Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Boomarang Diner-Van Buren

These days I often find myself in random cities for random reasons. Well, not all together random. I'm usually working with one of my staff members or volunteers talking to community members about Relay For Life. 

Being a believer in keeping it local, supporting the little man and standing by those who stand by us, I try to avoid fast foods, chains and places I can eat at home. 

Today I found myself right outside of the Van Buren Industrial Park when the stomach hunger grumbling a kicked in. We decided to saunter, in our vehicle, to old downtown and see what we could find. First option was the Boomerang Diner. None of those present had ever darkened the door, so we decided today was the day. 

Filling the old Aneheuser Busch Brewing Company building on the corner of 6th and Main is a diner that will tempt you with delights. 

They have kept true to the original motif in restoration including a long wooden bar, ornamental ceiling, tiled floor and bar railing. The chandieler that greets you upon arrival is matched only to the Crawford Countu twang in the girls voice as she told us to "sit anywhere ya like". 

While the special today, chicken fried steak sandwich basket, was being enjoyed by several industry workmen, I just couldn't pass up the opportunity for an old fashioned hamburger. The giant cup of sweet tea arrived quickly. The wait time for my burger was just long enough for me to begin imagining the stories the brick walls could tell. Especially knowing it had also been home at one point to a Cat House (yes, that's what people in the old Arkansas River Valley and old western cities that border Oklahoma called "brothels"). 

The burger did not disappoint. The uneven edges revealed, by sight, a hand made patty and the fresh veggies piled high made for a perfect crunch of homemade pleasure. The pickle-os were a perfect side for the table to share accompanied by Ranch dressing. 

My arteries will be disappointed later, because I should have spent the next hour walking the strets of their perfect little downtown full of galleries and boutiques. 

Oh well, guess there's always next time!!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Bifday Thursday {Jacqueline Wolven}

Well, we have come to the end the month of lovely guest bloggers - my birthday gift to myself.  I've loved sharing my space with these ladies that I've come to love and learning more about how they celebrate birthdays just seemed like a picture into their world

Today I bring to you one fantastically funny, cheerfully charming, ever encouraging and always heartily honest - the one and only Jacqueline Wolven.  Of course our worlds collided at that ever infamous Arkansas Women Bloggers conference last year.  I was charmed with her wit but more moved by her devious way of being so honest that you can't help but love her, and then I realized how much she cared about other people and KNOWING them and pouring into them and making the world a better place (see now you know why I love her).  I relish at any chance to hang in her presence and learn so much by listening to what she writes.  If you do not have on your favorites it now.  I'm anticipating her having her own annotated bibliography soon!


There is never a question in my mind about whether I should celebrate my birthday. I’m not going to be perpetually 19, 29 or 39. I age just like a good cheese and I’m happy about it. Face it, the teens and twenties were for heartbreak and drama; this getting older thing rocks and I want to celebrate it every single year.

This year I turn 45 and I am looking at all of the possible ways that I will celebrate it, but before I do I thought I’d share some of the awful ways I have celebrated in the past and why that won’t ever happen again.

Sweet 16 wasn’t so sweet. My dad was hospitalized for a heart attack. It ended up being nothing, but it was a shock to see him lying in the emergency room.  (Yes, I realize that he didn’t plan this little trip to the ER.) He assured me that he was fine so I went off to my evening. Yep, Rocky Horror Picture Show at the midnight showing. I was crowned virgin of the night. You know, just what every 16 year old wants on their birthday.

All grown up at 18. My parents, in true we're over it fashion, planned a vacation on my 18th birthday. I’m not sure where they went or what I did, but I am sure I pouted in true youngest child fashion!

21 was not fun.  My parents, because a repeat performance was in order, left for a cruise. I had just had my daughter and thought they would have cake or something, but instead it was time to head to Canada. Oh, not me, them.

30 was just so awful I won’t repeat it here. Really.

44 no more. I stupidly thought it would be fun to have a big event on my birthday. Dumb. I was not happy about sharing my day with a big public project. I basically had a melt down with my husband where I screamed a banshee scream. Not pretty.

