December 27. 2011

On Christmas Eve we served about 130 people at Silver Palms, and everything was perfect.  Instead of a big heavy dinner, Randy served appetizers, so everyone could have as much or as little of whatever they wanted.  And there was plenty to choose from:  Caesar salad, lettuce wraps, smoked salmon dip, stuffed mushrooms, Swedish meatballs, spinach artichoke dip, crackers and cheese, strawberry cream pie, pecan pie, eclairs and cream puffs, fresh fruit, carrot-ginger soup, broccoli soup, dollar sandwiches with turkey or ham, deviled eggs, strawberry cream pie, pecan pie, eclairs and cream puffs, fresh fruit and chocolate peanut clusters.  Everyone said they had a great meal, and goodness knows they ate a lot!
Since Randy needed to be in Okeechobee to serve the Christmas Eve dinner, we knew we wouldn’t be able to visit family on Christmas Day.  So we joined Clyde and Nancy and spent Christmas in Sanibel!  Sanibel is about 2 hours away, and traffic was light.  The purpose of going to Sanibel was to go shelling; I am in love with seashells and want to create jewelry from some of the prettiest ones.  Fortunately for me, Clyde, Nancy and Randy are willing to spend their day searching for shells.  Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the only place to do shelling is on beautiful sunny beaches.  We started out at the beach by the lighthouse.  Nancy had told me that there were more shells than I could pick up, but I didn’t really believe her.  So I was astonished at the number of shells - more than I could pick up, and that is a lot!  We spent an hour or so there, then moved to another beach further north on the island.  More sunshine, more waves, more shells.  What a great way to spend Christmas!
One of our goals was to see the sunset from a beach.  Nancy heard that the sunsets at Captiva’s beach were great, so we drove there as it started getting dark.  And yes, the sunset was beautiful.

Then we went looking for a place to get dinner.  Not an easy task, on Christmas day. The one or two places we found on Sanibel were absolutely packed.  Eventually we stopped at a gas station to change out of our wet clothes, and the guy there said that Perkins was open.  So we went there; turns out everyone else had the same idea, because although we didn’t have to wait to get a seat, the frazzled waitress said they were out of almost everything.   They weren’t quite out of food, but the meatloaf they had left was pretty dry.  But we were tired and hungry and glad to find a place to eat, so although it wasn’t the best meal, it was appreciated.  

It’s a good thing we had a relaxing Christmas, because the day after Christmas was hectic.  Randy has been putting in unbelievable hours to plan, organize and create wonderful meals, and his staff has worked really, really hard.  And there has been great feedback from most of the guests.  However, there have been a lot of issues with management, which Randy has tried to work through.  But what is unacceptable is that the manager treats Randy and the rest of the kitchen staff with a total lack of respect, and it gets worse every day.  In spite of our efforts to make this work, it became a choice between going along with this behavior or leaving, so we left. 

So the day after Christmas we packed the RV up and drove out of that park.  Clyde and Nancy had traveled a long way to spend time with us here, so they left with us.  We need time to plan our next move so we moved to another RV park in Okeechobee and will spend a few days here.  But since we are unemployed, what the heck, we headed back to the beach!   East this time, and back to the Jupiter area.  On the way we stopped at King Neptune restaurant for lunch.  It’s small - they only have 7 small tables, and it’s not fancy, but every thing they make is fresh and well prepared.  We shared conch fritters, Bimini bread and fried conch, and ordered scallop salad and mixed platters.
After lunch we went back to Blowing Rocks Beach, and it was so wonderful to spend another day in the sand and surf.  The water is still a little too cool to swim in, but it felt great on our feet as we climbed around the rocks.  This area has gorgeous orange shells that I just love; fortunately everyone was willing to help me gather some.  A lot of shells were in the holes where the surf sprays up through the rocks - Randy was especially good at searching those.

