Postcard from Cedar Gap Wilderness Area

postcard Cedar Gap

Cedar Gap Wilderness Area is a  431 acre forest area at the headwaters of the Bryant Creek in Wright County, Missouri.  I drive past the turn-off for it on my way to work, and I’d always wondered about it, but then our local newspaper ran a story about it and I realized what a cool hike was only a few miles from my home.  I recruited some friends and we went for a family hike on a warm weekend in January.

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The hike starts in a heavily forested area, and you head downhill towards the creek.  It was in the 50s that day, but it had been cold just a few days before, so the creek was frozen on top with running water underneath, and there were icicles everywhere.  The trail is lined by limestone bluffs and I bet the area is absolutely gorgeous in the fall.

Scrambling across the creek was pretty tricky with the icy conditions, but we managed to do it without anyone falling in the water.  (Even the kids – and some adults – who just had to play around on the rocks!)  The hike back up to the parking lot was fairly steep, and at one point it opens into a glade that is the second highest point in Missouri.  (Around 1700 ft)  The conservation department says the loop is 1.6 miles, but we explored the creek quite a bit so I think we ended up hiking around 3 miles.  I was really proud of my son for hiking the whole way without complaining.

We celebrated a successful first two-kid hike with donuts in the parking lot!  (Sam stole mine.)

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Postcards from the Ozarks

Stay tuned for the next installment of Postcards from the Ozarks!

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Postcards from the Ozarks

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I’ve been reading a ebook called Live Sent: 31 Days in the City by Shauna Pilgreen, a church planter’s wife who recently relocated with her family from the Midwest to San Francisco.  In order to get to know their new home, she embarked on a series of family adventures to get to know the people, cultures and landmarks of their new city.

We recently experienced something similar, but in reverse, moving from a small city (pop. 150,000) to a small town (pop. 3,000).  Culture shock is a fair word for what we have experienced!  Just as someone moving to a large city might feel anonymous among the crowd, trying to fit in in a town where most people’s roots run generations deep can be challenging.

Inspired by the book, I’ve made a list of notable things to see and do around our little town.  I won’t be able to complete them in 31 days, but I hope to get to most of them during the next year.  I really do believe that there is something unique about every place. Look for future posts postcards from these great spots and hopefully even more!

Laura Ingalls Wilder’s house in Mansfield, MO

Make the most of our Silver Dollar City season passes

Visit Glade Top Trail

Fishing at Rockbridge Rainbow Trout Ranch

Hiking at Cedar Gap Conservation Area

French cuisine in small town Missouri – La Galette Berrichonne

Eat some 5-cent ice cream at Ava Drug

Take a retreat at Assumption Abbey and try some of their famous fruitcakes

Visit Dawt Mill

Go floating (canoeing)

Bakersville Pioneer Village

Local festivals

  • Poke Salad Days
  • Glade Top Trail Festival

Have you ever played tourist in your own town?   

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Back from Baltimore

Sorry for the long absence! I was in Baltimore at a conference, getting my continuing ed credits for the year and having as much fun as I could possibly squeeze in when I wasn’t in conference sessions.  Photobomb…comin’ atcha:

Obligatory airplane photo.  I knew my 4 yr old would think it was cool that we were above the clouds!

Obligatory airplane photo. I knew my 4 yr old would think it was cool that we were above the clouds!

 

Beautiful Baltimore!  My  view from the 18th floor.

Beautiful Baltimore! My view from the 18th floor.

 

Lots of extra ships were in the harbor for the big celebration -- 200th anniversary of the Star-Spangled Banner.

Lots of extra ships were in the harbor for the big celebration — 200th anniversary of the Star-Spangled Banner.

 

I know Baltimore has it's issues, but the Inner Harbor area seemed very safe.  We loved walking around and seeing the harbor at night.

I know Baltimore has it’s issues, but the Inner Harbor area seemed very safe. We loved walking around and seeing the harbor at night.

 

It's not a trip to Baltimore without some crabs and a Natty Boh, right?

It’s not a trip to Baltimore without some crabs and a Natty Boh, right?

 

This is the HMS Argyll, which I got to take a VIP tour of thanks to meeting some of its crew in Fell's Point.

This is the HMS Argyll, which I got to take a VIP tour of thanks to meeting some of its crew in Fell’s Point.

 

See?  Told ya I got to go onboard!  We also got to see the GPS systems, galley, and bunk areas.  The lowest-ranking crew members sleep in big rooms with 39 people -- triple-decker bunks!

See? I told you I got to go onboard! We also got to see the GPS systems, galley, and bunk areas. The lowest-ranking crew members sleep in big rooms with 39 people — thirteen triple-decker bunks per room!

 

I'm crazy about these nautical flags, even though I have no clue what they mean.

I’m crazy about these nautical flags, even though I have no clue what they mean.

