April 29, 2016

Things to Do in Northwest Arkansas

I was recently fairly insulted by a blogger who mentioned stopping in Arkansas for their roadtrip, and I assumed from the other towns she claimed to visit, it had to have been the Northwest Arkansas area (best part of Arkansas, in other words). While she named specific towns on their trip otherwise, she simply named the state and that they crossed the stateline just to say the kids have been there, "no offense" to Arkansans.

I get the stigma but she's only perpetuating it. There are loads of fun activities to do in Northwest Arkansas, so I thought I would share a few with you... keep in mind, this is only an overview... but perhaps I'll review the following more in-depth in future posts!

Opening night of the 2016 season!

1. The 112 Drive In: If there's a particular new movie out I lean towards AMC Fiesta Square instead of the Malco Razorback (even  though, fun fact, I worked there for the first couple of months when I moved to Fayetteville!)--it may not be quite as nice (i.e. overdue for a remodel) but the tickets are far cheaper and I've never had to worry about it selling out if I get there last minute. But what's even far more special is the drive in, which Fayetteville is so lucky to have. While it may be in need of a renovation as well, and the options aren't always swell, there is nothing cooler than packing up your snacks and blankets into your vehicle (and maybe even your dog...) and leaning your seat back for the big screen.

What I Do for a Living: Teaching Nurturing

As the last work day of the month of April, which just so happens to be the National Child Abuse Prevention Month, I thought it would be a great time to introduce what my new job is all about.

Sidebar: I love CASA--look into how you can become a volunteer.
If you're on social media at all (which I assume you are if you've managed to find this blog), it would be hard not to see one of the Journal of Family Psychology-based articles that's been floating around this week concerning the research conducted by the University of Texas at Austin (and the University of Michigan). They've spent the last 50 years studying the effects of spanking, and the outcome? It isn't pretty.

Not only do children not "learn their lesson"/show long term compliance, which is the goal of spanking (even if they perhaps cease the behavior in the moment), there are unintended negative outcomes... the very same mental health and behavioral outcomes an abused child might experience, only to a lesser degree.

This is where I come in.

April 28, 2016

Just Checking In

It's been a pretty crazy past few weeks--my final week at my old job, road trip week, training week in Little Rock for new job, and first week onsite at the new job. Despite wanting to relax, I've been fairly productive since getting back home Friday night.

We've washed the dogs, mowed the lawn (which was nearly two feet high by the time I returned from my trip... it needed its first and maybe second mowing before I ever left, but my lawn mower was--and still is--broken, so I borrowed one), taken the kayaks out for a bit of fishing on Beaver Lake (to no avail - I keep telling him: live bait, Peter), went adventuring to a certain abandoned wonderworld near Busch, Arkansas (that we most definitely did not go inside of, definitely), bottled my first brew (a chocolate-coconut porter; thanks for the idea, Oskar Blues!)...and maybe watched a few bottles hit the ground immediately afterwards when the box bottom gave out, watched the premiere of Game of Thrones (damn you producers for ending on an old fairy tale trope instead of telling us what'll happen to Jon Snow!), made a skillet of roasted red pepper & mixed greens lasagna, celebrated Peter's mother's birthday with Mama Z's (classic Tontitown comfort food) and a raspberry-pistachio-mascarpone cake I had forgotten to snap a picture of the first time I made it for Pete's birthday, and finally got around to attending my first Pint Night (check out the next one because $6 gets you a glass, two beers, food, and a raffle ticket for an outdoors sponsor--and all proceeds go to a good cause because all the goods are donated).

1st time testing the kayak cradles

April 24, 2016

Traveling with Dogs: 10 Tips

Growing up, we didn't go on family "vacations" per se (I've literally gone on more family vacations as an adult), though we usually went camping at least once or twice every summer as well as visiting family out of town. This isn't terribly surprising when you're talking about the salary of a public school teacher in a podunk southern Arkansas "town" who's married to a self-employed appliance man who loses money on service calls more often than not due to a big heart.

The point is, while we've always had dogs, our pups didn't typically travel with us so my recent road trip to Asheville was my first real experience at traveling with dogs. I also have to brag on Kafka because he doesn't have a lot of experience being in public places--and he's extremely high energy. Fayetteville, Arkansas is certainly one of the most progressive places in the state but there still aren't a lot of different options for taking your pets out and about. (Granted, now that I've had a taste of taking my boy with me, I plan to explore/take advantage of the available options more... perhaps a post in the future?)

