Arkansas’ Summer Fun Place

Lazy River at Wild River Country

This is a sponsored post by Wild River Country. All reviews and opinions expressed in this post are based on my personal view.

As a new teacher, I’ve relished in my first summer break since I was in college (long, long ago). My kids and I have just been hanging out, having playdates, visiting family, and enjoying lots of pool time. So for my last week of freedom (my school starts mid-July), we decided to go to Wild River Country again. Quinn, Maya, Lucy (Maya’s friend) and I hurried out the door, and we were the first in line to get in when the gates opened at 10 a.m.

Wave Pool at Wild River Country Continue reading “Arkansas’ Summer Fun Place”

Sounds of Summer

playing in wave pool

This is a sponsored post by Wild River Country. All reviews and opinions expressed in this post are based on my personal view.

child playing in poolWhat does summer sound like to you?

  • Crickets chirping while you camp under the stars?
  • A boat motoring across the lake?
  • The beeps and booms of video games?
  • The crunching of grass and rocks under your feet as you hike a state park?

Continue reading “Sounds of Summer”

Hot Chocolate, Christmas Lights and Making a Difference

peppermint hot chocolate

FTC disclosure: This post is sponsored by McDonald’s of Central Arkansas. I am one of their brand ambassadors, but all opinions here are my own.

It’s December: my favorite time of the year. I’m not sure if it’s the holiday lights, the upcoming days off from school and work, or the chill in the air, but everyone seems lighter, happier, jollier.

It’s cold nights like we’ve had recently when I feel like bundling up the kiddos and heading out to see all the Christmas lights and decorations around town, so that’s exactly what we did the other night. I surprised them all with a “Grab your heaviest coats, kids, and get in the car for a big surprise!” They obliged with only a few grumbles. Those grumbles soon turned into smiles as we drove through our neighborhood McDonald’s drive-thru for Peppermint Hot Chocolates for everyone. (A small one is only $2.) Then with warm “December in a cup”, we drove to the “Inflatables House” just a few miles away. hot chocolate and Christmas

The “Inflatables House” is a North Little Rock Christmas institution. I’m not sure how many years this family has done it, but it’s huge. Even Little Rockians (who think crossing the river to North Little Rock is worse than a trip to the dentist) will come to see this spectacle of Christmas blow-ups, decorations and lights. The owner of the house sits out at his curb dressed as Santa handing out candy canes to all who come. (Donations are welcome, but not required.) My kids and I sipped our Peppermint Hot Chocolate from McDonald’s as we wondered around the maze of inflatables taking in all the details that this family puts into their annual display. It’s really a sight to behold. peppermint hot chocolate

Another awesome tradition around this holiday season is how people are more willing to give back. McDonald’s does this, and not just in December. Through their Values in Action program, McDonald’s is on a journey towards good. They are committed to doing the right thing – from making quality food to being good stewards of our planet. It’s important to them, and as a parent, it really makes me feel better about being a loyal customer and feeding my children there.values in action

Here are just a few of the ways McDonald’s is making a difference:

Sustainability Priorities values in action

Nutritious Food Choices

Responsible Food Sourcing

Positive Impacts for the Planet

Investing in their Employees

Giving Back to the Community

I wish all my readers a glorious Christmas season. Take time to be present with your family – especially your children. They grow up so fast, and these memories you make now will hold a special place in their hearts for years to come. And find a way to give back to your community. There are many worthy organizations making a difference in your community. They need you.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!



Quinn’s Birthday Party at McDonald’s

Ronald McDonald

FTC disclosure: This post is sponsored by McDonald’s of Central Arkansas. I am one of their brand ambassadors, but all opinions here are my own.

Birthday parties are so much fun for kids. They really lose their minds over bounce houses, presents and cupcakes. But it’s a whole different kind of crazy for mommas…especially now in the world of Pinterest-inspired birthday parties. My good friend Carol creates the most enviable birthday parties ever. I would love to throw my daughters beautifully-themed princess parties complete with homemade tiaras and a horse drawn carriage ride around the neighborhood, but I honestly do not have the time, the money, nor the inclination.

birthday girlFor Quinn’s 2nd birthday party this year, I outsourced it all to my friends at McDonald’s in North Little Rock. The Indian Hills McDonald’s has a separate playroom for the kids, and we reserved the whole thing for a couple of hours. The wonderful McDonald’s staff decorated the room for us and provided the cake and goodie bags. All I had to do was invite a few friends and family, show up with my brood and order lunch for everyone (because McDonald’s fries and nuggets are so incredibly yummy AND is was lunchtime).