 

Crappy picture of the inside of Ft. McHenry, but I loved learning more about the War of 1812, the Battle of Baltimore, and the big big flag that flew above it (32' x 40') -- that's the one Francis Scott Key wrote about in the Star Spangled Banner!

Crappy picture of the inside of Ft. McHenry, but I loved learning more about the War of 1812, the Battle of Baltimore, and that big flag that flew above it (32′ x 40′) — that’s the one Francis Scott Key wrote about in the Star Spangled Banner!

 

Canoli!  Baltimore has a great Little Italy (although I think St. Louis' is just as good) and canoli is one of their specialities.  Oh my goodness... I love sweets, but even I couldn't finish one.  #canolihangover

Canoli! I met a Ravelry friend for dinner and dessert in Little Italy and canoli is one of the must-try specialities. Oh my goodness… I love sweets, but even I couldn’t finish one. #canolihangover

Orioles game with my coworker, running buddy and travel partner extraordinare.  Go O's!

Orioles game with my coworker/running buddy/travel partner extraordinare. Go O’s!  (We got to see them beat the Yankees, which was a special treat for this Cardinals fan.)

I even managed to take a little day trip to Washington DC to meet up with my blog friend Lisa (click on this photo to go to her blog!) and her adorable daughter.  (If you're ever in DC with a little one, definitely check out the children's area on the 3rd floor of the American Indian museum.  She was entertained for over an hour, crawling from exhibit to exhibit, while we talked!)

I even managed to take a little day trip to Washington DC to meet up with my blog friend Lisa (click on this photo to go to her blog!) and her adorable daughter. (If you’re ever in DC with a little one, definitely check out the children’s area on the 3rd floor of the American Indian museum. She was entertained for over an hour, crawling from exhibit to exhibit, while we talked!)

I guess I could tell you about some of the interesting things I learned in my conference: receivership for nuisance properties, public-private partnership for economic revitalization of neighborhoods, etc etc etc…but strangely I don’t have any photos to go along with those stories.  =)  I had a great time but I was so ready to get home.

Have you ever been to Baltimore?  Does the mention of canoli make you quote The Godfather?  Should I watch The Wire?

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Tornados in the baseball stadium… Part 2

After the storms blew through the night before, the morning dawned gray and drizzly over downtown St. Louis.  Unsure whether we wanted to brave the weather for the rescheduled noon game, we went ahead with another St. Louis trip tradition — breakfast at the Soulard Coffee Garden.

If you’re not familiar with St. Louis, Soulard is a old French neighborhood near the Anheuser-Busch brewery.  Soulard also has a pretty big farmer’s market on Saturdays and I hear there’s quite a party here on Mardi Gras, too.

The weather was starting to clear off, so we decided to try to go to the game.  It was a bit cool and rainy at first, but it ended up being a beautiful day for a Cardinals win!  We stayed until the 7th inning (gotta see the Clydesdales video!) then headed out since the kids were getting tired.  Despite the crazy weather, it was a great weekend!

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Meet Me in St. Louie – Part 1

Two weekends ago, we took our annual trip to St. Louis to watch a baseball game and other family-fun adventures with some other Cardinals-baseball-loving friends.  We tried to pack a lot of fun into a short amount of time.  After checking into our hotel, our first stop was to The Hill for some amazing Italian sandwiches and cookies.  After that, we headed to the zoo.  J’s favorite things were the crocodiles and the cool new seal exhibit where you can stand in a tunnel and watch the seals swim above you.  Watching the penguin feeding time was pretty fun, too.

IMG_4602 IMG_4605 IMG_4608 IMG_4611 IMG_4623 After that, we headed to the ballpark.  Unfortunately, we were only there long enough to snap a few pictures before we heard they were postponing the game for the night due to some really big storms that were headed our way.  We high-tailed out of there and went back to our hotel for some traditional St Louis style pizza at Imo’s.  Luckily the storm split north and south of where we were (I wasn’t too excited about the prospects of riding out a tornado on the 15th floor of a hotel) and we settled in for the night, not sure if we’d be able to see a ballgame that weekend or not.

IMG_4627 IMG_1371 IMG_1372To be continued…

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City of Angels

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Mom’s Birthday Weekend

[Imagine a picture of my adorable mom along with her two 6-month-preggo daughters here.]

My sister and I took my mom to downtown Kansas City as a belated birthday gift last weekend.  We were total slackers and didn’t take a single picture, but we had such a good time!  I grew up in rural northwest Missouri, so Kansas City was where we went for big-city amenities like shopping at a mall and eating at Olive Garden.  I’ve never spent much time in downtown KC, since it was kind of a scary place when I was a kid, but I’d heard that it had undergone a major revitalization in the past few years.  Turns out it’s a pretty happenin’ place!  Our weekend mostly consisted of eating our way through downtown, along with a bit of shopping.

