Monday, April 29, 2013

More Walking in the Woods! Table Rock Lakeshore Trail

Yesterday was sunny and 72 degrees, so I absolutely had to get out of the house. I actually set out with the plan to check out the trails on Fall Creek Road, but on my way towards Branson I passed a sign indicating seven miles to State Park Marina, and was drawn to go do the trail there instead. Split second change of plans!

I used to go out on this trail quite a bit when I lived in Branson many years ago. I also used to hang out here with friends when I was in high school. We'd sit on the rocks down by the water until like 4 a.m. (Such rebels, when the sign clearly stated no admittance after 10 p.m.! Oooh, ahh.) It's probably been at least seven years since I've been, though! The trail and accompanying Dewey Short Visitor Center were seriously screwed up by the flooding a few years ago, and they've recently rebuilt the whole thing. I was curious to see the brand new visitor center and check out the updates to the trail.

There's a PDF map of the trail here! I was so happy to find a map online that I could check out before setting out. (This map does seem to be a bit out of date, since some of the marked rest areas weren't there, and I know they're doing maintenance in certain areas.) My plan for this first time out was to just do the first section of the trail from the Visitor Center to the Showboat and then turn around, since that would be a 1.2 mile round trip. I ended up doing quite a bit more than that, though. I'm so used to rougher trails that a mile on a mostly flat, paved trail just flies by!

As usual, the photos in this post are a mix of pictures taken with my regular camera and my phone, so quality isn't awesome. (I also tend to snap pictures without pausing my walk when I'm on a trail, so pretty much none of these are great.)

I started out by visiting the newly built visitor center. The building itself is gorgeous and modern, and has some great overlooks towards the lake and dam, but the exhibits inside are really lacking compared to the old one. Hopefully it will improve over time?

Stole this pic from their website because I neglected to take any photos of the actual building. This is the back of the building, which faces the dam.

The landscape has changed a little over the years, but this is about where I used to sit with friends like I mentioned above. (You can tell I'm the 5th child in my family by the fact that my parents never said anything about me being out till like 4 a.m. at age 16.)

On the lower level of the visitor center, there's a giant map of the lake built into the floor. I'm approximately standing on my house here. (I think.)

The actual start of the trail is about 2/10 mile from the visitor center, near the Army Corps of Engineers office building. There's a restroom with water fountains there, as well as this handy sign.

At first, I was a little put off by how open and flat and paved the trail was. I'm not a fan of paved trails in general, I prefer dirt and rocks and maybe a little mud. It's just more fun. (Although I'll take paved over sand or wood chips any day!) I missed the more closed-in trail that used to be here when I visited several years ago; I just like that feeling of being surrounded by the trees in a cozy way. After a while, though, I got used to it and was even able to appreciate the change of pace. I still prefer trails where I'm climbing over things and such, but this was fun for a change. (It was also WAY more busy than I'm used to! On most of the trails I visit, I see around one other person/couple/group per hour. Here I was seeing people every 5-10 minutes!)

This tree looooooves you!  I'm surprised nobody has carved their initials in there yet.

As I mentioned above, my original plan was to do the .6 miles to the Showboat Branson Belle parking lot, and then turn around and head back. What I didn't anticipate was that doing that section of trail only took me about 10 minutes! I've gotten so used to the rougher trails where doing a mile takes me an entire hour that it didn't even occur to me how much quicker I'd cover ground on a trail like this! It seemed silly to drive all the way out here for a 20 minute walk, so I decided to just continue on until I felt like turning back.

What followed was my least favorite part of the trail: crossing the Showboat parking lot. There are painted lines that lead you to where the trail goes back into the woods on the other side, but there's just something icky-feeling about being in a crowded, busy parking area (at least when I was there- people were arriving for the afternoon cruise. It was also a little awkward to be passing by people all dressed up for a dinner show when I was sweaty in workout clothes.) when you've been in the quiet, beautiful woods. Luckily it's only about two tenths of a mile across, and then you're back among the trees. 

Yay, trees!

Eventually, I came to this spot where the trail was sent on a detour through yet another parking lot. I decided that this seemed like a decent spot to turn around, since I had no idea how far I'd traveled and I didn't want to end up walking all the way to the marina and then being too tired to enjoy the walk back! This ended up being a great turn around spot, since it made my walk just a little over an hour.

