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Arkansas

Arkansas – What I Miss

A little over a year ago, I told you all of the things I thought I would miss about Arkansas. Let’s revisit and talk about the things I actually do miss. Friends and family not included because I am cold and heartless (or maybe just because that is a given).

Here we go:

Food. Food. Oh so, much food. Seriously, that is #1-9 on my list. #10 is cheese dip. Yes, it gets – and deserves – its own number. I’d like to share something deep and profound about the beauty of home, but all I can think about is sitting in front of a smoker watching a big hunk of pig cook for hours. “Oh but Stephanie,” you say, “surely you can have this experience in the great state of California?” No, no I can’t. Apartment complexes kind of frown on you doing such things on your third floor balcony.

I miss pulled pork, biscuits, fried okra, sausage gravy, red beans and rice, bread pudding, and boiled peanuts. I can’t remember the last time I ate a boiled peanut, but I still miss them. I even miss sweet tea, despite the fact that I never drank it – and never knew anyone who drank it regularly – because it was too sweet. I miss the idea of sweet tea.

It’s not that these things don’t exist in the Bay Area; it’s that they aren’t very good. Or, at the least, no longer ubiquitous.

They don’t put paprika on top of deviled eggs here, people. In fact, we had an Easter potluck at work and no one even brought deviled eggs. Not one single egg! I very much dislike deviled eggs, but still. . . That has to be the only real moment of culture shock I’ve experienced. The lack of damn deviled eggs.

I miss local restaurants – David’s Burgers, Capital Grill, Shotgun Dans – and I miss chain restaurants (yes, even silly chain restaurants!) – Sonic, Newks, On the Border, Moes. I miss being able to walk into a grocery store to be greeted by my favorite iced coffee, ice cream, and iced tea (also moon pies – I’ve never purchased one, but would just like them to be around).

Oh yeah, I also miss Wal-Mart. Never saw that one coming. Target doesn’t have enough variety and is slightly more expensive for a necessity shop. I can’t do all of my shopping at any one store in my vicinity anymore.

I do miss a few things that aren’t so calorie-heavy. Namely – courtesy waves, snow, and my laundry room.

Okay, I’m done now. It is all out of my system. Sometimes I forget how stereotypically southern I am.

Arkansas – What I’ll Miss

As I begin this journey across the country, I can’t help but think about some of the things that I will miss most about my home in Arkansas. I’m not talking about family and friends here – no, they are all dead to me now.* I’m talking about that other stuff, those little things that make a place feel like home, or brighten your day when you are feeling a bit down.

I’ll find new places to fill the void, but – for now – this is my list.
Arkansas
Fort Smith National Historic Site
Visiting Judge Parker’s gallows, complete with the sound recording of the little door opening and a rope tightening as a criminal dropped, was an annual trip when I was a kid. It is likely what set me on the path to becoming a historian. And probably made me a little bit morbid.

The Capitol on Christmas Eve
One of my favorite family traditions is taking the kids in their pajamas to see the lights, exhibit, and Santa’s workshop at the Arkansas State Capitol on Christmas Eve. We would tour the building and take lots of photographs. Someone would make the assertion that the daughter was posing in front of her future office when we make her stand by the door labeled governor. Assuming it was actually cold, we would get hot chocolate on the drive home.

Crystal Bridges Museum of Art
Crystal Bridges is hands-down one of the best things in Arkansas and can compete with pretty much any other museum of its size. I’ve written about a couple of trips there already, read them here and here.

Shopping for Gifts at Ten Thousand Villages
Okay, so it is a chain. It is still something I’m going to miss though. I worked just down the block, so it was an easy to pop down there on a lunch break to pick up something nice for a friend of family member.

Memphis
Yes, that is in Tennessee. But It still counts as something I will miss about Arkansas because we could just pop up there for a Saturday anytime we wanted. Memphis always felt comfortable and I’ll miss not playing tourist on its streets.

And some food spots, of course
Eating pimento cheese at Capital Bar and Grill, juicy burgers from David’s Burgers, hummus from YaYas Bistro, hushpuppies from the Flying Fish, and cheese dip from Mexico Chiquito . . . just to name a few.

*Kidding. Actually, I left so fast I didn’t get to say goodbye in person to a huge number of people that I’m really going to miss. It is all quite sad.

