Here is a blog to keep family and friends up to date on our various comings and goings. Check back weekly for updates, and feel free to leave comments!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Ethan Meets a Rhino

We recently learned that the St. Louis Zoo does behind the scenes tours of their rhinos.  Ethan has been obsessed with rhinos since he was about 18 months old - when he received a stuffed rhino named "Bum Bum Rhino".  Once Ethan became old enough for this tour, we booked one for our annual summer outing to the STL zoo.  We even parked in the R for Rhino section of the parking lot!

Our tour was at 1:45 p.m., but Ethan didn't want to wait that long before seeing the rhinos.  Here he is posing with Bum Bum Rhino (yes, we brought him along to "meet his cousins").  We were able to walk the entire zoo before our rhino tour.  Even though it was a hot day, many of the animals (except the Big Cats) were very active.

Almost time for the tour!  We were given access to the rhino and hippo private areas.

Ethan exploring where the rhinos sleep at night and learning how they train the rhinos to successfully navigate their way through the gate.  The only safety tip that we were given was to not put our hand/arm between the rhino and the sides of the fence so that they do not get crushed - we were only allowed to put them straight out.

Rhino time!  The STL zoo has two rhinos - the female is Kati (that is the one we met) and the male is Ajabu. She had just woken up from a nap and was a bit slow to respond at first, but after she had been fed a few branches of leaves, she perked up!  Olivia learned just how strong Kati is when they got into a bit of a tug of war over the branch.

The big moment - petting the rhino!  Ethan says that the skin felt like "snake skin only wrinkly-er".  We were a bit surprised by how rough her skin was - we thought that it would feel softer and that we would feel more hair/fuzz on her.  But behind her ears was very soft, and she really liked to be petted there.  Ethan also learned to not hold out Bum Bum Rhino to "show" Kati since she attempted to eat him!  Luckily the zookeeper prevented that from happening.

Just look at that excitement on his face!  He was truly speechless by this experience.  It seemed to be a bit overwhelming for him since he was a bit shy about going around Kati.

This was a great experience for all of us!

We celebrated by taking a train ride selfie :)

To finish our rhino day, we walked down the the STL Zoo sculpture to see one more rhino.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

A Quick Trip to KCMO

We took a quick family road trip to Kansas City in early June.  The real reason for the vacation was to see a Barenaked Ladies concert (the first one for the kids!), but we also stayed plenty busy exploring the city for two days.  Our first stop was for a BBQ lunch at Joe's BBQ of Kansas City.  We were in luck since the line was only about 10 minutes long, and the burnt ends were not sold out.  This had to be the best BBQ I have ever eaten!

Our next stop was to visit the Negro League Baseball Museum.  This was a fairly small yet very informative museum, with lots for the kids to do.  

Attached to the Baseball Museum was the Jazz Museum.  This was also a very small but hands on museum to explore the importance of jazz music and to also create your own music.

Our final stop of the day was at the KC Science Center.  The kids had a blast here exploring the optical illusion room, water lab, the dino dig site, and more.

Joe was the only one brave enough to ride the suspension bike.

We wish that we could buy these chairs for our house!

We spent a long time in the optical illusion room.

Kansas City is reported to have the second most number of fountains in the world, behind Rome.  There were so many to explore, but the city's most famous fountain is the JC Nichols Memorial Fountain (below) in the Country Club Plaza.  KC also had so much art located around the town - it was a beautiful city.

We found these statues in Country Club Plaza after our dinner at Jack Stack BBQ.

The lobby of the Hotel Sorella.

The next day had us exploring more museums around the town.  Our first visit was to the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art.  This was a much smaller art museum than we had anticipated, but the kids enjoyed the statues around the outside (the spider and the weeping giant pictured below).

We next explored the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art.  This was a wonderful art museum - and we especially loved walking the grounds to see all 32 pieces in their sculpture garden.

We had the most fun walking the mirror maze in the sculpture garden.  Just don't ask Joe about the knot on his head after this!

After eating lunch at the museum's food court, Ethan became our museum guide for the day.

The kids loved the Egyptian art section.

Our next stop was to see the Arabia Steamboat Museum.  This focused on a steamboat that had sunk in the Missouri River and had been excavated out of a cornfield with all of its contents still intact.  This museum was also located next to an open air market, where we bought a snack at a wonderful Italian grocer.

