Friday Favs – July

 

1. A recommendation for one of this guy’s Ted Talks came up in my YouTube feed, and after watching that I fell down a huge rabbit hole of watching all of his stuff. Most videos are about his replies to spam emails and the hilarious exchanges that ensue, but this one about his exchange with a roommate is my favorite so far:


 

2. I’m super weird about paying someone else to do a task I’m capable of doing myself, so learning how to do something new makes me happy. This week, the light bulb for my car’s rear turn signal went out. I stopped by WalMart to look at replacement bulbs and asked how much they’d charge to install one. It’s $5.50, so I almost had them go ahead and do it, but I decided to YouTube it first and I’m glad I did!

It was literally 1) Open Trunk 2) Unscrew a little twisty thing. 3) Twist the piece that holds the bulb to remove it. 4) Pull bulb out and stick new one in. 5) Put everything back into place. It’s totally something you can do in one minute. Um, unless you’re like me and don’t smush the bulb far enough into the socket the first time and you have to figure out how to recover from this:

(I put sticky tack on a pen to get it out. VICTORY.)

Anyway, I highly recommend doing a quick YouTube search before paying someone to do simple repairs! I’ve learned how to replace fuses, windshield wipers, and now bulbs. Sure, it’s only like $6 saved, but even if you do end up paying someone else to do it, it’s nice to know you can do it yourself if you want to.

 

3. I usually choose wet food to review for the #ChewyInfluencer program, but this month the Purina Beyond dry food caught my eye because it had freeze dried chicken pieces in it, and I knew my cats would be allllll over that!

 

 

We got the Wild Turkey & Lentil recipe, and Captain Kitten earned his keep for another month with this adorable tongue out photo. He really is my most talented model. (Yes, he got a new collar and yes, he will have it utterly destroyed within weeks. Again.)

 

As expected, the cats loved it! (Except Tennyson, who will almost NEVER eat dry food. Tiny weirdo.)

It’s made in the USA and the info says the turkey is farm-raised, but I do wonder if that actually means free-range or the usual poultry farm cages. It’s grain-free, and has no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives, though, so thumbs up for that!

 

 

4. I found these on clearance at WalMart for 50 cents, and they’re SO GOOD. Finding foods rich in Omega-3’s is hard when you don’t eat fish. Of course, now I’m annoyed that the little packages are gone and all they have available are big $14 tubs of them. Still – yum!

 

5. The infamous “This is not a mailbox” at my local post office made a friend:

 

Hope your weekend is lovely!

 

Friday blog linkup

Show Us Your Books – July Edition

 

Happy Show Us Your Books link-up day! I’ve mostly been re-reading Harry Potter for the zillionth time these last few months, so my list is a little short. As usual, it’s of the “kinda weird nonfiction” genre. Just how I roll!

 

Gulp by Mary Roach

Goodreads * Amazon

Mary Roach’s books are always fun, fascinating, and a little gross. This one focuses on eating and digestion, and while its not my favorite of the author’s books so far (Stiff is easily the best, and I don’t remember much about Packing For Mars.), it was interesting enough and I enjoyed Roach’s clever wordplay that pops up throughout the text. I was bummed that the audiobook isn’t read by the author.

One of the first chapters is about pet food, which is obviously up my alley as a gold star cat lady. I was fascinated to learn that outdoor cats tend to be mousers or birders, but rarely both – they prefer one taste or the other.

This is one that Steph would refer to as “Passed the time just fine” – interesting enough, but not a must-read.

(Library Audiobook)

 

Spoiler Alert: You’re Gonna Die by Korttany Finn and Jacquie Purcell

Goodreads * Amazon

First of all, I find it kind of amusing that I read this while sick and drugged up by a ton of antibiotics. Spoiler alert: I survived.

This book is co-written by a Deputy Coroner and her writer friend, and was inspired by the coroner doing an AMA on a parenting forum. Thanks to that, it’s written as a Q & A, so it’s a good one to pick up when you only have short chunks of time for reading, since you can read one or two answers at a time without feeling like you’re losing track of a storyline.

Here are a few things I found especially interesting. (When I refer to “the author” below, I generally mean Jacquie, the coroner.)

*There is something known as the CSI Effect where jurors are now influenced by things they’ve “learned” from criminal drama shows, even though those aren’t very accurate. For instance, a lot of jurors now believe you need DNA evidence for a conviction because you see that in pretty much every crime show, but it’s really not necessary. They expect cases to be nicely packaged like they are on TV, so they’re hesitant to convict if all of the loose ends don’t tie up in a tidy bow, which just isn’t real life.

*The author worked to change a law in Virginia, which was pretty interesting. In most states, if someone dies long after an assault or abuse, the criminal charges can be changed to homicide. At the time, Virginia’s laws only allowed this to happen up to a year and a day after the original charges, but the author worked to get that limit removed.

