Kancamagus New Hampshire Fall Autumn foliage

FALL in love with New Hampshire

At the beginning of October, I had the opportunity to travel to the White Mountains of New Hampshire to see my pen-pal of 15 years, Becca Cahan, get married. New England natives, Becca and her – then fiancé, now husband – Tom, wanted to get married amongst the gorgeous Fall foliage that New Hampshire is well-known for, and coincidentally, where they got engaged.

Jeff went with me on this adventure, and I have to say, adventure is definitely the right description. We flew into Boston on Friday, September 30th, rented a car, and drove straight to New Hampshire. Thanks to a series of weather-related delays, we were unable to attend the meet & greet that evening, but we arrived safely late that night and with plenty of time to recuperate before the wedding the next day.

We went to breakfast at the most adorable little diner and got a taste of the New England experience, which I very much enjoyed. After breakfast, we ventured out to get the lay of the land, as we didn’t have much time before we had to get ready for the wedding.

You guys. I fell in love.

I am now convinced I need to buy a picturesque little New England home, and temporarily move to New Hampshire every Fall. I have never seen colors like that before. It was simply spectacular. There really is no other word to describe it. No wait, I thought of some: breathtaking, mesmerizing, iridescent, awe-inducing, shocking, gorgeous, unreal, insane, absolutely beautiful.

From the foliage, to the mountains, to the wedding, to getting my feet back on the Appalachian Trail, it was an unforgettable and wonderful trip. Becca’s wedding was of course, a dream, and I was so happy and thankful to be there, apart of it, and apart of the gorgeous New Hampshire Fall; if only for just a moment.

Fall New Hampshire New England foliage

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Wedding New Hampshire Fall foliage Becca Cahan

Becca and I on her wedding day

As always, live healthy and love hard!

-Shelby


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15 Healthy Snack Food Alternatives

Greetings! It’s Bethany here on the blog today.

With New Years resolutions in full swing, I am sure many people are already struggling to keep one of the most common resolutions: eating healthy. I have decided to discuss the Achilles heel of any of my attempts to healthy eating —snacks. If I am exercising and eating healthy meals, why does a little snack matter? Snacks can  account for many of our calories throughout the day, and some days snack calories can surpass calories from our meals! In the past, I have tried cutting out snacks entirely. Not only is this not necessarily a healthy choice, but I failed miserably.

I remember it like it was yesterday. I had decided to cut out anything that wasn’t extremely healthy. On day five, I could feel my will power fading. I went to bed pretty hungry, but I decided to “sleep it off”. The next morning, I woke up feeling full! What a miracle. Sleeping it off had worked! Except it totally hadn’t.

When I went to turn off my alarm, I had some peculiar observations – my hands were sticky with a powdery orange resin. Then I saw it. The empty family sized Cheeto bag I had purchased before my health plans. When I thought it couldn’t get any worse, I noticed a single shameful Cheeto stuck to my back. Not only is this not a sanitary way to sleep, but I had no idea how this even happened!

After this incident, I officially believe three things:

1. Sleep eating is a real thing.

2. You need to listen to your body. Don’t completely deny yourself of enjoying your food.

3. There has to be a way to be healthy and not compromise taste.

Whether you’re a working individual or a stay-at-home parent, unhealthy options are all around us! In my office, there is a full candy dish within arm’s reach, a snack machine right outside my door, and a free birthday cake for [insert coworker name here]. Since the Cheeto incident of 2014, I realized that I don’t have the will power to cut out every wonderfully tasting snack food available to me.

What’s the good news?

I have compiled a list of snack foods that have helped alleviate my cravings without completely compromising my health goals. In other words, the snacks can stay! In fact, I have found that these snacks in particular energize me throughout the day.  If you find yourself overthinking what you’re eating all the time, step back and make sure enjoying your food!

This list is not to completely cut out food you enjoy, but to equip you with some healthier options if you so choose! Eating some healthier options throughout the week also leaves some room for special treats (ice cream or lattes with friends etc.)  You can always try substituting out one or two snacks for the healthier version and go from there.

I made sure to try all of these snacks myself to ensure that they are easy to access, obtainable for busy individuals like myself, and tasty.

We are starting off this list with three healthy snack recipes that I recently made for the first time. I am really excited to add these three recipes to my collection. Let’s take a look!

1. Chilled Greek Yogurt Dipped Fruit

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This snack is great for your sweet tooth cravings. I’m surprised I have never made this sweet treat before now, but I was in love as soon as I tasted it. I am excited about all of the options with this snack. You can choose your desired fruit as well as your desired Greek yogurt. I used what I had on hand this day: a granny smith green apple and light berry Greek yogurt. I would suggest apples with plain Greek yogurt and local honey!

For this recipe, I simply sliced my apples, dipped them in Greek yogurt, and I chilled them in the freezer for 15 minutes. Chilling the yogurt onto the fruit is optional, but I suggest this for added dimension in texture. It’s also a lot less messy this way, and makes them easier to eat on the go!

Why Greek Yogurt? Find out HERE.

2. Baked Zucchini Chips

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As a person who is constantly craving chips, zucchini chips are a great alternative to the ones I would normally turn to. I was really excited to try this recipe, and for good reason. They turned out to be DELICIOUS. Since the baking time for these chips is two hours, I prep these at night and store them in an air tight container for next day use. The recipe was really simple to follow, and I’m incredibly happy to have found a chip alternative that I really enjoy!

You can find this recipe HERE. (Check out her awesome food blog while you’re at it.)

I like zucchini cooked many ways. It’s a side item to my meals several times a week. My next zucchini venture is try zucchini fries! You also might enjoy hearing about what nutritional value zucchini provides HERE.

3. Poached Egg on Wheat Toast (with optional avocado spread)

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While this recipe is not as travel friendly as my other options, I couldn’t resist adding a snack that contains eggs. Poached eggs are a great addition to your health plan. I pair mine with wheat toast so that I can have the complementary textures of crispy and soft. I would also suggest smearing on some slices of fresh avocado!

Poaching eggs can be a little fickle without a poacher. I learned how to poach eggs on the internet, and they turn out pretty great! To learn how to poach an egg, check out these simple instructions by one of my favorite chefs HERE. If you’re a visual learner, I have  found that the method in this video works as well: HERE.

Sometimes eating healthier is easier when you understand why you should eat certain foods. To hear some of the benefits of poached eggs, check out this article HERE.

List Continued:

The rest of this list is a compilation of my favorite snacks that I have made in the past or keep on hand. There is a mix of sweet, savory, soft, and crunchy. This allows some variation and a full pallet experience:

4. Hummus with Celery or Carrots

5. Air Popped Popcorn

6. Whole Grain Cereal

7. Dark Chocolate (in moderation)

8. Whole Grain Crackers with Laughing Cow Cheese

9. Almonds

10. Dried Fruit

11. Sliced Cucumber  in Vinaigrette (soak overnight)

12. Edamame with Sea Salt

13. Kale Chips

14. Wheat Toast with Blueberries, and Light Cream Cheese (or Greek Yogurt)

15. Air Popped Popcorn with Dark Chocolate ChipI hope you enjoyed my list of healthy snack foods!

Please let us know if you try any of these recipes! I would love to see how you put your own personal preferences into these snack options. What are some of your favorites that didn’t make this list? I’m always looking to expand my repertoire. While I love these healthy options, I believe that food should be a great experience. So have fun with it, and don’t forget to treat yourself every once in a while. Please feel free to follow me on Instagram @BethanyMPoteet, and hashtag your blog experiences with #OakAndEarthBlog. We would love to hear from you!

Have an incredible week!

-Bethany

 

 

The 12 Dates of Christmas: Holiday Themed Date Ideas

HEREHappy Holidays, readers! It’s Bethany here today, and I am so excited to be sharing this blog post with you during the Christmas season!

All right, picture this: I’m sitting on the couch after work, and my husband comes in and asks, “What would you like to do tonight?”. To which I always respond, “What would you like to do tonight?”. We tear open our blinds for inspiration and are swiftly reminded that “fall back” has conquered the sky. At 5:00 p.m. it already looks and feels like midnight. At this point, it’s easier to watch Netflix and call it good.

I’m all for binge watching Parks and Rec, New Girl, or whatever show you might be captivated by (I’m told I’m crazy for not having started Breaking Bad or The Walking Dead). HOWEVER. The holiday season should be properly celebrated in all its wonder! How much easier would it be to have someone else plan your Christmas dates for you?

Merry Christmas!

I am giving you a list of 12 holiday inspired date ideas. These dates are designed to bring you together during the most joyous season of the year. Once you get out of your comfort zone, you’ll be surprised at how much closer it makes you as a couple. Don’t worry, I threw some binge watching dates in there as well.

