900 Miles Later . . .

As I wrote about in my last post, my hubs and I had to go to St. Louis this past weekend so that his band could play a gig behind the famous Bill Cherry. The drive took 7.5 hours to get down there, which is quickly becoming ho-hum to us the more that we drive around the country together. Each drive nets us more laughter and more memories, so I try to keep that in my head as the ultimate payoff for the seemingly endless miles of highway driving. It’s not so bad once we get past the flatness of Iowa, but the flatness of Iowa is immense, and it can be relentless. I kind of dread the last 2 hours getting home because the drive is so. freaking. boring.

The gig was held at the Casa Loma Ballroom in St. Louis – a charming little place built in 1927. We were told several times that famous icons such as Frank Sinatra had sung there, and it did indeed have that “look” that suggested that many decades of dancing and music had taken place there. I am very much a total nerd when it comes to old buildings; I spend a lot of time skulking around, geeking out at architectural elements and imagining the history that had taken place there. However, there is one not-so-good element about playing in old buildings: THE STAIRS. My husband is a drummer, and the pieces to his drum kit are immense (they fill up the entire back of my Dodge Durango – with all of the seats folded down!), and the box with all the chrome stands in it (we call it “the coffin”) is ungodly heavy. So when we arrived at the Casa Loma and realized that the historic building had no elevator and we had to go up two flights of stairs to get the equipment in, it was a little disheartening. It was hot down there in St. Louis, and hauling all those pieces of equipment up stairs just to set up was not our idea of fun. However, with several other people helping to carry things, it went fairly quickly. The building also wasn’t air conditioned, so it was a warm night. I stood most of the night and took pictures and was dripping sweat just doing that; I can’t imagine how hot it was on stage with the lights.

The show, however, was fantastic. If you are an Elvis fan, then seeing Bill Cherry is a must. You will forget it’s not Elvis up there on the stage, and I do not say that lightly. He looks like him, he sings like him, he talks like him, and his jumpsuits are spot-on. He is one of my favorite people to photograph simply because the illusion is so striking. Here are a few of the pics I snapped from the show:

The pics probably do not do the performance justice, but let me tell you – a Bill Cherry show is great entertainment.

On our way out of St. Louis, we stopped by a record store called The Record Exchange that my husband had been wanting to go to for years. The store is owned by Bill’s manager and her husband, and my husband is always loving all the posts she makes on Facebook about her business. Since we were FINALLY in St. Louis, we decided to go there on our way home.

O . . . M . . . G.

This store is IMMENSE! The building used to be a city library, so there’s lots of floor space to work with.

The place is almost overwhelming once you step into it because every inch of the store is crammed with goodies – records, CDs, DVDs, tapes, stereo equipment, and lots of posters and historic material. The records are organized meticulously – which is not the norm in vinyl stores, we have found – and it is easy to find what you want. We had a long drive ahead of us, so we were only able to spend 1.5 hours there, but it was so much fun to peruse the store, and we would definitely love to come back and spend more time browsing.

I have been on an Otis Redding kick lately, and I was able to score one of his records here. That isn’t an easy feat, I have discovered, for Otis Redding vinyl is hard to find. But the owner of the store knew he had some Otis in stock and found it for me.

If you’re in the St. Louis area, be sure to visit The Record Exchange. It is a great store with something for everyone.

That’s all the news from my little corner of Iowa. This weekend we head to the Diamond Jo Casino in Dubuque!

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Stormy Monday

As per my usual routine these days, I awakened about 3 a.m. and my mind started reeling. It’s funny – I thought that once summer hit that I’d be sleeping in or at least not awakening before 8. My routine, however, has been that I often awake in the middle of the night. If I can’t get back to sleep, I read for a while, or I get up and start poking around on the ‘net. It is obvious which one I chose to do this morning, although the book I’m currently reading, a biography about Laura Ingalls Wilder, is beckoning me as well.

During my daily walks, I often go by a little farm that has been nestled against a hillside since, well, forever. In fact, the farm has been there so long that the road that goes by the farm is named after the people who live there. It’s a picturesque little place, with a huge garden and a wide variety of farm animals, including pigs, birds, goats, horses, and – at least in the past – a couple of peacocks. The farm has a wonderful variety of flowers growing around the house and along the ditch, and I love to walk by and see all the colors every day. This was my view yesterday. It just screams summer.

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And now, a sense of calm

Finally – I feel relaxed. No more school email, no more last-minute grade fixing, no more worrying that I forgot to do something. Now it is time to get stuff done – although the weather and general luck (or should I personify that – “General Luck”?) seem to be standing in my way lately.

Last week I pressure-washed my desk, needing to give it a fresh coat of stain. That was on Wednesday. Thursday, it rained, so I couldn’t get much done. Friday it rained in the afternoon, so by the time I was ready to tackle the deck, Mother Nature thwarted me again. The weather was supposed to be perfect on Sunday – mid 70s and partly cloudly. When I got up on Saturday morning, I realized that someone at The Weather Channel did not do their job very well, for it was horribly humid and rainy on and off all day.

Today feels like 85% humidity and is going to be hot. Here’s our forecast for the next few days:

If I remember correctly, stain should not be applied in extreme heat, so there go the next two days. So here my little can of stain sits, waiting to be used.

So . . . back to that stellar forecast I posted above. Last Thursday, I drove down to take my son and his girlfriend out to eat and to do a little shopping. Just as I was backing out of their apartment complex, I heart a loud POP and some smoke emanating from my car. My son, who took auto classes in high school, said that it sounded like my A/C like burst. And guess what? He was right. We all went to the back of the car and saw a huge green pool of refrigerant on the ground. The car goes in tomorrow to be looked at, but I just had the A/C line repaired LAST SUMMER, and it was not a cheap job. Needless to say, I am not a happy camper. Of course the A/C breaks when it is going to be almost 100 degrees!

