Thursday, June 28, 2012

You can find me in St Louis!

This past weekend, one of my really good friends from SCO got married in St Louis. Paul and I decided to make a mommy/daddy vacation out of it by heading up Thursday. We headed up to Covington Wednesday after work. Thursday morning we began our trip up north. Well, the getaway didn't get off to a great start. About a mile after we got on the I-155 in Dyersburg, we ran over something and could hear it in our tire as we drove. We pulled over to check it out and there is this metal rod sticking out of my tire! AGH! Well, we decided to try to turn around and head back into town to see if it could be patched or plugged. After about a couple hundred yards, the tell-tale sign of 'thunk-thunk-thunk" disappeared. As much as I hated the 'thunk', I really hated to not hear it. Our tire went from 35 mmHg pressure to 0 in about 10 seconds! We were SO close! But as Paul always says: "Almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades!" No biggie though right? I mean, my big strong husband should have no trouble changing my spare tire and head into town to plug the flat. Right?! NOPE! When I bought my SRX, the salesman explained that people that drive Cadillac's don't change there own tires, so there is no spare! If I ever got a flat, all I had to do is press the OnStar button and someone would bring a spare and change it for me! Great! Right?! Well, after pressing the OnStar button and being put on hold so they could find a service technician in our area, we were told no one had a spare and that we would have to be TOWED to the nearest Cadillac dealership where they would repair/replace our tire! Excuse Me?! This is not the knight-in-shining-armor I had been promised when buying the vehicle! And to top it off, their ETA was 1 HOUR!!!!! Great, just GREAT! Well, I got on the phone with my dad trying to see if he knew anyone in the area that might be able to help. After making a few calls, the soonest someone could get out to us would be 15-20 minutes. It had already been about 25-30 minutes since we had talked to OnStar so that only left about 10-20 minutes before the FREE tow service could come get us. Luckily, the tow truck guy was arrived early and was EXTREMELY nice and careful with my car. We got to the Cadillac dealership and they said they would let us know if they could repair it or have to replace it. Well, after about 10 minutes, they informed us that they still didn't know if it was able to be patched but they didn't have a replacement if we needed one! Luckily, they were able to patch the tire and even told us they would file it under warranty so there would be no charge! So, all in all, it could have been worse but this RELAXING vacation wasn't getting off to a great start! Needless to say, we were VERY diligent of everything little thing in the road all the way to St Louis!
I had wanted to stop at Lambert's Cafe for lunch and we were still about to do that around 1:30. It was delicious as usual. We finally made it to our hotel around 4:00. We were staying at the Westin Downtown and it was very beautiful! Our room overlooked Busch Stadium where the Cardinals play.
The view from our room

Our friend Wooty, who lived in St. Louis for about 5 years, recommended a few restaurants for us to try, so after we checked in, we headed to a local sushi joint called Drunken Fish. It was really great food. One roll we tried was the Fried Philly Cheesesteak Roll, which is exactly what it sounds like! It was DELICIOUS! For dessert, I ordered the Fried Cheesecake Roll which was to die for! If we are ever in town again, we will definitely go back here!
Me and the hubby at Drunken Fish

Afterwards, we decided to see if we could change our luck around and headed to the Lumierre casion which was downtown. We had a great night, turning our $200 into $900! Gosh I love craps when the table is hot! We ended up meeting this guy, who was standing next to me at the table, who is the co-founder of Heartland Poker Tours. He was heavily intoxicated and betting HUNDREDS (sometimes THOUSANDS) on the 6 and 8! It looked especially funny next to my measly $12! =) But like I said, he was really nice and really funny. Even invited us to join the tour crew and travel the country with them, TWICE! ha!
Friday, we ate breakfast at the hotel restaurant, which was great then headed out to see what the day had in store. The first thing on our agenda was the Anheuser Busch tour. The brewery was right downtown and FREE! I had heard there were the famous Clydesdales on site and I was dying to see them. The two free beer samples at the end didn't hurt either! The tour lasted about an hour and was really a lot more interesting than I thought it would be. We saw the Clydesdales, learned a lot about the history of Aheuser Busch and how to make beer, and even got to walk through the factory and take a look at the plant in action. If you are ever in St. Louis, you have to check it out. I mean, it's free! There is no reason not to. The samples were no joke either. I was expecting little shot-glass size samples but they were probably 12 oz glasses!
The Busch Bell Tower. It was a really beautiful and historical place.

