Monday, May 30, 2011

Silver Mines and Mill Stream Gardens

Yes, we are still in Missouri. Our plans are to leave on Wednesday for Indiana. On Saturday my sister Julia and her husband Cal, as well as their daughter Katie and her boyfriend, and sister Linda visited us in Farmington. We drove with them to Silver Mines and Mill Stream Gardens to do some hiking. The two areas are in Mark Twain National Forest, one of the most beautiful locations in Missouri. It is here that the St.Frances River cuts a rugged canyon through granite bluffs. Silver Mines was once the location of a busy mining district at the turn of the twentieth century. Remnants of the old mine and and dam are still present.
The only white water in Missouri is here at the St.Frances River. While we were hiking along the river, we stopped to watch a man navigate his kyack through a section of rapids. As you can see in the picture, this area is full of large boulders. It was necessary for us to do some rock scrambling while hiking through this forest. Parts of the river at this point do look a bit like Johnson's Shut Ins. Julia and Katie could not resist the cool flowing water and did stick their feet into Tiemann Shut Ins at Mill Stream Gardens.
The St. Frances is currently quite swollen from recent rains. All that water seems to have attracted a large in- flux of gnats. If we wanted to avoid eating them with our lunch, it was necessary to eat in the car. While we were eating lunch I happened to look out at a patch of honeysuckle and observe a beautiful swallowtail butterfly who was quite busy flitting among its flowers. He would not stop to pose for me so I captured him in action, which is why his wings appear a bit blurred in the picture.
 Another picture I took that day, and which I am proud of, is that of a large water snake. I had to lean over a bit on a high rocky river bluff to get his picture. He was catching a nap on a outlet pipe for the dam, which extended into the river. Certainly no one could disturb him there!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Springfield, Illinois

Last week John and I moved our home to Farmington, Missouri so we could spend some time visiting with his family. However, in the ensuing days, we have made a couple of trips back to St.Louis. Last Wednesday we attended a Cardinal game and Saturday we joined our Holy Cross family for a bus trip to Springfield Illinois. John and I have visited the Lincoln sites in Springfield but have not seen the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum. As we entered the museum statues of Lincoln's family, as they appeared in 1860, greeted us.
Behind them is the south portico of the White House as it looked when the Lincolns moved in. The museum has a walk-though journey covering the years of Lincoln's life which includes, besides exhibits in the White House, a replica of his boyhood home as well as his law offices in Springfield. Modern technology is very much used in this museum. I especially liked the "you are there" setting of his law office. While Lincoln is studiously reading, and very oblivious to his sons Tad and Willie, they are jumping on his desk, scattering papers and ink everywhere. The sounds of their giggling fill the room. Currently a special exhibit is at the museum featuring excerpts from Doris Kearns Goodwin's book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. That gallery does an in-depth study of Lincoln's first cabinet;  how he chose each member and his political acumen while debating the initial momentous decisions pertaining to the attack on Fort Sumpter by the Confederacy. That exhibit, more than any other one in the museum, showed the brilliance of Lincoln's mind. I could have spent much more time than I did in the museum, but our tour group had to move on for lunch. We ate at the "Incredibly Delicious" restaurant in the Aristocracy Hill area of Springfield. The French restaurant/bakery is in an old Victorian style home built in the 1840s. Below is a picture of the front of the home. The grill work and decorations on top of the pillars are quite beautiful to see, and the inside is equally spectacular with gleaming woodwork, fancy chandeliers and stained glass windows.  Equally important, our food was delicious, and purchasing one of their baked desserts is a must.
We finished out our day walking around the historic section of Springfield, where an art fair was being held. Below is a picture of the fair, with the historic old courthouse in the background. Rain was predicted for the day but it turned out to be quite sunny and pleasant.

