Friday, May 29, 2015

Tour of Missouri: Weston Bend State Park Area

Unofficially, summer has arrived. School has ended. Memorial Day has passed us. Let the daylight linger as the days stay longer.

On the heels of my near 800 mile road we headed out to Weston Bend State Park just outside of lovely Weston, Missouri.Luckily for us, it is only about a half hour from our home.  The weather forecasted rain all weekend but we still went out in search of our weekend getaway. Our camping spot was perfect! Friday night we were serenaded by owls all night long. The dog did not like it but we loved it!

Weston Bend State Park is a fairly small park. I think there are only 34 camping spots. We made our reservations about six months prior to ensure we would have a space. I am happy to say this is the first state park on our attempt to earn the Missouri Camper Award for the second year.  After breakfast on Saturday a small group of us headed out to enjoy Weston, Missouri. 

Small shops line both sides of the street. The men folk spent time in the Tobacco Shop and the Hardware store. We women checked out every other shop available!  We popped into the Main Street Galleria for cold drinks. 

The Galleria has an old fashioned soda fountain as well as hand-dipped ice cream.  Each of pondered the menu board before we each ordered either a phosphate soda, a limeade, or a lemonade.  I ended up having one of their specialties: a Lavender Lemonade. They claim it is the hottest thing in Weston! I don't know all about that, but I have been researching how to make my own Lavender Infused Simple Syrup. 

Weston was a beautiful town full of nice people. We enjoyed chatting with the salesman at the McCormick Vodka store. Did you know that McCormick Vodka is distilled in Weston? I did not.  You know what else you may not know, for a quarter you can sample any beverage they sell in the store. I should also put a plug in for Weston Tobacco Company. A longtime friend of mine owns and operates the store. He learned to hand roll cigars and turned a passion into thriving company. We were not able to catch up with Corey at his shop but he was nice enough to stop by the campsite and meet everyone. I almost wish I smoked cigars. But since I don't I will do the next best thing and tell you all about his place. Check them out when you visit Weston.

The rain did catch up to us. Saturday evening an hour or two before forecasted the rain came down.  And it kept coming down all night. 

Sunday morning, after the rain cleared we got out the dutch oven and tried a new breakfast pizza. The pizza tasted great and was so easy to make. Wanna try? Here is the recipe:
  • Line the bottom of a dutch oven with a tube of crescent rolls. I used two tubes in a 12 inch dutch oven. It was a little think, sorta like deep dish pizza.
  • Top the crescent rolls with 1 pound browned sausage, 1 cup thawed frozen hash-browns, and 1 sliced green onion,  and a cup of shredded cheese.  
  • Mix together 4 eggs, 3 tablespoons of milk, 1 tablespoon of flour or baking mix, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, and 3 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese.
  • Pour the egg mixture over the crust.
  • Place 12 briquettes  on top of the dutch oven and 8 on the bottom.  Cook for about 20 minutes until the egg mixture is set. 
We placed this meal on our "do-over" list!

Besides visiting the small town of Weston, we experienced another really cool thing during our visit to Weston Bend State Park. Every year in Missouri we experience locust. This is a year of the 17 year cicada and we were able to first hand experience their hatching. The still shelled cicada emerge from tiny holes in the ground. They then crawl to a spot where they hang until they hatch. 

Call me a nerd, but I became fascinated with the hatching locust. When you first look at the tree, or the plants, the weeds, or even the ground you do not see any evidence of the cicada. But if you stop and look beyond the obvious you would see them EVERYWHERE! The ground was littered with little wholes. The trees were covered with empty shells; some discarded some still hatching. The plants were dotted with hatched locust in various stages of drying out. I personally don't love cicadas. I can appreciate their matching call until it gets so loud I can't hear myself think, but I loved studying them up close as they hatched. 