My favorite part of the tour, even if you couldn't pet them.

The River of Beer

Had no idea they made ShockTop products!

My second favorite part of the tour! See what I mean about the size of the 'samples'!

After the tour, it was time for lunch, so we headed to a place that i had read about. It was called Bailey's Range. They make great out-there burgers, even making their own buns. You can choose beef, chicken, bison, or duck as your meat. I got a beef burger with goat cheese and avocado. It was great! The fries left a little to be desired (a little too crispy, and I really like my fries crispy). Paul got your basic burger and said his was really good too. It was a cool place in that it had TONS of beer to choose from and even had a soda fountain and ice cream parlor!
I really wanted to go to the top of the arch and Paul was nice enough to go along with me! After waiting about 15 minutes to get through security, there was another hour wait to buy a ticket to stand in another hour long line to get in the vessel that takes you to the top! I definitely didn't want to go to the top of the arch THAT bad! =) So we decided to take a look at the FREE museum they had of the adventures of Lewis and Clark and the exploration of America. It was really interesting but had those creepy 'people' that were machines that moved and blinked and looked too real for comfort.
After leaving the arch, my feet were hurting from all the walking so I called around and found a place that could get me in for a pedicure while also getting a massage for Paul. It was in this really eclectic part of town called Central West End. Reminded me of the South Main district in downtown Memphis. Lots of neat little restaurants and shops.
View of the arch from the bottom.

Love this man more than life itself!

We made our way back to the hotel and decided to treat ourselves to a nice steak dinner. Wooty had recommended a place called J.Bucks but it was about a 20 minute drive from our hotel and we really weren't feeling like going that far. So I did some research online and found a place called Carmines. It is owned by the Lombardo family. They are known for their Homemade Toasted Ravioli, which I love. So, we walked there and were really expecting to have to wait, being 7:30 on a Friday night. But we were seated right away. Our waiter was extremely helpful. We decided on the Toasted Ravioli for an appetizer. And I'm glad we did. They were the best I have ever had. The pasta was hand made, the stuffing was plentiful, and the breading wasn't over done. The marinara was also made in house. This had to be a sign of good things to come! For entrees, I ordered the Petite Filet with Risotto and Paul had the Porterhouse with Au gratin Potatoes. Both came with a salad. The waiter warned us that the sides were big enough to share, so we shouldn't order the same side. I was a little concerned when he didn't ask what kind of dressing we wanted with our salads, but come to find out, the house dressing is to die for! I'm not really sure what it was, but it had a sweet vinaigrette taste to it. Then came our entrees. I ordered my steak medium and it couldn't have been more perfect. The outside had a nice crust on it but the inside was a nice warm pinkish red. Paul could cut his with his fork! The risotto was delicious and the au gratin potatoes were just as yummy. I couldn't even finish my filet (Paul helped me out there), but of course I had to get dessert. I went for the vanilla custard with strawberries and chocolate sauce, while Paul got the chocolate mousse cake. Mine was very good (think melted vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce and strawberries). Paul's was good, but not great. Texas de Brazil has kind of spoiled us on Chocolate Mousse cake. These steaks rivaled Ruth's Chris, they were that good. And we were shocked when the bill came, but in a good way. Appetizer, two entrees, two sides, two desserts, one beer, and two cocktails = $120! Thats all! Seriously? I would have paid well over $200 for this meal at Ruth Chris! Another place to keep on the list for any future trips to St Louis. The service was great but very slow (we didn't get out of there until 9:30). Which was fine for us, since we were having a romantic dinner. There was a wedding rehearsal dinner going on in the private room so that might have had something to do with it.
Saturday was the big wedding day. The ceremony was set to take place at 2:30 with the reception at 7:00 that night. The time between was used for the wedding party to travel around town taking pictures. On our way back to the hotel Friday night after Carmines, we had passed a starbucks in a hotel just two blocks away from our hotel. So, while Paul showered, I ran over and picked up my fix! I am seriously a coffee/white mocha addict. We had planned on meeting our friend's Aubrey and JB at a Diner's Drive Ins and Dives place, called Iron Barley, for lunch but they wouldn't be getting into town until 12:30 so we decided to hit up J.Bucks' more informal restaurant that was just one block from our hotel called Joe Bucks. They are famous for BBQ. On their appetizer menu was toasted ravioli. I told Paul that, after the ones from last night, I just didn't think any other toasted ravioli would taste the same! So we went with their 'award winning' spinach dip. It was really good. Lots of cream cheese, which we both like. We each got the BBQ salad as entrees, me choosing pork and Paul going with the beef brisket. It was really good. No dessert this time.
After lunch, we headed back to the hotel to get ready. We got to the site of the wedding and it was beautiful. It was an older Preservation Hall. Lots of exposed brick. Really classy and elegant with a touch of rustic. The ceremony went great. Hilari looked beautiful as always. They did something I have never seen before. Instead of a unity candle, they had a Wine and Words portion where they put a bottle of wine into a wooden box. They had each written a letter to the other, explaining how they felt about each other on that day and the many reasons they loved each other. They sealed the letters into envelopes, unread, and put them in the box also. Then, they locked the box. If sometime between now and their 5 year anniversary, they come to a point where they have an argument and things seem just too much, they are to open the box, drink the wine, and read the letters. If they are lucky enough to never find the need to open the box, on their five year anniversary, they open it, drink the wine, read the letters, and replenish it with new letters and new wine. This is to be repeated every 5 years. How romantic and what a great tradition!
Aub and JB (and Elizabeth Kate!)