Since only one of the benches on the map actually existed (and no other rest areas), I was looking for a spot to sit and sip some water for a minute on the walk back. I ended up detouring off the trail a little to follow this boat slip road to the lake. I found a decent sized rock and sat to soak up the sun for a few minutes.

I also took this little video clip with my phone because I'm so in love with the sound of waves.

I do plan to go back and do the other half of this trail sometime soon. Like I said, the whole flat, paved, lots of people thing isn't quite my favorite, but it was surprisingly fun as a change of pace and the scenery is gorgeous. It's not the kind of trail that I can hit when I'm in the mood to sit somewhere quiet to write, but there is something kind of satisfying at being able to look at a map and see how much ground I covered, since I'm so used to trails that call for moving much slower.

According to Google Maps, I ended up doing about 2.6 miles all together. I've mostly been doing trails that are around a mile lately, but those have been much more rugged. I have to say, doing two and a half miles of mostly flat, paved trail felt like almost nothing in comparison! I love that next time I go out, I can just park exactly where I stopped this time and do the other half that continues on down to the marina. Love trails with multiple entry points! (That sounds dirty.) My only wish was that there was some kind of shuttle that could take you between the marina and the visitor center, so that people could do the full length of the trail without necessarily having to turn around and do the whole thing in reverse to get back to their car!

So, here's the awesome thing about doing a trail that's near something else. When I finished the trail, I was able to cross the parking lot back to the visitor center and plop down on one of these surprisingly comfy benches behind the building. They're below the overlook deck so it's nice and shady, but the really awesome thing is that the building has wifi, so I got to whip out my phone to catch up on email and Twitter while I sipped some water and cooled off. This was SO much nicer than going straight from the trail to a hot car!

Since there are basically no photos of me in this post, enjoy this amazingly high quality self portrait taken in one of the visitor center windows. You can't tell, but I'm wearing that dragonfly shirt that I made last year, my Ellie capris from February, my beloved Ahnu trail shoes (They don't seem to sell this exact style anymore, but they're very similar to these. Highly recommended!), and some spectacular pink faux Wayfarers that I got at Target for a buck. 

Overall, a very solid use of a Sunday afternoon.

Movie Night In!

Let's face it, we can all use a night at home on the couch with some food and one of our favorite people (or a cat) now and then. Although I love watching a new movie, I tend to gravitate towards old favorites when I want a night to just chill, since I feel more free to zone out a little or multitask instead of totally investing myself in the story.

Warner Brothers is celebrating 90 years by releasing a 100 film "Best Of" dvd collection that looks pretty frickin' awesome! It includes some of my classic favorites like Casablanca and Singin' In the Rain, as well as more current favorites like the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

In honor of Mother's Day, they've put together the fun little app above with the suggestion that watching a movie from another era together is a great way to bond with your mom (or anyone!). To add to the movie night fun, they're giving one of my readers a Blu-Ray of a great classic movie! The winner will receive either A Star is Born (1976) or Cabaret (1972). Enter using the Rafflecopter widget below! All entries are optional, so you can do as many or few as you please. (Please note- the sponsor will pick one of the two movies listed above at random.) This giveaway is open to US only, and will accept entries until 11:59 pm Eastern on May 12, 2013.

Cabaret (Blu-ray Book) Blu-rayStar Is Born, A (1976) (BD Book) Blu-ray

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Branson Waterfall Trail Adventures

This time of year is pretty much my favorite for outdoorsy things. It's been in the low 70s, so I know I won't be freezing, but I can also be fairly certain I won't die of heat exhaustion. I've been craving some hiking trail time lately since I've been in a bit of a creative funk (as well as a kind of weird mood in general). Seriously, if you're short on inspiration, a good walk somewhere quiet and beautiful can work wonders, especially if you spend as much time at home in front of a computer screen as I do.

While running some errands in Branson last month, I noticed a sign at an intersection that read "Parking for Waterfall Trail" with an arrow. Waterfall trail? I thought I knew all of the fun outdoorsy places for a walk in the woods in this town! I came home, did some research, and found that there's a trail that begins near the Westgate Branson Woods Resort, just off of Shepherd of the Hills Expressway. It was created less than a year ago, which I guess explains why I never knew about it. Almost every site I found listed a different length, but it seems to be somewhere close to 1.5 miles round trip.

