We’ve all got our favorite summertime accessory, and for me it’s hands down a great straw bag! Straw clutches, structured totes, or floppy beach bags… I love them all! This classic straw tote has been a favorite of mine for years, and if you follow my outfit posts on Instagram or the blog chances are you’ve seen it already! I think straw bags of any style are a perfect way to add texture and a light and airy look to any outfit.
We have spent an incredible week vacationing on the beaches in Maine and this dependable straw tote came along with me. It’s lightweight, packs well, and holds up to sun, sand, and water. Straw bags look great just as they are, but they’re also fun to dress up and add a bit of pizazz ya know? So I thought I would share with you some of my favorite ways to dress up a straw bag for summer.
Small scarves or hair ties are such an easy way to add pattern and color to really pump up your outfit. Some come with ties already attached but I prefer to add my own. This is my favorite set of bag scarves. I use them all the time from this bag to my Prada and Louis Vuitton bags as well. The Combo Set A comes with polka dots, stripes, leopard, and a nice floral print, and there are lots of other combos to choose from too! You can also wrap the handles, single or double, with it for another cute look.
You can’t go wrong with adding a classic fun flower to your straw bag for summer. I usually pick these up at craft stores near the jewelry making section. They have a pin and a clip so you can attach it however is easiest. You can also clip these flowers to flip flops if the plastic toe divider is thin enough.
Let’s not forget the classic versatile bag charm, it looks great on any bag including straw! For under $10 you can get an entirely different look! This is another fun bag charm I like to rotate with my Prada and Louis collection as well.
A broach on a straw bag? Why yes! This is probably my favorite because I love mixing fancy with rustic. If your tote is thick like mine obviously you can’t pin it through. The trick is to pin the needle deep and pointing down, the pin will remain open but it will be secure. While doing a quick search for affordable broaches I found this honey bee broach that’s so perfect for summer.
Tassels are just plain fun, I really love the tropical colors this one adds! Just tie one on and you’re ready for a summertime party! I can’t speak for all straw bags but this one I have holds up great in the water, it doesn’t disintegrate, mold, or lose it’s shape at all.
I absolutely loved wearing this vibrant dress and it was quick drying too, making it great to play in the ocean in. Surprisingly the water wasn’t as cold as I thought it would be. I’ll be sharing our Maine vacation adventures with you this week and I can’t wait! We had an incredible time! These photos were all taken at Sand Beach in Acadia National Park. You have no idea the extreme lengths we had to go to in order to have the beach all to ourselves… but that’s a story for my next blog post.
Happy Summer! Yesterday was a strawberry moon did you see it? Unfortunately I didn’t get to see it, but yesterday I celebrated the strawberry moon by creating this delicious no bake keto Strawberry Lime Mini Cheesecake. You know I love posting strawberry desserts… they’re my jam, but this year I’m switching things up with a keto recipe. I’ve been able to lose some of my 2020 weight gain doing keto and I thought it was time to celebrate with a summer dessert. These mini cheesecakes are a perfect way to celebrate summer barbecues and the Fourth of July… plus it gave me a reason to use my Le Creuset mini cocottes that I love!
If you’re wondering what makes this recipe keto friendly, that would be the almond flour crust, powdered erythritol sweetener, and high fat content. Part of the reason why I thrive so well on the keto diet is because I find fat so satiating.
Now let’s talk a little bit about powdered erythritol. Erythritol is a sugar alcohol that comes in granulated and powdered form but it has 0 net carbs and is considered keto friendly. The best non-nutritive sweeteners are natural ones like stevia, monk fruit, and erythritol. These natural sugar substitutes contain few or no calories, meaning they won’t raise your blood sugar or impact ketosis. Having said that I truly believe all keto desserts should be eaten in moderation or on special occasions.
For this recipe I’m using a powdered blend of erythritol that is blended with monkfruit. I was able to pick it up at my grocery store, you can purchase the exact brand I’m using HERE. Although it’s a blend of monkfruit it’s 99% erythritol.
For this recipe you’ll need a hand mixer or a stand mixer. The majority of the filling is a mixture of softened cream cheese, heavy whipping cream, and of course erythritol. To make sure this recipe is successful you’ll need to make sure your heavy cream is nice and cold. Once all the filling ingredients are blended you’ll need to whip the mixture on high until it’s nice and stiff. I want to stress that if the mixture is runny it will not firm up in the refrigerator. The firm texture comes from whipping, so make sure it’s nice and thick like the above photo.
