Friday, July 29, 2011

Time Off

I haven't posted in about a week and a half. I think I'm going to take a little break, maybe another week or so, to collect my thoughts, write in my journal, take some pictures, read some books, and breathe. 

In the meantime, a poem. One of my favorites. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Monday Miscellany - July 18th

Iced coffee. I've heard approximately 4,193 people mention iced coffee this week, either on Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Good Morning America, and/or random conversations with strangers (as opposed to planned conversations with strangers, known as "solicitation" or "stalking" and slightly frowned upon). Even McDonald's is offering a version of the drink alongside their lattes and mochas and chicken nuggets and whatnot. Last year, I do not remember this phenomenon. This year, everyone drinks it and touts the delicious, chilled beauty of the concoction. 
Even the awesome Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond herself shows up as Google's third option when one searches for "iced coffee." However, I am somewhat daunted by the act of making this chilled version as opposed to my regular morning brew. For example, the Pioneer Woman's process for the "Perfect Iced Coffee" involves somewhere near 28 steps and two days of preparation. You see, my morning coffee has three steps: pour water into coffee maker; measure coffee into coffee maker; push "delay" so it will make coffee the next morning. That's it. When I wake up, I can pour a hot cup of hazelnut breakfast blend into my favorite blue mug, add some raw sugar, a dash of almond milk, and start my day. 

There are two main things I don't like about iced coffee: 

  1. it's cold. After waiting 16 years of my life before I was even allowed to drink coffee ("you won't like it, it's for adults..."), I drank it for the next 12 years of my life hot. Like, deliciously steaming and hot. It's like giving a person a bowl of hot ice cream and saying it's the new craze - it just doesn't compute. 
  2. no foam. One of my favorite parts about drinking coffee (especially lattes), is the first sip of hot foam at the top of the mug. It's delightful and, if done correctly, tastes exactly like a warm hug on your tongue....which sounded better in my head than it does written out, but I'm keeping it nonetheless. 
Side note: I like frappuccinos. Why? Because I think of them as ice cream, not coffee. And ice cream should be cold, so it all makes sense. 


I tried to sew this week. 
It did not go well, leading me to wonder if I'll ever be one of those "Look at the wedding dress I just made over the weekend!" kind of seamstresses. I can't even thread a bobbin (wait, do you thread it, or spool it? I have no idea). I wanted to make a clutch, a simple, small purse clutch with ruched sides. I purchased a nice pattern from a local fabric store, selected the fabric I wanted, and set out all my supplies. John was gone on a business trip to Chicago, so I had an entire evening to myself. I turned on Netflix, selected the 1996 version of Jane Eyre, and went to work. 


After 3 hours of cutting, pinning, ironing, and sewing, I ended up finishing out the bobbin 2/3rd's of the way into the project, thwarting my chances of completing the purse by dawn. I had no idea how to change/respool/fix/burn the bobbin, and no real desire to spend 30 minutes on YouTube trying to find someone who taped themselves doing it 20x faster than the human eye can see. So I called it quits and went to bed. That was it. No defiant call the next morning to "conquer this challenge!" or "finished what I started!" or "clean up after myself!"

Oh, nay. I made some coffee (hot, steaming, hazelnut breakfast blend coffee with almond milk) and read blogs on Google Reader. And made an account on Audible. Oh, and I think I did a load of laundry, too.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Sometimes there are those weekends that you know will be awesome. For us, they're typically unplanned and involve at least one trip to Mama Carmen's or Starbucks . This weekend, it also involved the Fayetteville Farmers' Market.

The Fayetteville Farmers' Market is one of the most popular events in NWA. People from all over the area come up to the Fayetteville Square to buy fresh produce, eggs, meat (or order it at least), and fruit while sipping on some Jammin' Java coffee and snacking on scones, cookies, or breakfast sandwiches from Arsaga's (both of which set up stands on the Square with their goodies). It's almost as much fun to "people watch" as it is to see each vendor's offerings; bands gathering crowds along the corners of the street, people walking their dogs, riding their bicycles, and holding their children while vendors sell their wares. It's an experience that everyone should have an opportunity to be a part of at some point. 

