Monday, December 11, 2017

Photographic Memory

Earlier this year the Webster Groves Public Library invited me to have a solo photography show in their art gallery during the month of December. I have participated in a half dozen shows over the past couple of years, but have never done one on my own. The thing is, with a solo show your work has to carry the load of the entire exhibit. Your piece is not one of many, but rather many pieces of you. But I felt like my work from Australia and New Zealand could stand on its own, so I agreed to exhibit.

As I had come home from my trip with slightly over 3,500 photos, it was rather daunting to narrow it down to the best. Normal shows at the library contain 20-25 pieces, but I chose to show the 34 pictures that I felt best represented the two countries I had visited. Next I had to determine what size to make the prints. They needed to be large enough to show the details, but not so large that it would limit how many photos I could hang. Originally I wanted all of them to be the same size, mounted only behind an 11"x14" glass frame with no mat or wood to detract from the pictures. However, nine of the photos would not fit in that format without cutting off pertinent items such as a kangaroo's tail, for example. So in the end, I had those nine printed 10"x20" and mounted on gatorboard. It wasn't exactly what I had envisioned, but it worked. After I received all the prints back from the lab, I applied wire to the back of each per the library's hanging system requirement.

Jim was a godsend in helping me with my final photo selections, and providing input on the best way to display the pictures. He spent several hours with me on December 2nd hanging the show, and came up with an inventive method to level the photos when the hanging system at the library kept tilting all the images downward. I went back to the library on the 3rd to clean off any fingerprints and apply the photo labels to the wall. The show was ready to go!

Wednesday I got my hair cut, and my long time stylist, Charles, offered to have me come back on Friday so that he could style my hair for the reception at no charge. I took him up on his offer, and he would not even accept a tip from me.

The opening reception was held Friday night from 6-8. Jim and I got to the library at 5:30 to set up the tables. A surprise was awaiting, as the librarians said flowers had been delivered for me. Jim had handed me fresh flowers when he got home from work, so I knew they hadn't come from him. As it turned out, our Minnesota friends Kathy and Paul, who had joined us in New Zealand, sent a floral arrangement for the opening. How nice is that?

On one of the tables we put the wine, water, 7-Up, lemonade, ice and glasses. A second was for the cheese and sausage tray, along with a vegetable tray, crackers, grapes and a candy dish. The third was reserved for the amazing chocolate chip and cranberry white chip cookies that I had ordered from a friend. They were a huge hit, as I knew they would be!
reception tables
Through the course of the evening around 35 people came through the exhibit, including stylist Charles and three of his friends. A few were folks that I didn't know but who had read about it on the library's Facebook page or in the calendar section of the Webster-Kirkwood Times. Several neighbors, many friends and a few of my Women in Focus photography group stopped by. I was touched by how many of my pickleball ladies came as well. I was not able to take many pictures, so thanks go out to my friend Caren Libby for those below.
reception photos
Everyone complimented me on the quality of the photos as well as the way I had chosen to display them. And I even sold one that night! In the end, I'm glad I faced my insecurities and put my work out there. Sometimes you just have to get out of your own head.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Giving Thanks

This year we traveled to Iowa to spend Thanksgiving with my in-laws. Normally we celebrate at home or in the D.C. area with the kids. For several reasons we decided to head north this year. The weather cooperated, with sunny, dry roads on the way up and back, and moderate temperatures. We had a wonderful time with great food, even better conversation and some rousing games of Five Crowns. And we were lucky enough to be able to participate in the annual Wolterman Christmas cookie decorating extravaganza. We missed seeing the kids, but fortunately they will be home for Christmas in a few weeks.
Thanksgiving 2017
Saturday Jim and I spent several hours setting up my photo exhibit at the Webster Groves Public Library. It is my first solo photography exhibit, and I titled it Koalas and Kiwis as all 34 photos are from our trip to Australia and New Zealand. Deciding with pictures to use was a challenge as I had over 3,000 to choose from! But I think I came up with a fair representation of what we saw. Friday is the opening reception at the library from 6-8 p.m., so I am planning what I want to serve at that. What I know for sure is that it will include wine as well as some of my friend's excellent chocolate chip cookies. The photos will remain up until December 30th.
photography show
On Sunday I once again photographed Santas on the Loose, a fun 5K run in Webster Groves sponsored by the Webster-Shrewsbury-Rock Hill Chamber of Commerce. The money raised goes to support the Crisis Nursery in St. Louis. The weather was outstanding, so the two hours I was there flew by.
Santas on the Loose
The weekend wrapped up last night with a Christmas program at my niece's church in south St. Louis county. There was singing, dancing, and more musical instruments than I could count. What an immense amount of talent that church has in its membership! It was good to catch up with my niece, her husband, and her mother-in-law before the season gets too crazy.
Twin Rivers Christmas Program

