Backpacking Spy Rock Loop

Last week my mom and I went on our very first backpacking adventure! We’ve wanted to go for a long time now, but weren’t sure where to begin. Everything online told us we need hundreds of dollars worth of gear before we would be ready to embark on a hike that lasted more than one day. We rebelled! We didn’t buy anything (except food) for our trip. We took the gear we had. I carried my things in an old jansport backpack. And guess what? We had a great time!

The trail we chose was the Spy Rock Loop which connects to the Ozark Highland’s Trail from Redding Recreation Area (a super nice campground with access to the Mulberry river). Spy Rock is an incredible view that’s definitely worth the climb. The hike could be done in a day if you left early in the morning, but we headed out around 2:00pm and got to the top with plenty of daylight left. There are two little campsites with fire rings at the top of Spy Rock, but it was pretty gusty so we headed back down to make camp somewhere lower. The info we had read ahead (linked above) told us there was a campsite near a waterfall on the East side where we would be coming down, but we couldn’t find it (it is probably just overgrown). We finally decided to step down from the trail and camp in the trees. After we ate some dinner (luckily we didn’t bring anything we had to cook) we hung our trash and food up near the trail and settled into our hammocks. In the morning we ate overnight oats and broke camp. When we got back to the trail from where we had camped there was a big fresh pile of poop which we decided not to try to look up until we got back to the car. The hike down was short and easy. Charging my phone in the car I googled “animal poop” and discovered that the scat we had seen was most likely from a bear! Luckily it passed on by, but next time we will definitely buy one piece of gear: bear spray.

Have you hiked this loop? How did you do it? Got backpacking tips? Let’s hear them!

#NWARKcares about the Environment

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Photo By: Paige Ray

Do you think about your personal impact on the environment? It’s something I think about almost every day. I was a kid in the 90’s, which means that I grew up in the era of the invention of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” and had a childhood centered around being highly conscious of our environment. Between that and parents who made sure I had a broad world view – beyond myself, and beyond convenience – I can get pretty hippy-dippy about environmental stuff. So, if it’s not your thing to eat kale chips or whatever, bear with me. I’m going to give you six really easy things that I do to help the environment that you can do too.

