Meet Me in St. Louis

July 23 - 30, 2010

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Friday, July 30 - Back to Iowa

Up at 5:30 a.m. for one last walk with Pam and Clarabel, then it was back to check the weather. The radar indicated thunderstorms and rain for most of Iowa and scattered areas of Missouri. I decided to head back to bed for a little more shut-eye before checking on the storms again.

We ended up staying awhile to see what path and how fast the storms were moving which gave us the opportunity for one last trip to Starbucks and one last game of Scrabble—sorry I had to beat you, Pam. (Not really—rematch?)

With no end in sight for the rain and storms to subside, I decided I needed to power through, suck it up, and get going. So, we got the car loaded up and left Pam and Matt’s at 11:40 a.m. I decided to take the Avenue of the Saints up through Hannibal home so I wouldn’t have to be on I-70 for so long. It’s actually a very nice stretch of 4-lane, 65 MPH road—an easy, no hassle drive that was just the ticket so I didn’t have to fight traffic in addition to rain. With only a couple of brief stops, we made it back to mom’s in Marshalltown around 5:30 p.m.—just a little under six hours.

Back at mom’s, Mary and I regaled her with stories, pictures, shopping purchases, and video re-enactments. It was fun going through the week’s events again and remembering all the amazing things we did and the non-stop fun and silliness.

I think Carol Burnett’s theme song that she sang at the end of every show sums it up best:
“I’m so glad we had this time together. Just to have a laugh or sing a song. Seems we just get started and before you know it, comes the time we have to say, ‘So long.’”

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Thursday, July 29 - Union Station and Crown Candy

5:42 a.m. - Walked 1.3 miles with Pam and Clarabel
8:51 a.m. - Placed order at Cappucino's for breakfast items - French toast, eggs, sausage, pancakes, muffin, scone, and caffienated beverages.
10:27 a.m. - Departed for downtown St. Louis: destination Union Station.

The minutes and hours are counting down. We have seen and done (and EATEN) so MUCH since arriving nearly a week ago. As I look at our lists of "THINGS WE PLANNED TO DO," "PLACES WE PLANNED TO GO," and "PLACES WE PLANNED TO EAT," we have checked off everything! There are 268 images in the picture folder on my desktop and an infinite number of treasured memories of our moments of laughter and times of silliness engraved in my mind.
There is such an eclectic array of things to do in the St. Louis area that Mary and I are planning to make this an annual trip. One of our favorite experiences at Union Station today was the interactive demonstration at The Fudgery complete with samples and purchases.
We were treated to great food and fun music videos at Hard Rock Cafe St. Louis. Mary and I had fun walking around checking out rock legend icon items displayed on the walls around the restaurant--like KISS rocker Paul Stanley's guitar and Alice Cooper's sequined patriotic costume. We, of course, had to pick up a Hard Rock Cafe souvenir before leaving as well.
Sometime after we had secured our trip plans here, we caught an old episode of Man vs. Food on the Travel Channel. It showed him attempting the 5 malts in 30 minutes challenge at Crown Candy in downtown St. Louis. We immediately knew that would have to be one of our must-see stops. It's one of St. Louis' oldest and most popular attractions. This was completely evident by the line of people standing outside waiting to be seated. Crown Candy Kitchen opened in 1913. The history is fascinating and the ice cream is wonderful. I encourage you to click on the link I have included here to learn more.
Back at Pam and Matt's, Mary and I started consolidating our purchases from the week and getting some laundry done in preparation for leaving tomorrow. Supper was a quick bite from Steak 'n Shake, so Mary and Pam could watch the results show of "So You Think You Can Dance."
I have had an absolutely fantastic week here in the O'Fallon area with my sister and brother-in-law and my daughter. Thank you Pam and Matt for showing us such a great time!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wednesday, July 28 - Maryville University & The Butterfly House

For breakfast goodies this morning, Pam and I went to the original Panera Bread--St. Louis Bread Co. After selecting chocolate chip muffies, a scone, and a bagel, we went through the Starbucks drive-thru for our standard lattes before returning to Pam's to devour it all. We needed our sustenance for another day of adventuring.

