Out and About: Downtown St. Louis

This “out and about” thing I’ve been doing the last several weeks is kind of like when you go to someone’s house after they get back from vacation and they say, “Wanna see my photos of how much fun I had while you were working and I was on vacation?”  The answer is always NO.  But since you’re here, you get to see them, anyhow.

On our way up to ND, we went through St. Louis.  We stayed at a La Quinta, as usual, but it was nasty.  Smelled like dog pee.  And was just dirty. Right after we stayed there, that whole Ferguson rioting started and guess what?  That motel wasn’t too far from Ferguson!  So on the way back, we decided to splurge and stay downtown at the Hilton.  They allow dogs with a large nonrefundable fee.  Valet parking is really overpriced and a Kettle One Martini (dirty dry and up) is $12.50.  Ouch!  But the room was free since we used the last bit of Terry’s hotel points from back when he spent his entire life on the road.  Or in the air.  Totally worth it.

We stayed at this hotel last year, too.  I love all the places to walk in St. Louis and there are so many green spaces. 

Hilton Hotel

Here’s our very cool downtown hotel.

Maggie on Chaise

And here’s Maggie enjoying a little break on her chaise that she claimed as soon as we walked into our room.

There’s some construction going on around the arch. 



Just in case we don’t see the arch, there are directions on the sidewalks.


Really, you can see it just about from everywhere.

How about those cobblestone streets?

cobblestone streets

Glad we were walking, not driving!

This place was right around the corner. 


Looks like scary fun. But we had Maggie with us so we couldn’t go to the jungle.


Maggie did not want to go into a dark jungle. She preferred the parks.

There’s a lot of bridges over the Missouri River.  And I seem to feel the need to take many pictures of all of them.  Weird since I have a slight fear of heights. Thought I’d share a few bridge photos with you.


Here’s a pretty view.



This one is my favorite. Dirty and gritty and old looking.


And here’s the arch. With construction. It was a cloudy COLD evening. .

St. Louis

I love the symmetry of the buildings and park.

Downtown St. Louis

Anyone know who this running guy is? Or why the water is dyed blue?

St. Louis

Happy Birthday St. Louis!

Downtown St. Louis

One last photo of downtown.

Great evening.  Would love to stay longer, do some more exploring and check out the night life someday.

Spread your tiny wings and fly away

In case you’re not old enough to remember that bit of a lyric, it’s from Snowbird by Anne Murray.  And if you do remember it, now you have that ear worm for the rest of the day.

And that’s the subject of this post. (Snowbird, not ear worm)

We were in North Dakota for six weeks.  Does that make me a snowbird?  Say it isn’t so!  I’ve been pondering it.  Keeping awake at night.  Tossing, turning.

So I looked Snowbird up on Wikipedia.  Not much help but it did mention that many snowbirds have RVs.  I don’t have one of those. Hey, I was only away for six weeks!  And I’ve endured those 24-hour sauna deep south summers since 1982.  

I’ve decided that you’re not a snowbird unless you arrive after Thanksgiving and leave before Easter.  Everyone okay with that definition?  Now I can sleep again.


Because I was in the great white north for six weeks, I got to experience a lot of ND family life.

I attended Riley’s first football game of the season.  (And possibly his last.)


Riley’s number 20. By the way, he weighs 80 pounds and he’s in the 8th grade.  He’s small but FAST!


He’s got the ball. Keep an eye on number 72.  That’s one big 8th grader!


Go Riley!




And he’s down.


That little pile of black uniform back there is our Riley!


Oh yeah, a mild concussion and whiplash. But back up and at school the next day. No football until cleared by TWO doctors and the coach. Riley, it’s time to take up cross country.

I was entertained by this little lady for six weeks.

Piper Baking

Doesn’t she look like Suzy Homemaker? Adorable!  She should have her own baking show! And she needs a Kitchen Aid Mixer.  She’s going pro!

And I got to meet this darling baby when she was about 3 minutes old.  


Adley the Queen, 25 days old!

Gonna miss everyone but it was really COLD on our final walk with Maggie and the wind force was almost at cat 1 hurricane strength. Give me some Florida Sunshine!

Oh, and by the way, the bunch of them are coming to Florida in about seven weeks. (Except for Alan–someone has to stay and drive the train and keep that oil boom going!) So I’ve got some more quality grandkid lovin’ time coming up!

Renovation Reality

Ever watched that show?  It’s either on the HGTV or DIY channel.  Homeowners decide to do a renovation which usually turns out to be over their heads, budgets and time frame.  

We had a bit of our own Renovation Reality over this past summer so I know a little about how those remodelers feel. I like to say that we went two steps forward and then one back.

During last August’s annual visit to the ND family, Alan suggested that we might be more comfortable in our own suite in the basement. Since we usually stay in Piper’s room, that sounded like a great idea but that basement needed some major reno.  And there was an odor.

Four months later we learned that we were going to have another little ND grandbaby. Which meant that they eventually needed another bedroom.  So that’s when the renovation turned into a reality.