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Gazing into My Crystal Ball

Saturday four of us from my Women in Focus photography group got together to take pictures using crystal balls. What a unique way to look at things! While the temperature was a fairly balmy 66 degrees when we met at 9:00, the forecast was for rain and high winds. We decided to go for it anyway.

We first drove to the Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park in East St. Louis, which offers possibly the best views of the arch and downtown St. Louis. It is a little remote, but there was actually one other person there taking pictures when we arrived. It is here that I fell in love with my crystal ball. I can see that I'll have lots of fun using it as a photography prop.
Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park
From there we drove to Bellefontaine Cemetery in north St. Louis. One of the most beautiful cemeteries in St. Louis, Bellefontaine is also the final resting place of many of the Who's Who in St. Louis history. While at the cemetery, the winds picked and the scattered clouds added to the mood of the setting. The 20 plus degree temperature drop and rain we could have done without though!
Bellefontaine Cemetery
I found it somewhat ironic that a rafter of turkeys was hanging out in the cemetery right before Thanksgiving. Hiding in plain site? Gobble, gobble - Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Fall is All Around

Though we had a lot of rain this spring, the summer was fairly dry in my area so I wasn't sure what the fall colors would be like. Holy cow, over a couple of days last weekend things exploded! It's like an artist sat down with a paintbrush and cut loose. Our maple tree out front changed dramatically from Friday to Sunday.

On Wednesday I took off to try to capture some of the glorious colors around me. I'm so thankful that I follow other photographers on social media as I learn where all the cool stuff is taking place. My first stop was to the Missouri Botanical Garden. I had just been there a couple weeks before, and not much color was showing. This visit was totally different, and fall color was abundant.

Missouri Botanical Garden
After the garden I drove to nearby Forest Park. The colors in the park were outstanding as well. Since it was not too crowded, I drove to some areas of the park that I had never been to before. It was just lovely, and as an added bonus I hit my 10,000 steps before even leaving the park. Now that's my kind of exercise!

Forest Park

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

These Tomatoes are no Joke

cherry tomato plants
A couple of years ago a few rogue tomato plants popped up in our front planting bed. There must have been seeds in the mulch because I don't put in any vegetables. Between the bunnies and the squirrels, it is an exercise in futility. The bed isn't the best for tomatoes as it only gets the morning sunlight, but for whatever reason the tomatoes took off. They were cherry tomatoes and delicious in salads and just as a snack. And oddly enough, the squirrels left them alone.

Last year a couple new plants popped up, in addition to a couple in the original location. But this year they was an explosion of plants in the front yard. There were seven or eight in the same beds as last year, but five more came up in the bed on the other side of the front walk. All of the plants were quite prolific, despite receiving zero care from me. You know darn well that if I had planted tomatoes, this would not be the case.

With the frost warning approaching, we picked all the tomatoes on Sunday, red and green ones alike. I filled a huge silver bowl, and Jim nearly filled a large bucket. What to do with all of these tomatoes? I read and dismissed dozens of recipes, particularly those that required a food processor or any straining of the tomatoes.

Sweet Tomato Jam
Monday I made some Sweet Tomato Jam, which has an interesting mix of spices and jalapeños in addition to sugar and some honey. But that sauce had to cook for two hours, and in the end I got two and a half pint jars of the jam. Way too much work for too little reward. I can't see eating this on toast, but I will say that it was good on tilapia.