I thought this was fascinating because it’s something I’ve never thought about at all. To be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about it. The man who inspired the case had been shot in the back almost 40 years prior, which caused him to become quadriplegic and require a respirator. He eventually died due to a kind of pneumonia that is caused by that respirator use. Since the cause of death was related to his injuries, she worked to have it changed to homicide. On one hand, that seems like SUCH a long time after the injury for the verdict to change. Assuming the shooter was like 20 at the time, he would’ve been 58 when the change occurred. On the other hand, it seems like an assault that damages someone’s quality of life to the extent this did should probably carry the same penalty as homicide, anyway. The topic has been tumbling around in my head since I read that section, though, so I thought I’d share.

*I never knew that jurors are sometimes brought in to determine cause of death (accident/natural/suicide/etc) when the coroner isn’t sure about how to call it.

*The author mentioned that when she has the body of a child in the morgue, she always leaves the lights on for them. I think we tend to think of people in death-heavy professions as being kind of numb to it all, so it was nice to read about her sweet gesture.

This book has an average of 4 stars on Goodreads and the Kindle version is currently only $1.99

 

The Power by Naomi Alderman

Goodreads * Amazon

My library hold on this finally came through, and I was excited to see what all of the buzz was about! The premise is that women suddenly develop the ability to shoot electric currents from their hands, and obviously that has a huge effect on the power dynamic between men and women. The whole book is a metaphor on several levels, and it’s such an interesting look at a lot of systemic things that we might not even notice.

The main part of the book is supposed to be a manuscript submitted by a male author long after this change happened. There are amusing notes from the author’s (female) mentor like (I’m paraphrasing) “It’s cute that you even included male police officers, but do you think the readers will just fetishize them?” One of my favorite passages in the main story is when a character turns on the TV and the female anchor is talking about economic predictions, and the male anchor just “laughs attractively” and says, “Now I don’t understand that kind of thing at all, but I’ll tell you what I do know about: apple bobbing!” (as they transition to a human interest story.)

I LOVED the first half of the book, but the latter half wasn’t as good – maybe due to plot, maybe due to the newness of the concept wearing off. This would be a great book club book, though, because it’s a lot of fun to discuss. I might even reread it eventually to see what else I catch in the text. (SO MANY METAPHORS). If you’ve read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

That’s it for me this month! Be sure to visit Life According to Steph and Jana Says to see what dozens of other bloggers have been reading lately!

 

They’re Good Tweets, Brent.

I have never been much of a tweet favoriter. I’ve always been of the opinion that if you really like one, you should give it a RT and spread the love.

I don’t do pity favs. None of that clicking the heart as a way to say, “I see this and acknowledge you, but can’t bother actually responding.”

As a result, over the past 10 years of Twitter-ing, I have tweeted more than 29,700  times. I have 1,248 followers, and follow 624 people. But I’ve only favorited 160 tweets. Most of them are articles I wanted to go back and read later, but I don’t think I’ve gotten around to reading any yet.

 

I thought it might be fun to share some of the others with you today:

 

This is probably still my favorite tweet of all time, because the way Chris was standing amused me but I didn’t put it into words this well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who do you love following? Do you have any all time favorite tweets?

An Evening Aboard the Showboat Branson Belle

 

I live right on Table Rock Lake (as you probably know since I’m always Instagramming lake sunsets) but it’s been ages since I’ve seen it from the perspective of being out on the water instead of standing on the shore.

Showboat Branson Belle entrance

Thanks to Silver Dollar City Attractions for inviting me to check out the Showboat Branson Belle! I received a complimentary dinner cruise in exchange for sharing my experience with you guys.

 

I’m a fan of dinner shows when you’re visiting a city like Branson for two big reasons:

1) It eliminates the hassle of picking out a place to eat, figuring out how much time you need to get there, eat, and get to your show on time, and dealing with the traffic on your way from one to the other. Nobody wants to cut an awesome meal short because you’re running late for your evening entertainment plans, and nobody wants to miss the beginning of a show because your waiter was slow bringing the check. Having both in one place saves so much stress!

2) Dinner and the show are both included in your ticket price, which can be a big money saver if your’re traveling as a family or group. The average live show in Branson currently runs around $30-40 per adult, so the Showboat’s prices are really reasonable for both dinner and entertainment! (The prices below were from my cruise towards the end of 2017 and the Showboat website lists the same prices for summer 2018, but they may be slightly different if you’re visiting after that.)

Showboat Branson Belle ticket prices adults children priority

 

Getting There:

The Showboat Branson Belle is located a little bit outside of the main tourist area of Branson, right on one of my favorite walking trails. (The one that runs from the Dewey Short Visitor’s Center to State Park Marina literally cuts right through the Showboat’s parking lot. I’d recommend allowing at least half an hour for a scenic lakeside walk before or after your cruise if the weather allows!) It’s also just a few minutes away from Chateau on the Lake, one of the most luxurious hotels in the area. If you’re staying in a hotel along the 76 Strip, it’s about a 15-25 minute drive when there’s no traffic.

