Author: Trés Belle

Latest Life Motto

If It's Not a Hell Yes, It's a No  |  Trés Belle

If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no.

I’m not sure where I first heard this phrase, but I do know that it was a little over a year ago, and it really resonated with me. I wrote it down on a sticky note and stuck it above my desk.

The thing is, life is really short. Too short to do things we don’t love.

I’m not trying to use this phrase in a #YOLO sort of way to justify bad behavior. Obviously, I still do things that I don’t necessarily love (i.e. eating green beans) in order to reap benefits that I do love (more energy). But, sticking around for things that I really don’t love when there’s no greater purpose or benefit in sight? That’s out.

This has been pretty hard for me, because I am definitely a “yes” person, and I’m the opposite of a quitter. I will slog through the worst, longest, most boring book ever because I simply can’t bring myself to quit once I’ve started. I say yes to doing all the things because I’m afraid of missing out or disappointing someone. Unfortunately, that approach often leaves me with zero emotional and physical resources to enjoy the things I do love.

Sometimes, I really have to sit down, look at my sticky note, and ask myself, “Do I feel HELL YES about this activity? This commitment? This job?”

My most recent hell yes test came in the past few weeks. About a year ago, I began the year-long process of joining the Junior League of Raleigh, something I was super-hell-yes-pumped about. I spent a lot of money, went to a lot of trainings, and did the required community service. I met some really nice people. Yet, as I have approached the date when I will officially become an active member, I have increasingly had a nagging feeling that joining just isn’t what I’m supposed to do right now. My experience as a member has been okay so far, but I’m not fired up about it like I was when I first started. I’m not chomping at the bit to get started on my community service placement next year. I’m not feeling hell yes about it.

The thought of quitting, however, was a little terrifying. I had already invested so much time, money, and energy! I knew the League was doing good work, so that meant it had to be a good thing for me to be involved in, right? And, possibly most of all, I didn’t want anyone in the League to be offended or think I didn’t like them.

The more I thought about it though, the more I realized that following the hell yes rule was the right thing to do in this case. The things I had already invested in the League were sunk costs. It is silly to continue to invest more of our resources into something we aren’t enjoying, even if that thing is an organization with a great mission or cause! I can’t get back any of the time and money I already put into the League, but moving forward, I can put my resources into something that it is a hell yes for me. There is no way to be involved in every single one of the many wonderful organizations out there, and it’s okay to say no to some in order to fully invest yourself in others that are more up your alley.

And, without exception, fellow members of the League have been supportive and kind when I have broken the news to them that I will not be returning next year. I’ve even had quite a few League members confess that they feel the same way as me. So often, people are far more gracious and understanding than we worry they’ll be.

I’ve got to say, living a hell yes life is so much more freeing, purposeful, and fun than overcommitting and stubbornly sticking with things that I’m not passionate about. This will always be a work in progress for me, and I am excited to see where this one short phrase continues to lead me in the future!

xoxo, Laura

Small Joys: Volume 3

Spring has sprung, days are sunny, and there’s so much to be grateful for! About time for another Small Joys post, right??

Small Joys Volume 3 - Cultivating Gratitude!  |  Trés Belle

Actually, truth be told, I was struggling with some major discontentment this morning. After wallowing for a bit, I convinced myself that the best way to snap out of it was to cultivate gratitude. So, here I am!

Here are the little things that have been bringing me joy lately:

1. Warmer weather! It is no secret that I am a summer girl through and through. I’ve been loving all of the sunshine and t-shirt weather we’ve been having lately. And, I love that it stays light outside so much later with the time change! This past week, we had dinner outside for the first time this spring, and it was glorious.

Easter Bunny Door Dec  |  Trés Belle

2. Y’all already know I love the Business with Purpose podcast. I just listened to Episode 20 with Jessica Honegger of Noonday Collection, and it is one of my favorites yet! She’s a very inspiring person.

3. Speaking of things I’ve been listening to…I finished Inferno by Dan Brown on audiobook last week. Gah! So good! I still like Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code better, but Inferno is excellent as well.

