US (Missouri) US Travel

La Petite Gemme Prairie: like none other in Missouri

A short afternoon outing west of Bolivar, Missouri


Today after lunch, my husband, daughter, son and I ventured out to La Petite Gemme Prairie just a mile or so west of Bolivar. My son told me recently about this nature preserve, but we hadn’t taken time to go see it until today. We decided to take a short jaunt out to see what we could.

And honestly, this is likely NOT the prime time of year to see this sight.

It takes a keen eye, an ability to notice subtle colors and textures, and an open mind as to what exactly constitutes beauty.

Must a landscape always contain exotic foliage, flaming sunsets, and towering mountains to be considered beautiful? Can the somber, drab colors of deep December reveal their own beauty?

I’ll let you decide as you peruse the shots I took as we walked the 37-acre preserve.

There’s a gravel parking lot sized for about four vehicles just in front of this sign. We parked here and then took out walking.
Unspoiled prairie land…

For more background on the preserve, here are some details from the yellow informational sign that appears near the end of this post:

“The 37-acre area was purchased by the non-profit Missouri Prairie Foundation in 1977. It is owned by the MPF, and co-managed by the MPF and the Missouri Department of Conservation. A botanically diverse and scenic upland prairie on soils derived from shale and limestone, La Petite Gemme is a beautiful spot in which to relax and wander. The name is French for “the little gem” and recognizes the French influence on Missouri as well as the gemlike quality of the prairie wildflowers.”

First, you walk up this mowed path to the top of the hill.
The curly lines of these silver-hued leaves caught my eye.
Francie, our Jack Russell-Rat Terrier, burned off some energy this afternoon.
The dark dots positioned against the golden vertical lines of the grasses is a nice contrast.
The color of these delicate leaves!

Here’s an impressive list of flowers and creatures that make this preserve their home. All of these are listed on the yellow sign that appears at the bottom of this post.

Here is the view of the countryside further west of Bolivar.
Once you’re at the top of the hill, the mowed path takes you back down to the other side.
These unspoiled prairie grasses grow off to the side of the path.
I love these roller coaster blades of grass that careen over, under, and around the tufts of native grasses.
Wild rosehips dot the walking trail.
This nest appears to have been built in the middle of the path. Either it blew onto the path from a breeze, or this place sees little traffic this time of year. Either explanation sounds reasonable.
My daughter noticed this deer trail veering off from the walking path.
At the bottom of the hill, you’ll meet an asphalt path that travels north and south. It’s the Frisco Highline Trail, a “national recreation trail that connects Bolivar and Springfield, Missouri,” according to an informational sign along the trail. The trail is 35 miles long and follows the former Springfield and Northern Railroad tracks. The trail is managed by Ozark Greenways, a non-profit organization working to preserve and enhance the Ozarks’ natural heritage. Open from sunrise to sunset, no motor vehicles are allowed on the trail. 
Ahhh, siblings!
Here’s a trail marker along the asphalt trail heading north. 
These signs can be read as you approach the prairie from the north. Some close-up shots of the signs are below.
Signs provide information about the flora and fauna… 
…of the native prairie.
I took this one final view after taking our walk through Le Petite Gemme Prairie.

Thanks for reading! It was a mild 65 degrees F when we started out for the prairie, but as we walked, the temperature cooled, the wind picked up, and as we loaded into the car, a misty rain settled in. Back home now, I can still hear the rain gently falling outside. 






When you finally meet your online Italian language tutor

Desperately seeking Clara in Bologna, Italy

The two torre (towers) of central Bologna

Last Saturday, my daughter and I ventured out of Venice to Bologna. The purpose of our trip was to meet Clara Ori. Clara teaches online lessons in the Italian language and she and my daughter have been working together since last September. Once or twice a week, they meet online via

Clara and Katherine hit it off right from the start and found it challenging to remain focused on their lessons because they had so much fun just chatting and becoming friends.

Leaving Venice at 7 a.m.