I have had lovely birthdays. Birthdays with unexpected visitors, sweet home made cakes, presents that were so special I cried and I cherish those minutes, but those horrible birthdays remind me why I have to craft the day that I want. No one is going to fulfill your secret dreams for your special day. In fact, it will never work out if you keep what you really want to yourself.

Granted, my 44th was a hiccup in learning this birthday lesson, but what I have found is that I need to do what I need to do on my day. It might be a quiet afternoon with my family, a party with everyone dancing, lunch with a few girlfriends or a quick trip. I never rely on someone else to figure out what I might want… I’ve done that too many times with not great results and I will never do it again. It’s my birthday and I’ll celebrate it how I want to! I hope you do too!

You can follow all of my celebrations at and that little girl in the sailor suit, yep, that’s me!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Birfday Monday {Shay Lowe Shull}

I"m breaking the rules 'cause its my birthday and I'll do what I want to!  I'm so excited to host my friend Shay today.  I've long been thinking of a chance for my sassy, savvy, bloggy friend to invade your world and TODAY is the day.  Happy Birthday to me!  

Couple things you should know about Shay.  While the world knows her as being the big sister to this guy, she was one of my very first friends.  We have awkward pictures from our Pub staff and middle school days that we have both vowed only to use if blackmail is necessary.  She was my first prayer partner friend and we covered the gamete in some late night chats with Jesus.  Her dad is as encouraging as you think he is and has spilled that over into her life.  While we don't get to see each other any more (thank you state lines), I always know she is an email, tweet or sassy post away (but a coffee date is on my 2014 bucket list).  Add Mix and Match Mama and the whole family to your feeder...your tummy will be happy and your heart lightened!  Plus her kids are so darn cute, its hard to not check in on her every day!

Oh goodness!  I was so honored when Keisha asked me to write the post that she would feature on her birthday!  Woohoo!  I would show you a picture of Keisha and me when we were younger celebrating maybe a junior high birthday...but they're too awful to share.  Seriously.  You would laugh for days.  And days.  And more days.

Happy birthday sweet friend.  You are one of my very favorite people.  I knew way back when we were 12 that God had special plans for your life...and I have enjoyed so much over the last 20 years watching those plans unfold.  You are beautiful both inside and out.  A fighter.  A champion.  A hero.  A wonderful friend.  Happy birthday to you.  My prayer is that this year the Lord can continue to reveal himself to others through your amazing life.  Love you!


Okay...enough sappy love :).  Keisha told me to write about birthdays and well, when I think of birthdays, I think of food!  

  I love entertaining and I love celebrating birthdays.  My number one rule as a hostess, don't make recipes that are complicated.  Here are some of my other entertaining tips...

If I were making Keisha's birthday dinner tonight, here is what I would make...

Our appetizer would be my Spicy Corn Dip!

For dinner, my yummy King Ranch Casserole feeds a crowd and is easy to prepare in advance.

I'd also add in a big green salad and some chips and salsa on the side.  Easy and your guests will love it!

For dessert...
...a Pink Champagne Bundt Cake is the only way to celebrate a special birthday!

Happy birthday Keisha!  Love you so much friend!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Birfday Thursday {Debbie Arnold}

We are on week 3 of Birfday Thursday.  I've been so excited to host my friends Laurie and Rhonda and today I welcome another new friend from my new life in NWA and blogger world.  I "met" Debbie through Arkansas Women Bloggers (yes, the one where I'm playing the role of Miss April).  When Rhonda came back from the AWBU conference in 2012, I was so jealous of all the ladies she got to meet in real life and once I determined I was going to join her in 2013, I decided to start stalking following some of these amazing ladies she kept talking about.  Debbie Arnold was one such lady.  A former teacher and current home cook (among other amazing titles), I was enamored with her travels and the food discoveries she made along the way.  I not only loved looking at the recipes she was sharing, but I even more enamored with the stories that they bore.  August of 2013 came and the first person I laid eyes on once we finally arrived at "camp" was @diningwithdeb.  She was gracious, she was courteous, she had the most heart warming smile and she said "get ya a plate".  We were instantly connected.  I've adored getting to know this sweet woman over the past year.  I'm grateful for her online encouragement and the words of truth she speaks into my life.  She gives great hugs and always lifts your spirits.  And, beyond all that, she inspires me so much in this world of writing, blogging and is gifted at mentoring the rest of us who are still learning!  (must be the lifetime teacher!)
I promise you her blog will not disappoint, her recipes will please your family and her stories will warm your heart!
If it’s April, It Must Be a Birthday

