Day 80: Millsap Produce

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In my quest for a healthier lifestyle, I’m eating non-starchy vegetables, berries, nuts, limited amounts of other fruits, eggs and lean proteins such as chicken, turkey and fish. I feel amazing! More energy, sleeping better at night, aches and pains mostly gone, and I’m about 12 pounds lighter. I’ve been excitedly waiting for the Farmer’s Market in Webb City to open again, so I can take advantage of all the fresh produce.

In the meantime, I made a new discovery: Millsap Produce, located at 4902 S Range Line, in Joplin. This retail shop sells a large variety of organic produce and foods. The store is small, but packed with goodness! I saw produce, raw honey, organic meats, gluten free products, dairy free products, nuts, and the list goes on and on.

There is also a greenhouse attached to the store with a huge selection of succulents. I’m sure as the season progresses there will be herbs and many other plants available. I’ll keep this in mind as my garden takes shape in the backyard. They also had a nice selection of Shamrock Plants still available, in case anyone missed getting a plant elsewhere.

I purchased several items and intend to frequent this store, especially during the Farmer’s Market off season. Millsap Produce is open six days a week, making it a convenient stop. And since it’s an actual store, weather won’t affect shopping. Millsap also has a monthly organic order sheet that is emailed out. Organic produce and herbs, grain or grass fed meat and poultry, pizzas and breads from Mohaska, and gluten free groceries can all be ordered and then picked up at the store.

I love the Farmer’s Market and will continue to visit it weekly once it opens. I’m happy to have found an alternative, though, that’s there anytime I need fresh produce or any of the many other items Millsap Produce carries!

Day 79: Visit New Businesses During Third Thursday

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Today’s first took place during the kick off of Downtown Joplin’s wildly popular event, Third Thursday. Held each year, from March until October, on the third Thursday of the month (hence the name), this event is located from 7th Street to A Street on Main Street. Roads are blocked off, stores and restaurants stay open late and vendors, performers, musicians and artists line the streets and inhabit storefronts for the evening. Thousands of people stroll up and down Main and spill over onto neighboring avenues, viewing art, listening to a variety of music and catching up with friends.

The first day of spring was perfect, weather wise, and people turned out in huge numbers for the first Third Thursday of the year. Greg, sister Linda and I were some of those people! I’ve attended many Third Thursdays so that couldn’t be my first today. Therefore, I made a point of visiting a couple of businesses that I’ve not been to before.

Blue Moon Market, located at 613 S Main, features clothing, jewelry, accessories and distinctive home furnishings. My sister and I LOVED this store. I believe they have been open for a little while, but I had not made it by yet. What a lovely and eclectic mix of product. Linda and I just missed the hippie era, but we love the look of smocked oversized tops and loose comfy pants. Perfect yoga clothes are available here! Vintage items and jewelry caught our eyes as did painted signs and banners. There were even old doors for sale at the back of the shop. They truly do have a little bit of everything here. The store was very crowded with ladies ooohing and aaaahing over the merchandise so we intend to visit again very soon and shop.

The second business I visited during Third Thursday was RSVPaint, located at 420 S Main. Tonight was the Open House for this new venture in Joplin. Originating from Springfield, MO, where they have been very successful, RSVPaint offers a place to relax, sip, visit and paint. Classes are offered Thursday – Saturday in the evenings. In two hours, you can create a work of art to take home. It was fun to look at the sample pieces and classes offered. We passed this evening on the wine, that’s the sip part, but we did sign up for a class next week! It will be a great experience that we can share, and of course, a first for me.

What a great evening of strolling, looking, chatting with friends and listening to music. To my surprise and delight, there was even a young man, splendid looking in his kilt, playing the bagpipes. Now that’s not something you hear and see every day in Joplin! I’m glad I caught his performance. I look forward to the next Third Thursday, and the new adventures awaiting me there.