I've been out on this trail twice so far (the first time I didn't have enough time to do the full thing), so the photos below are a compilation from both days. They're also a mix of regular camera and cell phone pics, so the quality isn't always great, but at least you get the idea. Also, I have NO idea why photos are refusing to center align. I even had my handsome web designer friend peek at my CSS and he ended up a bit stumped, too. The solution is probably a redesign, but ain't nobody got time for that. Until then, sorry that every-frickin'-thing is aligned left. I know it's not as aesthetically pleasing, but it's easier. 

Anyway! The trail. There are a couple of parking spaces set up for trail users so that you don't have to go through the security gate at the resort. If you're familiar with the old charcoal plant, the parking is on the same road.

I snapped this from the parking spot. The trail begins between the two telephone poles on the left. 

I was impressed by all the signage!

The first section of the trail is open and airy. (I stopped to pose for a pic with that flowering tree, but was attacked by bees. Oops.)

Soon, the trail dips down a hill towards the creek. It was fairly warm both days I went out, so I was pretty happy to discover that once I was down by the water, the temperature dropped several degrees. 

Not sure what's wrong with these leaves, but they're rad. 

I considered recreating a "Dirty Dancing" moment on this tree across the stream of water.

Again, love all the signs! Basically anywhere that there could possibly be confusion, there was a sign or marker to point you the right way.

First water crossing! You can either try to balance on those rocks down at the lower left, or just plunge in and get your shoes wet.  I tended to just hop in the water since it's fairly shallow and my trail shoes are waterproof.

I love this little trail marker, but this is the only one I spotted along the way. They either haven't put many up yet, they need to be more visible, or I'm way too busy thinking about things to notice them.

Trees: I like them.

For pretty much the entire trail, you have the creek/stream/whatever it is to one side, and this large rocky hill on the other. It's kind of reassuring to know that if you happen to lose the trail, you can at least know if you're going the right direction.

Aforementioned stream/creek/body of water. 

Best bridge ever? Yep, pretty much. I'm not sure what compelled someone to build this majestic creation over this squishy bit of trail (and not all the other precarious bits), but I think we can all agree that it's a masterpiece. 

This is one of the few spots where I stopped and seriously wondered for a minute if I was still on the trail. (I was. Yay!)

I may have made out with this sign. (Not too much tongue.)

So, let's be honest- the actual waterfall at the end of the trail isn't exactly anything to write home about. (Although I guess it qualifies as something to blog about?) Still, it's a nice little "You made it!" landmark to end the trail with, and an equally nice spot to sit and chill for a few minutes before turning around and heading back. 

This is what happens when I try to use my phone to get a picture of me in front of the waterfall. Feel free to buy me a phone with a camera I can actually SEE.

This is the view if you're facing away from the falls. Not exactly secluded. I definitely had a moment of "You mean I just spent half an hour getting here, but the people staying at that resort can just walk out to that overlook? LAME."

I stopped along one of the big rock formations along the way to tweet the photo below with a note about possibly being eaten by bears. It was only after getting home and looking at Twitter that I noticed you can't even begin to tell WTF I'm standing in front of. Well played, self. Well played.

Of course, Katie took my bear tweet to remind me of one of the mottos of the Adventurers Club: "Some days you eat the bear, some days the bear eats you, but always come dressed for the hunt." Kungaloosh!

Dear shoes, sorry about all the mud. But thanks for actually being waterproof! (Just realized that I left these in my car after peeling them off yesterday. I bet it smells awesome in there by now.)

Going back uphill is never quite as much fun.

I was out on the trail for a total of about an hour, but that includes quite a bit of time spent stopping to take photos and tweeting things about bears. This may now be my favorite trail in the area. It's easy enough that most people of average fitness can do it, but there's enough leaping over things and balancing on rocks to cross water to make you feel like a bit of a badass adventurer. Just be sure to bring water and wear shoes that you don't mind getting muddy and wet.

If I get a chance to do this trail again before it becomes Summer and the temperature raises to a billion degrees, I'll vlog it for your amusement. There are at least two other trails I want to go check out before then, though, so who knows if I'll actually get to it! Fingers crossed. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

1000 Things That Make Me Happy - Part 7

Yikes, it's been forever since I've done one of these "Things that make me happy" posts! This one has been sitting in my drafts folder for quite a while, as evidenced by the Fall/Winter items towards the beginning.