Alan and Lauri came up with a new design for the basement that included a guest suite, a bedroom for Riley, and a Jack and Jill bathroom.  First big change was an egress window in Riley’s new bedroom.

Renovation Reality


Egress Window


And with the new paint and carpet.  The paint isn't really that dark.  There's a ladder in the window well so Riley can escape. Will come in very handy when he's about 15.

And with the new paint and carpet. The paint isn’t really that dark–just bad lighting on my part. There’s a ladder in the window well so Riley can escape. Will come in very handy when he’s about 15.

A tankless water heater was installed, old partitions were pulled down, new walls built, insulation added.  A bathtub and surround were put into the new bathroom.  All before we arrived. 

The odor I mentioned was remedied by painting almost every old surface with Kilz Max. I personally discovered the misery of rolling Kilz on the popcorn ceilings. Not volunteering for that job again. Ever. Before the new flooring was installed, all the floors were also painted with Kilz Max. 

The six-weeks we were there flew by with us doing every possible job we could.


See that beautiful white ceiling? First the Kilz Max and then white ceiling paint. My neck will never be the same.

I mainly did staining and painting and watching small children since I don’t do power tools. (I have an issue with the possibility of losing a limb)  Exactly one week before we left we were able to kind of sort of move into the basement.  Still no bathroom but we did have nice doors and cushy carpeting.  (Which our bad bad dog decided to pee on!)

And there’s still lots to do.  Like heat, trim, finish the bathroom.  But we had to leave.  We woke up one morning and it was about 30 degrees.  Gotta go, see ya!  

We bought some god-awful ugly used furniture for $350 for the guest suite.  Plus a new mattress. 


I took the pillows off of the bed so you could get a good look at that UGLY headboard.


But I have plans. The posts are staying and the center section will be replaced with an upholstered headboard.  Drapes and dust ruffle will be added.  A solid color comforter instead of the quilt.  A bigger lamp, oh there’s lots more.


Picked up the little lamp for $8 at a garage sale. Too small for this nightstand and the shade needs replaced.

Media center

The TV will go on the wall over that dresser which will be turned into a media stand. 

And this is the ugliest piece of all!  I even changed all the hardware and it's still hideous.  Not sure how I'm going to pretty this up.

And this is the ugliest piece of all! I even changed all the hardware and it’s still hideous. Not sure how I’m going to pretty this one up. 


Found this little table in Alan’s shop. It needs some love. Bought the rocking chair at a garage sale for $15. Piper thinks it needs to be pink. Not happening.  That hole there isn’t for a mouse, that’s where the connection for the heat goes.



This is the kitchenette. A fridge will go in that empty corner.  Drapes on the sliders. Maybe a little table or desk.


This cupboard will eventually have a sink and countertop plus a cabinet and microwave shelf above it.

That’s part one of this Renovation Reality. Furniture updating, curtains, and decor will take place next summer!  

Cabbage Soup Diet : really, cabbage? – ugh

Last week or so, I mentioned that I’d gone to the local farmers market and one of the things I brought back was an enormous cabbage. Now, you know I had to do something with it. One evening we made fish tacos, which require coleslaw – yum. But that doesn’t take much. I had previously considered stuffed cabbage, but that head was bigger than MY head – and not as many tender leaves. So, I took the biggest knife I had and cleaved it in half. Still gigantic! I called my Mom and she said she’d love to have half. I’d told her of the coleslaw I had planned and that I might add it to a soup. She said, “Oh, cabbage soup is really pretty good.”

Wait isn’t there a ‘Cabbage Soup Diet’? Google it! Why yes, there is. As I read through the recipe, I thought, “Heck, this is just a veggie soup – nothing special here.” By nothing special means, nothing ‘diet’ about it, so the guys might even eat it. (NOT !) Ok, I’m game. I drug out my biggest pot, an armload of veggies and set to work.

This came together so fast and smelled so good – I highly advise trying this. Even if you aren’t on a diet, it’s just good and healthy.

What to do with that huge cabbage !

What to do with that huge cabbage !

Cabbage Soup: You’re gonna be healthy or else!

Step 1:

1/2 Head of Cabbage, chopped

2 Yellow Onions, chopped

2 – 3 Garlic cloves, chopped

2 Green Peppers, chopped

2 cans Diced Tomatoes, chopped

3 Medium Carrots, chopped

1 – 10oz container of Mushrooms, chopped

3 or 4 long stalks of Celery, chopped

1 – 48oz Can or jug of V-8 Low Sodium juice* (or veggie broth)

and the seasonings listed below

Step 2

Step 2

Step 2:

Chop the onions, celery, carrot, garlic and sweat them in the soup pot. No, you won’t need oil, these veggies will have plenty of juice in them as it is. After they’ve had their head start, add the tomatoes, and V-8 (or broth).