While you may not have time to do all of these, you can save some ideas for next year, or opt to do a few off the list.

Let’s get started!

1. Ice Skating

I have a special place in my heart for ice skating dates. Ice skating was my very first date with my husband!  For some,  this date sounds completely romantic and movie-esque. For others, ice skating sounds like a humiliating situation waiting to happen. The good news is, laughter will surely ensue. Nothing brings out your inner child more than ice skating together. While this can take some getting used to, this activity leaves you plenty of chances for great contact. You might leave with some bruises, but you’ll also leave with some great memories.

**Helpful tip: Call around to some local rinks, and find out the best time to go! Some rinks will offer discounts on certain nights, and some close earlier than you would think. Call ahead for pricing as well.

2. Black and White Christmas Movie Marathon 

Yes, this is your binge watching date. While some dates are meant to be adventurous, others should have you in a relaxed and cozy environment. Get in your comfiest pj’s, and curl up with some hot cocoa or cider. Some of the best Christmas movies are the black and white classics! So, why not dedicate an entire night to them?

To get you started, I provided a short list of some of my favorites. There are so many great ones, you might want to make this a week long extravaganza!

  • It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
  • Scrooge (1951)
  • A Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
  • The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

**Helpful tip: I have previously blogged a wonderful hot cider recipe that you can find HERE.

3. Downtown Date–Carriage Ride 

This is one of our “splurge” date suggestions. Go to a nearby square and check out the festivities and lights! Where we live, we have a couple downtown squares to choose from. It is worth it to drive to the best one around you, and really spend the night in awe. We usually bundle up, grab a hot chocolate, and walk around until our toes go numb.

This is a great date to soak in the wonderful holiday atmosphere as a couple. If you want to take it up a notch, many larger town squares offer horse drawn carriage rides. Denver surprised me with this once, and it was unforgettable. You  must do this at least once in your life. If you’re tight on cash, you can totally opt to just do the walking portion.

**Helpful hint: If you decide upon this date, I would suggest putting your phones away. Maybe you can walk around once and take some cute pictures together, but I would definitely suggest putting them away the rest of the night. This allows you to really enjoy each other in such a beautiful environment.

4. Paint Ornaments and/or Ceramics 

This is an activity that I would often do as a child; however, I recommend this activity for adults as well. Why? It gets your creative juices flowing, and it can end up being quite humorous. Last year, Denver and I decided to paint 12 ornaments together. We threw on a Christmas movie in the background and painted away. Some of them did not turn out so fabulously, but I really enjoyed taking it back to one of my favorite childhood activities.

**Helpful Hint: If you decide to do some ceramics, these make for wonderful little gifts for children. It might be fun to have this in mind while painting them. If you decide to paint ornaments together, Hobby Lobby sells some inexpensive clear bulbs that are very easy to paint.

5. Candle Light Service

I would highly recommend attending a Candle Light Service together. I understand that many families enjoy this activity together; however, there are several services offered before Christmas. We suggest this activity as a date because it is important to come together and really think about what Christmas should be centered around. This date allows you to have some spiritual time spent together. In addition to that time spent together, most of these services are incredibly beautiful.

**Helpful Hint: I would suggest asking friends and family for their favorite candle light services in the area.

6. Christmas Picture Scavenger Hunt (Group date!)

This is one of my favorite date ideas on the list. This is a good weekend activity, as you might need to start during daylight and end during the evening. Remember that we suggest this date to be a double date or a group date.

HOW IT WORKS:

This is a picture scavenger hunt! You will need to take your phone or camera, and take a picture of everything you can find on the list I provided below. Break up into couples and make sure you each have access to the scavenger hunt list. Set a time limit that you think is obtainable but challenging. Once your time limit is up, you must meet at a local coffee shop to compare pictures. The couple that has the most pictures of the listed items gets coffee/hot chocolate bought for them by the other couples. This is a fun way to get out of your comfort zone! It ends up being a good laugh.

**Helpful hint: It is even more fun to up the game by adding one extra point for every picture that has one of the team members in the picture with the scavenger hunt item. If you are driving to each destination, please practice safety at all times.

SCAVENGER HUNT LIST: 

  • Nativity scene
  • Charlie Brown
  • 3+ Light Up Reindeer in one yard
  • Christmas Wreath
  • Pinecone
  • Mistletoe
  • Someone drinking hot chocolate
  • An elf
  • Star
  • Moving lights
  • Inflatable decorations
  • Candy cane
  • A dog in a Christmas sweater
  • Decorated mailbox
  • Silver bells
  • A Christmas vest
  • Angel
  • “My first Christmas” ornament
  • A good deed taking place
  • Christmas snow globe
  • The Grinch
  • Short video of Christmas music playing in a store/shop
  • Christmas tree in a window
  • A light display that plays music
  • Santa clause on a roof
  • Over-sized candy cane
  • An employee wearing a Santa Hat
  • A gift wrapped present
  • A gingerbread house

7. Angel Tree

Often times, a Salvation Army or school in your town will have a large Christmas tree with paper angels attached to it. These paper angels will include the age of a boy or girl in need, along with a list of their most wanted Christmas items. Go pick out these items as a couple! It’s really enjoyable to do something for a child that needs some Christmas cheer. If you are completely unaware of what the Angel Tree organization does, you can check out their website HERE.

**Helpful Hint: You can often find out where nearby Angel Trees are locate by asking the local Salvation Army. The earlier into the season you look into this, the better.

8. Ugly Sweater Date

What is the holiday season without a little ugly sweater fun? For this date, you must be willing to go a bit out of your comfort zone. Instead of picking out your own ugly sweater, you must pick out the ugly sweater for your significant other with maximum embarrassment as the goal. Why? This is a friendly little competition.

Once you have exchanged your ugly sweaters, it’s time to have your friends and family vote on the ugliest sweater. This can be done by an easy Facebook post or by physically asking friends and family to vote. Once the ugliest sweater has been selected, the person that purchased the sweater gets a Christmas treat of  their choosing. Have you been wanting to see a certain Christmas movie? Have you been wanting to have a certain Christmas drink? The winner shall receive it! This date is much more fun if you continue to wear the ugly sweaters the rest of the night. You might be embarrassed, but you’ll be embarrassed together.

**Helpful hint: If you cannot find ugly sweaters, opt for the ugliest ornament instead! Christmas sweaters of all shapes and sizes can often be found at Good Will or a simple dollar general store. Please don’t spend heaps of money on an ugly sweater! They can get picked over this time of year, so the earlier in the holiday season you start looking, the better.

9. Attend a Local Children’s Play

This one sounds a bit odd, but you’re going to have to trust me on this one. Nothing will put a smile on your face like watching a children’s performance. You know those puppies that are so ugly that they are cute? This is a similar concept. Cheesy children’s plays= adorable. Laughter is sure to follow.

*Helpful hint: Contact friends or family for a list of local plays.

10. Christmas Lights Drive

Put together the best Christmas music playlist you can find, and hop in the car for one of the classiest Christmas dates around. My family has done this for years, but this can also be a super fun date!  Drive around local neighborhoods and take in all the festive lights that you can. Although we had some alternative dates in mind for you, this one just has to make the list.

*Helpful hint: We feel like 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm is a good time to start this drive. This gives people enough time to get home and turn on their lights, and this allows you time to drive around before people start turning them off for bed.

11. Volunteer as a Couple

While there are so many other activities that could have made our list, we feel that this one is incredibly important.  Let me tell you, there are plenty of volunteer opportunities out there. Denver and I volunteered in the community for Thanksgiving this year, and we will be doing the same for Christmas!

Why volunteer as a couple?

Volunteering in the community gives you more joy than you will ever know until you experience it. While this is a cheerful time of year for many, some families are struggling horribly. In the past, Denver and I have made excuses as to why we can’t do this. We’re too tired after work, or it’s more fun to do something else. You name it, we’ve thought it.  I encourage you to think differently for at least one date. Volunteering allows you to give one of the most precious gifts of all: your time. Not only does this benefit the community, but it is a GREAT bonding experience for a couple. Win. Win. Win. Speaking from personal experience, it is so worth it to give your time. Here are some volunteer ideas to get you started:

  • Deliver meals
  • Visit a senior
  • Angel Tree
  • Toys for Tots

**Helpful Hint: Contact your local Salvation Army or City of Commerce for some volunteer events in your local area.

12. Sunrise/Sunset Yearly Reflection 

Before you automatically discount this date because of the cold, I have a warmer option for you as well. I don’t think I’m alone in that I enjoy quality time and open communication.  But how do you make this fun? One of the best ways to do this is to spend some time watching the sunrise or sunset. There’s something special about dedicating time to wake up early just to reflect on God’s beauty. Not everyone is awake during sunrise, and there’s something about catching it together that is just plain magical. While it can be tough to wake up early enough to watch the sunrise, it would definitely be my first choice because of the seclusion. Bundle up and take a hot drink and some blankets, and find somewhere special to look back on the year. For example, Denver and I like to hike to a local look out spot.

