Sunday, December 3, 2017

Winter Hiking Season

"Now I see the secret of making the best person, it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth."
-Walt Whitman

When the forecaster said we would be having more seasonable weather later in the week, meaning full winter gear is on the horizon, we headed for the trails. It may possibly be the last fare-weather hike we take in a while - or maybe not - Missouri weather can be fickle. But any excuse to hike, right? 

This is the third time we've been to this location, just on the border of the Mark Twain trail system of Central Missouri. In fact, we had to come home and look to see if it was the same trail system or not. We were here first when we were scouting a location for our family pictures. We came back a second time to take our family pictures. It was on that trip that Eli spotted a trail head and we immediately made a mental note to come back. Which brings us today, our third visit. 

This is seriously the third abandoned metal frame bridge we've come across in this area, while exploring a new area. 



The beautiful view of Cedar Creek, to the West.


And to the East.


Wonder what this bridge will be in another 20 years.


The trail was clearly blazed in white diamonds.


Horses and hikers are welcome. Apparently, so are bicycles... but I wouldn't recommend them on this trail.


The trail was heavily blanketed in leaves hiding all the trip hazards beneath them.


We've seen this on two other trails, both in the Mark Twain trails. There's a gate because at certain times of the year, cows graze beyond this point. You can still hike it, but you have to close this gate behind you if it's closed when you get to it. One time on another trail, the trail took us within feet of the cow's watering hole, and they just stood and stared at us as we passed by.

But we didn't see any cows today.


Just on the other side of the woods, the trail opened up to this field. The weather was absolutely perfect for an open air hike. The sun wasn't blazing hot and it wasn't too windy, or wet.


The ground was beaten down by the feet of hikers.


It seemed like the most perfect place in the country to have a picnic. And what an easy hike to get there!




 At the bottom of the hill was this little watering hole, probably the result of a sinkhole which are common around here.


 There were lots of birds out today. I was surprised we didn't see more wildlife. I guess at this point in the year, they are probably settling into shelters somewhere.


Pretty soon, we backtracked and headed back into the woods. When we got home, we looked at the overhead map of this area and figured out that this trail does go in a loop, although part of the hike would be on gravel road and it's probably about 6-7 miles all the around. Maybe a spring hike?


 This is Eli saying, "I found you a walking stick!"


Back across a footbridge...


And then to the old abandoned metal bridge with a view of Cedar Creek


And the country road to take us home.


We got our hiking fix today! Bring on the cold weather. We're ready for it! 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Garlic Parmesan Steak Fries


After a Thanksgiving weekend with family in town and lots of food, games, and football, we are ready to be done with holiday leftovers. Fortunately for us, my parents delivered a cooler of delicious marinated porkchops, steaks, and roasts from the local meat market back home in Ohio. We could not wait to feast on them. 

This past weekend, we spent an unseasonably warm day (close to 70, I think?) in the yard, raking every corner, garden bed, and edge and picking up sticks and toys and anything else that Kylo had drug outside. We were exhausted. I wanted something easy to go with pork chops so I went for this easy old favorite - Garlic Parmesan Steak Fries. You really can't mess these up. There are a ton of different flavor variations based on what your main dish is. 


Before you get going, preheat the oven to 400 degrees, F. Also, use oil or butter to grease a baking sheet.

I started with 6 small Russet potatoes. If you have medium size, you could use fewer.


Cut your potatoes into wedges. I cut mine in half lengthwise, and then in half 2 more times for a total of 8 wedges per potato.


Meanwhile, pour a quarter cup of vegetable oil (or canola or olive oil...)





Mix in 1 1/2  tsp. of salt and 2 tsp. of Italian seasoning. Chop up 2 cloves of garlic and throw that in too. Stir it all together.


Pour the seasoning mixture over the potato wedges.


And then mix it so the potatoes are all coated.


Stir in 1/2 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese. Of course the real stuff is the best, but if you only have the Parmesan that comes in the container with a green lid (like I did), well then by all means, use that.


Lay all your wedges out on the baking tray in a single layer.


Bake for 25-35 minutes (depending on the size of the wedges), until they are fork tender. Flip once during baking to get them browned on all sides.


And serve them up with your favorite meat main dish. This is so easy, and so versatile. The possibilities of flavor combinations are endless.






Saturday, November 25, 2017

Thankful

Of course Thanksgiving weekend is the perfect time to update this dusty ole blog and share my overflow of gratitude for our very blessed life. I've been admittedly neglectful of this blog for a little while, but I've been engrossed in some other writing projects and am just trying to maintain balance (aren't we all?). I can tell you that I have a list of recipes, hikes, and projects that I'm eager to write about, so maybe one of these days, I will get all caught up.

I'm going to use this post to catch up on what we've been up to this past month. Let's start with some of our family pictures from last month. Our photographer does such an amazing job of catching the boys' personalities. When I first opened the disc of pictures, I couldn't help but laugh at about half the pictures, with Eli's face scrunched up in the cheeky smile, and Lex thinking no one would see that he was crossing his eyes. There are plenty of good, non-funny smiles in the pictures too - but what fun is that? These are my favorites.



Here are the boys looking oh so grown up. I am thankful every day for these boys.



