Monday, July 14, 2014

Cakeway to the West - Head East!

Eugene Field House
On Saturday my niece Julie joined me on the cake hunt. There are a good number of cakes in Illinois, and a few are located in areas where it is best to have a travel buddy with you. (The same can be said for a few in Missouri as well.) I had ten cakes on the route for the day, but I wasn't sure if Julie would be up for doing all of them. Not everyone is as obsessed as me, and I get that. Because she had a meeting early in the morning, I stopped at the Eugene Field House Museum on the way over to Illinois to pick her up. This is one of the handful of cakes that is located inside, so you have to pay attention to hours. I arrived just after the museum was opening at 10:00. The guide was in the process of telling two women about the cake, and how it hadn't really been painted to their specifications. I could see what he was saying as the cake really had nothing to do with the history of the home or its owner. But I also know that many of the artists had no idea where their cake would be placed; thus some of the cakes make no sense in relationship to their locations. Nevertheless, it is a pretty cake and I was happy to check it off my list.

Julie and I had a hard time locating Malcolm Martin Memorial Park, and I wished that I had brought my car with the GPS. Even Siri failed me - probably wondering what in the heck I was doing in that neighborhood. When we eventually stumbled upon it - oh my! What a lovely park, and the best setting ever for one of the cakes! We definitely want to come back to the park with a picnic lunch so that we can watch the fountain explode, reaching a maximum of 600' - the same height as the Arch. (That only happens at noon, 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.)
Malcolm Martin Memorial Park
We picked off all the cakes in East St. Louis before heading out to Cahokia Mounds, and then on to the World's Largest Catsup Bottle in Collinsville.

Cahokia Mounds
World's Largest Catsup Bottle
From there we drove to the Scott Field Heritage Park at Scott Air Force Base. Located outside the gates of the base, thankfully, this small park is home to several Air Force Military planes. I couldn't help but think how much my dad would have enjoyed seeing them. After that it was time for lunch so we went across the street to a strip mall. I like to try new places when I am out caking, so we skipped the two chain restaurants there and went into Chicago Fish-Chicken-Grill. We each got a salad, and they were huge and very tasty. With our stomachs full, we drove on to Carlyle to capture the Clinton County Courthouse cake. That was quite a drive on the back highways! I was at least hoping that I would get to see an historical courthouse, but this one is relatively new.
Clinton Co. Courthouse cake

Clinton County Courthouse
The last two stops were to the Sky View Drive-In and Our Lady of the Snows, both located in Belleville. I have never been to this drive-in before, and it has been a long time since I have been to the shrine. It looks like they have made a lot of changes there, so I definitely need to go back.

Old Cahokia Courthouse

Before I dropped Julie off at home, we made a quick pass by the Old Cahokia Courthouse. While I already had a photo of the cake there, I had neglected to take a picture of the courthouse. Julie had never seen it before, so she was fine with tagging along. All in all, we had a really good time together. She was a great sport and an excellent navigator. And I guess I didn't scare her off, because she said she would like to go out with me again.

There are now 246 cakes installed throughout the greater (emphasis on "greater") St. Louis area. With the 11 cakes I got on Saturday, I have 234 of them photographed. It is time consuming to catalog and edit the photos, getting them ready to put into a book. I also am researching a little about each site so I can add a description to each cake. One thing I can say for sure is that there are a lot of places in the area that I had no idea existed. And that is part of the fun of the hunt.


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Family Gatherings

My niece, her husband and their 3 1/2 year old son came to visit for a couple of days on their way back to Texas. We haven't seen them since the family reunion in Branson last summer. They arrived on Monday afternoon, and unfortunately headed back home this morning. That did not leave us with very much time to visit. My great-niece came over Monday night and spent the night so that she could spend Tuesday with us, and my sister joined us Tuesday morning. Following a breakfast of egg casserole, cinnamon streusel bundt cake, and fresh fruit, we all piled into my SUV to go to Grant's Farm. While it was pretty hot out, the breeze kept it from being unbearable. Little Owen enjoyed the tram ride and all the animals we saw along the way, as well as the opportunity to feed the goats. We also caught part of the bird show, and all of the elephant show. After some cooling drinks we walked over to the barns to see the Clydesdale horses.