If rising early is out of the question, opt for the sunset option. If hiking a mountain trail seems like an unrealistic option for you, we have found that lakes are also a great place to reflect! (pun intended)

What are these warmer options I spoke about earlier? For those of you who are less enthused for this adventurous idea, park at a local sunset location and talk in the heat of the car! As long as you’re talking and watching the sun go down or up, you’ve completed the task.

Sunrise/sunset dates are hands down some of the most cherished dates I’ve had with my husband. Don’t let the year go by without giving this date a shot.

**Helpful hint: Be sure to use an app or Google to research the time the sun rises or sets in your area and plan accordingly. Partly sunny days emit the best color. Completely sunny days are your next best option. If it’s completely cloudy outside, you’ll never see it. Trust me, we’ve tried.

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This concludes our 12 dates of Christmas!

We love hearing from you, so please feel free to leave a comment, ask questions, or say hello. You can keep up with our holiday experiences on  Instagram at @OakAndEarth and on my personal Instagram BethanyMPoteet. While I have listed some great options for couples, you can get a list of more family oriented ideas by visiting Tera’s latest post HERE! We have more Christmas posts to follow, so stay tuned.

Happy Holidays!

-Bethany <3

 

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Make Christmas Memorable for Your Family While Keeping it Simple

Merry Christmas season, readers! It’s Tera here on Oak and Earth today. This time of year is by far my favorite, for so many reasons! It is a time for family, a time of giving, a whole season of yummy foods, a time for Christmas lights and hot chocolate, and most of all a time to celebrate and remember the true reason for the season: the birth of our Lord and Savior! I have the most special memories of the holidays from my childhood years, and the excitement and fun my family had during the Christmas season has most certainly carried on in me into adulthood!

 I was reflecting recently on Christmas time and my own little family, and I tried to think of ways to make this a memorable time of year for Norah (and us), while keeping our main focus on the true meaning of Christmas and not getting wrapped up in the common mindset of, “more is more.” I want to instill meaningful and treasured memories into Norah’s core for Christmas time that teach her what principles are important to have and to pass down, and that will tug her heart strings (in a good way) for years to come. Simple moments that create a lifelong impact. So, I have created a list of some simple things you can do as a family that will make great memories, give quality time, and can respect even the most frugal holiday budget. I’m sharing my list below, and I hope you can be inspired for your family by some of these ideas! ‘Tis the season!

1.   Christmas Lights Outing  

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Downtown Siloam Springs, AR

This is an easy way for you and yours to have some fun during the Christmas season! My family would do this every year after our Christmas Eve service, but this is something you could do any time during December! Many of your local neighborhoods will have some fun light displays, or your downtown square (for us NWA folk, the Fayetteville square, for example). Some houses even connect their light displays with one of your local radio stations, and it’s really fun to see the lights flickering to the rhythm of the music! Your kids would love it if you all dressed in your comfy, festive Christmas pj’s, whipped up some hot chocolate, and hopped in your car together for a ride around town to see the pretty lights! It’s a nearly free activity (minus a little gas), and the kids will love starting this tradition with you!

 2.  Trim the Tree as a Family 

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My Christmas mantle in my pretty new house!!

Another fun memory I have from my childhood is helping my mom and siblings decorate our Christmas tree together each year! We would all get a new hallmark ornament every year to add to the collection. My own Christmas tree now is full of all of these ornaments (plus Jeremy’s and now Norah’s). There is something super special about those homemade ornaments and little hallmark collectibles that make a Christmas tree so sentimental and nostalgic! Pick a day where the whole family can be a part of this; and if you want to make a whole afternoon of it, visit a local tree nursery and choose a real tree to take home and decorate! The prices are usually very reasonable and it’s a fun and neat experience for the family. Set your tree up, stick some cookies in the oven, and choose a favorite Christmas movie to watch while you all have fun decorating (our tradition is The Polar Express). Let your little ones have a role in making the tree pretty! You can “touch up” some bare spots after they go to bed and disperse the ornaments that are stringing around the bottom half of your tree up and throughout (they’ll never know the difference), but, in the meantime, let them feel special and like they have an important part of this Christmas tradition! They’ll grow to love it, and their decorating skills should improve over the years ;). For the teeny tots who are still trying to grasp what a Christmas tree is, and from whom you’d like to spare some of your favorite glass ornaments from the game, “throw it on the floor,” try purchasing a mini tree and some plastic ornaments and set it up next to the big tree. We did this for Norah and let her decorate her special tree while we did the big tree and she loved it, (and we purchased her tree for $8)! Until they can better understand the concept of the ornaments and the tree, this is another way to get the littlest tots involved, and they’ll have their own special tree to decorate!

3.  Do an Advent Series Together 

Make some time during the month of December  for everyone to reflect on the ‘reason for the season’ by doing an advent series together. There is nothing more important that you can instill into your children’s hearts (or your own for that matter) than the love of Christ. Make sure in the hustle and bustle that your family stays grounded and that you make some quality time for this! I realize we are already part way through December, but this is something so important that I am adding it anyway to encourage you to do! You can play a little catch up, or just pick up where you are! It will help your whole family remember what matters most during Christmas, and you will instill this most important thing into your kids’ lives–and this is something you can’t put a price tag on! I am linking a great advent series for the whole family to partake in HERE. If you want to save money for budget purposes, there are some great online resources to pull verses and stories from to read each night as a family. Try doing this at a time where everyone is always together, like at the dinner table either before or after a meal (while everyone is still gathered). Making a routine like this is a good way to keep from having to try and squeeze it in at the end of the night while kids are dispersing to bed, or forgetting to do it altogether! After a long day at work or school, this is a great way to end each evening this month and will be so impactive on your kids’ hearts!

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My sweet little family at our church; New Life Church, Fayetteville

Free online resources:

4.  Christmas Cookie Decorating 

You can’t go wrong with a fun day of baking and decorating (and eating)! Tune in on your favorite Christmas pandora station, and you have a festive party right in your own kitchen! Google or Pinterest some easy sugar cookie recipes, pull the sprinkles from your pantry, and check Target’s Christmas aisles for some adorable (and cheap) Christmas cookie cutters! This is something you can do whether you have two or twelve people, and have fun doing it without breaking the bank! Take it to the next level on your baking day by trying a salt dough recipe and making some homemade ornaments that the kids can decorate and hang on the tree! This is a low stress, low cost way to get festive and celebrate the holidays, and will be a fun tradition the whole bunch can look forward to each year.

Fun cookie cutter set HERE ; Delicious sugar cookie recipe found HERE ; adorable and easy salt dough ornament recipe HERE !

5.  Christmas Caroling            

This is an outing to get your extended family and friends involved in! Take a big group around the neighborhood and sing some popular and well-known Christmas songs together! My family has not ever done this, but I think it sounds like a super fun way to spend an afternoon, and would love incorporating this into our yearly festivities! The more the merrier for this activity, so a little planning may be required to get the group together, but it would be well worth the effort, and would create fun memories for the whole family! End the night with some hot chocolate and a nice fire (because you can’t go wrong with hot chocolate)! This is a free way to lift people’s spirits and put a smile on their faces. If you want to go the extra mile this season, look into caroling at your local nursing home and share some love and Christmas cheer with our beloved elders…no one would love and appreciate it more! This is a totally free and fun way to get the whole family involved in some fun times together, and share some great memories!

6.   Gingerbread House Contest

  Nothing like some friendly competition to make for a fun night! You can purchase gingerbread house kits for fairly cheap at the store; why not buy two and make a friendly contest of boys vs. girls and have some fun?! You can have as small or as big of teams as you want, and that makes this activity super universal and accommodating to any family size! Spend the evening dressing your gingerbread houses up, and have some friends be the judge (without them knowing whose is whose). Let the winners choose the next Christmas movie for movie night, or spice it up with a bigger incentive for the winners! This is a tradition that your kids will want to repeat next year, and they’ll cherish their memories!

7.  Downtown Parade (or your town’s Christmas festivities)             

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Aren’t my besties totally adorable holding children?? 😉 We were able to enjoy the downtown parade together this year!

