Friday, February 28, 2014

Friday Favorites Link Up, vol 2.

1. Molly showed us how to put all our favorite basics together to make the perfect look {ps. how gorgeous is that necklace?}

2. Gold Coast Girl: We loved her her collab with Walton & Rush! They're springy trends were just 
what we needed to get out of our serious winter rut! 

3. Drew Barrymore + Adam Sandler melted our hearts on the Jimmy Fallon show with a super sweet {and funny!} duet. 

4. Dianna's vanilla chai smoothie sounds ah-mah-zing! Adding it to our list of things to make this weekend. 

And, don't forget, we'll be live tweeting the Oscars {and obviouly the red carpet!} on Twitter Sunday night! Join us using #MBOscars and link up with other Midwest Blogger members! Can't wait to chat with you then :) 

Share your favorite posts of the week below! We can't wait to read them and catch up! 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Behind the Brand: Penn + Pooch

We're kind of animal of obsessed so when our dear friend Courtney launched her business we knew we had to share. Obviously our entourage needs to look stylish, including our pups! Courtney is quite the entrepreneur and is here to share a little advice about starting a business—thanks girl! Oh and she's is offering 25% off for Midwest Blogger members with code: MSB4PP.  Valid 2/24 - 2/28. Happy shopping!

Name: Courtney Cross

Location: Des Moines, Iowa

Business: penn + pooch

What is penn + pooch? penn + pooch is a dog apparel and lifestyle brand that values style, quality and function for your dog.  

How did you come up with the name penn + pooch?  The name is a representation of America’s most beloved and universal friendship; dog and (wo)man.  “penn” stands for the dog owner with style and is short for Pennsylvania Avenue, street name of the White House.  As mentioned earlier, one of our main hallmarks is quality.  We believe the best practices take place here in America and we will never step away from that.  “pooch” stands for the dog with style.  We understand that how you dress is an expression of character and your dog should have the same luxury.

When did you launch penn + pooch?  penn + pooch launched in January 2014.

What made you start penn + pooch?  My little one, Lola!  She’s a four lb. morkie with quite the personality!  As a teensy, tiny puppy, I tried dressing her in sweaters and hoodies to keep her warm during the cold months, but the quality just wasn’t there.  The fabric was itchy and the fit was awkward and tight.  I told my fiance that it was nearly impossible to find something for Lola to wear, so it was up to us to make it happen.   

Where can we find penn + pooch?  All styles and collections are currently available at our online shop (  Des Moines pups will soon be able to find select styles in the East Village at Jett & Monkey’s Dog Shoppe.  Additionally, select styles will also be available at the online dog boutique, Felix Chien.  

What sets penn + pooch apart from other companies?
Oh gosh, where do I even begin! We’ve finally created what’s been missing from pet apparel all along; style, quality and function.  Our designs and silhouettes are based off the latest trends and all colors schemes are chosen from seasonal pantones used by the most influential fashion designers in the industry today. We hand-pick only premium fabrics and all materials are sourced in California.  Additionally, all aspects of production and manufacturing take place in Los Angeles.  Not only do we care about how our clothes are designed and created, but we also care how they are used and worn by dogs.  We are the first brand in the industry to create a center back flap for harness and leash accessibility.  As pet owners ourselves, we understand the lifestyle a dog lives.  We know how he or she moves, plays, and lounges.  Our garments are non-restrictive and can withstand the wear of the most active pup.   

What is your ultimate goal for penn + pooch?  Ultimately our goal is to bring to style to dogs everywhere.  From a distribution standpoint, it is our goal to be available online, at high-end retailers and dog boutiques.  To us, the sky is the limit. The bar is set so low in the industry right now and we want to be the ones to permanently raise it.

What does your product line include?  We have two tees; the quinn crewneck tee and the babe raglan tee.  We also have the peyton polo shirt for the preppy pup!  For a more casual look, we have the emerson hoodie and the stevie sleeveless hoodie.  

What sizes do you carry?  Right now we carry sizes XS - L, which is a range of 4lbs to 35lbs.

What are you price points?  Our prices points are definitely comfortable and affordable!   Tees start at $22.00 and hoodies start at $38.00.    

