June 25, 2016

#Thursdatenight on the Farm

There's a farm in our area that has (almost) single-handedly made Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) cool. In a CSA setup, individuals pledge support to a local farm in return for a share of the farm's in-season harvest. I've always been intrigued by CSAs and have kept hearing amazing things about one farm in particular for several years.

Millsap Farm is a 20-acre farm located just a few minutes north of Springfield. In addition to the CSA which you can read more about here, Millsap Farm has a Thursday Night Pizza Club. This Pizza Club features wood-fired pizzas that are cooked in the farm's handmade Horno wood-fired earthen oven and baked at 800 degrees. And they offer three different pizzas topped with their very own seasonal produce, plus a cheese pizza option.

Again, we have heard incredible reviews about Thursday Night Pizza Club, but never tried it out until this past Thursday night. Why, you ask?? Well, Robert doesn't like pizza and I don't like "weird" pizza. We're a Pizza Hut style with regular pizza toppings pizza kind of family. Add to that the fact that we don't like hot weather—especially eating hot pizza by a hot oven in the heat of summer. And that's exactly why we've never been. But some of our really good friends, and I mean REALLY good friends, invited us to Pizza Club. So we reluctantly obliged, but only because we're really good friends.

Going into the evening, our expectations were very low. We expected to be eating mediocre cheese pizza in the sweltering heat and had even established a "safe word" which would signal when it was time to get the heck out. But our evening didn't go as planned. The experience turned out to be amazing. (At least it was for me!)

When we arrived at Millsap Farm, we were amazed by the number of people in attendance. The website said that Pizza Club was popular and sells out, but people say a lot of things on the internet that aren't true. We even got there 10 minutes early and had to stand in a long line. Although we had to wait for a while, the atmosphere was so welcoming that it took our minds off the long line. It was fun watching kids play freely and checking out the surrounding produce. It reminded me of my childhood and more carefree times.

Millsap Farm

After paying for our meals and getting our plates, we found a secluded area in the back of the picnic area and set up camp. It was cool, shaded, and looked like a fairy tale forest (fireflies, outdoor string lights, and live music may have contributed to the ambience 😉).

community dinner

Robert got in the pizza line for us and loaded us up with every type of pizza. I expected to only be eating the cheese, but I tried every single type and came away with a new favorite—Seeing Green. The Seeing Green pizza was smothered with homemade pesto, red onions, Portobello mushrooms, and cheese. I ate more slices than I'd care to admit and have already asked Millsap for their pesto recipe!

Millsap Farm Pizza Night

Another highlight of the evening was getting to watch the pizza making process. The farm had a whole crew of people rolling out pizza dough, adding toppings, and firing the pizzas. From the baking process to the outdoor seating, the entire evening felt like a big, community dinner that made strangers feel more like friends and where kids could experience old fashioned fun.

Millsap Farm

Millsap Farm Pizza Night

Our evening was cut short due to bad weather, but our experience at Thursday Night Pizza Club was one for the record books. It reminds me of a song from Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood that Audrey likes to sing, "You gotta try new foods 'cause they might taste goo-ood. So-oo good." And that's exactly what happened. Thursday Night Pizza Club left my tastebuds watering and me anxious to make our next reservation! It was an evening to be thankful for community, food, family, and good friends who convinced us to try something new.

June 23, 2016

Weekend Adventures at Big Cedar Wilderness Club

We spent a semi-incredible weekend celebrating Father's Day and exploring the property of Big Cedar Lodge. The reason I say semi-incredible is because Alex didn't sleep well (read: at all) the entire weekend which caused us all to have some mood swings. But other than our occasional grumpy demeanor, the weekend was all that we could've hoped for and more!

Prior to staying at Big Cedar Lodge, I was always skeptical. I'm not the lodge-y/camping/
hunting/log cabin loving type. I'm also not a fan of overpriced accommodations and dining—especially when it's outfitted in lodge-y/camping/hunting/log cabin type decor. So other than wanting to visit Top of the Rock JUST for the incredible view and photo ops, I never planned to visit Big Cedar let alone stay there.

But then I kept hearing such amazing feedback and seeing incredible photos........ All this from people who, like me, aren't the lodge-y/camping/hunting log cabin loving type. Of course, I became intrigued and the ideas starting forming. And then all of a sudden I booked us a weekend getaway at the Wilderness Club!