Going to our annual downtown Christmas parade is a tradition my family has held for years. It’s always a fun night of warm bundles, a hot drink in hand, and lots of pretty Christmas floats! Check your calendars for your town’s holiday festivities and make it a family affair! Bundle up, grab some extra blankets and a warm beverage (you know what would be great for this? Hot chocolate), and share some laughs together. If you missed this year’s, make it a goal to try it next year and start a new tradition together!

8.  “Christmas” Game Night

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“Louie” themed socks and hot cocoa are my secret to winning 😉

Here’s another fun idea for the entire family and even some of your friends to join in on! For the last few years, my husband’s side has done a fun game night together for our Christmas tradition, and it has been a huge hit! You can find some Christmas themed minute -to -win it games for your inspiration on Pinterest, or even google, and most of them look super fun! Get the group together, share some yummy snacks (and maybe some hot chocolate), split into teams, and let the laughs begin! What’s nice about these games, is that any supplies you may need can most always be found at the dollar store, so you can stretch your dollar and enjoy lots of games. Make your prizes as big or small as you want, or nix them all together and play just for the fun of it. There will be guaranteed a ton of laughs, and with or without the prizes, everyone will look forward to next year’s annual game night! Here are a few links to some very fun minute to win it ideas you can try:  Here , here , and here !

9.  Christmas Angels

Teach your kids the importance of giving during this holiday season. Magnify this and make it a higher priority than being on the receiving end. If we are honest, most of our kiddos who live in a warm and safe home do not really need much for Christmas! I’m not saying our kids don’t deserve gifts, or that we shouldn’t let them receive any. It’s so fun to watch Norah open her gifts and seeing her face light up! But, the more important thing we can give them is to teach them selfless love and share what we have with those who go without. Go to your nearest Christmas Angel tree and choose a couple angels to give a nice Christmas. Let your kids have a big part in choosing the Angels and the gifts. It’s important to show our kids that there are some big needs in our communities, and that they can have a part in making Christmas special for someone who otherwise wouldn’t have the same experience. Partake as a family in spreading love this season, and make it a tradition to give to others in a very tangible way every Christmas! If you don’t have Christmas Angel trees in your area, research some places that you can donate items and help make Christmas special for someone else!

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Here is our littlest angel, to give you all the feels!! *sigh*

10.  Wise Men Gifts

One principle we really want to keep incorporated into our Christmas as a family is simplicity. The excessiveness that is so common during this time of year we believe takes away from the specialness and “sacredness” that simplicity holds. Keep your gift giving simple with your kiddos this year by trying the Wise Men Gift method. This is a concept I first heard from Oak and Earth’s Bethany, whose family started doing this several years ago. Whether your budget is $3,000 or $300, this is a concept that you can easily incorporate into your family’s traditions. It’s very simple: each kid (and/or spouse) would receive just three gifts, and their stockings. You can arrange them however you choose; two smaller gifts and one big gift, three small gifts, one “Santa” gift, and two from you–there’s no method to it other than keeping the number simple with 3. We loved the idea and decided to start this tradition with Norah! It’s an awesome way to keep the sweetness of Christmas time by not drowning our kids (and our finances) in “more.” Our little ones will expect only what they are used to when it comes to gifts, so why not start this tradition now and keep your gift giving sweet and simple. 

If you want more ideas for gift giving methods, here are a few others you can try:

  • Do the “4 gifts” (something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read)
  • For older kids (this is what we do for my husband’s side), draw names and each person gets one person a gift or two.
  • Sock exchange (buy your kids some christmas socks and fill them up with goodies, much like a stocking), or just their stockings!
  • Encourage your kids to read and grow their imaginations by giving books for gifts!
  • If you are opting for “no gifts” this year, try donating to a charity in honor of each of your children. It’s a great way to give back and will be a special way to honor your kids.

I absolutely love getting to start new traditions with Norah, and I’m excited to start with some of these ideas together as a family! Keeping our holidays sweet and simple by focusing more on the memories and fun, and less on the “things” will hopefully create a special place in Norah’s heart for this time of year, much like it did for me! I hope I have given you some ideas that you can start incorporating into your family festivities each year too! No matter how you choose to spend the holidays, try to do some fun things as a family that will make it memorable for everyone!  If you want some fun and creative date ideas to do with your special someone, make sure to check back in a couple days for Bethany’s “12 Dates of Christmas” post coming soon! Also be sure to keep up with Oak and Earth this month, as we have several holiday inspired posts that we can’t wait to show you!! Follow me on Instagram @terapianalto if you don’t already, so you can stay informed on all of our blog happenings, and make sure to hashtag any Oak and Earth experiences you have with #OakandEarthBlog. We love your feedback and would love to know what you would like to see us write about on here! We’ll do our best to try out your ideas! Wishing you the sweetest and merriest Christmas yet!


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Happy Month of December, and Holiday’s best,

Tera (with Jeremy and Norah, and Louie)   -xo

Hiking the Ozarks

Local Flavor: Hiking the Ozarks

Hey guys! Shelby here. So the girls and I have been talking about adding a reoccurring  segment to the blog which highlights great aspects of this little state we call home: Arkansas. If you’ve noticed our tagline (common roots, different routes), well this is where the “roots” come in.  We’ve decided to call this segment “Local Flavor” and because I’m a bit of a nature freak, I’m going to start it off by telling y’all a little bit about hiking the Ozarks.

My entire life I’ve been captivated by nature. It’s only natural (no pun intended) that I would enjoy hiking. Since moving to Arkansas in 2006, I’ve had many opportunities to hit the trails, and for the past two years have explored the Ozarks even more with my own personal trail guide (and boyfriend), Jeff. What I’ve found there is splendor and peace.. stillness and chaos… the untamed wild. If you have the opportunity to see it for yourself, please don’t hesitate! In fact, for your convenience, I’ve prepared a list of the best hiking/exploring in the Ozarks, so you don’t even have to wonder! Only wander. Ok, I’ll stop being cheesy now, but we do hope our wandering inspires some wandering of your own! In no specific order, here are my top ten trails of the Ozarks.

(Note* this is not a trail guide per-say, just a list, and completely based on my personal experience and opinion. Feel free to comment below with your experiences and/or tips and tales.)

  1. Hawksbill Crag
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Hawksbill Crag

Easily the most photographed spot in the state, the hike to the crag, formally known as Whitaker Point Trail, is easy and only about 3 miles round trip. Treat yourself to an amazing view! Best seen at sunrise. Fun fact: our very own Tera was proposed to atop this crag!

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Bethany, Me, and Christiana, hanging out on a foggy morning

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Overlooking the crag

2. Steel Creek (along the Buffalo River Trail)

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The Buffalo River is known for its towering bluffs

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This trail is more about the river and bluffs than the actual hike (in my opinion). Stunning views of the famous bluffs, a superb (slightly secret) swimming hole, and a wonderful quaint campground that will have you rushing to stake your ground and set up your tent!

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Can’t wait for fall in the Ozarks!

3. Big Bluff

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View from Big Bluff overlook

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Jeff and I at Big Bluff

At 550-ft tall, Big Bluff is the tallest sheer bluff face found between the Rocky and Appalachian mountains.  The hike, round trip, takes 4 to 5 hours to complete (6 miles RT), and it is  worth every minute. The Buffalo makes a wide horseshoe turn right below the bluff, making an incredible panoramic view, best seen at sunset. If you are so inclined, you can also set up camp right on the bluff in one of the many shelter areas.

It is important to note the the trail to Big Bluff is called the Goat Trail, and actually spurs off of the more prominent Centerpoint Trail. From the Centerpoint Trailhead, it is about a 1-hour hike downhill to the spur trail that takes you out onto Big Bluff.  This is where the trail opens up into a large, rounded flat area with a fire ring that directionally is at about one o’clock on your right.  The spur trail (Goat Trail) to Big Bluff is off to the right of the fire ring.  From here, it’s about a 1/4-mile hike out to the start of Big Bluff!

Note* also on the Centerpoint Trail (if  you don’t take the Goat Trail) is the tallest waterfall in mid-america, Hemmed-in-Hollow.

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Hemmed-in-Hollow

4. Indian Creek Trail

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The Eye of the Needle

I personally have never hiked this trail, but Jeff has and was insistent that it make the list. According to him, it is one of the most scenic hikes in the state. Huge bluffs, amazing rock formations, beautiful streams, caves, and waterfalls; the landscape is epic. The hike is intense – possibly the most high risk in the Ozarks – but in his opinion, totally worth it. Some of the notable features are Copperhead Falls, The Eye of the Needle, Tunnel Cave, Arkansas Cave Falls, and more. For those who have a big heart for adventure, this trail is for you.

