See Health Closer: 5 things I'm loving

I'm excited to be back for week two of my favorite things blog post and I realized I have so much health and wellness things I want to share I'm going to make the month of May all about it. Cheers to a great weekend and moving our bodies and resting well. I'm excited to try out a new trail in Missouri plus taking a nice Sunday nap - it's all about balance. :)

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Om and the City Blog

I randomly found Jules's instagram sometime within the last few months and I have become a quick fan of it and her website. I love the topics she covers, whether it's yoga, wellness, or her diet, and how she does it all in such an authentic way. I love following her daily insta stories and she might even get me to try match even though I hate green tea. The jury's still out. 

Motivate podcast

"After struggling with her weight her entire life, ABC News correspondent Mara Schiavocampo finally discovered the keys to living a healthier, happier life, losing 90 pounds along the way. She shares her journey in her bestselling weight loss memoir “Thinspired: How I Lost 90 Pounds: My Plan for Lasting Weight Loss & Self-Acceptance.” Now, in this podcast, she takes a look at all things health, wellness, nutrition and spirituality with top experts and regular people."

It’s scary how much this podcast actually motivates me to be the best version of myself. Whether it’s helping me not go through the fast food drive-through or actually show up to yoga class that day, it has been a great podcast to listen to while I'm getting back into working out, reminding me that it really is good for my body even if I don't feel like it at the time.

The hashtag campaign #doingthings

Outdoor Voices is changing the game (no pun intended) in the athleisure trend. If you don’t know them, Outdoor Voices is focused on “freeing fitness from performance and not being so serious” about activewear, according to founder Tyler Haney, who launched the line two years ago in Austin.

I’m also pretty obsessed with their hashtag campaign ‘Doing Things.’ “It is a super non-prescriptive, inclusive, and approachable idea,” and having a day (and a hashtag) devoted to the phrase is about “seeing how people use our clothes, instead of telling them how to,” Haney said.

To me, I translate this campaign into a life mantra, to just get out and move your body. Don't worry about looking a certain way or being a certain weight — it's just a celebration of moving your body, and to me, that is how we change our mindset of working out. It’s not a fitness goal, but more about being healthy and the best version of our self we can be and loving the skin we live in!

The best part? They’re sustainable. I love this question that is on their FAQ section of their website:

How do you ensure OV products are ethically produced?

"Before we craft a single pair of leggings, our partners agree to abide by our vendor code of conduct. On par with industry leaders in sustainability and social compliance, we support places where employees are safe, paid fairly, given benefits, and work regulated hours.

Our team visits each factory and mill in person a few times a year. Start to finish, we aim for OV to have a positive impact on the people and resources that bring our gear to life."

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My new Swell waterbottle

I’ve been a S’well believer for a little over two years now and I haven’t turned back. When I first heard it keeps your beverages cold for 24 hours and hot beverages hot for 12 hours, I thought to myself, “Does that really make a difference — would I really care?” but boy, have I come to love it, especially during the hot, humid Midwest summers.

And, not only does it have personal benefits, when you purchase a S’well, you are helping to reduce the use of single-use plastic bottles and supporting their Million Bottle Project. The Million Bottle Project helps demonstrate that we can create big change in the world by making small changes in our everyday lives, which I firmly believe in, and it’s an important step towards a zero waste lifestyle.

I also believe that if you get a water bottle you love, you will drink more water and treat the planet kinder along the way. Before you know it, you will completely replace buying plastic water bottles at gas stations, airports, and coffee shops because you're both stylish and you care about the environment. Win win.

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Thrive Market - Nut pods

I joined Thrive Market by default because I forgot to cancel my free month (lol) but I have currently saved $125 purchasing products on my grocery list I would be buying anyways. I have been shocked at how much I love Thrive Market. And, it's allowed me to try new products I see at Trader Joes or Whole Foods but don't want to spend full price on. My favorite finds so far have been the French Vanilla Nut Pods,  Siete Lime Grain Free Tortilla Chips, and the Cocokind MyMatcha Moisture Stick

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The Inside Scoop: Becoming a Noonday Ambassador

To celebrate my four year anniversary with Noonday Collection as a Noonday Ambassador, I thought I would share what it has been like being an Ambassador and why I've loved it and I'll start with introducing myself for any new faces around here.

