Thursday, January 31, 2013


 The niche market of Agritourism has been steadily gaining momentum, as folks around the world are becoming more interested in where, and how, the food they are eating is being grown and harvested.  The owner of the family farm shown in this photo ( ) took me, and several other tourists, on a drive around the Saginaw Valley of Michigan, so we could see the various types of agricultural operations that region engages in.
 Most of the farms our guide drove us through were small, family-run operations, such as the one above. 
Many of the small farmers participate in co-ops, where they can share the use of certain pieces of machinery needed to make their operation a success. 
 Since we were not far from the "birthplace" of the now-famous "Kellogg's Corn Flakes" (see blog I posted on August 25, 2012 for more details on that topic), it is not surprising that we saw many acres of corn that was "as high as an elephant's eye", and it looked like it stretched clear into the sky!!  Oh, what a beautiful morning it was!
 Besides the corn, there are various types of bean crops grown in the area as well.
 Although we saw several of the "old-fashioned" wooden barns on our tour, we also saw a few newer ones, such as the colorful red metal structures shown in this photo.
 Another crop grown in the area is cucumbers, which had mostly been harvested, to be eventually turned into pickles.  Our guide told us that the cucumbers seen still laying in the field, and pitched off to one side, were those that were unsuitable for pickle requirements.
 This piece of equipment was plowing the field that just days earlier had been full of cucumbers.  The ground had to be prepared for the next crop.
 When our bus pulled into the space shown in this photo, I had no idea what those strange-looking, silver structures were, lined up across the horizon.
 We found out they were storage silos for sugar beets.  This location just outside Frankenmuth, Michigan (hence the German "Willkommen" on their sign) is one of just a few places in the USA, that is part of the supply line for sugar that is made from beets.  Most of the sweeteners used in food processing today are made from corn, and used in the form of high fructose corn sirup.
 When we were back in the "city" we were able to see this very large grain storage, receiving, and distribution operation, that helps get the farm product to the consumer.
 Our guide told us that the company we were seeing called "Star of the West Milling Company" was a major supplier of flour for MacDonald's hamburger buns, plus local restaurants, as well.
 In fact, when we ate at a local Frankenmuth Restaurant---the very popular Bavarian Inn, the management acknowledged all that was involved in bringing food to their guests, by having this small poster on every table, that was a prayer of thanksgiving to God, both before the meal and after the meal.
 I was reminded of these images from my agriculture tour, when I was trying to visualize a mnemonic device to help me learn one of my First Place 4 Health ( ) memory verses.  It says "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." Galatians 6:9 . I am thankful that the farmers in Michigan who plowed the fields,  planted the seed, watered the seed,  and weeded the fields, did not grow weary of the good work they were doing;  instead, they stuck with it until the end, so that they could reap a harvest, because they did not give up!  If you would like to learn more about visiting this lovely section of Michigan, you can click on or  Plus, there may be a farmer near where you live, that you can encourage to not grow weary in doing good!  It will give you (and the farmer!)  MILES OF SMILES!  Tricia
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Monday, January 14, 2013


 There is a picturesque area in Solano County, about halfway between San Francisco and California, that is a great spot to visit.  It is called Suisun City.  Suisun means "west wind", and was also the name of the original Native Americans who lived in the valley.  Originally, the city was an island, connected to nearby Fairfield, California, by a causeway.  This body of water eventually can connect a boater to the Sacramento River or the San Francisco Bay, and was designated by Field and Stream  magazine as being among the top 50 places to catch the "fish of your dreams".  If the "fish of your dreams" is closer to a delicious hunk of grilled salmon in a nice restaurant, then now is an especially good time to visit Suisun City, because they are promoting their annual Restaurant Week from January 18 - 27, 2013.  You can see menus and get more details at .   This photo shows part of the Suisun Marina, with their Suisun City Hall in the background.
 The Harbor Plaza park along the waterfront is the site of many special events, including a lighted-boat Christmas parade, Fourth of July fireworks, and numerous arts/crafts extravaganzas.
 On the day that I visited, a local olive grower was showcasing their extensive line of artisan olive oils, and allowing visitors to taste the various varieties.  The knowledgeable exhibitor was also educating interested visitors, on the expanding and popular olive grove industry in California's central valley. 
 This vendor had a plethora of hand-crafted, locally made jewelry,  clothing items, and other accessories, that would make the perfect souvenir of your visit.
 When I visited the Suisun Waterfront with my cousins (Brenda is on the left, and Debbie is on the right, in the photo), we enjoyed strolling the Waterfront Promenade, after consuming a delicious brunch, at a quaint restaurant across the street from the park. 
 The Suisun Marsh is the largest continuous brackish body of water, remaining on the West Coast of North America, and as such, it is a critical part of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento River Delta Estuary ecosystem.
 I was reminded of my visit to Suisun City when I was mentally going through images in my mind, of lighthouses I had photographed.  I was trying to find a "mnemonic device" to help me learn one of my memory verses for my weekly healthy living class ( )  Psalm 89:15 says "Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O LORD."  I have definitely been blessed by the Lord, and blessed by my cousins, who took me on a walk along the  promenade, in the sun light of God's presence, beside the reflection of this picturesque lighthouse.   My Suisun Waterfront Expedition gave me "Miles of Smiles" and will do the same for you!!  Tricia
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Saturday, January 5, 2013


