Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Dog Friendly St Louis: Laumeier Sculpture Park

Eye, Tony Tasset

I'm always surprised when someone describes this blog as "family friendly activities", because I don't have any kids. I just like to have fun! MY reality is that sometimes I need to kill three birds with one stone: fully appreciate gorgeous weather,  find something to blog about, and give the dogs some weekend adventure. So this past Saturday, which was gorgeous, I was racking my brains trying to come up with an interesting, blog-worthy park that wouldn't turn me away with two big dogs.

Poet Sitting By a Tree, Ernest Trova

VOILA! Laumeier Sculpture Park! I hadn't actually been here myself in about 20 years. It is dog friendly, and gives me an opportunity to tell you two hilariously disparate things about our family. One, Laumeier Sculpture Park was started with a donation of 40 sculptures by Ernest Trova (which made the news last week) and my uncle, Andrew Kagan, wrote the book Trova.

Falling Man/Study (Wrapped Manscape Figure), Ernest Trova

Two, Francis's aunt is Teri Horton, otherwise known as the lady who (may have) found a Jackson Pollack at a yard sale. No Jackson Pollack at the sculpture park, of course. I was just thinking about that the other day and it made me smile.

Maquette for Eye, picture above

At the first braille sign I saw (which was not this super obvious one of Eye), I had that moment of, "PFFT, BRAILLE? That makes no sense!" But then I realized, there is actually a small version of the sculpture on top that you can TOUCH on top as you read about it. Now it makes perfect sense! Thanks, Citicorp, for funding that nifty project!

Face of the Earth #3, Vito Acconci

Another thing I really appreciate about this sculpture park, being a person who has medium-familiarity with art appreciation, is that the location of the information cards for the sculpture points you toward the best direction for viewing the piece. Here is a good example, where I came upon Ball? Ball! Wall? Wall! by Donald Lipski on the nature path, but then noticed that the information card is outside the tree line.

I love panorama mode

Bringing the dogs made things interesting. They are city dogs, used to sidewalks and order. Wide open fields, as well as better grass than they have in their own yard, kind of blew their little pea brains, and their behavior started out abominable. They entertained a number of people as they stopped, dropped, and rolled in this field, like children playing with the boxes the toys came in on Christmas.

Roll, roll, roll in zee hay!

After a couple laps around the park, they chilled out a bit, and then impressed people with their nice manners (which you can see in the first photo), thank goodness. A little tip: look for the bathrooms that have a dog-height water fountain and bowls. In my book, dog-friendly doesn't just mean dogs are allowed, it means there are dog amenities, and Laumeier Sculpture Park is definitely dog-friendly! The park address is 12580 Rott Rd, St Louis, MO.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Hoop De Doo Revue Review

Since we are revisiting Walt Disney World this week, I thought I'd share one of the best times we had on our honeymoon. The reason, as you can see in the top picture, is BOTTOMLESS SANGRIA. One of the best parts about staying on property at Disney World is that you have a designated driver everywhere you go. Let's hear it for the bus drivers!

Hoop De Doo Revue is a dinner show at Fort Wilderness Resort that includes lots of jokes, songs, and dancing, and minimal audience participation. I'm the type who usually wants to avoid the spotlight, but these performers are so charming and talented (and sangria makes me hilarious, according to my husband) that you will be raising your hand to tell them where you're from and what you're celebrating before you realize what you're doing.

I mean, look at that, he could not even stop himself from picking up that washboard and spoon. 
Hoop De Doo Revue does three shows nightly and has three pricing tiers, depending on where you sit. Check out AllEars.net for descriptions and prices. Your dinner package includes fried chicken, ribs, corn, beans, mashed potatoes, mac & cheese, strawberry shortcake, soda/tea/juice, draft Bud Light, wine, and sangria. We were definitely not the only people there without children. This is a must-do on your trip to Walt Disney World!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Return to The Land

Disney announced the renewal of Armed Forces Salute yesterday and I lost my mind. We were just at Walt Disney World in May, and we are going to Disneyland in 44 days, and I had no plans for 2014...  until they made this not-unexpected announcement and suddenly I'm trying to come up with excuses (yes, excuses) to go. The leading excuse right now is that I want to be a Disney travel specialist, and I haven't been on a Disney Cruise yet, and as long as I'm going on a cruise I might as well "pop by" WDW. Totally not insane, right?

Of course since I have Disney on the brain right now, I had to dig around in my trip folder to see if there was anything I had saved. As luck would have it, I had been holding back an update on Living with the Land. I was surprised to see how much stuff was added to the greenhouses since my last visit in 2010! I thought when I looked it up that I'd find that Living with the land was new-ish, but no, it opened in 1982. I guess they have recently turned it up to eleven. It also may have had something to do with the Flower & Garden Festival, but most of this looks permanent.

The food growing greenhouses had really grown tremendously since my last visit. As you might remember, much of the produce and fish raised here is served at Garden Grill and Sunshine Seasons at the Land Pavilion in Epcot.


I had been hoping we'd have a chance to do the Behind the Seeds Tour, but the timing never worked out quite right. Next time, for sure! If you are headed to WDW, you can find the Behind the Seeds tour schedule at the desk near Soarin'. Cost is $18 for adults and $14 for kids (usually this means under 10).

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Missouri State Penitentiary History Tour

Last month, we had a free Sunday and decided to go back to Jefferson City to get some of that amazing beer bread at Prison Brews (it's still amazing) and to check out the daytime history tour at the old state penitentiary. You may remember last year's visit when we did the night time paranormal tour. I don't want to repeat a lot of shots, so go look at that one, and then come back.