5. The Narrows

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The Narrows, affectionally referred to as “The Nars,” is thin ledge of limestone rock rising up amidst the Buffalo River and Richland Creek Valley. This ledge is the last vestige of a once mighty mountain high in the Boston Plateau. Many moons ago, Richland Creek scoured the mountain away and then slowly moved across the valley to it’s current location at least a 1/4 mile away. As Richland Creek meandered away, the Buffalo moved in and took out the other side of the mountain, leaving this narrow strip of hike-able rock.

6. Lost Valley

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Eden Falls

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Bethany and Denver, being cute crossing the creek

I think I’ve been to Lost Valley three times now, and there is always something new to see there. Less of an epic overlook than some of the others on the list, Lost Valley is more about the hike and less about the destination. Acclaimed as the most popular trail in Arkansas, it features waterfalls, amazing rock formations, and few caves. Make sure to bring a flashlight (or preferably a headlamp) if you want to explore the caves fully. Also note that the waterfalls flow best after a good rain. This trail is great for beginners!

Another thing I personally like about the trail is its abundance of medicinal plants! The wide variety of species found there include, bloodroot, crested iris, columbine, mayapple, comfrey and Ozark trillium, just to name a few.

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My brother Seth and I, exploring

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Denver and Bethany at the base of Eden Falls

7. Richland Creek Wilderness Area

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Richland Creek

This one has a special place in my heart, because if it wasn’t for the Richland Creek Wilderness Area I would never have met Jeff. We met after he hosted a hike/exploration of the area that I heard about through the Instagram Account, Igersarkansas.

Located deep in the Ozark National Forest, miles from civilization, and home to hiking trails, swimming holes, cascades and waterfalls, wildflowers, fall color, bluffs, rock formations and so much more, the Richland Creek Wilderness Area is one the most scenic areas in all of the Ozarks or Ouachitas. Designated by Congress in 1984, this Wilderness Area offers 11,801 acres of the most rugged and scenic beauty of the Boston Mountains. Home to Twin Falls, Richland Falls, Hamilton Falls, and more, this place is a real wilderness worth exploring.

8. Sam’s Throne

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Sunset at Sam’s Throne

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My brother Seth, Bethany, Me and Denver

A brief bit of lore: “It is believed that Sam Davis, born around 1795, came to Arkansas from Mississippi. It is told that Indians captured his young sister and fled with her into the Arkansas hills. Sam set out to find her traveling up the White River to the mouth of Buffalo and thence to the mouth of Big Creek. Coming up Big Creek he lost track of the Indians, so stopped and settling at the mouth of Dry Creek, above present Mt. Judea. Sometime after Davis had settled on the Big Creek farm he went into the woods hunting cattle. His hunt took him to the head of Pud Cove. While standing there calling cattle, he was shocked to hear a woman answer him at some distance. The voice sounded strangely familiar. The two kept calling and walking in the direction of each other until they met. The woman was his long lost sister who by then was the wife of an Indian chief. She too, had recognized a strange familiarity in the voice she had heard. In Sam’s latter years he had become demented. He was known for many strange actions during that time. In this case, Sam would take a ladder, climb up to this knob, pull the ladder up, and there stay for days. During those times he could sometimes be heard preaching “to the wind.” He also planted peach trees there, which lived and bore fruit for years afterward. Sometimes it would take considerable persuasion on the part of his family and others to get him down from the knob. In time, this knob became known as Sam’s Throne,” (source).

This one is not so much a hike as it is a must-see of the Ozarks, overlooking the Big Creek valley below. It is so accessible that you really have no excuse not to go see it. This location is very popular for rock climbers, photographers, and star-gazers. Fun fact: there is a geocache hidden here! See if you can find it when you make your trip, and tell us about it if/when you do!

9. Pedestal Rocks Scenic Area

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Image from “Explore the Ozarks

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This is a great place to explore, and offers two awesome loop trails, each leading to its own scenic area. There is also a waterfall, Kings Bluff Falls, which is one of the tallest in the Ozarks. The scenic area takes its name from the “pedestal rocks,” massive natural stone columns or “pedestals” that rise up from the valley floor. Formed by natural erosion of the rock bluffs, they took thousands of years to form and have attracted human attention almost since the first Native American hunters entered the mountains.

10. Devil’s Den State Park

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Yellow Rock, overlooking Lee Creek Valley

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Me, exploring one of the many crevices

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Camping at Devil’s Den

Last, but not least, I give you Devil’s Den State Park! This Park has miles of hiking and multiple use trails winding through Devil’s Den and the surrounding Ozark National Forest. Caves, crevices and bluff overlooks can be explored here. You can take a wet-water hike up Lee Creek, or trek the 15-mile Butterfield Hiking Trail! This trail, from the park through the Ozark National Forest, leads backpackers deep into the hills and hollows of the rugged scenic Ozarks. Two of my favorite trails here are the Devil’s Den Trail (for the Cave lover) and the Yellow Rock Trail (for the overlook junkee).

This is my favorite on the list for mostly nostalgic reasons. Only an hour from home, my family and I take an annual camping trip to Devil’s Den to see the fall colors. My Dad’s family also camped here when he was a boy! Most recently, it has also become even more special to me since Jeff asked me to be his girl atop Yellow Rock about a year ago (insert swoon here).


So there you have it! Get out and go explore this beautiful place we call home. As always, live healthy and love hard!

– Shelby

Sam’s Throne

*Photocreds for the vast majority of the photos go to my wonderful boyfriend, Jeff Rose. Book him for your next session!

D.I.Y. Fourth of July Top

Hello again readers! It’s Bethany here, and I am bringing you a fun D.I.Y. project just before Independence Day! I have done quite a few D.I.Y. tank tops in the past, so I thought it would fun to try a different one for this special holiday. I am really happy with how it turned out!

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What I like about this dip dye project is that you can make personal choices along the way. This can be done on a tank, t-shirt, or a do it  yourself crop. I chose a t-shirt turned crop top! Let’s get started!

Materials:

  • White t-shirt or tank (make sure to check out my helpful hints for the best fabrics to dye)
  • Latex or cleaning gloves
  • Scissors
  • Rubber band
  • Tulip Powder Fabric Dye [Red]
  • Tulip Powder Fabric Dye [Royal Blue]
  • Salt
  • Access to stainless steel double sink OR two cleaning buckets (make sure the sink is stainless steel, otherwise you have the possibility of staining your sink).

INSTRUCTIONS:

Step 1) Pick a top

You will need to determine what kind of top you would like to dye. This year I wanted to do a modest t-shirt crop top with high wasted jean shorts. If you have a white shirt on hand you can use that, just be sure to check out my list of best dye-able materials below. I chose to buy a new white shirt so that I could form it to my liking. I bought a white cotton scoop neck t-shirt from Wal-Mart for $3.88.

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Choosing Fabrics:

  • 100% cotton, linen, silk, wool, ramie
  • Synthetics such as rayon and nylon
  •  Fiber blends with at least 60% cotton or other dye-able fiber (blends will tint evenly but will not achieve full color)
  • DO NOT use pure polyester, acrylic, nylon, or fabric with special finishes

Step 2) Cropping

Making a crop top from a t-shirt is very simple. To get the desired length,  I always put the shirt on and fold or measure it to where I feel most comfortable cropping it. Eye balling it on the floor or just hanging in front of you is not always the best idea, because it often comes out too short or not cropped enough. Once you have your desired length, cut along that line. On this top I decided to also cut the collar a bit wider.

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3) Prepare to dye! *draws sword*

For this step, you will need to decide where you want your stripes:

  • Vertical stripes: With options of red on left or red on right
  • Horizontal Stripes: With options of red on top or red on bottom

I chose to do vertical stripes with red on the left and blue on the right. Deciding where you want your color will determine how you role your shirt to dye it. If you want vertical stripes like I had, then you want to role your shirt starting with the collar and role down to the bottom of the shirt. If you want horizontal stripes, you will want to roll it from the right sleeve to left sleeve. Once you have rolled it like the picture on the left, go ahead and grab your rubber band. Gather it in the middle and rubber band it. This will leave you a white space in the center of your shirt.

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4) Dye

For this particular shirt, I used Tulip Fabric Dye (powder) of Royal Blue and Red. I found these in the craft section at my local Wal-Mart. These dye packets come with step by step instructions on the back, and I did not deviate at all. These are the steps on the back of the package:

  1. Fill bucket/stainless steel sink with one gallon of STEAMING HOT water.
  2. Stir in 1/4 cup (4 tbsp) salt
  3. Pour in dye packet and stir until dissolved.
  4. Submerge fabric in dye mixture
  5. Stir continually for 15 minutes, and then occasionally for 45 minutes.

Submerge each side in the sink or shallow bucket for almost an hour. Remember to make sure each side is dipped into the color you want for that part of the shirt.

