Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Frosty Expedition

For the expedition described in this posting, I only had to travel as far as my front yard! A great benefit of getting out of bed early on a cold, frosty morning in the valley where I live, is the possibility of getting to see a somewhat rare phenomenon that few people ever have the opportunity to witness----"frost flowers". They come from the plant the locals call "frostweed" (aka Verbesina virginica). The frost flowers form just above ground level when the first hard freeze forces water out of the stems to form various rounded or curving shapes of ice. Last year, I even "harvested" some of the beautiful, icy formations and sprayed them with sugar-free raspberry syrup to make a hillbilly version of a snowcone! Each icy formation is different, and the intricacy of the frost sculptures remind me of a verse from one of my favorite Psalms of praise to God: "Your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Psalm 139:14a (One reason I like Psalm 139 so much is because it is a fantastic oracle for the traveler---especially the paraphrased version in The Message.) But if you are not a morning person, don't count on ever getting to see anything but photographs of these frost flowers. They disappear quickly as the sun heats up the ground where they are "blooming". Miles of frosty smiles! Tricia
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Monday, October 27, 2008

Holy Roller at the Clinton Presidential Center

There is a special exhibit in progress at the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, called "Art of the Chopper". However, I did not use "Art of the Chopper" as the title of this post, thinking that readers who knew I did culinary tours would assume it was some story about a super-duper food chopper gadget. Rather, the post is titled after the name of one of the motorcycles on display called "The Holy Roller" by artist Mike Brown. A more descriptive spelling might be "hole-ly" roller because of the unusual open space hole in the front tire. (You can see me gazing through the large hole in the wheel in the upper, right hand corner of the photo grid above.) My non-engineering brain could not figure out how in the world the thing could roll, but I was assured by museum staff that all choppers in the exhibit had to actually work. I was particularly interested in the chopper on display by well-known enthusiast Arlen Ness. I was able to see Arlen Ness in person several years ago at the Laughlin, Nevada, motorcycle rally, and hear him tell the history of some of his creations. The brochure for the exhibit states that the "chopper" is a uniquely American icon, a creation that demands remarkable design and engineering while clearly expressing the artistry and personalities of their builders and owners. The exhibit features 30 of the finest, most exceptional custom motorcycles ever displayed. There is no extra fee to see the motorcycle exhibit--just the normal fees of visiting this new landmark on the Arkansas River that contains all kinds of historical artifacts from the Clinton years in the White House. The motorcycles will be on display there until February 8, 2009. For more information, log on to www.clintonpresidentialcenter.org Keep on rollin' !! Tricia
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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Kayak/Campout Adventure at Lake Ouachita State Park

It's been another great weekend to get out and enjoy God's Great Outdoors in The Natural State---ARKANSAS, that is! Whereas last weekend's post originated from the northern section of Arkansas' Scenic 7 Byway in Newton County, this weekend found me exploring the southern end of that world-famous highway---enjoying a weekend planned by the very competent staff at Lake Ouachita State Park near Hot Springs National Park. It was such a wonderful experience, I want to give you all the details about it, which I will do on a future posting, (along with the photos that I promised the 14 participants from all over the country) so that you can put it on your calendars for 2009! Miles of smiles! Tricia Turner
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Monday, October 20, 2008

Fall Colors at Maplewood

For many years, area leaf peepers have used Maplewood Cemetery in Harrison, Arkansas, as their gauge for the extent of the transformation of deciduous trees of the Ozarks into flaming torches of color. I usually try to have my camera with me when I visit there in the fall of the year, in hopes of getting just the perfect photograph to capture the essence of autumn. In fact, one of the first photographs I ever sold for real money was taken in Maplewood in the fall. There are several other reasons I like to visit Maplewood Cemetery---the most significant being that the "family burial plot" is there, with memorials to my relatives that have finished their earthly "expedition". It is this concept of the "family burial plot" that I wanted to write about. A few years ago, I met for the first time, a retired lady at a party, and we were making chitchat as we became acquainted. She asked about my background, and I told her I grew up in Harrison. She said that she and her husband had looked into retiring in Harrison when they moved away from the big city, but decided against it. I want to quote the reason she said they did not choose Harrison: "You know, if you don't have a plot in Maplewood Cemetery, you will never be accepted there." WOW! I had never heard that before! That meant that, since I DID have a plot at Maplewood Cemetery, I must be accepted---part of the "IN CROWD"!! I need never feel dejected or left out EVER again, because my family has a burial plot at Maplewood! I really "dig that"! Miles of smiles! Tricia
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Sunday, October 19, 2008


