Monday, December 26, 2011

New Year's Day Traditions

There is one day a year that the lowly legume known as "black eyed peas" gets to be put on a pedestal. That day is New Year's Day. At least, if you live in the southern part of the USA, a dish of black eyed peas is considered a mandatory menu item for any New Year's Day feast.

According to legend, the tradition of having black eyed peas (usually cooked in hog fat) on New Year's Day goes back to the Civil War. The local farms in the south were raided by the Yankees, who stole all the food, slaughtered the farmers' hogs, and took the meat. Therefore, the poor Southern folks were left with only the dried blackeyed peas and hog bones. Yet, they survived the winter on these. Hence, it was thought if you include this dish on the first day of the new year, you will be able to survive the hardships that may occur in the future.

Another common practice in all parts of the USA---not just the South---is making New Year's Resolutions. If YOUR New Year's Resolutions include to live a healthier lifestyle----have I got a deal for you!!! Get together with a group of like-minded individuals to support one another in keeping those resolutions, through a program called First Place 4 Health ( ). Our first meeting will be Wednesday evening, at 5:30, in the CLC at the corner of Spring Street and Club Blvd. in Mountain Home. The meeting will end at 6:45 PM. The class will meet each Wednesday for the next 13 consecutive weeks, from 5:30 PM - 6:45 PM. The name of the First Place 4 Health book that we will be using is called God's Best for Your Life and is available from major book sellers for under $20. Participants will need to have already ordered their book and have it with them when the first class meets on January 11. I have the photo of the Best Choice logo, because I can 100 % guarantee that the time you spend participating in the First Place 4 Health program will not be" wasted", and will, more than likely, help your "waist"! If you have questions about the local classes, you may email me at So get with the program---the BEST CHOICE for a healthier lifestyle!! Miles of smiles! Tricia

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Another McConnell Expedition!

Last month, when I was driving on California's legendary "I-5", I decided to stop in Redding to do my daily walk. The access from I-5 to the Turtle Bay Exploration Park must be remarkably easy, because before I knew it, I was in the parking lot of the section that is the very closest to Redding's renown landmark, The Sundial Bridge. While doing some photography at the bridge, I noticed a sign adjacent to the bridge that had the name "McConnell" in it. The name caught my attention because the day before, I had hiked across a new pedestrian bridge over Lake Siskiyou in Mt. Shasta, and I had read that the bridge was financed, in part, by a grant from The McConnell Foundation. Likewise, I had witnessed the coming to fruition, of the Mt. Shasta Skatepark, also made possible, in part, by a McConnell Foundation grant!

To access the McConnell Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, I first needed to cross this magnificent, glass-floored structure, that also received part of its funding from The McConnell Foundation. If you are interested, you can see the blog I wrote about The Sundial Bridge in my blog archives.

The bridge provides a way for pedestrians and bicyclers to cross the Sacramento River, without having to dodge automobiles and 18-wheelers!

When I reached the arboretum, I read that the area consists of 20 acres of Mediterranean-climate display gardens, a children's garden, and a medicinal garden.

The acreage is enclosed in metal fencing, but the day I visited, the gates were wide open, and many folks were taking the opportunity to do what Turtle Bay Park says in their namesake to do---EXPLORE!

The grounds are flat, and wheel-chair accessible, with park benches placed throughout for sitting, if desired.

This is one of two beautiful water features at the park. The inscriptions carved into the various granite components of the water feature all relate to marine ecology, and can serve as a teaching tool for those who take the time to read them.

By following the markings on this simulated "stairway", one learns the basics of the aquatic life cycle.

Probably, these children are just more interested in jumping on the granite slabs and splashing in the water, than learning about the lifestory of the salmon!

I had never seen evergreen trees like this, and was fascinated by their sculptural profiles. They represented a certain latitude of a Mediterranean-climate plant (this simply menas an area between the latitudes of 30 - 45 degrees, a little less than halfway from the equator to the poles.) That would include the area around Redding, as well as the part of Chili where this particular evergreen plant originates.

The children's garden is called the "Mosaic Oasis" and has numerous mosaic sculptures for the children to play on, plus this large centerpiece mosaic where parents can sit and watch as their children explore the nearby surroundings.

When the gates are open, the arboretum connects to the Sacramento River Trail, which bicyclists can use to ride several miles along the river.

