2007 Newsletter Produced By Black Oak Resort
P.O. Box 100 - Oakland, AR 72661 - (870) 431-8363
www.blackoakresort.com - e-mail: vacation@blackoakresort.com

Greetings To All Of Our 2006 Guests

Black Oak Resort News
Table Of Contents:

 

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Dear Friends,

Welcome to Black Oak Resort!As another year passes, we hope you all had a happy, healthy, prosperous 2006, and we wish you the best in 2007.

Our year seemed to fly by. We think it’s partly because we seem to stay busy, and we have a theory that time definitely speeds up as you get older.

Our plans to retire are gaining steam, so look for all the details in “Our Plans” section.

Please read on and find out all that’s happened this past year. Also, what’s in store for next year.

Thank you again for a very good 2006. As always, we look forward to seeing you again in 2007.
Signature - Mike and Betty Scrima

Our Year In Review

Improvements in 2006

Cabin 1 - New Twin Bedspreads
Cabin 2 - New Refrigerator
Cabins 3, 5, and 9 - New Carpeting
    - Repaint Kitchen and Bathroom
    - New Vinyl Flooring in Bathroom
Cabin 6 - New 27-inch Flat Screen TV
Cabin 8 - New Carpeting
    - New Refrigerator

For Our Fishing Fleet:
    - New 50 HP Four-Stroke Yamaha Outboard Motor for our 17-foot Bass Tracker
    - All New Seating for our 28-foot Lowe Pontoon

New for 2007

Replace Sliding Doors with Patio Doors in Cabins 4 and 7.
Our top priority this year is replacing the sliding doors in cabins 4 and 7. They have become increasingly difficult to open and close. The new patio doors are much like what we have in our home and in Cabins 6 and 8. They are so much easier to open and close, look much nicer, and have low-e glass for far better insulation. This will be done before our season gets underway. We already have the doors and plan on installing them before our season gets underway.

Emergency Backup Generator
After watching all the devastation hitting the country lately, with ice storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, and potential flu pandemics where extensive and lengthy power interruptions might occur, and realizing that we are at the far end of our power grid and would be one of the last to get our power restored, we have decided to get a generator ASAP. We mainly need to protect our water supply, since we get our water from a well. We’d also like to keep our refrigerator, freezer and heating system running. So, we’re looking for a generator that will power at least that. This system would not be large enough to handle the entire resort, but it would be a start. Usually, power outages are short-lived. This system is primarily for a severe emergency in the coldest time of the year, when water pipes would freeze and break, and we would not be able to seek shelter elsewhere because of all our pets.

We are looking at a propane-powered generator system. This way, we can have an adequate supply of propane to run a generator for a long period of time. Gasoline powered generators have the drawback in that you have to continually get more gas to keep them running, and gas shortages usually occur with power outages. Also, gasoline cannot be stored as long and still remain stable. Plus a propane system will kick in automatically when a power outage occurs. You don’t have to start the generator up.

Maybe List

Metal Copper Tone Roofs for our Cabins
We also plan on re-roofing our cabins with copper tone metal roofs like the roof on our home/office. We will begin with Cabins 6 and 7 first, then Cabins 8 and 4. Eventually we hope to complete them all, but depending on the cost, it may take several years.

Repaint All Cabins
We also hope to repaint all our cabins either this year or next with the same cedar color as ours.

The Unexpected
Of course, there’s always the unexpected failure of a heating system, TV, refrigerator, etc. to consider. So the priority sometimes changes.

No Smoking Cabins
We are pleased to announce that beginning in 2007 we will become a completely smoke-free facility. All of our cabins will be no smoking. The office and some cabins were already no smoking, and we decided that the time was right to implement this policy overall for all cabins. We have had several guests refuse their cabins due to the strong smoke smell that remained after a smoker last occupied the cabin. We started to address this problem by making several of our cabins no smoking. However, presently at least 80% of our guests are either non smokers or are already smoking outside their cars and homes. Since allowing smoking at all will cause us to lose business, we feel we have no choice but to institute this policy.

You would still have the option of smoking outside the cabin, of course. Hopefully, this will not be that big of an inconvenience, and you will continue making Black Oak Resort your vacation home.

New No Smoking Law Passed in Arkansas

This past July legislation was enacted that prohibits smoking in all public places, with few exceptions. So now when you dine out here in Arkansas, all restaurants will be no smoking. There are only a couple of exceptions to this law in Mountain Home. These are restaurants where only consenting adults (no children) are allowed. Check with us to make sure when dining out.

Marion County Goes “Wet”

In the November election, a matter of utmost importance came up for a vote. The issue was whether voters wanted Marion County to go “wet.” The citizens of Marion County voted in favor.

For many of our guests, this was something that was transparent to them, but as many of you do, especially on vacation, you like to have a drink with dinner, or anytime, since you’re on vacation! Well, if you forgot to buy your liquor back home, you found that buying liquor is a little different than what you’re used to back home!

Marion County, where Black Oak Resort is located, has been a “dry” county, allowing no sale of alcohol, with some exceptions for private clubs like the 178 Club....which is not private at all—go figure! Anyway there was a little wiggle room built into the law even when we were a dry county. But no alcohol could be purchased from a convenience store, café, marina, grocery store, anywhere in Oakland.

Now with the change in the law, we may see the sale of liquor here in our town of Oakland one day. As far as we are concerned, being dry never stopped anyone from drinking anyway. And prohibition didn’t work either! So, whatever your views, we look at it as a positive for our guests. One thing to note…no sale of alcohol on Sunday.

2006 Fishing Contest Results

Tasha Forrester
Tasha Forrester

Dave Heuer
Dave Heuer

Crappie
2.1 lbs
Bill Saager
Ottawa, IL
April 10
White Grub

Catfish
5.7 lbs.
Jeff Saager
Ottawa, IL
April 11
Fish Eggs

Kentucky Bass
3.0 lbs.
Todd Eckert
Buffalo Grove, IL
April 30, 11 a.m.
Partly Cloudy, 65 degrees
Lucky Craft American Shad
Trolling 100 feet of water
Down 30 feet

Walleye
5.7 lbs.
Todd Eckert
Buffalo Grove, IL
April 30
Lucky Craft Shad
Trolling
 

White Bass
3.5 lbs.
Bill Saager
Ottawa, IL
April 11
White Grub

Smallmouth Bass
4.2 lbs.
Tasha Forrester
DeSoto, MO
July 3, 1 a.m.
Windy, Warm, Clear
Moss Green Gitzit
Catch and Release

Largemouth Bass
5.4 lbs., 22-1/2 inches
Dave Heuer
Cedar Lake, IN
April 14, 8:30 p.m. Dark
Cloudy, Calm, 68 degrees. Full Moon
Brown & Orange Jig’n’Pig
Casting
Caught Near Point 10
Catch and Release

Hybrid Striper
4.3 lbs.
Billy Cantrell
House Springs, MO
July 21, 10 p.m.
Partly Cloudy, Windy, Mild
Blue & White Rattletrap
Trolling

Notes on Contest
The Saager Family wins in three major categories this year. Dad Bill wins for Crappie and White Bass. His son Jeff wins for Catfish. This is a seasoned fishing family of three generations. Grandfather Al Latimer started it all many years ago, and still joins the family for fishing trips to Black Oak Resort.

Todd Eckert wins again in two categories this year for Walleye and Kentucky. Todd fishes harder than anybody, and has been coming to Black Oak, never missing a year, for at least 20 years.

Another repeat winner is Tasha Forrester, who also has been coming here forever. Tasha caught the nice Smallmouth this year, and is adept at night fishing. You’ll notice that she caught that smallie at one in the morning. She has always released her catches, including this one.

We had a nice Largemouth winner caught by Dave Heuer, who also fishes at night, and is also a catch and release fisherman. Dave and his wife Sandy have been fishing this lake forever, long before they started staying with us. Dave and Sandy caught a total of eight Largemouth that same night, all over 3 pounds. He took pictures and released them all.

We also had a nice Hybrid Striper caught by Billy Cantrell. We don’t have that many hybrids in the lake, so that’s a nice catch.

