Friday Favs – 19th

 

Happy Friday, friends! It’s hard to believe we’re already three Fridays into 2018! You know how I keep posting “Oh, I didn’t get a chance to do my Friday Favs post last week because something crazy happened!” or “This post is late because something weird happened again!”? Well… this post is late because something weird happened again!聽馃槀

I went into the kitchen to feed the cats last night and heard the sound of water in the laundry room… but the washer wasn’t running. ANOTHER FREAKING PIPE BROKE. And while I was cleaning it up, I noticed the fuse box making a really weird noise, so I panicked and shut the power to the whole house off for awhile. (I’m rational!) After cleaning up the flooded laundry room by candlelight for like 90 minutes, I was freezing enough (and freaked out by my phone being almost dead) to give the electricity thing another go.

The noise started up again shortly after I turned the power back on, so I tried turning off one fuse at a time until the sound went away. The one marked Hot Water Heater finally did the trick – A HA! I could *not* figure out how a pipe broke AGAIN when I’ve been religiously letting faucets drip during this crazy cold weather, but it looks like my hot water heater doing something funky is to blame. I left that fuse off and flipped off the power to the entire basement just for good measure, but I’ve gotta admit, y’all, I was *terrified*. I can deal with exploding pipes, but electric problems are SCARY. I seriously packed a bag of essentials in case of an emergency. Thankfully just leaving the power to it cut (and my water off AGAIN)聽 is working well until I can get a plumber out here. (AGAIN.)

 

Which brings us to…

1) My riding instructor just let me come over to her house and shower this afternoon. I was SO GROSS from cleaning up the flooded laundry room (which is where the litter boxes are…) and I work at the thrift shop early tomorrow, so I was desperate to de-funk. Is there anything better than a shower when you REALLY need one? Fav forever.

2) The UPS saved me this week! We were supposed to maybe get some flurries on Monday, but instead we got 5-6″ of snow on Sunday morning,聽 and then more on Monday! My road was a mess so I had no way to get out, and I ran out of dry cat food early Sunday. The forecast showed temps wouldn’t be up above freezing until Thurs, so I knew I’d be stuck until at least then. But BLESS UPS’S SWEET HEART, they managed to get here on Tuesday to deliver the dry food and litter I’d ordered from Target back on Friday. I think schools were even closed on Tuesday – it was nasty out there – so I had no hope they’d get there that day. I almost kissed the box when I saw it sitting out front! SAVED!

 

This is my road. HOW, UPS?

 

3) Speaking of cat food, thank goodness I still had a 12-pack that Chewy.com sent me to review on hand to help us get through the snowed in days! The Weruva brand always has cute packaging and fun flavor names, so I was excited to try out their “Cats in the Kitchen” variety pack.

 

I think these have the highest cat approval rating of the various Weruva foods I’ve tried (They also make the Tiki Cat and BFF brands). They have the perfect level of moisture (a little wetter than regular canned food, but not watery) and texture (not pate, but not big chunks). TBH, I’d never usually buy lamb food because the idea of it makes me sad (I’m sorry, lambs are cuter than fish, I know that’s unfair, but…) but my tiny carnivores were totally into it.

Weruva’s foods seem to be super rich – some of the past ones I’ve tried have caused some of the cats to have upset stomachs, but only my mom’s cat Pepper seemed to feel a little icky and that was after eating a whole can herself. (She seems to be the most prone to not adapting well to new foods, so I should’ve known, but when you’re snowed in you don’t have a lot of choices!)

Big thumbs-up on these unless you have a kitty with a sensitive stomach.

 

4. As much as I dislike snow (And cold weather, and winter in general), seeing my little boys all curious about all of the white stuff was the one high point of the icky weather this week. I brought in a bowl of snow for them to examine, and Lin-Meow Purranda went right to work digging in it. The tiny snowball I made for them to play with was also a big hit – that thing really slid across the kitchen floor, so they had a blast chasing after it!