Our weekend was quiet and relaxing. We enjoyed good food, good company, we made some new memories. Sorry, Allen but some of those might have been at your expense. And we were able for a few days to slow the world down and just enjoy the small things. I hope your Memorial Day Weekend was just as rewarding! 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Tour of Missouri: Elephant Rock State Park

Two days after the graduation party, barely enough time to clean the house, my work sent me on a week long road trip around the state of Missouri. I have traveled from Kansas City to Springfield; Springfield to Farmington: Farmington to Ironton to Festus; From Festus to Jefferson City. That is a 
total of 731 miles in five days!


It has been a long week but it has also been a great week. I have met so many great people. It is honestly true when they say Missouri's people are nice. Everywhere I have been from hotels to restaurants from work meetings even at gas stations, people have been so friendly!

It has not been all work and no play. I met up with friends along the way. I even spent a lunch hour hiking at a state park I had never been to before. I found myself less than 10 miles from Elephant Rock State Park in the southeast corner of Missouri. 

The family and I actually plan to visit this park this summer. I hope they won't mind that I took a sneak peak. It was kind of like being a young child on Christmas morning. I was so close and I just had to go and see!  Elephant Rock State Park is considered one of the most curious geologic formations in Missouri. Giant granite boulders that are 1.5 billion-years-old stand end to end on a seven acre park. It is said that the giant boulders look like  a train of circus elephants lined up.

The park has a mile long paved path that is actually a Braille Trail. I honestly felt like I was in a scene from the movie Frozen. Remember when the trolls are introduced? All you see is round boulders and then they start rolling and become trolls?  Everywhere I looked I could see boulders.

Right outside the park is the oldest recorded commercial granite quarry in the state of Missouri.  Evidence of mining was found throughout the park. Circular holes were cut into the rocks so that the quality of the rocks core could be determined. I was able to find many perfect circles on my hike. I also could find half circle lines cut into the rock as well as anchors used to tantalize cranes.  Of course, being exposed to the elements the rocks are being weathered and eroding naturally.

Occasionally when hiking, it makes sense to leave the safety of the hiking path and explore beyond the norm. When I left the path at this park I found some gems. One gem was the ruins of an old railroad engine house. The tracks are still present and the stone walls were amazing! I spent many minutes admiring the craftsmanship of the stone work.  Does anyone else find parallels to hiking off-path and exploring life in general? Don't be afraid to venture off the path!

The second gem I found was a quarry full of water hidden in the rocks. It was peaceful and beautiful and maybe had it been a little warmer I would have sat and meditated in the spot for a while.  Instead I lingered and then moved on. I did stop and enjoy the flowers I found when I was off-.path walking. The morning rain was still present on their pedals and leaves. Drops of water that were lingering. Kinda like my time at Elephant Rock State Park. I wanted to soak it all in so I kept re-tracing my tracks and doubling back just giving my mind the opportunity to connect with the environment. 
After exploring off-path I headed back on the trail. I found a second quarry full of water. At this quarry there were actually a couple of young men cliff jumping into the quarry. There spirit and adventure made me smile. Then I realized one of the young men was on a bicycle and it was loaded with gear.  He told me that he was biking from the New Jersey shore to the west coast. Last summer when we started biking The Katy Trail we met other coast to coast bikers. I so admire their dedication and determination! If you happen to be interested, you can actually follow his journey here!

I am looking forward to returning here this summer. I expect it will not be the same. I imagine it will be crowded and busy. I think the kids will love it. I plan to pack a picnic lunch and linger some more. There are so many amazing rock formations, it was nice to take a break from the world of public child welfare and explore.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Date That Came....And Went

I can't say I never thought the day would come. I, of course, always did.  I mean you can dread a date as it approaches but you can't deny the fact that time always passes in the same manner; twenty-four hours and a new day starts. It is a constant in this life we can count on.  It's just, when I put the date on our calendar it seemed so far off. Something I would have to deal with in the future. Then the future becomes the present and before you are fully prepared you are dealing with something that maybe you just were not ready to deal with.

