2014-ornament-exchange

I participated in the Arkansas Women Bloggers Ornament Exchange again this year. I participated two years ago. You can read about the postal adventure here.

I don’t remember why I didn’t play along last year. (See postal adventure post!)

I decided to be brave and try again this year. I am really glad that I did. Check out this adorable ornament I received from my Arkansas secret Santa…

Arkansas Ornament

Perfect!

This came from Tiffany over at Secret Life of a Betty Crocker Wannabe. Tiffany and I have never met but I think we would get along great! Tiffany is a baking contest junkie! I love that! The biggest baking contest I have ever participated in was the Lonoke County Fair. I think my big prize package was about $6.32.

Tiffany may be a Betty Crocker Wannabe but apparently she is quite a crafter as well. You can see her step-by-step tutorial for the ornament here.

This is the little note that was attached to the ornament.

ornament note

The note says there is something hidden inside. I could not bring myself to cut into it to out take the treats. It was just too cute!

Here is the back, uncut.

craft paper ornament

Thanks so much for my Arkan-Santa, Tiffany! I hope we can meet at an ARWB function some day.

I know you are all wondering about the ornament I sent.

I sent my ornament to Gina from Desperately Seeking Gina. I met Gina when I attended my first Arkansas Women Bloggers event.

Gina is a crafter–with a real craft room and everything! That was a little intimidating. I felt up for the challenge though.

Here is the ornament I sent Gina. Hopefully, I will be able to post a “how to” soon. You can see it on her tree here.

homemade ornament

I got a little extra crafty and made the card out of old Christmas cards.

There was no postal drama this time! My ornament made it to Gina’s just fine.

Merry Christmas, Tiffany and Gina. I’m so glad y’all played along this year.

One of my favorite activities at Blog Camp was getting to participate in 5K sponsored by New Balance.  The 5K came the morning after our delicious cupcake binge.

We were greeted bright and early by crazy people. Lisa and Ashley were way too perky and energetic for so early in the day. Runners-humph!

Really, they were lots of fun!

5k leaders

Since New Balance sponsored the run, all the New Balance wearers posed for a photo op.

New Balance in the 5k

Let me say this…I am not a runner. I walked the 5K. I walked the 5K with a big old camera draped around my neck. Now, THAT is exercise!

I didn’t have a planned partner for the walk. I ended up walking with Talya from Grace, Grits and Gardening. (Since I failed to get a picture of us together, I borrowed one from her website.)

talya

I’ve been following Talya for a while now, so I was really excited to get to know her! I love when she has musical pairings to go with her posts. Talya is a genuine gal. I really enjoyed sweating with her!

There were so many great sights to see along the race path.

Ferncliff Fog

We had a couple of challenges along the way. This was the only one I photographed. I was too busy sliding down a fire pole to take other pictures.

5k jumping jacks

Ferncliff Cabin

Ferncliff Chickens

Ferncliff Goat Garden

I was so inspired by the AWBU 5K that I entered a local race a couple of weeks ago.

The Great 5K Pumpkin Fun Run is a fun event that supports the Open Arms Shelter. Follow the link for more information about the shelter.

I had some great supporters walk/run with me.

pre race 2 2

pre race 1 2

Look at all the wonderful pumpkins and gourds that were available to purchase. (These pictures were taken while I was on my walk the day before the race. That is why there are no people in the pictures.)

depot

colorful pumpkins

gourds

bumpy pumpkins

white pumpkins

pumpkins

All of these beauties came from our friends’ farm.

How cute is this house of pumpkins?!

pumpkin house 2

And look who was at the event sharing fall decorating tips…

gourd garland 2

P. Allen Smith! I did say hello! Unfortunately, I looked like this…hot and sweaty!

post race 2

The kids took off and left us right off the bat and had a blast. I did actually run bits and pieces of the 5K but walked mostly. Who knows, maybe I’ll do another 5K and actually run the whole way–someday.

WomenBlogger-Main

I have tried for two days to figure out exactly how to recap all the greatness from the Arkansas Women Bloggers Unplugged conference this past weekend.  There is just so much information rolling around in my brain! I suppose I’ll have to break it into multiple posts.

