Well, 2021 was interesting. We started it in Winston Salem, North Carolina and ended it in Middleton, Wisconsin. In May we left North Carolina for an opportunity in Wisconsin that didn't work out for many reasons. One being by September we had our winter jackets out as family made fun of our new weakness against the cold. That was nothing - By December we thought we may freeze to death there. We forgot how cold it was.... ice everywhere we looked!
Anyway, after debating a few opportunities further South we ended up in Bentonville, Arkansas. Finding a home during a pandemic in a rapidly growing area was not something I'd recommend but we did it! We are in the best house we've ever lived in right between our workplaces in Bentonville and one of my favorite cites- Fayetteville. After almost a year in temporary living we're enjoying redecorating the space with help from a very stylish friend... more to come on that later.
Now as I'm getting settled in I'm making time for things I enjoy - reopened my online shops, been cooking/baking like crazy, exploring all the thrift stores and getting back to writing - starting with updating here. To celebrate the past year, I got a list of 12 things near my new home in Springdale, Arkansas that are awesome.
1. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art - This is one of the coolest museums I've ever seen. It's free to enter but I would still recommend the membership as it gives discounts on events and even many for free. Some of my favorite things to see here are =
2. Turpentine Creek - Not only is this a wildlife refuge, but it's got lodging. We stayed in a "safari suite" and heard the residents talking all night long. We also saw our first live armadillo here sniffing around outside our hut.
3. BidFTA - I don't like telling people about this place as it gets competitive. You never know what you will find so it can become addicting. It's kind of a hot mess which is part of the charm. It's an online auction which you have to go to the warehouse and hunt down your items.
Random things we've gotten here = Manduka yoga mat, felt lined wooden thing with drawers to keep you organized when putting jigsaw puzzles together, Bugzooka (yes that is a thing), lounge chair cushions, Ninja blender, backpack vaccuum system (shop vac power!), Lucille bat from The Walking Dead, storage containers, Instant Pot air fryer, water heater tank for our shop, landscape cloth.... and more!
3. Goodwill bins - Next to the auction pick up #3 above is one of 2 Goodwill outlets in the state where you pay by the pound. This one is great; never seen it real busy and they switch the bins out often. I have found Patagonia jackets, Eileen Fisher tops, Outdoor Voices pants and so many good things here. It's easy to get sucked in as there is some great stuff in this area! I never had such luck as I have here - other states are so crowded and competitive. This has a much more chill vibe.
4. Railyard Live - We've seen many a free live festival type setting show. This has the most diverse acts in such a cool setting. Next to a railyard turned playground is a stage that brings in acts from all over the world. Some of our favorites were a Tom Petty tribute band and of course classic rock cover band, 90 pound wrench. There's tables up front you need to pay $20 for (seats 4). Otherwise you need to reserve the free tickets and BYO chair. It's fun to walk around the area and listen. Beers and food here are overpriced; Ozark down the street is a better plan - stop there to get a wristband and drink that allows you to walk with open container in the "entertainment district."
5. Coler - We enjoy a hike but have never seen anything like this. Beautiful paved walking trails surrounded by art sculptures. There's even a coffee shop. A bridge that plays music as you walk across. And there's the bike trails - fun to watch people on these trails as they are wild. I've taken some of the free yoga classes here through Walton Life fitness. There's also bike classes and an archery range.
6. Onyx Coffee - I have married a coffee snob and this is his holy grail. Not only is it beautiful but the food and selection of coffee varieties and seasonal drinks are some of the best we've had anywhere. The Bentonville location is always crazy so we prefer the Rogers or Springdale but can't go wrong at any.
7. Sunny Days - Sunny's is a beautiful restaurant with unpredictable service. But Sunny Days brings unique active experiences to the area. Events are free or reasonably priced; usually including their healthy and delicious food. I've done a workout in an airport hanger with a fancy teacher from the Hamptons, meditation in an art sculpture at Crystal Bridges with an instructor from Miami and a hip hop inspired dance class with a very cool teacher from NYC to name a few. I never quite know what I sign up for with this but never regretted it!
8. 8th Street Market - One of the first places I saw before I moved as I was taken to lunch here. It's a very cool food hall; can't go wrong with any of the choices but some of our favorites are =
9. Eat It Up Yum - I've eaten a lot of chocolate chip cookies. Elisha's is the best and now she taught me her secrets.
10. Fayetteville's Funky Flea Market - Being a long time estate saler it's difficult to find a flea market that lives up to the hype. This one is one of the best I've ever been to! It is beautifully curated in the most wild way - I don't want to spoil anything; it's an adventure!
