Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Baking


Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a fan of the kitchen area.  Thanks to Pinterest, I have been feeling the urge to try new things in the kitchen.  Tony is very worried about this new found interest!

Thanks to some really adorable Christmas cookies that I pinned, I decided to try to make my own.  This is my first attempt at Christmas baking on my own.  My prior attempts with Nancy and Chelsea ended in complete failure.  Did you know that you aren't supposed to eat fudge with a spoon?

I learned something from this experience.  Cutting the cookies out is the easy part.  Getting them off the initial surface and onto the cookie sheet is the tough part!  I had to roll out many cookies and try again!  Also, the bell was one of my favorite shapes when I first cut it out.  Not so cute after baking!  Tony turned it into a gift box for me.

Tony helped with the decorating.  He wasn't thrilled about it, but he's definitely better at that sort of thing than I am.

Guess which star/snowflake is Tony decorated.  Yes, it is the pretty one.  I did the others though!

In addition to the gingerbread and sugar cookies, I also made some cake balls.   For LSU vs. Bama Part One, I made purple and yellow ones which were delicious!  This time, I forgot to add the dye to the cake batter.  It wasn't until the cake came out of the oven that I remembered.  Oops.  Tony suggested dying the cream cheese instead of to give it the coloring.  It worked, but they weren't as good as the first time.  They also didn't stay together as well, and I had trouble getting the white chocolate to stick.  I will definitely remember the dye next time!

Thanks to Pinterest, I learned that if you turn a gingerbread man upside down, you have a reindeer!  These were really fun to make since there are so many options!

Since it is just the two of us at home, I packed up all of the cookies and cake balls and brought them to work to share.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Hermann Wine Trail #1

On a beautiful fall Sunday afternoon in October, we decided to do a bit more exploring in the Hermann, Missouri area.  Hermann is right in the heart of Missouri wine country, and October is supposed to be its most glorious month.  The plan was to visit all of the wineries on the Hermman Wine Trail.

Our first stop was at the Adam Puchta Winery.  Tucked away on the original homestead of Adam Puchta and on the banks of Frene Creek, this is the oldest family farm winery in Missouri.  The same family has continously owned it since 1855. 

Adam Puchta emigrated to the United States from Bovaria.  Upon arriving in Missouri, the family settled on a 40-acre tract of land adjacent to the winery.  He later expanded the family homestead in 1849 to include the 40-acres that currently make up the winery.

Once Adam returned to Hermann following a gold-seeking trip to California, he purchaed the beautiful 40-acres from his father.  He began clearning land for crops and vineyards, and in 1855  produced his first wine using wild grapes and grapes from his father's vineyard.  This first production of Adam Puchta establishes the genesis of the winery.

Today, Adam Puchta Winery has a production capacity of 62,000 gallons.  That is a lot of wine!  They have won many awards where in Missouri, as well as nationally and internationally.

While there, I sampled four of their wines.  The semi sweet Adam's Choice and Vignoles, as well as the Riefenstahler and Jazz Berry from the sweet/fruit wines.  I didn't like either of the sweet wines that I tried, they were both way too sweet.  The Riefenstahler tasted like I was drinking jelly.  The Vignoles was probably my favorite.  It's a semi-sweet white wine with peach, strawberry, and kiwi fruit, and finishes with a citrus taste. 

Our next stop was to the Stone Hill Winery.  We had been before, but wanted to take a tour of the underground cellars.  Unfortunately, the electricity was out at the property.  Since you couldn't do anything, we quickly moved on.

The next stop was Hermannhof.  Based on the websites, this was the one that  Iwas most looking forward to as it showed a beautiful, sweeping view of the Missouri River Valley.  I have no idea where they took those photos from because this winery is actually located in downtown Hermann, right next to the train station.

While there, I elected to try four of their wines.  Vidal Blanc (Dry White), Chambourin Vin-Gris (Dry Rose), White Lady of Starkenburg (Semi-Dry White), and the Vignoles (Semi-Sweet) were my selections.  Of those, the White Lady was my favorite.  I am actually a little disappointed that I didn't pick up a bottle.  It is a German Riesling with citrus and green apple.  Definitely a great spring/summer wine.

