St. Louis Zoo

The final leg of our trip to St. Louis included a visit to the zoo. Of course I’m always drawn to the history of places, and the original buildings with their detailed architecture are beautiful! A lot has changed since the last time I was there. Trees are bigger, the sea lion and seal exhibit in the center has been redone, and it’s very easy to get lost in there now with all the growth. Of course, it rained not long after we got there and kept raining. We put on rain ponchos and tried to keep trudging on, but it got to be too much for our injured party between the rain and the hills. Her ankle couldn’t take it for very long.

Here are the places and animals we did manage to see…

The Fabulous Fox Theatre in St. Louis

Going to a live show is an amazing experience. The first live theater production I ever saw was The Nutcracker at St. Louis’s Fox Theatre. I don’t remember if I was 18, 19, possibly 20 – it was definitely before I was married. I went with my fiance’s mom, his sister, and his now sister-in-law. I remember the total awe I felt as we walked in the doors and fully understood immediately why it is called the Fabulous Fox! The Chinese-inspired ornate details everywhere give a feeling of luxury that makes your evening (or day) even more special. It’s the total package!

I suppose not everyone considers attending a live show to be special. Perhaps they take such things for granted. As someone who currently can only afford to go to a show if the cheapest tickets remain available long enough for me to swoop them up, I consider it to be extremely special and make sure I soak up every minute of the experience – from getting ready to the final bow! The additional eye candy around every turn of the Fox Theatre makes that experience anything but boring!

Here are many (probably TOO many) photos from a tour I took with my girls and my in-laws when we were in St. Louis for a short visit in July. {Click first picture to view full size images.}

Oh to be a photographer for the big shows! Here are some school productions I’ve shot.

Brewery Tour

All the years I lived in St. Louis, I never took the tour of the Anheuser-Busch Brewery. I had to do the whole tourist thing 13 years after moving away to see the brewery. :D My two favorite parts of the tour were the amazing architecture and the free beer at the end of the tour. It sure puts the new tilt-up buildings that make up the Anheuser-Busch Brewery in Ft. Collins, CO, to shame. They just don’t build things like they used to. Now it’s all about how fast they can get it built and opened.

Enjoy…

 

St. Louis Basilica

While on vacation in Missouri, we went inside the Cathedral Basilica St. Louis. Oh. My. WOW! These are not paintings; they are mosaics. Millions of tiny pieces of glass!

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Vacation Determination

Rain, rain, go away! What is UP with the weather in Colorado this summer? Watch … Next week will be fabulous when I’m back at work for probably a full 50 hours. Earlier this week, the forecast didn’t show rain for Thursday and Friday. It crept in anyway. I was sick of sitting at home, though, and was determined to get out of this house without having to spend a lot of money to do something indoors. I found Putter’s Pride in Lakewood on the internet. After getting a little lost, thanks ever so much to the inaccuracy of Google Maps, we made it and had fun despite it being uncharacteristically humid in our neck of the woods. We chose to play all three courses, but skipped several holes as we passed a large daycare or summer camp group of kids. Had I known that so many of the holes were so similar (and soggy), we probably would have stopped at one course. Some holes were also skipped because the cups were filled to the top with water! Still fun!

After this, we were hot, hungry, and thirsty. I knew Colorado Mills wasn’t too far away and thanks to GPS navigation on my phone, we found it. A little food, a little browsing, a little listening to the torrential downpour hitting the roof of the mall, and a couple games of air hockey (super fun and made me wish we had space and money for our own table!), then I was ready to go. Miranda wanted to walk the final third of the mall we had skipped, but I know rush hour starts early in Denver and wanted to try to make the front end of that.

P.S. Leaving at 3:30 did not put us at the front of rush hour – at least not by much. I kept thinking how thankful I am to work from home and not have to sit through that traffic every day.

Summer Vacation or Just Time Off?