First, let me tell you how I even found Arkansas Women Bloggers. A little over a year ago, as I would surf from blog to blog, I noticed many of my favorites were from Indiana, where we used to live! I saw that these bloggers were not just virtual friends but friends in real life as well.  I thought, “I wish there were some bloggers in ARKANSAS!” That day I did a search for Arkansas Women Bloggers not really expecting much. I thought I might hit on a couple of blogs where folks talked about Arkansas. I was pleasantly surprised to discover a whole network of women!

It was free, so I joined. I had just missed the group’s “Unplugged” conference in Mountain Home, AR. They were, however, going to have a blogger meet-up in Little Rock. I went to that and met some nice folks. I even blogged about it here.

Over the next year, I participated in link-up parties sponsored by ARWB as well as some of the blogging challenges. I was getting to know some of these ladies-virtually. This past weekend was the time to get to know them in real-life!

Pennant

I have to admit I was a bit nervous. I was going to a conference with 100 women and I knew zero. Once I arrived, I realized I did know some people after all. I saw some of my virtual friends and some of the ladies I had met at the Little Rock meet-up! They were all so nice and genuinely glad to see me. I even ran into some gals I had known for a minute in college as well as a lady from the church where I grew up.

Our conference was at the lovely Ferncliff Camp & Conference Center. Just being there with the trees and lake was calming in itself.

Ferncliff cross by the lake

The sessions were great. Our keynote speaker was Sophie Hudson from Boo Mama. She was a hoot! Thank you Petit Jean Meats for bringing her to the conference for us!

Boo Mama

There were lots of practical tips and advice on blogging. However, the overriding message was BE AUTHENTIC. “Don’t settle for being an imitation of someone else, ” Sophie told us.

Too often we compare our “insides” with the “outsides” of what we see on the internet.

I couldn’t help by think of a verse my friend Ginger W. had our Sunday School ladies’ group memorize more than 20 years ago.

2 Corinthians 10-12

I was very happy to get to know some of these ladies in real-life. This is truly an AUTHENTIC group of women. It starts with the leadership, though. Stephanie Buckley, the founder of ARWB, is the real deal.

Stephanie

Thank you Stephanie, and all her helpers, for a fantastic weekend.

Stay tuned for more posts about the conference.

I am a member of a group called Arkansas Women Bloggers. This week the group is hosting a challenge called BLOGtober Fest. Each day this week there is a different topic to blog about. I’ve never been part of one of these challenges, so I thought I’d give it a try. Click on the BLOGtober Fest picture to see who else is participating this week.

Today’s challenge is Fall Fashion and Decor. Well, we all know how my fashion posts turn out, so I opted for the Fall Decor.

We haven’t had the chance to go to a pumpkin patch this year. I haven’t bought any mums either. I started to get some at Lowe’s the other day, but they didn’t have the color I wanted in the size I wanted. Guess I’ll get them another day.

One of my favorite fall “pretties” is bittersweet! I don’t think I have ever seen the real deal, but I sure like the artificial.

I picked up these shutters curb-side one day. There are two more just like these on either side of my bathroom mirror. The planter was a freebie, too.

Yes, this is a fake pumpkin. I LOVE pumpkins-fake or real.

I like this little plaque. I think I like it because “y’all” is punctuated correctly!

The metal scarecrow and pumpkin are quite happy on the porch this year.

Wow! That is an ORANGE picture!

The Indian corn is actually my wreath that has gotten quite lopsided. I think it works just fine with a candle in the middle.

I love my leaf placemats–Walmart special!

On top of the entertainment cabinet is a favorite place for decorations. I went a little country this year.

Isn’t the blue tin great! My in-laws brought it back for us from one of their trips to Germany. It was full of yummy cookies!

A quilt top, covering a small accent table in the den,  hides DVDs and Wii games. Now you know.

I actually made the maple leaf quilt top. One of these days maybe I’ll actually QUILT it!  Every leaf is different. I especially like the border made from all the leaf fabrics.

This was an inexpensive decoration. The “runner” is actually two 10¢ placemats from Goodwill. The bowl is from Goodwill too. I think it was $1. Several years ago, we had a blast opening buckeyes from a nearby buckeye tree. I think they look pretty in the bowl. They are fun to play with, too.