Bluegreen Wilderness Club

Wilderness Club at Big Cedar is owned by Bluegreen Vacations Unlimited, a timeshare property management firm. To book our stay, I didn't go through Bluegreen directly but used Craigslist to find an available room that matched our needs. (A lot of timeshare owners post their unused timeshare listings on Craigslist and eBay to pay for their annual maintenance fees. This is perfectly acceptable.) I found a large studio complete with kitchenette and balcony, and booked our stay.

Big Cedar Wilderness Club

Bluegreen Wilderness Club

The Wilderness Club offers a ton of amenities that were appealing to us like playgrounds, a pool at every lodge (aka timeshare unit), complimentary shuttle service, a clubhouse & game room, a lazy river with a waterfall and slide, BBQ pits, etc. But the added bonus is that since you're technically on Big Cedar property, all guests have full access to Big Cedar Lodge amenities as well—miniature golf, paved 5K trail, restaurants, etc.

We arrived on the property and checked in to our studio a little before 6:30pm on Friday night. After getting settled into our room, we threw on our swimsuits and headed out to the pool area. The pool area at our lodge had an infinity pool, regular pool, and kiddie pool with fountains. Can you guess where we spent the rest of our evening??

Big Cedar Lodge

Big Cedar Lodge

Saturday morning we put on our activewear and took the shuttle to the 5K trail. The trail is paved, scenery is gorgeous, but the hills are no joke. Robert & I thought we would run the entire trail, but boy were we wrong! Pushing 70lbs worth of stroller and two little girls did us in after the first major incline. But we still made great time and had fun running all over Big Cedar property.

Big Cedar Trail

Devil's Pool Big Cedar

Devil's Pool Big Cedar

Table Rock Lake

After our run, we ate breakfast, and got suited up for the lazy river. Let me just say that if you have small children, this water feature will be anything BUT lazy. Trying to relax while holding a toddler and infant in an inner tube is an awful lot of work. We made two loops around the river before calling it quits because the girls were disrupting all the other people who COULD actually relax and be lazy. In fact, I had a middle-age father come up to me and assure me that vacationing with kids DOES get easier. Haha!

Wilderness Club lazy river

Although our lazy river experience was short-lived, our fun was not. My parents came to visit us for the day and we ran into some friends from my hometown. It was nice to catch up and relax for a bit!

That afternoon while Alex napped, Audrey & I took my parents to play miniature golf. We only played 4 holes due to the heat and a 3-yr old's attention span, but we still had an awesome time! The course is self-serve and had clubs to accommodate a wide range of sizes, which we appreciated very much.

Big Cedar golf

Big Cedar golf

Big Cedar golf

Big Cedar golf

We followed up golf with watermelon on the balcony. That probably sounds really basic and boring, but the weather was really nice and our balcony felt very private. Shortly after, my parents left and the four of us got ready for dinner. We called the shuttle (a seriously amazing service that we used 10+ times over a 2-day period) and arrived right on time for our dinner reservation at Devil's Pool Restaurant.

Big Cedar Wilderness Club amenities

Our dinner at Devil's Pool was the only meal we ate on property. I was apprehensive going into the meal, since I have a penchant against overpriced restaurants. But after eating there, I can honestly say the food was great. I would never say the food or experience was worth the price, but it was nice to treat Robert to a nice meal on Father's Day weekend.

Sunday morning came to soon and we found ourselves packing up and leaving a small piece of paradise behind. Our weekend adventure at Big Cedar Wilderness Club was truly amazing and we're already planning to book an even longer stay next summer!

Big Cedar Wilderness Club

Insider tips for staying at Big Cedar Wilderness Club:

• Check Craigslist and eBay for discounted Wilderness Club listings

• Off-season dates are cheaper than peak season, but the pools and lazy river are only open Memorial Day weekend - Labor Day weekend, so keep that in mind if swimming options are important to your family.

• If your room comes with a kitchenette, bring your own food. On-property restaurants are very expensive and eating out every meal adds up quickly.

• Bring modest clothing. As a family-friendly resort, swim cover-ups are required when you're not actually in the water and the restaurants require resort attire for indoor seating (i.e. no hats, flip flops, or swimwear; collared shirts for men; etc.).

• There are a plethora of activities and amenities so boredom will never be a problem.

• If you're traveling with children and would like a few hours of adults-only time, Big Cedar offers a 3-hour Kids' Club for ages 4-12 for an additional fee.