December 20, 2011 Part 2

It turns out any day spent with Clyde and Nancy is a good day.  We usually don’t start too early, but once we get going, it’s great!  Today was another fine example; we started out looking for alligators in the wild.  Nancy checked online to find out where Nubbins Slough was located, and we discovered that it was where we went gater-searching yesterday, with no results.  But since it was warmer today (mid-70s), there was a better chance the gaters would be out.  It took awhile, but we did see one lazying about in big canal that runs into the lake.  He (I’m assuming it was a male, but who knows?) was out in the middle of the water with only part of his head showing.  It was too far for my camera to get a good picture, but with Clyde’s binoculars we could see him pretty good.  The pelicans that were diving for fish didn’t pay him any attention, but they didn’t get too close, either.  In another part of the canal were a lot of big water birds called Anhingas.  They are the ones that stand on the river bank and spread their wings out to dry.  Apparently they don’t have oil in their feathers, so they get water-logged and need to dry out occasionally.  And a couple of Great Blue Herons were there also, fishing and sitting in the sun.  They are so beautiful - very large with distinctive markings and wispy decorative feathers.  

Next stop: Arnold’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.  It’s a small wildlife care facility that is located about 13 miles out of town.  They get a wide range of animals, for a lot of reasons.  Some are pets that are no longer wanted - there were a lot of cockatoos, which surprised me, because those are expensive animals and they make good pets.  Some of the birds they get can be adopted out, which is great.
Some of the birds are obviously recovering from bad health, like Ruby, who has beautiful scarlet head feathers but is missing a lot of her body feathers.  Apparently she has already regrown about half the feathers that she lost from bad food and indifferent care before she got here.  Besides adopting out pets when possible, the people who run the place release wild animals (who are usually here because of an injury) whenever possible.  The animals to be released are not on view to the public so they don't get too used to people.  But a lot of animals can’t be released; sometimes because their injury prevents it, but usually because by the time they come to the Center they are both used to people and dependent on them.  These are animals that should never have been pets, but somebody tried.  Like Fennec Foxes.  They are unbelievably cute because they are the size of a small cat and have ears as big as their heads.  But they are wild animals and don’t make good pets, even if they are raised with people.
They have a couple of Lynx, with slender long legs and tufted ears.  And  three cougars, which certainly looked healthy, but even if they can be taught to feed themselves, they cannot be taught to defend themselves against other cougars.  And they have Serval Cats, which surely have the most beautiful spotted coat of the entire cat family.
One of the Bobcats was stretched out against the fence, and the temptation to tickle those furry toes was almost more than I could resist. . . but I did resist because he just looked too comfy to bother.  Plus I was sure he could take my finger off pretty fast.   
It's a shame to see these animals in enclosures, but it was obvious that the staff gave them as much space and care as they could; the animals had significant room to move around, they had places to jump up onto, and they had areas where they could get out of view whenever they wanted.  Plus there were usually more than one in an enclosure, which meant there was someone to cuddle next to, like the Servals were doing.  A couple of the big cats (not sure which ones) started fussing at each other.  Honestly, they acted exactly like our two housecats at home.  One lay on her side, staring up at the other with one paw raised and sort of growled.  The other sat right next to her with one paw raised and growled back.  They would raise their voices a bit, give a tentative swipe at each other, and then ignore each other.

There was a nice setup for the two otters, with a little waterfall and a deep pool.   The otters kept standing up on the rocks to get a good look at us, while we were looking at them.  They have a couple of skunks here and an albino hedgehog, a walleroo and a porcupine.  And several marmosets, which are the tiniest monkeys ever.  And a Capybara (which is the largest rodent in the world), and a few Sulcate Tortoises, who were chasing each other around at top turtle speed.
A couple of tame deer roam the lawn.   One deer only has three legs, but he gets around just fine, and likes to be pet, too.  
A small deer was resting in the shade, and I was sure she would jump up and run away when I got close.  But she didn’t, and I got to pet her!  They liked to lick our arms and legs - they have soft tongues, like a dog.  They were so beautiful and very gentle with us, and it was like a dream to be able to pet them.  But those gorgeous eyes don't really connect with ours, like a dog's eyes would.  I think that's a sign that part of them will always be wild; they can adjust to us, but they don't really belong to us.
The butterfly garden has paths lined with flowering bushes and shrubs, and butterflies like this Zebra-Striped butterfly just flit around the ones they like best.  It was so peaceful to wander around there.  
And everywhere are beautiful Peacocks and Peahens, including an albino Peahen who was a little shy - she would scoot away when I approached. 
But the Peacocks weren’t shy - they practically ignored us while they socialized with each other and showed off for the peahens.  I certainly could not ignore them!
We wrapped up the day with a trip to Dairy Queen for dessert, followed by dinner at Clyde and Nancy’s RV.  No, that’s not backwards, that’s just right!

