Saturday, February 28, 2009

Eagle Watching

Mark and I set off this morning to go eagle watching along the Mississippi River north of St. Louis. Prime season for eagle watching is actually January, early February, but we kept doing other things on the weekends. Today was grey and dreary with snow predicted, but I was pretty determined that we needed to go ahead and go before a few more weeks slipped past. I've never seen an eagle in the wild before, and I didn't want to miss this opportunity in my first winter here.

We drove north along the Illinois side, through the town of Grafton, IL, which is supposed to be Eagle Central, but only saw a few eagles along the way. As we were getting ready to cross the river back into MO, we saw a group of eagles along the side of road. Remember, I don't have a big telephoto lens on my camera....but the pictures zoomed in rather nicely! We saw several convocations of eagles along the roadside (yes, a group of eagles is called a "convocation", I actually looked it up!). Probably over the course of the day we saw close to a hundred, although friends have said in the prime time you can easily see several hundred. I will do better in my planning next winter!
There is an eagle in the top right side of this tree, but there were also hundreds of geese flying around in all sorts of formations.

Here is an eagle flying. In the trees behind the water, there are eleven eagles sitting on branches.

Another eagle flying, with the white heads of others in the trees.

A little blurry picture....

Another lone eagle watching for his dinner.

We did see some snowflakes in the morning, but unfortunately, no snow. Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny, so I think we may have missed this opportunity. I'm still hoping for another snowfall or two before spring comes!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Austin's visit

Austin got his one stateside visit early in his deployment, and flew up to St. Louis for the weekend. We had a whirlwind weekend here, but he was able to see several more of the sites in town, and we got to spend some great time together. His leave was scheduled to start on February 11th, but he didn't get to Atlanta until the 13th, and got to spend a few hours there before he boarded for his scheduled flight here. We were so happy he was able to make the flight, I had almost given up hope that he would arrive in Atlanta in time. He arrived Friday night, and we went for an always wonderful dinner at a local Greek restaurant, Olympia. He had never tried Greek food before, so he got a taste of several menu items. Saturday we started early with a huge breakfast, then driving around touring Forest Park. We tried to get into the Jewel Box greenhouse, but they had just closed. We dropped off Mark for some scheduled mice injections (the mice wait for no one!), and Austin and I headed off to the Anheuser Busch brewery. He had not been able to go there on his visit last summer since he was on crutches and it requires several blocks of walking. So we made it our first stop this time around! When we arrived, they had this baby Clydesdale patiently standing outside for pictures.

The tour includes lots of stops at the various processing points for beer. I am only including the picture of the bottling is a very interesting tour though! This was the first time I have done the tour and seen bottles being packaged...typically it is cans, which don't look as cool.

After the brewery tour, we went and picked up Mark then headed to the Soulard area of St. Louis, which is a very old historic area that holds a Mardi Gras celebration. They were having the "Taste of Soulard" on Saturday, which meant we bought tickets and got samples at a range of restaurants thoughout the neighborhood. We walked from place to place, enjoying the neighborhood and the Mardi Gras decorations and costumes. Lots of good food and new restaurants to visit! We went home to a dinner of seafood gumbo, which none of us really had room for, was a good end to a busy day.

Sunday, we headed to the St. Louis cathedral, which is apparently one of the most elaborate cathedrals in the US. It has mosaics that were started in 1914, and finished in 1988. I had been before, but Austin enjoyed the beauty of the walls, ceilings and floors. Here is the exterior...

And a few pictures of the interior...

Next stop was the Jewel Box greenhouse, which is within Forest Park, the large city park close to our house. I have been by the Jewel Box many times, but they are only open for short hours, since they host weddings and other private events frequently. We finally found them open, and were able to view the inside. It is such a beautiful space!

After Jewel Box, we headed to the farm. We toured most of the trails, and showed Austin the house site, and all our favorite trees. As usual, I did more pictures of things than people, but we did get Mark to shoot some pictures in front of Elmer, our tree with a face. Note the mouth above our heads!

Monday, we got up and went out for a breakfast of bagels and lox and headed to the airport. It was hard to say good bye to him, but I'm sure the time will fly and he will soon be safely back home. He has received many boxes from friends and family, and I so deeply am grateful to those who are sending packages to him. Thank you, all!!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


I flew to Atlanta this past weekend for a visit. It was Sara's birthday, as well as a baby shower for her being held by her best friend, Kellie. The shower was awesome, these girls did a great job of throwing a baby shower! They are all bona fide grownups now, and I am proud of all of them. Here are Terri, Rayne, Kellie, Morgan and Sara. They have been together since middle school and I am sure they have many years of friendship left.

One of the shower games was a guessing game to measure the size of Sara's growing belly. I measured over ten inches bigger than she actually was, and I'm lucky she didn't throw something at me! Morgan was the closest, but she has been most recently pregnant, so she had an advantage!

Kellie used baby pictures of Sara and Ryan to decorate the mantel. They were both very cute little ones!

Here's a picture of the loot....her friends and family were very generous, and Baby Emery will be well equpped when she arrives!

Here's the pretty mom!

After the shower we went to Ninja Hibachi Steak House, a family favorite. It was also a celebration of Sara's sister in law, Stephanie's birthday, so we filled up an entire table.

After dinner, we went back to Donny and Nancy's for birthday cake and opening birthday gifts. The most memorable gift was undoubtedly Donny's "Baby Whisperer" megaphone for Emery. Donnny is working hard to be the favorite grandparent!

As usual, I spent time taking pictures of the current grandchild, Hailey. Here she is looking at her mom with adoring eyes.
We all said there was NO way Ryan would get all the gifts into their car in one trip. Ryan loves a challenge, so of course, he accomplished the feat! However, he had close contact with Hailey for the trip home! She was quite happy to have her position of honor on the front seat.

I had a great time visiting with Donny and Nancy, they are wonderful hosts!

On Sunday night I went and visited my friend, Marla. Several of our friends went out to dinner that evening, then returned to her house for the Superbowl, with lots of football snacks. I felt a little guilty since I watched the game on her huge 56" TV, while Mark was at home watching on a much smaller set ( a new one is on our list!). I had wanted the Cardinals to win, but it was a good game overall. Marla gave me a predawn ride to MARTA to catch the plane home, and it was back to the grind today. This evening Airtran sent out a fare sale email, so I'm already planning my next visit! While visiting was great, I realized STL has already become home. As much as I miss my friends and family, I'm where I'm supposed to be.