Saturday, August 29, 2009

Knights Inn Hell

Because our dorm move-in time was 9-12 on Saturday, we decided to stay about an hour outside of Chicago Friday night. If my car was going to be loaded down with all of Katie's worldly belongings, I was not leaving it in a downtown Chicago parking garage for easy pickings. So I found the Knights Inn on the internet, and diligently read all the reviews posted by guests. It sounded like an okay place to stay, and the price was less than half of a hotel in Chicago. As we pulled off I-55 and headed towards the large, not to be missed Knights Inn sign, I noticed a plethora of tractor trailer trucks parked near the gas station by the motel. Wait a minute...the gas station was the ENTRANCE to the motel. Hmmmm....I drove by the pumps and under the motel overhang, noticing a definite lack of any cars in the area, despite it being 6:30 on a Friday night. A sign on the motel entrance advised me to check in at the gas station.

As I took the car around the building, all I saw behind the motel in what appeared to be its parking lot were several derelict cars. Oh...and a boarded up window at the motel's entrance. Nice! The three of us looked at each other and decided that it might be better to try our luck with a downtown parking garage than the lot at the motel. I went into the gas station and told them I wanted to cancel our reservation. The woman behind the counter told me that they required 48 hours cancellation or we would be charged the room rate. At least I think that is what she was telling me. She was a little hard to understand. I explained that I didn't like the looks of the parking lot, and that the boarded up window reminded me of the broken down cars out back. She got a little insulted then - one of the cars out back was probably hers. Other guests were staying there, she said - they were just out at the moment. She then went and got one of the managers to talk to me, and he suggested that I take a key and at least go look at the room. They are under renovation, he said, and have just not repaired the window out front. So we looked at the room, which had granite counter tops in the bathroom yet oddly enough a piece torn out of the bathtub. I guess they just haven't repaired that yet, either. Anyway, we decided that since we could park the car right outside our window and keep an eye on it, we would go ahead and stay the night.

On the plus side the complex, and I use the term loosely, had a 24 hour restaurant and it was very good. We had great service and we all enjoyed our meals. When we walked back to the motel, not one additional car had been added to the parking lot. By the time we went to bed, two more cars were there, and by morning there may have been 8 cars in the lot. Some of them we heard arriving in the wee hours of the morning, having attended the racetrack in the area. Around 6:30 in the morning we awoke to room doors slamming and little kids running up and down the halls. The smell of cigarettes permeated the air, even though we were on the non-smoking side of the hall. We definitely did not spend a good Knight at the Inn.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Katie's graduation quilt is finished and waiting to be packed into the car tomorrow, along with all the other necessities of beginning a new life away from the only home she has ever known. The past few days have been filled with her doing laundry, finally taking the time to discard shoes and clothing that are too worn or too small or too unworthy of competing on a college campus.

Last night we went to see Katie's old babysitter, the woman who watched her from six weeks to six years of age. Judy has remained a treasured friend of the family, one who also cannot believe her "baby" is heading off to college. The evening was spent reminiscing, with "Do you remember..." and "Whatever happened to..." filling the air. We laughed as Judy recalled the story of laying a sleeping Katie on the entry foyer rug as she went down in the basement to switch the laundry around. The diaper man rang the doorbell, and while Judy didn't hear him in the basement, Katie woke up and began to crawl around. An alarmed diaper man called the police, thinking the baby had been left home alone. The stories, I think, will warm Katie's heart as the quilt warms her body in the cold Chicago winter.

Tomorrow we'll take our youngest off to the "big city", and we'll return on Sunday to a house filled only with the memories of the laughter and tears of our children. It's a bittersweet feeling, knowing that we have done our part as parents to raise our kids to be confident, self-assured young adults ready to tackle the world, flying from the nest to conquer whatever the world throws at them. Yet having been defined ourselves as "parents" for the past 24 years, it will seem odd not to be in that role on a daily basis. But just as we have enjoyed the new experience of seeing our son as a married adult, and thus gaining a new daughter, I think this time of going back to being just a couple will offer up opportunities for us to explore what roads we wish to travel next.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Oh, Say Can You See...