So, when Katherine was awarded her internship at the U.S. Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in late April, she knew that a visit to meet Clara would be in order.

The two had decided to arrange to meet for lunch around noon. We had subsequently planned to leave Venice early in the day, do some sightseeing in the morning, have lunch with Clara and her boyfriend, Victor, and then return to Venice in the afternoon.

The Italian countryside

We left Katherine’s neighborhood of Santa Elena in the Castello sestiere on a vaporetto at about 6 a.m., and arrived at the Ferrovia train station about thirty minutes later. Our Trenitalia train left at 7 a.m.

A mere two hours later, we were dining on cappuccini and croissants near the Piazza Maggiore in Bologna’s city center, and deciding which major sights to see.

Piazza Maggiore

Sitting close to the major square of the city, the Piazza Maggiore, I considered how I had always thought Venice felt old. After all, it was founded in 421 AD. However, strolling into Bologna, I realized that it feels and looks older and has a more primitive feel. And for good reason: Bologna was founded in 500 BC. That’s quite a difference!

Another difference: compared to quiet Venice, Bologna is raucous with its cars and scooters. Plus, there’s all that beautiful red masonry and all the loggias, those covered archway thoroughfares along the Via Indipendenza that shade pedestrians as they saunter along the timeworn marble-paved and mosaic walkways.

Loggia along Via Indipendenza

Next to the Piazza Maggiore and its Basilica di Petronius is the Fountain of Neptune within the plaza of the same name. When my daughter last visited Bologna during her first internship in Venice, the Fountain of Neptune was encased in scaffolding for maintenance. She looked forward to seeing it in person this time.

The Fountain of Neptune

We strolled around the major buildings of the plaza and stopped inside the Palazzo d’Accursio to see the city’s Town Hall. The oldest parts of this building date to the 14th century.

It’s interesting to see where Bolognans go to pay, oh for example, their water bills. Paying a utility bill in a spot such as this would make the bill easier to pay, I would think. This facility also includes art collections, the city libraries, and a museum.

Palazzo d’Accursio… the city’s administrative buildings

The highlight of the morning was touring inside the enormous, medieval Basilica di Petronius. Inside many churches (whether a cathedral or basilica), signs request that visitors respect “the holy place” and that knees and shoulders be covered. If you don’t have the appropriate clothing, you won’t be allowed in or you may purchase for 1€ a dark blue, gauzy kimono to wear. We saw one or two women wearing these as they milled around the cathedral. Luckily, I had tucked a cardigan inside my bag for the day to wear over my tank-style dress.

In addition, for 2€, you may take pictures, presumably even with flash. So, I paid the man at a lectern-type kiosk, who in turn looped a bright orange band around my wrist. Then we were free to roam and photograph at our leisure. (Surely, the woman walking around boldly wielding her GoPro camera had paid, right?!)

Basilica di Petronius
Inside the Basilica di Petronius
Inside the Basilica di Petronius
Inside the Basilica di Petronius

You can only take so many pictures inside a beautiful cathedral before it starts to seem pointless. Pictures simply do not suffice. I would dare to say that just admiring the view with your own eyes–and not through a lens–is a much more efficient use of your time.

Even with all its incredible architecture and history, Bologna offers still more. In fact, you can experience Bologna’s charm just walking around. Find a park bench in the shade, and then sit and watch.

Sitting and people-watching 

While we sat in a shaded square off the plaza, a mother, father, and two daughters were dropped off by taxi a few feet from our park bench.

The oldest teenage daughter’s flowing royal blue chiffon gown swayed in the breeze as she stood with her mother who wore an a olive-burgundy-bronze brocade knee-length chemise. The father, in a white dress shirt and gray plaid fitted trousers, seemed to be searching for someone. The younger daughter, in her awkward middle school years, stood off to the side in a champagne-colored sundress.

We loved sitting near these storefronts. Notice the hand-painted lettering!