You can find items #1-550 by clicking here! I just noticed that some of the images on older posts are no longer working, so I'll try to fix those soon.

Here are 50 more things that bring me joy:

551. All things pumpkin flavored once Fall rolls around!
552. Hilarious Twitter comments while watching the Presidential debates. I laughed SO MUCH.
553. Getting a sponsored post email offer right when I really need some extra money!
554. Buying fair trade products.
555. Limited edition Pop Tarts (I was all about the Sugar Cookie flavor this winter!)
556. Awesome free stuff from Klout
557. Flirting
558. The adorable purr-meows Merida makes. She almost says her name. "Mer? Merrrrrr? Merrrrrrrrrrrrr."
559. The news that there will be a Star Wars Episode 7 in a few years!
560. Hope.
561. Being sorted into Ravenclaw on Pottermore.
562. My squishy new memory foam pillow!
563. Being "mauled" by my kitten Bear. He LOVES to chew on people. Sometimes he'll just sit there with your hand/arm/whatever in his mouth. I just enjoy saying "I'm being mauled by a Bear!!"
564. Laying under the Christmas tree and looking up into the lights and branches.
565. Pictures of sloths.
I love you sooooo much! You can never leave me!

566. The little mini loaves of banana and pumpkin bread from Hy-Vee. They're $1! LOVE.
567. The fun of digging out Christmas ornaments that you love seeing again every year, or those that you totally forgot about.
568. My fluffy stuffed sheep from Bath and Body Works! (Hi, I'm seven.)
569. The fresh start of a new year.
570. The "Spy Who Loved Me" nail polish from OPI. It's super duper pink and seeing it on my nails just makes me happy.
571. Actually remembering to put my trash out on time! I got spoiled living in an apartment with valet trash service 5 days a week, so now if I miss trash day, I'm stuck for a whole week!
572. A giant cup of queso from Moe's.
573. Embracing flaws.
574. Justin's Nut Butters. OMG, you guys, so good. Especially the little pouches of chocolate almond butter that you can just squirt directly into your mouth, feeling gluttonous.
575. The smell of the coffee bean aisle at the grocery store.
576. Meeting someone new that sparks something within you.
577. My mom was near Joplin (about 2 hrs away) and picked up MOES for me!! I haven't had food from there in over 3 years, so I was blissed out while stuffing my face! (Amusingly, I wrote #572 before knowing this would happen!)
578. The "Sweet Spun Sugar" candle I got at Target that smells exactly like the Main Street Confectionary at Magic Kingdom!
579. I found a bunch of old mix CDs and loved how I could instantly remember what was going on in my life when I made them.
The truth about the extinction of dinosaurs

581. This list of often missed movie references in The Simpsons.
582. Leaving a window open to fall asleep to the sound of waves when you're staying near the ocean.
583. Equinoxes
584. Tweeting about crazy reality TV shows with my like-minded Twitter people.
585. Green juice. (I like Green Machine from Naked juice, as I am totally not about to buy a juicer and produce.)
586. Anticipation.
587. When other drivers catch me rocking out at stop lights. If you're not singing/dancing while you drive, you're doing it wrong.
588. Getting all of the bags of groceries into the house in one trip.
589. Snow on Christmas (the only acceptable time.)
590. My shirt with a built-in iPod pocket
How to get 100$ worth of workout clothes for under 40 dollars!

591. Randomly running into teachers from high school. It has now happened twice in the past few years, and both recognized me!
592. Wrapping my hands around a hot macchiato cup on a cold day.
593. A good dramatic pencil break in a movie. (when someone snaps one in half out of anger)
594. Totally inept people in infomercials.

595. Finding yourself in a wonderful mood for no real reason.
596. Sampling all of the hot sauces at Tijuana Flats, since I can never remember which ones I like.
597. Listening to the exact song you need at that time. It's medicinal.
598. The fact that my boys from SBK Live are doing a podcast now! I missed listening to them.
599. The fun of wearing a dress I made or altered and knowing that nobody else can possibly be wearing the same thing.

 600. This video of my old amigo Nick's band The Farm handing out some random acts of kindness.

Yay for having 600 things on the list now! Only 400 to go!

Monday, April 15, 2013

If You Have Something Nice To Say...

I wish I could remember where I heard this advice, but as tends to happen more often than not, the source has slipped my mind. But here it is: You know the old adage of "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all"? I've picked up the habit of putting a bit of a spin on that, and thinking "If you have something nice to say, say it."

