MAW MAW

This week was one of the most difficult weeks that I’ve had to experience thus far. On October 1st, I flew home unexpectedly to spend time with my family as my Maw Maw’s battle with dementia was coming to a close. I knew that I needed to be home with her, and my Paw Paw. And I spent as much time as I could by their sides. I heard stories from her younger brother, my Uncle Al, some that I had never heard before. Uncle Al told us about how she advocated for him when he was younger, and she took him and all of his friends bowling and out to get pizza. And I found a box of notes that she wrote, including a letter that she started to write to all of us, but never finished.

My Maw Maw had the most impeccable memory. She remembered every detail about her grandchildren, from their birthdays to their best friends. Within the past 10 years, Maw Maw began to forget small details like our ages, but soon grew to forget our names and even her children. Watching her memory fade was difficult, but watching her personality fade was even harder.

On Friday, October 4th, my Maw Maw passed away. She passed peacefully in her home, surrounded by family, with her husband of more than 50 years by her side. She was 80 years old. Today was her funeral, and we celebrated her life as a family. Her children and grandchildren were all in attendance, standing by her husband of over 50 years. I stood by my Paw Paw as he finalized the details following her passing, and ensured that each grandchild had a place at her funeral Mass. Some said readings, some read petitions, and some brought gifts to the altar. Paw Paw asked me to sing ‘Hail Mary, Gentle Woman’ following Communion, and I was honored but it was also really hard to get through.

This afternoon, we celebrated Maw Maw’s life by gathering at a place we frequented as a family – The Hilton St. Louis Frontenac. See, my family doesn’t really cook. As a family, spent Thanksgiving, Mother’s Day, and Easter at the hotel for probably almost 20 years. When Maw Maw began to fade further, we went to a place that could accommodate her better, but we still never cooked at home. After all, Maw Maw always said, “Kitchens are for restaurants, not for houses.”

Maw Maw was so many things. She was fierce. She was gentle. She was loving. She was always an advocate for everyone around her. She never let the cousins fight, and never was shy about telling us when we were wrong. She taught us humility, and she taught us selflessness. She welcomed everyone with open arms. She loved Louis Vuitton, Notre Dame, Hilton Head Island, and her friends and family.

Some of my most fond memories of Maw Maw are from my childhood. I was her first granddaughter, and she was my Maw Maw for almost 27 years. I remember her teaching me proper hygiene (she always carried wet-ones), I remember her telling my cousin, Monika, to eat all of her food. I remember how much she loved chocolate but always got me my favorite kind of cheese danish for breakfast when I spent the night. I had my own stuffed animal named Pinky, toothbrush in a ziplock baggie with my name on it, and pajamas in a drawer. I remember fighting over a blanket that she made my cousin, Daniel, and being the lucky grandchild to have a sleepover in her and Paw Paw’s room when we went to Hilton Head (because my family had too many kids for a standard hotel room).

Among the notes that I found in that box, I found her list of prayers. She prayed for each of us by name, every single day. She prayed for people that she met in the elevator, people she saw from afar, neighbors down the street. And when she first became sick, she told us we were going to have to take over her prayers. So I made a copy of her prayers, and I will carry them with me every day.

On Sunday, September 22nd, I watched the Cardinals beat the Cubs with Maw Maw’s hand in mind. She and I shared a few chips and a Diet Coke. On Sunday, September 29th, I FaceTimed my mom who was with her, and Maw Maw told me that I was “so smiley”. I love that she said that, and she could recognize that I had a smile on my face. When I said I love you, she said it back. I am so grateful for those moments with her, and the 26 years of memories before that. And I’ll forever be holding her hand, looking to her for guidance.

I am so thankful that I had my Maw Maw. And I’ll carry her in my heart every day. Mother to 5, grandmother to 14. She was incredible. I love you so much, Maw Maw. And I know you’re never far away. ♥️

Rest In Peace, Maw Maw.
Mary Claire Antoinette Pike
November 3, 1938 – October 4, 2019

XO – MC

SUNRIVER, OREGON

On my very first day of my brand-new job, I learned that I would be going to “Sunriver”. A quick google search told me that Sunriver was a resort community in Central Oregon, near Bend and the Cascade Range. I honestly had never thought of Oregon as a “destination”, and I really didn’t know much about what to expect from the terrain or weather in Oregon. I thankfully had a co-worker send me some pieces of advice about what to pack, and soon enough, I was on my way. I was too excited to once again be in the air that I couldn’t rest on the plane. Plus, I had a window seat, so I spent most of my flight staring out into the sky. My layover was in Salt Lake City, and the views from the sky were incredible. And they only got better as the trip continued.

I was upgraded on my flight from Salt Lake City to Redmond, Oregon. It wasn’t first class, but I felt very blessed to have that happen on my very first trip, which I knew wouldn’t happen all the time. When I landed in Redmond, I deplaned on the tarmac and headed inside to baggage claim. The airport was very small, with no physical gates, and I was most definitely overdressed in my business casual. After baggage claim, my coworker picked me up, and we began the drive towards Sunriver.

Wow, did I underestimate Sunriver, Oregon. On the drive, I began to see parts of the Cascade Range appearing in the distance. My coworker taught me about the Three Sisters, Broken Top, and Mt. Bachelor, which are actually volcanic mountains located at the boundary of the Deschutes National Forest. Over the course of the 2 weeks that I was in Sunriver, I learned a lot about these significant peaks, and even explored a few of them.

When I first arrived to the hotel, I was upgraded (just for the night) into the Presidential Suite to accommodate some of their other guests, and I felt like a VIP. The view from the room was incredible, a huge balcony with rocking chairs, I had a double sided fireplace, a rainfall shower, and a beautiful jetted tub. To be completely honest, I was so exhausted from the day of travel, and even a little nervous for my first day “on the road”, that I didn’t enjoy the room as much as I could have. I fell asleep right away.

