Friday Favs – Middle of March

 

 

Happy Friday, friends!

 

1. I got a raise.聽馃帀

Out of nowhere, my main writing client sent an email that they’re doubling what they pay me. Whaaaaat? I’d been planning to ask them for a raise because after starting to work on my taxes for this year, I was reminded just how insane tax on self employment income is and that I really needed to raise my rates a bit to make up for how much I have to pay. I was planning to ask for around 20-30% more, but I will totally take 100% more if that’s what they’re offering! This winter has been really tough, especially after learning my trail ride job isn’t re-opening as planed, so suddenly making twice what I’m used to from freelancing is a major cause for celebration!

 

Given that my car, laptop, and phone are all falling apart, I can’t make up my mind which to replace first, but just knowing that I actually CAN replace those in the near future makes me so happy!

 

2. I missed seeing Fantastic Beasts – Crimes of Grindlewald when it was in the theatre, so you better believe it got rented as soon as it hit Redbox on Tuesday! Y’all… I HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS!

–possible spoilers below this point–

I’m such a Harry Potter nerd that it was SO WEIRD to watch a movie set in that universe and not already know everything that was going to happen. I watched it with my neighbor and was like “Is this what it’s like to watch HP movies when you haven’t read the books??” Especially when he asked if certain characters could be Voldemort’s parents and I realized that the HP movies totally leave out the whole Merope/Tom Riddle Sr. love potion thing. Most of my ??? moments were minor (Why is Dumbledore teaching DADA? He was a transfiguration professor!) but the major one was around Credence’s parents. HOW?? Kendra died and Percival was in Azkaban… I just can’t fathom it. And the reveal about Nagini means that Neville killed a human. UGH.

I’m listing this as a favorite not because it was great (I think I prefer the first one? ) but because it was fun to actually have something to try to figure out when it comes to the wizarding world. I can’t believe I have to wait until at least November 2020 for a new one.

 

 

3. When I’m picking out cat food, my general rule is that whichever flavor sounds the least appetizing to me is exactly what my cats are going to love the most. I had the opportunity to choose between the聽different flavors of Canidae Adore cat food that Chewy offers to review for the Chewy Influencer Program this month, and when I saw there was a Sardine &Mackerel flavor, I knew that was the one my cats would go crazy for.

Not surprisingly since I’m a gold star cat lady – I was totally right.

I’ll spare you a photo, but this cat food actually has chunks of fish that look like chunks of fish, rather than super-processed mush. It’s nice and moist without being watery. In short, my cats basically lost their minds over it. Tennyson LOVES sardines, so I was surprised that he was the one to throw up after eating it for the first time, but was fine with it after that – I think he may have just wolfed that first meal down a little too enthusiastically?

We got the 2.46 oz cans, but they do also offer it in 5.5 oz cans (the sort of standard cat food can size). It is definitely on the pricier side (About $36 for the 24 small cans), so I used it more as a treat or an addition to their dry food than an actual meal.

 

4. Even though it was cold today, the sun was out and I got to spend some time in the yard with the cats while they “helped” me take product photos for an upcoming review:

I wish it had come out non-blurry, but my Bear is just perfect.

 

Cutting this short at 4 items this week because it’s already 7 p.m.! Have an awesome weekend!

Friday Favs – Marching Along

 

I think I need to re-do this month’s Friday Favs image. I took photos in the St Patrick’s Day section of a store to use as backgrounds,but that one looks more Christmas-y now that I look at it again. But it’s Friday and I need to post this, so it will work for this week!

 

Anyway, Happy Friday! I’m posting pretty late in the day because my neighbor called this morning and asked if I wanted to hit a local hiking trail, and my obvious answer was yes. I didn’t realize until I was on the way there that there was crazy fog and it was only 39 degrees. Oops. The fog was so thick that I almost got hit several times on the way there (My car is red! And I had my lights on!) and at one point a truck turned RIGHT in front of me and I had to brake so fast I’m relieved I didn’t slip on the wet road! Still, we had a really nice walk in the woods. I’m up to 13 miles towards my 100 mile hiking goal for this year! That’s barely 10% so I’m technically behind, but the first few months of the year are always so cold I didn’t really expect to get more than 10 before Spring.