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5) Rinse, Wash, and Dry

Rinse fabric in cold water. The instructions on the dye package say to machine wash warm; dry per laundry instructions. So that any excess dye wouldn’t stain any surrounding clothes in the wash, I decided to hand wash mine in the bath tub with detergent. This was quick and effective. I then put it in the dryer with other clothes I had going.

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7) Work it! 

At this point, my shirt had turned out just as I had wanted it to! I love simple Fourth of July tops, and I am so excited to celebrate in my own style!

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Now go out and make your own! This process was really simple and fun. Please do not hesitate to ask questions and comment! Feel free to keep up with me on Instagram at Bethno13. We hashtag all our posts with #OakAndEarthBlog and our travel adventures with #OakAndEarthRoutes. This is an easy way to keep up with our posts, and as always we love talking to you all! Happy Independence Day!

Peace, love, and Rocketships.

-Bethany

Here's looking at you, Succulents

Hey y’all,  It’s Shelby! I know what you’re thinking… not another post about succulents! What can you possibly say about them that isn’t already public knowledge?! Well, maybe a lot if you’re anything like me. Whenever I see something I want to try, a place I want to go, or inspiration hits, I have to act immediately. More often than not, this results in me not doing my research and plunging into something headfirst, headless of whether there are rocks at the bottom. So here is my contribution to the sea of succulent info floating about the blogosphere. May it be a life raft for you to cling to when you find your plants are stretching rather than expanding, shriveling or wrinkling (underwatering vs. overwatering ), or generally fairing poorly. Since I don’t claim to be an expert on succulent care, I will reference those who are and I would highly advise checking out what they have to say. I will also give you my top 10 indoor succulents for beginners, and share a bit about my own experience with these gorgeous plants, as well as the experiences of my friend (and pen-pal of 13 years) Becca.

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A freshly potted Jamie, Claire, Arwen, Hermione, Lizzy, and Katniss.

I purchased my first succulents in the summer of 2013 after graduating from Ouachita with my BA in Biology. I suppose my time spent studying Botany made me want to try my hand at gardening, but of course I wanted to start small…very small. I purchased three small succulents at my local farmer’s market in Siloam Springs and took them home and potted them. Although renowned for being hardy plants, I am here to tell you IT IS POSSIBLE to kill a succulent. I successfully murdered 2/3 of these beauties, much to my dismay. I later found out that I did just about everything wrong. In addition to not using the correct soil or type of pot, I basically drowned these poor babies to death. The sole survivor is the little yellow one, featured in the photograph below – middle center – which I now believe is a succulent of the genus Crassula; the popular “Jade Plant” is a species of this genus. The furry one on left hand side only recently bit the dust, while the lovely echeveria or sempervivum (not sure which!) on the right, is long since dead and gone.

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My first succulents!

Discouraged, but not ready to give up, I purchased a new bundle of succulents at the Dogwood Festival (Check out Bethany’s recent post for more on our hometown’s annual festival!) this year. I drilled the poor vendor at the succulent booth who did not seem daunted by my endless questions. She told me that many beginners make the mistake of overwatering their succulents and that the best way to water them is by spraying/misting them once the soil is dry, rather than using a typical watering can. After almost a year of succulent care, I can tell you that misting is really not the best thing for your plants. Instead, give them a good soak every time the soil gets completely dry. DO NOT OVERWATER, but realize that soaking is better than spritzing. Succulents are designed to absorb a large quantity of water in a short period of time (because they like well draining soil) and thus have shallow root systems, so you just want to water enough to get the soil damp; don’t drown them!

Another critical factor she informed me of that had contributed to the untimely end of my succulents was the soil I planted them in. If you scan the internet for info on planting succulents the main two things you will see are do not overwater, and use well draining soil. Some links I would definitely check out for more info on watering, soil, and general care can be found here:

http://www.succulentsandsunshine.com/how-to-water-succulent-plants/

http://www.succulentsandsunshine.com/well-draining-soil-for-succulent-container-gardens/

http://www.succulentsandsunshine.com/succulent-care/

So, after much discussion with the Dogwood Festival’s resident succulent “expert,” I lugged my new beauties home and began the process of re-potting. After buying adorable containers and perfectly arranging my succulents to my exacting aesthetic specifications, I found (after a bit of research) that glass containers really aren’t the best idea for these plants because of the whole drainage issue. I know what you’re thinking, why do I see so many beautiful pictures of succulents in teacups and other intriguing vessels? I am afraid I don’t have an answer for you. The experts at Succulents and Sunshine say it is possible if you are very careful with your watering habits so I am going to give it some time and see how they do. Don’t worry! I will keep you guys posted!

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Mid-repotting; from strange duck to cute glass cups!

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Freshly potted! Soaking up some sun.

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Jamie and Claire. Jamie is the sole survivor of the succulent massacre of 2013.

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Arwen. My Echeveria beauty.

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Hermione, Lizzy, and Katniss. The fearsome heroines.

When I asked Becca, who lives in Boston, if she had any helpful hints etc. regarding her own experience with succulents she had this to say:

“I definitely have noticed that when I use pots with drain holes and 3/4 of the pot filled with succulent soil and the top filled with sand it helps stabilize them and allows them to grow so much better. I have never lived in a place where I could keep them outdoors or where they get significant sun so I constantly have to “dehead” them and propagate them. It’s such a time consuming process though to propagate the little buds, but my little propagate leaves are finally working!”

What is she talking about propagating, you might ask? Well in short, when the succulents start to multiply (which they do, and frequently!) it is relatively easy to take a cutting and root the cuttings, AKA, propagation! For a really great how-to, try here!

Becca also said:

“So because of the lack of sun, I definitely prefer succulents that grow tall with leaves all along them as opposed to ones that theoretically grow wide because mine just grow tall seeking sun and don’t thrive.”

This is a perfect example of the whole stretching vs. expanding phenomenon I mentioned at the beginning of the post. In this case, propagating would be a good solution.

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Thriving…

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vs. Struggling

Becca is an AMAZING illustrator and just an all around interesting human. For more on Becca and her work, please visit http://beccacahan.com

So that leaves us with my top 10 indoor succulents for beginners! Now, nerd that I am, I am going to give you the genus names of which there are many species. I will also list the common names if I know them and some interesting facts! Here they are!

  1. Echeveria – referred to as “Hen & Chicks” by many, this is one of my favorite succulents
  2. Aloe – most common species is aloe vera, often used in herbal medicines
  3. Sansevieria – also known as “snake plant”
  4. Sedum – a favorite species is “burrows tail”, a cascading succulent
  5. Hawthoria – these are very hardy plants! Forgiving of low light levels and overwatering
  6. Agave – mezcal and tequila are made from this plant
  7. Crassula – includes the popular “Jade Plant”
  8. Sempervivum – also known as “Hen & Chicks”
  9. Cotyledon – native to South Africa
  10. Kalanchoe – ever-popular species is the Thyrsiflora, aka “Paddle Plant”

So there you have it; my ode to succulents. I may or may not have purchased two new babies at the farmers market last week… I foresee a problematic obsession in my future.

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I’m going to call this one Neytiri.

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And this one Lucy.

If you want more pictures of succulents from around the globe, try my Instagram, or search #shelbylovessucculents on instagram.

As always, live healthy and love hard!

– Shelby


 

*Update (3/7/16):


Those of you who keep up with my Instagram will recognize the photo on the left. About twenty weeks ago I tried my hand at propagating! Unfortunately, my beautiful Arwen started “stretching,” so I took the opportunity to experiment with propagation. Several of my cutting are FINALLY producing baby plants! I cannot figure out what took them so long and I’m honestly stunned that they are still alive after such a long time! Maybe winter?Many of them rooted but didn’t ever start growing. As you can see in the photo, this is a TINY baby plant and I really hope it survives because I absolutely love Echeveria and it would be really neat to see what it looks like a little bigger! If anyone has any hints or tips for me, I’d love to hear them!

Local Flavor: Oak and Earth Does the Dogwood Festival

It’s Bethany comin’ at ya for this post!

Funnel cake, hot pavement, trees blooming, music, and a bunch of people you vaguely know but don’t want to talk to. Must be a small town festival! Holy festivals, Batman! I’ve experienced all kinds of festivals and fairs in my lifetime. My favorite is still claimed by none other than the Dogwood Festival. I feel like every town has an annual festival that they are super proud of, and this is ours. In this post you’ll find a video of me chatting it up with festival goers, you will discover OakandEarth’s Dogwood Festival musts, and share in Dogwood experiences that were new to me this year!