Here is a sad little story. I bought four of these acorn plates a couple of years ago in a sale bin. Last year, I was excited to set them out with my china and crystal–kind of a country life meets city life look, I suppose. I was so happy with how they looked in the china hutch. I just wasn’t happy with how they sounded. The sweet little acorn plates toppled over, careening into the china and crystal. There was a large CRASH!  followed by the tinkling of the wedding crystal as it made its way to the floor. I had no one to blame but myself. I’m not sure what I’ll be doing with these little plates this year. Maybe we should just eat off of them!

Wheat in a decorative bucket.

I had an old punch bowl base sitting around. It worked great to give my wheat a boost.

This, however, is my FAVORITE fall decoration…

Okay, it is actually an anytime decoration. Me and my hubby on our wedding day–the weekend after Thanksgiving!

Tune in daily this week to see if I make it through the blogging challenge! Haha!

Be sure you visit the others who have taken on the challenge as well!

What is a girl to do?! Be a good blogger and go the event for bloggers she signed up to attend? or Be a good blogger and go to get some GREAT blog material?

Yes, I chose the former.

I recently signed up to be part of a blogger network called Arkansas Women Bloggers.

It turns out, shortly after I signed up, I read that the annual meet-up was going to be in Little Rock soon. I was super excited! The whole reason I signed up on the network was so I could get to know some other local bloggers.

I committed to go.

Come to find out, the meet up was going to be on the same day that Chip had to work. He wasn’t just working working. He was covering the Salsa Party his company was sponsoring with P. Allen Smith, one of our local celebrities. You may have seen him when he was on the Today Show.

So, Chip and the girls went to the Salsa party and I went to blogger party.

The blogger party was held at the Historic Arkansas Museum. The museum even gave us all a 20% discount card to use in the gift shop–which, sadly, I forgot about until later that night when I was emptying my pockets.

These are the folks who came to the event. You know that first one!

Gina Knuppenburg – http://isogina.blogspot.com
Lindsay Irvin – http://arkansasbride.com
Kelcie Huffstickler – http://thisbeautifulinheritance.com
Blair Tidwell – http://littlerockfamily.com
It was a good time, and I got to meet some really nice folks.
These ladies were our hostesses for the day. They are the ones who run Arkansas Women Bloggers. Left to right you have Fawn from Instead of the Dishes, Natalie Ghidotti from Ghidotti Communications (she was actually our guest speaker not one of the blog ladies), Stephanie from The Park Wife, and Julie from Eggs & Herbs.
I learned some great blogging tips. I hope to have time to test these out soon. Biggest tip, for blog life AND real life, be yourself! Don’t do things on your blog because you see some big-time blogger do them. Make your own footprint.
It was a fun time. I even scored some jam from The Park Wife. That will be in another post.
While I was at the meet up, the rest of the gang was at the Salsa Party. Fortunately, Chip was there to take pictures for the company.
Here are some of the highlights from their event.

You gotta have a piñata at a Salsa party!

Salsa dance instructors, Jeremiah and Mallory form Arthur Murray Dance Studio, were incredible to watch!

They even gave lessons.

Do you recognize the students?

There was even a Mariachi band! Oh, wait, maybe not.

Of course the whole reason for the party was to drum up interest in the company store. What better way than to bring in a celebrity!

P. Allen Smith talked about container gardening first.

The girls really enjoyed this part. They have their own container garden they are trying out this year. They had lots of questions.

I bet my friend, Cathy, had something to do with those Bonnie Plants! You may remember Cathy from my tomato basil soup post.

I had to put this picture in there because I liked the little flags in the background. Kristy and her crew did a great job with the decorations!

Now that everyone knows how to GROW the ingredients for salsa, they can all MAKE the salsa!

Yummy!

The recipe says to grill or roast  the tomatoes first. Interesting.

This is the recipe card that went with the salsa.

Blue Cross passed out these handy cutting mats as well.

Ah, yes, my family loves me. They know I do not care for cilantro. So, what did they do? They took a picture of it for me!

Yes, they do love me! They got me a signed copy of P. Allen Smith’s book, Seasonal Recipes from the Garden, for Mother’s Day. They are sneaky!

Mr. Smith was kind enough to pose with the company mascot, Blue Ann Ewe.

I did make it to the Salsa Party in time to see the dancers and do a little dancin’ myself.
It sure looked like a good time was had there.
We all had a great day!