Saturday, April 29, 2017

Ipsy's April Glam Bag

Good morning and Happy Saturday! I've got my coffee, I've had a decent week, and I'm ready to get my day off to a good start. To that end, again, coffee, and a big breakfast is almost ready for the pickin's. 

While I was on vacation, my April Glam Bag from Ipsy arrived in the mail. It's time, then, to show you all what I got!




Here you can see the bag and the card. This month's theme is "Side Show", and the bag is appropriately a ticket. How cute!





Here are the contents of the bag.





First up, Luseta's Dry Shampoo. I like dry shampoos, especially when you're in a time bind, so this purse-sized sample is great. The only thing is the email I got before and after the bag arrived that was troubling. Apparently this stuff is super-flammable, so use with caution.





I love getting makeup brushes from ipsy. This month, I got Luxie's precision foundation brush. I can't wait to try it out.





Next up is Ciate's Bamboo Bronzer. I've mentioned this before, but I don't use bronzers much, although I might start. Typically, they make great blushes, so they sure don't go to waste!





This tube of Seychelle's Hand & Nail Cream was so difficult to photograph. Between the stark white and the silver lettering, getting any light on it proved difficult. I love lotions though, and this one will definitely get used.





Last, we have Elizabeth Mott's Show Me Your Glow shimmer shadow and highlighter. Again, I am going to try out highlighting this weekend, so I'll let you know how it goes.


There you have it, another month of Ipsy! I hope you enjoyed my glam bag as much as I did.



Friday, April 28, 2017

Arkansas Vacation: Mountain Tower

Happy Friday! Woo hoo. I'm sure happy the weekend is here, as I always am. It's going to be a bit chilly this Spring weekend, so instead of getting outside much, I think my plan is to watch a movie with the kids and eat junk food. Sounds like a good plan to me! Anyway, today I'm going to share with you the second part of our visit to Hot Springs, Arkansas. You got to see the first part on Wednesday, so here goes the second.

Rising up - seemingly - to the clouds, Hot Springs Mountain Tower can be seen from most areas of the town. After we spent most of the day perusing Bathhouse Row and the shops nearby, we headed up the curvy road to the tower. What? You thought we'd pass that up? No way! 




This is the view of the tower from the parking lot. The elevator (or stairs if you're a glutton for punishment) takes you up 216 feet to the observation deck. In total, it rises 1256 feet above sea level.




A view from the first observation deck, one deck below the second one. This one is completely enclosed and accentuated by 360 degree views through large glass windows. All the directions are designated and one can see the entirety of the Ouachita Mountains (which are part of the Ozark Range).




After viewing the mountain scenery from the first deck, I took the elevator up the last floor to the second observation deck. This one is not enclosed, but had a cement, waist-high safety wall, topped with a plexiglass barrier, and topped with metal cables.  Look at that gorgeous view!




Wow, just look how beautiful it is! You can see across the mountains for miles. It was breathtakingly gorgeous, and I just stared all around me in fascination for awhile. It recalled other moments like this: in the Rockies and at the Cliffs of Moher. 

There's nothing quite like these experiences to really inspire you and leave you in awe. It's a beautiful place we live in, here on Planet Earth, and the magnitude of it is something that never leaves you. I hope you've gotten to gaze upon views such as this one, and, if you haven't, that you will do so one day. To me, seeing a majestic view, like this one, imparts an experience like none other. Peaceful moments wrapped in serenity and accentuated by the beauty of our home on this rock in space. It helps define, change, and inspire us. How fortunate we are.


I highly suggest a visit to Hot Springs. There's so much variety of things to do here. Bathhouse Row, the National Park, the Tower, shopping, and, on top of that, the town is nestled next to Ouachita National Forest which has over 200 miles of hiking trails within it. You could spend a good amount of time here.

I'll be back tomorrow with a non-vacation post, although I do have one more. I think I'll save that post for next week. Have a great weekend! 

