Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Jamaica, Mon!

It is hard to believe this will be my last post in 2014. Wow! I will end it on a warm note. Jim and I went to Couples Negril in Jamaica a couple of weeks ago as a belated anniversary celebration. You certainly do not want to be there in August anyway. We last visited this all-inclusive resort 11 years ago for our 25th anniversary. As a surprise to Jim, I had arranged a ceremony to renew our vows. It is still one of the highlights of our marriage. This resort consistently gets 4-5 star reviews on Tripadvisor, my go-to site for checking hotels, things to do and see, and restaurants when I am traveling.

Our first visit got high praise from us. The staff was warm and welcoming, always greeting us and making sure there was nothing that we needed. The food was very good, and the included activities were exceptional. In fact, this is the only resort we have every stayed at where you can scuba dive, snorkel, go out on glass bottom boat rides and sunset catamaran cruises, water ski, play tennis and golf as much as you like at no additional charge. And that doesn't even take into account things like kayaking, small catamaran sailing, volleyball, horseshoes, pool, ping pong, etc. Upon our return the first time, I gave the resort a 5 star rating. Since that visit they have done a little upgrading of the rooms, free wifi is everywhere on the grounds, all the activities are still offered and the beach still cannot be beat. But we found a big difference in the attitude of the staff. Service was poor in some cases, and several staff members seemed to wish they were elsewhere. There was a problem with our initial room, and the front desk gal was not sympathetic nor did she seem inclined to let us change rooms. For that reason, they have slipped to a 4 star resort in my book.

Having said that, we had a wonderful time, met some fun people from Holland, the United States and Canada, and spent a restful week on the beach. Taking a week off that close to Christmas might not have been the best idea we ever had, but everything got done in the end. No problem, mon.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Soulard Art Market

Soulard Art Market & Contemporary Gallery is, as you might imagine, located in the Soulard district of St. Louis. A variety of local artists display their work here in media ranging from jewelry, painting, photography and sculpture. The gallery holds exhibits displaying the works of local artists. The current exhibit is "Everywhere There's Cake", celebrating the 250th birthday of St. Louis. Artists were invited to submit up to three works in which one of the 250 + cakes was shown with a local landmark. However, they wanted the cake to be small, showcasing instead the St. Louis area landmark. The art could be a photograph, painting or mixed media work. Of course I knew I had to submit some photos, and I am proud that all three of my submissions were accepted. An opening reception was held last Friday, but I was out of town and unable to attend. Jim and I went instead on Sunday. Believe it or not, one last cake is being painted at the art market, and I was lucky enough to catch five of the cake artists putting their mark on this final (?) cake.

Soulard Art Market
The exhibit itself is quite amazing. There are a few paintings and one three dimensional piece made out of stained glass, but most of the submissions were photos. It was so interesting to see the different perspectives people had while photographing the cakes. If you would like to see for yourself, the exhibit runs through January 17th. More information can be found on the Soulard Art Market website.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Thomas Dunn Education Center
Recently the Cakeway to the West Facebook group had a pizza party and potluck at the Thomas Dunn Education Center in South City. There was a nice turnout, and two of the cake artists came as well. Numerous items were for sale, including postcards (several of which feature my photos) and coasters (one of which utilizes my photo). I am not going to lie, it is quite a thrill to see my photos used on items that are for sale. They were also taking pre-orders for a 2015 cake calendar. Proceeds of the sales are going to fund a book, "It's All about the Cakes", which they hope to release early in the spring. A couple of people brought their binders, books and scrapbooks, and it was interesting to see the different approaches being taken to commemorate this journey.

one of my postcards
 I met some new people from the group, and enjoyed catching up with the ones I have met at previous events. Again, I cannot get over how nice everyone is, and how much fun I am having hanging out with others who get my cake addiction. I hope we can keep up our friendships when 2015 rolls around.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Falling into Adventures

Saints Peter and Paul Church
Things have been busy lately. On November1st, the St. Louis Publishers Association again offered a class at the Meramec campus of the St. Louis Community College. I have written about the book publishing class on my other blog, Write Formation. Later that day, my friend Caren and I went to Soulard to walk around the area and take photos. I am so grateful because she is an avid photographer (a professional photographer, in fact), so we both like to stop and take pictures. Of course there are four cakes in the area we were walking, so I had to get additional photos of those. We went to McGurk's for an early dinner, and though the day had been a comfortable temperature we decided to eat inside. They have such a beautiful outdoor dining area there, but it is not so much fun if you are cold.