I felt compelled to write about the festival because this festival celebrates OakAndEarth’s common roots! Our tagline for our blog is Common Roots, Different Routes. Our common roots are planted in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. Siloam Springs is a charming town of about 15,000 people. We have beautiful parks, a downtown with coffee shops and antiques, and dogwood trees (ahhh, now you’re getting it, right?). At a typical Dogwood Festival there are a ton of booths with handmade goodies, fair food, live bluegrass music, and an awesome kid section that I find myself mindlessly wandering into each year. (I wonder what this says about me).

When I wandered into the kid section this year, I found a ton of happy families. I’m throwing it back to the early 1990’s for a second. After my family’s first trip to the festival, my older brother left in tears. Sugary treats, warm weather, music, why was he crying?? Simply put, he thought the Dogwood Festival would have dogs. “There weren’t any dogs!!!”. A clear rookie mistake that could happen to anyone. Names are not always as literal as we wish them to be.

Denver and I spent Saturday being slightly creepy, and asking random festival goers what they enjoy the most. Let’s take a look at the festival this weekend and what people think about it!

OakandEarth Dogwood Favorites:

–CHRISTIANA–

We caught up with Christiana at the festival, and she said her festival musts are the Kettle Corn and the book sale at the local library! She also bought some honey and a few other treats that she will discuss next week!
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–BETHANY–

My favorite treat will forever and always be the Tigers Blood snow cone. I get one every year, and this year was no exception! Tigers Blood is a mixture of watermelon, strawberry, and coconut. Good for a hot day, and also good if you desire an obnoxiously red mouth.

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Something I had never noticed at the fair before was a food truck that sold roasted corn on the cob! Okay, readers. If you’re going to learn anything about me, it is that I have 3 loves (listed in no particular order)– stew, corn on the cob, and Denver (my husband). At the festival, I got two of those fixes! The third will be relieved in few hours when I make homemade stew. But I digress. This corn on the cob is one food item that could make me shout a curse word to the high heavens. Thankfully I have some restraint (in public). For now, just enjoy pictures of me in what can only be referred to as  corn heaven.

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 –TERA–

Tera was in Colorado this year! But she was with us in Dogwood spirit! She said her favorite part of the Dogwood is the atmosphere, and the Funnel Cake. Since she could not partake, Denver  stepped in a did the difficult task of consuming a funnel cake for her! Poor, Denver. *sarcasm*

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 –SHELBY–

I met up with Shelby and her boyfriend Jeff in the later part of the day. Shelby is fun to go with, because she hops along to each booth with great intention. She snagged some honey, beautiful succulents, and some food! Her favorite treats are the Kettle Corn and Lemonade! How southern are we?

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New to me!

While these are our  festival musts, I saw a few surprises this year! One being the corn booth (have I talked about corn enough?), another being a neat home made guitar booth! We also walked right up to a kids’ martial arts show in the midst of them breaking boards (see video for that goodness). As many years as I have gone, it’s neat to experience new booths.

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Although the Dogwood may be a stereotypical small town festival, I like to think that it’s special in it’s own right. And I will keep going as long as it comes around. I hope you enjoyed getting to know a small part of our Common Roots as we bring in the spring season! I have some great ideas for my next post, and I look forward to connecting with you all again. As always if you have any suggestions or questions for us, please feel free! Christiana has a pretty neat spring themed blog coming at you next week, so be sure to look for it!

Peace, love, and Rocketships,

Bethany

 

An Outlandish Obsession

In 2012 I decided to step outside of my comfortable OBU bubble to study abroad and become a Sassenach (Outlander) at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

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Just another Sassenach, in Edinburgh, Scotland (PHOTOCREDS: Becca Cahan – my wonderful penpal of 13 years)

I learned a lot on this trip about Scotland, the world outside of America, and myself. I had traveled before on mission trips to Nicaragua and South Africa but this was the first time it was just me, out in the world, figuring things out first hand. I can’t say enough good things about the experience. It really grew me both spiritually and in maturity and I would definitely recommend studying abroad or working abroad if you ever have the opportunity.

Well ever since my return to America in the summer of 2012, I’ve harbored a deep love for Scotland. It was William Shakespeare who penned the phrase, “Though she be but little, she is fierce!” and although he was obviously not speaking of Scotland, I think that it applies. Few countries have had such a turbulent history as Scotland. The glens and lochs are abounding with mystery and legends that I could never do justice, but that brings me to the point of this post (or the main point at least!): Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series.

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Outlander TV Series on Starz, Based on Gabaldon’s Book Series

Last August I stumbled across an episode of Outlander on the Starz channel and I was immediately hooked. I quickly got caught up on the series and eagerly awaited the new episodes every week. The cinematography alone is amazing, providing stunning views of my beloved Scotland, but the show goes beyond that. The drama of the Highlands pulls you in as you watch Claire (the heroine) be violently uprooted from her life and thrust into a world far different from her own. I’ll start out by saying if time travel, kilts, bad-A heroines, and romance aren’t your thing, you probably won’t like the series, but hey, don’t knock it till you try it!

So here I am, in the midst of the series at a cinematic cliffhanger, when suddenly I discover it is only a half series and the next half won’t be airing until April! (Lucky for those of you reading this now, you have time to get up to date before the newest episode premiers Saturday!) This simply would not do.

Enter the boyfriend: Jeff Rose. So Jeff sees my anguish, and being the caring sort of person he is, begins buying me the books. Seriously it was like he was my drug dealer. I was polishing those babies off in no time (there are 8). I just had to get my fix! Maybe it was all apart of his master plan… You see, Jeff and I are long distance, so maybe he was only buying me the books in a devious plot to spend more time together. The fiend! Whatever his motive was, I now possess the entire series. Those who know me best know I am an avid reader, not to be daunted by the large volumes and big words,  so let me tell you that if you can’t stomach getting into a series that spans over 30 years of drama in the lives of the main characters, and weighs in at approximately 1000 pages per book, then this series probably isn’t for you. However, I still highly recommend at least watching the TV series!

Now I don’t want to get into the plot(s) of the novels too much because I don’t want to risk spoiling it for all you potential readers/watchers out there. I actually want to focus on some ways that the series has affected me specifically.

So like I said, the series immediately drew me in because of my own experience in Scotland, but I was delighted to find that the heroine mentioned above, Claire, was in the medical profession. Now this got her in quite a bit of trouble with superstitious 18th century highlanders, as you might imagine, but I loved that Gabaldon wove in so many medical elements, because I am actually in the process of trying to get in to medical school currently. In the series, deprived of the medical advances of her own times, Claire turns to the wonderful world of Botany to aide her in caring for patients. This proved inspirational to me. I have always been a bit of a nature freak, so it seemed an excellent idea to me to learn more about medicinal plants and home remedies! Who knows when the planet will be plunged into total anarchy and we will all have to learn to survive in a post-apocalyptic world, right? Well…maybe. Regardless, I have taken up the study of Botany as a pastime, and it really is quite fascinating! My long-term goal is to be able to identify and know how to use these medicinal plants (and also edible plants)  in the wild, and not just in a photograph. It’s not an easy process but its definitely rewarding. This, in turn, has lead to me taking steps toward living a more sustainable lifestyle. I started by planting a small herb garden. Right now I only have mint, sage, and rosemary, but I’m hoping to expand in the future.

You know, I hear so many people preaching about eating organic, free-range, no hormones, no steroids, buying local, no GMOs… the list goes on. All of that stuff is great if you have the time, money, and know-how, but for most people in America making a drastic lifestyle change like that is simply not feasible.  So here is my two cents.. How about:

  1. Do your research
  2. Start small

Seems doable right? Things don’t happen overnight. (Except zits – they most definitely do) So what is my point in this possible rabbit trail? Well maybe I don’t have a single, salient point, but I think for me, trying to buy local when possible and attempting to grow/raise my own when I can is a good place to begin. For now, I’m definitely loving the learning process. And of course, loving the books that I just have to buy to aide in that process (can I get an “amen” from my fellow nerds?!).

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An Outlandish Obsession

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Starting small, with sage, rosemary, and mint

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King Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh, Scotland (PHOTOCREDS: Becca Cahan)

In later posts, I plan to enlighten you on some specific home remedies, foraging recipes, DIY sustainability projects, and plant spotlights (like, “getting down with dandelions” or something… btw, did you know that they are edible as well as medicinal and can be used to treat infections, liver problems and more?!). but for now I just want to highlight a few books and blogs that you should definitely check out.