The group discussed directions, peered left and right, walked away down the nearby alleyway, came back, and straightened their clothes. Continually rising on tiptoe to peer into the surrounding clusters of pedestrians, they never seemed to accomplish much other than to exude Italian chic.

A typical street in Bologna’s city center

After people-watching for about an hour, we started out to meet Clara, who told us she would be arriving via train from Padua with her boyfriend, Victor. (They had been to Padua that morning for Victor’s eye appointment and they had planned to return to Bologna for the afternoon.)

We headed back to the Via Indipendenza, which is closed to automotive traffic on the weekends. Pedestrians filled the brick paved boulevard and sauntered through the loggias on each side of the street. We scanned the oncoming walkers for Clara and Victor.

But here’s the thing: Clara is blind and Victor has very limited eyesight.

Spotting them was our goal; listening for Katherine’s voice would be Clara’s.

Clara had told Katherine that Victor would be very tall and that she would be using, in her words, “my inseparable white cane.”

Within a few minutes, at the very far end of the loggia, just a block from the train station, we spied them. Katherine called out, “Clara!” and that was that. We found each other!

After greetings and hugs, Clara and Victor said they would select a place where we could have paninis and visit. They knew of such a cafe just down the street. We followed the couple, Clara and Katherine chatting the entire way.

After ordering our lunches (and admittedly, following their lead was not as difficult as you might imagine), we sat down at a table outside and talked for more than an hour.

Talking over paninis

After eating, we had an hour or so of free time, so Clara and Victor told us they would like to take us to the Salaborsa public library in Bologna just a short distance away inside the Palazzo d’Accursio facility. This library was built in 2001 and is the central public library funded by the municipality of Bologna. We followed Clara and Victor into one of the most beautiful libraries I will probably ever see.

Salaborsa Library
Salaborsa Library

There wasn’t much time left after going to the library, so we all four headed back to the train station. We took some photos and Clara and Victor made sure to direct Katherine and I to the correct platform area to catch our 4:08 p.m. train back to Venice.

The four of us: Katherine, Victor, Clara, and me
Waiting at Bologna departures for the train back to Venice 

The day had gone exactly as planned.

Our goal of meeting Clara and Victor was met and we arrived back in Venice with time to hop off the vaporetto at the Zattere for a grocery run to buy salmon fillets.

Later back in Santa Elena, Katherine made dinner (score one for Mom!)… she served the salmon with Basmati rice and her own chutney salad made with mango, avocado, cucumbers, and bell peppers. It was a delicious end to a perfect day.

Making our way across the Venetian lagoon at the end of the day

Thanks for reading! It’s becoming more and more challenging to post daily, but I’m using this trip to get in the habit of producing work daily. We’ll see how that continues. Follow my blog to see how and if I keep up.

Click here for yesterday’s post about the Venice Biennale.

I traveled to Venice from Skopelos, Greece, where we are staying before continuing our trip through the Peloponnese. Click here for a post from Skopelos. 


Memoir & Narratives

Promposals, Gender Reveal Parties, and Other Things I Do Not Understand

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Photo: Pixabay

In which I see a connection between these things and mascara

Gender reveal parties. Promposals. Save-the-dates. Bachelorette weekends. Maybe I’m a Debbie Downer, but these are all things I just don’t see a need for. I don’t understand the need for a get-together where we pop a balloon to see whether it’s filled with pink or blue confetti. I don’t understand why a guy can’t just ask a girl to prom. And if save-the-date cards are just a “heads-up” to book flights and lodging ASAP for a wedding, then does that mean the actual invitations are for people you don’t expect to show up anyway?  And finally, who decided that bachelorette parties needed to occur three states away and therefore require asking Friday off, and maybe Thursday, too?

It seems that major life occasions of the twenty-something set are now bigger, better, and more celebrated than ever before. And I’ve noticed this trend not only in major life events, but also in (brace yourself)… mascara.

