Well, we survived our first Christmas without Kirby. It was our turn to drive to Iowa for the holiday, and it was incredibly strange not to have him with us as he was a welcome guest at my in-law's home. There is a certain gas station we always stopped at on the way up so that we could complete the trifecta - potty stops for the dog and us, fuel for the car and food for us. We could not even pull off there this trip. The memories are still too painful. In fact, we did something we have never done before by going to a sit down restaurant to have lunch. It helped a lot mentally to change things up. We also broke up the trip by stopping at a couple of Freedom Rocks. You can read more about the Freedom Rocks here
Iowa artist Ray Sorensen first painted a rock to honor veterans in Adair County, Iowa in 1999. Beginning in 2013, he established the Freedom Rock Tour, setting a goal to paint a rock in each of Iowa's 99 counties. He has since completed 45 or so of them. There are two fairly close to the route we take up to Iowa - one in West Point and one in Cedar Falls. I was immediately impressed with two things: first, the size of the rock; and second, the incredible detail in the paintings. I'll have to look for more of these when we next drive up to Iowa. There is one fairly near my in-law's town, and we thought that would be a fun family outing one day during our visit. But the weather was a little dicey we decided to save that one for next time. There were several inches of snow on the ground when we arrived, and about four more inches fell while we were there.
|West Point Iowa Freedom Rock|
|Cedar Falls Iowa Freedom Rock|
We had a wonderful time in Charles City. I had fun watching this little guy out the back window. Kirby's favorite spot was on the couch in the living room where he could keep a close eye on the squirrels and birds at the feeders. I kept watch for him this year. Both of Jim's sisters were in town, so for the first time in many years the whole family was together except for a few of the grandchildren. We ate too much, played games and put together a puzzle, laughed a lot and of course received some wonderful gifts.
We headed for home on the day after Christmas because Katie was flying into St. Louis on the 27th, and Andy and Megan were driving in on the 28th. We packed a lot of fun into their visits! We opened our gifts on the 28th while drinking our signature CranCherry Cosmos. Jim had to work on Thursday, so we met him at Imo's for lunch - on the must-do list for the kids. Later in the afternoon we went to Jim's office so the kids could get a tour of the latest construction before taking off for the Missouri Botanical Garden to see the Gardenland Express flower and train show. This, too, is a tradition for our family and we try not to miss it. From there we drove to Anheuser-Busch to see the Brewery Lights. We were a little early, so we had to wait in the wind and cold until they began to hand out the arm bands. This is a walking tour, and you receive five free drink tickets to try out different A-B products. Andy, Megan and I went to this last year, but Jim and Katie had never been. Since we were at the beginning of the line to get in, we were able to enter the stables to see the horses. Last year there was an incredibly long line to get in there, so we skipped it. I'm glad we were able to see it this year as the stables are beautiful. It was a fun evening, capped off by a visit to the downtown location of Sugarfire Smoke House. Jim and I had eaten there on Mother's Day, and the kids had heard a lot of good things about it so that was their selection.
|Anheuser-Busch Brewery Lights|
Friday we met my sister and her husband in Washington for lunch, and then we continued on to New Haven to visit Pinckney Bend Distillery where they offer whiskey and gin tastings. I don't like whiskey so I opted to just do the gin tasting while Jim chose the whiskey tasting. The kids all tried the everything selection. It was a fun change-up from going to wineries, that's for sure. We had dinner back at the house and then drove to Candy Cane Lane and Angel Avenue in south city to see all the decorated houses. Since we were that close to Ted Drewe's Frozen Custard, of course we made a stop there as well.
A knock on the door a little after 8:00 Saturday morning heralded the arrival of a dozen donuts from Donut Dispatch. A new company in Webster Groves, they offer donut delivery on Saturday mornings only. The donuts were awesome! I was wondering aloud how this couple was able to make and sell donuts out of their house, as their label said it was a "Cottage Industry" and not inspected by the Health Department. Sure enough, on Tuesday I saw a notice on their Facebook page that they have been shut down by the city. It's too bad, but calling yourself a "Cottage Industry" does not exempt you from inspections or city licensing and taxes. Hopefully they will be able to find a commercial kitchen to continue their business.
Andy and Megan left following lunch on Saturday to begin their drive home. They stopped in Cambridge, Ohio for the night before continuing on to Virginia on Sunday. Katie flew home on Monday afternoon, so all is quiet in the house again. While we missed Kirby terribly this Christmas, I am grateful that we were able to see so many of our family members this holiday. Here's hoping for a wonderful 2017!
Sounds like you had a very good holiday. And you're right, seeing all of the family that you did is the best way to spend the holidays.
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