Waiting on Hil to come down the aisle

Saying the Vows

With this ring, I thee wed...

Mr & Mrs Chris Smith

SCO gals after the ceremony

After the ceremony, Paul and I headed back to the hotel to chill out, while Aubrey and JB went to check-in to their hotel. We met up at a place called The Chocolate Bar, which is exactly as it sounds. A bar that specializes in chocolate drinks. They also have cheese plates and pizzas. I decided on their house specialty drink called the Tiramisu! It was heaven in a glass! Even had ice cream in it. We all split a cheese plate. Aubrey got a chocolate cake and some truffles that she let me try. They were both delicious. Then it was time to head to the reception, which was at the same place as the ceremony. It had been transformed into a dance floor and tables. Her colors were white and tiffany blue with silver accents. Very beautiful. It was a really fun reception with lots of dancing. She even had a photo booth with lots of props to have tons of fun!
Me and the bride! Yes, I did a wardrobe change. I went shopping for a dress and couldn't decide between the two. So I bought both hoping to let Paul help make the decision, which he did. He just told me to wear one to the wedding and one to the reception. Smart man!

SCO table watching the first dance

Me and Aub! Miss you!
Sunday, we got up super early and headed home, well, after making a necessary stop by Starbuck's and Cracker Barrel. We had loads of fun but really missed our little man. He had actually been getting sick all weekend and I was torn up inside about being away from him. It makes both him and me feel better if I sit there and just hold him when his stomach hurts. It really killed me to not be there. But we got to Paul's mom's around 12:30. He felt so bad, that he slept most of the way home, only waking up about an hour away from our house. He has since gotten better, but only yesterday did he really act his usual self. His pooping issues have returned so we are back to hard-core potty training. Wish us luck! =)
My sweet little man, all tuckered out from the weekend and being sick!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Geyser Falls

A couple Saturday's ago, Melodie called and asked if we wanted to go to Geyser Falls with her and Chad. I told her we had planned on working in the yard but that I would talk to Paul about it. Paul said that he really couldn't go, but Kaleb and I should go if I thought he would have a good time. After looking at their website, I saw that it had lots of things for kids his age so I decided to go.
It doesn't open until 11 and it is a little over an hour away so we left around 9:30. We arrived around 10:45 and there were already about 50 people in line with a big charter bus unloading about another 30! When we get there, we load all our valuables into a locker and me and Kaleb head to the toddler splash area while Melodie and Chad hit the big slides. Kaleb didn't want to stay in the kiddie part very long though. After going to the restroom we found Mel and Chad and got into the lazy river. Kaleb actually wore his puddle jumper and I turned him loose! It was really fun and entertaining watching him try to get Melodie and Chad! And watching Chad flip over on his tube trying to get Kaleb! After he had his fill of the lazy river, we headed to get some lunch, a.k.a: Cheeto Puffs! Then we went to check out the 'beach'. They have created this pseudo-beach with sand and a pool that got to about 4 ft in the center. It was really nice for kaleb since he could touch thru most of it. He showed off his moves to Mel and Chad, who were highly impressed and amused. At about 2:30, Kaleb started acting a little tired so we headed out. I was hoping the hour ride home would put this kid to sleep but no such luck!
When we did get home, my loving husband has mulched the side flower bed. Since Kaleb hadn't fallen alseep like I had hoped, I decided to further wear him down and join Paul in the Project Mulch! Since he was out, we headed to the local nursery where we get our mulch to pick up 3 more scoops, hoping it would finish everything out. They were only an hour from closing and were closed on Sunday. Well, after about 3 more hours of laying down mulch (and LOTS of hydration breaks), with Kaleb trying to 'help', we ran out of mulch... without finishing. So, it's 7 o'clock at night, nothing is open and everything is closed on Sunday. Oh well! At least we were done for the day. My master plan worked and Kaleb konked after his bath at 8:00. Which was great because both Paul and I were not far behind him!
Kaleb loves his Uncle Chad!

