Day 202: Mexican Flag at El Vaquero

El Vaquero exterior e

Tonight I had to be adaptable. Work continued unexpectedly late and when I finished just as the sun was setting, I knew I couldn’t do my planned first, which was to take place outside. No worries! Greg took me to El Vaquero for a late dinner. For my first today, I tried a new dish at this favorite Mexican restaurant.

I have been so happy to have El Vaquero back after the tornado. It is located conveniently close at 2412 S. Main Street. They reopened bigger and better than before, just down the street from the previous location. I either don’t correctly remember their prior menu, or they greatly expanded their offerings. There is a wide variety of delicious dishes to choose from. And if I don’t feel like Mexican food, El Vaquero has salmon, steak, chicken and shrimp dishes to choose from. I am never disappointed with my meal here.

El Vaquero Mexican flag dinner e

Tonight, I perused the menu, looking for something I have never eaten before here. I tend to go with one of three different entrées. I considered the vegetarian quesadilla but decided to save that for another time. Then I saw the Mexican Flag dish. The entrée included a beef enchilada with chili con carne, a cheese enchilada with queso and a chicken enchilada with green chile sauce. Served side by side, the three enchiladas create the colors of the Mexican Flag. That sounded fun.

The dish was attractive to look and it was, as I expected, extremely tasty. I also enjoyed the thin crispy tortilla chips and slightly spice salsa. Being so late, the restaurant was not crowded and it felt so good to have a leisurely meal. Our waiter was attentive. He is one of my favorites at El Vaquero. I don’t know his name, but I will remedy that next time I am in. He is very sincere and friendly and he has the sweetest smile.

Not a bad switch at all, for my first today. Sometimes the challenge isn’t finding a first, but being prepared to shift, happily, to plan B or even plan C. It’s all good. It’s all part of being in the flow. Olé!

El Vaquero interior e


Day 201: Plant Corn

farm planting corn e

Today my sisters and I, great niece London, niece Ashley, her husband Jon and their boys, Ethan and Kaleb, met at my Uncle Rex’s farm to help out cousin Mike with planting. Mike works so hard every day on the farm, after putting in long hours at his day job. For us city girls, it is not only fun to help out on the farm but beneficial to Mike, as it shortens the time he has to spend out working the ground or harvesting. Today, for my first, I helped to plant corn.

I’ve had small vegetable gardens before. I think once I even planted corn but it didn’t do well. I don’t think I harvested a single ear of corn. Today, I understood better why. There is a process to planting corn. Mike showed us the steps and then we got busy. The only step we did not try was tilling the rows for planting. Mike expertly guides the tiller along, making straight rows. He walks off to the side as he guides the churning machine and I feared I couldn’t maintain enough control as I lack the arm strength Mike has. However, we performed every other step and by the last row, we had a good working system.

farm Mike e

After the row is tilled, plant food is scattered over the freshly turned earth and two of us used rakes to work the food into the soil and smooth. Mike showed us how to attach each end of a long cord to short pieces of rebar that stand at either end of the row. Then a metal tape measure is also attached to one rebar and held in place at the other end by a bucket full of dirt…or something. I never actually looked in the bucket! We would move down the row then, poking a hole in the warm soil with our finger, up to the second knuckle, at one foot intervals, dropping a single corn kernel in each hole. After the next row was prepared and the string and tape measure moved, one of us would move down the planted row with a yard rake, shallowly covering the corn.

farm girls e

Planting corn is not hard, but it is wearing on the body. We stretched our backs often and we were very grateful for a large tree to the side of the field which graciously offered its shade. Although the day was the warmest of the past week, there was a good breeze to cool us. We drank ample amounts of water. Work shared goes faster and also gives opportunity for chatting and laughing. Mike supervised us patiently and couldn’t resist grabbing a handful of the precious kernels and helping to plant. I had a new appreciation for the word “cornhole” after poking holes in the earth today and dropping a kernel in! I recently played the lawn game by the same name and understood where the name is derived from.