December 20, 2011

Florida is more than I expected.  For starters, I didn't expect to have cows as our neighbors.  But we do - there is a small herd next door.  The cows are not de-horned and could do some damage.  But of course, I don't go into their fields.  I stay on my side of the fence and feed them celery tops, and we get along fine.  This guy is the young bull.  He does't have horns yet, but he's already almost as big as the cows.  
There are a ton of palm trees here and lots of fields, but there are also big stretches of land near the roadway that are not cultivated, and they have a lovely, primeval look to them.  I don't know what kind of tree this is, but I love the way they look.   
For anybody who knows our dog Sugarbaby, this will come as a surprise - he's made a doggy friend!  A couple in the park asked me to keep their little Yorkie/Poodle mix while they were gone for the day.  Because she's just a few months old, they asked if I would keep her in our RV, so she wouldn't be alone all day.  Of course Julienne and Sugarbaby both were unhappy about that, but I took each one on long walks with her, and eventually they got used to her. By the end of the day Sugarbaby decided he liked her. . . a lot.  He followed her everywhere, sniffing her and bumping up against her.  She got a little tired of it but she was very patient with him. A couple of days later they met again in the Park, and he not only remembered her, he still liked her!
And for the reason we are in Florida . . . things like Jupiter Beach.

December 18, 2011

Last night Randy’s kitchen fixed a big dinner for the RV Park.  They served Greek Salad, Relish trays, Tomato-Basil soup, Amaretto Carrots, Seasoned Peas, Pork tenderloin, White cake, Coconut cake, Chocolate cake and Bread Pudding with Vanilla Sauce.  All for $9.00!!!   This morning they followed it up by serving a great breakfast -  Bacon, Sausage, French Toast, Biscuits, Toast, Fresh Fruit, and an egg station where they fixed omelets to order.  And that only cost $6.  Basically, for a little bit of cash, people can eat very well here. 
But it’s a lot of work so this afternoon we needed to do some non-restaurant things.  Clyde and Nancy came to the rescue, driving us out to see some of the local stuff.  For starters, we went looking for alligators.  They are around here somewhere, so we should be able to find them, right?  Not so fast...For starters, Lake Okeechobee is simply huge.  When you stand on one shore, you can’t even see to the other shore.  That’s a lot of area to look for gaters in.  But Nancy asked someone at the local computer store, who recommended Lock 7.  We assumed that would be a big lock-and-dam, similar to the one we saw at Alton, Illinois.  But as far as we could discover (by driving around and asking people standing on the bank), it’s a marshy area not too far from our RV Park.  There were no gaters there today because half a dozen air boats were roaring in and out of the marsh.   But we drove around a little, and found a great view of the lake.  

The computer lady had mentioned a second gater-viewing spot, not too far from Lightsey’s restaurant, where we had a great seafood dinner a few nights ago.  We went there, and once again, no gaters.  A local fisherman told us that it’s too cold for them to be out today.  Apparently they have dens in the river bank (or lake bank), and the dens have air pockets, like beaver dams.  When it’s cold they dive underwater to their den and lie there, out of the cold water, and don’t show up for the tourists.  Silly gaters.  But at that point I quit caring about gaters, because being in that area was like stepping into Audubon-Land!  There were large water birds everywhere.  All kinds of beautiful, amazing birds.  
There were a lot of Wood Storks - I didn't know about these birds before now.  They are very pretty except for their heads, which are very ugly.  It looks like a vulture head got stuck onto an egret’s body.  They have wicked-looking beaks, and the other birds tended to move out of their way.  
A young Brown Pelican sat in the middle of the Wood Storks; all of the time we were there he kept his head down and never lifted his beak; maybe that’s Pelican for “I’m not a threat to you".  

A couple of other pelicans who like their own space sat on top of a nearby boat; the adult has a lovely white neck.