Tuesday I decided to modify a Pepper Jelly recipe that came with my jam and jelly maker. I substituted the tomatoes for the green peppers, cooked it in the jelly maker, and then processed the four pint jars the recipe yielded. I haven't tried it yet as it didn't seem like it would go with the Halloween candy I was eating last night. Why did the tomato blush? Because it saw the salad dressing.
Pepper Jelly
There were still pounds of tomatoes left, so I froze them today. I now have four quart size bags in the freezer. That buys me time until I decide what to do with them. I know I want to make some tomato juice in the Vitamix blender at some point.

All this work makes me relieved that I don't have a large garden on my yard. I don't know how our foremothers did it all. What I do know is that some of the rogue tomato plants will not see the light of day next summer. Enough is enough.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Family Ties

Last weekend was the annual Crusham family reunion in Cincinnati, and my sister and I drove over as we try not to miss the opportunity to see so many of our favorite aunts and cousins in one spot. We arrived on Thursday in time to meet a couple of cousins on my dad's side of the family for dinner. Our aunt and one other cousin could not come due to the fact that the cousin's daughter-in-law was in the hospital, and they were helping to care for the young children in the household.

Friday we had the chance to have my mom's remaining two sisters to ourselves when we took them out to lunch. At ages 95 and 90, every moment we get to spend with them is precious, and we knew that at the reunion we would have little alone time with them. It was wonderful to catch up on what everyone had been up to since we last met.

The next morning I met up with one of my cousins downtown so that we could go to City Flea, an upscale outdoor flea market, and then down to the riverfront. There has been incredible development along the river over the years, and I hadn't seen any of it. The weather was perfect, so we were able to stroll along the pathways and take in all the changes. St. Louis could learn a lot from Cincinnati, as the area was vibrant and filled with people enjoying all it had to offer.

Smale Riverfront Park
Margie, Loraine, Betty
& me
Saturday night we had about 40 people show up for the reunion, which is held in the back room of Price Hill Chili. Everyone orders what they want to eat and drink, and pays their own bill. It works out great. We have had the same waitress every year, and she does a superb job of keeping things straight. I'm not quite sure how she pulls it off. This year we had some additional guests as a new (to me) 2nd cousin reached out after she found my blog online. In the past I had written about the history of the Crusham family, and she found the blog while doing some genealogy research. She wanted to know if I would be willing to talk with her, and I told her I was coming to Cincinnati for the reunion. I invited her family, explaining that I had interviewed her mother and aunt a few years ago as they had grown up in my great-grandparent's home. She passed the word along to her siblings, and she, her sister, along with the sister's son and granddaughter, and their mother were able to come to the gathering. They brought some old photos along, and it was great to meet with people from a different family line. We share the same great-grandparents, so our grandparents were siblings. I'll be eager to follow up with them down the road.

Sunday four of us went to an Asian restaurant for dim sum, which I had enjoyed when I was there in August. My sister had never been, so I thought she would like to try it. It is such a great place, and fortunately my sister agreed. That night a different group of us went out for dinner. As I have said in the past, I feel like all I ever do is eat my way through Cincinnati. But what a way to go!

Monday we took off for home, despite the dreary forecast. I don't mind driving in the rain as long as the weather is not threatening. I did get off the highway at one point because it was raining so hard that visibility was poor. We waited it out at a gas station, and the rest of the drive was uneventful.

I'm so grateful that we have the opportunity to see everyone, even if it is just once a year. The memories will carry me through until the next time.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

College Reunion

Jim's fraternity had a reunion last weekend in conjunction with the Iowa State vs. Kansas football game. We drove up to Ames on Friday, arriving in time to check into our hotel and freshen up before going to the Iowa State University Alumni Building to meet up with the guys and their significant others. Some people we had not seen in nearly 40 years, while others we met as recently as the Total Eclipse in August. It was great to catch up, and it helped that I am Facebook friends with a number of them. It certainly makes it easier to break the ice.

Alpha Sigma Phi
While we had beautiful weather on the drive up to Iowa, all of that changed once we got to Ames. There was a gentle mist on Friday night, but Saturday's forecast was 100% chance of rain. And rain it did. We tailgated with the group at the motor home of one of the fraternity brothers before heading to our seats. The last thing you want to hear on a crappy day is the announcement of a 30 minute start time. Fortunately we had heard the forecast and came somewhat prepared, but even with some rain gear on it was not the most fun I've ever had. We watched the first half of the game and enjoyed the halftime entertainment before taking off for somewhere dry and warm for a late lunch. Iowa State was leading 24-0 at that point. The final score of the game was 45-0. Wow!