Overwhelmingly, Illinois produced the most winners again. Missouri had two, Indiana, one.

All our winners caught their fish during the months of April and July. April really produced the winners, almost a sweep. So, you all should plan an April trip (as if any two years are alike). But maybe this trend will continue, with global warming and all. Time will tell. Our only other month represented was July, which typically does excellent in night-fishing. Both our July winners were night-fishing.

We are always glad to see our “Catch and Release” people win. Special thanks to Tasha Forrester and Dave Heuer for their conservation efforts on our lake.

We’d also like to make note of the fact that every one of our winners has had lots of practice fishing Bull Shoals Lake. Experience does count.

Also, several of our winners have won in previous years: Todd Eckert, and Tasha Forrester.

And, did we mention that Tasha Forrester was our only woman winner?

Congratulations to our winners. You’ll receive a 10% discount off your cabin next year.

Best Restaurants

New Restaurants

Bella Cucina
4 E. Seventh Street
Mountain Home, AR
870-424-3785
Hours: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday thru Saturday
9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday

Finally, an authentic Italian restaurant in the heart of Mountain Home. We have missed fine Italian dining since we left the Chicago area, and would cringe when yet another pizza parlor opened up. Michael does not consider pizza a dinner item. We are pleased to say that this place has a lot to offer.

The two most important things to us are the sauce and the bread, both of which met with our enthusiastic approval. The pasta dishes are all excellent, with the pasta cooked to perfection, and a rich bold sublime sauce to go with it.

For starters, their excellent bread is served with olive oil and tomato paste for dipping. Their bread is shipped in, and has the texture we so sorely missed in Arkansas breads—crisp on the outside, moist and chewy on the inside.

Their salad with balsamic vinaigrette dressing is probably the best salad in Mountain Home. With a big portion of mixed greens, sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, almost a meal in itself. A variety of other dressings are available.

The appetizers are also excellent. We’ve tried the calamari and the mussels, and both were cooked to perfection.

We still haven’t gotten past the pasta selections, so we can’t speak for the rest of the menu. Betty likes the Spaghetti and Meatballs, Michael the Penne with Sausage or Bracciole. Prices are reasonable and portions are large, although everything is ala carte. Betty plans on trying the eggplant next.

By the way, they serve some very good wines, and for you pizza lovers, they have what look like some very good pizza, with interesting toppings, such as portabella mushrooms, capers, artichoke hearts, pineapple??, kalamata olives, mussels, clams, etc.

The décor is subtle and quite soothing, with soft green and purple walls, a tin roof, unusually high ceilings. Betty loves the atmosphere, and is pleased they copied the colors of her home.

One caveat: Betty was not impressed with the meat entrée she tried. Neither the meat, potato or vegetable were noteworthy. Our advice: Definitely try this mostly outstanding restaurant, just skip the meat entrees and stick with the wonderful pastas and sauces, appetizers and salads on the menu.

Other new restaurants opening or under new ownership in 2006

Papa John’s, Mountain Home
Quizno’s, Mountain Home
Fireside Grill, Mountain Home
El Chico’s, Mountain Home
Whitewater Grill , Mountain Home (under new ownership, haven’t tried yet, but positive feedback)
Harlin House, Gainesville, Mo
Arby’s, Mountain Home
Backstreet Bistro, Mountain Home

Our neighborhood Oakland Oasis has applied for a permit to sell beer and wine for off-premise consumption.

See our complete restaurant review list

New Business Openings in 2006

Look for the new Lowe’s and Walgreens which opened this year. Lowe’s is next to Home Depot near the Wal-Mart Supercenter. Walgreens is at the corner of College and Business 62.

Tree Huggers’ Column
by Guest Columnist Shirley Best

Here at Black Oak Resort, we care very much about you having a wonderful vacation. We also care about your health, our health, and our Earth’s health. We sincerely believe that we should all think about our decisions and how those decisions will affect our children and grandchildren. Please read on about our all natural and organic cleaners, cleaners that are safe for you, your family, your pets, our staff and our Earth.

Just check out these ingredients! Organic coconut, peppermint, jojoba, and hemp oils. Vitamin E, purified water. “Yummy Granma” as my Granddaughter Mara would say. So, to this yummy sounding list add a little vinegar and a teeny, tiny amount of borax and you have it folks - Our all natural, all purpose cleaner. This is what we use here at Black Oak to keep your cabin naturally clean and healthy for your family, your pets, and You!

Ingredients - Vinegar and water - Keeping those windows, mirrors and floors clean naturally with no dangerous, toxic, bad smelling chemicals.

More great ingredients - Olive oil and vinegar. No, not for your salad, this is what we use to oil all the wood in the cabins. Pretty cool, huh?

In 1989 the EPA came to the conclusion that indoor air carries a higher risk for personal exposure to toxic chemicals than outdoor air.

So, our good, natural organic ingredients - Organic coconut, peppermint, jojoba, and hemp oils; vitamin E, purified water, vinegar, borax, and olive oil. VERSUS - The bad ingredients in those other cleaners - alcohol, ammonia, bleach, butyl cellulose, creosol, dye, ethanol, formaldehyde, glycols, hydrochloric acid, hydrofluoric acid, lye, naphthalene, PDCBs, petroleum distillates, phenol, phosphoric acid, propellants, sulfuric acid and trichloroethylene.

Healthy, natural cleaners, healthy natural cabins - another reason for you to be very happy you chose Black Oak Resort on Bull Shoals Lake, one of the cleanest and most beautiful lakes in the country. All of us Black Oak Tree Huggers hope to keep it that way.

Disclaimer

The above article, written by Shirley Best, a member of our staff, announces an important change in the way we think about cleaning cabins. The products and methods we use, introduced to us by Shirley, were originally mentioned in the book “Clean House, Clean Planet” by Karen Logan. Shirley, a tree hugger from way back, tried the cleaners first in her own home. They do just about as good a job as the more harsh, chemical cleaners more commonly used today. They were gentler on her skin, much safer, with no noxious fumes to inhale.

So, we tried them at the resort. Our cleaning staff agreed to give the products a try, and were pleasantly surprised by the results. The only down side is on really tough dirt, the cleaners need a little more time to do their work. With a few modifications in the order of their cleaning, they were able to get around this problem easily.

This is not to say that we never have to resort to any chemical solutions. We still occasionally do, but now this is the exception rather than the rule. We know you will be pleasantly surprised by the pleasant fresh scent rather than the scent left by harsher cleaners. Also, we still have to use pesticides regularly, so some lingering pesticide residue is unavoidable. This causes no ill effects as long as it has had a chance to dry thoroughly.

Our Staff

We have been very fortunate to find the very best of employees to help us run our resort business. Returning for 2007 are:

Jan Crooker, who is originally from Nebraska, and has worked for us the longest. Jan regularly takes care of all the housekeeping at Black Oak Inn, and helps out at Black Oak Resort as well, especially on Saturdays, our busiest workday. Jan is very tiny, but very hard-working. She also referred us to our newest employee, Linda Kwiatkowski, for which we are most thankful.

Shirley Best, who moved here from Hobert, Indiana, and is going on four years working for us. Shirley is an occasional contributor to our newsletter. See “Arkansas Tree Huggers.” Shirley loves to show you pictures of her grandchildren and her beloved Pekingese. She also has come up with many “suggestions” to improve efficiency, safety, etc. She was the one who suggested using the environmentally friendly cleaning products, which we all love! Another plus, Shirley loves to cook, and she occasionally brings us goodies to sample. Shirley is also an avid book lover, and belongs to Betty’s book discussion group.

Jonathan Spivey, who is originally from Florida. Jonathan does our mowing and yard work, and word has spread, so he’s now in great demand for his services. He’s hard working, polite, and is in his senior year of high school, so this may his last year working for us, depending on where he goes to college. He’s a great young man, and we thank Al and Mary Ing for recommending him.

Staff Changes. We saw the conclusion of our long and happy relationship with our own Sarah Nelson, who has been working for us since the tender age of 14. She’s now 21, and in college (see Off to College). She will always have a special place in our hearts. She was the perfect employee, and we predict she will make a wonderful music teacher or band director.