  1. Choose my bike over my car when possible. Luckily, Northwest Arkansas is a really bicycle friendly region. We have extensive trail systems, lots of “share” lanes, and a community that supports cycling. You don’t need me to tell you about the negative environmental impacts of driving your car.
    Your challenge: bike (or walk) somewhere you normally drive. Just try it once, you’ll feel amazing! Let me know how it goes!
  2. Recycle! I live in Fayetteville and have two of the small recycling bins the city provides, so I’m really lucky to be able to stick my recyclables on the curb each week. We also have a set of blue bins in our kitchen and a bin in our bathroom for recycling. I’ve found that if there’s a place (or three) in the house for recycling to go, it doesn’t stray into the trash can. Lots of folks have to go the extra mile and tote their recycling to the nearest drop-off center. Fayetteville has plenty of these scattered around though – so no excuses!
    Your challenge: set up a recycling bin in your home. Already have one? Add another!
  3. Compost! I have a little bin for compost in my kitchen that sits by the sink. Having the bin in sight is important, especially if you’re just starting to compost, because it’s a reminder to put things in the bin (and also to empty it!) Lately I’ve been branching out our composting into more paper goods. I even put a compost bin in our bathroom for tissues, cotton balls, and q-tips. We have a big metal trash can with holes drilled in all sides in our backyard for the compost to go when it leaves the house.
    Your challenge: compost something! No excuses. Figure out where you can start or contribute to a compost pile or bin and put something in it! (When I lived in an apartment I worked with my church to set up a compost bin in their garden and brought my bucket of scraps to the pile weekly.)
  4. Donate what I don’t use. This goes for all things, but when I think about it I usually think most about clothes. We don’t have textile recycling in Fayetteville, so a lot of times a stained t-shirt is a big bulk of our trash for the week. If things are still usable though, it’s important to donate them to a thrift store where they can await their next home! I have a bag in my home office that is marked “give away”. And that bag is always there. That way, as I’m trying something on – if I’m not into it – it has a place. It’s not like, oh I should donate this one day when I go through my closet. I actually never go through my closet in one big day of purging. I just have the bag, and fill it up over the course of a month or so, and take it to the thrift store when it’s full.
    Your Challenge: create an out-box in your home for things to donate. Make it somewhere permanent. Don’t worry about filling it up, just know that it’s there and when you come across that chipped tea cup that’s still too pretty to throw away or a dress that doesn’t fit any more, you’ll know where to put them.
  5. Choose to Buy things with less packaging, or recyclable packaging. This is something I’m working on a lot lately. It’s really challenging to do since our city only recycles plastic numbers 1 and 2. And worse, the plastic containers have to have an opening smaller than their base (aka be bottle shaped). Choosing a recyclable cardboard egg carton over plastic or styrofoam is easy, but buying spinach that’s not in a plastic clam shell container can be hard. This week I’m making a grocery list that is broken up by which store I will buy each thing at, and I’m going to do it with where I can buy things in bulk and bring my own container in mind.
    Your Challenge: Shop consciously. Next time you’re at the store think about the packaging around your food. Make choices that are environmentally friendly when possible. And if you find yogurt in a container that Fayetteville recycles, I will be your best friend.
  6. Share the knowledge. Lately I haven’t been able to shut up about composting toilets. We had a plumbing problem at my house, and I was all – “See! See! If we had a composting toilet, these roots wouldn’t be an issue!” And what I’ve learned is that there are a lot of people who are also super into composting toilets (automatic friend people!) But also, there are people who don’t know a thing about them, or don’t totally get it. I am excited that I get to share and make some normalcy out of environmentalism for those people just by having a chat.
    Your Challenge: Talk to someone about something you do to help the environment or something you wish you could do. Who knows, they might be able to help you do it or do it better!

I want to know, what’s on your list? What things do you do to help the environment? What things do you wish you could do? Let’s figure out how to make them possible! What things do you have questions about? Let’s find the answers! Leave a comment below.

Some Links:

Northwest Arkansas Land Trust – The Northwest Arkansas Land Trust came up at my dinner table last night thanks to a couple of inspiringly environmentalist friends of mine. They kindly explained how the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust works to preserve the natural beauty of the Ozarks. Definitely worth checking out.

Ozark Natural Science Center – A local organization the strives to enhance our understanding, appreciation, and stewardship of the Ozark natural environment through school programs. Really powerful stuff.

Beaver Watershed Alliance – Northwest Arkansas has one water source: Beaver Lake. We need to keep it clean! Check out the Beaver Watershed Alliance to find out more.

Carbon Footprint Calculator – An eye opening and fun way to discover the things you use every day and their impact on our environment.

What’s this all about?

The Northwest Arkansas Bloggers have launched #NWArkCares to share social issues and raise awareness for local causes. Each month we are focusing on a different issue/cause. To play along, follow the hashtag #NWArkCares on twitter, instagram, and facebook or check us out on Facebook.

April’s #NWARKcares cause was the environment. Through my blogger friends’ posts and conversations this month, I learned a lot about the important factors in preserving the natural beauty of this place, the Ozarks.

WEvolve unboxing

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This month I got the awesome opportunity to check out WEvolve‘s subscription box service. It’s a really fun treat for anyone who is interested in spirituality, and learning about new things from a variety of sources. Each box has a unique theme, and April’s is ‘Seeds of Intention’. The beautifully packaged box opens up to a postcard with an image of Lakshmi (the Hindu goddess of abundance, self-realization, and true wealth).

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Deeper inside are aventurine rune stones, a handmade Indian paper scroll, a seeds of intention spell bundle, and a resin statue of Ganesha. The back of the postcard and carefully placed notes throughout the package describe each item and it’s uses. The little descriptors and guides are definitely where the value is for me. I could buy any of these things individually, but tying them together and providing use for each item and meaning behind all of the beautiful pieces makes them so much more wonderful!

