Friday, February 19, 2016

Ready or not...

Well, today just did not go as planned. I had planned to have everything ready and spiffy with a nice introductory post to the new blog, but then Young Mister Gray woke up last night at 10 p.m. throwing up. While I had him in the tub cleaning him up, I noticed some green goop in the corners of his eyes. Great. I washed it off with a wash cloth and prayed it would be better in the morning. Then, instead of situating myself on the couch with a laptop in my lap, I had a sleepy little boy to hold and watch Curious George with until he fell asleep. When we woke up the next morning and he cried and told me to keep the lights off, I knew we were really in trouble. Instead of driving him to school and spending the day working, I drove him to the doctor and spent the day being mama. It wasn't a horrible day, just not the day I had planned. Those plans included a morning post linking to my new site I have been building up for the last few days. Oh well. This will have to do instead. Please go check out the new site. Look around and do let me know what you think! I promise to do a true introductory post over there next week! {Knock on wood} A big shout out to my friend, Rebekah Wright for designing my new logo and for getting me all set up on the new blog! After you check out the new site, be sure to look her up at Wright Printing!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Pre-Spring Cleaning

We have been doing some pre-spring cleaning around our house lately. Vacuuming the rugs front and back, pruning bushes in the yard, decluttering the nightstands, bookshelves and dressers--you know, those places where things tend to gather and then collect dust. It is so nice to accomplish these tasks, and then to just revel in a newly decluttered space. My mind is somehow more at ease and clearer when the physical clutter around me is tidied. This explains my need to declutter my workspace before I can think and get things done. Some can work just fine with papers piled high and important documents buried beneath a jumbled heap, but I would just sit and think about how all of that needed to be cleared before I could really focus on the tasks at hand. Even as I child I always had a place for everything. I instantly knew if one of my siblings had been in my room, even if they tried to leave things as they were. I have been told that I would put away my dirty clothes in my dresser just to have them off the floor and out of the way. I am sure that my mom appreciated this particular quirk of mine. Don't worry, I now very much appreciate the importance of a hamper!

The same goes for my digital space. I feel anxious if my desktop is too cluttered with applications, folders and files. I like to have everything filed away neatly, in its place and out of sight. I go a bit crazy when the the apps on my phone are not organized. Please tell me I'm not alone in this! This extends to my blog as well because, in a way, it is another workspace of mine. Some time ago, I began to feel like my blog itself was too cluttered, and that it really didn't fit me any longer. It affected me more than I realized for quite some time. It finally came out when I was emailing my friend Bekah about the changes I wanted to make to my blog. I didn't feel like posting. I didn't want to draw readers to my site because the design no longer seemed to reflect me. Bekah and I had long been planning a revamp for my blog and after that discussion I knew I needed to get busy determining what I really wanted it to be. I set out to find inspiration for the new look. It didn't take long to find a common thread in all of my choices--clean, simple and fresh. I am pleased to say that is exactly how it turned out! When I look at the new site, I feel like I can breath again, and it makes me smile. I'll be sharing more details on tomorrow's Friday Refresh. I can hardly wait! If you follow me on Facebook, you might have even noticed that I already unofficially unveiled the new logo. Go check it out if you haven't yet. I am pretty ecstatic about how she worked my own handwriting into it!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Thinking outside the Valentine's box

So, confession, I am not really all that into Valentine's Day. I can't remember a time that I really was. Jeremy and I do not celebrate the holiday and up until this year, I've had no reason to decorate a shoebox and buy a package of valentines for Young Master Gray. As you might guess, I was not exactly thrilled to have this task this year. I did come up with a cute idea for the valentine's box, but my heart still wasn't in it. The valentine options at the store were nothing to get excited about either. I didn't want to spend way too much money on overpriced slips of paper plastered with obnoxious characters that would most likely end up in the recycling bin. (Yes, I know it's possible that one day Young Master Gray may beg for them and I will most likely have to change my stance.) Then, the other day I was scrolling through my Insta feed and I saw the cutest valentines from Gingiber.