Step 3

Step 3

Step 3:

Toss in that cabbage and mushrooms. I used two different kinds, white buttons, and baby bellas, since I had them from another recipe. I like Baby Bellas because the give a meaty flavor to things. So I used half and half. (Yes, I know we just lost Terry – he hates ‘shrooms)


Step 4

Step 4

Step 4:

Add the seasonings. When I looked up the recipe I saw a slew of tasteless diet versions. Then there was a lady touting her own blend of spices for it. Hmmm. What could it be? Well, I can’t wait to order it, and I know that somewhere they have to post the fine print. I looked it over and came up with this…

FW10098:14:9CabbageSoupStep 4a


½ tsp Garlic Salt

¼ tsp Onion Powder

1/8 tsp Tomato Flakes (or minced sundried’s)

½ tsp Paprika

1/8 tsp (or a pinch) Cayenne Pepper

2 tsp Nutritional Yeast 

OK, ‘nutritional yeast’? Well, the pre-packaged mix listed ‘yeast extract’. Which is Vegimite or Marmite. Neither of which I’ll find locally, at least I don’t think so. We don’t have a big enough Australian contingency here to warrant ‘Vegimite Sandwiches’ being on any menus. However, I do have nutritional yeast here. It’s like vegan fairy dust. It’s hard to describe, but it makes things taste ‘cheesy’ – which is never a bad thing. It’s cheap and easy to find at any health food store. Go get some.

Double, double toil and trouble  Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

Double, double toil and trouble
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

Step 5:

There is no step 5 ! You’re pretty much done. – Cover it and let that cauldron simmer for a couple hours on low. Don’t add salt to it. We’re going for low salt, diet friendly eats here. If you have ‘Spike’ seasoning (a no-salt veggie alternative) add it to your bowl as needed.


Let it cool, ladle into containers. Set a couple in the fridge, and stock the rest in the freezer for later.




Forget that Lean Cuisine, add a salad and some saltines – not Fritos! – and this is so low cal and healthy I can’t even calculate it !

Spicy, healthy - yummy

Spicy, healthy – yummy

Cabbage Soup
Yields 5
Healthy and tasty - not just for diets !
Write a review
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
2 hr
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
2 hr
  1. 1/2 Head of Cabbage, chopped
  2. 2 Yellow Onions, chopped
  3. 2 – 3 Garlic cloves, chopped
  4. 2 Green Peppers, chopped
  5. 2 cans Diced Tomatoes, chopped
  6. 3 Medium Carrots, chopped
  7. 1 – 10oz container of Mushrooms, chopped
  8. 3 or 4 long stalks of Celery, chopped
  9. 1 – 48oz Can or jug of V-8 Low Sodium juice* (or veggie broth)
  1. ½ tsp Garlic Salt
  2. ¼ tsp Onion Powder
  3. 1/8 tsp Tomato Flakes (or minced sundried’s)
  4. ½ tsp Paprika
  5. 1/8 tsp (or a pinch) Cayenne Pepper
  6. 2 tsp Nutritional Yeast
  1. Sweat the onions, carrots, celery, green pepper, in a huge pot. Add the garlic.
  2. Toss in the tomatoes, V-8 (or broth), mushrooms, and cabbage. Add the seasonings
  3. Simmer for what seems like forever (2 - 3 hours) on low. Adjust the seasonings.
  4. That's it !
  1. If you've got 'Spike' seasoning (no-salt), add it to bowls as needed for a bit more punch. The heat in this makes it a great cold-weather friend.
Adapted from Catherine the Cabbage Soup Diet Girl

Out and About: North Dakota Heritage Center

North Dakota Heritage Center

North Dakota Heritage Center

One last ND outing with little Miss Piper.  This time we planned to tour the State Capitol grounds.  We made it through most of the Heritage Center before she decided that it was time to go home. Not bad for a 3-year-old. 

Piper seemed to have a soft spot for the bison.

Out and About: North Dakota Heritage Center

Out and About: North Dakota Heritage Center

But she was afraid of the dinosaurs, even the one where the prehistoric bison was taking out some bad dinosaur cats.

Out and About: North Dakota Heritage Center

Out and About: North Dakota Heritage Center


Out and About: North Dakota Heritage Center


This was more her speed… 

Out and About: North Dakota Heritage Center

See the little plaque about what a Bison smells like? It smells bad, really bad.

Out and About: North Dakota Heritage Center

The North Dakota Capitol Building–the tallest building in North Dakota, and that’s Sakakawea with her infant in front of it.

Next year we’ll start out in the capitol building.  There are tours every hour.

Out and About: North Dakota Heritage Center

These lovely flowers are in front of the capitol.

 One more shot of the building.

Out and About: North Dakota Heritage Center

Just a little trivia, Bismarck is the capital of North Dakota and the second largest city in the state.  In 2012, the entire state had a population of 699,628.  The Bismarck Metro Area which includes the city of Mandan has 120,060 residents and growing because of the oil boom.

The Tampa Bay Metro area (including HIllsborough, PInellas, Pasco and Hernando counties) has over 4.2 million.  

And that’s one of the many reasons to love Bismarck!