Day 92: Teavana

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I love tea, especially hot tea. I have English ancestry, which must be why I enjoy it so.  During the past five years, I’ve begun to use loose leaf tea over tea bags. I like blending my own, using a mix of herbs, dried flowers, dried berries and green tea leaves. I use a metal tea ball to contain the mixture while it steeps in my white porcelain teapot. When my friend, and Keller Williams colleague, Janet, told me about Teavana, I looked forward to visiting for a first. This afternoon, I got that chance.

Teavana is an inviting little shop located in the Battlefield Mall in Springfield, MO. The aroma of freshly brewed tea wafted out as Greg and I approached the entrance. We were greeted by a friendly sales associate who offered us several samples of hot and cold tea. All were delicious! The front part of the store was filled with an assortment of teapots, cups, kettles, teamakers and infusers. Someday I’d love to own a Japanese cast iron tea service. But today, my focus was on Teavana’s high quality loose leaf tea.

Behind the back counter were huge tins with a variety of green, white, Oolong, black, maté, and Rooibos teas and herbal infusions. Ahhhh…..the delicate scents filled the air as the associate removed the tin’s lids and stirred the air. I had a difficult time choosing, so I bought several kinds including Blueberry Bliss, a fragrant blend of blueberries, grapes, black currants, hibiscus flowers and green rooibos tea. Perfection. I also purchased a pineapple blend, a raspberry-lemon maté, and high grade black, green and Oolong teas. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit.

After I arrived back home, I did research on the company. Founded in 1997, Teavana believes in the importance of a life well lived. Centered on the philosophy that balance, meaningful experience and everyday luxuries are essential elements of such a life, Teavana desired to create a place where people could step back from the frantic pace of the world and enjoy fresh, high quality tea. They take tea seriously and they are passionate about the entire sensory experience found in a good cup of tea.

Teavana’s philosophy and mission are so in line with what I desire to offer, through my dream called Rivendell. I understand why I was drawn to this company, and even why I am drawn to tea as well. It goes beyond being a refreshing beverage. Preparing an aromatic cup of tea, sharing that tea with a friend or loved one, involves heart, simplicity and ritual, all of which are important to me. I am looking forward to my backyard garden renovation being completed, which will signal the launch of the Rivendell experience. I am, literally, creating Rivendell in my own backyard, initially. I envision sharing this space in myriad ways with guests. As part of the experience, there will be freshly brewed tea offered. I believe I have found my source for the tea. Teavana and Rivendell….what a beautiful partnership!

 

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Day 91: Comedian Juggler Nick Pike

 

 

 

 

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As one who is always on the lookout for firsts to do, I have really come to appreciate the many opportunities that are available in Joplin. I realize how unaware I have been of the events, performances and exhibits offered in my city, most of them for free. I have discovered that Missouri Southern State University, via their Campus Activities Board, brings in quality entertainers every couple of weeks. These shows are open to the public and admission is free. This is perfect for me! I saw hypnotist Michael C Anthony there in February. For today’s first, I had the pleasure of watching comedian juggler Nick Pike.

When I scanned through the program during Michael’s show in February, I saw a list of upcoming events. I was intrigued. The magician looked good as did the mind reader coming at the end of April. A comedian juggler though? I wasn’t sure if I would catch that act. With 365 firsts to do, however, I decided I would attend and invited my mom and sister to accompany me.

I am so glad I decided to go! Nick Pike was extremely entertaining, combining juggling, humor and danger into an amazing show. Hailing from England, Nick has been juggling since the age of 11. His one man variety show has been performed thousands of times at festivals and events around the globe, from London, England to Sydney, Australia. He has been a headline act on all the major cruise lines of the world. In 2010 Nick was a quarterfinalist on America’s Got Talent, making it into the top 48. In recent years he has appeared on the college scene, touring the country and entertaining at as many colleges and universities as possible. He was just crowned the APCA Juggler of the Year for 2014.