 

Here’s what I’ve been loving lately!

 

 

1.聽I have no idea if these chips are new or if I just noticed them since I don’t buy chips often, but they are so good. Salt & Pepper potato chips are such a simple idea – why aren’t they more of a thing? Anytime I get french fries I dip them in salt and pepper, and these taste pretty much exactly like that. Love!聽

 

2. Fabletics is now making leggings with pockets for a phone!

 

I can not wait to get some for hiking! I have a similar pair with a tiny pocket that can fit a key or credit card or something, but none that will fit my phone. This is a game changer! The pair pictured here is usually $54, but if you use my link you can get two pairs of leggings for $24, *and* I get an affiliate credit that puts me closer to getting my own! Win-win!

 

 

3. I found this in the kids party section of Walmart today and it might best 87 cents I’ve spent in ages. I am annoyed that the bar code is printed right on my house (and for the record, the symbol of Ravenclaw is supposed to be an eagle, not a raven) but still. YAY.

 

4. I’ve been loving this slow, dark, broody playlist that Alex Franzen put together. (subscribe to her newsletter if you don’t already -she’s rad!) I was listening to it the day Luke Perry died (omg sad) so was hit extra hard by the mournful cover of Wicked Game. (Does everyone remember that 90210 episode that used that song? Just me?)

 

 

 

5. Ricola makes gummies for immunity now, and they’re awesome. I got a sample pack in the mail and didn’t think I’d like them but they actually taste good. They’re only like $7 at Target, which even I can afford! (Way cheaper than getting sick.)

Don’t forget to set your clocks forward this weekend! (Assuming you have an actual clock in your house and don’t just use your phone and computer like a normal person.) I feel like the Monday after we spring forward should be a half work day for everyone so we can adjust.

 

Linking up with A Little Bit of Everything and Bright on a Budget.

Friday Favs –

Happy Friday, friends! Today is misty and foggy and generally dreary, but at least it isn’t ice and snow! I’m about to go curl up on my neighbor’s couch and watch The Two Towers because that’s how I roll.

 

 

1. First things first, I NEED THESE.

Yes, $20 is kind of a lot for four glasses, but I love them so much!

 

2. I’m working my thrift store job tomorrow! I’ve been laid off since mid-December, so I’m excited to go back. I know it will be like when I went back to writing full time where it’s great for a few weeks and then I’m over it, but for now I’m excited to be doing something other than writing!

 

3. This month Chewy sent us one of the most fun products we’ve ever gotten to review for their Chewy Influencer Program!

We’ve tried some Muse cat food before and I remember my cats loving it, so I was really curious to check this kit out!

 

 

I love the idea of it. You get packages of crunchy bits, containers of meat chunks, and packets of creamy sauce. You can add any of them to your cats usual food to spice up their regular routine, or serve all three together to make a meal.

 

A bit of each item – I stirred this all together before serving and my cats devoured it! I also tried serving the crunchy bits and the meat as snacks, and using the sauce to top their usual dry food. The crunchy pieces got eaten but not with as much enthusiasm as the other two parts. I did need a fork to get the meat out of its little cup because it’s just meat packed in there – very little moisture.

Those notes aside, I had fun being able to mix and match the elements. There are three flavors included (Salmon, ,聽 and ) and you get two packages of each form in each flavor, so 16 items all together.聽 The variety pack I got is available from Chewy here for just over $22. You can also check out Chewy’s full inventory of Muse cat food聽which includes multi-packs of each of the variety pack components, so if your cat just loves one of the three things you can just stock up on that. The variety pack is not just a lot of fun to experiment with, but also a great way to let your cats try out the different flavors and forms of treats to see what their favorites are.