We added Linda Kwiatkowski to our “family” this past September. Linda is also an Indiana native, having moved here with her husband Leo from Lake Village 10 years ago. We couldn’t be happier. Linda is outgoing and friendly, and does a great job for us. She will also let you know she’s a proud grandmother. She’s also quite a cook, and is pleased to share this recipe with you. I think it’s a big improvement over the standard rice crispy squares, and was developed by her daughter Dawn Geller.

Special Rice Krispies Treats (Chocolate Scotcheroos)

1 Cup Light Corn Syrup
1 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Peanut Butter
6 Cups Rice Krispies Cereal
1 Cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 Cup butterscotch chips

Place corn syrup and sugar into large saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until sugar dissolves and mixture begins to boil. Remove from heat. Stir in peanut butter. Mix well. Add Rice Krispies cereal. Stir well until coated. Press mixture into 13x9x2-inch pan coated with cooking spray. Set aside.

Melt chocolate and butterscotch chips together in small saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly. Spread evenly over cereal mixture. Let stand until firm. Cut into 2x1-inch bars when cool and frosting is firm.

Two other facts about Linda: One, she used to vacation at Black Oak Resort way back when before she moved here. Two, she lives right next door to Jan Crooker, another member of our staff.

We also are pleased to welcome back - Al Ing. Al and his wife Mary both are past employees. Al and Mary both left Black Oak, both taking full time jobs. His job required constant traveling, which Al disliked. So,Al is now back working part time at the Mountain Home schools, driving a school bus. And, lucky for us, he also is back here helping Michael. We missed Al. He was a great help to Michael, and we’re thrilled to have him back.

Off to College

Our own Sarah Nelson, is now in the middle of her sophomore year at Arkansas Tech University, as a music major with a full scholarship. She just got her mid-term grades, and made the dean’s list. She still studies clarinet, and also plays guitar, and has taken up piano as one of her courses in college. She plans to be a school music teacher. Sarah worked for us again last summer, but she probably will be working in some capacity next summer in her chosen field. She just turned 21 this January, and we are so proud of her.

Things to Do

Bull Shoals Dam Visitor’s Center

See last year’s newsletter for details. The center opened in October, and is quite beautiful, with spectacular views of the lake and river. There is a theater which shows a short film of the history of the dam and the area. Make sure to visit the Arkansas Parks & Tourism Web site for more information and photos.

Fred Berry Conservation Education Center on Crooked Creek

The Fred Berry Conservation Education Center lies in a peninsula, with access across an improved Kelley’s Slab just west of Yellville. It has 2.75 miles of creek frontage that is returning to its natural state. There is a 2,400 sq. ft. education center and a spacious pavilion adjacent to Crooked Creek. The property has been converted to a wildlife area with trails and observation points. More trails are planned. Crooked Creek flows through Harrison and Yellville before joining the White River between Cotter and Buffalo City. To reach the Center, travel eight-tenths of a mile west on Hwy 62 from its intersection with Hwy 14 at Yellville. Turn on Marion County Road 4002 and continue a mile to Kelley’s Slab. The Education Center and Pavilion are across the low-water bridge and through a gate. Trail use is allowed sunrise to sunset daily. No pets allowed.
Fred Berry Conservation Education Center
Fred Berry Conservation Education Center
Fred Berry Conservation Education Center

Rates for 2007

See our Rates section on our website for details on our rates for 2007.

We offer a 10% discount on cabin rates to returning customers if deposits are received by the agreed upon date.

Reservation Policy

In order to hold your reservation for the following year, your deposit is due three months from the day you check out, or no later than December 31. If deposits are not received by the agreed upon date, the reservation will be removed from the system. We need to have our reservations in order by the first of the year so that we do not lose the opportunity to fill our open cabins.

Black Oak Resort Policies

Changes to our rates: Our updated rates are published on our Web site. Please note the changes.

Reservation Policy

E-Mail Address
Our e-mail address is: vacation@blackoakresort.com.

Our Web Site

Our Web site is updated often, so if you haven't checked it out lately, you might want to take a look at it.

It has every fishing contest result going back to 1991, and shows the biggest fish ever caught at Black Oak in each category. It also has all the recipes published in past years' newsletters, as well as the complete newsletter from every year. So it's loaded with information.

It has a section on subscribing to our e-newsletter. It also has a section for inquiring about available dates for reservations.

Also, please visit our Favorite Links page, where you'll find restaurants and things to do in our area, as well as informative Web sites such as the Arkansas Web site. You may also set up a reciprocal link with our Web site.

We also encourage you to send us your photos for inclusion in our e-newsletters. Please provide caption information in detail!

Personal News

Milestones

Vacation
This year, our vacations consisted of a wedding and a funeral (unbelievable during the same trip) in Chicago, and a graduation in Florida (see Graduate).

Congratulations

Graduate
Michael with Grand Nephew Michael GelsominoMichael Gelsomino, our very special grand-nephew, just graduated from Florida State University in December, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biological Science. He graduated summa cum laude at the top of his class in the College of Arts and Sciences. His GPA was one A- away from being a 4.0. We have had a very close relationship with Michael for the last ten years. Michael lives in Betty, Michael and Michael GelsominoChicago and visits us every summer. He started coming down when he was about 12...he’s just turned 23. We were aware from the start what a gifted child he was, and we are so proud of his amazing progress. He’s going to make an outstanding doctor, or whatever he chooses as his life’s work. We felt honored to be invited to his graduation in Tallahassee, and of course we attended.

A Dream Wedding
The wedding was that of our beloved nephew Scott MacKay to Rebecca Thompson. Scott has been like a son to us, and we had many opportunities to get to know and love Rebecca. They visit Black Oak at least once a year, and we see them when we get a chance to go to Chicago. We couldn’t be happier. They make a wonderful couple. The wedding was the best. Rebecca’s dress was perfection, with a shape to match, and she looked radiant. Scott’s son Josh gave a wonderful toast to the happy couple at the reception. We got to see Betty’s family and many of Scott and Rebecca’s friends. We also had the opportunity to meet Rebecca’s family, and we can see where Rebecca gets her outgoing, lovable personality. Since we stayed a few days at Pheasant Run, where the wedding took place, Michael got to play a little golf, too. We also got to spend time with our granddaughter Justine, who is becoming quite the lovely young lady at 15 years of age. Justine helped Betty with her makeup - Betty being a little rusty - and spent the night and the next day with us. A great time was had by all! We wish Scott and Rebecca every happiness.

Scott and Rebecca


In Memory

While we were preparing for our trip to Scott and Rebecca’s wedding in Chicago, we got the call with the terrible news of the death of our niece Diane Harnicker. Diane was Michael’s sister Lorraine’s daughter, and we had been very close, and remained close even after we moved away to Arkansas. Diane and Betty kept in touch by phone regularly. Diane was diabetic, and had been for many years. She was legally blind and on dialysis. She also had bypass surgery and many other medical complications. We didn’t expect that Diane would have a normal life span, but she was only 49 years old.

So it came as quite a shock when we heard the news. Diane’s father, Dick LaGongle passed away a year earlier. They were very close and she missed him terribly. We combined our trip to Chicago with the joyous occasion of our nephew’s wedding and the sorrow of losing a loved one, especially one so young. We will remember Diane for her loving generous nature, who loved her family. She suffered with the complications of diabetes, which is not an easy disease to manage. Towards the end, she depended on the generosity of others just to get by. It is heartbreaking to contemplate all she endured. Now her suffering is over. We will always remember Diane with love.

Go Bears!!!

As former Chicagoans, we were proud to see our Chicago Bears make it to the Super Bowl. We were rooting for them, but it was not to be. We know the reason. That Peyton Manning has a better view of where everyone’s at due to his superior height, and that height advantage gave him the edge. Enough sour grapes. Maybe next year. Anyhow, the Bears did us proud.

Health

Michael
Michael is doing well with no medical issues this year. He remains on Lipitor for his high cholesterol, but otherwise is very healthy. Betty still wishes he would get more exercise.

Also, Michael is in for a big year of dental work. Lots of new bottom teeth are needed!