But the pièce de résistance was Ronald McDonald himself there for the entire party! Quinn met Ronald at the grand opening of the new McDonald’s location on McCain Boulevard back in July, and she was completely enamored. At her party, Ronald greeted the kids as they entered the playroom and interacted with them all. Then he put on a 30 minute magic show that even boggled the mind of my 17-year-old who is a wanna-be magician herself. I have to hand it to Ronald McDonald; the clown knows how to keep the attention of kids of all ages. His show was fantastic — even the adults enjoyed it.Ronald McDonald

Ronald McDonald show

Ronald McDonald

I couldn’t have asked for an easier birthday party set up. Life has been super busy lately, so this really did take a huge burden off my shoulders, and I am so appreciative of the McDonald’s crew. Quinn and the other children laughed and played and ate cake. I mean, what more could you want? Plus I didn’t have to clean up my house afterwards!birthday cake

McDonald’s has their parties down to a science. If you want to have a stress-free birthday party for your child, just talk to the manager of your neighborhood McDonald’s. You can use this handy-dandy Restaurant Locator to find one near you with a PlayPlace.Ronald McDonald


Working Remotely at McDonald’s

FTC disclosure: This post is sponsored by McDonald’s of Central Arkansas. I am one of their brand ambassadors, but all opinions here are my own.

My husband and I both work remotely at least one day a week, and we both love it. It’s nice to have lunch together and catch up sans kids between phone calls, reports and emails.

According to Gallup, the average worker telecommutes (works remotely) two days per month. And although telecommuting is on the rise, it “remains much more the exception than the rule.”

That will probably change in the near future as millennials value FLEXIBILITY as the number one reason they’re attracted to a workplace.

With younger workers being fully aware that you can email or call someone from anywhere, the idea of working differently becomes “a criterion that people are expressly looking for before they’ll sign on the dotted line,” says Adam Kingl, director or learning solutions at the London Business School.

“I believe that 50% of the workforce will be working remotely half the time,” says Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of FlexJobs.

remote work at McDonald's

My work-from-home day is my favorite day of the workweek. But sometimes I just want to get out of the house and work from another location for a bit. The newly-opened McDonald’s on McCain Boulevard in North Little Rock is my new go-to spot. Not only is it new, modern and clean, they have free wifi and excellent coffee! I can take my laptop or iPad and get right to work.


This new McDonald’s is really nice. I love the design and lighting. I had the opportunity to tour the whole place the day before it opened. It was really neat to see the equipment behind the scenes. Plus I got to make my own McFlurry with Oreo Cookies and McCafe Mango Pineapple Smoothie.  It was so much fun!

My seven year old, Maya, was with me, and she has already decided that she wants to work here when she is turns 16. (She probably thinks that McDonald’s employees get free ice cream all day long.)

ice cream at McDonald's
My toddler enjoying a McFlurry

The McCain McDonald’s also has two drive-thru lanes that speed up service tremendously. But you really do need to see the inside of this location for yourself. And if you see me sitting in the corner with my face stuck in a stack of papers or on the computer, please stop by and say hello.


7 Ways Whites Can Contribute to #BlackLivesMatter

Last week just sucked. It’s a tumultuous time in our nation. Innocent lives have taken too soon by gun violence. People died at the hands of police, as well as the hands of the deranged. It all can seem just hopeless.

But I will not give up hope. I will not back down. It is now, in this moment, that I have chosen to stand up against injustice. I’m not sure what I’m doing all the time, but I am moving forward.

My letter to the mayor of my city is bringing forth fruit. We have a meeting tomorrow night at city hall with the mayor, the police chief and a local congressman. It’s an open meeting, so I hope to see a good showing of concerned citizens who are ready to put our differences aside and find the common good.

