I wear it, I apply my concealer first, then layer only powder products on top of it like translucent powder, brush, and a little bronzer to warm up my skin. La Mer’s powder makes the perfect setting powder to keep my foundation in place and to help my blush and bronzer glide over top of it. It gives skin a flawless, airbrushed finish and makes my skin feel like silk! The powder also contains La Mer’s Miracle Broth, so it’s another two-in-one product. I would highly suggest La Mer’s powder brush because it’s like nothing I’ve ever felt – so soft and fluffy!
This is not your grandmother’s cold cream. I pat a small amount of the Soft Cream between my fingertips at night to activate La Mer’s Miracle Broth blend, then smooth the product over my face, neck, and onto my chest. I rub any excess into my hands! Sometimes when it’s really dry here in Denver I’ll use this product in place of my daily moisturizer. Many people would argue that you should begin your La Mer collection with one of their creams because you’ll probably notice the biggest difference in your skin with them. Within a few weeks your skin texture will change; it will be softer, smoother, repaired, more even, and more hydrated and youthful. J gave me a large jar of this for Christmas – almost nine months later and it’s not even halfway gone. Remember, with these products a little goes a long way!
The Black Hills are one of the few places I’ve witnessed where a person can still experience The Wild West; prowling mountain lions, local saloons, and cattle branding still exist in this corner of the world. Unlike the mountain towns of Colorado, the Black Hills aren’t infiltrated with skiers and snowboarders each year. (For two weeks each August, however, the Hills are filled with leather-clad bikers from all over the world.) This blend of wild, natural beauty and rural character make the Black Hills a different kind of refuge than the mountain ski towns of Colorado. Perhaps it could be the fact that the Black Hills rest on traditional Native American lands, but this place feels more peaceful, more spiritual.
We love escaping the city and spending time in this little sanctuary. It’s a six-hour drive from Denver, but it feels like a world away. So many of you have asked about my favorite spots in the Black Hills and I realized I had never done a consolidated travel guide. My family and I have been visiting the Black Hills for over fifteen years now, so here are my must-visit places and mini city guides to help you discover the best when you’re in South Dakota…
This is the largest town in the area. Rapid City is where you’ll find the airport, lots of outdoor events, and some shopping. There are outdoor stores here if you need to pick up some supplies before camping and larger grocery stores where you can get better produce than that available in the tiny surrounding towns.
Downtown Rapid City
I usually always convince my family to make a stop in the downtown Rapid City area each time I visit because I love the little outdoor area they’ve created in the heart of downtown. In the summer, there is usually some form of outdoor entertainment on the stage and a splash pad for kids. In the winter, they turn this area into a charming little skating rink.
There are lots of shops and boutiques within walking distance around this area, but be sure to check out Prairie Edge for incredible Native American artwork, an impressive Pendleton selection, and gifts. I love browsing the bookshelves in Mitzi’s Books and I never leave without a bag in hand. Kids will love Who’s Toy House – if you’re picking up a gift, they do the cutest gift wrapping! If you’re staying in the area, I recommend the historic Hotel Alex Johnson in this area. The Starbucks on the main floor of the building is an added bonus, although fellow caffeine addicts would also enjoy Alternative Fuel Coffeehouse just a short walk away.
I love Kōl for its delicious, coal-fired pizza and for its fun, casual ambiance. I went here with a family friend and we found this spot the perfect place to have a drink, enjoy dinner, and relax at the end of the day. Plus, it’s within walking distance of both the downtown Rapid City area and the Hotel Alex Johnson I mentioned above.
The Journey Museum combines the history of the Great Plains with that of the Native Americans. If you’re traveling to the Black Hills for the first time or just want to learn more about the history behind this important land, I highly recommend stopping at this museum first. It’s not huge, but it’s well done and you will learn a lot of information in a short amount of time.
This is a tiny little town in between Rapid City and Custer. I love the main street; in August it’s lined with motorcycles and the day after Thanksgiving there is a beautiful Charles Dickens parade. It’s very charming and has a few hidden gems worth an afternoon of browsing. If you have children, they might enjoy a ride on the 1880’s train in town; I’ve never been, but I’ve heard it’s really cute.
Prairie Berry Winery
If I could pick one place to have lunch in Hill City, it’s definitely Prairie Berry Winery. Located just outside Hill City, this winery offers wine tastings, a cute gift shop, and delicious café style lunch with an outdoor patio. I’m partial to their rhubarb wine. Not into wine? Check out their sister site, Miner Brewing Company, just next door. During the summer they usually offer live music in their outdoor amphitheater.