What's your favorite thing about starting penn + pooch?  The feeling of building something from concept to design to completion is incredible.  It’s empowering, yet humbling all at the same time.  My business partners and I love the risk and reward that comes with starting a company.  You learn to push boundaries and challenge yourself in ways you never thought possible.  I love that we feel limitless; we create the destiny for penn + pooch and it’s a thrilling ride.  I could go on about this all day, but it’s truly a journey that cannot be described to the fullest by words.  

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs who are looking to start their own business?  

My advice reel could go forever, so here’s my top three:
1. Keep the passion.  Never forget why you started on your journey because sometimes the work can be overwhelming and you can lose sight of the big picture.  Your passion is the best motivator and will keep you focused.

2. Expect to work hard.  It’s easy to say you have a dream and a vision, it’s a lot harder to make it happen.  
3. Enjoy the small (and big!) victories.  When you achieve a goal, whatever it may be, enjoy it.  It’s these successes that add up to create a great business.     

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Social Saturday

February 23rd- Iowa Blogger Coffee Date from 10am-12 at Smokey Row in Des Moines 
(RSVP to Katelyn at

March 1st- Chicago Blogger Soiree from 11am-12:30pm at KM Photography 
(RSVP here:

March 5th- Co-Founders Katelyn, Maya and Lauren are speaking at a blogger panel at the University of Wisconsin from 6:30-8:30pm

March 6th- Madison, WI Blogger Happy Hour at 5pm at Star Bar
(RSVP to Tomissa

March 8th- Liizibeth’s 1st Birthday Bash from 6:30-9:30pm at Whiskey Bar in Milwaukee, WI
(RSVP here:

March 16th- Blogger Off-Duty Hair Workshop & Photo Shoot with Maritza Buelvas from 1-4pm in Chicago area/TBD. Get more details here -
(RSVP here:

April 4th & 5th- Go Blog Social in Kansas City...Co-Founder Lauren is speaking!
(Get your ticket here:

Friday, February 21, 2014

Friday Favorites Link Up, vol. 1

TGIF Midwest Bloggers! We're excited to kick off our weekly Friday Favorites link up feature this week! Every week we'll be featuring a link up to share your favorite blog post of the week for other Midwest Bloggers to discover. 

In the future, we'll also be featuring themed link ups from time to time, but we want to make sure we have at least one a week to keep consistent :) Hopefully you'll be able to find new blog friends & lots of inspiration from across the Midwest!

Enjoy your weekend, and don't forget to tag #MidwestBloggers on your social channels to share your adventures with the rest of the Midwest Bloggers Network!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Guest post: the sisters of Duo Du Jour + TJ Maxx

We love when our Midwest Bloggers have the opportunity to be part of exciting campaigns and initiatives! When the ladies of Duo Du Jour, a Chicago based fashion blog writen by sisters Afsha & Uzma, told us that they were being featured by TJ Maxx - we were excited to share their behind the scenes pictures & story. Check out Afsha's experience below! 

 Duo Du Jour is excited to share some great news with the members of Midwest Bloggers.  Afsha of Duo Du Jour was chosen to be T.J. Maxx's Maxxinista for the month of February!

Outfit 1: Jumpsuit c/o T.J. Maxx, Booties: Urban Outfitters, Clutch: DIY, Watch: Marciano, Blouse: Banana Republic// Outfit 2: Blazer: Forever 21, Jumpsuit c/o T.J. Maxx, Booties: Audrey Brooks via DSW, Bag: Michael Kors, Watch: Marciano, Scarf c/o T.J. Maxx// Outfit 3: Scarf: Michael Kors c/o T.J. Maxx, Shirt c/o T.J.  Maxx, Pants c/o T.J. Maxx, Purse: Michael Kors, Jean Jacket: Forever 21, Booties- Nine West, Gloves: T.J. Maxx// Outfit 4: Coat: ASOS, Shirt c/o T.J. Maxx, Pants c/o T.J. Maxx, Booties: Steve Madden Girl via DSW, Necklace: Nordstrom