9th Street Abbey
Trinity Church

unlucky chicken foot
On Wednesday I was doing some gardening as the day was very nice. I was pulling out annuals and tidying things up when I heard the dog chewing on something. He likes to gnaw on sticks, so I didn't think too much about it at first. When the crunching continued I decided I better check it out. Much to my dismay, I saw part of an animal leg on the ground next to him. Now, Kirby has never mastered the "Leave it!" command. There is no way he willingly gives up anything, be it a toy or something gross. Utilizing the fine art of distraction, I ran towards the gate shouting "Look who's here!", which faked him out enough to run off to guard his territory. I hurried back and scooped up the parts (thinking back to the old commercial "parts is parts"), and being thankful for my gardening gloves. Normally I am squeamish about picking up things like this, but desperate times call for desperate measures. As I dropped the pieces in the trash, I noticed the larger leg piece still had a foot attached. Ugh! I guess there is one less clucker from the yard across the alley now. They have a chicken coop but they also let the chickens roam. Sometimes I see them in the alley. They cannot get into our yard because they are too fat, and our dog never runs loose, so Kirby is not the fowl killer. He just takes advantage of the situation if someone else does the dirty work.

When I relayed this story to my husband later, I couldn't resist telling him that we were having chicken for dinner. After all, the dog usually eats the same thing as us.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Unveiling that Wasn't

Kim Wolterman
At the October meeting of the Webster Groves/Shrewsbury/Rock Hill Chamber of Commerce meeting, I was asked to talk about my experience of finding all 250+ cakes placed by the STL250 organization. Joining me on the program was Erin Budde, formerly the Executive Director of STL250. After our presentations there was to be an unveiling of a rogue cake, meaning one that is not officially sanctioned by the organization. The cake was commissioned by the Webster Groves Historical Society to be placed in front of the historic Hawken House, built in 1857 and certainly much older than many official cake locations.

I arrived early to the meeting as I was bringing the computer and projector for the presentations. I like to have extra time because technology is not always my friend. When I pulled into the parking lot, I saw the artist, Henryk Ptasiewicz but no cake. I have met him at a caker's picnic, so I went over to talk to him. He told me that he simply had run out of time and the cake was not complete. The unveiling had been all over social media, and a local reporter was coming to cover the story. We immediately got on Twitter and Facebook to let folks know that the cake was not in place.

Erin Budde
Despite that setback, the meeting went well. I ran a slide show of all of my cake photos (well, two of each cake anyway) in the background during the preliminary meet and greet and lunch. Erin was first on the program, and her talk was quite interesting as she filled us in on some of the behind the scenes activities that led to the formation of the volunteer STL250 group back in 2009. The very first cake to be placed was St. Louis City Hall in February of 2014.

For my portion of the program I talked about what the cake hunt had meant to me, the things I learned about the metropolitan area, and the wonderful people I have become acquainted with along the way, including the 1,800 plus member Facebook group. To bring things back to the audience, as business owners in the area, I discussed the benefits of this caking adventure such as high visibility for the businesses and organizations lucky enough to have a cake. It also helped other businesses in the area as the cakers stopped for meals, drinks and shopping along the way. I really enjoyed the opportunity to share my experience of learning more about the history of the area.

As it ended up, the Hawken House cake had a very quiet unveiling on the following Wednesday, and I took photos of it on Thursday morning. If I didn't know the cake was made out of wood and not fiberglass like the official cakes, I would have no idea that it was a rogue cake. It is that good!

