Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas in Vegas

With Dad being an only child and mom having only one brother, our extended family is a little smaller than most. However, our whole family decided to meet in Las Vegas for the first Christmas together since 1984.
Cousin, Sarah, lives in Las Vegas with her husband, Ray, and their son, Ryan. They opened their home to all of us and it was a week long slumber party! We had a fabulous time!

Jo & Scott ended up getting a great deal on a room at Caesar's Palace so they spent the first few nights down on the strip. It was fun to get at least a little taste of the Las Vegas casino lifestyle. Definitely not my forte but a great place to people-watch.

Since Scott & Dad were planning to take in a basketball game while they were in Vegas, the girls decided to have a "girl's night" in Jo's hotel room - complete with room service. I can't remember a time where I have dined on room service and it felt quite extravagant!

One afternoon, Sarah took us to the Las Vegas Springs Preserve where we enjoyed an afternoon hiking the trails. It was a little colder than we expected for LV but the sun was shining and it was a gorgeous day! We discovered how Native Americans, early settlers and Mormon missionaries relied on the Springs to survive.
The MGM Hotel has a Lion Habitat where we spent quite a lot of time mesmerized by the lions. They have a tunnel where you can walk underneath them but most of the time it was so dirty you couldn't see much. The habitat is better than a zoo because it's climate controlled and completely sound proof. They hear and smell nothing from the hundreds of people who have their noses pressed up to the glass. The trainers would throw pieces of meat on the glass and they would lick it off. It was gross and awesome at the same time!

The cousins - Sarah, Carla, Jo, Nancy & Steve. The first time we've all been together for Christmas since 1984!
After Jo & Scott headed back to San Antonio, Mom and I decided to have a little fun on the strip ourselves - with a room at the Las Vegas Hilton. We spent one afternoon shopping at the Fashion Show Mall and Mom and I found gorgeous red suede jackets so we decided to be twinkies for our date with dad. Dad took us out for drinks in the hotel bar and we played $5 in the poker machine. We played for about an hour and cashed out at $9. Whoo-hoo - we're rich! :) Dad treated us to a fabulous evening with Barry Manilow who performs at the Hilton. Barry put on a spectacular performance - we laughed, we cried, we sang and we danced. It was a night to remember!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Happy Hour at PBR Big Sky

I won another Happy Hour down at the Power & Light District. This time at PBR Big Sky - the country bar with the mechanical bull. The greatest surprise of the evening was the arrival of my former camper, Jennifer, and her husband, Rob. I haven't seen Jennifer in forever and I recently found her on facebook and invited her to the party. I was thrilled when I saw them arrive. She's become such a beautiful young lady and I am thrilled that we have become adult friends.
Lesa braved the mechanical bull first - and did an amazing job!! She's such a fun person and is afraid of nothing! There is also not a shy bone in her body and she took to that bull like a fish to water. I'm so grateful that God brought her into my life because she definitely pushes me beyond my comfort zone and I'm grateful.
Her husband, Greg, also did an outstanding job on the bull. It's no wonder they have been together for so many years - they are both so fabulous and they aren't afraid to try new things.
I had a lot of fun hanging out with my "girls." Amy & Alisa were in my youth group when I worked at Pine Ridge in the early 90's. It is not always easy to make that transition from youth leader/youth to colleagues and adult friends. Alisa has been helping with the senior high youth group for the past few years and I love working with her. She's a great help and I know she really cares about the "kids." Amy is a wife and a mom and lives not far from me but still chooses to come to Pine Ridge. They are so fun and I am glad they came to my party!
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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Plaza Lighting at Thanksgiving

I had a very peaceful Thanksgiving morning watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and enjoying Sara Lee Pecan Coffee Cake in memory of my grandfather, Max Hilton. My favorite memory of time with "Pop" is getting up early (before anyone else was up) and sharing a SL Coffee Cake with him. It was our little secret - and he always had another one to throw in the oven when the others woke up. I was sad to not be with my family but it's just hard and expensive to travel at Thanksgiving when it's so close to Christmas - especially since my family are all so far away.
My wonderful friend, Lesa, invited me to her house for a delicious Thanksgiving dinner. I made a pecan pie for the occasion (I just learned how to make them!) - as well as our family tradition, Cranberry Ice. It's similar to a frozen cranberry sherbet but we eat it with the meal. I was late getting there so most people had already fixed their plates and I didn't have a chance to tell people what it was so I ended up bringing most of it home. On Friday I actually had to bake a turkey just to have leftovers to eat with my cranberry ice.

