We’ve only lived here a year, but I’ve already come to love our new home. It’s really awesome here, and these (in no particular order) are a few of the reasons why.
1. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, AR. Crystal Bridges is not only a world-class art museum housing an incredible collection, it’s in a beautiful Northwest Arkansas location with amazing wooded trails (like the Art Walk — which has beautiful artwork along the walking trail!), a great restaurant, and lots of events. (In fact, there’s so much to do here, I’m a little overwhelmed by my calendar!) I loved the State of the Art exhibit last fall -it was an incredible showcase of very talented and under-recognized contemporary artists from all across the country. I can’t wait to see the Van Gogh to Rothko exhibit they have going on right now!
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville AR
2. The Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville, AR. In addition to fantastic performances – including traveling Broadway shows, concerts, plays, stand-up comedy and other events – The Walton Arts Center hosts educational programming for students and teachers, community master class events, and much, much more.
3. Country Music Concerts. I love new country music (more on this later), and last year I got to see 10 of my favorite country artists perform live, including Florida-Georgia Line, Dierks Bentley, Miranda Lambert, and Jason Aldean. Much of this awesomeness is due to the opening last May of a brand new outdoor concert venue in Rogers, AR, the Walmart AMP. I am so excited for this summer’s lineup!
We were standing room only in the front pit, just a couple feet from the stage at the Walmart AMP in Rogers. Best. Concert. Ever.
4. Rural Living With All the Amenities. Maybe it’s cheesy, but I love that I can hear cows mooing from my front door. Driving down our road in the morning alongside horses and cows graze in the pastures is relaxing and beautiful.
And yet, Northwest Arkansas boasts plenty of local businesses and national chain stores within a 15 minute drive (like at the Pinnacle Hills Promenade Mall in Rogers) providing all the modern conveniences I could possibly need.
5. Bentonville Farmer’s Market. There are several great farmer’s markets in Northwest Arkansas — including in Fayetteville, Rogers, and Centerton — but my favorite is the Bentonville Farmer’s Market on the Bentonville Square. I love the mix of locally grown organic vegetables, beautiful artisanal crafts, and performing artists that grace the square every Saturday morning. I look forward to it all week!
6. Saturday morning breakfast at Pressroom. Our Saturday morning trip to the Bentonville Farmer’s Market wouldn’t be complete without stopping by The Pressroom for coffee or a sit-down breakfast. Every week Lee orders their bagel with lox (which he says is the best in town) and I’ve tried and loved just about everything on the menu — definitely try the Honey Vanilla Latte (it’s my favorite coffee drink anywhere ever).
7. JD Design & Antiques in West Fork, AR. I found JD’s shop online when we first moved to Northwest Arkansas and was looking for someone to reupholster the hundred-year-old pepto bismol pink couch we inherited from my husband’s grandparents. It turned out that JD restores the antique furniture he purchases at auction and sell in his shop (instead, another great local company, Sprouse Upholstery, did a fantastic job on our couch), but OMG what a find! JD does gorgeous work, and we were blessed to find several amazing pieces for our new home. Tell him what you’re looking for and he probably has it in his warehouse — or if he doesn’t, he’ll find it and restore it for you. JD’s Design & Antiques is located in the tiny town of West Fork, just south of Fayetteville at exit 53 off I-49 (formerly I-540).
9. Dining with the Green Penguins at The Hive at 21C. Bentonville has one of only three 21C Museum Hotels in the United States – possibly the coolest hotel chain in the country (and a must-visit for art lovers!). I’ve never stayed there, but I’ve seen the ever-changing exhibits in the lobby, bar, and The Hive restaurant many times (and I hear that there are works of art displayed in the individual rooms as well). The food is great, but my favorite part of dining at The Hive are the short green gentlemen who sometimes join you at your table for dinner.
10. People Are So Nice Here. After the anonymity of living in the city, I was surprised when I got here and perfect strangers would start up conversations with me in the grocery store! But they do – and the folks here are genuinely nice, polite, friendly, and welcoming. Lee and I are blessed to have already made wonderful friends in Northwest Arkansas, and we look forward to getting to know many more!
11. Walmart & the Walton Family. None of this would be possible without the presence of the country’s largest employer, Walmart, and the civic-minded people at its helm. Walmart has brought folks (like us!) from all across the country and the world to live in this wonderful place, and has played a huge role in building this community into what it is today. I knew very little about Walmart or the Waltons before coming here, and since then I’ve seen first hand the positive impact the company and family have had both on Northwest Arkansas and around the country. If you have a minute, check out some of the fantastic work they do through the Walmart Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation.
As we approach Mother’s Day, this was on my mind. So here’s an open letter from my heart to all of the moms out there — whether they have little babies, grown babies, furry babies — or all women waiting for “someday.”
I see you.