 Years ago, when I first found out that my son would be moving to Oregon, to complete his residency training, to become a physician, I was at a National Tour Association conference, where I could talk to Oregon tourism representatives, about what their state had to offer.  When I would mention that my son was moving there, in part, because he was a big fan of rock climbing, the Oregon official would invariably say, "Oh, you will want to learn all about Smith Rock, in that case."  That was the first I ever heard of Smith Rock. 
 With their help, I learned that this world-famous climbing location is located within Smith Rock State Park ( ), in Central Oregon's High Desert region.
 Most of its sheer cliffs are formed from tuff (consolidated volcanic ash) and basalt (cooled lava).  The park contains over 1,000 climbing routes, at all levels.  Some of the climbing routes are bolted, which means that a permanent anchor has been fixed into a hole, drilled into the rock.  Smith Rock has the distinction of having the first United States climbing route  rated 5.14, which means extremely challenging. 
 Since Smith Rock is considered the birthplace of modern American sport climbing (according to ), it is not surprising that my research on the topic eventually led me to an organization, headquartered in nearby Bend, Oregon, that is called Solid Rock Climbers for Christ ( ).  I have been donating to their non-profit ministry for many years, and have great respect for their mission.  They have produced a fantastic climbing DVD, filmed on Smith Rock's Crossfire Route, that is available free of charge by emailing .  You can also watch excerpts of the DVD on their website.  I like the "movie tagline" for the video that says "CROSSFIRE - featuring an insignificant climber sharing a significant message."  The film features SRCFC National Director, Calvin Landrus, climbing the Crossfire Route (rated 5.12b).
 The reason I am posting these photos of Smith Rock now, even though it was a few years back that I visited there, is because these are the images that popped into my mind , when I started trying to visualize the word "desert", that is in the Week 4 of Motivated to Wellness study I am doing with others in my community ( ).  My goal is to post photographs on my blog that will help me memorize each of our 10 memory verses in this session of First Place 4 Health ( ).  Everything you read about Smith Rock talks about it being in the HIGH DESERT---so here is the verse from Isaiah 43:19 that I am working on: "See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland."   It is interesting that for centuries, Scripture has told us it was wise to "hide God's Word in our hearts---that is, memorize it."  Now, scientifically controlled, double-blind studies are showing that people who keep their minds active all their lives, can slow the onset of dementia and age-related memory loss!!  All sorts of books on "mind exercises" and "mental sharpness practices" are being advertised to us Baby Boomers.  Being the frugal person I am, my choice for "mind exercises" is to memorize God's Word.  I have complete confidence that doing so will give me MILES OF SMILES in the days ahead!  Tricia
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 The history of Greece has been a source of fascination to me, especially after developing a greater appreciation of ancient civilizations, by touring historic ruins in the European country of Italy.  My course in Western Civilization in college was made much more interesting, because I had seen many of the places significant to Western Civilization, on the tour of Italy with my father, when I was in high school.   This photo represents a significant facade in Western Civilization, and that is the Greek Parthenon. 
 However, this full-size replica of the Greek Parthenon on the Acropolis in Athens, is actually located in Centennial Park, in Nashville, Tennessee. 
 It is a popular tourist attraction, but I did not find out about its existence, close to my home state of Arkansas, until the 1990's! 
 There is no charge to visit its exterior, so it is frequently used as the back drop for group tour photos, such as this one. (There is a nominal fee for going inside, during regular hours of operation, which you can find out by phoning 615-862-8431)
 Nashville's version of the Parthenon is the only such replica in the world.  It houses a 42-foot-high sculpture of Athena, whom the Greeks worshipped as the goddess of wisdom. 
 I was reminded of my visit to the "Temple of Athena", when trying to visualize my First Place 4 Health memory verse( ) for Week 2 of Motivated to Wellness, that comes from Psalm 40:4 .  I am visualizing this mother, and her small son, being blessed, as they trust in the Lord---not too proud to be cautious, as they are climbing down the steps, and turning  away from a false god:  "Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods."  Can you tell I am a "visual learner"??!!  My goal is to write a blog post, with appropriate photos, that will help me visualize, and hence memorize, each of the 10 Bible passages for this session of First Place 4 Health, currently in progress at First Baptist Church, in Mountain Home, Arkansas  ( ) .  I know that Scripture memorization (aka, "hiding God's word in my heart"), will give me MILES OF SMILES in the days ahead!  Tricia
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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

