Friday, July 23, 2010

We Are Family!

Two weekends ago my mom came to visit me in St. Louis!! I seriously was SO excited to see her. Even better, my Aunt Fish (Janet) came to visit as well. And since my Aunt Ali and her family already live in St. Louis it just turned into a mini-family reunion. It was wonderful.

Since being here in St. Louis, I have had A LOT of alone time. I grew up with 6 brothers and sisters, then I went college and lived with 5 other girls. I have never really had the chance to be alone before I got married. Because of this, I thought it would be awesome to finally get some time to myself this summer. I was totally wrong! I am so BORED when Peter is at work. I never realized how important girl-time is and how empty I feel without it. I actually miss having roommates and I actually miss the craziness of a big family (If my high school self could hear me saying this...she would be shocked and appalled). That being said, you can imagine how exciting and much-needed this mini-family reunion was for me.

The weekend was spent doing fun things in St. Louis, helping my Aunt Ali move (her new house is gorgeous), playing with 4 awesome cousins, boardgames, squirting water at each other, and just catching up. It really was such a great break from the monotonous days I have when Peter has to work all day. I loved it!
We went out to eat at Chilis (Yum)
Cousin Kaden, Aunt Ali, Uncle Jerry, Cousin Logan

Mom, Aunt Janet, Cousin Nathan

Me and cousin baby Carson (he is so precious)

Girls day at Forest Park!


My mom rocks! =D

Friday, July 16, 2010

12th Annual World's Largest Catsup Bottle Festival!!

As you have probably noticed, Peter and I recently developed a, sort of, obsession for going out of our way to see random/big/pointless/monumental type things. One day Peter was surfing the web and he came across some information for this festival coming up on July 11, 2010. He immediately set his heart on going, he was so excited. At first, I was a little skeptical, but I quickly warmed up to the idea and I too became very excited to experience this unique annual festival.

This is no ordinary festival, it is basically a birthday party for the World's Largest Catsup Bottle. I kid you not, they sing happy birthday to the giant catsup bottle and everything! There were actually quite a few events planned for the day of celebration. The days events looked something like this:

7:30am - Trailnet's Big Bottle Bike ride
10:00am - Car, Truck, and Motorcycle Show Registration
11:00am - Opening Ceremony
11:00am - Little Princess Tomato and Sir Catsup Contest
11:45am - Hot Dog (Smothered in Catsup) Eating Contest
12:15pm - Singing of Happy Birthday and Cutting of the Cake
12:30pm - Ronald McDonald Magic Show
1:00pm - Old-fashioned Birthday Party Games
2:00pm - Hula Hoop Contest
2:30pm - Water Balloon Toss
4:30pm - Awards
5:00pm - Saying Goodbye

Looks like a blast huh?? =D

So, Peter and I drove 45 minutes away to Collinsville, Illinois to join in on the famous (in Collinsville at least) celebration. We pulled up to the site of the festival excited to see the World's Largest Catsup Bottle for the first time. However, we couldn't see it anywhere. We saw tons of nice cars getting ready for the car show. We saw a stage and heard music. We saw tons of vendors and kids activities. But no Catsup Bottle, which was the reason we were there. We found out that the festival was not actually at the site of the Catsup Bottle (which is actually the towns water tower in the shape of and painted like a catsup bottle), it was 5 minutes away. Instead of parking and joining the festivities we went to go see the Birthday Bottle. We drove for awhile down some twisty, hilly roads, trees all around us blocking our view for most of the way. We finally curved around one last turn and BAM right in front of us, the huge Brook's Catsup Bottle. Let me tell you, it really is big!

After we marveled at the bottle we drove back to the festival. We got there just in time to see the Hot Dog (smothered in Catsup) Eating Contest. This is the contest Peter wanted to enter, so he ran over to the booth to put his name in the drawing. Sadly, they had already chosen their 8 contestants. Peter was a bit disappointed, but we enjoyed watching anyways. They did two age groups: Kids (up to age 13) and Adults (14 and up). The kids were first, they were given two minutes to eat as many hot dogs as they could. There were two huge plates of hot dogs in front of them and Hooters Girls waiting with bottles of catsup to smother each hot dog before they ate them. These kids were very amusing to watch.