4. Birthday cards! Does anyone else have a hard time parting with cards? I am a major card hoarder. I can’t ever throw away cards right after they’ve been given to me, but I do try to go back periodically to purge. My birthday was a couple of weeks ago, and I’m still enjoying the little army of birthday cards on my kitchen counter. At what point is it no longer acceptable to have them on display??

Birthday Cards |  Trés Belle

5. Gluten-free cake from JP’s Pastry. This exclusively gluten-free bakery based in Benson, NC, makes the BEST cakes! We bought a chocolate salted caramel layer cake to share with my family for my birthday, and everyone loved it. So much, in fact, that we forgot to take a photo of it before we dived in and demolished it. It’s always nice to find a gluten-free alternative that tastes just as good as the real thing!

6. My sparkly mermaid! Wes and I spent my birthday visiting Virginia Beach and Norfolk, where the city symbol is a mermaid. We tried to go to The Mermaid Factory, a Wine and Design-esque shop where you paint plaster mermaids, but they were already booked for the day. Instead, we purchased two of their take home kits and painted our mermaid and dolphin last weekend. It was a great way to relax, and now we have fun souvenirs from our trip!

Ceramic mermaid and dolphin from The Mermaid Factory in Norfolk, VA  |  Trés Belle

7. Friends. Wes and I have been making our way through the entire series of Friends on Netflix for awhile now, watching a couple of episodes here and there. Now, we have only one season left, and I am distraught. I don’t want it to end!! Oh, and please don’t tell me how it’s going to end, unless you want to be dead to me.

8. This cornbread taco casserole. Made it this week and it is so, so good. I may or may not have eaten the leftovers for breakfast this morning. I actually love all of Mary Ross’s recipes! Most of them are gluten-free and vegan or can be modified to be gluten-free or vegan. I used regular dairy cheese on the casserole this week just to speed things up a bit, but her vegan cheese substitutes are really good.

What are y’all joyful about lately? Let’s share and keep the gratitude flowing!

xoxo Laura

Olive + Herringbone

I am full steam ahead on spring getting here as soon as possible! This warm weather girl has had enough of cold hands. I am trying to stay patient and enjoy the remainder of winter by wearing all of my favorite winter outfits while I still can.

Olive + Herringbone Ethical Outfit | Trés Belle

By far one of my favorite combos this winter has been this gorgeous olive green top from The Flourish Market combined with my black and white herringbone jacket and wedges. You don’t often find shirts in this color, but it’s one of my favorites. The cut is so flattering–you can hide an I-just-ate-an-entire-pizza-belly under there and look absolutely fabulous while doing it! And, I love that the shirt is not only ethically made in the USA, but that 5% of the sales go to Help One Now‘s family empowerment program in Ethiopia.

Olive + Herringbone |  Trés Belle


My herringbone TOMS wedge booties were a Poshmark find. Buying clothes and shoes secondhand on Poshmark is one my favorite things to do, since you can get high-quality, name brand clothes for much less than full price. Buying secondhand also reduces strain on the environment, since reusing clothing keeps it out of landfills, and slowing the production of new clothing reduces pollution generated by the production process. And, aren’t these booties just adorable?? They’re comfy, too.

TOMS herringbone wedge booties  |  Trés Belle

Incidentally, my black Pilcro and the Letterpress leggings were also purchased secondhand at my local upscale consignment shop, Fifi’s (located in Cameron Village in Raleigh).

Anyone else scored some good Poshmark/consignment store finds lately? I’d love to hear!

xoxo Laura

A Lesson on Pride and Generosity

My friend Tiffany is someone I look up to in so many ways. I met her as a first year student at UNC-Chapel Hill when I joined a sorority and found myself lucky enough to call her a sister. Even back then, she was so wise, intentional, and thoughtful. She’s also sassy and spunky and an all-around fun personality to be around. So, you can imagine how flattered I was when she asked me to guest post on her blog yesterday!

A lesson on Jesus-like generosity on NOM NAM NOM | Très Belle

Be sure to check out the post, which talks about a major lesson I learned recently about the importance of being generous with my finances rather than using money for my own selfish pride. And be sure to follow her blog, NOM NAM NOM!

xoxo Laura

Ethical Valentine’s Day Outfit

Happy Valentine’s Day, belles!