After planting corn we moved to a long row of bushy green plants and grabbing buckets, picked green beans. The children, who had been splashing in a pool, and Jon, who had been watching them, joined us. Ethan made a game of picking, seeing who could pick the most. I think he won. Mike showed us the maturing eggplant, okra, squash and tomato plants. I can see that there is always planting, harvesting or preparing to do here.

farm picking green beans e

We also celebrated Uncle Rex today, as his birthday is the 22nd. He seemed to enjoy the company today, and the children made him laugh. We brought lunch in and Uncle Rex enjoyed the peach pie especially. He is a sweet and joyful man with a wonderful sense of humor. I look at his handsome face and I catch a glimpse of my dad as well, who was Uncle Rex’s younger brother. My dad has passed but being with my uncle is a bit like being with my dad. It is bittersweet, the familiarity and yet the missing of him.

Next weekend, my sisters and I will once again meet at the farm and assist Mike in planting watermelons and cantaloupe. It will be a plentiful harvest this fall.

farm uncle Rex e



Day 200: Christmas in July

July Xmas other side e

I know many people who celebrate Christmas midyear. However, my family has not done this, until this year. My sisters, our children, all have families and traditions of their own. It is difficult nowadays to get most of us together to celebrate anything! For my first today, I gathered with many members of my extended family to celebrate with a traditional Christmas dinner.

This was a fun day. Another first for me was the privilege of including Joey and Oliver in this family event. My son Nathanael had to work today, and his lovely bride-to-be, Megan, had a day long class at MSSU. They couldn’t join us today, but they allowed the three children to ride to Broken Arrow, OK with Greg and me. I was excited about this, our first outing. I have to say, the kids did great, riding in the car for such distances and playing with cousins. Many more adventures together await us.

July Xmas Greg and Aubrey e

My niece Ashley, and her husband Jon, once again hosted the family for a large dinner. They are such gracious and generous hosts, opening their beautiful home and planning and carrying out these get togethers. Parties are such fun….and a whole lot of work. This young couple focuses on the festive aspect of parties, not the hours of labor involved. I am grateful for them.

Everyone contributed a side dish, sodas or appetizers. Mimi Jerri and Steve brought the chocolate cream pies! Jon deep fried the turkey breast and it was delicious and juicy. We all feasted well and enjoyed a day of visiting, laughing and taking turns keeping an eye on the kids. I was grateful daughter Adriel was able to join us, and grateful for daughter Elissa as well, who was accompanied by boyfriend Josh and his son, Jonathan. Linda’s son Scott and daughter-in-law Nicole were able to be there, with toddler Weston. By the time we say Merry Christmas again, in December, this wonderful couple will have been blessed with a baby daughter. We missed Nate and Megan, my grandson Dayan, who was with his dad, celebrating their Christmas in July this weekend, Adriel’s husband Kelly and Linda’s son Eric and his family. Mom and my stepdad Walter stayed home too, as Walter is recovering from heart surgery.

July Xmas left side e

July Xmas Josh e

We didn’t exchange gifts today, or sing Christmas carols, although we did wish each other a very Merry Christmas. The purpose today was to take time now to get together, as a family, and celebrate life and successes and express love and joy to each other. And those are the greatest of gifts, to offer and to receive.

July Xmas kids e

Day 199: Creepy Geocaching

 geocaching Sherwood Cemetery e

My grandson Dayan and I discovered the thrill of geocaching back on Day 72. Geocaching is a type of treasure hunting game played using a phone’s GPS. There is an app that includes a map of nearby caches, coordinates and hints, if you need them. We had fun the first time we played, although we only found 1 of our 2 caches. Today, for my first, Dayan and I teamed up again to geocache, focusing on the Carl Junction area.

As we ate lunch, Dayan pulled up the map to discover what caches were hidden nearby. We realized that there were three caches in small cemeteries in the area. One of the cemeteries was well known to us because we drive by it often. It also has a reputation for being spooky, due to the burial there of a mass murderer. We agreed that today, our treasure seeking would take a creepy turn. We were up for the challenge and after lunch, off we went.

