Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Home Away from Home

We've started a tradition in celebrating our summer birthdays and anniversary in the historic bluff country of Lanesboro, Minnesota, a charming town with great bike trails and the Root River tubing/ canoeing activities about an hour from the End of the Rainbow Valley.

The Bed and Breakfast Habberstad House serves as our central base. After a long day on the trail/river we return to the comforts of ‘home.' We biked about 20 miles to Preston and back this visit to Lanesboro.(More about the biking another time)

This 1897 Victorian beauty is filled with original woodwork, gorgeous refinished wooden floors, pocket doors, high ceilings and whether you are in the front entry, sitting room, parlor/dining room all public spaces are filled with ‘tasteful’ interest and antiques.                          The owners, Nancy and Dave live in the back part of the house which includes a magnificent kitchen where both whip up yummy breakfasts that fill one to the gills.

We had peaches n cream, fireman's banana bread and apple pancakes with chicken herbed sausage.

Dave keeps the grounds immaculate and you can enjoy various seasonal blooms including a kitchen herb garden. Seating areas are scattered throughout the property whether one wants to hang out on the front porch/ sit by the fountain / under a grape arbor/one of the gazebos/ on a patio.

Since our first stay which I think was for my 50th, we have stayed in where else but the inviting 'Scandinavian' suite. It is a mixture of Norway’s blue and red painted knotty pine with stenciled motifs in the sink area. A Swedish bright yellow dons the bathroom walls.

Wood furnishings and especially the gorgeous oak leaf carved queen size bed make the large room comfy. I love all the wood. There are sitting areas and a small table to play games/ use your computer. Lots of details to enjoy. I think my biking shoes look quite at home here, don't you?
Various amenities have been added. This time we used the new Keurig coffee maker. Last visit a flat screen TV had been added for those that can’t live without it and a DVD player. (Need I say that we haven’t used those yet?) We did take advantage of the cd player for some mood music and had a good giggle over the canned bird and cricket noises. I told Natureman he must have that same cd playing outside our bedroom in the End of the Rainbow Valley …

The room is large enough to also hold a 2-person spa whirlpool ( not like our cow trough one☺) and there are salts and plush bathrobes. Natureman did bring our champagne flutes, bubbly, brie, smoked trout and crackers to complete the 10th anniversary celebration.

                                   The room also has a delightful balcony which we always use to enjoy the gardens and even a warm summer day as the birch trees now have grown to provide ample shade and privacy,

and to enjoy another beautiful sunset here in bluff country just on the other side of the Mississippi from the End of the Rainbow Valley...

Monday, July 30, 2012

No foolin'...

'No foolin’, I'm not pulling your leg, you can’t get much more American
than this 'country' entertainment for the family than a horse pull with kids’s activities like face painting/ tattoo stickers, fish pond and a money-lined sawdust pile.
Some of the best bakers donate their creations to the pie/cake auction (selling for between $35-$200) a Chinese raffle(those ticket buckets) and 50/50 drawings and 'county fair' food. My favorite is the walking taco. If you haven't ever indulged, it's a lunch size bag of fritos opened with taco seasoned hamburger meat and cheese spooned on top. Yummy as all you need is a spoon to dig in.

Besides Superheroes, we even have our own 'royalty' in attendance that come in all sizes of Princesses. The older ones advised this little one to not look at the camera. LOL. It sure is tough keeping on a tiara.

So if you are planning on attending, just bring your own chair/ sit on one of the many picnic benches. Some people even have personalized seating.

The main reason you attend this community fundraiser is to raise money and watch magnificent Belgian horse teams showing off their massive strength at the 8th annual Chaseburg Wolfe Horse Pull. The setting is like the movie "Field of Dreams" as the baseball field where all this takes place on our ridge is bordered by cornfields.

A farmer by trade Carl Wolfe moonlighted as a cattle hauler and loved to attend and participate in horse pulls around the Midwest. Wolfe loved horses and when he passed away in 2005 from leukemia less than 2 months after diagnosis at age 58, the family (in red t-shirts) decided to have an annual horse pull to honor his memory. The event has grown through the years and any money raised at the horse pull is donated back to area organizations.
Last year’s community support allowed the Wolfe family to donate to the American Cancer Society, The Chaseburg Legion Park, Vernon County Crimestoppers, the Westby girls basketball fundraiser and several area families.

This year, the horse pull featured two classes, 3000 pound (lightweights) and 3200 pound (middle weights), with 10-12 teams participating in each weight class. Cash prizes were awarded along with horsemanship trophies.

