Well, it has been a snowy winter here in Maine. There are times when it feels like spring is a million years away. Then there are days such as this one when you’re driving and see the most beautiful sunset. There’s something about that sun setting on a snow covered winter evening that is truly beautiful!!
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We can’t believe it is 2009 already! What a great year 2008 was. We have already begun planning for our 5th annual Pies on Parade event. It will take place from 1 – 4 pm on January 25th. The most exciting part is that for the first time, we have partnered with 6 restaurants downtown to also participate in the event. That will bring the total number of venues serving pie to 10!! Each venue will be serving sweet & savory pies and many of the restaurant chefs will be onhand to discuss their techniques. We’ve also partnered with the All Aboard Trolley Company to do a continous loop throughout the day and take people around.
This year will also mark a milestone for our group. We will have donated more than $10,000 to the Area Interfaith Outreach Food Pantry. In an economy like this, there is a greater need than ever! If you want to read more about the event, please click here. We still have several rooms left at LimeRock Inn for the event.
Well, we drove eight hours to Rochester, NY after leaving Mason on Saturday morning. As luck would have it, we managed to slip our travel into the one pocket of mild conditions. Rochester has about a foot and a half of snow Friday night with another 4 to 6 inches of “lake effect”. Apparently, lake effect does not count in Rochester, but trust me, shoveling another six inches on top of the other stuff in that small back yard at Louie’s was quite interesting.
My “favorite” sister-in-law, Jamie, made beef stew for dinner. As soon as we walked in the house, what a yummy scent to welcome us. It was also interesting arriving with only Louie and Jamie at home as Tim didn’t arrive until yesterday and Nick got home this afternoon after we were gone. It’s amazing how quiet the house can be when they are not around.
On Sunday, we slept in and had bagels, again, yum. Before we knew it, it was time to leave to go to Webster to meet Uncle Don and Aunt Linda (PJ’s mom’s sister and husband) for a visit and dinner. Aunt Linda made yummy Chicken Cacciatore, and we got to visit with PJ’s cousin, Patty too. She just graduated from Robert Wesleyan College this weekend with a Masters in Education. Well, it’s good to know someone got the smarts in PJ’s family, ha ha.
Don and Linda’s house is beautiful. It is located on a bluff overlooking Irondequoit Bay AND Lake Ontario. Lots of window and a fire place made it both open and homey. It was a wonderful visit, and PJ will see them again in Tuscon in January for Nanny’s 90th birthday celebration.
So, what a surprise, we slept in Monday morning too, but yet there was more snow to shovel and no time to waste as Tim was flying up from JFK Airport and arriving at 11am. Louie and I jumped in the Mercedes to pick him up. At first, we thought it was all the snow that made the car steer funny. As it turns out, it was the flat tire I apparently had that made the car drive funny.
Louie and Jamie have a wonderful mechanic. Anyone in Rochester look up Sam LoVitro. He’s awesome. Jamie called ahead; he pulled my car right in the garage; and I was ready to go in less than 30 minutes. Turns out, we picked up a nail or something, but Louie and Tim were home shortly after me. Then, it was off to Len and Carolyn’s in Penfield for lunch.
Len used to work with Louie at Xerox, and he and Carolyn have visited LimeRock Inn on a few occasions. Len has had some health issues this year, but it was great to see him up and about (and even a few pounds lighter). Wish I could say the same for PJ and me. Oh well, lunch was great and we talked for hours and managed to solve most of the problems of the world if only others would listen.
After returning to Rochester, we dropped off Louie and headed to Craft Company #6 on University Ave. This place is awesome. It’s an old firehouse converted into a residence and gallery space. The owners then turned the whole thing into a neat store highlighting local and regional artists as well as a whole bunch of other fun stuff. It is a must see if you go to Rochester.
So, it was an early night last night to ensure our awakening at 7am to get on the road. Unfortunately, we had to postpone our visit to New Haven to see Uncle Frank and Xandi as the weather and early arriving guests have summoned us home. But I have to say, it was a great drive and a beautiful clear day. That is not the forecasted weather for tomorrow.
I speak for the both of us when I say a very “heartfelt thanks” to everyone for a wonderful vacation and visit over the last 20 days. After pulling in the driveway, I can report that we clocked over 3,800 miles in those 20 days and covered every state east of the Mississippi except VT, DE, FL and KY. Oddly enough, our trip consisted of a giant circle around the state of Kentucky. Let me just go on the record to say that there’s nothing wrong with Kentucky. Well just have to get there another time. Maybe the derby…..hmmmm
This will be a short post as we are getting ready to head out for Rochester, NY. We had a wonderful two days here in Mason visiting the Kraatz clan. Yesterday, Aunt Lisa and Uncle Rich brought us to The National Air Force Museum in Dayton. You can’t believe the number of planes they had here. Afterwards, we met Matt and Katie at an Ohio food institution, Gold Star Chili. I had no idea that chili was so big in Ohio. We had chili and coneys which are small hot dogs with chili and cheese. Yum!
