Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Visit with Santa at Northwest Arkansas Mall

I have been compensated for this post by Northwest Arkansas Mall. All thoughts and opinions are my own or, in this case, Young Master Gray's (with his explicit permission, of course).


My little elf wants to tell you about his trip to see Santa Claus at Northwest Arkansas Mall in Fayetteville. I hope you enjoy his tale.

‘Twas two weeks before Christmas, when one and all
Stood in a line, at Northwest Arkansas Mall;
Mom dressed me up with the greatest of care,
I knew someone special just had to be there;
Right to Center Court, mom knew just where to go,
We followed the voice sounding, “HO, HO, HO;”
The set was filled with Christmas delights,
Festive trees, presents, snow globes and lights;
It was enough to make anyone happy and jolly,
From mom, to the little girl asking for a dolly;
Old Saint Nick was as sweet as can be,
But still, I did not want to sit on his knee;
Knowing Santa’s digs are the newest in 10 years,
Quite frankly, did nothing to calm my fears;
A tentative smile quickly dissolved into worry,
And that’s when mom said, “We’d better scurry.”
Come now, it’s your turn to sit at Santa’s side,
Even on the night before Christmas, you won’t be denied.

You can see Santa at Northwest Arkansas Mall between now and Christmas Eve.
Hours: Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
(Break from 3-4)
Sunday 12 p.m.-6 p.m.
(Break from 3-3:30)

Choose one of the photo packages and you'll have your prints in your hands before you can say, "Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!" If you want to share your photo, add a download to your package, or even have the photo texted directly to your phone.

Can you believe how close we are to Christmas already? What preparations do you still have to complete before the big day? Our tree is up, but still needs some final touches. Maybe the rest of the decorations will make it out of the box before the 25th! Merry Christmas!

Friday, November 14, 2014

{Friday ReFresh} Our home remodel

Looking back at the before photos of our home, I was so shocked at how much of a turnaround we have made to this place in just 6 months. I couldn't help but want to share. This will be the first in a series of posts chronicling our home remodel. Today I'm starting with a doozy--the living room.

The living room was a dark, wallpapered mess from the peeling wood laminate floors to the smoke-stained ceiling. After painting the ceiling, the first thing that had to be done in this room was to remove the wallpaper. Under the wallpaper was paneling that had been given a skim coat of drywall mud for a smoother texture. Once the wallpaper was removed, the skim coat had to be repaired in many areas of the wall before we could even think about painting. Once that dried, the walls were painted and primed in a medium gray. The trim, including a new windowsill, was refreshed with Clark & Kensington's Silent White.

Instead of repairing the wall behind the bookcases that flank the fireplace, Jeremy replaced the drywall completely and it was painted to match the gray walls. The bookcases were then painted in the same white as the trim. The fireplace itself received a fresh coat of paint as well. Also, isn't it amazing how just removing a dated piece of trim across the top of the fireplace made it look 10 times more modern!

Finally, the flooring was replaced with a light blond wood laminate to tie in with the modern feel of the room. With an exploring toddler in the house, we also added some safety features like tamper-resistant outlets and a new fire-safe door going into the garage.

Of course, this room is still not complete, but the transformation is incredible already! I hope you'll check back next week for more renovation reveals!

Monday, August 11, 2014

What the Pioneer Woman taught me about green beans

I have a bit of a confession to make. Depending on who you are and what circles you run in, this may not be very earth shattering, but I think it will at least be a surprise to my blogger friends. Here goes--I had never read The Pioneer Woman blog before today. Nor have I seen her show or ever flipped through one of her cookbooks. Whew! It feels good to get that off of my chest. I should say, I have nothing against Ree Drummond. In fact, now that I've been initiated, I'm sure I will inevitably get hooked on her brand of tell-it-like-it-is-y'all blogging and down-home, made-from-scratch cooking. Who am I kidding? The woman uses cast iron and taught me that you don't have to snap both ends off of your green beans, I am already hooked.

Speaking of those green beans, I riffed on her Fresh Green Beans recipe for dinner tonight and it was super delicious. I had already removed both ends (oh snap!), but I bought some of my time back by blanching them before throwing them in the skillet. I'm sure it won't surprise anyone that I decided to forgo her suggestion to use bacon grease instead of oil and butter. I also left out the red bell pepper since I didn't have it, and while I had onion, I decided to go ahead and use the leeks I had already chopped for another recipe.

Full disclosure, I did *almost* get to meet Ree Drummond last November. My first outing away from the young master Gray was to a blogger event that was centered around The Pioneer Woman's visit to Rogers, AR. We got together the night before her book signing to hang out and eat yummy food prepared from the recipes in her cookbooks. I had planned to go stand in line for her to sign a cookbook along with hundreds of her die-hard fans, but I wasn't able to make it after all.

Are you a Pioneer Woman fan? Either way, you should try the green beans. Am I the only one who didn't know that you only have to snap one end off? On second thought, I may just keep doing it my way. Besides sorting dry beans, it's one of the few kitchen tasks I can do sitting down.

Monday, May 12, 2014

{Stepping away} SoFabCon 2014

"For Mother's Day, all I really want is a hotel room. All to myself."

That was the not-so-subtle hint I offered to my husband as the holiday approached. I could think of nothing more blissful than a night away where I could eat, read, watch some tv and pee alone. Oh, and sleep. Lots of sleep. I'm not sure which I miss more about my life before motherhood, sleeping or getting to finish a cup of coffee while it's still hot.

So imagine my excitement when I was given the opportunity to go to SoFabCon, a blogging conference right here in Northwest Arkansas. Due to the generosity of Collective Bias and the Northwest Arkansas Bloggers, I was able to go for free. Not only was this an opportunity to meet other bloggers and learn ways to improve my blog, it meant two days away from baby boy. Forget excited, I was ecstatic.

