Friday, December 22, 2006

Gateway to the West

First semester is over....yeah, yeah, yeah! It's been quite an experience working with the SLPS system this year. Most things are just as I expected (think STL media coverage) but the personnel issues have been unbelievable! People coming and going, going and coming--me included. Although I was hired to teach history at Roosevelt, I am now teaching special education at Gateway Institute of Technology (after a brief stop in 6th grade at Humboldt Middle). And, this was all in the first week of school. Crazy! But, I've adjusted, I think, and have discovered that I work with a pretty great group of teachers. Here are a few photos from my classroom at Gateway and our bi-monthly teaching training workshop at Milo's on the Hill.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Gardenland Express

I've never been particularly interested in trains or model trains but going to see the annual Gardenland Express exhibit at the Missouri Botanical Garden has become a tradition for Bill and me. It's quite an amazing sight. Each year the Garden staff constructs this wonderfully elaborate train display using flora from the Garden. The details are so layered that you can spend hours studying the exhibit's depth and beauty. Plus, you get to see a lot of little boys, especially, in train conductor hats and Thomas the Tank Engine T-shirts.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Hoot Hoot Hoot

Willa's fascination with owls, especially their "Hoot-Hoot" call, has continued so we spent the morning at the World Bird Santuary in Lone Elk State Park. Although we were bundled, the weather was unseasonably warm--about 60 degrees by the time we left. Willa tried out the few bird calls that she knows. It was fun to watch her as she tried to get the birds' attention. Willa was so serious as she attempted a call. Then, when the bird responded, she reacted with such surprise--as if her magic worked.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Farm in Fall

Back in the early 80's Bill's Dad bought 150 acres in Warrenton, MO which was a little farming community about an hour's drive from St. Louis. When Bill's Dad found the property it was being used as a subsistence farm. Much of the native species woods had been fenced in for pigs and the farm house was in shambles. So, the fences came down, as did the house, and the land was to return, as much as possible, to it's former state. Bill has spent most of his adolescence and adulthood growing up on this land. Hiking, hunting, camping, exploring. I'm not sure why his Dad decided to buy the place but it's been an important part of Bill's life and, now, mine and Willa's. Oh, and Grover's.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Polish Power

The weekend after Labor Day might just be another weekend to most people but if you're Polish you know that it's time for the Polish Festival (and shame on you if you don't!). Held each year at the Polish Falcons compound on St. Louis Avenue, the Festival attracts a modest, but loyal, crowd that loves to show off it's red and white pride. Of course, the best part of making the trip to the near north side of town is the food. Eight dollars buys the Polish Dinner Plate which is a sampler of Polands finest--cabbage roll, pierogi, and kielbasa. You also get Polish style mashed potatoes and green beans. If you're still hungry, you can chose from a variety of Polish pastries for dessert. Willa skipped the food and headed straight for the games of chance and polka music.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Japanese Festival

The annual Japanese Festival at the Missouri Botanical Garden was last weekend. And though you can't tell by these photos, the Garden was alive with all things Japanese. Willa especially liked the Taiko drummers and the entertainment of "The Candy Man." But, as you can see, she was just as excited to see the sheep sculptures and the water fountain. A visit to the Garden for us isn't complete without a stop to rest on the back of a sheep and a drink to rehydrate.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Home of the Rough Riders

If you've ever been to Mt. Rushmore, or looked at a photo of it, you're probably familiar with the large-than-life face of one President Theodore Roosevelt. Many historians agree that Roosevelt was a spirited personality recognized just as much for his political prowess as his sense of adventure. It's no wonder then that schools all across the United States are named in tribute to this great man. In fact, right here in St. Louis City, on the corner of Compton and Hartford, we have our own Roosevelt High School. And, as it would happen, I now teach there. In case you'd like to know what--I teach World History to Sophmores (and Juniors, and Seniors, and who ever else couldn't pass it the first time around).

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Hills Are Alive........

Our latest walk took us to The Hills--as in the St. Louis Hills neighborhood (not to be confused with "The Hill"). I'd never explored The Hills before but was looking forward to a decent cardio workout. Unfortunately, The Hills have very few hills. Although the workout was slightly disappointing, the neighborhood was nice, quiet, and very, believe it or not, suburban. You might be thinking, "Suburban"?
Yes, suburban. In fact, the only thing missing from The Hills 'Hood was it's own Olive Garden. Of course, I'm exaggerating (but not too much). We also walked through St. Francis Park. The Park was a hub of activity in the neighborhood. There were lots of walkers, joggers, and strollers. The best part though was the mosiac encrusted chairs that flanked the pool in the center of the park.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Everything is Normal

Willa and I spent the weekend with my sister, Tracy, and her family who live in Normal, IL. Our visit to Normal was normal--we shopped (Von Maur, Baby Bug a Boo, Oh, Baby) and we ate (Pot Belly's, Bennigan's). We also talked, played with the kids, and slept. You'll have to take me at my word since I forgot the camera.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Holy Sisters of St. Joseph

A few weeks ago Dona suggested a walk to Bellerive Park which is located on the Southside of St. Louis City along the upper banks of the Mississippi River. For some reason I couldn't go and as disappointed as I was at the time I was so much more when I heard the sordid little details of her trip southward. Here's a bone: our local prostitutes don't look anything like Julia Roberts. As it would turn out, I got my chance to see Bellerive Park and its surrounds first hand today. Dona, Bill, and I walked from South Grand, to Bates, to Bellerive. As expected, the park provided some very scenic views of the Missisippi River and some not so subtle reminders of our ties to the economy of the river.

