Sunday, April 26, 2009

Al Roker Photos

The text that explains these photos is in post called "NBC Today Show Expedition". The cyberspace gremlin disconnected the photos and the text somehow! :)
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NBC Today Show Expedition

For decades, I have watched those ridiculous-looking people who stand on the sidelines---waving madly, holding up tacky signs, and screaming like wild animals---as the NBC weatherman tried to tell his TV audience what to expect in the way of temperature, rain, wind, etc.; yet, when the NBC Today Show's Al Roker came to Branson Landing this past weekend to do his weather broadcast, I realized I might never have another opportunity to see such a production in person, so I decided to become one of those ridiculous-looking people myself! The fact that the weather last Friday was absolutely the most gorgeous day we have had all spring, figured heavily into my decision to make the pre-dawn drive to Branson to be part of the show. In the top photo, Al Roker is shown interviewing Branson entertainers Andy Williams (as in Moon River), and Righteous Brother Bill Medley (as in "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling").
In the wide angle shot, with the fountains and Lake Taneycomo in the background, Roker was joking around with comedian Yakov Smirnoff , who also has a theater in Branson.
It seemed everybody there was on their cellphone, calling anyone who would answer, to let them know they were on the Today Show. This included Al Roker, himself, who, no doubt, was phoning his wife to see if she was watching!
At least I wasn't standing on my head to get attention, which is exactly what the Acrobats of China did, in one of the segments! Back in Arkansas, I had my DVR set to record the show, and after watching the playback just now, I saw that I actually did make my NBC television debut on April 24, 2009! I found myself in the crowd, standing in the background, as Roker interviewed the Lennon Sisters, who were part of the Celebrity Chefs demonstrating their culinary talents for the Great American Pie Show later that day. I would love to write more, but I need to go wait by the phone for the talent scouts who will soon be contacting me to sign me up for future television appearances! :) Miles of smiles! Tricia


One reason often given for student travel is that it gives youngsters the opportunity to perform in unfamiliar venues, and in front of unfamiliar audiences, in order to teach them poise; it also helps them overcome any tendencies they might have to what is commonly called "stage fright". This term took on a new meaning for the Arkansas Elite Cheer Team that was performing in the MCDA Cheer and Dance Championships yesterday in Branson, Missouri. A gust of wind lifted one end of the performance stage off the ground, then folded over onto the other end of the stage, like a giant omelet. However, the filling inside this omelet was a team of little girls, instead of ham, cheese, and onion. All this occurred while the young Arkansas Elite team was doing their routine in front of the judges. To give you an idea of what it must have felt like for the girls, imagine a mattress, body slamming you at about twenty miles per hour!! Adults rushed to the stage to try to lift it off of the cheerleaders who were underneath, and ---as you might imagine---very shaken up! The term "stage fright" will have a whole different meaning to these young ladies from now on! They did not get to finish their routine, but they were the people's choice for the "Overcoming Stage Fright" Award! After the initial shock subsided from witnessing it, I was thanking God that it did not occur while a stunt was being done where they toss one of the team members high into the air and she is then caught by the others mid-air. If the stage-folding incident occurred then, the girl being tossed into the air would not have had her team members below her to catch her, and that would have been a much greater catastrophe! This is a reminder to all us grandparents and parents to "pray without ceasing" for the well-being of our youngsters! Miles of smiles! Tricia (p.s. A future blog will show photos of what the stage looked like whenever it was not folded over itself)

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Student Expeditions---Something to Cheer About!!