I had the wonderful opportunity to visit a robotic dairy for the first time recently when I toured Hope Acres in Brogue, PA. Our tour guide explained how the cows are trained to "Que up" on their own to start the milking process whenever they felt like it, instead of just twice a day as in the "days of old" before robotic milking. Speaking of those "days of old", one of my childhood memories is being on my grandparents farm where my Uncle Warren G would let me help him with his milking chores, even though I slowed him down from his usual routine. He was a very patient man, as I could only get out a drop or two of milk, despite my intense efforts, whereas he had the bucket full of fresh milk in what seemed like an effortless few minutes. I need to ask him what he used to clean the cows' teats that corresponded to the "automatic carwash"-type brushes I observed for this purpose in the robotic dairy. I have forgotten that part of the process---or you don't suppose we didn't clean them! Another feature of the robotic dairy that my grandparents farm definitely lacked was that each cow had an identifying radio-frequency tag that the robotic milker read, so that each cow could easily be checked on the monitor screen in the dairy barn to see how much milk she had produced at any given moment---pretty remarkable, huh? Oh yeah, another thing the milk cows at my grandparents farm didn't have is water beds and automated back scratchers. The folks at Hope Acres say the water beds protect the cows' bones/joints, enabling them to be milk producers for more years. The caption for the upper left hand corner photo might be one I recall from my travels called "Show your teats". The first time I ever saw that phrase, I was riding behind my husband on the Harley along the Interstate in South Dakota approaching Sturgis. The phrase was hand-scrawled on brown card board and attached to fences of the fields that had been turned into temporary campgrounds for the thousands of bikers that descend upon Sturgis each August. And I just didn't see one sign, it seemed as though about every 1/2 mile, I would see another hand-made sign with the same phrase. I wondered about it silently in my mind, still confused why these signs were up there. Then finally, I tapped my husband on the shoulder and asked loudly (so as to be heard over the roar of the V-twin engine) "What do those signs mean that say 'show your teats'?" As I said the words out loud, it dawned on my naive little head what they were asking, and I was "flabbergasted"! Naughty talk, for sure!! However, in the case of dairy farms, showing their teats is exactly what the cow must do to enable the rotating brushes of the robotic milker to clean her teats thoroughly before the actual milking process begins. Following the cleaning, the four suction cups of the milking machine (show in the upper right hand corner) are laser-guided to attach firmly to the teats and begin the milking process. The milk from the four separate teats goes into four separate collection devices, and each one is tested for the presence of harmful bacteria before the milk is all combined, and credited to this particular cow on the computer monitor. After the milking process is completed, the cow steps out of the stall and returns to her regular duties of eating and resting. Another cow has been waiting in line after her, so the new cow steps into position, and the process starts all over again. There are several robotic dairies around the country, and many of them allow groups to observe this fascinating use of technology. To learn more about the one I visited, you can go to their website www.thebrowncow.net Since the Bible talks about a "land of milk and honey", I would recommend a tour of a dairy farm to the youngsters of this era, so they can learn that REAL milk comes from one of God's creations called a cow. It has not always been in the carton you buy at the grocery store! Miles of smiles!! Tricia
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Ernest Hemingway---in Arkansas??!!

I did the mandatory reading of Ernest Hemingway in high school and college, and though it was a few years ago, I am almost certain there was no mention of the famous author being in Arkansas during his writing career. So you can imagine how my curiosity was aroused when I started reading in Arkansas Tourist Publications about Hemingway's "Arkansas connections." I guess I have a soft spot in my heart for anything associated with the Hemingway name, because that is where I went for a special meal on my wedding day---Hemingway's Restaurant at the Bass Pro Shop in Springfield, Missouri. (Doesn't everyone visit the original Bass Pro shop on their wedding day?) In travels after that time, we visited some of Hemingway's old haunts (including his famous estate in the Florida Keys patrolled by hoards of cats that might be described as "toe-challenged") as well as one of the fishing boats he used in the Keys. So since I had visited these sites in other states known for their Hemingway connection, I determined it was my duty as a native Arkansan to visit the Hemingway connection that was in Arkansas. To prepare me for the experience, I studied biographies of Ernest Hemingway, so much so, that by the time I cruised into the the town of Piggott in northeast Arkansas, I felt like "me and Ernie" were old friends! Driving through the Mississippi Delta farmland on my way to Piggott, however, the scene was more like a John Grisham novel than an Ernest Hemingway tome. The fields of cotton stretched for miles on end, broken up by occasional patches of kudzu that carpet the ditchlines. Overhead, a crop duster airplane made his dives at the rows of white fluff (aka cotton plants) that were his targets. The sleepy town of Piggott welcomed me with dignified (translate "small") signs pointing to the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center. I learned that the reason I had not heard about Hemingway's Arkansas connections when I was in school, is because the site has only been open to the public the last few years. Through the efforts of preservationists associated with Arkansas State University in nearby Jonesboro, the once-private residence has been turned into a museum, and the facility also hosts seminars/workshops for would-be writers. You can learn more at their website www.hemingway.astate.edu/ On the day I visited, I was given a guided tour of the barn-studio, plus family home, associated with Ernest Hemingway and his second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer. I visited the gift shop there and purchased a ceramic coffee mug with an image of Ernest Hemingway as it was used on a U.S. postage stamp. It is hard to describe, but ever since I visited this literary historic landmark (and learned that Hemingway often didn't feel like writing---hunting and fishing were his true loves---yet he MADE himself sit down regularly and pen a few lines), I have been more motivated to write about my travels and life experiences. I grab my Ernest Hemingway mug, and the words just "tumble out"! (Is that why some cups are called "tumblers"?) I know the world has no shortage of things to read, but there is something to be said for "putting legs" on your thoughts and memories, by recording them in writing. So I now spell the cliche used to encourage someone---Right on!!---as ---Write on!!!
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Saturday, October 18, 2008