Meredith Mansion
After lunch we drove to Des Moines with another couple, meeting up with some friends who live in the area. Jim and I spent Sunday walking (or perhaps I should say driving) down memory lane. We found the school where I attended kindergarten, stopped by Holy Trinity which was our home parish and where I went to school 1st-7th grades, and checked out Meredith and Hoover where I spent 8th-12th grades. Then we drove to St. Mary of Nazareth, where my family attended church when the new parish was established in 1964 on 11 acres of what had been Meredith (of Meredith Publishing Company) farm. This is where Jim and I were married, and had our reception in what was once the Meredith family mansion.

Des Moines house
We also visited my old home and stopped at nearby Woodlawn Park where I spent so many hours first as a child and later with my niece and nephews or children I was babysitting. The house has been repainted and the park totally redone. It all goes to show that while you can go home again, home may not look like you remember it.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Worldwide Photowalk 2017

Before getting to Worldwide Photowalk day, I have to mention that the opening play at the Fox Theatre this year is The Bodyguard. As much as I enjoyed the film version starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner, I had a hard time thinking that a theater performance could come close to replicating the movie. I was so wrong. This production is magical, with phenomenal dancing, singing and acting. I think I summed it up best in my tweet, "The Bodyguard is a concert within a play!"

Saturday was Worldwide Photowalk day. This was the tenth year in a row that professional photographer Scott Kelby from Florida has encouraged photographers from around the world to get together to walk, shoot photos and have fun with other photographers. I had never heard of it before, but one of the gals in our Women in Focus group signed up to be a group leader in St. Louis, and set up a walk at the National Museum of Transportation.

Jim decided to come with me since it would be a mixed group of photographers and not just women from my group. There were 15 of us at the museum, shown in the picture which was taken by a passing stranger. While I knew a few of them, many I met for the first time. What a nice group of people!

At the museum, we all kind of went our own ways to take pictures. I had not been to the museum in years, and was surprised by how much more has been added since the last time I was there. For the $8 admission fee, you certainly get to see a lot of cars, trains, bicycles, a couple boats and even a plane. Twelve of us met again at the entrance at noon and headed out to eat. Amazingly, we found a restaurant that could seat us, despite the fact that it was lunchtime on a Saturday. Jim and I hope to do more meetups with these photographers in the future.

National Museum of Transportation

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

A Pickleball Festival

3rd Shot's a Charm
The first ever pickleball festival took place in Merriam, Kansas (a suburb of Kansas City) last weekend. On Facebook there is a group known as Pickleball Forum, with members from all over the world. The guy who set up the group had stated that when the forum reached 10,000 members, he was going to hold an event so that people could meet face to face. He lived up to his claim, creating the 3rd Shot's a Charm Pickleball Festival. I talked it up with some of my friends who play at the Salvation Army, and four of us signed up to attend the three day event. In the end, 140 attendees from 22 states (including Hawaii), Canada, England and even Serbia descended on Merriam.

The $135 registration fee included three days of pickleball from 8 in the morning until 9 at night, two nights of local food and entertainment, and a tour of Kansas City aboard a double decker bus. Franklin Sports was the sole sponsor of the event, and each attendee received a pickleball bag, three balls, a new paddle, a small towel, a pickleball keychain, and a festival t-shirt. Incredible!
Our group drove over on Thursday, stopping for lunch at Maggie's Bar & Grill in Boonville prior to our scheduled tour of nearby Warm Springs Ranch. The ranch is a 300-acre facility that is the birthplace of every Budweiser clydesdale seen on television, in parades, at Grant's Farm and the Anheuser-Busch breweries. Walking tours are offered twice a day from March through October. Currently it costs $14 for adults to take the ninety-minute tour, which can be scheduled and paid for online at the Warm Springs Ranch website.

