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

TRAVEL LOVE: 21c Museum Hotel Oklahoma City

I recently partnered with one of my most favorite hotel brands – 21c Museum Hotels. Earlier this year I fell in love when Iris and I stayed at the Bentonville, Arkansas property. With only seven locations (and a couple more in the works), their boutique hotels are one of a kind. Each one also serves as an art museum that is open 24/7 and is paired with an equally unique restaurant (we love The Hive in Bentonville).

I had never been to Oklahoma City before, so when I realized that 21c had a location there and that it was less than a 3.5 hour drive away from Fayetteville, we had to go. The drive was easy breezy – perfect for picking Iris up when school let out and rolling into town just in time for dinner. This allowed us to stay two nights, making it pretty much the perfect weekend getaway. I’ll share our OKC adventures on my next post, but for now I can’t stop drooling over this property! Our room alone was amazing – the insanely tall ceilings and natural light won me over as soon as we walked in the door.

As a family of three, they couldn’t have put us in a better room – our 1.5 bedroom suite had a king bed for Todd and I, and an adorable daybed for Iris in her own private area (hallelujah!). It’s rare to find something that works so perfectly for our size family, but this was the best set-up. The suite also included a living area, so when Iris inevitably woke up before us she could watch her cartoons and we could keep on snoozing (especially thanks to those blackout curtains).

So while we were tempted to just hang in our room all weekend, we did make our way to the lobby and museum area for a little exploration before a cocktail at the bar. Right outside our room was this amazing installation…

And while we waited for the elevator there was even more art to explore. We got a bit side-tracked and made a stop on each floor just to check out the different art features.

One of my most favorite pieces was right next to check-in. And my second favorite place, naturally, was the lounge area at Mary Eddy’s Kitchen x Lounge . Seriously everywhere you turn (even the bathroom), there is art!

After a stop at, once again, Mary Eddy’s and lots of exploring OKC on Saturday, coming back to our “home base” was nothing short of awesome. Iris was pumped to find that our purple penguin had moved in our room. She remembered the green ones in Bentonville (people move around these huge guys and you never know where you might find one). And Todd was excited to find a great local beer selection in the mini bar fridge. I was impressed with the prices! Usually mini bar items are so high I never partake, but they know what they’re doing because we had a little bit of everything.

So after a night cap and a night bath (I mean, look at that tub!), we were super sad to wave goodbye to our hotel on Sunday morning. Thankfully though we now know just how easy of a road trip it is, so we will for sure be back soon! Thank you 21c for once again an amazing stay!

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!

Terms/Conditions:
– 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.

#CoxSmartHome Tour!

I recently partnered with with Cox Communications to visit their touring smart home right here in Northwest Arkansas. I had no idea what to expect going in, but I must admit I was intrigued. Over 50 smart devices throughout one home? Yes, please! As a busy working mom, I’m interested in anything that makes the day go a little smoother… and a little more fun too. Of course one thing was for sure – you absolutely need high-speed internet to make sure everything works seamlessly, so the entire house was outfitted with Cox Cox Panoramic Wi-Fi .

Well, I was instantly impressed when I was welcomed virtually at the front door of the Buffington Homes house (also totally drool worthy).

My first stop on the tour was one of my favorites – the kitchen! I met fellow blogger, Whitney Bond of WhitneyBond.com, who personally showed me her favorite smart devices to use in the kitchen. The two devices that stood out for me were the Behmor Brewer coffee system and the Crock Pot that you control with an app. How am I not already taking advantage of starting my coffee from bed and cooking dinner while I’m at the office?!

From there, I got the full scoop on Cox Homelife, which is an easy to use security system that you can control from anywhere (and watch from anywhere thanks to the HD video). Todd and I have been seriously considering taking the plunge on Smart Door Locks, so I was happy to see how they worked with Cox’s full security system. I also got the rundown on Cox Contour, which is a television option I’m now seriously considering for our own home.

Making my way up to the second floor I found someone I never would have guessed – Madonna’s violinist, Jason Yang! He’s much more than just the Material Girl’s musician though. As a violinist, composer, and YouTuber, I found him at his station where he gives virtual lessons to students all over the world via Skype. I even got my own private mini-concert!

While upstairs, I explored the other bedrooms where I witnessed 3D printing for the first time by NWA 3D. In the children’s bedroom, I received a demonstration from Trifecta Communications, which uses augmented reality to make the pages of books come to life with publisher, Calm in Your Palm. There was also a piggy bank (excuse me, Porkfolio Bank) that not only counts the money as you deposit it, but also alerts you if someone tries to move it! Iris would be all about that. Crystal Bridges was even on hand showing how they’ve created online courses for kids, which give credits for things such as curating your own virtual art gallery. Last school year, more than 1,000 students participated in the online learning classes and this year the goal is 10,000.

Speaking of Iris, there were so many things that you typically wouldn’t think about as needing to be “smart.” For instance, from a mom perspective, I loved the toothbrush that reminds kids to spend a little more time brushing those back teeth and that you can track their progress on an app! I was also intrigued by the mirror that adjusts based on the lighting you’ll be in for most of your day. For example, if you know you’ll be in florescent lighting, you just let it know and it will adjust the glow for the best make-up application. How fancy is that?

Beyond the bathroom, I learned about other health advantages on the tour. Trapollo, partnering with Mercy Virtual, gave real-time demonstrations of video conferencing with their hospital for a virtual consult. This is instead of having to make a trip in to the doctor for every little thing. If you are dealing with health issues, I’m sure being monitored from the comfort of your own home is not only reassuring, but of course it can ultimately can safe time and money as well.

The tour included a well-rounded mix of fun as well. I watched a demonstration by Ozark Cycling Adventures about their Cycling Performance Lab on the back porch (Todd’s recent cycling obsession made me pay special attention to this one). And then even got to try augmented and virtual reality thanks to Tesseract – another exciting first for me!

Overall, I consider myself pretty connected when it comes to being “plugged-in.” But after this tour, I realized there are so many more possibilities out there – and of course those will just keep expanding. As the number of smart devices in my home grows, it’s clear that my internet will need to support them. From house plants that water themselves, to robot dogs, I was sincerely impressed with Cox Communications and Buffington Homes and left wanting everything (along with that panoramic wi-fi).

This is a sponsored post in partnership with Cox Communications, but all opinions are my own.

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.