What I know about Nick is he can juggle anything! My son, Nate, can juggle. I’ve tried. It’s not one of my talents. Nick opened tonight’s show juggling oranges and progressed through batons and then meat cleavers! He kept up a running commentary, in a delightful British accent, that was hilarious. He’s quick witted, incorporating remarks and people from the audience into his performance. If he dropped an item, he did a little soft shoe dance routine, which became endearing. As if juggling from the floor wasn’t difficult enough, Nick proceeded to amaze us by juggling atop a 6 foot tall unicycle. His coordination was astounding.

For his final act, Nick spread pieces of broken glass on the floor and removed his socks and shoes. Donning a black hood, he picked up the meat cleavers and pulled the hood down over his eyes. I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch either! Nick walked barefoot over the shards of glass, eyes covered, hands tossing sharp objects into the air. His routine was flawless and at the end of his daring walk, his feet uncut. What a relief. We stood to applaud and cheer.

This was a very fun show. I am grateful to MSSU’s Campus Activities Board for bringing such talent to Joplin. I will be back in two weeks, for the magician!

 

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Day 90: Dallas Buyers Club

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This Monday, I’m back to my regularly scheduled watching of the Academy Awards Best Picture nominated movies. My attempt last week was abandoned in favor of saving a kitten’s life. (He is doing great, btw.) I went to the DVD store to rent Nebraska again and discovered it was checked out. I moved on to Dallas Buyers Club for today’s first.

Dallas Buyers Club was nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor. It won in three categories: Best Make-up & Hairstyling, Best Supporting Actor for Jared Leto and Best Actor for Matthew McConaughey. The movie also stars Jennifer Garner and was directed by Jean-Marc Vallee.  It is rated R and has a run time of 1 hour and 57 minutes.

I had seen a couple of previews for this movie and clips during the Oscars broadcast. I didn’t fully understand, from those brief viewings, what this movie was about. Based on a true story, Dallas Buyers Club is the story of electrician and rodeo fan Ron Woodroof, played by Matthew McConaughey, an ordinary, fun loving guy who gets a life changing diagnosis. He is HIV positive. In the mid 1980’s, HIV and AIDS were poorly understood and only one trial drug, AZT, was available as a possible FDA approved treatment.

Woodroof is given a month to live. After the AZT he obtains illegally almost kills him, Woodroof begins a journey of discovery about his illness and alternative treatments that are available. He finds an ally in a doctor in Mexico who teaches Ron that there are non toxic drugs and vitamins that can help fight this killer disease, none FDA approved or available in the US. With the help of Rayon, played by Jared Leto, these two unlikely entrepreneurs establish the Dallas Buyers Club as a way to get drugs and vitamins from around the world to those who desperately need them. The Club charges a monthly fee to its clients in exchange for all the drugs and treatments they need. The FDA looks the other way until the operation and the number of people being helped grows too large. It then becomes a war between Woodroof and his colleagues and the FDA, who refuses to approve the unconventional methods being used to extend the lives of AIDS patients.

Jared Leto’s portrayal of the transvestite Rayon was beautifully tragic and worthy of recognition and the numerous awards he won. A gentle, tortured soul, Rayon was key to building the Club. McConaughey gave an outstanding performance as a man on a mission to save himself and as many others as possible, before time ran out for him also. I believe he deserved the Best Actor award.

This was an amazing movie and a glimpse into a world I’m not familiar with. I felt compassion and deep sadness as I watched Rayon’s life slip away. I understood Woodroof’s anger over the way the FDA regulated and controlled which drugs were available for treatment and their apparent lack of interest in alternative treatments.  

Frustrated by being blocked at every turn by the FDA, Ron Woodroof laments to his doctor friend, Eve, played by Jennifer Garner, “Sometimes I feel like I’m fighting for a life I ain’t got time to live. I want it to mean somethin’.” Laying her head on his shoulder, she assures him, “It does.” I can join her in saying the same thing to the real Ron, who died in 1992, of AIDS…your life mattered. You made a difference. And your life continues to impact others. What a legacy to leave.