In the states, we call it “vacation”. In the UK, they call it “holiday”. Why does it feel like neither when you just stay home? It’s merely time off. The silly term “staycation” doesn’t even seem to fit. How about a “relaxcation”? Now that I could go for! An entire week (or at least half of it) to loaf around and be lazy. I’m not sure how much of that I’ll be doing, either. I need to use this time to catch up on things that I haven’t been able to do around the house. Take time off of work to work. Hmmm. :|

My official time off this week started with rain. Yesterday morning I did a little map searching for possible photo locations. There are so many parks tucked away that you couldn’t possibly spot them by simply driving around. I picked out two parks to check out, and we only managed to see one of them: Cherry Creek Ecological Park. Of course, as soon as we parked and got out of the car, it started raining. :( So we sat in the car and waited a few minutes for it to stop. Then we made it as far as a gazebo about 100 yards away before it started raining again … harder. Since I was in no hurry for anything, I thought it was nice to just sit there listening to the rain hit the roof and enjoy the breeze. Miranda, on the other hand, thought it was boring. Kids. :roll:

Once the rain stopped again, we strolled around some of the trail in this park. Part of the trail was a boardwalk, which could make for some interesting photos. There’s also a bridge over Cherry Creek, but I’m not that thrilled with it as a photo op. Being an ecological park, we’re supposed to stay on the path. So photo options are pretty limited here, except for this boardwalk.

Why are we not traveling?

Simple … money. I’m not airing dirty laundry here. I’m just telling it like it is. We are trying to do something now that we should have put into strict practice years ago. We’re not using credit cards for anything and are working towards being credit card debt free by (if not before) November 2015. To expand on this would take an entire post itself. It started when this major life change negatively impacted our income. I immediately started doing things like this to stop unnecessary spending. More opportunities to work overtime opened up along the way, and we got a little stupid again. That has to change. We have to stick to the budget!

We had tentative plans to drive to St. Louis and visit family during this time off (aka: vacation), but a semi-unexpected car expense (followed by this) happened that cost about double what our fuel expense would have been for a road trip to and from St. Louis. Not only that, but we decided that some home improvements should take a higher priority once and for all. When I sit back and look at the bigger picture, it’s easy to see that this situation is quite common. When someone moves out of state, it’s usually the one who moved who is expected to travel back for visits. Interesting. The highway runs both ways, and we would love for more people to come visit us. ;)

What are we doing instead of traveling?

It’s also important to note here that Greg was not able to take time off since he hasn’t been at his job for a full year yet. So he wouldn’t have been able to go with us anyway. We used quite a chunk of “vacation change” to go to the Colorado Renaissance Festival on Saturday. Only the girls went along because Jason had to work and Josh didn’t want to go. Even with saving $3 per ticket buying them at King Soopers, the total for four tickets was nearly $70. Add to that the expenses for food, drink, and trinkets while at the festival. Suffice it to say that this ate a considerable amount of money. I will say that the $4 spent to ride an elephant for all of about 4 minutes (including time sitting still waiting for the other riders to pay and get on the elephant) was definitely worth it! This could, and quite possibly will be, another post entirely.

Ali had to work Sunday and Monday at the pool, but they closed early both days due to the weather. Today still holds a threat of rain, which is only a slightly higher threat than tomorrow holds. So our plan is to see how much we can do for very little cost (while staying dry). I took out a certain amount of cash for the remainder of the week so we can easily see how much we have to play with. I’m tossing around the idea of a zoo day, complete with picnic lunch, but I’d be just as happy taking that picnic lunch to a reservoir (Colorado’s idea of a lake with a purpose) where I can relax with a book. :)

In other words, I have no plan at this point. That is actually worse, to me, than having a plan. That usually results in doing much of nothing, which results in disappointment over wasting an entire vacation. On the other hand, planning too much ends up overwhelming me and makes the week pass by way too fast. How do I find a happy medium?

Bust for the Win in “St. Louis or Bust”

The idea of a summer trip to St. Louis came to me back in March, but I kept it hush-hush because I had no idea (due to the financial upsets over the previous months) if it would be possible. Then overtime opened up at work, which helped us loosen our belts in normal daily life at least. It wasn’t until we found out that Uncle Sam owed us money this year that I thought it really might happen. I even started a little light planning in my head for a day at the St. Louis Zoo (a MUST), a day at the local water park, and a gathering of friends and family on my dad’s birthday. What better way to get to see everyone without spreading ourselves so thin that we run out of time to see the sites?!