These are the same type of horses that pull the huge beer wagons in the Oktoberfest parade. This one is a young one( 6 years old) but won first in his class.
Some horses are given chores like pulling a manure spreader or bean planter, but that's just to keep them in shape."These are no good for a farm team, as they're too ambitious." Said one of the their owners.

One year the teams pulled trucks weighted down with cement blocks. This year it was just the blocks as if that wouldn’t be enough.
The harnesses are as magnificent as the horses...
Each horse team has a people team who guide the horses into place to attach and hand over to the lead person who sits behind the team who will call the commands...
When you watch these teams working together there’s clarity to the saying “pulling well in the harness together” just like Natureman and I do right here in the End of the Rainbow Valley...

Friday, July 27, 2012

How do you spell R E L I E F ?

In the wee hours of Monday morning something happened that hasn't happened for awhile in the End of the Rainbow Valley..

It rained. How do you spell RELIEF ? R A I N. The farmers called it a 'million dollar' rain as that rain may have indeed saved their crops. I missed Monday's rainfall but tonight as I was weeding, the skies darkened and I got spit on a bit and then a little more. The rain drops felt good and I continued my outside work as the weeds really had continued growing without me during my almost 3 week absence. The nerve of them but apparently they really like hot weather.

Even though the temps dropped a good five degrees, the crickets sounded happier. Natureman couldn't rush in any faster to open all the windows to let in that fresher cooler air as if the AC had been choking him. He promised me that it would be cooler. AND he was right, it did cool down with another heavier rain later in the evening. The AC (air conditioner) has been used more this summer than in the six summers we have lived here.

The weather has been the 'hot' topic nationwide since the little to almost non existent snowfall for us this past winter. But it got me thinking a lot about water. Janet had a radio phone spot while we were together and 'WATER' was her topic. During our ride to northwest Arkansas the stressed dying trees were in your face.The new trees at Crystal Bridges were using these watering bags.

And Janet's radio message was that it's a lot more expensive to take down a dead tree than to pay for its watering in your yard. Yep, pull out your soaker hoses and give those trees water because they need it.
If you see dead/dying leaves on a branch, it's because that tree is dying, it's stressed. As we all know it's summer, not fall.

When I was housesitting during my Arkansas stay one of my jobs was watering the lawn. Do you remember having to move the sprinkler?

Well every hour and half the sprinkler had to be moved and that included a total of 4x/ 6 hours of watering.(See my brain isn't entirely fried from this heat.) I was appalled at the quantity of water used for just one household and not a gigantic yard at that.

Finding myself back in the Valley garden last night and watering the potted plants with Natureman enjoying the swing and view. ( I am a sight for sore eyes-LOL)

I asked a question that has been festering- Will our well run dry? And what happens if it does? I never even thought about water before having a 'well.' The eternal optimist Natureman replied, " It won't run out." BUT what if it did? "Then we'd have to dig deeper to another aquafer." I guess I will push that worry aside for a bit. I do think the water supply should be a major concern for all of us.
WELL... that's a story for another day in the End of the Rainbow Valley.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Stories of Strangers...

You know one of the greatest pleasures of my trip was catching up with acquaintances and hearing about whatever anybody wanted to share. And goodness gracious everybody has a story. Don’t worry I won’t be sharing yours.

Yet in a time when our youth and yes ‘we’ plug into our devices constantly, I wonder if we as a society are going to forget how to really talk and listen. No place is this more apparent than an airport where I-pod ear buds, laptops and cell phones are all in use.
As I was devouring a Chicago style hot dog as if I hadn’t eaten for days(somehow it always tastes better eating it in Chicago even if it's the airport), I watched the next table of 2 couples 20 something, all busy texting. They sat in complete silence… no conversation as they ate their dinners except for their messaging to people somewhere else. It’s not the first time I thought, Gee is this what we have let technology do to us? I guess the debate is on as the new diagnostics statistic manual is now even considering including ‘technology addiction.'

This technology which is supposed to make us closer becomes almost a crutch/excuse not to communicate with those sitting right next to us. And don’t get me wrong as I am as guilty as anybody else... Just imagine all the stories that we are missing.

My photo taking has started interesting conversations as I add to my collection of shoe pics/ people shots. I just ask permission and people are pleased to share the stories.
The boyfriend of the wearer of these shoes spoke of her countless shoes and how he doesn't know she walks in these.

Or the little girl who was pleased as punch that someone else admired her sparkly shoes.
She wanted me to know that her Grandma had bought them for her and that she loves anything the sparkles especially her Mom's headband. I complimented her hair color. WOW and she said do you want to take a pic she asked. Absolutely!

