Sunday, October 28, 2012

Fall Travel and the Frankenstorm

Inn BoonsBoro
Last Christmas Jim won the husband of the year award for presenting me with a gift certificate for a night at Inn BoonsBoro, located in Boonsboro, MD. For the uninitiated this inn is owned by Nora Roberts, who is my favorite author. I have read every single one of her books, and own most of them. I also have consumed all the books in the In Death series, which she writes under the pen name of J.D. Robb. Nora's latest trilogy is centered around the renovation of a 1790's inn located in Boonsboro (which happens to be near Nora's home town), as well as other business located along main street. I believe I mentioned in passing to Jim that Nora had restored an old inn and turned it into a Bed and Breakfast. He latched onto it from there and contacted them for a certificate.

We decided to go and visit Andy and Megan for a long weekend, and tie in a night at the inn for my birthday. When I called for the reservation I requested the Eve and Roarke room. Each of the eight rooms are named after fictional literary couples, but the one I chose is the only one representing a couple from Nora's books. Actually Eve and Roarke are the main characters in the J.D. Robb books. Plus that room is on the back side of the inn, which is always a consideration for a light sleeper like me. The inn sits right on Main Street, so there is a lot of traffic passing by.

We flew into Washington Reagan on Thursday afternoon, and the kids picked us up. From the airport we went out for dinner before heading to their apartment. The next morning they left for work and we took off in Andy's car. We stopped at Harpers Ferry on our way to BoonsBoro. What a wonderful place! It is a national park, and great pains have been taken to preserve the town's predominantly early 19th century buildings. We spent several hours here and easily could have stayed longer.

St. Peter's Catholic Church
Harpers Ferry

Inn BoonsBoro
From Harpers Ferry it was a short 20 minute drive to Boonsboro, where we were cordially welcomed to the inn and shown around the building. Guests have the run of the house, so to speak, and can help themselves to drinks in the dining area, cookies (that were to die for), and Jameson from the decanter in the Library. They also offer a wine and cheese gathering at 6:00. After unloading our suitcases we walked around photographing the inn and the town. Several of the area businesses appear in Nora's books, so it was fun to get to see how close my imagination matched the real thing. We also went to Turn the Page Bookstore, which is owned by Nora's husband and is home to her book signings. She is having a signing there next weekend for the release of the third book in the Inn BoonsBoro trilogy, but by the time I got around to making reservations the inn was full for that weekend. I was able to pre-order the book however, and it will be signed and mailed to me. So that is something I guess.

Dan's Restaurant & Tap House
We met two of the other couples staying at the inn while we enjoyed the wine and cheese reception. Following that we had dinner next door at Dan's Restaurant and Tap House, which is owned by Nora's son and daughter-in-law. As guests of the inn we were able to get reservations instead of having to wait the hour and a half that is normal on the weekends. The restaurant is quite historic as well, but we were floored when we opened up the menu to find that it was back lit like an iPad for easy reading in the dim light. What a sight for aging eyes! Very cool... The bartender poured a wonderful gin and tonic, and we very much enjoyed our meals. After a pleasant stroll down Main Street, we began to look through the day's photos while indulging in a Jameson before the fire in the library at the inn. What a wonderful ending to a great day!

The next morning breakfast included cereal, fresh fruit, French toast, bacon and sausages, homemade rolls and a made-to-order omelet if you desired. Everything was quite tasty! Then we packed up the car and headed off to Antietam National Battlefield, location of the bloodiest day in Civil War history where over 23,000 lost their lives.

Soldiers at Antietam
Cannons at Antietam

We spent several hours driving through the national park and stopping to hike to the various points of interest. It is amazing to see all the history on the East coast since we do not have this type of history that is preserved in the Midwest.

We got back to Andy and Megan's around 5:00, which left us with enough light to drive around and see the bridge project that Andy is working on in DC. I took some photos as I know his Grandpa will be very interested to see the new construction. Then we went out to celebrate my birthday at a restaurant before heading back to their apartment to enjoy the chocolate birthday cake Megan had made for me.

It was our plan to fly home on Monday so that could spend all of Sunday with the kids, but we were all keeping a cautious eye on the weather. Frankenstorm and an alert from Southwest Airlines caused us to change our plans. More on that in the next post.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Fall Colors

The Missouri Botanical Garden fountain
Jim and I took a nice long walk at the Missouri Botanical Garden this morning, cameras in hand. This is my favorite time of year as the trees explode in shades of yellow, red and orange. Surprisingly the garden was not too crowded, even when we left for home around noon. Everyone must have been over at the zoo or something. Too bad for them, as we had the garden mostly to ourselves.

I love that the garden has their main fountain dyed red in support of the St. Louis Cardinals. The fountain definitely rivaled the trees in terms of bright red! We were entertained by a bird having a quick bath in one of the fountains. I imagined him laughing at the other birds as they took a drink from the same place he had been bathing!

Bird bath
Splish splash I was takin' a bath

Japanese Garden

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Four Takeaways from the Cardinal's Game Last Night

- Don't judge a winner from the score

- You may be down but you are not out

- It takes a team

and the number one takeaway...