Our first stop was Twin Groves Cemetery, off of 96 Highway. Neither of us knew this small cemetery existed. Using my phone’s GPS system and Dayan’s tracking skills, we began our search. I have to say, Dayan has a knack for finding these caches. He just seems to start in the right spot, finding the general location in a matter of seconds. We cheered our success as Dayan spied the cache nestled in the V formed by two trees. I signed the log and we recorded our find through the Geocache app. While we were there, we walked around and looked at the old headstones and talked about those buried there. Dayan discovered many who were born prior to the Civil War.

geocaching Twin Groves Dayan e

On we traveled to our second location, called Burning House on the app. This spot, while not a cemetery, was creepy for other reasons. After a fire and demolition, all that was left of this house was a basement and one section of foundation above ground. We figured out rapidly that the cache was hidden in the foundation, since it would be unsafe to drop down into the exposed basement. Dayan retrieved our treasure and then carefully replaced it after I signed the log. Further down the dirt drive was a tall stand of weeds and trees. There appeared to be someone living back there so we didn’t linger long at this site.

geocaching burning house e

We were excited we had found two for two and that encouraged us to head to the next cemetery on our list, Peace Cemetery. It is ironic that this place has the word Peace in its name. It has been the focus of several paranormal investigations because of unrest here. Dayan read aloud about Billy Cook, the murderer who is buried there, and suddenly our creepy geocaching session also became a history lesson. Billy Cook was known as a spree killer, going on a rampage over 22 days, in January of 1951, that left six people dead between Missouri and California, including three children. Cook was a Joplin, MO native and dumped the bodies of five of his victims, all members of the same family, into an abandoned mine shaft near Joplin. After he was executed in San Quentin, his body was returned to Joplin, but residents didn’t want him buried in town. Eventually he was buried in Peace Cemetery, in an unmarked grave, outside the cemetery proper.

geocaching Peace Cemetery Sign e2

Dayan and I were glad it was daylight while we were there! The cemetery is old and not used any more, cared for by volunteers who occasionally mow. Dayan’s instinct stopped us in the right spot and we ventured into a little fenced off area beneath overhanging trees. We noticed right away that there were Cooks buried in this section and wondered if these were Billy’s parents and family members. If so, perhaps he is buried in there too. While Dayan swatted at cobwebs and spiders, I crept forward and discovered our cache hidden beneath a rock. Even though we had never been in this historic cemetery before, we decided not to explore further. We were both ready to move on to our next site.

geocaching Peace Cemetery Cindy closeup e

Our last stop was Sherwood Cemetery. Dayan found interesting information about Sherwood and so our history lesson continued. Union troops burned the town of Sherwood on May 19, 1863. At that time, with 250 residents, Sherwood was the third largest town in Jasper County. Nothing of the community remains except the almost forgotten cemetery. It is reported that Abraham Lincoln has a cousin buried there, Catherine Lincoln Sallinger. We found our last cache and sat on a stone bench to record our visit in the log. As we headed back to the car, Dayan found an interesting headstone. We discussed how cemeteries are really places of history. Each person had a family, a life, a story.

geocaching Sherwood Cemetery tombstone e

What a fun afternoon! We are hooked on geocaching and look forward to more afternoons spent seeking these interesting treasures. Riding in the car, we had time to chat and share our own stories and laugh. At one point, in a lull in our conversation, we both said, simultaneously, “This has been fun!” We cracked up over our in-sync speaking. This grandson of mine and I are often in sync. I appreciate him and love our time together. We laughed today that we used to make up stories called the Adventures of Dayan and Yaya. Geocaching is giving us an opportunity to live out some adventures!

geocaching Twin Groves e


Day 198: Meet Artist Alice Lynn Greenwood

Alice Lynn Greenwood e

Tonight was July’s Third Thursday, in downtown Joplin. The light rain falling didn’t seem to dampen the enthusiasm of the people walking about, participating in this fun event. I was delighted to see a good turnout, undeterred by the weather. I always enjoy Thirds Thursdays, however tonight, I had a very specific purpose in mind as I strolled down Main Street. Artist Alice Lynn Greenwood had an exhibit set up at the Post Memorial Art Reference Library and was present at another exhibit located at RSVPaint. I had been looking forward to meeting her. For my first today, I had the opportunity to do so.