Betty
Betty has happily had an uneventful year as well. She still has to deal with her Rheumatoid Arthritis, but is doing well so far. Betty continues to exercise (walk) regularly, which she credits with her relatively good health. She still deals with weight issues. She looks forward to finally being eligible for Medicare and a Prescription Drug Plan when she turns 65 this July.

“Too Much Information” about Betty
Betty always had problems with her feet - ingrown toenails and corns - for as long as she can remember. She was getting a check-up with her dermatologist, Dr. Phillip Hardin, when he noticed she had a soft corn between her toes. He worked on it, and suggested that Betty quit wearing shoes that were too small for her. Betty was shocked. She had increased her shoe size from a 7 to an 8 already. So she took his advice and bought a pair of “New Balance” D-width size 9 athletic shoes. Nobody was more surprised than Betty when no new corns appeared. It worked like a charm after a lifetime of suffering! So if you are bothered by corns, just admit you’ve got big feet and buy one size larger than what you’re wearing.

Betty also had a longstanding problem with itchy armpits. She decided to quit wearing deodorant, and after a few days, realized that the itching was gone. Now, of course she has a different problem, but one that she can manage. Betty will occasionally wear deodorant for important social events, but otherwise, she foregoes the deodorant, and has not lost any friends.

It’s amazing that you can live with a problem for so long when a simple solution is right before your eyes. Betty hopes this helps someone else.

Our Plans for Retirement

We continue to work on plans for our retirement. Michael turns 67 and Betty 65 this year—hard to believe. At this stage we are looking forward to beginning a new chapter in our lives.

It’s funny how your plans change over time. Originally we thought about selling off our cabins individually. After mulling it over, we’ve decided against it. The process would take years, and we would still be saddled with the responsibility of managing the property. This won’t allow us the freedom we want to do other things.

So that leaves putting the resort up for sale. We have dearly loved the life change that we made when we decided to become resort operators 22 years ago. It’s been a great ride, and we never regretted it. It gave us the opportunity to make our living doing exactly what we wanted to do, making many great friends along the way, and living close to nature in clean air, where we can still see the constellations in the sky, and not having to deal with the crowds and traffic and stresses of more urban areas. But it’s only a matter of time before our bodies (or minds) start to give out. Therefore, we realize that we must prepare for the inevitable.

So, friends, we now plan on retiring in 2008. Betty will be eligible for Medicare and Social Security. We won’t advertise that the place is for sale just yet because several of you have expressed interest in buying the resort as a whole, and it would be in both of our interests to not bring in a third party (and the costs involved) if it turns out not to be necessary. So if you ever considered becoming the owner of your own resort, get with us, and we’ll talk.

This year we hope to finalize any offers on the sale of our resort with two of our regular customers. This not happening, we will definitely be putting our resort up for sale by the latter part of this year. We will continue to operate our resort until we sell, of course.

But, no one gets out of this world alive, and we want to have some time to do the things we haven’t had the time to do thus far. A little travel, spending more time with family and friends, and spending more time on the things we enjoy. For Michael, it would be golf and fishing. For Betty, it would be to travel to various marathons around the country (as a spectator), also to visit the country’s great opera houses, take a trip out west, where she’s never gone, and if time and her health permit, travel to England, Italy, Ireland, France, and more. Also, she’d like to try a cruise if she can get Michael to go along with her. And she surely will spend more time with all her animals and books. Both of us will take some time to do volunteer work. Betty will volunteer at the library, hospital, nursing home or humane society. Michael will continue with the fire department, and will stay involved in the community.

We plan on staying in Oakland, no matter what, either with the resort, or building another home on the ten acres adjoining the resort to the west. Even if we don’t operate a resort, we still think this area is the best place to live.

Our Pets - Check out more photos of our pets and our guests' pets!

Dogs

Abby
Abby, our miniature lab, is now seven years old. She’s finally had an uneventful year, after last year’s bout with ehrlichiosis. She’s fully recovered, and still full of energy and vitality. We’re starting to notice the beginnings of grey hairs, mainly on her snout, and butt. She still exudes good health, and is our most loving dog. Abby still barks whenever the phone rings, if anyone comes in or is at the door, and even when a cat wants to come inside. Betty has had some success with stopping this behavior by following “The Dog Whisperer,” Cesar Millan’s behavior training methods.

Sam
SamSam, our beautiful Chow-lab mix, is at least 12 now, and is still seemingly healthy. Betty did notice that Sam was urinating more, and also more frequently. He also was drinking more water. So she took him in to Dr. Brian Seidel for a check-up, fearing diabetes. All his tests came back normal, so Doc suggested taking a wait and see approach, and if the problem worsens, he could run further tests. He said some dogs just drink a lot, and that could be all that it is. Since that time, Sam’s water consumption and peeing have stayed about the same, and here we are almost a year later, and he’s still healthy, albeit slowing down and sleeping more. However, he can still climb into our van for walks on Ozark Isle, but sometimes he gets lame after he walks, and he has to skip a couple of days. Betty has some pills she is giving him for that, which don’t seem to do much. All in all, we love our Sammie, and are trying to keep him as healthy as we can in his senior years.

Update on Sam. As I write this, we have a problem with Sam. He has been sneezing and his left nostril started dripping a thick mucous tinged with blood. We took him in to Dr. Brian and the diagnosis is uncertain. It could be several things. It could be something blocking the nostril—some foreign body lodged up his nose which is stuck, a tumor, or infection. Dr. Brian is first taking a conservative approach, trying to treat the swelling with a cortisone shot and a strong antibiotic for any localized infection. He said that Sam will probably get better while he’s on the regimen, but if it returns, further testing would be necessary. Right now Sam appears much better, but he’s still sneezing. We of course hope its something stuck up his nose, which would probably resolve itself and he will get better. The worse diagnosis is tumor. Right now we’re hoping for the best. Sam does have a bad habit of rooting around in the cat litter boxes looking for “treats,” so that may be the cause.

Second update on Sam. After completing the course of antibiotics, Sam’s symptoms returned, with more bleeding from his nose. Our vet took an x-ray, and found an opacity to his left nasal passage, which could possibly indicate a tumor or fungal infection, which would not have responded to the antibiotics we gave him. He suggested we take him to a veterinary clinic associated with a veterinary school of medicine. We selected University of Missouri-Columbia. They performed several x-rays of his lungs and abdominal cavity to rule out cancer that has spread. These were clean. They also did blood work to compare to his previous results, and they were fine. They then went ahead and did a cat-scan of his head and a rhinoscopy, where they put an instrument up his nostril to get tissue samples and look for any foreign object. They found no foreign object, and we now are anxiously awaiting results of the biopsy. Sam’s home now and resting comfortably, a little tired from his ordeal. So we still hold out hope that it’s not cancer. I did ask the doctor what her best guess would be with what she saw. She said her gut feel is that its cancer, but she can’t be sure without the biopsy results. So, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Third update on Sam. Since Sam’s been home, we’ve weathered several crises and some hopefully good news. It’s been a week now that he’s been home. The first problem is that he developed diharrea, which lasted three days. Then after that calmed down, a day later Sam wouldn’t eat. I was concerned that this meant one of two things: Either he was bleeding out, which happens when a major blood vessel bursts due to the spread of cancer. Or else he was going into liver failure from all the anesthesia he’s received in such a short time. I’ve lost two dogs with bleeds, and one with liver failure, and both times the first thing I noticed was they stopped eating. I thought Sam’s gums were pale, which would indicate a major bleed. Michael wisely suggested I compare them to Abby’s. They were the same color, so that ruled out bleeding. Then, I tried giving Sam a small bite of apple cobbler, and he ate it. I tried giving him his food again, which was now about 4 hours later, and he started to eat it, and finished it. So now I’m hopeful that it’s not related to liver failure.

Then Dr. Danielle Eifler from University of Missouri called me with the good news that Sam’s biopsy showed no sign of cancer. She said that doesn’t necessarily mean he doesn’t have cancer, but it’s a hopeful sign. The results of whether Sam may have a fungal infection haven’t come back yet. I asked Dr. Danielle if there might have been a foreign body up his nose that they might have missed, and she said that might be possible if it was small enough, and then it might have been flushed out. So far, no more bleeding from Sam’s nose, and there’s the chance we still may have Sam for quite a while.