Life is pretty tough on all of us from time to time. Pretty much everyone is dealing with something, and it's surprising how far a few kind words can go, even if they're about something small.

When terrible or crazy things happen in the world, like what went down in Boston this afternoon, most of us start thinking about the people we care about and how easily they can be lost. As someone who has been through a lot of loss in my life (especially in the past few years), I've learned to tell people what I'm thinking right now. I'm sure it comes across awkwardly sometimes, but it's worth it. Reminding people how important they are to you (or just filling them in on that fact) is the big one, but I will also tell you that you look smoking hot in that new dress, that I love that thing you wrote, that I heard a song on the radio that reminded me of you. In general, you're never going to regret showing kindness to someone, but you may eventually regret not telling them those things when you had the chance.

Beyond showing the love to your actual circle of friends, you can step it up a bit by noticing people around you. Everyone wants to feel important. I will often comment on the grocery store cashier's earrings or the fact that the guy who just made my latte is my hero. (Note: If you live in a big city where people are less chatty, you will often get looked at like you're crazy for doing this. Do it anyway.)

I'm challenging you, blog friends, to go say something nice. Let someone know you appreciate them. Tell the lady in front of you in line that her boots are rad. Big or small, just do it. Report back here if you want.

You're awesome.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Food Should Taste Good - Review & Giveaway!

Those of you who know me well know that I'm not exactly winning any "Responsible Adult" awards when it comes to feeding myself. I tend to get so caught up in what I'm doing that I'll drink some coffee or mindlessly eat a few chips, and then totally forget to eat anything else.

Photo: We think our ingredients help make our chips extraordinary. So tell us, what ingredient is your favorite in our chips?

Food Should  Taste Good sent me four bags of their tortilla chips to try out. These chips are a fun change from the snacks I usually grab, and they're a bit healthier, too! They're all gluten-free and most flavors are vegan.

Food Should Taste Good Sweet Potato
The Sweet Potato flavor was the first that I tried, and I wasn't quite sure what to expect from these! As the packaging says, all of these chips are somewhere between a tortilla chip and a cracker, so they work on their own or with an accompaniment. I was pleasantly surprised by the Sweet Potato- they're not something I'd eat all the time, but they were fun and different! A great mix of sweet-salty. One of the great things about this brand is that the ingredient list on each bag is full of words you actually know, not eighty letter long mystery ingredients. For example, the sweet potato chips contain stone ground corn, high oleic sunflower oil and/or safflower oil, sweet potato, corn bran, evaporated cane juice, and sea salt.

Food Should Taste Good The Works
My favorite of the four flavors I tried; Just don't plan on kissing anyone immediately after! The onion and garlic are tasty and satisfying without being overpowering. SO good! I am embarrassed to even tell you guys how quickly I went through this bag.

Food Should Taste Good Lime
Lime wasn't my favorite, but then again I generally don't like anything lime flavored. Although these aren't my personal taste, I can totally see how they would pair well with a lot of Mexican foods!

Food Should Taste Good Multigrain
The Multigrain are the most versatile of the flavors I tried, since the flavor is mostly just "crackery" (totally a word), so it will go with almost anything you want to pair this chip with.

There are 14 more flavors of tortilla chips beyond the ones I tried (I really want to try Olive and Cheddar!), as well as four flavors of Kettle Cooked chips, and one kind of brown rice crackers. For more info, you can find Food Should Taste Good on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest!

The snazzy folks at Food Should Taste Good are going to hook one of you up with a selection of chips, too! Want to win? Just enter using the Rafflecopter app below! All entries are optional, so you can do as many or as few as you like. Got questions? Just leave me a comment! Happy entering!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Oh, How Pinteresting!

I've been meaning to join in on the "Oh, How Pinteresting!" linkup at The Vintage Apple for ages, but simply never seem to get around to it. I've been on a bit of a vintage photo kick, so I thought this week's linkup would be a perfect time to share a few of my favorites!

How great is this? Things have changed a tiny bit in the past 90-ish years.

Source: via Crystal on Pinterest

I have no idea what is going on here, but I want this to be my life.

Source: via Crystal on Pinterest

Love everything about this: The pose, the boots, the face, the sass. 

Kindred spirit.

I can't even.

Head over to The Vintage Apple to see the other blogs participating this week!