A Great Blue Heron, with it’s distinctive black shoulders, stood on the dock, watching the rest of us.
A couple of large Sandhill cranes flew in; they are easy to recognize by their cap of red feathers.  They are usually found in pairs, and that seems to give them confidence; they walked fearlessly among the other birds, and occasionally would rush at the others to get them out of the way.  
The reason all these birds were here is because there is a fish-cleaning station.  A couple of successful fishermen were cleaning fish and the birds were lined up quietly all around them, hoping for scraps.

And on top of the cleaning station stood a Great Egret, watching for something that would be worth coming down for.  What a wonderful place this is!

December 13, 2011

Amazing day yesterday - it started with a tornado and ended with a double rainbow!  Clyde and Nancy recently joined us at Silver Palms RV Park and yesterday we all drove east to find a beach. The day started out sunny but after awhile it got cloudy and as we neared Jupiter, we saw a small tornado.  For some reason it didn’t seem to matter to us - it was off to the side quite a ways, and the weather wasn’t too bad where we were, so we just kept going.  
We intended to take Clyde and Nancy to King Neptune restaurant in Port Salermo, but when we got there we found out it was closed on Mondays - bummer.  Nancy quickly checked the internet for other restaurants and we ended up at The Whistle Stop - a tiny, tiny little restaurant with just 8 chairs (most of them at the counter).  A customer recommended the steak sandwich so we all ordered it, and it was really good - we would go back there.  We also stopped at Importico’s Bakery for a treat - chocolate bread, chocolate covered eclairs, almond cookies and bear claws.  What can I say? Life is good.
The lady at the restaurant recommended the beach at Jupiter Island. Jupiter Island is one of the richest areas in the country; people like Celine Dione, Greg Norman and Alan Jackson have homes here, as did Tiger Woods, although he doesn’t live there anymore, not since a certain car accident.  Like Jensen Beach before, it was windy and fairly cool, but perfect for walking in the sand and looking for shells. I will try to make jewelry later with some of the shells we found.  
We found something else, too - lots and lots of tiny Portuguese Man-o-War. Technically they aren’t jellyfish (they’re something called a siphonophore), but they look like jellyfish and they sure sting like jellyfish. Sometimes that sting can kill, but we were careful and didn't get stung. They look funny - like little blue plastic bubbles. The bubble part is the bladder that makes them float. The tentacles were not easy to see on these little ones, but they would be more visible on the mature ones. 

After walking all over that beach for over an hour, we got in the car and drove a mile up the road to the Blowing Rocks Preserve. Beautiful and very rugged rocks - old Anastasia limestone - fringe the coast here. The rocks are set up from the sand a little bit, and when the tide is in, the surf comes splashing up through holes and crevices in the rocks. Another beautiful spot, and of course, I got a few more shells.  
Endangered turtles (loggerheads and leatherbacks) lay eggs on both of these beaches but it was the wrong time of the year for that so we didn’t see any.  We talked to a young man who was trapping sand fleas (aka mole crabs). These critters are about an inch long with a hard shell on one side, and their underside is the part that looks like a flea, with jointed legs folded up under the shell. For a moment I was afraid he was catching them to cook, but it turns out they are used for bait.
We had plans to go out to dinner, so eventually we had to leave the beaches and drive back to Okeechobee. Along the drive we saw a brilliant rainbow, with a lighter rainbow beside it.
For dinner we met some other couples from the Park and went to Cowboys, where they serve all-you-can-eat baby-back ribs on Monday, and mighty good ones, too. Because they are “all you can eat”, I felt obligated to have a second helping - well, I didn't want to insult their cook! But next time (and there will be a next time), I’ll try to limit myself to one rack.

November 28, 2011

Don't know why I haven't posted anything for awhile.  Thanksgiving dinner was absolutely wonderful - Randy's kitchen provided a fabulous meal for about 90 people.  And Sunday we drove to Jensen Beach.  It was beautiful, although the surf was pretty strong and the beach was narrow.  According to the lifeguard, it's been windier than usual, which accounts for the waves, which accounts for the disappearing sand.  But it's normally somewhat breezy at that particular coast, and the sand usually gets re-deposited after awhile, so he wasn't too worried about it.  He gave us a good recommendation for lunch - King Neptune in the nearby town of Salerno.  We ordered fresh conch appetizers and a Rueben Grouper sandwich; it was all excellent, and now I know I like conch if it's prepared right.  Then the waitress there gave us a good recommendation to Tausha's Seafood Market.  And nearby that is a great bakery.  Three great shops in one area!  Too bad the whole place is almost 60 miles away, but it's nice to know where some of the good stuff is.

