A Child Invasion

Last weekend, some good friends came down to visit us before moving to Hawaii. (You read that correctly, Hawaii. I hate them right now.) Well, their little boy, Alexander is just shy of 3 and has never ridden the train so how perfect? Ride the train from KC to STL and see some friends.

I was a little concerned how Kuma would react to having a “fur-less, two-legged puppy” running around her domain but it wasn’t a problem at all! I couldn’t believe how good she was around Alexander. She tolerated the high-pitched screeching, the aggressive petting, the tail-pulling and even him sitting on her back once. He would constantly feed her treats and human food and she would ever so gently, take it out of his tiny fingers, not even a little nibble on his skin. I was so proud of her. I guess all the times I’ve squished her, pulled her tail, tugged on her ears, just torturing her prepared her for the presence of children. Awesome!

Saturday was a full day of fun for the Doyles. We took them to the Zoo. We went into the Children’s Zoo where Alexander got to pet some goats and guinea pigs:

I got to pet a chicken and a llama:

Got eaten by a hippo:

And had a otter photo bomb us:

We then all rode the train to Big Cat Country (remember, Alexander loves trains):

And saw the newest addition to the Zoo family (he’s so gangly):

From the Zoo, we had lunch and then drove down to The Magic House. Okay, if you have children, you HAVE to take them to the Magic House! There are things for everyone, including the big kids! Now, Alexander mostly stuck in the toddler section and as exciting that is for Bob and me, we thought we would explore the rest of the place.

We spent quite a bit of time in the Bubble Room:

Had to touch the electrostatic generator:

Tested our reaction time (which I beat Bob, by almost a second)

And saw the future:

And wouldn’t you believe it? It’s part of the STL101! Remember that little project?

54. At the Magic House. The four-floor Kirkwood kiddie landmark includes everything from a mirror maze to an art studio to a science lab, all predictably pint-size. A visit there can turn the everyday into the enchanting. And the Van de Graaff generator can be downright hair-raising—but in a good way.

Of course, you have to top off the trip to St. Louis with Ted Drewes!

Laura, Freddie and Alexander, it was so great that you guys got to come down and spend the weekend with us. We had such a fantastic time and we can’t wait to come out to Hawaii to visit! I’m saving my pennies!

And for some more photos of our weekend, just click here.

The Merry Wives of Windsor

58. The Shakespeare Festival of St. Louis in Forest Park. This theater company customarily stages free outdoor productions by the Bard to great acclaim, so pack a blanket or lawn chair now. This year, near nightly for the better part of a month starting May 21, plumb the darkest depths of villainy in Richard III.

How cool is St. Louis that they have a free Shakespeare Festival every year in Forest Park? I say, very cool. This year we finally attended because I was actually willing to see a comedy and not some tragedy or historical play. The evening was beautiful, we had an awesome spread of food in front of us and it was Friday, a great start to the weekend. We even had a prime spot, where we could see the stage until this happened:

And this:

I would like to introduce you to Dumbass Couple #1 and Dumbass Couple #2. They actually looked back at us, saw that we were sitting on blankets and proceeded to put their chairs up right there. Yep, that was the view that I had of the stage after they sat down. So, I ended up listening to most of the play, with a few peeks in between the chairs. If it wasn’t such fabulous weather and my belly wasn’t full of yummy cheese, I would have been in a much grumpier mood. I just laid back and enjoyed the stars.

I must say, it was a fun experience but I don’t think I will do it again unless the Festival bans the use of lawn chairs or has a designated area for them because they really can ruin someone’s evening.

Cirque Dreams at the Fox

63. Watch a big show at the Fox. The Rockettes started on Grand, not in Gotham. Learn that and more when you tour the over-the-top Fox Theatre—from the old projection booth to the stars’ dressing rooms. Plan your tour on one of the days that Stan Kann comes to tickle the organ ivories. To finish it Fox-style, return later for a show straight off Broadway after a buffet dinner in the Griffin Room.

Saturday night, we headed down to the Fabulous Fox with some of our friends to check out Cirque Dreams: Jungle Fantasy.