The grounds, as you might imagine, are beautiful and immaculate. Our tour guides were knowledgeable as well as funny. Oh, and like most if not all of their other tours, you get two free beers at the end of the tour. While the best time to see a newborn is in the spring or early summer, we were lucky enough to be able to meet five day old Rave and his mother Ria. Rave will hold the distinction of being the last baby born in 2017. So cute!
Warm Springs Ranch
After we checked into our rooms in Merriam on Thursday, we grabbed dinner at a nearby restaurant before going into the World Gym to check out the facility. It was actually easy walking distance from our hotel, which was great as we only had one car for four of us. Twelve indoor tennis courts had been converted for pickleball, I suspect before this festival was even a thought. The facility was large enough to accommodate this group, and had an outdoor area where the food/music could be held. While it was a tad stuffy in the building due to the fact that it is a dome and the days were pretty warm, overall it was a good, central location to hold the event.
World Gym
On Friday we took a midday break from pickleball to visit the National WWI Museum and Memorial in Kansas City. Designated by Congress in 2004 as the official U.S. WWI museum, the 80,000 square-foot center is dedicated to remembering and understanding the Great War and its impact on the entire globe. It holds the most diverse collection of WWI objects and documents in the world, and thus requires a good amount of time to due it justice. It is well worth a visit.
National WWI Museum and Memorial
It was back to pickleball after visiting the museum, followed by the included meal of Kansas City barbecue accompanied by a jazz band. None of us were up for more pickleball after that, so we had a rousing game of Five Crowns back at the hotel.

Saturday morning I played a few games of pickleball after breakfast while the rest of my group rested up for the 11:00 bus tour. I met up with them after a quick shower, and we headed to the top of the double decker bus. Thankfully we did not need to take the interstate to get downtown, so other than ducking for a few low lying branches and the excitement of our bus slightly hitting another bus along the route (whoops!), it was a fun trip.
double decker bus tour of Kansas City
We grabbed lunch when we got back, and then it was off for more pickleball. The dinner that evening included grilled burgers and hot dogs with all the sides while a band played tunes from the 60s, 70s and 80s. They were great, and had the crowd out on the dance floor. We ended our evening with more Five Crowns.

Sunday morning we were all too pooped to play pickleball, and we had the drive home ahead of us. We did stop for a look at a relatively new facility just north of Kansas City with the unusual name of Chicken N Pickle. Looking to capitalize on the fastest growing sport in America, the site contains four indoor and four outdoor pickleball courts, along with a shop, restaurant, bar and numerous outdoor games such as ping pong, washers, and a large battleship game. The music was blaring, and families were having a great time with their kids. All the games are free except for pickleball, and I can see what the draw might be. It's an interesting concept, and it will be fun to see if a franchise comes out of it.
Chicken N Pickle
me with the Big Dill
What an amazing weekend we had. Everyone was friendly and kind at the festival, and there to have fun - not be overly competitive. It was great to get away with the gals, and see some sights as well. Hopefully this will become an annual event.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Garden Parties

Last week was a little busy, from a social standpoint. On the 17th we attended Chefs in a Garden, an annual fundraiser that supports Gateway Greening. Chefs from numerous venues in the area are charged with preparing a dish utilizing locally grown produce. The offerings are always unique, to say the least. The Four Seasons Hotel does a great job of hosting the event. Plus we all got designer water on our way out.
Chefs in a Garden
Tuesday was the SWT Design Garden party to show off the completed renovation of our third building. Though it was over 90 degrees outside, the shade and a slight breeze made it bearable. There was a nice turnout, though I had to leave around 6:00 to get back to our house as I had 15 women coming over at 7:00.

The gal who started the Women in Focus photography group in St. Louis is moving to Las Vegas, so instead of our normal monthly meeting at the library, I had suggested having a going away party at our place. I had pretty much everything ready ahead of time. I just need to throw together the sangria I was making. I had just tied the balloons out front when the first guests arrived. Several people brought drinks or appetizers to share, so we had plenty of food and beverages. I had a cake made at Schnucks, and it turned out so cute! It was a bittersweet night as we will miss Tiffany very much. But we are excited to see what life brings her way in Nevada.
Women in Focus
Thursday I played pickleball in the morning, and then that evening I went to Forest Park for some pickleball drills. That was a lot of pickleball in one day, but I know I need to practice if I want to improve my game.