Highlights:

  • Amazing local-food meal at The Farmhouse ($$$)
  • The Taste of Kansas City Food Tour (although we didn’t have BBQ – sacrilege!)  My favorite stops were Christopher Elbow Chocolates and Nica’s 320.  It was a cool, drizzly day, and a hot chocolate with ginger and homemade marshmallows at Christopher Elbow just hit the spot.
  • Antiquing at “Vintage in the West Bottoms,” which is a huge pop-up antiques market that happens the first weekend of the month.  I got a nice old wooden dresser for the new baby’s room for a fraction of what it would cost new.  It needs a bit of love (a little stain and wood conditioner) but it’s in very good shape — and no particleboard.  Yay!
  • Clothes shopping for my mom on The Plaza.  My sister and I are not the most tactful people when it comes to shopping – at one point we just started making buzzer noises (like when you get the wrong answer on a game show) if Mom tried to go for an outfit we didn’t like.  (Don’t worry, it was all in good fun.)
  • Spending too much on fancy herbal tea at Teavana.  Best salesclerk line ever:  “Your investment in your health and happiness today is…$$.”
  • Tapas for dinner at Extra Virgin ($$)
  • An amazing sermon at KC Revolution church — I met the pastor at the conference I attended last month.  This church was outside my comfort zone to be sure (there were several homeless men in the small congregation, one of whom repeatedly interrupted the sermon and who took communion by eating crumbs off the floor), but the message was really great, and I’m so glad I was able to attend.
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Holding down the fort

I’m holding down the fort these days, while my husband is on a mission trip in Honduras. Life at home is not too glamorous — the past few days, it’s mostly involved wiping a runny nose, watching Dora, doling out orange hop snacks and reading books. (Luckily my mom came to help out over the weekend.) Yeah, that’s right. I’m home with a sick kid while my husband is traveling the world. Pobre de mi.

Update: it’s pnuemonia. Ugh.

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Run to the Lights

(also known as the official start to Christmas!)

Glorious!

Last weekend my husband and I traveled about 30 minutes south to Branson, Mo (yes — that Branson.  And yes, I will miss seeing Andy Williams billboards this Christmas!) to run a 5K at Silver Dollar City.  It’s an 1880’s themed amusement park, which is just as weird and delightful as it sounds — old timey craft shops, food cooked in large outdoor kettles and griils, and some really awesome rides with names like Powder Keg and the Barn Swing (it’s scarier than it sounds).  They cover every square inch of the place in Christmas lights in November and December, and it’s really something to see.

The race is great, because for the price of a normal admission, you get to ride rides for about 3 hours, run a 5K, get hot cocoa, wassail, and cookies, AND a ticket to come back again before the end of the year.

The only bad part is The Hill.  The end of the race goes up this enormous hill that everyone who has ever been to SDC knows about, because it’s the hill you have to climb to reach the entrance/exit to the park at the end of a long day.  But really, it’s not that bad.

Dude if you move just a little to the right you would be wearing the MOST FESTIVE AWESOME HAT ON DA PLANET!

Did you notice how I casually mentioned at the beginning of the post that my husband and I ran a 5K?  This is a really big deal.  Matt doesn’t run.  It’s my thing, and I don’t try to push it on him.  But he likes roller coasters, and I promised I would stay with him if he wanted to run it.  You guys:  HE RAN THE WHOLE WAY (okay, one tiny walk break) WITH NO TRAINING (except the general physical demands of being a college pastor, which apparently requires regular games of ultimate frisbee and capture the flag)!  I was so proud of him.

Then we ate lots of cookies.  Yum.

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Kansas City, here we come

I went on a mini girls trip last weekend with my sister and the two sisters that grew up right across the street from us. As you can imagine, we had a lot of fun together as kids (and have some hilarious stories from those days).

Of course, life takes you in different directions, so we don’t see each other all that often anymore, but we all got together to celebrate the youngest’s 30th birthday.  We met at the recently renovated Elms Hotel in Excelsior Springs, Missouri.  It is a gorgeous old resort hotel from the era when tourists flocked there to soak in the town’s hot springs.  We followed suit, relaxing in the hot tub while swigging wine from the bottle.  (We are nothing if not classy.)  We finished up the evening with a screening of Troop Beverly Hills and the birthday girl surprised us with She-Ra t-shirts!

The next morning, we drove into downtown KC, where we shopped, ate chocolate, and shopped some more.  (It was quite amazing.  Seriously… for a mom of a two year old, you just can’t imagine.)

That night we stayed at a B&B on the Plaza in Kansas City.  I’m not normally a big fan of B&Bs, but this one won me over with the amazing food and beverage at every turn.  There was “sipping sherry” in our room and a wine and cheese reception in the afternoon.

The only picture I got of all 4 of us. What is up with my hair?

We met up with yet another neighborhood friend for dinner that night (after a quick dance party in the Gap) and finished the evening by walking through the WaterFire festival – a newish event with about 50 floating braziers on Brush Creek while various musicians perform throughout the evening.  It had a distinctly hippie vibe, which is a little unusual for the plaza, but it was fun to see something different going on among all the high-end shops and restaurants.

 

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