Friday, June 29, 2012

Crystal Bridges statuary

Shore Lunch, Dan Ostermiller, 1999
 One of the great features of the Crystal Bridges Museum is the network of trails that surrounds the buildings. When we planned our trip, we built in time to take a hike on the various trails and see what there was to see. Like the rest of the grounds, there were lots of flowers, and well-designed trails. There was also art, which is appropriate, since it is an art museum and all. I didn't get pictures of everything, but here are some of the works we saw on the hike.

These two photos of boulders take a little explanation. The boulder in the photo above is art, as shown by the number and (not visible in this photo) the word "ART" that have been attached to it. It is part of an installation called Grains of Sand by Robert Tannen, that is designed as a sort of scavenger hunt on the grounds.

The thing is, the art boulders are made of the native stone that also is found all over the grounds, like the other boulder, above, which was situated directly next to one of the ART boulders. I try to be open and appreciative to art of all kinds, but I have to admit myself a bit mystified over these boulders. They certainly made us laugh a bit, and they made us think, and I guess that is the point, what makes them art? Anyway, we had a chuckle every time we discovered one.

Stella, Andre Harvey, 2009
Stella here typifies the problem with outdoor art - you want to run over and pet her snout, and climb on her back, but the museum doesn't want her to be damaged by constant contact with grimy hands. Makes sense, but it was torture to not rub an ear. They shouldn't have made her so cute!

Group of Bears, Paul Manship, modeled 1932, cast 1999
We had to hike a bit farther than we though to see these lovely creatures - the scale on the map is not quite accurate. They were apparently meant for the Bronx Zoo, but not cast at the time. You can definitely see the Art Deco influence in their lines. I would have liked to pet them too.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Flowers at Crystal Bridges

The first thing I noticed when we got out of the car at the Crystal Bridges Museum were all the flowers. The museum itself is in a sort of gorge or valley - you park above it and walk down to it. All along the parking lot and the hillside around the building were lovely flower gardens.

I was very impressed at how vibrant and non-droopy everything was, considering how parched my own garden is by this time of year. The gardeners (and sprinkler system) there must be top-notch.

I can't remember what this purple flower is, and it was sort of hard to capture on camera because it was on long fluffy stalks and wouldn't sit still in the wind.

This pink flower is just a little out of place - its fellows were one bed over. 

There were quite a few butterflies and bees enjoying the flowers too.

The flowers were a lovely introduction to the museum and preparation for the art inside.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Baby's Room or, It's really green

So, here is the baby's room. There may be more posters on the wall in the future, and I am sure there will be other baby things taking up space, but for now this is about as finished as it is going to be. The dusty piece of furniture to the left of the picture is a bookshelf, which is securely fastened to the wall - I fully expect this baby to be a climber. Off camera to the right is our old dresser. The desk in the back right corner is my grandmother's antique writing desk; I don't plan to leave it there forever, but it seemed as good a place as any for now. The framed item over the desk is one of two day-packs that my grandmother gave me; she and my grandfather used them in their many hikes around Arizona and all over the world, and covered them in patches from all those places. There is a second one hanging over the bookshelf.

Oliver was helping inspect the crib. He can jump into it from the ground without touching the sides. Impressive. I doubt he will be as interested once a squalling baby takes up residence. For now though, he rather enjoys the room.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


This past weekend, Benjamin and I decided to take a mini-vacation to celebrate our anniversary. We drove up to Bentonville to visit the new Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and I will be telling you about the good parts, the fun parts of the trip later - once I have the pictures off my camera; but first, I must relate our story of woe that occupied the last 5-6 hours of the weekend. To give you an idea of what follows, let me just say that is never a good sign when the guy working on your car comes to you and says "I have the worst possible news. I have never seen this in 35 years of working on cars - I've read about it, but never seen it."

