Staycation Ideas in North West Arkansas

staycation-image-wide

Trying to have fun with the family without spending a lot of money?  Look no further than the state of Arkansas, your own state, for some great places to visit and explore!  These can be day trips or one night excursions that won’t break the bank and the entire family will enjoy!

Terra Studios

terra-studios

 

Terra Studios, home of the Original Bluebird of Happiness, is a must see attraction in North West Arkansas.   The property has a ten acre art garden and soon they will have a Troll Garden.

Devil’s Den State Park

Devil's-Den

Devil’s Den is one of my favorite places in the whole wide world.  The trails are easy for kids to hike, clean and well taken care of and the views are amazing!  I usually go as a day trip, (as seen here)  but there is camping, cabins, paddle boats, horseback riding and much, much more!  For all state park info, check out the Arkansas State Park website (here).

Crater of Diamonds State Park

crater-diamonds-state-park

If you got the chance to dig for diamonds, would you do it?  If so, check out the only diamond producing site, in the WORLD,  that is open to the public! Start you adventure today!  Check out the Crater of Diamonds State Park website for what to bring and where to go! (here)

Clinton Presidential Library

clinton presidential library _ach_8933_l

 

Are you a history buff?  The Clinton Presidential Library features exhibits, special events, educational programs and replicas of the Oval Office and the Cabinet Room.

Crystal Bridges

Crystal-Bridges

Crystal Bridges is another one of my favorite places to go in North West Arkansas!  Take a lazy walk on the art trail or step inside the magnificent walls of the museum and experience art from the 19th century to modern day treasures.

 

Gentry Wild Safari

Gentry_Wild_Wilderness_Safari_camel_211_l

Lions and Tigers and Bears… Oh my!  Check out exotic animals at the Gentry Wild Safari less than an hours drive away  from anywhere in NWA.

Botanical Gardens of the Ozarks

Botanical_Garden_of_the_Ozarks

 

Take a moment to get immersed in nature by visiting the Botanical Gardens of the Ozarks.  Moonflowers and Mojitos returns to the gardens Thursday, June 13 and includes mojitos, music of the band Got It Covered, nibbling on hors d’ouevres, viewing the art work of Greg Moore and Kathy Snodgrass, all in the beautiful summertime atmosphere of the Garden.  Check out all events (here).

Farmer’s Markets

Bentonville_farmers_market

The Farmer’s Markets in North West Arkansas are fantastic.  Fayetteville farmers market (here), Springdale farmers market, Bentonville farmers market (here) , Eureka Springs farmers market (here) and Madison County farmers market (here).  For other Farmers Markets, check out this site.

 

 

Ten Years of Marriage: Love, Loss and Starting Over

fortune

Today marks 10 years of marriage for me and my husband.  Ten years ago we exchanged vows at the Monte Carlo in Las Vegas, only a few months after we had met.  We met at the mall of all places.  I managed the men’s clothing store, Express (formally Structure) and he managed a T-Mobile store.

Your first reaction might be to say, “Congratulations!”, but I need no congratulations today. We have been going through a divorce for the past 10 months.

I’ll never forget the day we met.  T-Mobile had a theft one evening after my hubby and his team had left for the night. He came to see if I or anyone from my team had seen anything suspicious.  I was no help because I had been off that evening, but we ended up talking for about an hour that day.  I remember telling one of my co-workers, “That guy talks a lot!” like he was so annoying.

I continued to spend time with him and after a few dates we quickly fell in love.

We found a cute apartment one block from the beach in Carlsbad, CA.  We were so in love that we moved in together within a month.  About 2 months later, I found out I was pregnant.

I actually remember the “oops” night and remember thinking, “Oh well.  I love this guy and if I get pregnant, I get pregnant.”  I was at that stage in my life where all my friends were married or getting married and I was ready to quit the single life and move forward as well.  I wanted the husband, 2.5 kids, house on a court…the married life that I had dreamed about as a little girl.  Little did I know what goes into that world and that life.

My parents’ marriage is one of those rare fairytale marriages that I dreamt I would have.  They married when my mom was 18 and my dad was 25.  They met one night at a college party and walked down the aisle two months later.  They are still married today and I only have one memory of them having an argument, but no words were exchanged.  I wanted their fairytale marriage from my very first date as a teenager.

I was about 4 years old when their fight happened.  I sat in the garage with my dad while he worked on this really old car of his.  It was something out of the 40′s, big and black with a bench seat in the front.  I remember sitting behind the wheel, pretending that I drove while he worked.  My mom came into the garage upset and told my dad she was leaving.  I don’t remember the exact details , but I remember feeling like I was never going to see my mother again.  These memories are coming back to me as I write this post. I forgot I even had them, but they are making things a bit clear when I look at my reactions in my own marriage.