Born in Little Rock, AR, Alice Lynn earned her art degree from Hendrix College. She moved to New York, with her two children and two cats, to study at the General Theological Seminary and the Art Students League. After her children grew up and left the nest, she returned to AR to care for her aging parents. She remained in AR for 10 years, creating a studio and a life, gardening and painting, active in her community, grateful for the many changes in her life that had guided her. Alice Lynn’s journey most recently brought her to Carthage, MO, where she has set up a studio in an artist cottage beside historic Route 66.

Alice Lynn is an artist with an amazing eye for beauty and something somewhat unusual for an artist….a strong love of language and words. Her passions combine to create imaginative, bold works of art that enchant the viewer. I first encountered Alice Lynn’s work through a Joplin Globe article featuring her art and highlighting one of her exhibits downtown. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to the show. A couple of months later, while eating lunch at Cooper’s, I admired the beautiful paintings hanging on one wall. I was particularly captivated by one that used vibrant, fall colors and contained the words, “Let the beauty of what you do be what you love.” Greg surprised me and bought the painting for me.

Alice Lynn Greewood post library e

At home, I looked up the artist online, and realized this was the same gifted woman whose exhibit I had missed. I love how opportunities have a way of coming to us again. I friended Alice Lynn on Facebook. When I posted a blog link and a picture of my vintage suitcase vignette, featuring the art piece I had picked up downtown, Alice Lynn recognized her work and commented. We have enjoyed following each other’s journeys since, via Facebook.

It was a privilege and a joy to meet Alice Lynn Greenwood this evening and chat for a few minutes about her art, our journeys and life. She graciously allowed a picture to be taken of the two of us, and wrote a lovely inscription in her recently published book, “The Beauty of Change”, which I purchased at the exhibit. Alice Lynn not only captures beauty in her artwork, she embodies it. Her book furthers her love of words and art and is an invitation to travel with her through her journey of changes. I accept that invitation and I look forward to Alice Lynn’s continuing journey, captured so brilliantly through her art.

Alice Lynn Greenwood and Cindy e

Visit Alice Lynn’s Facebook page


Day 197: The Rail – A Pizza Company Rogers AR

The Rail e

Cousin Linda is preparing to fly home to Illinois, and that was a good reason to meet up one more time in AR to say “Until next time…”. Greg and I met Pam and Linda at Pam’s pretty home in Bella Vista. Together we traveled to the historic downtown Rogers, AR, for a fun meal at The Rail – A Pizza Company, and a first for me.

The Rail, located at 218 S. First Street, is one of the hot spots in downtown Rogers. Housed in an older building with exposed brick walls inside, this is a cool place to gather for pizza, wings, cold drinks and dinner with friends. Or cousins, in my case. I love these historic buildings with their long narrow interiors. We slid into a booth and perused menus, conveniently located on the table.

Our waiter was friendly and attentive. He kept our drinks filled and answered any questions we had. We ordered a cheeseburger pizza and The Alfred, a pizza featuring chicken, onions, mushroom and Italian sausage with an alfredo sauce. Both choices were excellent. The cheeseburger pizza even had dill pickles and mustard on it. Our barbeque wings were a great start to the meal. The wings were pleasantly crispy with a tangy and sweet mild sauce.

The Rail cheeseburger pizza e

We arrived early for dinner and we were fortunate to do so. The tables and booths very quickly filled up. There was a festive, chatty atmosphere as people sampled an assortment of cold beer and soda and chowed down on pizza. We had our own little party going on at our booth, as we shared pizza, chatted and laughed.

Pam introduced me to a new use for those left over crusts of pizza. Each table or booth had a bottle of honey present. She instructed us to save our crusts and dribble honey over them for a simple dessert. Another first! I had never seen this done before, at any of the pizza establishments I’ve been in. After letting my dinner settle for a few minutes, I tried a honeyed pizza crust. It was delicious and just the right finishing touch to our meal. This is a suggestion every pizza place could adopt!

We drove around downtown Rogers before heading back to Pam’s house. There were many cute and interesting shops to explore at another time. As the sun set, Pam directed us home via scenic back roads. NW Arkansas really is beautiful, well deserving of the nickname, The Natural State. I didn’t realize, until this evening that Bella Vista has several small but deep lakes in the area. We drove by two and I appreciated their peacefulness and beauty.

