Saturday, May 28, 2011

Pepper Sauce Alley Ghosttown

I have been traveling through the small community of Calico Rock---located on the banks of the White River in north central Arkansas---for decades, but it wasn't until this past year that I ventured off the town's Main Street (also known as Highway 5) that I discovered an outdoor "museum" of sorts, that gives one a glimpse of days gone by.

Just east of Main Street is a six-block area called "Pepper Sauce Alley". In times past, it was considered a disreputable part of the town, where "good girls" did not go. Since all my trips to Calico Rock as a youngster, were with a church youth group, this part of the community was not on our tour itinerary! You see, the "Pepper Sauce Alley" name refers to the fact that "Pepper Sauce" was the local term for illegal spirits (the drinking kind), which the reader may have heard also called "home brew" or "white lightning". But now, it is a different kind of spirit that is revitalizing the area. In fact, the official website for tourism in Arkansas ( says Pepper Sauce Alley causes Calico Rock to have the distinction of being the only community in the USA with an authentic "ghost town" within its city limits!

As you enter the ghost town, there is a large sign, explaining that the group responsible for the signage along the walking tour, is an organization called C.O.R.E., which stands for Calico Rock Organization for Revitalization Efforts. As you venture deeper into the area, one can read very well-done placards, telling about the history of the building it is describing, along with historical photos. It is fun to compare the actual building you are looking at in "real time", with how it looked decades ago, when the area was a thriving trade center. Each of the signs has a warning, however, that the buildings are on PRIVATE PROPERTY, and there is a strict NO TRESPASSING policy inside the buildings. The one exception is the old city jail. A tourist can go inside that tiny one-room, concrete block building, but I declined that wonderful opportunity. The fact that there are rumors saying the jail is haunted with spirits had nothing to do with my decision.

As I viewed the old weathered doors throughout Pepper Sauce Alley---some boarded shut, some locked and bolted, and some completely missing---I was reminded of a scene of a familiar painting that had hung in the home of my grandparents until they died. It was the scene of Jesus standing outside the door of an edifice, knocking, as if asking permission to come inside. It is based on the verse in the Bible where Jesus is saying "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me." (Revelation 3:20) The imaginations of the folks who have told us the story of Pepper Sauce Alley must also have been stirred by the doors that they saw, and thought they were worth sharing with the rest of the world, by taking a walking or driving tour, through Pepper Sauce Alley. The area is next to a lovely city park, complete with a creek, walking trail, and picnic tables. Since the entire downtown of Calico Rock is on the National Register of Historic Places (and has served as a movie set!), I would definitely recommend a visit there. Ideas for additional area activities and history information is available at Next time you are on a familiar drive, take the time to venture off the route you usually take, and see what you discover. It will likely lead to "miles of smiles"! Tricia

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Monday, May 23, 2011

The "Quarterly" Expeditions

This is the first in a series telling about my experiences visiting the places that each state in the USA has chosen as SOoooo significant, they want it to be printed as the symbol for their state, and placed on the special "state quarters" produced by the U.S. Mint during the first decade of the second millenium. I am starting with Indiana, because that state chose to recognize its famous event---"The Indy 500"--- as represented by the photo of an Indy-style racecar, shown in the top photo of this collage. It seems particularly timely since the race is held on Memorial Day weekend (which is just days away), AND it is the 100th anniversary running of the world's most famous race.

People come from all over the world to be a part of this---the greatest spectacle in racing. This photo shows the famous "pole" that indicates which drivers go where, when the familiar command "Start Your Engines" is given, and thousands of black and white balloons rise above the monstrous track.

