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.


Category : Giveaway

Back to School with Whole Foods Fayetteville

I’m excited to once again team up with one of my local favorites, Whole Foods Market Fayetteville – just in time for Iris’ first year of elementary school! Between the tears about my baby growing up, and the cheers about the disappearing preschool tuition, it hadn’t even occurred to me that I needed to figure out what to pack for lunch or for after school snacks. Enter: Whole Foods! They swooped in just in time and took the lunch-packing pressure off.

Being a mom to a kid starting “real” school for the first time, I found myself worrying about lunch – will she get lost on the way to the cafeteria? Who will she sit with? Will she have time to eat her food? Why in the world is lunch at 10:45 in the MORNING? Does that mean she’ll be starving again before school is even out?

At some point I just have to let go, know that she is not alone, and that she’ll be okay. Concentrating on the one thing I could control, I put all my nervous energy into making sure she had a delish, yet healthy lunch to look forward to. If you know Iris at all, you know that she lives for snacks. I often get embarrassed because when we visit a friend’s house she’s instantly like, “I’m hunnnngry.” It sounds like we never feed her, but in reality she just really likes scoping out other folks’ snack selection.

Thanks to Whole Foods, the only problem I had was limiting the goodness that I put in Iris’ lunch box. Making a sandwich (she prefers ham and cheese, no crust), I like giving her a selection of small, but healthy sides that I’m able to mix and match throughout the week. Annie’s fruit snacks, Pirate’s Booty, clementines, raisins, Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies, yogurt, string cheese, baby carrots, cheery tomatoes, and more have already made appearances in Iris’ cute little lunch tote. And of course with that early lunch time, Iris is instantly ready for a special snack when she gets home. In particular, Iris’ top picks are the individually packaged 365 Everyday Value Organic Chocolate Chip Cookie Bites and their fruit strips. Now that Iris often plays with neighbor friends after school, I’ve started keeping a bowl of mom-approved snacks on the counter so they can help themselves. By the way, did you know that Whole Foods has no artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners or preservatives in their stores?

Another thing I recently learned was that Whole Foods also has a concierge shopping service. I’ve always seen the parking spot labeled for personal shoppers, but didn’t realize how it worked. Turns out, it’s super simple and anyone can use the service. All you do is email your grocery list to swfayconcerigeorders@wholefoods.com. The in-store concierge will shop your list, offer suggestions, and even work with you on delivery options. Each shop fee is only $5 on top of the cost of groceries, and for first-timers, the fee is waived!

And that leads me to… a giveaway! For those of you in the Northwest Arkansas area, I’ll soon be hosting a giveaway that includes two grocery bags full of Annie’s snacks (valued at $75) AND one year of Concierge Shops (the $5 shopping fee waived for a YEAR!). See below for more details – with the giveaway coming to Instagram soon!

– Offer is only good at Whole Foods Market Fayetteville store location.
– Limit 1 shop per week.
– Personal shop fee is waived (guest still pays for groceries).
– Delivery available (for an additional fee).
– The one year term begins the day that the first shop is initiated. Must begin redemption
starting in calendar year 2017 to complete in 2018.
– Offer is non-transferable.
– Giveaway is hosted here on my Instagram and will be open until 9 pm Central on Thursday, September 8, 2017. Also, be sure to visit Whole Foods Market’s website or the Apple Store to download their shop app for sales, digital coupons and savings!

This post is sponsored by Whole Foods Market Fayetteville, but all opinions are my own.

Bedtime & Books

Dinner. Dessert. Bath. Books. Bed.

That is Iris’ routine almost every night. Just like most kids her age, Iris is a big lover of books. I was also an avid (more like obsessed) reader as a kid. In elementary school you would usually find me reading in a corner instead of playing on the playground. When there was a reading competition to see who could read the most pages, I usually won it. As I grew up, I drifted away from my daily book escape and now that I’m a mom I rarely make time to do the thing that I once loved so much. As Iris gets older, I’m more aware of that than ever so I try to instill a routine of daily reading with her.

Last month was an especially kind book month for us. First, I finally received my big Christmas present from my mom. She found a book that I wrote back when I was in sixth or seventh grade (apparently I was an avid writer too), called Galigore and Humfree. My mom hired an illustrator and actually got my book printed!