When the hubby and I started having arguments, I didn’t really know how to handle them.  I had never seen my parents argue, so I thought I should avoid the confrontations.  I wouldn’t talk about our problems with him.  I would do my best to bury my feelings until they would surface from major build up and explode.

When they exploded, my first reaction was to get a divorce, every time.  I didn’t know any other way of handling these feelings.  Shutting down put a temporary band-aid on hurt feelings.

The fights got worse and worse through the years because of the build up and then release of feelings.  Feelings I had no idea how to manage.

It wasn’t only me that had a problem communicating.  The hubby also had a polar opposite way of dealing with arguments.  He argued until he was blue in the face and I could get no word in edgewise.  Our dysfunctional arguments evolved into a dysfunctional relationship. When we finally hit rock bottom, he wanted to go to a counselor and in my eyes, it was too late.

Our marriage faced another major difficulty – his mother. She lived with us throughout our entire marriage and made it very difficult for us to have a functional marriage.

She was very critical of me, to me.  Domestically domineering, she worked very hard to run our household, taking responsibilities that I wanted and needed to do as a wife.  I never knew what it was like to be a wife or a mother in my own home because a lot of what goes into that, she did.

Some have called me a saint for dealing with her for so long.  I call myself a coward and a submissive for letting her ruin the chapters in my life I will never experience.  I will never get those years back and never know what it was like to be a young bride, with a young family, in my own home in suburban California.

Sometimes I wonder if things would have worked out if his mother hadn’t lived with us.  Our relationship weighed under a lot of pressure because of the way she treated me, in my own home.  Most of our arguments involved my MIL and there were times when she would physically be involved in those arguments.  She finally started shutting her door and butting out, but by then, the damage had been done.

Today, I live in an apartment in Arkansas while my 3 daughters, husband and mother-in-law live together in the home we purchased in Florida.  I die inside every day I think about what was taken away from me.  The chapters I lost, the years taken from me.  I blame many things and people, I blame myself.

There are some good things that came from this experience. I add new chapters to my story every day. I thank God for my 3 beautiful, sweet angels; for the strength I found to remove myself from the dysfunctional home I helped to create; and for the people who have entered my life.

They help build me up and show me that I can live a happy life filled with love and communication.

Earth Week

Last week was Earth Week 2013 and over at the Collective Bias offices, we celebrated with several different activities.  The interns put together fun challenges for us to earn points for prizes, scheduled a park clean-up and planned a tree planting ceremony celebrating Earth Day and the growth of Collective Bias.

One of the activities we did as a team was to go over to the local park and pick up trash.  We headed over to Phillips Park in Bentonville.  Unfortunately for us the park was almost spotless.  It was like pulling teeth to find garbage to pick up, but we did manage to find a few scraps and a few plastic drink tops.  Other than that…nothing.

It was such a gorgeous sunshine filled day!  My inner child was calling out, “Go, play, enjoy!”  A few of us jumped on the swings and enjoyed the warm sun and the refreshing breeze on our faces!

Monica enjoying a swing!

 

CB Clean-up Crew

Then we got the whole team to reach into the child inside and take a quick moment to play on the children’s play structure.  And they posed quite well for a group photo!

Happy Earth Week!

Kale and Roasted Cauliflower Salad

Kale Salad

I found this Kale and Roasted Cauliflower salad in Real Simple magazine and have tweaked it a bit from the original.  It is such a filling salad and SO good for you!

Kale and Roasted Cauliflower Salad

Ingredients

1/4 cup pine nuts

1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

6 tablespoons olive oil

Six grinds of both Sea Salt and black peppercorn pepper

1/4 cup tahini

1/2 of a lemon- juice squeezed

1 large bunch of chopped kale

1/2 small red onion, chopped

1 avocado, halved and sliced

Recipe

- Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Put about 2 tablespoons olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet and spread pine nuts.  Heat 6 minutes or until golden brown.  Flip the nuts half way through the baking process.  Transfer to a plate.

-  Increase the oven to 450 degrees F.  On the rimmed baking sheet spread the cauliflower and then toss with the cayenne, 2 tablespoons olive oil, sea salt and pepper.  Roast until golden brown, tossing once.  About 18-20 minutes.

-  In a large bowl, whisk together the tahini, lemon juice, remaining 2 tablespoons olive oils, 1/3 cup water, salt and pepper to taste.  Add the kale, onion, pine nuts, cauliflower and avocado.

 

 

My Week of Instaphotos 2/11-2/17

This was one of the best Valentine’s weeks I’ve had in a long while!  It helps when you are with the right Valentine:-)

I also got to end my week in Florida with my girls and had an amazing time with them!