That is one reason the center traffic-way through the garden is so wide. The idea is for pedestrians and bicyclists to both be able to use it simultaneously.

This riparian forest of valley oaks and native vegetation provides a buffer zone between the Sacramento River and the botanical gardens.

As I was exiting the arboretum/botanical gardens, I was able to enjoy this stunning view of the Sundial Bridge that I had not been able to see on previous visits to the area. In my travels over the last several years, I have been deeply impressed by (and thankful for!) the philanthropy of those who lived before me. I have seen beautiful parks made possible by names like Rockefeller, Raley, Hershey, and Walton. These were families that prospered, but they also GAVE abundantly. It reminds me of the famous verse, written in 27 different languages, at the front of every Gideon Bible: "For God so loved the world, that He GAVE his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him, would not perish, but have eternal life." John 3:16 And that is the essence of Christmas: When man reaches out to God, it is called "religion". When God reaches out to man, it is called "Christmas". If you would like to learn more about the topics I discussed in this blog, visit , or Miles of smiles! Tricia

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Monday, December 12, 2011

The Gift of Crystal Bridges

As I approached by automobile, the first thing I noticed when I arrived at the newly-opened Crystal Bridges Art Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas, was the lifesize sculpture, resembling a tree, at the main entrance to the museum. It is made of stainless steel that has been welded into branchlike forms, and its appearance varies with the weather and time of day. (I can already visualize what it will look like later this winter with icicles hanging from it, that are being back lit by the sun, to give it the appearance of a crystal chandelier!)

The stainless steel tree sculpture, titled Yield is one of eleven sculptures on the grounds of the Crystal Bridges Museum complex. This photo illustrates that the sculpture's title is appropriate because this driveway is where one "yields" to handicapped persons who are being dropped off at the museum entrance.

From the upper level entrance used by those arriving by automobile, one can get a sense of the overall design of the building, spread out in the valley below. The museum's glass-and-wood design by architect Moshe Safdie and engineer Buro Happold features a series of pavilions nestled around two creek-fed ponds. The complex includes 217,000 square feet of galleries, several meeting and classroom spaces, a library, and a gathering space that can accommodate up to 300 people. In addition, there are outdoor areas for concerts and public events, as well as extensive nature trails.

Persons who have walked from the automobile parking lot, or have been let out at curbside, all travel down this elevated walkway to an enclosed elevator that takes them down to the museum's main lobby.

I snapped this photo while waiting for the elevator to take me down to the lobby. Considering the design on the stone floor of the lower level, one would think money came from the Target discount chain, rather than its true source---WalMart!!

Fayetteville, Arkansas architect Marlon Blackwell designed the Museum Store at Crystal Bridges to be an organic complement to the Museum's natural setting and distinctive architecture (Notice the plants growing on the roof of the store). I was familiar with the name Marlon Blackwell, because my son had gone on an overseas architecture tour with some other University of Arkansas students, that had been led by Marlon Blackwell.

Blackwell designed the interior ceiling and walls of the museum store to mimic the fluting on the underside of a mushroom. The mushroom design can be seen in this photo that shows the undulating cherrywood ribs of the ceiling and walls. The Museum Store carries beautiful gift items, books, and educational toys. Plus, if you are buying for someone else, gift cards are an option, so that the recipient can make their own selection from the numerous choices available.

The Museum's restaurant, Eleven, advertises that it offers "modern American comfort cuisine (including wine and cocktails) in a setting as vibrant and exciting as its menu." The restaurant is open for lunch between 11 AM and 2 PM, as well as being open for dinner on Wednesdays and Fridays from 5 PM to 9 PM. There is a coffee bar adjacent to the restaurant that remains open throughout the day.

This photo is a reminder that visitors can download an app for their own personal "electronic device" that will give them an audio tour of the various items they view in the art galleries. Audio tour devices can also be checked out at the Guest Services desk in the main lobby.

The day I visited the museum, I happened onto a free public lecture being given by Dr. Kevin Murphy, the museum's Curator of American Art. He is pictured here telling the background of a painting done by William Merritt Chase, during our country's Guilded Age. The management of the museum had thoughtfully placed numerous portable, foldable seats in front of the large painting for attendees to sit on during the lecture. The design of the seats was such that they would take up very little space when stored, but yet could be moved to anywhere in the museum that a temporary seating area needed to be set up.