-H.A.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Arkansas Vacation: Hot Springs National Park

Good morning! I got my cup of coffee and I'm ready for the day! It's time for the next post in my Arkansas Vacation series, so here goes.

Hot Springs, Arkansas, lies along the southeastern border of the Ouachita (wash-ih-tah) National Forest. Incidentally, Ouachita National Forest is the one place on my list that we didn't get to, but considering all we did do while on vacation, I'll live. The town was built up around the hot springs that were in the area as a way for people to access the purported healing properties of the springs. While not technically the oldest National Park, it kinda is. Before the concept of a national park existed, the land was set aside by the U.S. Federal Government to be used later as a place of recreation. This was the first such land ever so designated by the federal government, and so this makes it - really - the first National Park.

Today, Hot Springs the town is a vibrant place with most of the original (and new) bath houses still in operation along Bathhouse Row. The area where the actual hot springs are located is a protected National Park and you can walk the grounds. One of the bathhouses is a gift shop as well as a fully operational bath, while another one is a visitor's center where one can take a self-guided tour. We did the self-guided tour, as well as watched the film about the park, and we enjoyed stepping back in time.




Buckstaff Baths, while not the oldest bathhouse here, was established in 1912 and is just as impressive now as I imagine it was back in it's hey-day.





The entrance to Ozark Bathhouse.







A view down Bathhouse Row.




The Fordyce Bathhouse. This is now the visitor's center, and one can take a tour and watch a film, of which we did both.




One of the old soaking tub rooms.




The water system inside a shower stall.




This beautiful stained glass adorned the ceiling in the Men's wing. It's gorgeous, but I noticed that the Women's wing didn't have anything other than a plain ceiling.




This sculpture sits directly below the stained glass ceiling. Again, nothing like this in the Women's wing!




A hallway on the second floor of the Fordyce harkens back to another time with it's wicker rockers, stained glass ceilings, and ornate tile floors.




On the third floor, you can find the old gym, preserved for posterity. Just look at that old equipment.


There you have it, a small glimpse into Bathhouse Row at Hot Springs National Park. For more information, click here and here. I'll be back Friday with my second part of Hot Springs, Arkansas, so stay tuned!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Arkansas Vacation: Devil's Den State Park

Good morning! I'm finally recovered (still a few more days of antibiotics to go though) and it feels wonderful! Yesterday, I went hiking with a friend and our kids, and we did 3.25 miles in exactly one hour, and it was pretty easy. This hike made me realize just how yucky I've been feeling, and even more grateful that I'm well.  

Anyway, it's time for the next blog in my Arkansas Vacation series. On Wednesday that week, it was a bright, sunny day so we headed north into the Boston Mountains of the Ozarks. Nestled in the valley is Devil's Den State Park. It's a gorgeous place and we decided on the 5 miles trail. Even though I was sick, I powered through the (ultimately) 5.5 miles trek. It was a clear day as well -- unlike our Mount Magazine hike the day before -- and we got to see plenty of beautiful landscape.



This park has a few old settlements inside of it, of which this is one. I forgot to read the sign that explained more about this, but you can still see the base of what used to be a cabin. We sat here and had a snack.




Arkansas is forested, rocky, and full of mountains. We came across this set of flaky rocks and we stopped to take a water break here.




As we hiked the second half of the trail, we could see the mountains rise next to us.




Same view, just looking down to the creek/river bed.




My mom alerted me to this little guy: an albino squirrel. See those red eyes?




After we completed our hike, we drove up to the top of one of the ridges where they have a viewing shelter.




Gorgeous.




View down to another trail. I wonder where that one starts/ends?




That view!




Again! Isn't it beautiful? We sat here (or I should clarify that I did) and admired this stunning scenery. This is what I longed to see the whole time leading up to this trip.