"Newton County Home Tour"

One of my favorite October expeditions for the last several years has been the Newton County Tour of Homes that is conducted as a fundraiser for the Newton County Single Parent Scholarship Fund. This fundraiser started eleven years ago as a way to raise money to help single parent residents of this small rural county in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. Many of the homes I have visited over the years have been the secluded residences of well-known people, who have chosen to live a more relaxed life in the country. There are usually five or six homes on the tour and each one will make you be in awe of the surrounding beauty. For that reason, I won't give away the GPS locations of these hideaways, rather I will suggest that you put this on your calendar for 2009 (call 870-391-3129 or email dhand@northark.edu for next year's dates) and discover for yourself why folks keep choosing this area for their home. So instead of showing photographs of the tour homes for this blog entry, take a look at the historic Newton County Jail. It was built in 1903 by the Heilman Construction Company in the Italianate style, out of native stone. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1994. The Newton County Jail has an official capacity of four inmates, and there have been hopes for many years of a "new and improved" structure to house prisoners. If you travel much, you probably have encountered those very pricey hotels whose only claim to fame is that they are on the National Register of Historic Places----so here is an opportunity to add a "National Register of Historic Place" stamp to your travel passport resume, without having to dip into your pocketbook! ( But keep in mind, a bed in the historic jail cannot be guaranteed, because if there are several lawbreakers at one time, temporary facilities have to be set up elsewhere.) Miles of smiles! Tricia Turner
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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Her in Hershey!

Although I am not one known for actively PROMOTING the consumption of "sweets", I may have to make an exception in the case of Hershey Chocolate Products. There has never been any doubt in my mind (nor the tastebuds in my mouth) that Hershey Chocolate tastes delicious, but after a visit to Hershey, PA, and a history lesson about the man who started the company---Milton S. Hershey---I determined that Hershey Foods was the brand to purchase whenever I had a choice. That is because I learned that all of the profits from the sale of Hershey Food Products goes to the Hershey Foundation that has the mission to nurture and educate children in financial and social need, to lead fulfilling and productive lives. (I was not surprised to learn that the man responsible for such a generous and compassionate gift--Milton Hershey--was of the Mennonite faith. Of all the Christian denominations I have observed, few come closer to living the love walk Jesus taught, than the Mennonites I have known.) Today, the Milton Hershey School is the country's largest pre-K through 12, home and school, for boys & girls from families of low income or social need. All students receive the school's services free of charge, including housing; education; clothing; meals; and medical, dental, religious, psychological, and other services. You can actually tour the sprawling campus of the school, along with the beautiful Founder's Hall, if you take the two-hour trolley tour that starts from the Chocolate World Visitor's Center in Hershey. While at the Hershey's Chocolate World, be sure to take the free "Factory Tour". It is an amusementpark-type ride through a tunnel of animatronic dioramas that simulate various components of the process used to make Hershey's chocolate products. (Thankfully there was no mention of the addition of melamine anytime in the process of making Hershey's chocolates. I was glad of this since it had just been on the national news the day of my visit that many chocolate products made in China were being recalled because of unsafe levels of melamine in certain chocolates of Chinese origin.) I want to mention that throughout the trolley tour, and at the end of the chocolate factory tour, you are rewarded with "de-light-ful" chocolate kisses. I have a new image in my head of "light" chocolate kisses because the street lights on Chocolate Avenue where my lovely Days Inn Hotel was located, were made in the form of chocolate kisses! (see photo above) Cute, huh? I heard on the Travel Channel that you can actually smell chocolate in the air in Hershey, PA, and it is true! My hotel was just a few blocks from the world's largest, most famous chocolate processing plant, and the wonderful aroma of chocolate that filled the air there was intoxicating! But, if you can't make it to Hershey, PA, this fall, the least you can do is buy the Hershey's brand for your "Trick or Treat" goodie bags at Halloween. Your little gremlins will be pleased AND you'd be helping out hundreds of underprivileged youth who attend the Milton S. Hershey school. Bon apetit! Tricia (or for the purpose of the personalized Hershey wrapper shown above---PAtricia!)
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Amish Images