Not too well, actually. I had my annual eye exam today, and was due for having the eyes dilated. I don't mind the process, but I sure hate driving afterward. If only I could guarantee a cloudy eye doctor day. The last time my eyes were dilated, it was bright and sunny out, and I admit that driving home was a challenge. Despite the reverse drops that had been put in my eyes, the light outdoors nearly blinded me. I can't believe they think it is okay for people to drive that way. This year I took my sister with me to the appointment. She was going to drive us in her car, but when we left my house, her car refused to start. So I drove our smaller car to the appointment, knowing it was more the size she would be comfortable driving. It was nice to have Kathy's company for the fifty minutes I had to wait before being taken to an exam room.

The exam went fine, and I was handed the What Not to Wear roll up sunglasses for the trip home. Placing them under my own sunglasses, I was a sight to behold on the way out. I should point out that I am not a very good passenger under normal conditions. I usually am the driver wherever I go as other people's driving (including my sister's) bugs me. Add into the equation that I felt like I was looking through Vaseline and my sister was driving our car, and I was a nervous wreck. I finally leaned back and closed my eyes for the duration of the trip. Even now, four hours after the dilation, my eyes still look like a cartoon characters. Thank goodness this only happens once a year.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Beer Butt Chicken

So on our way back from Cincinnati we stopped in Indiana to visit Megan's parents. They graciously offered to make supper for us since we had the trip from hell on our way over as we traveled through Louisville. I'm not quite sure how this came up in conversation, but Alan mentioned making beer butt chicken. I was quite certain there was a joke coming, but no - he was quite serious. Even though it sounds kind of fowl, he explained that you insert a half empty beer can into the cavity of a whole chicken and grill it. Cheryl even has an awesome stand to hold the chicken upright in the the grill, which makes it an upstanding recipe after all. I'm thinking Christmas gift idea here - I wonder if the Wal-mart in St. Louis carries the chicken butt stands?

I have to imagine that a fraternity brother came up with the beer butt chicken idea. I picture the guys all standing around at a woodsie (that's what we called it in the '70's), with one bemoaning the fact that his beer can was half empty, so to speak. "What can I do with a partial warm beer? Seems a shame to waste it. Hey, I know, let's shove it inside a chicken and grill it!!!" And so, beer butt chicken was born.

Little did the guys know that this idea would catch on, and that special implements would be developed to aid in the process. Or perhaps they developed the butt stand as well. Who knows? The bottom line is that apparently a half empty beer can inserted into the cavity of a chicken prior to grilling results in a moist, tender bird. I can see that I will have to try beer butt chicken for myself. And I'm not pulling your leg...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

You Can Go Home Again

My sister and I went to Cincinnati for four days. We were both born there, and our family was the only twig on the family tree to move away from the area. We try to go back at least once a year even though our parents are deceased. It is always like a mini family reunion when we go as our aunts let everyone know we are coming so we can get together. It usually turns in to a food-fest, as we juggle schedules and meet at different restaurants. First stop in Cincinnati is always to one of the Skyline Chili restaurants. With a distinct flavor all its own, this chili over spaghetti and heaped with grated cheddar cheese is something we just can't get enough of. Fortunately, we don't have to as we buy the packaged and frozen variety to bring back to St. Louis with us.

Eleven of us met for lunch on Friday, including the three remaining siblings of my mom. That night we had supper with relatives on my dad's side of the family. We settled our craving for LaRosa's pizza at lunch on Saturday and then met up with a few more cousins that night for supper. Sunday we had goetta with breakfast before heading out of town. Goetta is another Cincinnati specialty, and I have been trying to reproduce it at home. In the meantime, I bought some Glier's goetta to bring home with me.