June 16, 2016

iPhone 6 vs Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge

Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to give the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge a test run. That might sound a bit strange coming from an avid Apple user, but I thought it would be fun to see which phone really is the best of the best. After using both phones for a few weeks, I had a clear a favorite and I'm here to help you find yours.

Like I said, I'm an Apple fan but that wasn't always the case. Prior to 2010, I didn't know much about Apple. I knew they made iPhones and that Mac computers were a designers dream, but I had no intentions of starting a relationship with them. But in January 2011, I got my first iPhone. I upgraded to the iPhone from a Samsung Blackjack which I absolutely loved.

The first week of transition was difficult for sure. I had to learn the Apple iOS system and adjust to texting on a touchscreen. But you could say the rest is history because, for me, there was no going back to anything other than iOS. Since then, I've also purchased a MacBook Pro and become completely immersed in all things Apple. It's the navigation system that I'm used to now.

Although I'm uber comfortable with Apple, I also enjoy trying new things. So I jumped at the opportunity to try out the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, which is a seriously cool phone, and test out Verizon's service compared to AT&T.

Here are the results:

Operating system—try as I might, I just don't mesh with the Android platform. It's like my brain just doesn't speak that language anymore. For others, it's definitely not a deal breaker. It's simply a preference of operating system.

Service provider—it's a toss up. Even though we live in a metro area, the geographical location of our house is weird and internet and cell phone service is spotty. I'm not in the position to recommend one service provider over another because neither network (AT&T or Verizon) is/was amazing.

Aesthetically speaking—the Galaxy S7 Edge is boss. The iPhone 6 shows great improvement over its predecessors, but the edge-to-edge screen on the Galaxy totally won me over. And in my opinion, it just looks nicer than the iPhone 6. (But to each his own.) The silver titanium phone I tested was beautiful. (And please tell me I'm not the only one who has strong opinions about whether or not a phone can be pretty.)

Galaxy Edge

Durability—the Galaxy S7 Edge was the clear winner for me. I have two little girls, ages 1 and 3, and I let them put these phones to the test. As a mom blogger, I feel like it was part of my due diligence to have my little rascals play with the phones. Because in reality, that's exactly what happens—your kids will inevitably snatch your phone, play on your phone, and either drop said phone or flush it down the toilet.

I have a faux Otterbox bumper case with protective glass shield on my iPhone 6. The Galaxy S7 Edge came with no protection and was a product that I had to send back, so my nerves were a little crazy when I let the girls loose with it. BUT.....the Galaxy S7 Edge performed beautifully and held up in spite of being thrown, dropped, and stepped on. I didn't test this part, but the Galaxy S7 Edge is also water resistant in up to 5 feet of water, which means getting dropped in the toilet or put in the washer wouldn't be a huge problem.

Galaxy S7

Battery life—an ongoing problem for almost everyone on the planet, except for Galaxy S7 Edge owners. The battery life on this bad boy is truly kick butt. I feel like I'm constantly charging my iPhone 6, whereas I had to purposely try and drain the battery on the S7 Edge. The specs on the Edge say it can keep you connected for up to 33 hours and I believe every bit of that.

Galaxy S7

Camera capabilities—selfies, photo bombing, and photo styling are all the rage and the better your camera the better your picture. I noticed a HUGE improvement in the iPhone 6's camera compared to the iPhone 4 and was happy about the upgrades and new features. But after testing the S7 Edge, the iPhone 6 has nothing in comparison.

As a parent, capturing memories of my girls is of utmost importance. The picture quality and shooting speed of the S7 Edge is amazing. It has precise autofocus and 12MP rear camera with dual-pixel 5MP front camera. The Edge also has a new low-light sensor which is perfect for taking high quality selfies (not that I really take selfies) and pictures at night. I thoroughly enjoyed taking pictures on the S7 Edge and took SO MANY pics that I would love to share. Unfortunately, mom brain got in the way and it wasn't until AFTER I returned the phone that I realized I FORGOT TO GET MY PICTURES. I apologize for my slip up, but if that's the worst thing that happened that day......it was a good day.

Galaxy Edge

And now for the $1M question.... Which phone wins my recommendation? I never would've expected it, but the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. Personally, I don't foresee myself ever straying from an Apple product. The iOS interface is ingrained in me and I'm probably a lifer. But battery life, durability, and picture quality are incredibly important to me and the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge was the clear winner.