On a seedier note, Bellerive Park used to have the reputation of being a pickup spot for some entertainment of the adult variety. The local alderman has taken credit for cleaning up the park but you may not know it by the looks of the locals we saw hanging out. Surprisingly enough, the action, or lack of it, at Bellerive takes place right down the hill from the convent of the Sisters of St. Joseph which is definitely worth checking out. It has very interesting history, architecture, iconography, and landscaping. And, of course, the views of the Mississippi are stunning (some might say inspirational).

Monday, July 31, 2006

Porch Music

Yesterday, the family headed east across the Ole Mighty Miss to the Old Cahokia Courthouse. The 13th annual Old Time Music Fete was in full swing by the time we arrived. I had never been to the Fete but it was my understanding that it, maybe because of its relationship with DJ's at KDHX, drew lots of lively people from both sides of the river to sit around and watch the live music on the porch of the Courthouse. Not this year. Maybe it was the lack of alcoholic beverages or the scorching temperatures (it was over one hundred degrees) but the crowd was small and less than enthusiastic. Still, the Fete had some so-so musical acts--mostly bluegrass and old-time country bands...oh and cloggers--and managed to capture that old-timey feel.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Old North St. Louis

Where every visit to Old North St. Louis probably starts:
Art along North Market Street

Old intact doors

Old intact church

A cut-away view of a house

St. Louis Downtown within walking distance

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Lafayette Park and neighborhood

These are some pictures from an early morning walk through Lafayette Park in St. Louis city.
The park is only 30 acres in size but there are many paths to take.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

DeMun Park

In the mid-late 1990's, Bill and I used to hang out at Kaldi's with some regularity. We'd meet friends for a coffee, sit outside in the summer heat, smoke cigarettes, and try to sort out the world's problems. Obviously, we weren't very successful but our meetings always resulted in some very interesting and humorous conversations. Today, Willa and I met Dona at Kaldi's for a morning walk around this Clayton neighborhood. Dona once lived here, in a really cool apartment building on Southwood Avenue, so she led the way. Although there is some architectural diversity, most of the home owners shared a devotion to the art of front lawn gardening. These weren't grand or formal gardens. Rather, the gardens were small, natural, and leisurely. Their casual friendliness was inviting and I had to stop myself from time to time from walking right up into someone's yard. It is an appealing curbside feature that you can find in many of our older St. Louis neighborhoods. We finished off the morning walk with a visit to DeMun Park. Willa enjoyed swinging, climbing, and, especially, sliding.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Carondelet Park Loop

At the far south end of Grand Av. in St. Louis City is Carondelet Park. A great park for a leisurely shaded walk. The park is crowded with architectural features embedded in the karst topography. Above are a few pictures of the bridges, ponds, and lakes....

Monday, July 10, 2006

Powder Valley

A 1.5 mile paved trail through scenic Powder Valley conservation area in Kirkwood, MO. The trails are very steep (for strollers). We saw lots of "wild"life. Willa especially enjoyed the fish, turtles, and mounted animals in the nature center.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Tower Grove Park

Bill and I have lived in the shadow of Tower Grove Park for about ten years now. TGP is an often overlooked and unappreciated tresure in the city of St. Louis. Not quite as large or boastful as the more showy Forest Park, TGP was created in 1868 when Henry Shaw gifted this land to the City of St. Louis. We've spent a great deal of time in TGP over the last ten years--walking our dog Grover, riding bikes, attending various festivals, shopping at the TGP Farmer's Market, and wading in the fountain water with our daughter Willa. In fact, we loved TGP so much that we got married at the Piper Palm House (pictured below). If you have the time, you should check out the park. If not, here are some highlights from the short walk we took through Tower Grove Park.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Forest Park Grand Basin - Part 1

One of the features of the revitalized Forest Park is the renewal of the park-wide stream system. The waterways are now linked in a series of lakes, streams, waterfalls, and marshes that allows the water to circulate and oxygenate. The oxygenated water provides better habitat for all manner of wildlife. On just a short walk we came across herons, red-tailed hawks, finches, kingfishers, and several species of wood warblers.

The goldfinches hop from chicory to chicory along the foot paths

Little green herons inhabit the marshy areas of the Grand Basin

The city's name-sake strikes a pose above the Grand Basin

On top of the Art museum are these gilded eagles.

You can check out a Ipod Shuffle with a self-guided walking tour or download the tours from Forest Park Forever.