The very BEST thing about the art lecture I attended on the day I visited, was running into my friend, Cynthia Coffman Morris (we share the same hometown of Harrison, Arkansas). She is pictured here with the painting by Mary Cassatt, that she states is her current favorite of all the museum's works. Since Cynthia's graduation from college in Missouri, she has done extensive independent study in the art field, taking art lessons from a variety of instructors, and touring art museums around the world, to broaden her knowledge of the visual arts. She is now putting all that knowledge to good use as a volunteer at the museum. I felt VERY FORTUNATE to be getting a one-on-one tour of Crystal Bridges by someone with such a great background in art, plus someone who knew their way around the maze of galleries!

Cynthia even showed me the "behind the scenes" area of Crystal Bridges where the volunteers have lockers, a kitchenette, tables, chairs, and cubicles. In this photo she is shown where the volunteers go to sign in for their "tour of duty".

As Cynthia was pointing out the unusual architecture of the Grand Hall (shown in this photo), I was reminded of another "architecture connection" (of sorts) that we had. The connection goes back to the time when Cynthia lived in a home in Harrison, designed by the world-famous, and award-winning architect, Fay Jones. The home was not the only thing designed by Fay Jones. He also designed a mail box to match the home. One cold and dark wintry night, my husband and I were leaving Cynthia's home in Harrison after a dinner party. We were in our very old, 4-wheel-drive, farm pickup, and we accidentally backed over, and on top of, that very expensive mail box!! The truck was high-centered on top of the mail box, with none of the wheels touching the ground! Hearing all the commotion, the other guests came outside. One of the guests, who was an attorney, gave my husband her business card, saying "He was going to need it, because he had just run over the most expensive mail box in all of Boone County!" Remembering this bit of history of our past friendship, made me ESPECIALLY thankful that Cynthia would take the time to show me around!

This colonnade of glass and metal leads to the Grand Hall. Through the full-length glass wall on the right, one can view the water feature, and the left side contains numerous meeting rooms available to the public for functions.

This art installation is a part of the special exhibit, called WONDER WORLD: Nature and Perception in Contemporary American Art. Cynthia said this part of the museum's collection seems to be of most interest to the younger visitors.
###Author's 2015 addendum to this photo:  When I was racking my brain, searching my mental "photo stock library" for an image that would help me memorize one of the verses for my First Place 4 Health Bible study ( ), this art installation from Crystal Bridges IMMEDIATELY came to mind!  The verse is from Isaiah 59:1 and says "Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear."  Isn't it wonderful to know, that we have a direct conduit to God's ear---it's called prayer!!  ###

There are numerous seating areas throughout the galleries, where one could spend hours looking through the coffeetable art books laying around, or just enjoy gazing into the beautiful woodlands on the other side of the glass wall. Wifi is also available here and throughout the museum.

The first photos showed the area where one enters if coming by auto. This photo shows the paths one would come as a pedestrian (the museum is within walking distance from downtown Bentonville) or on the lovely bicycle trail available. They provide access to the lower level of the museum.

The brochure I picked up called "OUTSIDE" states "The grounds of the Museum are as much a part of the experience of Crystal Bridges as the art inside. Stewardship of our natural environment is a key element of Crystal Bridges' mission, and forms our overall philosophy---that art and nature are both vital to the human spirit, and should be accessible to all. More than three miles of trails invite you to explore and immerse yourself in the beauty of our native Ozark forest. Each trail offers different plant life, terrain, and ecosystems." As an added bonus, one can purchase a picnic lunch at the "Eleven" restaurant, and have an "Al fresco" dining experience!

The gray colors seen in the bark of the trees, the sidewalk, and building exterior, illustrate the developer's attempt to minimize human impact on the natural colors of the landscape.