The illustrations are by Elizabeth Arnold of Neon Glittery and the story is by yours truly. The characters that I created in Galigore and Humfree were drawn to life, as were their magical adventures. I had totally forgotten about their story, so when I got my bound copy it was like reading it for the first time. While I don’t expect this to be a New York Times best seller (sorry folks, only a few copies were made), I love that I have this lost treasure forever and can share it with Iris. By her request, we’ve already read it before bed a few times, even though includes a bit of scary dragon slaying.

Second, Iris was lucky enough to receive a copy of Mailbox Monster, which is a kids’ book available on Amazon. It’s as cute as it is sweet and, as a mom who is often tired in the evenings, the perfect length to add to our bedtime routine. It’s light-hearted and great for kids who are preschool age, like Iris. The author and illustrator, Cynthia Stuker, happens to live in Northwest Arkansas too and was nice enough to send two extra copies for me to give away. Check out my Instagram for details or, if you don’t win, visit Amazon to purchase your very own copy.

Here’s to making more time for reading!

Freshly Picked Giveaway!

I’ve been a customer (and lover) of Freshly Picked for nearly three years now. Back when Iris was just over a year old, I treated her (okay, ME) to the sienna suede moccasins. This was back when Freshly Picked was still relativity small, but their moccasins were as adorably perfect as they are now.

In these little moccs, Iris has taken some of her first steps, has walked down the aisle as a flower girl, and has celebrated some of her very first birthdays. The footprints worn in on each pair hold so many memories that I know I’ll look back on years from now. I had always thought that the moccasins were great for the baby stage, but wouldn’t be very practical when Iris got older. I was wrong. Even though they might not be perfect for long walks on rainy days, I’m surprised at how great they are for the wild life of a toddler too. I think she wears her FP moccasins now more than she did when she was a baby. She can put them on by herself, they are comfy, and of course they are mom approved because we all know how cute they look in an Instagram photo.

This month Freshly Picked sent Iris a pair of moccasins in a blush pink. She’s old enough to love them for herself now, so she helped pick out the color. This delivery was bittersweet though, because Iris is now in the very last size of the soft sole moccasins. Thankfully, FP has introduced a line for older babes, which I have no doubt we will transition to when the time comes.

Now comes the fun part – I get to give away a pair of soft soled moccasins to one of my readers! Entering is easy (and hosted over on my Instagram account):

+ Follow @sarahfortune and @freshlypicked on Instagram
+ Tag a friend in the comments on the contest photo (enter as many times as you’d like)

Rules: Sorry, open to US residents only. You cannot have won a Freshly Picked giveaway within the last 60 days. One winner will be selected via random.org and will get to pick one pair of moccasins (soft soled only). Contest ends Monday, November 23 at 10:00 pm Central. Good luck!

St. Louis Contest Winner!

I just got word that the winner of the giveaway mentioned over on my St. Louis blog post has been chosen! The kind folks over at ExploreStLouis.com randomly selected a winner from all of the entries collected by participating bloggers – and guess what? The winner is one of my readers! Awww yeah.

Congrats to…
Kelsey Smith!

You’ll be contacted by someone from the St. Louis team shortly about your winnings (a 2-night stay and family fun package featuring gift cards, vouchers to local attractions and more, valued at over $500).

Thanks to everyone for following our #ExploreStLouis journey. Hope you all visit St. Louis soon and love it as much as we did.

Exploring St. Louis (plus a contest)!

I’ve only been to St. Louis one other time, well over a decade ago, to see Death Cab For Cutie. I was only there for one night, so besides the music venue and the Arch, I’ve never really seen St. Louis. Until last weekend.

We were recently presented with an exciting opportunity – to go on a spontaneous road trip adventure to #ExploreStLouis! While we set our own itinerary, ExploreStLouis.com hooked us up with some awesome local businesses and at the end of this post is a chance for you to win your very own trip to explore the city!