I’m Brooke, wife to Aaron and a St. Louis transplant from Virginia Beach, Virginia — we moved here so Aaron could attend grad school and earn his Ph.D in Research Psychology. It’s been an adventure growing together in a city that is new to both of us! I work full time at Washington University in St. Louis for Olin Business School, but after work or on the weekends, you can find me partnering with women in St. Louis, sharing Noonday Collection with their communities, or cuddling with our labradoodle, Rosie.

Before sharing more about my journey with Noonday Collection, however, I should probably begin by explaining what it is for those who haven’t heard about the company before. Noonday Collection is a socially responsibly business that uses fashion and enterprise to create meaningful employment opportunities for people around the world. All of our pieces are handmade by 29 artisan business partners from 12 countries who earn a fair wage for their work.

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I’ve always loved jewelry. My first “real” job outside of cleaning my dad’s business growing up was at a local silver jewelry store called Hi Ho Silver. I loved helping my customers find that perfect piece for their friends or family and I especially loved the relationships we got to make with our repeat customers who soon turned into friends. Even though that job was only for a summer, it clearly left a mark on me as I embarked on my journey to be a Noonday Ambassador seven years later.

Noonday Collection first caught my eye at a local fundraising event at my church. There was a table set up with Noonday samples and lookbooks for us to browse the whole collection. I was immediately drawn to the creative ways the paper bead necklaces were made. I also owned multi-colored papered necklaces, but I had never seen them styled in the way Noonday was designing them: Solid color beads, some with gold accents, was a totally new way of designing artisan-made jewelry. I was hooked from the design aspect alone, but then I found out how it was made, how it was fair-trade and ethically made, and how it was helping break the cycle of poverty — and I knew I was done for.

I hosted my first Noonday trunk show a month later and had a blast. I gathered girls from my community group who I had just started getting to know and we had our very own grownup dress-up party, complimenting each other and changing the world right from my first little apartment in St. Louis, MO.

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A month after my first trunk show — and two months after the initial fundraiser at my church — my heart and mind wouldn’t stop thinking about the impact Noonday Collection was having on the world and how I could be apart of it: By purchasing Noonday for myself and for gifts, hosting a trunk show, or — best of all — becoming an Ambassador myself to share Noonday with anyone and everyone who would listen!

The first two options were simple. I love to shop, so purchasing Noonday was easy. I also love having people over and earning free jewelry, so continuing to host trunk shows was another no-brainer. But, becoming an Ambassador in a city I had just moved to eight months earlier? Now that was something I would need to think about.

Still new in St. Louis, I didn’t have the security of close friends and family to support me and show up at my launch party or host my first trunk show. What if no one showed up? What if I didn’t meet anyone to share Noonday with? I knew it would be a huge risk to begin selling this world-changing jewelry in a place where I was still building my new community — especially because I’ve always loved staying behind the scenes. Becoming an ambassador for Noonday would not only require me to push outside my comfort zone, but I would also need to find the courage to be vocal about the jewelry and share the vision and heart behind the beautiful jewelry I was wearing.

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After wrestling with my decision for weeks, I finally said “yes” to my new role as a Noonday Collection Ambassador and I can honestly say that my life has been changed forever for the better — and it is all because of one thing:

The incredible community of artisans that Noonday partners with around the world.

Over the past several years, two of my biggest highlights as a Noonday Ambassador have been the two opportunities I have had to travel to Guatemala and Peru and to meet our artisan partners who make our gorgeous jewelry in person. On both of those trips, I have seen with my own eyes and felt with my own heart the impact we can have when we decide to shop fair-trade with our money. Noonday also partners with leaders in the communities we work in, so we are empowering local leaders across the world to create change and help their artisans and employees break out of the cycle of poverty.

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To Americans, it’s a no-brainer that we earn at least minimum wage at our jobs, if not more, but in workshops and factories around the world, this is sadly an exception. Fair trade means Noonday artisan partners are paid minimum wage or higher, on time, every two weeks, and that they are only working 40 hours a week. This is a game changer in helping to alleviate poverty. Poverty often means living day to day, and doesn’t allow anyone to think about the future because they don’t even know if they will have money for their children the following day. Earning minimum wage or higher allows parents to dream about their future, save money for a house, and pay their medical bills.

