The Trumpet of the Swan

As it turns out the Trumpet of the Swan is quite loud.  Especially when there are over 100 swans honking at you!  If you have never been to see the Trumpeter Swans on Magness Lake in Heber Springs, Arkansas you are missing out on something AMAZING!

Check out this video. It’s a little long but watch a little and you will get the idea!

In 1992 three lonely swans wound up on Magness Lake after, according to scientists, they were blown off course from their normal migration pattern due to a major storm that forced them further south than they normally travel.  Since their return from near-extinction in the 1930′s(with a world-wide population of less than 100) Trumpeter Swans are normally found in the northwestern and northcentral regions of the North American continent with the largest population being in Alaska.  The swans typically migrate to the pacific region of the US and usually not further south than Colorado.

Perry Linder, who owned the land in 1992, was likely excited to see the birds but probably assumed when they left in February that that was the last he would see of them.  Yet in November of 1993 the birds returned and brought along some friends!  The Swans, which mate for life and travel in family groups, continue to return yearly and their numbers have increased to well over 100.

The Swans typically arrive around Thanksgiving and stay until about Valentines day when they return to their summer home in Minnesota.  Visitors are welcome at the E & W Wildlife Refuge and are even encouraged to bring along clean shelled corn to feed to the swans, geese and ducks that live on the 30 acre oxbow lake.

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The E & W Wildlife Refuge is located at 544 Hays Rd. in Heber Springs, Arkansas.

Close Call

Having to call 911 is not something anyone expects to do on a regular day of the year but is certainly not something you expect to have to do on Christmas morning!  Yet that is exactly what I had to do.

Christmas morning began much like any other Christmas morning or any other regular morning for that matter. I got up and turned on the gas heater, went out and fed and watered the chickens and let them out for their daily run of the yard. I let the dogs out and let the cat out too.  I turned on all the Christmas lights, put on some holiday tunes and made our family “Christmas Punch” to sip on while we opened gifts.  Richie called his mom and she came over and we spent about an hour opening presents and hanging out.  Kathy decided that she was going to head back to her house to feed the horses and do some things at home while we relaxed and got Christmas dinner ready.

About two minutes after she left, Kathy was banging on our door.  Her chimney was on fire!  I was on the phone with the fire department and then was out hooking up the hose in case the fire spread onto the roof or into the attic.  Kathy was getting the attic door open and Richie was getting the ladder up so we had access to the roof.  We are on Volunteer Fire Department where we live and had no idea how long it would take for them to arrive.  We weren’t sure if we would be battling a full on house fire by the time they got there but we were trying to be prepared.

Surprisingly it was only about 6 minutes before the first fireman flew into the driveway and then it was a steady stream until about 15 volunteer firefighters had interrupted their Christmas mornings to hang out on our lawn!  In seconds they were on the roof and in the attic assessing the situation.  The heat of the blaze had caused cracks throughout the chimney and smoke was pouring out from several spots but it appeared that the fire had mostly died down as quickly as it had started.  Kathy had been quick to close off the flue and a metal barrel lid over the top of the chimney had cut down on the oxygen helping the fire to go out fairly quickly.

Kathy will likely have to have most or all of her chimney rebuilt but we were really lucky that there was no fire, smoke or water damage to the actual house.  If she had been in our house any longer she may have lost everything.

So, it was a very close call and we had a lot more to be thankful for when we sat down to our Christmas dinner later that evening.  It really was a very Merry Christmas and we owe a lot of that to the AMAZING Russell Volunteer Fire Department!

Sonny Williams Steak Room

There is food that is good and then there is food that once you take the first bite you know you will likely remember that meal for a LONG time!  That was my experience last night with Sonny Williams Steak Room in the River Market district of Little Rock.

Several months ago a Grouponcame available for Sonny Williams Steak Room that enabled us to purchase a $60 gift certificate for only $30.  We had heard of Sonny Williams but knew that it was very pricey and had just never convinced ourselves to try it.  After checking out the menu online we knew $60 would only cover about half of our dinner but figured we would save it for a special occasion and just wouldn’t worry about the cost.

After we purchases our Groupon – my mother-in-law later mentioned that she would like to dine there sometime and would be willing to treat us!  SERIOUSLY! (My mother-in-law is pretty great MOST of the time!)  We told her about the Groupon and said if we gave her that she would pay for the rest of the meal.  Now you would have to be a crazy fool to turn down an offer like that to a restaurant where the $29 Chicken Breast is the CHEAPEST thing on the menu!