I see you at the grocery store, wiping the drool off your crying baby’s face and comforting him while you balance an armload of cereal boxes and frozen nuggets in your other hand. I see you screaming cheers at little league games, backstage touching up makeup at dance recitals, working on your cell phone while in line at school pickup, and music lessons, and karate every Tuesday. I see you driving thousands of miles just to turn around and do it again the next day.
I see you in a thousand pictures that stream through my Facebook feed, of little ones eating, playing, laughing and dancing. I see you behind the camera, even though you don’t appear.
I see you, because you’re my mom, too.
Someday, when your kids grow up and move away, they aren’t going to care about the 10,000,000 iPhone photos you took of them eating or laughing, or playing with a toy they don’t remember, or wearing every single outfit that Grandma ever sent them. The photos they will take with them and cherish forever are the ones of you — you holding them, you laughing with them, you reading to them, you hugging them close.
Please — exist in photographs for your children. You don’t have to take them with me, but please take them, print them, put them on your walls. Do it for your children, do it for yourself, do it for the people who love you. Thirty years from now that photograph will be the precious gift to them that no amount of money can buy. No more excuses about the last five pounds or fifty, or feeling awkward or invisible. You are beautiful. You are amazing. We see you and we love you.
For more, please watch this moving, heartfelt message from photographer Sue Bryce:
Today is a very special day — it’s Kiska’s 6th birthday!
Six years ago today, I got an early morning call from Rob Brown of Island American Eskimos. I had been looking for a female puppy to be a companion for my then two-year old dog Yukon, and when Rob told me about the special breeding he and Greg had planned with Diane Cowles of Nordic Whispers, I knew I had found what I was looking for! On St. Patrick’s day, this lucky litter came into the world.
Kiska was little blue girl (so named because of the blue dye on her tail to identify her), the first-born girl.
My dad holds “blue girl” — soon to become our Kiska — at 5 weeks old.
When we visited her for the first time at 5 weeks old, she crawled into my husband’s lap, and that was when Greg told us that she was, in fact, our puppy! It was love at first sight.
Kiska was a perfect companion for Yukon. I couldn’t have asked for a sweeter or more loving puppy! She was so quiet…. when she was ASLEEP!
Baby Kiska sleeping in her bunny towel after her first bath.
Yukon teaches baby Kiska to share.
As she grew, she became my little adventurer! At just 3 months old she rode cross country with my husband and I from New York to Seattle.
My lucky lady plays the slots!
Baby Kiska makes a friend in Deadwood.
She is always game for something fun — once we dyed her tail pink to make her a Punk Princess!
I have been so proud of the way Kiska has taken Kodiak under her wing since he joined our family from Bella Vista Animal Shelter last summer. They became instant friends, and she has lovingly nurtured him, taught him the ropes, and kept him out of trouble — playing with our energetic puppy even when it was clear she was tired or ready to go inside.
Oh my stars! Texas newborn photographer Amanda Jackson decided to conduct an experiment. She had always heard that prints from professional labs were much higher quality compared to the prints that you get from the drugstore, but she was skeptical. How different could they really be? So, she took a file and sent it out to one pro lab and 4 consumer labs to see how they would compare to the original file. The results were even more surprising than she imagined. Amanda writes:
“I am REALLY shocked. I have heard how bad consumer labs can be…but now I have seen it for myself. I can promise you that these are the prints in their true form. I have not done ANY editing whatsoever, other than just scanning the photo onto my computer and adding the lab name. …
As one of my friends told me “It looks like a rainbow!” and it’s true!”
You can see for yourself, when viewed side-by-side, the differences in the color and quality of the prints in her experiment (shared with permission):
Printing photographs is where quality and expertise make a huge difference — and choosing a professional lab is just the tip of the iceberg. When creating proof of love, here are just a few of the steps I take to make sure your images come out just right:
I use professional equipment to carefully calibrate my monitor to my pro lab’s specifications and edit for correct color.
I’ve spent time and money on test prints learning how to properly crop, sharpen, and prepare files for printing — based not only on the size of the print, but on the precise type of paper or canvas. (If you think proper cropping doesn’t matter, just ask these guys!)
I carefully inspect each proof of love to make sure it is perfect before I deliver it to you — and if it’s not, I send it back.
But I think the most important step is:
I get it done, so so your images don’t end up hidden in a drawer instead of on your walls.
The moral of the story? Photographers everywhere die a little inside when we we see your beautiful baby turned blue, green, or oompa loompa orange by an atrocious print job. Please save a photographer. Get proof of love instead!
Hi! My name is Soraya, and I'm a photographer in Bentonville, Arkansas.
I believe your stories and your connection with your loved ones make the world a magical place. Share your magic with me. Together we’ll make it real and create proof of that love for all the world to see.
Located in Bentonville, AR, Soraya Rudofsky is a fine art portrait photographer serving all of Northwest Arkansas including Bentonville, Rogers, Fayetteville, Springdale, Lowell, Centerton, and Gravette.