The next morning, I moved into a different room. It still had a fireplace, a porch out the back door, my own rocking chairs, and a clear view of Mt. Bachelor. Over the next two weeks, it would become my peaceful getaway. The overall programs went very well. I learned a lot about my new job, and had a great teacher. On the small moments of free time that we had while in Central Oregon, we were able to drive to neighboring areas to Sunriver, mostly in a town called Bend.

Bend, Oregon is not far from Sunriver, and according to locals, it has really flourished in recent years. It is home to Mt. Bachelor, and the Cascade range, but even more so is filled with lakes, the Deschutes River, skiing, and more. Bend hosts a significant number of tourists throughout the seasons, and with all there is to do and explore, I can see why. I constantly saw locals paddle boarding, kayaking, biking, hiking, and I even saw some in ski gear. Bend is also home to the newly trendy Hydroflask and Deschutes Brewery, the 8th largest craft brewery in the nation. On one of our free afternoons, we were able to experience Bite of Bend, which was going on in the downtown Bend area in the midst of a marathon. To be honest, Bend reminded me a lot of Fayetteville, Arkansas. It was very local-driven, very proud of its small-town feel while also being proud of its growth. Though Fayetteville doesn’t quite have the scenery that the Cascade Range gives Central Oregon, I feel that Northwest Arkansans would fall in love with Bend and vice versa.

I am very grateful that my first trip with work was to Central Oregon. It was unexpected and beautiful, and it’s a trip that I don’t know if I would have taken on my own. The Pacific Northwest is even more beautiful than I’ve heard, and I can’t wait to go back and explore more of Oregon’s beautiful state.

RECOMMEND

A few places that I visited…

Sparks Lake: 25 miles west of Bend, Sparks Lake is approximately 370-acres of lake wetland, surrounded by 360-acres of meadow, marsh, or stream wetlands. Breathtaking views of South Sister, Broken Top, and Bachelor butte surround the lake, and trails. The lake was formed about 10,000 years ago, when lavas from the Mt. Bachelor Volcanic Chain blocked the upper Deschutes River. There are small streams (also known as “beaver highways”) throughout the area that are freezing cold, and very slick, so watch where you step! You will need a day pass or forestry pass to park and explore for the day!

Devil’s Lake: 30 miles southwest of Bend, Devil’s Lake is a shallow 23-acre shallow lake with turquoise color and scenic views. The trailhead is located just off the lake, and travels into the Three Sisters Wilderness. You do need to have the $5 Day Pass or a pass off their approved list online, in addition to the free, self-issue permit required Memorial Day – October 31st. This hike was moderate, and after about a mile turned into 4-6 ft. of packed snow.

Newberry National Volcanic Monument: Including 54,000+ acres of lakes, lava flows, and geologic features, this monument was created to view the lava lands of Central Oregon. The highest point in the monument is Paulina Peak (pronounced pawl-eye-nah), at a summit of 7,985 ft. Unfortunately, there was too much snow on Paulina Peak during our visit, but we made the most of it by checking out the Big Obsidian Flow and Paulina Lake. At 1,300 years old, the Big Obsidian Flow is the youngest lava flow in Oregon.  A one-mile trail leads through this astounding lava flow of obsidian (black glass) and pumice to overlook Paulina Lake. While not a difficult hike, this path gives history on the Big Obsidian Flow and Newberry National Volcanic Monument as well. Covering an area of 1,531-acres, Paulina Lake is the larger of the 2 twin lakes in the Newberry Caldera. Both Paulina and East Lakes rely solely on rain, snowmelt, and hot springs for water. Paulina Creek drains Paulina Lake, creating a remarkable waterfall by way of a chiseled, narrow gorge through the caldera’s west wall. The hot springs at Paulina Lake are a little more difficult to find than then ones at East Lake, but just as cool. After bathing in the hot springs, it’s a tradition to then plunge into the freezing lake. You will need a day pass or forestry pass to park and explore for the day!

Sunriver Brewing Company: This is actually where I watched the Blues win the 2018-2019 season Stanley Cup. They have great beers and ciders on draft, good food, and a great atmosphere. It’s a seasonal menu, but if they have the Baked Mac ‘n Cheese or the Moroccan Bowl on the menu, those were hard to beat!

The Last Blockbuster: The very last Blockbuster exists in Bend, Oregon and is still functioning as a real Blockbuster today. When I stepped inside, I was filled with nostalgia for going to my own local store and picking out a movie with my parents. I picked up a sticker on my way out, and definitely took a picture inside.

Pilot Butte: A scenic viewpoint located just east of Bend, this butte allows for 360 views of the Cascade Range and more. You can drive, hike, or bike up to the top, just be careful – the roads are windy!

St. Francis School: This 1936 Catholic schoolhouse was transformed in 2004 to a hotel complete with classrooms-turned-lodging rooms, a pump, brewery, a movie theater, private meeting/event space, live music bookings, and a fantastic soaking pool. McMenamins is a hospitality company that is considered a neighborhood gathering spot throughout Oregon and Washington since 1983. Not only do they honor each property’s former life through photos and memorabilia, they create custom artwork, furniture, and light fixtures to honor the history as well.

Bucket List…

Mt. Bachelor: I would love to hike around Mt. Bachelor in the summer, or ski during the winter!

Crater Lake: Though not particularly in Bend or Sunriver, this is definitely a place I want to visit. 7,700 years ago, a violent eruption triggered the collapse of a tall peak, forming Crater Lake. Fed by rain and snow, it is the deepest lake in the United States, and one of the most pristine on earth.