Luckily, we knew we wanted our trip to be dog friendly so we specifically chose a final destination based on that: Asheville, where everyone is pro-dog. Ironically, the one place we didn't think to check

April 22, 2016

I-40 Eastbound to Asheville

I knew it was going to be a good trip when Destiny, my roommate from sophomore year in college, told me, "I like to eat."

It was a savored moment because I knew exactly what she was saying. There is nothing more frustrating than going on a trip with someone who is delightfully frugal and wants to eat pre-made sandwiches the whole way. And I know they always say they will sit with you if you want to eat at a restaurant, but who really wants to enjoy a meal with the person sitting across from you staring at you while you talk through your food?

We would be eating our way across Tennessee and past the North Carolina border--and I was ecstatic to be going with someone who respected touring food culture as much as myself. It was the number one thing I cared about on my most recent trip to NYC--a list of meal goals, forget the Empire State Building. It was fate that she should post about wanting to take a week-long trip before the end of April, and I had just so happened to allow myself a week between jobs.

April 6, 2016

Big Bluff & the Goat Trail

I told you the Ponca/Boxley Valley had multiple gems. Now, in contrast to my last Adventure Series post where I highlighted the most beautiful place in Arkansas and told you to wait until after a heavy rain, the opposite will be said for this one... I cannot recall how recent the last rainfall was when we arrived at the Centerpoint trailhead, but apparently it was too recent. This trail can get muddy fast, and with lots of loose rocks and steep hills it can be quite the slippery 6.5 miles. I didn't take any trekking poles when I went on this hike, but I plan to in the future and highly recommend them.

Ah, those purple & blue shadows so typical of winter in the Ozarks -- as seen near the Centerpoint Trailhead

Obviously the best time for most trails in the Ozarks is any season but winter--the blooms in the spring, the changing leaves in the fall, and naturally the summertime in between. Bare trees are rarely as pretty to look at in comparison, and I plan on repeating this trail in the future when the views are a bit more lush. Having said that, one benefit of leaf-less trees can be that they reveal views that are otherwise difficult to see, such as the pretty green Buffalo River in the following photographs.

The first hour or so isn't a whole lot to look at, but enjoy the peaceful stroll through the cedar forest. I'm sure you're wondering why it's nicknamed the Goat Trail. Once upon a time, feral goats could be seen climbing the bluffs,

April 5, 2016

Indian Creek

If Kafka is my partner-in-crime, my boyfriend in my current partner-in-life. We love adventuring, and it's more fun when we adventure together. He's very brilliant and a jack of all trades kinda guy (speaking of which, if you haven't seen Master of None you should, and if you have and you didn't like it, we could never be friends). He's a very active person, whether it's a project that he's working on, riding his bike, or doing one of his detailed workouts--he even gets up and moves around when he takes study breaks, if you can believe it (where as most of us would catch up on the latest Bob's Burgers episode [same rule applies from above]).

The point is, I admit that I'm a comfy person, I enjoy my comforts, and while I do my best I'm aware that I'm a little lazy. To be fair, my Crohn's disease does drain a fair amount of energy, although it shouldn't be an excuse when you look at people like my brother, also has Crohn's, also ripped. But my boyfriend teases me relentlessly about "Facebooking". If he asks what I'm up to, and I tell him I'm reading the news, he says, "so...Facebook." It drives me mad. I do spend too much time on the Internet, but I really do follow about 20 different news sources through the app--I read more headlines than I do statuses/cute pet pictures from my friends. 

A couple of pages that I follow are things like "Only In Your State"--not exactly news, but often shares fun articles about life as an Arkansan or interesting destinations. There's one subject in particular that keeps popping up that has been making me crazy. It claims to share the most beautiful destinations in Arkansas without mentioning the Buffalo National River. There was another, too, that claimed to list the most beautiful place in each of the 50 states--of course, lots of readers contest what was ranked as #1 in their state, but listen here: Arkansas is the NATURAL state, guys. It is a state full of natural beauty. So in a list of the most beautiful places in each state, I would have thought that the Natural State would, you know, have listed a natural beauty. You know what they chose?

The damn Little Rock skyline as seen from the Clinton Presidential Center. 