Ready? OK. So first of all, let me just say that the paranormal tour is great, especially if you like ghost stories and/or believe in ghosts. You do get lots and lots of history, and every guide clearly has different stories they like to tell. That said, our daytime history tour guide was Green, who worked at the prison as a guard for 30 years. Green has some stories, man. Green will show you a bath towel full of shanks.

Green does a pretty startling demonstration of where these weapons can be hidden and how they are used. He's an excellent story teller and tour guide, right up there with Dennis and Dennis.

Since we had been in this building before and knew that the prisoners were allowed to decorate their cells, we went searching for some of the uniquely painted ones.

There's a great book available at the prison gift shop called Shanks to Shakers: Reflections on Missouri State Penitentiary that is full of pictures of some of these cells, as well as the prison weapons and other contraband that was confiscated. It is freaking fascinating what can be turned into a weapon. I highly recommend the book, which you can buy from the MSP online gift shop.

I mentioned the dungeon in my last post but didn't post any pictures. This was the solitary to end all solitary, where prisoners were kept in total darkness for years. We got to explore a little more this time, and Francis got this picture of one of the excavated cell doors.

Below is another that is solid metal. Notice the slot for food (delivered occasionally) at floor level. Solitary can drive a person crazy. Sometimes they would take a button off their shirt and toss it in the dark and then hunt for it, just to keep their brain occupied. People still do this, you know. I read an article about the US prison system and solitary confinement the other day, and one prisoner was quoted as saying that one of his first thoughts is, "Do I have something round to toss?"

The final stop is the gas chamber, which you have to drive around the block to visit. Since we took a lot of pictures of the gas chamber the last time, this time we wandered over to the exercise yard.

All this space used to be exercise yards and a baseball diamond before it was turned into a parking lot for DoJ employees. Back in the day, they'd even have Little League games here. IN THE PRISON. Can you imagine?

This is where the famous boxer, Sonny Liston, learned to box, too. You can read about him and other famous (and infamous) inmates on the Missouri State Penitentiary website.

One thing Green didn't really talk about was the riot of 1954, which I mentioned in last year's entry, one of the all time most popular on this site.There are some great pictures from the night of the riot in the Shanks to Shakers book, and I also found this article written by a former inmate: In the Wake of a Riot.

I hope you enjoyed our second virtual tour of Missouri State Penitentiary! Jefferson City is an easy day trip from most towns in Missouri, so I hope you will visit missouripentours.com soon to book a tour of your own! They also recently opened a museum in town, and we'll be back to check that out later this summer.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Stewarts Restaurant

Chicken fried steak and eggs, the most perfect hashbrowns I've ever eaten, and a biscuit the size of a softball. This is why Stewart's Restaurant, a classic diner on the Bagnell Dam Strip dating back to 1953, has a 4.5 on Yelp, 90% on Urban Spoon, and a line down the street if you show up after 9:30 on a Sunday morning. They are most famous for their giant cinnamon rolls.

Stewarts is open every day from 6am to 2pm. If you love breakfast food like I do, this is a MUST.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Lake of the Ozarks Bagnell Dam

As I have said before, St Louisans will turn a fountain into a swimming pool no matter how many times the park rangers tell them to get out of it. Build a hydroelectric dam in the middle of Missouri, and by golly, we will turn it into a recreation center for the entire state.

So you've seen "O Brother, Where Art Thou?", right? You could take that movie and set it RIGHT HERE. When the Osage River was blocked by Bagnell Dam and created Lake of the Ozarks, a dozen towns were wiped off the map. It was a huge project that helped Missouri get through the Depression, as it employed thousands of people in the 1930s. No word on how much loot might be under all that water.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Scenes From Bagnell Dam Strip

I know I said I'd have pictures of Bagnell Dam today, but I got caught up in revising some things on the page layout and the map on the sidebar. The history of Lake of the Ozarks is really interesting, and i want to put a little more effort into telling you about it, so this week we have some vintage tourism instead. I hadn't been to this area since I was around 12-14, and Francis had never been. It has seen better days, for sure, but there is still a lot to do in this area. Plus, the newer, shinier Osage Beach is a short drive from the Strip.

This abandoned arcade/fun spot was the saddest of all. The night before we left, some friends had been telling us all about this exact spot. We couldn't believe that we were able to walk right in and poke around.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Monday Mystery! Segen Blessing?

If you are a long time reader of the blog, you may remember that I mentioned these hanging figures way back in 2009 when we went to Hermann Wurstfest (more pictures at that link). I was never able to find out what they are called, so when we passed through Hermann yesterday, I insisted we stop at Hermannhof  to ask questions. One of the girls working in the tasting room said that a German woman had been through not too long ago, and said that these are not shop signs, as they previously thought, but are actually for hanging over your dining table in your house. She said they were called "segen blessings", but Google is telling me that "segen" basically means "blessing" or "God's blessing", so it's possible that this redundancy was a miscommunication.

In any case, we have a little more information now, and are a little bit closer to finding an answer, and it's KILLING ME. Does this sound familiar to anyone? I can't find ANYTHING on the webs about segen wood carvings or something like this that would hang over a table. The lady said that it did have to do with the occupation of the homeowner, and my overall impression is that this is a kind of German house sprite, or something along those lines.

Pooling resources to solve mysteries is one of my favorite things about the internet, so if have something you've always wondered about, leave me a comment and maybe I'll make Monday Mystery a regular feature.

EDIT: We did get an answer to this thanks to Reddit! They are called Lüsterweibchen and Lüstermännchen!