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Eat, Play, Shop, Live, Visit, Work. Your daily stop for the latest on all things Arkansas, including your comments. Send blog tips and feedback to Associate Editor Lauren James here.
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5 Events for Weekend Fun: American Taekwondo Championships, Peachfest and More

This weekend in central Arkansas offers a little something for everyone! Support adoption at a family-friendly BBQ; watch Taekwondo masters battle for titles; treat your furry friend to an outing at Sherwood's Dog Park and more! Here are five events for family fun for the weekend of July 12-13.

1. ATA World Expo & Championships 2014 at Statehouse Convention Center: American Taekwondo enthusiasts come to Little Rock for training, competition and fellowship. Though the week-long event begins Monday, July 7, the highly anticipated Tournament of Champions will take place on Friday, July 11. Students will compete in divisions based on age and belt rank. They will demonstrate their skills in traditional forms, weapons, sparring, creative and ATA-Xtreme open-hand forms and weapons, and combat weapons sparring. On Saturday, July 12, the Opening Ceremonies begin at 8 a.m. Saturday starts with the dynamic team competitions. The Team Demo and Sync competitions always bring out high-flying tricks and flips. A pass for the three days (July 11-13) is $10. July 7-13. For info: (501) 804-6524,

2. 10th Annual Families Are Special BBQ Bash at First United Methodist Church in North Little Rock: Families Are Special, Inc., a non profit adoption agency, hosts its 10th annual BBQ Bash on July 12. Enjoy delicious BBQ and ice cream while bidding on live and silent auction items. Don't miss emcee Craig O'Neill and the chance to win a grill. Proceeds will benefit average income Arkansas families who wish to adopt children in foster care. Since 1993, the organization has helped place over 737 children in permanent, loving homes. Today there are over 560,000 children in the U.S. Foster Care system and FASI is committed to help place many more of these children with their forever families. 11 a.m.-3 p.m. July 12. $10, children ages 5-12 $5, children under 5 free. For info: (501) 758-9184,

3. Sherwoof Dog Day at Sherwood Dog Park: First Arkansas Bank & Trust's mascot, Cash the Dog, will be on hand to welcome guests to a morning of fun in the sun. Pooches and their human pals will enjoy contests, dog adoptions, portraits, hot dogs, and "Smooches for Pooches!" Contests include largest & smallest dogs, best costume and best trick. Funds raised at this event, organized by Sherwood Young Professionals, will assist the Sherwood Animal Shelter purchase a mobile adoption unit. 9 a.m.-noon July 12. For info: (501) 833-0476. FREE!

4. Little Rock Parks & Recreation Youth Football League Free Clinic at Central High School: The youth football program sponsored by Little Rock Parks & Recreation hosts a free clinic for players between the ages of 6-11. For more information about the clinic, including the hours of the event, contact Michael Harris at (501) 918-3975. July 12. For info:!

5. Guy Peachfest at Guy City Park: The third annual celebration features carnival rides, a rodeo, live music, skeet shooting, a horshoe tournament, mini tractor pulls, lawnmower races, karaoke contest, a kids zone and more. Don't miss the Peach Cook-off and the festival finale -- a fireworks show at 9 p.m. Activity prices vary. July 11-12. For full schedule of events:

For more weekend events, browse our full online calendar here.

Spectacular Cakes from Real Arkansas Weddings

A treat for the eyes and your tastebuds – beautiful bridal cakes from real Arkansas weddings.


A treat for the eyes and your tastebuds – beautiful bridal cakes from real Arkansas weddings.


Family Travel: Vacation Tips & Pointers for Scotland

It’s a big, big world after all and child development experts say exposing kids to new things and cultures widens their horizons, increases their empathy for others, encourages creativity, and can improve those all important test scores. With busy schedules and bitsy budgets though, how can you realistically take one of those vacations that tops bucket lists like traveling abroad, visiting our nation’s capitol, and going to see Mickey and Minnie at Disney? We’ve assembled some first-hand experience to help our readers crack the code on family vacay success. Whether you’re going some time this year or this decade, here are top tips for tipping the scales in your favor.


During the eight months our family has lived in Scotland, we’ve been pleasantly surprised to discover that the home of golf and whiskey is also an outstanding destination for families. Our younger boys’ brave hearts have embraced medieval stories along with trips to castles, and our older kids are growing in their love for history and hillwalking.

Because Scotland is as shrouded in mystery as it is in mist, my perfect visit here would leave time and space for exploring the wilder countryside after hitting some of the more classic sightseeing.

The brilliant city of Edinburgh is the proper beginning to a trip to Scotland: Journey back in time as you walk to the top of the Royal Mile to tour of one of the most magnificent castles in Europe. Enjoy impressive views of the city as you peer out from the walls of Edinburgh Castle.