When I made the Indy pilgrimmage some time ago, it was by motorcycle. My husband and I made the trip between northern Arkansas and Indianapolis in a leisurely two-day drive at the beginning of our Indy 500 adventure. However, because the race was delayed by a full day due to rain, we had to scurry back home all in one day, after the race was over. I guess that was the longest non-stop trip we made---a full 12 hours of riding, at the maximum speed limit, on a Harley-Davidson Softtail. After 12 hours of riding on that so-called "Softtail" however, I had a DIFFERENT name for it! At least, we did not have to drive to the various Indy event venues, once we arrived in Indianapolis. We had bought a package that included the hotel, race tickets, parade tickets, access to the garage and pit area, and motorcoach transfer (with a police escort!) to the "brickyard" (aka, Indianapolis Motor Speedway). I would definitely recommend the "package" route, especially if you are unfamiliar with the area, and will be needing to book some type of commercial lodging. It is not exactly easy to navigate the huge 253 acre park. It is so large that Yankee Stadium, Churchill Downs, the Rose Bowl, even Vatican City could fit inside the 2.5 mile track.

This photo collage is a reminder of some of the other famous race tracks I have had the opportunity to visit. The Kansas Speedway (just west of Kansas City, in the state of Kansas) was especially memorable. It is memorable not so much because of the race itself, as what happened AFTER the race, when my sister and I tried to find our car. It seems that in our excitement to get inside the speedway when we first arrived, we jumped out of our car to catch the parking lot trolley, without giving any thought to where we had parked. It was early in the day, so the grassy fields used for parking the thousands of cars was largely empty. Imagine our surprise when the race ended, and we exited the track to see a vast OCEAN of parked cars. We had no idea where to start looking, so we just went up and down every single row. As darkness approached, we were exhausted from searching, so we finally just stopped and sat down to rest, deciding our only option was to wait until every single car on the gigantic prairie they called a "parking lot", was gone. Lots of people felt sorry for us, however, and invited us to join in their tailgate parties. FINALLY, when there were only about two dozen cars remaining on the "prairie", a click of our car key made one of the car's lights come on, and we were reunited with our long lost transportation home!!! PTL!!! We learned a real lesson from that experience, however. We now take a photo with our cell phone of where we park! The lower left photo is a reminder of the Daytona Speedway, where I got to attend motorcycle races. The lower right photo is a souvenir from my time at the Charlotte Raceway. It was a special event there where I got to actually be timed while changing the tire on a racecar AND had the opportunity to ride around the track in a stock car, used to let tourists experience the "feel" of a NASCAR track. Not surprisingly, all this writing about races, has brought to mind one of the most well-known Bible verses about races: "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize." I Corinthians 9:24 So for the big Indy 500 race coming up this weekend, I am rooting for the gal (Danica Patrick) to get the prize! Miles of (230 mph) smiles! Tricia

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Hawaiian Sunsets

There are SO MANY enjoyable activities that one can do when they are visiting the Hawaiian Islands, it is impossible to "do it all" in one visit to such a place. This photo shows the ever-popular surfing and boogie boarding on Waikiki Beach on the island of Oahu. The sailboat on the horizon is an example of another activity---taking a day-sail trip on one of the catamarans that are moored on the beach, ready to take on a new boatload of tourists several times a day. Yet another activity is strolling the beach with your camera, hoping to capture an incredible scene like this one: The sun seemed to have singled out this particular sailboat to shine down on and engulf in all its glory, in an otherwise cloud-covered atmosphere. When I was actually seeing this in "real life", I kept thinking, "This is amazing!! I wonder what the photograph will look like? Will it even begin to capture the beauty and the rarity of such a sight?" (Well, at least it was a rare sight to this viewer who lives in a land-locked state like Arkansas, where there are no oceans on ANY of the state's borders.) I saw the shining "glory hole" open up in the clouds on the horizon several minutes before the sailboat actually went through it. I was silently hoping that the hole would stay open until the sailboat passed through it, and to my great delight, it did! The result is this photo!