Patio area for Hermannhof

In 1974, Hermannhof Cellars were purchased by the Dierberg family.  The Dierberg father had opened a small grocery store.  One of his sons took over the grocery store and has now grown it into a very large chain throughout the Midwest, while the other decided to make wine for a living.  In addition to Hermannhof, he also owns three vineyards in California.  I would say that he is doing pretty well for himself!    Three Saints Vineyard, Dierberg Vineyard, and Star Lane Vineyard are the three located in California.  Recently, they have opened up a small tasting room for the three right next door to Hermannhof.  These were by far the best wines that we tasted all day.  While others were good, the three from California were in a completely different class from the other vineyards that we tried.  If you ever see these on a shelf, do yourself a favor and pick one up.  I'm not a red fan, but Tony and Jean raved over the taste of their Pinot Noir.

OakGlenn Winery was next on our trail.  Once owned by internationally renowned horticulturist George Husmann, a founding father of the American wine industry, this winery has by far the best views.  Husmann also served in the Civil War, served as a delegate to the State Constitutional Convention, and drafted "An Ordinance Abolishing Slavery in Missouri," the first to be enacted in the United States.

Outdoor deck area takes advantage of the views.  They had a great musician playing while we were there.  We stayed much longer than planned because we were enjoying listening to him play.

Sitting high on the Missouri River bluff, OakGlenn Winery commands a spectacular view of the river valley and vineyards.  Unfortunately, their wines are awful.  These were by far some of the worst wines that I have ever tasted.  After tasting five of them, we gave up and just bought bottles of water to drink outside while we enjoyed the views and the music.

That's long enough for now!  I will cover the additional wineries on the trail in a future post.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween from the Sevier Family!

I love any excuse to decorate the house!  We actually didn't put out all of our Halloween decorations this year, but still the most decorated house on the block!  We actually had a really great time this year.   We put Sugar in his costume, and then went to sit out on the steps with our other neighbors.  The two townhomes next to ours, and two houses across the street did the same.  It's nice that it was warm enough to sit outside this year!

Look closely and you can see our little ghost hanging out in the window!

We LOVE this little mat.  We bought it about 4 or 5 years ago at the Dollar Store.  When you step on it, it makes scary Halloween noises.  We only put it out for trick or treating, but the reaction of the kids when they stepped on it entertained all of us!  Definitely a great $1 investment

We were prepared to do battle with the trick or treaters!  Last year, our neighborhood had over 100 kids.  Tony and several of the neighbors had to make emergency candy runs 30 minutes in because we were already out!  Of course this year we buy enough, and we only get like 25 kids.  Oh well, we had a great time visiting with the neighbors!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Play Time in Forest Park

The Sevier family blog wouldn't be complete without a few Sugar sightings from time to time.

I took vacation today, and Tony got out two hours early because of the Cardinals game, so we decided to stop by the park for some play time! 

Sugar had a great time running around in the grass!

The fall colors were absolutely gorgeous.  My favorite is the row of bright red trees at the top of Art Hill.

This was after play time!  His butt was covered in leaves as well.  So cute!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

The Saturday of the Tennessee game, Tony and I decided to make a road trip to Springfield, IL.  We had a groupon for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library that was expiring, so we decided to make the 90 minute drive to Springfield.  Due to a few delays (Tony), we didn't leave as early as I had hoped.  I had tried to explain to Tony that this would be a large museum, but he was just thinking that we were going to some library with a bunch of books and a few artifacts.

The town of Springfield is absolutely beautiful.  It's a very old, historic town that exudes the vibe that history was made here.  As we approached the museum, Tony noticed the large signs advertising a special exhibit called "The Boys in Blue."  After entering the museum, he proceeds to ask one of the greeters where the boys in gray were.  I should have known then that he planned to be a troublemaker!