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Day 78: Visit PhotoSpiva 2014 Exhibit

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Today’s first, visiting the PhotoSpiva 2014 Exhibit, was interesting! Located in the George A. Spiva Center for the Arts, in downtown Joplin, the competition is an annual event. This was the 38th edition of PhotoSpiva and yet it was the first time I’ve attended! Each year I’ve thought about going. This year, I was intentional, and delighted to experience this well known event as a first.

I was surprised to learn that 176 photographers, nationwide, submitted 1,014 entries in the competition. Photographer and educator Dornith Doherty, from Denton, Texas, selected 82 images to create an exhibition of photographic excellence. The photographers who submitted their work are both amateurs and professionals. Ms. Doherty pored through the submissions online, selecting the ones that would appear in the exhibit. She arrived in Joplin on March 13 to determine which photographs won and shared $2000 in cash prizes.

Like viewing any kind of art, viewing photography is subjective. I moved slowly through the gallery and studied each of the 82 photos. I didn’t attempt to analyze so much as I allowed the pictures to speak to me. Some told stories….sad stories, stories of decay and the inevitability of entropy and death. Some captured joy or humor and made me smile. Several spoke to my mystical side. One such photograph had a title that seems to be a tagline for my life, “Some things just can’t be explained”.

A few of the entries made me tilt my head, much like a dog who is trying to figure something out. All of the photos represented a person behind the camera. Seeing their photos gave me a glimpse into their world, their reality. Looking at their works, I literally saw what they saw.

My favorite photograph was quite popular, apparently. It won the People’s Choice Award. Titled “Floating Girl”, it is the image in the picture above, accompanying this blog. The photographer is Victor Chalfant from Fayetteville, AR. I love the photo! The light is exquisite and the image simple, beautiful and captivating. The first place winner submitted a photo of historic Brooklyn. The image certainly told a story and the longer I looked at the photograph the more I saw.

I enjoyed my time at the exhibit and I have a deep appreciation for the talented photographers. They inspire me to pick up a camera and capture my world. Another great first for this year would be a photography class and perhaps entering a contest myself. Regardless, I’m glad I didn’t let another year pass without making it to this wonderful exhibit.

Day 77: Eat Sushi at Han the Sushi Man Restaurant

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I love sushi! So I was very excited when Han the Sushi Man opened recently. I have heard very good reviews for this restaurant. Today, for my first, I got to experience Han’s sushi for myself. Greg accompanied me and this was a first for him as well, as he’s never eaten sushi before.

The restaurant is located in a storefront in a strip mall at 1901 E 32nd Street. The interior is fresh, colorful and brightly lit. Cozy tables offer seating for 35 or so diners. Carry out is available. Han the Sushi Man offers a large selection of sushi choices plus salad and soup. I had my favorite, the traditional California Roll, and Greg selected one of the restaurant’s recommended favorites, the Crunchy Roll, featuring shrimp. Both were delicious! We sampled each other’s rolls and I thought the Crunchy Roll was wonderful as well. I was so enjoying my sushi that I ate two pieces of my California Roll before I remembered to take a picture! Greg gave a thumbs up for sushi and especially liked the wasabi, although he quickly learned to have a tiny amount with each bite.

Han’s story is the realization of the American Dream. He moved to the US in 2001, from Myanmar, formerly called Burma, seeking political asylum. He ended up in the San Jose, CA area with $38 in his pocket. He eventually found a job rolling sushi. He perfected his skills in California, Oklahoma City, Chicago and Detroit before arriving in Joplin, MO, and taking a job as the sushi preparer at Pricecutters.

Han was wise to include his name in his restaurant name. He developed quite a following during his time at Pricecutters. With such a loyal group of customers, it was time for him to take the next step in achieving his dream. On February 3 of this year, his restaurant opened and from the reports I’ve heard, it has been very successful.

I considered my meal there a success and I know I will return to eat at Han the Sushi Man again! And next time, in the spirit of trying new things, I will NOT have the California Roll, but will get beyond the familiar and experience something more exotic!