 

4.聽I took this through a window last night while I was getting some writing work done at the library. The photo itself is terrible, but sunset at 6:10 pm is SUCH a nice change from 5 pm! I obviously prefer summer when the sun is still hanging around well after 8 p.m., but the later sunset is such a nice reminder that spring is coming! (The less nice reminder was the first tornado warning of the year last week. Why are they always in the middle of the night?)

 

5.聽 Meme of the week:

 

Kind of a short post this week, but I really need movie night. (Even though we just watched 2 movies last night.) I just need to post this, feed the cats, throw on some comfy yoga pants and walk over. YAY, movie night!

 

Linking up with Bright on a Budget and A Little Bit of Everything.

Friday Favs – Post Valentines Edition

Happy Friday, friends! The forecast here is calling for freezing rain all day – brr! This has been such a weird winter! It was 60 degrees yesterday! Which means…

 

 

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My Valentine is tall and handsome and was very excited about the candy I brought him. 馃挄

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1. I got to spend Valentines Day with my main man!

I haven’t ridden Folklore in months! The weather has been icky and cold tends to make him a little stiff (he’s basically retired now), so I’d rather wait for a nice day when we can both enjoy it. He was excited to see me, and especially excited about the peppermint sticks I picked up on clearance after Christmas. The boy loves his peppermints! He’s the only horse I’ve ever known who will pick up his back feet and basically put them in my hands to be cleaned because he knows he gets treats when his hooves are done. It’s so cute!

 

He even put on eye shadow for the occasion. TBH I think he pulls this stuff just because he likes getting his face brushed.

If you’re wondering- yes, I’m very sore today. English riding uses pretty much every leg muscle you never knew you had, and I’m feeling alllll of mine today!

 

 

2. I don’t usually like white chocolate, but for some reason I LOVE white chocolate Lindt truffles. They have these limited edition ones out for Valentine’s Day that are milk chocolate on the outside and soft white chocolate on the inside and… I may have eaten three bags of them.

I regret nothing.

 

3. Y’all know I’m addicted to the Hogwarts Mystery phone game. This week we got a side quest that was just so cute and fun it made my week! Remember the Yule Ball in Goblet of Fire? We had a dance that was basically like that – you got to pick your outfit and your date and the whole thing was just such a fun break from the regular storyline:

 

 

 

And yes, I brought the smartest boy in all of Hogwarts as my date:

I’m still mad I couldn’t pick Bill Weasley as my date, but Barnaby is growing on me.

 

Seriously, if you’re a Harry Potter nerd and not already playing this, get on it! It’s free!

 

4. My meowers are currently obsessed with the Tiny Tiger cat food variety pack we received to review for the Chewy Influencer Program this month.

 

Salmon, seafood, and tuna varieties. All three were a hit! My only complaint is wishing that the flavor names were easier to spot on the label.

 

Bear LOVES to help when I’m taking product photos for reviews.

I was a little hesitant to order a brand I’d never heard of, but this has been a hit! My cats devour all three flavors. It’s little chunks of meat with a good amount of gravy, which is always a crowd pleaser.

Chewy currently has an awesome deal on the Tiny Tiger variety pack聽where you get an extra 50% off your first order, which makes it like $6.50 for 24 cans! Score!

 

5. Best of the internet recently:

 

 

Sad news – I found out this week that my trail ride job won’t be re-opening in March. I’ve been looking forward to going back all winter, so obviously I’m bummed. I’m considering applying at a different place near me that offers horseback riding once they re-open, but it won’t be the same!

That’s it for this week! I’m curled up in bed with the cats, getting ready to get some writing work done. (I may have skipped working last night in favor of going out for dinner and a movie. Sometimes you have to take advantage of that whole “freelance”thing, even when it hurts your wallet.) It’s been a busy week, so I’m totally content to not go anywhere today!

 

May your weekend be lovely and filled with heavily discounted V-day candy!

 

Linking up with Bright on a Budget and A Little Bit of Everything

Trail Riding in Branson, MO at Pot A Gold Stables

In my opinion, almost any beautiful walk can be even better if you’re watching the scenery from horseback.聽As much as I love hiking, almost every time I’m walking through the woods I think, “This would be so much better if I was riding.”