I have always loved Valentine’s Day, regardless of whether I’ve had a significant other or not. I adore love and warm, fuzzy feelings. I love celebrating all of the important people in my life who I love, including my friends and family members. I love the excessive amounts of pink and glitter, and of course, I love the chocolate!!

I’m keeping it fair trade on the day of love this year in this black and gold dress by Threads 4 Thought (it’s hard to see the gold in the photos, but I promise there is gold thread in the stripes!). Am I the only person wearing black on Valentine’s Day? I think the black is sophisticated, while the gold adds a festive touch. And I love that the dress is work appropriate, but also cute for an evening out. Not having to change or think about multiple outfits = winning in my book.

Fair trade black dress by Threads 4 Thought | Très Belle

I’m also wearing this adorable gold vine headband by Headbands of Hope, a for-good business that gives a headband to a child with cancer for every headband purchased. They have some seriously adorable headbands, too…from workout bands to delicate pieces you’d wear to a black tie affair.

Gold Vine Headband from Headbands for Hope. For every headband purchased, a headband is given to a child with cancer! | Très Belle

And of course, y’all know I worked some fair trade chocolate into a special treat for hubs tonight. Shhh, it’s a surprise. 😉

Did y’all put any thought into your V-Day outfits? Are you excited about today or totally over it?

xoxo Laura


Ethical Fashion for 70 Degree February Days

As a North Carolina native, I am no stranger to our state’s penchant for mood swing weather. Just this past weekend, we woke up to the sound of sleet then enjoyed perfectly clear skies and 60 degree temperatures all afternoon. In fact, we’ve had quite a few 70 degree days lately, and it’s still early February! It’s definitely not time to pull out spring clothes yet, so I’ve gotten to wear some of my lightweight darker colored items that I haven’t had out since fall.

Fair trade amulet necklace + made in the USA Annabelle top + Free People leggings from Poshmark |  Trés Belle

I adore this made in the USA Annabelle tunic, which I purchased at The Flourish Market (my fave!). The warm color feels appropriate for winter, while the lightweight fabric matches the actual temperature outside. My layered amulet necklace is also from The Flourish Market and was handmade at a fair trade artisan coop in India. The gray Free People leggings are another ethical fashion find from Poshmark, an app and website where you can buy and sell gently used clothing (it’s my latest obsession). Topping it all of are my black riding boots, which are actual repurposed riding boots from my childhood equestrian days. Hooray for an entirely made in the USA/fair trade/eco-friendly outfit!

Layered amulet necklace made by fair trade artisan co-op in India  |  Trés Belle

How do y’all dress when it’s still the dead of winter and 70 degrees out, especially when you know it’s just going to swing back down into the 20s that night? Would love to hear/see your ideas!

xoxo Laura

The Smartphone App I’m Using to Stay Fit in 2017

Hi belles!

Like many people, one of my goals for this year is to exercise regularly. I’m a light exerciser, meaning you will never ever find me at a CrossFit studio. I much prefer neighborhood walks and yoga, and not just because I’m lazy. My light bone structure just seems better suited to lighter forms of exercise, and high intensity workouts often leave me hurting and depleted. I am learning to honor that rather than struggle against it. Still, everyone needs to break a healthy sweat every now and then. I find that when I exercise at least a couple of times a week, I’m less anxious and more energetic.

Enter Sworkit, my favorite exercise app, and the one I am using regularly this year to ensure I get a little healthy heart pumping going each week. A friend actually introduced me to Sworkit a year and a half ago, and I’ve used it occasionally since then. This year, my goal is to exercise (either a Sworkit session or a yoga video by Adriene) at least three times per week.

The smartphone app I'm using to stay fit in 2016! Sworkit doesn't require you to leave your house or have any special equipment, and workouts are as short as 5 minutes...winning! | Trés Belle

My favorite thing about Sworkit is that you don’t have to leave your house, and it requires no equipment. There is a zero percent chance that I am going to stick to a workout routine that involves having to drive to the gym. I love Sworkit because there is no prep time and no driving time. All you need is a pair of tennis shoes and five minutes, and you’re ready to go. As someone who constantly feels busy, schedule flexibility is essential, and less time is definitely more.

