Thursday, September 17, 2009

Thursday, September 17, 2009

After all the fun and frivolity from the night before, Pam and I were much later walking Clarabel this morning than usual. The sun was completely up and the school kids were all standing outside waiting for the bus—much more activity at 7 a.m. than at 5:30 a.m. when Pam and Clara usually walk.

This morning’s sustenance was provided by Cappuccino’s Café. Lattes (which I thought were better than Starbucks—yes, that’s what I said), blueberry muffin, blueberry scone, and French toast with bacon were our choices. We have so enjoyed our morning coffees, pastries, and visiting. The fond memories of laughter and conversation while breaking our fast around Pam’s kitchen table will sustain us for some time to come.

We left Pam’s about noon today for Maryville University. Pam was so excited to introduce her mom and sister to her co-workers. What mom and I discovered, however, was the people we met today are so much more than co-workers—they are Pam’s extended family. Mom and I loved getting to see the building where Pam works—her office, her desk, her 5-star restroom—but, we could never have imagined the genuine kindness which we would receive from each person we met. It is so easy now to see why Pam has been with Maryville all these years, and such a proud feeling to see that Pam means so very much to each and every one of the lives she touches. We take home with us not only a visual of where Pam works every day, but a better understanding of her loyalty to the area and the work she does at Maryville University.

Olive Garden was our stop for lunch today. Pam shared her birthday gift card with us, and we savored each bite of salad, breadsticks, and pasta. Next on our agenda was more shoes shopping for Mom. At Chesterfield Mall, we found what we hope will be the answer to Mom’s shoe dilemma at The Walking Company. Two pairs of shoes have been ordered and will be shipped to moms next week. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that they will fit.

I cannot recall the last time Pam and Mom and I were all in a shopping mall together. We talked to mannequins, sampled expensive perfumes from the tester bottles in Macy’s, helped Mom purchase her first pair of silver hoop earrings, and watched mom overindulge in her selections at the Nestle Toll House Café. Mom had an overwhelming urge to purchase expensive cocktail dresses for Pam and me—talk about your impulse shopping!!

On the way back to Pam’s, we stopped at Kaldi’s Coffeehouse and Oberweis Dairy for coffee and ice cream treats. Pam showed us the Westinn Kennels where Clarabel goes on Thursdays.

Mom and I will leave for Marshalltown tomorrow morning. What we take with us is far more than the surprise we brought to Pam. I think I speak for mom when I say we certainly have a better appreciation of where Pam and Matt live, laugh, and love their life. We have thoroughly enjoyed our visit and so glad we got to share in some of their daily activities. Love you Pam!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The later we stay up at night, the later we get up for our morning walk. This morning, Pam took Clara and me on a different route, and as the sun came up over O’Fallon, I got to see more of the beautiful homes and pristine landscaping throughout her neighborhood.

The treats with our Starbucks favorites this morning came from Heaven Scent Bakery. Plain cake donuts, old-fashioned glazed donuts, and cannoli were just a few of the sweet treats we selected.

After breakfast, we were on a mission to find mom some comfortable shoes. Shoe Carnival, Famous Footwear, and Heart and Sole were the three places we tried. Unfortunately, we were not successful in our mission, but we got some good leads on prospective shoe places to try tomorrow.

The rest of the day, while mom and Pam researched shoe store possibilities and played Scrabble, I went to Washington, MO (about 40 miles from O'Fallon) to visit my friend Cindy. Cindy and I got to know one another when we lived in Washington for three and a half months in 1998 for Joel’s job. I hadn’t seen Cindy in over seven years, and it was great to reconnect and see how her kids had grown. Cindy also took me on a tour of Washington so I could see how much it had grown and changed since we had lived there. I got back to O’Fallon in time to sit in rush hour traffic.

For supper, we picked up burritos, tacos, and chips from Qdoba Mexican Grill. It’s very much like a Chipotle or B.A. Burrito. While we dined, I learned more about Mom and Pam’s Scrabble game. “Irregardless” of what I say or “doeth” those two are very competitive when it comes to board games and sometimes it takes a call to the National Scrabble Hotline to settle a score.

The end of the evening involved an incident with an American Idol Wii game. Let’s just say that if anything winds up on You Tube from tonight, it wasn’t me!!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Our visit is limited as Mom and I will be heading back to Iowa on Friday. Therefore, we must not waste any daylight! Not only that, but we should probably not waste any pre-daylight time either. So Pam, and my ca-niece, Clarabel, and I were up at 5:30 a.m. to take a two and a half mile walk around their neighborhood and adjoining subdivision. It was a balmy 69 degrees, and the time passed quickly as we conversed and observed the morning paper delivery car toss out the day’s news.