We decided to make an evening out of it and had dinner first at Vito’s, an Italian restaurant right around the corner from the theatre. Katie had been there once before and recommended it (it serves gelato, her weakness). The food was delicious. I ordered a pizza, since pizza is what it’s known for, and Bob ordered the seafood ravioli. His ravioli was wonderful and I would recommend the pizza to anyone. The only problem I had with the restaurant was the lack of service. The server came by with our drinks then disappeared for a long while. Once he took our orders and served them to us, he disappeared another long period of time. Not an attentive server. Good thing I made the reservations for 5:45pm and the show started at 8:00pm. We were definitely there until about 7:30pm.

I can describe the show in one word: fantastic! I loved it. Now, Cirque Dreams IS NOT Cirque du Soleil. They are two different companies but really, they do similar things. I’ve never had the opportunity to see a Cirque du Soleil show but that’s okay. Cirque Dreams was funny, beautiful, artistic and acrobatic. The costumes and set design had such vivid colors, the acrobatics were incredible and the artistry was breathtaking. You should see this show, the most expensive tickets were $68, so much cheaper than Cirque du Soleil. One question though: what the hell are unicorns doing in the jungle?

And of course, we had to end the evening with dessert back at Vito’s. I think that may be my new ritual after an evening at the Fox, some gelato.

Gimme Back That Filet-o-Fish, Gimme That Fish…

28. Forget that corny old joke about the newly converted Catholic trying to baptize his steak: Fried fish is tasty! And St. Louis offers endless variations on the Lenten fish fry. If you grew up Catholic, finding a seat in a musty old church gym with a paper plate full of fried fish and slaw is nostalgia at its best; if you grew up outside the fold, it’s more authentic than Filet-O-Fish—and the miracle is, there’s always more.

Lent has come around and do you know what that means? Fish Fry!!!! We gathered a huge group of friends to party and partake in a fun Catholic event: beer and fried fish. Since it was such a gorgeous night, we had them meet us at the house and we walked down to St. Richards. It was great, we walked up, paid and was served within 5 minutes, totally different than St. Ferdinand’s (you would have to wait forever there, even when it wasn’t Lent). The fish was good and it was all-you-can-eat sides and desserts. Okay, I don’t think it was all-you-can-eat desserts, but really, they weren’t monitoring. The only complaints I had was that they ran out of corn and tarter sauce by the time we got there and it was hotter than hell in the hall. But once enough people left, it was much better. And what better way to end the night after beer and fish? More beer and games at the house! I tell you what, playing Scattergories is a much different experience when the players have been drinking. It is a hilarious sight! We even brought out the Wii to play. Good times, guys!

Eagle Days at Old Chain of Rocks Bridge

Today, Jen, Kate, Katie and I went out to the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge to take in Eagle Days. This is the time of year when bald eagles from all over the upper midwest flock (HA!) to the Chain of Rocks for good fishing and socializing. The Old Chain of Rocks Bridge is one of my favorite things about St. Louis. I mean, how often do you get to walk on an old ass bridge over the Mississippi with our beautiful downtown in the distance? On this day, it was cloudy and quite cold, so the standard scenery was kind of drab, but it made up for it with the majestic bald eagle.

For those who don’t know, the bald eagle is the Official Bird of the USA. Now, that lesson time is over, let’s focus on the photographs.

In this photo, you can clearly see two bald eagles sitting on a submerged rock in the middle of the Mississippi:

Here, you can see two eagles chilling in the branches of this tree:

OK, so the images weren’t that awe-inspiring (time for a digital SLR with a badass telephoto lens), but Kate had brought along Dad’s binoculars, so we were able to watch the eagles fly around and catch fish. A helpful Missouri Conservation Department volunteer gave us lots of great info about bald eagles and let us look through his super scope, which had even more magnifying power than the binoculars. He said that they had spotted 64 eagles, which is a lot, even for this time of year. He also confirmed Katie’s hunch that if it wasn’t cold and miserable out, then the eagles wouldn’t be out in such force. To sum it up, it was fricking cold out, so we didn’t dilly dally as much as we might if it was sunny and 70 degrees, but it was still a great time.

In addition, we can now scratch off another from the STL101 list:

9. Eagles fly while you stand gravity-bound on the Chain of Rocks Bridge, gazing jealously through binoculars on a chilly January weekend. Even better, try watching them dive for fish in the churning waters at Lock & Dam 24 in Clarksville. Well worth the drive.

A grand time was had by all. Click here to see all the pictures.