Got a little captain in ya?! Love my little man!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

And here's the rest of the photos

I have over 100 photos so I just created a Flickr account and put them into an album there. Here is the link:

Click on the Ft. Walton Beach 2012 and it will bring all of them up. There are two videos also. One of the videos wouldn't load on that sight for some reason so I have uploaded it here after doing some editing.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Summer Vacation at the Beach

Well, Paul, Kaleb and I have just returned from a week long (well, 9 DAYS actually) vacation at Fort Walton Beach, FL. We booked this trip back in January so we have been looking forward to this for some time now, literally counting down the days. What made this extra special, is my best friend from SCO, along with her husband and 2 year old son, flew down also! I haven't seen them since Kaleb's 2nd birthday party, which is WAY too long! So, not only did we get to do some major relaxing, I also got to catch up with a great friend.

We rented a condo at a resort called Waterscapes. We chose this place over the others because of the amenities it offered. Last year, Kaleb HATED the ocean, so we spent all our time at the pool. So, when choosing a place this year, we wanted to be sure to have a nice pool for Kaleb, in case the ocean situation hadn't changed. When we arrived Friday night, we found the condo to be more than we expected! It was HUGE and with great views of both the pools and the ocean. If you have young kids, I highly recommend this place. It has a lazy river, a circle pool, a splash pad for toddlers, AND a graduation pool (where it starts off flat and gradually gets deeper as you go in, where Kaleb had over 20 ft of pool where he could touch the bottom!). It also has two hot tubs and is right on the beach! It was a good thing we did invest in this place, because things had not changed and Kaleb hated the sand and ocean. But he had such a great time when at the pool, I didn't mind at all. Just seeing him so happy and having so much fun, I completely forgot about the beach, well, at least until he went back upstairs for lunch/nap, at which point me and Aub went down to the beach for some mommy time! =)

While there, we went to some great restaurants. My favorite thing to do while in Florida is to eat as much fresh seafood as possible! And that we did! The first night, we went to AJ's Seafood, which a great place on the Boardwalk in Destin. Kaleb wasn't too fond of just sitting and waiting for everyone to finish eating, so him and me made a couple trips up and down the boardwalk, looking at all the charter fishing boats. Here is a picture of him on the AJ's truck. It's a little out of focus but still a cutie:
The next night, we were all a little tired from the full day at the pool, so we decided to just cook some hamburgers and stay in. It was very relaxing. On day 4, we decided to just order in pizza, which was another relaxing night. Last year, Paul and I tried to go to this restaurant I had been to before, and remember being very good and had a great view, The Backporch, but the wait was about 2 hours, and that just wasn't going to happen with a two year old. So, I talked everyone in to trying it this year. When we got there, they said it would be about 45 minutes, which is better than 2 hours, but with 2 toddlers, still too long! So, we ended up going to McGuires Irish Pub, which I read had excellent steaks. Well, after waiting 35 minutes to get seated, and then a not-so-nice waitress, we did get our food, which was GREAT! The steaks did not disappoint and JB's sandwich was at least 8 inches thick! So the food made up for the wait/service, and the night was not a complete disappointment. On Day 6, we had decided to eat in again, and I found out there was a PF Changs only 17 miles away! Well, 17 miles in Destin, apparently means 35-40 minutes away! But, we made it there and back, and it was as delicious as it always is! And then, our last night, we decided to give The Backporch one more try, and we decided to get there at 5:30, to try to beat any crowd, and SUCCESS! Finally, after 2 years, I got to eat at The Backporch! They sat us on the second floor, on the porch overlooking the ocean! It was an incredible view! The food was good, not great, but worth the trip!