The aventurine (a special stone that is said to be lucky) rune stones are a tool used to receive inner guidance (much like tarot cards). I’m definitely someone who believes that these types of ‘magical’ things are a centering point for someone to find the answers they seek within themselves. Sometimes externalizing our internal issues into a more visual/tangible form can help make things clearer. I can’t wait to give the rune stones a try!

The handmade Indian scroll is a beautiful blank slate for an equally beautiful message. The inclosed note explains that similar scrolls were traditionally carried by royal messengers to convey important state announcements and marriage announcements but more excitingly – they were used as love notes between Indian princes and princesses. I will have to think of something very important to write on mine! The box’s guide says to write an intention, affirmation, or mantra – which would look super cute hanging on the wall!

The seeds of intention  spell bundle looks like the most fun part of the box! It comes with a detailed ritual to use that describes what to do from untying the bundle on through. As someone with lots of different interests, planting the seed of intention is definitely something I need to do. This is going to be helpful!

Lastly, but mostly, the beautiful resin statue of Ganesha (a Hindu deity known for removing obstacles, being the patron of arts and sciences, and intellect and wisdom) rests in the bottom of the box. It’s such a beautiful little piece and so meaningful too. The box’s card says that Ganesha is a personification of the sound Om and supports the chakras. And so, Ganesha and I will be oming away all through the house with these beautiful treasures from WEvolve’s April box.

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This WEvolve box was provided free of charge for the purposes of writing this post. All opinions are my own. If you’re interested in subscribing or shopping with WEvolve, check out their website.

Little Free Library Delivery – Spring Garden

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Tomorrow I’ll be dropping off this collection of books at the Little Free Library in front of Arsaga’s at the Depot. If you happen to want any of these three books, just follow me on twitter and look for a tweet that says, “The drop has been made.” Then you can roll on over to the little library and pick them up!

This collection includes:

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  • Sunflower Houses: Garden Discoveries for Children of All Ages is full of fun activities that utilize things found in nature. A great guide for parents, teachers, children, etc.

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  • The Way of Herbs is a thorough guide for those who are seeking herbal remedies. A good thing to check out as you plan your garden this spring!

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  • 3 Bowls: Vegetarian Recipes from an American Zen Buddhist Monastery is full of really interesting recipes

In case you’re local (Northwest Arkansas), and you want any of these books, all you have to do is stop by the Little Free Library at Arsaga’s at the Depot and pick them up!

An extra note: When I first started this project – delivering my mom’s old books to a nearby Little Free Library – I was excited about sharing some great reads with my community in a way that was easily approachable by everyone. I’m still super excited about that, but I’ve also had a really intense time connecting with the books that I didn’t expect to have. These are the books that were in my home throughout my whole childhood. We moved back and forth from California to the Ozarks multiple times toting these treasures! Each one makes up a little piece of who I am. I think most people would feel the urge to keep the books as mementos of their past, but, I think for me it’s been more impactful to touch each book, read bits of it, pair it with other books from the same collection that relate in some way, and then let it go impact someone else. I’ve got dozens more to deliver, so keep following along if you’re interested! You can subscribe to my blog’s RSS feed by clicking the link in my righthand toolbar that says “entries RSS”. See you at the library!

Commuting By Bike: Rain Pants or Your Bottom Half

I commuted to work by bike every day this week (and I work on Sundays – so that’s 6 days of bike commuting!) Unfortunately, it also rained every day this week. My ride to work is only about 2.5 miles and takes me around 15-20 minutes, but rain is rain and whether you’re riding in it for 10 minutes or an hour you’re going to get wet.

It’s especially important to have the right kind of gear for riding your bike to work because when you arrive you have to look presentable. I have a coworker who’s just starting to build his bike commuting gear collection, and he asked me for advice on riding in the rain and commuting in general. I got so excited! Other people wanted to know about this crazy bike commuting thing I do! That’s why this week I’m doing a mini series on commuting by bike centered mostly around riding in the rain.