  • The Feast Nearby, Robin Mather
  • Medicinal Herbs, Rosemary Gladstar
  • Herbs, an A-Z Guide, Gardening, Cooking & Health, Reader’s Digest
  • The Country Almanac of Home Remedies, Brigitte Mars and Chrystle Fiedler
  • Outlander, Diana Gabaldon
  • http://shelfassurance.com/2015/04/books-on-screen-outlander/   (My dear friend Jessica’s amazing blog, most recent post highlighting OUTLANDER!!!)
  • http://wellnessmama.com   (I love this website/blog and have pinned countless things from the wealth of knowledge she has available here)
  • https://shelbybriley.wordpress.com   (My personal blog, mostly featuring my travels)

As always, live healthy and love hard!

– Shelby aka Sassenach

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For photos of my travels and more check out my Instagram handle @hopelesswanderer_sb

Becoming a Weekend Warrior

Hello!

My name is Bethany, and you can learn a little more about me in the “About” page of our blog. I’ll be making all different types of blog posts (adventures, cooking, how to’s, music, art, fashion, life battles, stresses and more).This first post explains a life transition I have made. I’m on the slow road to happier life, and it starts with the weekend! In the post below, I give a bit of info on my lifestyle change, why I chose this path, what I consider a “Weekend Warrior”, and 11 steps to becoming one. Enjoy.

Meet me ( Bethany):

Me and a Mocha. A divine relationship.

Meet the husband (Denver):

Denver. I call husband.

Meet our marriage. (The Poteets)

Coffee

My Lifestyle Change:

This is my marriage of nearly two years. We both have college degrees, bills, and day to day stresses. What we DON’T posses is the mundane desire to stay in one place and do the same thing every day. What we DO have is the itch and passion to do things differently. So, we do. What do I mean by differently?

For a while I was feeling depressed about living every day the same way: Wake up early, go to work, come home to make dinner, eat said dinner, watch Netflix, sleep (or try to ), and repeat. Occasionally there would be some Olive Garden thrown in the mix (crazy, I know), or some frisbee. Most week days were the same. Week days are busy and tiring, because the bills must be paid! So then what about the weeekends? I suppose we did typical married couple activities. The thing is, I  don’t think we’re particularly typical. One day I found myself asking,  why follow the pattern that society puts directly in front of you? This is when I learned that there is no right way to live your life. Life is not absolute.

The Pizza Theory

It’s like society tells you it’s time for dinner and the only thing to eat is plain pizza. What “the man” doesn’t tell you is that there are so many toppings that make life delicious! Better yet, you don’t have to eat pizza at all. In fact, you can eat dinner any time you want. So why do we always choose what society puts in front of us (plain pizza)? If it were so simple to live life on different trajectories, wouldn’t everybody? Living differently is not easy. You will face questions and hurdles. What you need to remember is that the life you live is what you create.

Why have I chosen a new path?

“20 Somethings”, as we are so often called, have a few different paths we tend follow. There is nothing wrong with any of these normal paths. I graduated college with a BA degree in Corporate Communication and a minor in Art in 2013. After college I went straight to work, and I had a great job. What I struggled with for years was feeling like my creativity was locked in a cage. I like to play music, paint, take pictures, hike, and write. My husband likes to do many of the same things, meaning I was not alone in this struggle. I felt as if I was not dedicating any time to my hobbies, let alone my passions. So why the change and how did it occur?

My husband and I moved states (a discussion for another post). The move was only about two hours away from where we were first located. With this transition I found it hard to find a job. I have had a lot of time to consider what makes up a life. I haven’t quite made the life I desire, but I am finally making steps toward it. My husband works full time, and we are often busy during the week. So why not take weekends and create steps toward a happier or more fulfilling life? A life full of many pizza toppings, if you will. For Denver and I, that meant dedicating time specifically for creative activities. Since this change, we have traveled, gone to concerts, hiked, biked, climbed, painted, made music, worked on video games, and made time for friends and family–we are becoming Weekend Warriors.

What does being a “Weekend Warrior” mean to me?

A Weekend Warrior breaks the mold of the average 20 Something individual. For me this means going the extra mile to achieve short term goals and to fulfill creative desires. It is not for those who tire easily. These steps are helping me get over repetition and mundane behavior. So if you’re looking to mix up your life and achieve some small goals, you might be able to realistically apply these to your weekend. While this phrase does have the word “weekend” in it, I am aware that some people do not have weekend off. If this is the case, apply the steps below to the time you do have off. If you prefer to chase bullet points, short cuts, and pictures, this next part is for you. These are my magic steps. 

11 STEPS TO BECOMING A WEEKEND WARRIOR

1) Stop accepting plain pizza. (Plain pizza theory explained above)

This first step starts by realizing what you want your life to be. We only have one. So what would you like  to improve on? What do you miss during the week that you really wish you had time for? If you want more out of life than what people typically accept, you’re already on the right path to become a Weekend Warrior.

2) Pick some rad activities, and practice your hobbies!

For my husband and I, we love to go outdoors. We love to do this because it feeds our creative bones. When I am writing music or painting, surrounding myself in nature is key. Nature is inspiring, and it keeps you thinking. We are also dedicating more time to practice our hobbies! This might mean a night of jamming on the guitar or painting. For Denver it usually means working on video game development. Whatever it might be, make sure you fit it into your weekend at least once.

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3) Get a partner(s) in crime.

Even if you do some of these activities by yourself, let someone you’re close to in on your change. They might want to come along with you. If they don’t, they might encourage you to keep going when you feel like slipping back into mundane life. Surrounding yourself with people who will support you in your endeavors is necessary.

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4) Kill your phone.

Okay, so that’s a bit dramatic. Something we have learned to do is to leave our phones on silent, stash them away, or don’t bring them at all. Sometimes I’ll turn my phone on airplane mode so it makes it impossible to get on the internet during my activities. When we hike we like to take pictures. So we will take our camera and phone and capture some amazing things we want to remember, and then we shut everything down. A moment of silence can go a long way. It can be easy for a phone or camera to ruin your experience. Don’t forget to be in the moment.

5) Be prepared to be exhausted. (Totally worth it)

So for many activities we start early and end late. Part of living the weekend to the fullest is being tired.  What helps is planning it out to have a day to recoup. Having a recoup day doesn’t always happen. If you can’t get this recoup time, you can’t complain. It’s a part of it.

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6) Make good Playlists.

Playlists can drive any weekend home. A really good playlist can put you in the mood to achieve great things. Trust me. (Future posts include some tunes I’ll recommend, and how they can amp up every day activities).

7) Be willing to drive…a lot.

We have gone from Arkansas to Colorado and back in one weekend (12 hours one way). We have also done this with Austin, Texas in one weekend  (9 hours one way). Both driving expeditions were to travel to see my favorite artist LIGHTS. They were both tiring but incredibly epic weekends. These endeavors are incredibly exhausting and induce a lot of driving, but it’s worth it to get to see something or do something you’ve always wanted to do. Sometimes we just have to work with the time given. These particular weekends were planned out, and the trip to Colorado required asking a half day off of work on Friday to kick it off. Life is too short to not go the distance. It helps that Denver and I enjoy driving.

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8) Be able to deviate from your original plan. (shiz-stuff happens)
Remember that you have to go the extra mile to obtain greatness. This is why being a Weekend Warrior is not for everybody. It’s not for people who require a lot of sleep, and it’s not for people who will break down if the plans don’t pan out perfectly (definitely guilty of that). When you’re doing multiple activities, the weather doesn’t always flow accordingly. When you get up and drive to see the sunrise and it rains so much you can’t see the sun, or when you’re hitting an ice storm on the way home from Austin, put in some awesome tunes and thank God for all the blessings in your life. Learn to laugh and go with the flow. Yes, these are real life occurrences during our adventures.

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 9) Face some fears.

Take this time to strive for something you have never done. Do something you’ve been too scared to do. Go places you’ve never been.

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10) Fulfill random thoughts.

You know when you have a thought like:
What if we got waffles right now?
What if we make a fort??
What if we leave said fort up for 2 months?
Want to sleep on the floor?
Do you want to go watch the sunrise in the morning?
Do you want to have a picnic?

DO THESE THINGS. My motto is–random thoughts are good thoughts.

12) End on the basics.
When my husband and I were choosing activities, we decided to go back to basics. What makes you inherently and uncontrollably happy? Forget what other people are doing. Live your life the way you desire, and take pride in being different. What makes you happy?

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I hope this helps you think outside the box a little. These steps can easily be adapted to different lifestyles. Get on the road to a happier and more creative you. I am open for questions, and I would love to get to know you!  If you end up doing anything different with your weekends, let me know! I would love to hear about your adventures. I’ll end with this quote from my favorite musician:

“You have to be uncomfortable in order to be successful, in some ways. Because if you stay in your comfort zone, you would never do the things that you need to do.” -LIGHTS

Peace, love, and rocketships.

-Bethany