Don't get me wrong. I love that boy more than anything, but after 10 months of being home with him every single day and only a handful of hours to myself, I needed a break. While I didn't get that hotel room (I live only 40 min from the Embassy Suites where most of the action took place), this conference gave me the space I was craving.

SoFabCon was unlike any conference I've ever been to, blogging industry or not. I got the clear impression that what Collective Bias CEO Bill Sussman said in his introduction speech on Friday was true--these folks like to have fun. I enjoyed every minute of it, from the kickoff at Crystal Bridges Museum where I met some wonderful new friends, to the two days packed with invaluable tips and information from pros and finally, an evening to celebrate at the Collective Bias 5th birthday masquerade party!

All the same, it took no less than a day for me to end up in the bathroom weeping, begging my husband to send me photos of my baby so I could see his sweet face and know he was okay. The conversation went like this:

Me: Can you send me a picture?
Jeremy: Of?
Me: Coen.
Jeremy: You don't have a bunch?
You want me to take one and send it to you? I don't understand.

Sigh. He also did not understand when I ran to the bedroom when Coen began stirring soon after I got home. I guess I'm not ready for that hotel room, after all.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

{Soup's On} Lentil & Kale Soup with Slow Cooker White Beans

 This brisk weather is not what I had in mind when I waxed poetic about spring the other day. It does, however, give me an excuse to attempt this delicious soup that has been simmering in my thoughts for awhile now.

It all started when my mom, on a trip to Little Rock last fall, had the audacity to ask the good people of Whole Foods to let her choose two 16 oz. soups for the price of the 32 oz. When that was not amenable to them, she didn't just get her soup and go as I would have done. She pressed on, asking to combine two of the soups into one 32 oz. container. If it had been me, I would have looked wistfully at the lentil soup only to fill my soup container with the white bean and kale soup and then set off on my way. But not my mom. She always asks the question. She got that container of lentil soup combined with white bean and kale soup...and she said it was delicious.

So, I decided to make it myself. When I told my husband that the soup he was about to consume was of my own creation, he raised his eyebrows. But guess what? We both thought it was pretty yummy too. Here is the recipe for Lentil & Kale Soup with Slow Cooker White Beans (adapted from this Whole Foods recipe).

Slow Cooker White Beans
2 cups dried great northern beans
2 teaspoons onion salt
3 springs thyme
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, minced

Sort and rinse beans, then soak them overnight to ensure they become soft and tender. Drain and rinse your beans. Combine the ingredients in a large crockpot. Cover with water by about 2 inches. Mix together well and cook on low for 6-8 hours. Cool beans and store them in the refrigerator for a week or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Lentil & Kale Soup with Slow Cooker White Beans
8 cups vegetable broth
1 package of brown lentils
1 yellow onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 carrots, chopped
5 cloves of garlic
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
4 tsp chili powder
2 cups Crockpot White Beans (alternately, you can use 2 cans of white beans)
1 bunch of kale with stems and hard ribs removed, roughly chopped or torn

Heat 3/4 cup broth over medium-high heat in a large pot. Bring to a simmer, then add onion, garlic, carrots and pepper; cook about 8 minutes until vegetables are tender and onion is translucent. Stir in chili powder and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add lentils, tomatoes and remaining broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, for 25 minutes. Add kale, cover and cook until kale is softened and wilted and lentils are almost tender, about 5 more minutes. Uncover,  add beans and cook 10 minutes longer. Serve.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ah, spring {plus, a giveaway}

Yes, I did say giveaway in the title and I know that you will probably just skim this post until you find the magic words, "here's what you need to do to enter." I will get to that in a bit. I've been anticipating this day for what feels like forever now. On this day, I look at the tiny buds of the daffodils blooming in the soft morning light, and even though there is still a chill in the air, I feel like winter is finally behind us. Along with the snow and the ice, the frigid temperatures and the long, dark nights, I hope winter takes with her the doubts, shadows and fears that tend to loom large when the sun isn't shining quite as much. As the writer and NPR commentator Andrei Codrescu wrote, "We've had our frigid weather, cold enough to freeze the glitter on a fairy, and now it's spring." I, for one, am ready for the pruning and regrowth this season brings.

The first day of spring often coincides with the birthday of one of my favorite people. She's often mentioned on this blog because she takes awesome photographs of me and my family. However, this year it happens to fall on another special person's birthday. His name is Ryan and he's only 2, but he's already made an impression on me. I started following his mom on Instagram because I wanted to win a certain cloth diaper giveaway. I fully intended to stop following once the giveaway was over because let's face it, the thought of following the photos from a company dedicated to helping you take care of your baby's poop just doesn't sound all that appealing (that company would be Spray Pal). Then a funny thing happened. I started seeing the photos from this "CEO of poop" and instantly fell in love with minispraypal 2.0, as Ryan is known on the interwebs. I've loved watching this micropreemie achieve milestones and overcome challenges, and I feel honored to play a tiny role in his 2nd birthday celebration.

This is where the giveaway comes in. So many awesome companies have come together to celebrate Ryan's special day with the mother of all giveaways. I'm serious, you guys. It's so big that it had to be split into 2 super awesome prize packs. The rafflecopter is going to seem daunting, but you have some time so spread your entries out. Comment and spread the word over social media now, then come back while your nursing your little one and do a few more entries, and repeat during the next few days! It will be so worth it! Some of the great prizes include a Nook highchair from Joovy, a Beco Soleil baby carrier, and Freshly Picked moccasins, not to mention a slew of cloth diapers. Okay, I'll go ahead and mention a few of those too--sustainablebabyish|Sloomb, Rockabums, and Lalaybye Baby!

a Rafflecopter giveaway