Final Sam update. Its now been a month since Sam had his rhinoscopy and tests. We just heard from Dr. Eifler again with the results of the test for a fungal infection. The results were negative. So far his symptoms haven’t returned, and he’s improving daily, even resuming his walks on Ozark Isle with Betty. He’s not as fast as before, nor does he go very far (only about ¾ of a mile) but he is almost completely back to normal. It’s like a miracle, and we think it was a foreign body up his nose after all, and not cancer. Sam received excellent care both from my local veterinarian, Dr. Brian Seidel, and from the team at University of Missouri Columbia, Dr. Danielle Eifler, and vet-in-training Martha Rasch. We are so appreciative of you all.

Both Sam and Abby provide us with so much pleasure, we can’t imagine life without our dogs.

Cats

First off, for all of you who constantly ask, yes we still have Jitterbug, our most engaging cat, who has visited or at least tried to visit each and every one of our guests. He welcomed back old friends, the Leslie and Reid Wilson family, Ron Bielke, Jerry Dohe and Bob Ericson.

He also made many new friends, and got booted out of a few cabins too. He tends to avoid cabins which contain big dogs. Some little dogs he tolerates, like the Wilson’s dog. He did have a few close calls: He wound up in several of our guests boats as they were leaving, and had to be routed out. Trust us, he can cram himself through the slightest opening to get into a boat to sleep, and has already taken two trips out—one as far as St. Louis. So, Betty watches like a hawk on checkout days for Jitterbug’s whereabouts.

We lost two of our cats this year.

One of our favorites, and our oldest, Cutie Pie, died this August. She exhibited all the symptoms of feline leukemia, and had never been vaccinated for it, since we acquired her by chance when she was already grown with a litter of kittens. She would follow us all over the resort, even all the way down to our dock. She had no fear of anything, either dog or cat or car, and it was amazing she managed to live a long life. She was the kind of cat that never got under your feet or nagged you for food, water, or to go in or out. She was our most mellow cat. She also was aptly named, having long golden/grey fur and the most beautiful face with big green eyes, probably a little Maine Coon mix. Towards the end, she would go off for long periods, but always come back, each time a little weaker. She never seemed to be in pain, and the last time she came back, she no longer would accept food or water and died the next day. We so loved Cutie Pie, and have her buried with our three dogs in our pet cemetery. She leaves with us her son, Handsome, and her granddaughter, Fluff-Fluff, all that remains of her lineage.

We also lost one of our new cats, Newman, who was actually pretty old, as far as we could tell. He was white and black, more white than black. He looked like a negative photo image of Jitterbug even though he had the same colors. Where Jitterbug was sleek and lithe, Newman was squat and stocky. Jitterbug, high strung, Newman calm and controlled. Jitterbug glossy and shiny coat, Newman, short, dull and bristly coat.

Newman had a neat effect on his face where the black hair and white hair mingled in spots to give him the appearance of a dirty face (so cute)! It had taken Betty several years of feeding this cat for him to allow her to get close to him. He looked like he had a hard life, being an intact male and all, and did not look like a young cat. For a while, he would fight with our cats, but after a time, he seemed to sort of fit in and not be so confrontational. Poor Pinky got the worst of it during that time. Cats are amazingly tough, and recover on their own from most bites and scratches, thankfully. After he settled in with the gang, he would allow Betty to pet him, but Betty had to do it when he was eating so he didn’t ever see “the hand.” Some days when he was feeling comfortable on our deck, he would sun himself while Betty was sitting outside near him. She even heard him purr once or twice when she talked to him. One day, he didn’t come to feed. Betty kept expecting him to return and looked for him for weeks. We finally had to accept that Newman was gone. We don’t know what happened to him. But we feel he was always such a survivor, that it was probably his time and he just went off to die.

We still have our other cats: Gorgeous, our youngest (and smartest), who always sleeps with us, curled up behind Betty’s knees. Also, Little-Little, who is Jitterbug’s only friend, and one of Betty’s favorites. She is terribly overweight, but alas, cannot be put on a diet because there’s always food around when you have eleven cats to feed.

Then there’s Handsome, Igor, and Fluff-Fluff to complete our list of inside cats. Pinky, Scaredy-Cat, White-Foot and Studly are our outside cats.

Hold on! We added another outside cat this year. He is a young male, probably only a year old. Don’t know where he came from, as usual. He just showed up and was very thin and nervous, probably starving, and would sneak in to feed whenever he got the chance when the other cats were not around. If he saw us, he would run away. But gradually, he got stronger and less nervous. Now, even though the other cats still frequently go after him, he’s standing his ground more and more, and now lets Betty pet him. He’s still the outsider for now, but he looks much better, having gained some weight. He’s golden brown with white tabby markings. For now we call him Blondie, but Betty also calls him Golden Guy, or Blonde Boy.

Blondie is another “intact” male. Studly is our other, and they hopefully will keep all other foraging cats away, which thankfully keeps our cat population from rising--even though Blondie somehow managed to join the group.

That brings our cat population down by one, to eleven.

Michael’s News

Fire Department
Michael continues as Oakland/Promiseland VFD’s Fire Chief. This will probably be his last term as chief. Time to turn over the reins to someone younger. He would like to stay on in some capacity after that, of course. He has found that even though volunteering is hard work, the rewards are great. He can be satisfied that he did all he could to bring progress to our fire department.

Golf
Michael still loves the game and golfs at Big Creek whenever he can. Bring your clubs and join him.

Michael’s Water Skiing Adventure
Michael was invited by Alan Blahnik and Doreen Ayotte to accompany them on their skiboat to try a new type of ski called an airfoil ski. Alan let Michael give it a try. Michael was quite a skier in his heyday, but the results were different this time. We have some pictures to show you so you can see some of his maneuvers. One is the roll, one is the crash. I’m afraid that’s all we have. And also here’s one of Alan so you can see how its supposed to be done. Anyway, Michael survived with nothing bruised but his ego.

The Roll
The Roll
The Crash
The Crash
Alan Blahnik
Alan Blahnik

Betty’s News

I’m switching over to first person here, because the rest of this newsletter is about me. I saved the most interesting part for last!

Book Club
I’m still attending my book discussion group, which started in July 2003, and is still going strong with all original members. There’s six charter members, all still with the group. Besides myself, there are four women and one man. Ages run from mid-fifties to mid-seventies. They come from all over the country: Florida, California, Minnesota, Indiana, and Illinois. They each bring their own unique perspective to the group discussions. None of the group considers themselves old, and the discussions are lively and stimulating. We share a common love of books, and we all enjoy the lively discussions that ensue over each book. Even though our ages and backgrounds are diverse, we come together eager to share our thoughts, opinions, and stories. Of course our discussions wind up covering politics, religion, sex, etc., with lots of laughter thrown in. It’s positively addicting, and I hope it continues for a long time.

Here’s what we read, or attempted to read in 2006:

The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck. Fiction. The story of Ulan and her family set in rural China. We all agree that this classic was worth re-reading. 5 stars.

Bodies and Souls, Isabel Vincent. History. The subtitle of this book is “The Tragic Plight of Three Jewish Women Forced Into Prostitution in the Americas.” A very sad story of the terrible exploitation of these women who thought they were leaving their lives of poverty and anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe for a better life in the Americas, only to find that they were sold out by their own people. Also tells how they banded together to help survive their plight. 4 stars.

Tears of the Giraffe, Alexander McCall Smith. Fiction. Second book in the series following “No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency,” which our group read and loved last year. Another winner. Many in our group have gone on to read the whole series, at least those published thus far. 4 stars.

The Bookseller of Kabul, Asne Seierstad. Non-Fiction - Current Affairs. Covering current life in Afghanistan following the fall of the Taliban in 2001. Told through the experiences of a bookseller named Sultan Khan and his family in the liberated city of Kabul. Explores Muslim religion and culture, and their treatment of women. An intimate look at life in an Islamic country just beginning to find its way between the forces of modernity and tradition. 4 stars.

Night, Elie Wiesel. Autobiography. One man’s story of living through and surviving the Holocaust. Riveting and horrible. 5 stars.