Moving back to Wisconsin one of the activities on our list is the return of Game Nights! One of our favorite cold weather activities is having friends and family over for some old fashioned board games. To mix it up, we love to try new things. We discovered one that we couldn't wait for winter for! Hues and Clues is a fun guessing strategy game that keeps the creative wordy people like myself entertained and the strategy seeking more serious types like my husband motivated to win in. Fun game that is pretty enough for the young ones to get sucked into as well!
I love my fruity candy so was thrilled to try these gourmet flavors by Wiley Wallaby! They are not so fancy that young ones would turn their nose up to. Even my husband that is not a fan of overly sweet candy loved these fruity gems! They are soft and chewy as advertised and not overly sweet. The variety of flavors is so fun- huckleberry, pomegranate blueberry, watermelon, green apple, and the classics (strawberry, black). They even make sour and organic ones! They can be found on amazon or at Walgreens and Sheetz - makes a great road trip snack!
I started with the hand wash as it was a great way to perk up the house. It's a beautiful pale pink with a light fresh scent that doesn't scare my husband away by being "too flowery!" It looks great in the bathroom and feels so fancy.
ââNext I treated my dry hands with the magic touch body cream. It is very rich and luxurious. This one has a strong floral scent that lingers in a good way. Helps sooth my cold, dry hands.
The others in the set are great shower upgrades. The body scrub was great on my rough feet dry arms and legs. My skin is very sensitive and this was not too rough. The foam was interesting and felt like a huge upgrade to my normal bar soap life.
I'd recommend the RITUALS gift sets; they are so beautiful and practical. Check them out here or at my favorite beauty shop, Sephora!
There's a lot of odd hustles out there and being a curious person I do so enjoy investigating them and pondering if I could pick up some of that (do I have side hustle FOMO? Probably). I'm not saying I participate or even condone these activities personally... I like to learn and take a peek at other people's lives. Somehow I came across the world of online reviewer life... is it for me? I still don't know; follow me as I go down this rabbit hole.
Free stuff?!.. and all I need to do is throw some phony 5 star reviews out there? For real? Is this too good to be true? How do I get some of that?
Like most things in life, it's complicated. I'm not going to pretend I know anything about how a certain online giant corporation works but it is obvious there's incentive as a seller to have highly rated products. Giant online corporation's main interest is in making money so they have vague conduct guidelines around such topics as reviews. They even have their own top reviewer and hall of fame reviewer lists, celebrating these helpful reviewers.
I took a look at these top reviewers list and it is impressive. Most have a helpful rating of 98% or above, meaning most of their reviews are voted as helpful by shoppers. The top reviewer has 100% helpful reviews! Most of these top reviewers have written at least 2000 reviews. The #1 reviewer is over 5000 reviews. Out of curiosity I checked my review number (and I've been a shopper at this company since 1995 when they started in business) and I'm at a whopping 300-something. My helpful rating isn't visible since I'm nowhere near the top, but it's in the high 200's so I'm impressed with myself there. Most of my reviews are out of annoyance or super high praise; with a few done out of boredom when that screen pops up asking what I think.
Anyway, back to the free stuff. For me, it started simple. I bought something; I can't even remember what... it had a card inside asking for feedback and in exchange they would send me something free. I went there, I got that free. I gave that feedback. I felt a little dirty... but life went on. Later, I was contacted again to try something else. I agreed; and so on and so on. Was whatever that was an awesome thing worthy of much praise? Probably not as I don't even remember what it was. It seemed more like "I got my monies worth" - or like a tour guide once said to me while walking by a street market in another country - "you can get weak stuff there - they will last you 1 week!"
Smaller companies that may not make the best products, but make many products they want to sell in this giant marketplace, tend to find these ways to get the goods out there to help boost sales. Before I knew it I was getting invites to facebook groups or websites that specialize in this type of stuff.
PPOC Club is one. It's very easy to use and get your money back quickly through PayPal. It limits the number of items you can get per day and the sources change frequently.
The problem with most is they make it overly complicated and/or difficult to get your money back. Hundsonvine used to be another good standby but looks like it's a dead link.
I keep an eye out here and there for these sites. I'll update reliable ones once I have some experience with them. Any tips for links to check out, please drop a note in the comments. Thanks... and happy reviewing!