Pam and Matt are both employed by Maryville University in St. Louis. "Maryville is tucked away in the heart of the suburbs on a 130-acre campus where natural beauty abounds. It's difficult not to be inspired by the rolling hills, wooded areas, creeks, two lakes and miles of walking trails." This Fall, Pam will have been at Maryville for 19 years!! As an administrative assistant in the office of enrollment, Pam must wear many hats. She not only works with counselors and other department staff, but she oversees many interns and workstudy students as well. The amazing aspect to me about Pam's job is that she loves it and puts her heart and soul into it. I don't think I've ever had a job I've loved, so I don't know what that would be like. However, Pam is not only co-worker to many she works with, but friend, confidant, 'sister', and 'mom'. Even though she's taking this week off from "work" to spend time with her actual sister and niece, she wanted us to see where she worked and meet the people she works with.

After introductions and a little tour of the Maryville campus, our breakfast was beginning to wear off. Five Guys Burgers and Fries was definitely a good choice for lunch to take care of that hunger. Pam had never eaten at one but had heard reviews, and we were very glad we tried it. One of their slogans boasts that it's the Willy Wonka of Burgercraft!! My mouth is watering now just thinking about the delicious juicy burger and how all the toppings and fixin's overflowed from the bun. The fries were something to write home about as well!

The Butterfly House in Chesterfield, Missouri was next on the day's agenda. With the heat index reaching 110 today, however, the glass conservatory where over a thousand live tropical butterflies freely fly was more than sweltering. There were not as many photo opportunities as I was hoping for as the cold-blooded, winged wonders did not stop very long to pose. There were a couple of butterflies that did light on Pam for a few seconds. I figure it's because Pam is so sweet.

Obviously after seeing all the beautiful butterflies, the next stop had to be ice cream! Oberweis Ice Cream and Dairy Store served up some creamy goodness that was just the ticket to cool us down. I got a hot fudge sundae with chocolate ice cream, Pam had a scoop of peanut butter and chocolate, and Mary ooohed and aaahed over the cookie dough in a chocolate dipped waffle cone bowl.
Back at Pam's, a nap and some Wii game playing were in order before we ventured back out to finish using our game credits at America's Incredible Pizza Company. We played another round of mini golf, gave Mary some Skeeball lessons, and raked in some prize tickets at some of the other arcade games. We scarfed down some of the buffet items and headed back to Pam and Matt's. We finished up the night watching "So You Think You Can Dance" while eating the warm, fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies Pam kept taking out of the oven.
I'd say we packed in more than an adequate number of adventures today.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tuesday, July 27 - Six Flags

The first thrill ride of the day began before we even got to Six Flags. Due to an unexpected detour, we ended up winding around, up, and down and around on a back road for 20 minutes before arriving at the amusement park. (I swear the "county engineers" of long ago hooked a goat up to the highway making-machine when designing the roads in Missouri).

Once inside the gates of the park, we posed for pictures with Bugs Bunny, Tweety Bird, and Daffy Duck. Our first adventures were slow to start. I was stopped by one of the midway-type vendors to shoot four baskets and win a prize. I was all ready to accept the challenge when she told me it would cost $10 to play. After I got done laughing, we immediately walked away from there. Then I embarrassed Mary by getting us in a line for a ride that we were both too tall to be on. Another couple rides we attempted to ride were temporarily closed, and yet another attraction came to a complete halt after we had been in line for ten mintues when one of the antique roadsters wouldn't start and they had to remove it from the area before continuing to load passengers.
When we found the bumper cars, that's when we slammed the fun into action! Mary and I then rode the Shazam followed by Mary and Pam riding the Log Flume. Mary LOVED the log ride and she and Pam rode several more times. Meanwhile, the ultimate thrill-seeker of our group was off conquering the various roller coasters around the park. Matt rode 12 rides in all including The Batman, The Screaming Ninja, Superman - Tower of Power, and Evil Knievel just to name a few.
Panda Express was our lunch stop and we met a few more characters in and around taking the train ride around the park. Thunder River was the next water ride attraction that Pam and Mary enjoyed. Then Pam shared a funnel cake with Mary, and we purchased a few souvenirs whilst enjoying the gift shops' air conditioning. Mary summed up the day best when she said, "Today was a fun-filled adventure with rides that will make you wet and dry."