Like I said earlier, Kaleb LOVED the pool. He has really gotten the hang of this swimming thing! I mean, if he fell in without anyone, he would be able to come back up to the surface, but not save his life. So we still have to keep a watchful eye on the brave little turkey! I had Paul take a video of me and him in the pool. He loved to be thrown and then 'swim' by himself. Here is the video!

As far as weather when we were there, it was PERFECT all week. Sunny, high's in the mid 80's, with a nice breeze! We all stayed SPF-50'd up, so no sunburn to ruin anything. The Friday before we left, it was calling for rain, so we decided to take the kiddo's to the Gulfarium, right down the street from where we were staying. As we walked in the door, there was a man holding a big parrot, which you could take pictures with and then pay for them later. It looked like the villian parrot off Rio, so Kaleb wasn't too sure about it, as you can see in the pictures! Afterwards though, he actually wanted to have it on his arm, but they said he was too little. Maybe next year! This aquarium was really neat. Most of the animal exhibits were outside, like a zoo. They had dolphins, sharks, seals, sea turtles, alligators, tortoises,  lots of fish, and otters, which were Kaleb's favorite. He watches a lot of Diego, and one of his favorite episodes is about a brother and sister otters, named Oscar and Ollie. So, he kept saying he wanted to go see Oscar and Ollie! In the episode, you find out that otters are afraid of Caymens, which looks an awful lot like an alligator. I had never heard of a caymen, but this aquarium had then! They are just small allligators! So, Kaleb was extra excited to see Ollie, Oscar and Caymens! There was a dolphin show that was really educational. Kaleb was entertained for maybe 5 minutes, then was begging to go see Oscar and Ollie again! So funny. I have a video of him looking at the seals. He was so funny. As we were ready to leave, we stopped by the gift store. Keegan, Aubrey and JB's son, has developed a recent obsession with Sea Turtles, so they wanted to get him a stuffed toy. I was hoping to get Kaleb something too, maybe an otter, shark, anything that had interested him the whole time. But nope, what did Kaleb find and HAVE TO HAVE... A Truck and a Helicopter! Leave it to my son to go to an aquarium and come out with a truck and helicopter! Oh well, that's Kaleb for you!

The morning of check-out, we had to be out of the condo by 10:00 am, but Aub and JB didn't need to be at the airport until 11:30. After a big game of tetris, trying to fit all our luggage into Paul's Tahoe, and still be able to fit 4 adults and two car seats, we went for breakfast at Waffle House. It was really crowded but didn't disappoint. Then, we went to The Crab Trap, which has two playgrounds on the beach for kids. This turned out to be a great morning! Kaleb didn't mind the sand so much since there was a playground. I got some great pics of him playing.
This is actually his "Cheese" face! He yells it! Hilarious!

This slide was big and fast! I actually went down it once with him and almost fell out it went so fast!

If Kaleb looks at this picture, he tells me "Look Momma, I'm sharing with Keegan" when in all actuality, Keegan was there first! 

Peek-A-Boo never gets old!

The Crab Trap is located in this big Boardwalk/Pier/Shopping center thing. There are three restaurants, a night club, an ice cream parlor and lots of little shops. So, after Kaleb was tired of the sand, we headed to check out the shops which had lots of little goodies for him. We found a pirate hat (he loves Jake and the Neverland Pirates on the Disney Channel) and this little alligator thing that would chop down when you pulled the trigger. I remember these things growing up and the mechanisms haven't changed much, but Kaleb loved it, so we got him both the pirate hat and the alligator. He kept walking around saying "I'm a pirate! Arg!" So funny! Here is a picture of him. He looks mad at me because he likes to look at the picture AS SOON AS YOU TAKE IT! But he kept moving so I kept having to take another! 

He's got the Big Bad Pirate look down pat! =)

I have some more pictures of stuff, but I forgot to bring my camera with me today to upload the rest of them. I wanted to get these from my phone up here so everyone can see them. I will create another post either tonight or tomorrow with the rest of the pictures and videos!