Clydesdale horses
And you know that I took a picture of the kids with the Grant's Farm cake!

Grant's Farm cake
That evening several more family members came over for a barbecue. It's too bad it was so hot that we could not enjoy our patio and beautiful gardens. We had to eat inside instead.

As I mentioned, the guests left this morning and I spent the day doing laundry and getting the house back in order. I love having company, but I'm not going to lie. I'm pooped!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Hoover High School Reunion

Last weekend we traveled to Des Moines for my high school reunion. It was a big one - the 40th. I can remember when I was in college and someone would mention that they were attending their 20th high school reunion. I would smile and say "How fun!" while inside I was thinking "Man, you're old!" And here I am at double that. I have attended the 10th, 15th, 20th and 30th reunions in the past, and I have always had a good time. This year was no exception. I am lucky in that two of my husband's fraternity brothers also attend these events - one who was a classmate of mine (and in fact is responsible for Jim and me meeting at Iowa State), and one who married a classmate of mine. Add in the classmates that Jim met while we were at the same university, and that equals a spouse who doesn't mind going with me as he always has people to talk to as well.

Another fraternity brother and his wife put up two of the reunion couples, so we got to visit them as well. Friday night was at Saints in Beaverdale, where we had an air conditioned room (thank goodness, as the St. Louis heat and humidity traveled north with us) and also the patio to gather in. I had invited my advanced placement English teacher to come, and he and his wife made it to the Friday event. I was thrilled to see him, because even though we have been corresponding via email, I have not set eyes on him since I graduated. Because he instilled in me a deep appreciation of the (well) written word, he is largely responsible for me being a published author today.

Jerry Wadden and me
Saturday morning I had coffee (or tea, in my case) with two neighbors who lived across the street from me in Des Moines. I used to baby-sit for both of them, and we had reconnected on Facebook. What a fun time reminiscing about Bel-Aire Road! They both look amazing, and I am so glad we had a chance to catch up.

Ann Melton, me & Mary Ann Crawford
Darlene Sloan & me
Next I met back up with my group for lunch at the Tavern so that I could order a grinder. It used to have a name that is now considered a racial slur, so I call mine the Iowa grinder. Essentially it is a finely ground Italian sausage sandwich. I have tried to replicate the recipe, but something is off so I wanted to see if we could detect the difference. I had been told that it might be the Italian sausage I buy here, so we later made a trip to Graziano's grocery store to buy some to take home. But first I went down the street from the Tavern to see another mom from my street. Her son graduated with me, and I just loved her and her husband so I popped into her store to surprise her. More walks down memory lane!

Saturday night's reunion event was held at Legends in downtown Des Moines. At this location we were on the outside patio, and it was a little hot out. It was a good thing we had stopped across the street for a drink first. The concoction we were all drinking was called a Blue Motherf*cker - no kidding. It was a blue Long Island Tea. Yum! But it was also good that I stopped at one, and then drank ice water at the reunion.

Some of the same people from Friday attended Saturday night, but there were some new faces as well. I guess that is why a two night event makes sense. Eventually we headed inside to a room at the bar where we could watch the movies that were made by some of our film students back in 1974. I even had a cameo in one of them. Several more of our teachers attended, including my speech teacher. I also learned a lot about presentation style and being comfortable in front of groups from him, so I appreciated the opportunity to tell him that.

Sunday four of us drove up to Ames to see the changes to the Iowa State campus, and then our friends drove on back home to Minneapolis. We went back to Des Moines to spend one more night with our hosts. Monday morning we took off for Brooklyn, Iowa where Jim was born. We drove around the town and had a wonderful pork tenderloin sandwich before going on to LeClaire, Iowa. We are fans of the History Channel cable show "American Pickers", and this town is where Mike Wolfe of the show has a store called Antique Archaeology. While it was not exactly on our way home, I am so glad that we stopped. It was fun to see where some of the items on the show end up to be sold.

Antique Archaeology

a few of the treasures inside
Overall, a great trip and one that proves you can, indeed, go home again. Till next time, Hoover Huskies!