Galaxy Edge

Special thanks to Samsung, Verizon Wireless, and Weber Shandwick for allowing me to demo and review the Galaxy S7 Edge! All thoughts and opinions in this review are my own and I received no compensation in exchange for this honest review.

June 3, 2016

Northwest Arkansas Adventures + A Short Week

Last Saturday through today has been a bit of a blur, but definitely in a good way. We made a quick day trip to Arkansas to see friends, meet a new baby, and celebrate a birthday. The next day we went to church and had date night. And then we celebrated Memorial Day and wrapped things up with a visit to Silver Dollar City. Having Robert home for a few extra days was amazing and here's an in-depth look at our adventures.

As I mentioned, we went down to northwest Arkansas last Saturday. It's just under a 2-hour interstate drive, so it's definitely manageable to go there and back in one day with the kiddos. We pass through some pretty country and I've decided that we're going to check out the Elk River during one of our future visits.

But our first stop on our weekend itinerary was Honeycomb Kitchen Shop in downtown Rogers. Honeycomb is owned & operated by two of our college friends, Melissa & Dana. The duo has done an amazing job of stocking the shop with the most functional and coolest kitchen supplies I've seen. Some of my favorite finds were himalayan salt plates, cappuccino art stencils, and kitchen utensils made especially for kids. Their online store launched on June 1 so they can pretty much start taking all my money now!

downtown Rogers

Honeycomb also sells locally-sourced honey, jams, spreads, and sauces. Our favorite "taste" was the Tuscan Garlic Pasta Sauce made by Bonta Toscana in Little Rock, AR. Melissa served it as a salsa-style dip and it was out of this world.

We haven't seen Melissa or Dana in years, so it was great to catch up (well, as much as you can with two little kids running around a shop with lots of breakables), shop, and taste test. We wish them the best of luck in their new endeavor and hope you'll visit the shop the next time you're in northwest Arkansas!

After leaving Honeycomb, we knew it was time for lunch. The girls were about to lose it and we were all teetering on the fine line of hangry, so to Flying Fish we went! Flying Fish is on the Bentonville Square and one of our favorite restaurants ever. And Saturday was the perfect day to go.

The weather was amazing so we sat by the window and people watched while waiting for our food. We also enjoyed explaining the crazy decor to the girls and sharing our favorite meals with them.

Flying Fish Bentonville

After lunch, we walked around the Bentonville square so the girls could stretch their legs. The square is so picturesque and family friendly. I let the girls stick their toes in the fountain and we got so many smiles & waves from passersby. 

water fountain
Bentonville square fountain

We also walked by some neat shops and admired the area revitalization efforts initiated by the Walton family. They've done such a great job with the area, and it gives me hope that investors will continue doing the same for downtown Springfield.  

Later that afternoon, we stopped by to see some of our close friends. These friends just welcomed a baby girl into their family AND were celebrating the 4th birthday of their son. Talk about a busy but exciting time! Our visit was way too short, but the awesome thing about good friends is that you can pick up right where you left off—no matter how long it's been since you've last seen them or how short the visit. Good friends are forever.

We finally left Arkansas around 5pm and had planned to stop at the Bella Vista walking trail that evening. The trail running alongside Hwy 71 was lined with the most gorgeous wildflowers. But the girls were tired and ready to get home, so we had to settle on a drive-by. Maybe next year......      

Bella Vista wildflowers

Sunday morning was busy and exciting, as Audrey got promoted to the preschool area known as 'Zooper Church'. Zooper Church means praise & worship, cool Bible story videos, and a bigger & better playground. We thought she would have a great time but it turned out that she was really nervous. After church she told us that she missed Penguin class (her old classroom) and the little Play Land. We'll just have to keep encouraging her and pray that she adjusts well.

Robert & I went for a 16.5-mile bike ride later that evening and enjoyed every kid-free minute. We started out at McDaniel Park and rode all the way to Rutledge-Wilson farm and back. We're excited because a new section of Ozark Greenways Trail will be opening on June 4 that safely links South Creek to Rutledge-Wilson farm. It will be so much safer and enjoyable for families to access and experience the incredible trails in our area!

South Creek Greenway

We all woke up early on Memorial Day morning and ate waffles & bacon before heading to the park. I packed a picnic lunch for us and some extra bread to feed the critters. We ended up at Nathanael Greene Park and took a fun walk on a trail before hitting the playground.