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The way I see it, there are two options for dealing with your bottom half when riding to work in the rain. To start we’ll be talking about an important piece of gear for riding in the rain, and option one: rain pants! Rain pants are awesome, and if you are someone who likes being outside you should probably just go ahead and buy a pair. They are nice to have for hiking and camping and any other situation where you might be out in the rain for a long time. I bought my pair before heading to a football game where I’d be sitting in the stands in the rain. When it comes to biking in the rain, you’re going to get a lot more wet than standing around or walking (especially on your legs) because you’re moving into the rain drops and your bike is going to splash a lot of rain from the ground up onto you, so they can be especially nice. Keep in mind that even if it’s not actually raining, a wet road can be the perfect time for rain pants. Ex: My boyfriend splashed wet-tar-speckles all over his brand new khakis last week.

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I got my packable rain pants at academy sports. (They were out of women’s ones in my size, so I snagged a men’s small and they fit fine.)

All of that said, I actually have a love hate relationship with rain pants. They are really great for biking, but only in super specific weather. If it’s not cold out, I get super sweaty riding in my rain pants, which kind of defeats their purpose. So, I’d say that if you’re biking to work somewhere where it gets cold, you absolutely need a pair of rain pants. But if it’s warm, there are better ways to deal with your bottom half in rainy weather. That brings us to option two:

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When it’s warm but rainy I ride in small cycling shorts (or just simple spandex shorts) and change into more appropriate-for-work bottoms when I arrive. I bring a small microfiber towel with me to dry off before I put my dry work pants on. And, I carry my towel, spare pants, and a snack in a dry bag that I throw in my basket or bungee to my rear rack.

I feel like I should say that I’m lucky enough to work in a building that has a pretty accommodating restroom. In fact, we have lockers available and a shower in our main staff restroom (spoiler alert: I’ve never actually used either and don’t really plan to – so if you don’t have lockers and/or showers available to you, don’t fret – all of the tips to come will still be super helpful.) But what rocks about that whole environment is that it encourages being able to change into work clothes after I arrive.

 

OzMoMuFest 2016 – Friday Night Roundup

Friday night at the third annual Ozark Mountain Music Festival promised a relaxed, but danceable night at the Basin Park Hotel in downtown Eureka Springs, AR.

chuckywaggsAfter a full afternoon and early evening of music from James White on the balcony, Chucky Waggs got the evening going in the Ozark Room. Chucky Waggs didn’t have to travel far to play the festival (the band is from Eureka Springs) but their music has sounds that mix what might be inspired by something further south (Louisiana-ish) with an authentic Arkansan sound.

Throughout the festival I was excited to see lots of innovative pedal powered drums. Chucky’s set has another little snare set up (it’s hiding just behind the bass drum in the above picture). So despite everyone’s fully occupied hands, he was able to add percussion. There were some really cool boards with mics for stomping and even tambourines with pedals on them. On stages as little as these, it’s really cool to get up close and check out everything that’s going on.

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The Whole Famn Damily, from Conway, AR, was absolutely the most fun band of Friday night. They were loud and danceable and filled the whole Barefoot Ballroom with their sound, which is no surprise since there are eight of them on that stage! The whole crowd was on their feet for these fun folks. They’re definitely a band to check out live next time they’re playing near you.
I myself was mesmerized by the banjo mouth moments. At first, it looked like he was taking a drink out of his banjo! But no, he’s singing into it for a really neat effect. Here it looks like he’s giving the banjo a kiss!

 

The last band on Friday night, the Haunted Windchimes, came all the way from Pueblo, CO. I was really excited to see this band after checking them out online. They record so excellently and have such a sweet folk sound. I love when bands mix up whose singing and writing the songs like these guys were. They have some really great songs and are relaxed enough to listen to at work, so check them out on spotify!

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Stay tuned for updates on Saturday and Sunday at the Ozark Mountain Music Festival 2016. Wondering what happened to Thursday’s roundup? There isn’t one! I had some car trouble and couldn’t make it up until Friday evening. Were you there Thursday? Was it amazing? Of course it was. Don’t worry folks, there’s always next year!

