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perfect weekend getaway: Eureka Springs

my first trip to Eureka Springs was in November 2015 — Austin and i had only been dating a few months, and our friends the Fitches invited us to split a cabin with them for a weekend. we had a blast, and i’ve been dying to get back. only about two-and-a-half to three hours from Tulsa, Eureka Springs is the perfect weekend getaway with great food, great shopping and really nice locals.
our opportunity to visit Eureka Springs again came just in time! we went to attend the wedding of our friends Brooke and Brandon. we met the couple when i first moved to Tulsa; Brandon lived in the same apartment complex — on the same floor — as Austin and me. one day, my cat Bianca darted out of my apartment and straight into Brandon’s. his cat Oscar was not happy. anyway, we’ve hung out with Brooke and Brandon from time to time ever since. this really sweet couple got married at Thorncrown Chapel on Friday, with a reception at Crescent Hotel’s Crystal Dining Room.

Austin and i have typically booked lodging outside of downtown Eureka Springs; we’ve found it to be much cheaper and a lot quieter. we’re thinking of booking a bed & breakfast closer to downtown next time, but this really cute little cottage off of Highway 187 did the trick for us this time. it cost just $129 a night (compare that to Crescent Hotel, which was $339 a night. no thank you!). it’s owned by a sweet woman named Annie who owns a store in downtown Eureka Springs called Annie’s Boutique. the one-bedroom, two-bathroom cottage is a few hundred yards from her home.

adorable

the cottage came, of course, with the sweetest little fat cottage cat named Shadow. he greeted us every morning with his raspy little meow, and demanded tummy rubs before we went inside for the night.

we spent Friday celebrating the Carusos. on Saturday, we had brunch at Mud St. Cafe and did some shopping downtown. then we spent about an hour hiking at Leatherwood Lake City Park, a gorgeous park with a ton of campers and people fishing in the clear water.

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Saturday night we went on the Crescent Hotel Ghost Tour (which was super cute and fun but a little overpriced at $22 per person). it was a 75-minute tour that led us around the hotel, from the fourth floor to the morgue in the basement.

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look!!! we found a ghost!

after that, we had dinner at Cafe Amoré based on a recommendation from the bride. last time we visited Eureka Springs, we waited for about two hours at Ermilio’s, a famous, beloved Italian restaurant. not wanting to wait that long again, we tried Cafe Amoré instead, and we’re so glad we did. the food was incredible — i ordered the cheese tortellini with pesto sauce. it melted in my mouth like butter. Austin ordered the lasagna, which he really liked, too.

sweet jesus

what a great weekend. we ate the best food we’ve had in a long time, got so much sleep and bought some really nice gifts for Austin’s parents to thank them for dogsitting Whiskey. the only problem … i really want a cat now, more than ever.

i need a cat

 

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DIY: photobooth props

so if you can’t tell already, my new job is allowing me a lot more spare time and i’ve largely used that spare time to make crafts. it’s as if the wholesome, creative child in me is awakened after spending four horrible years focusing on death and destruction as my full-time job (i was a news reporter for several years. hello, welcome to my blog).

anyway, Austin’s ten-year high school reunion was this past weekend. he was president of his class of like, 100 people at Victory Christian School, so he planned a get-together at a downtown Tulsa bar.

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J Aubrey Photography (Austin’s cousin!)

since this was a small class, there wasn’t a ton of extra spending money in the budget. i volunteered to make the photobooth props – something i’ve never done before, but literally salivated at the thought of getting to do the project.
before Austin could finish saying, “are you sure?” i had already left the house for Hobby Lobby. i spent about $12 on paint, a pack of wooden dowels and an X-acto knife (v helpful), and used the cardboard that came with our canvas prints (read my previous post on #pupart).
i drew the shapes free-hand with a pen, cut them out with the knife, and painted them with generic acrylic paint. it’s best to stick with bright, primary colors, which show up better in flash photos.

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it took me about 3-4 hours to make the props, including the photo frame with the VCS letters. side notes: that flag is the new/slightly unofficial Tulsa flag that we love and have hanging outside of our home right now. and if you’re wondering about the “METRO SUCKS” sign, it was Austin’s idea. he says Metro Christian Academy was his high school’s main football rival. i guess little tiny baby private schools have rivals, too… #iwenttopublicschool #amuchbiggerone #notsheltered

were the handmade photobooth props cost-effective? nah. not at all. i just looked up “photobooth props” on Amazon and they have 80-prop packs for like $8, and i spent hours making my measly set of nine props… but it was fun.

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J Aubrey Photography
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DIY: pup art!

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yes, we are those dog parents.

Austin has been pitching me the idea of doing “pop art” for our dog Whiskey for a while. i did a few google image searches – and yes, of course it’s a thing. i have just a tiny little teensy bit of Photoshop know-how (thank you, high school) and knew that i should use the Pen tool to cut out Whiskey’s head of another photo. i simply changed the color of that layer, and switched out the background colors to find an assortment we liked. it took only a few minutes, even for a Photoshop beginner like me.

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it took about 10 minutes to make all four photos!

i stumbled on this great website called Easy Canvas Prints, based in Austin, TX, and saw that their 16 x 20 prints (what we ended up purchasing) are only $23 each! compared to CVS Photo ($45 each), Walgreens Photo ($60!!!) and Shutterfly ($80!!!!), Easy Canvas Prints was a steal. in an effort to be a smart shopper, i checked out their reviews on Facebook, which are mostly positive, before taking the plunge. we couldn’t be happier with our new pup art, and Whiskey looks right at home in front of his portraits.