Friday, May 13, 2011

An Evening at the Black Repertory

If you live in St.Louis you still have this week-end to see "Black Pearl Sings!" at the Black Rep theater on Grandel Avenue. John and I saw it Thursday evening and thoroughly enjoyed it. Jazz vocalist Denise Thimes is outstanding as Pearl, a black woman  in a Texas prison 1935. The only other character in the play is Shanara Gabrielle who plays Susannah, a wealthy white woman who meets up with Pearl while searching for prisoners who know folk music dating back to the years before the civil war. The story itself is historical fiction and is not a biography. It is a story of two women from different cultures sharing their passions and ambitions. Pearl is willing to sing the songs which her family passed down, including the one her grandfather taught her while coming over to America on a slave ship.  In exchange for a recording of Pearl's songs, Susannah agrees to search for Pearl's daughter from whom she had became estranged while being imprisoned. Pearl sings all the songs she remembers without any musical accompaniment. A couple of times when she is singing she thumps on the floor with her bare feet, in time with her music.  She does that so well that I thought for sure there had to be drums accompanying her!  Denise Thimes is more of a singer than actress, but in this play she artfully portrays a black woman who has borne plenty of pain in her life, but  remains determined to keep her pride intact at all cost.  What is equally impressive to me is that Denise is able to pull all this off so well, even while grieving the death of a sister who was killed last month.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Augusta, Missouri

To celebrate Mother's Day John and I decided to join my sister Julia, her husband Cal and their daughter Katie (who came with her boyfriend) at the Montelle Winery in Augusta. As you can see in the picture above, we even had entertainment while we enjoyed our lunch. The winery advertises that it is the most scenic winery in all of Missouri. It is certainly a beautiful spot as its dining pavilions overlook the Missouri river hills. And Sunday was finally a perfect spring day, with no rain. All the water puddles near us seem to be attracting shore birds.We have never seen so many egrets in Missouri as we have recently. We even saw a blue heron on our way to church Sunday.  
The cafe at the winery on Sunday had a buffet for Mother's Day, which seemed to draw a fairly large crowd of people. However, our group was just as satisfied with sandwiches, crackers and cheese for our lunch. Of course we did wash all that down with several bottles of delicious wine! I think that both John and I have been itching again to hit the road,  because we took a slow meandering route over several country back roads for our return trip home. The fields around Augusta are starting to display the new crop of grape plants for 2011. By the way, there are several other wineries besides Montelle in the Augusta area. Missouri has its own Napa Valley. Our plan is to remain in St.Louis for one more week, and then to move south to Farmington.

Monday, May 2, 2011

St.Louis-Stuttgart Volksmarch

The Volksmarch Club originally started up in Germany. Loosely translated into English, the German word volksmarch means a people's walk. John and I, together with my two sisters Linda and Julia, have taken quite a few of these six mile walks in and around the St.Louis area over the years. We certainly have come to appreciate the cultural differences which can be found in the many different neighborhoods of the metropolitan area while taking these walks. My favorite walk probably will always be the Hill area. When we take that walk we always end up at one of the fantastic Italian restaurants of that area. Saturday our walk started in Brentwood. This walk was primarily residential, and included one large park plus a couple smaller ones. The large park is Tilles, which was quite busy when we walked through it. Many sport's teams were playing in its ball fields and there was a walk for Huntington's Disease. Below is a picture of that park's play area for children. I once worked for Children's Hospital so that entrance sign caught my eye.
Fortunately for us the weather was pleasant Saturday, except for being a bit breezy and cool. Many people were out in their yards doing much needed gardening. For St.Louis it has been a very wet spring and there has been few opportunities to get any gardening done. However, many of the yards are still quite beautiful with blooming lilac and azalea bushes. I even saw a rose just starting to bloom.
It was pleasant walking the residential area of Brentwood with its many tree-lined streets and well manicured lawns. The picture below also should give you feel for what we enjoyed on that walk.
 Our walk also took us past Mt.Calvary Lutheran Church. Its grounds are quite beautiful with their flaming red maple trees. It seems like in a couple of weeks barren trees have now suddenly filled out with their fresh brightly colored leaves. All the rain has certainly given nature a bright new look!
By the end of our walk we were famished and quite tired. Suddenly the Kolache Factory on Brentwood Boulevard  looked like a good place to eat. It has a variety of meat, egg, and vegetable- filled rolls which, when heated, are quite delicious. It was the perfect place to end our walk.