The playground was pretty empty so the girls had free rein of the place. They had fun swinging, sliding, and then Audrey took up running laps around the playground. She looks like a future track star in the making if you ask me. 

We also hit up the butterfly house, gardens, and found a spot in the shade to eat lunch. The girls thought the experience was pretty cool and they really enjoyed watching the geese come near us. (I may or may not have summoned the geese with bread.) ;)

As far as Memorial Day festivities go, that was pretty much the highlight. We dressed the girls in patriotic colors and explained that Daddy got to stay home because of the brave men & women who fought for our country. Audrey, and especially Alex, don't understand the privilege of being an American, but Robert & I are sure thankful for those who died fighting to ensure our rights and freedom. Thank you!!

We finished the long weekend off on Tuesday with a trip to Silver Dollar City. I have no pictures to share but I can promise you that both girls had a blast. Especially Alex. Man, that girl loves to have fun and ride rides!

How has your week been and do you have fun plans for this weekend?

May 24, 2016

Audrey's First Dance Recital

This past Saturday, Audrey had her very first dance recital. A real, big time recital—complete with hours upon hours of practice, afternoon dress rehearsal, and late afternoon performance on a BIG stage at Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts.

Audrey started dance last July at the age of 2. The studio she attends was the only place I found willing to accept a 2 y.o. She has always loved to dance and incorporates dancing into almost everything she does every single day. So up until the last two months, I would've said that the recital would be easy peasy. Except that it wasn't.

I don't know if the hours of practice and rigid structure of perfecting the recital pieces finally got to her or not, but in the few weeks leading up to the recital Audrey was an absolute pain in dance class. She's always been the youngest in class but done really well despite the age gap. But lately she's shown just how big of a difference that age gap can make by not listening, crying for no reason, purposely doing the wrong steps, etc.

She is taking a break from dance for the summer, but the break didn't start until AFTER the recital. The recital that she worked so hard toward and I KNEW she could do.

Mine & Audrey's relationship was a little rocky during the dress rehearsal. She wanted me to go onstage with her, which I couldn't, so she cried when I didn't. And when she finally DID decide to participate, it was due to bribing her with a Capri Sun drink. Not what I would consider a success.

When it came time for me to drop her off in the dressing room before the recital, she had a great attitude and was excited to be surrounded by friends. I packed a few snacks for Audrey to munch on before going on stage and some stickers and coloring sheets to keep her mind off the fact that I was gone. But things quickly went downhill and when it was her group's turn to go onstage, Audrey stood through the entire ballet number with her arms crossed and sobbing, "Where's my momma?"

After witnessing the meltdown, I quickly left the auditorium and jetted backstage to the dressing rooms. There, I found one of the dance assistants holding a crying Audrey and telling her I would be back to get her soon.

The look on Audrey's face when she saw me was that of immediate relief. I spent the rest of the performance giving Audrey a pep talk, helping herd the other little girls backstage, and watching from the backstage wings. I was a little disappointed that I didn't get to watch from the audience, but it was worth missing since Audrey's confidence was boosted enough that she killed the tap dance piece.

Audrey's group danced to Thurston Harris' Little Bitty Pretty One. And man oh man, my baby girl can dance! She danced her heart out and those little tap shoes just clickity-clicked away. And at the end of the song, she gave the longest bow I've ever seen. It. was. AWESOME. and something I will remember forever.

And that's the reason I pushed her to finish out the dance season and participate in the recital. Not for my own selfish gain or because we had already paid for the costume & recital fee. I wanted Audrey to do well because: 1) I know she loves to dance, 2) she really excels at dance, and 3) I wanted to show her that she CAN do hard things and its important to follow through with commitments.

I know she's too young to fully understand all this, but it makes my momma heart so happy to watch her succeed. And possibly even more important, overcome fear/disappointment/failure and then succeed!

Audrey did an amazing job and I'm so thankful that we got to experience this with her. My parents came up from Arkansas so the fact that she had even more adoring fans at her recital made Audrey feel like a total rockstar!

She wasn't in the mood for pictures after the recital (no surprise there!), but she did get rewarded with a cool, stuffed Elsa doll and Chick-fil-A kids meal. The perfect treats for our tiny little dancer that overcame fear to find success!

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