As we approached the ticket counter, a sweet, older lady approached us.  She was a volunteer for the museum, and wanted to talk to us about a special that they had to offer.  It was for one of the museum groups where you pay one membership fee, and receive entrance to several museums across the country.  This one had more than 50 included in the grouping.  As her and I were chatting, Tony was looking at the brochure that showed all of the museums.  They were arranged by state.  She had just asked me where we were from, and I replied that we currently lived in St. Louis, but were originally from South Louisiana.  Tony, overhearing us, also noticed that Louisiana was not listed on the brochure.  He proceeded to say "Well, you just left Louisiana right out.  What?  You didn't want a Confederate state as part of your program?"  I about died of shame right there!  Luckily, she just laughed uneasily and we made our way to the ticket counter.

After purchasing your entrance tickets, you arrive in a very large rotunda.  All of the different wings of the museum are entered by way of the rotunda.  The Lincoln family greets you, and is a popular spot for photographs.  

Before I continue, I should say that we did not allot nearly enough time for this visit, and we will be returning soon.  We only got to maybe half of the exhibits, and we were rushed.

We first started in the Illinois Gallery which is home to traveling exhibits.  For this trip, it was Team of Rivals: Lincoln's Cabinet at the Crossroads of the War.  Since I loved the book by the same name, I really enjoyed this area.

Our next stop was to the Pre-Presidential Years Hall.  You enter this area through the recreation of the woods and cabin where Lincoln grew up.  A young Lincoln is sitting on the stump reading a book.  Inside the cabin, you learn that Lincoln, his father, stepmother, and five other family members all slept in this one room cabin.  The back of the cabin then leads to another large exhibition hall that we didn't have time for since I wanted to see a show that was starting soon.

"Ghosts of the Library" is a dramatic and magical special effects presentation that uses Holavision to explain exactly what a presidential library is.  It strives to show the visitor the exciting sense of discovery that scholars and curators feel as they approach a great research collection.  The technology the ghosts of Lincoln and his contemporaries to appear and disappear, their transparent images drifting through the "Library" while they tell their stories. At one point, a quill pen even rises from a library table and begins to write in the air, in Lincoln's handwriting.  The objects and stories told during the show connect us to the people and events of history and events make them real.  For a moment, we are part of their world.

One of the things that I found most impressive about this museum was their use of modern technology to bring history to life.  As you walk  through The Whispering Gallery which is a twisting hallway, you hear the brutally unkind things said about the Lincolns during their early months in Washington.  On the walls are cruel caricatures and political cartoons attacking the Lincolns that were popular during the day.  The Civil War in 4 minutes is a very moving display created with modern technology.  For me, I think that area that made the most impact was The Telegraph Office.  It is a mural showing a sad and grieving Lincoln  as he receives casualty counts from the front.  Voices would tell you the numbers as they were projected onto the mural.  The room also includes photos and bronze castings of Lincoln to show how the war aged him. You can even touch the life masks.

After that, you enter a re-creation of the Presidential Box in Ford's Theater as it was on April 14, 1865 including wax figures of the Lincoln's and John Wilkes Booth approaching from the back.

Next is The Funeral Train gallery where you see a map of the route of Lincoln's train along with the advertisements inviting mourners to pay their last respects.  The most interesting item in the room was the long-lost final photo of Lincoln.  It was taken as he was lying in state.  All copies of the photo and the negative were thought to be destroyed, but many years later, a 14-year-old student found it.

From there, a visitor enters the Lying in State gallery.  It is almost a full-scale re-creation of the the Hall in Illinois' Old State Capitol where Lincoln lay in state.  You file past the closed casket as though you are paying your last respects.

As I said before, we only had time to visit maybe half of the museum, and we do plan a trip back soon.  It is an expansive museum.  I have hardly touched on all of the things that we saw during the time that we were there.  On our return, we also plan to visit the State Capitol, his family home, and his tomb.