If the catamaran sailboat is not your "cup of tea", you can still experience a day-sail on a more traditional, V-bottom sail boat such as this one. They generally cost more that the boats that hold more people, but will probably give you more of a "crew sailing" experience. The first time I ever did one of these trips was with my husband and my son, down in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Part of the allure of that boat was that it had originally belonged to famous TV anchor-man, Walter Cronkite. It seems that being a "TV anchor" was second only to "lifting anchor" on his sailboat, in terms of his favorite activities! In this photo, I happened to be strolling the beach whenever the boat was returning to its mooring spot on the protected harbor near the end of the Waikiki Beach, just after sunset.

You can take one of the charter sailboat trips at any time of the day. The location of the sun in this photograph shows that this trip was in the late afternoon. Such excursions often include an opportunity for the guests on board to take a swim in the ocean for a short time, or perhaps even do a little snorkeling. Some even include a picnic on a near-by island.

I have had the opportunity to do many other activities in Hawaii, such as scuba diving, outrigger canoe rides, snorkeling, touring the coffee and pineapple plantations, submarine cruise, and attending traditional luaus. All these are wonderful and fun, but they can run up quite a tab, in terms of fees and equipment. That is why I am writing this blog to tell about an activity in Hawaii that was THE MOST ENJOYABLE of all of these, on my last trip to the islands. It was simply strolling the beach, watching the various activities, and photographing all the beauty that my eyes were seeing----ESPECIALLY the sunsets!! With a heart full of gratitude, I was experiencing Psalm 113:3 that says "From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised." Visualizing the beauty of a sunset on the ocean, is very relaxing----especially after days and days of rain and clouds like the Ozarks has experienced these past several days! So regardless of where you are, just close your eyes and let your mind go to a beautiful sunset or sunrise that you can remember! It will give you miles of smiles!! Tricia

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Friday, May 13, 2011

Memorial Day History

It was not until I started reading some of the news releases being circulated about the sesquicentennial (150 years) of the Civil War, that I found out the origin of the Memorial Day holiday. I knew that when I was growing up, my relatives would refer to it as "Decoration Day", and decades ago, "Decoration Day" was also a time they would have "dinner on the grounds" at some small rural church with a cemetery beside it. This month I learned that the holiday we now call Memorial Day, had its origin immediately following the end of the Civil War. (As you may recall, the Civil War was fought from 1861 - 1865; hence the sesquicentennial will run from 2011 - 2015.) The first known observance in the north was May 5, 1866, in Waterloo, New York. In the South, there is a record that a Decoration Day was celebrated on April 25, 1866, in Columbus, Mississippi. By 1868, general John A. Logan (Commander in Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic) issued a proclamation that "Decoration Day" should be observed nationwide. It was observed nationwide for the first time on May 30 in that same year. May 30 was chosen because is was NOT the anniversary of a battle. I had always felt a connection with the Civil War, because of the many oral traditions passed down in my family, telling of our relatives who fought in the Civil War. I knew my mother had been instrumental in working with a veterans organization to get an official marker for the grave of her grandfather who fought in the civil war, so I decided I needed to make a pilgrimage to that cemetery to see the marker for myself. My sister and I traveled to Pickins Cemetery near Green Forest, Arkansas, recently, and photographed the Rudd family grave sites, including the special bronze marker shown in the top photograph of this collage. The lower photo shows the educational tool that is being used in the state of Arkansas to teach Civil War history. You can get a passport of your very own (along with directions on how to use it to "earn" a commemorative coin or patch of the Civil War Sesquicentennial) by visiting .

Even though my great grandfather, Civil War Veteran Benjamin Rudd, died long before I was born, I always felt a tangible connection to him because of the hand-woven items his wife made that have been used in our family's homes for generations. When Benjamin Rudd returned home after the civil war ended, he married a woman almost twenty years younger than him, which explains why she was still alive when I was born. She was a prolific weaver, and made the woven rug and pillow case shown in this photo collage, as a baby gift for me, shortly before her death in 1950. My mother often told the story of how her Granny Rudd received a small government pension (I think it was $25/month), because she was the widow of a Civil War Veteran. What is interesting about this, I think, is that her husband had been a soldier for the side that "lost"; yet, when the nation came together at the end of the war, all soldiers were considered veterans of the United States of America---not just those soldiers who fought on the side that "won". Furthermore, mom said that each month, her Granny Rudd would give a portion of that check to my grandmother, Mrs. Grover Parrish, (the former Effie Rudd). The top photo of this collage shows me, my daughter-in-law Stacy Shipman, and my son Grover Shipman (named after his maternal grandfather) holding the hand woven rug and pillow case made by Julia Rudd, the widow of a civil war veteran. Julia's tombstone (also at Perkins Cemetery) is shown in the lower photo of the collage.