But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!  Amos 5:24

I have a few suggestions for my white friends who feel unsure about how they can contribute to the #BlackLivesMatter movement or who just want to see more peace in their community between them and their black and brown neighbors.

  1. Admit your white privilege.
  2. Examine your life. Do you “do life” with people who don’t look like you? Do you have people of color over to your house for dinner?
  3. Think about the subtle messages you send to your children. Do books and toys in your house reflect diverse populations or are all the dolls white? Do your children feel free to invite a black or brown friend over to play?
  4. Get involved with your local government. Study the policing policies in your city. Do officers in your city undergo consistent racial bias training? Does your local police department require officers to use minimal force and de-escalation tactics? If not, let them know that these things are important to you.
  5. Get to know your local police officers. Let them know that you care about their safety AND that you care about the safety of black and brown people too. NLRPD
  6. VOTE. And don’t just vote along party lines like you normally do. Really look at the candidates and what their stance is on these issues. Here’s a handy-dandy candidate tracker from Campaign Zero.
  7. PRAY. Pray your eyes will be opened to injustice around you. Pray for wisdom. And pray against the true enemy, Satan. We are obviously under a spiritual attack in this country. Satan loves to see us divided and killing each other. But he will not win. I’ve read the end of the story!

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Eph 6:12

I certainly am not an expert in the matters of social justice or the black experience. But as a white woman married to a black man and mom to four black daughters, I have learned a few things along the way. I hope these suggestions help you.

UPDATE: Here is a podcast from Tim Wise that speaks perfectly to this subject:

Tim Wise on “Breaking Through” (w/Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner) 7/11/16: Discussion on White Anti-Racism


Please offer up more suggestions in the comments. (Keep it positive. Obscene or racist comments will be blocked.)

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State of the Art McDonald’s Coming to North Little Rock

FTC disclosure: This post is sponsored by McDonald’s of Central Arkansas. I am one of their brand ambassadors, erectile but all opinions here are my own.

If you are around the McCain Mall area of North Little Rock, buy information pills you might have noticed that the McDonald’s at 4008 McCain Boulevard is closed for construction. Last week, look I had a chance to visit with Nicole DiMichele, owner/operator of this location, about plans for the new store. Nicole and her dad own the McCain location and five other McDonald’s in the area, and she is super excited about what’s coming in July.

McDonald's on McCain

“It’s going to be beautiful with an upscale interior décor; a comfortable ambiance. There will be TVs in the lobby and digital menu boards. I can’t wait for the customers to see it,” exclaims Nicole.

McDonald's on McCain

The new store will open in mid-July, and it’ll be the biggest McDonald’s restaurant in the Little Rock area. It will have a dual lane drive thru and three drive thru windows. That will increase the per hour drive thru capacity by about 30 percent. Two new signs will be installed with LED lights. The parking lot will also be bigger since they took over some grass space from the bank next door.

Inside the restaurant, the front counter will have two interactive computers. The inside color scheme will be pretty earth tones of greens and browns with a few splashes of red.

McDonald's on McCain

“The customers that have been coming to the store for years are going to be so happy. They are used to visiting this restaurant which is 41 years old – and now to this brand new, state of the art, latest and greatest! I can’t wait to hear what the customers have to say.”

Nicole told me that corporate McDonald’s gives her a few different choices, themes and styles to choose from, and she can customize it from there following corporate guidelines.

“This one is going to be special,” beams Nicole.

During the construction, the McCain store employees were transferred to other locations. When this store reopens, those employees can stay where they are or come back to the McCain location.


McDonald’s on McCain Blvd is HIRING!

DiMichele said that they will have a huge hiring day on June 9 at the JFK McDonald’s (7101 JFK Blvd, NLR). All smiling faces can apply! The hiring event will be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with open interviews: come in and fill out an application, with on the spot hiring. They will hire for all positions.

Nicole says that they have big things planned for the grand opening party – stay tuned!

Little Rock Staycation

For New Year’s Eve, information pills my husband Anthony and I did something different: a DAY-LONG DATE DAY. I copied the idea from my brother Rob and his wife Ines. They recently did a day-long date day for their wedding anniversary. They played tourist around their own city. I thought that was a splendid idea, stomatology and Anthony and I needed some quality time away from the kids anyway.