Here are the photos I took during the February photo a day challenge:

Day 11: Family These are my three sweet girls.  We took this photo during their trip to Arkansas over holiday break.  Love these girls!!!

Family

 

Day 12: Sweets Orange tootsie roll pops are my least favorite flavor, but that was the only sweet I could get my hands on, so it worked for the photo.

Sweets

 

Day 13: BFF’s (Galentine’s Day) This is a photo of my sister and I on our way to my grandmother’s funeral.  I guess we were trying to take our minds off of where we were headed.  The rest of the day was extremely sad.

Galentine's

 

Day 14: Valentine’s Day I found this cheesy t-shirt and had to get it to wear for Valentine’s Day.  The saying is true…I do love my boyfriend!

I Love My Boyfriend

 

Day 15: Flowers I got these beauties for Valentine’s Day.  My favorite color is red and they were the most beautiful shade!

flowers

 

Day 16: Books Some business books can be a drag, but Good to Great is one I could not put down!  I read half of it on my way to Florida and I plan on reading the other half on my way back!

Good to Great

 

Day 17: Animals These animals were as close as were going to get to animals for this photo.  I got these Beanie Boos for the girls while in Florida.  They have big glitter eyes and bright colors and are the perfect size to take in the car!

Beanie Boos

 

 

My Week Of InstaPhotos 02/01-02/07

I’ve committed to a photo a day for the month of February and so far, I haven’t missed a beat.  Here are the first 7 days and if you’d like to follow along on Instagram or join in on the fun, follow the hashtag #luvSoFab.

Day 1: Red-  Best cup of tea I have ever had was from a cafe in the UK !  It was bright red and had the flavor of a hot cup of fresh fruit!

Red Tea

 

Day 2: Spring-  I took this photo last summer at the Bentonville Farmer’s Market.

sunflower

 

Day 3: Team (Superbowl)-  Grabbed the red and gold from one of my paintings.

Red and Yellow

 

Day 4: Food-  This is my favorite breakfast sandwich ever!  It’s the Avocado and you can find it at the Press Room in the Bentonville Square.

Egg Sandwich

 

Day 5: Something Pink-  FAO Schweetz is like a candy wonderland.  It’s located inside of FAO Schwartz.

FAO Schweetz

 

Day 6: Drink- I love an iced green tea from Starbucks.  I recently cut out soda for one of my New Year’s resolutions, so green tea has now occupied the soda void.

Starbucks green tea

 

Day 7: Heartthrob-  These girls make my heart throb.  I love them and miss them every moment of every day.

Heartthrob

Bringing Nature Inside the Home

It was a relaxing weekend day mid-morning, the weather was sunny and cool.  I decided I needed to get outside for my workout routine and get some fresh air.  Prior to my decision to get outside for a brisk walk I have my morning coffee and did a little cruising on the web.

I came across a post called Top DIY Decorations Using Branches and became instantly inspired to bring nature inside of my home.  While on my walk, I found some bleached out branches that had fuzzy stickers attached to them.  PERFECT!

Then I found some pretty white rocks.  I remembered I had a square vase that I had received a congratulations bouquet in a while back and I thought it would be the perfect vase for this project!

As soon as I got home I broke the ends off of the branches to shorten them up, dumped the white rocks into the vase and then played with the branches until I was happy with the arrangement.

I’m very happy with the way it turned out and not only was it easy… it was very inexpensive (free for me) and it looks beautiful atop my book shelf.

Am I Starting Menopause?

I don’t feel 37!

Menopause…like seriously!?  I’m  37 and I feel like I’m 25 most days, but the other day I was in the car with two of my girlfriends and I said…”Last night I woke up with a head full of wet hair and I don’t understand it because the AC was on, the ceiling fan was on and I only had a sheet covering me.  What is going on??”  They both, in unison burst out and said, “That’s menopause Courtney!”  And then they proceeded to laugh!

My company is doing a campaign for Poise and I just turned 37 in August.  About a year ago I noticed something that was happening that I had never had a problem with, ever.  I was getting sweaty armpits…like my pits would be soaking wet.  At first I thought I was using the wrong deodorant and I had actually changed to a new deodorant, so I switched back…it still happened.  It happened even in the air conditioning.  I have tried other deodorants and it’s not them, it’s me.

I’m beginning to think my girlfriends were right.  I think I may be in the early stages of menopause, but it’s just a guess because I seriously don’t know much about menopause because my mother never talked about it.  We never had that second talk.

I read that menopause can start as early as 35…so I guess it is possible.

