Miles to go for a girlfriend getaway…


I’ve always had romantic dreams of being an artist. I took enough classes in college to have a minor in Art, but, in the back of my mind I always heard those voices that said “I don’t have a creative bone in my body,” or “I can’t draw a stick figure.” When I saw an advertisement for a trendy “paint your own masterpiece” class at Big Cedar Lodge, two friends and I jumped in the car and headed toward Branson to scratch our creative itch. While the advertisement for Big Cedar’s Paint & Pour assured us that no painting skills were required to enroll in the class, we shared the usual reservations we have as women often have when we step outside our creative boxes. We were so nervous we could hardly stand ourselves.

Before the bustle of Branson, with its neon lights and long traffic lines, there is a little piece of Heaven that is Big Cedar. It’s rustic, but luxurious, and is situated on wooded hillsides of the Ozark Mountains on Table Rock Lake, just ten miles south of the Branson strip on Highway 65. Right away, the setting put us at ease. We were awestruck by the enormous lodge that is decorated in a style reminiscent of Bass Pro Shops, also owned by Big Cedar proprietors Johnny Morris and his wife Jeanie. When we checked in, we were directed down a winding staircase to a room fitted with top-notch art supplies, blank canvases, icy soft drinks, Big Cedar’s house wine and famous Chex Mix.  They outfitted us with precious Paint and Pour aprons, which we had all decided we wanted to keep before we found out they would let us! We felt nervous, but thrilled to get started.

Stephanie Watson, our instructor, showed us the adorable nest of eggs that we would paint together and assured us that everyone has creativity in their DNA. She went on to say that all artists are usually looking at something when they create their work – either a photograph, a model or a scene in nature and that we were simply looking at the beautiful nest that she had created and using it as our study. Ours would be unique, she said, even if we all painted nests. All would reflect our own style as an artist. “It’s a skill,” she said about painting.  “I wasn’t born an artist.  I learned the skill of painting.”  And, then she said something profound – “passion can trump giftedness.”  That’s just what I needed to hear.  I knew I probably wasn’t a gifted artist but I was passionate about my interest in art, and her words gave me the freedom to experiment and to put that first stroke on the blank canvas.  We began to paint!  Together, she taught us how to get certain effects from our brushes and with our paints.  All around me people were squealing with glee as the bird’s nests started to take form.

Then, all of a sudden, some of us hit a wall: colors started blending together too much, curves weren’t round enough, our paintings didn’t even resemble the instructor’s sample. Stephanie blew me away one more time with instruction that I found to be a profound metaphor for life.  “Stand back from your painting,” she said. “you’re looking at it too closely and seeing all of the imperfections. When you stand back and look at it from a distance, you’ll be more objective and you will see how beautiful it really is.”

It was true. While we all came away from Big Cedar with paintings that were similar, each was unique and showed our own personalities. We also came away a little more confident in our ability to create something beautiful – on canvas and in our lives. What a lesson we learned that day about art and life.


For more information on Paint and Pour classes and the painting theme for the week, call 1-800-225-6343 or 417-335-2777. Classes are offered every Saturday from 4:00 – 6:00 p.m. at Big Cedar Lodge. Classes cost $55, plus tax, and Big Cedar will provide all the supplies needed including easels, paint, canvas, brushes and apron. Two glasses of wine, water and soda plus Chex Mix are provided to enjoy while painting. In the end, you get to take home a beautiful painting and the cute Paint and Pour apron, too!  Additional information is available at

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Miles to go for Charlie Conerly’s Ro-Tel Chicken Spaghetti…


It’s football season and Ole Miss Rebels are celebrating their first victory of the year over Vanderbilt.  This makes me think of Jim and Shelley  Crutcher who love Ole Miss football, great food, and getting together with friends. Lucky for me, they often include us at the table when they come to Mountain Home for a visit!  One of my favorite dishes that Jim and Shelley make is credited to one of the greatest Rebel football players ever to play the game – Charlie Conerly.  You might think of Eli Manning as the great Rebel player who went on to take the NY Giants to the Superbowl, but my husband and Jim Crutcher would tell you that Charlie Conerly is the man!  He took the Rebels to their first SEC Championship in 1947 and then won the Superbowl for the NY Giants in 1956.  Manning and Conerly are both great football players, to be sure, but Charlie Conerly’s Ro-Tel Chicken Spaghetti is what makes him the greatest Rebel of all time, in my book.  What can you do in the kitchen, Eli?