Hawken House cake

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Family Gatherings

Recently my sister and I traveled to Cincinnati to visit with relatives. My mom has two sisters who are still living, and my dad has one sister who is still alive. We drove over on a Thursday, and stayed with our cousin and his wife, who graciously put us up (or perhaps I should say put up with us) whenever we come over if they are in town. They also know that our first meal when we hit town has to be Skyline Chili. On Friday a small group of us got together for lunch, and a couple more relatives joined us for dinner.

Holtman's Donut Shop
Saturday morning one of my cousins picked me up to head to downtown Cincinnati. We began the morning at Holtman's Donut Shop, seen recently on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and Donut Wars. Gina insisted that the Maple Bacon Donut was going to "change my world". She pre-ordered several as that is one of the donuts that they regularly run out of in the morning. After a short wait in line, which passed quickly with the entertainment of watching the staff make donuts, I selected a half dozen donuts to take back to my hosts since they had never come to this donut shop before. After Gina got her order, we walked down the street to a coffee and wine bar (the donut shop has limited seating and NO hot tea!?!) to order drinks and enjoy a donut. Oh, my! I am not sure if my world was changed, but my tummy was really happy to start the day with this special donut.

Maple Bacon donut

The City Flea
We then walked over to The City Flea, a "curated, urban flea market". While there were a few vendors who sold items you would expect to see at a flea market, most of the booths offered jewely, photography, scarves and other clothing items and some specialty items such as homemade chocolates. Food trucks surrounded the area on one side in case shoppers needed something to eat or drink. It was a fun and festive environment, and I picked up a few items for myself. I probably should have been thinking about Christmas gifts, but instead I was thinking about myself. (Except for the chocolate, which I brought home and shared with my husband.)
hot dogs from Senate

After walking and shopping we had worked up an appetite for lunch. (If it seems as if I eat my way through Cincinnati, that is probably because I do.) This time we chose Senate, purveyors of gourmet hot dogs, which also has made an appearance on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. I ordered the Trailer Park and she got the special of the day, and we split them along with some fries. Everything was delicious!

It was time to do more walking after feasting on the dogs and fries, so we walked around the area looking at the murals. Part of a project dedicated to creating a mural in each of Cincinnati's 52 neighborhoods, there are now 90 murals that have been completed. We saw a small sampling of them, but I know what I would be doing if I lived in the area!
Cincinnati wall murals
Crusham family reunion
From there we drove to Price Hill Chili (to eat more, of course!) where my Crusham relatives were gathering for a small reunion. We ended up with more than 40 people, which was a great turnout. We captured most of them in this photo.

Sunday my sister and I met with Aunt Gloria, my dad's sister, and her 3 children at a restaurant in Newport, Kentucky. It has been several years since we had seen them, so it was nice to catch up. I was also able to fill them in on my trip to Switzerland last fall, where I met many Kubler relatives that we had not known about prior to my trip.

Monday found us on the road back home, after a quick stop at Kroger to pick up Skyline Chili and goetta to tide us over until our next trip east. It was a great trip!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Company that Wasn't

Due to an illness on their end, we did not end up having company last weekend. Instead we had my sister and her husband over for dinner Saturday night. They had been invited over that day anyway, so we just ended up with a smaller dinner party. The weather was cool and crisp, and perfect for the chili and honey cornbread I had planned for the meal. It was nice to have some one on one time with them, as it has been awhile since the four of us have been together.