Day 89: Murder at the Howard Johnson Play

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As I set off to watch this production at Joplin Little Theater, I mulled over what this play was going to be about. It was too gorgeous a spring day for a murder! I deliberately don’t read up on movies, plays or musicals before I watch so that I can enjoy the story as it unfolds. So I didn’t have any idea what this play was about. As this was the last performance today for this play, in Joplin, there will be spoilers contained in this post! If you don’t want details about Murder at the Howard Johnson, stop here.

Murder at the Howard Johnson is a two act play written by Ron Clark and Sam Bobrick. It first appeared on Broadway, for a short run, in 1979. The Joplin production was directed by Jade Nichols. The cast included Marilyn Marshal-Six as Arlene Miller, Richard H. Roberts as Dr. Mitchell Lovell and new comer Roscoe Miller as Paul Miller.

The story takes place in a hotel room at the Howard Johnson Inn, in the mid 1980’s. There are three scenes: Christmas Eve, 1984, 4th of July, 1985 and New Year’s Eve, 1985/86. I was immediately impressed with the way set changes were made. The room essentially stayed the same and between scenes, maids came into the room to add or remove decorations and furniture. The room number on the door was even changed each time. Clever indeed.

In the first act we are introduced to Arlene Miller who is in the room with her dentist lover, Mitchell Lovell. They are plotting the murder of Arlene’s used car salesman husband, Paul. What ensues is a light hearted, fast paced comedy in which the intended victim and the would-be murderers change with each scene. With all thoughts of this being a dark play banished, I sat back and thoroughly enjoyed the performance. This was a humorous look at a love triangle that became a snarled knot of intrigue when it came to who was going to kill whom.

Arlene, a woman of the 80’s who is learning to think for herself, finds she has grown apart from her unromantic husband. Paul feels love is best expressed by buying his wife unimaginative gifts while Arlene’s lover, Mitchell, is all about freely expressing his love in very physical ways. None of them quite gets it right and it takes mayhem and multiple attempts at murder to discover the true nature of love and friendship.

Marilyn Marshall-Six was exquisite as Arlene and captured her sexy, air-headed nature well. I’d seen Richard H. Roberts, who portrayed the lover, Mitchell, previously in Mousetrap. He has a rich, distinctive voice and a great sense of comedic timing. This was the first performance for Roscoe Miller, who played the cheated upon husband, Paul. In his bio, Roscoe noted that he auditioned for the part to show support for his daughter who has appeared in several JLT productions. He turned in a great first performance.

This was a very physical play, with sight gags and slapstick type humor and the actors handled it superbly. There was one hilarious “blooper”. When Arlene threw a glassful of water in Paul’s face, he reacted by immediately spitting a stream of water back at her. The actors dissolved into smiles and then laughter and had to turn away for a moment to regain composure. The audience loved this and showed their delight with loud laughter and applause.

The Murder at the Howard Johnson was a fun and relaxing way to spend a Sunday afternoon. And best of all, no one died. It wasn’t quite a fairytale ending, but all did live happily ever after.

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Day 88: Hip Handmade Market

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I love the trend right now toward repurposing and making unique handmade products. It feels so natural to find ways to further the life of items by finding another way to use them. And I’ve always been a fan of the handmade gift or decorative piece. When I saw a notice about the first ever Hip Handmade Market coming to the Joplin area, I knew this would be my first for today.

As life would have it, stopping by the Market worked in perfectly with my schedule today, as I was showing property at 2:00 pm, starting with a house in Webb City, MO. And conveniently, the Hip Handmade Market was located in the same town. I was able to visit the market before beginning an afternoon of showing houses to buyers.