Saturday, Ian McEwan. Fiction. A single day in the life of Henry Perowne, which takes some sinister turns. A powerful portrayal of life in these disquieting times. 4 stars.

Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro. Fiction. One of my personal favorites this year. The story begins with young children living in a boarding school in England. They will soon learn just how special they are. A very unsettling story, which will alter forever the meaning of “complete.”
5 stars.

The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger. Fiction. You all have read this book when you were young. It just doesn’t have the same impact after living 60-plus years. We all agreed, and most of us didn’t finish it. Still a good coming of age tale for young people. 4 stars.

Blessed Are the Peace Makers, Joe W. Smith. History. This is a local author. Covers the Civil War in the Ozarks. Probably a fine book, I just didn’t read it, mainly because I don’t have a lot of time to read, so I usually only read books with critical credentials (snob!).

The Devil in the White City, Erik Larson. History. Story of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, how it came to be, and the monumental persistence of one man to cause it to come together at a time in our history when events conspired against its success. This story is intertwined with another tale of a monstrous serial killer, H. H. Holmes, whose heinous acts were being perpetrated at the same time in the same city. Most of us loved this book. It was my other favorite. 5 stars.

Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser. Non-Fiction. An in-depth look at the fast food industry, and how it changed the way we live and eat, as well as a long hard look behind the scenes and the consequences for us all. 4 stars.

Little Children, Tom Perrotta. Fiction. What a great storyteller! This is a modern tale of an angst-filled group of young suburban mothers (and one father) gathering regularly at a playground with their young children. Things heat up quickly with Todd, the lone stay-at-home-dad in the group, and Sarah, a restless unfulfilled young mother in the group. Another plot line involves a pedophile who has just moved into the neighborhood. It nails some of the attitudes of this particular strata of society with biting wit. You will see either yourself or someone you know when you read this can’t put down book. 5 stars.

Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer. Non-Fiction. OK, this is also my favorite book, probably my favorite book of the year. The tragic story of a young idealistic man, a college graduate with much promise, who chucks it all and walks away to live another life of simplicity in nature. He will eventually wind up in the Alaskan wilderness, far from civilization, dead of starvation. This is his tragic tale. The author presents a revealing portrait of what caused him to do the things he did, and what really happened. For anyone who has a young person in their life with the over-confidence and idealism of youth, this is a must read. 5-1/2 stars.

Additional Books Betty Read in 2006

Not content to only read what the group selected, Betty also got in a few more good reads.

Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen. Fiction. A story woven around the “Greatest Show on Earth,” the circus. As told by 90-something Jacob Jankowski from his nursing home, he remembers that time in his life when everything changed all at once and he wound up working in a circus, which changes the course of his life. If you want to learn the inner workings of the circus, and love animals, as well as a great story, you will love this book. 4 stars.

The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini. Fiction. Explores the last 30 years of history of Afghanistan, woven in with the story of two boys and their friendship. A heartbreaking story. This was one of the most popular works of fiction, recommended by the entire book group. We would have picked it as a selection, but everybody but me had already read it. 4 stars.

Cesar’s Way, Cesar Millan. Non-Fiction. Have you caught the National Geographic Channel’s The Dog Whisperer. Well Cesar Millan is The Dog Whisperer, and he has an amazing way with animals, and this is his book. You can apply his behavioral principles on dogs as well as husbands. If you have dogs, get this book! 5 stars.

Marley and Me, John Grogan. Non-Fiction. What else, but the story of one man and his big, sloppy, unruly dog. A real sentimental look at the bond between man and dog. Tear jerker alert. 5 stars.

So to sum up:

Four books about bigotry, racism, religious persecution: Bodies and Souls, The Bookseller of Kabul, Night, Never Let Me Go.

Books set in:
Chicago (The Devil in the White City)
South America (Bodies and Souls)
China (The Good Earth)
Africa (Tears of the Giraffe)
Afghanistan (The Kite Runner, The Bookseller of Kabul)
Transylvania, Poland (Night)
London, England (Saturday, Never Let Me Go)
The Ozarks (Blessed are the Peacemakers)
Suburbia (Little Children)
Alaska (Into the Wild)

Books of History: Blessed are the Peacemakers, Bodies and Souls, Night, The Kite Runner, The Bookseller of Kabul, The Devil in the White City

Books about Religion: The Bookseller of Kabul

Books about Animals: Water for Elephants, Marley and Me, Cesar’s Way

I think our group is getting better than ever at picking the best books, as evidenced by the ratings. Honestly, there wasn’t a bad book in the bunch. A book club elevates your reading, forcing you out of your comfort zone to other areas where you might never have gone. Reading is a gift; it empowers you. It makes you aware, makes you think, and imparts knowledge and understanding. It also can improve your vocabulary - just keep a dictionary nearby. Our group is working on our book selections for 2007, eagerly anticipating new journeys of enlightenment.

A Little Known Fact. Michael has just completed his sixth book. He’s read “Helter Skelter,” Vincent Bugliosi; “Executioner’s Song,” Norman Mailer; “Johnny Got His Gun,” Dalton Trumbo; “The Jungle,” Upton Sinclair; “Nickle and Dimed,” Barbara Ehrenreich; and his latest, “Into the Wild,” Jon Krakauer.

An impressive list - especially since this is every book he’s read in his lifetime! Let’s see, he’s going on 67, so that comes out to - One Book a Decade! Of course he read these books since he and I have been together - about 40 years, so that’s more like 1-1/2 books a decade. Keep up the good work, Michael.

Betty the Blogger

Looking back over our past newsletters, I see that I invented blogging a long time ago. (Shades of Al Gore!) My writings have read like a blog from the start. So, that’s my goal this year to get a blog started, which I can then cull the most pertinent pieces for our newsletter. Not a day goes by that I don’t have a thought that needs to be put to paper (or converted into bits and bytes). Hopefully I’ll have a name for it before this newsletter goes out if you want to check it out now and then. Right now, I envision it as being commentary on books, movies, TV, music, politics, environmental issues, and topics of interest to me, such as exercise, diet, health, animals (dogs and cats), ad nauseam. So, check it out!

What We’re Watching, Listening To

TV

We love our 50” HDTV, and naturally watch TV more than we should. Some of our favorites:

Comedy

There’s a lot of stuff out there that isn’t even funny. But there are several we love:

HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and "Two-and-half Men." Reviewed last year.

NBC’s “The Office.” We were late getting started on this one, but it is just so funny!

NBC’s “30 Rock.” The only new show that grabs us. Alec Baldwin is a standout.

Dramas

We are mourning the end of HBO’s “Deadwood.” But we hear that two episodes are in the works that will wrap everything up. This was a great show, which we were slow to get into because of the language. But, it is one of the best scripted dramas with the best cast. We love every single rotten character. We love “Swidgen,” “Jane,” and especially “Hearst,” played so shockingly wonderful by Gerald Mc Raney. His acting blew us away. If you missed this series, catch it in reruns or on DVD. But seriously, every single character is worth his/her weight in gold. The language shows just how far we’ve drifted away from really explicit colorful vocabulary. There’s so much comedy mixed into the drama, and plenty to shock and offend as well. Probably even better than that other greatest drama, HBO’s The Soprano’s, of course. This is another show that will be biting the dust after this upcoming season, which I believe will start up again for a final season some time this year. By the way, have you caught the reruns on A&E? No swearing, no nudity? Come on, what’s left? Better yet, buy the DVD.

FOX’s “House.” This show only gets better, and to think it’s this good with the constraints of network TV. We love Hugh Laurie (Dr. House). And a great ensemble cast also. This obnoxious, lovable doctor will grow on you.

CBS’s “Criminal Minds.” Another criminal profiler drama, but with a terrific cast and taut, creepy drama.

New Favorite Dramas

We have to add two more to the list of favorites:

TNT’s “The Closer.” Stars Kyra Sedgwick as head of the LA homicide division. She steals the show, and definitely has some eating issues as well as an unnamed, emotional/OCD personality disorder. This woman can carry a show.

Showtime’s “Dexter.” Michael C. Hall, of “Six Feet Under” fame, plays a lovable serial killer. Sounds strange, but we don’t miss it!