Jim took off on a motorcycle ride Sunday morning, which left me with a day alone. Hmmm...what to do? Rumor on the street was that the second Ameren cake, normally inside and available to employees and company guests only, was outside due to an event on Saturday. Early reports on the Cakeway to the West Facebook page Sunday morning indicated it was still out there. So I traded my workout clothes for jeans and a Cardinals sweatshirt, grabbed my camera and my garden gnome, and took off for Ameren. Sure enough, the cakes were there side by side, as well as a couple of other cakers.
Ameren Cakes
Since I was out anyway, I decided to take some new photos in the downtown area. When I originally went to the Shrine of St. Joseph, I didn't realize that even though the cake was behind a fence up on a stone wall, the gate can be opened to better photograph the cake. I also couldn't go into the church in June as there was a wedding taking place. I am so glad that I went back. What a beautiful church! Located at 11th and Biddle Streets, this parish traces its roots back to 1843. The cornerstone of the church was laid in 1844, and it was dedicated in 1846. And I absolutely love all of the St. Louis icons that appear on the cake.
Shrine of St. Joseph
Shrine of St. Joseph cake
Next I went to Citygarden as that cake had been moved to a new location, and then over to Kiener Plaza where I was certain the fountain would be splashing red for the Cardinals playoff game. I was not disappointed!
Kiener Plaza

I picked up a few shots of the Hilton and Drury Hotels for frame of reference shots for my cake book before walking down to the Old Cathedral. It had been draped in scaffolding when I photographed the cake back in June. It looks very pretty now. I took a peak inside, but Mass was just wrapping up so I didn't take any pictures of the interior.
Old Cathedral
This final photo pretty much sums up how it felt to be exploring downtown St. Louis with my camera on a beautiful fall day. Only one last thing to say - Let's go Cards!
Kiener Plaza

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Fall Cleaning

We are having guests this weekend, so I have been on a cleaning spree. There will be four of them requiring three bedrooms, so that means even the third floor needs to be spruced up. Our workout equipment is up there, as well as my sewing machine and ironing board. As I am in the middle of two quilt projects, to say the area is a mess is an understatement. Hopefully I won't run out of time before I run out of dust. Ahchoo!

September sky
The weather has been so beautiful lately. I know we need the rain, but I certainly would prefer to have weather like this for the weekend. If it isn't too hot or rainy, I would like to take our out of town family members to the botanical garden for the Best of Missouri Market. I know it will be crowded, but if we get there when they open Sunday morning it shouldn't be too bad. Unfortunately the trams won't be running, so we probably won't get too far into the garden itself.

Bonhomme Old Stone Church
Today I was invited to speak at the next meeting of my local chamber of commerce. The topic is the stl250cakes, and I will be on a panel with the former executive director of the stl250 organization. She will talk about the genesis of the Cakeway to the West, and I will talk about the cake hunt itself and the historical aspects of some of the locations. I will also put together a slide show of all of my cakes that I will just have running in the background. Amazingly, there are people who have no idea what the cakes are all about, so the pictures should help them get an idea of the magnitude of this undertaking. The icing on the cake at this meeting, pardon the pun, is the unveiling of a "rebel" cake. (Meaning one that was not sanctioned by the stl250 organization. There are several unofficial cakes throughout the St. Louis area.) It should be fun!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Deer in the Headlights

Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery
A few of my friends on Facebook have been posting photos of deer taken in Jefferson Barracks Park. Saturday was so beautiful that Jim and I drove down there in late afternoon since deer are more likely to feed at that time of the day. We were not prepared for the number of deer that we saw, particularly when we traveled through Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. There were numerous cars doing the same thing as us, and the deer were not afraid. They are apparently used to the gawkers coming through.

deer in Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery

It was a beautiful and peaceful drive through the cemetery but as the sun set, casting shadows over the graves, it was also a sobering reminder of all the men and women who have laid down their lives so that we remain free to travel along the paths of our choosing.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Meet Me at the Fare

St. Louis World's Fare Heritage Festival and Games
This past weekend the 1st Annual St. Louis World's Fare Heritage Festival and Games was held in Forest Park. (Pet peeve - if it is the first year of an event, it cannot be referred to as "annual.") Billed as a celebration of St. Louis history, the event offered live music, demonstrations by artists, numerous food vendors, and educational displays. On Saturday, I worked from 2-6 p.m. in the stl250 booth, as they kindly shared it with the Cakeway to the West Facebook group. Our group was selling postcards (14 of which contain my cake photos!), cake related jewelry and t-shirts, and cake coloring pages that were drawn by the cake artists. We also sold raffle tickets for two paintings that were donated by cake artists. The proceeds from the booth are going towards funding of a book about the cakes that will be published next year.