We decided to go down to the Plaza for the annual Plaza lighting ceremony. My friends, Meri Ann & Kim, live very close to the plaza so we parked at Meri Ann's house and walked down to the plaza. It was a beautiful evening - perfect weather! The plaza didn't seem as crowded as it has seemed in the past and we managed to make our way down to the very center of the plaza. It was a great place to enjoy the countdown and the flip of the switch lighting up the whole area with gorgeous lights!

As soon as the lights were on, people started streaming out but the show wasn't over. We made our way closer to the stage as people left and the show ended with a giant singalong with David Cook (American Idol winner from Blue Springs, MO) as we all joined in some good old fashioned Christmas carols. It was a surreal and awesome feeling! It absolutely made my Thanksgiving!
We headed back towards the car but as we passed the Seville Square theater it sucked us in to go see a movie. Why not? It's a holiday! We bought our tickets and had a little time to kill so we walked around taking pictures of the lights - and of course, Penguin Court. What's a trip to the plaza without playing with my favorite penguins? I'm very thankful for a family that I miss being with when we're apart and for friends that bring so much fun into my life.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Everything's up to date in Louisiana...

We were supposed to spend the day working with Habitat for Humanity but we found out that they needed us to spend the day at the airport greeting all the youth workers who were coming in for the PYWA conference and directing them to their transportation or shuttle. We had a little time to kill before we had to report for duty so we started our day right - with beignets & coffee at Cafe du Monde. Why doesn't Kansas City have a Cafe du Monde????
The other thing Metairie has is a cool two-story Target complete with escalater for humans and carts! We just HAD to pick up a few essential items which required the cart - and visiting both levels. What fun! It doesn't take much for Lesa and I to have a good time.
The escalator spits it out at the top right along with you. It's awesome! We did get a few interesting looks from other shoppers but we didn't care. We just explained that we were from Kansas City and even though everything is supposed to be "up to date in Kansas City", we don't have anything that cool!
The rest of the day was more tedious than fun but it was fun meeting all the people that came through the airport - especially when people arrived at opposite ends of the terminal at the exact same time. I don't think I've ever walked that much in an airport and my feet and arms were getting quite tired when this adorable girl offered to help while she waited for her aunt to arrive. She stood there beaming with our sign and gave us a bit of a break. It was fabulous! When it came time for her to leave, I grudgingly took my sign back and held it high above my head when a security officer came over and said to me, "you have it upside down." Great googaly-moogaly!

When we had greeted the last arrival, we headed to the hotel where the PYWA conference was being held. I hadn't budgeted for the cost of parking at the hotel ($35/day) so my friend, Michael, led us over to St. Charles Presbyterian Church and then we rode the streetcar back to the hotel for only $1.50. Whew! It's good to have friends!

Following the evening activities, a few of us headed around the corner to one of the MANY frozen drink bars scattered around the French Quarter. Of course, always tempted by a bargain, I had to purchase the alien which could be refilled for a cheaper price. It wasn't long before more of our group joined us and we filled the bar. It was a fun night of catching up with old friends and making new ones. I'm really looking forward to spending the next few days with other people who share the same joys and frustrations that I do in my ministry - and it's particularly fun having Lesa here, as well.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Off to New Orleans...once again!

Lesa and I left Kansas City after work on Monday and drove to her daughter's home in St. Louis where we spent the night. We hit the road early on Tuesday to try to get to New Orleans in time for dinner. Our first stop along the way was Lambert's Cafe in Sikeston, Missouri. It was a little early for lunch (10:30) but we decided we should take advantage of it while we can - we didn't have to wait since they had just opened. Neither one of us had ever been there and we knew it was an experience we should have!

We had great fun catching the rolls - even after we were stuffed!! They not only throw rolls at you but they keep coming around with extras that they load onto your plate - fried okra, fried potatoes & onions, molasses, etc. They say you can't take anything with you but our waitress was kind enough to give us doggy bags because it was massive amounts of food. Thankfully, we had a cooler with us so we enjoyed it for lunch a couple of days later.