As you can tell, I took the first four pictures with my cell phone, and the rest with my camera. As much as I love (and prefer) taking photographs with my good camera, it doesn't make for a good hiking companion. So, in instances like this, I just snap a few photos with my cell phone, but, man, they don't do as much justice to the landscape as my Nikon does.

If you're ever in Arkansas, I recommend spending a day or two at Devil's Den State Park. Not only does one have several hiking trail options, but there is camping, swimming, and other outdoor recreation to be had here as well. One of the nice things about Arkansas State Parks, compared to Nebraska State Parks, is that there is no entrance fee to get in them so visiting them is more than doable. And, like we had the day before, we packed a picnic lunch and enjoyed that among the beauty of nature. It was a great day that we all enjoyed and will never forget.


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Arkansas Vacation: Mount Magazine

Good morning! I'm finally feeling soooo much better after going back to the doctor Wednesday. He prescribed a strong antibiotic for sinus infection, and after three days of being on it, I'm definitely feeling better than I have in weeks. I've been busy this morning, finally getting caught up on the tons of things that got pushed off to the side when I wasn't feeling well for three weeks. 

It's time to start sharing my Arkansas Vacation with you all! I know I touched on this briefly last week, but here's the first post of my vacation story. 

We got to Arkansas on Monday evening last week, so we visited with my mom and got settled in at her house. The next morning, we packed a picnic lunch and headed for my first pick: Mount Magazine.



Signal Hill on Mount Magazine is the Highest Point in Arkansas.

I picked Mount Magazine because it's the tallest mountain in Arkansas. We hiked the short trail up to Signal Hill, the actual highest point in the state.



The Teen surveys the foggy view from the top.

We first arrived on the mountain to a foggy view so heavy that we couldn't see far past it. It was still beautiful anyway, and my kids enjoyed looking around.



The fog rolling around the Lodge gave it a horror movie feel.

There's a big lodge on the mountain where one can spend the night and/or grab a bite to eat.


The Teen and Nature Girl pose for the camera.


After hiking up to Signal Hill, we drove over to the Visitor's Center. There, we watched a short film that explained how Mount Magazine has it's own distinct weather, and that it's covered in fog nine days out of every month. Of course, one of those days just happened to be the day we were there. We weren't bothered by it, and as we started hiking the long mountain trails behind the VC, the fog started to lift enough to see across the valley.



My mom and the Teen hiking along together.



Nature Girl loved the various creek crossings we hiked across.



A beautiful, yet foggy, view of the mountains.



Bridge at Cove Lake.

After we were done hiking along the ridges of Mount Magazine, we headed back to my mom's house. We stopped along the mountain road to admire Cove Lake.



Gorgeous view across Cove Lake to the Ozarks.

This beautiful lake at the base of the mountain affords breathtaking views and wide-open scenery.


This was truly a beautiful place to be. I only wish two things had been different: 1. it wouldn't have been so foggy, and 2. I wouldn't have been sick. Still, I don't regret going there one bit. It was fantastic and we all loved the fresh air, exercise, and beautiful views. For more information on Mount Magazine, click here.




Bonus photo: one drives through Paris, AR, to get to Mount Magazine, and, true to their name, have a little Eiffel Tower there. *laugh* I can now say I've been to the Eiffel Tower in Paris. ;)

Friday, April 21, 2017

Recipe of the Week: Fried Tofu with Homemade BBQ Sauce


Mmm, mmm, mmm. To me, there's nothing better on a cool night than a nice hearty meal, and one of my favorites is crispy, fried tofu. People have a love/hate relationship with the block of soy protein known as tofu, but I'm here to tell you: if you cook it right, it's amazing.

First off, when you buy your tofu, put one in the fridge and one in the freezer. Why? Well, tofu, like everything else, will keep indefinitely in the freezer. I know this for a fact because I accidentally forgot about a block of tofu that had been hiding in my deep freezer for a year....still perfect! Also, once you freeze tofu, the texture changes. This texture change is more appealing to people, especially those who aren't particularly into it. Second, you need to lightly batter and fry it up. Here, then, is my fool-proof recipe for perfect fried tofu. I'm including the easy-peasy bbq sauce I make with it, but you can use your favorite store-bought.