This was a cool event. Located in The Clubhouse on N. Madison, vendors had set up booths on both floors of the building. I enjoyed walking around and looking at the wide variety of handmade items for sale. There was everything from jewelry to framed and unframed prints to robot figurines! I saw one vendor that I’ve seen in other shows….the rest were new to me.

One of my favorite booths featured small wooden peg people. She had the coolest company name also, “Wooden Leg Named Smith”. For $8.00 – $10.00 one could purchase figures that looked like the Disney princesses, the Star Trek cast, super heroes, and other well known characters. These were really cute, reminiscent of the old-style Fisher Price people. I confess I could have spent a fortune here.

I also enjoyed browsing at a booth selling framed and unframed prints of the vendor’s creation. I selected one that states, “Remember it’s okay to be happy with a calm life.” I love the sentiment and the simple design. I’ll frame this print and hang it where I can see it daily, and smile in agreement.

I’d love to see this event expand and attract even more vendors offering their wares. However, this was a great start to what I hope will be an annual offering. We can all use more hip, handmade items!

 

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Day 87: You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown Musical

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As I drove to Neosho, MO, this evening to watch the musical “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown”, I tried to remember when I had last seen a high school play or musical. I finally decided I never have! Even when I was in high school, I apparently didn’t make it to any performances. I’ve been to many college plays and musicals but this was a delightful first, watching a high school musical and especially, this one.

My cousin’s son, William, (known in the family as Harry) has been involved in the Neosho drama department throughout his high school years. He is a fine actor. For the last two productions, he’s stepped into the demanding role of assistant director, something he has enjoyed. I was excited to see this musical since Harry is a senior and his time with this drama department is drawing to a close. It was fun during the second act to have him sitting in the row in front of his proud mama and me, and watch him as he watched the performance.

I have to say, this was an extremely talented group of young adults. These kids can sing! And act and dance. I am very familiar with the Charlie Brown characters, made famous by the Peanuts comic strip created by Charles M. Schultz. And I was impressed with the portrayals of Lucy, Sally, Linus, Schroeder, Snoopy and Charlie Brown, the lovable loser who never gives up in spite of the fact that he rarely excels at anything. Senior Matthew Jemes gave a great performance in the title role, getting Charlie Brown’s perpetual downer attitude just right.

Seniors Miranda Johnson and Jaclyn Kidd lit up the stage in their roles as Lucy and Sally respectively. Miranda captured Lucy’s sassy “crabbiness” quite well and Jaclyn gathered lots of laughs as the pragmatic younger sister of Charlie Brown. Senior Joey Heflin drew the chuckles too as Linus, the thumb sucking, blanket carrying younger brother of Lucy. And the Blankie Dance was amazing! Senior Isamo Manuel played Schroeder, the musician, and object of Lucy’s crush. I enjoyed his voice and loved the Beethoven Day number. Junior Elizabeth Armstrong, playing Charlie’s beloved dog Snoopy, completed the ensemble of main cast members. She was witty and I especially enjoyed her and the dance chorus in the fun number, “Suppertime”.

I was tired as I drove to Neosho High School. But I left energized and smiling after an outstanding performance. I hope these talented young men and women continue to take the stage in college and beyond. The musical is being performed at the Neosho High School Auditorium, with a 7:30 show Saturday evening, March 29 and a 2:00 matinee Sunday, March 30. Tickets are $5.00 for adults and $3.00 for students and seniors.

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Photos courtesy of the Neosho Drama Facebook Page

Day 86: Sonic Tea with Pineapple

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For the second time in a week, my planned first had to be scratched at the last minute and another substituted. One of the things I learned early on in doing a first every day is to be flexible. When a family emergency happened 30 minutes before my scheduled art class this evening, I needed to give my full attention to family. And I wanted to do that, completely. Family or friends always take precedent. I also don’t want to not do a first. I’m grateful for small firsts when I need them.