I went and did a Google search to find out the symptoms of menopause and this is what I found:

Irregular vaginal bleeding

Hot flashes & night sweats

Vaginal symptoms

  • Vaginal dryness, irritation, itchiness
 Urinary symptoms
  • Increase in urinary track infections
  • leakage
  • frequent urination
Emotional and cognitive symptoms
  • Fatigue
  • Memory problems
  • Irritability

Other physical changes

  • Weight gain
  • Wrinkles
  • Adult acne
  • Hair growth- chin, upper lip, back, etc

Symptoms found here:  MedicineNet.com (Menopause Symptoms)

I’m not experiencing all of the symptoms listed above, but there are a few symptoms listed that I am experiencing and am convinced I am going through pre-menopause.

Blame it on the menopause!  I am:-)

Making Hard Decisions

Life is full of hard decisions.  As we get older they get progressively harder because more people join our lives and are affected by those decisions.  As a mother of 3 beautiful girls I recently had to make one of the hardest decisions of my life…at least I hope.

I flew back to Florida last week for my monthly trip to see the girls.  During this trip, I was also going into mediation with my soon-to-be ex-husband.  We had been together for 8 years when I knew for sure that it was completely over.

During those 8 years, we had had some ups and downs throughout the marriage. I wanted to leave several times before now, but I tried each and every time to work through it — even if it meant pushing my hurtful feelings aside and dealing with the unhappiness.

The state of Florida orders all divorcing couples to go through mediation to see if they can resolve custody and support issues without going before a judge. Prior to mediation day, I had planned meetings with the girls’ teachers to let them know what was going on and to form a relationship with them.  The teacher meetings went better than I expected and I left each meeting feeling conflicted in  my plan  for the girls.

I had arrived in Florida intending to fight for full custody of the girls.  After seeing the girls’ teachers and seeing the girls themselves happy to see me, but happier to go back home and to school each day, my plan changed.

They make straight A’s, and their teachers didn’t even know their parents were going through a divorce because the girls are so happy in class. They were both student of the week  within the first  few weeks of school.  I decided I couldn’t break their hearts or their father’s heart by taking them from their home on Florida.

I went in knowing exactly what I wanted and that I would leave if I had to change anything.  I wanted shared custody.  I wanted to make shared decisions with their dad on health, religious and school issues.  I wanted half of  Christmas break. I wanted 8 weeks in the summer.  I wanted every other Spring Break and  every other Thanksgiving.  I wanted a four day weekend every month and I wanted Mother’s Day.  If I didn’t get all of that, which is an amount of time sharing I could live with, I would leave and fight for full custody.

Mediation took 10 hours. All we resolved were the custody and visitation questions, but those are really the most important ones.

Next up…financials.  And, I won’t be sharing those details.

Requesting Prayers Please

I can never prepare myself enough for my monthly trip to Florida.  I haven’t shared this openly just yet, but I’m going through a divorce.  I live in Arkansas and my girls are in Florida with their dad and grandmother.  I fly to see them every month for about a week at a time.  It is by far the most emotionally trying thing I have ever experienced in my life, and I would not wish it upon anyone, ever.

About a week before I fly out I get stressed and a little depressed.  Knowing I have such a short period of time to spend with them I worry over what we will do each day.  I want to spend high quality time with them, so I stick to activities where we can talk, play and interact with each other.  I took them to see a movie once and decided it was a huge waste of quality time. That was the last time we saw a movie as an activity.

With the cancer scare just a week ago, getting paperwork prepared for my lawyer and getting ready for Bloggy Bootcamp Dallas, I didn’t have time or energy to be worried about what activities the girls and I would do.  I ended up planning the week on my plane trip out to Florida.

This trip was different.  They had a holiday day off school Monday, so I picked them up Sunday night.  Monday we bowled, swam, shopped a little and then ended the night at their favorite restaurant, Olive Garden.  The  thing that was different was having to take them home in the evening.  I usually have them an entire week without interruptions.  I did however get to keep my 3-year-old since she isn’t going to school yet.  She was thrilled to get to come back to the hotel with me.  She talked the entire ride back…I’ve never heard her talk SO much!

I’m lying here in the bed next to her, typing this post in the dark of the morning feeling really sad.  I miss having her warm little body next to me, so close that I can reach over to caress her hair or rub the warm skin on her arm.  I miss all three of them.  I have that happy/sad emotion going on in my heart and it sucks.  I’m grateful that in my line of work I can visit them each month, but being so far away is one of the hardest things a mother can experience.

My divorce mediation takes place later this week. I’m going to need lots of prayers on Thursday.  I need everyone to pray that we can reach some equitable and start moving toward a conclusion to this process. I’d hate for some judge, who doesn’t know or care about my girls, to make decisions on their lives.  I’m hoping the ex and I can agree on decisions that will affect their lives forever in positive ways.

Divorce is never easy, and this has been hard on everyone. Please keep us all in your thoughts and prayers this week. We can use all the help we can get.