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!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Eureka Springs, here we come

Jeremy and I are headed to Eureka Springs for a little anniversary getaway. This is significant not only because we are leaving Young Master Gray for more than one night for the first time, but also because we had originally hoped to be married in Eureka Springs nine years ago. More than hoped. We had the Thorncrown Chapel booked and a reception site all picked out. Our date changed and then the chapel was no longer available so we ended up getting married in the place it all began (Mountain Home) instead. I don't regret the change, but sometimes wonder, "what if?"

After that we never made it back to Eureka Springs. Not even for a day trip. I am so excited to remedy that over the next few days! I can't wait to come back and tell you all about it!

Here's the song that I walked down the aisle to, it still gets to me:

Friday, January 8, 2016

One Little Word {Happy 2016}

Every house that Jeremy and I have owned has been older and in need of a lot of renovation. Each one has taken a little bit longer than the last to "finish," with most of the work getting done once it's time to move and therefore, get ready to sell. This time around, a good chunk on the work was done before we moved in. However, the rest of it (and there is still quite a bit) is progressing very slowly. When things are in upheaval like this, I tend to put off decorating. We have lived here for a year and a half and the only thing that I have hung up on the wall is a calendar. I didn't put anything on the built in shelves in the living room for the longest time because they still need another coat of paint. I finally just decided that I would rather have to remove all of my books from the shelves when it came time to paint than keep them sitting in boxes any longer. These kind of things make a house feel more like a home. It bothers me that I don't have pictures on the walls. It bothers me that I have a guest bathroom that has unfinished walls (read: wallpaper removed and haven't gotten around to repairing and painting said walls), peeling vinyl flooring, and no toilet paper holder. Okay, that last thing is mostly a life-with-a-toddler thing (We used to have one, I just have no idea where the thing even is right now), but still... The point is, all of this adds up to me not opening up my home to friends and family because I want all of these things done first. It drives Jeremy crazy. In all honesty, it drives me crazy too.

So, all of this to say that my one little word for this year is "open." This goes beyond opening up my home to others regardless of the state it's in, but that is a huge part of it. I have always loved hosting friends and family in my home. I used to be a part of an epic dinner exchange when I lived in Dallas. I've never lived in another place with such an emphasis on eating out All. The. Time. My circle of friends decided to take turns hosting each other in our homes and cooking instead. I miss that. I miss crowding around the table and playing nertz and other fun games with friends. So, this year, I'm going to be open to hosting in my not-so-perfect home. Who wants to come over first? I promise not to say, "Sorry the house is such a mess," or point out the boards coming up in the kitchen under the sink. As long as you do the same for me. Invite me into your not-so-perfect life and don't apologize for the mess. Deal?

As I mentioned before, "open" applies to more than just opening my home. I'm open to choosing one little word. This isn't the first year I have heard about this concept, but it's the first year I am participating. I'm open to new ideas, challenges and opportunities. I'm open to meeting new people and even being set up on a blind "mom date." Yes, that happened. And when I read the Facebook message, instead of pretending that I didn't see it, I responded (gasp!). I'm not going to lie, I was still tempted to just pretend I forgot all about it and let it be forgotten by all parties involved, but I am proud to say that I did not do that. As nervous and hesitant as I am about making new friends, I realize that it is something I need (and want!) to be open to. I'm open to taking a health-related step that I have been putting off for two and a half years. I'm open to putting myself out there. I'm open to taking the first step.

Open heart.
Open mind.
Open book.
Open road.
Wide open.

Bring it on!