This photo collage shows some of the many woven items that Julia Rudd made, that I have scattered around my home. Last year, I had a professional in the field of textile art, look at some of the items to teach me more about them. She seemed to be most fascinated by the history of the fabrics that were used to make the multi-colored rugs. (see middle left photo for a close up of these strips). She said these were most often made from old clothes that were no longer wearable, and hence were torn into strips that became the "yarn" that makes up the body of the woven item. I recall visits to the home of my great grandmother, Julia Rudd, and climbing the steep stairs to the second story room that contained the wooden loom where she made these items. I remember as a child, the loom seemed huge to me, appearing to take up an entire room with its framework.

There is a verse in the Old Testament (Joshua 4:6a) that starts out: For your children will ask in time to come, "What do these stones mean to you?" And you will say to them............. the words I have written above to tell the story of THEIR connection to the Civil War through their ancestors, Benjamin Rudd and Julia Rudd. Thanks to the Christian foundation laid by these ancestors, I have had an abundant life, full of God's many blessings. Why not use the 2011 Memorial Day holiday to discover the meaning of some of your "family stones"??!! Miles of smiles! Tricia

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Monday, May 2, 2011

California Highway 1 Expedition

CALIFORNIA CRUISING!!! I took this photo while riding in the front seat of Cousin Kathy's car, as we followed Cousin Linda in front of us, along the Sonoma County section of California Highway One. I know the car in front of me is my cousin's, because it has her name on the license plate. What I don't know, is how she can be going down this hill, pointed straight toward the Pacific Ocean, and not have her brakes on (as indicated by no brake lights shining!) It is not because the brake lights were not working, because just seconds before the turn, I have another photo of her car, where the brake lights are shining brightly, as she decided to go left, instead of straight! I was very thankful to be in the front seat for this long-awaited drive, because California Highway 1 is also known as "Dramamine Drive". I soon understood why! Our caravan was not the only group on the road that day. There was also a huge caravan---complete with eighteen-wheeler trucks, catering trucks, police escorts, food catering vehicles, roof-mounted movie cameras, and "gawkers" like us, wondering what they were filming. A very kind man with the group, explained that they were filming a commercial for the Hyundai Sonata car, that would be televised in South Korea. The man said they were trying to get a mental association of the "California lifestyle" and the Sonata car, in the subliminal mind of potential customers in South Korea. And who can blame them?? It is a gorgeous location to film anything, including a commerical for an automobile!!

One of the many good parts of the drive along California Highway 1, as it climbs up, down, and around bluffs above the sea, is getting to see the beautiful wildflowers in bloom along the route. The ones in this photo collage are just a sampling of ones that we DO NOT have blooming along the roadsides, that make similar twists and turns, where I live in the Ozark Mountains.

This is a collage of just a few of the pastoral scenes that our group of ladies enjoyed as we cruised along California Highway 1. Our eyes feasted on coastal mountains, agricultural lands, and great ocean views as we drove this famous highway, that hugs the shoreline and winds sharply around headlands high above the Pacific Ocean. I was quite amazed when I felt a loud rumble beneath the car, as we went over cattle guards in the highway, in this section of road. Shortly after going over the cattle guards, sure enough, there were cows on, and alongside, the highway. I suppose the official orange highway sign, warning of cows ahead, could also be taken as a "wake up call" for anyone crazy enough, to not be totally alert when driving this particular highway. Alertness is especially important because of the frequent closing of one lane of the road while road slides are being repaired by storms that regularly hit the coast.

