HELLO
Mom to Iris. Wife to Todd. Our little family lives at the foothills of the Ozark Mountains in Fayetteville, Arkansas. We love it here and I love sharing little bits of our life.

© 2014 sarahfortune.

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I’m Speaking at Megaphone!

Guess what you’re doing next weekend?! Coming to see me (and tons of other awesome folks) speak at Megaphone Influencer Conference! I was honored to be asked to talk about blogging and workin’ it as a social influencer. It’s pretty cool that we have a a conference like this in Fayetteville, so take advantage if you’re in the area and come say ‘hi!’

My presentation is around 11 am on Saturday at the Fayetteville Town Center downtown, but visit the Megaphone website to learn more about the speakers and schedule. See ya soon!

Loving to Learn at Home

For me, having a dedicated, inviting workspace is not a luxury – it’s a necessity. So as Iris grows, I’m realizing the same is true for her. As most curious kids are, she is a knowledge seeker – always asking questions, always wanting to learn the meaning of things she doesn’t understand, and always wanting to practice her math (she did not inherit that one from me). This is her last summer before Kindergarten, so the timing couldn’t be more perfect to partner with Arkansas Connections Academy to create the perfect learning spaces in our home.

Instead of having just one designated workspace, we tailored several areas to fit her interests. Iris loves to read, so having a welcoming and comfortable space to curl up with a book was a no-brainer. Just by adding a couple pillows and a rug, we turned her play tent (which she no longer ever played with) into a cozy little reading nook. She’s reading better and better with each day, so keeping a rotating stack of books inside helps keep her interested in sitting down and staying a while.

Iris considers herself an artist and, I must admit, I do too! Having a work table where it’s okay to get a little messy lets her not worry about anything so that she can just let her imagination fly. For the longest time we kept Iris’ art supplies in a big box. While my intent was to stay organized, I realized it was always a bit of an ordeal to get everything out for her. To make her art supplies more accessible, I unpacked her box into an old book cubby. Now she sees her art station everyday, which hopefully will inspire her to create even more masterpieces.

Even though I can already tell that Iris is a creative type, she does not shy away from science or math. As she grows, I hope her interest in these subjects do too. To help it along, we have a desk set up so that she can concentrate on her work, as well as a separate desk with a computer. Keeping the computer in a different space helps cut down on distractions, as well as lets me keep an eye on her computer usage.

As Iris grows, I know that these workspaces will evolve. Keeping things simple and utilizing items that I already had around the house, will allow me to change as she moves from grade to grade. And as we eagerly anticipate the start of Iris’ educational career, I’m doing some educating myself. Thanks to my collaboration with Arkansas Connections Academy, I got the chance to learn all about their virtual program. As someone who took courses from home my last two years of high school, I’m loving that there’s a quality option here in Arkansas.

So what exactly is Arkansas Connections Academy? It’s a tuition-free K–10 online public school that students attend virtually. While it goes up to 10th grade currently, the program will be adding one grade per year, so all grades will be offered soon. The school gives students the flexibility to learn from anywhere (can you say ROAD TRIP?!) with an innovative curriculum that meets rigorous state education standards.

This is a great education option for kids who are ahead or behind in the classroom, or just need a more flexible schedule. Connections Academy students not only explore and master required core subjects, but they have access to a broad range of electives, customized learning plans and courses for the gifted and talented. The part that really stands out to me is that students still get interaction with state-certified teachers, who are available via phone, email or in-person meetings. And that overall, it’s an individualized program based on each child’s needs and interests.

Still curious on how it all work? I was too! Feel free to read more on their website or connect on Facebook.

This is a sponsored post, but all opinions are my own.

TRAVEL LOVE: Hotel Vandivort in Springfield, MO

Whenever we have a rare, free weekend Todd and I try to get out and explore cities nearby. One place that I’ve driven through, but not actually stopped to explore is Springfield, Missouri. Just a little over two hours away from Fayetteville, it made for a perfectly easy one-night getaway.

Hotel Vandidvort played host to our stay and was the highlight of our trip. I thought this would be a post more about our overall trip to Springfield, but I was really surprised at how much I fell in love with this hotel! A four-diamond boutique hotel, the property is situated right downtown so once we arrived, we parked (for free!) and didn’t need our car again until it was time to go home.