XO – MC

KEEP FAYETTEVILLE FUNKY

Have you ever heard of Fayetteville, Arkansas? It’s a beautiful oasis in the middle of Northwest Arkansas’ Ozark mountains and deserves to be recognized for all of its beauty. It has become a tourist destination, it is home to the Arkansas Razorbacks, and it is consistently named as one of the “Best Places to Live” (No. 3 in 2016, No. 5 in 2017, No. 5 in 2018, and No. 4 in 2019). It is well known for annual events in motorcycling, music, art, and film.

Fayetteville has a place in my personal heart too. It’s a place where moved when I was an 18 year old freshman at the University of Arkansas. It’s a place where I studied, made lifelong friends, became 21, became a “dog-mom”, graduated college, and entered into the hospitality world as a “real adult”. I’ve been in Northwest Arkansas since 2011, and in those eight years, I’ve made those memories, but I’ve also made up my mind about my favorite things about some of my favorite local hot-spots.

BITE + DRINK

Theo’s: I believe this is the best upscale-casual Happy Hour in Fayetteville. In the lounge, there is centrally arranged comfortable furniture, with TV’s at the bar (perfect for watching the Razorbacks, or my favorite – the St. Louis Blues, play). There are a few booths and high-top tables on the perimeter if the group is a little smaller and more intimate – whereas the lounge furniture allows for more socialization and meeting new people. If the weather is nice, there is also prime seating on their patio facing Dickson Street.

MC’s Pick: Trina’s Ginger Peach (vodka, peach, ginger syrup, lemon) + Charcuterie Board (two meats, two cheeses, accompaniments)

Bordino’s: This restaurant has been around for almost 2 decades. The atmosphere is a little less lounge, and a little more restaurant, as they do not have any TV’s in the bar area, but their cocktails and wine list do not disappoint.

MC’s Pick: Baker’s Blues (house-infused lavender & blueberry vodka, lavender simple syrup, fresh lemon juice) + Triple Threat (grana padano, roasted garlic, balsamic vinegar)

LOCAL LUNCH + DINNER

Hammontree’s Grilled Cheese: With a variety of gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches to choose from, most guests can find something that they like at this restaurant. A very casual atmosphere off Dickson Street, Hammontrees is a perfect spot to grab a bite to eat after some mid-morning weekend shopping or after a long day at work.

MC’s Picks: Sweet Potato Fries (with avocado ranch dipping sauce) + Cheebacca Grilled Cheese (sharp white cheddar, house cheese, bacon, pulled pork, onions, and garlic cilantro sauce on sourdough) P.S. I prefer no onions on my Cheebacca Grilled Cheese, and I add the house BBQ sauce!

Hugo’s: In business since 1977, Hugo’s is a Fayetteville staple, consistently ranking in the top 1-3 restaurants on websites like TripAdvisor.  It’s located in Downtown Historic Fayetteville, in the basement of an original building. It encompasses Fayetteville with the art and historical pieces around the restaurant, and even locals continue to go back. If you plan to stop by on a weekend evening, there might be a bit of a wait, so be prepared to arrive early! There’s not much of a waiting area, but most people just wait outside and get to know one another while they wait for a great meal.

MC’s Picks: Ace Pineapple Cider (Sebastopol, CA) + cheeseburger with ketchup, pickles, and cheese + Grasshopper Crepe (mint chocolate chip ice cream inside of crepes with hot fudge drizzle)

Sassy’s: Sassy’s BBQ sauce and spices are from a family recipe developed by Sassy Jones’ grandfather, Jasper Jones, in 1885. The sauce has been said to be good on pork, beef, chicken, dove, quail, duck, goat, lamb, rabbit, squirrel, deer, coon, possum, shrimp, catfish, crawfish, oysters, armadillo, rattlesnake, and just about anything else. Their menu has a little bit of everything, and they want their guests to enjoy and stay awhile by having TV’s with TV’s with the game on, porches for warm days, and the best part – good food.

MC’s Picks: Homemade Fried Pickles + Pulled Pork Sandwich Combo, with (2) sides: sweet potato tots and mustard potato salad

Farmer’s Table Cafe: With the motto, “where locals meet and eat,” Farmer’s Table Cafe is built for the locals of Fayetteville, and even those coming through town. It is a tiny house within Fayetteville, where patrons can enjoy a wonderful meal from local vendors, and meet others within their community.

MC’s Picks: Benny on a Biscuit (Ozarks version of the egg’s benedict: 2 poached eggs, Bansley’s farm ham, Dripping Springs Garden kale,  atop a handmade biscuit with hollandaise) or Pickled + Deviled Plate (deviled local eggs, pickled local vegetables, Great Ferments okra, Ozark All Seasons greens) + Chicken Salad (roasted chicken, dried cranberries, almonds, dill, celery, on Stone Mill Bakery sourdough)

Catfish Hole: In 1993, the owners of Catfish Hole opened their first location in Alma, AR. Not soon after, they added a location in Fayetteville, which has become a popular spot for locals and tourists. Most people rave about hushpuppies, but they’re especially known for their catfish – as it is a common catch in the Northwest Arkansas area.

MC’s Picks: Regular Catch of Catfish Filets, served with french fries + fixin’s (fixings include: hushpuppies, coleslaw, pickles, onions, lemons and green tomato relish)

Woodstone: A recent add in 2014 to the Fayetteville restaurant scene, Woodstone Pizza + Bar features wood fired, artisan pizza with a scratch kitchen, locally sourced ingredients, local craft beers and cocktails.

MC’s Picks: Lavender Gimlet (sub with Tito’s vodka instead of gin), + Queen Margherita (house red sauce, fresh mozzarella, local basil, herb oil)

A Taste of Thai: Since 2000, Taste of Thai has been established in the Downtown Historic Fayetteville Square. With a small patio, off a quaint and traditional dining room, this restaurant encompasses Thai culture, while also serving delicious food. Larger parties may need to notify the restaurant of their arrival, and guests can even order ahead for takeout.