Reality, Etc.

FOX’s “American Idol.” Last season, I loved Chris Daughtry, and was emotionally damaged when he was voted off. But success is the best revenge, since his debut CD is outselling Taylor Hicks by a landslide. Daughtry’s rendition of “I Walk the Line” was unforgettable. As I’m writing this, Chris just sang the Star Spangled Banner before the Bears/Saints playoff game. Wow, a star in the making! We just started watching the new season of Idol.

National Geographic’s “The Dog Whisperer.” Starring Cesar Millan, dog behaviorist, who “rehabilitates dogs and trains people.” Millan has the most amazing love and understanding of dogs.

Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs.” Mike Rowe goes behind the scenes and exposes the most disgusting, torturous jobs that are being done by our American workforce. A fascinating and often humorous look at what goes on in order for us to have the good life. A real eye-opener.

NBC’s “Today Show.” Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira are co-hosts. I’ve watched this show for years, and was sorry to see Katie Couric leave, and didn’t know about Meredith, never having watched her on “The View.” But, after Meredith joined the show, it only got better. Now, the show is more relaxed, the chemistry between Matt and Meredith is evident, and the sheer enjoyment they exude makes for the best way to begin your day. Of course, Matt is the best. He comes across as kind and intelligent and funny, and is a terrific interviewer. Meredith is a natural, and a bit unpredictable, but projects confidence, sincerity, and that terrific offbeat sense of humor. We also love Al Roker and Ann Curry. It’s the best group of newscasters on television.

Michael’s favorite afternoon feasts: Still “Judge Judy” and “Dr. Phil.”

Music

We like John Legend, and of course Dreamgirls’ Jennifer Hudson.

We purchased Dreamgirls and Daughtry CDs this year. Betty just caught a new duo called “The Bird and the Bee” on Jay Leno’s Tonight Show, and was entranced. They are sort of a jazz group, we think, but they are not easy to categorize. The Bird plays keyboard and guitar, The Bee plays guitar and sings. She is an odd beauty, not classically beautiful, but with captivating eyes and beautiful skin. Her voice is like nothing we’ve heard before—astonishing. Their music is instantly embedded in your mind. We will run out to see what they have in release. Check them out!

We are now loading all our music onto our hard drive with iTunes in anticipation of getting our first iPod, moving slowly into the 21st century.

Movies

Here’s the best of what we saw this year:

Children of Men, The Good Shepherd, Apocalypto, The Pursuit of Happyness, Night at the Museum, Stranger than Fiction, Casino Royale, Flags of our Fathers, The Prestige, The Departed, The Guardian, World Trade Center, Invincible, Talladega Nights, Litle Miss Sunshine, The Devil Wears Prada, A Prairie Home Companion, DaVinci Code, Mission Impossible III, United 93, Akeela and the Bee, 16 Blocks, Eight Below, Freedom Writers

A lot of the best movies predicted to win awards were released late and haven’t gotten to our theatres as of yet, and some of them won’t. The next movie we plan on seeing is Borat.

Critical commentary on the movies we saw:

For what it’s worth, Mark Wahlberg starring in Invincible and The Departed, has the most perfect male body I’ve ever seen.

Best feel-good movies were The Pursuit of Happyness, Little Miss Sunshine, Freedom Writers, and A Prairie Home Companion.

Best comedian hands down is Will Ferrell (Talladega Nights), with Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson close seconds.

I predict Eight Below will go down as a classic dog movie.

Mel Gibson (Apocalypto) has not lost his mojo.

I thought Mos Def in “16 Blocks” was terrific.

I like the new James Bond, (Daniel Craig).

Two of the best movies this year of the ones that I saw were The Departed and Children of Men.

And one question: Where is my favorite actor, Gene Hackman?

Gee, I sound like Larry King!

Betty’s Favorite Nature Events 2006

One of the most important things that sustain me here in Arkansas are the special opportunities to commune with nature. This year there were three events that stand out in my mind.

Banana spiderSpidey
First, I had an amazing relationship with a spider this year. It was a banana spider that made its web on our back patio door. As a girl, I would catch these spiders and feed them to my cat. Something told me it was time to make amends. So I put a sign on the door telling everyone not to use it, and locked it.

Each day the spider did something amazing to behold. Some days she looked really skinny, other days, she looked about to burst. Upon close observation, I watched her catch her prey, quickly wrap it up in the special zig-zag pattern white web silk in the center of her web that was her normal resting place, and where she would drag her prey when she fed.

After she fed, she would cut the remaining carcass loose, and it would fall to the ground. This was after she injected something into the prey to immobilize it until she was ready to feed, then to feed, she just stuck it with her straw-like stinger and sucked the juices out. You could just watch the catch shrink and the spider swell up. I think she injected a substance that liquefied her catch before she “drank” her victim.

This activity began when the spider showed up in August. Most days she looked pretty darn fat. The discarded shells were always gone the next day, and a lot of white poop was splattered beneath her web. One day there was an awful storm, and I thought it would blow my spider away. She held on as long as she could, and finally crawled up under the eave from which her web was attached, and showed up the next day unscathed.

One day I noticed a new spider web nearby with a smaller black spider with a few yellow markings loitering around. He looked like a different species entirely, and I didn’t know what to make of him, but he hung around.

Egg sacAfter several days I noticed my spider finishing an egg sac that she had attached to the top of the door frame. She had already hung the sac, and all I got to see was the finishing touches she put up around it, another thick web. I expected the small spider to be dead, figuring he was the father, and they did the deed in the cover of darkness, and believing that the female spider always kills the male after mating.

spiderBut there he was, still kicking. The days were getting shorter, and I thought my female would be dying. But she lived on, as did the male. As the days passed, I noticed another egg sac further down the eave, a little smaller this time. Another thing I noticed was the male was gone from his nest, and I found his little shrunken body on the ground beneath my spider’s web. So, my belief was correct, except she obviously kept him around for one more romantic interlude - before she killed him.

She hung around a little longer, but the days were getting shorter, the nights colder, and food was getting scarcer. And one day she was gone. I never saw her again, so I assume she died and fell to the ground, and whatever took all the other carcasses took hers as well.

But she will live on in her two egg sacs that are still hanging from my eaves, so the miracle of nature will repeat.

Crows
CrowsI have been feeding the crows on and off for years. This year I had four of them that I’m still feeding, and I like to think they’re the same ones. Crows are so smart, and very cautious birds. You almost never see a dead crow along the road, although one of their favorite places to feed is on roadkill.

I’ve noticed that when they feed at least one, usually two, will stand guard while the others feed. They are very democratic and work as a team. Some times they will fly outside my bedroom window real close and wake me up. They also will make this cooing sound when they see me. I have seen them work together to kill a huge snake. One distracts the snake while another flies in behind it and pecks as its head. They are amazing hunters. They like nuts, bread, desserts, meat, and their favorite food of all is McDonald’s French fries. Anecdotally I have heard that crows can be tamed, but with all my cats, I don’t anticipate that happening. Just this month I watched them drive off a hawk who wanted their food. They just keep moving in closer and closer as a team until the hawk eventually gives up and flies away.

Meteorite
This January, Michael and I were driving into Mountain Home to take in a movie. It was past sunset, but the sky was half dark in the east, but still had some light to the west. It was a beautiful, clear evening sky. All of a sudden, a meteorite came into view heading in the direction of Mountain Home. It was dark enough not to miss. It looked a glowing greenish yellow, and was over way too fast. This was much larger than your typical shooting star, but we never heard any more about it. But what a sight. Probably in a city with a lot of ground light, it would be easy to miss. Another plus for living in a seriously rural area of Arkansas.

So, it was a great year for nature lovers like us. Here’s a spidey pic and one of my beloved crows. Sorry we didn’t have time to record the meteorite.

Doing Your Part to Save Our Planet

If you haven’t seen the documentary, Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth,” it should be required viewing. Its message: Global Warming is real and already showing effects. And science is now beginning to validate this. Scary stuff, and we all need to take it seriously, if not for ourselves, for life as we know it on this planet for future generations, our children, grandchildren, etc. So, in keeping with the truth of this calamitous forecast, I’ve come up with my own list of things we should all do.