cover as approved
Sunday I had breakfast with a friend to first of all catch up, but also to review the galleys of her new book. I provided the photographs for it, including a design for the front cover. The publishing company made a minor modification to the cover, and we both thought it looked great. Diane approved the cover weeks ago, so imagine our surprise and disappointment when the galley had the wrong cover on it! We also have some concerns about how the designer laid out some pages in terms of how the text interacts with the photos, but they may or may not take our critique under advisement. They are the publisher, after all. Hopefully they will at least address a couple of the bigger issues. I am eager to see the book in print, although it will be in black and white so the photos don't shine as much. The ebook version will be in color though, so that's cool. It is a pretty big thrill to see my name listed on the cover!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Grizzly Ridge

Last night we attended a donor's event at the St. Louis Zoo to celebrate the new exhibit, Grizzly Ridge. The exhibit opens to the public on Friday, but donors got a sneak peak. Jim's company, SWT Design, is not only a donor to the zoo but also was part of the design team for this project. It was a beautiful evening, and the donors came out in droves to see the two new grizzly cubs, Huckleberry and Finley. The two sibling cubs were left orphaned when their mother was killed in July of 2016 by Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Service for being a menace to domestic animals and a threat to humans.

The cubs were taken in by ZooMontana until the exhibit in St. Louis was recently completed. They could not keep the cubs as they currently have two adult males in their zoo, and they were concerned the males would not accept the youngsters. In the interim, they alternated the times that the bears were in the outside space so that the adults would never be in the same area at the same time as the cubs. I'm not sure exactly when the bears arrived in St. Louis, but they probably quarantined them for at least 30 days before letting them into their new enclosure. They were allowed in the outdoor space on Wednesday the 12th in preparation for their debut on the 13th. As mentioned above, the Centene Grizzly Ridge opens to the public on the 15th of this month.

Grizzly Ridge
The new grizzly space is very nice, complete with a waterfall and pool for the bears to swim in. The glass surrounding the space allows ample opportunities to view the bears. But as someone who takes lots of pictures, I have to say that I miss the old space where glass did not interfere with photography. Just for fun, here's a photo of the bear exhibit that my father took in 1943 when he was stationed at Jefferson Barracks for training.

St. Louis Zoo 1943
commemorative bears
Following a buffet dinner at the zoo, we were free to wander around a bit so we caught some of the antics of the popular polar bear. As it began to get to dark, we headed back to Living World to exit to our car. Everyone received a commemorative stuffed bear on their way out. It was so cute I could hardly bear it - ha!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

See You in September

Last week our daughter flew into St. Louis with a co-worker, who happens to be from Kazakhstan. As I was unfamiliar with that country, I had to look it up. It is a central Asian country that used to be part of the soviet republic. One of the things that is so intriguing about where our daughter works is the fact that many of the employees are from other parts of the world. How wonderful to be exposed to all those different cultures!

St. Louis Arch
They only spent one day in St. Louis, so we went to see Jim's office before going downtown to look at all the new projects. The girls went up in the arch while I hustled back to my car to move out of a two hour parking zone. The next morning the gals took off in a rental car to drive to New Orleans for the holiday weekend. Oh, to be young again...

Jim and I took off for Iowa to visit his family. We had a very nice weekend getting caught up with his parents and sister. When we arrived back in St. Louis on Tuesday, September 5th the timing worked for us to pick the girls up at the car rental location near the airport. Early the next morning, we took them back to the airport to return to LA. While our time with them was short, we had a lot of fun.

We have a heptacodium miconioides, or seven-son flower, shrub growing on the north side of our house. I've always enjoyed the late summer blooms and the peeling bark on this plant, but this year the shrub gave me another reason to love it. The painted lady butterflies have arrived in droves. In addition to all the bees, the plant is alive with color and movement. I've never seen anything like it outside of a butterfly conservatory. The beauty is very calming in light of all the devastation the hurricanes are causing throughout the world. I continue to pray for all of those affected by the storms.

painted lady butterflies

Monday, August 28, 2017

Visiting the Sunflower State

We had a wedding to attend in Colwich, Kansas over the weekend. Upon further planning for the trip, we realized that it would be too far to drive in one day considering that we were not getting out of St. Louis until 2:30 on Friday. We went as far as Kansas City and spent the night with Jim's sister and her fiancé. It was a quick visit, but it was nice to catch up with them both before continuing on our way at 10:00 Saturday morning.