stl250 booth
It was fun to work with the other cakers and the artists who showed up, but unfortunately the crowds were pretty sparse, at least on my shift. I haven't talked to anyone yet to see if things picked up during the evening or on Sunday. The weather was incredibly beautiful, and with people crowding into the zoo and golf courses, parking was an issue. Perhaps that scared folks away. I am not sure the publicity was all that great, and first time events are always a little tough anyway.

Sunday night we attended Chef's in a Garden, an evening benefiting Gateway Greening. Chefs from the St. Louis area prepare a special dish (small tasting, really) utilizing locally grown produce and other ingredients when they can. The event includes silent and oral auction items as well. With the money that is raised, Gateway Greening helps communities and schools in the St. Louis area establish gardens to grow their own produce and other plants. It was a fun event, and one that always pushes me to eat outside of my comfort zone. My favorite dish last night was a scallop, and I have never liked them before. And I may or may not have had a couple of alcoholic beverages made with added vegetables. That makes them healthy, right?

Friday, September 5, 2014

Walking in an Ancestor's Footprints

Claudia & me
Last week the great-granddaughter of Claude Morton, the man who built my house, stopped by to see me. She lives in California and was driving cross-country with a friend to deliver a car to her daughter on the east coast. She had contacted me because she wanted to take a photo of herself with the house, and to meet me as well. We have been emailing back and forth ever since she mailed me an old photo of my house along with the plans from a 1902 issue of Ladies Home Journal. (For more about that, check out this post on my house research blog.)

It was so much fun to show her around, pointing out the parts of the house that would have been the same when her grandmother Jessie (who was two at the time the home was built) was growing up. When we went upstairs, Claudia wondered aloud which bedroom might have belonged to her grandmother. And she smiled as she pictured Jessie running up and down the same hallway we were standing in. I knew exactly how she felt, as I had experienced the same thing when I visited the home in Germany last fall that was built by my ancestors in 1717. It is hard to describe what it is like to walk in an ancestor's footprints, but I will never forget the thrill. I may still have goosebumps from it!

While researching my house back in 2007, I met with Claudia's second cousin in Chicago to scan some photos and documents that she had. Claudia has never met Holly, so I showed her all items I had about her Morton family. She was amazed by what I have in my possession. I told her I also have her family tree in my genealogy program so I can keep track of who is who. I may not have Morton blood running through my veins, but they are my family nonetheless!

The Morton family circa 1913

Monday, August 11, 2014

Cakeway to the West - Confessions of a Cakeaholic

butterfly at Cardinal Glennon Hospital
When I took my first photograph of one of the stl250 cakes back in March, I had no intention of trying to visit all 250 of them. I figured I would snap pictures as I came across the cakes, as I did with the "Wings in the City" butterflies back in 2011, and the cat and dog sculptures of "The Harry and Hanley Project" in 2013. Little did I know that the call of the cakes would pull me in like the smell of hot, buttered popcorn at a movie theater. And like that box of popcorn, I would not be able to stop until they were all gone. Soon I was planning my days around cake hunting. And at night I dreamed of cakes. I even made a t-shirt showcasing a few of my favorite cakes. I am not alone in this obsession. There are over 1,700 of us in just one of the Facebook groups, sharing tips, trials and support in addition to photos. Through the group I have attended picnics, a group photo op, a wine and canvas party, discussions of possible books, and the camaraderie of folks just as excited about the hunt as me.

my t-shirt front

my t-shirt back


They are the ones who understand that we could adopt "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" as our theme song. "Ain't no mountain high enough, ain't no valley low enough, ain't no river wide enough..." to keep us from our cakes. From as far west as Warrenton, Missouri to the eastern reaches of Carlyle, Illinois; from the northern point of Hardin, Illinois to the southern point of Sullivan, Missouri, the 250 cakes were a challenge for even the most sophisticated GPS system or smart phone. But help was always just one Facebook post away. Can't find a cake? Post the question on the Facebook page. Want to know if there are other cakes in the area? Where to park? Or how about a good place to eat while you are there? One of the cakers would always reply, usually within minutes of the post.