Reality started to hit. Once upon a time, I would have whipped out credit cards for gas, food, and entertainment to make such a trip happen. We don’t play that game anymore! Fifty points to the Karner house! :D Also in the past, we would put off home improvements to afford trips “home” instead. This time, we decided it was finally time to get rid of the nasty carpet (instead of the nasty dogs) and put new flooring down with part of that tax return. There would still be enough for a road trip. Or so we thought. We got a little sloppy with the budget, too. Strict meal planning and bargain grocery shopping went by the wayside. Too much dining out happened. Then the biggest whammy … the other knock sensor began to fail in my car creating roughly an $800 dent in the bank account (twice the round-trip cost for gas alone, not counting in-town driving).

There was still enough to make the trip happen, especially if we pushed through and made the trip there and back without stopping overnight and paying about another $100 each way for a hotel, and if we mooched off of friends and family as much as possible, foregoing a few favorite restaurants while there. So I continued to put off a final decision while going back and forth in my mind … we can do it … we shouldn’t do it … we might be able to … we really shouldn’t …

The “shouldn’t” turned into “can’t” when the responsible side of me finally stepped up and said, “Look, dumbass! You can’t do this!” My willy-nilly side was trying to put some pretty big wants in front of needs. We have a dog in need of dental work – and I don’t mean just a cleaning; I mean extractions to avoid infection and end some pain. Do you know how horrible I’d feel if I used money that could have been used for that to go on an unnecessary trip and the dog ended up with a bad infection? And I say “unnecessary” because everyone in St. Louis knows where we live and are ALWAYS welcome to come see us! No guilt or pressure … just sayin’ … That highway runs both ways. ;) Plus, when people come to see us, they get to spend more time with us. No waiting to see when we can fit you in!

There were a few more reasons, but I’ll end on that note. Our doors are always open to friends and family. We may have a full house with no fancy-schmancy guest room to spare, but we have two spacious rooms (living room and family room) where air mattresses can be set up. I think we even have a couple small tents should anyone want a little extra privacy while sleeping! I’m not kidding! :)

So it’s yet another staycation for us. We can’t complain about that, though. We live in COLORADO!!!

What Type of Vacation Accommodations Do You Choose?

Many people are still just now learning that there are alternatives to staying in a hotel when on vacation. Without mentioning that place that starts with V and ends with O and has RB in the middle (that dot com place), I thought I’d ask the few people who happen to find this post to participate in this little poll. Pick the one you use the most.

Thanks for playing! :D

Have You Heard of VRBO and HomeAway?

Going on vacation but not looking forward to a cramped hotel room? Try VRBO and HomeAway. These companies are being recognized by the media more and more these days! Here’s an article on CNN.com’s travel page.

{They don’t look up properties for you or take any part in the reservation process. They are simply a venue for advertising for individual property owners and managers. Searching is the traveler’s job and booking is strictly between traveler and advertiser. This is stated in the Terms & Conditions that hardly anyone reads.}

Here is a snippet from Travel & Leisure Magazine:

And here is a snippet from Sunset Magazine:

If you’re a little hesitant about the whole idea of renting someone’s house instead of staying in a cramped hotel room, read this. You may have to do a little more homework before jumping into a rental agreement (and I suggest that you do), but it’s well worth the effort.

Going on vacation isn’t always about seeing how many activities you can do and how many sites you can see in a short period of time. It can also be about relaxing and experiencing life as you might if you didn’t have to work. There are homes around the world to fit any budget on these sites. There are even houseboats and yachts! Check it out if you haven’t already.

  • Edited on 6/3/11. Everything in this post is, without question, already public information. Not being snarky – just standing on principle. :)

Goal Reached – The Julie/Julia Project

I said that I would read the entire blog, The Julie/Julia Project, by the end of my vacation. I did it! I’ve reached the end. I’m hungry now! Though I don’t really have the desire to read the book, or her subsequent book recently published, I do think I’ll wander into the kitchen and see what culinary madness I can muster with what few ingredients I have left in my kitchen, which is in dire need of replenishing. After satisfying my hunger, I’ll pop in the movie and chuckle here and there at the differences I notice between the movie and the blogged actualities while summoning up creative juices to design some new piece of jewelry. Hey! I never said my life was exciting. But it’s my life, and it works for me. :)

They really do have Julia Child’s Kitchen at the Smithsonian.