California Highway 1 has had many names since construction of it was first begun in the early part of the twentieth century. Would you believe its first name included the word "Legislature" in it??!! Today, California Highway 1 is so popular, and so iconic, that it has been designated an "All-American Road", which, indeed, it is. Since it is a "path for cars", alongside the beautiful west coast of North America, and since it fills its travelers with joy, I think the verse from Acts 2:28 is an appropriate way to end this little story about this expedition: "You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence. " Miles of smiles! Tricia

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Movie Location Expedition-Bodega Bay

Folks who are as old as me, or perhaps younger generation aficionados of Alfred Hitchcock (the "Master of Suspense") movies, may recognize this building as the school that was shown in his 1963 classic movie, The Birds. As you may recall, the movie setting is the bucolic seaside village of Bodega Bay, along the California coast. The movie starts with just a single seagull attacking the female star of the movie. Unfortunately, it is the first of a series of attacks on humans, as the birds, rather than people, become the chief inhabitants of the village.

The building was originally called The Potter School, and it was constructed in 1870. It is not open to the public, and based on the fence around it (as well as the dog who was guarding the property) visitors are not exactly encouraged to stop for a look inside.

Adjacent to the Potter School, is St. Teresa's Church. It is even older than the school, as it was built in 1859, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings. It too, is shown in several scenes from the The Birds movie. Apparently, they are still having unwanted intrusions from non-human species, as a Pest Control worker was there the day I visited, and was going around the grounds of the building administering "deterrents" to such unwanted parishioners. Both of these structures are in the town of Bodega, California, which is a separate little village a few miles inland from Bodega Bay, California.

As you might expect, souvenirs are available to purchase as "proof" of visiting the location. My cousin had a Bodega Bay (The Birds) sweat shirt (middle left photo), and the house we rented had an official "Birds Movie Barbie Doll" in the bookcase, based on the iconic lime green suit the female star of the movie wore throughout the shooting. (That is because she had made the 2 hour drive from San Francisco to Bodega Bay, without the intention of spending the night. However, she was required to stay overnight after being injured in the seagull attack.) The "Birds Barbie Doll" was manufactured to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the acclaimed film. I thought the "Birds Barbie Doll", with her lime green suit, was a great visual aid to remind my Keeling cousins of the fact that the now-familiar green suit, had been designed by a "sprout" from our very own family tree! Famed Hollywood costume designer, Rita Riggs, also had roots in Lead Hill, Arkansas. She speaks of this, as well as the fact that her mother's maiden name was Keeling, in an interview that you can watch at . The first time I ever heard of Rita Riggs, was when the show credits were running for the popular TV sitcom of the 1960's, All In The Family. A week did not go by of watching the show, that my mother did not point out the name "Rita Riggs - Costume Designer" when the show credits scrolled, at the end of each program. Although I was not present at the time, I am told she actually came back to the Lead Hill area for a family reunion several years ago. The bottom photo of the collage shows a picture I took of the DVD cover when I rented the movie shortly before making the trip to Bodega Bay. Although I saw the movie when it came out in the 1960's, I had not seen it again since then, so I wanted a "refresher" course before actually going to the set location. It was definitely suspenseful, especially the parts showing the mangled, dead, and bloody body of a farmer who had been attacked by the birds. One can't help but think of the phrase in Revelation 19:21b, that says "....and all the birds gorged themselves on their (the humans) flesh." The "extras" you get when you watch the DVD tells that, a short time before the script was written, there actually had been some cases reported in the local newspapers of birds attacking humans. It was when watching the "extras" with the DVD that I learned that my distant cousin, Rita Riggs, had been the costume designer for The Birds movie, plus LOTS of other interesting tidbits about how the scenes were filmed, long before the era of digital special effects. If you would like to learn more about the movie, or the area in general, visit for info and links to additional points of interest. SOOooooo, how about a little "bird watching expedition" now???? Miles of smiles!! Tricia

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California's Kruse Rhododendron Reserve

Yet another lovely place the "Keeling Kids" visited last week was the Kruse Rhododendron State Reserve. It is called "Kruse" because a Mr. Kruse donated the land in 1933 to the state of California. The area is now maintained by the California Department of Parks and Recreation, and you can learn more about the reserve on their website at . It contains second growth redwood, Douglas fir, tan oaks, and of course, rhododendrons. Our group is shown as we start out on one of the scenic hiking trails.