The reason for the KC trip - the Barenaked Ladies "Last Summer on Earth" tour at the Starlight Theatre.  They had two opening acts:  Howard Jones and Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark.  It was an excellent concert as always, and the kids had so much fun.  The BNL anecdote from the concert that we will always remember:  "I don't care what the sign says, them there are seals".

We started our final morning in KC at the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures.  This place had more miniatures than I had ever seen before!

We explored the World War I Museum before lunch.  We walked through this place pretty quickly since we were tired and hungry by this point.  If we ever make it back to KC, I hope to explore this place more thoroughly since it was very well laid out and full of memorabilia.  

The view from the back of the museum.

We ate a late lunch at Stroud's at Oak Ridge Manor on our way home.  This is a James Beard award winning restaurant located inside of a historic farm house.  Basically, the house is a dump.  The floors slant, the walls were cracked, it appeared that the decor had not been updated in decades, and one of the waitresses screamed in the middle of our lunch because wasps were flying around her head.  But, the food was good and more than plentiful!  It was served family style, and we brought home more than enough leftovers to last for two more meals.  The cinnamon buns make the trip more than worth it!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Kate's Year to Chair the Art Fair

Way back in August 2011, I was asked by a friend to join the Springfield Old Capitol Art Fair board.  I was told it would be a 6 year commitment, that it would be a lot of work, but that I would love every minute of it.  And all of it was true!  I joined as an exhibitor's assistant for one year (I assisted in recruiting artists to come to our Fair and to instruct them on what they needed to know), then two years as the exhibitor's chair, one year as chair elect (basically watch the chair and learn how to run the Fair), and then this was my big year as Chair.  Next year I will complete my six hears as past chair (basically advise as needed).  

This Fair was a big job - 160 artists filling 174 booth spaces, a Children's Tent with 3000 donated pieces of art, a Community Mural Project, 8 live music acts, 16 food vendors, 2 beer wagons/tents, tens of thousands of attendees, a large Artist Awards and Patron's Party, publicity posters and billboards, and half a dozen media interviews.  This does not include the tiny details the typical attendee thinks about - such as port a potties, wastebasket placement, fire lanes, where to hang sponsor signs, getting the artists properly judged, recruiting volunteers, feeding the artists breakfast, and so much more.  I am so thankful that I had a wonderful team of 28 board of directors that did their jobs so well - their hard work (plus gorgeous weather) made me look good ;)

This is a picture of artist set up day on Friday, May 20.  There are four staggered set up times for the artists to unload their tents and artwork into their assigned spots.  This is a very long day for the artists and for the board members.

Art Fair morning began at 6 a.m. on Saturday, May 21.

As chair, I gave the welcoming address, handed out student awards, and officially opened the Fair.

The winning student artwork that was used for all publicity.

Most of the SOCAF board that worked so hard to make this Fair a huge success (the other members were already hard at work at their stations).

Olivia loves to volunteer inside the Children's Tent assisting younger children with purchasing artwork.  I love this Tent - it is not a place for children to MAKE art, but it is a place for them to learn to APPRECIATE art and purchase authentic artwork for $4-6.  They enter into the Tent without their parents so that they are not influenced in any way while selecting a piece of art that appeals to them.  I love to hear the stories from the kids explaining why they picked the art.

Ethan and one of the art pieces he bought in the Tent.  

After a long, hot day at the Fair, we did a quick clean up and attended the Patron's Party.  This party celebrates the artists by giving out their awards, as well as thanking all of our wonderful sponsors.  I was so happy that the entire family could attend during my chair year!

My role at the party was to welcome the guests, discuss the importance of the Fair, and announce the award winners (my favorite part!).  This is me giving the award to the Best of Show artist, who was stunned!

Day two of the Fair - Sunday, May 22.  Sunday is by far my favorite day of the Fair - it is calmer, most artists are happy from a successful Saturday, and the award ribbons are hung in the tents.  Below is a typical picture of the Art Fair - in headquarters, sitting on the multiple coolers, answering texts.

This Fair is an entire family event!

The finished Community Mural Project.  We invite all ages to paint one of the 300 tiles to complete this project over the 2 days.

One of my jobs as chair was to select the Civic Purchase - a piece of artwork that will then be hung in a public space in Springfield.  A board member and volunteer narrowed it down to 3 pieces, and I then picked which one would win.  

The perk of being chair - the chair gift!  I love my tree sculpture!

Colorful flowers from Joe to celebrate a wonderful year as chair.  He has been so wonderful through this entire experience - volunteering, putting up with the non stop emails and meetings, and recognizing my accomplishment.