My first for today was to experiment with a new flavor of tea. I’m a huge fan of Sonic’s unsweetened ice tea. I primarily go through the drive through during Happy Hour, 2:00 – 4:00, when I have the craving for an iced tea. I normally get an unsweetened tea but occasionally add real strawberry or lemons. Tonight, as I’m dealing with a situation, I decided to make up a new tea combination to try.

It was a close tie between having an unsweetened tea with watermelon flavoring or an unsweetened tea with pineapple. I chose to go with pineapple because it is real fruit added in rather than flavoring. I think the young lady taking my order thought I was nuts, if her tone of voice was any indication, but I got my requested tea. And you know what? It’s good! Not too sweet, not too plain. And the real fruit means I get pineapple tidbits through my straw as an added treat.

Sometimes life demands our attention. And when it does, I want to be 100% present to those who need me. I also made a commitment to myself at the beginning of the year to experience one new thing each day. Thankfully, I was able to do both this evening.

Day 85: Watercolor Class

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This week seems to be all about expressing creativity! It’s amazing how artistic opportunities have lined up within a few days of each other. Today’s first was a watercolor class at Local Color Art Gallery & Studio, located in downtown Joplin in the Gryphon Building.

My friend Catherine joined me for an artsy afternoon. We met instructor Paula Giltner and fellow artists Barbara, Van and Roger. Everyone was working at different levels of ability, and that was perfect! Neither Catherine nor I had ever had a formal watercolor lesson. She has dabbled in watercolor in the past and I haven’t painted since I was in high school art class. I can tell you, that’s been a while! My art teacher, Mr. Craven, would be proud that I was making the attempt again.

Paula, whose art work is available for purchase in the gallery, was great to show us what materials and tools she uses. And then we began. She demonstrated technique and we watched attentively as she created a simple landscape with mountains and trees. As Catherine and I taped watercolor paper to the table, a few facts from high school class came back to me, such as the need to brush water on the paper first. Paula had some great tips for mixing paint and using a metal burner cover, turned upside down, as a palette to keep water and paints handy.

We had a great afternoon. Catherine and I laughed and talked as we painted. We had already decided that today was about having fun, not creating a masterpiece.  We played with hues and which brushes to use and had a wonderful experience. Paula checked on us often and offered suggestions. My paper was a little too wet and should have dried longer before I added the second mountain range, but for time’s sake, I proceeded. When the paper is very damp, it creates a soft, blurred edge, rather than a defined edge. I jokingly said a mist was settling on the tops of my mountain range. We added trees in the foreground and declared our work good!

I really appreciate Local Color Art Gallery & Studio for making these classes available. I intend to explore all the options there, enjoy expanding my talents and have fun at the same time. It’s wonderful to meet new friends and deepen friendships while sharing brushes and paints. Shared joy is multiplied. There was much joy during this class.

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Catherine creating

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Instructor Paula Giltner

Day 84: Visit Simply Vintage

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After two full days of Continuing Education classes, and two short nights dealing with a pregnant cat and then a tiny, barely alive kitten, I needed a simple first for today! What a perfect day for visiting a newly opened shop, whose name says it all: “Simply Vintage”. My sister and mom accompanied me for a first visit.

Simply Vintage is located at 602 E 4th, in Joplin, in an old gas station from a bygone era. The building, repurposed and made into something new, is a wonderful statement about what awaits in the interior.  And a charming interior it is! Grouped together in appealing vignettes throughout the store is a collection of repurposed and vintage items for the home.

Co-owner Mary Ann Neff said they’ve had wonderful traffic and sales since their Grand Opening last Thursday. She and Julissa Russell make their own paint and give new life to furniture, chandeliers, and a variety of other items they’ve found. We enjoyed a leisurely stroll through the store, admiring their handiwork. According to Mary Ann, new items will be added weekly and special requests are taken if the customer is looking for a particular item.