To get that great strawberry flavor we blend fresh strawberries together in a mini food processor or a blender. If you don’t have one you can probably mash them with a fork. I just love the combo of strawberry and lime, it’s so summery and fresh! To get that great lime flavor we zest an entire lime and add it to the mixture. Be sure to save the lime and you can drizzle a squeeze of lime before you eat this delicious dessert!
These delicious treats are just over 4 carbs and so satisfying! A word about the serving size, the nutrition info is based off dividing this mixture into 10 equal portions and since these are no bake you can easily use any small dish you like… if you don’t have ramekins, little tea cups could work! Keep in mind if you split the dish up into less than 10 portions the carb count per portion will go up a little and if you make more than 10 portions the carb count goes down.
When it comes to calculating sugar alcohols it can be a little confusing. Generally speaking, half of the carbs from sugar alcohols can be subtracted from the total carbs listed on the nutrition label.
However, erythritol is an exception. If it’s the only sugar alcohol in the ingredient list, its carbs can be completely subtracted from the total carbs.
The last few months have been so stressful, between home projects, chores, and moving our girls to college… it’s been exhausting. It seems like our to-do list never ends, and at some point it really starts to get to you. I’ve definitely taken notice how scheduled life seems to be lately, and for this reason I’ve been on a mission to practice good self care and relax. Unfortunately it’s not always that easy to relax. I really enjoy relaxing on the deck with a nice drink or reading a magazine but before long my mind wanders away to my to do list. It’s such a struggle!
I’ve already taken up a new Pilates fitness routine which has done wonders to help me de-stress, but I’m always looking other ways to have fun and relax. Pilates is great but it’s also hard! Sometimes I just want to veg out, ya know? While looking for new ways to relax at home I found an amazing website that offers free video games. Plays.org is a no strings attached game website, just fun free games! Honestly I can’t remember the last time I played a video game, so I indulged. I poked around playing a few different ones trying to get my over 40 gaming groove back… and I’ve got to say it’s fun to feel like a carefree kid having video game fun again!
I love how playing these fun games keeps me really engaged, my mind doesn’t get a chance to wander, and I truly get to unwind! Plays.org has so many games to choose from it’s so fun, and honestly addicting. I’m not the best with all the games… I never scored well as a kid on Super Mario Brothers or saved the princess so not all games work for me. Luckily there are lots of different games to choose from. I love the simulation category, it’s perfect for me. Tap Supermarket is such a fun simulation game where you earn money and build your supermarket. The goal is to grow your store, keep your customers happy, eliminate long lines, and make money! As you continue to play the store gets really hectic and the goal is to keep up with demand… it’s really fun!
Open Restaurant is another fun game too, although you have a time limit with daily quotas so it’s a little more faster pace. Brian is obsessed with the Flight Sim game, where you land helicopters and airplanes like an air traffic controller. Unfortunately he’s stuck on level 9 and probably not too happy I’m telling the world!
Whether your trying to de-stress or fight boredom I really want to spread the word on how awesome Plays.org is! They have so many different games to choose from, including classic arcade games and educational kids games too. It doesn’t matter if you’re an active gamer or not, either way the free games will be so fun and enjoyable you’ll feel like a kid again. Do me a favor ok? Go have some fun at Plays.org and tell me what your favorite game is.
I’ve been on a big fitness kick lately so I thought I’d share some of my favorite mix and match workout wear pieces with you! Unless you were one of the lucky ones, I think most of us gained a little while being stuck at home during COVID. My daily bread baking phase, as delicious as it was, was definitely not kind to my waistline. I don’t know about you but I can’t just snap my fingers and force diet and exercise motivation. If I force it, it doesn’t stick very long. But alas I’ve found my motivation, and do you know what gave it to me? Sushi! I know… doesn’t that sound crazy? Let me explain.
Brian and I are big sushi lovers and since moving to Colorado we’re always looking for amazing new restaurants to try. One day we found a sushi restaurant that had great reviews, yes the food was delicious, but across the street was a Pilates studio. The next time we ate there as I was walking up to the door I turned my head and there it was again, the Pilates studio. During dinner it all hit me, I have not felt good about my body since leaving Pilates. I took regular Pilates reformer classes in Texas and I didn’t realize how happy it made me. I’m pretty injury prone and Pilates made me feel strong, lean, and healthy.. plus it’s such a great way to zone out and de-stress.