From Afsha: 
     After submitting my favorite T.J. Maxx look to the Maxxinista Experience Competition, I was lucky enough to be chosen as February's Maxxinista. As part of the Experience, I was given a shopping spree to choose my favorite T.J. Maxx pieces and a trip to New York City for a professional photo shoot. My photo shoot was an amazing experience where I was able to have an incredibly talented team to do my hair and makeup, and not to mention help me handle the freezing NYC temperatures.  
       I was able to sift through all of the fabulous items in N.Y.C.'s T.J. Maxx store with ease and choose my favorite items from the store to feature during the photo shoot.  Check out my outfit details above and shop the look below!
      The next few posts will include my favorite T.J. Maxx outfits, so stay tuned to Duo Du Jour! Be sure to check out T.J. Maxx's tumblr, facebook, instagram and twitter for my feature.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Tuesday Tips: Photography

 We're so excited to bring you Tuesday Tips where Midwest bloggers share tips & tricks for starting bloggers to become full-time pros! First up is Morgan of Eeny Meeny Miny Morgan!

Calling all La Brisa fans, photographers, future photographers, enjoyers of photos, bloggers, and blogger photographers, this post is your type of read!

Chris Hsieh is the owner of La Brisa Photography, and I met him through a workshop he was holding several years ago, where I got to be in-front of the camera.  He takes the most stunning photos and has photographed all over the country and parts of the world.

I became a fan of photography the minute I got into my car and drove away after my first workshop with Chris.  That appreciation for photos has grown over the years, and with my new venture of blogging, I don't see it diminishing.  

I was lucky enough to get a chance to interview Chris, with topics involving La Brisa Photography, his fundraiser, and blogger photography. Please enjoy my interview with the amazingly talented Chris Hsieh of La Brisa Photography.


Blogging Related

Several bloggers have their husbands or boyfriends photograph their website images. Do you have any tips for bloggers to give their photographer, who maybe hasn't taken photography classes?

Shoot outdoors in the shade or wherever there is consistent light. If you can look towards the sun without squinty and/or there aren't any harsh shadows across your body, you should have decent light for an image. Avoid using your on camera/phone flash for more natural looking images.

What makes a good picture stand out to you?

A stand out image is a combination of light and an emotive subject. I want to FEEL something when looking at the image.

If a blogger were to invest in a camera and one photo editing program, what would you be most likely to suggest?

Yes, creating the image is only part of the process to photography. It is like having a beautiful car, but no gas. In order for you to really enjoy that beautiful car to its maximum capabilities, you need the gas. And that is what editing does for your photographs. I use Adobe Lightroom for all of my editing. The software is relatively inexpensive for around $170.

Do you have a go to lense?

Yes, I use a Canon 85mm f/1.2 II as my most used lens.

What form of social media do you see as most effective?

I think they all have their effectiveness as long as you target their audiences correctly, but Facebook has by far been the most effective platform for the building and sustain success of my business.

Poses can be tricky. How do you decide which pose to put your clients in?

I have a set of go-to standard poses that I have figured out over the years and I use that time to figure out where the light is coming from, how comfortable my clients are with me and with each other, andthen I start making adjustments to those standard poses to create different looks.

Do you have any suggestions for bloggers who want to change up their go to location for taking photos?

Yes, just explore. I have photographed clients in front of port-a-potties, garbage dumpsters, etc with positive results. In photography, you need to try unexpected locations to create contrast and dynamic images.

Photography Related

What's your story? What made you want to start a photography business?

I never thought I would be a full time professional photographer.  While my wife was attending veterinary school at K-State, I started taking photos for fun. And essentially, I backed into becoming a photographer. While working full time at K-State and earning a master's degree in education, I started La Brisa Photography in January 2008. Honestly, I loved how I felt when I photographed people and that's what made me want to start La Brisa.

How did you come up with La Brisa?

Brisa is the name of my wife. I wanted a name that had a soft a sound to appeal to potential brides. Most importantly, I assumed that people would never be able to google my name when meeting them in person.

For those wanting to get started in photography, what do you suggest they consider?

Photography is awesome. Everyone should try their hand at it.  Seriously. Especially with the image quality of smartphones these days, there is really no excuse to document your life with photographs. Starting a photography business is a whole other issue.  Just because you love photography doesn't mean you should start a photography business. Once you do, you will spend less and less time actually focused on your photography.

Tell me about the Photography For a Cause Fundraiser you do!

Photography For a Cause is my baby. Every April, for the entire month, we offer our fine art photographs for sale and 100% of the profits are donated to local and national non profit organizations. Last year, wewere able to raise over $3,000 through the campaign and I have bigger things planned for 2014.