We had just gotten on the freeway to head back to Maumelle when things went wrong. The air conditioning in the car was not working - no cold air at all - and then I noticed the heat gauge was all the way at the top. This has never, ever happened to me. No warning lights were on, no check engine light, nothing, but we decided we'd better get off the road pretty quickly and see what was going on. Luckily (or by grace, which happened a lot in this story), we were just coming to an exit, and the exit had a shopping center with a mostly empty parking lot, so we got an unobstructed spot. Benjamin opened the hood, and there was definitely something wrong - smoke or vapor was pouring out, and some sort of slippery fluid was leaking out the bottom. "You'd better call AAA," was all he said. We took shelter from the sun in a copying/shipping store, called AAA and got a tow truck lined up. The repair place the rep recommended was too busy, and wouldn't guarantee they could even look at the car that day. Now what? We were in a town we didn't know, with no way to figure out where to find a better option. Here is where grace, or divine intervention or luck starts really coming into play - one of the clerks at the store, listening to our plight, recommended the auto repair place she and her husband have used for 15 years. When I called to see if they could at least diagnose the problem in a fairly rapid manner, they said they could, to bring the car on in.

Once deposited at the repair place - Norm the Tire Man, in Bentonville, if you are curious - we waited, as you do at repair places, feeling nervous, antsy, tired. We both had appointments for later in the afternoon that we had to cancel or reschedule, which didn't help. As an aside, the TV was on the History Channel (luck or grace again - it wasn't FOX!) which was showing a marathon of American Pickers, a TV show I had never heard of. A couple of guys drive around the backwoods and try to find antiques to buy and resell? I've now sort of seen 3 or 4 episodes, and I have one major question - why the heck is that on the History Channel? Ahem. Back to the story of woe.

Turns out, the engine had a crack in it that spewed coolant as soon as any pressure was pumped into it. Or as the repair man said "It just pees it right out." It must have happened in a split second as I was getting on the freeway. The entire engine needed to be replaced. Again, now what? We couldn't drive it, but we needed to get it fixed and we needed to get home. Seeing the helplessness on my face, and probably sensing the fact that I was *this* close to completely losing it, Mike the repair guy stepped in, called the dealership in Conway where we bought the car, and found out - another miracle - that the problem was the subject of a service bulletin from Honda, and that the parts and labor would all be covered. Then, Mike called the dealership there in Bentonville, to see if they would take the car and fix it for us, so we wouldn't have to have it hauled to Conway. All we had to do was get in touch with Honda's roadside assistance and arrange to have it moved. Once that was settled, we were able to hire a rental car with relative ease, since there were 3 car rental places within a 5 minute walk from the repair shop (I assume this is because it was also across the street from the Wal-Mart corporate headquarters, so visiting executives etc. need cars often). Since Benjamin is going to have to drive back up later this week to pick up the car, and we need a second car until then, we got it for the week for not too much more than a one-way rental was going to be.

So, in the end, a terrible situation wasn't as terrible as it seemed or as it could have been. We experienced genuine kindness from the woman at the copy place, and from all the men at the repair shop, who were doing it because they wanted to be helpful, not because they expected anything from us - they wouldn't take payment, and they knew we were from out of town and couldn't bring our car to them in the future. As for the actual problem - needing a new engine is pretty darn bad, but having it completely covered is pretty darn good. All we have to cover is the rental car, which we can totally afford. And we broke down in the best possible place - another 30 minutes and we would have been on a stretch of freeway with nothing for miles and miles.

Thus ends the story of woe (I hope), for me anyway - Benjamin still has to drive the three and a half hours back to Bentonville later this week to pick up the car, once it is repaired. And we have a pretty interesting story to tell about our 11th wedding anniversary.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


I think I have mentioned that we have bunnies in our neighborhood. There are lot of green spaces in the ravines behind the houses (not ours, alas - wrong side of the street), and they definitely harbor wildlife. I've seen deer a couple of times, but mostly it is bunnies. This one was hanging out in our front yard the other morning, and I managed to get a picture from our front room. Miikka likes hunting for bunnies, and goes crazy sniffing the yards up and down the street. Usually, he is so busy sniffing that he doesn't actually see the bunny sitting 10-20 feet away. But then, he is a dirt dog and not a sight hound.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Grown-up furniture

We recently bought ourselves some proper grown-up bedroom furniture, and I am finally getting around to showing it to you. This is the dresser; it comes up to my shoulder, so it is quite tall. And it is much better than the cheap particle board one we had been using for years. So far, I have managed not to clutter up the top with my bits and bobs (they are all in that square cubby instead).