These photos show my granddaughter's Arkansas Elite Cheer & Dance Team competing in the MCDA Cheer and Dance Championship Meet, held yesterday, at Celebration City in Branson, Missouri. They won first place in their division!
After the "blown away" incident earlier that day, adults sat on the end of the stage, to keep it from being lifted off the ground again by a gust of wind. This was especially good news to those girls being tossed high into the air, and depending on their team mates beneath them to catch them before gravity does!
This team definitely has something to cheer about!
Adriana ( left) and Kaitlyn (right) took first place for their routine in the "duo" division. Congratulations from a very proud, and very thankful, "Grandma Tricia"! Miles of smiles! Posted by Picasa

Saturday, April 18, 2009

SDC Culinary Class

Today was my first opportunity to take one of the classes offered at the somewhat new, Silver Dollar City Craft & Culinary School, just outside Branson, Missouri. It was a great day to be indoors taking a class, because "the weather outside was frightful, and the fire (inside the culinary school's magnificent fireplace) was so delightful!" There is so much to tell about the building and furnishing of the facility itself, that I will detail more about that in a future blog. The photograph below shows the demonstration kitchen area. The seats and tables are at graduated heights so all can see. Plus, the two large flatscreen televisions on either side of the cook island give closeup views of whatever the chef has preparing on the cook top. Seating in the class is unassigned, and people usually line up to go into the room several minutes ahead of starting time to give them access to the type of seating they prefer. They also had iced tea poured and ready for each participant to enjoy at their seat whenever we walked in.
The classes offered at the Culinary School are designed to coincide with whatever festival is being celebrated in the park. For example, SDC is currently promoting World Fest, so the recipes demonstrated today were called "Taste of the Orient - Stir Fry". Notice, that I said "demonstrated." Some folks reading this may have been to culinary classes where you actually had a hand in preparing a particular dish, with the opportunity for a "hands on" experience mastering a particular culinary technique. However, these classes are designed for spectators only; yet they are small enough, that it is easy to interact with the chef, and ask any questions or get clarification on unfamiliar terms.
The recipes prepared in today's class were: Ozark Stir Fry, Beef Stir Fry with Rice, and Chicken/Seafood Stir Fry; and YES!!! ---you do get a generous sample of each dish to taste for yourself, as well as a copy of the recipe to take home with you. Each one was delicious, and something that would be easy to adapt to home use.
After class, I got to have my photo made with Debbie Dance Uhrig, who has the title "Master Craftsman of Culinary Arts". You can read more about her background or purchase one of her cookbooks at The classes cost ten dollars, in addition to your general admission ticket to Silver Dollar City. You can sign up for the classes in advance at or by phoning 800-831-4Fun. And I would definitely recommend this "4Fun"! Miles of smiles! Tricia
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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Culinary Tourism in St. Joe, Arkansas?

An enjoyable aspect of the recent visit my son made back to the Ozarks after living "off" for several years (us locals know that if you don't live here, you're from "off") was seeing the way he was taking photographs of scenery I had grown accustomed to. It was scenery that was almost invisible to me, because it was ever-present. One such occasion was the stop at the Coursey's Smoked Meat establishment in St. Joe, Arkansas. Ever since I was old enough to remember, the Coursey's Store had been a landmark in making the trip between Harrison, Arkansas, and all points South. My son had a bit stronger ties to the store because one of his friends since preschool, had been a member of the extended family of the owners of Courseys, so he had more interaction with them than I had. They were friends through elementary school, jr. high, and high school. When my son was in high school, however, he made a choice (with no prompting from his dietitian mother) to be a vegetarian. As long as he was making wise choices to get adequate protein in his diet through legumes and nuts and such, I supported his decision. When he went away to college and was eating regularly in the dining hall of the college, there was plenty of variety to satisfy his hunger, as well as nutritional needs. The vegetarian phase of his maturing process, however, was put to a severe test when he moved out of a dormitory at college, and started sharing an apartment with the friend whose family was involved with Coursey's Smoked Meats. Neither of the guys were big on cooking or grocery shopping, so the only food that was consistently in their refrigerator or pantry was Coursey's Meat Products. Needless to say, he was no longer a vegetarian when he left that living arrangement. So I was not surprised when he wanted to stop at Coursey's on his trip home, to renew his relationship with their great tasting meats. They fixed us a delicious ham sandwich and my son also bought some jerky that was displayed in a big glass canister by the cash register. I am not a jerky aficionado, but I can say without a doubt, that it was absolutely the best jerky I have ever tasted! Likewise, the ham was fantastic! I guess when your family has made a product for the last sixty years or so, you get pretty good at it. Such is the case for this business: The story of its beginning is told in a great review written on the website ; The story indicates that Mr. Coursey began smoking hams in an old dirt-floored log cabin, just after World War II. The cabin (although no longer in use) is still on the property, and my son and I are pictured above, standing in front of it. (Coursey's meats now are smoked in stainless steel facilities). The photos also show that there are picnic tables outside for enjoying your meal. And good news----although "out houses" may have been all that was available when the business started, there are now modern, clean restrooms for the customers to use (complete with indoor plumbing!) The store can be reached by phoning 870-439-2503, but they have yet to launch their products through Internet marketing on a website. Why not use that as an excuse to treat yourself to a road trip in the Ozarks?!! Coursey's Smoked Meats would also make a great stop for any expeditions you have planned in the area of the Buffalo National River, as the Tyler Bend Visitor's Center for the river is just a "hop, skip, and a jump" away, along Highway 65. Miles of smiles! TriciaPosted by Picasa