But I’m stubborn.   I actually considered turning down the offer.  I wanted to go there with Richie, ALONE, for a nice “romantic” dinner date.  It’s not so romantic when the mother-in-law tags along!  So I moped and wined and expressed my disagreement with huffs and puff and ugly faces.  I hadn’t actually told her no but I told Richie all about it and he just listened and rolled his eyes and likely cussed me out in his head and told me I was being silly.  So we tabled the whole discussion for a while and went about our business.

School began to wind down for the holiday season and I started thinking about the nice dinners my family would go out for every year around Christmas when I was a child.  I always really enjoyed them and I got thinking about Sonny Williams and I finally came to my senses and took my mother-in-law up on her offer.

Yesterday was the last day of school before Christmas break and we all agreed that it would be the perfect night to get out and do something to transition us from school mode to vacation mode so we went to Sonny Williams, groupon and mother-in-law in tow!

Kathy and I both stated out with the Frenh Onion soup Au Gratin which was wonderful!  A big HOT bowl full of beefy and wonderfully seasoned broth with just the right amount of onions all topped with the tradtional bread cruton and TONS of cheese.  Richie, not a soup fan, munched on the provided bread and butter that was served when we sat down.

For our meals I had the Filet with Garlic and Herbed Mashed Potatoes and I substituted the Chef’s  choice green beans with the Creamed Spinach.  Kathy also got the filet with the green beans and a loaded baked potato.  Richie got the T-bone with green beans and the loaded baked potato.  The first thing you notice when they bring you the food is the size of the meat.  The 10 0z filet was still huge!  The first bite was so juicy and creamy and amazing.  You literally did not need a knife to cut into it because it was so tender!  It practically melted in my mouth.  The mashed potatoes were also divine as was the creamed spinach but the meat was just so darned good!  Since I was also eyeing some dessert I only ate about half and took the rest home.

My only complaint about the whole experience came when we got our dessert.  I was dying to try the Dark Chocolate Creme Brulee and Kathy really wanted to try the bread pudding.  Richie was really undecided so he ended up getting the Frangelica and Vanilla Bean cheesecake and we would all share all three.  When they set the cheesecake down it was covered with a pink sauce.  I asked the waiter and he said it was a Raspberry Coulis.  Well the menu says NOTHING about Raspberry sauce and they waiter never mentioned it when we ordered and I am VERY allergic to raspberries!  We’re talking lips-tongue-throat-swelling-anaphylactic-shock allergic to raspberries.  I told the waiter and he just kind of shrugged his shoulders.  He looked at me for a minutes and then said “I guess I could have the kitchen redo it if it absolutelynecessary.”  Really? Gee Thanks!  I don’t want to cause you any inconvenience!  Well I opted just to stick with the Dark Chocolate Creme Brulee which was REALLY REALLY good.  I didn’t need the danged raspberry-contaminated cheesecake!

The mark of a really good, well-prepared meal always comes when you reheat the leftovers.  If you can take a $40 steak and put it in the microwave the next day for lunch (or breakfast as it were) and it still tastes almost as good as it did the night before you know it was good!  Filet, garlic mashed potatoes and creamed spinach.  Now THAT is the breakfast of champions!

So THANK YOU Kathy for treating us to such a wonderful dinner!

I’m a QUITTER!

And I am proud of it! I quit Facebook! Yes, for real.  I promise! I will NOT be one of those people who claim to quit facebook but keep coming back. In fact, I even deleated the app off of my ipod touch so I’m not tempted!

I was inspired to quit after talking to my friend Stephanie.  She recently quit facebook and talked about how great it was. You can read her blog post about it here. I was secretly jealous.   I had a sort of love/hate relationship with facebook.  I loved that I was able to reconnect with some of my old friends from high school, summer camp and college.  I loved that I could keep in contact with my sister, my mom, my aunt and several other relatives.  I hated it when kids at the school where I teach would send me friend requests.  As much as I love my students I don’t need to know all the stuff they write about! YIKES!  I hated that so many people were SO negative on facebook!  I don’t really care if you are “pissed off” at your boyfriends cousins twin nephews!  I hated that some people were so blatently two-faced and used facebook to make fun of or belittle other people.

I came to realize that most of my TRUE friends are people I see in person or people I also communicate with in more traditional ways like the telephone or email.  I realized that these methods of communcation would continue whether I was on facebook or not.

Stephanie advised that I just needed to quit “cold turkey”.  Still I dragged my feet.  Then I read the two posts that changed my life.  One of my “friends” statuses read “I have so many blessing in my life that I will not be stressed out.”  This was very nice and thoughtful.  Yet less than two hours later the SAME person wrote, “I’m just gonna throw my hands up and call it quits!  If you think you can do it better than me so be it!”  WOW!  REALLY?  Less than two hours apart?  My advice – Save the drama for your mama and keep it off facebook! But since I know they wont the next best thing is to keep myself off facebook!

