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!