I love repurposing and vintage items. It is very satisfying to save a piece of furniture that has seen better days and transform it with a new coat of paint or reform it into a new and functional item. I’m grateful for places like Simply Vintage where I can buy a finished piece. It sparks my creativity, as I wander around, while at the same time, being with items that have history, that have a story, calms my heart and soul and brings me peace. Finding a new use for an old table or dresser or chair seems honoring to the furniture and the person who originally crafted it. I will enjoy stopping by Simply Vintage often to browse and shop and see what’s new.

 

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Day 83: Feed a Newborn Kitten

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My first for today was going to be watching the movie “Nebraska”, one of the nine Best Picture nominated movies. I rented the DVD yesterday, in preparation for watching it this evening.

A series of events began last night that changed my first for today. About midnight, the mama cat who brought her three offspring to me last fall, and who has since refused to come into the house, appeared at the front door. She was scratching and meowing. Surprised, I opened the door and she ran into the house, into the front bedroom and straight into a closet. She’s been chubby lately, when she’s shown up on the porch to eat. I never could catch her to get her to the spay and neuter clinic. I knew she was going to have another litter of kittens.

At 3:00 am I heard the mewling of newborn kittens and sighed. I have come to love the three kittens that charged through the door last fall. I feed mama cat and make sure she has fresh water. I don’t need more kittens. But what to do? Mama cat had seemed desperate and I couldn’t turn her away.

Today it’s been a challenge keeping mama cat contained in the bedroom and the three young cats away from her. Much hissing and snarling from mama cat has her three older babies nervous and confused. I had Continuing Education class all day today and did my best to separate mama from Angel, Rilynn and Shy Boy before I left the house. This evening, though, mama cat has been restless, following me around, attacking my legs if I walked away from her. Greg sat down and she climbed into his lap. This is not what I would consider normal behavior from her, this mostly wild cat that only a few days ago, refused to enter the house and barely tolerated being petted.

I tried to watch my movie, but something wasn’t right. Flashlight in hand, I followed mama cat into the bedroom and peeked into the closet. Mama cat jumped into a box and allowed me to shine the light into her hiding place. One tiny black kitten lay sleeping in the corner. That couldn’t be right! I knew at 3:00 am I had heard the cries of at least two kittens. I watched the baby nuzzle its mother and begin to nurse. Scanning the floor of the closet and around the box, I looked for another kitten. I was sure I was hearing a faint squeak.

Sadly, I found the second kitten on the floor, outside the closet. He was lying on his back, but moving faintly and occasionally cried weakly. To paraphrase Billy Crystal’s character from The Princess Bride, this small creature was mostly dead. Greg picked him up, saying he was cold, and handed him to me. I rubbed him briskly and cupped him in my hands. Incredibly, he moved and cried. He was so weak though. Greg brought a washcloth and a cup of lukewarm water. I feared the kitten was dehydrated. Amazingly, he sucked the water off my finger.

Encouraged, I tried lukewarm almond milk.  I wanted to strengthened him if I could. His little body warmed up and slowly he nursed on my finger, taking in some nourishment. Movie forgotten now, I continued to alternate between rubbing him briskly and wrapping him in the washcloth. When he seemed to grow tired of suckling my finger, I returned him to his mother, still lying in her box with the other kitten. He nuzzled against her, although he still seems too weak to nurse properly. She seemed calmer. I’m not sure why she didn’t pick him up off the floor and take care of him. Perhaps, with her crazy behavior, she was trying to get my attention and in her own way, was asking for help.

I don’t know if this little fighter will survive. It is amazing he was still clinging to life. I’ll check on him periodically overnight and feed him if he will take nourishment. He is at least warm and with his mother and sibling. And he’s with me. I’m watching over you, little baby. My first today was to feed a newborn kitten, with almond milk and the tip of my index finger. Tonight, real life won out over a movie. And the unexpected took precedent. I’m okay with that.