MC’s Picks: A-7 Chicken Pot Stickers (grilled marinated chicken wrapped, served with homemade plum sauce) + 17. Pad Thai, national dish of Thailand (stir-fried thin rice noodles w/egg, bean sprouts, green onions, topped w/ground peanuts)

COCKTAIL

Maxine’s Tap Room: Named one of the Best Bars in America, 2019 by Esquire Magazine, Maxine’s Tap Room is an almost 70-year-old bar located on Block Avenue, in the heart of Fayetteville’s Historic Downtown Square. 24-year-old Maxine Miller borrowed $10,000 from her parents and with the ownership of her bar, became a surrogate mother to generation of college students missing their own mothers. After Maxine passed, management passed on to a team of local shop-owners and they thoughtfully remodeled the Tap Room with a payphone that still has the recording of Maxine’s last call: “May I have your attention, please! You have ten minutes to drink, then get the hell out!” One of my favorite facts about the bar is that it only has one window, exactly 8.5″x40″, in the front, which was the minimum size allowed by the building codes at the time of its being built.

MC’s Picks: Maxine’s Tap Room changes the menu seasonally, but one of my favorites is a simple cocktail with vodka, lavender syrup, and soda water, sometimes with a splash of lemonade. They have the best retro/classic cocktails, and the seasoned popcorn will keep you there for awhile.

Vault: This fairly new bar is a former bank vault that combines warm palettes of concrete, wood, steel, and leather, inspired by the idea of distillation. Their focus is on bourbon, and they pride themselves in having the best bourbon selection in the state of Arkansas.

MC’s Picks: EJ Highball (bourbon, tea syrup, lemon, house ginger beer)

Cannibal + Craft: Named after a beach bar in the Caribbean, Cannibal & Craft is a dual-bar with one side drawing inspiration from this island vibe, and the other side featuring a warm, earthy, American vibe. The island side focuses on fishbowl cocktails, while the other side features classic cocktails. If you’re a true local, you know that within Cannibal + Craft lies a secret bar called, Ben’s Apartment. Similar to a speakeasy from the 1920’s, this bar is exclusive and not open to just anyone. This secret bar requires a membership and a minimum monthly spend, but each guest is allotted 3 additional guests at no additional charge. But well worth the membership, this bar is for those who want an atypical Fayetteville bar experience.

MC’s Picks: Moscow Mule Fishbowl (or Bee’s Knees at Ben’s Apartment)

Fayetteville Ale Trail: Experience Fayetteville (my old parent-company!) launched the Fayetteville Ale Trail in August 2013. This self-guided tour gives both visitors and locals a glimpse into the unique craft brewery and cidery culture of Northwest Arkansas (it extends past Fayetteville!). More than 35,000 passports have been printed, and after 5 years, the Ale Trail has been recognized nationally and even locals still continue to enjoy it. Passports can be picked up at any of the breweries on the Ale Trail, via mail, or at Experience Fayetteville (Visitor’s Center) on the Downtown Square, located at 21 S. Block Ave.

Featured Breweries: Apple Blossom Brewing Co., Bentonville Brewing Co., Bike Rack Brewing Co., Black Apple Crossing Cidery, Columbus House Brewery, Core Brewing and Distilling Co., Crisis Brewing Company, Fossil Cove Brewing Co., Hawk Moth Brewery, Ivory Bill Brewing, JJ’s Beer Garden & Brewing, New Providence Brewing Co., Ozark Beer Company, Saddlebock Brewery, and West Mountain Brewing Co.

SWEET

Rick’s Bakery: Opened in 1980, Rick’s has become a staple in Northwest Arkansas. From their classic personal cakes (perfect for birthdays, big-little reveals, congratulation-moments, and more, to their decorative cookies (some even featuring frosting shaped Razorbacks, their baked goods are worth every bite.

MC’s Picks: tie-dye cookies + monogrammed petit fours

Smudgies: Taking a spin on sweets, Smudgies combines donuts, cereal, sweet treats, and more with ice cream. They are most famous for the smudgie itself, a donut stuffed with your choice of ice cream combination from the menu – or a creation of your own!

MC’s Picks: Salty Dog Sludgie (essentially a concrete with vanilla bean ice cream, salted caramel drizzle, + crushed pretzels)

Burton’s Creamery: Opened in June 2014, Burton’s Creamery provides premium (better than just everyday) soft serve to the residents of Fayetteville. Originally served out of a food truck, they now have an additional location in the Uptown Apartments + Shops. Their food truck is still located off Dickson Street in an area called Shulertown – a popular destination after the bars close.

MC’s Picks: Butterfinger Soft Serve on a Waffle Cone

Shop

RiffRaff: Kirsten Blowers, a native Fayetteville local, opened Riffraff in February of 2009 at the age of 21. Originally selling refurbished and hand-painted furniture, she quickly expanded to include clothing and small gifts.  By 2012, due to popularity and growth of the business from in-store to Facebook, Kirsten took the business online – launching an instant success. Nestled in the Historic Downtown Fayetteville Square, Riffraff believes in shopping local (while still reaching shoppers nationwide). Their style is always touching on the newest trends, and their social media presence (mostly Instagram) is very strong: @shopriffraff + @riffrafffayetteville + @riffraffhq.

Impressions: Built off the power of a first impression, Impressions offers a wide range of apparel to fit any woman’s unique sense of style. Between their physical location in Fayetteville or their online boutique, they are always following the latest fashions to keep their customers leaving lasting impressions.