The app has several different types of workouts: strength, cardio, stretching, and yoga (though I don’t really recommend the yoga on this app…check out my favorite at-home yoga videos here). From there, you pick a sub-category (for example, “full body” or “core strength” under the strength category), and then you select how much time you want to spend. A lot of the cardio workouts are pretty high intensity, at least for me, so I typically will only spend about 8 minutes on a workout. That’s all I need to break a sweat, get my lungs and heart working big time, and reap the benefits of boosted energy and clarity of mind. How much easier could it be?

The smartphone app I'm using to stay fit in 2016! Sworkit doesn't require you to leave your house or have any special equipment, and workouts are as short as 5 minutes...winning! | Trés Belle

I don’t use many of Sworkit’s other neat features, such as push notification exercise reminders and number of calories burned, but they’re there and presumably very helpful if that’s something you’re into.

Looking to explore some other fitness tools to find the best fit for you? Be sure to check out these posts from other NC bloggers:

Asana Rebel yoga app review by Traci at Choosing Better.

Fitness gadget comparison by Liz at The Restless Wild.

xoxo Laura

P.S. – This is not a sponsored post. I just love sharing things that I love with my belles!

11 Year-End Superlatives for 2016

Quite a few months ago, I read this post by Laura over at A Beautiful Plate and thought it was such a cute idea! I’ve created my own spin on it by doing 11 superlatives for 2016. It was an amazing year!

1. Biggest Milestone: Changing jobs! Back in July, I started a new job with Make-A-Wish. It is the best thing ever, and I pinch myself every day! I still can’t believe that I get paid to plan wishes!

Make-A-Wish Eastern North Carolina Disney World Wish | Trés Belle

2. Hardest Challenge: I am extremely grateful that 2016 was a year of few challenges for me. I am still dealing with some residual health issues from a terrible infection I had back in 2014/2015. Aside from that, I have few complaints!

3. Most Memorable Trip: Wes and I went to St. Thomas with my family back in March, and it was so wonderful! It was true relaxation to just lay on a beach all day. The sunsets were gorgeous, and I got to ride a horse in the surf. Bliss!

St. Thomas US Virgin Islands Sunset | Trés Belle

St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands | Trés Belle

Horseback riding on the beach in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands | Trés Belle

4. Best Bite: Every single flavor of gluten-free cupcakes at Carytown Cupcakes in Richmond, VA. Y’all, I fantasize about going back to try more of these cupcakes! You truly cannot tell that they are gluten-free, and they have the perfect crumb. I also like that they have inventive, unusual flavors (obviously not pictured).

Gluten-Free Mint Chocolate Chip Cupcakes from Carytown Cupcakes in Richmond, Virginia | Trés Belle

5. Favorite Photo: This picture of me and Wes at a Panthers game back in August. I had a wish taking place that day!

Carolina Panthers Spirit | Trés Belle

6. Inspiring Read: Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton. I’ve actually already talked about it here on the blog.

Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton Book Review | Trés Belle

7. Most Valuable Lesson: That I can only give out as much as I’m taking in. I always tend to overcommit myself and run, run, run without stopping for self-care. I used to be able to do this with minimal consequences, but due to the aforementioned health issues, I have to be more careful these days. I’m also an introvert, which makes it all the more important for me to have time to recharge alone at home. Thanks to the reflection process built into my PowerSheets (a goal setting workbook), I have learned that I need equal amounts of time of pouring into myself and giving to others. My eight hours of sleep each night cancels out my eight hours in the office each day, so it’s really how I spend my waking hours outside of work that are critical. If I’m out volunteering or participating in social events every night of the week, I’m going to feel tired, weary, and anxious. I need equal amounts of rest and doing.

PowerSheets Goal Setting Workbook by Lara Casey/The Cultivate Shop | Trés Belle

8. Favorite Gift Received: Wes surprised me by giving me a nice camera for Christmas! I am so, so excited to learn how to use it.

