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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Category : Sponsored

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.

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.

Share a Box of Cheerios!

Every morning starts the same way in our house – coffee first and then CEREAL FOR ALL! On weekdays Iris’ alarm clock wakes her up at 6:45 am. On weekends, her internal child alarm clock wakes her (and me) up even earlier. Why it always works that way, I’ll never know. “I’m hungry. Can I have some cereal?” is usually heard within the first few minutes. Todd and I are still fumbling around making a mess of coffee grounds as we also pour her a bowl.

On any given day you can usually open our pantry door and find at least one box of Cheerios (I think the all-time record is four different varieties). They were a staple when I was little and, naturally, are a staple for Iris too. Now, thanks to Cheerios, Iris can continue the tradition herself with their “Buy a box, Give a box” offer. At Walmart, if you buy a specially marked box, you can share a box with someone you love. With Father’s Day coming up, the choice for Iris was easy… Now if she could just learn to make coffee. 😉

Find your code inside specially marked packages in stores and enter it on Walmart.com to send a coupon for a free box of Cheerios to someone that matters.

This is a sponsored post. All opinions (and coffee) are my own. #Cheerios #GetOneGiveOne #WithLove

BEFORE & AFTER: Exterior House Painting w/ CertaPro

You guys – I’m beyond excited to share the exterior makeover of our house in partnership with CertaPro! Thanks to the hard work of the CertaPro of NW Arkansas team, and paint courtesy of Sherwin-Williams, the exterior of our 1960s brick home is completely transformed – and we couldn’t be more thrilled with the results.

We moved into our house just over four years ago and I’ve been dying to paint the brick ever since. There’s something so fresh and clean about painted brick and I knew that our ranch home would be the perfect fit for the style. We usually take the DIY approach to our house improvements, but this was one of the few projects we did not want to attempt on our own. Partnering with CertaPro, we could not have been in better hands. Some things are better left to the experts and, as this project progressed, I realized that without a doubt this was one of those projects.

From the color consultation, to the intense house preparation – there is so much that has to be done (and be done right), before you even get to the painting stage. With CertaPro, we were kept in the loop every step of the way and knew just what to expect. I lived for my daily texts from Brandon, the project manager of our job, and I loved the “Pride Walk” he took us on when everything was complete for the grand finale. We received a complete tour of their work, along with the team making sure we were satisfied with every detail. We weren’t just satisfied – we were in love. Now, every day when I pull into my driveway, I am so happy to be home. We’ve gotten so many compliments from neighbors, friends, and even strangers, but most importantly we are somehow even more in love with our home than before. CertaPro’s moto is, “We Do Painting. You Do Life.®” And that’s exactly what we both did.

So if you are like me and are thinking about painting your house, you’ve already been stalking the Internet for the perfect colors. We had a general idea of what we wanted, but in the end it was the color consultant that made selecting the right shades a breeze. We ended up using Sherwin-Williams Loxon XP on the brick, which is ideal for harsh weather conditions when you want the paint to last. We also chose a different shade of blue for the door because it, not only paired well with the gray colors we selected, but it flows nicely with our interior as well. Here are the deets on all of the colors used:

Brick: Sherwin-Williams Mindful Gray (Loxon XP)
Dark Accent: Sherwin-Williams Gauntlet Gray (SuperPaint)
Trim: Sherwin-Williams Extra White (SuperPaint)
Door: Sherwin-Williams Hazel (SnapDry)
Deck Stain: Sherwin-Williams Banyan Brown (SuperDeck)

I will share more in another post, but for now I want to finally reveal the before, during, and after photos!

BEFORE

DURING

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AFTER

This is a sponsored post in partnership with CertaPro and Sherwin-Williams. All opinions are my own.

TRAVEL LOVE: Loews Hollywood Hotel

You know what you just gotta do sometimes? Go on a little getaway to California. Being in Arkansas, I find myself usually exploring this half of the country, but man-oh-man is it worth it to branch out a every once in a while. I’ve been to the west coast quite a bit, but usually it’s for work and the journeys I’ve taken for fun were years ago. Recently though, we had the the opportunity to hop on a plane and be treated to a long weekend at the Loews Hollywood Hotel.

We spent three glorious nights right in the heart of La La Land. As we left the hotel, the stars of the Hollywood Walk of Fame were under our feet and inside the Hollywood sign was in perfect view from our (two!) king beds. When we arrived, we were greeted with an early check-in along with some major goodies in our room.

Our first day we were a little tired from the early morning flight, so after a bite to eat we all took some much needed naps. Waking up refreshed, we took a little trip to the rooftop swimming pool and then ventured out to dinner. We hopped in a Lyft and explored a part of Hollywood with two dining spots I’ve been admiring from afar for quite a while: Au Fudge (Jessica Biel’s restaurant) for a little dessert before dinner and Lisa Vanderpump’s SUR (featured in my guilty pleasure, Vanderpump Rules). Checking those items off my bucket list, we headed back for a good night’s sleep at Loews.


The next day we woke up and explored the area around the hotel. There are shops, restaurants, world-famous theaters, and other excitement surrounding the property. Loews Hollywood is actually a preferred hotel partnered with Universal Studios, so after breakfast at a retro diner around the corner, we were off to spend the day riding rides and drinking Butterbeer!

Universal Studios exceeded our expectations by far. Iris is on the small, but brave side so I was afraid there would be things that she wanted to do, but wouldn’t be big enough for. Thankfully, she could ride almost everything. We were pleasantly surprised that the wait times weren’t bad at all, and of course the California weather was perfection. I had forgotten that so many of the rides were 3-D, which was such a cool, unique experience.

Of course we had to stop by The Simpson’s Krusty Burger for lunch (and a Duff Beer!) and take the studio tour, but the main attraction for Iris was Harry Potter World. She has recently gotten into the movies, so our very first stop was for a Butterbeer, while our last stop of the day was for a wand at Ollivanders. One of the coolest things in Harry Potter world is that there is some legit magic in these wands. There are certain spots where you can stand, do a spell and actually make things move. After a very magical day, we headed back to the home at Loews where we had dinner in the hotel lounge, H2 Kitchen & Bar. It was exactly what we needed – a relaxing, yet delicious ending to our busy day.

The next morning after we slept in a bit, we grabbed coffee and breakfast from Bodega (the cutest little hotel shop, fully stocked with everything from wine to fresh fruit). From there, we headed over to the Santa Monica Pier because you can’t go to California without seeing the ocean! It was another gorgeous day so we explored the pier and dipped our toes in the pacific. From there, we made a spur of the moment decision to rent bikes and ride along the boardwalk to Venice Beach. I got quite a sunburn, which I’m still nursing, but it was well worth it.

On our last night, we wanted to stay around and enjoy the luxury of our hotel. We had an early morning flight and wanted to soak in the last hours in the comfort of our home for the weekend. There is so much to do, to see, to eat, to drink, to play, and so on – all right there. I only wish we had more time. Guess that means we’ll just have to venture back that way sometime soon..

Special thanks to the Loews Hollywood Hotel for hosting our stay! While our experience was sponsored, all opinions are my own.