Seriously. Just imagine me with heart eyes.

I have shopped with this small, Arkansas-based business before (see Young Master Gray's shirt in yesterday's post, for example) so I did not hesitate to purchase them. I mean, for $2 for the digital download and the cardstock that was already sitting in my printer, it was a no brainer compared to the boxed valentine prices! Not to mention they are super duper cute. Cute enough for me to want to hand them out to my own friends!

Now I cannot wait for Young Master Gray's Valentine's Day party! Gotta get started on that shoebox...

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Fools on Parade {Downtown Fayetteville}

Yesterday was a bright and beautiful day. The weather was chilly unless you were standing in the sun, and then it was just right. The perfect day for a parade.

The annual Fayetteville Fat Saturday Parade of Fools was a taste of mardi gras with an Arkansas twist. It was our first time to go and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was very family friendly. They talked the laissez bon temps rouler talk (with an accent), but didn't really walk the walk. At least not during the parade.

Since Young Master Gray fell asleep in the car on the way, we ended up making it right on time instead of early like I had planned. Even though we didn't get a great spot to watch the parade from, I think it turned out to be for the better. As it was, we waited a really long time for the parade to even start. Luckily, we were right by a police car and got to see a firetruck drive by before the parade began. Plus, we were right by the Walton Arts Center where they were in the middle of a construction project (as you can see in the above photo). In other words, we had plenty of trucks to look at while we waited.

Afterwards, we got to go see the "choo-choo" Young Master Gray had been eyeing since the start of the parade.

Such a fun afternoon hanging out in Downtown Fayetteville! It made me wistful for the Crescent City. I can't believe it's been four years since I wrote this post about my visit to New Orleans. I definitely want to make it back one day!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Galentine's, Gilmore Girls & a Giveaway

....and Ghiradelli. There will be Josh Cellars wine as well, but it just didn't fit with the alliteration. As Paris Gellar said, "Never underestimate the power of alliteration, my friend."

This post is sponsored by Ghirardelli Chocolate and Josh Cellars wine in conjunction with their #asweetpairing campaign. All words (except a smattering of Gilmore Girls quotes) and opinions are my own.

One of my best gals is going to be in town for Galentine's Day and I just can't wait. I have been thinking and planning and scheming (and wishin' and hopin') ever since I got the text confirming her visit. What should we do? Where should we go? Can we do all of the things? If not, how many of the things can we squeeze into this one visit? Then, after seeing the news of the confirmed revival of Gilmore Girls on Netflix, it hit me. We should must have a girls' night in a la Gilmore Girls, complete with ordering in way too much takeout and a themed movie marathon. Should we have pizza? Chinese (including one of each item on the menu, of course)? Burgers with fries? All of the above? What am I thinking? Definitely all of the above. Okay, okay. We probably shouldn't have all of the above. As Lorelai said, "People don't realize it takes years of training to eat the way we do." And even then, it can still make you queasy. Takeout is imperative though, I mean, you don't want to risk going to a restaurant and getting a "urine mint."

Once the food is selected, the next question is what movie theme do we commit to watching? Just a few of the many, many movies referenced on the show include The Godfather (I, II, and III with extra showings of the Sofia death over and over), Pulp Fiction (remember the Quentin Tarantino themed party?), Lord of the Rings, Duck Soup, Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Pippi Longstocking, The 2000 Year Old Man, American Gigolo, Bringing Up Baby, Brigadoon, Casablanca, Cocktail, and The Yearling....okay, I'll stop now.

As you can tell, there is really no limit to the film and food choices if you stick strictly to those featured on the show. If fact, those choices can become quite overwhelming so I've narrowed them down for you. Presenting a Gilmore Girls movie playlist for your own girls night in, including the perfect junk food/takeout pairings.

1. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory + Pizza and an assortment of Ghirardelli chocolates
Season 1, Episode 7: Rory's Birthday Parties
A classic film paired with a classic takeout food. Don't even think about ordering salad. And chocolate is just a given. I personally prefer the Ghirardelli dark chocolate squares with sea salt caramel.

2. Godfather I, II, III + Chinese food, Mallomars and biscotti
Season 4, Episode 1: Ballroom & Biscotti
This is really an all day event, but you could definitely squeeze in at least 2 Godfather's and a Sofia dying.

3. The 2000 Year Old Man and Silent Movie + Tator tots, pizza rolls, and rocky road hot fudge sundaes with whipped cream & maraschino cherries
Season 2, Episode 15: Lost & Found (references both the films and the sundaes)
Mel Brooks is a favorite of the Gilmore Girls. Lorelai even claimed to want a tattoo of Brooks on her butt.

4. Grey Gardens (the original & the HBO remake) + Hot dogs, Beefaroni and Pop-Tarts
Season 3, Episode 9: A Deep-Fried Korean Thanksgiving
A documentary about Big Edie and Little Edie, a mother and daughter who were once a part of high society (relatives of Jackie O., no less) and are now living removed from the life they once lived. Sound a bit familiar? Even Lorelai and Rory make the sobering connection. "Add a few years and that's us."-Rory Gilmore

5. Casablanca + Burgers, fries and pumpkin pie with a side of Chinese food
Season 4, Episode 5: The Fundamental Things Apply (Also the episode that references "urine mints")
When Lorelai learns that Luke has never seen any film Casablanca, she invites him over to watch it and another classic...Hardbodies. Spoiler Alert: He makes it through Casablanca and falls asleep during Hardbodies.

6. Funny Face and Sabrina + Mac & Cheese, Twizzlers and brownies
Season 7, Episode 4: 'S Wonderful, 'S Marvelous; Season 3, Episode 21: Here Comes the Son; Season 5, Episode 10: But Not as Cute as Pushkin
During an on-again edition of Chris + Lorelai, Chris sets up a private drive-in screening of one of Lorelai's favorite films, Funny Face. If you're going to watch one film starring Rory's doppleganger  (according to Miss Celine), then you might as well make a night of it and watch another Audrey Hepburn film mentioned on the show.

"Since I just ate, uh, half a bag of marshmallows, 6 poptarts , 4 bagel dogs, and a really stale cheese nip...yep, it's brownie time." -Lorelai

It pretty much goes without saying, but the food goes down best with copious amounts of coffee. Since I have a toddler who wakes me up early in the morning, I'll probably end up switching to a glass of Josh Cellars merlot (aka chef's juice) once the evening begins! A meme-worthy wine quote from Gilmore Girls:

Lorelai: Would you like some more chef's juice?
Rory: More wine would be great. 

There are many meme-worthy quotes about coffee on Gilmore Girls. So many that I could do a whole other post on them, but I will share this one. This exchange between Lorelai and Christopher sums it up pretty well:

Lorelai: Do you want some coffee?
Chris : I'll get it.
Lorelai: Do you know how to make coffee?
Chris: Yes, I do.
Lorelai: My coffee?
Chris: One bag of coffee per cup of water, right?
Lorelai: Perfect. 

And, without further ado, here's where you enter to win a $75 American Express gift card. Also, be sure to follow me on Instagram! I'll be giving away another gift card there.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Winter Getaway in Eureka Springs

This post is sponsored by Eureka Springs Main Street | ESDN and All words and opinions are my own. 

Winter may not be the first season you think of when you imagine a trip to the mountain town of Eureka Springs, especially not after the magic of the holidays has faded. However, that is exactly when we decided to go. We discovered winter in Eureka Springs has its own magic.

Winter is when you can walk down the all but deserted downtown streets and although it's just for the season, you imagine the place exists only for you. Quite romantic when you are there to celebrate an anniversary like we were.