I'm newer to kefir, been making it just over a year now. I did my experimentation and found a formula that works for me. Since kefir is ready pretty quickly and to process in my routine I prefer to flavor after fermentation. I tried several great recipes adding fruit in with the grains but found I messy, I'm sill digging fig seeds out of my grains!
Below is my formula, I have 2 glass jars ready to change out the grains every 2 days. When I need a break I move the grains to a mixture of water and organic molasses and store in the refrigerator.
Supplies Needed: Basic Fermenting: Flavoring:
Glass vessel to hold at least 1 gallon liquid* 1/3 cup sugar to 8 ounces organic juice &/OR
*If there’s no spout a ladle & funnel is needed 1 gallon water 2 Tbsp Vanilla
White Cotton Flour Sack Towel*
Glass Jars for bottling
Plastic Strainer/Cheesecloth/Nut Milk Bag for straining
*2 of each needed for continuous brewing
Step 1 Prep: Make sure all supplies are clean; glass jars/vessel sterilized, towel washed.
Step 2 Syrup: Make a simple syrup by adding approximately 1 cup boiling water to 1/3 cup sugar in your glass vessel. Once dissolved, add the remaining 3 cups water so you will have 1 gallon total liquid. Allow syrup to cool to room temperature.
Step 3 Kefir: Add kefir grains to the cooled syrup water. Cover with towel, wrapping rubber band around the lid. Store in a draft free place away from anything else that is fermenting or fresh produce. Allow to ferment for 2 days. After 2 days, strain out grains through a plastic strainer, cheesecloth or a nut milk bag.
Step 4 Optional Flavoring: To add fruit flavor in a glass vessel add strained kefir to 8 oz juice or 2 tablespoons vanilla. I've had success flavoring after bottling by adding a few tablespoons of juice or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract straight to the finished bottle. Adding fruit to the bottle gives a nice light fruity flavor as well.
Step 5 Bottling: Bottle the flavored kefir, or plain is very good as well. Fermenting in a drink dispenser makes bottling very easy but ladling juice out and using a funnel to fill the jars works just as well.
NOTES: Fermentation time will vary depending on the weather conditions, taste and adjust time to your liking. Fruit flavoring also varies per taste and can be adjusted as needed. Plain kefir has a great refreshing taste as well.
I have been in love with kombucha since I first tried it with a coworker at a local co-op. That refreshing bubbly drink was unlike anything I have ever tried. I quickly became addicted and loved how filling it was and how it seemed to ease a stomach ache. I tried just about every flavor and brand out there, some better than others! I was buying it by the caseload at Whole Foods. Then I realized a friend was making it so I was excited to learn more. She not only showed me the process but gave me a SCOBY culture that I have been using for about 5 years now. If you are Kombucha curious, here's my method. It's surprisingly simple. The most difficult part is keeping track of when it's ready so I add reminders to my calendar. I like to brew with a green tea and English Breakfast type black tea blend for 7 days. And I flavor with R.W. Knudsen juice for 2 days; sometimes I leave small bits of SCOBY in for a less sweet flavor. I've been reading more about fermentation and am excited to start flavoring my base with fresh fruit!
Below is my recipe, given to me by my friend who is now teaching fermentation classes and has moved on to other ferments I look forward to learning more about! I've had success with sharing and shipping my SCOBY cultures through etsy or yerdle. I would love to be your fermentation friend and hear about your favorite recipes. Some of mine are R.W. Knudsen Grape and R.W. Knudsen Spiced Pear juice using 1/3-1/2 of the jar as I don't like mine as sweet. Also, the Santa Cruz lemonade blends are great (strawberry lemonade, mango lemonade, etc. I have not had luck with straight up lemonade). Enjoy!
Supplies Needed: Basic Brewing: Flavoring:
Glass vessel to hold at least 1 gallon liquid* 1 cup sugar to Kombucha; SCOBY removed
*If there’s no spout a ladle & funnel is needed 1 gallon water ¼ cup Sugar
White Cotton Flour Sack Towel* 1 cup kombucha 32 oz Organic Juice**
Rubber Band* 3 black tea bags
Glass Jars for bottling 2 green tea bags
*2 of each needed for continuous brewing
**Juice that is clear, without pulp works best (grape, cherry NOT orange, pineapple)
Step 1 Prep: Make sure all supplies are clean; glass jars/vessel sterilized, towel washed.