Our kids would tell you not to miss the Camera Obscura, a museum full of optical illusions just a few steps down the road from Edinburgh Castle. Then stop in at The Elephant Café and ask for a table in the back where J.K. Rowling penned Harry Potter with views of the castle from the windows. Walk around the corner to dive into centuries of history at the National Museum of Scotland. After your tour of Scotland’s past, head to the east wing to see three floors of animals mounted in action and be sure to say hello to Dolly, the world’s first cloned sheep.

If the city streets get too crowded, take a walk up to Arthur’s Seat, a hill overlooking the city, for a bit of air and a new perspective of Edinburgh. Or pick up a picnic dinner from Marks and Spencer and enjoy it on the sprawling lawns of Princes Street Gardens.



After a couple of nights in Edinburgh, rent a car or take a train north to see a different side of Scotland. Our best days in Scotland are spent among the sheep in the fields and along ancient stone walls, and we always try to take our visitors to spot a Highland Cow, or Heilan Coo in local parlance.

Stop at our favorite seaside village Stonehaven, where you can get fresh Fish ‘n Chips and carry it just a few steps to eat it right on the shore of the North Sea. Walk or drive a couple of miles south of the village to Dunnottar Castle, impressively situated on a rock outcropping in the sea. After the fancy halls of Edinburgh, you’ll be relieved to let the kids roam through the ruins of Dunnottar, where they can battle to their hearts’ content or pretend to be William Wallace, who fought and won this castle back from the English during the Scottish Wars of Independence.


After your coastal drive, head for the Highlands. Go west into Cairngorms National Park. Just a few miles from Balmoral, the Royal Family’s country estate in Scotland, Ballater and neighboring Braemar are picturesque sleepy little Victorian villages full of restaurants, B&Bs and helpful hosts. In the mornings, we love to grab fresh pastries from a local bakery; stopping for tea and scones with jam and cream in one of Scotland’s many tea rooms is a great way to break up the day. Also, a traditional Scottish breakfast of eggs, potatoes, sausages and even haggis is served at most hotels and B&Bs, so be sure and try it at least once!


You will have your choice of castles to visit on the way as this area of Scotland has been dubbed The Castle Trail for its high density of fortresses. Castle Fraser is a favorite because of its children’s woodland garden. Also, one of the Lords (or Lairds) of Castle Fraser lost his leg after being shot during the Napoleonic Wars, and his wooden leg is still on display in the castle library.

Speaking of legs, you’ll want to be ready to use yours for some hiking (or hillwalking, as it is called in the UK). The scenery is the real star of the show in Cairngorms National Park, and we find that walking is the best way to discover more of its beauty and to let our kids burn off extra energy. We hike these hills almost every weekend and I never get tired of wandering Scotland’s wilder side.

For more travel tips and Scotland tales from the Chino family, visit

Visit Mid-America Museum in Hot Springs Before It Closes for Renovations


This summer is your last chance to visit Mid-America Science Museum in Hot Springs before it closes for a $7.8 million renovation of the building and exhibits! The museum will be open until Aug. 10, so families can still enjoy exhibits and events during summer break. Then, after closing for the fall and winter months, the museum plans to unveil its transformation in March 2015.


When the museum reopens, families can expect exciting new amenities, such as the Oaklawn Foundation Digital Dome Theater, which will include a full-dome projection show that immerses the audience with a 180-degree viewing area.


Another highlight is The Bob Wheeler Science Skywalk, an outdoor walkway that will connect the main building with the forest canopy outside.


Other new plans include a 5,600 Arkansas Gallery that explores the effects of erosion and weather on the state's geology, geography, flora and fauna.


A Forces in Motion exhibit gallery will be dedicated to topics like matter, energy and gravity; The Inventors Workshop where children can engage discovery learning through hands-on workshops.


Currently, families can explore two special exhibits: "Amazon Voyage: Vicious Fishes and Other Riches" and "Design Zone." The "Amazon Voyage" exhibit exposes visitors to the wonders of the most biologically diverse river in the world -- the Amazon. Examine live fish in unique tanks and discover unusual river-dwellers, such as the pink dolphins. In the "Design Zone" exhibit, kids learn about exciting careers that utilize math and science, such as roller coaster designers, video game developers and music producers.

Be sure to check out the museum's website for current summer camps and special events. If your family is a frequent visitor, the Family Summer Pass is a great deal: For $50, the pass gives its user unlimited visits until July 31.

For more info, visit

Japanese Restaurant Opening in Hillcrest

Learn how to make sushi, among other things, through the Arkansas Extended Learning Center.

Soon, Jerry Barakat will have yet another restaurant in the capital city. The restaurateur's next establishment will be a Japanese restaurant, Kemuri, in Hillcrest.