 

 

Back in July, I was browsing the #explorebranson hashtag on Instagram in search of fun new things to do, and got SUPER excited when a post from Pot A Gold Stables showed up in the feed. I had NO idea there was a new trail riding place near Branson! If you read my blog often, you might remember that I’ve been taking Hunter/Jumper (English) riding lessons for a little over a year, but I haven’t had the chance to go trail riding in a couple of years, so a relaxing trail ride through the Ozarks sounded perfect!

 

 

Pot A Gold Stables is located just across Lake Taneycomo from Downtown Branson on the same property as the Sycamore Creek Family Ranch, which serves as an event and wedding venue. Although the ranch is off the beaten path, it’s easy to find. From the Branson Landing area, you just cross the bridge and only have to make two turns after that – about a ten minute drive. The final road leading up to the stable is gravel, but it’s pretty smooth for a gravel road and my little car had no problem with it. There’s parking just a few steps from the barn, which is super convenient!

 

 

All of THAT said, I was still late getting there for my ride.聽馃槀聽I had only glanced at the map and thought I’d be taking a totally different highway to get there, and only discovered when checking directions right before I left that it was a good 15 minutes farther away from my house than I thought. Oops! Thankfully I’d been planning to leave early anyway, so I still arrived well before the actual start time. Most of the other guests were already paired up with horses by that point, though, so I’m glad I wasn’t any later! (You do need to make reservations for your ride so the trail guides know in advance how many people to expect and thus how many horses to have ready. That also means that if you’re running a few minutes late like I was, they know to wait for you. Definitely aim for being early, though. Nobody wants to be the guy who everyone had to wait for. And allow some extra time for traffic if you have to drive through Branson!)

Pot A Gold Western Adventures offers one, two, and three hour trail rides, which I LOVE. It’s so hard to find a barn that offers rides longer than one hour! If this is your first time on a horse, you’ll probably want to stick with an hour, but if it’s something you’ve done before and know you like, definitely go for the two hour ride! For me, an hour on horseback just flies by, so I’m all about the 2 and 3 hour options!

 

Adorable donkeys also live on the ranch

 

They also offer 20-minute lead pony rides, which are great for kids that are too young to join in the regular trail rides but want the chance to try it out. (Kids need to be at least 6 to go on the regular rides, and riding on the same horse as a parent is not allowed for safety reasons.)

On the opposite end of things, they don’t have a weight restriction to ride but you do need to let them know if you’re over 250 lbs when you make the reservation so they can have a horse ready to accommodate you. I know that can be a delicate subject to bring up to a stranger, but both you and the horse will be way more comfortable and safe!

 

 

I got super lucky with weather the morning of my ride! It was overcast and even sprinkling a little on my drive there,聽 but the rain stopped before it was time to ride and we got to enjoy the cooler temperatures that came with it. It started out at about 72 degrees and hit the upper 70s by the end of my two hour ride. (For the record, rides still go out as long as it’s not raining too badly. They do reschedule if the weather conditions are going to make things unsafe, though.)

 

A few horseback trail riding tips if you haven’t been before:

 

What should you wear for a trail ride, and what should you bring along?

Definitely wear long pants – jeans are probably going to be the most comfortable. I know shorts might seem like a good idea when it’s hot, but trust me, they’re not. Not only do legs rubbing against your saddle get painful, but you’re riding through the woods where branches and bushes can scratch bare skin. Jeans are your friend!

Closed toed shoes are another must. Boots are great, but tennis shoes will work just fine in a pinch. I actually tend to ride in a pair of $30 boots from Target most of the time. Something with about a 1-inch heel is ideal, because that keeps your foot from slipping through the stirrup. Avoid anything with an actual 2+ inch heel, though.

(As a side note, there are several great thrift stores in Branson, so if you’re visiting and want to pack light, you could easily find jeans and boots for a few dollars and then just re-donate them before you leave town.) Depending on the weather, you may also want to bring a hat or sunglasses and a light jacket. Be sure to bring a bottle of water (saddle bags are available so you can bring it with you on the ride), and if it’s a hot day, you might want to bring two! Tips for your trail guides are not required but are definitely appreciated, so you may want to bring some cash as well.