In fact, while shopping at Target recently, I realized that shopping for mascara isn’t what it used to be. For example, here’s what I used to do when I ran out: enter cosmetics department, find Maybelline Great Lash by looking for hot pink tube with green lid, get brownish black, toss into cart, roll eyes at $4.99 price for a teensy-weensy .34 ounces, and leave. Easy, right?

Here’s what I have to do now: enter cosmetics department, find Maybelline Great Lash by looking for hot pink tube with green lid, get brownish black, see royal blue color and wonder if I would like it (maybe, maybe not… not sure), wonder why I can’t find my classic spiral brush, find it mixed in on a peg containing something called a grabber brush, notice three other brush styles, read packages to figure out which one does what, give up, pick one, toss into cart, roll eyes at the price, leave, and wonder how mascara became so complicated.

Too many decisions. Too many choices. Too many everything. There are now mascara formulas and brushes designed for multiple purposes: lengthening, adding volume, separating, enhancing eye color.

masc 2
Cover Girl mascaras at Target


In fact, within Target’s cosmetics department, each brand’s makeup section is dominated by a yard-wide patch of real estate sporting glossy cardstock packages that sparkle with blister-packs of mascara shaped like torpedoes, cylinders, and even telescopes. Sometimes at Wal-Mart, the mascara even spins on a pedestal, and a little spotlight illuminates it when you walk by. And mascara gets this kind of attention at every retailer, whether it’s Target, Wal-Mart, Walgreen’s, or the cosmetics big box known as Ulta.

The Maybelline selection alone is impressive. Here one will find a mind-dizzying array of mascaras with names such as The Colossal Bigshot, Lash Sensational, several sub-categories of Great Lash, Pumped Up Colossal, The Falsies Push Up Angel, The Falsies Push Up Drama, Illegal Length Fiber Extensions Mascara, Define-a-Lash Washable, Full ‘N Soft, Lash Stiletto Ultimate Length Mascara, plus a range of Volum’ Express versions: The Falsies, The Rocket Volume, The Colossal Spider Effect, The Colossal Chaotic Lash, The Mega Plush, The Falsies Big Eyes, and The Colossal Cat Eyes. I’m not kidding… they’re all there. Just look next time you shop.

Likewise, Cover Girl also boasts a fair share of mascara overload. Here one will discover Full Lash Bloom, The Clump Crusher, The Super Sizer Fibers, Lash Blast Volume, Lash Blast Fusion, Bombshell Volume, So Lashy! BlastPro, and Plumpify BlastPro.

You may be thinking that since Cover Girl and Maybelline are brands that target young women and teenage girls, the same group going gaga over promposals and gender reveals, it makes sense to cater to their “more is more” mentality. True, but I contend it’s infiltrating into other age brackets, including mine. Y’know, women who were married on a Saturday afternoon at a church (of all places!) and not at an exotic resort over a three-day weekend, hence the need for a save-the-date.

Don’t look now, but soon all women will be forced to sift through row upon row of mascara options. It’s already happening with Revlon. This brand may not sport the oomph of rockets and push-ups, but when one has had enough colossal chaos, there are still six choices. Oh, and they have five different mascara brushes, too, and they’re all trademarked.

So there you have it. Promposals. Gender reveals. Save-the-dates. Bachelorette weekends. Mascara. They’re all connected. Simplicity is out. Complexity is in.

And I get it: making memories and having fun is also in. But for a generation that incorporates  “simplify” and “live love laugh” wall art into their home decor, promposals, bachelorette weekends and their ilk seem to rub against that notion and complicate occasions already fraught with details.

Maybe I’m just getting old(er!), but if this generation really wants to simplify, it should scale things back. Wait to see if it’s a boy or girl. Ask a girl to prom between classes. Buy the basic mascara. Really keep it simple. Sound less than exciting? Well, Debbie Downer would be proud, so there’s that.


What do you think about promposals, gender reveal parties, etcetera? Click like and leave a comment so I’ll know whether or not I’m a Debbie Downer who just needs to chill out.  

I’m a writing teacher who writes. Click here to find my teaching blog.