Barakat says he hopes to open Kemuri, at 2601 Kavanaugh Blvd., by late July. The restaurant, located in the former home of Ferneau and Rocket 21, will feature seafood, sushi and smoked meats, according to Barakat.

One thing is for certain, Barakat says, patrons can expect fresh food. 

"I don't care about the cost, as long as it is fresh and quality food, I will serve it," Barakat said.

The long-time Little Rock restaurateur said he's excited about his newest venture that has been a dream of his for more than 20 years. Barakat said he's always been drawn to this type of restaurant for its healthiness and flavor.

Right now, Barakat says he's waiting on an alcohol permit and putting the finishing touches on the menu. Kemuri is supposed to receive its permit in mid-July.

Kemuri will have about 4,800-SF of space and room for about 150 patrons inside and around 30 outside. The restaurant will have two bars, one sushi and one for drinks. 

Barakat also wished to address a rumor he's heard swirling that Alex Guzman, his current sushi chef at Ocean's, would be leaving that restaurant for Kemuri.

"Ocean's is doing marvelous," Barakat said. "It would be stupid of me to shoot myself in one foot to help the other. Alex is staying at Ocean's."

Barakat said Guzman is training chefs at Kemuri to bring his style of sushi to Kemuri, but reiterated he would stay at Ocean's.

New Stores to Open at Promenade

Image by The Promenade at Chenal

There's a new multi-tenant building under construction at The Promenade at Chenal!

The 8,000-SF building, located on a lot near the Chenal Parkway main entrance, is slated to house four new tenants to the shopping center. It's set to be open this fall.

The tenants have not been disclosed, but shoppers can expect food, and health and beauty options. 

We told you in May about a HomeGoods store coming to The Promenade, as well. Construction at that store is about 60 percent complete and is set to open in September.

Taste of Tuesday: 1620 Savoy's Watermelon & Shrimp Salad

There are some dishes that give you a little bit of everything you're looking for and the watermelon and shrimp salad at 1620 Savoy is one of those dishes.

There's watermelon. There's shrimp. And there's a bit of salad to satisfy your healthy side. Chef Tim Morton was kind enough to share the recipe with us and now we'll return the favor and share it with our favorite readers.

Check out the rest of the menu at 1620 Savoy some time soon. They are located at 1620 Market St. in Little Rock.

Watermelon & Shrimp Salad

The ingredients:

•1 seedless watermelon

•1/2 tablespoon chopped ginger

•4 sprigs fresh mint

•1 cup light corn syrup

•1 cup water

•1 fennel bulb, shaved thin

•3 cups micro greens

•juice of 1 lemon, 1 lime, 1 orange

•1 minced shallot

•1 cup rice wine vinegar

•2 cups grape seed oil

•2 cups steamed shrimp

The process:

Place cut and peeled watermelon in a vacuum-sealed bag. Then, mix 1/2 cup of corn syrup, ginger and mint with water. Place it in the bag with the watermelon and vacuum seal. In a separate bowl, place citrus juice, vinegar and remaining corn syrup and whisk oil in slowly. Then, toss fennel and shrimp in vinaigrette and let it marinate for one hour. Unseal the watermelon and arrange it on a plate with shrimp and fennel. Garnish with micro greens.

Go-and-Eat: Ya Ya's Champagne Dinner On July 16

Ya Ya's Euro Bistro in west Little Rock's Chenal Valley offers outdoor dining in a relaxed atmosphere.

How good does a multi-course meal and the perfect champagne at Ya Ya's Euro Bistro sound? If you're drooling, you may want to make sure you're at the modern European restaurant later this month.

That's because Ya Ya's "Champagne Dinner" will pair multiple courses with the perfect wine, all for your enjoyment and pleasure. 

Some of the combos include Nicolas Fuillatte Brut Reserve with shrimp gazpacho and heirloom tomatoes, citrus and cilantro, and Chartogne Taillet Curvee Saint Anne with smoked mussels, saffron parm broth and crostini. For a full list of pairings, click here. Some of the items may change, due to availability.

The dinner is $150 per person and there are only 25 seats available. It's set for July 16. To reserve your spot, call 821-1144. For more information, check out the bistro's Facebook page and website.

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About The Author
What’s new in shopping, the arts, music, travel, fun parties and delicious food in Arkansas? Let Lauren James of be your guide. An avid shopper, traveler and lover of everything-arts-related, she will show you the best of what Arkansas has to offer. Make your go-to spot every day to learn the latest in entertainment, dining, attractions, activities and more.
Featured Post
July is one of the best months of the year for food in Arkansas! For this week's Taste of Tuesday feature, Steve Shuler shares a gazpacho recipe that celebrates summer and delicious Arkansas produce.

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