We started off with breakfast at The Little Bread Company, a bakery that is always busy. In fact, today the line was almost out the door, and John and I ate outside (partly because there were no available seats inside, partly because it was a nice morning). They are famous for their enormous cinnamon rolls, quiches, danishes, and cookies, all of which will easily throw off your calorie tracking for a full week (but you don't really care. It's kind of amazing). I selected the olive, tomato, and feta quiche. John had the ham, cheese, and egg sandwich with a side of breakfast potatoes. Yum. 

On to the market, where produce was in abundance. Cucumbers were at nearly every booth, as were cherry tomatoes and fingerling potatoes. 

I bought some cucumbers.

This was the only red cabbage at the market. 

The band, Farmer and the Markets. Clever. 

John sat and listened to the band while I went around a second time to check out the booths. They apparently played a Sufjan Stevens song he liked, so he downloaded it while he waited.  

Another set of musicians, stationed at the corner of the Square. 

It was a great day.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Monday Miscellany - July 11th

It seems like I have recently become obsessed with cakes and cupcakes lately. (Not cake pops.) With networking sites like Pinterest, Google+, and Google Reader, it seems like I am never, ever, ever at a loss for cakes spectacular. (you see what I did there? I put the adjective after the word and then italicized it to make the idea seem cooler! Grammar is awesome!) 

But I digress. Of all the cakes I've found in my "research," my personal favorite comes from Matador Life's article, "20 Incredible Creative Cakes." It's a crafty woman's dream cake, in my opinion; you'll find yarn, knitting needles, scissors, embroidery thread, buttons, a pincushion, an embroidery hoop, and all sorts of other little surprises hidden both inside the basket and around the base. This is a real cake, people. A real, honest-to-goodness, iced and deliciously edible cake. If I were a diva, I would demand this for my birthday. Actually, if I were a diva I would probably demand this for Thursday. Why? Um, because I could. Don't make this difficult. 

A close second would be this owl cake from Cake Central, because anyone who knows me knows I am obsessed with owls. (I guess if you're reading this and you don't know me, you are now aware of my preoccupation with these adorable it works out great for everybody.) My friend Jen had a baby shower several months ago, and I walked in not knowing it would be the best owl-themed baby shower ever. I was absolutely enthralled with all the decorations and appetizers and treats and games. I took lots of pictures


Okay. I need to move on. Let's talk about food blogs. There is a new "up-and-coming" blogger posting over at The Hectic Gourmet. She's got some clever ideas about cooking, including some unconventional recipes and articles found across the internet. I love her "Five Great Roll Ups" post, especially since there is apparently such a thing as pizza bread. It's like bread, but with pizza inside. Seriously? Seriously. And for dessert, may I interest you in the Heavenly Chocolate Cake Roll, also listed in the post? 
my cinnamon swirl bread

I have made cinnamon swirl bread before, which is listed in the post, so I know that it's not nearly as difficult as most people believe it to be. In fact, I've heard many people (okay, two women) explain that rolled desserts are not difficult to make at all. When you stop and think about it, a lot of our dining options include some form of "rolling": cream cheese pinwheels, burritos,, other rolly things that I can't think of right now.... 

Oh my gosh, can you imagine if you ate only rolled food for an entire day??? Cinnamon rolls for breakfast, sushi rolls for lunch, pizza rolls for dinner, and a slice of chocolate cake roll for dessert. Um, guys...I think I just created a new diet plan. Expect a book soon, tentatively titled, Rolling off the Pounds. It will be delightful. 


After I make millions of dollars off of this new diet book, I'll probably have a lot of time to indulge in expanding my craft repertoire. I'll have rooms of fabric and glitter. Rooms, I tell you! (shakes fist defiantly)

So, being the thoughtful person that I am, I believe I should begin on projects in which my future children will delight. Por exemplo: the dinosaur-robot. This creation was apparently featured in an Anthropologie catalog some time ago, and was not actually the invention of a crafty parent (though, I suppose the corporate/creative offices of this particular business could employ crafty parents). I think I could totally make this. I have lots of boxes, packing tape, a hot glue gun, and a box cutter. Now, I just need to find a young child to test out its durability and real-life cuteness. Because if I work 10-15 hours on this box dinobot, it had better look cute. 