I was granted free access to the festival in order to share all about it right here on my blog. All opinions are most def. my own.

OzMoMuFest Bucket List

Are you headed to Eureka Springs, AR for the Ozark Mountain Music Festival this weekend? Already there? Bonus points for beating me to it! Don’t know what it is? Oh no! Check this out: OzMoMuFest. Ok, now we’re set to get to the list! I’m here to share my top 10 things you need to do while in Eureka Springs during OzMoMuFest.

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  1. Dance! You’re at a festival! Get up on that dance floor and move your body! I promise, you’ll have the most fun if you do.
  2. Have your poster signed by the bands! Grab a festival poster from the merch. table and don’t be shy! The bands are all festival attendees too. This festival is intimate enough that you will feel totally comfortable engaging with band members before and after their sets.
  3. Take a selfie with a band member. Once again, the setting’s super chill. Take advantage!
  4. Explore the springs! Find out why Eureka Springs has it’s name and take a walk through downtown. Might I recommend taking your sweetie to Sweet Spring for a refreshing jaunt?
  5. Shop! Downtown Eureka is full of eclectic little shops with everything from kitchenware to clothes. Take a walk only one or two blocks in either direction from the venue and you’ll be bound to find something that you just must have!
  6. Grab a pizza at Chelsea’s Corner Cafe and Bar. This place is a local favorite with a growing lineup of bands cycling through year-round themselves. Not to be missed.
  7. Wander over to Brews and grab coffee or a beer. They’re open from 8am-11pm today and tomorrow and from 8am-9pm on Sunday.
  8. Have lunch at the Oasis on Saturday or Sunday. The original Ark-Mex cuisine is super yum and the restaurant will be open from 10am-2:30pm this weekend.
  9. Grab snacks! Hop over to the Eureka Market and load up on snacks to stock your hotel room for quick between set snack breaks. The bars are flowing and you don’t want to get drunk AND hangry!
  10. Try something new! Whether it’s a new dance move, borrowing someone’s hula hoop, joining in the group jams at the end of the night, trying some new kind of food,  or poking your head in a chilly spring cave – I guarantee you’ll be making memories and having a blast!

Let me know how it goes in the comments! Can you do all ten? Do you have other suggestions? Put them down there! And, see you on the dance floor!

 

Hey! This is the beginning of a whole weekend’s worth of posts about OzMoMuFest. I’ve been granted free access to the festival in order to share all about it right here on my blog. All opinions are most def. my own.

Northwest Arkansas Mall Gift Card Giveaway (Now Closed)

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As I mentioned in yesterday’s post – today a super incredible awesome amazing rad giveaway begins! One lucky winner will receive a $200 shopping spree to select stores at the Northwest Arkansas Mall. That’s a $75 gift card to Dillard’s, a $50 gift card to Gap, a $10 gift card to Clarie’s, a $40 gift card to Charlotte Russe, and a $25 gift card to Candy Craze! Why these stores? Check out yesterday’s post on my 5 holiday party essentials! The contest begins today, Saturday December 12th 2015, and ends on Wednesday December 16th 2015. You must live in Northwest Arkansas to enter and to win.

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This giveaway was generously sponsored by the Northwest Arkansas Mall.

Holiday Party Essentials from the Northwest Arkansas Mall

If you’re entertaining at all this holiday season, or even if you’re just attending various holiday shin-digs, this is the place to be! I recently spent the afternoon at the Northwest Arkansas Mall getting everything I’ll need to be super set for the holiday entertaining season. Here are the 5 things that are going to make my holiday party hosting and attending totally rock this December.

P.S. This post is sponsored by the Northwest Arkansas Mall and includes affiliate links. Before you get super upset about how unspecific those links are (they’re to the main brand site, not the specific product), let me tell you why! I want you to go to the mall, just like I did, and buy those things locally. All of that sales tax and energy and community is important! And, in addition, I’m going to be giving one lucky reader the opportunity to do that with a giveaway! You should stay tuned tomorrow, right here on the blog, for that incredible giveaway. And when I say incredible, I mean big and amazing and so super duper!