Jewel of the West
One of our good friends owns a beautiful little shop called Jewel of the West. Stop in to see a selection of Western-inspired jewelry, clothing, accessories, and gifts. I was recently there and my mother and I stocked up on gifts for friends like candles and lotion, Pendleton shirts for our guys, and some pretty silver jewelry.
I enjoy nearly any type of food; it’s one of my problems in life! But… I’m not the biggest fan of German food. My father and husband, on the other hand, love Alpine Inn for a good schnitzel. If you’re like them, I highly recommend stopping at in Hill City for your fill of all the “sch” foods; schnitzel, schhhpaetzle, schhhauerkraut, schhhtrudel. All jokes aside, I’ve tried their dishes and they really are delicious. And they have plenty of options like salads, sandwiches, and pastas for those of us who are a little less Germanically inclined.
Museum at the Black Hills Institute
Please, please, please make a stop in the museum at the Black Hills Institute on Hill City’s main street. You will be shocked at how many dinosaur bones and prehistoric fossils they have gathered and collected. If you’re into natural history you will love this place; I think I’ve visited at least three times so far. And while you’re at it, watch Dinosaur 13 – a documentary covering an injustice and scandal that features the Black Hills Institute. I was so moved by this film and the story behind the Black Hills Institute.
This little town is further removed from the Sturgis, Deadwood, Mount Rushmore tourism circle so it’s a bit more relaxed and quiet. It has a special place in my heart and we love spending time here. There is a great balance of outdoor activities, delicious restaurants, and a little shopping too.
Custer State Park Wildlife Loop
One of our favorite things to do with guests is to cruise through beautiful Custer State Park and watch the animals along the Wildlife Loop. You never know what you’ll see and each time of year the view will be different, but you can plan on seeing buffalo, deer, elk, and mountain goats. Please be careful if you go – these animals are wild and should definitely be given plenty of space and respect! But their wild, natural beauty is exactly why they are so fascinating to witness; bring your camera as there are lots of gorgeous settings and scenery along the way. And if you’re in the mood for camping, I would highly suggest somewhere in Custer State Park. The Buffalo Round-Up in the fall is always a highlight as well.
Black Hills Playhouse
Located in Custer State Park, this gem of a theater is tucked amongst the pine trees. We love supporting local theater as much as we can and if you’re camping or staying in the area, I would suggest looking into the Black Hills Playhouse current shows and making it a nighttime activity after a day of exploring. Hungry? You can order a picnic basket to enjoy pre-show while taking in the Custer State Park scenery or take some popcorn into the performance. BHP also supports all-abilities theater education in the area, which I think is pretty incredible.
We love this motor-free, placid lake for its peaceful ambiance and the giant, rugged rocks that surround it. There’s a little cabin nearby with fast food, indoor bathrooms, and provisions if you need them. And you can rent kayaks and paddle boats right from the dock or bring your own. This stunning location is also the trailhead for many hikes up to Harney Peak! Sylvan Lake is definitely worth a visit, in my opinion. You can always bring a camera and just walk the trail along the lake if you like.
My favorite restaurant in the Black Hills! Skogen has an inventive, ever-changing menu featuring seasonal ingredients and incredible wine pairings. We never miss coffee and dessert after dinner either. You literally cannot go wrong with anything on their menu. We adore the kind, friendly owners and are so lucky to have delicious food like this in such a small town.
Black Hills Burger & Bun
If you’re in the mood for a burger, I highly suggest Black Hills Burger & Bun. Their homemade burgers are ranked on foodie sites nationwide. I usually order the cheese curds to start, a burger, and when I’m feeling extra indulgent (when am I not?!) I get one of their homemade desserts as well. This place is comfort food at its finest. But… Prepare yourself for a lengthy wait and an odd operating schedule; I advise calling the day before you’re planning to go to see if they’ll be open and for how long.
The Rock Shop
While you’re waiting for that burger, you can browse the crystal and fossil selection at The Rock Shop next door. I adore this place. If you’re a longtime reader of mine, you probably know I enjoy decorating my home with natural crystals and The Rock Shop always has a beautiful selection. I pick up a lot of gifts here as well; delicate stone necklaces I wear as bracelets, petrified wood slabs to use as cheese boards, and marble pestle and mortars. A former teacher from the area actually makes these beautiful little buffalo out of ancient rocks; they are stunning and we have given so many as gifts. I searched online to find a link for you, but a bunch of different rock shops popped up. Just navigate to Black Hills Burger & Bun (441 Mt. Rushmore Road) and you’ll find it next door!
