Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving with Family

We are so thankful for our family near and far. What a blessing to have so many of them together for Thanksgiving this year. Kim and Doug hosted all of us at their new home. Kristy and Cameron flew up from Tampa. And of course that meant that we had all seven grandkids to entertain us again! Greg’s parents joined us for a few days, and when we weren’t eating and playing around the house we were off to church, the mall, the park, and downtown KC.

At Union Station the little ones were so excited to meet Opa and Oma (their great-grandparents) when they arrived on the Amtrak train and to see the Christmas tree exhibit and other decorations. A short walk to the Hallmark Center and we spent some time in the Crayola store, ate a picnic lunch in the centrum, and then spent the afternoon making crafts at Kaleidoscope, which is an amazing place for kids!

Spread across several states we don’t get together as a family often, so when we do we try to cover all the family events and holidays at once. In addition to a scrumptious Thanksgiving turkey dinner, Doug and Cameron and Papa Greg helped the kids carve pumpkins - Halloween faces included! The pumpkin seeds were roasted as a snack and the smiles lasted throughout the visit. Thanksgiving evening became Christmas Day as we exchanged presents since we’ll again be apart on that holiday.

Over all was the joy of watching the young cousins play and talk and be together like they’d been living in the same neighborhood for all their young lives. Thank you, God, for this amazing family and the times we are privileged to spend together.

Enjoy some of the memories we have from that holiday visit
by clicking here to see the PHOTO GALLERY.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

G'day Mates!

Well, here I am again in Australia a little sooner than expected. The work in Brisbane continues and so I got to come back for another couple of weeks. This second time around the air travel seemed longer and the city doesn't have as many surprises as the first visit, so on the weekends I made my way first to the Sunshine Coast area northeast of here and then to the Gold Coast to the southeast.

The Sunshine Coast lived up to its name with a clear blue sky and bright sun over beautiful scenery and a coastline of beaches and rolling seas. I spent a Saturday with some co-workers exploring the town of Noosa - a popular resort and get-away location for locals and visitors. Nice and relaxed, even on a weekend, it's not crowded and there's plenty of swimming, snorkeling, boating, fishing, shopping, eating, walking, or just lazing around to be done. On the drive back to Brisbane we stopped to check out the view from the Glasshouse Mountains. Walking the trail we saw a troop (family) of kangaroos, but they were moving through the brush so I didn't get a good photo.

About three hours south of Noosa and an hour from Brisbane, the Gold Coast is a busy, developed, tourist area with highrises, amusement parks, shopping malls, more people, more traffic, and miles of beaches. This second Saturday was also sunny and hot - it's almost summer down here - a good day to get some fresh air and exercise. But I just had to step inside to enjoy the spectacular view from the Q1 Tower observation deck about 800 feet above the sea and beach!
Sunday morning I decided to go to St. John's Cathedral Anglican Church in Brisbane to worship and to look around this beautiful stone building that dates from the mid-1800s. It's been a while since I participated in a traditional, liturgical church service - it was quite special!
Next time - and yes, there will be at least one more trip here - Kitty's coming with me so we can both see and enjoy more of this wonderful place and its people. Cheers!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

End of Summer

Vacations are fun, and even business travel can be enjoyable, but time with our grandkids is priceless! So we get to KC and Tampa as often as we can for a day or two or more to share laughs, smiles, and hugs. ~ ~ ~ We are so truly blessed!

Bubbles and smiles with Papa

Splashing around the backyard

Ruth's 4th birthday with a VeggieTales' Bob n Larry cake
(way to go Mom!)

Fun with Mema and a visit with great-grandparents

Sunday, October 03, 2010

A Fall Cruise with Friends

Almost a year ago our long-time friends Diana and Kevan Turner asked if we would go with them on a cruise to celebrate their 25th anniversary. Last week we traveled together to south Florida first for a day of fun in the Ft. Lauderdale and Boca Raton area enjoying a nature center, the beach, and a great time together. Then it was off for 5 days on Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas to Key West, Cozumel, and Cococay island (or so we thought). The ship and stops were terrific with so much to see and do that we really didn’t get much rest.

Click here for more photos and slideshow

The stop in Key West, FL was too short (just 6 hours) but we squeezed in quite a bit of sight-seeing first on the City View tour trolley and then on foot. The tour dropped us off right across from a Key Lime shop, so of course Kitty talked us all into Key Lime pie at 11am. Greg’s highlight was buying a shirt after the employees in the tourist store demonstrated that it is completely waterproof - by pouring a Coke all over it! Sure enough, the Coke ran right off the shirt and all over the shop floor. After a demonstration like that how could we not buy it?

For our day in Cozumel we decided to just walk and shop and see what we would see. When a local guide pointed us to an area a couple of blocks off the main tourist path we came across some wonderful shops for local souvenirs (which we bought) and just some great local scenery. From an old church decorated for a festival (maybe a wedding?) to a beautiful and charming upper-level restaurant where we stopped for a bite to eat. As it turned out we had the place to ourselves and sat at a corner table with the large windows open, offering a wonderful view of the city activities. Our light lunch also became more than we expected as the owner brought large portions of soups, salads, entrees, and of course, chips and guacamole.

During a day at sea we started getting our expectations up for our stop at the private island of Cococay. We had been there once before several years ago and remember the beaches, the hammocks under the coconut trees, the snorkeling, and the large blue iguanas. Cococay was one of the reasons we had picked this particular cruise. But when you go to the Caribbean in the Fall you always have to be mindful of the weather. There had been two hurricanes just east of Florida the week before our vacation and a tropical storm in the western Gulf of Mexico. Now Tropical Storm Nicole popped up over Cuba and was headed towards the Bahamas including the little island of Cococay. So the captain made for safe harbor in Nassau instead, and we enjoyed a day being battered by wind, running between rain showers, and just having a lot of fun with a crazy cab ride, exploring the Atlantis Resort, sharing a Bahamian lunch at a street-side cafe, and trying to work our way through the straw market without spending all of our remaining money.