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Day 76: Watch Captain Phillips

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Today’s first was to watch Captain Phillips, the second of the nine Best Picture nominated films. Last week, Gravity took me into space. Tonight, the story took place in the open seas off the coast of Somalia. As in space, when disaster strikes, being at sea far from shore and other ships, leaves you vulnerable and then self-reliant as you wait for help.

Captain Phillips was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor for first time actor, Barkhad Abdi. It did not win in any categories. The movie stars Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdi and is directed by Paul Greengrass. It’s rated  PG-13 and has a run time of 2 hours and 14 minutes.

Based on an actual event that took place in 2009, Captain Phillips is the story of the hijacking of the unarmed ship, Maersk Alabama. During the incident, merchant mariner Captain Richard Phillips was taken hostage by Somali pirates, led by Abduwali Muse. The movie is well crafted, superbly acted and very intense. I knew the final outcome of the situation, as far as the captain was concerned, but I didn’t know HOW it was all resolved, nor what happened to the pirates. I was completely caught up in the story until the credits rolled.

Tom Hanks gives a gritty, masterful performance. I’ve been a fan of his since his start on television. He has the kind of soulful eyes that speak far more than his words. I’m surprised he didn’t receive a nomination for Best Actor. Newcomer Barkhad Abdi was amazing as the pirate leader, Muse. He has an intensity and presence that kept my eyes on him in every scene he appeared in. His nomination was well deserved, and I hope to see him in future films.

I was struck by the similarities between the two men, Phillips and Muse, both living lives not entirely within their own control. Both men left their homes to accomplish a routine job and became ensnared in a life changing event. When Muse, explaining to Captain Phillips why he’s a pirate, says, “I have bosses…”, Phillips answers with grim understanding, “We all have bosses.” As the movie progressed, Hanks’ character become more basic and simple, intent on survival, while Abdi’s became more complex, more desperate, as he realized he was in a situation way over his head.

The compassion Phillips had for his captors was touching. He assured the four men that they could take the $30,000 he had given them and go home, without harm, if they would just release him. Even when the US Navy showed up, the Somali men would not back down, could not release their hostage and return home without more money, without leverage. According to Muse, “I came too far, I can’t give up”. Those words sealed their fate.

Throughout the incident, Captain Phillips heard Muse say many times, “Everything’s gonna be alright.” Muse spoke to reassure himself as much as Phillips, perhaps. As the Navy positioned themselves to resolve the situation, their negotiators eerily echoed Muse’s words, “Everything’s gonna be okay.” Like Phillips, until the very end, I wasn’t sure that either side spoke the truth.

This is a powerful movie. I highly recommend it.

Day 75: Celebrate Weston’s First Birthday

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One of the things my family does well, is celebrate! We love a reason to gather and have fun. And, we especially enjoy the opportunity to gather for the birthdays of the children in the family. Today’s first was a double first! Today, Weston Miller, my great nephew, had his first birthday party and I had the privilege of being there to sing and clap and watch him celebrate, for my first.

Weston is my sister Linda’s grandson, and son of my nephew Scott and his lovely wife, Nicole. Weston was hoped for and prayed for and planned for, for a very long time before he made his entrance into the world and into our lives. All children are precious. When you have waited for years to hold the child that you’ve longed for, he is a treasure beyond compare. His mommy and daddy are such great parents. I’ve watched them with their baby boy this past year and I’m so proud of them. Weston will grow up knowing he is cherished. Add to that the adoration of his Gigi and Papa, great grandmothers and an assortment of aunts, uncles and cousins, and this boy is well loved indeed.

That was very evident this weekend as party preparations got underway! Nicole brought together a variety of ideas around a Little Monsters birthday party, carrying forward the theme from Weston’s baby shower. Nicole is one clever young woman! Linda’s living room was transformed into a party room boasting bright colors and fun, playful decorations. Little monsters were strewn about the room. Pictures on the walls were covered with colorful plastic table cloths and large eyes attached. The food was both nutritious and delightful and covered with googly eyes. One of my favorite decorations was the banner of 13 flags stretched across the French doors. The first flag had a picture of the newborn Weston, and each flag after had a pic of him as he aged, month by month. The final flag had today’s 12 month picture attached.