Maude: The current location is Maude’s second location, but Maude has been in business since 2007. The store prides itself on excellent customer service,  and they enjoy the fun within fashion. They believe in fashion speaking to their customers and help their customers feel their dreams come true while being confident in the clothes they sell. They also have the cutest backdrop for photos (you can search #maudewall on Instagram).

The Mustache Goods + Wears: The owner of this store wanted to open a shop where he lived and worked (Historic Downtown Fayetteville), but he wanted it to be and look different than any other store, carrying products that shoppers don’t normally find. Their passion feeds off how the community loves their store, always finding a fun, friendly, and unique shopping experience.

E.Leigh’s: Erin Leigh Hohnbaum opened the shop in 2011 at the age of 26, with the goal to create a space where women felt strong, empowered, and better leaving than when they came in the doors. She is passionate about making customers and visitors feel good, even if they don’t purchase anything – so experience is everything to her. Located on Dickson Street, it’s close to restaurants and other shops in the Fayetteville area.

EXPERIENCE

First Thursday: On the first Thursday of each month May through October from 5:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m., Fayetteville’s Historic Downtown Square transforms into an outdoor arts district featuring more than 40 visual artists who create items in a variety of mediums. The event also includes live music, street performances, children’s activities, food trucks, a craft beer garden, and more. This event is hosted and promoted by Experience Fayetteville, and parking is available at Fayetteville Town Center.

George’s Majestic Lounge: Opened in 1927 by George Pappas, George’s was originally a restaurant, lounge, and general store. George’s saw many owners in its day, some of which shared their first dates at the bar, but regardless of ownership, it is the oldest and longest running bar in the Fayetteville area. It was also the first to integrate and the first to have color TV in its time. Its current owners, Brian + Day Crowne bought the building and eventually the land – serving as the regions premier showcase venue for concerts since 2004.

Walton Arts Center: In the late 1980s, the Walton family, the University of Arkansas, and the City of Fayetteville each individually realized the need for a venue that could accommodate major touring shows, local and regional performing acts, and even corporate meetings. Located off Dickson Street in Fayetteville, this recently updated venue houses these shows, events, and even more.

Theatre Squared: Reaching 45,000 patrons each year with 230 annual performances, Theatre Squared attracts varying shows by hosting them in an intimate space. In 2011, TheatreSquared was recognized by the American Theatre Wing, founder of the Tony Awards, as one of the nation’s ten most promising emerging theatres. Its audience includes more than 18,000 students and their teachers. They believe that all students should have access to live performances and leading arts-based learning tools. Theatre Squared is also Arkansas’ home for professional playwrights, developing scripts through the Arkansas New Play Festival in Fayetteville and Bentonville, producing new works and world premiers each year.

Donald W. Reynolds Stadium: Serving as the home field for the University of Arkansas Razorbacks, Donald W. Reynolds Stadium is an American football stadium in Fayetteville, Arkansas, originally opened in 1938. In 2001, it was renamed from Razorback Stadium to its current name, in honor of Reynold’s being a wonderful businessman and philanthropist. The playing field is named for Frank Boyles, the former head football coach and athletic director.

Mount Sequoyah Overlook: A beautiful spot for visitors to relax, watch the sunset, or picnic, Mt. Sequoyah overlooks Fayetteville with a large cross illuminating the area. Locals go there on dates, to see how wonderful Fayetteville looks at night, or say a prayer. The area is a church and retreat center, surrounded by homes with beautiful views.

Razorback Regional Greenway: A project years in the making, the Razorback Regional Greenway has been a goal of regional planners, cities, and residents of Northwest Arkansas for more than two decades. With a lot of planning, the Greenway became a reality stretching 36 miles from Bella Vista to South Fayetteville. It connects 6 downtowns, 3 hospitals, 23 schools, arts and entertainment venues, the University of Arkansas campus, corporate headquarters, historic sites, parks and playgrounds, restaurants, shopping areas, and more.

OUTSIDE FAY

Crystal Bridges: Founded in 2005 by philanthropist and arts patron, Alice Walton,  Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art began as a nonprofit charitable organization for all to enjoy. The building was designed by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie and opened to the public on 11-11-11. Their mission is to welcome all to celebrate the American spirit in a setting that unites the power of art with the beauty of nature. Its name comes from a nearby natural spring and the bridge that has been incorporated into the structure of the building.  Meeting spaces and galleries surrounds two spring-fed ponds, including a glass-enclosed gathering hall. The museum also features a beautiful restaurant, a library featuring more than 50,000 volumes of art reference material, and trails that link the 120-acre park to downtown Bentonville, Arkansas.

The Walmart Museum: Sam Walton and his family moved to the Northwest Arkansas area in 1950, to satisfy his wife Helen’s desire for small-town living. According to Helen, this also allowed them to be within a short distance from Missouri, Oklahoma, and Kansas, so Sam could enjoy the different seasons, satisfying his passion for quail hunting. With this move, Sam purchased Luther Harrison’s Variety Store. Located in the Downtown Bentonville square, Walton’s 5&10 was the second store opened by Sam Walton, but the first to bear his name. The original ceiling tiles from Harrison’s Variety Store are still seen in the museum today, as are the original red and green tiles that Sam laid down prior to the famous remodeling sale. Some of the tile colors didn’t match; Sam accepted them “as is” for a better price – and this is worth mentioning because it is a part of the foundation for Walmart today. See, Sam was a frugal man, but according to history, not for the sake of frugality. “Sam knew that his customers wouldn’t be looking at his floor – or even care – as long as his prices were low and his shelves were well-stocked. He knew that saving money on expenses meant he could charge lower prices, saving his customers money so they could live better.” And this was the beginning of Walmart and Sam’s Club.