The reigning champion ended up winning for the second year in a row, eating 4 hot dogs in 2 minutes. YAY!! The adults were much more boring to watch. The guy that won drank water while eating his hot dogs, he completely cheated! We were a little bitter about that.

After the contest we sang happy birthday to the Catsup Bottle and got to eat free cupcakes, Yum! Then we walked around to see some of the different activities and gawk at the awesome cars in the car show.

We came across a booth where you take a Catsup taste test. See, Collinsville is where Brooks Catsup originated from. So, there were 4 containers with different brands of catsup and you had to taste each one and guess which one is the Brooks brand. Peter went first and guessed the Hunts brand. I went second, so I had a bit of an advantage, but I won!!

By this point we had done mostly all there was to do and we were getting pretty hot, sweaty, and tired. However, we had to make one more stop. Every year at this Festival Erika Nelson comes and brings her Traveling Art Museum. This museum is The Worlds Largest Collection of the Worlds Smallest Versions of the World's Largest Things. Basically, this woman travels around the world and visits all the Worlds Largest Things in her special truck where she actually documents her journeys. After she sees these things she goes back home and creates very small replicas of all the World's Largest Things that she has seen.

Peter and I checked off all the things in her museum that we have already seen and talked about the ways we could plan on seeing all the others. After we finished looking at the museum we headed back to the car. With one more look at the fun Catsup Festival we were on our way home feeling very satisfied with our fun day and unique experience.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

My first day off in a while!

Its been a little bit since we've updated on here. Our lives have changed quite a bit since June and our schedules haven't permitted much of this. I am no longer doing door to door sales, I am working on the installation side of Linx, the assistant to the head tech. The work is more gratifying (and air-conditioned), the pay is more stable and predictable, but the hours are pretty brutal. We are on the road by seven a.m. and thirteen hour days are the norm. So...when July 5th rolled around and the installers got the whole day off, I was ecstatic. Kortney and I debated over all the things we had left on our list of things to do. We knew we might not get a lot more opportunities like this one, to just go for a whole day wherever we wanted. We agreed that we wanted to go outside of St. Louis to something relatively nearby that we might never get the chance to see again. Nauvoo? Hannibal (birthplace of Mark Twain)? Springfield (birthplace of Lincoln)? Bonne Terre? We looked into all of them and decided that the one that would work the best would be Jefferson City, the capital of Missouri.

First off, I have a thing for capitals. I once walked from Sandy to the Utah State Capitol Building in Salt Lake in the middle of the night for no good reason than to do it. When I first visited Kortney in TN, the very first thing we did was to go to the TN Capitol Building in Nashville. I think a great bucket list item is to go to each of the 50 capitol buildings in the US. In my mind, they are our equivalent to castles. Definitely worth visiting. Kortney is only now realizing that going to all 50 capitals is something that I am 75% serious about and after today I think she is definitely down. It was really amazing. Jefferson City seems like a pretty low profile capital, it isn't Boston, Nashville, Sacramento, or Phoenix, so you wouldn't think it would pack much of a punch. Wrong. And that's what I love about capitals.

We live about two hours from both Jefferson City and Springfield, IL, and we hope to see both before we leave. Since the beginning of the summer we have become kind of suckers for tourist attractions that are advertised from the freeways so we try and give ourselves some time when we take trips to be able to stop and check out the kitchy, oddball sites that litter our world. Our first stop along the way was a store called Nostalgia-ville. It was surprisingly awesome.

Filled to the point of bursting with old-timey metal signs, figurines, and Humphrey Bogart posters. Though we were sorely tempted by quite a few of the items there, we managed to reserve our spending to a Route 66 magnet and continued on.