 

 

I was on the 4 o’clock dinner cruise, for which boarding begins at 3 p.m. Arriving early not only means times to check out the cute shops and lake views near the dock, but means you can be towards the front of the line to board the boat, which means a bit of extra time to look around and snap some selfies with the lake in the background. (A souvenir photo is taken when you board, but nobody ever brought mine to the table so I sadly can’t offer feedback on the pricing or quality.) Seating is assigned on your ticket, so there’s not a big hurry, but the boat does depart on time, so don’t be late!

Boarding takes awhile (I think I was in line around 20 minutes), but the water in Table Rock Lake is usually really clear, so a lot of the people around me in line were entertained by watching the fish as we waited. There were some MASSIVE ones visible just below us, and I finally figured out why – there’s a little machine selling fish food there! Those guys are pretty smart to hang out beneath a regular food source instead of venturing out into the rest of the lake where they might get caught!

 

The FOOD!

Shortly after boarding, dinner is served!

 

Everyone is served the same meal (see note about vegetarian and vegan options on the Showboat Branson Belle below), which consisted of the following for my cruise:

  • Salad
  • Dinner Roll
  • Pot Roast
  • Honey Citrus Chicken
  • Sugar Snap Peas with Carrots
  • Garlic Mashed Potatoes

I’m not much of a meat eater but I tried a little of each dish so I could report back, and both the beef and chicken were moist and tender. (Confession: I took them home to my cats.)  I can’t eat salad, so I basically just ate the mashed potatoes and dessert. If I return, I’d definitely order the vegetarian option.

 

Dessert is a frozen lemon berry pie, which was quite good even though I’m not usually a fan of lemon.

If you purchase the upgraded Chef’s Menu tickets, you get to choose from a selection of entrees including steak, trout, and pork chops and have four desserts to choose from, so this may be the way to go if you have picky eaters in your group.

 

Vegan and Vegetarian Options on Showboat Branson Belle: Alternate dinner options are available for those looking for vegan, vegetarian, or gluten-free meals.

The vegetarian meal is a lasagna cheese roll with marinara sauce and vegetables, and the vegan option is a baked potato with Tuscan vegetables. Yes, sorry vegans, I know being offered a veggie plate gets old, but given that they have to prepare everything on the ship, I get why they don’t offer something a little more interesting.

(I forgot to get details on the gluten free meal and what the vegan dessert is! Sorry!)

Be sure to let your server know if you want one of the alternative meals as soon as they greet you and offer drinks – things move pretty quickly and that’s really the only time to get a request in. I’d been considering requesting the vegetarian dinner, but felt like I missed my chance and didn’t want to inconvenience my super-busy server.

 

 

The showboat’s house band plays instrumental music during the dinner service, which was a little different from the style of dinner show I’m used to where you eat while the main show is happening. (I worked at Dixie Stampede, now called Dolly Parton’s Stampede, when I was in my late teens/early 20s, and the cues for various courses to be served are pretty much built into the show there.)

 

The Entertainment:

I grew up in Branson at a time when being a local meant free admission to pretty much any show, so I’ve seen a whole lotta Branson shows in my day!

The show aboard the Showboat changes on a pretty regular basis, which is fantastic if you visit Branson often, since there’s always going to be something new to see. In addition to the standard dinner cruises, there are Pirate and Princess cruises for kids, Southern Gospel Cruises to correspond with the dates of the Southern Gospel Picnic at Silver Dollar City, and a whole new show for the Christmas season.

For my cruise, the show rotated between a few different acts: A singer named Cassandre who started off with Carol King songs, a five piece male group called The Showmen who did a medley of Billy Joel songs, comedy magician Christopher James who also served as Emcee, and Rhythm, a dance group with super fancy footwork. Towoards the end there was a huge medley of songs from movie soundtracks and Broadway shows that involved every performer and countless costume changes. So much fun! (Sorry my show photos aren’t spectacular – Being about a dozen rows back in a dark theater makes it hard to capture crisp images.)

 

The Showmen

 

Rhythm

 

It was clear that whoever put the show together understood how to appeal to a wide range of people. It’s hard to go wrong with famous movie songs, for example, and a good magic act appeals to any age group. I give this show a thumbs-up if you’re looking for something that will entertain everyone in your travel party.