Scott Family Amazeum: Featuring approximately 50,000 square feet of exhibit and learning spaces, Scott Family Amazeum is built to bring families together, inspire curiosity, and bring learning to life using hands-on exhibits. Many of the interactive exhibits are focused on the industries and people who built the Arkansas culture and sustain it today – exhibitors including the 3M Tinkering Hub, General Mills Lift, Load and Haul, Market Sponsored by Walmart, Nature Valley Water Amazements, Nickelodeon Play Lab, Hershey’s Lab, and more. Possibly the coolest activity that Scott Family Amazeum does is at the end of the day, they have a “parade to leave” so the kids can “enjoy” the exhibits having to close.

The Peel Mansion Museum + Heritage Gardens: Built in 1875 by Colonel Samuel West Peel, it is a beautiful model of Italianate Villa Style furnished with authentic antiquities and artifacts. It his home to public and private events for the Northwest Arkansas area from bridal shows to weddings to cocktail parties to charity events.

Slaughter Pen Trail: Attracting visitors from around the country, this Bentonville mountain bike trail hosts one of the top bike events in the state. Featuring over 20 miles, with an easy trail connection via Lake Bella Vista to Blowing Springs mountain bike trail system, this is something that the avid biker does not want to miss.

STAY

The Inn at Carnall Hall: Built in 1905, Carnall Hall was the first girl’s dorm in Arkansas, named after Ella Howison Carnall, a beloved English professor. In 1967, it became a fraternity for 10 years, and in 1982, it was placed on the National Register for Historic Places, when it housed classrooms and faculty offices. In 2001, it was saved from demolition, thanks to private and public efforts. 2 years later, it reopened as The Inn at Carnall Hall, with restorations made to the staircase and front porch. In 2004, it was added to the Historic Hotels of America. Most recently in 2018, the Inn had a face lift, with contemporary elements complimenting the history of the building. Perhaps the most significant moment of this hotel’s history to me, is when I had the pleasure of working there. I started my career transition at Inn at Carnall Hall, and I am grateful for my experience there.

21c Museum: Located on the Downtown Bentonville Square, and within a short walk to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, 21c Museum Hotel Bentonville is an 104-room boutique hotel, contemporary art museum, cultural center, and home to The Hive  restaurant. They are well-known for the iconic Green Penguin, which I’ve mentioned in a previous post.

The Crescent Hotel: Opened in 1886, The Crescent Hotel was built to be a resort for the rich and famous, designed by architect Isaac S. Taylor from St. Louis, MO. Only open for a short time before it became unmanageable, it was reopened as the Crescent College and Conservatory for Young Women from 1908-1924. It opened again from 1930-1934 as a junior college. By 1937, Norman G. Baker, converted the building into a hospital and health resort. This is when the history gets a little interesting. Baker was a millionaire inventory and radio personality, but he also presented himself as a doctor (with absolutely no medical training). He claimed to have “cures” for ailments, including cancer. Baker eventually went to jail, and The Crescent Hotel bounced between a few owners, almost being burned to the ground in 1967. Currently, it has been titled, “America’s Most Haunted Hotel” and has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places as of 2016. Tourists and guests can go on ghost tours, and even stay overnight experiencing the supposed supernatural.

As I say goodbye to Fayetteville today, I felt that I could best say goodbye by paying tribute to the wonderful places I came to love during my time in Northwest Arkansas. I hope if you have a chance to visit, you can visit a few of these places and grow to love them too.

XO – MC

HOMEWARD BOUND-ISH

In my previous post, I mentioned that my mom recommended I look into a company based out of St. Louis. And though I didn’t find a position that I qualified for right away, I did the next morning. After cancelling my plans that day, redesigning my resume, creating a cover letter, and submitting before the day was over, I had applied for my dream job.

There weren’t many details about the interview process within the application. So if I were to even receive an interview, I didn’t know when that would happen. Even though it was the weekend, I was so excited about this potential job, that I checked my email the next morning (Sunday). And the next day. And the next day. Which happened to be Tuesday.

And that Tuesday morning, I received an email from the company requesting to schedule an initial interview with me. I was that much closer to my dream. I wanted to schedule my interview on the very next day, but I knew that I would be too eager, and I needed time to do additional research about the position and prepare for the interview.

The first interview went well. I had some help from friends finding a quiet, noise-free location away from work to take the phone call. The interview was fairly standard, filled with situational questions based on my past experience. I am grateful that I took the extra time to research and prepare, because I was able to anticipate questions while answering them confidently. By the end of the interview, I didn’t know if I was moving forward, but my interviewer made me aware that I would know if I moved to the next round of interviews or not, by the middle of the month.

Just as I checked my email every day after I submitted my resume, I checked my email every day waiting to hear hopefully good news. It only took a week to get the next email. I was invited to a second, in-person interview. I scheduled the interview for a Monday after a weekend I would be in St. Louis, though the company did offer to fly me to the interview. (WHAT?!)

I worked hard to prepare for this interview – more than I had ever prepared for an interview. I researched the company on Indeed, Glassdoor, and LinkedIn, and I discovered 20+ potential interview questions, with suggested answers. I adjusted the answers to fit my experience, and gained confidence as I answered the practice questions.

The day of the interview came, and I arrived about 30 minutes early (to the parking lot). I walked in at the recommended 15 minutes prior to the interview, and signed in at the security desk. Soon enough, I was interviewing for the position. This interview went similarly, fairly standard questions as they applied to the events industry, with the implication that situational answers were needed. It began with two managers within the operations team, followed by a separate meeting with the vice president. The first portion went well, though I was nervous, I felt that there was a smooth ebb and flow to the interview. The second half with the VP, was the most nerve-wracking interview I’ve ever had, and I walked away feeling… okay.