By Debbie Arnold of DiningWithDebbie

My family broke the record when it came to April birthdays.  There’s my crazy cousin Libby (don’t worry; I call her that to her face), Uncle Raymond, Libby’s dad, 

and  my niece Tonia;

Oh and there’s Ryan, and Seth, and Kyle – all brothers whose mother just happens to be crazy-you-know-who.

My mom whose birthday fell on April 15, tax day, bless her heart. 

Uncles who live around the world in places like Guam and  Australia that you’ve mostly never met except to exchange  birthday greetings.  They  may seem like strangers, but they’re not.  They’re family.  Nothing breaks those ties that bind  here in the South.
Let’s not forget Cousin Chaz’s hubby Nick and their daughter --- they belong in April as well.

Those cousins twice and triple removed and far too numerous to mention lest you get slap-dab bored and leave before I get around to the real birthday story.

You see, my dad turned 90 years old on April 12.  Yes, ninety.  The big Nine O.  In my mind, that’s a pretty big deal.  And a reason to celebrate. Really.

My dad is the oldest son, the third child of seven, and is one of two still living. When he quit school in the 8th grade it was to go to work and join the Army and become a man.  He’s. a veteran two times over, most of which he won’t talk about even to this day.  Many who know him would say he’s a self-educated man.   He’s loyal and faithful and honest and he loves his family.   For the most part, he survived, relatively unscathed, the tribulations of raising two daughters born five years apart which, of course, means puberty hung around our household for quite a long time.

The two granddaughters and one grandson introduced four great grandsons and one great granddaughter into his life, most of whom came to help him celebrate his special day.  What made it even more special was that he shared his celebration with his great granddaughter, my granddaughter,  who is another of those April birthday babies.  Only she’s turning seven, not double-digit ninety --- a span of 83 years made incredibly small by the bond of family.

Perfect Girl. is as absolutely sweet and genuine and caring as they come.  When asked, she’ll tell you that she wants to be a mommy and a cheerleader. She leaves most  sports to her big brother whom she adores, although she’ll take you on at tennis or swimming any day. She’ll entertain you with violin or piano recitals and meet any challenge given to her in gymnastics.  Curly headed like her momma and Nana, she sometimes prefers pigtails over bows and is just fine with that.  PG doesn’t get to spend much time with her great grandfather.  The distance between and the demands of what just is makes it a two to three times a year encounter.  And when you’re 6, the grasping of all that lineage, who is who, and how they came to be family, is just not something to be understood or remembered.  Except you can just know that it’s family, and that it is important for you to know that.

So because her great grandfather was turning 90, and not because it was her birthday as well, she came to celebrate.  She came to craft birthday cards, to set the tables, to align the forks and plates just so, to fill the cups with ice or center the plates of food properly on the serving tables as only she can do.  To help because being helpful is something she enjoys

And she came to take her great grandfather by the hand and help him cut his birthday cake because birthday cakes are very important.  When you’re 6 or even when you’re 90, they’re important.  And they are even more important when you get to pick the color (pink, of course) and the flavor (strawberry, of course) with real chocolate-covered fruit (strawberries, of course) because you just know in your heart of hearts that pink and strawberry are absolutely what Pa wants for HIS birthday cake.  And, as usual, she was right.  Pa, had he been given the choice, would have most certainly made those very same choices.
Because, well because.  That’s what families do when they come together across the miles of time and space to share in celebrations of lives well spent and lives becoming.  It’s what is important whether you’re 90 or 7.  It’s a hug and a smile and a knowing that you are loved.  