Breakfast consisted of caffeinated beverages from Starbucks and bagels and cream cheese from the St. Louis Bread Co. Anywhere else, this bagel place would be called Panera’s, but in this region, it goes by its original name from whence it began. I had a cherry vanilla bagel, mom enjoyed a cinnamon crunch bagel with raspberry cream cheese, and Pam chose the asiago bagel. Why do the bagels taste so much better here??

Mom decided to stay at home and catch up on her napping and having her feet up after the previous day’s long ride in the car, so Pam and I ventured out to St. Charles for a day of shopping on Historic Main Street. We made a couple stops on the way at Kohls and Mid-Rivers Mall for some necessities. Even though the sky was gray and overcast, Pam and I were walking on sunshine. We were having a wonderful time wandering in and out of the various gift and specialty shops lining the cobblestone streets. We inhaled the fabulous aroma at “Scentchips;” Pam petted the puffy pooch outside “Canine Cookies,” “Collectors’ Centre” made us long for the Christmas season; and we got a little froggy at “Friperie.” At “String Along With Me,” we were invited into the owner’s backroom work area to browse beads and findings. Pam took my picture under the “Deb’s Gifts and More” sign. After we stopped at the Gazebo for a photo opportunity, we decided we needed to partake in some of the local fare. I spotted people eating on a third floor balcony, and we joined them for lunch at the Lewis & Clark’s Restaurant.

Before leaving St. Charles, we found the 2nd Street Beads store. I could’ve spent several hours and several hundreds of dollars here, but somehow refrained. Pam understands as she could’ve done the same at a couple of shops on Main that we passed by: “Rock, Paper, Scissors” (a scrapbooking store), and “Knit & Caboodle.”

I love the names of the stores and shops in this area. Pam had to stop at Muddpuppies for dog food before we made our food run. Penn Station East Coast Subs has melt-in-your-mouth bread and fresh, tasty toppings. A cold treat I haven’t had the pleasure of partaking in for some time is Baskin-Robbins ice cream. Of course, we have some of that for our dessert. Mmmmm—Chocolate Mousse Royale. Why are Baskin-Robbins stores so few and far between!??! Irregardless, it was just as I remembered and a high-def, sculpting workout was definitely in order after all those calories—Thanks for making it the “express” version, Pam!!

Enough about food—must sleep now so I can eat more tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Monday, September 14, 2009

They said it couldn’t be done.

They said we would never make it.

Okay, there was really no “they,” but MY MOTHER was certain she would never be able to make the trip in the car down to her youngest daughter’s in O’Fallon, Missouri. The last time she had been there was in 1999 when Pam’s house was just being built.

On my sister’s last visit to Iowa, I could hear the sadness in her voice as she told me that mom had never been down to see her home after they moved in. It was after that conversation that I vowed in my own mind to get our mom to my sister’s. About the first part of August I began to voice my plan out loud to Mom. At the time, I thought how perfect it would be to schedule a trip around Pam’s birthday and bring mom along as a surprise. To MY surprise, Mom was agreeable. Looking back, I believe mom never thought my plan would come to fruition.

As it turns out, Pam is always incredibly busy with the Maryville University admissions duties where she works and can’t take time off during her birthday.

I began to lose sight of my plan when I got caught up with Mary’s school schedule and helping with the school election. But something kept niggling at me that I needed to carry through with the trip.

Well, a few hundred fabrications to Pam, LOTS of reassuring and planning with Mom that we could make it, some doubts of my own, and seven and a half hours on the road, and we were arriving at Pam’s. I had made three or four calls to Pam during the course of the day with “my” progress and estimated time of “my” arrival. Mom and I were giddy with anticipation of what Pam’s reaction would be.

Pam did not disappoint. When she came around the side of the garage to greet me and saw mom in the passenger seat, it was a series of epileptic movements. First Pam did the classic double take, then her hand flew up to her mouth, her eyes grew wide and she crossed her legs and doubled over. And then like a prairie dog she dodged back and forth from her front door and back out to peer into the van at what she assumed must be a mirage. And then she began muttering, “Oh, oh, oh,” and something about needing to go to the bathroom. The planning and scheming totally became worth it at this point!!

Throughout the remainder of the night, Pam kept requesting that we pinch her as she must be dreaming. A banner on her living room fireplace mantle proclaimed “Welcome to Sister Week 2009 in St. Louis 9/14-9/18.” Pam quickly added the word “Mom” in red marker so it read, “Welcome to Mom and Sister Week.”

First on the agenda was a trip to Starbucks followed by a small grocery run. Pam then fixed us her yummy tuna melt hot dish for supper and followed it up with some delicious “homemade” ;) Nestle’s Tollhouse Cookies.