 

5. I’ve been enjoying the @FacesWithinPlaces Instagram account lately! The artist sees faces in everyday objects on a daily basis, and posts photos of the object plus a drawing of how he sees it.

 

 

 

Hope everyone has a fantastic weekend! It’s supposed to be in the 50s here, which is SUPER welcome after the week we just went through! Will this upcoming week finally be the boring week I’ve been craving? Stay tuned!

 

Friday blog linkup

 

 

Friday Favs – Happy 2018!

 

Happy 2018, friends! I missed posting last week because I had a water pipe burst on Friday afternoon, which threw my whole day out of whack! Pro tip: When temps have been super cold for a week and you suddenly get a 45 degree day, don’t randomly test your outside water tap to see if it works. All I did was turn it on and back off, and WHOOSH! Flooding everywhere. And I’d been SO CAREFUL all week to leave sinks dripping so nothing would freeze. Expensive lesson learned!

 

Here’s what I’ve loved over the past two weeks!

 

1. You know that feeling of relief and gratitude when something bad happens but you realize just HOW much worse it could have been? That was me last week.

I was out feeding the horses and realized we needed more grain ASAP. Google said there was a feed store less than 2 miles away but they were closing in half an hour, so I hopped in the car to make a quick trip over. I’d just turned from the rural road onto the highway and had gotten up to 65-ish with the flow of traffic when I saw there was a car stopped to turn JUST ahead. I braked pretty hard and I guess my wheel must have been slightly turned because my car fishtailed and I lost control and ended up in a small ditch facing the wrong way.

Somehow, my car was fine other than some kind of scuffed up tires. I was able to just pull out of the ditch and head back to the barn (I was fine but pretty shaken up by the whole thing, so I decided we could do without grain today). I actually stopped by the Walmart garage on my way home to have them take a quick look at my car and make sure I wasn’t missing something and they seemed to think it looked fine, too.

The last time I lost control like that it was on black ice just outside of St Louis and instead of ending up in a ditch, I spiraled into a big concrete wall dividing the interstate lanes and totaled my convertible, so I know how badly these things can go. I’m still blown away that I was able to just drive off without even a flat tire or scratched up car.

How crazy is it that during a super cold week with icy temps, I lose control on the first day we actually get back up to 32?

 

2.聽 I’ve scored some awesome post-Christmas clearance deals this month! I got a light-up Christmas cat sweatshirt for $7, a fleece cat-eared hoodie for $3.75 (it’s not even Christmas-y, so I have no idea why it was marked down from like $15), black leggings for $1 (also not Christmas so ??), a cake pop for EIGHTEEN CENTS, and this masterpiece for $1.75 (Yes, it also lights up):

 

3. I’ve finally found a way to keep the cats from breaking into the bags of deliciousness that Chewy.com sends us to review each month as part of their Chewy Influencer program. You know the coat hangers with clips for pants? I use one of those to hang the bag of treats or food over the top of a door so it’s totally unreachable! Even my little evil geniuses haven’t managed to get up there. (Yet.) But it did work with the Stella & Chewy Freeze Dried cat food that Chewy sent my meowers this last month!

Stella & Chewy grain-free freeze dried cat food

We got the Grain-Free Salmon & Cod variety, which is made from sustainable, wild-caught fish and can be served right out of the bag or re-hydrated. I love the convenience of something that the cats consider as exciting as wet food without the mess! The re-sealable bag is especially convenient.

 

4. WORK. I’ve had almost NO writing work since before Thanksgiving, which has left my bank account very, very sad. Finally, things picked back up this week and I’ve been pretty busy! Not quite “full time income” level again yet, but “Hey, cool, I probably won’t die of starvation!”, which is a major step up. YAY WORK. (The $ I made horse-sitting while my riding instructor was out of town SAVED me when it comes to paying bills this month!)

 

5. Speaking of horses, I took advantage of the mid-50s temps on Wednesday and managed to fit in a riding lesson! I hadn’t ridden Folklore in like 3 weeks and he’d only been ridden once in that time span, so we were both a little stiff and achy from the cold. Once we got warmed up, though, things were good! He’s such a great horse for me to learn Hunter/Jumper skills on because he’s pretty well behaved overall, but enough of a challenge that I do have to think and stay engaged and actually work.