Art, Alcohol, and Amazeballs – Day 2

We started day 2 by sleeping in, one of my favorite things to do when vacationing without the children. Neither of us slept well that night and we ended up sleeping until around 11. It was gloriously indulgent.

When we did finally get out of bed, we headed to Crystal Bridges and ate lunch in their Eleven café. The husband had a hamburger and I had brown beans with cornbread. It was very tasty. [Smaller photos for today’s photo-heavy post so I don’t overwhelm you feeds.]

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First stop after lunch was an exhibition of works by European masters. Admission to the Crystal Bridges permanent collection is free (thanks Walmart!) making it a no-brainer for us to buy a ticket to this special exhibition. I picked out a few works to share with you. Just a couple of my favorites.

IMG_0288Strawberries by Pierre Auguste Renoir

IMG_0289Two Dancers by Edgar Degas

Next up was the American art from the regular collection. It was arranged chronologically starting with pre-Revolutionary War and ending with artists still producing today. That was a great way to approach the art – you really got to grow along with it. Again, here are a few of my favorites.

IMG_0301George Washington by Charles Willson Peale

IMG_0303The Bubble, by H. Fishmuth

IMG_0307Rosie the Riveter by Normal Rockwell
I have to say, Rosie was amazing. Rockwell’s paintings are known for their storytelling ability and this one was no different. The detail was stunning. My favorite part – She was resting her feet on a tattered copy of Mein Kampf.

IMG_0310Old Self: Portrait of the Artist as He Will (not) Be. Variation #2 by Evan Penny
I can’t even explain how realistic this piece is. If we had taken a photo without the wall, you wouldn’t even know he wasn’t living.

We headed back for dinner at a nice, but overpriced, Mexican restaurant. It was too dark to take photos, but trust me, it looked, smelled, and tasted good. After dinner we walked over to the Walmart Museum. We toured a small exhibit space that made you wish someone in your family had the foresight to buy stock in the company in 1970 and ended up exiting through a stereotypical soda shop.

We decided to give in to the nostalgia and shared a MoonPie-Palooza sundae.

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IMG_0334Sam Walton’s office as it looked when he died. Apparently they took the whole thing apart, carpet and all, and recreated it in the museum.

The rest of the night was spent in bed watching trashy television. We were both exhausted. We did hit up room service for a nightcap though, i.e. the cheapest bottle of champagne available.

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Art, Alcohol, and Amazeballs (Day 1)

My husband planned a weekend 12th anniversary celebration and managed to keep it a complete secret for months. Well, he said “months,” but he could be exaggerating.

Last Monday, I was quickly informed I would be leaving work at noon on Friday (already approved by my boss!). The husband thought about surprising me, but realized how stressed I would be to suddenly leave work without finishing up my plans for the week.

When I got home, he had a suitcase half packed ready for me to finish off and he finally revealed the surprise – we were heading to Bentonville for a nice relaxing weekend at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Crystal Bridges – a world class art museum thanks to Walmart $$$ – opened in 2011 and I have been talking about how much we needed to go see it since the very beginning. Yes, it took us this long to drive 3 ½ hours.

We got off to a very slow start because of some vicious rain, but overall the drive wasn’t bad. We checked in at the 21c Museum Hotel with just enough time to spare before our dinner reservation. This hotel was amazing – part hotel, part museum, part civic center. The first floor museum space is open 24/7 and the rooms upstairs are the kind of contemporary modern that I just love.

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Even better? The Museum Hotel has an art installation of twelve green penguins that are moved throughout the hotel. Here is one of the little guys. But more on that later this week.

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We had dinner at The Hive in the hotel. I had a delicious hamburger with tomato jelly and pimento cheese with homemade fries. I will say though, the pimento cheese did not beat out Capital Grill for my #1 pimento cheese spot. That stuff is amazing. We may have seen Duff Goldman from Ace of Cakes walking through the restaurant to a special separate room. That was odd. Anyway, we skipped dessert, but our check came with sour apple cotton candy. I don’t know if you know this – I sure didn’t – but sour apple cotton candy is amazingly delicious.

My husband surprised me with the Tiffany ring from my X = XXXI wishlist post. I honestly didn’t create that post thinking I would receive anything from it – these are not the kind of gifts we give each other. We are budget and limit people. It is amazing. I catch myself just looking at it sometimes.

We finished the nice off with a couple of drinks in the bar. It was extremely busy as they were having a monthly weekend event, so the people watching was prime.

Then we crashed into bed like the old people we are.