Children are required to wear helmets, but older teens and adults can choose whether they’d like to or not. The horses are very well trained and used to beginners, but even with the best trained animal there’s always a chance something could happen. I always wear a helmet when I’m riding English, but generally don’t for Western. Just go with whatever you’re more comfortable with!

 

Pausing by the lake for photos

 

To be honest, I’m back an forth on the idea of bringing your phone along. One of the guides on my ride was awesome about taking photos for people and texting them to them, and you can always ask to have a photo taken on your horse before you start or end your ride. I did bring my phone along because I’m very comfortable on horses and experienced enough to judge when I feel safe taking it out to snap some photos. In general, though, it’s better to focus on the ride and keep both hands on the wheel, so to speak. Nobody wants to have to drop a billion dollars on a new iPhone because it fell out of your pocket and the horse stepped on it. (Seriously – even with 30+ years under my belt, I’ve dropped my phone on a trail ride before. I’m super lucky I heard it fall or I probably never would have found it!)

 

 

Let’s get back to my actual experience, though! I wound up riding a super sweet little mare named Izzy. I could tell from the beginning that she was super chill and I’d be able to just relax and enjoy my ride, which is exactly what I’d been hoping to do! A funny side note – she was over a foot shorter than the horse I usually ride for jumping, so when it came time to get off her it was like, “WHOA, there’s the ground already!” I gave her lots of love post-ride and asked the guides if it would be ok to give her some of the horse treats I keep in my car (What, everyone does that, right?) as a reward for her hard work. We became instant buddies.

 

 

The trails at the ranch are absolutely beautiful. You get to ride through the woods, along Lake Taneycomo, through big open fields, and even down a path that winds through a patch of bamboo that’s like 12 feet high! Most of the ride is very relaxed and easy, but there are a few challenging parts mixed in for a little excitement. The location also makes it a perfect place to spot wildlife. We saw baby deer on my ride, but bald eagles, herons on the lake, giant groundhogs, an other Missouri wildlife are also common.

 

 

The horses are all very well trained and beginner-friendly. A lot of horses would freak out at things like passing a big tractor or seeing a deer jump out, but nothing bothered these guys. Another common issue with trails horses is being barn sour (not wanting to leave the barn and wanting to run when they’re getting close to home), but the Pot A Gold horses stayed relaxed the whole time. At the same time, if you actually do have riding experience, you’ll notice that they don’t just mindlessly follow the horse in front of them like a lot of trail horses do. I played around with giving Izzy some very subtle cues while we rode, and was pleasantly surprised by how well she listened to me.

 

Pot A Gold’s Branson location is currently closed for the season because riding in 30 degree weather is no fun for anyone, but if you’re planning to visit Branson in 2019, be sure to put it on your list of Missouri adventures, as the current plan is to re-open in March!

 

I need to add an important note here at the end: I received a complimentary trail ride in exchange for sharing my experience with my readers- pretty standard for travel blogging, but I actually started working for this company about a month after my first ride. I wrote most of this post right after the trail ride and before I started working there, so I’m glad I preserved my original opinions fresh after the experience before I started viewing everything through an insider lens! I tried to primarily only use photos from that first ride, too, but I did end up adding in a few photos from later rides just to flesh the post out a bit. I’m working on another post about my experiences during my first season of guiding trail rides, but I wanted to keep this post in the pure, unbiased view of a guest. Hope that makes sense? Either way, feel free to fire away with questions whether they’re about trail riding in Branson or trail riding on vacation in general or working with horses or anything else and I’m happy to answer!

 

 

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(Yes, that’s me “Woo-hoo!”-ing on Polka Dot in the back. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve seen plenty of Polka Dot!)

 

You can find Pot A Gold Western Adventures on Facebook and Instagram聽(you’ll spot me in a few pics there!), and learn more on their website!