Instagram (diningwithdebbie)

I get to spend part of my birthday weekend with my Papa.  I think I might hug him a little harder after this one!  Thank you Debbie

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Birfday Thursday {Rhonda Bramell}

Second week of Birfday Thursday, I'm hosting my gal pal Rhonda.  When I tell you this gal is funny, I'm not using my usual means of sarcasm.  Rhonda was one of my first northwest Arkansas friends.  We worked together when I first moved here and she quickly reached out to me in the way only a kindhearted, concerned person can.  She spoke early truth to me, taught me the importance of setting boundaries, then she started telling me stories and our friendship has never turned back.  She is the kind of friend that lets you show up unannounced on a Friday night and invites you in to her back yard cook out.  She is the kind of friend who lets you pour too much coolants down her car pipes when your stranded in her mini van on the side of the road.  She is the kind of friend that lets you do the ugly cry at her desk and kindly offers a Kleenex and she is the kind of friend who lets you love on her zany babies when you need a kid fix! 

I promise if you will make Bramell, Party of Five a regular "drop by" to your week, you will be sending me flowers and Sonic gift cards in no time!

Birthdays: The First Ones are the Best

Hi, I’m Rhonda!  I live in Springdale and blog over at Bramell, Party of Five  where I chronicle all the crazy that goes on in my household.  I have a really bad memory, and no time for making cutesy baby books, so my blog helps me with both of those things.  I have a first grader (Big Sis) and a set of mischievous twins (Boy/Girl Twin) to wrangle.   I’m excited to share a few of our birthday memories with you in honor of KP’s big birthday month.
When I was growing up, birthdays weren’t really a big deal in our house.  Of course, there were the huge milestone ones with big parties and gifts, but for the most part, we were a “card and favorite dinner” kind of family.  And I never really thought much about it.  Fast forward to having my own kids.  Oh dear! With my three, we are constantly talking about birthdays---where to have a party, who will come, what gifts they want—it’s a year-round obsession.
I have to say that my favorite birthdays with each of my kids were the first.  There is just something you cannot explain about seeing that little angel face looking very puzzled at the cake in front of them, right before diving head-first into it.  Here are some photos of my kids’ first birthdays, which we celebrated at home each time.  It was nice, small and easy.  And it’s probably the only time it will be that way.
Now, I don’t want to deprive my kiddos of any birthday experiences, but I also need to keep things manageable.   In our family of five, our birthdays all fall back to back—May, June, July and August.  That makes for a busy (and potentially expensive) summer.  Up to this point, we’ve been able to have one party for all three kids to share and it’s worked beautifully, especially since the families we invite usually have kids that fall into both the age groups.  The way I see it, I’m saving us all the trouble of going to an additional party!

Really, it doesn’t matter if you do birthdays in a big or small way; just do it the way that works best for you.  Take time to enjoy the day with friends and family, or do something nice for yourself.  And, if you have little ones, I hope the first birthdays provide you with the kind of happy memories and a full heart like mine did for me.

About Me:

I live in Northwest Arkansas with my husband and three kiddos. I work full-time in retail marketing.  In my spare time, I write at Bramell, Party of Five (link:, where I’ve been blogging for seven years.   Life with twins + 1 is a crazy, busy life but definitely provides me with lots of creative inspiration.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Birfday Thursday {Laurie Marshall}

I'm starting my Birfday Thursday April celebration with my new friend Laurie.  I met Laurie through another awesome friend you will get to meet next week.  But, Laurie hates cancer too and was an awesome champion for us last summer when we enrolled over 250 folks in Northwest Arkansas in our Cancer Prevention Study-3.  She is a cool mom, super creative, very giving and somewhere in the midst of all that seems to always have herself pulled together and her beautiful red curls tamed to perfection. 

See Laurie write....about birthdays!