If you’ve followed my travel adventures, you’ve probably heard me say this, but I’m a self-admitted hotel snob. In a previous position at my company I was the Meeting Planner, so one of my jobs was to tour and stay at various hotels we were considering for our conventions. Tough job, right? Well, that experience, mixed with my recent travel blogging, has led me to some pretty amazing properties. But I’m not exaggerating when I say that Hotel Vandivort is one of the best hotels I’ve ever stayed in. I love a boutique hotel, but I really appreciate attention to detail, which Hotel Vandivort really focuses on. From the local chocolates given at check-in, to the assortment of “do not disturb” signs, and the local selection of booze in the room honor bar, they thought of everything. Nickelodeon was even set to come on when we entered the room (along with the lights and glowing artwork) – all of which pretty much blew Iris’ mind.

The combo of the historic building, with modern but comfortable features made the experience feel luxurious, yet unique. I was so impressed with the hotel that on the way home I Googled the history. Opening just a couple years ago in 2015, it was already already named Boutique Hotel of the Year in 2016.

While I could go on and on about the hotel (oh and I will later on), we also explored downtown Springfield, so let’s get on to that! After we got out all of our “oohs and ahhs” at the hotel, we walked down the street to grab some lunch.

From there, we walked around the cute little city square. While Iris made wishes in the fountain, I snuck away to The Golden Girl Rum Club for a huge, fancy drink, watching her from the patio. You guys might recognize this spot, as one of the owners is from A Beautiful Mess blog.

After that, it was Todd’s turn for a drink so we walked over to Mother’s Brewing Company where they were having sort of a backyard Fourth of July party. We sat in the shade with a beer, heard some live music, and watched the locals do their thing. Getting closer to dinner dinner time, we made our way back to the hotel.

Before we ventured to dinner, we stopped to have a drink at the bar in the hotel where Iris had the fanciest Shirley Temple I’ve ever seen. Realizing we were still pretty full from lunch, we decided to plan ahead and walk the short distance over to Hurt’s Donuts so that we’d have dessert for later. Freshening up back at our hotel (and maybe sneaking a little bit of donut), we decided we loved the hotel so much that we wanted to try their restaurant too. Our meal at The Order was not only delicious, but beautifully presented. Before we headed back up to our room (and donuts) we of course had to stop by the bathrooms on the bottom floor to take a famous #hotelvandivortbathroomselfie. I didn’t realize this was a thing until I saw the tagged images on Instagram!

The next day we slept in (!!!), taking full advantage of the noon check-out time. If you are near the area, I would highly recommend taking an overnight trip just to stay at the hotel – but of course explore the area as well! I want to go back just to stay in one of their suites, which are actually pretty reasonably priced. How cozy would this one be in the winter with the indoor/outdoor fireplace? So… Who’s coming with?!

Byyyyeee Springfield! See ya soon!

RECIPE: Sarah’s Summer Salad w/ Chicken

I’m sharing an all-time favorite recipe in our house: Sarah’s Summer Salad with Chicken. It’s my own take on a fresh, yet hearty salad. I’m not typically one to eat a garden for a full meal, however this one is not only tasty, but fills you up! Even Iris is a fan (and she typically claims to not like salads).

Speaking of Iris, after becoming a mom I became much more conscious about not only what we eat, but where our food comes from and how it’s made. Teaming up with +Non GE/+Non GMO Forester Farmer’s Market™, I recently was introduced to their chicken and their commitment to feed their chickens from 100% locally sourced and non genetically engineered/non genetically modified (+Non GE/+Non GMO) grains. The best part? It’s actually super affordable. Available in select Sam’s Clubs stores, you can use the “Where to Buy” link to find one near you.

I purchased the pack of +Non GE/+Non GMO Forester Farmer’s Market™ chicken breasts, which were sealed two to a pack (four packs in all, so eight pieces total!). This made for very easy storage for the chicken we didn’t use – and will end up saving us money overall.

It’s recipe time! This is for two large servings, but I shared some of mine with Iris. :)

Ingredients:
2 +Non GE/+Non GMO Forester Farmer’s Market™ Chicken Breasts
1 cup of balsamic vinaigrette dressing
10 oz of mixed greens
1 cucumber
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 green apple
1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup sugar

Directions:
– Preheat oven to 400°.
– Marinate the +Non GE/+Non GMO Forester Farmer’s Market™ chicken breasts in 3/4 cup of the balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing.
– While chicken is marinating, place walnuts in a single layer on a sheet pan. Roast approximately 10 minutes, or until browned (keep a close eye, because they can burn quickly!).
– Once the walnuts are roasted, heat 1/3 cup of sugar in saucepan over medium heat. Stir frequently until completely melted into a caramel color. Remove from heat to prevent the sugar from burning and immediately add the roasted walnuts. Stir quickly until fully coated. The sugar will harden fast, so once they are coated, spread them out as much as you can on the sheet pan to cool.
– Bake chicken for 30 minutes at 400°, or until cooked thoroughly and no longer pink.
– While chicken bakes, wash & prep your produce: slice cherry tomatoes in halves, medium dice green apple, half the cucumber long ways and thinly slice, then combine in a large bowl with the mixed greens.