Like...anything else would have sufficed for an answer. 

Now, not to ruffle the feathers of any architects but the picture shown is the black shadow of a couple of boring bridges in the most "okay" sunset photo ever taken. Granted, it is showing those bridges reflected in the still Arkansas River (which was the most "beautiful" part of the photograph), but it is clear the focus is of the skyline and buildings. It claims the Arkansas Convention & Visitors Bureau name this spot the prettiest, and I'd like to see the person responsible for such a claim impeached if that's a thing. 

Don't get me wrong. Little Rock has a lot of funk--it's definitely home to some of the biggest "skyscrapers" in Arkansas, has some scrumptious southern cookin', and many of my friends report it to be the biggest film scene in the state. But it's also the most industrial looking big-city in Arkansas, with the least amount of that Natural State beauty and it has a lot of not-in-a-good-way funk. Like, it was named the most dangerous small city in the U.S. last year kind of funk. According to one article, it states you have a 1 in 21 chance of being a victim of a crime as a citizen resident of Little Rock. 

There ain't nothin' beautiful about that, y'all. 

Therefore, I feel I have a responsibility--no, a duty--to reverse the damage that has been done in these false prophet articles and give up one of Arkansas's best kept secrets: the Buffalo. You know where you don't have a 1 in 21 chance of being a victim of a crime? America's first national river--and there was a reason someone felt compelled to dub it as such. 

I share this gem with you in confidence that you will leave it as unspoiled as you've found it.

It flows gently at over 150 miles in length (with a few rapids at its uppermost section) and passes bluffs, waterfalls, caves galore. The Ponca/Boxley area is home to the finest hikes in the Ozarks. 

The most strenuous, beautiful, intense, rewarding hike I've ever completed was a luscious creek off of the Buffalo and it is not for the faint of heart. If I am not making myself clear, this is a warning: you could die on this trail if you are not careful

While I'm sure the Indian Creek trail must be beautiful at any time of year, my thought is: if I'm exerting that much effort, I better go at the most prime time possible. In this case, it happens to be after a heavy rain in the spring. While the creek alone is a site to see for 4.7 miles (I got to know it very well as the easiest way to follow the trail much of the time means walking through the creek, so dress appropriately; while I'm sure there are better ways, my approach was Tevas, athletic tights, trekking poles, and lots of bug spray), after a good rainfall water will be flowing down all the bluffs along the way, creating a multitude of waterfalls of every size. The greens you'll see felt like something out of a tropical rain forest for this small-time Arkansan. 

We went on the perfect day. My only regret was not READING ahead enough.

Knock Knock: A Return from Hiatus

Wow! It's been some time, eh? I can't begin to tell you the number of times I've begun to update this blog--even to write almost completed posts. I suppose it just never felt right. Today I'm here to say the time is right to get back into business/my keyboard.

I may not take pictures fit for a gallery, I may not have Taza's impeccable bone structure or cherub-like children, I may not create many of my own recipes from scratch and no marbled table to photograph them on, and (as I learned since my last post) I may not have the greenest of thumbs (RIP Pothos)...but I am a human, and all humans live lives, and all lives are stories worth telling.

In the last year, I've changed jobs, trading my soul to the state for a raise and a promise of upward mobility/being home before 5 pm--and Friday is my final day at said job. I will be buying my soul back with yet another humble raise while still returning to the fieldwork of helping children and families be successful. I've made new friends and traded out for new roommates. I've indefinitely paused grad school, realizing my LPC may not be what's best for my career goals, or at least not right now, and there's no shame in admitting that (nor any shame at stopping the student loans before they become even larger). Kafka has stopped chewing important items (we'll ignore the time he trapped himself in the laundry room while I was at work and scratched up that beautiful antique door).

I have seen God's kingdom of Yosemite, sled down scorching White Sands, indulged in fresh cheese and chinotto from Casa Della Mozzarella, caught the sunrise over Ongtupqahiked all over the Ozarks, and star-gazed from my own gabled roof. I funded my first brew (a chocolate-coconut porter, you knew I'd go for decadent) and went an impressively long time without dyeing my hair (before caving into this current red).

It wasn't all good either and I want anyone who reads this blog to realize that--do not confuse me with that intimidating person whose Facebook timeline you love to hate in its perfection.