On this trip I had some really interesting talks with complete strangers which wouldn’t have happened had I been ‘plugged in.’I see my kids rolling their eyes as how much I resemble my Dad talking to strangers.

One such story with the big guy in the white shirt as I was sitting awaiting my museum ride. I accidentally captured him in one of my pics. I wasn't stalking him, ok?
A super friendly young man got this security job when he heard the museum was hiring but he would really like to go into law enforcement. He may end up as a fireman though as others have told him that people don’t like police officers. In the airport a teenager shared her apprehension of her first plane trip en route to military school as we stood in the security line. Or there were the people on the plane on the return trip- one who needed to talk about how she spent the last week helping clear her aging ailing folks’s home as they will soon be moved closer to family/ the woman who was returning from an Italian vacation and going back to her work at Head Start.

I feel my life is richer after these conversations and am thankful for the reminder that the world gets a little smaller with each conversation and less strangers.

Even if I am going to be super tired today after talking during the wee hours of the morning , I am so glad to be back in the End of the Rainbow Valley with a great conversationalist, my Natureman…

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


E. Fay Jones is the reknowned architect of two architectural beauties in Northwest Arkansas.
Our group visited one of these Monday which was the Mildred B. Cooper’s Chapel in Bella Vista and que bella vista it truly is!

“I saw opportunity here to create architecture. The distinction I am making is that all building isn’t architecture, just as all writing isn’t literature or poetry, even though the spelling, “I saw opportunity here to create architecture. The distinction I am making is that all building isn’t architecture, just as all writing isn’t literature or poetry, even though the spelling, grammar, and “I saw opportunity here to create architecture. The distinction I am making is that all building isn’t architecture, just as all writing isn’t literature or poetry, even though the spelling, grammar and syntax might be correct. There is something in architecture that touches people in a special way,and I hoped to do that with this chapel"-Jones

I'd say that Mr. Jones did indeed accomplish what he set out to do as he did 'touch' me with the beauty of his design of the Chapel nestled in the woods. In fact the structure looks like it has always been here.

Fay's design rules included leaving the environment undisturbed as much as possible, a principle of ‘organic architecture.’ No structural element could be larger than what two men could carry through the woods. Building materials included pressure treated pine 2x4s, 2x6s, and 2x12 s mostly. The trusses were assembled on the floor and raised into place.

These trusses and the surrounding trees make the light and shadows play inside and outside the chapel. The resulting patterns change not only with the time of day but also by the season. Therefore, the structure never looks quite the same.
Fay's internship with the great architect Frank Lloyd Wright and his influence is apparent in Fay's design elements in the building’s use of natural elements and the linear features even down to the embellishments on the chapel's floor lights.

This same design is repeated in the path lights leading to the chapel.

The Cooper Family's desire was to create a spiritual setting. Mr. Fay certainly accomplished their desires. What a legacy he has left making Bella Vista even more bella!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Another Arkansas Gem

Arkansas has a new gem and its name is Crystal Bridges where art merges with nature and gives the state a world class art museum.

And it's all yours free of charge. The catch is that you have to go to Bentonville in Northwestern Arkansas. If the name Bentonville sounds familiar that is because it is the corporate home of Wal- mart and its founding family, the Waltons. It was the Walton Foundation spearheaded by Alice Walton along with her collection among others' that make the museum a masterpiece and a gift to the public.

I will have to post a link to my pics because how can you decide which truly represent the essence of this all?

Since opening its doors officially in November of this year over 250,000 guests have discovered this gem. The visiting exhibit is the Hudson River School: Nature and the American Vision featuring Thomas Cole. Good stuff.

Over 200,000 square feet of galleries,class areas, meeting spaces, a main hall, two pavillions and an excellent restaurant amidst spring fed ponds designed by the architect Moshe Safdie with copper and glass bridges,
provide the visitor with more eye candy than one would ever expect. My photographer friend referred to it as 'eye orgasms.' So be prepared to allow an entire day for your first visit and plan on returning.
The art collection tells the story of America from colonial times (This is the Arkansas Traveller) to the present and the extensive art reference resources (50,000) are available to you and me/any world art scholar interested in research. Resting areas are sprinkled between the galleries to peruse art books/click on line to research to your heart's delight.

BUT it is the 120 acre grounds dotted with sculpture which include 3+ miles of walking and bike trails that connect the gardens and woodlands to downtown Bentonville that blew me away and is the additional masterpiece as 7 trails intersect taking one through nature's play of light and shadows and blend the museum's structure into its surroundings.

Kudos to these artists of the landscape and even the accidental artists...

Rest assured that I will be finding my way back to Crystal Bridges and bringing Natureman with me...