9. Scariest Moment: I don’t even know how to describe this in just a few sentences, but I’ll try. On a trip to Stratford Hall back in the spring, Wes and I went on a hike straight into a tick-infested forest. We didn’t realize it until we were already halfway into the hike and had dozens and dozens of ticks crawling all over us. It took us about 30 minutes of sprinting then stopping to knock off ticks to finally get out of the forest. I have a huge spider/tick phobia, and I felt like I was having a panic attack. It took us two hours to go through all of our clothes, comb through our hair, and shower afterward. Horrible! We kept imagining that we felt ticks crawling on us for weeks!

10. Favorite Raleigh Spot: I really can’t pick a true number one favorite because I have soooo many. As far as food goes, it may have to be Guasaca South American Grill based solely on number of times visited. Guasaca is a short order arepa restaurant that is amazingly delicious, especially for the price point! Another top favorite Raleigh spot is The Flourish Market, of course!

The Flourish Market ethical fashion store in Raleigh, NC | Trés Belle

11. Things I’m Most Looking Forward to in 2017: Taking a trip to Italy (Wes’s first time out of the country!), taking photos with my new camera, getting some projects done around the house, and granting wishes!

Wasn’t that fun? I’d love to hear some of y’all’s superlatives from 2016 in the comments. And, if there are any other superlatives you think I should add for 2017, let me know!

xoxo, Laura

What I Read in 2016

You guys, 2016 was SUCH a great year for me in terms of reading! I don’t think I’ve ever read so many books in one year. I started out the year with a 45 minute commute each way (that’s one and a half hours per day), which made for some great audiobook time. While my commute is thankfully a bit shorter now at 25-30 minutes each way, I still clock quite a bit of time listening to books in the car.

Below is an alphabetized list of everything I read in 2016. The books that are *starred are ones that I highly recommend adding to your own reading lists!

7 Women by Eric Metaxas. This book was really interesting. Most of the seven women are household names, yet most people don’t actually know all that much about them beyond that. I really enjoyed learning more about these ladies. However, I had some concerns about the legitimacy of the author’s sourcing, and he was definitely biased in his writing. Read this book, certainly, but do so critically.

7 Women by Eric Metaxas Review | Trés Belle

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I wasn’t too impressed with this book, which was disappointing considering it won a Pulitzer Prize. I appreciated that it was good literature (i.e. I could tell that it is the type of book I would have read in high school English class), but it was just soooo long in places. Not a page turner.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr Book Review | Trés Belle

*An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir. This was a book club book and not one I would have picked out myself, but I absolutely loved it! Couldn’t put it down. It is the first book in a young adult fantasy trilogy, and I have been on the waitlist for the second book at my local library for monthssssss 😦 😦 #firstworldproblems.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir Book Review | Trés Belle

Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos. This book was just okay. It was an easy and relatively enjoyable fiction read, but not something I was telling everyone else to go check out at the library.

Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos Book Review | Trés Belle

Bitter is the New Black: Confessions of a Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered Smartass, Or, Why You Should Never Carry a Prada Bag to the Unemployment Office by Jen Lancaster. I had seen rave reviews for this book, but the humor just wasn’t my thing (which surprised me, since I was a HUGE fan of the long, run on sentence title). It was okay, but not pee-in-your-pants funny. And quite frankly, life is too short for anything less.

Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster Book Review | Trés Belle

*Bone Gap by Laura Ruby. Y’all will notice as you continue down my list that I’m a big fan of young adult fiction. This book was recommended by a friend on Instagram, and I absolutely adored it! Couldn’t put it down.

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby Book Review | Trés Belle

Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes by Shauna Niequist. I don’t really know how to describe this book. It’s part cookbook, part memoir, part entertaining advice. I really love how Shauna invites people into the realness of her ordinary home and makes memories around the table. And, I can vouch for the recipes: My friend Traci made some of them, and they were delicious! Mac-and-cheese cups, anyone?

Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes by Shauna Niequist Book Review | Trés Belle

*Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman. This book is such a fascinating peek into the mind of someone living with schizophrenia. Please read it!