Our next stop was at the National Churchill Memorial and Museum. We didn't want to pay to see the museum although it looked pretty impressive (we didn't have all day). But there was still quite a few things to see. The first was a memorial to freedom made out of eight real sections of the Berlin Wall.

The second was this handsome statue of Winston himself (I also have a special place in my heart for this man because my Jr. High was named after him. My years spent at Churchill were some of my favorites). I believe the main character from despicable me was inspired by Churchill.

There was a statue of him hunched over where he looks the exact same.

And lastly, this beauty, a 12th century church that exhibited the shift from Romanesque to Gothic architecture that that period of time is known for. We went around the inside and checked everything out. Very well restored. The girl at the desk told us that this building was the oldest building in the country...well...I'm not sure about that. But it was still fun to see.

With those little detours behind us we finally drove on into Jefferson City to check out the capital. As soon as we entered the city we saw that the capital building dominated the skyline. A beautiful thing.

Since it was still the 4th of July holiday, the building was operating under its weekend schedule. It took us a while to find the only door in operation but it gave us a good chance to check out the grounds. There was a statue of Jefferson signing the Louisiana Purchase (Jefferson is everything to Missouri, hence the name of the capital city). There were mythologically huge statues of a man and woman on either side of the main entrance that represented the Father of Waters (AKA the Mississippi River) and the Mother of Waters (AKA the Missouri River) which meet in Missouri and water the rest of the country.

Once inside we jumped onto a tour group just leaving. The capital building is much bigger than the Tennessee capital building. Four stories with a lot to see. These are its claims to fame.

1. The longest indoor-outdoor staircase in the world

2. The world's largest single canvas painting

3. Some seriously awesome 3-point perspective paintings.

4. A hall of famous Missourians with bronze busts added each year.

We spent about two and a half hours wandering around and appreciating everything. We couldn't appreciate number 1 because the big doors that separate the inside and outside parts of the staircase wasn't open on the weekend schedule. Number two was breathtaking though. It was in the room where their legislative body meets. It was painted in a hangar in France commemorating the U.S. involvement in WWI. Specifically, the painting is about the regiment of soldiers that Harry S. Truman belonged to. He is Missouri's only president, and that is why the Missouri capital got it in the first place. It is huge, and not a seam anywhere.

The whole room is majestic. A tribute to how proud we are of democracy.

This representative looks pretty behind on his paperwork.

The whole capitol was filled with amazing artwork like this. As for the three-point perspective paintings, I've never seen anything like it. No picture can do it justice. Basically, you stand on the left of a painting and look at it. It all extends away from you, you have a certain perspective on it. And then, as you walk, way the painting looks actually shifts as if, instead of it being a painting you were walking in front of, it was the actual scene that it depicts. By the time reach the other side, you are looking at the same thing from an entirely new perspective. It shifts. There was a hall full of these. A steamboat that starts off near the shore and ends up in the middle of the river with a wide wake, a bridge that seems to extend away from you no matter which side of it you are standing on, an overlook over a bluff where on one side you are looking up at the hill and from the other side you are on top of the hill looking down, and a farmyard with roads that shift to correspond to your viewpoint. It was a trip, and it made the trip worth it.

Ever since visiting the TN capitol I occasionally quiz Kortney on which three presidents are from TN (Jackson, Polk, and Johnson) now we'll have to add Truman onto the list of presidents who are from states whose capitals we've visited. 48 more capitals, 39 more presidents.

The last thing we saw on our tour was seriously breathtaking. It was the "Senate Lounge" which used to be the actual Senate. It was a room covered floor to ceiling with murals detailing Missouri's history. It was incredible. Our tour guide slowly went around the room and described what everything was and funny stories associated with the mural itself. I know I'm indulging myself but I just want to put all the pictures of it up.

The most interesting part of it all was this little vignette in the corner of the first wall. It depicts the eviction of the Mormons from Missouri.