Last night, we went to a local farm called Niedermans which is a Kraatz family tradition. This farm does a large holiday light display every year. As Frank put it, it was the midwestern version of the licve nativity we saw in Italy last year. At the end of the light display you enter a large barn where they serve hot chocolate and cookies and local church choirs perform christmas carols. It was all very Norman Rockwell!! Then it was back to the house for pigs in a blanket and crazy gin. A good time was had by all. You can check out some picture here.
Today was day two of our jaunt in Springfield. After breakfast, we went over and to the Gustafsons and Terri took us to the Abraham Lincoln museum. Most everything in Springfield has some sort of connection to Lincoln. It really is a beautiful museum and we highly recommend it as a stop to anyone passing through the area. Of course, I almost got kicked out for taking a picture of Lincoln’s stovepipe hat. You’re not allowed to take any pictures in the exhibit areas. I though I was being sneaky by waiting until no one was around and turining the flash off but apparently there are hidden cameras all over the place. Shortly after taking the picture a security guard tracked me down and me delete the offending shot (deja vu Christa?) We went to a great little restaurant and met Tom for lunch and then came back to the hotel to relax a bit.
We had venison for dinner at the Gustafsons. Tom is an avid bow hunter and has tons of meat, in fact a whole freezer full in the basement. Everything was delicious even though I don’t normally care for venison.
Afterwards, we went to the middle Gustafson sons, Will, basketball game. Dad Tom is the coach. They creamed the other team and we were very impressed not only with Will’s ability but with Tom’s coaching. After the game, it was back to the house for one more lemoncello martini and then back to the hotel for the evening. Check out some photos of our day here. Tomorrow, we head for Mason Ohio and the Kraatz family. It’s been four years since we’ve seen them and we are very excited. We’re getting out of dodge just in time too as an ice storm is making it’s way into town. Until later…..
P.S. – Had to take a shot of the R2-D2 mailbox. How cool is that!!
So after a blissful night’s sleep and a hearty buffet breakfast, we moved on from Cape Girardeau (also found out this is the hometown of Rush Linbaugh, ugh). Although overcast, we thought the storm of the previous night was behind us, or well, past us anyway. After an hour and a half drive, we pulled into the parking garage in St Louis.
Not really surprising, it was a pretty slow day at the arch. We were able to walk into the museum area and get right on a tram. Can we talk about that for a second. Let’s just say, you better not be claustrophobic if you want to get to the top of the arch. Check out the pictures. We road together in a tram car (the size of a commercial dryer bin) with five seats. Where the other three people were supposed to sit is hard to figure out. Again, even if you aren’t claustrophobic in general I would think that five people in a tumble dryer might put you over the edge.
The observation deck is really neat. On a clear day, they say you can see for 30 miles. We were not so lucky, but we still got to see about 3 miles or so. It’s really an amazing structure.
Upon coming down, we hit the museum and the two shops; bought some souveniers; and headed back up above ground. The picture in today’s blog is of me and the arch. Yes, if you look closely for a white speck in the lawn area, that’s me. Onto the courthouse which was beautifully restored, it was full of information about St Louis’ history, who knew?
By now, we were hungry. So we stopped in the Hyatt for some lunch and headed toward Springfield. Well, we started to, but much to our dismay, Heidi (MB Navigation) and TomTom actually had their first fight. Only the two of us would bother to run both systems at the same time and then get ticked off when they give conflicting information, so we don’t know which way to go. I felt like Chevy Chase in the original Vacation movie. We finally figured it out and off we went.
Well, what should have been an hour and a half turned into much longer because once again Mother Nature felt compelled to dump freezing rain on us. Although Jim Cantore of The Weather Channel assured us the front had moved on, apparently it had not. FYI, I’m coming back as a weatherman in my next life. There’s no other job where you can be so wrong, so often and still have a job.
Anyway, the car handles the bad weather really well. I don’t regret not having all wheel drive. Our biggest problem was the freezing rain was so pervasive that we could never get the windshield clear above the halfway point. We went through three gallons of washer fluid in about 50 miles. Ugh.
The good news is we arrived safely at the hotel; had a chance to relax; and then went to see the Gustafsons. It was great to see them and see their house (kids and dogs too). Tom mixes a mean cocktail, so Terry was nice enough to drive us in the Gus Bus to pick up Aunt Evelyn for dinner. Saputos is a great italian restaurant right downtown. Dinner was wonderful and the conversation lively. After yummy desserts, we headed back to the house and hotel for a good night’s sleep.
Today, we see the Land of Lincoln. More about that later……..