Actual rays of sunshine!!

My current challenge is that he’s a BIG horse and when I ask him to trot, he wants to default to this HUGE, powerful, extended trot that’s on par with an average horse running.聽 (Trotting is supposed to be on par with jogging for humans, speed-wise.)

So basically, I’m asking for this…

And getting this:

 

I need to see if I can get an actual video of it because I’m super curious what it actually looks like! I’d probably be way too embarrassed by my crappy equitation to actually post it here, though.

 

In non-fav news, my mom’s kitty Pepper (who I take care of) got in a fight last week and managed to take a claw to the eyeball. It’s exactly as gross as you’re imagining, but as long as we can avoid infection there’s a chance of it healing up well. She’s doing really well so far, but I don’t think I’ll stop worrying until it’s totally healed!

The weekend and most of the week ahead is supposed to be Cold AF again, so hopefully I’ll have enough writing work to justify spending a lot of time snuggled under my electric blanket! After how crazy the past few weeks have been, I’m actually hoping for a super-chill, almost boring week!

 

Friday blog linkup

 

 

Show Us Your Books – January Edition

 

Happy Show Us Your Books Day! This seems to have been a month of enjoyable but not spectacular books for me.

 

Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella

Goodreads * Amazon

If you’ve read any Sophie Kinsella books before, you probably know what to expect – the premise is kind of silly and the main character is annoying (bordering on insufferable), but it’s a nice light read when you’re in the mood for some relaxing fluff. Unlike most of her other books, this one focuses on a married mother of twins, rather than the single girl trying to get her work and love life in order. Despite a total lack of likeable characters, I did appreciate that the plot wasn’t completely predictable. Kinda forgettable, but it serves the purpose when you’re in the mood for this kind of book.

(This book will be published in February. Complimentary e-book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)


The Listening Cure

Goodreads * Amazon

Okay, guys, parts of this book are a little out there, but I found it really interesting. The author is a doctor who really dives into the mind-body connection by having her patients do things like give a “voice” to their ailing body part or release pent-up emotions by beating up a pillow. The basic idea is that you subconsciously know a lot more about what’s causing your physical problems than you realize, and her techniques are intended to work around the mental roadblocks and help you figure out what your body is trying to tell you.

I do prefer her approach of figuring what’s going on in the patient’s life that might be causing the symptoms, vs the conventional doctor visit of “Your head hurts so take this pill.” I’m not sure I could get over the kind of kooky feeling of following her practices, though. For instance, saying “I am Crystal’s stomach. I feel (insert description here) because…. (whatever.)” I guess I’d have to experience being “diagnosed” that way in real life to see if it really worked. I wasn’t really a fan of the comic-style illustrations that are sprinkled throughout the book – they didn’t add anything that wasn’t already in the text and added a sort of goofy feel to it.

(Paperback was sent to me for consideration by the publisher.)

Down the Rabbit Hole by Holly Madison

Goodreads * Amazon

This was a total guilty pleasure read. I vaguely remember watching the Girls Next Door during its first season or two, but I didn’t have TV after I moved to Orlando in 2007 so I missed out on everything after that. Holly’s book offers a behind the scenes look at her life in the Playboy Mansion both during the reality show and her years of being one of Hugh Hefner’s girlfriends beforehand. While Holly seems quite intelligent, I have a feeling she either worked with a ghostwriter or had major editing help because this is pretty well-written for a memoir by a non-writer.

Given how glittery and candy-coated the Girls Next Door show was, it’s interesting to read the confession of how miserable Holly was most of the time. (Apparently Hef was pretty verbally abusive and super controlling, traits that were obviously never portrayed on-air.) Reading the book made me go back and dig up a couple of episodes on YouTube, and even makes me kind of want to read Kendra’s book, but my library doesn’t have it and there’s no way I’m actually paying for it, so… meh.

