Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Life goes in waves - as do the seasons

I get busier, I get less busy... I've been busier. Mostly just more little stuff to do. So I haven't posted much lately.

It's been an exceptional fall for Mid Missouri. The early turners (leaves) have been spectacular and have lasted a long time. The weather has been nearly perfect for it.

Most people aren't aware that one of the biggest determining factors for fall colors is temperature.

Warm days (50's & 60's ... maybe 70's) and cool nights (30's & 40's -- but not freezing) for an extended period brings out the best in the leaves. The tree stops supplying nutrients to the leaves. The clorophyll disappears, and what's left is some sugars & pigments trapped in the leaves.

We love fall. It's our favorite time of year. We share that with our neighbors, the Williams'. So last weekend we went to Hermann, Mo to the Stone Hill Winery. It was a cool, mostly cloudy day. The drive, even on I-70, showcased some spectacular foliage, and of course the drive down Mo-19 is pretty any time of year -- especially right now. We sat at a picnic table overlooking the town. It's still Oktoberfest in Hermann, and it was pretty crowded. Brought some cheese and crackers and beef sticks and fruit and had some of their "regular" red and a bottle of their Norton (that's some good stuff there). Kristie had a bottle of Seval (white).

A cold front blew in in the late afternoon, dropping the temperature from about 60 to 43 as the rain moved in. Fortunately we had left for home minutes before. We went home and started a fire in the fireplace. Had some hot apple cider, too. And Sunday we made up a pot of soup beans & corn bread and watched "The Frighteners". Halloween you know.

Earlier, on Friday evening, Kristin had us down for a "Warsaw vs Ashland" football party. She is from Warsaw, but she lives just south of us in Ashland. Her parents and some friends from Warsaw were up for the game and we had a bbq. Kevin and Adrienne came over. And despite dire predictions to the contrary Warsaw kind of whupped up on Ashland. It was like 45-3 at halftime or something close to that and the footall fans came back to the party. Kristin even got a new grill for the occasion.

And astoundingly enough, Mizzou beat Nebraska saturday 41-24. Ryan and I had turned it off at halftime as it appeared Mizzou was in the midst of pulling one of its famous self destruction acts. That's probably why we won. Right.

Smashed my finger at Dad's a couple weekends ago cutting wood. Right between two pieces of wood as I was lifting one off the end of the trailer and another piece was tossed right into my left middle finger. Some tendon damage -- not broken. It's healing slowly. Joel, Dad, and I managed a couple of cords of wood, bringing them up to three.

Bart has plaque problems -- or had them. Took him to the vet friday, got him an antibiotic -- and monday he went in to get the plaque cleaned. It's clean. He wasn't able to eat before -- it hurt too bad. I knew the moment he hissed at a treat he had started to eat and ran away that he had some sort of dental problem. Dental. Mental. Coincidence????

Making some cider. Real cider, that is. Got a gallon of apple cider and added some Oktoberfest yeast to it, and an airlock. I thought some Apple Wine sounded good for Thanksgiving. It's going good now. Probably just a couple of weeks.

The mantle clock broke over the weekend. The little dongle the pendulum hangs from broke. Have to figure out how I'm going to construct a new one. I think it will involve strips of metal cut from a razor blade, but I haven't figured out yet how to put it together.

Well, that's about it for now.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Mini Vacation

Ok, to recap the trip....

We took off about noon Friday after packing Molly, Kristie's Ford Escape. With four people, camping and then a trip to Eureka Springs, AR on the agenda, packing light was key. Most of the camping gear was strapped atop the car in a couple of large military duffels (the big 50" one dubbed a "grammy bag" because you can fig your grammy in one). Also our tent and four camping chairs strapped up there.

On our way down we stopped at the traditional Rolla Steak & Shake for a late lunch, then buzzed on down to Salem, where we bought a pie at Mom's Homemade Pies. From there, the rest of the way down to the Alley Spring camp ground, where Ryan and I set to work setting up tents and Vicki and Kristie went to buy some firewood at Harvey's and pay for the campsite.

They came back. I know Ryan's propensity for burning lots of wood, so I started tromping the woods nearby for deadfall. There was a large fallen cottonwood tree, and Ryan and I cut and dragged a couple of smallish branches up to the campsite and cut them up.

We cooked up poor boy packets for dinner -- Vicki and Kristie put them together in foil and we put them on the grate over a bed of hot coals for about an hour. Had beer, talked, and ate as it got dark. We had Mom's blackberry pie for dessert.

Went to bed about 9:30 -- we were all tired. There was a large group about 150 yards away that stayed up talking and laughing -- they were having fun. It wouldn't have been annoying if I weren't trying to sleep. Fortunately, I brought earplugs.

Apparently a pack of wild dogs and coyotes loudly checked out the campsite. Ryan and Vicki heard them -- they were howling and yipping and growling and sniffing all over the campsite. All I heard was one growl through my earplugs and I heard nothing after that. I chalked it up to one of those things you hear in your sleep -- but apparently not.

We slept on an air mattress with a mattress pad and a sleeping bag on top of that, flannel sheets over that, and a fleece sleeping bag and another sleeping bag over us as a "quilt". With our long pj's on, we were quite comfortable except that our faces got cold as the temperature dipped into the mid 30's.