Weston thoroughly enjoyed his day. An adorable boy with curly red hair and big brown eyes, he easily accepted being the center of attention today. And when he grew tired, with two presents still to open, his wise mom and dad called a break to the festivities and let Weston be himself, which is an inquisitive, bright boy intent on exploring his world. Weston studies people and objects with a serious, intelligent gaze, and when he smiles, we all smile with him. It will be a joy to watch him learn and grow and become the person he is meant to be. For this day, he is one, and on the verge of walking and talking and figuring out who we all are! And that’s absolutely perfect. Happy, happy birthday, dear Weston!

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Day 74: Dinner at Cici’s Pizza

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Today’s first was a fun family outing to the newly opened Cici’s Pizza for dinner! Eleven of us took advantage of the Opening Special of $5 for the buffet. We weren’t the only ones excited about welcoming Cici’s back to Joplin….the line was out the door when we arrived.

Cici’s Pizza was always a popular Joplin restaurant. They served up pasta, salad, soup and a variety of pizzas, buffet style, for a very reasonable price. You could find all your favorite pizzas there plus a few specialties like Buffalo Wing Pizza and several dessert pizzas. The cinnamon rolls not only looked and smelled good, they tasted delicious!

Our Cici’s Pizza was one of the restaurants that was destroyed the day of the May 2011 tornado. And with the reopening taking place almost three years later, it has been a very long wait for them to come back! In fact, there was some concern that Cici’s would not return. Rumors alternated between saying the pizza place was not going to be in Joplin again to talk about its impending opening. It was only a couple of months ago, when I spotted the “Now Hiring” signs fluttering in front of its new location that I finally believed Cici’s was on the way back!

We enjoyed our dinner, in spite of the crowd. The line moved quickly and the manager met each group as they paid and found tables to dine at. That was no small task for our large group, but he made it happen. Being on my detox diet, I chose to eat salad and a chicken soup with a clear broth. I didn’t feel deprived at all! I did walk down the buffet though, to see what was being offered. It was a great selection, although with the number of diners present, those pizzas didn’t last long! I saw a pizza I had never seen before….a macaroni & cheese pizza! My niece’s husband, Jon, declared it good. He said it tasted like macaroni & cheese on flatbread!

I’m thrilled Cici’s has returned to Joplin. Each business, or restaurant, that reopens is a testament to the determination that has defined Joplin’s recovery. We can be knocked down, we can lose what is dear to us, but we cannot be kept down. What was lost can be rebuilt, when it is brick and mortar. We forever remember those dear souls who left us too soon. As we rise again, build again, move forward, their Spirit is interwoven with the Spirit of Hope that is Joplin.

Day 73: Celebrate Pi Day with a New Recipe

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Today, 3.14.14, is National Pi Day! March 14 is celebrated around the world in honor of the Greek letter pi, representing the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. The mathematical constant begins 3.14159 or, more commonly, 3.14, and as an irrational number, extends to an infinite number of decimal places. Congress made this date a national holiday in March of 2009, to show support for the National Science Foundation and to give teachers a reason to encourage students to have fun with pi.

My grandson brought the holiday to my attention a couple of years ago. And of course, one of the best ways to celebrate pi day, is with pi(e)! Normally, I’d partake of a coconut cream pie, or some other decadent pie from Big R’s. However, this year, as I am continuing on a detox diet plan that eliminates sugar, flour, gluten and dairy, pie was not an option!

I debated doing something else today, as a first. And then, as I was browsing through the new cookbook of Dr. Hyman’s that I just purchased, I found my solution! Using a recipe in The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook, I created my own mini “pie”….a Double Peanut Butter Chocolate Cup. Okay, it’s not a pie! But it’s round, and that stays with the pi theme.