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman Book Review | Trés Belle

The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap by Matt Taibbi. This book explores the growing gap between the wealthy and poor in America and how injustices in the criminal justice system relate to both groups. It’s really good, but also heavy on legalistic and academic language. In other words: It’s really great and important information, but a bit boring at times.

The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap by Matt Taibbi Book Review | Trés Belle

*Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy. If you like young adult fiction (you know, the usual love story, friendship issues, etc.) go ahead and sign yourself up for this one.

Dumplin' by Julie Murphy Book Review | Trés Belle

*Fifty Shades Darker by E.L. James. Yes, this is indeed the sequel to Fifty Shades of Grey. Hear me out on this one, you guys. The plot drew me in like crazy! Yes, the plot of all things! It was a major page turner. I am super excited for the movie to come out soon! For those who are a bit shy or nervous about the sex in the book, please know that there was nothing in this series that shocked me or that I had never heard of before.

Fifty Shades Darker by E.L. James Book Review | Trés Belle

Fifty Shades Freed by E.L. James. Such a let down (isn’t the third book in a trilogy always that way?). The ending was so cheesy it was almost painful. Nothing else to say.

Fifty Shades Freed by E.L. James Book Review | Trés Belle

*The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. I read this book when Wes and I first started dating and wasn’t that impressed. However, Wes and I listened to it together on a road trip this year and loved it! It was a fun activity to do together, and it has definitely revolutionized the way we communicate. I think it is a much more meaningful read once you are several years into a relationship with someone and know their idiosyncrasies pretty well.

The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman Book Review | Trés Belle

*The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. Like everyone else in the world, I love love loved The Girl on the Train. I had to be careful not to listen to it at night if I was alone, because it did scare me a bit (I am scared easily, so normal people may not have this problem). And the movie was amazing as well!

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins Book Review | Trés Belle

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica. This was a pleasant enough fiction read, but nothing that made me say “wow.” There is a surprising twist at the end, though, which is always fun.

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica Book Review | Trés Belle

*Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. Okay, if you’ve never read this book, seriously, where have you been?? I first read this back in fourth grade, which is when my complete obsession with all things Harry Potter began. When we found ourselves without a book assignment for the month of October, my book club decided to re-read this classic from our childhood. I hadn’t read it in so long! It made me want to read the entire series all over again.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling Book Review | Trés Belle

*The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty. I loved the suspense in this book! I’ve read another of Liane’s books (What Alice Forgot) and liked this one a great deal more. Cecelia’s character made me laugh out loud!

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty Book Review | Trés Belle

I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time by Laura Vanderkam. I actually wrote a review of this book on the blog awhile back…check it out for my thoughts!

Book Review: "I Know How She Does It" by Laura Vanderkam | Très Belle

*In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. I’ve had to read a lot about nutrition over the past two years due to some health issues, and this is by far one of my favorite reads. It is highly educational, motivational, and inspiring. I love that it leaves you feeling calm and reassured rather than anxious and thinking about how there is no way you can follow all these rules like so many other dietary books/articles.

In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan Book Review | Trés Belle

*Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton. If there is just one book on this list that you pick to read this year, please let this be the one! It is tied for my favorite book ever along with 7 by Jen Hatmaker. Reading this book feels like relaxing after a particularly tense day at work. Glennon makes you feel understood and important. I just feel like she gets life. Her descriptions of her past addictions are so raw and truthful, and I just love her for her realness.

Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton Book Review | Trés Belle

*Make It Happen by Lara Casey. This personal improvement book, combined with Lara Casey’s PowerSheets, completely changed my life over the past two years! Please know that this is not a passive read. In order to really get something out of it, you need to actually do the exercises.

Make It Happen by Lara Casey Book Review | Trés Belle

Murder in an Irish Village by Carlene O’Connor. This book was delightful! I had no idea that a murder mystery could be so charming. The book takes place in a small Irish town, and the characters were so adorable, I just wanted to squeeze all of them.