Holiday Party Essential #1: a little red and green for your tablescape.

I picked up some red (aka: crimson) and green (aka: lemongrass) fiesta ware to serve up gingerbread cookies, sprinkles, and other super important holiday treats. I snagged these perfect pieces at Dillard’s. Click here to check out all of the fiesta ware that Dillard’s offers.

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I already had the lemongrass flatware set, so the crimson flatware, two crimson bowls, and a lemongrass set of dishes was the perfect way to round out my holiday tablescape. This year I’m going to be hosting my “somewhat annual holiday cookie decorating party”, and these pieces will be perfect to dish up cookies, and all of the things that my guests will use to adorn them.

Holiday Party Essential #2: See’s Candies (and it has to be See’s)

See’s Candies are a classic for my family. Actually, we used to get them on the reg. when we lived in San Francisco. Moving here meant leaving them behind, so finding the kiosk at the mall was an extra exciting thing for my parents and I. My dad helped me pick this one out, since he’s the chocolate aficionado of the family. I think I’m going to have to go back for a few more boxes because these are so decadent and make excellent treats at a party, and they are a super great hostess gift too. Shh, don’t tell my boyfriend’s family that they’re all getting See’s when we head their way for the holidays!

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If, like me, you are having a somewhat annual holiday cookie decorating party, then I also highly recommend checking out Candy Craze for unique decorative candies!

Holiday Party Essential #3: A cozy sweater you can dress up or down

I doubled up on this essential with layering in mind. Here in Northwest Arkansas it’s been totally warm during the day but freezing at night, so winter wear has had to stay on hold most days with fall layers holding on through December. Can you believe it? I keep forgetting what month it is because it’s so warm!

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First, (above) a chunky grey knit sweater from Gap. This one can be dressed up (think statement necklace, maxi skirt, fancy hair, and all that) or down (leggings, messy hair, and cookies in hand – that’s more my style obviously).

Second, (below) a wrappy shawl sweater from Charlotte Russe that can go over the above sweater when the sun sets and it gets chilly out.

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Holiday Party Essentials #4: something to cover your booty (with a little give)

After I’ve eaten all of my holiday cookies, I am going to need some pants with a little stretch. That’s why I chose these super comfy and cute pants from Charlotte Russe. They had a buy one get one for $10 deal, so I snagged two. Such goodness with more than one holiday party to go to. I can wear the same sweater and different pants right? Right.

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Holiday Party Essentials #5: last but not least, a little sparkle

I shopped all over the mall for some sparkly and finally landed on this little faux septum ring at Claire’s. Isn’t it the cutest? Aren’t you dying to put sparkly stuff up your nose? I am! Claire’s has all kinds of cute finishing touches to make your outfit look a little more, let’s say – thought about this holiday season.

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Whew, that was a lot of things! Let me know what holiday party essential you’ve been after lately and what you think of mine in the comments! And don’t forget tomorrow’s gigantic giveaway (which will be for Northwest Arkansas residents only – sorry other folks!).

The purchases mentioned in this post were sponsored by the Northwest Arkansas Mall and although this post is sponsored, all opinions are my own.

Little Free Library Delivery – Words

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Today I’ll be dropping off this collection of books at the Little Free Library in front of Arsaga’s at the Depot. If you happen to want any of these three books, just follow me on twitter and look for a tweet that says, “The drop has been made.” Then you can roll on over to the little library and pick them up!

This collection includes:

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  • Big Talk: Poems for Four Voices is a really fun way to get your family to read out loud together. Fun for kids and adults too.

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  • The Scholastic Rhyming Dictionary is a really fun, kid friendly, dictionary of rhymes for poetic types.

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  • Roget’s International Thesaurus is an out of date thesaurus for all of your out of date thesaurus needs – or perhaps the framework for a new upcycled journal project?

In case you’re just stumbling upon this and you’re wondering why I’ve got a little stack of books on my blog, check out my intro to this series. And remember, if you want any of these books, all you have to do is stop by the Little Free Library at Arsaga’s at the Depot and pick them up!