WHO Hikes in Freezing Weather???!!!

 Are you wondering WHO in the world are these crazy women, obviously bundled up to protect themselves from the freezing cold day during the first week of January?  It is WHO, of course!  That stands for Women Hiking the Ozarks.
 WHO is an informal group of ladies who gather on Wednesdays to do a hike together somewhere in the Ozarks.
 Today the group met at Keller Park, located within the city limits of Mountain Home, Arkansas.
 This area is actually composed of two parks---Twin Lakes Park and Keller Park.  Parts of the park are connected, although there is some private property between the two, which accounts for their two separate entrances.  There are softball fields within the complex, and a pavilion that can be reserved for special events.
 Sturdy wood and metal signs throughout the area suggest ways to extend your walk, or shorten it, as indicated by this sign.
 One part of the trail contains the Clysta Willet Interpretive Trail, which will lead you to a pond and wildflower meadow. 
 Visiting the park in the winter enables the hiker to get a better view of the contours of the land, as most vegetation has gone dormant for the season.
 Many parts of the park have paved surfaces, making it suitable for wheelchairs and baby strollers.  This photo shows a gazebo, and trail map to help a newcomer better navigate the area.
 There are four smaller sections within the park called Woodland Trail, Wildflower Trail, Sycamore Trail, and Scott Trail.
 This photo shows a section of the trail that goes through a grove of pine trees.
 Weather forecasters warn drivers to be careful of ice when  driving on overpasses, because they could be icy.  The same warning can apply for hikers on wooden bridges in freezing weather.  This bridge surface was as slick as glass, so we were glad we had the hand rails to steady our crossing!
 I give a "hats off" to whatever service club or city department maintains this trail, because they have done an excellent job to see to it that bridges are in good repair, and not rotting from the constant extreme weather exposure.
 One of the area woodcarvers clubs took on the project of carving whimsical faces in some of the trees that were damaged during the destructive ice storm in Mountain Home a few years back.
 Back in July, 2011, I published an article on my blog about the Laumoier Sculpture Park in St. Louis.  It wasn't until today that I found out that there is a variation of a "sculpture park" right here close to where I live!
 The unusual formations on the base of this tree are reminiscent of childhood fairy tales!
 This  lovely carving of an eagle has even been embellished with colored stains and varnish, to make it stand out against the gray bark of the tree.
 Whoooo Pig Soooiiiieee is what I would nickname this totem pole carving!
 The artist who worked on this tree trunk made excellent use of the bumps and bulges, to form the nose and ears of the animal faces that were carved in to the trunk.
 I have visited this pond in the spring and summertime, and it is a great place to hear the sounds of nature---crickets, frogs, and chirping birds.  The benches beside it make it an ideal place to spend some time in quiet meditation.
 A great feature of visiting this park in the wintertime, is that the leaves are off the trees, and it is easier to spot these hidden "works of art" placed throughout the park for visitors to enjoy.  We are so blessed to live in an area where there are so many places where we can walk.  It reminds me of one of the memory verses for this session of my FBC First Place 4 Health class ( ) that says "Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O LORD." (Psalm 89:15).  If you would like to learn more about enjoying the Ozark outdoors with this group of ladies, visit, and type in Women Hiking the Ozarks (W.H.O.) for more information.  There is also a similar co-ed group in the area that you can learn about,  by visiting  .   Regardless of which group you go with, or even if you go alone, get out and enjoy the Ozarks, and you will have MILES OF SMILES!  Tricia
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