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 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!


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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!

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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!


Friday Favs – Almost Christmas!



Happy Almost Christmas! (Or Happy post-Hanukkah, or Congrats on almost surviving 2017! or insert whatever greeting floats your boat here!)

I really only have two things to write about this week – I usually just skip the week and put those items on the next list when that happens, but my first one involves a lot of photos and text, so let’s just go with it!

BTW, we’re possibly getting our first snow of the season tonight and I DO NOT APPROVE. That is all.


1. I really thought my trip to Eureka Springs back in October would be the last one of the year – the drive down there is all narrow, super-twisty Arkansas roads and you just don’t even want to consider it in icky winter weather. (Most businesses even close from after Christmas until Mardi Gras.) However, Thursday was somehow like 70 degrees despite being the official first day of winter, so I took advantage of the rare sunshine and hopped in the car to head down for a little bit of wandering around town (and to pick up another bottle of my favorite olive oil.)

I love just wandering downtown, surrounded by historic buildings that now host quirky boutique shops. This time I read a historic marker that proclaimed a gift shop the former law office of F.O. Butt. Apparently Festivus Orestus Butt started practicing law at 18 or 19 after Arakansas decided to overlook his “disability of minority” (I guess you had to be at least 21?) and later served in the state senate and became Eureka Springs mayor for three terms, then practiced law until he died at 97. This is why I love this weirdo town – its history is full of this kind of colorful character! (I still haven’t posted about my visit to the Eureka Springs Historical Museum several months ago! Oops.) I really can’t put into words how quirky this little artist/historic/hippie town in Northwest Arkansas truly is.聽 聽ut here are a few photos from this week’s visit:


There are several carved gnomes around town. I think someone at the Art Colony makes them? Side note- I got SO many comments on my “Coffee is my BFF” shirt. It’s from the Target sleepwear section but I wear it as a regular top fairly often, but I don’t think I’ve ever gotten more than one or two comments on it before. Apparently everyone in Eureka is a caffeine addict?


“Yeah, this seems like a good enough place to build a house,” said someone in 1879.

You might remember the creepy silhouette guy from previous Eureka posts…


To be honest, now that it’s happened I’m shocked it didn’t happen sooner, but someone finally decided to “upgrade” him.聽馃槀



Sorry that this photo of the 1886 Crescent Hotel is kinda crooked, but Eureka Springs is known as the “Alps of the Ozarks” for a reason. It’s amazing that 90% of my photos around town aren’t tilted at a crazy angle TBH.

Anyway, the point of this pic is that THE CRESCENT IS BUILDING AN ICE SKATING RINK. As my favorite hotel that is a former girls school and faux cancer hospital (see my post about the Crescent Hotel Ghost Tour here…), the Crescent is a place I feel compelled to visit almost every time I’m in town, but after seeing the ice rink under construction on Instagram and hearing about the garden full of Christmas trees decorated to raise money for charity, I knew I had to stop by on this trip.

The most important part of the historic hotel is the resident cat, Jasper, and I make a point to pet him every time I’m there if possible. He wasn’t in any of his usual spots, so I was worried that I was going to miss him this time (although the staff is always awesome about helping me find him!) but then I looked under one of the trees in the lobby…

He’s pretty much the best.

Apparently I JUST missed a huge car accident on my way home. Traffic was held up for over 20 minutes, there were tons of police and a fire truck and ambulance, and I guess the person/people involve got airlifted out by helicopter. There was still debris all over the road when we were finally allowed to pass in one lane, but thankfully I didn’t end up with (another) flat tire this time! It’s always creepy to think that wow, if I’d spent five fewer minutes down on the lobby floor looking like a dork and taking cat photos, I could have been the car smashed into pieces across the narrow two-lane road.


2. I was sent a variety of nail polishes from Surya Brasil recently… well, apparently they actually sent them back in October but I just found them near my back door a couple of weeks ago. (The package was in a weird spot that I never look. UPS guy did a little TOO good of a job of hiding it!) I was excited to try these out because they’re vegan and cruelty-free, and made without the scary ingredients that a lot of nail polishes contain like parabens and聽formaldehyde.

Another thing I love is that the colors look just like they do on the website. There can always be a little variance depending on what kind of screen you’re using, but the colors are exactly what I expected based on how they appear online. I decided to do some Christmas-y nails using the聽Eclectus Parrot and Chameleon colors.


How it appears online…

and IRL

Please ignore that my nails look like a five year old painted them.聽

I like how smoothly the polish glides on, and while the big brush makes it easy to cover a lot of the nail in one swoop, it can also result in a little sloppiness if you’re not careful. I only needed one coat to get vibrant color, which is nice. They did chip on the tips after just a couple of days, but for me the animal/eco-friendly aspects outweigh that.

They also sent me their non-acetone nail polish remover, plus blue, coral, and brown nail polishes, so I’ll share feedback on those once I get a chance to try them! (I like doing wintery blue nails for New Year’s, and I’m really excited to try the sparkly Peacock blue polish!) You can find their full array of nail products here, and they also offer a wide array of products for hair and skin care.


Stay warm if you’re somewhere cold and dreary, and may your holiday weekend be a great one!


Friday blog linkup