Our plan was to stop and see Megan's parents in Huntingburg on the way home. We had just crossed the bridge past Louisville when traffic came to a screeching halt. I mean, it was not even moving. In fact, people on our side of the interstate did u-turns and drove down the center shoulder to come back to I-264 which split off on the left. I was running low on gas, and with temperatures in the 90's could not turn off the air conditioner. As I was not yet past the split off, I veered off onto I-264. Following a fuel up, I headed west on Highway 60 hoping it would intersect with I-64 again. No such luck... I asked directions and people kept telling me to head east and then north, which would take me back into Louisville. I knew that would put me back in the same traffic snarl. I purchased a map, and found there are no other bridges over the river, so we headed north on a river road. It still put us in the jam, but at least we were a little farther along than we had been originally. It turned out there was a three car accident on the bridge. I called the Englerts to let them know what was going on, and they encouraged us to still stop and have supper with them. By that time I was happy to get out of the car and relax for a bit. We had a great meal and a wonderful visit. I'm so happy to have them as in-laws!

We then ran into a rain storm in Illinois, so it was after 9 by the time we finally got home. Despite the inconveniences, it was wonderful to see all the family, old and new. You can go home again.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Cat Tales

So I am on cat duty again. I finally 'fessed up to the neighbor that I had entered her house when she was already back at home from the last trip. I thought she was coming back the next day. I even admitted that I had blogged about the experience of being a Cat Burglar. She thought the whole story was funny, especially since she had already left her house by the time I made my entrance. I didn't need to worry that I had awakened her after all.

As I mentioned, these cats are quite the characters. Friday afternoon I went over to feed them supper. As I went into the bathroom to change the water in their bowls, I noticed that I was ankle deep in shredded tissue. Thinking they had again raided the bathroom trash can, I peered around the corner of the vanity. Nope - this time they decided that paper on a roll was quite the thing to sharpen their claws on. It was snowing Charmin in there. Because my neighbor insists that they do not get into mischief when she is around, I put the tissue in the trash can and left the Swiss cheese remainder of the roll for her to see when she gets home. And I now keep the bathroom door shut.

Today the little darlings knocked a picture off the wall. I don't even want to know what they were doing for that to occur. I guess they could have invited all the neighbor cats over for a party because, you know, we use the type of kitty litter that would mask multiple cats using the litter boxes. Fortunately the picture is made of canvas, so no glass was shattered in their latest escapade. I'm telling you, she needs a nanny cam on those cats!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

That Old Sew and Sew

My daughter's graduation quilt consists of 5" x 7" prints of photos from her travels, arranged to look like filmstrips. Considering this was a new pattern for me, things were moving along pretty smoothly. Unfortunately the pattern is designed to be a wall quilt, and Katie wants a quilt that will cover her bed at college. I emailed the pattern's creator to ask her how to make the modifications, and her reply was that I could easily make the quilt longer by adding another filmstrip, but in order to make it wider she would have to rewrite the whole pattern. Okay, then...there was no way I was going to tackle the math on adjusting the pattern pieces. I made the filmstrips as the pattern suggested, and added an additional row of photos. Then I made the inner and outer borders larger than suggested, and even added another small strip of the fabric that makes the sprockets of the filmstrip. Then I had Katie take a look at it. She thought it needed to be larger, and I agreed.

I went back to my favorite fabric store where we had purchased all the fabric a few weeks ago, thinking I could easily add an additional 5" black border to balance the quilt. After looking at all 8 bolts of black fabric. I determined that none of them matched exactly. As the blacks would be right up against each other, this is a problem. Looking at various solutions, I decided to buy more of the striped fabric and make another thin row of that to separate the blacks. I was able to get the striped fabric as well as two sides of the additional black borders sewn on last night. I have to say, I am pleased with the end result. It looks like it was always planned to have the extra borders.

But I can't believe I forgot to pick up the batting while I was at the fabric store. Guess I'll be making another trip!