- The Cardinals never give up, and neither do their fans!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Another Empty Nest

Bird house
In July of 2010 we installed a pretty birdhouse in the back yard. We had an extra post left from the back porch when it was removed in preparation for the addition back in 2007. We held on to it since it was in such good shape, and decided it would make the perfect stand for a birdhouse. We ordered this particular house because we had admired the ones in Gramercy Park in New York City, and it was based on that design. The birds adopted it right away and it has been a full house ever since. Until now. The other day Jim was walking out to his car and noticed that the house was missing - as in totally gone! The weird thing is that the nests are still sitting on top of the post. So we think that in the storm the other night a branch must have landed on the house and knocked it off.

I didn't notice it was missing until he told me about it today. So I went out to investigate and found the pieces to the house all busted up in the shrubs below. It is really disappointing as it was expensive, and yet as I picked up the pieces I could tell they were made from thin wood. It seems even bird house builders use cheaper materials to save costs.

Bird nest

Bird house blown to smithereens

I can just hear the little birds saying, "Really? This had to happen just as it is getting cold here?" Looks like Jim and I will be out shopping for a new home. One that will be going to the birds.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

For He's a Jolly Good Fellow...

Hunter, Ted, Jim, Bonnie and Jay
Over the (long) weekend we traveled to Phoenix for the annual meeting of the American Society of Landscape Architects. While we have gone to the conference many times in the past, this year was very special as Jim was elevated to Fellow. A black tie event was held on Sunday night with a dinner and procession of the new Fellows, 33 of them this year. It is a huge honor, and in the organization's 113 year history only 1,100 some members have made it into the Council of Fellows.

But let me backtrack a bit. In July I asked our children if they would like to attend the ceremony as a surprise to their dad. They were excited to be included, and so began three months of scheming behind Jim's back. I made their room reservations and then coordinated with Jim's partner Ted to make sure that we had room at our table for Andy, Megan and Katie. Jim was told that the three Principals in the firm were each bringing their spouses to fill the table of ten. Then their spouses had to be let in on the secret in case Jim said something to them about the trip at one of the company gatherings this fall. Conversations with the kids had to take place when Jim was not around or through text messages. Since so many people knew about the surprise, I could not believe that we were able to keep it a secret from him but somehow we pulled it off. Almost. More on that in a bit. Because the dinner was not until Sunday, we decided to all meet in the lobby bar at 7:00 Friday night after checking in. The kids would then come in a few minutes after us so that the other employees could enjoy the surprise.

When Jim and I went to check in, I told the woman behind the counter that we had a reservation under Jim Wolterman. She said, "Jim and Kim?" I replied yes, with the American Society of Landscape Architects. I bet you can see this coming...She then says, "Do you know you have another room reserved with Kathryn Wolterman?" Jim said, "What?!?" Since I had made the reservations and used my AAA card, the rooms had to be in the kids' names as well as mine. So, after 3 months of everyone keeping their mouths shut, the deal was blown by the desk clerk. Ugh!!! So I sent Jim away from the counter and proceeded to express my dismay that she had just ruined the big surprise. It was not her fault, I know, but REALLY? All I needed was another hour and a half to be in the clear.

Then Jim wanted to go down to the bar early and I tried to talk him out of it to no avail. So I finally sent Andy a text message and told them to come on down. They were able to sneak up behind him, so at least something was a surprise. Jim later said that even though he suspected Katie might be coming due to the desk clerk, he had no thought that Andy and Megan would be able to make the trip. So that is gratifying I guess.

Katie, Megan, Andy and me
Saturday and Sunday Jim, Ted and the rest of the staff were in meetings all day. Saturday the kids and I, along with Ted's wife Jill, took the rental car out to the South Mountain Park and Preserve. Since it was around 100 degrees the whole time we were there, we were looking for something to do where we wouldn't die of heat exposure. This was a happy medium because you can drive through the park but also get out and take photos and walk a bit if you want. It was an interesting park, and their terrain is so different from ours. That night following a special reception that Iowa State had for their three new Fellows, ten of us had dinner at the hotel. It was surprisingly good food with great service.

Roosevelt Lake in Tonto National Forest
Sunday Jill decided to do her own thing so the kids and I drove out to Tonto National Forest, which has 3 million acres of land. It took about two hours to get to Roosevelt Lake in the park, which was formed by the damming of a couple of rivers. By the time we did that and stopped at some areas for pictures, it was time to head back to Phoenix so we would all have time to get ready for the big event.

Jim had to go down at 6:00 with his escort, who was Ted, so that they could do their rehearsal. They had to wear tuxes, so the rest of us were dressed in formal wear as well. At 7:00 the reception began, followed by the dinner at 8:00. The ceremony started shortly after dessert. In alphabetical order (yay for the Ws) they had a short slide presentation of the work of the recipient along with some verbiage telling about that person's history in the profession of landscape architecture. The whole event was really well done, and I am so glad that we could all be there for him. I am so proud of Jim and all that he has accomplished so far.

Wolterman table at the ASLA Fellows Ceremony