Our Spontaneous Family Road Trip

We live a five and a half hour drive away from St. Louis. Since we were just going to be there for a long weekend, we decided to get a head start and drive a few hours after work on Thursday night. I’m glad we did because we were able to stop in Springfield, Missouri and enjoy a local dinner instead of a rushed, drive-through meal. Then on Friday, we had almost a full day in St. Louis. Arriving to town around 10:30 a.m., our first stop was the Delmar Loop. There were plenty of restaurants and little shops in the area to explore, with construction underway for a trolley line. After taking a stroll through a cute little candy shop, we were treated to lunch and drinks at Fitz’s .

Walking around The Delmar Loop
(and playing a little air guitar)

Cute little candy shop on The Loop.

Fitz’s Root Beer
Even though it’s a famous root beer company, Fitz’s is also a restaurant with a full, fun menu. We got right down to business and let Iris have dessert first (we were on vacation, after all).

While Iris opted for a MEGA root beer float, I jumped right into their adult drink menu with a Mexican Mule, made with Fitz’s ginger beer. After we got our drinks out of the way, we chowed down on burgers until we were stuffed. You can even stick around and watch them bottle the soda.

From Fitz’s we made our way over to our hotel, The Cheshire. I have to say that this boutique hotel accomplishes something most hotels do not – it’s just as wonderful for adults as it is for kids. Each guest room features a book written by the author the room is named after (we were in the A. A. Milne suite, who wrote Winnie the Pooh).

As far as the accommodations, I am a self-proclaimed hotel snob and this one passed every test. The entire hotel is unique, but being a four-diamond property the standards are also high – comfy beds, nice bath products, complimentary (and delicious) breakfast, Keurig coffee maker in the room, great pool area, and so on! And as for the front desk staff, I feel like I may have some new best friends. They were as friendly and helpful as could be.

As soon as we checked in we had to go off and explore the castle-like grounds.

For our first afternoon in St. Louis, we decided to each choose a location to explore. Iris was up first and she chose the St. Louis Zoo, which was conveniently less than a mile away from The Cheshire .

What’s the best thing about the St. Louis Zoo? It’s FREE! Because of this, we splurged the $15 for close parking, which was totally worth it. The zoo is pretty sizable, so after walking around for a couple hours we were happy to hop right into our car. This was Iris’ first zoo experience (that she could remember) and she was in HEAVEN. She really wanted to see an elephant in real life, so after a bit of searching we found ’em!

And what’s the second best thing about the St. Louis Zoo? They serve BEER!

After the zoo, we did something the whole family wanted to do – visit The Gateway Arch!

While the grounds are undergoing a massive renovation, we were still able to get our Arch on. We didn’t think we’d have enough time to go up inside, but Iris insisted. After checking at the ticket office, we found out there was no wait at all! Up we went and I’m so glad we did. It’s one of those bucket list things that just felt good to do at least once in your life.

Then it was my turn to choose our next spot! I had been dying to try the Three Sixty roof top bar, which is just a five minute walk from the Arch. Opening in the afternoons at 4 p.m., I read online that it was all-ages before 7 p.m. Located on the top of the Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark, Three Sixty has amazing views of downtown St. Louis – from the Arch and right into Busch Stadium. We enjoyed a few appetizers and drinks, which was a lovely break after our previous adventures.

Last, but not least, it was Todd’s turn to choose a spot to explore. Being the craft beer lover that he is, of course he chose one of the many local breweries St. Louis is home to – 4 Hands. While Todd stocked up on a case of beer to bring home, we stayed for dinner, making it our last stop of the day.

Back at The Cheshire, we read a little Winnie the Pooh before ending our very full, very fun day.

Good morning from The Cheshire!

On Saturday we woke up fairly early (thanks, Iris) and, after a quick bite to eat at the hotel, went straight to the City Museum.

This place is what we were looking forward to the most. We’ve heard from so many different people that it’s a pretty spectacular experience. In fact, almost everyone who I told about our trip said, “you have to go to the City Museum.”

Well, they were right. The pictures, the stories, the bruises I have – they don’t do it justice. It’s something you have to experience to really know how awesome it is.

Here’s just one example. You see that bus hanging off the top of that building?

Well here’s Iris in the driver’s seat.

Built in an old shoe factory, The City Museum is an art gallery and playground in one. Their “no maps” philosophy forces you to explore and see where the adventure takes you, which can often be through pitch dark mazes or down a 10-story slide. I highly recommend paying the extra $5 to go up to the roof, where you can find the bus, a ferris wheel, and other adventures.