My son graduated from high school. I am still trying to get use to the reality of that sentence. My son graduated from high school and will be going away to college this fall. Another not so elusive date on the calendar. When the school year started the end seemed so far away. But slowly as the school year has progressed and with it came many last dates. Last football game, last home basketball game, last school dance, last day of school. Then the final, final date. Graduation.

It has been a whirlwind. Baccalaureate, Honors Night, Graduation Ceremony, and finally a graduation party. More than a few tears have been shed over the past week. Some alone, some publicly. Some were a silent lonely tear while others have been hard sobbing ones. When I was not crying, I put my energy into preparing and planning for his graduation party.

The Boy wanted a purple and white themed party to celebrate his future college. I felt like the party needed to be connected to his high school. We settled on a "Past and Future" themed party and used both school colors.  Our home does not have an open floor plan conducive to large gatherings so our hope was for a backyard party. We put a new deck on the house last year and we hoped  to use it. A local party supply business was able to rent me tables, chairs, and table cloths  to polish everything off.

The Boy and The Husband were pretty insistent on BBQ for the menu. I advocated hard for Walking Taco's but in the end, they won and we made plans to smoke brisket and a whole pig for the party. Smoking a whole pig is not an easy task and I think if you ask The Husband if he would do it again, his vote would be for Walking Tacos! The Short Chic has jumped on board, her seven year old self, already promised me she would want tacos for her graduation party. We will see if she changes her mind in eleven years.

Mother Nature threatened us and even gave us rain all morning of the party, but an hour before our start time, she dried up and gave us a perfect Missouri afternoon free of rain. The Husband has been actively growing grass all spring. I think the graduation party might have ruined his new grass. The yard was just a muddy mess in places.

The Boy was not the only graduates at his party. Two of his cousins also graduated and they attended our party. It was great having them together one last time. One of them will move away this week, another leaves next month. Our little birds are leaving the nest.

I have come to terms that my style is very rustic chic. The Boy does not like the chic part of that! He thinks it is too girly. I kept reminding him that he won the whole pig fight. I get a little chic. I used a lot of rustic details. Mason jar beverage dispensers, wooden crates, galvanized metal, chalkboards,  even twine.  I found purple and white flamingo's and added them to the yard. I planted purple flowers in flower beds. I wanted a photo booth but The Boy said that was too girly. Instead I made foam board numbers and covered them with tinted senior photos.  It made a perfect stage for photos.

I found myself not wanting the day to end. I am so thankful I have great friends and one amazing cousin who worked their hind-ends off so that I could mingle and be present in the moment. Thank you all for that.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Bittersweetness {Graduation Video To My Son}

Life is so bittersweet.

The sweetness is mixed with the salty. The joy with the sorrow.  Pleasure with pain. The good with the bad. The yin and the yang.  Obviously, we know life is bittersweet or we would not have so many ways of describing it.

Bittersweet is how I have come to describe The Boy's high school graduation.  It is honestly a very happy time. To see your child accomplishment a goal  is a wonderful feeling. He earned his A+ diploma. He has been accepted into his dream college. It is a wonderful time for him.

He is not the only one celebrating. We all are. As parents, we accomplished a goal as well. Sometimes you just don't want to become a statistic. You don't want you child to become involved in drugs and alcohol, you don't want them to become teen parents, you don't want them to get involved in the criminal justice world. You don't want them to take the hardest path they can find.  I can honestly say, we made it through (bumpy at times!) without becoming a statistic.

It is a time to celebrate. To be excited. We are busy making party plans to celebrate this large milestone.  But all of that does not stop me from feeling sad. Melancholy. Reflective. Maybe even a bit scared.

I have spent the last 18 years and change with The Boy right next to me. What will next year be like when I will go weeks or even months without seeing him. I have to wonder and hope that he will make good decisions when not under his mother's watchful eye. Or her social media stalking. I hope but you never know. That is the scary part.

Yesterday was his last formal high school class. He has two more days of school activities. Four days until graduation. I am trying to hold back the sadness and focus on the excitement. It is all bittersweet.

I made a video for him. It is a part of a larger video that we will present to him at his party. I am ready to share my part.