Murder in an Irish Village by Carlene O'Connor Book Review | Trés Belle

The Nesting Place by Myquillin Smith. This is a decorating book that is about having gratitude for what you have right in front of you. Another major theme is working to create a home that feels like home and not a staged snapshot from a Pottery Barn catalog. The message is quite freeing and has definitely influenced my decorating as I have settled into a new home!

The Nesting Place by Myquillin Smith Book Review | Trés Belle

*Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt. I recommend this book not because I agree with everything in it, but because it is very thought provoking! I was chewing it over in my head for weeks after finishing it.

Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt Book Review | Trés Belle

*The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. Maybe it’s because of my real life experience working with people with autism, but this book had me in stitches. I got several weird looks from other drivers as I was crying laughing at stoplights. A must read!

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion Book Review | Trés Belle

The Secrets of Happy Families by Bruce Feiler. This book is a compilation of advice from unorthodox sources, and it does have some good information…but it just couldn’t hold my attention. I was constantly having to rewind and replay because my attention had drifted again. Maybe I would have been more invested in it if I actually had children myself?

The Secrets of Happy Families by Bruce Feiler Book Review | Trés Belle

Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman. There were a few paragraphs in this book that had me vigorously nodding my head and screaming, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” in my head, but the rest of it was a little repetitive and, to be honest, a bit dull to me. I’ll let you decide whether you want to muddle through for those little nuggets of wisdom about finding contentment in the ordinary.

Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman Book Review | Trés Belle

The Sound of Glass by Karen White. This was a book club read, and I really enjoyed it! There’s some mystery, some love, and a whole lot of low country, which of course I adore.

The Sound of Glass by Karen White Book Review | Trés Belle

*Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. This is one of the BEST books I have ever read. It was horrific and inspiring and had me completely awestruck. The whole time I was reading it, I kept turning to Wes and asking how these things could have possibly happened in real life. Please, please, please read it if you haven’t!

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand Book Review | Trés Belle

*We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. I loved this book so much that I chose it as my book club pick for the year. There were some mixed reviews amongst my fellow book clubbers–some liked it, others didn’t. It’s a quick read and very mysterious. That’s all I’m going to say, because I don’t want to ruin it!

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart Book Review | Trés Belle

*When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. This book is so good! It’s about a neurosurgeon’s ponderings on the meaning of life as well as his experiences being a patient with terminal cancer. A really fascinating read by a physician who truly and deeply cares about people. You’ll especially love this if you’ve ever worked in oncology or a similar field.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanathi Book Review | Trés Belle

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple. I was disappointed by this book after reading rave reviews and finding it just mediocre. That’s all I have to say about that.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple Book Review | Trés Belle

Okay, now tell me: What should I read in 2017? Any must-read books to add to my list?

xoxo Laura

A Year of Fair Trade Fashion: Closing Thoughts

The Inside Out Ethical Fashion Challenge 2016 | Trés Belle

I seriously cannot believe it has been 12 months since I took on a challenge to exclusively purchase fair trade clothing for an entire year. I’ve discovered that sticking exclusively to fair trade-certified products is nearly impossible, fallen in love with a few fair trade/ethically made brands (see here, here, here, here, and here), found a local store where I can shop for ethical clothing, and been aghast at times by the lack of ethically produced options in the fashion world (see here, here, and here). While I did have to give up some convenience, it hasn’t been that hard to make ethical choices, and it has made me reflect a lot on my consumeristic habits and the way my purchasing choices impact others. All in all? 100% worth it.

This post is supposed to be about my closing thoughts on buying fair trade fashion, but I really feel like I’ve only just begun. There are so many ideas floating around in my head that I’ve wanted to write about but haven’t had the time, so many ethical brands yet to share, so many areas of the ethical fashion world yet to explore. This challenge has permanently changed my life. While I may not be as strict in the future about buying fair trade-certified clothing, I do hope to buy ethical clothing 99% of the time, whether it’s fair trade, organic, made by a Certified B Corporation, sustainably produced, secondhand, or sweatshop-free. I hope that you’ll continue to enjoy my ethical fashion posts, because they’re here to stay!

Here’s to continuing to vote for a better world with our dollars in 2017!

xoxo Laura