The short version told to us by the tour guide was that Mormons were a devoutly religious people who were opposed to slavery, believing that no man should own another man, and this caused a stur among the locals eventually leading the governor to sign the extermination order. She admitted that she had never heard of this until she started working as a tour guide five years ago despite living in Missouri her whole life. The painting shows the friendliness towards blacks as cause and tar and feathering as effect. Very interesting.

Once we were done at the capitol, we wanted to make sure we weren't missing out on anything else Jefferson City had to offer since the chances of us coming back anytime soon were low. The only other thing we found was this beauty.

A giant pacifier made out of, wait for it, cigarette butts!

At first I was sort of repulsed by the concept. A pacifier of all things! But then the message kind of dawned on me, and I think that the artist's intention is to cause that jarring sensation. After seeing it and reading a little about it I found it to be a really amazing piece of work. His point is that we toss cigarette butts on the ground like its nothing and our we almost don't even register them visually as they litter our entire world. His point was that we mistakenly believe that they will easily decompose but they are in fact made out of material that will take centuries to fully decompose and therefore his monument to this fact will stand a long time, proving his point.

Wow, this is getting long, I know. But we just don't get out like we used to you know? We were on the way home and it was only 5:00pm so we were discussing whether or not we wanted to do anything else with our day and I knew that if we went home now, we wouldn't go back out, so I proposed that we head south and check out some caverns that were highly advertised along the road when we were first coming into St. Louis back in May. The Meramac Caverns. We did, and we were glad we did.

That's right. Two Jesse James sights in one day (he was included on the mural in Jefferson City). They counted their loot in this cave and escaped out an unknown undergroud river. Pretty sweet.

The tour was divided into two main parts. The first half led down to the heart of the cave. Different rooms had different stories. There was the Jesse James area of course. Then there was the Hollywood room where a scene from Lassie was filmed and also a scene in the adventures of Tom Sawyer. For the most part these were small formations but we had a lot of fun looking at them. Also, there was a token Asian tourist family in our group which made the experience that much better.

Then we headed up to the upper parts of the cave where the largest formations were. Including the world's third largest stalagmite. Jealous? The coolest formation was what was called a wine table. Only two exist in the world and this one is the larger of the two. It only forms underwater and kind of looks like a dinosaur. Check it out.

The tour ended at this huge wall of stalagtites which took longer to form then the grand canyon. It was pretty incredible to see. We got a light show and everything. This was a good place to end it because it was seriously breathtaking. We learned here that Missouri is also called the Cave State. I had no idea but apparently there are over 20 public caverns across the state. Sadly, this is probably the only one we'll be going to this summer.

When we were done with the tour we bought a magnet (our tradition for things like this) and headed for home. It was a long day, but if you only get a precious few days off, you can't go wasting them. And we certainly didn't waste this one.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Hair Conclusion!

Thanks to everyone who gave me advice and encouragement, I decided to make another appointment with Vince to have him cut my hair the way I wanted it cut in the first place. I was really nervous at first to call back into the Salon. For one, I was worried they might charge me again and for two I was worried Vince would be angry that I didn't like the hair cut he gave me. Turns out I am very silly and neither of those things happened. The Salon and Vince were both happy to fix my hair for free. I showed him a picture (a different one from before) of exactly what I wanted, he looked at it once and then began cutting. I didn't see much of a difference at first and it didn't seem like he was going to cut it any shorter either. I was pretty nervous...this whole hair cut thing really turned into a situation that I was not anticipating. However, I decided to take a deep breath and just let him do what he was going to do. Finally, I began to see the change and I started liking it more and more as he chopped more and more hair off my head. The finished product really did look a lot like the picture and I walked out of there feeling very satisfied and happy. =D This spontaneous thing might actually work well for me after all.

It's not a huge difference, but it's enough. I really like it!

What do you think? Did I make the right decision...or are you ready to take back the advice you gave before? =D