November 18, 2011

The weather in Southern Florida is possibly the most changeable weather we've been in.  One day it's high 80s and not a breath of air, and the next day . . . 30 mile an hour winds:
But it's still almost 70 degrees, so no complaints!

My First Tea Party

Can’t beat this retirement!  Randy spends a lot time either working in the restaurant or thinking about working in the restaurant.  Which, of course, is his idea of fun - it’s not easy, but he is wonderful at it.  His first dinner was a success and now he’s planing an amazing Thanksgiving dinner for even more people.  
My idea of fun is sleeping late, visiting with neighbors, sitting in the hot tub, cooling off in the pool, learning new card games and occasionally getting into the workout room.  Fortunately that pretty much sums up my day!  And it’s WARM here - actually it’s downright hot!  Sometimes I can’t believe how much I love this.  

Now I’ve started hosting a Tea Party on Thursday.  Fortunately for the guests, Randy’s kitchen provided the treats today; a perfectly English menu of tiny scones with raspberry jam, a light sponge cake, and, of course, cucumber sandwiches.  It was a lovely tea, and I am looking forward to the next one.

Getting ready to cook again!

Been having fun since we got here.  Sunday was a great day; went to church, had a great lunch at the church pot-luck, went home for a nap, took a line-dancing class, and then relaxed in the hot-tub.  Retirement is hard to beat!
But Randy had been keeping busy; there has been a change of plans here and Randy is now in charge of the RV Park’s kitchen.  The owers want to move from a clubhouse kitchen towards a fine-dining restaurant, which is right up Randy’s alley.  So now he spends all his time in the kitchen, organizing, planning and preping.  Tomorrow is his first dinner, for about 28 people.  He's busy, but enjoying being in the kitchen so much.  

November 5, 2011

We are settled in here in Okeechobee (which I, unfortunately, tend to pronounce as Ochee-Ko-Bee) and so far we really like it.  The RV park is beautiful, spotlessly clean and well landscaped.  We are at the edge of town, near hotels and McDonald’s, but the area is surprisingly rural - across the fence from our 5-star RV resort is a field of cows.  But the cows don’t bother anyone and some beautiful cranes usually share the field with them.
The town is small; they say there are about 6,000 people here but it doesn’t look like that many to me.  Unfortunately it has succumbed to the blight of fast food restaurants and Walmart.  I know we haven’t been everywhere yet, but so far we haven’t found a nice dinner restaurant.  But the sun is shining and it looks like there are a lot of biking and fishing possibilities, and we really like the people here.  A couple of the guys in the park taught us a card game called Hand and Food.  It’s played with FIVE decks; each hand has 13 cards and when you play out all of those, you have to pick up another hand (called a Foot) of 13 more cards.  Lots of fun, even though Randy and his card partner won not only every game, but every hand.  Must be beginner’s luck - I’ll get him next time!
We already took one side trip to the nearby town of Stewart.  It’s a small, pretty tourist town on the eastern edge of Florida.  Florida tends to get cloudy in the afternoon and the last of the hurricane season is blowing itself out, so the water was really choppy.   We got in a good walk, around town and under the bridge with traffic going overhead.

Looking forward to really exploring this part of Florida! 

November 1, 2011

The day after visiting Cade's Cove, Ron and Sharon drove us over to see Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.  The area is full of beautiful fall colors, tourist shops and a surprising number of pancake restaurants.  We stopped at the Christmas store, which was so big that I almost got lost in it.  And I didn’t particularly care if I got found - I love all that Christmas stuff!  But eventually they did find me, and we drove up to Ober Gatlinburg, a skiing destination high in the mountains.  It was full of surprises; besides the ski lift they have a water slide, a maze, an indoors Carousel and an ice rink.  But the best thing was the view across the Smoky Mountains.
On the way back through town we stopped at Corky’s.  Corky’s is our favorite Memphis restaurant for dry-rub ribs, and we were a bit concerned that they would not be as good here.  But they were almost as good, and as bonus, they were “all you can eat”.  Guess they didn’t know how many ribs Randy can eat…
Wednesday, after 2 wonderful days with Ron and Sharon, we had to get on the road again.  No sightseeing this time, just driving.  Got as far as Cecil, Georgia before we stopped for the night.  We’ve stopped there before, back in August.  It’s not close to anything interesting that we know of, but it’s on the way and it’s open late.   