Charlie Conerly’s Ro-Tel Chicken Spaghetti Recipe

Shared by Jim & Shelley Crutcher

1 (5 pound) hen or 2 fryers

2 onions, chopped

2 green peppers, chopped

1/2 cup margarine, melted

1 (16 ounces) package thin spaghetti

2 (10 ounces) cans Ro-Tel tomatoes

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 (10 3/4 ounces) can cream of mushroom soup

1 (16 ounces) can tiny green peas

1 pound Velveeta cheese, shredded

Stew, bone and cut chicken into bite-size pieces; reserve broth.  Jim & Shelley use boneless chicken breasts, which are even easier to use. Saute onion and green peppers in margarine.  Cook spaghetti in 1 1/2 quarts of reserved broth. In a bowl, mash tomatoes with juice; add remaining ingredients. Blend mixtures into spaghetti; add chicken. Bake in a large baking dish at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  DIVINE!


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Miles to go for Vada’s Favorite Motivators…


A good friend of mine recently sent an email with a list of “motivators” that her grandmother swore by.  The lady was a highly respected leader in Arkansas who was elected to both the Arkansas House and Senate. If these thoughts inspired her, they are good enough for me! This list is from Vada Sheid, as sent to friends by her granddaughter Stacy, in honor of Vada’s birthday.

Vada’s Favorite Motivators

  1. Just for today I will try to live through this day only, and not set far-reaching goals to try to overcome all my problems at once.   I know I can do something for 12 hours that would appall me if I felt that I had to keep it up for a lifetime.
  2. Just for today I will try to be happy.  Abraham Lincoln said, “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” He was right.  I will not dwell on thoughts that depress me.  I will chase them out of my mind and replace them with happy thoughts.
  3. Just for today I will adjust myself to what is.  I will face reality.  I will try to change those things I can change and accept those things I cannot.
  4. Just for today I will try to improve my mind. I will not be a mental loafer.  I will force myself to read something that requires effort, thought and concentration.
  5. Just for today I will exercise my soul in three ways, I will do a good deed for somebody- without letting them know.  I will do at least two things that I know I should but have been putting off.  I will not show anyone that my feelings are hurt; they may be hurt but I will not show it.
  6. Just for today I will be agreeable.  I will look as well as I can, dress becomingly, talk softly, act courteously and speak ill of no one.  Just for today Ill not try to improve anybody but myself.
  7. Just for today I will have a program.  I may not follow it exactly, but I will have it, thereby saving myself from two pests: hurry and indecision.
  8. Just for today I will find at least 10 minutes to relax alone.  During this time I will reflect on my behavior and will try to get a better perspective on life.
  9. Just for today I will be unafraid.  I will gather the courage to do what is right and take responsibility for my own actions.  I will expect nothing from the world, but I will realize that as I give to the world, the world will give to me!
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Miles to go for graduation traditions…

Miles to go for graduation traditions...

We’re planning graduation activities at ASUMH this week with Commencement on Monday and all I can think about is magnolia blossoms. In McComb, the stage in the McComb High School auditorium was always lined with magnolia blossoms for Awards Day. Awards Day was when all the scholarships were announced and usually fell right before the graduation ceremony itself. Students would be up before sunrise climbing the best magnolia trees in town, clipping blossoms for Mr. Sammy Clark so he could decorate the stage. Graduation is a special time…and for me, the graduation tradition of cutting magnolia blossoms will forever be in my heart.

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Miles to go for Dotsun Puppie’s and Farwood…

There are so many reasons I love living in the rural south…we have Dotsun Puppie’s for sale in our WalMart parking lot, for example!


Once, they even had Farwood for sale out there, but I didn’t have my camera to take a picture.  🙂

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Miles to go for game-day food…

We love to sit around and watch football with a big fire roaring in the fireplace!  Days like this always call for special game-day food, and today calls for Caramel Popcorn Puffs.  These incredible treats will melt in your mouth.  I had them first at NAJA headquarters when Missy Stephens made them for one of our meetings in Greenville.  Everyone wanted the recipe!  I have hesitated about making them because they require patience and constant attention, but they are super easy and fun to make when you are anxious about the game and can’t sit still!
Caramel Popcorn Puffs

Approximately 8 ounces of puffcorn (you’ll find it with the chips – I use 2 bags of Chester’s $2.00 puffcorn, but Old Dutch is good too)

Place puffcorn curls in a large roaster pan.

