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 -

Friday, October 14, 2011

Tony Sells Out for a Day Off

Yesterday afternoon, Tony's office announced that there would be a hat contest today.  The winner would be chosen at the 4:30 meeting today, and would receive a free half day off of work.  Tony decided that he liked the sounds of that, so he decided to participate.  We agreed that with the playoffs going on, it would need to be something to do with the Cardinals to win.  I suggested the use of the "Rally Squirrel."  During all three of the games that the Cardinals beat the Phillies, a squirrel showed up on the field.  The most memorable visit was the second home game at Busch Stadium were the squirrel ran across home plate during an at bat!  "Rally Squirrel" fever has now taken over St. Louis.

After visiting a pet store, Tony found a stuffed squirrel that would work perfectly.  I am sad to say that he defaced his LSU hat to make this creation, but it came out great!  Plus, it is all easily removable with no harm done once he wins the contest!

Reni contributed by suggesting that he make a coordinating sign.  Like I said, my Astros loving heart hates to see all of this, but I am excited about the possibility of Tony having free time off!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Enjoying Kansas City BBQ

While I was at the zoo, I quizzed workers on the best place to get true Kansas City BBQ.  The unanimous response was Jack Stack Barbeque, so I headed to their newest location in Country Club Plaza. 

Fiorella's Jack Stack BBQ is part of an institution in Kansas City.  Originally opened by Jack Fiorella  in 1974, this is a spin-off of a chain of family restaurants called Smokestack BBQ opened by Jack's father in 1957.  The Smoke Stack restaurants are still owned and operated in the Kansas City area by his siblings.

At least in the Country Club Plaza location, I would describe the restaurant as upscale barbeque based on the decor, but the prices were still very reasonable.  I ate for around $11 with drink.

The leather used on the bench seats was beautiful, and incredibly soft.

The food was AMAZING!!!  I was very impressed with the well cooked and flavorful meat.  In 1977, brick-oven cooking was introduced into the menu and created the most extensive barbeque menu in the country.  After a trip to the Yugoslav coast, the decision was made to introduce seafood to the traditional BBQ menu.  Recently, they started shipping their items nationwide.  

Just in case anyone in interested in trying some authentic Kansas City style BBQ -

Right across the street from the restaurant was the headquarters for Hallmark!  I had no idea it was located in Missouri!  I thought about walking in and asking if Platinum gold crown card member's got a special tour or something.

Country Club Plaza

This is a beautiful, very upscale shopping district.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Watch Nikita the Polar Bear Play!

He did this the entire time that I visited with him.  I didn't want to leave!

After I uploaded the video to YouTube, I found that there are hundreds of videos of him online.

This was one of my favorites - 

Kansas City Zoo

In mid-September, I traveled to Kansas City, Missouri for the first time.  It wasn't at all what I was expecting.  It is a beautiful city nestled in the mountains.  After leaving the airport, I headed to the zoo!  During my research online, I learned that the Kansas City Zoo is best known for its polar bear exhibit and its African exhibit.  The zoo itself is made up of over 202 acres nestled inside valleys and rolling hills, and is home to more than 1,000 animals.

My first stop was the polar bear exhibit which is right inside the front entrance.  

Nikita was born on November 21, 2006 at the Toledo Zoo which makes him almost 5 years old.  He is adorable!  Seriously, I just wanted to climb inside and play with him!  He is too young for female companionship at this time, but the zoo is working to eventually secure a female polar bear in the hopes that they will mate and give birth to cubs.  He currently weighs about 800 pounds, but will weigh over 1,000 pounds when fully grown.  Since it was a very cool day with temperatures in the low 50s, he was energized by the cool weather!

Nikita lives in a 10,000 square feet space customized for polar bear living.  It includes a 140,000 gallon pool, a 105 ton sand box complete with grassy and diving areas.  The enclosure is kept at 65 degrees year round.    While I was there, he was very playful in the pool area.  The $11 million dollar habitat is built to hold up to 3 adult polar bears plus a couple of cubs.  Along one side is an indoor viewing area that can be rented out for parties.  What a great venue!

The orangutans were not nearly as impressed with the chilly weather as Nikita!  The baby is under the small red blanket, and the Momma is under the large red blanket.

Only Dad was brave enough to venture out in the cold!  He was sitting at the very top of the habitat.

The baby would peek out from time to time.  Precious!

When I took this picture, I was actually standing on the outdoor dining deck for one of the restaurants at the zoo.  The kangaroos could come right up to it!  The zoos Australian animal area is actually ranked among the Top 10 in the nation.

When planning my visit, I was very excited to check out the African area.  It is actually ranked number one in the nation.  When ranking the zoos, authors Allen W. Nyhuis and Jon Wassner had this to say: "In it's ninety-five Africa exhibit, Kansas City represents five nations with one of the most extensive collections of African animals we've ever seen."

I will be honest, it is quite a hike to get to the African exhibit.  Once you get to the area, you then walk across a very long bridge.  This is the view off of one side of the bridge.  It was a very, very pretty walk.  I later learned that there was actually a zebra print painted tram that ran out to the area.  I rode it on the way back, and loved that they had the soundtrack for the Lion King playing!

This picture was taken from the African Sky Safari.  On it, your toes dangle just above cheetahs, lions, giraffes, and rhinos.  The journey crosses approximately 1,500 feet at 35 feet above ground and lasts about 7 minutes.  I LOVED it!

Giraffe was right below my feet!

Layla the baby rhino did not like to be more than a few steps away from her Mom.  If Mom would wander off, she would run after her.  It was pretty adorable.  Layla will eventually grow to between 2,500 and 3,000 pounds.

The enclosure for lions was enormous, but they were all hanging out in one corner together.  Not a tiger, but still a very beautiful animal.

They also offer half hour boat ride on the large lake that goes throughout the African exhibit.  Unfortunately, they had just switched to weekends only for the boat two days prior to my arrival in Kansas City.

Cheetahs and the Scimitar Horned Oryx

I had a great time visiting the Kansas City Zoo, and I can't wait to take Tony to see Nikita and ride the sky safari!