We were late for dinner but we were still full from our early lunch so we didn't care. The staff had kindly prepared Lesa a vegetarian lasagna and she felt bad not eating it so we snarfed a few bites and threw it in the trash when nobody was looking. That evening they gave us Cajun dance lessons in the fellowship hall. It was fun and we actually got pretty good at it!

After a night of hard dancing, we headed across the street to the Bay Cafe for a beverage. We discovered this place after a hard day of work on the adult mission trip in September 2006 and I was glad to see it was still there. They have a row of machines filled with frozen drinks of all flavors. I had my favorite - a white russian. yum, yum!

It was fun hanging out with Paula & Emily who enjoyed telling Lesa that they were both middle schoolers when I was either their youth director or on the staff at camp. Thanks, ladies! :) It was a fun evening and a good start to what could be a fabulous week! We shall see...

Sunday, November 02, 2008

TAG Fall Retreat

The senior highs went to the Braddock's farm for our 2nd annual fall retreat. The weather could not have been better - it was sunny and warm for the first weekend in November. The Braddock's neighbors gave us a hayride which we thoroughly enjoyed - well, everyone except Ashley who was attacked by the worst thorn bush I have ever seen.

It attached itself to her arms & face & hair and I was afraid we'd never get her loose. She had blood running down her face by the time we finished but Amy was kind enough to donate her headband for a tourniquet! After that we were injury free - with a few minor scrapes when people fell into the creek. We hiked, roasted hotdogs & smores, grilled burgers, had a scavenger hunt, played Apples to Apples and slept (a little.)

We also laughed a LOT!! Ashlei and Amy and I went to feed the deer and we had so much feed that we decided to use the wheelbarrow. It seemed a waste to push it back empty so we took turns having a ride. We didn't do so well. I gave both girls a ride but then they tried to push me twice and I ended up in the bushes!
Ashlei was doing pretty well pushing Amy - or so it seemed. It just doesn't take much to make a wheelbarrow dump it's load!

All in all - it was a great weekend!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Food & Friends

I don't have any pictures to share from today but it was a day worth remembering. I was invited to join the downtown lunch bunch for their monthly gathering. This is a group for anyone from Pine Ridge that works downtown to meet for lunch once a month to get to know others in their church family. My friend, Mark, is coordinating it so he invited me to join them. We were planning to meet at the Hereford House but apparently somebody bombed it so we met at Jack Stack BBQ instead. I walked into the restaurant and asked the manager if he could tell me where Pine Ridge was seated. I immediately knew that I recognized him (the manager) but I couldn't place him - until I said, "I know you..." and he said, "Carla..." almost at the same time. Immediately I knew who he was! It was my friend, Chris, that I worked with many times when I was at Village. His kids were in the youth group and he served as a youth advisor and cooked for many fundraisers! We even led a boundary waters trip together which I will never forget! I hadn't seen him in years and it was so great to run into him again! The lunch was fabulous and I enjoyed visiting with the ones I knew - and even getting to know ones I didn't. Thanks, Mark, for inviting me to join you! It was truly a gift.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Biking the Katy Trail

I have always wanted to bike the Katy trail - at least as long as I can remember! When I got my new bike, I mentioned it to my friend, Rich, and he informed me that he also wanted to bike the trail - and for the next six weeks, we kept saying, "yea, we need to do that." When the weather started to turn cooler, I knew if we didn't do it soon, it would be too late - so we picked Saturday, October 25 for the great bike ride across Missouri. :) It turned out to be a GORGEOUS day!
We started out at 9am and drove to Rocheport, MO where we unloaded the bikes and hit the trail. We started out going east and it was a beautiful ride. The trail followed the river with plenty of scenic places to stop and rest. We went as far as Katfish Katy's Campground Store in Huntsdale, MO (6.6 miles) before we turned around and headed back to Rocheport.
On the way back we noticed a sign we had missed the first time. It was the Lewis & Clark campsite from June 6, 1804. I have become intriqued with Lewis & Clark since my sabbatical journey in the northwest in August so I was excited to stand in the very place they camped 204 years ago!! After I complete the entire Katy Trail, my next adventure will be to follow the Lewis & Clark route from start to finish! Now THAT would be fun!