Fried Tofu with Homemade BBQ Sauce


Ingredients:

Tofu:

1 block of frozen tofu, thawed and drained. *
1/2 c. cornstarch
1 t. corn meal
1 t. each garlic powder, onion powder, Italian seasoning, turmeric, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper
Oil for frying

BBQ Sauce:

1 can tomato paste
1.5 c. water
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. maple syrup
2 T. brown mustard
1 T. apple cider vinegar
1 t. molasses
2 t. each garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, salt, pepper, parsley, chives, lemon-pepper
1 t. cayenne pepper
1 T. olive oil


Instructions:

1. Whisk together all the sauce ingredients in a sauce pan, then bring to a boil on the stove.
2. As soon as the sauce comes to a boil, turn down the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
3. Cut your tofu into four pieces, set aside. **
4. Mix up the rest of the tofu ingredients in a shallow bowl.
5. Dredge the tofu, making sure to get the sides as well.
6. Heat oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat until ripples begin to form.
7. Put two pieces of the tofu in the pan, frying on both sides for approx. 5 minutes on each side. ***
8. Set the tofu aside to drain.
9. Turn off the sauce when it's done, then spoon it over the tofu.



Notes:


* You can literally squeeze the thawed out tofu to drain of water, otherwise, wrap in paper towels, sandwich between two plates, then stack canned goods on the plate. It takes about 15 minutes to get most of the moisture out.
** You can make more tofu if you want. Just double the dredge ingredients per block of tofu.
*** Cook times can vary with stoves, so keep a good eye on it while frying. 


I served this with roasted brussel sprouts and this great millet cake recipes from Forks over Knives for a fantastically delicious meal. Enjoy, and comment if you try and like this!  



Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Coffee Talk: Illness, Playing Catch-up, and the Latest Word


Good morning, and welcome to another edition of Coffee Talk! Have you got your coffee? Me too, so let's get started.

First up, SICKNESS. Oh my god you guys, I have been sick for two and a half weeks now, and I fear that I'm never going to get over it. I got sick the Sunday before vacation week, was sick all through vacation, went back to work sick, and, yep, you guessed it, I'm still freaking sick! I can't even remember the last time I've felt so poor for so long, but it's really hampering my life. 

I was pretty unproductive the week before vacation, I powered through vacation but at a slower pace, and I've been pretty unproductive since I've gotten back. This has sucked, in more ways than one, and I want to feel better. I went to the doctor when I first got sick, but I'm going back today. Hopefully, they can do something to help.

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The flip side of being sick & exhausted all the time is that it's really thrown my life into limbo. I haven't been able to do the things I want and need to do. I have obligations and The Write Life that need tending, but I've had zero energy to do them.

I am so close to finishing The Box that it's not even funny, but I haven't felt well enough to complete it yet! I've been reminding myself that I shouldn't get down on myself for being sick, and that it won't be long before it's back to business as usual.

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Never fear though, I will finish that book, and I've already got big plans for The Write Life here in the near future. I've got a decent plot line thought out for my next book, which -- while still a thriller -- will be a bit different from my other stuff. I also have a trilogy planned for farther down the road. This means that I'm still plenty rife with ideas, and that I'm not going anywhere soon, even if my clinging-on sickness makes me feel like I'm not getting anywhere with anything.

I've started editing my vacation photos, so I'm thinking that Saturday is the day for the big post!

Until then, have a good day, and I'll see you on Friday.


Monday, April 17, 2017

I'm Back!


Good morning! It's Monday, I got back from vacation yesterday evening, I have a cup of coffee in my hand, and it's time to go back to work. I'm am not quite ready for real life yet -- which makes me think I should've taken an extra day off to recuperate from vacation -- but, at the same time, I'm kind of ready to get back to the grind. Vacation is a nice break from reality, but it's also like living in a sort of limbo, so I imagine heading back into my routine will be good.