When I turned thirteen my step-mom turned the birthday celebration up a few notches to celebrate my entrance into my teen years. In addition to the standard cake and ice cream, I received a satchel packed with gifts wrapped in tin-foil, and labeled with a tag that said “Teenage Survival Kit”. The tin-foil hid Clearasil, a Seventeen magazine, and assorted other accoutrements of girls in their teens (in the 70s). There was also a note with instructions leading to a full-length mirror. 

It seems silly to think back on that kit now, but let me tell you, that full-length mirror was awesome! This was pre-cell phone, pre-computer, pre-pretty-much-every-thing-13-year-olds-have-today. No cell-phone cases or iTunes gift cards… no video games or mani-pedi treats. It was harsh. 

(by the time I was 15, I was pretending that
birthdays really didn't matter. Silly teenager.)
When my brother was preparing for his daughter’s 13th last fall, he asked for advice from me and my sister, and I told him about the kit. But things are sooooooo different in 2013 compared with 1978. OMG. (For one thing, no one spoke in acronyms.)

I listed the things I could remember from the kit, and one by one they were all deemed to be anti-climactic to a 13-year-old girl living in today’s world. Clearasil has been replaced by Proactiv, and girls have been caring for their faces since elementary school. My mom bought me my FIRST MAKEUP for my 13th birthday. My niece, on the other hand, has been wearing makeup since she was nine or ten. Next.

Seventeen magazine is not the magazine I used to read. When I received that copy for my birthday, Brooke Shields was on the cover, and there was a fashion spread full of models wearing cute, age-appropriate clothing while roller-skating. Today’s Seventeen is definitely more appropriate for girls who are actually 17. Or 21. (And here is where I begin to feel like an old lady.)

Full length mirror? Pssshhhh. Again, she’s had one for years. Next.

My sister and I finally did give my brother some appropriate and, I hope, creative ideas for a 13-year-old of 2014. Probably, my sister did a better job. Thinking about how times have changed definitely set me back on my heels a bit. My sister wasn’t even born yet when I turned 13, so she missed the late 70s. They were good years – apart from the unfortunate truth that was naturally curly hair pre-Aussie Sprunch Spray. (Thank god it came along in the next decade so I could have a relatively enjoyable early-20s.) 

My birthdays today are not quite as anticipated, nor are they elaborately celebrated. A nice dinner out, a movie that I get to pick, a few cards from friends and family, and Country Living has replaced Seventeen for my evening reading material… And that’s just fine with me. I chalk it up to being old enough to appreciate the days as they come and to avoid spectacles. Or maybe I don’t want to know what’s in the “Over the Hill Survival Kit”. 

Make sure you check out Laurie's blog - See Laurie Write - Facebook and Twitter.  Her wit and wisdom will keep you inspired!  And, if you ever need a great freelance writer or someone to work with on some creative brainstorming with, holler at your girl! 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

wordless weekend {kate was here}

Make sure you come back by tomorrow to meet the first of my Birfday Thursday guests!!!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

It's April, I'm a fool

Its April, one of my favorite months of the year. 

It's the month of my birth!

Its the month of my cancer diagnosis anniversary.

The flowers finally bloom.

Snow is usually over with.

My calendar gets really busy with lots of fun things.

Relay For Life season kicks off !  (tis the season means something totally different in my book)

And this year....well, you will just have to wait until later in the day for that one.  Make sure you watch twitter. 

To help me celebrate all these awesome things, I've invited some of my favorite bloggy friends (and yes I even know all of them in real life) to stop by every week for what I'm calling "Birfday Thursday".  So, every Thursday this month (and even a bonus Monday treat), you will get to meet one of the ladies that I admire in bloggy world and enjoy spending time with in real life!  Double Bonus!!!!  They are funny, good cooks, creative, hate cancer and are super witty.  All the good basis for a great friendship!

So, stick around, stop by....if for no other reason on Thursday's just to meet them.

Oh and I'm not in to practical jokes, so be nice today!

Don't be a fool!

And, if you really have something mischievous up your sleeve, we have a war going on with the LSU Relay For Life - we are trying to beat them in income this week.  you are welcome to help me with the Beat Down!

Keisha's U of A Relay For Life Donation page