Caramel Sauce:

In a 2-quart saucepan, cook together for 2 minutes

1/2 pound butter (2 sticks) not margarine

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

Add 1 teaspoon baking soda to mixture.  This may cause mixture to foam so a large saucepan is necessary.  Stir constantly.

Pour caramel mixture over puffcorn curls and stir until mixed.  Place in a 250-degree oven for 45 minutes, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes.  Remove from oven; pour on waxed paper and break apart.  If you follow the directions closely, your caramel puffcorn will melt in your mouth and turn out perfect every time!

Here’s to a great day of football!

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Miles to go for the DAR…

We always made fun of my grandmother because she never stopped learning or teaching.  She was active in the Daughters of the American Revolution, read the Bible in Spanish every day, and belonged to a club where they did book reports – now I realize that was a book club.  When I was a young girl, I thought it was just bizarre that she constantly studied.  Today, I realize she was one of the smartest women I have ever known.  My grandmother took me to the Holy Land when I was in the 7th grade.  She was a Sunday school teacher and wanted to show me all the places we studied in the Bible.  Even before that, she took my mother, my aunt and me to Mexico City to visit Frida Kahlo’s home and the studio of Diego Rivera.  She taught Spanish and wanted to immerse herself in the culture of Mexico for the sake of her students. Grandmother taught British literature at Hazlehurst High School and visited Europe so many times, I can’t even count them.   She had beautiful hardback volumes of Beowulf, Chaucer and Shakespeare on her bookshelves. One of her great loves was the study of genealogy.  As an active member of the DAR, she traced her family’s lineage back to a Revolutionary War hero, Prescott Bush.  Today, I’m interested in the things that she was too.  I am sick that she isn’t here so I can ask her a million questions about our travel and my ancestors.   I recently came across a little book she and I worked on together one summer.  My aunt did the illustration and calligraphy, and I got a lot of undeserved credit from the local chapter of the DAR who awarded me an essay contest award for the piece.  We laughed at how my grandmother loved the DAR, and now I’m itching to explore joining myself.  See, Christine, you did get through to us!

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First the Diamond Jubilee and now the Olympics…

I’ve got it…wanderlust, that is!

I’ve been craving a trip to London since the Diamond Jubilee and now I have to endure the Olympics in London for the next two weeks.  I love everything British.  I love the accents, I love their pride, I love the Royal Family, I love the Eye and the Gherkin!  What I love most though is the history, which the Olympic planning committee shared so beautifully last night during the opening ceremony.  Soon, London, I’ll be back…

In the meantime, I’ll keep the tellie on for you!

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Miles to go for the Diamond Jubilee…

All the television coverage of the Diamond Jubilee this weekend has brought back great memories of a trip I made to London with friends in 2005!  It doesn’t seem like it has been that long since were wandering the London streets past St. Paul’s and the Tower of London and shopping in Harrods.  The sights of Buckingham Palace and the Thames today made me want to hop a plane and be there for the festivities.  Instead, I had to crawl up on the couch and enjoy watching the Diamond Jubilee with my photo album open remembering the good time I had with friends in London seven years ago.

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Miles to go to be a travel writer…

A little over a year ago, I had lunch with a friend whom I admire very much.  She is a wonderful writer and was setting out on a journey to launch a new magazine.  Over a salad, I told her how much I envied her following her dream.  After a conversation about how she came to do just that, she asked me what my dream job would be if I could do anything in the world.  It didn’t take me but about 20 seconds to respond, “be a travel writer!”

Today, my friend’s one-year anniversary edition of Marvelous! magazine arrived and as I celebrate her fulfillment of a dream, I can also celebrate the fulfillment of one of my own dreams.  In this edition of Marvelous! I got to write about a girlfriend getaway I took with three friends to Branson’s Culinary and Craft School at Silver Dollar City.   Congratulations on a MARVELOUS!  first year of publishing the magazine, Deb.  Thank you for letting me be a part of fulfilling your dream and for allowing me to fulfill one of my own!

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