Step 2 Tea: Make a simple syrup by boiling 1 cup sugar into 1 gallon water. Once dissolved, brew 3 black tea bags & 2 green tea bags for 15 minutes. Allow tea to cool to room temperature.
Step 3 Kombucha: Add cooled tea mixture to the glass vessel along with SCOBY and 1 cup of kombucha. Cover with towel, wrapping rubber band around the lid. Store in a draft free place away from anything else that is fermenting or fresh produce. Allow to ferment for 7 days. Remove SCOBY along with 1 cup of kombucha. Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator to hold fermentation or repeat process over at step 1 for another batch. The SCOBY will grow and develop thick layers. Peel the layers apart to create more SCOBYs!
Step 4 Optional Flavoring: To add fruit flavor in a glass vessel add kombucha, 32 oz juice and ¼ cup sugar. Cover with towel, wrapping rubber band around the lid. Allow to ferment 2 days.
Step 5 Bottling: Bottle as is or if you do not like the floaties strain using coffee filter or cheesecloth. Fermenting in a drink dispenser makes bottling very easy but ladling juice out and using a funnel to fill the jars works just as well.
NOTES: Fermentation time will vary depending on the weather conditions, taste and adjust time to your liking. Fruit flavoring also varies per taste. You may find you can get away with less juice but maintain the amount of sugar as that is what creates the fizzy effect
My Engine No 2 Challenge ended as planned right before my birthday. Final verdict even though I lost 7 lbs and proved I can live without sugar (surprising it was the booze I missed the most!) long term cleanses are not for me. I felt unsatisfied, tired, frequently hungry and weak. One day I was so exhausted I walked into a glass door realizing I was barely pushing it! I had other side effects regarding my hair and skin that I am still dealing with as well (I'm very sensitive!). Giving up sugar, gluten, oil, alcohol and dairy was a bit too much for me. I am a My Fitness Pal fan so I kept track of everything there for fear or not meeting my protein goals but that wasn't a problem. For me moderation is best. I had a difficult time working out like I usually do because my energy level was so low. I prefer to stick with My Fitness Pal and work out regularly eating what my body craves! I did learn some interesting recipes and new ways to make things more healthy (broth in hummus was a good idea now when I add olive oil it feels a little too heavy!) so I would say it was a good read and interesting experience.
The new year brings a reminder of all the good times that were had last year! A few too many good times and now my pants are getting a little tight! It's a good time to get back on track with healthy living. Every year I like to do something in January to get back into shape after the holidays. This year I knew I wanted to go vegan but I feel like I need to kick it up a bit more than that. During a regular visit to one of my favorite places, the library I skimmed the "diet" aisle remembering that I hate diets. Then it came to me, I heard about these guys and even tried some of their food - The Engine 2 Diet! I checked this book out and knew I could do this 28 day challenge. The premise is plant power; no dairy, eggs, meat, oil, processed foods, refined sugars, processed grains along with no food with 2.5 grams fat per 100 calories. I'm already vegetarian and was excited to cut back on the sugar crashing I've been doing lately. The universe seemed to be on my side, after reading the book Whole Foods sent me an email that they were doing an Engine No 2 Challenge. Sign up and get a coupon for their food. I was excited to do this and scheduled it to end right before my birthday.
I was looking forward to making the recipes in the book but ended up with a busy week and not making it to the store. I had many approved foods in the cupboards so I was going to make do with brown rice, beans and the random fruits and veggies I had in the fridge. Along with the food change the challenge recommends 10 minutes of exercise 5x week which I have been slacking on as well.
My first few days were not as bad as I expected but not great. My meals were a little bland and it encouraged me to plan better so I did make a list and get to the store. I'll post the food highlights that are helping me through. My only craving has been for a swift drink but I'm trying to avoid alcohol as well. I'm also using myfitnesspal to help track calories. I'm finding with all these cut backs I want to make sure I'm keeping up with my goal of getting enough protein. I've found that I'm actually not eating enough calories so I got more hearty things that I can eat to help. The foods I was eating were not very filling so I was getting hungry about every 3 hours. One day I broke down at Walgreens I was so hungry I needed food!... I got a giant bag of plain Blue Diamond almonds to keep in my car for snack emergencies!
Reading food labels has been exhausting so I'm trying to focus on natural foods that I know what they are and get back to cooking. Check here on the recipes section for some tasty approved good eats!
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