I’m happy to say I’m back in reformer classes and I’ve never felt better! It’s definitely an investment in my time, but it’s a worthy one. I drive an hour each way to class meaning each time I take a Pilates class it’s a 3 hour time investment, but my body and my health are worth it. There are always excuses or reasons not to do something, but my new motto is NO EXCUSES! Ok getting back on topic here, it was a few weeks after taking classes that I realized my workout clothes were pretty pitiful and it was time for some upgrades. Can I just say having cute and flattering workout clothes has only made me more excited to attend classes. It’s funny how that works. So below I’m sharing with you some of my favorite pieces that are easy to mix and match that are also very comfortable.
I’ve got to say I’m not a big fan of racerback style sports bras, I have a few but honestly they have always hurt my neck and upper back. So for the most part I’ve learned to embrace my straps hanging out. It’s especially cute when it adds a pop of color I think. If you’re looking for a flattering workout top that isn’t fitted around your stomach this one is great! I’m wearing my regular size and it’s loose while still being flattering. It looks really cute knotted too. I love how these leggings are quick drying. I spilled water on them and was dry about a minute later.
When it came to workout leggings I used to have a black only rule, but this year is all about changes so I’m branching out and having more fun. I love the pretty floral pattern here but even more I love the pockets on the sides! They’re hardly noticeable but it’s a great spot to stick your keys or phone while exercising.
Give me a good solid black outfit anyway! I love the sheer stripes on this top, it’s fun and flirty without being too revealing. I chose a black sports bra but I think a contrasting pop of color would be another fun look, this top comes in several other colors too. Another win for the leggings, not only are they buttery soft but they have those clever pockets that are so handy.
Snakeskin has been so popular lately but I haven’t really jumped on the trend. No, I’m not afraid of snakes, I just haven’t found a piece that really jumped out to me until now. These leggings just make working out more fun! I also love a good basic workout tank and this 2 pack was such a great price, it looks cute relaxed or knotted.
This top has a built in sports bra so you can skip it for low or medium impact workouts. It is such a bargain and super flattering too. It’s racerback but it doesn’t put pressure on my neck and upper back like the sports bras do. Comes in several other colors too.
Another workout top that has a built in bra, and it’s perfect for low impact workouts such as yoga, pilates, walking, and cycling. It comes in other colors too. Happy workouts my friends! I think workouts are so much more when you have a cute outfit on. Wouldn’t you agree?
Summer is nearly here and that means it’s time to start making travel plans! Last summer I really wanted to write an Estes Park summer guide but the reality was we were deep in Covid. We’ve lived in the Estes Park area for the last two years and before that we visited here every year for a decade, and I have learned a lot of information during that time.
If you’re familiar with North Colorado or Rocky Mountain National Park odds are you’re familiar or you’ve at least heard of Estes Park. Summertime in Estes is always busy so I thought I would put together a summer guide since COVID to help people with their travel plans. Notice I said the words since COVID. Colorado is cautiously opening up but COVID has still affected some businesses, restaurants, and activities. Things have been rapidly changing here and I’ll give you the most up-to-date information I know of, but it’s probably wise to double check things before you visit.
Below I’ll share with you my favorite things to do, Rocky Mountain National Park updates, favorite restaurants, and a few other helpful tips.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK
If you’re coming to Estes Park in the summer then chances are you have plans to visit RMNP at least once while you are here. Whether this is your first time or you’re an experienced visitor, there has been one significant change that you need to be aware of – the timed entry reservation system. This was implemented for the first time last year because of COVID, but had been in the works for several years due to overcrowding in the park. Park visitation has been drastically increasing year after year for the past decade (not counting COVID in 2020), and this is the solution that park officials came up with to alleviate crowded parking lots and roads.
Let me stress this important point, the timed entry reservation system is completely separate from admission fees. You still have to pay a fee or have an annual pass to get in during guard station hours, which I believe are something like 5 am to 6 pm, but I am not sure about that. The reservation system requires that you also have a timed entry reservation during the hours of 9 am to 3 pm. Before or after those hours you don’t need a reservation to enter, but if the guard stations are open then you still have to either pay a fee or have an annual pass.
Now, here is another new change…this year they divided the park into two zones, the uber-popular Bear Lake Corridor, and the rest of the park. When making your timed entry reservation you can choose either zone, but if you don’t have a Bear Lake reservation then you can’t enter that area during reservation hours. On the other hand, if you do have a Bear Lake reservation you can access the main park also. Also please note that the Bear Lake Corridor requires a timed entry reservation all day (from 5 am to 6 pm). One last point to be stressed is that once you have entered the park using your timed entry reservation and paid your admission fee, you are free to enter and exit the park as much as you want the rest of the day. This is different from some other parks where once you’re in you can’t leave and re-enter. At RMNP you can. Go HERE to read about various entry fees and passes and to make your purchase, and go HERE to read more about the timed entry reservation system and to purchase reservations ($2 per daily reservation).