What method of continuing education do you utilize? Do you attend workshops, take classes, meet with other photographers, etc.?

Online seminars via creativelive, reading about classic photographers like Cartier-Bresson and Capa, and being challenged by the La Brisa team help me stay humbled and yearn to improve.

You have been to a number of locations for weddings and shoots, what has been your favorite?

Weddings in Kauai, St. Lucia and at a private ranch in North Dakota have been a few of my absolute favorites. I love traveling to new areas and seeing places with a different perspective.

If you have a question about your camera or editing program, what is your method of finding the answer?

Google. Google is my go-to resource for things I don't know.

How do you purchase your camera gear?

Online via, and Used equipment via craigslist, ebay and

Do you have any advice for the Chris 3 years ago?

Hire an accountant. Outsource things that I despise doing. Stop worrying about # of fans and hits to the website. Focus on building better and longer lasting connections with my clients.

Is there anything on your photographer bucket list?

Currently, I am working on a goal of photographing a wedding in all 50 states by 2015. - am halfway through and am hopeful that I will reach my goal! After that, I am planning on photographing a wedding in all 7 continents.

Do you have any tips or tricks when dealing with someone who is nervous in front of the camera?

I think the key to being a successful photographer is your ability to connect, engage and utilize your personality to disarm your clients' anxiety. If time allows, start by talking to your clients without the camera in their faces. Give them a gameplan of what you are trying to accomplish and allow them to connect with you on a more personal level outside of the photographer-client relationship.

Do you have a favorite picture you've taken?

This was my favorite image of 2013 because of the movement. Portrait photography is often very static and I just love the movement in the dress and I especially love the way that she is looking at her husband.

La Brisa has been around since 2008, and in that short amount of time, he and his team have given their clients memories that will last a lifetime.  His pictures capture the real personality of those in front of the camera.  His seemingly effortless, but very tactically planned, pictures capture what is most important, inner beauty.  Everyone's inner beauty naturally glows through each and every one of Chris's pictures.  Take some time and enjoy his work through the links below.

To visit his website click here.

To visit his Facebook page click here.
To visit his blog click here.



Monday, February 17, 2014

We've got a whole new look!

We're so excited to be launching the new Midwest Bloggers website & newsletter this week! Although the blog looks mostly the same {minus our amazing new logo!}, we've got big changes happening over at

Over the past year, we've had the amazing opportunity to grow the Midwest Bloggers community, and we're excited to launch an even better forum for bloggers to network, explore & learn from. Visit our new site to view upcoming events, check out other bloggers in your state, read about how to get even more involved! 
We're also launching a new weekly blog schedule to better feature Midwest bloggers & brands as well as weekly link-ups! Don't worry, we'll also continue to feature giveaways, events, etc throughout the week as well :) 

A few things to look forward to each week: 
       -Meet the blogger/brand Monday: Meet our featured Midwest Blogger member or Midwest brand that you need to know! 

      - Tuesday Tips - Midwest bloggers share tips & tricks for starting blogger to full-time pro. 

      - Friday Favorites: Share your favorite blog post of the week with our weekly link up! Visit the blog every Friday morning and add your favorite post. 

     - Social Saturdays: See what events are happening in your area {and share upcoming event with us!}

Don't forget to use #MidwestBloggers on your social networks so we can share your posts, events & more. 
P.s. If you're interested in advertising space on our new website - drop us a line at We're offering ad space for bloggers just $10 a month - it's a great way to get your blog seen by other bloggers around the Midwest! 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Go Blog Social Ticket Giveaway

We are excited to team up with Go Blog Social to offer a ticket to the upcoming 2014 conference taking place in Kansas City, April 4 - 5

So, what is Go Blog Social? Go Blog Social was born by bloggers, for bloggers with the aspiration of bringing together women and men passionate about the world of social networking and blogging. Designed to inform, educate and inspire, Go Blog Social offers a unique and affordable experience for bloggers, social media experts and small to large businesses together during a two-day event.

Based in the Midwest, the conference is a social destination to meet online friends in-person, connect with businesses, learn about the social industry and gain the tools to grow your blog. Whether you’re just starting out or are a blog veteran, interested in building your brand or a business, Go Blog Social offers the information, advice and expertise to help you do just that. The event is open to bloggers of all interests and draws attendees focused on food, fashion + beauty, family and lifestyle, and more. 