The next day Randy drove the rest of the way to Okeechobee, and in the afternoon we set up in the site that we hope will be home for the next few months.  The RV park is beautiful and the people are really nice.  The season hasn’t quite started yet so right now there are just a few people here; most of the workers and a few of the seasonal lot owners.  Monday evening everyone got together for a costume party in the clubhouse.  Besides being fun, it was an nice chance to get to know our neighbors. 

October 24, 2011

Today our friends from this area drove us to the gorgeous Cades Cove Park in the Appalachian Mountains.  The leaves are turning color now and it’s so beautiful.  There are usually lots of bear and deer in the park, but today, of course, they were all hiding.  Never mind - the view was worth the trip!  For my birthday Randy got me a new toy - a Nikon D3100.  This is the best camera I’ve ever had and I LOVE it!!  And Cades Cove Park was a great place to practice with it.  The camera has a lot of functions that I’m not comfortable with yet, but I will get there.  

After spending several wonderful hours seeing the park, we came back to Clinton and had dinner at the Golden Girl Cafe.  Then, because our friends felt bad that we didn’t see wildlife in the park, they drove us out to a nearby dam where there are usually deer.  It was after dark but there sure were lots of deer, just off the side of the road.  We had to watch carefully to make sure they weren’t crossing the road at the same time we were using it!

October 23, 2011

We decided to leave St. Louis on Saturday because Sunday there’s a big race that will close some of the major roads.  It was hard to leave - so many good people at the St. Louis RV Park, and we’ll miss them all.  But it’s time.
I noticed that I tend to write about sunshine and rainbows, grand vistas and great people.  All true, but this might give the impression that RVing is all fun and joy.  So to balance the reporting, here’s what happened yesterday.
We’d been on the road a few hours and it was getting dark outside but we wanted to make it to Lexington, KY before stopping. 
  1. We started smelling something bad.  I checked the soles of our shoes (you never know what you will step in when you take the dogs outside) but found nothing.  So I started checking the rest of the RV and made a horrifying discovery - the black water tank was overflowing into the RV!!  RVers know exactly what that terrible phrase means, but for the others, just picture a full toilet overflowing.  Very Bad News!  Randy pulled over right away and stopped the mess while I cleaned it up as best I could, but that’s a major cleanup job that can’t be handled ad-hoc, so after doing the best I could with two rolls of paper towels and a bunch of cleaning rags, we had no choice but to hit the road again. 
  2. I gave Randy a wrong direction, which meant he was driving a 38 foot RV with a Jeep in tow down a badly-lit street.
  3. We had to unhook the jeep to get turned around.
  4. The cat threw up on the bed. 
That’s a lot to handle in one evening and I have to admit that in the confusion, voices were raised.  Just a little.  Just a tad.  At the end of the day I cleaned the floor as best I could, spread Nature’s Miracle around liberally to fix what I couldn’t clean, hand-washed the bedspread, and we spent the night in a Walmart parking lot.
But things always look better in the morning.  Now we are parked in Hieskell, Tennessee and spending time with some good friends we had met in Nova Scotia.  We just finished a great spaghetti dinner (in their RV, not ours!), and life is bearable again.  But I’m going to need to find a powerful carpet cleaner real soon!

October 22, 2011

Today we took Sugarbaby in for his post-dental checkup.  He's doing so good - he's gained almost a pound (which is a lot for a little dog like him) and he's full of energy.   His lower jaw has a weak spot in the center but the vet said that since he's eating well and thriving, there isn't any benefit in shoring it up with wire.  So he's got the green light for our next trip, which will be to Florida.

Since my job search in St. Louis hasn't been successful yet, Randy has found a position in Florida.  He will be working in a restaurant in Okeechobee.  He's really looking forward to being in the kitchen again, and I can continue to look for an IT job via the internet and Skipe - gotta love the technology that lets us be so mobile!  We will leave tomorrow, headed south to warmer weather.