We got up and made breakfast -- scrambled eggs, bacon, and sausage -- and Pie.

Vicki and Kristie went for a walk -- Ryan and I went back to the cottonwood tree and got a bunch more wood and cut it up. It got up to about 50 degrees and we hit the showers. The showers have hot water, but the shower rooms are unheated.

From there, we all went down to Alley Spring for the "Haunting in the Hills" daytime activities where we saw furriers, weavers, lean-tos, bows and arrows, a blacksmith, mountain men, the old school, soap making, apple butter making, rope weaving, basket & bucket making, wooden shingle making, moonshine making, butter making, bee keeping and a beautiful afternoon. We had lunch by the Alley Spring branch creek. I collected a little watercress for my home watercress garden out of the creek -- and a few springs of spearmint that was growing along side.

We went back to camp about 4:00 to get a fire going for dinner. I made mint julep juice out of the mint and some sugar. Vicki and Kristie went walking again, and came back and made up poor boy packets which we again cooked over the hot coals. Ryan and I had a couple of brewskis, too.

After dinner, we went back to Alley Springs and went on a couple of the after dark "Haunting in the Hills" tours -- the "Lost Voices of the Ozarks" tour -- which consisted of a walk down a trail with several stops where a lone character would give a speal on what his or her life in the Old Tyme Ozarks was like.

The other tour was the graveyard tour -- in the Alley graveyard, which was again more informational than spooky -- but the lady tried.

Then of course we had to get back and get the fire cracking again for marshmallows & s'mores. We went to bed a little after 11.

It didn't get as cold that night -- only about 42 -- and showers were a little easier. We broke down camp and headed down the road toward Eureka Springs -- a good distance from where we were. We ate brunch at Hillbilly Junction in Willow Springs, and drove the rest of the way to Eureka Springs, AR.

Ryan and Kristie had a spa appointment at the Crescent Hotel at 5:30, and we were to go to dinner afterwards at Ermilio's Italian Restaurant after that. So they dropped us off in old downtown where the shops were closing fast on a Sunday evening. We went to the cheap leather shop and Vicki got a purse and I got a buttpack and a couple of pouches for my pipes. We ended up at Chelsea's bar where this newgrass/bluegrass band "The Jeff & Vida Band" were playing. Turns out they're from New Orleans. They were quite good. Chelsea's appears to be a bar where the locals hang. They only take cash, which'll keep a lot of tourists out right there. We had wandered in there last year and I thought it was kinda neat. It's a bar with an enclosed courtyard with wooden tables and a balcony -- two floors to the bar -- and a small wooden stage for bands to play on.

The locals are a varied bunch. Eureka Springs is a very "diverse" town. It's very gay friendly, it's a biker hangout, there are hillbillies and hippies and artists, etc all intermingling with each other. We had a couple of Guinness's and listened to the band before heading back to meet Ryan and Kristie for dinner.

There was about an hour wait, so we sat in the bar at Ermilios -- more of a "living room" with a bar in it since Ermilios is in an old house up on the hill. The food was good. I decided to just go with spaghetti and meatballs. I figure the best way to test out an Italian restaurant is to see how good their red sauce is. It was excellent. Vicki also had the spaghetti and meatballs. Frankly, I forget what Ryan and Kristie had, but I do remember they enjoyed it.

Back to the Holiday Inn Express to sleep.

Monday we got up and started walking Eureka Springs as the shops slowly opened between 9 & 10. We ate at Geraldi's Pizza -- kind of the high point of our trip, since they have THE BEST PIZZA! Odd to find a New York Pizza place run by a Brit in the Arkansas Ozarks. But Eureka Springs is just that kind of place.

We shopped around at the gift shops, art galleries, tobacco shop, and of course the ladies hit the jewelry and clothing shops -- not a lot of buying, but a lot of looking. We were going to go to the haunted tour of the Crescent Hotel at the top of the hill that night, but we decided $17.50 a person was a bit steep. So we went on a horse & buggy ride instead. The lady knew a lot about the neighborhood and we encouraged her to share with us. So she did.

Then we went and ate at the Autumn Breeze restaurant -- another great restaurant (but we'd like to speak to them about their decor -- it doesn't fit the restaurant's food or name. Looks ""Upscale Kountry" with cheesy wallpaper and curtains. There are a couple of nice archways and the windows are arched as well -- they could really class it up with some paint and perhaps some solid colored window dressings -- maybe do an Autumn Color theme since it is the "Autumn Breeze". The blue & flowered wallpaper just doesn't cut it.
On the other hand, the food is great. I had a filet mignon, Vicki and Kristie had some scallops in a sherry sauce.... can't remember what beef Ryan had -- it was all very good. And we all had chocolate soufflet's for dessert. They are the best there, and hot out of the oven served with a mound of whipped cream.

Tuesday we drove home, stopping at Surplus City in Springfield so I could buy us a couple of military duffels... I could have spent hours in that store. But we had to press on to Lamberts, home of the throwed rolls for the traditional "last lunch" on the way home from Eureka Springs. It was a quiet trip home the rest of the way. We were all full and tired.

And that's the way it was.