Across the street from the museum is an area known as Union Square Park.  The Illinois Visitor Center is located there as well as  a Lincoln statue.  The park is home to many free events and performances throughout the year including Civil War re-enactments.

While rushing home to the Tennessee - LSU game watching party, we got stuck in traffic on the bridge due to road construction.  For those of you who know Tony, you can imagine how stressful this was for him, but we did manage to take some great pictures of the city and the Arch!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

LSU Game Watching and Soulard Oktoberfest

After apple picking, it was time for the most important activity of the day - Florida vs. LSU!

We were so excited when the St. Louis LSU alumni chapter decided to move the game watching parties to a new location.  To make it even better, the new location is only a mile from our house!

Riverbend Restaurant is located here in Soulard, and opened in March of this year.  The owner is a native of New Orleans, and a graduate of LSU.  Prior to moving to his wife's home city of St. Louis, owner Sam Kogos owned Rendon Inn in New Orleans for 15 years.  This is one of only two restaurants here in St. Louis that I would say serve authentic Cajun style food.

With Soulard Oktoberfest going on the same weekend as the Florida game, the block was hopping.  Riverbend had fryers set up outside making fried shrimp poboys and fried gator poboys.  Tony couldn't decide, so he ordered the gator for the first quarter, and the shrimp at halftime.  I had a cup of the chicken and sausage gumbo which was delicious!

There was a great turn out!  To make it even more of an authentic LSU game experience, we happened to have a Florida fan and an Auburn fan  walk in.  Of course they were both tiger baited by the whole group!

After the successful turnout, the decision was made to continue using Riverbend Restaurant.  Their jukebox even has "Hey Fightin' Tigers" on it!  Only one TV and no red beans and rice on the menu for Saturdays were the only real complaints, but I have to say that the owner has been incredibly welcoming to our group.  Last weekend for the Auburn game, he had purchased additional tv's AND made red beans and rice for the day.  I think that everyone ordered a plate of them! They were delicious!  Not quite as spicy as you might get at home, but very good.  

Sam's father is also always hanging around visiting and watching games with everyone.  Tony and I have really enjoyed chatting with him the three weekends that we have been!  

One of the great things about Riverbend Restaurant is its proximity to Lyon Park during Oktoberfest weekend.  It's directly across the street!  After LSU finished trouncing Florida, we just walked across the street to join the festivities.

Last year, Tony competed in the bratwurst eating contest to win his VIP pass.  He decided to just buy it this year since it took him so long to recover last year!  Since the 3 day pass is only $15 more, he decided that it was silly to just buy the one day pass, so Tony had 3 whole days of Oktoberfesting this year!  On Friday night, the organizers were smart to get a big, blow up screen to project the Cardinals playoff game.

One of the many sites that you'll see at Oktoberfest is the beer mug holding contest.  The rules are that person who can hold their stein full of beer the longest wins.

They had to find a stranger to take this picture for them since we refused.  

The event organizers booked a band called Dorfrockers from Germany this year.  Tony became a little obsessed with them throughout the weekend.  They were highly entertaining, and very interactive with the crowd.  Even though we hardly understood anything that they were saying, it was a lot of fun.  I don't know true this is, but they are supposed to be a wildly popular band in Germany.

Despite not having a Bratwurst King title for Tony this year, we still had a lot of fun at Oktoberfest!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

It's Apple Picking Time in the Midwest

Fall in the Midwest means apple picking.  Tony wasn't thrilled about returning a second year, but he did it for me.

I learned my lesson last year, and did not pick any baking apples!

We went the morning after Steve Jobs passed away, so Tony decided to make a tribute for him.

While we were there, a woman stepped into a hole and twisted her ankle.   She insisted that Eckert's Farm call an ambulance to pick her up.  It caused a little bit of a problem for the wagons to get by on the path.

Beautiful fall day!  It was in the 60s this year versus the 30s that we endured last year.  We have definitely enjoying the warmer fall this year!

Since Tony hates apple picking, I had to get a picture of him wearing this sticker!

The blog for our first apple picking experience can be found here -