October 21, 2011

I am still catching up on visiting people; I finally got to spend some time with Dezina.  In fact, after we talked for hours, I spent the night there, then headed to Washington in the morning to celebrate my birthday with Mom.  Mom really likes us to get together to celebrate birthdays; since I started RVing I usually disappoint her, but this time I made it.

I'm back home today, and for those of you in the St. Louis area (if you don't already know this), if  you register your birthday with Houlihan's online, they email you a birthday certificate for a $15 entree.  Sure beats getting a birthday song!

October 19, 2011

Sure enough, the good weather is gone!  Today it's about 45 outside and windy.  Feels like Chicago!  This week we will make a decision about where to winter.

October 17, 2011

We’ve seen a lot of St. Louis recently, so Sunday we drove across the river to Alton.  Had a very relaxing day checking out the Lock and Dam, Robert Wadlow’s statue, and some of the beautiful Victorian houses.  For dinner we wanted to do something different.  Friday was Imo’s Pizza, and Saturday was Guido’s on the Hill, so Sunday Randy made dinner - BBQ shrimp and cheese grits, Lambert style. 
And today Clyde and Nancy are on their way,  We have enjoyed their company so much that we hate to see them go; and besides, it looks like they are taking the great weather with them!  All of a sudden the 80 degree weather is gone and it’s chilly and rainy.  Hello, winter!
But the good news is that Sugarbaby is feeling better.  Thursday we took him to the vet to get his teeth cleaned and that went well, but the vet had to pull a few of his teeth.  Not unexpected, but we have to give him some pain meds and antibiotics.  The first night he felt pretty bad, but by Saturday he was feeling OK.  Now he is more active than he’s been in quite a while, which is wonderful.  Although I'm guessing that now his tongue won’t stay in at all.

Our job as St. Louis Tour Guides

On Thursday we started our day as tour guides for our friends by picking up breakfast at World’s Fair Doughnuts, where they make their great doughnuts by hand.  Our next stop was the Basilica.  I almost hate to describe it because it’s always such a joy to introduce people to it when they visit.  Suffice it to say that the Basilica is a gorgeous cathedral and well worth visiting.
For lunch we went to the Everest Cafe, which just might be Randy’s favorite restaurant in this area.  They serve a unique combination of Nepalese, Korean and Indian food.  I am not known for my adventurous spirit when it comes to food, but this food beguiles me every time.  We recommend it to everyone.
Of course we had to go to the Arch, but on the way we visited the Old Cathedral.  Inside it’s all clean lines with pale blue walls and polished pewter. After visiting churches in the Boston, I would say this cathedral has more in common with their style than with the French St. Louis style.
Fortunately it wasn’t too busy at the Arch so we were able to visit the museum, see the film and still go up to the top of the Arch.  What a fabulous view!
We didn’t go into the City Museum, just drove by it.  But one of my favorite parts is the fence, which looks like it was designed by Tim Burton.
Next day we started at Soulards; most people have been to a Farmer’s Market, but not like Soulards!   Then we got some Gus’s Pretzels and Dad’s Original Scotch Oatmeal Cookies.  Having primed our appetites, we went to Carl’s Deli for lunch.  And to walk off all that food, we went to the Zoo for a few hours.  I was there last week but always enjoy it because I always see something new.  This time I surprised myself by checking out the insects.  I can guarantee that if there wasn’t glass between me and the tarantula, my thumb would not be next to it - I HATE spiders!

October 14, 2011

This week I visited with my mom and 2 sisters.  Randy had ordered some TV Ears for Mom, and when they arrived I drove to Washington, IL to show her how to use them.  At this point it looks like they will help her hear her beloved old movies (which don’t have closed captions), and that’s the main thing.  We have a routine we follow when I visit Mom - a trip to the Goodwill, a trip to Walmart, and a trip to Dairy Queen.  This time we beat our personal record by going to Walmart 3 times in 2 days!  Mom is a huge fan of the photo copier at Walmart - she goes through all of her old photos (and they go back to my great-grandparents) and makes copies for the family.  Unfortunately Walmart recently updated their photo copiers, so now she has to get used to a new machine.  And to date she is still using film, but film is getting harder to find so she recently got a digital camera.  She's not quite comfortable with it yet but she loves taking photos, so it won't be long before she gets the hang of it.  When she learns that you can take as many digital photos as you want and then select which ones you want to print, there will be no stopping her!
Some friends from our days in Arizona City have come to visit us here in St. Louis, so we get to play tour guide for them.  They were wonderful tour guides for us when we visited them in Albuquerque, so the bar is set pretty high.  We will do our best!  