The knowledge of Noonday’s impact never fails to give me fresh energy and encouragement. In the moments when I might feel tired of loading my Noonday Collection samples into the car one more time or asking again and again if someone in my community in St. Louis will host a Noonday trunk show, I simply think about meeting Ana in Guatemala and José in Peru, who are running incredible businesses in their communities. And I think about how lives are being changed by business — and by things as seemingly simple as earrings, necklaces and accessories.

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Being part of Noonday Collection has done more than help me be more connected to my local community in St. Louis — it has opened my mind, widened my worldview, and given me a passion for making every purchase count. Every sale matters — no matter how big or small — and they all help towards making positive changes around the world. So when you wear fair-trade jewelry in the future, you should always smile, knowing you are helping to end poverty right where you are.

If you would like to support myself & Noonday Collection, you can purchase through my Ambassador page here. Thank you for supporting fair trade & artisan made goods!

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My Favorite Ethical White T-Shirts

For the rule-followers amongst us and with Memorial Day weekend now behind us, I thought it
would be fun to share some of my favorite ethical white t-shirts and blouses, as well as different
ways I like to style them. My most favorite ethical fashion company of all won't be a surprise to
those who've followed me for any amount of time, but — you guessed it — Everlane.

Everlane

I'll lay out a few of my top reasons I love Everlane and then we’ll get on to the shirts.

  1. They are known best for their "Radical Transparency". They believe in knowing who makes your clothes and that everyone deserves being paid a fair wage.
  2. They don't believe in the "mark-up" and are up-front about why they are charging what they charge. (see image below)
  3. A huge part of sustainable fashion is buying quality over quality and Everlane is just that. You buy clothes that last with Everlane and I can appreciate that about them.
  4. Their clothing is timeless and I love how most of their pieces are solid colors so they can be in my closet for years with no sign of "out of style".

With some of my favorite reasons why I love Everlane laid out, I'll now share some of my favorite white blouses/tees.

I'm wearing the The Japanese GoWeave Back-Zip Tee in White and I can't say enough good things about it. It's the perfect summer shirt as it is made from 100% triacetate—making it crease-resistant and cooling, perfect for surviving the heat with a subtle texture and silky drape. It also has a great weight to it that gives me the reassurance it will last for years to come.

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I am also a huge fan of scoop neck blouses and shirts and all the variety it allows when
accessorizing. I fully believe in working with a variety of textiles and materials when putting an
outfit together. With the subtle texture of this blouse plus the texture from my water buffalo horn necklace or bandana scarf from Noonday Collection, they compliment each other beautifully. 

I also love the creativity of the back of The Japanese GoWeave Back-Zip Tee, and how it elevates the style of the shirt.

My other favorite white t-shirts from Everlane are from their linen collection. Their lightweight linen gives you an easy drape and a breathable feel for warmer days. These are my go-to items when packing for a summer getaway.

Everlane also carries Men's and children's clothes as well so you can get your whole family amazing quality staples and ethical pieces in one shopping trip!

Other Favorite Ethical White T-shirts

I have other white t-shirts in my closet from a few of my favorite sustainable companies that I thought I'd share below - you might not need a new one now, but my hope is that when you have a gap in your closet and you need to fill it, you'll think of the companies I share here on my blog when you shop!

Live FashionABLE

FashionABLE has been a big favorite of mine as I have three of their purses, but they just came out with their new clothing line last week called .ABLE and I'm over the moon for it. I happened to be in Nashville over the weekend and got to try on and personally shop the new collection. I was like a kid in a candy shop. Their new clothing line is all handmade in Peru and is incredibly soft and could be mistaken for wearing butter. They are such great quality pieces and timeless. I'm a big fan of their color scheme and how I can have it in my closet for years to come.

ThredUp

ThredUp is a great second-hand online clothing company. A great way to shop ethically is to shop second-hand to give clothes a new life and ThredUp is my favorite avenue for shopping via thrift stores. You can filter by your size, type of clothing (tops) and color (white), and quickly scan to shop what you are looking for!

Krochet Kids intl.

Krochet Kids intl. makes their clothing line in Peru just like Live FashionABLE and considering I traveled to Peru last summer with Noonday Collection, that pulls on my heart strings. I love their Standard Tee and the Organic Tee.