Best of all, although it looks like it’s full of all the wrong things, it adheres to the plan I’m on. This little taste of heaven has NO sugar, flour, gluten or dairy. Using organic ingredients makes it even better for me. The cups were quick and easy to make and set up in the freezer. Sometimes, food that looks good and is good for you, tastes terrible! But I just sampled a peanut butter chocolate cup and they are wonderful! Creamy, not very sweet, yet very satisfying as a treat.

Today is also Albert Einstein’s birthday. Pi day seems like the perfect birth date for this mathematical and scientific genius. I love his quirky sense of humor too and enjoy his quotes, which are full of wisdom. Perhaps I’ll have another double peanut butter chocolate cup as I wish him a Happy Birthday!

Day 72: Geocaching

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Who doesn’t love treasure hunting? As a kid, I dreamed of finding that hidden treasure worth a fortune, and I loved scavenger hunts! Deciphering clues and the thrill of the hunt were as fun as actually finding the hidden objects. So when I heard about geocaching, I was excited to try this as one of my new experiences. Today, for the first time, my grandson Dayan and I went geocaching.

Geocaching is a treasure hunting game played outdoors, using a GPS to hide and seek containers. Once a container is hidden and the coordinates recorded, you can search for the cache. I downloaded the geocaching app on my iPhone. The Joplin area has dozens of caches hidden. Dayan and I selected one that was close to my house and off we went!

The first cache we searched for was hidden in a public park. We used the compass on the app to find the general location. We knew we were in the correct area, but being our first time to hunt, we weren’t quite sure what we were looking for! We searched the pavilion, looking beneath picnic tables and around the perimeter of the concrete base.  A group of moms and kids were watching us as we searched. One asked if we had lost something. We explained the game we were playing and that we were new to geocaching and they joined us in the hunt!

What fun! Dayan and I and a group of strangers who quickly became allies, searching for a small container hidden in the pavilion. I looked up the hint and found a single word: rafters. We all began looking up and Dayan and one of our new friends found the cache, a small key holder type box held in place by magnets. Success! I opened the box and inside were folded up sheets of paper for the purpose of recording our names and the date we found the cache. Then Dayan returned the container to its hiding place for future participants.

We were elated! We had a limited amount of time, but we hurried on to our second hidden cache. We quickly found the right location, a bean tree in another public park. We searched and searched, knowing we were in the right spot, but time ran out before we found the container. We had family to meet for dinner, so we planned to return to this location another time.

Dayan and I agreed, geocaching is fun and will most likely become addictive! As he nears the end of this school year, we foresee happy summer days spent looking for a variety of hidden caches and ultimately, creating and hiding our own cache! This is a great group or family activity, incorporating thinking skills, exercise (we walked a ways to locate our second hiding spot) and cooperation. As we discovered today, you can also make new friends along the way! And as one of the moms commented, after we explained how we use a phone to help locate the treasure, “At last, a great use for a cell phone!”

Day 71: Create a Welcome Spring Porch for Linda

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I redo the décor on my front porch several times a year, changing it with the seasons and holidays. No firsts possible there. So for today’s first, I created a Welcome Spring front porch for my sister, Linda!

My sister bought a home in Joplin last year, graciously allowing me to act as her realtor. She purchased a cute bungalow style house that is just right for her. Among the favorite features of the house is a cute front porch, the perfect spot to relax, enjoy the outdoors and watch the world amble by.

That front porch was like a blank canvas to me. I love pulling ideas together to create a homey and attractive space. My sister’s birthday was last week, and for her gift, I offered to fix up her porch for spring. Truly, we both benefit! I enjoy the creative process and watching how it all comes together. That is part of the fun, finding a focal piece, in this case a rug, and then finding, in various stores, the rest of the pieces that complement each other. As in other areas of my life, the intention went out and delightful manifestations flowed back.

Creating welcoming spaces, where people can be themselves, is part of who I am, and my purpose in life. I am offering in smaller ways now as I journey toward offering in bigger, more expansive ways. The joy is the same though, whether I am creating a retreat center called Rivendell, or fresh porch décor for my sister. Happy birthday, Linda!

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