Sunday, October 8 2011

Today, just a quiet day at home.  I spent part of the day creating ivory jewelry again.  I haven't worked on that for a few months so, with all the reorganization we've done, my equipment was tucked away in several different places.  This ivory, which is between 500 and 2,000 years old, is so beautiful!

October 8, 2011

We did not visit any great St. Louis landmark today, but this evening we went to help some friends celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.  Congratulations to Gene and Jan Helmkamp, some of the nicest people ever!  It is a privilege and a joy to be able to call them friends.

October 7, 2011

Today we went to G&W Meats for some brots.  G&W is another “must” on our St. Louis list.  Not only do they have great fresh German meats and cheeses, but if there is a long line of customers, they hand out free beer to help you relax while you wait.  Consequently, they are the only place where people actually HOPE there is a long line.
To continue the theme of German food and beer we went to the opening night of Soulard’s Octoberfest, which is apparently now the 3rd largest Octoberfest in the country.  They had the biggest TV screen ever set up in the park, with the Cardinal baseball game on so that nobody had to stay home to watch it.  Good thinking!
And St. Louis has an advantage over other towns; Octoberfest is held in the park right next to Budweiser.  And although Budweiser isn’t owned by Americans any more, it still has one thing that St. Louis (and the rest of the country) really loves - the famous Budweiser Clydesdales.  And for the first time they were at Octoberfest.  It was quite a show - the full hitch team pulled a wagon full of beer right up to the stage, with the dalmatian riding on top!  Those beautiful horses are the only thing that could get a bigger cheer than free beer.  There are just no words for how gorgeous they are, and St. Louisians are so proud that this is their home
We saw the Alpine horns but missed hearing them, and I’m really sorry about that.  They are amazing-looking, and I’ll bet they have an unusual sound.

Here’s a question - why did German men, at some point in time, decide that shorts with suspenders and knee socks was a cool “look”?  ‘Cause it’s not….

October 6, 2011

To celebrate being in St. Louis we went to Carl’s Deli (of course!) and to Soulard’s Farmers Market.  If you get to St. Louis, you MUST do both of these things.  Right now Sourlard’s is a great place to get beautiful fall pumpkins and gourds.
Yesterday Randy and I were giving some tourist advise to a couple visiting St. Louis for the first time and I realized that I hadn’t kept up on the sights and places I was recommending.  So I’m going to start visiting or re-visiting some of the St. Louis highlights.  For starters, this afternoon we went to the Zoo.  St. Louis has one of the best zoos in the country, and to top it all off, admission is free!  If you are lucky enough to find free parking on the street, as we did, it’s that much better.
Truthfully, I am usually a bit of a pain when we go somewhere where there are animals; I act like I’m on special assignment for National Geographic and they are counting on me to get the perfect picture.  This time I just went to relax and enjoy the sights.  We saw a rhino mamma with her big baby . . .
and an elephant mamma with her even bigger baby.
There were some lovely Thompson’s gazelles there; they are on the menu of so many of the big cats that we think of as the “Fast Food of the Serengeti".  Camels sat quietly, looking just like the big rocks in their enclosure.  The Grizzly bear decided the only way to handle the un-seasonal heat was to sit in her pool, chin on the edge, and watch the tourists.  The penguins were being fed while we were there; we were surprised at how polite they were, waiting for the keeper to get to each of them.

I always thought the giraffe was the most graceful animal, but now I have to give that distinction to the hippo.  Four of these huge, bulky animals were playing in the pool, and the clear side panel gave us an amazing view.  They danced on their toes, doing leisurely pirouettes and slow-moving leaps through the water.   And while I know that the best zoo can not match a life in the wild, these hippos really seemed to be enjoying themselves.