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Made in the USA

Lastly, I encourage you to keep asking major companies #whomadeyourclothes and if your shopping at major companies such as Nordstrom or Macy's, don't forget you can search "Made in the USA" in the search bar! They make it so easy to make an ethical shopping purchase without even realizing it with the "Made in the USA" note in the details section! 

*this post is sponsored by Everlane, my favorite Ethical clothing line!

Why Dressember has become one of my favorite winter tradition

The first year I learned about Dressember also happened to be my first winter in the Midwest—a coincidence I now find pretty comical. I moved from the mild winters of Virginia to Missouri, where December is more of a “real” winter, in the truest sense of the word: cold, windy, and oftentimes snowy. I’m now used to bundling up in the winter, running from my car into work, and spending as little time as possible in the freezing temperatures.

Of course Dressember has their own dresses!  C  heck it out!

Of course Dressember has their own dresses! Check it out!

The idea behind Dressember is simple: Wear a dress every day of the month, while raising money for women’s injustice through the International Justice Mission (IJM) through having your own fundraising page or by joining a team and raising money as a team of women. 

Even though the founder of Dressember, Blythe Hill, says it “started as a silly idea, born out of boredom,” I also don’t think it’s a mistake that it takes place in winter—during a month when women might normally prefer to wear pants, for the sheer sake of staying warm. Dressember thus happens at the most inconvenient time to make the biggest impact for women. 

This year marks my third year taking part in Dressember, and it is now as important a Christmas tradition for me as decorating the tree is. In the hopes of encouraging you to take part in the movement as well, here are three tips (and myth-busters!) for participating in your first Dressember:

1. Have an “you can do it” friend. 

I have been lucky enough to take part in Dressember the last two years with my best friend. I realize not everyone might be able to do this, but I highly encourage you to have a friend alongside you to do Dressember with—especially for those colder days or on mornings when you wake up late. The encouragement it provides is so beneficial. 

My best friend and I don’t live in the same state, but for the last three years we have celebrated New Year’s Eve together, meaning we also celebrate the end of Dressember together. Traditions are big to me and I love that we can now also include Dressember in our holiday traditions.

Courtney & I got creative with celebrating the end to Dressember & New Years Eve together and wore sequins skirts under our black dresses!

Courtney & I got creative with celebrating the end to Dressember & New Years Eve together and wore sequins skirts under our black dresses!

2. The “I have only have 2 dresses” myth

This comment comes up every time I talk about Dressember—and it was my first thought, too. I didn’t really want to spend lots of money on new dresses just so I could participate in a fundraising event. 

Slowly, I developed my own approach to Dressember. I now get one to two new dresses on ThredUp to accent what I already have in my closet. I also use cardigans, scarfs and tights to make my summer dresses winter-appropriate, and to help me not freeze :) Also, If this is the only thing keeping you from participating in Dressember, be encouraged by its founder, Blythe, who wears the same dress every day with different accessories and clothing. 

The motto I repeat over and over again is, “I can do anything for 31 days.”

Keeps your perspective outside of yourself

I don’t think it’s an accident that Dressember also happens during the same month as Christmas. The month of Christmas lists and presents and focusing on ourselves, no matter how hard we try not to. I’m so guilty of it—making Christmas lists of what I’ve wanted during the year, even while telling myself “this is the season of celebrating our Lord and Savior was born.”

I’ll never forget visiting Guatemala in July of 2015 with Noonday Collection, and visiting IJM’s headquarters there. When their leader asked our group of 15 women if we had participated in Dressember the previous December, over half of us raised our hands. Without hesitation he said “thank you” for participating in one of their most effective fundraising incentives to date. 

A fundraiser that entails wearing a dress for 31 days. That’s it. It's a powerful thing when women come together for good, and Dressember is one heck of an example.

It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed with the injustive and poverty in our world, but together, we can see things closer and take small steps towards creating a better world—steps as small as wearing a dress for 31 days. 

Are you in? Let's be on the same team and let’s change the world together through fashion! And, if you've participated in Dressember before, what tips or myth-busters do you have for us going into another Dressember? Let's encourage one another as we create a better world together!

Hello! I'm Back!

