PJ and I spent a week in Arkansas visiting friends and his family. We had a great time, but it wasn’t the kind of trip that packed one exciting activity after another. It wasn’t Niagara Falls, in other words. That makes blogging about it a little difficult.

We went to Fayetteville first to visit our friends who live there. PJ went to the University of Arkansas for his undergraduate degree, and we’ve gone back there almost every year since we first got together. It’s interesting to see how much it’s changed in the last 14 years.

We also make the pilgrimage to see Harrington, the first cat that I spent any time around. She’s a great cat. When she was younger, she played a milk top game for pounce treats. That was our first glimpse at what a cat can add to a household. She’s older and kind of frail now, but she’s still great. Here’s her picture:

I kept forgetting to bring my camera with me as we did things, so I can’t illustrate all of my opinions, but I’ll relate the highlights anyway.

Once of my favorite Fayetteville landmarks is the Dickson Street Bookshop. It’s a great used book store. For years, I slowly bought the store’s collection of books from one of UA’s former eighteenth-century scholars, including his 11 volume set of Pepys’s diary. I highly recommend that anyone who likes to read stop by the Dickson Street Bookshop.

We had a delicious lunch at Smiling Jack’s Fresh Foods. I highly recommend the Smiling Salad. It has the best dressing I’ve ever tasted. We sat on the deck, had lunch, drank a beer, and listened to great live music. Perfect.

My favorite outdoor activity in Fayetteville this time was the Farmers’ Market. It had an excellent selection of produce, flowers, and crafts. Our friends bought vegetables for dinner, and PJ and I bought a new cutting board. There was also live music here. That combined with the band at lunch made me realize how little live music we hear outdoors around Athens. Except for the special festivals, we almost never hear music outside. I wish we had more.

My last comment about Fayetteville is that one of our usual past times when we visit our friends is to play spades. We always have fun, but this year the game we played was amazing. My team used to win just about every game relatively easily. For the past couple of years, PJ’s team has won. They won this time too, but my team played brilliantly. For much of the game, we were well into negative numbers, but we pulled pretty close by the end. We tend to be very aggressive players, which this year resulted in the negative numbers. But it was the best game we’ve ever played. It took hours and was full of excitement.

After two days in Fayetteville, we drove down to Jacksonville, Arkansas, where PJ’s family lives. Besides hanging out with his parents, his grandmother, and his brother and his family, we mostly just watched the Olympics. The second night that we were there, PJ volunteered us to make dinner, since I’m a vegetarian and his parents had no idea what to do with that. While we were in Fayetteville, our friends made polenta pie and fried green tomatoes. PJ loved it so much that we made the same two dished for his parents. They came out really great. Here’s what the polenta pie looks like:

PJ did all the work for the polenta pie, but I helped with the tomatoes:

Here’s my picture of the complete meal on my plate (we put a spicy mustard on the tomatoes):

We had a great, restful time on our trip. It’s always great to visit our friends and see Fayetteville again. And PJ’s family is sweet.