This week, I'll be writing some more on The Box (hopefully I can finally finish it), and posting a few cool blogs. Ipsy came while I was gone, I have a great tofu recipe, and, of course, I will have more than a few posts dedicated to activities I participated in while on vacay. So, stay tuned for those, because you won't want to miss them.

Until Wednesday!

-H.A.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Short and Bittersweet


Good morning! It's Friday and I hope you're getting ready to enjoy your weekend. Today is a bittersweet day for me as my week of vacation is nearing its end. I've had a really great time, and I've done & seen many cool things this week that it will be hard to go back to the grind next week. 

As it typical for a week spent away from normal life, it's given me time to reflect on many things. Long walks in the woods, climbing mountains, and scenic drives through the forest have really got me thinking. Discovery has come my way as well, revealing things ignored and things hidden. It's been eye-opening to say the least.

So, what does this mean for me? I'm not sure, to be honest. Often, I make hasty decisions -- as humans are wont to do -- but this time I want to take time to really think things through. It's not a race, but rather a journey, and I want to make the best of that journey, no matter how rocky the path may be.

Am I speaking in riddles today? Kinda maybe. You know me though, my blog is an insight to me. More than an view into my writing life, it's a small window into my whole world, and it allows me a place to write out my thoughts and feelings. That's what writers do, you know, put it all out there in the written (or, in this case, typed) word.

I won't be putting up my usual Saturday post tomorrow as we'll be packing up and heading for a one-night stay in the northern part of the state. You never know though, I might post something this weekend yet. Until then, enjoy this gorgeous weather, and live life with a little adventure. There's only one life for us to live, so make the most of it.

-H.A.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Mount Magazine

Good morning! I hope your week is going well. I'm on vacation, of course, but it hasn't been without a challenge. The sickness that I've been plagued with, just won't seem to leave me alone. I've been quite congested and afflicted with overall body exhaustion, but I haven't let it stop me! I didn't come all the way to the majestic forests and mountains of Arkansas to be stopped by leftover sickness.

Yesterday was our first full day here, and so we headed out to my pick: Mount Magazine. It's the tallest mountain in Arkansas and sits firmly within the Ozark Mountains. 





Signal Hill is the highest point in Arkansas and sits on the uppermost part of Mount Magazine. We hiked to it, of course.





There's a lodge on top of Mount Magazine, which, as you can see, was completely surrounded by fog. Mount Magazine creates its own weather, and it foggy nine days out of every month. Yesterday was one of those days.





After we climbed Signal Hill, we mosied over to the Visitor's Center where we hiked along the ridges of Mount Magazine. While the fog obscured far off visions, we could see it pretty well and it sure didn't take away from the magnificent beauty that surrounded us. We sure enjoyed every second we were there.


I'll be back Friday with another update post. Have a great day!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Headed to the Great Outdoors

Today is the day I've been waiting for for months: vacation!! We've known for the last several months when we were taking a family vacation, but hadn't nailed down where until a few months ago (which you can read about here if you're so inclined). And let me tell you, I couldn't be more excited. As I sit here, typing this, and drinking my morning cup of coffee, my mind is hundreds of miles away in the mountains and forests of the Ozarks.

Here are a few pictures to give you an idea of what I'm talking about.



View of the Ozark Mountains from a rock crop in Petit Jean State Park.




Cedar Falls at Petit Jean State Park.




View of the Ozark Mountains through a shelter at Mather Lodge.


I'm going to sign off now, it's time to round up the family. The car is packed and we're all ready for our outdoor adventure. I'm coming for you Mother Nature, and I'm going full speed.


This week, I'll be posting snippets of our trip. Sometime after we get back, however, I'll unleash a big old post about our vacation. So keep it glued right here! 

-H.A.