We also bought matching nightstands. This is mine. The red cup is not for me - it is the cat's, and I cannot get rid of it. Two of the cats pretty much refuse to drink out of bowls on the floor, preferring the cup on the table. That's not really a problem, most of the time, but they do occasionally spill it, and they tend to like to get drinks while I am sleeping. I have been woken up by incredibly loud slurping right by my head, or by a cat walking across me to get to the cup. I am hoping that the spilling at least will be cut down now that I have a more stable table (the old one was rather wobbly, especially when a cat jumped off in haste). The drawers are nice - I can corral all the various pens and pencils and little bottles that I had sitting around.

It feels a little strange to have grown-up furniture now. For some reason, it feels even stranger than buying the house in the first place.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Pesto and Tomatoes and Collard Greens

Our garden is doing well, despite just emerging from the driest May on record. This weekend, I pulled out the peas, broccoli and romaine lettuce, since they had all finished producing and were just providing food for bugs. The broccoli and romaine remains went into the compost bin to enrich the mix for next year. Removing them also gives us some space to plant ... well, something else. I haven't yet figured out what exactly. Maybe lettuce for fall. Anyway, the rest of the garden is still doing well. For the first time, our carrots are actually growing and are edible. The tomatoes are starting to ripen - there have been 4 ripe Early Girls so far - one eaten by a worm or something, one stolen from the deck, and two eaten by us. The Arkansas Traveler heirlooms are doing nicely, and we should have a couple of those ready by the weekend. We should have tomatoes for at least a month, hopefully two or three (a girl can hope, anyway).

Last night for dinner, we had one of our favorite wraps - Caribbean Beans and Greens, which is basically black beans and Collard Greens with rice, in a tortilla. The greens all came from the garden, and we left plenty for later. While we were harvesting the greens, I noticed that most of the basil was starting to set flowers, so I trimmed all the plants back. When I got it inside, I realized I had enough basil in hand to make a batch of pesto. So I did. We'll probably have that for dinner Friday or Saturday. Yum.

In addition to all the berries - strawberries (which are just about finished for the year), blueberries, and blackberries, our farmer's market has had peaches available for the last couple of weeks, so I have been eating quite a few of those as well. They are not freestone peaches, alas, since those come later in the summer, so I can't dehydrate them or can them, but I can definitely eat them. Plain, or with yogurt, or in a smoothie, or in a fruit salad, or baked up with blackberries into a lovely cobbler... I don't know if I will get any peaches dried or canned this year, since the freestones come ready about the same time I will be adjusting to motherhood and sleeplessness, but you never know. I hope I do, since peaches in the winter are a wonderful way to break the gloom of a December day.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Friday Cat Picture

Creamsicle wants you to know that it is Friday, time to relax and look forward to the weekend.

A few days ago, the temperature hit 95 or 97 - the hottest day so far this year. Today, after a slight cold front blew in, it is not yet 70. Bliss.

It appears that we have a tomato thief. Yesterday morning, there was an almost perfect, almost ripe tomato on the vine of one of the deck tomatoes. The first edible one of the year (we had one other one, but it had been ruined by bugs). I left it, thinking a little more sun would make it absolutely perfect. When I got home in the afternoon, it was gone without a trace. Some critter - squirrel? blue jay? - came and took my tomato. They were smart, and chose the one day this week that Miikka was locked in the house instead of patrolling the yard. We might have to put the bird netting over those plants, like we did with the blueberry bush. Grr!