Cynthia told me that one of the most frequently asked questions to the volunteers is "Where is Rosie?" By this, they mean, "Where is Norman Rockwell's WWII-era painting of Rosie the Riveter?" Well, here she is, in front of Ol' Glory! If you have read this far, you may be curious about what the admission fee is to go into the museum or view the outdoor sculptures along the trails. The answer is---it is free!!! Thanks to a $20 million gift from the WalMart Family Foundation, everyone has free admission for the foreseeable future!! What a wonderful gift---all we have to do is accept it!! Likewise, as we are in the midst of the holiday season, it is time to remember that God has also given us a wonderful gift---his Son, Jesus Christ----all we have to do is accept it! ..................................... If you would like to start planning your visit to this outstanding new attraction or you are interested in being a museum volunteer, visit Miles of smiles! Tricia

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Friday, December 2, 2011

Lake Siskiyou Recreation Trail

Lake Siskiyou Recreation Trail is in northern California, near the town of Mt. Shasta, and winds its way around the body of water with the same name. According to Wikipedia, there is no certain origin of the unusual-sounding word (pronounced SISS-kew), but one version says that it is a Chinook Indian jargon for "bob-tailed horse"; another version says it is from the two French words "SixCailloux" meaning "six stones", because six large stones were used by early settlers to cross one of the rivers of that region.

Last year, the trail received a wonderful amenity, with the completion of the Wagon Creek Bridge, shown in this photo. The bridge came with a price tag of $2.8 million. According to news releases, the bridge was funded from several sources, including a $600,000 grant to the county, from the Redding-based McConnell Foundation. The majority of the funding came from $1 million of state alternate transportation funds, and $1.2 million of federal stimulus cash.

It is very appealing to go out over the water on this sturdily-built structure, and officials hope it will draw tourists from all over to enjoy it.

When crossing over the water, I was able to get photographs of folks enjoying another one of Lake Siskiyou's recreational benefits---fishing and boating. Lake Siskiyou is also known for its brilliant reflections of Mt. Shasta, especially on calm mornings. I did not get to witness that scene, which is a very good reason to return another time!

The bridge was designed to accommodate bicyclists, hikers, runners, and horseback riders. Motorized vehicles are not permitted on the bridge or on the trail. We saw several bicyclists enjoy the smooth, wooden surface of the bridge when we were there.

There are numerous places to sit along the trail, both in the form of large boulders, as well as wooden benches. This gives you an opportunity to rest, meditate, or pose for a photo, as we are doing in this snapshot.

We saw lots of people walking, running, and biking with their dogs along the trail. It seems the trail is just as popular with the "canine clan" as it is with the two-legged clan. The lake provides a place for dogs to practice their swimming/retrieving skills, or just enjoy cooling off, after working up a sweat. It is also a great place for humans to swim on hot summer days.

The water marks on the grasses shows that the reservoir is doing its job of helping provide flood control. With the coming of snow, followed by spring melting, the lake level needs to be low at this time of year, so that it can accommodate the winter/spring water basin drainage from the surrounding Cascade Mountain Range. The low water levels of fall enable the south shore segment of the trail to be combined with the north shore segment of the trail, to make a continuous loop around the lake.

Parts of the trail have alternate routes, depending on whether the user wants to be next to the water, or further up the hillside through meadows and forests. The trail can be used year-round---it can be used in the winter months with and without snowshoes or cross-country skis.

One gets such a feeling of serenity when passing through the pine-needle carpeted path that meanders through the tall evergreen trees adjacent to the lake.

My daughter-in-law, Stacy, is shown in this photo with her special dog, Sadie. I felt extremely fortunate and very thankful to have Stacy as my guide, showing me the "ins and outs" of the Lake Siskiyou Recreation Trail. With Stacy as my guide, I was able to see points of interest along the trail that I might otherwise have missed, and I didn't get confused as to which way to go, when I came to crossroads along the trail. Being a good guide, she had also told me in advance that there were toilets along the trail, so I did not have to be concerned about "elimination" issues! The word "guide" reminded me of the verse in the twenty-third Psalm that says "He guides me in paths of righteousness", so I am likewise thankful to God for His guidance through His Word, guiding me through the "ins and outs" of the "trail of life", and keeping me from getting confused as to which way to go, when I come to crossroads along life's trail. If you would like to learn more about outdoor activities in this part of the country, log on to and review the abundance of information provided on their website. Since I volunteer some with the trail patrol of the Arkansas Master Naturalists ( ), I have an abundance of appreciation and gratitude to the Mount Shasta Trail Association for the volunteer work that they do to build trails, advocate for more access to trails/trail protection, and their work to conserve the natural beauty of the area. It's a great big beautiful world out there, so get out and enjoy it!! Miles of smiles! Tricia

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