Here is one of many great family pictures. Our photographer suggested this location which was really close to our house and so unique. We have a thing for including bridges in our family pictures. I can't believe we've never discovered this place before, but we'll be back because the boys discovered a hiking trail that we need to try out!


How we've been killing time around our house...

 We have been playing tons and tons of cards as a family. "Trash" is our card game of choice, but we've also played our share of Uno, and fairly recently, we taught the boys the basics of poker. That was a fun night, and the boys loved it. We also play checkers and chess at least once a week. We love family game nights, especially when we can't get out to hike.



Lex participated in the state piano competition in Warrensburg and earned the highest rating. We were (and are) so proud of him.


The boys raked a big pile of leaves in the backyard, and then Kylo took it over and buried himself in the leaves over and over again. It was so funny.


We got out again on the Katy Trail again and had an amazing bike ride. 



 For Halloween, we each carved a pumpkin and then I somehow forgot to take "after" pictures. Maybe because it was so cold that day and I just wanted to put a candle in them and get inside (which is exactly what I did).


For Halloween, Lex was a very believable Harry Potter and Eli, who wanted to be a really scary ghost, turned out to be a really cute ghost instead.



In typical fashion, I decked the house out with Christmas decorations a few weeks back. For all of you holiday purists out there, who wait until after Thanksgiving to decorate, I don't even want to hear it. I love Christmas and want the season to last as long as possible. AND...I actually heard on the news today that a study showed that putting up Christmas decorations DOES make people happier... So why wait? Our house is cozy and the halls are decked. Let the merriment begin. 



And this is reason one billion and three why I love my husband to the moon and back. Sometime during summer when I was painting basically every room in the house, I mentioned to Jeremy how much I would love a farm house table. And then he spent his evenings, weekends, and spare minutes here and there building me what is now the most beautiful piece of furniture I own. I love, love, love this table and love him for making it for me (I mean us). He's taking a break from it to build a couple of other pieces, but then he's planning to build some benches for it. 


And then there was this incredible sunset on our way home last night that pretty much blew me away. I just love Missouri skies. 



I hope everyone had an amazing Thanksgiving complete with lots of food, drinks, and laughter. Happy Holiday Season!



Sunday, October 29, 2017

A Day in Saint Louis

Recently, the whole family took a day off of work and school to get some family time away. Through the months of September and October our schedules are consumed with extra-curricular activities and we finally figured out that if we wanted time away, we would have to take it during the week. So one Friday morning in mid October, we told the boys we were taking them to school and surprised them by turning onto the interstate instead. We were leaving town to take St. Louis by storm.


This was their reaction when we finally revealed our plan. They were so happy. We've missed our annual zoo trip the past 2 years, and Lex has been begging to go. Perfect. First stop - the St. Louis Zoo. The best thing about the St. Louis Zoo (aside from the fact that it is a beautifully maintained zoo) is that it's free! 


The zoo was all decorated for fall and Halloween and also, the weather was perfect!


We saw the new Grizzly Bear attraction and the bears were out and active!



And the boys enjoyed all the "haunted" decorations.


We went through the chilly and smelly penguin house.


The last time we were at the zoo, the railroad pass got you one round trip on the train. That means 4 stops and then you're done. This time, we were pleasantly surprised that the train pass (which does cost money) got you unlimited riding time. And we definitely took advantage of that. We probably did 2 1/2 round trips by the time it was all done. When we got tired of walking and we just jumped on the train and rode it for as long as we wanted.





 The elephants were also all out and active.




More time on the train.


And then we saw the zebras. 


And giraffes.



And my personal favorite, the monkey habitats! There are so many, and they are always playing.


And then the sea otters, which were one of our favorite stops of the day. The boys loved watching them do tricks at feeding time. 

We saw so much more than I have documented here. One cool thing that we learned from one of the volunteers at the Zoo was that at around 5 pm, they feed the big cats, and apparently you can hear them roaring for their food from anywhere in the zoo. We've only ever gone to the zoo in the morning, but now, we can't wait to plan an evening trip so we can hear those cats!

We were at the zoo for about 4 hours and by the time we were tired of walking and felt like we had seen as much as we wanted, we were famished. We wanted to find a local pizza place, and decided that since it was so early in the day still, we would head to downtown and get a closer look at the arch. We easily found parking at a garage right across from Busch Stadium (where the Cardinals play for those of you who aren't local or don't care about baseball). 


We were so lucky to not be in downtown when the Cards were playing because otherwise, we would have never found this parking garage literally 3 blocks from the Arch, AND the traffic would have been insane.


One of the boys said it would be really cool to eat at a restaurant where you could see the Arch right from your seat. And guess what - We walked right into Angelo's and got a booth where the boys could look right at the Arch from their seat.

Cheers!


After some pizza, we walked on over to the Arch. The boys have never been there close up. And even though I've been there several times, it never gets old. I mean, where else in the country is a piece of architecture as unique as this one.


It had been such a long day and was nearing evening by this point, so we opted against a trip to the top. We did walk all around the grounds though and saw the Mississippi River. It's such a beautiful area.




 And that's how we took St. Louis by storm. We headed home, full, exhausted, and refreshed.