It’s been fun to spend time with Greg’s cousins the past few weeks. I enjoyed the holiday at the lake house near Lawrence KS and the excursions in NW Arkansas. And of course, it is the connections with people that makes these times memorable. I hope to see Linda, Tim and Mark, and their spouses and families, again soon. And Pam and her husband Jay, I’ve discovered, are a mere 40 minutes away down I-49. I intend to see them often. So it’s not goodbye. It really is see you later.

The Rail group e

Day 196: The Grand Budapest Hotel

grand budapest hotel e

Tonight was movie night! Feeling a bit tired after working a good part of the weekend and putting in a loooong day yesterday, I decided to stop at the dvd rental store on my way home and pick up a movie. So many movies to choose from, and I only needed one. I had seen the preview for this movie, while watching something else. Its quirkiness appealed to me then and when I saw the movie had released recently on dvd, I decided to go with a fun film. I’ve seen many “based on a true story” movies lately. Something fresh and darkly comedic seemed perfect for today’s first.

The Grand Budapest Hotel has a large cast of well known actors including, Jude Law, Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Owen Wilson and Tony Revolori. This comedy was directed by Wes Anderson and inspired by the writings of Stefan Zweig. It is rated R, for language, and has a run time of 1 hour and 40 minutes.

Set in the European hotel The Grand Budapest, during war time, the story follows the adventures of legendary concierge Gustave H, played by Ralph Fiennes, and his faithful and trusted Lobby Boy, Zero Moustafa, played by Tony Revolori. The film opens in 1985 with a young woman standing before a memorial of Author, while holding his book, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and then backs up to 1968. In this era, we meet the young author, played by Jude Law, who is staying at the decaying, mostly vacant and yet still beautiful Grand Budapest Hotel. He encounters the owner, Zero Moustafa, who agrees to tell him the story of how he acquired the hotel and why he keeps it, even though it does not make him any money.

Over dinner, Old Zero, play by F. Murray Abraham, begins his tale, and the movie backs up again to 1932, where we meet Zero as a youth. He has just begun to work for the famous concierge Gustave. Over the course of the movie, we learn of Gustave’s fame because of his extraordinary care of the hotel’s patrons, especially the blond, wealthy, older women who stay at the decadent palace like hotel. One such heiress dies and leaves Gustave a very valuable painting. What follows is the theft of the painting, Boy with Apple, accusations of murder, and a battle for an enormous family fortune. At the end of this funny and off beat adventure, Zero inherits the hotel.

I liked this movie very much. It was very reminiscent of films by one of my favorite directors, Baz Luhrmann, who excels at quirky movies. The Grand Budapest Hotel was dryly funny, with crucial timing in the delivery of clever lines. Fiennes and young star Revolori played off of each other brilliantly. I enjoyed the cameos by so many different actors. I think I smiled through the entire film. In counterpoint to the humor, which was sometimes dark, was the beautiful, artistic setting for the backdrop. This movie was a joy to watch simply because of the stunning cinematography.

Ralph Fiennes character, Gustave, shines. His sense of style and grace and his strong belief in the good in people touched me and then his sudden use of “colorful” language, in the midst of reciting poetry or waxing philosophical would make me laugh. He lived in a slightly different reality than his companions, and I loved him for that. Toward the end of the tale, Zero says of his mentor and friend, “To be frank, I think his world had vanished long before he ever entered it – but, I will say: he certainly sustained the illusion with a marvelous grace!” May the same be said of me someday!

grand budapest hotel characters e



Day 195: Shrimp Quesadilla at El Charro in Carthage

El Charro Carthage e

What a busy day today, meeting with clients and making phone calls and getting mulch down in the newest part of the garden. In between meeting my last two clients for the day, I had the opportunity to have dinner with my son Nate, his fiancé Megan, and their three delightful children at El Charro in Carthage. I had not eaten at this El Charro before, and to really make it a good first, I tried a new dish there, shrimp quesadilla.

I was missing my son and his family. With their busy schedules and mine, it had been too long since I’d seen them and hugged on the kids. It was great to get to be with them, and fun to go to dinner together. I don’t believe I’ve had dinner with this little group by myself before. We often have family dinners for someone’s birthday, where the whole group gathers. But this was special, too, having an intimate dinner.