Walk in the Woods
This pretty little gift shop is so fun to browse. I always find a little something for our house; charming lanterns, pretty napkins, candles, or kitchenware. I love Walk in the Woods because they have a great variety of styles to choose from; there’s something woodsy for your cabin, up-cycled architectural pieces, some “Fixer Upper” farmhouse inspiration, and even a little French country. This range of styles makes it really easy to find a gift for someone as well.
P.S. If you’re here with your spouse, just send them to the Custer County Candy Shop next door! They can enjoy coffee, ice cream, or candy while you browse.
More Sites To See
I know this is an obvious tourist destination, but I do think Mount Rushmore is worth a stop if you’ve never been. Walk through the gift shop and the museum underneath the viewing pavilion; although the monument often looks smaller than expected, the museum will make you appreciate just how painstaking the carving process was at the time it was completed. There are often live music, fireworks, or light shows at Mount Rushmore; double check before you go! The drive surrounding Mount Rushmore is a beautiful one and makes for really pretty scenery.
Crazy Horse is a giant monument just outside Custer. It is being completed a painstakingly slow pace, mostly due to the fact the Native Americans refuse to let the federal government take over ownership. I actually love this about the monument; it has truly remained a testament to the Native American history in this area. Although you can see Crazy Horse from the road, I recommend going into the visitor’s center, taking in the Native American art, and watching the short film on the monument; it will make you realize exactly how much effort has gone into this project.
Reptile Gardens & Bear Country
Both of these animal parks are just outside Rapid City, toward Hill City. Bear Country is an open park with bears, mountain lions, elk, and many more large mammals. They do a lot of animal rehabilitation in the area and in the summer you can watch the baby bears play and learn to climb trees. Reptile Gardens is a large reptile park with crocodiles, alligators, and lots of snakes. They also take in ancient tortoises and injured bald eagles. These are both places kids will love exploring.
There are so many jewel caves and crystal caverns in the Black Hills it’s almost overwhelming. I’ve been to a few, but I don’t really like the ones that have lots of water dripping from above. We recently went to Jewel Cave and really enjoyed our tour. I’ve heard Wind Cave on the southern side of Custer State Park is the largest cave, but I’ve never toured that one.
Highway 87, otherwise known as Needles Highway, comes down from Rapid City and makes a stunning little loop through Black Hills National Forest. This winding road is lined with towering rock spires, granite boulders, and pine trees as far as the eye can see. It’s such a beautiful drive to cruise. Pick up a coffee, bring your camera, and head out. There are so many breathtaking overlooks, you’ll definitely want to take your time and pull off the road here and there to snap photos.
Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary
I have yet to visit the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary in Hot Springs, but some of our friends have and they say it’s incredible. I wish I had more information to give you, but I just wanted to share this in case it’s of interest to you and you really want to see these beautiful creatures in person. This is on my “to do” list; hoping to check it off on my next trip to South Dakota.
My husband was recently in Seattle again and he got to have these incredible doughnuts. It made me remember I had yet to share this cute little spot with you! We discovered General Porpoise Doughnuts while walking to dinner at Bar Melusine one evening. The most delectable, warm, sugary scent was wafting out of the doors and into the street. We made a mental note to come back one morning.
I’m typically not a huge fan of doughnuts (especially filled ones) for breakfast, but the General Porpoise Doughnuts were an exception! They were delicious and their filling never made them soggy. We enjoyed them on our drive to the West coast of Washington. Just a tip… The coffee from General Porpoise is delightful, but is only sold in small (tall) cups. So if you are a caffeine fiend, you may want to stay for a second cup or schedule another coffee stop on your itinerary. Nonetheless, General Porpoise is a thoroughly Instagram-able spot well worth a stop on your Seattle trip.
The temps are getting warmer here in Denver and nothing looks as fresh and cool as a blue and white striped top. I think I’ve purchased about five of these so far this spring and summer (currently trying to distract myself from adding more to my closet) and I wear them all the time. They look so effortless and chic with a pair of boyfriend jeans and flat slides or espadrille wedges. I carry my market tote from Bainbridge Island and I feel as if I’m about to go browsing through a little French marketplace. Easy, casual, slightly coastal.
Are you a bit more boho? Pair strapless #2 above with a flowy white peasant skirt and strappy sandals. Vintage obsessed? Pair #3 or #8 with boyfriend or ankle jeans. Preppy? Pair #4 with crisp white jeans or an eyelet midi skirt. Any of the above would look lovely with the leather-trimmed straw and pom bag I’ve been drooling over for months.