Back in Florida, we spent one more day together in the South Beach area of Miami that included sun on the beach and a dip in the ocean where we were “attacked” by a very large tarpon or snook. This 5-foot or larger fish was actually after some of the small fish swimming in the shallows, but it drew quite a crowd along the beach and several shrieks from the ladies until they were sure it wasn’t after them!

Click here for more photos and slideshow

Finally, we said goodbye to the Turners as they headed home to St. Louis and we drove to Tampa to spend a few days with Kristy, Cameron, Ruth, Joseph, and Rebecca. What a fun, exciting, blessed week - all made better by sharing it with good friends!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Gone Down Under

Greg spent a little more than two weeks in the land of Crocodile Dundee when Boeing sent him 'down under' to Brisbane, Australia for work. The travel from St. Louis was long - nearly 4 hours to LA, then a layover, and then 14 more hours on a Qantas 747 across the Pacific. Being in business class in the front of the plane made the trip a little more bearable with food, drink, plenty of movies - even PJs! - and a comfortable seat that seemed to do everything including give a back massage.

While there was a lot of work to be done, there were also some evenings and a couple of weekends for sight-seeing in the city and surrounding area. What an experience! Brisbane has a history back to the mid-1800s but is also very modern, trendy, and cosmopolitan. The weather and the food were great (ask him about Vegemite) and every street and block brought both old and new buildings, parks, and more to explore.

Click here for more photos and slideshow

Work was about a 45-minute drive outside the city each morning, and of course 45-minutes back each evening. It didn't take very long to adapt to driving on the other side of the road - even when sharing the streets with some of the very big trucks they have there - but it was a real challenge to remember which way to look when crossing the street! Still, in the city it was easier to walk around or take the public transit. One of the more interesting modes of transportation are the City Cat water taxis that get you to points up and down the Brisbane River. It was a great way to see the city and go to dinner a couple of evenings.

One Sunday Greg enjoyed a wonderful morning of worship at Hillsong Church (some of you will know them for their contemporary Christian praise music). Another day was spent on a whale-watch tour boat following a number of humpback whales near Morton Bay. Finally, there was a visit to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary to get up close and personal with the koalas, emus, kangaroos, and other Aussie wildlife.

Yes, traveling for business can be a sacrifice. Actually, the work went very well and it’s likely one or two more trips to Brisbane will come up in the next few months. The hardest part of the trip was being that far away from home for that long. And it was harder on Kitty than Greg. So we’re looking into how Kitty can go along on one of the next trips.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Family 4th in KC

What a busy and terrific week we enjoyed in KC with our whole family of kids and grandkids! No fireworks because of the weather on the 4th and 5th, but we had our own celebration just chasing after the 7 little ones and helping Kim and Doug finish their new house and prep for their move. Games and crafts with the kids, planting trees and grass seed at the new house, catching up with each other, playing in the driveway and the backyard, walks around the neighborhood, cleaning and packing boxes, movies to watch and books to read - even a paperbag puppet show by the older kids one evening - seems like there was always something going on.

But the most fun for us was to watch the little cousins spending time together like they’d lived next door to each other all their young lives. And knowing the girls and their guys were getting to talk and spend time connecting again. Bless you, Lord, for providing opportunities like this to be together as a family. And of course we took another family photo of the growing clan. It may have been 9:30 at night, but it only took a few tries to get all the little ones looking more or less at the camera! Some of the smiles, giggles, and outright laughs all around came from watching Papa run to and from the camera to his place on the floor over and over!

During the week, we were all blessed to help Kim and Doug move into their beautiful new home. Lots of lifting and pulling and carrying and trips back and forth ... then arranging and storing and setting everything in its new place. And finally, an evening for everyone to get a good night’s rest in the new house before saying good-bye for a while.

Monday, June 28, 2010

A blustery evening

It started out as a pleasant evening with our good friends, the Turners, enjoying some wine and snacks at a Grafton, IL, winery on the bluffs overlooking the town and the Illinois, Mississippi, and Missouri Rivers. The rivers are high from all the rain lately so we had to take a few backroad detours to get around some flooding on the way there, but that just added to the fun. We even enjoyed watching a thunderstorm roll down the river valley and pass in front of us - quite a sight!

We found out that this was a line of large thunderstorms with strong winds and a lot of rain and lightning when it quickly came over the hill and descended onto our little perch! First the rain and wind chased us off the large deck and into the first room (still part of the porch). When the wrought-iron furniture started to move - quickly - across the outside deck and the rain started to hammer against our windows, we moved further inside. And there we sat for the next 2 hours waiting for the storm to pass while shuddering with each lightning flash and watching each other’s expressions with every 60+ mph wind gust.

When it was finally safe enough to run for the car we tried to follow the detour road back out only to find it was now a river flowing down the bluff! A U-turn and a different route got us back on the main river road but trapped between two flooded areas. No worries - the Wild Goose bar and grill was right there and open so we opted for a late dinner in a room that was literally right above the swollen Mississippi. The local patrons gave us directions for a route out of town on some very narrow roads that seemed to go almost straight up the bluffs. Surprisingly, the roads and turns were quite well marked, and eventually we found our way to another highway that led us home. All in all, quite a long and adventuresome night! Glad we could share it with good friends.