Mainly I traveled alone on my treks, though my husband did accompany me a couple of times and a friend and I planned several excursion together. My niece accompanied me on one of the Illinois adventures. I don't even want to know how many miles I put on my car, though a fellow caker said she had documented 5,000 miles! Is that possible? Perhaps...But here is what I do know. Through the Cakeway to the West cake hunt I have experienced more of the greater St. Louis area in six months than in the 36 years I have lived here. I have pushed my comfort level on multiple occasions. I have been to sites that I did not know even existed, and re-visited places I had not been to in years. I have met some incredible people both in the caker group and at the cake locations, and have been privileged to meet several of the cake artists.

Facebook caking friends
Last Sunday, over 50 of us from the Facebook group, and one of the artists, met at the Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park in East St. Louis for a group photo and breakfast. After that I headed north in Illinois to find my last five cakes. By 4:30 that afternoon I had accomplished what had initially seemed impossible. I had visited and photographed all 250 cakes. Like some of the others in the 250 Club, I have mixed emotions about the journey being over. (Though as of right now 251 cakes have been placed, and rumor has it that there will be 254 before it is all said and done. I haven't decided if I will get any of the rest, because to me it takes away from the whole 250 theme.) There are still a few frame of reference shots that I want to take, and I think getting some fall and winter photos of the cakes would be fun as well.

my 250th cake in Hardin, Illinois
As I have been doing research in preparation for putting together a book about my cake walk, I have come to understand what a truly remarkable area we live in. The history of the city, the buildings and the people who once called St. Louis home are inspiring. And I think that was the goal of the Cakeway to the West project. I would call it a success!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

High School Reunion Two

The down side of my husband and me graduating from high school the same year (but not the same place) is that we have to juggle two class reunions in the same summer. While I am fortunate in that Jim knows some people from my class either through marriage or college, I do not have the same luck with his classmates. I met a couple of the guys back in 1976 or so, and perhaps a couple came to our wedding. Nothing to carry on more than a few sentences worth of conversation, for sure. But one classmate was a fraternity brother of Jim, and we went to his wedding. His wife and I are friends on Facebook, and thank goodness they came to the reunion this year. Alicia and I were able to entertain each other for two nights.

My in-laws still live in the town where Jim grew up, so it was wonderful to be able to stay with them and have a nice visit. As usual, we ate way too much. Homemade cinnamon rolls and brownies - oh my! It was hard to climb back in the saddle with my personal trainer this week for sure.

As luck would have it, two of the St. Louis birthday cakes were on our way up to Iowa. We were able to get the brand new cake at the August Busch Conservation Area as well as the one at Woods Fort in Troy, Missouri. They are both really nice, and located in interesting settings.

August Busch Conservation Area

Woods Fort

The night before we left for Charles City, I went to a Wine and Canvas party that was put on by Genevieve Esson, the artist for 4 of the cakes. She provided the paint and the canvases, and we were each to bring a photo of our favorite cake to paint. In my case, I had to narrow it down to my favorite cake that I thought would be possible to paint. Nine cakers showed up for the party, and did we ever have fun! It was not easy, but Genevieve and another artist helped with any questions we had. I was able to finish my cake in the time allowed, except that I did not have time to add the stl250. That is something I might try to put on, as it is a big part of what this is all about, in my estimation.

My inspiration cake at the Alton Visitors Center, and the finished product

This Sunday a group of us from the Cakeway to the West Facebook page are gathering at the Malcolm Martin Park across the river for a photo shoot and light breakfast. After that, my friend Caren and I will head to Alton and north to get my remaining five cakes. The end is in sight - except rumor has it that more cakes are being added. It ain't over until the last cake is placed!