So – Goodbye facebook! Here’s to a better life without you!

Road Map Painting

Staring at a blank canvas can be very daunting to an artist.  While many artists develop a “style” and tend to stick with the same medium all the time, I am more “eclectic”.   I get bored really easily and get tired of doing the same thing all the time so I bounce around from medium to medium and subject to subject.

I was looking for a new painting project that I could do with one of my highschool art classes that was fairly simple, yet included some different techniques and looked cool in the end. So I came up with the idea of Road Map Painting.  It turned out to be a great project and I enjoyed doing it myself.

Here are the supplies you will need.  Canvas or canvas board, ModPodge, Yarn (any color), Pencil, Paintbrushes, toilet paper, acrylic paints and a map.

I began by using Google Maps to find a street map of a city. (I chose Boston.)  I focused on a small area, enlarged it and drew the lines on my canvas.  You want to simplify it and not draw EVERY road!

I then cut pieces of yarn and glued them over the lines with the ModPodge.  You need to make sure they are thoroughly covered with glue because fuzzy yarn is difficult to paint over.  Allow the glue to dry over night.

Next I began gluing down toilet paper with ModPodge to create a slightly textured surface.  A single sheet works great for light texture and you can bunch the paper for a stronger texture.  Again be sure everything is completely covered with the ModPodge and allow it to dry over night.

Finally I painted the entire surface of the canvas with a base color.  I then used accent colors to add depth and value to the piece.  By using a dry brush some of the background color can show through creating an interesting look.

Here is my finished piece.

I definitly think you need to limit your pallette with this piece.  Pick a specific color scheme and stick with it.  Too many colors can be overwhelming to the finished piece.  Fewer colors give it a unified look.

Hot and Cold

It seems slightly ironic that when I last blogged it was during the hottest stretch of the year and as I sit here typing at 5:30 on this Sunday morning it is one of the coldest days of the year and it is spitting snow every now and then.  My four month blogging hiatus wasn’t done intentionally but I didn’t waste my time away. I was busy working on some other projects and while those projects are still going on it is way past time to return to blogging.

Yesterday I attened the Arkansas Women Bloggers meetup.  There really is no way to describe it other than WOW!  AWB is a great site started by my friend Stephanie, The Park Wife, to give women bloggers from around Arkansas a central place to get to know each other.  I have been working with Stephanie and Fawn of Instead of the Dishes since last spring to get the site up and running and to plan some get-togethers for the women on the site.  Yesterday was our first meet-up.  We spent two wonderful hours at the Museum of Discovery mixing and mingling and getting to know eachother.  We got to meet with several ladiesduring the  “speed dating” style mixer and we heard from three wonderful speakers and got to enjoy a wonderful lunch that was all donated from area businesses.

Our first speaker, LaTonya, spoke to us about finding our “blogging voice”.  I think her chosen topic was incedibly poiniant.  I talked with so many women yesterday who had asked me, “How do I know what to blog about?”  This is a question that I think even seasoned bloggers consider frequently.  I have been blogging for five years and I struggle with it all the time.  My blog has changed focus many times! LaTonya’s talk made me feel okay with that.  She urged us to be ourselves in whatever we write.  She talked about how her blog focused on what she felt on that day or at that moment.  She said the key to having a successful blog was to being true to you.  There have been times I have posted things that were not 100% true to me.  Times when I filled the space with words just because I felt the need to fill the space.  LaTonya helped me to come to grips with why I haven’t blogged in four months and I feel okay about it and I feel ready move on past it and share my voice with the world again.

Kyran of Planting Dandelions spoke to us about “getting past the numbers”.  If you have blogged before you likely know what I am talking about.  Even if you are writing a blog for yourself or for your family it is exciting when the site meter shows how many visits you get.  And those comments?  I still get excited when someone, especially someone I don’t know, has left a comment on my blog!  Kyrans blog is funny and whitty and has brought her “fame and fortune” so to speak.  She has had many opportunities come to her because of her blog but still urged us to worry more about writing than about the site meter.  Kyran work on writing quality posts and didnt stress over the number of people who read her blog.  While she didnt have tens of thousands of visitors each day, it turned out that one of her readers was from Good Housekeeping magazine!  Kyran is now an Editor at Good Housekeeping Magazine and her memoire about falling in love with America (She’s from Newfoundland!) will be on bookshelves in February!  Kyran makes the point that you never know who is reading and rather than worrying about the numbers, create posts that are meaningful to you that you can be proud of!

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