I would also consider gluing together 6-8 giant boxes in a pyramid and painting the entire thing to look exactly like a massive royal wedding cake. I'd place it in the middle of my living room, put on my wedding dress, and somehow convince my husband to put on a tux so that we could be giant cake toppers. Best Christmas card photo. Ever. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Walmart Supercenter vs Walmart Express

Thanks to Collective Bias and ConAgra, I recently had the opportunity to take a shopping trip over at the new Gentry Walmart Express, a smaller, more convenient version of the sprawling Walmart Supercenter that we've all grown accustom to in the last few years (click here to see my story on intersect). Though the Express version carries many of the same items at the same competitive prices, it focuses much more on convenience, while the Supercenter seems to focus most of its energy on variety. Read below to get my take on how each one ranks in three categories: parking/accessibility, variety of products, and convenience. 

parking lot at Walmart Express
Hands down, the Walmart Express has it. Check out the parking lot: small, well-structured, and easy to access. Not to mention the fact that there are no stop signs in the parking area, which can frustrate drivers (i.e., me). It's just a normal open lot. For me, this is a huge benefit. There have been numerous occasions where I have shopped at a Harp's or Walgreen's store simply because I didn't feel like dealing with the Walmart parking lot, despite the fact that I had to pay more for the item.  So, in my opinion, the Walmart Express really did well here.

Variety of Products

tomato sauce at the Walmart Express
This would have to go to Walmart Supercenter. I have spent many an hour perusing through aisles of peanut butter, tomato sauce, and hair care products trying to select the right one. It seems that Walmart Supercenters carry almost every option on the market when it comes to basic cooking, cleaning, and home care products. The Walmart Express, while clearly trying to keep some variety in stock, does not live up to its larger counterpart. Here are a few examples: 
  • I like Almond Breeze unsweetened vanilla almond milk. It's available at my local Walmart Supercenter and Neighborhood Market, as well as other local grocery stores. And while the Walmart Express carried almond milk, it only carried Silk PureAlmond. Not a big deal (I mean, they did have goat milk, soy milk, rice milk, and regular milk), but I noticed. 
  • I was looking for some Hunt's tomato sauce (a ConAgra brand), and while Hunt's was represented, there were only two kinds (original and no salt added). The overall selection leaned heavily toward the Great Value brand, which is fine unless you are searching for a specific kind of sauce. 
frozen produce selection at Walmart Express
  • The frozen produce section of a Walmart Supercenter typically extends at least 2/3 of an aisle and displays several brands and varieties of frozen produce. At the Walmart Express, the display was significantly smaller, and the options were running low as well. Now, I wonder if the demand for products is overwhelming the supply Walmart expected at this particular store. It could be that they will address this soon and make sure the shelves stay stocked. Who knows.
  • On a positive note for the Walmart Express, they carried several gluten-free products such as pasta and cake mixes, which was fairly impressive considering the size of the store. They also carried a large selection of tomato sauces, soups, frozen dinners, breads, and candy. So people who would consider doing their weekly grocery shopping at a Walmart Express probably would not be disappointed by the selection.


The Walmart Express Pharmacy
Walmart Express has a lead here, not because of the range of conveniences (you won't find a Tire & Lube Express, Vision Express, or Subway/McDonald's restaurant inside), but because of the way Walmart has thought through the needs of convenience shoppers. You will find:
  • a "Site to Store" option, which means you can order items online at and have them shipped to the Walmart Express (or any other participating location);
  • a full-service pharmacy;
  • aisles with towels, bedspreads, pillows, trash cans, and other home items that Walmart Neighborhood Markets and other grocery stores don't carry;
  • a Redbox in front of the store for movie rentals, as well as movies for sale inside the store;
  • a check-cashing station at the front of the store;
  • and a "convenience food" display right inside the front door with packaged, ready-to-go sandwiches, pizzas, salads, and sides.  

If the Walmart Express wasn't so far away (it was a 45-minute drive from my house), I would shop there all the time. It's quick, convenient, and supplies most of what I need throughout the week. So what did I buy there today? A Slim Jim snack pack and two boxes of Crunch 'n Munch Buttery Toffee with Peanuts Popcorn, both from ConAgra, as well as bread, garlic, and a Vitamin Water for the trip back home. 

Please note: though I was compensated for this trip, all opinions expressed in this post are 100% mine.