I rode with the family in the car to El Charro and Joey, Oliver, Aubrey and I sat in the back and chatted. I loved hearing the kids’ news and stories and listening to what’s important to them. We settled in at the restaurant and ordered dinner. These are precious times. I remember what it is like as a parent. Someone needs to use the bathroom, everyone has something special that they want for dinner, each child has something to say. Like Nate and Megan, I had three kids and they can keep you busy!

El Charro dinner e

The wonderful thing about being the grandparent, the Yaya in this case, is that having a boisterous, everyone telling stories at once kind of dinner is great fun for me. It brings back memories of my own young family. And having raised those kids and knowing how fast the time goes by, it reminds me that these children will grow up just as fast. All too soon, they won’t discuss who gets to sit by Yaya in the car or at the restaurant. They won’t be so eager to tell me their stories and they will be embarrassed to hold my hand. And I definitely won’t be able to pick up each one for a hug and a kiss.

Tonight, I didn’t mind escorting the kids to the restrooms, twice each. Or sharing my rice. Or wiping up drips of queso. These children with their bright little faces, curious minds and their open, loving hearts bring me great joy. Nate and Megan are amazing parents and they have every right to be proud of their offspring. I’m proud of them, as parents.

And, the shrimp quesadilla was excellent! Plump shrimp and sautéed onions and green peppers made a delicious and healthy dinner. I’d have this unusual quesadilla again. The restaurant offered friendly service and our meals arrived promptly. We had a fun, engaging meal with lots of interesting conversations and no one, not even me, spilled a drink or even dropped a fork!

Before heading back to Joplin and meeting with my last client, I drew pictures on the driveway with colored chalk, traced around each child as they lay on the driveway, and participated in car races with Hot Wheels. Oh, the incredible joys of summer and childhood. When I’m with my grandchildren, I get to experience both.

El Charro group e

Day 194: DIY Mosquito Repellant

DIY mosquito repellant e

Today’s first was perfect, timing wise. As I worked in the garden, planting the latest batch of flowers in the southern border, twilight descended. With the approaching darkness, mosquitoes began to whine around me. I looked down to see a couple landing on my bare arm. These pesky little creatures have not been a problem until this evening. I had intended to have a movie night after working in the garden, but as I slapped at mosquitoes, and looked at the amount of work I still had to do outdoors, inspiration struck.

While at the lake house over the 4th of July, Cousin Pam brought out a bottle of homemade mosquito repellant, in case anyone was being bitten. I love DIY products and she shared the simple recipe. I knew I had all the ingredients at home and tucked the thought away for future use. Tonight, I remembered lemon juice and lavender oil, but I couldn’t remember the rest of the ingredients. A quick google search brought the easy recipe right up on Pintrest.

Combine in a 16 oz spray bottle:

15 drops of lavender essential oil

3-4 tablespoons of vanilla extract

½ cup lemon juice

Fill bottle with water and shake. Ready to use.

It took me just a few minutes to make the repellant. The picture shows the finished product as yellow. Mine came out brown, with the added vanilla extract. I think there is clear vanilla extract if one wants to use that. I was excited to try this out.

DIY mosquito repellant in my garden e

Back outside, I sprayed my exposed arms. I sprayed a small amount into the palms of my hands and dabbed the repellant onto my face and neck. What a wonderful scent! I worked in my garden until well after dark and although I saw several mosquitoes swarming around, none landed on me, and I didn’t get bitten at all.

I’m delighted with this homemade repellant. No chemical smells and no chemicals on my skin. The spray didn’t burn or irritate my skin, on my arms or my face. And best of all, it smells so great, which is an added benefit when I’m working in the garden, sweating. Lavender is also soothing and calming. As I tucked flowers into the ground, and then gave them a long drink of water, I found myself humming and smiling. I’m always happy in the garden, but the lavender seemed to increase my sense of well being. What a great way to end a busy day!

southern border in process e

The border is progressing nicely!


Day 193: Bentonville Square

Bentonville Square e

After working this morning, I headed to Arkansas with Greg. We visited his dad first, enjoying a trip to Braum’s and a good chat. Time with Dad Moore is precious and we spent a lazy afternoon on the front porch, cooled by a summer breeze, watching the happenings of the neighborhood.