I felt just about all of the feels throughout this interview process. Nervous, excited, happy, anxious. When I saw the original job posting, I had a feeling that this was just “meant to be”. Each time I saw an email, I had the same feeling. I couldn’t shake that feeling. The day before I found the job posting, I discovered that I wanted to travel and that I wanted to begin the process of moving back to St. Louis sooner rather than later. And here was this job, that required travel 2/3 of the year, moving back to St. Louis, and let me continue to work in events. It almost felt too perfect.

Just as I did after the first interview, and on the advice of a kind family member, I sent my thank you cards to those who interviewed me during the second round, and waited patiently. (And checked my email multiple times a day.) I waited for almost TWO WEEKS. But it was worth the wait.

I got the job.

That feeling was real. It was meant to be. I was moving home. (Though I will be traveling throughout the world 250+ days out of the year.) I have my dream job. It’s happening. I’m homeward bound-ish.

XO – MC

DISCOVERY

This past February, I was in the process of interviewing for a job that would completely change my career path in hospitality. I was asked to interview for the position, which was a huge honor considering the field it was in and my lack of experience in said field. However exciting it sounded, I wasn’t sold on the potential of this new position. After all, I have been living and breathing hospitality for several years now, and I thought I had found what I was meant to do.

The interview process was extensive and I am grateful it was for a few reasons. It taught me about what I want looking into my personal and career-driven future. I hadn’t been seriously asked what I want my future to look like from someone outside of my current organization. Those who did ask, usually asked rhetorical questions or questions that had generic answers. I knew that eventually I wanted to move back home (to St. Louis) and have a family of my own one day, with maybe a job that at times, would allow me to work from home. But there was no real timeline, and there was no clear path of a career (even if it was in hospitality) that I wanted to follow.

This interview process taught me to rely on friends and family, and who to rely on, ensuring that the friends and family that I surrounded myself with would lead me to success. Making life-changing decisions is scary idea, and without support from those who surround you, you are making those decisions alone. So surrounding yourself with those who have strength and faith in you, is key to successful change. I believe that Matthew Kelly said it best,

“The people we surround ourselves with either raise or lower our standards. They either help us to become the-best-version-of-ourselves or encourage us to become lesser versions of ourselves. We become like our friends. No man becomes great on his own. No woman becomes great on her own. The people around them help to make them great. We all need people in our lives who raise our standards, remind us of our essential purpose, and challenge us to become the-best-version-of-ourselves.”

This interview made me think about how my friends and family would fit into my life as I tackle the new job. And as I talked to friends and family, I discovered those who challenged me to become the best version of myself, and those who didn’t. Those who encouraged me to become the best version of myself supported me, but they knew how to ask me the tough questions.

And while I was being interviewed with questions from the potential new employer (and my friends), I also learned to ask the right questions for myself. As I mentioned before, I considered what my future would like, but I also learned to ask about where and what hours I would be working. This helped me discover what I wanted from my work/life balance, and my comfort in my office space.

This interview was a truly positive experience. Two months into the process, I was offered the position. I asked the company for the weekend to consider the offer, because as silly as it sounds, I didn’t “feel it” when I received the offer. After work that day, I went to get food with a friend who helped me weigh the pros and cons scribbled in crayon on the back of a placemat. We eventually determined that the cons outweighed the pros, not necessarily about the job or the company, but the results from accepting the job and how it lined up with my goals. I learned that I wanted to begin the process of moving back to St. Louis. I learned that I wanted to travel, much like my family has/will have the chance to with my dad being in Europe. And I learned that I wasn’t ready to give up on hospitality.

That night, I talked to my mom who told me to research a company based out of St. Louis. I did, and I didn’t find anything that I qualified for related to hospitality. I felt very discouraged, because I was ready to grow in my career elsewhere, preferably taking a step towards moving home. The next morning, I had a weird instinct to check again. So I looked at LinkedIn. And I found something that I qualified for, that would allow for travel, and that would keep me in events. I immediately cancelled my plans for the day, redesigned my entire resume, created a cover letter in the same design, and submitted it all before the day was over. I took a chance on something that gave me “that feeling”, even after I just simply read the job description.

On Monday, I declined the offer to the other job. It was hard, but I thanked the company for their time and for teaching me a lot about myself. I had to follow “that feeling”. Ultimately, this interview taught me that though I wasn’t meant for a career in law, I was meant to stay in hospitality. I wouldn’t say I doubted my place in hospitality throughout this process, since hospitality is present in almost any industry, but I was unsure how it would fit in with my personal goals.

My biggest piece of advice after this experience is to take the interview. You’ll learn more about yourself than you thought was possible, even if you don’t take the job.

XO – MC

BACK TO SCHOOL

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by my college advisor from the University of Arkansas. I am still local, and I regularly reach out to her on behalf of my job for part-time help. But this time was different. She was asking me for something.

A huge part of hospitality, and working towards a degree in it, is actual experience. Accountants can be taught formulas and how to use QuickBooks in class, lawyers have to study the history and teachings of law before they can practice on their own, and doctors and nurses have to study anatomy and physiology before they can actually begin to intern and practice. Hospitality is learned or just naturally there. Experience builds on hospitality. It is hard to teach, and the times it is taught – is not nearly enough.

In a team retreat last year for my company, we watched a video, which is based on the art of hospitality. In this video, CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, Danny Meyer, speaks to what hospitality is and what hospitality means. He compares hospitality to a dialogue, and that it is different than service. His company believes “the way you make people feel is what they remember, more than anything.” Meyer goes on to talk about what they look for in employees, a “high hospitality quotient,” which he says is 49% technical skills and 51% emotional skills. That 51% adds up to someone who is naturally wired to want to make people feel better.