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happy birthday, Whiskey! [recipe]

[SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM TO SEE RECIPE / BYPASS THE BULLSH**]

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according to the animal hospital that gave our puppy his first physical exam after he was found roaming the rough streets of Tulsa and eating out of garbage cans, Whiskey’s first birthday is this Wednesday, Aug. 16!

Austin and i adopted this little bug from Rescued N’ Ready Animal Foundation after i wore down Austin’s resistance to getting a dog with my excessive nagging.
we adopted Whiskey in December, but we already celebrate a crap-ton of holidays in December (aka MY very important birthday, oh and also Jesus’s) so we’ll go ahead and celebrate Whiskey’s birthday in lieu of celebrating his adoption day.

first i took this guy to Biscuit Acres Dog Park at 91st & Yale. [Whiskey is sporting a Chai’s Choice front range harness; it’s a dog gear company owned by a retired U.S. veteran #notanad #butilltakeyourmoneyorfreedogstuff]
after a very busy 15 minutes of running, sniffing butts and rolling in dirt, Whiskey was ready to go home.
for his birthday, i decided to make Whiskey a batch of homemade peanut butter banana oatmeal treats. i do it because i love him, but also because dog treats are expensive and Whiskey sure as hell ain’t pulling his weight in the moneymaking department.

this recipe is so freaking simple. it only has three ingredients: oats (1 1/2 cup), bananas (1 or 2, depending on how big they are – that’s what she said) and creamy peanut butter (1/2 cup). a fourth ingredient, love, is optional, and does not affect the taste of the treat.
first, set the oven to 350 degrees (F).
next, you might find the oats easier to work with if you beat them into submission a powder with a food processor. it should look like sand.

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yum, sand!

in a separate bowl, mash together the banana and peanut butter. when it’s finished, it should look like oily, light-colored diarrhea. chunks of banana are fine.

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yum, diarrhea!

set aside a small bit of the oat powder, maybe 1/4 cup. mix the rest of your concoctions together into a dough.
use the extra oat powder like a flour to dust a sheet of parchment paper. put the dough on the parchment paper, and fold over it so your rolling pin doesn’t stick to the dough. roll it out to about a quarter-inch thick. [if the treats are too thin, they’ll burn in the oven.]
use a cookie cutter to cut out your treats and lay them out onto a baking pan. i line it with aluminum foil first but if you want to make your baking pans dirty and disgusting, that’s fine.

stick these bad boys in the oven for about 15-18 minutes. they should be golden-brown when you take them out. let them cool for about 20 minutes before letting doggie have at ’em.
because there is banana in them, the treats should be eaten within 7-10 days.
you can keep them in a tupperware [or the carry-out tubs from PeiWei because you save all of those because you’re cheap].

finally, feed them to your doggie because he or she is a good boy or girl! happy birthday, Whiskey! your mama slaved over a hot oven for you!

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RECIPE [without all the dumb commentary]

INGREDIENTS:
-1 1/2 cup steel-cut oats
-1 or 2 bananas
-1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

DIRECTIONS:
1. Set the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Grind the 1 1/2 cup of oats into a powder using a food processor.
3. In a separate bowl, mash the bananas and peanut butter into a mushy mess.
4. Set aside about 1/4 cup of oat powder. Mix the rest of the oat powder with the mushy peanut butter & banana mess into a dough.
5. Roll out the dough until it’s about 1/4 inch thin. Cut out as many treats as you can get out of the dough.
6. Lay the treats onto a baking pan. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until golden brown.
7. Cool for about 20 minutes before feeding to your dog, or risk burning your dog’s tongue and feeling like the worst human alive.

blog, travel

alaska: nature’s best

ocean

it has been a few years since my entire family took a vacation together. dad has been talking about Alaska ever since we visited 14ish years ago, so my brother and sister-in-law generously took us all back for a week-long tour.
the particular tour we booked is called Nature’s Best, through a company called Globus. it’s ideal because it’s a guided tour with lodging, activities, attractions and most meals already booked, meaning little planning and a lot of exploring on our parts.

i can’t get over the scenery; it’s just as beautiful as everyone says it is. the highlight of the trip, for me, came right in the middle: a double rainbow came out during our wilderness tour through the Denali National Park & Preserve. our wilderness tour guide shrugged it off, like, “yeah, that happens here.”

our wilderness tour was eight hours long, on a school bus. no cell signal inside the park – just hours of looking for ‘the Big Five’: moose, caribou, Dall sheep, bear and coyote. we saw four out of the five – never spotted a coyote.

oceanside timelapse

near the end of our trip we drove along the ocean to get to Anchorage. we left early in the morning, but it really doesn’t matter – in the summer, the sun stays up 20+ hours every day, so the beach looks this beautiful at all hours.

we got incredibly lucky and joined the Denali Club that week. Denali is the tallest mountain in North America, and it’s gorgeous – when you can see it. locals estimate the mountain is only visible about 30-percent of the time. otherwise, it’s too cloudy to see the peak. about an hour before we were leaving Talkeetna, i got a call from our hotel, the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge. i’d put our room number down on the “Denali watch list,” which staff call as soon as the mountain is visible.

another highlight: visiting the Happy Trails Kennel in Big Lake. dog-sledding is no joke in Alaska; it’s actually the state sport. people who race in the Iditarod devote their entire lives to it: breeding dogs, training dogs, testing gear and clothing. winning the race doesn’t pay much at all – you win bragging rights and enough money to barely break even on all your shipping costs.

i’m now vacation-day-bankrupt, but it was worth it to spend time with my family in this raw, serene state. this type of vacation isn’t my ideal trip (think tropical, a lot of sleeping, eating and drinking on the beach), but my dad loved it, and that’s what matters.

family at Talkeetna