I guess my fascination with the Amish and Mennonite cultures started when I was a youngster. At the small Protestant church I attended with my family, a carload of Mennonites would often visit at our Sunday night services. I was told that the reason they were only there on Sunday nights, and not on Sunday mornings, was because they worshipped with other Mennonites at the local Hillcrest Nursing Home on Sunday mornings. This particular nursing home was operated, sort of as a "mission project" by a group of Mennonites. At one time, the men of that religious sect could meet their military requirements (since they were conscientious objectors) by doing two years of service at the nursing home, instead of active military duty. After the draft was discontinued, the nursing home continued to be operated by Mennonites, even though it was no longer a legal obligation to do so. But what fascinated me most about these weekly glimpses at a culture quite different from my own was their clothing. The group of five or six would usually be called on to sing a "special" , where they would go up to the front of the church and with a heavenly harmony (and no piano accompaniment) sing a hymn. I REALLY liked that part of those Sunday night services, because it gave me an opportunity to study those unusual dresses, when they all got up in front of everyone to sign. The womens' dresses were all made just alike, in a very plain fashion, and made of solid colors of various shades of pastel fabric. ---But here's the part that really fascinated me---instead of buttons, the dresses were held together with straight pins! When I asked my mother why they used pins, instead of buttons, she said it was because they believed buttons would be "too decorative" and not plain enough. However, I was pretty sure I knew the REAL reason-----I had been trying to learn to make button holes on the sewing machine, and it was quite difficult for me. I concluded that these ladies, too, had encountered difficulties making button holes, and got around it by saying buttons (and the buttonholes they required) were just too pretentious for their beliefs, and they would use straight pins instead! Well, fast forward several decades to when I worked as a Registered Dietitian consultant for nursing homes. I actually became an employee (more like an independent contractor) of this very nursing home, still operated by Mennonites. For that reason, they gave me the rules to read that the young Mennonites who also worked there were to follow. The ones that stick in my mind were the admonition that there would be NO public display of affection, including holding hands; also, when they had a day off, all leisure activities were to be done as a group, no boy-girl couples pairing off for a day by themselves. I learned some about Pennsylvania Dutch cooking when I worked there as well. One of my duties was to review the menus the Mennonite kitchen provided, for nutritional adequacy. There were some items on those menus that were completely new to me, but there was no doubt that the food that came out of that Mennonite kitchen was the best tasting of any of the six nursing homes where I consulted. Fast forward a few more years, and I no longer worked for the nursing home, but I still found myself there---this time as a regular visitor to my uncle who was a resident (translate patient) there. Then in a few more years, my mother was also a resident there. And how fitting it was that a new batch of Mennonite voices harmonized together to provide special music when they sang for my mom's funeral services. All this leads me up to why I have for so long wanted to get a glimpse of the original U.S. location of the Pennsylvania Dutch traditions, which would include a look into Amish culture. Well, that wish came to "fruition" finally as the photos at the beginning of this blog can attest to. I spent a week in Pennsylvania, and a wonderful Mennonite lady named D.J. Kling take me on a tour of the backroads of rural Lancaster County, where many of the Amish and Mennonite families live. This was "a longing fulfilled" for me which means (according to Proverbs 13:12) it is a much-appreciated new branch on my "Tree of Life".
It is my prayer that whoever reads this post, will take the action steps to fulfill a longing that will add new branches to their "Tree of Life"!
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Pennsylvania Dutch Country Living Inn