When the people who are still around are mostly locals--the ones you run into in the coffee shops, hole-in-the-wall lunch spots and watering holes. The ones that have lived there all of their lives or at least a good portion of it. The ones that can tell you the stories that still live on, whether they be truth or tall tales--it doesn't matter--those stories make up the rich history of this vibrant Ozark gem.

If that is not reason enough to pack your bag and head there right now, perhaps this list will help sway you.

This time of year in Eureka Springs...

1.  Learn local folklore and history while strolling through downtown

Think speakeasies, mafia bosses, prohibition, bank robberies and an underground downtown. We were glad we braved the cold to go on the Hell Raisers, Hoodlums and a Heated History tour with guide Christie Braswell. "Guide" does not really capture the nature of what Christie brings to the tour, I think "story-weaver" is a more apt descriptor. From Basin Spring Park we embarked on a journey through the history of Eureka Springs, from the early stories of Native Americans traveling from afar to be healed in the waters from the spring, to the first (and last) attempted bank robbery in town. Christie knew the stories well as many involve folks from her family's past and places where she has grown up. I could tell you all of the wonderful stories, but you really should hear them from Christie!

2.  Book a room in a cozy Bed & Breakfast and retreat from the cold 

There is no shortage of places to stay in Eureka Springs, and certainly many Bed & Breakfasts to choose from but only one that I can wholeheartedly recommend. True, it is the only one that I have ever stayed in, but I truly loved our room in the Daffodil Cottage. It is one of the five All Seasons Luxury Properties. The owner, Pat, was such a gracious and accommodating hostess. She made sure we were comfortable and even called around to find a place that was still open for dinner when we arrived Monday evening. Our room was called the Blue Willow Suite and was beautifully decorated with blue and white antiques, a four-poster king-size bed, a sitting area and an antique wardrobe. We also enjoyed modern comforts such as a flat screen TV, an electric fireplace that added warmth as well as ambiance, and a kitchen that included a microwave and a fridge. My favorite thing in the whole suite though was the Jacuzzi tub--large enough for two, but I enjoyed having it all to myself each evening after Jeremy went to bed. With the cook away, we did not get to partake in the breakfast part of the bed and breakfast, but that forced us to go explore the local eateries, much to our delight. Pat did extend to us an invitation to come back sometime for breakfast even if we were not staying at the inn!

3. Pamper yourself with a spa treatment (or two!)

If you must leave the cozy comfort of your room, you might as well get pampered. Located on the 2nd floor of the Basin Park Hotel, Spa1905 is an Aveda salon and spa featuring massage, facials, hair care and more. The staff was tremendously accommodating, especially Ashley, she made sure to ask about our other plans so she could help me schedule treatments around them. After our walking history tour, I warmed up with a Swedish massage. Then, after a behind-the-scenes tour of the Passion Play, I returned for a luxurious Elements Facial. Both treatments were relaxing and implemented Aveda products which I already use and love! Both the massage therapist, Lacey, and aesthetician, Jenni, were caring and asked questions to help tailor the services to my needs.

4.  Go on a private tour

 At least it will feel private because it's very likely you'll be the only ones there besides the guide. That was the case on our behind-the-scenes tour of The Great Passion Play. We met Passion Play Assistant Executive Director Kent Butler at the gift shop and began our tour in the Bible Museum. He admitted he is not the one who normally gives the Bible Museum tour, but we still enjoyed seeing many rare and precious bibles from all different eras and in an array of different languages. I definitely want to return when we have more time and peruse the collection again. From the Bible Museum we moved on outside to the amphitheater where the Passion Play is performed. While Kent was very engaged in the Bible Museum, you could tell that the play was truly a passion for him (no pun intended). His enthusiasm for everything from the effects to the soundboard is likely due in part to the fact that over the years he has always had some sort of a role in the play. He started by playing a Roman soldier and now is one of the actors that portray Jesus.