Next weekend, my husband’s band is traveling to St. Louis to play behind one of the best Elvis tribute artists in the country, Bill Cherry. If you do not know who he is, look him up. I will have plenty of pictures to post, I’m sure, but every time I photograph that man, I am in awe of what a great performer he is. Not only does he look like 70’s Elvis, but he SOUNDS like him – even when he talks. I know many people brush off Elvis tribute artists as being stupid or silly or “not the real thing” (um, duh?!), but I do enjoy getting lost in the moment sometimes while watching some of these guys.

Oh, and I really, REALLY hope my A/C is fixed by the time we have to go to St. Louis, otherwise we will have to take a gas-guzzling Tahoe down there, and then we will have to sell our house and all of our possessions to pay for that fuel bill.

It’s getting insane out there, y’all.

I have dubbed this summer “the summer of calm.” I have gotten into routines that not only help my physical health, but they help my mental health. Every morning I get up pretty early, drink some dandelion tea, then head out on a walk, weather permitting. If I can’t take a walk in the morning, then I take one in the afternoon, but I try to go for at least one, if not two, walks a day. In addition, I’ve been making a conscious effort to cook more healthily for my husband and me. My latest obsession has come from the Weber line of marinade seasoning packets. They are so yummy and easy and make it seem like I did something a lot more impressive than just a marinade. This is in no way a paid advertisement; they’re just really, really good. And of course, since I like them, I cannot find them in my favorite grocery store anymore. Happens every time.

I don’t know how much antique shopping I will get in this summer, as rising prices of everything has made it necessary to cut back elsewhere. I’m sure, however, that I’ll be able to pop in to some shops here and there. In the meantime, I hope your summer is wonderful so far and that you are also able to find a way to enjoy a “summer of calm.”

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I’m here, just limping

Ok, I’m not literally limping, but I am most definitely limping in a figurative way. This school year was hard. I don’t remember having a year where the ending was so chaotic, and then even when everything should have ended, it still didn’t. I am still dealing with outstanding assignments (as in, not handed in – not wonderful) and last-minute panic that should have happened a month ago.

But I digress . . . y’know – from the point I wasn’t even making yet.

Two weeks after school has ended, I am finally getting some downtime. My back would like to tell you that my carrying 5-gallon buckets full of black dirt and bags of mulch yesterday was a bad idea. A very bad idea. However, I spent a good chunk of yesterday trying to finish up the planting and preening of the perennial garden, so such deeds must be done.

I took this picture soon after getting the pond filled and operational for the season. Flowers were bought, mulch was put down, and I still had not moved away all my leaf piles, as evidenced from the background.

The pond has been operational for a little over a month, although I was frustrated with how long it took to get it up and going again. This spring was cold and wet for far too long and it delayed everything. As a result, the toads took a while to start their singing and laying eggs, and the frogs never showed at all to lay theirs. It was definitely a weird year. Even without the frogs’ additions, though, the pond is full of little squiggly tadpoles. Up until three days ago, the water was crystal clear, and then I noticed it started to turn murky. Part of this problem involves the copious amount of leaves at the bottom of the pond, blown in during one of our many windy days. I’d fish them out, but doing so would also scoop up hundreds of tadpoles, and I do not have enough hours in the day to sit there and pick them all out of there. The other issue is a lovey cloud of green algae that has very quickly grown throughout the pond. The tadpoles love to hide in there, too, so removing it can be tricky.

I know – it’s just a tadpole. But the animal lover in me just cannot bring myself to knowingly fling a living thing into the grass and then walk away. It may be stupid, but that’s the way I’ve always been.

I had to do a little replanting of some plants that didn’t make it last year, such as 4 out of my six rosebushes that the deer could not leave alone last year. Having never grown roses before, I was unprepared for them being a favorite snack of the pesky deer, who have been mowing down my flowers relentlessly this year, thanks to the late spring. For whatever reason, the unique grass that I had planted on either side of the waterfall decided to die over the winter as well after surviving the past 5 winters, so I had to decide what other kind of grass to plant there. (I wish I was good about remembering plant names, but I most certainly am not!) This past weekend I was in the Chicago ‘burbs and stopped by the wonderfully amazing Alsip nursery in Frankfort. What a plant lover’s dream that store is! I looked around for a replacement for the waterfall grass and decided on maiden grass. I hope it ends up looking nice.

Also found at Alsip Nursery: these goofy looking items. I am a sucker for things that are a good mix between funky and cute, so these had to come home with me. My husband has named the two in the back George and Lennie (Of Mice and Men reference), and the English teacher in me loves that.

I haven’t gotten a chance to do any antique store hunting lately, but I was pleasantly surprised to see this piece of retro design in our local grocery store. The pic is a little fuzzy since I took it quickly, not wanting to be that weirdo who is taking pics in the grocery store, but you get the idea. I was tempted to buy it just for the design, but given the fact that it was about $6 for four cans, and given the fact that I do not drink regular soda anymore, it was a pass for me.

I have been trying to take a walk in the early mornings – even when I am out of town – to keep myself accountable for exercising. When I walked yesterday, I noticed two different does with fairly new fawns. It may say something about my frustration with trying to grow flowers that keep mowing down that all I could think about is how much destruction these two little squirts were going to do to my landscaping.

Good thing they’re cute.

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