It was high noon when we arrived at the Rhododendron Reserve, and that means LUNCH! to the Keeling Klan. The forest provided a gorgeous, lovely area for us to spread out our picnic supplies, and enjoy some nourishment, before we started off for our trek through the woods.

This photo shows Martha, Brenda, Debbie, and Frankie enjoying their lunch in the shade of some very tall trees that inhabit the area. I read that the park service has to do a moderate amount of pruning of these trees in order to facilitate growth of the desired species. Apparently, the reason there is a wealth of rhododendron at this location is because of the direct result of normal plant succession patterns following a severe fire that occurred here some time ago.

Within the 317 acre reserve, there are 4 miles of hiking trails, and these trails will enable one to see a multitude of plant species---mosses, ferns, sorrel, and other forest undergrowth.. The photo on the right shows Cousin Debbie pointing to one of the pink rhododendron blossoms that occur in bushes up to 14 feet tall---much taller than I am! The photo on the left shows me studying one of the navigational signs along the trail. I find it helpful to take a photo of the directional signs when I am hiking, so if I get lost, I can look at the photos in my camera, to help me find my way back! When I read about the constant work that has to be done to maintain this picturesque place, as well as the fire that destroyed it, it brought to mind how "temporary" life on earth is. But the next thought it brought to my mind was the verse used by the Gideon Bible Society ( to explain why the Gideon organization does what they do: 1 Peter 1:24-25 says "All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever." That is one of the reasons I like to give Gideon Bibles as memorial gifts, rather than flowers that will soon be wilted. One other great thing about visiting the Kruse Reserve is that it is FREE! So you can get some exercise, see incredible scenery, and have miles of flowery smiles! Tricia

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For several years I have heard my California cousins talk about their experiences of renting a house on the Pacific Ocean, and I knew it was something I would love to do. I had the opportunity to do just that last month, when some of my girl cousins in California planned a 5-day trip to Bodega Bay, California. This group of siblings and sibling "wannabes" has a tradition of getting together for a trip when one of them celebrates a significant life milestone. Some of their past trips have included going to LA, to be in the Tonight Show audience; going to Chicago, and being in the audience of the Oprah Show (they were there the same month that Oprah gave a new car to every audience member, but alas, it was not the day they were in attendance!) Last year, they all went to Las Vegas---I did not get to go on that trip, and I have heard very little about it---no doubt, due to the travel motto for Las Vegas! The first trip I went on with the gals was a cruise to the Mexican Riviera, and it was a WONDERFUL experience! The last trip I went on with them was to the Portland, Oregon Rose Festival. That too, was a fantastic time of estrogen-infused entertainment! In my opinion, however, my best "estrogen expedition" with these ladies was this one that centered around a Monday through Friday rental of the house pictured in this collage. It was as close to the Pacific as one can get, without actually being IN the water! The middle photo of the property shows that it sits on a narrow bluff between the famous California Highway One, and the roaring surf below. The bottom two photos show our choices for scenery: The right photo shows the magnificent green hills of Sonoma County that were visible from the kitchen corner window, and the photo on the left shows the magnificent ocean that was visible from virtually every other window in the house. As you can see, even the hot tub in the bathroom had an incredible view of the ocean coast line! Not seen in the photo, is the "throne" of that particular bathroom, that also had the same fantastic view!