We arrived at our hotel in Maize, Kansas (a northern suburb of Wichita) at 1:00, and fortunately they had our room ready so we were able to freshen up before heading over to Colwich at 1:30. That was a short drive of 4.5 miles, so we arrived in plenty of time for the 2:00 ceremony. Held at the Catholic church in town, the service lasted 1.5 hours and was the most traditional mass we have attended since the '70s.

The reception was held in the parish hall, so we just had to walk next door. It was a very nice event, and we got to see a totally different side of the priest. Still dressed in his black cassock, he sure could cut a rug on the dance floor! He knew all the dance steps as well as the words to the songs. It was fun to watch him. We might have spent a bit of time in the photo booth as well.
wedding fun
When I looked out our hotel room window the next morning, I was treated to the site of three hot air balloons floating across the golden sky! I looked for Dorothy and Toto, but they were nowhere to be found.
hot air balloons
Following breakfast, we drove to Derby, Kansas to see one of Jim's projects. Though it took us about 50 miles out of our way, it was nice to see as Jim had not been there since completion. From there we went to Baldwin City to have lunch with one of Jim's motorcycle riding buddies. Jimmy is a police officer in Lawrence, and while I have met him many times I had not yet met his wife. I'm glad we had the chance to change that.
Derby project
We then took a quick stop at JoEllen's house again as we had forgotten our cooler and ice packs there when we left Saturday. It wasn't too much out of the way, and we'll need those for our next trip. Then we finally got on the road for home. Unfortunately we had rain for 2/3 of that journey, but despite the ugly clouds nothing severe happened.
Kansas clouds
We put nearly 1,000 miles on the car over 3 days, and that is a bit much for my liking. But seeing family, friends and celebrating the next chapter in the lives of a great young couple made it worthwhile.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Total Eclipse of My Heart

Living in an area that would be experiencing a total solar eclipse on August 21, for the past few months the news and my Facebook feed were filled with stories and information about the first total solar eclipse to hit the continental U.S. in 38 years. For those of us in the greater St. Louis area, the last total eclipse was in 1442! So it was kind of a big deal, to say the least.

But before experiencing the eclipse, Jim and I celebrated our 39th wedding anniversary on the 19th. Our friends, Kathy and Paul, traveled to the area from Minnesota for the eclipse and spent the weekend with us before heading off to a relative's lake home in Illinois. It was special for us that they were here on Saturday as they sang at our wedding all those years ago. In addition to visiting, we explored the new green space downtown as well as the beauty of the Missouri Botanical Garden. It was a great weekend!
wedding anniversary
For the eclipse we were invited to a friend's lake house located about 45 minutes away. There were reports of how horrific traffic would be following the eclipse, and that coupled with the fact that I wanted to be able to play with my cameras during the event cemented my decision to stay home. While our house would only experience 1 minute and 16 seconds of totality as opposed to the 2 minutes the lake house would get, other factors weighed in on the decision to have a friend over and do things my way.

Mirassou Moscato
I had taken a class at a local photography class on how to photograph the eclipse, but I decided not to invest $110 on a solar filter that I would only use once. That being the case, the only safe time for me to take a photo of the eclipse was during totality. That was fine - I just wanted to experience the solar eclipse and not be viewing it through a camera lens.

I chilled a bottle of Moscato for "toastality", and Diane and I enjoyed a nice lunch inside before sitting on my front porch to enjoy the show. While it was hot out, a couple of fans cooled us between the times we ventured out of the shade to safely view the moon's progress through our eclipse glasses. As totality drew near, I set up a small video recorder, not directed at the sun, to record the changes in light and sound. Unfortunately a neighbor's dusk to dawn lights came on and messed up my light sensor, so that was a bust. Looking down at the ground, the appearance of moon crescents through the leaves of the trees was fascinating to see.

moon shadows
total solar eclipse
During totality the temperature dropped about 5 degrees, the birds silenced and the cicadas started chirping. Removing my glasses, I took a quick shot of the moon. I have no idea why my moon picture is white as all the others I have seen are black with a white ring. I would say that I blew the photo out, yet it is curious that you can see a couple of craters on the moon. It's a unique shot, at any rate.

For all the hype surrounding this eclipse, I can honestly say that it was totality worth it!