During a recent visit to an area of the country nicknamed "Pennsylvania Dutch", I had the pleasant experience of visiting the Country Living Inn located in Lancaster, PA. It was pleasant, not only because of the charm of the lodging property itself (owned by local couple, Mr. and Mrs. Gerald Kling), but also because Mrs. Kling (called D.J. by her friends and shown above sitting on the front porch of the Inn) took several hours out of her day to show me around the "back roads" of Lancaster County, known world-wide for its unique Amish/Mennonite heritage. If you have visiting Pennsylvania Dutch country as something on your "Bucket List", I can definitely recommend the Country Living Inn as a great place to serve as your headquarters. The Inn has a cozy, homey feeling that I have never seen before in a lodging property of this size (it has 34 rooms). The rooms are decorated in PA Dutch decor, from the artisan-painted ceiling borders , to the quilts covering the beds, to the artwork/accessories that embellish each welcoming room. The rooms also have ceramic coffee mugs to get your mornings started right (and reduce landfill from disposable cups!). Since I do culinary tours, I was especially interested to get a preview of the fifties-style diner that D.J. and her husband are opening up next door to the Inn. It is called "D.J.'s", and the decor there will take you back to an era that predates cookie-cutter franchises and will rekindle fifties nostalgia. D.J. said one of her menu items will be baked oatmeal. Since I was raised in a family that had oatmeal for breakfast every day (AND have a master's degree in Foods & Nutrition), I was a little embarrassed that I had never even heard of baked oatmeal. But as soon as I had the opportunity, I looked up the recipe on the Internet, and treated myself to a taste of this new edition to my cuisine vocabulary. And, it was delicious! I am already thinking of ways I could modify the recipe to keep the great flavor and texture, but make it slightly lower in calories so that it would be suitable to use in the healthy lifestyle classes I teach (www.FirstPlace.org). Speaking of health, another reason I liked the Country Living Inn is because it is the "anchor" for a one-mile long, pedestrian-friendly sidewalk that will take you to a popular Amish tourist attraction called The Amish Farm and House. And, in the event you're going unto withdrawal from not having been in a discount superstore since you left home, there is also a Target store at the end of the one mile hike, where you can buy "provisions" for the walk back to the Inn. (I have to credit my son with the tongue-in-cheek "provisions" phrase because of the way he teased me once when we were on a short hike in Oregon. He said I was carrying enough "provisions" for an overnight camp-out, although our hike would only be an hour or two!) Another nice thing about the sidewalk between the Country Living Inn and the Amish Farm & House attraction is that it borders a large, (real!) working farm where you will see the fields in varying states of production, depending on the time of year you visit. Once you have returned from your hike, you can relax in the comfortable chairs in a landscaped patio looking out towards a different working PA Dutch farm, OR sit in the shade of the Inn's front porch in the specially-made, glider rockers and watch the world go by on the Old Philadelphia Pike that runs in front of the Inn. So here is my recommendation, whether you have a group or just a couple of travelers, CHECK OUT the Country Living Inn, and you will see for yourself that it is the place where you will want to CHECK IN! www.countrylivinginn.com
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Harley-Davidson Tours

It is not actually a written law that someone who got married on a Harley-Davidson (see leather-clad newlyweds in photo) is required to tour every Harley-Davidson factory that presents itself, but so far it seems that is the route I am taking in life. The first opportunity was the (relatively) new H-D factory in Kansas City. The powers to be at Harley know their strength comes from their strong connection with their customers, so they have made it possible for the customers to "take ownership" of the motorcycle manufacturing process by facilitating a top-notch factory experience. The guests are first shown an inspiring video that tell of the struggles this American company has overcome, then the guests are given the official H-D Tour Badge (show in photo above), and fitted with an earpiece that enables them to hear every syllable of the Factory Tour Guide's words, even though they may be several feet away and surrounded by machinery noises. And, of course, at the end of the tour, you can have your photo made on any of the beautiful H-D motorcycles on their showroom floor (see aqua bike in photo). Likewise, you will be given the opportunity to buy H-D souvenirs and attire until your pocketbook runs out of funds! Another nice touch in the way H-D uses their customers to market their company for them, is that the guide gives each person in the tour a slick-looking H-D postcard, tells the guest to address it anywhere in the U.S., and then they mail it to your addressee at no charge. What a deal! Besides Kansas City, I have "notches" in my belt for the factory tour at Tomahawk, Wisconsin and York, Pennsylvania. I would recommend these tours for EVERYONE---even if you are not a motorcycle fan. That is because these tours give you the opportunity to see some very sophisticated equipment produce some incredible products, through the use of laser cutting, robotic sanding and painting, and powerful presses to shape the metal to exact specifications. You can actually see how the process starts with a big roll of flat steel, and ends up with the piece of mobile sculpture called a Harley-Davidson! (Note----Reserve your spot on the tour as soon as you know it is a possibility, especially if you are taking a group. See www.HARLEY-DAVIDSON.COM/EXPERIENCE for more information) Miles of H-D smiles! Tricia Turner
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