Because we had incredibly good weather when we were there, we could take advantage of outdoor activities available at our doorstep. This included watching sea gulls and pelicans on the ocean side of the house (upper left photo) and wild turkeys on the side of the house looking out over the hills (upper right photo). The middle photo shows my favorite part---walking on the ocean beach below the house. (I have been a shell collector since I was ten years old!) The lower left photo shows my cousin Debbie gathering us a bouquet of calla lilies, which grow wild in the ditch lines of that area. The lower right photo shows another favorite outdoor activity---sitting on the deck and solving the world's problems as we looked at the beauty in front of us.

This photo collage shows some of the other activities we enjoyed: reading, putting together a jigsaw puzzle, playing dominoes, scrapbooking, playing cards, and CELEBRATING LIFE!! The lower right photo shows the stimulus for this years get-together: The matriarch of the family---Martha----celebrated her 70th birthday this year! She chose her favorite flavor of cake---carrot cake---for her birthday cake, and we all enjoyed joining her in celebrating another year of life.

This photo collage shows another big part of our get-together, and that was food preparation. The top left photo shows our grocery shopping expedition in Petaluma, where we ended up with two carts filled to the max, with foods that would nourish us for the next five days. My cousins had planned a menu, resplendent with "California cuisine" (note the fresh artichokes steaming in the middle photo), but also with a nod to our "Granny Keeling" who would make us "chocolate gravy" for breakfast, when we came to visit her. The lower right photo shows cousin Brenda stirring up a huge pot of this "Keeling Comfort Food", (beside Brenda, the photo shows Cousin Debbie taking the hot biscuits out of the oven) and the left middle photo shows how our Granny served this special version of Southern cuisine---over hot biscuits, with a pat of butter. Although she made her own butter (which us kids called "cow butter"), we settled for a store-bought version of the real stuff. Granny Keeling was also famous for her popcorn balls (maybe that was the start of my popcorn addiction), and cousin Debbie is becoming equally famous for her Caramel Corn, infused with sliced almonds and dried cranberries (lower left photo).

As I write this, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for God's many blessings in my life, not the least of which is a wonderful family. Likewise, I am thankful for his beautiful creation called "The Planet Earth", and for his awesome creation of the human body than enables us to see this beauty, and HEAR it as well! I echo the praise of King David in Psalm 98:7 that says "Let the sea roar, and all it fullness. . . Let the hills be joyful together before the Lord." If you would like to experience this joy in a similar location, check out for information on rentals and prices. Then gather up your loved ones, and experience an expedition you will never forget!! Miles of smiles! TriciaPosted by Picasa

Fort Ross Expedition

Near the town of Jenner, on California Highway 1, is Fort Ross State Historic Park. Our group visited there, and we are shown here at one of the entrances to the stockade. The place was the site of an 1812 trading post and fort established by Russian fur traders to protect their claim against the Spanish. Fort Ross was the southern-most settlement in the Russian colonization of North America, and was established as an agricultural base to supply Alaska.

This photo shows their reconstructed chapel, representing the first Russian Orthodox chapel south of Alaska. There is only one original structure on the site, and that is the Commander's House. It is listed as a National Historic Landmark. It is noteworthy, that Fort Ross was also the location of California's first windmill, and the inhabitants were also known as being skilled shipbuilders.

The historic park is a joint operation of both California state employees (shown on the left) and volunteers (shown on the right). These two were dressed in appropriate period costume in anticipation of a group of school kids who were making an overnight field trip to the fort. Outdoor cooking demonstrations were planned for them, as well as basket-making demonstrations, and talks on crop production. To find out about hours of operation and special events at the park, look for their name at the website of the California State Park system, .

Seeing this strong fortress, built on solid rock above the ocean, must have been what the psalm of David was referring to in chapter 31, verse 2 " my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me." I am thankful that the people of California (along with the current-day leader of Russia), are taking steps to save Fort Ross--- this important location in our country's early history. So get out there and see it----better yet, volunteer at a state park near you, to preserve our history and land for future generations. Miles of smiles! Tricia

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