We made it back to Rocheport still feeling good so we headed the other direction. The route going west was not as scenic - we were surrounded by farmland! However, the sun was shining and I was about as happy as I think I could be. The trail going west was obviously less appealing because we only saw a handful of other bikers. It was a little eerie! At one point, Rich turned around to look back and lost control of his bike so instead of running into me, he took a dive into the ditch. He's so thoughtful! I was just grateful he wasn't hurt - I'm not sure my car would fit on the Katy Trail but I would have tried. :) We stopped at an old silo for a bit of a rest and then continued on to Franklin where I have never been so happy to find a restroom in my life! It was only three more miles to Booneville and Rich really wanted to ride over the old train bridge - so we pushed ourselves a little further than we should have. Much to our disappointment, the trail actually joins the highway to go over the bridge so we turned around and headed back. The last 7 miles of our ride were pretty tough - but we made it. Our muscles were sore and we were quite exhausted but it was a fabulous ride!! It was about 6pm so we stopped for some supper on the way home. We decided we could eat anything we wanted after the day we'd had! With the exception of sore muscles, it was a perfect day.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Susan's visit to KC

I love it when friends come to visit! It gives me a good excuse to get out there and enjoy all that Kansas City has to offer!! Susan arrived on Thursday and I picked her up at the airport and checked her in to her hotel on the plaza and then we went biking around Shawnee Mission Park. It was fabulous!! The ride was hilly so it was a good workout but the traffic was light so we could visit while we rode. We even climbed to the top of this tower that overlooked the park and even some of KC. It was a perfect day for a ride! We hung out with our friend, Lesa, for the rest of the evening. Lesa's daughter, Alex, made us a scrumptious dinner of lasagna, salad and garlic bread. She even made me my very own low sodium lasagna. I've never tasted anything so yummy!

Susan was actually here for work so she managed to squeeze in some of her conference between our outings. :) Friday night Rich, Lesa and I picked her up as soon as her conference ended at 8:30 and walked around the plaza. Her friend, Pam, joined us, as well. It was a beautiful evening and good to get out and walk.
The Penguin Courtyard has always been one of my favorite spots on the plaza. I used to work in the building directly behind us (when it was the Gap) and I loved walking by my penguins on the way to and from work.
We ended our evening with a nightcap at Skies - another one of my favorites in KC. I've been going there since I was in college just to sit in the lounge and take in the night lights of Kansa City. It's a peaceful place to be - and particularly special with friends. We were seated next to the piano player which made it a little tough to visit but we managed.
On Saturday, Lesa and I took Susan for some traditional Kansas City Barbecue - and where better than Arthur Bryants? It's not my favorite KC BBQ (I prefer sweet over spicy) but it is a landmark in KC and certainly a place someone visiting our fair city should experience. Past Presidents have even been there!
The rest of the evening was spent enjoying all the new places in the Power & Light District. We started at Lucky Strike - an upscale bowling alley/club - for a drink. It is an expensive place to actually bowl but it was fun to just hang out and watch. We checked out the Shark Bar which is a fun new retro club but apparently we were too early for dancing.
We left as it started to fill up and made our way to PBR Big Sky where we danced the night away. When we arrived the dance floor was empty but we didn't care - we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and the band even came down from the stage and danced with us. I felt like a rock star! We danced so much that my legs were sore the next day. It was awesome!
On Sunday, Rich, Susan and I had lunch at O'Dowds before Susan had to get to the airport. It was so much fun having her here and it was sad to see her go - but I know we will be together again soon. We always find a way!

Friday, October 03, 2008

Happy Hour

I've always heard it said, "if it seems to good to be true - it probably is." Well, that was NOT the case regarding an email I received saying that I "won" a happy hour for me and 100 of my closest friends at Howl at the Moon which is a dualing piano bar here in town. I was skeptical but I couldn't see that I would be out anything for doing it so I sent an email out to my closest friends - and it turned out to be fabulous! We not only got in for free but they had a free buffet with ribs, potato salad, baked beans, veggies, etc. Certainly more than I expected for a free buffet!

First to arrive were Rich - my Red Cross buddy that I met in Biloxi after hurricane Katrina, Shaunda - my college friend, Kristi -my camp staff buddy and her husband, Mark. These friends are more like family - whether I've known them only a few years or over a couple of decades! I have no idea who came next but it was so much fun to have so many wonderful people in the same place - and getting a chance to know one another.

Another college friend, Meri Ann, brought her friend, Karen. They work together at DST - along with Britt who is a friend from Parkville Pres that I met through presbytery youth activities. I didn't even know they knew one another so it was fun to see how our friendship circles intertwine.