But besides Rocky Mountain National Park, there are many other things to do and see in Estes Park…
THE STANLEY HOTEL
Rich with history, you’ll find The Stanley Hotel with lots of fun stuff to do. This spooky historic hotel is known to be haunted with a few spirits, and after Stephen King stayed a few nights in Room 217 he was inspired to write The Shining (we’ve stayed in that room too!). Outside you’ll even find a Shining inspired hedge maze to walk through. History and ghost tours run daily and you can’t miss Aiden Sinclair’s incredible live shows! If you happen to be hungry there is also a restaurant there (dinner reservations recommended), a bar, and a coffee and ice cream shop in the basement.
SNOWY PEAKS WINERY
Snowy Peaks Winery has award winning Colorado wines with indoor and outdoor seating along with a super friendly and knowledgeable staff. Wine flights (seen above) are just $9 and a fun way to sample the amazing wines! A variety of cheeses, meats, crackers, and chocolates are available for purchase too. Snowy Peaks is open daily from 11-7 and they have live music every Friday on the patio in the summer.
MUSTANG MOUNTAIN COASTER
The Mustang Mountain Coaster is the newest addition to Estes Park. This alpine coaster has gorgeous views and lets you control the speed of your ride, fast or slow! Riders of at least 3 years old can ride with an adult. A single ride is $20 per person and a three pack ride is $35. Go for the three pack ride, it’s a great deal! Video of the experience is available for $10.
LAKE ESTES MARINA
Come to the Lake Estes Marina while you’re here and rent a boat, kayak, or canoe to cruise the lake in comfort and style. You can also bring your own boat and launch here for a small fee. Swimming and power sports are prohibited, but this makes for a more quiet and relaxing time on the water. Plus, we don’t want to scare the fish away! Fishing is available from your boat, the dock, or the shore, but be sure to get a license first. The marina also rents bikes and pedal carts for use on the Lake Estes Trail, and there are picnic tables and a pavilion nearby.
ESTES PARK AERIAL TRAMWAY
From late May to early September the Estes Park Aerial Tramway is open from 9-6. Covid restrictions have now been lifted and this tram is a great experience. You’ll take a 5 minute ride to the top with sweeping views of the mountains and the town, but once your ride ends the fun isn’t over! There is plenty to see and do at the top of the mountain. There is a gift shop, cafe, and plenty of mountain terrain to explore. The gift shop sells peanuts to feed the very friendly and chubby chipmunks that are around. They’ll come right up to you and some may want to eat out of your hand!
OTHER THINGS TO DO
Horseback riding – Sombrero Stables offers rides for those 6 and up. Whether you choose the 30 minute, 1 hour, or 2 hour ride you’ll see gorgeous views from your ride.
Main Street – A visit to Estes Park would not be complete without a walk down the main strip, Elkhorn Avenue. Here you will find many clothing and souvenir shops featuring Estes Park items and gifts, restaurants, candy and ice cream stores, and even a few Christmas stores.
Estes Park Historic Theatre – This historic theatre is the oldest single motion theatre still operating in the United States. Inside you’ll be swept back in time while watching today’s new and classic movies. A cafe is also available for drinks and snacks.
Rapid Transit Rafting – From June to September rafting trips are available from Estes Park for those 7 years and up. Half day trips are available on the Cache la Poudre and full day trips are available on the Colorado River, with lunch included.
Trout Haven Pond – This pond is regularly stocked with rainbow trout and a fun way to test your angling skills. Rods are available for rental and you pay for what you catch. They will also clean and pack what you catch. No license is required.
Coffee on the Rocks – Coffee, wine, beer, and snacks are available at this cute little coffee shop. There is plenty of outdoor seating along the pond with lots of friendly ducks and geese and it’s really fun to feed them! Cups of food are available for $1.
Green Jeep Tours – This tour company has a variety of tours to offer! Safari tours, hiking tours, brewery tours, and Grand Lake tours are available. This is a great way to explore Estes Park and the Rockies all while taking in fresh mountain air.
Estes Park Trolleys – This 3 hour tour is open from May-October and takes you up to some of the most amazing natural wonders in the lower level of Rocky Mountain National Park.
YMCA of the Rockies – Inside the beautiful YMCA camp you’ll find hiking trails, playgrounds, sports, arts and crafts, and even more family friendly activities available. Day passes are available for those staying off-site.