Hello! It’s been a little while, but I’m excited to be back in this space with you guys again. I’m glad you’re here!

Over the last year, while I’ve been quiet on the blog front, I’ve been learning how to see things closer and what that means for me. I’ve learned how to feel more deeply and authentically through a mixture of things, from my counselor (more on that later) to the new Pixar movie Inside Out.

I recently watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty on a plane ride and was taken aback by how perfectly Mitty put this:

“To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other and to feel. That is the purpose of life.”

It encompasses the new theme and look for my blog so well. As a Noonday Collection ambassador over the last two years, my eyes have been opened to a different way of living. Living with purpose and intention and seeing people for who they are, not who you want them to be.

During this last year especially, I began to feel a stirring in my heart to start sharing again. To bring these experiences and lessons I’ve been learning back to my blog and start fresh, which brings us to my re-branding.

  Logo design by Nathan Holthus of ATELIER DESIGN & PRINT

  Logo design by Nathan Holthus of ATELIER DESIGN & PRINT

I chose the phrase, “See Things Closer,” from my favorite movie. In Moonrise Kingdom by Wes Anderson, the film’s two main characters have the following conversation:

Sam: Why do you always use binoculars?

Suzy: It helps me see things closer. Even if they're not very far away. I pretend it's my magic power.

Thanks to my sister and fellow Wes Anderson fanatic, Candace, we’ve come up with my favorite blog name ever. It encompasses these last two years of learning to see beyond the surface of life and relationships, and I can’t wait to start sharing the journey I’ve been on with you guys.

Thanks for joining me on this new adventure!

a noonday collection ambassador trip: guatemala 2016

It’s a Friday afternoon in Santiago, Guatemala—a small town with a large indigenous Mayan population on Lake Atitlán. I’m standing on a cleanly swept dirt floor around a long wooden table, watching a group of local women sit and sift through piles of beads before they string them into beautiful multicolored beaded cuffs. I’m here with eleven other Noonday Ambassadors, on a weeklong trip to visit four Artisan partner groups.

As I look back on our week in Guatemala, what I will be taking away from this experience are the people I got to meet and what I learned from them, especially from the leaders of our Artisan partner groups.

During our time with Ana, an amazing woman leader working in Santiago,

 I loved seeing the sense of pride she has in her work. 

She enjoys who she works with, laughing and learning alongside them. She is always trying to improve—from constructing a tin roof over their rear workspace to switching from a wood-burning fire to propane gas to heat their dye (which can be hazardous for their health and also enables them to produce more—and thus earn more). Ana is proud of the work she has created for her community and leads them well.

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On another day in the nearby town of San Juan La Laguna, we got to meet Cristobol, one of Noonday’s key Artisan partners in Guatemala. Cristobol 

has a passion for empowering others,

 despite the difficult circumstances he went through in his past. I was so moved by the way he has built a network of teams in his workshop—we met the eight women who each have their own team, allowing them to learn leadership skills, and they even share the various steps involved in the creation of each bracelet.

Because of the work they’ve received through Noonday, each of these eight women leaders in Cristobol’s team have been able to open their own personal bank account and he’s also currently training twenty-one additional women to have a trade and soon join his team. He’s looking out for his community and I walked away from our time together inspired to grow even more involved in my own home community.

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Finally, I loved meeting Rosario and her team. Rosario has a 

determination to pursue her dreams.

 She drives four hours one-way every weekend to attend university and is also putting her daughters through school right now. In a community where it’s often typical for a girl to only complete education through sixth grade, Rosario’s determination to see her children and all of her female Artisans complete their education was humbling and inspiring to witness. She said that Ambassador trips always bring her joy and peace. It was amazing to realize our connection was just as meaningful for both of us.

This trip was a beautiful picture of how no matter what your role is in life and in the world, you matter. Whether you’re a Noonday Artisan partner,

Ambassador

,

Hostess

or customer, every role is vital and dependent on each other. I am so thankful to now have that perspective.

Now when I see our pieces, I see more than jewelry—I see the faces behind them, and the stories they shared with us. Just as the women in Rosario’s workshop transformed individual glass beads into wearable works of art, I now feel an

even stronger

connection with the story of Noonday—all of our individual stories, of Artisans and Ambassadors, woven together across the world.