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Gaston Visitor's Center

If you want to see an example of your tax dollars being used in a most beneficial way, make a trip to the Gaston Visitor's Center, near Mountain Home, Arkansas. This new 15,744 square foot facility was built at a cost of five million dollars, and is located on a high bluff overlooking Bull Shoals-White River State Park. From that venue, one can see three of the parks most prominent components---the massive Bull Shoals Dam (upper left hand corner of collage above), the White River (lower left hand corner), and Bull Shoals Lake, encompassing thousands of acres behind the dam. Within the building, there are modern, interactive exhibits that showcase the natural, historical, and cultural aspects of this area of the Ozark Mountains. The center is named after Jim Gaston, philanthropist and owner of the famous Gaston's White River Resort. Gaston has been a familiar name to me since I was a child. That is because when my father traveled the roads of this area as a salesman in the 1950's for his company that supplied businesses, schools, and offices (think of it as an early version of a "Staples" store), the Gaston Resort was one of his regular customers. My father took all the family to stay at the resort one summer, and I have fond memories of getting to swim in a REAL swimming pool, as opposed to just the open waters of the lake which I was accustomed to. One of my favorite features of the new Gaston Visitor's Center is the "Johnboat Theater", where the walls are covered with photo murals of the White River, and the theater seats are designed to look like green johnboats (middle right hand photo above). The video one sees has stories told by locals about their memories of the White River before the dam, the building of the dam, and ample "fish tales" to make you consider dropping a hook in the water to see if you can create your own fish tale! I have heard plenty of stories from my father (and have the old black and white photos to illustrate them!), about his days as a young boy fishing on the White River, and stories of his big fish hauls, when the Bull Shoals Dam was first constructed. He had such a love of fishing, that he ended up building himself a houseboat, so he could spend every spare minute on the water, when he wasn't working. In fact, at his funeral, the pastor asked for a show of hands of those attending, if they had ever been fishing with my father. It seemed like every hand in the church raised up, and a big smile came to the face of each one there, as they recalled fond memories of fishing from my dad's houseboat. There is plenty of nostalgia to be seen at Gaston Visitor's Center, and perhaps that is why I wanted my son to get to see it when he visited recently from out west. The lower right hand corner photo shows him walking along one of the new, paved, wheelchair accessible nature trail loops that have recently been added to the site. There is also an outdoor fountain area, a butterfly garden, bird houses, and picnic tables. Back inside there are modern, clean restrooms, a well-stocked gift shop, information table, WI-FI, a kiosk for sending free e-postcards to your friends, large aquariums with live trout and other local fish, fantastic photography, and a simulated conveyor belt like the one used to carry stone during construction of the Bull Shoals Dam. Another favorite part for me is the two-story observation tower, replicating an old forest fire tower. The magnificent back deck (upper right hand photo) is the perfect place to sit and relax and take in all the beauty that surrounds you. There is also an outdoor classroom/amphitheater on one end of the building. The amphitheater is conveniently adjacent to indoor classrooms and conference rooms, as well. Additional photos of the Visitor's Center are available at For a great family activity (and it is all FREE of charge!), check out the Gaston Visitor's Center. Miles of smiles! Tricia
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