Since I’m sure you’re wondering, she very briefly describes her first night in the mansion (read: sex), but otherwise doesn’t say a lot about it. She does talk a lot about the lack of freedom (they had a 9 pm curfew), feeling totally interchangeable with the other girls, feeling trapped because she knew the stigma of being a girlfriend would always follow her, etc. I found the post-Playboy chapters kind of dull, but I get why she wanted to finish off with “I left and did a successful show and found love and made a baby, yay me!”

(library e-book)

 

 

Be sure to visit Life According to Steph and Jana Says to check out what dozens of other bloggers have been reading lately!

Friday Favs – The End of 2017!

 

Happy Friday, friends!

2017 has been a Tr.. err, Dumpster Fire, but barring anything crazy happening in the next three days (knock on wood!) WE HAVE SURVIVED.

(The low on NYE is 5 degrees and I only have a little space heater, so I MAY be speaking too soon? If so, RIP me, please feed my cats.)

 

1. I’m horse-sitting the entire barn this week, and my entire goal is basically just to keep them all in one piece. I love taking care of horses, so under normal circumstances I’d be having the time of my life, but it was 24 degrees when I went out yesterday afternoon and it will be in single digits this weekend, so it’s slightly less awesome than usual. Still, it means I get to love on Folklore every day and it’s great experience if I decide to move to Ocala to work in a show barn. (It’s in the 60s-80s in FL this week. If I didn’t have cats to worry about, I’d be moving immediately.)

Who wore multiple layers better?

(And LOL, y’all… this post is late going up because one of the ponies pulled up a fence post and let herself and the horse I ride out and the whole evening turned into a comedy of errors.)

 

2. I did some truly great writing this year that I feel should be celebrated:

(That was supposed to be “suite”)

 

3. I posted my red and green nail polish that were sent for review by Surya Brasil last week, so this week I decided to try out the blue since that feels wintery. (Is that just me?) Like the other colors, I love how much color I got with just one coat, and again, I love that they’re cruelty-free and free from scary chemicals. Also like the others, I found that the huge brush made it easy to paint most of the nail at once, but as you can see it also made the application pretty sloppy. I need to try this polish with some kind of top coat because they chipped quickly again (one chipped in the shower like 3 hours after I painted it). So basically just like with last week, I love the vibrant color and safer formula, don’t like the messy application and easy chipping.

 

4. I’ll let the caption of this Instagram post tell the story for me for this one:

 

 

5. You know those super soft sugar cookies with frosting that you find at most grocery stores? Scored some 50% off yesterday because they dared to have red and green sprinkles on top, so obviously you will be a social outcast if you eat them after Dec 25. I can never get over how crazy that whole concept is. Valentine’s Day stuff is already showing up in stores, and yesterday I saw the red and green version of a candy on clearance right next to the full price red and pink version. HUMANS ARE SO WEIRD.

 

Here’s to the end of 2017, and a toast to a (hopefully) better year ahead! Happy weekend!

Friday blog linkup

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everything’s Bigger in Texas! Visiting the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine, TX

The聽Gaylord Texan was kind enough to treat me to a complimentary night’s stay in exchange for sharing my experience with you guys. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

 

I visited Dallas back in July for a friend’s wedding and as usual, I had to seek out the most interesting places to stay in the area! If you’ve been reading for a while you know I tend towards small, quirky hotels, but in this case I went BIG. That photo above? That’s taken INSIDE the hotel. Most of the rooms are situated around a giant atrium that not only towers above you but also stretches on and on and… you get the idea. You can stroll through more than four acres of landscaped gardens without worrying about the Texas summer heat, pop into stores to pick up unique souvenirs, or dine at one of the nine restaurants and bars without ever stepping outside of the hotel.

 

Image via Marriott because my exterior shots look mediocre in comparison.

 

You could seriously spend an entire afternoon just wandering around the atrium, checking out the cool artwork and architecture.