We made a list of what we wanted to accomplish during the week and then attempted to go to sleep, but instead tossed and turned due to the adrenaline still pumping through our veins.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The fish caught this morning are steaming, flaky and tender, and drenched in lemon butter. As Joel stated, “It doesn’t get any fresher than this unless we would’ve cooked it on the boat.” The fruits of their labor are savored and enjoyed. Joel, Mary, Jon, and Kristine headed out early this morning with Captain Kelly of Tofte Charters to fish and take in the sights and sounds on beautiful Lake Superior. The temperatures never got above sixty degrees and the swells were a foot high making for a very wavy ride. If they didn’t succumb to motion sickness, they were chilled to the bone. I was very glad I stayed back on land. I slept in, went to Moondance Coffeehouse in Lutsen for my caramel latte, walked along the shoreline trails, and relaxed in the chairs along the beach area of the resort taking in the scenery and doing as all good North Shore visitors should—reflecting on life and contemplating future goals.

Like a fingerprint, the ebb and flow of the waves crashing on the shore are unpredictable and each very different. The chaotic rise and fall of the water against the shore is a poignant reminder that the only thing constant is change and the only way to keep up with the chaotic day to day craziness of life is to go with the flow. It’s not what happens to us—it’s how we react to what happens.

The touching effects of this natural magnificence even moved Mary to poetry this evening:

“When the waves are crashing on my feet
When the breeze is in my hair
Makes me feel that I’m flying through the air over a lake
I never want this summer to end
When the first day of school starts
I’ll try to keep up my courage
But for right now I only want to be here right now.”

As I sit next to the wood burning stove here in Cabin #406, the warmth of the fire literally melts away my cares and worries. Reflecting on the last few days here by the lake on the shores of Superior I can recall the perfectly horizontal line of water splitting across the sky. I can still visualize the moon’s light reflecting like a jet stream in the water below it. I will forever be mystified at the part of the day when it is nearly impossible to tell where the earth ends and the sky begins, and I will be haunted by the effect of the fog rolling in swallowing the scenery in a heavy mist. We will leave here tomorrow for home, but the sights and sounds of this vacation will remain treasured memories and a reminder that a time for reflection is necessary for the well-being and refreshing of the soul.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Friday, August 7, 2009

Our travel mates, Jon and Kristine, are frequent visitors to this area, so they knew all the great places to take us today. Grand Marais was the perfect place to relax by the harbor with my latte from Java Moose. A breakfast treat at World's Best Donuts was our first stop before taking a stroll in and around the quaint shops, inspired art galleries, and historical sites.

A short walk down Broadway Avenue ends at the Coast Guard parking lot. There we picked up the trail that leads to Artists' Point, overlooking East Bay and Lake Superior--one of the most beloved and famous spots in Grand Marais. Our hike to the Point, took us over ancient lava rock and through a small boreal forest. It was great to witness the place that has been an inspiration for artists, photographers, and poets for many years.

After dining at the Blue Water Cafe, we made a brief stop at a scenic overlook to photograph Grand Marais from above, and then we traveled further up Highway 61 to just shy of the Canada border then back to the Grand Portage National Monument. The Grand Rendezvous was just getting underway as this was the time of year when furs from wintering posts, which reached into Canada were delivered down the historic Grand Portage. Re-enactors from across the country and Canada were on hand to demonstrate and educate us on this historic past.
Back at Lutsen's, Joel and I enjoyed dinner at the Poplar River Pub located in the main lodge while Mary stayed at the cabin with Jon and Kristine. Jon got another roaring fire going in the stove, and we roasted a few marshmallows over the flames to make s'mores. Kristine and I took a walk around the resort grounds discovering a hidden covered bridge over some rushing rapids. Back at the cabin, we played a couple more games of Farkle before turning in for the night.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Breathtaking views of Lake Superior were interspersed with stops along North Shore Drive to check out local gift shops and trading posts along the way to our destination. The weather is gorgeous; however, the temperature is definitely getting cooler the farther up the lake we travel.

Gooseberry Falls State Park was a perfect place to stop and hike around to take pictures of the area on our way up scenic Highway 61. The water levels are low so the falls were not quite as spectacular as I remember from when we took in the sights here in 2002. But it was still beautiful. We stopped at Cove Point Crossing overlooking the lake for lunch, and Mary sat in a giant Adirondack chair on the side of the road.

Our spacious cabin at Lutsens Resort and Sea Villas is nestled up in the trees on the shore line. Sitting on the deck of our cabin the view of the lake meets the sky and the sound of the waves is a constant soothing lullaby.

Mary joined a planned kids’ activity at the Resort to watch a movie and eat pizza with some of the other kids staying at the resort while Jon, Kristine, Joel, and I ate supper in the resort dining room. We strolled along the beach and pathways around the resort before collecting Mary and heading back to the cabin. Jon got a roaring fire going in the wood burning stove, and we played a couple rounds of the fun dice game, Farkle—the real one, not the facebook version.

Before turning in for the night, Joel observed the moon reflecting off the lake, and we enjoyed the view until the moon had raised high in the sky.