Some of the key speakers include Jessica of How Sweet it Is, Erin of House of Earnest, Kelly of Kansas City Mamas, and Kit of The Kittchen, to name a few. 

Make sure to follow along for the latest updates on GBS social media outlets: FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram! For tickets, visit

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Behind the Blog: Lindsay of The Garden Apartment

1) MB: When & why did you start blogging?
LH: I started blogging in December of 2012. I had read a lot of blogs for a while, and they all seemed to have a lot of getting new things, and that didn't seem realistic to me. In my life, I focus a lot on trying to live smartly and sustainably, and I wanted to document my challenges and ideas with that.

2)   MB: What’s the greatest thing that’s come out of blogging?
LH: The greatest thing about blogging is the network of people I've been able to meet. Bloggers have really been very kind and outgoing group, and I feel like we are all constantly swapping ideas and information and helping each other out with each others sites.

3)  MB: When you’re not blogging, what can you be found doing?
LH: When I'm not blogging, I can be found either working or working out. I'm trying to make my health a priority this year, so I'm trying to go to the gym at least three times a week. I work for as a marketing consultant for a telecom firm, and I'm starting my own website design and development company called White Oak Creative. It should be going live in March 2014. 

4)   MB: If you were stranded on a desert island, what would you would take with you?
LH: I would take my toolbox. I feel like my toolbox with its contents could be the exception to the "one thing" because I'm pretty proud of the toolbox I've acquired over the years. I've built up a good assortment based on the DIY projects that I've done, and those should help me on a desert island. 

5)   MB: What’s the one piece of advice you would share with bloggers just starting out? 
LH: For blogger's that are just starting out, there's two technical things that I would make sure you are doing: First, make sure you blog directs properly. For example, you can type in "" or "," and they both will take you to my site, but I see countless bloggers who don't have that fixed. It's usually with people who use Blogger. Secondly, make sure your pictures are the full-width of your post. You can resize them before uploading them. It gives your blog a more professional, elegant look. Above all, do and write about what you love. Blogging is not working; it's you. Your hobby, your journal, your personal experience. Make sure it is you.

6)  MB:  What’s your “can’t live without” piece in your closet, kitchen,  home etc?
LH: I can't live without my coffee mug. I use the same one each day, washing it out after use. I'm very much a creature of habit, and I love that my morning starts with that beautiful little cup.

7)   MB: On a Friday night, what can you be found doing?
LH: On Friday night, I could be either meeting up with girlfriends for a little cocktail hour, or I'm at home cooking with my boyfriend Adam. By Friday, I'm often so tired that I just want to stay-in. A new homemade meal plus a movie is my favorite.

8)  MB:  How do you balance blogging with a work/social life?
LH: That's a very good question. I don't think I'm there yet, but I have tried a few things. I always make an editorial calendar that runs about 4-6 weeks ahead. I keep a notebook of just ideas and concepts. I also try to blog ahead when possible. Either Saturday or Sunday, I will write and create for about 3 hours. I've also started using Buffer to schedule my social media posts on the new content that I have up. It is a time saver. 

9)  MB:  What’s your favorite quote? Or what’s a quote that describes you?
LH: “You have to pick the places you don't walk away from.” by Joan Didion. I have a few favorite quotes from her, but I think that's one of my favorites because it always reminds me to keep in touch with those I love.

10) MB:  What’s your dream job if you haven’t landed it yet?
LH: I think starting my own website development business is my dream job right now. I like designing and building websites, and I'm fortunate that I will be able to do that full-time.

11)  MB: Guilty pleasures?
LH: Strangely enough my guilty pleasures are more health foods, but I could eat these for days: kale chips cooked with lemon juice and sauerkraut. I really like reading a good vogue or allure magazine on a lazy day, and I'm a sucker for fashion documentaries.

12) MB:  What’s your favorite “little thing” in life?
LH: My favorite little thing is cooking with my boyfriend, or maybe just being in the kitchen as he's cooking. We'll split a beer or a bottle of wine, and we'll go through our days with each other as we prepare a delicious meal. It is very ordinary, but that's my favorite time of the day.