The car ride home was for rehydrating, cooling down, and peeling off the moist shoes and socks from the water rides to dry out the feet. A rousing game of the license plate game led by Uncle Pam had us all doubling over in laughter.
Supper was courtesy of Penn Station Subs, and it was an early bedtime for us tired park-goers.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Monday, July 26 - SHOPPING and America's Incredible Pizza Company

Pam was up at 5:30 a.m. this morning to walk Clarabel. I was hoping to join her, but my eyes would not stay open that early. We did eventually get going and had a very enjoyable day. My posts today on facebook in case you missed them were:

"Women be shopping!" and "I'm exhausted from all the shopping (and so are the funds)."

When we got back to Pam's and were carrying the packages into our bedroom, I started to say to Mary that we were going to '...have to consolidate bags', but before I could say 'consolidate,' she said, "...get a bigger room??"

On our way to St. Louis Mills shopping today, we stopped at Barnes & Noble and the Home Goods store--that was after our breakfast stop at Starbucks, of course. Mid Rivers Mall and the Justice store in O'Fallon were also among our shopping stops today. Books, jewelry, clothing, shoes, and kitchen gadgets are just a sampling of the many fun purchases we made today. (Note to husband: could you scoot on over to Western Union and wire us some more money? Thanks!)

The food court at the Mills provided a great lunching place. Pam ordered from Panda Express and Mary and I selected cheeseburgers, fries, and a shake from Johnny Rockets.

On tap for our evening's entertainment was a trip to America's Incredible Pizza Company in St. Peters. The all-you-can-eat buffet features pizza, pasta, soup, salad and a variety of desserts. There are four themed dining rooms to sit down and eat in. Mary chose the Starlite Drive-in where the Elvis movie "Speedway" was playing on the big screen.

The complete indoor playground at Incredible Pizza gave us the opportunity to try out our skills at go-karts, bumper cars, glow-in-the-dark mini golf, mini bowling, and over 100 arcade games. Matt raced the Go-Karts while Pam and Mary and I tried out the Route 66 Mini Golf--or Mary's version of golf which includes a shuffleboard/soccer-type style of golfing I don't believe is legal play. Next, Mary and I gave each other whiplash in the bumper car arena. Pam decided to just document the experience with pictures and video rather than partaking in the action. In bowling, Pam taught Mary about the "granny style" method of rolling the ball down the alley. And before we knew it, they were turning up the lights and announcing that the game room would be closing. We had a great time, and we're hoping to go again one more time before we leave the St. Louis area.

On the way back to Pam and Matt's, we voted that a stop at Baskin Robbins was absolutely necessary. Unfortunately, they were out of my favorite flavor--Chocolate Mousse, so I had to settle for a hot fudge sundae with Pralines 'n Cream ice cream--the sacrifices I've had to make on this trip--oy vey!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sunday, July 25 - Missouri Botanical Gardens

After only four hours of sleep, I got up to walk with Pam and Clarabel. The temperature and humidity readings were much lower due to the coldfront and storms that pushed through last night. In our two and half mile trek around the neighborhood, we saw many tree limbs down and portable basketball hoops blown over from the 60 mph winds that pounded the area. We are thankful the destruction wasn't any worse.

On our way to today's destination, we made our necessary caffeine stop at one of the many Starbucks locations. The Missouri Botanical Gardens in St. Louis is 79 acres of both indoor and outdoor horticultural displays including a 14-acre Japanese Garden. The whole experience is a photographer's paradise. Obviously May and June would be the optimum time to visit here with many more flowering plants in bloom; however, there were plenty of other opportunities for not only still photography shots but video with commentary as well. With Pam as our tour guide, bathroom humor was inevitable when we came across the Diarrhena plant. (I just hope no one witnessed the video that we produced for this one). Other low-budget comedies that will probably only make it to the youtube scene included various skits involving the genus and species of the following varieties: interrupting fern, sneezeweed, hydrant faucetis, and snakebark maple. Additional unrated footage not meant for anyone elses' eyes included the Maze-witch Project and a very B-B-B-B-Bad to the Bone rendition by Mary I'm too sheepish to talk about.