Once the chicken is baked, slice into strips. Plate the salad, topping with the sliced chicken and candied walnuts (you will have to break these apart a bit). Sprinkle blue cheese and the remaining balsamic salad dressing and serve!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Forester Farmer’s Market . The opinions and text are all mine.

TRAVEL LOVE: Boulder, Colorado

A few weeks ago I met up with a couple of my old, dear friends for a long weekend in Boulder. Bev flew in from Kansas City while Laura, who moved to Boulder from Fayetteville several years back, played tour guide and set up the loveliest weekend for us. Timing our flights just right, Bev and I arrived in Denver within minutes of each other on Thursday morning. Before we even left the airport we were already sipping cocktails, diving into the girl talk, and I surprised us with matching bracelets to commemorate the trip.


Photo by Bev

From the airport bar we made our way to the amazing Four Seasons Denver for a little relaxation to kick off the weekend. We had wine and snacks by the rooftop pool while we waited for our spa appointments. The Four Seasons treated us each to a massage, which was amazing after an early morning of travel. The spa was heavenly – from the sheets (where can I buy those?!), to the relaxation room – this was the perfect start to our trip.

Leaving was hard, but we were excited to grab a bite to eat at the cutest little restaurant across the street and then make our way to Boulder! This was my first true Colorado experience and, thanks to Laura, we definitely did it right. Bev has already outlined (and narrated) our entire trip perfectly over on her blog, so check that out to see even more.

Our first stop in Boulder was to our adorable little Airbnb. When booking this trip, I had a really tough time. Nearly every hotel was already booked and the ones that were available were motel-like quality for nearly $500 a night. Even the Airbnb options seemed either scarce or scary. Turns out, not only was the triathlon Ironman taking place that weekend, but also a Greatful Dead reunion. So basically we couldn’t have picked a more “Boulder” weekend to go. Finally though, I struck gold. I stumbled upon an Airbnb that had just been listed. It was in the best part of town and was less than $300 for our entire three-night stay. Only catch was that it was so new there weren’t even any photos yet. I messaged the owner and she responded almost immediately calming my fears – she snapped a few photos for me and I immediately hit the “book now” button. If you followed our Instagram Stories on that trip, then you saw us drooling over this place our entire stay. It looked like it was out of a fairytale. It was the cutest little backyard cottage, coated in beautiful flowers, situated by a babbling brook. The decor was not only comfortable, but was very Instagram worthy (so naturally Bev and I felt right at home – hah).

After getting settled, we headed over to Laura and her husband Eric’s, condo and had a relaxing dinner catching up, drinking wine (because, duh). We had all of Thursday and Friday to spend in Boulder and our itinerary was full of the perfect mix of activities. On our first full day, we started out by walking to a local coffee shop for breakfast and then we walked even further on a hike up a freakin’ MOUNTAIN! That’s right, we hiked all the way to the top of a mountain (then sat for a while), and then rolled down. Okay, we hiked down too but that part wasn’t as impressive. It was beautful though and photos of course don’t do it justice. After spending over two hours doing physical exercise on vacation we obviously earned our next drinks, so we did a little shopping and beer drinking downtown. Knowing that eating and drinking were going to be at the center of everything we did on this trip, we enjoyed a lovely dinner at Arcana and then it was time once again to return to our fairytale cottage.

Our last full day started out by walking to the Farmer’s Market, where I guzzled fresh watermelon juice, and then it was off to brunch! We did a little thrift store shopping and then picked up the loveliest picnic from Cured. Realizing that we had the most perfect spot for a picnic at our Airbnb, we set up shop by our brook. Another fabulous thing about our rental? The owners! They joined us for wine and were just the loveliest. The house became so popular that sometimes they have to pause the listing, but you can also find the renter here!

For our last afternoon, we headed over to yet another rooftop pool for (more drinks) and a little sunshine. After another lovely dinner and meeting even more lovely Boulder folks, our trip was quickly winding down. It was just the right amount of time and just the right amount of activities for visiting the quaint, yet lively town. After seeing all the beer selections and all the cyclists, I’m now convinced that Todd needs to visit, so hopefully we can go back one day soon as a family.