Golfing – Whether you are into mini-golf or the real thing, Estes Park has several courses to meet your needs.
Watch the elk – The Estes Park elk herds are world famous so be sure to take some time to drive around and look for them. In the summertime they tend to move up a little higher in the mountains to stay cool and avoid the crowds, but if you’re looking for them you’ll probably find them.
SHORT DAY TRIPS FROM ESTES PARK
If you’re looking for a quick get-away from Estes Park there are many of great options! Fort Collins, Boulder and Denver are easily doable in a day with plenty to do. But odds are you’re wanting mountain charm. Glen Haven is just a short drive down County Rd 43 switchbacks. There isn’t a lot to do in Glen Haven but the views are incredible and it’s a must to stop at the Glen Haven General Store for their famous cinnamon rolls! The Crosier Mountain trailhead is located near the General Store, depending on your skill level it can be a tough hike but the views are worth it!
Allenspark is a short drive and you’ll see amazing views of Longs Peak on the way. Similar to Glen Haven it’s a very small town, aside from the scenic views you can stop by Saint Catherine’s Chapel on the Rock, which is absolutely stunning and you can pick up a slice of delicious pizza at the Rock Creek Tavern & Pizzeria. The Pizzeria is really charming and fun, however I highly suggest you call or check their Facebook page before heading that direction.
Lyons is a larger town with lots of quirky shops and restaurants, located down Hwy 36. Mojo Taqueria has some of the best tacos I’ve had!
If you take Trail Ridge Road (US 34) through RMNP and over the Continental Divide, the first town you will come to is Grand Lake. There you will find more shops and restaurants as well as more hiking trails and a beautiful lake with a couple of marinas that offer boat rentals. I could probably write an entire blog post just on Grand Lake, which I’ll probably do next! For now, though I at least want to recommend the Grand Lake Lodge for their restaurant and bar, Huntington House Tavern, which has stunning views and delicious food, and another delicious restaurant that we love called The Rapids.
Bird and Jim – Shown above, this gorgeous restaurant is my favorite in Estes Park. The upscale food features lots of locally sourced ingredients. Everything is amazing, from the ahi tuna tacos to the pheasant chowder, it’s all delicious! Sunday brunch is a treat too, be sure and try a bacon bloody Mary! During peak hours this place gets really busy. Reservations are encouraged but walk-ins are welcome.
Dunraven at the Estes Park Resort – This restaurant moved from it’s previous location to beautiful Lake Estes. You’ll get the same delicious Italian food plus sweeping views of the lake. The new location features breakfast and lunch. We love having breakfast and mimosas on the outdoor patio along the lake.
Hunter’s Chophouse – With rustic wooden walls and antler chandeliers, Hunters features old fashioned mountain charm. They have a wide variety of unusual meats to choose from and an extensive wine list. Be sure to try the wild game brats sampler or the smoked elk carpaccio!
Twin Owls Steakhouse – Twin Owls recently moved into a new location too that includes indoor and outdoor dining with gorgeous mountain views. With an extensive menu you’ll find some of the best steaks and seafood around.
Smokin Dave’s BBQ – Definitely the best barbecue in Estes Park! Try my favorite, the pork green chili, or my husband’s favorite burger to tackle, the Manhandler! It’s definitely a popular place, so be prepared for a wait during peak dining hours.
The View – This restaurant is inside the Historic Crags Lodge and has beautiful views of Estes Park and the mountains. They shut down due to COVID but told us they plan to reopen in late June. The food was amazing and it’s the perfect place to celebrate a special occasion. Definitely call to verify they’ve reopened and to check availability, I’ll update as soon as I hear more info!
Ed’s Cantina – Ed’s has a great riverside patio, and the best Mexican food we have found in Estes Park.
Antonio’s Real New York Pizza – Hands down the best pizza in the area! They have so many creative pizzas to choose from! If you’re extra hungry try their 26 inch pizza! Dine in or pick up is available.
Burger’s and Gyros – Don’t let the shabby exterior of this building fool you, they have some of the best elk burgers, sides, and gyros! There is a drive-thru and also indoor dining available.
Nicky’s Steakhouse is another great favorite, but unfortunately it is temporarily closed due to a recent fire.
I didn’t review lodging because honestly there are too many incredible places! Whether you’re looking for a romantic place or a rustic cabin Estes Park has it all. If you’re thinking about booking a trip what are you waiting for? Not a summer traveler? Estes Park is also a great place to visit in the off season as well. VisitEstesPark.com has a year-round calendar of festivals and events you can see.