5. Walk on the wild side

When you take a tour of Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, you quite literally walk on the wild side of Eureka Springs. Our tour guide was Megan, an intern from Minnesota who plans to go on to be a zoo keeper in her home state. She was so kind to guide us through the refuge even though it was extremely cold and many of the lions, tigers and bears were keeping warm up out of sight in their dens. We did get to see a few of the cats though, as well as one monkey. She told us the stories behind how many of the big cats were rescued and subsequently brought to live at Turpentine Creek. The stories we heard stirred up feelings of both heartbreak--in hearing of abuse and neglect, and hope--in knowing that the people who are now caring for these animals have their best interests at heart.

I am so glad that Eureka Springs is only a hop, skip and a jump from home because I already made another list...a list of all of the things we didn't fit into this trip that we need to go back to see and do!

Friday, January 22, 2016

How to make a black sink shine {Friday Refresh}

This sink. It wooed me when we first looked at our house. It was intriguing. I had never seen a black sink before, or at least I had never noticed them. Never knew to desire one. All I had known were stainless sinks and white farmhouse sinks. After we moved in, I simply did not understand why I couldn't make it shine. I knew just how to care for a stainless sink. I could make it shine with baking soda and vinegar, just like my mama taught me! This black sink, however, did not shine with the use of baking soda and vinegar. It did not seem to make it worse, but it just didn't wow me anymore. It was dull. Scratched. The wear of cleaning dishes and paintbrushes and other debris from a home remodel took its toll. I tried many other cleaners to try to bring it back to its original glory, but nothing seemed to work. Then I had a bit of an "aha" moment. Adding oil to my cast iron pans made them shine again when they were dull and in need of seasoning. Maybe taking some oil to the sink would finally make it shine.

First, I followed the steps outlined in this article about cleaning a black sink. Hint: I still got to use my tried and true baking soda and vinegar, but they had me add one other ingredient. Once I cleaned the sink and wiped it out with a microfiber cloth, I got out a fresh cloth and some coconut oil. I put about a teaspoon on the cloth and buffed the sink until, that's right, it was shining! I used another teaspoon of the oil in the other basin. It only lasted for a couple of days--we do use the sink after all--but it was worth it! I am probably way too excited about such a mundane thing. I made Jeremy come and admire my handiwork and he didn't seem as impressed as I was. Oh well.

Since I had the baking soda and vinegar out I went ahead and cleaned the drain as well. It was starting to smell a little funky anyway. Here's my recipe for a natural drain cleaner that smells yummy:

Pour about 3/4-1 cup of baking soda down the drain. Add 4-5 drops essential oil of your choice (I prefer citrus oils personally because they are purifying and smell delicious). Pour 1/2 cup of white vinegar down the drain and immediately put the stopper in. You may need to hold it in place for a few seconds. Then let it sit for 30 minutes. Do not use the sink at all during this time. Once the 30 minutes are up, run hot water down the drain for 3-5 minutes. I start with a kettle full of boiling water, then once that runs out, switch to running hot water from the faucet.

I should add, what spurred my newly rediscovered interest in shining my sink was a post on the FlyLady Facebook page. January's "Habit of the Month" from FlyLady is to shine your sink. It was my mom who instilled the FlyLady mantra in my mind, "You can do anything for 15 minutes." It's so true. Even though my mom has been indoctrinating me for years, I have only recently started following the FlyLady on Facebook, and I am enjoying the reminders to put my time to good use. Keeping the house clean can be an overwhelming task with a toddler, but I have learned that I can make so much more headway if I take 15 minutes to tidy up one area here and there. Plus, embarrassing as it is to admit, there are things they tell you to clean that I never would have even thought to touch! (No, this isn't a sponsored post, I'm just really excited and wanted to share.) I think I owe my mom an obligatory, "You were right" at this point, and a thank you!