Some not so obvious things are:
Don’t overeat. None of us should anyway, and this is a hard one. But anytime we engage in gluttony, we use up more natural resources, and produce more greenhouse gases than necessary. Anything that is produced requires an energy expenditure, so not wasting can make a huge difference.

Don’t waste food. Eat leftovers, and use up what you have in your refrigerator or freezer. Throwing out good food means more animals are dying than need to, and more food is being produced than necessary. It takes some planning and organization, but we all can do better. If you check out at Black Oak Resort, and have leftover food you don’t want to take home, please just leave it in the cabin, and we will gladly use it up for you. Our cleaning staff and I will split it between us, and help prevent global warming as well.

Don’t buy things you don’t need. Don’t be a slave to trends and fashion. Every year or two, the popular color palette shifts. Now its blue, earth tones, and golds. It used to be violets and greens, The same with fashions. We need to be satisfied with what we have and not have change for change sake. The landfills are filled with our castoffs. You’ll reap benefits in money saved, and reduce greenhouse emissions

I am Dead Serious about the Following. Anyone reading on will think I’m going too far, but I can tell you I really take this issue seriously, and this is the unvarnished truth.

You ladies, don’t shave your legs until summertime. The style now is leggings or patterned hosiery, and pants are always great in winter. Think of all the shaving cream, razors, and hot water you won’t have to use. And a bonus, all that “fur” keeps you warmer, and you can turn down your thermostat too.

Bottled water. I never thought I’d “buy” water. It’s like buying air. What a waste of money. Guess what! I now buy bottled water, just for the convenience - it’s so portable. But this is so wasteful. Look at all the plastic going in the landfills. So now, though I still buy bottled water, I just keep refilling the bottles from my tap, and keep one bottle for about a week before recycling it.

I also have a Styrofoam drink glass that I reuse for a week before I pitch it and get a clean one. I only use it for water or Diet Coke, and keep it in the fridge so there’s no bacterial buildup. It’s my germs anyway, so I don’t mind, and I do rinse it out after using.

We reuse Styrofoam plates, at least until something gloppy gets on them. Just rinse, or shake off the crumbs from your sandwich, and use them again and again!

Reuse paper towels. If you use a paper towel to dry something or to wipe your mouth, a lot of times it’s still pretty clean. So, I’ll save them and reuse them to clean out grease from a pan, or to wipe up something spilled on the floor. Cats are famous for spitting up hairballs and such, so we always get to reuse them.

Infrequent toilet flushing. Have you ever heard the motto “If it’s yellow, let it mellow, if it’s brown, flush it down”? We only flush our toilet around six times a day, whenever it’s brown or too yellow. We put our TP in the wastebasket and empty it daily so as not to stop up the toilet. What are we saving, you say? Well, toilet flushing is a huge percentage of the water used daily in households. And our water has to be pumped from a well, and that’s electricity being used.

Showering. This is the rule we both live by. We shower before company is coming. In summer we shower daily. In spring and fall, every other day, and in winter every third day. Thus, we save a ton of hot water, and less cleansing is actually better for your skin. Just ask your dermatologist. And you already have heard about Betty’s thing with deodorant.

Thermostat settings. I never could figure how it is that people like their room temperature at 68 degrees in the summer and 78 in the winter. If you like a certain temperature, why does it change? I think I know the answer.

It’s that we want instant gratification. If we walk into a room in the summer and its 78, we think it’s not cool enough, even though it’s probably 10 to 15 degrees less than the outside temperature. In the winter, it’s just the opposite. We want it to be 78, even though that might be 50 or more degrees different from the outside temp.

This is causing a huge difference in the amount of electricity being generated, just to give us an unrealistic and unnecessary indoor temperature. How spoiled and childish of us. Also, the more you run your heat, the dryer the air in the winter, which I believe is the real reason we have more colds in the winter. Dry mucous membranes cannot do their job of protecting us from viruses. Michael and I set our thermostats to 78 in the summer and 68 in the winter. At night, 80 in summer and 60 in winter. We rarely get colds unless we travel and have no control over the temperature.

This is one of the biggest ways we can save on greenhouse gases as individuals, so I’m calling you all to action. For our world’s sake, just put on a sweater in the winter, and keep a fleece throw on the couch to warm you while sitting still to prevent a chill.

Recycle. We recycle aluminum, glass, and plastics. We would be pleased if you would recycle your aluminum cans when you stay with us at Black Oak Resort. Shirley Best will be happy to take them in to our recycling center. Please lightly rinse cans. Unfortunately, we don’t have the capacity to handle all the recyclables from our guests. There is no pickup program for commercial waste, and we wouldn’t be able to handle the volume.

Reuse bath towels, change sheets less often. We reuse our bath towels several times, and change our sheets once every two weeks. This cuts our energy usage for laundry by at least half.

Take care of your things, and buy only quality. We’ve become a throw-away society. Try resisting replacing small appliances before they die just to have the latest look. Take care of your things, and some will last a lifetime. Then they become even more precious—antiques. If you buy quality and keep it longer, this will reduce manufacturing what I consider unnecessary items. The manufacturing process is responsible for many greenhouse emissions. Also, harmful fumes are emitted from new cars, upholstered furniture, carpeting, paints that are dangerous to your health. That new car smell? Noxious dangerous fumes is more like it. So keeping your things longer will help your bottom line, your health, and the health of the planet!

I could go on, but I think you know other more mainstream ways already, such as buying Energy Star appliances, using fluorescent bulbs, avoiding driving habits that are gas wasters, etc. You can email me with your own suggestions, and we’ll add them to our next newsletter.

New Products We Like

Naked All Natural Superfood (Juice Smoothie). I particularly like the Red Machine and Green Machine flavors. Red Machine contains Cranberies, Raspberries, Strawberries, Pomegranate, Orange, Banana, and Red Grapes, as well as Flax Seed, Red Algae, and several vitamin supplements with no added sugar or preservatives. Green Machine is also one of my favorites, with Apple, Kiwi, Banana, Pineapple, Mango, Spirulina, Chlorella, Green Tea, Broccoli, Spinach, Blue Green Algae, Garlic, Echinacea, Barley Grass, and Wheat Grass. Trust me, they both taste delicious. I drink them with breakfast as one of my fruits or vegetable servings for the day, and I haven’t been sick with a cold or flu yet. This gives me some insurance that I’m eating right every day. The Naked brand also has many other flavorful concoctions. I also still drink my Pom Wonderful, rotating it with the Green and Red Machine.

Digital Video Recorder (DVR). The DVR feature of our satellite receiver has changed our television viewing. For instance, Betty records The Today Show each morning. Since she seldom has the time to watch it without interruption, this way she can watch it whenever she has the time. She skips all the ads, the lead-ins to stories, and most of the good natured banter between the anchors. She also skips the stories or features she’s not interested in. So she’s able to select out the parts she is interested in and skip over the rest. The three hour show now only takes a bit more than an hour to watch.

Sukodu. This new puzzle craze is positively addictive! I usually work one a day, and on a slow day, may work one whenever I feel the need to take a break. I just purchased a calendar with one puzzle a day, ranging from easy to hard. I’ve gotten better at solving them, and now like the more challenging medium and hard ones. Every now and then, one stumps me, so I’ll set it aside and try it later. One problem, is you really have to concentrate, so no interruptions please! The experts say this is good exercise for your brain, too.

iPod. We finally got our iPod, and are so thrilled. We have a bunch of CD’s that we loaded onto our computer using Apple’s iTunes. Then we downloaded them to our iPod. Michael connected it to our surround sound system, and let it play. We’re now listening to all our CD’s that we hadn’t heard for ages cause we were too lazy to load one CD at a time. It takes some time to load the CDs in the computer, but will save you loads of time after that. We salute the young people for leading the way for us old folks. What a simple, wonderful way for us to appreciate our whole library of music. I can also set it up in my car through my radio and play all the music I love while I run around doing errands in town.

Black Oak Resort
P.O. Box 100
Oakland, Arkansas 72661
(870) 431-8363
E-mail: vacation@blackoakresort.com

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02/14/2008 blor358 BJM