Seating for dinner and the show is divided into three levels, but the boat is small enough that you’re going to have a good view from pretty much any seat. I was down on the floor level, but I went up to the top during intermission to see how it looked from there:

 

 

Stunning Lake Views:

One of the highlights of the cruise is intermission, when the show takes approximately a half hour break and you can take the opportunity to wander around the boat and take in the scenery. The boat moves very slowly, so you don’t travel all that far during the cruise, but this area of Table Rock Lake is so picturesque that there’s not really a need to go very far.

Showboat Branson Belle deck

View from the deck of the Showboat Branson Belle dinner cruise

 

 

I cruised in October, so by the time we returned to the dock it was almost sunset. It looks like there’s an 8 p.m. cruise in the summertime, so that would probably work out where you caught the sunset during intermission. That would be stunning!

Sunset from the Showboat Branson Belle

 

What to Wear to Showboat Branson Belle: Like most shows in Branson, MO, the dress code here is pretty casual. Some guests dress up a little (think casual dresses or nice pants and a button-down shirt for men), but there are plenty of people in jeans, too. A souvenir photo is taken of your group right after boarding, so you may want to keep that in mind when planning your outfits. The most important thing to plan for is the portion of the cruise that you’ll be walking around out on deck taking in the stunning lake views. You may want to bring along a light jacket, especially for evening cruises, since even in the warmer months the lake breezes combined with the moving boat can make things a bit chilly.

 

The Showboat Branson Belle is currently in the middle of their 2018 season! You can learn about all of the different types of dinner cruises they have on offer this year on their website.

Love the beautiful lakes that surround the Branson area? Check out my stay at Bar M Resort, which offers charming cabins right on Table Rock Lake that are ideal for a family reunion or fishing trip!

Friday Favs – Officially Summer!

 

Sure, it’s been a billion degrees for over a month, but now it is officially summer! It’s a season of big changes for me, which has life feeling pretty chaotic at the moment, but I know it’s for the better in the long run. (Sorry to vague blog, but more on all of that soon!)

Here’s what I’ve been loving lately!

 

1. The new season of “Real Talk Radio with Nicole Antoinette” (one of my fav podcasts) came out last Friday and it’s been so hard not to just binge listen to the whole season. (She releases 8 episodes every 2 months.) This season’s episodes touch on topics including writing, courage, grief, and more. It’s so good, you guys! (I never know how to link to podcasts since everyone uses different apps to listen, but you guys are smart, I trust your ability to find it!)

 

2. I just found this artist on Instagram and I’m really loving her work.

 

3. I’ve been feeling really overwhelmed lately, to this week I decided to try to figure out one thing each day that will make my life a little easier. I SO suggest doing this. Take a look at the things you do all the time and see if there’s any way to either semi-automate them or just make them 10% more convenient. One of the best examples of this is when I finally gave in and bought an extra phone cable to just keep in my car so I didn’t have to grab mine anytime I left the house. (and then grumble about having to go get it from my car at midnight because I left it in there and my phone is dying.) I can’t even imagine how many hours of frustration I saved myself with that $5 purchase.

Along the same lines – I have kitty litter boxes at both ends of the house, and I spent YEARS filling a little bucket with litter to take to the other box each time I cleaned it before it *finally* occurred to me to just buy containers of litter to keep at both boxes. Also? Stick a trash can right inside your front door so you can dump junk mail as soon as you walk in the house.

 

4. Speaking of cat care supplies, it’s time for this week’s review of something awesome that Chewy sent us for their #chewyinfluencer program! This week it’s Instinct by Nature’s Variety Grain-Free Wet Cat Food Cups in the Tuna flavor.

Here’s how that went:

 


 

5. I am serious need of a quick getaway, so I’m planning to head back down to Northwest Arkansas sometime in the next few weeks. There’s a new Georgia O’Keefe exhibition at Crystal Bridges Museum, and I still have a museum membership that I received when I worked with the museum last year to cover the amazing Chihuly exhibition. (You can find that post here. I LOVED those stunning outdoor pieces!)  Funny enough, I was checking out a list of the top articles of 2017 on GoNomad, and I was excited to see that an article about Crystal Bridges made the list! Definitey a sign that I need to revisit it. (The GoNomad article is here – Crystal Bridges, The Great Museum You’ve Never Heard Of) I think I’m going to see if GoNomad would be interested in an article about Eureka Springs; You can’t cover Bentonville and not discuss its super-quirky neighbor! (My upcoming plans involve quite a bit of travel writing, btw, so prepare for lots of updates to that “Destinations” tab up at the top of the page!)

 

Tomorrow is my one day a week job at the thrift store, so I’m preparing to curl up with a book soon and attempt an early night! (I’ve gone in on less than 3 hours of sleep the past few weeks. I’m not good at mornings!) Will this be the week I finally get some decent rest? Let’s hope! (I’m considering sharing some of the weird things that show up at the store in my Instastories on my personal Instagram, so be sure to follow if you aren’t already!)

Happy Weekend! 

 

Friday blog linkup

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