Greg’s cousin Pam lives in Bella Vista and right now, her sister, Greg’s other cousin Linda, is visiting from Illinois. We arranged to meet them in Bentonville, AR, in the town square, for a fun evening together. My first for today was to visit several interesting places on or near the square.

While waiting for the cousins to arrive, Greg and I sat in the park, in the center of Bentonville Square. With water splashing in the large fountain and trees to shade us, we spent a pleasant 15 minutes watching people stroll through the park. The flowers were in bloom and I was struck by the beauty of the park and also of the square itself. It was reminiscent of the square in Carthage, however, Bentonville has more green spaces. The park was a great place for people to gather throughout the evening.

Bentonville Square Flying Fish e

After Pam and Linda joined us, we walked to a restaurant just off the square, The Flying Fish. We arrived just ahead of a huge crowd! The interior was fun and casual. There was ample seating and after ordering, we found a booth in the corner. I sampled their catfish basket. The meal was excellent and conversation flowed easily back and forth. Linda made us laugh when, after admiring a basket of fried okra at another table, the friendly diners allowed her to sample their food!

After dinner it was time to explore the square. Bentonville is Walmart country. The retail giant began in this small town, when Sam Walton opened his first shop, a Ben Franklin store called Walton’s 5-10. There is a museum on the site of the original store. Although there are times I hate the thought of having to go to Walmart to shop, I wanted to take a peek. We walked through fairly quickly, however, I learned a lot about Sam Walton. Greg’s dad knew Sam. He always described him as a humble, genuine man. Sam had a dream of bringing the best American made products to families, at the best prices possible. His first Walmart opened in Rogers, AR, in 1962. His story is one of perseverance and innovation. And no matter what the feelings are toward this mega company, the Walmart Foundation does a great deal of good all around the world, including in my city of Joplin.

Bentonville Square Walton 5 and 10e

We continued our walk around the square and then veered off again to visit the 21c Museum Hotel. I have never heard of this franchise, and indeed, there are only three such properties thus far in the chain. This Louisville KY based combination of contemporary art museum and boutique hotel was launched in 2006 by a pair of philanthropists and art collectors. It is the only museum in the US dedicated to collecting and exhibiting contemporary art and the hotel has been voted in the top ten in the world and the number one hotel in the south. We wandered through the exhibits, looking at all manner of interesting art. The mascot of 21c Museum Hotel is a penguin. AR has a green one, being the natural state. This icon shows up everywhere. A kind worker took our picture with a large blue snail and a pink meerkat.

Bentonville Square 21C exterior e

Further down the block, we cooled off at the Ernest G. Lawrence Park splash pad. What a cheerful place. Kids darted among the sprays of water that shot randomly into the air. After watching for a few minutes, we discovered which fountains only bubbled up, rather than sprayed and kicking off our shoes, Pam, Linda and I ventured in. It was invigorating to get our feet wet and play for a moment.  Refreshed, we sat and watched the kids. Joplin has a splash pad at Parr Hill Park. I made a mental note to visit it as a first.

Bentonville Square splash pad e

Lastly, we strolled back through the square to The Spark Café located next to the Walton Museum. I learned that the asterisk looking symbol, associated with Walmart, is called Spark. The café is an old fashioned soda shop featuring ice cream, sodas, floats, sundaes and pie. It was a great place to end our evening together. I intended to only get a drink but succumbed to a slice of blueberry pie a la mode. Ah well. I got in a good walk this evening! And the pie was delicious.

We parted company back in the park in the center of the square. A man was singing with a karaoke machine while many people milled about. I loved the festive atmosphere. The evening reminded me of Joplin’s Third Thursdays, only this is a common occurrence in Bentonville. I think Joplin is on the right path, redeveloping the downtown area. I’d love to see this trend continue and the possibilities expanded. And I loved spending time with Pam and Linda. Greg and I enjoyed their company and I appreciated their willingness to experience firsts with me today. Pam gave me several great ideas for further firsts in this lovely state. Going beyond is showing me more of my own community and also expanding my adventures in other towns and states. I look forward to more trips of discovery  to Arkansas.

Bentonville Square 21C e