 

 

I believe the exhibits rotate, but during my visit there was Texas-themed art on display all over the resort, most by Texas artists. It’s a perfect space for art since you can fit oversized pieces that would be out of place elsewhere:

 

 

 

If being surrounded by so much cool art inspires you to create some of your own, you can sign up for a group painting class and make your own masterpiece:

 

 

Despite the absolutely massive size of the atrium, it’s pretty easy to navigate, especially with helpful signs to point you in the right direction.

Gaylord TX Atrium

 

The layout of my room was pretty traditional – two queen-size beds, a work desk, and entertainment center. (The TV has Hulu and Netflix, but you need to have your own account to use them.) There were a few notably cool design touches – I absolutely loved the detail on the side of this custom-designed desk:

detailed leather desk at gaylord texan resort

gaylord texan room work desk

 

Now that I almost always work while I’m traveling (ah, the joys of freelance writing!), I’ve come to really appreciate a good work desk, especially one like this with a bunch of built-in outlets.

 

 

The double vanity area is separate from the bathroom and includes four outlets, a really cool lighted mirror, and a convenient stool to sit on.

Gilchrist & Soames bath products at Gaylord Texan

I’m always happy when hotels have Gilchrist & Soames products! These smell so good and were crafted in partnership with the on-site Relache spa.

The balcony was the coolest part of the room:

 

It’s a little hard to hear me over the atrium fountain. You can only see about 1/3 of the entire length of the atrium here!

 

The hotel also has a large fitness center with a nice variety of equipment:

 

In addition to the full-service restaurants, they have some fantastic grab and go options!

 

AND two on-site Starbucks locations. Clearly they understand my needs.

 

 

There’s an indoor pool and an outdoor pool…

 

But there’s also an entire water park that’s only open to guests of the resort! Since I only stayed one night and most of that was taken up by the wedding, I ran out of time to go check it out. The ten-acre Paradise Springs Water Park features a lazy river, water slides, a huge lagoon-style pool, a toddler pool, a zip line, and more. Knowing how expensive regular water parks can be, booking a room at the Gaylord Texan could be a really budget-friendly choice if you’re traveling with kids who want an afternoon to splash around and enjoy the sun!

 

Parking is one of the few areas where I feel like the resort could really improve. Valet parking is available for $31 per night, and self parking is $22 plus tax for an overnight stay. (Just parking for an hour or two starts at $19.) Hotel guests do have in and out privileges from the parking garage, which is nice since I had a moment of despair when I realized that I needed to leave the resort to go to my friend’s wedding about four hours after checking in, which would have otherwise meant spending upwards of $40 for parking. Having a covered garage that keeps the Texas heat off your car is definitely a nice perk, but it seems out of character for such a nice resort to tack on a pretty hefty charge when it’s not located in a downtown area where space to park is at a premium and guests are likely already spending quite a bit of extra money at the on-site restaurants and shops. (Most hotels in downtown Dallas seem to have similar parking charges, but the Gaylord Texan is almost half an hour out of town and on its own fairly expansive plot of land.) The garage is about a two or three minute walk from the lobby which isn’t bad at all, but not exactly the most fun you can have while carrying 3 bags on a 93 degree day. Just be sure to mentally add an extra $20+ per night to the room rate when making your vacation plans if you’re driving or renting a car and need to stick to a vacation budget!

 

Overall, I really enjoyed my stay at the Gaylord Texan and wished I’d had an extra day to enjoy all that the resort has to offer. The Grapevine area is fun and historic and offers tons of things to do, and this is the perfect place to stay if you’re planning a day of wandering the cute boutique shops and historic sites nearby. Traffic in the Dallas area is absolutely nuts, so having so many dining and recreation options right at the hotel is a huge plus. I’d especially recommend this hotel if you’re just passing through the area and want to soak up a lot of Texas feeling/atmosphere in just one night.

 

You can find the Gaylord Texan on聽Instagram and Facebook, and learn more on their website!

Thanks again to the hotel for making my stay so great, and allowing me the opportunity to share my experience with my readers!