My buddy Brian - a friend through the presbytery but probably better known as my baseball buddy. He has taken me to MANY Royals games and took me to a Mariners game this summer when we were both in Seattle. We love baseball - even when they stink!
My fellow youth director, Mich, is another one that I have known since we were on the staff of the presbyterian camp. She'll be quick to point out that she was a camper when I started on staff but she wasn't that far behind me! She's a wonderful colleague in ministry and has helped me out a lot over the years.
Celia, Ted, Mark and Kim. Kim is a sorority sister from college and I met Celia & Ted through her. Mark is one of my friends from church! He volunteers with our youth - teaching sunday school and going on mission trips!

Troy and I became friends several years ago but I feel like I've known him forever. Meg moved to KC recently but I actually met her when she and her husband, Jarrett, were the rec leaders for the Montreat West Youth Conference. They are fabulous and Heartland Presbytery improved ever so much when they came to town.

I'm not sure Jan will ever accept another invitation from me - but she and her husband, Brian, were great sports when the "piano man" made them come up on stage and do the hokey pokey. They were fabulous! Jan and I worked together at the dentist office when I was just out of college and we've been great friends ever since.

Shaunda and Brian are two of my fellow London classmates in '88. Shaunda and I have kept in touch but we recently reconnected with Brian through the gift of facebook! I LOVE FACEBOOK!

Meg and Jarrett may be fairly new friends - but Mackenzie & Helene are even newer! They moved in to the house next door to me while I was gone this summer and I'm so excited to have fun neighbors! I was thrilled that they came by and were able to meet some other folks in the area.

I'm sorry to discover that I missed getting a picture of my friend, Anita, (also a sorority sister from college) and her husband, Bryce. The best I can do is the backs of their heads and I don't think they would appreciate that too much. Sorry, Anita!

It truly was too good to be true - and I'm very blessed to have so many wonderful friends!

Sunday, September 28, 2008


I love football!! I have always been a fan of going to football games - not necessarily because I love the sport but I love the sense of community that you experience at a football game. The Chiefs are not only not an exception - they are the epitome! My friend, Kim, called me on Saturday and just as she was about to ask me something, she said "oh you wouldn't be able to do that." I said, "WHAT?" She informed me that she has tickets to the noon game on Sunday and I said "I can work that out!" I'll teach my Sunday School class, go to the game and be back in time for youth group. :) I haven't been to a Chiefs game in years - mainly because it was expensive and hard to get tickets. They used to be good. I couldn't pass this up! Sunday morning I taught my class and then quickly put on my Chiefs t-shirt and met Kim for the game. It was FABULOUS! We had 7th row seats on the 50 yard line. OH MY GOSH!! Despite the fact that we were sitting in the direct sunlight - it was AWESOME! We even WON!! It was a miracle! The best part (besides hanging with my buddy) is everyone around you becomes like family. As soon as the Chiefs do something good, everyone high-fives everyone around. People are laughing and talking to one another as if we're the best of friends. I thought to myself, why can't the church behave like the fans at a Chiefs game? :) Thanks, Kim!!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Photographer & Biker

It was an early morning getting up at 5:30 to be at the field by 6:30 to set up the camera equipment and tent. Occasionally I get the opportunity to play photographer for my friend, Vicki, who owns TSS Photography. We take pictures of sports leagues - team and individuals. Today was league football photos. They are so adorable!! I don't really know the ages but it seems like they start as young as 6 or 7 through pre-teen. We also had a few cheerleading squads to photo. Such cute kids!!
We were done about noon so I came home and grabbed some lunch and loaded my bike onto my car because my friend and I were going to meet at the old airport to do a little biking. Unfortunately, he cancelled but I decided to go anyway. I have been told the road around the old airport is 3.5 miles and I went around 3 times so I felt pretty good about that. It was a gorgeous day for biking and I absolutely LOVE my new bike!

I decided since I was already gross, I might as well mow the lawn. Yuck! I managed to get the front mowed but I couldn't get it started when I got to the back - so I gave up. I grilled myself a steak for dinner and was feeling sorry for myself being home alone on a Saturday night when my good buddy, Keith, called. We had a good visit and since we usually play phone tag, I was glad I was home to receive his call. It was a very pleasant surprise.