Even though we had only seen a fraction of the attractions, we were feeling parched and peckish and searched out a source for sustenance. The sassafras dining area in the Ridgway Visitor Center totally fit the bill. We ordered turkey paninis, the Quiche of the day, and Nathan's World Famous Hot Dog, chips and drinks. A trip to the Garden Gate Shop for postcards and souvenirs concluded our visit, and we were on to the next stop of the day--known as "A St. Louis Tradition."

Ted Drewes has been selling frozen custard for decades and the throngs of people that can always be found surrounding the establishment are proof positive that the custard is the finest in St. Louis. The draw for Mary was more about the fact that the Jonas Brothers had eaten custard there rather than the custard itself. Mary immediately spotted the ball caps lining the upper inside window like a curtain. Each bill of each ball cap was autographed by various visiting celebrities. Mary wanted to know how much it would cost to buy the ball cap sporting the Jonas Brothers' signatures. We didn't inquire, but we did purchase and enjoy the creamiest, most refreshing custard I've ever tasted.

Back at Pam and Matt's, I decided a nap was in order. Pam concurred, and we each got some much needed zzzzzzzz's while Matt and Mary lounged in front of the television. Waking refreshed and hungry, Pam and I made a run to Qdoba for supper. While dining, we watched the DVD we had brought of Mary's Aladdin performance from the Donna Reed Festival. Then Pam took us on a trip down memory lane finding an episode of the Hardy Boys on the dish. A regular Sunday occurrence in our house was to get Uncle Jack's Tacos and set up trays in front of the TV to watch the Hardy Boys. Mary did not share our infatuation with Joe and Frank and wanted to know why they were called Hardy. She thought Parker Stevenson's character looked like Chevy Chase from the movie Fletch and she kept trying to think which actress Shaun Cassiday reminded her of.

Picture swapping and more Wii games and silliness finished up the evening. Another great day in O'Fallon!!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Saturday, July 24 - Chesterfield Mall

On the way to the O'Fallon Farmers and Artists Market this morning, we drove through the Starbucks drive-thru for the required morning lattes. The staff will definitely know us by name and drink choice by the end of the week.

The fresh produce and baked goods at the outdoor market looked and smelled quite delicious, but we were doing more looking than buying. Mary chose a Monkey pendant necklace and we found some gift ideas as well. Thank goodness the vendor from Hannibal with the handcrafted Adirondack furniture didn't charge us rent for lounging on his samples.

Pam gave us a little tour of O'Fallon and we stopped at Wal-Mart for a couple more items before heading back to the house to pick up Matt.

Seventeen years ago today, Pam and Matt exchanged wedding vows, so Olive Garden was the lunch destination of choice to celebrate their anniversary. Traveling over the Missouri River, we entered St. Louis County and set our sights on Boone's Crossing where not only Olive Garden awaited, but our first round of shopping. Pam was excited to take me to Fleet Feet to experience the very personalized shoe fitting opportunity that she herself had recently enjoyed. I was very impressed and purchased my first really good pair of walking shoes in a long time. Then it was finally time to indulge in the tasty cuisine at Olive Garden. We gorged ourselves on breadsticks and salad, packed away the entrees, and then ordered desserts which we devoured in record time--amazingly enough.

The excessive heat advisories and warnings didn't keep us from our next round of shopping at Chesterfield Mall. We hit some of Mary's favorite stores collecting some awesome buys, and then wandered around the store entitled "I Don't Want to Kiss A Llama," before heading back home.

In the conditioned air back at Pam and Matt's, we relaxed and watched Matt and Pam's wedding video. It was especially fun for Mary to see her 20-year-old brother as the 3-1/2- year-old ringbearer!! We then fired up the Wii for a few rounds of Just Dance before the thunderstorms rolled in and knocked out the power temporarily. Several rounds of Wii American Idol were played after the storm threats moved out of the area and we finished the night with Pam's "homemade" chocolate chip cookies.