I got a BUNCH of great ideas from friends on interesting places to go and yummy places to eat around Little Rock and North Little Rock. Here are some of the suggestions given to us:

Breakfast / Brunch options:

The Root
One Eleven at the Capital
Del Frisco
1620 Savoy  
Red Door
Mylo Coffee Co.
BJ’s Market Café
I decIMG_3222ided on Leo’s Greek Castle for breakfast. I had the Greek omelet, and it was devine with juicy portions of lamb throughout. Anthony had the eggs, bacon and pancakes. The coffee was really good too. Luckily we got there early (before 8:30 a.m.) because the place filled up fast (especially for a Thursday) and there was a line of people waiting to be seated when we left.

Things to do / see:

Esse Purse Museum
Green Corner Store soda fountain
Historic Arkansas Museum
Old State House
Tour of local breweries
Central Arkansas Escape Rooms
Segway of Arkansas
Museum of Discovery: Science After Dark
Heifer Village

Our first stop was the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site which is open daily 9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Monday – Sunday throughout the year except New Year’s Day. They were closing early at 2:30 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, the day we were there, but we arrived in plenty of time to watch the short film and take in all the exhibits. Bonus: this is a totally FREE national park! Little Rock Central High MuseumLittle Rock Central High MuseumLittle Rock Central High MuseumI loved this museum and will take my daughters there very soon. Heaven knows we still have a long way to go to cure racism in this country. Learning where we’ve been and what those before us went through is a step in the right direction. This museum is a must-see in Little Rock!

Our next stop was the Clinton Presidential Park Bridge. This bridge is special to me and Anthony because it’s where we had our first real kiss (cue the romantic soundtrack) back in 2012. Today the river was at moderate flood stage and due to crest over the next couple of days. It was wild and exciting and scary all at the same time. And the view of downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock is absolutely beautiful from up there. Arkansas River, Clinton BridgeClinton Presidential Park Bridge

After the bridge, we went home to warm up and have a light lunch. I took a nap — my favorite indulgence. Afterwards, we got ready for our New Year’s Eve dinner date. I had three dresses sent from Rent the Runway and tried them each on to make my final selection. You can read more about my Rent the Runway experience here.Stacey and Anthony Valley

For dinner we had reservations at Good Food by Ferneau. The meal was fantastic, and you can read my review hereIMG_3278

After dinner we went to a friend’s house for a NYE party.

It was a great day just hanging out with my hubby. And our city has so much to offer. I can’t wait until our next staycation. Any suggestions on places we should go?


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Argenta Farmer’s Market Opens 2014 Season

photo 1(20)The Argenta Farmer’s Market opened today for the 2014 season. I’ve been looking forward to this day all winter long, see so I indulged and bought a little bit of everything. They even had live musical entertainment.

photo 2(20)Wheatgrass from Arkaponics
photo 3(12)
Local Honey from K-Bee Apiaries
photo 5(7)Flowers
photo 4(11)Jellies Martin Family Farm. I got the Dandelion and Rosemary Peach.
photo 4(10)Crafts from Garage Sale Queen of North Little Rock
photo 5(6)Black bean hummus and jalapeno & cheese hummus from Geek Eats of North Little Rock
photo 3(11)Local made cheeses from Kent Walker Artisan Cheese
photo 1(19)I got the garlic montasio cheese. Expensive, ambulance but worth it!
photo 2(19)Barbara from Scott Heritage Farms. I belong to her CSA.
photo 5(5)I bought some beautiful leaf lettuce from Barnhill Orchards.

photo 1(18)Soap from Whole Harvest Farm in Cabot
photo 4(8)Bread from Arkansas Fresh Bakery
photo 2(17)
photo 3(9)All-natural dog treat from BARKansas Bakery of Jacksonville
photo 1(17)Here’s all my bounty from today’s trip to Argenta Farmer’s Market: two loaves of bread, drugs a dozen eggs, a whole chicken, lettuce, hummus, two jellies, cheese and honey.
photo 5(4)

The Argenta Farmer’s Market is open Saturday’s 7 a.m. til noon in downtown North Little Rock.