Meyer continues with a phrase that has really stood out to me since watching that video, “always be collecting dots, so you can always be connecting dots.” He relates this to always knowing who you’re talking to – and what’s important to that person. When you make a client or a guest feel special by connecting the dots, you are creating a customized experience for them – and that brings them back. That might even make you their favorite. Meyer adds that being someone’s favorite, is better than being the “best”, because others can’t tell you what is or is not your favorite. Just like they can’t take a picture of the way a hospitality professional made their heart feel – showing the art of hospitality.

I couldn’t agree more.

The University of Arkansas’ Hospitality Innovation program has grown significantly in the past few years. One of the core requirements that they have added is the pre-internship class. This class focuses on the preparation for getting an internship – resumes, cover letters, elevator speeches, and interview skills. Which brings us to the opportunity that my college advisor presented me – she invited me, along with several other industry professionals and past alumni, to participate in mock-interviews with the pre-internship class students.

Building on that video, and what I’ve learned working my way through the hospitality industry thus far, I was excited for this opportunity to participate in the growth of these students. The guidelines for our mock-interviews were minimal, but they were encouraged to be a mini-version of an interview for the companies we represented. The students were tasked with researching us, in addition to our companies, and to be prepared for questions we might ask based on our jobs.

As most interviews go, I asked each student (candidate) to tell me a little bit about themselves. Most responded to this with their elevator speech, which usually started a great conversation. From there, we touched base on their job experience, and a few situational questions based on our respective careers. Overall, the students did well. Some students were outstanding in comparison to their classmates, and I could tell that some struggled. But the positive outlook in their struggles is that we, as industry professionals, could give feedback to help them improve.

We were asked to evaluate the students based on their communication skills, presence, and their self-confidence. The majority of the students were very successful on their presence, specifically in their attire. I could tell that their communication skills and self confidence had improved since they may have been freshman, and where there was room for improvement, we were able to address that. For example, some students struggled with the word “like” or “uhm” throughout their conversation, or fidgeting with their hands a little too much. These are mistakes that I still catch myself doing – so as I noted an opportunity for improvement on students, I also noted an opportunity for myself.

I don’t know who was more nervous for these interviews – the industry professionals or the students. Either way, it was a great experience for all of us and I am very grateful for the opportunity from the college advisor that still sees something in me.

XO – MC

PHOTOGRAPHY CLASS

Have you ever had inspiration to do something completely out of your normal? I had that today. I’ve been wanting to kick off this blog (and a little bit of photography) for quite some time. But I didn’t know where to start, or where I wanted this to go. I have a pretty good eye for a good photo, but my editing skills were lacking. I barely know how to use my super fancy Nikon.

A few weeks ago, I helped execute a bridal expo at work. One of the vendors, a semi-new vendor friend of mine, was at the show, across from our booth. His booth was so cute, complete with a neon-pink sign and balloon arch. Oh and he had petit fours. Our booth was amazing too, complete with the largest charcuterie board I’ve ever seen (credit to my Director of Sales), but for the sake of inspiration, we’ll focus on his booth for now.

I have met Dale a few times throughout my time working  within the Northwest Arkansas hospitality industry, the first time being when I was still in college and he had a shoot at the hotel where I worked part-time. I’ve always admired his work. He and his fiancé, Tyler, were prepping the booth and we all kind of hit it off – the petit fours absolutely had something to do with it. I mentioned how badly I wanted to learn from Dale and his photography skills, and even sent a few brides his way. By the end of the day, I owed him my sister’s vegan pumpkin muffin recipe.

About a week later, his Instagram story had an announcement about a photography class. I instantly signed up and invited one of my friends to come with me. I couldn’t wait. The class was at 21C Hotel Museum in Bentonville, about 30 minutes North of Fayetteville. I had been to this hotel and museum before for a luncheon, and I was excited to see the Green Penguins.

My friend and I planned the entire day – starting with a trip to Target for a cute notebook and pens, which conveniently had a Starbucks inside. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, Starbucks is the way to my heart, but when you combine Starbucks and Target, it’s even better. When we were leaving Target, a kiddo around the age of 3  was screaming that he didn’t want to leave. We felt that on so many levels. After getting our caffeine, we drove to lunch at Big Orange in Rogers. Their menu has gluten-free buns, which makes a gluten-intolerant person like myself very happy.

After lunch, we drove to 21c, arriving early to get the best seats. Dale gave two presentations: Portraiture & Composition and Camera Settings. He touched on aperture, f-stop, shutter speed, iso, and exposure. We learned what effects adding flash creates. Dale talked about the best angles to take photos, leading lines, framing, repeating backgrounds, foreground vs. background, sizing, and more. As he went through the presentations, I realized that some of the elements he mentioned, I naturally incorporate into pictures.

Overall, I learned a lot from the entire day. I downloaded and discovered more with Adobe Creative Cloud applications, such as Lightroom and Photoshop, on my computer and phone. But something that happened after this photography class – almost completely unrelated to photography – is that I gained confidence to actually start blogging regularly.

A long time ago, I thought about what motivates me. What impact do I want to leave? I still don’t know exactly. What I do know is that I want to live a life of altruistic hospitality. I want to always serve others, and welcome them into my life in the kindest way that I am able. What I do know is that when I spend time with my grandparents, I love hearing about when they were children, young adults, newlyweds, or before they had grandchildren. I love reminiscing with them, and one day I want to do that with my own family. I take pictures all the time, and I enjoy documenting my life on social media. I love to document memories. But I love to write. And I want to write more – about my life, my job, my family, my travel, my dog, and everything in between. So what motivates me? I said something one day to a friend of mine, and it’s always stuck with me…

Document everything. Someday you will be embarrassed, laughing, crying, or smiling, and remembering how you didn’t take that moment for granted.

XO – MC