And did I mention that there was a bar on almost level? I love this town!

Once you have your City Museum arm band, you can come and go as much as you want that day (they are open until midnight on the weekends). Even though there are plenty of spots to grab food there, we decided to walk around the corner to try out Hiro Asian Kitchen.

Boy were we glad we did. This was on of our favorite meal stops of the trip! Not only was each of our entrees delish, but the chef surprised us with a steamed bun appetizer that was AMAZING. And since Iris is definitely in a picky eating stage, I was thrilled to see that they offered a kid-friendly menu too (corn dog and tater tots for the win!). The atmosphere was fresh and modern (almost spa like), so it was a nice retreat from the hectic-ness of the museum.

While we had every intention of heading back to the City Museum, it was becoming clear that nap time was approaching quickly for Little Miss Iris. But being the awesome parents that we are, we of course had to stop off for dessert.

We found our way to The Fountain on Locust, which is an adorable, retro-style restaurant and ice cream bar. I even read on their website that it’s “the most photographed restaurant in St. Louis” which I don’t doubt at all! Iris had her heart set on a chocolate malt, while I just couldn’t choose. They are famous for their ice cream martinis, but then I spotted a champagne float. So what’s a girl to do? Order both!

Oh. My. Goodness. I had the chocolate covered almond martini and the champagne float with sherbert and raspberries. I’m going to be craving both for a very long time. I have no idea what Todd ordered because, well, I was swimming in two delicious cocktails. Have I mentioned how much I love this town?

After the short drive back to the hotel (we were amazed how easy and quick it was to get around the city), we all took a much needed nap. We woke up with time to enjoy the pool, where there were plenty of (free!) cabanas and a nice happy hour.

For our last night in St. Louis we had reservations at one of the two restaurants at the hotel, Basso at The Cheshire. We were lucky to have an extra guest at this meal! My dad, who lives in Jonesboro, Arkansas, just happened to be in town. If you follow my blog, you may have read what he’s been going through recently, so it was really special to be able to meet up with him, if only for dinner. He hadn’t been to St. Louis in a very long time, so it was kind of crazy that the stars aligned and we were there at the same time. And want to know something even crazier? After I invited my dad to dinner at Basso at The Cheshire, he told me that back in the 1970s he actually got MARRIED at that very hotel! Whoa.

Dinner was served family-style, so I took authority to order for our table. I think I may have over-ordered, but I’m glad we did. It was a lovely finale dinner for our trip and I wanted to go all out.

After dinner, we said goodbye to my dad, and took off on one last adventure: a hotel-wide scavenger hunt, which is part of The Cheshire Royal Kids Club. At check-in each kid gets a fun little packet, which includes a scavenger hunt map. If you complete it correctly and turn it into the front desk, you get a prize. Now, if you’r planning on cheating off of my map, I wouldn’t recommend it. I didn’t realize until a few in that there were actual clues that you had to find. D’oh!

After another good night’s rest, it was sadly time to hit the road… but not before one last stop on the way out of town – Strange Donuts! They had so many unique flavors that it was hard to choose, so we opted for a dozen and there were still flavors that we didn’t get to try. Maple Bacon, Campfire, Cookie Crumble, Gooey Butter Donut™, and so many more. We stuffed our faces at a park around the corner, which was truly a perfect way to end our trip: Strange, delicious, and a lot of fun.

All in all, we loved St. Louis and can’t wait to come back.

Contest is now closed. See who the winner is here!

Ready to take your own spontaneous family road trip to St. Louis?
Visit ExploreStLouis.com to start planning! Or… let me help!

Just leave a comment below about one place in St. Louis you’d like to visit for a chance to win a 2-night stay and family fun package featuring gift cards, vouchers to local attractions and more, valued at over $500. Make sure to include your real email address in the comment form, so that you can be contacted if you’re the winner. Contest ends on August 31. The email addresses will be sent to ExploreStLouis.com, who will select and notify one single collective winner during the first week of September (other websites are also collecting entries for this same contest).

Want more chances to win? Snag your own trip to STL through Explore St. Louis’ Funnest Family and Ultimate Tourist contests!

Good luck, my friends!

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